Monday, September 3, 2007

In the line of fire

In the line of fire

By Joaquin R Roces

(This article was submitted to Economist, the New York Times and the Reno Gazette Journal on August 2006)

My name is Joaquin Rafael Roces, I was at one time a Marine rifleman with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic. I am writing in regard to the Newsweek Article Anatomy of a Revolt written by Evan Thomas and John Barry in the April 24th issue. First I want to make it clear that I stand by Generals Zinni and Newbold as well as the other generals who have come forward to criticize the Secretary of Defense and this administration’s handling of the war. Voltaire once mused, “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” Perhaps it is with that sentiment that Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War (1961-1968), on reflecting on his involvement in that war, reflected that “Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he's speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He's killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. […] And the conventional wisdom is don't make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes.” Almost mimicking the confrontaton between, Bruce Greenwood’s National Security Advisor character and the Marine officer played by Tommy L. Jones in James Webb’s “Rules of Engagement,” an unprecedented confrontation between the professional soldiers and their civilian leadership has unfolded and is reaching a crescendo. Not even in the hieght of the Vietnam war, with all its unpopularity and protest, did such a thing happen.

But perhaps it is the very same ghosts that haunt Mr. McNamara now, that haunts these generals as well. Many of whom cut their teeth and earned their blood stripes in that conflict. Another Vietnam player was General Harold K. Johnson who was the Army Chief of Staff. In reflection, General Johnson expressed that he intended to tell President Lyndon Johnson that “You [Pres. Johnson] had required me to send men into battle with little hope of the ultimate victory and you have forced us to violate almost every one of our principles of war in Vietnam,” and with that General Johnson intended to quit and walk out the door. But he did not, and according to his memoirs and biography recorded by Lewis Sorley, before he died General Johnson lamented that he was going to his grave “with a burden of a lapse of moral courage” on his back. The lesson of which General Batiste studied at the Army’s War College some years later, and the same post held by General Shinseki before he was asked uncermoniously “to fade away.”

I am reminded of a quote from General George S. Patton, “If everybody is thinking the same thing, then somebody isn’t thinking.” According to the Thomas and Barry piece in Newsweek, in the winter of 2003, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was alone among the administration’s top brass in warning Congress that occupying Iraq would require “several hundred thousand troops.” Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, rewarded the General’s honesty by publicly castigating him and shunning him. Rumsfeld did not attend the retirement ceremony of the Army Chief of Staff and his replacement was “leaked” out 14 months before General Shinseki’s term was up. In the military world, the Army Chief of Staff is the highest ranking officer in an Army of 700,000 and reports directly to the SecDef. The SecDef snubbing of General Shinseki’s retirement and the leaking of his replacement is a clear message to all others who maybe considering “breaking ranks.” Major General John Batiste, a top advisor to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Gen. Batiste also commanded troops in Iraq, and like many other officers, was deeply upset by the public rebuke of Gen. Shinseki, “I won’t ever forget the treatment of Gen. Shinseki.” Another “old Soldier” fades away… Apparently General Shinseki was not thinking the same thing as everybody else.

At the time of the Newsweek article there were over six Generals who have come forward to criticize the SecDef and the administration as a whole for the handling of the war on Iraq including two Marine Corps Generals, and a handful of the Army’s “Top Soldiers,” including two who actually led men in combat in Iraq. According to BBC News, former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark has joined the ranks of dissenters, saying in a televised interview that he believes “Secretary Rumsfeld hasn’t done an adequate job. He (SecDef) should go.” Marine General Anthony Zinni was quoted by the Thomas and Barry as saying the SecDef was “incompetent strategically, operationally, and tactically” in an un-named op-ed piece.

The most scathing criticism came from another Marine, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, who was chief of operations of the Joint Staff during the planning stages of the second Iraq War. In the Newsweek article General Newbold was quoted as saying the decision to invade Iraq “was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions…or bury the results.” Now, the administration, in reaction to what Newsweek implies as a ‘Revolt,’ is applying the same tactic of discrediting these senior officers as was used in the last two presidential campaigns. That is by convincing America that there was something disgraceful about having served your country in combat as Gore and Kerry did, and that perhaps it was nobler to “dodge the draft;” to shirk duty under the pretense of “taking the moral high ground.” The Newsweek article continues on, “together with Vice President Dick Cheney, (draft-deferred in Vietnam), along with (SecDef) Rumsfeld (Navy Jet Pilot who never saw combat), President Bush (Texas National Guard) seemed determined to brush past or roll over the cautious national security bureaucracy. Writing in Time Magazine, Gen. Newbold voices his regret that he did not “more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat-Al QAEDA.” The President has always maintained that he listens to his Generals, yet Shinseki’s words of caution were swept aside as was the old general himself. But he was not the only one. General Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also swept aside according to Thomas and Barry. Gen. Powell was considered “too squishy, too much of a creature of the go-slow bureaucracy.” He was opposed to the majority of President George H.W. Bush Administration officials who advocated the deployment of troops to the Middle East to force Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to withdraw his armies from neighboring Kuwait, believing the dictator could instead be contained through sanctions and a buildup of forces around Kuwait.

However; as an officer, General Powell also valued loyalty very highly, and as a result, did not usually undermine policies he disagreed with after they were implemented. Thus, while initially opposing the plan that would become Operation Desert Storm, Powell nevertheless supported it once it became official policy, and gave it his full dedication. A strategy he outlined for Operation Desert Storm, the use of "overwhelming force" to achieve a military objective while minimizing U.S. casualties, became known as the "Powell Doctrine". The Doctrine follows from principles laid out by Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Defense following the bombing of the Marine Barracks at Beriut in 1983 (for discussion see MY AMERICAN JOURNEY: COLIN POWELL, with Joseph E. Persic, ©Random House Publishing)

-->Is a vital US interest at stake?

-->Will we commit sufficient resources to win?

-->Are the objectives clearly defined?

-->Will we sustain the commitment?

-->Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation?

-->Have we exhausted our other options?

-->Do we have a clear exit strategy?

The questions posed by the Powell Doctrine:

-->Is a vital national security interest threatened?

-->Do we have a clear attainable objective?

-->Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?

-->Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?

-->Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

-->Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?

-->Is the action supported by the American people?

-->Do we have genuine broad international support?

Yet none of this was applied to the second Gulf War. Somehow the words of caution did not sink in and Gen. Powell is no longer the Secretary Of State. Another “old soldier” fades away. Why was the Powell Doctrine that was so successful in the first Gulf War, discarded so easily the second time round? Thomas and Barry assert that the senior military did not force a discussion of what to do after the war was won. They charge that the SecDef was obsessed with the plan of attack, but not the aftermath. It would appear that risks and costs were not fully or frankly analyzed by the senior military and by the administraton. In a televised interview with Britain’s ITV, then Secretary of State Powell stated that he had asked for a larger number of troops to be deployed to Iraq, saying that “the case was made, it was listened to, it was considered (…) A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate. And so it was not anything that was ignored, it was considered and a judgment was made by those responsible for making military judgements that the troop strengths were adequate.” Again somebody was not thinking like everybody else.

Falluja, Iraq. 18 November 2004. As first reported by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times. Eight days after the Americans entered the city on foot, a pair of Marines wound their way up the darkened innards of a minnaret, shot through with holes by an American tank. As the Marines inched upward, a burst of gunfire rang down, fired by insurgents hiding in the top of the tower. The volley of bullets hit the first Marine in the face, his blood and brains splattering the Marine behind him. The Marine in the rear tumbled down the stairwell, while his comrade lay silent halfway up the narrow stairwell, mortally wounded. The wounded Marine’s name is Lance Cpl. William Miller. He was 22.

“Miller!” the Marines called from below. “Miller!”

With that the Marines’ near mystical commandment against leaving a comrade behind siezed the group. One after another, the young Marines dashed into the minaret, into darkness and into gunfire, and wound their way up the narrow stairway. For them the battle for Iraq was measured one bloody narrow 6” step at a time.

After four attempts Lance Cpl. Miller’s lifeless body emerged from the tower, his comrades choking and covered with dust. With more insurgents closing in, the Marines ran through volleys of machine gun fire with their comrade in tow carrying him back to their base.

The consequences are now painfully iretractable facts: Rumsfeld demanded a swift, lean force that worked brilliantly to topple the Hussein Regime, but was woefully inadequate to take over the more onerous task of securing and rebuilding Iraq. But were they really considered? Was our national security interest threatened? According to General Newbold, Iraq’a actions were only peripheral to the real threat. Did we have a clear attainable objective? Are we fighting a war on terror, or are we ensuring democracy in the middle east? Are we enforcing UN Resolutions against WMD’s or are we freeing the Iraqis from Tyranny? Did we go into Iraq because they failed to comply with the Resolutions imposed after the first Gulf War, if so, how does that corrolate with the War on Terror and its objectives? If we had such a clear case for Iraq violating the UN resolutions, why did we fail to achieve consensus within the UN for military action? Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglements and have the consequences of our action been fully considered? We are in year three with the death toll at over 2,000 and fielding a force of 140,000. In the first Gulf War, we had a death toll of 345 and fielded a force of 550,000. We liberated Kuwait, defeated the Iraqi Army and reppelled unlawful aggression. The SecDef questioned the notion that America could bring democracy to Iraq and disdains “nation-building,” yet he blithly counts on the Iraqis to rebuild their own country. Right after the invasion the SecDef approved American Proconsul Paul Bremer’s plan to disband the Iraqi Army and fire its top civil servants opening the country to chaos and a growing insurgency, with an insufficient force to fill the void. Is the action supported by the American people? According to polling data collected by Angus Reid Consultants released on 2 May 2006, 39% of those polled believe that the President should fire the SecDef and 35% disagree, and 43% support the SecDef’s resignation while 35% disagree (Opinion Research Corporation for CNN). Another CNN poll called the quick vote tallied a total of 133286 votes on their website (non-scientific) with 85% or 113739 votes believe that it is time for a new SecDef. The President’s own approval rating slipped from an already low 36% to 32%. Do we have genuine broad international support? The first Gulf War included a coalition of 17 countries and the backing of the United Nations. The second war consisted of 4 countries: Britain, Poland, Australia and the United States. The Bush administration failed to get a U.N. endorsement for war against Iraq on 17 March 2003 and began the invasion on 20March 2003.

General Zinni is qouted by Newsweek as saying “We are paying the price for…the lack of a plan.” It is of course ridiculous and absurd to think that there was no plan or concerted effort, it would be reckless for me or any General to imply that. But that is not what General Zinni is saying. As General Powell intoned earlier, that a plan and strategy “was made by those responsible for making military judgements.” General Zinni spent more than 40 years serving his country as a warrior and diplomat, rising from a young lieutenant in Vietnam to a four-star general with a reputation for candor. From 1997 to 2000, he was commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command, in charge of all American troops in the Middle East. That was the same job held by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf before him, and Gen. Tommy Franks after.


Following his retirement from the Marine Corps, the Bush administration thought so highly of Gen. Zinni that it appointed him to one of its highest diplomatic posts -- special envoy to the Middle East. “There has been poor strategic thinking in this,” says General Zinni to CBS Correspondent Steve Kroft. “There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to ‘stay the course,’ the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure.” General Zinni believed this was the wrong war at the wrong time whith the wrong strategy. According to Kroft, the general was saying it before the U.S. invasion. In the months leading up to the war, while still Middle East envoy, General Zinni spoke before the US Congress: “This is, in my view, the worst time to take this [Iraq] on. And I don’t feel it needs to be done now.” There were others as well, Former General and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Centcom Commander Norman Schwarzkopf, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki all voiced their reservations. Let us strike into the heart of darkness, into the very core of the issue. The National Command Authority, which includes the President, Vice President and the SecDef had and still has a strategic plan, and I believe its endgame is winning a campaign, but not a campaign on the battlefield, but a different campaign, the kind that is won inside the beltway; far form the line of fire, and a world removed from the dark and dusty cordite filled minaret where Lance Cpl. Miller bled to death. Perhaps when the President displayed his now infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner, he wasn’t referring to Iraq at all. With gas prices over three dollars a gallon, and fighting a multi-front war, where is the call for rationing as there was in World War II, where is “Rosie” and the might of the American industiral sector? With troop strengths far from adequate – even at the troop levels of the first Gulf War, units found it difficult to deal with the mass of surrendering troops and civillian exodus that came at them. Where is selective service and the draft, which were implemented during Korea and Vietnam?

Ramadi, Iraq. 29 May 2004. As first reported by Michael Moss of the New York Times. Four Marines were returning to their basecamp on a highway in Ramadi, their unarmoured Humvee, inherited from the Florida National Guard unit they relieved, was rigged with scrap metal. As they drove along the highway, a stationwagon packed with C-4 explosives by Iraqi insurgents was detonated killing all four Marines. The makeshift shields were only shoulder high, and photographs taken later by the company commander, Capt. Royers, show that the shrapnel from the bomb shot over the top of the makeshift shields. The company’s motor transport chief, Staff Sergeant Jose S. Valerio concluded with Capt. Royers’ assesment, “The steel was not high enough…most of the wounds were to their heads.” Among those killed were Lance Cpl. Rafael Reynosa whose wife was expecting twins, and a young Private First Class from Lake Stevens, WA. His name was Cody S. Calvin. He was 19.

The company of 185 Marines of Echo Company, part of a lionized battalion, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, nicknamed the Magnificent Bastards, is also one of fortitude and ingenuity. The Marines, based in a junkyard in Ramadi, had been asked to rid the provincial capital of one of the most persistent insurgencies, and in enduring 26 firefights, 90 mortar attacks and more than 90 homemade bombs, they shipped their dead home and carried on. Their tour has become legendary among other Marine units now serving in Iraq and still facing some of the same problems. Echo Company had only two Humvees and three trucks when it arrived, so just getting them into Staff Sergeant Valerio’s shop was a logistical chore. Moss would later recount their desperate mission and their valor.

On 6 April 2004, the company had to empty its camp - leaving the cooks to guard the gates - to deal with three firefights. Ten of its troops were killed that day, including eight who died when the Humvee they were riding in was ambushed en route to assist other Marines under fire. That Humvee lacked even the improvised steel on the back where most of the Marines sat.

In parceling out Ramadi, the Marine Corps leadership gave Echo Company more than 10 square miles to control, far more than any of the battalion's other companies. Captain Royer said he had informally asked for an extra platoon, or 44 Marines, and had been told the battalion was seeking an extra company. The battalion's operations officer, Maj. John D. Harrill, said the battalion had received sporadic assistance from the Army and had given Company E extra help. General Mattis says he could not pull Marines from another part of Iraq because "there were tough fights going on everywhere."

Captain Royer said more armor would not have even helped. The insurgents had a .50-caliber machine gun that punched huge holes through the Humvee’s windshield. Only a heavier combat vehicle could have withstood the barrage, he said, but the unit had none. According to Moss’ account Defense Department officials have said they favored Humvees over tanks in Iraq because they were less imposing to civilians.

Not all the officers swept aside were general grade officers. Captain Kelly D. Royers was the skipper of Echo Company. Lt. Sean J. Schickel remembered Captain Royer asking a high-ranking Marine Corps visitor whether the company would be getting more factory-armored Humvees. The official said they had not been requested and that there were production constraints, Lieutenant Schickel said. It is striking to note that when the SecDef visited Iraq that same year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a heavily armored rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner.

Meanwhile inside the beltway, the Senate voted to spend an extra $213 million to buy more fully armored Humvees. The Army's procurement system, which also supplies the Marines, has come under fierce criticism for underperforming in the war, and has only one small contractor in Ohio armoring new Humvees. Captain Royer said that he photographed the Humvees in which his men died to show to any official who asked about the condition of their armor, but that no one ever did. Recalls Captain Royer of his conversation with a ranking Marine Corps visitor: "I'm thinking we have our most precious resource engaged in combat, and certainly the wealth of our nation can provide young, selfless men with what they need to accomplish their mission. That's an erudite way of putting it. I have a much more guttural response that I won't give you." The same year PFC Calvin and Lance Cpl. Reynosa died in their ramshackle Humvee along with two other Marines, General Motors sold 1,927 Hummers, the commercial equivalent of the Humvee, across the United States.

Captain Royer was later relieved of command. General Mattis and Colonel Kennedy declined to discuss the matter. His first fitness report, issued on May 31, 2004, after the company's deadliest firefights, concluded, "He has single-handedly reshaped a company in sore need of a leader; succeeded in forming a cohesive fighting force that is battle-tested and worthy."

The second, on Sept. 1, 2004, gave him opposite marks for leadership. "He has been described on numerous occasions as 'dictatorial,' " it said, "There is no morale or motivation in his marines." His defenders say he drove his troops as hard as he drove himself, but was wrongly blamed for problems like armor. "Captain Royer was a decent man that was used for a dirty job and thrown away by his chain of command," Sergeant Sheldon, one of the magnificent bastards of Echo Company, said.

US Army General John Batiste said on CNN (April 2006) that the United States needs "a fresh start" at the Pentagon. General Batiste continues, "When decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision-making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes." In addition to commanding the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, Batiste also was a senior adviser to former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the U.S.-led invasion. Both the advice of Gen. Shinseki and Gen. Powell calling for a larger force was swept aside and ignored. Gen. Shinseki was the Army’s Chief of Staff, who served and was wounded in Vietnam as did Gen. Powell who was also the architect of the successful first Gulf War. The SecDef and the administration swept their words of caution aside discounting it as “too squishy” referring to the two top officers and combat veterans as creatures of a “go-slow Bureaucracy” resistant to change. But was what Gen. Shinseki and Gen. Powell bringing up something new? To quote another SecDef, Robert McNamara: “We are the strongest nation in the world today. I do not believe that we should ever apply that economic, political, and military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn't have been there. None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning.” Remember Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Somalia? What about Grenada, Panama, Sierra Leonne, Bosnia and the Congo? Nicaragua, Angola, and remember the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, the Rangers in Mogadishu and the Marines who died in Beirut? This is not a “go-slow” bureaucracy, this is a highly cohesive professional and competent army that has gone where its national command authority has told it to go time and time again, and spilled its collective blood for masters far removed from the whine of bullets and screams of the wounded.

Gen. Batiste warned, "When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril,” words that resonate with the lessons of Gen. Johnson’s lack of moral courage. But this was not just an academic lesson Gen. Batiste learned in the War College years later, it is also ingrained in the consciousness of a combat veteran who commanded troops in Bosnia and the first Gulf War. He commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One, in Iraq. The division’s history is a legend in the Army; founded by General “Black Jack” Pershing in WWI, it was the first to see combat in WWII, fight in Africa and Sicily and was one of the units to land in Normandy to break Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.” As reported by Greg Jaffe of the Times, Gen. Batiste arrived with his troops in January of 2004 and his division was responsible for an area the size of West Virginia in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. Like most of the units at the time the 1st Division’s Humvees also lacked armor. Gen. Batiste’s men had to contract with local Iraqis to weld makeshift scrap metal to the vehicles.

