The latest issue of the magazine The American Enterprise (January/February 2005) printed a Letter to the Editor, ostensibly written by First Lieutenant Michael Erwin of the US Army (article link HERE). It reads like a run-down of Pentagon talking points carefully compiled by Army Public Affairs. In the letter, PA -- or, rather Lt. Erwin -- explains how great a victory the recent assaults on Najaf and Falluja were for the American people, and how despicable and evil the Iraqi insurgents are. Allow me to quote from this letter, and illustrate the bald-faced deceptions employed by the Pentagon PR machine. Hopefully Lt. Erwin won't take my commentary too personally--after all, he can point the finger at his friendly local Public Affairs officer:
American Enterprise intros the letter with a little commentary on the recent operations in Najaf and Falluja that Lt. Erwin participated in: "two of the trickiest and most successful combat actions carried out by the US military in the last half century". Given AE's standard bias on these matters, I'm not surprised by their assessment, or that they picked this letter for publication despite the fact that it clearly follows a list of talking points and key-phrases. Never-the-less, I would be remiss to allow such an assumption to pass unchallenged. The operation in Najaf was only finally settled when Hussein Sharistani brokered a deal by convincing al-Sadr that the Shi'a would dominate the country if he would back down and facilitate January's elections. Due to the US military's inability to handle the issue directly (because there were no adequately trained Iraqi forces to deal with Najaf), they gave Sharistani (and Sistani) the keys to the country. In the process, they created a future of Iranian influenced Iraqi policies in one fell swoop. Falluja was equally a failure, as it outraged Iraq's Sunni population and failed to crush any leadership or command structure of the insurgency--witness that attacks have picked up since the city was declared "under control" of the Marine Corps.
AE's editors also suggest that Erwin's letter sheds light on the "previously unreported revelation that Muslim holy warriors traffic in illicit drugs". Here are Lt. Erwin's actual words: "They also found large amounts of drugs--mostly speed and cocaine. Many of these jihad purists apparently drug themselves up for pleasure and to give themselves the boldness and stupidity to fight". Ignoring, for a moment, the unsupported assumptions on Erwin's part, let me point out that Lt. Erwin knows exactly why the insurgents take cocaine (a stimulant) and speed: to enhance combat alertness and performance over the many days that they must stay awake at one time. Not coincidentally, this is the exact same rationale that the US military gives for issuing "Go-Pills" to their soldiers. "Go-Pills" are actually Dexadrine. Dexadrine is the brand name for dexamphetamine, which is speed.
Erwin goes on to complain that "They [insurgents] placed snipers, mortar observers, and men armed with RPGs in the minarets of their mosques." According the US military, and the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) which they created and unilaterally decided to apply to the insurgents, this is not kosher. Erwin also states that the US military destroyed "any vehicle that had been parked in the same location for more than three days. We guessed they might be car bombs..." Having been through countless hours of LOAC training myself, I am well aware that both of these actions, one by the insurgents and one by the US military, violate the law. In my mind, both are smart moves--the hypocrisy lies in the fact that Erwin points out only the enemy's violations. Not to mention the general hypocrisy of attempting to apply one's own laws to another party which has not agreed to the former's social contract, a phenomena that I wrote about HERE.
Erwin continues with a statement demonstrating such ignorance that I am forced to either re-evaluate my esteem for his West Point education, or chalk it under the column of "Public Affairs actually wrote this letter":
"This city [Falluja] was the center of the resistance against the new Iraqi government."
The insurgents form an acentral, rhizomatic network. US military and CIA intelligence briefings both say this. Erwin apparently doesn't understand that a decentralized network doesn't have a center. Visit: http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/ for a lengthy discussion of this by a former military specialist in insurgent organization.
Next on Erwin's talking-points memo was this: "Some of the torture chambers were extremely gruesome. These insurgents are sick people." I wonder what kind of generalizations Erwin would be willing to make about all members of the US Army (of which he is part) given the abuses at Abu Ghraib??
As if he were trying to trip over every single ghost in the US military's closet one at a time, Erwin proceeds to begin arguing the merits of the Falluja operation based on body counts: "Over several days, American forces killed 1,200-1,600 insurgents." Someone should let this guy know how well Vietnam turned out for the US...
But the real icing on the cake came in Erwin's closing comments: "I see firsthand in Iraq that we cannot live peacefully back home right now unless we stay on the offensive against our enemies in their own backyards." Hubris, it seems, has no bounds. If I may humbly suggest that if we stopped killing, manipulating and exploiting people in far away lands, we may find ourselves finally at peace both at home and abroad. That seems a fitting comment on which to close these Christmas Eve comments...