Tag Archives: iraq

The best response when hearing about Benghazi

Summary: Recommendation: when you see someone ranting about Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI, ask why they are more concerned with the few dead in that incident than our troops pointlessly fighting now in Afghanistan. If he has no good answer, but continues to rant about Benghazi, spit on him. Or rather, tell them they deserve to be spit at (if this were a just world).



Our troops fought and suffered in Iraq — 32 thousand injured or crippled, 4,489 died.

Our troops fight today in Afghanistan, still paying in blood for our mad foreign policy.

Most of the people (not all) seeking to exploit the few deaths in Benghazi either did not care about the toll those men or women paid — or cheered the war despite the toll, despite its obvious stupidity, as seen in the total failure of either war to produce significant gains for America. And they care nothing for the ongoing waste of lives in Afghanistan.

Lives of men and women spent carelessly, like bullets fired into the air by cowboys drunk on the strength.

Nothing shows our ovine nature like the passivity with which we allowed our leaders to led us into those war, enterprises both decked with lies, executed from start to finish incompetently. No wonder the 1% regard us with contempt, and believe that they can govern America better than we do.

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Keep fighting! We must not learn from our wars.

Summary:  We were ejected from Iraq, gaining nothing we sought. No oil, no ally against Iran, no unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East. All but the mad hawks realize we gained nothing in Afghanistan. Now comes the post-game show, as our military’s boosters attempt to fog our vision and erase our memories, preparing us for more wars. The truth is out there, if only we would make an effort to see.

Afghanistan war

Learning is one way to honor their sacrifice


  1. We lose because we’re ignorant of history and refuse to learn
  2. Bitter fruit from our failure to learn
  3. The history of counterinsurgency by foreign armies, a history of failure
  4. A more detailed explanation of why foreign armies fail at COIN
  5. For More Information
  6. A closing note from Friedrich Schiller

(1)  We lose because we’re ignorant of history and refuse to learn

Keep Fighting: Why the Counterinsurgency Debate Must Go On“, Mark Stout (Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins), War on the Rocks, 3 December 2013 — Opening:

Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in general and the military’s FM 3-24 in particular have been the subject of extensive and often vitriolic debate in recent years.  Now the debate is finally subsiding, but not in a satisfactory way.  It must not be allowed to die yet.

This reasonable article by an expert avoids the big question: why have we learned so little after six decades of failure by foreign armies fighting local insurgencies? It suggests that the next round of debate about counter-insurgency warfare will produce still more tortured history justifying the next war (we could have won!) and happy theory (next time we’ll convince the locals to have good government).

Let’s rewind the tape to see what we learned from the last round. For example, how many counter-insurgency experts listened to Martin van Creveld’s warnings? Such as this from Chapter 6.2 in Changing Face of War (2006):

What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.

Seven years later and we’re still attempting to avoid learning from our failed wars.

(2)  Bitter fruit from our failure to learn

Some people are running the sums to see the results of our most recent infatuations with counter-insurgency. Before we let our military experts repeat this history let’s remember the results of their projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s a look at Iraq: “Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now“, Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, 19 December 2013 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a 69-year-old politician and businessman — a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful — returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:

Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]

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Some questions as we march to war in Syria

Summary: We’re off to war in yet another nation. Little Syria has suddenly become a nation whose fate can shake the foundations of the United States. Rather than again dissect the mad arguments of the hawks, let’s step back to see the larger pattern at work. After all, our opinions on the war matter not at all to our ruling elites. These significance of these events lies only in their ability to show that our leaders are incompetent, that we can no longer see the world through the fog of propaganda, and as a result we have lost control of the Republic.


It might take a century or more, but future historians will devise a catchy name for the US interventions in Afghanistan (1979 – now), Iraq (1990-2011), Libya (2011), and Syria (2013) — our bipartisan policy of overthrowing secular regimes, replaced by Islamic regimes — with dubious results for their people and the US. It is a coherent but mad policy, with several characteristics.

It’s just a game to our rulers

  1. No clear plan; we rely on our awesomeness for success
  2. Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation
  3. Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used
  4. Indifference to the fate of women in the target nation


(1) No clear plan

Imitating the plan of Imperial Japan in WW2: our awesomeness will produce success.

Our lavishly funded foreign policy apparatus (mostly military), with its middle and senior managers stocked with people holding advanced degrees (at the higher levels, mostly from elite universities), seem unable to form a first-year B-school level plan for our interventions. Goals, entry, execution, exit, follow-up. That’s obvious in the histories published about the Afghan War. It was obvious at the time in the post-9-11 interventions. Such questions were asked in the general media, but our confident elites blew them off with in effect instructions to “trust us”.

Despite repeated failures, we do. Again and again. This time they’re scarcely bothering to give coherent stories to build support for this war. They’re just ringing the bell, knowing we’ll respond. WMDs! Iran! Overthrow tyrants!

See the posts at the end about the Libyan War for examples of ignored warnings and daft propaganda.

(2) Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation

All these nations were weakly held together, with deep ethnic (and religious in Iraq, Libya, and Syria) divisions. All had traumatic experiences with colonial aggression, with ours seen as just another chapter. Experts warned about the risk of prolonged instability, but were ignored.

(3) Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used

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Why are we surprised that we supported militia in Iraq, and they used torture?

