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14 November 2006


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when have we not seen bush43 'policy' flying by the seat of their pants. and everything hinging on whether or not if 43 has had an enjoyable breakfast or not that particular morning.

it is like you said -- They do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. -- the 'defining' remains with the 'decider-n-chief' which is bush43. at the end of the day that is the bottom line and all that matters realistic speaking.

the only way to 'change the course' is for the congress to remove from power by way of impeachment the decider-n-chief.


Watch for all the euphemisms to keep coming out fast to obfuscate that there is no policy change! Anything to get the Decider and the Democrats in Congress off the hook. After all these folks believe that PR is more important than real policy.

I wonder if everyone will play ball or someone calls the charade.


"what he is saying is that he will listen to suggestions about how to carry out his policy."

Pat -- I understand where you're coming from on this. But do you (or anyone else) know what the "policy" or the "mission" really is at this point?

Beyond empty words -- "democracy," "stability" etc... I'm at a loss as to understanding what exactly the US military is meant to be achieving at this point in time. I mean, "democracy" has given us a government but one closely tied to a number of the actors driving the "instability."

So the choice seems to be overthrowing the government and throwing more troops at the problem in an effort to disarm everyone (not feasible, not going to happen) or living with the chaos (which the US says it will not live with). Is there a third way I'm missing? I mean, aside from getting those dastardly iranians and syrians to call off the war, of course...

John Hammer

J- Realistically speaking, who would become 44 if 43 were removed from office via impeachment?


this minor point about the constraint upon the range of uniformed service advice ought to be hammered over and over again upon the public... & the prez... both seem to have been absent for civics class - all their lives.


What has the United States come to when it is looking to James Baker for salvation?

He sure saved the country in Florida after the 2000 election.

James Baker should go out searching for IED's in Iraq for a couple of months and then report back.

John Howley

We are seeing at work once again the PR stratgey of "milestones" which distracts people from that actual situation and encourages passivity.

Just sit there and speculate/fantasize about what will happen when "the Iraqi Constitition is voted on...the new government is agreed...the U.S. elections are over...the ISG reports..."

The most important job for the ISG is to concoct a new series of milestones for us to sit, hands folded, and wait for what happens next.

Our brains have been trained by too much television. The newscaster says: "And now this" and our minds shift effortlessly from a car accident to the CMA awards to an election to the weather. The items in the series have no logical connection..and we don't need or want one. We just sit and wait to see what's "up next." [See Neil Postman.]

Meanwhile, in Iraq, our relatives, neighbors and fellow citizens find themselves in a situation that grows more precarious by the day.

Frank Durkee

For me the crucial question is: What can we do starting now to minimize the damage to our national interest in light of Iraq and the situation there and in the entire region?

Jay Adkins

Colonel Lang,

First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world via this blog. I have been an avid reader for two months now and have learned a great deal. Again, thank you.

As you've said, the commanders do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. I have a question pertaining to the mission: what is it? W. continues to bombard the general public with the rhetoric of "freedom", "peace", and "democracy" as the reasons for our continuing presence in Iraq. The mission, however, remains ill-defined at best as a result of these broad generalizations. Perhaps I am ignorant to the facts of the matter, but what is the mission currently defined as?


"They do not have the job of telling him why he should have a different policy."

So, Colonel, the military can only come up with a strategy and tactics to support the mission (i.e., policy) that the C-in-C decides on, right? So, what do they do if they don't have the boots on the ground and the equipment to carry out a strategy and tactics that would fulfill the mission? Don't you think that the military in Iraq have told Rumsfeld that, given their resources, they cannot carry out the mission ("win" in Iraq)? Or did they keep telling Rumsfeld what they thought he wanted to hear?

I'm afraid I agree with J above. The decider-in-chief has to go or we'll be stuck in Iraq for years and years and years.....

BTW, I'm really pleased to have found your blog--you write very clearly...I was especially interested in hearing about Jim Webb. I liked the guy, but had no idea of the depth of his military background....

W. Patrick Lang


Given the way that they were chosen and promoted I am pretty sure that they did not protest too much pl

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Is it illegal from an active duty comissioned officer to question USG policy an offer alternatives? Is this an offense under Military Law?

W. Patrick Lang


I do not think it is illegal for an officer (or any soldier) to question US policy, but it is understood that to do so publicly is to undermine the principle of the apolitical nature of military service and the principle of the control of the country by the elected government.

It is illegal for any service member to use disrespectful or disdainful speech against certain designated officials of the civilian government, i.e., the president, VP, SECDEF, members of Congress. pl


"But do you (or anyone else) know what the "policy" or the "mission" really is at this point?" - Dan

The original mission was to overthrow Saddam, occupy Iraq and put in place a puppet government and while at it create the new ME utopia. It did not happen. At this point as far as the Decider is concerned its not to accept defeat and be held to account for his disasterous war of choice. He reckons as long as the US military is in the middle of the chaos of Iraq, he can claim with the help of the corporate media that he is succeeding and we are doing this or that.

