"Area by area, city by city, we’re conducting offensive operations to clear out enemy forces [in Iraq]."
— George W. Bush, October 6
At the moment there are some 154,000 US troops in Iraq. That seems a lot. It is, after all, about the population of Fort Lauderdale (FLA), Syracuse (NY) or Kansas City (KS). It’s only a tad more than the usual attendance at the Kentucky Derby, which is a pretty big gathering of people. But it doesn’t mean there are 154,000 rifle-wielding soldiers and marines available to combat the insurgents. Far from it.
For Bush to claim that he will "clear out enemy forces" city by city is absurd because there are not enough US troops to do so. And that is exactly what his incompetent defense secretary and even more grotesque assistant defense secretary were told in plain words by the army’s chief, General Shinseki, who informed them that occupying Iraq would require several hundred thousand soldiers.
Once you "clean out" a city, you have to secure it. There is no point in US forces flattening a city and going on to destroy the next one, as has happened and is at this moment happening, because the people who are fighting against the US occupation will just move on. Then the inhabitants of the place that US forces have reduced to rubble will try to rebuild their homes in conditions of squalor and deprivation. And who do you think they will support from now on and forever? It certainly won’t be the US troops who killed their people and destroyed almost everything they possessed. It will be the guerrillas who want to kill as many Americans as they can.
As the Bush attacks continue, the hatred felt by millions of Muslims for America is multiplied by news and pictures the US public is prevented from reading, hearing or seeing. The images are of hideous destruction, wailing orphans and blood-soaked widows, and blind havoc on a scale that would excite the admiration of the shade of Genghis Khan. Almost the whole Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia, is united in loathing of America because Bush glories in "clearing out" Iraqi towns and cities.
But Bush has not sent enough troops to secure the cities whose destruction he orders, and it has been forgotten, along with the honorable, modest and competent General Shinseki (he was not a typical US general), that "Mr Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary [declared] the recent estimate by General Eric K Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark"."
Wolfowitz is the gobbet of stinking dog snot who Bush sent to the World Bank in yet another demonstration that if you get things criminally wrong you will be promoted, or at least given a medal.
General Shinseki (no medals for him) had informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that "I would say that . . . something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." He was absolutely right, and was therefore treated with contempt by the Pentagon’s moronic little gnomes. Wolfowitz was ludicrously wrong, so he was given the same job as Robert McNamara after that incompetent robot destroyed the American military in Vietnam. McNamara promoted Yes Men who thought — or said they thought — that he and his clever sidekicks were wonderful. The Pentagon custom continues.
At the same time that General Shinseki gave his professional and accurate estimate (the quotes are from the New York Times of February 28, 2003) the bungler Rumsfeld declared "The idea that it [the occupation] would take several hundred thousand US forces I think is far off the mark". And this cretin is still in charge of the US military.
Wolfowitz told the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations on April 22, 2004 that the number of soldiers killed in Iraq was "approximately 500, of which — I can get the exact numbers — approximately 350 are combat deaths." He was wildly ignorant of the facts, as usual. The man who has been sent to head an institution whose work is based on accurate statistics got the figures preposterously, bizarrely, shamefully, disgustingly wrong. There had been 526 American combat deaths in Iraq by the day he appeared in front of the subcommittee. The fact that the number two man in the Pentagon did not know (or care, obviously) how many soldiers had been killed is a spine-chilling comment on the way this disastrous war has been conducted.
Surely the men and women in US uniform are aware of the Wolfowitz attitude, as echoed by the rest of the soulless Pentagon automatons? And if they are aware of it, how can they possibly give loyalty to a system that regards them with casual contempt? They are the cannon-fodder provided by the Pentagon for the Project for the New American Century that was dreamed up by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and the rest of the rabid warniks.
American soldiers are used as backdrops and PR aids when Bush wants to get TV photo-ops with uniformed pet goats and when Cheney wants to try to appear human by welcoming marines home from his war. The marines who were set up to receive his greetings are too young to know that Cheney is the man who said he had "other priorities" in wriggling out of uniformed service to his country in the Sixties. How can anyone in the military respect a man who was such a coward?
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Wolfowitz was given the World Bank to play with after being disastrously, totally, ludicrously, criminally wrong. What will Rumsfeld get? It’s a pity there isn’t an appointment for a Fundamentalist Christian Pope in Washington. But let’s reflect on the numbers that these outstanding military experts were so scathing about.
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A battalion of 700 men can muster perhaps 500 at any one time for an operation. It has to administer itself, and has, inevitably, some on the sick list, and must protect its base camp, so has to leave behind a number of troops for that.
Then there are the HQ and administrative staffs. Thousands of them. I could into detail about what we used to call ‘mathematactics’, but suffice to say that of the 154,000 troops that Bush has sent to his Iraqi killing grounds, at the very outside 90,000 are available for fighting duties, of which most are simply self-protection. And don’t think they are available 24/7, because even soldiers need a break from being involved in nerve-wracking operations in which they are, at any moment of every hour of every day, liable to be killed the instant they set foot or wheel outside their bases. In fact they are more likely to be killed while on the way to carry out Bush’s "offensive operations", because by the time they get there most of the guerrillas have decamped for another location, having planted bombs along the entry routes.
Bush the "War President", the would-be tactician and strategist, has tricked and swindled America’s fighting men and women. This is the draft-dodger who loves being saluted by real soldiers ; this is the gung-ho, gun-slinging, bike-riding sheriff who actually encouraged Iraq’s insurgents to attack American troops by saying "Bring them on". This is the coward who thrusts soldiers into danger that he himself shirked during the Vietnam war.
It is amazing that any American in uniform can respect the tawdry wimp who swaggered round in fancy dress in front of a sign declaring "Mission Accomplished" on May 2, 2003, when even then it was obvious he had lied his way into a war that has since cost almost 2000 American lives. (Mind you, when I asked a US general, a very old friend, how he could salute the draft-dodger Clinton as his commander-in-chief, he looked at me and looked away ; then he put the forefinger and thumb of his left hand on either side his nose, and with his right hand sketched a gesture to his forehead. Perhaps that still goes on.)
There are some 80 cities/towns in Iraq with populations of over 6,000. Of these, about a half are in the US occupation zone, and to "clear them" à la Bush, would take a minimum of 2000 troops for the smallest towns and exponentially more as the population figure increases. Of course the attractive option is to use fewer troops and blitz them with helicopter gunships and strike aircraft blazing away with rockets and pulverizing them with guided bombs. (The bombs are extremely accurate ; the problem is that the houses they accurately destroy contain women and children whose deaths seem to be vital in the Bush war for global domination.)
So if Bush goes from "area by area, city by city" to clear them of enemy in futile but majestically destructive operations that take a week or so, it will take another year to declare Mission Accomplished Again. And then, because the guerrillas keep moving on, one step ahead of the assault troops, in classic guerrilla warfare tactics (do none of these generals read history?), the whole thing will begin all over, resulting in yet more deaths of American soldiers and marines.
In fact, most deaths, now, are not among young soldiers. Perhaps you’ve noticed that most of those being killed, now, are mature reservists with teenage kids. That’s the way to go about "completing our mission", Bush style.
And when US troops move on from whatever town or city they have pulverized with their tanks and helicopter gunships and rocketing bombing F-16s, Bush imagines that Iraqi troops will be able to provide security. In a pig’s ear. If these ill-trained Iraqi soldiers are of the same religious persuasion as the locals they will help the guerrillas. If they are of other sects or different ethnic loyalty they will persecute the population and thereby encourage yet more insurgent violence.
Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and company have quite deliberately failed to provide enough troops to continue their war in a country that had not in any way harmed the United States, or was capable of doing so. They were told that the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz war plans were wrong. Then when it became obvious there weren’t enough troops to secure the land they had blitzed and occupied they refused to increase the numbers.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are criminals. (Forget Perle because he’s just a pathetic little quasi-intellectual trickster ; although, to be sure, he’s made a lot of money from his efforts.) They have sacrificed the lives of American soldiers because they refuse to admit they were wrong. Bush the strategist is a phony who prefers to look after the "haves and the have mores", as he declared on October 20, 2000. His loyalty is not to his troops or his country. It is to money and power and looking good in macho fancy dress. Bring on impeachment.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com