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Wednesday, December 22, 2004


little stalingrad

i've made mention of fallujah before, but certainly not sufficiently. an article by william lind puts into greater perspective the operational and strategic disaster that fallujah may represent, which has led to the loss of mosul -- with its own consequences.

how the total destruction of this small city is coming to represent american futility in iraq exposes the fundamental weakness of our operations there. just a handful of americans killed, and yet the place looks like stalingrad. why?

because every time our guys see a few bullets, they call in the 500-pound bombs and destroy three city blocks. it keeps american casualties down. but it increases the death and devastation visited on the innocent tenfold.

such methodology has actually become sop. the american military took the lesson from vietnam that high casualty rates are unacceptable. so they've put the priority on airpower -- where we have massive superiority -- and built the armed forces around it.

you see it from cruise missile strikes to helicopter gunship support to airstrike assaults like fallujah. it's been a persistent theme of american military planning. and it's part and parcel to the rumsfeld program of military "transformation" to lighter, smaller, more airpower-dependent forces.

and it is *profoundly* immoral, all of it, even for warfare. we have decided that we don't want to pay the price of war in lives -- so we make the innocent pay it instead.

read what the navy says about their favorite blockbuster:

"The 500-pound JDAM is perfect for the urban warfare that's taking place now in Iraq," said JDAM program manager Capt. Dave Dunaway. "Precision, reliability, and accuracy is exactly what the warfighter was asking for, and we are pleased that we could respond quickly.
no mention of leveling city blocks. a standard 500-pound bomb will destroy everything within a 20m radius and leave a crater 25 feet across and 9 feet deep. the safety radius for unprotected troops is 500 meters; for bunkered troops, 220.

one of them kills and injures even protected troops expecting the thing 200m away. and we've been lobbing *thousands* of these into iraqi cities -- well over 15,000 to date. and there are 1000-pound bombs. and 2000-pound bombs.

our armed forces are a very competent group of people, most of whom would rather not be where they are. but please don't glorify these folks and what they do. they're americans, not gods. every man is a child under the circumstances of war. that has nothing, literally zero to do with bravery. it's human. "call in a 500-pounder? fuck yes, save us!" it isn't a tom clancy book. they don't have to be in the alamo before they start blowing everything up.

i'm well aware it's part of the nietzschean hero culture to make out this wanton slaughter as "noble", in the teutonic mythological sense. that our society has adopted that insane, bizarre ideal -- which is one of the most awful consequences of individualism gone too far -- is akin to drafting the american national death warrant.

embedded reporters bringing home the fun adventures of our boys as they drove around iraq made me want to wretch -- that they were there, yes, but that not nearly so much as the presentation of it all. cnn made it look cool and fun and exciting. and 95% of america ate it up.

but sooner or later, if we continue to glorify war as something more than the tossing of good men, women and children -- ours and theirs -- into an unspeakable meat grinder, the american nation will impale itself on the altar of war over our militaristic narcissism. and we would be far from the first to refuse to learn the lessons of all who came before us.

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