"You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," Gen. Batiste said. The General stands out among the others in the fact that he was a top aid to Paul Wolfowitz during the planning stage of the war and commanded troops in theater as well. So admired was General Batiste that he was offered a promotion and a third star. It would make him the second highest ranking officer in Iraq. But as Gen. Batiste told Brooks Barnes of the New York Times in a May 13th 2006 article, “I was shocked at where I was,” the general stated, “I had spent 31 years of my life defending our great constitution.” The article reports how over the course of the war in Iraq, the general saw troop shortages that allowed a deadly insurgency to take root, felt politics were put ahead of hard won military lessons and was haunted by the words of General Johnson. For the Times article, the General recounts his moment of truth. He paced nervously in the parking garage behind CNN’s offices after a grilling interview with Paula Zahn. He fumed about the SecDef’s “Contemptuous attitude,” and the SecDef’s “refusal to take sound military advice.” As the General climbed into his vehicle to drive home, he recalled thinking, “If I don’t speak out, who the hell else will?”

In January of 2006, the New York times obtained a 3 page Pentagon Report that was released by a Veteran’s Advocacy Group, Soldiers for the Truth, reported as many as “42% percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection surrounding the plated areas of the vest (body armor)…another 23% could have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while another 15% could have benefited from shoulder plates.” The New York Times delayed release of the report for a week in order for the Pentagon to confirm the veracity of the report. Pentagon officials refused to comment. As of January of 2006, 526 Marines have been killed in combat in Iraq out of a total of 1700 American deaths. The report based on the findings by military pathologists suggested that an analysis of the all combat deaths would show that 300 or more lives could have been saved. Perhaps PFC Calvin or Lance Cpl. Reynosa would still be alive. According to Michael Moss, who covered the report’s release for the Times, 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed were from Marines who had died between March 2003 and June of 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the Marines’ shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates don’t reach. These are not nameless corpse in a morgue: Lance Cpl. Andrew Julian Aviles who was killed in April of 2003; PFC Eric Ayon who was killed by hostile fire on April 9, 2004; Capt. James C. Edge who was killed by enemy small-arms fire during combat operations in Ramadi on April 14, 2005; and Lance Cpl. Jonathan R. Flores who was One of five Marines killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb during combat operations near Ramadi on June 15, 2005. They are husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

Body armor has gone through a succession of problems in Iraq. First the ceramic plates that makes the vest bullet proof, crumbles and disintegrates when struck by the first round, and then there were severe and prolonged shortages of the plates. Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection to stop bullets from slicing their sides. In the fall of 2003, troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, and only then did the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force ship several hundred plates to protect their sides and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units started purchasing their own sets. According to Moss, as of January of 2006, the Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, was still undecided on what to purchase. Army Procurement officials are deciding what size of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers. The Marine Corps ordered 28,000 sets in September of 2005, as of January 2006 only 2200 had been delivered.

Jack Kelly of the Jewish World Review, defended the Army’s procurement practices. Citing a Col. Thomas Spoehr who is the director of the materiel for the Army Staff, Kelly reports in his August 2005 article that the delays were caused by the Army’s insistence on taking “proactive steps” to improve the armor plating in the vests prior to production. These vests are known as the “Interceptor” and are, according to Kelly and Col. Spoehr, the “best body armor manufactured in the world today.” It was significantly improved from the ones worn by US troops in Somalia and the first Gulf War. According to Col. Spoehr, the new vests could stop an AK-47 round fired from 10 feet away. However, Col. Spoehr does admit that “the best” is not “perfect.” There are some special types of munitions that can penetrate the Boronic Carbide plates. In 2004, Army official became aware of improvements that could be made that would protect against “most but not all” of these special munitions. Since these plates must be manufactured to be extremely precise dimensions (1,000 of an inch), altering the formula is not a simple process. Col. Spoehr compared the plates to those tiles used by the Space Shuttle to protect against intense heat, “We’re taking what we think is a prudent step to guard against a step (the insurgents) could take, but that’s a step that really hasn’t developed yet.” Moss of the Times supports some of Col. Spoehr’s comments citing that Les Brownlee, former acting secretary for the Army, stated that he was shown numerous designs for expanded body armor as early as 2003 and instructed his staff to weigh their benefits against the perceived threat without losing sight of the main task of eliminating the shortages of plates for the chest and back. In 2003, design alternatives were reviewed; in 2004 the Army was made aware of the improvements, in 2005 they started manufacturing and distributing. The Marines opted for the older ceramic version for a speedier delivery and in December of 2005, they received 2200 of 28,000 plates that were ordered.

Falluja, Iraq. 26 April 2004, Marines from Echo Company were searching buildings in the war-torn Jolan neighborhood when they came under attack in one of the bloodiest clashes between the U.S. military and insurgents that spring. Insurgents attacked from three directions, firing thousands of rounds from AK-47s and other firearms and hurling dozens of grenades. With the Marines in danger of being overrun, they sought shelter in a building, among them was Lance Corporal Aaron Austin of Texas; a machine gunner for Echo Company. Lance Corporal Austin helped evacuate the wounded led other Marines onto a roof to operate a machine gun. When the insurgents kept advancing, he took a grenade from his vest and moved into the open for a better throwing position. "Several enemy bullets struck Lance Cpl. Austin in the chest," said the official Marine Corps account. "Undaunted by his injury” and with great effort, Lance Corporal Austin threw his hand grenade at the enemy on the adjacent rooftop. It was enough to break the enemy assault, but Lance Corporal Austin was mortally wounded. After the battle his comrades would erect a makeshift memorial while back home his father would be presented with his Silver Star. The same month Capt. Royer lost 10 Marines in deadly firefights in the same city. For beltway bureaucrats Lance Corporal Austin was only a number in a study among 526 others. Lance Corporal Austin was struck three times in the chest from a distance greater than 10 feet. Specialist Richard Arriaga was killed when his unit was ambushed with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Tikrit, Iraq, on September 18, 2003. 1st Lt. Tyler H. Brown was Killed when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small-arms fire in Ramadi, Iraq, on September 14, 2004.

Meanwhile Armor Holdings, the sole and small Ohio factory that was tasked with up-armoring all the Humvees in Iraq remains back-logged despite the company increasing its production in December of 2005. As of January of this year, the Marine Corps was still waiting for 2,000 vehicles to replace existing ones in Iraq. Additionally Moss states, an initiative began by the Pentagon nearly two years ago to speed up production and replacement by having additional firms armor new Humvees remains incomplete according to Army officials. In 2005 General Motors extended employee discounts to the public which included the Hummer, the civilian counterpart of the military’s Humvee. You could purchase it with leather interior, CD player, air, OnStar and power windows and locks. In July 2005 alone General Motors delivered 7,476, a 210% improvement compared to last year, and sold 4,664 in July, a 21 percent increase over the previous month. According to Laurie Sullivan of InformationWeek, General Motors Corp. (GM) designed the Hummer H2, although manufacturing is outsourced to AM General. One factory in Mishawaka, Ind., alone was originally designed to deliver 40,000 Hummer H2s annually, but has churned out approximately 60,000 since production began in spring 2002. In 2003, AM General manufactured more than 30,000 Hummer H2s for GM. Since its commercial inception in 1992, there has been 3 different version fielded, the H1, H2 and the H3.

Remember Echo Company who lost 10 Marines in a deadly firefight? Their Humvee was one that lacked even the improvised armor and was one waiting to be replaced by the back-logged Armor Holdings. Captain Royer admitted more armor would not have mattered because the insurgents had a .50-caliber machine gun that punched huge holes through its windshield. Only a heavier combat vehicle could have withstood the barrage, he said, but the unit had none. Defense Department officials have said they favored Humvees over tanks in Iraq because they were less imposing to civilians. The same decision was made in Somalia which resulted in the death of 23 Army Rangers. "All I saw was sandbags, blood and dead bodies," Staff Sergeant Valerio recalled. "There was no protection in the back." They were not the only losses for Company E during its six-month tour of duty in Ramadi (2004). In all, more than one-third of the unit's 185 troops were killed or wounded, the highest casualty rate of any company in the war, Marine Corps officials say. Were the families of those dead Marines told that their sons and fathers were killed due to production constraints?

In a statement dated 21 April 2005 and published on Sen. Kennedy’s Committee for a Democratic Majority website, “For our troops on patrol, every second counts. Every moment of delay puts their lives at risk. Yet, in a report issued to Congress just last month, the Government Accountability Office describes month after month after month of bureaucratic mismanagement in getting our troops the armored Humvees they need to stay alive and do their jobs. In fact, the GAO report found that the Army still has no long term plan to improve the availability of armored Humvees. The war in Iraq has been going on for more than two years, our troops are under fire every day, and they still don’t have a plan.” Sgt. Julia V. Atkins was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near her Humvee during patrol operations in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 10, 2005. Sgt. 1st Class Ramon A. Acevedoaponte was one of two soldiers when a roadside bomb detonated near their Humvee in Rustamiya, Iraq, on October 26, 2005. As of a January 14th 2006 Associated Press report, the military now has more than 25,000 armored Humvees in country.

Major General Charles Swannack who led the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division during its deployment in Iraq joined in the call for the SecDef’s resignation. Gen. Swannack was quoted on Newsweek blaming the SecDef for “absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam.” Further in an interview with CNN’s Barbara Starr, General Swannack said “I just had to go ahead and speak out recently because of my belief that he just controls our generals far too much; it's almost like he hamstrings our generals. What our generals really need from the Pentagon and from Secretary Rumsfeld are only the strategic objectives they're supposed to achieve, the policy decisions necessary to bring about those objectives and then funding for the war. And I believe he oversteps his bounds and has been detrimental to our generals leading the war.” From General Shenseki’s request for additional forces down to the men in the trenches, like Captain Royer and his Marines, asking for needed supplies and materials, the SecDef was deaf to their pleas and recommendations. The lessons of armor shortages in urban warfare from HuĂ© to Beirut to Mogadishu were ignored. The recommendations by Gen. Powell gleaned from the debacle in Lebanon were swept aside. Gen. Swannack says, “I really believe that we need a new Secretary of Defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him. And I'll speak briefly about that. But it goes back to insufficient forces to attack north to Baghdad and subsequently fight the insurgency.”

