Monday, September 24, 2007

More news from Iraq

Evan was able to call us for the first time since his return to Iraq three weeks ago. He has been very busy with an unpredictable schedule—sometimes working during the day, sometimes at night. He was surprised to find an increase in dangerous situations in his area. He has had a few close calls in past weeks, which is a little frightening to us.

A high-ranking officer addressed his group and said there had been a measurable increase in safety due to the work of the soldiers out in the streets. It was a welcome pep talk, but whether or not it is enough to rescue Iraq from chaos is something we won’t know for months. My thoughts keep returning to the numbers of troops generals like Colin Powell, Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki recommended to liberate Iraq. It was several hundred thousand. I think you would be hard pressed to find any military on the ground that felt that the 170,000 troops we have can accomplish much.

The answer is difficult, and getting out of Iraq without causing WW III may not be in the will or power of the American people. I hope that when a new president and congress are elected, a more sensible path will be chosen.

We cannot abandon Iraq, but it’s foolish to expect a traditional military victory either. The only people who gain from our current half-hearted occupation of Iraq are the terrorists and military contractors.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A little news from Iraq

I spoke to Beth yesterday, and Evan had gotten a phone call through to her from Iraq. He is back to his post near Baghdad after a relaxing eighteen day leave home to Texas. All's well with him, but you hear an increasing frustration. From what I gather in my readings and conversations, the U.S. force is/was about 1/3 of what was recommended by experienced Army experts to stabilize Iraq. This higher number was ridiculed by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle the civilian heads of the Department of Defense, who plotted the Iraq invasion.

An additional 200,000 troops for the invasion would probably have secured the streets of Baghdad and prevented looting. It would have preserved the infrastructure. It would have controlled Iraq's porous borders with Iran and Syria, where so many of the insurgency came from. It would have allowed posting guards at hundreds of munitions dumps where millions of firearms and tons of ammunition had been stored by Saddam-- most of those munitions were stolen by the insurgency and gangs. More troops would have shown the Iraqi civilian population that we meant business, that we cared about their security and re-building their country into a democracy-- and that we weren't going to hit 'n run and leave them high and dry like we did to the Vietnamese who had helped us in the early 1970s.

Bush's Iraq fiasco is turning into one of history's greatest debacles. It's too bad, our military deserves better.

A bright piece of news from Evan is that his unit is training a local "militia-type group" in police work-- mainly how to maintain a vehicle checkpoint to keep trouble makers out of their village. There is no Iraqi or any other police or army presence in the area except Evan's troop. Most of militia are teenagers-- the age of an average Eagle Scout. He says the work is slow, but the kids are eager enough. This is how we're preparing for our exit. In a way it's heartening, in a way, sad beyond comprehension. What will happen to these kids when the troops leave?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A good book about Iraq

Evan has come and gone back to Iraq. He had a relaxing time in Texas with Beth, and we spoke with them over Skype videophone a few times. No news from him since he has been back. He has a long hike on his base from barracks to phone center. His schedule is erratic, and there can be long lines at the phones. We have learned to assume that no news is good news.

Right now, we are very interested in the news on state of the surge, as delivered by the government. No surprises there. Crocker and Petraeus were both handpicked by Bush, and Petraeus was chosen for his job after several more seasoned retired generals had turned it down. Given Bush’s history with the Iraq situation, who knows what to believe?

The news we hear is that the soldiers want to get back home as soon as possible. The military has been amazingly overstressed, no matter what your political stance.

I’m reading the book “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq” by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas E. Ricks. It’s a real eye-opener, covering all the warnings by many experts inside and outside the government who predicted the situation we’re in today. The whole mis-adventure was railroaded by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Libbey, Rice, Chalabi, Miller, Feith, Tenet, and a host of their factotums who thought that war was a football game, where winner takes all, and moves on with a pot of money to the next big game.

Congress and the press fell for it hook, line, and sinker. However, there were plenty in congress, the Army, and press who saw a 10+ year large US military presence in Iraq, but they were shunted aside. The great US military leaders Shinseki and Zinni were pushed out when they expressed their profound doubts.

Read the book for more insight into the truths that are conveniently forgotten. Do whatever you can to see our troops get home safely and the Iraqis find real help through education, infrastructure, and justice. These things cannot be delivered by the military.