"Hopefully this Buck won't stopone of the best damn MilBloggers to ever knock sand from his boots." -- The Mudville Gazette



Iraqi Five-O, standing tall. Photo (and Oakleys) courtesy of Buck Sargent

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

There exists an underreported but ever-present crossover between war and crime that has taken hold in the past year throughout the large metropolitan areas of Iraq. It may always have been a factor, but it has become even more apparent over time. A deadly mix of organized criminality and jihadist savagery has increasingly come to blur the distinctions between the acts of violent terrorists and that of common thugs.

In some cases, the spoils of crime are used to fund terrorist activity. In others, attacks against Iraqi authorities and community leaders bear closer resemblance to gangland turf wars than any of the various ideological or religious themes propagated by the Al Qaeda-driven news cycle.

The typical cell structure of the insurgency can in many cases be likened to a series of disconnected Arab mafias. A tribal omerta of fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles may constitute the core of an insurgent cell and survive on criminal activity in between sporadic cash payments from committed jihadist leaders in return for attacking targets of opportunity. Whereas this opportunity once spelled U.S. and coalition forces, the bulls-eye later shifted to the indigenous army and police. This has been merely Darwinism at work, as all the brave-but-stupid arhabbi have since been reunited with their Prophet at 2,400 ft./sec. And those who remain are more savvy and less willing to stick their necks out. What good is easy money if you’re not around to spend it?

As the Iraqi Security Forces have improved, gaining in confidence, technical and tactical proficiency, and especially in numbers over the past year, the bulls-eye has jumped yet again. Civilians have become the new quarry, just as they have always been to any criminal element that preys on the weakest, most vulnerable, and least likely to fight back. Kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis (or their children) for ransom, as well as protection rackets -- mafia-like extortion of businesses under threat of harm -- have also become all too common.

This turn away from organized resistance and toward random violence for violence’s sake serves the interests of all the various groups who oppose a free Iraq. For the Saddamists who long to return to power and who will never recognize a freely elected government, it is a chance to make these officials appear weak and impotent. With a brutalized and fearful populace demanding protection from officials in Baghdad, one truck bomb outside a crowded mosque is all that’s necessary to shatter public confidence in representative democracy.

For Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, it has finally sunk in that breaking the vise grip of the American military requires breaking the fickle will of the American people. To do this, the whole of Iraq need not be thrown into chaos, it only need appear to be so. In the AQ playbook, the war will be won or lost on CNN’s Headline News. The targets need not have any strategic value, they need only to bleed, explode, or catch fire.

As the violence recedes across the majority of the provinces in Iraq, so do the media goalposts for victory get pushed farther and further away. When the NY Times no longer finds Iraq newsworthy, you will know which side has won.

Our current enemies are following a script that is not .original. Following the surrender of Nazi Germany, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both local officials and civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation forces. We stayed the course then. We would be wise to do so now.

Accordingly, neither is violent instability a necessarily novel phenomenon unique to post-invasion Iraq. It may be a newly reported one, but ethnic and sectarian bloodletting came in a close second to soccer as the national pastime under the Baathist regime. The Nazis’ natural German efficiency had led them to catalog their horrific crimes with astounding precision. It remains to be seen whether the reams of captured Iraqi documents will reveal the same once they are eventually translated. Until then, we can only count the unearthed skulls and bear witness to those whose grief predates the recent American interest in their native land.

Mass graves stand as the ultimate “get tough on crime” position, with a recidivism rate that would shame even Saudi Arabia. Repressive tyrants like Saddam maintained power with the policy of “kill ‘em all and let Allah sort them out.” In any other context it would have been deemed genocide. In the since discarded “realist” approach to the Middle East, it was rationalized away as the necessary evil of a regional strongman, ruling with an iron fist over an unruly populace.

On the eve of the American incursion Saddam was said to have emptied his jails of up to 100,000 inmates, providing a lot of idle hands to suddenly unleash upon a devastated Third World economy (And in case you were wondering, Iraqis aren’t exactly big on midnight basketball.) In the Hobbesian Middle East, idle hands are the jihadi’s workshop.

For a new Iraq emerging from the darkness, this coalescence of violent insurgency and base criminality is a double-edged sword. Fighting it without destroying everyone and everything around it requires an increasing reliance on law enforcement tactics and all the restrictions that come with them, yet the criminals are utilizing terrorist weapons of war that make routine police work a militarily lethal business. With law enforcement comes legal protections, and with legal protections come judicial decisions that often err on the side of terrorists over troops and victimizers over victims.

No war can be adequately fought using law enforcement methods -- having to rely on admissible evidence and chain of custody and protections from coercive interrogation techniques. That we now find ourselves in this strange middle ground between war and peace is precisely the problem.

The respect for and protection of civil liberties is clearly important within a free society, especially such a fragile one on the brink of civilized adolescence like Iraq. Yet as Justice Robert Jackson once observed, a constitution is not a suicide pact. You won’t have a civilization to protect if anarchy is allowed to run rampant.

