Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Iraq, More of the Same

We're into the second day of testimony in the Iraq Hearing. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee called it the “most important hearing of the year.” Exactly what is so dammed important about it, I cannot fathom. As I said in the previous post, tell us something we don’t know. Let’s recap so far:

- The troop surge ordered by President Bush is: (a) working exactly according to plan. Security is better than is has been in two years, the insurgency is crushed, de-baathification is well on its way, and the Iraqi government is making significant gains. Or, (b) an abysmal failure. (c) Maybe somewhere in between.

- Troops will begin returning home: (a) eventually, but not any time soon. Withdrawal starts when the job, as the White House defines it, is done. (b) Eventually, after the Democrats take over the White House in 2008. (c) Never.

- The al-Maliki government is: (a) working diligently to build a representative democracy based on peace and harmony for all Iraqis, or (b) An ineffective, corrupt, clueless piece of shit.

- Protesters will: (a) not be tolerated, (b) provide an amusing diversion from this circus.

- Senator Craig is: (a) a repressed, hypocritical, two-faced, bullshit artist, (b) uh…there is no (b). Note, this has nothing to do with the proceedings, but it’s my blog and I think it needs to be said as often as possible.

- And finally, any statement, no matter how hypocritical, crass, defeatist, or vitriolic will be considered patriotic as long as you begin the statement by thanking “our brave troops for their sacrifice.”

As I said, tell us something we don’t know. After watching this painful nonsense for two days, I have come to the following conclusion: the entire farce was staged as a bi-partisan effort to provide a source of quotes for both parties’ presidential candidates. Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?

"Changing the definition of success to stay the course with the wrong policy is the wrong course for our troops and our national security. The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now — not six months from now." Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Thanks Barak, you’re a prince. While I understand your basic gist here, you’ve got no business using the “our troops” card as justification for cutting and running. You want to pull out? Fine, but do it because that’s what you think is right, not for us. Don’t use the military as an excuse, that’s the coward’s way out and you’re better than that. Also, I’d like to know exactly how bringing our troops home now will improve our national security, unless you mean play on public sentiment to get elected President?

"I don't think there is any doubt that it's good news that he feels we will be able to withdraw some troops ... To change the strategy from the surge would be a terrific mistake." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
What? As usual, McCain will say just about anything to get elected. I'm surprised he didn't advocate torture and a border fence.

"Our troops who have performed heroically and have done everything they've been asked to do in Iraq have no business refereeing an Iraqi civil war ... It is up to the Iraqis to make the decisions as to how they will stabilize their own country." Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y
It’s up to the Iraqis? Well, jeez, Hillary, but if you were paying attention you’d know that the Iraqis had a stable country before we came along and blew it up. I’m not saying it was admirable, I’m saying it was stable. Right or wrong, we made this bed and we have to lay in it. But at least you invoked “our heroic troops” before saying something crass, so I guess you get a pass on this one.

"General Petraeus' report strengthens my conviction that we can achieve our objectives in Iraq and that we must not withdraw precipitously. He and Ambassador Crocker gave a candid assessment, and I believe General Petraeus when he says that the security situation is improving and momentum is now on our side." Ronald Reagan, ur, sorry, Fred Thompson.
Well, Fred, if you consider the vague and evasive statements we’ve been listening to for two days “candid” I guess you really are the second coming of Reagan. Good luck with that.

"I am saddened, but not surprised, by the recommendations of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on Iraq. I do not question the integrity or competence of these gentlemen, but the strategy George Bush and Dick Cheney have asked them to execute has failed. The course General Petraeus has recommended we take — more of the same — is unacceptable, irresponsible and dangerous." —Gov. Bill Richardson, D-NM
Uh, Bill? Just so I’ve got this straight, you don’t question Gen Petraeus’ integrity or competence, but you think his professional recommendations are unacceptable, irresponsible, and dangerous? Exactly what, then, is your definition of competence? Because I thought it was something else.

"Today's testimony from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker confirms the progress being made by our troops in Iraq. This is good news for Americans and Iraqis. The importance of a successful conclusion to Iraq must be weighed in light of the global threat of violent Jihad and terror. America must continue its commitment to the strategy General Petraeus is executing." Mitt Romney, MA-R
Well, at least it’s good news. But that’s Mitt for you, a glass half full kind’ve guy.

"Congress must now decide whether they will serve the American people or simply follow the same Beltway mentality that has led to more inaction on Iraq. Even in the face of rising American causalities, greater civil unrest and no political progress, the Congress continues a false debate about whether President Bush should be granted more time. President Bush's Iraq strategy has failed, and Congress must not cave. Congress must support our troops by using every tool available to force the president to agree to a withdrawal." John Edwards, D-N.C.
My money is on “follow the same Beltway mentality,” John. I’ll put a fiver down on it.

"The fact that there are questions about General Petraeus' report is not surprising given that it was brought to you by this White House. In contrast, independent report after report indicates that the whack-a-mole strategy has made this the bloodiest summer of the war. And by the general's admission, the so-called surge has not achieved its goal of political progress." Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
Chris gets extra points for using the term “whack-a-mole strategy.”

“General Petraeus has failed to give Congress an independent assessment of the Iraq war. His statement sounds like the president's talking points," Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH
Jeez, you think, Dennis? You ever heard of the Chain of Command? The General damn well better be on the same sheet of music as his CINC, or he’ll be collecting a retirement check. But, of course, when you’re President you’ll let your Generals disagree with your policy in front of Congress, right? Dumbass.

"Our brave American service men and women are sacrificing daily for a policy that has no end in sight. A policy of more of the same is no strategic vision, strains our military to the breaking point, and enables Iraqi leaders to dither endlessly instead of reaching a political consensus over the future of their country," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Uh, What? I stopped reading after “Our brave Americ….” My chest was too swelled with patriotic fervor and my eyes were too full of tears to finish. Hey, Chris, leave us out of it. No seriously, shut the fuck up about the military.

"This stall taken?" Sen Craig, Idaho-Big Gay Republican


  1. Patooie! Patooie, I say!

    Do you think that the Iraq Hearing occuring on "Patriot Day" was just a happy coincidence, or some sort of cheesey attempt to wax patriotic during the hearings? The answer is left as an exercise for the class.

    And for the record, I think the al-Maliki government is more than an ineffective, corrupt, clueless piece of shit. They're also suck-ass fuck-tards. And so's their mama.

    And Senator Craig is all of the above.

    Now you've got me wrapped around the axle. Thanks a lot, Tinman. I wish I had trouble recalling the details of this mess, a la Ronald Reagon/Fred Thompson. I'm sure I'd be much happier.

  2. They're also suck-ass fuck-tards. And so's their mama.

    I'm gonna need another roll of paper towels, because I just spit coffee on my monitor. Through my nose. But it was worth it.

    "And so's their mama" reminds me of the Star Wars Yo Mama Fight on Robot Chicken. Next to the George Lucas in the Elevator bit, it's one of the freakin' funniest things I've ever seen.

  3. Actually, my 16 year old son got me back on the "so's your mama" insult.

    Apparently, at his High School, the correct response to any criticism or insult is the "so's your mama" comeback or derivatives, whether it makes sense or not. Example:

    "That's an incomplete sentence."

    "Your mama's an incomplete sentence."

    Ah, adolescent humor.

  4. As my brother might say, "I LOL'd"

    But I couldn't agree with you more about leaving the military out of it. It's not cool being a fetish object for either party.

  5. It's not cool being a fetish object for either party.

    David said "fetish object!" Hee!

  6. It's a way of forestalling the obvious attack of "they just don't support the troops." But, yeah, approaching fetish object status.

    I think the major thing is, the surge is working (I have my own criticsms of it, but it's doing what was billed to do). The political part of it, which ain't the General's balliwick (umm, yeah, say, is he gunning for a Pentagon Chief of Staff post or what) is what just isn't happening because the political side of this has always been lacking (having to wait to send "experts" in because they never had a passport before? Uh, check please!).

    The problems I see are many fold. One, we didn't close the circle before begining Operations Whatever They Were so the senior Qaeda scrambled out (big mistake, never let the guys or gals who know how to organize and get logistics in place run away, the people who pull the triggers aren't the threat).

    And two, we have no second act for the sunni shieks who are helping out in Anbar. Once AQI is no longer the threat, if we don't have the "Thanks for the help, here's your road, food, electricity, water, sewer, and 24 hour cable news program" things might get ugly and they can buy AK rounds from anywhere in that country (the good thing about this is that they know we aren't going to run from a fight, so at least they'll respect us in the morning).

    Which leads us to three diverging paths. 1) Say thanks for the puppet government, we're here to stay, oh, and we're probably going to need a draft at that point. 2) Say sorry about that and hit the big red "do over" elections button (option B here is to just install a dictator and try and get him to be a nice guy). 3) Say, it's been a blast, we'll be over in Kuwait and SA, just let us know when you're done.

    Also, while we're at it, co-op the bedouin along the eastern border (on both sides of the border), make sure their legitamite business isn't affected, install a border gate, and send out the swampy hat guys to shoot anybody else that crosses anywhere else.

    Oh, and those translators, free lifetime pass for them and their family to Disney, MGM or Six-flags, their choice. We've got Hmung (sp?) in Minnesota that can consult on how to do that (and how to bring over their compatriots in the camps).

