Thursday, November 25, 2004

Margaret,Falluja Effects, Vietnam Parallel

1) Margarat Hassan I.  I don't agree with this opinion

at all, but there it is...:,2763,1354936,00.html

To see this story with its related links on the
Guardian Unlimited
site, go to

This fatal compromise
The decision by the US-funded Care International not
to pull out of
Iraq may have cost the life of its local director,
Margaret Hassan
Ian Brown
Friday November 19 2004
The Guardian

I met Margaret Hassan in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq
war, when I was an aid worker running an educational
programme for young Iranian prisoners-of-war in
Ramadi, then a quiet town where the only gunfire heard
was during weddings. Margaret hadn't yet become an aid
worker for Care Iraq. She was assistant director of
studies at the British Council in
Baghdad. I'd gone to see her to ask if the council
might let me have any leftover English books to stock
the meagre prison library. I wasn't hopeful,
given the sensitivity of the demand...

2) Margarat Hassan II:

Who killed Margaret Hassan?
Robert Fisk

After the grief, the astonishment, heartbreak, anger
and fury over the apparent murder of such a good and
saintly woman, that is the question her friends - and,
quite possibly, the Iraqi insurgents - will be asking.

This Anglo-Irish woman held an Iraqi passport. She had
lived in Iraq for 30 years, she had dedicated her life
to the welfare of Iraqis in need.

She hated the United Nations sanctions and opposed the
Anglo-American invasion.

So who killed Margaret Hassan?

Of course, those of us who knew her will reflect on
the appalling implications of the videotape (sent to
Al Jazeera on Tuesday and apparently showing her

Her husband believes it is evidence of her death.

If Margaret Hassan can be kidnapped and murdered, how
much further can we fall into the Iraqi pit?

There are no barriers, no frontiers of immorality
left. What price is innocence now worth in the anarchy
that we have brought to Iraq? The answer is simple:

I remember Margaret arguing with doctors and truck
drivers over a lorry-load of medicines for Iraq's
children's cancer wards in 1998. She smiled, cajoled
and pleaded to get these leukaemia drugs to Basra and

She would not have wished to be called an angel -
Margaret didn't like cliches. Even now I want to write
"doesn't like cliches". Are we really permitted to say
that she is dead?

For the bureaucrats and the Western leaders who on
Wednesday will express their outrage and sorrow at her
reported death, she had nothing but scorn.

Yes, she knew the risks. Margaret Hassan was well
aware that many Iraqi women had been kidnapped, raped,
ransomed or murdered by the Baghdad mafia.

Because she is a Western woman - the first to be
abducted and apparently murdered - we forget how many
Iraqi women have already suffered this terrible fate;
largely unreported in a world which counts dead
American soldiers but ignores the fatalities among
those with darker skins and browner eyes and a
different religion, whom we claimed to have liberated.

And now let's remember the other, earlier videos.
Margaret Hassan crying. Margaret Hassan fainting,
Margaret Hassan having water thrown over her face to
revive her, Margaret Hassan crying again, pleading for
the withdrawal of the Black Watch regiment from the
Euphrates River.

In the background of these appalling pictures, there
were none of the usual Islamic banners. There were
none of the usual armed and hooded men. There were no
Qur'anic recitations.

And when it percolated through to Fallujah and Ramadi
that the mere act of kidnapping Hassan was close to
heresy, the combined resistance groups of Fallujah -
and the message genuinely came from them - demanded
her release.

So, incredibly, did Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda
man whom the Americans falsely claimed was leading the
Iraqi insurrection, but who has definitely been
involved in the kidnappings and beheadings.

Other abducted women were freed when their captors
recognised their innocence.

But not Margaret Hassan, even though she spoke fluent
Arabic and could explain her work to her captors in
their own language.

If anyone doubted the murderous nature of the
insurgents, what better way to prove their viciousness
than to produce evidence of Margaret Hassan's murder?

What more ruthless way could there be of demonstrating
to the world that the US and Interim Prime Minister
Iyad Alawi's tinpot army were fighting "evil" in
Fallujah and the other Iraqi cities?

3) The heartbreak of war:

For one reader, a single photograph brought home the
inconceivable horror that is Iraq.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By J. Scott Smith

Nov. 18, 2004 | Perhaps, being a new father, I am
overly sensitive to such things, but today the image I
saw on my computer screen brought me to tears. The
photograph, appearing on the BBC's Web site, was from
some street or another in Fallujah, Iraq. The caption,
although gruesome enough, was a comparatively bland
statement that "Bodies have been left uncollected for
days." Yet what the picture depicted was testimony to
the unmitigated and unavoidable tragedy of war. In the
picture we see the "uncollected" body of a man lying
in the street, his arms still clutching yet another
uncollected body, that of a child. The child's body
was clasping the man's shoulders, holding on for what
was dear life to the now headless corpse of, who
knows, his (or her, you cannot tell) father, uncle,
brother, someone he trusted to protect and shelter
him. The picture can be seen here.

One can only imagine the sheer terror and unfathomable
sadness of their last moments, gunfire and explosions
ringing in their ears, trying to find safety in a war
they did not ask for, a war they did not start.
Perhaps the man was trying to carry the child to
safety, or maybe the child saw him die and rushed to
him only to be killed as well. All we know is that
there they now lie, a man and his child, eternally
locked in each other's arms, as soldiers from a
foreign land amble past.

I cannot help but think of the argument many made, and
I myself considered: that this war would ultimately be
for the betterment of the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein
was a brutal dictator after all. Yet these two lives
were certainly not improved. To them the spreading of
democracy brought only terror and death.

Many were led to believe that with the magic precision
of modern weapons, civilian casualties -- "collateral
damage" -- would be light or nonexistent. Of course,
that is not true. It never has been.

The appointed prime minister of Iraq just yesterday
tried to tell the world that there were no civilian
casualties in Fallujah, when our very eyes tell us a
different story. Our government tried to tell us that
there were "hardly any" civilian casualties.

Yet ask yourself this: If the weapons are so accurate,
then why were artillery operations ceased when U.S.
personnel began operating in most of the city? The
reason is simple. Artillery remains what it has been
since the days of Napoleon: an "area weapon." That
means it is used to rain destruction over an entire
area, not just a particular house or bunker. For
example, the Washington Post ran a story about the
Marines responsible for operating the unmanned
surveillance aircraft. The story described a small
duel between the Marines' 155 mm howitzers and a
single insurgent mortar tube, with the surveillance
guys acting as spotters. It described the "bracketing
rounds," one 100 yards left of the target, the next a
few yards short, then the rounds fired "for effect."
Of those, most landed right in and around the target,
but two or three were off by as much as 100 yards.
(Despite all that, they still missed the tube.)

What pray tell was under those rounds that missed? Who
knows? But we do know there were as many as 50,000
civilians who were unable to leave the city, and of
the thousands of shells that were poured into the city
(almost Russian in its scope was the barrage) it
stands to reason that more than "hardly any"
innocents' lives were lost, their last hours spent
enduring the thunder of exploding shells all around
them and only to then have a house come crashing down
upon them.

