Friday, December 01, 2006

Crosses of Lafayette: The Real Outrage

I have mentioned before that we have a bumper sticker on our car that says "HONOR THE WARRIOR NOT THE WAR." In Lafayette, the impetus behind the project to build the crosses on the hillside that are visable to riders on BART and drivers on Highway 24 is do exactly that. It is possible to honor the soldiers who have died in the war without honoring war itself or the perpetrators of the "war of choice" in Iraq.

In the current issue of The New York Review of Books, Mark Danner has written a chilling critique of the deeply irresponsible behavior of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice.

In a nutshell, after 9/11, Bush was able to appear to be so decisive precisely because he did not concern himself with details, complexities, dissenting opinions or the possibility of Plan A not working. Rumsfeld believed in Plan A: victory (toppling Sadaam) would be swift, U.S. troops would be welcome, Ahmad Chalabi would become the head of the new government, and "by the end of August we're going to have 25,000 to 30,000 troops left in Iraq." He had no plan B.

But Bush himself vetoed Chalabi:
So there would be no President Chalabi. Unfortunately, the President, who thought of himself, Woodward says, "as the calcium in the backbone" of the US government, having banned Chalabi's ascension, neither offered an alternative plan nor forced the government he led to agree on one. Nor did Secretary Rumsfeld, who knew only that he wanted a quick victory and a quick departure. To underline the point, soon after the US invasion the secretary sent his special assistant, Larry DiRita, to the Kuwait City Hilton to brief the tiny, miserable, understaffed, and underfunded team led by the retired General Garner which was preparing to fly to a chaotic Baghdad to "take control of the transition." Here is DiRita's "Hilton Speech" as quoted to Woodward by an army colonel, Paul Hughes:

"We went into the Balkans and Bosnia and Kosovo and we're still in them.... We're probably going to wind up in Afghanistan for a long time because the Department of State can't do its job right. Because they keep screwing things up, the Department of Defense winds up being stuck at these places. We're not going to let this happen in Iraq."

The reaction was generally, Whoa! Does this guy even realize that half the people in the room are from the State Department?

DiRita went on, as Hughes recalled: "By the end of August we're going to have 25,000 to 30,000 troops left in Iraq."

DiRita spoke these words as, a few hundred miles away, Baghdad and the other major cities of Iraq were taken up in a thoroughgoing riot of looting and pillage—of government ministries, universities and hospitals, power stations and factories—that would virtually destroy the country's infrastructure, and with it much of the respect Iraqis might have had for American competence. The uncontrolled violence engulfed Iraq's capital and major cities for weeks as American troops—140,000 or more—mainly sat on their tanks, looking on. If attaining true political authority depends on securing a monopoly on legitimate violence, then the Americans would never achieve it in Iraq. There were precious few troops to impose order, and hardly any military police. No one gave the order to arrest or shoot looters or otherwise take control of the streets. Official Pentagon intentions at this time seem to have been precisely what the secretary of defense's special assistant said they were: to have all but 25,000 or so of those troops out of Iraq in five months or less.

How then to secure the country, which was already in a state of escalating chaos? Most of the ministries had been looted and burned and what government there was consisted of the handful of Iraqi officials who Garner's small team had managed to coax into returning to work. In keeping with the general approach of quick victory, quick departure, Garner had briefed the President and his advisers before leaving Washington, emphasizing his plan to dismiss only the most senior and personally culpable Baathists from the government and also to make use of the Iraqi army to rebuild and, eventually, keep order.

But then Rumsfeld replaced Garner with Jerry Bremer. Bremer's first move was to dismiss all Baathists from government and his second move was to dismiss the Iraqi army. Bremer got his marching orders from Neocon Dougie Feith. Immediately the US "had at least 350,000 more enemies than it had the day before—the 50,000 Baathists [and] the 300,000 officially unemployed soldiers."

Iraq quickly spiraled out of control.

And who paid the price? The soldiers killed in Iraq. The Crosses in Lafayette honor these warriors but not the war and certainly not the pitiful architects of the failed war.

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Blogger RoseCovered Glasses said...

You make many good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armements”

The Pentagon is a giant,incredibly complex establishment,budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Adminisitrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the Sec. Def. to be - Mr. Gates- understand such complexity, particulary if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is ablsolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen unitil it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagon instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

5:57 PM  

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