A Different Kind of Blog

news and things sacred and irreverent put together by opinionated people.

How to Wage War in Iraq – Against Hitler

Posted by lawman2 on December 5, 2008

1-front-cover_190Mustard-colored and twice the size of an iPod it is the most interesting and depressing of reads for anyone working in Iraq.

Every White House should have one.

Lessons unlearned, history unread and institutional knowledge neglected cry out from every page of the ‘Guide For U.S. Forces Serving In Iraq 1943,’ issued by the War and Navy Departments to American servicemen during the Second World War.

Republished in 2008 by Dark Horse Publications, the tiny booklet for troops heading to protect the Persian Gulf’s oilfields and supply routes is a pronunciation, cultural and religious survival manual whose wisdom applies to Iraq (i-RAHK) during the era of the Toyota pickup truck and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as much as to the age of the camel and the Luftwaffe.

“Show respect to all older persons,” writes the anonymous author.

“American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.”

13firstpage_650True, phrases such as “Herr Hitler knows he’s licked if the people united against him stand their ground,” have more resonance to British forces in their air bases at Habbaniya and Shaibah after the 1941 coup by the German-leaning nationalist Rashid Ali el-Gailani than to today’s denizens of FOB Falcon and Camp Victory.

The regional geopolitics is likewise dated. “Iran (EE-RAHN) (Persia)” gets only a passing mention. The town of Haifa (HAI-fa) lies “in Palestine, on the Mediterranean Sea,” instead of the not-yet-created modern state of Israel. And Iraq lies only “north of Arabia,” with no mention of the ruling Saudis.

But the warning that Americans are about to encounter a “harsh, hot, parched, dusty, and inhospitable land” was as true in 2003 as 60 years earlier, as were the timeless observations:

“That tall man in the flowing robe you are going to see soon, with the whiskers and the long hair, is a first-class fighting man, highly skilled in guerrilla warfare. Few fighters in any country, in fact, excel him in that kind of situation. If he is your friend, he can be a staunch and valuable ally. If he should happen to be your enemy, lookout!”

“You aren’t going to Iraq to change the Iraqis. Just the opposite.”






16-tall-man_650“The Moslem bible is known as the Koran and the Moslems worship in mosques (mosks). They are very devout in their religion and do not like to have ‘unbelievers’ (to them you are an ‘unbeliever’) come anywhere near their mosques. You can usually tell a mosque by its high tower. Keep away from mosques.

And women. And religion. And politics. And…And…And…

Perhaps the most depressing reaction was that of the NYT’s Iraqi newsroom coordinator as he leafed through the book’s pages in the Baghdad Bureau today.

“They knew all these things before? So why…….?”

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