November 15, 2005

A Fresh Look at Casualties


Iraq data from
Vietnam data from

November 15, 2005 in War | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

A Few Books On Iraq

Well, I've just started reading "Dawn Over Baghdad: How the US Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq" by Karl Zinsmeister. He earlier wrote Boots On the Ground.

I must say that it's a delightfully good book, and I highly recommend it for giving a look at what the rest of the media doesn't bother to report.

I also picked up The Iraq War by John Keegan, the eminent British military historian. So now I have two more books to read through.

July 19, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Air Force Major Reprimanded

Ouch! The Air Force has issued a stinging reprimand to the Air Force pilot who ignored orders and bombed Canadian forces, killing four of them. Charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault had already been dropped, but he was convicted of dereliction of duty.

Following is the text of a letter of reprimand issued Tuesday by Lt.-Gen. Bruce Carlson of the United States 8th Air Force to fighter pilot Maj. Harry Schmidt, who dropped a bomb that killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others in April 2002 in Afghanistan:

"You are hereby reprimanded. You flagrantly disregarded a direct order from the controlling agency, exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline over your aircraft, and blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement and special instructions. Your wilful misconduct directly caused the most egregious consequences imaginable, the deaths of four coalition soldiers and injury to eight others. The victims of your callous misbehaviour were from one of our staunch allies in Operation Enduring Freedom and were your comrades-in-arms.

"You acted shamefully on 17 April 2002 over Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan, exhibiting arrogance and a lack of flight discipline. When your flight lead warned you to "make sure it's not friendlies" and the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft controller directed you to "stand by" and later to "hold fire," you should have marked the location with your targeting pod. Thereafter, if you believed, as you stated, you and your leader were threatened, you should have taken a series of evasive actions and remained at a safe distance to await further instructions from AWACS. Instead, you closed on the target and blatantly disobeyed the direction to "hold fire." Your failure to follow that order is inexcusable. I do not believe you acted in defence of Maj. Umbach or yourself. Your actions indicate that you used your self-defence declaration as a pretext to strike a target, which you rashly decided was an enemy firing position, and about which you had exhausted your patience in waiting for clearance from the Combined Air Operations Center to engage. You used the inherent right of self-defence as an excuse to wage your own war.

Ouch. We put our pilots under a tremendous amount of stress, but they're not supposed to go off attacking unidentified ground targets just because somebody was shooting at something. The Canadians in question were conducting a military exercise, not trying to down any US aircraft. In avoiding blue on blue casualties, it's imperative that people don't attack things just because something is moving, burning, or unidentified. One of the last battles in the Gulf War was the one that didn't happen because command kept refusing permission for a tank unit to fire on approaching Iraqi armor, despite multiple and continuous confirmations from the tank crews that the approaching units were indeed hostiles. Command was worried about a US armored unit that was missing somewhere forwards, and finally the "hostiles" turned out to be our missing armored unit. Had the men who kept "confirming" the enemy contacts acted on their own initiative the Gulf War would've had a much higher death toll.

Anyway, go read the rest of the reprimand, because the Air Force General wasn't nearly done in this excerpt I posted.

July 7, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

New Iraqi Vigilante Force

They say you can't fight terrorists? Then check the BBC.

Zarqawi told 'leave Iraq or die'

A group of armed, masked men have issued a public warning to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to leave Iraq on pain of death.

Looks like he'll have to watch his back, because a bunch of Iraqis are apparently having wet dreams about sawing his head off, along with the heads of his followers.

A previously unknown group, calling itself the Salvation Movement, accused him of murdering innocent Iraqis and defiling the Muslim religion.

The men said unless he left immediately he would be hunted down and killed.

This new group may or may not be very competent, but at least they'll present an ongoing risk to the butchers. Many of the Ba'athist dead-enders, Al-Qaeda asswipes, and other terrorist elements have been unconcerned how many Iraqis they kill in their attacks, following in part the teachings of Qutb, one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, who held that it's okay to kill Muslims while trying to sieze power, since Allah will know which Muslims are good and reward them in heaven, while punishing those who aren't. Lost in all this thought is why the Muslims would remain content about getting routinely butchered by a bunch of worthless terrorist punks.

Mr Zarqawi and his followers have been blamed for a string of attacks in Iraq and the beheading of foreign hostages.

Now isn't that just priceless and blatant bias from the BBC? The previous sentence said "accused him of murdering innocent Iraqis" and this one says "have been blamed". They make videos showing themselves cutting people's heads off. Further, these people threaten to set of car bombs, then are present when the car bombs go off, then take full credit for the car bombings. And they do it over and over and over again. It's not like there's serious doubts, except at the BBC, an organization that was once accused of unbiased and objective reporting, but such accusations were proven unfounded decades ago.

July 7, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

Kedivar in MEMRI

MEMRI has a very good article up, a translation of an article by Dr. Mohsen Kedivar, an Iranian journalist, on democracy and fascism in Islamic society.

"Since the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, we [Iranians] have had experience with two forms of tyranny, secular and religious. Like the Constitutional Revolution, the Islamic Revolution has failed to solve the problems of tyranny in Iran. The most controversial [political and social] discussions in the past century have erupted between the followers of two different schools of thought and the followers of two different interpretations of Islam.

This gets us into a bit of Iranian history. I'll draw on Antony Blacks "The History of Islamic Political Thought" (buy it) and try to condense several chapters into a couple of paragraphs.

The Mongol invasions left the Iran back in the throws of tribalism, from which the Safavid dynasty (1501 to 1722) eventually emerged, which established Iran as a nation state once again. Under Shah Isma'il (1487-1524) they directed themselves against the Sunni powers to the east and west, and demanded the acceptance of only one version of Islam under threat of force, this version of course being Shi'a. When warned that the people might not accept a Shi'a ruler he replied "If the people utter one word of protest, I will draw the sword and leave not one of them alive." Shah Isma'il of course was nuts, styling himself as Jesus, Ali, and the hidden Imam, claiming to be sinless and infallible, while establishing his unquestioned authority in all spheres of life. He bore resemblance to a cult leader or a throwback to ancient times when kinds claimed to be gods, but since Islam is rather particular about that he limited his claims to being the wielder of God's power and wisdom on earth. This of course established a system for absolute and despotic rule, which drug on and on through Iranian history.

The clerics were divided into two schools of thought on this. The Traditionalists held that religious authority was passed through bloodlines, just as we saw with Al-Sadr, and they had no problem with monarchy or its leadership in religious matters. The Traditionalists stayed quiet, and maintained the Shi'a distaste for participation in and contact with government. For most of their history, the Shi'a have been the quiet, cautious, and persecuted branch of Islam. But there arose another school of thought, the Principled, which kept evolving, holding that the best act of worship is ordering the affairs of the people, so you might say they became the interventionist, public busy-body branch. One of Shah Isma'il's appointees, al-Karaki, taught that a Shi'ite Sultan could impose taxes on land, and thus a new revenue stream for the mullahs was born. Needless to say, they supported the government, and doing so gave them a share of power. They continued in this vein, moving further and further away from traditional Shi'a thought and gathering up more power, wealth, and official status. After a century and a half the Principled won out over the Traditionalists, but over time a new conflict emerged, between the religious figures and the state, and how can a religious figure not think that religion must overrule the secular? As the power of the clergy increased it undermined the authority of the state, and finally the Safavids lost control and Iran was overrun by Afghan tribes in 1722. They weren't exactly qualified to run the place, and it fell back into ethnic factions and tribalism with tyranny and oppression for all.

From the mid 1800's on Iran began to modernize again, under some Western influence, but a great deal of power always rested with the mullahs, who had prestige, resources, and deep tentacles into Iranian society and institutions. They remained the peoples' guides, wielding local power and giving protection from the secular and despotic rulers. Religion provided a large income and protected it from seizure by the state, and they not only had control of local courts but could even enforce their own religious rulings, and of course could always hole up in the shrines to maintain immunity from the government, just as Al-Sadr is doing in Iraq. Though not well organized, united, nor officially endorsed, they were pervasive throughout Iranian society, and the real wielders of power, since they could call forth the masses and openly oppose government policy. So the Iran's rulers had to accept them as a given, and often used them to other ends, such as issuing fatwas and calls to jihad against the government's other enemies.

Many mullahs during this later era thought that this separation of powers made for better government, with the religious authorities providing a check to the government's secular power, while offering clear religious and moral guidance to both the government and the people. In the late 1800's they formed an alliance with Western constitutionalists to maintain checks on the Shah's power, making sure he couldn't cut their own revenue streams, and stood up to him and foreign capitalist interests, which would of course be putting money in the Shah's pocket. If there's a theme to all this history it's probably that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, which the Prophet should've probably written in great big letters on the back flap of the Qu'ran. Yet there's a third stream of thought we shouldn't overlook amidst all these powermad Shah's and mullahs, and that's the group that was looking to parliamentary democracy and Western liberalism for a way out, re-establishing rule by the people. Thoughts along these lines were coming in from Turkey and Iranians who'd studied in Europe, and many Islamic intellectuals of the era stressed the need for such modernizations, making often profound arguments for it. Unfortunately they didn't quite carry the day.

Iran briefly had a parliament just prior to WW-I, then fell into anarchy. A short time after WW-I Reza Khan took power and tried to turn Iran into a republic like Turkey, but when faced with opposition he established a dynasty instead, becoming a military dictator, as so often has happened in Islamic countries. Still, he made the country more secular, though rather nationalist, drawing on the glories of the Persian Empire, but becoming increasing unpopular through the 1930's as people became frustrated with his arbitrary dictates. He ruled till WW-II, when his friendliness toward the Germans caused the Russians and British to once again step in and remove him. Absent another viable ruler they let his son, Mohammad Reza Shah, take the helm. The Shah battled back and forth with the Prime Minister he appointed, who tried to nationalize oil production, and the Shah threw him in jail. This incident is the source for the famous claim that the CIA overthrew the Iranian government, but in truth it's not the bald-faced usurpation that many would lead you to believe.

Meanwhile some of the mullahs were thinking on different lines, especially Khomeini, who went beyond all previous Islamic thought, which basicallly held that a government is acceptable as long as it doesn't try to suppress Islam or its followers and abides by Islamic teachings. Khomeini decided that only Islamic jurists should rule, and set the stage for the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of Islamic fundamentalist theocracy in Iran. So the Iranian people went from being ruled under a despotism and tyranny that was separate from the mullahs, though necessarily somewhat subordinate to them, to having the mullahs assume absolute dictatorial control. In the mullahs' view this eliminated the middleman (the Shah), who was the obstacle to true sharia and the perfection of an Islamic state. Those advocating democracy were again bitterly disappointed and ignored, leaving Iran in the mess it's in today, where reformist candidates were ruled ineligable for office, lest they actually garner votes. The problem of absolute power manifests itself once more, but the people continue to seek a better form of government, as this MEMRI article attests. I'll skip the rest of the history lesson because most of us are a bit more familiar with events after 1979.

"According to one interpretation, the social affairs of a country are entrusted to one man, while according to the other, trust is placed in the people and its freedom is respected [i.e. 'Islamic democracy']… The two interpretations have advocates, both among the intellectuals and among the clerics.

From the 1800's onward these interpretations have been present, which some Muslim thinkers making it plain that Islam can adopt thoughts known to mankind the world over, definitely including Western democracy.

"In Iran we have experienced both secular tyranny, based on a fascist interpretation of politics and sociology, and religious tyranny, based on a fascist interpretation of faith. Religious tyranny is undoubtedly the more dangerous, since it uses religion as a means of applying political pressure on the people.

All they've known is various forms of fascism, or worse, under the Safavids and various Shahs, and now under the mullahs. The mullahs even drew deep from the wellspring of revolutionary Marxism, so what they have is a witch's brew of brutally dysfunctional thoughts on governance.

"Both religious tyranny and secular tyranny took shape in Iran after the Constitutional Revolution, and advocates of both strived to ensure their hegemony and political power in Iranian society… Over the past 25 years we have witnessed [these] two interpretations of Islam in Iran. One impeded the Iranian nation's efforts to create a democracy, whereas the other tried to help efforts to promote freedom."

The "Constitutional Revolution" occurred prior to WW-I, when the West, the clerics, and everyone else forced the Shah to accept a Western style constitution, instead of just continuing in the same absolutist vein as the Safavids. I'd interpret the author as noting that the religious and secular forces, both rather tyrannical and absolutist, vied back and forth for control, a struggle that went on for decades. After the forces of secular tyranny collapsed the other tyranny took over, and like two combatants who grew ever stronger and more rigid through their constant battles, when the one fell the other was left more energized than if his opponent had never fought at all, and thus the religious police who make the Savak look like choir boys. The losers in this titanic struggle were of course the people of Iran.

