It sounds like the world's worst army once again took on the world's best army and lived to fight another day. The BBC reports that on September 25 Pakistani forces opened fire on two U.S. helicopters as they crossed the border from Afghanistan.
Chief Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the helicopters had "crossed into our territory in Ghulam Khan area."
Pentagon bull feather merchant Bryan Whitman said that, "The flight path of the helicopters at no point took them over Pakistan."
General Abbas said, "They passed over our check post so our troops fired warning shots."
Bryan Whitman said, "The Pakistanis have to provide us with a better understanding of why this took place."
Um, Bryan, they just told you: your helicopter passed over their check post and they fired warning shots at it. What's not to understand?
This incident is yet another prime illustration of what America's biggest casualty has been in our woebegone war on terror: the truth. At this point, when presented with a choice of believing a Pentagon spokesman or a tinhorn two-star general of an army that lost every war it fought for a Bananastan country with imaginary borders and brooms don't even have handles, the decision is obvious: the Pentagon guy is lying.
Whenever I do a piece on Pakistan the first thing that crosses my mind is a tale from a military journalist pal who spent a day in a Pakistani airport, waiting for her airplane to show up and watching the janitor work. The janitor had a broom that he held by string instead of a handle. Every hour, he walked through the terminal, swatting at mounds of dirt, cigarette butts, chicken droppings and other inscrutable filth, trying as best he could to push it all under the chairs the passengers sat in while waiting for their boarding calls. You know who came behind the janitor and cleaned under the chairs? Nobody.
The best part: this didn't take place at some puddle jumper gas-and-go dirt strip in the Khyber Pass. It happened at Islamabad International Airport.
According to the BBC, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is "unclear." There's an "imaginary border" called the "Durand" line that each side marks differently across a two to three mile wide "no man's land."
Pakistan's constitution allows its heads of state to disband the other branches of government and suspend the constitution itself as they see fit, but the heads of state are hardly American-style unitary executives. Their possession of power depends wholly on the aegis of the military, the military whose army has lost to every army it ever fought (except, of course, the United States Army). It's a form of government best described as a constitutional junta.
Oh, yeah. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons. We don't trust Pakistan's army to guard them properly and we'd like to guard them ourselves, but Pakistan's army won't let us.
And here we are about to get tangled up in a war of some flavor or other with these people that, like the rest of our Bush II conflicts, we can't possibly win because there's no strategic objective to be had that our military can achieve.
Worse yet, losing in the Bananastans promises to be even uglier than it has been in Iraq. We'll have at least four separate entities working at cross purposes who will be more interested in outdoing each other than they will be in doing it to whoever we manage to identify as the "enemy."
Chain of Fools
It's generally accepted among modern military thinkers that unity of command is the principle of warfare that makes all the other principles—objective, offensive, maneuver, economy of force, etc.—possible to achieve. In the civilian world, you do the bidding of whoever who signs your paycheck. In the military, you follow orders from the guy who signs your fitness report. If you have a major operation in which the signature trail doesn't pyramid up to one guy, you have a cluster bomb on your hands. His unified command structure was the thing that allowed Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to overcome his inferior supply capabilities and defeat Dwight Eisenhower's force at Kasserine Pass in 1943.
With that in mind, let's take a look, as best we can, at the chains of command of American and NATO forces presently operating in the Bananastans. Strap on your seatbelts because we'll take a lot of sharp turns on this journey.
The U.S. helicopters the Pakis shot at on September 25 were part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF works for Allied Command Operations (ACO), which works for Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACUER), U.S. Army General John Craddock, who works in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium and is dual hatted as Commander, U.S European Command (EUCOM) headquartered in Germany.
The helicopters that Pakistani troops shot at on September 3 were part of American Special Operations forces, who work full time for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) which is headquartered in Florida. SOCOM encompasses Army Rangers and Navy Seals and other SPECOP outfits, and is the only unified command to have its own budget, making it a virtual separate service in the U.S. military command structure.
The CIA, which virtually operates like a separate country, is in charge of the unmanned aerial vehicles we use to assassinate—or try to assassinate—evildoers in Pakistan with Hellfire missiles. The CIA has help controlling these complicated drones, of course. They aircraft are flown by Air Force personnel from an operations center at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, which is located in the area of responsibility of U.S. Northern Command (NORCOM) headquartered in Colorado. NORCOM dual hats as commander of the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the outfit that was resting up to track Santa on Christmas Eve when 9/11 happened.
The Bananastans lie in the area of responsibility belonging to the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), headquartered, like SOCOM, in Florida. General David Petraeus just took charge of CENTCOM, and he must being experiencing military culture shock. As a combatant commander in the unified command structure, Petraeus is supposed to be in control of everything that happens in his area. But as we saw, his predecessor, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, didn't have control of everything in his area because Petraeus was in charge of Iraq, and Petraeus went around Fallon's back—and everybody else's back—and did monkey business directly with the White House.
Talk about geese and ganders; now Petraeus is the one getting potty blocked from all angles. When it came time for somebody to calm down the Pakis about all the cross-border attacks into their country, the Bush administration sent Admiral Mike Mullen, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff isn't supposed to be in command of anything.
Petraeus might be happy to merely run the public relations effort for the Bananastans campaign. Aside from handing out bribes and weapons to Iraqi militias, that's the sort of thing he's best at. But it appears that the Pentagon wants to control the propaganda operation from Washington through professional humbuggers like Bryan Whitman. That has to grate Petraeus no end since he's so used to doing his own lying.
Think of the effect this is having on certain dead people. Barry Goldwater and Bill Nichols, who established the modern U.S. military joint command structure in 1986, must be spinning in their graves, and Erwin Rommel has to be clawing at his coffin lid for a chance to take another crack at us.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.