Then there are the phosphorous rounds. They explode
100 or so feet above the ground and rain burning
phosphorous globules over as much as an entire city
block. Just about everything underneath them, from
metal-encased bunkers to the innocent family cowering
in a wooden house, burns.

No, to quote that famous but still unknown soldier in
Patton's Third Army, after leaving a French village
they just captured, "We sure liberated the hell out of
that place."

It is not just Fallujah; it is the entire war.
According to one peer-reviewed analysis conducted by
researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the number of
civilian deaths that can be attributed to the war and
its aftermath exceeds 100,000. Not ten thousand; one
hundred thousand. That is far more than the number of
deaths the mass murderer Saddam (and he clearly was)
was blamed for over the entire past decade. Other more
conservative estimates (based on what limited hospital
records are available) place the toll in the tens of
thousands. I do not blame our soldiers and Marines.
They are not "baby killers." They were given a
difficult job, and they are doing it in the only real
way possible. I do not even fault the decision to
attack Fallujah this time around. The decision to
attack last April, against the advice of the
commanders on the ground, left us with no viable

No, it is our dear leaders who must be held to
account. They chose to fight a war of conquest -- a
much more violent proposition than other types of war
-- without good reason. They sold the war on false
evidence and false assumptions about the effect on the
civilian population. We will bring the shining light
of democracy to the Iraqi people, they said. Americans
were led to believe that only those who chose to fight
would suffer. Never, ever should anyone try to sell a
war by sugarcoating its realities, by implying that it
will be an antiseptic video game of surgically precise
weapons, that there will only be the most "minimal"
loss of innocent life. That is the stuff of Tom Clancy
novels, not real war. I find it inconceivable that a
man who professes to be "pro-life" could so blithely
commit so many others to die. Tonight, George Bush
will go to sleep happy, comfortable in his electoral
victory and looking forward to spending that political
capital he says he "earned." Meanwhile a man and his
innocent child lie rotting on a dusty Fallujah street.

4) The Crushing of Fallujah:

Counterpunch 19NOV04

November 19, 2004

The Crushing of Fallujah
By James Petras

I am reading William Shirer's Berlin Diary, a
journalist's account of Nazi political propaganda
during the 1930's, as I watch the US 'news' reports of
the violent assault on Fallujah. The US mass media
'reports', the style, content and especially the
language echo their Nazi predecessor of 70 years ago
to an uncanny degree. Coincidence? Of course! In both
instances we have imperialist armies conquering
countries, leveling cities and slaughtering
civilians--and the mass media, private in form, state
appendages in practice, disseminate the most
outrageous lies, in defense and praise of the
conquering 'storm troopers'--call them SS or Marines.
Both in Nazi Germany and contemporary US, we are told
by the mass media that the invading armies are
"freeing the country" of "foreign fighters", "armed
terrorists", who are preventing "the people" from
going about their everyday lives. Yet we know that of
the 1,000 prisoners there are only 4 foreigners (3
Iranians and 1 Arab); Iraqi hospitals report less than
10% of foreign fighters. In other words over 90% of
the fighters are Iraqis--most of who were born,
educated, and raised families in the cities in which
they are fighting.

Like the Nazi media, the major US radio and TV
networks only report what they call "military
casualties"--failing to report the civilians killed
since the war started and the thousands of women and
children killed and wounded since the assault of
Fallujah began. Like in Nazi Germany, the US mass
media feature unconfirmed reports by the US military
of the bloody murders, beheadings and kidnapping "by
the foreign terrorists". The unconditional support of
Nazi/US mass media of the killing fields is best
captured in their reports of the massive bombing of
densely populated city districts. For the US network
NBC, the dropping of 500-pound bombs in the city of
Fallujah is described as targeting an "insurgent
tunnel network in the city". And the houses, markets,
stores--the mothers and children above those
tunnels--vaporized into "pink mist". Their existence
never acknowledged by the leading reporters and

Almost the entire population of non-Kurdish Iraq is
opposed to the US military and its puppet regime--yet
the media refer to the patriots defending their
country from the imperial invaders as--'insurgents'
minimizing the significance of a nation-wide patriotic
liberation movement. One of the most surreal
euphemisms is the constant reference to the 'coalition
forces'--meaning the US colonial conquerors and the
mercenaries and satraps that they direct and control.

The terror bombing of homes, hospitals and religious
buildings by hundreds of airplanes and helicopter
gunships are described by the media as 'securing the
city for free elections'.

'Freeing the city of insurgents' includes the
systematic murder of friends, neighbors and relatives
of every Iraqi living in the city of Fallujah.

'Surrounding the insurgents' means cutting off water,
electricity, medical aid for 200,000 civilians in the
city and putting tens of thousands who fled under
threat of a typhoid epidemic. 'Pacifying the city'
involves turning it to absolute desolate poisoned

Why do Washington and the mass media resort to gross,
systematic lying and euphemisms? Basically to
reinforce mass support at home for mass murder in
Iraq. The mass media fabricates a web of lies to
secure a gloss of legitimacy for totalitarian methods
in order that the US armed forces continue to destroy
cities with impunity. The technique perfected by
Goebbels in Germany and practiced in the US is to
repeat lies and euphemism until they become accepted
'truths', and embedded in everyday language. The mass
media by effectively routinizing a common language
implicates the listeners. The tactical concerns of the
Generals, the commanders directing the slaughter
(pacification), and the soldiers murdering civilians
are explained (and consumed by the millions listening
and watching) by the unchallenged authorities to the
compliant journalists and famous news anchors. The
unity of purpose between the agents of mass murder and
everyday US public is established via 'news reports':
The soldiers 'paint the names' of their wives and
sweethearts on the tanks and armored vehicles which
destroy Iraqi families and turn Fallujah into ruins.
Returning soldiers from Iraq are 'interviewed' who
want to return to 'be with their platoon' and 'wipe
out the terrorists'. Not all of US combat forces
experienced the joys of shooting civilians. Medical
studies report that one out of five returning soldiers
are suffering from severe psychological trauma, no
doubt from witnessing or participation in the mass
killing of civilians. The family of one returned
soldier, who recently committed suicide, reported that
he constantly referred to his killing an unarmed child
in the streets of Iraq--calling himself a 'murderer'.
Aside from these notable exceptions, the mass
propaganda media practice several techniques, which
assuage the 'conscience' of US soldiers and civilians.
One technique is 'role reversal' to attribute the
crimes of the invading force to the victims: It is not
the soldiers who cause destruction of cities and
murder, but the Iraqi families who 'protect the
terrorists' and "bring upon themselves the savage
bombardment". The second technique is to only report
US casualties from 'terrorist bombs'--to omit any
mention of thousands of Iraqi civilian killed by US
bombs and artillery. Both Nazi and US propaganda
glorify the 'heroism', 'success' of their elite forces
(the SS and the Marines)--in killing 'terrorists' or
'insurgents'--every dead civilian is counted as a
'suspected terrorist sympathizer'.

The US and German military have declared every
civilian building a 'storehouse' or 'hiding place' for
'terrorists'--hence the absolutely total disregard of
all the Geneva laws of warfare. The US and Nazi
practice of 'total war' in which whole communities,
neighborhoods and entire cities are collectively
guilty of shielding 'wanted terrorists'--is of course
the standard operating military procedure of the
Israeli government.

The US publicizes the cruel and unusual punishment of
Iraqi 'suspects' (any male between 14-60 years) taken
prisoner: photos appear in Time and Newsweek of
barefoot, blindfolded and bound young men led from
their homes and pushed into trucks to be taken to
'exploitation centers' for interrogation. For many in
the US public these pictures are part of the success
story--they are told these are the 'terrorists' who
would blow up American homes. For the majority who
voted for Bush, the mass propaganda media has taught
them to believe that the extermination of scores of
thousands of Iraqi citizens is in their best
interests: they can sleep sound, as long as 'our boys'
kill them 'over there'.

Above all the mass propaganda media has done
everything possible to deny Iraqi national
consciousness. Everyday in every way the reference is
to religious loyalties, ethnic identities, past
political labels, 'tribal' and family clans. The
purpose is to divide and conquer, and to present the
world with a 'chaotic' Iraq in which the only
coherent, stable force is the US colonial regime. The
purpose of the savage colonial assaults and the
political labeling is to destroy the idea of the Iraqi
nation--and in its place to substitute a series of
mini-entities run by imperial satraps obedient to

Sunday morning: November 14 .Today Fallujah is being
raped and razed,captured
Wounded prisoners are shot in the mosques .In New York
the mega malls are crowded with shoppers .

Sunday afternoon: the Marines have blocked food
,water,and medicine from entering Fallujah..Throughout
the US millions of men sit in front of the television
watching football.

Shirer reported that while the Nazis invaded and
ravaged Belgium and bombed Rotterdam.,in Berlin the
cafes were full,the symphony played and people walked
their dogs in the park on sunny Sunday afternoons

Sunday night November 14, 2004, I turn on the
television to 60 Minutes and watch a replay of Mike
Wallace's 'interviews' with Yasser Arafat. Like all US
mass media 'stars', he ignores the Israeli invasion of
Lebanon and Sharon's murder of thousands of
Palestinians, the military occupation of Palestine and
the wanton destruction of Jenin and Gaza City. Wallace
accuses Arafat of being a liar, a terrorist, of being
corrupt and devious. Thirty million US households
watch this ugly spectacle of a self-righteous Zionist
apologist flaunting the 'Western ideals', which are so
useful in razing cities, bombing hospitals and
exterminating a nation.

Yes, there are differences between Shirer's account of
Nazi propaganda in defense of the conquest of Europe
and the US media's apology for the invasion of Iraq
and Israel's slaughter of the Palestinians: One is
committed in the name of the Fuehrer and the
Fatherland, the other in the name of God and
Democracy. Go tell that to the bloated corpses gnawed
by dogs in the ruins of Fallujah.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at
Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year
membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the
landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is
co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). He can be
reached at:

5) This might be counter-disinformation, but there it

Iraqi Physican Confirms US Chemical Weapons Use In
By Omar al-Faris - JUS, 11-18-4

Anger that is seething throughout Iraq and the world
over the assault on Fallujah turned to rage yesterday
as an Iraqi physician came forward to confirm reports
of the use of banned chemical weapons in Fallujah.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Panorama
radio station, the physician said he had just examined
two dead bodies and confirmed that the victims died of
banned chemical weapons. The physician found no
evidence of bullet wounds, shrapnel, or any objects
penetrating the bodies.

It is worth noting that Mufkarat al-Islam was the
first to alert readers to the use of chemical weapons
by American occupying force on 11/11/2004. Since that
time there have been several reports that US
occupation troops has resorted to using chemical but
none that could be independently verified.

34 Victims Of Banned Chemical Weapons Buried In

It is also interesting how concerned the American
occupying forces were about burying the bodies that
lay on the outskirts of the Jowlan neighborhood for
burial in Al-Saqlawiah, with many mainstream reports
that the occupiers where "cleaning up the dead. Now we
have the answer.

Local citizens who came to retrieve their lost ones
were frisked to make sure that none of them brought
cameras to document the crime using chemical weapons.
American occupiers also insisted on accompanying those
citizens from the moment of removing the bodies up
until the final burial. 20 bodies including two women
and a child were removed on Monday, 14 more on
Tuesday. Mufkarat al-Islam correspondent confirmed
that the dead bodies were swollen, yellow colored, and
had no smell. A number of citizens requested
permission to go inside Jowlan neighborhood to remove
the dead but they were told (through an interpreter)
that Americans cannot go with them because they do not
control that area inside. A woman fleeing the war torn
zone informed Mufkarat al-Islam,s correspondent that
she witnessed Americans putting bodies in black
plastic bags and dumping them in the river.

Observers agree on one thing - Americans decided to
use chemical weapons after they failed to defeat the
Mujahideen in Fallujah both a cowardly and inhumane
act. The Mujahideen inflicted heavy losses on the US
forces in al-Fallujah prompting the Americans to
employ chemical weapons for the first time since the
fall of Baghdad. Reports have been received that US
forces used chemical weapons in the al-Jawlan,
ash-Shuhada,, and al-Jubayl neighborhoods and again
last night in al-Jubayl neighborhood.

Is this how intends to deal with the rest of the Sunni


The Sunni-Shi'ite power play
By Pepe Escobar

Iraqis are not fighting one another - at least not
yet: they are fighting the occupying power, although
with different strategies. After Fallujah, this
situation is about to change.

For the average Iraqi, Sunni or Shi'ite - and
Americans underestimate Iraqi national pride at their
peril - there's no question: the current Sunni
resistance morally prevails, because they are Iraqis
fighting an invader/occupier. This means the US
occupation in essence lost even before it began.
Defining the resistance as "anti-Iraqi forces" - as
the Pentagon does - is nonsense: they are a legitimate
popular resistance movement, while the US-trained
Iraqi police are largely identified for what they are
- collaborationists doing the dirty work of
Iraqification, the Mesopotamian version of failed
Vietnamization. Hundreds of these US-trained forces
ran away before the battle even started in Fallujah.
No wonder: they were resistance moles. And most of
Mosul's police also defected.

The resistance is now spread out all over the Sunni
heartland - contradicting US marine talk that the
assault on Fallujah "broke the back of the
resistance". Added proof that the resistance is
indigenous is that of more than 1,000 men between the
ages of 15 and 55 who the Pentagon says were captured
in Fallujah - there's no independent confirmation;
only 15 have been confirmed as "foreign fighters",
according to General George Casey, the top US ground
commander. And these "foreigners" are mostly Saudis,
Jordanians or Syrians, described by Iraqis themselves
as "our Arab brothers", members of the large Arab
nation. The real "foreign fighters" in Iraq are the

Anger in Sunni-dominated Baghdad has reached a fever
pitch, as an Iraqi physician told a radio station he
has examined bodies of people who seem to have died of
banned chemical weapons: the bodies are swollen, are
yellowish and have no smell. Asia Times Online sources
in Baghdad say that people in Fallujah believe the
Americans may have used chemical weapons in the
bombing of Jolan, ash-Shuhada and al-Jubayl
neighborhoods. They also say the neighborhoods were
showered with cluster bombs.

