What the Army can teach our teachers
© Jack Cashill
A few weeks ago, I wangled an eye-popping tour of the world’s most fantastic school building, the Lewis and Clark Center. This is the new 410,000 square-foot, $115 million home of Fort Leavenworth’s renowned Command and General Staff College.
As impressed as I was with the building and its 96 super high tech classrooms, I was more impressed with the way the Army teaches its students at the college, all of whom hold the rank of major or its equivalent in foreign militaries.
The folks at the fort’s Combat Studies Institute walked our small tour group through a typical exercise. They began the exercise by showing us a 360-degree virtual re-creation of the Baghdad checkpoint in question.
This particular one was set up to interdict traffic onto “Route Irish,” the main road from the airport to the Green Zone, a highway arguably even more dangerous than the Garden State Parkway on a Friday afternoon in the summer.
On the windy, rainy night of March 4, 2005, that checkpoint was manned by a National Guard unit out of New York City. Having lost two fellow soldiers nights earlier when a VBIED (A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device; the Army loves acronyms) blew through a checkpoint, these soldiers were on their toes.
Specialist Mario Lozano first spotted the Toyota Corolla barreling down the entrance ramp towards his Humvee.
As guidelines dictate, he flashed a high wattage searchlight in the driver’s face.
The driver did not slow. Again, according to procedure, a fellow soldier flashed a green laser at the driver.
The Corolla kept coming. Before this moment, the soldiers had never seen a car refuse to stop after these two well understood signals.
Lozano followed the standard rules of engagement. He began firing his mounted M-240 machine gun with its bright red tracer rounds straight across the driver’s field of vision and into a vacant area to his left.
When the car accelerated, Lozano worked his machine gun up from the ground into the tires and then the engine block finally stopping the car ten meters in front of the Humvee.
Weapons drawn, Lozano and his buddies approached the smoking vehicle. That’s when the real surprises began. The driver jumped out, hands in the air, shouting “We’re Italians! We’re Italians!”
In the back, wounded in the shoulder, was what passes for a journalist in Europe, Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for If Manifesto, a daily homage to the memory of the late, lamented Karl Marx.
In the back, dead, was Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari. According to a CBS News online story, “Italian Journalist: U.S. Lied,” Calipari had “rescued” Sgrena from her terrorist captors.
More likely, Calipari had ransomed her, a no-no in Iraq, which explains his unannounced arrival and hasty departure.
The day we watched this exercise, Specialist Lozano was going on trial in Italy in absentia. His Italian ancestry cut him no slack. After a thorough review, the Army had exonerated Lozano and refused to participate in the Italian show trial.
Those of us who watched the exercise sympathized with Lozano. The trainers, who led the exercise, could have let us leave on that note of sympathy, but they did not.
They explained to us that although Lozano did what he had to do, the brass who reviewed the incident were not at all pleased with the outcome.
The Italians pulled out of Iraq as a result of it. The America-friendly prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, lost his bid for re-election.
On 60 Minutes and its weepy European equivalents, Sgrena got to spread the “larger truth” of the incident—pravda—and ignore all the petty factual truths—istina—that stood in its way.
Indeed, in her new book, Friendly Fire, Sgrena makes the megalomaniacal claim that the troops specifically targeted her. Right.
Wars are never fought in a vacuum. The message that the Army took away was that it had to create checkpoints that could stop even reckless Italians on clandestine missions on rainy nights in March.
Unlike so many academic departments in American universities, the Command and General Staff College aggressively self-corrects. The curriculum is refined almost daily.
Roughly two-thirds of the students at the Command and General Staff College are combat veterans. Many of them will go back to combat after school is out. They have no interest in self-serving BS, another Army acronym. It could cost them their lives.
SNAFU status in Iraq is challenge enough. They don’t want to see it go FUBAR.
By contrast, our universities grow more calcified, more stubborn, and more indifferent to the facts on the ground by the day. The Army will throw out a theory tomorrow if it ceases to make sense.
In universities, it can take generations to kill a bad idea. Like Sgrena, many of our profs are still proudly Marxist. It doesn’t get much more stupidly stubborn than that.
Speaking of which, last year I wrote about a definitive new history of Mao’s China, Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.
This book should have caused the University of Missouri to rethink its continued veneration of Edgar Snow, the witless shill who made Mao’s rise to power possible.
Snow was the Sgrena of his time, only worse. According to the authors—and just about every other objective historian—Mao fed the loyal, fellow-traveling Snow one “colossal falsification” after another. These, the hungry reporter “swallowed in toto.”
So influential was Snow’s bogus reporting, however, that America eventually lost the will to defend the Nationalists. In time, we yielded the whole of mainland China to three more decades of Mao’s homicidal madness and three more decades after that of Tiananmen Square style mayhem.
Yet despite this madness, the University of Missouri, especially its Kansas City campus, has enshrined the relationship between homeboy Edgar Snow and Mao in an uncritical exhibit and in an ongoing series of conferences and exchange trips to China.
My reporting changed nothing. Upon recent inquiry, I learned that my article had been read at UMKC—and even translated into Chinese somewhere—and then promptly ignored.
The purpose of a university used to be the truth. At the Command and General Staff College, I was happy to learn, it still is. No wonder our universities don’t want the Army on campus.
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