Friday, May 05, 2006

Military men

James Webb, running against George Allen for Senator from Virginia, has an impressive list of endorsements:
Gen. Anthony Zinni (USMC), Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (USMC), Lt. Gen. Frank Petersen (USMC) and Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) endorsed Jim Webb for U.S. Senate today. Joined by Gen. Zinni, Webb asserted his support of the Generals who have come forward publicly with criticisms of the war in Iraq and reiterated his strong support of U.S. troops.

"I am pleased and gratified to receive the endorsements of three retired General officers, as well as that of sitting Congressman Jack Murtha," said Webb. "These gentlemen have each endorsed me for their own personal reasons. But each of these leaders share many things in common -- not the least of which is their sincere dedication to the good of our country, and the well-being of our military people."
Which leads me to the discussion Chris Matthews had with two retired generals last night (my emphasis):
MATTHEWS: But you made the point well, General—General Trainor, we were told—our troops were told, we‘re going in there at the highest level to basically detail a car. Now we‘re told we have to build a car, right?

TRAINOR: That‘s exactly right. The military went in there under the assumption that the center of gravity, the military target, was going to be the Republican Guard. We‘d fire tanks and artillery, put airplanes on them, and that the political center of gravity was going to be Baghdad, and that the Shiites in the south were going to welcome us. And the Sunnis would probably accept us. And they even had a full annex in the operation plan for capitulation.

MATTHEWS: What bozo thought that? Who thought that and told that to the military, that that would be the case?

TRAINOR: This was largely the result of the intelligence community making ...


MATTHEWS: Was it from the intelligence community or was it from Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraq National Congress guy, talking to the civilians at the Defense Department and the vice president‘s office? Was it a political call, not an analytical assessment?

TRAINOR: No, I think it was an intelligence, analytical one. There‘s no question about Chalabi was able to influence the secretary of defense and those around him and kind of give them reassurance, but the intelligence community misread the situation. But, you know, it was a little bit—it was understandable.

We had great information on Afghanistan. Why? Because we had agents in Afghanistan ever since the Soviets went in there in 1980. We didn‘t have anything like that in Iraq, so as a result of that, we were listening to people like Chalabi and the people that Chalabi brought forth giving this information to the intelligence community.

MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to the troop level question, generals. Lots of debate in this country about whether 150,000 or so troop level, that complement was sufficient. A lot of criticism saying it should have been twice that amount from the beginning.

Would twice the number of troops going into Iraq have changed the reality over there or simply dragged out the war a bit longer because it would have kept the insurgency at bay at bit, but eventually there would have been an insurgency and we would have been thrown out anyway.

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the first question you ask is what was the objective of the intervention. And then you have to build a force that achieves your objective, and the initial force that went in, as Mick Trainor and Michael Gordon put in their book, was sadly misplaced. Of course, the force should have been bigger. It should‘ve been probably four of five divisions, but more importantly ...
MATTHEWS: How many troops is that, four of five?

MCCAFFREY: Well, who knows, 250,000?


MCCAFFREY: But they should have also been engineers, civil affairs, signal the people to consolidate a nation of 26 million people.

MATTHEWS: Would that have worked?

MCCAFFREY: Well, a lot better than what we did now.

MATTHEWS: No, we have hindsight now, General McCaffrey. Would it have worked to have an extra 100,000 troops on the ground?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think it would not have ended up as a situation if we‘d also not dismissed the Iraqi army.

MATTHEWS: OK, we needed to have done two things: kept the army together except perhaps the political commissars—you got them out of there.


MATTHEWS: Kept the main troops lines together, kept them under control and under orders. Number two, brought in an extra 100,000 Americans—what would that have been?

MCCAFFREY: And then finally, personally, I think we should have gone in with a rented native organization and put an Iraqi face on the occupation from day one, propped him up with bayonets until they could create a political process.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean put in a government like a Chalabi government.

MCCAFFREY: Pick one at random. Who cares? That‘s, you know ...

MATTHEWS: That means you should have had a provisional government right away.

MCCAFFREY: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: So a provisional government, an extra 100,000 Americans in there, and keeping together the Iraqi army. General Trainor, would that have brought peace and success in Iraq or simply a more drawn-out war?

TRAINOR: Chris, the only thin[g] I can tell you is what all the generals and field commanders told me and Gordon when we were doing the book, that there was a window of opportunity after Saddam fell and it lasted for mostly through the summer, when the Iraqis were in awe of us and the Fedayeen and everybody else were kind of down on their knees.

But that window closed very, very quickly because there was a power vacuum there. We didn‘t have enough—we had enough forces to take out the Iraqi military, but we didn‘t have enough forces to deal with the entire country.

And this is what happened. Between the secretary of defense because of his aversion to nation-building and his insistence on transforming the army into something that‘s light and mobile and lethal, that conspired to go against what the military were thinking, because they were looking at it not just in terms of taking out Baghdad, but they were also what happens then? We‘re going to have to administer the country.

MATTHEWS: I see. Let me tell you through this visually. Maybe a couple days from now we‘ll figure out how to do with this visually with TV cameras and tape. I remember quite distinctly I was thrilled to see those initial hours after our troops reached Baghdad, all the statues coming down, everybody cheering.

You‘re saying if that moment had been seized with a huge force and keeping their army intact, and moved in and taking control with perhaps a government, a provisional government, that there wouldn‘t have been any change, it would have gone smoothly from that to a new Democratic-elected government? You say that would have worked?

TRAINOR: No, no. That‘s too much of an extension. I‘m saying this. Everybody seemed to believe that there would be some sort of an insurgency, but it certainly wouldn‘t have been the terrible one that we‘ve faced with such a ...


MATTHEWS: How can you say that with the fact that the army did get disbanded, and with it went all the materiel and the ordinance? All this bomb equipment, all these IEDs that everybody is using, all the shooting at our Americans over there, all that weaponry, where is that—doesn‘t that come from the disbanded army, the Iraqi army?

MCCAFFREY: Well, Iraq was a giant weapons dump from one end of the country to another. Literally, you know, more ammunition probably times five than I have ever seen in my life just flying over abandoned ammunition stockpiles. That‘s what fueling the insurgency now.

But back to Mick‘s point, the point was, don‘t let the Iraqi army walk away with their guns or leadership or money.

MATTHEWS: Right, and that‘s what happened.

MCCAFFREY: And that‘s what we did.


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