War in Error

I was drawn to the telly to take in the testimony of Gen. David Paetraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker like a moth to a flame.  The result was undesirable, but unavoidable.  I sat transfixed listening to politicos of both stripes produce rhetorical statements of huge pomposity which may have contained the hint of a question, while The General (TG) and The Ambassador (TA) tried to figure how to react to a non-question question and  staying on the pre-agreed talking points.

Seeing TG handle his own charts recalled a more virtuous and tender time when I was a chart holder for another general giving a presentation of great moment.  I was a 1st LT in the service of one Major General Abraham F. who was the star attraction.  A witness, if you will, to an assembled mass of important personages about something hugely important then, but of no notice after these four decades have passed, and I got to hold the charts.  Kind of like holding a rich man’s horse.

It was August at Ft. Hood, Tx and the presentation was being given in a vintage GP medium tent with the sides rolled up to try to elicit the faintest of breezes in the thick of the  Texas afternoon heat.  The tent was too small for the crowd, even with folding chairs jammed together.  If you didn’t have a star on your shoulder, you had to stand in the back.  I was both terrified and exhilarated by my simple duty.  All would be well so long as I held up the right chart at the right time and didn’t commit any social gaffe.  All was going well in my time of reflected glory until I saw it.  A huge, black fly buzzing the audience as if he were looking for a final target for his attack.  A stout three star seated in the first row was fighting to remain conscious after a too large lunch, a too long presentation, and a too hot tent, and losing the battle.  I’d seen him early on, but resolved to give him no notice for fear I would chortle when his head bobbed in momentary slumber.  This particular general was also the possessor of a magnificent red orb of a nose.  One that ordinarily cannot be bequeathed via DNA, but requires long years of drinking large quantities of cheap scotch.

The fly carefully scouted the terrain, and knowing a good landing field when he saw it, made a bee line (or should I say fly line) for the giant ruby hued schnoz of the lightly snoring general.  I followed the flight plan of the fly with interest while trying to hold the right chart in the right position at the right time.  The fly ultimately made a perfect three point landing and waited cockily for what might transpire.  I was holding my breath and gripping the current chart in a death clutch.  The general, not terribly aggravated by the landing of the fly, snorted once or twice, pawed lackadaisically in the direction of his nose and resumed his postprandial nap in situ.  The presentation ground to it’s inevitable conclusion with general and fly still in position.  All I could think was, “now that’s what I’d call command presence”.

All of this is by way of saying that TG in his testimony today, like the stout one star who preceded him many years before, had immense  command presence.  The whining and posturing of his questioners mattered not one whit to him.  He had his story and he was sticking to it.

One of my generation would have to be duncified not to call to mind, however, the striking parallel of TG’s testimony and responses to the questions of the committee members to that of another general in another time.  General David Westmoreland in his testimony to congress on April 27, 1967 talked of the “signs of progress” that were being made and of the “additional battalions” of RVN soldiers who were beginning to shoulder more of the war effort”.  He also had great praise for the behavior and fighting capability of the “best trained fighting force ever” and their efforts to fight and overcome an enemy who posed the greatest threat ever to the safety and security of the United States.  He commented that “this is a war unlike that any we’ve fought before”.  Westmoreland concluded by commenting that the calamity that might ensue from less that total victory was unthinkable  Sound familiar?  An unfortunate footnote:  over the seven years following Westy’s politically rosy testimony, 35,000 more US soldiers died in Viet Nam not to mention the one million South Vietnamese that lost their lives as well.

I’m sure that TG believes what he testified to.  I believe TG is amongst our best and brightest (my god, look at his creds), I believe that TG is a fine example of warrior/patriot/intellectual, and cares deeply about our country and the soldiers in his command.  I also believe he is fighting the wrong enemy, based on a bankrupt foreign policy built on a foundation of lies and false assumptions.

I feel sorry for TG.  We owe this good man a better mission than this.  But I feel sorry for our country more.  We deserve better than this.

The Spinmeisters

I thought I had seen or heard it all, or almost all.  The guys who can make chicken s**t and sell it as chicken salad.  The ones that called the Edsel an “advanced piece of American engineering”.  The Swift Boaters turning Kerry’s military record into a liability in the face of Bushies stalwart record of avoiding the draft.  The miscreants who can make an apology via a non-apology for stepping on their tongue and offending millions.  The bios that make Chaney sound like a warm and fuzzy fellow…..well, that might be taking it a bit too far.

