Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Listen to the Soldiers

That means that Ghost Dansing cannot critique since he/she has never been in Iraq.

Question Authority
What the media got wrong about Spc. Wilson and Secretary Rumsfeld.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 12:01 a.m.

To the media, it was a dramatic revelation of Bush administration hypocrisy and incompetence: A lowly American GI courageously speaks truth to power, thus showing that the emperor has no clothes. But to this Marine veteran of the Iraq war, the hullabaloo over Army Spc. Thomas J. Wilson's question reveals far more about media bias, prejudice and ignorance than it does about the U.S. military and Iraq.

Spc. Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why, nearly two years after the start of the war, his unit still has too few "up-armored" humvees. The media were surprised that an enlisted man would ask so direct and pointed a question of the Pentagon's highest official. I wasn't.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve after Sept. 11, 2001, and served in Iraq in 2003. Throughout boot camp, combat training and subsequent preparation for war, my instructors always stressed the importance of independent thinking and initiative. Obviously, when you're in the middle of a firefight, you cannot--and must not--second-guess split-second command decisions. However, when preparing for war, thoughtful and considered questions are not only tolerated; they are encouraged--even demanded, I found.

As one of my combat instructors told us: "Marines, you're more likely to die from someone doing something stupid than because the enemy is skilled and ingenious. So make sure you've thought things through and that everyone's on the same page. Be polite. Be tactful. But don't be afraid to ask questions."

I soon discovered that this command to think and to ask questions wasn't mere rhetoric. I was serving with the First Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment at an abandoned pistol factory in Al Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Every three weeks or so, we were visited by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who was then commanding the First Marine Division in Iraq.

Gen. Mattis is a Marine's Marine, a true warrior who speaks bluntly and candidly, without being bound by the constraints of political correctness. For well over an hour, on a routine and regular basis, the general would gather together his Marines and field questions. Nothing was out of bounds. The event was entirely democratic and thoroughly American--though marked by standard military etiquette and respect for rank. Thus, newsmen and commentators who fear "retribution" against Spc. Wilson haven't a clue as to what the U.S. military is all about. Spc. Wilson asked a tough but fair question; however, for any U.S. serviceman who's ever been to war, this was hardly surprising.

Nor does his question demonstrate, as some have argued, that the Iraq war was ill-conceived or poorly planned. War is, by its very nature, surprising and unpredictable; it forces us to adapt and to be innovative. Armchair "experts" notwithstanding, the fact is no one anticipated the Baathist-Sunni insurgency, certainly not the U.S. military. We all expected to knock off Saddam Hussein and his elite Republican Guard and then head home in time for the July 4 celebrations. That's why, when I deployed to Iraq in 2003, I traveled throughout the country in a standard canvas humvee with no special armor. Nor did I have any special body vest or protection.

I thought nothing of this at the time and still don't. My team went as far north as Baghdad, but we were situated mainly south of the Sunni Triangle, in predominantly Shiite Iraq. Throughout our entire time there, the Iraqis welcomed us as liberators. We were well prepared for the threat as it then existed and as we understood it.

But when my old Marine Corps reserve unit redeployed to Iraq in September, it did so with fully armored vehicles, new sappy plated vests and special goggles--all designed to protect against shrapnel and improvised explosive devices. That's because the unit was deploying to Fallujah, and the threat there was different from what we had faced in southern, Shiite Iraq.

This type of change and adaptation has occurred in all wars from time immemorial. It reflects not poor planning but the unpredictable nature of war. That's why the Defense Department has been moving quickly to up-armor its humvees, producing nearly 400 such vehicles a month, up from 30 a month in August 2003, according to Army Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb.

The U.S. military ultimately wants 8,100 up-armored humvees versus the nearly 6,000 such vehicles that it has currently, Gen. Whitcomb told reporters last week. Moreover, according to the Army vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the military long ago embarked on a "Manhattan-like project" to remotely jam IEDs with radio sensors.

If you're an American soldier or Marine whose life is on the line now, clearly that's not good enough. On the other hand, it simply isn't true that U.S. military leaders have callously ignored the troops' request for up-armored vehicles and other protective equipment. In fact, most of our troops in Iraq have up-armored vehicles, and units there take force protection quite seriously.

Delays ought to be blamed on the military bureaucracy, which Secretary Rumsfeld has been trying to reform. Indeed, that's what military transformation--a Rumsfeld priority--is all about. Yet, many of the same people who are most vociferously denouncing the lack of up-armored humvees in Iraq also fight military reform tooth and nail.

