Friday, October 20, 2006

Nobody Expects ANOTHER Spanish Inquisition!

The State Department’s chief legal adviser, John Bellinger, (or Cardinal Biggles, as he’s known to his captives) is telling foreign governments that instead of them whining about how the Guantanamo Bay detention center should be closed down, they should all accept custody of the remaining 400-plus detainees so that ...umm…Gitmo can be closed down?

"No one's comfortable with the situation in Guantanamo," he said (presumably alluding to the lack of comfy chairs). "But if we really want to reduce the numbers to send people back, progress cannot be made by just simply saying Guantanamo should be closed. We have to have practical suggestions, practical ways to move forward."
Some suggestions have been put forward such as forcing the detainees to renounce terrorism and become a Viking choir with a limited Spam-based repertoire or turning Camp X-Ray into a cheese-shop, but a top British military officer has rejected them as being “very silly indeed.”

US officials insist there are still ten British residents held in Guantanamo whilst British officials insist there are only…five!…three sir!..three—no,…one! Only one bona-fide British citizen whilst the other nine are probably French kniggets.

However Cardinal Biggles remains adamant in his position that the suspicious goat-herders the US unilaterally invited to spend up-to five years “getting away from it all” (free of charge, by the way—either fiscal or criminal) in a custom built 50-million dollar tropical hideaway have outstayed their welcome and it’s high time the rest of the world come and pick them up because lately their continued freeloading in Cuba at US expense has become abit of a Hispanic Imposition.

And the rest of the world should also stop asking questions about how the detainees were treated too! After all, the US didn’t expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

When Johnny Comes Marching Home –Part II

Whilst US politicians and the American public have been discussing the Iraq War, US soldiers have had to fight it. The only poll I know of that sampled the opinions of the troops was conducted by Zogby. An overall majority thought it was time to leave Iraq over the next 12 months and that was back in February 2006.
Beneath the broad sentiment amongst the troops that they should be brought home lay some interesting and disturbing issues. According to the now seven-month-old poll (taken after roughly three-years of occupation):

93% said that “removing” weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there.
90% thought the war was retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11
68% of the troops said that the real mission was to remove Saddam Hussein.

These figures are rather interesting: Bush, Cheney, Rice and Powell made it very clear that Saddam Hussein in their view had to be removed by force to prevent him transferring WMD to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Bush, Cheney, Rice and a horde of mouthpieces constantly implied a connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda and thus 9-11 (and Cheney never hesitates to repeat this fallacy even today).
Well, Hussein was removed, there were no WMD and there was no Al Qaeda presence in Iraq (though now apparently, there is). Except for the absence of WMD and Al Qaeda it would appear then that the US forces accomplished their mission.
So why are they still there, three years later?
Because they were given a new mission; to establish a democratic government and provide security for private contractors to re-build the infrastructure and the economy.
And yet…only 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war—meaning that the vast majority thought establishing a democracy wasn’t their job—contrary to Bush’s post “mission accomplished” statements.
Small wonder then that after three years of occupation though 58% said the ‘mission’ was “clear”, 42% thought it was “hazy”. In politics that would be called a winning majority but for an army it’s a terrible statistic.
The purpose of a soldier is to be prepared to kill or be killed to accomplish some worthwhile mission. If you aren’t sure of the mission how do you justify killing someone else or getting killed in the process? Uncertainty is a rare privilege in the military and it’s not usually afforded to the ordinary soldier—certainly not when the bullets and bombs are flying.

Bush has said several times that leaving "before the job is done" would "dishonor the sacrifice" of those who have already died. It's an argument that tortures every soldier--and the cruelty of if it is breathaking.
There would have been no sacrifice if Bush and his cabal hadn't invented the reasons for war. Fewer would have been sacrificed if all the soldiers had been provided with body armor, if Rumsfeld hadn't treated the troops as guinea pigs to test his theories of warfare, if Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle hadn't treated it as a business venture, if Bremer hadn't acted like Nero, if Generals Myers and Pace hadn't ordered mass roundups of civilians and used collective punishment.

When these soldiers come home they will lie awake at night and wonder what it was all for. And the terrible is--nothing. Nothing that mattered to them anyway.
The noble quest to bring down a dictator did not make the US or the world safer. Instead of creating a democracy they created anarchy. Instead of establishing human rights they abused them. Instead of making firends they made more enemies. Instead of helping people they hurt them and killed them.
They were told they'd be fighting for a good and noble cause and that they would be bringing peace and prosperity to Iraq--and they were lied-to.

But all these facts won't rush into their conciousness once they come home--many already know it. The best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have died already is to stop any further dying for no good reason and bring the troops home.

And as they lie awake at night and wonder what their sacrifice was for, I hope they'll realize that though it might appear to have been all for nothing, they can still make their sacrifice for something--that they can use their bloody and tragic expereinces and speak with unimpeachable authority to the public and the politicians and reclaim their true mission and uphold their honor and fight for and defend America from the true enemies of freedom and democracy--the politicians and demagogues who have betrayed them and this nation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

When Johnny Comes Marching Home –Part 1

Time to Come Home?
In early 2003 Donald Rumsfeld—best known for knowing everything yet not knowing anything—confidently doubted that the war in Iraq would ever stretch to six months. He has since spent the last three-plus years insisting that every miserable fact of failure in Iraq is mere “defeatist” speculation, as have Bush, Cheney and Rice. But the truth, being stranger than fiction and a lot more useful, has slowly but surely seeped past the administration’s filter and into the cognitive area of the American public’s brains.

This year an August 9 CNN poll reported that 60% of their respondents wanted “some withdrawal” by the end of 2006.

An August 5 Opinion Dynamics/Fox News poll found 27% wanted all troops out by year’s end and 31% wanted all troops out over the next 12 months—for a total of 58% wanting the troops out. This month that figure has risen to an impressive 73%. The vast majority of Iraqis want the US to leave as well for many obvious reasons.

Don’t Let The Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out
So what might happen if Bush & company chose to act on the overwhelming public sentiment in both the US and Iraq and actually began withdrawing troops (assuming no UN assistance)?

It took two weeks to reach Baghdad from Kuwait and that was with less personnel and equipment than the 140,000 or so now deployed. Withdrawal will take at least a couple of months. US forces have only three viable points of exit—the airport, the port of Basra and the Kuwait border.

As US forces fall back for departure the various militias will move in to abandoned areas to create and consolidate their presence and influence and to prevent their rivals from doing the same. The inevitability of a power struggle ought to keep a number of their fighters away from attacking the US forces as they depart. Pure pragmatism would suggest that the Iraqis just let the US forces leave without harassment so the various factions can escalate their civil war that much sooner and with greater strength.
However there will be a huge temptation for many to get in some “last-licks” as the US retreats. With US forces concentrated and on the move, out in the open and keen to be leaving at last, they will be vulnerable to harassment from relatively small opposition forces.

To counter this possibility the US will want to call on Navy/Marine air-power to keep the Iraqis at bay. I imagine that cluster and phosphorous bombs would be the preferred munitions as anti personnel and area-denial weapons and their use would be no more discerning than has been the case in any other support operations thus far—in other words they will blow the holy crap out of anything and everything to protect the departing forces.

Whether the US forces leave under fire or not the Iraqi militants will be able to claim victory—military, political and even moral. What will the US have to show for their efforts?

Never In The Field of Human Conflict Have So Few Done So Little For So Many
Bush still insists that the troops must stay “until the job is done” but what does he mean by that? There aren’t enough troops to provide the security needed to restore essential services, permit meaningful reconstruction and allow the government to establish authority—there never has been and apparently there never will be (at least not until after 2008)—so why keep them there?
The answer is; to satisfy the psychopathic egos of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld which sent the troops to Iraq in the first place. If they refuse to bring the troops home there will be no retreat and therefore no failure. Even if the GOP loses both houses in November and even if impeachment was begun immediately Bush can wield his “signing statements” and simply refuse to accede until his term is over—whereupon he (and Cheney and Rumsfeld) can literally (not just figuratively) walk away from responsibility.

And what about the troops?
A February 28, 2006 LeMoyne College/Zogby poll of the US troops indicated that 72% overall wanted to leave by the end of 2006 (89% of Reserves and 82% National Guard had that opinion, whilst for the Marines it was a significantly lower but still notable 58%).
Given the trend of public opinion and the increased violence in Iraq since February 2006 it would be safe to assume that the soldiers desire to get the hell out of Iraq has likewise increased.

Whether they get to leave sooner or later their departure (under fire or not), whatever relief the troops might feel will be severely tempered. Neither defeated nor victorious, whatever individual accomplishments and personal satisfactions they might derive from their service will be challenged by other inseparable experiences and realities. Though they will leave the battlefield, the battlefield will not leave them so easily. My thoughts on the soldier’s homecoming will follow in part II.