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This is What Democracy Looks Like
Today's Note From a Madman
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
President Bush, still looking to fulfill his Vietnam-era military requirements, is visiting yet another isolated military installation today. The president is going to brave the harsh elements and the long plane ride to visit our troops at the Hickam Air Force Base in... are you ready?... Hawaii!
Someone ought to tell President Bush that if he was late for the Vietnam war, he is really late for Pearl Harbor.
But the president is making sacrifices. He and wife Laura, who still has never quite explained how her ex-boyfriend died at her hands in a car that she was driving, had to have two... count 'em... two dinners: One with the Indonesian President Yudhoyono and one with Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Pacific Command. This would make Bush's contribution to the US military two dinners in a row and the loss of nearly 3,000 American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There can be no doubt that President Bush is making his round-the-world "Where's-Waldo (Busho)?" tour to take the sting out of his... and I do mean HIS... electoral defeat just two weeks ago. Of course, being that this trip was planned well before the election, one could only assume that it was organized as Bush's "I can screw up anything and still get my lackeys elected" victory tour. It ended up being a "Boy did I screw up, and I better get myself out of Dodge" consolation prize.
President Bush has been making speech upon speech attempting to quell the critics... a group with new members each and every day... about his Iraq "plans". Now it appears that the "new plan" is to train the Iraqi military. To paraphrase, "The Who", "Meet the new plan. Same as the old plan."
Even the new Baker-Hamilton advisory commission on Iraq has been just about rendered impotent. They have gone from a 9/11-type commission, who were going to make real recommendations to a simple advisory panel, just talking it up with the Bushies.
"Telephone call for Howard Baker... It's Bush 41."
When asked to explain his new Iraq strategy, the President had an interesting statement:
"I haven't made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won't until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military, so there's no need to comment on something that may not happen."
Like I always say... When there's no one to blame. might as well blame yourself. That statement is like the President saying, "I don't know, but don't blame me. The president makes those decisions."
President Bush, if her were serious about governing for all of the American people, would come to realize his many, many mistakes. He would meet with the new Democratic majority in both the Senate and House and, at least, attempt to make real laws designed in the spirit of compromise, instead of already calling the Democrats "obstructionists". Unfortunately, we can already see the handwriting on the wall, and it's in crayon. (Please send me a note if you can figure out the above double-entendre.)
How Dumb, Dumb is, and the Hubris of "Mission Accomplished"!
"If I had to do it again, I know I'd do it completely different. I went there with the wrong attitude and I thought I understood Iraq and the history because I had seen PowerPoint slides, but I really didn't."
-Maj. Mike Sullivan, advisor to an Iraqi army battalion in 2004
The Bush administration has no idea what is going on in Iraq, so it should come as no surprise that they have no idea how to train the Iraqi military to be both national army and a police force, charged with keeping the "Peace" in this nation of some 28 million who can't seem to "just get along". Major Sullivan describes his training in dealing with the Iraqi military as a trainer himself, as insufficient, at best. At most it was plain stupid (as if we would expect anything less from a Rumsfeld Pentagon).
"As an adviser, I got the impression that there was an 'us' and 'them'. In other words, there was an American camp and then, outside, there was a bermed area for the Iraqis, of which we were part."
-Maj. Pete Fedak, an advisor describing the view taken by the "regular army" and the "other army" who were assigned to train the Iraqis
"Guys would come under fire so they could get computer supplies, paper and things like that. It was a surreal experience."
Our training officers, in some cases, actually knew less than the Iraqi officers they were training, many of whom had seen battle, unlike their American counterparts. Poor preparations, a lack of training materials and basic necessities, among other problems have been cited by the Army's own, internal documents.
"Remember, though, that 'Mum's' the word. If you find out how dumb we really are, and tell anyone how dumb we really are, even in hopes that pointing out our "dumbness" will make us change our dumb course, you're helping the enemy."
-Rumsfeld's thoughts, as I hear them
Wow... Is that dumb or what?
Among some of the complaints made in interviews by US officers were that team members - trainers - were selected poorly and that many trainers had no combat experience. Some complained that they weren't properly supported by the whole Bush-Cheney-Rummy gang and that shipments of supplies were erratic, at best. But the most serious charge, in my view, were the lack of interpreters. and those they had hardly spoke any English at all. Just how do you expect to train new personnel without being able to understand them, let alone the fact that both alphabets are completely different as well?
"They couldn't speak English and we would have to fire them."
-Lt. Col. Paul Ciesinski
And, as Bush has always done, minimizing those who were once proud to feel inadequate was used as either a strategy of just another screw up. Junior US officers, those without the experience necessary to train, were attempting to teach experienced Iraqi officers who were actually senior in rank to their US trainers.
"Okay, boys and girls. This is a gun. Can any of you say 'gun'?"
And if this isn't enough, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are reviewing new "plans" for Iraq, as they pertain to troop training and withdrawal. The "plan" being touted is titled "Go Long", appropriately suggesting the amount of time that training, and our presence, will be felt in Iraq. The plan calls for an injection of many more American troops which, hopefully, over time would allow more and more Iraqi troops the training to finally allow them to take over their own nation. The time estimate on "Go Long" is in the range of five to ten years.
"You're supposed to be able to shoot, move and communicate. Well, when we got to Iraq we could hardly shoot, we could hardly move and we could hardly communicate, because we hadn't been trained on how to do these things. They packed 30 days' training into 84 days."
-Ciesinski, describing the training as outdated and lackadaisical
It would be a whole lot different if GW really cared more about people than profits; more about our troops than their rich, "base" of "haves and have mores", which include Bush and Cheney's war profiteering buddies.
Even the trainers' supervisors were poorly trained and overworked. According to Maj. Jeffrey Allen, his team and its leader were "week... in particular the brigade team chief." And when they were promised 10 officers from the National Guard, it was noted that::
A) The supervisors didn't have the necessary combat experience and
B) When promised ten trainers and supervisors for themselves, they would only get five.
It was also noted by "a separate internal review this year by the military's Center for Army Lessons Learned" that, there were "no standardized guideline" on how US army trainers on how to train the Iraqis.
And if all of this weren't bad enough, according to Maj. Jeffrey Allen, in some cases, we were actually training insurgents!
"We had insurgents that we detected and arrested in the battalion that were planning an operation against me and my team,"
Shouldn't there be a waiting period as to when those we train try to kill us? You know, like Osama bin-Laden waiting a few years before his US trained al-Qaeda finally attacked us, for example.
And the new Iraqi Army personnel, and especially their leaders, have a different problem: They fear that, because of their new jobs, that their lives, and those of their families are at stake. They fear reprisals from even those they are trying to protect.
"I went through seven battalion commanders in eight weeks,"
As I've stated here before, we need a real way to train the Iraqi troops, and keeping them, and their families in harm's way is not the answer. Creating an atmosphere where they can train and be safe is a necessity. How well would you be able to do your job if you knew your family might be killed because of it?
Let's face it, we don't need a No Child Left Behind act... We need a NO SOLDIER LEFT BEHIND act. Both ours and the Iraqis.
More on Undervotes(?)
When I was driving home this evening, I heard an NPR story that Mr. Buchanan had been certified the winner in the FL. 12th CD and that some 18,000 voters had not cast ballots for the Congressional election. After having spent the weekend poring over returns from about 250 of the 435 cds, I thought at first that this was within the realm of the possible.
However as Mr. Weinberg points out: " the only Democratic county in that congressional district have six times more blank ballots cast for a US congressional seat than the other four counties in the district."
Mr. Weinberg goes on to describe and advocate real and substantive legal changes in our vote recording system to assure its integrity.
I would like to go him one further. It is vital to have trained citizen observers in all polling places to assure that the legal requirements of voter id and recording are fairly enforced. It is also vital to have citizen observers on hand who know the people in the district and who can reliably attest that recorded vote counts seem reasonable.
It may seem to many that I am advocating a system that brings up shades of ward healers and ballot box stuffing. Nevertheless, I think that it is critical that each party, non-partisan groups such as the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and others, as well as media and academic institutions have observers at polling places to assure that voting is conducted in a fair and equitable fashion.
Therefore, I think that it behooves us to strongly consider and to urge others to consider going to meet their neighbors and learn about their political beliefs and to consider taking off on election day and actually going out to see what is happening in our polling places.
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