Friday, June 30, 2006

Stand Up! Stand Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!

(The full article, cross posted from ePluribus Media.)

I distinctly remember, after the fall of Baghdad, all the self-congratulatory backslapping over the fact that we hadn't needed to conduct brutal house-to-house warfare in Iraq's capital city. Since then, we've been doing a lot of urban fighting. Right now, we're doing a whole bunch of it in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar Province. We're been trying to tame Ramadi since Saddam's statue came tumbling down.

The latest operation to take control of what Dexter Filkins of the New York Times describes as "...the toughest city in the most violent of Iraqi regions" launched on June 18th. Filkins reports that "Whole city blocks here look like a scene from some post-apocalyptic world: row after row of buildings shot up, boarded up, caved in, tumbled down." Many parts of the city are out of control of either American or Iraqi forces.

After prior failed efforts to control the chaos in Ramadi, coalition forces are trying something new. Rather than making a full frontal assault on the entire city, they plan to take the city a neighborhood at a time, and they're using a prime tenet of the "stand up/stand down" strategy. U.S. forces seize territory and round up or kill whatever insurgents they find there. Then they establish a secure outpost and turn the area over to Iraqi troops.

But nobody, including the U.S. commander in Ramadi, expects the Iraqis to take charge any time soon. Col. Sean MacFarland says, "I don't think by this winter we'll be quite ready to turn over completely" to Iraqi forces.

The delay in turning the job over isn't so much a function of readiness of Iraqi troops, but of how many Iraqi troops want to do the job.

How Long Will This Be Going On?

Mister Bush has said that Iraq's future is in the hands of its new government. But it appears that the new government's army doesn't want to get its hands too dirty in the course of forging the country's future.

Lieutenant Colonel Raad Niaf Haroosh, commander of the Iraqi battalion in Ramidi, only has 145 of his troops committed to the operation. He left 500 of them back in Mosul. Why? According to Colonel Raad, it's because they fear that they'll create tribal vendettas if they kill fellow Iraqis. "They said, 'We don't want fight our own people.'"

Isn't that dandy? NPR reports that recruits have to pay a $600 bribe to get into Colonel Raad's battalion. If I could serve in a battalion where I didn't have to fight if I didn't want to, I'd pay money to get into it too. Staying back at the base and peeling potatoes beats the heck out of getting shot at.

My time at the U.S. Naval War College and subsequent study of military art tells me there are no absolutes in armed conflict. All wars are the same, and they're all different. But a fairly reliable rule of thumb says that if you're going to conduct a counterinsurgency operation in your own country, your own soldiers are going to have to kill some of their countrymen, including some who are related to those soldiers through blood, marriage, and extended tribal ties. If you can't get your soldiers to do that, you're not going to conduct much of a counterinsurgency. Moreover, if you can only employ a fraction of any given unit to an operation, none of your units will ever be at full combat effectiveness no matter how well equipped or trained the individuals may be.

And as the Times' Filkins points out, this situation is not unique to the present operation in Ramadi. It has been endemic throughout the stand up/stand down process. If this optional participation policy is anybody's idea of "standing up," I'd hate to see what they consider "sitting down on the job." This critical vulnerability in the stand up/stand down strategy won't go away. We can't wave a magic wand and un-relate people.

We've arrived at a point where we're fighting Iraqis because the Iraqis don't want to fight among themselves. How many American troops are in harm's way in Ramadi right now because 500 Iraqi soldiers got to sit this dance out and wax the floors in the barracks instead?

Are we showing resolve in Iraq, or are we being played for chumps? Getting into a bar fight over a girl you just met shows resolve. Waking up in jail the next morning with a black eye and two missing teeth shows how stupid you are.

Iraq has turned into a goat rope tied in a Gordian knot wrapped around a Mobius strip. How did the mightiest nation in human history let itself get into such a bind?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. You already know the one-word answer: Clinton.

    And the 2-word answer: America-haters.

    And the 3-word answer: Liberal trial lawyers.

    Joking aside, our nation has followed (or been goaded, led by the nose, whatever) by the military-industrial complex and related war-profiteers down the path we've discussed so many times here. The American economy is built around war, so we have to troll the planet for somebody to fight, preferably someone with resources we want or need.

    What that means for our troops is -- they're in a world of shit.

