Revolt of the Generals

Imagine the U.S. military–from the soldiers on the ground to the generals–saying publicly what they are thinking and saying privately about their two draft-dodging but bellicose rulers in the White House.

Sometimes, reporters have gathered a few excoriating statements from the frustrated, beleaguered, often body armor-less GIs. One even demanded Bush’s resignation from his barracks in Iraq, which was shown on national television.

There is also the under-reported Zogby poll released in January 2006–the only scientifically sampled field poll in Iraq–which showed over seventy percent of the soldiers thought the United States should withdraw in a time period ranging from six months to a year. And this opinion in the war zone was registered when the situation was not as bad as the quagmire is today.

As for the Generals, their dissatisfaction with Don Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, goes well beyond his brusque personality into the rigid and mistaken policies from the beginning of this fabricated, illegal war.

Now comes the New York Times reporter, Michael R. Gordon, with a page one story about a forthcoming Army and Marine Corps field manual with a “new counterinsurgency doctrine that draws on the hard learned lessons from Iraq and makes the welfare and protection of civilians a bedrock element of military strategy.”

Some might view this manual–drawing from the experiences of bottom to top military personnel–to be an indirect rebuke of the failed brute, force military policies of the Bush White House. Some may also wonder what took the Pentagon so long to rediscover old knowledge about what succeeded and failed in foreign military occupations. Old knowledge that says reliance on sheer military power, mistreating prisoners, and not safeguarding civilians and essential public services fails again and again.

Well, better late than never. This particular field manual went through many comments, consultations, and drafts before distilling nine “representative paradoxes” of counterinsurgency operations. Their theme is that the more force used, the less effective it is. Staying in touch with the civilian population, instead of staying in compounds, is more effective than a brute force and firepower approach. Dollars and ballots have more impact than sheer weaponry because they strengthen the host country’s restoration of basic services like police, electricity, drinking water, food, health and schools.

Other paradoxes include one that says “tactical success guarantees nothing,” and that “most of the important decisions are not made by generals,” but by troops at all levels.

By now you are probably saying, “Isn’t that just repeating the obvious?” Why, yes, but when your dogmatic, messianic commanders are Bush and Cheney, shorn of history, common sense, and critical reactive thinking, the “obvious” has to be conveyed as something new, lest it be seen as what it is–a repudiation of disastrous policies from design to supply to logistics.

Col. Conrad C. Crane (Ret.), the director of the Military History Institute at the Army War College and a principal drafter of the new doctrine told The New York Times: “In many ways, this is a bottom-up change. The young soldiers who had been through Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Iraq and Afghanistan, understood why we need to do this.”

But the drafters of this “new” approach know that applying it on the ground requires more soldiers, more smarts and fewer profiteering, bungling corporate contractors. They might have added that protecting the civilian population–in contrast to the violent chaos and anarchy brutalizing the Iraqi people daily–is a requirement of international law. Invaders who occupy another country are obligated under international treaties to keep order and to safeguard the rights and safety of civilians.

By engaging in sectarian politics and playing favorites, among their publicized blunders, the Bush occupation sowed the seeds of the upheavals that are tearing the country apart at an increasing pace.

So when this field manual reaches President Bush’s desk, with the requisite cue card summaries, the findings will likely be rejected. After all, a failed war that keeps failing can at least point to the growth of the terroristic forces in Iraq as the circular rationale for “staying the course.”

Mr. Bush’s own intelligence reports, and not just the most recent highly publicized National Intelligence Estimate, have concluded that the war-occupation is providing recruitment and training grounds for terrorists.

Daddy Bush should take his son and have him repeat after him again and again–“options for revision,” “options for revision,” “options for revision.” Unless, that is, Bush and Cheney both do the country a favor and resign.



Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!