Twelve Theses on the War in Iraq and the Future of U.S. Politics

News Abroad

Mr. Gosse teaches history at Franklin and Marshall College, and serves on the Steering Committees of Historians Against the War and United for Peace and Justice.

1. The war in Iraq is virtually unwinnable and will only get worse: more serious casualties for U.S. forces, more war-crimes against Iraqi civilians, more resistance (and more terrorism) and a de facto civil war leading to a continuously boiling pot.

2. The U.S. has no further military resources to draw upon though it will need many more simply to maintain stability in Iraq. Its options will be a) more mercenaries, b) state terror to "put down" the resistance, c) withdrawal.

3. It will never contemplate withdrawal until literally forced to the wall, as in 1969-1970, by severe internal dissent and insubordination in the military combined with massive unrest at home.

4. But there's a huge difference between the late Vietnam War and now. In the former case, there was a highly disciplined, coherent, rational state with which to negotiate, and even--thanks to the breakthrough forced by the Tet Offensive--a permanent negotiating mechanism. The Vietnamese Communists had essentially created a way out for the Americans, however much our government did not want it, and then pushed us through that door, with considerable assistance from the antiwar movement.

5. So, either the U.S. stays in Iraq for decades to come (as John McCain and other worldly conservatives accurately foresaw) or it withdraws, admitting failure and at best handing over power to a coalition regime with some kind of international peacekeepers. There are no other viable options. Expecting a viable pro-U.S. Iraqi state able to maintain itself in power as the U.S. steadily draws-down forces is a pipe-dream, equivalent to expecting to draw enough cards in stud poker to fill an inside straight-a nice thing when it happens, but highly unlikely.

6. Any prognosis on how the slow-motion disaster of the U.S. occupation of Iraq plays out is complicated by several other major factors. The first is the precarious nature of the current Republican hegemony: the smallest re-election victory margin of any Republican president in a century, a tiny majority in the House. They got to this point by hook and (literally) crook--a partisan Supreme Court decision in 2000, vast amounts of voter suppression in 2004, and a remarkably disciplined political machine operating on all cylinders facing a fundamentally divided Democratic Party and a candidate with serious weaknesses. Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay et al. know this is their one shot to gerrymander a "realignment," which means 2008 is crucial. They cannot afford any weakness, any backing-off or admission of failure. To do so would be to admit the emperor has no clothes, and Bush pulled it off in 2004 by insisting on his strength, his certitude, his ability to "defend America." Ironically, if they had won with bigger, cleaner majorities (in 2004 and before) they would have more room to maneuver in Iraq. Now they have little margin left for this high-wire act, except to assert over and over "America is Winning!" as we are ever more palpably losing.

7. The second complicating factor is the extreme fragility of the U.S. economy, which (if Paul Krugman and other liberal economists are correct) is currently floating on a sea of Asian money and extraordinary trade deficits, even as a Euro trade bloc steadily coheres around us. Like Reagan, Bush has discovered the magic of military-industrial pump-priming. Economic forecasting for political purposes is often delusory, but if even some of the dire forecasts come true, there will be large-scale unemployment and rising interest rates to stave off inflation in this decade, just like in the 1970s.

8. The real wild card is one or more major Al Qaeda-style attacks on the U.S., with the potential for a massive rally-round-the-flag hysteria and justifications for suppression of dissent. As we have seen, what our modern Machiavelli Bill Clinton called the "wrong but strong" syndrome was sufficient to save an otherwise completely disastrous presidency in November 2004.

9. In sum, the odds seem quite high that the Bush Administration, and with it the Republican Party (more precisely, the New Right), will face a situation where they can only remain in power by resorting to extremely authoritarian methods both at home and abroad. Do we think that when an utterly disastrous war and perhaps also an economy in deep trouble produces public repudiation they will just sit by? Their entire history will incline them to attack, to survive at all costs. As that eminent Cold Warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski pointed out just before the Iraq War began, the most valid historical comparison for this regime is the Bolsheviks -- utterly determined, ruthless, riding the edge and taking huge risks.

10. Where does this leave the American left, that supposedly non-existent force that reared up in the millions to try and get rid of Bush in 2004? You can't beat something with nothing -- and for all his occasional spells of forensic brilliance (as in the first debate), John Kerry added up to a "nothing" in personal terms, utterly incoherent on what was always the central issue, "the war" (whether it was the "war on terror" or the "war in Iraq," and as Mark Danner has pointed out, the essence of the Bush/Rove strategy was to conflate the two, which they did with very little dispute from Kerry).

11. In my view, the left has to decide whether it's going to just take whatever the Democrats come up with (the de facto strategy so far), or make a real intervention to produce a candidate who is both progressive and capable of winning (e.g. a genuine human being who stands for a new paradigm), or even-contribute to breaking up the Democratic Party to bring about a new formation of the center left united on a basic opposition to suicidal empire, rather as the Republican Party came together in the 1850s from wings of the two major parties plus the independents (Liberty Party in their time, Greens in ours). Cycles and parallels make historians very wary, but it is eerie how closely the current Democratic Party resembles the Republican Party in the heyday of the New Deal Order, condemned to offer "echoes" rather than "choices," as Barry Goldwater put it, dominated by stolid technocrats at the legislative level, so scared of defeat that it is continually defeated.

12. We can't go on this way. If I was a committed rightist, everyone I know would have been involved in electoral politics for decades, as a candidate, fundraiser, speechwriter, legislative aide, or in some other way. They grasp for power, while we have stood aside and let opportunists manipulate or ignore the left for their own purposes. Now we are reduced to the honorable few -- not incidentally, these are mainly African Americans -- who operate on our behalf in the halls of power: John Conyers, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, those who stood up in Congress on January 6 to challenge Ohio's electors. It's time to finally get serious about taking political power in this country. It would undoubtedly be a project of many decades, but we have in front of us a textbook example of the "long march through the institutions" and revolutionary fortitude, from Goldwater to Reagan to Gingrich to Bush II. How ironic it would be if the vainglorious epithet Time magazine attached to their "Man of the Year" cover on George W. Bush turned out to be accurate: "American Revolutionary."

