Friday, January 05, 2007


This is the start of an off and blog feature to focus on some, perhaps, historically resonant aspects of the Bush administration's war in Iraq and how it manifests in daily newspaper reporting from the front. The relentless stream of daily news reports from embedded reporters with the Army and the Marines delivers only news of failure, reverses, stalemate and quandary.

In this it reminds DD of his bookshelf of tomes on World War II, specifically the parts where the alleged best standing land army in the world, the Wehrmacht, was directed by one of the worst military brains ever, the Fuhrer.

Now before you push the hate mail button, DD asserts in the strongest possible way that George W. Bush is no Hitler. However, he is our leader, the decider, the commander-in-chief, and DD is absolutely certain historians will portray him and his military advisors in the war as the worst available. The future will be merciless.

For those still interested, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in the title means Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. In World War II, OKW was the nexus between Hitler and his Wehrmacht field generals. Wilhelm Keitel was the head of OKW, appointed as the Fuhrer's yes-man. Indeed, he became known as "Lakeitel," his name twisted into a derivation torn from the German word for "lackey," "der Lakai."

It has become baldly apparent that the Bush administration appoints or approves of only lackeys in the war with Iraq, military leaders and civilians guaranteed to agree with and recommend whatever directives are issued by their commander-in-chief, even when they're senseless and experience has shown they will end in disaster.

In terms of practical leadership for the Iraq war and related endeavors, then, the command structure, its procedures, utterances and results can be compared with the same style of really atrocious command strategies thrust upon the Wehrmacht.

One can also include the Japanese command apparatus, which was equally terrible. The fighting men of both Axis militaries paid for it just like the US fighting man is paying for it in Iraq.

While Robert Gates is one obvious administration rubberstamp, today's Los Angeles Times portrays another, the general nominated to lead the escalation of military force in Iraq, David H. Petraeus.

There's no reason to believe Petraeus is any good at all and fair reason to believe he might be the opposite. The mainstream media more or less tells only brief stories that shed him in a good light as did the Los Angeles Times today when it wrote, "Petraeus rose quickly through the ranks after earning praise for commanding the 101st Airborne Division during the March 2003 Iraq invasion."

This could mean nothing since it is fair to characterize the US initial victory over Hussein's military as no more a feat than the Wehrmacht's crushing of Poland in 1939, or its use of the Balkans as a speed bump on the way to eastern Mediterranean coastline, Fall Marita, in 1941.

One becomes wary when bragging immediately intrudes into the equation, pride coming beforeth a fall and all that, and being an unusually inappropriate response to a war characterized by ever compounding failure.

Nevertheless, "Dave Petraeus may be the most talented person I ever met," comes the Times quoting retired Army generaly Barry McCaffrey from another source. "He's got phenomenal intellectual gifts."

Another leader set to take over in the Middle East is a navy man, William J. Fallon, to oversee Central Command. Again, writes the Times, "[Fallon] is highly regarded within the Pentagon for his willingness to speak his mind . . ." The Times writes Fallon was the second choice of the Bush administration, the first being an Air Force officer whose nomination was withdrawn because of his ties to a colleague who is apparently a crook.

Moving along, in Sea of Thunder, Evan Thomas' absorbing book on the Battle of Leyte, one of many disasters for the Japanese in World War II, it is written on pages 159-200: "The Japanese high command continued to believe that the Japanese could simply outlast America -- that the decadent liberal individualists of the west would fold in a test of wills with the Yamato spirit."

Sound familiar?

In today's Los Angeles Times, Army colonel Sean MacFarland, in Ramadi, says, "It's not a stalemate here . . . we're not in the trenches of World War I or the rice paddies of Vietnam."

The city has no functioning government, its leaders having run away.

"War is a contest of wills -- a test to see who is willing to keep fighting longer than the other guy . . . " opines MacFarland for the Times reporter, sounding ominously similar to DD's previous citation from Sea of Thunder. The book routinely tells of Japanese military leaders rigging their war games and views when the reality of the situation of the Pacific was informing them daily in the most brutal way possible that they could not win.

"Absolutely, we are winning . . . " is one utterance that comes to mind but the OKW way seems to have trickled down through many layers of the US military.

Note this, from the American Forces Press Service on December 20: "Coalition forces have never lost a battle here in Iraq, but we know that we cannot win the peace alone," said coalition spokesman U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. "Today's transition to provincial Iraqi control in Najaf, shows that our other efforts are having effects."

As for Iraq's other forces, the ones to assume control, the weight of evidence from newspaper reports in the Los Angeles Times indicates they either run away, don't show up, collect pay without showing up, commit crimes, act as informers, bite the heads off frogs to show how fierce they are, or all of the above.

". . . this fall . . . [the] 5th Iraqi division started a campaign of what US officials describe as abusive raids and detentions . . . "

" . . . Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Brigade, took the unusual step of lecturing his Iraqi counterpart . . . Bullying an innocent person is unacceptable. Taking things from houses is unacceptable. Taking cars or things from cars is unacceptable," Sutherland related to the Times. "Before we send an undisciplined rabble into this fight, I will pull the plug," he is said to have told his Iraqi underling.

What would OKW have done in such a case?

Lecturing wasn't high on the list but sending an extra panzer corps, if one was available and usually it wasn't, was one common strategy. So Peter would be robbed to pay Paul and this is, in essence, the Bush administration's military strategy.

The Times has also been covering an ongoing military operation in Iraq that, if accounts are to be taken at face value, is doing nothing but chewing up terrain and killing people in a place called Al Shams. It has no significant or discernible goal although the newspaper wrote today, "The target of the strikes is an isolated landscape of farms and canals riddled with weapons caches, safe houses and training ranges, US officials [say]."

The assault moved slowly, wrote the paper, and was stopped for hours when a Hummvee was disabled by a bomb. Then it ran into prepared obstacles. It has been reported that the opposition always know when the US military is coming because its Iraqi proxy army is riddled with informers who phone ahead and tell everyone the plans.

Indeed, writes the Times, " . . . commanders kept details of the operation from their Iraqi counterparts until hours before it began, out of fear that information would leak . . . said Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "Sutherland said he suspected that information from Iraqi soldiers compromised counterinsurgency operations in November and December."

What would OKW do? Not a step back, would be the order, no withdrawal. Send in another panzer corps.

Postscript: Of course, OKW and the Wehrmacht's generals knew, along with the Japanese, that they could not win.

Again -- today -- another news item:

"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of the administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost. They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally not figuratively." -- Delaware solon Joe Biden.

What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do? Unfortunately, they didn't have the option of hanging on so as to "hand it off to the next guy."


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