Iraq: Blame the victim for your defeat

Published on Monday, November 27, 2006 by the Guardian / UK
They Lied Their Way into Iraq. Now They Are Trying to Lie Their Way out.
Bush and Blair will blame anyone but themselves for the consequences of their disastrous war - even its victims

by Gary Younge

'In the endgame," said one of the world's best-ever chess players, José Raúl Capablanca, "don't think in terms of moves but in terms of plans." The situation in Iraq is now unravelling into the bloodiest endgame imaginable. Both popular and official support for the war in those countries that ordered the invasion is already at a low and will only get lower. Whatever mandate the occupiers may have once had from their own electorates - in Britain it was none, in the US it was precarious - has now eroded. They can no longer conduct this war as they have been doing.

Simultaneously, the Iraqis are no longer able to live under occupation as they have been doing. According to a UN report released last week, 3,709 Iraqi civilians died in October - the highest number since the invasion began. And the cycle of religious and ethnic violence has escalated over the past week.

The living flee. Every day up to 2,000 Iraqis go to Syria and another 1,000 to Jordan, according to the UN's high commissioner for refugees. Since the bombing of Samarra's Shia shrine in February more than 1,000 Iraqis a day have been internally displaced, a recent report by the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Migration found last month.

Those in the west who fear that withdrawal will lead to civil war are too late - it is already here. Those who fear that pulling out will make matters worse have to ask themselves: how much worse can it get? Since yesterday American troops have been in Iraq longer than they were in the second world war. When the people you have "liberated" by force are no longer keen on the "freedom" you have in store for them, it is time to go.

Any individual moves announced from now on - summits, reports, benchmarks, speeches - will be ignored unless they help to provide the basis for the plan towards withdrawal. Occupation got us here; it cannot get us out. Neither Tony Blair nor George Bush is in control of events any longer. Both domestically and internationally, events are controlling them. So long as they remain in office they can determine the moves; but they have neither the power nor the credibility to shape what happens next.

So the crucial issue is no longer whether the troops leave in defeat and leave the country in disarray - they will - but the timing of their departure and the political rationale that underpins it.

For those who lied their way into this war are now trying to lie their way out of it. Franco-German diplomatic obstruction, Arab indifference, media bias, UN weakness, Syrian and Iranian meddling, women in niqabs and old men with placards - all have been or surely will be blamed for the coalition's defeat. As one American columnist pointed out last week, we wait for Bush and Blair to conduct an interview with Fox News entitled If We Did It, in which they spell out how they would have bungled this war if, indeed, they had done so.

So, just as Britain allegedly invaded for the good of the Iraqis, the timing of their departure will be conducted with them in mind. The fact that - according to the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett - it will coincide with Blair leaving office in spring is entirely fortuitous.

More insidious is the manner in which the Democrats, who are about to take over the US Congress, have framed their arguments for withdrawal. Last Saturday the newly elected House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, suggested that the Americans would pull out because the Iraqis were too disorganised and self-obsessed. "In the days ahead, the Iraqis must make the tough decisions and accept responsibility for their future," he said. "And the Iraqis must know: our commitment, while great, is not unending."

It is absurd to suggest that the Iraqis - who have been invaded, whose country is currently occupied, who have had their police and army disbanded and their entire civil service fired - could possibly be in a position to take responsibility for their future and are simply not doing so.

For a start, it implies that the occupation is a potential solution when it is in fact the problem. This seems to be one of the few things on which Sunni and Shia leaders agree. "The roots of our problems lie in the mistakes the Americans committed right from the beginning of their occupation," Sheik Ali Merza, a Shia cleric in Najaf and a leader of the Islamic Dawa party, told the Los Angeles Times last week.

"Since the beginning, the US occupation drove Iraq from bad to worse," said Harith al-Dhari, the nation's most prominent Sunni cleric, after he fled to Egypt this month facing charges of supporting terrorism.

Also, it leaves intact the bogus premise that the invasion was an attempt at liberation that has failed because some squabbling ingrates, incapable of working in their own interests, could not grasp the basic tenets of western democracy. In short, it makes the victims responsible for the crime.

Withdrawal, when it happens, will be welcome. But its nature and the rationale given for it are not simply issues of political point-scoring. They will lay the groundwork for what comes next for two main reasons.

First, because, while withdrawal is a prerequisite for any lasting improvement in Iraq, it will not by itself solve the nation's considerable problems.

Iraq has suffered decades of colonial rule, 30 years of dictatorship and three years of military occupation. Most recently, it has been trashed by a foreign invader. The troops must go. But the west has to leave enough resources behind to pay for what it broke. For that to happen, the anti-war movement in the west must shift the focus of our arguments to the terms of withdrawal while explaining why this invasion failed and our responsibilities to the Iraqi people that arise as a result of that failure.

If we don't, we risk seeing Bono striding across airport tarmac 10 years hence with political leaders who demand good governance and democratic norms in the Gulf, as though Iraq got here by its own reckless psychosis. Eviscerated of history, context and responsibility, it will stand somewhere between basket case and charity case: like Africa, it will be misunderstood as a sign not of our culpability but of our superiority.

Second, because unless we understand what happened in Iraq we are doomed to continue repeating these mistakes elsewhere. Ten days ago, during a visit to Hanoi, Bush was asked whether Vietnam offered any lessons. He said: "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while ... We'll succeed unless we quit."

In other words, the problem with Vietnam was not that the US invaded a sovereign country, bombed it to shreds, committed innumerable atrocities, murdered more than 500,000 Vietnamese - more than half of whom were civilians - and lost about 58,000 American servicemen. The problem with Vietnam was that they lost. And the reason they lost was not because they could neither sustain domestic support nor muster sufficient local support for their invasion, nor that their military was ill equipped for guerrilla warfare. They lost because it takes a while to complete such a tricky job, and the American public got bored.

"You learn more from a game you lose than a game you win," argued the chess great Capablanca. True, but only if you heed the lessons and then act on them.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006

Bush, Blair, Brown and Baloney: ‘Cruel, Callous, Inhumane and Unacceptable.’

Published on Saturday, March 31, 2007 by
‘Cruel, Callous, Inhumane and Unacceptable.’
by Felicity Arbuthnot
An Open Letter to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, M.P.

Dear Mr Brown,

Standing in Afghanistan, you called the Iranian holding of fifteen British sailors who it is likely strayed in to Iranian waters: ‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable.’ Breathtaking.Compared to the behavior of the UK and US troops, their treatment in Iran is seemingly a health spa.

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is the total destruction of the country you were standing in. The boiling to death of several thousand prisoners, held in metal trucks in the sweltering summer, under the watch and very possibly at the hands of our American allies (complex accounts differ.) It is the bombing of village after village, of wedding parties and funerals, of goatherders, farmers, shepherds. It is reducing the country to a radioactive nightmare, where families bombed out of their homes have been found living in contaminated bomb craters - and suffering all the signs of radiation poisoning, according to the Uranium Metal Research Project, bleeding from all orifices with other accompanying appalling symptoms.

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is the prison at Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase, where people are ‘rendered’, disappeared, shackled, forced to wear diapers, their eyes covered, and flown to Guantanamo Bay ‘the gulag of our time’, as cited by Amnesty International. Uncharged and untried, with rare access to lawyers, they are left to rot, between bouts of torturing.

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is Abu Ghraib and the dozens of other prisons across Iraq, which sprung up under ‘liberation’, where the disappeared also languish, between the odd bit of waterboarding (being held under till near the the point of drowning) being stripped naked, having dogs attack, having unspeakable items shoved into bodily orifices (’We need electricity in our homes, not up our asses’, said one eventually released prisoner.)

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is British troops in Basra pulling kids off the street and beating them up. It is hoisting some mother’s son in netting on a forklift. It is beating a young hotel worker to death, over two days. Though as usual, the British Courts, find just one person guilty. Other deaths have led to no one being found guilty. Presumably Iraqis have taken to beating themselves to death.

‘Cruel, callous, inhuman and unacceptable’, is allied soldiers raping, pillaging, demolishing homes, driving over kids in the road, in case they are ‘terrorist’ kids and toddlers. It is the gang rape of a child called Aber who was then killed and set alight with the rest of her family. It is the reported hanging of bodies round tanks in Fallujah and the sickos who collect Iraqi brain matter as a ‘trophy’. It is sending pictures of pathetic mutilated, dead, burned Iraqis, to porn sites in exchange for free access to shameful images of another kind.

