Nothing in my life has been more frustrating than being led by incompetent leaders. This first part of a two part article from Asia Times illustrates just how maddening it is for the military to be bound to the will of an incompetent leader and how criminal it is that our fighting men and women have suffered so at their hands. For those who believe the surge has worked read the article here and count how many of our sons and daughters have paid with their lives for this arrogant folly.
“Don’t let the quiet fool you,” a senior defense official says. “There’s still a huge chasm between how the White House views Iraq and how we [in the Pentagon] view Iraq. The White House would like to have you believe the ‘surge’ has worked, that we somehow defeated the insurgency. That’s just ludicrous. There’s increasing quiet in Iraq, but that’s happened because of our shift in strategy – the ‘surge’ had nothing to do with it.”
In part, the roots of the disagreement between the Pentagon and White House over what is really happening in Iraq is historical. Senior military officers contend that the seeming fall-off in in-country violence not only has nothing to do with the increase in US force levels, but that the dampening of the insurgency that took hold last summer could have and would have taken place much earlier, within months of America’s April 2003 occupation of Baghdad.
Moreover, these officers contend, the insurgency might not have put down roots in the country after the fall of Baghdad if it had not been for the White House and State Department – which undermined military efforts to strike deals with a number of Iraq’s most disaffected tribal leaders. These officers point out that the first contact between high-level Pentagon officials and the nascent insurgency took place in Amman, Jordan, in August of 2003 – but senior Bush administration officials killed the talks.
At the center of the dispute is the failure by Armani suited Washington bureaucrats to grasp the complexity and culture of the land they have invaded. Perhaps it is even a studied incompetence played out again and again by high ranking US officials from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleeza Rice.
“We made the right contacts, we said the right things, we listened closely, we put a plan in place that would have saved a lot of time and trouble,” a senior Pentagon official says. “And every time we were ready to go forward, the White House said ‘no’.”
At the center of these early talks was a group of Iraqis led by Sheikh Talal al-Gaood, a Sunni businessman with close ties to Anbar’s tribal leaders. Gaood, who died of a heart ailment in March of 2006, was a passionate Iraqi patriot who feared growing al-Qaeda influence in his country. Speaking over coffee from his office in Amman in 2005, Gaood was enraged by the “endless mistakes” of the US leadership. “You [Americans] face a Wahhabi threat that you cannot even begin to fathom,” he said at the time, and he derided White House “propaganda” about the role of Syria in fueling the insurgency.
Gaood, looking every bit the former Ba’athist – complete with suspenders and Saddam Hussein-like mustache was particularly critical of what he called “the so-called counter-insurgency experts among Washington policymakers who think they know Iraq but don’t.” As he argued: “The guys who come through here, very educated, come in their brown robes and say they are going to Iraq to kill the Americans. They are not Syrians. They are Wahhabis. They are from Saudi Arabia. But if you talk to American officials, it is like they don’t exist.”
That might have been true for civilian policymakers, but it wasn’t true for the military – who were beginning to take heavy casualties from armed insurgents in Sunni areas.
Personally, I would hate to see a military coup but maybe it is time if not for a revolution then at the very least a mutiny.