Extinct Since Desert One
By Gary Brecher ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
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I got a lot of flak for my last column, some of it justified. I made a lame, amateur mistake about the size of a Roman legion, adding a zero, and got called on it by a lot of alert readers. A Roman legion of Julius Caesar's time had 5,000 men, not 50,000. That's the kind of little mistake McClellan used to make when estimating the size of Lee's forces. And since McClellan is my least-favorite American commander of all time, associating myself with him is about as low as I can grovel.
The only issue now is what my punishment ought to be.
Now that Bush's spinners have decided Islamic Law is just peachy for free, democratic Iraq, I guess I'll find some "Sharia 4 Dummies" site online and ask the web-mullahs what the Prophet decreed for War Nerds who mess up this bad. Probably the turban-mafia will decide I have to have my Dorito-grabbing hand hacked off. Fair enough. With arithmetic skills as lousy as mine, going from a decimal to base-five finger counting system probably won't make much difference.
I also got flamed for daring to criticize Dr. Victor D. Hanson, the ivory tower darling of the neocons. I expected that, but what really blew me away is that Hanson's defenders weren't so much angry as confused by my angle of attack. They're used to bashing liberals, and didn't know what to make of a simple old American nationalist like me.
We're getting so rare nobody even recognizes one of us when they come across it. We're like those damn woodpeckers flapping around the swamps, except nobody's looking for us. Hell, they'd send the exterminator out if they saw one. I can see it now: some van with a big plastic War Nerd head glued on top, a recycled fat-guy mannequin from the old Bob's Big Boy painted up to look like me, and a slogan: "Kills War Nerds Dead!" They'd call the campaign "The War To End All War Nerds."
Mullah and crew gloat over the remains of Jimmy Carter's epic fuck-up
The whole political landscape these days-the whole swamp-is divided between peacenik leftists who think war is wrong because it hurts children and other living things, and neocons who back the Iraq disaster even though they know it means pouring American lives (though not their lives) and money into the sewer.
There's nobody speaking for simple pro-Americans like me, except maybe Pat Buchanan (and he weirds me out too with his thing about Mexicans. What's wrong with Mexicans? They're the best soldiers we've got. Just check the casualty lists from Iraq: they read like the employee timesheet at your local burrito shack.) We American nationalists used to be the majority, what they called the "silent majority." We went extinct faster than passenger pigeons, wiped out in only 25 years. That's because 25 years ago, something happened that was as disastrous for America as that asteroid for the dinosaurs: Jimmy Carter's big wimpout in the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. That's what drove America crazy.
Let me set the stage, but telling the truth this time, not the crap the official sources give you. In 1978 Iran was the most powerful country in the Middle East, rapidly modernizing under the Shah, Reza Pahlevi. You hear a lot of nonsense about his "repressive" policies, but the truth is way simpler: the Shah's problem is that he actually WAS trying to make Iran a modern, powerful country. In 1963 the Shah started his "White Revolution," a typical Kennedy-style reform plan, kind of out-commie-ing the commies.
He was trying to do for Iran exactly what Ataturk did for Turkey in the 1920s. But he had two problems: his "dynasty" was new and unpopular-set up by his cavalry-officer dad's coup in 1921-and he was dealing with Shia Islam, which is way crazier and more self-destructive than Sunni. The Shia have a bigger martyr complex than Cindy Sheehan, and they're always willing to do whatever it takes to mess themselves up. So Iran basically looked at the Shah's reforms and said nope, it's too good, we'd rather go back to the Middle Ages.
Of course, that's not the official story. The Leftist academics will tell you the Iranians overthrew the Shah in revenge for persecution from his "feared and hated SAVAK secret police." The truth is, SAVAK was a small (15,000 men), defensive CI service. Unless you were actively involved in Islamist or Communist conspiracies, it would pretty much leave you alone, which was a lot more than you can say for the cops/spies of any other regime in the 4,000 years of Persian/Iranian history, including the creeps running the country now.
The other lie you hear about the Shah is that he was "corrupt." He skimmed from the petrodollars coming in, sure-but compared to any other Middle Eastern ruler, the Shah was squeaky-clean. He actually put Iran's oil revenues to work changing the country, building roads, irrigation projects, and setting up an educational system (the first in the country's history).
But nobody felt grateful. The intelligentsia was full of fashionable commies; they wanted chaos. The successful entrepreneur types mostly emigrated before they could contribute to building a solid middle class, taking their free educations with them. And the Shi'ite mullahs were furious that they were losing power as people got more middle-class and more interested in progress. When the Shah decided to stop paying off the Mullahs, they called in their Frankenstein: Ayatollah Khomeini.
Khomeini-if you're old enough to remember 1979, you won't forget his face. He looked like a 200-year-old Dracula in black robes. The faces said it all: the Shah, with his expensive suits :or the man in black.
They went with Khomeini. The Shah and his US backers couldn't believe it. Suddenly their expensive armed forces were useless, because the troops wouldn't fire on the crowds, a lethal mix of commie romantics and Shi'ite fanatics, that were screaming for the Shah's blood. Like the Lefties say, "This is what democracy looks like," and it wasn't pretty: half a million people in the streets screaming for a return to the Dark Ages. Not much you can do about that, unless you find a way to slip thorazine into the water supply.
On January 16, 1979, the Shah flew out of Iran for a "vacation." By that time the Iranians were so crazy that nobody much wanted to take the vacationer: every Club Med from Tahiti to Timbuktu was suddenly overbooked. He was even denied entry to the US and ended up in Egypt.
The Islamist "students" of Tehran blamed the US anyway and grabbed 70 US Embassy employees for a few hours. You'd think that would have been warning enough to evacuate the Tehran embassy. Nope. Back then, remember, nobody took Islam very seriously. We were still scared of the poor ol' pitiful Commies, and fatally underestimated the power of the Mullahs, just like the Shah did.
Our diplomats thought they were safe because everybody knows foreign embassies are off limits, sovereign territory. Except Iranians don't have that tradition.
You Russians should know that better than anybody, because one of your writers, Griboedev, was torn to pieces by a mob in Tehran back in 1829. Maybe they were mad from trying to pronounce his name, I don't know, but they sure weren't too worried about entering the embassy to get at him. They turned him into a Russian pinata, ripping him apart like the zombies in Land of the Dead.
Our last chance to evacuate the embassy was October 22, 1979, when the US finally admitted the dying Shah for urgent gall-bladder surgery. Two weeks later-and for those two weeks there were daily, giant protests with a million people screaming "Marg bar Amrika," "Death to America"-a crowd of radicals swarmed the embassy. The Marine guards were ordered not to fire on the crowds, so we gave up without a fight, setting the pattern for this whole humiliating episode.
The "students" were amateurs, so some staff escaped and took refuge in the Canadian embassy. The occupiers released some hostages, mostly women, non-Americans and blacks. The rest were blindfolded, handcuffed and toyed around with-there were mock executions with unloaded rifles, that kind of sadistic crap.
Everybody was holding their breath waiting to see what America, the strongest power in the world, would do. Nobody, and I remember this real well, could believe it as the weeks went by and we did nothing. Nothing.
We had the bad luck to have as president this freak, Jimmy Carter. What a piece of work he was. We knew he was a Christian, but we didn't know he was the kind of soft-headed Christian that actually believed in turning the other cheek when you're hit. All our presidents were churchgoers, but I don't think we've ever had a president who actually bought that nonsense, and I pray (or I would if I still believed in God) that we never do again. Nixon, for example, was a Quaker-but he wasn't exactly what you'd call a "pacifist."
I'd like to blame the Dems for our current problems, but but before Carter our Democrat presidents had been damn fine war leaders. Wilson, FDR, Truman-when it was time to fight they went in with both fists flying. Even LBJ can't be faulted for squeamishness. He may not have fought smart in Nam, but he was no peacenik, turn-the-other-cheek freak.
Carter was a whole different animal from those guys. He didn't threaten the hostage-takers, he "negotiated." Meaning, he begged. "Please, Mister Khomeini, can we have our hostages back?" It was the lowest point in American history. Every night on the news there were scenes to make you sick, blindfolded hostages being shown off to giant rallies in Tehran.
And Carter settled for embargoing oil from Iran. Meaning my parents had to pay double for gas. Oh, and he froze some of their assets. Which must've really hurt, because now that oil prices shot up, the mullahs were rolling in rials.
We didn't know it then, but Carter was some sort of sick Gandhi mutant version of a Southern Baptist. The most expensive armed forces in history were just dying to make those bearded bastards pay, and Carter sat back and tried talking to them nicely. We could have done things that would make our name feared throughout history. We could have made them forget Genghis Khan, who was responsible for turning Eastern Iran into the moonscape it still is today.
I used to lie in my room after the news, dreaming of what the USAF could do if Carter took the leash off. Like: announce that we were going to nuke Khomeini's "holy city," Qum, if the hostages weren't released. And do it. Then announce we were going to nuke another, bigger city-and do it. And keep doing it, going from smaller to bigger Iranian cities until Tehran was the only one left. Then, if the idiots didn't let the hostages go, sadly announce that all the hostages were brutally butchered, and seal Tehran underneath hot, radioactive glass.
I guarantee you we wouldn't be having our current problems if we'd done that 25 years ago.
If you don't have the stomach for that level of violence, then do what one high-ranking USAF officer suggested: using our jamming/e-warfare planes to wipe out all telecommunications across Iran. See if they're so eager for the Dark Ages after all.
We did none of the above. Carter's braintrust started dreaming about rescue raids, like the Israelis had pulled off in Entebbe. That's how Charlie Beckwith's pitiful "Operation Eagle Claw" was born. Carter wanted a plan that would snatch the hostages from safe houses scattered in an enemy city of four million people.
Stupid. American Special Forces missions have less than a 50% success rate, and the odds on this one were much, much worse than that. The only way to get the hostages out was to hurt Iran enough to make them GIVE the hostages back, screaming "Take them! Take them!" and Carter had ruled that out.
His Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, who looked like a Cub Scout leader, knew it wouldn't work. Even Beckwith, the mission Commander, knew it was hopeless. He calculated the risk of failure at 99.9%, but the poor bastard followed his CINC's orders and devised a plan.
It was maybe the worst plan in history. Eight RH-53D heavy-lift choppers-not the best ones we had either, but so-called "hangar queens" were used because their commanders weren't warned of the seriousness of the mission-would take off from the USS Nimitz and rendezvous with six C-130 transports at Desert One, a desert point near Iran's southern coast. After being refueled, the eight choppers would take Delta Force to Desert Two fifty miles outside Tehran, where they were supposed to hide for a full day before being infiltrated into Tehran in trucks.
So that's two big, loud landing strips inside Iran that we were supposed to manage without getting spotted. Plus a full day of trying to hide out.
If you've read Andy McNab's book Bravo Two Zero about what happened when his SAS team tried to hide out in rural Iraq during Gulf War I, you know how crazy that was. McNab's guys, the best soldiers in the world, were spotted by an old man herding goats before they even got unpacked.
If the Delta guys had somehow managed to go undiscovered and make it into Tehran in those trucks-another big "if"-and if they somehow found and rescued the hostage-an "if" the size of Shaquille O'Neal-the plan was that they'd take the hostages by truck to a downtown Tehran soccer stadium. Choppers would fly them from there to Manzariyeh air base 40 miles SE of Tehran, where C-141s would land, pick up the Delta operators and hostages and fly them home.
With some plans, you can find the flaw and say, "Aha! There's the problem!" But this plan was so hopeless, so complicated, with so many impossible stages open to so many obvious disasters, that you can't even isolate a single flaw. It was all flaws, and no logic.
On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle Claw went off. Soon after hitting the Iranian desert, the RH-53D's flew into a "Haboob"-one of the dust storms that make the desert a Hell for pilots. The first chopper dropped with mechanical problems two hours from the Nimitz. Another had to turn around after trying to fly through the dust storm.
That left six choppers, the bare minimum, still working. They landed at the Desert One rendezvous an hour late. The C-130s were already waiting. The choppers were refueled, the Delta Force team was itching to go, when they found out that one of the choppers was inoperable-hydraulic failure. That was it: the plan wouldn't work with just five choppers.
Beckwith had no choice but to scrub the mission right there in the desert. All because Carter only authorized eight lousy choppers.
When Nixon heard about it, he had a great comment: "Eight? Why not a thousand? It's not like we don't have them!"
