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The War Nerd July 26, 2002
Spain vs. Morocco: Two Muppets Du Iwo Jima
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4
But that would be real war. Most countries can't do real war. It's too expensive. And now that everybody's got a video camera, real war looks bad -- too gory, too messy. If they'd had video cameras at Gettysburg, the North would've elected a peace-at-any-price candidate like McClellan by the biggest landslide in history.

So armies are just big theater groups now. They're used to make "gestures" -- sitcom war, Muppet war.

The Moroccan army: lean, mean, not too far between

The Moroccan army:
lean, mean, not too far between

The Moroccans could never handle a real war, even against a spineless theme-park like Spain. The Moroccan Royal Air Force (FARM) flew F-5s -- the Plymouth Valiant of fighters -- till this year, when their rich friends the Saudis donated 20 used F-16s. But having the planes is one thing; getting decent pilots, radar techs and maintenance crews is another. If it was just a matter of buying hardware, the Saudis would be a military power in the Middle East.

The people who really run Morocco -- the usual clique of army officers plus corrupt royal family -- know from bitter experience that their army is worthless. From 1976 to 1989 (or 1991, depending on whose story you believe), the Moroccan army tried to wipe out a guerrilla movement called POLISARIO, from the Spanish Sahara independence movement. They failed so badly they had to build a giant sand wall on their southern border because the POLISARIO guys in their Toyota pickups (the true weapon of the early 21st century) were not only holding on to Spanish Sahara but actually starting to attack Moroccan towns. POLISARIO even occupied Lebueirat, a big military base in southern Morocco, in 1979. The Moroccan defense minister was dumped, and the King ordered the sandcastle barrier -- not exactly a vote of confidence in his Royal Army.

And if all that wasn't enough to convince the Moroccans to stick to fake/comedy war, there's the fact that Spain's been in NATO since 1982, so if you fuck with them you're basically fucking with the US. It's true that the US has a lot of sleazy little arms deals and quasi-alliances with Morocco too, but remember the Falkland War. That was a war between the UK and Argentina, both with close links to the US -- and the US showed pretty clearly they'll always side with the NATO white folk. The US was openly pro-British. Hell, we even passed on satellite intelligence that helped the Brits find and kill a harmless old Argentine "battleship," the General Belgrano. This poor old hulk was about as dangerous as a floating log, but thanks to US data, a Brit nuke sub found it and blew it to bits, killed 2,000 poor stupid Argentine draftee sailors.

So the Moroccans know they couldn't win a real war with Spain. That's why they purposely sent the weakest possible force -- a dozen cops: because it's less embarrassing when cops get expelled than it is when your whole army gets butt-fucked and sent home in a cargo hold. Just ask the Argentineans. After the Brits kicked their asses in the Falklands, the junta fell. The fatcat colonels running Morocco wouldn't risk that happening to them.

The gendarmes didn't last long on the island. They'd probably been ordered not to resist, so when the Spanish choppered in 75 special forces to boot them off, the Moroccans surrendered without a fight. They were handcuffed and taken off the island. Not exactly Iwo Jima II. A gated retirement community on Bingo night gets rowdier than this.

In the Muppet version, this would be Miss Piggy in a bullfighting uniform, shouting "Ole! Andale, andale!" while she rounds up Gonzo and his Muslim chickens, karate-chopping anybody who dawdles. Dom Deluise, the Moroccan admiral and special live human guest on the show, falls head over heels in love with her, and they sail home doing a comedy duet -- a nice peaceful ending, you'd think.

But you can always count on hometown media to promote war, as long as it's not going to happen to them. So back in Spain and Morocco, the papers and TV were busy stirring up the civilians.

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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