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Monday, August 06, 2007

Giving Life, Limb, and Mind

Some people deserve a little break. Given how little political headway the government of Iraq (if you can call it that) has made, you might think that they actually haven't done anything. But the truth is that the Parliament reflects the rest of the country -- i.e., they've spent most of their time fighting amongst themselves. They think they deserve a little break.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker puts it this way:

Soldier and catYou couldn't reasonably expect a group of high-ranking politicians to continue to work on tough issues while the thermostat registers 130 degrees, could you? So what if they work in the Green Zone where the electricity is reliable and the air-conditioning is quite comfy? They needed a break from all that feud-- ... ah, deliberating.

So the Iraqi parliament is taking August off.

So why are 160,000 U.S. troops risking their lives? Why are our soldiers and Marines pounding the wretchedly hot and dangerous streets wearing 80 pounds of gear?

Good question. There's a big propaganda push going on about how much progress there is in Iraq. An op-ed by two warheads -- Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack -- has been getting a lot of play. These two idiots are put across as 'war critics,' despite the fact that both were instrumental in pushing prewar BS like 'proof' of WMD as ties to terrorism at the New York Times. Like all 'yay for the war' pieces, it's identical to what comes out of the southbound end of a northbound horse. Having been so consistently wrong, it's surprising that they can get anything printed at all, let alone without a disclaimer.

But even if Pollack and O'Hanlon's propaganda piece was 100% accurate, what good is military progress without political progress? If Iraq has no real government, wouldn't a 'victory' in Iraq just be a break from the anarchy?

Speaking of clumsy segues and breaks from anarchy, the House has passed a bill that would give troops a break.

Navy Times:

Sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., the bill [passed in the House thursday], HR 3159, is similar to legislation that caused a Senate deadlock on the 2008 defense authorization bill. It would impose, in law, specific deployment lengths and time at home between deployments. Active-duty members would have to spend at least as much time at their home station as deployed before they could be deployed again to a war zone. National Guard and reserve members would be promised they would not be deployed until they had been home at least three times the length of time of their previous deployment. The legislation allows those standards to be waived in an emergency.

"Our troops and their families are tired. They are being stressed by the continued and extended deployments. It is time for Congress to take a stand on behalf of our families and say in a clear, unequivocal voice that it is time that service members have a minimum dwell time between deployments," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed Services Committee chairman.

The White House, of course, has threatened a veto. The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement that the bill would "infringe on the president's constitutional authority as commander-in-chief to manage the readiness and availability of the armed forces" and would "substitute the mandates of Congress for the considered judgment of our military commanders."

Never mind whether or not it's a good idea, Congress can't tell Bush what to do.

And it is a good idea. A british study shows this:

Among a random sample of 5,547 active duty men and women in Britain's armed forces, those who were deployed for 13 months or longer over a 3-year period, in breach of guidelines, were much more likely to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to have problems at home during and after deployment, compared with troops deployed for shorter periods.

Soldiers made to stay on the front lines for longer than expected were also more apt to suffer PTSD, a finding consistent with a recent survey of US troops in Iraq, which found that soldiers who did not known when they were scheduled to return home had increased levels of psychological distress.

The study also finds an increase in alcoholism. Bush, with his threatened veto, is basically saying, "Screw the troops." See, he's got a war to win -- or, more accurately, keep going into 2009 for some other President to lose. If a bunch of heroes lose their marbles along the war, who cares? History remembers Napoleon, not the sergeant who kept having nightmares of the march back from Moscow. The world exists for great men and people like you and me and those on their third rotation in Iraq and Afghanistan don't really matter.

And the fact exists that this whole 'new direction' -- in which we're supposed to be making so much progress -- is absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to fail. Why? Beside the fact that the iraqi govt. is hopelessly ineffective, everything we do is based on a bunch of crap that isn't true. As I put it a few days ago, "Petraeus's new timeline -- you can't really call it a plan -- basically calls for us to choose sides in Iraq's civil war and hope we can help them win before the clock runs out. We side with the sunnis against 'al Qaeda' and, since al Qaeda is Bush shorthand for 'anyone who shoots at us,' that means choosing the minority against the majority. Somehow, we've got this all so screwed up that the people that Rumsfeld called 'deadenders' fighting for Saddam are now the good guys. The bad guys are the Mahdi Army -- a shia group that, in reality, the sunni al Qaeda consider heretics."

It doesn't make a damned bit of sense, so it can't possibly work. It's just a continuation of Bush propaganda. You might as design an airplane based on the assumption that angels lift the wings and expect it to fly. A real plan would require that the administration admit to the realities in Iraq and that would require them to admit to their lies. So that's never going to happen. Bush and his neocon cult have painted themselves into a corner with their BS and they can't possibly take an reality-based action without admitting that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia doesn't amount to crap in the big picture. Blaming Iraq's civil war on al Qaeda is like blaming the American Civil War on the Apaches.

In the meantime, the only real accomplishment is to screw up a bunch of american and iraqi lives. All because Bush doesn't want to look bad to history. You don't need a crystal ball to see that that's a guarantee. So we add lost cause to lost cause and pile up lives, limbs, and minds in service to eventual and inevitable failure.

The very least we could do is give the people we send abroad a break. But not even that is allowed. Bush's place in the history books is much more important than some poor slob's mental health. If we have to destroy families and minds and communities so that Bush has some hope of being seen as anything other than a huge failure, then we'll sacrifice away.

You don't matter and I don't matter and some gym teacher from Milwaukee in the National Guard doesn't matter. Iraqis don't matter, terrorism doesn't matter, security doesn't matter, nothing matters. Outside of himself, Bush's worldview is completely nihilist. Throw anything but his legacy on the fire.


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