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The U.S. HAS failed in Iraq, already and big time and thanks most notably to Bush Junior (for earlier failures review the histories of his three predecessors, but forget the hegemony baloney). The country has become a haven for terrorists, and a magnet for converting millions of Moslems into suicide bombers, which was not the case before 2003. And it has probably encouraged North Korea and Iran to be more deceptive and aggressive in pursuing nukes. It is now a question of cleaning up the mess. It will take years for sure, probably decades. Maybe the elections will help, a little.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Thornton:

The very diverse and chaotic mess of opponents you describe, with apparent accuracy and comprehensiveness (thank you), and which number in the thousands in a lawless country of millions, are quite evidently beyond ability of any single power on the face of the earth to effectively control using only military means (however broadly defined), unless there were to be a tremendous upsurge of very long-lasting willpower and sacrifice on the part, for example, of the American public. In that very important, but very limited sense, there is a parallel to Vietnam. Given the long track record of the Bush administration of failing to articulate or demonstrate any coherent and viable strategy other than to use conventional American military capabilities (which are a far cry from being sufficient for the arduous decades-long task of nation-building needed to properly stabilize Iraq and reduce its threat to America), it is probably accurate (at least at this stage) to say that correcting the mess over there is an "unwinnable" task. That does not mean that it is most effectively described as a "war", and certainly does not mean that "staying the course military" has much of a chance of success. There was a chance in 2003, but the Bushies blew it again, and again, and again. They lost the UN, they lost France and Germany, they lost Turkey, they lost the Iraqi Shias, and they lost the rest of the Arabs, all of which were squarely on our side in 1991. Now they are ruining America's national security by pouring it down this rat hole, because they are unwilling to ever own up to their shortcomings.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

After making several posts on this page, I decided that I had better actually read the full article. Somewhat to my surprise, I find it quite well written and agree with most of it. Nevertheless, I think this actually strengthens both my original comment and what I am about to say in critique of your latest.

First of all, I think you are quite correct in pointing out the changes in armed violence over the past few decades. They are profound and probably permanent. I would even go so far as to say that you could theoretically call this a new form of war, although I would prefer to think of it as anarchy, terrorism, gangsterism, nihilism, and decadent evil springing up in the vacuum of the collapse of the old order, which included the credible threat, and non infrequent use, of conventional, mass army vs mass army, war.

Where the author errs, I think, is in failing to realize that by surrendering on the use of the word "war", he forfeits most of the value of his arguments. "Strong though wrong" can prevail as long as the crisis is a widely believe to be a "war", the ultimate national emergency. Moreover, a "war against terrorism" as Bush himself once admitted, is indeed unwinnable, BY DEFINITION, and therefore never-ending, and thus Bush Republicans (theoretically) undefeatable. Until, that is, some of 51% who voted for this incompetent realize that the emperor has no clothes. And that is the author's other big error. Bush and Cheney are not ,in reality, great inspiring conservative warriors. They are cowards, phonies, and laughable hypocrites. If Kerry had not been an even bigger hypocrite on the main issue of the campaign (which the author, to his credit, points out) he probably would have won the election.

Now about Osama. Your words, Mr. Koehler, would be music to his ears (except I guess that music is considered a sin in fanatical Islam). Unless I read you wrong, you have completely bought into his greatest hope: for an endless war between Islam and the West.

The real "war" if we must use that very misleading word and inappropriate term to describe our predicament, is for the hearts and minds of millions of Moslems. Not the 10-20,000 diehard suicidalists who will stop at nothing to inflict maximum casualties on innocent lives, and who are utterly unreachable by reason (a number which has surely been multiplied manyfold thanks to Bush's blunders, to maybe several hundred thousand now). Also not the several hundred of millions of Moslems who, like ordinary folks in any other faith, mainly want to be left alone, given a chance to earn a decent living, and have no desire to die for any cause. This, regardless of what paranoid posters elsewhere on this website may dredge up from google about the inherently violent and inflexible nature of Islam (which is not wrong, it just does not repeal basic human nature, which is not to commit suicide, or to die for some abstract cause). No, the key is those tens of millions of Moslems who are on the edge of Al Qaedaization. Endless occupation in the Mideast by U.S. forces, endless killings -no matter how accidental- of Arab civilians by Americans: Osama could not have hoped for more. If he (or whoever replaces him, and there are hundreds of others, there is nothing special about him, really) wins over 20 or 30 million Moslems as suicide killers, instead of the 20-30 K he started with before Bush's blunders, you may well have to say goodbye to "freedom" and "democracy" (in America !) for all the reasons of technological equalization which you mentioned, plus our economic addiction to foreign resources.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

See my rather long reply to you above, wherein I probably misjudge your willingness to go alone with Bush's deceitful warmongering rhetoric (but you may find my other points worthwhile). I'll look at your "defense science" stuff later. If your only faith in the U.S. government is in the foot soldiers of the military, than I wonder that you do not denounce the chickenhawk Bushies with far greater thunder for raping our military (in order win legitimacy at the polls) and for the long term damage that they have thereby done to America's national security.

I do think there is a minority of government employees outside of the armed forces who deserve respect and support. Among them were those politicians in Congress voted not to authorize the unrestrained and unconditional use of force by the (then already) demonstrably incompetent and double-talking Bush Administration in Iraq in October 2002. We would not be having this discussion if more in Congress had had the backbones THEN to stand up for what was clearly right (there was a perfectly reasonable alternative on the table then that would have required UN approval first (as we HAD in 1991) ) .

Now, the huge damage done is irreversible, but you can be assured that historians such as I will not let the titanic blunder of late 2002 go unidentified as such (and for which at least some blame must be placed on the bogus and utterly worthless "antiwar movement”). One can only cry wolf so many times, before rendering oneself devoid of any outside support against the real wolf when he comes. Bush was crying wolf in 2002-03, sensible people realized it, and too many of them wimped out when it came to acting effectively to stop it. Bush would never have dared bungle into Iraq had Congress voted him down. He would have had to negotiate his way forward as his Daddy did in 1990-91 and build an international coalition, exhaust alternatives, and plan an exit strategy FIRST. Bush did not do so because it did not fit his election campaign schedule, and he will be held accountable for that treason in any history book I may ever write (not too likely !) covering the period.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I know I ought to read Mr. Gosse's other 11 points, but I am sick to death of this idiotic idea that Iraq is like Vietnam and all we have to do is recycle the same (often quite dubious) "antiwar" rhetoric of 35 years ago. And so I stopped reading after the first line.

I know this sounds unfair, and it probably is, but how much idiocy to we have to take from those who criticize Bush while having their heads up their posteriors ?

We are NOT in a war in Iraq.

We won the war, and we are losing the peace.

How long will it take before that reality penetrates the thick skulls of people who ought to know better ?

There are no easy solutions to this mess, but surely we can at least properly identify the basic problem. In the absence of such identification, is it any is wonder that those who caused it (Bush and his incompetent traitors and crooks) are going wholly unpunished ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

What do all your examples of past foreign policy blunders (in which category I would place the failure to clean up after deposing Noreiga) have to do with the current blunders of the Bush Administration in Iraq or with anything else on this page ? What do to about the mess in Iraq is NOT an issue of political partisanship, at least as far as I am concerned. It is an issue of common sense, facing facts, and holding accountable the incompetents whose arrogant ineptitude produced the problem.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Nice try guys, but I am unconvinced.

