Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Time to Fold the Tents in Iraq

President GW Bush, with members of his administration, speciously have told the American people repeatedly that US forces will withraw from Iraq when US troop commanders in Iraq advise them to do so.

Everybody knows that troop commanders follow orders. They are not going to advocate troop withdrawals unless they are told to do it by civilian leadership appointed by the President. Mr. Bush hid behind this implausible fig leaf until congressional Representative John Murtha announced that the troops should be redeployed from Iraq without extended delay.

Murtha changed his pro- war stance in Iraq to enough is enough. Pull the forces out before more die pointlessly. He rejects the administration's arguments that more Americans should die in battle to keep faith the with others who have died for the same cause. . Further, having Americans die for others' democracy apparently does not make sense to him either.Other outspoken advocates of withdrawal were easily blown off by the administration as pacifists, branded as bleeding heart librerals who are weak on the war on terror.

Most visible is Cindy Sheehan, tragically a goldstar mother who received national attention by protesting the war and, recently, camping out next to the President's Crawford, Texas spread. By most standards, she is not an effective spokesperson against the war. She appears to trade on pity rather than intellect or reasoned argument. She comes accross as mawkish. For example, recent Vanity Fair has a photo of her prostrate on her son's grave.

Murtha is something all together different. He is a real stick in the administration's eye and cannot be dismissed as just another whining critic.Rep. Murtha, a decorated Marine Vietnam veteran with 17 terms in congress, has always been the guy to go to for the US uniformed military. .He was always there with stong support of military budgets and weapons programs. He enjoyed an unusual status. .

He was a moderate pro- defense Democrat who served in a party that usually had more pressing priorities than national defense. He is on a first name basis with active duty and retired generals. He is a de facto conduit for the uniformed military to congress.

So his voice resonates on national military issues, and GW Bush would be wise to listen. He is not another vacuous congressperson chasing the lime light. Though Murtha has been invaluable over the years to the Department of Defense civilian leadership, his heart has always been with the uniformed military. His working-class background does not mesh with the Chablis sipping Defense Department's academic neocon professors, high-powered CEOs or operational research wizards. Murtha is an ethnic, shot and a beer guy who projects his working class constituency in Pennsylvania.

Iniitially, the Bush. administration pushed back hard on Murtha's anti-war stance. It used the Swift Boat slime tactics that worked so well against Senators Kerry and McCain and even misguidedly tried to link Murtha to left wing critics such as Michael Moore, which backfired.
It now has pulled back on the ad hominem attacks by VEEP Cheney, other adminstration mouth pieces and designated members of congress. The tone has changed abruptly from vituperative attacks on Rep. Murtha to "honest "disagreements with him.

Except for Pelosi, most of Murtha's Democrat colleagues have not supported him. Leading democrats such as Senators Biden, Clinton and Kerry nervously responded to his call for a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq like ditzy coeds at a sorority tea who just saw a mouse in canapes.

There is no question that Rep. Murtha was fronting for the uniformed military that is bound by chain-of -command loyalties to remain silent and, officially, to support civilian leadership. The fact that Murtha was uncorked by the military came as a surprise. It demonstrated how bad the Marines and Army must be hurting.

The national guard units and reserve elements are way below on reenlistments. The regular Army and Marines are stressed by their unrelenting, almost permanent combat roles. The Army had to accept 25 per cent of their enlistments from category IV manpower pools.

These people are lucky to lace their boots, let alone operate and maintain high-tech military equipment. Further complicating the situation, miltary equipment is worn out and its replacement is slow. Katrina exposed the hair brained Pentagon deployment policies.

We witnessed the elite 82nd Airborne Division, trained for combat assault, cradling American babies and searching for bodies in New Orleans. This ocurred while the Louisiana national guard , who knew the neighborhoods, rushed back from the Iraqi desert with its high-water vehicles and tactical radios.

As it stands now the US has deposed Saddam, killed his sons and rolled up the Baath leadership designated in the deck of cards. To accomplish this, more than 2200 Americans have been killed and over 15,000 wounded, many seriously impaired The toll on the Iraqis is estimated to be over 100,000 killed.

Water, electric and oil production has yet to reach pre-war levels, mainly because institutions and enterprises were left unprotected. Widespread looting has occurred during the occupation. In terms of the ancient Iraqi patrimony, of the 15,000 high-grade objects looted from the Baghdad Museum, only about 3,000 have been recovered. Corruption is pervasive.

The US has spent over 200,000 billion dollars to achieve this castastrophe, with the US meter still running at six billion a month. Even the creative Nazi propagandist Dr. Goebbels would have a problem characterizing this state of affairs as progress or victory.

Pro- Iranian Shiites and some Kurds now control the Army and police. As far as these Iraqi forces are concerned, most are components of Shiite and Kurdish militias. These are not federal forces, and there is little hope they will be intergrated into a cohesive, non- secterian, national force. There is even squabbling over a Sunni or a Shiite to head the Iraqi Baghdad Brigade

To erode the administration's position further ,the Sunni and Shiite representatives at the recent Arab League conference called for the end of theUS occupation by setting a timetable.

The Bush administration's dilemma is that if it remains in Iraq, domestic support erodes as US forces continue to bleed..There is no question that the insurgency is growing in ferocity, as is obvious from the growing rate of US casualtes.

If the US withdraws, the insurgents will claim victory. These are unpleasant choices, but one has to be made.

Rep. Murtha, with the unofficial encouragement of the US military , has made that choice. Start the withdrawal as soon as it can be safely organized.

As the tribes in Iraq rip each other apart, we do not want to be caught in a civil war crossfire. Without the US as a common enemy, the insurgents will stop travelling with Al Queda Zarqawi and take their country back.

The foolish US invasion of Iraq created Zarqawi and withdrawal will likely destroy him. It is a better gamble than to remain and die. US hopes of controlling Iraqi oil will go a glimmering as long as GW Bush is President. The insertion of democracy in Iraq was just a pipe dream to justify the war. It appears more farcical as the aroused tribes slaughter each other in their mosques, markets, homes and streets.

The Iraq war was based on false assumptions and faith-based intelligence. Ironically,. the US military, saluting, masterfully executed a seriously flawed war plan. The results have been disaster in Iraq. Representative Murtha had the courage to tell the American people not to dig their hole deeper.

And at last the uniformed military figured out a way to get their message across. Let us hope that Mr. Bush heard it. Robert E Bartos Col US Army Ret--who served as US Intelligence Chief of Foreign Intelligence--commanded a battalion in Vietnam-was US military attache in Moscow and Belgrade and was a member of President Raegan's transition team in 1980


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