Winning Hearts And Minds

News today that the US has drafted a new army manual, with emphasis on winning hearts and minds. It’s entitled, “How to Make Your Enemy Love You Once You’ve Bombed The Fuck Out Of Them.”

They just don’t get it, do they?

There is a faction of American society so arrogant, so self-obsessed, that they actually believe its possible the Iraqi people will love them, despite 5,000,000 orphans, God-only-knows how many slaughtered individuals, 7,000,000 displaced, the massacre of Fallujah, the abominations of Abu Ghraib – now known to have been sanctioned at the highest level of the Pentagon – the disgusting antics of Blackwater and other so-called “US contractors”, and the final degradation of Baghdad societies walled off by twelve-foot high concrete barriers.

Only today, the BBC reports a family gunned down by US troops. A 55 year old man and his 40 year old wife were killed in their home, together with their son who was a member of the US-backed anti-al Qaeda militia. Two daughters were also hit, one of whom died in hospital. The other is seriously injured.

Rest assured, America, if she survives she’ll love you all for the rest of her life.

It’s not what any American wants to hear, but the plain, ungarnished, truth – verified over and over by any and every nation’s military who’ve ever served with them – is that the US military are a bunch of badly trained, undisciplined, arrogant, trigger-happy louts who consider themselves cock-of-the-roost wherever they are stationed.

Of course, that is a generalization. There are certainly some soldiers who are a credit to the uniform they wear, but they are in the minority. Hardly a day goes by that innocent civilians are not killed, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, by the antics of US forces only trained in bully-boy tactics and “Terminator” movies.

A new documentary highlights the disgrace that is the American military, at all levels of command.

“Taxi to the Dark Side” lays bare to the world atrocities that in any nation less powerful than the United States, would have seen its Commander-in-Chief and associates locked away for a very long time.

An Afghan taxi driver, known only as Dilowar, was brutally murdered in the notorious Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, in 2002. He had committed no crime. The film documents his fate, and that of others throughout Afghanistan and Iraq.

The New York Times edition, May 22, 2005, reported:

” On the day of his death, Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

“A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

“Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen.

It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.”

It is a documentary worthy of compulsive viewing for every American citizen. The reason: because many in this nation refuse to accept the behavior of a military heavy on shortcomings and encouraged to mindless violence by its topmost officials.


A sketch showing how Dilawar
was chained to the ceiling of
his cell by Thomas V. Curtis,
a former sergeant in the
Reserve United States Army
Military Police Corps

The atrocities of Bagram airbase, the heinous crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, were not only tolerated, but sanctioned right through the military command structure. And yet, it doesn’t stop there.

Every day, in Afghanistan and Iraq, innocent victims fall prey to the callous indifference of a nation requiring military victory for political gain. While the people of America entertain themselves with immature pseudo-democratic games – caucuses and primaries – that will make little or no difference to the militaristic course this country is steadily carving for itself, their fellow human beings suffer degradation, torture, and death at the hands of their own countrymen, who are hailed as “Heroes”.

And for what purpose? No more than to satisfy the great American ego, so badly bruised by the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11.

Those in charge of the American military machine probably consider themselves Christian. They fail in one of the basic tenets of Christianity: the charge to love thine enemy.

Yet they have the gall and audacity to expect their enemies to love them.

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6 Replies to “Winning Hearts And Minds”

  1. The following is from I thought it was very well written (2003):
    Alarmed senior officers, trying their best to sound like old warhorses, have leaped to the defense of the fiction that this is a real, bona-fide, teeth-clenching war and these people are real soldiers and had by god better shut up and get back in their foxholes. But it’s an increasingly tough sell. We haven’t had a military quagmire in thirty years, or a real war in sixty.

    Our job, which is indeed ours whether we like it or not, is no less than to “successfully” occupy a huge Arab country for a very long time, seizing their wealth without making them angry at us. Shiite mobs are growing increasingly surly, and the world, which advised us strongly against creating this situation, is not offering to help. They are watching, I imagine, with some amusement to see what we’re going to do next. Lacking a better idea, we are still holding the Iraqis at gunpoint. Our Arabic-speaking personnel are only in their third week of language school, but should be ready to communicate with the locals on our behalf in less than two years. Some clumsy effort is underway to set up a puppet government, but the Iraqis don’t appear to be much interested in it. It is hard to argue that our primary objective is other than to occupy their country and maintain a pretense of gradual democratization while in fact siphoning off their oil and taking control of their economy, yet doing this in such a way that nobody notices. You’d think this would require a certain expertise, but with the exception of Halliburton and the Beagle Boys there doesn’t seem to be any. The soldiers are confused. The chiefs are confused. Nobody on the team has ever done this before. The plan seems to be to keep loading the loot into the U-Haul, telling the natives they have been liberated not occupied, telling the troops they are warriors not thieves, telling the world it’s none of their business, telling American mothers that 1-2 of their sons are losing their lives every day because of diehard Saddam loyalists and not because grass roots Iraqi guerrillas are less gullible than we are here in the States, and more inclined to believe their own eyes.

    Foreign tours of duty just aren’t the rite of passage they used to be. Montgomery Clift would be ashamed of us. I recently spoke with him on the phone. He said “Tell the troops this:

    “So you wanna be so’jers do you, you disappointing goddamn sissy girls? What did you have in mind? A virtual Humvee where you stand up and zero in on some poor fucking evildoer with your laser guided rocket propelled grenade launcher and blow him into pink mist over and over until you run out of quarters? I’ll bet so.

    “I’ll bet that sitting around in a flak jacket in 120 degree heat surrounded by millions of Muslims about whom all you know is what they told you in some demented army training film, all of whom, for reasons that escape you, wish that you were dead, was also not part of the fantasy. It isn’t exciting and dangerous, it’s boring and dangerous. You ran out of conversation months ago. Your job, apparently, is to stand out in front of something that needs guarding, dressed up to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, waiting for the surprise sniper shot to the neck that redirects your circulatory system, removes you from the story and replaces you with a $6000 check to your wife and a folded flag so your kid will remember that you were capped for freedom. Or the sudden ambush, the pass-fail combat training pop quiz of two seconds’ duration, that when you flunk they pack you up like a duty-free souvenir and ship you home for your long, long dirt nap. Our guys in Vietnam experienced that astonishing transformation from 57,000 live human beings with families and futures to 57,000 asterisks of smoking entrails so that a pack of pompous liars could make it into the history books. Maybe you should have checked with them before you enlisted.

    “The magic isn’t working, is it? It doesn’t feel like Pork Chop Hill. Your beady-eyed Commander-in-Chief says “bring ’em on!”, only instead of his cocksure ass on the line, it’s yours. You’re beginning to feel less like Audie Murphy every day, and more like a chump for Mobil-Exxon.

    “It isn’t just Leon Uris that is dead. It’s war that is dead, so’jer. War, at least, as you imagined it from The Young Lions and Devils in Baggy Pants, full of blazing action, moral clarity, opportunities for heroism and men doin’ what men gotta do. American wars are more like turkey shoots these days. The heavy artillery and smart bombs do most of the work of blowing your largely imaginary enemies into even greater nonexistence. They seem to use you dogfaces mainly to guard gas stations and bully civilians. If it weren’t for the snipers your only killed and wounded would be from jeep accidents and swallowing chicken bones. And that wouldn’t look very much like war to the folks back home, now would it?

    “It’s just as well this isn’t the test of manhood you had hoped it would be. At the current casualty rate you’d have to stay in Baghdad for 150 years to take as many hits as we did in Vietnam. Looking back, it seemed like Vietnam was a real war, although we didn’t think so at the time. (The government called it a “police action”. The Constitution apparently has some verbiage to the effect that Congress is supposed to decide whether the nation goes to war, but in those days we were unaware that the Founding Fathers were just kidding.) Unlike today, our adversaries had weaponry comparable to our own, their chief arms suppliers being bushwhacked American soldiers. We had the edge as long as we went after villages with helicopters and napalm and counted dead eight year olds as enemy casualties, but the NVA and Viet Cong were more into the guerrilla thing. They took hits at twenty times the rate of our troops, and that was fine with them. They kicked our honky asses out of their country and into an emasculation funk that is with us to the present day, Because to them it was war. It was about survival and freedom and resisting aggression. They were Robert Ryan and Charles Bronson and Aldo Ray and Tom Hanks – up against the limits of human courage and endurance – and we were a pack of frightened, pot smoking schoolboys missing out on the sexual revolution, stuck in a place where we had no business, hoping only to survive long enough to rotate home and dry the microbiology out from between our toes.

    “The lesson of Vietnam was this: Avoid real wars. Never go after anybody who is seriously equipped to fight back. Call them wars if that makes you feel more manly, but when the people you are butchering start counting coup back on you it’s time to split.

    “So that’s your problem, so’jer. You don’t feel like a so’jer because you aren’t really a so’jer and you aren’t really in a war. If you get killed it will be because you volunteered to barge into someone else’s reality at the behest of a gang of oil pirates and to present yourself to their victims as their surrogates. If you get killed it will not be because you are at Normandy or Dunkirk or Iwo Jima but because you represent assholes. Because you haven’t got the imagination to lose the wraparound mirrored sunglasses and catch a plane back to Colorado Springs.

    “Moreover, beyond the creeping chagrin you must be feeling that you also were patsies and that the guts and glory you were promised turned out to be as bogus as Florida swamp land, I should tell you that even the fantasy they didn’t deliver was bogus. You don’t want to be a so’jer… really. Six hundred so’jers died yesterday in Liberia, and I’ll bet you couldn’t tell me what it is they were fighting about that made them go to such trouble to become the fly-covered corpses that are lying around the streets of Monrovia tonight. You feel like it’s dangerous where you are, and you have only lost 200 men in the whole war (and “peace”). At the Battle of Sommes in 1916 the British lost 30,000 men in the first half hour! That was without bunker buster nukes or daisy cutter bombs – just crank-operated machine guns, potato masher grenades, primitive artillery and bayonets. Those were so’jers.

    “You couldn’t, you know, handle that. And neither could your mothers.”

    Every time they have a soldier on TV, the interviewer or politician ALWAYS says, “Thank you for your service.” Seems the only thing we took from Vietnam is that the soldiers must be treated as heroes. Sorry for the long post! Cut and paste is just so damn easy.

  2. It’s hard for us non-military folk to understand the way soldiers’ minds work, because they’ve been de-humanised by their training and experiences. I suppose even the most humane and kindest of them becomes radically changed in time.

    The fact that countries need these de-humanised members of our race is the sad part. This train of thought always leads me to the last verse from lyrics of “The Universal Soldier”

    “He’s the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,
    His orders come from far away no more,
    They come from here and there and you and me,
    And brothers can’t you see,
    This is not the way we put the end to war.”

  3. WWW – I find most appalling the fact that these ideas are thought up by the American elite, all of whom have had the best of educations. If that’s the standard, it says little for the ordinary US citizen. “Winning hearts and minds” has always seemed a crazy notion for any country engaged in a foreign war.

    Flimsy – no need to apologize for the length. It was a truly excellent article. I only wish the author would publish more up-to-date material. I note the latest articles date from 2005.

    Twilight – it is hard to comprehend the mindset of anyone prepared to kill another human being in cold blood. War has no logic or reason behind it. Quite simply, if men refused to fight there could be no war. The only one’s to suffer would be the politicians who start them in the first place.

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