1/19/2011 11:12:00 pm

Stop - Come

Posted by Tom French |

I remember hearing a lot during the early part of the Iraq war/occupation about people getting shot at checkpoints. The soldiers manning the checkpoint would signal for cars to stop and they'd keep coming, so the soldiers thinking they were a threat would shoot them. Then they'd find that in the car it was a just a family going to visit relatives or something equally benign.

I remember thinking "Why wouldn't those people stop?" I couldn't imagine why they would just keep driving and get shot up.

I read in Time magazine that when the soldiers would signal a car to stop they would hold out "an open palm, waving downward". It's a symbol we all know means "stop". Unfortunately for Iraqis it means "come". So they would come thinking they were doing the right thing, the soldiers would think they were a threat, and shoot them.

These days the soldiers stop cars by holding out a clenched fist.

I've kept thinking about that since I first read it. Something so simple, some small bit of cultural knowledge, could have saved so many innocent lives.

Communication is a dangerous and tricky business.

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