Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Hate The War

Jeff Schogol (Stars and Stripes) covers Gen Ray Odierno's decision to kill the order Gen Tony Cucolo put in place criminalizing pregnancy. There was a planned topic for tonight but e-mails seem to indicate we need to go another direction.

E-mails to the public account include a number from people agitated by my comments for Odierno in today's snapshot. No community members wrote about that and that's probably because we've covered this topic enough here and elsewhere. But for the record, I have no problem giving Odierno praise he earned. It was smart to kill the order Cucolo put in place for any number of reasons. I really don't care what his reasons were, I'm glad it's killed. I was told he began looking into it on Monday and concerns included the bad image that could impact recruitment. There were other issues as well but if it was just that, fine. But he initiated the examination and initiated conversations on the issue with others to get feedback. (That's what I was told.) He killed the order. I gave him praise and I think he earned it.

Some are e-mailing that he did this or he did that, unrelated to what I offered praise for. He may or may not have done this or that, that's not really my concern (especially with regards to things that have nothing to do with Iraq).

I don't have an unfavorable opinion of Odierno. I never cared for Gen David Petreaus, the former top US commander in Iraq. That was based on feedback from those who worked under him (immediately under him). I had no opinion on Odierno at all and little interest in him until he announced he would go by "Ray" and not "Raymond."

That was when he was promoted to top US commander in Iraq. And that was an uncharacteristic move. When someone gets a promotion, it's usually accompanied with more formality, not less. So that's when I started asking people, because it caught my interest, what he was like?

His goals and targets are completely different from mine but I have no problem or beef with him as a person. I did not and do not feel Petraeus was honest. I've observed Odierno testifying before Congress at least two times, maybe more than that, and I know his tic when he's lying or less than truthful. He's more likely to steer the conversation and change it where as Petraeus was never afraid to march boldly into a lie.

Is he a perfect person? Not from the reports I've had. But he's someone who does care about the troops -- that might be due to the fact that the promotion may still not have sunk in. Or it may be due to the fact that the promotion is something he takes very seriously -- the role, the obligation and the duty.

Odierno did the right thing. If he'd been Donald Rumsfeld, I would've still said, "He did the right thing." I probably wouldn't have credited beyond that if he was Donald Rumsfeld but I would have given anyone credit for killing that order.

Again, as told to me throughout the week, he became curious about the order -- openly curious -- on Monday and began a series of talks about the order.

I want the Iraq War to end right now. That puts me in direct conflict with Odierno.

My comments were not, "Oh, yea for Ray! And since Ray did good, let's just drop all of our objections and march blindly behind him!" Anyone grasping that has never paid very close attention because I do not believe -- and have repeatedly noted that -- that civilians follow the military. The US military is under civilian control.

Odierno wants the Iraq War to continue. I don't think I'm speaking out of school on that. He thinks a longer US presence can improve Iraq's chances for a stable government. (As opposed to the teeter-totter one currently that many believe falls apart the second the US pulls out.) I disagree. I believe Elaine made the comparison to a white rug (based on a real story that happened at one of her parties) where someone spilled red wine on it and they kept saying they'd fix it (during the party). They couldn't fix it. They just needed to leave it alone, they needed to leave, in fact. And that's how I feel regarding the US involvement in Iraq. If that's still unclear to you, you can drop back to December 2004's "Should This Marriage Be Saved?" in which I make the case that the US can only help Iraq by leaving.

My position has not changed.

I'm not surprised by Odierno's position. I don't think he's 'stupid' because he has that position, I don't curse him because he has that position.

His role is very different.

In fact, he (and Petraeus before him) is responding due to his role and due to the fact that (civilian) leadership failed. Odierno had no clear instructions. The military is not to build a society. They're not trained for that. You send the military in to fight. That's what the military's for. That's a mission. You tell them, "Go take this hill and . . ." whatever. That's a mission. Odierno becomes top commander in Iraq when there is no mission. When civilian leadership (the Bush White House and the Congress) has failed. They've never defined a mission (not even with the 'benchmarks' that were supposed to measure success). In that climate, Odierno had to create a mission. (As did Petraeus.) I'm not saying or suggesting or implying that Odierno disregarded orders (or that Petraeus did). I am saying that the military was still in Iraq with no real mission. ("Clear and hold" the same rotating areas repeatedly is not a mission. It is a sign that your strategy from the top -- civilian area -- has failed. It is an admission that there is no 'win' and that the civilian side needs to be negotiating a withdrawal.) With no mission, or no clear mission, Odierno had to piece togther several orders (many conflicting) and come up with a cohesive mission. (Petraeus had to do the same.)

That's what he's operating under. That's not his failure, that's the failure of civilian leadership. That failure continues under the Obama administration and the current Congress. There is no mission and no one wants to admit it. The thinking seems to be that if the US troops stay and stay people will be confused when the withdrawal (that will happen) finally does.

The Iraq War is a failure. I would argue that an illegal war is never going to allow good to come from it. Some people would agree with that and some people wouldn't. Possibly more would agree with the fact that the US military was never given a clear mission with goals that were realistic for the military. They weren't just supposed to be a peace keeping force (which really isn't what a military is), they were also supposed to build a society. They can't do that. That's not what they're trained to do. And you don't blame them for that, you blame the idiots in civilian leadership that set them with a task they could never accomplish. Petraeus could have been a diplomatic genius and he could have given non-stop seminars to every service member in Iraq, it wouldn't have mattered.