The question is who is going to pull the plug and then be endlessly attacked politically for "losing" the "war" in Iraq. How to get out while claiming "victory" and winning the PR war is what's keeping all these guys up at night. That's what ISG is all about. Defeat is an orphan.


"Perhaps I am ignorant to the facts of the matter, but what is the mission currently defined as?"

So, Jay, I'm with you on this....I really have no idea what the "mission" is anymore except "stay the course," or NOT. What is the definition of "winning" at this point?...darned if I know. I keep wondering what the best possible scenario is, given the obvious quagmire we're in.

Col., can you help illuminate us?


Perhaps we can outline some of the outcomes in Iraq we absolutely need to avoid. Just starting a list here:

1. We do not want any area of Iraq to be a al Qaeda refuge. Either the area must have effective government that is hostile to al Qaeda or the populace must be irrevocably hostile to al Qaeda.

2. We do not want Turkish or Iranian military adventures over Iraqi Kurdistan.

3. We do not want Iraq to be a base from which strikes against Kuwait or Saudi Arabia may be launched.

4. We do not want Iran to be able to get possession of the oil-rich regions of Iraq.


These put constraints on what we might do. E.g., if Iraq is divided, the US may need a semi-permanent presence in Iraqi Kurdistan to keep the Turks and Iranians at bay.

Nand Jagnath

The rhetoric currently coming from Bush and Blair on Syria and Iran smacks of imperial overlords ordering a couple of misbehaving underlings to fall in line. Syria and Iran would have to help bring peace and stability to Iraq on terms that would be dictated by the U.S. and Britain. It seems a strange way to solicit help!

Richard Whitman

I think the Decider will be "done in" by his own Republican Party. Do you think any Republican wants to run for the House, Senate or President(or even Dogcatcher) in 2008 without the Iraq mess having been settled. Remember, these are politicians not human beings.


Arun @8:50PM

A large air base is being built for US forces in Kurdistan.

Got A Watch

This is NOT a retreat, it is merely a strategic advance in a rearward direction!

From an interview with ISG member:

"The situation in Iraq is "even worse than we thought," with key Iraqi leaders showing no willingness to compromise to avoid increasing violence, said Leon Panetta, a member of the high-powered advisory group that will recommend new options for the war.

. . . Private assessments by government officials are much more grim than what is said in public, Panetta said, "and we left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq."

U.S. forces can't control sectarian violence and powerful militias. One of the most disturbing findings, Panetta said, is that many Shiite religious leaders who are a big part of the government have no interest in deals or compromises with Sunnis and other groups, and are "playing for time because they say it's their show.""

"Why can't these Goddamned Iraki's be reasonable and co-operate with us? They are so ungrateful!" muttered Pres. Bush after the meeting.

Just saw Jay Leno produce a copy of the final ISG report, it is one sheet of paper with the words "You are screwed!" in large type!


The American people are ahead of the pols with regard to Iraq. Way before the Dems decided to make Iraq a central issue in the mid-terms the majority of Americans wanted a change of course and withdrawal. My read of the elections last week is that the majority of Americans recognize we lost in Iraq. We don't have that much influence there anymore. Each faction there is going to fight for power and its spoils and no amount of force is going to quell that. They are also not going to sit around a table and get nice. They know we're going to have to leave at some point.

The Decider has got two more years and then he's gone. He's effectively a lame duck. The smart pols will start laying the "Defeat" word on him now and save their political hides when they have to vote or decide to get our troops out. The Decider made a strategic blunder and lost a war of choice in the ME. Its as simple as that. Pin the blame on him!

The worst thing the Dems and Repubs hoping to get re-elected again can do is to sign on to the Baker mush - unless they want to provide cover for the Decider and go down too. This is the only way for the pols to make the withdrawal decision and survive "who lost the war" attacks. In many ways we have Vietnam redux.


Okay, I think it is time for the American people to wake up and smell the coffee. High time.

The fog is beginning to clear about the actions of the Bush administration. Here's the headline:

Bush Initiates Iraq Policy Review Separate From Baker Group's
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 15, 2006; Page A16

Please note: page A16. Certainly the most important news item of the day on page A16.

What's the key quote in the article?

Blair, in London, told the panel that the most decisive steps the United States can take to end Iraq's violence would be working for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and helping Iraq's fragile government...

Tony's off the reservation on that one. Because the neo-con movement, which is controlling our foreign policy, is run by Israeli citizens working in the US government, there can be no mention of Israel and Palestine.

As long as the foreign policy of the United States is dictated by a foreign country, the world is going to go to hell in a handbasket.

And, of course, the only remotely viable solution to Iraq is the UN, but the UN can only come into conflicts that Israel is losing (Lebanon) not that the US is losing (Iraq). US troops should put on Israeli Army uniforms and they would be out of Iraq in a second.