But to spin Tony Blairs announcement of their “staged withdrawal” as a sign of our success in Iraq  strains the credulity of even the Rushies.  BTW, he tried valiantly in todays Limbaugh rant to blame Blair’s withdrawal on pressure from the Royal Family to keep Bonnie Prince Harry’s tunic clean while keeping their military tradition in tact.  Egad, accusing the Royals of political shinnanigans.  Rush is clearly on the edge.

Wait a minute now, I wonder….is pulling 3000 Tommies out of southern Iraq a manifestation of the cut and runism that seems to be rampant in our dem/lib folks.  Is there an “alliance of the willing” to promote cut and runism.  I’ll bet we’ll soon not see the T-man holding hands and making sweet cooing noises with Bushie.  This may indeed be the beginning of the beginning of the end of the coalition of the willing.  And on top of that, the Danes are part of this too, cutting and running by pulling out their three guys too.  I guess that leaves the squadron of Moravian sappers and several hundred Aussie truck drivers.  “Gday mate, we sar thuh big beach and just pulled up for a quick barbie and a brew”.  “A quick scan aroun’here’ll tell ya there’s no shielas here worth doodlin’ at.”  Let’s go on home soon’s the surfs up.”

Nothing should surprise at this late stage.  If Libby can excuse his nine fold lie by saying, “gee, I dunno how this happened.   I was really busy those three months and had a lot of stuff on my mind, you know terrorists and Putin and all”, anything is possible.

It would be really hard to make all this up, so it must be true.  It is, after all, a part of the plan.

To Fund or Not to Fund, That’s Not the Question

Much has been made lately of the parliamentary wrangling in the Senate (many would say that all they do is wrangle) over whether the Repubscan introduce and debate a resolution on cutting off funding for our military activities in Iraq as a pari pas sou for a vote on the non-binding censure of Bush’s surge plan.  Very clever, what.

The repubs strategy is designed to put the demos in the box of being seen as “not supporting our troops” by voting to limit funding or being seen as giving tacit approval for Bush to proceed with more of the same on steroids.  Now, the demos are not entirely dumb. They understand a trap when they see one and have, therefore, chosen to hoist themselves on their own petard by not allowing the debate, the cost of which is a no vote on the censure resolution in the Senate.  Okay, you got all that.  The demos and repubs spend so much time trying to get the better of one another that the real business of the Republic is substantially under served.  This situation calls to mind the slogan for the political party that I threaten to form…it is the Anybody but an Incumbent Party and it’s watchword is, “throw the bastards out whoever they are”.  More on this later, much later.

I was idling away some time watching the talking heads on the Sunday shows hearing the same old to and fro.  “you demos have a hidden agenda to cut off the funding for our troops”, and “you repubs just want more of the Bush directed same.”  I wanted to stand up an yell, “it’s the mission, stupid”.  Passing the demos anti-surge resolution is as futile and as useful as the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.  The sentiment is right, but the action is useless.  Fighting over whether to debate a funding resolution is equally futile and more than a little debilitating to the whole process.

What cries out for an honest and fulsome debate, in the House, the Senate, and, indeed, throughout the land is the mission of our country and our troops in Iraq.  History would suggest that mediating a secular civil war probably isn’t possible, and is proving costly in terms of young American lives. Trying to “stand up” a government of the ungovernable is proving to be expensive and a fools errand or worse.  Creating an “Iraqi democracy” as a platform for democratic reform in the middle east is palpably the worst foreign policy mistake since the domino theory led us into Viet Nam.

I dunno the answer for a retooled mission for the US in a place that we shouldn’t be in the first place, but I know that it’s not doing more of what we’ve been doing for the last four years.  On the one hand, I say, bring ‘em all home now.  Whatever the objective, it’s not worth another single American life.  I certainly can’t think of anyone I’d be willing to sacrifice to road side bombs or snipers.  On the other hand……well, there is really no other hand, but perhaps our interest could be served by training an Iraqi military force and police, and maybe there’s some stuff we could teach them about the rule of law.  Certainly we owe them some reconstruction financing (but not while the bullets are still flying).

But let’s get off the debating the funding crap.  It’s not only a red herring, it’s a red herring that stinks of politics.  Let’s get on with the real debate.  My fear is that the demos don’t have the will or the power to redefine the mission and the repubse too stubbornly intractable to change from what they see as a manifest destiny.  That leaves just us, you and me bubba, to come up with a solution.