Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Hypocrisy and the Senate

31 January 2007

Perhaps it’s because I’m not a US citizen by birth but I can’t for the life of me understand how the Senate can vote unanimously to confirm a General to command US forces in Iraq while at the committee level pass a non-binding resolution condemning the plan he designed and must implement.

It was amazing to watch each Senator wish the General “good luck” or “Gods speed” while condemning his plan and his ability to carry out the plan. I must be nuts and simply don’t understand how Senator Chuck Hagel (R) and his Democratic Party committee colleges can be so against the plan and the war effort in general and then vote to confirm General Petraeus. Somebody please write to me and explain this strange way of doing the peoples business. You know from reading my previous pieces that I like to use history to explain our recent mistakes or debunk myths but I failed completely to find anything even resembling this action by a Senate Committee although the Senator Kerry line came close when he said “I voted for it before I voted against it” when speaking about additional funding for the Iraq war. That quote was effectively used against him during the 2004 Presidential election and the Senators involved in this latest round of political posturing would be smart to take note of how things turned out for Senator Kerry.

Since the foolishness of the committee vote last week it would appear that there has been a pause in moving forward with debate on the various binding and non-binding resolutions that have been put forward but only because the Republican Senators are backing away from supporting their Democratic friends as the hypocrisy becomes more apparent. It got worse yesterday as the same committee noted above unanimously approved the nomination of the new Commander of CENTCOM which is the command that will be responsible for the Iraq Theater. Once again the same Senators could be heard wishing Admiral Fallon “good luck” while in their speeches (called questions) they slammed the plan and suggested it wasn’t a dramatic enough change in course that had no chance of success. I can’t imagine what the General and Admiral were really thinking and I keep waiting for one of these gentlemen who have to sit through 5 minutes of speech before each scripted question to snap but they didn’t which is why I write and they command.

Although I have my own thoughts and ideas on how to resolve the Iraq challenges I can’t argue with the logic of at least giving President Bush’s plan a reasonable chance to succeed. Yesterday James Baker testified on Capitol Hill as his report is often cited by the Democrats as the proper way ahead and he patiently explained that with few exceptions many of the concepts outlined in the Iraq Study Group report had been adopted and that he believed the Senate was making a mistake not to give the new plan an opportunity to work. He joined General Petraeus in arguing that any resolution binding or not would send a terrible message to our troops, friends and enemies that America was divided and with time and patience could be defeated once again not on the battlefield but at home in the political arena.

So let’s summarize, the President, the Iraqi Prime Minister, James Baker and General Petraeus have all asked for a few months to try on this plan with the promise that if it isn’t working they will report back to Congress immediately and this isn’t enough for a bunch of Senators that have only one simple message, pull the troops back or out and lets talk, lets engage the regional partners as if the regional partners have anything to gain by engaging in talk. Iran loses if it talks because discussion will not get it into Iraq while disorder and a premature American withdrawal will. Syria has nothing to gain with talk but much to gain should Iran succeed and Iraq remains unstable and Americas main effort. Syria dreads the day when America wins in Iraq because with a nuclear threat in Iran they will become the main effort.

It’s a sad and confusing time for Americans, on one hand the main stream media only covers the failures in Iraq giving no time or resources to numerous successes both on the battlefield and in the area of reconstruction and government development while the politicians continue to worry about their own jobs and how best to secure their own re-election. Republicans that must face the electorate in 2008 want to be seen as anti-Administration while Democrats are saying if taking a moderate pro-troops / anti-war position worked in 2006 it will work even better in 2008 when an additional 1700 or so soldiers sailors and Marines have died. How quickly they forget who authorized the war and hide behind the mantra of “If I knew then what I know today I would never have voted for the war”. What a crock…….If Hillary knew today that Bill would have an affair in the White House and humiliate her would she still have married him or stayed with him after the first affair during the election? If I knew then, what I know today I certainly wouldn’t have worn so many hats. It’s a foolish game to play and hardly worthy of our senior politicians but it’s what they for the most part are using to explain their votes and sadly Americans seem to be excepting it.

It’s time to start accepting some facts and realizing what happens if we pull out prematurely:

Iran will become more powerful and better able to ignore UN sanctions thus speeding up the timeline for them to join the nuclear club.
Israel will be under greater pressure to strike Iran preemptively to prevent them achieving nuclear status which will cause much of the Arab world to turn against them.
North Korea will recognize the weakness of the US and continue to develop its nuclear capability and delivery systems.
More rogue countries will turn to China which will become a superpower.
China after the 2008 Olympic Games will take Taiwan back by force.
Russia will continue to regress, move away from democracy and once again use brutal force in Chechnya.
Turkey will invade Northern Iraq and begin the process of wiping out the Kurdish rebels.
Iran will invade Southern Iraq and assist the Shiites to wipe out the Sunnis.
Saudi Arabia will provide support and possibly troops to help the Sunnis.

