Monday, April 14, 2008

General Petraeus testimony; 8 in our Sgt H. Styker Brigade killed in Iraq; An Irresponsible Plan

Dear Readers, those of you who have been following along since 2003, the saga in our military family, know that my daughter's husband is in his second deployment to Iraq. He left for Iraq in Dec 07, and since only December, eight in his brigade have been killed in Iraq.

I'd say the violence in Iraq is in no way on the decline, and clearly the Surge is not clearing up the violence. You heard of the recent attacks on the 'safe' Green Zone in Baghdad and the attack on Basra even while General Petraeus was giving his testimony to Congress last week? My son-in-law was on convoy two weeks ago when an IED exploded near his vehicle - violence already was escalating.

Military peacekeeping is not keeping the peace. That should come as no surprise, since the military are not peacekeepers. Lacking a vigorous diplomatic process in Iraq, it is similarly not surprising that reconciliation is making seemingly little progress. But what remains a constant is that our troops continue to be killed or so devastatingly wounded as to be unable to return to anything resembling normalcy.

And of course,even while our troops die or are damaged, it goes without saying that the daily carnage of Iraqi lives snuffed out continues. Sunni, Shiite, Kurd - under the umbrella of Iraq, a nation forced into democracy whether they want it or not - it is nonetheless Iraqi lives by the tens and hundreds daily that are snuffed out in Iraq.

As our military is squandered mercilessly in the 'mission accomplished' in Iraq, trouble is brewing in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. As pointed out by more than one Senator at the Petraeus testimony last week,Iraq welcomes Iran emmissary, knowing Iran is a dangerous neighbor to be respected and in close proximity, while the President of the United States seems only to be able to sneak into Iraq for tenative visits, under cover of night and certainly with little welcome fanfare. This Administration has the audacity to believe it can navigate and mitigate with a simplistic cowboy mentality the complex relationships in the countries that make up the Middle East.

But General Petraeus did define his sense of our military mission in Iraq = 'for our national security interests of economic stability in the region'. Read that again - security interests of economic stablity means what? Did you guess oil? Their oil, our economic stability.

While General Petraeus is trying to define for Congress the impossible - stating the ever changing mission in Iraq, Admiral Mullen recently 'retired' after making it known to the President that he would not lead an invasion into Iran. Earlier there was the retirement of General Casey whom General Petraeus replaced after General Casey began to hint that the impossible mission in Iraq was depleting our U.S. military beyond it's limits.

Even while General Petraeus was giving his testimony to the Senate last Tuesday, Basra was under attack. In a telling message that would be wise to heed, note that 1,000 trained Iraqi military and police personnel abandoned their stations in recent attacks, some even turning over U.S. provided vehicles and weapons to the attackers. I can't help but wonder what that does to the U.S. troops that General Petraeus says are serving more in advisory roles than carrying out the military maneuvers. I'd say it leaves the U.S. troops to be unnecessary and handy targets, subject to their very own equipment and weapons being used against them.

This isn't the first time the 'trained' Iraqi military and/or police have fled. Do you remember hearing the news in 2005 and 2006 that there were six Iraqi battalions trained and ready, and then we heard, no make that four, no make that two, no make that none.

There is a pattern to my mind that is a telling message. It does not matter how long U.S. troops remain in Iraq, pulling them out now, 5 years, 10 years, or even 100 years from now, the pattern of the culture of what comprises the Iraqi nation was long habitual before this country and it's democracy was even a glint or hint of an idea.

I would further remind readers that our military demands of an 18 year old in the United States, fresh out of high school, that he or she be trained and ready for combat in Iraq in 6-8 weeks, depending on branch of military service. I would think it reasonable to expect no less of Iraqis training for military, and certainly five years is an adequate time. It does seem the Iraqi message is not unclear to the U.S. forces - we are not a welcome or wanted presence there and our young service men and women are dying from our continuing to ignore the message. Ignorance is NOT bliss, my friends.

Even if it isn't directly impacting you with loved ones deployed, it is costing you a robust economy in your homeland, and it is costing you the loss of a valuable commodity in having a well-trained military, at the ready and able to defend your homeland. It is not a good idea to deplete and exhaust the only military we have when we have potential threats in more than one direction.

This all-volunteer military has been pushed beyond exhaustion, with repeat deployments in futile combat in a now sovereign nation intent on building it's own nation the way it sees fit, and if that includes civil war between factions, so be it. Who told the U.S. it could not have a civil war at a time when we were defining our own sovereign nation?

This morning I read a brief article online from a Middle East publication that indicates that Prime Minister Malaki is turning out to be a worse dictator than Saddam Hussein, and has killed more of his own people in his short rule than in ten years of Saddam in power. I can't say if that is or isn't true, and may be it is propaganda, but it is getting difficult to sort through all the propaganda, since that seems to be mostly what we get here in the U.S. as well. What is truth on the ground in Iraq - as I understand it, we have no media reporters in Iraq to give us up close reporting.

As the mission in Iraq has changed and evolved much since the 2003 invasion, and the declared mission accomplished, the talking points have evolved little and remain grounded in the concept of fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. And most recently the added pride factor of 'victory' - undefined, but we are to have victory nonetheless. How smart is that strategy - an undefined and impermeable victory undefined by the basic whom, when, what, how, why questions?

Meanwhile, Presidential contender, a military man himself, Senator John McCain doesn't seem to be sure where Al Quaeda is -- where the 'terrorists' are which instills in me no comfort that our troops are fighting them there so they don't have to fight them here, and assuredly no comfort that said troops should be led by another Commander-in-Chief who does not have a basis in the reality of what or who is the enemy or why they are an enemy, much less where they are in the Middle East.

Think about that for a moment though,if 'they' (terrorists) did come here, we have no ready troops to be fighting them here, and if we use up, exhaust and deplete our troops over there (which we have pretty much done already) so we don't have to fight them here, what do we do when there are no U.S. troops left to fight them over there and 'they' (the terrorists), which continue to reconstitute, are still out there. It is not a well reasoned thought process. I appreciated how Senator Obama attempted to ask General Petraeus what would constitute a satisfactory resolution - (paraphrasing here) -- what would be the defining meaning of victory - when there are no more terrorists left or x number of terrorist left? What if, although acknowledging it is messy now, if where we are at now with Iraq, is victory - would we know it if we saw it?

This week Congress will be voting on whether to give President Bush another round of huge millions to sustain our troops in Iraq. This back door budget of asking for a supplemental budget for the 'sake of our troops' is a political maneuver, not unfamiliar to our Congress. Since General Petraeus has done his duty and given his report to Congress with two days of testimony last week, now it falls to Congress to do their job and make decisions on what General Petraeus had to report. Is there strong enough reason to continue to keep our troops in Iraq? Is there strong enough reason to employ another strategy, bring them home and rather than fear the worst in Iraq, give them (Iraq) the opportunity they have asked for to work it out themselves.
We well know that the President has made his decision to continue to keep troops in Iraq with no changes in the Iraq war, to dump this live war into the next President's lap; and should that future President pull troops out with all the touted catastrophic results come to pass, it would be blame for the next President and his/her party.

There are two things wrong with that reasoning:

1) It assumes there would be catastrophic results, which, as of yet, no one seems able to define for me - what that means - what exactly would be catastrophic or what would that look like and how would it be different than what is already catastrophic genocide in Iraq because of U.S. actions to invade and occupy?

2) Is partisan politics more relevant and important than the lives and dollars it is costing to keep us in Iraq? I don't give a hang about supposedly 'smart political strategies or tactics' , as thus far those citing them as smart don't seem to know just how smart or flat out dumb said strategies and tactics are. So far the strategies and tactics used by either party have served only to perpetuate the war in Iraq. I care deeply about the politicians we elect and paydoing the jobs we entrust them to do - especiallywith the treasure and lives of our young.

Locally, here in Washington, a contender for U.S. Representative in 8th District, Darcy Burner, has come up with what she terms a responsible plan for getting troops out of Iraq. I had the opportunity to read it the day before it was published online to her website. This plan was put together with the help and advice of General Paul Eaton, and General Wesley Clark,and it is responsible - no question about that ... a responsible way to keep the war ongoing in Iraq until specifications cited in the plan have been met and no timeline or deadline has been set in the plan as to when the troops could come home.

I'm not so sure who it is responsible to, but it does seem to be a moral imperative to repair some of the damage done by sending U.S. troops into Iraq. I'm not sure it is the military troops who need now to do nation building, but yes, we do have some moral imperatives to rectify the damage - just not sure why or even if it is the troops who have the responsibility.

For us, for our family, for our daughter and grandchildren and for our son in law, Sgt H.,home on leave and returning to Iraq to finish out his second extended, stop loss deployment,right to that 'hot spot' that is occurring now in Bagdhad area, this plan is no more responsible than any other plan that has been put forth to date inasmuch as it seems just more political posturing using the excuse of the Iraq war.

And closer to home, in our own 19th LD, our own U.S. Congressman Brian Baird, decided to support the Surge last summer,and when my husband asked him face to face, man to man, if our son's life was worth it, Congressman Baird, said that while we might not like his answer, 'yes, he did believe our son's life was worth it'. (In fairness, he added that he would give his life for it and that of his two sons -- who are only 2 yrs old).

I wonder if Congressman Baird is considering the lives lost since he made that statement to us. And I would call to his attention that eight (8) from our son-in-law's Stryker Brigade have been killed in Iraq since son-in-law deployed to Iraq in December 07. We do pray earnestly that Baird's faith in this surge and in a U.S. committment to remain in Iraq will not be at the expense of our son's life. We assuredly wouldn't want it to be at the expense of his own sons' lives.

This month, April, our two U.S. Senators and our U.S. Representatives will have an opportunity to do the right thing, the courageous thing, an action of valor, and end this war right now. They can vote no to a supplemental budget to spend more money to keep our troops in Iraq. Our son-in-law along with all the troops have done their jobs, General Petraeus has done his, and the Commander-in-Chief has spoken his intent to continue as is the war in Iraq.

And now, once again, Congress has the opportunity to do it's job, to do the right thing, to make the decision that will bring and end to the war in Iraq now. General Petraeus is not in command of Congress and can only make recommendations. President Bush is not in command of Congress and has made his recommendations. Congress can now be in command ofitself and step up to the plate with this vote. To do less is to abdicate the responsibilities towhich they were elected .. it's been five years, and this argument takes on new meaning after five years in light of the cost of lives, dollars and the fate of our depleted military to our national security interests.

I am told that there does remain funds already in the pipeline to get the troops out of Iraq - responsibly. Voting no on the supplemental permits that already established pipeline money to go to work to get the troops out and bring them home Now. Bringing the troops home now IS the responsible thing to do.


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