Aquarium Blog

Thursday, June 03, 2004

My take on USA politics today

I don't want this to become a custom. But I have to post this.

When I see Al Gore, one of USA Democrat Party's most important politicians, writing (or endorsing) something like this (found through Lornamatic), it makes me wonder why wasn't he elected president in 2000... Or was he?

Moreover, the administration has also set up the men and women of our own armed forces for payback the next time they are held as prisoners. And for that, this administration should pay a very high price. One of the most tragic consequences of these official crimes is that it will be very hard for any of us as Americans - at least for a very long time - to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments, when our policies have resulted in our soldiers behaving so monstrously. This administration has shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of freedom and human rights everywhere, thus undermining the core message of America to the world.

President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world - but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions. He also owes an apology to the U.S. Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders. Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the United States of America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under a rule of law in their own lands. Of course, the problem with all these legitimate requests is that a sincere apology requires an admission of error, a willingness to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable. And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America.

Also when I read this kind of remarks by an USA retired general like Gen. Anthony Zinni, it helps me hope that my son will live in a safer and fairer world in a few years.

Almost every week, somebody calls me up, if it's not Mark Thompson it's somebody else, and says "What would you do now?" You know, there's a rule that if you find yourself in hole, stop digging. The first thing I would say is we need to stop digging. We have dug this hole so deep now that you see many serious people, Jack Murtha, General Odom, and others beginning to say it's time to just pull out, cut your losses. I'm not of that camp. Not yet. But I certainly think we've come pretty close to that.

I would do several things now. But clearly the first and most important thing you need is that UN resolution. That's been the model since the end of the Cold War, that has given us the basis and has given our allies the basis for joining us and helping us and provided the legitimacy we need.

We can't keep dropping paper on the UN, it's time for a group of adults, called the Perm Five, the permanent five members of the Security Council, to sit down and come up with some agreeable, mutually developed UN resolution that would allow other countries now to participate. And I think there are many out there at different levels, especially in the region, that would want to participate and help and before it comes too tough and too costly, we need to get them in. It will probably mean some of these Perm Five members and others will want to have a say in the political reconstruction and economic reconstruction, but so what?

If we create a free economy in Iraq, someday, probably sooner that later, some oil minister is going to cut a contract with the French. Guess what? That's inevitable. So why not start up front, admitting that. We need the UN resolution, that's the number one priority.

After getting that, I would first go to the countries in the region asking their help. I would do things like ask the countries to give us five or six officers for each of our battalions and regiments and brigades and above, five or six Arab officers that have attended our schools. For each of those units, that have gone to our command and general staff colleges, that not only speak English but know us, and we know them. And I'd put them on the planning staffs of these units, as advisors, as planners. If I'm a battalion commander down there in the middle of Fallujah or Najaf, I need more than some kid who happens to be of Arab descent and speaks Arabic that I drug over there and probably doesn't speak the dialect. I would like to have five or six of these guys that I went to school with, that I know, that would be there, that would be seconded there for me as planners, advisors, and to help me in these situations.

I would ask these countries in the region to allow us to build camps along the borders of Iraq, to train police, border security, and Army. I would lure the young men into these positions by considerable pay for what they are about to do, and they would deserve it. I would ask the Europeans and the others to help us build a training program, one that would last a long time, maybe even a year, to develop truly competent security forces with high morale, organizational coherence, the equipment and the pay that would make them proud. It may mean we're going to have to gut it out for a while. But it means that we have at least an end-state where we are going to put credible security forces and Iraqi forces on the ground. I would ask those countries that can commit those forces to help us, not only in patrolling cities that may be casualty traps, but in securing the borders.

There is a Ho Chi Minh trail here. Somewhere, somehow people are getting in the jihadis. I don't believe the Iraqis are blowing themselves up. They're coming from outside. We have insufficient forces to protect borders. I can't believe that we control all the major routes in and out from Kuwait and Jordan, when everyday I see another IED, improvised explosive device, blow up another fuel convoy coming down that road. Forces that protect road networks - that isn't a casualty intensive or difficult task - those are the kinds of forces under a UN agreement, that I think we can get in there to perform those missions, to use the Powell doctrine and putting some overwhelming force on the critical nodes, and the critical routes, and the critical infrastructure we need to protect. I would hold a conference somewhere in the region, ask the Arabs to sponsor it, although I would provide support.

I would invite every Iraqi business man I can convince to come, and I would invite foreign investors, and I would ask them to come together, hold this conference over a period of weeks, to define what these business men need to establish their business, to make it grow, to re-establish it, to protect it, the kind of investment they need, the infrastructure, but the key is jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs for Iraqis. I would go to the contractors in there, and say, I don't want to see truck drivers that are coming from Peoria, Illinois. I want to pay truck drivers that are Iraqis. It doesn't take a hell of a lot of talent to drive a truck. Why aren't Iraqis driving trucks for their own reconstruction and redevelopment? Why are people from outside coming in, where they have no investment in protecting and providing for the security and the movement of those goods?

The Halliburtons and Bechtels and, and others ought to be encouraged to hire locally, unless there is a skills set that isn't present there. But I almost can't believe that you couldn't find that in there. I think we need to start talking about the kind of government we're going to eventually have in this nation. Is it a confederation? A federation? What kind of local autonomy are the Shi'a, the Kurds, the Sunnis, going to have? What will be the status of Baghdad? No one has talked about that structure publicly. We're about to turn this over to some interim council and we're heading towards, six months from now, an election; an election where the electorate is educated on how to vote Friday prayers from the pulpit.

There's no system of education for the electorate. There are no political parties that I see and have been developed openly - there are certainly some growing that I would be suspicious of. And I think that unless we come to grips with the form of government, unless we work openly and in a transparent manner to develop political parties, and this has to be under international UN supervision, and unless we run a program of education for the electorate, we're not going to like the results we see by the end of January when the supposed elections are going to take place.

Those are just a few ideas. But I think it takes quality people on the ground to be able to implement these, it takes international authority and not the U.S. stamp on it, because that's not acceptable anymore. It's going to be a period of time where we're going to have to bear the burden of the most severe security responsibilities. But we ought to at least plan for a time when we can turn that over, and at least share some of the less demanding security experiences and variances. And I'm convinced that if we open this up and get the UN resolution, there will be those that will come in and stand by our side, boot-to-boot, on some of the tougher missions.

We also have to stop the tough talk rhetoric. One thing you learn in this business is, don't say it unless you're going to do it. In this part of the world, strength matters. And if you say you are going to go in and wipe them out, you better do it. If you say you're going to do it and then you back off and find another solution, you have lost face. And we have got to stop the kind of bravado and talk that only leads us into trouble out there. We need to be more serious and more mature in what we project as an image. Our whole public relations effort out there has been a disaster. I read the newspapers from the region every night online, and if you watch Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, or even some of the more moderate stations out there, and you read the editorials in the newspaper, there is a different war being portrayed in that region. A different conflict than we're getting from Fox, CNN, CBS, et cetera. And we better get the two jibed somehow, because that has been a massive failure. And there again, we could use advice from the region as to how to go about it. Thank you for you attention. I'd be glad to take any questions you may have.

But Americans must vote first.

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