Some historical events to consider:

The Genocide in Cambodia after the collapse of Vietnam – who was willing to fight in SE Asia or to stop Pol Pot.
The Genocide in Rwanda was ignored by President Clinton after his experience in Somalia.

My point, when America is defeated politically (not on the battlefield) it emboldens despots and lunatics and America ignores the plight of innocent peoples because it is too politically tired to get involved again.

America and Americans must truly consider the consequences of failing in Iraq and the horrific events that would follow an American withdrawal prior to the Iraqi government becoming not only strong enough to sustain itself against internal sectarian violence but against external enemies too. Iran, Syria and even Turkey will not sit idly by if they see weakness to be exploited and American will be too politically drained to do anything about it. Then my friends stand by as the show “24” becomes a reality show.

Monday, January 29, 2007



29 January 2007

Well I must say working in Washington D.C. has some distinct benefits that I never thought of when I accepted a job here. As a history and political junkie I was pretty excited about the idea of spending endless weekends wandering around town checking out the famous buildings and monuments and catching the far to often motorcade jam up the streets… a side note my apt is right next door to the main parking area for the motorcycle division of the Police department which provides escort riders for every motorcade (The VP gets 16). Now I’m a Harley owner and fan but man I can’t wait for an administration that doesn’t start the day at 0500.

Sorry and back to the point…….I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined that I would get to attend a Peace Rally but that all changed on Saturday 27 January 2007. The allure of seeing Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins was enough to convince me to walk over to the mall and catch the action. To start with I must say I was disappointed with several parts of the rally: First the signs…..a couple make me giggle and were pretty creative the rest were obviously created by the kindergarten children of the protesters I’m sure……I mean if “Bush Sucks” is the best you can do to express your obviously passionate feelings towards a war then you need to take a creative writing class. Next on my disappointment list was the crowd itself…….I was promised up to 300,000 people by the organizers pre-rally press releases…….I mean I was ready for a Forest Gump moment here but I was pretty disappointed……I admit I’m no expert in crowd estimating and the authorities no longer provide official estimates but based on my limited experience of crowds I can’t imagine there having been any more than 30,000 people at the peak of the rally and in fact for most of the 3 ½ hours that I was there no more than 10-15,000. My last disappointment came with the speeches…….while the sound system was pretty good and I was only about 50 yards from the stage it was the content that seemed lacking. There was passion but other than bring the troops home now and Neville Chamberlandisk peace at any price talk nothing offering a solution to the problem.

Now I’m not naïve and I didn’t expect anything other than drivel from the celebrities and Jesse Jackson but I was expecting more from The House Judiciary Chairman Rep John Conyers (D) who caught me off guard when he said the following “George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing”. He went on to say to the crowd “He can’t fire you” and I assume referring to congress “He can’t fire us”. Well finally something I could sink my teeth into.

How many Generals has President George Bush actually fired or relieved of their commands? The official answer is NONE. Nope not one, although to be perfectly honest some have been allowed to retire early and in the case of General Casey promoted out of his command position which in a few paragraphs you’ll see has happened before.

Now I don’t want to take a position on whether or not any General should have been fired or relieved or moved on during this piece but will only show that throughout modern history Presidents from both parties in almost ever prolonged war have allowed Generals to retire, have directly fired them or have moved them laterally or upward so they are no longer responsible for the command of the war / combat operations.

Our first Republican and probably best known, President Lincoln was a very active Commander in Chief during the Civil War and was certainly not one to shy away from firing or moving aside Generals very quickly when they weren’t successful or were dithering. In total 7 Generals commanded the Union Army during the War and only one wasn’t relieved in one form or another.

Winfield Scott – Was allowed to retire after the first major battle of the war which was a huge defeat for the Union known as the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. He was considered to old and out of touch with modern tactics.

George McClellan – Relieved of Command of the Army, although he was allowed to remain on active duty for not moving quickly enough to go on the offensive and disagreeing with Lincoln’s assessment that the number one military priority was protecting the capitol.

John Pope – Relieved of command after the defeat of the Union Army at the Second Battle of Bull Run

George McClellan – Relieved again, this time for not moving quickly enough to reorganize the Army and move to the offensive.

Ambrose Burnside – Relieved of command after the Union Army was defeated at Fredricksburg

Joseph Hooker – After a defeat at Chancellorville and losses early in the Gettysburg campaign he was relieved of Command.

George Meade – After success at Gettysburg Meade was relieved of Command for not promptly following up and chasing the defeated Confederate Army

Ulysses S Grant – The last Commander of the Union Army and the only commander not to be relieved.

It should also be noted that the Secretary of War was never relieved or fired during the Civil War.

A look at WW II shows that no General officers were directly fired or relieved by the President but numerous Generals were relieved in a purge before the start of combat operations in 1942 (after a large exercise showed the Army very unprepared for modern warfare) and during the war by both the Commander of Allied Forces Dwight Eisenhower and by George Marshall the Commander of the Army. In fact they were both ruthless and public when they agreed to relieve George Patton who was successful on the battlefield but had become a publicity problem for the overall Allied war effort. Fortunately his battlefield skill won the day and he was given another command which was very successful and certainly helped shorted the war significantly.

Korea shows us one of the most famous cases of a Commander in Chief reaching down and firing a General officer conducting combat operations when that general isn’t respecting the nature of the relationship between a President and his combatant commander. President Truman although under tremendous pressure from both the public and Congress never backed away from relieving Douglas MacArthur of his command. History is still debating the validity of that decision and impact it had on the outcome of the Korean War.

Vietnam also gives us a very high profile example of how perceived disaster on the battlefield or a lack of perceived progress and pressure from the public, media and Congress can lead a President to relieve his commander in the field. President Johnson relieved General Westmoreland shortly after the Tet offensive of 68 even though the offensive was a decisive defeat for the NVA and their Viet Cong allies.

So as you can see it is not uncommon for Presidents to take their responsibilities as Commander in Chief literally and either relieve or fire their Generals. History tells us that sometimes they’ve been justified and correct and sometimes not so much but in every case the reality has got to be that at the end of the day it’s the Commander in Chief who is either a hero or a bum. I wonder what would have happened to the United States if Lincoln hadn’t replaced some of his Generals who weren’t achieving his aims and he wasn’t re-elected. People seem to forget that he wasn’t doing well in the polls until Atlanta fell shortly before the election.

While nobody knows why some Generals leave I certainly have enough experience to understand that when good Generals disagree with the chain of command or the Commander in Chief they resign before their time and that has most certainly happened during the current Presidents reign. I’d be shocked if it hadn’t. Have you ever witnessed the blood letting of many corporations after a new CEO comes on board?

At the end of the day it is not only the President’s right, but his duty to replace Generals who will not or can not achieve the aims laid out by the President in the strategic mission statement and find the Generals who believe they can. In the case of General George Casey and General David Petraeus specifically……..General Casey is becoming the Army Chief of Staff (a technical promotion) as opposed to being relieved but guess what happened to General Westmoreland…….that’s right folks he became the Army Chief of Staff because deep down both those Presidents Bush and Johnson understand that you can win on the battlefield and still need to be replaced.

Friday, January 19, 2007



Wow, what an end to 2006, watching Saddam get executed was somewhat surreal as it was expected but in the Middle East nothing is guaranteed and not be outdone 2007 has truly started with a bang both in political terms and on the ground.

President Bush finally announced his new approach on 10 January 2007 after receiving reports from the Department of State, Department of Defense and the independent, bi-partisan Iraq Study Group. Since the only report that was made public was the Iraq Study Group report there is no way to truly know what internal advice the President was receiving but it’s pretty obvious he’s gotten several reports with several different strategies over the past 2 months or so.

I really wanted to wait to comment on the Presidents plan until other voices had had their say so I delayed this piece for several days while the details come out and different people began to stake out their positions but now that Hillary Clinton has spoken it’s time to start writing.

First let me congratulate the President for once again not taking the easy and obvious road. I mean think about it, the Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker who was the Secretary of State for the Presidents father during the first Gulf War who everybody respected for his efforts to avoid the first war right? It was a unanimous report and totally bi-partisan which means it would have been difficult for anybody in Congress to reject it but President Bush has long been willing to do the right thing vice take the easy political road and the reality is that the Iraq Study Group report was almost worthless.

I was stunned by the document and quickly realized that it became unanimous only because it would accomplish nothing. It reminded me of the Kyoto protocols that allow countries to feel like they’ve done something meaningful but at the end of the day the World is no better off. The idea of increasing training is reasonable and is well underway but the part that truly got me was the idea of talking with Syria and Iran. When asked about it James Baker replied, you might get some movement out of Syria but I don’t think anything will come from Iran. So we need to talk to Iran knowing nothing good can come from it just so we can say we tried talking to Iran? It sounds like Kyoto logic we’ll impose restrictions on countries that for the most part do their best to minimize emissions by using the best technology known to man but exempt the world’s worst polluters in China and India.

The only conversations that should be held with Iran and Syria are to let them know the consequences of supporting terrorists in any way shape or form and that the consequences are real and possible and will have a direct impact on their governments and their peoples. (who must be convinced that their governments need to be changed) Consequences like: we will cut off your incoming and outgoing money transfers which go through American and European banks. We will cut off all luxury items going into your countries. Large ISP providers will cut off Internet Services to these countries forcing them to rely on smaller providers which will further isolate them from the world’s stage. We will blockade your ports and restrict oil exports.

They must be suspended from world bodies such as the UN and finally Arab countries must take direct punitive action against these supporters of evil with trade and travel sanctions. Now obviously America can’t do all of this on it’s own and many of these suggestions would never be considered because you can’t get the UN to suspend the worlds worst despots for any reason, you can’t get Arab countries to punish other Arab countries for any reason other than a direct attack on a brother country and the EU would never consider anything concrete.

On the military side President Bush turned once again to the Afghanistan model for success. If the capitol city is in good shape, with minimal violence, crime and poverty then the journalists will lose interest. Approximately 90% of all the Western media reporters in Iraq never leave the International Zone (formerly called the Green Zone) in Baghdad or the Airport Zone in Basra which means they rely on locals to gather the news for them and then pass it along as if it’s fact. The pictures and the bombings are real don’t get me wrong, what I do question is the stories that continuously claim only innocent lives are being taken by the US Military when they conduct a raid or respond to an attack. Sometimes people embellish to please their masters and I’m sure their masters (the Western main stream media) are demanding stories that show the US Military in the worst possible light and minimize or ignore the numerous successes.

Based on the numbers of troops that will take part in the surge I would have to say I disagree with the “save Baghdad” plan and instead would withdrawal all US combat forces less support elements, Special Forces elements and those troop required to provide logistical and training support to the Iraqi forces from Baghdad and would redeploy them to the Iran and Syrian boarders. I would order the US military to control those boarders and interdict all non legal movement between the two countries and Iraq leaving the Iraqi Army to clean house in Baghdad and every other major city in the country.

Now the problem with my plan is that we assume that the Iraqi Army is like the US Army, it’s told where and who to fight and off it goes to win the battle. Unfortunately the Iraqi Army is not a secular army that doesn’t owe its loyalty to the current government and many units of the Iraqi Army would not fight certain militias based on their religion and eventually may end up only participating in and expanding the civil war that is currently raging between Shia’s and Sunni’s. Should that happen the unity government would collapse and a real civil war would begin only ending with the slaughter of all Shia’s, interventions by Iran, possibly Turkey depending on what the Kurds did and maybe even some Gulf states on the side of their fellow Shites.

It is for that reason that American troops will be imbedded with Iraq Army Brigades, not to ensure there are enough troops but to ensure the troops committed to the fight actually fight all the enemies of Iraq and not just a select few. This is not the South Vietnamese Army sitting around not fighting these are tough troops who when given the right mix of equipment and support will fight hard and take the objective their given. If the US Military and the Administration were ready to take a big time hit, they would have surged about 50,000 troops and been able to secure Baghdad and the borders but since that isn’t going to happen……

At the end of the day I believe for many reasons that the President has got the right mix and right plan in place to pacify Baghdad, whether or not this will bring about a long enough peace to allow the unity government to actually get to work restoring infrastructure and utilities and providing enough security so their citizens can go out for a meal, to the market or for a walk without getting shot or blow up is questionable but it is absolutely necessary to attempt. To leave the unity government in such a fragile state as is it is now would be tantamount to what the US did to South Vietnam when it left them high and dry. The fallout in Vietnam and Cambodia that followed has obviously been forgotten. Perhaps it’s time to rent “The Killing Fields” again and remember what happens when America abandons its friends.

I must admit that for the first time I believe that the White House is sending a very clear message to Iran to stop meddling and to Iraq to stop dithering and that this very patient President is growing restless. I predict that if they haven’t gotten Baghdad under control by Labor Day you will see the US Military moving out of the major cities and slowly coming home leaving only support, training and force protection troops behind.

As a final note on this piece I must point out how disheartened I am with Congress over their criticism of this plan before it’s even gotten started. I’ve listened to opportunistic members of the House and Senate snipe at the President and like me as a writer present their own plans knowing that those plans will never lead to a single death nor face the historians who will have the opportunity to write in hindsight and with clarity of how things turned out. If the President is right they get to claim that the price was to high, if the President is wrong they get to shove it in his face and tell the voters if only the President had followed their plan it all would have worked out.

I truly hope this plan is the one that breaks the back of the insurgency and almost as important gets it off the nightly news so that the main stream media don’t get to drive the politicians into positions that we can’t recover from.