22 November 2011
US Army MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan are marked with Red Crosses. Helicopters sporting a Red Cross are not allowed to be armed. The enemy knows this. The enemy tries to shoot down these unarmed helicopters with the added advantage that our people cannot shoot back. And so, we push people into combat while advertising to the enemy that our people are unarmed. The best that can be said for this policy is that it’s wrong. The worst that can be said might be that it borders on criminal.
We like to think that after a decade of counterinsurgency, we have learned something. Have we? What does a cross on a helicopter mean? For some Afghans, it’s a mark of the beast. The poster above was hanging on a wall in eastern Afghanistan.
Of the approximate fifty evil symbols, most are crosses. Even the shape of an anchor is seen as unholy.
An Afghan friend translates:
*Destroying the cross is an Islamic obligation*
1. Christians want to publish and spread their unholy and cursed religious logos and signs in different shapes and appearances in clean and holy Muslim society.
2. These Christianity signs (Crosses) have affected our Islamic society too
– even our mosques and our Menbers are not safe from those Christianity signs (Crosses).
(Further note from my Afghan friend explaining “menber”: When you enter a mosque, the menber is a chair in the most forward point. After the prayer is done, a mullah sits on that chair and enlightens people. Talking rubbish about how to be a good muslim or other nonsense. That chair is higher than the regular ones in terms of height. It’s higher in order to enable the mullah to see all the folks and the folks seeing mullah – even the ones sitting far away. Menber is the written name of it.)
3. The respected Ulemas agree over the fact that destroying these crosses is an Islamic obligation and on whatever object or surface where there is a cross, praying is a sin.
4. —– had a gold cross in his neck and prophet Mohammad told him to remove that ‘idol’ from himself and is narrated from Aisha that prophet Mohammad never allowed anything in his house with a cross on it and used to destroy or throw it away.
6. For further explanations, refer to …. / …. / …. (Names of references given)
*Some of the names on the crosses:*
1. Cross of George
2. Cross of Andrew
3. Cross of Lauren
4. Cross of Jerusalem
5. Cross of Anthony
6. Cross in shape of the Nazi logo
7. Catholic Cross
===End of Translation===
The US Army will defend the Red Crosses on the helicopters by falsely bringing the Geneva Conventions into the conversation. They will say, “According to the Geneva Conventions…”
Nothing in the Geneva Conventions forces us to put Red Crosses on medics or helicopters. I’ve never seen a medic in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Philippines who was wearing a Red Cross. I don’t recall ever having seen an American service member wearing a Red Cross. Importantly, the US Air Force, Marines, and the British do not put Red Crosses on their helicopters.
This puts the Army’s argument about Geneva Conventions into an interesting light. By bringing the Geneva Conventions into the discussion, the US Army implies that the Marines, Air Force and the British all are violating the Geneva Conventions. They are not violating the Geneva Conventions. Meanwhile, the Army is shamelessly hiding behind those conventions to forward an internal political fight about who controls those helicopters.
The Army has not a single valid reason for sporting the Red Crosses. Army leadership should hang its head in shame for willfully endangering troops and the mission by sending unarmed troops into combat, signaling to the enemy that they are unarmed, all while elegantly marking our helicopter with what to many Afghans is a mark of the beast.
If the Army insists on sending unarmed troops into combat, it should at least remove the crosses that alert the enemy that the helicopter is unarmed, all while inflaming local passion to shoot it down.