Lt. General Wm E. Odom, THEN and NOW

THEN -- Excerpts from his article:

What's Wrong with Cutting and Running?

Gen (ret) William E. Odom

October 3, 2005

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren't they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

  1. We would leave behind a civil war.
  2. We would lose credibility on the world stage.
  3. It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
  4. Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
  5. Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
  6. Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
  7. Shi'ite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
  8. We haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
  9. Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

But consider this:

1. On civil war. Iraqis are already fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That's civil war. We created the civil war when we invaded; we can't prevent a civil war by staying....

2. On credibility. If we were Russia or some other insecure nation, we might have to worry about credibility. A hyperpower need not worry about credibility. That's one of the great advantages of being a hyperpower: When we have made a big strategic mistake, we can reverse it. And it may even enhance our credibility. Staying there damages our credibility more than leaving...

3. On the insurgency and democracy. There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay. Any government capable of holding power in Iraq will be anti-American because the Iraqi people are increasingly becoming anti-American...

4. On terrorists. Iraq is already a training ground for terrorists. In fact, the CIA has pointed out to the administration and Congress that Iraq is spawning so many terrorists that they are returning home to many other countries to further practice their skills there. The quicker a new dictator wins political power in Iraq and imposes order, the sooner the country will stop producing experienced terrorists...

5. On Iranian influence. Iranian leaders see U.S. policy in Iraq as being so much in Tehran's interests that they have been advising Iraqi Shi'ite leaders to do exactly what the Americans ask them to do. Elections will allow the Shi'ites to take power legally. Once in charge, they can settle scores with the Ba'athists and Sunnis. If U.S. policy in Iraq begins to undercut Iran's interests, then Tehran can use its growing influence among Iraqi Shi'ites to stir up trouble, possibly committing Shi'ite militias to an insurgency against U.S. forces there. The U.S. invasion has vastly increased Iran's influence in Iraq, not sealed it out...

6. On Iraq's neighbors. The civil war we leave behind may well draw in Syria, Turkey, and Iran. But already today each of those states is deeply involved in support for or opposition to factions in the ongoing Iraqi civil war. The very act of invading Iraq almost ensured that violence would involve the larger region. And so it has and will continue, with or without U.S. forces in Iraq.

7. On Shi'ite-Sunni conflict. The U.S. presence is not preventing Shi'ite-Sunni conflict; it merely delays it. Iran is preventing it today, and it will probably encourage it once the Shi'ites dominate the new government, an outcome U.S. policy virtually ensures.

8. On training the Iraq military and police. The insurgents are fighting very effectively without U.S. or European military advisers to train them. Why don't the soldiers and police in the present Iraqi regime's service do their duty as well? Because they are uncertain about committing their lives to this regime. They are being asked to take a political stand, just as the insurgents are. Political consolidation, not military-technical consolidation, is the issue...

Even if we were able to successfully train an Iraqi military and police force, the likely result, after all that, would be another military dictatorship. Experience around the world teaches us that military dictatorships arise when the military's institutional modernization gets ahead of political consolidation.

9. On not supporting our troops by debating an early pullout. Many U.S. officers in Iraq, especially at company and field grade levels, know that while they are winning every tactical battle, they are losing strategically. ..

The U.S. invasion of Iraq only serves the interests of:

1. Osama bin Laden (it made Iraq safe for al-Qaeda, positioned U.S. military personnel in places where al-Qaeda operatives can kill them occasionally, helps radicalize youth throughout the Arab and Muslim world, alienates America's most important and strongest allies – the Europeans – and squanders U.S. military resources that otherwise might be finishing off al-Qaeda in Pakistan.);

2. The Iranians (who were invaded by Saddam and who suffered massive casualties in an eight-year war with Iraq.);

3. And the extremists in both Palestinian and Israeli political circles ...



NOW --

JULY 5, 2007

Excerpts from article in the Nieman Watchdog :

Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled...

The ... way to alleviate the problem is to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible and as securely as possible. The electorate understands this. That is why a majority of voters favor withdrawing from Iraq.

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq...

Congress clearly and indisputably has two powers over the executive: the power of the purse and the power to impeach. Instead of using either, members of congress are wasting their time discussing feckless measures like a bill that "de-authorizes the war in Iraq." That is toothless unless it is matched by a cut-off of funds.

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.

To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

General William E. Odom, Ret


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