  7. Steve, I believe in a single blog comment you've got more of a realistic plan than the entire Bush administration, with options even.

    David, exactly. I'm retired now, but I haven't been out long enough that it just doesn't infuriate me every dammed time one of these sanctimonious, two-faced, self-serving politicians starts in with the whole 'heroic sacrifice, blah, blah, do it for the troops' song and dance routine.

  8. I'm with ya there, Jim. Any kind of politicizing from either side turns my stomach nowadays. I have to stop watching or I won't want to vote come election day.

    Did you see Lt. Col. John Nagl interviewed on The Daily Show? He helped write (w/ Gen. Petraeus and others) the Army's Counterinsurgency Field Manual. It was a very coherent and impressive interview. I feel glad that they're making progress in understanding the new parameters of war, even at the same time that I wish we didn't HAVE to. This was the first time I've ever had an inkling that the upper levels of the military might not be the pompous bags of wind that Congress is.
    I highly recommend it and am interested in your (and Janiece's) opinions. It can be found on The Daily Show's website (http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/videos/celebrity_interviews/index.jhtml).

  9. Anne, thanks very much for that link. Nagl is indeed an intelligent and thoughtful man.

    While I have to say that the Armed Forces have their fair share of pompous windbags (what organization doesn't?), for the most part professional warriors have a very different perspective on "current events" than the politicians. Unlike their civilian counterparts, they may be required to put people for whom they are directly responsible in harm's way to try and achieve the objectives set by their civilian masters. It doesn't appear the politicians give this nearly as much thought as they should.

    During my tenure, I never met a single NCO or officer who was cavalier about the possibility of sending their men and women home in body bags, and in most cases, lost sleep over the responsibility.

    As Jim mentioned, it does feel like the profession of the Armed Forces does not get much respect in this country. Politicians all feel free to trot us out and use us to prove their own patriotism, but getting actual respect from the citizens you serve is another matter.

    Most of the people and I know and respect who follow (or have followed) the profession of arms are motivated by unit cohesiveness, not politicians. And can you blame them?

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  11. (I deleted my previous comment because I'm not coffeed up enough yet, and it was a mess. Let's try this again. Question: anybody know how to edit comments on blogger? Seems I remember there was a screen for this, but I'll be dammed if I can find it)

    Anne, yes I've seen the interview and I've read the CIFM, in detail. I had a hand in development of the Navy's tactical Information Warfare doctrine, some of which ended up in the manual.

    My impression of LtCol Nagi, by reputation only - I've never met him, is that he is an extremely level headed and intelligent Officer. He is highly respected. You said This was the first time I've ever had an inkling that the upper levels of the military might not be the pompous bags of wind that Congress is. Yeah, most people, including many in the military, have a impression of senior Officers that is somewhat less than flattering. I think this is due to the caricatures and ingrained stereotypes portrayed in the popular media. They are almost always portrayed as pompous, stiff, roger-ramjet types, but my experience in real life is 180 degrees opposite. It is true that Flag Officer (Admiral/General) is a very political rank. Flag Officers are directly responsible to the CINC for the execution of national policy and as such there is no way to remove politics from their duties. They are sworn the uphold the Constitution and obey the orders of the President, and while it may appear that they have a great deal of latitude, they really don't. They are also many times restricted from saying what they really think, they are required to support the President and carry out his orders, whether he is Bill Clinton or George Bush. This is not to say that we don't have our share of asshats, but most of those don't make senior ranks, they tend to get weeded out over time.

    With all that said, Janiece is very much correct. While I have met senior officers who place their own careers ahead of anything else, they are very much in the minority and they eventual tend to end up in a dead end cubicle in DC somewhere. Most senior officers know that they are where they are entirely because of the men and women that serve under them. And the vast majority never, ever forget this. Those of us that were in position to train those officers (that would be senior NCOs and in my case Chief Warrant Officer) pound "Take Care Of Your People" into the heads of every Junior Officer, over and over and over. We have a great deal of input into whether that officer advances into a position of responsibility, ever. I personally have ended the careers of a number of shitheads who just didn't get it. Tough shit and I shed no tears for them, my job was to accomplish the mission - and you can't do that without good people. Period.

  12. Heh. Is "support our troops" the new "think of the children"? And is that a step up or down?

    Also, as far as I know the only things you can do with comments is delete them, alas.

  13. Yeah, I haven't had a luck finding the "edit comments" function (if it exists).

    I was going to make a similar correlation between the public opinion of high-ranking military and the media. It's a common thing, in a movie or book, for the hero to be put in danger because his/her commanding officer was an idiot or a glory-hound. VERY glad to hear that's rarely the case. It's a dangerous enough job as it is.
    This type of confusion between reality and fiction reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend just last weekend. She was relating how she wanted to kick some sense into a relative because she (the relative) wanted the Catholic church to come and have a death vigil (not just visit or take confession) for her Catholic cousin because "they do that in the movies."

  14. Anne, the military is the last safe stereotype. Americans claim to respect and even idolize their military, but when is the last time you saw military personal portrayed as anything other than the "Yes, Ma'am, no Sir" rigid stick-up the ass robot on TV or in the movies? I can count the total number of favorable portrayals on the fingers of one hand. The most common stereotype is the "Commanding Officer Who Must Keep The Secret, and Cannot Deviate from the Plan" or the General/Admiral who just can't wait to go to war ala The Abyss. Just as common is the Bad CO who is hiding some dark secret, ala A Few Good Men and every episode of the X-files. Enlisted men are portrayed as the "Jarhead Robot," mindlessly carrying out orders no matter what and thank God there's a civilian around to show them the error of their ways, again ala every episode of the X-files. Female enlisted are blood thirty warrior lesbians who are experts in every weapon ever made, bench press 360lbs, and can drink any 250lb male Marine under the table, the deputy in Eureka is the perfect example. Occasionally, you get the Soldier as Federal Police Officer bit, "I'm commandeering you car for NATIONAL SECURITY (shows federal badge and gun)," or investigating crimes undercover off-base, ala The Presidio or The General's Daughter. This is also a common portrayal of NSA/CIA personnel. Screw USC Code 10 and the Constitution. Just once I'd like to see somebody from NSA portrayed accurately: a pale, bifocalled, sweater wearing chubby geek with about ten electronic key badges around his neck, speaks fluent Klingon, and gets lost in on the way to the train station (nobody at NSA has a driver's license), but I digress.

    I'm used to it, but it still chaps my ass. Just for the record, you'd think Americans would be smart enough to realize that we don't trust lives and billion dollar machines and the fate of the National to robots.

  15. You'd also think I could spell and use the correct words in a sentence. Argh! Really need to find that comment edit function.

  16. Hmmm. So I know you already said that you're not much a fan of Stargate, but what's your opinion of the way they portray the military?

    I've always liked that they show the military as the smart, thoughtful people just trying to protect the planet while those pesky civilians who don't understand anything keep getting in the way. Then again, my only relationship to any military is through the TV (and more recently, this blog) so for all I know it's actually getting things wrong in a (different) offensive way...

  17. MWT, yeah, I'm not much of a fan of Stargate, however I do watch it, and it's bastard clone Stargate Atlantis, because my wife enjoys it. It's not that I hate the show, it's just that it could have been so much better (and so could the movie that's it's based on - which is the epitome of stereotyped military). Instead there is nothing creative about it, the terminology is lifted directly from Star Trek, the science is pure fantasy magic (Goddamn, do I hate those stinkin' drawers full of crystals!).

    As to your question: Well, the military portrayed is so divorced from reality that I honestly don't make comparisons. Air Force Spec Ops Seal types? Hmmm, no. Sorry, Steve :) But, you're right, the show does portray the military in a vary good light. Intelligent. Compassionate. competent. So they do get points for that.

    Don't get me wrong, to be perfectly fair it is difficult to comprehend military people if you haven't been in the military yourself. We tend to be fairly alien to most citizens, and it's perfectly natural for people to see only the uniform and haircut, the discipline and organization, the guns. And, of course, we enjoy the mystique many people hold us in :), even if reality is something else. And, just to be completely fair, most military related movies do have military advisers on the set. Former Marine Capt and actor Dale Dye's company Warriors, Inc. does exactly that - for some of the best military movies ever, and some of the very worst (Soldier comes to mind here).

    Again, don't get me wrong, there are some movies that strive to get it right. Roughriders is not only an outstanding movie and portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders, it's pretty accurate regarding the military of the Spanish/American war. Band of Brothers, is a pretty accurate representation of military life in combat. But those are war movies, my major beef with the whole stereotype thing has more to do with the supporting characters in your average TV show and movie.

  18. Heh. I love your listing of the military stereotypes.
    I think the only time we're generally allowed to see military characters who are not stereotypes are in movies that are almost completely composed of military personnel AND they actively steer away from stereotypes.
    I love Band of Brothers. And my favorite depictions of movie-military (despite knowing they are wrong, oh so wrong) are The Rock and Aliens. Actually, in the latter, it's the "company man" who's the baddie.
    Thanks for your replies, guys. I can tell you've thought about the subject a time or two.
    (I have a similar beef of my own when it comes to Ayn Rand and her depiction of architecture in The Fountainhead. Complete bullshit.)

  19. Reading this ten years in the future is spooky...

    -- EMH


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