Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Democrats – Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos

Coincidental with Senator Hillary Clinton's declared candidacy for president of the US, was the death of 25 American servicemen killed in Iraq in a 24 hour period... What makes her announcement vexing is that with it is her proposed cap on US forces; it is essentially a stay the course policy. This is especially significant, because the American voters in the 2006 election voted for Democrats to get out of the Bush war in Iraq. Clinton's proposal, like most of the Democrats' moves in Congress, is to support a policy in the center that does not withdraw from Iraq while making meaningless noise against the war. Like the proverb from Western US: When you go for the center of the road you see yellow stripes and dead armadillos. Applied to Democrats, you can argue you find yellow streaks and dead troops. Democrats are all noise and no action on the Iraqi war. They are cravenly frightened out of their wits to cut funds on the war by ghosts of Vietnam. Courage Democrats. Vote for the American people not foreign lobbyists. Do the right thing.

The Democrats did show spine when they selected the junior Senator Jim Webb to rebut Bush's State of the Union speech. He sure did rebut it; hit the ball out of the park and confronted Bush directly on the war and his poor leadership. He made the point that troops will make the sacrifices, but the political leadership better be competent and the Bush administration has not been. Also declared that if Bush cannot end the war, Congress will show the Administration the way.

Weeks ago I wrote that the stark choices in Iraq are "Stand and Die" or "Cut and Run"; no matter how you spin it, there is really no middle ground. Even General Casey, aka "Casey at the Bat”, declared that with a surge, no positive results can be expected until late summer – kicking the can down the road? Remember "Casey at the Bat" struck out for the Mudville Nine; "there was no joy in Mudville". General Casey will join the dubious magic circle of failed leadership in the Bush administration along with Generals Franks, Sanchez and Powell as well as civilians Tenet, Bremer, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

You do not have to be an Army War College graduate to conclude the the insurgents are effectively honing their tactics: roadside bombs are more lethal, coordinated attacks are more sophisticated, snipers are better shots, and there is evidence insurgents are breaking through US helicopter ground fire countermeasures. All this makes staying the course more deadly. There is still Rep. John Murtha's plan of gradual redeployment which makes more sense everyday. As far as more chaos after US departure, my sense is that, except for the Kurds, the wolf closest to the sleigh from the Iraqi standpoint, is the US; once that threat is eliminated, the Sunnis and the Shiites will turn their attention to al Queda in a ruthless, tribal or nationalistic fashion. As far as a unified Iraq, that is over and dead like Saddam. New constellations will form...

Men like Senators McCain and Lieberman are at the vanguard for the Israeli Lobbyists to continue the war permanently. They pathetically do not seem to realize or intentionally ignore that the war is lost. Best realistic hope is for a pro Iranian Shiite government; what is in fact a defeat. So as the saying goes, get out while the getting is good; i.e. before the insurgents crack the Green Zone defenses – when that happens, rooftop helicopter extractions from the US Embassy in Saigon, comparatively, will seem to have been a Sunday school picnic. Maliki's demands for more military equipment and bullets from the US for his Shiite troops scares the hell out of me... this, like the wolf in LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, will give him longer teeth, better for eating us... Political reliability for Iraqi Government troops for the US does not exist long term; this is just more of Bush Inc. faith-based mumbo jumbo. His intelligence officers should have warned him of this years ago.

Bush's surge is at best a cynically specious effort to keep his Iraqi fiasco alive until he leaves office, so someone else will be blamed for his disaster. There is one report that he is now short sightedly drawing US troops from Afghanistan to cover his bets in Iraq. He still has not learned; you never risk the necessary, to gain the superfluous. Fighting terrorism in Afghanistan is clearly more important nationally than chasing oil wells and other countries' regional security interests in Iraq.