'The Problem in Religious Rule is the Fascist Interpretation that Leads to Totalitarianism'

Kedivar [the author being translated] noted that the two interpretations of Islam have always co-existed: "The first is totalitarian and the second emphasizes [the religious support] freedom and democracy. Those who advocate the first [totalitarian] interpretation believe that the only way for religion to attain power is through political rule… This is the populist approach to democracy, and in other words … tyranny. Authority, according to this interpretation, is not derived from the public, but from Heaven, and it appears in its most lucid form in the ideology of the religious government…"

Christianity has gone through similar phases, but we pulled the teeth from the religious authorities, relegating them to questions of faith and morality instead giving them power over politics and war. It was obviously the right decision, and if only adherents to Marxist thought would admit that their philosophy is far more religion than anything else, we'd all be far better off.

Kedivar stressed: "Political Islam [in and of itself] has never presented a problem [because the people are religious]. [The problem lies in] the fascist interpretation of political Islam: [the problem lies in] the belief of a specific group of people [i.e. the clerics in power] that they enjoy special rights and [the problem lies in the claim that Islam is a system of] fixed rules and regulations that are unchangeable.

One of the problems in believing that your religion is unchangable and unerring is that you can't ever change it in the face of a changing world, so no matter how repeatedly it produces disastrous failure the cycle continues unabated. Many Islamic thinkers, but certainly not the majority, are well aware of this problem, but their enemies seem to have little compunction about sawing off people's heads.

"[There are] two groups which do not support freedom or democracy: [The first group is] those who support the totalitarian interpretation of religion and Islam, and [the second group is] the secular Iranians and foreigners who equate Islam with totalitarianism… The secular view religion as matter for the individual. When the officials of the regime are religious and advocate religious rule, they are permitted to propose [religious rule to the public] as a public matter, but even then [the endorsement of this principle should] be dependent upon its acceptance by the majority…"

The undercurrents of democracy are there as always, burning like an ember, waiting to be fanned into the flames of liberty. Bush maintains that we must hold the course and help fan these embers, while John Kerry says we shouldn't be all too enamored of the whole democracy thingy. Of course during the Vietnam War he held that communism was as legitimate a form of government as democracy, so we shouldn't be too surprised by his willingness to go soft on freedom. Yet when an Iranian writer holds democracy in higher esteem than the Democrat's US Presidential candidate you know the Democrats have a major, major problem on their hands.

Islam Promotes Freedom and Democracy

"[The adherents of the second interpretation, i.e.] democratic Islam, view religion as based upon democratic principles… Islam, [in their opinion,] is – for most – a way of life related to time and place… According to the first interpretation [i.e., the totalitarian interpretation of Islam], Islam is contradictory to democracy and impedes it. But according to the second interpretation, not only is [Islam] not contradictory to democracy, but it is even considered a catalyst in its [implementation].

The opening may sound ludicrous at first, but during their age of modernism many Islamic thinkers not only maintained that Islam was compatible with democracy, but even went so far as to claim that the West stole the idea of democracy from Islam. These are some currents of thought that the West can certainly help to embolden, and in truth it’s the simplest and best way out of the current fundamentalist quagmire.

"In our society, democracy is an [essential] need but it [in itself] is not sufficient… [The Islamic public] does not need to denounce democracy merely because it comes from the West. Democracy is the best method of governing, because it reduces to a minimum the role of the individual and replaces it with the rule of society by public wisdom. The establishment of a democratic order must be based on four main principles: free and fair elections, the establishment of a civil society, respect for human rights, and transparency of governmental actions.

Well, accept for that last little snag he could be talking about France, and one of the possible reasons for the prior failures of Islamic political modernization is that they based their attempts on European governments, which were themselves largely failures. Perhaps they should read through a bit of John Locke and the Federalist papers and make a new and bolder attempt at the great experiment in self-governance.

"It is incumbent upon Muslims to reevaluate the existing religious traditions and to reform religious and democratic [values]. They must accept the fact that democracy is the only way to run the social and political affairs [of society]."

In short, he's telling them they have to think, and think hard. I just hope the mullahs don't issue a fatwa calling for his execution. They've been known to do that, you know.

July 4, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 03, 2004

Oil For Food Investigator Killed

Well, the Iraqi heading the probe into the UN Oil for Food Palaces program has been killed in a car bombing.

Ihsan Karim, head of the Board of Supreme Audit, died in hospital after a bomb placed under one of the cars in his convoy exploded on Thursday, the officials said.

I'd like to know whether it was a typical random suicide bombing or IED or whether it had earmarks more in line with an organized crime or other professional hit, where somebody carefully rigs your car to explode.

Iraq's former U.S. Governor Paul Bremer gave the board independence from the executive branch of government and appointed Karim as its head in April.

The board appointed international accountants Ernst and Young in May to investigate commissions Iraqi and foreign companies paid to former President Saddam Hussein and his government for securing billions of dollars worth of contracts under the 1996-2003 oil-for-food program.

The investigation undermined a separate probe initiated by the now dissolved Iraqi Governing Council and led to tension with former financier Ahmad Chalabi, who holds documents alleging that some international suppliers paid at least 10 percent of the value of contracts to Saddam.

Zaab Sethna, a spokesman for Chalabi, said the audit board was poorly equipped to handle the investigation.

I'm sorry, but I'll take Ernst and Young over Chalabi's investigation, one where apparently many of the documents ended up in his house, probably along with a bunch of Rose Law Firm billing records.

"The assassination of Mr Karim is very worrying. Bremer appointed the audit board and left them on their own," Sethna told Reuters.

"The investigation was the highest profile probe the board was handling. It is impossible to speculate who killed Mr Karim, but the oil-for-food corruption involved very powerful people inside and outside Iraq," he added.

What's worse, those outside Iraq have deep contacts inside Iraq, having essentially gotten in bed with the Ba'athist mob in return for massive bribes and kickbacks that could end their political futures. Worse, the list of suspects extends to just about every high official throughout the UN and Europe who opposed the war, so narrowing it down is going to be difficult, to say the least.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has said Saddam and his circle raised $4.4 billion in illegal revenue by imposing oil surcharges and commissions on suppliers of goods to Iraq under the oil-for-food program.

Billions of dollars of goods flowed through the program, which the United Nations administered from New York through French bank Paribas.

BNP Paribas shows up over and over, doesn't it? Well, one way to shuffle the suspect list might be to ignore those who might merely have some past associations to hide and concentrate on those who'd still have money to lose, so I suggest we keep up the pressure on the UN to reveal some of those Paribas bank records.

July 3, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Palestinian Justice

There's another example of it on display.

QABATIYA, West Bank, July 2 -- Palestinian guerrillas on Friday executed a suspected collaborator with Israel after onlookers in the town square here called for him to die.

Hundreds of spectators surrounded four gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as the four shot Muhammad Rafiq Daraghmeh, 45, a father of two.

Sounds like something straight out of the dark ages, doesn't it?

Militants had hustled Daraghmeh into the town's main square before the assembled crowd and asked him: "Are you a collaborator with the Israeli intelligence?" Daraghmeh said: "Yes." He was also asked if he had sexually molested his two daughters as reported by relatives who said they had disowned him. Daraghmeh answered, "Yes."

It sounds as if at that point there's nothing you could accuse him of to which he wouldn't answer "Yes". It's recently been noted that after 24 hours of interrogation most people will confess to actually anything, if you keep up the pressure.

A gunman turned to the crowd and asked: "What should his sentence be?"

The crowd chanted, "Execution! Kill him, kill him!" as other residents of the town whiled away the time in nearby cafes.

The militants pushed the cowering Daraghmeh to the ground, riddled him with machine-gun fire, got into a car and sped off.

These people are obviously not remotely ready for the civilized world.

July 3, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

Saudis Bag a Cleric

This is good news, except for the loss of the policemen and other people being injured.

Saudi security officials today said they had killed a cleric who issued religious decrees for a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. Abdullah Mohammed Rashid al-Roshoud - who has been described as the terror network's chief "ideologue" in the region - was killed in a shootout following a car chase yesterday.

A policeman also died in the incident, which happened in the al-Quds neighbourhood of eastern Riyadh, a security official told the Associated Press. At least nine other people were reported to have been injured.

Mr Roshoud had called for a holy war against the Saudi royal family and western interests in the Gulf. He is the latest militant to be killed in a Saudi crackdown following a spate of terror attacks in the kingdom.

A former high school professor of Islamic studies, he was known for writing statements on Islamist websites and issuing fatwas justifying terror strikes against the Saudi government and foreign influences in the kingdom.

Now obviously the war won't be one till raving "clerics" are held to account, and that's now happening. After the assassination of Anwar Sadat the Egyptians arrested and tried Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, aka "the blind Sheikh". He defended himself by maintaining that he was following the Qu'ran and other precedents, and they scratched their heads and acquitted him. It's kind of hard for some to question a cleric's religious interpretations, much less argue that perhaps the basis for his statements, and maybe the Prophet himself (PBUH) might've been a bit mistaken on some points. Later he was involved in the plot to blow up the World Trade Center, and the US finally got a hold of him and threw him in jail. If you want background on him and his movement, just Google up "Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya", "Muslim Brotherhood", "Egyptian Islamic Jihad", etc.

Prior to the war in Iraq one Kuwaiti writer, who'd served some jail time for questioning Islamic culture, noted that nowhere in Christiandom can a cleric order up wars and assassinations, since we pulled their teeth hundreds of years ago. He suggested that maybe Islam should do the same if Muslims are to move into the modern world, and it's a very wise idea. However, many of the more radical clerics aren't going to give up such power without a fight, so having the worst of them die in shoot-outs with the police might be the most direct and efficient approach to the problem. Now just think how different Islamic culture might've been if the Qu'ran had spent a few pages explaining how power corrupts even the holiest of religious leaders.

July 1, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hackworth is Hacking

I generally like articles by David Hackworth, but this one raised my hackles. Maybe I haven't been bothering to read him lately, but he seems to be stuck in a quagmire.

America would be a whole lot safer if the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, was flying for Virgin Airlines, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was competing on "Survivor." Both war leaders have done so miserable a job honchoing the military side of our critical conflict against global terrorism, and in the process so jeopardized our national security, that they should be sacked for dereliction of duty.

Oh, does Hackworth think we'd be better off with Clinton, Albreight and company?

Contrary to continuing political spin, Iraq and Afghanistan both are running sores with little promise of even a long-term turnaround, and our world today is far more dangerous than it was before 9/11. Unless there's a 180-degree change in overall strategy, the USA is doomed to follow the same bloody path through these two brutal killing fields that the Soviet Union took in Afghanistan.

They're running sores with little promise for a turnaround? I would think a pair of democracies that respect human rights is quite a shift from a radical and brutal theocracy and a National socialist genocidal tyranny, but maybe I'm just being picky. And excuse me if I've missed those extra skyscrapers hitting the ground, but prior to 9/11 the world was so dangerous we got 9/11. Meanwhile Saddam was as happy taking pot shots at our aircraft patroling the no-fly zones as Chirac was taking kickbacks, Libya was secretly working on their Manhattan project, probably in more ways than one, and Iran and North Korea continued their own nuclear programs, completely out of sight and out of mind of the powers that be. So now he thinks we're following the same bloody path as the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, so he must be channelling the leftist press that predicted we'd have 200,000 or so casualties if we dared venture into that rocky country.

The mighty sword that Rumsfeld and Myers inherited four years ago - the finest military force in the world - is now chipped and dulled. And the word is that it will take at least a decade to get our overextended, bone-tired soldiers and Marines and their worn-out gear back in shape.

What color is the sky on his planet? Actually, they inherited a military that had just gone through massive cuts, so before complaining that our 650 combat deaths has "broken" it, perhaps he should look at the 500,000 soldiers that Clinton slashed, as reported by the Heritage Foundation in 2000.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Clinton administration cut national defense by more than 500,000 personnel and $50 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, notes defense policy analyst Jack Spencer. A just-released Congressional Budget Office report finds that military funding would need to increase by $50 billion a year simply to maintain the size of today’s forces.

Since 1992, Spencer notes, the Army has lost four active divisions and two reserve divisions—30 percent of its staff. The Air Force is down by five tactical squadrons, 178 bombers and 30 percent of its active personnel. The naval fleet has gone from 393 ships in 1992 to 316, and the Navy has decreased its active duty personnel by 30 percent. Even the Marines have lost personnel—22,000 since 1992.

Despite this drastic downsizing, the pace of military deployments has increased 16-fold over the last eight years, including missions in Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1996), and Iraq and Kuwait (1998). As a result of this over-extension, all four services—Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy—face a shortage of modernized equipment and low morale that is driving more and more troops out of the military completely.

So despite the fact that the military budget has dramatically jumped to try and recover from the Clinton years, in order to fight the war on terror, and despite the fact that the services have more people trying to join up than they can accept, Hackworth makes up a wild story about our troops having to recover for a decade.

Top generals like former NATO commander Wes Clark and a squad of retired and active-duty four-stars warned long before the invasion of Iraq: Don't go there. It doesn't involve our national security. It's not the main objective in our war with international terrorism. Even retired four-star Colin Powell said that if we go to Iraq and break the china, we own it. But know-it-all Rumsfeld and go-along-to-get-along Myers totally ignored this sound military advice.

