Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Sword is Mightier than the Pen

Based on the US Army's protracted conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, it has not learned much tactically or strategically from previous wars. It has taken one lesson away, however, from the Vietnam bloody conflict: that is, the necessity to control the main stream media. Otherwise it can lose American civilian support for the war.

This control was to be accomplished by Rumsfeld by embedding reporters with combat units and then censoring what they print in the name wartime security.

It boils down to the press that if it wants to get into the action, it must do it conforming to a Defense Department code of conduct. It can circumvent these regulations, but it risks getting chopped in little pieces by Jihadists who do not play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. As a matter of fact, these fanatics are way ahead of most Americans who naively cling to a fair and balanced press that exists only in their imaginations.

The dedicated Jihadist just wants to kill infidels whether they have a press card dangling from their neck or not; the high number of murdered journalists recently killed, attest to this. Even those who ride or walk into battle with American ground forces have been killed and seriously wounded. So any which way the war correspondent plays it, his or her life is in jeopardy.

The information gap that Rumsfeld failed to plug was the digital camera carried in the combat theater by many – without those, Abu Gharib atrocities never would have surfaced. Much of what the Defense Department sought to control by managing the news through embedding was undone by ineptly commanded hillbillies with cameras. Between this incident and the ruthless suppression in Fallujah II, the counter insurgency war was lost long term in Iraq.

Forget what General Saveus Patraeus spins. Check out instead the bombardment of Baghdad last Sunday as prelude to the latest election farce in Iraq. Sixty-nine Iraq political parties, 36 Iraqis killed and scores wounded. You have to keep expectations low when you understand warped American neocons advised the Iraqi on their constitution. Anyway, the creation of democracy while occupying a country is preposterous.

The recent three-week battle for Marjah, a town with 50,000 souls in Helmand province Afghanistan, is an example of a news blackout. One thing we learned right away was as with Fallujah II, the first casualty was a barking suspected insurgent dog! The Marines this time promised to pay the farmer for his dead animal .

On the very liberal Amy Goodman radio show, she attempted to determine what was happening during the operation; she interviewed a Wall Street Journal reporter in Kabul to find out what was going on in the provincial farm town. Thrust of what he said was that no one in Kabul knows and those in Marjah cannot tell even if they knew. There was another interview with a local doctor from a district hospital near the town; he complained the roads from the town were blocked by US/NATO forces, and Afghan wounded civilians cannot be evacuated to the hospital for treatment. No US embedded reporter could or would report such a story.

Whether there was a tactical necessary to implement such an action is strictly a military call. Whether the action is anti-humanitarian is a civilian call. In any case such action does not garner US support for the war; hence the the suppression of the information.

Apart from managing news from the battlefields, the Army has, like the Marine Corps, used the press to promote its favorite issues. The fact that GW Bush privatized the Army with mercenaries is beginning to fray the Army's high command nerves. For example, there are roughly 170,000 US troops deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan theaters of operations. At the same time there are more than 170,000 paid mercenaries also deployed in the same theaters. If there is any unity of command between these two components, it is obscure.

A new problem of the civilian substitution in the active army ranks in the continental US surfaced with a memorandum between Army LTG Dempsey and Chief of Staff of the Army General Casey. It was published publicly 16 February in the press. General Dempsey, chief of the army training command, TRADOC, decried the fact that only 30 per cent of his training staff is uniformed army; the rest are hired civilians. He deplored the shortage of captains and majors in key command and staff positions at his facilities; he noted that his civilian instructors do not have combat experience to pass on to trainees. These shortages are also at ROTC components at universities and colleges.

All these shortages were blamed on the pressure and priority of providing troops to the combat theaters.

Both Generals Dempsey and Casey were promoted with more stars under the Republicans. Both generals had extensive service in Iraq. So it is about time they faced the shortages caused by over commitment of forces. What are you going to do about it, Generals? This problem has festered over four years.

Problems stemming from GWBush's harum scarum politics seem to be ripening fast. President Obama has not intercepted them; on the contrary, his national security policies has enhanced them. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret


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