Uncertain what bedevils Bush the most. Is it OSAMA, OSAMA, OSAMA or MUQTADA, MUQTADA, MUQTADA; or, with respected Republican Senator Hagel's recent appropriate critical attack on Bush's Iraq policy, is it HAGEL, HAGEL, HAGEL? After Senator's Webb's confrontational rebuttal speech, maybe WEBB, WEBB, WEBB. Bush seems to have an almost blind psychotic hatred of his enemies. In his intensity he reminds me of the Prussian Field Marshal Gerhard Von Blucher who was an arch enemy of Napoleon. After Napoleon wiped the field with Blucher, especially at Auerstadt, he came back to defeat the Emperor of the French at Waterloo. Blucher's dislike of the French was so intense that it led to his insanity. In the end, Blucher believed that he was pregnant with an elephant by a French grenadier. As the President's distress increases, is there a lesson here for Mr. Bush? Perhaps for him a donkey rather than an elephant. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Friday, January 19, 2007

GW Bush & his Flag Officers in Wonderland

The first two chapters in Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND are titled DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE and the POOL OF TEARS. In this second chapter, Alice finds a crocodile by a pool and declares: "How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spread his claws, And welcome little fishes in with gently smiling Jaws". GW Bush with his dutifully saluting generals and admirals have jumped into the rabbit hole and have arrived at the Pool of Tears – the crocodile is there to greet them. GW Bush's latest speech to justify his token reinforcement of Iraq, when events to the contrary auger for staged withdrawal, is a guide to his fantasy wonderland – his estimate of the situation is corrupt, as usual faith-based, and has little to do with reality and nothing to do with intelligence.

The false premise he builds on for his latest strategy, A Way Forward, is that the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite government wants American troops to remain in Iraq. Evidence points, however, to just the opposite; according to reliable polls, over 60% of the Iraqis want Americans shot on the spot and over 70% want Yankee to go home yesterday. So Bush wants the American people to believe he can leverage the Shiite-Iraqi elected government, so limited in power, that it is even afraid to exit the Green Zone. Under these circumstances, he expects the Shiite Iraqis to buckle under US pressure to kill Shiite militias by absurdly threatening US withdrawal – this is insanity – and even blind, "me too" Republican law makers are beginning to gag on this naked propaganda and deception. There is almost no chance the Maliki government will seriously cooperate in military operations against brother Shiites; it will of course, cooperate with killing Sunnis, but that is not what GW Bush has in mind, or is selling to promote a unified pro-American/Israeli Iraq. If the relations between the Maliki government and US forces continue to deteriorate, we could end up fighting the Iraqi government Bush created.

Apart from the uproar in Congress over Bush's new plan, there is little auspicious in Iraq concerning the employment of Iraqi forces to support the Bush plan to re-conquer Baghdad. Most recently, American forces were called in after Iraqi forces came under heavy fire by Sunni insurgents on Haifa Street in Baghdad, near the Green Zone. Fight lasted one day; ended inconclusively with at least six Iraqi Army soldiers killed as captives after surrendering, when they ran out of ammunition. To add more tension, the first choices of Iraqi generals by the Iraqi government to head operations in Baghdad have been rejected by the US command. This comes on the heels of a statement by the Iraq NSC chief blaming the US for Iraqi forces’ inadequacies in combat because of the poor training and flawed recruitment by the US command. Kurdish Talabani forces are being deployed to Baghdad to fight there. Most do not speak Arabic. Further, their performance against organized Sunni elements is unpredictable as Saddam slapped them around with impunity every time he engaged them. The other problem with Kurdish forces is that they are pro-Shiite as they have been allied to crush Sunni interests in Anbar province, so their reliability against al Sadr militia is suspect.

It is obvious that the enormity of the disaster of invading Iraq is finally sinking into Bush's skull. Misguided, he has handed over 60% of Iraq to the Iranian Ayatollahs along with its rich oil and water resources. Bush has declared mistakes were made and took responsibility. He was careful not to admit he made them, but he did big time.

