Henry Porter writes for The Observer about Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Occupation.

Cockburn describes a visit to Dhuluaya, a fruit-growing region 50 miles north of Baghdad, where, early on in the occupation, the American military cut down ancient date palms and orange and lemon trees as part of a collective punishment for farmers who had failed to inform them about guerrilla attacks. This vandalism will be remembered for generations because it was senseless and to the Iraqi mind powerfully symbolises the malice of the occupiers.

‘At times,’ Cockburn says of the period just after the invasion, ‘it seemed as if the American military was determined to provoke an uprising.’ Well, now they’ve got it, a ferocious war that in the last three months alone has cost 10,000 lives, most of them Iraqi. There seems no end to it and as Cockburn writes in his conclusion, instead of asserting America’s position as the sole superpower, the occupation has amply demonstrated the limits of US power.

The precise opposite of the desired effect was also achieved in the idiotically named ‘War on Terror’. By the admission of intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic, Iraq has galvanised terrorism. Sections of a US National Intelligence estimate that were declassified last week say the war has become the ’cause celebre for jihadist’ and that ‘jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests’. This is not the view of a few CIA desk officers, but the shared verdict of 16 branches of US intelligence.

That’s so disappointing. I expect that kind of arrogance from the righties, but I thought the professional military knew better. I’m so naive sometimes.

In his radio address yesterday, President Bush refuted the NIE: “We do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism.” Any minute how we’ll all be ordered to write that on a blackboard 500 times. But, of course, Bush doesn’t have a real counterargument. He has misdirection and straw men. He also has A Lot of Capital Letters.

Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe write for Newsweek:

When “State of Denial” arrived at the White House Friday morning, a team of aides went to work deconstructing the 576-page volume. Some of Woodward’s revelations, like the scenes of Bush rejecting pleas for more troops in Iraq, the White House tried to dismiss as old news. Woodward’s depictions of tensions within Bush’s inner circle were played down or denied. It was not true, White House aides told reporters, that First Lady Laura Bush wanted to see Rumsfeld fired. Harder to slough off was Woodward’s account of the role played by former chief of staff Andy Card. The White House made no serious attempt to refute Card’s campaign to unseat Rummy. (Card himself quibbled over the word “campaign,” telling reporters that the discussions about Rumsfeld’s future needed to be seen in a “broader context.”) Instead, White House spokesman Tony Snow took a dismissive, this-too-will-pass tone. Woodward’s book is like “cotton candy,” Snow said. “It kind of melts on contact.”

They needn’t have bothered; the White House could issue a banana cream pie recipe labeled “The Truth About Woodward” and the rightie base would embrace it as proof of Bush’s innocence — “Place egg yolks in mixing bowl and beat on medium speed of electric mixer, gradually adding sugar. So true. Eat that, leftie scum.”

Frank Rich:

Having ignored the facts through each avoidable disaster, the White House won’t change its game plan now. Quite the contrary. Its main ambition seems to be to prop up its artificial reality no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Nowhere could this be better seen than in Ms. Rice’s bizarre behavior after the Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace slapdown on Fox News. Stung by the former president’s charge that the Bush administration did nothing about Al Qaeda in the eight months before 9/11, she couldn’t resist telling The New York Post that his statement was “flatly false.”

But proof of Ms. Rice’s assertion is as nonexistent as Saddam’s W.M.D. As 9/11 approached, both she and Mr. Bush blew off harbingers of the attacks (including a panicked C.I.A. briefer in Crawford, according to Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine”). The 9/11 commission report, which Ms. Rice cited as a corroborating source for her claims to The Post, in reality “found no indication of any further discussion” about the Qaeda threat among the president and his top aides between the arrival of that fateful Aug. 6 brief (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) and Sept. 10.

That the secretary of state would rush to defend the indefensible shows where this administration’s priorities are: it’s now every man and woman in the White House for himself and herself in defending the fictions, even four-year-old fictions, that took us into the war and botched its execution. When they talk about staying the course, what they are really talking about is protecting their spin and their reputations. They’ll leave it to the 140,000-plus American troops staying the course in a quagmire to face the facts.

Speaking of which, a New York Times editorial says,

Even if there were a case for staying the current course in Iraq, America’s badly overstretched Army cannot sustain present force levels much longer without long-term damage. And that could undermine the credibility of American foreign policy for years to come.

The Army has been kept on short rations of troops and equipment for years by a Pentagon more intent on stockpiling futuristic weapons than fighting today’s wars. Now it is pushing up against the limits of hard arithmetic. Senior generals are warning that the Bush administration may have to break its word and again use National Guard units to plug the gap, but no one in Washington is paying serious attention. That was clear last week when Congress recklessly decided to funnel extra money to the Air Force’s irrelevant F-22 stealth fighter.

As early as the fall of 2003, the Congressional Budget Office warned that maintaining substantial force levels in Iraq for more than another six months would be difficult without resorting to damaging short-term expedients. The Pentagon then had about 150,000 troops in Iraq. Three years later, those numbers have not fallen appreciably. For much of that time, the Pentagon has plugged the gap by extending tours of duty, recycling soldiers back more quickly into combat, diverting National Guard units from homeland security and misusing the Marine Corps as a long-term occupation force.

Yet the Pentagon and Congress remain in an advanced state of denial. While the overall Defense Department budget keeps rising, pushed along by unneeded gadgetry, next year’s spending plan fails to adequately address the Army’s pressing personnel needs. Things have gotten so badly out of line that in August the Army chief of staff held up a required 2008 budget document, protesting that the Army simply could not keep doing its job without a sizable increase in spending.

A bigger army does not fit into Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s version of a technologically transformed military. And Congress prefers lavishing billions on Lockheed Martin to build stealth fighters, which are great for fighting Russian MIG’s and Chinese F-8’s but not for securing Baghdad. Army grunts are not as glamorous as fighter pilots and are a lot less profitable to equip. …

… America’s credibility in that fight depends on the quality, quantity and readiness of our ground forces. If we go on demanding more and more from them while denying the resources they so desperately need, we could end up paying a terrible price.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, Philip Gold and Erin Solaro predict that one of these days we’ll be talking about reinstating the draft.

There is a process in American political life by which the unthinkable becomes the inevitable. Ideas and proposals float around for decades, going nowhere. Then events demand, or seem to demand, quick action. We act. And then we wonder how it ever came to this.

Today, the issue of conscription is deader than last week’s roadkill. But it will not stay dead much longer. Iraq will continue to fester. Our armed forces are imploding when they should be expanding — the Army and the National Guard, especially. The world is not getting less dangerous. A year or two from now, a disaster or two from now, expect the issue to re-emerge.

I’d be very surprised if the issue re-emerges while George W. Bush is president, however. Admitting the army is being destroyed and conscription, however, unpopular, might be necessary would require the President to face reality and take responsibility. As they say … when pigs fly.

17 thoughts on “Cooked

  1. I read your blog every day, but seldom comment. This:

    “Place egg yolks in mixing bowl and beat on medium speed of electric mixer, gradually adding sugar. So true. Eat that, leftie scum.”

    …made me laugh out loud. Then I kept reading, and stopped laughing. Thanks for this, it’s a good summation of a horrible situation. Which, as you point out, is unlikely to change under the current regime.

  2. “I expect that kind of arrogance from the righties, but I thought the professional military knew better. I’m so naive sometimes.”

    I think the problem here is that the professional military is not really suited to long term occupation. They don’t have the right training, the right force mix, the right equipment, hell, not even the right mindset.

    This is because America, as the Good Guys, would never ever invade another country just out of aggression. So, no need to plan for that. And, after Vietnam, we sure learned our lesson, didn’t we, no more guerrilla wars in countries with hostile populations, that’s for damn sure! So, no need to plan for THAT.

    Our military is desiged to hit hard and fast, attain the ojective and then GET OUT. It’s all about offensive strike power. The asic structure was determied by the needs and requirements of a force that could absorb a soviet strike into western europe, then strike back and drive the russkis all the way back to russki-land. For that purpose, our military is SUPERB. For things like Gulf War I, which really was a war of liberation, where we just needed to engage the enemy soldiers and drive them bck into Iraq, our military is OUTSTANDING.

    In fact, for damn near any LEGITIMATE use of American force I can think of, our military is ready, willing, and exceedingly able.

    For long-term occupation of a hostile country … our military is woefully unprepared. And it shows in the results.

  3. Some good writing here, but….

    What do you think will happen when National Guard troops are asked to go to EyeRack for…

    the fifht time….

    the sixth time….

    with worn out equipment….

    with no equipment….

    You say to yourslelf: ‘Oh that won’t happen….’

    I say it’s written in stone as long as George W. Bush is President. These criminal idiots are capable of ANYTHING to avoid facing reality.

  4. cut down ancient date palms and orange and lemon trees as part of a collective punishment for farmers who had failed to inform them about guerrilla attacks.

    Honestly, this doesn’t even rank among “mistakes” we have made.

    I probably sound like a righties warmonger, but counter-insurgencys always involve both carrot and stick – it is important to strike a balance but there still MUST be a penalty for aiding the insurgents. Killing TREES seems like a potentially reasonable reprisal against a population that aids the enemy – certainly its a lot better than killing or raping people or destroying homes and things that will not grow back in time.

  5. “What do you think will happen when National Guard troops are asked to go to EyeRack for…”
    In my fantasy world, the generals tell the Pentagon neocons to pack shit. Then they gather their soldiers, war toys,and come. home. The criminal idiots are not capable of squat without enablers.
    I commented many months ago that Iraq would turn out to be our very own Palestine. Here we are, the military using the very same tactics the Israelis use….collective punishment by destroying orchards and homes.And torture.About 2 billion a week goes to this abomination.

  6. cut down ancient date palms and orange and lemon trees as part of a collective punishment for farmers who had failed to inform them about guerrilla attacks.

    This caught my eye because I read about the Soviet occupation of Aghanistan where they did a lot of this, thus destroying some of the most productive agriculture in the region. I guess we’re no different.

  7. Wow.

    Just wow.

    I can’t decide if I’m angry or just so incredibly embarassed that these people–both militarily and governmentally–represent this nation to the rest of the world.


  8. Pingback: The Heretik : Rumsfeld v Rumsfeld

  9. Lets not project our culture onto Iraqis.

    Collective punishment and obligation is firmly established in Iraqi culture. Their own law and customs hold the tribe responsbile for the deeds of their members and their tradition is to hold the tribe responsible for the deeds of their members. The tribe can either hand over the accused, make good via restitution, or expect to face collective reprisals from the tribe of the accuser – this is the source of the “tribal conflicts” that you hear about. Even within a tribe, it is the clan (extended family) that is held responsible for the behavior of their members. If a member breaks a rule of the tribe, the entire extended family is responsible for making good in the same way.

    Furthermore, for many of the larger IEDs, it is damn near impossible that the people in the community (many of whom are unemployed and, hence, home) could fail to notice the insurgents as they planted them at the side of the road. By ALL traditions, failing to report an IED that you know is there IS legitimately considered “support” for the enemy – the iraqi insurgent groups would certainly kill anyone in their neighborhood who knew of an upcoming US raid and did nothing to warn them.

    So, the REAL story is that a bunch of Iraqis, presumably sympathetic to the resistance, did nothing while Americans walked into an explosive ambush and, in return, we cut down some trees.

  10. we cut down some trees.

    …not to imply that’s all we ever do. I’m quite aware of many more brutal things, which is why I think this is a non-issue.

  11. I’m quite aware of many more brutal things, which is why I think this is a non-issue.

    It’s not a non-issue. It’s a rape of the land and it translates to an assualt on gods provision.. I can’t articulate the psychological complexity involved in understanding the deliberate destruction of the land, but I know it’s generally perceived as an assualt against life itself.. Read Riverbend’s post about the Americans cutting down the beautiful palms along the airport road. It goes beyond a security measure to become a humilitaion and a total distain for the Iraqi people. Big mistake by some asshole who has no regard for nature or beauty.

  12. I read or heard somewhere this past week that one of the big problems is that these guys are fighting like the cold war. They say it’s a different war but, they fight it like they were fighting soviet russia.
    And, if you are fighting people who kill you by homemade bombs and very low tech and have you over a barrell then, no high tech toy is going to help you.
    They need leaders of street gangs to show them how to fight this not expensive toys.

  13. The only real news from Woodward is that Kissinger in in this too. I guess birds of a feather( old war criminals) stick together.Since we are suffering from the Cheney administration that is a mindset stuck in the 70’s I guess I should not be surprised that Kissinger would have a say . Might as well bring Newt in too- since all the old relics seem to never go away or relinquish power.
    I really don’t blame the military- they have followed orders remember it was rummy that threatened to fire anyone who mentioned the plans for after invasion. That needs to be the headline now

  14. “Lets not project our culture onto Iraqis” says r4d20, who then summarily says, “so we cut down some trees” [see comment #9]

    r4d20, usually I enjoy reading your comments, but not this time.

    Since we cut down ancient fruit bearing orchards, I would have to say, we cut off life-sustaining food for the Iraqis who desperately need basic provisions, especially after our wanton invasion that still leaves them without basic things like jobs and electricity and water.

    So your first statement, accurately displayed in all its underlying inanity, should be, “Lets not project our own need to eat food onto the Iraqis.”

    Who was it who said, “Whatsoever you do to the least among you, you do to ME”?

  15. “…but there MUST be a penalty for aiding the insurgents…”

    And, according to the author of the above, as long as you stop short of the penalties visited on places like Lidice or My Lai-4, you’re still on the side of the “good guys”…

    By destroying a resource that has been there for centuries, the Americans took away the livelihood of those present and their descendants for generations to come…

    About what one would expect from those who would “destroy the village in order to save it”…

    I believe the French have a saying for it…

  16. Re: cutting down trees.

    This is what the Israelis do to the Palestinians. Even if we don’t remember this, most Iraqis, and indeed most non-Americans do.

    Hint: it doesn’t scare them. It makes them MAD. And it makes us into Israelis. Which doesn’t win hearts, nor minds, but new insurgents. Not helpful.

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