Monday, December 29, 2008
This inspiring story comes from Military.com and Knight Ridder:
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Boy, 12, Given Military Burial
December 23, 2008
MILLERSPORT, Ohio -- The Soldiers flanked the casket, solemn and precise, and folded the American flag with a yank-and-flip motion. On one knee, a sergeant presented the flag to a grieving mother.
Around them, mourners with red eyes and heaving shoulders testified, silently, to the mark Dennis Channel Jr. left on each of them.
Seven Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard raised their rifles and fired three rounds. A lone bugler sounded taps, a haunting call that wafted over the nearby graves of veterans.
Dennis, known to all as "Bubba," was buried Monday with full military honors.
He was 12 years old.
The Millersport boy was too young to be a Soldier or a veteran, for whom such an honor is generally reserved.
Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Herzog had never led an honor guard at a funeral for anyone out of uniform, except a member of Congress, in 10 years on the job. But Dennis deserved it, the Guard decided.
He was his own kind of warrior. He waged a battle with brain cancer, diagnosed when he was just 5 years old. He was a brave Soldier, all agreed, one who changed the world for the better.
Dennis died, holding his parents' hands, shortly after 3 a.m. Friday, Dec. 19.
Those at his funeral -- relatives, teachers, classmates -- spoke about the way the little boy with the big brown eyes changed them in the short time he had.
In one way, he was an ordinary boy who loved dinosaurs and BMX, and his mom and dad most of all.
But friends and family members also remembered the extraordinary spirit and peace that Dennis possessed, always positive, polite and faithful despite his suffering.
He never complained, even though he had to leave school in second grade and endure several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, said his father, Dennis.
He talked to anyone who would listen about God's goodness, said Paula Clark, his former teacher.
"His No. 1 concern was how everybody else was," she said. "I've taught school for 26 years, and never have I encountered anybody who had a soul like he had."
He loved his country and developed a passion for the military from a young age, thanks to his father, a veteran, and relatives of his mother, Shawna.
It was his dream to be an Army chaplain.
"He said he used to talk to God," said his father, who wore a dog tag adorned with a photo of his son. "And God wanted him to help people."
An Army battalion based in Fort Campbell, Ky., adopted Dennis, who visited the Soldiers. They gave him a uniform and beret.
He made fast friends with Soldiers based in central Ohio, too. He earned honorary status as a member of the U.S. Army and as a chaplain for the Ohio National Guard.
His dreams didn't go unfulfilled, said the Rev. Steve Bush, who officiated at Dennis' funeral at Lighthouse Memorial Church in Millersport.
"Look at this room. He filled it," Bush said during the service, before an estimated crowd of more than 400. "Most chaplains, most pastors I know, would long for the influence Dennis had over those he loved, and even those he didn't."
Dennis was buried in his uniform and beret, in a casket painted with tanks and helicopters. A pair of combat boots sat nearby. Classmates at Millersport Elementary School signed a picture of an American flag, which sat inside the casket.
Dennis had a profound effect on his peers, Clark said. He taught them how to be strong, and they learned compassion by organizing fundraisers for him.
"That class will be extra-special because of that," Clark said. "They know what it is to help people."
Dennis inspired grown-ups, too. A group of veterans from Buckeye Lake saluted his casket at his gravesite.
Col. Andrew Aquino, a military chaplain, presented the boy's parents with a medal for meritorious service from the state of Ohio.
"God has really given us a special blessing," he said, "in knowing Bubba."
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We send our condolences to the family of this young American patriot.
Charles M. Grist
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
During the Christmas season of 1970 in Vietnam, I managed to get to the Bien Hoa Army Base for the Bob Hope Christmas show. I remember that the stars who appeared with him included the Golddiggers, Miss World, and Johnny Bench. I was only twenty-one years old.
After the show, I returned to our brigade headquarters at Firebase Mace where I spent Christmas Eve. I later wrote about that night:
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“We were playing cards on this particular holiday night, drinking a lot of beer and feeling somewhat melancholy when we heard mortar rounds begin to hit the firebase. We were reminded that another soldier was recently wounded by a mortar only a few feet from our tent and the hole was still in the ground.
We looked at each other and someone said “Should we take shelter?” Almost in unison we said “Nah…” and continued to play cards. The explosions from the mortars stopped shortly thereafter.
