Victory in Iraq?

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Lilith
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Victory in Iraq?

Post by Lilith » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:05 pm

I don't know how you can read an article like this and come away thinking there will be 'victory' in Iraq. I salute these brave American soldiers who have been put in the middle of this quagmire.
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By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer
37 minutes ago



HATTIESBURG, Miss. - They are returning home with a sense of accomplishment, but also with feelings of anger and frustration, even despair.

They speak proudly about building up the Iraqi security force, restoring electricity and watching Iraqis walk miles to vote.

But they wonder whether it will be enough to secure Iraq's future, and at times, express bitterness toward the people they wanted to help.

"They're using our good will, our good-nature policy against us," says Sgt. Bobby Walls, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania National Guard member. "The fact that we fight as the good guys sometimes turns around and kicks us in the can, you know?"

Such are the swirling emotions for troops returning home from Iraq. Among the most recent of those returnees are members of the largest contingent of Pennsylvania National Guard troops deployed to a combat zone since World War II.

Fifteen from their ranks of about 2,000 were killed during the nearly yearlong deployment in Iraq's Anbar province, a huge swath of land that's a stronghold of insurgency. Two others are being investigated in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian earlier this year.

For the rest of these part-time soldiers, it can be a struggle as they return home this summer to regain the sort of normalcy they knew before spending a year with their lives in danger wherever they went. During stopovers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi on their way home, some talked about their experiences.

____

Walls felt helpless and furious as he stood at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, one of several Philadelphia police officers who on their own drove New York City to help. He vowed to become an infantryman and get even, so the father of three went off inactive status in the Navy Reserves and joined the Army National Guard.

At boot camp, the other recruits — many just 18 — called him grandpa. He lost 45 pounds in basic training and scout school that followed. Then his unit was sent to Ramadi, which he nicknamed the "meat grinder." He worked as a sniper, usually with just one partner.

At night, they'd sneak into rural villages and urban areas, tracking suspected terrorists for hours at a time. Sometimes, they'd kill them.

Back at the base camp, Walls became hyper-vigilant. He'd fear if he went to sleep, he would die.

"You start realizing how vulnerable you really are all the time," Walls says. "You're not safe anywhere in that damn place, and that's a bad feeling. Too many guys got hurt or killed just walking to chow ... or running to the bathroom, and they don't come back."

Walls is proud of the work he did as a sniper. He said he killed "upper-tier insurgents" who would have likely killed or injured other American soldiers if they had tried to capture them.

He wonders, though, about the future of the Anbar region. The people "will not be pacified, they will not work with us. I don't ever see it happening," he says.

Walls says insurgents wear civilian clothes and use women and children as shields.

"If you're going to fight the enemy, there are two ways to look at it. You either become just like them, fight them on their own terms or you take the heavy burden like we're doing it right now and it's going to cost American lives. It's a hell of a price to pay but if you fight them on their terms, you're no better than them.

"That's the true dilemma of the soldier right now, to get his sanity and keep his morals, keep his integrity. And it's hard. It's a ... minute-by-minute struggle ... over in Iraq."

____

Children looking for handouts of candy would often approach 1st Lt. Anselm T.W. Richards and the men in his platoon. The soldiers would oblige them, then ask for information.

Sometimes, the children would tell them who made bombs and dealt in weapons. Everybody in town seemed to know the answer.

One day, Richards says, the parents of a 12-year-old boy told him their son had been beheaded by insurgents because he accepted a soccer ball as a gift from soldiers.

"We said to the parents, 'You tell us who did it and we will get them.' They said if we talk to you, they'll kill us as well,'" says Richards, a hedge fund broker from Philadelphia.

"That's the fear in which these people live. That's probably the biggest hindrance to them moving forward."

Like Walls, Richards believes no one should be too quick to judge the small group of Marines being investigated in the Nov. 19 deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, including unarmed women and children, following a roadside bomb that killed a fellow Marine.

"My question is why are people so curious and so eager to find fault with the Marines or soldiers whose lives are on the line," he says. "Why is it their behavior that's being questioned, not the behavior of the guy placing the IED, or the bomb."

He adds: "If it's because children were killed or women, it's understandable, but you know what, those Marines who are killed are children of someone as well."

Among the difficulties: Richards says Iraqi insurgents know the U.S. troops wouldn't fire at a school — "so they will set up on a school or put a sniper on the roof of a school."

