President Bush will never live down “Mission Accomplished” — and should not. When the White House’s spinners spun that claim five years ago (remember the aircraft carrier?), it seemed cocky and premature. As Mr. Bush continues his $526 billion war-without-end in Iraq, it seems stunningly deceitful. The only mission that needs to be accomplished is an orderly exit from Iraq, and Mr. Bush is no closer to acknowledging that reality. Neither is Senator John McCain. All Congress seems capable of is hand-wringing. So it is up to Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to revive the national debate on Iraq — and up the pressure on the White House. While it is clear that Mr. Bush has no intention of coming up with an exit strategy, there are things he could do to give his successor a better chance at containing the chaos after American troops leave.
* A rational debate must first recognize that Iraq is still a very dangerous place. An increase in American forces last year initially produced a steep decline in insurgent attacks. But attacks in April killed more than 50 United States troops — the highest death toll for a single month since last September. Americans also need a full accounting of the American-financed and American-led military training programs in Iraq, and a better explanation of why Iraqi forces remain so weak. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s decision to finally challenge some Shiite militias was a good thing, but it exposed how the Iraqi Army remains unprepared — even now — to fight by itself. We are encouraged that Mr. Maliki chose to talk to Tehran about its role in arming and financing militias. It is long past time for Iranian leaders to hear directly — and firmly — from their Shiite brethren in Baghdad that such destabilizing behavior must stop. The United States also needs to engage Iran, Syria and all of Iraq’s neighbors.
They need to understand that more chaos in Iraq is not in their interest. It is shocking that the United States and Iraq still have no strategy for dealing with more than 4 million Iraqis who have been driven from their homes; 2.7 million people are internally displaced, and there are another 1.5 million or more refugees in Syria and Jordan. This is not only a question of human suffering. It threatens to spread Iraq’s chaos far beyond its borders. Both Iraq and the United States must take responsibility. Baghdad, awash in oil profits, must provide more aid to its own people. Washington must provide more aid and allow in many more than the 12,000 refugees it has pledged to accept for this year. We fear that it is unlikely to meet even that meager target. The list of failings and missions not accomplished doesn’t stop there. Millions of Iraqis still don’t have clean water and medical care, thousands are jobless, the government is still dragging its feet on important reforms like an oil sharing law. Mr. Bush no longer declares “Mission Accomplished.” Quite the opposite. He has made clear that he will keep troops in Iraq until he leaves office — and then abandon the mess to his successor. The three senators who want his job should insist that he address these problems now. spinning Iraq to keep our economy appearing successful
* 4 million permanent nomads and growing, Millions of Iraqis still don’t have clean water and medical care, thousands are jobless, the government is still dragging its feet on important reforms like an oil sharing law. That's success! How many more Billions must we spend and thousands must we kill in this Facade?
Yesterday It was a big day for apologies to the troops yesterday. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates apologized once again for the sub-standard treatment the war wounded receive, security rules are being modified to avoid the stigma that mental health treatment disqualifies one for a clearance, and the Secretary labeled the barracks conditions of soldiers in North Carolina "appalling." what the hell is new? Though it is true that a Secretary of the Army and a few generals and other officers have been relieved as a result of the Walter Reed scandals, the larger scandal is that our defense budget has never been bigger while the number in uniform has hardly ever been smaller, and yet we still are unable to fulfill our Constitutional responsibilities - our Constitutional responsibilities - to support and maintain a military. Big deal! What the hell has changed?
The first impulse when the subject of supporting the troops comes up is either to have more troops (!) or spend more money. This is the stance of all three presidential candidates, by the way. No one is saying: Where the hell does the half a trillion dollars we spend every year on defense go? Not even anyone in Congress seems to be that alarmed that we could be so incompetent or wasteful or inattentive that hospitals and barracks could, in this day and age, be "appalling." And I might add that under the Constitution it is the responsibility of Congress to support and maintain the Army and the Navy. how can we spend more money? The answer is clearly not more money: The Pentagon has got to be the only large-scale enterprise on the planet (after all, the Soviet Union is gone) where the more it screws up, the more it fails its workers, the more it fails to produce a bottom line, the more it gets. I've asked many times before where all that money goes. What is appalling is that not very man people in power seem to any longer care.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to learn from the television networks and from YouTube of the conditions of barracks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The father of a soldier assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division ("All Americans"!) shot the video showing peeling lead-based paint, broken plumbing and sewage backing up into sinks, busted toilet seats (remember those $600 seats!) and mold throughout the barracks. Gates also said that the military had made mistakes in treating returning combat troops, not just in having them live in squalor, but in their physical and mental health care. Anyone who has been awake for the past year knows the story, and by now we've heard the Pentagon's sad laments and its commitment to do better ad nauseum. Gates was in Texas to announce a change in procedures regarding the granting and maintaining of security clearances: henceforth soldiers seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems can seek treatment without fear of losing their clearances or harming their careers. The ever empathetic Gates told a group of junior officers that he "shared" their frustrations. Support the troops burn more money