Iraq, Vietnam and some facts
Volunteers for the war
Marc Cooper, gleefully holding his head in the sand, wants to agrue the point that Iraq is not worse than Vietnam. Fine. Let's argue the point. Our Vietnam Vets here can add their own opinions, but I want to make some points Cooper doesn't want to deal with. Dennis Perrin was kind enough to send this along.
You know, warbloggers need to take Claritin, to prevent their allergy to history.
I sat at dinner tonight and stared for a while at the news in front of me trying to fully absorb it: More than 70 people killed in five separate car bomb attacks in Iraq yesterday.
Sixty-seven suicide bombings in the past month.
A death toll in the last two weeks of 400.
Four hundred in fourteen days. And more than a thousand wounded.
By any measure that is mass murder as the suicide bombers, believed to be in great part jihadists from outside of Iraq, have indiscriminately targeted marketplaces, businesses and crowded pedestrian thoroughfares along with police installations.
Yes, you can trace all this back to the Bush administration’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. Yes, we can spend all of our energy affixing blame. "Bush lied -- they died" yada yada.
But when you're done chanting, what do we actually do about the carnage?
I repeat: 1500 casualties in 15 days. Nearly all civilians. The Bush administration seems to have no answers as it vows only to stay this course – a course of mounting blood.
Eric Umansky further contributes to our anxiety over the U.S. strategy, bringing our attention to this story from the WaPo:
The number of prisoners held in U.S. military detention centers in Iraq has risen without interruption since autumn, filling the centers to capacity and prompting commanders to embark on an unanticipated prison expansion plan.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces battle an entrenched insurgency, the detainee population surpassed 11,350 last week, a nearly 20 percent jump since Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. U.S. prisons now contain more than twice the number of people they did in early October, when aggressive raids began in a stepped-up effort to crush the insurgency before January's vote….
This is the path to hearts and minds?
Those who ought to have the best answers, the anti-war movement, have none -- other than a discordant call for U.S. Troops Out Now. I sympathize with the quandary of the peace movement, because I pretend to have no viable answers. I know only that the present course is leading to disaster. And that withdrawal of U.S. troops – who shouldn’t be there in the first place—would bring only more bloodshed.
Read no further than this painfully distorted account of my position by Dennis Perrin to capture the moral tone-deafness of the radical left. Here we go once again withthe same-old primitive reductionism i.e. Opposing Immediate Withdrawal = Supporting Bush’s War.
Rather than face the ugly truth that things could actually get worse in Iraq if the current political vacuum were enlarged by an American withdrawal, it's easier to stand apart and accept an Iraqi apocalypse as satisfying payback for Bush's sins.
I challenge the "Out Now" readers to put themselves in the shoes of an Iraqi tonight as they read Perrin’s piece. Car bombs exploding around you like firecrackers and the streets running red with blood. Do you think that the wholesale murder by the car bombers –intent on rubbing out the tenuous Iraqi government—is going to decrease or increase if the American troops were pulled? Do you think that the people behind the bombs would establish a regime more humane, more democratic or, instead, even more authoritarian than the current U.S.-backed administration? You can keep your answers private, but at least ponder them seriously.
In the end, Perrin throws up his hands, declares that no matter what, the U.S. troops are destined to be bogged down Iraq forever, and that – to top things off—he argues that Iraq is worse than Vietnam.
The second assertion is demonstrably false, if only by the lesser magnitude of death in Iraq…a far lesser magnitude. War is evil. A war that kills 3 million people is more evil than one that kills 100,000. Or am I missing something? The whole formulation is beside the point. (Yet, there is some sort of wondrous political point to be scored by proving, say, that Bush is worse than Nixon. A game, by the way, we don't have the luxury to play).
The first assertion, about an indeterminate stay of the American troops is nevertheless and -- unfortunately -- quite plausible. And more than plausible, perhaps inevitable, especially if the anti-war left can do no better than propose immediate withdrawal. I find it extremely difficult to imagine that being a persuasive counter (at least for those who give a rat’s ass about the Iraqi people themselves) to the status quo.
Indeed, it’s a moral forfeit that cedes undue and dangerous credence to the Bush admin’s disastrous stay-the-course strategy.
We need a third position that moves toward an end of the U.S. occupation but does not, in the process, abandon the Iraqi people to car-bomber fascists.
It will be of little consequence to those blown apart by suicide-bound fanatics to stand over their corpses and say: “It’s all Bush’s fault. There was nothing we could do.”
First, the Iraqis aren't fighting for themselves. The auxillaries we have hired run from combat the minute their US advisors aren't on their ass, which beats the wholesale defections they used to do. Without US leaders at the platoon level, Iraqi units would cease to function overnight, or simply defect to the resistance, as they did in the past.
