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11 March 2007


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When Iraq was invaded, I said, "The Iran-Iraq war is not over, and the United States has just come in on the side of Iran."

Events have proved me correct.

Now, our supine and hopelessly corrupt Sunni allies around the Middle East, who stood aside and permitted this folly (at the behest of Israel), have finally woken up and started making noises that a greater Iran spreading over Iran and much of Iraq, and no friend to their grotesque regimes, is not the outcome they desire.

And George Bush, whose peanut brain couldn't tell a Sunni from Sonny Bono, has finally begun to wake up too.

So, now we have an American military tilting away from the Shiites and passively toward the Sunni's.

In the first place, that is a treasonous betrayal of the dead American soldiers killed by Sunni's in the first phase of the war. Where is their constituency? Who represents the dead American soldiers whose lives were lost defeating the Sunni criminals who ruled Iraq?

In the second, the game is over. We have already created a new Middle East. Shall we join Israel in committing war crimes and bomb civilians and civilian infrastructure in Iran? We can, but it won't do any good. As Israel has found out, it will do harm.

The United States has created Greater Iran. Now, it must negotiate. Guns won't work any more.

And, finally, who is our opponent? The Sunni's? The Shiites? Iran? Terrorists? The observation that our opponent is undefeated seems accurate, but I want to know who our opponent is.

Ian Welsh

I honestly can't see that Democrats won't be blamed for losing the war, no matter how it happens. And if they don't make a sincere effort to end the war they will be blamed by the people who voted for them in 2006, expecting them to make a sincere effort.

So... damned if you do, damned if you don't, might as well try and stop it and if the military winds up hating Democrats, well, it has for the last thirty odd years. Plus ca change.

W. Patrick Lang


"I don’t know today’s Army. They are either in Iraq or Afghanistan or going there. The toll has to be tremendous. I do know from Vietnam the guilt and grief of knowing those who died and were maimed for nothing. It is hard to face the truth. Today’s soldiers will have to face it or they will spin off into denial and delusions." VV

There is a profound truth in what you wrote above. All combat men know the awful truth of what these peope will live with and you are right. "Survivor's guilt" is the worst. pl

W. Patrick Lang


Let's see some stats about soldier attitudes about Iraq. pl


we bring back our dead and no longer bury them overseas but the epitaph at Thermopylae (Frank Miller's comic book version faithful adaption even to the body pierced 9 foot Xerxes now playing at the movies as The 300) encapsulates the forlorn sacrifice.

Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band,
Here lie in death, remembering her command.

Marshall Erich von Manstein
Lost Victories book rendition

Other memorable lines from Thermopylae

Then Xerxes asked him more forcefully to surrender their arms. To this Leonidas gave his noted answer:

Μολών Λαβέ
(pronounced: /molɔːn labe/),

meaning "Come take them".

I guess Bush tried to ape him w/ "Bring it On." but the context was different. We invaded a country that did not threaten us nor desired war w/ us or whereas the Lacedomnians were indeed invaded and threatened.


Because the Iraq war was above all other things a ploy by the Republican Party to maintain power in the United States for the next hundred years, one of the overriding precepts of that war has been to fight it on the cheap.

The central element of that strategy was to convince the American public that the good times were rolling no matter how gruesome the war in Iraq might become.

And the key to keeping the good times rolling was low interest rates.

Alan Greenspan provided the low interest rates.

Like every other element of the "war on the cheap" strategy, low interest rates are about to explode in the face of the Bush Administration.

There will be another constituency heard from in the very near future: the constituency of people in the US who have lost their homes due to fraudulent lending practices.

We cannot afford to continue the war in Iraq. We do not have the military resources and we do not have the financial resources.

Countries end wars. DeGaulle was reviled for ending the occupation of Algeria, and an attempt was made on his life (by the military constituency). But he had correctly read the desire of the French people. And France is a democracy.

Before you say that the French are a nation of cowards please recall that they made a far greater commitment to Algeria than we have made to Iraq. So, if the French are a nation of cowards, then if we ever withdraw from Iraq, we will be a nation of cowards too.


Colonel, reading your posts is often like trying to read entrails (although I notice that I continue to read!) That said, I think I now have an inkling of what you were saying in your post. And unfortunately, for our country, I believe you are right -- the Democrats of course will not find their spine and do the right thing. If the Dems had bothered to put up a political opposition over the past 6 years we would not be where we are today. Bush could only do what he has done with Democrats enabling, and not otherwise. That is the reality you speak of Colonel? With the Dems using/misusing soldierly sentiments to carry on regardless? Are we looking at 'into the valley of death rode the six hundred'?


