April 30, 2004
I'VE GOT A BETTER ONE, COLBY
First things first: Heather Mallick is an idiot. Massacring Yeats alone should be ample justification for thinking of her as one of those we guard that we do not love... Colby cites Housman as the mercenary's poet. Apt, but I still prefer a real soldier-adventurer, American Alan Seeger, who true to his word below, was killed, a soldier in a war not of his own country's making, in Flanders in 1916:
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Byron also comes to mind.
Winning assurances that the perpetrators [of the original ambush] will be turned over remains a US goal in the Falluja talks. It is unclear whether it will be achieved: at one stage the insurgents responded with a reciprocal demand that US forces and commanders be handed over for the deaths of Iraqis in the city during the siege.
(LGF/National Review response: If only they'd listened to Rumsfeld.)
Open challenge: can anyone point to a single in-the-know source saying that the CPA/CentCom/the Pentagon/the White House were holding the Marines back from doing exactly what they wanted to in Fallujah? Just one, 'cause I haven't seen any, and yet this idea that the political leadership has wussed out and the Marines wanted to kick more ass seems to be growing by the hour.
UPDATE: A lot of my initial skepticism that Fallujah would turn out well was based in the size of the Marine force that was available. Looking at this map, you're looking at 10-11 km of frontage, working out to at least 500m of front per platoon, without ready relief, assuming a full three Marine battalions deployed... very thin gruel for a long-term urban operation. Offensive operations with that kind of force would have been extremely circumscribed against any kind of organized resistance.
LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! IT'S UNCOMFORTABLE REALITY MAN!
As the government conducts a major review of its military capabilities, [Richard] Clarke suggested Canada might want to scrap one or all of its three branches. "It's not necessarily the case that every member of NATO has to have a robust navy, a robust army and a robust air force," Clarke said Monday.
--Calgary Herald. Actually, most serious Canadian defence experts (yours truly is seriously unserious) believe dropping a service, or at least, dramatically scaling it back, is inevitable at this point, anyway. The safe bet (it's 3:2, but you've got to wait 10 years for the payoff) is that it will be the Air Force which goes non-combat first, like New Zealand, rather than replace the CF-18 fleet. But we'll see. We wrote about this more back in December.
SPEAKING OF THINGS PEOPLE SHOULD COMMENT ON...
Glenn? Volokh? What are you waiting for?
PRIVATE PARAMILITARY UPDATE: LIKE BOSNIA ALL OVER AGAIN?
At one point, the investigators say: "A CACI [mercenary company] instructor [at Abu Ghraib prison] was terminated because he allowed and/or instructed MPs who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by setting conditions which were neither authorised [nor] in accordance with applicable regulations/policy."
Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, speaking for central command, told the Guardian: "One contractor was originally included with six soldiers, accused for his treatment of the prisoners, but we had no jurisdiction over him. It was left up to the contractor [his employer] on how to deal with him."
She did not specify the accusation facing the contractor, but according to several sources with detailed knowledge of the case, he raped an Iraqi inmate in his mid-teens.
--Guardian, today. There's more:
"It's insanity," said Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, who has examined the case, and is concerned about the private contractors' free-ranging role. "These are rank amateurs and there is no legally binding law on these guys as far as I could tell. Why did they let them in the prison?"
WORST. OCCUPATION. EVER.
It is not clear whether [Marine general] Conway conveyed the terms of the deal to his superiors in Baghdad and at the Pentagon, or even to leaders of the U.S. occupation authority. One person familiar with the deal said it took senior U.S. military and civilian officials in Baghdad by surprise.
That low humming noise you're probably hearing is the sound of Clausewitz's decayed remains hitting their peak RPMs.
A Marine officer familiar with the arrangement acknowledged that some former insurgents may be part of the force, creating the potential situation of U.S. troops having to work with people who have very recently been shooting at them.
Comic Book Guy jokes aside, this could well be a smart move on the Marines' part, but only if you ascribe to one key assumption... that the resistance in Fallujah is largely non-political, tribal, and localist, as we've argued here all along. Then it's brilliant. It gives the tribesmen still fighting the Marines an exit strategy and enough of a victory to go home with, while isolating any remaining foreign/diehard nationalist elements, whose numbers are, I've been arguing, probably pretty minimal, from their covering population. Now, if you believe there's an actual coordinated nationalist, reactionary, Sunni-based resistance focussed in Fallujah, one sponsored and aided by foreigners to boot, it's insane.
And yes, at best it is still rather like giving Capone the keys to Chicago, in this interpretation. But then, that's basically what happened with Capone in real life, too. So this could be interpreted as an acceptance of reality by the troops in the field. Whether it percolates up to the Green Zone or D.C. is another matter.
I can't frankly understand the DailyPundits of the world who have been portraying this as those Washington politicians tying the Marines' hands. They simply can't see through their own biases any more to actually read the stories coming back from Iraq. In fact, nearly every story has been hinting at the exact opposite; that the Marines have been counselling restraint since the initial ambush a month ago, and they keep getting pushed into taking more dramatic action in Fallujah by their superiors. This seems like just the latest manifestation. Me, I wouldn't dare criticize the Corps. They're there, I'm not. People should trust them to do what's right, without muttering about defeat. Maybe, just maybe, there was never an actual battle worth winning here in the first place, and it's taken a month of casualties for the Marines to convince their bosses of that. I'm not saying I know that for sure, but surely it's at the least a hypothesis worth entertaining.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex