The Myth of the Iraqi Surge

We are enduring the fallout today, of the myth that the Iraqi “Surge” was successful…along with the myths surrounding the withdrawal of US forces. These events, lived by the men and women on the ground….have become political memes, myths and talking points…without substance or experience from those who employ them. Having served 15 months in Baghdad during the Surge, I can attest to the sentiments of the author of this article…as well as the whitewashing that continues to this day.

CFR’s three guests — retired Gen. Raymond Odierno, former commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq and now a senior adviser to JPMorgan Chase; Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser under president George W. Bush; and Christopher Kojm, former senior adviser to the Iraq Study Group — had remarkably similar views.

No dissenting voices were included. All three had been enthusiastic promoters of the surge in 2006–2007 and continue to market the myth of its success. While recognizing the unmistakable failure of the post-surge American effort in Iraq, each still firmly believes in the inherent validity of that “strategy.”

I listened for more than an hour waiting for a single dissenting thought. The silence was deafening.

………………………….

In an orgy of killing in Baghdad and many other cities, the two main sects ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, expelling each other into a series of highly segregated enclaves. The capital, for instance, essentially became a Shiite city. In a sense, the civil war had, momentarily at least, run its course.

In addition, the U.S. military had successfully, though again only temporarily, convinced many previously rebellious Sunni tribes to switch sides in exchange for money, support and help in getting rid of the overly fundamentalist and brutal terror outfit, Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For the time being, AQI seemed to the tribal leaders like a bigger threat than the Shiites in Baghdad. For this, the Sunnis briefly bet on the United States without ever fully trusting or accepting Shiite-Baghdad’s suzerainty. Think of this as a tactical pause — not that the surge’s architects and supporters saw it that way.

America’s man in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, was already in the process of becoming a sectarian strongman, hell-bent on alienating the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Even 60,000 or 90,000 more American troops couldn’t have solved that problem because the surge was incapable of addressing, and barely pretended to face, the true conundrum of the invasion and occupation — any American-directed version of Iraqi “democracy” would invariably usher in Shia-majority dominance over a largely synthetic state.

The real question no surge cheerleaders publicly asked, or ask to this day, was whether an invading foreign entity was even capable of imposing an inclusive political settlement there. To assume that the United States could have done so smacks of a faith-based as opposed to reality-based worldview — another version of a deep and abiding belief in American exceptionalism.

From MAJ Danny Sjursen  at War is Boring

 

The End of an Era

As a former Army Pathfinder, this hits close to home…I’m sad to see the capability and tradition officially case it’s colors.

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Capt. Steven J. Orbon, the commander of F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and Herbst, the company first sergeant, cased the unit guidon as a final act for the 82nd Airborne Division’s pathfinder company.

“For many, today is a sad one,” Orbon said to an audience that included family, friends and veteran pathfinders whose service dated to 1957.

The deactivation was part of a larger Army transformation that saw other pathfinder units shutter last year and also marked the end of other small and specialized units known as long-range surveillance companies. But it won’t end the pathfinder story, the captain said.

“It is simply the closing of a chapter,” Orbon said.

The company included paratroopers as well as rangers, jumpmasters and experts in fast-rope insertions and extractions, he said. Among their ranks they counted expert rappellers, climbers, scuba divers, medics, snipers, switchblade operators and the 82nd Airborne combatives champion.

Read the rest here….

This is just plain cool

At least if you’re  military/history nerd like I am.

The last surviving photographs of the veterans who formed part of Napoleon Bonaparteís famous Grande Armée and fought in the Napoleonic wars have been revealed in full remastered colour.

The expertly colourised historic images inject exciting new life into the 159-year-old monochrome originals, transforming them from a dreary black and white into a vibrant work of art which shows off every intricate detail of the men’s uniforms, from their medals, swords right down to their shoes. 

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See the rest here.

Memorial Day and returning to the “Fertile Crescent”

OK….having been there before, the “Crescent” is long past it’s sell-by date for “fertility”. It’s a steaming, fetid morass of faux-humanity.

But nonetheless, I’m returning to Iraq in a few short days. The place that has spawned my nightmares, given birth to my unnatural paranoia, and changed my very soul….will again be my home for six months, this time as a Contractor. I’ll be literally a few miles from the spot I lost my friend, Jim Doster.

The only upside is that while I still get to lend my skills to keep the American Servicemember alive…..I have no command of Soldiers, and no direct burden of getting them home safely, as I did before.

I’m always burdened by what to teach my daughters about Memorial Day. Aside from ensuring they know it has no relation to the crass store sales, day off of work, and an excuse for a beer-infused barbecue……I don’t know whether to shelter them or expose them to the cold reality of this world.

What I do now, is that as each day passes, we lose the precious remaining few, of our generation that endured four long years of war on two fronts; war to protect the survival of our nation and our way of life. Their stories need to be told, not just on….but at least on Memorial Day. Ask your friends, kids or siblings to put down their smartphones, shelve Facebook for a few hours….and visit a cemetery, or a nursing home…a memorial or a museum. Say hi and thank you to the old fellow in the WWII Veteran ball cap at the mall. Learn and understand our history….and pass it down.

I’ve always been struck at how the following lines from the movie Memorial Day affect me every time I read them:

Dear Kylie, my old head can’t hold too much anymore but, today, a whole lot came flooding back into it. You might remember this afternoon as just another Saturday at Opa’s farmhouse. It wasn’t. I’ve never liked the word “souvenirs”, but I guess that’s what they are. Shards of memory, shrapnel. You take them to help you remember. What you don’t count on is they don’t let you forget. Pain. Happiness. Friendship. Death. Smells of diesel and dead animals. Eating meals within arm’s length of corpses. Men you laughed with a day before. People wonder if leaders are born or made. All I know is, you can see it in a man’s eyes. Problem is, leaders end up where they’re needed most. And eventually, that’s war. You’re special Kylie. I hope you know that. I always have. But I need you to stay strong. People look to guys like us to make decisions. If you do wear the uniform one day, remember something, when you put it on, you don’t get to choose the war or what happens when you get there. There’s no right or wrong in combat. There’s only what you did. You do your best, and you try to live with it. Some day they’ll take me off this porch for good. When that happens, what’s left that matters? Photographs, letters, empty clothes? No. It’s the stories behind them, those are what matter. Stories live forever, but only if you tell them. I may sound like I’ve known this a long time. I didn’t know it until today. I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me that. It was one hell of a souvenir. Love, Opa. 

Likewise, sage words from fellow veteran Tom McCuin:

Dear USA,

Monday is Memorial Day. It is the day we honor our war dead, those warriors who gave what Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion.” Enjoy your barbecues, your mattress sales, and your community pool openings, but remember you do so because those honored dead made it possible. Please do not offer your thanks to me or any other living veteran. It is not our day. We came home carrying our shields; they came home carried on theirs. Memorial Day the day we raise our glasses to absent comrades. Thank me and my living brothers-in-arms (and sisters, too) on Tuesday. But on Monday, turn your thoughts to the gardens of stone around the globe. See you at Section 60.

Not-so sage words from Constitutional Insurgent:

If I hear anyone say “Happy Memorial Day” this weekend….I’m ging to punch them in the throat.

The single best post on the Internet: 2015

Especially if you vote GOP. The post is long, but well worth the read. Some excerpts from Stonekettle Station:

National security, the term means something different to every candidate and to every voter – or non voter if we’re talking about the majority of Americans, which may be a national security matter in and of itself. But, again, I digress.

When CNN declared this debate about national security, none of us even started out on the same page. We didn’t define the terms. Wolf just sort of waved his grizzly white man-beard of freedom about and made some vague reference to “national security” and next thing you know we’re all running around whooping like lunatics, shooting our pistols in the air, and smashing bottles over each other’s heads like something out of a John Wayne movie. War face! War face! Aaaaaaaaaagh!

I waited a week.

I waited to see if the candidates themselves would provide some clarity.

None did. Surprise surprise.

———————

If Trump had dismounted by claiming he could see Russia from his house, he couldn’t have been more full of shit.

And if you think Rubio corrected Trump’s idiotic nonsense, or Hewitt’s, you haven’t been paying attention.

None of the people on the stage, not the candidates, not the moderators, knew what the hell they were talking about. Not at all. Not even in the most general of terms. And after a week of reading through various reactions, it’s fairly apparent most of America has no goddamned idea either.

It’s gibberish.

They’re all babbling idiots.

———————

Read the transcript for yourself. Go through it line by line, questions and answers.

It’s all gibberish.

It’s insanity.

It’s all war face aaaaaaaagh!

It’s people who have no clue whatsoever talking to people who have no idea whatsoever.

This isn’t even political theater. It’s the political equivalent of standing in line at the deli behind two dipshits arguing over who would win a fight between Boba Fett and the Gorn Captain.

It’s long past time to dispense with this nonsense – and I mean nonsense in the sense that it doesn’t make any sense. Non sense.

In 2016 don’t enable the insanity. Take a stand and vote against the status quo. Or quit your bitching.

Former DIA Director, MG Flynn….on ISIS and Iraq

Former USSOCOM Commander and DIA Director, MG (Ret) Michael Flynn spoke about the invasion of Iraq and the rise of ISIS with Der Speigel:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In February 2004, you already had Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in your hands — he was imprisoned in in a military camp, but got cleared later as harmless by a US military commission. How could that fatal mistake happen?

Flynn: We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment. When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, “Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.” Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The US invaded Iraq even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

Flynn: First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based. Then we went into Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Islamic State wouldn’t be where it is now without the fall of Baghdad. Do you regret …

Flynn: … yes, absolutely …

SPIEGEL ONLINE: … the Iraq war?

Flynn: It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.

Bolding mine. Even though he waited until comfortably retired, it’s refreshing to see a notable luminary of the military and intelligence communities speaking about what I’ve been saying for years.

 

How to solve the Islamic migrant problem

Syrian refugees arriving in Europe should form an army which can be sent back to ‘liberate’ their home country, instead of ‘drinking coffee in the cafes of Berlin’ while western soldiers face ISIS, the Polish foreign minister has said.Daily Mail article

Did not the Poles have the Home Army and the Polish Armed Forces in the West? Did not the French have the Free French Forces? The 1st Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade Group? The Jewish Brigade?

If their homeland is worth us fighting for….it’s worth them fighting for it.

Where is Tyler Skluzacek’s White House invitation?

Tyler Skluzacek was in sixth grade when his dad, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Skluzacek, spent a year in Iraq. When he returned home, Tyler noticed something different about him. He suffered from night terrors.

Tyler said:

“Your dad just disappearing for a year and coming back a little bit different and seeing his Army buddies and them coming back a little bit different, too. … I have a real personal connection to the PTSD problem.”
Now a senior in college, Tyler says he wanted to “try to create something that will help [his dad] sleep better.”

So he did.

This is the spirit of America.

Saint Crispin’s Day

The St. Crispin’s Day speech is a famous speech from William Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 18–67.

On the morning of 25 October 1415, shortly before the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V made a brief speech to the English army under his command, emphasizing the justness of his claim to the French throne and harking back to the memory of previous defeats the English kings had inflicted on the French. According to Burgundian sources, he concluded the speech by telling the English longbowmen that the French had boasted that they would cut off two fingers from the right hand of every archer, so they could never draw a string again. Wiki

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.