His Middle Eastern policy disasters began right after the 9/11 attack. Bush was frightened; Rumsfeld's Pentagon was hit hard. Based on his press conferences and interviews, GWB is not a pressure player and his military record is not exactly a profile in courage. Desperately searching for a guide to action, he foolishly decided to turn the White House into a sort of Kibbutz. Using Israeli guidelines provided by the fanatically anti-Arab neocons and the influential Israeli Lobby, he trashed progress on the Palestine/Israeli peace accords, assented in Ariel Sharon's smashing of Arafat, encouraged and financed the building of a security wall dividing the West Bank, and supplied Israel with bunker busting and cluster bombs; with mainly neocon and Israeli Lobby urging as a political vanguard, he went off to war in Iraq, partially to solve the Israeli problem of Saddam's aid to Palestinian terrorists. He disgustingly stood by as Israel destroyed the Lebanese population and infrastructure with those bunker busting and cluster bombs he provided. And now it appears Bush is preparing to bomb Iran, because he thinks it solves another strategic problem for Israel: the Iranian Nucs and Hezbollah. This obsessive, one-sided support of Israel has cost him dearly internationally, and he has received little in return for his country unless you count the massive campaign contributions from grateful pro Israeli elements in the US. When will Bush fly the Star of David flag from the White House and play the Star Spangled Banner with a klezmer band? Pat Buchanan indicated a long time ago that Capitol Hill was occupied Israeli territory; at that time, he did not include the White House.

No one doubts Iran is supporting military activities against the US forces in Iraq. Bush’s response has been to position some USAF resources closer to Iraq and send carrier task forces to the Persian Gulf. He is also deploying Patriot missiles to the area. He rattled the saber further in his latest speech, and recently ordered the detainment of Iranian diplomatic personnel in Iraq. Expect a spirited reaction from the Persians.

If Bush wants to discourage Iranian interference in Iraq, he can close the borders and send special operations forces across into the country to smack their asses quietly in a focused, limited way... To bomb Iran on the the pretext of curbing Iranian interference in Iraq is preposterous; Bush teed up the problem with his foolish invasion. Bombing Iran is an over the top response much like destructive Israeli bombing in Lebanon cynically using captured Israeli prisoners as a casus belli. By the way, Israel, after bombs away, still has not succeeded in recovering those prisoners.

Even Bush's sometime intelligence chief Negroponte has recently reported the Israeli/US bombing in Lebanon was a failure, with Hezbollah and Iran coming out ahead. Bush and the frenetic screwballs advocating war with Iran do not seem to understand there are deadly consequences. Iran is not Serbia where you just drop bridges across the Danube, blow up TV stations, party headquarters, and some paprika canneries as the population rolls over. The Iranians will exact plenty of blood and oil for bombardment of its country. Iran with Venezuela is forming a 21st century variety of a COMINTERN of leftist regimes in Latin America right under Bush's nose. This, while he remains stuck to the Iraqi Tar Baby. Expect this fledgling group to react strongly to a Bush bombing of Iran. Let us hope Congress stops Bush on his next road to disaster. Do not expect the US military establishment to interfere; with General Shenseki going down with his ship, the rest of the military leadership has lost its moral compass, frightened over a threat to their own careers. As far as those blowhard retired generals who populate the TV shows as military experts, they do not count – they are talkers not walkers.

Hopeless Henry Kissinger has returned to the Bush White House disguised as a mumbling ornamental potted plant. As the bombing of Iran looms, it is easy to believe that the author of the pointless bombing of Laos, and Cambodia in the Vietnam war has had a nefarious role in a policy to bomb Iran... Hopeless Henry has taught us "peace is at hand"; prepare for the worst – bring out your mourning clothes.

No one questions that the US has a squalid situation in Iraq of its own making. No one doubts the flawed execution of the war. What is in question is what brought the country to the edge of chaos. Let us hope assessment for the crises is wrong. Stupid leadership and greed for oil are easier to fix than foreign penetration of the government. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Friday, January 12, 2007

Continuity and Change – USA 2007

In Latino countries you celebrate the New Year by dumping water over your balcony to symbolize throwing out the stale residue of the past year, making space for freshness and hope in the new year. In the USA, this year was characterized by changing the stinking, political context of the US Congress and the burnt out, stagnant US military command in Iraq. Whether it will bring new vigor to the life of the US is unclear. At this stage it appears there is at least hope the Democratic Congress may clean the stables in Washington, but there is almost no hope the change of command in Iraq will win the war or stop the endless killing of Americans and Iraqis in a pointless war.

A least from my viewpoint, a sparkling, attractive, well turned out Nancy Pelosi is much more pleasing to the eye than the gross walking heap, Dennis Hastert, a man fattened like a goose to produce fois gras, by too many paid lobbyist's lunches. Madame Pelosi’s problem will be whether she can shed the euphoria of the first women Speaker of the House, by avoiding the temptation of being a hugging and kissing American sweetheart; will she do her job protecting the interests of the American people over those of US corporations and foreign lobbyists? She was given a mandate by the American people to lance the boil of Iraq. She has the power of the purse strings to do it or will the Israel Lobby with powerful influence in the House overwhelm her? Representative Tom Lantos, now chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, who advertises himself as a holocaust survivor, and Rahm Emmanuel, former civilian volunteer in the Israeli Army during Gulf War I, a pro Israel supporter who now is the Democratic Caucus Chairman, will provide the central opposition to Pelosi as she moves to bring the troops home from Iraq. In the Senate, pro Israeli senators Lieberman and Levin have already eagerly indicated they support President's Bush's reinforcement surge in Iraq even before the president proposed it. So the Israel Lobby's support for permanent war in Iraqi remains constant; unabated despite the polls against the war and the results of the 2006 elections. Israel now has a no bid US contract to make US military ammunition. Why the US would outsource military ammunition to a foreign country is beyond me. It would be interesting to put some sunshine on this to determine who in the US made the deal. There is an easy, ironic metaphor: THE ISRAELIS MAKE THE BULLETS AND THE US GETS TO SHOOT THEM. What a deal! Now on to Iran with our Israeli pals?

Changing of the guard in Washington in 2007 so far has demonstrated that GW Bush has a shallow reservoir of talent. Uncertain whether this is due to a scarcity of ability or lack of loyalty to Bush. For example John Negroponte has had four important jobs under the president: UN Ambassador, Ambassador to Iraq, Director of National Intelligence and recently was appointed Deputy to the Secretary of State. Zalmay Khalilzad gets his fourth job with his appointment as UN ambassador – he served at the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President , Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Ambassador to Iraq. In the case of both men, it puts abundant titles on a resume, but smart employers remain suspicious of too many jobs too fast. Remember President READ MY LIPS George Herbert Walker Bush? He held a multitude of significant jobs, but he was clearly a four year flop as President. The recent appointment of an unqualified Bob Gates as SECDEF signaled at least to me, that Bush has few choices for important jobs. After the Wolfowitz and his kooky Cakewalkers' debacle at Defense, and Bolton's confirmation problems in the Senate, doubt he would risk appointing another neocon to a high level job. Bush's selection of two former flag officers, both who were chiefs at the National Security Agency, one to head CIA and the other to replace Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, indicates that Bush does not understand that there is much more to sound intelligence beyond snagging secrets from the ether...

Despite the cliche that every private has a field marshal's baton in his rucksack, it is not apparent in the US military establishment. Selection of a naval officer to head CENTCOM is a stroke of absurdity. Does this mean that there were no ground force generals – Marine or Army – qualified for the high unified command that fights wars on the ground? Can we now expect a ground force officer to head a naval command in the Pacific or Atlantic? Either Bush does not trust ground force commanders or they do not trust him and rejected the appointment. Crisis in command?

Musical Chairs in Baghdad is revealing the weakness of the military leadership choices by Bush. General George Casey, the commander of forces in Iraq but a failure by most standards, who oversaw an exploding insurgency and bloody development of civil war, was rewarded with the plum assignment of Army Chief of Staff. It seems he was promoted because he did not surrender to the insurgency and acquiesced to Bush's Surge policy. Desperation by Bush was further evinced by returning General David Petraeus to Iraq for the third time to replace Casey. Patraeus was praised; recognized as the most successful division commander, because of his intelligent pacification of Mosul in the first phases of the Iraq war. He returned in 2005 for a second tour to train Iraqi forces. That time he was unsuccessful. His problems centered on the exaggerated reporting of the number combat ready Iraqi battalions. Congress was involved. He was removed early from the responsibility for training Iraq forces, and was replaced by General Dempsey who still remains. At the time, Patraeus indicated that he was stunned by the corruption in Iraq – apparently his professors at the US Military Academy and Princeton never warned him about it. This Ivory tower mentality was disturbing for a combat commander fighting in the midst of traditionally corrupt Arabs. He was reassigned to a training assignment at the Army staff school at Ft. Leavenworth where he produced a joint field manual on counterinsurgency with the US Marine Corps. When combat commanders end up in back water training commands, their career is usually over and dead, so the Patraeus resurrection to the most important combat command in Iraq was surprising; Bush had to dig deep into the barrel to dust him off for replay. His promotional press spin is that he was assigned to command the US forces in Iraq because he produced this joint field manual – a rational that is even thin by GW Bush standards. Try this: nobody else better qualified wanted the job. His first power point briefing after his third coming to Baghdad should be ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES OF BAGHDAD.

Read the December 2006 draft of the counterinsurgency field manual; it is a fine, definitive analysis of counterinsurgency warfare, but as a guide to action, it misses the point, which Patraeus will discover as he applies it in his new assignment; there is big difference between theory and practice. In most cases the manual is inoperable in Iraq now, because of past events and bungled opportunities... Perhaps an under-worked congressional staffer one day will use it as a template to analyze the fiasco in Iraq. Now that would be an interesting read.

As Patraeus charges into his new job, he should remember the injunction in the recently minted field manual that counterinsurgency warfare is 80% political and 20% combat power. This last Sunday on US TV, Iraq leadership blamed the US for the failures of the Iraqi military units, because the US recruited them and trained them. I would work on that one first... and do it fast, if I were you General; you do not want this fire to spread. By the way, what page in your field manual gives you guidance on how to fix this problem? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death and Transfiguration – Saddam Hussein et al

Three men died in the last week; all important for different reasons, and certainly not associated in any way except by the close timing of their deaths. More significantly, they will speak from their graves and impact the living.

Saddam Hussein's life ended by hangman's rope – from all reports, he died like a man. He refused to wear a hood over his head and projected a stoic appearance; there were no mawkish pleas for mercy or forgiveness. While Saddam rejected a hood over his head, his executioners wore hooded masks, and Shiite witnesses danced over his corpse. In death, Saddam died as a brave man; his Shiite executioners acted uncivilized as they taunted and shouted el Sadr's name, but revenge is never pretty. Saddam committed many bloody crimes; but the one he was convicted on, had to do with taking reprisals, i.e.: killing 142 people as retaliation for an assassination attempt on his life in 1982. Saddam lived savagely, by the law of the club and fang and that is the way he died. He never extended pity and in the end did not expect it, contemptuously shouting to his executioners as the rope tightened.

My bone to pick is with GW Bush and to some extent with his daddy, President Herbert Walker Bush. Most of the crimes Saddam committed occurred when he was supported by the US against Iran. It became more complicated when Daddy Bush called for the Shiites to revolt against Saddam after Gulf War I and then stood aside as Saddam brutally suppressed the revolt. If GW Bush or Abe Lincoln had a revolt, brute force would be applied ruthlessly for the greater goal of preservation of the state – remember Sherman's March? They still do in Dixie.

GW Bush called it a fair trial despite the fact that US forces occupy the country and gathered all the evidence against Saddam. Requests for discovery by the defense were rejected by the Shiite judges. And who can justify the killing of some of Saddam's defense lawyers? Saddam was in US custody minutes before his execution. Only Bush can call it a fair trial – even the Shiites call it retribution. Other than Senator Joe Lieberman, who believes GW Bush? Pontius Pilate had more class than GW Bush... At least he publicly washed his hands before the death of Christ. Bush waited until after Saddam's execution.

Over the objections of Maliki, perhaps out of guilt for the messily botched execution, a US Blackhawk helicopter flew Saddam's body home to Tikrit for burial. That will not be the end of the US/Saddam saga. GW Bush called the execution a milestone. Mr. President, were the 113 US KIA in December, the highest of any month in 2006, also another milestone?

There is no question that Saddam was a war criminal. He lost a war to the US and faced deadly consequences, but for the US to be a direct party to his execution was a political blunder. Killing leadership of state after defeated started in modern times at Nuremberg, and the US still has to take moral showers over that, as Stalin occupied the heart of Europe; however, Romans killed enemy leaders too. The Huns, Tartars, and Mongols were sometimes smarter; they made the conquered leadership organize tribute. GW Bush had four choices: (1) Kill during capture, (2) Capture and send to Guantanamo, (3) Capture and send to International Hague Tribunal, (4) Capture and have him tried by Iraqis, then sentenced to death while US occupies Iraq. Bush chose number four and it will have long term consequences harmful to the US, as it will be perceived by many that Bush offered Saddam as a human sacrifice to appease the Shiites in Iraq. Like it or not, the execution of Saddam put the US right in the center of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Saddam was effectively abandoned by his Sunni support when he was captured; a lice infested prisoner pulled out of a spider hole by US forces. Previously, his sons died hard in a shootout with US forces with no Sunni protection. There is very little evidence to support the notion that Saddam was a major factor motivating the Sunni insurgency against the US. So what was the rush to kill him, especially on an Islamic holy day which unnecessarily upset religious moslems? Bush foolishly made the man a Sunni Arab national martyr, and that delights the Jihadists. Even the Saudis told Bush it was a dumb move; the Libyans declared three days of mourning. Saddam will become more important dead than he was alive as a US captive. Protests in Jordan and the Sunni lands in Iraq are widespread as of this writing. After all the bloodshed in Iraq, GW Bush, with this clumsy crazy execution, unintentionally managed to make Saddam a sympathetic figure in Sunni Arab circles.

Bush should have transferred Saddam to Guantanamo – he always could have sent him to the Hague or even to Iraq, once the US ended the occupation. Or possibly, do the Lenin in a boxcar routine and send him back to Iraq to foment a revolution against an anti-American pro-Iranian regime Bush established. But dead is dead and the moving finger moves on – the page has turned.

Whether Saddam went to Hell or Valhalla is the gatekeeper's call. President Gerald Ford's natural death a few days before Saddam's violent death stood in sharp contrast. Ford, by earthly standards, should have gone to heaven with a band of angels. His legacy is that of a man who tried to do the right thing, and under severe criticism, he succeeded; domestically stabilizing the country with the Nixon pardon. His foreign policy astuteness with détente and the Helsinki Accords, with Hopeless Henry Kissinger's guidance, made him appear inept, but compared to Carter's subsequent bungling, history may take another look. His criticism of Bush's Iraq war posthumously is just another nail in Bush's credibility and will haunt him even more as the war turns into a full blown catastrophe.

As we have a pretty good idea where Saddam and President Ford went after death, there is uncertainty over the disposition of the brilliant song and dance man James Brown, Godfather of Soul, who died in the same time frame. By entertainment standards, he reached the highest level. Was told by a professional that his shows were the best choreographed of any of the rock stars; they had military precision that was masked by the flamboyant projection on stage. Brown had a troubled private life filled with turmoil that landed him in jail. At same time, he was a role model for disadvantaged blacks and provided them real inspiration to succeed. Believe Mr. Brown will end up in Purgatory, but with his dash and spunk he will most assuredly work his way into Heaven. He will be missed. A legend will follow...

You probably noted President Bush, VEEP Cheney, Condoleezza, General Pace, and SECDEF Bob Gates all huddled in Crawford, Texas to provide a New Way Forward In Iraq – all but Gates are a party to the disaster, so keep expectations low... Could not help but recall Woodys Allen's film characterization of torture as trapped in a phone booth with an insurance salesman. By my reckoning, locked in an armored car with that gang of five would even be more excruciating. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET