Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans Hammer Congress
On Patrol In Baghdad With An American Task Force
By Darryl Mason
Although Bush's troop "surge" is widely promoted as being the United States' "last roll of the dice in Iraq", the truth is that preparations are already underway, and have been for months, for what will be happening in Iraq this time next year, when the Baghdad crackdown proves to be a failure, as it is likely to be - if only because key Shiite and Sunni insurgents are already laying low or have already exited the city knowing full well what was coming.
In fact, according to this report in Salon.com, policy planners inside the Pentagon are already meeting in preparation for the failure of the "surge" option, never having believed it would work in the first place, but knowing it would buy valuable time with the American public, under the endless Bush-Cheney-Gates chorus of "give the plan a chance to succeed".
But not only are these policy planners focused on what comes after the troop "surge" failure, they are meeting to discuss ways to cope with a situation in Iraq one year from now where violence and carnage and general chaos and mayhem has been accelerated by the Baghdad crackdown, and the spread of the civil war, as detailed in the latest National Intelligence Estimate.
The theme appears to be that not only won't things get better in Iraq, they can only get worse. Much worse than most Americans could even imagine.
From Salon.com :
On Feb. 2, the National Intelligence Council, representing all intelligence agencies, issued a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, as harsh an antidote to wishful thinking as could be imagined.
"The Intelligence Community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements."
The report described an Iraqi government, army and police force that cannot meet these challenges in any foreseeable time frame and a reversal of "the negative trends driving Iraq's current trajectory" occurring only through a dream sequence in which all the warring sects and factions, in some unexplained way, suddenly make peace with one another. Nor does the NIE suggest that this imaginary scenario might ever come to pass. Instead, it proceeds to describe the potential for "an abrupt increase in communal and insurgent violence and a shift in Iraq's trajectory from gradual decline to rapid deterioration with grave humanitarian, political, and security consequences."NIE, even more than the NIE itself, indicates again Bush's and Republicans' denial of objective analysis from the professional intelligence community.
The new (National Intelligence Estimate) offers more than "key judgments" on "The Prospects for Iraq's Stability." It is also a template for the short-term future of American politics. The ruthlessly cruel events projected for Iraq will blow back to the United States. The more Bush fights there, the more the embattled Republicans must fight here.
The Senate Republicans' vote to suppress the resolution on the war was the moment when they irrevocably aligned themselves completely with a president who rejects objective analysis.
Unable to shield him or themselves from the inevitable consequences, they have made a conscious decision to place the president's delusions above the welfare not only of the Republican Party but also of the troops sent into the deadly labyrinth of Baghdad. Quietly and calmly, as the Republicans hype the "surge," the war planners prepare for the worst.
In Washington, an organisation of more than 1000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are relentlessly pounding both Democrats and Republicans over their failure to stop Bush from moving ahead with his plan to pour more than 20,000 more troops into Baghdad in the coming months.
VoteVets.org is led by 29 year old Iraq war veteran, and firebrand, John Soltz. He's accused Republicans and Democrats who have tried to stop a full-blown debate on Iraq in the Senate as "aiding the enemy".
Last month, (VoteVets.org) dispatched veterans to the home states of Republican senators waffling over resolutions on the war. Next, it ran a stark television ad on Super Bowl Sunday that drew national attention. And this week, group members crisscrossed Capitol Hill, trying to persuade lawmakers and their staffs to oppose the troop increase.
The veterans are selling a blunt message: The Bush strategy in Iraq is a failure, and adding troops sends more young men and women to their deaths. If you care about the military, they told lawmakers, vote against the troop increase. Legislators who are stalling debate on the matter are "cowards," they said.In several news conferences, Soltz accused McConnell of "aiding the enemy" by allowing the Bush administration to build up troops in Iraq at the expense of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. "We are not fighting the war on terrorism, we are in the middle of a civil war," he said, referring to Iraq. "Meanwhile, the guy who attacked this country on 9/11 is living in a cave in Afghanistan."
Soltz called Cheney a "draft dodger," repeating charges he made last month when he disparaged a "president who frankly knows nothing of war and a vice president who knows even less." He said: "Senators on the fence have a choice. They can stand with veterans like us, or they can stand with the draft dodgers down the road."
Democrats said they will not muzzle the veterans. In many ways, the former soldiers and Marines are expressing sentiments the lawmakers want broadcast, and they help inoculate Democrats against Republican claims that opposing the president's plan undermines the troops.
As with Vietnam, it will likely be the war's veterans who produce the most pressure to end the procession of American soldiers into Iraq, and the flow of caskets back home.
Groups like VoteVets.org are proving to be a troubling quandary for the rapidly dwindling public supporters of the Iraq War in the United States.
How can the enormously cliched claim that valid opposition to the war "undermines the morale of the troops", when it is the troops themselves, some who have lost limbs, genitals and mental faculties, who are leading the call to bring the war to a close?
So far, few in the conservative media and blogworld have been game enough to even try to call the honesty and credibility of VoteVets.org. something less than admirable.
An insightful first hand account of American troops on patrol in East Baghdad :
The American and Iraqi plan to pacify the capital rests on the assumption that U.S. troops can win the trust of a wary population by protecting civilians trapped amid sectarian warfare. Each day, U.S. soldiers go door-to-door in the city, searching bedrooms and bathrooms, cabinets and closets, for unauthorized weapons. The operations also offer a chance to cultivate Iraqis as sources of information about the violence entangling their neighborhoods.
But soldiers in a task force from the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, who have patrolled Baghdad for months, say that trying to gain cooperation from Iraqi civilians is a thankless struggle. They say they feel powerless to prevent the city's slide into wider war and that Iraqis seldom open up to them with detailed intelligence. Since the task force of more than 800 soldiers arrived in August, 15 of them have been killed.
Although their commanders argue otherwise, the extent of the challenge led some soldiers to express doubt in interviews that the additional 17,500 American troops slated for Baghdad can make a lasting difference.
"I don't think the infantry or pretty much anyone in the United States Army are properly trained to deal with the guerrilla tactics these guys use against us," said Spec. Jeffrey Steele, 22. "This is a policing thing, you know. It needs more investigation into how these guys work, where* * * * * * *
they're located. I don't think we can do any better."
Sgt. 1st Class Luis Enrique Gutierrez Rosales, 38, said most of the Iraqis he has met say they are pleased that the Americans patrol their neighborhoods. "They said they always feel safe when we're around. People stop on the road and say thank you. They say, 'If it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't be alive,' " he said.
But some of his soldiers saw less reason to be hopeful about either their relations with the Iraqis or the troop increase. After the patrol on Thursday, Sgt. Michael Hiler, 26, stepped down from his Humvee and described the day's effort as "stupid."
"We should have pulled out a long time ago," Hiler said. "It's going to take the hand of God to change anything about what we do here, which is nothing. This country's going to fall apart sooner or later, and at this point I say, 'Good riddance.' "
Sitting on bunks while waiting for an evening patrol, a group of soldiers discussed the enemy and the latest security effort, described by Padgett as "the last best hope for Iraq."
"All these extra troops start coming into Baghdad, you'll start reducing the anti-American violence. That way, it will show quick results for the Bush administration. And that way, 'Hey, we won the war, let's get out of here,' " said Pfc. Daniel Gomez, 21, a medic. But he said of the forces opposing the Americans: "They're like the Viet Cong, they can wait it out. We're not going to be here forever, and they know that. And then we're gone, and it's all theirs."
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