Monday, October 18, 2004

Reality Means Thinking Ahead

Bush's worst departure from reality was his unwillingness to hear from people who knew better than he did what was and wasn't possible with regard to fighting terrorism and then fighting in Iraq. He shoved Richard Clarke aside because the man wouldn't let up on the fact that Osama bin Laden is *not* a state actor, not even a henchman of a rogue state. Then Bush brushed aside the utterly realistic warnings by lifetime military men, like Gen. Shalikashvili, who said it would take tens of thousands of more US troops to effectively subdue Iraq, as well as involving a long, dangerous occupation. The Meocons ("It's all about *me* and what I want!") simply declared that we would be met as liberators. It's more than bad ideas - it is a lack of any connection to reality:

"In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions."

Planning for After the War in Iraq Non-Existent

Bush listened to the ultimate con man, Ahmed Chalabi (an Iranian spy, no less!), and let himself be sweet-talked into an invasion. The glorious war would simply happen, and then we would all come home, victorious over "terra". The inability of anyone to consider that there is an "after" to go with the "happily ever" boggles the imagination. Bush never thought about what would happen. Catastrophic success, indeed.

However, you always have to pay the piper. Phil Carter of Intel Dump reports on an article in the Sunday LA Times, where it is reported that the elite "Blackhorse" Army training division in southern California is going to be sent to Iraq to do real fighting:

"The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.

For years, The Box has been a stage for the Army's elite "opposition force" — soldiers expert at assuming the roles of enemy fighters, be they the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. Their mission is to toughen new soldiers with elaborate simulations — staging sniper fire, riots, suicide car bombings and potentially dangerous culture clashes.

Staging such scenes has long been the work of the fabled 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, or Black Horse Regiment. But starting next month, the 3,500-member unit will begin shipping out to Iraq from the Ft. Irwin National Training Center, near Barstow. Deployments are nothing new in the Army, of course, but there is a special sense of urgency about dispatching the Black Horse to tackle situations that it has trained roughly 500,000 soldiers to handle since 1994. Now the bombs and bullets they encounter will be all too real.

"No one ever thought the Black Horse would be taken out of the National Training Center; they are just too valuable here," said Maj. John Clearwater. "But the Army is stretched too thin, and Iraq is a big mission."
The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform — but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it." Permalink

Consuming the resources we need in order to fight off *real* enemies. All for the sake of a fantasy war. As an FYI, the Blackhorse unit was made into such a formidable training group by Gen. Wesley Clark, who learned from the last fantasy war, Vietnam, where he and thousands of other servicemen were sacrificed for a fantasy of hegemony. If forethought had been given to this imperial adventure, perhaps we still would have invaded, but on much different terms and with attention paid to what comes after the Iraqi army is defeated.

The Blackhorse is going into this fantasy/nightmare. What about those who are there? We're hearing more and more about the Reservists who refused to be sent on a fool's errand. If you want to see who is paying much of the price of Bush's fantasy, visit Operation Truth, a site run by returning Iraq veterans and their families. Look at how they are already fighting bureaucracy to get medical treatment for injuries, how Reservist families are being left destitute because they are losing pay when they are deployed with no end in site.

None of this should be a mystery. Hell, I wrote about much of this before any troops went in, and I'm not what you could call an expert military strategist. But I live in the real world, unlike Mr. Bush.

Kerry/Edwards - thinking ahead, not wishful thinking

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