Sat Dec 3rd, 2005 at 01:00:24 AM EST
Ten at once. Ten marines meet their Maker in a flash of furious fire and fallen friends. Human meat on the street, shattered and smoking and seeping. Eleven more left lying about, leaking life's blood, hovering between heartbeats, waiting to be saved or to slip away. The whole world watching, seeing that this is where we are, and this is where we are going.
Tomorrow is today.
Where is safe in such a struggle? Point to the province that's been pacified -- there isn't one. In a war with no fronts and no flanks there is only the ground you stand on at any given moment, and even that ground is compromised, under constant threat. The foxholes are confused; there is no perimeter. The turf you turn away from belongs to the enemy the second you show your back, because the enemy is every man, woman and child who lived here before you entered, and who lives here after you exit.
If you let them live. If they let you live.
This is no place for soldiers. Guerilla warfare is a game of ghosts, a game of frights, a monstrous mathematics of hearts and minds to be terrified or taken out. A game for spooks, not soldiers, for there is nothing brave about beating prisoners; there is no honor in scorching the earth.
This is no place for soldiers. Beyond vicious, this is a game for vampires. You can never conquer your opponent, only cut him, again, again, and again. You seek only to slice, to booby trap, to bleed the bastard. You seek territory only to destroy and deny it to your enemy. The goal posts in this game are stalemate, exhaustion and the ruination of everything useful.
Until that distant day when the last one standing wins whatever is left standing.
This is no place for soldiers. With nowhere to advance or retreat to, victory is impossible, for both sides. The only victory is political, and can only come by wasting soldiers, supplies, and cash beyond your enemy's capacity to keep pace. Today is tomorrow, until one side bleeds out. The shooting only stops when one side loses faith in further shooting. Which means winning is never the goal, for either side. A decision to stop shooting is the goal. Your crisis of faith is their Holy Grail.
This is no place for soldiers. In such a struggle, hearts and minds are the only turf to contest. In such a struggle, headlines hit harder than artillery or airpower. Bribes beat bombs, and terror trumps all. In such a struggle, the gloves come off, and rules grow quaint. Whoever lives here must be too cowed to cross us, or go away, or become a ghost. As long as there's a spark, as long as there are hearts and minds beyond control, you cannot win or hold real estate. You cannot say safe, or pacified, or free.
Guerilla wars are only ever won through the Final Solution, ethnic cleansing. Remove the troublemakers until order prevails, or until you have the place to yourself. That's why we killed Jesus, and Geronimo, and Maura Clark, and Martin Luther King - the hearts and minds who heard them had to hear them die. The mojo of martyrs burns longer, but cooler. We may outlive the ghosts we put in the ground; we may gain their ground for our lifetimes, we may postpone their victory until after ours, and let them haunt people of another era.
Condi Rice knows all this. Her arrogant public remarks are merely whitewash for the great and gleaming Fortress of Solitude, the White House, where the man who never makes mistakes commands an oval bunker, and little else. Everything this Administration says about these twenty-one marines is a pure public pretense that the Iraqi resistance hasn't just scored a major propaganda coup, worldwide. That this isn't as big as the Tet Offensive.
Behind many closed doors in Washington, there is a lot of screaming to be heard, and many harsh demands that we get even tougher with a wayward indigenous population.
With the Iraqi people. The enemy.
And the European people. The enemy.
And with the American people. The real enemy.
The ones who count, if their votes are counted.
The neocon warmongers are being boiled alive by the Iraqi resistance, and now the struggle has come home to Orlando and Oregon and Ohio, to stay. The war is now on everyone who disagrees with the faltering American Empire, and all rules are quaint.
The whole world is watching, and understands that if the Iraqis can swat twenty-one marines at once, then they can swat as they please. That this is the same lesson conveyed by the Tet Offensive of 1968. That there is nothing the neocons can do except whitewash their public image, increase their threats and terror across the board, increase their grip on news and information, and seize control of hearts and minds worldwide.
And that this can't be done.
And so, the whole world understands that the war on Iraq is over, except for the Bugout Fever to follow the December 15th elections. Seymour Hersh hints that, if we don't get out, the Iraqis will deny us even the Green Zone, the most heavily defended and controlled bit of real estate in the whole of Iraq. No surprise there. Holding territory in a guerilla war is the same as lining up behind a "Shoot Me" sign. Which is no place for soldiers.
None of this is news to the experts in guerilla warfare at the Pentagon. They are well aware that the only winning strategy from here is to put the Iraqi population in lockdown. Move them to camps, hamlets, refugee areas. Ethnic cleansing in fact and practice, no matter what pretty name it is given by Condi and Rumsfeld and Friends.
Running concentration camps is no place for soldiers. Wholesale ethnic cleansing is something the American military is absolutely unwilling to do. That's why General Pace so openly distanced himself from Don Rumsfeld on TV. That's why he publicly and pointedly reminded every grunt over there that there ARE rules, and they DO apply to every man jack in khaki or blue, including YOU, soldier.
The message hit home. Rummy never saw the mad minute coming. It was an expert ambush; it was a mutiny, neat and clean. Rumsfeld was decapitated. He mumbled and stumbled and fumbled it. He screwed the pooch. He came off as not in command of himself or his men. With a few well chosen words, General Pace removed Rumsfeld from the field of honor. On international TV, in front of the whole world, Rumsfeld was fired by his own men. The first fragging under klieg lights, by satellite dish.
Thank you, General. Rummy's world is no place for soldiers.