  2. navywife2:48 PM

    I don't blame the Iraqis for not wanting to kill their own countrymen. They didn't want this war anyway. We are killing enough of their countrymen already:

    Read the article. Some guys have admitted to raping an Iraqi woman, burning her body, and killing her family. If I were an Iraqi, I would jump at the chance to be involved in that too, not.

  3. Jeff,

    Bingo. Dubya, he didn't want no war.


    Can you ever recall seeing an article that had that many iterations of "alledge" in it? Looks like the MSM really got cowed by all the right wing noise over their reportage of the Haditha incident.

  4. Seems to me that when dealing with a criminal matter of this magnitude, it is responsible to keep in mind that what exist are charges or allegations, and that they have yet to be proven. I can't blame them for that. Generally it is the left-wingers who want to make sure that the rights of those accused of crimes are respected. Why not use the word "allege," since it is in fact accurate.

  5. Musmanno, let's not forget all the many "allegations" of the Left that have already been proven to be accurate and illegal, eh?

    At some point, a sentient being begins to accept the idea that criminals don't perform honest and honorable acts. Sebras, and so forth, you know?

  6. Urk.. Zebras, that is

  7. Lurch:

    That is true, but I nevertheless hold to the idea that one is innocent until proevn guilty, and in general criminal matters I appreciate the fact that people remember the distinction between being 'accused' and 'convicted,' so I won't refuse to extend that here simply because of my political disagreement.

    In fact, it is a fundamental principle of criminal law that you can't use "character" evidence to prove that someone committed a certain act (and with good reason). In other words, you aren't allowed in court to bring in evidence to argue that X is the type of person who does this sort of thing, and therefore he did it.

    Even if every allegation of the left came true, I still prefer to apply to presumption of innocence in each case as it comes down the pike. Of course even back in law school I always came down on the anti-prosecution side in Criminal Procedure. Always in favor of civil liberties. I know some prosecutors for whom an accusation is as good as guilt, however.

  8. Mus, my point is not that they use the term. I think it's very apt and appropriate. It's how many times they use it that I find a little amusing.

  9. Musmanno, in my comment I said "...let's not forget all the many "allegations" of the Left that have already been proven to be accurate and illegal, eh? ..."

    Note I used the word "proven." I used that word particularly because I understood that you, as a lawyer would protest a man was innocent until he'd been in court even if the crime was pummeling you with a baseball bat, and it had been videotaped in color, with 20 eye witnesses affirming by notarized, sworn document that they had in fact seen the guy put you in a hospital bed.

    I, on the other hand, am capable of believing the evidence of my own eyes. A wrong has been done to me, and to many millions of others, in this country and in other jurisdictions.

    Pure observed history has documented the facts. It is not "alleged." So, if the well-deserved trial comes about, what would the lawyers say? "They can't get a fair trial in any civilized country, so they have to be given a pass?" I suspect Justice Jackson, and Sir Hartley Shawcross would disagree with that idea.

    Have a safe weekend. Stay away from baseball bat-wielding Fascists, eh?

  10. navywife9:48 PM

    That's not the only amusing thing. In another article about this same incident, they were also using the term alledge way too much. One of the sentences said something like "one soldier was arrested after admitting to taking part in the "alledged" crime." So, the guy admitted to doing something that may not have happened? But, yes, I noticed that. Rediculous.

  11. I can't remember how far back "alleged" made its way into reportage on crimes. It was a good thing, I think, because prior to that, stories carried an unfair presumption of guilt or innocence.

    But these recent "atrocities" accounts are going overboard.

    Not that big a deal, really.

  12. As old as I am I can admit that my memory isn't quite as sharp as it used to be. Nowadays I need a reminder. But it does seem to me the word "alleged" began to creep into civic discourse after a court case argued in a changed venue due to adverse publicity. As you said, Jeff, it was a matter of guilt presumption by publicity. The word started cropping up in police reports, which were then parrotted by spokespersons and, therefore, the press.

    Scott, our resident attorney, can probably make an old man smile by agreeing with him, but in any case surely has better information.

  13. Yeah, that rings a bell with me Lurch. Can't remember if it was a high profile case or not, and I think I was a kid when it happened.

  14. Thanks. Thanks a whole bunch there, Commander. I didn't realize i was THAT old. heheheh

  15. Wasn't the first high-profile case in which adverse publicity got cited as a major factor the Shepard(?) case (the Fugitive-inspiring one)?