Carter should've listened to the Quaker Nixon. What's the world coming to when a Quaker ex-president has the right warlike attitude and a Southern Baptist, which Carter supposedly was, cringes like a pacifist?
But the worst was yet to come. Eight men-five USAF crew and three USMC chopper crew--died when one of the RH-53D tried to take off, got blown by the sandstorm into a taxi-ing C-130 and turned both aircraft into a huge fireball. We were very lucky a lot more men didn't die.
There were 44 troops on that plane, and only a heroic effort by the loadmaster got the jammed doors open so they could get off. The survivors flew off, totally gutted. And when the Iranians noticed the columns of black smoke, they hopped on their camels and found the wreckage of Carter's rescue mission. Every newspaper in the world, every TV station, carried this picture that's burned into my eyes for life: some greasy, stupid mullah grinning at the camera as he holds up the charred arm of an American serviceman.
I can't describe the sick, terrible feeling I had watching that on TV, then seeing it again on the front page of the paper. Like watching your family get raped while you're strapped in a chair. From that moment Reagan was in. His handlers made sure the hostages weren't released before the election. They timed it nicely: the hostages finally got out on Inauguration Day, 444 days after they were captured.
Carter was still trying to micro-manage the negotiations; he brought a phone to Reagan's inauguration.
We took revenge, in a way, by arming Saddam in his war against Iran. His tanks crossed the border on September 22, 1980. I've told the story of that war in another column (eXile #178, "The War Nobody Watched"). The Iranians paid big-time, losing 500,000 dead and more than a million wounded. We fed Saddam intelligence and materiel to bleed the Iranians, and they bled all right. But it wasn't a very satisfying kind of vengeance, doing it by proxy. It was sneaky and weak, the kind of thing the Venetians or Austrians would have done, not worthy of America.
And it was America that really suffered, thanks to Carter's insane pacifism. The old tradition of American nationalism, what they're now calling "paleoconservatism," was destroyed forever by that humiliation in the desert. Ever since then, America has been so scared of sounding weak that we keep falling for the chickenhawks who woof the loudest, even when it's obvious they don't have a clue about war or national power.
Just compare the two Bushes: Bush Senior engineered our greatest victory since 1945 in Gulf War One-and he was voted out. He was a real vet, a pilot who'd been shot down in WW II-but he didn't know how to strut, how to woof. People didn't take to him, and didn't care that he brought us a glorious victory. He couldn't woof, so we got rid of him.
Whereas people still love his worthless son, even though that fool has led us into our most disastrous military failure in history. They'd rather have a noisy chickenhawk than a quiet hero-they'd rather have Dubya than his dad.
The trouble is that guys who are good at woofing generally believe their own noise. So Dubya actually believes all that "bring it on!" crap. His dad, the real hero, warned him not to occupy Iraq. Dad was an old-style paleocon; he was thinking about keeping America strong and safe during and after the war. Dubya and his handlers don't give a damn about America, never did. They're in love with their own noise. And we're in love with it too, following it right down the toilet.
It didn't have to be this way. If any other president we ever had had been in the Oval Office when the Iran Hostage Crisis went down, we'd have had the Mullahs begging us to take back our diplomats-and Khomeini's "holy city" of Qum would be a lake of molten glass. But we had Jimmy Carter, a man who once got mugged by a rabbit. And that's what drove us into the arms of sleazy neo-conmen like Cheney and Dubya, who know too much about how to fool the suckers back home and not a damn thing about the big, bad world.
And who suckered them into invading Iraq? You guessed it: Iran, by sending double agents like Chalabi to tell the Neocons it was going to be a "cakewalk." Meanwhile, our forces are so bogged down by an Iranian-influenced insurgency that we can't threaten Iran anymore. They're still fucking with America, and fucking us hard.
Now all Iran has to do is wait a couple years and stroll into the oil fields of Basra. Without firing a shot, Iran gets all of Shi'ite Iraq, 60% of the Iraqi population and two-thirds of the oil reserves. And America will be stuck with even more shrill chickenhawks pissing the nation's power and might away. The result: Game, set and match to the Mullahs.
He is called 'The War Nerd', but I have yet to hear him comment intelligently on anything having to do with war or military history. This article doesn't change that.
I like the war nerd's commentary on eberything except Iraq