View Full Version : Walker's World: Iraq, Dec. 7 and WWII

12-07-05, 10:06 AM
Walker's World: Iraq, Dec. 7 and WWII
UPI Editor

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- On this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is worth noting that in the 30 months between Dec. 7, 1941, and D-Day, the United States raised an army of 10 million men that was fit to take on Hitler's Wehrmacht, while also defeating Japan with the U.S. Navy and Marines.

More than 30 months have now passed since the fall of Baghdad, and the United States has not been able to train and build an Iraqi army that is fit to deploy alone. The contrast is more than telling; it reveals the fundamental problem of the Bush administration with the misadventure in Iraq.

In those 30 months of World War II between Pearl Harbor and the Normandy beaches, the government and people of the United States were in absolute and implacable agreement that they were in a war, in a fight to the finish that required the mobilization of all national resources.

Having lost 3,000 of its people to another sneak attack in September 2001, the Bush administration has used the rhetoric of war, but never really meant it. President Bush himself has shrunk from the reality of his own speeches. He has declared a global war on terrorism, pursued yet more tax cuts, and then gone on holiday. The Washington Post reported that as of August 2003, Bush had spent all or part of 166 days of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Add in the travel time and the days spent at Camp David and at the family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, and Bush had taken 27 percent of his presidency -- 250 days -- on vacation.

But he had time to connive at the crushing of those who dared to suggest that the Emperor had no clothes. Gen. Eric Shinseki, U.S. Army chief of staff, was derided and marginalized when he dared to state the obvious to the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops.

"Wildly off the mark" blustered then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, as he testified before the House Budget committee in February, 2003 -- and also pooh-poohed estimates that the war and occupation could cost over $100 billion. (Currently costs are over $300 billion and counting.)

"Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion," Wolfowitz said then. He went on to say that Iraqis would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation. At least he was right about that.

And now, 32 months after the fall of Baghdad, the Bush administration finally seems to have got its priorities right. The new White House strategy document, "Victory in Iraq," stresses the need to build and train the Iraqi army and police so they can do the job themselves.

"The security track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government. It seeks to clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-havens, and to hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence," the White House document says. "The key to this will be the success in building Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society."

The Bush administration has, of course, been saying this sort of thing for some time. In February 2004, 22 months ago, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed, "There are over 210,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces. That's an amazing accomplishment."

Indeed it would have been amazing, if true in any meaningful way. Those 210,000 Iraqis were those on the ration strength, unarmed, untrained and deserting as fast as they signed up for a meal and a salary. Seven months later, in September 2004, Rumsfeld said that "95,000 trained Iraqi troops were taking part in security operations."

That depends on what is meant by the word "trained." On Sept. 29 this year, just 9 weeks ago, Gen. George Casey testified before Congress that the number of Iraqi battalions rated at the highest level of readiness, capable of independent operations without U.S. support, had dropped from three to one. One battalion is approximately 700 men.

To be fair to Casey, he went on to say "three dozen army and special police battalions rated at Level 2 or above," meaning they are able to take the lead in combat as long as they have support from coalition forces. Three dozen battalions total roughly 25,200 troops. That is good as far as it goes, but after 32 months of occupation and supposed support and training of Iraqi forces, it is pitiful. The insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is probably raising and training his troops faster than that.

"To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks," Rumsfeld argued this week, and he has a point.

There is good news, and promising trends. The numbers of Iraqis who have twice taken the opportunity to vote in the past year are heartening. The evidence of the emergence of an Iraqi political discourse, with Kurd and Shiite and Sunni leaders all taking part in last month's Cairo conference, organized by the Arab League and including some who are coyly described as "close to the insurgency" is also significant and hopeful.

The Cairo conference made a real breakthrough when it concluded with the joint demand for "the withdrawal of foreign forces in accordance with a timetable." There could be no better sign of a real coalition "Mission Accomplished" than the emergence of an elected and legitimate Iraqi government sufficiently stable, secure and self-confident to thank the coalition forces for a job well done, and to then ask the foreign troops to leave.

Indeed, the Cairo conference looked forward to precisely such an event, while stressing their common support for "the establishment of an immediate national program for rebuilding the armed forces through drills, preparation and being armed, on a sound basis that will allow it to guard Iraq's borders and to get control of the security situation."

According to the London-based al-Hayat, perhaps the most respected single newspaper in the Arab press, leaders of three of the main Sunni resistance groups -- the Islamic Army, the Bloc of Holy Warriors, and the Revolution of 1920 Brigades -- privately assured American and Arab officials at the Cairo conference that they were prepared to hunt down their supposed ally, al-Qaida's terrorist mastermind in Iraq al-Zarqawi, and put him into the custody of the Iraqi government, as part of a negotiated settlement that would have to include a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops.

That al-Hayat report has not been denied, and European diplomatic sources have told United Press International they believe it to be true. If it is true, then we may be closer to the endgame in Iraq than it might seem from the grim daily litany of terror victims and ambushes, and from the painfully slow training schedule of the Iraqi security forces. For along with almost 2,500 dead coalition troops, and at least 10 times that number of dead Iraqis, the tragedy of this occupation has been the long and self-deluding waste of time by the Bush administration.

On that World War II timetable with which this article began, and which comes so immediately to mind on this Dec. 7 anniversary day of Pearl Harbor, the American, British and Canadian allies had not just landed in Normandy; after the 32 months that the Bush administration has now spent in Iraq, they had liberated Paris and were racing for the Rhine.