Echo Company had less than half the troops who are now doing its job currently in Ramadi, and covered an area larger than any other company in their battalion’s sector. The unit had resorted to making dummy Marines from cardboard cutouts and camouflage shirts to place in observation posts on the highway when it ran out of men. During one of its deadliest firefights, it came up short on both vehicles and troops. Marines who were stranded at their camp tried in vain to hot-wire a dump truck to help rescue their falling brothers. That day, 10 men in the unit died.

Lance Corporal Miller’s unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, was the same unit bloodied in Beirut in 1983. With a company of 150 Marines under the leadership of Captain Omohundro, Bravo Company snaked through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of the insurgency, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working their way through Falluja’s narrow streets with 75 pound packs on their backs. In the vicious eight days of fighting, Bravo Company would measure 36 wounded and 6 dead, which meant for the company each man had a one-in-four ratio of being killed or wounded.

On the first morning of the battle, Day One was not even half over, 45 Marines of Bravo Company’s third platoon darted across 40th Street in the battle to take the Muhammadia Mosque. They were caught in interlocking fields of fire. A meat grinder. By the time the Marines crossed the street, 5 lay bleeding in the street. Without hesitation the Marines rushed out to retrieve their wounded. One of the men wounded was Sergeant Lonny Wells. By the time he was pulled to safety, Sgt. Wells had already bled to death. In Iraq men and women die in the time in takes to decide between a Venti and a Tall latte at a Starbucks counter. Corporal Nathan Anderson who braved gunfire to pull Sgt. Wells to safety would die three days later in another ambush.

First platoon would be caught in a nighttime ambush. Encountering insurgents dressed in Iraqi National Guard uniforms, the Marines waved as the insurgents opened fire. Corporal Anderson would die instantly and Private First Class Andrew Russell, lay bleeding in the road, screaming from a near severed leg. Again the Marines rushed forward to retrieve their comrades. After all, who else would?

Corporal Jake Knospler lost part of his jaw to hand grenade in a pitch black house. It was two a.m. and the sky was dark and moonless. All you heard was Corporal Knospler’s gurgling wound and his fellow Marines screaming, “no, no, no!”

On 10 November 2004, at 2 p.m., Corporal Romulo Jimenez who was 21 years old, advanced with his platoon, in northern Falluja, when he was struck in the neck by a sniper. He died instantly. Two days prior he had just spoken with his sister by phone.

Corporal Nick Ziolkoweski was nicknamed ‘Ski’ by his fellow Marines. In April of 2004, he sat on a roof top on the outskirts of the Shuhada neighborhood, an area controlled by insurgents. Already Ski was a proficient sniper with at least three confirmed kills. Prior to taking charge of his post at Shuhada, he was warned by intelligence officers, that the insurgents were targeting American snipers. He manned his post, and for a moment, he took his helmet off to get a better view through his scope. The bullet struck him in the head knocking backward onto the roof. I am reminded of an old Marine Corps Cadence that goes: “To Saint Peter I will tell, another Marine reporting, sir, I’ve served my time in hell.”

General Zinni voiced that it was his belief, as it was with the others, that Saddam Hussein was sufficiently contained with the UN Sanctions, the no-fly and no-drive zones. Echoing General Newbold’s comments that Iraq’a actions were only peripheral to the real threat, General Zinni says, “at the same time, we had this war on terrorism. We were fighting al Qaeda. We were engaged in Afghanistan. We were looking at 'cells' in 60 countries. We were looking at threats that we were receiving information on and intelligence on. And I think most of the generals felt, let's deal with this one at a time. Let's deal with this threat from terrorism, from al Qaeda.”

What about Afghanistan? According to Steve Coll of the New Yorker, “... One thing to keep in mind about that Camp David meeting and the discussions within the National Security Cabinet in September of 2001 is that everyone understood broadly what Al Qaeda was, and they understood broadly that bin Laden was in Afghanistan. ...” Coll is the author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. However, Coll explains that given the fact that a majority of the republicans on the President’s cabinet hadn't been in government effectively since the Cold War period. So their thinking and decision making process was still framed within the context of the bi-polar paradigm of the Cold War. Thus within the Cabinet, according to Coll, there was a natural inclination to think that an attack of this scale, this power, this sophistication, had to have roots in state sponsorship, not only because there was a natural willingness to believe that Iraq would be interested in carrying out such an attack, but also because this was a group of people whose experience of terrorism led them to believe that it was almost always state-sponsored in some sense. As Stephen Gould pointed out in his book, The Mismeasure of Man, that hierarchies rarely endure for more than a few generations, but the arguments, refurbished, are often recycled by the next round of social institutions. Such was the case with the President’s Cabinet in 2001. This would explain some of the disconnect that people like [counterterrorism expert] Richard Clarke have described about September 2001, where some top members of the president's Cabinet ask questions about Iraq and Saddam Hussein that strike the Al Qaeda experts like Clarke and George Tenet, as well as Generals like Anthony Zinni as ridiculous.

Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Fall of 2001. As reported by PBS Frontline. After the fall of Khandahar, and according to several CIA sources including one of the senior officers in country in Afghanistan, Gary Bernsten, and Richard Clarke, National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the National Security Council, the CIA with a minimum force of US Special Forces and about 2,000 Afghan troops had managed to corner Osama Bin Laden and his senior cadre in the mountainous regions of Tora Bora along the Pak-Afghan border. According to Richard Clarke, the administration and Central Command knew from the beginning that Osama Bin Laden was in Tora Bora. Mr. Clarke states even before 9/11, there was a lot of work done to determine where Bin Laden was likely to go. Gary Bernsten whose team was tasked with hunting Bin Laden in Tora Bora presented his plan to Central Command’s senior officer on the ground, Gen. Dell Daley. This plan included putting US Ground Forces on the Pak-Afghan border as a blocking force to keep Bin Laden and his people from slipping across the border. At this time the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division had taken over the Karshi Khanabad Airfield in Uzbekistan. The 10th Mountain was part of the UN relief column that rescued the beleaguered Rangers in Mogadishu. The only forces available from the Pakistani side were tribal levies that were sympathetic to the Taliban, as most of the Pakistani Regular Army troops had been drawn away due to tensions with India. The back door was wide open.

Gen. Mike DeLong, Central Command’s Deputy Commander, insisted that there was no hard intel confirming Bin Laden’s presence in Tora Bora. In the same Frontline story, Gen. DeLong stated that to the best of Central Command’s knowledge they did not know Bin Laden was there. Gen. DeLong does admit that the CIA believed that Bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora, “We had word from the agency [CIA] that he [Bin Laden] may have been wounded, but we never knew.” Mr. Bernsten’s Afghan contacts had indeed reported that Bin Laden had been wounded during a bombing mission. Mr. Bernsten presented a plan to Central Command’s Liaison in Afghanistan. Mr. Bernsten’s plan included placing US troops as a blocking force to corner Al Qaeda in Tora Bora. The Liaison Officer refused to look at it. Mr. Bernsten was later told that the reason for that was that Central Command wanted plausible deniability if the plan fell apart. Mr. Bernsten and his team were on their own. In December of 2001, Mr. Bernsten is unceremoniously relieved and reassigned to Latin America. For Mr. Bernsten it was not a celebratory occasion and was at best bittersweet, he recounts for Frontline his reaction to his re-assignment, “I was surprised that I was pulled out at that point, but I understood how the politics works in all this.” This was the CIA’s man who from the beginning was tasked with hunting down Bin Laden and had Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora with a handful of Special Ops people and Afghan rebels, “I was not celebrating…it was bittersweet because I did not know if [Bin Laden] was dead. I didn’t know if I’d finished it…We were able to have an equation where US forces and CIA officers working in tandem with Afghan insurgent forces could defeat a larger group. But at that final moment when we closed with Bin Laden we needed our own men to do that bit of fighting.”

Mr. Clarke disagrees with General DeLong citing that the administration and Central Command are sensitive about letting Bin Laden slip out the back door. Mr. Clarke is emphatic when he says that “Yes, we know he [Bin Laden] was absolutely there. He may have been wounded by fragments of an American bomb dropped up there. And, yes, he did escape…They did let him get away.” In his own book, The Unvarnished Truth About The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gen. DeLong notes his own conversation with the SecDef in which Gen. DeLong, citing difficult and hostile terrain, high altitudes and extreme weather conditions, advises the SecDef against the deployment of ground forces in Tora Bora. Yet this was the very terrain that the 10th Mountain Division was designed to operate and fight in. General Tommy Franks, in interviews and in his own memoirs which were quoted by New Yorker Correspondent Steve Coll in the Frontline piece, states his rational for not deploying the 10th Mountain Division into a blocking position in Tora Bora was his fear of inflaming local Afghan opinion with a heavy American military presence “putting a big, heavy occupying American footprint” in the heartland of Taliban country. Gen. Franks feared he would make matters worse at that stage. But the question is worse than what? What could possibly be worse than allowing Bin Laden to escape? Was not the capture and elimination of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden our priority and reason for going into Afghanistan? CIA and intelligence source in the field and in Langley both concluded that Bin Laden and his cadre was in Tora Bora. According to Mr. Clarke, the administration ignored the critical advice of the experts on the ground in Afghanistan and in CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. Resources that were already on the ground and embedded with Afghan resistance six weeks prior to the arrival of any of military personnel from Central Command. Mr. Clarke, who was the counterterrorism expert for the National Security Council alleges that access to the decision making chamber was limited to the President, Vice President, the SecDef and General Franks. As a result, Al Qaeda remains a viable threat as does Bin Laden and even with the successful defeat of the Taliban and the installation of the Karzai regime, the US Military still remains fully engaged in Afghanistan. As of 2006, there is 16,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, a far larger “footprint” than what Generals Frank and DeLong wanted or predicted and overshadows their hesitation over the deployment of a single division.

