Phoenix Program Lessons to Iraq
Scope and Significance
The Phoenix Program in Vietnam
Lessons Learned from Phoenix
Applications for Iraq
APPLICATION of PHOENIX PROGRAM LESSONS to IRAQ
It is not at all unusual to hear popular comparisons made between the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq and though most experts see only a casual relationship still others see a comparison that is not only valid but is applicable to the utilization of historical Vietnam tactics and lessons learned from them to formulate reasonable resolutions to the Iraq War. In a collection of essays analyzing the similarities and differences of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, ed. David Ryan demonstrates that the two wars are very similar in public sentiment and that Vietnam is likely to remain a standing point of comparison with considerable influence over all present and future international policy issues. Record and Terrill collectively agree that the insurgence that is and will continue to create continued conflict in Iraq does not have the infrastructural external support that the Vietnamese Communists relied upon for success in their unofficial role. Yet, similarly the two groups, the Iraqi insurgents and the Vietnamese Communist insurgents are secondary to official military and civilian development. Lastly, the development of the official Iraqi government has some even greater weaknesses than the official civilian and military development systems in Vietnam, as such systems in Iraq have not attempted to develop collective support from society. This lacking will need significant address by the U.S. And Iraqi officials in the very near future because if the civil and military governments established by the nation are not popularly supported, and like Vietnam are rampant with corruption it will likely fail in the same manner that those structures in South Vietnam did during and post war period. From this historical observation one must come to the conclusion that support for the civilian and military infrastructure must be an aspect of any program built in Iraq that is similar to Phoenix, in addition to the tactical and intelligence decisions to attempt to weaken and destroy the insurgent support. Record and Terrell openly point out that in 2004 at the time of the writing of their work there was no such established plan in action in Iraq.
It is clear that there is no magic bullet that will easily resolve the convoluted conflict in Iraq or leave any lasting peace filled results, without extreme commitment from all parties. It is also clear that there will likely be a draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq, at some point in the near future which will leave the bulk of the responsibility to the newly formed and trained Iraqi police force and military. The resolution, most experts attest will be costly, lengthy and anything but easy, for both the U.S. And other support forces but most extremely for the Iraqis themselves. Some experts have looked back upon lessons learned in Vietnam from a particular tactical offensive known as “Operation Phoenix” as a source of hard learned information for some resolution of the complicated problems in Iraq. The primary focus of this thesis will be to identify key lessons learned from the Phoenix Program on countering Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI) and apply these lessons to develop an effective strategy for current Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In a summation report forwarded by the Strategic Studies Institute an expert group that is heavily relied upon by the U.S. administration and military for collective expert strategic analysis of conflict there is an open contrast and comparison between these two conflicts:
U.S. political and military difficulties in Iraq have prompted comparisons to the American war in Vietnam. How, in fact, do the two wars compare? What are the differences and similarities, and what insights can be gained from examining them? Does the Vietnam War have instructive lessons for those dealing with today’s challenges in Iraq, or is that war simply irrelevant? In the pages that follow, two highly qualified analysts address these questions. Dr. Jeffrey Record, formerly a civilian pacification advisor in Vietnam and author of books on both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and W. Andrew Terrill, author and co-author of several SSI studies on Iraq, conclude that the military dimensions of the two conflicts bear little comparison. Among other things, the sheer scale of the Vietnam War in terms of forces committed and losses incurred dwarfs that of the Iraq War. They also conclude, however, that failed U.S. state-building in Vietnam and the impact of declining domestic political support for U.S. war aims in Vietnam are issues pertinent to current U.S. policy in Iraq.
In short the expert analysts conclude that in scale the wars are completely different but in development the lessons of failed Vietnam state building and strategy can play an important role in understanding how the Iraqi war should be approached more effectively. The surrounding information, then on the manner in which the Phoenix Program was developed and administered by the U.S. In both civilian and military circles should be analyzed to determine how these conflicts are similar and how not to repeat the mistakes of the former war in the current war.
This work will focus on one overriding research question: How might lessons learned from the Phoenix Program, established during the Vietnam War, apply to the current situation in Iraq? And several secondary questions to help form a developed and comprehensive view of the totality of Operation Phoenix and how the lessons learned from it might assist in OIF:
1. What were the historical lessons (Pre-Vietnamese, French, GVN/U.S.) that led up to the Phoenix Program?
2. How was it conducted in Vietnam?
3. How did the VC respond to Phoenix? How did the NVA (PAVN) respond to phoenix? What were the major differences, if any, in these responses?
4. What were the lessons learned from Phoenix Program?
5. How can the lessons learned from the Phoenix Program be applied to the current situation in Iraq?
The answers to these questions will form the basis for the answer to the main research question and also create a realistic comprehensive view of the positive and negative outcomes of the development and utilization of the Phoenix Program for the CIA, the VC and the NVA. The work will focus on both primary and secondary sources both, current i.e. retrospective and contemporary to the events of the Phoenix Program. There is a significant body of work which is critical to the tactics and events that developed as a result of the Phoenix Program and at least a limited body of work that supports at least some of the tactics that were utilized in an attempt to resolve the conflict created by insurgency activities in the nation of Vietnam. Looking at the good and the bad, beyond the debate, will assist the U.S. military and the Iraqi peoples in the development of a collaborative system that will ease the transition of Iraq back to a state of independence and relative peace.
Scope and Significance
The U.S. military will eventually draw down its operations in Iraq, at which time the security of the Iraqi people will fall on the shoulders of the newly-formed Iraqi security forces. Insurgents and terrorist groups are bound to exploit the opportunity to attack and disrupt the fragile military and police forces. Since the Iraqi militaries and national police will be the primary forces relied upon to conduct security operations to protect the cities and the people, they will need to develop an intelligence network using local and national assets to combat these threats. In the Vietnam War, Phoenix Program was set up by the CIA using South Vietnamese Army and local police intelligence apparatus to fight the insurgency mounted from the inside South Vietnam and the assault from the North. The Intelligence Community could potentially use the lessons learned from Phoenix to aid the current OIF.
The value of the lessons of the Phoenix program in both the positive and the negative is essentially a developed set of standards that have been tried and tested across many venues of conflict, intelligence, insurgency and counterinsurgency. As a result of these lessons, the U.S. military and the Iraqi civilian police and newly developed military can utilize some of these lessons to create an interrelated system, similar to that which was seen in Vietnam, where the U.S. military develops a system of training Iraqis to gain information and from this eliminate insurgency actions and possibly influence. In short the “ideal” of the Phoenix program should be followed again, with tighter controls over the individual actions of the plan.
Key lessons learned from the Phoenix Program will assist in developing a strategy for Iraq. There were lessons learned from the Phoenix Program that would seem almost tailor made for Operation Iraqi Freedom, yet it is clear that the pacification movement which Literature Review
The “ideal” of the Phoenix Program can be seen in one of the first ICEX documents, Military Intelligence: Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation for Attack on VC Infrastructure – Short Title ICEX (U). (MACV Dir 381-41) This document is one of the first confidential memorandums associated with the Phoenix Program, which details in 1967 the mostly U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency intelligence and activities and discusses the future training and development of South Vietnam forces to serve the same function, that had been supported by the U.S. In civilian (mostly CIA) and military roles. The document stresses that the U.S. role is to emit a “shotgun” type injury to the infrastructure of the insurgency, while eventually the South Vietnamese agencies (based largely on existing U.S. forces) that will be developed later hold the responsibility of directing a more “riffle shot” like blast to the core of the movement, i.e. To perform appropriate apprehension and/or assassination of key figure leaders.
Since this time and likely in part as a response to the controversial clandestine actions of the past the U.S. has abandoned assassination as a viable tactic of war. Though some argue that this severely limits the ability of the U.S. To strategically fight war, others argue that this is a strong step toward reconciliation of past wrongs., Douglas Valentine, a leading expert on the Phoenix Program and the collector of the previously classified documents associated with it, brings to the public the idea that from this document written in 1967 one can see the emphasis the U.S. puts on its own role in developing the goals of the program. The document itself provides a table that details the U.S. chain of command in Phoenix but does not show the South Vietnamese adjuncts to the chain of command.
Valentine interprets this as not an oversight but an intentional representation of just how active the U.S. intended to be in this offensive against the VC infrastructure.
From this ideal the Iraqi situation should be directed, but it is also clear that in the circumstances of the day the need for the address and acceptance of many of the accords of the Geneva Convention must apply to the decisions made by both the U.S. And Iraqi officials and subordinates, as with Vietnam decisions made today will haunt the U.S. And Iraq for decades if such accords are ignored or curtailed in any semblance of a directed non-humanitarian manner. The aberrations at Abu Ghraib are proof of this reality, and despite the near constant U.S. assertions that these actions were the actions of a few rouge soldiers, without orders or sanctions for their actions, the truth of the matter will likely never be fully realized by the public, in the U.S. Or in the Middle East, many of whom see such actions as essentially sanctioned by historical breeches in humanitarian policy elsewhere, including but not limited to Vietnam itself.
We may think the similarity between the lynching and prison photos resides in the unabashed picturing of torture and humiliation itself. But more shocking, even, in both sets of photos, are the proud perpetrators whose smug gloating we do not expect to see and who flaunt an appalling shamelessness. This is because we identify the perpetrators as the immediate criminals here, not their prisoners/victims. In both cases, for us, national and international laws against torture and murder are clearly violated, the basic imperatives of humanity and decency dishonored, and the images, like the acts they represent, evoke revulsion at the humiliation and barbarity of it all.
In fact one of the most basic lessons of Vietnam, which we assumed had been learned already was systematically violated by the guards and U.S. officials who built this disturbing repituar of images, being the visual representation of brutality that turned the U.S. public completely against the war in Vietnam. The systematic embedding of press officials within the military occurred in Vietnam as well, but in Iraq there has been a much more aggressive attempt by the U.S. To control the images and experiences of the press, to the point that many claim the images and assignments leave a lot out of the story.
From the beginning, the U.S. government has attempted to censor information about the Iraq war, prohibiting photographs of the coffins of U.S. troops returning home and refusing as a matter of policy to keep track of the number of Iraqis who have been killed….To be sure, this see-no-evil approach is neither surprising nor new. With the qualified exception of the Vietnam War, when images of body bags appeared frequently on the nightly news, American governments have always tightly controlled images of war. There is good reason for this. In war, a picture really is worth a thousand words. No story about a battle, no matter how eloquent, possesses the raw power of a photograph…. Governments keep war hidden because it is hideous. To allow citizens to see its reality — the shattered bodies, the wounded children, the incomprehensible mayhem — is to risk eroding popular support for it. This is particularly true with wars that have less than overwhelming popular support to begin with. In the case of Vietnam, battlefield images played an important role in turning the tide of public opinion. And in Iraq, a war whose official justification has turned out to be false, and which a majority of the American people now believe to have been a mistake, the administration would prefer that these grim images never be seen….Moreover, most photographers are embedded with U.S. troops, a situation that imposes its own limits.
The writer of this article notes that there are probably only about 12 U.S. journalists with photographers in Iraq and many are restricted by open admonishments from the military commanders in charge of the U.S. army groups they are imbedded with. The ability of so few restricted individuals to cover the whole of the war is limited and this is fine with the Bush administration, as the desire from the beginning has been to keep the images tightly controlled so that the tide of public opinion will not be swayed by them. So, what we are then left with is a group of pictures (Abu Ghraib), saying even more than they likely meant to the people in them or taking them about the war. Clearly this attempt to control the information flow that is leaving Iraq is an essential aspect of lessons learned regarding the extremes of the images associated with Vietnam, and this was clearly a policy breeched by the gloating soldiers, guards and contract officials associated with the prison at Abu Ghraib.
Even more important in this perception were some visual images from the camera lens. The famous picture of the Buddhist priest burning himself was one, but there were two others in particular: the young girl fleeing naked from a napalm attack, and the chief of Saigon’s security police shooting a Viet Cong prisoner through the head. These left a profound and indelible impression on the U.S. And world public. Media coverage of the war has since been the subject of much debate. Was it flawed? And did it, as many claim, help turn what could have been an American victory into a defeat? There is no simple answer.
Regardless of the intentions of the perpetrators or how high the official sanction of the events goes there is a clear sense that the images will leave a lasting impact on how the U.S. handles the situation in the future and sadly on how the world publics see the role of the U.S. In OIF. Military and other strategists should see this breech in both protocol and information as a clear indication of the need to further control images from the war, but more importantly to further control the actions and orders given with regard to treatment of all prisoners, in Iraq and elsewhere during times of war.
The Phoenix Program in Vietnam
One of the best ways to fully appreciate and understand the Phoenix Program is to analyze it within the context many of the other programs created and implemented by the U.S., and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It also makes clear that the state building and support aspects of the war were designated as different programs, all of which relied heavily upon the support and cooperation of the South Vietnamese.
Although some Americans may think of Vietnam in the context of big-unit battles of attrition, the other war — counterinsurgency and pacification — where Special Forces, Marines, and other advisers employed indigenous forces using small-war methods, is much more relevant to 21st-century counterinsurgencies.
The development of the subsystems and primary systems of a “one war” approach of pacification to the war was the impetus of the Phoenix Program which though exceedingly important was not encompassing of the state-building aspects of the war, nor was it ever really intended to be. This makes later arguments that the Program did not effectively make these strides null to some degree, as it was specifically designed not to replace the VC infrastructure (there were other programs and plans for that) but to destroy it.
In the summer of 1968, when General Creighton Abrams became the commander of the war in Vietnam, he put an end to the two-war approach by adopting a one-war focus on pacification. Abrams’ unified strategy to clear and hold the countryside by pacifying and securing the population met with notable success. Abrams based his approach on a study that the Army staff had prepared in 1966 — a Program for the Pacification and Long-Term Development of South Vietnam (PROVN). Abrams’ PROVN-based expansion of the Civil Operations and Rural Development and Support (CORDS) program, the Marines’ Combined Action Program (CAP), and the use of the 5th Special Forces Group in organizing Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) all provide examples of successful aspects of counterinsurgency that could be useful for the long war. (20)
Some confusion likely comes from the fact that many of the programs and CORDS specifically was integrated with the MACV, or the same command unit that was responsible for the Phoenix Program.
CORDS was integrated under Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in 1967 when Abrams was still the Deputy Commander and Robert Komer was the CORDS Director, but it was Abrams and William Colby, Komer’s successor, who focused more on making CORDS work. Under the one-war strategy, CORDS was established as the organization under MACV to unify and provide oversight of the pacification effort. From mid-1968 onward, Abrams and Colby made CORDS and pacification the main effort. An invigorated civil and rural development program provided increased support, advisers, and funding to the police and territorial forces. Essentially, this rural development program allowed military and civilian U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) advisers to work with their Vietnamese counterparts at the province and village levels to improve local security and develop infrastructure.
The clear and present goals of the “one-war” approach was detailed in the need to dismantle the historical Viet Cong infrastructure, that we will later see to be the vestiges of a historical philosophical and practical movement among the North Vietnamese, during the reconstruction period following the colonial efforts of France, Japan and the multi-national intervention, the would seem to have permanently separated the nation, after the initial revolutionary war to gain independence from France into the partitioned nation it remains today.
Identifying and eliminating the Viet Cong infrastructure were critical parts of the new focus on pacification, and Colby’s approach — the Accelerated Pacification Campaign — included the Phuong Hoang program, or Phoenix. With some exceptions, the Phoenix program’s use of former Viet Cong guerrillas and indigenous Provincial Reconnaissance Units to root out the enemy’s shadow government was effective. The Accelerated Pacification Campaign focused on territorial security, neutralizing the Viet Cong infrastructure, self-defense, and self-government at the local level.
The development and focus on pacification, which included the tactics of the Phoenix Program was largely a successful endeavor, despite the countless debated tactics that will be discussed later to develop a full sense of the lessons from Phoenix that can be applied to Iraq. Part of the Accelerated Pacification Program employed by the U.S. And the South Vietnamese included recruiting former members of the VC infrastructure to fight and supply insight into the proposed actions of the VC. The program was also largely successful in the manner in which it removed the VC influence from regional locations and stressed local independence and governance. Yet, this is often ignored as an concept inclusive of the “success” of Phoenix because it was not directly linked to the role of Phoenix, but rather to the larger pacification mission. Former Viet Cong operatives were actively recruited to fight the North and seriously aided the progress of pacification. It is also important to note that the year 1969, was a high point for such desertion, after the failed and costly Tet offensive, a VC campaign that resulted in massive damage to communities in the South but was overall not effective in the whole of the war. Near the end of 1970 the People’s Self-Defense Force was populated by four million members who were in support of South Vietnam. Further the development of the re-development of the local infrastructure of the nation was beginning to see serious strides towards success as the program estimated about 2,600 communities (hamlets) had become secure from Northern aggressive internal actions. Some other measures were utilized by the system to guide this success, and are often thought of as more telling than the, Hamlet Evaluation System that provided the above statistic.
Practical measures of the Accelerated Pacification Campaign’s success were a reduction in the extortion of taxes by the Viet Cong, a reduction in recruiting by the enemy in South Vietnam, and a decrease in enemy food provisions taken from the villagers.
The last U.S. based program that will be discussed here in conjunction with the Phoenix Program is the CAP program which formed community-based collaborative fighting units of both U.S. Marine rifle squads with a platoon of local forces all living and patrolling near the same village.
The mission of the CAP was severalfold: to destroy the Viet Cong infrastructure within the village area of responsibility; to protect public security and help maintain order; to protect friendly infrastructure; to protect bases and communications within the villages; to organize indigenous intelligence nets; and to conduct civic action and propaganda programs against the Viet Cong.
There is no doubt that the role of civic action was paramount to any success in Vietnam and the Phoenix Program was clearly only a part of the whole of the pacification program, which realistically had the darkest of intentions and standards but also likely seriously contributed to the level of intelligence that was available to U.S. And South Vietnamese forces thought the period of its operation. Civic actions formed the backbone of the changes that needed to occur, so that ultimately South Vietnam could retain its independence. In brief note there were also programs which supported the development of mobile strike forces that were manned by minority tribes in the inclement regions of the mountains and forests, who later in the war became part of the Phoenix Program strike forces.
Working from the basis of a significant body of literature, there is a basic split in the debate surrounding Phoenix, with some scholars seeing and stressing its merits and others condemning it as nothing but a military abuse of power, on the part of both the Americans and the South Vietnamese. Dale Andrade, considered a consummate expert on the Phoenix Program supports the efforts and outcomes of the program by asserting that the program was so effective, that by 1972 pacification had been so effective that the “police were really chasing shadows… ” and that only a small percentage [of VCI members left] were of any value to the communists.” Andrade contends that American officials never really appreciated how effective Phoenix was at a grass roots level, as they were focused on the direct elimination of the known big guns of the insurgency movement. Another scholar, Zalin Grant, who explores the Phoenix Program through the convoluted history that was utilized to finally develop a clear plan, in the form of the pacification war and hence the Phoenix Program, contends that the program was not given the real time it needed to work, as the length of time it took to come to a concrete and effective plan, which Phoenix was created a lag in support for the war overall and ended in limited if any real victory.
Though the histories of the pacification movements, learned from previous conflict and international relations emphasize the state-building aspects of the theories surrounding it, rural and urban infrastructure building, system support and replacement of insurgency support with civil works support, the actual negative aspects, i.e. torture, assassination and violence of it are those which were the most influential, infamous and lasting.
The basic concepts of pacification emerged from the counterinsurgency doctrine of the late 1950s and early 1960s. That doctrine, espoused by limited-war theorists such as Charles Osgood, was designed to help the United States deal with conflicts at the low end of the spectrum of warfare, insurgencies, or wars of national liberation. 6 Counterinsurgency melded a wide array of civil and military programs to defeat revolutionary insurgent movements in poor or developing nations. On the civil side were programs of economic development, land reform, and broader participation in politics. On the military were the provision of security by police and paramilitary forces and anti-insurgent operations by mobile, lightly armed ground forces. South Vietnamese government officials, police and paramilitary units, and specially trained cadre teams sought to improve rural social and economic conditions and defeat communist, or Viet Cong (VC), forces. According to one practitioner, pacification tended to supplant counterinsurgency as the operative term in 1964-1965. 7
For a more detailed historical view of the counterinsurgency history that touches on the issues in the first secondary research question of this work, one must look to Ian Beckett, whose book dominates the historical precedence of insurgency actions and counter insurgency responses throughout the modern era. He begins by tracing the roots of the insurgency in Vietnam (a comparison will be made later in the work to Iraq). The work begins by noting the essential role of the VC in the revolution, against French occupation, which opened the door for the idealism of Mao and others in the communist regimes. The insurgency was a legacy from the revolution that had philosophical and essential goals of creating a movement for independence through; its emphasis upon creating a broad united front, attaching equal importance to political and military considerations, relying upon a protracted guerrilla war, ultimately building a conventional army, and establishing a secure rural base. However, both Truong Chinh and Giap laid great stress on the mobilisation of international opinion in support of the revolution, reflecting a changing world from that of China in the 1930s.Like Mao, Truong Chinh’s Primer for Revolt: The August Revolution, published in 1945 before the French reasserted control in Indo-China, and his the Resistance Will Win, published in 1947, stressed the total mobilisation of the population in a prolonged struggle. He envisaged the struggle as one of opposing strengths with, for example, Vietnamese political and motivational strength prevailing over French military and technological strength in the First Indo-Chinese War of 1946-54. Both Truong Chinh and Giap also restyled Mao’s three phases, Truong Chinh referring to them as phong ngu (contention or defence), cam cu (equilibrium) and phan khoi nghia (general counter-offensive).
From this expansive collection of ideals and ideas regarding independence, grass roots connectivity to all the people in the nation, as essential tools in the development of an independent unified nation the then leader of North Vietnam created more philosophical works that built popular and real support for a revolution and then served as a template when intervention by the U.S. occurred after the North attempted to reunite the post colonial nation by invading South Vietnam.
Giap’s People’s War, People’s Army, published in 1962, placed less emphasis on mass support and even more on the role of conventional military operations, notably expounding the ‘bloody blow’ to break an opponent’s will, the concept of ‘mobile warfare’ marking the transition from defensive guerrilla tactics to offensive conventional operations. However, it has been argued that the impetus towards adopting and adapting Maoist theory probably emanated from Ho Chi Minh. Ho had written the article on guerrilla warfare in 1927 previously mentioned and, on his return to Vietnam in 1941, translated a number of Chinese and Russian works on guerrilla warfare as well as an account of the evolving campaign in China. In particular, he emphasised the need to operate in both rural and urban areas. Indeed, there was a tendency on the part of the Vietnamese to view the ‘August Revolution’, by which the Viet Minh moved in August 1945 to supplant the Japanese after they had surrendered to the allies and before the French could return, as a combination of the political aspects of armed insurrection and the military aspects of protracted war. Truong Chinh also suggested that the third stage of the revolution could be launched without the decisive military superiority demanded by Mao. In practice, too, Giap sought to achieve a short cut in the protracted struggle by moving too early into the third phase in his Red River delta campaign against the French in 1950-51. The development was heralded in his pamphlet, ‘The Military Task in Preparation for the General Counter-offensive’, which emphasised the idea that mobile war could lead to the liberation of territory and annihilation of the enemy that would truly mark victory in a revolutionary war. Indeed, as reiterated in People’s War, People’s Army, Giap believed the escalation from guerrilla to mobile war a necessary ‘general law’ of revolution. Consequently Giap followed much the same course in both the Tet offensive against South Vietnam in 1968, which appears to have been modelled on the ‘Campaign of a Hundred Regiments’,
Giap in a sense attempted to bridge the “people’s” popular war with one that included a full official military action. The importance of all this information to the present study is that the Vietnam experience was largely based upon a protracted ideal of unification and nationalism that spread from North to South and included countless fundamentalists who would later be the developed official and unofficial arms of the VC. The infiltration of this nationalistic movement, under the pretense of a modern Communist movement was the essential reasoning for U.S. intervention in Vietnam, in an attempt to keep Vietnam from becoming wholly communist. The debate over the reasons that the U.S. intervened into a full military action in Vietnam is long standing but does not change the fact that this was the case and in doing so learned many hard lessons.
Within the proud history of the United States there are countless examples of the nations open pledge to uphold the values of human rights, many set out by modern global accords particularly of the United Nations but espoused by American politicians long before the development of the modern ideals that are supposed to guide all actions against nations and individuals. Yet the Cold War era seems to have many significant and lasting examples of violations of these accords despite strong U.S. involvement in all the international organizations that have created human rights as a standard accepted application for international relations, in war and otherwise. The United Nations for example is seriously influenced by the U.S., as a founding member state and as an active voice and participant. “From the beginning the United States and particularly U.S. presidents wielded considerable influence on the United Nations. The pattern began with FDR, who devised the name.” The actions and reactions that were made public at the close of the second World War made it clear to the global institutions that there needed to be some sort of guiding force that demanded accountability, in times of both peace and war for human rights violations, against nations and individuals.
The totalitarian systems of our century have demonstrated, in their concentration camps and in the daily lives of the people they rule, the ultimate consequence of abandoning the concept of human dignity as a normative political and legal value. This is why people have sought ways to make human dignity more visible and more secure in the contemporary world. The first important postwar achievement of this effort was to identify and define human rights as the modern means of expressing the requirements of human dignity in a social context. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, explicitly recognizes the link between rights and dignity. Human rights, then, are titles, rooted in the intrinsic value — the dignity — of every human being, to live and to have or to do things that are essential to lead a life in keeping with this dignity.
Within this context the development of the very public institution, the United Nations has openly called for punishment of human rights violations and allowance to intervene in cases where innocents were being violated in this manner. Yet there is also a clear sense that the U.S. has repeatedly condoned or perpetrated such atrocities in the name of war and/or national, international security. Many claim that the Phoenix Program is an example of just such a system, which set aside human rights to achieve an end and even taught others how to inflict human rights violations on their detractors for the sake of intelligence gathering or for the purpose of eliminating insurgent operatives from a system that was enemy to U.S. And South Vietnam’s interests in the war. Some would even argue that the WWII human rights movement, in juxtaposition of the actual Cold War tactics utilized by the U.S., e.g. Phoenix Program, the infamous Latin American School of the Americas, and Operation Condor as well as systems and/or plans that have yet to emerge form the government database of confidential files are all examples of how the U.S. said and preached one thing while it did entirely another.
Condor (assumed to have begun around 1975) is described as and international Latin American cooperative that was sanctioned by the U.S. And contained main member states of:
Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil. Condor represented a striking new level of coordinated repression among the anticommunist militaries in the region, and its existence was suspected, but undocumented, until fairly recently. Condor enabled the Latin American military states to share intelligence and to hunt down, seize, and execute political opponents in combined operations across borders.
This again is in contrast with the open international assertion of the importance of human rights.
Since World War II, the promotion and protection of human rights have become a leading theme of international political life. While some scholars and policymakers debate whether to expand the list of internationally recognized rights, the primary focus since the mid-1970s has shifted to the question, How can a state be influenced to observe human rights in practice?…the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the different structures and procedural approaches taken by UN human rights institutions, to evaluate the reasons for these results, and to explore the conditions in which one type of structure or procedure is more likely than another to have positive impact.
To the public the human rights rhetoric of this, nation without borders (the UN) or any form of legalized enforcement capabilities, that is referred to as the UN has grown and expanded and the current focus is on its effectiveness to sway human rights violators to cease and desist from their unworthy behaviors. Yet, with even the strongest of public support by the founding members and subsequent members, has not been able to curb abuses by those who espouse the rhetoric of universal human rights. The most demonstrative example of this contradiction in public vs. secret policy is the United States School of the Americas, which has now been renamed and made more public due to extreme social outcries. The greatest irony in the development of the School of the America’s is evident from the fact that the school, to train assassins who are frequently exempt from censure, is its contemporary roots to the very UN resolutions which were developed in an attempt to keep people safe from human rights violations.
Since 1946, the School of the Americas has instructed Latin American military officers in the art of counter-insurgency warfare. Graduates include Panamanian dictator, drug dealer, and CIA asset Manuel Noriega; CIA asset Roberto D’Aubuisson (who ordered the, murder of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and was a chief Salvadoran death-squad leader), Colonel Julio Alpirez of Guatemala, responsible for the torture and murder of Guatemalans and U.S. citizens; the soldiers who murdered six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador; the perpetrators of the El Mozote massacre and the 1980 rape-murders of U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador. The list still grows. Blair confirms that torture was taught at the School of the Americas. “I sat next to Major Victor Thiess who created and taught the entire course, which included seven torture manuals and 382 hours of instruction,” Blair recalls. “He taught primarily using manuals which we used during the Vietnam War in our intelligence-gathering techniques. The techniques included murder, assassination, torture, extortion, false imprisonment.”
The current movement to call attention to the School of the Americas and its bloody social history is called the anti-School of the Americas movement. This movement has been in existence now for nearly twenty years and the declassification of documents used in it and information about its vast network of connections to human rights violation occurrences all over the world have at least in part been made public. Up to this point the School of the Americas had a rather quiet existence, associated with the fact that almost the entire nation of publics was completely unaware of its existence and in fact frequently publicly denied that the CIA and any other institution of the United States was bound to live by the standards it espoused about human rights and dignity and would never condone such a system as was rumored to be a part of the School of the Americas training. “Congressman Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) summarized the significance of the manuals. ‘The Pentagon,’ he said, ‘revealed what activists opposed to the school have been alleging for years – that foreign military officers were taught to torture and murder.'” the School of the Americas is an example of the mentality that stretched through the cold war period, where fear of communism was the absolute ultimate fear of nearly every individual within the U.S. government, military and to some degree the U.S. public. This “school” runs concurrently with the Phoenix Program and other programs like it and shows the mentality associated with communist fear and the setting aside of human rights to gain what many then considered a better end, the securing of Democracy rather than communism through the world. Joseph a. Blair a high level officer in the CIA led Phoenix Program is now a staunch opponent of the School of the Americas, despite being a member of the system that according to some estimates killed upwards of 40,000 Vietnamese i.e. The Phoenix Program. Blair in fact attended the school, which gives credence to the idea that the development of the Phoenix Program ran collaboratively to that of the much more mature School of the Americas (1946).
If you don’t know about the School of the Americas, you should. Our tax dollars support it – almost $20 million a year. The SOA was established in Panama in 1946 to show soldiers from Central and South America how to counter Communist insurgency in their own countries. Over the past fifty years, an estimated 60,000 young men have been trained at the SOA, now at Fort Benning. During the cold war, this training was increasingly utilized by repressive governments to stifle the legitimate desires of the indigenous and disenfranchised peoples of their own countries and to violently suppress voices for progressive change. Thousands of declassified State Department, Defense Department, and CIA documents, as well as the UN Truth Commission, confirm U.S. involvement and complicity with death squads trained by the SOA.
The School of the Americas like Phoenix attempts to teach locals the ropes of finding, detaining, interrogating and even assassinating opponents who are considered a threat to the current situation. Though Phoenix was much shorter in duration, the School of the Americas is still in existence in some form today, its utilization, lack of resources and almost complete lack of uniform standards and procedures (for both U.S. And VCS) created rampant opportunity for corruption. This fact is pointed out openly (be it in an originally confidential review) on the detention, interrogation, trial and sentencing of suspected VC in Vietnam. The review in mention is a 16-page document that points out the discrepancies of the system, the several avenues of apprehension, detention and trail as well as sentencing and how it is carried out. Many statements made by the report’s author, John G. Lybrand, are openly and extremely critical of the system as it was playing out in December of 1967. Lybrand states that the system is somewhat random, has too many avenues of opportunity for corruption, based on the lack of record keeping, lack of accountability and limited resources available to properly order and support for the system. Regional officials have almost complete discretion to release detainees, without any recourse and for any reason, which often turns into a situation where high level VC are released, as they have the resources to bribe officials and very low level or even simple sympathizers of the system remain in custody for long periods of time, prior to and even after sentencing. These same regional officials, as well as U.S. operatives have universal authority to interrogate detainees for very long periods of time, though the report skirts the interrogation tactics and detainees can be held for as much as long as a month (in interrogation facilities) without sentencing or trial and once trials occur there is no standardized sentencing which makes one proven offence any more punishable than another, the most extreme being capital punishment and the least being unaccountable release. According to Lybrand “Unless a civil defendant is very important, and it is publicly known that he has been detained, it is possible for any defendant to bribe his way out of legal processing or a detention facility.” Another Document the Phung Hoang Advisor Handbook, directed at local Vietnamese Province Chiefs and published and distributed in 1970 after the CIA had stepped down from the program, notes on page 14 that the local authorities have up to 5 days to interrogate a prisoner, before they must then transfer them to a U.S. interrogation center (the same center that Lybrand notes has no Vietnamese interrogators even though it is called a joint unit) the interrogation center then has up to 30 days to interrogate and make a decision regarding continued detention and/or trial. When one compares the two documents, i.e. The 1967 review and the 1970 Advisor Handbook the reader can not help but be made aware that the very logical recommendations of the Lybrand review are not illuminated within the Handbook as practice regulations. This might lead the reader to conclude that the Lybrand review was not taken very seriously despite the serious nature and candor of its tone. The system as it is outlined in the Handbook actually reiterates the structure and functioning noted by Lybrand in his review, this is despite the nearly three years that have passed between conception of the two documents. The program advisors seem to assume that the changes needing to be made are organizational rather than operational and would somehow work themselves out in the long run, as more training and South Vietnamese support began to overtake the system. There is within the Handbook veiled threat regarding the fact that the South Vietnamese officials charged with the implementation of the program were bound by the same laws as were U.S. soldiers and operatives.
Lybrand’s view of the Phoenix program is also supported by Stuart Herrington, a U.S. official charged with developing a local Phoenix office in Duc Hue. In his memoirs there is a clear sense that upon his entrance to the program it was ineffectual at nearly everything but keeping up with the complicated and expansive paperwork that was demanded of the program coordinators in each of the 247, districts of South Vietnam assigned Phoenix responsibilities. He also implies that when receiving training with other officials in his role in other districts mirrored his concerns that the program was ineffectual. His early comments were made in 1970. Later in his work, and in time 1971-1972 Herrington stresses that the successes of the program largely came at the impetus of U.S., not local agents and that the overall success of the Program would require unilateral local district support, especially with regard to the Province Chief, who could make the ultimate decision regarding aggression taken based on information, as well as release detainees without recourse. Frances FitzGerald even goes so far as to claim that the Phoenix Program set villager against villager and undermined the abilty of the local authorities to identify and realistically deal with the supposed “shadow government” of the VC.
Many of the standards in the program’s documentation apply only to civil defendants, as the regular North Vietnamese soldiers who were detained had the rights of POWs, who are detained and tried under the accords of the Geneva Convention, while the civil detainees can be tried under a random system of military tribunal (depending on where they end up after interrogation and where they were originally captured) and are basically held without any legal rights. A system that Valentine points out is being utilized today in Iraq and internationally (Guantanamo Bay) to detain indefinitely terrorist suspects, some of whom have been apprehended in Iraq.
Many believe that the developments of the past, as they become declassified will become so inflaming to the U.S. that it will ultimately curtail its involvement in situations that are in violation of human rights, while still others claim that this very much remains to be seen, as is pointed out by Valentine in his observations of the documentation of the Phoenix program and modern applications of the same tactics in the War on Terror and in Iraq.
Lybrand’s field study of people caught up in the Phoenix dragnet. (Again, it is a blueprint for the processing of “terrorist suspects” by Ashcroft’s goon squads under the Bush regime.) Please note the reference to the critical role of military tribunals, which have been discussed as ways of dispensing with the terrorist suspects now being indefinitely detained in Cuba, at the CIA’s macabre concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. As was the case with prisoners held under the Phoenix “An Tri” administrative detention laws, these terrorist suspects (aka “illegal combatants”) are held without any legal rights.
The issues surrounding the utilization of the Phoenix Program were and still are often debated, with the inclusion of the inference that the system had little time to be developed, and U.S. And South Vietnamese officials did not receive the needed training to implement the “ideal” regulations and standards of the proposed system. The argument may be valid in every sense of the word, but some would argue that the license given foreign military and civilian officials through the training of such a place as the School of the Americas is far to broad as they expand and detract from the guidelines and standards to meet the needs of their own, often emotionally charged cause. In addition there is very little evidence that such training (as is afforded by the SOA or elsewhere) can seriously curtail the corruption and abuse that could occur in any loosely supervised operation, something that is often charged of the Phoenix Program.
So having forced the School of the Americas, the Phoenix Program and even Condor out into the daylight, the debate can now ensue as more and more American citizens and international interests, including the much beloved but helpless United Nations, can make an informed decision regarding the atrocities that have been committed over the years in the name of counterinsurgency.
Counterinsurgency techniques became a euphemism for torture, rape, assassination, interrogation, coercion, false imprisonment, and extortion. Particularly at risk were and are teachers, student activists, church workers, union organizers, health-care workers… When the United States Intelligence Oversight Board was forced to divulge the content of SOA training manuals in 1996, the New York Times editorialized that “Americans can now read for themselves some of the noxious lessons the United States Army taught to thousands of Latin American military and police officers at the School of the Americas….”
The U.S. government as a training center for structured and documented counterinsurgency plans has a precedence that stretches back many years but gets stronger and more illuminated with every modern war. It is for this reason that the lessons of the Phoenix Program (and other U.S. strategic operations) must serve as a guide for what to do but more importantly what not to do, with regard to counterinsurgency tactics.
The U.S. military and CIA has a rather strong stand on the idea that the training that foreign operatives gain from them does not exclude and certainly does not include training that stresses serious abuses of human rights or the use of tactics inappropriately, either in times of peace to squelch political opposition or otherwise. U.S. officials often stress that the SOA and its outgrowth, the “unintentional” development of a few “bad seeds,” who have used the tactics to suppress democratic actions by peace keepers and nationalist revolutionaries is out of their control and responsibility. The SOA, was not directly involved in Vietnam operative training but it is sure that the mentality that developed it also contributed to the concepts tactics and administration of the Phoenix Program, as it had almost 20 years of developed history before the Vietnam War began a position that allowed it to be a part of the training of many of the high officials who where in place in Vietnam. The SOA still exists today but has been moved to U.S. soil and has a new name, “Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation” and is now headquartered not in some backwater Latin American classroom but out in the open at Fort Benning, Georgia, where a more watchful eye can try to ensure that the standards it teachers are taught to U.S. troops and not necessarily outsiders. The attempts to curtail abuses in interrogation and incarceration do not seem to have been terribly successful as it would seem that the United States military also contains a significant population of “bad seeds,” who are willing and able to follow orders (as if they were members of the Nuremberg deniers group) and utilize the tactics they were trained for to victimize prisoners in the Iraq war. Members of the anti-SOA movement are clear in their mission to dismantle this archaic and destructive school, by openly protesting and speaking out against the institution and all of its failings as well as by globally dismantling anything that might come of it, such as un-humanitarian tactics being utilized today, by some standards, in Iraq. Detractors wish to call to the world’s attention that the situation is not resolved, with a new name, and location it is instead simply couched in the figurative sense until it is needed again, say in times of concern about terrorism and legislated human rights infringement, such as can be found in the U.S. Patriot Act, a license to violate peoples human rights if they are suspected of plotting against the U.S. Or any of its allies.
I have read documentation of CIA and Pentagon intelligence training, as well as of training in what was formerly the Army School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The United States government has provided training and encouragement in these tactics. The torture of Iraqi detainees held at the Abu Ghraib military prison near Baghdad is part of a larger pattern of abuse and torture at the hands of U.S. soldiers, U.S.-trained soldiers, independent contractors and intelligence agents around the world. In fact, U.S. Army intelligence manuals advocating torture techniques and describing how to circumvent laws on due process, arrest and detention were used for at least a decade to train Latin American soldiers at the School of the Americas.
The development of systems and subsystems that create realistic expectations and uphold standards doctrines of human rights is what is needed within the Iraqi situation. Many are likely fearful that the new War on Terror, will become a stylized and modernized euphemism for the War on Communism, with the only real difference being that terrorism is evident, whereas communist actions directly against the U.S. are minimal to say the least.
Resolving the reality and the inference that we are a nation of official and sanctioned hypocrisy, as we demand that others follow a code of conduct that we ourselves frequently abandon is in part the role of every future military and international action. The current war in Iraq is a prime example of a venue where just such needed actions could be taken. The sanction of violence to suppress any revolutionary force that might not be the officially supported candidate, the U.S. wishes to see on the “ballot” is fruitless and destructive in the long-term and the corruption seen in the Phoenix Program is a prime example. It would not in fact surprise any member of the anti-SOA movement, including prominent ex-army officials who are aware of the school and have taught in it and/or taken its courses, if characters who have been vilified openly by the U.S., like Sadam Hussein, who was recently executed for his crimes against his people, posthumously questioned, had gotten his training from the SOA. The standards he was held accountable for have been mirrored by other officials in other nations, with intensive counterinsurgency training from the U.S.
We see a consistent pattern of the Pentagon claiming to work for democracy,” says Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, “while in their prisons and training centers, reports of torture and human rights abuses continue to surface. “More than 64,000 Latin American soldiers have been trained in combat skills and psychological warfare at the School of the Americas. Graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996, the Pentagon, under intense public pressure, released the classified training manuals used at the School of the Americas. The Washington Post, in a story headlined “U.S. Instructed Latins in Executions, Torture,” reported on Sept. 21, 1996, that the manuals promoted executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion. The manuals recommended the imprisonment of family members of those who support “union organizing or recruiting,” those who distribute “propaganda in favor of the interest of workers,” those who “sympathize with demonstrations or strikes,” and those who make “accusations that the government has failed to meet the basic needs of the people.”
Those members of the anti-SOA movement, one with a very personal story about how this school directly affected her life, demonstrates the old proverb if you aren’t outraged you aren’t paying attention, by asking why people are in the least bit surprised by the recent utilization of human rights violations against prisoners of the current “war on terror,” citing Iraq and other current U.S. involvements and examples.
Why the great surprise over Abu Ghraib?” asked Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer whose husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, was tortured for two years and then was either dismembered or thrown from a helicopter by Guatemalan military officials receiving generous CIA payments. “This has been standard operating procedure for years. “Reports of torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. And U.S.-trained soldiers, from Latin America to Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, continue to surface, and the Pentagon continues to distance itself from the abuses. “As in Latin America, officials claim the soldiers involved in torture in Iraq are ‘just a few bad apples,’ ‘ Father Bourgeois continued, “but as instances of human rights violations continue to grow around the world, a much larger picture of systematic abuse becomes clear.
Their demands for change, having gone unanswered, create a situation where U.S. citizens are breaking laws to be heard in a standard historical context, did not the first black American’s to vote technically break local laws to demand change, did Rosa Parks not sit down on the front of the bus in protest? The American citizens who wish to see the dismantling, rather than reorganization and renaming of the SOA are being treated in much the same way as they trespass to make a point, creating a scene apparently is still un-American.
Peg Morton of Cottage Grove is serving a 90-day sentence at Federal Prison Camp Dublin in Dublin, Calif. She was convicted of criminal trespass that occurred during a demonstration last November at Fort Benning, Ga., site of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Her release date is July 2. Twenty-six others received prison sentences of from three to six months.
In the actions taken by these brave individuals, their attempt to be heard included a sanctimonious reading of the names of various victims of the SOA (indirectly by foreign trained SOA grad and directly by U.S. officials) which include people the U.S. public would normally wish to help, rather than allow to be murdered in the name of insurgency, but secrecy has allowed the claims of our collective voice to be unheard, even when we teach human rights concepts and diversity in our schools.
It was the thousands of forgotten victims we honored in our solemn procession of crosses and coffins at Fort Benning. Our ranks included the young, the middle-aged, and the old, high school and college students from all over the country, clergy from every denomination, Veterans for Peace, Witness for Peace, Rainbow Coalition, Pax Chisti, Amnesty International, War Resisters League, trade unionists, and Native Americans. Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois, founder of the SOA Watch, and recently released from prison (his fourth trip to the slammer) spoke “in the name of others who cannot be here.” He described the SOA “as a school of terrorists that brings shame upon our country and upon us and our laws,” and asked “how is the SOA curriculum healing? How does it improve the life of our sisters and brothers in Latin American? The SOA is a school of suffering…. “Four abreast, we stepped off to the measured beat of drums, carrying crosses and coffins to honor the memory of those who had been tortured, raped, kidnapped, beaten, arrested, intimidated, silenced, and murdered. Names of the dead were recited: “Anna Sanchez, age twelve,” and we answered, “Presente,” meaning Anna was present this day as we protested her death and remembered her. Sometimes the person didn’t have a name. “Woman, age seventeen with unborn child.” “Presente.”… A quarter mile into the Army base, we were stopped by soldiers and relieved of our crosses.
It has again come to this, you see that the nation founded on personal freedom of expression is being protested against not because it passed legislation that was superimposed by tradition, such as in the universal suffrage amendments and others that have attempted to enfranchise previously disenfranchised individuals but because it continues to officially sanction the suppression of revolution, especially when that revolution is in counter balance to what the nation believes is the appropriate balance of power in any given region, a common outcry of those who wage war and destroy innocence. The anti-SOA movement has an impressive list of followers as well as an impressive collective of willingness to allow social conviction to alter the course of one’s life. The need currently is for the U.S. To do reasonable damage control and demand accountability and standards that are as high as the standards it presumes to uphold. The official record of the U.S. has largely remained unchallenged, not surprising given that the nation and its official organizations have actively distanced themselves from open violations in the past. Yet, now, as many who protest the SOA feared such official denials have come to the public attention in the form of abuse in the modern war prisons.
Critics of the anti-SOA movement make some headway in their claim that the SOA, and other training and operative programs like it serves an important purpose, as the development of the training one needs to see and counter insurgency and terrorism all over the world. Proponents of SOA, and U.S. counterinsurgency policy overall make claims that only a few of the many who have been trained by SOA have acted outside the law.
Only a small number of the 60,000 graduates ever have been accused of human rights violations. And those graduates did not act violently because of the training at Fort Benning, Ga., but in spite of it. Some police officers turn out to be criminals, but we don’t close down police academies because of a few bad apples. Nor do we close down seminaries because a few priests turn out to be bad. SOA stays open because the State Department clears each student for entrance into the school; the Defense Department certifies yearly that the school serves our foreign aid objectives and is to be kept open in the defense interests of our own country. Congress takes this input and does its own investigations before it approves the budget for the school.
The proponents claim that the atrocities committed by only a few do not pervade the necessary actions, within appropriate accords, of the broader military. Yet, there has been proven over and over to be a culture within the military that turns a blind eye and even rewards inappropriate and violent tactics utilized by U.S. soldiers, contractors and Foreign supported operatives in many settings.
A commentary printed June 3 in the Catholic weekly newspaper the Providence (R.I.) Visitor by Bishop Francis X. Roque of the Catholic Archdiocese of the Military Services favorably reports on the school and quotes the former ambassador to El Salvador, Bolivia and Peru, Edwin G. Corr: “I strongly believe that the SOA is a valuable tool for assuring access to the military in Latin America…. This access is essential to achieve U.S. goals in Latin America of institutionalizing democracy and respect for human rights. The record of the SOA in creating and maintaining that kind of intimate access is, in my experience, without question.” Bishop Roque also wrote: “An independent study of the SOA by PROSOFT, a private sector company, called the school ‘a national asset.’ It went on to say that ‘there is no link between SOA instruction and decisions made by individual Latin American military personnel to commit human rights atrocities.’ ”
Again we hear the echo of the “bad apples” defense, and not surprisingly it comes from a religious figure within the U.S. military that must council those who through conscience cannot or do act upon the desires of their superiors to see “justice” done by whatever means possible. These checks and balances are essential as is the re-growth of trust in the U.S. military and other departments that create, build and support systems such as the Phoenix Program to help reduce loss of life and demonstrative terrorist and insurgency violence. The missing pages from the document (SOA training manual) are interesting, and reflective of the tactics used in the past by high officials in the U.S. government to suppress information with regard to questionable practices. It is difficult to believe that a well ingrained set of texts, utilized repeatedly by thousands of individuals would have missing content, and yet it is clear from the released documents that this is the claim of the SAO, yet another example of the challenges the U.S. public faces to engender a true and representative understanding of the real industry of the government. The demonstration of transparency, especially with regard to current operations, as long as it does not seriously endanger U.S. lives or the mission in general might be a big art of future resolution of the U.S. As the “big brother” of the world, enforcing standards it is not willing to keep itself. General Palmer, who had been part of the Phoenix Program is quoted by Douglas Valentine, and repeated by Morely Safer, a critic of Valentine’s book on the Phoenix Program says this of his feelings about the program.
My objection to the [Phoenix] program,’ he wrote in a letter to the author, ‘was the involuntary assignment of U.S. Army officers to the program. I don’t believe that people in uniform, who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare.”
The development of this idea, that standards and rules of engagement are essential to the development of effective tactical action will drive the developing answers to the research question through the remainder of this work.
The methodology of this work has been to conduct and extensive review of materials both primary and secondary with regard to the Phoenix program as well as collaborative and co-relational programs that were developed and implemented concurrently with the Phoenix Program. In this investigation there is a clear sense of a split between scholars, with regard to the program, its standards, tactics, implementation, organization and success. Scholars debate, even today these aspects of the program, though it is clear that through these varied debates there is a sense that there are many lessons as to what should and should not constitute effective strategy in current and future conflicts, such as the current War in Iraq. The materials reviews constitute an eclectic number of personal, primary and secondary accounts including internal confidential memorandums associated with the program, as well as some comparative program literature that helps set the stage for the context of the Cold War anti-communist period. The body of the work represents direct and contextual archival research on intelligence and operations surrounding the Phoenix Program as well limited case study analysis, where it is available. The remainder of this work will focus on the applications of lessons learned from the Phoenix Program, as they apply or do not apply to Iraq.
Data and Findings
The stress of this work has to some degree been the relatively split debate regarding the success and efficacy of the Phoenix Program. Limited statistical analysis is available for the whole of the program. Though the program itself was legitimately paperwork driven much of the statistical analysis remains limited in scope as just a few documents have been released, most by request with regard to the freedom of information act and they are simply not voluminous enough at this stage to determine real statistical analysis of the success and/or failure of the overall Phoenix Program. For this reason this work has relied upon accounting that was done by experts in the field through their secondary analysis of the effects of the program. Sadly, lack of information is also the standard situation with regard to the issue of torture and if it did or did not occur within the U.S. and/or South Vietnamese structure of the Phoenix Program, though some would say that open assassination, which clearly did occur, is enough to say that torture and trauma was inflicted in at least some cases.
Lessons Learned from Phoenix
This review provides a clear connectivity between the need to look at the tactics and standards associated with Phoenix Program in Vietnam and the current Iraq War, regardless of the real or casual relationship between the two conflicts. The development of this list of lessons learned from Phoenix is a culmination of the review above.
Vietnam will serve as a point of comparison and demonstrative source for international relations decisions for many years, as there were many lessons learned in Vietnam that could serve future wars. In many ways Vietnam was a transition from massive troop action wars (such as the WWs) to limited smaller conflict wars, such as the First Gulf War, Afghanistan and no Iraq as well as the general War on Terror. For this reason it marked a turning point in the development of systems and subsystems to help resolve the smaller conflicts within the local and global in a nation. Iraq is a nation torn in much the same way as Vietnam, with some differences noted later and though it does not meet the scale of Vietnam is does mirror the protraction and lack of popular support issues. Really the similarities and differences between the two compared wars are irrelevant, as each subsequent war should always serve as a source of information for the next.
There are tactics developed in within Phoenix that are specific to the utilization and structure of utilizing the local people and authorities to assist in the development of defenses and possible defeat of insurgent behaviors, which are different but very present and motivated to do damage in Iraq. As was pointed out in earlier passages the emphasis of one streamlined program that helps the state- building needs of the nation as well as helping to fight insurgent actions is needed.
Phoenix was successful in many ways, especially when supported by collaborative systems for building new systems to answer the older systems that were being eradicated by it. Given more time it would likely have been even more successful and should not be discounted out of hand as a result of its relative failures.
Phoenix (and other tactical systems like it) proved without a doubt that torture and assassination are not aspects of war that the Global public is willing to accept as standard and necessary roughness in periods of war. These lessons should build a new sense of need for transparency and outright assault on the sanctioned and illegitimate activities that support non-humanitarian tactics. Assassination and torture should not be condoned, sheltered or summarily supported by the military or its agents and should not be taught in large scale to those who will take over for the U.S. security forces when they relinquish power to the newly formed Iraqi state security agencies.
Phoenix showed the open and obvious abuse, even on the part of the receiving government will not be accepted by the public, no matter the back story or intention of the moment. Again Human rights must be the essential guiding principle for action and reaction in any given situation. The actions of one rouge soldier can do insurmountable damage to the cause of local and global civic support.
As a jumping off point for the development of realistic and lasting systems in Iraq, and as a way to collectively train Iraqi security forces to uphold and reiterate the standards of human rights rhetoric the U.S. must intensify its efforts to build a better public image than what has been seen in the scandals that have rocked the war to date. Following the accords which the U.S. has been so much a pat of developing in the area of international human rights must be the first step in creating a lasting resolution in Iraq. The overt training of officials to brutalize and assassinate insurgents, that occurred in Vietnam, but more so in other conflicts and movements of the Cold War did not intensify public support in or outside of Vietnam and the images of this became the lasting legacy of the first televised war.
Applications for Iraq
Robert Cassidy stresses probably the most significant and lasting lesson of the Phoenix Operation when he says that:
Civic action played an important role in efforts to destroy the Viet Cong by gleaning intelligence about enemy activity from the local population. Because combined action platoons protected the people from reprisals, they were ideal for acquiring intelligence from the locals. The Marines’ emphasis on pacifying the highly populated areas prevented the guerrillas from coercing the local population into providing rice, intelligence, and sanctuary. The Marines would clear and hold a village in this way and then expand the secured area. The CAP units accounted for 7.6% of the enemy killed while representing only 1.5% of the Marines in Vietnam. The Combined Action Program provides a useful model for protracted counterinsurgencies because it employed U.S. troops in an economy-of-force role while maximizing the employment of indigenous troops. In this way, a modest investment of U.S. forces at the local level can yield major improvements in security and intelligence.
The economy of force role has been successfully adopted by the U.S. In Iraq, in many ways, due both to war technology and also lessons learned from previous wars. Phoenix responded to an created systems that allowed for the detention of many people who either deserted the cause of the North or brought information that would not have otherwise been available to the U.S. And the South Vietnamese systems. Civic responsabilty and the hope for a better resolution than the one left after the withdrawal of the French from Vietnam, as well as the desire for representative government likely played a big role in the civic involvement of the South and North Vietnamese, who shoes to defect. The application of this lesson from Phoenix is essential to the development of a reasonable and accountable system in Iraq. The first step being the removal of the fear of reprisal, by insurgents from the development of civic reporting, in Iraq
Within the development of the state of Iraq there are the two basic themes of historical continuity from ancient times to the present day: (1) creation and construction of the state (in the modern era within the boundaries set by the British) and the search for political and cultural unity amid various ethnic and religious groups, and (2) the process of economic and social development. Within these two themes there is a constant struggle to come together and to divide, given the nature of the current state of agreement or disagreement on the use and distribution of valuable resources and the balance of power between the haves and have nots as well as the Sunni and the Shi. The struggle in context has been a long history of nation building that either enfranchised all or created an even more defined power struggle between differing factional ideologies. Iraq has had a significant historical struggle with unity, as a result of many centuries of social, economic and political dominance of one group over another, be they ancient rulers or modern “secular” leaders.
Roux, an expert on the region of the Middle East and more specifically Iraq from the ancient to the modern would likely stress that Iraq has been a social and political challenge to unity, in the modern, as it was in the ancient, as geographical factors dominate the lives of some while others transcend them through urbanization. Those who are restricted by geography are to some degree disenfranchised, and therefore without voice in the development of government and the building of the state. These disenfranchised souls can and often do grow in isolation, retaining religious practices that better suit their lifestyle while others are free to modernize and allow their more modern faith to help dictate their representative life. The pronouncement of this issue is starkly demonstrated by the ethnic and religious divide of the region, the Bedouin travelers as well as the plains peasants can be seen as the disenfranchised, with frequent conflict ideologically and politically with those living a stationary lifestyle, in the enfranchised regions of the nation. The challenge then, for the nation becomes the development of a regional and federal government that will consider the needs of all, even when one rather significant group does not necessarily enjoy the fruits of representation. This conflict becomes even more serious when lack of available arid land, has historically forced some to leave even when they attempted to immigrate and resettle into temperate regions. In general modern secularization of rule has also been detested by many as unbecoming of a strong faith, yet no more so than among those who are isolated from potential refinement. Roux, states and as a final thought of this trend, “wealth was constantly being transferred from the periphery to the centre.” i.e. The seat of power in the urbanization process. This is a trend that to some degree still occurs in the modern and elicits countless situations of resentment and conflict from the ancient to the modern.
There is also a clear sense that dominance of other nations over resources and development further conflicted the balance of power within Iraq, as well as other nations, during the period of colonialism. British dominance in state-building, during the colonial period clearly marked another divide as it among other things attempted to force assimilation, especially among the plains settlers and the Bedouin herders as is pointed out but Tripp in his extensively read History of Iraq. The power of the outsider to cleave existing balances of power as well as historical stalemates, that allowed people to agree to disagree and live as they chose was forced upon the scene for the purpose of foreigners gaining wealth and power for their own purposes. This period marks the beginning of a life or death struggle, as people who had lived in separate relative peace then became forced to deal with each other’s differences and possibly even more contentiously accept each others similarities. Social, economic and political conflict was not erased by the British colonial system of creating systems that better pandered to their ideas of a state and to the ease of their trade and dominance it simply allowed such ancient conflicts to come together in direct conflict with one another.
From the more general theory, of geography and foreign interference one must then discuss the ancient conflict between schools of the same faith, Sunni and Shi’ Islam have been in constant struggle for power and representation over the years and to this day there is a clear sense that even modern representations of each of these schools are in a constant struggle to have their foundations build the nation and dominate the social and political arena. This point demonstrated well in the ebb and flow of history represented by Hourani, where he points out that the center of what became modern Iraq (Baghdad) is dominated by the Shi and to some degree still is, while the Sunni are frequently underrepresented and living on the fringes. The differences and similarities of these two faiths have driven them to different ends, and has frequently been the source of much conflict among even the most modern inhabitants of the nation, as it is reflected in a constant struggle to divide, and come together through representation and exclusion.
Iraq, as a modern state will likely continue, as it is currently, and with the help of outside interference, to struggle over ideal and practice. Ways of life that are challenges to one another in wealth, power and enfranchisement will continue to drive the nation first to its knees and then hopefully to some lasting truce. At the heart of the problem is the reality that one individual leader can only be of one or the other faction and therefore sees things from this point-of-view, especially when this point-of-view is considered sacred. The struggle to figure out which point-of-view should be dominant is the struggle that is still occurring today, and will likely continue unabated, with or without outside interference. Old wounds will continue to surface and a struggle for resources will still dominate the geography and humanity of the nation as it begins the process of attempting to create lasting peace or at the very least a lasting truce between peoples.
When speaking specifically of the insurgency forces in Iraq one must understand that unlike the Viet Cong the bodies of insurgency actions are far less organized and stand together only on a few principles, the main being to negatively effect the U.S. cause in Iraq.
The situation that has developed since President George W. Bush declared Operation IRAQI FREEDOM at an end on May 1, 2003, is a complex one. Among the Sunnis, a variety of groups have been identified. They are united only in the sense of having what have been called “negative” goals in opposition to U.S. presence; in seeking some return to the former status quo in which the Sunni minority have exercised power since the Ottoman period; or expressing a simple nationalist reaction to defeat.
It can be seen that the history of Iraqi resistance is both post colonial and fundamentally historical, possibly even more so than the history of the collective resistance present in North Vietnam.
Some are clearly restorationist groups drawn from the former regime, the Baa’th Party, the paramilitary Fida’iyn, and the Republican Guard. Some are anti-Saddam nationalist groups with no desire to see Saddam restored but resentful of U.S. And Western presence; others are Islamist groups, some members of which have been trained overseas or are foreign nationals, the latter including Syrians, Saudis, Yemenis, and Sudanese. Some activities have been the work of criminals or criminal organizations, large numbers of criminals being released at the end of the war and some certainly hiring themselves out for attacks on U.S. And Coalition forces. Indeed, the U.S. 4th Division’s Taskforce Ironhorse reported in November 2003 that between 70 and 80% of those apprehended for making attacks in their area were paid to do so, the going rate being anything between $150 and $500. 4 Most armed opposition has been Sunni. Some leading Sunni parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iraqi Islamic Party apparently have resolved to engage in legitimate political activities, but Sunni clerics have largely condemned the Coalition presence.
It must also be made very clear, as it is in the above Strategic Studies Institute work on the insurgency in Iraq, that the insurgency forces currently challenging U.S. success in Iraq and Iraqi peace and independent statehood is far more varied and far less collectively led than North Vietnam. It is also clear that these two facts are both a blessing and a serious obstacle as the former the forces are much weaker than they would be if connected and centrally led, while for the later the varied nature of the insurgency populous and their varied goals and tactics makes them exceedingly unpredictable.
One of the issues, as was noted previously in the paper that will likely be a huge burden to bear for the U.S. In its continued attempts to stabilize Iraq is the Abu Ghraib disaster. The reason this is being brought up yet again, is in response to the fact that with regard to insurgency motive, terrorist motive and even peaceful Iraqi motive to decide to collaborate with the U.S. And aide in providing insight into insurgent activities, as an impetus to a program like Phoenix can be easily swayed by the serious nature of the atrocities committed and then photographed and distributed at Abu Ghraib. This collective group of possibly “rouge” bad apples has set the U.S. back a great deal with its now very public deeds as the one issue that will unite all Muslims, regardless of their political and/or personal feelings about U.S. intervention is an assault to faith, a faith that regardless of sect has a universal moratorium on the kind of visible depravity seen in the images of Abu Ghraib. Not to unfairly weigh one issue over another, when accidental deaths of civilians also occur during normal military operations and foster resentment toward the U.S., but the Abu Ghraib images and the actions behind them have done more damage than could ever be imagined with regard to the defeat of insurgency in Iraq. The images have the potential to unite previously conflicting adversaries, against the depravity of the U.S., against the Islamic faith. This is true even of Muslims outside of Iraq that were previously at least supportive of U.S. intentions to restore peace and representative government there after Hussein.
The guards are shown fully uniformed (in a show of power over the prisoners) while prisoners, except for the covering of their faces are debased in scenes of immorality completely incongruent with their faith and their pride, yet interestingly congruent with the world view (as it applies to Islam) as it relates to hatred of western freedoms, including the manner in which the west freely depicts nudity and objectifies the body. The human body is sacred to Islam, and covering it is considered not only a necessity but a matter of faith.
Rania Galal, an Egyptian journalist, believes that the U.S. military knew how to “break the staunch will and pride of the Arabs.” She said the Americans have taken advantage of Arab and Muslim taboos of nudity and reverence for a traditional code of ethics. “They rolled into Iraq with prior knowledge of how to humiliate the Arabs and play on their weak point of honor and dignity.” (Maher (http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-05/18/article03.shtml)
The article goes on to say that the Muslim world is collectively outraged at the abuse and because Al-Qaeda was not sanctioned by any Islamic authority to carry out the grave deeds of 9/11 and other attacks, in this case the investigations show that at the very least the American authorities turned a blind eye to abuses and at the most openly ordered these actions.
Muslims all over the world have spoken out to protest the demoralizing character of these tactics and the prolific dissemination of their photographic evidence.
The foundational manner in which these atrocities can easily become the guiding force behind American’s scampering out of Iraq with their tail between their proverbial legs is evident, from the power of these images. In the first photograph homoerotic scene of naked collapsed bodies in a pyramid of evident self loathing is seen. These men, without names and faces, cannot be connected to their crimes as they are forced to shatter one of their greatest social taboos, that of touching another man’s naked flesh. This work is clearly not about the images of Abu Ghraib, which have already been discussed at length and therefore does not require additional visual images of the actions of U.S. forces, but it is safe to say that there was an Iraq War before the images of Abu Ghraib were made public, and there is one now, and they are markedly different in support and social acceptance.
In the acclaimed documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib the reality of the situation that America has placed itself in are evident. Regardless of the context of the circumstances, or how poorly these officers were trained or even who knew about the abuse, America can no longer claim to be the purveyor of human rights.
Rory Kennedy the filmmaker asks;
How could ordinary American soldiers come to engage in such monstrous acts?” Kennedy asks. “What policies were put into place that allowed this behavior to flourish while protections granted to prisoners under the Geneva Conventions were ignored?” “These photographs from Abu Ghraib have come to define the United States,” says Scott Horton, chairman, Committee on International Law, NYC Bar Association. “The U.S., which was viewed as certainly one of the principal advocates of human rights and…the dignity of human beings in the world, suddenly is viewed as a principle expositor of torture.”
The international outcry of many does not end in Iraq and has not ended today, some four years after the story broke and the nameless, any-man faces of the prisoners were obscured from public scrutiny. As the prison was abandoned by American soldiers, as an outgrowth of returning security infrastructure to the people of Iraq, these young faces with their messages in English surrounded the gates of the prison. The anger over the abuses has not died down and the reality of the losses of the cause are all too evident. America has given the world an even better reason to appose the war in Iraq. Not only are their suspicions of ulterior motives realized through these blatant images their opinion of American’s as a well meaning human rights force, a questionable identification to begin with, is completely obliterated through this iconic display of unrestrained power. The America of today is equaled in cruelty to the slave traders and colonialists of old.
It is unclear if any of the individual soldiers involved in the blatant abuses at Abu Ghraib had SOA training but some of their superiors surely have, and are expected to act in accordance with the training, which according to the Army does not advocate the kinds of atrocities associated with Abu Ghraib. Once again the “few bad apples” is the overriding defense against accusations of a broader breakdown of ethics.
Regardless of the impetus for the abuses, unlike the many of the SOA connected “bad apples” they have been openly displayed within the media and on private websites and the images must be accounted for. The contrary response of the U.S. has been to redirect investigative journalism to photograph soldiers acting in accord with the “peace keeping” aspect of the war. There have been cases of individuals or small groups of two an three soldiers have acted outside the law in foreign occupations, and yet the difference between those acts and the ones at Abu Ghraib are that there is almost always a clear sense that no one would have condoned the rape of a young woman or the beating of a civilian at the hands of an individual or a few individual rogue soldiers acting outside the law as a response to power, not to mention swift and reactive punishment by court marshal. Furthermore the biggest difference in this case is that the pictures exist, and that in those pictures underlings and immediate superiors are depicted openly mocking the severely demoralizing scenes. We have no visible images of rape scenes where and individual man in uniform is subjugating a helpless civilian, as it would not be in the mind of a criminal to take pictures of an act he knew was wrong and he knew he would be court marshaled for. The fact that the pictures exist at all denotes that the people in them believed themselves either above the law or felt that they were supported in their decisions to torture and humiliate these individuals, who they see as criminals. The motivation for taking the pictures in the first place seems suspect, what did they think they were taking pictures of? Did they intend the pictures to prove defeat over the Iraqi insurgents? What they ended up with is a group of pictures that demoralizes a faith and a people and can be seen as a stark example of U.S. indifference to its own cries for democracy and harmony in a global environment.
It would not surprise me if the individuals were court marshaled not for their actions in the photographs but for taking and releasing them in the first place. These individuals have broken the code of silence and placed the U.S. In a very bad light. All the official photographs of U.S. troops giving candy to and laughing with Iraqi children might move the war supporter but it is unlikely to have any where near the effect of the Abu Ghraib photos as they are openly staged in a completely different manner. The international community, war supporters and protestors as well as countless Arab and Muslim citizens of the world will be moved by these images and talk of them for many years to come. They will mark the culmination of thought about America probably for several generations.
The lesson learned from Phoenix and from the Vietnam War in general was that the open airing of the ugly side of war is to be avoided at all costs, and yet the Abu Ghraib offenders seem to have never learned this particular lesson. Moving forward from this discussion the U.S. must come up with a comprehensive plan to regain the trust of the Muslim world. The U.S. must disunite a previously fractured system of groups, who united on the idealism of the high level of morality that is stressed in the Islamic faith, all without further dividing the many factions that will eventually have to live together in a unified nation, if that is still in the cards. It is for this reason that the humanitarian lessons of the Phoenix Project must be reiterated even further, as well as the need to win back the hearts and minds of those Iraqis not interested in further strife and insurgent attacks. Another lesson that was learned during the Phoenix Program was an essential need to rely on the civic system to relate information and understanding regarding the history and intentions of each group. Armed militias, not unlike those in North Vietnam, assert power and influence through coercion and violence and demand infrastructural support from the region in which they work, similar to the VC. The lesson here being that state-building and realistic infrastructural support systems must be built in these regions, for lasting change to become effected.
A there are armed militias attached to the two main Shi’ite political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Al-Da’wa, and there is clearly potential for Shi’ite participation in violence. Indeed, since April 2004, the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, the so-called Mahdi’s Army, has engaged in significant violence after the closure of his weekly newspaper by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the arrest of his deputy. Former exiled groups such as the Iraqi National Congress and the Iraqi National Accord also maintain militias…. The situation is made still more complex by the tribal nature of Iraq, with its extended clan and kinship system, the CPA having recognized the problem by establishing an advisory Council of Tribal Sheikhs.
Another issue that must be addressed is the possibility of outside interference from terrorist organizations that hope to further the strife in Iraq to create a situation for a full scale holy war. This situation is really unlike any situation faced in Vietnam, but again must be supported with the same message of transparency and collective civic trust among those who support the U.S. actions, to some degree.
It has been suggested on the basis of a letter seized in January 2004 that there is an Al-Qa’eda plan to foment civil war in Iraq by attacking the Shi’ite majority, but the document also implies frustration at Iraq not proving fertile ground for jihad and foreign holy warriors. 6 the number of foreign activists in Iraq thus far appears small.
The Vietnam War demonstrated a great need to understand the historical precedence for the nationalist movement that culminated in the North Vietnamese communist invasion of South Vietnam. In the same sense this lesson of understanding the historical conflicts of the nation and how they played out is also significant.
Divisions within Iraqi society, of course, have always been of major significance. Indeed, as Gertrude Bell observed during the Iraqi insurrection against British control in 1920, while all groups were equally nationalist and espoused the idea of an Islamic government, the revolt meant different things to different people. Thus, Shi’ites anticipated a theocratic state under Shariah law; Sunnis, an independent Arab state under Amir Abdullah; and “to the tribes, it meant no government at all.” Interestingly, even as astute an observer as Bell believed the revolt largely a result of external agitation by the Bolsheviks and the Turks. The British prevailed in the end partly by buying off some of the tribal leaders.
Tactics that have worked in the past might work now, and there should be no loss of desire to coerce and make limited deals with certain operatives for a greater goal, those this should be tampered by serious and controlled calculation and understanding. The main message in the above passage though, as it applies to the lessons of the Phoenix Program is that each side of the conflict has a different expectation for lasting peace and government formation, collectively seeking resolutions, given the appropriate time and resources, would likely bear more fruit than the Vietnamese surrender in place did at the end of the Vietnam War. Most experts attest to the idea that the insurgency in Iraq will be ineffective in developing a universal and unified strategy to create real division in the development of the nation. The general idea being that; “there is not yet the cohesive leadership, political vision, strategic direction, or unifying ideology to suggest the emergence of a real insurgency.” Though this could change and may have to some degree already the need to mount a counterinsurgency campaign in a unified way still exists, as it did in Vietnam, but according to Beckett;
It is generally easier to mobilize mass support in a defensive rather than an offensive insurgency since occupation, for example, may prompt a fundamentally different reaction on the part of the population to insurgents playing a nationalist card.
Beckett goes on to support the content of this work by detailing not the aggressive tactics of the Phoenix Operation, that were widely criticized but by asserting a warning regarding the aggressive counterinsurgency tactics of the past, regarding Israel in Iraq.
Israeli counterinsurgency methods are also to be avoided; the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) taking a heavy-handed approach and, in keeping with its offensive conventional doctrine, regarding instant retaliation as a means of destroying those responsible for attacks and of longer-term attrition of the insurgent threat. There has also been targeting of specific individuals since 1992 in the belief that the removal of key members of the opposing infrastructure will paralyze opponents and give full rein to internal rivalries among those seeking to succeed to the leadership. It has to be said, however, that the systematic elimination of leaders of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah has not diminished markedly the incidence of attacks and seemingly serves to provoke further hostility to the Israelis not only among the Shi’ites of southern Lebanon, but among the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. If anything, what is sometimes called deterrence by punishment has entrenched anti-Israeli opinion.
The work then goes on to directly reference a program that was part of the larger pacification program in Vietnam as a realistic alternative in Iraq, for U.S. actions in the future. According to Beckett there is at least one local group who in the past have been willing to assist in the stabilization tactics of the area.
It can also be noted that the South Lebanese Army (SLA)… used by the Israelis in the security zone of southern Lebanon from 1982 onwards to man check points and border fortifications and to undertake some motorized patrolling, was not a success. It not only lacked sufficient training but also was seen as Israeli puppet…., and the Israelis abandoned it when they withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. 17 as the issue of the SLA raises the question of a constabulary or border force, it is at least possible that the intended revival by the U.S. Marine Corps of a Combined Action Program (CAP) may yield considerable benefits, the CAP scheme as applied in Vietnam being itself something of a legacy of Marine cooperation with U.S.
Again in application, the need for border patrolling both in and outside Iraq may become more and more important as the fear and/or ordered development of outside terrorist threats becomes more developed. Again in reference to Vietnam Beckett makes a statement that would seem to contradict the Phoenix Program MO, i.e. that of collective intelligent decision making and counterinsurgency operations being conducted by special forces. Yet, it is clear from the review conducted earlier in this work that despite the debate the Phoenix Program was largely intended and truly supported by the whole body of collective military and civilian agents, and though some would argue against this point was still a relatively simple prospect for the collective disbanding of insurgent groups and systems.
An ongoing argument appears to be that counterinsurgency should be the preserve of special forces, itself a reflection of a much older debate in the U.S. military both before and after the Vietnam experience. Equally, there has been an argument about the lack of “light” infantry available initially for post-war stabilization operations in Iraq. One should also be mindful that it is often the case that the least sophisticated armies are the best practitioners of counterinsurgency because lack of resources compel them to keep it simple and engage principally at the same level as their opponents. Indeed, as long ago as 1887, Charles Callwell rightly noted that, in small wars, it was “the disciplined army that is obliged to conform to the methods of those of adversaries infinitely inferior in intelligence and armament.”
The development of infrastructure that is inclusive of Iraqi security forces having the resources, training and ability to continue the protracted struggle against a defensive insurgency is an essential element of success, by any measure for the U.S. In Iraq.
As has been said previously the U.S. military will eventually draw down its operations in Iraq, at which time the security of the Iraqi people will fall on the shoulders of the newly-formed Iraqi security forces. There is a clear sense that it may be at the very point that the U.S. has determined to be the right time to pull back from its pervasive active operations that the insurgents will seek to disrupt and challenge the newly established systems in place in the Iraqi system, in fact this is a logical conclusion. Since the Iraqi militaries and national police will be the primary forces relied upon to conduct security operations to protect the cities and the people, they will need to develop an intelligence network using local and national assets to combat these threats to do so they need an example and this example may very well be developed through lessons learned by the U.S. In the Phoenix Program in Vietnam.
The value of the lessons of the Phoenix program in both the positive and the negative is essentially a developed set of standards that have been tried and tested across many venues of conflict, intelligence, insurgency and counterinsurgency. As a result of these lessons, the U.S. military and the Iraqi civilian police and newly developed military can utilize some of these lessons to create an interrelated system, similar to that which was seen in Vietnam, where the U.S. military develops a system of training Iraqis to gain information and from this eliminate insurgency actions and possibly influence. In short the “ideal” of the Phoenix program should be followed again, with tighter controls over the individual actions of the plan, greater training and a collective plan that includes response to issues of human rights as well as a new emphasis on an inclusive program that includes positive state-building and civic development rather than simply compartmentalized “negative” insurgency eradication tactics.
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