Frogs and Firecrackers.
Yesterday, President Bush visited Fort Irwin, billed as the premier military desert training camp, to reinforce the image of a President completely divorced from reality. Ostensibly there to sell the White House's "surge" to the men and women who have been training for desert combat but sounding more like a drunken carnival barker tying to persuade the nonresponsive crowd to pay their dollar to see the Bearded Lady (no, not Karen Hughes), the President trotted out the same shallow platitudes he's been using for the past six years. "They'll follow us home." "Leaving is failure." "September the 11th." (The last one got quite the workout, by the way.) What was evident this time around was the deafening silence that met the pauses for applause in his speech. This was supposed to be a friendly audience. Oh my.
As noted above, Fort Irwin is the training grounds for troops headed for Iraq. It should also be noted that many of the troops participating in the "surge" have not received adequate training for Iraq, if they're fortunate enough to get any at all. But Bush is sending them anyway, because it's his war, it's his reputation, and they're his toys.
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and outspoken war critic, said in his interview with Keith Olbermann last night,
"He's never really been sincere about offering diplomatic, economic, and political solutions to this problem, and it's part of the reason we're in the mess we're in right now. So over and over again, he shows that he doesn't understand the type of combat we're facing in Iraq, he doesn't understand the military's capacity or limitations, and he quite frankly doesn't understand the enemy that he talks so much about."
That, my friends, is the problem in a nutshell — with heavy emphasis on "nut". How can you wage a war and insist that you're going to win if you can't be bothered to find out what the rules of engagement are? Rafts of experienced people tried to educate Bush on what this little adventure would cost before we went stumbling in, but they were dismissed as Cassandras, nattering nabobs of negativism. Flowers and candy, people! Keep your eye on the flowers and candy.
And then this morning, Attaturk alerted us to this tidbit:
Two soldiers killed in Iraq in February may have died as a result of friendly fire, Army officials said Wednesday, not from enemy fire, as the press reported.
The military suspected friendly fire later in February but did not inform the dead soldiers' families of these new doubts.
One of the soldiers died just hours after arriving in Iraq — and was one of those troops rushed to the country in the "surge" who did not receive full training. [Emphasis mine.]
It's at moments like these that I recall the stories of the troops in the waning days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — underfed, ill-equipped, deserting in droves. How many times do you repeat history before you learn the lesson? For Bush, the alleged history major at Yale, the answer is "GO TEAM!"
HOW-ever, not content with blowing up our enlisted men and women, George Bush yesterday set his sights on the press pool that has been assigned the unfortunate, and sometimes dangerous, task of following the Dauphin of Destruction. Granted, there are a fair number of "journalists" who should be grievously injured for the damage they've inflicted on this country through their nonfeasance, but I digress. Remember the trip to the Caterpillar plant, when he clambered into the cockpit of a monster backhoe and tried to run down the reporters? Well, he was at it again at Fort Irwin. Only this time, it was with IEDs. From Froomkin:
"The first stop was a card table set up in front of a cinderblock-type hut," New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg wrote in his pool report. "Sitting on top of it were suitcase devices used to view the images sent back from predator drones. 'Train it on Holland,' POTUS said as a soldier held up the drone, about two feet long and pointed it at Steve Holland of Reuters. Peering into the image received in the suitcase device's monitor, POTUS said to Holland, 'You're as rough looking here as you are regular.'"
…"We arrived at another display of robotic rovers built to handle and search for road side bombs. With your pool assembled before him, POTUS grabbed the joy stick on a remote control and started sending a rover with a grab claw into the photographers, telling Jason Reed of Reuters – who was right in its path – 'You're not debris, you're still a human being.' . . . POTUS then turned his attention to your humble pool reporter, 'Rutenberg, come here,' then saying, 'Put your hand there by the claw.'"
Despite Bush's willingness to put his pathological behavior right out there on display, the press just waves it off as "frat boy" behavior. My mother used to chastise us children when we were getting too rambunctious. "Laughter always ends in tears," she warned. With Bush, this is too true. And it always comes at someone else's expense.