Summary:  The recent story about militia in Iraq is rich in lessons for us. Not about the futile lost war. But about us and our ability to see and understand the world.

Militia, the face of freedom? From Albasrah.net

A hot story from The Guardian, 6 March 2013 — based on an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic:

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency …

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding. Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus’s “eyes and ears out on the ground” in Iraq.

“They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”

… “Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” claimed Samari, talking for the first time in detail about the US role in the interrogation units. Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”

There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman tortured prisoners themselves, only that they were sometimes present in the detention centres where torture took place and were involved in the processing of thousands of detainees.

(The article bizarrely calls the militia “commandos”, part of the long effort by the news media and government to disguise the nature of these wars by using inaccurate labels.)

This story surprises many of our journalists and geopolitical experts, whose pose of child-like innocence appears to blind them to the most obvious of long-term trends.  Many but not all.  In February 2008 Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) explained that in Iraq and Afghanistan we used our trinity of tactics:

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How many generals would Lincoln have fired to win in Iraq & Afghanistan?

Summary: After eleven years our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced no gains for America, despite the expenditure of money plus our troop’s work and sacrifice. Generals rotated in and out of senior command to punch their tickets, but unrelated to their actual performance. What would Lincoln have done?  This is #9 in a series about the rot at the top of our military; at the end are links to the other chapters.

“As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
— “A failure in generalship“, Paul Yingling (Lt Colonel, US Army), Armed Forces Journal, May 2007

In the field Grant wore a private’s uniform and coat.

An essential step to winning the Civil War:
…..firing generals for poor performance

John C. Fremont was relieved by Lincoln on 2 November 1861 for exceeding his authority by issuing an emancipation order (this might have pushed slave states in the Union to join the Confederacy). He was later given new commands. He resigned his command on 26 June 1862, declining to serve under General Pope. He remained on the bench for the rest of the war.

John Pope was relieved of command on 12 September 1862 due to his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Don Carlos Buell was relieved on 24 October 1862 by General in Chief Henry W. Halleck, who said “Neither the country nor the Government will much longer put up with the inactivity of some of our armies and generals.”

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Seeing our society’s dsyfunctionality in tangible form, in the comments

Summary:  Polling acts as one kind of mirror to our society; Internet comments provide a reflection of another kind. With over 23 thousand comments about geopolitics, the FM website gives us a perspective on America’s ills. Here we sort them and find one ominous pattern.

Result of broken OODA loop

There is conflict in every society because  people always debate the important things in life. How to interpret the past. How to see the kaleidoscope of current events. What path we should take towards the future. How to relate to incompatible values: individual rights vs the needs of the community, freedom vs. equality, etc.

We’re living the Best and the Brightest but larger. That book examined the failures of America’s elites during the 1960s. Now we experiencing the same thing but on a larger scale.

America’s intelligent and well-educated people should be one of our great resources, best able to see and understand our nation’s problems.  Instead our society’s dysfunctionality — our gullibility and credulity — has allowed our best to become indoctrinated.  They have been taught an interlocking set of historical falsehoods and bogus theory, become fervent believers of things that are not so, fearful of things not likely to happen.

It’s not political, appearing on both the Right and Left. It’s converted American politics into a theater of the absurd, a Kabuki of over-coked actors.

In my experience these people cannot be broken from these beliefs. Contrary facts, testimony of experts — all useless.  This is the battle fought out every day in the comments on the FM website since 2007.   Here are two examples.

(1)  Smart guy fearful of the absurd

Comment:  Question by a licensed clinical laboratory scientist, who has studied chemistry:

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Looking back at how our folly and ignorance fanned the flames in Iraq

Summary:  A vital aspect of high performance is the “lessons learned” exercise after every operation, however painful. Watching the game films to see what we did right and wrong, so that we can do better.  Unfortunately America’s broken observation-orientation-decision action loops makes this impossible.  We prefer to tell ourselves lies, hiding in myth.  It’s a driver of national decline. The truth is out there; we need only look for it.  Today we review a book about our expedition to Iraq, now clearly a failure by the objectives set forth at the start.



  1. Review from the Marine Corps Gazette
  2. About the authors of the book
  3. About the reviewer
  4. Excerpts from the book
  5. Other insightful reviews
  6. For more information about the War in Iraq


(1)  Review from the Marine Corps Gazette

COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Cordon and Bernard E. Trainor (2006)

Reviewed by Harry W Jenkins.  Originally published as “Underestimating the Enemy” in the Marine Corps Gazette, July 2006. Republished here with their generous permission.


Cobra II is clearly the best contemporary account to date regarding the planning and execution of the American invasion of Iraq. The authors have done a superb job in researching material for the book that includes documentation and extensive interviews with sources high in the Bush administration down through the military chain of command to the troops who faced combat in the air and on the ground. Based upon the report, “Iraqi Perspectives,” by Joint Forces Command, Gordon and Trainor have been able to reconstruct some of the decisions by Saddam and his war council, to include Saddam’s perceptions of the American war plan as well as the Iraqi dictator’s deception regarding his weapons of mass destruction.

The accounts are fascinating and illustrate the gross misperceptions on the part of the senior American civilian and military leaders concerning Iraqi intentions and culture during the planning and actual invasion. The book is balanced and unemotional. The facts as displayed in the text will speak for themselves.

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