Thursday, April 05, 2007

Deadly Price of Kicking the Can Down the Road

Remember the Iraq Study Group? James Baker and others had good advice for George W. Bush. Bush, who hasn't learned a thing in six years, chose to ignore the advice. In Iraq, he's just kicking the can down the road so that Iraq becomes the next president's problem. He's not even trying very hard to do diplomacy despite calls from many people, including some Republicans, to do so. Dick Cheney, of course, is no better.

Mark Thompson of Time has an article on the price the military is paying for Bush's fiasco:
For most Americans, the Iraq war is both distant and never ending. For Private Matthew Zeimer, it was neither. Shortly after midnight on Feb. 2, Zeimer had his first taste of combat as he scrambled to the roof of the 3rd Infantry Division's Combat Outpost Grant in central Ramadi. Under cover of darkness, Sunni insurgents were attacking his new post from nearby buildings. Amid the smoke, noise and confusion, a blast suddenly ripped through the 3-ft. concrete wall shielding Zeimer and a fellow soldier, killing them both. Zeimer had been in Iraq for a week. He had been at his first combat post for two hours.

If Zeimer's combat career was brief, so was his training. He enlisted last June at age 17, three weeks after graduating from Dawson County High School in eastern Montana. After finishing nine weeks of basic training and additional preparation in infantry tactics in Oklahoma, he arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., in early December. But Zeimer had missed the intense four-week pre-Iraq training—a taste of what troops will face in combat—that his 1st Brigade comrades got at their home post in October. Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That's the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals' household staffs the finer points of table service.

(snip)

The truncated training—the rush to get underprepared troops to the war zone—"is absolutely unacceptable," says Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and opponent of the war who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. A decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam, Murtha is experiencing a sense of déjà vu. "The readiness of the Army's ground forces is as bad as it was right after Vietnam," Murtha tells TIME. Even Colin Powell—a retired Army general, onetime Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Bush's first Secretary of State—acknowledges that after spending nearly six years fighting a small war in Afghanistan and four years waging a medium-size war in Iraq, the service whose uniform he wore for 35 years is on the ropes. "The active Army," Powell said in December, "is about broken."

Our soldiers are not the president's political servants. They are to be used wisely, trained well, and supported in all ways reasonably possible and certainly long before cronies, political hacks and those looking for no-bid contracts or lucrative privatization deals. Politics should always take a back seat to our national security. Foreign policy and certainly military intervention should not be used to satisfy campaign contributors and a deluded political base. Dealing with global issues requires professionalism, not political fear-mongering.

In other venues, I first called Bush's actions in Iraq impeachable back in June 2003 because of the manner in which he lied his way into a war our nation did not need and neglected his responsibililty to finish the job in Afghanistan. I have backed away several times from calling for Bush's impeachment largely because of practical issues, one being that Cheney would succeed Bush and be just as bad. But if Bush refuses to do his duty, if he refuses to act as a responsible president, if he stubbornly asserts things he knows aren't true, if he continues to insists on dishonorable behavior, if he continues to put political pandering before country, Congress needs to remove him from office. Yes, it will require removing Cheney first. The impeachment of Cheney, in fact, might be the thing that finally brings Bush to his senses. But I wouldn't bank on it. But it's clear that we cannot afford two more years of Bush's petulant behavior.

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