Tuesday, December 21, 2004

"Mission Accomplished"? It's Time For Bush To Level With Americans

BAGHDAD -- An explosion tore through a soft-sided mess tent where U.S. soldiers were eating lunch Tuesday at a military base near the northern city of Mosul, blowing a hole in the ceiling and leaving the floor littered with trays of food and puddles of blood. Officials said at least 20 people were killed in one of the most devastating attacks against Americans in Iraq since the start of the war.

A spokesman for U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad said 19 of the dead were American soldiers, which would make it the deadliest single strike against U.S. troops in this country.

A radical Sunni Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, which officials said wounded about 60 people -- the latest in a week of deadly strikes across Iraq that highlighted the unwavering power of the insurgents in the run-up to the Jan. 30 national elections.

President Bush said the explosion should not derail the elections and that he hoped relatives of those killed know that their loved ones died in "a vital mission for peace."

"I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq," he said.

***

Here's a thought: How about President Bush speaking on national television this week to reassure the nation that the U.S. death toll, now at 1,324, won't continue to spiral?

How about the President telling the American people, with real examples rather than empty platitudes, that his administration is taking extraordinary steps to protect our troops, to make sure their Humvees are armored and that their paychecks arrive on time.

It's time for Bush to level with the American people and admit that more troops are needed in Iraq.

***

All we get from the president is praise of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And all we get from Rumsfeld is that the Pentagon is doing the best it can.

Even some leading Republicans -- outside the Bush administration -- are demanding that Rumsfeld be held accountable for the failures in Iraq.

-- Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) offered blistering criticism of the Secretary last week, saying, "I don't like the way he has done some things. I think they have been irresponsible. I don't like the way we went into Iraq. We didn't go into Iraq with enough troops. He's dismissed his general officers. He's dismissed all outside influence. He's dismissed outside counsel and advice. And he's dismissed a lot of inside counsel and advice from men and women who have been in military uniforms for 25 and 30 years."

-- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld. During an interview Dec. 13 with the Associated Press, McCain estimated an additional 80,000 Army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more Marines would be needed to secure Iraq. "I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops — linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," McCain said. When asked if Rumsfeld was a liability to the Bush administration, McCain responded: "The president can decide that, not me."

-- "I think there are increasing concerns about the secretary's leadership of the war," Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a Dec. 16 interview with The New York Times. Her comments came in response to Rumsfeld's dismissal of a National Guardsmen's comments on the lack of armored Humvees in Iraq (see JABBS' story, at http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/12/soldiers-pepper-rumsfeld-with.html).

-- Also on the heels of the Rumsfeld comments to National Guardsmen came this comment from Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS): "I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld. I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."

***

How poorly did the Pentagon plan? Let's start with the money. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bush administration will seek another $80 billion in emergency funding after the New Year to pay for the ongoing cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That would push the total cost of war to more than $230 billion. Remember when conservatives leveled John Kerry on radio, television and editorial pages for mistakenly saying that the wars have already cost $200 billion (rather than saying that was a projected cost through the 2004-05 fiscal year)? They sure showed him a thing or two.

How poorly did the Pentagon plan? According to a Dec. 20 Time magazine article, the Pentagon originally said it would need 235 armored Humvees in Iraq. A more recent estimate placed the number at 8,105 -- thirty-five times the original estimate.

How poorly did the Pentagon plan? According to a Dec. 13 story in the Washington Post: "The war's length and intensity has clearly left the Army winded. M1 Abrams tanks, which normally accumulate 809 miles a year, are averaging 3,600 in Iraq, said Modell Plummer, director of sustainment for the Army's logistical staff. Bradley Fighting Vehicles, designed to run 872 miles a year, are also traveling 3,600, as they escort water and food convoys across the country. Humvees, accustomed to doing 2,640 miles a year, are seeing 7,400. In fiscal 2003, the Army's five maintenance depots logged 11 million labor hours and spent $700 million, said Gary Motsek, deputy director of support operations at Army Materiel Command. Last year, with $1.2 billion, they managed 16 million labor hours. In fiscal 2005, they expect to put in more than 20 million. According to the Post article, the maintenance depots could log even more hours if there was sufficient funding from the Army.

***

Isn't it time for Bush to level with the nation, or should the American people continue to receive an administration line that is little more than a public relations campaign? This administration assumes that if it continues with the happy talk, the American people won't notice all the scrambling being done just to keep the status quo in Iraq -- as deadly as that has been for American troops.

It's time for President Bush to reassure the nation, not just with platitudes about how democracy will prevail or how his Pentagon team has done a "spectacular job." He needs to tell the American people of specific plans to increase funding for armored vehicles, for maintenance and repair of existing vehicles, and for troop pay and family healthcare needs.

And then the administration's actions need to match the words. Empty platitudes won't bring back the troops who have died thus far, or prevent more tragedies like the one today.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is time to recognize this for what it is. It is a turning point, both for America, Europe and the middle east. Clearly things have gotten farther out of control than expected and I believe most of America sees this. However, is the choice to increase funding to fix problems that everyone seems unable to agree how to fix? Is it to pull out and run away?

I personally believe that America needs to actually get tougher rather than weaker toward Europe and Arab countries. America needs to make the outcome of iraq about Europe interests, not only american interests. Right now, France and company are waiting around to let America fight the battles-if we lose, they say i told you so, and if we win we have done their job for them. We need to threaten them in some fashion, whether diplomatically, financially etc. This is ridiculous already-we are letting Europe play games here. During the election season, this was understandable (even if repugnant) but now, it is time to get tough. Because simple fact of the matter is that if we actually pulled out of there, it would destabilize the area, show America as unable to do much in the middle east etc....all things that can actually have a more devastating effect on Europe and the middle east than on America.

I have a friend who is French and he agrees with me to an extent. Thinks Europe is waiting in the wings, making America shed blood and take heat. Meanwhile, if they do come in later, and if that improves the situation, they can be hailed as saviors while also saying they were correct all along. All hail Europe--what a bunch of crap. But makes for interesting thought.

9:27 PM  

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