Leading up to and throughout the whole Iraq fiasco, Mr. Bush has repeatedly said that all key decisions were in the hands of “the Generals.” Of course, that has meant firing or otherwise marginalizing many good soldiers who recommended actions counter to Bush/Cheney plans. Some of the best unheeded advise has come from retired General William E Odom.
The general has a lot to say, especially on the whole notion that “supporting the troops” means going along with the current Bush policies:
No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.
In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called â€œpost-traumatic stress disorders.â€ In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents donâ€™t seem to occur during the first half of a unitâ€™s deployment in Iraq.
After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.
Not the sort of info that the neocon chickenhawk brigade is interested in. They’re too busy accusing the rest of us of not supporting the troops when we demand that Bush bring them home now.
If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine â€œsupporting the troopsâ€ as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for â€œnot supporting the troopsâ€ where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq.