Former Officers Call for An Immediate Withdrawal From Iraq

Remember playing with silly putty as a child?  In May, I wrote a diary on Daily Kos stating Bush's surge should be called the silly putty strategy and was doomed to fail.  

You squeeze the insurgents in one area but they are not defeated.  Instead, they redeploy and attack in another area where U.S. forces are spread thin.  

Today in a biting essay in the Washington Post a group of former Army captains call for the immediate withdrawal of our forces  from Iraq.  They note: "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."

In August, the New York Times published an essay by seven troops with the 82nd Airborne work entitled "The War as We Saw It,."

The essay was called one of the "most compelling analysis of the Iraq war." Two authors, Sgt. Omar Mora and Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, died a month later in a vehicle accident in Iraq.

The soldiers wrote:


Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the "battle space" remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers' expense.

They added:

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.

Today, the Washington Post published an essay by 12 former Army captains entitled "The Real Iraq We Knew" which parallels the essay written in August by the soldiers in teh 82nd Airborne.  They start by noting,

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.

The officers continue:


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.

They conclude with a call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq:


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.

Seeking to safeguard Baghdad 's population from sectarian conflict should never have been confused with creating a stable and secure Iraq.  A county the size of California, Baghdad is Iraq's largest city with 7 million residents. Yet, Iraq has 15 other major cities, hundreds of smaller cities and towns and thousands of villages with another 20 million people.  

We have never allocated - nor was the ever the plan to allocate - sufficient forces to quell massive internal unrest in Iraq.  Rumsfeld himself at one time recognized the futility of a "clear, hold and build" strategy, of which the surge was a modified version of. Rumsfeld stated at a press conference on November 29, 2005:


Q General Pace, there have been some critics who have said that you don't have enough troops to do this clear, hold and build strategy, especially along the border between Iraq and Syria. Do you --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Could I just -- stop right there. Please, let me just -- stop right there. Anyone who takes those three words and thinks it means the United States should clear and the United States should hold and the United States should build doesn't understand the situation. It is the Iraqis' country. They've got 28 million people there. They are clearing, they are holding, they are building. They're going to be the ones doing the reconstruction in that country --

Q Mr. Secretary, Senator --

SEC. RUMSFELD: -- and we do not have -- with 160,000 troops there -- the idea that we could do that is so far from reality. Nor was there any intention that we should do that.

The fatal flaw in Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration's plan for invading Iraq was assuming the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms, a new, stable government could be formed and we could withdraw the bulk of our forces in short order.  

Where do we go from here?  What will Congress do in the next 15 months of Bush's presidency?  There appears to be a resignation to allow Bush to continue to wage the war.  

The war is a disaster.  The candidate I'm supporting for President, Bill Richardson, has argued persuasively that we need to exit Iraq now.

For those that think Richardson is pandering to the anti-war, Democratic voters, I ask: have you bought into the right wing frame on the war as well?  Do you think continuing our intervention in Iraq will achieve any good?  

Richardson is not the only person with tremendous foreign policy experience counseling a complete and prompt withdrawal from Iraq.  In July, Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national security adviser, and Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow on Middle East Studies at the Brookings Institute, wrote:

A clear US commitment to a complete, irreversible withdrawal from Iraq may now be the only way to develop a regional concert of powers that could work with Iraqis to try to stabilise the country and cauterise the conflict.

The continuing US and British occupation is a roadblock to that co-operation. The galvanising impact of a decision to depart unequivocally can be the last best chance at preventing the conflict from boiling over beyond Iraq to the whole region. How we design and implement our departure is our last significant remaining leverage.

What I find sad is that the leading Democrat candidates for President along with Joe Biden steadfastly refuse to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and are highly critical of Richardson's approach.  They end up echoing arguments put forth by the Bush Administration against a complete and prompt withdrawal from Iraq.  In the last debate, Clinton, Edwards and Obama refused to commit themselves to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq by 2013.  

"If you haven't seen enough to know that we need to get all the troops out then you aren't watching the same war that I and the rest of America are seeing" was Richardson's response in a recent speech.

Here is the link to video of the speech:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur_JRPBDX rY&eurl=

Tags: 2008 elections, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, Iraq War, joe biden, John Edwards, president, Primaries, surge (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

Re: Former Officers Call for An Immediate Withdraw

Edwards has stated several times that he would immediately withdrawal 40 to 50 thousand troops when inaugurated and begin a draw down of other troops over the course of 6 months to one year. Yes, it is not an immediate complete withdrawal from Iraq but it is a substantial one.

I agree with you that Richardson is the most forceful on a complete Iraq withdrawal and I support his efforts to make it happen.

We need to end this war and bring our troops home. Not reshuffle them in preparation for the next war.

by Hillary Lieberman 2007-10-16 06:41AM | 0 recs

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