Richards says the region is safer than it was a year ago, though five of his men were injured by a roadside bomb just a few weeks before the end of their deployment. Among other accomplishments, he says his brigade helped expand the hours of available electricity each day and trained Iraqi police and security officers.

"I'm optimistic in that I feel like I've done everything that I can do and we as a group could possibly do," he says.

"Is it enough? I don't know because that area, again this is Ramadi ... it's just such a grip, the insurgency. For them to think or to see anything else is so foreign to them."

____

As much as he hates to admit it, 1st Lt. Michael Green, a Pennsylvania state employee from Hershey, says he found it hard at times to like the Iraqis.

He was furious to learn some Iraqis blamed the Americans for a suicide bomb attack that claimed the life of Lt. Col. Michael McLaughlin, the first Pennsylvania Army National Guard officer to die in combat since World War II.

After a year in Iraq, "It's not that I feel so different about the war," he says. "I feel different about the Iraqi people because I saw the bad sides along with the good sides, and before all I saw was potential."

He was so angry that he wanted to shoot some construction workers who had pretended, he says, not to have seen a vehicle driven by the kidnappers of a small boy.

He says he wanted to help catch people responsible for bombings and other violence but that townspeople often didn't want to get involved.

To be successful in Iraq, he says, Americans "need to learn the culture well enough to get inside it" and convince the people that terrorism is dishonorable and brings shame on their family.

"They have all the materials they need to be a strong country. What they probably lack the most is the democratized individuals making decisions collectively ... It's more of a 'Why should I get involved?'"

_____

Sgt. Thomas Farley turned 58 in Iraq during what he calls his "last military adventure." His first was in Vietnam, where he was an Army combat photographer and reporter.

Farley, a father of four, spent 14 years in the active Army before joining the National Guard in Philadelphia as an enlisted infantryman.

In Iraq, he spent part of his time taking photos for a newsletter.

One shows a smiling Sgt. Michael Egan, 36, with his arm around another soldier, at Camp Shelby before the unit's deployment. Egan was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb.

"Some guys can't even look at the picture," Farley says.

Farley says soldiers live with the fear that if they don't stay alert at all times, they could get hurt or killed. The Iraqi insurgents, he says, cannot be underestimated.

"They're very patient. They watch us constantly," Farley says. "They are not the knuckleheads that some people think they must be."

Farley says the sectarian violence must be resolved in the Sunni Triangle or Iraq will never been a working country.

"I'm sure it can be done," he says, "but I'm not sure anybody really knows how to do it yet."

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Post by paulb » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:11 pm

Iraq has a 3000 yr history of inter-tribal wars and battles. I don't think the US will get tranquility in a few.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
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Re: Victory in Iraq?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:14 pm

Lilith wrote:I don't know how you can read an article like this and come away thinking there will be 'victory' in Iraq. I salute these brave American soldiers who have been put in the middle of this quagmire.
I agree. I'm so angry with the dimwits in the administration that force them to fight with RoEs guaranteed to get them killed or charged with murder. We need a new administration that will fight this war the way it should be fought. Unfortunately I don't see that anywhere in the mix of politicians running for office today. I'm so frustrated I can't stand it.
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Post by mourningstar » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:16 pm

I know very little about American history. but what are you implying Corlyss. do you think this is going to be a 2nd vietnam?
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:34 pm

mourningstar wrote:I know very little about American history. but what are you implying Corlyss. do you think this is going to be a 2nd vietnam?
Read that post I put up yesterday by Diane West under the title "Notes from a Boutique War." America has changed the way it fights wars since 1950. The rules of engagement now require Americans not to press their tactical or strategic advantages against the enemy if it will "look bad on TV" to quote General Colin Powell about Gulf 1. The ambiguity of stateless soldiers drawn from a population that blends easily into the civilian population and the incomprehensible decision that civilian deaths are to be avoided at all costs, when you can't tell who the civilians are, is just a prescription for large quantities of dead American warriors. Since the development of the All-Volunteer army and the progressive disengagement of large segments of American society from service in the military (much as has happened in Europe), dead American warriors seem not to trouble much of the population here except in the abstract. People who have written about this issue, with the exception of Diane West, have failed to lay the blame for the policies where it belongs, i.e., at the highest levels of decision-making in this government, namely, the White House and the Pentagon.

For a fuller exposition of America's "small wars" check out Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. For a fuller understanding of how disengaged American society is from its own military, see the Kaplan article below:

The Media and the Military

American reporters would shudder to think that they harbor class prejudice—but they do

by Robert D. Kaplan

.....

E ver since the American-led invasion of Iraq last year, when hundreds of journalists were embedded with military units, people in media circles have been debating whether journalists lose their professional detachment under such circumstances and begin to identify too closely with the troops they are covering. A journalist I met recently in Iraq told me that whenever he returns from a stint with the military, he gets a string of queries from journalism professors, wanting to know if embedded journalists have become, in effect, "whores" of the armed forces.

Having spent much of the past two years embedded with U.S. military units around the world, I find such fears to be a case of class prejudice. As with many forms of prejudice, the perpetrators are only vaguely aware of it, if at all.

Even with the embed phenomenon the media still manifest a far more intimate—one might say incestuous—relationship with politicians, international diplomats, businesspeople, academics, and humanitarian-relief workers than with the U.S. military. Given that all these groups push various political agendas, it is fair to ask why embedding has struck a raw nerve.

The common denominator among the non-military groups is that they derive from the same elevated social and economic strata of their societies. Even relief workers are often young people from well-off families, motivated by idealism and a desire for adventure. An American journalist would most likely find it easier to strike up a conversation with a relief worker from another Western country than with a U.S. Marine or soldier, especially ifthat Marine or soldier were a noncommissioned officer. This is not necessarily because the journalist and the relief worker share a liberal outlook; a neoconservative pundit would fare no better with the NCO, for example. The NCO is part of another America—an America that the media elite is blind to and alienated from.

I am not talking about the poor. The media establishment has always been solicitous of the poor, and through much fine reporting over the years has become intimately familiar with them. I am talking about the working class and slightly above: that vast, forgotten multitude of Americans, especially between the two cosmopolitan coasts, with whom journalists in major media markets now have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in a sustained, meaningful way except by embedding with the military.

The U.S. military—particularly at the level of NCOs, who are the guardians of its culture and traditions—is a world of beer, cigarettes, instant coffee, and chewing tobacco. It is composed of people who hunt, drive pickups, use profanity as an element of ordinary speech and yet have a simple, sure, demonstrative belief in the Almighty. Though this is by and large a politically conservative world, neoconservatives might not feel particularly comfortable in it. Some neocons, who have taken democracy and turned it into an ideological ism, wouldn't sit well with Army and Marine civil-affairs and psy-ops officers who pay lip service to new democratic governing councils in Iraq and then go behind their backs to work with traditional sheikhs. The meat-and-potatoes military is about practicalities: it does whatever is necessary to, say, restore stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Army Special Forces work regularly with undemocratic warlords and tribal militias, and see no contradiction with their own larger belief in democracy. Arguing over abstractions and refining differences between realism and idealism is the luxury of a well-to-do theory class.

The military is an unpretentious environment in which, for instance, the word "folks" is commonly used for people both good and bad. When, after 9/11, President George W. Bush drew snickers from some writers for his reference to al-Qaeda terrorists as "those folks," it was an indication not of Bush's poor speech habits but of the regional and class prejudices afflicting the media establishment.

The starkly differing attitudes toward Bush that one encounters within the media and the military go to the heart of this class divide. You may not get much of a sense of it at the Pentagon, or at military academies such as West Point and Annapolis. The Pentagon is about as indicative of the rest of the military as Washington is of the rest of America; West Point and Annapolis are about as indicative of U.S. military schools as Harvard and Yale are of colleges and universities across the heartland. To know what soldiers, Marines, and other uniformed Americans think, visit the housing for young NCOs at a base such as Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Camp Pendleton, California; or Fort Hood, Texas. Visit the Army Sergeants-Major Academy in El Paso, Texas, or the Army and Marine infantry schools at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Twentynine Palms, California. Visit U.S. barracks and military chow halls around the world.

NCOs in these places appreciate President Bush, whatever his manifold weaknesses, for subjective cultural reasons. His voice is a clear, simple one that speaks of a clash between good and evil, between good guys and bad guys. Bush talks like a believer; he is unabashedly Christian. He says openly that it is all right to kill the enemy, which goes a long way with military fighting units. One Air Force master sergeant told me, "I reject the notion that Bush is inarticulate. He is more articulate than Clinton. When Bush says something, he's clear enough that you argue about whether you agree with him or not. When Clinton talks, you argue over what he really meant."