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is the abandonment of British residents in Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq, the recently aired fact that torture included chaining prisoners to bedsteads, bolted to walls (the US Army sure employs some impressive psychopaths.) It is the six hundred and fifty five thousand to nine hundred thousand excess Iraqi deaths at the hands of and under the watch of the ‘liberators’ (and that was last year’s figure.) It is the four million known to have fled all that is familiar to them, or who are internally displaced. It is Iraqis and their Palestinian guests, not knowing from day to day whether they will be expelled from their host country.

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, is the destruction of an entire civil society, the lynching of its legitimate leaders, the destruction of Baghdad, the ‘Paris of the ninth century’, of humanity’s history. It is the statement, last June, of Colleen Graffy, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, devoid of anything remotely connected to humanity, who said of three prisoners in Guantanamo who committed suicide, rather than live tortured and shackled, without hope, that their deaths were: ‘ a good PR move.’

‘Cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable’, were thirteen years of sanctions which cost maybe one and a half million lives, driven by the US and UK. Followed by an illegal invasion, a war of aggression and thus Nuremberg’s ’supreme crime’, for which there is a growing demand for those responsible to be tried. The sailors too and their colleagues could also be tried.

‘Cruel, callous inhumane and unacceptable’, on a personal note, is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomats in Baghdad refusing to speak to the possible kidnappers of Margaret Hassan, who called her husband three times on her mobile ‘phone. It is the refusal of Ken Bigley’s brother’s plea to search for Ken via satellite, since he had one leg almost rebuilt with titanium - which can be picked up by satellites, which are pretty abundant in Iraq’s skies.

Lastly, it is worth looking at the website of your former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray ( also former Maritime Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. ‘The Iran-Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British government…. (it is) a fake map.’ Good Lord, surely not another ‘dodgy dossier’?

Oh and ‘cruel, callous, inhumane and unacceptable behavior’, is, if British arrogance and intransigence ends up with their sailors being banged up for a long time. Iran offered the release of Faye Turney and British government intemperate language has seemingly scuppered that. A diplomatic disgrace of enormity. Yet again, a government ‘not fit for purpose’ - any purpose.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a London-based writer.

Deja Vu: The consequences of Vietnamising Iraq

Published on Monday, December 18, 2006 by
Iraq is Vietnam-and You'd Better Believe It
by John Graham

I was a civilian advisor/trainer in Vietnam, arriving just as US troops were going home. I wasn't there to fight, but I hadn't been in country a week when I learned that the word "noncombatant" didn't mean much where I was posted, fifty miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that then divided South Vietnam from North. I got the message when a sniper's bullet whistled past my ear on the main highway twenty miles south of Hué. Joe Jackson, the burly major who was driving, yelled at me to hold on and duck as he gunned the jeep out of range, zigzagging to spoil the sniper's aim.

Snipers or not, in 1971 it was the U.S. Government's policy not to issue weapons to civilian advisors in Vietnam, even to those of us in distant and dangerous outposts. The reason was not principle, but PR-and here begin the lessons for Iraq.

Sometime in 1969, the White House, faced with unrelenting facts on the ground and under siege from the public, had quietly made the decision that America couldn't win its war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger didn't put it that way, of course. America was a superpower, and it was inconceivable that it could lose a war to a third rate nation whose soldiers lived on rice and hid in holes in the ground. So the White House conceived an elaborate strategy that would mask the fact of an American defeat. The US would slowly withdraw its combat troops over a period of several years, while the mission of those who remained would change from fighting the North Vietnamese and Vietcong to training the South Vietnamese to carry on the fight on their own. At the same time, we would give the South Vietnamese a series of performance ultimatums which, if unmet, would trigger a total withdrawal and let us blame the South Vietnamese for the debacle that would follow. This strategy was called "Vietnamization." Implementing it cost at least 10,000 additional American and countless more Vietnamese lives, plus billions of dollars.

It was a rigged game from the start. All but the wildest zealots in Washington knew that the South Vietnamese would not and could not meet our ultimatums: an end to corrupt, revolving-door governments, an officer corps based on merit not cronyism, and the creation of a national state that enjoyed popular allegiance strong and broad enough to control the political and cultural rivalries that had ripped the country's fabric for a thousand years.

During the eighteen months I was in Vietnam, I met almost no Americans in the field who regarded Vietnamization as a serious military strategy with any chance of success. More years of American training could not possibly make a difference in the outcome of the war because what was lacking in the South Vietnamese Army was not just combat skills but belief in a cause worth fighting for.

But none of that was the point. Vietnamization was not a military strategy. It was a public relations campaign.

The White House hoped that Vietnamization would keep the house of cards upright for at least a couple of years, providing what CIA veteran Frank Snepp famously called a "decent interval" that could mask the American defeat by declaring that the fate of South Vietnam now was the responsibility of the South Vietnamese. If they didn't want freedom badly enough to win, well, we had done our best.

To make this deceitful drama work, however, the pullout had to be gradual. The plan (Vietnamization) had to be easily explained to the American people. And the US training force left behind had to be large enough and exposed enough to provide visual signs of our commitment on the 6:00 news. Pictures of unarmed American advisors like me shaking hands with happy peasants would support the lie that Vietnamization was succeeding.

Living in the bulls-eye, we understood the reality very well, especially when, as public pressures for total withdrawal increased in 1971-72, most of the "force protection" troops went home too. That left scattered handfuls of American trainers left to protect themselves. As the very visible US advisor to the city of Hué, I was an easy target for assassination or abduction, anytime the Viet Cong chose to take me out. I kept a case of grenades under my bed, I slept with an M-16 propped against the bedstead, and I had my own dubious army of four Vietnamese house guards whom I hoped would at least fire a warning shot before they ran away.

In April 1972. North Vietnamese forces swept south across the DMZ, scattering the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) defenders and driving to within six miles of Hué. I and a handful of other American trainers and advisors could only watch as a quarter-million panicked people gridlocked the road south to Danang, in a terrifying night reverberating with screams and explosions. We knew that any choppers sent to save us would be mobbed by Vietnamese eager to escape. I'm alive because American carrier jets caught the advancing North Vietnamese just short of the city walls and all but obliterated them.

Now we have the Iraq Study Group Report, advising that the mission of US forces shift from fighting a war to training Iraqi troops and police. The Report calls for the US to lay down a series of performance conditions for the Iraqis, including that the Iraqis end their civil war and create a viable national state.

I've lived through this one before.

Deteriorating conditions on the ground soon will force President Bush to accept this shift in mission strategy. It is Vietnamization in all but name. Its core purpose is not to win an unwinnable war, but to provide political cover for a retreat, and to lay the grounds for blaming the loss on the Iraqis. Based on what I saw in Vietnam, here's what I think will happen next:

The increased training will make no difference. It could even make things worse since we will be making better fighters of many people who will end up in partisan militias. What the Iraqi military and police need is not just technical skill but unit cohesion and loyalty to a viable central government. Neither can be taught or provided by outside trainers.

When US troops pull back from fighting the insurgents, most Iraqi units will lack both the military skills and the political will to replace them. More soldiers and police we've trained will join the militias. Violence and chaos will increase across the country.

As the situation continues to deteriorate in Iraq, anti-American feelings will increase. Cursed for staying, we will now be cursed for leaving. Iraq will become an ever more dangerous place for any American to be.

At home, political pressure to get out of Iraq completely will increase rapidly as the violence gets worse. The military force left behind to protect the US trainers will be drawn down to-or below-a bare minimum, further increasing the dangers for the Americans who remain. Military affairs commentator General Barry McCaffrey issued this sober warning in the December 18 Newsweek: "We're setting ourselves up for a potential national disaster in which some Iraqi divisions could flip and take 5,000 Americans hostage, or multiple advisory teams go missing in action."

Nothing destroys troop morale faster than being in a war you know is pointless. At this same stage in Vietnam, drug use among Americans became a serious problem.

Our ultimatums and conditions won't be met. As the situation gets worse, whatever remains of a central government in Baghdad will be even less able to make the compromises and form the coalitions necessary to control centuries of factional and tribal hatreds. The civil war will spiral out of control, giving us the justification we need to get out, blaming the Iraqis for the mess we've left behind. Then we will face the regional and global ramifications of a vicious civil war whose only winners will be Iran and al-Queda.

US leaders may decide, as they did 37 years ago, that we must again create a "decent interval" to mask defeat and that the PR benefits of that interval are worth the cost in lives and money. If they do, however, they should-unlike the Iraq Study Group-not lie to us that such a strategy has any military chance whatsoever of success.

John Graham is the president of the Giraffe Heroes Project and author of Outdoor Leadership, It's Up to Us: The Giraffe Heroes Program for Teens, and Stick Your Neck Out; A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond. He can be reached at

IRAQ: Women in the resistance

The Iraqi Resistance Only Exists To End The Occupation
The Escalating Attacks Are Not Usually Aimed at Civilians, But Are a Direct Response to the Brutal Actions of US-Led Troops

by Haifa Zangana
In Muqdadiyah, 50 miles from Baghdad, a woman wearing a traditional Iraqi abaya blew herself up this week in the midst of Iraqi police recruits. This was the seventh suicide attack by a women since the Anglo-American invasion in 2003, and an act unheard of before that. Iraqi women are driven to despair and self-destruction by grief. Their expectations are reduced to pleas for help to clear the bodies of the dead from the streets, according to a report by the international committee of the Red Cross, released yesterday. It’s the same frustration that drew hundreds of thousands to demonstrate against foreign forces in Najaf on Monday.In the fifth year of occupation, the sectarian and ethnic divide between politicians, parties and their warring militias has become monstrous, turning on its creators in the Green Zone and beyond, and not sparing ordinary people. One of the consequences is a major change in the public role of women.

During the first three years of occupation women were mostly confined to their homes, protected by male relatives. But now that the savagery of their circumstances has propelled many of them to the head of their households, they are risking their lives outdoors. Since men are the main target of US-led troops, militias and death squads, black-cloaked women are seen queuing at prisons, government offices or morgues, in search of disappeared, or detained, male relatives. It is women who bury the dead. Baghdad has become a city of bereaved women. But contrary to what we are told by the occupation and its puppet regime, this is not the only city that is subject to the brutality that forces thousands of Iraqis to flee their country every month.

Bodies are found across the country from Mosul to Kirkuk to Basra. They are handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-ridden, bearing signs of torture. They are dumped at roadsides or found floating in the Tigris or Euphrates. A friend of mine who found her brother’s body in a hospital’s fridge told me how she checked his body and was relieved. “He was not tortured”, she said. “He was just shot in the head.”

Occupation has left no room for any initiative independent of the officially sanctioned political process; for a peaceful opposition or civil society that could create networks to bridge the politically manufactured divide. Only the mosque can fulfil this role. In the absence of the state, some mosques provide basic services, running clinics or schools. In addition to the call to prayer, their loudspeakers warn people of impending attacks or to appeal for blood donors.

But these attempts to sustain a sense of community are regularly crushed. On Tuesday, troops from the Iraqi army, supported by US helicopters, raided a mosque in the heart of old Baghdad. The well-respected muazzin Abu Saif and another civilian were executed in public. Local people were outraged and attacked the troops. At the end of the day, 34 people had been killed, including a number of women and children. As usual, the summary execution and the massacre that followed were blamed on insurgents. The military statement said US and Iraqi forces were continuing to “locate, identify, and engage and kill insurgents targeting coalition and Iraqi security forces in the area”.

It is important to recognise that the resistance was born not only of ideological, religious and patriotic convictions, but also as a response to the reality of the brutal actions of the occupation and its administration. It is a response to arbitrary break-ins, humiliating searches, arrests, detention and torture. According to the Red Cross, “the number of people arrested or interned by the multinational forces has increased by 40% since early 2006. The number of people held by the Iraqi authorities has also increased significantly.”

Many of the security detainees are women who have been subjected to abuse and rape and who are often arrested as a means to force male relatives to confess to crimes they have not committed. According to the Iraqi MP Mohamed al-Dainey, there are 65 documented cases of women’s rape in occupation detention centres in 2006. Four women currently face execution - the death penalty for women was outlawed in Iraq from 1965 until 2004 - for allegedly killing security force members. These are accusations they deny and Amnesty International has challenged.

There is only one solution to this disaster, and that is for the US and Britain to accept that the Iraqi resistance is fighting to end the occupation. And to acknowlege that it consists of ordinary Iraqis, not only al-Qaida, not just Sunnis or Shias, not those terrorists - as Tony Blair called them - inspired by neighbouring countries such as Iran. To recognise that Iraqis are proud, peace-loving people, and that they hate occuption, not each other. And to understand that the main targets of the resistance are not Iraqi civilians. According to Brookings, the independent US research institute, 75% of recorded attacks are directed at occupation forces, and a further 17% at Iraqi government forces. The average number of attacks has more than doubled in the past year to about 185 a day. That is 1,300 a week, and more than 5,500 a month.

Another way of understanding this is that in any one hour, day or night, there are seven or eight new attacks. Without the Iraqi people’s support, directly and indirectly, this level of resistance would not have happened.

Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi exile who was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, is the author of Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
Published on Thursday, April 12, 2007 by The Guardian/UK

Libya in six months:: Libya, Hypocrisy and Betrayal by the United Nations

Libya, Hypocrisy and Betrayal by the United Nations

By Felicity Arbuthnot

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever." - George Orwell.

March 19, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- The bombing of Libya will begin on or nearly to the day, of the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the destruction of Iraq, 19th March, in Europe. Libya too will be destroyed - its schools, education system, water, infrastructure, hospitals, municipal buildings. There will be numerous "tragic mistakes", "collateral damage", mothers, fathers, children, babies, grandparents, blind and deaf schools and on and on. And the wonders of the Roman remains and earlier, largely enduring and revered in all history's turmoils as Iraq, the nation's history - and humanity's, again as Iraq and Afghanistan, will be gone, for ever.

The infrastructure will be destroyed. The embargo will remain in place, thus rebuilding will be impossible. Britain, France and the US., will decide the country needs "stabilising", "help with reconstruction." They will move in, secure the oil installations and oil fields, the Libyan people will be an incidental inconvenience and quickly become "the enemy", "insurgents", be shot, imprisoned, tortured, abused - and a US friendly puppet "government" will be installed.

The invaders will award their companies rebuilding contracts, the money - likely taken from Libya's frozen assets without accounting - will vanish and the country will remain largely in ruins.

And the loudest cheerleaders for this, as Iraq, will be running round tv and radio stations in London, Europe and the US, then returning to their safe apartments and their UK/US/Europe paid tenures, in the knowledge that no bombs will be dropping on them. Their children will not be shaking uncontrollably and soiling themselves with terror at the sound of approaching planes.

And this Libyan "Shock and Awe"? Shame on France, shame on Britain and the US and a UN avowed: "... to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." Every shattered body, every child maimed or blown to bits, every widow, widower, orphan, will have their name of those countries, and the UN., written in their blood in their place of death.

And the public of these murderous, marauding Western ram raiders, will be told that we were bringing democracy, liberating Libya from a tyrant, from the "new Hitler", the "Butcher of Bengazi."

The countries who have ganged together these last days to overthrow a sovereign government have, again, arguably, conspired in Nuremberg's: " ... supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole", and yet again, plotted to overthrow a sovereign government, with a fig leaf of "legality" from an arm twisted UN. We have seen it all before.

Ironically, as I write, here in the UK., on the day Prime Minister Cameron is to make an announcement in Parliament on the proposed attack on Libya, it is Red Nose Day, founded in 1988, out of 1985's Comic Relief - which came from a refugee camp in Sudan, which borders Libya - to raise money for the children in need, in Africa. This red nose day, we plan to bomb them.

In time, it will emerge, who was stirring, bribing, de-stabilizing - and likely few will be surprised at the findings. But by then, Libya will be long broken and its people, fleeing, displaced, distraught.

When it comes to dealing with the usual "liberators", be careful what you wish for. In six months or so, most Libyans, whatever the failings of the last forty years rule, will be ruing the day.

First it was Saddam. Then Gaddafi. Now there's a vacancy for the West's favourite crackpot tyrant

Robert Fisk: First it was Saddam. Then Gaddafi. Now there's a vacancy for the West's favourite crackpot tyrant

Gaddafi is completely bonkers, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad and Lieberman

Saturday, 19 March 2011

So we are going to take "all necessary measures" to protect the civilians of Libya, are we? Pity we didn't think of that 42 years ago. Or 41 years ago. Or... well, you know the rest. And let's not be fooled by what the UN resolution really means. Yet again, it's going to be regime-change. And just as in Iraq – to use one of Tom Friedman's only memorable phrases of the time – when the latest dictator goes, who knows what kind of bats will come flying out of the box?