Fast forward three years on 1 May 2003 the SecDef announced in Kabul that major combat operations had ended. At the time US troop strengths in the country were 8,000. The SecDef added that the US forces will shift their focus to stabilizing and rebuilding the country. On March 7 2004, Operation Mountain Storm was unleashed and involved a 13,500 strong US led coalition force backed by air support according to Lt. Colonel Bryan Hilferty during a March Press Briefing. Although Lt. Col Hilferty maintains the mission of the operation was “rebuilding and reconstructing,” The operation comes after a surge of militant attacks on aid workers and foreigners, as well as coalition forces, and targeted the southern and eastern mountains where Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters were believed. According to Barbara Starr of CNN, at the time of the operation, US troop strengths were not going to exceed 11,000.

Khost, Afghanistan. 22 April 2004. As initially reported by Lt. Col Matthew Beevers to MSNBC. Around 1900 hours on a road approximately 25 miles from the US Base in Khost, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a mounted patrol near a town of Sperah when they came under fire. The Rangers have a storied past as well, with 15 Unit citations for valor in combat from North Africa to Panama; 5 of which were Presidential Unit Citations. The Rangers disembarked their vehicles and gave pursuit, returning fire as they went. The firefight lasted 15 to 20 minutes and at the end there were two dead and two wounded; 9 insurgents were killed according to the Afghan Commander. Among the dead were Specialist Pat Tillman, and an Afghan Soldier who was fighting along side Spec. Tillman. Specialist Tillman had answered his country’s call and walked away from a lucrative NFL career and straight into harm’s way. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star and a widow.

At the time of Spec. Tillman’s death 110 Americans had died in Afghanistan, 39 due to combat. Since 2004, the insurgents have shifted their tactics and mimic similar tactics used in Iraq. In 2005, following after Spec. Tillman’s death another, 98 American soldiers would die. Paul Rogers, writing for OpenDemocracy.net, reported that there are increasing indications that the insurgents are borrowing tactics used in Iraq, including suicide-bombing. This is hardly surprising, given the reports that young paramilitaries from Afghanistan are now traveling to Iraq, gaining experience there to use back in Afghanistan, this was supported by reports from Associated Press and the Boston Globe. According to Amir Shah of Associated Press and the Boston Globe, US Military Spokesman, Colonel James Yonts said that some of the new tactics include roadside bombs and suicide bombers which Col. Yonts assesses as “very hard to combat.” The shift according to the Colonel is “because it’s successful. They have shifted their tactics to something that is successful.” At the time of the Colonel’s comments, insurgents killed 8 medical workers in a clinic in Badghis, 230 miles northwest of Kabul. The clinic was then burned to the ground. This area had been largely peaceful and the violence that killed a doctor and several nurses marks a significant turn in insurgent tactics.

Rogers reports that the first two weeks of 2006 witnessed a relentless series of attacks that provide further evidence of these trends:

-->on 5 January, a bomb in Tirin Kowt, Oruzgan province killed ten people

-->on 15 January, an attack on a Canadian military convoy in Kandahar killed a senior diplomat, Glyn Berry, and three bystanders

-->on 16 January, another bomb in Kandahar targeting an army convoy killed an Afghan soldier and three civilians, and injured another sixteen people including six soldiers

-->also on 16 January, a suicide-bomber in Spin Boldak (near Kandahar, on the Pakistan border) killed twenty people and injured twenty more; local police officers may have been among the casualties (see Ruhullah Khapalwak & Carlotta Gall, "24 killed in bomb blasts in southern Afghanistan", International Herald Tribune, 17 January 2006)

As of May 2006, American and coalition warplanes are flying 25-60 combat missions a day in Afghanistan, as the combat shifts from a guerrilla war to a terrorist insurgency. Christian Parenti of www.thenation.com reported that insurgents detonated 23 suicide bombs in the past six months and 200 schools have been burned or closed down. Currrent troop levels in 2006 is at 19,000 although US plans to reduce it to 16,000, but even at that level it is still higher than the threshold set in 2004 by the SecDef. As Gen. Newbold pointed out the mission in Iraq was peripheral to the mission in Afghanistan and the capture of Bin Laden – remember 9/11? Yet it is clear in regard to manpower and materiel allocation that Iraq is no longer a peripheral mission for the SecDef or this administration. If anything, it has become the reverse, Afghanistan is now just a sideshow to the war in Iraq. When the SecDef or Conoleeza Rice, now reduced to a “Vanna White” talking head, speaks publicly about the war on terror, it is Iraq in the center ring, not Afghanistan.

Remember Jessica and Lori? We lionized Army Private First Class Jessica Lynch and made a martyr of Private First Class Lori Piestewa, for their harrowing ordeal as Prisoners of War, and in the wake of Abu Ghurab, we have already forgotten the brutality they endured. There was also Specialist Shoshanna Johansen who suffered bullet wounds to her legs and was another Prisoner of War. As of June of 2005, according to CNN, thirty-nine female U.S. troops have died in Iraq and three female Defense Department employees have been killed while working there. Six female troops have died serving in Afghanistan.

In a report by CNN’s Jane Arraf, in June of 2005, a convoy returning to Camp Falluja was ambushed. A suicide car bomber was detonated as the convoy traveled by. The attack killed at least four Marines -- including three women, U.S. military sources said. Of 13 Marines wounded in the attack, 11 were female, the sources said. A Marine and a sailor remain unaccounted for. Their genders were not disclosed. One of those Marines was a Lance Corporal Holly A. Charette, she was 21, from Cranston, Rhode Island. She was a mail clerk at Marine Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi. The convoy was traveling to Camp Falluja after working at entry control points in the city, according to a Marine Corps statement. This was the deadliest attack for women since World War II. In that same summer, a female National Guard soldier recently was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest medal for valor, for her role in a firefight with insurgents. Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of Nashville, Tennessee, is the first woman to receive the award since World War II. Sgt. Hester's unit, Kentucky National Guard's 617th Military Police Company, thwarted an insurgent ambush against a coalition convoy on March 20. When the convoy was attacked, Sgt. Hester’s unit of three armored Humvees was on patrol when a convoy was ambushed. The squad's three Humvees roared toward the firefight., placing themselves and their vehicles in the direct line of fire. Some of the trucks were already in flames. Sgt. Hester’s squad leader, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein ordered his driver, Sgt. Dustin Morris, to get between the assailants and the convoy. Immediately, the third Humvee was caught in a deadly crossfire. In rapid succession three squad members were wounded, as the unit’s medic tried furiously to patch them up and return fire. Staff Sgt. Nein’s armored Humvee took a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade. Staff Sgt. Nein and Sgt Hester jumped out of their vehicle and charged the trench filled with insurgents. After a 45-minute firefight, 27 insurgents were dead, six wounded, and one captured. Three soldiers from the 617th were wounded.

Retired Colonel Douglas McGregor was interviewed for the Newsweek article and wrote the book, Breaking the Phalanx, which was influential in inspiring the military’s blitzkrieg assault on Baghdad. In the interview with Barry and Thomas of Newsweek, Col. McGregor agreed with the generals, “Yes, Rumsfeld should go,” but added, “but a lot of generals should be fired too. They share the blame for the mess we’re in.” Gen. Batiste concurred, “I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply then ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is.” Gen. Zini in a separate CNN interview blamed Rumsfeld for “throwing away 10 years worth of planning.” According to Gen. Zinni, those plans “had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq.” Gen. Zinni continued with his criticism, “We grow up in a culture where accountability, learning to accept responsibility, admitting mistakes and learning from them was critical to us…when we don’t see that happening it worries us. Poor military judgment has been used through out this mission.” Gen. Swannack first spoke out in 2004, early on in the conflict, while he was still on active duty. At the time he was still commanding the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. The 82nd is another distinguished unit with a history stretching from 1919 and the First World War to the first Gulf War in 1991. In an article covered by Washington Post correspondent Thomas Ricks, Gen. Swannack said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are." His sentiments at the time were echoed by Army Col. Paul Hughes, who in 2003 the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, Col. Hughes said he agreed with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," Col. Hughes stated in the interview.

Where is this course taking us? For the dissenting generals it is a path they have spent their careers avoiding. The US Military entrenched in an unpopular war that is increasingly appearing to be a civil war, to prop up a democracy in a country with heavy US business interest invested, and a civilian leadership unwilling to fully commit to “winning the war.” According to Ricks’ 2004 Washington Post article, some officers say the place to begin restructuring U.S. policy is by ousting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whom they see as responsible for a series of strategic and tactical blunders over the past year. Several of those interviewed by Ricks said a profound anger is building within the Army at the SecDef and those around him. Ricks further cited an undisclosed senior general at the Pentagon who said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it -- and they should not." US involvement in World War II lasted four years; Korea was three years; and Vietnam was 10 years.

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly at the SecDef and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. “I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion," he said. "Had someone like Colin Powell been the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], he would not have agreed to send troops without a clear exit strategy. The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice.” In an earlier piece by Ricks (Washington Post, 2002) for the Post, Ricks recounts what he called a “pronounced civilian-military divide.” When Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold was preparing to leave his position as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his boss, Gen. Richard B. Myers, nominated an Air Force officer to succeed him.

