The grammar of war

April 13th, 2009

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

From a recent Al Jazeera report on remarks by Said Jawad — the ambassador from the government ruling Afghanistan to the government ruling the United States — about the death of five Afghan civilians, killed by the United States government’s military:

Said Jawad said that the deaths were a tragedy, but could be necessary if fighters were to be defeated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

This is a price that we have to pay if we want security and stability in Afghanistan, the region and the world, he said in Washington on Friday.

Jawad’s remarks come after the US military apologised for killing four civilians, including a child, in a raid earlier this week.

. . . A 13-year-old boy who survived the US raid on his home overnight on Wednesday told Al Jazeera that his mother, brother, uncle and another female family member were killed.

A woman who was nine months pregnant was wounded and lost her baby.

— Al-Jazeera English (2009-04-13): Afghan envoy defends US raids

He wants the political stability in Afghanistan, the region, and the world. They pay the price for what he wants.

If there is a proper apology, and there is a good explanation, and that’s exactly what we have been asking from our American friends in the past … then I think the people understand, he said.

He has American friends. He gets the apologies. He gets the explanations. They get the tragedy that he understands.

He ought to speak for his own damn self.

Here as elsewhere, half of human decency in political thinking is just learning to keep your personal pronouns straight.

See also:

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est (2009-04-13)...]

The grammar of war

April 13th, 2009

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

From a recent Al Jazeera report on remarks by Said Jawad — the ambassador from the government ruling Afghanistan to the government ruling the United States — about the death of five Afghan civilians, killed by the United States government’s military:

Said Jawad said that the deaths were a tragedy, but could be necessary if fighters were to be defeated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

This is a price that we have to pay if we want security and stability in Afghanistan, the region and the world, he said in Washington on Friday.

Jawad’s remarks come after the US military apologised for killing four civilians, including a child, in a raid earlier this week.

[…] A 13-year-old boy who survived the US raid on his home overnight on Wednesday told Al Jazeera that his mother, brother, uncle and another female family member were killed.

A woman who was nine months pregnant was wounded and lost her baby.

Al-Jazeera English (2009-04-13): Afghan envoy defends US raids

He wants the political stability in Afghanistan, the region, and the world. They pay the price for what he wants.

If there is a proper apology, and there is a good explanation, and that’s exactly what we have been asking from our American friends in the past … then I think the people understand, he said.

He has American friends. He gets the apologies. He gets the explanations. They get the tragedy that he understands.

He ought to speak for his own damn self.

Here as elsewhere, half of human decency in political thinking is just learning to keep your personal pronouns straight.

See also:

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est ()...]

The grammar of war

April 13th, 2009

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

From a recent Al Jazeera report on remarks by Said Jawad — the ambassador from the government ruling Afghanistan to the government ruling the United States — about the death of five Afghan civilians, killed by the United States government’s military:

Said Jawad said that the deaths were a tragedy, but could be necessary if fighters were to be defeated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

This is a price that we have to pay if we want security and stability in Afghanistan, the region and the world, he said in Washington on Friday.

Jawad’s remarks come after the US military apologised for killing four civilians, including a child, in a raid earlier this week.

. . . A 13-year-old boy who survived the US raid on his home overnight on Wednesday told Al Jazeera that his mother, brother, uncle and another female family member were killed.

A woman who was nine months pregnant was wounded and lost her baby.

— Al-Jazeera English (2009-04-13): Afghan envoy defends US raids

He wants the political stability in Afghanistan, the region, and the world. They pay the price for what he wants.

If there is a proper apology, and there is a good explanation, and that’s exactly what we have been asking from our American friends in the past … then I think the people understand, he said.

He has American friends. He gets the apologies. He gets the explanations. They get the tragedy that he understands.

He ought to speak for his own damn self.

Here as elsewhere, half of human decency in political thinking is just learning to keep your personal pronouns straight.

See also:

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est ()...]

