Friday, September 26, 2008


by Jeff Huber

It sounds like the world's worst army once again took on the world's best army and lived to fight another day. The BBC reports that on September 25 Pakistani forces opened fire on two U.S. helicopters as they crossed the border from Afghanistan.

Chief Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the helicopters had "crossed into our territory in Ghulam Khan area."

Pentagon bull feather merchant Bryan Whitman said that, "The flight path of the helicopters at no point took them over Pakistan."

General Abbas said, "They passed over our check post so our troops fired warning shots."

Bryan Whitman said, "The Pakistanis have to provide us with a better understanding of why this took place."

Um, Bryan, they just told you: your helicopter passed over their check post and they fired warning shots at it. What's not to understand?

This incident is yet another prime illustration of what America's biggest casualty has been in our woebegone war on terror: the truth. At this point, when presented with a choice of believing a Pentagon spokesman or a tinhorn two-star general of an army that lost every war it fought for a Bananastan country with imaginary borders and brooms don't even have handles, the decision is obvious: the Pentagon guy is lying.


Whenever I do a piece on Pakistan the first thing that crosses my mind is a tale from a military journalist pal who spent a day in a Pakistani airport, waiting for her airplane to show up and watching the janitor work. The janitor had a broom that he held by string instead of a handle. Every hour, he walked through the terminal, swatting at mounds of dirt, cigarette butts, chicken droppings and other inscrutable filth, trying as best he could to push it all under the chairs the passengers sat in while waiting for their boarding calls. You know who came behind the janitor and cleaned under the chairs? Nobody.

The best part: this didn't take place at some puddle jumper gas-and-go dirt strip in the Khyber Pass. It happened at Islamabad International Airport.

According to the BBC, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is "unclear." There's an "imaginary border" called the "Durand" line that each side marks differently across a two to three mile wide "no man's land."

Pakistan's constitution allows its heads of state to disband the other branches of government and suspend the constitution itself as they see fit, but the heads of state are hardly American-style unitary executives. Their possession of power depends wholly on the aegis of the military, the military whose army has lost to every army it ever fought (except, of course, the United States Army). It's a form of government best described as a constitutional junta.

Oh, yeah. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons. We don't trust Pakistan's army to guard them properly and we'd like to guard them ourselves, but Pakistan's army won't let us.

And here we are about to get tangled up in a war of some flavor or other with these people that, like the rest of our Bush II conflicts, we can't possibly win because there's no strategic objective to be had that our military can achieve.

Worse yet, losing in the Bananastans promises to be even uglier than it has been in Iraq. We'll have at least four separate entities working at cross purposes who will be more interested in outdoing each other than they will be in doing it to whoever we manage to identify as the "enemy."

Chain of Fools

It's generally accepted among modern military thinkers that unity of command is the principle of warfare that makes all the other principles—objective, offensive, maneuver, economy of force, etc.—possible to achieve. In the civilian world, you do the bidding of whoever who signs your paycheck. In the military, you follow orders from the guy who signs your fitness report. If you have a major operation in which the signature trail doesn't pyramid up to one guy, you have a cluster bomb on your hands. His unified command structure was the thing that allowed Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to overcome his inferior supply capabilities and defeat Dwight Eisenhower's force at Kasserine Pass in 1943.

With that in mind, let's take a look, as best we can, at the chains of command of American and NATO forces presently operating in the Bananastans. Strap on your seatbelts because we'll take a lot of sharp turns on this journey.

The U.S. helicopters the Pakis shot at on September 25 were part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF works for Allied Command Operations (ACO), which works for Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACUER), U.S. Army General John Craddock, who works in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium and is dual hatted as Commander, U.S European Command (EUCOM) headquartered in Germany.

The helicopters that Pakistani troops shot at on September 3 were part of American Special Operations forces, who work full time for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) which is headquartered in Florida. SOCOM encompasses Army Rangers and Navy Seals and other SPECOP outfits, and is the only unified command to have its own budget, making it a virtual separate service in the U.S. military command structure.

The CIA, which virtually operates like a separate country, is in charge of the unmanned aerial vehicles we use to assassinate—or try to assassinate—evildoers in Pakistan with Hellfire missiles. The CIA has help controlling these complicated drones, of course. They aircraft are flown by Air Force personnel from an operations center at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, which is located in the area of responsibility of U.S. Northern Command (NORCOM) headquartered in Colorado. NORCOM dual hats as commander of the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the outfit that was resting up to track Santa on Christmas Eve when 9/11 happened.

The Bananastans lie in the area of responsibility belonging to the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), headquartered, like SOCOM, in Florida. General David Petraeus just took charge of CENTCOM, and he must being experiencing military culture shock. As a combatant commander in the unified command structure, Petraeus is supposed to be in control of everything that happens in his area. But as we saw, his predecessor, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, didn't have control of everything in his area because Petraeus was in charge of Iraq, and Petraeus went around Fallon's back—and everybody else's back—and did monkey business directly with the White House.

Talk about geese and ganders; now Petraeus is the one getting potty blocked from all angles. When it came time for somebody to calm down the Pakis about all the cross-border attacks into their country, the Bush administration sent Admiral Mike Mullen, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff isn't supposed to be in command of anything.

Petraeus might be happy to merely run the public relations effort for the Bananastans campaign. Aside from handing out bribes and weapons to Iraqi militias, that's the sort of thing he's best at. But it appears that the Pentagon wants to control the propaganda operation from Washington through professional humbuggers like Bryan Whitman. That has to grate Petraeus no end since he's so used to doing his own lying.

Think of the effect this is having on certain dead people. Barry Goldwater and Bill Nichols, who established the modern U.S. military joint command structure in 1986, must be spinning in their graves, and Erwin Rommel has to be clawing at his coffin lid for a chance to take another crack at us.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.


  1. Leaving the Command and Responsibility unclear is intentional. I can only conclude that everybody in the Pentagon knows this as do others. What with the bombing of the Marriot and Gates saying Pakistan is the most critical place it seems that the Podwer Keg the Racketeers have created is being thrown on the fire.

    FM Rommel was a genius do doubt. He was even Patriotic enough to try to fight internal threats as well as external ones.

  2. Chris Dornan1:58 PM

    Excellent article.

    One presumes that six years on they have finally decided to go after the 2001-09-11 architects in the hope of hitting the jack pot. All politically motivated of course and who cares what strategic mess it creates.

  3. wkmaier2:17 PM

    Jeff my head hurts.

    One edit:

    "U.S. Army General John Craddock, who works in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium and is dual hated as Commander, U.S European Command (EUCOM) headquartered in Germany."

    Should that be "dual hatted"? Unless maybe the guy is really that unpleasant a person? ;-)

  4. Yes, WK, but I'm quite confident that both statements are true. ;-) I never met a four-star I wanted to meet again.

    Thanks much for the catch,


  5. A "constitutional junta" -- nice one. Hadn't heard that before.

    Also, thanks for laying out the chain of command. That can't be good.

  6. Anonymous4:17 PM

    To be fair to Pakistan's army, how do you expect an army to prevail against the army of a country with a population north of a billion (India) without using nukes?

  7. Commander,

    I'll catch up on the last two weeks, at some point in time.

    May I suggest to everybody -- get a small inverter for your car battery, so that when you have a hurricane, and your power is not restored --- two weeks after the fact, you can still live in the real world --- the world of the internet.

    Except for no power -- we were blessed. No damage to our house, except a lot of fallen tree limbs in the yard. Lost the phone for a few days.

    Houston radio sucks. You get nothing in the way of news. (Rush in the afternoon - which explains why a lot of the locals, think they way they do. - Clear Channel owns everything.)

    Don't know how long it will be -- before I'm back to whatever is normal. Hopefully, only another couple of days.

    Why can't we just bail out (buy out) countries the way we do Wall Street - and keep everybody fat and happy?

  8. So happy you survived, EL. As for buying out countries, I'd say we've been trying that in Iraq except we've been renting, not buying. We don't have any equity and the landlord has told us to vacate.


  9. Don't you just hate when that happens?

    You throw billions of dollars at people, and they still don't want you around?

    The "you're either for us, or against us" cowboy -- has most of the world -- now against us.

    We can't do war anymore. We can't do economy anymore.

    Social justice and peace - long time gone.

    We are a total mess.

  10. Jeff,

    I still need your phone number!

    Please email me Scott at


  11. Scott,

    Thanks for your persistence in getting my act together. I finally figured out that I needed to send it to you via MySpace and not regular email. Hopefully you have it now.


  12. wkmaier2:10 PM

    Heya Jeff,

    Listened to your chat with Scott. Since I've been following you pretty regularly, I think I was up to speed with most of what you guys talked about. ;-)

  13. Thanks for listening WK. One always wishes one had said something further about one topic or another on those things, but I think it went pretty well.

  14. Now that I have "power" through the electric lines, and not the car battery -- I will also be able to listen to you on the radio.

    Only 18 days. And, I live in a suburb of the 4th largest city in the country. And, it only took 18 days to get my electric power back on.

    Maybe it was the sign I nailed up on the front of my house: "Center Point Sucks - 18 Days - No Power."

    Whatever, it's long overdue.

    Sorry I missed the first show.


  15. Ijust heard they have no gasoline in Charlotte North Carolina. How about them apples?

  16. Commander,

    A couple of pure "speculations."

    (a) Most of the gasoline refining, for the entire country, is done here in the Houston area. Valero for instance. Lyondell Citgo - another example. Most were on "emergency power" at best. For "it" to go to market - "it" has to be refined. That wasn't happening to any great extent.

    (b) The local officials were literally "begging" gasoline from other parts of the country. Almost 1 million people evacuated from Galveston, Bolivar, and other "direct hit" cities and towns. Last time they made that mandatory, most of us sat on some freeway for over 12 hours, because we could find no gasoline. I don't think "they" wanted a repeat of that -- so they stationed tanker trucks all along the evacuation routes.

    (c) Gasoline Generators. I can't begin to guess how many there were operating in this area, the days after the storm - before power was restored. Most were several thousand watts, and required no less than five (5) gallons of gas to run about 8-10 hours at a time. Most were running 110/120v. window a/c units, along with the fridge, and maybe a tv. At least three in my family. One of my grandsons is a paraplegic. (My daughter had no choice.) To most folks it was not a luxury. Houston had about two days of cool weather, and the rest was hot, and humid. I would love to see even an estimate on how many were sold, and in use in the area.

    Off topic-

    My opinion on why we are in a mess in Iraq and Afghanistan.


    The most awful stuff in the world.

    How a guy lugs around more than one of those things is beyond my comprehension. They are bigger than a metal lunchbox. Contained inside - the entree, which you can heat in a bag. With the water they put in there. Also a canned high calorie fruit drink. Bread sticks. Container of apple sauce (or similar mixed/mashed fruit.) Cookies - or trail mix. Raisins. A packet of hot red pepper (?). Plastic eating utensils. Napkin. Seasoning mix. I would think two would fill a back pack.

    FEMA trucked in 4 million of them. They set up P.O.D.'s. (Points of Distribution.) and dispensed them, ice, and bottled water.

    My daughter got some from her church in The Woodlands, and brought them to me. I tried. One was with chicken. Never could get that bag heater thing to work. I don't eat meat labeled "beef". And I sure don't eat any "mystery meat."

    Interesting stuff, for our men and women in combat. I think each box is about 12,000 calories total.

    Probably another "no bid" contract.

  17. We used to say that one MRE per day could make a Somali family fat in a week.

    Isn't it interesting how just a few years ago the thing driving the price of gas was lack of refining capability, but now gas prices are so high because we can't drill offshore and in ANBAR.


  18. I just saw a short interview with somebody in Maryland, posted in the Baltimore Sun. Apparently, the shortage is everywhere. Long gas lines. (45 minutes) High prices. They say Atlanta -- really bad.

    Just curious. Do you see people going to smaller cars in that area?

    I sure don't here. Texas is still home of the X-Cab PickUp, and the Big A** SUV. Gas guzzlers all.

    What it's going to take, I don't know. We are at about $3.65 a gallon, and some places as much as $3.69.

    It's still lack of refining, and speculating on futures, but nobody is going to admit that.

    And no effort to conserve, and switch from gas to anything else.

  19. EL,

    I see more hybrid cars, but the Hummer envy crowd with the jacked up pickups isn't moving in that direction. I guess I should be thankful: they make my Crown Vic seem like a sub compact in comparison.

    And hey, that old Crown Vic gets 31 MPG on the highway.


  20. Jeff, have you seen this article?
    Bush had no plan to catch Bin Laden
    By Gareth Porter

    Or this one?

    "In Afghanistan, our historically deaf generals and civilian strategists do not seem to understand that our defeat by the Afghan insurgents is inevitable. Since the time of Alexander the Great, no foreign intruder has ever prevailed over Afghan guerrillas defending their home turf. The first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) marked a particularly humiliating defeat of British imperialism at the very height of English military power in the Victorian era. The Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) resulted in a Russian defeat so demoralizing that it contributed significantly to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991. We are now on track to repeat virtually all the errors committed by previous invaders of Afghanistan over the centuries."

    posted September 28, 2008 7:33 pm
    Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, The Pentagon Bailout Fraud

    I know, the criticism is harsh, but the priorites need a good hard look in this country.

  21. Nunya,

    Yes, I've seen Gareth's article, and I'd say the tomgram piece isn't harsh enough!

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