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Fallujah and Hue

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by basso, May 27, 2004.

  1. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    I've often felt that this administration is not the best advocate for it's own policies, and sometimes adopts an "if you build it they will come" mentality on major initiatives. They really need to get out front on some of this stuff, because there are too many people-- from the media, to the kerry campaign, to poor pathetic al gore, to Macbeth and the three fates of doom-- who take inspiration from Vietnam and seek to portray the iraq war in the worst possible light, all for partisan political gain.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108561482302622502,00.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

    --
    The Real Story of Fallujah
    By ROBERT D. KAPLAN
    May 27, 2004

    When Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment led U.S. forces into the heart of Fallujah in the pre-dawn hours of April 6, I was the only journalist present. It had been Bravo Company of the "1st of the 5th" that had been first inside the citadel of Hue in Vietnam in February 1968. Hue City, the sight of one of the most glorious chapters in Marine history -- in which the Marines killed 5,113 enemy troops while suffering 147 dead and 857 wounded -- was foremost in the minds of the Marine commanders at Fallujah.

    The Marines never got proper credit for Hue, for it was ultimately overshadowed by My Lai, in which an Army platoon killed 347 civilians a month later in 1968. This was despite the fact that the Marines' liberation of Hue led to the uncovering of thousands of mass graves there: the victims of an indiscriminate communist slaughter. Thus, Hue became a metaphor for the military's frustration with the media: a frustration revisited in Fallujah.

    Whenever the Marines with whom I was attached crossed the path of a mosque, we were fired upon. Mosques in Fallujah were used by snipers and other gunmen, and to store weapons and explosives. Time and again the insurgents forfeited the protective status granted these religious structures as stipulated by Geneva Conventions. Snipers were a particular concern. In early April in nearby Ramadi, an enemy sniper wiped out a squad of Marines using a Soviet-designed Draganov rifle: "12 shots, 12 kills," a Marine officer told me. The marksmanship indicated either imported jihadist talent or a member of the old regime's military elite.

    By the standards of most wars, some mosques in Fallujah deserved to be leveled. But only after repeated aggressions was any mosque targeted, and then sometimes for hits so small in scope that they often had little effect. The news photos of holes in mosque domes did not indicate the callousness of the American military; rather the reverse.

    As for the close-quarters urban combat, I was in the city the first days of the battle. The overwhelming percentage of the small arms fire -- not-to-mention mortars, rockets, and RPGs -- represented indiscriminate automatic bursts of the insurgents. Marines responded with far fewer, more precise shots. It was inspiring to observe high-testosterone 19-year-old lance corporals turn into calm and calculating 30-year-olds every time a firefight started.

    There was nothing fancy about the Marine advance into Fallujah. Marines slugged it out three steps forward, two steps backward: the classic, immemorial labor of infantry, little changed since Hue, or since antiquity for that matter. As their own casualties mounted, the only time I saw angry or depressed Marines was when an Iraqi civilian was accidentally hit in the crossfire -- usually perpetrated by the enemy. I was not surprised. I had seen Army Special Forces react similarly to civilian casualties the year before in Afghanistan. The humanity of the troops is something to behold: contrary to the op-ed page of the New York Times (May 21), the word "haji" in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at least among Marines and Special Forces, is more often used as an endearment than a slur. To wit, "let's drink tea and hang out with the hajis" . . . "haji food is so much better than what they feed us" . . . "a haji designed real nice vests for our rifle plates," and so on. Thus, it has been so appallingly depressing to read about Abu Ghraib prison day after day, after day.

    By April 7, two sleep-deprived Marine battalions had taken nearly 20% of Fallujah. The following day a third battalion arrived to join the fight, allowing the first two to rest and recover their battle rhythm. Just as the three well-rested battalions were about to start boxing-in the insurgents against the Euphrates River at the western edge of the city, a cease-fire was announced.

    As disappointing as the cease-fire was, the Marines managed to wrest positive consequences from it. It would free them up to resume mortar-mitigation, a critical defense task today in Iraq. Mortars and rockets rain down continually on American bases. If left unchallenged, it may be only a matter of time before a crowded chow hall or MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) facility is hit; recalling the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen.

    Furthermore, as soon as the 1st of the 5th Marines departed Fallujah they headed for Al-Karmah, a town about half the size of Fallujah, strategically located between Fallujah and Baghdad. Al-Karmah was no less hostile than Fallujah. I went there several times in March with the Marines. The streets always emptied upon our arrival and we were periodically fired upon. After the Fallujah operation, the Marines didn't just visit Al-Karmah, they moved inside, patrolling regularly, talking to people on the streets, collecting intelligence and going a long way toward reclaiming that city. As one company captain told me, "it's easily the most productive stuff we've done in Iraq."

    If Al-Karmah is reclaimed, if Fallujah itself remains relatively calm, if the Marines can patrol there at some point, and if mortar attacks abate measurably -- all distinct possibilities -- the decision not to launch an all-out assault on Fallujah could look like the right one.

    But none of the above matters if it is not competently explained to the American public -- for the home front is more critical in a counterinsurgency than in any other kind of war. Yet the meticulous planning process undertaken by the Marines at the tactical level for assaulting Fallujah was not augmented with a similarly meticulous process by the Bush administration at the strategic level for counteracting the easily foreseen media fallout from fighting in civilian areas near Muslim religious sites. The public was never made to feel just how much of a military threat the mosques in Fallujah represented, just how far Marines went to avoid damage to them and to civilians, and just how much those same Marine battalions accomplished after departing Fallujah.

    We live in a world of burning visual images: As Marines assaulted Fallujah, the administration should have been holding dramatic slide shows for the public, of the kind that battalion and company commanders were giving their troops, explaining how this or that particular mosque was being militarily utilized, and how much was being done to avoid destroying them, at great risk to Marine lives. Complaining about the slanted coverage of Al-Jazeera -- as administration officials did -- was as pathetic as Jimmy Carter complaining that Soviet Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev had lied to him. Given its long-standing track record, how else could Al-Jazeera have been expected to report the story? You had the feeling that the Pentagon was reacting; not anticipating.

    And had the administration adequately explained to the public about what the Marines were doing after Fallujah, there might have been less disappointment and mystification about quitting the fight there. But instead of a gripping storyline to compete with that of the global media's, spokesmen for the White House, Pentagon, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Baghdad-based military coalition, in their regular briefings about events in Iraq, continue to feed the public insipid summaries, with little visual context, that have all the pungency of watery gruel.

    This is not to say that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal should be forgotten, that our government should deceive the public, or that the overall direction of events in Iraq is positive: far from it. I have been to towns and villages in the Sunni triangle where the CPA has no demonstrable presence, where the inhabitants have no functioning utilities, where crime is rampant, where the newly constituted police are powerless and only sheikhs have the power to haul in criminals, and where it is only the social glue of tribe and clan that keeps these places from descending into Middle Eastern Liberias.

    But I also found that there are many different Iraqs and different levels of reality to each of them. Presently, the administration lacks the public relations talent and the organizational structure for conveying even the positive elements of the Iraqi panorama in all their drama and texture.

    Because the battles in a counterinsurgency are small scale and often clandestine, the story line is rarely obvious. It becomes a matter of perceptions, and victory is awarded to those who weave the most compelling narrative. Truly, in the world of postmodern, 21st century conflict, civilian and military public-affairs officers must become war fighters by another name. They must control and anticipate a whole new storm system represented by a global media, which too often exposes embarrassing facts out of historical or philosophical context.

    Without a communications strategy that gives the public the same sense of mission that a company captain imparts to his noncommissioned officers, victory in warfare nowadays is impossible. Looking beyond Iraq, the American military needs battlefield doctrine for influencing the public in the same way that the Army and the Marines already have doctrine for individual infantry tasks and squad-level operations (the Ranger Handbook, the Fleet Marine Force Manual, etc.).

    The centerpiece of that doctrine must be the flattening out of bureaucratic hierarchies within the Defense Department, so that spokesmen can tap directly into the experiences of company and battalion commanders and entwine their smell-of-the-ground experiences into daily briefings. Nothing is more destructive for the public-relations side of warfare than field reports that have to make their way up antiquated, Industrial Age layers of command, diluting riveting stories of useful content in the process. Journalists with little knowledge of military history or tactics and with various agendas to peddle can go directly to lieutenants and sergeants, yet the very spokesmen of these soldiers and Marines themselves -- even through their aides -- seem unable to do so.

    The American public can accept 50 casualties per week if the path to some sort of success is convincingly laid out. If it isn't, the public won't accept even two casualties per week. It could not be helped that the shame of My Lai, as awful as it was, should have been allowed to blot out American heroism at places like Hue: The phenomenon of the media as we know it was new back then. But if the stain of Abu Ghraib, for example, is not placed in its rightful perspective against everything else that soldiers and Marines are doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia and many other places in the War on Terrorism, then it won't be the media's fault alone.

    Mr. Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. His complete, firsthand account of the planning and execution of the Marines' entry into Fallujah will appear in that magazine's July/August issue.
     
  2. gifford1967

    gifford1967 Contributing Member
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    (ignoring slur on all who criticize the Administration's Iraq policy) Basso, that was an interesting article and I think it's description of the Marine's competence and professionalism is probably dead on. However, to think this says something significant about the success or failure of the war in Iraq is simply misguided. That article is the Trees.


    This article (also from The Atlantic Monthly) is the Forest-


    Atlantic Unbound | May 19, 2004

    Politics & Prose | by Jack Beatty

    History's Fools

    In the wake of Iraq, the term "neo-conservative" may come to mean "dangerous innocence about world realities"

    .....

    Paul Wolfowitz could not come up with the right number when he testified on Capitol Hill recently—he was off by about 30% in his estimate of the number of Americans killed in Iraq, which at this writing is 786. He's a busy man. You can't expect him to remember how many young Americans have died for the ambition of his adult life. Had he been asked what they died for, he would not have repeated what he told Vanity Fair last year. He would not have said, "For oil." By now, on message with the rest of the administration, he'd have said, "For democracy."

    Tragically, any good the US could have obtained from bringing democracy to Iraq has been vitiated by the mayhem Wolfowitz's obsession with toppling Saddam Hussein has inflicted on the Iraqi people—the 7,000 to 10,000 civilians killed, the torture victims, the populace so brutalized and humiliated by an occupation to which Wolfowitz appears not to have given a thought that over 80% want us out now. And those are just the short-term, intra-Iraq harms. Long-term, according to the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, US interests in the Middle East have been set back a decade by Abu Ghraib.

    Shortly after September 11, Sir Michael Howard, the British military historian, issued what sounded then like an apocalyptic warning: that in the context of the "war of civilizations" between radical Islam and the West a US occupation of Iraq would be tantamount to a nuclear exchange between the superpowers during the Cold War. It sounds like realism now. The fallout from the photographs will poison Muslim minds against the US, and possibly against democracy, throughout this century. Before the war, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak cautioned that a US invasion of Iraq would create "a hundred Bin Ladens." That is likely to prove a conservative estimate.

    As for US credibility beyond the Middle East, a friend writes: "I'm guessing that another result of this adventure is that much of the world will now see us as a paper tiger (which has both good and bad aspects). After seeing how incapable we are, with our 135,000-man army, of dealing even with a weak, backward little country like Iraq, is any heavily armed tyrant quaking in his boots? All we can do is blow up things. Don't our hinted warnings to China (China!) about Taiwan sound hollow now? If China decides to take Taiwan, we will ... what? Send Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle over there with a company of Marines?"