I decided to take a break, so I walked to the bunker line along the perimeter. It was dark and I looked up at the moon and the stars as I thought about my family back in Orlando and how they must be enjoying the holidays.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of weapons firing near a village in the valley below. When I looked into the darkness of the valley, I saw tracer rounds arching into the sky. I recognized the red tracers of the friendly troops, but then I saw the green tracers of the enemy being fired in the opposite direction.
I don’t know why it struck me as funny (sick, war-time G.I. humor, I guess), but I realized that the tracers being fired by each side were the Christmas colors of red and green. All that could be seen in the darkness of the valley were the colored tracers as they crossed each other’s path.
For no particular reason, I softly sang, ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…’”
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Please remember our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in your Christmas prayers. We can all feel very safe this year because they are taking care of us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places throughout the world.
I especially wish a safe Christmas to Aaron Self, Kristi Self, and Chad Higginbotham, the members of the C.O.B.R.A. Team family who are once again at war.
I miss you guys…
Charles M. Grist
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
For those of you who are retirement-eligible reservists, this is good information from the Air Force News.
Wish they’d done this a few years ago.
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Reservists May Qualify For Early Retired Pay
December 11, 2008
Air Force News
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Department of Defense has issued new guidelines for early receipt of retired pay for members of the reserve components. Instead of having to wait until age 60 to receive Reserve retired pay, eligible members may receive retired pay prior to age 60 but not before age 50.
Under interim changes to Department of Defense Instruction 1215.07, Service Credit for Reserve Retirement, issued under a law passed by Congress effective Jan. 28, 2008, reserve component members are able to reduce the age at which they are eligible to receive retirement pay by three months for each cumulative period of 90 days served on active duty in any fiscal year.
Under the new law, members eligible to receive retired pay earlier than age 60 must still wait until age 60 to receive health-care benefits.
Involuntary mobilization and voluntary active duty in support of a contingency qualify, but there is no requirement to be involuntarily mobilized, to support a contingency or to serve on active duty outside the continental United States to receive credit under the law. Most active-duty time qualifies, including training, operational support duties and school tours. It does not matter whether active-duty time is paid for under military or reserve personnel appropriation accounts, provided such active duty is performed under the authority of 10 U.S. Code § 12301 (d).
Also included is full-time National Guard duty served under a call to active service by a governor and authorized by the president or the secretary of defense under 32 U.S.C. § 502(f) for purposes of responding to either a national emergency declared by the president or a national emergency supported by federal funds.
The following time served on active duty is not creditable service for purposes of reducing retired pay age: as a member of the active Guard and Reserve (10 U.S.C. § 12310); on annual tour (10 U.S.C. § 12301(b)); while in captive status (10 U.S.C. § 12301(g)); for medical treatment, medical evaluation for disability purposes or medical study (10 U.S.C. §12301(h)); as a member not assigned to, or participating satisfactorily in, units (10 U.S.C. § 12303); under active-duty agreements (10 U.S.C. § 12311); for disciplinary/courts-martial (10 U.S.C. § 12315); or for muster duty (10 U.S.C. §12319).
Qualifying active-duty service performed after Jan. 28, 2008, the date on which the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act was enacted, is creditable. The law does not provide credit for time served on or before that date.
Here's an example of how these new guidelines work. A Reservist performed five days of active-duty service on MPA orders in February 2008. He then volunteered for active duty beginning June 1 and ending Nov 30 (leave, reconstitution and post-deployment/mobilization respite absence included, as applicable). The Reservist performed a total of 127 days of active-duty service in fiscal year 2008 and 61 days in fiscal 2009.
Under this scenario, all of the active-duty time the Reservist performed could be credited toward reduced retirement age eligibility because it was active-duty time performed under circumstances permitted under the new law (i.e., orders for voluntary service, 10 U.S.C. § 12301(d)). However, because time credited must total 90 days or must be in multiples of 90 days in the aggregate during a fiscal year in order to correspondingly reduce his retirement age by three months, or multiples of three months, the Reservist will be able to reduce his retirement age by three months for fiscal 2008. Had he performed 53 more days of active-duty service after Jan. 28 and before going on active duty June 1, he would have accumulated 180 total days for fiscal 2008 and thus would be able to reduce his retirement age by six months.
Similarly, because the Reservist has so far served on active duty 61 days in fiscal 2009, he must perform an additional 29 days of active-duty service some time during the year in order to reduce his retirement age by an additional three months.
All Airmen are encouraged to ensure their orders specify the statutory provision under which their active-duty service is performed. Airman are also encouraged to keep track of their active-duty service and orders to ensure they receive proper credit and they meet the cumulative 90-day thresholds to reduce retirement age.