If this is a war, who is the "enemy" ? Saddam ? His old Baathist henchmen ? All Sunnis ? a random sample of 10% of them ? Al Qaeda ? Or all of the above on a rotating basis, depending on what Rupert Murdoch has had for breakfast ?

Suppose we decided that, say, downtown Detroit or South Central LA needed to be occupied by national guard forces in order “disarm” the gangs there, or search for weapons of mass addiction, or "spread freedom and democracy" to long-suffering residents. Would the deployment of uniformed troops and heavy high tech equipment, and the inevitable casualties thereby resulting mean that crime, and semi-organized violence in those areas suddenly constituted a "war" ?

Look, we could spend the next dozen posts running around in semantic circles, HNN- style, arguing about semantics, so how about we don't ?

Call the mess in Iraq whatever you want. A glorious march to 100% armored patrols, the education of G.W. Bush paid for by America's future, Gulf War II, whatever. My point is, the American force over there -which represents a distressingly high fraction of the main resources we have for fighting real, full-fledged, unambiguous wars- is not trained, nor likely could it ever be trained, to do what is being expected of it: nation-building. I can see why W said "we don't do nation-building" (in the 2000 campaign). Using an army designed to fight the Soviet invasion of West Germany (or even one designed to overthrow Mideast dictators) to hammer out political bargains between Sunni, Shias and Kurds who have never known anything but autocracy and rule of the jungle will never work.

It looks like the Bushies are now going to have to cut some kind of deal with the some of the local powerbrokers, especially the Shias. Probably this will be a shakier deal, and less favorable to America's long term security, than that which could have been reached 20 months, thousands of American casualties, and hundreds of billions of American taxdollars ago, had Bush listened to Chirac and held elections right away. I am no fan of that double-talking French hypocrite, but let's face it, compared to wet-behind-the-ears W, even a frog looks like a genius.

When the "antiwar movement" starts focusing on reality, and not on wishful fantasies, then perhaps there will be some hope of accountability in Washington, and we can begin considering real solutions to real problems. At that point, vocabulary will be diminish in importance. But for now, all the talk about "how the war is going" mainly serves as a form of denial, so notwithstanding my disclaimers two paragraphs above this, I will continue to call for an end to semantical obfuscation.

Arnold Shcherban - 2/4/2005

Jentlemen, James and Adam:

Read my leaps: you are both STRATEGICALLY wrong about
Iran (and North Korea).
Not mentioning the well-known ala-blowback history of
the US policies towards Iran from 50s to current time,
the major obstacle to the change of regime and democratization of that country is the US vision (action guide) of the Gulf region as the largest oil reserve of the American nation, regardless of the rest: needs and plans of the nations-owners of the oil, of the rest of the world and practically everything humanely else.
As the direct corrolary of the latter major axiom of the US foreign policy towards Gulf countries, the US (and UK) refuses to support nationalistic, popular, secular, at the least, tending to democracy existing
regimes and political groups aspired to establish such regimes, from the fear of their potential and primary adherence to the interests of the majority of their own nations, instead of playing that axiomatic role, designed
for them by the above-mentioned messianico-hegemonic vision.
No terrorists threaten the world peace and nations coexistence as much, as those hegemonistic visions and practice of the US governments.
If even in UK the public discussion under the respective
title ended in just small favor of the opponents of such
conclusion, we can easily extrapolate the results of the open and uninhibited referendum on the topic all over the world. It is firm opinion of the overwhelming majority on this planet, period.
Provided this country's goverments stopped its direct or indirect (through economic and financial means) dictate
towards Iraqis, Iranians, Koreans, and other designated "enemies of the Western civilization and democracy", at the same time supporting really democratic
popular groups and movements in the respected countries using non-violent methods and policies, instead of donating billions to repressive, anti-democractic, religious regimes there, we would see the very changes,
allegedly wished so much, come already.
Alas, such a dramatic change in the US policies is impossible without the dramatic change in concentration of the political and financial power within this country...
One thing is clear: following White House or even your diplomatic recipes, however, the world will see not much more than the escalation of mutual violence all along.

Robert F. Koehler - 2/4/2005

"If your only faith in the U.S. government is in the foot soldiers of the military, than I wonder that you do not denounce the chickenhawk Bushies with far greater thunder..."

In other forums, if not here, I have bi**ched, ranted and whined about that to no avail. Form day one it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that our vaunted forces would become exhausted & ruined, which has become a "broken force" and in a presently intractable mess that has consequences that reach far beyond the theater of Iraq, whether the mission winds up successful in Iraq or not. I am not surprised at any of it. The recent flap over unarmed Humvees has brought to light that the US has parked in motor pools thousands of M113 armored personnel carriers, while our boys and girls are getting slaughtered in death wagons on Iraq's roads for some 18 months or so. Why weren't these assets deployed when the need was crying out for it and these tracks ready to go? Another sickening example of dereliction of duty at the highest levels.

"...although I would prefer to think of it as anarchy, terrorism, gangsterism, nihilism, and decadent evil springing up in the vacuum of the collapse of the old order..."

I also agree with your characterizations about the "collapse of the old order." I have had the feeling for a long time (fairly convinced now) that the world order has evolved into a late time and that we are all fated to be late men & women in it. That what's unfolding are the natural processes of historical de-construction when the contradictions within and conflicts between ordered societies become so great they begin to collapse. The problem is that these historical process's aren't necessarily swift and can be of long duration with great suffering, misery and great complexity. The "anarchy, terrorism, gangsterism, nihilism, and decadent evil springing up" you rightly see are symptoms of a dying world and are the Seas, which these enemies artfully and craftily exploit in their emerging and growing global war against the US. Their modus operandi have been identified as 4th generation war and our enemies have a long march on us, though its still a new concept in strategy & tactics even to them. And the depletion & higher extraction costs of all kinds of natural resources, not only just oil (the most critical one), is going to fuel the hell out of this conflict. It may be that depletion is the fundamental and submerged force that is actually driving events in the world today.

"Osama...Unless I read you wrong, you have completely bought into his greatest hope: for an endless war between Islam and the West."

What I have never bought into was the juvenile notions that Osama was just some type of hoodlum, terrorist or "evil doer" who just gets a big bang out of killing innocent people. What I have sought is to understand the enemy, what are his goals, objectives and means. His single minded goal is to re-ignite the long dormant Umma into resurrecting the Islamic Caliphate, whether he lives to see it or not or others carry on the task. A great fire in the minds of men has been started all right, but in the minds of millions of Muslims who have long yearned for what they had formerly thought impossible. It won't be God Bless Us, it will be God Help Us if Osama should succeed.

We would not be having this discussion if more in Congress had had the backbones THEN to stand up for what was clearly right (there was a perfectly reasonable alternative on the table then that would have required UN approval first (as we HAD in 1991) )...(and for which at least some blame must be placed on the bogus and utterly worthless "antiwar movement”).

Agreed. I was marching, e-mailing, writing, begging and pleading with everyone in reach before that fatal day in March of 03, but to no avail. The country was sailing high on the false glory of phony victories. Your harsh judgments are dead-on about the anti-war community. I was sickened by the demo partisan bull & far left rhetoric. I knew that movement was going nowhere. Congress as a governing institution is a hollowed out and finished organ, peopled by bought and paid for cheap dates on a cheap Saturday night. Decorum, duty, honor, oaths, constitutionalism & the responsibilities of office are oxymoron's and anachronisms in the Versailles of Abomination upon the Potomac, where treason has become an art form and the highest ideal they can reach. But they have outdone themselves this time and the day of irrelevance and reckoning for that body is not long off. I'll not grieve for it because it has been dead for a long time anyway.

James E. Thornton - 2/4/2005

The US never called for a first strike on the USSR, and deterence was a spectacular success. We would have succeeded in Vietnam if we had recognized that international Communism was not a monolith, but influenced by nationalism. If Wilson had supported Ho Chi Minh at the Versailles Peace Conference over Vietnemese independence from France, the travesty of war could have been avoided. Had Kennedy fully supported the Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs, Castro would have been overthrown and all those have and continue to suffer at his hands would have been saved. Panama today is a free and democratic nation thanks to Operation Just Cause. Your view on history is skewed by your politican partisanship.

Robert F. Koehler - 2/3/2005

Well Peter, if we were still following the same modus-operandi as you described, that which we started out with from 9-11 on, than I would not only agree with you, I would be saying that we should all go out on the back forty with a revolver & scream at the top of our lungs: "Its All Over Except for the Shout!" Then swallow the muzzle and vigorously start looking for a loaded chamber to get it over with. Were done and defeated for sure.

But 2004 has seen major shifts in perception and action within the US defense & foreign policy establishments, all of it due & driven by every single one of the horrific blunders and stupidities you have categorized & committed by this administration. But if your waiting for admission or apology from Bush and his minions you will be waiting forever, because that is not the way the American system works. Oh sure, some 20, 30 or 40 years from now the full story will be told and George will go down in American political history as the worst President this country ever had. I think Clinton knows that already and is beaming for the same reasons Carter did when he became President. You are outraged & want justice. I dream for more because of the great hatred I harbor within my soul for all of America's civilian elites & political classes, whom I consider unfit and unworthy. If it was up to me, I wouldn't let these people anywhere near a bird cage with a screwdriver, let alone in leadership & power positions of the US. Why that's so I am not inclined to say, nor have you the time or do you care. But if Bush continues to be thick headed and stubborn, refuses to learn or give way, than he risks being removed by other means and not by the American people. That would be a matter of consequences and not the justice you want.

Better men and women have risen to the task during 2004, many of whom who told & warned the Chief Goof of the serious national security threats and fatal dangers his policies would create for the US. They bided their time knowing full well he would fail, and sure enough, they have surged back into prominence and command of the situation and bending every effort to sorting out the mess George has got us into. Rumsfeld, as an example, has come to know, painfully, the challenges and the nature of the threat he at first failed to see. He is sitting on top of a vast bureaucracy that is tumultuous & clamoring for action & leadership that he can't ignore, while he recognizes that his boss is a bigger asshole than he is because George refuses to listen & drives everyone away who tells him the truth.

As for the American people this war was a long time in coming and their last chance of avoiding it was immediately after 9-11. They could have come to grips with it and understood why the Towers fell on black Tuesday, or demand vengeance. They chose vengeance and damned themselves to their fate. All that has happened since 9-11 has chiseled that fate into the hardest stone. Their only choice now is to fight or pay big-time & dearly for those better men & women who have got the guts to face the challenges & tasks ahead. Or they can delude themselves and ignore the facts. They can even run like they did 35 years ago, but this time it won't save them and the only thing kneeling will get them will be reduction to living and dying like dogs. The days of passing the buck to our children are done. Either we triumph or the game ends with us.

I don't know if you have accessed and read the Defense Science Boards "Transitions to and from Hostilities." If you haven't than I encourage you to read it as it gives a good overview of what is being planned and pursued. On questions of 4th generation war Chuck Spinney's site Defense and the National Interest is the best I currently know of to learn about it. I also suggest purveying the National Intelligence Council's "Mapping the Global Future - 2020 Project." I don't recommend listening to other peoples views who may be bigoted and/or agenda driven. A thousand people on one report and hundreds on the other have contributed from inside and outside of government concerning these reports. They are the best assessments of America's situation we got and currently available to the public.

The only people in government I have any respect for, whom I will defend, support, and if necessary & called, serve, are the men and women throughout the vast defense establishment, who are the ones with their hands on the spear and at the tip of the spear point. There the ones who wind up making the hard sacrifices and all too often take the unjust blame when things go wrong. I and they won't deny that mistakes have been made and that a lot of things could be done better. But the vast majority of them are true patriots who have dedicated their lives and their careers to serve this country, and when asked, tell it like it is. You don't get that from politicians.

Arnold Shcherban - 2/3/2005

Mr. Thornton,

You mentioned Iraqis, those that "perceive Coalition as occupying force".
Have you implied that the Coalition is actually not
an occupying force?

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/3/2005

A fair analysis. Nothing wrong with some honest disagreement between two people.

I agree with you on Iran, which I consider to be far more dangerous, as well as more difficult to deal with.

Arnold Shcherban - 2/3/2005

I don't actually understand what you meant by "failure"
in the context of the issue discussed.
I agreed wholeheatedly with Mr. Clarke's evaluation of
the failures "achieved" completely and unequivocally.
I just would like to add the enormous damage caused to the US image around the world, presenting this country as the imperialist agressor and violator of the principles of
international coexistence and peace.
Secondly, if by "geopolitical implication" that I allegedly "fail to grasp" you meant the apocaliptic
consequences that the immediate withdrawal of the US troops, might cause, according with the fantasmagoric prognoses trumped up by the ones who created
the Iraq nightmare on the first place, no prudent
and objective analyst will second them (and you), on that.
As I recall, Americans have been fed with many nightmarish predictions similar to this one: unless we strike first the communists would definitely invade West Europe and the US, unless we stay in Vietnam, the communists would continue their world expansion, and would descend on the American shores in no time, unless we overthrow Castro's and Alende's regimes in Cuba and Chili, the entire Central Latin American continent would become communist, unless we invade Panama and jailed Noriega, the entire US populace would be as high on drugs as Andes' snow peaks, etc.
Read my lips historians: nothing bad will happen this time, too. Though some good things - can: like, say, the international community in general, and Muslims around the world, in particular, would certainly appreciate the
act of addmitance of the heavy mistake made on the part of the Bush administration. This, not the wars, would be the most courageous move this country made for the long
time, the move positive implications of which are difficult to overestimate.
But I'm dreaming, of course... On the contrary - I'm positive - the latter will never happen.

