Colonel to Troops: I’m Lying to You


By Joe Urgo 

On Oct 16, USA Today ran a story about low morale in the 10th Mounted Division’s Third Brigade Combat Team, a mountain warfare infantry unit that was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, staying till 2007.
It was then scheduled to deploy to Iraq but was rerouted back to eastern Afghanistan in Jan 2009, along the border with Pakistan. Their mission is to help the expansion of US bases in the region as the US prepares to vastly increase the deployment of US soldiers in Afghanistan. 
The story reveals that the morale is so low in the Third Brigade that it is presenting the US military command with a very serious question about whether this unit can carry out the mission. Low morale can spread to other units. And, watch out if it leads to serious questioning of the mission and especially political consciousness.  This is a dangerous situation that can get rapidly out of control. The Korean and Vietnam wars both faced strategic threats to their mission because of spreading low morale among the troops. 
In Vietnam, mass opposition to the war spread rapidly thru the ranks, as the worldwide anti-war movement against the war came right into the military on almost every US base in the world. See the documentary, Sir No Sir for the suppressed story of the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.  
Repeated deployments to Iraq,  where  the bloody business of empire takes a horrible toll on the people, also takes a toll on the GIs who have been lied to and brainwashed, manipulated and trained to become occupiers of  countries, mass murderers, rapists, and yes, baby killers. {See The Winter Soldier Investigations – first one on Vietnam, second one on Iraq and Afghanistan} 
Vietnam Veterans know this is what America requires of its troops in the defense of profit and empire -- blind obedience and a killing spirit based on lies and bullshit. 200 years into this empire, there are few countries in the world the US has not bombed and invaded. Truth is, the empire still needs the GI  –  your daughter, son, brother, mother, to carry out these crimes. These GIs have one great strategic flaw – they can think and reason. We must help them to understand truth from lies.    

In response to this potentially dangerous situation, the commander of the unit, Col David Haight, wrote a letter  to the Third Brigade on Oct 12.  The Colonel starts his letter addressed:” To All Spartans”, {a bloody warrior society in ancient Sparta that held slaves} and goes on to praise “the tremendous sacrifice of all......and it is appreciated.” When he gets around to explaining the US military’s mission in the region, it is full of “imperialist speak”, the language of a condescending, invader bully that portrays the people as helpless pawns that the mighty US had to go in and save from the enemy – the Taliban and Al Quaeda..
Haight says Afghanistan has a “culture of corruption that runs deep in this society” Included in this charade is the phrase” execute projects to build economic and infrastructure capacity and increase the quality of life for the Afghans and create jobs” I think the majority of jobs that have been created are for the folks burying  all the tens of thousands of civilians the US has killed on the ground and from the drones bombing mass gatherings of Afghan  like wedding parties.
In the last third of the Colonels’ letter he asks questions the GIs in the Third Brigade probably are asking as they travel through the mountainous area, fighting and killing and   US casualties escalate. “Why are the Jalrez, Nerkh, and Tangi valleys so important?” “Is domination of the Kherwar bowl and the road networks through Charkh and Baraki-Barak really worth it?”
The fact that he has to address these questions and counsel patience might be a clue to why this unit is having a serious morale problem. Since the Colonel does not really address the strategic questions that the GIs seem to be asking, I am going to make an attempt at doing so by quoting Larry Everest in Revolution newspaper #180 – Behind the Debate over Afghanistan: Suffering, Death, and the Needs of Empire:

The Strategic Stakes of the War

The stakes for the imperialists are extremely high in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and defeat or retreat would seriously weaken the whole U.S. empire on a number of different levels. First, Afghanistan and Pakistan are located in the middle of Central Asia, one of the most strategically important regions in the world. Central Asia and the Middle East together contain 80 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas. With demand for energy outstripping supplies, competition for control of energy sources and the energy pipelines that crisscross Central Asia has been heating up among the U.S., Russia, China and others. Whoever controls global energy supplies can exert enormous influence over the whole world economy and any country that depends on oil and natural gas.

Beyond this, dominance in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia has enormous political and military significance, and is a linchpin in the current world order with U.S. imperialism as the sole superpower.

Any retreat or defeat in Afghanistan would weaken U.S. global credibility—the sense that it is militarily unchallengeable. It would undermine support in the U.S. for other wars, invasions and occupations. And it could weaken the NATO military alliance, which the U.S. is counting on for more support, not less.”

Losing in Iraq and Afghanistan is bad for the empire and good for the people of the world.  In Vietnam we learned to ask the questions and then keep asking questions till we began to get at the truth of why we were killing millions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Our lessons were paid for in blood, many of us became politically conscious and we contributed to the US defeat and helped to end the war. Nothing less, and in fact, a lot more is being asked of the GIs in the US military today.
Low or bad morale in an imperialist army is a good thing that must be turned into greater political understanding and appropriate action that serves the interest of the people of the world. Much more needs to be done by veterans, especially Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam vets who need to speak out loudly and powerfully about the truth of what they have done and seen. And these truths need to be told to all and especially to the youth in the schools and to the GIs in the war zone.         
By Joe Urgo, revolutionary communist and former national officer of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War 1970 -1972, one of the organizers of the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation, and the first Vietnam Veteran to go to North Vietnam on a peace mission in 1971.

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