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If you know some old soldier like me who is nearing retirement and has recent active duty service, you may want to pass this information on to them. (This includes, of course, any old sailors, airmen or Marines, as well.)
Charles M. Grist
Saturday, December 13, 2008
My military historian friend forwarded the following article about the death of a courageous South Vietnamese general who not only served his fellow citizens, but who worked closely with his American counter-parts:
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Pham Van Dong; Army General In Vietnam Praised for Bravery
By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008; B07
Pham Van Dong, 89, a major general in the South Vietnamese army and the military governor of Saigon when the city fell to North Vietnamese forces in 1975, died Nov. 26 of congestive heart failure at his home in Philadelphia. He was a former Arlington County resident.
Gen. Dong fought with the French against Japan during World War II and later served as a lieutenant colonel in the French army. He was one of the few soldiers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who had been a French officer.
"He was a very brave and capable man," said Neil Sheehan, a reporter for United Press International during the Vietnam War and the author of "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam" (1988). "American advisers regarded him as the most professional officer in the ARVN."
Sheehan said that he and fellow reporter David Halberstam of the New York Times relied on Gen. Dong as a valuable source of information, not only about military strategy and why the Viet Cong were winning but also about the internecine maneuverings within the ARVN itself. He was willing to talk to reporters, discreetly, even though it put him at risk of arrest, or worse.
Gen. Dong "was one of our most helpful informants," Sheehan wrote in "A Bright Shining Lie." "He obtained statistics we needed and details of how the Viet Cong were creating their new big battalions through a general at Joint General Staff headquarters who had been one of his subordinates in the North during the French war. I spent an evening at his house transcribing the information."
Pham Van Dong, who bore the same name as the prime minister of North Vietnam, was born in Son Tay, Vietnam, and grew up in Hanoi. Family members going back several generations had been teachers in the imperial court, and Gen. Dong also planned to be a teacher. He enrolled in the Ecole Normale d'Instituteurs but dropped out in 1938 and enlisted in the French colonial army. He became the first Vietnamese officer to command French troops.
A member of Vietnam's Nung ethnic minority, a group with a Gurkha-like reputation as fierce fighters, he later commanded the 3rd Field Division, made up entirely of Nung soldiers.
From 1950 to 1952, he served in various field commanding-officer positions and participated in a number of major battles and campaigns against communist forces in northern Vietnam. In 1952, as a lieutenant colonel, he commanded the 2nd Mobile Group. A year later, he was appointed commanding officer of the Bui Chu subzone and commander of light infantry and artillery forces of northern Vietnam.
As the war in Indochina peaked, he was appointed commander of the Quang Yen Military Academy and in 1954 redeployed the academy and all its personnel to southern Vietnam. After the Geneva Convention partitioned Vietnam, he moved south with his family.
In 1959, then-Col. Dong -- who as a young man had taught himself English -- attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Returning to Vietnam, he was appointed deputy commander of South Vietnam's III Corps.
After the 1963 coup d'etat that toppled the government of Ngo Dinh Diem, he was appointed commander of the 7th Division. He then served briefly as military attache to the Republic of China (Taiwan). When he returned, he was made brigadier general and then major general, and served as military governor of Saigon-Gia Dinh and commander of the Special Capital Zone.
"He was regarded by American advisers as an equal. That was very unusual," said Sheehan, who also recalled that Gen. Dong would put the American advisers to work when they were with him in the field.
When Saigon fell, Gen. Dong and his family were able to leave the country on a C-130 military transport that took them to Guam.
"He was devastated," said his son, Hiep Pham. "He felt he betrayed his men. I think it was a sensation he carried through his whole life."
With Sheehan as their sponsor, the Dong family eventually settled in Arlington County, where Gen. Dong bought a secondhand car, insisted that family members eat American food and worked to get them acclimated to their new life. He occasionally served as a translator for the Defense Department before retiring in the early 1980s. He moved to Philadelphia in 1998 after the death of his first wife, Le Thi Li, in 1992.
Survivors include his wife of 10 years, My-Lan Trinh, of Philadelphia; five children from his first marriage, his son, of Montgomery Village, and Misha Hung Pham of Falls Church, Mickey Bich-Ha Pham of Fairfax County and Pam Bich-Hang and Bic Bich-Hai Pham, both of San Diego; three stepdaughters from his second marriage; a brother and sister; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
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We extend our sympathies to the general's family.
