Decline and Fall: Top UK General Flays Imperial Folly in Iraq

General Sir Michael Rose, one of the most highly decorated British officers since World War II, has written a new book which began as a study of Britain's failed military tactics during the American Revolution and ended up as damning indictment of the Bush-Blair coalition's disastrous aggression in Iraq. In fact, Rose "argues that the [Iraqi] insurgents' tactics have been seen before - ironically when George Washington's forces succeeded in defeating the British Army -- then the world's greatest military power -- to win independence for the US in 1776," as the BBC reports.

The BBC has offered an excerpt from the book which we in turn have excerpted below. Note that there is nothing in this analysis by an honored stalwart of the British Establishment that could not have been written by, say, Noam Chomsky. This should not be remarkable, of course; the truth is the truth, and anyone not stunned into idiocy by the white noise of the corporate media -- or by the cowardly fear that fuels the Bush bootlickers' embrace of authoritarianism and their unquestioning acceptance of the Leader's wisdom -- will see the same thing when viewing the hell that Bush and Blair have made in Iraq. But unfortunately, branding is all in our consumerist dystopia, and so critiques that carry the Establishment "brand" have a better chance of gaining wider resonance.

At any rate, whatever the brand, Rose's insights are well worth reading. And his critique goes far beyond Iraq, to take in the underlying, bipartisan, transatlantic mindset that led to the launching of this vast war crime -- a mindset that was formed for many of today's players in the delusions and myths surrounding the much-lauded "humanitarian intervention" in Bosnia and Kosovo.

From Washington's War: From Indepedence to Iraq:
When I first started visiting the battlefields of the American War of Independence, it was well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks had taken place and President Bush had yet to declare global war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. My intention had originally been to write an analysis of the military lessons learned by the British Army in what for them had been an unfortunate and ultimately disastrous war. Over the next five years I came to see how great the similarities are between the policies being pursued by America in the present Iraq war and those of Britain in the eighteenth century. Not only do the same political and military imperatives apply, but also George III's inability to recognize what drove the American colonists to rebel against the British Crown is exactly matched by George Bush's lack of understanding of the motivations of Islamic extremist terrorists...

The failure of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to understand the limitations of military force in combating terrorism undoubtedly stems from their misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the wars in the Balkans that took place between 1992 and 1999. My own experience as the commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994 demonstrated to me just how far politicians are prepared to go in their efforts to alter history. Even today, in their speeches, Bush and Blair continually repeat the message that peace was returned to the Balkans by the use of military force, and that efforts at peacekeeping by the United Nations in the region had been ineffective. In this wholly inaccurate analysis, it was the bombing of the Serbs in September 1995 that brought peace at Dayton and it was the bombing of Yugoslavia that removed Milosevic from power in 1999. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. The decision by the Serbs to sign up to the Dayton peace accord came about, not through NATO bombing, but because the military balance of forces on the ground had been changed by the halting of the fighting between the Muslims and Croats the year before. The two previously warring factions had formed a federation and it was that federation's military success in the autumn of 1995, when they captured much of the territory that the Serbs had wished to trade for peace on their terms, which finally forced the Serbs to bring a halt to the fighting. It had been the UN that had brokered this peace and implemented the peace deal between the two sides. ...

But today the propaganda message - that it was force of NATO arms that delivered Dayton, not the UN - is still being plugged by Bush and Blair in their determination to justify the use of military force as the principal means in the war against global terrorists. 'It was NATO that brought serious force to bear and gave the desperately needed muscle to end the war,' claimed Blair in a speech made on the fiftieth anniversary of NATO in 1999. 'In Kosovo we will not repeat those early mistakes made in Bosnia.' Both Bush and Blair clearly remain determined to advance the logic of war.

In spite of their confident assertions, the use of military force in Kosovo also failed to achieve its declared political, humanitarian or military objectives. On 24 March 1999, Javier Solana, then Secretary General of NATO, stated that the objectives of NATO's war against Milosevic were to halt the ethnic cleansing and stop further human suffering in Kosovo. In spite of the most intensive eleven and a half weeks of bombing hitherto experienced in the history of war, 10,000 people were killed and one million people were driven from their homes. When judged on a humanitarian basis, it is clear that the mission failed entirely. At the same time, General Wesley Clark, the commander of NATO, announced that NATO air power would progressively 'disrupt, degrade, devastate and destroy' the Serb military machine to prevent it from carrying out any further ethnic cleansing. Yet, despite the fact that the Serb Army was equipped with 1950s Soviet technology and that it was exhausted by eight years of war, NATO completely failed to live up to General Clark's expectations. It is estimated that less than twenty Serb armoured vehicles were destroyed in the bombing, and the ethnic cleansing continued at an accelerated pace. When the bombing finally halted, the Serb Army withdrew into Yugoslavia, 'an undefeated army', in the words of the senior British commander on the ground. Bombing simply had not worked...

 For British politicians to claim today that the war in Kosovo was a success because NATO 'did, after all, succeed in getting rid of Milosevic', is to indulge in propaganda worthy of Milosevic himself. In reality, Milosevic was kept in power for a further eighteen months as a result of NATO bombing, which collapsed not only the bridges over the River Danube, but also the Serb political opposition. It was the people of Serbia who finally voted Milosevic out of power in the elections of 2001.

In spite of the evident failure of their strategies in the Balkans, the politicians of NATO have reinforced the belief that it is possible to solve complex humanitarian, political and even international security crises through military means. This view has been translated into a doctrine of offensive military action, which has been now been applied in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet the past clearly shows that military action unsupported by an agreed political framework, and one, furthermore, that is backed by adequate economic and social programmes, simply will not endure. Nearly one decade after the end of the Balkan Wars, European Union troops are still required to maintain a presence on the ground in order to prevent a return to war. Both Bosnia and Kosovo have become, in effect, protectorates of Europe.

I have discussed the ideas contained in this book extensively with military and civilian audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the only people who consistently refuse to discuss the invasion of Iraq and its related strategies have been politicians and their many apologists in the media.