Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Troop Support (page 1 / 1)

Support the Troops: Bring Them Home

Driving to church on Saturday, for my daughter's dedication service, I passed a car with an anti-war bumper sticker. Of course. This is Madison, WI after all. It said: "Support the Troops. Bring Them Home". It's a nice sentiment. But is it actually shared by the troops themselves?

Occasionally, I have my doubts. This interview from Iraq is part of the reason why. The Dungeon of Fallujah:

Sergeant Dehaan was comfortable with his mission in Iraq and the flaws of the Iraqi Police he was tasked with training and molding.

"I prefer these small and morally ambiguous wars to the big morally black-and-white wars," he said to me later. "It would be nice if we had more support back home like we did during World War II. But look at how many people were killed in World War II. If a bunch of unpopular small wars prevent another popular big war, I'll take 'em."

If you want to support the troops -- if you really want to support the troops -- spend some time reading Michael Totten and Michael Yon. You might even want to spend some time reading abu muqawama's counter-insurgency blog. True, it's not exactly light reading all of the time. But, I think the troops deserve at least that much support.

Andy Olmsted

The hardest thing I ever had to read was the "goodbye" that I wrote for my grandfather's funeral. This was the second hardest.

Obsidian Wings: Andy Olmsted:

Andrew Olmsted, who also posted here as G'Kar, was killed yesterday in Iraq. Andy gave me a post to publish in the event of his death; the last revisions to it were made in July.

Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny. The world has a horrible hole in it that nothing can fill. I'm glad Andy -- generous as always -- wrote something for me to publish now, since I have no words at all. Beyond: Andy, I will miss you.

"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here." G'Kar, Babylon 5

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." Plato*

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

Please read his last words.

His family has also provided information about how you can help out.

A member of Andy Olmsted's family has just written me to say that if people want to do something in honor of him, they can send donations to a fund that has been set up for the four children of CPT Thomas Casey, who served under Andy and was killed while trying to help him.

Enemy Propaganda, from the New Republic

The Weekly Standard: Fact or Fiction

The New Republic runs a piece in this week's issue titled "Shock Troops" (sub. req.) and authored by Scott Thomas -- described by the magazine as a "pseudonym for a soldier currently serving in Baghdad." "Thomas" is the author of two previous dispatches from Iraq for the New Republic, both of which recount deeply disturbing anecdotes (in one, an Iraqi boy who calls himself James Bond has his tongue cut out for talking to Americans; in the other, dogs feast on a corpse in the street). His latest piece is even more disturbing.

But is it true? The milbloggers at Mudville Gazette call it a pile of a horse manure by the second sentence.

Again, this doesn't prove Scott Thomas is a liar, only that if he is who New Republic claims he is, his ignorance exceeds that of any soldier of any rank I've ever met.

Read the whole takedown. Thomas's piece reads like enemy propaganda -- American soldiers are despicable and evil. Is Thomas really a soldier? Or he is a terrorist posing as a soldier? What proof does he have about these claims? Does TNR even know?

If true, these stories should be reported up the chain of command and the sick soldiers involved should be prosecuted. If they're not true -- and they certainly don't seem to be true -- why is TNR reporting them? Who, exactly, are they trying to help?

Career Politician Calls Career Soldier "Incompetent"

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted to being a jerk.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed Thursday that he told liberal bloggers last week that he thinks outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace is "incompetent."

Asked if Reid considered [Army Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multinational Forces in Iraq] competent, Reid responded, "Not as far as I'm concerned."

Reid has worked as a politician for the vast majority of his life. What, exactly, gives him grounds to determine whether or not a soldier is competent? He has zero military experience or background. He has no basis to judge competency. But he shoots off his mouth anyway.

By the way, great way to build moral there, Senator. Tell the troops that you believe their commander is incompetent -- that'll encourage them as they go out on patrol.

Michael Yon is a photographer, blogger -- and former special operations member of the U.S. Army. I trust his judgment about General Petraeus infinitely more than I trust Senator Reid's. Michael Yon has a tremendous respect for General Petraeus.

Petraeus' Values Message

One of the reasons I trust General Petraeus is he just comes right out and says what needs to be said. The letter which he sent to our forces serving in Iraq (posted below) is a case in point. The letter is more important than it might appear on first glance.

We are making progress but the odds are still against us. We cannot take chances or play fast and loose with our own values. In addition to something immoral occurring, it could be the final straw for this war. All it would take is a weak leader behaving immorally, or a tired leader not recognizing the stress level of his soldiers and reacting accordingly, and we might have the proverbial straw that breaks this camel's back.

This letter from General Petraeus deserves the widest possible dissemination. It should be published widely, and posted on every headquarters wall, and read aloud by every troop in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can pummel al Qaeda and other terrorists mercilessly and grind them into the dirt, but we cannot afford to turn local populations against us while we do it.

Has Senator Reid written a PhD dissertation on counter-insurgency warfare? Heck, has he even read General Petraeus' dissertation on counter-insurgency warfare?

