Saturday, October 25, 2003

Then And Now....Lessons Unlearned!

By Craig Roberts

It appears to be a rule in "military history and lessons learned" that
we don't remember the lessons.

Below is an article by Vince Morris of the New York Post, who is
probably too young to remember a little "conflict" called Vietnam. But I
won't forget it, or the lessons we learned, since I was a young US
Marine infantryman who did my share of rice paddy wading in I Corps in

One of the lessons American fighting men learn in the first few days of
war is that our rules don't count. We learn about the enemy, his
methods, madness and motivations. We also learn that they do not, ever,
think or act like Americans. It seems we never learn that we are
different, and they don't play by our rules.

Americans are a kind and compassionate people. We try to "liberate" and
not "conquer" when we go to war. Liberating Iraq and fighting terrorism
now is identical to defending South Vietnam and fighting Vietcong
terrorism in the '60s. I landed with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th
Marine Regiment at DaNang in July of 1965. Within three days of our
landing we were entrenched around a village called Duong Son and began
receiving fire from guerrillas of the Doc Lap battalion of Vietcong
(based in a tunnel complex under the village of Cam Ne, one kilometer
across the paddies to the west).

We established an outpost of one platoon on a small island in the
paddies between us and Cam NE, and sent two wiremen to string commo wire
to the "little ville" (which was one building used as a schoolhouse).
They left just before dark and never arrived at the "schoolhouse." They
never came back either.

The next morning we sent out patrols and found them at the edge of Cam
NE, hung up by their heals in a tree, tortured and killed as a signal to
us of what would happen in the future. There were other atrocities that
had been done to the bodies that I won't describe.

But it backfired. It had just the opposite effect on us that it may have
had on other nationalities. It did not scare us. It did not terrify us.
It did not make us want to quit and go home. Instead, it galvanized
us--and changed the rules.

Americans begin by being kind and understanding and compassionate. But
don't anger us. Don't try to shock us. Don't hurt any of our people.
Because if you do, you will bring down more fire and brimstone than you
ever reckoned existed.

Seeing the two bodies caused us (the entire Regiment) to change our
attitude about the enemy and the Vietnamese in general. This would last
for the rest of the war. THEY are the ones who caused more grief and
death and destruction on their personnel than would have happened if the
two young Marines had not been captured, tortured and executed. For the
next 11 months I never took a prisoner on purpose. I killed every VC and
NVA I could get in my sights (and later my scope as a sniper). I hated
them and when I took up the trigger slack on every target, I thought of
those two wireman who went home in body bags after only three days in

Now we have young soldiers and Marines faced with the latest version of
the "wiremen incident of Duong Son." American National Guard reservists
from Texas, serving in a support role, made a wrong turn in Iraq and
evidently drove up to Iraqis wearing civilian clothes. No one knows what
happened next, but whatever happened it is evident that our guys were
not prepared for combat. If they had been, there would have been Iraqi
bodies on the road instead of American. Our guys expected Iraqi
"civilians" would be glad to see them, and they probably assumed these
"civilians" would be helpful if they stopped to ask directions. The
Iraqis were either soldiers in civvies, or militia. So, it appears no
defensive shots were fired. But the Al Jazeera TV footage shows dead GIs
with head wounds that appear to be from very close range. This was an
execution of POWs by war criminals. This is the Iraqi War version of the
Wiremen Incident. And now our guys are relearning the lessons we learned
in Vietnam: There Is No Compassionate War.

In my opinion, there are two missions for the man in the field: Win the
war quickly, and go home alive.

To do this, a warrior has to be careful, cautious and ruthless. We must
know we cannot fight a "careful war" in which we try not to hurt anyone.
The mission of the military is not that of policeman. The mission is to
go places, destroy real estate, break things, and kill people. We have
to relearn this in every war. But it is a lesson we quickly learn,
albeit often a bit late, and with far too much of our own blood.

When one sees the liberal socialist media whining about civilian
casualties, just put these images in your mind: Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie,
the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, the attack on the USS Cole, the
9-11 WTC and Pentagon attacks, and the crash in Pennsylvania. Also
remember that we have over 100 Iraqi terrorist cells, not to mention al
Qaeda in this country just watching and waiting for a chance to "avenge

Here's to our troops: God Bless, God Speed, and now that you know the
"rules," Good Hunting!

Semper Fidelis,

Craig Roberts
L/Cpl, USMC, Vietnam, '65-66

Now, read on, my comments are in brackets...


****Marines Out To Avenge Blood Of 'Executed' GI's****

The Marines at this chopper base near the Iraqi border are seething with
rage and talking revenge over the treatment of American POWs - paraded
on TV and some possibly executed.

"OK, they want to play that way. We can play that way," vowed one
enraged pilot. Marine after Marine had the same message - many of them
warning that there would be "no second chances for those Iraqis now."
Virtually every conversation here touched on the POW's treatment and
possible executions yesterday. It was discussed on chow lines, in the
bomb shelters, outside the latrines.

(This is the latest version of The Wiremen Incident that changed the
rules of engagement in the field for the average grunt)

Robert "Doc" Davenport, a Marine medic trained to both save people and
kill them, was among those struggling to digest the appalling news. "It
makes it harder to do my job," he said, explaining he'll now think twice
about dressing the wounds of injured Iraqis. "If we run across one of
them and he needs my help, it will be harder for me to do it," he added.

(Our Doc Lindstrom felt the same way. As a Navy Corpsman, he wanted to
help people and save lives, but after the wireman incident he added four
grenades to his aid bag).

Many Marines on this desert base - affectionately known as "Snakepit" -
said they believe they were sent to Iraq not to hurt people, but to free
them from Saddam Hussein's ruthless grip. "We want to help these people
and look what they're doing to us," said more than one shocked Marine.

(Exactly what we thought and said at Duong Son in '65)

"What we should do is go in there and kill every last soul," growled
Sgt. Mike Brady. "If they realize that we are going to kill them like
that, they'll be like 'OK, OK, we surrender,' " said the 28-year-old
Texas native. Brady, who mans the twin 50-caliber machine-guns aboard a
Sea Stallion chopper, said he'll be much more wary now when he's flying
over Iraqi positions. He'll no longer give enemy soldiers the benefit of
the doubt when they start waving white flags. "I'm going to be a lot
quicker to pull that trigger if I think they're up to something," he

(Our Sgt. Shireman said almost the same thing, but his version was "no
prisoners, any questions?")

During an air raid yesterday - when everyone rushed into the bomb
shelters with their gas masks and chemical and biological gear - one
Marine's muffled swearing was heard above the din. Repeating the
sneering nickname used for Saddam Hussein, he kept saying, " 'So damn'
insane, 'so damn' insane. I'm going to come up there myself and kill

(Ho Ho, Ho Chi Minh, We're gonna hit you on the chin. Then we'll fire
shot and shell and send you sorry ass to hell!)

Of course, not everyone on the base is calling for blood - yet. Cpl.
Joseph Michinki said he's not convinced the executions actually took
place. "They can fake all kinds of things with video," noted Michinki,
21, of Georgia. "But if that really was Americans being killed, I'd be
pretty pissed," he added.

(This young Marine will learn, eventually. We all do)

Article by Vince Morris, (italic comments by Craig Roberts,
Consolidated Press Int'l)
March 25, 2003
(Reporting from a Marine helicopter base in the Kuwaiti desert)

****Kill'em And Let God Sort'em Out****

The (3rd Infantry) division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Bloat, is candid
about the threat. "The Bah Party is very well organized and very active
with a lot of forces in Najaf and Samawah," he said in an interview
Monday night. "And they are capable of responding fluidly to us."It has
always been the hope of the American war planners to avoid Iraq's
cities, so as to minimize both American and Iraqi casualties. But there
are doubts. "I think these guys are going to keep coming out and
harassing us," Bloat said. "I think eventually we're going to have to go
in there and kill them. I think we will have to kill them unless we can
get rid of the top guy in Baghdad."

---Michael Kelly, Syndicated Columnist
March 26, 2003

Copyright 2003 The Sierra Times
Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name
of our site, the author, and our URL. All Sierra
Times news reports, and all editorials are � 2003
(unless otherwise noted)� A Subsidiary of J.J. Johnson Enterprises, Inc.

R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern