In any event, it is not clear why the United States would need more
than a handful of big bases in the future, and most if not all of those
are already there and looking quite permanent, from the KFC and Burger
King outlets, to the car dealerships, to the 6,000- person mess halls.
"Car dealerships"? We have car dealerships at our bases in Iraq--you know, the ones that aren't permanent? Baghdad Bob's Ford is ready to DEAL!
This excerpt from the preface to Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's new book is one of the most devastating indictments of Bush's foreign and military policy I have read--all the more so because it comes from the man who was the top American commander in Iraq from mid-2003 to mid-2004:
In 2006, I was forced to retire by civilian leaders in the executive
branch of the U.S. government. I was not ready to leave the soldiers I
loved. The Army was my life. Service to my nation was my calling. In
the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched
helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic
blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the
executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It
relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women
with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders
did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times,
and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced
out of the service.
From June 14, 2003 to July 1, 2004, the
period immediately following major combat during Operation Iraqi
Freedom, I was the commander of coalition forces, responsible for all
military activity in the Iraq theater of war. I was there when Saddam
Hussein was captured. I was there when the prisoner abuse scandal at
Abu Ghraib occurred. And I was there when low-level enemy resistance
expanded into a massive insurgency that eventually led to full-scale
civil war. During that first year of our nation's occupation of Iraq, I
observed intrusive civilian command of the military, rather than the civilian control
embodied in the Constitution. I saw the cynical use of war for
political gains by elected officials and acquiescent military leaders.
I learned how the pressure of a round-the-clock news cycle could
drive crucial decisions. I witnessed those resulting political
decisions override military requirements and judgments and, in turn,
create conditions that caused unnecessary harm to our soldiers on the
After our carefully planned and successfully executed
invasion of Iraq, I arrived in the country and was stunned to find that
there had been a complete lack of Phase IV post-invasion planning by
the administration and the military. Not only was there no strategic
vision of what to do next—there was a shocking lack of resources and
proper training for our troops. To make matters worse, the combatant
commander quickly ordered a massive withdrawal of American forces and
redeployed the crucial high-level command centers. Instead of
embracing a joint interagency approach, our government and military
refused to abandon an outdated Cold War mentality. I find it ironic
that I was later criticized for being the youngest and least
experienced three-star general in the Army when I was actually one of
the most experienced general officers in combined joint interagency
operations at all levels of war.
Having fought in Desert Storm
and Kosovo, I was well aware of the fundamental responsibilities of a
commander in a war-fighting environment. Among the most sacred: to take
care of subordinates and never send them into harm's way untrained.
However, because of our rush to war and the need to mobilize rapidly,
some units were deployed without proper training. This fact manifested
itself across the board—among active-duty forces, the Reserves, and
the National Guard. Some general officers chose to cut corners and
certify units as "combat ready" when, in fact, they were not.
* * *
Over the fourteen months of my command in
Iraq, I witnessed a blatant disregard for the lives of our young
soldiers in uniform. It is an issue that constantly eats away at me.
During that time, 813 American soldiers lost their lives, and more than
7,000 were wounded. I cannot do, say, or write anything that would
dishonor them. But to not set the record straight would, I
believe, dishonor the legacy of their service. There is a camp of
commanders who feel that retired generals should not stand up and voice
their views on any policy, much less against a policy gone awry. I am
now making camp with those who believe our voices must be heard in
order to help America prepare for the future battles it must win—so
that democracy itself survives.
The contempt Bush has for the armed forces comes across quite clearly here. In public, Bush encourages Americans to "support our troops," and insists that he will be guided by his military commanders in making decisions about troop strength levels. The actual practices of the administration, as outlined by Sanchez, tell a very different story.
George Santayana famously observed that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. To which I would add that a little, selective memory is a dangerous thing. Exhibit A in support of this corollary is George W. Bush's recent speech to the Air Force Academy in which he "called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a “great struggle” akin to
World War II and warned anew against those who would waver in it."
Laying aside for a moment Bush's ludicrous but annoying habit of comparing himself to war leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman, a fuller, nonselective comprehension of history would locate the historical model for Afghanistan and Iraq in World War I.
[T]he absence of this most bloodily futile of wars from historical memory
has been a huge boon to the war party. With a historical memory of war
dominated by the “Good War” against Hitler and the Axis, it’s
unsurprising that Americans have been much more willing than the
citizens of other democratic societies to accept war as part of the
natural order of things. * * * Ignorance of the Great War also produces faulty historical
understanding in other respects, as evidenced in the recent flap about
appeasement (leaving aside its use by ignorant ranters who have clearly never even heard of Munich).
For those without any memory of the Carthaginian peace of Versailles,
the policy of appeasement seems to be simply a spineless failure to
resist unprovoked aggression, starting with the repudiation of
Versailles and the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. But by the 1930s
the injustice and untenability of the Versailles settlement was
obvious, and fighting a war to enforce it was unthinkable. The fact
that merely redressing injustices would do nothing to contain Hitler
only become clear gradually. The idea that the failure of appeasement
in the 1930s shows that governments should never negotiate with hostile
powers is simply silly.
It also seems to me that when we do, on those rare occasions, remember World War I, what we recall is often the romantic myth of the flying aces, those magnificent men in their flying machines who adhered chivalrously to the duello of the knights of the air. Seldom to we dwell on death in the muddy, disease-ridden trenches, or on the terrors of mustard gas, or on the futile infantry charges against fortified enemy positions. These horror of war seem quite similar to today's warfare by IED and suicide bomber.
So: Iraq's #1 Sunni political party has demanded that "the severest of punishments" be imposed on an American soldier. Apparently there was a "criminal act by U.S. forces."
What was it?
An American soldier shot his gun at a book.
If the book had been, say, the Collected Works of Dinesh D'Souza or the Origin of the Species, this probably wouldn't have been a problem. Instead, however, the target of choice was The Koran.
On her Facebook page, a friend of mine wrote under "religious views" that "religious people need to change their underwear more frequently." Kinda sums up the way I feel about this one. Religious fanatics of all sects seem to me to be hypersensitive to insults, slights, disrespect and ridicule. Well, tough tittie. No one ever guaranteed that we wouldn't all be offended by the actions and speech of others.
I don't get into book-shooting myself--to me, one of the most ignorant things a man can do is burn a book, and shooting one doesn't seem terribly different--but as symbolic speech, it's covered by the same freedom of expression principles that protect everything else. And it sure doesn't warrant "the severest of punishments."
An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were
captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.
The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm
that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups,
particularly in the Middle East , U.S. officials told McClatchy .
However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi
exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his
The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.
In other news today, we can report that Spain's Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
George Bush, March 17, 2003, just before the U.S. invaded Iraq:
Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and
I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it
will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not
Tracy Clark-Flory is skeptical of the plan by the conservative party in Spain to justify a ban on wearing head-scarves there by framing it as a gender equality issue:
"We feel that what makes sense is to establish in the framework of the
law that use of symbols which might amount to discrimination or a
demonstration of submission of women must be avoided," said Juan Costa,
the party's coordinator.
I don't share her distaste for the idea. As I've pointed out here, here and here, a belief system that requires women, but not men, to hide their bodies is retrograde, sexist and undemocratic. And if we ever needed more confirmation of this, check out this report from Basra yesterday:
The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of
women killed in brutal fashion -- some strangled to death, their faces
disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture.
The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a
headscarf or because they ignored other "rules" that secretive
fundamentalist groups want to enforce.
My thoughts on this are at odds with my generally pro-civil liberties views. Why shouldn't a woman be able to wear a headscarf if she wants to? The problem, though, as demonstrated by the report out of Basra, is the "if she wants to" assumption. The women there are not taking to the headscarf because they want to--they're doing it because they're forced to. The symbolism of that compulsion is undeniable:
Sawsan, another woman who works at a university, says the message from
the radicals [who kill women for not wearing the headscarf] to women is simple: "They seem to be sending us a message
to stay at home and keep your mouth shut."
Until either the government or the people themselves can ensure that this kind of coercion and intimidation is a thing of the past, this may be one of the rare cases where an infringement on civil liberties is justified for the greater good.