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February 09, 2007

Paranoia and the Realities of Iraq
Posted by Gordon Adams

Oh, for a parliamentary system of government in America!  Had we one, they’d be gone today.  Instead they have lingered around from the deception of the invasion, to the incompetence of the execution, to the current stage of paranoia.

Whatever justified the invasion of Iraq, it was certainly not the reason given at the time.  Deception was key; the American people had to be convinced there was a threat.  The execution of the war and post-war policy, especially the latter, exposed a level of incompetence and unreality only exceeded by their response to Hurricane Katrina.

Today the full reality stands exposed.  Step by step, the deceptive illusion purveyed in 2003 has disappeared, and there is full-fledged gap between what they are saying, the incompetent dance they are doing, and what we see on the ground.

Rather than acknowledge reality, the last stage left is paranoia. – fight with the facts rather than change to a policy that works or bring the men and women home with a few shreds of American dignity left. 

The vice-president still labors in illusion:  we have had  “enormous success” in Iraq, and critics of this reality are probably helping Osama bin Laden, even if they don’t intend to.  Even the new Defense Secretary seems to have ingested this Kool-Aid.  Meanwhile, the new National Intelligence Estimate tells us the reality, which is and Iraq riddled with sectarian violence and “civil war,” which is, right now, on a trajectory of “gradual decline,” that could become one of “rapid deterioration.”

Paranoia appears when analysts seek to decipher the costs of this misadventure.  To wit:  Lecturer Linda Bilmes of Harvard writes a report and an opinion piece on the rising tide of veterans’ claims resulting from the war – the physical and emotional reality hundreds of thousands of soldiers are beginning to go through.  She argues that this reality could cost more than $600 b. over the next 40 years. 

She notes in her work that there have been 55,500 “non-mortal woundings” in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since DOD has been using the number 23,700 for the casualty count, the Pentagon’s first reaction is to go on the attack.  Her figure is wrong, where did she get such a funny number.  Why, she says, from the VA, which got it from the Pentagon.  Well, then, why didn’t she at least report the smaller Pentagon number that focuses on battle casualties and those airlifted out of Iraq, as opposed to injured, sick, or otherwise affected troops who stay there?  Well, in fact, she did exactly that, fully and fairly explaining the differences in footnotes 2 and 9 in the paper.

Prof. Bilmes did her homework, and the Pentagon fired before it had identified the target.  DOD seems to be working overtime to argue with the analysts and realists, while the war goes south.  Why?  The costs – human and fiscal - of this unpopular adventure, combined with the failure of policy, are sinking it.  Anything to take attention away from that reality.

Or to take another example.  The Congressional Budget Office assesses the costs of the surge of 21,500 combat troops to Iraq, suggesting it might add between $9 and $27 b., depending on the size of the supporting force normally deployed, and the length of the tour.  “Supporting forces?” says DOD, “what supporting forces?”  Well, the Army normally, and historically, deploys support for combat troops, at least one-for-one.  So they will need anything from another 15,000 to 28,000, depending on how much they want to match historical practice.   

Well, no, says DOD, we’ve been saying 21,500 at a cost of $5.6 b, but this would make it 36,500 to 48,500 at a cost from $9 to 27 b. and who wants that message out there.  So they quibbled and quarreled with CBO through the first day, trying to explain why this particular set of soldiers won’t need the same level of support other units get, or they can just double up on the support already in Iraq.  Or maybe they just need another 3,000, not the full number. 

Instead of hammering the analyst, DOD needs to answer the question, and support the forces adequately.  Why say otherwise?  Why this paranoid reaction?  Well, the costs – human and fiscal – of this unpopular adventure, combined with the looming failure, are sinking the policy.

Iraq reality has so completely diverged from the White House fantasy that defensive reaction seems to be the only recourse left.   It is a separate universe, paranoia.  In that world, the light is at the end of the tunnel, and we are in for a dime, so why not be in for (a few hundred billion) more dollars.  In this world, we are in deep trouble in Iraq.

The nation, our global reputation, our international leadership, our national security is at stake and every time reality diverges from the fantasy, we sink deeper into the morass.  The Iraq Study Group tried, they really did, to pull us out of this.  Even Henry Kissinger steped in and mumbled that he agrees with every reality.

We don’t have a parliamentary system, so maybe it is time for some brave Republicans to travel down Pennsylvania Ave. and point out to the White House how much this misadventure is hurting them, as well as the country. 


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We don’t have a parliamentary system, so maybe it is time for some brave Republicans to travel down Pennsylvania Ave. and point out to the White House how much this misadventure is hurting them, as well as the country.

Unfortunately, I think the disaster in Iraq -- and a possible further catastrophe in Iran -- may actually help the Republicans in the long term. We're heading for a true clash of civilizations and the militarized state that Gen. Franks warned us about four years ago. If the Democrats don't get their act together and try to stop military action against Iran, I see the donkey party going the way of Israel's Labor party.

BTW, it's good to see you back, Gordon.

I don't know which war being fought is the most destructive to this nation, the war in Iraq or the political war Americans are fighting here in this country. I think the political war is simply because it is brought on by the liberal socialist party(democrats). It is beyond me what evil would be in their hearts that would cause them to be sooo hell bent on destroying this country with their destructive philosophy/ideaology. If you don't 'love it, leave it'! France would love you!

If you don't 'love it, leave it'! France would love you!

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