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#4)

February 1st, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

On Friday, January 30, ten days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq, a gun battle broke out in the district of Baiji. One American soldier and one Iraqi militant were each shot to death. A second American soldier was wounded in the gunfire.

SALAH AL-DIN / Aswat al-Iraq: A gunman who shot down a U.S. soldier and wounded another in the district of Baiji was killed by U.S. army fire on Friday, a police source said.

A gunman from Baiji opened fire on Friday afternoon at U.S. soldiers who were standing in front of al-Rifaie school, which is used as a voting center, in the central part of the district, (35 km) north of Tikrit city, killing one of them and injuring another, the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

The U.S. soldiers fired back at the gunman, killing him instantly, the source said, adding the U.S. soldiers arrested the gunman’s brother inside his house in central Baiji.

Aswat al-Iraq news agency managed to contact a source within the U.S. forces’ Joint Coordination Office who said that a gunman opened fire at the U.S. servicemen in Baiji district and the U.S. soldiers fired back and shot him down.

Aswat al-Iraq (2009-01-30): Gunman killed after shooting down U.S. soldier in Baiji

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#3)

January 29th, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

Private Grant A. Cotting, a 19 year old boy from Corona, California, was killed in Iraq on Saturday, January 24, four days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

A 19-year-old Army private from Corona died in what military authorities described today as a non-combat-related incident in Iraq.

Pvt. Grant A. Cotting died Saturday in the Iraqi city of Kut, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense.

Cotting suffered injuries while with his unit — the 515th Sapper Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, officials said.

The brigade is headquartered at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation, a Pentagon statement said.

The Desert Sun (2009-01-27): Soldier from Corona killed in Iraq

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#2)

January 27th, 2009

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Pollini was killed in Iraq on Thursday, January 22, two days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

Sergeant Kyle J. Harrington was killed in Iraq on Saturday, January 24, four days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

Just after his graduation from Swansea’s Joseph Case High School in 2003, Kyle J. Harrington joined the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was more than halfway through his second tour of duty when he died Saturday, his wife, Faith, said yesterday.

Harrington, 24, a sergeant, had married his high school sweetheart, Faith (Ryan), before leaving for Iraq. They lived on the Fort Lewis Army base in Washington state.

Faith Harrington said her husband’s death was not combat related but occurred as a result of a fork-lift accident.

Though the Army did not give her specific details, she was told that an investigation is underway.

They won’t tell me anything, said Harrington, who said she could not say where in Iraq her husband had been stationed.

A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said she could not confirm or deny Harrington’s death, citing a congressionally mandated timeline that prohibits releasing information on military deaths until 24 hours after all family members are notified.

Harrington died two days after Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Pollini, 21, of Rockland, was killed in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in on a military base rolled over. Since the war began in 2003, 4,232 servicemen and women have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, not counting Harrington.

He had two children, Joshua, 5, and Kaylee, 2.

Matt Collette, The Boston Globe (2009-01-26): Soldier dies in accident in Iraq, wife says

Pollini, 21, was less than a month into his first tour of duty with the 772nd Military Police Company, a National Guard unit based in Taunton.

He was married on Dec. 22 and shipped out four days later.

We had lots of plans, Sarah Pollini, 20, said.

In a statement issued by his office, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, said, The loss of a Soldier is a tragedy and we hope the Pollini family finds some consolation in the knowledge that Specialist Pollini gave his life while defending our nation, said General Carter […].

Allison Manning, EnterpriseNews.com (2009-01-25): Another Massachusetts soldier killed in Iraq, second in three days

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday, January 26, six days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq.

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) — Four US soldiers were killed on Monday when two helicopters crashed in northern Iraq, American and Iraqi military officials said, but an insurgent group later claimed responsibility.

Four coalition forces members were killed when two aircraft went down in northern Iraq at approximately 2:15 am (2315 GMT Sunday), a US army spokesman said in an initial statement.

The cause of the incident is unknown but does not appear to be the result of enemy action, a separate US military statement said later.

An Iraqi military official told AFP two helicopters were involved in the incident, while police said the crash occurred near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

However, the Nakshabandiya insurgent group — close to executed president Saddam Hussein’s still fugitive deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri — later said that it had shot down the coalition aircraft.

Asked about the claim, the US military issued a further statement, which said: There is no indication that the helicopter crash is a result of enemy action.

The Nakshabandiya handed out leaflets on the streets of Kirkuk, saying that they had shot down two helicopters and would soon show a video, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

A statement on their website said: We announce with pleasure the shooting down of two helicopters of the American enemy. It was a night ambush from the Anti-Aircraft Resistance Brigade. It was two Blackhawks shot down Sunday evening at 10.30pm in Hawijah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Kirkuk.

The group said that the attack had killed more than 20 soldiers and that the video would show the entire operation.

Hawijah is a largely Sunni Arab town within the disputed oil province of Kirkuk and was the scene of a massive US operation to try to capture Ibrahim in late 2003.

The US military is currently taking a back seat to an increasingly large Iraqi force made up of 560,000 policemen and 260,000 military personnel, with the US providing logistic and air support on request.

According to the Pentagon, 143,000 American troops are deployed in Iraq.

Under an agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad in November, the US military is due to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 and to pull them back from built-up areas by the end of June this year.

At least 4,236 US military personnel have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, according to an AFP tally based on the independent website www.icasualties.org, including the deaths on Monday. Fifteen troops have died so far this year.

Agence France-Presse (2009-01-26): Four US soldiers killed in Iraq helicopter crash

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

State-funded gang war brings “peace” to Baghdad, from “Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s ‘Success'” by Chris Floyd

November 21st, 2007

Although 2007 will have seen the largest number of American military deaths in Iraq and the passing of the one million mark in Iraqi civilians killed, there has been much triumphant harrumphing of late about a slight drop in the horrific death count in Iraq — proof, we are told, for the umpteenth time, that the war of aggression has finally turned the corner (i.e., the conquered people have finally been beaten into submission).

To the extent that there has been any lessening of the ongoing slaughter for a short period, much of that can be put down to a factor little discussed in the American media-political bubble (at least not in terms of stark reality): the fact that the White House and St. Gen. David Petraeus have simply legitimized what used to be recorded as terrorist acitivity by paying the former killers of Americans to kill and repress other Iraqis. Thus, in some areas of Baghdad now controlled by American-paid, American-armed Sunni extremist militias, executions, mass killings, horrific torture, kidnapping and rampant extortion still go on — but these are no longer counted as insurgent violence. These horrors are now regarded as legitimate police actions by concerned citizens groups — almost all of them former close allies of the most savage sectarian bands (now loosely called al Qaeda by everyone, regardless of any actual relationship, however tenuous, to the gang of one-time CIA ally Osama bin Laden).

In other words, Bush and St. David are now giving American taxpayer money — and copious amounts of arms, equipment and flash vehicles — to those responsible for some of the most sickening assaults on innocent life since Bush destroyed Iraqi society and plunged it into sectarian warfare, which the Administration has encouraged and exacerbated at every step.

This is one way of keeping the American death count down: you just turn over various walled enclaves in Baghdad to a band of thugs in your pay, lard them with guns and money, then get the hell out of Dodge, letting the thugs do what they will. It is absolutely vital for the Washington warmongers to keep the American death count low. As long as only two or three Americans are being killed every day or so, they can keep a lid on the rising but still very manageable popular discontent with the war back home. The increased use of airpower — blunderbuss assaults on civilian areas with bombs and attack helicopters — also helps toward this goal. And, as noted, it also helps lower the official numbers on terrorist violence, following the age-old tradition of U.S. foreign policy: if somebody is killing, raping and torturing with our money, in our name, why then, it can’t be terrorism. It’s just a grassroots initiative to restore law and order, and bring freedom to benighted peoples.

… In Saturday’s Guardian, the paper’s remarkably courageous man in Baghdad, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, gives us a vivid portrait of one of these American-paid gangs in action. It is the tale of Abu Abed, a violent, neurotic, vainglorious killer of Americans (and former intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein) who has been crowned by none other than St. David himself to rule as undisputed king over the walled Baghdad ghetto of Ameriya:

Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored Ameriya Knights. He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens…A former intelligence officer and a pious Sunni, Hajji Abu Abed has the aura of a mafia don. And for Abu Abed, like a don, connections are everything. His office is decorated with pictures of him hugging US officers, including the senior commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus…On Abu Abed’s desk stands a glass box containing a black suede cavalry hat and a letter proclaiming him an honorary US cavalryman.

The Americans pay him $400 (£200) a month for each fighter he provides, he said, and he had 600 registered. His men are awed by his courage, his piety and his neurotic rages…

Abu Abed began hugging St. David — and taking the Saint’s payoffs — after falling out with al Qaeda in a dispute over loot. The Qaedas were demanding a 25 percent cut of all swag to fund their self-proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iraq; Abu Abed balked at the demand, and decided to eliminate his rivals. But he was outgunned his fellow sectarians, so he turned to the Americans.

… And how is the huggable Abu Abed bringing the blessing of freedom to his fiefdom? Like so:

When we arrived at the house where [an] alleged al-Qaida commander was hiding, Bakr [Abu Abed’s head of intelligence] was already in action. He was dragging a plump man into a car, grabbing his neck with one hand and his BKC machine gun with the other. The horrified man begged them not to take him. By Allah, I didn’t say Qaida is better than you, you are our brothers, just let me go! A gunman kicked the man and pushed him into a car.

The suspect’s brother, still in his pyjamas, pleaded, and women in nightgowns stood in the street wailing and begging the gunmen to release him. The gunmen pointed their guns at the people and pushed them back. A young fighter carrying an old British sub-machine gun fired a burst into the air.

Abu Abed walked into the scuffle. The detained man was not the [alleged al Qaeda] target. Someone had overheard him saying Abu Abed’s men were worse than al-Qaida after Bakr’s men raided the house. Furious at the insult, Abu Abed aimed his gun at the brother. Al-Qaida is better than us, huh? Did you forget when the bodies were piled in the streets?

Some neighbours intervened, and the man was released. His brother grabbed him by the arm and pushed him inside. Abu Abed, shaking his head and waving his gun, walked back to his car, murmuring Al-Qaida, better than us…

He stopped in mid-stride and turned to charge with his men back into the house. They pushed the gate open and ran inside firing their weapons in the air. In the dark kitchen, they grabbed the man again, pushed him to the floor and kicked him. The women were screaming and crying. One of them pulled away her headscarf and wailed, holding on to the man’s ripped shirt as Abu Abed and the gunmen dragged him out, kicking and slapping him. Other fighters fired their Kalashnikovs in the air. The man was shoved into a car, as was his brother.

Abu Abed, screaming and pointing his gun, charged at the crowd. Qaida is better than me? I will show you! He held his gun high and quoted al-Hajjaj, a 7th-century ruler of Iraq, in a hoarse voice: Oh, people of Iraq, I had come to you with two swords, one is for mercy which I have left back in the desert, and this one — he pointed his gun at the crowd —is the sword of oppression, which I kept in my hand.

The convoy drove off, sirens blaring, fighters hanging out of the car windows.

Al Qaeda is not Abu Abed’s only enemy, of course. In addition to constantly threatening to renege on his deal with his new best friends — the Americans he used to kill — if they don’t properly acknowledge his authority, Abu Abed is also violently attacking forces aligned with the Iraqi government:

That night, Abu Abed decided to attack another group of Ameriya Knights under his general command. He suspected their commander, Abu Omar, was allied with the vice-president’s Islamic party, which has been trying to control the Sunni area.