Odierno is wrong that the Iraq War needs to continue. I understand why he thinks that it does. I don't think he's 'evil' or 'mean' because he thinks that way. I offer no such statements about the previous occupant of the White House or the current one. They are both huge failures and huge liars and they are both men who refused to exercise the civilian oversight they were supposed to. In Bush's case, he wanted that illegal war and he grew bored with it before it even started (just like he quickly dropped his promise to give up sweets until the Iraq War was over). He started the war and he wants to do that, its his obligation to have a clear mission before the military goes over there. Instead, he let top generals make suggestions (as anyone in that role would have) and couldn't then form a mission so he just sort of cobbled every suggestion made together and went with a fantasy (promoted by his underlings on the civilian side) that the military could accomplish things they aren't trained in and that are at complete odds with their natural role.

As for Barack? Throughout 2007 and 2008 a little trick was done by Barry O's 'independent' media supporters. If a guest liked Hillary, they would immediately jump on the guest with, "How can you, she voted for the war?"

Barack was for the war. He's John Kerry's infamous statement about being for it and being against it. He gave a lame speech before the start of the war and then he got on board. How soon? I have no idea. I just know that when he was officially running for US Senator, Elaine and I (like the 2008 voters) were thrilled and thought, "Here's an antiwar candidate." We'd heard the hype (this was long, long before the 2004 DNC convention). And heard his praises from various political types. So we show up at the big money fundraiser and get our face time and ask him about how he'll work to bring about the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

And what does he tell us? That the US is in Iraq now. That he's not supporting a withdrawal. This is the antiwar candidate. We wrote no checks, we immediately left.

Unlike the 2008 Cult of St. Barack, we were able to process.

So Barack was for the war after it started and that's why he had the voting record he had.

But as we pointed out here over and over once he declared he would run for president, the question to ask was about his voting record because if you knew before the war started that the war was wrong, then it was wrong of you to vote for it. It's like if you know putting your hand on the stove burner will hurt, it's really stupid of you to do that on purpose.

Barack was never asked about his record in a serious manner. He was allowed to lie that he would end the Iraq War. Even after his chief foreign advisor, Samantha Power, told the BBC that his promise was meaningless, people still let him get away with that lie.

He promised voters one brigade a month would be withdrawn. He promised that would take place immediately. He gets sworn in and suddenly he needs all this input. (Which, let's remember, Samantha Power had said in March 2008 would happen.) So in February, he's declaring that he's not going to do what he promised.

What's he going to do? He says he's going along with Bush's SOFA. He 'ended' the Iraq War by following Bush? And got a Nobel Peace Prize for it?

The same SOFA he declared, as a candidate for president, was unconstitutional?

The SOFA's a contract. Contracts can be broken, they can be extended, they can be replaced with new contracts. The Bush administration knew that.

Barack made one promise on the Iraq War and broke it. Now people want to pin their hopes on his following a contract and not extending it.

They want to act like it's okay that he campaigned for the presidency promising to end the Iraq War and it's okay that what he's really leading people to believe now is that by 2011 or 2012, most US troops will be out of Iraq.

Have we all forgotten all those bad speeches. How about that awful "We want" speech? "We want to end the Iraq War! Now!" (There were other "wants" he announced.)

The Iraq War hasn't ended and there's no proof that the SOFA will end it. But let's pretend for a moment that it does. That's not what he's voted into office on. He wasn't told, "Take four years to end the war." He was voted into office on the basis of his "NOW!" speech.

Some idiots try to say, "Oh, the military forced him into this!" I can hear Gareth Porter disgracing himself again with similar statements.

Poor Barry O. He was forced into dropping universal health care, the public option and everything else. And he was forced by the military to continue the Iraq War. And he was forced by . . .

If he's really that weak willed, Congress should impeach right now because the American people can not afford such a namby pamby person in the White House.

But he's not weak willed. Barack's a very calculating and driven person. He knows what he's doing. He's always known what he's doing. He is responsible for his actions and his decisions. And that responsibility includes exercising civilian control over the military. What Odierno tells him or anyone else? It doesn't matter. He's supposed to be in charge, he's supposed to give the mission. He grasped that during debates . . . when Hillary was forced to answer first and he could parrot her answer when it was his turn, he grasped that the president set the task, set the mission for the military.

So he's just as bad as Bush. Odierno is someone I disagree with but I don't think he's failed at his role or betrayed it. I don't give Barack or Bush the same slack. They were the ones who were supposed to provide oversight, control and set the mission. They have both failed. That's reality.

I praised Odierno today. I'd do it again. And I may. I wouldn't be at all surprised if another reason pops up before this site goes dark. That doesn't mean I agree with him on the war. I don't. I never will. Our roles are at odds and always will be. (And for the record, I praised someone twice here this week, someone I loathe and have not spoken to since 2003 and will never speak to again and closed the door on back in 2003. My praise isn't conditioned on who I like or don't like. If someone's actions earn praise, I'll give it.)

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4371. Tonight? Still 4371.

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