Colonel David H. Hackworth, known as Hack, is a living legend. He is one of America's most decorated soldiers from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He is also one of the US military's biggest critics. Out of principle he resigned from the US Army because the Vietnam War was being fought with the wrong strategy. When the Iraq War broke out in 2003 he was also one of those who joined the chorus of opposition. But now he has changed his mind.
Hack once had the courage to write, "Vietnam is the toughest war we've ever fought and were going at it as though we're fighting World War II over again. In my experience over there…the only people who really know how to fight this thing are the Australians and the Viet Cong."
He is a man known for tough talking and a no nonsense approach to soldiering. He spent a number of years living in Queensland after leaving the US Army. As an Australian soldier I would read his autobiography, About Face, every year. It is fantastic book that pulls no punches about how US policy in South East Asia was doomed to failure.
Hack was instrumental in writing The Vietnam War Primer, a textbook on how to fight a counter-insurgency. He was so afar head of his time in terms of lateral thinking, he even proposed that the US military employ speleologists, caving specialists, to uncover the vast underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong to hide. But his proposal fell on deaf ears.
His assessment of Iraq is "the war against the insurgents is still winnable: if Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran are told to stop supporting the insurgents or else; if we get enough boots on the ground ASAP to saturate and dominate the badlands; and if the brass allow the small-unit leaders to do their thing without the obsessive micromanagement that infects our Army."
What he is saying is that the United States needs more troops to do finish the job. Junior commanders should be allowed to do their job without interference from above. Moreover, the flow of insurgence from neighbouring countries must be stopped. That might pose somewhat of a problem considering that the US does not want to antagonise the Saudis. But already Washington has read Iran the riot act.
He adds: "the troops should be left alone to build up a solid network of Iraqis who want the war to end. Then together they can put down the spoilers and spread the good life that the majority of the people in Iraq are now starting to enjoy."
"Fighting insurgents is relatively simple. You don't need to be the top guy in the class to win the game. But you do need common sense and commanders who aren't afraid to stand up to bum-kissing top brass and dumb policy."
Many of our leading Australian "experts" have been quick to label Iraq as another Vietnam. This is a very simplistic view. Iraq is more like another Yugoslavia. Iraq is a hodge-podge consisting of an ethnic Arab majority, many of whom are Shiite or Sunni Muslim. A very small number are Arab Christians. Add to this mixture, millions of Sunni Muslim Kurds and Turkmans in the north of the country. Kurds are non-Arabs, whilst the Turkmans are closely related to the Turks.
Not forgetting the Assyrian Christians, who were the original inhabitants of Iraq before being swamped by an Islamic Arab invasion in 637 AD, more than 1300 years ago. There are also tiny numbers of ethnic Christian Armenians, and two little known sects, the Sabia, who worship water, and the Yazidi, mistakenly referred to as 'devil worshipers.'
None of our "experts" have raised any concern for the plight of the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq. Perhaps if they were to call themselves Aborigines or Northern American Indians they might gain some sympathy.
Hack suggests that the US can win in Iraq. Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, I would like to go to Iraq myself and have a look. I invite the other "experts" to come with me!
By Sasha Uzunov
Sasha Uzunov is a freelance journalist and ex-Australian soldier who served in East Timor.