The political war
The Sunni Iraqi resistance is battling a political
war. For the mujahideen, the stakes are clear: under
the current US-imposed situation, the Shi'ites will be
in power after elections scheduled for January. Saif
al-Deen al-Baghdadi, a hardcore Sunni Salafi and top
member of the resistance in Mosul, has qualified the
Iyad Allawi government as representing "the
fundamentalist right wing of the White House and not
the Iraqi people". Apart from the "clash of
fundamentalisms" implicit in this observation, the
fact is that for the resistance, softcore or hardcore,
the Shi'ites are being propelled to power by an
alliance of fundamentalists - Washington plus
US-backed Allawi.

The Shi'ites are not doing enough to calm Sunni anger.
When Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
spoke out against the Fallujah offensive, it was too
late. In fact, the one who spoke was Sistani's top man
in Karbala, Ahmad al-Safi al-Najafi, who told
thousands at the Imam Hussein Mosque that Sistani
viewed the assault on Fallujah as he viewed the
assault on Najaf: he favored a peaceful solution, he
called for the withdrawal of "foreign forces" (the
Americans) and he condemned the death of innocent

The Sunni-Shi'ite divide is not monolithic. The
powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) -
founded after the fall of Saddam Hussein - is closely
coordinating with the lumpenproletariat -based
movement of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

But events in Fallujah have set the political
landscape on fire - with the AMS urging all Iraqis to
boycott the January elections. At the lavish
golden-and-marble Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad -
built by Saddam and previously called "Mother of all
Battles" - the AMS managed to rally 47 political
parties, not only Sunni Islamist but eight Shi'ite
parties, one Christian, the Iraqi Turkmen Front and
the Communist Party. Their joint communique condemns
the elections as "imposed by the US-backed interim
government and rejected by a clear majority of
political and religious powers"; stresses that "the US
raids against Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, Mosul, Baghdad
and more recently Fallujah represent an obstacle to
the political participation in the occupied country";
and qualifies the attack on Fallujah as "genocide".
The whole idea comes from Sheikh Jawad al-Khalissi, a
Shi'ite, who is a descendent of one of the leaders of
the 1920 revolt against the British colonial power. In
Iraq, history does repeat itself in many ways.

The AMS is making it very clear to all Sunni Iraqis -
and to all Iraqis for that matter - that Fallujah had
nothing to do with "stabilizing" the country before
elections, as the Pentagon and Allawi have claimed.
And support for the AMS is increasing fast, especially
after the Americans arrested seven of its leading
members. On a parallel front, the Americans also
arrested seven aides to Sheikh al-Hasani, the leader
of a splinter group of Muqtada's movement. The popular
response was swift: this past Wednesday more than
3,000 people demonstrated in front of the Green Zone
in Baghdad demanding their release.

To boycott or not to boycott?
What is Muqtada up to? Hashim al-Musawi, one of his
top aides, told a crowd in front of Kufa's mosque this
week that they will also boycott the elections because
in Fallujah the Americans "violated all human values
enshrined in the Geneva Convention". This may be a
diversionary tactic. Asia Times Online contacts in
Baghdad confirm that Muqtada is frantically
negotiating with Sistani: the crucial point is how
many parliament seats Muqtada will get if he joins a
united list of all major Shi'ite parties in the
January elections. The Grand Ayatollah is putting all
his efforts to consolidate this list. And he is
adamantly in favor of conducting the elections on

The key question is how extensive a Sunni boycott
would be. If the absolute majority of Sunnis - up to
30% of the population - don't vote, plus some Shi'ite
factions, the elections have no legitimacy. The Kurds
are also extremely nervous. With a boycott, most of
the 275 seats will be Shi'ite: the Kurds would get
around 30 - with no Sunni Arab allies to counteract
what many in Baghdad are already defining as the
tyranny of a Shi'ite majority.

As for Prime Minister Allawi, his Iraqi National
Accord is a mixed bag of Sunni and Shi'ite
ex-Ba'athists. Allawi does not want to be part of the
Sistani list. This may be a blessing in disguise for
Iraqis, because in this case Allawi may not even be
elected to parliament: his little party has scant
popular legitimacy. And his "political capital" after
Fallujah is zero: not only did he authorize the
massacre, but he installed martial law, muzzled the
press and exacerbated the inherent contradiction of
his position - how to behave as a strong leader when
you depend on an occupying army.

It's important to note that not a single party - and
especially the Shi'ite parties - represented in
Allawi's "cabinet" condemned Fallujah. Their
collective game is to blame the whole disaster on
Allawi alone. But that may not be enough to placate
Sunni anger.

At the moment, with fighting in Fallujah still raging,
and the resistance hitting all over the heartland,
this is how Sunni Iraq is reading what the Americans
say: If you fight us, we will kill you. And if you
don't participate in our elections, you go to jail. No
wonder the resistance keeps growing.

To stay or to go?
Imagine a Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government next
January having to face a widespread Sunni guerrilla
movement with only a ragged bunch of
guerrilla-infiltrated Iraqi security forces. Who're
you gonna call? The marines?

The Sistani-blessed government may ask the Americans
to go. The Bush II administration will obviously say
no. The Sistani-blessed government may launch selected
raids against the resistance: not likely to break its
back. Moreover, in the eyes of most Iraqis, the
Sistani-blessed government cannot even afford to not
ask the Americans to pack up and go. Sistani knows
Shi'ites are anti-occupation: nobody will tolerate a
Sistani-blessed government "protected" by an occupying
army. Not to mention this would prove the point now
stressed by the Sunni resistance: the Shi'ites are
allied with American "fundamentalists".

This leaves an ominous prospect in place: an Iraqi
Shi'ite, Sistani-blessed government fighting a
widespread Sunni guerrilla resistance in a bloody
civil war.

7) This posting shows the extent of cognitive
dissonance existing in US circles:


The following is an email from my son regarding the
NBC report (with embedded reporter Kevin Sites),
concerning the Marine who is being investigated for
"murdering" the insurgent in Fallaja. I will be
sending his mail to every news program's email I can
find. I find it sickening that this Kevin Sites is
even allowed to be embedded with our Marines, as this
isn't the first report I've heard from him that took
on a decidely unfriendly tone. My son also gave me
permission to release it to anyone that wants to
pass it on, as long as it remains unedited.


This is one story of many that people normally don't
hear, and one that everyone does.

This is just one most don't hear:
A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a
room just recently filled with insurgents armed with
Ak-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another
wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying,
"Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is
badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own
blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward
the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come
from behind. In a split second, the
pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the
outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before
the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the
room, and look in horror as the dust gradually
settles. The result is a room filled with the barely
recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an
insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.

The Marines' remains are gathered by teary eyed
comrades, brothers in arms, and shipped home in a box.
The families can only mourn over a casket and a
picture of their loved one, a life cut short by
someone who hid behind a white flag. But no one hears
these stories, except those who have lived to carry
remains of a friend, and the families who loved the
dead. No one hears this, so no one cares.

