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So Much for the Pre-Election Troop Withdrawal?

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Only George Bush could take a country run by a violent dictator, where the people were oppressed and murdered and terrorized by secret police and tortured for disagreeing with the government…and turn it into an even less stable country where people are murdered and tortured and kidnapped and killed in cold blood and worse, inflaming sectarian and tribal rivalries and raising the bar on the fight to control Iraq’s valuable oil reserves, as armed militias for each faction fight amongst themselves and US troops for control. 

It’s the Katrina piss poor response writ large in the Middle East, and we are spiraling toward a civil war of our own making in Iraq with no end in sight for our troops if we keep going the way things are. 

All because this President chose to fight a preemptive war of his own making, based on ginned up false reasons that were sold to the public with the threat of a looming mushroom cloud hanging in the air — a threat that the President either knew or should have known was altogether false, had he bothered to listen to someone outside his circle of crony yes men.  (Froomkin had a fantastic piece on the failed pre-emptive strategy back in March that is worth another read.)

The NYTimes reports this morning that Gen. Casey has decided to take troops currently staged in Kuwait and move them into Iraq’s Anbar province in the west, due to increasing hostility in the area.   You know, because the Iraqi government is so stable and the Iraqi troops are standing up so much so that we can stand down and…oh, hell….

One senior American commander said recently that military officials still remain hopeful that they can reduce the troop presence in Iraq by 25 percent by the end of the year, but he admitted that there was no timetable and much of that hope rests on the performance of the fledgling Iraqi government in coming months.

How much the decision to deploy the entire reserve brigade from Kuwait will increase the total number of American troops in Iraq and for how long was unclear. Nor is it clear how the additional troops will be employed as commanders seek to quell the violence in Anbar in coming months.

One official said the additional troops would be deployed to "fill in the gaps" that now exist and that will get worse when the Pennsylvania Guard unit pulls out.

The top commander in the province, Gen. Richard Zilmer of the Marines, said in an interview last month that a large-scale assault on insurgents in Ramadi, similar to block-by-block fighting by the Marines in nearby Falluja in 2004, was not under consideration. Instead, he said, the Marines expect more targeted actions against insurgents in the city.

Oh yeah, I got yer last throes right here.

UPDATE:  Swopa’s right — the WaPo article on the troop redeployment is better than the NYTimes one. 

Swopa covered the walling off of Samarra back in December and how much it was not working.  That we are attempting the same crapola strategy in Ramadi is painful — but when you try to fight a war on the cheap and your troops are already stretched beyond thin with no real back-up from the Iraqis at this point…well, that piss poor planning comes back to bite you in the ass.  Unfortunately, its the grunts on the ground paying the price for Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush’s war of choice, because accountability isn’t exactly a word that I associate with the Bush Administration on any level.  (Is Donald Rumsfeld still Secretary of Defense?  Yeah, I thought so.)

The US launched a previous offensive in March of 2006 to clear out the insurgents in the region — but clearly we were only playing whack-a-mole with too few troops to ever do much more than chase them out of one town and into another.  We don’t have the force levels to hold any area once we’ve cleared it of insurgents, let alone be able to cover the borders, and our troops end up fighting the same battles over and over like some nightmare version of Groundhog Day where they risk life and limb in a failed policy of war on the cheap.

And the Iraqis themselves are staring into a long abyss of civil war at the moment, with a government which still has not filled some essential positions, where factional infighting has been the norm even in the "halls of power," and has been greeted with skepticism among the rest of the Arab world.

Prof. Juan Cole has all the depressing details good news for Iraq and Afghanistan.  (We are still pretending that there is good news all the time, aren’t we?)

It’s been a long road since Rep. Jack Murtha stood up for the troops on the ground and said enough back in November of 2005.  His words still ring out today:

The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, ‘the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.’ General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait – the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction – but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.

Much of our ground transportation is worn out and in need of either serous overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." We must rebuild out Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.

Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the condition on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included to Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have not received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American causalities have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.

I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won ‘militarily.’ I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are untied against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United Stated occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a "free" Iraq.

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.

To create a quick reaction force in the region.

To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.

To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.

This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

"Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home."

Same Anbar province. Increased violence. Again.  The Bush Administration’s plans are making things worse. It is time for better planning, better long-term strategic thinking, and to stop making things worse than they already are.  Jack Murtha’s words ring even more forcefully now than they did back in November — things are getting worse, not better, with our troops in Iraq.  We made this mess, and we are going to be suffering the long, long consequences of this failure by George Bush and his Administration for generations to come.

Enough death.  Enough loss of limbs and lives.  Enough. 

And because of the President’s war of choice in Iraq, we failed to properly finish the job in Afghanistan, where Kabul is today in a virtual state of lockdown and the Taliban and warlords are having a substantial resurgence outside the capitol.  Heckuva job, Bushie.  Oh, and by the way, still waiting for that Osama, dead or alive thing.  In case you thought we forgot, I haven’t.

Take some time today to sit down and write a letter to the editor.  Talk about this with your friends, your co-workers, folks in the grocery check-out line, whatever.  Call in to a local talk radio show.  Call your Congressperson’s local office or their office in DC.  Meet with your member of Congress in person if they are hosting a town hall and voice your concerns.  Let’s put our heads together and come up with something — because what President Bush is doing now is only making things worse.  And it’s time we all started saying that out loud.  The first step to fixing the problem is acknowledging that you have one — and we have a big one sitting in the Oval Office at the moment.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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