Thursday, March 27, 2003

Iraq and Barbararossa - lessons from a war long ago

Report from the 26th of March 2003
During this war in Iraq, I can not help being an armchair general and think about lessons that the Americans and the British should draw from the German invasion of the Soviet Union, “Operation Barbarossa”, and what followed, of which the Russian, “Operation Uranius”, is very interesting. It is easy to compare the three campaigns, since they both were made rapidly, with big forces over long distances, over great plains, in a hostile environment. There are also many things that differ, which might be decisive for the Anglo-American forces. The development of the Iraqi war will prove if I am right, or not.
History is wonderful because it gives you a brighter and wider perspective of current events, Read more about it

Father Winter and Mother Summer
The Anglo-American Coalition stormed into Iraq the 18th of March, after many delays, due to discussions in the UN. The Coalition was anxious to get started before the Great Heat starts. Even in March, it’s a bit late, since it starts to get hot already in the middle of April. Adding to this, March is right in the middle of the so-called, “Khamsin”-season, when sandstorms sweep over a large part of the Middle East.
The Germans were also too late in 1941, with horrible consequences later on. They started the 24 of June and thought they would have a quick campaign (like the Coalition) that would be finished before “Father Winter” came, - the great cold.
The Coalition now faces the entrance of “Mother Summer”, which could have serious difficulties, especially for the troops that have to wear chemical suits. But the tanks will not be as hot as they were in the Libyan Desert, since they are air-conditioned.

The Strength
Concerns have been raised that the Coalition forces are too few. According the figures released by the press, the Coalition has 250 000 American and 45 000 British troops to conquer and occupy Iraq.
In “Operation Barbarossa” the Germans attacked with 3 million men, and just to take the Baltic states and Leningrad they used 500 000 men, 1 070 airplanes and 1 500 tanks. When the Russians made the final assault at Germany itself in the “Operation Uranius”, the 23rd of January 1945, they had massed 2,2 million men, who started to break into East Prussia.
I believe that modern warfare needs less man, since everything right now is mechanized and airlifted. You have fewer, bigger trucks that need fewer drivers. The logistics are far more easily and better organized today. The Germans relied much on horse drawn artillery and charts, which swallowed lots of men, and slowed down the pace of advance.

The Germans had the same problems as the Coalition has today. They attacked swiftly and had not time to secure their rear, the lines of support got very thin and vulnerable and troops and material got worn out. The result of the rapid offensive was an active partisan activity, which the Germans had to pay dear in losses of men and material that was needed at the front.
An other, more accurate comparison, is the offensive by the German Afrika Korps, led by the “Desert Fox”, Erwin Rommel, in the deserts of Libya and Egypt in 1943.
From the beginning the German involvement of the Italian war in North Africa was just thought of as a prop up for the staggering Italian Army. But despite the few resources Rommel had available, he managed, thanks to excellent tactics and bold execution, to penetrate deep into Egypt. Hitler gave him orders to go on, when he discovered how popular Rommel and the Afrika Korps became in Germany. Rommel, on his hand, knew from the beginning that it was a mission impossible, but had to go on. His biggest problem was maintenance and the long lines of support, which in the end brought him down

The Coalition has also made a very quick advance and has difficulties of securing their rear. The line of support seems to be vulnerable, which demands a lot of men to secure, men who better could be used in active battle. They do no not have the means to spread out a lot of troops to secure every village and town in the occupied areas. A fact that could be very expensive for them. I would not be surprised if the commander, general Franks, demands more reinforcements.
The Russians took no chances and had probably learned their lessons from the German mistakes, so they attacked with an overwhelming force, spearheaded with good equipped and well-trained assault troops, followed by second grade occupation forces to secure the rear. Russians invaded every little corner of the coquetted areas and plundered them thoroughly. The spearhead engaged the Wehrmacht and defeated them in battles.

Before attacking a major target, a wise commander lets his forces to consolidate, rest and see to that all elements that are needed are in place.
The Coalition are not yet in an attacking position for Baghdad, it will be interesting to see how they prepare for the assault of Baghdad. Will they give themselves time for consolidation before the assault? The generals are certainly pressed by an increasingly impatient home opinion and would probably not have the time to wait, which could have dire consequences.

The Germans, in front of Moscow 1941, did not consolidate, either. Hitler pressed the commanders to go on too quick. He wanted, of propaganda reasons, to give the German opinion something to chew on. – The foremost positions could see the towers of the Kremlin in their field glasses. The High Command realized quickly that the spearhead in front of Moscow, was in a dangerous position. They demanded that it should be withdrawn, so the forces present could consolidate, be reequipped and rest. They also had the big problem of “Father Winter”, who just had arrived with temperatures of minus 30-40 degrees and the soldiers just had their summer uniforms. But Hitler refused. So the Russians made a counter-attack with winter equipped, well-rested Siberian troops. The German soldiers were mowed down, fled in panic and froze to death in thousands.

In “Operation Uranius” 1945, they Red army reached the banks of Oder in just a few weeks, but the lines were stretched out, the troops were tired and the rear was not yet secured, so Stalin and the commander Zhukov decided to consolidate, before they could take the last leap to Berlin. The Red army stayed in place in over a month. They also had big problems of discipline, which hampered the operations.
When the mostly poor and revengeful Russian soldiers and officers, who had endured four years of war and the meagreness of communist rule, entered the rich Germany with, wealthy villages and towns, villas, prosperous farms and magnificent chateaus, they all went crazy. A horrible wave of plundering and rape started. The moment the soldiers got hold of alcohol, things got worse and they committed acts of atrocity, no one had seen in hundreds of years. Finally Stalin pulled in the reins and restored some kind of discipline, in order to finish the war.

Prisoners of War
From the press I read that the Coalition has a problem with all the POW’s they take. It is difficult to find decent accommodation and to divert troops to take care of them. The POW’s are slowing up the action. So far they have 4 000 people in their care. The Geneva Convention is strictly applied and the International Red Cross is keeping a hawk’s eye in order to ensure that everything is proper.
The Iraqi’s do not bother much. They do not have that number of POW’s from the Coalition. But they let five American POW’s, including a woman parade in front of the TV-cameras, which caused an outcry in the United States. The POWs seemed to be confused and scared, - no wonder. Saddam Hussein has a solid bad reputation of his treatment of POWs. One American pilot, freed after the Gulf War in 1991, testimonied how he had been beaten and tortured for six weeks in a row. His body looked as it was dipped in blue ink. – Not to talk about all the Iranian POWs from the 1980 – 1988 war.

The Germans considered the Russians as “Untermenschen” and treated their POWs according to that. It must be added that the Soviet Union never signed the Geneva Convention from 1929, but that does not excuse the Hitler from the atrocities he committed against the Russian POWs.
During “Operation Barbarossa”, the Wehrmacht would have been happy if they only have had 4 000 POWs; they captured millions during the offensive, complete armies. Totally they got 5 700 000 POWs, of which 1 030 157 were directly executed. Only one million made it in the forced labour camps and managed to get home, but coming home they were regarded as traitors and immediately sent to the GULAG.
The Gestapo-boss Müller reported proudly in December 1941, that of 22 000 POWs controlled, 16 000 were executed.
In contrast the Nazis treated the Allied POWs well, with exception of some executions of some POWs who broke out from a POW-camp and executions on the battlefield. But the Red Cross was allowed to make inspections and send food packages.

The Russians took millions of German POWs, who immediately were sent away to the Gulag, where most of them perished. Many, though, were dispatched to camps around destroyed Russian cities, which they had to rebuild. Of the 90 000 POWs who capitulated in Stalingrad, only 5 000 survived.
The Russians never had any problems with the logistics of the POWs, they had since 20 years a very efficient organisation to deport their own people to the GULAG. Alexander Soljenytsin wrote that the German POWs flooded the GULAG, but the Russians managed, thanks to old expeerience, squeeze them into the camps, even though most part of the POWs died.

Franc-tireurs and civilians
The word franc-tireur comes from the Franco – Prussian war of 18 71-72, and means literally “free shooter”. In our days he is called freedom fighter, terrorist or guerrilla. The franc-tireur is a civilian, who shoots at invading soldier. During World War I, the first franc-tireurs showed up in Belgium and caused the Germans considerable losses. The Germans retaliated harshly, executed the ones they got hold of and sometimes they killed whole villages. Their behaviour attended much attention in the press of the Entente and the Germans got the reputation as brutal oppressors.
According to war laws, anyone who participates in military action must wear a uniform or something that clearly distinguishes him as a soldier, apart from an ordinary citizen. Fighting armies has always, very strictly, looked upon this notion. No mercy has been shown to the franc-tireur, he was certainly executed or hanged at once, in some cases together with his family. It was regarded as a cowardly act, to fight, disguised as a harmless civilian.