This is the story everyone hears:

A young Marine and his fire team cautiously enter a
room just recently filled with insurgents armed with
AK-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another
wailing in pain. The insugent can be heard saying,
"Mister,mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly
wounded. Suddenly, he pulls from under
his bloody clothes a grenade, without the pin. The
explosion rocks the room, killing one Marine, wounding
the others. The young Marine catches shrapnel
in the face.

The next day, same Marine, same type of situation, a
different story. The young Marine and his cover man
enter a room with two wounded insurgents. One lies on
the floor in puddle of blood, another against the
wall. A reporter and his camera survey the wreckage
inside, and in the background can be heard the voice
of a Marine, "He's moving, he's moving!" The pop of a
rifle is heard, and the insurgent against the wall is
now dead.

Minutes, hours later, the scene is aired on national
television, and the Marine is being held for commiting
a war crime. Unlawful killing.

And now, another Marine has the possibility of being
burned at the stake for protecting the life of his
brethren. His family now wrings their hands in grief,
tears streaming down their face. Brother, should I
have been in your boots, I too would have done the

For those of you who don't know, we Marines, Band of
Brothers, Jarheads, Leathernecks, etc., do not fight
because we think it is right, or think it is wrong. We
are here for the man to our left, and the man to our
right. We choose to give our lives so that the man or
woman next to us can go home and see their husbands,
wives, children, friends and families.

For those of you who sit on your couches in front of
your television, and choose to condemn this man's
actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out
of you recliner, lace up my boots, pick up a rifle,
leave your family behind and join me. See what I've
seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who
support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.

I am a Marine currently doing his second tour in Iraq.
These are my opinions and mine alone. They do not
represent those of the Marine Corps or of the
US military, or any other.

LCPL Schmidt

"For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the
protected never know." -- Written on a C-ration box
lid at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, 1968

"There will be nowhere left for the insurgents to
hide. We will fight them until there are none of them
left to fight." U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid,
chief of U.S. Central Command

8) A potential response to the previous posting:

"I personally agree that there may have been
extenuating circumstances regarding the shooting of a
wounded Iraqi guerrilla in a mosque by a marine
(wounded guerrillas often lure US troops close and
then blow them up). But most people aren't good at
seeing both sides of the story. If guerrillas had
stacked four wounded American Marines up somewhere,
and then a second set of guerrillas came in, and a
guerrilla shot one of the unarmed, wounded Marines in
the head on camera, I guarantee you no one in the
American media would be talking about extenuating
circumstances. This act would be seen as cowardly and
perfidious, with no need for further investigation."

9) Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did:

by Martin Van Creveld

As Shakespeare once wrote, they have their exits and
their entries. Between about 1975 and 1990, following
the US defeat in Vietnam, military history was
extremely popular among the US Armed Forces. After
1991, largely as a result of what many people
considered the "stellar" performance of those Forces
against Saddam Hussein, it went out of fashion; after
all, if we were able to do that well there was not
much point in studying the mistakes our predecessors
made. Now that comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq
have suddenly become very fashionable indeed, history
is rushing right back at us. Here, I wish to address
the differences and the similarities between the two
wars by describing Vietnam as it was experienced by
one man, Moshe Dayan.

As of 2004, Dayan is remembered, if he is
remembered at all, mainly as the symbol of Israeli
military power on the one hand and as one of the
architects of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement on
the other. In 1966 he was fifty-one years old. Having
resigned his position as chief of staff in January
1958, he spent the next two years studying Orientalism
and political science at the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem. In 1959 he was elected to Parliament and
spent five years as minister of agriculture; serving
first under his old mentor, David Ben Gurion, and then
under Levi Eshkol. In November 1964 he resigned and
found himself a member of the opposition.

Long interested in literature, a superb speaker
when he wanted to, in 1965 he published his first
book, Sinai Diary, which proved that he could write as
well as fight. He was, however, developing an attitude
of having seen it all, done it all; a feeling that his
twin hobbies, archaeology and an endless string of
mistresses, could only relieve up to a point. Hence,
when the most important Israeli newspaper of the time,
Maariv, proposed that he go to Vietnam as a war
correspondent he jumped on the idea. The articles he
wrote were published in Maariv as well as the British
and French press. In 1977, by which time he was
serving as foreign minister under Menahem Begin and
engaged in peace-talks with Egypt, the Hebrew-language
articles were collected in book form and published. In
the preface Dayan explains they were too long to be
included in the memoirs he had published a year
before; perhaps his real aim was to warn Israelis of
the consequences that might ultimately follow if they
did not get rid of what he called "the blemish of
conquest." If so, unfortunately he did not succeed.

Dayan knew nothing about Vietnam, and prepared
himself thoroughly. His first visit was to France
where he had many acquaintances from the time of the
Israeli-French alliance of the mid-nineteen fifties;
some of these people had served in, and helped lose,
the First Indo-China War. His very first contact was a
retired Air Force General by the name of Loission. In
Loission's view American public opinion was to blame
for not putting its full support behind the War - to
which should be added, in parentheses, that at the
beginning of the War that support had been
overwhelming. He thought the War could easily be won
if only American public opinion agreed to bomb North
Vietnam back into the Stone Age. As it was, a
combination of Viet Cong terrorism and propaganda
prevented the world, as well as the South Vietnamese
themselves, from seeing how righteous the American
cause was; he even believed that, had free elections
been held, the Vietnamese might have wanted the French
back. He ended the conversation by asking for his
ideas to be kept secret. Dayan, who did not think
those ideas constituted "a ray of light to an
embarrassed world," readily agreed.

His other French contact, a General Niceault,
was more enlightening. For his role in the 1961
attempt to overthrow the Fifth Republic, Niceault had
just spent five years in jail; as so often happens,
jail proved an opportunity to think and to learn.
Unlike Loission he had devoted a lot of thought to the
matter and his mind was fresh and agile. To Dayan he
explained that the Americans were using the wrong
forces against the wrong targets. Their intelligence
simply was not good enough, and most of their bombs
hit nothing but empty stretches of jungle. He
suggested that the solution to the problem was to use
small groups of five to seven men; their task would be
to shadow the Viet Cong and act as guides, calling in
air power or artillery when contact was formed. The
American attempts to prevent the North Vietnamese from
infiltrating into South Vietnam by way of the
demilitarized zone were not working either, given that
each time a path was blocked another one could be
found to bypass it. Perhaps the War could be won by
sending in a million-man army and killing all male
Vietnamese, but the days in which such things were
possible had gone. He ended by telling Dayan that
there was no point in going to Vietnam, since he would
see nothing anyhow. Typically of him, Dayan answered
that, if he would be unable to see the enemy or the
war, at any rate he would see that he could not see;
and that, too, would be enlightening.

From France he went to Britain in order to see
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery of Alamein.
Montgomery at that time was in the midst of writing
his History of Warfare; Dayan, who had met him once
before when he was studying at Camberley Staff College
in 1951, noted how "relaxed and alert" the old man
looked. Montgomery's ideas concerning Vietnam were
very clear-cut. The Americans' most important problem
in running the War was that they did not have an
unambiguous objective. He himself had tried to get an
answer on that subject from no less a person than
former vice president Richard Nixon. In response he
had been treated to a twenty-minute lecture; at the
end of which he remained as much in the dark as he had
been at the beginning.

To Montgomery, an exceptionally systematic
commander who always planned his moves very carefully,
that was the essence of the problem. Not having a
clear overall policy, the Americans were permitting
the field commanders to call the shots. They did what
they knew best, screaming for more and more troops,
locking up entire populations in what where
euphemistically called "strategic hamlets," and
bombing and shelling without giving a thought to what,
if anything, they were achieving. At the end of their
talk Montgomery told Dayan to tell the Americans, in
his name, that they were "insane." Again Dayan did not
disagree, though perhaps this time for different

From Britain he flew to the United States.
Eighteen years had passed since his first visit to
that country. Like many visitors, the dominant
impression he received was that of towering power the
like of which history had never seen. Here was a
society racing into the twenty-first century, with the
rest of the world only barely keeping pace.

His first meeting was at the Pentagon where no
fewer than three colonels had been appointed to brief
him. They pretended to be humble and called him "the
glorious General Dayan"; at the same time, as he
noted, they appeared ready to provide him not only
with the answers but also with the questions he was
supposed to ask. He left with the feeling that they,
and those whom they represented, did not really have a
handle on the War. In particular, he wondered why,
given the four to one superiority that the Americans
and their South Vietnamese Allies enjoyed over the
Viet Cong, General Westmoreland would not give the
latter a chance to concentrate and attack so that he
himself could smash them to pieces. The answer he
received, namely that Westmoreland thought doing so
was too risky, he considered unconvincing.

During the next few days his feeling that the
Americans did not really know where they were going
was reinforced. Everywhere he went he was received
courteously enough. Everywhere he went the people he
encountered were committed and extremely hard working.
Intensely patriotic, they seemed proud of what they
were doing and would not admit any errors. At one
point he asked whether they had changed their methods
since they first went to Vietnam and was told that
they did not have to do so since everything worked
much better than expected. Thereupon he noted that the
US Military never made any mistakes; however, that
comment he kept to himself. He was subjected to a
flood of statistics - so and so many enemies killed,
so and so many captured - meant to prove that the
situation was well under control and that large parts
of the territory of South Vietnam, as well as its
population, were now safe against terrorist attack. As
he noted, however, even a few elementary questions
revealed that things were far from simple. Later he
was to discover how right he had been in this; in the
whole of South Vietnam there was not a single road
that was really safe against the Viet Cong. Nor was
there anything to prevent the enemy from returning
even to those places that had been most thoroughly
"cleansed" and "pacified."

The three most important figures he met were the
deputy head of the National Security Council, Walt
Rostow, General Maxwell Taylor who was then acting as
special adviser to President Johnson, and Secretary of
Defense Robert McNamara. Rostow, a Harvard-based
economist, had published a famous book in which he
explained how the developing world would catch up with
the developed one in four clear, well-defined, stages.
Now he told Dayan that the desire for economic growth
would drive the peoples of Asia closer to the US.
Dayan, who had observed how determined Israel Arab's
neighbors had been to get rid of their Western
overlords even at heavy economic cost, doubted it; had
he been alive today, no doubt he would have expressed
the same idea about the situation in Iraq. Rostow also
believed, or pretended to believe, that the
forthcoming elections in South Vietnam would be free
and democratic and thus strengthen the Government in
waging the War. Still he was the first American to
whom Dayan spoke who was prepared to admit that the US
objective was not just to help South Vietnam but to
set up a permanent military political presence in
South East Asia so as to counterbalance the growing
power of China. To that extent, the conversation with
him was the most useful of those he had had so far.

Taylor, whom he met next, was the first American
to present him with a comprehensive plan for winning
the War. It consisted of four elements, namely a.
improving US Army operations on the ground; b. making
full use of the Air Force to bomb the North; c.
strengthening the economy of South Vietnam; and d.
reaching an "honorable" peace with Ho Chi Minh. Asked
whether he thought the US was making progress in those
directions, however, he could not produce convincing
indications that this was indeed the case. As the
Americans themselves admitted, in spite of the heavy
casualties being inflicted on the VC - Taylor
estimated them at 1,000 a week - the latter's
operations kept growing more extensive and more
dangerous. Nor could Taylor point to any clear
progress as a result of the air campaign. He did,
however, believe that the bombing formed "a heavy
burden" on the North; sooner or later, the enemy would

Dayan's last important contact, Robert McNamara,
had a reputation of being hard to approach. This
turned out to be untrue and Dayan was pleasantly
surprised; at a small dinner party with Margot
(McNamara's wife), Walt Rostow and several
journalists, the Secretary Defense did what he could
to answer all the questions that were directed at him.
He admitted that many of the figures being floated by
the Pentagon - particularly those pertaining to the
percentage of the country and population "secured" -
were meaningless at best and bogus at worst. No more
than anybody else could he explain to Dayan how the
Americans intended to end the War. What set him apart
was the fact that he was prepared to admit it, albeit
only in a half- hearted way; as we now know, he
already had his own doubts which led to his
resignation in the next year. He consoled himself by
saying that the War was not hurting the US economy. In
other words, it could go on and on until one side or
the other gave way.

Flying to Vietnam by way of Honolulu and Tokyo,
Dayan summed up his impressions so far. Almost all of
the Americans he had met were pleasant enough. None,
however, could tell him how they were going to win the
War. Most could not even give a convincing reason why
the US had to be in Vietnam in the first place; at
least one had said that, had President Johnson been
presented with a way to get out, he would have jumped
on it and withdrawn his troops. What really infuriated
them was any attempt to question their motives. As far
as they were concerned their cause was noble and just.
The fact that the Communist States did what they could
to support the Viet Cong and North Vietnam was bad but
understandable. They were, however, puzzled by the
attitude of their European allies. Those Europeans
supposedly shared America's liberal-democratic values.
Still many of them were strongly critical. At a loss
to explain the problem, the Americans attributed it to
cowardice, envy, and the resentment that arose from
Europe's own recent failure in waging "Imperialist"
war. He thought that, in ignoring the Europeans, the
Americans were making a big mistake.

To make things stranger still, the determination
of American decision-makers to ignore world public
opinion was counterbalanced by their extreme
sensitivity to the views of their own electorate. At
that moment, he noted, fully seventy five percent of
those polled were in favor of bombing North Vietnam -
just as, in April 2004, a small majority of Americans
still believed that the war in Iraq was worth-while.
Still permitting public opinion to decide on such
issues seemed to him a strange way to run a war, and
one he thought was likely to have grave consequences
for the future.

He arrived in Vietnam on 25 July. His first stop
was Saigon where he spent two days being "processed."
He was issued with an American uniform, rucksack,
water bottles, and helmet; as he wrote, had it
depended on the soldiers in charge they would also
have given him a weapon and hand-grenades. He used his
spare time to meet a Vietnamese professor of nuclear
physics to whom he had been referred by an Israeli
friend. The professor told him - in strict confidence,
since saying anything contrary to the official line
was dangerous - that the Viet Cong were much stronger
than the Americans knew or wanted to know. Later
during his visit he also had occasion to meet with the
South Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and minister of
defense, General Nguyen Van Thieu, as well the chief
of the general staff of the Army of the Republic of
Vietnam. Both owed their positions to the Americans
who had connived in Diem's assassination and both, he
thought, were highly intelligent men. Both,
interestingly enough, reserved their greatest
admiration not for some American commander but for the
North-Vietnamese General Giap. Giap had been the hero
of the struggle against the French. Now, they fondly
hoped, he might force Hanoi to make peace.

