Friday, June 22, 2007

Rambo Rides A Pale Pony

By Cernig

Look, Mom, they're promising that elusive pony again!
It could be next spring before U.S. troops in Iraq can hand over areas gained in their latest offensive to Iraqi forces and start to draw down, a top American commander said on Friday.
It's just weeks since U.S. commanders were telling everyone that September would tell us whether the surge was working and if it wasn't then it was time to think about withdrawal. Then September wasn't going to be soon enough to tell. Now, it seems, next Spring will be when we can tell. But only if something that has never happened before and doesn't look any more likely to happen now actually, miraculously, occurs.
"The key piece will be the follow-on operation of Iraqi police, Iraqi army and coalition forces," Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon by video link from Iraq.

He said the Iraqis' ability to hold areas cleared by U.S. soldiers would determine when the United States could reduce troop levels, which have increased this year by some 28,000 to more than 155,000.

"I think if everything goes the way it's going now, there's a potential that by the spring we would be able to reduce forces and Iraqi security forces could take over," Odierno said.
The Iraqi security forces are militia-infested (a direct consequence of Coalition Provisional Authority decisions), under-equipped and under-armed (a direct consequence of U.S. determination to keep Iraq a Satrapy) and rife with desertion (a direct consequence of the first two). The chances of them standing up so U.S. forces can stand down are no higher now than they were two years ago when this cycle of pony-gives-and-pony-takes-away first began. The cycle, now, is so regular you could set your Friedman Unit clock by it.

If Iraqi security forces were going to be at all able to do what the U.S. military says they might, do you really think they'd be doing deals with insurgent groups who have attacked U.S. troops to fight Al Qaeda instead?

And in any case, everything these military yes-men say now must be filtered through the lens of Bush's "just like South Korea" fifty year masterplan. In other words, it's all political spin designed to carve out that fiftey years one Friedman at a time. We'll still be hearing the same bull from them in 49 years time.

Which means we can't have a pony but we can have a few hundred thousand mentally-damaged soldiers who will be thrown back into combat anyway.
According to the Pentagon's own mental health taskforce, US troops have been undertaking higher levels of sustained combat duty than that experienced by soldiers during the war in Vietnam and in the second world war.

It found that 38% of soldiers, 31% of marines, 49% of national guard members and 43% of marine reservists showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems within three months of returning from active duty. Its report also noted inadequate mental healthcare and facilities, and prejudice over mental health problems.

...Yesterday, Vice-Admiral Donald Arthur, co-chairman of the Pentagon's mental health taskforce, said there was "no doubt" that more numerous and lengthier deployments were exacerbating mental health problems. "Not since Vietnam have we seen this level of combat," he said.

The taskforce's report said symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury - the two "signature injuries" associated with service in Iraq and Afghanistan - included anger and substance abuse. And soldiers' reticence meant the problem was probably greater than research indicated. The report also questioned the practice of returning troops to frontline duty while they were taking medication such as lithium or Prozac.
So what's to be done to stop these trained and battle-hardened veterans from breaking down completely, becoming combat ineffective while still on the front lines or even becoming latter-day Rambos on their return to the homeland? Not a damn thing, it seems, other than finding out just how many troops have mental problems so they can be medicated before their return to combat.
A cut in combat duties to lessen psychological stress was also urged by an army study based on research in Iraq last year. But that proposal was rejected this week by a senior aide to the ground forces commander in Iraq. Brigadier-General Joseph Anderson told USA Today: "We would never get the job done."
The job, we must recall, being Bush's fifty year dream of grandeur.

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