During the “Barbarossa” the German Wehrmacht was fairly disciplined and tried to avoid unnecessary civilian losses. But when they were fired upon from a house, they did not hesitate to take it down, weather or not there were innocent civilians in the house. The SS-troops were particularly ruthless. During the course of battle they burned entire villages if they were suspected partisan bases (like the Americans in Viet-Nam) or if they were an obstacle for the artillery.
There were partisans in great number behind the German lines. TheWehrmacht and in many cases, the SS, staged many search-and- destroy operations in the vast forests of Russia, with frightful results for the ones they found. Many times the partisans were hanged publicly as a warning example.

The Russians in Germany showed no mercy whatsoever for the civilians. The soldiers were, in fact, encouraged to shoot civilians. When the Russian armour moved towards Oder, fleeing fugitives congested the roads. The tanks solved the problem by simply running them over or mowing them down. Sometimes the soldiers stopped, gathered fugitives and liquidated them at the side of the road. The soldiers got into nearly every house in the search for weapons and killed all civilians present, if they found one. The second grade occupation soldiers mostly did this.
The Nazis organized in the end of the war a kind of civilian militia, called the “Volkssturm”, that consisted of old men not drafted and children. This ragtag force was supposed to be the last ditch of the Reich. They had no uniforms, but wore an armband as distinction and had practically no military training. These poor people had no chance against the experienced Russian soldiers and were killed in thousands.

The Coalition has at the moment a growing problem with franc-tireurs. They consist of several groups, and sometimes also have independent, civilian fanatics among their ranks. The best known, and by far, the largest group is the so-called “Fedayeen Saddam”, a political militia, lightly armed and with little military training, though very fanatic. Their leader is the baby-faced, cruel son of Saddam Hussein, Uday. An other group is Al Quds, the military wing of the Ba’ath Party and of course the Special Security Service Organisation, who is in charge of Saddam’s own security. They operate in a ruthless manner, using women and children as human shields, pretending to capitulate and then shooting, using hospitals, schools and mosques as bases and transporting arms and personnel in ambulances. - Another problem is that Iraq is flooding of weapons; nearly all civilians have a Kalashnikov or some kind of weapon at home.
The coalition is caught in a quagmire, since they are supposed to be “liberators” of the Iraqi people and cannot use the same ruthless tactics against civilians as the Russians and Germans did. The Iraqis know this, of course, and use the civilian cover shamelessly and without regard to human lives and the laws of war. They know for sure that the Coalition forces never will execute them on the spot or hang them in the nearest lamppost.

It will be very interesting to see how the Iraqi war will unfold in the nearest future. The Coalition will certainly have to call in more people and enforce stricter rules, regarding the franc-tireurs and the possession of weapons. – Interesting is that America also has a flood of weapons …
Written by Erik Edelstam

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Democracy or dictatorship?

The issue of democracy verses dictatorship has lately more or less divided people, families and former allied countries. Most of us are in favour of human rights and democracy. But are we willing to fight for it? And moreover is it worth the price in human costs? What is your role as a passive bystander? Read more about it...

These are fundamental issues that we have to think carefully about. How many of us have lived under a dictatorship? How many of us know the reality behind the iron curtain of a maniac, be it in a small cult or in a country?

For those amongst us, who work with mind control and with people who have been submitted to such psychological pressures, know that it is nearly impossible to have the strength and the force to fight a cult leader or a dictator on our own. Help from the outside is needed to be able to leave and recover from the experience of a dangerous cult.
A dictatorship can be compared to a cult on a wider scale:
· There is one incontestable leader
· There is information control, i.e. censorship
· The people are pressured to silence through fear
· The individual differences are suppressed in favour of the ideology dictated
· Neighbours, friends, family members are encouraged to spy on each other
· Delation is the order of the day
· The leader is often paranoiac
· Any criticism is stopped through excommunication (exile) or murder
· The welfare of the followers is not a priority
· Lying is favoured when it serves the ideology and its leader
The list can be made longer but I’ll stop here.

Another question is now to be asked. Who deserves human rights? Everybody or just the Western countries? Only men or also women? These are fundamental issues for each one of us to reflect over, because it’s easy to take a stand and light candles or go down to the streets to demonstrate and exercise our democratic rights in our democratic countries for peace. I do think that most of us want peace in the world. A minority must surely be against peace and democracy. However, to be a silent bystander, like we’ve seen countless times in history, is also being an oppressor. Tolerance in the name of tolerance is sometimes exactly the contrary. It means that we tolerate what should never be tolerated. A genuine globalisation demands that universal values have priority in all cases.
At last I want to quote a German poet, Wolf Biermann, describing how he and his mother were running from the fires that devastated Hamburg after the British air raids in 1943, his mother told him “ these terrible, terrible bombers are going to free us from evil, evil people who took Papa away.”
I am happy to live in a country where I am free to write about these issues and where I can dress as I want, leave if I want, take a beer in a pub if I feel like it, go to court if I need to…
Written by Anne Edelstam

Frogs and cowboys - something impossible?

What's Wrong With France?

Read our article about France and the US, by our friend, the distinguished writer and digging journalist, Ken Timmerman. It was published in the right-wing, Insight Magazine. Normally we don’t like to take sides in politics, art stands beyond that, but Ken’s article rings a bell somewhere, especially for us who love France.

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless, noisy baggage behind."
-- Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense, (1989-1992); Jan. 30, 2003, on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews.

When Charles Lord Cornwallis realized he had been beaten at Yorktown, Va., on Oct. 19, 1781, he ordered his second-in-command to deliver his sword to the Comte de Rochambeau, the French general who had supported Gen. George Washington in the crushing defeat of the British thanks to a powerful naval blockade by a French fleet. Responding with an elegant gesture, Rochambeau directed him to Washington, who in turn directed him to his own second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. It was the final battle of the American Revolution, and the French had been with us when it counted.

In their schoolbooks, American children learn how France came to the assistance of the United States when everything was at risk, just as French children learn how the United States returned the favor twice in the last century. As he stepped onto French soil at the head of the American Expeditionary Force in 1917, Gen. John Pershing famously declared, "Lafayette, we are here!" Again, in World War II, the United States repaid the debt of liberty and friendship with the blood of yet another generation.

And yet, since the end of World War II, the United States and France have suffered a disaffection -- a love-hate relationship -- like former sweethearts wondering years later why it didn't all work out. In 1966, when Gen. Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO's unified military command and ordered the United States from bases in the Paris suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly asked him if he also wanted the United States to disinter and take along the American dead who had fallen at Omaha Beach.

De Gaulle didn't want that, of course; nor do the French of today. Indeed, every year on Aug. 15 the French village of Le Plan de la Tour celebrates the landing of American troops at Ste. Maxime and St. Tropez with a parade of World War II jeeps and veterans dressed in U.S. uniforms of that era. Similar celebrations are held across France where important battles of the Liberation were fought.

But to read the invective broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic as the political rift between the United States and France has grown in recent weeks, one might never know that the two countries are bound by a shared heritage bought with blood.

Dominique Moisi, who heads the leading French think tank, the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), tells Insight: "This is a rejection of war and a rejection of America. It's no longer a rational issue -- it's an emotional question. There's a feeling that war itself is the biggest evil." French President Jacques Chirac has been saying the same thing, while outraged Americans respond by accusing him of appeasement.

Moisi defends the United States' and Britain's determination to disarm Saddam Hussein by force, if necessary, but says he finds himself in a distinct minority among European opinion leaders. Moisi, showing the angst America's supporters in France are experiencing, says: "I share the conclusions of the Bush administration, but I am disappointed with the way the argument is made. The opposite is true of France. The argument is very well presented, but the conclusion is wrong."

Meanwhile, in the United States, the depth of anger with the French is breathtaking. Internet communities and politicians are awash with anti-French jokes that express a mixture of contempt, hurt, incomprehension and insult.

At a dinner party at the home of Indian consul Skand Ranjan Tayal in Houston recently, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) ripped into a French diplomat who was criticizing the U.S. position on Iraq. "It was obvious we were not going to agree," DeLay said, so he asked the Frenchman if he spoke German. "And he looked at me kind of funny and said, 'No, I don't speak German.' And I said, 'You're welcome,' turned around, and walked off."

In Beaufort, S.C., a restaurant owner took French fries off his menu and replaced them with "freedom fries." In West Palm Beach, Fla., bar owner Ken Wagner poured his entire cellar of vintage French wine into the street. Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he intended to block a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Vivendi Environmental from getting a $25 million government contract to build a sludge-treatment plant.

On Internet discussion boards, jokes go to the heart of French honor. "Why are French streets lined with trees?" goes one. Answer: "So the Germans can march in the shade." Question: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?" Answer: "No one knows, it's never been done."

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey argues that such jokes "should not only be beneath us but are quite false." He points to the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914, when Gen. Joseph-Simon Gallieni mobilized Parisian taxi drivers to rush reinforcements to the front to save the city, a moment in French history "as famous in France as Washington's crossing of the Delaware is to Americans."

Similar jokes about Germany fail to acknowledge courageous opposition to Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich, when diplomats such as Ulrich von Hassell plotted against the dictator and paid for it with their lives. "We diminish ourselves and our arguments by denying the noble side of these nations' histories and slandering their national honor," Woolsey says. "Yes, the Germans had the Nazis and the French the Reign of Terror and Vichy. And we had slavery." He suggests calling the war to liberate Iraq, "Operation Lafayette.''

The most famous anecdote French schoolchildren are taught about the First Battle of the Marne is slightly more nuanced than Woolsey's account. When several hundred taxis had assembled at the Esplanade des Invalides in Paris, one of the drivers turned to the French army officer in command and asked, "What about the fare?" After a bit of haggling it was agreed to pay the drivers 27 percent of the meter reading for the harrowing 60-mile round-trip to Nanteuil-le-Haudouin. But thanks to their heroism, the German advance on Paris was stopped.

Woolsey is right when it comes to honor. As a journalist who has spent 18 years in France, this reporter deployed overseas with French marines and spent time as a hostage in a Beirut cellar with a French foreign legionnaire, where we ate dirt, sweated fear and prayed together. It is hard to forget having dined with the commanding officer of the French Foreign Legion, who voiced admiration for the United States and criticized the lack of resolve of his political masters.

French presidents repeatedly have humiliated the French army. In 1991, then-president François Mitterrand belatedly dispatched the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau to the Persian Gulf to join the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, but not before his minister of defense, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, gave orders to disembark the entire complement of combat aircraft. When the Clemenceau steamed out of its home port of Toulon, it was photographed with its flight deck jam packed with trucks.

This is the type of thing that gives French officers "les boules," an expression that is accompanied by a hand to the throat to indicate that they are choking with rage.

[Related material: "A Brief Military History of France."]

French grandeur is indeed at stake in the current standoff with the United States and Britain over Iraq. "This obsessive finger-pointing across the Atlantic is the latest hint that a kind of new Cold War is brewing with an adversary that Americans never would have expected," writes Joshua Muravchik, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. "The French act as if they feel they were the real losers when the old Cold War ended. America's emergence as the sole superpower, no longer counterbalanced by the Soviet Union, seems to have left them with an accentuated sense of inferiority. To assuage it, they are not only blaming and denigrating America but also challenging it on one diplomatic front after another."

Behind the scenes, say insiders, France has an economic stake in maintaining Saddam Hussein in power and cloaks this in meaningless babble about preventing Iraqi civilian casualties, as if Saddam had not murdered and starved a half-million Iraqi civilians during the last decade alone.

According to Richard Perle, who heads the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, the French national oil company TotalFinaElf recently negotiated with Baghdad a contract to expand Iraq's huge southern oil fields, worth an estimated $40 billion to $50 billion. This contract only can come to fruition if Saddam remains in power. "What's distinctive about the Total contract is that it's not favorable to Iraq, it's favorable to Total," Perle said during a recent address in New York City. "One can suspect that there's some arbitrage there, that in between the real value of that contract and the cash value of that contract there's a certain amount of political support. It's entirely possible that Saddam negotiated that deal thinking that along with the revenues he could get something else." That something else, of course, would be French support in opposing the war.

Perle believes that the behavior of Chirac and his government raises doubts as to the future of the U.S.-French relationship. "France is no longer the ally it once was," Perle said, adding that Chirac "believes deep in his soul that Saddam Hussein is preferable to any likely successor."

Members of Chirac's governing Union Pour la Majorité Presidentielle (UMP) party have traveled to Baghdad repeatedly in recent months to promote Franco-Iraqi trade and a political partnership with Saddam, as have senior officials of the extreme right-wing National Front, including the wife of its leader, Jean-Marie LePen.

Among Chirac's allies is Thierry Mariani, a UMP member of parliament who spearheads the Franco-Iraqi Economic Cooperation Association, a pro-Iraqi lobbying group. After a high-profile (and highly criticized) trip to Baghdad last September, Mariani explained his motivation: "I prefer that we had relations with Iraq rather than with Saudi Arabia. Between two dictatorships, I prefer a secular dictatorship to a totalitarian Islamic regime." Mariani said he believed that France was engaged in an "economic war" with the United States which justified strengthening economic ties to Baghdad [see "Eurobiz Is Caught Arming Saddam," Feb. 18 - March 3].

IFRI's Moisi believes that the future of the U.S.-French relationship depends on how the war itself plays out. "If it's a quick war, won decisively by the Americans, we will keep quiet. If the war doesn't go well, that will be different. It's the aftermath of war that I fear," he says.

France indeed may try to keep quiet after a stunning U.S. victory that brings democracy to Iraq. But will the new Iraqi government forgive the French for their outrageous support of Saddam?

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.