I have to show them there is one commander. If the Americans don’t like it, I will withdraw my men, he told me. Let’s see if they can fight al-Qaida alone. By sunset, his men were gathered in front of the house again. He distributed extra guns and he carried an extra shotgun with his machine gun.

… Abu Omar’s men were rounded up. Some were put in pick-up trucks, others were squeezed in car boots. By the light of headlamps, Abu Abed’s men looted weapons, ammunition boxes and radios.

One terrified child was brought for questioning. Where are Abu Omar’s sniper rifles? Abu Abed asked him.

I don’t know, replied the boy.

Look, this head of yours, I will cut it off and put it on your chest if you don’t tell where the guns are by tomorrow. He tried to put his shotgun in the boy’s mouth but his men restrained him.

–From Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque (2007-11-10): Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s Success.

An Iraqi boy peered Tuesday inside a car that was towed to a Baghdad police station after two women inside were killed.

October 11th, 2007

Here is a photo of an Iraqi boy peering through the windows of a white Oldsmobile at a Baghdad police station. The driver-side door is streaked with blood.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 — Two women died here on Tuesday when their white Oldsmobile was riddled by automatic gunfire from guards for a private security company, just weeks after a shooting by another company strained relations between the United States and Iraq.

The guards involved in the Tuesday shooting were working for an Australian-run security company. But the people they were assigned to protect work under the same United States government agency whose security guards sprayed bullets across a crowded Baghdad square on Sept. 16, an episode that caused an uproar among Iraqi officials and is still being investigated by the United States.

In the Tuesday shooting, as many as 40 bullets struck the car, killing the driver and the woman in the front seat on the passenger side. A woman and a boy in the back seat survived, according to witnesses and local police officials in the Karada neighborhood, where the shooting took place on a boulevard lined with appliance stores, tea shops and money changers.

American government officials said the guards had been hired to protect financial and policy experts working for an organization under contract with the United States Agency for International Development, a quasi-independent State Department agency that does extensive aid work in Iraq.

The organization, RTI International, is in Iraq to carry out what is ultimately a State Department effort to improve local government and democratic institutions. But a Bush administration official said the State Department bore no responsibility for overseeing RTI’s security operations.

… The guards who were in the convoy work for Unity Resources Group, an Australian-run company that has its headquarters in Dubai and is registered in Singapore, according to a statement by the company. Unity Resources was hired by RTI to provide security in Iraq.

Andrew E. Kramer and James Glanz, New York Times (2007-10-09): U.S. Guards Kill 2 Iraqi Women in New Shooting

How the Allies created a democratic and prosperous Germany after World War II

September 4th, 2007

Did the United States Create Democracy in Germany?

… Many writers continue to speak of nation building as if it involved a settled technology, like that of building interstate highways. They seem to believe that nation-building experts can go to any country and, regardless of its culture and traditions, successfully impose a democracy. What accounts for this confidence in the efficacy of nation-building expertise?

One important source appears to be the U.S. experience after World War II. Those who today advocate assertive policies of nation building repeatedly cite this era as a golden age of nation building. The United States should invade dictatorships and failed states, they say, and turn them into democracies. How do we know this task is feasible? They answer, Look at what we did in Germany and Japan.

Don’t Shake Hands!

In Germany, the Allied effort had two aspects. One was the impact of the war. … The Allied effort’s second aspect was the military occupation, which extended from victory in 1945 to (for most practical purposes) 1952. As the previous quotations indicate, modern writers assume that skilled and purposeful U.S. officials applied sophisticated nation-building techniques during this period and thereby imposed democracy where it otherwise would not have come into existence. This hypothesis is extremely doubtful. The occupation’s actual policies and activities from 1945 to 1952 did little to further democracy, and many of them caused positive harm.