Could this be, I wonder, why we have not heard from Lord Blair of Isfahan recently? Surely he should be up there, clapping his hands with glee at another humanitarian intervention. Perhaps he is just resting between parts. Or maybe, like the dragons in Spenser's Faerie Queen, he is quietly vomiting forth Catholic tracts with all the enthusiasm of a Gaddafi in full flow.


The Middle East seems to produce these ravers – as opposed to Europe, which in the past 100 years has only produced Berlusconi, Mussolini, Stalin and the little chap who used to be a corporal in the 16th List Bavarian reserve infantry, but who went really crackers when he got elected in 1933 – but now we are cleaning up the Middle East again and can forget our own colonial past in this sandpit. And why not, when Gaddafi tells the people of Benghazi that "we will come, 'zenga, zenga' (alley by alley), house by house, room by room." Surely this is a humanitarian intervention that really, really, really is a good idea. After all, there will be no "boots on the ground".

Of course, if this revolution was being violently suppressed in, say, Mauritania, I don't think we would be demanding no-fly zones. Nor in Ivory Coast, come to think of it. Nor anywhere else in Africa that didn't have oil, gas or mineral deposits or wasn't of importance in our protection of Israel, the latter being the real reason we care so much about Egypt.

And what if we are simply not in time, if Gaddafi's tanks keep on rolling? Do we then send in our mercenaries to help the "rebels". Do we set up temporary shop in Benghazi, with advisers and NGOs and the usual diplomatic flummery? Note how, at this most critical moment, we are no longer talking about the tribes of Libya, those hardy warrior people whom we invoked with such enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago. We talk now about the need to protect "the Libyan people", no longer registering the Senoussi, the most powerful group of tribal families in Benghazi, whose men have been doing much of the fighting. King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, was a Senoussi. The red, black and green "rebel" flag – the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya – is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag. Now let's suppose they get to Tripoli (the point of the whole exercise, is it not?), are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital. But many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi's supporters do? "Melt away"? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war?


It is all wearingly familiar. And now we are back at it again, banging our desks in spiritual unity. We don't have many options, do we, unless we want to see another Srebrenica? But hold on. Didn't that happen long after we had imposed our "no-fly" zone over Bosnia?

for full article:

Michael Moore: get out of Iraq NOW

Published on Monday, November 27, 2006 by Michael
Cut and Run, the Only Brave Thing to Do ...
by Michael Moore

Tomorrow marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II.
That's right. We were able to defeat all of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and the entire Japanese empire in LESS time than it's taken the world's only superpower to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad.

And we haven't even done THAT. After 1,347 days, in the same time it took us to took us to sweep across North Africa, storm the beaches of Italy, conquer the South Pacific, and liberate all of Western Europe, we cannot, after over 3 and 1/2 years, even take over a single highway and protect ourselves from a homemade device of two tin cans placed in a pothole. No wonder the cab fare from the airport into Baghdad is now running around $35,000 for the 25-minute ride. And that doesn't even include a friggin' helmet.

Is this utter failure the fault of our troops? Hardly. That's because no amount of troops or choppers or democracy shot out of the barrel of a gun is ever going to "win" the war in Iraq. It is a lost war, lost because it never had a right to be won, lost because it was started by men who have never been to war, men who hide behind others sent to fight and die.

Let's listen to what the Iraqi people are saying, according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland:

** 71% of all Iraqis now want the U.S. out of Iraq.

** 61% of all Iraqis SUPPORT insurgent attacks on U.S. troops.

Yes, the vast majority of Iraqi citizens believe that our soldiers should be killed and maimed! So what the hell are we still doing there? Talk about not getting the hint.

There are many ways to liberate a country. Usually the residents of that country rise up and liberate themselves. That's how we did it. You can also do it through nonviolent, mass civil disobedience. That's how India did it. You can get the world to boycott a regime until they are so ostracized they capitulate. That's how South Africa did it. Or you can just wait them out and, sooner or later, the king's legions simply leave (sometimes just because they're too cold). That's how Canada did it.

The one way that DOESN'T work is to invade a country and tell the people, "We are here to liberate you!" -- when they have done NOTHING to liberate themselves. Where were all the suicide bombers when Saddam was oppressing them? Where were the insurgents planting bombs along the roadside as the evildoer Saddam's convoy passed them by? I guess ol' Saddam was a cruel despot -- but not cruel enough for thousands to risk their necks. "Oh no, Mike, they couldn't do that! Saddam would have had them killed!" Really? You don't think King George had any of the colonial insurgents killed? You don't think Patrick Henry or Tom Paine were afraid? That didn't stop them. When tens of thousands aren't willing to shed their own blood to remove a dictator, that should be the first clue that they aren't going to be willing participants when you decide you're going to do the liberating for them.

A country can HELP another people overthrow a tyrant (that's what the French did for us in our revolution), but after you help them, you leave. Immediately. The French didn't stay and tell us how to set up our government. They didn't say, "we're not leaving because we want your natural resources." They left us to our own devices and it took us six years before we had an election. And then we had a bloody civil war. That's what happens, and history is full of these examples. The French didn't say, "Oh, we better stay in America, otherwise they're going to kill each other over that slavery issue!"

The only way a war of liberation has a chance of succeeding is if the oppressed people being liberated have their own citizens behind them -- and a group of Washingtons, Jeffersons, Franklins, Ghandis and Mandellas leading them. Where are these beacons of liberty in Iraq? This is a joke and it's been a joke since the beginning. Yes, the joke's been on us, but with 655,000 Iraqis now dead as a result of our invasion (source: Johns Hopkins University), I guess the cruel joke is on them. At least they've been liberated, permanently.

So I don't want to hear another word about sending more troops (wake up, America, John McCain is bonkers), or "redeploying" them, or waiting four months to begin the "phase-out." There is only one solution and it is this: Leave. Now. Start tonight. Get out of there as fast as we can. As much as people of good heart and conscience don't want to believe this, as much as it kills us to accept defeat, there is nothing we can do to undo the damage we have done. What's happened has happened. If you were to drive drunk down the road and you killed a child, there would be nothing you could do to bring that child back to life. If you invade and destroy a country, plunging it into a civil war, there isn’t much you can do ‘til the smoke settles and blood is mopped up. Then maybe you can atone for the atrocity you have committed and help the living come back to a better life.

The Soviet Union got out of Afghanistan in 36 weeks. They did so and suffered hardly any losses as they left. They realized the mistake they had made and removed their troops. A civil war ensued. The bad guys won. Later, we overthrew the bad guys and everybody lived happily ever after. See! It all works out in the end!

The responsibility to end this war now falls upon the Democrats. Congress controls the purse strings and the Constitution says only Congress can declare war. Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi now hold the power to put an end to this madness. Failure to do so will bring the wrath of the voters. We aren't kidding around, Democrats, and if you don't believe us, just go ahead and continue this war another month. We will fight you harder than we did the Republicans. The opening page of my website has a photo of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, each made up by a collage of photos of the American soldiers who have died in Bush's War. But it is now about to become the Bush/Democratic Party War unless swift action is taken.

This is what we demand:

1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.

2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. The mentally and physically maimed must get the best care and significant financial compensation. The families of the deceased deserve the biggest apology and they must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands, regardless for whom we voted. If you pay taxes, you have contributed to the three billion dollars a week now being spent to drive Iraq into the hellhole it's become. When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.

In closing, there is one final thing I know. We Americans are better than what has been done in our name. A majority of us were upset and angry after 9/11 and we lost our minds. We didn't think straight and we never looked at a map. Because we are kept stupid through our pathetic education system and our lazy media, we knew nothing of history. We didn't know that WE were the ones funding and arming Saddam for many years, including those when he massacred the Kurds. He was our guy. We didn't know what a Sunni or a Shiite was, never even heard the words. Eighty percent of our young adults (according to National Geographic) were not able to find Iraq on the map. Our leaders played off our stupidity, manipulated us with lies, and scared us to death.

But at our core we are a good people. We may be slow learners, but that "Mission Accomplished" banner struck us as odd, and soon we began to ask some questions. Then we began to get smart. By this past November 7th, we got mad and tried to right our wrongs. The majority now know the truth. The majority now feel a deep sadness and guilt and a hope that somehow we can make make it all right again.

Unfortunately, we can't. So we will accept the consequences of our actions and do our best to be there should the Iraqi people ever dare to seek our help in the future. We ask for their forgiveness.

We demand the Democrats listen to us and get out of Iraq now.

