The Surge from a Soldier’s View

This ran in Sunday’s New York Times. 

August 19, 2007
Op-Ed Contributors

The War as We Saw It

By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY

Baghdad 

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

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.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant. 

  58 comments for “The Surge from a Soldier’s View

  1. Northcountystorm
    August 22, 2007 at 12:15 am

    Leave it to a bunch of NCO’s to tell it like it is. I doubt we’ll get this kind of honesty from General Petraeus next month.

  2. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I’m sure Petraeus will tell us we have “turned a corner” or there is “light at the end of the tunnel.” Heard it before in the 60’s.

    And conservatives will get all lathered that liberals want to “cut and run.” If only we would commit to more money, more bullets, more dead, more broken lives we could win. Despite not having determined what constitutes winning.

  3. August 22, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Leave it to a bunch of NCO’s to tell it like it is. I doubt we’ll get this kind of honesty from General Petraeus next month.

    And on what basis do you say that, norhtcountystorm? Do you know Gen. Petraeus? Do you know him to be dishonest. Has you lied to you before that you can make such a claim?

    A single op-ed from five solders settles the matter?

    If fainthearts like you two had been running the show during the American Revolution, we’d be a part of Canada today.

  4. August 22, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Good comparision Jubal. The ill convieved war in Iraq is EXACTLY like America’s war for independence.

    When is Jubal going to enlist?

  5. August 22, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Before I get reamed…

    “ill concieved war”

  6. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 9:55 am

    If fainthearts like you two had been running the show during the American Revolution, we’d be a part of Canada today.

    You mean the war where citizens dissented against the ruling powers and were considered patriots? When it is done now dissent is compared to being a “faint hearts” or “traitors” by conservatives. Know anyone like that Jubal?

  7. August 22, 2007 at 10:08 am

    When is Jubal going to enlist?

    This canard again?

    It’s funny how none of the libs who cheered on Clinton’s various military adventures ever enlisted to fight in them.

  8. August 22, 2007 at 10:10 am

    But I am pretty sure none of us ever compared his “various military adventures” to the War for American Independence…

  9. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 10:24 am

    It’s funny how none of the libs who cheered on Clinton’s various military adventures ever enlisted to fight in them.

    What’s even funnier is how when Clinton had troops in harm’s way conservatives thought nothing of not only being critical or only opposing the president’s policy there were no concerns about being unpatriotic, the effect on troop morale, or emboldening the enemy like their is now.

    Now those who are critical of the President’s disaster in the desert are viewed as “faint hearts”, “cut and runners” or in extreme cases as “traitors.”

    Please show me where Clinton’s military adventures had anyone cheering them on like we hear on AM talk radio or any of the other conservative outlets.

  10. August 22, 2007 at 10:24 am

    RHackett:

    I mean the war that went against the patriots for most of the six years of fighting, in which the war for independence was opposed by a very large segment of the colonial population.

    They were considered patriots by those who agreed with them, and traitors by loyalists and the Crown.

    Dissent isn’t faintheartedness. Faintheartedness is declaring that because one isn’t currently winning a war, that it is therefore impossible to win a war. And that flies in the face of history. That attitude would have led the North to recognize the independence of the Confederacy. Instead they persevered, changed tactics and commanders until settling on ones that produced results. That attitude would have led Britain and the USSR to follow France into capitulation to Hitler. At the time, it was almost impossible to see how they would be able to prevail over the Nazis.

    But you and northcountystorm have already made up your minds that the War in Iraq is lost and I doubt anything will change your minds. And you’ve already decided that Gen. Petraeus is going to lie to Congress next month.

  11. August 22, 2007 at 10:26 am

    But I am pretty sure none of us ever compared his “various military adventures” to the War for American Independence…

    I didn’t compare the War of Independence to the Iraq War.

  12. August 22, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Please show me where Clinton’s military adventures had anyone cheering them on…

    How old are you? Are you just not old enough to remember how liberals who suffered apoplexy when Reagan sent 50 military advisers to El Salvador in the early 1980s or the invasion of Grenada in 1983 thought it was noble and wonderful to invade Haiti in 1994?

  13. Dan Chmielewski
    August 22, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Matt compared where we’d be if RH and North were in charge during the Revolution…a slipperly slope but not a direct comparsion.