Then Cooper repeats the obviously untrue bromide that it's foriegn terrorists killing Iraqis. Were that only true. The actual drivers may be foreigners, but the operations are run by Iraqis, even the suicide attacks.
Second, Iraq is a magintude worse than Vietnam in every way except confronting main force units.
* US units mobility is severly limited. When they use the roads, they have to dodge explosions on an hourly basis.
* The Iraqis have negated airmobility. US units cannot use mass helicopters en masse for fear they will be shot down by $20 RPG's.
* Every institution, every unit, is penetrated by the resistance. US units are tracked from the minute they leave their fortified bases to the minute they return.
* The Iraqis are the best armed guerrillas in history. Every man is armed with an assault rifle, every unit has RPGS and no lack of ammunition. They can engage US infantry force on force with equivilent weapons.
* US troops have almost no contact with the Iraqi people. They cannot walk into their shops, get a haircut, get a drink or have sex with a whore, much less a girlfriend. A US soldier who tried to interact with the Iraqi people would be either kidnapped or killed outright within an hour.
* With no sancutaries, the Iraqi resistance controls the roads, most towns and can conduct operations at will, and in increasing force with increasing skill.
* The US has one fifth of the forces they had in Vietnam, yet have taken losses equivilent to 1965. Just multiply. Oh yeah, did we have 55,000 wounded coming back in 1965-66, because we're pushing 11,000 wounded in Iraq.
Killed in Vietnam by year
Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966
Adjusting body counts for medical and military changes.
By Phillip Carter and Owen West
Posted Monday, Dec. 27, 2004, at 3:34 PM PT
Soldiers have long been subjected to invidious generational comparison. It's a military rite of passage for new recruits to hear from old hands that everything from boot camp to combat was tougher before they arrived. The late '90s coronation of the "Greatest Generation"—which left many Korean War and Vietnam War veterans scratching their heads—is only the most visible cultural example.
Generational contrasts are implicit today when casualties in Iraq are referred to as light, either on their own or in comparison to Vietnam. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, for example, last July downplayed the intensity of the Iraq war on this basis, arguing that "it would take over 73 years for U.S. forces to incur the level of combat deaths suffered in the Vietnam war."
But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966—and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today's grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.
You think former MP Captain Phil Carter is a member of the radical left?
I think Cooper is being silly. I guess the "radical left" drove him nuts when he was at the Village Voice, but that's no excuse for his uniformed ranting, much less dragging me into it. Unlike some people, I actually read history and unlike Cooper, I don't know anyone old enough to go to Vietnam that didn't.
So when I make a comparision to Vietnam, I'm not pulling it out of my ass. Like he is when he's talking about the "radical left".
Look, Marc, the war only continues because Iraqis are killing each other. People are informing on their neighbors. How do you think some of these killings take place? When you kidnap the governor of Anbar province or assassinate a police chief. Strangers don't know their schedules. Only friends and family and people in those offices do.
For nearly two years, until after the election, the Sunni mullahs and Sistani never once asked their people to join the military or police. Now, the militias are in the runup to the civil war. But they sat on their hands and let people who worked for the Americans be demonized and murdered. Office workers, cooks, translators. An informal but widespread decision was made by Iraqis, to not help the Americans. Either by aiding the resistance or doing nothing. Every agency is penetrated by the resistance, including inside the Green Zone, which is rocketed daily, a fate not shared by MACV.
I think you might want to ask why female translators live in fear of decapitiation and pray to be taken to the United States when, not if, when we leave.
While the NVA had 100,000 spies, I would think, proportionally, that was dwarfed by the Iraqi resistance. US units cannot even travel the road to the airport without convoys.
So, Marc, in your quest to save Iraqis from their car bombing cousins, how many Americans should die? We're ramping up proportionally to 1967 as is. It is Iraqis killing Iraqis with some outside help. How do these car bombs get built? In a secret spaceship? No. In a garage, and no one says a word. They see the cars coming in and out, and I haven't heard about us capturing any car bomb factories lately. The sad fact is that the Iraqis are waging war on their government and the Coalition with widespread, if tacit, support. So crying about the poor Iraqis and how more Americans, presumably not any of your friends kids, or yours, or your neighbors, have to die to protect their right to secterian warfare. Have you seen the show the new assembly has put on, trying to manuver for advantage while Americans die to protect their country.
Chalabi and his Shia masters want to use the new intellgence building as the seat of government, despite the fact that it was built to fight the resistance. Are these people concerned about car bombs or their own power, you tell me.
If Iraqis were truly sick of the car bombs, the bombers and their bosses would be running like foxes, not conducting a Spring offensive. They hate the Americans in their country far more than the carnage. False concern about Iraqi dead doesn't mitigate that for a second.
posted by Steve @ 12:56:00 AM