Example: When the Army decided last winter to cancel development of its Cold War relic Comanche helicopter, Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, immediately took to the barricades. "It simply doesn't make sense to pull the plug on the Comanche," Mr. Dodd said. "Obviously, this will not be an easy fight, but I intend to work with other members of the Connecticut congressional delegation to seek to retain the Comanche as part of our military arsenal."

It didn't seem to matter to Mr. Dodd that the Comanche was a $39-billion boondoggle that the Army didn't want because the aircraft isn't suitable for 21st-century urban warfare. Nor did Mr. Dodd seem to care that much of the displaced Comanche money would be used to equip existing Army helicopters with new countermeasure systems necessary to neutralize the ubiquitous threat posed by rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired missiles, and man-portable air-defense systems, all of which are omnipresent in Iraq.

Yet Mr. Dodd, who has never been a champion of big defense budgets, now has the chutzpah to lecture Mr. Rumsfeld about the need to "spare no expense to ensure the safety of our troops, particularly as they confront a hostile insurgency and roadside bombs throughout Iraq." Mr. Dodd says Mr. Rumsfeld's response to Spec. Wilson--"You go to war with the Army you have"--is "utterly unacceptable. Mr. Secretary," he writes, "our troops go to war with the Army that our nation's leaders provide."

Quite true--and Mr.. Dodd is one of those leaders.

Nor does the entire hullabaloo concerning up-armored humvees show, as some commentators contest, that U.S. troops lack confidence in their military and civilian leaders. The reality is that troop morale is consistently high.

Of course, American soldiers and Marines yearn to come home; it is not in our nature to colonize or occupy a country. By the same token, however, most U.S. troops take understandable pride in a job well done. They are pleased to have the historic chance to serve and to practice, in a real-world operation, that which they have been training for all these many years. That's why re-enlistment rates are high.

As U.S. Central Commander Gen. John Abizaid told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" Sept. 26: "The constant drumbeat in Washington of a war that is being lost, that can't be won, of a resistance that is out of control, simply does not square with the facts on the ground." In fact, the vast majority of Iraq is not a war zone; it is peaceful, tranquil and doing surprisingly well. I refer specifically to the Shiite south. The Kurdish north, too, is doing relatively well, despite the recent upsurge of violence in Mosul.

"So is this fight in the Middle East worth fighting?" the general asked Mr. Russert. "Absolutely," he said. "In my mind, and in the minds of our young people that are out here fighting and sacrificing, it's absolutely worth it."

Of course you won't hear any of this in many news articles or broadcasts. The media long ago decided that its job was to put a negative slant on all things Iraq. Truth is, as they say, the first casualty of war.

Mr. Guardiano is an Arlington, Va.-based journalist who served in Iraq in 2003 as a field radio operator with the U.S. Marine Corps' Fourth Civil Affairs Group.

Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Ghost Dansing said...

Frankly, you don't know where I've been, and I critique whatever I want.

"Spc. Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why, nearly two years after the start of the war, his unit still has too few "up-armored" humvees. The media were surprised that an enlisted man would ask so direct and pointed a question of the Pentagon's highest official. I wasn't."

I'm not so sure the "media was surprised".. etc. And it really doesn't matter if the "media was surprised".
A question was asked, and the question was why the troops are still digging around and scavenging for armor to tack onto their vehicles, when we've known about the armor inadequacy for "years"?

The question isn't "Why is the media surprised"?.. It is "Why are the troops still asking the question after all this time?" Why are they still scavenging around looking for armor? (One could also ask why some troops are being Court Martialed for scavenging.. but that's another issue.)

The author wants to direct focus to the media.. that it is somehow a slight to the troops that they were allegedly "surprised" that such a question could be asked in such a forum.

Evidently, at least one embedded media member thought the question could and should be asked.. remember him? Remember how yesterday the Republican spin was all about how the question actually came from a reporter?

How quickly we forget. The article is all about changing the focus from the serious deficiencies emanating from the elected leadership, to what the media was "surprised" about.

Let's listen to another "troop" who has "been to Iraq".

Back in May of 2004 General Zinni, former Commander of Central Command, a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, said he could not support the president's re-election "if the current strategists in the defense department are going to be carried over."

In September of 2003, he said:

"I'm disappointed in the planning for this operation. I'm disappointed in what was advertised as transformation of the military. I have yet to see it; I don't understand it. I see a military that's very strained, that could reach the breaking point."

Many Military, Intelligence, and Diplomatic professionals cannot support this Republican administration.

The real question isn't "Why was the media surprised..?" It is.. on what basis do you continue to support this incompetence?

paul said...

"the fact is no one anticipated the Baathist-Sunni insurgency,"


Ghost Dansing said...

Well, it was more like the Republican administration ignored professional and expert warnings about the potential for insurgency.