Military Times 2006 (November) poll, post-election but pre-surge:

Poll results

Info on poll methodology

Article on poll results

Brent Wiggans

The military constituency’s chain of command leads to the President. The military exists to execute policy. It is a tool of foreign policy and its unquestioned loyalty to country and duty are such that we should expect no less than its insistence on succeeding in its mission. Does the military constituency want to quit the war? You might as well ask a hammer how it feels about sawing wood. Regard for the military constituency is really about Democrats addressing the war at the appropriate level. They must join the debate in the realm of foreign policy and not at the level of managing bits and pieces of the war. They must not take the bait that Republicans started throwing at them before the last election, demanding that congressional candidates put forth their plans for dealing with the war in Iraq. The GOP is trying to off-load a Republican president’s responsibility to deal with the mess he has made. It is perfectly legitimate and altogether proper for the congress to say to the executive, “We don’t like that policy. Our constituents don’t like that policy. Try again.” Pecking away at Bush’s ability to prosecute the war will only make the Democrats look like a bunch of angry, wet hens. Keep the focus on his failed and failing policy. Keep exposing what is really going on. Nothing must be allowed to distract our attention from that policy, its actual consequences and those who are responsible for it. No one of conscience wants to be responsible for asking that last soldier to die for a mistake, but ill-considered, well-meaning meddling with the military’s ability to do the job still required by the policy in effect may very well get a lot more people needlessly killed or maimed before that last unfortunate soul.

Got A Watch

Not sure if you are familiar with it, but the Toronto Star is one of the last bastions of liberal policy (mushy center-left in Canada, well left of American Democrats). There is no story they would not spin to their viewpoint, like an exact opposite of Fox News in outlook, but little different in method.

The right-wing media may well try to portray any Democratic action on the Iraq file through the lens of "history will hold them at least partially responsible for whatever might happen there". I don't see most ordinary Americans buying into such a revisionist mythology- they can see clearly 98% of the the blame should be placed on the neo-cons and the Republican Party where it belongs. This was evident in the outcome of the November election.

The right-wing media kool-aid has lost its potency, only the remaining true believers (I would peg at about 25-30% of the population)are still onboard with the Bush Crusade. The rest want the troops out of Iraq and the sooner the better, consequences of that be damned.

What you describe would no doubt be a big part of Rove's et al "talking points" in a future election compaign. Whether a majority of voters would buy it, despite Fox News best spin, is very much in doubt.

After 5 years in Iraq, the right-wing mantra has faded to an incoherent mumble, and with Bush still driving the bus off the cliff edge with his eyes closed, I could predict a Deomocratic President and a substantial increase in Democratic numbers in both House and Senate in '08. The right-wing has only token shreds of credibility left to cling to, the simple fact that they have led the USA over the edge and deep into the abyss is self-evident to most.

Trying to shift the blame to "anywhere but us" sounds like one of the last desperate acts before total defeat, classic "deck chair re-arrangement" and reality denial while the ship rapidly sinks. The number of impartial military analyst's who believe today the "military opinion that they still "have a shot"" under the present circumstances could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand without using too many fingers IMHO, Fox "analysts" not withstanding.

An almost sure-fire strategy for the Democrats to sweep the next election is to continue paying out the rope to the Bushies, while blaming the Constitution for preventing restraining attempts. I can visualise the election speeches now: "It is the very structure of our government that prevented us from forcing Bush to listen to reason and do the right thing, despite our best efforts." Cynical, yes.

There seems little doubt GWB will be recorded by impartial historians as the most incompetent President in American history.

Clearly you have touched a hot button here, with well over 50 responses in 24 hours.


This was a year ago, but surely even more want war ended by now


" released feb 26, 2006
U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows. "

Richard Armstrong

U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

* Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
* While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
* Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
* Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
* Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
* Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment

Down on the war
Poll: More troops unhappy with Bush’s course in Iraq

– Only 35 percent said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved.
– 50 percent believe success in Iraq is likely, down from 83 percent in 2004.
– 38 percent believe the United States should send more troops to Iraq. 39 percent believe we should maintain current levels or reduce the number of troops, including 13 percent who support complete withdrawal.
– 72 percent believe the military is “stretched too thin to be effective.”
– 47 percent disagree with President Bush’s mantra that the war in Iraq is part of the war against terrorism, while the same percentage agree.
– Only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
– 52 percent approve of the overall job President Bush is doing, down from 71 percent in 2004.
– 63 percent say the senior military leadership has the best interests of the troops at heart. That number is lower from President Bush (48 percent) and lower still for civilian military leadership (32 percent) and Congress (23 percent).


90% felt the war was retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over! What are they feeding these guys?

Only 50% felt that success was likely.

72% believe the military is stretched too thin to be effective

Less than half, 41% believe we should have gone into Iraq in the first place.


Col. Lang: I would like to draw your attention and that of all interested readers to a recent interview with Lt. Col Karen Kwiatkowski, USAF (ret) at


She worked in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans during the run-up to the Iraq war, and has since become a fierce and outspoken critic of the politicizing of intelligence. She has a lot of interesting things to say, but there was very little I hadn't heard before until p. 3 of the transcript:

"Congress doesn’t like being lied to. However, many in Congress, and certainly in this administration agree, and this is Democrats and Republicans, like the idea that we have gone into Iraq, we have built four mega bases, they are complete. Most of the money we gave to Halliburton was for construction and completion of these bases. We have probably, of the 150,000, 160,000 troops we have in Iraq probably 110,000 of those folks are associated with one of those four mega bases. Safely ensconced behind acres and acres of concrete. To operate there indefinitely, no matter what happens in Baghdad, no matter who takes over, no matter if the country splits into three pieces or it stays one. No matter what happens, we have those mega bases, and there’s many in Congress and certainly in this administration, Republican and Democrat alike that really like that. Part of the reason I think that we went into Iraq was to reestablish a stronger foothold than we had in Saudi Arabia, but also a more economical, a more flexible, in terms of who we want to hit. If you want to hit Syria, can you do it from Iraq? Of course you can. And now you can do it from bases that will support any type of airplane you want, any number of troops in barracks. I mean we can do things from Iraq. And this is what they wanted. So, yeah, we don’t like being lied to. But quite frankly, many people in the Congress, and certainly this administration, when they call Iraq a success, they mean it, and this is why."

I have seen passing references to the building of permanent bases in Iraq, but this is the first time I've seen the matter--and its implications--addressed head-on. It sounds like we now have four installations in Iraq like Subic Bay or Cam Ranh Bay. Can anyone tell more about what's going on with this? Would "withdrawal" mean we abandon these, or just withdraw into their confines? If what Kwiatkowski says is true, it sheds light, for me at least, on Cheney's otherwise inexplicable cheerfulness and Bush's insouciance about leaving Iraq to his successor.


How should the Democrats handle the Iraq situation? A baffling question. Clearly, the war has become unpopular with the electorate, and some (at least symbolic) Democratic opposition is expected. But the only real action would be to cut funding. THAT has bad idea written all over it. Cutting funding would appear to weaken the war effort...and would consequently result in political disaster (eternal vilification for undermining an otherwise "winnable" enterprise).


The "stab in the back" is one of the most pernicious, and intractable,of phenomena known to man. And that is so for a simple reason: it gives meaning to the unacceptable. 'Yes, that is why we lost. The cowardly and ignorant home front (Jodie,as they were often called in 'my war') quit on us. We did not lose'. Ok fine, whatever. It shields us/them from hard truths: Empires overreach. Inevitably. Maybe for good causes...may be for not so good causes. The governing structure of the US, both civilian and military fucked up. Rejected solid arguments with loud music, bumper stickers slogans, power point bullet answers, and flag waving. I reflect on Nietzsche's saying, "how good bad music and reasons sound when one marches against an enemy" Is it any wonder that back seat drivers reach for the wheel when they conclude that the persons driving the car are going off a cliff? And yes, as other readers have pointed out here, whatever happens, whatever inglorious end is in store for the nation and for the military....the anti-war crowd will be blamed.


"When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent."

Seems to be high support for more troops being put in everywhere.

80% are pessimistic about the Iraqi military standing up within three years. About the same think the US will need to stay at least for 3 more years to achieve its goals, a hefty and probably shrewd 23% more than a decade.

I'd really wonder what they think those goals are? The Decider is vague and decidedly shifty on that; spastically flip flopping from one stated objective to the next.

More power to them but I'm getting an increasing impression of a military drifting rudderless down a large river in Egypt.

I was looking for some polling data on post-Tet military attitudes to Vietnam; I suspect like the civilian figures from the period they were much more positive. Came up dry.



I was alarmed by the apparently significant info you gave on an Israeli travel advisory regarding Malasia and Indonesia, so I looked at the Israeli site you mentioned. However, I could find no mention of those two countries. Do you have a correction to the URL, or is this a big error?

W. Patrick Lang


I want to make sure that everyone understands that is the attitude of enlisted people that I am primarily concerned with.

It is not that I think that the military should make decision for the country concerning whether or not to continue a fight. What I am saying is that the political penalty that the Democrats (or Republicans) will pay for giving up on Iraq if the troops have not is that a "stab in the back" legend will be born that will have great strength and persistance. pl

W. Patrick Lang


I had lunch today with a journalist friend who has covered 17 wars over a period of 50 years. He can’t recall soldiers ever saying ”I want us all to give up and go home now." That includes the post-TeT period in VN. The statistics I have seen so far indicate that the troops have figured out that “we wuz robbed” into this and it has not been well handled. With the exception of the Zogby December poll(which I am wary of) I don’t see a question that says, “Shall we all leave now?” Pl


Freeman, Re: Israel travel advisories: You may have to go through the main page then search on the word "travel" to find the link to it.


Section 2 of the warnings refers to "Other Countries". Warnings 5 and 6 of this section are for Malaysia and Indonesia, and the recommendation is "Avoid visiting and leave country as soon as possible."

This is bizarre, unless the Ministry knows something we don't know.



"Israeli travel advisory regarding Malasia and Indonesia"

See no. 5 and 6 under "Other Countries".


"With the exception of the Zogby December poll(which I am wary of) I don’t see a question that says, 'Shall we all leave now?'"

Question # 13 of the 11/06 Military Times poll asks, "We currently have 145,000 troops in Iraq and Kuwait. How many troops do you think we should have there?"

13% of the respondents answered "0" which may well reflect a certain number of "leave nows".


I, too, have lived with VV's "profound truth" since the Sixties, and thank you both for sharing it.

Hoa Binh, tat ca.


The dogged 23% above are only incorrect about Iraq being the theater they'll be deployed in for another decade or more. Iraq is the acorn from which a great sacrificial oak may grow.

The British military has been dropping heavy hints that Iraq is a waste of resources and we if we don't transfer our attention to our proxy war with Pakistan in the Pushtun lands that will be lost as well.

Re-staging Rourke's Drift in Basra has certainly lost its appeal but this is disingenuous General's politics; what is brewing in the land of the two rivers calls for redeployment in the region and ruthless abandonment of previous objectives. In reality no one is going home.

In contrast the US military seems wedded to a romantic illusion of an Iraqi victory; a dolchstoßlegende almost inevitable.

I hesitate to compare them to the Wagner addled German military in 1919; but they have far better reason to feel aggrieved. Millions of Germans were being systematically starved to death by the Royal Navy back then. In contrast having whole heartedly endorsed this war America surfers from an addictive demand for elite tax breaks and a spoilt fondness for cheap gas that has direct future policy consequences. That would make me rather bitter looking at the casualty figures.



Perhaps not many of us saw Dennis Ross on Australian ABC last night:

DENNIS ROSS: It is true (the Iranians are) not unhappy to see the United States caught and trapped as it were, within Iraq. But they also have to be realistic. The United States is not going to stay in Iraq forever. Now, how the United States chooses to get out of Iraq can affect Iranian interests. In a strange and paradoxical way, we keep the lid on it. We make Iraq, in effect, safe enough for everybody to avoid making hard choices, both those within Iraq and all the neighbours as well.

Now, the fact of the matter is we have leverage on the Iranians. If we chose to get out in a way that could leave things very uncomfortable for them, they have a problem. If we chose to get out in a way in which Iraq itself could convulse, they have a problem. They face the prospect of millions of refugees. They face the prospect of every one of the neighbours competing to carve out their own niche of influence. They face the likelihood that Iraq could become a platform for attacks of terrorism against them, which by the way, existed before. So the point here is that they can't be indifferent to how events in Iraq unfold. If they bank on the United States staying there, in a situation where we, in a sense, tie ourselves down, constrain what we can do, that would be one thing, but that would be a foolish bet on their part.

TONY JONES: Let me ask you this, how likely is it that the civil war in Iraq could spread and become a wider regional conflict?

DENNIS ROSS: It could, if in fact we were to precipitously get out. I'm not in favour of a precipitous American withdrawal. The fact is we went in there, we assumed certain responsibilities. One responsibility is not simply to leave and ensure that you create a kind of convulsion, where every one of the neighbours has to intervene, where they're all competing because they are afraid of the consequence of not competing, where what happens on the inside radiates outward. We don't have an interest in that but the irony is that neither do the Iranians. Here you can find one area where there's a convergence of interest. By the way, not just between us and the Iranians on Iraq but all the neighbours.

I would submit that the neighbours of Iraq will find it very difficult to agree on what they want for Iraq but they won't find it so difficult to agree on what they fear in Iraq and the negotiation that I would envision is one that focuses more on creating the limits, a set of agreements on what everyone will do or not do. I wish it would be possible to convince every one of the neighbours to use their influence with the sectarian groups with whom they have a relationship, as a way of trying to forge national reconciliation. That would be the best outcome.


Perhaps this should rightly go in The Athenaeum but lately the last quatrain of this has some poignancy for me.


'Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain
When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled,
And mute's the midland navel-stone beside the singing fountain,
And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.

I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking,
The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain;
And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking
That she and I should surely die and never live again.

Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it;
But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more.
'Tis true there's better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it;
And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.

The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air,
And he that stands will die for nought, and home there's no returning.
The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.

Last Poems by A. E. Housman


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