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Andy Martin on the Haditha Massacre

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by Turk, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Turk

    Turk Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    (Washington)(June 5, 2006) I come to the Haditha massacre in Iraq with a lot of ghosts and a lot of baggage. Thirty-seven years ago I was involved in the media controversy over the My Lai massacre, and managed to land myself one of President Nixon's enemies lists. My sin: disclosing the routine killing of civilians by some Marine units in Viet-Nam. And so it is with unbelievable sadness and frustration that I watch the story of the Marine cover-up of the Haditha massacre unravel, as the gruesome details surface.

    How do we put Haditha in context? Perspective? Are only the "killers" responsible? Or are the "managers" in Washington also culpable?

    I have always had close contacts with Marines because of my brief career on Capitol Hill, where I worked for one of the Corps' heroes, Senator Paul Douglas. One of my heroes, with whom I shared some close calls, died only recently, retired Marine General Raymond G. Davis. So I am not anti-Marine. On the contrary they are a legendary military force that I respect immensely. But I have never allowed my respect and admiration to interfere with cold, clear analysis of mistakes and missed opportunities. Especially in Iraq.

    I have been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq adventure, both before it was launched and during my year, or was it a lifetime, in Baghdad.

    If there was one military mistake that has led us to this desperate day, of shame for what America's men and women have apparently committed in Haditha, it was the godforsaken doctrine of "force protection." The concept of force protection is elementary and unavoidable: protect the force. But in Iraq this sensible doctrine has led to mission collapse--and murder.

    Let me compare and contrast Iraq with Viet-Nam. In Viet-Nam the Marines had one of the most successful programs in one of the most dangerous areas: I Corps. The CAP program put Marines out among the Vietnamese in "combined action platoons," where small numbers of Marines lived alongside Vietnamese. So far as I can remember no CAP platoon was ever charged with any form of atrocities. The CAP units were among the most effective tactics in Viet-Nam, which is why the Saigon Commandoes ignored their success.

    Soldiers and Marines in the field generally lived among the Vietnamese on an ongoing basis. Mamasans peddled their wares to the troops. There was daily interaction between military personnel and the local population. While there were tragic episodes such as My Lai, and others I discovered, in general Vietnamese and Americans coexisted despite inherent tension presented by a revolutionary war environment where it was incredibly difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

    Now Iraq. In Iraq American military leaders adopted the exactly opposite approach to dealing with the local population. Military camps were cordoned off, virtually sealed off, and contact between Iraqis and Americans was limited in the name of "force protection." This misbegotten doctrine has repeatedly led to the mistaken killing of civilians, as soldiers and Marines failed to distinguish friend from foe. The first gratuitous massacre took place, ironically, in Anbar Province, when soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division mistakenly killed a group of civilians in Falujah just after the end of "the war."

    The devastating impact of "force protection" has been to isolate Americans from Iraqis, and to create the mistaken impression that a line drawn in the sand or "cordon sanitaire" would protect Americans. Wrong. Tragically wrong, for both Americans and Iraqis. Exactly the opposite has happened: by limiting contact and "protecting" Americans in sealed-off encampments, our troops have been endangered and the mission has collapsed.

    I have been writing about revolutionary warfare for over forty years, ever since I encountered Professor Bernard Fall when he visited the University of Illinois. I became one of Fall's disciplines. And perhaps his heir. Drawing on his experience in the French Indochina war, Fall understood that America faced a new form of conflict: revolutionary war.

    My views fell out of fashion in the Rumsfeld era. The concepts of revolutionary war were ignored and erased, until recently. Now the Pentagon is again training our Iraq-bound military in the concepts of revolutionary war, only they are afraid to call it that. Once you realize that America has been fighting in a revolutionary war environment for the past three years, all of the subsequent problems fall into focus.

    I have periodically written on the impact of revolutionary war in Iraq, most recently when the 1960's movie the "Battle of Algiers" was being shown at the Pentagon. Apparently the Marine Corps was not watching, or reading my dispatches from Baghdad.

    Adding to the irony, our enemies in the so-called insurgency are fully aware of the kind of war they are fighting: a revolutionary war. The insurgents may be bad people but they understand military doctrine better than we do. Which is why we now confront the horrors of the Haditha massacre.

    Haditha will be a continuing story. It will bleed the Marine Corps, the Pentagon and the Bush administration for months and years. It will increase the pace of public disaffection for the mission. It will have political consequences in November and beyond. And the tragic incident was probably unavoidable. All because we ignored the principles of revolutionary war.

    How did this "perfect storm" come together in Haditha? First, Marines were isolated from the local population. Isolation fosters alienation and hostility. Second, "force protection" was the unspoken pretext for killing people in the proximity of a tragic attack on the force. "Force Protection" was a license to kill, indiscriminately, in the defense of the "force." Finally, Marine officers and senior NCO's had no meaningful understanding of the principles of the revolutionary war conditions in which they were immersed.

    I would have taught the opposite lessons of Rumsfeld's generals: to protect the force, endanger it. Put the men and women out there in harm's way. That’s the only way they will break the resistance. You will lose troops under either an open or closed environment. But open is the only way to win. And you will lose fewer troops by keeping the force open and exposed.

    The more you protect a military unit by isolating it from the population, the more you endanger the troops and create the conditions for the kinds of incidents we have seen at Haditha and elsewhere.

    When will they ever learn. When will they ever learn.

    To be continued.


    Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2006. Comments? ContrarianCommentary@gmail.com

    Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Andy serves as founding Executive Director of the Revolutionary War Research Center.

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