God's Politics

God's Politics


The War as They Saw It (by Duane Shank)

posted by God's Politics

Nearly a month ago, seven active-duty U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times titled, “The War as We Saw It.” Their conclusions were starkly different from those we’ve heard this week.



Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political, and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)


The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the ”battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.


This morning’s Times brought the news that two of the authors of the piece were killed this week. Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray and Sgt. Omar Mora, along with six other soldiers and two detainees, died in a truck accident in Baghdad.


The op-ed piece ended by saying, “We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.” Staff Sgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora have seen their mission through. Our prayers are with their families.

Duane Shank is senior policy adviser for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 13, 2007 at 5:43 pm


The young and usually poor are always called upon to fight the old and usually wealthy’s wars.
A concomitant compensation of being young is that the young have a better hypocrisy meter to evaluate the policies of their elders than the rest of us, or at least enough of a streak of rebellion to allow them to point out when the emperor has no clothes.
I really feel a depth of sadness and intimation of tragedy when I see the bright-faced and well-scrubbed 17 and 18 year old kids riding around in the back of Humvees near our local National Guard Armory. I think of how some of them will be dead or maimed within months of being deployed, the grey newsprint of one or more not-so-happy faces over an obituary, with regrets of family and community expressed, or a life to be lived out maimed and soon forgotten.
Thanks be to those who live out this sacrifice in the best possible spirit of truth and humility they can, just as those who spoke the truth to authority did, and for some who paid the full penalty of the war sin of others.



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justintime

posted September 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm


Thanks to Duane for his timely post.
Please read the NYT op-ed piece.
I’m saddened beyond words for these courageous young men who helped author the soldiers’ testimony, who were just killed in a war they could no longer believe in.
I believe the young soldiers who describe “The War as We Saw It”.
General Petraeus is lying.
General Petraeus is an incompetent,
according to the testimony of those who served with him.
The competent military leaders have already been fired by Bush.
Petraeus was responsible for the stolen weapons now being used against our troops.
Petraeus is a confirmed suckup with the ambition of becoming President.
Right now Petraeus is playing stooge for the Bush crime syndicate.
Today his last hope was assassinated in Sunni Anbar Province.
Bribery is his only remaining strategy.
And bribery will never win a war.
Bush is hiding behind Petraeus and Crocker.
Bush has no clue for how to fix the disaster in Iraq he has created.
And he has no intention of leaving Iraq.
The Petraeus ‘surge’ was just another ‘bait and switch’ scam designed to string the American public along until the 2008 elections.
Logistics for the ‘surge’ will dictate a drawdowm of 30,000 troops in the spring of 2008, regardless of what happens in Iraq.
Do you feel like you’ve been suckered again?
I do.
But even Republicans are beginning to realize Bush has destroyed America’s good will around the world, the US Treasury, America’s military, thousands upon thousands of human lives, and the future of the Republican Party.
Because of Bush, the Republican Party will be wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, or at least a generation.
Republicans in Congress are terrified of the 2008 elections.
They know Bush intends to foist off his Mess-opotamia on the Democrats.
And they know if the Iraq occupation continues to collapse they will be annihilated at the polls.
This is why Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel will not run for reelection.
The Dems don’t yet have the votes to beat Bush’s veto.
But they’re getting there.
It will be up to the Republicans to abandon Bush’s occupation.
Forgiveness is possible for those who see the light.



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justintime

posted September 13, 2007 at 7:50 pm


Thanks to Duane for his timely post.
Please read the NYT op-ed piece.
I’m saddened beyond words for these courageous young men who helped author the soldiers’ testimony, who were just killed in a war they could no longer believe in.
I believe the young soldiers who describe “The War as We Saw It”.
General Petraeus is lying.
General Petraeus is an incompetent,
according to the testimony of those who served with him.
The competent military leaders have already been fired by Bush.
Petraeus was responsible for the stolen weapons now being used against our troops.
Petraeus is a confirmed suckup with the ambition of becoming President.
Right now Petraeus is playing stooge for the Bush crime syndicate.
Today his last hope was assassinated in Sunni Anbar Province.
Bribery is his only remaining strategy.
And bribery will never win a war.
Bush is hiding behind Petraeus and Crocker.
Bush has no clue for how to fix the disaster in Iraq he has created.
And he has no intention of leaving Iraq.
The Petraeus ‘surge’ was just another ‘bait and switch’ scam designed to string the American public along until the 2008 elections.
Logistics for the ‘surge’ will dictate a drawdowm of 30,000 troops in the spring of 2008, regardless of what happens in Iraq.
Do you feel like you’ve been suckered again?
I do.
But even Republicans are beginning to realize Bush has destroyed America’s good will around the world, the US Treasury, America’s military, thousands upon thousands of human lives, and the future of the Republican Party.
Because of Bush, the Republican Party will be wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, or at least a generation.
Republicans in Congress are terrified of the 2008 elections.
They know Bush intends to foist off his Mess-opotamia on the Democrats.
And they know if the Iraq occupation continues to collapse they will be annihilated at the polls.
This is why Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel will not run for reelection.
The Dems don’t yet have the votes to beat Bush’s veto.
But they’re getting there.
It will be up to the Republicans to abandon Bush’s occupation.
Forgiveness is possible for those who see the light.



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canucklehead

posted September 14, 2007 at 12:20 am


God have mercy!



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bren

posted September 14, 2007 at 6:28 pm


President Bush can be blamed for many things but I don’t think he can be blamed for the Republican Party’s wandering in the wilderness. John Dean, a Republican for over 40 years has recently described the Republican Party as a hateful, entirely corrupt, and self-interested body composed of those who take revenge and those who fear having revenge taken upon them. Bush may have played a strong part in this but he had many helpers.



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John Mustol

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:49 pm


These comments by these soldiers points up one of the great tragedies of the entire American Iraq intervention and one of the major causes of our continued failure in Iraq. We do not understand Iraq, and we do not know what we are doing. We simply are flying blind.
I am a retired surgeon. During my career, before I performed a surgery on a person, I always tried to do the best “workup” I could. I got all the tests and information I could find, and worked with other doctors to find out all I could about what was going on inside that patient’s body. I talked at length with the patient and family to obtain as complete a picture as possible of their history and situation. I did a thorough physical examination. I got blood tests, scans, x-rays – everything I could in order to know as precisely as possible, before I made that irreversible cut, what I was going to find, what problems I might encounter, what alternative courses of action might be taken, what complications might occur, and what the results of my intervention would be. I tried to plan carefully. Smart patients would ask for a second opinion which I always gladly agreed to. Of course, absolute certainty is never possible, but when you have someone’s life in your hands, it is your solemn responsibility to do your level best to be as sure as you can be.
Before we “operated on” Iraq, we failed to do the necessary “workup,” the needed tests and investigations to find out what was going on inside that country and what the results of our “surgery” would be. Not only did we get it wrong about WMD, we did not study Iraq’s history, languages, social structures, religious groups, politics, and culture. We applied the knife and cut deeply into the country, laying it wide open from neck to pubis, destroying their institutions and much of their infrastructure, generally wrecking their country. Ironically, we did seek a second opinion from the United Nations, and its recommendation was, “Don’t operate.” Foolishly, we ignored their opinion and operated anyway.
The surgery has gone badly. Because we did not know what we were “operating on”; because we failed to find out what was going on inside that body before we performed our radical surgery, we now find ourselves still at the operating table, with the patient still wide open, uncontrolled bleeding, structures partially dissected, and some organs failing. We are baffled by the anatomy and physiology we are encountering. We are seeing “actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes.” We find ourselves saying, “Gosh, I didn’t expect this!” The anesthetist tells us the patient’s blood pressure getting low, and the heart is weak. Our surgery has gone on now for over four years, and we are tired. The patient has lost a lot of blood. The operating room team looks to us to decide what to do, but we are not sure what to do. We would like to walk away, but we can’t. We have to find some way to patch things together, repair damage, close up, and get the patient off the table with some hope that he will survive. We are in a colossal predicament, and the lives of, not just one, but many people are at stake.
Maybe now is the time to start learning about this patient we are operating on. I hope it’s not too late. Has the U.S. government or military ever assigned personnel to learn the language and culture of the people groups of Iraq? To study their history, religion, and politics? Do military patrols always have with them a member of their team who is trained in the local dialect and culture, who can talk directly to the people? Are we still relying on hired interpreters? If, as these soldiers say, counterinsurgency is “a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population,” then obviously “winning” that competition is not purely a military endeavor. (General Petraeus has mentioned this.) Would it not be essential that we spend a lot of time and money studying the Iraqi people and culture and training our soldiers and workers in local languages and dialects, culture and customs, religion and worldview, so that they can make direct contact with the people, at their level, in their language, on their terms, as much as possible? How can we win the hearts and minds of the people if we don’t even speak their language??!! If we do not understand what the people are thinking and feeling, how can we know what to do for them? If the surgeon does not know or understand his patient, how is his/her operation going to be successful?
We need to step back from the operating table, look at those around us (regional governments) and ask, “What do you think we should do?” We need to get help. If we don’t know what we are doing, we need to find someone who does. If our current operative techniques and approaches are not working, we need to change, call in another surgeon, a specialist. I am not sure what we should do, but there probably people who do know. And we need to listen to them – even if we don’t like them and don’t like what they say. And we need to act on what they say.
These two soldiers have died. How tragic that two human beings who saw more deeply into the Iraq situation than their leaders have died in this affair. We have to change course. We cannot continue. We have to change.



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justintime

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:53 pm


Bren,
I agree, the Republican Party has been wandering in the moral and ethical wilderness for some time now, at least since the Reagan years.
John Dean’s descriptions of the authoritarians are right on.
Dean also points out how honorable, ethical conservatives (Barry Goldwater is Dean’s standard for conservative ethics, ‘The Conscience of a Conservative’- ‘Conservatives without Conscience’) were driven out of the Republican Party by authoritarians, leaving behind an unholy alliance of dominionist theocrats, corporate fascists, warmongers, war profiteers, murderers, swindlers and thieves.
The collapse of this corrupted unholy alliance was inevitable from the beginning.
My point was that the results of the 2008 elections will solidly fix the blame for enabling the Bush crime syndicate on the Republican Party.
For this the Republican Party will spend a generation wandering in the political wilderness.



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bren

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:21 pm


John Mustol is quite correct in suggesting that a “workup” is required before surgery, even if for invading Iraq. For the most part the government did not do a workup–they certainly didn’t do a history of the patient. They did have Arabists (Americans who had studied Arabic language, history and culture) who did a lot of translation of materials–until it was discovered that many of these translators were homosexuals. The translators were fired, and never replaced, partly because they couldn’t find replacements and partly because the leadership didn’t believe it was necessary to hear from people who knew the language: remember, they were told it would be a cakewalk. Frankly, I think that the leadership were so convinced that this would be a cakewalk that they never once considered the possibility that people were telling them this because this is what they wanted to hear.



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Steve

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:30 am


It’s not just the young poor anymore. With an all volunteer military (Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines) there are plenty of middle income, more mature, good test score members. Witness the excellent writing of this group. The fact the National Guard has been mobilized like never before also contribute to this higher quality.
What should bother you the most is that neocon pro war conservatives I know in the business world are quick to say,”Bush is right, send more troops, we must win this war on terror” are not likely to sacrifice anything themselves. They don’t drive smaller cars to use less gas or even slow down to reduce fuel consumption, won’t send their children to Iraq, won’t put their money into helping the injured or maimed. They have it so easy!



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S. Ray

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:51 am


So, Sgt Mora was a recent immigrant from Ecuador! How do the conservative fundamentalists and their radio talk show leaders get away with bashing immigrants so much? I know, the Republican will say no, “it’s only illegal immigrants we hate.”
How do you tell the difference by looking at them? If they are here illegally it’s because a business/employer hired them. Does the conservative really believe God does not love immigrants who come to the US because a corporate guy wants to employ them here? Why doesn’t the talk show host or Republican go after the corporate employer with all this disdain? Would that be too much like a mafia family turning against itself?



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justintime

posted September 15, 2007 at 3:45 pm


They have it so easy! – Steve
The fact they DO have it so easy,
their privileges never at risk,
is the very reason why they’ve been cheering this war on from the beginning.
The cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion deny the facts about the real reason for the occupation (controlling Iraq’s oil resource), the level of slaughter and destruction in Iraq, the failure of the ‘surge’ and the present hopeless reality of the ‘facts on the ground’ in Iraq.
The Easy Money stratum in our society shrugs off the consequences of war saying;
“Well they knew it would be risky when they signed up, didn’t they?”
“It’s tragic yes but unavoidable collateral damage.”
as they ignore the sacrifices made by other Americans and the senseless slaughter of thousands and thousands of human beings.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 16, 2007 at 10:07 am


Very sad that these men and so many others have had to give their lives for this unjust and immoral war. Thank God, they had the courage to speak up.
Noticeably absent from the comments are the ardent neo-cons who regularly post here. Especially one who repeatedly says he prays for the troops. I would be interested in his comments.
Justintime has said:
“The Easy Money stratum in our society shrugs off the consequences of war saying;
“Well they knew it would be risky when they signed up, didn’t they?””
I could not agree more- having served in the reserves during the Persian Gulf conflict (though I was not deployed), that was exactly the attitude I encountered in the general populace. The problem with that attitude is that these kids are pretty innocent and naive when they sign on the dotted line and at minimum, we as a society owe them at least this: we will not unnecessarily put them in harm’s way. We will make every effort to avoid military conflict and will resort to military force after all other conceivable efforts have been made to resolve our differences with other countries.
Unfortunately Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, the Republicans and far too many complicitous Democrats failed our armed services personnel.



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justintime

posted September 16, 2007 at 1:42 pm


To publicly announce that you’re praying for the troops while uncritically supporting Bush’s disastrous war policy is hypocritical cheap talk, to say the least.



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eillena

posted September 17, 2007 at 10:20 am


Thank you Duane Shank for an excellent article.
Dr. Mustol, being a surgeon you have an obligation to fight for LIFE (and save from death)as does any person in the medical profession. Diagnosis is crucial, action based on knowledge too. Consequences need facing and reevaluating, sometimes.
We need truth and reevaluation and different type of actions.
The military are ruled by politicians who in turn are ruled by material interests and business deals.
Ethics is for the media show.
Truth is the AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED and are paying too much for other’s mistakes. Youth is the future of any nation. It is being wasted.
American people are being viewd not as victims of their own system but as aggressors and invaders.
STOP TO THINK AND DEMAND THE TRUTH.
THIS SITUATION REMINDS ME OF THE NAPOLEONIC WARS, IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM AND EQUALITY,Napoleon’army invaded and destroyed many countries. They were defeated by the local people, with agricultural tools, knives and the like, because the royalty and noblemen just fled.
WE NEED HOPE AND ALSO COURAGE TO FACE FACTS AND CHANGE COURSE OF ACTION.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE JUST.



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kevin s.

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm


” I know, the Republican will say no, “it’s only illegal immigrants we hate.”
I hate neither.



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John Mustol

posted September 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm


Consider the syllogism: All doctors are humans. All humans make mistakes. Therefore, all doctors make mistakes. This is true. The world is an imperfect place, and we all are part of that imperfection. I speak painfully from lived experience. In medicine, the stakes are high – the lives and health of people. When a doctor makes a mistake, whatever the consequences, she/he (hopefully) goes through a spiritual process: denial (No, it didn’t happen.), anger/despair/blaming others (It’s bad luck, the nurse, or the patient.), confession (Yes, I did it.), repentance (how can I learn and do better?), forgiveness (I’m still justified to exist as a person and to practice as a doctor because there is a means of forgiveness.) , healing (I can grow as a result of this.). Authentic growth and progress cannot occur unless this process is undertaken in some form. But this process can be very difficult. There are many spiritual obstacles – personal and cultural. Many doctors, myself included, do not follow it easily.
Our “surgery” on Iraq was obviously a mistake. I think all reasonable people recognize this now. But as a nation, we have only just begun this process. Many of us are still at the denial stage. “It didn’t happen!” But we screwed up, and a whole bunch of people are dead or maimed, and the world is worse off because of it. It was a horrendous error. But we can’t face it. We just can’t. It’s too awful to face. To face it for some of us (President Bush) might seem to lead to political and possibly literal self-destruction. We doggedly (what we believe to be courageously) pursue our chosen course, and are using a set of myths and false beliefs to bolster our defense against the truth. We are stuck at the denial stage. As Eillena points out above, we need truth – what is really the case.
Among our many carefully protected myths is the belief that we do not make mistakes. President Bush seems to believe this. How about the syllogism: All humans make mistakes. All politicians are humans. Therefore, all politicians make mistakes. To maintain a belief that you are not capable or error, or that you did not make a mistake when in fact you have, is to chose a spiritual path that leads inevitably to further damage and destruction.
As a first step toward healing, of the patient (Iraq) as well of ourselves, we need to face up to truth, admit we have made some grievous errors, and, as I said, get help. The surgeon who continues to operate by himself when things are going badly because he is too proud to ask for help, is a dangerous fool. Let us not be dangerous fools. Let us confess, repent, and get help.
One final comment about truth. Truth (what is the case) is always intepreted. We always see it in light of a set of assumptions about reality and a worldview. To date all of us (pro or contra the war) have interpreted things in our own terms. We have to try to get away from that. That means we need to start listening to people who think a lot differently from us (Iraqis), who have assumptions and worldviews that are very different from our own. We need to be humble enough to hear them and be willing to consider ideas outside our normal “American” plausibility structure. We need to be very flexible and think outside the box. One example is the religious aspect of this war. What role does relgion play in the lives of Iraqis and others? How has it affected their behavior in reponse to our actions? How can we respond constructively to the religious issue? What role has religion played in our own behavior and how can we correct that? We need truth, but we need it from many different points of view.



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Jason C

posted September 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm


Where is there evidence to support the below quote:
“General Petraeus is an incompetent,
according to the testimony of those who served with him.”



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