But when Gen. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that Lt. Gen. Ronald E. Keys would be the next director of operations, or "J-3," one of the most important jobs in the U.S. military, he got a rude surprise. Not so fast, said Rumsfeld, who in a sharp departure from previous practice personally, interviews all nominees for three-star and four-star positions in the military. Give me someone else, the SecDef told Gen. Myers after twice interviewing Gen. Keys.

Gen. Myers complied and came up with a selection more to SecDef’s liking, Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, ending a long-standing practice of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs naming his own top subordinates. This was later supported by Gen. Swannack in his interview with CNN. “If you understand what Secretary Rumsfeld has done in his time in the Pentagon, he personally is the one who selects the three star generals to go forward to the president for senate to confirm.” Ricks cited un-named senior military officers who views Gen. Keys' demise as an illustration of a pronounced civilian-military divide at the Pentagon under Rumsfeld's leadership. Numerous officers (Ricks fails to name them in his article) complain bitterly that their best advice is being disregarded by someone who has spent most of the last 25 years away from the military. The SecDef’s disputes with the top brass involve style, the conduct of military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and sharply different views about how and whether to "transform" today's armed forces. But what the fights boils down to is over civilian control of a defense establishment that the SecDef is said to believe had become too independent and risk-averse during eight years under President Bill Clinton.

Marine General Peter Pace, who has since replaced Gen. Meyers as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs also defended the SecDef in a CNN interview in April of 2006, saying that no one works harder than the SecDef. “People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld.” But it isn’t the SecDef’s ‘patriotism’ or ‘work ethic’ that the other generals are calling into question. This merely is a deflection as Generals Batiste and Newbold, as well as the others, are not calling for the SecDef’s resignation because he doesn’t show up at work or because he doesn’t wave the flag enough times, it is for mismanaging the execution and prosecution of the war. CNN reported on 3 June 2006, that even the President has had to admit that there were “missteps” and “setbacks” in the prosecution of the war as reported by CNN and Reuters. In a joint interview with England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, the President admitted that more than three years after sending their troops to invade Iraq, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair could not escape questions about their decision to go to war even as they acknowledge far-reaching mistakes. In a joint news conference on 1 June 2006 that had a somber tone, the President acknowledged the bloodshed has been difficult for the world to understand, while Prime Minister Blair called the violence "ghastly." But, the President maintained that, "Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing." Prime Minister Blair said the effort to rid Iraq's army of members of Saddam Hussein's Baathists -- a process called "de-Baathification” – “could have been done better.” Remember General Shinseki’s warning, the Powell Doctrine, and the miscalculation of the strength of the insurgency, and on top of it all, the SecDef approved disbandment of high ranking civil and military officials in Iraq. This isn’t the first time either. Remember the WMD’s? The false report and misleading intell. From the minute American boots hit Iraqi soil, it has been a long bloody line of Texas size “missteps.” We had hard Intel that Iraq had WMD’s, they were in violation of UN Resolutions, then our Intel went soft, and the UN Security Council did not approve military actions, but the US went ahead anyway to enforce UN Resolutions that even the UN did not believe were violated. In a 2003 interview with Nick Childs of BBC, the SecDef stated that US and British case against Iraq was based on “Good Intelligence.” In another interview with Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service the SecDef stated, "We know they were a lot closer (to developing a nuclear weapon) than any of the experts had estimated."

"We know they've kept their nuclear scientists together and working on these efforts," the SecDef said. "One has to assume they've not been playing tiddlywinks, that they've been focusing on nuclear weapons." That was in May of 2003. In an interview with ABC News correspondent, Ed O’Keefe, in April of 2006, General Meyers, former Chairman to the Joint Chiefs, defended the SecDef as well. According to O’Keffe, the General bristled at the suggestion that top military leaders were not given an opportunity to express their opinion prior to the invasion, asserting, "We gave [SecDef] our best military advice. … If we don't do that, we should be shot."

Adding that those in power were given ample opportunity to speak out, Gen. Myers challenged those still in uniform who have disagreements with potential policy to speak before the decision is final. Like Gen. Shinseki and Gen. Powell? Didn’t General Swannack also warn of the lack of forces to fight the growing insurgency? General Batiste also expressed his ‘disagreements,’ even turning down a promotion to do so. Both Generals Swannack and Batiste were force commanders on the ground. These are the men who execute these missions and bury the results. One of Gen. Zinni's responsibilities while commander-in-chief at Centcom was to develop a plan for the invasion of Iraq. Like his predecessors, he subscribed to the belief that you only enter battle with overwhelming force. But the SecDef thought the job could be done with fewer troops and high-tech weapons. Ambassador Edward S. Walker, Jr described Gen. Zinni at the Middle East Institute Annual Conference in 2002:

“He is no armchair warrior; he is a recipient of the Purple Heart and many other combat medals. He didn't get his experience in Washington politics or as a guru in a think tank; he was a Marine company commander in Vietnam. He was in command of the unified task force in Somalia and has some experience with nation building. He was the deputy commander and then commander of CENTCOM. He designed and implemented the footprint of U.S. forces in the Gulf. As an ambassador in the Gulf, I know for a fact that he was the best ambassador of goodwill that we had to the region, and probably the best we will ever have to the region. This is a man who is both a soldier and a diplomat, and he knows of what he speaks.”

This was no CEO. As a company and platoon leader in Vietnam, the General learned the lessons of “too little; too late” and the same mistakes repeated in Somalia and Kosovo. Lessons that Dr. Kenneth Allard, Colonel, US Army (Ret.) elaborated in the PBS documentary, Ambush in Mogadishu. Under the auspices of the Pentagon, Dr. Allard reviewed US military documents, including classified materials, and wrote Somalia Operations: Lessons Learned. Dr. Allard, asserts that “When one thinks back to the lessons, not merely of Somalia, but indeed of the 1990s, then one has to understand that we have rather badly misapplied the lessons of history by assuming that our technology will always save us from our strategic and tactical miscalculations. Technology will not do that for you.”

How many troops did Gen. Zinni’s plan call for? The General told Mr. Kroft of 60 Minutes, “We were much in line with Gen. Shinseki's view,” says Gen. Zinni. “We were talking about, you know, 300,000, in that neighborhood,” a plan that was supported by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"If there are people … who have not spoken out," Gen. Myers told ABC News, "shame on them." Gen. Meyers suggested that the critics who once served in the military have failed to live up to the code that supports the commander in chief's decision once it is made. "You can present your arguments," Gen. Meyers said, "[But] when it's all said and done, in our system, the civilians make the decisions, the commander in chief makes the decision … and we live by those decisions."

On Memorial Day 2006, Victoria Morberg, wrote the following for the Reno Gazette Journal: “It’s the door bell ringing at 5:50 and you open the door to your new nightmare. It’s the Army and they regret to inform you your beloved son has been killed in the line of duty.”

“It’s falling to your knees and you hear someone screaming. Then you realize it’s you. It’s feeling something reach into your heart and ripping a piece out, leaving a gapping hole forever. It’s looking up and seeing your daughter and her brothers’ faces full of anguish.”

“And because you’re the Mom, you stand up, you push your sorrow, despair and fear into that gapping hole of your heart, and you go to your children and you comfort them. And you stay up all hours holding them, night after night, searching for words to give them hope.” Her son, Pvt. Joshua Morberg, was killed in December 2005, two days after Christmas.

As reported by Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post, on November of 2005, Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who watched and listened from his home as US Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " Fahmi said. "But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."

The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on 19 Nov. 2005 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told the Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha and was confirmed by U.S. investigators in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif's house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates that were verified by the Post and John Sifton of the Human Rights Watch. The Marines shot them at close range and hurled grenades into the kitchen and bathroom, survivors and neighbors said later. Khafif's pleas could be heard across the neighborhood. Four of the girls died screaming. The remains of the 24 lie today in a cemetery called Martyrs' Graveyard. Stray dogs scrounge in the deserted homes. "Democracy assassinated the family that was here," graffiti on one of the houses declared.

On the defensive, the SecDef has surrounded himself with what Ricks has called the SecDef’s “Palace Guards.” These loyalists have maintained a tight 360 around the SecDef in defense of their boss. A former top aide to General Tommy Franks, former commander of all US forces in the Middle East, also stepped forward to defend the SecDef. “Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO,” Retired General Mike DeLong told CNN in April of 2006. General Mike DeLong was Gen. Franks’ top aide. “When you walk in to him, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t you are summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s effective.” If that is the case then the SecDef faired much better than his counterparts in Enron: Kenneth Lay and former Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling who were both convicted by a jury on 25 May 2006 of running a conspiracy to portray a wobbly Enron as healthy when both men knew of accounting practices that were used to hide and misrepresent losses and failing ventures. Mr. Lay was convicted of six counts of fraud and conspiracy, as well as one count of bank fraud and three counts of lying to banks in a separate non-jury trial regarding his personal banking. Mr. Skilling was convicted of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, lying to auditors and insider trading, and acquitted of nine counts of insider trading. Mr. Lay faces a combined maximum penalty of 165 years in prison, while Mr. Skilling faces a maximum of 185 years.

In May of 2006, during an interview with CNN’s Larry King, the SecDef admitted he was surprised by the strength of the insurgency and that there were no WMD’s found. The SecDef blamed “imperfect intelligence” for the administration’s miscalculation. When Lance Corporal Miller lay mortally wounded, his fellow Marines short on armor, vehicles and personnel, climbed into that dark and bloody killing box, under fire and with insurgents closing in on their position, not once, but again, and again, and again, until they retrieved their fellow Marine. To the bureaucrats and appartchiks in the beltway who stammer out words like ‘production constraints,’ and ‘set backs,’ doling out excuses and complaining of procurement troubles, miscalculations, and imperfect intelligence, it may simply appear like an imperfect system; but to the American soldiers hemorrhaging in the Iraqi desert, bleeding out from sucking chest wounds and ‘isolated torso injuries,’ Marines like Sgt. Wells, in places like Falluja or Ramadi, it is unforgiving. And for Lance Corporal Miller whose memories of momma, his first kiss and apple pie were sprayed all over his fellow Marines; Miller, who bled out in a dusty, dank, cordite filled minaret, and for the76-year-old Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali who was gunned down in Haditha, who took nine rounds in the chest and abdomen, leaving his intestines spilling out of the exit wounds in his back, who watched in horror his entire family shot to pieces, it is irrelevant.

Robert McNamara once remarked to Errol Morris, “We all make mistakes. We know we make mistakes. I don't know any military commander, who is honest, who would say he has not made a mistake. There's a wonderful phrase: 'the fog of war.' What "the fog of war" means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.” The SecDef never studied General Johnson’s treatise at the War College, and he was not in Vietnam, Somalia or Kosovo. He was not a professional soldier. He was a CEO, as Gen. De Long aptly described him. The SecDef has maintained that he listened to the advice of his Generals, even dissenting opinions. The generals who are calling for the resignation of the SecDef are not saying this is an “unjust” war. Nor are they accusing the SecDef of being “Un-patriotic.” General Shinseki warned that there would be a need for a much larger force to occupy Iraq and he was “summarily dismissed.” Then Secretary of State Collin Powell also asked for a much large force. This was the SecDef’s biggest mistake – what the Economist called his fons et origo of all the others – and that was to try to fight the war with too few troops. His second-biggest was to make no proper provision for restoring order afterwards as was called for under the Powell Doctrine and Gen. Zini’s plan. The SecDef misrepresented the intelligence in the build-up to the war, and much of it was simply wrong according to the Economist. He failed to plan for the occupation or provide for a viable exit strategy. He ignored the growing insurgency. He disbanded the Iraqi army, feeding the insurgency with 300,000 armed and unemployed men. Gen Zinni notes this in his 60 Minutes interview, “I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan. I think there was dereliction in lack of planning,”

“Disbanding the army” according to Gen. Zinni was a mistake. “De-Baathifying, down to a level where we removed people that were competent and didn’t have blood on their hands that you needed in the aftermath of reconstruction – alienating certain elements of that society.”

What difference would 300,000 troops have made, instead of 180,000? For starters, traditional tactics dictate that you maintain a third of your force as a reserve that could be used and deployed to respond to “hot spots,” and reinforce or relive front line units. Such a force was not part of the SecDef’s “Lean, Mean Fighting Machine.” General Zinni states, “I think it's critical in the aftermath, if you're gonna go to resolve a conflict through the use of force, and then to rebuild the country.”

The general continued, “The first requirement is to freeze the situation; is to gain control of the security. To patrol the streets. To prevent the looting. To prevent the 'revenge' killings that might occur. To prevent bands or gangs or militias that might not have your best interests at heart from growing or developing.” A lesson Marines learned in Beriut. Remember Capt. Royer’s request for an additional 44 Marines? His command had no reserves to send, and Capt. Royer had to resort to cardboard cut-outs to supplement his force; using makeshift mannequins to man checkpoints because of personnel shortages. His request for an additional platoon to reinforce his company’s position was denied by command as the SecDef’s plans for a ‘lean force’ meant that there would be no provisions for units or additional forces to be used as reserve forces contradicting long standing tactical and strategic planning.

Thousands of Enron employees and investors lost their life savings, children's college funds, and pensions when Enron collapsed. In its wake, the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen LLP was dissolved. Four Wall Street executives and Merril Lynch employees were convicted of fraud, as well as 18 top executives in Enron, including its Chief Executive, Kenneth Lay, who is facing a combined maximum penalty of 165 years in prison. The point is even in the private sector; CEO’s are held responsible for their bad judgments, and are accountable for their decisions. In the WorldCom scandal, an internal audit revealed the same fraudulent practices by Scott Sullivan (CFO), David Myers (Controller) and Buford Yates (Director of General Accounting), the company’s audit committee and board of directors were notified of the fraud and acted swiftly: Sullivan was fired, Myers resigned, Arthur Andersen withdrew its audit opinion for 2001, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation into these matters. These executives were held accountable for their decisions that inflicted harm to their institutions, violated their fiduciary responsibilities, and caused hardships on those who placed their trust in their decisions. Should not the “Chief Executive Officer” of the Department of Defense be held to the same standard?

The SecDef tossed out the military’s carefully laid plans for invasion (General Zinni's plan called for at least 380,000 troops, for example, far more than Mr Rumsfeld sent). He dismissed warnings from General Shinseki that it would take hundreds of thousands of troops to win the peace, and swept aside Gen. Powell’s crucial advice and the State Department’s expertise in nation building. He ignored pleas for more troops on the ground. The SecDef excluded CIA experts from the decision making process in Afghanistan some of which had over 15 years experience in Afghanistan. And he surrounded himself with similarly one-dimensional strategists such as General Franks and General Myers. In Gen. Powell’s own words he stated the men in charge of making “military decisions” decided that troop levels were adequate. The SecDef saw himself as far more effective than those archaic members of the “go-slow bureaucracy.” A bureaucracy he accused of being inflexsive and reactionary, yet the SecDef ended up stumbling over the very same problem that he saw in his critics: a failure to adjust his thinking to new circumstances. He allowed “transformation” to distract attention from the war (in the Economist article, army officers accuse him of “trying to fix the car while the engine's running”), and he mistook criticism as a sign of bureaucratic resistance. The SecDef was criticized early on for failing to scramble fighter aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base during the 9/11 attacks even though he had already raised alert status to DefCon 3, the highest since 1973. He allowed Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora by not deploying the 10th Mountain Division in Uzbekistan. Siezed by his on arrogance, and unable to examine his own flaws, the SecDef was unable or unwilling to adjust to a highly fluid battlefield. He arrogantly brushed Secretary of State Colin Powell and the State Department aside, putting control of post-war reconstruction in military hands for the first time since the Second World War. But this was not your grandfather’s Marshall Plan, the SecDef had no clue as to what he was going to do with his new found power. Without the State Department's experience of post-war reconstruction, gathered in Bosnia and Afghanistan, the SecDef was out of his league and veered all over the place.Even Gen. Batiste, while in theater with the 1st Division, warned the SecDef in private that reconstruction funds were critically short and that, too, was brushed aside. This country’s industrial might was never fully applied to the war effort and remains strangely absent.

Insurgents adjusted far quicker to our forces’ armor improvements than we were able to adjust to theirs. They exploited weak points in personnel armor while the army took three years to study potential threats that procurement officials admitted “really hasn’t developed yet.” While we were back logged with up armoring Humvees, and better armored vehicles were delayed by “production constraints,” insurgents increased the power of the IED’s it employed against our troops. The men and women on the ground suffered for the SecDef’s inadequacies and what the President now calls “missteps and setbacks.” Sgt. Julia V. Atkins was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near her Humvee during patrol operations in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 10, 2005. Sgt. 1st Class Ramon A. Acevedoaponte was one of two soldiers killed when a roadside bomb detonated near their Humvee in Rustamiya, Iraq, on October 26, 2005. Lance Cpl. Jeramy A. Ailes, who died as result of enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq, on November 15, 2004. Airman 1st Class Carl L. Anderson Jr. was killed during hostile action near Mosul, Iraq, on August 29, 2004. A misstep in Iraq has far more dire consequences than the beltway. A mother in Reno grieves for a son sacrificed; and an orphaned girl in Haditha cries for her family cut down in anger.

It is insidious that this administration, at the front of the house, sends American boys to fight on foreign shores and in Asian wars, and at the same time, in the back of the house, they are dismantling the very VA benefits that those same boys will have to rely on when they return home. In October 2004, Dave Lindorff writing for Veterans for Peace, reported that the Pentagon, at the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, announced plans to shutter 19 commissaries—military-run stores that offer discounted food and merchandise that helps low-paid enlisted troops and their families get by—along with the possibility of closing 19 more. With 130,000 soldiers still in the heat of battle in Iraq and more fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the administration in 2004 sought to cut $75 a month from the “imminent danger” pay added to soldiers’ paychecks when serving “in harm’s way.” The administration sought to cut by $150 a month the family separation allowance offered to those same soldiers and others who serve overseas away from their families. Although they were termed “wasteful and unnecessary” by the White House, Congress blocked those cuts that year. In 2004, the White House budget for Veterans Affairs cut $3 billion from VA hospitals—despite close to 10,000 casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as aging Vietnam veterans who are requiring more and more care. VA spending today averages $2,800 less per patient than nine years ago. Of the last four presidencies, President Clinton was the only President who cut money from weapons programs rather than veterans benefits. Until protests led to a policy change, this administration also was charging injured GIs from Iraq $8 a day for food when they arrived for medical treatment at the Fort Stewart, Georgia, base where most injured are treated. The White House is seeking to block a federal judge’s award of damages to a group of servicemen who sued the Iraqi government for torture during the 1991 Gulf War. The White House claims the money, to come from Iraqi assets confiscated by the United States, is needed for that country’s reconstruction.

These are not fabricated heroes who break athletic records amped up on steroids for two or three million dollar salaries or glorified rock and gang’sta rap stars who taut their ‘bling’ and wasteful opulence like a birth right. Tom Hanks was paid $216,335,085 for portraying a soldier in “Saving Private Ryan,” in 2003 President Bush played ‘John Wayne’ hamming it up on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and even the SecDef in recent appearances have been seen flanked by his Praetorians, a visual prop to counter the generals and critics who have called for his resignation. Yet Specialist Shoshana Johnson, a POW and a disabled veteran, has had to fight the Pentagon for benefits. PFC Lynch, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, criticized the media for failing to focus on her fellow soldier and POW Shoshana Johnson, who is African American. PFC Lynch has supported Spec. Johnson’s fight to receive comparable medical care and disability benefits. What these men and women do and have done is heroic. It is Hercules slaying the Hydra; it is Beowulf’s battle with Grendel. It is epic. It is Homer’s Odyssey; it is Gilgamesh’s triumph over Humbaba. Marine Pvt. Mike Armendariz-Clark was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “We joined knowing the risk. Those innocent people in New York didn’t go to work thinking there was any kind of risk.” In this country if you do not believe in military service, you can simply walk away. But know that when you do, someone else steps into the breach in your place, and they say, “It’s OK. It’s alright. I have your back. I’ve got your six.” President Reagan once said that most people spend their entire lifetime wondering if they had made a difference in the world. These men and women do not have that problem. In the eyes of generals like Batiste and Newbold, to abandon them in their time of need is no different than leaving them behind wounded in the field of battle. It is something Lance Cpl. Miller’s fellow Marines never considered. It is a concept far removed from a society that considers the war just another ‘reality show’ to choose out of a digitalized Hi-Def 250 channel high speed cable ready plasma screen TV.

There has been much talk about the generals and how they violated their chain of command and their obligation to support the commander in chief and their civilian bosses. But those who command know that obligation does not only extend to those superiors above you, but also to the men and women who you will lead into battle and whom you will place in harm’s way. Remember Capt. Royers who not only fought against a brutal insurgency along side his Marines, but also fought just as hard to protect and save those very Marines placed in his charge. Voltaire once said that every man is guilty of all the good he has failed to do. That is the lesson Gen. Johnson took to his grave. A lesson General Batiste took to heart, and Secretary Rumsfeld is blind to. It is not what the SecDef has done or intended to do, but rather what he has failed to do, and who he has failed. To quote General Patton, “There's a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and is much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates.” The SecDef’s decisions led to the Abu Ghraib scandal. According to the non-partisan Schlesinger commission, his decision to ignore and by-pass long-established planning procedures contributed directly to the disgrace of the prisoner-baiting at Abu Ghraib, because the chain of command was disrupted and commanders found themselves in charge of units that they were unfamiliar with.The SecDef's insistence on “lean warfare” made it impossible to seal the borders or stop the looting early on in the conflict; his reliance on high-tech weaponry rather than boots on the ground made it difficult to crush the insurgency. He wanted a blitzkrieg victory with a “lean force” with no plans for occupation, yet disbanded the Iraqi Army and Police apparatus, allowing the insurgency to take hold and left the minamal coalition forces to fill the void. In all the research I have done for this article, countless stories and interviews from the start of the war to today’s headlines, little if any is said about a commander’s obligations to his subordinates, something that is lost in Corporate America’s CEO culture as evidenced by the Enron and WorldCom debacles. In an interview with Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal, General Batiste continued his public call for the SecDef’s resignation, stating he has a “moral obligation” to speak out both for his troops and for his nation. In the words of General George S. Patton, Jr.: “Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.” Gen. Zinni also spoke of the moral obligation to ‘speak out,’ as former Marine Commandant Gen. David Schoup did when he voiced reservations and concerns early in the Vietnam conflict. During a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Gen. Zinni said that as commanders “It is part of your duty” to speak out on behalf of the Marines and Soldiers under your command. “Look, there is one statement that bothers me more than anything else. And that's the idea that when the troops are in combat, everybody has to shut up. Imagine if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle, and that rifle was malfunctioning, and troops were dying as a result,” says Gen. Zinni.

Expanding on his metaphor, “I can't think anyone would allow that to happen, that would not speak up. Well, what's the difference between a faulty plan and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed? It’s leading down a path where we're not succeeding and accomplishing the missions we've set out to do.”

But the current furor can't be so easily brushed aside by the SecDef; nor can the American public continue to ignore it. Eight retired generals have publicly called for the SecDef’s resignation. So has senior politicians such as Joe Biden and John McCain who have been calling for his head for months. A numder of books—most notably “Cobra II” by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor (Pantheon)—have provided yet more ammunition for SecDef’s critics. The secretary of defence has become a liability for an already troubled administration: a distraction at home and a barrier to success in Iraq. This was not “one or two” disgruntled individuals who were in disagreement with the SecDef but as Gen. Zinni put it, “there were a number of people, before we even engaged in this conflict, that felt strongly we were underestimating the problems and the scope of the problems we would have in there,” says Gen. Zinni. “Not just generals, but others -- diplomats, those in the international community that understood the situation. Friends of ours in the region that were cautioning us to be careful out there. I think he (SecDef) should have known that.” In his speech to the Middle East Institute (2002), Gen. Zinni stated that in order for any action in Iraq to succeed, and bring stability to a volatile region, the US has to consult with and involve the particular partners in the region and that those partnerships have to be maintained. “If rifts or divisions come out and are magnified by this, who comes and who doesn't come, and problems are created for those relationships, then we're going to have trouble. We have a potential failure,” the general said, “Even outside the region; we need partners--partners who were with us before in the Gulf War, partners who have an interest in this region, partners whose lifeline and well-being depends economically and otherwise on the stability for this region. We definitely have to approach this with global partners and international legitimacy, or whatever we do on the ground is going to be tainted from the beginning.” That was in 2002.

In May 1993 Operation Somalia-2 (UNOSOM-2) began in an effort to create conditions to enable the Somalis to rebuild the country. Under the Clinton Administration, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin reduced US troops from 26,000 to 4,000 and depolyed 400 US Army Rangers and Special Forces as well. Confronting criticism at home, Mr. Aspin explained that U.S. troops would remain until order had been restored in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. In September of 1993, General Powell asked Mr. Aspin to approve the request of the U.S. commander in Somalia for tanks, armored vehicles and AC-130 Spectre gunships for his forces. Mr. Aspin turned down the request. Shortly thereafter Somali warlord Aideed's forces in Mogadishu killed 18 U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 75 in attacks that also resulted in the shooting down of three U.S. helicopters and the capture of one pilot. The bodies of American soldiers were broadcast on CNN being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. In the face of severe congressional criticism, Mr. Aspin admitted that in view of what had happened he had made a mistake, and later submitted his resignation. During the Hostage Crisis in Tehran, Iran, in April of 1979, a daring mission to rescue the hostages using an Ad Hoc military team was divised and excuted. It ended in a bloody fireball in the middle of the Great Salt Desert outside Tehran. Mission Commander Col. Charles Beckwith was forced to leave behind the bodies of eight dead US Servicemen. Five from the Airforce and three Marines were left behind in the smoldering wreckage. The next day, 25 April 1979, a somber President Carter addressed the nation and the world, that the clandestine mission to resue the hostages had failed; eight US Servicemen were dead, and several others critically injured. President Carter accepted full responsibilty for the mission and its failure. The admission effectively ended his political career and any hope of re-election, but it was the right thing to do. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored or refused to recognize crucial and hard learned lessons from World War I to Somalia; from Clauswitz to Powell. In the General Zinni’s book, Battle Ready, he writes: “In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption.” Gen. Shinseki had called for far more troops than the SecDef wanted; Generals Powell and Zinni, both had recommended a larger force allowing for the possibility of reconstruction and occupation. Plans formulated and based on the lessons of the first Gulf War. Both were trusted and senior officials within the administration with decades of military experience, and both were summarily discarded by the SecDef. In the Larry King interview, the SecDef stated that he did not want a larger force because such a force would drive the Iraqis into a state of “dependency,” who would then depend on US and Coalition forces for security and stability, yet it was the SecDef who approved the Bremmer Plan to disband Iraq’a military and security apparatus, and thrust the coalition forces into the very role he did not want them to fill. For the SecDef’s failures to the men and women placed in his charge, it is a dereliction of duty and a dishonorable discharge of his office. The SecDef views these generals’ criticism as a betrayal, but it is the other way around. It is the SecDef who has failed those brave souls he has placed in harm’s way. It is worse than leaving your wounded behind on the battlefield.

~

In researching this article, I would like to ackowledge and recognize the following individuals, organizations and agencies and the work they had done which contributed to and resulted in this article. Those individuals and organizations are as follows: Michael Moss, Evan Thomas, John Barry, Dexter Filkins, Steve Kroft, Jane Arraf, Victoria Morberg, Brooks Barnes, Jack Kelly, Steve Coll, Lauri Sullivan, Amir Shah, Nick Childs, Paul Rogers, Dave Lindorff, and Christian Parenti. I wish to acknowledge the following organiztions, Truthout.org, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Veterans for Peace, PBS, CNN, ABC News, the Reno Gazette Journal, The Boston Globe, Information Week, The Jewish World Review, Opendemocracy.net, thenation.com, BBC, Reuters, and Associated Press. I’d like to thank Dr. Victoria Randlett of the University of Nevada Reno, for her support and guidance. Most of all, I wish to thank the men and women who stand on the wall, whose virtue and sacrifice is unquestioned, I could not name all of those who have fallen, or those who are still serving today, all I can do is say “Thank You.” For the generals who have stood up and spoken for the men and women under their command, thank you for your moral courage and even more so for teaching this generation what true leadership means; that a battlefield commander is not a CEO. You do not lead from the edge of a swivel chair; you lead on the forward edge of the battle area. As Col. Moore aptly put it “where the metal meets the meat.” That sometimes in order to lead, you must place yourself at risk…

In the line of fire….

In harm’s way.

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