Charles M. Grist
Friday, December 12, 2008
The following article needs no explanation. After all, these are Green Berets. The motto of these warriors is expressed in Latin on their unit crest above: "To Liberate the Oppressed".
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December 12, 2008
10 Green Berets To Receive Silver Star For Afghan Battle
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post Staff Writer
After jumping out of helicopters at daybreak onto jagged, ice-covered rocks and into water from an altitude of 10,000 feet, the 12-man Special Forces team scrambled up the steep mountainside toward its target -- an insurgent stronghold in northeast Afghanistan.
"Our plan," Capt. Kyle M. Walton recalled in an interview, "was to fight downhill."
But as the soldiers maneuvered toward a cluster of thick-walled mud buildings constructed layer upon layer about 1,000 feet farther up the mountain, insurgents quickly manned fighting positions, readying a barrage of fire for the exposed Green Berets.
A harrowing, nearly seven-hour battle unfolded on that mountainside in Afghanistan's Nuristan province on April 6, as Walton, his team and a few dozen Afghan commandos they had trained took fire from all directions. Outnumbered, the Green Berets fought on even after half of them were wounded -- four critically -- and managed to subdue an estimated 150 to 200 insurgents, according to interviews with several team members and official citations.
Today, Walton and nine of his teammates from Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group will receive the Silver Star for their heroism in that battle -- the highest number of such awards given to the elite troops for a single engagement since the Vietnam War.
That chilly morning, Walton's mind was on his team's mission: to capture or kill several members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) militant group in their stronghold, a village perched in Nuristan's Shok Valley that was accessible only by pack mule and so remote that Walton said he believed that no U.S. troops, or Soviet ones before them, had ever been there.
But as the soldiers, each carrying 60 to 80 pounds of gear, scaled the mountain, they could already spot insurgents running to and fro, they said. As the soldiers drew closer, they saw that many of the mud buildings had holes in the foot-thick walls for snipers. The U.S. troops had maintained an element of surprise until their helicopters turned into the valley, but by now the insurgent leaders entrenched above knew they were the targets, and had alerted their fighters to rally.
Staff Sgt. Luis Morales of Fredericksburg was the first to see an armed insurgent and opened fire, killing him. But at that moment, the insurgents began blasting away at the American and Afghan troops with machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled-grenades -- shooting down on each of the U.S. positions from virtually all sides.
"All elements were pinned down from extremely heavy fire from the get-go," Walton said. "It was a coordinated attack." The insurgent Afghan fighters knew there was only one route up the valley and "were able to wait until we were in the most vulnerable position to initiate the ambush," said Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, the team weapons sergeant.
Almost immediately, exposed U.S. and Afghan troops were hit. An Afghan interpreter was killed, and Sgt. Dillon Behr was shot in the hip.
"We were pretty much in the open, there were no trees to hide behind," said Morales, who with Walton pulled Behr back to their position. Morales cut open Behr's fatigues and applied pressure to his bleeding hip, even though Morales himself had been shot in the right thigh. A minute later, Morales was hit again, in the ankle, leaving him struggling to treat himself and his comrade, he said. Absent any cover, Walton moved the body of the dead Afghan interpreter to shield the wounded.
Farther down the hill in the streambed, Master Sgt. Scott Ford, the team sergeant, was firing an M203 grenade launcher at the fighting positions, he recalled. An Afghan commando fired rocket-propelled grenades at the windows from which they were taking fire, while Howard shot rounds from a rocket launcher and recoilless rifle.
Ford, of Athens, Ohio, then moved up the mountain amid withering fire to aid Walton at his command position. The ferocity of the attack surprised him, as rounds ricocheted nearby every time he stuck his head out from behind a rock. "Typically they run out of ammo or start to manage their ammo, but . . . they held a sustained rate of fire for about six hours," he said.
As Ford and Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding returned fire, Walding was hit below his right knee. Ford turned and saw that the bullet "basically amputated his right leg right there on the battlefield."
Walding, of Groesbeck, Tex., recalled: "I literally grabbed my boot and put it in my crotch, then got the boot laces and tied it to my thigh, so it would not flop around. There was about two inches of meat holding my leg on." He put on a tourniquet, watching the blood flow out the stump to see when it was tight enough.
Then Walding tried to inject himself with morphine but accidentally used the wrong tip of the syringe and put the needle in this thumb, he later recalled. "My thumb felt great," he said wryly, noting that throughout the incident he never lost consciousness. "My name is John Wayne," he said.
