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Stan Goff on the war so far
by Threehegemons
30 March 2003 02:47 UTC
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North Carolinian Goff served in the US special forces during the Grenada 
invasion. He thus has a certain level of insider knowledge of the US military 
most of us lack. His analysis is just after the note about Senator Jon Edwards 
(democratic presidential hopeful).

Steven Sherman
--- Begin Message ---
NC Coalition for Peace and Justice Listserv

"In this time of war, our thoughts and prayers are with the men and
women of our armed forces who have committed themselves to standing up
for the values of our nation and defending the security of our world.
"Make no mistake, Saddam Hussein alone has chosen war over peace.  He
has defied international law rather than disarm his weapons of mass
destruction.  Our world will be safer when he is gone."

I rest my case.  Here's an update on Edward's pet war. See if it sounds
like a safer world to any of you.


Visions & Revisions
March 28,2003

Stan Goff

There have been two predictable aspects of Bush's war, one political and
one related to the actual conduct of the war.  These are not separable.
The political destruction of Bush and his clique was stamped and waiting
for delivery before the first tank rolled across the line of departure
in Kuwait.  And the Law of Unintended Consequences is operating with a
vengeance on the ground.

The rest is unpredictable.

The junta's diplomatic vandalism had systematically alienated the masses
around the world, a force they underestimated wholly, and the underlying
intent of the Bush cabal - a military solution for economic war - was
understood clearly by the northern capitalist metropoles, by Russia, and
by China.  The Latin American supra-colony, already in a process of
break-up and rebellion, had inaugurated its second big wave of
anti-colonial struggle, as others from the global south watched.  The
hegemon was breaking up, and war was seen by the Bush faction as its
best, last chance.  Even America's former multilateralist partners -
stung by disrespect and alarmed by the bright-eyed bellicosity of Bush,
et al - had begun to thirst for US humiliation.

Now they are being slaked.

The depth of US bourgeois (and therefore generalized cultural) decadence
has been on display for months, as impunity and falsehood characterized
political discourse, and the last crumbs of American journalism were
lapped up into the maw of the media-military nexus.  Half the US
population had accepted one central and demonstrably idiotic assertion,
that Iraqi leadership played some facilitative role in the September
11th attacks.  Now enough of American-society-in-denial - especially
white society - had its rationalization.  The international legal
framework that took six decades to assemble was ripped apart and shipped
to the same landfill as the detritus of US bourgeois democracy -
similarly cast off in 2000.

The entire adventure we are witnessing was conceived from a
really-existing condition of weakness
http://www.freedomroad.org/milmatters_5_overreach.html.  I have said
that for some time.  Even progressive forces have been intimidated by
the raw power of the US military machine and the demonstrated
willingness to use it.  There was the sense that it was a juggernaut.
That's how bullies
http://www.freedomroad.org/milmatters_4_victoriesover.html operate;
through intimidation.

But they miscalculated.

I miscalculated, too.

We learn most from our errors, and it is through examining errors we
refine our analysis and get closer to the truth of things.  Now is a
good time to critique what was written just as the war began in earnest.
In "Rolling Start"
http://www.freedomroad.org/milmatters_12_rollingstart.html, I identified
several variables that would complicate the conduct of the war for the
US; the loss of the Turkish front, the last minute changes in the plans
growing out of that loss, the canalization of the ground attack along a
single south-north axis and corresponding vulnerability of supply lines,
and the terrific impact of weather.  We are still waiting to see if my
dire prognostications related to Kurdistan materialize.

But I made two very significant errors.  I underestimated the quality of
Iraqi resistance, and I overestimated the scope of the initial air

I stated:  "The Iraqi military won't prevail because they can't. They
are weak, under-resourced, poorly led, and demoralized. What the delays
mean is that the US will depend on sustaining the initiative and
momentum through brutal, incessant bombing designed to destroy every
soldier, every installation, every vehicle, every field kitchen in the
Iraqi military."