There are times when it appears we may have exported to the Iraqis some of the more onerous aspects of our system as well as the more enlightened ones; specifically the coddling of criminals. When initially briefed on all the necessary red tape that came with detaining and processing the bad guys before we deployed, the running joke of the company was “take no prisoners -- there’s less paperwork.”*

*(Relax, moonbats. This didn't involve the SecDef or an Executive Order. It was only a joke.)

But the humor recedes when you come to find you're often dealing with a 50/50 chance of conviction in Iraqi courtrooms (at best). Not only do you have to worry about being shot at or blown up again next week, you have to worry about the exact same guy behind the trigger. Same time... same place... same guy.

This revolving door of catch and release is a common frustration among soldiers and Iraqi citizens alike. Nothing is more demoralizing than making a righteous snare of a known terrorist than the knowledge that he was promptly released by a Baghdad magistrate due to “lack of evidence” or an administrative snafu. Three weeks later he’s back on the streets planting bombs. The absurdity of it all forces troops in combat to often have to think and act more like Eliot Ness than Audie Murphy. (Has anyone thought to look into Zarqawi’s back taxes? I'm just putting that out there...)

Our unit had steeled itself for a brutal year-long experience; something along the lines of Tour of Duty. Yet the reality of what we experienced was closer to a bizarre mix of CSI, CHiPs, and Dragnet, with a nod to Iraqi Vice and Magnum, P.R. thrown in for good measure.

Sure, there were the midnight raids and hit & run attacks, the intermittent IEDs and too-close-for-comfort sniper fire. Over the previous nine months across the north of Iraq our brigade has suffered over 230 wounded and lost 14 soldiers -- 10 to hostile fire. But despite what you see on television, the following actions were far more commonplace:

Explosive residue testing. Crime scene photography. Eyewitness sworn statements. Evidence collection. Forensics "cleanup" (of Kentucky Fried Terrorists). Onsite lineups. Stake-outs, snitches, and sting operations. Electronic surveillance. Prisoner transport. Route overwatch. Counter-propaganda distribution. Get-out-the-vote drives. Vehicle checkpoints. Dismounted foot patrols. Curfew enforcement. Traffic direction. Ballot integrity escorts. Bootleg gasoline interdiction. If we could have found one, we may have even “raided” a speakeasy or two.

Technically, it's still a war. Troops are still in contact, and the enemy is still out there. But one can't help but feel at times like a cop with just a really bad beat.

* * *

A few months back, my platoon made a routine stop to one of the numerous Iraqi police stations in Mosul. Our mission: Retrieve a suspect accused of sniping American soldiers. As is custom in Iraq, several men appeared and began the “meet and greet” process with our LT and his entourage. They began glad-handing all the men present, ending with one nonchalantly standing beside them who our platoon leader didn’t recognize or pay much attention to. “Okay, now where’s my detainee?” he asked, not realizing that he had just shook hands with the terrorist they had come to collect.

Once we step back and allow the Iraqis to take the reins, the kid gloves that come packaged with our queasy western culture are going to have to come off if they are to be even remotely serious about stamping out the criminal underworld committed to destroying their country from within. They can‘t afford to play nice like Mr. Rogers; they’re going to have to think like Dirty Harry. Because anything less and they’ll all end up like Sonny Corleone.

Therein lies the rub: being able to defeat one’s enemies without becoming them. In the wake of Saddam Hussein, such an about face in the societal legal code from the foregone conclusion of guilt to the presumption of innocence is bound to have blowback. But the Faustian bargain made in every free society balances between the benefit of order and the benefit of the doubt.

It took over four years to bring Zacarias Moussaoui to justice through our own convoluted legal system, and considering the magnitude of the “criminal” plot he was convicted of being party to, significant doubt remains whether justice was truly done. Would it have been overly prejudicial to have screened United 93 for the jurors during the sentencing phase of the trial? Perhaps it would have reminded them that a “troubled childhood” cannot by itself come close to explaining away the very real presence of pure evil in the world. The question should not be Why do they hate us?, but What can be done -- what must be done -- to stop them?

As good a place to start as any would be to occasionally allow ourselves the benefit of the doubt. To let national secrets remain secret and refuse to succumb to conspiracy theory hysteria over hyperbolic security measures. To permit the military to adjudicate its own and refraining from pre-convicting them in the court of public opinion. And to allow our own elections and the very policies validated by them to stand, rather than consistently undermining them at every turn.

“America, you lose,” spat Moussaoui upon being denied his state sanctioned martyrdom injection. Due to our dumb luck, his role on that fateful day was averted; due to our legal intransigence, the overall cause he served was not. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer terrorists tell it to the J-DAM than the judge.

But if we allow ourselves to revert to the pre-9/11 mentality of combating terrorism with indictments and subpoenas; if we fall back into feeble reaction over bold preemption; if we grant a trial to every illegal combatant held at Guantanamo Bay, secretly hoping they die of old age before our federal courts inevitably sentence them to time served and community service…

Then we have already lost.


I totally agree with you, Buck. Y'all are walking a tightrope in Iraq - a damned if you do, damned if you don't place. I'm frustrated as heck that the GITMO detainees have lawyers. War is supposed to be War, not 'Law and Order'. Something is upside-down here at home, too.

Your insights and your formidible writing skills add up to the best assessment I have read to date on the situation in Iraq. This has the quality of an op-ed in the NYT or the LAT but neither would print such an honest and up front evaluation on the status in Iraq or anywhere else in the GWOT. It would not suit their purposes at all.

Your combination of insight and skill is a valuable tool to this nation and I wish it could be so widely covered on the internet that it would reach one of the news channels, though obviously not CNN!!

Thank-you for all you give both professionally and through your blog. Stay safe and God bless.

"When the NY Times no longer finds Iraq newsworthy, you will know which side has won."

I couldn't agree with you more Buck. I remember watching the movie "Major Payne" starring Damon Waynes several years ago and at the beginning of the movie he breaks a soldier's finger in an attempt to get him to forget about a much larger wound.

Maybe we need a war with Iran to win the war in Iraq.

Thanks again Buck for your clear commentary from the front lines. And for being "over there" you have a very good picture of the problems "over here". Your writing is powerful! A&N

Thanks Buck for a voice of reason in a clamor of foolishness.
How can we truly be safe at home by putting our heads in the sand?
I want my privacy and freedoms, but I'm willing to spend some of them to protect our way of life.
I read last week a great quote:
'How can the President connect the dots if he's not able to collect them?'
Keep up the great work!

"War is supposed to be War, not 'Law and Order'. "___But that is the whole problem. Whatever it is "supposed" to be, most of modern warfare is borderline between fighting insurgent guerillas and fighting organised crime. It seems to be a fixed law that organisations of freedom fighters will gradually change into organised crime mafias. (Didn't the mafia itself begin this way?)____So you have the problem of whether to put your captured prisoners in a POW camp or in a jail, and whether to try them or to hold them until the war is over. Do you send the army after them, or the police? Does it make sense to negotiate? Northern Ireland shows all of these problems.____That was an excellent blog post.

Have troops over there had access to the movie United Flt 93? It would be a good reminder (not that you need one!) of how all of this started, and might recharge some batteries. Todd Beamer's father David never lets an interview go by without thanking troops.

Great essay Buck!

Therein lies the rub: being able to defeat one’s enemies without becoming them.

In reading that I was reminded of something I wrote around 18 months ago.

On that nite I was rewatching an episode of "Smallville" and in light of the Gonzales confirmation hearings, I got to thinking about the issue of Abu G which was at it height at that time... and the challenges of fighting terrorism.

This is most of what I wrote back then sprinkled with some new thoughts relevant today, and I hope people understand the relevance to Buck's brilliant essay:

When democracies fight terrorism, they are defending the proposition that their political life should be free of violence.

But defeating terror requires violence. It may also require coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights.

So how can democracies resort to these means without destroying the values for which they stand? How can they resort to the lesser evil without succumbing to the greater evil?

But isn't that, in effect, exactly what Clark Kent does everytime he uses his superabilities such as Superhearing and Xray Vision, and his invincible strength, the equivalent of wiretapping and spying and our military might,in order to prevent Krypto Villians from completing their dirty deeds?

And Clark Kent uses his super abilities,prior to running into a phone booth and emerging as Superman, doesn't he do so secretly, never revealing that he is "Superman".

In effect, doesn't Superman resort to the use of lessor evils in order to prevent the greater evil?

And doesn't he engage in those activities freely and when necessary without any prior approval from any myriad of legal authorities?

The answer to all those questions is YES!

When the citizens of Metropolis rely on Superman to save them from the greater evil, they don't care about the process of due diligence PRIOR to the criminals being apprehended.

So then, how is he different than the evildoers he pledges to protect us against?

He is different from them because he avoids succumbing to the greater evil by choosing to use his abilities not for his personal gain, but rather to help humanity instead of harming humanity.

And we support, justify, applaud, commend, approve, and encourage him to do so.

So when our President, our law enforcement agencies and the Military do the same for the greater good, in the hope of preventing another 9/11 and any other terrorist activities, then why are we the people condemning them., or perhaps I should ask, why are those on left filled with false indignation.

It seems that society as a whole can embrace certain actions from our imaginary superheroes - but that's where it ends.

Once it moves into the realm of "reality" - we as a country, become torn, conflicted, confused, righteous, angry, disapproving, unsupportive, and divided. Well, liberals do...the rest of us understand the dangers of moral relativism and the difference between the lessor evil and the greater evil!

At Abu Ghraib, we witnessed the appalling inexcusable sick behavior of a few people towards other human beings, albeit terrorists.

Yet, while we have a military filled with heroes, the atrocities of a few eclipsed the nobility of the many.

I find it interesting and hypocritcal that when Arabs mutilated the bodies of four private contracters in Iraq - when the firebombed their vehicle, dragged their bodies around, shot at them, impaled them, and ran those images on tv and in papers throughout the world- Arabs applauded in the streets, yet they feigned indignation at what a few
sick people did at Abu G.

When 9/11 occured we witnessed arabs dancing and applauding in the streets. Yet when the pictures of those few misguided American soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners surfaced - no americans were seen dancing or applauding in the streets - no celebrations took place - instead ALL Americans remained mortified, horrified, and sickened at what had occurred.