They did this for a number of reasons, including the fact that they were in "marketing" mode to the American People. They essentially "best cased" the scenario, with the neocons suggesting rapid victory with minimal troop requirements, rapid re-establishment of a robust Iraqi economy, that would pay for the war, and a rapid establishiment of a democratic, or at least pro-US government... no room for protracted insurgency in that spin.

Two reports by the National Intelligence Council, a group of senior analysts that pools assessments from across the nation's intelligence community, warned Dubya in January 2003, two months before the invasion, that the conflict could spark factional violence and an anti-U.S. insurgency, the official said. One of the reports said the U.S.-led occupation could "increase popular sympathy for terrorist objectives." Similarly sober warnings by the CIA went to senior administration officials and Congress as part of daily intelligence summaries.

The January 2003 reports from the National Intelligence Council (NIC) said an invasion would increase support for hard-line politicized Islam and result in a divided Iraqi society prone to violent conflict, the sources said Tuesday.

Disclosure of the reports just weeks before the presidential election could create political problems for the White House. The reports were prepared by the same unit that prepared a gloomy national intelligence estimate in July about prospects for Iraq.

Asked about the gloomy July national intelligence estimate about prospects for Iraq, Bush first said the authors were "guessing," but later corrected himself, calling it an "estimate."

An Army War College report to the Army's No. 2 general a month before the invasion and since made public predicted, "The longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop." Conrad Crane and W. Andrew Terrill, the War College analysts, warned, "A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders."

The moment when U.S. troops realized they had badly underestimated the resistance they would encounter from Iraqi guerrilla fighters can be pinpointed to the minute.

At precisely 9 a.m. on March 22, 2003, the third day of the war in Iraq, GIs riding armored vehicles through the southern town of Samawah waved at a group of civilians gathered near a bridge. Instead of a friendly reply, they got automatic weapons fire. The men charged the armored column in waves, attacking with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The neocons and this Republican admininstration were wrong... they had miscalculated.. and demonstrations of their incompetence continue to unfold.

paul said...

Ghost, I don't know why we play there stupid game, responding to idiotic and patently false statements only gives them validity.

Remember when they said liberals were racist because we didn't think democracy would come easily to Iraq, and they kept throwing out Germany and Japan as examples?

What a bunch of goofballs. The drugs addled their brains, and now they've discovered a new addiction -- political arrogance.

It feels good, and takes the spotlight of their low feelings of self-worth, just like the drugs used to do.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ghost, if you make your posts even longer and more pendantic then we might actually be worn down by your blathering to the point where our fatigue might actually make us think that when you toss the label "neocon" around that you're actually saying something.


Ghost Dansing said...

Most Repbulicans and so called "conservatives" do have a touch of ADD.. have a little trouble following an idea much beyond a sound byte.. don't actually research anything for themselves.. just sort of memorize something to parrot... so I can understand the frustration with .. well, words ... and all.

The oppositions use of the term NEOCON has been criticised by those upon whom it is "pinned" as being a product of conspiritorial thought.

To the degree that there can be groups of people that share the same essential political philosophy, insofar as the identification of such a cluster is conspiritorial, then, I suppose the identification of NEOCONS can be construed as conspiritorial.

But then, I suppose the Founding Fathers of the United States were co-conspiritors as well. I typically don't think of it in that way, however the English Crown did, so I suppose there are some legitimate frames of reference for such categories.

When I use the term NEOCON, I am using it to identify a contemporary group, mainly in the Republican Party, but who tried to influence the last Democratic administration in the White House as well.

The style and content of the NEOCON is identifiable as a political philosophy and modus operandi.

For example: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once noted in an off the cuff remark, strategic truths sometimes need be defended by a “bodyguard of lies.”

In the past few years, the “bodyguard of lies” metaphor has been redeployed and used to characterize the Bush Administration’s raw manipulation of the CIA and other intelligence agencies for propaganda purposes and for the gross deceit that seems to characterize the rationales put forward for their Iraq policy. Of these there were many--WMDs, a suspected connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, or the humanitarian rescue of the Iraqi people. They shifted depending on their intended audience and perhaps the day of the week. Washington’s stated war goals were not logically coherent, and its more intellectually compelling arguments were usually played down or denied.

Interestingly, after the offical casus belli failed to pan out, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the war party denied that these were the "real reasons for the war". In fact, the whole WMD rationale was adopted for "bureaucratic reasons". While there are typically more than one reason for going to war, certainly the only compelling reason for immediate, pre-emptive invasion would have been the WMD issue as an imminent threat. But what is interesting here is how lightly the claim was pushed aside after war was fait accompli.

This concept "bodyguard of lies", though presented here as merely one example. The concept has identifiable roots to some of the more reknown aspects of a Political Philosophy that evolved from one Professor Leo Strauss.

Leo Strauss, for example (though he did contradict himself in various versions of his writings) was a great believer in the efficacy and usefulness of lies in politics. We can see this also in Machiavelli.. but then Strauss included Machiavelli in his studies.

Many of the most visible Neo Conservative figures within the ranks of the Bush Administration and among its house intellectuals who reside at the American Enterprise Institute and write for the Weekly Standard, have some kind of connection with Leo Strauss. Or if not with the Master himself, then at least with his most visible disciple, Allan Bloom, who taught at the University of Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s.

Among their alumni are other Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, the Chair of the National Defense Policy Board, Stephen Cambone, the Under Secretary of Intelligence, Elliot Abrams of the National Security Council and Adam Shulsky already mentioned. These are members of coherent neo-conservative group of policy makers that have served together in since the Reagan administration and who often socialize together as well. And given their willingness to look out for one another’s offspring, the network has a multi-generational dimension that passes membership and ideological belief from father to son as is the case, for instance, with Irving Kristol of Commentary who begat William Kristol of the Weekly Standard.

Returning to our Foreign Policy example: In the reigning neo-conservative view the Iraq war was a “a bold and daring project” to reshape the map of the Middle East by applying the “shock and awe” of battle to break down barriers to westernization—as though western armies from Napoleon to Dayan hadn’t already tried the application of brute force in 1799, 1918, 1956, and 1967.

For the Neo-con theorists, warfare remains the preferred means for administering shock therapy to the Mid East.

In the event, things have turned out somewhat differently than expected. Conquering Iraq proved easier than occupying it, and far from breaking Islamist morale, the Bush conquest has instead turned Iraq into a magnet for violence attracting every available fedayin in the Middle East.

NEOCON influence is especially strong in the right wing policy think tanks in Washington—most notably the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)—set up by conservative foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Braddley Foundation. President Bush saluted the AEI as the home to “twenty of the best minds” in his administration, and it was their annual dinner in February 2003 that he give his clearest defense of his invasion of Iraq. Echoing the Wolfowitz argument for regime change in Iraq as the key to regional transformation, Bush declared that the liberation of Iraq was about bringing democracy to an entire region and Islam into the modern world. The audience at the American Enterprise Institute was understandably thrilled because his speech meant that the “Richard Perle School” had won its battle for the President’s heart and mind at least for the duration of the war. Radiating the sublime self-certainty that can only come from the place where evangelical faith meets worldly inexperience, our Warrior President committed us to making over not just one Arab dictatorship but all of them at once.

So.. it (Iraq War) wasn't about WMD, or terrorists getting WMD.. it was about, finally, after none of these arguments could be made to ring true, nothing less than the transformation of the entire Middle East.

That's what I mean when I talk about NEOCONS and when I said the "true rationale for the war was embedded in NEOCON theory".. Could you follow it?

paul said...

You make several excellent points, Ghost. I agree wholeheartedly.

Keep on truckin'!

STCA said...

Don't worry, Anon. Ghost's comments are never his own. Just a simple cut and paste action (which I have warned him about before about not citing his work; a google search on any paragraph demonstrates he is a plagerizes his opinions from DNC talking points). He will be banned soon.

Ghost Dansing said...

Republicans are not big on facts. The poster didn't think I knew what I was talking about when I used the term NEOCON. I obviously do. And the fact that much of the information is freely available in books and on the internet does not change the fact.

In fact, the idea that someone doesn't understand to whom or what people are referring to when referring to NEOCONS, demonstrates that in the Republican realm, little research is done outside of their own little echo chambers.

Republicans simply deny that NEOCONS exist. Just like they deny that things are going badly with Iraq, and that the economic deficits are time bombs undermining the economy.

As a matter of fact, most Republican commentary is either parroting the Party line, or denying that certain facts undermine their spin.

I just listened to a Republican politician today on Wolf Blitzer use the phrase "enormous progress is being made in Iraq" at least a dozen times while there is not a lick of evidence that this is so. Strident, repeated assertions do no make it true.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ghost, don't forget to add that Jews have horns, the earth is flat, Republicans don't need to breathe or drink which is why they poison the air and water, and you do have a valid purpose in life - which is why you post talking points here in an effort to get attention.

(Don't worry, someday you will be able to afford some companionship, just be sure to wear a condom. You'll find a vending machine in the men's room of the fast-food franchise that pays you minimum wage to mop the floor. And one day you'll be able to do that right as well.)


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