Last time I promised to explain the battle of Celaya. And I will -- but first I have to talk about some of the wild stuff that's been going on in Iraq.
Every war has its dull innings and its barn-burners, and just lately Iraq's gone from boring to blockbuster, with the Haditha massacre story. Besides, my old friend Victor Davis Hanson just wrote the weirdest, craziest column on the Iraq War I've ever seen, and you know I can't resist messing with Vic ever since he accused me of burning down his grapevines. So Celaya has to wait for my next column. This one will be an Iraqi snack platter, tasty treats so fresh you can still smell the cordite.
1. Haditha: God Hates a Small Massacre
You've all heard the fuss about a Marine patrol shooting up a few houses full of civvies in a Sunni Triangle Hellhole called Haditha. On Nov. 19, 2005, a USMC patrol ran into an IED and had a man killed. By the way, all you Mex-haters might want to know his name: Lance cpl. Miguel Terrazas. His buddies were pissed off, naturally, so they started kicking down doors and shooting every civvie they could find.
There's nothing unusual about occupation troops shooting up an insurgent neighborhood after an ambush. It's totally standard CI warfare, no matter what the Pentagon's mouthpieces say about fighting clean in Iraq. You can't do clean CI warfare. That's just ridiculous. Like I've said before, CI is about intelligence, torture and terror. I guarantee you, this kind of mini-massacre has happened hundreds, literally hundreds of times since we occupied the Sunni Bermuda Triangle.
What is weird and worth discussing is the media firestorm that detonated when the massacre story got out. When this sort of stuff hits the press, every politician, every blogger, every ignorant pacifist dweeb or pig-ignorant redneck starts blogging, sending up chaff blind, the way Saddam's AA batteries just fired blind at the night sky over Baghdad in the first days of the war. The red-white-and-blog types want to hang anybody who mentions Haditha, whereas the Dems'mouthpiece, some old potato-face named John Murtha, is claiming this is going to hurt us more than Abu Ghraib.
It's one of those times when everybody's talking crap -- left and right, pro and con, roadrunner and coyote.
Let's start with Murtha. At first, his argument makes sense. After all, we weren't actually killing people at Abu Ghraib, just messing with them. To an American, especially an old guy like Murtha, death is the worst, scariest thing in the universe, so killing is worse than shaming people.
Except the Iraqis themselves don't see it that way. As soon as the massacre story broke the US press fanned out across the Green Zone trying to get reaction quotes from the Iraqis, and all they got was shrugs.
One Baghdadi was quoted as saying, "This is just the way of life now." Nobody was surprised, nobody thought it was a big deal. For them, Abu Ghraib was way, WAY worse than a little massacre (probably about 30 dead when they get finished counting).
So why do Iraqis care more about shame than death? It comes down to demographics, population profiles. I've said it before and I'll say it again: war is just demographics in a hurry. And Iraq is a young country, not afraid of death. 40% of the Iraqi population is 14 or younger; only 3% is over 65. That's why the Iraqis went crazy at those Abu Ghraib pictures but just shrugged when the news crews stuck microphones in their faces and tried to get them riled about this massacre story.
Massacres are much easier to take when you've got a huge birthrate to replace your losses, and shame trumps dying to young males. That's why it's always been ridiculously easy to get cannon fodder: young guys like the idea of killing and dying, but go ballistic if somebody humiliates them.
We don't get this, because we're old, rickety folks. Compared to Iraq, the US is an old folks' home: 75% of us are over 18, and 13% are over 65. One thing you'll notice if you've been around old people: they care more about their smelly old hides than any kid ever did. So naturally a soggy old dude like Murtha -- just look at a picture of him -- thinks the Iraqis are going to care more about GIs killing people than about the non-lethal hijinks at Abu Ghraib.
But he's wrong, and all you have to do to understand why is think the way you did when you were young. At age 16, the median age for the Iraqi population, getting your locker trashed by the cool girls is way, way worse than death. I should know.
So think of Iraq as a high-school kid. Naturally, to him, sexual humiliation like Abu Ghraib is way, way worse than a piddling little massacre. I kind of admire that about them, the way they care more about some infidel flushing a Koran than about whole families blasted.
But I'm not saying this massacre doesn't matter. It does -- as a symptom of how Iraq duty is ruining the superb US Army we sent to the war. Nam nearly ruined our armed forces; driving Humvees down stinking Iraqi alleys waiting for an IED to kill you is going to mess with our people the same way. Massacres like Haditha turn GIs into death squads -- because death squads are the only way (aside from nukes, and I'll get to that in a second) to fight against urban guerrillas.
The rightwingers won't admit that we're never going to turn Haditha into Anaheim, and they're so vain and pig-headed they'll keep our troops there till they turn into classic Colombian-style throat-slitters. Worse yet, since we have no decent intelligence about who we're fighting, they won't even slit the right throats.
If it was up to me, I'd charge Cheney, Rumsfeld and Feith with treason for sending troops into Indian Country with no intelligence, so our patrols end up cruising the shit-stinking alleys of Iraq like ducks in a shooting gallery, letting the locals pick their time to join those wires and detonate the old artillery shell they buried at the intersection last night. You can't expect heavily armed Marines to shrug and applaud when that shell goes off and kills their buddies. They itch to show the neighborhood who's got the firepower. Sooner or later, they're going to do it the way one fire-team did in Haditha: going house to house killing everything inside.
And you know what? Those Marines were right, at a strategic level. Tactically, no; small massacres like Haditha just piss the locals off, recruit more insurgents. But strategically, those jarheads were right: massacre on a really big scale is the only solution. The shooters at Haditha saw the situation more clearly than the Generals who sent them out on patrol to smile and pass out candy, hoping to win "Hearts and Minds."
The cold, scary fact is that there is no way for a conventional army to defeat an urban guerrilla force militarily. The only options are withdrawal or smart genocide -- the cold-blooded, efficient extermination of the whole population of any city or region that supports the guerrillas. When those Marines went house-to-house killing, they were acting logically and thinking more strategically than their commanders, never mind the Moron-in-Chief. Mao would have nodded approvingly, and so would the Brit officers who wiped out 1/4 of the Boers' civilian population and pioneered the Concentration Camp. Stalin said it best: "No people, no problem."
Trouble is, one little USMC fire team just doesn't have the weapons to really do the job. If we were serious about transforming Iraq or the Muslim World, we could do it in minutes, just by turning the whole Sunni Triangle into radioactive glass, one big skating rink that could double as a tanning parlor. Wouldn't even need artificial lights at night, you could skate just by the glow.
Unless we act fast to change the planet's demographics, the Iraqis -- in fact, the whole Turd, I mean Third World -- will win by deploying the poor man's nuke: higher birthrate. I saw a picture yesterday that summed up what's really happening. It showed a few GIs taking a break in an Iraqi woman's kitchen, eating while she stared at the street. The caption was some crap about how the Iraqis are learning to love us (as if anybody ever loved a foreign occupying army), but to me, the real point was that the woman was eight or nine months pregnant, and three of her kids were running around outside.
My caption for that photo would be, "Who's Winning?" It's not the GIs chowing down in her kitchen. They're far from home, and they'll have maybe one or two kids. She'll have nine or ten. That's victory, the slow and sure kind. And hey, in the meantime, just to pass the time, her husband has a hobby: planting IEDs along our patrol routes. Then he comes home to impregnate the wife again. So he's beating us day and night, if you see what I mean.
The European countries can't even maintain their current populations. The US is doing better, thanks to those immigrants, but the hot countries, the poor countries, are zooming past us, their populations growing like crabgrass on AFDC. And picking off a few civilians here and there, like we're doing now, is useless. If Bush & co. really were the scary Darth Vader guys the leftists say they are, they'd have thought hard about this.
Unfortunately, those idiots can't see the big picture. In fact, they've actually cut back on birth control funding to the poor countries, guaranteeing that you'll grow old in a hungry, pissed-off world that wants your house, your SUV and your head on a stick, not necessarily in that order.
So what would a real Darth Vader, a serious American nationalist, do with a problem like the one we've got in the Sunni Triangle? Simple: either wipe them out or buy them off. That's what the Romans and the Brits, the real pros, would have done by now. (God, imagine if the 19th c. British Empire had had nukes! The whole planet would be a game preserve, totally unpopulated, except for a few country houses along the English coast, with some slave-breeding farms tucked away inland to produce maids and butlers as submissive as labrador retrievers.)
A Roman emperor, facing the population bomb we're up against wouldn't hesitate to use our whole arsenal of neutron bombs, tactical nukes, and city-killing hydrogen bombs. Hell, you'd wake up one morning to a world where overpopulation was no longer an issue, where the greenhouse effect was gone thanks to the layer of soot that used to be the Third World.
I'm not saying I advocate that kind of maximum response. But damn it, at least it makes some kind of sense. What we're doing now, killing a few Iraqis a day and letting Shiite and Sunni death squads kill a lot more, is just mean... and stupid.
Iraq right now reminds me of that great scene in Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen, the only sane man in the movie, tells Chief not to search a sampan they meet on the river. Chief, a by-the-numbers Army regular, orders a board-n-search anyway, and the nervous GIs end up shooting everybody on the sampan. Then they get sobby, and try to save one girl who's not quite dead. Sheen takes out his .45 and kills her. That's sanity in guerrilla warfare: either leave 'em alone or finish 'em off.
If that sounds harsh to you, here's a totally non-violent method that would also work better than what we're doing now: just flat-out bribe countries like Iraq to cut their birthrate: "for every percentage point your birthrate goes down, we pass out ten billion bucks, divvied between the number of households in your country." It would be way, WAY cheaper than this war; it would work WAY better; and best of all, having some money for the first time would get the poor bastards interested in something better than Islam -- like, say, golf or pilates, some pissant rich-people hobby.
We'd be aborting the real threat, the demographic one -- and we'd look like philanthropists! See, now that's what they call thinking outside the box.
Instead of doing something decisive, we're hunkered down like cranky old fogies in an Old Folks' Home, bugging the cops to come down and shoot those durn skateboard rats who keep annoying us. It's not going to work. Sooner or later the punks are going to torch the convalescent home and fall over laughing as they watch the old cripples try to wheel their way out of the flames.
Maybe I should make a bumper sticker out of this, call it Brecher's Law of CI War: "Bribe'em, Nuke'em or Just Leave'em the Hell Alone!" Either way would have a chance of working, but let me say it plain: this half-assed occupation has no chance at all.
2. Hanson's Disease
Marines aren't the only ones cracking under the pressure of Iraq. My old pal, Victor "Smoke on the Vineyard" Hanson has lost his marbles completely, as demonstrated by his latest column, "Looking Back at Iraq: A War to Be Proud of."
It's like a new kind of self-help therapy, Dr. Phil for military fiascos: "Be proud you screwed up!" If only Hitler had had net access in his Berlin bunker as the Soviets closed in, the poor bastard would have died happy: "I'm proud I invaded Russia! My intentions were gut even if ze results were not zo gut!"
Vic's Pride Therapy can benefit everybody. I think I'll start by being proud of how fat I am. Then there's my kidney troubles -- maybe I should get a shirt, "I'm proud I'll soon be pissing incredibly painful kidney stones!" Whatever your worst move was, learn to be proud of it: "I bought Lucent at $80 just before the crash and I'm proud of it!" "I flipped off a CHP motorcycle and got pulled over before I noticed the open can of Coors wedged against my emergency brake -- and I'm Proud!"
What cracked me up is the way Hanson uses the spike in oil prices to prove we meant well: "What did these rare Americans not fight for? Oil, for one thing. The price skyrocketed after they went in."
Now that's real underclassman-level logic: if we didn't manage to grab Iraq's oil fields, then we must never have wanted to.
Applying that to the Hitler example, Vic's take on the Eastern Front would be, "What was Operation Barbarossa not designed to do? Conquer Russia, for one thing. By 1945, Germany had actually lost massive chunks of territory, so clearly a land-grab was the last thing on Hitler's mind."
Vic, buddy, ever hear of plans going wrong? Ever consider the possibility that Cheney wanted the oil and didn't get it because he was too reckless and stupid to pull it off? [NB: Cheney's people even hired Yegor Gaidar, author of Russia's notorious privatization scheme, to advise on the "privatization" of Iraq's oil shortly after the invasion ...but Gaidar got chased out of town -- Ed.]
What would really scare me if I was one of Vic's NeoCon traitor pals is, (a) he uses the past tense: "Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is incontestable" and (b) he's basically saying, "we meant well."
If you think about when people use that phrase, it's always after some horrible disaster. When you add in the fact that Vic has started writing about the war in the past tense, you get the real message: it's all over except for the taxpaying part. And we'll be doing that for the rest of our lifetimes, while Vic and Cheney tell each other what a noble plan it was -- never mind what actually happened.