28 December 2007

We're in a bad spot...

...and it's getting worse by the minute, methinks.

With the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan on Thursday, I'm not sure whether this event will go down in history like the death of Kennedy...or the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914.

An already precarious situation has just gone critical - with all parties in Pakistan already furious with Pervez Musharraf's conduct this year - and conditions are ripe for the populace to make a serious stab at removing Musharraf from office.

The big question, of course, is who will come out on top after such a coup (or all-out civil war) - and who will control Pakistan's scores of nuclear weapons?

John Yaukey of Gannett News Service published an analysis today that covered the bases pretty accurately, and I quote below:

Bhutto's assassination also could crush hopes for democratic reform in Pakistan and could badly damage relations between Washington and Islamabad -- especially if anti-Western forces prevail in the chaotic aftermath, experts said.

Indeed, the followers of Bhutto have been - for the most part - peaceful, civilized and working for democracy in a nation that is known more for coups and corruption than any semblance of democratic rule. It even makes America's current leaders look downright good.

There's going to be more violence in Pakistan, and that will come very soon (I'm checking reports as I write this). The nuclear issue is definitely the most troubling. I've mentioned on this blog here, here and here that a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the hands of Taliban-style mullahs is a scenario that should make anyone shake in their boots, and I fear it will happen sooner than later.

Pakistan also has an estimated 50-100 nuclear weapons that could fall into radical hands if the government and army lose control of the country. But analysts say the military has firm control of the weapons, at least for now, and retains close ties with the United States.

Let's hope that cooler heads in Pakistan's military are able to safeguard the knowledge needed to use such weapons, prevent terrorists/extremists from accessing the sensitive materials that could be used to make a "dirty bomb" or other such device, and can somehow prevent such forces from initiating a wider or nuclear war, which would involve - at the very least - India, Iran, Afghanistan and the U.S.

But there's one more BIG issue that no one in Washington has dared mention: The United States Armed Forces are not large enough - and are too bogged down in Iraq - to adequately provide any security in Pakistan should things get bloody very fast.

The War on Terror has just taken a turn for the worse. A BIG turn for the worse.

And because of America's connection to these events, the ongoing war in Iraq and the uncertainty of what the victors in the Pakistan fight will do, America finds itself in a very precarious situation.

And under the "leadership" of George W. Bush, America finds itself completely impotent.

America's bullied itself into a corner.

24 December 2007

Happy Holidays/VetVoice

I'll be in and out over the next few days, what with Xmas and such.

I'm actually enjoying three days off for the first time in quite a while. Just wish I could say the same for the folks in Iraq/Afghanistan.

If you are looking for something to do over the holiday - if you have even a scant few minutes to kill - head on over to VetVoice.com, read what people are saying, and take the time to weigh in yourself.

I've a feeling that VetVoice - part of VoteVets.org - is about to take off and become THE place for Vets, families and concerned Americans to stay truly informed about the war in Iraq and what it has done to our nation and Armed Forces.

But it's not just Iraq - it's Veterans' issues, Afghanistan, the 'War on Terror,' what our leaders and candidates are telling us, as well as various discussions on the state of our Armed Forces and sharing ideas on what to do at this critical juncture in America's history and future.

I'll be posting here again soon, but until then, I invite you to take a side-trip to VetVoice.com.

You may see a familiar name there.

And to all, Happy Holidays and good night.

17 December 2007

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

(Also posted at VetVoice.com)

This is an interesting piece in the WP for Monday morning.

It seems remotely possible that administration leaders - under pressure from the military and other political forces - are awakening to the fact that the US has neglected the justified, neccessary war in Afghanistan while pursuing folly in Iraq.

I'm not sure where US forces will come from, as the surge winds down and units return to base to rest/refit/retrain. I foresee some serious shuffling of the latest Pentagon deployment schedules in the near future.

What struck me, though, was the description of the usual foot-dragging in cases like these:

Administration officials said the White House could start to debate the future of the American military commitment in both Iraq and Afghanistan as early as next month.

Time to quit pussyfooting around and get to it! The surge has been on for nearly a year, while Afghanistan's been going to heck in a handbag. The time to debate was before the Iraq surge.