Robert F. Koehler - 2/3/2005


What Mr. Thornton described is something that's gotten tagged as the 4th generation of war by non-state actors. Something new and something old. The older part of it is that form of warfare that pre-dated the rise of the state when rulers, warlords & tribes carried their business on by means of private armies, bands, gangs, outsiders & thugs. The newer forms of it are the unique technological advances of modern society such as cell-phones, airplanes, computers, digital banking, information systems and all that characterizes high tech & economic modernity that can be used as weapons against it. Its these opposite aspects that are combined by the defeated, dispossessed and over-ruled who know they cannot win in open confrontation against a powerful hegemony like the US, but who have discovered, or should I say rediscovered, a little of the old married to the new to carry on other-means of war against those they believe, rightly or wrongly, who oppress, humiliate and plunder them.

This new type of warfare had been recognized by culturelists & military theorists by the late 80's, but its only now being taken seriously by the US military and foreign policy establishment. Even so it is still a hard to grasp form of conflict among those trying to understand it whose job's are to defeat it, because its so alien to the modern west's way of war, especially the US. Al Quida, which now is only one among many, is the most famous and well known and its organizational structures are dispersed and horizontal, as opposed to easily identifiable with well known vertical command structures. The scale of Osama's triumph, who can rightly be identified as the father of this new form of war, is not limited to his success in spreading this new mode of war throughout the Middle East, but also to others of the defeated, disposed and over-ruled on other continents who have grievances & vengeance against the US. These enemies have observed, recognized and are applying these new doctrines of war in different environments and in newer ways against the US.

The failure of focusing all our efforts into a fierce, single minded purpose of hunting Osama bin Laden down like a dog to the exclusion of all else and finishing him off, was a greater colossal blunder than invading Iraq, as ill-advised as that was. The fact that Osama lives and still is on the loose, whether he lives in luxury or in a cave, the one man who planned and ordered a successful attack against the greatest power on earth is a living inspiration & legend to all those who desire to strike a blow against America. Hannibal complained about the Romans pursuing an old man to the death, but he was being disingenuous because both knew what he, Hannibal, represented to those who feared Rome and with whom he was plotting to wage another and maybe greater war against. What is similar here is not the two men, but the inimical hatred that drives them. That failure was not a tactical defeat or a minor mistake, but a strategic defeat of such magnitude that we are beginning only now to see in Iraq and dimly perceiving globally throughout the world. Rome knew better, we didn't.

I know I can't convince you and you may as well recognize that you can never convince me, but no matter how you dice, slice or argue it, the US is facing an emergent global war of dimensions we are only at this precise moment beginning to recognize & understand, so we will have to agree to disagree.

James E. Thornton - 2/3/2005

The insurgency is comprised of Former Regime Elements (FRE) that seek to reestablish Ba’ath Party rule, but there are also foreign jihadis, elements of organized crime, the Shiite Mahdi Army, and Iraqi civilians who have taken up arms for no other reason than they perceive the Coalition as an occupying force and have had their national, tribal, or personal honor offended. The insurgency receives both internal and external support. The Ba’athists are funding much of the insurgency and are using the Mukhabarat, Fedyeen Saddam, Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, criminals released by Saddam’s amnesty, and disaffected elements of the former Iraqi Army to conduct attacks. External support is coming from Syria, Iran and probably Saudi Arabia as well. Syria is supporting the Ba’athists, Iran the Mahdi Army and Badr Corps, and Saudi Arabia is indirectly supporting the jihadis and Al Qaida (Tawhid & Jihad) led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. The goals of the individual elements of the insurgency are broad and often conflicting. The FRE seek to reestablish Ba’ath rule, while Syria and Iran seek to influence the future of Iraq and ensure that Iraqi foreign policy does not threaten their interests or security. The Islamic terrorist organizations are set on ruling Iraq as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Some Iraqi insurgents have no ideology at all; criminal gangs only operate with profit in mind. Yet all of these groups do share the one goal of driving the United States from Iraq, which is a requirement to enable their long-term objectives.

James E. Thornton - 2/3/2005

I share your opinion that the war has been mismanaged; especially post-hostilities (Phase IV) and the failure to predict the insurgency.

We can agree to disagree on the role of society in supporting the war. In hindsight, if the intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction was more reliable, I believe that the invasion would have been unnecessary. Iran certainly presents much more of a threat than a militarily or economically weakened Iraq.

You seem to favor Freedom over Security, while I believe it is necessary to sacrifice some freedom during time of war for more security.

James E. Thornton - 2/3/2005

Try this link:

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/3/2005

The point in my post was not to suggest that the Iraq was is unjust, per se, but to express my disagreement that opposing the war “only plays into the hands of the enemy, which the anti-war crowd has confused.” I also wanted to disagree with the implication that to anyone who opposed the war, “the enemy” is “our own government, and by extension the military itself.”

I do not agree to these serious charged regardless of whether I believe that the war was just or unjust. As for my own feelings about the war, I have no sympathy for Saddam, Hussein and I am very happy for the Iraqi people to be rid of him. However, I believe that the justifications for the conflict were untrue, and that the conflict has done far more damage to our national security than would have been the case had we chosen an alternative course of action, such as making our objectives a disarmed Iraq rather than regime change. The fact that Iraq posed no real threat to us, the fact that so many other countries in the neighborhood were far more dangerous, both in terms of their military potential as well as their fostering and exporting terrorist ideologies, and the fact that other alternatives were readily available lead me to conclude that this war was a mistake. As for being “unjust,” I don’t know if I would go that far, since our decision to invade did have some pretext and was not entirely arbitrary.

I also believe that the war, once started, was horribly mismanaged, and the fact that the current situation is far better than many predicted, even despite the dreadful decisions made, tells me that proper management of the reconstruction could have transformed Iraq much better and faster than has been the case.

Of course, my thoughts on Iraq are irrelevant. I maintain that questioning a war is s perfectly acceptable position in a free society, and should not be equated with helping our enemies since in the long run, supporting a conflict that is wrong for national security (irrespective of the current conflict) is what would really help our enemies.

James E. Thornton - 2/3/2005

Thank you Mr. Koehler,

I am just a very small part in a very large machine. My involvement is specifically limited to teaching Arab culture to deploying troops as part of the "hearts and minds" campaign to defeat the insurgency. I too am very interested in the transformation of our military. The Office of Transformation and DARPA, which has teamed with MIT has some fascinating projects that they are working on. Nanotechnology is something I am interested in and your earlier post about a corporal and his increased responsibility is prophetic. Robotics and artificial intelligence are two other areas where transformation will revolutionize warfare.

James E. Thornton - 2/3/2005

If the war in Iraq is an unjust war then please explain.

Robert F. Koehler - 2/2/2005

Thank you Mr. Thornton.

I am fascinated by what has publically been released by the defense establishment in response to the challenges that have arisen in Iraq, such as by the Defense Science Board, National Intelligence Council and various policy think tanks that appear to be in the forefront and pushing a whole new vision of reform & restructuring. These recommendations, as I believe you are aware of, not only affect the Defense Department, but also the Secretary of State, Intelligence communities, NSA and even Congressional committees as an integrated whole in just naming a few. HUMIT is a big part of it and looks to me like your going to be employed for a long time.

I wonder how Rumsfeld is handling all this because it does transform his visions of Reform in Military Affairs (RMA). I much enjoy hearing from individuals such as yourself because your one of many who are actually involved in, or more specifically a "hands on" view of those aspects of your specialty in the transformations that are going on in the defense establishment. Thanks again

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/2/2005

1) “Debate was held in the run-up to war and it was then that the political opposition should have staked a case for whether or not it was to be a just war.”

They did. And they lost the debate. However, once the war was started, the morality or validity has not changed. I do not recall Kerry, Kennedy, or anyone else suggesting that we simply pull our troops out, although some suggest it. Nevertheless, the fact that the decision was made does not make it right, and in a free society, people who oppose a conflict have a right (indeed, in my opinion, an obligation) to explain why. If you would support some kind of Espionage Act, which would make criticism of the war illegal, you are free to do so, but until then, I consider questioning bad policy to be a fundamental part of any democracy.

2) “Once engaged in a war, the nation must unite behind it.”

The duties of civic citizens is to work towards the protection and safety of his or her nation. Uniting behind a war may be a part of this civic duty, but it might not. If a war is futile, or worse, harmful to a nation, citizens should speak out against it. I am not suggesting that Iraq is such a conflict, but nevertheless, I do believe that it was wrong and dangerous for national security. Saying this is not going against the nation, it is expressing a statement of opinion which I believe to be factual.

3) “The far right such as Buchanan are just as harmful as the far left. The probelm is that the far left uses the mainstream media as vehicle to propogate their dangerous rhetoric.”

Perhaps you will take as much comfort in the following empirical reputations of your post:

As you can see, the so-called “mainstream media” has indeed been used as a vehicle to propagate lies. However, they are not the lies that you have in mind I think.

As for the idea of “dangerous rhetoric,” I consider your own position to be equally dangerous. The idea that a nation must unite behind a war no matter how wrong the war may be, and that anyone who does not fall into line is helping the enemy is nothing original to the current conflict. However, it is also not the type of belief that any free society should long sustain.

If a war is right and just, the weight of its riotousness will compel people to support it without any threat of being labeled a traitor. However, if a war is wrong, even the most repressive police state will not be able to conceal its unjustness.

Whether or not Iraq is a good war or not is up to the president who decides to send troops, nor is it something that people should be forced to support regardless.

Observe: The latest sample of enemy-helping traitors:

Robert F. Koehler - 2/2/2005

Mr. Jones

I also believe the notion that Iraq currently is not a war would be a strange one to the troops fighting it out with insurgents. Actually the combat operations during the first month spanning from late March of 03 can also be characterized as a one sided affair where the Iraqi's basically got clobbered and large numbers didn't fight. If someone wanted too, they could make the argument that the US was more like a bully storming into a nursery and kicking infant a**.

Of course the analogy is not correct. What happened was that the enemy sensibly knew in a conventional arms confrontation they couldn't win and didn't mass their forces against us. What they did do was shock and awe us by fighting in a totally unexpected para-military fashion with hit & run tactics, disrupting seriously our supply lines and holding out in bastions deep behind our lines that temporarily halted the US advance. Though an objective analysis of the invasion is yet to be written, at least for public consumption, I believe the Iraqi strategy worked initially in its beginning stages though the regular armed forces of the enemy didn't follow up the initial confusion. Had that happened sometime around the beginning or middle of the second week, when disruption of supplies & lack of manpower were most critical, the war just may have had an entirely different outcome. I wonder if there aren't a lot of Iraqi generals kicking themselves in the a** because there was a narrow window of opportunity to exploit, but like the old saying goes fortune waits for no man. You either grab it and take the shot or its lost forever.

But the fighting that's going on now is no less a war than the initial invasion. Its just a different kind of war that, dejavu, again our military did not have the doctrine, training or properly equipped to fight. They are learning but they are doing it in the worst way imaginable through on the job training. The war itself is totally different from Nam because these are operations known as MOUT, or military operations in urban terrain. The fighting in Nam was mostly confined to the countryside in its triple canopy forests, jungles, highlands, rice-paddies, plains and the Mekong delta. I wouldn't have a clue as to how a combat team would pursue a hunter-killer mission in an urban environment. Probably is the wrong tactics to apply, even without air and artillery fire support. Whole new skill sets and tactics are required for these kinds of operations.

The only way I can see the Vietnam analogy occurring is if the draft were reinstituted. You can bet the farm that all those brave tree limb-swinging, knuckle-dragging, arm-chair commandos who have never served, but are all for hell and high leather will suddenly become anti-war in a hurry. If it should happen, it won't happen in Iraq but it sure as well will happen here in the land of the free and home of the brave.

James E. Thornton - 2/2/2005

Mr. Koehler

Serious miscalculations were made in the stabilization phase of the war, which the planners called Phase IV. They were under the false assumption that the Iraqi people would greet the US a liberating force, and failed to gleen any lessons from abandonment of the Shi'a and Kurd uprisings in March 1991.

Furthermore, the US Military became far to dependent upon technical intelligence, and allowed Human Intelligence (HUMINT) to atrophy. HUMINT is essential in Counter-insurgency Operations (COINOPS). One example is the Defense Language Institue does train Arabic linguists. The problem is that for all these years they were teaching Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is similar to people wishing to visit the United States learn Shakespearean English before arriving. DLI has only just begun to teach Iraqi dialect. Language is a huge obstacle that we have yet to overcome.

Restructuring the MI HUMINT program is only one small facet of transformation, which is critical to the US Military. If you have access to the Reimer Digital Library, which you find via Google, some of the Cultural Awareness training I have developed is posted there.

James E. Thornton - 2/2/2005

Debate was held in the run-up to war and it was then that the political opposition should have staked a case for whether or not it was to be a just war.

Once engaged in a war, the nation must unite behind it. Otherwise, because we are an open society, the enemy will divine opposition and attempt to exploit it. The far right such as Buchanan are just as harmful as the far left. The probelm is that the far left uses the mainstream media as vehicle to propogate their dangerous rhetoric.

James E. Thornton - 2/2/2005

I do not offer excuses for past foreign policy issues. We support(ed) many repressive regimes. Mostly during the Cold War that assisted in suppressing Communism. The point you fail to grasp is the geopolitical implication of US failure in Iraq.

Lawrence Jones - 2/2/2005

Mr. Clarke:

Yes, your admission of not having read Mr. Gosse's piece, but then proceeding to criticize it, does seem unfair, but since your complaint concerns itself with his first thesis, it can perhaps be excused. You are correct in pointing out that the current conflict in Iraq and the Vietnam war are very different, and that any analysis that hopes to understand the former case cannot depend on the rhetoric and analysis of the latter.

Your next sentence strikes me as highly ideologically motivated, not to mention extraordinarily juvenile. Your assertion that "We are NOT in a war in Iraq. We won the war, and we are losing the peace." seems at best naive, and at worst willfully obtuse. I have friends who have served as 'embedded' journalists in Iraq, and from their insightful reports (not to mention from mounting casualty rates), I assure you that the war, in fact, has continued beyond Bush's "Mission Accomplished" carrier speech.

Whether or not you believe this conflict can formally be characterized as a war, you might find that the remaining 11 theses Mr. Gosse writes are worth more careful attention.

Robert F. Koehler - 2/2/2005

Mr. Thornton

The following sentence in your piece caught my attention:

"I train soldiers before they deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq on Arab and Pashtun culture. Morale is high and the troops believe in the mission."

Whatever the original political, strategic or national security reasons for the US invasion of Iraq were, what is undeniable is that the leadership that launched its war in Iraq had failed massively. This was apparently starkly evident across the board within the bowels of the defense establishments various agencies and departments and within the administration by early 2004. It appears to me, from the few sources I have been able to locate, that a whole new paradigm has emerged within the foreign policy and defense establishments that are now formulating, guiding and implementing US foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq. I believe the significance of what George Bush has done lies less in what he has done, as much as in the counter reactionary forces he has unleashed within the State Department, Pentagon, Intelligence agencies and the wider foreign policy community that opposed his policies.

There is a greater global war or struggle that is unfolding of which Iraq is but one theater, but the one most visible and which concentrates American minds. Its a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees, so to speak, but the masses can be forgiven because its a story they will never be told by Congress or this President, except in vague & misleading terms such as Bush's inaugural or upcoming State of the Union Address. I also believe another struggle or war is going on internally within the US government and invisible to the American public. There is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Since the spring of 2004 one glaring short coming that is now universally accepted is the total lack of stabilization & reconstruction capabilities of our armed forces. I believe the argument has been nailed down that the US Army is to be the premier organism into which these capabilities are to be instituted. Not only cultural, but language, historical and social have been deemed necessary as skill-sets for all soldiers deployed to their specific theaters of operations. This makes basic training as it now stands obsolete since 8 weeks and a recruits specialty is no longer adequate for this kind of soldier. It may take as much as 6 months or more to train such a soldier and will most likely create an Army totally different in doctrine, form, function, purpose, mission capabilities and with a more flattened command structure where a corporal in a combat team has infinitely greater command & mission responsibilities than he/she has today. I have read that the high tech, material orientated and conventional combat capability of the US Army, will in the future be a very small component of the Army compared to these new stabilization and reconstruction forces.

What you do fits into this new scheme and I would appreciate it if you would post any web sources or pages, if you have them, that further elucidate this new field that you and others are employed in.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/1/2005

Mr. Thornton,
Your analysis in the first part of your post is, I believe, absolutely correct and I could not agree more. The conflict, while extremely difficult and potentially a catastrophe, is winnable. I also agree with your cogent analysis of the differences between the current insurgents and the Vietcong.

The last portion of your post however, I do not agree with, and will explain why.

1) “Unfortunately, Mr. Gosse and others such as Senators Kerry and Kennedy attempt to use the war in Iraq for political gain.”

I do not see any evidence for this claim. It has long been the claim of government supporters to dismiss critics of a conflict as mere partisans. This was as true in ancient times as it is today. I happen to agree almost entirely with Senator Kerry and his statements on the war, and as for Senator Kennedy and the author of this article, the claim that they are using this for political gain would be a far better claim if one of the following were true:
There was some clearly identifiable political motive behind the opinion
Pessimism seems to fly in the face of reality, rather than conforming to it
The CIA did not offer similar assessments (

2) “A loyal political opposition would debate the conduct and strategy of the war, but not oppose the war itself; to do so only plays into the hands of the enemy, which the anti-war crowd has confused.”

Conveniently, your position would indicate that by definition, there is no such thing as an unjust war, or one that should be debated, since the president has the authority to move troops before anyone has time to debate. I do not agree. If the war is unjust and wrong, a loyal opposition would not allow politics to prevent him or her from trying to protect the nation by pointing this out. As for playing into the hands of the enemy, such logic could be used to discredit anything, including questioning military strategy, which you suggest is acceptable.

3) “To them, is the enemy the terrorists in Iraq, or our own government, and by extension the military itself?”

I find it difficult to believe that Kerry and Kennedy (just to reuse who we have already named) believe that the enemy of the United States is… them! They are United States Senators and prominent policy makers, as are many others who oppose this war. Could it be that Pat Buchanan is an enemy of the military? How about Paul Craig Roberts, the conservative columnist who worked in the Reagan administration? Or James Webb, a hero in Vietnam and President Reagan's Secretary of the Navy? Veteran Senators Chuck Hegal or Robert Byrd? Could all of these people, and many more, believe that the United States government, the one they represent or worked for, and the military are the real enemy? I don’t buy it. I find it far more likely that war supporters have simply decided to “denounce” anyone who does not fall into line as either cowards, or traitors. After all, I do not recall anyone standing up for Clinton when conservatives continuously ridiculed his military policies, including ground forced in Kosovo and Samalia.

It is my humble opinion that criticizing opponents of the government as somehow illegitimate or unpatriotic is a tactic as old as tyranny, and one that I could never subscribe to, regardless of how I felt about the conflict.

Arnold Shcherban - 2/1/2005

<Victory in any war, including this one, is an issue of American national security.>

The way the threat to American national security
is being created has not changed a bit since Vietnam.
It is, with minor deviations depending on a concrete
situation it HAS TO originate from, the following:
First, and foremost, we HAVE TO control
the economic and natural resources of the entire planet,
i.e. to be hegemonic power;
Therefore, we HAVE TO control political situation and regimes around the world, i.e. impose the ones that
serve our interests first, their own national ones - second.
Therefore, we support, by all means possible, any bloody dictator (Saddam, inclusive) and regime ... until the latter starts to act too much independently, in economical
or political sense or until the majority of the populace
in that country overthrows our dear ally and refuses to abide by the good old pro-US policies.
This kind of behavior is a highest crime possible, and automatically creates the threat to our national security, as it becomes clear from the first principles mentioned above.
Therefore, we HAVE TO interfere, and if the suffocating
economic and military blocade doesn't help, we HAVE TO invade or bomb the respective offender to the ground.
Unfortunately, not all nations are as perceptive (and small), as some others (Panama, Grenada).
A large part of bigger nations, like Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodeans, Afghanis, Iraqis, Cubans want to live on their own without our dictate/control, so they continue to fight against us, long after we invaded and bombed them.
Such situation, understandably, makes the threat to our national security much more serious and real.
It naturally calls for severe measures...
Therefore, we, with the help of our natural(bought, directly or indirectly) allies among that nation's populace HAVE TO kill a couple of millions to accomplish the noblest mission of all: to forward US
national interests and protect our brave soldiers from
the terrorists, whom we coincidentally call "freedom fighters", "rebels" or even "terrorism fighters", on some other occasions (when they essentially play our card, like in Nicaragua, San-Salvador, Columbia, Peru, Argentina, Indonesia, Chili, etc.).
And we cannot leave, until we, with our allies, and preferrably with their hands holding our arms and trained
by us, physically eliminate approximately the indicated
number. Hopefully, then they will realize our unwavering commitment to free them (from themselves).
We can really do it, since nowadays situation is really much different from the Vietnam's one.
Noone helps them, so they are left to our mercy, the mercy
that we would be mighty stupid to show, since... don't forget about the enormous threat to our national interests
and security we HAD TO create.

posted by anti-Alaa

James E. Thornton - 2/1/2005

The Mesopotamian (
January 30, 2005

Suicide Bombers V. Suicide Voters

Greetings Friends,

I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.; I can say no more just now; I am just filled with pride and moved beyond words. People are turning up not only under the present threat to polling stations but also under future threats to themselves and their families; yet they are coming, and keep coming. Behold the Iraqi people; now you know their true metal. We shall never forget the meanness of these bas…s. After this is over there will be no let up, they must be wiped out. It is our duty and the duty of every decent human to make sure this vermin is no more and that no more innocent decent people are victimized.

My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.

This is a very hurried message, while we are witnessing something quite extraordinary. I myself have voted and so did members of my family. Thank God for giving us the chance.

Salaam for now.

posted by Alaa

James E. Thornton - 2/1/2005

Unbelievable. Just voted. The feeling is great. No pre-marked ballots. No one ordering us to select a group. No intimidation. Dignified. I could go on forever. Turnout is high in my area, a mixed Sunni-Shia area. This is the first step. World watch out we are on our way to total freedom.
Louay Al-Tahan, Baghdad, Iraq

James E. Thornton - 2/1/2005

Unbelievable. Just voted. The feeling is great. No pre-marked ballots. No one ordering us to select a group. No intimidation. Dignified. I could go on forever. Turnout is high in my area, a mixed Sunni-Shia area. This is the first step. World watch out we are on our way to total freedom.
Louay Al-Tahan, Baghdad, Iraq

James E. Thornton - 2/1/2005

I take serious issue with the war not being winnable. The most difficult mission the Army can be tasked with is counter-insurgency, however, difficult does not equate to impossible. One expert on insurgency, Mao Tse Tung, likened an insurgency to a pond and insurgents to fish living in that pond. In order for the fish to thrive there must be plenty of water. The water that supports the fish in the analogy is the local populace. In Iraq, the election was a clear indication that the pond there is drying fast. Without the support of the people, the insurgency will wither and die. Yes, American troops can do a better job of “winning hearts and minds”, but unlike the Viet Cong, the insurgents in Iraq at best enjoy support from only 20% of the population IF they have the support of ALL of the Iraqi Sunnis, which they do not. Remember that the insurgents kill far more Iraqis who they perceive as collaborators than they do American soldiers. The insurgents are desperately attempting to drive a wedge between the Iraqi people and our troops. Despite the horror of Abu Gharib I believe they will fail. I also think that the war is winnable because unlike the Viet Cong, the insurgents do not have a state sponsor like North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union that can openly support the insurgency. The insurgents in Iraq depend upon covert support from Iran, Syria, and possibly Saudi Arabia. Should that support became indisputable; those countries open themselves to serious repercussions including military force.

Mr. Gosse also does not know our military very well. I train soldiers before they deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq on Arab and Pashtun culture. Morale is high and the troops believe in the mission. A slight majority of the soldiers I trained recently are returning for a second tour. There is a small minority that grumbles, but a very large majority is committed to liberating Iraq and not conquering it. Secondly, the combat experience our troops are garnering is invaluable to the Army as an institution. Retention rates are holding steady, and a recent article in the Army Times indicates that there has been a significant decrease in the number of soldiers seeking conscientious objector status. There will be no insubordination from the troops. As our troops get better through experience, and more Iraqi troops and police are trained and deployed in conjunction with the insurgents are starved of support from both state sponsors and the Iraqi people; they will grow weaker. In short, time is on the side of the Iraqi people and the United States, and it is running out for the insurgency.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gosse and others such as Senators Kerry and Kennedy attempt to use the war in Iraq for political gain. Winning the war in Iraq is not a Republican or Democrat nor Conservative or Liberal issue. Victory in any war, including this one, is an issue of American national security. Our enemies are trying to make this Vietnam. They see this war as a contest of will. They are wagering that if they can inflict casualties long enough it will lead to a large and powerful anti-war movement, and that the troops will be called home. Without American troops there, they will then be free to return the Ba’athists to power or worse; transform Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the rule of the Taliban. A loyal political opposition would debate the conduct and strategy of the war, but not oppose the war itself; to do so only plays into the hands of the enemy, which the anti-war crowd has confused. To them, is the enemy the terrorists in Iraq, or our own government, and by extension the military itself? Ultimately, history will prove Mr. Gosse and those of the same mind mistaken.