Thursday, September 30, 2004

the parallels between my roaches and the Viet Cong can hardly be ignored

When Al Lorentz (who has been a member of the armed forces for 19 years and is currently stationed in Iraq) wrote an essay on Why We Cannot Win the war in Iraq, the administration did pretty much what you'd expect them to: they threatened to charge him with disloyalty and insubordination. There hasn't been a disloyalty prosecution (which can result in a 20-year prison sentence) since the Vietnam War.

The statute that Lorentz is being threatened with prohibits military personnel from 'praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States, or denouncing our form of government with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection among members of the armed services'. That 'attacking the war aims' clause is the only bit that applies in this case, but that particular Article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is at odds with a soldier's constitutional right 'to express their opinions pertaining to the issues before the public', so long as in doing so they do not disclose classified material or cause a security risk. I have been stunned by how many people think that being in the military means you can't have an opinion... so many of the diehard flagwavers seem to think the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were just an afterthought, when they were actually the whole point.

Here's some of what Lorentz had to say:

I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality.

First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war...

Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed... we came here with some fantasy idea that the natives were all ignorant, mud-hut dwelling camel riders who would line the streets and pelt us with rose petals...

Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them. This is almost always the case in guerilla warfare, especially when your tactics for battling the guerillas are aimed at killing guerillas instead of eroding their support.

Fourth, their lines of supply and communication are much shorter than ours and much less vulnerable. We must import everything we need into this place; this costs money and is dangerous... conversely, the guerillas live on top of their supplies and are showing every indication of developing a very sophisticated network for obtaining them.

Fifth, we consistently underestimate the enemy and his capabilities. Many military commanders have prepared to fight exactly the wrong war here.

None of that seems particularly inciting, but it's understandable that a government as astoundingly disingenuous as ours might get upset any time someone points out the differences between their carefully crafted narrative and reality. One of the many sad things about this war is that we are doing the exact goddam thing we did in Vietnam... we don't appear to have learned anything. By the time we get out of Iraq the war will have taken more American lives than the attack on the towers did, and all we will have done is consolidate a loose confederation of warring tribes into a united front led by the terrorists we are supposed to have forgotten about. Anyone remember bin Laden?

The title of this post is from 'The Strawberry Statement' by James Simon Kunen... Lorentz's list reminded me of a list from that book:

Actually, the parallels between my roaches and the Viet Cong can hardy be ignored. There are seventeen parallels. Both my roaches and the VC are indigenous forces, are ignorant, ill-clad and underfed; they both drag away the bodies of their slain, come back no matter how many are killed, move by night, avoid prolonged engagements with the enemy, are not white, are fighting against people who are, have been fighting for generations, are of uncertain numbers, move via infiltration routes, are wily, are out-armed by the enemy, are contemptuous of death, are independent of outside control, are inscrutable, and are winning.

Umm, so what is it we're fighting for again?