Monday, May 21, 2007

JMO - The Iraq war

Ok, I"m going to wander into the fray about Iraq. But I'll wander there after listening to a NPR interview with soldier-poet Brian Turner. I haven't found his book yet, but I'm going and read his poems. He got me into thinking about three things about Iraq, which, hopefully, will make you think a little, because we don't have a good perspective on Iraq. Why?

First, we are the American public, sitting comfortably in our homes here in the US watching what little we can see of the war in Iraq, all edited by the military (restricting journalists access to the country and especially the dead and injuried), the White House and Congress (political rhetoric), and the media (to cover their proverbial public asses), and barely get the truth about the reality of the war and the damage done.

Second, the soldiers. There is no doubt in anyone's mind the reality they face and will have to face the rest of their lives. We owe them a lot for doing a job few of us like and many of us would fear (although I served 1969-73). While the places have changed, there is a lot of similarities between Vietnam and Iraq. The mixture of the country, people and the enemy. The loss of the ability to know who's who and who's not.

Thirdly, I was listening to a discussion on "To the Point" about Iraq and retired General Scales view of the US military to sustain operations in Iraq. He estimates that without a sudden large infusion of equipment and personnel, the Army and Marines will run out of both sometme in late 2008, and this includes the National Guard and Reserves.

His point is that about half the National Guard equipment is now in Iraq, damaged or destroyed. And somewhere between half and three-quarters of the troops have served at least once in Iraq. He states that without new troops, many of the active duty Army and Marines will have spent more time in Afghanistan and Iraq than home since the start of the war, and the rotation cycle will be shortened to where troops will only spend 6-9 months at home after 12-18 months in combat.

In short, we'll have decimated our Army and Marines to the point we couldn't sustain continued operations in Iraq let alone address additional global needs for the military. It's like take a cross country trip to realize you're running out of gas in Nebraska and you have no more money with the next gas station beyond the gas tank's range. You're stopped.

His point is that this makes the political discussion about Iraq irrelevant and winning the war moot. We'll have to face the reality that we have to leave or break the bank on the back of the taxpayers. Are we ready for that. And it will occur in the next President's term of office. George Bush will be gone to escape responsbility.

And lastly, and more importantly, the one group we have yet to understand, the simple Iraqi citizen. While all the news focuses on the war, fighting the "insurgents" or "terrorists", or whatever label you want to use, we don't see much of the ordinary people, the ones who's fled the country and the ones who remain. We don't understand the life we've given them, and that's my point.

We must understand what we have done to the ordinary life of the people. Not just the situation, but everything about their lives. Do we really know? And if we had to live under in the same situation and under the same circumstances, would we? Why do we always talk about the idea of Iraq but never about the people? Are we afraid of the reality? We've destroyed a nation for decades and changed one for generations?

Do we want to face that truth? And if we knew this in March 2003, would we have approved the war? And are there any real answers anymore to salvage something real in Iraq?

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