Monday, April 13, 2009

Americans in Rhodesia pt. 2

As the 1970's began, so did the sparks of revolution and quite frankly terrorsism. Rhodesia, known as the breadbasket of Africa hosted mineral wealth and a well oiled agricultural system. Hacked out of the primal lands of Africa, farms and ranches supplied Rhodesia and surrounding countries with staples of life. Like rural America, it became the backbone of its psyche and economic stability. The quality of life was among the best in Africa for both whites and blacks.

Thomas Blanding, a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam war began to organize private security for these outposts against increasingly violent terror attacks. Some were lured with the old romanticism of soldiers of fortune. Many took contracts and were disappointed that they did not become rich enough to retire to a fiefdom after a few months patrolling cattle tracks and manning observations posts at night. Sadly, those that came and went were not attatched to the country itself and proved of little use to fight the coming scourge.

Initially service in the Armed Forces of Rhodesia was not a first choice for many. Doing so could cause a loss of citizenship in the United States. Going back back to the strategic concepts of the United States during the Cold war, covert support of anti communist forces were common in Africa. The United States was heavily involved in the Congo after Belgum forfeited its colonial rule. When a gap in power appeared, Mobutu was courted heavily by the CIA. The ever grinding chess game with the Soviets was a top priority on the Continent. The US involvement in south east asia was predicated on the premise of stopping communism.

However, a changing political climate in the United States was emerging. The age old issue of racism was being dealt with in a major way. And rightly so. The Civil Rights movement put America on a tight rope of walking the talk at home and abroad.

The terrorist revolution taking hold in Rhodesia was predicated on Racism and Anti Colonialism. The rhetoric was made is such a way that forced countries to choose its side. Would they support European domination of Rhodesia or help the downtrodden African regain its land and wealth from Salisbury. The new America was in a state of indecision and decided to back the British its closest ally.

One might ponder from afar the merits of cutting off support from oppressive white regimes. But that is only one side of the story. Those on the ground away from the halls of power saw that the wars of liberation took the highest toll on those they were supposedly liberating. I find this blurb interesting and more accurate as the facts represent.

" That the terrorist war in the Zambezi salient represents a "national war of liberation" against the established government . That this is total rubbish can easily be proved by the fact that, as the Minister of Defence stated in a television interview on July 22, the largest number of atrocities have been committed against Africans (as was the case in Kenya during the Mau Mau emergency). In other words the people on whose behalf the "insurrection" has been instigated are proving to be its major victims. This fact underscores the basic tenet that the terrorist is essentially a criminal (seeking influence and power within a chosen area with the familiar instruments of the criminal - terror and intimidation), and certainly not a soldier. Hostile news media seeks to identify the former with the latter. This is reflected in the wilful and glib confusion of the two terms "guerrilla" and "terrorist". "

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Americans in Rhodesia

Americans in Rhodesia

In 1979, legendary mercenary Mad Mike Hoare stated his opinion on the Bush War that the basic problem(for Rhodesia ) is lack of manpower.. Some might say that this was obvious, yet it is echoed by all of the people who saw the war thru to its bitter end. Many have stated that there were no more than 1000 combat boots on the ground at any given time. Considering the geography and size of Rhodesia, roughly the size of Montana, it certainly is an undertatment. Yet for close to 15 years, Rhodesian Forces held the country and inflicted a disproportionate amount of casualties on the insurgents or terrs under incredible logistical and ideological stress. The only conclusion a person can reach is that the military tactics, intelligence and pure guts kept Rhodesia alive till Eastern powers with the acquiesence of the West let them drown.

With emigration of the white population, sanctions by the West and ever increasing support in material from the East, the choice was clear. Fight or give up your civilization. Yet, those that stayed on to fight the war had to resort to outsourcing. PMC's in the fashion we have today did not yet exist outside of Black paramilitary adventures of the CIA and the Kremlin. Caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea, they reached out for help. The internet didnt yet exist and news coverage was unfavorable to the countries ruling party so getting out the word was a challenge. Outside of word of mouth through the mostly Ex -Special Forces community, the only viable option to reach the targeted audience was a magazine, Soldier of Fortune. Much maligned in the world of journalism as lunatic, war mongering and white supremist, it certainly did the reporting no one else was willing to do. Get out in the bush and report from a foxhole.

Articles started appearing and the word got out that there was opportunity for the willing to come to Rhodesia and enlist to fight a war against communism. This struck a chord with many veterans of the Vietnam conflict who felt betrayed by their government and saw our retreat as a win for the Reds. That war left many professional soldiers with a feeling of loss. As if the US decided in the fourth quarter up by 10, to forfeit the game and put in the C string players and move on. Its debatable whether the US would have achieved success operating in set piece warefare. Those critics of the established rules of operation such as Col. David Hackworth, author of the Vietnam Primer, could see the end before it came. Much like Bernard Fall, who predicted this outcome in the early sixties based on his study of the French foray against the communists, American intervention without out G'n the G would end in tradgedy and waste.

Due to many influences of the SAS experience in Malaya and elsewhere, the Rhodesians sought to out guerilla the guerilla and had great success. Yet, the strains of manpower and embargoes on vital supplies put their backs to the wall.

more to come......