Thursday, August 09, 2007


Guns or Butter?
GWBush Chooses Guns


It was as if an ancient angry river god brought his fist down hard: first at the south end of the Mississippi River at New Orleans with Katrina, and now on a major bridge across the same river in the north, in Minneapolis. In both cases damage was multiplied by under maintained infrastructure – in one case levees and the other a high capacity bridge. In both instances authorities knew the weakness in the infrastructure but allocated maintenance resources elsewhere, to other projects... The Bush administration with Congress were certainly warned by Katrina, but no priority national programs were instituted to repair the nation's aging infrastructure.

On October 5, 2005, I published an Op-ed in the Baltimore Sun. It was titled, Unrealistic Mission in Iraq. It made three points: (1) General Petraeus was fired at that time, because after a major effort he could not produce ready to fight Iraqi forces; (2) Iraqi forces would not be reliable no matter how much US training and equipment they received; and (3) Bush had to make a national decision on priorities in the wake of Katrina on whether to continue to spend more money in Iraq or on the rebuilding of his damaged country – he could not do both. Now we know, he chose Guns over the Butter.

Nearly two years after I wrote the article we find General Petraeus has returned to Iraq with another star on his shoulder to take charge of military operations. General Dempsey, who replaced him in 2005 and took charge of training Iraqi security forces is still in Iraq, also has another star, plus a headquarters full of charts demonstrating that he gloriously fulfilled his mission training Iraqi forces. The problem is that after spending 19.2 billion dollars, these forces routinely do not show up for battles. Dempsey has the same problems Petraeus had in 2005. General Dempsey additionally cannot put his finger on 200,000 small arms issued to Iraq security forces. These losses occurred mainly on Petraeus' previous tour when he was in charge of Iraqi security training; one reason he was sent home early.

Why Petraeus was reassigned to Iraq to replace General Casey who was not a howling success in the occupation, is open to speculation. The fact that General Casey was assigned as the prestigious Chief of Staff of the Army after his failures in Iraq, just tells me that there were not a lot of choices – either other Army generals did not want the job or they were worse picks than Casey. Another factor was that Casey had been house broken by the Bush administration and would not embarrass it at the Pentagon. For many of the same reasons Petraeus was pulled from a dead end school assignment at Ft. Leavenworth to take charge of the occupation in Iraq. Much was made of the fact by the Senate and Administration that Dr. General Petraeus, with the help of the US Marine Corps, coauthored a field manual on counterinsurgency, as if this qualified him for an important combat command. If Petraeus was sent to this command for his professorial qualities, run for the door. Most leadership, civilian or military, understands you never give professors authority assignments based on their ability to write books. They just try to bend reality to fit their concepts. Look what happened with Dr. Hopeless Henry Kissinger when he was trusted with authority.

Totally mismanaging the Iraq war, blindly following neocon sick leadership, and turning its responsibilities over to private contractors, is the sad Army leadership that brought us Abu Ghraib, the Pat Tillman affair, the horror at Walter Reed and corruption. Do you really expect it to win a victory in Iraq, especially under Dr. Petraeus? Is that the best we have? By now the American people should have figured out that Army leadership does not know what it is doing. There is lots of tarnish on blade for these men, most of whom came from the national military cadet milieu who profess to be sworn to duty, honor and country.

Petraeus now has a dubious distinction: a request has been made that he be removed from his duties by the shattered Maliki Iraq Government. In the last month US KIA went down to 79, but the dead Iraqis and Iraqi security forces were at their highest levels. So surging Petraeus has not brought security. Reportedly 8 million Iraqis are at the edge of disaster. Baghdad is without reliable water and electricity. The population is desperate. Petraeus was forced by official Saudi intervention to begin arming Sunni chieftains and their minions – Saudis were alarmed by the fact that the US trained and equipped Shiite forces were going to to slaughter the lesser armed Sunnis. The US had to accede to Saudi pressure. Petraeus uses as a fig leaf the explanation that these US Sunni paid and equipped forces are to be used to fight al Qaeda in Anbar province.

At least in the short term some Sunni insurgents have stopped killing Americans; whether they kill their brother Sunni al Qaeda remains to be seen. The long term effects are hard to calculate as the US is busy developing the forces on both sides of the sectarian warfare – these new regional steps by the US have undermined the central Maliki Shiite government and that is why Maliki wants Petraeus out. Petraeus is not a soldier/diplomat in the Maxwell Taylor mold by a long shot. He is just another uncritical element of the long gray line produced on the Hudson that eagerly salutes with both hands. This arming of the Sunnis by the Americans may presage an ethnic partition as a final US solution for Iraq. Brookings Institution staffers recently have published a rosy scenario on the US baptism of Sunni insurgents into the coalition of the willing – must be time for consideration of government grants. The same two authors were promoters of the Iraqi war earlier and now, just should be dismissed as stay the course Bush propagandists.

On September 15th Bush promised a report on progress in Iraq by the ambassador and key US general in Iraq. Given the Administration’s hyperbolic promotion of this Petraeus/Crocker report, the anticipation is almost like waiting for a new Coke to be introduced. By now we have figured out the report. GW Bush and Senator McCain test the lines everyday. Barring the fall of the Green Zone to insurgents, the report will not be definitive, something ambiguous, i.e., a good and bad things report. There will be a request for more time to turn the endless corner and a depiction of more horror if we depart. It is hard to imagine more horror than exists in Iraq today. About the only bright spot in Iraq since the fall of Saddam has been the Asian cup soccer win by the Iraqis. The Iraqi team had to train in Jordan to be safe. First thing out of the mouth of the the Iraqi who scored the winning goal was YANKEE GO HOME and I believe that is a good suggestion. Why not let the Iraqis figure it out? The US presence makes things worse there by the day for all sides.

Apart from the blood and fury of the war that continues unabated; the cost of the Iraq war is projected to reach a trillion dollars in 2008. The collapse of the interstate bridge in Minneapolis was the result of a failure to spend money nationally on infrastructure by federal and state governments. The link between war spending and spending on infrastructure was dramatically illustrated by the heavy TV coverage of the bridge collapse. The fact the 2008 Republican convention is planned in Minneapolis gives disaster a poetic retribution spin. The next time a bridge falls, a school bus may just not teeter, but plunge. Stop spending billions on the Iraqi, now! PUT AMERICA FIRST Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Photograph: Etching by Francisco de Goya

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An amazing criminal debacle in Iraq, I think there should be some criminal charges brought on the neocon war promoters.

I was in Africa on a Joint tour. The Staff was always sending US EOD and soldiers traveling to different African countries training the national militarizes. But in many of these countries, the "bad guys" are the countries military and the politicians, who they protect.

23:18  

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