Friday, March 24, 2006

Naked Blogging

I’m writing this blog in the buff. I know it’s not a pleasant thought, but Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of State, has forced me into this compromising position. On March 14 he issued a memo titled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.”

He says that soldiers can’t do anything political while wearing the uniform. And so, I’m blogging naked.

OK, in reality, I’m wearing clothes. One, because I don’t think Mr. England’s memo applies to blogs. And two, because I think he’s bluffing.

The argument in this memo is that if people see soldiers wearing the uniform and at a political event, they will assume that the military supports the political group or ideology. The memo forbids “any activity that may be viewed as associating the Department of Defense … or any component … directly or indirectly with a partisan political event ….”

The memo goes on to say that this applies even to retired servicemembers. So, this should apply to Bud Day, former prisoner of war and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, who appears in ads smearing a certain senator and former presidential candidate while wearing a U.S. military flight jacket as well as the Medal of Honor itself (

Mr. England, are you going to arrest Bud Day?

I’m also worried, because my brother, who brought this memo to my attention, once appeared in uniform as a backdrop for G.W. as he spoke at a military installation in Texas.
Mr. England, are you going to arrest my brother? He was told to stand there. He didn’t mean to give the appearance that the military supported the Republican agenda. He was just following orders.

Or, and I hate to be cynical here, is it OK as long as the soldier is campaigning for the Republicans and the current administration? Or, and I hate to be even more cynical here, is just a scare tactic to keep a wave of disgruntled soldiers from speaking their minds in public.

So, prove me wrong Mr. England. Either retract your ill-advised memo or arrest Bud Dad and George Bush (but not my brother, he’s the only one I’ve got).

Photo: Deputy Secretary of State Gordon England. Great memo Gordo.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's Talk About Troop Withdrawal

I recently watched a slide show about a young Marine who died in Iraq. The boy’s parents made the tribute and set it to the song “A Million Miles Away,” by the Bob Stewart Band ( Warning: don’t watch it if you don’t want to cry.
The parents are associated with a group called Families of the Fallen for Change ( They’re calling for a bipartisan effort to set real goals for troop withdrawal. G.W. and his buddies need to reexamine the troop levels in Iraq as well as the justifications for the troop levels.

Thousands of excess troops could go home to the United States without any serious affect to our mission in Iraq, whatever that mission is. The vague mission definition drives me crazy sometimes. Was it to stop a homicidal dictator with weapons of mass destruction? Was it to take control of Iraq? Stop an insurgency? Establish a democracy? Train an Army? Get oil? Stop a civil war? Or is our goal here just to occupy? I have no idea.

The president has used several arguments to squash any hope for serious troop withdrawal. Let’s go through some of my favorite arguments against troop withdrawal.

1. Withdrawing now will embolden our enemy.

OK, maybe that’s true, but who cares? Our enemies are willing to blow themselves up to kill us. Who cares if they’re bold when they do it? Are they going to blow themselves up harder? I suppose the administration thinks the insurgents are depressed right now and are only doing a half-hearted attempt to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. I think administration might have a different feeling if they were here.

2. If we leave now, all the sacrifices before have been in vain.

Again, the main problem here is that we don’t know exactly what we are trying to accomplish? Bush says we are going to stay until we “win.” How the hell do you win an occupation? When Bush makes statements like that, it gives me the impression he sees Iraq as a game, like a grown-up version of King of Bunker Hill. In elementary school, to “win” at King of Bunker Hill, you had to be the only one on the hill when the recess bell rang. Is Bush waiting for someone to ring a bell and declare America the winner? Is that it, G.W.? OK, here it goes: We rule, we’re the best nation ever, and we have the strongest, coolest, most articulate president in the history of presidents. Is that good enough? Can we go home now?

3. We have to finish what we started.

Or in other words, we broke it, we bought it. Since we deposed Iraq’s dictatorship, we’re responsible to rebuild their nation to a decent level before leaving. This is the best of all the arguments because it’s true. But it has little to do with troop levels. The U.S. military is designed to kill people. There’s no nice way of saying it. The U.S. military is not designed to build a nation. I think that’s better left to the God, or at least the Marshall Plan. We’ll keep doing what we can, but there needs to be some realistic expectations of what a large military presence in Iraq can do in the reconstruction of a nation. Once again, armies destroy, not build.

4. Now is not the time to weaken the U.S. military in Iraq.

This is the biggest lie. Lowering troop levels is not the same as weakening the U.S. military. That’s a like an obese man saying he doesn’t want to lose any weight because it will make him weak. The insurgency has such small numbers compared to the U.S. military and Iraqi military and police that there is no chance of insurgents overrunning our bases. The insurgents are using guerrilla warfare against us and the main idea of guerrilla warfare is to use your opponent’s strengths against him. The U.S. is numerically and economically superior to the insurgents. So, they’ve found where that becomes a weakness and attack. If you’ve been paying attention, we’re weakest when we’re driving on the roads.

We have such an excessive force here and we’re so rich that we’re constantly shipping in massive amounts of food, fuel, supplies and entertainment items. Convoys miles long roll down the roads of Iraq, making a big fat target for anybody with a cell phone and some explosives.

Improvised explosive devices are the number one killers of U.S. troops in Iraq. We need to cut down the number of convoys we send out and give the insurgents a smaller target to hit. This means going without Baskin Robbins ice cream in the dining facilities and it means sending tens of thousands of excess troops home immediately.

5. We need to stay until Iraq is a safe and secure environment.

Sounds good, but it’s unrealistic. How safe is safe? People murder people every day in the U.S. Do we need to stay until the crime rate is equal to that of the U.S. or until it’s around a nice Singapore level? North Korea has hardly any crime and absolutely no threat of terrorism. Is that the goal?

The other problem with this is that a large U.S. presence is most likely exacerbating the violence here. I spoke to a Sunni man during the Dec. 15 elections who said that he couldn’t wait for the U.S. to leave so the fighting would stop. He had some loose ties to the insurgency, and he claimed they would stop as soon as the U.S. leaves. It was just one man’s opinion, but it deserves some thought. The best way to calm down a hornet’s nest is to take your hand out of it.

So, what do you say, G.W. Can we go home yet?

Photo caption: A soldier considers his many options at a dessert tray at Camp Anaconda. Would you believe this is a very modest spread compared to the other major dining facilities in Iraq?