I've been reading General David Petraeus' Ph.D. dissertation between missions. The title page looks like this:

THE AMERICAN MILITARY AND THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era

David Howell Petraeus








October 1987

In his dissertation, General Petraeus (Ph.D.) writes:

The Importance of Perceptions

Perceptions of reality, more so than objective reality, are crucial to the decisions of statesmen. What policy-makers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters"”more than what actually occurred. . . .

Here's a view of General Petraeus' surge strategy, from the ground.

If I might insert a personal opinion, I think Petraeus' plan has a serious chance of working despite heavy odds. In fact, within my first three days with 1-4, talking with Iraqi families and police, there were strong indicators that for this little neighborhood, local people and Iraqi police are definitely encouraged. This doesn't extend to the terrorists, however, and 1-4 Cav has been under fire.

Senator Reid, I'm giving you all due respect when I say, "Please, shut up!" You voted to confirm General Petraeus as commander in Iraq. You and all of your Democrat collegues. If he's incompetent, the only verdict that leaves for you is willful idiot.

Thanks for filling the role.

Iraq, D-Day, and Political Resolve

Yesterday, the Guardian took a moment to point out that 3,500 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the war started. Today, I'd like to point out another number: 29,000. That's the number of U.S. soldiers that died between June 6 and August 25, 1944 in the Battle of Normandy. Otherwise known as D-Day. That's more than 8x as many soldiers, killed in one battle, in a nation that had less than half the population that America now has.

The importance of the Iraq war shouldn't revolve around the number of soldiers killed. Our sense of winning and losing shouldn't be determined by a simple head count. Our verdict on the war should depend on our enemy and our goals. Our enemy is Al-Qaeda in Iraq and a host of other terrorist organizations. Our goal is to stay long enough and provide enough security to enable the Iraqi people to establish a free, democratic state. I believe that our enemy is hideous and our goal is worthy.

It's no use arguing about whether or not we should or shouldn't have gone into Iraq. It's done. That conversation is over. We're there now and we can't change that. The question now is: do we stay long enough to clean up our mess? Do we stay to finish what we started? Or do we pull out now and leave the Iraqi people to be slaughtered in mass, by terrorists. The terrorists will not stop killing just because we leave. If we pull out, the violence will only get worse. If we pull out now, the Iraqi people will lose any chance that they have at peace and prosperity.

The odds are against us and the situation is grim. But I do not believe that a simple body count is sufficient enough argument to dictate our actions. Pulling out now, after the historically small losses that we've received, is not worthy of our heritage. I believe that we must stay and do everything that we can to enable the Iraqi people to succeed where only one other Middle Eastern country has succeeded. Let's give peace and democracy a chance -- let's protect the Iraqi people and support the mission that our troops have volunteered for.

On Information Warfare

Welcome to Information Warfare 101. This is a topic that the American public desperately needs to know about. The war in Iraq is not just a war of bullets and bombs. It is a war of ideas and information. Right now, our enemy is better at fighting this war than we are. We must win this war through information and ideologies, not through strategic bombing campaigns or overwhelming force. While overwhelming force is effective, it is not sufficient to win the war by itself.

What is Information Warfare? According to Kim Taipale, "information warfare is the protection, monitoring, disruption, or manipulation of information and information flows to improve one's own decision-making process or to degrade that of the enemy." It is making the enemy see what you want him to see and hiding what you don't want him to see. Information Warfare is the art of making your enemy react in a way that you want him to react by feeding him information that you have manipulated in some way.

Our terrorist enemies are masters of this type of warfare. They know that they cannot defeat our forces in an open fight. They also know that we have proven vulnerable to information warfare in the past.

We lost our first major information battle during the Vietnam war. In January of 1968, the Communists of North Vietnam launched a surprise attack against American and South Vietnamese forces -- the Tet Offensive. Their main goal was to provide the impression that American forces were not winning (and could not win) a fight in Vietnam.

The actual attack was a disaster. The North Korean forces suffered 35,000 dead, 60,000 wounded, and 6,000 captured. The American and South Korean losses totaled around 3,900. The attack was not judged in military terms, however. It was judged in terms of perception. The American media and the American people perceived it as a devastating American loss, mostly due to the surprise of the attack and the wide-spread nature of the attack. The Tet Offensive marked the beginning of the end of American involvement in Vietnam.

The goal of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and other terrorist groups, is to duplicate the success of the Tet Offensive. They are willing to take large military losses if, in doing so, they can convince the American people that the terrorists are winning.

Judging by the media coverage of the Iraq war, we are losing the information war. That needs to change. We can win in Iraq, but only if the American people are willing and able to look past the misinformation, lies, and distortions of the terrorists.

I'm willing to spend my time pointing out exactly where and when we're being lied to. Are you willing you follow along with me?

Protecting the Troops

For our troops fighting the war in Iraq, the number one threat isn't gun battles with terrorists, it's improved explosive devices left by the roadside. IED's cause fully 70% of American casualties in Iraq. This has been known for a while. What's also been known for a while is that Hummers do little to protect the troopers riding in them.

Unfortunately, most members of Congress have been too busy pointing fingers over the war to spend time figuring out how to help the military actually fight the war. Fortunately, it appears that some members of Congress are finally starting to see the light:

What my amendment will do is allow the military to put 2,500 more mine resistant ambush protected vehicles--known in the military by its acronym, MRAP--in the field by the end of this year. ... MRAP vehicles provide four to five times more protection to our troops than up-armored HMMWVs. That statement, that these MRAPs provide four to five times more protection than up-armored HMMWVs, is not my estimate. That is the judgment of our military leaders. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, GEN James Conway, with whom I spoke as recently as this afternoon, wrote on March 1 to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said:

Multi-National Forces--West, that is, the Marines in Iraq [JK Background: specifically, in Anbar province], estimates that the use of the MRAP could reduce the casualties in vehicles due to IED attack by as much as 80 percent.

Let me explain the specifics of the MRAP. Each vehicle can hold 4 to 12 troops. Like the rhino, these vehicles have raised steel, V-shaped hulls and chassis. The raised hull is valuable because it gives the blast more time to expand, lessening the impact. The V-shape pushes the blast up the sides of the vehicle and away from the occupants. With an up-armored HMMWV or any humvee, the flat bottom sends the blast through the floor right into the occupants. In addition, the vehicles have side armor and bulletproof glass, and they also have tires that can be driven when flat.

Surprisingly, the person leading the charge on this issue is none other than Senator Joe Biden. While he often endures the nickname "Slow Joe", in this case he's faster out of the blocks than far too many of his colleagues. Good for him. Now let's work on getting some MRAP's over to Iraq.

Listening to the Military

Michael Yon posted a new dispatch on his blog. In it, he talks about the "forgotten war" in Afghanistan, the recent attacks on Secretary Rumsfield, and the importance of listening to the soldiers who are fighting the war.

On Rumsfield:

And when these old veterans talk, we should all listen. They know war. We should listen more to our veterans than to politicians. We are more likely to get straight answers about war from warriors than we are from politicians and most of the media.

Like it or not, "Rummy" is a politician. He's a good one. He's an effective administrator. But he's just an administrator, when all is said and done. If he hasn't been personally involved in a battle, he can't have the same perspectives and understandings that the people in the field do.

Joe Galloway (the reporter from "We Were Soldiers") had this to say about Secretary Rumsfield:

I can wish that your boss [Donald Rumsfeld] had surrounded himself with close advisers who had, once at least, held a dying boy in their arms and watched the life run out of his eyes while they lied to him and told him, over and over, "You are going to be all right. Hang on! Help is coming. Don't quit now".

Such men in place of those who had never known service or combat or the true cost of war, and who pays that price, and had never sent their children off to do that hard and unending duty. I could wish for so much. I could wish that in January of this year I had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear apart the wreckage of a Kiowa Warrior [helicopter] shot down just minutes before and tenderly remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his fellow pilot. They died flying overhead cover for a little three-vehicle Stryker patrol with which I was riding at the time. I could wish that Jackson's widow Betsy had not found, among the possessions of her late husband, a copy of my book, carefully earmarked at a chapter titled Brave Aviators, which Kyle was reading at the time of his death. That she had not enclosed a photo of her husband, herself and a 3 year old baby girl.

On the character of those attacking Secretary Rumsfield:

And some highly respected officers such as recently retired Major General John Batiste have been calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. When John Batiste was leading the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, he was not a stay-in-the-palace general. Like many of our top military leaders, Batiste was frequently on the battlefield. He lost more than 100 soldiers in Iraq. I would see the General personally attending the memorials for his soldiers.

General Batiste knows the face of war, and his voice should be heard by Americans. Some people have called Generals like John Batiste "traitors" because they speak out in retirement against civilian leadership. Batiste and Galloway might be a lot of things, but they are both patriots to freedom and brave men. They are also both very smart about war.

On Afghanistan:

The Canadians are fighting more and more although few people seem to notice. Hopefully, Bill can help change that. No matter what anyone says, the Afghanistan I just left is easily as dangerous as the Iraq I spent almost a year in. But whereas we are beating back the enemies and winning in Iraq, the enemies in Afghanistan are getting stronger as the seconds tick. We need to listen to our military experts and to our young soldiers, too. Like Ernie Pyle once noted, nobody is more plainspoken than combat soldiers. The ones I met in Afghanistan call that the "forgotten war" but unless things change dramatically, 2007 will be a year everyone remembers in Afghanistan.

On listening to the military:

Soldiers, you are fighting a war that is becoming the Great Undocumented War. We at home need to know what is happening, what you are doing right, wrong. Good or bad, tell us what you need. We are listening. Send us your stories.

Read the dispatch. Then go read the stories.