"Turns out that challenging President George W. Bush’s military policy is a lot trickier than the Democrats thought. For reasons they knew in advance: Congress has no say over the management of the war, which is constitutionally the president’s prerogative, and his alone. And for reasons they didn’t anticipate: their own internal divisions.
The party may have a majority, albeit a razor-thin one in the Senate, but it doesn’t have unanimity on how to exploit it to end the war. Far from it.
Today, 140,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq, with at least another 21,500 starting to trickle in as part of Bush’s troop "surge." Nobody knows how long they’ll be there, or how many more will join them.
Democrats in the House and Senate have been scrambling to find ways of putting restrictions on Bush’s handling of the war – ways they can all agree on – before this week’s debate on his latest military budget request.
Should the troops be pulled out immediately or a timeline set for withdrawal? Should the original 2002 resolution authorizing the war be rescinded or ignored? Should funding, which Congress controls, be curtailed or left in place?"
Toronto Daily Star
The Democrats should be careful about their congressional actions concerning the War in Iraq. They need to distinguish between:
– a national debate over foreign policy to include; expression of their beliefs by resolutions over responsibility for the war, the desirability of continuing to occupy Iraq, perhaps a binding resolution concerning combat operations against Iran and
– legislation which seeks to direct and limit the president and commander in chief of the armed forces as to how he should employ US forces. To attempt to do that, is, I think, of dubious constitutionality. In addition, to do so is to assume responsibility for the future of our engagement in Iraq. It is quite possible that there could be a marked deterioration in the situation of US combat forces in Iraq. The recent apparent "improvement" in the security situation in Iraq is probably a passing thing. Certainly, the massacres of Shia pilgrims this last week must not seem like an improvement in security to the Shia Arabs. If the Congress and the Democratic majority limit the funding, logistics or strength of American forces in Iraq, then they should expect that history will hold them at least partially responsible for whatever might happen there.
Finally, it seems to me that there is a constituency that must be heeded with regard to judgments over success or failure in Iraq. That constituency is made up of the men and women who have fought the war, are fighting the war or will fight the war. So far as I can determine, that constituency is still overwhelmingly of the opinion that they are fighting the good fight, that they will prevail and that their comrades’ blood cries out for vindication through victory.
I think that the Congress and the Democrats should be very careful about the opinion of that constituency. pl
As those of us against this war from the start said – it would open Pandora’s Box. Once in, no way of getting out. If you stay in, things get worse. If you come out, things get worse. If you just hang on, things will get worse.
Nothing will end it til the body of The West is carried off the battlefield.
It is like a Greek Tragedy. Except Bush, Blair and the Neo-Cons are creatures without stature or dignity.
Instead of trying to cut off funding, the Democrats could try to investigate the run-up and mismanagement of the war in the first four years during the Rumsfeld/Cheney period.
In order to do this though, the Democrats would first run into opposition from Sen. Hillary Clinton and her supporters, who do not want to be “inconvenienced” by revelations about her position during the selling of the war in the 2002-2005 period.
My guess is that this will lead to a grassroots revolution in the Democratic party against the Democratic party establishment led by Sen. Clinton.
Instead of a majority constituency, there will be different Republican and Democratic party bases formed around various candidates. This will let Bush keep the troops in Iraq, along with the four superbases, at least until the end of his term.
Iraq will become a cancer in US domestic politics, and the politics will become even further fragmented and polarized. This will make it impossible to build constituencies to reform Social Security, Medicare, etc.
This new Dark Age of American politics will make it more politically expedient for American politicians to start more foreign wars, in an effort to divert the publics’ attention from the domestic political crises.
It will all end when the US economy breaks, just as the US armed forces have been forced near to the breaking point by the current war on terror.
As for this article, you are on the point! In all honesty, you have dealt with this issue with “The Constituency That Counts” before. We need to remember there is a joint constituency that counts even more than the Congress and the Administration, even combined. This joint group that really counts are the potential recruits for our military and their families, friends and extended families. If we don’t win this combined group, the rest is folly. This is the reason the Walter Reed issue is ABSOLUTLELY CENTRAL to the future of our military. Thank you, have a great day.
Your next to the last paragraph sounds as frightening as Burt Lancaster in Seven Days in May when he said “You’re not a weak sister, Mr. President. You’re a criminally weak sister.”
Seems that too many in the Congress and elsewhere just can’t turn loose of their angst over the process that got us into this war and deal with the situation we face. The challenge we face is a separate issue from the issue of accountability for getting us into it. Pieces of that prior experience can inform the “way ahead” — most notably, we need to be careful that we are not still using the same assumptions as our guide — but, the problem we face is different in its nature and its magnitude from the problem we (thought we) faced when we invaded Iraq.
Are you describing Seven Days in May? Frightening.
Ah. You “fear the anger of the legions.” Interesting.
No. I am not talking “ECOMCON” here. What I meant is that if the donkeys are so foolish as to do something that can be said to have contributed to defeat, then the POLITICAL costs of having given up before the soldiers will be enormous.
The American military does not have it in its “cultural DNA” to act against constitutional authority, but I must admit that I find that line about “criminal weakness” to be intriguing and amusing. pl
In the United States, there is no military constituency.
In addition, I do not know how many of the military in Iraq want to be there or think they are doing something worthwhile, but it is not 100%.
If we are to design our foreign policy around the wishes of the military constituency, then we don’t need elections.
As a nation we are indeed truly blessed that the tradition of civilian control has become so deeply entrenched, even in the military itself. However, I am concerned that the pressures of the Iraq fiasco, together with increasing presence in the career military of people from the Christian dominionist right (eg. Gen. Boykin et al) could be undermining that tradition. In contrast to the Seven Days In May scenario, which was led by general officers as I recall (it’s been a while), a great many coups in the real world are led by strategically positioned more junior officers (e.g. Nasser, khadafi) and occasionally even enlisted men (e.g. Sgt. Maj. Fulgencio Batista of Cuba in the 1930s). Positive traditions do not necessarily preserve themselves without constant nurturing.
I believe it to be a foregone conclusion that the Democratic Party and liberals in general will be blamed for losing the war in Iraq. Based on that conclusion I think it interesting to consider whether the Democratic Party will ignore the voices that don’t understand the “sunk costs” of lives already lost and end this war or will they succumb to their desire to cement their political future by allowing the war to continue to it’s inevitable disastrous conclusion. I believe the former to be the “good” thing to do and the latter the “right”. I don’t know if either could be considered “correct”.
This week I enjoyed the opportunity to dicuss this very topic with Mr. Joe Galloway at a book signing in Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Galloway was very vocal about the political similarities between this war and the war in Vietnam.
1- The Bush A. shows no sign of wanting to settle things through the kind of approach I pushed in “A Concert of the Greater Middle East.”
2- The military still believes it has a good shot at “prevailing” in Iraq, although Petraeus is showing signs of wavering.
3- The Democrats do not control the Executive Branch and therefore lack control of diplomacy or the military. Because of that, they can’t “direct” anything in those fields. They can only weaken the forces in Iraq though impediments involved in funding.
4- A military disaster could be brought on by weakening the force in the face of a set of un-defeated opponents.
5- The political consequences of such a disaster brought on by “weakening” in the face of military opinion that they still “have a shot” would be massive for the Democrats.
Is this rocket science? pl
As conditions worsen in America (economically, socially and politically), we can expect a succession of one-term presidents.
As if things weren’t short-term enough, politicians will increasingly seek dramatic moves to boost their short-term popularity, hoping that these moves will push them into a second-term. Ultimately, these will be moves which have all the relevancy of rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. This was what George W. Bush did in 2004, starting the war in Iraq in 2003 to consolidate his base and win the election.
It really doesn’t matter whether we have civilian or military leadership in the US; the problems are bigger than that. Basically, the US standard of living is going to go down no matter who’s in power, and this is going to be a trend for the next 30 years. (This is an age/demographics/economics issue, not a political policy issue.) The wealthy will be those who have made their money in investments, and the rich/poor barrier will become much more clearly delineated with little crossover. America was a country where everyone had a chance; that will no longer be true.
This is the real legacy of George W. Bush.
I have to admit that I cannot put the pieces together in order to understand your point.
You seem to be saying that in order to avoide political recriminaton, the Democrats should fully fund the war in Iraq until the military feels they no longer have any chance to prevail or until a new administration takes office. This course of action is dictated by the fact that the current administration will not change course no matter what the Congress does in terms of funding and would therefore leave a dangerously under-funded force in place to risk suffering a Diem Bien Phu type defeat.
Am I close?
Thank god our constitution doesn’t grant the military a “constitutency.” That sounds more like a banana republic or military dictatorship. When the military gets to decide when and where we fight wars, we’re screwed.
Keep funding the war in Iraq because the military wants to keep fighting? Are you nuts?
I’m not sensing much appetite in the in the US military for “going wide” or digging the hole much deeper, “going long” perhaps.
British soldiers, half admiringly, say the “Septics” only extraction strategy involves clinging to helicopter skids.
The Democrats need to gain greater leverage over Bush by squeezing him on other issues unrelated to Iraq. If they decide to impeach him, then it should NOT be over Iraq but rather on of any number of other causes of action that are available.
We have lost the lives of over 3,000 troops in Iraq.
Tens of thousands have been wounded, with wounds that, though not lethal, appear to be far worse than wounds in prior wars, closed head injuries perhaps being the worst.
The wounded are being cared for in a criminally irresponsible way.
Our opponents are un-defeated.
That is a disaster.
Can our troops be withdrawn safely from Iraq today?
If they cannot, what will it take to permit them to be safely withdrawn?
Is the only way to avoid a military disaster to support increasing troop levels for an indeterminate period of time?
If the military does prevail, what would this outcome look like? Victory and a long occupation may be the worst ending to this neocon adventure.
When you say the military, do you mean the middle level officers and so forth, or the hierarchy up to Patraeus and his braintrust?