On 27 July he joined a river patrol. The patrol
consisted of three fast boats, each one manned by four
"nice kids" and commanded by an officer. They were
armed with heavy machine guns and light automatic
cannon; as he noted, it was the first time since the
Civil War when the US Navy had embarked on river
operations. They raced along at 25 knots an hour,
using visual navigation to find their way by day and
infrared at night. From time to time they would stop
to search one of the thousands of South Vietnamese
boats carrying provisions from the Delta to Saigon.
The searches woke up old memories. They reminded him
of the ones that the British used to conduct when
trying to fight Jewish terrorists in Palestine;
offensive, but largely useless. The US sailors checked
papers, took a perfunctory look at the load of the
boats they stopped, and proceeded on their mission.
While he did not think the boats they examined
actually carried weapons, had they wanted to do so it
would have been easy enough. As to thoroughly checking
each and every boat, it was clearly impossible.

On 28 July he went aboard the largest aircraft
carrier then cruising off the Vietnamese coast, USS
Constellation. He was a professional military man and
had often read and heard about such ships; yet what he
now saw made a "breath-taking impression" on him. The
vessel constituted five acres of sovereign American
territory that could go anywhere without having to
worry about troublesome allies. Isolated at sea, the
crew did not constitute a security problem and the
lack of anything else to do made them work all the
harder at their jobs. The ship was protected "from the
air, the sea, the ground, outer space, and under
water"; if Dayan was being ironic - after all, the
enemy consisted of little men wearing straw hats - he
did not say so. The product of this floating factory
was firepower. Every ninety minutes, amidst a numbing
outburst of fire and noise, flights of combat aircraft
took off to strike at targets in Vietnam; but when it
came to specifying the precise nature of those targets
his hosts refused to answer his questions. As always,
Dayan was impressed by the Americans' pride in
themselves, their nation, and their mission. He ended
the day by noting that they were "not fighting against
infiltration to South [Vietnam], or against
guerrillas, or against North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi
Minh, but against the entire world. Their real aim was
to show everybody - including Britain, France, and the
USSR - their power and determination so as to pass
this message: wherever Americans go, they are

The next month - he stayed until 27 August - was
spent visiting various units throughout South Vietnam.
First he went to see the Marines, joining a company
that was patrolling only about a mile south of the
Demilitarized Zone in order to prevent infiltration
from the North. The company commander was a first
lieutenant by the name of Charles Krulak. For two
nights and three days they humped up and down amidst
the vegetation that covered the hills. They waded
through streams and sometimes almost drowned in them;
at one point Dayan himself lost his foothold and had
to be pulled out. Yet throughout all that time the
only target at which they opened fire was some kind of
unidentified animal. Apparently it had been wounded,
and the noise it made kept the entire unit awake for
an entire night. Thirty-five year later General (ret.)
Krulak, ex-commandant of the Marine Corps, told me
that, as they set up camp one evening, Dayan had asked
them what they were doing there. He gave it as his
opinion that the American strategy was wrong. They
should be "where the people are," not vainly trying to
chase the Viet Cong in the mountains where they were

A few days later his wish to see the War "where
the people are" was granted. Near Da Nang, he visited
another Marine unit that was engaged in pacification.
The Marines were responsible for security - he noted
their excellent discipline - whereas most of the
actual work was done by civilians. Once again, he
found the Americans on the spot committed and
immensely proud of what they were doing to bring a ray
of light into a troubled world. Once again, he left
the district clear in his own mind that much remained
to be done; so much so that it was doubtful whether
the Americans were making any progress at all. Nor was
he impressed with the attempts to help the South
Vietnamese peasants improve their standard of living
by introducing new agricultural methods, better
livestock, and so on. One is reminded of the figures
coming out of Iraq concerning schools and clinics
reopened, doctors' pay raised, and the like.

Back in Paris Niceault had told him the "battle
for hearts and minds" would not work, given that that
the Vietnamese had their own cultural traditions - as
well as "immensely beautiful women" - and that
"Californization" was the last thing they wanted.
This, moreover, was a field where he had some
experience. With US financial backing, during his term
as minister of agriculture (1959-63) he had sent
Israeli experts to carry out agrarian reforms in
various Asian and African countries. Some of those
countries he had visited in person, only to find out
how hard it was to make a long-established culture
change its ways. Clearly doing so in the midst of a
war, when every achievement was under constant threat
from Viet Cong terrorists, was much harder still.

Another extremely interesting visit was the one
he paid to 1st Air Cavalry Division. Organized only a
few years previously, it was the most up-to-date
fighting force in the entire world. Not to mention the
incredible economic, industrial, and logistic power
that made such a unit possible in the first place;
and, having done so, supported it in battle thousands
of miles away from home. Operating under conditions of
absolute air superiority - as was also to be the case
in Iraq, in all South Vietnam there was not a single
enemy aircraft - the division did exactly as it
pleased. It required no more than four hours' warning
to land an entire battalion at any location within its
helicopters' range. As it turned out, though, often
four hours were four hours too many. Arriving at the
selected spot, the troops would find that the enemy
had gone.

It must have been during his stay with 1st
Cavalry that the following incident took place. As was
his custom Dayan wanted to visit the front, which in
the case of Vietnam meant going on patrol. His hosts
reluctantly agreed, but fearing lest something might
happen to the celebrity for whom they were responsible
selected a route that was supposedly free of the Viet
Cong. As often happened, their information proved
wrong. They came under fire and were "pinned down," as
the phrase went. Looking around from where he was
lying, the American captain in charge discovered that
Dayan had disappeared. In the end he located him; the
middle-aged visitor from Israel was sitting
comfortably on top of a grassy knoll. With great
effort, the captain crawled to him and asked what he
was doing. "What are you doing?" was the answer he
got: "get your - up here, and see what this battle is
all about."

The way he saw it, the problem was intelligence.
"According to Norton's (commanding officer, 1st Air
Cavalry) information, there was a Viet Cong division
in this highland area. It was not concentrated in a
single base but split into several battalions, each
about 350 men strong. It was Norton's plan to land a
battalion... in the Vietcong divisional area and then,
in accordance with the developments of the battle, to
rush in additional 'reaction troops' to reinforce,
seal off, and carry out flank attacks. All this was
fine, except for one small item missing in the plan:
the exact location of the Viet Cong battalions was not
known. Air photos and air reconnaissance had failed to
pick out their encampments, entrenched, bunkered and
camouflaged with the jungle vegetation. The US
intelligence sources were largely technical - air
photos and decoded radio intercepts, for Viet Cong
units from battalion strength and up used
transmitters. Only scanty information could be gleaned
from POWs. Many of the latter spat in the Americans'
face and swore to die rather than talk."

Contrary to what had been written about the
enormous logistical requirements of the US troops -
from iced beer to go-go girls - he was impressed by
the Spartan nature of the arrangements. The Americans
were prepared to improvise at a moment's notice; throw
a flack jacket into the helicopter, hop in, and off
you go hunting VC. The entire Division was "a huge
force, fast and efficient. It used its weapons -
including artillery support and tactical and strategic
air support - very effectively indeed"; in Dayan's
view, it was as superior to other forces as the German
tanks had been to their enemies at the beginning of
World War II. "[Its] battle procedures operated like
an assembly belt. First came the shelling of the
landing zones by ground artillery. Then came aerial
bombardment. And the landings themselves were covered
by 'gunships,' the accompanying, close-support,
heli-borne, units firing their rockets and machine
guns almost at our feet." It was an amazing operation,
"but where was the war? It was like watching military
maneuvers - with only one side." "Where were the Viet
Cong? And where was the battle? The Viet Cong were
there, a few hundred yards away. And the battle came
half an hour later when the company which had landed
300 yards to our south ran into an ambush after it had
started moving off." Within minutes the company was
shot to pieces, suffering 25 dead and some 50 wounded
including its commander. Calling in their firepower,
1st Cavalry gave pursuit. Meeting resistance they
would radio for the B-52s bombers; to what effect, was
not clear.

To recount each and every detail of Dayan's
visit would be tedious. Everywhere he was met with the
greatest courtesy and was given a fairly free hand to
see and ask what he wanted. As he noted, American
officers were committed, very hard working, and as
frank as circumstances permitted; many of them enjoyed
the War which, at this time, was still in its
"forward" phase. General Westmoreland he found
pleasant and informal. It was true he seemed to lack
the "astute _expression" that Dayan had discerned with
some other senior generals. Still there could be no
question of American officers being incompetent oafs
who delighted in setting alight Vietnamese huts and
were fragged by their own men; that image only rose
after the War and as a direct result of it.

One of their problems was the need to get their
names mentioned by the media so as to advance their
careers. This, Dayan thought, did not turn them into
better persons or, what was more important, better
commanders. He admired the American rank and file,
particularly the Marines and the Green Berets. They
were physically fit, very well trained, and, this
being 1966, still did their job willingly. They were,
to use his own Hebrew phrase, "golden guys"; the fact
that they were being rotated in an out of the country
too fast to learn its ways and become really effective
in doing their work was scarcely their fault. He was
even more impressed by the tremendous
military-industrial muscle that enabled 1,700
helicopters to be deployed in a single theater of war.
It also enabled a single operation by a single South
Korean infantry company to be supported by no fewer
than 21,000 artillery rounds. As he noted, this was
more than had been expended by all Israeli forces in
the wars of 1948 and 1956 combined.

Still, nothing could make up for the lack of
accurate and timely tactical intelligence. Partly its
absence was due to cultural obstacles; wherever he
went, translators were very much in demand and, of
course, said exactly what they pleased. Partly it was
due to the physical conditions of the country, and
partly to the nature of the War itself. In Dayan's own
words, the information available to the Americans was
limited to: "1. What they could photograph; 2. What
they could intercept (SIGINT); and 3. What they could
glean from low-ranking prisoners." As a result, most
of the time they were using sledgehammers to knock
holes in empty air. So far they had not succeeded in
inflicting unacceptable losses on the enemy who kept
reinforcing. Even if they did succeed, militarily, it
was hard to see how the South Vietnamese would be able
to set up a viable government in the shadow of the
gigantic machine that "protected" them; whether that
machine would ever be withdrawn was anybody's guess.

As to what he was told of the war's objectives,
such as defending democracy and helping the South
Vietnamese people, he considered it "childish"
propaganda; if many of the Americans he met believed
in them, clearly nobody else did. Over a year before
the Tet Offensive proved that something was very, very
wrong, he left Vietnam with the definite impression
that things were not going at all well. In his own
words, "the Americans are winning everything - except
the war." Perhaps this was one reason why, instead of
flying home by way of the United States as both Taylor
and McNamara had asked him to do, he chose the other
route. When he wanted to he could be very tactful and
rubbing salt into the Americans' wounds was the last
thing he wanted. The trip did, however, provide a
welcome opportunity to keep his military knowledge up
to date.

Some people claim that the US won the War in
Vietnam, to which I can only say that I strongly
disagree. Others argue that Vietnam differed from
Iraq, saying that it was essentially a conventional
war that was lost because the American civilian
leadership failed to provide its Armed Forces with
proper strategic direction. It is of course true that
there are considerable differences between the two.
Still, recalling Dayan's observations, I think there
are three main reasons why the similarities are more

First, according to Dayan, the most important
operational problem the US Forces were facing was
intelligence, in other words the inability to
distinguish the enemy from either the physical
surroundings or the civilian population. Had
intelligence been available then their enormous
superiority in every kind of military hardware would
have enabled them to win the War easily enough. In its
absence, most of the blows they delivered - including
no fewer than six million tons of bombs dropped - hit
empty air. All they did was make the enemy disperse
and merge into the civilian population, thus making it
even harder to find him. Worst of all, lack of
accurate intelligence meant that the Americans kept
hitting noncombatants by mistake. They thus drove huge
segments of the population straight into the arms of
the Viet Cong; nothing is more conducive to hatred
than the sight of relatives and friends being killed.

Second, as Dayan saw clearly enough, the
campaign for hearts and minds did not work. Many of
the figures being published about the progress it was
making turned out to be bogus, designed to set the
minds of the folks at home at rest. In other cases any
progress laboriously made over a period of months was
undone in a matter of minutes as the Viet Cong
attacked, destroying property and killing
"collaborators." Above all, the idea that the
Vietnamese people wanted to become Americanized was an
illusion. All the vast majority really wanted was to
be left alone and get on with their lives.

The third and most important reason why I think
Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is
because the Americans found themselves in the
unfortunate position where they were beating down on
the weak. To quote Dayan: "any comparison between the
two armies. was astonishing. On the one hand there was
the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air
force, armor, electronic communications, artillery,
and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of
ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all
kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese
troops] who had been walking on foot for four months,
carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and
using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a
tin plate."

That, of course, was precisely the problem. In
private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a
five year old - even such a one as originally attacked
him with a knife - will be perceived as committing a
crime; therefore he will lose the support of
bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and
convicted. In international life, an armed force that
keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen
as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will
end up by losing the support of its allies, its own
people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality
of the forces - whether they are draftees or
professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda
machine, the nature of the political process, and so
on - things may happen quickly or take a long time to
mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He
(or she) who does not understand this does not
understand anything about war; or, indeed, human

In other words, he who fights against the weak -
and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed -
and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and
wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much
weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore
cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary
and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other
cases prove, no armed force however rich, however
powerful, however, advanced, and however well
motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is
always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in
Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the
suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high.
That is why the present adventure will almost
certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with
the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging
on to their helicopters' skids.

November 18, 2004

Martin Van Creveld is professor of history at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written a
number of books that have influenced modern military
theory, including Fighting Power, Command in War, and
most significantly, The Transformation of War. He is
also the author of The Rise and Decline of the State.

Copyright © 2004 Martin Van Creveld

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