Friday, September 28, 2007

Trashing the Military or War Propaganda?

Like it or not there is a quantum difference in the relationships between the US military and American civilian society since WW II, Korea and Vietnam. This change stems from todays’ all volunteer force versus the previous, of mainly conscript manpower provided by a federal draft. GW Bush's Department of Defense has made this cleavage and separation between the American people and its military sharper by employing mercenaries to augment its fighting forces. For example there are over 150,000 in Iraq and they are also found in Afghanistan; most are American but many are not, and it appears none are under military command.

These contract warriors express different motives for their employment, but in fact, they fight for money. Right now the US Army accepts recruits up to 42 years old, with substandard educations, low mental standards and with criminal records. So with these low standards, just about anyone can serve their country for patriotic reasons. Even with a $20,000 enlistment bonus and hefty reenlistment incentives, the lure of mercenary pay is more enticing. For example, the budget for an American mercenary company in Iraq, Blackwater, is 800 million dollars. Among other missions, Blackwater provides security for US diplomatic personnel. By tradition that was the US Marine Corps mission. What happened? Why did it change? I’d sooner have a US Marine for protection than a hired gun who does not subscribe to any code but that of avarice. The contractors in Iraq are not governed by military justice, US justice or Iraqi justice. Perhaps it is by frontier justice? Blackwater's alleged recent reckless killing of 11 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad now complicated by an investigation for weapons smuggling, are cases in point. Blackwater has its own fleet pf armored vehicles, helicopter gunships, command and control equipment and supply system; so you can understand the 800 million dollar bill to the US government. This conflation of private warriors and US military in war is a new phenomenon and is still a work in progress. As best I can figure, there still is no unity of command with General Petraeus and the US mercenaries in Iraq. There was one report that even Patraeus uses contract body guards. If this is the case, let us call them Praetorian Guards or even better Petraeusian Guards.

Petraeus has a problem: As the mercenaries shoot Iraqis like clay pigeons, the General is trying to win Iraqi trust. Just another reason the war is doomed to fail. To add to the General's over-loaded plate, even the Kurds are now going ape shit over the arrest of Iranians by the US on Kurdish turf, and threatening to close their borders to Americans.

A Blackwater run-of-the mill body guard makes approximately $1000 a day or more. A US Marine enlisted man earns considerably less with duties that impose a higher risk; and, he does not have an option to terminate his agreed term of duty. Blackwater's Deputy is Coffer Black, a former CIA Anti-Terrorist Chief who could not stop or catch bin Laden. Mr. Black has, however, clearly demonstrated his talent for snagging federal dollars. How Blackwater fares once the Iraqi money pot is empty is a question worth considering. The company and the Defense Department have invested deeply into an organized force to fight as an alternative to US federal forces. The military Industrial Complex appears to have developed its own light armed force apart from the US standing forces. The French were sagacious when it decreed the French Foreign Legion had to be based outside of Metropolitan France to prevent Bonapartism – even at that, General Salan and his tough Foreign Legion paratroopers from the Algerian War made an unsuccessful stab at seizing power from DeGaulle. Given all the big bucks, guns and raging testosterone at Blackwater, the organization is not going to fade away; it will find an enemy whether or not one exists to justify its continued existence and funding.

While these mercenary organizations sprouted like a mushroom patch in the dark, the US ground forces failed to win the war in Iraq. They bungled badly in planning and intelligence, and misdirected combat operations. The U.S. Airforce had friendly fire incidents and bombed the wrong targets that killed civilians, but the fault in that sometimes lies in target acquisition that involves different services. The Airforce problem now is trying to explain how it permitted a B52 bomber to fly around with nucs aboard. Luckily the Russians did not go to code red.

The Army's extensive cover up of the friendly fire incident of Pat Tillman; its disgusting failures at Walter Reed Army Hospital; its surprising dereliction of duty to find senior officers responsible for the Abu Ghraib horror; and its inability to stop massive looting and guard Iraqi ammunition dumps compounded its perception of incompetence. The low intensity Iraq insurgency developed gradually and mysteriously under its nose and is still to be explained and it should have been expected. Except for General Shinseki, no senior Army officers on active duty spoke out or resigned in protest to operations they all understood to be self defeating. General Abizaid, however, in front of Congress did correctly predict Bush's surge was a waste of time. He then promptly retired. While the soldiers and Marines on the line bravely did their duty, the Army leadership in the main acted like donkeys. Like Powell and Franks, General Petraeus is the latest in the string of General army officers to confuse abject loyalty with honorable integrity. The U. S. Army exists to defend the country and win wars, not to kiss a politicians' ass. If its leadership cannot handle these contradictions inherent with honor and duty, it should sell shoes. (To paraphrase US Senator Hegal)

This week we witnessed more fiascos in Congress. The US Senate voted to censor an anti-war ad that called General Petraeus a Betrayer. It was a nasty ad, but Petraeus allowed himself to be Bush's poster boy for the war, so once in the political ring, he should expect to take his political hits as dirty as they can be – this episode explains why military leadership should not cross the line and hawk wars. The Army high command probably cringed over the fracas as it brought it into the heart of a national political controversy it really cannot control or defend; it is not over by as long shot as the left wing, savored and juiced by the high voltage attention, will continue to charge like a wounded bull, possibly even more vicious. Believe me, the Army is always concerned over its image and is biting its nails over Doctor General Petraeus' moth-like attraction to klieg lights.

Senator Webb made a valiant effort to insure the troop assignments in the continental US was mandated by the same time troops spent overseas. It was a de-facto curb to reduce stress on the troops, but would have complicated the current Helter Skelter Pentagon policies that repeatedly sent troops into combat without a decent rest period at home. Key to his bills support, was Republican Senator Warner who caved at the last minute to defeat the bill. In my book, Senator Warner's long history reached its zenith years ago by marrying Liz Taylor who finally dumped him. I gave up on his good sense when he supported President Clinton's US basing in the Balkans. Our troops are still there as was predicted. Now at the end of his career, never really a statesman, Warner still had to play to his war loving profile; he cannot depart the senate soon enough. Even at the end, he still could not do the right thing.

As far as the Iraq war ending under Bush, the chances appear slim as cowardly Democrats will not stop the war spending bills which they control. The poor things even tried to use the left wing Petraeus attack ad as reason for inaction. Democratic candidate, Edwards, who took out a TV ad on MSNBC the night Bush made PETRAEUS IS MY HERO speech, cut the Gordian Knot for the Democrats. JUST SEND THE SAME BILL TO BUSH WITH TIME TABLES TO WITHDRAW FROM IRAQ and if the President vetoes it, send it again and again. Makes sense to me. Just takes courage by an addicted Congress to kick their war profiteering and Israeli lobby money habit. Or is there a more sinister reason despite lip service of supporting the troops? Is the gap between Congress and the US Military Establishment now too wide? Is Congress just dismissing the military's pain as a nuisance simply coming from expensive hired help without political teeth? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reduction of US Forces & Other Myths in GWB’s Iraq

GW Bush and frenetic neocons never quite get it right. They start wars, but cannot win them; they bring us only permanent wars. A desperate political tactic devised by V. I. Lenin during the Russian Communist Revolution was ONE STEP BACKWARD, TWO STEPS FORWARD – Bush and his pals with their recent reduction in force proposals in Iraq gave us TWO STEPS BACKWARD AND ONE STEP FORWARD. According to reliable sources, many neocons, e.g. Norman Podhoretz, descend from an old émigré nucleus of Leon Trotskyist Russians chased out of Russia by Stalin who had Trotsky brutally killed in Mexico with an ice ax to his head.

Apart from the deadly competition over Communist leadership in Russia, Comrade Stalin and Comrade Trotsky fought it out ideologically over the concepts of Stalin's REVOLUTION IN ONE COUNTRY vs. Trotsky's INTERNATIONAL REVOLUTION IN MANY COUNTRIES. Trotsky was beaten badly, but his neocon progeny in the US still carry on his spirit, now morphed into an international conversion of the world by the sword to democracy. This imperative is as equally idiotic as Trotsky's fulminations, but GW Bush has given it a good ride as he pointlessly plunged the US into war in Iraq and frantically hectors the world on delusional revolutionary democracy. Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman, in his latest book undermines Bush's sanctimonious rhetoric even more by revealing the Iraq war was all about oil. FYI, President Bush awarded Greenspan the Medal of Freedom.

The other concept that was imbedded in Trotskyism is permanent revolution. This is now rolled out by neocons as permanent war on terror – problem with this is that neocons define a terrorist as anyone who shoots or kills an Israeli; from an Israeli standpoint that definition is okay with me, but for the US to permit any foreign country to define its enemies is a tragically foolish mistake.

When Bush finished his self serving Ode to Petraeus speech, about the only thing that rang true was the ending: GOOD NIGHT AND GOD BLESS AMERICA. Like the old Marxist/Leninist agitation and propaganda techniques used to develop their Soviet diatribes, Bush started his speech establishing and repeating false premises that Iraq is an ally – that is news to at least 70% of Iraqis and most Americans. Since when do allies kill Americans at the rate of two to three a day? Sure the Kurds adore Americans, but their choice is that or to be skinned alive by Turks, Sunnis and Shiites. Now with the oil exploitation deal in Kurd lands signed by Bush's and Halliburton Texas stooge Hunt, expect the US to shift basing and monetary inducements to flow from the Iraqi Shiite central government to the Kurds. At this disastrous stage of the Iraq war, Bush is prepared to fall back, and to accept hegemony just over the Kurds as consolation prize; a prize he had cinched at the beginning of the war, but now may have to fight permanently to keep it, as the Sunnis and Shiites gain strength along with Turks who are now more influenced by the Islamists who recently were elected to the majority in their government. Under any circumstances, US petrol development in Kurd lands will be complicated and contested by forces outside the region. And by the way, most permanent bases built by Bush in Iraq are not in Kurd lands. Aw shucks; fouled up... again?

Still clutching his false premises to his heart, Bush preached an enduring relationship with Iraq. Uncertain how to categorize this; as pie in the sky, wishful thinking or a neocon opium pipe dream. Realistically, if GW Bush can get out of Sunni and Shiite Iraq with their promise not return the mosaic image of his father to the Rashid Baghdad Hotel floor for people to walk over, and not to have one also installed of himself, he will be fortunate. Apart from finding a functioning central government, the President should get rid of the Shariya based Iraqi constitution first, before he engages and weds the US to Iraq in a so called enduring relationship, whatever that means. With the current anti-American and bloody internal situation, GWB could not even arrange an Iraqi shotgun wedding with the US, even if he should openly confess to screwing Iraq.

Like many Americans who watched Bush's Surge speech, I flipped the TV channels afterwards, curious to gauge the pundit and politically correct crowd's gush. A vast majority were either neutral or disappointed over Bush's performance. My favorite interview was on CNN between Anderson Cooper and the veteran Australian journalist Michael Ware who reports from Baghdad. Cooper is a prissy, prim, clean cut, immaculate and careful man who always looks like he stepped out of a band box even in the middle of sandstorm. Ware is just the opposite: sometimes with a shirt tail out, he always looks like he was swept off a bar room floor, and usually has a one day growth of stubble; if you look closely you may find flys buzzing around his sweaty head. With a nose that is spread to the side of his face and that nasal Australian Outback Crocodile Dundee accent, he is by far the most gifted and effective English speaking reporter on the scene in Iraq. He responded to Cooper's earnestly polite question on Bush's speech with a sneer and read from prepared notes that debunked every major point in Bush's speech based on his own on site observations and sources; it was a stark, grim reply, and a refreshing performance. No effort was made to please TV sponsors or conform to political attitudes at CNN. Cooper thanked him, probably afraid to ask another question – it was a rare moment – if Petraeus talked to this Australian regularly, the General might keep more of his troops alive. I dare US Congress to call Ware as an open hearing witness. Now that would be SHOCK AND AWE in the Congressional committee rooms.

Bush took one wobbly step forward by promising speciously to reduce troops over the year to the pre-surge level of 130,000. He also took two firm steps backward. One promised an open ended war and a protracted US occupation in Iraq, and the other promised de facto to continue to arm both Shiites and Sunnis, so they can kill each other easily in the Iraq Civil War. My opinion, albeit a minority one, is the Petraeus/Crocker episode is not over before Congress. More Pentagon reports are coming out undermining Petraeus' rosy report. There are two Naval Admirals: one commands CENTCOM and is Petraeus' boss and another who will head the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have world wide military policy responsibilities. These officers are yet to give their opinions publicly. Both of these men, by nature of their service branch, take their ground force advice from Marines, who like some Army generals, are at odds with Petraeus. As each day passes, SecDef Gates appears more befuddled as he conditionally hints, bobs and weaves over more and faster troops cuts than Bush/Petraeus accept. Both admirals, each having broad regional security responsibilities well beyond those of Petraeus, understand the war in Afghanistan is going badly. With a real threat of Jihad loose nucs, there is an overwhelming priority to focus more forces on that theater of operations before Pakistan's Musharraf crumbles. Those US forces most likely have to come out of Iraq garrisons. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Groucho Marx Lives in GWB’s Brain

Groucho Marx had that great line: ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE ME OR BELIEVE YOUR OWN EYES? GW Bush's recent star-crossed trip to Australia and his extension of the Iraq War are cases in point.

When Bush conducts overseas trips, in most cases he becomes a piñata for the foreign press by his antics... Unlike the US press corps, the foreign press is less tolerant; it points to his self inflicted gaffes with glee, sometimes with arrogant superiority. The US press corps, who always dutifully follows him around here and aboard Air Force 1, is more circumspect; more sensitive to respecting the office of the President and reluctant to make an enemy of their regular, in your face, main news source. Most are just intimidated. Except for network and cable TV runs, where Bush's unintended farces now play as expected comedy, these GWB mistakes now have become routine rather than isolated. No one seems overly concerned that our President predictably makes an ass of himself on the world stage when overseas. When President Gerald Ford fell up and down airplane ramps regularly and could not find Poland on the map, Americans laughed with him. In Bush's case, America wants to cry when he acts like a spastic eighth grader overseas. The majority of America foolishly trusted his bad judgement now to learn that when he is left unscripted, there is really not much substance there.

His trip to Australia was something to behold. He could not find his way off stage, mixed up Austrian with Australian and had a Freudian slip with APIC and OPEC. Worst of all, he maladroitly handled a question on camera from the South Korean President on a Korean Peace Treaty with North Korea to end hostilities with South Korea formally. It was bad enough that our President diplomatically bungled by suggesting that nothing could be done unless North Korea disarmed, but the South Korean laughed in his face and fired back the same question, and Bush robotically repeated the same absurd answer. South Korea is a loyal ally; it exists only because of US force of arms in the bloody Korean War. Over 30,000 US troops still act as a trip wire along the DMZ and they are de facto, strategically staked goats; and, that is true even defensively, with employment US tactical nucs. So if the South Korean president felt secure enough to challenge Bush publicly, you can get some idea of what he thinks of him personally. This South Korean president is as quirky and misguided as GWB. He authorized over 20 South Korean Christian missionaries to spread the gospel in the heart of Taliban Afghanistan. They were all kidnapped; two were killed and over 20 million dollars ransom reportedly was paid for their freedom – score a big one for Allah.

At the same conference Bush added to his embarrassingly pathetic collection of sophisms of BRING HIM BACK DEAD OR ALIVE – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – BRING EM ON with WE'RE KICKING ASS IN IRAQ. On the same day he said that, 7 US soldiers were killed there in action. To underscore the foolishness of Bush's slogans, Bin Laden popped up almost on cue with with one of those Still alive; catch me if you can tapes. General Petraeus' report certainly underscored mission was not accomplished. Based on our casualties, without question, we were also getting our ass kicked in Iraq. Petraeus is up to his ears in bring em on insurgents. As Petraeus delivered his rosy scenario before Congress, his headquarters at Camp Victory Iraq was bombarded and resulted in one coalition KIA and 18 wounded.

Not many surprises in Petraeus' congressional testimony; he called for small troop withdrawals as things are getting better and will get worse if the US withdraws major formations. He projects 130,000 troops to remain in country until Bush's term ends. Petraeus' report unfortunately, was one mass of flashing charts and who knows whether the data is correct or how it was collected. If Westmoreland's and McNamara's charts were correct, we won the Vietnam war over and over... When Petraeus accepted the role from Bush to be an advocate cheerleader spearhead for the Iraqi war, he wandered into a very dirty national political ring to face ad hominem attacks beyond those a man in uniform is normally expected to endure from his fellow citizens. Petraeus was hit hard by a leftist ad like Petraeus the Betrayer, and strident hecklers in the congressional committee room. The attack was over-the-top unfair, but Petraeus understands everything is fair in insurgent warfare, he helped author the text to fight such a war. He will join Generals Powell and Franks to reflect on their sordid integrity in service to the country.

These left wing blandishments may already have had an impact on Petraeus. On the 2nd day of the hearings at the US Senate, he was asked by Senator Warner if the strategy he is projecting for Iraq would make America safer? Warner had to ask the question twice as Petraeus dodged it the first time. Petraeus choked on his second answer and replied he did not know. This is outrageous! If Petraeus could not answer that question in the affirmative, we should fold our tents and come home immediately.

Ambassador Crocker's report effectively undermined anything positive Petraeus concocted to say about advances in security. Crocker apologized for the Iraq government failures and pathetically tried to compare the development of democracy in Iraq to the difficulties in US history. Crocker appeared pale, wan and fragile – not exactly my pick for US gauleiter for the occupation of Iraq. The US now holds over 25 thousand Iraq citizens in detention; roughly 800 of them are boys under 12 years of age. Maybe he was cringing over the fact some congressman would ask him what that does to the popularity of the US and central government. Most detainees apparently are Sunnis, so it may be okay by Shiite Malaki standards. What a squalid mess, and the US is in the middle.

The partition of Iraq seems to be the new developing US policy. Texas Hunt Oil Company recently signed an oil exploitation/profit sharing deal with the regional Kurdish regime, so expect Congress to fall in step as Big Oil flexes its muscle in Congress. Senator Wind Bag Biden, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, is already aboard on the partition of Iraq. Better hustle that oil out fast before the rearmed Sunnis or the blood-in-your-eye Turks decide to put Kurdish heads on the end of their bayonets.

To most Americans, it is apparent the Iraq war is lost. In the minds of Bush and his generals, it is not lost until the US forces pull out, so the Administration prefers to stand and die rather than face the truth. Does GWB suffer from the Texan Remember the Alamo Syndrome? And, the foolish Congress supports this. Now, new US bases are being built on the Iranian border. The same day Petraeus was testifying before Congress, the Israeli Premier Olmert called for the US to stay the course in Iraq. The result is the US media and Congress have now received their marching orders. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Deceit, Deception, Delusion – GW Bush in Iraq

General Petraeus recently told an Australian journalist that things were going just fine in Iraq. Petraeus was desperately trying to support Australian existing political leadership that is in a hotly contested election with opponents decrying 1500 Australian troops assigned to the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. If this is Petraeus' evaluation of the surge in Iraq, suggest he join the Italian poetic hero, Orlando Furioso, who went to the moon to search for his brain. Petraeus is always attentive to the press; he just finished escorting CBS Katie Couric around Fallujah. You do what yah gotta do in the war zone...

This more war conclusion by Petraeus was foregone as President Bush, his Republicans, neocons and Israeli lobby pushed for the surge – it was a cake that was baked prior to launching the surge. You learned quickly that the President was speciously relying on Petraeus’ judgement on whether to continue his tragic war – Patraeus’ promotion to four-star general and rescue from a dead end assignment as Commandant of the U. S. Army's Officer Command and General Staff School, locked up Patraeus' predictable optimistic evaluation, despite what the ground situation actually dictated. Remember, Petraeus is a proven man of opportunity; as a West Point graduate, he married the West Point Commandant's daughter...

When the surge was launched a few months ago, the Administration hinged everything on the Petraeus report. It was quickly changed to the Petraeus/Ambassador Crocker report. Then, Bush wanted SecDef Gates and Condoleezza to give the report once it was fixed by the White House. Today we have developed a report contest which will involve additional separate reports by the SecDef, General Jones, the outgoing Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the incoming Chief of the Joint Chief of Staff. My sense is the SecDef preferred not to take full responsibility for the policy recommendations, so he let this gaggle loose. Gates is a careful man; he did not reach the top by sticking his neck out.

The report landscape was seriously complicated by a recent national intelligence estimate that predicated grim results for the US in Iraq despite the surge. More complications showered down on Bush's plan to extend the war. The Congressional General Accounting Office produced a report condemning the effectiveness of the Iraqi government, and the White House tried to fix the conclusions. This report was critical as it was requested by Congress to determine if 18 mandated benchmarks were being met by the Iraqi as required by the surge legislation. Only three were met and they were minor; oil revenue distribution and de-Baathification, which were key to stability, were missed. The White House argues four more minor benchmarks were partially met. It is like arguing she is a little bit pregnant; you either make the benchmark or you do not as no shades of failure are acceptable. As of now, the only functioning Iraqi government is in President Bush's brain.

As far as the military success of the surge, you be judge. Over 1400 Iraqis were killed in August, the 2nd highest since the occupation; the US lost between 80 and 90 KIA in the month of August which is up from July, and the wounded is probably 7 or 8 times the number. The British pulled out of Basra under fire into a single fortified air-base area. Five or six Southern Iraqi provinces are now a wild west show without the marshals, with the US main supply route stretching across them. General Jones' special report has called for the complete reorganization of the Iraqi police force, because it has been infiltrated by Shiite militia. Last report was that police stations in Basra area have Shiite militia recruitment posters plastered on their walls. Nineteen Iraq units were to support the surge in Baghdad; only 5 performed well and they were most likely Kurdish.

The rearming of the Sunnis is probably creating a Frankenstein for Iraqi reunification and makes it certain that the sectarian violence will be bloodier. Nearly all the 2.5 million refugees are Sunni. Do not expect long term good will toward the US by the Sunnis. Baghdad now is nearly all Shiite as the Sunnis were purged. The Iraqi war now costs nearly 3 billion a week and is getting more expensive as US ammo stocks are depleted and more military equipment wears out or is destroyed. The Brass has told the President at the Pentagon recently that the ground forces cannot sustain current deployments much past spring of 2008, so Bush at that time will be compelled to pull more public relation rabbits out of his hat to continue the war at the same intensity.

General Ordinero, 2nd in command in Iraq, declared at the beginning of this week that three to four more months are crucial before the US starts to make troop withdrawals. Come on General, why not state there is a Light at the end of the tunnel to make another link in GW Bush's Vietnam war analogy? US Army leadership has two choices: either win the war or find themselves afterwards with a reputation lower than a used car salesman. Somebody in that group should tell the truth to Congress while still on active duty. You will note that no retired Army general officer supports the Iraq war except General Tommy Franks, and he is part of the problem...

This invasion of Iraq was based on deceit, deception and delusions. About 70% of Americans now believe this, and the surge will be extended by the same spurious black propaganda techniques that uses American patriotism to push hidden agendas. For the war to end, the Democrats must have spine and the Republicans a conscience. For this to happen Hell will freeze over first... The country is hopelessly dominated by a minority of special interests who see war profits or misplaced security for Israeli. These forces auger for the war to be permanent. As Americans used to say: It time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. A Third Party? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET