Friday, September 21, 2007

Funding the troops?

In a few days, the president will ask Congress for an additional sum to fund the military involvement in Iraq for a few more months. Support the troops. Of course.

The Blackwater, U.S.A., brouhaha has once again lifted the lid on a not-secret-but-not-widely-publicized item: the number of civilians providing security in the "war" zone; as well as the involvement of Blackwater personnel in major incidents in Iraq.

Remember those bodies in Fallujah? Blackwater personnel. Those civilian security who killed Iraqi non-combatants last weekend? Blackwater personnel.

The number of personnel Blackwater employs in Iraq? More than 1,000.

The American taxpayers foot the bill. In 2004, costs estimates ranged from $350 a day to $1,500 a day and $100,000 a year. Does anyone suppose the numbers have lessened in the intervening 3 years?

We may have 160,000 troops in Iraq now, but how many do we actually have there when we include the various civilian contractors who are doing work which is directly related to our presence in that unfortunate country?

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787.

Our guiding law is 220 years old.

This document, not the flag, not a political party, not a religion, is the defining element of the American spirit.

We must protect it.

(All 3 blogs deal with the Constitution today.)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remember WWII?

WWII lasted a little over three and a half years. The military involvement in Iraq has lasted for nearly four and a half years. In the first years of WWII the United States put together a program for armament which produced prodigious amounts of materiel for the war effort. Four and a half years into this military effort, the troops are still ill equipped, with armored vehicles back ordered.

The United States in 1942 was a nation gearing for war and the entire nation was on a war footing.

The nation in 2007 is not on a war footing.

The president and his administration and his political supporters have not sought to put the nation on a war footing.

Shame on him, shame on them, and shame on the rest of us for allowing them to get away with it for so long.

A global ideological struggle demands total commitment.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day 2...No "light at the end of the tunnel..."

This from The New York Times afternoon update, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testifying to the Senat Foreign Relations Committee:

Again and again, Mr. Crocker said there would be no clear “victory” in Iraq. Success there may become clear only in retrospect.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a fellow Republican who had not previously been an outspoken critic of the White House, said it was clear that “we got a lot more than we bargained for” in Iraq, and that the campaign had been hobbled from the start by poor planning.

General Petraeus, for instance, referred once again to the deep-seated sectarian rivalries in Iraq (“This competition will take place”), and said the overriding question was whether that competition could ever become peaceful. That made Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, very unhappy. It just was not right, he said, that Americans should die so that Iraqis could spend their energies in “a competition for power and resources, not for nation-building.” General Petraeus said again that, while the 30,000 extra troops dispatched to Iraq this year could be pulled out by next summer, the “pre-surge” strength of 130,000 should be maintained. He told the committee that the views expressed in his testimony were his own and not the White House’s.

"...more than we bargained for...poor planning..." And that from a Republican Senator.

Trust, but verify. The problem has become, just whom should we trust? The President?!?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Remember this about Anbar...

...from The Los Angeles Times, 9/10/07:

In 2004-05, the province was the heart of the Sunni-led insurgency and one of the deadliest for U.S. forces in Iraq. Locals were more supportive of the militants than the foreign forces. That changed in 2006, when Islamic militants declared the province part of their self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, and began imposing harsh laws and brutal punishment for violators and opponents of their rule.This drove the sheiks, who saw their local economies dying and their influence waning, to reject the Al Qaeda-linked militants and cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Do not forget, Dear Reader(s), this change of attitude on the part of the local sheiks in Anbar preceded the surge of 2007.

When Petraeus speaks, trust, but verify.

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Friday, September 7, 2007


This from the New York Times website:

"Seeing Iraq Gains as Fragile, Petraeus Is Wary of Cuts" WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has told President Bush that he wants to maintain heightened troop levels in Iraq well into next year to reduce the risk of military setbacks, but could accept the pullback of roughly 4,000 troops beginning in January, in part to assuage critics in Congress, according to senior administration and military officials.

General Petraeus helped to "sell" the idea of a surge in January, 2007. General Shinseki called for 500,000 troops in 2003.

One would feel a little more inclined to trust General Petraeus if his position on Shinseki's call for a large troop contingent, which he felt would be necessary for a successful "occupation," were made clear. After all, the situation in Iraq would be vastly different if we'd sent an appropriate number of troops there in the first place. If the generals feel we need more troops in 2007, we certainly needed them there in 2003.

And what's with the "assuage?" If enemies need to be engaged by armies, then the armies need to be sufficient to defeat the enemies.

Make the case; don't go in looking to assuage.

Trust, but verify.

n.b. Why didn't the entire general staff of the Pentagon resign in protest when their military judgement was overridden by Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in 2003?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A feint for hope?

The President made an "unannounced" trip to Iraq on Labor Day, 2007. The story is covered in just about every daily in the land, and that coverage offers a glint of hope for America's disengagement in Iraq. The problem for the ordinary citizen is how to interpret the information coming out of Iraq and Washington.

NPR's Morning Edition Corey Flintoff reports there were no next-day editorial comments in Iraqi newspapers. What are we to make of the silence of Iraqi newspapermen?

Here's a quote from a statement by the President: "But General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces." Is that a feint, disguised in an otherwise normal White House denunciation of political adversaries? To illustrate, here's a quote from the President's statement to some members of the military on the same day, "But I want to tell you this about the decision -- about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground -- not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media."

So, the President visits Al-Anbar and slips in "fewer American forces" with the usual "nervous...politicians."

It is to be hoped that fewer American forces turns out to be no American forces, that the stability in Al-Anbar spreads to the entire country.

A cynic, however, reviewing the White House's propensity for "spin," might conclude this is the first indication that Mr. Bush--nerously?--is preparing to declare victory and withdraw combat forces.

Trust, but verify.

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