A disgusting American tradition…

28 Nov

A little too light-hearted, in my opinion, considering its subject matter: a uniquely American combination of consumption-orgy and widespread, often deadly violence — but informative enough…

An aunt of mine in Greece once said, after viewing a Greek story on the event, which we can now add to things that growing micro-journalism around the world makes us look like asses: “These are Americans?” she asked bewildered and remembering the handsome, polite, blonde Civil Affairs* GIs who handled post-war aid to Greece.  “When the Marshall [Plan] trucks dropped off food in the neighborhoods,” amidts widespread poverty and hunger in post-War Greece, “or UNRRA** would drop off old clothes, we never acted like that.”

And it’s the change from that one image to the other that represents the biggest sea change in how people see us; and the smartest national security move we could make is correcting that image.


* Civil Affairs in the American Military: (source: Wiki, yes, sorry…)

“The American army of occupation lacked both training and organization to guide the destinies of the nearly one million civilians whom the fortunes of war had placed under its temporary sovereignty”, stated Col. Irwin L. Hunt, Officer in Charge of Civil Affairs, Third Army, in his report on U.S. military government in Germany after World War I.

He wrote further, “Military government, the administration by military officers of civil government in occupied enemy territory, is a virtually inevitable concomitant of modern warfare. The US Army conducted military government in Mexico in 1847 and 1848; in the Confederate States during and after the Civil War; in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba after the Spanish American War; and in the German Rhineland after World War I. In each instance, neither the Army nor the government accepted it as a legitimate military function. Consequently, its imposition invariably came as a somewhat disquieting experience for both, and the means devised for accomplishing it ranged from inadequate to near disastrous…”

The Hunt Report, as it affectionately came to be known by the World War II generation of military Government officers, for the first time in the Army’s experience looked on administration of occupied territory as something more than a minor incidental of war. Colonel Hunt realized that to exercise governmental authority, even over a defeated enemy, required preparation. The Army, he urged, should not again wait until the responsibility was thrust upon it but should develop competence in civil administration among its officers during peacetime…

World War II saw the U.S. Army receive its Civil Affairs “charter.” The Pentagon in 1943 activated the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Division (CAD). The major problem faced by the CAD was heavy destruction of the infrastructure. Never before or since has U.S. Army Civil Affairs been so extensively involved in nation rebuilding for so long. The CAD was responsible for 80 million European civilians; yet no documented case of overt opposition has ever come to light. [My emphasis] Post-war military government proved extremely successful in our former enemies’ nations. The CAD also returned untold millions of dollars worth of national treasures to their country of origin. The post-war period was the first planned use of Civil Affairs by the modern United States Army, and the greatest use of CA assets to date…[1]

Operation Husky was the projected invasion of Sicily that would be the first United States occupation of enemy territory and would set the pattern for subsequent operations. The mission was a success, and the devastated nation was full of dislocated civilian, and required total CA involvement. The Civil Affairs Division (CAD) was established on 1 March 1943, and Maj. Gen. John H. Hilldring became its director a month later. In assigning the division’s mission, the War Department reasserted its claim to leadership in civil affairs and military government. The division was to report directly to the Secretary of War on “all matters except those of a military nature” and to represent the Secretary of War to outside agencies. On matters relating to military operations it would act for the Chief of Staff, and it would co-ordinate for the War Department all actions of civilian agencies in theaters of operations. For the future, War Department officials contemplated placing full responsibility for civil affairs in the staff of the theater commander “until such time as the military situation will allow other arrangements,” and the Civil Affairs Division was charged with making certain that all plans to occupy enemy or enemy-controlled territory included detailed planning for civil affairs. On 10 April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the Civil Affairs Division as “the logical staff to handle civil affairs in nearly all occupied territory.”[1]

Currently the United States has one Civil Affairs Division, “[and] over 1500 CA and PSYOP Soldiers have deployed annually over 20 countries worldwide promoting peace, fighting the war on terror, and assisting in humanitarian actions.”  Yes, slightly more than one-thousand-five-hundred…  But this is a report put together obviously by the American military and the tone, when read in context, is that they’re extremely proud to have that many C.A. officers.  1,500 Civil Affairs personnel for all the places in the which in which the United states is involved.  Do the math.

The British army — always better conquerors, colonizers and administrators than Americans have ever been — have recently made it obligatory for any enlisted men who want to become officers and get to second lieutenant and beyond to master at least one foreign language.  Obviously they’re emphasizing Arabic and Farsi/Dari and Russian, but even French, since Brits’ knowledge of the language has fallen to such a low (not that the French are much better) that there were serious logistical and communication problems when the British were aiding the French operation in Mali last year.


** UNRRA (The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) was responsible for non-comestible material aid mostly.  Almost starting with the end of the war, when Greek irony and satire felt free to joke and be cruel again, the common joke to dress down people who were already too shabbily dressed — and which you still hear sometimes — was: “Where d’you get that sweater?  UNRAA?”  “Uncle Truman?” was another one…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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