Missing Officers

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No
sooner had President George W. Bush finished his prime time speech
last week, than the television talking heads and the press, that
Big Media, which the government relies upon to help define their
Imperial Reality for us, were hard at it, interpreting every possible
nuance or inflection of his address.

Did
he say anything new? Hardly. But what he omitted spoke volumes!

The
real test of the effectiveness, of his speech, however, will come,
not from the Media, or those millions of passive Americans and most
of the Congress that have supported his war, but among the youth
ranging from some of the "red" states of the South and
the Mid-west, to the inner cities ghettoes and barrios. Will these
young people, inspired by the President’s rhetoric, buy into the
notion that Iraq has been worth the cost? Bottom line: will they
enlist in Mr. Bush’s War?

I
rather think not!

They
are more likely to heed the warnings of some of our more cautious
and realistic military men that the insurgency will last years,
a position even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged
with the statement that it might take a dozen years.

Bush
is hoping that the Iraqi army will begin to shoulder the overwhelming
burden of the war, and mentioned the figure of 160,000, as if it
was the sheer number that mattered, rather than morale.

The
most perceptive observation made on the "Charlie Rose"
show discussing the speech, was that the U.S. was having trouble
finding middle echelon officers to staff the Iraqi army, and that
we intended to put in a number of American officers into those positions.

Now,
it is certainly true about the importance of the middle echelon
officers in any war, especially an insurgency, where the nature
of the warfare demands instant decisions, without the time for debate
or to consult with those of a higher rank, up the chain of command.

It
has been clear for months now, that this crucial sector of Saddam’s
old army did not, nor has not yet, come over to the side of the
new government sponsored by the Americans.

I
would not want to be in the shoes of, say, an American captain,
thrust into the midst of an Iraqi unit. We know the insurgents have
infiltrated men into these units. How difficult would it be for
one of these men to frag the American officer, or simply shoot him
in the back?

Fragging
was, of course, a problem in Vietnam, and there has already been
at least one case in Iraq. A newspaperman friend of mine from the
Vietnam era told me there were rumors that Max Cleland, the triple
amputee war hero, and later Senator from Georgia, attacked by Republicans
for his lack of enthusiasm for Iraq, had actually been fragged.
If this is true, it makes the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death by
friendly fire look almost tame in comparison.

Certainly,
the morale and training of the middle echelon officers is critical.
Some military historians have suggested that in WWII, the creative,
and gung-ho 11,000 or so young recruits in that position were a
great weapon in achieving victory.

There
are already indications that some of our best young officers, often
West Point graduates, in which the country has a considerable investment,
are opting out of the Army for commensurate managerial jobs. Perhaps
the task of integrating with the Iraqi army will fall to the mercenaries
hired by companies such as Halliburton.

In
Vietnam, quite apart from the fragging, the increasing disillusionment
of the middle echelon officers was an early sign the war was not
going well. Anyone who has read many of the letters of these middle
echelon British officers in the American Revolution, often young
Scots, who wrote back to their families about going out into the
wilderness, perhaps never to return, will recognize this pattern.
The British referred to the area around Charlotte, North Carolina,
as the "hornet’s nest," and it was the defeats around
that area which led to the retreat toward Yorktown.

Clearly,
a segment of the American military shares the administration’s hope
that it will be possible build a U.S. supported regime, perhaps
on the model of what was done in the Philippines over a century
ago; not that that nation has been a great example of economic development
of late.

Americans
seem amazed by the degree of solidarity among the insurgents, that
some are willing to not only die for the cause, but to do so as
a suicide bomber. Part of the Media approach has been to glorify
the whole idea of "Empire." A new television show of that
title aired June 29th, in which we are suppose to identify with
Julius Caesar’s heir, Octavian, soon to be Caesar Augustus.

The
Founding Fathers of the American Republic, despising Empire as they
did, would not have admired that whole theme. Their heroes were
Brutus, Cassius, Cicero and Cato. It is well to remember that a
wounded Cato ripped off his bandages so that he might die, so much
did he hate the notions of Despotism and Empire. Suicide was preferable
to life in the Empire.

As
in the Philippines, we have found no shortage of bureaucrat Compradors,
willing to be our "willing executioners" of their own
people, in running "our" Iraqi government. Whether we
can find American recruits as well as Iraqi officers to continue
the war in the face of a growing public disenchantment, is the major
question facing the Bush administration in the months ahead.

July
5, 2005

William
Marina [send him mail]
is Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University
and is a Resident Fellow of the Indepedent Institute. This
article originally appeared on the History
News Network
.

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