Small Wars Journal

Drawing Lessons from Zimbabwe's War of Liberation

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 4:01am

Drawing Lessons from Zimbabwe's War of Liberation: Efficacious Use of Propaganda and Violence

Jephias Andrew Dzimbanhete


The article seeks to examine aspects of Zimbabwe's liberation war from which today's politics can draw lessons. The aspects are propaganda and violence that were deployed by the Rhodesian Front-led government and the liberation movements. The basis of colonial propaganda during the war of independence was the misconception that the rural people were passive, unsophisticated and gullible. On the other hand the liberation movements, who were cognisant of the significant role of the subaltern group, the peasants, with whom they collaborated, did not propagate delusive propaganda. The liberation forces deployed propaganda that was bound up with the fight for freedom. The white minority regime unleashed indiscriminate violence against the civilian population. The intention was to glean information about the freedom fighters and punish the rural population for cooperating with the liberation fighters. Such random violence rebounded and did not produce the desired results. The liberation forces used violence against members of the rural population who collaborated with the Rhodesian regime and security forces. Guerrilla violence was selective and generally did not alienate the liberation guerrilla fighters from the rural populace. This article derives from the author's doctoral study on the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s guerrilla war.*


Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980 after a war that pitted the colonial forces of Rhodesia against the Zimbabwean liberation guerrilla forces. The war assumed a guerrilla warfare character and drew the warring parties into a contest that was both military and political. The goal of either side in the political rivalry was to control the African population that resided in the countryside which was the war's theatre of operation. The Rhodesian security forces needed to win the ‘hearts and minds' of the rural populace so that they could secure information about the activities of the nationalist guerrilla forces. The colonial forces thus desired the co-operation of the rural African people in their agenda of fighting what they labeled ‘terrorism'. On the other hand it was imperative for the liberation forces to secure political control of the rural population. This entailed securing their sympathy and support. The profit of political control of the rural population for the liberation fighters was the availability of food, clothing, intelligence and other logistical support. Controlling access to the civilian population was the key to defeating one's opponent in the liberation war. The contending forces got embroiled in a situation that demanded the deployment of propaganda and violence to achieve the goal of exerting political control over the civilian population. I do not however intend to catalogue lessons that could be drawn from the Zimbabwe's war of liberation war in the manner of saying lesson number 1, lesson 2 and so on. I simply examine and revisit the nature of war-time violence and propaganda and present a critical expose which has been lacking in much of the documented narratives of the war of national liberation. In this article I subscribe to Sturges's definition of propaganda. He writes that propaganda is the practice of distributing material that is untrue or if it is true, it is actually not relevant and applicable. The aim of propaganda is to confuse and deceive those that receive it.[1]

Wartime Propaganda

Propaganda dissemination by the war's rival players involved a process of projecting information about oneself in a positive manner and of the adversary in a negative style. For the contesting players propaganda thus served as either an instrument of offence or defence. Whilst the Rhodesian colonial regime was able to mobilise massive propaganda machinery the Zimbabwean liberation movement had to make do with an inferior but effective propaganda apparatus.

The Propaganda Tool of the Rhodesian Government

The colonial government churned out propaganda which largely demonised the liberation fighters. The intention was to alienate the liberation fighters from the rural populace and to elicit the loyalty of the residents of the rural areas, the war's theatre of operation. The basis of this propaganda was that the rural population was unsophisticated, gullible and passive. Such colonial stereotype and bigotry found expression in intimations of the following nature: ‘The typical ZANLA fighter was unsophisticated, but the impoverished peasants among whom he operated were usually illiterate and even more unsophisticated'.[2] Newspapers and magazines which included The Rhodesian Herald, The Sunday Mail, The African Times, The Bulawayo Chronicle, The Police Outpost, The Parrot and others were awash with reports on the glowing and successful military successes of the Rhodesian army forces. These reports compiled by white Rhodesian journalists exaggerated the numbers of liberation fighters that were killed in encounters between the warring parties and also understated the figures of the Rhodesian soldiers who died in the same encounters. The hope was that the black population of Rhodesia, especially those who resided in the rural areas, would realise that it was futile to back a losing side. This would drive them away from co-operating with the liberation fighters. The rural populace were also bombarded with war communiqués that came through the radio services of the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC). These communiqués not only inflated the number of the freedom fighters that the Rhodesian armed forces killed but also understated the figures of members of the Rhodesian forces who died at the hands of the nationalist fighters.

The same propaganda machinery of the Rhodesian regime demonised the liberation fighters and stressed the cruelty and brutality of the freedom fighters. Besides exaggerating guerrilla violence this propaganda fingered the liberation fighters for atrocities they probably did not commit. Instead the Rhodesian Selous Scouts, a pseudo-guerrilla unit of the colonial armed forces, committed atrocities disguised as the liberation guerrilla fighters. These atrocities included the murder of missionaries at rural mission stations and use of chemical weapons. Writing in 2006, Parker, a former Rhodesian serviceman, revealed that the Selous Scouts were responsible for the murder of Father Killian Huesser, a Roman Catholic priest based at Berejena Mission in February 1980.[3] The Rhodesian media had rushed to blame the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), one of the two liberation armies of Zimbabwe's war of independence. The cold-blooded murder of seven white missionaries at St. Pauls' Musami on 7 February 1977 was also blamed on the liberation fighters. Writing in 1999, Reid-Daly echoed Rhodesian regime propaganda when he indicated that the white missionaries at Musami Catholic Mission were slaughtered without mercy by Robert Mugabe's ZANLA forces.[4] The balance of probability points to the Rhodesian Selous Scouts as being responsible for the murder. It was very likely that the Rhodesian Selous Scouts were responsible for the murder of white missionaries at rural outposts and rural African businessmen.[5] The Rhodesian regime made capital of these murders and used them as propaganda material to discredit the forces of liberation. This was in the vain hope that this would erode the support that the rural population rendered to the liberation forces. The Rhodesian Ministry of Information produced, and distributed pamphlets that told gory stories of guerrilla violence on the civilian population. The African people were however not turned away from the liberation fighters but instead they became glued to the nationalist guerrilla fighters and the cause for freedom.

The weakness of Rhodesian propaganda was it lacked essential preoccupation with the truth. The rural population who were the target of the propaganda was aware of its factual deficiency and found it ludicrous. For example part of the Rhodesian propaganda that reached the African people insinuated that the freedom fighters willy-nilly raped married women. But peasants never experienced these scenarios in the war zones. The Rhodesian regime also propagated that the armed wings of the liberation movements were ‘terrorists' who murdered civilians indiscriminately and for no reason. The rural people witnessed a totally different picture. The nature of Rhodesian propaganda stemmed from the faulty colonial view that the African mind was a container that could be emptied and refilled. Contrary to this view, the rural African people were awake to the fact that the atrocities that were attributed to the freedom fighters by Rhodesian propaganda were committed by Rhodesian army units especially the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.

Overall the propaganda that was disseminated by the Rhodesian authorities failed to produce the desired results. The target of this propaganda (misinformation), the rural population, unfortunately, was not moved. The rural people remained committed to the forces of liberation and the cause of freedom. In reality what the rural African population persistently encountered were atrocities committed by the Rhodesian security forces. Insidious colonial injustices continued to bite the African people. The continual refusal by the colonial authorities to grant economic and political spaces to the African population, which was the root cause of the liberation struggle, made their propaganda count for nothing.

The Liberation Fighters and Their Propaganda

Pro-Rhodesian narratives have insinuated and acknowledged that the liberation fighters waged a far more effective psychological and propaganda war than the white Rhodesians.[6] This was a result of the flawed conviction of the white Rhodesians that the claim by the liberation fighters that the discontented black masses of the impending new Zimbabwe were oppressed by the Rhodesian minority government was propaganda.[7] The political mobilisation of the rural population by the liberation fighters emphasised the cruelty and brutality of the colonial forces and colonial injustice that severely gnawed the African population. This was real and could not pass as propaganda (misinformation). It was largely at pungwe (night gatherings) that the liberation guerrilla fighters conducted political mobilisation of the rural peasants. Guerrilla propaganda appeared in the military reports that the liberation fighters announced at pungwe gatherings and through the radio broadcasts of the Voice of Zimbabwe that was beamed from Dar-es-Salaam, Lusaka and Maputo during the war. These reports amplified the military successes of the liberation fighters especially the ZANLA forces. This was largely through the deliberate avoidance of stating the military setbacks and losses of the liberation forces and inflating cases of fatalities.[8] The propaganda of the nationalist liberation forces was effective because it was crafted in such a way that it fitted in with the expectations of the rural people who were yearning for the removal of the unjust colonial system. The study turns to the aspect of violence which was bilaterally deployed for diverse reasons and in different circumstances by the rival parties during Zimbabwe's war of liberation.

Wartime Violence

The contesting players in Zimbabwe's war of decolonisation resorted to violence in different contexts. The Rhodesian security forces encountered the challenge of failing to engage the Zimbabwean freedom fighters in a frontal war because the latter adopted guerrilla warfare. Consequently, the Rhodesian armed forces had to rely on a set of strategies often called counter-insurgency, whose main objective was to deprive the guerrilla fighters of civilian support. This constituted the violence that was deployed by the colonial army against the civilian population in the rural areas. Counter-insurgency entailed instituting draconian reprisals and meting out collective punishment against civilians for their collaboration with the freedom fighters. Due to their preoccupation with survival the guerrilla fighters avoided frontal military engagement of the Rhodesian security forces. Guerrilla violence visited members of the rural populace who jeopardised the lives of the freedom fighters by reporting guerrilla activities to the Rhodesian security forces. However, before the guerrillas resorted to civilian executions they warned would-be traitors or collaborators against providing the colonial forces with information on their activities.[9] Invariably, guerrilla violence was used as a last resort when members of the rural population failed to take heed of guerrilla warnings. The liberation fighters thus used violence on civilians sparingly because they could not afford to lose the priceless support they rendered them. Civilian support and co-operation was the linchpin of guerrilla survival in a war in which they faced superior forces.

The Colonial Army's Repressive Violence

The violence that was used by the Rhodesian government troops against the rural people was vastly greater than that used by the guerrillas. This was because they were the incumbent government's armed forces and consequently had superior military machinery at their disposal. Many black civilians in the war zones became victims of this violence. The regime's soldiers were motivated to commit violence against the rural peasants (the guerrillas' support base) because of their failure to glean information about the guerrilla fighters and their activities. Colonial repressive violence was also inspired by the obvious fact that the rural people provided logistical support to the guerrilla forces. In their oral testimonies civilians who participated in the war of liberation have indicated that they were subjected to forms of repression that included terror, starvation, death and destruction of their property and homes[10]. In addition to this repression the colonial authorities introduced forceful relocation of the peasants especially along the country's borders. Werbner noted the extreme measures of the Rhodesian regime from 1973 onwards of collective punishment imposed under the Emergency Powers directed against whole communities for supporting the liberation fighters.[11] The measures included imposition of dusk to dawn curfew. Members of the rural population who broke these curfew regulations were shot at. Excessive force was used in the relocation of Africans into ‘protected villages' which were introduced to deny the liberation forces' access to the rural population.