Michael Moore

The Gulag Archipelego: America, Britain and CIAs global network of secret prisons

Published on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 by the Guardian / UK
Routine and Systematic Torture Is at the Heart of America's War on Terror
In the fight against cruelty, barbarism and extremism, America has embraced the very evils it claims to confront

by George Monbiot

After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being.

Last week, defence lawyers acting for José Padilla, a US citizen detained as an "enemy combatant", released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk - taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor.

Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for "a piece of furniture". The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for more than three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.

The forensic psychiatrist who examined him says that he "does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, ie, post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation". José Padilla appears to have been lobotomised: not medically, but socially.

If this was an attempt to extract information, it was ineffective: the authorities held him without charge for three and half years. Then, threatened by a supreme court ruling, they suddenly dropped their claims that he was trying to detonate a dirty bomb. They have now charged him with some vague and lesser offences to do with support for terrorism. He is unlikely to be the only person subjected to this regime. Another "enemy combatant", Ali al-Marri, claims to have been subject to the same total isolation and sensory deprivation, in the same naval prison in South Carolina. God knows what is being done to people who have disappeared into the CIA's foreign oubliettes.

That the US tortures, routinely and systematically, while prosecuting its "war on terror" can no longer be seriously disputed. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), a coalition of academics and human-rights groups, has documented the abuse or killing of 460 inmates of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. This, it says, is necessarily a conservative figure: many cases will remain unrecorded. The prisoners were beaten, raped, forced to abuse themselves, forced to maintain "stress positions", and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and mock executions.

The New York Times reports that prisoners held by the US military at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan were made to stand for up to 13 days with their hands chained to the ceiling, naked, hooded and unable to sleep. The Washington Post alleges that prisoners at the same airbase were "commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep" while kept, like Padilla and the arrivals at Guantánamo, "in black hoods or spray-painted goggles".

Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argues that the photographs released from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reflect standard CIA torture techniques: "stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation". The famous picture of the hooded man standing on a box, with wires attached to his fingers, shows two of these techniques being used at once. Unable to see, he has no idea how much time has passed or what might be coming next. He stands in a classic stress position - maintained for several hours, it causes excruciating pain. He appears to have been told that if he drops his arms he will be electrocuted. What went wrong at Abu Ghraib is that someone took photos. Everything else was done by the book.

Neither the military nor the civilian authorities have broken much sweat in investigating these crimes. A few very small fish have been imprisoned; a few others have been fined or reduced in rank; in most cases the authorities have either failed to investigate or failed to prosecute. The DAA points out that no officer has yet been held to account for torture practised by his subordinates. US torturers appear to enjoy impunity, until they are stupid enough to take pictures of each other.

But Padilla's treatment also reflects another glorious American tradition: solitary confinement. Some 25,000 US prisoners are currently held in isolation - a punishment only rarely used in other democracies. In some places, like the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, they are kept in sound-proofed cells and might scarcely see another human being for years on end. They may touch or be touched by no one. Some people have been kept in solitary confinement in the US for more than 20 years.

At Pelican Bay in California, where 1,200 people are held in the isolation wing, inmates are confined to tiny cells for 22 and a half hours a day, then released into an "exercise yard" for "recreation". The yard consists of a concrete well about 3.5 metres in length with walls 6 metres high and a metal grille across the sky. The recreation consists of pacing back and forth, alone.

The results are much as you would expect. As National Public Radio reveals, more than 10% of the isolation prisoners at Pelican Bay are now in the psychiatric ward, and there's a waiting list. Prisoners in solitary confinement, according to Dr Henry Weinstein, a psychiatrist who studies them, suffer from "memory loss to severe anxiety to hallucinations to delusions ... under the severest cases of sensory deprivation, people go crazy." People who went in bad and dangerous come out mad as well. The only two studies conducted so far - in Texas and Washington state - both show that the recidivism rates for prisoners held in solitary confinement are worse than for those who were allowed to mix with other prisoners. If we were to judge the US by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.

From this delightful experiment, US interrogators appear to have extracted a useful lesson: if you want to erase a man's mind, deprive him of contact with the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with obtaining information: torture of all kinds - physical or mental - produces the result that people will say anything to make it end. It is about power, and the thrilling discovery that in the right conditions one man's power over another is unlimited. It is an indulgence which turns its perpetrators into everything they claim to be confronting.

President Bush maintains that he is fighting a war against threats to the "values of civilised nations": terror, cruelty, barbarism and extremism. He asked his nation's interrogators to discover where these evils are hidden. They should congratulate themselves. They appear to have succeeded.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2006

Trying again! Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency

Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency
David Kilcullen
This paper reflects the author‘s personal judgments and does not represent the views of any
department or agency of the U.S. Government or any other government.

Your company has just been warned for deployment on counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. You have read David Galula, T.E. Lawrence and Robert Thompson. You have studied FM 3-24 and now understand the history, philosophy and theory of counterinsurgency.

You watched Black Hawk Down and The Battle of Algiers, and you know this will be the most difficult challenge of your life. But what does all the theory mean, at the company level? How do the principles translate into action œ at night, with the GPS down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don‘t understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen? There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect. But be comforted: you are not the first to feel this way. There are tactical fundamentals you can apply, to link the theory with the techniques and procedures you already know.

What is counterinsurgency?
If you have not studied counterinsurgency theory, here it is in a nutshell: this is a competition with the insurgent for the right and the ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population. You are being sent in because the insurgents, at their strongest, can defeat anything weaker than you. But you have more combat power than you can or should use in most situations. Injudicious use of firepower creates blood feuds, homeless people and societal disruption that fuels and perpetuates the insurgency. The most beneficial actions are often local politics, civic action, and beat-cop behaviors. For your side to win, the people do not have to like you but they must respect you, accept that your actions benefit them, and trust your integrity and ability to deliver on promises, particularly regarding their security. In this battlefield popular perceptions and rumor are more influential than the facts and more powerful than a hundred
Within this context, what follows are observations from collective experience: the distilled essence of what those who went before you learned. They are expressed as commandments, for clarity œ but are really more like folklore. Apply them judiciously and skeptically.

Time is short during pre-deployment, but you will never have more time to think than you have now. Now is your chance to prepare yourself and your command.

1. Know your turf. Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district. If you don‘t know precisely where you will be operating, study the general area. Read the map like a book: study it every night before sleep, and re-draw it from memory every morning, until you understand its patterns intuitively. Develop a mental model of your area œ a framework in which to fit every new piece of knowledge you acquire. Study handover notes from predecessors; better still, get in touch with the unit in theater and pick their brains. In an ideal world, intelligence officers and area experts would brief you. This rarely happens: and even if it does, there is no substitute for personal mastery. Understand the broader —area of influence“ œ this can be a wide area, particularly when insurgents draw on 'global' grievances. Share out aspects of the operational area among platoon leaders and non-commissioned officers: have each individual develop a personal specialization and brief the others. Neglect this knowledge, and it will kill you.

2. Diagnose the problem. Once you know your area and its people, you can begin to diagnose the problem. Who are the insurgents? What drives them? What makes local leaders tick? Counterinsurgency is fundamentally a competition between many groups, each seeking to mobilize the population in support of their agenda œ counterinsurgency is always more than two-sided. So you must understand what motivates the people and how to mobilize them. You need to know why and how the insurgents are getting followers. This means you need to know your real enemy, not a cardboard cut-out. The enemy is adaptive, resourceful and probably grew up in the region where you will operate. The locals have known him since he was a boy œ how long have they known you? Your worst opponent is not the psychopathic terrorist of Hollywood, it is the charismatic follow-me warrior who would make your best platoon leader. His followers are not misled or naïve: much of his success is due to bad government policies or security forces that alienate the population. Work this problem collectively with your platoon and squad leaders. Discuss ideas, explore the problem, understand what you are facing, and seek a consensus. If this sounds un-military, get over it. Once you are in theater, situations will arise too quickly for orders, or even commander‘s intent. Corporals and privates will have to make snap judgments with strategic impact. The only way to help them is to give them a shared understanding, then trust them to think for themselves on the day.

3. Organize for intelligence. In counterinsurgency, killing the enemy is easy. Finding him is often nearly impossible. Intelligence and operations are complementary. Your operations will be intelligence driven, but intelligence will come mostly from your own operations, not as a —product“ prepared and served up by higher headquarters. So you must organize for intelligence. You will need a company S2 and intelligence section œ including analysts. You may need platoon S2s and S3s, and you will need a reconnaissance and surveillance element. You will not have enough linguists œ you never do œ but consider carefully where best to employ them. Linguists are a battle-winning asset: but like any other scarce resource you must have a prioritized —bump plan“ in case you lose them. Often during pre-deployment the best use of linguists is to train your command in basic language. You will probably not get augmentation for all this: but you must still do it. Put the smartest soldiers in the S2 section and the R&S squad. You will have one less rifle squad: but the intelligence section will pay for itself in lives and effort saved.

4. Organize for inter-agency operations. Almost everything in counterinsurgency is inter-agency. And everything important œ from policing to intelligence to civil-military operations to trash collection œ will involve your company working with civilian actors and local indigenous partners you cannot control, but whose success is essential for yours. Train the company in inter-agency operations œ get a briefing from the State Department, aid agencies and the local Police or Fire Brigade. Train point-men in each squad to deal with the inter-agency. Realize that civilians find rifles, helmets and body armor intimidating. Learn how not to scare them. Ask others who come from that country or culture about your ideas. See it through the eyes of a civilian who knows nothing about the military.

How would you react if foreigners came to your neighborhood and conducted the operations you planned? What if somebody came to your mother‘s house and did that? Most importantly, know that your operations will create temporary breathing space, but long-term development and stabilization by civilian agencies will ultimately win the war.

5. Travel light and harden your CSS. You will be weighed down with body armor, rations, extra ammunition, communications gear, and a thousand other things. The enemy will carry a rifle or RPG, a shemagh and a water bottle if he is lucky. Unless you ruthlessly lighten your load and enforce a culture of speed and mobility, the insurgents will consistently out-run and out-maneuver you. But in lightening your load, make sure you can always —reach back“ to call for firepower or heavy support if needed. Also, remember to harden your CSS. The enemy will attack your weakest points. Most attacks on coalition forces in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, outside pre-planned combat actions like the two battles of Fallujah or Operation Iron Horse, were against CSS installations and convoys. You do the math. Ensure your CSS assets are hardened, have communications, and are trained in combat operations. They may do more fighting than your rifle squads.

6. Find a political/cultural adviser. In a force optimized for counterinsurgency, you might receive a political/cultural adviser at company level: a diplomat or military foreign area officer, able to speak the language and navigate the intricacies of local politics. Back on planet Earth, the Corps and Division commander will get a POLAD: you will not, so you must improvise. Find a political/cultural adviser from among your people œ perhaps an officer, perhaps not (see article 8). Someone with people skills and a —feel“ for the environment will do better than a political science graduate. Don‘t try to be your own cultural adviser: you must be fully aware of the political and cultural dimension, but this is a different task. Also, don‘t give one of your intelligence people this role. They can help, but their task is to understand the environment œ the political adviser‘s job is to help shape it.

7. Train the squad leaders œ then trust them. Counterinsurgency is a squad and platoon leader‘s war, and often a private soldier‘s war. Battles are won or lost in moments: whoever can bring combat power to bear in seconds, on a street corner, will win. The commander on the spot controls the fight. You must train the squad leaders to act intelligently and independently without orders. If your squad leaders are competent, you can get away with average company or platoon staffs. The reverse is not the case. Training should focus on basic skills: marksmanship, patrolling, security on the move and at the halt, basic drills. When in doubt, spend less time on company and platoon training, and more time on squads. Ruthlessly replace leaders who do not make the grade. But once people are trained, and you have a shared operational —diagnosis“, you must trust them. We talk about this, but few company or platoon leaders really trust their people. In counterinsurgency, you have no choice.

8. Rank is nothing: talent is everything. Not everyone is good at counterinsurgency. Many people don‘t understand the concept, and some who do can‘t execute it. It is difficult, and in a conventional force only a few people will master it. Anyone can learn the basics, but a few —naturals“ do exist. Learn how to spot these people and put them into positions where they can make a difference. Rank matters far less than talent œ a few good men under a smart junior non-commissioned officer can succeed in counterinsurgency, where hundreds of well-armed soldiers under a mediocre senior officer will fail.

9. Have a game plan. The final preparation task is to develop a game plan: a mental picture of how you see the operation developing. You will be tempted to try and do this too early. But wait: as your knowledge improves, you will get a better idea of what needs to be done, and of your own limitations. Like any plan, this plan will change once you hit the ground, and may need to be scrapped if there is a major shift in the environment. But you still need a plan, and the process of planning will give you a simple robust idea of what to achieve, even if the methods change. This is sometimes called —operational design“. One approach is to identify basic stages in your operation: e.g. —establish dominance, build local networks, marginalize the enemy“. Make sure you can easily transition between phases, both forward and backward in case of setbacks. Just as the insurgent can adapt his activity to yours, you must have a simple enough plan to survive setbacks without collapsing. This plan is the —solution“ that matches the shared —diagnosis“ you developed earlier œ it must be simple, and known to everyone.

The Golden Hour
You have deployed, completed reception and staging, and (if you are lucky) attended the in-country counterinsurgency school. Now it is time to enter your sector and start your tour. This is the golden hour. Mistakes made now will haunt you for the rest of the tour, while early successes will set the tone for victory. You will look back on your early actions and cringe at your clumsiness. So be it: but you must act.

10. Be there. The first rule of deployment in counterinsurgency is to be there. You can almost never outrun the enemy. If you are not present when an incident happens, there is usually little you can do about it. So your first order of business is to establish presence. If you cannot do this throughout your sector, then do it wherever you can. This demands a residential approach œ living in your sector, in close proximity to the population, rather than raiding into the area from remote, secure bases. Movement on foot, sleeping in local villages, night patrolling: all these seem more dangerous than they are. They establish links with the locals, who see you as real people they can trust and do business with, not as aliens who descend from an armored box. Driving around in an armored convoy œ day-tripping like a tourist in hell œ degrades situational awareness, makes you a target and is ultimately more dangerous.

11. Avoid knee jerk responses to first impressions. Don‘t act rashly, get the facts first. The violence you see may be part of the insurgent strategy, it may be various interest groups fighting it out, or it may be people settling personal vendettas. Or, it may just be daily life: —normality“ in Kandahar is not the same as in Kansas. So you need time to learn what normality looks like. The insurgent commander also wants to goad you into lashing out at the population or making a mistake. Unless you happen to be on the spot when an incident occurs, you will have only second-hand reports and may misunderstand the local context or interpretation. This fragmentation and —disaggregation“ of the battlefield œ particularly in urban areas œ means that first impressions are often highly misleading. Of course, you cannot avoid making judgments. But if possible, check them with an older hand or a trusted local. If you can, keep one or two officers from your predecessor unit for the first part of the tour. Try to avoid a rush to judgment.

12. Prepare for handover from Day One. Believe it or not, you will not resolve the insurgency on your watch. Your tour will end, and your successors will need your corporate knowledge. Start handover folders, in every platoon and specialist squad, from day one œ ideally, you would have inherited these from your predecessors, but if not you must start them. The folders should include lessons learned, details about the population, village and patrol reports, updated maps, photographs œ anything that will help newcomers master the environment. Computerized databases are fine, but keep good back-ups and ensure you have hard copy of key artifacts and documents. This is boring, tedious and essential. Over time, you will create a corporate memory that keeps your people alive.

13. Build trusted networks. Once you have settled into your sector, your next task is to build trusted networks. This is the true meaning of the phrase —hearts and minds“, which comprises two separate components. —Hearts“ means persuading people their best interests are served by your success; —Minds“ means convincing them that you can protect them, and that resisting you is pointless. Note that neither concept has to do with whether people like you. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, if you successfully build networks of trust, these will grow like roots into the population, displacing the enemy‘s networks, bringing him out into the open to fight you, and seizing the initiative. These networks include local allies, community leaders, local security forces, NGOs and other friendly or neutral non-state actors in your area, and the media. Conduct village and neighborhood surveys to identify needs in the community œ then follow through to meet them, build common interests and mobilize popular support. This is your true main effort: everything else is secondary. Actions that help build trusted networks serve your cause. Actions œ even killing high-profile targets œ that undermine trust or disrupt your networks help the enemy.

14. Start easy. If you were trained in maneuver warfare you know about surfaces and gaps. This applies to counterinsurgency as much as any other form of maneuver. Don‘t try to crack the hardest nut first œ don‘t go straight for the main insurgent stronghold, try to provoke a decisive showdown, or focus efforts on villages that support the insurgents. Instead, start from secure areas and work gradually outwards. Do this by extending your influence through the locals‘ own networks. Go with, not against, the grain of local society: first win the confidence of a few villages, and then see who they trade, intermarry or do business with. Now win these people over. Soon enough the showdown with the insurgents will come. But now you have local allies, a mobilized population and a trusted network at your back. Do it the other way round and no one will mourn your failure.

15. Seek early victories. In this early phase, your aim is to stamp your dominance in your sector. Do this by seeking an early victory. This will probably not translate into a combat victory over the enemy: looking for such a victory can be overly aggressive and create collateral damage œ especially since you really do not yet understand your sector. Also, such a combat victory depends on the enemy being stupid enough to present you with a clear-cut target, a rare windfall in counterinsurgency. Instead, you may achieve a victory by resolving long-standing issues your predecessors have failed to address, or co-opting a key local leader who has resisted cooperation with our forces. Like any other form of armed propaganda, achieving even a small victory early in the tour sets the tone for what comes later, and helps seize the initiative œ which you have probably lost due to the inevitable hiatus entailed by the handover-takeover with your predecessor.

16. Practise deterrent patrolling. Establish patrolling methods that deter the enemy from attacking you. Often our patrolling approach seems designed to provoke, then defeat, enemy attacks. This is counter-productive: it leads to a raiding, day-tripping mindset or, worse, a bunker mentality. Instead, practise deterrent patrolling. There are many methods for this, including —multiple“ patrolling where you flood an area with numerous small patrols working together. Each is too small to be a worthwhile target, and the insurgents never know where all the patrols are œ making an attack on any one patrol extremely risky. Other methods include so-called —blue-green“ patrolling, where you mount daylight overt humanitarian patrols, which go covert at night and hunt specific targets. Again, the aim is to keep the enemy off balance, and the population reassured, through constant and unpredictable activity œ which, over time, deters attacks and creates a more permissive environment. A reasonable rule of thumb is that one to two thirds of your force should be on patrol at any time, day or night.

17. Be prepared for setbacks. Setbacks are normal in counterinsurgency, as in every other form of war. You will make mistakes, lose people, or occasionally kill or detain the wrong person. You may fail in building or expanding networks. If this happens, don‘t lose heart. Simply drop back to the previous phase of your game plan and recover your balance. It is normal in company counterinsurgency operations for some platoons to be doing well, while others do badly. This is not necessarily evidence of failure. Give local commanders the freedom to adjust their posture to local conditions. This creates elasticity that helps you survive setbacks.

18. Remember the global audience. One of the biggest differences between the counterinsurgencies our fathers fought and those we face today is the omnipresence of globalized media. Most houses in Iraq have one or more satellite dishes. Web bloggers, print, radio and television reporters and others are monitoring and commenting on your every move. When the insurgents ambush your patrols or set off a car bomb, they do so not to destroy one more track, but because they want graphic images of a burning vehicle and dead bodies for the evening news. Beware the —scripted enemy“, who plays to a global audience and seeks to defeat you in the court of global public opinion. You counter this by training people to always bear in mind the global audience, assume that everything they say or do will be publicized, and befriend the media. Get the press on-side: help them get their story, and trade information with them. Good relationships with non-embedded media œ especially indigenous media œdramatically increase your situational awareness, and help get your message across to the global and local audience.

19. Engage the women, beware the children. Most insurgent fighters are men. But in traditional societies, women are hugely influential in forming the social networks that insurgents use for support. Co-opting neutral or friendly women, through targeted social and economic programs, builds networks of enlightened self-interest that eventually undermine the insurgents. You need your own female counterinsurgents, including inter-agency people, to do this effectively. Win the women, and you own the family unit. Own the family, and you take a big step forward in mobilizing the population. Conversely, though, stop your people fraternizing with local children. Your troops are homesick; they want to drop their guard with the kids. But children are sharp-eyed, lacking in empathy, and willing to commit atrocities their elders would shrink from. The insurgents are watching: they will notice a growing friendship between one of your people and a local child, and either harm the child as punishment, or use them against you. Similarly, stop people throwing candies or presents to children. It attracts them to our vehicles, creates crowds the enemy can exploit, and leads to children being run over. Harden your heart and keep the children at arm‘s length.

20. Take stock regularly. You probably already know that a —body count“ tells you little, because you usually cannot know how many insurgents there were to start with, how many moved into the area, transferred from supporter to combatant status or how many new fighters the conflict has created. But you still need to develop metrics early in the tour and refine them as the operation progresses. They should cover a range of social, informational, military and economic issues. Use metrics intelligently to form an overall impression of progress œ not in a mechanistic —traffic light“ fashion. Typical metrics include: percentage of engagements initiated by our forces versus those initiated by insurgents; longevity of friendly local leaders in positions of authority; number and quality of tip-offs on insurgent activity that originate spontaneously from the population; economic activity at markets and shops. These mean virtually nothing as a snapshot trends over time are the true indicators of progress in your sector.

Groundhog Day
Now you are in —steady state“. You are established in your sector, and people are settling into that —groundhog day“ mentality that hits every unit at some stage during every tour. It will probably take people at least the first third of the tour to become effective in the environment, if not longer. Then in the last period you will struggle against the short-timer mentality. So this middle part of the tour is the most productive œ but keeping the flame alive, and bringing the local population along with you, takes immense leadership.

21. Exploit a —single narrative“. Since counterinsurgency is a competition to mobilize popular support, it pays to know how people are mobilized. In most societies there are opinion-makers: local leaders, pillars of the community, religious figures, media personalities, and others who set trends and influence public perceptions. This influence œ including the pernicious influence of the insurgents œ often takes the form of a —single narrative“: a simple, unifying, easily-expressed story or explanation that organizes people‘s experience and provides a framework for understanding events. Nationalist and ethnic historical myths, or sectarian creeds, provide such a narrative. The Iraqi insurgents have one, as do al-Qa‘ida and the Taliban. To undercut their influence you must exploit an alternative narrative: or better yet, tap into an existing narrative that excludes the insurgents. This narrative is often worked out for you by higher headquarters œ but only you have the detailed knowledge to tailor the narrative to local conditions and generate leverage from it. For example, you might use a nationalist narrative to marginalize foreign fighters in your area, or a narrative of national redemption to undermine former regime elements that have been terrorizing the population. At the company level, you do this in baby steps, by getting to know local opinion-makers, winning their trust, learning what motivates them and building on this to find a single narrative that emphasizes the inevitability and rightness of your ultimate success. This is art, not science.

22. Local forces should mirror the enemy, not ourselves. By this stage, you will be working closely with local forces, training or supporting them, and building indigenous capability. The natural tendency is to build forces in our own image, with the aim of eventually handing our role over to them. This is a mistake. Instead, local indigenous forces need to mirror the enemy‘s capabilities, and seek to supplant the insurgent‘s role. This does not mean they should be—irregular“ in the sense of being brutal, or outside proper control. Rather, they should move, equip and organize like the insurgents œ but have access to your support and be under the firm control of their parent societies. Combined with a mobilized population and trusted networks, this allows local forces to —hard-wire“ the enemy out of the environment, under top-cover from you. At the company level, this means that raising, training and employing local indigenous auxiliary forces (police and military) are valid tasks. This requires high-level clearance, of course, but if support is given, you should establish a company training cell. Platoons should aim to train one local squad, then use that squad as a nucleus for a partner platoon, and company headquarters should train an indigenous leadership team. This mirrors the—growth“ process of other trusted networks, and tends to emerge naturally as you win local allies œ who want to take up arms in their own defense.

23. Practise armed civil affairs. Counterinsurgency is armed social work; an attempt to redress basic social and political problems while being shot at. This makes civil affairs a central counterinsurgency activity, not an afterthought. It is how you restructure the environment to displace the enemy from it. In your company sector, civil affairs must focus on meeting basic needs first, then progress up Maslow‘s hierarchy as each successive need is met. A series of village or neighborhood surveys, regularly updated, are an invaluable tool to help understand the populations‘ needs, and track progress in meeting them over time. You need intimate cooperation with inter-agency partners here œ national, international and local. You will not be able to control these partners œ many NGOs, for example, do not want to be too closely associated with you because they need to preserve their perceived neutrality. Instead, you need to work on a shared diagnosis of the problem, building a consensus that helps you self-synchronize. Your role is to provide protection, identify needs, facilitate civil affairs and use improvements in social conditions as leverage to build networks and mobilize the population. Thus, there is no such thing as impartial humanitarian assistance or civil affairs in counterinsurgency. Every time you help someone, you hurt someone else œ not least the insurgents. So civil and humanitarian assistance personnel will be targeted. Protecting them is a matter not only of close-in defense, but also of creating a permissive operating environment by co-opting the beneficiaries of aid œ local communities and leaders œ to help you help them.