    Matt — you were all over the O’Hanlan op-ed as “news” that has to get out more. This op-ed is no less valid.

    Petraeus isn’t even writing his own report; the White House is. What do you think it will say?

  14. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 10:47 am

    I haven’t decided the was is already lost. This administration has never established what constitutes winning. The goal line has been continuously moved in order to maintain support. All the other conflicts you mention had a definable goal that remained static during the course of the conflict. To compare the Civil War or WW II to the war in Iraq is almost a non sequitur.

  15. Aunt Millie
    August 22, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Apparently our only problem in our fifth year of this invasion and occupation of Iraq is our failure to deploy the appropriate historical analogies against the faint-hearted.

    Make no mistake. Bush and his apparatchiks know that they have failed dismally in everything they have attempted. They’re only trying to kick the can long enough so that the next President will take the blame for the hard choices that have to be made in cleaning up the catatrophes that they have made of our military, budget, and relationships with the rest of the world.

  16. August 22, 2007 at 11:26 am

    I believe you meant
    ill-concEIved
    “i before e except after c”

  17. August 22, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Note to self:

    Dont post on a partisan blog after 3 cups of coffee and a reliance on spell check for the past 5 years of my life…

    Thanks for the reaming, it will only make me better…

  18. August 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

    My apologies — it looks like I’m guilt of not closing my HTML italics code.

  19. August 22, 2007 at 11:42 am

    “Matt — you were all over the O’Hanlan op-ed as “news” that has to get out more. This op-ed is no less valid.”

    I didn’t attack the validity of the op-ed, although I don’t know anything about these soldiers in particular. What I criticized was NCstorm and RHackett’s acceptance of it the opinions of five servicemen as gospel and dismissing as lies testimony that has not even been given yet.

    “Petraeus isn’t even writing his own report; the White House is. What do you think it will say?”

    Can you please back up that one?

  20. August 22, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    This administration has never established what constitutes winning.

    The goal has always been clear. Overthrow Saddam’s regime and replace it with a stable democracy.

    Clearly, the Bush Administration underestimated the difficulty of the latter and has made serious policy mistakes that have prolonged the war.

    On the other hand, it takes time to build effective Iraqi security forces, especially in the middle of a war. It’s difficult to build an effective democratic goverment in the midst of a war.

    But the Administration long ago made clear this was going to be a long struggle. It’s also been clear that as the Iraqi government is progressively more able to handle internal security, that Americans forces will be drawn down.

    All the other conflicts you mention had a definable goal that remained static during the course of the conflict. To compare the Civil War or WW II to the war in Iraq is almost a non sequitur.

    They did all have definable goals: destruction of the Confederacy and the Axis powers.And in Iraq, we had a definable goal: destruction of the Saddam regime. Each of these wars entailed a long-occupation. Reconstruction lasted 12 years in the face of a hostile population and low-level guerrilla violence, before the North finally quit as part of the compromise that resolved the 1876 presidential election. Our occupation of the Axis powers lasted many years, and in Germany, Nazi hold-outs waged a terrorist campaign against Allied forces and German “collaborators” (although that terrorist campaign obviously didn’t last as long as that we face in Iraq).

    The goals — unconditional surrender — remained the same, but tactics and strategies were changed throughout, as failed ones were discarded in favor of new approaches until winning ones were hit upon.

  21. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Apparently you have never been in the military. If you had, you would understand the significance of the NCO vs General’s perspective. I give much more credibility to those on the ground as opposed to those in a board room.

    The NCO’s who wrote this piece did a good job of making sure their perspective was limited to their narrow scope of the conflict.

    I do know if I were being asked to train people who were complicit with those who are trying to kill me it might have a negative effect on my morale. Maybe your different.

    From a bigger picture I have a hard time getting too worked up supporting a group of people who decide to take a month off while there are numerous policy challenges to be addressed. I think we should move all of our military personnel out of the country until the Iraqi Parliament reconvenes. I’m sorry if I can’t get too worked up over supporting folks who stop working while American men and women are fighting and dying.

    Just my opinion of course. I’m sure you think all is well in Iraq and it will only get better if we spend more money, more blood, and more ruined lives.

  22. August 22, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    “Apparently our only problem in our fifth year of this invasion and occupation of Iraq is our failure to deploy the appropriate historical analogies against the faint-hearted.”

    Aunt Millie, perhaps you can tell us exactly how long it should have taken to win this war?

  23. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    But the Administration long ago made clear this was going to be a long struggle. It’s also been clear that as the Iraqi government is progressively more able to handle internal security, that Americans forces will be drawn down.

    Oh really??!!?? In the runup to the war the administration was letting it out this would be a walkover. Perhaps you already forgot about the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign hanging behind Bush on the deck of the USS Lincoln for his staged flying stunt.

    What constitutes a stable democracy? Like the one we supported in Vietnam when we installed Diem? The Iraqis already had a democracy until we overthrew Abd al-Karim Qasim and installed Hussein. I could be wrong but it might just be yet another reason why Americans aren’t that trusted amongst the people that have to actually live in the countries where we interfere.

    Or maybe we are just so smart as to inflict our will people because they just don’t know better.

  24. Northcountystorm
    August 22, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Jubal- i doubt we’ll get the same kind of honesty from the General because the White House is writing the report. And I do know the White House and they’ve chopped down many a cherry trees in Iraq. In addition, he’s in the chain of command and has given somewhat selective reports of the surge.

    Do you believe the NCO’s are not being honest? Do you disagree with their analysis and conclusions?

    Your ideological relatives accused Eisenhower of being fainthearted and not staying the course in Korea and taking on the Chinese ala MacArthur….do you think we should have invaded mainland China then? Should Truman have intervened in China to aid Chaing Kai-shek and spared the world the bloodbath to follow? I know what you think about the Democrat congress at the time but was president Ford fainthearted because he did not go to congress and ask for authority to use B-52’s and groud troops to try and stop the collapse of the weak South Vietenamese Army? How many troops should we have left in vietnam Jubal? You mention England–were they fainthearted when they decided to stop the bleeding in Crimea, Palestine and kenya?

    The point is that there are conflicts where you fight to the death and make the changes you suggest even in the darkest hours. And those same coutries will show wisdom and courage when they recognize that not every conflict is Armegeddon, not every conflict is worth the economic, political and human cost of total war.

  25. August 22, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    “Oh really??!!?? In the runup to the war the administration was letting it out this would be a walkover. Perhaps you already forgot about the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign hanging behind Bush on the deck of the USS Lincoln for his staged flying stunt.”

    The invasion and defeat of the Saddam regime was a walk-over. But what does the “Mission Accomplished” sign episiode prove other than the Administration screwed up the aftermath of a spectacularly successful invasion and allowed the insurgent forces to gather their strength and attack? Critics like you keep pointing to that photo op and yelling “See!!! See!!!” as if that is, in and of itself, some kind of argument.

  26. August 22, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Your ideological relatives accused Eisenhower of being fainthearted and not staying the course in Korea and taking on the Chinese ala MacArthur….

    I think you mean Truman.

    And critics of Truman’s conduct of the war at that point — and it wasn’t just conservatives — were indeed critical of his refusal to attack Chinese sanctuaries across the Yalu. But they were not critical of Truman “not staying the course” because Truman was staying the course. Growing dissatisfaction with the Korean War didn’t stem from a belief that we shouldn’t have intervened, but from the feeling we weren’t doing what was necessary to win.

    After two years of stalemate, Ike become President and let be known he was thinking of using atomic weapons to break the military stalemate, after which the Red Chinese soon agreed to an armistice and voluntary POW exchange.

  27. August 22, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    ….do you think we should have invaded mainland China then?

    What MacArthur wanted was permission to conduct air attacks against Chinese sanctuaries on the other side of the Yalu river. UN aircraft we not allowed to pursue Communist aircraft into Chinese airspace, so Communists pilots used it as a refuge. The Communists could safely mass men and materiel for attacks on UN forces right under allied eyes — we could do nothing about it.

  28. August 22, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    I know what you think about the Democrat congress at the time but was president Ford fainthearted because he did not go to congress and ask for authority to use B-52’s and groud troops to try and stop the collapse of the weak South Vietenamese Army?

    Ford wanted to. He asked the Democratic Congress to assist South Vietnam, but the Democratic Congress had prohibited any action to live up to our part of the Paris Peace Accords. That sell-out was a Democratic affair.

  29. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    The invasion and defeat of the Saddam regime was a walk-over. But what does the “Mission Accomplished” sign episiode prove other than the Administration screwed up the aftermath of a spectacularly successful invasion and allowed the insurgent forces to gather their strength and attack? Critics like you keep pointing to that photo op and yelling “See!!! See!!!” as if that is, in and of itself, some kind of argument.

    Earlier you stated the Bush administration has been telling us this would be a long struggle. Your words. I only pointed out the fallacy in that statement. I pointed out the “Mission Accomplished” photo op as an example of how wrong those in policy making positions have underestimated the conflict. They have yet to be correct about anything in this military adventure.

    But do keep supporting them while we spend your grandkids (if you have any) earnings paying off the debt that is owned by more than a few folks whose alliance is shaky at best.

  30. August 22, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    How many troops should we have left in vietnam Jubal?

    There were hardly any at that time, RHackett. If we had kept our word to South Vietnam and lived up to the Paris Peace Accord, South Vietnam would most likely have survived. Their military was getting better and better all the time. NVA offensives were being stopped by ARVN forces backed by American air power.

    That’s why the NVA estimated that what turned out to be their final offensive to conquer the South would take two years — until 1977. But when the Democratic Congress effectively told South Vietnam it was on its own by prohibited any assistance, it crippled their military operations and their morale.

  31. RHackett
    August 22, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Ford wanted to. He asked the Democratic Congress to assist South Vietnam, but the Democratic Congress had prohibited any action to live up to our part of the Paris Peace Accords. That sell-out was a Democratic affair.

    Could it be the Dems in congress represented the will of the people they represented? After almost ten years, 50K+ of lives lost, hundreds of thousands more wounded, and billions of dollars spent, the US left behind a well armed democracy. Could it be the American people decided that America had done its part in supporting Vietnam?

  32. August 22, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    “You mention England–were they fainthearted when they decided to stop the bleeding in Crimea…”

    Despite much incompetence on the battlefield due to the nature of its officer corps, England achieved its immediate military objective, the capture of Sevastopol. In fact, the British wanted to continue the fight, but the Frecnh didn’t — and since the French had 3 times as many troops there as Britain. Their view prevailed.

    The Crimean War’s origins were in the conflict between Russa and the Ottoman Empire, and Britain’s purpose in the Crimean War was to preserve the European balance of power — in this case, to keep Russian influence out of the Balkans and Near East, preserve the neutrality of the Dardenelles and frustrate Russia’s claim to be protector of Ottoman Christians.

    In the wake of the Franco-British-Sardinian victory at Sevastopol, the Russians were ready for peace and Britain achieved its objectives in the Treay of Paris.

    So quite contrary to your assertion that the British decided to “stop the bleeding” in Crimea, they pressed on despite the bleeding and won.

    “…Palestine…”

    Again, Britain didn’t withdraw to “stop the bleeding.” They governed Palestine under an international mandate following WWI, given by the League of Nations.

    In 1947, the UN voted to partition the mandate into an Jewish state and an Arab state. Britain’s reasons for wanting out were far more to do with the fact that governing Palestine involved 100,000 troops and cost the bankrupt British government (rationing was still in place and the government kept afloat by American loans) 100 million pounds a year.

    The British defeated the Mau-Mau revolt in the late 1950s. The British did grant greater liberties and rights to black Kenyans as part of a carrot-and-stick approach, and put Kenya on the path to independence by 1964.

    But Kenya would have achieved independence in any case. The British had lost the ardour for maintaining the Empire as it then existed, and was moving all of its African colonies toward independence, starting with Ghana in 1957.

  33. August 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Could it be the Dems in congress represented the will of the people they represented? After almost ten years, 50K+ of lives lost, hundreds of thousands more wounded, and billions of dollars spent, the US left behind a well armed democracy. Could it be the American people decided that America had done its part in supporting Vietnam?

    Now you’re switching arguments from mistakenly calling Ford a faint-heart for helping South Vietnam to saying it was the will of the people that we abandon South Vietnam.

    Which is it? I can do this all day, but it helps if you could stick to a line of reasoning.

  34. August 22, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Jubal.
    I must admit that I am impressed with your knowledge, or research, of US military history.

    You are correct in pointing out that MacArthur’s hands were tied when he was stopped by those sitting behind big desks in Washington from crossing the Yalu River. We will never know what impact that had on the eventual outcome of the Korean conflict.

    This makes me think of Obama’s comments about Pakistan where he would neglect our relationship with that nation to send in the troops in pursuit of Osama and his band of terrorists if their leadership refused to cooperate.

    Diplomacy creates a friction between those who wear the uniform with an American flag from those who are bound to respect our international alliances around the globe, better known as the beauracrats based in Washington..

    Let me suggest reading Jawbreaker or watching our Cutting Edge-atalk show coverage of Gary Berntsen, a leading CIA agent, whose hands were tied when they had a shot at Ben Laden in Afghanistan. Company Business is the title of that hour long interview in our program archives.

  35. Aunt Millie
    August 22, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    It’s been a long time since I’ve done much reading in historiography, but I find Cunningham’s version of military history almost as unconvincing as I find any statement by the Bush Administration. I’m delighted that Cunningham is finally admitting that Bush and his kleptocracy are an apostasy to any conservative principles, and that the Bush administration was completely incompetent in their occupation of Iraq up to some point in time.

    I don’t understand why he would believe that the latest strategies or pronouncements would be any more accurate or better than what came before. Instead I’m reminded of this excerpt that Kevin Drum quoted this morning

    public opinion among Bush supporters is increasingly out of touch with empirical reality, and cite a public opinion scholar who argues that “this echoes Leon Festinger’s research on the psychology of ‘cognitive dissonance’ in millenarian sects that believed more strongly in the impending end of the world after their prophecies had failed.” [The authors] suggest that it is likely on the balance of the evidence that elite driven ideology is leading Republicans to become “so ideological in their view of foreign affairs that they are impervious to information.”

  36. Dan Chmielewski
    August 22, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Larry — in all due respect, the bozo in the White House is no military genius. So before we strat criticizing the Dem canddiates for their stances, how abnout a hat tip that we’re right about Bush and his ineptnss in matters of war.

    And Matt…..

    “The goal has always been clear. Overthrow Saddam’s regime and replace it with a stable democracy.” Revisonist history Matt.

    Matt — this is another movable goalpost; the reason for invasion was WMDs that could get into the hands of terrorists; Saddam was looking for uranium, remember? This notion of nation-building and forcing democracy on people who have never asked for it isn’t going to work in Iraq. We did the first part and failed miserably in the second part….

    And here’s the backup you asked for on the White House writing the General”s report for him….

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pullback15aug15,0,4840766.story?page=1&coll=la-home-center

    “Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.”

    followed by this gem….

    “Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq’s warring sects has created some tension within the White House.”

  37. Dan Chmielewski
    August 22, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Back to the point of the post, Matt — the op ed was written by guys on the ground in Iraq. Are they wrong?

  38. Aunt Millie
    August 22, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for returning to the original question, Dan.

    I’ll trust non-coms who have been in the country far more than I’ll trust some hawkish op-ed writers who have always supported the war, and are led around in a carefully orchestrated visit.

  39. August 22, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I’m delighted that Cunningham is finally admitting that Bush and his kleptocracy are an apostasy to any conservative principles,

    And where did I do that, Aunt Millie?

  40. August 22, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    It’s been a long time since I’ve done much reading in historiography, but I find Cunningham’s version of military history almost as unconvincing as I find any statement by the Bush Administration.

    Then perhaps you could point out where my military history was wrong.

  41. August 22, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Revisonist history Matt.

    Really, Dan?

    Did the Administration NOT want to remove Saddam?

    Did the Administration NOT want to replace it with a stable democracy?

  42. August 22, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    this is another movable goalpost; the reason for invasion was WMDs that could get into the hands of terrorists; Saddam was looking for uranium, remember?

    Yes, Dan, that one was on the leading reasons for the goal I mentioned — removing Saddam’s regime. You act as if those are completely separate things.

  43. August 22, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Dan:

    Your implication is the White House is ginning up a document on its own and then hand it to Petraeus to read as a script, which is not what that passage says at all. As the article makes clear, the report will reflect Petraeus’ recommendations.

    Plus, it is Petraeus whole will be testifying before Congress, not the White House.

    There’s probably no point in you, Aunt Milli or RHackett in reading or watching his testimony, since you guys have already decided he’s going to lie under oath.

  44. August 22, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Dan. Seven months prior to President Bush’s March 1, 2003 statement of “Mission Accomplished” on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln we interviewed “Cap” Weinberger at the Nixon Library. In that exchange I asked him if Iran represented a “clear and present danger” and followed up asking if we had a democratic government to take over once Sadam was removed. You need to see that Cutting Edge-a talk show program and hear from the man himself.

    We can each find fault with presidents of both parties who have underestimated the task of implementing an “exit strategy.” Planning for wars outside your border requires at least a two part approach. He was correct in saying the war was over. We destroyed the Iraqi army. The second phase is where we all see a problem. How do we disengage.

    Every president has relied on their various intelligence groups and trust that the proposed plans can be put into action in a reasonable time frame. As we both know president Bush retained many of president Clinton’s advisors feelling that they were competent and would not steer him and our country down a slippery slope. Stuff happens as the saying goes and this war is no exception. Part of the problem is that we live in the fast lane where we are exposed to 24 hour non-stop news coverage, including bloggers like you and myself. That was not the case in prior wars where mistakes were surely made, including friendly fire to site one example.

    No president, regardless of how powerful we may feel they are, has a crystal ball to predict the future. If you think that president Bush lacks compassion for both our troops and the citizens of Iraq you are sadly mistaken. Perhaps the leadership of Iraq should get their act together and, if necessary for stability, create a three state solution with the Kurds in the north and the Sunni’s and Shiites splitting the rest of the country. Create a formulae for division of their oil reserve revenue and other natural resources and stop killing each other.

    Having participated in a Missions Trip to the Czech Republic I can say that the division into the Czech and Slovak Republics from Czechoslovakia has resulted in a peaceful arrangement for both parties.

    If the leadership of Iraq cannot get their act together than perhaps a split as suggested herein should be given a serious consideration.

  45. August 22, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Back to the point of the post, Matt — the op ed was written by guys on the ground in Iraq. Are they wrong?

    I think they make a lot of good points. For example:

    Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful.

  46. Aunt Millie
    August 22, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Sorry if I misquoted the prolific Matt Cunningham. I thought at some point somewhere he had conceded that Bush’s massive deficits were not consistent with fiscal conservatism, I guess he still believes that paying for a trillion dollar war with tax cuts for the rich and borrowing from China makes some kind of fiscal sense.

    I seem to recall that there was some concept of shared sacrifice in previous wars, but this must be some obsolete sentimentalism on my part that dates back to before a bunch of Saudis crashed planes into the World Trade Center.

  47. Dan Chmielewski
    August 22, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Did the Administration NOT want to remove Saddam?

    Did the Administration NOT want to replace it with a stable democracy?

    **

    Matt –Regime change in Iraq was on the books in the Clinton administration; but (and its a big BUT) it advocated the people of Iraq rise up and revolt against Saddam.

    We were attacked on 9/11. The Bush administration shifted connections of Al Qaeda to Iraq and isisted it was an imminent danger. We went to war over WMDs that were not there. We kept changing the mission.

    You can’t install a stable democracy if you don’t know the different between Suni and Shia as Bush admits he didn’t.

    But don’t believe me; believe Dick Cheney who in 1994 said invading Iraq would result in a quagmire (go to YouTube).

    Larry –
    I don’t really care much for anything Cap Weinberger had to say. He was charged with four counts of lying to congressional Iran-Contra investigators in 1987 and to Walsh’s prosecutors in 1990. He concealed from congressional investigators his personal notes that detailed events related to Iran-Contra. I have as much respect for anything he has to contribute as I do Scotter Libby; another Republican who got off scot free.

    But Larry; do the soliders in the Op-Ed make sense? Let’s not get off on topic …stick to it.

  48. Dan Chmielewski
    August 22, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    “Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful.”

    Matt — there is no military strategy; I interpret this as “get us the hell out now.”

  49. RHackett
    August 23, 2007 at 1:40 am

    Now you’re switching arguments from mistakenly calling Ford a faint-heart for helping South Vietnam to saying it was the will of the people that we abandon South Vietnam.

    Which is it? I can do this all day, but it helps if you could stick to a line of reasoning.

    Huh? You brought up that Ford wanted to support S. Vietnam and was foiled by the Dem controlled congress. I stated the congress reflected the will of the American people. I didn’t say anything about Ford. You did.

    Back to Iraq. How did you like Ford’s comments about Bush that were released after he died? While I found it ironic, I was disappointed to know he was not willing to be vocal about his beliefs when he was alive. It would have had a much greater impact.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/27/AR2006122701558.html

  50. RHackett
    August 23, 2007 at 2:25 am

    Here’s one for you Jubal.

    From Iraq PM Maliki:

    “no one has the right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country “can find friends elsewhere.”

    I hope those friends elsewhere are willing to pay the bills currently footed by the US taxpayer via borrowed funds.

    Yet another Vietnam parallel.

  51. August 23, 2007 at 8:03 am

    Dan. Sorry for the delay in responding but we go to church on Wed evenings.

    If you do not care to hear “Cap’s ” response to my question about an Iraq “exit strategy” that’s your decision. Introducing Iran-Contra into this post is a diversion from the debate. You ask me to “stay on topic ” but change gears yourself.

    I await you response to the other points which I made.

    As to feedback from soldiers on the ground. We can each site reports that vary from grunt to grunt. Thru my church connections I receive reports that differ from this NY Times Op-Ed. Are you expecting all of us to simply accept your post to represent the entire battlefield without question? NY Times has it’s own agenda with respect to this conflict. For that reason alone one should be careful in accepting everything they publish at face value.

  52. August 23, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Yet another Vietnam parallel.

    Yet another…? You haven’t been able to make an historical analogy stick yet.

  53. Dan Chmielewski
    August 23, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Larry —
    Church on Wednesday? What faith do you practice?

    Actually, I didn’t switch gears; I have zero interest in anything Cap Weinberger had to say about Iraq. I regard the man as someone who defied Congress in Iran/Contra and committed the equivelent of treason against this country in doing so (same goes for Ollie North and Poindexter too).

    The New York Times is the nation’s de facto newspaper of record; it was used by the administration to further fan the flames for war with planted stories to Judy Miller. To say they have an agenda on the war strikes me as funny because I think every newspaper has an agenda to report the news. If you want to examine the editorial pages, that’s fine..but it was a NY Times editorial by former war opponents saying the surge was working that got the right wing all hot and bothered aboutthe strategy working. So am I to ignore the NY Times when soldiers in the field see the war differently than these two writers who were chaperoned by the Defense Department the whole time?

    Likewise, woudl I ask you not to trust your church sources on the war?

    There are lots of opinions on this war and how its being fought. What isn’t in question is that its a mess.

  54. Dan Chmielewski
    August 23, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Matt — the President made lots of parallels to Iraq & VietNam in his speech yesterday.

  55. August 23, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Dan. We are Protestants. There are those of us who attend church several days per week, not just on Sunday morning. In addition, we hold a Mens breakfast meeting in Mission Viejo every Thursday, including today. If you wish to join us let me know. We also pray for the same troops you appear to be concerned about.

    As you criticize president Bush, and have introduced other wars in this article, perhaps you can also justify the actions by president LBJ with regard to Vietnam. We can all dig up dirt to make our case.

    I am still awaiting your response to my proposal to split up the country which may result in an end to the bloodshed. Or is that important to you?

  56. Northcountystorm
    August 23, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    wow–I stay away for a day and this thing took off. A few points,and way too long for which I apologize:

    As to the NCO’s—I haven’t heard anyone dispute their analysis, which was the original point of the post and the major point of my original comment.

    As to General Petreus—As Jubal has had to concede, the White House is writing the speech and their record on the truth in Iraq justifies a priori anyone’s(including mine) suspicion that we wouldn’t get the same honesty that we got from the NCO’s. General Petreus seems like a pretty decent guy and I assume a good soldier but he is in the chain of command and I expect him to color his opinions to accord with the Commander-In Cheif’s description of the Mission. As I mentioned he has already–IMO-given an overly glossy description of the results to date of the surge.

    What has come thru from at least one congressmember who met with the General is that he beleives U.S. troops need to stay in Iraq at least a decade. I wonder if we’ll see GOP congressional candidates in competitive districts be making “Stay the Course for Another Decade” as part of their 2008 campaign? Perhaps Giuliani and Romney can start preparing the American public for another decade of body bags and billions of dollars monthly going to prop up a regeime that has told us they have friends in Damascus and Teheran and they don’t need us.

    And finally, as to historical comparisons, i think upon further analysis that with regard to the British, i’ll stand by my take on the reasons the Union Jack came down in Kenya and Palestine(and for that matter, from Cape Town to Cairo and the Crown jewel of the Empire, India). Bleeding ,Jubal ,is not just soldiers dying–its as you acknowledge yourself, countries bleeding financially and politically. A post WWII UK could not financially–or for that matter militarily–maintain an empire that the sun did not set on. In Kenya its true they were able to put down the Kikuyu rebellion but they realized they could not keep down the desiree of the people to be rid of their colonial masters and knew England could not sustain a presence there. It must have greived them to let prison Jomo Kenyatta out of prison to take over but they could not sustan the empire. McCMillians Winds of Change was just a reality check.

    Jubal–You might be right about Crimea. I had recalled the English public opinion turning in the war because of the various screwups by the allies in the preparation and prosecution of the war and more importantly, the influence of Florence Nightengale’s writings about the tremendous loss of life due to disease and lousy medical facilities for the wounded. But in checking some things you were correct that the English Government was pressing this conflict more then the French. The French were closer to the Russians and the English had some inherent conflicts (India and Afghanistan )with the Russians. I’m not sure it makes your point but I concede it does not support mine.

    As for Ike–no I did not confuse Ike with Turman. Although I wonder if you think Truman should have listened to macarthur who argued NOT JUST to allow planes to bomb Yalu River bridges but to provide support for the generalissimo to cross the Formosa Straights and open a second front. Some Republicans wanted that. But for Ike, many Republicans wanted him to not only go after China but to liberate the Eastern European countries that after Potsdam had fallen behind the Iron Curtain. Ike said no because he realized that the American public was not going to support such an effort and that three was no hope for victory. Do you think he was wrong? Or is it only Democrats that violate your sense of duty?

    The same type of reasoning that Ike and the English used in withdrawing from their colonies(including the U.S.) is what we need to use here. its a war that can not be won in the traditional sense of victory. We still can try to stabilize the country and Larry mentions one way to do that–the Biden-Brownback Plan. But until Jubal and others realize that this is not just about throwing more money and men and women at Cemetery Ridge but at devising an effective strategy to stabilize the country without the need for a U.S presence that is in fact destablizing, we’ll just continue bleeding not just our coutry, but Iraq.

    Finally, as for Ford, his response to 100,000 NVA troops bearing down on Saigon was to tell a Tulane audience that “Vietnam is a war that is finished as far as America is concerned.” He told the students to forget that period of history and look ahead to the future. Jubal repeats the revisionist line that the U.S. Congress snapped defeat out of the jaws of victory in Vietnam. What the Congress, and eventually Ford realized was that the South Vietnamese Army –plauged by corruption and factionalism not unlike the Iraqi Army–could not hold out against the NVA. Further U.S. troop deploment would have resulted in more of the same–American deaths and wounded with no change in result. Further military assistance would result in our money and weapons falling into the hands of the NVA. . Somewhat like the 190,000 weapons we gave to the iraqi forces that have fallen into the hands of non-government forces in Iraq.

  57. RHackett
    August 23, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Matt — the President made lots of parallels to Iraq & VietNam in his speech yesterday.

    Dan. You beat me to it. I listened to the VFW speech and almost fell out of my chair when the President stated this. I liked his revisionist history on Vietnam given that he chose to request not being sent overseas when the time came. We should all have been so lucky to have the ability to work on a state senate campaign instead of a war zone as if just any soldier could get a transfer to another base to work on a political campaign – “Sure soldier, just fill out requisition T-93dash08…”

  58. Dan Chmielewski
    August 28, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Larry —
    apologies for not getting back to you. Thanks for the invite, but I do pray for the troops and their families (especially their children) regularly.

    President Johnson’s escalation of the Viet Nam war was reprehensible. Hope that is good enough comdemnation for you.

    Breaking up Iraq will only work is all three factions can find a way to share oil revenue. If Darfur had oil, this president would be all over it.

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