Modern writers’ first mistake is to assume that the goal of the American occupation in Germany was to make the country a democracy—that it constituted, as Dobbins puts it, a comprehensive effort that aimed to engineer major social, political, and economic reconstruction This view is wildly at variance with the facts. Building democracy was not the aim of occupation policy. Instead, policymakers aimed to punish Germany and to deny it any war-making potential. Some American leaders advocated a back to the Stone Age policy for Germany. One such plan, drawn up by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and his assistant Harry Dexter White, called for Germany to be dismembered and turned into an agrarian society in which the inhabitants would live by subsistence farming. Other leaders did not go so far, but they all agreed on severe punishment. If I had my way, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commented, I would keep Germany on a breadline for the next 25 years (qtd. in Davidson 1959, 7). From this angry mood came JCS 1067, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive on U.S. objectives and basic policies that formed the orders of the military government from May 1945 to July 1947. It emphasized not reconstruction or democracy, but harsh treatment of the Germans.

One directive of JCS 1067 that the U.S. military authority attempted to implement was a policy of nonfraternization. Americans were not to engage in any kind of friendly, normal intercourse with Germans. They were not supposed to shake hands with them, to visit them in their homes, to play games with them, or to converse or argue with them. If they went to a German church, they had to sit in separate, Americans-only pews. The army newspaper Stars and Stripes ran many antifraternization slogans and statements such as Don’t fraternize. If in a German town you bow to a pretty girl or pat a blond child … you bow to Hitler and his reign of blood (qtd. in Davidson 1959, 54). Military police arrested more than a thousand Americans in an effort to sustain the policy of nonfraternization (Davidson 1959, 55). In practice, many Americans ignored the policy and braved punishment to do the sensible, human thing in interacting with the Germans. The nonfraternization policy was gradually relaxed and eventually abandoned. Nevertheless, the policy started the occupation out on the wrong foot if its presumed aim was to win hearts and minds and to teach the German people about democracy.

Other policies exacerbated this wrong-footedness. For example, the United States sought to keep its military and civilian personnel isolated from the Germans in compounds and colonies (often surrounded by barbed wire) known as Little Americas. At a time when great numbers of Germans were living in rubble, tents, and railway stations, the Americans had a comfortable lifestyle—and it was created at the Germans’ expense. U.S. troops seized the best homes and hotels as their living quarters and pushed the German occupants onto the street. For each American family housed in a requisitioned dwelling, eight Germans were made homeless; in Frankfurt alone, Americans requisitioned 10,800 apartments and single-family dwellings (Davidson 1959, 156, 276).

Deliberately Wrecking the German Economy

Further setting the stage for resentment were the U.S. economic policies. Although little is known about the requirements for democracy, one important factor suggested by research and common sense is prosperity: destitute people are ready to listen to demagogues who promise bread at the expense of freedom. Therefore, anyone seeking to establish a democracy in a defeated country should make a maximum effort to ensure the local inhabitants’ prosperity and well-being. Many Americans today suppose that we put Germany on its feet after the war, but the truth is more nearly the opposite. U.S. policy was intended to inflict economic privation. As part of the JCS 1067 punishment philosophy, U.S. forces were not supposed to provide ordinary relief. Troops were specifically ordered not to let American food supplies go to hungry Germans. American households were instructed not to let their German maids have leftovers; excess food was to be destroyed or rendered inedible (Davidson 1959, 85). A German university professor pointed out that U.S. soldiers create unnecessary ill will to pour twenty litres of left-over cocoa in the gutter when it is badly needed in our clinics. It makes it hard for me to defend American democracy among my countrymen (qtd. in Davidson 1959, 86).

