Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Officer Corps Stands Up! ... (Part 20 of a continuing series)

Look it up. I was the very first to make a public stink about what appears to be the greatest (known) crime of the Bush Administration -- it's relentless campaign to bully, intimidate, suborn and break the one force in American life that stands between we citizens and a very cold wind...

...the skilled professionals of the Civil Service, law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community and - above all - the United States Officer Corps.

(In fact, find anyone who made earlier use of that term, in this context. I'll wait here.)

In tandem, I also remain appalled by the Democrats' inability to recognize a simple fact. That the issue at hand is not the War in Iraq.

That war has merely been the means to an end.

The real issue is the destruction of our nation's resilience, our readiness, our ability to rely upon our professionals to protect us and our citizens' ability to rely upon themselves.

See: The Under-reported Purge of the U.S. Officer Corps. 

Take, for example, the fact that it has been many years since more than two or three of the US Army's active combat brigades has been able to train for war. For actual war. Even the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin California, has switched from force-combat preparation and large unit maneuver warfare entirely to small unit counter-insurgency operations training.

One result? Despite some technological advances - and sincere, desperate efforts by our officers and noncoms to prevent a slide - Bill Clinton's US Army could beat our present Army with one hand tied behind its back.

Tell THAT to imbeciles who think that flag-waving is patriotism and that "support our troops" means to abandon them in hell.

Tell it to the Democrats, who are too dumb-blind to see genuine patriotism as an issue... as THE issue... right in front of them. One that has nothing to do with "left" or "right". Only love of country and decency and sanity. And the safety of our children.

But enough of my blather-ranting, let's hear from somebody who actually knows what he is talking about. A high ranking member of several of those professional services I mentioned earlier.

----

This month, Gen. William Odom (former director of the NSA) wrote a on “supporting our troops”. Here are some excerpts:

'Supporting the troops' means withdrawing them

COMMENTARY | July 05, 2007 By William E. Odom

Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it – with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems.


… [Bush’s] recent "surge" tactic has compelled the secretary of defense to extend Army tours to 15 months! (The Marines have been allowed to retain their six-month deployment policy and, not surprisingly, have fewer cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome.) …

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. …

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.
To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war.




Cogent and passionately on-target. And yet, again, I must reiterate that the issue is not so much Iraq as the dire condition of ALL of our professional services... and the state of our reserves. Take the following:

Senator Webb (D-VA)(who served as Secretary of the Navy under Reagan) has been leading an effort in Congress to limit the duration of deployments of US troops in Iraq. Webb proposed an to the Defense authorization bill (co-sponsored by Chuck Hagel (R-NE)) that would require that active-duty troops and units deployed to Iraq have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas. It also includes a “sense of the Congress” that units and members of Reserve components should not be mobilized continuously for more than one year.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the Webb amendment.


Russ Daggatt adds this. For the first time, a poll has found that more people (70%) now consider the Iraq War a mistake than ever thought the same of the Vietnam War during that war. According to Gallup, the number who viewed Vietnam as a mistake peaked at 61% in May of 1971 (the percentage of those who thought Vietnam a mistake climbed even higher after the war ended).

But again, all focus is on Iraq. That isn’t the issue! There are dozens of plans that could have us stay there, providing certain types of non-urban security, that would help legitimate groups there fight their own monsters, while dropping our costs and casualties almost to nil.

The issue is the neocon War Against Professionalism...

...and its accompanying War Against The Citizen Amateur.

Talk about semantic irony.

21 comments:

Beach Bum said...

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces.

I might be wrong but I have to add that it was not only the political parties that let the troops down. When popular support for the Iraq war was running high with the belief that Saddam had something to do with that attack on 9/11 no rush to the enlistment office ever materialized by many of the patriotic healthy young men that would grab and shake my hand as I walked through a store in my army BDU's before I retired in 2005 after 21 years of service. Over the years I've heard many stories that after Pearl Harbor many almost ran to enlist to take action against those that attacked us in 1941. Instead as the buildup to enter Afghanistan after 9/11 and later Iraq progressed I talked to many people, with no visible disqualification to service, that openly worried that a draft might be enacted forcing them into them into the fighting. In short it was not only the Democrats and Republicans that failed to support the troops it was the American people who failed to give anything but lip service patriotism .

Hawker Hurricane said...

Beach...

As a 20 year navy vet who 'retired' in 2004, I saw the same thing. According to people I know who work in recruitment offices, there were bigger 'rushes to enlist' during Gulf War I than after 9/11. (One wag claimed there were bigger enlistment jumps after Top Gun and Hunt for Red October hit the theatres)

I've said before here: We aren't at war except for political campaigning. There has been no rush to serve, no shared sacrifice, and people think 'supporting the troops' means a magnet (not even a sticker!) on your car.

