Thursday, September 16, 2004
The Real Question

Are we tired of talking about Vietnam yet? Yes? I sure am; at this point I really could care less what happened in those jungles nearly four decades ago. I'm much more interested in what's happening in the desert right now.

The news coming down the pipeline from Iraq is getting steadily worse: the number of attacks each day is climbing; we have over a thousand young men and women in their graves and nearly 8000 have been wounded; the insurgency is gaining ground and coming out of hiding. And I am becoming increasingly worried.

When this war began, even those of us who opposed it hoped, probably even assumed that we'd have the military strength to put and end to it within a year, maybe two; a few doomsayers aside, even the pessimists among us didn't think we were genuinely entering a long-term scenario. As the one-year mark passed, most of us saw our worst fears come true; as we passed 1000 dead, we howled at the futility of it all. And now, a much darker possibility is beginning to appear in our minds.

What if this war drags on? What if it becomes a long, bloody, protracted conflict? Those who are running the show over there are reporting back that things are much, much worse than anyone here realizes. Those who know war from experience are telling us that this is going very badly indeed.

Retired Gen. William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse -- he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He added: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving [Osama] bin Laden's ends."

(...)

"This is far graver than Vietnam," said Gen. Odom. "There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with a war that was not constructive for U.S. aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile and we're in much worse shape with our allies."

(...)

[Retired Gen. Joseph Hoare, the former Marine commandant and head of the U.S. Central Command] believes from the information he has received that "a decision has been made" to attack Fallujah "after the first Tuesday in November. That's the cynical part of it -- after the election. The signs are all there." He compares any such planned attack with late Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad's razing of the rebel city of Hama. "You could flatten it," said Hoare. "U.S. military forces would prevail, casualties would be high, there would be inconclusive results with respect to the bad guys, their leadership would escape, and civilians would be caught in the middle. I hate that phrase 'collateral damage.' And they talked about dancing in the street, a beacon for democracy."

(...)

Gen. Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and senior military officers over Iraq is worse than any he has ever seen with any previous U.S. government, including during Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."
(source)

Of everyone who supports this war, I ask this question: if you knew that this war would last for years, and bring the high casualty figures that go with a long conflict, would you still support it? If you knew it could end badly -- and given the region of the world in which we're fighting, it could end very, very badly -- would you still support it?

There were no WMDs, there was no connection to al Qaeda. Iraq was not a threat. We have stretched our military so thin that we can no longer effectively respond to real threats. We have undermined all genuine efforts to secure the country against actual terrorists, and allowed those who attacked us to escape. We have become a pariah in the world, and made many new enemies in the Middle East. And we risk much, much more the longer we stay. I don't want to see my generation decimated; I don't want to find ourselves with more enemies at the end than we had at the beginning.

Is the objective worth the risk?

PS: Want to read more about what the war actually looks like on the ground? Check out Operation Truth:
I enlisted in the Army Reserve following September 11, 2001, one of the hardest and best decisions I have made in my life. I love the United States, the Army and my unit. Out of this deep love, I ask that we as Americans take a long look in the mirror. We must ask ourselves who we are and what we stand for. We as a nation must face the monster we have created in Iraq, sooner rather than later. We must find a way out of the mess in Iraq with minimal loss of American and Iraqi life. We owe it to the soldiers on the ground and the embattled Iraqi people.

~SPC Richard Murphy

Remember, according to some right-wingers, this guy's a traitor.
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