For Arabs to feign their indignation at the behavior of a few sick americans is laughable, hypocritical and disingenuous...but not surprising. Suddenly there is outrage in the arab world - but their governments behave in the same manner to all prisoners and yet arabs remain strangely silent..afraid to speak out against their own gov'ts . And worse, they remain silent about the atrocities muslim terrorists commit not just against Americans and foreigners...but agains their fellow arabs!

It's sad that some Americans chose to succumb to the greater evil for their personal satisfaction ....but what remains clear and what separates the collective "us" from the collective "them" is that we did not celebrate their descent into darkness but rather collectively agreed, insisted, and demanded that we examine how and why this happened so as to prevent it from occuring again.

We did not dance in the streets, we threw up in our bathrooms and then demanded that those Americans that took part in the events at Abu G be dealt with according to the letter of the law.

Our Constitution was designed to regulate evil and control evil people. BUT, and here is what left wing moonbat liberals fail to understand, in order to do so, we WILL at times need to resort to the lessor evils of the Patriot Act, including warrantless wiretaping, in order to prevent the greater evil of another 9/11.

Of course we should be careful that we do not blindly support those that succumb to a greater evil in violation of their duties to us.

But let's be clear about what defines a greater evil.

Monitoring phone calls and emails of US citizens both in and outside the US is NOT the greater evil by ANY stretch of a liberals misguided imagination. I can't use the internet without a plethora of companies covertly using "spyware" to determine what I read, eat, buy, wear, drive, or fantasize about!

When the enemy is hellbent on killing us by any means necessary, and has done so, when he is determined to bring terrorism to our country, and has done so, and when he will seek to destroy democracy and freedom by any means necessary, then we must be willing to understand that in order to protect ourselves, our children, and our freedoms, it WILL more than likely require using the lessor evil, and ironically acquiescing some of our personal freedoms, in order to prevent the greater evil!

Like it or not there are times when the end justifies the means.

I dare ANYONE to tell me that had we found out through a warrantless NSA wiretap done, of a conversation Atta had while in the US with Moussaoui also while in the US, that shed light on their intentions to board planes on 9/11 and use them as a weapons, that using the lessor evil to prevent that greater evil from happening would have been WRONG! Would the ACLU, democrats and the left wing moonbats really be screaming about civil rights being violated??!!

Michael Ignatif once wrote that "Even terrorists,unfortunately, have human rights. We have to respect these because we are fighting a war whose essential prize is preserving the identity of democratic society and preventing it from becoming what terrorists believe it to be.

Terrorists seek to provoke us into stripping off the mask of law in order to reveal the black heart of coercion that they believe lurks behind our promises of freedom. We have to show ourselves and the populations whose loyalties we seek that the rule of law is not a mask or an illusion. It is our true nature. "

I disagree with what Michael perceives to be the motivation or intention of terrorists. And I am not sure that I agree with his premise that "even terrorists have human rights". But both Saddam and Moussaoui have had their "day in court".

Yet, If Mohammad Atta had received his day in court AFTER he was captured using any means necessary, 2000 people would be alive today.

In these times, when we are all facing the greater evil of terrorism, our gov't and our military, just like Clark Kent, will likely have to resort to acts of lessor evil in order to prevent acts of greater eviland to protect and preserve democracy & freedom and The American Way.

Here is a story from a city just down the road from you where they are saying a united Iraq needs a Shiite-Sunni army, not separate militias. They also explain the problems they have being soldiers/detectives/mediators and nursemaids.

Papa Ray

"When the NY Times no longer finds Iraq newsworthy, you will know which side has won."

which side?

Nice essay, but your comparison of Nazi guerillas after WWII to the Iraqi isurgency is disingenuous....

It's possible, Biddiscombe said, that some isolated Werewolf cells or officers may have continued to operate for a few months after the war. Guerrilla-style attacks did take place against U.S. soldiers -- wires strung across roads to decapitate soldiers or sand poured in gas tanks, for example -- and there were several suspicious deaths of U.S.-appointed mayors. In some towns, leaflets and posters threatened Germans who cooperated with the U.S. occupiers. But none of that activity can be directly attributed to the Werewolves, historians say.


"The Army put bars on jeeps to prevent decapitation by wires, but that was the only action taken by the Army," said [Lt. Col. Kevin] Farrell [a historian at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas]. "There's very little evidence of the Werewolves offering effective resistance." Moreover, historians say, the comparison between postwar Germany and postwar Iraq is questionable because of the scale of events taking place now in Iraq.

Slips like this undermine your credibility.

Also, check out this quote...

n his December 13 column, syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell claimed that "after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities"

Now from your essay...

Our current enemies are following a script that is not .original. Following the surrender of Nazi Germany, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both local officials and civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation forces. We stayed the course then. We would be wise to do so now.

It looks like what is not original is your writing. That is pretty bad when you look at it side by side. I'm sure Sowell would be flattered.

As far as this post goes, I didn't really have much of a recommendation for "what is to be done" about this particular conundrum. My point was simply to point out that we're in a strange transitional moment right now that is difficult to maneuver within. The ultimate goal is to allow the rules of civil society to be observed within Iraq, but it's difficult to foster the idea of civil liberties and help build the institutions that protect them for all citizens when what we're simultaneously fighting is this odd mix of street crime and guerrilla war. The enemy knows this and thus exploints this partnership of convenience for their own purposes. For once, I readily admit to not having all the answers.