I was also struck by this:

Bush's decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan could heavily influence his ability to pass on to his successor stable situations in both countries, an objective his advisers describe as one of the president's paramount goals for his final year in office. They say Bush will listen closely to his military commanders on the ground before making any decisions on troops but is unlikely to do anything he believes could jeopardize recent, hard-won security improvements in Iraq.
Administration officials say the White House has become more concerned in recent months about the situation in Afghanistan, where grinding poverty, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure and the growing challenge from the Taliban are hindering U.S. stabilization efforts. Senior administration officials now believe Afghanistan may pose a greater longer-term challenge than Iraq.

Given Mr. Bush's track record in listening to his military commanders, I've gotta see it - and results - to believe it. And this bit about Afghanistan posing a greater challenge than Iraq? Yeah, I seem to recall something about guys with airplanes a few years ago who trained in Afghanistan. Most of them were Saudis, but I won't delve into that right now.

And I've seen little evidence that he wants to pass a more stable situation on to a successor - especially if he/she is a Democrat.

Richard Holbrooke, at the bottom of this story, summed up the mindset of this administration very well, in that it just can't deal with reality-based criticism:

A new White House emphasis on Afghanistan would probably expose Bush to even more criticism from Democrats, who have long accused him of taking his eye off the hunt for Osama bin Laden with the invasion of Iraq.
"It's about time they recognized the problem" in Afghanistan, said former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a Democrat, who says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley called him last spring to say that a newspaper column he wrote raising concerns about conditions in Afghanistan was too pessimistic.

While I'm glad the administration is starting to refocus on its priorities (and actually concentrating on Afghanistan again), it will never, ever admit that it's in a real pickle right now, and has yet to take any real action to mobilize the nation to help get the job done.

10 December 2007


The administration's in a bad spot right now. It really is. The NIE fiasco has caused it to backtrack and stumble all over itself in trying to explain what the heck they are really up to these days, while the American Armed Forces are already mired in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now that the administration can't use the threat of Iranian nukes as much as they would like - and that the US Intel community has essentially rebuked the administration - I wonder what's next.

Three words: Gulf of Tonkin.

With America's beefed-up naval presence in the Persian Gulf, the administration could seek to induce a greater level of tension that may include actively pursuing low-level hostilities with Iran's navy; such an incident would certainly fan the flames for retaliatory strikes against Iran, precipitating a wider war with them. It would be 1964 all over again.

But has the administration considered its true military options in the Gulf? Surely, Navy and Air Force assets in the region could do some serious damage to Iranian infrastructure; likewise, Iran has been preparing for just such a thing since 1979 - there is no doubt they are prepared.

But can America marshal a ground response to a war with Iran? I contend America can not do so at this time - and would not be able to within five years. Our nation is overcommitted as far as ground troops are concerned - I'm talking Army and Marines here - and the key to winning a war with Persia, if it can be done, is on the ground.

The administration - and Congress - must step back from the abyss and take a hard look at not only the implications of a war with Iran, but also the benefits so far of the war in Iraq. Having been there and having followed that war closely since my tour there, I daresay America's none the better for it. Sure, that may change, but I'm not feeling really good about it right now.

If the Administration is truly committed to war with Iran, and I believe that Messrs. Bush and Cheney are, they absolutlely MUST be ready to expand America's Armed Forces to a sufficient level in which it can meet such goals.

Given the fact that the Army and Marines are hitting their operational limits in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight, I've got my doubts that Bush and Cheney will take any action to ensure this nation is well-equipped to meet any other goals that may be dictated in the near future.

In short, here's my prognostication: Navy 5th fleet has a 'Stark'-like incident, in which a missile hits a US ship, causing many casualties. Needless to say, Navy/Air Force assets are called in to strike Persian Gulf coast military bases. Iran then sends ground forces to strike American bases/FOBs in Iraq (more importantly, Iran calls on Iraqi Shia forces to declare war on Americans), a full-on civil war in Iraq takes hold within 24-48 hours, and America has no other option but to continue air strikes versus Iranian forces....and how long would it be until the nuclear option is exercised?

07 December 2007

Military suicides

RIP Tyler Curtis, 22 NOV 2007, Maine.

Tyler Curtis, 25, died on 22 NOV 07 in Livermore Falls, ME of wounds suffered figthing a war in Iraq.

Curtis, having been home from Iraq several months, took his own life.

There is a problem out there, and I don't think the government - at least this administration - wants to face up to those facts.

Men and women are coming back, as they do from all wars in foreign lands, with unseen scars. My father still comes to tears on occasion when he thinks of of Vietnam, and his tour was nearly 40 years ago. That point was driven home to me in 2004 when I came home on leave from Iraq. It was hard on him, and he's not one to tear up in front of others.

My grandfather does not talk about his participation in WWII as a Naval aviator. At 87, I don't know if he ever will.

I tear up on occasion when I think guys in my unit who didn't come back, or when I see the pictures of the funerals that pop up on the news wires every day.

I rarely went on any patrols. I never killed anyone. Hell, I never fired my weapon in anger.

But it was a life-changng experience, for better or for worse.

For Tyler Curtis, it was worse. I just wish he would have reached out more.

But the men and women who planned the Iraq War - and I use the term 'planned' loosely - failed to consider the effect on the Armed Forces in general or what it might do to the average Joe, like Tyler Curtis, during their time in-country.

How many Tyler Curtises will we have from this war?

04 December 2007

Blackwater, Contractors, Mercenaries oh my!

Gage posted a great question re: Blackwater/other mercenaries in Iraq, as follows:

Hi, I.Vet. I have another question, off the subject that I'd like to ask. I'm
wondering about how the average GI feels about outfits like Blackwater. I know
that in Nam there were some Australian mercinaries, but to my knowledge, the
U.S. hasn't ever used private armies in a theatre of war before now. (Maybe we
have, but I don't know of any.) I know the mercinaries are very well paid
compared to an enlisted man, and I can imagine the GI's grouse about that, but
the money isn't really what I'm asking about. I'm wondering in general how the
GI's feel about the presence of private armies in Iraq. How do they feel about
the fact that these armies aren't accountable to the same chain of command that
the enlisted are, and do the mercinaries make things easier or harder for them?
Just wondering. Blackwater's been in the news a lot lately and it seems that the
Iraqis hate them a whole lot more than they hate the regular GI's. To me,
though, it seems outfits like Blackwater make life a hell of a lot more
dangerous for our guys in Iraq. True or not?
Gage, first my apologies for the late reply.

Next, excellent question. I never had to deal with those guys in Iraq myself, and I admit that my perspective is a few years old (3 as of 29 DEC 07). However, as a taxpayer and a vet, I'll give you my unvarnished opinion, as always....

First, it never made sense to me that our nation would rely on mercenaries - paid upwards of $80,000/year - to do the same job we pay $30,000-$40,000/year to do. I'm not talking about care and feeding of anyone, just straight up salary. Our nation has a rich tradition of charging the government a lot more than a part/service/humanoid costs, so who's to say Blackwater and their peers aren't doing the same now?

What I'm getting at is this: Say a Blackwater guy costs $100,000 in wages. There's also care and feeding/housing...there's also equipment (weapons, ammo, kevlar, vehicles, IBA/flak jacket, clothing, electronics, etc...). Per peson, I'd wager this comes to a total of maybe $200K/person (wages plus feeding plus supplies).

So we're paying $200K for someone we already trained (most are ex-military) to do something that the military pays about $80K-$100K to do (again, total costs) over a one-year tour.

(That said, I always had problems with KBR contractors who got paid five times as much as me - while they worked 4 hours a day and did what they pleased.)

Furthermore, Blackwater, etc., is not beholden to military Rules of Engagement (ROE) or Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This leads to - as we saw recently - paid mercenaries acting outside the stated goals of the military's justification/ground rules for conduct in Iraq, possibly with little course for retribution.

The short answer: If we are going to fight this war, we fight with the professionals who are trained to fight AND are subject to a high standard of conduct....all at the same general price.

The administration has erred greatly (depending on who you ask...the Blackwater Corp. is making TONS of money) in hiring others to do the jobs the military should be self-sufficient enough to do.

BOTTOM LINE: If the administration felt it would come up that short in terms of enough soldiers to fight the war, it should have taken steps BEFORE the war to fill the ranks out and go in with enough to do so.

The current administration - and its enablers of both parties in Congress - have been remiss throughout in guarding this nation's blood and treasure, and it has resulted in great detriment to both our military and our economy.

Hope that answers your question.