Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So, who is really supporting the troops?

Interesting little piece by Christian Hardy Smith from AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/56502/) contrasting what the supporters of the war are trying to sell the American public, and what the military analysts are telling us. It still amazes me that the current President is still getting away with the line about "letting the generals on the ground" decide force levels, when (1) he's the damn Commander in Chief, and (2) he's fired every other general who told him something he didn't want to hear.

As the pressure to end this disastrous adventure in Iraq continues, the shrillness and venom of the pro-war defenders should continue to ratchet up. Be prepared.

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The Surge" celebrates its first Friedman today. Here is Turncoat Joe yesterday on CNBC:

"Give the American soldier a break...putting their lives on the line every day for us, losing their lives, they're making progress, it's as if the American troops have the enemy on one side and Congress is sniping at their heels on the other side..."

Contrast that with former Gen. William Odom:

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled....

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.

To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

Which of these two men cares for the nation's soldiers as human beings -- and which of them sees them as a means to an end, for salvaging his own reputation and the reputations of his neoconman political allies?

Digby had a superb piece yesterday on the costs of George Bush's failures -- we are up to nearly a half trillion dollars expended on Iraq alone, and still counting. How much is enough? How much would satisfy the likes of Turncoat Joe -- how many other people's children have to die until he stops wagging his finger in mock indignation to cover his own complicity in this disaster?

How many more?

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