Never Faithful; The Rivalry Between our Army and Marines

A. Scott Piraino

The United states has two armies. Today we take this for granted, and don’t question the reasons for funding both the United States Army, and the United states Marine Corps. But it wasn’t always this way.

There were no Marines in the Continental Army that won the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, Congress authorized less than 3,200 men for the Marine Corps, this while the Union Armies totaled nearly one million men. The fact is, for most of their history the United States Marine Corps was little more than a security force for the Navy.

The myth of the Marine Corps as a second army began in WW I. When the United states entered the war in 1917, over two million U.S. Army soldiers were deployed to France along with one brigade of marines, about ten thousand strong. Despite being a tiny fraction of the American forces fighting in WW I, the Marines managed to make a name for themselves at the U.S. Army’s expense.

General Pershing, the Commander of all U.S. Forces in France, had ordered a news blackout that prevented reporters from mentioning specific units in their dispatches. The purpose of the order was obvious; to prevent German intelligence from learning about American troop movements. But one reporter circumvented the order, a war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune named Floyd Gibbons.

After Mr. Gibbons was severely wounded at the battle of Belleau Wood, the press corps passed on his dispatches without the approval of Army censors. The result was a storm of press coverage in the US claiming that the Huns were being defeated with “the Help of God and a few Marines”. No mention was made of the thousands of Army soldiers who were fighting and dying with equal valor.

Floyd Gibbons made no secret of his “friendship and admiration for the U.S. Marines”. There is no proof that his writings created the mythology of the Marine Corps, but we do know he wrote a biography of Baron von Richthofen, more popularly known as the Red Baron. His description of the German aviator reads as propaganda, not journalism, and his other works were probably embellished as well.

Today all Marines in basic training are taught that German soldiers in WW I referred to them as “Devil Dogs”. H.L. Mencken, an American writing in 1921, clearly states that; “The Germans, during the war, had no opprobrious nicknames for their foes…Teufelhunde (devil-dogs), for the American marines, was invented by an American correspondent; the Germans never used it.”

In addition, there is the legend of “Bulldog Fountain”, where the U.S. Marine’s mascot originated. This fountain is located in the village of Belleau, not the wood of the same name. Although the Marines fought in Belleau Wood, the US Army’s 26th division liberated the village, three weeks after the Marines had left the area.

There is no documented evidence that Germans ever referred to Marines as “Devil dogs”, and the Marines never captured the village of Belleau with its “Bulldog Fountain”. It is not clear exactly where these stories come from, but their source is most likely Floyd Gibbons. Perhaps the Marines knew this, because they made him an honorary Marine posthumously in 1941.

Floyd Gibbons helped enhance the image of the Marines, but the United States Marine Corps as we know it today came of age in WW II. Most Americans believe that the Marine Corps won the war in the Pacific, while the US Army fought in Europe. In fact our Pacific operations were hampered by a conflict between the Army and the Navy, that split the theatre in two.

The Navy adamantly refused to place their fleet, (and their Marines), under the command of the Army. After five weeks of bureaucratic wrangling, General MacArthur was given command of the Southwest Pacific theatre, while Admiral Nimitz had jurisdiction over the remainder of the Pacific ocean. The result, in Macarthur’s own words, was a “divided effort, the… duplication of force (and) undue extension of the war with added casualties and cost”.

The US Army fought the main force of the Japanese Imperial Army in New Guinea and the Philippines. The Navy and Marines carried out an “island hopping” strategy that involved amphibious assaults on islands such as Guadalcanal and Saipan. General Macarthur complained bitterly to the President that “these frontal attacks by the Navy, as at Tarawa, are tragic and unnecessary massacres of American lives“.

By way of comparison, General Macarthur’s Army killed, captured, or stranded over a quarter of a million Japanese troops during the New Guinea campaign, at a cost of only 33,000 US casualties. The Navy and Marines suffered over 28,000 casualties to kill roughly 20,000 Japanese on Iwo Jima. Even then, the Army played a greater role than Marines like to admit; the Army had more divisions assaulting Okinawa than the Marines.

The famous image of Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi is actually a photograph of the second, staged flag-raising ceremony. The Marines raised the flag a second time to replace the original, smaller flag, and to provide the press corps with a better photo opportunity. That photograph has become one of the most enduring images of WW II, and served as the model for the Marine Corps Memorial statue.

The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was on Iwo Jima that morning in 1945, and when he saw the Stars and Stripes go up he declared; ‘The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years!”

In fact the Marine Corps was nearly legislated out of existence two years later. After the bureaucratic infighting that characterized inter-service relations during WW II, there was a strong desire among military professionals to unify the military commands. President Truman agreed, and in 1946 his administration proposed a bill to unify the separate service bureaucracies.

Having one budgetary authority for the Armed Forces, and one chain of command each for land forces, ships, and aircraft makes sense. But this would have placed the US Navy at a distinct disadvantage. The Navy had their own air wings aboard their carriers, and their own army, the Marine Corps.

The Navy and Marine Corps were determined to scuttle this legislation. Marine generals created a secret office code named the Chowder Society to lobby behind the scenes, (in opposition to their President and Commander in Chief), and thwart the unification bill before Congress. The Commandant of the Marine Corps even made an impassioned speech before Congress to plead for his separate service.

It worked. Congress rejected the Truman administration’s unification bill, and instead passed the National Security Act of 1947. This Act guaranteed separate services, with their own independent budgets, and was a victory for the Navy and Marine Corps.

In addition, the Marines succeeded in having their separate force structure written into the language of the legislation. It is very unusual for Congress to dictate the actual composition of a military service. Yet the National Security Act mandates that the Marines Corps must maintain “not less than three combat divisions and three aircraft wings and such land combat, aviation, and other services as necessary to support them“.

President Truman was furious, and military professionals were appalled. General Eisenhower characterized the Marines as “being so unsure of their value to their country that they insisted on writing into the law a complete set of rules and specifications for their future operations and duties. Such freezing of detail…is silly, even vicious.”

The war between the Army and Marines would get more vicious in Korea. On November 27th, 1950 a division of Marines 25,000 strong, was ordered to proceed along the west side of the Chosin reservoir, while a much smaller task force of 2500 Army troops went up the eastern side. Waiting for them were 120,000 troops of the Chinese Communist 9th Army Group.

The Army soldiers fought a running battle for three days against a Chinese force eight times their size, in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees. Despite the death of two commanding officers, the task force lumbered south with over 600 dead and wounded soldiers loaded into trucks, fought through repeated ambushes, and was even mistakenly bombed by US Marine aircraft. Finally, just four miles from safety, the convoy was cut off by the Chinese and annihilated.

385 men made it to the safety of American lines by crossing the frozen Chosin Reservoir.

The First Marine Division, with the help of allied air power, managed to fight their way out of the Chinese encirclement. Marines claimed that the Army had disgraced itself, and passed on stories of US soldiers throwing down their weapons and feigning injuries. A Marine Chaplain even made statements to the press and wrote an article accusing army soldiers of cowardice.

