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Wanted: Real Leadership — Not Just Faux Hot Dogging — On Iraq


What would you say if I told you that American soldiers were being knowingly subjected to unclean water, that the Pentagon and Halliburton, the contractor in charge of delivery of this e.coli and coliform collection, knew this via multiple reports from military doctors who have had to treat our soldiers for contamination issues…and that our troops would have been safer to just dip water out of the Euphrates (where dead bodies float by regularly these days) because the raw river water is less contaminated than what they are being given?

What if I told you that the Republican controlled House and Senate have not even bothered to have an oversight hearing on this issue — not one — because maintaining their rose-colored glasses illusion is more important than keeping our troops safe?

Nothing like our troops brushing their teeth in non-potable water day in and day out as a morale booster, I always say, because it's so easy to keep an eye out for IEDs and ambushes and a steady hand on the machine gun when you are doubled over with intestinal pain.  Jeebus, what is wrong with these people?!?  As if our soldiers don't have enough to deal with as it is in Iraq, an American company with the complicity of the GOP leadership of Congress and Rummy's Pentagon do nothing to clean up this water mess because, clearly, water would be of no real value while our soldiers are serving in the desert

And that is just one of twenty outrages uncovered by the Democratic Policy Committee.  Read the whole list, and feel the increase in your blood pressure.  And then ask yourself why it is that you've seen so little coverage of this in the corporate media?

Real leaders ask tough questions.  Real leaders hold others accountable — for mistakes, for missteps, for war profiteering, for unnecessary injuries and deaths…for mistakes that should never have been made.  What we have now from the Bush Administration and his do-nothing rubber stamp Republican congressional cronies is failure — a failure of planning, a failure of obligation to our troops and the nation to act with honesty and integrity even when the news is bad, and a failure ultimately for the Republicans who control both houses of Congress, who have an obligation to all of their constitutents and the nation as a whole, to stand up and be leaders.  It's that simple.  

Just take a look at the most recent assessment by the DPC:

Congress has a constitutional duty to perform effective oversight of the Executive Branch. At no time is that duty more important than when American men and women are sent to war. Yet, like Rip Van Winkle, this Congress chose instead to take a nap. During the do-nothing 109th Congress, Senate Republicans have recklessly abdicated the responsibility to conduct oversight. Standing committees of the United States Senate have held:

— No hearings on flawed pre-war intelligence;

— No Hearings with generals who served in Iraq, have grave concerns about the planning and conduct of the war, and now call for a change of course;

— No hearings on the costly legacy of the Coalition Provisional Authority;

— No hearings on the well-documented abuses plaguing Halliburton’s contract to support the troops, worth $5 billion each year; and

— No hearings on Halliburton’s disastrous no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

Because Senate Democrats believe that the Constitution requires the legislative branch to be more than a rubber stamp for the Executive Branch, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) has used its statutory authority to hold thirteen hearings relating to Iraq. Testimony from those hearings paints an alarming picture of Executive Branch incompetence, and offers a grim reminder of the need for rigorous, effective congressional oversight.

Amen. Our soldiers (and their families) deserve a helluva lot better than what they have been getting from the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush White House. Like some truth:

Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

The Iraqi government's refusal to take certain measures to reduce sectarian tensions between Sunni Arabs and the nation's Shiite Muslim majority has led these officers to conclude that Iraqis will not make difficult decisions unless they are pushed.

Therefore, they say, the advantages of deadlines may outweigh the drawbacks.

"Deadlines could help ensure that the Iraqi leaders recognize the imperative of coming to grips with the tough decisions they've got to make for there to be progress in the political arena," said a senior Army officer who has served in Iraq. He asked that his name not be used because he did not want to publicly disagree with the stated policy of the president.

Former Pentagon official Kurt Campbell said more officers are calling for deadlines after concluding that the indefinite presence of U.S. forces enables the Shiite-run Iraqi government to avoid making compromises.

"There is a new belief that the biggest problem that we face is that our forces are the sand in the gears creating problems," said Campbell, coauthor of a book on national security policy. "We are making things worse by giving the Iraqis a false sense of security at the governing level."

Our military officers are having to end-run the White House and Rummy's Pentagon to get the truth to the American public…because the President and his GOP cronies are refusing to listen to it. What does that say about the lack of leadership George Bush's Administration that they refuse to listen to truth from our commanders on the ground in harm's way? It is well past time for a change.  Read the entire LATimes article

This is exactly what we have been hearing from folks who have been the voice of the military — like Rep. Jack Murtha — and Democratic candidates from Ned Lamont to Joe Sestak.

Beyond that, the WaPo reports that US military trainers say that the Iraqi forces with whom they have been working will take years — YEARS — to reach any viability as things stand now because up to seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militia and insurgent loyalists. 

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.

Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."

Does this sound like a nation whose troubles are in their last throes to you?  To top it off, because George Bush cannot resist strutting around like a peacock and calling Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki "our man," Maliki has had to push back for his own internal political power solidification reasons and assert more and more independence from the US government — including a recent move to pull back checkpoints which were providing American and British troops with some measure of security barriers between themselves and the Mahdi militia of al Sadr.  (Heckuva job, Bushie!)

In fact, things are so bad at the moment that the Bush Administration has attempted to shore up security by sending Stephen Hadley, the national security advisor over to Iraq to discuss sending in even more troops — and where we will find them as thinly stretched as we are at the moment heaven only knows! — to quell even more violence in and around Baghdad and the Sunni triangle.

To make matters even worse, the attempt to shift responsibility for rebuilding in Iraq from the US to the Iraqis is going nowhere, and fraud and graft are rife, according to internal government auditors.  This on the heels of the war profiteering that has had the US treasury pouring money into the hands of the cost-plus, no-bid contract holders in Iraq…Robert Greenwald's "Iraq for Sale" may need a sequel by the time this is all said and done.

What is wanted in all of this mess is some real leadership.  The Republican party has squandered the good reputation and the military and diplomatic resources of this great nation of ours in the name of crony profits and refusal to acknowledge the reality that "stay the course" is a recipe for failure.  It is time for a change.  And we are not going to see any change from Republicans — they have forfeited any trust the American public may have ever had in them by their consistent failure to do even the most basic oversight on behalf of our soldiers.

They could not even stand up and demand that our soldiers be guaranteed safe water, for heaven's sakes.  Shameful, disgusting, and grounds for dismissal in my book. 

Had enough?  Vote for Democrats — and get out our vote.

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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