This is from the “The Swoop” website, which I have found to be one of the best public aggregators of US government intelligence:
“Despite the bold face he maintains in public, President Bush is being advised in private that military prospects in Iraq are unhopeful. A typical evaluation from Pentagon counter-insurgency experts is that, far from pulling back from contested neighborhoods, anti-American insurgents “are spying on us, waiting for us to make a mistake, then striking.” Outside Bush’s immediate circle, there is thus little confidence in Washington that the increase in US forces will achieve sufficiently rapid progress to stem the continuing erosion of public support for the war. National Security Council officials tell us, however, that there is no readily available alternative. The multilateral political approach represented by the Iraq Study Group – originally dismissed, as we reported, by Bush as a “flaming turd” – is now receiving more attention, but here too confidence levels are low. The way forward for the White House is thus uncomfortable. Its plans for extended engagement, including suggestions from General Petraeus, the commander in Iraq for higher force levels are increasingly colliding with domestic political pressures calling for a drawdown of US forces. We continue to believe that we are now entering the “end game” of the US presence there.”
From what I can tell, your take on folks lower down the hierarchy is more gung-ho, as you suggest. But pessimism isn’t limited to Petraeus alone . . .
All what you say may be true, but the murder of a single additional Iraqi is unjustified & a stain on us all.
Well, Col., sometimes it feels like rocket science to me.
Interesting that you should post this thought the day before my (step)son leaves with his Marines for his 2nd tour in Ramadi. As someone who has been suspicious of this war from the very beginning, I have struggled with wanting to take a strong stand against the war, while at the same time not wanting to “give comfort” to the insurgents while expressing my total disgust with BushCo. As strong a Democrat as I am and as much as I want to see an end to American participation in this war, I too fear that at this point there is very little the Dems can do (without suffering total blame for a military disaster) until more of the military–but namely Petraeus–gives a very strong signal that things are getting worse and that this “surge” is not paying off. It sure doesn’t seem to be paying off yet in Ramadi. The grunts haven’t even left and 2 of the senior men on their advance team were shot the other day, one seriously enough that he’s coming home. Great, huh? They’re not even officially “there” yet and already there are casualties. But the word is that things are better “overall.” I guess we’ll see soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray like mad for the safety of the American men and women over there (especially my son and grandson) and for the administration to have a serious change of heart and commit to diplomatic as well as military solutions to this mess they’ve dug us in.
Best is then for the Democrats to do nothing to impede the President’s policy of defeat.
70 percent of the American public has already written off this war. It’s over.
Staying there because some percentage of soldiers still think there is a possibility of “victory” (whatever that is) is ludicrous.
In Vietnam, the U.S. got the same political “deal” in 1975 that it could have gotten in 1968. At what cost?
You’re right about the Democrats and unfavorable political consequences, but for the wrong reason. They need to stop cowering in the face of White House propaganda (i.e., defunding the troops will leave them naked and stranded in the desert) and stop feeding George Bush’s ego driven war.
Get those soldiers out of there. Period. And don’t ever start an unnecessary war again. Write it down Congress – so you don’t forget.
Colonel, I am a little surprised to read this latest post from you. Why should we care what the political cost to the Democrats may be for ending the war? We voted them into office last November for the precise reason of ending the war. There have been enough soldiers coming home without arms and legs, enough young widows, enough American children and enough Iraqi children orphaned by this misbegotten war. Enough hellish lives to be lived with untreated PTSD. How can this enormity ever be vindicated? What I am worried about is that the Dems don’t seem to be doing anything about the Iraq war except stonewalling.
Col. Is the nobility of an honest defeat in Iraq better than a pragmatic retreat?
It seems like both the civilian and military commanders of this fiasco have made horrific mistakes, starting with Bush/Cheney thru Rumsfeld thru Gen, Franks etc etc. One has to wonder at the morality of feeding more lives into this meatgrinder for what end?
You folks don’t get it. I am trying to talk to you about reality, not my sense of honor, or hope for humanity, or civic duty. You need to “sober up” and consider what are the real possibilities.
Am I “nuts?” Of course. Would I be bothering with you otherwise? pl
With the greatest respect to all especialy you, Col. Lang, I think you are all only just beginning to understand the scale of the coming disaster.
Its going to be a disaster in political, military and economic terms and its coming sooner than you think. We are going to attack Iran – and very very soon.
The Democrats can’t stop it because they are “owned” lock stock and barrel by the Israel lobby thanks to a campaign funding system that allows the rich to dominate the American political process.
Let me give you what I know:
1. We have a full blown “demonisation” campaign running at the moment characterising Iran (and Syria) as the source of all the evils of the Middle East and then some. The latest installment will come with the unveiling of Iranian defectors who will sing a variety of prepared songs. Numerous sources.
2. From the Captain of a visiting foriegn warship three weeks ago: “Every American ship that can float is heading for the Persian Gulf.” (Translation, even allowing for hyperbole, its not just the Stennis battlegroup)
3. We have two battlegroups in the Gulf.
4. Debka (not the most reliable source I know) is reporting American aircraft staging from the States through Europe on their way to bases in Bahrain and elsewhere. Confirmation of “unusual activity” at English bases came from an unrelated aviation website although the thread was deleted sometime later.
5. Debka also reported that Iran is conducting air defence exercises this week – confirmed by RIA Novosti.
6. Russia is delaying the supply of nuclear fuel to the Iranian Bushehr reactor citing “payment difficulties” on the Iranian side. The fueling of the rector was due to begin this month. I interpret this to mean that they don’t wish to receive nuclear fallout when the reactor is bombed, if its fuelled and operating.
7. Then we have the “surge’
8. It now appears that Olmaert is going to make concessions to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. I interpret this as an effort to detach them from the fight that is coming.
9. And finally, on & March the Israeli State Department issued a travel advisory:
The key words in it were instructions to Israelis to “Leave immediately” a whole swag of Arab countries (probably a Duh! instruction) but what caught my eye was advice for Israelis to “avoid visiting and leave as soon as possible” Indonesia and Malaysia. Folks, I know those countries, and no one would harm the hair of an Israeli head there at the moment.
So folks, I hope I am wrong and look the silliest guy on the block, but I conclude that the balloon is going to go up and we will bomb Iran starting on the moonless nights later this week.
The consequences of this activity are mind numbing. I will not share my darker thoughts about where this may lead.
Colonel Lang –
When you say “the military still believes it still has a good shot at ‘prevailing’ in Iraq, what does the military define as ‘prevailing?’
As a long term Democrat i have been raising the Col.’s basic issue with party officials and others for the last two years. it is not just the military members but the Republicans utilization of the Democratic efforts to end the war on less than favoraboe terms to the US. My efforts have been to no avail. it is a consideration to be looked at seriously.
“Am I ‘nuts?’ Of course. Would I be bothering with you otherwise?”
well, it’s nice to know we’re not in this alone..takes one to know one! Besides, reality is hard and the absurdity of it hurts the brain.
besides, if you were sane, you’d throw us all over and finish v. 2, wouldn’t you? not that i’m pestering/nudging/nagging you or anything like that….right, Col.?
So when does the war end?
When the military prevails?
When the military constituency gives up? (and how will we know this?)
When Bush is replaced by a Democrat?
I think some of us do get it.
The reality of the situtation is that the Democrats will be blamed for defeat unless they fully fund the war throughout the remainder of the Bush administration.
The next administration will then have the option of choosing to attempt to find a political and diplomatic solutions to the chaos that is Iraq or simply withdrawing.
Regardless of the path chosen by a Democratic administration, the inevitable defeat in Iraq will he hung around the neck of the Democratic Party for the next fifty years.
Gen. Tony McPeak (retired)
Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the (’91)Gulf War:
“This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.”
[from Rolling Stone magazine article entitled “Beyond Quagmire: A panel of experts convened by Rolling Stone agree that the war in Iraq is lost. The only question now is: How bad will the coming explosion be?]
The last time the American people had a chance to do something about Iraq policy was in 2004 during the presidential elections, not in 2006 during the congressional elections.
The presidential candidate who took a principled intelligent stand for an Iraqi withdrawal was Howard Dean, but the corporate media positioned him as being too far left, even though he was in fact a centrist. In 2004, the Democrats chose John Kerry, who was Karl Rove’s dream opposition candidate.
As long as Bush and Cheney are in the executive, they will continue to fight to keep a presence in Iraq. It doesn’t matter if 99.99% of the American people, Barney and Laura are against the war, that is the reality.
legislation which seeks to direct and limit the president and commander in chief of the armed forces as to how he should employ US forces. To attempt to do that, is, I think, of dubious constitutionality.
By comparison to all the dubious & downright stupid things presidents have done over the years, why shouldn’t Congress join in on the fun? We are talking of the murder of innocents, which is more than enough justification for extraordinary means. To paraphrase the famous Canard, what good is a three-branch government if they can’t fight each other like dogs?
The Republicans’ fondest wish is that Congress restrict the President’s ability to run the war through the “power of the purse.” Should the Democrats be dumb enough to put their arms around this tar baby, they deserve whatever sticks to ’em. They will forever be the Party who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
11 March 2007
When I look at the absolute clusterfuck that has befallen Iraq, I fear a great many things. One of them is the destruction of our ground forces. As you only too well know, the USA and USMC are being pushed past the limit. Indeed, a colleague’s son who is a marine in Ramadi has been extended in his current tour, his 2nd in combat. I would pose that leaving Iraq as quickly as possible may very well be in our national interest, that is, if we want to have any kind of military left when this thing is over. As you well know, history is replete with armies being wiped out. A military machine such as ours requires huge sums of fuel, ammunition, food, material supplied on a daily basis by truck convoy from Kuwait. Just what, exactly, would keep our guys from getting cut off from resupply? A massive and coordinated uprising in the south? I don’t know if the enemy could pull it off, but they could still hurt us, badly. As if they weren’t already doing so. Now, I never wanted this war, thought it was a bad idea, and told whoever would listen the same thing, leading to many heated arguments with friends and family. The fact that pretty much everything I said would happen (actually, it turned out much worse) has happened and they are now left feeling like complete suckers doesn’t make me feel any better. Any fool or cretin with a minimum of functioning grey matter occupying their skull would have come to the conclusion that a war with Iraq was probably not a good idea, particularly if GW Bush and the Neoconfederacy of Dunces had to make up a lot of stuff so we could get all righteous and saintly about bringing democracy and freedom to the oppressed citizens of Iraq. Or links toAl queda. Or possessing weapons of mass destruction. Whatever sounded good at the time. No facts, no evidence, no problem. Just get Douglas Fieth to make it up. He’s plenty stupid anyway and wouldn’t know weapons of mass destruction from a handjob. The brass lie, and our soldiers (along with a lot of other folks) die. If what you say is true and the Democrats can’t afford to be seen as the party that ‘lost Iraq,’ this whole thing is going to end very badly. In other words, are we going to have to get our ass kicked (images of American contractors fighting each other for the last helicopter out of the green zone come to mind) before we call it quits there and go home? I really, really hope it does not come to that.
So now we got us lied into war with Iraq, as well as the continuing clusterfuck in Afghanistan, and maybe some kind of total and complete clusterfuck with Iran, and perhaps, you can understand, just how disappointed I am with the current regime, running things in our name as citizens of an (allegedly) democratic republic. As to your mental status, I would say you are no more nuts than any of us. However, to pose a question, just how can any one expect to stay sane under the reign of George W Bush?
Your most humble servant,
What is and isn’t real?
The USA is fighting two wars of occupation. Wars that were lost as soon as a viable resistance formed; neo-colonial wars of attrition. Wars that can only be won with millions of boots on the ground and a political strategy that bribes secular and moderate Muslims to support American control of the Middle East oil fields. Without the troops and bribes, all the USA is doing is creating enemies who will seek retribution for generations to come. The only alternative is to withdraw and try to contain the damage.
I don’t know today’s Army. They are either in Iraq or Afghanistan or going there. The toll has to be tremendous. I do know from Vietnam the guilt and grief of knowing those who died and were maimed for nothing. It is hard to face the truth. Today’s soldiers will have to face it or they will spin off into denial and delusions.
Here’s a real possibility: if Bush maintains a military presence in Iraq knowing full well that he doesn’t have the funding to sustain it, then whatever military disaster might happen because of that would be entirely on HIS head, as commander in chief. A defunding resolution will obviously allot enough money for the troops to evacuate themselves safely. This “defunding the war will hurt the troops” schlock is nothing more than a political smoke screen by Bush another of his lame attempts to prop up his vanity through human sacrifice.
This has been Bush’s war from start to finish and the short term and long term postmortems will clearly pin the blame of losing Iraq on Bush’s shoulders. The polls already indicate this, people are sick of this war, they think it was a mistake, and they overwhelmingly condemn Bush’s conduct of the war. The only political consequences that the Dems need fear is that they, even now, are too timid to take meaningful action. Why should anyone vote for the Dems when they can’t get anything done at all, even with the force of popular opinion behind them?
And if we’re talking constitution, we should remember that Congress’s power of the purse was *absolutely* intended to be a check on the president’s ability to fight wars. Washington himself warned against the dangers of standing armies, and when the constitution was drafted the army was so tiny that the money needed to raise a real army to start a war was another check the Congress had, in addition to the sole power to declare wars. The idea that the president is the beginning and end of war fighting authority is a distinctly modern notion, gradually expanded during the imperial presidencies since T.R. The framers of the constitution did not intend to crown kings.
And why should we listen to the military on policy questions? Col. Lang has correctly stated in the past that the generals are not there to make policy, only to figure out a way to carry out the policies that are given them. Why should we expect a general to contradict Bush, especially with kool-aid sloshing throughout the Pentagon. Further more, they are completely allergic to admitting defeat, no matter how clearly hopeless the situation is. The hand-picked top generals will declare this war unwinnable sometime between when Bush says so and when hell freezes over. That doesn’t mean that the war wasn’t lost years before.
Also, I know that there is a LOT of private grumbling about this war that will never be voiced publicly because the military does not feel that that is their place. All the less reason to use official military opinions to determine when to quit.
Ultimately, the military has shown over and over again that it clearly has no idea what it’s doing in Iraq, so to take them seriously when they say they can still “win” is by no means courting reality.
No Col. Lane, Sadly what you say is not rocket science.
I’m afraid though that one of the “real possibilies” is that things are going to get much much worse before the Democrats can intervene without any political cost.
…..And I think that they are about to do so for the reasons I enumerated.
God help us all.
Lesson from the past. the difference between Vietnam and Irak is we have the experience of the Vietnam quagmire to draw from and plenty of good Generals giving us advice about Dumbya’s “strategic blunder.”
<http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=0078” rel=”nofollow”>Gen. William Odom March 2006 Iraq through the prism of Vietnam
” The wind-down in Vietnam actually started in Johnson’s last year in office, but Richard Nixon implemented it (taking his time doing so). Rather than a rapid pullout, he pursued two tactics. The first was turning the war over to South Vietnam’s military so that U.S. forces could withdraw. By 1972 most of them were gone. Second, negotiations in Paris through Soviet intermediaries with the North Vietnamese began. Both were based on transparently false assumptions.
The key problem in South Vietnam had always been achieving a political consolidation among anti-Viet Cong elites. It was not building effective military and police forces. In fact, as South Vietnamese military units became more effective, their commanders competed aggressively for political power, insuring a weak dictatorial regime in Saigon.
The assumptions about the Paris peace talks were no less illusory. Their designer, Henry Kissinger, believed that Moscow would “help” the United States reach a settlement short of total capitulation. In fact, by the late 1960s, the war was not only serving Soviet purposes against China, but also weakening NATO, hurting the U.S. currency in the international exchange rates, and making the charge of “imperialism” believable to citizens in many countries allied to the United States. Thus Soviet leaders had no objective reason to help the United States find a face-saving exodus. The deeper into “the big muddy” in Vietnam went the United States, the better for the Soviet Union… ”
A useful step might be for Congress to quarantine the current war by passing a resolution requiring the administration to seek fresh congressional approval before launching any new military initiatives, such as an attack on Iran.
Such an escalation would, I fear, be profoundly dangerous since it — and the reactions that followed — could truly set America on an irreversible course, one where rights and wrongs and commonsense were all consigned to the “we don’t have time for that now” basket.
Ruling it out could at least leave open the possibility for a managed disengagement from Iraq and some ultimately more constructive resolution.
“You folks don’t get it. I am trying to talk to you about reality, not my sense of honor, or hope for humanity, or civic duty. You need to “sober up” and consider what are the real possibilities.”
I think you are straight telling it like it is. Still, I think the dem.s need to buck up, do what has to be done and let the chips fall where they may.
That being said, their approach to date has been amateur and foolish (for the reasons you have outlined).
There must be a better way, a way to save face, an acceptable excuse. Perhaps a revitalized effort by the Taliban/A.Q. this spring might provide a very good reason to shift resources away from Iraq and to Afghanistan; a fight that is worth the effort and cost. Especially if there are new threats from Bin Laden and crew (where is the Democrats version of the Office of Special Plans – cooked intel and all?).
Ick. I hate to think this way, but I agree with Col. Lang, on all points except the last.
I agree that “- a national debate over foreign policy to include…” is the first priority.
I was very much against this war from before the invasion and it makes me sick to contemplate it, but… the cold hard fact is that Bush and Cheney have the constitutional perogative re the only levers that can salvage a good chance of a not-awful outcome. And those levers do not concern troop levels or details of the surge/long term escalation strategy. Those levers concern comprehensive negotiations with on Middle East, including Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and all parties in Iraq. And a total rethink of their approach to the MidEast. No way Congress can change that.
Bush/Cheeny won’t do it, and cannot be forced to do it.
So, best Democrats can do is press ahead and formulate a saner foreign policy vision that they can unite behind after Bush/Cheney are gone. In two years, the country will a choice have between that and three GOP “me too” militaristic Bushniks.
And the country needs to prominent voices to advocate for a saner US foreign policy, as opposed to the neocon madness.
I do questions Col Lang’s assertion that the majority of US military think that the Bush approach has a chance of accomplishing anything. I have seen several respectable opinion polls of US troops saying that the majority do not think it will work. And certainly, most of the retired military brass who are speaking out, do not talk as though victory is possible with Bush/Cheney strategy or tactics.
So, until Col. Lang is more precise about who this group is, how big it is and what it thinks, and gives some emprical evidence about it, I remain skeptical about his last point.
The thought that this mess has to go on being run by incompetents (and perhaps criminals) sickens me, but they control the crucial levers of foreign policy that can help us for the next 21.5 months -that is how the country’s foreign policy works.
I think the GOP is sunk for 2008, regardless of what the Democrats do. If the ‘surge’ plan is really a cover or excuse for another five or ten years of +160,000 troops, that will mean another cynical bad faith Bush Cheney lie the voters will have to swallow. And maybe there will be another military medicine scandal about cynically manipulating disability and wound recovery status to troops, so Bush/Cheney can make their long term escalation plan work by sending injured troops back to Iraq.
That kind of rancid bad faith is what Bush and Cheney will be leaving the GOP holding. The Democrats will have to really stretch to outdo that. So, if Democrats are afraid or do not have the vision to challange Bush/Cheney on the fundamentals issues involved, then the country will go into next election in a very disillusioned and bad mood with two bankrupt and discredited major parties. That’s what I think.
The Democrats face exactly the dilemma that PL points out.
The activist element of the Democratic party put Iraq on the map as a campaign agenda during the last election. The Democratic party leadership were reluctant proponents of Iraq as a campaign lynchpin. Now this segment as well as a majority of the American public want out of Iraq, however they do not want the troops “defunded”.
Those Democrats with a sense of history remember Vietnam and how the military became Republican in its aftermath.
So caught between a rock and a hard place what will they do? Muddle of course.
IMO, the best that they can do would be to provide full funding of training, equipment and medical care while at the same time making it clear there is no Congressional authorization for escalating the war into Iran. Then stepping on the gas into investigating and publicizing the decision making to war and the conduct of the war from war profiteering to conditions for troops to readiness of the military to treatment of detainees.
What victory? Would like someone to answer this question that has been asked so many times.
The Army Is Ordering Injured Troops To Go To Iraq
Sun Mar 11, 2007
The outrage continues…..
The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq
At Fort Benning, soldiers who were classified as medically unfit to fight are now being sent to war. Is this an isolated incident or a trend?
