July 06, 2007

 

"'Supporting the troops' means withdrawing them"


Finally, someone who matters gets it 100% right. Gen. William Odom* weighs in on the Iraq War:
Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it – with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems...

(snip)

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq...

(snip)

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.

To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.
(h/t AMERICAblog)


*Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. From 1977 to 1981, he was Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Comments:
I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak. I believed another Vietnam could be avoided with defined missions and the best armaments in the world.

It made no difference.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

For more details see:

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/inside-pentagon-procurement-from.html
 
I wouldn't say Odom got it 100% right since he seems to believe that a large part of our problem now is that we shrank our forces significantly after the end of the Cold War. That could be 100% right only if you accept the premise that US forces should be committed to conflicts all around the world. I think that assumption is itself the problem. Odom may be right about the need to withdraw from Iraq, but a bigger military won't help us find our way to a post-imperial foreign policy.
 
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