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Nuance. It's a far cry from the protests of the Vietnam War era. Or even the rallies in New York and Los Angeles in the run-up to the Iraq war that turned out thousands. Antiwar activists and Democrats say this is the crucial month to turn up the heat on Republican lawmakers. A decisive moment looms--the Iraq progress report from Gen. David Petraeus is due in September--so the strategy is to win over enough Republican votes in the Senate in particular to pass a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops......
But some of the recent events in New Hampshire and Maine drew only a dozen folks. One recent New Hampshire morning rally was positively a bust. Attendance? Zero.
Protesting for Genocide doesn't seem to be as popular as some folks would have us believe.
There are two basic concepts being touted on the left:
This completely refutes a recent optimistic analysis of the war by Brookings Institute scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack because they were only there for 10 days while the GIs have been there for over a year.
These seven GIs represent the majority view of American soldiers - viewpoints that have (until now) been stifled by the government and the media.
(Note that these assertions ARE NOT MADE BY THE AUTHORS OF THE ORIGINAL OP-ED.)
As for the first point, one could make an argument that anyone trying to make some broad determination from these two examples must do so after spending about 10 minutes reading each one, and that the time spent in Iraq by the authors has no bearing on the validity of either report.
If you care to argue against that point above, I'll point out that by your own logic the hundreds (if not thousands) of man/year experience levels of the sum total of all milbloggers who've ever served in Iraq trumps any argument you could ever hope to make. Actually reading them would pretty much put argument two to rest also, but the folks making either of the arguments above really aren't likely to acknowledge the existence of such a large group of people whose reality conflicts so sharply with their imaginations.
For an illustration of those misconceptions, here's the "Progressive" view of the US military at war - comments generated at "Think Progress" in response to that Times op-ed:
Everyone already knows the truth, yet they continue to act surprised. This is not news.
Mark my words: regardless of anything that happens, things will only get worse in Iraq. The situation cannot be unfu(ked.
Comment by Marcus Aurelius -- August 19, 2007 @ 12:24 pm
they need to go a bit further, and call for mutiny, because this administration won't stop.
Comment by darla -- August 19, 2007 @ 12:39 pm
Kudos to the 82nd. It's about time that the soldiers start speaking out. Unfortunately the consequences for them is going to be grim. They are risking their lives by speaking out. Remember what happened to Pat Tillman. Expect more "friendly fire" deaths in the near future involving the brave soldiers who choose to speak out.
The thing that galls me the most about the situation in Iraq is all the Sargents and Generals who keep sending their soldiers into hopeless situations where the chances are good that they will be killed. Don't these people have any loyalty to their troops or has the Bush Crime Family so bastardized the military that all the officers must swear an oath to King George, their troops be damned.
Comment by bilbobaggins -- August 19, 2007 @ 12:53 pm
I understand your frustration, but please keep in mind that military personnel are trained to accept one thing above all else: The mission comes first.
Your personal feelings cannot interfere with following orders, even if you know that you will die as a result. (That's why they came up with the term "suicide mission", because they knew that there would be times when someone would have to give his or her life in order to complete the mission.) If you have any beef at all, it should be with the president who ordered them on this mission, not the NCOs and Officers tasked with carrying out their orders.
Comment by Wayne A. Schneider -- August 19, 2007 @ 1:03 pm
Well, we all know that Betrayus' report (written by the WH will totally refute this story.........After all, they would have so much better intelligence (?) than anhyone actually on the ground, in harm's way.
Chickenhawks are the most dangerous things that our troops are facing right now. It's all about politics and money!
Comment by upside00 -- August 19, 2007 @ 1:20 pm
A good officer won't sacrifice his troops unnecessarily, and good generals won't order good officers (or even not so good officers) to put their troops in the middle of a firestorm unless it's the only way to accomplish a greater mission.
Seeing as how our "mission" has become so blurry that nobody quite knows what it is anymore (most suspect the mission has become "hang on until this can become somebody else's mess"), we have a situation where good officers have to choose between sacrificing their troops for somebody's political legacy or mutiny (which, during wartime, can be punishable by death, according to the UCMJ).
I suspect that some WILL say "enough is enough", despite the penalty. But probably not many.
Comment by missmolly -- August 19, 2007 @ 1:30 pm
It really is too bad that GDumbya and Darth Cheney are not war veterans. It's not because they would be better at conducting the Iraq fiasco today. It's because they both would have been fragged within a day of arriving in-theater back then . . . and their stupidity would not be imposed upon us today.
Comment by tom -- August 19, 2007 @ 1:41 pm
If you're a woman, *especially* an un-married one... Fuzzybear Lioness lays out the pluses of working in the military community.
Castle Argghhh! blogger and retired NJARNG helo pilot Bill is working as a contractor in Pakistan, training Paki Cobra pilots.
His dispatches paint a different picture of Pakistan than what you normally see in the MSM. Here's his latest.
There are two types of electrical power interruption here in Shangri-La -- planned and unplanned.
An example of the first type: a typed note -- "Our engineers will be performing normal maintenance on the generator. This is an emergency which will take three or four hours" -- slid under the door during the blackout. You track the messenger's progress down the hall by counting the number of objects he bumps into in the dark, then listening for the *skkkt* of paper sliding on tile and retrieving and reading same by flashlight.
An example of the second type: *thwoooom -- papppffffft!*
One of us contractorslug pilots never had the advantage of acquiring military rotary wing flight time, so he also never acquired the military rotary wing flyer's habit of keeping a flashlight within easy reach (it only takes one total electrical failure during a night flight to instill the habit). One of the Shadows observed that John's room (I'll call him John because three of the guys here are named John and you don't know any of them from Adam, anyway) was the only one without artificial illum during one recent blackout, so the next morning, he brought a candle to John's room.
Shadow: "For power failure, sir."
John: "Well, thanks, but there aren't any candle-holders in the room. If it falls over, it'll start a fire, and when the power is off, the fire alarm won't work -- there'll be a *big* problem."
Shadow: "Do you have matches, sir?"
Shadow: "Then there is not a problem."
And he walked out.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A quick background brief -- both North and South Waziristan were granted a semi-autonomous status by the Pakistani government in return for keeping a lid on al-Q and the Taliban. The current dust-ups (since February, anyway) are a result of those organizations refusing to be kept lidded.
Monday, "Taliban spokesmen" (unnamed in the article, but definitely not "pro-Taliban tribal spokesmen") declared that the modus vivendi (see the background brief) in South Waziristan was null and void. South Waziri tribal council chiefs slapped the spokesmen's noses on Tuesday and reminded them that it was the tribes, not the Taliban, who made the agreement with Islamabad and it was the tribes, not the Taliban, who would announce any change to the status quo. And, since the alternative is a full-blown confrontation with a central government which already has 90,000 troops on their turf, the tribes prefer to keep the status as quo as possible.
Pashtuns will tolerate some failings in their guests, but they draw the line at creating a nuisance which draws attention from iron sights.
In the Op Area: Pak Cobras in North Waziristan conducted gunship raids yesterday, pounding the daylights out of terr strongholds around Miramshah with the objective of making local Taliban sympathizers realize the jirga's pronouncement of zero-tolerance for terrorists wasn't just political lip-flapping. An aerial op outside Mahsud in South Waziristan -- a four-ship tag-team -- hit three al-Q staging areas Tuesday; ground followup found fifteen late members of the Uzbek tribe. There's also an ongoing ground sweep in SW to recover fifteen troops captured by pro-Taliban terrs who ambushed their convoy (they were travelling in civilian vehicles, unarmed). There were sixteen survivors, originally, but one was found the next day, beheaded, outside the airfield the Cobras were using as a refuel/rearm point. The terrs are demanding the release of ten of their brethren scooped up in Islamabad and intel reports from locals focused Army attention on the Mahsud region.
The three most-recent VBIED incidents against guard posts in the Northwest Frontier Provinces involved high-end SUVs rather than junkers or the traditional white minivans -- the bombers figure an expensive vehicle is less-likely to arouse suspicion at the checkpoints. Judging by some changes I've seen around this area, the troops already got the word on that.
On the Street: Security forces penetrated a nascent terror cell in Islamabad, arrested two organizers previously connected with the Red Mosque and charged them with training and launching suiciders -- local police arrested two of their trainees separately (and rapidly) in a nice display of interservice cooperation.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On the front page of today's paper (Really-Early Edition). Maulana Merajuddin, chief of the tribal council for Mahsud (the same council delivering the Talib Smackdown on Tuesday), announced the "militants have agreed to the unconditional release of the fifteen kidnapped personnel." Sole condition of the "unconditional" agreement is that the Cobras remain on the ground during the release proceedings.
My guess is that the troops were local militia going home on leave (civilian cars and no weapons, remember?) and had relatives who leaned on the council, who quietly reminded the "militants" that their continued well-being depended on whether or not the council considered them guests or nuisances.
Like I said, Pashtuns will tolerate *some* failings in their guests...
If that piques your interest, you can catch the rest of his dispatches here, Postcards from the Edgy.
Happy Birthday to one of the most amazing women that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Hum, seems two people are sharing a birthday today.
As for Sen. Kerry (D-MA), who served in Vietnam in case you didn't know, he sees things - well - follow the links above and see for yourself.
MNF- I :
Citizen sacrifices life to thwart suicide bomber
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – An Iraqi man saved the lives of four U.S. Soldiers and eight civilians when he intercepted a suicide bomber during a Concerned Citizens meeting in the town of al-Arafia Aug. 18.
The incident occurred while Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, were talking with members of the al-Arafia Concerned Citizens, a volunteer community group, at a member’s house.
“I was about 12 feet away when the bomber came around the corner,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Kane, of Los Altos, Calif., acting platoon sergeant of Troop B, 3-1 Cav. “I was about to engage when he jumped in front of us and intercepted the bomber as he ran toward us. As he pushed him away, the bomb went off.”
The citizen’s actions saved the lives of four U.S. Soldiers and eight civilians.
Kane felt the loss personally because he had met and interacted with his rescuer many times before the incident.
“He was high-spirited and really believed what the group (Concerned Citizens) was doing,” Kane said. “I have no doubt the bomber was trying to kill American Soldiers. It was very calculated the way the bomber tried to do it. If he hadn’t intercepted him, there is no telling how bad it could have been.”
Kane believes the citizen is a hero.
“He could have run behind us or away from us, but he made the decision to sacrifice himself to protect everyone. Having talked with his father, I was told that even if he would have known the outcome before hand, he wouldn’t have acted differently.”
Capt. Brian Gilbert, of Boise, Idaho, the commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, currently attached to 3-1 Cavalry, echoed Kane’s sentiment.
“I spoke with the father,” Gilbert said. “He said he has no remorse in his son’s death because he died saving American Soldiers.”
Later that night, the Concerned Citizens group contacted the local National Police director, Lt. Col. Samir, with the location of the al-Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the attack. The National Police immediately conducted a raid that resulted in four arrests.
Despite the citizen’s death, Gilbert is encouraged by the cooperation between citizens and the Iraqi National Police.
“The effort of the Concerned Citizens group has made the area much safer,” he said. “They are proud of who they are and their area, and want to get rid of the terrorists in their area.”
Gilbert also praised the Iraqi National Police’s role in eliminating insurgents in the area.
“The cooperation between them and the Concerned Citizens has been key,” Gilbert said. “The NP has done a great job of responding to the tips they have been given by the group.”
Gilbert said he believes the area is improving because of the efforts of local citizens. The death, while unfortunate, demonstrated how close many in the area have become with the American Soldiers operating there.
“I consider many in the town friends, and I know they feel the same,” Gilbert said. “This is a tough situation, but we’ll move on and try to prevent things like this from happening again. I’ve talked with his family and told them how brave their son was. This is a huge loss for everyone involved.”
This NY Times Op/Ed from a group of 82d Airborne NCOs is well written, thought provoking, and worthy of more than a quick read. While I disagree with many of their conclusions, the facts they present in support are indeed fact. The authors are clearly well-informed from personal observation and external sources, but in most cases the therefore that follows many of those facts is where we part company.
We are indeed working to straighten out a hell of a mess in Baghdad, and any number of things can foil our objectives. In fact, failure is easier and quicker than success, our failure can bring success to others (is, in fact, prerequisite to their success as they currently envision it) and not all of these "others" are ready to develop new definitions of personal or group success more compatible with ours. (Or at least, definitions of "success" that can be achieved following our success rather than only after our failure).
But, in fact, that's exactly what's happened in most of al Anbar, and during the bloody campaign to get there such an outcome was far from obvious. (Such an outcome is far from a done deal now, too, but at least it can be mentioned without drawing sneers.) It's entirely possible that all hell may still break lose there. But it seems (at best) that the general population has had enough of al Qaeda and their ilk and are willing to cast their lot with us, or (at worst) have finally realized that the best way to get rid of us is to let us finish and leave - after gaining whatever edge they can against their future rivals from us before our departure. (Said edge being training, money, weapons, and perhaps a bit of thinning of the rival herd before we depart.) One can't rule out some middle ground between those two possibilities.
That being the case, our best hope is that prosperity (or at least being on a recognizable path thereto) will prove incentive to keep the peace without the presence of American guns. Said peace being more conducive to such prosperity, a positive spiral can develop, and we're beginning to see the early indications of that spiral now in Anbar as months of positive developments have at least resulted in people noticing the positive developments and in turn developing at least some semblance of hope.
Again - any number of things can still go wrong in Anbar - but three (or even two and perhaps one) years ago very few people would have been willing to bet on the situation being as favorable as it is today. (It was in fact in August of last year that the Anbar Awakening got the spiral going* - though it was the result of events occurring throughout the previous year.)
Which brings us back to Baghdad today. With a larger and more diverse population the problems are magnified. And even something that appears to be the beginning of an upward spiral can in fact turn out to be a complex, chaotic and well-tangled knot. But we have learned from the Anbar experience, and are actively pursuing similar means to ends in the big city. Believe it or not, the people of Baghdad are well aware of what's happened in Anbar too, and don't see that example as a disaster to be avoided at all costs - in fact, the opposite is true. (Perhaps some other time I'll tell you about the debate over whether the term "neighborhood watch organizations" applied to the multiple groups of various size we're working with throughout Baghdad and the belts is appropriate...)
But there are bad guys sprinkled through that population. Which brings us to a passage from the Op/Ed I believe deserves a close look.
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse -- namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.That's an ROE (Rules of Engagement) complaint, and I've heard it voiced (usually less eloquently) many times before. Without addressing the validity (it is a valid complaint to a degree, but ROE can be thought of as a system comprised of many components - some of which are human beings with a reluctance to kill other human beings) it's worth noticing the tacit acknowledgment that we are, in fact, waging a war like no other before, and have been since March, 2003. We could have left no two bricks in Baghdad connected even before the tanks rolled into town - instead we elected to execute as precise and surgical a war as military technology allows. The hope, of course, was that a population tired of the oppressive rule of a despotic leader would flourish once that leader was removed, and that we would be able to draw down to a small contingent of American troops within a reasonable time. That first assumption hasn't so much been proven wrong as proven to be still theoretical in the face of an onslaught of thugs from various quarters of the region (including Iraq) bent on sowing enough chaos** to keep it that way. The second assumption hinges on the first - and thus we remain in larger force than any would have liked.
As for those years of occupation, no matter how much some folks (for clarity - obviously not the authors of the Op/Ed) would like to believe we are an oppressor, this is not akin to the Roman subjugation of the barbarians of Europe or the French experience in Algeria (The latter - rather than the oft-cited Vietnam comparison - being the true model for the left's desired narrative of America in Iraq) or anything else in the sweep of history between. Thus, ironically, our "soft" (and it isn't soft - we are killing people) approach has earned us accusations of Nazi-like behavior from all the usual suspects.
Will it work? I think the very possibility that it might is what so terrifies those in and out of Iraq who've invested heavily in "no". Their tactics will change (are, in fact, changing) to meet the new realities on the ground. That they will do so is not evidence of our failure - no matter how many people they kill to make their point. (Killing them all and letting Allah sort them out is demonstrably not difficult.)
Likewise, "Killing them all and letting God sort them out" - like simply quitting and walking away - is an undeniably easier path then the one on which we are currently embarked. But for some reason, some Americans love doing things the hard way.
"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory."
* link also available here as (hopefully) temporary problems are preventing view of archives.
** link also here.
*** link also here.