Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Iraq is a hard place

First off, I wanted to say Happy New Year's and Merry Christmas etc. to everyone and to apologize for not writing over the last week. It was really great to just stay away from the computer and hang out with family and friends. This vacation really recharged my batteries. During the break, I watched episodes I-III of a documentary called "Off to War" about a small town National Guard Unit from Clarksville, Arkansas.

The camera work was not that great, but the story was incredible. If you had shown this to people around 2000, they would have been blown away. Here were patriots who grew increasingly frustrated with the futility of their mission. They all realized that they were pissing Iraqis off, they were empathetic of the people, yet angry at Iraqis when their colleagues would be injured or killed by mortor attacks of their base.

A couple of my classmates in law school have served in Iraq and I have had a chance to briefly talk to one of them about what it is like. He told me about how they lived in their bases, only met interpreters, and saw other Iraqis only from the gun turret he was stationed at. He seemed to be in favor of either the Bush/McCain/Lieberman escalation or outright withdrawal. He told me that right now it isn't working and either we need to step it up and finish the job or get the hell out of there. He believed that either way we are damned. That leaving would be disastrous to stability of the county, but that our presence wasn't really helping matters at the moment.

And like the guys in the film, my classmate was doing a job he had never really been trained to do. I just don't get where McCain will get these extra troops that will supposedly be able to solve all our Iraq problems. Many service members have gone on multiple tours of duty, they have reduced the age intelligence and psychological barriers to entry, yet recruitment is at a extreme low. It is incredibly dangerous out there, and Guardsmen don't get the same protections and benefits that even reservists get.

In the film, they were welding rusted metal plates on to their 1970s trucks and stuffing old flak jackets in the doors when they ran out of metal. they were stuffing sandbags and placing them inside their cars and around their trailers at the bases.

As it went on, the film made me prouder of those men and women that serve over there and angrier at the folks that put them over there. Despite their poverty and lack of education, these young men and women quickly figured out what was going on and were given an impossible task to do. Can you imagine a foreign army toppling the government of California, and having to deal with race riots that makes the Rodney King reaction look like tea party on a daily basis? Oh and with only 140K troops.

A solution can only be achieved politically, and we have squandered 3,000 US troops and untold thousands of Iraqis trying to solve it militarily. The Iraqi "government" is unwilling or unable to take control of much of anything in their country and the whole place is starting to look like one of those war torn African countries. I highly doubt that adding 20-30K troops will do much of anything and while Iraq will spiral out of control more without us there, it can't get much worse without the US in the cross hairs.

The whole movie just illustrates the utter insanity of the whole war. It reminds me of World War I, a bloody drawn out conflict which had no real purpose and accomplished nothing other than dead bodies then and more dead bodies later.

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