What I did not know, which is becoming very apparent, is that while
Donald Rumsfeld was imposing his vaunted "Revolution in Military
Affairs," his crackpot theory of "network centric warfare" that
substitutes technology for leadership (against fierce resistance from
the Army and Marines) on the US armed forces, there was another
revolution in military affairs going on inside Iraq.  The Iraqi military
was reorganizing from the ground up for an agile, decentralized,
urban-based warfighting capability, that abandoned Soviet-style
conventional armor-centric doctrine for something more akin to doctrine
that was taught but seldom practiced by Special Operations forces in the
US during the Cold War, particularly "stay-behind" disruption of enemy
lines of communications, once the primary mission of 10th Special Forces
in the event of a general conflict with the Warsaw Pact.

And the massive bombing.

It remains to be seen, but it was not used as I thought it would be,
probably for two reasons; political pressure to paint a humanitarian
face on the invasion, and reluctance - given the ongoing economic crisis
in the US - to impose too high a cost on post-invasion infrastructure

I am reminded now of T. S. Eliot's poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred
Prufrock, where Prufrock's neurotic internal voice tells him there will
be "time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and
revisions. In a minute there is time, For decisions and revisions which
a minute will reverse."

Surely, if we sent a copy of "Prufrock" to the Bush cabinet, they might
weep with recognition.

Everything that could have gone wrong with the American invasion is
going wrong, and the longer it goes, the wronger it gets.  And with
these reversals, the danger to everyone increases by orders of
magnitude.  Especially Iraqis.

The efficacy of Iraqi tactics is being met with revisions of the Rules
of Engagement (ROE in military-speak).  These are the rules related to
when soldiers can and can not "engage" (that means attempt to kill)
enemy soldiers and civilians.  As the invasion began, the ROE was
comparatively strict.  Embedded reporters were pretty close to the
action, after all, and there was the underwriting assumption that there
would be no significant resistance.  On Tuesday, March 25th, CENTCOM
began openly saying they would change the ROE to reflect the "new

With the end of the sandstorms, the US Air Force and Navy resumed its
air assault, this time testing its 4,700 pound bunker busters on
Baghdad.  Army Apache helicopters and Air Force A-10's (the weapons
platform that fires depleted uranium rounds) are hitting forward of the
Army and Marine axis of advance, using the "new" ROE, and reports are
already filtering out of Iraq of nightmarish scenes of scorched and
shattered vehicles and bodies that include passenger cars, buses, and
plenty of civilians.

It has become apparent, given the continued furious resistance of the
Iraqis, including audacious attacks on both US supply lines and combat
units, that Baghdad will be no cakewalk.  Bush and his generals are now
at a fork in the road, where they must choose either to wreck Baghdad or
lay siege to it.  House to house fighting in Baghdad will begin a
televised file of military caskets returning to America.  That will
quickly become intolerable, and the administration will collapse.  The
other unthinkable option Bush has is to quit.  Quit.

That must be our demand.  Out of Iraq, now!

But they won't.  They are now caught in the same deadly trap they have
built for Iraq.

The sad truth seems to be, we are witnessing the certain political
self-destruction of Bush & Co., but it will come at a cost paid for with
many Iraqi lives.  I expect a renewed American assault before the
weekend is past, and this one with a shattering display of air power.

It is costing American lives now, too.  More than we know.

On Thursday, the 27th, during a CENTCOM briefing, the charming and
affable Brigadier General Vincent Brooks became short with reporters and
flatly stated that CENTCOM would not release US casualty figures any

The night prior, an embedded CNN reporter had broadcast in real-time
that Marines near Nasiriyah were engaged in a firefight with Iraqis that
wounded 21 Marines within one hour.  Eleven from Camp Lejuene, NC, near
where I live, are dead.

Things are gong very badly for troops on the long northbound column.
Vehicles are deadlined from the sand.  People are frightened,
underslept, and they stink.  The tempo that exhilarated them three days
ago is now turning to deep muscular and psychological fatigue.  Many are
now wondering what they have gotten into.  Thoughts of dying in a state
of discomfort are popping up, thoughts of being maimed for life.
Tempers are flaring.  The food is all starting to taste the same.  The
mosquitoes and sand flies are thick at night.  Supply disruptions have
created a tobacco shortage.  Home is unreachable.  People are crying
silently in the dark.  A goodly number of these people haven't yet
reached their 20th birthday.