    But you're right, the police-spokes-rep lingo does seem to go overboard at times: "The alleged victim reputedly alleged -- and this is unsubstantiated at this time -- that the said complaintant averred..."

  16. Read all of Jeff's posts! Don't forget the ones he makes at the anti-American Leftist screed known as DEMOCRATIC VETERAN where he posts as "Jo Fish" and publicly discloses the names, addresses and phone numbers of other Navy vets so they can be harrassed by obscene phone calls and death threats.

  17. Meribeth8:17 AM

    Jeff, the Dr. Sam Sheppard case sure did influence things, because he won his appeal using the "trial by newspaper" defense. And as I remember there was still a lot of question of his guilt because the evidence was not all that clear.

    I was living in Bay Village, Oh when this took place, and I remember it, although I was a kid at the time. Our family went to Dr. Sheppard a few times...and a number of the people who were involved in the trial and the Sheppards were known to us. There was a tremendous amount of gossip, well known people in town, and a "hero" of Cleveland..Otto Graham of the Browns and a lot of sex. The newspapers had a field day unfortunately.

    BTW, Dr. Sheppard was a very nice man. I remember him when I was little and I met and talked with him when I was a young woman.

    One of the things that struck me about the overuse of "alleged" was that it was as if they were trying to make a point of the guilt. Irony?

  18. Gosh, Jeff..... I didn't know you were also Jo Fish. IIRC, the "Jo Fish" chatacter also did WesPac deployments. How the heck did you manage to be on two different ships, a pilot on one and a GIB on the other?

  19. Stogie,

    Thanks for the self-satirizing contributions to the Pen and Sword site. They make a better point about conservative war hawks than anything I could come up with.

    One thing though: I am not Jo Fish. So don't go around telling people that I am. I don't reckon Jo would appreciate it either.

    Feel free to make a spectacle of yourself, but don't spread around false information.

  20. Meribeth,

    Thanks for the info regarding Sheppard. How interesting that must have been!


    I'm not taking a side here, but think that "allegations of the left" is an inaccurate bit of language. In the case of the military conduct questions, the allegations aren't really coming from anywhere in the political spectrum.

  21. The salient bit in "allege" is "leg" as in "ordain by law". It does not mean an untruth or rumor but it is a bit of equivocation in common parlance and has come to be equated with "this may or may not be true". In its strictest sense it means that it is a statement that one must undertake to prove in a legal proceeding. It is commonly used in any kind of legal documentation such as depositions, medical records in which one is recording social history etc. My point is that "allegation" means one thing to the legal set but means something very different to the public. It communicates to the public that this could well be hooey and so softens the blow from these awful stories. To use "allegation"in this context so many times is like breaking up with someone slowly because "when a heart breaks slow, it doesn't have to crack"(thanks Livingston Taylor). Once an allegation is proven, however, it ceases to be an allegation regardless of which direction the political wind was blowing when it blew the story in the door.
    Oh, and Stogie Boy, you are just plain silly! Are you wearing baggy pants and a hip horn to go with your big floppy shoes?

  22. It looks like Stogie Smoker is threatening to reveal my phone number and address to the right wingosphere.

    This is one of the reasons I've always written under my real name and never tried to hide who or where I am.

    Go ahead, Stogie Dude. Make my day. Pay off my mortgage. Buy me a brand new Lincoln Town Car.

  23. FWIW, here's what I posted over at Pole Chomper's site:

    Jeff Huber here, the writer and proprietor of Pen and Sword whom Stogie claims is Jo Fish. I am not Jo Fish. Nor am I familiar with any posting of any phone number/address list of the Swift Boaters.

    Unlike Stogie and the majority of writers who publish on the web, I have never made a secret of my identity, background, or city and state of residence. Anyone who wants to find more details of my personal life can probably discover them faster than Stogie did.

    But for anyone to publish my information as a means of drawing some sort of focused right wing persecution of me breaks more laws than you can shake a fistful of lawyers at.

    So go ahead, Stogie. Make my day. Publish my phone number and address. Pay off my mortgage. Buy me a brand new Lincoln Continental. Treat me to a three-month vacation every year in the Bahamas.

    How's that grab you for "live and let live?"