There were so few officers and men left from the Army task force that the Marine’s claims were accepted as fact. But newly released Chinese documents prove otherwise. The Army task force fought bravely against overwhelming odds before being destroyed, and their stubborn defense bought time for the Marines to escape the encirclement.

Nevertheless, Marines to this day hold up the fight at the Chosin reservoir as proof of their superiority over the Army.

In Vietnam, a Marine regiment at Khe Sanh refused to come to the aid of a Special Forces outpost only four miles from their perimeter. On Febuary 7th, 1968, the camp at Lang Vei was overran by heavily armed North Vietnamese troops during an all-night battle. The Marines had earlier agreed to reinforce the camp in the event of an attack, but two requests for assistance were denied.

General Westmoreland himself had to order the Marines to provide helicopters for Special forces personnel, so they could be airlifted into the besieged outpost. By this time the post had been overrun, at a cost of 208 soldiers killed and another 80 wounded. Ironically, two months later this same Marine regiment would be besieged at Khe Sanh, and they would be relieved by Army troops of the First Cavalry Division.

During Operation Desert Storm 90,000 Marines attacked Iraqi forces alongside over 500,000 US Army and coalition troops. Yet the Marines garnered 75 percent of the newsprint and TV coverage. This was not an accident.

The Commanding General of the Marines in Iraq, Gen. Walt Boomer, was the former Director of Public Affairs for the Corps. He issued the following order to Marine units in the theater:

“CMC [Commandant of the Marine Corps, then General A. M. Gray] desires maximum media coverage of USMC … The news media are the tools through which we can tell Americans about the dedication, motivation, and sacrifices of their Marines. Commanders should include public affairs requirements in their operational planning to ensure that the accomplishments of our Marines are reported to the public.“

During the war Marine officers used military communications systems to transmit stories for reporters in the field, and even assigned personnel to carry press dispatches to rear areas. The Marine Commander also had his own entourage of reporters complete with satellite uplinks, and used them to good effect. He received far more air time than his Army counterparts.

The US Army performed a “Hail Mary” operation that trapped Iraq’s Republican Guard divisions and fought numerous running battles in the Iraqi desert. But no one saw them. Instead the press focused on Lt. Gen. Walter Boomer parading triumphantly through the streets of Kuwait City.

When George Bush the Second launched his misguided invasion of Iraq, the Marines were once again included, and this time the goal was Baghdad. The invasion, which began on March 20th, 2003, called for a two pronged assault on Baghdad. The Army’s 5th Corps would advance from the desert west of the Euphrates river, while the First Marine division was ordered to cross the Euphrates and make a parallel advance through central Iraq.

The invasion did not go well for the Marines. In several cities, including Umm al Qasr and Nasiriya, their units suffered heavy casualties fighting remnants of the Iraqi Army and fedayeen guerrillas. Since the Marines had fewer armored vehicles, and they were exposed to a more tenacious enemy, their progress was slower than the Army’s.

Major General Mattis, the commanding general of the Marines in Iraq, was not pleased. He repeatedly pressured his regiments to make greater speed, and this pressure grew more intense as the Marines lagged further behind Army units. On the morning of April 3rd, the First Marine Regiment, commanded by Colonel Dowdy, was ordered to drive to the town of al-Kut.

The city was another choke point, where Iraqi fedayeen guerrillas could ambush Marine convoys in city streets. As soon as his Marines reached the city, they began taking fire. Colonel Dowdy could not forget the mauling another regiment had received in Nasiriya, where 17 Marines were killed and another seventy were wounded.

He had to make a choice. His orders were to proceed to al-Kut, but the decision to push through or bypass the town was up to him. However, Colonel Dowdy was receiving mixed signals from his superiors. According to him “there was a lot of confusion”, some officers were recommending an attack, others urged withdrawal.

Colonel Dowdy decided to bypass al-Kut. His regiment would take an alternative route to Baghdad that was safer, but the detour of 170 miles meant that the Marines fell further behind schedule. Colonel Dowdy‘s superiors were furious with his decision.

After the withdrawal from al-Kut, General Mattis and other staff officers let the Colonel know that his regiment was to make greater speed. That night on the road to Baghdad, vehicles of the First Marine Regiment were ordered to drive the highways of Iraq with their headlights on, irregardless of security. But their progress was not good enough, the Army‘s Fifth Corps had already reached Baghdad.

Colonel Joe Dowdy was relieved of his command the following day. The Marine Corps will never admit it, but he was fired because he failed to carry out the Corps most important mission in Iraq: Colonel Dowdy failed to upstage the US Army by being the first to reach Baghdad.

The Marines would return to Iraq one year later, when the First Marine Expeditionary Force assumed responsibility for Al Anbar province, which includes the city of Fallujah.

During the change of command ceremony Lt. Gen. James T. Conway of the I MEF proclaimed that; “Although Marines don’t normally do nation-building, they will tell you that once given the mission, nobody can do it better.” The Marines took control of the area from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and they made no secret of their distain for the Army’s strategy in Iraq.

Before deploying, General Conway had told the New York Times “I don’t envision using that tactic“, when asked about Army troops using air strikes against the insurgents. “I don’t want to condemn what [Army] people are doing. I think that they are doing what they think they have to do.”

On March 30th, General Conway told a reporter that “There’s no place in our area of operation that we won’t go, and we have taken some casualties in the early going making that point“. The next day four civilian contractors were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, and five Marines also lost their lives. The Marines sealed off the city and attempted to reassert control over Fallujah, but the insurgents proved to be more determined than expected.

When their patrols came under heavy fire the lightly armed Marines had only two choices; Fight it out with the insurgents on foot, or call in artillery and air strikes. The inevitable result was scores of Marines killed or wounded, and hundreds of civilian casualties. The world was appalled by the carnage in Fallujah, and the Marines were called off.

While Marines were fighting in Fallujah, the US Army was heavily engaged against militiamen loyal to Muqtata al-Sadr in cities throughout Iraq. But in contrast to the Marine’s failure to recapture Fallujah, the US Army’s heavy armored vehicles could enter hostile cities with impunity. They brought al-Sadr to heel after two months of fighting, while suffering relatively few casualties.

An uneasy truce was made between the US Army and al-Sadr’s militia, that would last until the Marines again became involved. On July 31st 2004, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit replaced Army units in the holy city of Najaf, headquarters of Muqtata al-Sadr. Just five days later, al-Sadr’s militia would again be waging open war against the US, and the Marines would be calling for reinforcements.

The Marines began skirmishing with al-Sadr’s militiamen as soon as they were given responsibility for Najaf. After the uprising in April, US Army units had avoided driving past al-Sadr’s house as part of the informal truce, but this would not do for the Marines. The second Shia uprising began after Marines in Najaf provoked al-Sadr by driving their patrols right up to his stronghold.

A firefight ensued, and al-Sadr’s militiamen took up arms in cities throughout Iraq in a replay of the uprising in April. The Marines had not just picked a fight with Muqtada in Najaf, they had engaged his militia in an ancient cemetery that abutted the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiite Islam’s holiest shrine. And they did this without informing the Army chain of command, or the Iraqi government.

According to Maj. David Holahan, second in command of the Marine unit in Najaf, “We just did it”. But in a replay of the Fallujah assault, the Marines faced an enemy that they were not prepared for. Within hours of launching their attack on August 5th, the Marines were pinned down, and requesting assistance.

Unfortunately for the Marines, their rash attack on al-Sadr’s headquarters had sparked another revolt by his militiamen. Army units were once again fighting the Mahdi army in cities throughout Iraq. When the Army’s Fifth Cavalry Regiment received orders to reinforce the beleaguered Marines, they were deployed against al-Sadr’s militia in the outskirts of Bagdhad, 120 miles away.

The Fifth Cavalry arrived in Najaf after a two day drive through insurgent controlled territory. By then any opportunity to capture al-Sadr had been lost, because the press, and the Islamic world, were focused on the Imam Ali Mosque and the adjacent cemetery. Any attack on Shiite Islam’s holiest shrine, where Muqtata al-Sadr was holed up, would have had disastrous consequences for the US war effort.

In Fallujah and Najaf, inexperienced Marine units picked fights with insurgents, and in both cases ended up handing the enemy a strategic victory. Their failure to recapture Fallujah made the city a rallying cry for Islamic militarism worldwide, (that is until the second US assault rendered Fallujah uninhabitable). The Marine’s botched attempt to capture Muqtata al-Sadr has only strengthened his hand.

Today there are 23,000 Marines in Iraq, out of a total 138,000 U.S. Armed Forces personnel. Marines are 17 percent of our total force, yet they have suffered 29 percent of all U.S. casualties; 530 of the more than 1,820 U.S. service personnel killed in Iraq. The Marine’s aggressive tactics combined with a lack of armored firepower has proven lethal, their bravery notwithstanding.

The United States Marines pride themselves on being better than the US Army. They are harder, more gung-ho, and they possess some magic that enables them to do things the US Army can’t do. If this is not true, (as recent events in Iraq suggest), then there is no reason for a separate Marine Corps.

President Harry Truman once stated that Marines; “Have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.” The Marines have always advertised themselves, but in Truman’s day, they at least had something to sell. The original raison d’etre of the USMC was their ability to carry out amphibious landings on hostile beaches.

The truth is, the US Army conducted the biggest amphibious assault in our nation’s history when they captured the Normandy beaches. And neither the Army or the Marines have assaulted an enemy held beach since the Korean war, over fifty years ago. In every subsequent conflict Soldiers and Marines have fought in the same way, using similar equipment and tactics.

The Marines are in fact a second Army, and since they compete with the Army for funds, missions, and prestige, their real enemy is… the US Army.

However, the Marine Corps has an unfair advantage in this competition. Since the end of Desert Storm the US Army has been downsized by one third, losing over 200,000 troops and eight combat divisions. By Contrast the Marines have lost only twenty thousand personnel. The reason is the National Security Act of 1947, which prevents any changes in the force structure of the Marines.

Today’s United States Marine Corps is only slightly larger than the US Army in Iraq. That war is stretching our Army to the breaking point. The obvious solution is to merge the Army and Marine corps into one service.

The savings would add up to tens of billions of dollars when their training, logistics, administration, and headquarters were merged. The personnel shortages that are now crippling both services would disappear. And so would the rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps.

Published in: on August 7, 2005 at 7:22 pm  Comments (12)  

Raising the Mahdi Army

A. Scott Piraino

A year ago this month President Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier beneath a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished”, and officially declared an end to the War in Iraq. Recent events have made a mockery of that pronouncement. 138 U.S. soldiers were killed and nearly 1200 Iraqis died in Iraq this April, making last month the bloodiest since the war began over a year ago.

In April, US forces were fighting a two front war. The Marines were hard pressed in Fallujah, while the U.S. Army and allied troops fought Al-Mahdi militiamen for control of cities in the south. Even worse for the coalition, Shiites and Sunnis, former rivals under Saddam’s regime, united to fight the U.S. occupation.

In Fallujah, the lightly armored Marines were faced with two choices: Engage the insurgents in house to house fighting and take heavy casualties, or withdraw to the fringes of the city and rely on superior firepower. After several Marine units were ambushed, air strikes and helicopter gunships were called in to eliminate insurgent positions inside the city.

The Marine assault on Fallujah was doomed to failure. There was simply no way four Marine battalions were going to secure a hostile city of over 200,000 residents. After the assault on Fallulah failed, Marine General James Conway sought a way save face, and end the stand -off.

The Marine commander turned to Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a general in Saddam Hussein’s army, who offered to broker an end to hostilities in Fallujah. Saleh was given command of a brigade of Iraqi soldiers, and he entered Fallujah in triumph. The Marines declared victory, lifted the siege, and retreated to the fringes of the city.

The cease fire required the Iraqis to lay down their weapons and turn over the militants who killed and mutilated four Americans on March 31st. So far, only one pick-up loaded with rusted weapons has been turned in to the Marines. None of the insurgents responsible for the uprising, or for the slaying of American contractors have been surrendered to U.S. authorities. Some of those fighters have undoubtedly joined the new Fallujah Brigade and now patrol the streets of the city, this time on the U.S. payroll.

The truth is, the militiamen who fought the Marines now openly walk the streets of Fallujah claiming victory. One mujaheedin fighter who gave his name as Abu Abdullah said; “We won. We didn’t want the Americans to enter the city and we succeeded.” Fallujah is a defeat for the United States, whether we call it a withdrawal, a “repositioning of forces“, or a negotiated settlement.

The U.S. Army has fared better in the southern Iraqi cities where coalition forces are battling Al-Sadr’s militia. Army troops have more armored vehicles that are better suited for penetrating the labyrinthine streets of Iraqi cities. The coalition has taken far fewer casualties fighting the Mahdi army, but as of this writing Al Sadr’s militia still controls Kufa, Karbala, and the holy city of Najaf.

Scores of militants have been killed, and several cities in Southern Iraq have been paralyzed by the fighting. Al Sadr himself has taken refuge in Najaf, with his headquarters in Shiite Islam’s holiest shrine. Any attack on the mosque, or an attempt to apprehend Al -Sadr there, would enrage Iraq’s Shiite majority.

The Mahdi Army cannot fight U.S. tanks, at least not yet, but the U.S. cannot capture Al-Sadr without widening the war. If the U.S. extends an olive branch and negotiates with al-Sadr after vowing to capture or kill him, it will be another victory for the Iraqi militants. If U.S. forces capture al-Sadr, even moderate Shiites will rally behind him, and more militants will flock to the al-Mahdi banner. Either way, the United states will lose.

Now that the mujaheedin own Fallujah, the city provides a glimpse of what will become of Iraq. Clerics and militants rule the streets, and the mullahs have declared that “we shall only accept God’s law in Fallujah”. Western haircuts are forbidden, and anyone selling alcohol is publicly flogged. Today the city resembles an Islamic mini-state.

Even worse for the coalition, Islamic fighters hiding in Fallujah are free to use the city as a staging area for attacks throughout Iraq. Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi said, “terrorists …have been given sanctuary in Fallujah”. “The garage is open and car bombs are coming repeatedly.”

Car bombs have been used with devastating effect in Baghdad and other parts of the country since last August, when the Jordanian Embassy was destroyed. Since then over 50 suicide bombers have killed more than 700 people in Iraq. Targets have included the U.N. headquarters, Red Cross headquarters, several police stations and two entrances to the Green Zone.

This week one of those suicide car bombs killed the head of the Iraqi Governing Council. Izzadine Saleem, was the second and highest-ranking member of the U.S.-appointed council to be assassinated. The head of the Iraqi Governing Council was killed at a checkpoint in central Baghdad guarded by U.S. troops.

This speaks volumes for the lack of security and lawlessness that is de-stabilizing Iraq. In a recent survey of Iraqis conducted by the Coalition Provisional Authority, 70 percent of Iraqis cited security as their single most important priority. Kurdish council member Mahmoud Othman summed up the problem in an interview by saying; “People are killed, kidnapped and assaulted; children are taken away; women are raped. Nobody is afraid of any punishment.”

Iraq’s U.S. backed security forces lack training, funds, equipment, and most importantly, faith in the coalition cause. During the fighting in Fallujah, two battalions of Iraqi security police were ordered to deploy with the Marines, none of them showed up. The commander of the 1st Armored Division estimates that half of the Iraqi police force abandoned their posts during the uprising. Ten percent either aided the insurgents, or joined them.

The violence and lack of security have prevented the coalition from rebuilding Iraq’s tattered infrastructure. Congress has approved the largest foreign aid package in history to rebuild Iraq, but less than 5 percent of the $18.4 billion has been spent. More than 1,500 foreign engineers and building contractors have fled Iraq for fear of being abducted or killed since the uprising began in April. Those that remain are hunkered down behind security fences, instead of rebuilding roads and power grids.

Paul Bremer spoke candidly at a recent interview where he said; “It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30”. He also hinted at the possibility of an American withdrawal from Iraq or at least an exit strategy by saying “If the provisional government asks us to leave we will leave”. “I don’t think that will happen but obviously we don’t stay in countries where we’re not welcome”.

So far, that is as close as any member of the Bush administration has come to admitting the obvious: The US occupation of Iraq is doomed to failure because the Iraqi people do not want us there. 790 U.S. service members have died since the war began last year, over 4,500 have been wounded, at a cost approaching 200 billion dollars.

President Bush attempted to allay fears of a foundering Iraq war in a recent speech that was panned by allies and critics alike. The President’s speech at the Army War College said nothing new, he simply reiterated his five point plan to ensure stability and democracy in Iraq. More important than his empty words was what the President did not say.

He did not mention Osama bin Laden in his speech, nor did the President discuss how we were going to win our other war, the worldwide War on Terror.

The United states has had 13,000 troops in Afghanistan for over two years, fighting Taliban insurgents and searching for Al-Qaeda operatives. In March of this year a secret task force including SEALS and the U.S. Army’s Delta Force began a classified operation code named Mountain Storm. The plan was to have U.S. Special forces attack Al-qaeda targets in Afghanistan, while the Pakistani Army sealed off the border region in a classic “hammer and anvil” operation.

The government of Pakistan claimed that certain “high value” Al-Qaeda targets would be surrounded and either taken into custody or killed. The Pakistani army invaded the tribal lands of the rugged northeast, only to be soundly defeated. Local warlords fought and ambushed the Pakistani army in a series of battles that cost 124 lives.

Musharraf was forced to retreat, or risk a civil war with the tribesmen. In effect Pakistan has ceded their border region to the tribes that support Al Qaeda, and they now have free rein in northeast Pakistan. The moderate, pro-American regime in Pakistan has been weakened by the defeat, and Al Qaeda leaders are openly calling for the overthrow of Musharraf’s government.

Other moderate Arab regimes could suffer the same fate. Americans have been warned to leave Saudi Arabia, as the House of Saud battles a growing Islamic insurgency in that country. Jordanian police forces recently averted a disaster when a truckload of chemicals was apprehended just before it was detonated by Al Qaeda terrorists. Both nations are under siege by organized terrorist groups that have popular support.

New Anti-American terrorist groups are gaining recruits, and older organizations are declaring solidarity with the Iraqi insurgents. The Monotheism and Jihad Group is now operating out of Iraq under the command of Al-Zarqawi, a known Al Qaeda terrorist. The new leader of Hamas has called for an Arab and Muslim alliance to defeat the U.S. and Israel. Hezbollah has called on Muslims to defend the holy shrines in the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala with their lives.

Nor can the United States ignore the plans of our ultimate national nemesis, Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda movement. A report released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies details the growth of Al-Qaeda since the 9/11 attacks. The study estimates that Al-Qaeda has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world in more than 60 nations.

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan actually benefited Al-Qaeda, by forcing terrorist operatives to disperse and create cells in new countries, making the group much more difficult to detect and destroy. Osama bin Laden is now in control of a much larger organization, and his financial network has survived almost intact. His fame and the fact that he has persevered against overwhelming U.S. firepower have only enhanced Al-qaeda’s image in the Arab World.

Finally, the report concludes that the U.S. war in Iraq has attracted more followers to the Al-Qaeda movement. An estimated 1000 foreign fighters have infiltrated Iraq and joined local insurgents in the fight against U.S. occupation forces. The study concludes that the Iraq conflict “has arguably focused the energies and resources of al-Qaida and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition that appeared so formidable”.

Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the mujaheedin, and the Al-Mahdi Army are metastasizing into local groups fighting a common, global cause. Even the differences between Shiite and Sunni muslims do not matter any more. They are all the same because we have united them. We have given them a righteous cause by illegally invading Iraq, and we have given them convenient targets by placing US troops in their midst.

In his speech to the Army War College president Bush stated that “Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror.” He is correct. Now we must fight new enemies, that would not exist, because his misguided invasion has made Iraq the center of gravity in our war on terror.

Published in: on May 27, 2004 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Responsible Terrorism

A. Scott Piraino

It appears that Al Qaeda was behind a series of bombings in Madrid that killed 200 people, and injured 1500. Proof came when Spanish authorities obtained a videotape of a man claiming to represent the Al-Qaeda network. A man speaking Arabic on the tape said “We declare our responsibility for what happened in Madrid exactly two and a half years after the attacks on New York and Washington”.

It is important that we realize, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for their campaign of terror, but they have not admitted the attacks were their fault. The tape also said, “this is a response to the crimes that you caused in the world, and specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan”. So, what exactly are our crimes?

We supplied Osama Bin Laden while he was fighting the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. We also supported Saddam’s regime when he decided to attack neighboring Iran. After the United States helped Bin Laden drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, he formed Al-Qaeda, (the base). Saddam Hussein negotiated an end to the war with Iran after eight years of bloody stalemate, then decided to invade Kuwait.

Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are psychotic murderers and we should never have had anything to do with them. But the fact remains, both men turned against us after the United States supported them during their wars. Our actions do not explain their actions, or Islam’s pathological hatred of the United States.

Osama Bin Laden’s own words are mostly diatribes of lies and propaganda, particularly his outrageous statements about the United States. “America, head of the infidels in particular, bear hate and grudge against Islam and Muslims that cannot be described”. “The US government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal”.

The truth is the United States has had very few military conflicts with the Arab world. The US Navy engaged the Barbary corsairs early in the 19th Century. Our troops fought against Germany in North Africa in World War Two. The US also intervened to separate warring factions in Lebanon and Somalia, and Presidents Reagan and Clinton ordered air strikes in retaliation for terrorist bombings.

The Gulf War in 1990 was the first war the United States waged against an Islamic nation before September 11th 2001. Of course our purpose was to liberate Kuwait, and we fought that war with an international coalition that included Islamic troops. We did not even overthrow Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War, instead we negotiated an end to hostilities and enforced sanctions to prevent Iraq from re-arming.

By contrast, Britain and France occupied many Islamic nations for over a century, and created the modern geopolitical map of the Middle East. Britain carved Persia into Iraq and Iran, and it was Britain that gave the Israelis control of Palestine. The French suppressed Arab nationalists, and fought viciously to keep Algeria a French colony after WW II.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and today the Russians are fighting a brutal war against the Muslims of Chechnya. Serbia has ethnically cleansed and slaughtered Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. Even the Chinese are killing Muslims, in their western province of Xinjiang.

If Al Qaeda’s real purpose is to strike at those who “bear hate” against Islam, they would be bombing the Serbs, the Russians, and the Chinese. Instead Bin Laden has declared a holy war against “Jews and Crusaders”. Bin Laden justifies his hatred of the United States because we are “occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people”.

Bin Laden fails to mention that the Saudis invited US troops into their country after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. They were petrified by the massive Iraqi army dug in on the borders of Saudi Arabia. After the first gulf war, the US military presence was reduced to a mere 5000 men, mostly air force personnel enforcing Iraq’s no-fly zones. Now that the second Iraq war has ended Saddam’s regime, the US has announced plans to withdraw all US military personnel from Saudi Arabia.

As for Saudi Arabia‘s riches, the Saudis nationalized, (seized), their oil industries from petroleum companies years ago. They have had full control over their oil wealth ever since. Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest crude oil producer, oil exports earned them $81 billion in net revenues last year. With their low population, those oil revenues give the Saudis some of the highest standards of living in the world.

Bin Laden’s claim that the United States is “occupying,…plundering,… and humiliating” Saudi Arabia is clearly a lie. He has only made one statement that provides the real explanation for Al Qaeda’s campaign of terror against us. “Our terrorism is a good accepted terrorism because it is against America, it is for the purpose of defeating oppression so America would stop supporting Israel, who is killing our children.”

When Israel was recognized by the United Nations in 1948, Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, attempted to drive them into the sea. The Israelis held their ground, then launched an offensive that drove the Arab armies from their territory. In 1949 a UN brokered armistice brought an end to outright war, but no end to raids and reprisals from Arab territories.

Then Egypt’s President Nasser closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. Negotiations over access to the canal continued for six more years, while Israel endured border attacks from Palestinian guerrillas. In 1956, Israel had had enough, and launched a coordinated air and ground assault that captured the Sinai peninsula, and forced Egypt to settle the canal dispute.

Over the next decade the Arab alliance received massive arms shipments from the Soviet Union, and by 1967, another war was inevitable. Faced with an imminent invasion, Israel launched an air campaign that destroyed the Arab air forces. With total air superiority, the Israeli army routed the Arabs and captured the West Bank, Gaza strip, and Jerusalem. The war only lasted six days, and established Israel as a military power in the Middle East.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria made a final attempt to destroy Israel by launching an invasion on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. The Israelis were taken by surprise and took heavy casualties fighting on two fronts. Only superior Israeli generalship allowed the Israelis to regroup, and counter-attack into Egypt and Syria.

With a population of only five million citizens, Israel has repeatedly defeated the Arab armies of the Middle East. The Israelis have also occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, and forced these Muslims to live under an Israeli government. These humiliations at the hands of Israel are the real motivation behind Islamic terrorism.

When Egypt’s President Nasser led the Arab Alliance in wars against Israel he proclaimed his intentions were, “the eradication of Israel.” In 1956 he made the Arab opinion of Israel clear, “There will be no peace on Israel’s border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel’s death”. On the eve of the war in 1967 he said, “We will not accept any…coexistence with Israel…The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.”

President Nasser’s statements sound similar to the rhetoric of Osama Bin Laden, but when Nasser spoke, the Arab world still believed they could destroy Israel. No Arab army today can openly challenge Israel on the battlefield. So they wage war by other means, with guerrilla attacks, hijackings, and terrorism.

The PLO, Hezbollah, Hamas and now Al-Qaeda all stand for the Arab world’s rage against a victorious Israel.

The PLO began as an umbrella group for various Palestinian factions fighting Israel, and emerged as the leading Islamic terrorist group of the 1970’s. The PLO was guided by the Palestinian National Covenant, a document filled with anti-Israel hostility, and the clearly stated goal of “the elimination of Zionism in Palestine“. In the name of eliminating Zionism, The PLO adopted a radical, and despicable strategy: They have the right to kill civilians of any nationality, anywhere, because they are at war with Israel.

Among the infamous attacks conducted by the PLO are the mid-air explosion of a Swissair jetliner that killed 47, the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, and the coordinated shoot-outs at the Rome and Vienna Airports. Passengers on commercial jetliners, Olympic athletes, and tourists were all legitimate targets in the PLO’s war against Israel. The idea that innocent people can be killed to draw attention to a cause, or to protest a perceived injustice, has since motivated Islamic terrorists.

Today Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and a myriad other groups all use terrorism as an accepted strategy to achieve their ends. Ironically, Islamic Jihad is responsible for killing President Anwar Saddat of Egypt. His crime was signing a peace treaty with Israel, and recognizing the Jewish State’s right to exist. Agreeing to peace with Israel is an act of treason to these terrorist groups, even if the peacemaker is another Arab.

In September of 2000, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups employed a new and terrible weapon in their war against Israel. Suicide bombers have succeeded in detonating 112 of their grisly bombs, killing 450 Israelis. This new terror campaign has certainly succeeded in unsettling Israel, and fraying the fragile peace process.

Palestinians know who the bombers are, they are publicly paraded and feted before going on their suicide missions. Nevertheless, Palestinian authorities have adamantly refused to take responsibility for the suicide bombers, or restrain them. They do complain loudly when Israel uses security checks and fences to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel, however.

When Al-Qaeda hijackers destroyed the World Trade Centers, Palestinians celebrated by dancing in the streets.

Why? Because the Islamic world loathes the State of Israel. They are Islam’s true enemy, not the Russians, the Serbs, the Chinese, or Saddam Hussein. The Islamic world was vindicated on 9-11 because we were finally made to pay for our support of Israel.

The Arab powers have tried every means to annihilate the Jewish state. If they had succeeded there would be no PLO, or Hamas, or Al-Qaeda. But Israel has survived, and grown into a prosperous, modern democracy.

For the Islamic world, this is the worst humiliation of all.

While Israel has prospered, the Arab nations has stagnated. Islamic governments have squandered their oil wealth on their own opulent regimes, or purchased weapons to make war on each other. In many Arab countries, per-capita incomes, educational levels, and living standards have declined.

A report commissioned by the United nations in 2002 illustrates how far Islamic civilization has fallen behind the modern world. The gross domestic product for all Arab countries is less than the GDP of Spain. Arab unemployment, at 15 percent, is the highest in the developing world. This dismal economic performance is despite over three trillion dollars in oil revenue investment over the past 20 years.

Arab countries have also failed to provide their peoples with a modern educational infrastructure. Less than two percent of over 270 million Arabs have internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world. Only 330 books were translated into Arabic in 2002, about one fifth the number of books translated into Greek that year.

The UN report also cites a more ominous statistic; 51 percent of older adolescents expressed a desire to emigrate, citing lack of education, freedom, and job opportunities. The cities of the Islamic world are seething with underemployed Muslim men whose best hope for a better life is emigration to Europe or the United states. These radicalized, frustrated young men have become the standard bearers of Islamic terrorism.

Modern Muslims are faced with a stark choice; accept their part in their military, economic, and cultural failures, or blame someone else.

Al-Qaeda insists that we are responsible for the attacks against us. Israel is responsible for occupying Palestine. the United States is responsible for supporting Israel. Even Spain can be held responsible, for supporting the US War on Terror.

Where does this “reasoning” end? On September 11th 2001, over 3000 Americans were killed to protest Islam‘s humiliation by the West. 200 Spanish commuters were incinerated in a Madrid subway last week because Spain supports the US War on Terror.

These are sick people. People who desperately want to believe that they are the victims of a conspiracy by “Jews and Crusaders”. That Israel and the United States are the source of all their troubles.

Otherwise they would be responsible.

Published in: on March 22, 2004 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Looming Disaster in Iraq

A. Scott Piraino

In the three days since Saddam Hussein’s capture car bombings have killed 35 Iraqis, and wounded over 60. In addition, riots and two explosions have rocked Baghdad, and Saddam loyalists have launched another coordinated series of attacks throughout Iraq. Although US forces have finally deposed a brutal dictator, the war in Iraq is not over.

The capture of Saddam Hussein will not end the insurgency, or stop the steady trickle of US casualties. In fact the capture of Saddam is not a boon for the war effort as the Bush administration claims. The bunker where Saddam was hiding had no telecommunications equipment, it is clear that he was not in command of any Iraqi forces.

Worse, now that we’ve got him, we have to give him a trial. And in accordance with the laws that we have established, the Iraqi’s themselves will decide Saddam Hussein’s fate. This will be a huge media event, subject to endless public scrutiny and watched by the entire world. For that reason,The Iraqi government must give Saddam a fair trail, or at least the appearance of one.

And that is a no win situation for the United States.

Saddam Hussein is clearly guilty of crimes against humanity, crimes against his own people. But the world knows that we supported Saddam throughout the 1980’s, when he was gassing the Kurds and torturing his own citizens. And what about the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Bush used as an excuse to invade? Where are the connections between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda, allegations made by the Bush administration to justify the war?

Even a toady defense lawyer appointed by the government must ask these questions. And that means we must provide some sort of answers, even if they are more lies manufactured by the Bush administration. If we lie, the Islamic world will resent the fact we are lying, and refuse to justify our invasion. If we tell the truth the Islamic world will resent us for being American Imperialists.

And what happens if and when Saddam is convicted? If he is put to death, the radical Islamic movements will make him a martyr. If he is left alive, he will always be a champion for Iraq’s Sunnis, and Saddam loyalists.

According to the Bush Administration’s timetable, Iraq will have their first democratic elections in seven months. That’s seven months to try, convict, and sentence Saddam Hussein, and usher in a newly elected government in Iraq. All this while fighting an elusive but deadly insurgency.

The US must also manage the most dangerous political rift in Iraq today, the split between the Shiite Muslims and the minority Sunnis. Remember that Iraq and Iran were once one country, Persia. The two nations were only separated after World War One, when the British Empire gave Iraq to Arabs who had helped fight the Turks.

Saddam, of course, was a Sunni Muslim and so were the ranking members of his regime. Although Sunnis are outnumbered in Iraq, they controlled the Baath Party and the armed forces during Saddam’s reign. The Sunni population is concentrated in the north and west, not coincidentally the area where US troops face the strongest resistance.

The Shiites, on the other hand, have been much friendlier to the US and allied forces, because they have the most to gain. At best they were second class citizens during Saddam’s reign, at worst they were brutally repressed. Most infamously when they revolted against the Baghdad regime after the first Gulf War, and were mercilessly slaughtered.

The Shiite Muslims are organizing in the south and west, and reopening ties with Iran. Shia is the official religion of Iran, and again, these two nations were until very recently one nation, Persia. Iran is quietly fostering ties with the Iraqi Shiites, even infiltrating agents and Islamic revolutionaries.

If the United States does manage to create a democracy in Iraq, the Sunni minority will be dealt out of power by the majority Shiites. The Sunnis have rallied in the name of Saddam, but they are really fighting to preserve their favored status as the ruling class in Iraq. If they fight the Shiites in the same way they are fighting us, Iraq will be embroiled in a civil war that could last for years.

In the middle of all this is the US Army. None of the citizens of Iraq like the US occupiers, but they loathed Saddam Hussein’s regime enough to welcome the Americans. Now that he is gone the people of Iraq will forget Saddam Hussein soon enough, and remember their hatred of the American Imperialists.

The soundest military solution to our problems in Iraq would be to escort Saddam Hussein to the gallows, then bring our troops home. But we cant do that. Iraq has collapsed because of Bush’s invasion, and if the United States withdraws Iraq will descend into civil war and anarchy.

We will not peacefully occupy Iraq for the simple reason that none of those parties want us there. The Bush administration has destabilized Iraq and dragged our country into a quagmire that we cannot escape. It is doubtful that the US invasion will ever benefit the people of Iraq, but there is no doubt that it will be a disaster for the United States.

Published in: on December 17, 2003 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Real Missile Defense

A. Scott Piraino

We need missile defense. The threat from emerging nuclear powers is real and growing. But as the terrorist attacks of September 11th have shown, missiles are not the only means an enemy has to strike at us.

Last December President Bush ordered a missile defense system to be activated by September 30th, 2004. Prior to issuing that order, the Bush administration had released contingency plans to attack seven nations in the event of a nuclear emergency. Since then events have rapidly spun out of control.

Recently the North Korean regime admitted that they were producing nuclear weapons, and they already have missiles that can reach Alaska, and US bases in Japan and Okinawa. Nor can we ignore China’s growing arsenal. Thanks to technology transfers during the Clinton administration and theft of US nuclear weapon designs, China is now deploying the DF-31. This mobile missile has a one megaton warhead and a range of 5000 miles, making it capable of hitting the US.

In response the Pentagon has proposed an elaborate, multi-tiered missile shield. Total cost will be near 50 billion dollars when the entire system is deployed in 2026. The Clinton and Bush administrations have already spent over 30 billion dollars on development and testing. After all this, the missile system has failed three out of eight attempted intercepts.

A recent General Accounting Office report warns that the Pentagon plans to field an untested system that relies on unproven technology. But the GAO report does not go far enough. While the US squanders billions on a dubious missile shield, cheaper alternative systems are ignored.

Israel is the only nation with a missile defense shield in place. After eight successful intercepts in nine attempts, the Arrow missile has been deployed by the Israeli Air Force. This system was developed in the United States for less than three billion dollars, with US taxpayers paying over half of the cost.

Although the Arrow system is designed to intercept shorter range missiles like those deployed by North Korea, the Arrow can be deployed now. For a fraction of what the Pentagon has already spent on missile defense, this system could already be protecting Alaska, and our armed forces in Asia. In addition, since the Arrow uses more proven technology, increasing the missile’s range would be a more cost effective solution.

But the most promising technology for missile defense is not a missile at all. The Airborne Laser, or ABL, is a modified Boeing 747 with a powerful laser mounted in the aircraft’s nose. Once operational, the ABL will be able to shoot down hostile missiles from hundreds of miles away.

This system promises not just defense but deterrence. The ABL will destroy hostile missiles much earlier in their flight, dropping the payload onto the aggressor’s own soil. Potential enemies contemplating a missile attack will face the prospect of their warheads detonating on their own territory.

Unfortunately, funding for the Airborne laser was not originally included in the budget for missile defense. Although developing the ABL has cost less than three billion dollars, the Air Force removed 800 million dollars from the program three years ago to fund the latest fighter aircraft. This has caused a delay in testing the first prototype. The first Airborne Laser was originally scheduled to shoot down a missile this year, now that test has been postponed until December of 2004.

Ultimately, all this talk about missile defense misses a crucial point. Missiles are just a means of delivery, the warheads they carry make them dangerous. We must defend our country against nuclear attack, not just missile attack.

No missile shield will prevent terrorists from smuggling nuclear bombs into our cities and detonating them.

In a study released after September 11th, the CIA acknowledged the increased threat from ballistic missiles, but concluded that terrorists using weapons of mass destruction was even more likely. Last month the Federal Government submitted an unclassified report to the UN security council. The report warned that there was a “high probability” Al-Qaeda terrorists will use WMD to attack the United States within the next two years.

During trail testimony in 1998, Al Qaeda members admitted trying to purchase weapons grade plutonium from Russia. In May of last year US authorities arrested an Al Qaeda terrorist for plotting to build a primitive bomb using nuclear material. Since the end of the Cold War there have been concerns about the safety of Russia’s weapon storage sites, and even rumors that nuclear warheads have disappeared.

Instead of making the security of these weapons a top priority, the Bush administration has reduced funding for a Department of Energy program that monitors Russia’s nuclear stockpile. The DoE is also responsible for detecting nuclear materials being smuggled into this country. The Nuclear Emergency Situation Team, or NEST, uses radiation detectors to locate and neutralize hidden atomic weapons. A program to develop more sensitive radiation detectors for NEST languished during the Clinton Administration, only to be resurrected after September 11th.

The threat of a nuclear attack against the United States is a gravely serious national security issue, but you wouldn’t know that by observing our defense priorities.

We could purchase the Arrow missile, fund the Airborne laser, and buy Russia’s surplus nuclear stockpile all for less money than the proposed national missile defense system. Unfortunately, these systems are not expensive enough to attract the attention of defense contractors. Instead the Pentagon bureaucracies plan to leisurely spend 50 billion dollars over the next twenty years on another expensive, useless boondoggle.

We don’t have twenty years to purchase a missile defense system that may not even work. The United States faces new enemies, some of whom will stop at nothing to destroy us. A nuclear attack on our country either by enemy missile or terrorist bomb, is no longer a possibility, but a matter of when and where.

Published in: on October 20, 2003 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The De-Evolution of Warfare

A. Scott Piraino

Conventional warfare is dead. More precisely, wars with national armies fighting across opposing lines will be the exception in the future, not the rule. Instead the twentieth century has seen the rise of guerrilla warfare and its vicious stepchild, terrorism.

The Boer war was the first modern guerrilla war. In 1906, German settlers fought the British Empire for control of South Africa’s wealth. In a war of small battles and skirmishes, Boers used hit and run tactics to stalemate the British troops. The term “commando” was first used to describe these small units carrying out raids and ambushes.

The tactics of guerrilla warfare are simple. Modern automatic weapons and explosives make small groups of soldiers much more lethal. They can strike quickly at occupying forces, then disappear into the native population. In a war against a hidden enemy, the occupying army becomes demoralized and withdraws.

Terrorism is a de-evolution of guerrilla warfare. Instead of targeting an occupying army, an entire population becomes the enemy. Using anything from makeshift bombs to weapons of mass destruction, small groups of fanatics can cause death and destruction far out of proportion to their numbers

We can argue the morality of this new warfare, but we cannot deny its effectiveness. Guerrillas have defeated the US in Vietnam, and the Russians in Afghanistan. A bombing campaign forced the French to withdraw from Algeria. After ten years of terrorist warfare the exhausted British have negotiated a peace settlement with the IRA.

Western Democracies have had few successes against this new form of warfare. Our troops are brave and skilled, but our generals and political leaders order the impossible. In theater after theater, they have sent armies to occupy hostile territory, then lacked the stomach to prosecute the war as viciously as the enemy.

Only repressive regimes can finally defeat guerrillas and terrorists. Since it is futile to fight an elusive enemy hiding in hostile country, the solution is to target the entire population. Ethnic cleansing has emerged as a cruel but efficient military strategy, but liberal governments hesitate to use this tactic.

Again, we can argue the morality of ethnic cleansing, but we cannot deny its effectiveness. This is the truth of the new war; It is no longer possible to conquer hostile territory without deporting or destroying the hostile population. This does not bode well for conflicts raging around the world today.

In Chechnya, the Russians are seeking to avenge their failed invasion of 1996, when the Red Army was humiliated by Chechen guerrillas. Unable to expel the Russian army with conventional forces, The Chechens have resorted to ambushes, raids, and terrorist bombings in Russian cities. The Russians cannot win, but are unwilling to withdraw and admit defeat. They have resorted to scorched earth tactics, in effect ethnically cleansing the Chechen people.

Israel has been locked in an endless war of attrition with the Palestinians for over thirty years. Of course Israel cannot withdraw from the conflict without dissolving their country. So they endure uprisings, raids, and now suicide bombings from the Palestinians who hate them. The bloodshed will continue unless both sides make a lasting peace, or one group is deported or destroyed.

Now that the United States has been drawn into a War on Terror, we face the same military dilemma. In response to the September 11th attacks, the US immediately invaded Afghanistan. Operation Anaconda was a sweep of the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, seeking the terrorists responsible for the attacks.

We have arrested many suspected terrorists, but we have certainly not destroyed Al Qaeda, or captured Osama Bin Laden. In the past month, battles with Taliban guerrillas have intensified, with reports of hundreds of soldiers and aircraft fighting near the border with Pakistan. Our war in Afghanistan is far from over. So far 35 US troops have been killed, many more have been wounded, and the targets of terrorist attacks.

After September 11th, no one could deny our right to pursue the perpetrators of such murderous acts. But the Bush administration has given up the moral high ground with this reckless invasion of Iraq. Now in Addition to Afghanistan, 130,000 US troops are committed to a hazardous occupation of Iraq.

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom officially ended on May 1st, 182 US soldiers have been killed, more casualties than during the invasion. The commander of the occupation forces in Iraq recently admitted that there are an average of fifteen attacks per day against US troops. The Iraqi resistance is using modern guerrilla tactics, hit and run attacks and terrorist bombings.

Terrorist bombs have struck the UN headquarters in Iraq, the Jordanian embassy, and a very powerful car bomb struck a holy shrine in Najaf. 140 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded by these attacks. So far these attacks have not claimed any American lives, but that will inevitably change now that the bombs are aimed at US troops.

Two weeks ago a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with explosives into a US command post in Irbil, killing two Iraqis and wounding 53, including four Americans. Yesterday a another suicide carbomb was detonated just short of the Bagdhad Hotel, killing six bystanders and wounding dozens more. Both bombs were aimed at US personnel, and only the fortunes of war have prevented any US deaths.

The US invasion of Iraq is devolving into a guerrilla war, a war we cannot win. This unwarranted invasion has only fueled the grievances of radical Muslims, and provided these militants with convenient targets by placing US troops in their midst. The Bush administration is still telling us that we can win the War on Terror by occupying Iraq. They would do well to remember two earlier US interventions in the turbulent Middle East.

In 1983 the United States entered a civil war in Lebanon, then withdrew after a terrorist bombing destroyed a Marine barracks, inflicting hundreds of casualties. In Somalia, a commando mission went awry, and a company of US Army Rangers was caught in a ferocious firefight in the city of Mogadishu. The United States withdrew from both theatres after suffering ignomious defeat at the hands of local guerrilla and terrorist fighters.

The Commanding General of US ground forces admitted last week that the Iraqi resistance was growing stronger and more tenacious. Of course he did not publicly condemn the war or admit to the futility of conquering Iraq. But he did add that, “we should not be surprised if one of these days we wake up to find there’s been a major firefight or a major terrorist attack”.

Published in: on October 12, 2003 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Cause Worth Lying For

A. Scott Piraino

This is not the first time the United States has lied to start a war.

President Roosevelt knew the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor. Of course he did not think the attack would be so devastating and nearly destroy our Pacific Fleet. But he did not tell the public, or the Navy about the impending attack, because he knew the Japanese attack would draw our country into the war.

Roosevelt believed the allies would lose WW II if the United States did not join in the fight. He was prepared to lie, and sacrifice American lives in order to bring US fighting men, and US industry, into the war. Whether or not this was moral is a matter for historians, but the fact is the Axis powers were a threat to the United states, and the world. The Japanese did launch an attack on Pearl Harbor after all, and the German army under Hitler was grinding across Europe.

In the summer of 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox was off the coast of North Vietnam, allegedly on an intelligence gathering mission. Cynics claim that the Maddox’s purpose near North Vietnamese waters was to goad the Communists into attacking the ship, and thus give the US reason to counterattack. What happened next is still subject to debate, but according to the U. S. Navy, the ship was attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats.

President Johnson stated on national television that “violence against the Armed Forces of the United States must be met not only with alert defense, but with positive reply”. The President ordered retaliatory air strikes against “certain supporting facilities” in North Vietnam, and called on congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This Act was in effect a declaration of war, giving President Johnson sweeping powers to engage our country in Vietnam.

There are doubts as to whether or not the U.S.S. Maddox was fired upon by North Vietnamese gunboats. But there is no doubt that President Johnson used the incident to embroil the United States in the Vietnam War. Was he right? The fact is, the ferocious North Vietnamese Army was about to engulf the South, and President Johnson was determined to stop them. The rest is history.

Now George Bush the Second has lied to justify his war with Iraq. The President’s pretense for launching this invasion was his assurance that Iraq had, or would soon develop, weapons of mass destruction. Those allegations have been proven false, and it is impossible to believe that the President ever thought those weapons existed.

First, a forged document was “discovered” stating that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium in Niger. President Bush used this as a centerpiece of his State of the Union address to argue for war with Iraq. When the document was discovered to be a forgery, CIA Director George Tenet took full responsibility, and publicly apologized for giving the President faulty intelligence.

The Bush Administration has repaid the CIA’s loyalty by releasing the name of a covert agent in retaliation for criticism of the White House.

Joseph Wilson has been a career Civil Service officer for the US State Department since the 1970‘s. He has served in various posts, including US Ambassador to Iraq during the first Gulf War, where he was commended by the first President Bush. He was also the man this administration sent to Niger seeking evidence that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium.

Two weeks ago Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York times, criticizing the Bush administration’s use of bogus information to justify war with Iraq. In retaliation, an unknown White House official (Karl Rove), leaked the name of his wife to reporters and told them she was a CIA agent. Not only is this illegal, National Security laws protect the identity of covert agents, but more than that it’s just petulant.

So far over 300 US military personnel have been killed in the fighting. Last week the president went before the nation to explain why Iraq deserves another 87 billion dollars, while our economy tanks and our deficits soar. The Bush administration does have overwhelming evidence that rogue states are developing nuclear weapons, but the evidence is in North Korea, not Iraq.

As for the War on Terror, US troops are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan, seeking Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks. We havent even captured Saddam Hussein yet, not that it matters now. The Iraqis have already forgotten him, and remembered their hatred of the American Imperialists. The invasion of Iraq has fuelled the grievances of these radical Muslims, while giving them convenient targets by placing US troops in their midst.

There is just no good reason for the Bush administration’s lies. The moral high ground in the War on Terror has been squandered. The national unity and patriotism that emerged after September 11th is gone. Whatever the final outcome of this invasion of Iraq, this has not been a cause worth lying for.

Published in: on October 8, 2003 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)