Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mad kings and mad wars

[If the cartoon text is difficult to read, in the top line, Hobbes asks Calvin, "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin replies, "Too few role models."]

War is stupid. It should be resorted to in last-ditch defense.

Unfortunately, we have a leader in the White House, who when he can't intimidate the generals into saying what he wants, fires them. We have a leader who listens to no one -- not even the Pentagon or his advisors, about this war. We could soon find ourselves at war in other places in the world. Iran? Bombing Somalia? Mad King George reigns.

Even the Saudis are nervous. And they're unhappy with the Shias, who are in charge of the Iraqi government. The Saudis are Sunnis.

The more I read Middle Eastern news, I see how the U.S. has destabilized an already volatile region. All of it could be engulfed in a religious war.

Perhaps Bush is one of those end-timers who wants to bring it on.

Here a take that seems to sum up Arab thinking:

Arab Perspectives on Bush's Iraq plan
Q&A with Jamal Dajani
New America Media, Q & A, Camille T. Taiara, Posted: Jan 16, 2007

Editor's Note: The Arab media was "bewildered" by Bush's plans to send more troops to Iraq without changing an admittedly failing strategy, reports Jamal Dajani, director of Middle Eastern programming for LinkTV.

Bush's plan to place new brigades in some of Iraq's most hotly contested areas is equivalent to "poking a tiger with a stick," Jamal Dajani said. And the administration's refusal to negotiate with Iran -- as the Baker-Hamilton Report advised -- is putting our allies in the region in an increasingly tight spot.

In the meantime, Iraqis are bracing themselves.

New America Media interviewed Dajani within 24 hours of Bush's speech, in an article called
Arab Perspectives on Bush Plans.

Bush said the purpose of sending the extra troops is to help the Iraqis quell sectarian violence. But how will this "surge" actually affect the war?

This is the Shia's first opportunity in hundreds of years to have a Shia-dominated government. I wouldn't be surprised if [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki starts purges against Sunni strongholds. At the same time, putting 4,000 of those new troops -- who are unfamiliar with the terrain, the customs, the culture -- in [Sunni-majority] Anbar, which is a very large province, is just creating more targets for the Sunnis, who still perceive the U.S. as occupiers. U.S. troops might find themselves in the position, not only of separating the Shia from the Sunnis, but of being under very heavy attack from the Sunnis, and then they'll be playing into the hands of Maliki -- by bombing the Sunnis by air, by using heavy force against them. At the end of the day, you're going to see more American soldiers killed, and it's not going to stop the sectarian war.

How is the Arab world interpreting the opposition Bush faces from Congress, from the American public, from within the military?

Basically, they feel that Bush is defying all logic. But whereas people used to differentiate between U.S. policy and the American people, there's been a change in attitude. People feel the Americans are co-conspirators, because they elected Bush, and they let him continue with his policies.

Meanwhile, the toll mounts. Here'sThe Palm Beach Post Jan. 15, on the true cost the president's "surge" will have on American soldiers:

Within hours after President Bush announced a troop increase in Iraq, the Minnesota National Guard began reaching out to family members of soldiers.

The president's "surge" will mean that as many as 3,000 Minnesotans may have to spend an extra four months in Iraq. The Minnesota Guard is sending military counselors and making mental health-care providers available to help families, stressed emotionally and financially to the breaking point, deal with the extension. The same is happening in other states. In 2005, according to the Pentagon, more than half of the combat forces in Iraq were guard members. "Citizen soldiers" doesn't fit anymore.

Last week, an Associated Press investigation found that an Army private charged with slaughtering an Iraqi family had been diagnosed as a homicidal threat by a military mental-health team three months before the March attack. About 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq come home with serious mental illness. The length of deployment, repeated tours, family separation and the stress of urban warfare have spread post-traumatic stress disorder like a virus. Veterans hospitals are seeing a spike in war patients in their 20s. The suicide rate for Iraq soldiers and veterans doubled in 2005, surges the administration doesn't talk about.

Democrats are pushing through stopgap financing to keep the Veterans Affairs health-care system running. It needs $3 billion more this year just to continue covering the veterans already in the system. Backlogs in claims processing and appointments with physicians are surging toward historic levels. It will be years before the VA feels the full weight of the Iraq toll.

The president's call for more troops stresses the all-volunteer military as never before. It takes two years to recruit, train and arm 10,000 troops. Recruiters already have lowered standards to reach targets, thus risking more atrocities such as Mahmoudiya. The Army's 3rd Infantry from Fort Stewart, Ga., that led the 2003 invasion has been recalled to Iraq, the first division to be tapped for a third deployment.

President Bush wants a "surge" of 21,500 troops. The question obvious everywhere but in the White House is: A surge from where?

Yeah, I wonder.

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