Praguetwin, I'll now address your comments/accusations separately.

"'When the NY Times no longer finds Iraq newsworthy, you will know which side has won.'"

"Which side?"

The side whose victory will depress them and cause them to suddenly change the subject after years of claiming the sky is falling. If you still don't know, then spelling it out for you won't help much.

Despite what unnamed "historians" say, (I smell Wikipedia written all over those initial quotes of yours) I don't believe I implied that post-war Germany was a "perfect" analogy to post-invasion Iraq, but just that it shared a basic similarity. The history text understanding of victory in WWII is typically cast as the Nazis formally surrending and then Germany suddenly became the Wonderful Land of Oz. That's not the case. Their infrastructure was wrecked after years of war and the neglect that came with the regime focusing on little else BUT war, the economy was nonexistent, and the populace was angry and demoralized. But of course, the two countries, cultures, and their respective histories are entirely different, thus it's only a surface comparison that post-war reconstruction is a messy and patience-requiring business. The Marshall Plan took years to show dividends and Germany was necessarily occupied for quite some time. The bottom line is that the occupation resistance aims are the same in both instances. To discredit the occupiers, to the clear detriment of their fellow countrymen. Neither group did it (or continues to do it) for their native land or "their people", they did it for their own selfish reasons.

I'm not, nor do I claim to be an authority on the "Werewolves," or even who that refers to exactly. In Iraq's case, the "resistance" is a fragmented and decentralized collection of groups with differing motives and techniques but who share the same goal: To drive out the U.S. from Iraq.

As for Germany's postwar resistance, there's not too many widely known (at least by me) stand-alone histories available that focus on this lesser examined period of the war. I've been interested in learning more about it, but my only understanding of it has been in passing.

Which brings me to your last unfortunate comment. I am an admirer of Thomas Sowell, but I've only read him sporadically throughout this past year. I cannot say whether I have or have not read that particular column you alluded to. I may have read it back when it was published, but I honestly cannot recall. He's not typically one of my regular reads. Either way, if I had knowingly quoted him (even from memory) I would have credited him and attributed his work, just as I've often done in the past with others. He's much smarter than I am and citing his views only would have bolstered my argument all the more. However, the statements you're comparing are not particularly unique insights, but simply an established fact of history. You could probably find a similarly worded statement in any relevant encyclopedia entry. Will you then email Sowell accusing him of lifting from Encarta or Brittanica?

Isn't this a bit like accusing every band that came after the Beatles of plagiarism for continuing to write songs in the key progression of G-D-C? There's only so many ways to express yourself in one sentence.

I'm not writing term papers here from extensive notes and the benefit of research (with the exception of a few historical posts that actually WERE expanded upon from my old college term papers). The majority of them are quickly hashed out in a manner of a hour or two a week when I can find the time based on either my direct experiences, my collective reading, and my recollection of prior learning. The final product is often not as well-structured, persuasive, or properly edited as I would like, but I do the best I can with what I have to work with and the conditions and time constraints I have to work under.

If they are imperfect it is because the rough draft and final copy are more often than not one in the same. Otherwise, nothing would ever get posted. I accept these limitations, and only ask that my present environment be factored into any relevant criticisms of my work.

I often prefer to work from a post title idea and then develop the content according, not the other way around. Sometimes I stay faithful to it, and other times I go completely off the reservation. But I have accumulated dozens of titles for potential posts since last summer, the majority of them yet unused. I strive for originality, and when I later notice one that has already been in use I typically come up with an alternate one. But I don't Google search for all of them first to make sure no one has ever published it before me, and as long as I'm acting in good faith, I don't consider that my responsibility to do so. Case in point: one of my subtitles for my "Tales From the Front" post was "Dude, Where's My Car Bomb?" It was a phrase that I came up with within a month of being in country last fall, but I held onto it until I had accumulated more relevant experiences to flesh out the basic thought. I later came across that very phrase used offhand in some article or commentary (I can't recall who), but I knew that I had come up with it on my own so I used it anyway. As far as I know, no one had claimed copyright to the phrase.

I reserve rights to my own work simply so that others do not attempt to lay claim to my voice and twist or contort my message. But there is obviously no profit motive behind anything on my site. I have no ads or anything to hock other than what I believe to be the truth as I see or come to understand it, based on my own direct experiences and accumulated knowledge.

When regarding things I haven't directly witnessed, if I could site every exact instance or where I learned this or where I read that, I would. And when I can, I do. But for anyone who is an avid reader and frequent writer (two traits that every writer knows are inseparable), that idea of perfection is simply not attainable. Every writer stands on the shoulders of his or her influences, just as every musician does or every creator of any product.

I am sure there are many thoughts I've committed to writing that beg attribution from the relevant source or site that pointed out the story to begin with, and when I am able to make the connection and give credit where credit is due, I am glad to do this. But this is an impossibility. Must we provide footnotes after everytime we use the term "mainstream media" to whomever it actually was that first used that particular turn of phrase? Must we cite "1. Holy Bible" after every requoting of the Golden Rule?

I'm not sure how this intended brief rebuttal turned into a 1,000- word treatise on the Conception of Original Thought, but somehow it did. So much for getting around to posting again sometime this month. But if I appear just a tad over-defensive, it is because what you are making is a serious charge, the content of which I take quite seriously. If you wish to challenge the ideas I express as erroneous, by all means, do your worst. But in the absence of such, challenging my integrity is just a cheap shot. The former, I welcome, but I tend to get agitated much more over the latter. I do believe this comment is now longer than my original column. This has to be a first for me. My blog posts aren't exactly known for their brevity of content.

"Slips like this undermine your credibility."

I'll say this for you. At least you're allowing that I do in fact possess some measure of credibility. That's one better than my usual critics do me. I've been made aware of more than a few public message boards that spend the better part of two weeks decrying that I am an "blatant fraud" who has "obviously" never set foot in Iraq, much less the military. I know of no other cause for them to write such things other than what I express is in direct opposition to their preconceived notions and thier own doggedly guarded biases.

So at least compared to their vicious ad hominem attacks, you're only mildly troubling.



(Oh, and just to save you the trouble... shocking as it may seem... "Buck Sargent" is not my given name. Sorry to jump the shark on your next flame.)

A reader sent me a couple links to some interesting backstory on the whole Nazi-Iraq comparison "controversy." Apparently, anything can be made controversial these days if you argue it down to every last detail.


Seems Condi and Rumsfeld were talking this stuff up as far back as Aug 03. I didn't recall that, but I did read a lot of dogeared Time and Newsweek back issues over the course of that next year I spent in Afghanistan, so that may have been where I picked up on it.

The other link is an Army military history of the postwar period:


No way I'm getting through all that anytime soon. Just thought I'd provide it for anyone who may be interested.

Just came across this email I had saved from last September from an old family friend:

Dear Buck,

I have been enjoying your blog, having become aware of it through a certain Betty in Texas, and I have a question you might help me with.

I graduated from UC Berkeley in the turbulent '60s and since it was a land grant school, I took mandatory Army ROTC for two years which I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly the precision drill team and my studies of military history, battle tactics and war strategy.

I wish I could have taken my U.S. Army military history textbook with me as it was a source of much interesting information not readily available elsewhere. I remember reading about a slice of post-WW II history which might have application today in Iraq.

I recall learning that pockets of Nazi holdouts remained in Germany after the war ended, mainly in areas where the civilian population was more sympathetic to them, and that they regularly killed and wounded U.S. Army occupation troops. One of their principle weapons was improvised roadside bombs.

The Army took a dim view of this and handled it by completely surrounding such enclaves, declaring dusk-to-dawn curfews, and informing everyone within the restricted perimeter that anyone seen outside during the curfew, including soldiers, civilians, men, women and older children, particularly near roads used by the U.S. Army, would be shot on sight without warning. This curfew was enforced as advertised, and the civilians living there quickly got the idea and stayed out of sight, thus exposing the active Nazi holdouts who disobeyed the curfew and were up to no good. (Meanwhile, I suspect the mainstream media or even Stars & Stripes were nowhere to be seen.)

The Nazis were unable to plant their roadside bombs or organize ambushes as freely as they once had, while the U.S. Army continuously tightened the cordon, clearing areas around the perimeter day and night. Civilians eventually got fed up with the Nazis and started reporting their locations, which made the eventual successful cleanup much easier for the Army. When they killed or captured all the Nazi holdouts, they cancelled the curfew and moved on to the next enclave until the Nazi holdouts were no more.

This seems like the perfect way to handle the Iraqi insurgents who are operating in limited areas, and I'm wondering why we haven't been doing this from the get-go. With today's night vision equipment, flying observation drones, etc., it should be much easier to spot and neutralize curfew breaking insurgents than it was just after WW II.

So why haven't we learned from our past experiences and why aren't we handling the Iraqi insurgents in the same way we dealt with Nazi holdouts? Is it because we're afraid of alienating the Sunni population? Are we willingly taking unnecessary casualties in order to "win the hearts and minds of the population" as we tried to do in Vietnam?

Frankly, I'm more interested in reducing U.S. casualties and winning the war on terrorism than in winning the hearts and minds of Sunnis who have had their day under Saddam. And if the Sunnis living in insurgent-ridden areas had to put up with a dusk-to- dawn curfew, I would expect they'd eventually tire of the exercise and do what the German civilians did to the Nazis--turn them in.

I've been unable to find answers to this, and I'm hopeful that you can help me.

In the meantime, I can't tell you how proud I am of you and what you and your mates in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing. God Bless You, stay safe, and keep writing!

-Abbott Way Patriot

I recall responding to him that "we ARE" doing the things he recommended to some extent, but that it just takes time for the results to come to fruition. Part of that is the heightened media/political climate we have to operate within these days. Even relatively small things that in the old days would have been accepted as tragic but unavoidable casualties of war are now elevated to front-page news stories that can have a shelf life that endures for months or even years. This has the effect of making commanders and politicians overly risk-adverse, which in turn ends up increasing the risks of everyone involved at the end of the day, soldiers and civilians alike. (See: the current state of Ramadi, the most screwed-up area of Iraq currently).


First of all, my apologizes for insinuating that you were plagiarizing. The quote popped out at me as something particularly disingenuous in that it belies the depth and stength of the current insurgency in Iraq. By making the comparison, logic would have it that the current Iraqi insurgency is something transient and benign which I do not believe to be true.

So I googled "Nazi guerrilla units" and I got this rebuttal of the Sowell comparison. Once I saw the actual Sowell quote I thought, "wait a minute..."

I think in this case you are guilty of group think more than intentionally ripping someone off. Your treatise on plagiarism is quite good and your points are well taken. I am pretty hard on myself about it, sometimes to the point where I can't create because I feel like the ideas are already out there. I try not to read too much commentary because then it is hard to have an original thought. I'm going to leave it there before I write a treatise.

So, please, accept my apology. I think you are a good writer, which is why I bother to read and comment. I can't understand someone who would read someone consistently who they think is a total hack. That must be some kind of sickness

Now, keeping in mind this combination insurgency/urban violence that you are facing, any comparison of the German insurgency in say 1948, to the present situation seems tenuous at best. I understand that it wasn't a rose garden in post-war Germany. There were a lot of ugly things that happen at the end and after the war. (I found out recently that Prague had a "revolt" when the Russians were just outside the city and the Americans were in Pilzen. Some police assisted rioters in taking control of the radio stations and government buildings, people rioted in the streets and murdered their neighbors. Prague was a mixed city, and Germans sniped their Czech neighbors (who were rioting and killing Germans) from their apartment windows. This went on for 9 days and the streets were littered with bodies).

I think there is a misconception about the history of that time. So your point on the misconceptions is well taken.

Having said that, by 1948 Germany was reconstructing at a rapid pace. The whole region was reconstructing and growing at a fantastic rate. Sure, the Marshall plan took a while to kick in, but security for construction sites was not a huge problem, as it is in Iraq.

There is a fundamental difference between the two, and I am still trying to figure out why war advocates are so quick to compare Iraq to WWII but refuse to entertain arguments that compare Iraq to Viet Nam. In both instances, it is an underhanded tactic. From the advocates, the WWII comparison connotates success. For the dissidents, Viet Nam connotates failure.

The sheep say "oh, it is like WWII? That means we will win!" or, "oh, it is like Viet Nam? That means we are going to loose!" Just what we need right now: more propoganda from both sides.

Anyway, I think you do a good job here, and I don't get the feeling that you are not really a soldier. I have a lot of respect for what you guys do, even if I don't agree with why you have to do it this time. And at this point, I think there is an obligation to stay at least until the Iraqis ask the U.S. to leave. I imagine public opinion at home will get the soldiers home sooner than they should, which will be a shame. But this was predictable.

Keep up the good work, on the field and on the keys.


Looks like you, Buck, get back the title of screwiest comments on your site. Boggs will be pleased. I think Praguetwin "bothers to read and comment" because he seems to be a terrorist sympathizer and an enemy of our country. He goes around to the different good blog sites that are providing us with real information from Iraq and elsewhere, and tries to disrupt them. We don't pay any attention to him Buck. His rantings speak for themselves. You are great Buck and we find your blogs agree with others on the ground who actually know what they are talking about. Thanks for everything you are doing for us and our country. You're the best. Did you get your Oakleys back? Thanks


I am neither a terrorist sympathizer or an enemy of our country. I am a critical thinker, and I probably help people refine thier own arguments by being critcal.

Now I don't like to delve into hateful speach (which you have), but in this case, when you call me names and leave no information about yourself I think this is appropriate:

You are a coward. (I'm guessing that is you Annie, if not, sorry Annie).

Whoa, easy now gals. The man has a right to disagree. Even if it is on a minor assertion that amounted to a grand total of 25 words in a 2000 word post. (Sort of reminds me of the infamous “16 words” in the President’s 2002 State of the Union Address. Which incidentally, were another simple statement of fact that some still stubbornly refuse to concede). But as usual, I digress.


My apologies for jumping down your throat earlier. You've made some good, well-reasoned points here, all with tact, something not often seen in the criticism I typically receive. I believe I may have misjudged you, and I welcome your future participation. No one likes a good, clean argument more than I.

I read the Media Matters link you cited. I still don't recall that particular Sowell column, but it's probable that it was quoted elsewhere at the time (most likely the WSJ's Best of the Web, which I try to always keep up with) and I synthesized the idea and paraphrased it later more closely than I realized or intended. The content was only peripheral to this particular post however, but in hindsight, it probably would have been better to have excised it for overall clarity of argument. The information you've since provided has only reinforced my contention that I am certainly no expert on postwar Germany. The execution of the war itself has always managed to suck up all my attention on the subject. However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least upon further digging, if I came up with just as many historical sources that contend just the opposite. For every Juan Cole, Edward Said, or Noam Chomsky, there’s a Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, or Paul Johnson. History is rarely a static discipline.

That being said, I still believe that although it is not a perfect comparison, I do not believe it has to be in order to be applicable to Iraq. You're turning it into an intellectual exercise in comparative studies, but the basic gist is the same. After the surrender of Germany, the Unites States did not immediately redeploy all forces in Europe for two big reasons. One: civil authority needed to be maintained after we had uprooted by force a dictatorial regime that had previously run every aspect of the country (they were a statist government, just like Saddam), and two: Germany's continued survival as a sovereign nation was in doubt from outside forces (the Soviets)who sought to fill the power vacuum by swallowing it up for themselves as they had the rest of Eastern Europe retaken from the retreating Nazis. (Iran, Syria, and Turkey would have carved up Iraq between them had we packed up and left following the fall of Baghdad).

Nitpicking on the exact dates of the Nazi guerrilla attacks vis a vis the surrender date is beside the point in comparison to Iraq. No official surrender was signed by the Iraqis. The army folded up shop and went home in masse. They didn't wait to be "disbanded" by L. Paul Bremer, they disbanded themselves. In Germany's case, the army was annihilated after nearly 6 years of brutal warfare, and the rest were imprisoned. It's not surprising that the guerrilla resistance was not more effective or widespread; there was no one left with any energy but old men and boys to carry it out.

Another difference is that Iraq was one gigantic arms depot with a seemingly endless supply of weapons of war to modify for improvised attacks. Germany was spent after their defeat, in both munitions and morale. The Iraqis had declined to even put up much of a fight, and the hardcore elements went underground within weeks of the invasion.

Yet another difference is the mentality of radical Arab Muslims versus bellicose German Aryans. The Germans wanted to win, not necessarily die. For radical Muslims, dying is often part and parcel of the victory.

You're going into all sorts of detail to discredit the comparison, but it's a moot exercise. But no two wars are comparable in such a way; only in the broadest of strokes, which is the only way in which this particular analogy was intended. (By me, at least. I can’t speak for the others).

There were difficulties in postwar Germany. Fact. There are difficulties in postwar Iraq. Fact. How similar or dissimilar they are is irrelevant. What is significant is that postwar America did not clamor to abandon the field of Europe immediately after the fall of Berlin and let the chips fall where they may. That only would have left the region in more turmoil, more susceptible to another belligerent dictatorship, and created potentially worse problems down the line for future Americans to deal with.

I'll leave it at that. I cede your counterargument and cheerfully agree to disagree on a surface level. (If taken all the way down to the nitty gritty details, you are correct, it is not much of an instructive case study).

Thanks Buck,

You make some excellent points about the comparisons. As you can see, I am allergic to groupings and generalizations. Everything needs to be looked at critically every time.

I like your point about history not being static. There are always going to be conflicting views. But as Napolean said, "History is written by the winners." This is probably why German resistance was overlooked because it is a blemish on the U.S. record. Expanding on that, the U.S. generally gets a free pass on issues like Guatemala in '54 or Nicaragua in '80. Why? Because it doesn't fit the American history model. Anyone who dares to bring up the facts is labeled a "terrorist sypathiser." Trust me, I know.

I just had a huge discussion with Real Ugly American over at Boggs' blog on this point. He is tactful though, especially compared to some of the loonies who think I am an enemy of the state for having my opinion. He didn't call me a terrorist. ;-)

I love a fair fight as well. I have learned quite a lot over the last six months arguing with people who I disagree with. Debate is essential for learning. I've got you on my "opposing points of view" blogroll, right after a radical left-wing blog that espouses total pacifism.

Now, I'm not a pacifist. You'll note I am not calling for the withdrawl of the troops at this point. My opposition to the war started before the invation because I foresaw a generational commitment the moment boots hit the ground. What drives me crazy is the White House spin in the pre-war and early-war stages that led people to believe that this would be a quick operation. You probably agree with me on that: it was obvious going in that this would be a minimum 5 year operation, but more like 10. Ok, fine, 10 years. The general public deserved to be informed of this. Some of us are smart enough to figure these things out on our own.

Indeed, what the Democrats are proposing now is preposterous. Guys like Murtha make me especially angry becuase he should know better. When he voted for the war, he has the background to know what it is really going to take to win it.

Again, this is what is driving me crazy about Afghanistan. I favored the Afghanistan operation, but I feel it is being botched. The Taliban seem to get stronger every year, and still no trophy. I'd like to see Bin Laden's head on a stick as much as anyone. Unfortunately, he is not in Iraq.

Anyway, I'm really digressing now so I'm just going to stop.

Thanks for the discussion, and I look forward to plenty more in the future.



Happy Memorial Day, and thanks.



Stay safe--and thanks.

"Our current enemies are following a script that is not .original. Following the surrender of Nazi Germany, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both local officials and civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation forces."

This is not a new false analogy to WWII either. Rumsfeld and Rice have talked about this as well. It was debunked then and you should refrain from using this kind of false history as fact, before you end up looking like O'Reilly did the other day.



As usual, I enjoyed your post tremendously. I also enjoyed the exchange of ideas from some of your readers.

Thank you for your service and for your excellant insight into the problems we are now facing in Iraq. What you have to say is important and has merit. Don't stop saying it!

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"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln