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It's Not Comforting...

...to see that the individual US Marines who are going to be doing the fighting in Falluja pretty clearly seem to conceive of this mission as revenge for what happened in April rather than as serving any sort of broader strategic or political purpose. The commanders, of course, will tell you otherwise. It's all about elections, the good of the Iraqi people, hearts and minds, etc. But the crucial factor here is going to be the hearts and minds of our troops and it's clear that (for understandable reasons) they're pissed, and that they plan to take it out on the city of Falluja. In principle, they're targeting "foreign terrorists" but they have no way to tell a foreigner from an Iraqi, a guerilla from a man who (like most Iraqi men) just happens to own a gun, or anything else. You don't narrowly target your strikes with F-16s, armed vehicles, and intelligence that appears to come from random walk-ins by Fallujans. Anticipate a bloodbath.

UPDATE: Fred Schoeneman responds in a post dripping with the rancid nationalism that lurks behind the contemporary right's faux-idealistic rhetoric:

Don't be rude, just say something like: Matt-baby, don't worry. The foreign fighters will be the ones firing AK-47's at our soldiers from inside crowds of innocent fallujans, who, before the American invasion began, were innocently watching the 30" flat-screen televisions Saddam handed out, drivng Toyota Priuses to and from their jobs as candymakers, and shitting from atop solid-gold toilet seats.

Because unlike Matt, the prospect of clearing out the rats' nest that is Falluja makes me feel pretty fucking warm inside.

As I say, a bloodbath. A bloodbath in which the victims will overwhelmingly be people who either aren't fighting the US at all, or else wouldn't be fighting the US if we hadn't invaded and occupied their country in order to rid it of WMD that didn't exist.

November 1, 2004 | Permalink

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» Fallujah Followup from fredschoeneman.com
Back before the Fallujah operation, Matthew Yglesias wrote: It's not comforting to see that the individual US Marines who are going to be doing the fighting in Falluja pretty clearly seem to conceive of this mission as revenge for what... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 24, 2004 2:36:52 PM

» Fallujah Followup, Through the lens of The 'Nam from fredschoeneman.com
Back before the Fallujah operation, Matthew Yglesias wrote: It's not comforting to see that the individual US Marines who are going to be doing the fighting in Falluja pretty clearly seem to conceive of this mission as revenge for what... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 24, 2004 3:32:53 PM

Comments

I don't see how that article supports your comment. There's at most two quotes that come anywhere near "revenge" and those are better interpreted as pre-fight bravado.

Posted by: Ugh | Nov 1, 2004 2:42:11 PM

Hell with the hearts and minds - gotta get that Zarqawi guy.

As soon he is killed or captured everything will be alright and our troops will finally get showered with those flowers.

He can run but he can not hide. We'll hunt'm down and smoke'm out.

We will not be intimidated. And even though it seem impossible, we are even more resolute than before.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 1, 2004 3:04:09 PM

Heh, and Democrats wonder why they suck on national security. We must only fight if our motives are pure! Hell, we would have lost every war then. Killing Germans wasn't intended to save the Jews and kiling Japanese wasn't done to reform their society for democracy and anime.

Posted by: Reg | Nov 1, 2004 3:09:38 PM

MEMRI: Bin Laden Endorsed Kerry

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Nov 1, 2004 3:19:51 PM

Fallujah will be America's Grozny.

Posted by: Jeff I | Nov 1, 2004 3:20:35 PM

oh reg, where do you come up with some of these things? the fact is, we fought the nazis, fer instance, in order to save europe and, ultimately, ourselves, from fascism, which is a pretty good motive in my book.

anyhow, the issue of how the marines feel is, in fact, a small one: the bigger matter, as matthew references, is that we are looking (as we have been looking every time the issue of assaulting fallujah comes up) at a bloodbath from which it is hard to see a positive outcome for US interests....

Posted by: howard | Nov 1, 2004 3:40:28 PM

"I've been waiting for this fight ever since I joined the Marines," said Staff Sgt. Dennis Nash, an 11-year veteran whose platoon has been fine-tuning its skills. "This battle is going to be written about in history books…. The terrorists who want to fight us are in that city, and we're going to get 'em."

I don't see how that article supports your comment. There's at most two quotes that come anywhere near "revenge" and those are better interpreted as pre-fight bravado.

You can call the above whatever you like, Ugh (if that's your real name). But you can't dismiss the huge diconnect in what this Marine veteran thinks all this is about. From this quote, you can only assume he's one of the 30 odd percent of those people apparently living in a hole or gets all his "news" from Fox, and still believes that Iraq has something to do with the attacks of 9/11.

Posted by: Jeff I | Nov 1, 2004 3:51:51 PM

Given your military experience and your empathy for men and women in uniform I'm quite sure your read of the situation in Fallujah is 100 percent spot on.

Posted by: deuce | Nov 1, 2004 3:59:03 PM

It is pretty disgusting to see an arrogant young Dalton snot who has never in his life had a real job or done a single thing to help his country or his countrymen denigrating our soldiers like this.

Posted by: y81 | Nov 1, 2004 4:10:47 PM

Well, Matthew, while I don't exactly agree with Reg, individual Marines aren't supposed to be thinking about this stuff strategically. They're not really suppose to think much about anything beyond accomplishing their mission. A Marine thinking about the big picture is bad for morale. Too many uncomforatable questions can come up. If they are getting ready for a battle, their officers will use whatever it takes to motivate them to accomplish their mission the best way possible. If it means telling them that the terrorist have to pay for April, then that's what they'll hear.

The problem here is that if we basically make a bloodbath of Fallujah, what have we won? It's the whole burning the village down in order to save it routine. The bad juju just keeps piling up. We used noble rhetoric to justify this war of liberation, but what we've given them is death, chaos, misery and civil war with no end in sight. We can try to *pacify* Fallujah, but what will we accomplish? We've created a power vacuum by taking out Saddam but we don't have the political or physical infrastructure to fill it. We're bogged down in street fighting against an undefined guerilla enemy, exactly what we hoped to avoid. The only way to win militarily is with heavy civilian casualties, and if the recent estimate of 100k is anywhere close, just think how many we'll see if we try to *win* with an iron fist. What should we expect from a victory like this?

Posted by: Chibi | Nov 1, 2004 4:19:16 PM

Turn the light back on. Things are crawling out from under the sink.

Reading the warblogger types, in many cases (not all) the dynamic seems the same. Blow shit up, kill Muslims, get revenge -- who cares what happens in the end?

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 1, 2004 4:22:25 PM

You can call the above whatever you like, Ugh (if that's your real name). But you can't dismiss the huge diconnect in what this Marine veteran thinks all this is about. From this quote, you can only assume he's one of the 30 odd percent of those people apparently living in a hole or gets all his "news" from Fox, and still believes that Iraq has something to do with the attacks of 9/11.

That would be more plausible than Matthew's "revenge for April" comment.

Posted by: Ugh | Nov 1, 2004 4:36:01 PM

Fallujah will be America's Grozny.


Looks like the the left are all set to call Falluja the next Jenin Massacre.

That was a complete fraud, and surely the Falluja call will be too. But I'm sure that CBS is already forging its documents to get ready...

Posted by: Al | Nov 1, 2004 5:12:10 PM

One thing is clear from Matthew's post, though... it's pretty obvious why the military supports Bush by about 4-1. The post doesn't disguise at all Matthew's contempt for our military. It's obvious that he thinks of them as morons whose only goal is to kill as many Iraqis as possible (regardless of whether they are terrorists or not). I've seen a lot of posts from the left expressing this contempt for the military... the only difference here is that usually people will try to cover it up when they despise the military to such an extent. Evidently Matthew doesn't care to do that.

Posted by: Al | Nov 1, 2004 5:18:46 PM

It's obvious that he thinks of them as morons whose only goal is to kill as many Iraqis as possible (regardless of whether they are terrorists or not).

Well, they are morons if they think what they are being asked to do in Iraq has anything to do with defending the U.S. We've apparently got a generation and a half of Americans who didn't absorb an iota of history. Iraq is Vietnam all over again. The trumped nonsense about Iraq's connection to al Qaeda is no different than the lies about what didn't happen in the Gulf of Tonkin. Likewise, the nonsense about WMD is this war's domino theory.

Posted by: Jeff I | Nov 1, 2004 5:34:07 PM

Matthew, let's get realistic. Troops on the field are not supposed to be thinking about the niceties of politics and strategy. Were you ever in the military?

There are two or three things you need to be thinking about as you go into battle (same is true of athletics, by the way). (1) Understanding the mission and your role in it. (2) Recalling the training about what to do in certain situations. (3) Envisioning what you are going to do, in the spur of the moment, when the enemy is in view and your life (and those of your buddies) is endangered; in other words, "getting it on, without losing your cool." If it takes revenge fantasies to help you get the adrenaline going, so be it.

Once you stray into debates with yourself about the subtleties, about right and wrong, about what the folks back home will think of you, about sympathy for the plight of the enemy --- just as when you relax for a moment on the football field --- you just increased your likelihood of finding yourself on a stretcher or in a body bag by a rather large amount.

As for the innocents in harm's way in Falluja, I'm a very docile non-gun-owning moderate who has never even punched anybody in a bar, but I have these feelings. We haven't exactly sneaked up on Falluja in the dark of night with the intent to reduce it to rubble. If I were a resident, especially one with family, I would be in one of two scenarios right now: (1) Hidden so far back in some remote cubby hole underneath and behind something big and strong, with access sealed off that no one would have any reason to be anywhere near me; or (2) Way away from Fallujah, under the stars or in somebody else's barn for the time being. I would not be walking the streets, not milling around in the town square, not .... doing.... anything.

In the event someone in Fallujah is reading this post, either (1) get your weapon and do your best in the battle if you feel moved to do so, or (2) d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r. Anything else is "no man's land", and not where you want to be, and that ESPECIALLY includes jumping around in front of whatever cameras are there to record the gore.

Posted by: Terry Ott | Nov 1, 2004 6:11:05 PM

Regarding the bit in the update: I think it is safe to say that while soldiers might well be best left alone for their revenge fantasies (comabt-related ones, anyhow), I'm not so sure what the ratinalization for bloggers holding them is. (But who knows? Maybe it prevents people like herr Schöneman from going out and killing regular people, or something.)

Posted by: G. Svenson | Nov 1, 2004 6:37:56 PM

Kerry has quite a lot of support from retired military commanders -- Wes Clark, McPeak, and a number of others.

As for the troops in the field -- there seems to be a lot of discontent there. I wouldn't trust polls of the military much -- pollstyerw have only limited access to them, enlisted men aren't supposed to have opinions anyway, and (with exceptions) their sources of information either before or after entering the service aren't usually that great.

The "support the troops" things is a source of major weirdness. First, PR cons people into supporting a war they might otherwise oppose -- for the sake of the troops.

But the war isn't for the sake of the troops -- the troops are for the sake of the war. They are to be sacrificed if necessary in order to win the war. The war doesn't do the troops any good.

And as a result of using the troops' feelings to justify the war, a risk-averse policy seems to end up being taken, as at Tora Bora -- weakening the war effort.

Within the military, even when they're not being called "maggots", respect given the enlisted men is very little.

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 1, 2004 6:53:39 PM

Al, i'm not sure what you think didn't happen in Jenin, but you might check your thinking against the report Human Rights Watch issued:

http://hrw.org/reports/2002/israel3/

As for your delusional reading of Matthew's post, well, like i say, you're my negative indicator for Bush, and i'm feeling pretty good about his defeat after reading that distortion. The old synapses must be in an uproar.

Meanwhile, Zizka's point about the emptiness of the cliche of "supporting the troops" is well-taken. Say Al, what are you doing for the troops? (Me? i've give 50,000 miles to help guys fly home.)

Posted by: howard | Nov 1, 2004 7:15:21 PM

I wouldn't trust polls of the military much

Especially since they are illegal to conduct.

Posted by: anandine | Nov 1, 2004 7:41:57 PM

Well, now that we finally have a photo of the terrorist mastermind al Zarkawi - things may go better than expected.

Posted by: sofia | Nov 1, 2004 7:53:30 PM

Terry Ott:

You don't present a plausable option for people with families. First, its not easy to pack up the kids and just take off for an indefinite period in this country, let alone one that is ravaged by war and an insurgency. Where do you go? How do you keep your family safe, at least you can try to defend them in your home, while keeping the looters at bay. Staying in your home is preferable to life in a refugee camp, or trying to travel across country with a foreign military stomping around. Also you will probably have a better idea of where you next meal will come from. Heck, half of the people in Florida chose to stay instead of evacuate in the face of on of the most dangerous forces of nature known to man, mostly because they feel safer in their homes.

As for the military, you are right. We don't want individual guys thinking too much about what we are asking them to do. But their commanders need to act with conscience and morality in mind.

Finally, I don't think enough of us think about this in terms of the people involved. Lots of them are dying. This would be a very big deal if it were happening in wisconsin or florida, but its happening to "them" and not us. If you take a minute to think about the fact that the people dying there every day (both at our hands and at the hand of the insurgency) are brothers, fathers, wives, and mothers, then you see things in a different light, or at least I hope you do.

Posted by: Kevin | Nov 1, 2004 7:58:38 PM

Riverbend

A view alternative to Schoenemann's, from Baghdad Burning

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 1, 2004 8:00:13 PM

Obviously we should do everything reasonable to avoid civilian casualties. But the notion that any policy that produces them is a failure is simply absurd.

If there's a way in which we can end the insurgency and reestablish civic governance without first confronting the 20% of the population that benefited from the Hussein kleptocracy, that invaded its regional neighbors twice, that violated UN sanctions for over a decade, and that systematically brutalized minorities within its own country, I'm open to all suggestions.

But the notion that the Salafi fundamentalists in Fallujah are anything other than our natural enemies, and the terrorizors of their countrymen, is bullshit.

Commenting about a hypothetical Fallujan man "who like most Iraqi men just happens to own a gun" doesn't make it any less bullshit. In fact, it increases the the general level of bullshit considerably.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin | Nov 1, 2004 8:02:52 PM

Jonathan, in all seriousness, just what do you think the battle objectives for an assault on Fallujah should be?

The problem isn't that it wouldn't be satisfying to "get" some bad guys; the problem in urban warfare against a guerilla force is that in "getting" the bad guys, getting "good" guys is often unavoidable, with the less than desirable outcome of creating more bad guys, and anyhow, any bad guy with half a brain is going to melt away.

so what is it that you think we can accomplish? and how do we make that accomplishment stick? that's matthew's core point here....

Posted by: howard | Nov 1, 2004 8:07:55 PM

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