The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Real Iraq We Knew

The Real Iraq We Knew

By 12 former Army captains
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 12:00 AM

Today marks five years since the authorization
of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion.
Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it
was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the
corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to
be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a
modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and
hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to
drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is
averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the
Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted
upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained
administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local
level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic
sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No
effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the
population and its needs.

The inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption. Transparency International
ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And,
indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of U.S. tax dollars by
Iraqi officials and military officers. Sabotage and graft have had a
particularly deleterious impact on Iraq's oil industry, which still
fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay
for Iraq's reconstruction. Yet holding people accountable has proved
difficult. The first commissioner of a panel charged with preventing
and investigating corruption resigned last month, citing pressure from
the government and threats on his life.

Against this backdrop,
the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together.
Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and
marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent
control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions.
Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An
Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint
presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on
the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals
to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly
recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet --
moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels
and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

U.S. forces,
responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are
vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is
further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and
advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of
the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be
able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and
police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their
346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at
will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again,
corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving
generals and support the very elements that will battle each other
after we're gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality
we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of
command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian
leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our
generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis
prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their
families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able
to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and
duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for
compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq
immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it
will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

This column was written by 12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalvรกn served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.

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