Monday, June 19, 2006

Two columns that caught my attention

I was struck by the ending of one of George Wills recent column's entitled:
Iraq's Atomization:

"But it did not take three years of Zarqawi and terrorism and sectarian violence to turn Iraqis into difficult raw material for self-government. For that, give another devil his due: Saddam Hussein's truly atomizing tyranny and terror. On June 20, 2003, just 72 days after the fall of Baghdad, The Post reported this from Fallujah:

"Military engineers recently cleared garbage from a field in Fallujah, resurfaced it with dirt and put up goal posts to create an instant soccer field. A day later, the goal posts were stolen and all the dirt had been scraped from the field. Garbage began to pile up again."

An Army captain asked, "What kind of people loot dirt?" There are many answers to that question. Here is one: a kind of people who are hard to help."

Then week after week Sidney Blumenthal disects everything 'W' does, and clarifies what is really going on. Here's the final part of a column entitled: George Bush Sr. asked retired general to replace Rumsfeld :

(At the beginning of the column he recounted behind the scenes efforts of Bush Sr. to ease out Rumsfeld)

"As Bush's approach has stamped failure on the military, he insists ever more intensely on the inevitability of victory if only he stays the course. Ambiguity and flexibility, essential elements of any strategy for counterinsurgency, are his weak points. Bush may imagine a scene in which the insurgency is conclusively defeated, perhaps even a signing ceremony, as on the USS Missouri, or at least an acknowledgment, a scrap of paper, or perhaps the silence of the dead, all of them. But his infatuation with a purely military solution blinds him to how he thwarts his own intentions. Jeffrey Record, a prominent strategist at a U.S. military war college, told me: "Perhaps worse still, conventional wisdom is dangerously narcissistic. It completely ignores the enemy, assuming that what we do determines success or failure. It assumes that only the United States can defeat the United States, an outlook that set the United States up for failure in Vietnam and for surprise in Iraq.

Bush's abrogation of the Geneva Conventions has set an example that in this unique global war on terror, in order to combat those who do not follow the rules of war, we must also abandon those rules. This week a conflict has broken out in the Pentagon over Rumsfeld's proposed revision of the Army Field Manual for interrogation of prisoners, which would excise Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions that forbids "humiliating and degrading treatment." And, this week, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., proposed a bill that would make the administration provide "a full accounting on any clandestine prison or detention facility currently or formerly operated by the United States Government, regardless of location, where detainees in the global war on terrorism are or were being held," the number of detainees, and a "description of the interrogation procedures used or formerly used on detainees at such prison or facility and a determination, in coordination with other appropriate officials, on whether such procedures are or were in compliance with United States obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture." The administration vigorously opposes the bill.

Above all, the Bush way of war violates the fundamental rule of warfare as defined by military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz: War is politics by other means. In other words, it is not the opposite of politics, or its substitute, but its instrument, and by no means its only one. "Subordinating the political point of view to the military would be absurd," wrote Clausewitz, "for it is policy that creates war. Policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa."

Rumsfeld's Pentagon, meanwhile, reinforces Bush's rigidity as essential to "transformational" warfare; by now, however, the veneer has been peeled off to reveal sheer self-justification. Rumsfeld is incapable of telling the president that there is no battle, no campaign, that can win the war. Saving Rumsfeld is Bush's way of staying the course. But it also sends a signal of unaccountability from the top down. The degradation of U.S. forces in Iraq is a direct consequence of the derangement of political leadership in Washington. And not even the elder Bush can persuade the president that his way of war is a debacle."

Really an excellent column. I recommend checking out Salon each week, if for nothing else, at least Sidney Blumenthals columns. There are a lot of other excellent articles there too.

No comments: