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


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