I watched a very moving film last night called Amandla: A Struggle in Four-Part Harmony. It was about the role music played in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. (And the music was great as well.)
During the course of the movie I reflected on the parallels between what I was watching and the US invasion of Iraq. One dissident mentioned that the South African prison wardens would strip political prisoners naked to humiliate them. Sound familiar?
The filmaker interviewed former members of the "riot police," one of whom said that they "had" to use heavy weapons during protests, or some of the police might have been hurt. Just like how the US and Britain have "had" to employ aerial bombing and heavy artillery in populated areas, to minimize their own casualties. Because of such tactics, Iraqi civilian deaths are running about 100 to 1 ahead of US military deaths. The soldiers all volunteered for a job that they knew entailed the possibility of going to war. The civilians dying had no such option. But simply because Bush knows Americans will be far more upset by one American soldier dying than 100 Iraqis, the military is using an approach that they know will kill many, many innocent bystanders.
The soldiers who fired on peaceful protesters were just doing their "duty" for their "country." They probably saw themselves as good, South African patriots.
That doesn't excuse their actions, nor does the same excuse wash for anyone participating in the immoral fiasco now occurring in Iraq.