    Have a nice day,

    Jeff Huber

  24. Hello, Jeff. I'm Dag Walker in Vancouver, Canada. I've seen some of the dialogue between you and Stogie.

    I can certainly understand your impatience with being thought of as "Jo Fish" if indeed you are not. To the best of my knowledge, Stogie has never publicly made any claim that you are. If he does, then you will do whatever is in your best interest. No one will fault you for that.

    I was writing as you posted and didn't realise you were online. The details otf this issue don't concern me, but the nature of it over-all is of some import, not just to me but to all of us, I think.

    I look forward to further developments.

    Regards, Dag.

  25. He just did it here, Dag, and this is a public forum.

  26. navywife6:03 PM

    First the NY Times, now you? These guys are losing it. This smells of McCarthyism. By the way, I just went to the swift boat site (barf), and went to the convenient link "about us", and lo and behold, there was their info for all the world to see. It is obvious, the swift boaters hate themselves. Where is the outrage over this?

  27. As best I can figure, this guy has committed three crimes against me. Maybe Mus will think otherwise, but accusing me in a public forum of doing things I had no part or knowledge of is libel, and threatening to reveal my personal information to the public (as he did on his website) is a handful of other things.

    Whether he's doing this on his own or someone put him up to it is difficult to say, but I wonder if he understands the gravity of what he's done.

  28. Jeff:

    Looks to me like the guy is a jackass. Yeah, you could probably make a libel case out of it, though I don't know what your damages would be. Nevertheless, I think most people will take this Stogie guy for what he is and leave it at that. You could always inform the site where he posts your info to take it down or they'll be liable as well.

    I looked at his blog. He's a moron.


    "First the NYTimes, now you?" You're a complete nutcase. You know that, right?

  29. Mus,

    Let's not throw words like "nutcase" around in here.

    Need I say more?

  30. navywife12:32 PM

    Why are you calling me a nutcase? I was referring to the recent rightwing blogs that are posting the names, addresses, and phone numbers of NY Times writers, photographers, and editors on their sites b/c they disagree with what the paper wrote. I see a connection. Especially since the posting of the info of the Times writers and of the Commander were only a day apart. You are a very rude person.

  31. Navywife,

    Don't rise to the bait.


    Seriously. This is your last warning. Play nice here or go play at the BBS.

  32. Navywife:

    I tend to accord people to level of respect they deserve based on their own postings.

    Jeff H:

    Ok, fair enough. Though it seems like the same standard should apply to people who are always in agreement with you. But...your blog, your rules.

  33. One last time. No more straw man attacks. No insulting my other guests. No crying about how you're not being treated fairly when you misbehave.

  34. Seven of Six2:03 AM

    Damn Jeff, you get guys like Stogie often? How obscene!

    What an idiot!

    I contribute to a couple of blogs, one I use my real name and last initial, the other my nom de plume.

    Whatever floats his (swift)boat!

  35. SOS,

    No, Stogie's a first for me. I had imagined that writing under my real name and being open about my background would make me relatively invulnerable to any of these "outing" threats.

    This Stogie guy certainly out there, and I may not have heard the last of his likes.

    But I'm not about to start living in fear of having my views known, and I'm a writer, so...

  36. Seven of Six11:54 PM

    Jeff, Can I write a piece about it someday? I would get Jo's permission also. It won't be until later this month. It's just that it's such a weird thing, threat or event for the blogoshere. Bizarre!!

    I used to lurk at the Democratic Veteran religiously when Lurch and the others started Main and Central. I know how it all got going.

    In fact Lurch stopped by my house this year in AZ, met the Mrs. and all that neat stuff.

    If not, it's all cool, there are still plenty of subjects out there, especially with this administration.

    Coyote wanted me to write a piece about you (Navy) Veteran bloggers.

    Don't forget that you contribute to Booman's. Are you him also?

  37. Yes, I am Booman. I'm also Markos and a half dozen other people.

    I've been wondering, what with all the other "outing" stories we've heard lately, whether this really meets radar criteria. But I reckon you've hit on the unique angle--accusing Writer A of being another writer and threatening to reveal his personal information when that information is essentially available at Writer A's web site.

  38. PS,

    Yeah, feel free to write something on it. (That's what I meant to post in the first place.)

  39. Seven of Six5:25 PM