Leadership: Aim For The Red Cross


January 17, 2009: British commanders have now ordered their medical personnel to carry, and be ready to use, their weapons when going after casualties in combat zones. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. combat medics have been operating under the same rules. But even in Vietnam, it was noted that the communist troops tended to ignore the "rules of war" that were supposed to give medical personnel some immunity from enemy fire. Both the communist and Islamic fighters believed all the enemy troops were fair game, and that medical personnel were preferred targets, because of the negative effect it has on enemy morale when their medics or doctors get killed.

British medics tried to apply the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, but found that they were often targets of enemy fire, even though their red cross symbols were plainly visible. The enemy attitude was particularly disheartening because British medics often treated enemy wounded as well, in addition to Afghan civilians. Didn't matter. For the Taliban and al Qaeda, anyone who wasn't working for them was considered a target. So now British medics are under orders to go into action armed, and to use their weapons to defend themselves, and their patients, when necessary.