Thursday, July 3, 2008
Shock & Awe, Dine & Dash, Grab Your Pension & Leave The Mess
(July 3, Washington, DC) The most stinging criticisms, the harshest rebukes come not from “Monday morning quaterbacks”, but from within the ranks of one’s peers, others qualified to credibly criticize. Certainly only those familiar with an organization, system or network are properly equipped to render judgment. This is the rationale behind so many professions, professional groups, and institutions for self-policing. Who better to assess a particular scenario, circumstance or decision than those who may have had to deal with a similar scenario, circumstance or decision, first hand, in the past? The military and most law enforcement agencies conduct “after action reports” to evaluate their response, performance and determine the “lessons learned.” This is a proven effective methodology of quality control, so to speak.
A virtual library of books, articles, essays, op-eds, thesis’ and papers have been written about the Iraq War; how and why we it began, how it was justified, rationalized or ‘sold’ to the American public, how it was managed as well as virtually every strategic, tactical, operational, diplomatic, political, logistical, financial and historic perspective imaginable. Some have been produced by experts, while others have been easily dismissed for having been authored by political partisans, critics-at-large and some people with axes to grind. There has been no lack of critics, apologists or partisans on either side of the associated arguments.
Much has been made over the years of this war about retired military officers speaking out either positively or negatively regarding our Iraq involvement. Some said it was a violation of protocol and decorum to voice an opinion at a time of war. Particular harsh criticism was reserved for active duty officers and military personnel for commenting on the war especially if their stated opinion, perspective or experience was contrary to “The Party Line.” Some of these were viewed as treasonous traitors; others, as heroes truly dedicated to our troops. That is an argument for another time, another day.
According to today’s Washington Post in a piece authored by Josh White, “The nation’s top military officer said yesterday that more U.S. are needed in Afghanistan to tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency, but that the Pentagon does not have sufficient forces to send because they are committed to the war in Iraq.” Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff added that the on-going struggle with extremist forces and the Taliban have become “a very complex problem”.
So, we are backsliding in Afghanistan despite the fact that the people responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are based there.
This development and candid admission by Admiral Mullen comes just days after Michael Gordon reported in the New York Times the fact that “Occupation Plan for Iraq Faulted in Army History”, Mr. Gordon details the recently released unclassified study conducted by the United States Army itself, that is highly critical of General Tommy Franks, his decisions, tactics and judgment particularly soon after his troops rolled into Baghdad in 2003. This is the second volume chronicling the history of the Iraq War; volume two is 700 pages.
The authors of this history are by no means “Monday morning quarterbacks”. They are the Army’s own with the assistance of the Rand Corporation. The beginning of volume 2 pulls no punches while documenting the abject mistakes, miscalculations and failures of General Franks along with retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, General Garner’s successor as the hand picked Chief Civilian Administrator of Iraq.
The list of intelligent, thoughtful Army officers who saw the perils of the Bush – Rumsfeld strategy is not very long but it is high in individual IQ. Unfortunately, they were ignored or, worse, treated extremely harshly in the press. Some retired prematurely and, those that did, demonstrate the highest qualities of a military officer concerned for the troops under their command.
Basically, Tommy Franks oversaw the initial component of the invasion, waited around for the statue of Saddam Hussein to be yanked off its pedestal, and then turned over the keys to the country to junior officers, scurried back stateside to a promotion and retirement. Mission Accomplished, Tommy? Enter the parade of other officers, well intentioned, ill equipped for the reality of occupied Iraq. Some, where simply “punching tickets”; jumping through the requisite hoops to achieve the next star, combat medal or resume’ entry. In that sense they are like any other federal employee as we learned in the wake of September 11, 2001. Protect the pension is far more important to those charged with protecting us than actually working to protect us.
As exposed as the myriad intelligence apparatus failures were after the dust settled, so too now, are the failure of the US Army. The only branch of the military to have actually adapted from “lessons learned” in Viet Nam is the Marine Corps. The inertia, complacency and arrogance of the other branches of our military, amounts to negligence on the highest order. Yes, it is not “unpatriotic” to make impeaching statements against our military at a time of war.
But, this is just the latest chapter in an on-going book began in Korea in 1951. Since then, in anonymous, remote places across the globe our young men and women have given lives, limbs and soul. That is how it works. Kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn, Buffalo and Bismarck, Beaumont, Butte, Brattleboro, Bakersfield and Boone pay for the flaws, the hubris, of those who command; both military and civilian.
John McCain is running for president partially on his service on the Armed Services Committee. Where was the Congressional oversight all these years, John? Why has our Congress been paralyzed during this entire, grinding endeavor?
That returns us to General Franks and Admiral Mullen. One’s arrogance and ignorance lands on the shoulders of the others responsibility. And, sadly, the beat goes on; both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Politics pales in stark comparison to the realities of the battles our troops engage in daily. “It is easy to be passionate from a distance”, as a wise combat Marine from Korea once commented. That particular Marine saw the perils and folly, the disregard for the troops from the inception of this Iraq War. He died in sorrow, his heart broken for the countless brave young men and women going into scenarios and conditions no amount of training could ever prepare them. His, was a flag draped coffin. How many more will follow.
Mullen Calls For More Troops in Afghanistan: Iraq War Limits U.S. Options, Says Chairman of Joint Chiefs (Post, July 3, 2008; Page A01)
The war, OUR war, the conflict we should have remained engaged in to completion, until all our resources had eradicated those who attacked us, is not the war our president has chosen to fight. God Bless all MOS who paid the ultimate price on 9 11 01
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