Monday, July 24, 2006

Adults in charge, II

The Washington Post is running a series of excerpts from the upcoming book Fiasco, about the American occupation of Iraq. It's pretty unbelievably bad, from the point of view of Washington. As in, "Oh my God how could they be so mind-bogglingly stupid?!" The first part is here, and contains nuggets like this:
Yet they frequently were led poorly by commanders unprepared for their mission by an institution that took away from the Vietnam War only the lesson that it shouldn't get involved in messy counterinsurgencies. The advice of those who had studied the American experience there was ignored.

That summer, retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, an expert in small wars, was sent to Baghdad by the Pentagon to advise on how to better put down the emerging insurgency. He met with Bremer in early July. "Mr. Ambassador, here are some programs that worked in Vietnam," Anderson said.

It was the wrong word to put in front of Bremer. "Vietnam?" Bremer exploded, according to Anderson. "Vietnam! I don't want to talk about Vietnam. This is not Vietnam. This is Iraq!"

This was one of the early indications that U.S. officials would obstinately refuse to learn from the past as they sought to run Iraq.

One of the essential texts on counterinsurgency was written in 1964 by David Galula, a French army lieutenant colonel who was born in Tunisia, witnessed guerrilla warfare on three continents and died in 1967.

When the United States went into Iraq, his book, "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice," was almost unknown within the military, which is one reason it is possible to open Galula's text almost at random and find principles of counterinsurgency that the American effort failed to heed.
The article makes it clear that, only now, in 2006 is the US Army getting around to admitting to itself, and training its soldiers for, the insurgency that its in.

Also "amusing" is the story of the CIA warning Bremer in 2003 that disbanding the Baath Party, the military, and the police force would destroy Iraqi society. As someone who was raised suspicious of everything the CIA does, it's weird for me to be takign the CIA's side so regularly these days. When there are forces out there who can rival you paranoia even of the CIA, be afraid.

The second part to the Washington Post series is up today, and all I will say is that these men have so very, very many people to answer to. For example, the soldiers they've turned in to monsters:
A few months later another 4th Infantry soldier, the staff sergeant overseeing the interrogation section at the division's main detainee holding pen in Tikrit, was reprimanded after an Iraqi was beaten with a baton while being questioned.

"These acts could . . . bring extreme discredit upon the U.S. Army," Lt. Col. Conrad Christman, the commander of the 104th Military Intelligence Battalion, warned him in writing on Nov. 6. The incidents of abuse of the detainee, his letter added, "show a lack of supervisory judgment on your part."

The sergeant, whose name was redacted from official documents before they were released, hurled those conclusions back at his chain of command.

"With the exception of myself, all interrogators at the TF IH ICE [Task Force Iron Horse Interrogation Control Element] were, and most remain, inexperienced at actual interrogation," the sergeant wrote. The division's intelligence efforts generally were "cursory," he added, because of "insufficient personnel, time and resources."

Nor had the Army prepared the sergeant and his soldiers for the job they'd been assigned. "Our unit has never trained for detention facility operations because our unit is neither designed nor intended for this mission. . . . [My soldiers] are assigned a mission for which they have not trained, are not manned, are not equipped, are not supplied and . . . cannot effectively accomplish."
Note to geniuses in Washington: Soldiers trained for combat don't make great jailers. In fact, they make pretty piss-poor jailers. Especially if you give them a wink and a nudge about torture.

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