This assessment by a man who should know corresponds with what we’ve all read about Our Troops! in Iraq.
A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations.
The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics.
What is startling is the severity of his comments – and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them.
American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were “almost unfailingly courteous and considerate”. But he says “at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism”.
Brig Aylwin-Foster says the American army’s laudable “can-do” approach paradoxically led to another trait, namely “damaging optimism”. Such an ethos, he says, “is unhelpful if it discourages junior commanders from reporting unwelcome news up the chain of command”.
What he calls a sense of “moral righteousness” contributed to the US response to the killing of four American contractors in Falluja in the spring of 2004. As a “come-on” tactic by insurgents, designed to provoke a disproportionate response, it succeeded, says the brigadier, as US commanders were “set on the total destruction of the enemy”.
He notes that the firing on one night of more than 40 155mm artillery rounds on a small part of the city was considered by the local US commander as a “minor application of combat power”. Such tactics are not the answer, he says, to remove Iraq from the grip of what he calls a “vicious and tenacious insurgency”.
Brig Aylwin-Foster’s criticisms have been echoed by other senior British officers, though not in such a devastating way.
Yesterday Colonel William Darley, the editor of Military Review, told the Guardian: “This [Brig Aylwin-Foster] is a highly regarded expert in this area who is providing a candid critique. It is certainly not uninformed … It is a professional discussion and a professional critique among professionals about what needs to be done. What he says is authoritative and a useful point of perspective whether you agree with it or not.” In a disclaimer he says the article does not reflect the views of the UK or the US army.