And Wes Clark was also the moron who ordered soldiers to take an airport just to beat the Russians to it, which would've had profoundly bad foreign policy repercussions that would resonate even to this day, if other officers hadn't had the good sense to refuse the order. He was also having photo-ops with Serbian Gen. Ratko Mladic, against all advice, where they exchanging hats, which is about like partying with Goering. But this is still a step up from letting his Abrams tanks be used for domestic law enforcement at Waco. His campaigned for President merely convinced people that he had more qualifications for narcissistic personality disorder than actual leadership skills.

Before the invasion of Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, a distinguished soldier with counter-guerrilla campaigns in Vietnam and Bosnia under his pistol belt, was asked by Congress how many soldiers he thought would be needed for the occupation phase in Iraq. His response: A minimum of 200,000.

Well, he also said "several hundred thousand" and the Pentagon disputed his figures, arguing that the US requirements would be closer to the range of a hundred thousand. Since that's what we generally used and we're still there, with the new government taking shape, I'd say the Pentagon was closer to the mark. One administration official said his statement was "bullshit from a Clintonite enamoured of using the army for peacekeeping and not winning wars". Since then General Shinseki was appointed to the board of BancWest in Hawaii, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas, previously called the Banque Nationale de Paris. Yes, the bank that was getting all that UN Oil for Food money in what's being called the largest financial scandal in world history. It makes me wonder why the French want him on the board, but at least he's not flying for Virgin Airlines or competing on "Survivor".

Rumsfeld treated this courageous soldier - who left half a foot in the Vietnam Delta - like a leper for telling a truth that was obviously contrary to party lockstep. And Shinseki's spot-on troop estimate was discredited and ridiculed by senior Pentagon chicken hawks like Paul Wolfowitz, a man who dodged the draft during Vietnam and wouldn't know a tank from a Toyota.

Wolfowitz might not know a tank from a Toyota, but our problem during April was to avoid pissing off the populace by leveling their cities. Al-Sadr's "massive uprising" crumpled under the weight of just the 1st Armored Division, which only lost 25 soldiers putting down the revolt. The worst-case scenario of a simultaneous Shia and Sunni upset only cost us 200 troops, and even the height of casualties in April was only half the death rate of the best single month in five continuous years of fighting in Vietnam, so having an extra 200,000 or so troops on hand would've been the height of overkill. Extra convoy protection probably would've helped more than anything, but if we had two or three times the troops we'd have to be running two or three times the number of supply convoys. You can't simultaneously be mixed in with 20 million locals and not have vulnerabilities somewhere, and the military works to reduce those to the greatest extent possible. And as any business executive knows, just thowing more and more men to handle the same task that was already being handled is the surest route to bankruptcy.

Even though Rumsfeld and Myers know zilch about ground fighting in an insurgent environment, they were convinced "Shock 'n' Awe" would do the trick, just as another military dilettante, former SecDef Robert McNamara, believed the big hammer would win in Vietnam, a war where the USA dropped three times the bomb tonnage and used twice the artillery firepower than was used in all of World War II.

"Shock and Awe" had nothing to do with fighting the now defunct "insurgents" nor the trickle of terrorists and dead-enders. It had everything to do with toppling Saddam, who was run out of town and found hiding out in a septic pit. I'd say that was "Shocked and Awed".

Space doesn't allow for the long laundry list of what went wrong after the Iraqi army was predictably defeated by a brilliant "Wham, Bam, Goodbye Saddam" air-and-ground attack and the present occupation phase kicked off. But the key screw-ups are:

• Our ground units went in far too light. They didn't have - and still don't have - sufficiently trained numbers and the right force mix to cope with the growing mess on the ground.

But wait, based on casualty figures the mess on the ground is dramatically shrinking, not growing. Let's have a look at the numbers. US military fatalities were 135 in April, 80 in May, and 42 for June. Whatever the mess that's growing, it's certainly not showing up in casualty rates.

• There wasn't an effective plan to deal with the looting, rioting and civil disorder or the early insurgent attacks. Army and Marine skippers in Iraq from company to division tried to put out four-alarm fires without sufficient force, equipment and logistics. Crisis management prevailed.

Oh, excuse us for invading a country without having sufficient riot control. Are we talking about a war or not? Wouldn't WW-II been much harder if we had to fly C-47's full of smoke jumpers and firefighters behind each bomber formation?