Bush, from an elite East Coast family, connects with sergeants and corporals in the same visceral, almost tribal way that I saw Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a sophisticated European Jew who relaxed to the music of Chopin, connect with the tough, working-class Oriental Jews of Israel's slums and development towns a quarter century ago. The Oriental Jews, like American NCOs, were looking not for subtlety or complexity but for clarity. How deeply does this man believe? Will he fight to the finish?

I n a recent article in The National Interest, Samuel Huntington, of Harvard University, writes about the divide in American society between the elites, who are cosmopolitans, and the mass of citizens, who are nationalists. The media and the armed forces, respectively, are poster children for these two categories. The world of the media is just as easily defined as that of the military. Journalists are increasingly global citizens. If they themselves do not have European and other foreign passports, their spouses, friends, and acquaintances increasingly do. Whereas the South and the adjacent Bible Belt of the southern Midwest and the Great Plains dominate the military, and the only New Yorkers and Bostonians one is likely to meet in the barracks are from working-class areas, heavily Irish and Hispanic, the urban Northeast, with its frequent air connections to Europe, is where the media cluster. Whereas the military is a lower-middle-class world in which a too-prominent sense of self is frowned on, the journalistic world too often represents the ultimate me, me, me culture of today's international elite.

The military and the media occupy distinct cultural and economic layers. For the military this doesn't really present a problem. Its culture is appropriate to its task, which is to defend the homeland, through the violent use of force if necessary. The troops who do this require nationalism more than they do cosmopolitanism, though a bit more of the latter would certainly be healthy. They also require a religious spirit that is both martial and compassionate, a requirement that the Old Testament orientation of southern evangelicalism satisfies nicely. The soldiers I have met harbor no particular resentments. They are middle-class in their minds, whether or not they are in reality; the military offers a telling demonstration that class resentment is mainly an obsession of the elite.

But the media do have a problem. They are supposed to explain what is happening in a diverse world, which is difficult to do if journalists all hail from the same social and economic background. The media establishment may claim eclectic origins, but whether a journalist grew up in New York or Hong Kong or Mexico City matters less than you might think if in any case he is affluent and well educated: the New Yorker will have more in common with his colleagues from Asia or Latin America than he will with someone from a working-class background in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

To deny that this is an issue for the media is to deny a basic truth of writing: though journalists assume the mantle of professional objectivity, a writer brings his entire life experience to bear on every story and situation. A journalist may seek different points of view, but he shapes and portrays those viewpoints from only one angle of vision: his own.

The blue-collar element that once kept print journalism honest has been gone for some time. Journalists of an earlier era may have been less professional, but they were better connected with the rest of the country. The mannered intrigues of the well-heeled Washington and New York media world have come to resemble those of the exclusive Manhattan society that Edith Wharton chronicled a hundred years ago.

How many members of this world really know people in the active-duty military or the National Guard? The East Coast media's social circle is much more likely to include aging sixties protesters than Vietnam veterans. Of course there are exceptions to all of this, but exceptions don't cut it.

Yes, the editorial boards of prestigious newspapers regularly invite top military brass up to their offices, and a contingent of colonels are always studying at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and similar places. Furthermore, the military correspondents of the major newspapers are in a category by themselves in terms of considerable expertise and well-rooted personal relationships with military men and women. But such cross-fertilization does not go very deep in the larger scheme of things. Besides, generals and colonels are not really what the military is about.

So although some journalism professors may worry that military embedding is subverting the media, I would argue the contrary. The Columbia Journalism Review recently ran an article about the worrisome gap between a wealthy media establishment and ordinary working Americans. One solution is embedding, which offers the media perhaps their last, best chance to reconnect with much of the society they claim to be a part of.

The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200411/kaplan.


Iraq will NOT become another Viet Nam unless and until Democrats take control of both houses of Congress and terminate the funding for a war they consider to be a "Republican war." It's as simple as that. However, it is incomprehensible to me how this administration can go on lip-diddling that it sent just the right amount of forces to Iraq and that it certainly doesnt' need any more now or in the future. All this talk by the Democrats about pulling out has made the administration even more skittish about troop levels and they are stupidly pulling more out, not putting more in.
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 24, 2006 5:21 pm

You contradict yourself. You recite a history of a major shift in the American attitude towards war and modalities of war since 1950. That involves successive administrations of both parties. But then as usual you lash out at all Democrats while recognizing there are no Republicans who seem to have answers to pressing and changing geopolitical and military challenges.

No society remains static. We are what we are now. The issue is how America can protect itself in a world that is often threatening in 21st Century terms.
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Post by Lilith » Sat Jun 24, 2006 5:32 pm

I agree that there is almost a complete disconnect between military and the American Society in general. That is because of the all volunteer army.

This is the second time is 40 years that we have misunderstood what is involved in fighting a war far away from home, in a country where factions have been fighting against one another for centuries.

Even if we had gone in with more strength (200,00+), I think we might have been able to apply enough bandaids for us to get out thinking we had accomplished something, but in the long run it would have proved futile.

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Post by Lilith » Sat Jun 24, 2006 5:43 pm

"The Media and the Military

American reporters would shudder to think that they harbor class prejudice—but they do "

Corlyss - the military itself harbors a class prejudice. Think about it - compare the ground troops with the Navy and Air Force pilots. They usually come from totally different class/social backgrounds.
We now have several incidents under investigation where a number of our ground troops - our grunts - are charged with killing civilians.
And yet do any of our pilots face charges when errors kill hundreds of innocent civilians? Why is this? This, despite the fact that, the grunts must make decisions 'on the spot' under tremendous pressures.

Lets not talk about class prejudice in the media - lets talk about class prejudice in regard to the people like Bush & Cheney- the draft avoiders and multimillionaires who started this war.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 24, 2006 6:44 pm

Lilith wrote:Corlyss - the military itself harbors a class prejudice. Think about it - compare the ground troops with the Navy and Air Force pilots. They usually come from totally different class/social backgrounds.
They aren't ground forces either. The pilots are a tiny number of the military. You might as well refer to the JAGs and the Chaplin Corps. In other words, they aren't representative of the bulk of the military.
We now have several incidents under investigation where a number of our ground troops - our grunts - are charged with killing civilians.
The fact that they are so charged is a disgrace to the people who decided to charge them, not to the soldiers themselves. In the totality of circumstances, they should have been given the benefit of the doubt, especially where the principal complainant is an Iraqi. In short, I don't believe the charges.
And yet do any of our pilots face charges when errors kill hundreds of innocent civilians? Why is this?
Because the long-distance strike allows the people who forumlate the RoEs to presuppose collateral damage. It is ordered with the full expectation that the other side will claim that every one in the target area was just an unfortuante civilian, including the terrorists. It's extremely ironic that guys on the ground eyeball to eyeball with life-threatening dangers, that pilots are not, are not given a similar benefit of the doubt when they are in so much more danger. No, when an American ground soldier shoots an Iraqi under questionable circumstances, he's a murderer destined for court-martial, shackles, and lockdown 24-7 until he's convicted as a scapegoat just to show the world that we use a higher standard when we fight a war!
lets talk about class prejudice in regard to the people like Bush & Cheney- the draft avoiders and multimillionaires who started this war.
Let's not because its not relevant. Unless you want to tell me why someone who didn't have any meaningful service in his background, like Franklin Roosevelt, would necessarily be incapable of prosecuting a war successfully.
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 24, 2006 7:03 pm

Corlyss,

The military has a corps named after Charlie Chaplin? What is its function?
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Post by Lilith » Sat Jun 24, 2006 7:10 pm

" Unless you want to tell me why someone who didn't have any meaningful service in his background, like Franklin Roosevelt, would necessarily be incapable of prosecuting a war successfully."

I never said they would be incapable of presecuting a war (although in this case, it might prove true) ... I said they started a war. Thats quite different.

I am saddened by the charges against our troops- but if they are true - if it was unprovoked cold blooded killing - they should be charged and punished. This is what happens when fighting a war far away from home, in a country where factions have been fighting against one another for centuries. It is a very dirty business, and, in some ways, very similar to Vietnam. But do Americans really care? After all, they volunteered (not my view, but I think the view of many Americans)
I'm curious- did you also doubt the Calley charges when the story broke?

To worry about class differences with the press covering the war is to ignore the much more important fact...its a war that was started by millionaire draft avoiders like Bush & Cheney.

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