JCS 1067 forbade the occupation authority from taking any steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany (JCS 1067 qtd. in Zink 1957, 253). The Allies placed limits on German industries, freezing the production of steel, machine tools, and chemicals at less than half the prewar rate. Even the production of textiles and shoes was limited to depressed levels. The Allies also pursued a policy of dismantling factories, deliberately destroying hundreds of plants and throwing several hundred thousand employees out of work in the western zone (Davidson 1959, 255). German workers threatened strikes against this practice; even the archbishop of Cologne and his parishioners prayed against this senseless economic destruction (Davidson 1959, 255). Nevertheless, it continued out of sheer bureaucratic inertia until 1950.

The German economy was further burdened by having to pay for the occupation itself, both through arbitrary requisitions of properties, finished goods, and raw materials and through direct payments from German governmental units. One calculation estimated that occupation costs consumed 46 percent of local tax receipts in 1948 (Davidson 1959, 261). German newspapers began to release details of what troops were buying with German taxpayers’ money: one ton of water bugs to feed a U.S. general’s pet fish, a bedspread of Korean goatskin, thirty thousand bras (**the Americans banned the newspaper for publishing this last item—a nice democratic touch on the part of the would-be teachers of democracy).

Another economic factor that kept the country in poverty was the failure to issue currency. This lapse had many reasons, including complications with the Russians and U.S. officials’ economic ignorance, but the fact was that for three years, from 1945 to 1948, the Germans had no sound currency, only Hitler’s debased old currency and an untrustworthy occupation script. In desperation, locals turned to cigarettes—which consequently became much too valuable as a medium of exchange to smoke. Imagine trying to carry out a high-value sale or to make a future-oriented contact in cigarettes! When a new currency was finally issued in June 1948, economic life began to revive immediately.

… The Germans were desperately poor in 1945–48 not because of war damage. Studies showed that German industries and facilities were largely intact and that production could have been restored quickly had the Allies been willing to allow it (Zink 1957, 253). But U.S. policy, some of it deliberate, some simply the usual muddle in a government-directed economy, promoted destitution and despair—and thereby earned the resentment of much of the local population.

James L. Payne, The Independent Review (Fall 2006): Did the United States Create Democracy in Germany?, pp. 209–214.

Surging towards Baghdad (or: lies, damn lies, and military press conferences, part 2)

August 29th, 2007

BAGHDAD — Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers are offering a bleak picture of Iraq’s future, saying they’ve yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims despite the drop in violence.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence will be temporary and bloodshed could return to previous levels as soon as the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgent attacks.

That downbeat assessment comes despite a buildup of U.S. troops that began five months ago Wednesday and has seen U.S. casualties reach the highest sustained levels since the United States invaded Iraq nearly four and a half years ago.

Violence remains endemic, with truck bombs in two northern Iraqi villages claiming the largest single death toll of the war — more than 300 confirmed dead and counting. North of Baghdad, another truck bomb destroyed a key bridge on the road linking the capital to Mosul, the first successful bridge attack since June.

And while top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed.

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim.

The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.

U.S. officials have said that the new security plan needs time to work. But many have expressed disappointment at the continued sectarian violence.

The military has been trying to stanch that violence by building walls between neighborhoods and around potential bombing targets. But bombings and sectarian violence still take place.

The number of Iraqis killed in attacks changed only marginally in July when compared with December — down seven, from 361 to 354, according to McClatchy statistics.

No pattern of improvement is discernible for violence during the five months of the surge. In January, the last full month before the surge began, 438 people were killed in the capital in bombings. In February, that number jumped to 520. It declined in March to 323, but jumped again in April, to 414.

Violence remained virtually unchanged in May, when 404 were killed. The lowest total came in June, the first month U.S. officials said all the new American troops were in place, with just 190 dead, but then swung back up in July, with 354 dead.

One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge.

But the reason for that decline isn’t clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill.

One officer noted that U.S. officials believe Baghdad once had a population that was 65 percent Sunni. The current U.S. estimate is that Shiites now make up 75 percent to 80 percent of the city.

Leila Fadel, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2007-08-15): Despite violence drop, officers see bleak future for Iraq