Wednesday, March 26, 2003

SMELLS LIKE A BAY OF PIGS

One senior administration official put it this way: "'Shock and Awe' is Air Force bull---!"

From an clear-eyed Knight Ridder article by Joe Galloway - Rumsfeld's strategy under fire as war risks become increasingly apparent. As in Vietnam (and the Bay of Pigs before that), there are claims that civilian government officials have ignored military advice to push their own vision and interpretation of how an attack would be received in country. The result might well be increased Coalition deaths due to poor planning and bad assumptions. Galloway did an excellent interview about this subject today (3/26) on Fresh Air (check for playback at www.freshair.npr.org). In it, he said the reason military people were talking to him about this subject was that they expected (feared?) Rumsfeld to blame on the military when the reality of Iraq events gets too ugly.

Knowledgeable defense and administration officials say Rumsfeld and his civilian aides at first wanted to commit no more than 60,000 American troops to the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would capitulate in two days.

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Saddam once the Americans attacked.

The officials said Rumsfeld also made his disdain for the Army's heavy divisions very clear when he argued about the war plan with Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander. Franks wanted more and more heavily armed forces, said one senior administration official; Rumsfeld kept pressing for smaller, lighter and more agile ones, with much bigger roles for air power and special forces.

"Our force package is very light," said a retired senior general. "If things don't happen exactly as you assumed, you get into a tangle, a mismatch of your strategy and your force. Things like the pockets (of Iraqi resistance) in Basra, Umm Qasr and Nasariyah need to be dealt with forcefully, but we don't have the forces to do it."

"The Secretary of Defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days," said a retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan. "He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

He added ruefully: "As in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, we are using concepts and methods that are entirely unproved. If your strategy and assumptions are flawed, there is nothing in the well to draw from."

In addition, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, which they said resulted in a number of mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

Robin Dorff, the director of national security strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., said three things have gone wrong in the campaign:

_A "mismatch between expectations and reality."

_The threat posed by irregular troops, especially the 60,000 strong Saddam Fedayeen, who are harassing the 300-mile-long supply lines crucial to fueling and resupplying the armor units barreling toward Baghdad.

_The Turks threatening to move more troops into northern Iraq, which could trigger fighting between Turks and Kurds over Iraq's rich northern oilfields.

Dorff and others said that the nightmare scenario is that allied forces might punch through to the Iraqi capital and then get bogged down in house-to-house fighting in a crowded city.

"If these guys fight and fight hard for Baghdad, with embedded Baathists stiffening their resistance at the point of a gun, then we are up the creek," said one retired general.

Dr. John Collins, a retired Army colonel and former chief researcher for the Library of Congress, said the worst scenario would be sending American troops to fight for Baghdad. He said every military commander since Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist, has hated urban warfare.

"Military casualties normally soar on both sides; innocent civilians lose lives and suffer severe privation; reconstruction costs skyrocket," Collins said, adding that fighting for the capital would cancel out the allied advantages in air and armor and reduce it to an Infantry battle house to house, street by street.

(Another retired senior officer) said the Air Force was bombing day and night, but its strikes have so far failed to produce the anticipated capitulation and uprising by the Iraqi people.

One senior administration official put it this way: "'Shock and Awe' is Air Force bull---!"

Monday, March 24, 2003

THE WEB LEADS THE WAY TO SHOCK AND AWE
Warren - always a guy ready to punch in a random URL - alerted us to Shock and Awe, which appears to spotlight a 1996 book by the same name explaing the SHOCK AND AWE strategy (fast becoming known as It that all there is?). In a worthy demonstration of verbal tounge-twisting, the site's authors write:

By releasing the "Shock and Awe " strategy weeks prior the assembly of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US Pentagon intended to alert the people of Iraq of the planned campaign. Had the strategy functioned as planned, the people and leaders of Iraq would have submitted to the coalition force to prevent a punishing assault.

Had the Iraqi people and leaders perceived the "Shock and Awe " strategy as described, the outcome of Operation Iraqi Freedom would have resulted in minor losses to coalition forces. As of March 23, 2003 there is no evidence the Shock and Awe has not produced the intended results. It is not an indication the Shock and Awe strategy will not work as intended in the future.


Let's repeat - there is no evidence the Shock and Awe has not produced the intended results. Huh?
DIPLOMACY?
Warren wrote in - After all, who can name a single act of effective diplomacy regarding Iraq in the last 12 years?

I wrote back - You're confusing diplomacy with coercion. There was no effective coercion. Diplomacy is about two parties meeting (or butting heads) somewhere in the middle. As ugly as it was, the Cold War was successful diplomacy. The US and others failed to turn Iraq to their direction, but Iraq didn't invade anyone and inspectors (when they were there) sometimes succeeded at what they tried to do. They could have done more had they not been forced to leave

The US failed at diplomacy because members of the US administration have wanted this war since before Bush took office. They've written papers on it and made public plans about how it was necessary. Then, they waited for a pretext. Of course, none of them will be fighting, but they will offer prayer whenever a few America kids get killed or captured. It makes me feel warm.

Again, I don't like Saddam and I'd like him dead or out of power. But there were many shades of pressure left to explore before invading.
THE ONION GETS A BEAT
From Who Lost the U.S. Budget?, in the NY Times The Onion describes itself as "America's finest news source," and it's not an idle boast. On Jan. 18, 2001, the satirical weekly bore the headline "Bush: Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over," followed by this mock quotation: "We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

Whatever our qualms about how we got here, all Americans now hope that the foreign front proceeds according to plan. Meanwhile, let's talk about the fiscal front.

The latest official projections acknowledge (if you read them carefully) that the long-term finances of the U.S. government are in much worse shape than the administration admitted a year ago. But many commentators are reluctant to blame George W. Bush for that grim outlook, preferring instead to say something like this: "Sure, you can criticize those tax cuts, but the real problem is the long-run deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and the unwillingness of either party to reform those programs."

Why is this line appealing? It seems more reasonable to blame longstanding problems for our fiscal troubles than to attribute them to just two years of bad policy decisions. Also, many pundits like to sound "balanced," pronouncing a plague on both parties' houses. To accuse the current administration of wrecking the federal budget sounds, well, shrill ? and we don't want to sound shrill, do we?

There's only one problem with this reasonable, balanced, non-shrill position: it's completely wrong. The Bush tax cuts, not the retirement programs, are the main reason why our fiscal future suddenly looks so bleak.


So much more to read...

Friday, March 21, 2003

HERE'S SOMETHING WE MISSED
AlterNet: U.S. Diplomat Resigns In Protest From John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

IRAQ LIMBO
Where is Raed ? offers blogger's POV from downtown Baghdad. It's a pro-democracy site and includes this blurb "The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."---------- Samuel P. Huntington

Frankly, I think rock and roll played a part too, especially in knocking down The Wall.

Props to Blowtorch Monkey Armada for point out the site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

COUNTDOWN
Well, it's T minus 2:45 until GWB's deadline hits and and a whole world of hurt is unleashed on Iraq. I've been having heartfelt email exchanges with Warren and was impressed to hear he too is concerned with the repercussions that could come from a war (increased terror attacks, crumbling status of the US abroad, etc). Still, he still feels it's a job that needs to be done. I remain conflicted, mostly because I don't trust the people leading the White House. I fear they'll use this battle as a pretext to enforce a permanent state of war. Lord knows they been driving this whole Terror Alert thing into the ground.

My fears got me thinking about the lack of any absolute truth. Belief is not about reality. It's about which cable channel you watch, newspapers you read or political party you hitch your wagon to. Warren described it as increased tribalism and I agree. For instance, If we were in the exact same situation and Gore or Clinton were leading this charge, I bet the left and middle would be backing the actions while the right and far left would be opposed (albeit, for different reasons). The Right in particular would claim that Clinton/Gore was dragging us into the role of Worldwide Peacekeeper and Nationbuilder, wasting all our tax dollars on Third World misfits.

It has to do with who you trust and I think that's why much of Europe doesn't back this action. They think Bush is a cowboy idiot who should have stuck to losing money in the oil biz. Bush spent the first two years telling much of the world Fuck off. I don't need to honor anything signed by a former President if I don't want to. Bye Bye SALT Treaty. Bye Bye Kyoto Agreements. Hello revisions to policies on attacking other nations without provocation. Europe has simply had enough and is saying, "You want war? Go fight it yourself, asshole."

What's the conclusion? Next year, China might decide Taiwan is acting badly and opt to invade preemptively - ala the US - to protect national interests. Will we have a leg to stand on in protest? Nope. In a few hours American troops are marching into Iraq whether Saddam stays, leaves or blows himself up. White House officials are going to re-learn the difficulties of overtaking a city of 5 million (something we really haven't done since WWII). Even if only 50,000 of Bagdad's residents fight, there's going to be a lot of blood and chaos. I hope all the optimistic predictions are correct and Iraqis welcome US and Brit troops with flowers and open arms. But I bet that will end when the first female suicide bomber hands over an exploding bowl of dates.

Even if we wipe out Saddam and his guards, I think the US is entering a long term minefield that will make the Israeli / Palestinian conflict look like an afternoon soccer match. I hope, hope, hope I'm wrong. But bottom line - I've got a four-year old son. I view world events like this in how it could effect him. If he was 16, a war like this loomed and the current White House required his participation, we'd be on our way to Canada tomorrow.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

CB @ THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
Christian Bauman (author of The Ice Beneath You) spoke at a National Press Club event on U.S. troop preparedness for chemical and biological warfare. His speech went as follows:

"I was a soldier for four years. I joined the US Army as an E1 Private at the tail of the Gulf War, and served in two major deployments: Somalia and Haiti.

Now I make my living as a novelist. Novelists deal in the world of fiction, generally speaking. Not facts. Not so different from the Department of Defense.

I speak to you today, though, not as a novelist, but as a citizen and a veteran. And it seems to me that the most important thing I could ever do to save the lives of fellow soldiers didn’t happen in Somalia, nor in Haiti. My time in those places was eye-opening and sometimes scary but harm-free. No, the most important thing I’ll ever do to save life and limb of a fellow soldier is what I’m doing right now.

Anyone who tells you that DoD wouldn’t think of sending its people into harm’s way without being fully protected is lying. I was sent to Somalia in December of 1992. The deployment came with plenty of warning. I had training filters in my gas mask, and a heavily used training MOPP suit in my rucksack. Even supposing the real equipment works correctly, I didn’t have it. Nor did anyone in my platoon. I wouldn’t have survived teargas, let alone a chemical or biological attack.

Was there a true chemical threat in Somalia? Well…does it matter? There wasn’t supposed to be ANY threat. We went to Somalia to help stop a famine and ended our stay there with the bodies of American GIs being dragged through the streets. That’s the definition of preparedness: you make sure ALL systems are go beforehand, because war and conflict follow their own schedule and have their own rules.

But what is really frightening is that in the First Gulf War, chemical and biological attack WAS expected. And the members of my platoon and company who’d deployed to the Gulf did so in the same way I later went to Somalia: with training filters in their masks and heavily used training MOPP suits in their rucksacks. And the stuff was never upgraded while they were in-country. Every night, the Scud missle alert would sound, and they would go to MOPP 4, and as the missiles exploded over their heads they were essentially unprotected, in gear that either didn’t work or wasn’t meant to work.

Colonel David Hackworth, the most decorated living American soldier, has a quote he uses a lot, from George Washington: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly Proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated…by their Nation."

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that the soldiers in the field now in the Gulf stand in harm’s way because of their own faulty equipment, and they know it. On so many levels, they don’t trust it—and experience points to the fact that they shouldn’t. What’s worse, they know it didn’t work for the veterans who came before them, and they’ve seen how the Pentagon has brushed them off.

Perhaps it’s easy to brush off 160,000 Gulf War Syndrome casualties, months and years after the fact. It won’t be so easy to brush off entire battalions of American soldiers laid to waste in the face of a full-out chemical attack that they are not properly equipped for."

Saturday, March 08, 2003

ELECTION DAY
I received a card in the mail today with voting instructions. It said You will be asked to show Photo ID. If you forget your Photo ID, you will still be allowed to vote.

And that helps us, how?

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

CROSSING THE LINE WITH LENNON
Don't I recall some parties saying a world led by Mr. Ashcroft would never turn on it's own citizens? Right. From Ultra-Deb.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.

When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing "in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises," the complaint read.

Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall "was like a private house and that I was acting poorly.

"I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance," Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Downs is the director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints of misconduct against judges and can admonish, censure or remove judges found to have engaged in misconduct.

Calls to the Guilderland police and district attorney, Anthony Cardona and to officials at the mall were not returned for comment. Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

BAUMAN WATCH - EPISODE 61
CB from New Hope (author of THE ICE BENEATH YOU) wrote to inform: I'll be speaking at the National Press Club this Thursday March 6 at 9:30 am, as a small part of a large press event arranged by Congressman John Conyers, Ralph Nader, and Stephen Robinson (a retired sergeant first class, now director of National Gulf War Resource Center).

The overall topic of the event is the war, specifically the faulty equipment and unpreparedness of US troops for chemical/biological warfare, and the Pentagon's denial of any problem.

As a representative of both artists and lower-enlisted veterans (as opposed to Admirals and politicians), look for me to not have much to say, but happy to be there all the same.

Monday, March 03, 2003

BUSH & BLAIR, A LOVE SUPREME
Those of you with broadband access might enjoy this little video mashup of GW Bush and Tony Blair singing a love duet. It's very touching. Thanks to B Bob of NYC for the heads-up.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

TWO SIDES OF THE COIN
You can believe this report of an Orlando Pro-Administration War Rally, (published by the Orlando Weekly and featuring my friend Ultra Deb) or you can tune into this version of the same event published by the Orlando Sentinel.

Always interesting to read media bias in action, no?. Props to Blowtorch Monkey Armada" for pointing out the Sentinel version.
MAKE YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS
In the never-ending debate over what polls say about the war, Warren wrote to inform that P.S. Fox News reported this morning that 71 percent of registered voters support military action to remove Saddam.

Recall also, Warren's comment of a few days ago about failure of the US media to cover the large number of East European countries who support Bush's plan. You remember Eastern Europe -- those people who actually lived under a despotic totalitarian regime less than a generation ago.

I thought it an excellent point, but our friend at the Blowtorch Monkey Armada (gosh, I love that name), added some more information to fuel the fires:

Tell your friend Warren that New Europe is not really as supportive as he'd have you believe.  More bs from the right. From from this BBC News article (dated Feb 11):

Public opinion in eastern Europe is even more hostile to war than in the west.

A Gallup International poll of a few days ago found low support in the region for war, even if sanctioned by the UN - just 38% in Romania, 28% in Bulgaria and 20% in Estonia.

The figure for Russia was 23%.

In the UK, an opinion poll in the Times newspaper this week found that 51% of those questioned saw Tony Blair as a US poodle - although 47% trusted him to do the right thing. An overwhelming 86% wanted more time for weapons inspections, and only 25% thought enough evidence had been found to justify a war.

In Germany, central to Europe's anti-war bloc, an opinion poll this week makes it look almost as if the Germans now see the US - not Iraq - as the main threat to world peace.

The Forsa poll found 57% of Germans held the opinion that "the United States is a nation of warmongers".

Only 6% said they thought President George W Bush was concerned with "preserving peace".

From Germany there is also evidence of damage to the overall image of the US.

A new Emnid poll conducted in Berlin found that 54% percent of Berliners under 30 years old had a "mostly negative" association with the US as a country, against 36% who saw it as "mostly positive".


The BBC wasn't totally one-sided though and they made sure to add this bit of interesting churn The evidence of other recent military conflicts, including the first Gulf war against Iraq in 1991 and the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, is that public opinion can turn in favour of western governments when a war is waged and won.

So perhaps we can say everybody hates a bully and loves a winner.
PANTY HOAX UNCOVERED
Warren from LA sent us this link, which claims the see-thru skirts from Japan are a Photoshop hoax. Warren wrote The truly funny part is how I discovered the hoax. I showed my lovely and tasteful wife the picture on the Limbo, and she immediately wanted one. Dutiful hubby that I am, I went to Google and searched "Japan skirt panty print."

B Bob concurred a day later and sent along this equally amusing photo called "The Latest In Snowblowers", adding "this seems to be pretty real."