Soon afterward, a round hit Ford in the chest, knocking him back but not penetrating his body armor. A minute later, another bullet went through his left arm and shoulder, hitting the helmet of the medic, Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer, who was behind him treating Behr. An insurgent sniper was zeroing in on them.
Bleeding heavily from the arm, Ford put together a plan to begin removing the wounded, knowing they could hold out only for so long without being overrun. By this time, Air Force jets had begun dropping dozens of munitions on enemy positions precariously close to the Green Berets, including 2,000-pound bombs that fell within 350 yards.
"I was completely covered in a cloud of black smoke from the explosion," said Howard, and Behr was wounded in the intestine by a piece of shrapnel.
The evacuation plan, Ford said, was that "every time they dropped another bomb, we would move down another terrace until we basically leapfrogged down the mountain." Ford was able to move to lower ground after one bomb hit, but insurgent fire rained down again, pinning the soldiers left behind.
"If we went that way, we would have all died," said Howard, who was hiding behind 12-inch-high rocks with bullets bouncing off about every 10 seconds. Insurgents again nearly overran the U.S. position, firing down from 25 yards away -- so near that the Americans said they could hear their voices. Another 2,000-pound bomb dropped "danger close," he said, allowing the soldiers to get away.
Finally, after hours of fighting, the troops made their way down to the streambed, with those who could still walk carrying the wounded. A first medical evacuation helicopter flew in, but the rotors were immediately hit by bullets, so the pilot hovered just long enough to allow the in-flight medic to jump off, then flew away.
A second helicopter came in but had to land in the middle of the icy, fast-moving stream. "It took two to three guys to carry each casualty through the river," Ford said. "It was a mad dash to the Medevac." As they sat on the helicopter, it sustained several rounds of fire, and the pilot was grazed by a bullet.
By the time the battle ended, the Green Berets and the commandos had suffered 15 wounded and two killed, both Afghans, while an estimated 150 to 200 insurgents were dead, according to an official Army account of the battle. The Special Forces soldiers had nearly run out of ammunition, with each having one to two magazines left, Ford said.
"We should not have lived," said Walding, reflecting on the battle in a phone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he and the nine others are to receive the Silver Stars today. Nine more Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group will also receive Silver Stars for other battles. About 200 U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have received the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third-highest combat award.
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Our brave Green Berets continue to serve with courage and sacrifice as they endeavor to free the oppressed people of the world.
Charles M. Grist
It was my great pleasure to serve with members of the British military during my tour in Iraq. I met very professional British naval officers, infantry officers and even a commando from the unit that was “Roger’s Rangers” during the French and Indian war.
As the protective service detail for our general, my team had the chance to meet troops from all the nations in the Coalition. As expected, we found the British to be highly disciplined warriors and we were proud to have them with us.
During one of our convoys along Baghdad's Route Irish, we were short-handed and couldn’t man the turret in one of our vehicles. As I casually mentioned this fact to my driver, a senior British officer offered to stand in the turret with his rifle. I said that such an offer was appreciated, but it wasn’t necessary that he put himself at risk. The officer stood up with his rifle anyway and added his potential firepower to our convoy.
As the following article discusses, our British friends will leave Iraq next year. On behalf of all of my fellow American troops, I thank them for their comradeship, their courage and their sacrifice. We will always value the extraordinary friendship between our two nations.
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December 11, 2008
British To Begin Iraq Withdrawal In March
Reports Say U.S. Troops Will Take Over Positions in Basra
By Mary Jordan, Washington Post Foreign Service
LONDON, Dec. 10 -- Britain will withdraw nearly all of its troops from Iraq beginning in March and U.S. troops will take over their positions in Basra, according to several British newspapers citing military sources.
Britain currently has 4,100 troops in the country and is expected by June to have only about 400 remaining to help train the Iraqi army, the reports said.
The leaked timetable appeared to have been orchestrated by the Defense Ministry to cheer troops ahead of Christmas and to make good on a promise by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to end the nation's involvement in the unpopular war. Brown is expected to make an official announcement in the new year, but is widely seen as waiting to coordinate with the new administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
During the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Britain moved 46,000 troops into Iraq. In July, Brown, well aware of the political damage the war had caused his predecessor, Tony Blair, said most of Britain's troops would be withdrawn by early 2009.
