Monday, July 11, 2005

Iraq: Too Little Too Late

Iraq: Too Little Too Late
Soldiers Don't Think Iraqi Troops Will Be Well-Enough Trained In Time for Success

At a website for a magazine called World News, which is a Christian-based news website, there is an article which I found interesting by Chattanooga Free Press military correspondent Edward Lee Pitts.

No one denies that most soldiers currently fighting in Iraq today just want to get back home. Wouldn't any of us? It doesn't mean they don't want to do a good job, but they desire to come back home, with life and limbs intact.

If we are ever going to redeem the obvious mistakes that the Bush administration has made and if we are to expect to see any degree of success in the final outcome, a hell of a lot of things must change. I happen to think it may be far too late to win back the hearts and minds of most Iraqis, and it's obvious that not one soul in the Bush administration has never understood how to do it. You just don't go in, as a foreign power, and reduce someone's cities to rubble and stick around for years and expect them to love you for it simply because you rid them of one wicked dictator.

Freedom means something different than we have had in mind for these people. Occupation wasn't their idea of what post-Saddam freedom would look like. Democracy means a lot to them, but they want us to get the hell out of their country so they can build their own style of democracy.

We look like occupiers (whether or not we say we aren't) and we've made it easy for the propaganda machine on the other side to succeed. This isn't WWII. This is 2005. Communication is immediate. People don't sit around for weeks wondering how the battle turned out. Photos and stories are sent with a quick download and, with one click of a key, the world sees what it wants to see...hears what it wants to hear. I'm no Nostradamus, but I sure as hell could have told you that this was a misguided way to win hearts and minds - as a matter of fact, I did tell you on this very blog, time and time again.

In order for there to be an appearance of any form of "success" for the U.S. in Iraq, the Iraqi army and police must be the key in this wicked propaganda battle between the U.S.-led occupation forces and the insurgents for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Our failure to adequately and promptly train these Iraqis is in direct proportion to the loss of so many hearts and minds. I fear what we've done has been too little - too late.

While I believe Pitts' article is optimistic, it is cautiously optimistic. It isn't the full-blown "happy talk of pure fantasy" that we sometimes see coming from media.

Here are some excerpts from the article:
The success of an independent Iraq hinges on the ability of the country's new army, so the U.S.-led coalition forces have stepped up military training. Since April small military transition teams—each made up of about seven U.S. soldiers—have embedded themselves into Iraqi army units. Acting as coaches, these Americans are preparing the Iraqi soldiers to take control of their own destiny.

The preparation takes on new urgency as the Iraqi army is scheduled to be capable of conducting independent operations by the end of next month. Throughout July, area U.S. units are set to officially transfer military authority over certain sectors to the Iraqis, leaving the U.S. forces as backup.....

.....Many believe the Iraqis will need help long after most U.S. regiments currently stationed in Iraq return home later this year. "You can't get years of proper training in a few weeks," said Sgt. 1st Class Clay Rader, who is training a unit of 200 Iraqis; only 30, he says, have been soldiers for longer than two months.....

....many of the Iraqis failed to qualify on their weapons because of poor eyesight. Most Iraqis cannot afford eyeglasses to correct their vision...

.....[The soldiers] realize a fully trained Iraqi army offers the U.S. military its best chance of making its own future deployments smaller and smaller...

"My main driving force is to train them so I can get home," said Sgt. Barrett Vaughn, 24.
And I hope Barrett gets home...safely and soon. Whether or not the Iraqi soldiers can afford eyeglasses. We cannot afford to lose Barrett just because our government sent him to a war that he couldn't possibly have "won" in the span of time in which the American public would have been tolerant enough to accept all the unnecessary death and destruction.

The soldiers have not failed us. They wanted to do the best job they could have done. It's the Bush administration that has failed us all with their lies, their failures, and their subsequent cover-ups.


Meanwhile, things are changing for the U.S. Army in Europe (many of whom have been fighting in Iraq.) In accordance with the Pentagon's transformation plans for the Army, it was announced last Thursday that the Army will reduce their 1st Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Vilseck, Germany to a small detachment to make room for a Stryker Brigade Combat Team that is set to arrive as early as 2006. Current 3rd Brigade troops will be assigned to other jobs throughout the Army. According to an article in Stars and Stripes, this announcement sets in stone a movement of forces openly talked about in Army circles but not confirmed until this week. A gentleman I've often blogged about, Col. Dana Pittard, became part of the string of these command and restationing changes. I wonder how effective this will be in disastrously insecure places such as Iraq. The Pentagon's top independent tester had long ago warned the Secretary of Defense that the vehicle should not be deployed in Iraq because it is vulnerable to rocket propelled grenades. Strykers are meant for ground campaigns and because of their vulnerability, are highly dependent upon accurate intelligence gathering (a system of satellites, UAVs, soldier reports, and other intelligence tools to provide a common and detailed picture of what's happening on the battlefield.)

Godspeed, Andy Stephenson

Godspeed, Andy Stephenson
"Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

-- Words inscribed on the gravestone
of Brandon Lee
...So begins a moving tribute to the life of one of Seattle's most passionate political activists, Andy Stephenson, written by William Rivers Pitt. Andy passed away last Thursday from complications due to pancreatic cancer.
There is also a tribute to Andy at Daily Kos.

Roberts, Moran and Gregory Blast McClellan Over Rove

QUESTION: "Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired. And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved, so why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you’ve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation?"

CBS' John Roberts, questioning White House Press Sec'y Scott McClellan today

Roberts, Moran and Gregory Blast McClellan Over Rove

Scott McClellan refuses to comment on Karl Rove, and he is being blasted right now by journalists in the White House press corps gallery. ABC's Terry Moran, NBC's David Gregory, and CBS' John Roberts have been especially forceful. David Gregory actually told McClellan he was looking "RIDICULOUS." McClellan refuses, flatly, to make any comment about the White House reaction to the news that Karl Rove leaked the fact that Joseph Wilson's wife was CIA to so many reporters. McClellan uses the limp-as-noodle excuse that they are "waiting for the ongoing investigation to be completed". David Gregory, with obvious emotion in his voice, asks McClellan how he believes this looks to the American people.
Excerpt from today's White House Press Conference:
Q: " said, October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," from that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began.

Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?"

McClellan: "I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that."
Even Fox News' Bush-bootlicker Carl Cameron pushed McClellan on the Karl Rove question.

David Corn asks if Bush is taking any action at all about the recent news about the Rove leak. After all, Bush is free to take whatever action he wants to take immediately (such as firing Rove) without need for the completion of an investigation. McClellan has (surprise) "no comment."

This looks so bad for the White House. McClellan's taken a good lambasting today and I have been shown that the Fourth Estate is waking up to the fact that they've been astoundingly ill-used by this White House.

McClellan is asked if the President agrees with the information about the U.S. drawing down U.S. troops by end of 2006 (found in the secret British memo) - McClellan says it's some kind of "contingency plan."

After McClellan ended the press conference and left the room, there was a lot of chatter and laughter passing between members of the press corps. It sounded like mockery to me.