Provoked by: "If body language and long faces are indications, this was not all that great a meeting." by PL, and the item by Got A Watch quoting an ISG member's surprise at what he found in Baghdad recently:

I remain dumbfounded how, after 3 solid years of bad news getting worse, Americans continue to be amazed at how disastrous things are in Iraq. I am not talking about the ordinary inhabitants of Walmartville - Americans in the broad are amongst one of the most parochial humans anywhere. But the denizens of inside the beltway are not asleep or stupid or unaware.

Come on, the news media have been active, very active, in the last three years on Iraq. Even if you discount the miserable performance of some of the American media, the best of American news and the 4th Estate elsewhere have done a bang up job. The blogosphere, here at this site or somewhere like Informed Comment by Prof Juan Cole, has done a great job of concentrating the news (including perceptive comment). None of the news out of Iraq or its everyday condition over the past three years could be a surprise to anyone. Anyone with connections could get the skinny direct from military commanders themselves.

Why is it then that the members of the ISG, amongst the smartest, best connected Americans anywhere, express surprise at the condition of poor brutalized, fucked up, fucked over Iraq (you may wish to edit Colonel dear, your call, I'm in the moment).

I understand that there is a deal of Kabuki theatre going on here as Americans of stature come to grips with the answer they are obliged to give to their President and the American people and the spin that must be administered to it. Nevertheless, if we are now at year three of the Iraqi agony and it is simply not good enough, it seems to me, that these appointed advisers are only now coming to grips with reality. And surely, surely, surely the last six years must have told the ISG what they faced in the White House.

My Iraqi experience covers Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq over the last quarter of 90 and the first half of 91 as well as a flying Kuwaiti road trip Kuwait to Baghdad in 87. I am still not sure what I think of the Iraqis. They were the most educated and rational, secular people I met in the Middle East and they also scared me. A colleague once suggested that they were the Prussians of the Arab world (a view I have heard elsewhere) - I don't necessarily agree but I understand (just go to Syria). Some of the bravest and some of the funniest and some of the most thoughtful Arabs I met anywhere were the Iraqis. In the end I think the thing I came away with, despite the Saddam regime as backdrop, was respect. This war was not necessary, it was illegal, it was shameful and we are all going to reap the consequences for years now. All we now collectively have left is a search for a way out. Shameful. Historically shameful. Your name will live in infamy. No apologies, just be sure of it.

I cannot now tell you what to do with Iraq, it truly is too screwed up for an answer, any answer. The following, however, are some points I would advise as roads to an answer, or at least perhaps perhaps the first half dozen paths to a better arrangement:

1. Recognize that Israel is as screwed up as the United States and that, most importantly, Israeli national interests are definitely not US national interests.

2. Give the Palestinians a square deal, give them a deal they cannot bitch about - its only fair (and it is above all something that serves directly the US national interest). The Israelis will bitch, moan and scream treachery, but be grown up and tell them to sod off. The US is the only party able to deliver this. Forget the quibbles about the internal Palestinian factional/party situations, just deliver the fair and just solution and all else will fall into place and who knows, insh'allah, Hamas might end up your best friend. Honour begets honour (especially in the Arab context).

3. Find, arrest, kill, assassinate, erase Osama Bin Laden. His continued existence is a very bad joke, it makes your willy look very small and, remember, appearances count. Right now, you are truly the gang that can't shoot straight. Solve the OBL problem and, al Hamdulillah, a lot of things start to go wrong for the other side.

4. Talk to your enemies and those who are not your friends. Be prepared to deal. Recall, please, that DC is not the navel of the world. This is Commonsense 101.

5. Talk to your friends and allies, trust your fiends and allies, involve your friends and allies. Be aware that you will probably not achieve solely your national interest, but you might achieve the common interest. This will be a start, and certainly an advance on what you have now.

6. Keep in mind that all people, particularly Arabs, are able to understand honour and fair effort. Once they see and understand that the school bully has not only changed heart but has a tracked earth-mover out there and is trying to level the field a lot of things will change for the positive.

As you can see, I sensibly stopped the list at six. I believe that I have not used the word Iraq once in the foregoing. The road the a stable and rewarding Iraq is through Tel Aviv (or Jerusalem if you insist - and that is one of the things that you are going to have to fix).

Allah be with you, Colonel habibi.


I am heartened and saddened at lightflyer's post. It is based on far more factual information than mine, but, as far I am concerned, it says the same thing.

We are an honorable people. True, we have imitated the IDF's shenanigans in Palestine in Iraq, but not without intense self-criticism and self-doubt. And now that IDF look-alike behavior has been completely repudiated at the polls.

We are not a country that uses its military to subjugate and kill a civilian population. That is beneath us. It is time to become America again. America the beautiful. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

fabius maximus

An FYI more than a comment for posting --

You might find this essay worth a look. Comments welcome and appreciated!

Iraq Situation Report


Describes my skepticism about the Iraq Study Group's recommendations, and in general negotiations with Iran.

Also lists 52 references to "the next six months are crucial" (more or less) by the Good and the Great (media, politicos, etc).

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