Iraq Insurgency And The German Resistance–Lessons Pro And Con

There are striking similarities between the insurgency fight we have faced in Iraq over the last few years and the difficulties we had in Germany after the War.  There are some differences too, but more on that later.  After VE Day (Victory in Europe) in May of 1945 we along with our allies, the French, British and Soviets divided up Germany into four sectors just as we did with Berlin.  There had been repeated intelligence warnings of possible German underground and guerilla movements that would carry on the fight even after the formal surrender of their armed forces.  There was great concern over the alleged “Werewolves”, alleged Nazis fanatics who would continue the fight in the
Bavarian redoubt of the mountains and the troops were on edge for any perceived threat against them.

The Allies destroyed or took control of all the major weapon systems right away without real problems, the German Navy and submarines were in custody within weeks and all their aircraft and airports were locked down and used only for Allied missions or activity.  Their major equipment like tanks and mobile artillery were likewise seized and rendered harmless.  Besides the Germans had no gasoline or oil to utilize them.  The overwhelming majority of Germans did not offer any resistance after the surrender.  They were more than glad the death and destruction were behind them.

However, as always when you are dealing with millions of people there were some who took a more active and military approach to the occupation.  After all the Nazis like the Baath Party in Iraq had been the top dogs for over a decade.  They had run and controlled everything politically, economically and militarily.  Now they were being hounded and at best driven underground.  We had an extensive De-Nazification program.  The former members were reviewed and either cleared or held for war crimes or denied participation in government and even in the work force, such as there was in the rubble of Germany at that time.   Naturally some Nazis slipped through that system and some even escaped to South America or other regions like the Middle East.   Sounds a lot like the anti-Baath program we administered after  the Iraq invasion.

There weren’t a lot but some former Nazis did take to the battle anew.  There were isolated but real hit and run attacks from them against our troops here and there.  Usually a snipe or a grenade thrown or a few shots fired from a small group and then they were off into the ruble of the German towns.  Between war’s end and 1947 we lost several hundred troops to these attacks.  They never made big headlines at home, there would be a small paragraph on the back pages of the news papers and that was about it.  We caught many of them.  They were given summary trials and the majority were executed right away.  Again, little notice was given to these events.  The French, British and Soviets dealt with the same issues.  The British naturally were more inclined to follow a legal structure to deal with these insurgents.  The French were awfully summary with their captives.   Of course the French would take that approach to redeem their manhood.  They were really tough when dealing with a defeated foe but not quite so valiant when facing a determined enemy.  Since Napoleon they had not been able to defeat anyone except the Italians in battle and that is faint praise. Lord only knows how the Soviets dealt with them, the Iron Curtain was not formal yet but there was certainly no news out of the East except that approved by the Soviets.  They didn’t want anyone to think the people there were anything but completely happy the Soviets had brought “freedom” and an end to the capitalist system to them.  We executed scores of these insurgents during this period plus those of the other Allies. 

There was no CNN or internet to spread any news and there was little or no outcry from even organizations like the ACLU for the “rights” of these ex-Nazis.  They were terrorists and were treated as such by the West in summary fashion.  If a town or village was suspected of supporting them the entire village or town would have its rations and supplies cut off.  Our tro0ps became policemen and they were tough cops on the beat.  The insurgency never got any traction with the ordinary people.  Their country was in ruins and they were literally starving at that point and they knew we were not inclined to be generous with any help or aid.  Yes, we did the Marshall Plan a few years later but that was mostly for France and England and little went to Germany.  Roosevelt had wanted to keep in a backward purely agricultural state after victory.

In Iraq we have been much more politically correct with our approach.  We have worried about world reaction to collateral damage.  During the War no cared about such a thing.  No one moaned of civilian deaths in Germany at Dresden or Hamburg or after the War when they starved in the winters of ’45, ’46 and ’47.  Only when the Soviets pulled the Berlin blockade did they become objects of appreciation because they were a symbol of resistance to the Soviets and Truman initiated the Berlin Airlift.  The Germans did roll up their sleeves though and began the hard slog to rebuild their country.  We warmed to them over time.  They did indeed become our best ally after the British during the heights of the Cold War.  They were Western, not Muslim.  We had a basic cultural connection to them.  What connection do we have with the Muslim world now?  Perhaps if we were only half as tough on the Iraqis and Afghans as we were on the Germans we would be home by now and without promising to rebuild a darn thing. 

Seventy years ago the Battle of Britain had been won by this date.  The victory was not yet apparent but by the 15th of September the Luftwaffe had suffered crippling and mission-destroying losses.  They would attack many more times but there was no longer a danger of invasion by the Nazis.


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Filed under Foreign Affairs, government, history, military history, Politics, religion, terrorism

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