US army in Iraq institutionally racist, claims British officer

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".

The US army, he says, is imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion and talent. "Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."

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".

Here’s a few quotes from the original article, "Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations" (pdf)

The United States is fighting the Global War on Terrorism with a mindset shaped by the Cold War. That mindset helped create today’s joint force that possesses nearly irresistible powers in conventional wars against nation-states. Unfortunately, the wars the United States must fight today in Afghanistan and Iraq are not of this variety.—LTC M. Wade Markel, USA

Another reason why the Army has struggled to adapt is simply that it has not been at its professional best in recent years.

If I were treated like this, I’d be a terrorist!—U.S. Army Colonel: Baghdad, September 2004.