Same Shit, Different War

The Wall Street Journal reports on the return of the body count- Army Deploys Old Tactic in PR War– of course it’s the WSJ so it is from the perspective of what is best for US imperialism.

The practice has revealed deep divides in military circles over the value of keeping such a score in a war being waged not over turf, but over the allegiance of the Afghan people. Does it buck up the troops and the home front to let them know the enemy is suffering, too? Or does the focus on killing distract from the goals of generating legitimacy and economic development?

Old school imperialists are more reserved-

“Recording an ongoing body count is hardly going to endear us to the people of Afghanistan,” says British Royal Navy Capt. Mark Durkin, spokesman for the 42-nation, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, or ISAF.

But at least the WSJ is open about this being a tactic of the media war-

The Army began a rethink when the 101st Airborne Division took over Afghan media operations in April 2008. Commanders worried the U.S.-led coalition appeared to be losing ground. The U.S. military routinely releases information about Americans killed in action. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 618 Americans have died in and around Afghanistan, 456 killed in combat. Remaining silent about enemy deaths gave the false impression that the U.S. was losing, says Lt. Col. Nielson-Green, spokeswoman for the 101st and a proponent of the new approach.

But it repeats mythical versions of history which ensure the only lessons learned are- America, Fuck Yeah!

That changed when the U.S. found itself mired in a guerrilla war in Vietnam, where front lines were blurred and villages taken or lost didn’t indicate who was winning, says Dale Andrade, senior historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Vietnam was the first war in which the body count became the one and only statistic on which victory was measured,” he says.

Some battlefield commanders inflated body counts to appear more successful than they were. The American public “kept hearing these stories about how two of our soldiers were killed and 100 Viet Cong were killed,” says Mr. Andrade. He says that eventually Americans wondered: “If we’re killing so many people, why aren’t we winning?”

As well as fraud it led to the slaughter of civilians who were counted as combatants (a fungible fudge the WSJ also resurrects preferring US establishment sources on Afghanistan, so to correct the record here’s the list of victims of the Azizabad massacre from RAWA) and many dissenting Americans didn’t ask ‘why aren’t we winning?’ they instead exclaimed, we must stop massacring the Vietnamese. Oddly the anti war movement has no place in the WSJ article, imagine, corporate media acting as a propaganda arm for US foreign policy, good job they learned their lessons after Iraq. Although the modern opposition is fractured, some having been co-opted by the Obama campaign, some not questioning the [manifest destiny of exceptionalism]-ism so much as just preferring soft and smart power although, you do learn some history repeating facts though-

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL (yes she’s in caps!)- Holbrooke faced very few tough questions–not even on drone strikes. Rep. Lynn Woolsey did press Holbrooke on the fact that 90 percent of the administration’s war supplemental goes towards military expenses, while the counterinsurgency strategy calls for a ratio of 80 percent political and 20 percent military.

Then there is also this to ponder, why might so many people still live in the bubble of the imperial myth, hmmmm?

A Tiny Revolution

About 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam. No one knows exactly how many Vietnamese civilians died, but there is good reason to believe the number exceeds 3 million. And that would not count the destruction in Cambodia and Laos or the half-million children born with deformities caused by defoliants. Robert McNamara believes 3.4 million Vietnamese were slaughtered. Even an ardent supporter of the war like Michael Lind concedes that the number is in excess of 2 million — or, to go by a familiar metric, one third of the Holocaust.

 So let’s check the chapter on the Vietnam War in one of the leading textbooks used in US colleges, “American Foreign Policy,” authored by Bruce Jentleson, a Duke University professor of political science and former Al Gore advisor:

 American casualties in Vietnam numbered more than two hundred thousand, including almost sixty thousand deaths. Vietnamese casualties numbered in the hundreds of thousands as well.

That’s it for the whole book. It’s not that Jentleson is math-averse. The book gives you the precise body count for the Holocaust, Darfur, etc. The author only wants every American college student to know that the Vietnamese suffered almost as much as the Americans. Maybe some even died. There’s no way to know. But this is only the 3rd edition of the textbook, so perhaps new research will inform future editions about this matter.

Update: Privatisation

Jeremy Scahill

According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan…

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars.

5 Responses to “Same Shit, Different War”

  1. libhomo Says:

    “Private Security Contractors” reminds me of “Harsh Interrogation Techniques.”

    • RickB Says:

      I guess it should please those who were worried language had lost its importance! Even if the main innovators are war criminals.

  2. Jotman Says:

    The parallels between Obama’s war in Afghanistan and Johnson’s in Vietnam are numerous. In Vietnam, body counts served as a metric that would become a substitute for consideration of concrete policy objectives.

    Most critically, the most basic questions have gone unanswered by the leadership.

    What is the US objective? What will it cost to achieve?


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