A friend of mine with a long military background commented on the new government policy of giving snipers the authority to select their own targets in Iraq. He expressed that at one level, it makes sense that a sniper who identifies a potential attacker should have the liberty to shoot before the attacker disappears, and getting authority to shoot might cause undue delay. On the other hand, in a country where many of the men carry arms, this can make the selection of targets arbitrary - when looking through a sniper's scope, what makes one man with a gun a legitimate target, and another "just" a civilian with a gun?
He suggested that a more effective policy would be to announce that anybody who was seen in public with a gun would be treated as a legitimate target, and to let the snipers enforce that rule. However, he noted that the resulting body count (before people started heeding the new rule) would probably be unacceptable in the eyes of the international community (and possibly in the U.S., as well).
Today's Guardian asks:
Whether the US troops killed 300 or 30 in Najaf, does anyone believe that they were all armed gunmen?All "gunmen"? Perhaps not. But all armed? Quite possibly.