• Iraqi police, civil-defense corps, the regular army and border-patrol units - which could have prevented much of the chaos and civil disobedience that followed - were precipitously disbanded.

Well that would be because they were full of Ba'athists, and we hadn't exactly won them over, since we been shooting them up from Kuwait to Tikrit. Now can anyone name an invasion where the invader kept the enemy's army intact? Bueller? Anyone?

In this column on April 1, 2003, when many Americans and all the White House and Pentagon war hawks were gloating about the easy victory in Iraq, I wrote: "Hopefully ... he (G.W. Bush) won't make the mistake of another Texas president who didn't sack his SecDef and Joint Chiefs chairman straight away for their screw-ups" (See "Stuck in the Quicksand," DefenseWatch, Apr. 1, 2003).

Quagmire, quagmire, quagmire. Let's take a look at his April 2 column. My favorite section is this overblown piece of hyperventilating hooey.

Now we're stuck in the Iraqi quicksand in a soon-to-be burning desert with guerrillas tearing up our rear, doing unto our troops whatever unconventional fighters did to the French at Moscow, the Germans at Stalingrad, the Americans in Vietnam and Somalia, the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Russians in Chechnya.

So were we like the French at the gates of Moscow, leaving a trail of hundreds of thousands of dead in our retreat back to Kuwait? Did we get surrounded and decimated in Baghdad like the Germans did at Stalingrad, with our commander forced to surrender our army to the Ba'athists? Did we end up leaving with over fifty-thousand dead, and helicopters evacuating people from the rooftops? Did we pull out after a single grisly firefight? Did we lose 25,000 soldiers like the Soviets in Afghanistan, or did we lose 128? It seems that his comparison is off by a factor of 200, so maybe he should recheck something.

While Saddam was watching videotapes of “Apocalypse Now” and “Black Hawk Down” and taking notes, Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers – badly misjudging Iraq's determination – chose to refight Desert Storm.

Has Hackworth had a nervous breakdown, or is he claiming that Saddam Hussein, the stupidest military commander in modern history, is actually a super-genius, while the US military is staffed by blithering idiots who happen to crush said super-genius in a couple weeks with fewer casualties than we used to suffer taking some small random pacific island?

The Dream Team made three classic mistakes:

* Not understanding the enemy or the nature of the war.

Darn. I guess we're lucky we found Iraq on a map. At this point I'm forced to wonder if Hack understands the nature of reality?

* Thinking smart bombs would do the job.

I guess all that massive convoy was rolling north due to a clerical error, eh?

* Underestimating the patriotism of the average Saddam-hating Iraqi and how fiercely he'd fight for his country.

It would seem Hack regards them as fierce, when in fact the stiffest resistance we encountered was and is from foreign nut jobs. But let's get back to his current article.

Fox's Brit Hume publicly ridiculed my analysis, much like Wolfowitz did Shinseki's. I wonder if Hume and Wolfowitz like their crow served hot or cold.

Looks like Hack has put himself in the position of not only getting ridicule heaped upon him, but now having to route for America's defeat. I wonder if he's shopping for a French villa?

Our president says he's not big on reading newspapers. But perhaps former librarian Laura will share this column with her husband and suggest he follow Harry Truman's example of firing his inept SecDef when the Korean War was going badly.

Maybe Laura will share this column just to give him a good laugh, because if this were like Korea we'd have 33,000 dead and now sit stalemated south of Baghdad, manning a DMZ. I think I'll ignore Hackworth from now on, because he's lost his senses and is barking at the moon like many a dazed and vapid journalist.

July 1, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 24, 2004

Saudi Guns

Saudi Arabia says that foreigners in the kingdom can carry guns for personal protection, by getting a permit, which ironically would give me more gun rights in Saudi Arabia than I'd enjoy in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts, where as a non-resident without a license to own a handgun (my state doesn't have such a silly thing) I can't carry a pistol. But don't worry, there's "sophisticated" Westerns over there too dumb to figure things out.

One Saudi-based Western diplomat said he had not heard of an measures which would allow foreigners to carry weapons. "I would worry that with more people going around with guns more accidents would happen," he said.

People are getting kidnapped and having their heads sawed off, and he's worried about accidents. I just hope he doesn't end up in a position to regard his statement is ironic. Meanwhile back in America, Dick Morris maintains that the terrorists are working to elect John Kerry.

June 24, 2004 in War | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack