Thursday, June 30, 2005

War News for Thursday, June 30, 2005 Bring 'em on: Mortar attack reported near Japanese troops in Samawah. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi police commandos killed, six wounded as insurgents rampage in Samarra. Bring 'em on: Two Polish soldiers wounded in grenade attack near Diwaniya. Bring 'em on: Four Iraqi civilians killed by mortar attack in Tal Afar. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis wounded by mortar fire in central Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Five Iraqis killed by car bomb in Baquba. Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed by car bomb near Balad. Bring 'em on: Iraqi assemblyman assassinated near Baghdad. Bring 'em on: US Marines launch counterinsurgency offensive near Hit. Bring 'em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Kirkuk. Two more Marines reported dead from ambush in Fallujah. I wonder what this is all about. "In Saddam Hussein's home base of Tikrit, witnesses reported a Wednesday-morning demonstration against the arrest of regional police commander Maj. Gen. Mizher Taha Ghanam, who was lured to the capital and detained. Protesters said the arrest would only exacerbate tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Ghanam, a Sunni and former intelligence officer, stands accused of killing Shiites in the southern city of Amarah during Saddam's rule." Police training.
Three weeks ago 200 Iraqi cadets rioted, smashing windows and overturning cars in protest at conditions and rumours that cadets who drop out are sent back to Iraq by road, risking death from insurgents waiting to ambush them. The disturbances were quelled but grievances persist. More seriously, instructors admit that until three months ago the centre’s classroom-based training was wholly unsuited to the violence of Iraq. Although instructors say that it has improved since April, they still complain of a lack of direction from Baghdad. Ali Mackenzie, a Lothian and Borders policeman, said: “In my opinion there should be a lot more input from Iraq, especially the military. You get a lot of good quality policemen coming here and it is limited by funding. We have to pretend that rubbish bins are cars. It doesn’t take much to mock up a couple of homes or streets to do realistic searches.” Charles Riordan, a retired inspector from Northern Ireland, questioned the need for community police training for police working in cities, “where simply to show themselves on the street leaves them open to ambush”, and was incredulous that despite huge losses of police to roadside bombs there is still no training ground to rehearse life-saving drills.
Commentary Editorial:
Much of what Bush said Tuesday night has been similar to statements he's made in the past. In addition to stressing the importance of training and eventually substituting Iraqi troops with international forces, Bush also said the Iraqi people need confidence in the democratic process in order for victory to be possible. "Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed," Bush said. "Every picture is horrifying - and the suffering is real." We agree, but rather than just listening to Tuesday night's speech, we ask you to see it yourself. We find these images unbearably graphic, but these are the images that these people are faced with day to day. They don't have the choice to turn the page or change the channel. To them these photos are real. We ask you to take a minute to look over these images, which are often violent and often distressing. But this is the reality of the war President Bush has told us we will "fight until the fight is won." Is it worth it?
Thanks to alert reader Russ. Opinion:
Finally, Bush descended to Vietnam-speak. This is the language used by the Johnson and Nixon administrations to obscure the truth by emitting a fog of numbers. Thus Bush cited the "8 million Iraqi men and women" who voted, the "30 nations" with troops in Iraq (a total joke, and the president knows it), the "40 countries" and "three international organizations" that have pledged "$34 billion" in reconstruction assistance (another joke), the "80 countries" that recently met in Brussels to aid Iraq, and the "160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions" -- one of them being, clearly, to stay out of harm's way. The war Bush declared to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is not the war being waged. The two have only one thing in common: rhetorical sleight of hand. Yet the consequences of pulling out of Iraq would be awful. The day Saigon fell I was ashamed for my country -- an ugly, disgraceful retreat. I don't want that to happen again. But unless Bush rethinks his strategy, fires some people who long ago earned dismissal, examines his own assumptions (what's the point of continuing to isolate Iran and Syria when we need them both to seal Iraq's borders?) and talks turkey to the American people, he will lose everything good he set out to do, including the example Iraq could set for the rest of the Middle East. I know Iraq is not Vietnam. But Tuesday night it sure sounded like it.
The president who displayed his contempt for Iraqi militants two years ago with the taunt "bring 'em on" had to go on television Tuesday night to urge Americans not to abandon support for the war that he foolishly started but can't figure out how to win. The Bush crowd bristles at the use of the "Q-word" - quagmire - to describe American involvement in Iraq. But with our soldiers fighting and dying with no end in sight, who can deny that Mr. Bush has gotten us into "a situation from which extrication is very difficult," which is a standard definition of quagmire? More than 1,730 American troops have already died in Iraq. Some were little more than children when they signed up for the armed forces, like Ramona Valdez, who grew up in the Bronx and was just 17 when she joined the Marines. She was one of six service members, including four women, who were killed when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in Falluja last week. Corporal Valdez wasn't even old enough to legally drink in New York. She died four days shy of her 21st birthday. On July 2, 2003, with evidence mounting that U.S. troop strength in Iraq was inadequate, Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House, "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, Bring 'em on." It was an immature display of street-corner machismo that appalled people familiar with the agonizing ordeals of combat. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying: "I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander - let alone the commander in chief - invite enemies to attack U.S. troops."
My class, that of 1969, set a record with more than 50 percent resigning within a few years of completing the service commitment. (My father's class, 1945, the one that "missed" World War II, was considered to be the previous record-holder, with about 25 percent resigning before they reached the 20 years of service entitling them to full retirement benefits.) And now, from what I've heard from friends still in the military and during the two years I spent reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems we may be on the verge of a similar exodus of officers. The annual resignation rate of Army lieutenants and captains rose to 9 percent last year, the highest since before the Sept. 11 attacks. And in May, The Los Angeles Times reported on "an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture." I'm not surprised. In 1975, I received a foundation grant to write reports on why such a large percentage of my class had resigned. This money would have been better spent studying the emerging appeal of Scientology, because a single word answered the question: Vietnam. Yet my classmates were disillusioned with more than being sent to fight an unpopular war. When we became cadets, we were taught that the academy's honor code was what separated West Point from a mere college. This was a little hard to believe at first, because the code seemed so simple; you pledged that you would not lie, cheat or steal, and that you would not tolerate those who did. We were taught that in combat, lies could kill. But the honor code was not just a way to fight a better war. In the Army, soldiers are given few rights, grave responsibilities, and lots and lots of power. The honor code serves as the Bill of Rights of the Army, protecting soldiers from betraying one another and the rest of us from their terrifying power to destroy. It is all that stands between an army and tyranny. However, the honor code broke down before our eyes as staff and faculty jobs at West Point began filling with officers returning from Vietnam. Some had covered their uniforms with bogus medals and made their careers with lies - inflating body counts, ignoring drug abuse, turning a blind eye to racial discrimination, and worst of all, telling everyone above them in the chain of command that we were winning a war they knew we were losing. The lies became embedded in the curriculum of the academy, and finally in its moral DNA. By the time we were seniors, honor court verdicts could be fixed, and there was organized cheating in some units. A few years later, nearly an entire West Point class was implicated in cheating on an engineering exam; the breakdown was complete. The mistake the Army made then is the same mistake it is making now: how can you educate a group of handpicked students at one of the best universities in the world and then treat them as if they are too stupid to know when they have been told a lie?
The officer corps is sounding off and we should listen. Casualty Report Local story: Washington State sailor killed in Iraq. Note to Readers Today is the second anniversary of Today in Iraq. I intended to post a rant appropriate for the day, but today's Casualty Report contains the name of a former co-worker. So I'll celebrate instead. I'll probably go get drunk and sleep in a dumpster. Happy fucking birthday, Today in Iraq. I once wanted to be a historian, but this history sucks. YD


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