    Paradoxically, the very scale of the debacle in Iraq may yield one long-term good: the repudiation of neo-conservative "democratic imperialism." The Americans killed in Iraq will not have died in vain if their sacrifice keeps other Americans from dying in neo-con wars to "remediate" Syria, Iran, or North Korea. After Iraq, "neo-conservative" may achieve the resonance of "isolationist" after World War II—a term of opprobrium for a discredited approach to foreign policy, shorthand for dangerous innocence about world realities. Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.

    History showed what worked against threatening states—containment and deterrence. Behind them, confident of the melting power of its way of life, the West waited out Soviet Communism. Containment had its critics—a wing of the Republican Party demanded a "rollback" of Soviet power from Eastern Europe. The neo-cons are the heirs of rollback. They ditched the strategy that worked against a nuclear-armed superpower to launch a pre-emptive war against a toothless Iraq, which has been contained and deterred—and disarmed—since the Gulf War. They identified the wrong enemy (a state), attacked it for the wrong reasons (WMD), and in a way that strengthened our real enemy, the transnational terrorists of September 11. America has made mistakes in foreign policy, but nothing compares to this. In the larger context of the Cold War, Vietnam made a kind of sense. In the context of the struggle against Islamist terrorism, Iraq is an act of self-sabotage. Of the neo-cons and their neo-con war Auden might have written: "Intellectual disgrace stares from every human face."

    ast week, on the NPR public affairs program On Point, Ian Lustig, a Middle East scholar, saw another filament of hope emerging from the ruin of Iraq: The US may be so desperate to recoup a measure of good will in the Arab world that it will force a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

    The outlines of a two-state solution were agreed upon by former Israeli government officials and moderate Palestinians at Geneva last year. Secretary of State Powell welcomed their initiative. But progress toward peace cannot happen so long as Ariel Sharon's Likud Party remains in power in Israel. President Bush's father helped bring down an earlier Likud government by withholding aid. The issue was the building of more Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The settlements remain the issue on which the US still has leverage and over which it still has responsibility, and, along with Palestinian terrorism (over which we have neither control nor responsibility) they are the roadblock on the "road map" to a two-state solution.

    On the settlements US and Likud interests diverge. President Bush betrayed the national interest in abandoning thirty-five years of US policy toward the settlements to appease Ariel Sharon—and win Jewish votes in Florida. It is hard to imagine a second Bush Administration reversing course and even harder to imagine John Kerry facing down a vital part of the Democratic coalition to force Israelis to choose between the settlements that have brought them so much suffering and continued US aid. But desperation brings clarity. National crisis can override special-interest politics. Israel could still build its wall—only within its pre-1967 borders. Perhaps a Palestinian state on contiguous territory on the West Bank, its people barred from work in Israel, its economy petrified, would confront its Islamist terrorists. But even if it did not, "Fortress Israel" would be as secure behind its wall as its history with the Palestinians will permit. And the US would have taken the one step, perhaps the only step it can take now, to tamp down the fury of the Arab street, to deny a propaganda instrument to the denizens of the Arab "basement" itching to perpetrate a new September 11, and to strengthen the forces of reform in the Arab world. If there is a path to democracy in the Middle East, it begins in Jerusalem, not Baghdad.


    The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/polipro/pp2004-05-19.htm.
     
  3. MacBeth

    MacBeth Member

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    Please educate me on my partisan political gain for portraying the war in a negative light. Seriously.
     
  4. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    the Election of Eyeore.
     
  5. RocketMan Tex

    RocketMan Tex Contributing Member

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    The Election of Eyeore makes the world a safer place than the reselection of Captain Dumbf*ck.
     
  6. MacBeth

    MacBeth Member

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    Ah, see, but you're wrong here, basso, and you should know it by now.

    I am against Bush because of the war, not the other way around. I supported him last election.

    So you pointing out my 'political bias' as a means of explaining away my objection to the war is more than just a little ironic, now, isn't it?
     
  7. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    Macbeth's partisan gain is that he can obtain BBS supremacy and bask in its glory, like so:



    [​IMG]
     
  8. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

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    Man, don't I wish I had MacBeth's bod...

    :eek:

    :D
     
  9. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    ...looks a little gay in that pic, not that there's anything wrong with that!
     
  10. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    Not gay, just canadian.
     
  11. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

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    Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
    With all their hockey hullabaloo...
     
  12. MacBeth

    MacBeth Member

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    LOL Gay, Canadian, whatever.

    Basso...are you going to address the evidence of partisan blindness apparent in this thread, or not? If not, cool. I have little hope this will open your eyes. It's happened before, and I'm still called a liberal, a Deomcrat, etc. etc. with regularity, and the assumption is still made that I am against the war because I'm against Bush, rather than the opposite, which is true.

    Few people who've made that assumption have owned up to the bias that prompted that assumption, or what it indicates.
     
  13. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    The fact is you're against the war, which makes you against Bush. you therefore trumpet every setback in iRaq and attempt to discredit any success. The war has made you an anti-bush partisan, which is fine, but it doesn't change the fact that you're now avowedly anti-bush. sounds partisan, or certainly biased, to me.
     
  14. MacBeth

    MacBeth Member

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    Illogical. You can't be against A because of B, but be against B because you're against A. If not for his actions, I would still be supporting Bush, or at least that's the only logical assumption. To take from that that I'm against his actions because he's the one making them is to put the cart before the horse.

    If I demonstrated political objectivity in opposing the war despite having supported Bush, where is the evidence of partisanship? It's fine to say the war has made me anti-bush, but there is nothing to indicate that being bush has made me anti-war, or skewed my perspective on same.
     
  15. Bogey

    Bogey Contributing Member

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    I'll admit, to me it looks like most posters that are against the war, tend to be against it mainly b/c of Bush and the Republicans. I think I just grouped you (MacBeth) into that group. I have noticed, after reading through a lot of your posts that you are more against the war, regardless of political offiliation.

    I think I'm a little opposite. Don't get me wrong, I wish it could be done w/o war, but getting rid of Sadaam is definitely a good thing. It probably won't be apparent for a while, but getting rid of him is justification for the war. Bush, on the other hand, has botched so many different things regarding this war.
    I'm not much into politics and hate this whole us vs them effect that happens across both parties.
     
  16. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I have to disagree. I was anti-Bush from the get-go, but not anti-war. When we went to war in Afghanistan, I was in favor of that move, as were almost every other anti Iraq war poster I've seen post here. I applauded Bush for the Imam speak at 9/11 events. I thought Bush did a great job waiting as long as he did to go into Afghanistan while the evidence was being gathered. By doing that he presented the evidence to the world and they were with us.

    Despite having been against Bush prior to 9/11, I was not anti-war, and I was able to praise him for what he did.

    With Iraq he did not have conclusive evidence that he waited to gather and present to the world to get them on our side. He simply invaded despite their being other alternatives and options still available.

    I have no problem saying I didn't like Bush, but to say that I was anti-war only because of I'm anti-Bush is inaccurate.
     
  17. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    The Atlantic article is interesting. It would be good if the US would finally start following what is in its own interest with respect to the Palestinian -Israeli question. It would be best for Israel to be forced to have peace rather than merely relying on its military and our backing to keep indefinitely putting off the land for peace deal.

    I know the defenders of the status quo will claim that this can only be done when all the Palestinians, who they believe are all terrorists and liars, accept Israel, in other words never. We can't allow that type of thinking to block our own interests and those of peace loving Israelis. The pro-war Likud crowd in Israel must be humbled along with their American neo-liberals.
     

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