Friday, June 10, 2005

How's The Building of the Iraqi Security Forces Going

Preznit Bush and Vice Preznit Cheney never miss an opportunity to say the United States is helping to develop a national Iraqi security force that will take over operations from the U.S. military and allow the United States to withdraw most of it troops from Iraq. But just how effective an Iraqi fighting force are we building and how is the timetable going? The Washington Post ferrets out some answers today that won't make the spinners in the White House or at FOX News very happy:

"BAIJI, Iraq -- An hour before dawn, the sky still clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi army's Charlie Company began their mission with a ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. "We have lived in humiliation since you left," one sang in Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. "We had hoped to spend our life with you."

But the Iraqi soldiers had no clue where they were going. They shrugged their shoulders when asked what they would do. The U.S. military had billed the mission as pivotal in the Iraqis' progress as a fighting force but had kept the destination and objectives secret out of fear the Iraqis would leak the information to insurgents.

"We can't tell these guys about a lot of this stuff, because we're not really sure who's good and who isn't," said Rick McGovern, a tough-talking 37-year-old platoon sergeant from Hershey, Pa., who heads the military training for Charlie Company.

The reconstruction of Iraq's security forces is the prerequisite for an American withdrawal from Iraq. But as the Bush administration extols the continuing progress of the new Iraqi army, the project in Baiji, a desolate oil town at a strategic crossroads in northern Iraq, demonstrates the immense challenges of building an army from scratch in the middle of a bloody insurgency.

Charlie Company disintegrated once after its commander was killed by a car bomb in December. And members of the unit were threatening to quit en masse this week over complaints that ranged from dismal living conditions to insurgent threats. Across a vast cultural divide, language is just one impediment. Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don't respect them.

In fact, the Americans don't: Frustrated U.S. soldiers question the Iraqis' courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the U.S. military's goal of operating independently by the fall.

'I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,' said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern's company, who sold his share in a database firm to join the military full time after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 'But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won't be ready before I leave. And I know I'll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don't think they'll be ready then.'

'We don't want to take responsibility; we don't want it,' said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private whose forehead was grazed by a bullet during an insurgent attack in November. 'Here, no way. The way the situation is, we wouldn't be ready to take responsibility for a thousand years'"

You can believe the preznit's spin that all is going well in Iraq and democracy will soon be flowering or you can listen to the soldiers and watch the political events unfolding and the security situation unraveling and wonder: How the hell did America ever let George W. Bush, spoiled little rich boy that he is, get us into this mess? Because I believe the two men, 1st Lt. Cato and Private Mana, who are quoted in the Post article are a lot closer to the truth than either the preznit or the vice preznit.

Are Americans catching on yet? Maybe. From the Associated Press:

"WASHINGTON - As the war in Iraq drags on, President Bush's job approval and the public's confidence in the direction he's taking the nation are at their lowest levels since The Associated Press-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

About one-third of adults, 35 percent, said they think the country is headed in the right direction, while 43 percent said they approve of the job being done by Bush. Just 41 percent say they support his handling of the war, also a low-water mark.

"There's a bad mood in the country, people are out of sorts," said presidential scholar and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Charles Jones, who lives near Charlottesville, Va. "Iraq news is daily bad news. The election in Iraq helped some, and the formation of the government helped some, but dead bodies trump the more positive news."

California retiree Carol Harvie was quick to mention Iraq when asked about how Bush was doing his job.

"I don't think he's read his history enough about different countries and foreign affairs," said Harvie, a political independent who lives near San Diego, a region with several military bases. "Anything they try to do in Iraq has spelled trouble. I think he bit off more than he can chew."

Car bombings and attacks by insurgents killed 80 U.S. troops and more than 700 Iraqis last month and Pentagon officials acknowledge the level of violence is about the same as a year ago, when they were forced to scrap a plan to substantially reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

Bush administration officials say the key to getting U.S. forces out of Iraq is training Iraqis to provide their own security.

While Bush has gotten generally low scores for his handling of domestic issues for many months, most Americans have been supportive of his foreign policy. Not any more."

Yes, people are starting to catch on that htey got hoodwinked. Unfortunately, it's 1680 dead soldiers, 12,000 dead Iraqi civilians, and billions of dollars too late.

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