IRAQ VET BRAVADO: “100 METERS… OR YOU WILL BE SHOT”

James Bovard, May 27, 2012

As I was testing the beer yesterday at a Rockville, Maryland, Memorial weekend event, my eye was caught by a t-shirt with the following bilingual motto:

The black t-shirt was worn by a late 20-something with a military-style haircut. He was accompanied by his wife who was pushing baby stroller. I ambled around to get in front of the guy – his shirt had some type of unit logo but it was obscured by the baby he was holding up against him. Unfortunately, I did not have the ol’ Nikon D-40 hanging around my neck.

This “100 meters” warning sign was commonplace for U.S military vehicles in Iraq. I glanced at a few photos of such vehicles online and I wondered how close a person would need to be to read such lettering. Probably far closer to 100 meters.

But since the vehicles had the warning notice, any resulting killings of civilians were justified – because the victims should have known.

Shootings of innocent Iraqis at U.S. checkpoints and near U.S. vehicles were so commonplace that the military usually ignored the carnage. U.S. checkpoints were often poorly marked – turning them into death traps for unwary Iraqis. Here is one of the most iconic photos of the Iraq war, depicting Samar Hassan wailing after U.S. troops killed her parents at a checkpoint in Tal Afar in 2005.


Author Chris Hedges noted, “Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in ‘atrocity-producing situations.’” Placing U.S. troops in hostile foreign venues with almost-impossible missions that practically guarantee that innocent people will be gunned down.

But congressmen ignored the carnage they helped spawn because they never ran into one of the “100 meters… or we’ll shoot” warning signs on Capitol Hill.

When I see Iraq vets proudly wearing the “100 meters… or be shot” slogan on their shirt or car, I can’t help wonder: Was this the guy who made Samar Hassan an orphan?

FWIW – Here’s a link to an essay I wrote last Memorial Day.




19 Responses to “IRAQ VET BRAVADO: “100 METERS… OR YOU WILL BE SHOT””

  1. Might call that typical 'dark humor.' Early in the coverage of the most-famous Afghanistan night-raid, Robert Bales (whose wife now says it's 'not what it appears to be.') was quoted as saying/writing ~'I think that's the difference between us and them; we don't bring our families to the fight.' Pause. Oh, I get it. It's significant to me that the man attributed with that comment was a prospective recruiter (pause again, picture the scene …which pizza-face caught the joke on the way up? That's an early initiation.). Neither, though, are quite as funny as (LOL!) 'recognize our right to exist.' Or Will Grigg's quote on waterboarding Fillipinos ~'sticking in the nozzle and filling him full of liberty.'

  2. "If you don't stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them", is another one popular with these types of bullies.

  3. "… or you will be shot" is a world of attitude away from "Kilroy was here".

    This ain't the Greatest Generation, no sir.

  4. can't wait to see this on police cars

  5. Thank you

  6. I expect that one day in a future nearer than any of us care to envision, many of us WILL be standing in front of them, probably in defense of our homes and families as these PTSD and drug-addled psychopaths turn on us at their masters' command. I only hope we can be as heavily armed as they are when that time arrives. I'd like to hope that we'll have a fighting chance.

  7. Othe throughts:

    0) Can an untrained civilian judge how much "100m" is? I cannot.
    1) Change the the text to "stay 20m back" to accomodate the fact that the T-Shirt is about a fifth smaller than the original lettering. Then pedestrians can test whether their eyesight is good enough to not enter the danger zone.
    2) Definitely demonstrates the power of modern ranged weapons or explosives and how they make war a very twitchy situtation.

  8. The so-called "Greatest Generation" committed its share of war crimes, too. The WWII equivalent of "Stay back 100 meters or you will be shot" was "Take these Kraut prisoners to Paris and be back in 15 minutes." The Japanese fared even worse, with the skulls of their soldiers being turned into ash trays and the gold fillings of their teeth being scavenged by the US infantry, which Charles Lindbergh characterized as "its favorite pastime." US aviators thought nothing of strafing Japanese soldiers bobbing in the water after their transports had been sunk (Battle of the Bismarck Sea, for example). Samuel Eliot Morison in his _History of United States Naval Operations in World War II_ brushed aside the Bismarck Sea war crimes with the snide comment that the Japanese would have had to be killed anyway if they got ashore. The "Greatest Generation" was fortunate to have a discernible victory to use as a shield for its actions.

  9. Development of a Gallows humor is good for one's mental health

  10. For once I agree with you.

    Today, after I met with a couple of people regarding a new business venture, I stopped at the local beer store to grab a couple of beers(650ml a bottle). I was swarmed by 4 kids aged between 4-8 begging for loose change. So I bought them some candies and asked if they would like to have something to eat. When they said yes, I ordered them a large plate of french fries(it was a drinking joint and there was nothing else nearby). when they gave the plate I took it to the kids and offered it to the sweetest girl among them(3 girls, 1 guy). Call me an a**hole but I have 2 nieces and have a soft spot for unfortunate poor girls. Immediately 2 of them refused to eat out of the plate held by the little girl( the boy and the oldest girl). When I asked them the reason the boy replied that they were muslim and couldn't eat with Hindus because they were inferior. I was left speechless. This happened in India.

    True Story. We have a long long way to go folks!!!

    The grass always looks greener on the other side.

  11. Here is a yardstick for you tee shirt analysts…….. It's the "One Shot Two Kills" shirt the IDF have been observed wearing………… http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&q=one sh…..

    "1-shot-2-kills1The Israeli military condemned t-shirts that mock the killing of pregnant [Palestinian] women and children in Gaza as “unacceptable,” but Aljazeera English reported this week that the “extremely disturbing images” on those t-shirts reflect some Israeli soldiers’ attitudes. These t-shirts were ordered by soldiers to commemorate the end of their basic training or field duty." http://talkaboutislam.com/forums/index.php?topic=
    Don't miss this one….. It has a lot of uinteresting content…!!! http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2010/11/16… There is some block, just click the top line that you DO want to be redirected to "Occupied Palestine" [ Has Google put up a CYBER separation barrier between "Israel *& Palestine...???]

  12. Bales quote was http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/afghanistan/story/201... "I think that's the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm's way like that."

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  15. It's real easy to judge the situation and monday morning quarterback other peoples decisions from the safety of your home.

    The military didn't go over there with those signs, they developed later after we were getting tired of "civilians" walking up to our trucks and lobbing grenades in our vehicles, or my personal favorite, suicide bombers getting close enough to kill us. So, those signs became part of our EOF procedures. Besides, you would think that if you saw armored cars with machine guns mounted on top down the road, with razor wire laid in the middle of the road, along with flares, and Marines waving their arms frantically trying to wave you off as you drive foreward head strong into the check point ( which is what these "checkpoints" are), that the smart thing would be to stop and turn around and go another way. Its a shitty situation, but if they are too stupid to see all that and keep going at 60mph into it, i dont lose sleep cause how am i supposed to differentiate between your stupidity and a vbied?

    now, you wanna talk innocent civilians, then yes, there have been some tragic misunderstandings and incidents. However, if you compare our civilian casualties to the people that want to kill us? its not even comparable. We go out everyday to patrol through streets, talk to people and see how we can help. Insurgents go out with the biggest bombs they can find and try to wipe out entire areas that we may, or may not be in.

    you assume that sign is all the heads up an Iraqi would have before being blown to smithereens and you couldn't be more wrong. That just tells me you have no clue about what goes on over there and you jump to conclusions to fortify your own anti war agenda. You can have any opinion you want, but at least know what is actually happening and get it broke down to you by someone whos been there and lived it before you go on the internet writing a pretentious blog about how you see a shirt, find its Iraq variant and turn it into how there's large numbers of civilian casualties because the people cant read a sign that's too small on a truck.

  16. amen, Ghettoblaster! I couldn't agree more. How many US and NATO soldiers have they killed, how many innocent bystanders, with no warning sign… In the US, if I pick up a weapon (or perceived to be a weapon) and charge an officer, he has every right to defend himself and terminate my life. Normally, this is never given a second thought, unless the officer was the opposite color of his/ her victim. Why is this any different overseas, these soldiers face this ordeal every day. There are no signs on the bad guys, what these soldiers know is you follow your orders and your gut feeling. If you or your buddy hesitates then you both could die. What I tell everyone, go do (2) years in something, just make sure it's overseas. I don't care if it's the service or the peace corp, then come back and let yourself be heard. Most of these soldiers are family men, signed up to do their part and serve our country. Some do make mistakes, and innocent lives are taken, it's a shame, but it happens. Our soldiers didn't ask to go their, they were ordered to. I heard my mother ask my father what he did in Vietnam, his response was "if I tell you …. you could never love me, for what we did…" he later took his life, his note made references to the nightmares he was never able to shake. I thank God, I wasn't asked to be put in a situation like that soldier at that checkpoint, I served in the Army, and I would be proud for my sons to serve… Anti-War, I hold no disregard for your opinion, I would respect you more if you told me that your served, you were there … I served to protect yours and mine freedom of speech. God Bless this nation of ours – Raymond Ward

  17. I write from Italy. We are full of tangos roaming everywhere and causing too much problems. Unfortunately, to possess a gun here isn't a right…. welcome to italy Osama!

  18. Wont happen, ever. We aren't robots, not even close. If you think that we are, then TV certainly has spoiled your mind.

  19. Obviously you never experienced your friend having a piece of metal the size of a fist enter his body in his lower back and exit where his shoulder was and watch helplessly as he dies in front of you or a suicide bomber detonate himself in a group of civilians just out the front of your FOB gate. The men and women in Afghanistan deserve our support not only for the actions taken but the horrors endured. Some will come home and pick up as best they can others will be scarred by what they have seen or done and we must help them in anyway we can. To lump all Vet's as "Drug-addled psychopaths suffering from PTSD" shows you not only have a complete lack of respect for those who served but could care less for the needs of the less than 1% who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. I suggest you ask next time you have the services of a firefighter, police officer, doctor, butcher, mechanic, etc if they fought in Afgh or Iq and when one answers yes, just say thank-you.