But I won't blame the American people for this. I'll blame the leadership who told us that the best thing we could do for our country after 9/11 was go shopping. We have a leadership that's afraid to ask for sacrifice, as if they KNOW that thier 'war' isn't worth sacrificing for and are afraid we'll find out.

Hawker Hurricane
SM1(SW) USN, (ret)

Anonymous said...

Beach Bum

SO what your saying is that the vast majority of potential enlistees did not see Iraq as a threat to America they had to put their lives on the line for - I'LL go for that.

Hows that "not supporting our troops" though?

Seems disengenious to equate it with Pearl.

and who wouldnt be worried about being drafted to fight a non essential war they didnt choose.

ON THE OTHER HAND if you sign up in a volentier army you stand up to fight (and risk dieing / wounding) for where and when the government wants to send you to fight - dont want to fight dont sign up - if you didnt think you signed up for this well next time read the small print.

PS i'm a brit we support our troops for their heroism and proffesionalism but the above pretty much covers our feelings towards them.

Tyler said...

Anonymous, how is a ribbon supporting our troops "for their heroism and professionalism"? Other than that, what have any of us done? I mean, certainly, knowing that the nation doesn't blame you for an illegal war must be comforting-- but not so much, because why would any blame reside on our troops? Sending goodwill to our men and women in uniform isn't a gift to them-- it is our duty to them. Anyone who does not at least give handshakes or the occasional round of beer is guilty of severe malfeasance.
I don't serve; while I am disqualified to service, it is with shame that I will admit that I don't know if I would have the courage or gumption to join the thin red line even if I were capable; I honestly rather doubt it, though I like to tell myself otherwise. That said, having spoken with veterans, I know of no other way to support a man in combat than to fight at his side.
I don't wear the yellow ribbon, because I'd feel like a hypocrite trying to brag of my 'support' so, so far from the front lines. But should any of you who've worn a uniform meet me in a bar, well, it's a pint on me, boys. It's the best I can do, and I'm deeply sorry for that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry cant use my name but same annon.

Never said anything about a ribbon (a red poppy though thats different).

I dont feel any need or obligation to fight at the side of a volentier army.

Us brits have a totaly different view of our troops than americans seem to do, they are proffesionals paid to do a job and do it well.

going in harms way is part of the job.

David Brin said...

Part of the trap that we find ourselves in is that the American tradition that got us all the way from 1775 to the end of WWII has been abandoned.

We always had a slim professional force whose job it was to buy time, knowing that, should a crisis come, millions back home would line up to serve and to avenge those on the thin blue line. But today:

- there is (rightfully) no sense of emergency. We have been urged to shop and to bicker (culture war) and to ignore the future and forsake traditions of accountability... all of these being childish, peacetime self-indulgences, meant to distract us from the practice of either war or empowered citizenship.

- the Cold War and (especially) Vietnam pushed a continued rift toward the establishment of a huge new professional military establishment. Appropriate, perhaps, given the incredible levels of technological and managerial and detailed procedural competence that it takes to be a modern military person.

Still, one effect is that very few in the military can now even imagine what to do with a sudden surge of volunteers. One general stared at me, aghast, when I asked what he'd do, in an emergency, with a million volunteers.

"A million? I wouldn't know what to do with ten thousand, if they came in a sudden lump."

But sudden lumps are what we may need, someday, suddenly. And the guys on UA 93 proved that the old spirit is still there. So if the American tradition fails us, next time that surprise rears up to hit us hard, whose fault will it be that we aren't ready to accept the willing surge of 21st century continentals?

The professional protector caste and the Officer Corps in particular are heroes... and the Bushites' worst victims. We desperately need them now, to stand up and fulfill their oaths to defend us from these enemies within. By speaking out.

But they are also letting us down, by emphasizing ONLY professionalism and ignoring traditions that were wise in our fathers' and grandfathers' day. Just as they are wise today.

Jonathan said...

And the situation gets worse - ABC News reported today that a number of Army soldiers who have experienced psychological traumas as a result of their lengthy deployments to Iraq, are being told that their conditions are due to some preexisting disorder that somehow escaped notice, and they are either being discharged without medical benefits, or sent right back into the same cauldron that screwed them up in the first place.

Don Quijote said...

Fox News - Army Misses Recruitment Goal for Second Straight Month

Army officials acknowledged Monday that the service missed its recruiting target for the second month in a row, but would not provide exact numbers. But two defense officials said the Army fell short of its 8,400 goal by about 15 percent — which is more than twice the June shortfall and would mean that roughly 7,000 recruits signed up.

But I won't blame the American people for this. I'll blame the leadership who told us that the best thing we could do for our country after 9/11 was go shopping.

I do. Who do you think selected that "leadership" not once but twice?

Hawker Hurricane said...

Dr. Brin,
One of my many Navy jobs was a stint at Recruit Training Command San Diego. How we would have dealt with a massive enlistment would be...

1. No Saturdays off.
2. Sundays become a half day.
3. Many training events get cancelled. Do the kids really need 4 physical fitness tests?
4. Many non-training events get cancelled. Drug screenings would go way down.
5. Training companies go from 60 men to 80+.
6. Training divisions go from 5 companies to 8.
This will cut basic training from 8 weeks to 6, and increase number of men trained per week by 40-50%.

Now, what to do with these men...
1. Divide a unit in half, making it two. Promote men already in to fill gaps. Add new men to bring both units up to full strength.

Now, the Navy has an advantage. It takes time to build the new ships these men would man, (or take the mothballed ships and reactivate them). So the flood of new men have time to train while the fleet grows. And train you must; the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle.

The general who said 'I wouldn't know what to do' should take a lesson from Napoleon: "Every day, the commander must ask himself what he would do if an enemy appeared on his flank, if his supply lines were cut, if an ally betray him. If he doesn't have an answer, he has made an error that he must correct." Mr. Unnamed General doesn't have to have this memorized, he just needs to know where he can find out quickly.

Don;
The American people are not my enemy. They made a error. I forgive them, just as I would forgive anyone else who I have to live with of thier errors. If half the American people are your enemies, I suggest you flee the country. A man with that many enemies will have diffuculty surviving.
H.H.

Don Quijote said...

Don;
The American people are not my enemy.

We live in a democracy and the citizens are responsible for the actions of their government. (you known that good "Personal Responsibility" crap conservatives and republicans are always talking about but rarely seem to live up to.)

They made a error. I forgive them, just as I would forgive anyone else who I have to live with of thier errors.

And when you make an error, you fix it. When I see the fixing, I'll consider forgiveness.

If half the American people are your enemies, I suggest you flee the country. A man with that many enemies will have diffuculty surviving.

At most it would be 25% of the electorate, since 50% of the electorate did not bother to vote and the other 25% voted for the Democrats.

Now, I don't consider your average rank & file republican to be my enemy, just a delusional fool; their leadership on the other hand are greedy evil warmonguers who are the enemy of mankind and all that is decent.

Beach Bum said...

Hawker, you hit the nail straight on the head of the point I was trying to make, especially about the leadership or lack there of. GO NAVY!
Anon,
Even though I don't think you completely caught the point of my ramble I do agree with you on your point. Yes, I and many others raised our right hands and volunteered and yes that means going into war zones at the risk of death and injury. But our volunteering for service was not a licence to throw away lives, equipment and money on an ill-planned and unnecessary war in Iraq, but that is a whole other subject. Where I think you lost me is on cultural grounds concerning the image and lifestyle many guys in this country like to portray, especially in the South where I am from. Right after 9/11 there was for a short time, at least in my area, a sense of emergency and that we were at war with a foe on the par with the Nazis. I'm unsure if you know the full concept the word "redneck" and the stereotype it describes but these bulwarks of macho did not live up to their hype. These types live and breath patriotism, guns, and a macho image that no one is going to mess with them, and at that time 9/11 for them was the modern Pearl calling for action. I work and live around a bunch of these guys and while they talked a good talk about rushing to the defense of the country to a man none gave more that lip service. That was early in the War on Terror, before Iraq. The situation now is more akin to what you wrote about ( "non essential war") and a different matter. The upper middle-class also wrapped themselves in the flag to a similar extent but in talking with them a disturbing number held some sort of belief that serving and fighting was for someone else.
Dr. Brin, I pray that what you said is right that the old sprit, shown in United 93, is still alive but at times I really wonder. Sorry for the extended length of this comment.

Enterik said...

Appeals to rationality are overrated in the battle to own PatriotismTM. There is no absolute definition guiding political interpretation. There is no doubt that reality-based rationalists and progressives present a spirited compelling and spirited case if we are to impugn conservative subornation of contested political concepts. As I commend General Odom for his courageous candor in the face of conservative doubleplusgood duckspeak, he is already being villified by fully-vested conservatives, as all inconveniently pessimistic ex-generals seem to have been of late. I say, "Good, more of that please"! Even with such compelling testimony it's going to take a while to sway the court of public opinion, conservatives have been stacking the jury for years.

Consider the following...

Conservatives: Patriots do not question the president or his war policies. To do so
undermines our nation and its troops. Revealing secret, even illegal, government
programs is treasonous. The Constitution should be amended to criminalize political
dissent in the form of flag desecration.

Progressives: The greatest testament to one’s love of country is when one works to
improve it. This includes principled dissent against policies one disagrees with and
against leaders who promote those policies. Times of war are no exception. Our first
loyalty is to the principles of our democracy that are embedded in our Constitution, not
to any political leader.
-Frames and Brains

...and then you begin to apprehend the problem getting the conservative defendant to participate in any sort of civil discovery process to establish the facts of the case.

Gilmoure said...

I just don't get the democrats. Yes, someone on that side needs to stand up and take the chance that they'll get mud thrown on them by the neo-cons. Seems most of them are more worried about protecting their 'political careers' than protecting America.

Damn them all!

I would truly vote and support a Senator or Representative that went out on a limb and pointed a finger at the emperor's new clothes. And it's not like everyone doesn't know what's really going on but everyone in congress seems to scared to really address the issue. Why?

Damn, this shit pisses me off. And for what it's worth, at 1PM on 9/11, I contacted my old reserve unit, the one I'd served with in Desert Storm, and offered to reenlist. They took down my info but didn't take me back. Having a baby and wife this time around made it a hell of a lot more difficult decision than when I was single and first joined up back in the early 80's.

Damn that bunch of service avoiding punks up in Washington, spending other peoples lives, without even acknowledging their sacrifices.

Brother Doug said...

A few days ago the wall street journal had an unseltling article that the front line officer core in Iraq is really angry about the Generals who they perceive as being slow to change and adapt to the new reality. It would not surprise me to hear of a troops mutiny with all the #@!$* they have to endure.

It’s a bad situation. I remember reading of a study done during WWII where 97% of troops with more than 60 days continuous combat had developed a “Psychological Injury” some mild some severe, nowdays we could probably call it PTSD, and the remaining 3% were unaffected but were diagnosed as “violent Psychopaths.” Those boys are going to need some serious therapy but I doubt they will get it.

Doug S. said...

Gilmore: Dennis Kucinich might be your man, I think.

Don Quijote said...

Dennis Kucinich might be your man, I think.

The only Democrat running for office.

Hell is likely to freeze over before he wins.
Kucinich: Impeaching Cheney first step to restoring the rule of law

Kucinich: National Conference on Weights & Measures Vote is Defeat for Consumers

Kucinich Iran stance outrages Ohio Jewish leaders

Rich said...

Gilmore,

I agree with you, with the caveat that such a person could not win. He or she could not survive the conglomerated corporate owned media who have absolutely no interest in promoting Truth or Facts and every interest in protecting the narrow self interests of their corporate masters. Interests they (wrongly)feel do not lay with those of the general population of the United States (if what I see and hear in the media is any evidence).

Until we re-regulate and decentralize monolithic control over our newspapers, radio, and television I'm afraid that "infotainment", self-interested spin, and hyperbole will rule the marketplace of information. One has to make a bit of an effort these days to find anything that resembles fact based discourse, and it is primarily on the internet that such places can be found. But even here the vast amount discourse is simply noise, name-calling, and more misinformation. When considering these factors it is hardly a wonder that so many Americans still believe Iraq attacked us on 11 September 2007, or for example that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, that a haircut tells us what kind of man and leader someone is, or that bothering with such silly things as facts, laws, and the nuance of reality is weak and irrelevant.

So long as our "political discourse" in the media is driven by such forces men and women who deviate too far from the center (no matter how correct they may actually be) will simply be ridiculed off the stage. Because in the new media there is no such thing as critical analysis of information. Not really even information of any kind, only ratings.

Rich said...

I made the rather obvious mistake of typing "11 September 2007" above when 2001 is, clearly, what I intended. Oops.

Don Quijote said...

Why Washington Post - Bush Will Be A Winner

I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one.

Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration. Let's look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.


Read the rest, enjoy yourselves but be sure not to hurt yourselves when you fall on the floor laughing your asses off.

That such crap can be written in a major Newspaper truly demonstrates the fact that we live in a propaganda state.

Gilmoure said...

Sorry, folks, for losing it a few days ago. I know the nature of the beast and that it has to be fought on the ground, in local elections. Gerrymandering has to be dealt with before anything will really change. The entrenched and interwoven interests of business, politicians and the media have things sewn up pretty damn tight. Need to get sawing on that Gordian knot there.

Markbnj said...

Augh. To recap, I am totally against the war, and was against the war before we went into IRAQ.

BUT I predicted that we needed 500,000 Troops to successfully control Iraq (and that was the wording I remember using too!)

Sigh.

I also predicted that Bush's BLATENT lie that he wasn't supporting a Draft will be laughed at when all our 15 year olds are eventually told that when THEY turn 18 they will be spending 3 years, either in the army, or some US-based alternative for the "Squeemish".

sigh.

ANd I think we REALLY do NEED to IMPEACH CHENEY TODAY.

And then have Pelosi impose conditional pardons (conditional on telling TRUTH...)