These are the lads who will be driven forward soon in the next assault.
An image on the television. a Marine Amtrack rolled over, upended in a
swamp; literally, a quagmire.

Donald Rumsfeld has taken to threatening Iranians and Syrians,
excoriating the press for their "mood swings."  Rumsfeld is living to
regret his Orwellian propaganda ploy of "embedding" the press.  Now many
will become witnesses.

His "revolution in military affairs" has become a "revolution in

The conventional Generals, steeped in their own orthodoxies, are saying
Rumsfeld's mistake was trying to "do it on the cheap," that he didn't
put enough forces on the ground.  He stretched them thin along their
primary avenue of approach to Baghdad and exposed their supply lines.
This is all true, but it's very incomplete.

My outgoing Battalion commander when I first reported in the 2nd Ranger
Battalion in 1979 was then-Colonel Wayne Downing.  Downing is a retired
General now, and a pundit working for MSNBC.  He had a different take.

"These are people who love their country," he said, "and apparently
they're willing to fight to defend it from an invader."

When Downing and I were assigned to the early Rangers, we trained
incessantly on the same kinds of tactics that are now being employed by
the Iraqis.  Reconnaissance, ambush, and raid.

Rumsfeld's error is not only the size of his forces.  What the media has
failed to recognize is the role technology plays not only in projecting
violence onto the battlefield, but in replacing the intuition of field
commanders for making decisions.  I predict that some day, when the dust
settles and someone takes a serious look at what happened militarily in
Iraq in 2003, this subordination of thinking to technology - along with
the small unit decentralization of Iraqi forces, forces who were willing
to fight an invader - will be identified as the decisive factors in what
is shaping up to be a very Pyrrhic victory for the US, and a world
historic turning point in relations between the global north and south.

For the first time, I am slightly less than 100 percent sure there will
be a victory at all.  That is a hugely qualified statement, but the
improbable can become the real as abruptly as an accident.  Another
enormous sandstorm, new variables from outside the country, an open
outbreak of guerrilla war in Afghanistan, a colossal act of American
stupidity. these are the stuff of catalysts.

The administration has impressed the whole chain of command into the
service of lies.  The US kills civilians in a marketplace.  The Iraqis
did it.  The Iraqis are "forcing their own people to wage suicide
attacks".  What began with an insipid conversation about whether or not
Saddam was dead has progressed through a chemical factory that wasn't
operational, a Basra uprising that didn't exist, thousands of phantom
Iraqi prisoners of war, the miraculous rediscovery of the Geneva
Convention, to this lurid tale retold by Washington Post reporter Walter
Lippman on March 28th:

"As U.S. warplanes pounded Iraqi defenders with bombs and missiles,
several Army and Marine units engaged in close combat with Iraqi
paramilitary forces and regular army units. Brooks said they 'conducted
active security operations to eliminate identified terrorist death
squads,' a reference to Iraqi cadres who U.S. and British officials say
are threatening Iraqi civilians to compel the men in their families to

"Rumsfeld said these 'death squads' take orders directly from Hussein's
family, and he denounced them in some of the strongest language he has
used since the war began.

"'Their ranks are populated with criminals released from Iraqi prisons,'
he said. 'They dress in civilian clothes and operate from private homes
confiscated from innocent people and try to blend in with the civilian
population. They conduct sadistic executions on sidewalks and public
squares, cutting the tongues out of those accused of disloyalty and 
beheading people with swords. They put on American and British uniforms
to try to fool regular Iraqi soldiers into surrendering to them, and
then execute them as an example for others who might contemplate
defection or capitulation.'"

Cutting out tongues.  They have finally outdone the Kuwaiti incubator
story.  Other rumors suggest "the Fedayeen also run after dogs in the
capitol, capture them, tear their limbs one by one, and sink their teeth
into them."

Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace of the US Army had a moment of clarity when
he spoke the real truth:  "The enemy that we're fighting is different
from the one we'd war-gamed."

Saddam Hussein has become the embodiment of a resurgent Arab pride.
Bush as been reduced to one of those dolls with a string on its back
that you pull to hear "Iraq will be free, Iraq will be free, Iraq will
be free."

It might be funny if it weren't for the grim truth that the price of
admission to this farce shall be a river of blood.

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