By Mark Benjamin
March 11, 2007 | FORT BENNING, Ga. — “This is not right,” said Master Sgt. Ronald Jenkins, who has been ordered to Iraq even though he has a spine problem that doctors say would be damaged further by heavy Army protective gear. “This whole thing is about taking care of soldiers,” he said angrily. “If you are fit to fight you are fit to fight. If you are not fit to fight, then you are not fit to fight.”
As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.
I’ve been too tired and just fed the f**k up, but I saw this and wanted you all to know.
Jenkins, who is still in Georgia, thinks doctors are helping to send hurt soldiers like him to Iraq to make units going there appear to be at full strength. “This is about the numbers,” he said flatly.
That is what worries Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, who has long been concerned that the military was pressing injured troops into Iraq. “Did they send anybody down range that cannot wear a helmet, that cannot wear body armor?” Robinson asked rhetorically. “Well that is wrong. It is a war zone.”
Eight soldiers who were at the Feb. 15 meeting say they were summoned to the troop medical clinic at 6:30 in the morning and lined up to meet with division surgeon Lt. Col. George Appenzeller, who had arrived from Fort Stewart, Ga., and Capt. Aaron K. Starbuck, brigade surgeon at Fort Benning. The soldiers described having a cursory discussion of their profiles, with no physical exam or extensive review of medical files. They say Appenzeller and Starbuck seemed focused on downplaying their physical problems.
a classic sign of a broken military when invalids and the medically unfit are pressed into service.
We knew it would come to this, no?
There’s no way in hell Congress is going to pass a draft.
This is about making sure that those who need care will die so the government doesn’t have to provide it.
underestimating the economic costs of the war Shooting the messenger
Linda J. Bilmes, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University, calls her latest paper “pretty dry.” That hasn’t prevented it from riling high-ranking Pentagon officials — who called her and her dean to complain about her work. When they questioned her sources of material, they ran into a bit of a problem: She did most of her research with data on federal Web sites. So what did the Pentagon do? It changed the Web sites, and now continues to trash her research.
The story begins with a paper Bilmes wrote last year with Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor and Nobel laureate in economics. In their study, they found that the Bush administration has seriously underestimated the economic costs of the war in Iraq. After the study was publicized, Bilmes was approached by some experts on veterans’ benefits who said that one ost of the war hadn’t received enough attention in their work (or from the government): the costs of caring for veterans injured in the conflict.
The central argument of the new Bilmes paper is that so many soldiers are being injured that the
costs of caring for them over their lifetimes is likely to be $350 billion, or up to twice that, depending on how long the war lasts. The high cost is the result of huge advances in military medicine that have greatly reduced the chances that a soldier injured in Iraq will die. As a result, the ratio of injuries to deaths — 16:1 by her estimate — is higher than in any other war in U.S. history. (By comparison, in Vietnam the ratio was 2.8:1 and in World War II the ratio was 1.6:1.)
Swinging from pessimist to optimist, the political situation could change dramatically later today with Chuck Hagel announcing his candidacy.
At the moment Bushco are able to paint all war opposers as leftwing Democrats, thus partially stopping the antiwar onslaught of ALL Democrats.
Now a major threat comes from the Right. So far, what with their sexual and social and religious flaws, Republican candidates have seemed a pretty sorry bunch. But something like 40% of Republicans are antiwar.
If a two front war is opened on the Neo-Cons and Bush – and the anti-patriotic card is far more difficult to play against Hagel – things could get far more interesting.
The rightwing libertarian Justin Raimondo argues this case on:
When Iraq was invaded, I said, “The Iran-Iraq war is not over, and the United States has just come in on the side of Iran.”
Events have proved me correct.
Now, our supine and hopelessly corrupt Sunni allies around the Middle East, who stood aside and permitted this folly (at the behest of Israel), have finally woken up and started making noises that a greater Iran spreading over Iran and much of Iraq, and no friend to their grotesque regimes, is not the outcome they desire.
And George Bush, whose peanut brain couldn’t tell a Sunni from Sonny Bono, has finally begun to wake up too.
So, now we have an American military tilting away from the Shiites and passively toward the Sunni’s.
In the first place, that is a treasonous betrayal of the dead American soldiers killed by Sunni’s in the first phase of the war. Where is their constituency? Who represents the dead American soldiers whose lives were lost defeating the Sunni criminals who ruled Iraq?
In the second, the game is over. We have already created a new Middle East. Shall we join Israel in committing war crimes and bomb civilians and civilian infrastructure in Iran? We can, but it won’t do any good. As Israel has found out, it will do harm.
The United States has created Greater Iran. Now, it must negotiate. Guns won’t work any more.
And, finally, who is our opponent? The Sunni’s? The Shiites? Iran? Terrorists? The observation that our opponent is undefeated seems accurate, but I want to know who our opponent is.
I honestly can’t see that Democrats won’t be blamed for losing the war, no matter how it happens. And if they don’t make a sincere effort to end the war they will be blamed by the people who voted for them in 2006, expecting them to make a sincere effort.
So… damned if you do, damned if you don’t, might as well try and stop it and if the military winds up hating Democrats, well, it has for the last thirty odd years. Plus ca change.
“I don’t know today’s Army. They are either in Iraq or Afghanistan or going there. The toll has to be tremendous. I do know from Vietnam the guilt and grief of knowing those who died and were maimed for nothing. It is hard to face the truth. Today’s soldiers will have to face it or they will spin off into denial and delusions.” VV
There is a profound truth in what you wrote above. All combat men know the awful truth of what these peope will live with and you are right. “Survivor’s guilt” is the worst. pl
Let’s see some stats about soldier attitudes about Iraq. pl
we bring back our dead and no longer bury them overseas but the epitaph at Thermopylae (Frank Miller’s comic book version faithful adaption even to the body pierced 9 foot Xerxes now playing at the movies as The 300) encapsulates the forlorn sacrifice.
Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band,
Here lie in death, remembering her command.
Marshall Erich von Manstein
Lost Victories book rendition
Other memorable lines from Thermopylae
Then Xerxes asked him more forcefully to surrender their arms. To this Leonidas gave his noted answer:
(pronounced: /molɔːn labe/),
meaning “Come take them”.
I guess Bush tried to ape him w/ “Bring it On.” but the context was different. We invaded a country that did not threaten us nor desired war w/ us or whereas the Lacedomnians were indeed invaded and threatened.
Because the Iraq war was above all other things a ploy by the Republican Party to maintain power in the United States for the next hundred years, one of the overriding precepts of that war has been to fight it on the cheap.
The central element of that strategy was to convince the American public that the good times were rolling no matter how gruesome the war in Iraq might become.
And the key to keeping the good times rolling was low interest rates.
Alan Greenspan provided the low interest rates.
Like every other element of the “war on the cheap” strategy, low interest rates are about to explode in the face of the Bush Administration.
There will be another constituency heard from in the very near future: the constituency of people in the US who have lost their homes due to fraudulent lending practices.
We cannot afford to continue the war in Iraq. We do not have the military resources and we do not have the financial resources.
Countries end wars. DeGaulle was reviled for ending the occupation of Algeria, and an attempt was made on his life (by the military constituency). But he had correctly read the desire of the French people. And France is a democracy.
Before you say that the French are a nation of cowards please recall that they made a far greater commitment to Algeria than we have made to Iraq. So, if the French are a nation of cowards, then if we ever withdraw from Iraq, we will be a nation of cowards too.
Colonel, reading your posts is often like trying to read entrails (although I notice that I continue to read!) That said, I think I now have an inkling of what you were saying in your post. And unfortunately, for our country, I believe you are right — the Democrats of course will not find their spine and do the right thing. If the Dems had bothered to put up a political opposition over the past 6 years we would not be where we are today. Bush could only do what he has done with Democrats enabling, and not otherwise. That is the reality you speak of Colonel? With the Dems using/misusing soldierly sentiments to carry on regardless? Are we looking at ‘into the valley of death rode the six hundred’?
Military Times 2006 (November) poll, post-election but pre-surge:
Info on poll methodology
Article on poll results
The military constituency’s chain of command leads to the President. The military exists to execute policy. It is a tool of foreign policy and its unquestioned loyalty to country and duty are such that we should expect no less than its insistence on succeeding in its mission. Does the military constituency want to quit the war? You might as well ask a hammer how it feels about sawing wood. Regard for the military constituency is really about Democrats addressing the war at the appropriate level. They must join the debate in the realm of foreign policy and not at the level of managing bits and pieces of the war. They must not take the bait that Republicans started throwing at them before the last election, demanding that congressional candidates put forth their plans for dealing with the war in Iraq. The GOP is trying to off-load a Republican president’s responsibility to deal with the mess he has made. It is perfectly legitimate and altogether proper for the congress to say to the executive, “We don’t like that policy. Our constituents don’t like that policy. Try again.” Pecking away at Bush’s ability to prosecute the war will only make the Democrats look like a bunch of angry, wet hens. Keep the focus on his failed and failing policy. Keep exposing what is really going on. Nothing must be allowed to distract our attention from that policy, its actual consequences and those who are responsible for it. No one of conscience wants to be responsible for asking that last soldier to die for a mistake, but ill-considered, well-meaning meddling with the military’s ability to do the job still required by the policy in effect may very well get a lot more people needlessly killed or maimed before that last unfortunate soul.
Not sure if you are familiar with it, but the Toronto Star is one of the last bastions of liberal policy (mushy center-left in Canada, well left of American Democrats). There is no story they would not spin to their viewpoint, like an exact opposite of Fox News in outlook, but little different in method.
The right-wing media may well try to portray any Democratic action on the Iraq file through the lens of “history will hold them at least partially responsible for whatever might happen there”. I don’t see most ordinary Americans buying into such a revisionist mythology- they can see clearly 98% of the the blame should be placed on the neo-cons and the Republican Party where it belongs. This was evident in the outcome of the November election.
The right-wing media kool-aid has lost its potency, only the remaining true believers (I would peg at about 25-30% of the population)are still onboard with the Bush Crusade. The rest want the troops out of Iraq and the sooner the better, consequences of that be damned.
What you describe would no doubt be a big part of Rove’s et al “talking points” in a future election compaign. Whether a majority of voters would buy it, despite Fox News best spin, is very much in doubt.
