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Mandatory Reading For Iraq War Supporters: Five Years After The Biggest Mistake Ever Made By A Sitting President

Every time I type the phrase “supporter” I remember the quote from Animal House: “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.” A friend of mine sent along a link to a very interesting letter posted by 12 former Army Captains.

No doubt, the reichwingers will be in full tilt to try and smear these folks, but I think we should all read this article. Have a look and tell me what you think. It’s short, so I pasted the whole thing in:

Today marks five years since the authorizatio n of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resour ced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we’ve seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it’s like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it’s time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It’s certainly far from being a modern, self-sustain ing country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq’s institutiona l infrastructu re, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrato rs or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

The inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption. Transparency Internationa l ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And, indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of U.S. tax dollars by Iraqi officials and military officers. Sabotage and graft have had a particularly deleterious impact on Iraq’s oil industry, which still fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay for Iraq’s reconstructi on. Yet holding people accountable has proved difficult. The first commissioner of a panel charged with preventing and investigatin g corruption resigned last month, citing pressure from the government and threats on his life.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with “the surge,” we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions . Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentation s, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents’ cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet — moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much “battle space,” are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitabilit y of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks — on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating . U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we’re gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war — and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It’s time to make a choice.

I think these folks, closer to the boots on the ground than the W, Rove and Cos. hand picked “generals,” are better informed and yield still better advice than will be headed the the suits in charge, no doubt.

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20 Responses to “Mandatory Reading For Iraq War Supporters: Five Years After The Biggest Mistake Ever Made By A Sitting President”

  1. I did read it. Yesterday. At the end of the piece, and conveeeenien tly ignored by Windspike, is this:

    This column was written by 12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William “Jamie” Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.

    These soldiers all make very valid points about how things were prior to this year. Then Bush put Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the Iraqi operation, the Senate confirmed him unanimously for a promotion to full General, knowing full well what his (Petraeus’) plans were, and things have gotten better. Not perfect, by all means; but much better.

    Two of these captains last served in Iraq in 2006, nearly a year ago if they left in December, 2006. None of the others served there earlier than two years ago. And none mention that they ever served under Gen. Petraeus at any time.

    This isn’t a smear of these captains, and I don’t propose to say that their understandin g of military matters in Iraq while they served there should be questioned. For all intents and purposes, pretty much everything written in this piece is accurate. At least for the time that they served in Iraq.

    But that was minimally 10 months ago, and things have changed, dramatically . And mostly for the better. Again, things obviously aren’t perfect, but much better.

    I’ll stick to reading what the boots on the ground, including Petraeus, are saying now, not about what was happening months and years ago.

  2. SteveIL,
    You are aware that under the UMCJ serving soldiers are not allowed to say anything that is contrary to the civillian government, aren’t you? If so, you’ll know that the only view from boots on the ground will be the official party line that everything is getting better. As ‘everything has been getting better’ amost since the start of the conflict, I’ll need a lot more than the word of anyone, General or not, to believe that this isn’t another false dawn. Especially as the only view we’re allowed to get from the soldiers there, including Petraeus, is whatever the administrati on wants us to hear.

  3. As ‘everythin g has been getting better’ amost since the start of the conflict, I’ll need a lot more than the word of anyone, General or not, to believe that this isn’t another false dawn.

    And if you had read Petraeus, a general, he too warned that things could go south. I believe even Bush has said that, because it is a possibility.   Nobody is denying that. It doesn’t change the fact that everything has been getting better since all of the troops were put in place and used to strike at both the Sunni and Shiite terrorists. And we’re hearing this not only from Petraeus, but from Bush’s own political enemies who have admitted the improvements that have taken place. So unless you (the rhetorical “you”) are saying that anybody who says things are good in Iraq is nothing more than Bush toadies, which is a complete fallacy, then there isn’t anybody the rhetorical “you” would believe. My question is then: how does that make the rhetorical “you” believable compared to Bush, Petraeus, et al.?

    Again, my point is that none of these soldiers has been in Iraq since Petraeus was even announced to be the new commander in Iraq, and it appears none have ever served under him, based on the fact that Petraeus’ name doesn’t appear anywhere in the piece. What they saw when they were there isn’t in dispute. But they aren’t there now, and haven’t been there for a long time. I will factor in that fact with what they are saying.

  4. So windspike…

    Are you implying that Iraq was a peaceful community living island paradise where everyday there were bright rainbows, clear skies and the fragrance of multiple flower gardens all around be for we whipped their ass?

    Also comparing the right to “the Reich” is pretty shitty of you. I don’t think our president is systematical ly killing one race of people. But do you know what is: Welfare!!

    There are 700 murders so far this year in Los Angeles. 700!!! I hear no crying… no tears from the left. It’s just ignorance. 700 died… the majority of which grew up on multiple generations of welfare handouts. I don’t know, but I bet the death rate among those getting handouts from the socialist side of our country’s government far exceeds the wealthy rich upper class that pay far more taxes then any other class of people. Want I should take on abortion next or shall I wait and hear from you on the next “Global Catastrophe” you libs like to write about…

  5. steve said:

    There are 700 murders so far this year in Los Angeles. 700!!! I hear no crying… no tears from the left. It’s just ignorance. 700 died… the majority of which grew up on multiple generations of welfare handouts.

    As I Windspike in his last post:

    Guess that freedom experiment that began over 200 years ago in this country isn’t working, is it.?

    We should probably pull out of Los Angeles, don’t ya think Windspike? San Francisco as well since the Communist bastards running that city go out of their way to smear and denounce the military, especially the boots-on-the -ground guys and gals.

    You know what’s funny, Windspike figured that we “reichwinger s” would smear the captains who wrote this WaPo oped. Didn’t happen, did it? So far, the only person who did any smearing of someone in the military, a decorated military man who is on the ground in Iraq, did so with this sentence:

    I think these folks, closer to the boots on the ground than the W, Rove and Cos. hand picked “generals, ” are better informed and yield still better advice than will be headed the the suits in charge, no doubt.

    Care to comment on that?

  6. Steves,

    Between the two of you, I don’t know who has the bigger volume of vitriol and diffusion to spill out on to the pages.

    If you are not hearing people shedding tears for the people Killed in LA or SF, you are not living close enough to those communities.   The tears fall, and they fall hard on the asphalt in those places. You are just not open to hearing them or witnessing them.

    I do know for a fact that before we got to Iraq, American’s were not dying there. That could have been avoided.

    Certainly, it’s debatable as to if it was better in Iraq before, but when people are still dying, at least we can take care of our folks, no? I don’t think we are helping much there.

  7. I do know for a fact that before we got to Iraq, American’s were not dying there.

    And based on your standards, if we hadn’t invaded Mexico in 1846, 700 Americans wouldn’t have died this year in LA. And if the U.S. hadn’t invaded Morocco in 1942, Italy in 1943, France in 1944, and Germany in 1945, against a regime that never attacked the U.S. directly (shipping was attacked, but leftists would have ignored that as they have ignored Islamist terrorism for 30 years), then over 100,000 - 150,000 Americans wouldn’t have died during WWII either. But I digress.

    The point of this post was to show how some former officers who had served in Iraq wrote an op-ed critical of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As one of the “reichwinger s”, I was prematurely accused of smearing these captains. As is shown in my first comment, I did no such thing, and did acknowledge that what they saw in Iraq, and their impressions of it, weren’t in dispute. What I did do was point out that none of these officers have been in Iraq as members of the military since after the announcement of Gen. Petraeus being named the commander of our forces in Iraq. So far, only one person in this thread smeared a boots-on-the -ground member of the military.

  8. OT

    Windspike,

    What’s your take on the attempts by Pelosi and Lantos to make U.S. troops vulnerable and put them further in harm’s way by alienating the Turkey, which allows for 70% of all U.S. efforts to resupply our soldiers through our bases in that country, by bringing to a vote this non-binding resolution regarding the Armenian Genocide (H. RES. 106), which was committed 92 years ago by a government that ceased to exist 85 years ago?

  9. Continued OT

    The attempt by Pelosi and Lantos that I mentioned in my previous comment appears to be a purposeful attempt to further endanger U.S. troops.

  10. Steve, when you talk about genocide like it is trivial, I think you really marginalize whole swaths of people. Moreover, you bend atrocities in history as hyperbole to make a political point? Sounds like you are taking lessons from Rove directly.

    Are you sure you want to bring up history here as a mechanism for making grand claims and assumptions in my mouth? It’s much like the argument against gay marriage. If you choose to hold one small segment of a book up as a role model, you should follow the whole thing.

    Really, what we did to the Native Peoples could be considered genocide in my book. As to the number of people killed in LA, I don’t need to go that far to find tragedy as I live in a place with high homicide rates. Tears fill pools in our streets and mix with the blood. I don’t see GW making any dent in that category of violence either.

    If you really cared about our troops, you might be in favor of strategic redeployment  , which I think would be much more effective in actually dealing with terrorist - you know, like the guys who actually might come to get us. You know, Bin Laden.

    Really, all your doing here Steve is blowing smoke up my skirt.

  11. ill steve, you and your ilk endanger the the troops more so than any action or proposal by congress by keeping them in iraq on the most foolish, ill-concieve d, and lie-based mistake in american history. it’s well past time to pull the troops out of w’s mistake. there was no way to pacify and democratize iraq before the invasion and there is no way to accomplish any sort of goal or mission now even if that fool w were to come up with some sort of mission and any strategy or tactics to accomplish that mission.only a fool would believe that invading iraq would in any way shape or form protect america from any terrorist threat. all this foolish invasion has accomplished is more anger and therefore more potential terrorist threats against america. that and high gas prices of course. your hollow concerns for the troops well being are welcomed only by the likes of your fellow chicken hawks who should be smack dab in the middle of iraq anyway.

  12. Oh, and one last thing - another person left this as a comment elsewhere, but I thought it is apt here as well:

    When you are doing the wrong thing, there is no right way to go about it.

  13. Steve, when you talk about genocide like it is trivial, I think you really marginalize whole swaths of people.

    I’m not the one making it trivial here. Congress has had 92 years (4 or 5 of those years include the time when the Ottoman Empire still existed after WWI, and 26 since Reagan publicly acknowledged the genocide) to say something and didn’t. And for what purpose are they doing so now? Who’s doing the trivializing here?

    Are you sure you want to bring up history here as a mechanism for making grand claims and assumptions in my mouth? It’s much like the argument against gay marriage. If you choose to hold one small segment of a book up as a role model, you should follow the whole thing.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Clarify please.

    Really, what we did to the Native Peoples could be considered genocide in my book.

    With certain aspects, the violent invasion of their territory, keeping them in crappy government-s ubsidized reservations  , I agree with you.

    As to the number of people killed in LA, I don’t need to go that far to find tragedy as I live in a place with high homicide rates. Tears fill pools in our streets and mix with the blood. I don’t see GW making any dent in that category of violence either.

    Except that it’s the responsibili ty of your mayor and town or city council to take care of this, not the federal government.

    If you really cared about our troops, you might be in favor of strategic redeployment   , which I think would be much more effective in actually dealing with terrorist - you know, like the guys who actually might come to get us. You know, Bin Laden.

    And if you really cared about our country, soldiers and civilians, you would realize this is a war (unfortunate ly, the federal government needs to be tougher about fighting it than it has). But even so, the idea that bin Laden and his vermin are the only terrorists in the world is quite ridiculous, especially since other Islamist terrorist groups have attacked U.S. citizens over the last 30 years; that’s why I brought out the analogy regarding our military activities against Nazi Germany at the expense of fighting those who actually attacked us, Japan. I believe concentratin g on Germany was the correct military strategy, but I highlight it to show how ludicrous your bin Laden statements are.

    When you are doing the wrong thing, there is no right way to go about it.

    Many of us have been saying that since the nanny-state Great Society programs went into effect in the 1960s, but nobody listens. But as far this thread is concerned, none of the captains who penned the op-ed has been a serving officer in Iraq in at least nearly a year, nor served under Petraeus since he’s been the commander. As I said, it doesn’t make their statements wrong, they just aren’t current.

  14. mr. bigstuff said:

    there was no way to pacify and democratize iraq before the invasion and there is no way to accomplish any sort of goal or mission now even if that fool w were to come up with some sort of mission and any strategy or tactics to accomplish that mission.

    I see, you’re a racist. You don’t seem to believe Arabs or Kurds have the capability of handling a democracy. What scientific insight brought you this load of garbage? Maybe you agree with this Nobel laureate who seems to have said Africans are not as intelligent as Westerners.

    And you dare criticize anyone, you racist?

  15. FYI the majority of the people dying due homicides in Los Angeles are black and not Hispanics.

    Second, I care about Los Angeles since you mentioned it, San Francisco much more than Iraq. Why? Because I do business in both those cities. And if violence becomes an epidemic, I have to look for other places to do business. That effects my lifestyle and my family’s well being.

    You guys only seem to care about the war in Iraq because it’s Bush. It’s Bush’s thing. If Clinton did it, you’d all be sitting there wondering where the support was for your guy. Besides, you all would rather live in breathe politics anyway instead of a small regional issue where, 700 homicides have occurred in Los Angeles this year. The majority which are poor, welfare driven, black , drug dealing gang bangers. And it’s been going on no matter who President. But reality is… it’s back burner issue and you’d all rather sit and protect a bunch of people who’d rather us all die anyway. Nice irony here. Anyone want to challenge me on the atrocity called abortion?

  16. Mr Bigstuff:

    Show me a direct link that the war caused higher gas prices and I’ll show you how Congress won’t:

    Pass laws to allow exploration and drilling at home

    Update and build more refineries here in America

    A list of environmenta l laws and taxes that came into effect before and after the war.

    Show me yours and I’ll show you mine. And I’ll show you the rapid expansion of the foreign economies of China and India. These measly war didn’t do shit for gas prices.

    STOP LYING!!!

  17. Continuing OT (sorry)

    At this post, I added another major item that was done by the Republic of Turkey and wasn’t addressed by H. RES. 106. That had to do with the illegal invasion, occupation, and annexation of 1/3 of the island of Cyprus (back in the early 1970s), which the Turkish government falsely justified. Greece has been livid about this for over 30 years, yet both countries remain allies with each other and the U.S. in NATO. It’s still a sore point for many Greek-Americ ans (and that’s not even counting the 400 years of plundering the Ottoman Turks did to Greece after the fall of the Byzantine Empire), especially since a wall has been built between 2/3 free section of the independent Greek-speaki ng Cyprus and the occupied Turkish-spea king portion. How come the faux “outrage” being exhibited by Pelosi and Lantos (and other pathetic “liberal” Dems) regarding the Armenian Genocide didn’t extend to this current travesty?

    Again, I’m not the one trivializing anything. That is being done by the pathetic @#$%! masquerading as a concerrrrned “liberal” and who is an abject failure as Speaker of the House. Unlike those of Bush, Pelosi’s actions actually do approach being criminal. Or did we forget about her violating the Logan Act during her idiotic trip to Syria?

  18. mr. bigstuff said:

    there was no way to pacify and democratize iraq before the invasion and there is no way to accomplish any sort of goal or mission now even if that fool w were to come up with some sort of mission and any strategy or tactics to accomplish that mission.

    I see. So you’re a racist. You don’t believe Arabs or Kurds have the capability of being able to establish a democracy. What scientific basis do you draw your hateful conclusions on? Do you also believe, as does this Nobel laureate, that Africans aren’t as intelligent as Westerners?

    And you, a avowed racist, have the nerve to criticize anyone?

  19. The one thing that is clear about the war in Iraq is that our government’s current methods aren’t achieving peace or stability. Regardless of intentions, the results keep coming out the same:
    1. There is no authority providing anything like the rule of law and making daily life safer for ordinary people, beyond the immediate line of fire of our troops and a few competent and honest Iraqi units. The organization s that are supposed to protect the people and enforce the law are mostly just wings of various factions. There is a multi-sided civil war in progress among Sunni and Shi’ite sects, local warlords and bandits, and foreign-spon sored terrorists who act more like mafiosi than the jihadis they call themselves.
    2. The infrastructu re is stagnant - when people try to build, either the resources aren’t there or the work is stopped or blown up by the terrorists/i nsurgents/fo reigners who have a vested interest in seeing the U.S. and the Iraqi government we sponsor fail.
    3. The neocons’ attempt to privatize security work and much of the fighting by contracting it out to mercenaries like Blackwater is turning out to be counterprodu ctive, too. As the private military corporations  (PMCs) get less careful about who they hire and about who they hurt or kill in the process of carrying out their assignments to protect VIPs and cargo, they are making enemies for the U.S. and the struggling Iraqi government a lot faster than they’re killing them, and a lot of the hate and discontent they’re inspiring is splashing onto our troops.

    The administrati on is making a different version of one of the Johnson administrati on’s Vietnam mistake. Back then, they used the draft that was already in place and operating, but tried to avoid agitating the Congress and the public by avoiding activating most of the reserves and the national guard. This time around it’s the opposite for the same motive - fear of public outcry has made a draft impossible, so they’re driving the active forces, the reserves, and the national guard until the wheels are falling off.

    Based on what has worked in the art and science of counterinsur gency over the last several decades, there are some things that would work if we did them - the question is whether it’s worth it to us. Nothing is certain except that what’s happening now isn’t giving us any results the American or Iraqi people could reasonably want, but these actions might have a chance:
    1. increase the number of infantry troops in the Army and Marines by at least 50% - to recruit them will take a major shift in the way the administrati on treats the troops. Changes in pay scales - the brass are making more than enough (I say that as a retired officer), but no American service member should need to be on food stamps to feed his or her family. The VA needs to be properly funded, and we need to stop this crap of trying to stiff disabled vets out of proper treatment by saying they had personality disorders before they signed up. We could free up some big bucks by shifting a major part of the military budget from high-tech weapon systems to the care and feeding of grunts, too. We can’t totally shut down military whizbang R&D - we’re probably going to have to fight a conventional war against the Chinese in the next generation. But the stuff we’re paying through the nose for now will be obsolete then anyway. The tech we do continue to support should be the stuff that’s relevant in counterinsur gency, i.e. close air support instead of superfighter s.
    2. Accept that this will have to be a long haul, a generational war at least. If not, we might as well cut our losses now.
    3. Plant our people in villages and neighborhood s throughout the country, using the Combined Action Platoon model from Vietnam (the best description of how that worked is in the book The Village by Bing West.) A squad or so of our troops take up long term residence in each community. They learn the language, get to know the people, and take the lead in organizing and training local militias to protect their own homes. Over time the militias become more capable and respected and take on more and more of the responsibili ty. It’s an “oil spot” strategy of gradual area denial; over time, with presence and active patrolling, there will be fewer and fewer places where the enemy can operate with impunity. If it’s done right, the resulting stability gives the population a stake in keeping it that way.
    4. Accept that along with it being a long haul, it will mean losing a lot of our people. The squad that West chronicled in his book lost about a third of their numbers.
    5. Accept that it will take massive infusions of money, too; a Marshall Plan for Iraq, using local labor and materials as much as possible, and exercising close oversight to keep it as honest as possible.
    6. Accept that the form of government the Iraqis settle on will probably not be a capitalist democracy; that’s alien to their culture.
    7. Get the damned mercenaries out of there.

    If we aren’t willing to do all the above, we’d be better off getting out now. The argument that it would be a betrayal of the troops who’ve already suffered and died there is a fallacy, the fallacy of sunken costs. What’s gone is gone. If we can’t use whatever we spend starting tomorrow in lives and treasure to bring about an outcome worth that price, we can’t.

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