Friday, August 24, 2007

Criticizing the Brass

A journalist acquaintance sent a query via email about what seems to him to be a growing propensity of active duty personnel to speak out against the Iraq war “strategy” of the Bush administration and the tactics being used.

The latest example – and the one that sparked his query – was the group of seven enlisted personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division who were nearing the end of their 15 month tour in Iraq. My correspondent wondered whether there was a cultural modification in the military that was pointing to more public criticism of the chain of command. It’s an interesting question, but the answer is no. Any public criticism of the civilians in the Pentagon, the president, or the uniformed hierarchy will still be scrutinized for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The seven enlisted personnel will not have to worry, however, because they were careful. To see what I mean, find their op-ed through the link below and then see my paragraph by paragraft notes as sent to my journalist friend.

1. defines tactics of each side – as outsiders who have been there too long, cannot win

2. talks about failure of the press in its reporting

3. doesn’t say who is making claims of success – remember, prominent think-tank figures have recently been in Iraq and made a splash in the papers and on TV when they returned. They (and possibly others) are wrong; contested areas overall are unchanged

4. describes all the groups in the fight and the difficulty in sorting them out

5. talks of questionable tactics, risks in training and arming Iraqis, and fear among civilians of the Iraqi security forces

6. illusionary “success” – Iraqi officers do not have control of their men who are loyal first to their militias

7. Same as 6, only describes Sunnis

8. questions where Iraqi loyalties lie; no political achievements

9. U.S. troops are in an untenable position with questionable “allies” rules of engagement and international law prevent “solving” ambiguities by unrestrained force

10. In judging security status, must ask Iraqis; American grandstanding is irrelevant

11. linking military surge to meeting political benchmarks a mistake – until there is a significant improvement in security will there be any progress

12. Shi’a are using the U.S. presence as a crutch while they organize for the post-occupation

13. Iraqi government is stalling on key “reforms“-- another way to label Bremer’s errors – which the Shi’a really don’t want to implement.

14. U.S. and other outside powers have accomplished very little In the way of rebuilding and jump-starting sustainable development. Iraqis are fleeing

15. After 4 years, no promises have been kept.

16. U.S. forces are an occupation army

17. Let the Iraqis take over their own affairs – U.S. is just in the way.

Note that no part of the chain-of command is addressed, not their units, not the generals in the field, not the Pentagon generals or civilians, no one in the administration or the White House. They discuss policy errors but again do not attribute them. The nearest they come to doing so is when they describe Bremer’s decrees on de-Baathification, disbanding the army, and the “federal” system for the government.


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