Empty Days

Sunday, April 11, 2004



Brits speak out what everybody knew already

Now that things are falling apart, the Brits who btw are the principal partner in the Coalition and have been rather successful in managing their part of the country (Basra and marsh-lands), are finally making themselves heard. Too bad it took such a bad situation to make them speak their mind. Here is a very overt article from The Telegraph, and it makes a crucial point so I'll carry it in full:
US tactics condemned by British officers
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 11/04/2004)

Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies.

Although no formal complaints have as yet been made to their American counterparts, the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders' "concerns and fears".

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used to fire on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets.

The American approach was markedly different: "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers.

"The British response in Iraq has been much softer. During and after the war the British set about trying to win the confidence of the local population. There have been problems, it hasn't been easy but on the whole it was succeeding."

The officer believed that America had now lost the military initiative in Iraq, and it could only be regained with carefully planned, precision attacks against the "terrorists".

"The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach - it has failed," he said. "They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people.

"Our objective is to create a stable, democratic and safe Iraq. That's achievable but not in the short term. It is going to take up to 10 years."
Striking, hein? Right. But the US military never learn [I mean, they had 10 years of Vietnam to learn a hard lesson - and?], so this commentary will not change anything in the immediate future. [Interesting spin on outspokenness of Brit field commanders by Juan Cole]

Meanwhile people are looking to understand what caused the situation to deteriorate so bad over a year of CPA control. As you might notice all this revision-of-errors is being done by the press. Let's hope it trickles into the minds of those who actually run all things Iraq:

Series of U.S. Fumbles Blamed for Turmoil in Postwar Iraq

The array of challenges the United States now faces in Iraq seems to have emerged almost overnight but is actually the accumulation of mistakes, miscalculations and missed opportunities since Saddam Hussein's government collapsed a year ago, say U.S. officials and Iraq experts, including some who worked with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. [full article]

I am not sure this gives a very accurate idea of things but at least it's a start.

[ Here is another appeal to learn-from-errors, a very good one: Our Last Real Chance
The way forward: The administration has to admit its mistakes and try to repair the damage. Here's how ]






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