After 5 years in Iraq, the right-wing mantra has faded to an incoherent mumble, and with Bush still driving the bus off the cliff edge with his eyes closed, I could predict a Deomocratic President and a substantial increase in Democratic numbers in both House and Senate in ’08. The right-wing has only token shreds of credibility left to cling to, the simple fact that they have led the USA over the edge and deep into the abyss is self-evident to most.
Trying to shift the blame to “anywhere but us” sounds like one of the last desperate acts before total defeat, classic “deck chair re-arrangement” and reality denial while the ship rapidly sinks. The number of impartial military analyst’s who believe today the “military opinion that they still “have a shot”” under the present circumstances could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand without using too many fingers IMHO, Fox “analysts” not withstanding.
An almost sure-fire strategy for the Democrats to sweep the next election is to continue paying out the rope to the Bushies, while blaming the Constitution for preventing restraining attempts. I can visualise the election speeches now: “It is the very structure of our government that prevented us from forcing Bush to listen to reason and do the right thing, despite our best efforts.” Cynical, yes.
There seems little doubt GWB will be recorded by impartial historians as the most incompetent President in American history.
Clearly you have touched a hot button here, with well over 50 responses in 24 hours.
This was a year ago, but surely even more want war ended by now
” released feb 26, 2006
U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006
Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment
An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows. ”
U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006
* Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
* While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
* Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
* Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
* Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
* Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment
Down on the war
Poll: More troops unhappy with Bush’s course in Iraq
– Only 35 percent said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved.
– 50 percent believe success in Iraq is likely, down from 83 percent in 2004.
– 38 percent believe the United States should send more troops to Iraq. 39 percent believe we should maintain current levels or reduce the number of troops, including 13 percent who support complete withdrawal.
– 72 percent believe the military is “stretched too thin to be effective.”
– 47 percent disagree with President Bush’s mantra that the war in Iraq is part of the war against terrorism, while the same percentage agree.
– Only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
– 52 percent approve of the overall job President Bush is doing, down from 71 percent in 2004.
– 63 percent say the senior military leadership has the best interests of the troops at heart. That number is lower from President Bush (48 percent) and lower still for civilian military leadership (32 percent) and Congress (23 percent).
90% felt the war was retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over! What are they feeding these guys?
Only 50% felt that success was likely.
72% believe the military is stretched too thin to be effective
Less than half, 41% believe we should have gone into Iraq in the first place.
Col. Lang: I would like to draw your attention and that of all interested readers to a recent interview with Lt. Col Karen Kwiatkowski, USAF (ret) at
She worked in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans during the run-up to the Iraq war, and has since become a fierce and outspoken critic of the politicizing of intelligence. She has a lot of interesting things to say, but there was very little I hadn’t heard before until p. 3 of the transcript:
“Congress doesn’t like being lied to. However, many in Congress, and certainly in this administration agree, and this is Democrats and Republicans, like the idea that we have gone into Iraq, we have built four mega bases, they are complete. Most of the money we gave to Halliburton was for construction and completion of these bases. We have probably, of the 150,000, 160,000 troops we have in Iraq probably 110,000 of those folks are associated with one of those four mega bases. Safely ensconced behind acres and acres of concrete. To operate there indefinitely, no matter what happens in Baghdad, no matter who takes over, no matter if the country splits into three pieces or it stays one. No matter what happens, we have those mega bases, and there’s many in Congress and certainly in this administration, Republican and Democrat alike that really like that. Part of the reason I think that we went into Iraq was to reestablish a stronger foothold than we had in Saudi Arabia, but also a more economical, a more flexible, in terms of who we want to hit. If you want to hit Syria, can you do it from Iraq? Of course you can. And now you can do it from bases that will support any type of airplane you want, any number of troops in barracks. I mean we can do things from Iraq. And this is what they wanted. So, yeah, we don’t like being lied to. But quite frankly, many people in the Congress, and certainly this administration, when they call Iraq a success, they mean it, and this is why.”
I have seen passing references to the building of permanent bases in Iraq, but this is the first time I’ve seen the matter–and its implications–addressed head-on. It sounds like we now have four installations in Iraq like Subic Bay or Cam Ranh Bay. Can anyone tell more about what’s going on with this? Would “withdrawal” mean we abandon these, or just withdraw into their confines? If what Kwiatkowski says is true, it sheds light, for me at least, on Cheney’s otherwise inexplicable cheerfulness and Bush’s insouciance about leaving Iraq to his successor.
How should the Democrats handle the Iraq situation? A baffling question. Clearly, the war has become unpopular with the electorate, and some (at least symbolic) Democratic opposition is expected. But the only real action would be to cut funding. THAT has bad idea written all over it. Cutting funding would appear to weaken the war effort…and would consequently result in political disaster (eternal vilification for undermining an otherwise “winnable” enterprise).
The “stab in the back” is one of the most pernicious, and intractable,of phenomena known to man. And that is so for a simple reason: it gives meaning to the unacceptable. ‘Yes, that is why we lost. The cowardly and ignorant home front (Jodie,as they were often called in ‘my war’) quit on us. We did not lose’. Ok fine, whatever. It shields us/them from hard truths: Empires overreach. Inevitably. Maybe for good causes…may be for not so good causes. The governing structure of the US, both civilian and military fucked up. Rejected solid arguments with loud music, bumper stickers slogans, power point bullet answers, and flag waving. I reflect on Nietzsche’s saying, “how good bad music and reasons sound when one marches against an enemy” Is it any wonder that back seat drivers reach for the wheel when they conclude that the persons driving the car are going off a cliff? And yes, as other readers have pointed out here, whatever happens, whatever inglorious end is in store for the nation and for the military….the anti-war crowd will be blamed.
“When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.”
Seems to be high support for more troops being put in everywhere.
80% are pessimistic about the Iraqi military standing up within three years. About the same think the US will need to stay at least for 3 more years to achieve its goals, a hefty and probably shrewd 23% more than a decade.
I’d really wonder what they think those goals are? The Decider is vague and decidedly shifty on that; spastically flip flopping from one stated objective to the next.
More power to them but I’m getting an increasing impression of a military drifting rudderless down a large river in Egypt.
I was looking for some polling data on post-Tet military attitudes to Vietnam; I suspect like the civilian figures from the period they were much more positive. Came up dry.
I was alarmed by the apparently significant info you gave on an Israeli travel advisory regarding Malasia and Indonesia, so I looked at the Israeli site you mentioned. However, I could find no mention of those two countries. Do you have a correction to the URL, or is this a big error?
I want to make sure that everyone understands that is the attitude of enlisted people that I am primarily concerned with.
It is not that I think that the military should make decision for the country concerning whether or not to continue a fight. What I am saying is that the political penalty that the Democrats (or Republicans) will pay for giving up on Iraq if the troops have not is that a “stab in the back” legend will be born that will have great strength and persistance. pl
I had lunch today with a journalist friend who has covered 17 wars over a period of 50 years. He can’t recall soldiers ever saying ”I want us all to give up and go home now.” That includes the post-TeT period in VN. The statistics I have seen so far indicate that the troops have figured out that “we wuz robbed” into this and it has not been well handled. With the exception of the Zogby December poll(which I am wary of) I don’t see a question that says, “Shall we all leave now?” Pl
Freeman, Re: Israel travel advisories: You may have to go through the main page then search on the word “travel” to find the link to it.
Section 2 of the warnings refers to “Other Countries”. Warnings 5 and 6 of this section are for Malaysia and Indonesia, and the recommendation is “Avoid visiting and leave country as soon as possible.”
This is bizarre, unless the Ministry knows something we don’t know.
“Israeli travel advisory regarding Malasia and Indonesia”
See no. 5 and 6 under “Other Countries”.
“With the exception of the Zogby December poll(which I am wary of) I don’t see a question that says, ‘Shall we all leave now?'”
Question # 13 of the 11/06 Military Times poll asks, “We currently have 145,000 troops in Iraq and Kuwait. How many troops do you think we should have there?”
13% of the respondents answered “0” which may well reflect a certain number of “leave nows”.
I, too, have lived with VV’s “profound truth” since the Sixties, and thank you both for sharing it.
Hoa Binh, tat ca.
The dogged 23% above are only incorrect about Iraq being the theater they’ll be deployed in for another decade or more. Iraq is the acorn from which a great sacrificial oak may grow.
The British military has been dropping heavy hints that Iraq is a waste of resources and we if we don’t transfer our attention to our proxy war with Pakistan in the Pushtun lands that will be lost as well.
Re-staging Rourke’s Drift in Basra has certainly lost its appeal but this is disingenuous General’s politics; what is brewing in the land of the two rivers calls for redeployment in the region and ruthless abandonment of previous objectives. In reality no one is going home.
In contrast the US military seems wedded to a romantic illusion of an Iraqi victory; a dolchstoßlegende almost inevitable.
I hesitate to compare them to the Wagner addled German military in 1919; but they have far better reason to feel aggrieved. Millions of Germans were being systematically starved to death by the Royal Navy back then. In contrast having whole heartedly endorsed this war America surfers from an addictive demand for elite tax breaks and a spoilt fondness for cheap gas that has direct future policy consequences. That would make me rather bitter looking at the casualty figures.
Perhaps not many of us saw Dennis Ross on Australian ABC last night:
DENNIS ROSS: It is true (the Iranians are) not unhappy to see the United States caught and trapped as it were, within Iraq. But they also have to be realistic. The United States is not going to stay in Iraq forever. Now, how the United States chooses to get out of Iraq can affect Iranian interests. In a strange and paradoxical way, we keep the lid on it. We make Iraq, in effect, safe enough for everybody to avoid making hard choices, both those within Iraq and all the neighbours as well.
Now, the fact of the matter is we have leverage on the Iranians. If we chose to get out in a way that could leave things very uncomfortable for them, they have a problem. If we chose to get out in a way in which Iraq itself could convulse, they have a problem. They face the prospect of millions of refugees. They face the prospect of every one of the neighbours competing to carve out their own niche of influence. They face the likelihood that Iraq could become a platform for attacks of terrorism against them, which by the way, existed before. So the point here is that they can’t be indifferent to how events in Iraq unfold. If they bank on the United States staying there, in a situation where we, in a sense, tie ourselves down, constrain what we can do, that would be one thing, but that would be a foolish bet on their part.
TONY JONES: Let me ask you this, how likely is it that the civil war in Iraq could spread and become a wider regional conflict?
DENNIS ROSS: It could, if in fact we were to precipitously get out. I’m not in favour of a precipitous American withdrawal. The fact is we went in there, we assumed certain responsibilities. One responsibility is not simply to leave and ensure that you create a kind of convulsion, where every one of the neighbours has to intervene, where they’re all competing because they are afraid of the consequence of not competing, where what happens on the inside radiates outward. We don’t have an interest in that but the irony is that neither do the Iranians. Here you can find one area where there’s a convergence of interest. By the way, not just between us and the Iranians on Iraq but all the neighbours.
I would submit that the neighbours of Iraq will find it very difficult to agree on what they want for Iraq but they won’t find it so difficult to agree on what they fear in Iraq and the negotiation that I would envision is one that focuses more on creating the limits, a set of agreements on what everyone will do or not do. I wish it would be possible to convince every one of the neighbours to use their influence with the sectarian groups with whom they have a relationship, as a way of trying to forge national reconciliation. That would be the best outcome.
Perhaps this should rightly go in The Athenaeum but lately the last quatrain of this has some poignancy for me.
XXV – THE ORACLES
‘Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain
When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled,
And mute’s the midland navel-stone beside the singing fountain,
And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.
I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking,
The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain;
And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking
That she and I should surely die and never live again.
Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it;
But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more.
‘Tis true there’s better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it;
And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.
The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air,
And he that stands will die for nought, and home there’s no returning.
The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.
Last Poems by A. E. Housman
No matter how Iraq plays out for the Americans, I’m convinced that it will be almost impossible for another American president to wage another overseas war unless there is a spectacular terrorist attack greater than 9/11.
There are many problems:
— The very high cost for taking care of the wounded, which will last more than 50 years
— The very high percentage (more than 30%) of vets who suffer some kind of mental disorders from the conflict
This means that there will be a very high percentage of vets who will not be able to hold meaningful jobs, military or civilian and will require on welfare for the rest of their lives.
Most Americans would just prefer to forget this war, and pin the blame on Bush.
One can also expect a significant number of murder/suicide incidents from these vets in coming years.
I have believed that the goal of al-Qaeda has not been to defeat the US militarily (that would be impossible), but to get the US in a financial hole so great that the country’s economy and overseas empire would eventually collapse under the weight of the financial burden. I believe that the American people and Bush administration have played right into that trap.
The social costs and monetary costs of the war in Iraq are huge, and will easily top $2 trillion. It is a gift that just keeps on giving, incidents like those mentioned above will constantly remind Americans of this overseas adventure. That is why short of a major terrorist incident, it would be very difficult for any upcoming administration to make the case for war.
Going against this, will be a declining standard of living in the US, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are elected as president. There will be a great temptation to create “incidents” to divert people away from their own economic misery, and placing the blame on terrorists.
Now, would a US administration manufacture domestic terrorism incidents to create the pretext for war?
That is another story. The Bush administration has shown us through Cheney, Rumsfeld and Arturo Gonzales that there is very little that they will not do for political reasons.
It is not a big step beyond that to kill Americans en masse to justify a political goal.
Much of this discussion (and in truth any dissussion of Iraq) brings to mind the old saw about the futility of cursing a rainstorm. If you can’t stand getting wet, either get an umbrella or get out of the rain.
Sorry to seem so pessimistic, but can’t say that I see any useful umbrellas for the Democrats, our military or particularly the Iraqis in this particular storm. There are however alot of useful “pretend umbrellas” (troop surges, further Iraqi military and police training, sanctions and threats against, Iran, Syria, whomever, etc., etc.) that the Bush administration and the Neocons will continue to unveil and that our military will continue to support, being the good soldiers that they are.
And we certainly have seen this pattern before – in Vietnam. Thought we learned something there though…..?
I’m of the opinion that the a great majority of the 90% of the troops who responded that they felt the war in Iraq was a reprisal for Saddam’s complicity in 9/11 will have to rely on believing the “stabbed in the back” legend or “Dolchstosslegende” that will undoubtably arise. This is NOT a slap at the soldiers. It’s a statement regarding human nature. They believed the lie. They paid dearly and willingly because they believed the lie. It is very, very difficult for any human, much less someone who has seen, done and felt so very much to rationalize how they could have been wrong or misled, either point forcing the individual to assume personal responsibility for the events that followed. Human nature being what it is allows that same person to blame someone else much more easily.
I think I understand your “Point” Colonial..since you are an “Expienced” Viet Nam Combat Vet…and a Good Commanding officer who respects the “Troops” and Understands them…since you “Are One”..
I also appreciate comments here by others..All Interesting to Read…
My Brother in Law had half his facwe damaged..(Lost an Eye) and got a steel plate in his Head from an “IED” in Viet nam..he also fought during Tent..
After getting a glass eye and recovering from some of his injurys…he went back to Nam..
When Later..I asked him why…He said “Thats where my TEAM was..”..and “That was the War we had Going ON..”
The Military Mind is a TEAM MIND..Discliplined..
They have no choice in where they are told to go to Combat or go do thier JOB…They are the Finest in the World..They OBEY Orders and do thier Job..
They have done a good job in Iraq..considering the “Mission” and Manpower they were given to work with..
The Burden on them and thier familys Tremendous..being recycled on Tour after tour while thier Loved Ones go through all that stress and HARDSHIP..
The “WHYS” are a seperate Issue from HOW Our military and Troops are Performing..”ABOVE & BEYOND.”.by Our Troops..As usual..
A good Warrior is a GOOD Warrior.. They will always perform..and they will always have a HO~RAH
attitude about thier Job..and supporting and honoring thier Comrads..Living and DEAD..
COMBAT does that to People..
They may suspect why they got there..thats seperate from doing thier Mission..
They May have to Face REALITY ..when they return..or when we withdraw..or when future Political and global Events in the Midddle East make Our troops wonder if they were Pawns..Cannon (IED) Fodder..in some giant scheme that was not really in the Best interest in the United states..
But were the result of some other PLAN..
Our Troops are doing thier Job..They probably have 12-18 months to Complete thier Assigned “MISSION”..since nothing is really “Changing” in that regard..Just alot of TALK..
The Bush/Cheney Corporation will Move On..to what ever is being set up In Riyad..
And..Like Viet Nam..we Americans and Veterans will have to Clean up the Mess..Try to get our government back under control..Find ways to Solve Many complex Domestic issues..Rebuild Our military..try to solve our Hugh DEBT Problems..since Our National WEALTH Paid for eeverything the Neo cons did..
And..Like Post Viet Nam..we will all be Examining Our CONSCIENCES..
President Bush Once tryed to explain “Fool Me Once..Fool Me Twice and SHAME on someboy” ..Principal..
he handled that about as well as he handled the Presidency and being commander in Chief..
I think there should NEVER be a Third time..and America has Had enough of “FOOLS & BEING FOOLED..”
Thank a Vet..and remember Our POWS..
May we NEVER FORGET..
Mr Marlowe says-
“The very high percentage (more than 30%) of vets who suffer some kind of mental disorders from the conflict
This means that there will be a very high percentage of vets who will not be able to hold meaningful jobs, military or civilian and will require on welfare for the rest of their lives.
One can also expect a significant number of murder/suicide incidents from these vets in coming years.”
BS is all I can say. The great majority of these vets will be better citizens than you, Mr Marlowe – and better citizens than the average American regardless of socio-economic status and political party. Of course Hollywood and idiots like you will try to convince us all otherwise.
Great thoughts and comments on reality – something most of us have occassionally escaped due to our outrage. Glad to read your concern is the enlisted corps, as a son and grandson of its former members.
I’m less certain of Zanibar’s comment, “Those Democrats with a sense of history remember Vietnam and how the military became Republican in its aftermath.” Undoubtedly the officer corps could have been a branch of the republican party after Vietnam, (though look at the modern hypocrisy of how few recent political leaders meaningfully served when they had the opportunity). However the enlisted corps was and is far, far more diverse than the officer corps. Further, the enlisted corps has a much stronger tradition of identifying bullshit when they see it. I suspect that the enlisted corps was and is too self-respecting to cowtow too strongly to either party. (Though President Clinton did not help his party with “don’t ask” – but now that is also a default policy of a republican president.)
There are good thoughts throughout the thread to minimize the “stab in the back” and “survivors’ guilt” – if only those thoughts will be put into acts.
Col, I think that it is commendable that so many of our troops are still gung-ho, despite being sent to war on a lie, and then forced to fight it on the cheap. Otoh, since this is part of their ‘warrior DNA,’ it is up to wiser heads to know when to pull them out, and save powder and manpower for another day. What would Sun-Tzu do?
binkieandmarcel, the bases will never be abandoned, in fact, they are integral to the neocon strategy, much like modern day Crusader castles. Since they are technically considered ‘American soil,’ any attacks on them by the locals could then be trumpeted as ‘attacks on American soil,’ thus justifying further military adventures.
I think today’s Halliburton announcement speaks volumes about the future of US interests in the mideast, and also the priorities of the current US junta. I would be interested to hear what others think.
Dems abandon war authority provision By DAVID ESPO and MATTHEW LEE
WASHINGTON – Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush’s authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.
Why would it be so hard for them to agree and pass something on Iran? That should be no-brainer to do first and then they can wrangle about what to do in Iraq. Have they been so cowed by decades of GOP accusations of treason that they are afraid to do or agree on anything re foreign policy at all? Sad, if true. And very dangerous for the country, ever since nut cases captured the GOP. I agree with comments above that best thing for the Democrats to do, while they are making up their minds, is to very loudly investigate and loudly explain to the public exactly who conceived, designed and executed this disastrous and immoral policy (Bush/Cheney).
And why is it impossible to make some statements about the bigger picture -regional negotiations, what a diplomatic solution would look like, US policy re Iraqi funds, where the US-Iraq aid and Iraqi revenues went, and are going, and how they could be used better, assuming they can be found. I am a Democrat and am ashamed, and a little frightened by their seeming lack of courage, vision and initiative. One party is feckless, visionless, spineless and timid; the other is feckless, incompetent, crazy and bloodthirsty.
The State department says three auditors in the Green Zone would place insurmountable strains and cripple the effort. We should be hearing every Democrat yelling “WHO STOLE THE MONEY!?” every day over stuff like that. But no, the Democrats natter around.
They need to get in the faces of some corrupt big media pundits too -repeatedly. One thing I have noticed is that the pundits sit around and poo-poo on any ideas at all except more violence. And the Democrat pols mostly just sit there and plaintively bleat. They need to get in these bozo’s faces. It would be a kind of assertiveness training for when they go up against the Bush/Cheney crowd.
And about a year ago I saw and listened to McCain list all the reasons a military solution would not work, and then go ahead and advocate more military force, with nothing else to offer.
What a unimaginative, cowardly, murderous, incompetent, stupid national political debate we are having.
I’m with Walrus. All of this is moot when Bush nukes Iran.
“a journalist friend… can’t recall soldiers ever saying ”I want us all to give up and go home now.””
“…a “stab in the back” legend will be born that will have great strength and persistance.”
Col, your journalist friend’s observation is correct, and seems to mediate concern about stabbing legends. enlisted men’s anger will be revealed elsewhere than the voting booth – like in their personal lives. not good for America, but fine for politics.
The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq
At Fort Benning, soldiers who were classified as medically unfit to fight are now being sent to war. Is this an isolated incident or a trend?
By Mark Benjamin
Mar. 11, 2007 | “This is not right,” said Master Sgt. Ronald Jenkins, who has been ordered to Iraq even though he has a spine problem that doctors say would be damaged further by heavy Army protective gear. “This whole thing is about taking care of soldiers,” he said angrily. “If you are fit to fight you are fit to fight. If you are not fit to fight, then you are not fit to fight.”
As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.
On Feb. 15, Master Sgt. Jenkins and 74 other soldiers with medical conditions from the 3rd Division’s 3rd Brigade were summoned to a meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon. These are the men responsible for handling each soldier’s “physical profile,” an Army document that lists for commanders an injured soldier’s physical limitations because of medical problems — from being unable to fire a weapon to the inability to move and dive in three-to-five-second increments to avoid enemy fire. Jenkins and other soldiers claim that the division and brigade surgeons summarily downgraded soldiers’ profiles, without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq. It is a claim division officials deny.
The 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade is now leaving for Iraq for a third time in a steady stream. In fact, some of the troops with medical conditions interviewed by Salon last week are already gone. Others are slated to fly out within a week, but are fighting against their chain of command, holding out hope that because of their ills they will ultimately not be forced to go. Jenkins, who is still in Georgia, thinks doctors are helping to send hurt soldiers like him to Iraq to make units going there appear to be at full strength. “This is about the numbers,” he said flatly.
they are fighting the good fight, that they will prevail and that their comrades’ blood cries out for vindication through victory.
What kind of victory (or defeat) are we talking about?
Even such Republican noteworthies as Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Gen. Odom, and others (Petraeus?) have stated that there will not be a purely military victory. Does the constituency realize that “victory” is going to come – if it comes – in the form of peace talks and negotiations with “the enemy” followed by U.S. withdrawal?
Are we supporting our troops when we foster unrealistic expectations? I would think the President and the Republicans ought to be very careful about that.
According to news reports, Speaker Pelosi has just been booed by the real constituency that matters to the Dems at the moment – AIPAC, over her attitude to Iraq and Iran.
The reason I see very dark clouds ahead for America is about constituencies all right, but not quite in the way that Col. Lang sees it.
I think we can agree that the only constituency that SHOULD matter is the American people as a whole, and perhaps from time to time certain subsets of it such as minorities, the military etc.
However campaign funding laws and practices have made it impossible for a poor man, and even a millionaire however talented to run for high office, unless he is prepared to sell his soul to billionaires, well healed special interest groups (such as AIPAC) or corporations.
Thus elections do not turn on ideas, policies, vision and intelligence. Instead they pivot on money, spin, mud throwing, lies deception and special interest groups.
The outcome of this is that only people who have a very high narcissistic drive and a totally warped personality will stand for President.
As far as I can tell, the last “normal” presidents were Carter and Bush senior. JFK and Clinton were womanisers. Nixon was a crook. Reagan was….an Actor.
Kerry was a narcissist who is at least as deeply flawed as George W Bush.
Gore is normal, Hilary Clinton is just plain evil, Edwards switched off a friend of mine after he was advised that “access” to Edwards would cost $100,000.
Seriously folks, considering that “suicidal Statecraft” is what destroys nations, what sort of future does the United States have when the only people capable of being elected to high office are freaks in the pay of special interest groups?
To put it another way, where is another George Washington when we need one?
Reflecting on Vietnam-the Mid-East connection.
Congress had inexlicably cut off funds to the Vietnamese in the Foregn Aid Act of 74′. Most Americans except a few advisors had to have been gone by then. A Democratic Congress had cut off funds to a war that had been started by their own Presidents. Nixon, a Republican, had dragged it on unnecessarily for another four years. The cut-off of funds contributed to Premier Thieus state of mind and catastrophic military decisions.
The mid east connections. My speculations. The oil shock of 73-74 caused by the tight supplies of the embargo crushed Viet Nam’s economy.
Sadat had offered Peace but arrogant Israeli leaders had famously declared “better Sharm-el-Sheikh w/o Peace then Peace w/o it.” And the U.S. kept on funding them and providing international cover and U.N. vetoes.
U.S. Operation “Nickel Grass” which resupplied Israel when they were on the ropes during the 73 War took military supplies out of the pipeline destined for South East Asia. I remember Chairman of the JCS General George S. Brown getting into hot water complaining about that.
There is a course for those to pursue who would de-escalate the war and seek negotiated settlements and at the same time avoid being branded as traitors and deserters.
Col.Lang is right, politically, and for other good reasons the democrats must fully fund the war effort… BUT at the same time congress must crank down hard on all other spending that supports the current regime. Make the neocons hurt.
Start with demanding a census of all private contractors in Iraq and support areas.
Draft all private contractors into the US armed forces. End the payment of dividends to stockholders of corporations that are profiting from this war.
Pass legislation to authorize and fund an army of special prosecutors to go after the people who twisted and filtered the intel AND those who have stolen or fraudulently used war funds, and put them in prison damnit.
(remember, we, the taxpayers, spent over 100 million dollars investigating and prosecuting a stain on a blue dress. And we impeached a president for lying about sex. )
We must use all reasonable economic and political options to stop this administration from starting another war that will involve all Iraq’s neighbors and the US and Russia too.
The pilot of the ship of state is steering us onto the rocks. Somebody grab the helm…lawfully.
Let’s take a look at where VP Cheney is investing his own private investment portfolio (hint: he’s not investing in the US).
Then Halliburton moves it HQ to Dubai.
He has played the American people for a bunch of schmucks.
This is great; the US vice president won’t invest his own money in the US!
That really says it all…
I find it beyond sad that young men and women who are faithful to each other, their country and to their commander in chief, would be so used and discarded. This president and his administration care nothing about our soldiers. They are not given the equipment they need to survive and when injured are not given the medical care they need. Shame on this administration and the congress that allows this to happen.
Huh… I wouldn’t think that a fellow like Glenn Greenwald and a fellow like Col. Lang would agree on much of anything. But look at this at the end of Greenwald’s column today. I’m not sure that they would agree about much after the debate they both suggest was over, but… at least I feel more certain that the most imprtant thing to do right now is for the Democrats to force a public debate on the big picture, and explore comprehenseve strategies to solve the mess is. If there was something that could realistically be done re Iraq in the short term that would improve things, it might be different, but it aint. The Dems are losing their chance for any meaningful action on Iran… and that would have been an excellent platform for the debate.
Tuesday March 13, 2007 09:38 EST
Dick Cheney’s warped vision of the world
Far more than haggling over Iraq bills that are not going anywhere or picking apart the various proposals of each candidate, the critical priority is to demand that these fundamental premises guiding our behavior in the world be meaningfully examined and debated. The Baker-Hamilton Report actually tried to provoke such an examination, which is why it was so viciously demonized and instantaneously discarded. But until those premises are candidly discussed, we are going to remain on the incomparably dangerous path which the Bush presidency has so fervently embraced.
From one “crazed Vietnam Vet” to another: Great post!
If anyone still thinks the Dems are different than the Repubs, watch what they do not what they say.
Just in case you thought the Democrats were going to do something to rein in the “rights” of the president to expand the war.
Looks like James Webb got his Iran war resolution killed by his own party:
I think that the move of Halliburton HQ to Dubai is indicative that there is money to be made in the Persian Gulf; it will be considered as a vote of (economic) confidence in Dubai and in that region.
Secondarily, I think that the presence of Halliburton in Dubai is useful to the development & modernization of that region since the local people would be exposed to the business practices of a US company: more accountability, less nepotism; more share-holder value, less theft; more professional governance, less venality.
Mr. Savoca’s comments caused me to think a bit further on this issue. I hope a bit better too.
The bill of particulars against the Bush Administration includes:
1) Lying to take the nation to war.
2) Failure to provide life-saving equipment to our troops in the field.
3) Failure to provide adequate medical care to our wounded troops.
I guess that I would interpret Colonel Lang’s post in the following way:
If you don’t think you can impeach the President, then how can you cut off funding for the war?
Impeachment, not war funding is the correct issue.
In that vein, if the Congress cannot stomach an impeachment proceeding, then I believe that the debate should be about Iran.
I think Congress can influence whether we attack Iran. It should.
Much of what Dennis Ross stated in the ABC interview that you have posted here is more applicable to the Arab states rather than to Iran.
For example, the Iraqi refugees are a problem for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria – I cannot envision a situation in which there could be refugee problem for Iran.
He might have mentioned Iran but was thinking Arab states.
Should the United States post a departure date, the Arab states that are allied to US would be most negatively affected and therefore would be (the hope in D.C.) more amenable to helping US.
I observe here that US really does not have good allies among the Arab states – when Clinton was trying to settle the Arab-Israeli wars, no Arab states joined him to carry the load forward. They left the heavy lifiting to US.
I also recall that when GHWB was visiting the US troops in the Persian Gulf immediately after the 1991 War against Iraq, he had the American Thanksgiving Dinner with US troops aboard a US warship since Saudis would not let him celeberate it on Saudi soil for (non-existent) religious reasons.
We need to remember one thing, we are there. This is not like a little child whining and saying, “I’m going to take all my marbles and go home!” This war in my personal view goes back not to 9/11, but to the First Persian Gulf War. We went to the Prsian Gulf under George H.W. Bush. Now starting from this point, the people of Saudi Arabia, were being protected but also they were EMBARASSED. If I remember my Bedouin or Desert Code correctly, there was one thing you never did, which was to embarass your host. There is nothing which supercedes this rule, including war. Cardinal Rule- Know the cultures of your friends and your adversaries. In their view, it is more powerful to embarass the son, rather than the father. They knew there was nothing the father could do except watch. Just one extra note, I showed this whole posting to NASA scientist and he said he wouldn’t have even thought of touching this one.
“This war in my personal view goes back not to 9/11, but to the First Persian Gulf War.”
Not at all wrong Grumpy but I’d take it back at least to 1949.
What changed with Desert Storm was the big battalions came noisily ashore. That may have offended the natives as you say.
“Unless versed in the history of the Gulf and the evolution
of U.S.-Gulf relations, the average person is not likely to be
aware that U.S. presence in the region outdates by many
years the Gulf War, or that it has had a host of interests
encompassing political, economic, and geo-strategic
objectives. The low-key and generally unobtrusive presence
of U.S. forces tends to be anomalous to the pattern of
forward presence with the objective of deterrence. During
the Cold War years, the U.S. military stationed in Europe or
Asia, for example, were very much visible. Their deterrent
value was enhanced by such visibility. Now that the United
States is the sole remaining superpower, it deems it
prudent, due to local circumstances, to lower the profile of
its military footprint in the Gulf.
U.S. security strategy for the region was primarily
motivated by the three factors of interest in oil; the
geo-strategic centrality of the Middle East, particularly for
Great Britain.s imperial lifeline (e.g., Suez Canal as
demonstrated in the 1956 war); and the reality of the Cold
War. After WWII, containment of the Soviet Union rapidly
became the critical factor for the steady increase in U.S.
military presence in the Middle East.
Initially, Admiral Richard C. Conolly, Northeastern
Atlantic and Mediterranean commander-in-chief based in
London (CINCNELM), established Task Force 126 on
January 20, 1948. It consisted of tankers in the Gulf to take
on oil to meet the increasing dependence of the U.S. Navy on
refined Gulf petroleum products. In 1949 the command was
named Middle East Force, and in 1951 a rear admiral was
placed in its command. Since then the U.S. Navy has
maintained a permanent presence in the Gulf and operated
from Bahrain, the site of a major British base. Ras Tannura
and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia were the other ports
frequently visited by U.S. naval vessels.37 This presence
reflected the U.S. policy of promoting expansion in Gulf oil
production to meet the higher demand in the West.”
“I think that the move of Halliburton HQ to Dubai is indicative that there is money to be made in the Persian Gulf; it will be considered as a vote of (economic) confidence in Dubai and in that region.”
“Secondarily, I think that the presence of Halliburton in Dubai is useful to the development & modernization of that region since the local people would be exposed to the business practices of a US company: more accountability, less nepotism; more share-holder value, less theft; more professional governance, less venality.”
It goes way beyond that: essentially the American ruling class is saying that America is not worth investing in anymore. THEY ARE LEAVING THE US. There is more money to be made in places like Dubai.
Excuse me, but did you say something like Halliburton and professional governance? This is a company which has financials which say that it is losing money in spite of winning HUGE no-bid contracts in Iraq.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT? Doesn’t that make you a little suspicious about their financial reporting?
What makes you think that they are interested in professional governance? When you get THAT big, you don’t want corporate governance. That is only something your corporate communications department mentions occasionally in press releases to the media as a sop to the masses.
I like your confidence in “American accountability”. I have sat in a few boardrooms, and I find that vote of confidence amusing, to say the least. The Bush administration has less nepotism? Are you kidding?
As far as I’m concerned, Washington DC has become the most corrupt place on earth. From their point of view, the US has a good defense industry for making money, and is a good “muscle” country where you can whip up people to “sacrifice for freedom and democracy”. And now the US is no longer a fun place to make money for other purposes, so they are going to relocate some of their operations to Dubai, their first offshore base of operations where they are in tight with the royal family.
Think of all the flight time they can save going to Riyadh and Tel Aviv! That jet lag is a real drag…
Come on Babak, let’s get real!
I think that my statements were making an implicit comparison of US business culture with the prevailing business culture of the Middle East. In my opinion the standards of transparency, accountability and governance of the businesses in the Persian Gulf area is very much lacking – the best you can say about them is that corruption, venality, and nepotism is built into their laws.
Of course, everything is relative and per chance Halliburton is in the same category as the local firms in that area of the world – but I seriously doubt it.
Now, I have no experience sitting on boards of corporations and I do not doubt that there you have witnessed shady deals that skirted the Law or broke the Law. However, my impression of US business culture has been that in all manners that I mentioned it is still superior to the Persian Gulf area. I just do not think that there is a comparable notion of Law and respect thereto there. Of course, that area is not unique in that respect – India is not much different!
As regards to the US ruling class: I think you must admire their courage in opening their country to the winds of global competition and thus forcing their own population to be a nation of hustler for a buck. This is in contradistinction to EU, Japan, and Korea with their relatively closed economies (compared to US).
I think the area in which you legitimately can criticize US ruling classes is the policy of pursuing to be the financial hub of the world at the expense of manufacturing.
In fact. finance capital in US, since the middle 1980s, has been making more money than the manufacturing operations. And the way things are going, unless US introduces socialized medicine, there will be no manufacturing left in US.
Now, UK did a similar thing, in my opinion, starting late in 19-th century and they damned near lost WWII since they had gutted their manufacturing capacity.
Maybe Halliburton moved to a region more congenial to their business practices. Wonder if they took their books with them.
Some of you may be aware that there has been a rash of “Private Equity” deals going on in the world EXCEPT as far as I can tell America, even though these deals are made by American private equity firms.
All the deals involve American investors buying high quality assets everywhere in the world EXCEPT America.
What does that tell you? What does Americas foriegn debt tell you? What does the housing bubble tell you? And of course…what is Haliburton telling you?
The difference between American corruption and the corruption of other countries is that the Americans always have lawyers.
Lawyers can be used offensively and defensively. If you are playing offensively, then you get the lawyers to change the laws you don’t like. This is easy in the US, because more than half of all politicians in the US have legal backgrounds.
The thing is in the US, it is not called corruption, it is called lobbying. Since the politicians come from legal backgrounds, they try to legalize it and regulate it. I call it corruption and sometimes I refer to it as “wholesale politics” where special interest groups which have more money wield far more power and influence than their voter base’s numbers would suggest.
When the US opened itself to globalization in the 90s, the US was the dominant world economy by far. It was not courage; it’s that the US did not foresee the effects of technology and most importantly, China.
Let me give you an example: A top-tier university graduate in the US in computer programming can make $3K a month. In China, you can get a top-tier university graduate with two years’ work experience for US$300 a month. And he won’t ask for a raise because you can hire someone else for US$250 a month.
How do you compete with that?
So, it wasn’t courage, it was failure to predict what would happen. Two very different things.
Now, US corporations and other corporations are able to exploit these differences to their profit. That is what I meant when I said in another posting that capital has no homeland.
You bet they’ll take their books with them to Dubai! That’s the whole idea!
The past six years have been great for US global corporations for some reasons mentioned above. They have found new markets in China and India, and have lowered their manufacturing costs. Of course, that means the US and European middle class is screwed, but that’s not their problem.
In business, you go where your markets and profits are.
I stand by what I said and I will raise you by stating that you do not seem to be aware of the scale and depth of corruption and un-savory business and political practices outside of the so-called West.
– ENRON’s power plant in India, a victim of the Indian political racket culture.
– Union-Carbide’s Bophal plant which was deliberately sabotaged – in a botched operation – by Indians to try to extract money.
– UK-Saudi Tank deal a few months ago.
You are right, I am not aware of the specifics of those cases.
I stand by my claim that in dollar amounts, those figures are smaller than many cases which are never reported or which are not depicted as corruption in the media.
The most damaging cases, on both national and corporate levels, are those which are finessed and made legal. That is what has happened in the US and in global markets.
We are talking about two entirely different issues. I would call it the difference between wholesale corruption (what I’m talking about) and retail corruption (what you are talking about). In size and volume (and in the end, damage to political systems), wholesale trumps retail.
Under retail corruption you cannot easily make a living without becoming soiled with the same corruption.
Wholesale corruption leaves some space for ordinary people to make a living without duress.
The suggestion that “legislation which seeks to direct and limit the president and commander in chief of the armed forces as to how he should employ US forces” is “of dubious constitutionality” is widely expressed these days, but this appears to be regarded as incorrect by a number of legal scholars.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this in January, which may be of interest:
Per data: A scrap to be sure but an item from US News and World Report that raises questions pollsters should be analyzing. Perhaps there is more data out there of late.
[“Military Support for GOP Is in Free Fall
By Bonnie Erbe
US News and World Report
Wednesday 14 March 2007
Pardon my tardiness. While searching online for interesting political tidbits, I came across a two-month-old story of towering significance that received a paltry amount of media exposure. The Los Angeles Times reported in January that the Military Times’s annual poll of active-duty service members found support among them for the Republican Party is dropping significantly. So significantly, in fact, that the 30-year trend of “Republicanization” of the military has reversed and is in a free fall.
The Times reported on a one-year decline of 10 points from 56 to 46 percent from January 2006 to January 2007 among active-duty service personnel who self-identify as Republicans. The year before, a 4-point drop cut Republican identification from an all-time high of 60 percent.
One has to infer the Iraq war is taking its toll on Republican supremacy not only at the voting booth but also among the good and honorable folks actually doing the fighting.
Dr. Clifford Kiracofe