The guerrilla fighters managed to negotiate a convivial relationship with the rural juveniles, who among other wartime duties provided them with intelligence about the Rhodesian security forces. The co-operation and alliance between the freedom fighters and the juveniles (vanamujibha and vanachimbwido) was significant in the successful prosecution of the liberation war. This collaboration infuriated the Rhodesian security forces who decided to shoot dead all juveniles who were found outside homes at whatever time of the day. Entire villages, homes, granaries, and crops in the rural areas were burnt down by the Rhodesian armed forces. The Indemnity and Compensation Act that was passed by the Rhodesian government in 1975 granted the colonial regime officials and forces with the immunity against prosecution for atrocities that they committed against the civilian population.[12] This Act of Parliament officially bestowed on the Rhodesian army forces and other government officials the carte blanche to commit atrocities and murder on the rural people. Cases abound of Rhodesian security forces shooting dead civilians for no apparent reason during the war. They would make reports that they killed guerrilla fighters. In a rural area south of Masvingo, a man and his four children who were working in their field were shot dead by Rhodesian soldiers. The soldiers actually went about boasting that they had killed five guerrilla fighters.[13]  

Villagers were sometimes witness to grisly incidents such as the bayoneting of a pregnant woman to death by the Rhodesian security forces. One ex-mujibha related such murder of a pregnant woman near Morgenster Mission, southeast of Masvingo. The responsible Rhodesian security forces unkindly commented that she was carrying communist weapons in her womb.[14] Terror was exercised on the rural peasants in various other forms. The imposition of a dusk to dawn curfew not only curtailed the movement of the rural people but provided the Rhodesian security forces with the excuse to shoot down people in the rural areas. Galling incidents that included tying people on army trucks and then dragging them on the ground for long distances were commonplace. Parker described how the Rhodesian soldiers how an adult man was made to sit on the bonnet of the lead army truck in the war zone hoping that he would reveal sites on the dirt roads were landmines were planted[15]. It was commonplace that peasants had parts of their bodies like noses, ears and limps dismembered by members of the colonial armies especially the Rhodesian Selous Scouts. Stories abound of rural women who were also raped by members of the Rhodesian army. The death of Rhodesian soldiers after Rhodesian army tracks detonated landmines spelt danger to the people in the vicinity. They faced the wrath of Rhodesian forces' repression. They would be subjected to terror that included severe beatings, torture and destruction of their homes and property. In his autobiography, Godwin, a white Rhodesian who worked for the British South African Police decried the failure of the Rhodesian forces to forge good relations with the rural people. Instead they went berserk in an orgy of violence and burnt rural homes in Matabeleland.[16]

The many raids of pungwe gatherings that were carried out by the colonial regime forces regrettably left many civilians dead. In May 1978 in Gutu District Rhodesian forces attacked a pungwe gathering resulting in the death of over 150 civilians and just one Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) guerrilla fighter.[17] The government forces were quite aware that their raids on pungwe meetings resulted in the death of innocent civilians. That they never exercised restraint was an index of their cruelty and the propensity to commit atrocities against the rural population. These attacks which did not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants were arbitrary and non-selective in nature. Every category of people in the rural communities that fell in the war zones became targets of the repressive violence of the Rhodesian government forces. Writing on terrorism in civil wars, Kalyvas observed that indiscriminate violence is targeted at individuals on the basis of their membership in a group perceived to be connected with the opposition irrespective of their individual actions.[18] In the Rhodesian scenario indiscriminate violence was motivated by the known fact that almost every if not all members of the rural societies provided logistical support to the liberation fighters. Kalyvas also holds that random violence is also prompted by information asymmetry between warring parties in a conflict.[19]

Due to lack of the support of the rural African population the Rhodesian security forces experienced dearth of information about guerrilla activities and guerrilla positions in the war zones. The liberation fighters, on the other hand, had access to intelligence which was willingly provided by the rural peasants. Frustration resulting from unavailability of information actuated the application of arbitrary violence by the Rhodesian army forces. The Rhodesian security forces were aware that rural communities were loyal and sympathetic to the liberation fighters but sometimes had no tangible evidence to incriminate them. The unfortunate propensity to apply indiscriminate repression was the result of this shortcoming. The Rhodesian security forces also used violent and desperate means that could not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. These measures included contamination with poison of food and clothing that was destined for guerrilla fighters.[20] Unfortunately, the rural peasants also became victims of the poisoned clothing and food.

This was the nature of the reprisals that the Rhodesian security forces applied on the African people resident in the war zones. This kind of violence exposed the Rhodesian security forces to odium. The Rhodesian regime was wary of the work of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) during the war. The CCJP set about to investigate and publicise violence committed against the civilian population by the warring parties during the war. Bishop Donal Lamont, who was the chairman of the CCJP, faced the wrath of the Rhodesian government for publishing the atrocities they committed when they used force to relocate the peasants into ‘Protected Villages'. He was deported from the country on 23 March 1977.[21] Sister Janice McLaughlin, a Catholic nun, who also worked for the CCJP was also deported from Rhodesia for her stand against Rhodesian repressive violence against the rural African people. It was evident that the Rhodesian security forces deployed wanton violence against the civilian population in its unsuccessful attempt to crush the liberation movements.   

The violence that the Rhodesian colonial forces perpetrated against the rural peasants was apparently systematic and organised. It is on this score that it should be appropriately labelled ‘terrorism' and it was the Rhodesian security forces that deserved to be called ‘terrorists'. The Rhodesian regime and its forces hoped that loyalty and sympathy of the peasants would be redefined if they used terror. Resulting from the proclivity of incumbent governments to attribute ills that are rooted internally, the Rhodesian regime justified their random violence in the war zones by intimating that they were fighting against communist-trained and inspired terrorists. They stubbornly refused to accept that the liberation war was not externally motivated but was largely a result of their unjust policies and practises. The Rhodesian regime recoiled from ever attempting to ‘win the hearts and minds' of the rural African population. Such a policy would have implied addressing grievances of the black population in Rhodesia. Officially these grievances did not exist. According to the Rhodesian government and the security force commanders, the way to eliminate terrorism was to kill ‘terrorists', deny them physical access to the black population and punish those who collaborated with them.[22]

Guerrilla ‘Violence for Freedom'

The perpetration of violence by the guerrilla movement against the rural population was no doubt an undeniable feature of the liberation war. However, pro-Rhodesian narratives of the war, which are unfriendly to the liberation fighters, have exaggerated the occurrence of incidents of and the character of guerrilla violence. The narratives have erroneously contended that guerrilla violence was part of the manner and method that the liberation movements employed to secure the co-operation of the rural population. Such narratives have given the impression that the liberation fighters applied violence against specific groups of the rural community. Kriger and Sachikonye suggest that chiefs, headmen, kraal heads, church leaders, shopkeepers and government agricultural demonstrators were obvious targets of guerrilla violence.[23] Sachikonye makes the contention that: ‘There was also a great deal of violence exercised by guerrillas against collaborators of regime forces as well as against civilians amongst the African rural population'.[24] Sachikonye errs in making a distinction between collaborators and civilians. Collaborators definitely emerged from the civilian population in the rural areas. Villagers who participated in the war have revealed that sell outs or traitors (vatengesi) that collaborated with the Rhodesian army forces were from all categories of the rural population. The sub-scholarly literature produced by ex-Rhodesian servicemen has largely exaggerated guerrilla violence. Chris Lotter, a former Rhodesian soldier manifested this hyperbole when he wrote:

The terrorist

Is excused

His rape and frenzied pillage

May mutilate and burn

For freedom has no crime

Hear the muted agony

Of crippled men and boy [25]

Lotter gives the impression that the freedom fighters exercised violence that included rape, mutilation and cutting off the limps of the civilians. Reid-Daly, the commander of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts during the war, lamented lack of press mention of guerrilla atrocities. He pointed out that these included cases in which wives were forced to eat flesh cut from their murdered husbands' bodies, whole villages razed to the ground and all the villagers slaughtered or burnt to death while locked in their huts.[26] Parker writes that the liberation guerrilla fighters raped, murdered and ruthlessly brutalised the villagers to keep them living in fear.[27] These assertions found in narratives written by ex-Rhodesian servicemen were drawn from and were generally part of the propaganda of the Rhodesian regime. These narratives were not only serious exaggeration but largely untrue. The narrative that provided this hyperbole was also deficient in analysis and failed to realise that guerrilla violence was selective. The liberation fighters did not hesitate to execute and administer thorough beatings on members of the rural communities who sold out information about their activities to the Rhodesian security forces. 

In my doctoral study I documented examples of collaborators who were executed by the liberation fighters around Morgenster and Bondolfi Missions.[28] I however indicated that these killings were not part of the programme of the freedom fighters. The nationalist fighters were at pains to avoid estranging themselves from the rural population. Executions were dictated by the need to survive since civilian collaboration with the colonial army forces put the lives of the freedom fighters and the peasants at risk. It was clear that guerrilla violence that visited the rural folk was discriminate. It was used against only those elements of the rural population, who against the express advice of the liberation forces collaborated with the Rhodesian security forces. It was possible that the liberation fighters executed innocent people who were incorrectly judged to be traitors. These were exceptions rather than the rule. The rural people easily avoided guerrilla violence by refraining from flirting with the Rhodesian security forces as per advice of the liberation fighters. It is significant to note that guerrilla violence during Zimbabwe war of liberation was effective because it was combined with an agenda to promote peasant interests. Moreover, the Zimbabwean nationalist guerrillas largely practised justice rather than vengeance when they applied violence against elements of the rural population. The application of selective violence by the freedom fighters induced the rural population to be loyal and avail resources to the nationalist freedom fighters. What made guerrilla violence selective? This was largely because the Zimbabwean liberation fighters were careful not to offend the rural people who were the bedrock of their survival by supplying them with intelligence, food and other necessary material. Again, the guerrilla fighters who were freedom fighters purported to be socialist and thus were guided by a moral vision of a better world, which precluded terrorist actions as inconsistent with such a vision.

Guerrilla violence was used in a highly controlled, ancillary and selective fashion within the overall plan of ideological and organisational restructuring in the war's theatre of operation. The liberation movement, especially the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and its armed wing, ZANLA, crafted a code of conduct that among other issues regulated the relations between the guerrillas and the peasants. The nature of guerrilla violence was influenced by these rules. Among these were the ‘Three Rules' and the ‘Eight Points for Attention.'[29] The code of conduct provided clear-cut censure procedures against commission of unwarranted atrocities by ZANLA forces. ZANLA regulations stipulated that the decision to execute collaborators or sell outs (vatengesi) was the prerogative of senior ZANLA field commanders from detachment leadership and above.[30] This ensured adherence to the process that had to be followed before any killing of such persons took place. The process entailed trials that constituted verification of the allegations that someone had ‘sold out' information which compromised the cause for freedom. It was these important and necessary trial sessions that anti-liberation literature has labelled ‘kangaroo courts' or ‘centres of miscarriages of justice'. Members of ZANLA's Military High Command, which was the supreme organ of the ZANLA guerrilla fighters, based at Chimoio during the last four years of the war, made frequent visits to the war font in colonial Rhodesia. These visits, among other objectives, had the intention of investigating and resolving guerrilla indiscipline which included unnecessary guerrilla violence. In keeping with principles of their revolutionary pursuit the liberation forces wanted to maintain moral superiority over the Rhodesian security forces. An ex-guerrilla fighter, Last Ndega, pointed out that liberation fighters endeavoured to depict that they were disciplined freedom fighters.[31] The ZANLA forces compiled reports of their activities at the war front. These reports were sent to the ZANLA military headquarters at Chimoio, in Mozambique. The exercise of writing reports was part of the training of ZANLA cadres. It was emphasised at training that ZANLA commanders had to compile accurate field reports which included activities like execution of individual enemy soldiers and collaborators. The compilation of reports precluded the liberation fighters from executing and deploying violence against innocent people in the war zones. 


The foregoing discussion has shown that current attempts to equate and link the selective nature of violence that was deployed by the revolutionary guerrilla forces to contemporary outbreaks of violence are unfounded and devoid of academic analysis. The nonselective violence that is perpetrated by troops of an incumbent government is normally intended to stifle legitimate demand for economic and political spaces by the citizens. On the other hand the application of violence on civilians by the liberation fighters was in the interest of creating economic and political space. It would be fitting to refer to guerrilla violence as ‘freedom violence'. The rural people tolerated and accepted it because it was possible to avoid it and were nearly always in agreement to the reasons for deploying it. The Rhodesian colonial regime and its repressive military machinery failed to gain control of the civilian population. It terrorised, starved, butchered and destroyed the property of the rural people. The proper definition of such violence applied on civilians by the Rhodesian security forces would be ‘terrorism'. It was applied to defend a repugnant system and therefore backfired. There was no justification for the deployment of violence on rural people by the colonial forces of the incumbent Rhodesian government. It could not justify its continued hold to power when it failed to address the black people's demand for social justice and political self-assertion.

In its propaganda the Rhodesian colonial government deployed the rhetoric of ‘terrorism' whose goal was to de-legitimise the liberation movements' fight for independence. The colonial government also set about to criminalise the liberation war through its propaganda. These efforts failed to change the attitude of the black people whose hostility towards the white colonial regime intensified. The propaganda of the liberation fighters was effective and strengthened their bond with their fellow black population in the struggle for shaking off the manacle of the unjust colonial system.


Bhebe, N., ZAPU and ZANLA Guerrilla War and the Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1999).

Author, ‘Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle: A Critical Decade of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s Guerrilla War (PhD Thesis, Fort Hare University, 2011).

Godwin, G., Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (London: Macmillan, 1996).

Godwin, P., and Hancock, I., Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Kalyvas, S., ‘The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil War', Journal of Ethics, 8 (2003), pp. 97-138.

Kriger, N., Zimbabwe's Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

Lotter, C., Rhodesian Soldiers and Others who Fought (Alberton: Galago, 1984).

McLaughlin, J., On the Frontline: Catholic Missions in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare: Baobab Books, 1996).

Moorcraft, P., Mugabe's War Machine (Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2012).

Parker, J., Assignment Selous Scouts: Inside Story of a Rhodesian Special Branch Officer (Alberton: Galago, 2006).

Reid-Daly, R., Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts (Weltervreden Park: Covos-Books, 1999).

Sachikonye, L., When a State Turns on its Citizens: Institutionalised Violence and Political Culture (Auckland Park: Jacana Media, 2011).

Sturges, P., ‘Information in the National Liberation Struggle: Developing a Model', Journal of Documentation, 60, 4 (2004), pp. 428-448.

Werbner, R. P., ‘In Memory: A Heritage of War in South-western Zimbabwe', in N. Bhebe & T. Ranger (eds.,), Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (London: James Currey, 1996).

Oral Interviews

Interview with Daniel Jerimani (ex-mujibha), Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 10 July 2009.

Interview with Felicitas Muzembi, Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 20 August 2009.

Interview with Alex Mataruse, Murambwi Village, Masvingo, 13 August 2009.

Interview with Last Ndega (ex-ZANLA guerrilla fighter), ZANU (PF) Headquarters, Harare, 19 January 2009.

End Notes

[1]     P. Sturges, ‘Information in the National Liberation Struggle: Developing a Model', Journal of Documentation, 60, 4 (2004), p. 439.

[2]     P. Moorcraft, Robert Mugabe's War Machine (Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2012), p. 62.

[3]     J. Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts: Inside Story of a Rhodesian Special Branch Officer (Alberton: Galago, 2006), p. 285.

[4]     R. Reid-Daly, Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts (Weltervreden Park: Covos-Books, 1999), p. 292. 

[5]     The Rhodesian Ministry of Information, Tourism and Immigration published a pamphlet in July 1978 in which the description of the murders is given.

[6]     See P. Moorcraft, Mugabe's War Machine, p. 61.

[7]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 187.

[8]     Field commanders were obliged to compile accurate field reports. However, these internal reports took a new form when they became propaganda material. The losses of the nationalist guerrilla forces were left out.

[9]     Interview with Daniel Jerimani (ex-mujibha), Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 10 July 2009.

[10]     All war zones were witness to such violence.

[11]     R. P. Werbner, ‘In Memory: A Heritage of War in South-western Zimbabwe', in N. Bhebe & T. Ranger (eds.,), Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (London: James Currey, 1996), p. 197.

[12]     N. Bhebe, ZAPU and ZANLA Guerrilla War and the Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1999), p. 113.

[13]     Interview with Felicitas Muzembi, Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 20 August 2009.

[14]     Interview with Alex Mataruse, Murambwi Village, Masvingo, 13 August 2009.

[15]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 58.

[16]     P. Godwin, Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (London: Macmillan, 1996), p. 302.

[17]     J. McLaughlin, On the Frontline: Catholic Missions in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare: Baobab Books, 1996), p. 196.

[18]     S. Kalyvas, ‘The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil War', Journal of Ethics, 8 (2003), p. 101.

[19]     Ibid, p. 101.

[20]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 159.

[21]     P. Godwin and I. Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 186.

[22]     P. Godwin and I. Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die, p. 100.

[23]     N. Kriger, Zimbabwe's Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p.104 and L. Sachikonye, When a State Turns on its Citizens: Institutionalised Violence and Political Culture (Auckland Park: Jacana Media, 2011), p. 9.

[24]     Sachikonye, When a State Turns on its Citizens, p. 9

[25]     C. Lotter, Rhodesian Soldiers and Others who Fought (Alberton: Galago, 1984), p. 67.

[26]     Reid-Daly, Pamwe Chete, p. 292.

[27]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 25.

[28]      Author, ‘Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle: A Critical Decade of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s Guerrilla War (PhD Thesis, Fort Hare University, 2011), pp. 154-155.

[29]     The ‘Three Rules' and the ‘Eight Points for Attention' were regulations that ZANU adopted from Mao Tse-Tung's practice of revolution in China.

[30]     From ZANLA war documents.

[31]     Interview with Last Ndega (ex-ZANLA guerrilla fighter), ZANU (PF) Headquarters, Harare, 19 January 2009.


About the Author(s)

Jephias Andrew Dzimbanhete holds a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy degree in History from Fort Hare University after graduating on 12 May 2011. He is currently employed at Great Zimbabwe University in Zimbabwe as a lecturer in History.  E-mail address:,  or


Mark Adams

Sat, 12/21/2013 - 12:56pm

Richard obviously does not know what the turning point in the Rhodesian Bush War in 1974 was.

Anyone help him?

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/21/2013 - 12:54pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Richard, for someone who claims to have been an interrogator for many years you are a rank amateur. In a forum like this where they will protect you from yourself (by allowing you to hide your true identity a policy which has the noble intention for serving soldiers).

I was concerned that you had a problem with comprehension but I now see that you compound this with numerous deliberate attempts to misquote me or misrepresent what I have said. This Richard is dishonest.

I can take your innuendo with a pinch of salt as I do your projections.

What you think or want to interpret what I say is of course immaterial to me but you obviously are playing to the gallery which you think are stupid enough not to see through your childish debating style.

I commented on the Rhodesian Bush War (aka The Second Chimurenga - man you can't even get that right) as follows:

"Rhodesia was a small war - a counter insurgency war - which has lessons which could (or rather should) be studied to contribute to the greater body of knowledge of this type of warfare."

Which you twisted when referring as follows:

"Now explain again to this ignorant American just how a white supremist war is really a good example of how to fight a COIN war when you as the RA did not even have a COIN strategy?"

This illustrates the fundamental dishonesty of your argument (you have a lot more in common with Dzimbanhete it seems). I said there are lessons to be learned through a study of the bush war. These lessons may be applicable to other settings or may not, only those with the detailed knowledge gained through such a study would know.

Do you really think a cut-and-paste from Moorcroft makes you look good?

Especially the one where he claims an unnamed source from Combined Operations - that is a little like me receiving a reply from someone who really did serve in 5th SFGA in the manner; "Richard who?" (You know what I mean ;)

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/21/2013 - 4:21am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark---here goes my comments or as you state my American ignorance of the Rhodesian Bush War which the other side called their "war of national liberation".

I have wondered just why you and a few other commenters have reacted so sensitively to the article---sensitiveness which reflects something deeper.

Calling something thing garbage, the author is a political hack rewriting history and glossing over their atrocities, political hack looking for a political position, this is the work of a second rate school---have I missed anything from my American ignorance?

What you have repeatedly failed to recognize all the while finding comments for myself is that what your Bush War was ---was in fact an attempt to hold the policies of white supremacy as the "rule of law".

If and I know what your comments have been about this author (Moorcraft) if you accept the quoted comment in one of his writings as a fairly accurate quote---IT goes to the heart of your comments that you may have not realized you are in undertones are really saying.

In the following quote watch the alluded to Rhodesian officers' comments of what he called the 90/10 rule which actually supports what I have been repeatedly explaining to you which you have repeatedly sidestepped with comments directed at me---in the interrogation world we call this a indicator and it represents an attempt to sidestep having to give a direct answer.

Here goes---and this time read intently the comments;

"The policy of winning 'hearts and minds' was largely abandoned in the field just as the first moves towards a political strategy of a moderate black government were coming to fruition. Perversely, it was considered that black participation to the political process would permit tougher, war-winning operations. Martial law was extended, the punitive destruction of villages and livestock of those who were accused of aiding the guerrillas became routine and a more aggressive external strategy was adopted."

"As one senior officer at Combined Operations admitted: 'We relied 90 per cent on force and 10 per cent on psychology and half of that went off half-cock, The guerrillas relied 90 per cent on psychology and only 10 per cent on force.' The insurgents had a clear vision of their purpose: to break the back of white supremacy and establish a black majority government. This gave the guerrillas remarkable stamina and their cause the strength to weather numerous political crises and almost consistent military defeat in the field."

This section refers to the 90/10 rule---meaning you fought 90% of the time vs only 10% or what is commonly actually used by both sides--propaganda-- and he further states the RA did poorly --which by the way was a comment you initially made in this discussion. WHEREAS the insurgents did the opposite---have you ever asked yourself as a Rhodesian vet JUST why the insurgents in the face of heavy losses still hung in? Actually it was exactly what the NVA/VC did against us---they were driving against a higher principle a principle they felt overrode the losses and it what was kept them in the fight--the principle being "national liberation".

Now this I think goes to the heart of your comments or what I call your sensitivity to the article---you simply got out propagandized regardless of how hard you fought, how many you killed, and how many losses on your side occurred---you war goals did not match those of the majority of the population and in the court of history white supremacy through the power of a gun barrel never ends well.

Your comments reflect this anger at having fought well only in the end to have been beaten by "criminal propaganda"---but it was not the propaganda that beat you---the insurgents had a strategy and they fought for a strategy---a majority ruled country where the majority rules--in the end the population for whatever reasons "believed" the propaganda of the majority rule concept.

By the way one can see that same exact issue being played out in Iraq and now Syria in the traditional Shia/Sunni divide but on a far larger scale than Rhodesia ever was.

"We relied 90 per cent on force and 10 per cent on psychology and half of that went off half-cock, The guerrillas relied 90 per cent on psychology and only 10 per cent on force.' The insurgents had a clear vision of their purpose: to break the back of white supremacy and establish a black majority government. This gave the guerrillas remarkable stamina and their cause the strength to weather numerous political crises and almost consistent military defeat in the field."

Now explain again to this ignorant American just how a white supremist war is really a good example of how to fight a COIN war when you as the RA did not even have a COIN strategy?

It is hard I know years after the fact to accept the simple fact that while you fought well you lost to a majority of the population that choose propaganda over the white supremist concept of all power rules through the gun barrel.

Some here have often derided the concept of "hearts and minds" in the COIN debate, but in the end the "hearts and minds of the population" always seem to settle military action.

Enjoy the Season as it marks a vet from the past getting one year older in the small footprint of history.

Discussion has been good although heated---enjoy life---have learned it can end in a nanosecond.

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/21/2013 - 2:44am


My position on this piece of garbage by Dzimbanhete remains as it was in my first post here:

"It is interesting that Dzimbanhete seeks after all this time to sanitize the atrocities of the insurgents."

You seem incapable of responding to this key issue.

Dzimbanhete does not claim to present the 'official' insurgent line of 30 years ago he presents his garbage as a result of his own research (which earned him a Ph.D from a second rate university).

So this garbage is not the view or official position of the ZANLA/ZANU-PF grouping.

As you and others here had no contribution to make you have strayed way off topic and by so doing have displayed your ignorance of the Rhodesian bush war and the local political context of the time. Sadly this does not prevent you (pl) from commenting anyways. This must surely leave readers with the concern that if you can display your ignorance on the Rhodesian issue with such alacrity is it possible to take anything you post seriously?

Your ignorance is highlighted by your not knowing why 1974 was the turning point in the war which made any chance of Rhodesian 'success' highly unlikely. Better you zip it and resist the temptation to jump into any online discussions on the Rhodesian bush war (as you are not doing your reputation any good - unless there is virtue in ignorance).

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 5:36pm

Mark---as you were giving me grieve I noticed that you seem to fly over this comment by extroopie that is a solid reflection of those who fought in Rhodesia----on one side the vet states he is still angry at the former enemy/makes deriding comments towards the former enemy,but on the other hand he does in fact see what occurred and is fully capable of making an emotionally honest comment.

Why is it that this two sided view of the Rhodesian war seems to pervade comments from you, extroopie, and Chris in his book?

This is an interesting comment from the "other side" namely the Rhodesian vet.

" Its a common thing to reinterpret or to whitewash away the atrocities of war by the combatants and justify a particular politically correct viewpoint. The RLI was effective given the circumstances of the time in Rhodesia. Like almost all British colonies ,they failed to keep what they had at that time because of morals...follow the laws....there are rules to be followed. Its their achilles heel which they never considered to protect. The rest of the story we kinda know but there are few inconvenient truths we do not want to know."

So Mark what where the inconvenient truths that extroopie is alluding too?

What was the RLI effective at---simply killing the enemy or driving COIN based strategies in support of the overall Rhodesian COIN strategy day in and day out?


Thu, 12/19/2013 - 6:06pm

In reply to by xrlitroopie


Your comment that this article is best viewed as a "...ploy for a job in a despotic land." is one of the best, and most cogent, of them all.

Mark Adams

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 5:16pm

In reply to by xrlitroopie

Howzit ek se,

Well it is in places like this where you learn how little people ( in this case mainly Americans) know and care about the Rhodesian bush war. Some have indeed bought our book "Africa's Commandos" and have a good understanding of RLI operations at the sharp end as a result.

While others who consider themselves to be of the "smart guys" around here have Rhodesia neatly summarized in a half page and leave it at that. This following the example of not letting the truth get in the way of a neatly packaged summary.

I note you picked up the key to what this discussion should be about straight off:

"so the evils done in Rhodesia were only ones from colonialist and the military."

Well done. You won't believe that you are one of a few who did. The rest of those who posted missed the point as obviously as the whoosh of a RPG7 projectile passing overhead.

It all very sad really.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 5:12pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark---you keep pushing for my info and deriding my years in a long historical run which you seem to have problems with.

Why do we not talk about your South Africa Defense Force days during the apartheid days and how the SADF had a great COIN concept to vs say the Rhodesian Army COIN which you seem to think they had.

You were in a unique position to judge both COIN approaches.

Discussion of the two approaches would be great if you are willing to discuss the apartheid days.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 4:31pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark---since when is a white supremist war a war to learn from?

Your military adventure was exactly what it was --an experiment in how to attempt to convert a white surpremist ideology into a standing existing government/country in the face of others who did not think the same way as did say Ian Smith or others.

Even the British government rejected Smith and the American government refused to recognize Rhodesia.

If you were a military thinker/analyst you might actually find tactics that you all used that existed and were practiced by both the US Army of the North and the Confederate Army in our Civil War which was also a war over white supremacy---nothing that you all did was new, innovative, or for that matter COIN focused---if anything your tactics were copies of what we were doing in Vietnam or copied from the British Malaysian experience that Rhodesians fought in.

What were the strategic long term goals of the Rhodesian Army other than just hoping to kill as many as possible thinking along the way that the others would what just give up--there was no historical insurgency example of that ever occurring.

What was the Rhodesian Army information warfare ie propaganda being used--was it effective?---actually a total failure as the majority of the black population seemed to be supporting in the end the insurgents and not the Rhodesian Army.

What was the strategic strategy to counter the insurgent's messaging on national rebirth and giving the country back to it's rightful citizens.

There were none. A simple counter to these two insurgent strategic objectives would have been in COIN easy---just do a national land reform program and truly do it and then establish open and fair elections with a representation of the majority of Rhodesians at that time were actually black in say 1974/75---but you could not as a white supremist war is a war really against those objectives. After all these years you cannot see that?

So outside of the killing of a lot insurgents you lost the main goals of the war which was to continue as a functioning country called Rhodesia---so exactly explain to me and others here what we should have learned from a poorly executed war?

So actually all in all at least historically speaking the Rhodesian war was a speed bump nothing more nothing less.

Discussing it in any other manner is a waste of time at least from what you think was COIN.

I am still not sure just why you assumed the Rhodesian Army was practicing COIN---herding thousands into "keeps", killing cattle, poisoning water holes, destroying crops and huts is what COIN---it does not even make it in the "hearts and minds" category?

So how is one to discuss the author's text in a neutral fashion when you yourself are still "trapped" in the past with such comments as "garbage" based on your definition of what "garbage" is?

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Richard, sorry I don't buy your excuse for not posting under your real name. It seems more likely that it is an attempt to create a mystique around your past. In my book the need for self promotion is a disgusting character trait which should in a prefect world lead to disqualification for any special forces work. As for your claims of being on some hit-list indicates rather a need for you to discuss this and other insecurities with a suitable professional.

Rhodesia was a small war - a counter insurgency war - which has lessons which could (or rather should) be studied to contribute to the greater body of knowledge of this type of warfare.

The problem is that it is not receiving the detailed attention it deserves. It is far better to ignore the Rhodesian bush war altogether than to give it superficial attention.

Richard, your contribution through this thread provides a wonderful example of the danger of this very problem I mention. The ignorance is horrifying - not just from you but also others who offer some pretence of knowing.

Sure the outcome of the Rhodesian war was a political loss, as were the wars you fought in. What exactly is your point. You claim that your Vietnam war experiences were important to your overall knowledge base even though that war is classed as a loss (also in a political sense) but Rhodesian experiences don't count for much? How do you come to that conclusion?

I had hoped that you would be able to comment on Dzimbanhete paper (rather than toss out some unrelated sound bites) but that was not to be. Beyond your skills set?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 6:05am

In reply to by Mark Adams

I do understand you have not served in the military/intelligence in the larger world out there-- some of us had pasts that still tangate the present and are still of interest to the former KGBs now FSBs of the world.

Have never personally seen a tiger with no stripes.

Guess what they are still as aggressive in their collection activities as they were in the 90s -or do you think the Russians are any less a threat now as they were then?

Just recently was allowed to go through the 15 Stasi files the Federal German government recovered in the reunification process that they had on me and it is leading to Federal German charges of espionage against two former West Berlin citizens who provided information on me as revealed in the files. By the way the Stasi always maintained two copies and the second copies were never found---there are existing rumors that the copies were spirited out of East German into the Soviet Union shortly after the Wall came down.

And if you were actually prior military then you would understand that if say 100% of your missions were at the TS or higher level would you violate your non disclosure agreements?--- some missions had a 30 year classification and they have not gotten there yet---and by the way they only reduce one level after that every ten years so I will be dead before they are released as that is why they were so classified.

You do not have to believe anything I am writing-would suggest that you Google though the term Det A Berlin Brigade and attempt to find out just what we did-dig as deep as you want to for the next year on anything on the web--there is more written on the RLI than you will find on Det A-we existed as a military unit is all you will find.

Not a single book or article in over 50 years---amazingly quiet from us do you not agree--respect my friend respect for the unit we served, respect for the people we served with, and respect for what we did and ALL the time rotating in and out of the unit to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand--silence sometimes is a greater indicator of unit strength and what was accomplished vs say what one finds on say the RA SAS or FLI or Scouts.

I know my footnote in history. Two things I have learned from history are that there is always a second side to any story and secondly no one is ever totally right---I have long ago learned to think in the grey tones.

By the way you are more than welcome to the monument laying for Det A at Memory Wall at USSOCOM Ft. Bragg this summer---we were not that well know even inside SF---by the way as prior military then you will know what it is to be singularly selected to be assigned to a unit that has gained the status of a "legend". What experienced unit in SF was Delta fashioned on-long before Delta even existed?

We are down over the ages to about 70 left from that team and I am in the youngest group and still no one has written, conversed, nor alluded to a single op from that period---and we do have a story to tell that would still rock some parts of the government even though it occurred over 40-50 years ago.

If you were prior military then you will understand just what the term offensive CI/HUMINT operations are --then just maybe you will understand my reluctance to get into details that would have in fact shut down this conversation about 40 comments ago or do you think that some of us out in the greater world did not know of actual Rhodesian Army atrocities committed by members of the RA?

Do you honesty still want to believe there were no Americans operating on the ground somewhere in that particular part of the world during that particular time period?---if you do not believe that then you somehow missed the greater geopolitical picture of that period.

Do you think Rhodesian vets are the only ones who fought, who understood combat, understood the personal costs and were sometimes as well on the "losing side"? Some of us continued fighting in different parts of the world even into Iraq and AFG long after the Rhodesian footnote in history so you think we did not know?

Doubt seriously if you knew what the assigned strength was for SF troops into say Vietnam in 1969/70 and what the causality run rate for us was for KIA/WIA---we were never over 4K in a given year and had a causality rate of 60% WIA/KIA and you think you are the only one who understands combat in a guerrilla/conventional war?

Rhodesia did in fact lose the war and you are just as the author is ---trying to rewrite history and the losers always never get the chance to rewrite it.

Mark Adams

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 5:33pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Richard, I continue to wonder why you continue to hide your indentity. What exactly have you got to hide?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 12:46pm

In reply to by xrlitroopie

extroopie---regardless of what unit one served with, regardless of what wars since say Algeria---most soldiers are proud of their units---sometimes for many of us---when politics take a different turn----no one cares about the fears, elations, sobbings, and the loses---maybe that is the common thread of all wars.

This goes also for Iraq and AFG.



Thu, 12/19/2013 - 10:52am

As an extroopie I found the article just to be as it was intended to be.....a job application ifor a govt teaching position in a brutal regime. Hindsight is an easy thing to reconstructive and to selectively "cut and paste" history as it was seemed to be. Its a common thing to reinterpret or to whitewash away the atrocities of war by the combatants and justify a particular politically correct viewpoint. The RLI was effective given the circumstances of the time in Rhodesia. Like almost all British colonies ,they failed to keep what they had at that time because of morals...follow the laws....there are rules to be followed. Its their achillies heel which they never considered to protect. The rest of the story we kinda know but there are few inconvient tuths we do not want to know. Time has moved on an the men are old and and .. So the point is about the ters is that....
. Successful rebellions never have qualms about destroying what they want to possess. They have no morals only alligience to a promise of a better life etc. so the evils done in Rhodesia were only ones from colonialist and the military. Such rubbish indeed.....what is interesting to note is how many ex military believe this ploy for a job in a despotic land that was once the bread basket of that area in Africa. Which makes me wonder have they ever been in action and felt the fears and elations and sobbing? I enjoyed the comments although have a differing position cos I am proud to have been a member of the RLI .

Mark Adams

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 5:51pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Mahdu, I really wish I knew who I was responding to.

As with my question to Condor (which he ignored) what exactly have you learned from this discussion (on everything other that Dzimbanhete garbage)?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 9:44am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Thanks for posting that article. It doesn't surprise me that the discussion went in the direction of COIN given the long-term preoccupations of this blog and its commenters. For me the back-and-forth by ALL the commenters--and even the critics--has been a big learning experience. I'm glad that we all discussed many aspects, colonialism, white privilege, communist propaganda and violence against local populations, the nature of Mugabe, who really supported what, COIN techniques pro and con, what should be printed and what shouldn't....the "whole of it."

It is interesting to take one claim and examine it from all angles, isn't it? Thanks too for that example of mental "NATOization" from the "other side." I am going to use that in the future.

Not a topic for the faint-hearted, any of this, from any angle, it's just a depressing reminder of the hugely flawed nature of man....

Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 5:45am

The discussion on the merits of this article ---pluses and negatives on the use of such terms as violence and propaganda from the Rhodesian guerrilla war period got somehow pulled into a discussion of pluses and negatives of the Rhodesian COIN concepts if such existed.

Getting back to the article itself---violence/atrocities was/were committed on both sides so in fact just maybe this article expounded on the views of one part involved during that period.

It might be interesting from the SWJ editors to see if there is an article floating out there expounding the views of the Rhodesian military written on the same topic.

An interesting article to read is one found in the New York Times from 1983 and notice the word used-atrocities not violence---they could have run with the title of Zimbabwe Violence but they did not;

By JOSEPH LELYVELD, Special to the New York Times
Published: April 8, 1983

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 12/18/2013 - 12:12pm

From the abstract:

<blockquote>On the other hand the liberation movements, who were cognisant of the significant role of the subaltern group, the peasants, with whom they collaborated, did not propagate delusive propaganda.</blockquote>

All propaganda is delusive to an extent, that is why it is propaganda. By its very nature it is selective and the perception of its selective nature is what makes it a "he said she said" (h/t Curmudgeon) affair and difficult to discuss from the distances of time and place. Again, I encourage a look at the psywarrior link I posted below as it looks critically at propaganda of both sides, with an eye on the "delusive" nature. This article is clearly meant to present one side in a selective manner.

<blockquote>When you turn on the morning news in Zimbabwe — or the afternoon news, or the evening news — there's a virtual guarantee you'll hear about President Robert Mugabe, or even his actual voice.

Even when there's a song by the Zimbabwean group Born Free Crew, it features a voice-over of none other than Mugabe, who's been leader since independence in 1980.

In the song, he talks about Zimbabwe's colonization by the British, and how his ZANU PF party led the country to freedom. The jingle airs constantly on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, a station run by the Ministry of Information. In fact, it's the only television station in Zimbabwe.

"It's actually not journalism, it's propaganda. I mean, it's straightforward propaganda," says Andy Moyse, the director of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, a private group based in Harare.</blockquote>…

<blockquote>Mr Mbeki recalled an interview given by Lord Guthrie, who was Chief of the Defence Staff and Britain’s most senior soldier throughout Mr Blair’s first government. In 2007, Lord Guthrie disclosed that “people were always trying to get me to look at” toppling Mr Mugabe by force.
He did not say whether these requests had come from the Prime Minister himself. In any event, Lord Guthrie said that his advice was: “Hold hard, you'll make it worse” - suggesting that the idea was never a serious proposition.</blockquote>…

<blockquote>Moreover, in South Africa, popular resentment against Zimbabwean immigrants and refugees fleeing Mugabe's violence, who may number up to three million, has led to xenophobic outbreaks, tarnishing the country's international reputation as "the rainbow nation." Zimbabweans competing for jobs in South Africa cause domestic political problems for President Zuma and the governing African National Congress (ANC). (South Africa's unemployment rate is around 25 percent.) Former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki saw Mugabe as a fellow colleague in the "liberation" struggle and too often looked the other way. Zuma, who defeated Mbeki for the party leadership, does not appear to have the same personal interest in maintaining close ties with Mugabe. Like many of his fellow South Africans, he would like the Zimbabweans to go home. That requires an end to the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. Under Zuma, South Africa has finally assumed the regional leadership role on Zimbabwe that Mandela and Mbeki often sidestepped.</blockquote>

Apparently, this taps into a larger argument about SA as a potential or current regional hegemon, but the topic is not one I am familiar with.…

<blockquote>By his silence about what is happening in Zimbabwe, Mandela is making himself complicit in the pillage and murder of an entire nation, as well as the strangulation of an important African democracy. I recently had the chance to speak to George Bizos, the heroic South African attorney who was Mandela's lawyer in the bad old days and who more recently has also represented Morgan Tsvangirai, the much-persecuted leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. Why, I asked him, was his old comrade apparently toeing the scandalous line taken by President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress? Bizos gave me one answer that made me wince—that Mandela is now a very old man—and another that made me wince again: that his doctors have advised him to avoid anything stressful. One has a bit more respect for the old lion than to imagine that he doesn't know what's happening in next-door Zimbabwe or to believe that he doesn't understand what a huge difference the smallest word from him would make. It will be something of a tragedy if he ends his career on a note of such squalid compromise.</blockquote>…

"Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part." - from the film <em>Seven</em>

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 1:52pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

What happened in 1974?

You have no idea do you... lol

Mark Adams

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 5:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Ahh... Spoken with the clarity of 20:20 hindsight of the classic Monday morning quarterback.

This is exactly the problem with you 'check the box' COIN theorists.

You are seeming incapable of applying the theory to the local context.

Here is a question for you. What event happened in 1974 that was to turn the likelihood of Rhodesian success on its head?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 12/18/2013 - 5:18pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

The steps from theoretical COIN to practical reality based COIN is really a small one.

Moving from theoretical COIN to reality based COIN also requires the counter insurgent to fully understand the insurgents strategy and then tailor a response to the strategy just not one of responding to the tactics being employed in support of the insurgent strategy.

At no time in any of the available literature is there any clear indication that the Rhodesian government was actually following a well thought out strategy of countering the insurgent strategy or even a discussion of what was the insurgent strategy was.

In a country that as you indicate has an area of 390,757 kms would have required if one uses the theoretical COIN troop calculation of say an average of 10 or some say 16 to 1 in a COIN environment so what was then the theoretical troop requirement?

Using the example of Iraq at the height of the surge the insurgency had an estimated and no one ever got a correct number--- 16,000-- and the number of US and allied troops on the ground of say 150,000 so close to a 10 to 1 ratio which was lower than theoretical COIN requires which is 16 to 1 and we really struggled although we had the mobility, firepower, and JSOC that the Rhodesian Army did not have.

At the height of the fighting in Rhodesia there were intel reports of approx. 20-30,000 fighters some say higher towards say 40,000 which if one uses the theoretical COIN calculation model of just 10 to 1 the RA should have had to have a minimum of 200-300,000 troops on the ground just to stay competitive.

What would have the troop requirement been if one really did follow the theoretical COIN model of 16 to 1---320-400,000---we only had 500,000 in VN to handle both the VC and the NVA.

The US Army could not have even provided more than the 150,000 without a full mobilization into Iraq in 2007 and we had a higher standing army than did Rhodesia.

No wonder literally all Rhodesian Army units were involved in actual fighting and no one paid any attention to the other elements of COIN.

Now if one had looked at the theoretical side of COIN and did the math maybe someone somewhere in the military leadership might have done a simple math presentation to the political leadership and saved themselves what 14 years of fighting as the theory proved to be correct if you ask me.

So one can only assume that if the theory was correct then the war was lost before one even got started so why was there a war to begin with if the Rhodesian Army knew the outcome or was they some kind of belief that one could win a guerrilla war simply by fighting with no other strategy?

So you are basically indicating that the Rhodesian COIN model was never really a COIN model to be studied years later, but really just a mobile defensive war which is really what it was.

Sometimes in the real world theoretical models often mimic real life that is what they are designed for.

Or did the Rhodesian Army win?

Mark Adams

Wed, 12/18/2013 - 5:46am

Carl wrote: "... when evaluating the specific tactical task the RLI was given."

In response he was given a lecture in theoretical COIN.

Carl, these COIN 'experts' fail to apply context and thereby fail to obtain local situational clarity.

Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) has an area of 390,757km2 - as opposed to the United Kingdom with 243,619km2 - or the size of Montana 380,838km2. That for starters.

I wonder whether the wise guys know the force levels Rhodesia was able to deploy in the field on operations at any one time? 80% of which were black volunteers.

Rhodesia was forced to apply troops to task on the most effective and innovative manner. The RLI, the SAS and the Selous Scouts became highly specialised forces in the tasks that were needed by an always over streched army. In the case of the RLI it specialised in Fire Force operations and in the process accounted for 12,000 odd insurgents on a kill ratio of 160:1.

What should be noted is that little or no attention is being given to the Dzimbanhete garbage and all we are getting is off topic comment on Rhodesia and its forces in general.

Norma Kriger in her book does not agree with the outrageous statements made by Dzimbanhete about popular support for the insurgents... in fact it is probably only Dzimbanhete and his political masters and the rank and file of ZANU(PF) who continue to try and sell the garbage.

Her book here:

Still waiting for comment on the Dzimbanhete paper...

Mark Adams

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 4:23pm

Interesting that the following has appeared:

Preventing the Barbarization of Warfare: The USMC CAP Program in Vietnam…

The end notes are interesting covering where government forces can be drawn into situations where civilians are placed at risk.

Specifically this one, iii:

"Not just their (the insurgents) actions against enemy combatants and pro-government civilians, one also has to consider their share of responsibility for blurring the lines between civilians and combatants, by often coercing or persuading the former to act in manners incompatible with their status. “Those who covertly militarize civilian status in this way are responsible for a breach of trust. In the old language of the laws of war, they are guilty of perfidy. As such they must take an appropriate part of the responsibility for any subsequent civilian suffering that follows from their abuse of civilian status” Hugo Slim, Killing Civilians: Method, Madness, and Morality in War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 267


Tue, 12/17/2013 - 7:40am

In reply to by BayonetBrant

Bayonet Brant,

In fact there was an insurgency in Zimbabwe in the early 1980's, in the western province of Matabeleland, when a small number of guerillas took to the bush, IIRC because ZANU excluded ZAPU from political power and excluded their leader Joseph (?) Nkomo from power. They were called "Super ZAPU" and some, if not many were veterans of ZIPRA the military arm in the 'war of liberation'.

The response of the state was to become very brutal, much publicity was given to the activities of the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade, who were all ZANU loyalists and Shona - the long time tribal rivals of the Matabele. Many of the methods used by Rhodesia were repeated and my recollection is that the brutality was on a different scale. At the time several Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) units had ex-Rhodesian i.e. white officers and the national intelligebnce agency (CIO) had ex-Rhodesian staff.

The Zimbabwean state described them as IIRC as "bandits" and it took a couple of years for "Super ZAPU" to be defeated or wiped out. I don't have ready web access now, hence my use of IIRC and I think there was a political settlement - Nkomo getting a role. Two military leaders spent a long time in detention, Dumiso Dabwenga and Lookout Masuku.

Some very brave journalists and Zimbabwean civil society groups reported on the state response, although it is moot point whether ZANU and Robert Mugabe were listening.

I am sure a little research will find references aplenty to this episode, although possibly not many official Zimbabwean government explanations.

Mark Adams

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 1:38pm

In reply to by BayonetBrant

Another howler that goes beyond mere bias and into the realms of blatant disinformation is this:

"The rural populace were also bombarded with war communiqués that came through the radio services of the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC). These communiqués not only inflated the number of the freedom fighters that the Rhodesian armed forces killed but also understated the figures of members of the Rhodesian forces who died at the hands of the nationalist fighters."

Then this:

"Guerrilla propaganda appeared in the military reports that the liberation fighters announced at pungwe gatherings and through the radio broadcasts of the Voice of Zimbabwe that was beamed from Dar-es-Salaam, Lusaka and Maputo during the war. These reports amplified the military successes of the liberation fighters especially the ZANLA forces. This was largely through the deliberate avoidance of stating the military setbacks and losses of the liberation forces and inflating cases of fatalities."

Note the word amplified and 'deliberate avoidance' used in the second quote as compared to the words inflated and understated in the first.

This gentlemen was the quality of argument contained in a Ph.D thesis.


Mon, 12/16/2013 - 12:34pm

...if an insurgency dedicated to the overthrow of the Mugabe regime took up arms and began attacking farms that were "redistributed" to Mugabe's henchmen, or started ambushing the thugs that masquerade as his police forces.
What if an armed insurgency tried to create economic and political spaces using the tactics that Mugabe's own veterans admit to ( ) in claiming that their independence was won at the barrel of a gun?
How would the curent regime view members of suppressed political parties expressign their political participation through the use of explosives targeting government operations?

Is it "freedom violence" if your political party is systematically and statuatorily excluded from participation in the government, and you choose to seek and exploit media notoriety through violence? Is it "freedom violence" if you choose to push back on inherently unfair economic policies that advantage one political party / ethnicity / tribe over another and you choose to level the economic playing field by destroying their economic tools (farms, factories, transport, etc)?

The author's points read like a thorough post-hoc attempt to have ends jsutify the means. But I quite suspect that now that his preferred side is in power, the idea of someone else employing the same tactics for the same reasons with the same attempts at (quasi)academic justification would draw a much different response from the author than an admission that when resisting corruption and political oppression, all tools are on the table, as they seemed to have been for him.


Sun, 12/15/2013 - 7:36pm

I write this as a Moderator on SWC and SWJ (where action is rarely needed, except for spam).

For some the conduct of the exchange here has simply gone beyond what SWJ expects; I have been contacted to that effect and comments have been made here.

Please stop - the exchanges do not help the debate.

In due course I will review all the comments and if necessary edit those that do not add to the debate. (Added next day. I have now reviewed and edited a number of comments to stay within the TOR).

SWJ has an Editor, it is their decision what to publish and on SWC 'The Curmudgeon' has explained the value of such an e-journal. Yes this article has aroused much comment, which has been valuable in expanding upon the article's author's perspective, others have added their experience and reflections.

If you have a comment on the editorial decision to publish be direct, be polite, do not be personal. There is an option to email the Editor, use that if a SWJ comment is not enough.

Seasonal compliments to all.

Mark Adams

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 7:15pm

(Moderator intervention and edited).

I may as well give Chris Cocks book a plug.

FIREFORCE: One Man's War in The Rhodesian Light Infantry - Chris Cocks (Author)…

Good read. He deployed under my command into Mozambique on an op and ended up shooting a FRELIMO soldier. Was that an atrocity or a war crime? Read the book and make up your own minds ;)

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 5:58pm

For discussion purposes only, this site had some interesting comments on propaganda but more from the Rhodesian side. Moderator davidfpo has some links to insurgent propaganda further down in the thread.

Shades of Malaya in some of that propaganda stuff:

Outlaw 09

Wed, 12/18/2013 - 4:55am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---I will give you an opposite view from the Warsaw Pact side---it was just only not us having a NATOization view.

When I was in the SF UW group Det A in Berlin we were alerted for a mission and flew to Bad Tolz GE for the isolation phase which was the planning cycle for SF ---this was in 1968.

In the middle of the planning cycle which was for an operation outside Germany a worldwide political event occurred in 1968 in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

In the worldwide press both the Czechs and the Soviets screamed/blamed a SF team for stirring the pot and having been on the ground in Czechoslovakia.

We all had to grin as we knew the KGB/GRU watched our team movements intently in Berlin---we were for them the "indicator" of a potential military movement against the Warsaw Pact and they knew we had left Berlin just before the event so they "assumed" incorrectly that we were agitating on the ground in Prague.

We grinned all the way through the jump doors of a C130 in a totally different country other than Czechoslovakia.

So NATOization cuts both ways.

On to Ho---in some aspects I am still fascinated about his days as a dishwasher in Paris and French sources often mentioned just how he was just as fascinated with George Washington and our own revolution which it is reported he would often compare to his in Indochina--in my comments to Carl I still stand by the comments that just because he was a communist does not mean accommodation could not have been found saving the lives of 56K Americans and a deeply divided US.

If the interview comments alluded to Truman are correct which his directive to the OSS operative seems to indicate-- he was leaning in that anti French direction---also the OSS operatives own comments reflect that he had thought it was possible to find accommodation with Ho--as exampled by the joint sabotage mission that was planned and trained for.

The Vietnamese government even though communist is actually pragmatic in their approach to the rest of the world and the US---we are the ones still hung up on the war but they have moved on and there is no animosity on their part even though they are still struggling from the unexploded munitions from that time and still have massive problems with Agent Orange that we in the US never really hear much about other than from the complaints of VN vets.

And with our pivot to the Far East VN has something our Navy is deeply interested in--Cam Ranh Bay.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 11:54pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<em>Carl---did you take the time to go through the interview with the OSS officer who met with Ho in Hanoi that RantCorp linked to-----it does match a lot of other comments in other sources---especially Ho's openness o provide intelligence and evidently solid intel for no cost to the US when we simply asked for it.</em>

Good discussion between the two of you. I sometimes jokingly refer to the "NATOization" of American thought and what I mean by that is that during the Cold War (and it continues through some kinds of Atlanticism today) it seems as if we put a European template on everything else so that communists in other parts of the world were viewed as exactly the same as in Europe.

But this would be an area others would know better. Still, I notice this too when looking at the Indian experience, often their narrative is that the US pushed them toward the Soviet Union, not the other way around and communism always "took" differently in India, it's such a messy place.

The obessession with Kashmir as a root of cause of the difficulties between India and Pakistan begins in this period (Madeleine Albright's father brought the topic to the UN, I believe) and has remained in the American diplomatic and military consciousness although the issue has morphed and changed and can no longer be looked at through just one lens. Some of this too has to do with the pleading that goes on too from one of the parties.…

The rhetoric and the reality seem to be different when talking about areas where there is a perceived overlap of interests.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 2:51pm

In reply to by carl

Carl---building off of my previous response to you.

The reason that we in SF were deep into UW/Guerrilla warfare even in VN------we were in our element as UW/Guerrilla warfare was in our DNA from 1954 to 1975 ---check the article just recently released here in the SWJ by Dave Maxwell.

"Thoughts on the Future of Special Operations: A Return to the Roots - Adapted for the Future"

The reason I personally had no problems in VN was due to the fact that I had gained extensive SF UW experience inside the following SF unit.

“DET-A in Berlin was one of the premier unconventional warfare and intelligence organizations with the mission to prepare for operations behind the lines in Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War. This very small organization possessed capabilities and expertise that allowed it to accomplish missions that could be conducted by no other force in DOD.”

That is why I meant there really was not a thing that we could learn from the RLI that was not already being practiced with great skill in VN by SF.

Some of us were already well versed in training guerrillas, understood the game of propaganda, had led guerrilla units, had fought with guerrillas, had extensive experience in using psy war operations in real time and just not only in VN--- and some of us even raided to just south of Hanoi in 1972.

Again as I indicated the US regular army between the years 2003-2010 did not feel that they needed to look at the past to understand the present.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 6:17pm

In reply to by carl

Carl---agree on the discussion---you bring up some points that are interesting.

What I meant was regardless of the size of the unit---do not get me wrong --based on their results the RLI had successes--but remember the overall standing strength of the RA was rather low and a majority of their troops came from conscripts so if in fact they had a reputation within the professional RA which they did ---there is such a thing called mission command.

Mission command pushes the idea of trust,and open dialogue in a fear free environment and having not been there but having been in such a tight type of similar unit---those items did exist within that unit. Mission command also requires for the commander to also be able to speak truth to power just as his personnel did with him.

Even if they had pushed upwards the messaging that something was not working and got dampened down on---as critical as the unit was at some point the senior military leadership would have started to listen. It would have taken a commander with gumption though to keep pushing.

I personally cannot believe that no one in the Rhodesian forces did not push the issue concerning what they were seeing to the top---what I suspect is that the military senior leadership tried and ran into the rejection of the government ie Ian Smith who thoroughly believed one could defend the fort and protect racial supremacy---up to his death he never changed that perspective.

Reference your comment on the BN size and they could not influence the strategy because of size---in an insurgency every unit of the counter insurgent has to have a function in defeating the strategy being used by the insurgent---think overarching strategic level insurgent strategy---the RLI in their fighting was responding to the tactics the insurgent were employing in support of their strategy---fighting the opponents tactics do nothing to counter the actual strategy. It is simply trying to hit the vanes on a windmill---it does not stop the windmill.

Often some say they did not know what the insurgent strategy is or was---guess what they tend to publish it openly---in Iraq the AQI released via the internet the strategy as well as the supporting named operation they were conducting in support of that strategy---insurgents need support following the concept of publish or perish.

AQ just released in Sept 2013 their new strategy called the General Guidance to the Jihad which indicated a shift away from the far fight to one of the near fight if one understands the Salafist version of Islam.

Reference the defacto curfew---that goes to population control--if a counter insurgent gives the population a chance meaning if via pys ops he educates the population on certain things the population I have found is not stupid as they want to survive as well---the population will adapt to the situation if given correct information---even those supporting an insurgent will adapt as the drive for survival is strong.

Even those in the population that actively support-- remember they are not fighters thus they are to a large degree risk adverse. They will find ways to signal at night the counter insurgent they are civilians or they will adapt and do everything they need to in daylight and then bunker in at night---actually it is the insurgent that will at night make contact with the population and take the risk of ambushes.

So via psy war ops one can influence the population in the way a counter insurgent needs to and this is key in keeping violence to a minimum. The Rhodesian Army started way to late with their psy ops and what they produced shot by the population meaning it went over their heads and was not as effective as the word of mouth carried out by the insurgents.

The RLI and related units were so busy and you indicated it ---fighting the fight that they lost sight of the trees in the forest ie the population.

In some aspects the Rhodesian Army ran into what we experienced in Iraq--the counter insurgent in attempting to provide security and protection to the population as well as trying to stop the interaction between the insurgent and the population needs far more troops than he has available for the fight.

This forces the counter insurgent much like in Rhodesian to shift to population control mechanisms and tactics to dry up the pond that in effect causes the population to scream atrocities and increases their support to the insurgent.

In Iraq we shifted to the solution of more troops ie a surge, built hundreds of check points and a whole lot of COPs, laid miles of concrete separation barriers etc. in an effort to protect the population and to chase the insurgent groups. The insurgent on the other hand just changed tactics ie the IED explosive weight went to tons and the insurgent shifted tactics to complex swarm attacks and used assassinations/ intimidation.


Tue, 12/17/2013 - 4:29pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:

First off, I am enjoying this discussion very much.

I will try to go through that interview but it still doesn't change the view of things as it existed in 1945. France had to be kept in the lineup against the USSR in Europe and therefore French attempts to reclaim their empire had to be at least tolerated. There was no way Europe could be risked for Vietnam. Then the Reds took China and things changed again and helping the French was viewed as imperative to stop Communist expansion. Those views may have been wrong, or right, but they were held and there was considerable justification for holding them at that time.

Agreed that we learned most of what the RLI knew and practiced in Vietnam. I think I read once that Fireforce was influence by aero-rifle platoon tactics. But that wasn't the point I made. My point was a very narrow one. You and Rant didn't think the RLI was an effective small war unit. I think it is plainly evident that it was. That we did as well in VN is beside the point.

As far as their influencing the strategy of the war, they were a battalion and they were very busy, sometimes multiple missions a day. I think it is a little much to expect that kind of behavior from a small unit. I wouldn't expect the night raiders in Afghanistan to send a delegation to DC, make an appointment with the Pres and tell him 'This night raid stuff is really hurting us in Afghanistan. We should stop.' Even if the RLI, for arguments sake, did what you thought they should have done, and had been told, 'Shut up and do what we assign you to do.', then what? It was a very good unit, doing a small part of the small war fighting job very well. Nothing much more to say about that unit, in that place at that time.

You been there and done that with regard to curfews. All I know is what I've read and they have been used with success in places and so should be a tool to be considered. It may be much more useful to a unit that isn't so well trained and familiar with the area and the people than in than a unit like yours that was both. It is as much a tool to protect the civilians, or can be, as it is to get bad guys. The situation you describe I think can almost be viewed as a de-facto curfew, the locals know not to go out even if they aren't prohibited from doing so. A de-jure curfew might even help a husband against an angry wife who wants him to go out, 'Habibi, I can't. It's past curfew.' But those are just thoughts of a guy who has never done nor been there.

One thing I think you are very right about is the applicability of many things from VN to the current conflicts and how many of those things were forgotten or ignored. One reason for this I believe is the military's deciding to forget, intentionally forget, many of the things learned there; part of the 'never again will we get involved in that kind of war so the sooner we forget about it the better and the less likely we will get into one because we can truthfully say we don't know anything about it' phenomenon. I fear greatly that the big military is embarking upon the very same thing in the wake of our unsatisfying efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will get into another small war, we always do, and if we forget what we learned people will die because of it.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 1:51pm

In reply to by carl

Carl--read through the link---from a professional intel officer of statue inside the OSS sent from Washington to link up with Ho.

Review his comments on the NCA level view towards the French and yes had we linked into Ho and sided against the French we would have been 56K US soldiers richer as a country not counting the wounded and the country would not have been divided for years.

I have no problem with the tactics on the RLI/Fireforce missions--but all military units must support a joint common counter insurgent effort not just one or two--all units must be coordinated into the overall counter insurgent strategy efforts---and simple kill or capture missions does not move the football forward in an overall counter insurgent fashion.

Great for body counts, pats on the back and one's ego but even after a good fighting history the insurgency was able to field an ever increasing number of insurgent fighters to the point they simply overwhelmed the RA.

I have not seen internal RA documents that reflect that anyone asked either the Army leadership nor the government leadership---if we are killing all these people estimated was what 12K what is driving even more of the population to joint the insurgency? That is the critical point that you miss.

Did all the killing actually lead to a reduction of the insurgent efforts---no not really is the answer.

IE in Iraq JSOC was literally a combined and fused killing and capturing machine with a targeting cycle that is the envy of any military focused on the foreign fighters of the AQI and AQI leadership decimated the foreign fighters and mid to high level AQ leadership in Iraq while the BCTs focused on their own AOs and the insurgent activities within those areas---did it work perfectly no but did it take the wind out of the sails of AQI-yes---so in fact a great fighting unit if tied to the overall counter insurgent tactics is the goal.

But just killing and capturing does not answer the goal of addressing the other two strategic elements of the insurgent--namely national rebirth and handing the country over to the rightful citizens.

Now you bring up an interesting point when you mention that the RLI cannot be held for the failures of the government---I beg to differ if in fact it was viewed as an elite unit then an elite unit has the moral authority gained from their reputation and the requirement to speak truth to power and they could have indicated by about 1975/1976 that with all the body counts they were on a trend mill going nowhere and something had to change.

But concerning the problem with find, fix, and kill/capture of insurgents in AFG using small units we did not need the example of the RLI experiences---as the Army already had the experience we provided them of over 12 years with the various Special Forces Projects, MACV-SOG, Roadrunner program, CIDG, and the Mobile Strike Forces---problem was the current US regular army did not want to go back and look at those lessons learned as 1) they wanted to forget VN and 2) felt there were no VN COIN lessons learned that could be applied to something like Iraq or AFG. It has just been in the last couple of years that SF went to the VSO program in AFG-an attempt to copy the successful CIDG program from VN.

You comment on what is wrong with nighttime ambushes in contested areas with curfews.

My response is simple why the curfews? I ran nighttime ambushes on villages day in and day out as we reduced the VCI and ran them in the day time as well and had no problem with the villagers either during the night and or day and there was no curfews in place in my 18 months at the height of the fighting in VN. There were occasions that I let civilians walk through the kill zone without engaging as the lanterns they carried and the loud voices allowed me to assume civilians which was usually correct---even if the VCI were carrying lanterns and talking I would have rather risked allowing them to go through than take the risk of killing civilians.

Sometimes in a guerrilla war one does not have to win every battle to move the counter insurgent efforts forward.

If the population knows the rules ie it is war and if you are out at night and in certain areas you would in effect be yourself responsible for running into an ambush and we on the ambushing side knew roughly where the hidden bunker complexes were and from recon knew the trails that led from them into and out of a village vs say trails used to the rice fields or to the next village.

Also as SF we paid for wrongful killing of civilians with a formal apology in front of the village---if we had not done that the VC would have spun the killed as atrocities and by paying the family for their loss it took the propaganda wind out of the sails of the VCI.

Even though we paid for the accidental killings it did not make life easier for us as the village would most of the time refuse to talk with us which was acceptable to me if one takes it from their perspective.

Again though as I have often mentioned in a number of responses the Rhodesian CION failed as they had no counter insurgent strategic strategy and did not respond to the strategic strategy of the insurgent.


Tue, 12/17/2013 - 12:28pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:

I did not look at the interview because I have read several accounts of the contacts between Ho and various Americans at the end of WWII. Those accounts are all sort of wistful 'what might have beens'. It doesn't matter much what might have been. What was was that we wanted to keep France in the lineup against the USSR in Europe so a Communist who liked George Washington in a far corner of the Orient was not going to top that. We weren't going to go against France. Besides, there was still the fact that Ho was only part of the Vietnamese Communist Party and they weren't going to be swayed from the communism. Those guys were true believers. I think we forget that.

As things stand right this very second, none of that matters vis a vis the US getting cooperation from Vietnam against Red China. Our interests align quite closely so closely that we can't help but line up on the same side.

As far as the RLI goes, they were one unit in army and gov effort. They were given a specific mission, hunt down and kill insurgents when they were spotted. This they did as well as any unit ever did. That mission is a part of any small war effort, or should be. The RLI can't be faulted for the failures of the gov as a whole to perhaps institute a panoply of other small war political and military measures that may have been needed. They did the job they were given.

There is a lot about the RLI and Fireforce tactics on the Council thread. One of the reasons there is so much interest, I think, is that those ops were an example of something we don't seem to do very well in Afghanistan, find, pursue and destroy small groups of insurgents. The RLI and associated units did that very well. And they did it on the cheap. A K-car didn't cost much, maybe two rotor blades on an Apache (exaggeration for effect alert). They used a fraction of the manpower we would need if we could do it. So there is much to be learned in studying that tactic. But it is only a tactic, only a tactic but a very valuable one. And one that we can't seem to get right.

So I don't see how you cannot judge the RLI to be anything but an effective small war fighting unit. They did one needed part of small war fighting as well as it could be done.

What is wrong with night time curfews in contested areas? How on earth can you set nocturnal ambushes or do night patrols if you don't tell the locals not to go out at certain times or they risk getting shot? It seems to me that you can't stop the night letter carriers or killers unless you ambush or patrol at night and you can't do that with various locals walking about at all times.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 5:05am

In reply to by carl

Carl---did you take the time to go through the interview with the OSS officer who met with Ho in Hanoi that RantCorp linked to-----it does match a lot of other comments in other sources---especially Ho's openness o provide intelligence and evidently solid intel for no cost to the US when we simply asked for it.

Yes you are right he would never have swung off of his biases, but this is the key---if the US had assisted him we would have been in a position to at least influence future developments-remember the NVA has been the only army to have fought with and successfully repealed the Chinese PLA and even today the Vietnamese still distrust the Chinese---at least even if communist we would have a conversation partner currently where we and the Vietnamese share the concerns over the Chinese.

As to the RLI and the Rhodesian war---what is missing from the blogging on this particular article is the realization and historical truth that in a revolutionary war ie the American War of Independence, the Scottish revolts, the Irish troubles,or an insurgency/guerrilla war such as China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Rhodesia, and on to actually Iraq and AFG there are three elements that have always and I mean always existed, 1) violence by both sides, 2)perception or propaganda from both sides, and 3)population control.

The core to all revolutions and insurgencies has always been the population and yes the COIN types are right pop centric--why because in the end a insurgent or a counterinsurgent can control tons of land but if he has no population what does it matter---governments and states can only exist with a population.

Element one-violence --it is always used by the insurgent to establish his "pond" in order to survive or he has the support of the disenfranchised group that he supports/comes from or the tribe/tribes that support him---but he still uses forms of violence to expand his control over those that resisted him or were/are neutral to either party.

The counter insurgent on the other side has to use violence in order to counter the insurgent group and or gain control over population elements that are resisting the government and or supporting the insurgent.

The sad thing is that over a long period of insurgencies both sides drift deeper into violence- on the insurgent side just to hold his own/or to expand his gains and from the counterinsurgent side just to defeat the insurgent---and who takes the hits is the population---from both sides.

Element two--perception---perception is everything in any insurgency---the insurgent uses perception to establish himself ie photos, messaging, videos, internet--yes a form of propaganda---but it is what he himself perceives he is seeing and experiencing or what the population is seeing and experiencing.

The counter insurgent uses violence, hearts and minds, defense hamlets, military victories, military defeats of insurgents, body count to establish the perception that he is winning--also in a form of propaganda to establish that the government is in control over the population.

Now why the article rubs people---but if one understands perception from the individual perspective it should not rub people the wrong way. Both the insurgent and counter insurgent have what they believe to be valid views. This article should be read in this light.

From the perception of the counter insurgent what he is doing with say tight population curfew controls with punishment, herding entire populated areas into defense villages, beating villagers in villages known to support the insurgent to get intel, slaughtering cattle, burning destroying crops, burning huts are in fact military tactics to "dry the pond" and keep the population from supporting the insurgent---in the eyes of the military/government valid counterinsurgency tactics---but it is only a tactic.

From the insurgent perspective and his supporters--these actions just reinforce the facts of what they are messaging to the population---see the counterinsurgent is committing atrocities, murdering us, destroying our crops and cattle, and destroying our ability to live ---could go on but these are the usual messages.

Now if one is a single insurgent group things go this way usually-- but bring into play multiple insurgent players/insurgent tribes then they start to attack each other in order to establish a ruling group-Iraq when AQI now ILIS forked the insurgency with their ethnic attacks. Now things on the violence side takes a bad turn for the population---supporters of one group or another group get attacked by another group, insurgent groups fighting each other and all the time messaging that the violence being conducted against them and their supporters came from the government side. Remember what the insurgent is messaging to the population-- we are winning --those these killings had to come from the counter insurgent while we are the good guys.

In the end the government/military gets tarred and feathered with anything that is violence directed towards the population regardless of truth or disinformation--but always remember there is always a grain of truth in accusations coming form the population as it is what they perceive their are experiencing.

One blogger here made in fact a true statement when he admitted that the Rhodesian Army got out propgandered which will happen in an insurgency fight if the government has not strategic strategy.

This is just what happened with units such as the RLI or the RA SAS or Scouts.

Now the RLI---I did not allude to the fact that the RLI was a poor example of small unit fighters--solid fighters, but that was the problem just fighters. I alluded to the fact that they were a poor example of UW/COIN---reread the sentence---which was also mentioned by Rantcorp. military units must not only fight they must also understand the concepts of perception in their military actions especially when working around populated areas---we learned that from VN.

Robert Jones and Bill M often blog here and constantly point out that the counter insurgent needs to fully understand the strategy of the insurgent, formulate his own strategy, and then attempt to resolve the causes of the insurgency.

There was no strategic strategy by the Rhodesian political leadership outside of defend the fort and destroy the insurgents---no attempt to counter the three core elements of both insurgent groups formulated under 1) national liberation, 2) national rebirth, 3) return the country to it's rightful citizens.

Units such as RLI were used to counter the insurgent strategy element 1---defeat the national liberation movements, but in the process actions taken in doing this in fact supported in the eyes/perception of the population the charges of atrocities (true or not) and the messaging of the insurgents turned into that rather quickly. The counter insurgent did nothing to counter that as the RA started rather late in the perception/propaganda element.

What units such as RLI did not learn from our experiences in VN is that by attempting to "dry up the pond" and deny the population support to the insurgent one in fact creates even more support from the population for the insurgents-because the population views those tactics to be targeting him not the insurgents--again tactics do not replace strategy.

That is why I mentioned the fact that say the RLI is not a good example for UW/COIN.

Whether we like the article or not it was written from the perception of the other side and any attempt to critize it from the counter insurgent view is an example of why the RA lost the counterinsurgency fight in Rhodesia--- failure to understand the language and strategy of one's enemy will always get one in trouble.

If the Rhodesian government had moved to a true land reform and open elections early in the insurgency combined with initially successful military tactics in the early years---Rhodesia might have in fact survived.

But Ian Smith was not prepared to share power in any form nor was he willing to share land so the two most important strategies of the insurgent groups were never answered thus you lost the population.

to wrap this up yes even in our war for independence both we and the British committed atrocities in order to shift the population to each of our sides---the literature from that period is full of such accusations which had by the way a grain of truth.


Mon, 12/16/2013 - 10:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09 and RantCorp:

I just finished this book a few weeks ago, Embers of War.…

It has quite a lot in it about Ho from his birth until 1959. He was a very interesting fellow. If I remember correctly the notion that Ho could have been swayed from communism in 1945 is flawed. He had been a Communist for many many years and was a Comintern agent for many years also. He would have taken help where he could get it but to think he would have given up that long standing political belief is, I think, incorrect.

Also I wonder if the judgment that the RLI is a poor example of a small war fighting unit is correct. They were mostly from what I've read an air/heli borne quick reaction unit, sort of like the aero-rifle platoons in Vietnam. Their primary job, reacting to sightings of the enemy and quickly hunting them down, they appear to have done very well. The overall way the Rhodesian gov prosecuted the war, wisely or unwisely, is really beside the point when evaluating the specific tactical task the RLI was given. That task needed to have been done no matter how the war was generally prosecuted by their gov and the RLI did it about as well as could be expected.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 3:08pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RantCorp---you are right the RLI is a really poor example for UW/COIN.

The link on Ho is interesting in that when he was in Paris as a dishwasher in 1921 during interviews there he admitted that he admired George Washington, had read a lot about him/read a lot of his writings and was fascinated in the way he had led the US revolutionary army.

Still working through the link.

There are also indications from several other sources that he when he was back in Indochina at the end of WWII and just as the French wanted to return ---directly asked the US for assistance in keeping the French from returning---we rejected the requests.

What would have the outcome for the US historically been if we had supported an admirer of George Washington?--- who only after we rejected his aid request turned eastward for assistance.

Reference French---will give you an example from 1969---in III Corp Michelin had their largest rubber plantations still in production and they ranged even to parts of Cambodia--and whose manager was living in a Vietamese villa out of the 30s in Quan Loi who had a golf course until the 1st Cav turned it into a major copter base.

He would openly admit he was paying 1 Franc per tree as his VC taxes but hey that was necessary to continue producing and exporting back to France and he would also collect from the US for damaged trees if the military damaged through combat operations any of his trees.

Anyway we had intel that he was flying high level NVA officers back and forth from Cambodia-and on some occasions massive amounts of heroin-we collected the photo evidence with dates and times--and requested permission to kill or capture on the next return flight.

DoS/CIA refused us permission for the kill or capture---that was the power of the French influence still in 1969.

There are indications of similar Chinese issues in other African countries.


Mon, 12/16/2013 - 8:42pm

In reply to by RantCorp

I remember the little bit of time I got to spend on the West Coast of Africa (Liberia and Sierra Lione) during the Liberian Civil War in 2003 as an eye opener. The locals I was able to talk with for the most part seemed to love Americans. There were other countries that they seemed indifferent or negative towards but the thing that stuck out most to me was the seemingly universal hatred of the Chinese. I never got the chance to spend a lot of time to hear more but the basic gist was, "we love dealing with Americans and everyone else falls somewhere in-between with the Chinese being on the other end of the spectrum". Of course, I'm sure these sentiments could vary depending on the area of Africa one was in.

On the east coast, Djibouti always struck me as kinda surreal. We'd be doing operations and the majority of the country was extremely poor but then you'd fly over these French yachts with half naked French vacationers just cruising around the coastline like they were in the middle of the French Riviera.


Mon, 12/16/2013 - 1:42pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu wrote,

'It's because the Chinese bring in their own workers?'

I wish my friends believed it was something so sweet. No I'm afraid not. Unfortunately it appears a great many black Zimbabweans believe their Chinese guests consider blacks as subhuman.


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 6:03pm

In reply to by RantCorp

<blockquote>If people are genuinely concerned with what is happening in Zimbabwe I suggest they focus on the deep hatred the locals are developing towards the Chinese.</blockquote>

Yeah, I'd heard about that too. Something very interesting is going on in Africa with the Chinese, good, bad, all of it. It's because the Chinese bring in their own workers?

I think the main point about this thread (for me, outside of the terrible conditions in Zimbabwe) is that, once again, 2000-era American pop-COIN was rooted in a strange mythology and scholarship that basically bought into anything a certain type of colonial counterinsurgent said (my old Galula, Templer argument).

Another helpful facet is the larger strategic context within which the campaign took place, sort of like in Afghanistan where the US was balancing out the larger geostrategic questions of surrounding nations.

This is an educational thread in that sense. I still can't believe the 2009 AFPak white paper that basically said, "we'll solve the India Pakistan issue with a special envoy, get the entire Pakistani military to follow our lead, fix Karzai, and we'll do it in a year or two."

Are people in American schools of policy complete friggin' nut jobs? Give me some of what you are smoking, Princeton-Harvard-John's Hopkins weirdos.

The many complicated geopolitical realities that the Rhodesian war took place within is worth studying in order to understand the world in real life ain't like on paper and there is more to studying a conflict than studying tactics. Okay, the people around here know but, I mean, come on....


Sun, 12/15/2013 - 5:44pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I’m not so sure the RLI has much to teach anyone regarding UW or FID. Having worked with a few both Rhodesian born and foreign born I found their approach badly hamstrung by their racist attitude towards non-whites. Several of them I trusted with my life but that doesn’t count for much in a country wherein 99% of people are not white.

They weren’t as overtly racist as their Afrikaans cousins in the 32 Battalion but then the Boers are more than happy to tell it how it is with them and you can like it or lump it. The sheer folly of considering yourself entitled and privileged on the basis of the color of skin is about as far from what we need to understand how to best fight UW as I can imagine.

We made the horrendous mistake to get involved with these kind of people in VN.

Not recognizing the futility of such folly we first funded a French effort to re-establish this colonial fallacy and then despite the objections of the military establishment represented by Ridgeway, Shoup, Gavin etc we decided to build on their failed colonialism and go to war ourselves to prove how utterly impossible it really was.

There is a wonderful interview with the head of the US Army team who advised Ho and Giap around the end of WW2. It is a long interview but it encapsulates both the benign insidious type of racism and the more crass and overt form which IMO ensures you lose – in this case both French flavored but in my experience they are all the same.…

For those who still have the watches but not the time drag the cursor to the 60 min mark. Col Patti recollections IMHO explain why we should avoid these people and why we lost the war in VN.

If people are genuinely concerned with what is happening in Zimbabwe I suggest they focus on the deep hatred the locals are developing towards the Chinese. I was shocked at the level of animosity towards these new colonialists. According to those I speak with the sense of loathing has long surpassed the hatred they had for the white Rhodesian.


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 6:23pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

One of the reviews on the Chris Cocks book mentions the use of poison among other things. It's quite something to read, brutal in its honesty and simplicity:

Regarding your story on SOFmag, is that why some online American military sites have sort of a "fan-boy" vibe about some aspects of the Rhodesian military? The language and attitude are striking in some corners of the online military world. I always assumed it was the foreign legion aspect of the thing that attracted a certain online personality type or maybe even real military (you never know with the internet).

The intelligence angle is interesting too. If there is a language that is consistent in this article to African nationalism of a certain time and place, so too is there a commonality to a certain language talking about left-wing journalists and Marxists any time anyone brings up the word atrocity with regard to the counter-insurgents on those American military websites. It's as if the language got frozen in time at the height of the late Cold War, or even earlier, with Malaya.

I don't know why anyone thought UDI could have worked or that South Africa could hold out or would even want to given the fears of about "dominos" of Marxists nationalists or whatever. It seems to have ended where it started, under the British and with a horrific choice in Mugabe but with all sorts of bloodshed in between. The same stab in the back language some VN vets use is seen in this language, as well as being sold out by the British and all that. To be fair, I can understand the fears of some in the white community at the time given that refugees had poured in from other conflicts. It must have radicalized the rulers in its own way.

The linked site talks about chemical and biological warfare, but more academic sources (and UN) that I could find don't substantiate some of the claims, especially about anthrax. I take no position on any of it in this comment thread, it's too serious a thing for me to pretend that I have any familiarity with the material. I don't want to make ANY claims about any person:…


<em>Project Coast: Apartheid's Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme,</em> Chandré Gould, Peter I. Folb United Nations Publications UNIDIR, 2002

For discussion only! Again, I have no idea and won't pretend that I do.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 3:56pm

Mark/JMA---since you seemed to not know how many Americans served in the Rhodesian Army during the wars of liberation I will answer--- approximately 300 who served mainly in the RLI---the unit you linked to so I was surprised you did not know that of the approximately 300 of which 7 were killed while serving n the RLI especially in the 2 and 3 Commando's.

Majority were VN vets and fought not as mercenaries but as regular Rhodesian soldiers earning 1000 USD per month.

They linked up under the informal unit designation of "The Crippled Eagle" sponsored by Robin Moore who also wrote the 1964 book "Green Beret"

You might wonder how I know---simple they were recruited to join the Rhodesian Army through a magazine called "Soldier of Fortune" published by an individual called Robert K. Brown---he started advertising for work in Rhodesian one edition after the first publication of the monthly magazine in 1975.

Now if you understood US Army Special Forces we seem to be able to maintain ties amongst former members over long periods of time in my case the last 45 years especially if VN vets and we still know much of what is going on in the world since some of us were still working that world until the 2013---but some of us still have a strong interest concerning Robert Brown.

Short story with Robert---he showed up in SVN in early 1969 as a volunteer CAPT Reservist and had requested duty with a SF team---at that time he had never spent a single day in Special Forces training nor in SF assignments.

Strange one might say and in fact to this day it was strange---he had far more contacts than any single US Army Reservist I had ever met to include the CIA and other State side organizations especially in the Miami area in the 60s. He had a publishing company called Paladin Press which got him invited to Congress and questioned since he tended to publish a lot of mercenary/counter insurgency booklets since the early to mid 60s and some thought he was tied to the US Black Revolution groups thus the invitation.

I served on the same team (A334) as Robert (Team Leader)did as a young SGT and was able to destroy a complete 120mm NVA Mortar BN the morning after they had fired on our camp seriously wounding Robert who later left to back to the States.

There he remained in the Reserves and rose to the retirement rank of LTC.

What is interesting especially in his SOF magazine is how until today he boasts his having been in SF and served in VN---one would have had the feeling that he had been deep into SF activities/training---he built literally an entire myth around the short time he was in SF---again all without not a single day of SF training nor having served in any other SF unit.

Some say his magazine was financed by the Rhodesian government some say by the CIA especially since he was pushing his Rhodesian and later Soviet/AFG articles which all had an anti-communist flavor. Those that served with him were totally surprised when the first SOF magazine showed up and when we learned Robert was the publisher. And he has never maintained any contact with team members he served with-strange.

Robert wrote articles on Rhodesia then on to Oman, then Soviet/AFG then into Central and South American---a master traveler in the counter insurgency world.

It is also of interest that as an Army Reservist he managed to travel multiple times into Rhodesia and Soviet AFG all apparently not effecting his security clearance.

So Mark I was surprised you did not know that Americans were serving in the RLI even though you linked to the page-strange.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 5:15pm

In reply to by carl

Carl--- I was in US SF nor the units and locations I have served in with my 67 years nor does he know my higher education path, nor knows I was a highly decorated SF VN vet---maybe check Google for the term MACV-SOG to check some of our work which was not to tied to atrocities, I have managed to make four wars in the 67 years and I have fought guerrillas as well have trained and led guerrillas-and. (Moderator intervention and edited).

Some of us on this blog do not write books, articles etc. as most of it is still under classification and I respect that classification although I would love someday to write about it and we do not have the need to project one's self image or create a self image. I have seen to many friends die along the way and maybe out of respect I will probably never write as I can be critical of some of the decisions made and conducted.

(Moderator intervention and edited).

Having been part of history, participated in history ie the Son Tay raid deep into North Vietnam, and or participated in critical events of the world counter terrorism side is what makes life interesting to me and one does not have to boast about it nor write about it---why --a lot of people would never believe it anyway.

Having known that I have lived history is worth the 67 years--it was been a great run---although my wife would beg to differ with this comment from her perspective.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 6:44pm

In reply to by carl

Carl, I too feel uncomfortable with the conversation and the turn it's taken.

But there is apparently UN and other documentation of chemical and possible biological warfare by some units. If I try and put myself in the mind of a professional military person (this is a small wars site, we are supposed to empathize, I even tried empathizing with the government of Rhodesia. Think what that must be like for me), what separates a professional military from a rabble?

Discipline. If you are a professional and such allegations occur, perhaps the "code" is to talk about it openly and address such things because that is what a professional military does, deal with these things honestly. Looked at it that way, perhaps you and I as civilians are caught in something we can't understand?


Sun, 12/15/2013 - 6:09pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:

My first year in college, which was a long time ago, many of my classmates had served in Vietnam. They had mostly been warrant officers and I was in awe of them. I felt like a midget in hall filled with giant warrior gods. I still feel like that when I meet guys like them, and you, these going on 40 years later. So when I call somebody like that on something I don't do it so easy.

But I gotta do it here. You guys want to go back and forth about who did what and whose experience trumps whose and who don't know jack about strategy that's fine. You're all big boys (and girls, Hello Madhu!) and can take it. But you can't make suggestions that the other guy is a murderer. That ain't right. And an honorable person doing something that isn't right isn't an honorable thing.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 4:36pm

In reply to by carl

Carl---then you know that in Chris's own first book Fireforce he wrote of atrocities committed by Rhodesian forces --I alluded to them---if JMA takes it any other way that is his interpretation. (Moderator intervention and edited).

What is historically available is available and any number of journalists including US reporters, Rhodesian military personnel to include Americans who were Rhodesian officers who have made similar statements that indicate atrocities occurred ---there was nothing pointed directly to JMA.

As someone whose military profession demanded a very tight adherence to the GC and having seen torture in Iraq, having reported US military personnel who have abused detainees in Iraq, having raided a number of illegal Iraqi prisons with over 300 really tortured prisoners, I am well aware of what abuse/atrocities are and I inherently know how the propaganda drives various stories from both sides.

(Moderator intervention and edited).

Rhodesia was a can of worms in the global geopolitics of that period--it is maybe time to revisit that era from a historical research slant---but to do that takes getting the emotion of the past out of it.