Monday, August 22, 2005

Body Language

If you hadn't already noticed, the Pentagon PR machine has slipped into a Vietnam mindset. More and more, we're hearing "body count" used as a measure of success.

As the Associated Press reports:
U. S. Marines and Afghan forces killed more than 40 suspected militants in an operation against insurgents who had inflicted the deadliest blow to American forces since the Taliban's ouster, a military spokesman said Monday.

"It was successful," Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara told The Associated Press. "We had over 29 separate engagements with enemy forces that resulted in more than 40 enemy killed in action and many others wounded." O'Hara also announced that a separate three-day battle from Aug. 7-10 in southern Zabul province's Daychopan district left a total of 65 suspected militants dead. The military had previously reported that 16 rebels had been killed.

News of the casualties comes after a deadly period for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with 13 American troops killed this month.

So that leaves us with an August scorecard of 105 to 13. Boy, we're winning big time!

I'm sorry to see the military pushing attrition ratios as a bragging point, especially in a war of this nature. In a conflict where every bad guy killed or captured creates two more bad guys, you can never kill them all.

But expect to see more of this kind of "success story." Bragging rights are hard for the military to come by these days.

Once again, don't take my comments as derisive of the rank and file folks out there trying to "get the job done." They're serving to the utmost of their abilities. Lamentably, they're fighting a war that even Pentagon and administration officials admit has no military solution.

And that's a sad state of affairs.


Retired Army colonel and MSNBC analyst Jack Jacobs makes a good point about the Army's plan to keep the troop strength in Iraq at around 100,000 for another four years. This is not a policy statement, or a policy commitment. It's a contingency plan, one that the Department of the Army would frankly be remiss if they weren't examining now.

So don't get too excited about it just yet.


  1. Found your site via Rising Hegemon. Thank you for being a military voice for intelligence, logic, and the occasional snarky comment!

    Sending your site on.

  2. Ellroon,

    Thanks for stopping by and posting the nice words. Come back often.



  3. Natty Bowditch6:27 PM

    Bloggy goodness. Keep up the good work and greetings from Pax.

    Consulting (ahem) work? You know what they say about consultants; they know 1001 sexual positions but don't know any girls.

  4. Jeff, since I don't trust the U.S. military reports, I'm not so sure that all those dead "insurgents" were really Taliban fighters. How easy is it to tell the difference between Taliban, a warlord's militia fighters, or civilians? They wear the same type of clothes and I believe that a lot of civilians have rifles for self-protection. Unless the U.S. is responding to a direct attack or sees RPGs (or whatever), it seems very easy to make a mistake. If the U.S. is accidentally killing civilians, that will generate a lot of resentment within the Afghan tribal culture.

  5. Natty,

    Thanks for stopping by and posting. How's the weather up MD way? The cold front didn't swing through here until about 4 this afternoon.


    I have no earthly idea. I too wag my eyebrows like the surf at Maccapu when I read about "alleged" or "suspected" Taliban fighters being killed--especially when they're supposedly the ones who ambushed the special forces guys and the other special forces guys who tried to rescue them.

    The military mouthpieces have earned the right to have everything they say questioned.


  6. Jeff,

    I read a couple of your thoughtfully pertinent posts awhile back over at OpTruth and saw your name tonight at TBogg. Clicking your name brought me here.

    Pen and Sword is now on my favorite list.

    I hope you won't mind a little braggin' here. Your excellent and well expressed thoughts lead me to believe what they told me at AFUNP and ADR School at Millington (yes, Recips! ... That long ago ... '67 to '71)
    They told us that the Navy took only the top 10% of those taking the basic military aptitude test and that to be an Airdale we were in the top 10% of the Navy. You prove that ... easily. I'm glad some of my counterparts kept your butt in the air!

    Looking forward to checking in here often.

  7. PC;

    Recips? Yikes! Did you by any chance work on E-1s or C-1s? I was an E-2 guy (turboprop), but a lot of my bosses started out flying "Fudds."

    As to the top 10% business, I reckon I managed to slip by the screening process somehow. ;-).

    Glad you stopped by and posted. Thanks for the nice words. Please visit again.



  8. Body count - sheesh.

    Well, a lot of folks are hearing for the first time. I just taught a class on war this summer, and all but one of my students knew zilch about the Vietnam war.

    Seems that most of their high school history classes don't make it all the way through (not that there's much on the war in said textbooks) because studying for the no-child-left-behind tests take up so much classroom time.

    If Bushco's evil plan is to make the population less informed and more malleable, it's working....

  9. And I suppose there's nothing on the no-child-left-behind test about Vietnam?


  10. Hey Jeff -
    I think we might know each other. Training command 78-79 Corpus? Did you CQ in T-28's perhaps (VT-27)? Drop me a line...couldn't find your email on your site.


  11. Jeff - my bad, saw your YG is 80. Were you a Liberty Bell by chance? (VAW-115/CAG-5)

  12. No, Jo, though I had a lot of buddies in 115. I served with 112 in CAG 9 and 124 in CAG 8. Was also CAG 9 ops for a while and was on the Strike U staff around 89/90.


  13. Anonymous3:44 PM

    Tarantula Lady, since this here thing has devolved into VietNam, Mod 2, it's very easy to tell who's an insurgent, sympathizer, or civilian.

    If they're dear, they're insurgents. If they're still alive they're sympathizers. If they're on or payroll, they're civilian-sypathizers and undoubtedly moles.


  14. Ditto, Lurch. Every confirmed insurgent is a dead insurgent.

  15. Jeff,

    No, not E-1s or C-1s, but close. I trained on the A-1 Skyraider (Spad) and hoped to get assigned to VA 25 where the Salt who trained me had been, but the Navy stopped flying Spads in early '68. Bummer, the A-1 is to my mind one of the most magnificent ACs ever built!

    I was an S-2 guy in VS-41 training squadron, North Island. Stoofs without roofs! Later I was PC and TPO for PCs on the OV10-A for VAL-4, the "The Black Ponies" flying air support for Swift Boats in the Delta. It was the last fixed wing light attack squadron in any service. The OV was turboprop, so I evolved a little!


    Kind of terrifying really, that kids know nothing of the Vietnam War. Seems to me to be a recipe for ongoing disaster.

    In the last UNICEF rankings of countries for academics the US ranked 18th, behind The Czech Republic and Hungary, amongst many others.
    Forcing you and other good teachers to teach to tests, without funding, by those who mandate "No Child Left Behind" looks almost like an intentional dumming tactic. Hell, if the kids are kept stupid and preoccupied by Brittany and Brad, sotted and numbed by "Grand Theft Auto" they'll be perfect clay for the neo con's playtime ... in "The Sand Box" and elsewhere.

    "Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times" ... Gustave Flaubert


  16. I admit that I didn't know anything about the Vietnam war until graduate school. Nothing in high school, didn't take the right class in college, finally took a seminar on the Vietnam war in film and fiction and have been immersed in 2oth century American war studies ever since.

    The college part is my fault. High school, though.....

    And my father's a veteran of Vietnam. It took the seminar for me to learn the right questions to ask. What's up with that?

    Secondary education is tanking, and things look bad for post-secondary also.