Patterico's Pontifications


Power Line’s Pessimistic Correspondent Responds

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 5:42 am

On April 1, Power Line printed this pessmistic assessment of Iraq, written by somebody fighting over there. I asked my guest bloggers Teflon Don and Badger 6 to respond. Teflon Don responded here; Badger 6 responded here and here.

This morning I received an e-mail (with a cc to Power Line) from somebody claiming to be the originator of the pessimistic assessment. He identifies himself as a Sergeant, and gives his name — but I am withholding the name until he confirms that it is okay to print it. (I have sent him an e-mail requesting permission to do so.) His e-mail is interesting and worth reading. Here it is:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED


I am the originator of the “pessimistic assessment” posted on Powerline. I have read your site irregularly over the years but am not very familiar with you or your co-bloggers. At least I got the impression that Badger 6 was a co-blogger, I may be mistaken. I’d like to say that I’m not an irregular reader because I don’t like your blog, it’s mostly been a function of time. I would also like to say that I have removed my blog from Blogspot after I was directly questioned about having an unregistered blog. Also, the new web filtering program blocks a category called “Message Boards and Groups” which effectively bans blogs so I read very few blogs now.

Since this is my first correspondence with Patterico I’d like to say a few things by way of introduction. As I say in my blog, I support the war. I believe coming to Iraq was the right thing to do. I fully understand the implications of losing in Iraq. It is in that spirit that I decided to voice my criticisms of the way we are conducting the war. Of course I am frustrated with being extended, but the frustration is not with being separated from friends and family for longer. The frustration comes from being extended in what I see as a futile effort as it is currently being fought.

Badger 6 claims that The Surge constitutes ‘starting over’. With respect to his callsign, I disagree. While it represents some change in Baghdad, the rest of the country remains surgeless. We have seen repeatedly in this war that offensives by us result in a dispersal of bad guys into other areas until the offensive is over. That is exactly what has happened this time. Especially with the surge being announced, debated and detailed on satellite news for all the insurgents to see. A simple view of the casualty statistics shows that American deaths have remained stable, 80+ per month, since January. If deaths in Baghdad are down, deaths elsewhere must be up. Again, I don’t say this to undermine the effort, I say this because white washing the truth will never lead to victory.

I have come across a few articles recently which I think illustrate some of the points I was trying to make. [This link] shows some of the problems associated with the Shi’a Maliki government. This is one story, one example. I’m not saying that this is a “gotcha” and proves me right. But I have seen this happen. Maliki doesn’t have direct control over the militias and neither does Moqtada. But Maliki doesn’t need to be a militia leader to undermine the fight against them.

The second article which you have probably seen by now, “A Failure in Generalship”, illustrates exactly what I was trying to say when I stated that soldiers are not trained to fight a counter insurgency. I never said that we aren’t “trained” but there is a difference between being trained to shoot and march and being trained to fight a counter insurgency. LT Col Yingling is right on the money and makes his points better than I did.

Also worth reading is Ali Alawi’s “The Occupation of Iraq.”

Thanks for your time,

[Name withheld pending permission to print it]

For the record, Badger 6 and Teflon Don were temporary guest bloggers.

I have sent the Sergeant a copy of yesterday’s post on improvements in Al Anbar, and asked for his reaction. If he responds, I’ll post it this evening.

7 Responses to “Power Line’s Pessimistic Correspondent Responds”

  1. Maybe the pros and cons can agree the mission was a noble cause which was engaged with a one-percent chance of success, then leave it at that.

    Not much in the way of agreement on any other aspect of the War in Iraq. The tribal nature of the bedouin, and the fractious character of the primary schisms, added to the brittle need to remain fixed in centuries old traditions, makes for a heady combination when change is thrust upon them from without. As many here would understand,
    evolution is not just biological. It is social and psychological. The last two vessels mentioned have been in stasis for centuries in the ME.

    Thomas Hobbes ‘Leviathan';

    “”Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

    semanticleo (2f60f4)

  2. Maybe the pros and cons can agree the mission was a noble cause which was engaged with a one-percent chance of success, then leave it at that.

    No, maybe those who choose to look for simplicity in a complex war can arrive at the “they’ve been that way for generations and will refuse to change” mentality.

    The social and psychological evolution that has been thrust upon this society is the direct result of the rise of a militant ideology that has shown no respect for life, and attempts to achieve their goals by taking lives indiscriminately.

    Those who tolerate,(To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit), these means as a form of redress, does indeed allow a breakdown in society’s evolution.

    If we submit that the “mission was a noble cause”, how do we justify any abandonment, with little regard for the longterm ramifications?

    Rovin (7f64b8)

  3. I agree with his assessment to a large extent (which seems odd to say, since certainly he should better than me). Some peoples’ views aside, you can’t win a war with cheerful sentiments and tunnelvision, and, given the President’s approval ratings, I think he’s a bit off about the ‘American people understand and trust me’ bit.

    David N. Scott (71e316)

  4. The only way to eliminate the ‘squishing’ effect is to have sufficient numbers of troops on the ground to stamp out the insurgency in multiple areas at once.

    Yes, firefights occurring at the tip of the spear are settled with firepower superiority, and Clausewitz’ dicta about 3:1 ratios holds, but with fire superiority that number needn’t always be in men, it can just be in weaponry once a threshold number of troops is met. For missions relying on *holding* ground, not just taking it, nothing beats boots on the ground. Certain force multipliers – good intel comes to mind – can help reduce the number of troops needed sometimes. But the fact remains that the mission is, and has been, dreadfully understaffed.

    It is possible to beat down an insurgency, even a foreign-funded and staffed insurgency; but it can’t be done on the cheap in terms of manpower investments. The mission isn’t doomed; our approaching war as a field exercise where full participation of the entire country is required, probably is.

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  5. I don’t think there’s anyone who expects this campaign to become a textbook case of how to fight this kind of war. Might go in another section of the book, though.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  6. Textbooks for COIN warfare:
    Case studies of the Phillipines Insurrection, Haiti, Nicaragua, Malaya, Algeria, Viet Nam (both France and U.S.), Northern Ireland.

    The points that work, and those that don’t, have been noted in all of those struggles. We can learn, and some of our generals have, but the culture is very resistant to fighting this form of warfare because (in their minds) there is no great glory unless you’re leading vast armies accross the Fulda Gap (as an example).

    To throw a skunk into the garden party: What happens if our homegrown Militia Movement learns these lessons better than the Establishment. If a serious resistance movement erupts within the American Heartland using previously successful insurgent tactics, how does the Federal Government reassert control?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  7. EXERPTS FROM LETTER FROM CIA AGENTS TO GEORGE TENENT. Shows Tenent was involved with the Bush and Cheney crime family to lie us into war. What more do you need to realize this!!

    28 April 2007
    Mr. George Tenet
    c/o Harper Collins Publishers
    10 East 53rd Street
    8th Floor
    New York City, New York 10022

    ATTN: Ms. Tina Andredis

    Dear Mr. Tenet:

    We write to you on the occasion of the release of your book, At the Center of the Storm. You are on the record complaining about the “damage to your reputation”. In our view the damage to your reputation is inconsequential compared to the harm your actions have caused for the U.S. soldiers engaged in combat in Iraq and the national security of the United States. We believe you have a moral obligation to return the Medal of Freedom you received from President George Bush. We also call for you to dedicate a significant percentage of the royalties from your book to the U.S. soldiers and their families who have been killed and wounded in Iraq.

    We agree with you that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy reasons. We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and wrong headed. But your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership. You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq.

    You are not alone in failing to speak up and protest the twisting and shading of intelligence. Those who remained silent when they could have made a difference also share the blame for not protesting the abuse and misuse of intelligence that occurred under your watch. But ultimately you were in charge and you signed off on the CIA products and you briefed the President.

    This is not a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. You helped send very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in the fall of 2002. CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq. This intelligence was ignored and later misused. On October 1 you signed and gave to President Bush and senior policy makers a fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)-which dovetailed with unsupported threats presented by Vice President Dick Cheney in an alarmist speech on August 26, 2002.

    You were well aware that the White House tried to present as fact intelligence you knew was unreliable. And yet you tried to have it both ways. On October 7, just hours before the president gave a major speech in Cincinnati, you were successful in preventing him from using the fable about Iraq purchasing uranium in Africa, although that same claim appeared in the NIE you signed only six days before.

    Although CIA officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.

    You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium. You signed off on Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations. And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA’s most precious asset—credibility.”

    You may now feel you were bullied and victimized but you were also one of the bullies. In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence. Yet you were informed in no uncertain terms that Curveball was not reliable. You broke with CIA standard practice and insisted on voluminous evidence to refute this reporting rather than treat the information as suspect. You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to raw intelligence that did not support the case for war being hawked by the president and vice president.

    It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community—a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality. Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge. Curiously, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, but you decline to criticize the President.

    Mr. Tenet, as head of the intelligence community, you failed to use your position of power and influence to protect the intelligence process and, more importantly, the country. What should you have done? What could you have done?

    For starters, during the critical summer and fall of 2002, you could have gone to key Republicans and Democrats in the Congress and warned them of the pressure. But you remained silent. Your candor during your one-on-one with Sir Richard Dearlove, then-head of British Intelligence, of July 20, 2002, provides documentary evidence that you knew exactly what you were doing; namely, “fixing” the intelligence to the policy.

    By your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States. Instead of resigning in protest, when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent and allowed the Bush Administration to cite your participation in these deliberations to justify their decision to go to war. Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed more than 3300 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

    If you are committed to correcting the record about your past failings then you should start by returning the Medal of Freedom you willingly received from President Bush in December 2004. You claim it was given only because of the war on terror, but you were standing next to General Tommy Franks and L. Paul Bremer, who also contributed to the disaster in Iraq. President Bush said that you:
    played pivotal roles in great events, and [your] efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty.

    The reality of Iraq, however, has not made our nation more secure nor has the cause of human liberty been advanced. In fact, your tenure as head of the CIA has helped create a world that is more dangerous. The damage to the credibility of the CIA is serious but can eventually be repaired. Many of the U.S. soldiers maimed in the streets of Fallujah and Baghdad cannot be fixed. Many will live the rest of their lives missing limbs, blinded, mentally disabled, or physically disfigured. And the dead have passed into history.

    Mr. Tenet, you cannot undo what has been done. It is doubly sad that you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage you have facilitated. If reflection on these matters serves to prick your conscience we encourage you to donate at least half of the royalties from your book sales to the veterans and their families, who have paid and are paying the price for your failure to speak up when you could have made a difference. That would be the decent and honorable thing to do.

    Sincerely yours,

    Phil Giraldi
    Ray McGovern
    Larry Johnson
    Jim Marcinkowski
    Vince Cannistraro
    David MacMichael

    UPDATE: Signatories who were not CIA officers but worked in high level intelligence and national security positions.

    W. Patrick Lang (Colonel, retired, US Army and former Chief of Middle East Division, DIA)
    Thomas R. Maertens (Director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush)


    Charlie (55cd2b)

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