24. Small is beautiful. Another natural tendency is to go for large-scale, mass programs. In particular, we have a tendency to template ideas that succeed in one area and transplant them into another, and we tend to take small programs that work and try to replicate them on a larger scale. Again, this is usually a mistake œ often programs succeed because of specific local conditions of which we are unaware, or because their very smallness kept them below the enemy‘s radar and helped them flourish unmolested. At the company level, programs that succeed in one district often also succeed in another (because the overall company sector is small), but small-scale projects rarely proceed smoothly into large programs. Keep programs small: this makes them cheap, sustainable, low-key and (importantly) recoverable if they fail. You can add new programs œ also small, cheap and tailored to local conditions œ as the situation allows.

25. Fight the enemy‘s strategy, not his forces. At this stage, if things are proceeding well,
the insurgents will go over to the offensive. Yes, the offensive œ because you have created a situation so dangerous to the insurgents, by threatening to displace them from the environment, that they have to attack you and the population to get back into the game. Thus it is normal, even in the most successful operations, to have spikes of offensive insurgent activity late in the campaign. This does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong (though it may: it depends on whether you have successfully mobilized the population). At this point the tendency is to go for the jugular and seek to destroy the enemy‘s forces in open battle. This is rarely the best choice at company level, because provoking major combat usually plays into the enemy‘s hands by undermining the population‘s confidence. Instead, attack the enemy‘s strategy: if he is seeking to recapture the allegiance of a segment of the local population, then co-opt them against him. If he is trying to provoke a sectarian conflict, go over to —peace enforcement mode“. The permutations are endless but the principle is the same œ fight the enemy‘s strategy, not his forces.

26. Build your own solution œ only attack the enemy when he gets in the way.. Try not to be distracted, or forced into a series of reactive moves, by a desire to kill or capture the insurgents. Your aim should be to implement your own solution œ the —game plan“ you developed early in the campaign, and then refined through interaction with local partners. Your approach must be environment-centric (based on dominating the whole district and implementing a solution to its systemic problems) rather than enemy-centric. This means that, particularly late in the campaign, you may need to learn to negotiate with the enemy. Members of the population that supports you also know the enemy‘s leaders œ they may have grown up together in the small district that is now your company sector œ and valid negotiating partners sometimes emerge as the campaign progresses. Again, you need close inter-agency relationships to exploit opportunities to coopt segments of the enemy. This helps you wind down the insurgency without alienating potential local allies who have relatives or friends in the insurgent movement. At this stage, a defection is better than a surrender, a surrender is better than a capture, and a capture is better than a kill.

Getting Short
Time is short, and the tour is drawing to a close. The key problem now is keeping your people focused, preventing them from dropping their guard and maintaining the rage on all the multifarious programs, projects and operations that you have started. In this final phase, the previous articles still stand, but there is an important new one:

27. Keep your extraction plan secret. The temptation to talk about home becomes almost unbearable toward the end of a tour. The locals know you are leaving, and probably have a better idea than you of the generic extraction plan œ remember, they have seen units come and go. But you must protect the specific details of the extraction plan, or the enemy will use this as an opportunity to score a high-profile hit, re-capture the population‘s allegiance by scare tactics that convince them they will not be protected once you leave, or persuade them that your successor unit will be oppressive or incompetent. Keep the details secret, within a tightly controlled compartment in your headquarters. And resist the temptation to say goodbye to local allies: you can always send a postcard from home.

Four —What Ifs“
The articles above describe what should happen, but we all know that things go wrong. Here are some —what ifs“ to consider:

What if you get moved to a different area? You prepared for ar-Ramadi and studied Dulaim tribal structures and Sunni beliefs. Now you are going to Najaf and will be surrounded by al-Hassan and Unizzah tribes and Shi‘a communities. But that work was not wasted. In mastering your first area, you learned techniques you can apply: how to —case“ an operational area, how to decide what matters in the local societal structure. Do the same again œ and this time the process is easier and faster, since you have an existing mental structure, and can focus on what is different. The same applies if you get moved frequently within a battalion or brigade area.

What if higher headquarters doesn‘t —get“ counterinsurgency? Higher headquarters is telling you the mission is to —kill terrorist“, or pushing for high-speed armored patrols and a base-camp mentality. They just do not seem to understand counterinsurgency. This is not uncommon, since company-grade officers today often have more combat experience than senior officers. In this case, just do what you can. Try not to create expectations that higher headquarters will not let you meet. Apply the adage —first do no harm“. Over time, you will find ways to do what you have to do. But never lie to higher headquarters about your locations or activities: they own the indirect fires.

What if you have no resources? Yours is a low-priority sector: you have no linguists, the aid agencies have no money for projects in your area, you have a low priority for funding. You can still get things done, but you need to focus on self-reliance, keep things small and sustainable, and ruthlessly prioritize effort. Local community leaders are your allies in this: they know what matters to them more than you do. Be honest with them, discuss possible projects and options with community leaders, get them to choose what their priority is. Often they will find the translators, building supplies or expertise that you need, and will only expect your support and protection in making their projects work. And the process of negotiation and consultation will help mobilize their support, and strengthen their social cohesion. If you set your sights on what is achievable, the situation can still work.

What if the theater situation shifts under your feet? It is your worst nightmare: everything has gone well in your sector, but the whole theater situation has changed and invalidates your efforts. Think of the first battle of Fallujah, the al-Askariya shrine bombing, or the Sadr uprising. What do you do? Here is where having a flexible, adaptive game plan comes in. Just as the insurgents drop down to a lower posture when things go wrong, now is the time to drop back a stage, consolidate, regain your balance and prepare to expand again when the situation allows. But see article 28: if you cede the initiative, you must regain it as soon as the situation allows, or you will eventually lose.

This, then, is the tribal wisdom, the folklore which those who went before you have learned. Like any folklore it needs interpretation, and contains seemingly contradictory advice. Over time, as you apply unremitting intellectual effort to study your sector, you will learn to apply these ideas in your own way, and will add to this store of wisdom from your own observations and experience. So only one article remains; and if you remember nothing else, remember this:

28. Whatever else you do, keep the initiative. In counterinsurgency, the initiative is everything. If the enemy is reacting to you, you control the environment. Provided you mobilize the population, you will win. If you are reacting to the enemy œ even if you are killing or capturing him in large numbers œ then he is controlling the environment and you will eventually lose. In counterinsurgency, the enemy initiates most attacks, targets you unexpectedly and withdraws too fast for you to react. Do not be drawn into purely reactive operations: focus on the population, build your own solution, further your game plan and fight the enemy only when he gets in the way. This gains and keeps the initiative.

Washington, D.C., 29 March, 2006
Written from fieldnotes compiled in Baghdad, Tajji and Kuwait City, 2006

Although any errors or omissions in this paper are mine alone, many people contributed directly or indirectly to it. They included Caleb Carr, Eliot Cohen, Audrey Cronin, Hank Crumpton, Janine Davidson, Jeff Davis, T.X. Hammes, John Hillen, Frank Hoffman, Scott Kofmehl, Christopher Langton, Tom Mahnken, Tim Mulholland, John Nagl, Tom Ricks and Mike Vlahos. Rob Greenway, Bruce Hoffman, Olivier Roy and Marc Sageman influenced my thinking over several months. A current serving officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, and two other members of the intelligence community, also made major contributions but cannot be named. Finally, the many company commanders, platoon leaders and others I worked with in Iraq and elsewhere inspired this effort. You carry the burden of counterinsurgency today, and into the future.

Dr. David Kilcullen served 21 years in the Australian Army, commanded an infantry company on counterinsurgency operations in East Timor, taught tactics on the Platoon Commanders‘ Battle Course at the British School of Infantry, served on peace operations in Cyprus and Bougainville, was a military advisor to Indonesian Special Forces, and trained and led Timorese irregulars. He has worked in several Middle East countries with irregular and paramilitary police and military units, and was special adviser for Irregular Warfare to the 2005 U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review. He is currently seconded to the U.S. State Department as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and remains a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army. His doctoral dissertation is a study of Indonesian insurgent and terrorist groups and counterinsurgency methods.