The British drawdown signals an end for the second-largest force and America's strongest ally in the coalition in Iraq. The United States has about 150,000 troops in Iraq; Obama promised during the campaign to withdraw most combat troops within 16 months of taking office.
"Our whole country will breath a sigh of relief that an end to this illegal war is now in sight," said Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, referring to the British reports.
A Defense Ministry statement Wednesday, while not explicitly confirming the reports, said the ministry was "expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009."
"Final decisions on the timing of the drawdown will depend on the circumstances at the time," said a ministry spokesman who spoke on the customary rules of anonymity.
U.S. and British commanders have been in close contact on the timing of the long-expected British withdrawal. The British presence has been key in protecting main supply routes across southern Iraq.
The Guardian and other British newspapers said several thousand U.S. troops would move in to take over Basra airport, where British forces are now based, to protect convoys from Kuwait and support Iraqi forces in keeping the peace.
"This is far more significant for the British than it is for Iraq or the U.S.," said Gareth Stansfield, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter. He said the British troops were "at such a low level, they were barely able to protect themselves, never mind enforce Basra." Still, he said, the pullout will boost Brown, who is expected to call an election next year, and "may make a difference in how many forces can be sent to Afghanistan."
Jock Stirrup, chief of the Defense Staff, said last month that British troops departing Iraq cannot be transferred "one for one" to Afghanistan, where there has been growing U.S. pressure on Britain to add troops.
Stirrup and other defense officials have said the two wars have put enormous strain on the army.
Britain already has a considerable presence in Afghanistan, with 7,800 troops, and the media reports said it would be moving some aerial surveillance drones and Merlin helicopters from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Stirrup indicated last week that any growing British presence in Afghanistan would include manpower and aid to rebuild the economy. "I and others have been saying for over two years now we have to get a grip on the civilian effort," he said.
Special correspondent Karla Adam contributed to this report.
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Our British friends will continue to stand by our side in the War on Terror and, for this, we are eternally grateful.
Charles M. Grist
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The White House Office of Communications put out the following article/release yesterday.
Although George W. Bush has not done everything right in the opinion of many Americans, he has ensured that there has been no terrorist attack on this country since 9-11. Even if mistakes were made in the War on Terror, over fifty million people are free who were once enslaved. Not a bad record as a whole.
This release relates to the transformation of the our military forces during the Bush administration:
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Transforming Our Armed Forces To Face The Threats Of Today And Tomorrow
Over The Past Eight Years, America's Military Has Become Stronger, More Agile, And Better Prepared To Confront Threats To The American People
Today, President Bush visited the United States Military Academy and discussed the ways he and his Administration have retooled the U.S. military over the past eight years. Following the attacks of 9/11, President Bush strengthened and reshaped our approach to national security. To harden our defense, President Bush:
- Created the Department of Homeland Security;
- Provided national security professionals with vital new tools like the Patriot Act and a program to monitor terrorist communications;
- Reorganized the intelligence community to better meet the needs of the war on terror;
- Deployed aggressive financial measures to freeze terrorist assets; and
- Launched diplomatic initiatives to pressure adversaries and attract new partners to our cause.
The President made dramatic changes to both our national security strategy and the military itself. President Bush concluded that we are engaged in an ideological struggle and launched an effort to discredit the hateful vision of the extremists and advance the hopeful alternative of freedom. In order to stay a step ahead of our enemies, the Administration transformed our military both to prevail on the battlefields of today and to meet the threats of tomorrow.
The President Has Transformed Our Military To Become Better Trained, Better Equipped, And Better Prepared For The Threats Of Today, Tomorrow, And Beyond
The United States is arming its troops with the intelligence, weapons, training, and support they need to face a different kind of enemy. The President has equipped our troops with real-time battlefield intelligence capabilities – unimaginable just a few years ago. In Iraq and Afghanistan, troops in the field have used advanced technologies like Global Positioning Systems to direct airstrikes that take out the enemy while sparing the innocent, and the Administration is arming Predator drones and using them to track down terrorists. When President Bush took office, the United States had fewer than 170 unmanned aerial vehicles. Today, that number has expanded to more than 6,000.
The Administration has expanded the U.S. Special Operations Forces. President Bush has more than doubled funding for special operations and created the first-ever special operations command within the Marines. Additionally, he has given the Special Operations Command the lead role in the global war on terror.
Under the President's leadership, the United States has also placed a new focus on counterinsurgency. General David Petraeus wrote a new counterinsurgency manual published by the Army, with central objectives to gain the support of the people and train local forces to take responsibility on their own. The counterinsurgency strategy also stresses the importance of following security gains with real benefits into the daily lives of citizens.
The Administration created Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), which are helping local communities in Iraq and Afghanistan to create jobs, deliver basic services, and prevent terrorists from returning.
The President has transformed the education and training U.S. troops receive. Every branch of the military now receives the counterinsurgency training that was once reserved for Special Operations Forces.
Additionally, the President has been transforming the military to confront the challenges ahead. This Administration began the most sweeping transformation of America's global force posture since the end of World War II. Troops are shifting from Cold War garrisons in Europe and Asia, in order to surge more rapidly to troubled spots around the world. President Bush established new military commands to meet challenges unique to Africa and protect the United States. This Administration has also invested more than a half trillion dollars in research and development, to build even more advanced capabilities to protect America. U.S. forces are becoming more joint and interoperable, in order to cooperate seamlessly across different services and with foreign partners. Additionally, the Federal Government is cooperating closely with the private sector to improve security in cyberspace to confront an emerging threat to the U.S. economy, defense systems, and citizens.
In 2001, President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. As a result, America has developed and deployed new defenses capable of protecting U.S. cities from ballistic missile attack. This system can now defend the United States against limited missile attacks from Northeast Asia. The United States has also concluded agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to establish missile defense sites on their territories to help protect against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East.
The President also worked with Russia to make historic reductions in offensive nuclear weapons. Following these reductions, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile will be at the lowest level since the Eisenhower Administration. These reductions are part of a new approach to strategic deterrence that relies on both nuclear and conventional strike forces, as well as strong defenses.
Thanks To Our Military, Terrorists Have Suffered Defeats Across The World
Under President Bush, the United States went on the offense against the terrorists overseas, rather than wait for our country to be attacked again. Recognizing the need for strong partners, we helped strengthen the counterterrorism capabilities of our allies and made clear that hostile regimes sponsoring terror or pursuing weapons of mass destruction would be held to account. The United States and its allies have applied the full range of our military and intelligence assets to keep pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates. They have:
- Severely weakened the terrorists;
- Disrupted plots to attack our homeland; and
- Captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda leaders and operatives in more than two dozen countries, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
The United States has helped key partners and allies strengthen their capabilities in the fight against the terrorists. Intelligence sharing has increased with friends and allies around the world, and training and support has been provided to counterterrorism partners who have made substantial contributions to the war on terror, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
President Bush has made clear that governments that sponsor terror are as guilty as the terrorists and will be held to account. Following 9/11, the President applied this doctrine to Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power, shut down al Qaeda training camps, and liberated more than 25 million Afghans. Today, the United States, its 25 NATO allies, and 17 partner nations are standing with the Afghan people as they defend their free society.
In Iraq, the United States acted with a coalition of nations to protect the American people and liberated more than 25 million Iraqis. Just last week, Iraq approved two agreements that formalize diplomatic, economic, and security ties with America, and set a framework for the drawdown of American forces as the fight in Iraq nears a successful end.
Recognizing that the only way to defeat the terrorists in the long run is to present an alternative to their hateful ideology, the United States is helping democratic societies emerge as examples for people across the Middle East. President Bush is pressing nations around the world – including our friends – to allow their citizens to have greater freedom of speech, worship, and assembly. Additionally, the Administration is advancing a broader vision of reform that includes economic prosperity, quality health care and education, vibrant civil societies, and women's rights.
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I don't think any of us would have cared to walk in George W. Bush's shoes over the last eight years. It's a helluva job and it speaks well of a man's personal courage to even take on such a challenge. To do it when your country is at risk of attack at any moment takes an unusual amount of bravery.
It is appropriate to tell someone when they have made a mistake; it is just as important to acknowledge their successes as well. There is much to be done to continue improving our armed forces and to protect the rights of our veterans; we are still grateful for the good things that have already been done.
Good luck in your retirement, Mr. President.
Charles M. Grist
Saturday, December 6, 2008
As I have prepared to retire from the Army, my wife, Debbie, has watched me deal with the various issues of soon-to-be retired war veterans. She has relatives and friends who are veterans of conflicts from World War II through the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I brought the VA benefit book home, she read it from cover to cover.
Lo and behold, she learned about pensions that are often available to veterans who served during wartime. While all veterans don’t qualify for various reasons, a lot of them can qualify for monthly pensions because of that wartime service.
Debbie has a friend and former co-worker who lost her job and whose husband is dealing with an illness that made him unable to work. He served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam, but he was unaware that he might qualify for such a benefit. They have little in the way of assets or income, so Debbie got them to go the VA to see if he could qualify.
Sure enough, he did qualify and his new monthly pension is keeping their heads above water. My little wife and her big heart have encouraged others to seek the VA benefits they were unaware of, including her step-father and brother.
While I’m not qualified to go into all the details of such benefits, go to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs website and learn whether or not you, or someone you know, may qualify for these pensions. You should also consider going to your local VA representative and have any possible benefits explained to you by a qualified counselor.
Sometimes our relatives and friends need our help when life has kicked them in the ass. Right now, almost all of us know someone who is hurting because of the current economic crisis. Often these valuable citizens are war-time veterans who have earned benefits they don’t even know about.
If you are such a war veteran or if you know any veteran of ANY war, let them know there may be benefits available to them. Not only will you be doing them a favor, you will be helping to repay them for their sacrifices on behalf of all of us.
I am so very proud of my wife for her efforts to help my fellow warriors and their families.
Charles M. Grist
Friday, December 5, 2008
Here is some interesting information on where we might be headed if the current economic crisis evolves into a complete catastrophe.
From one of my Orlando correspondents:
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Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012
The man who predicted the 1987 stock market crash and the fall of the Soviet Union is now forecasting revolution in America, food riots and tax rebellions - all within four years, while cautioning that putting food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying Christmas gifts by 2012.
Gerald Celente (pictured above), the CEO of Trends Research Institute , is renowned for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events, which will send a chill down your spine considering what he told Fox News this week.
Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.
“We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.
“America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.
Celente, who successfully predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar, told UPI in November last year that the following year would be known as “The Panic of 2008,” adding that “giants (would) tumble to their deaths,” which is exactly what we have witnessed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others. He also said that the dollar would eventually be devalued by as much as 90 per cent.
The consequence of what we have seen unfold this year would lead to a lowering in living standards, Celente predicted a year ago, which is also being borne out by plummeting retail sales figures.
The prospect of revolution was a concept echoed by a British Ministry of Defence report last year, which predicted that within 30 years, the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class, along with an urban underclass threatening social order would mean, “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest,” and that, “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class.”
In a separate recent interview, Celente went further on the subject of revolution in America.
“There will be a revolution in this country,” he said. “It’s not going to come yet, but it’s going to come down the line and we’re going to see a third party and this was the catalyst for it: the takeover of Washington, D. C., in broad daylight by Wall Street in this bloodless coup. And it will happen as conditions continue to worsen.”
“The first thing to do is organize with tax revolts. That’s going to be the big one because people can’t afford to pay more school tax, property tax, any kind of tax. You’re going to start seeing those kinds of protests start to develop.”
“It’s going to be very bleak. Very sad. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”
“We’re going to start seeing huge areas of vacant real estate and squatters living in them as well. It’s going to be a picture the likes of which Americans are not going to be used to. It’s going to come as a shock and with it, there’s going to be a lot of crime. And the crime is going to be a lot worse than it was before because in the last 1929 Depression, people’s minds weren’t wrecked on all these modern drugs – over-the-counter drugs, or crystal meth or whatever it might be. So, you have a huge underclass of very desperate people with their minds chemically blown beyond anybody’s comprehension.”
The George Washington blog has compiled a list of quotes attesting to Celente’s accuracy as a trend forecaster.
“When CNN wants to know about the Top Trends, we ask Gerald Celente.” — CNN Headline News
“A network of 25 experts whose range of specialties would rival many university faculties.” — The Economist
“Gerald Celente has a knack for getting the zeitgeist right.” — USA Today
“There’s not a better trend forecaster than Gerald Celente. The man knows what he’s talking about.” - CNBC
“Those who take their predictions seriously … consider the Trends Research Institute.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Gerald Celente is always ahead of the curve on trends and uncannily on the mark … he’s one of the most accurate forecasters around.” — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Mr. Celente tracks the world’s social, economic and business trends for corporate clients.” — The New York Times
“Mr. Celente is a very intelligent guy. We are able to learn about trends from an authority.” — 48 Hours, CBS News
“Gerald Celente has a solid track record. He has predicted everything from the 1987 stock market crash and the demise of the Soviet Union to green marketing and corporate downsizing.” — The Detroit News
“Gerald Celente forecast the 1987 stock market crash, ‘green marketing,’ and the boom in gourmet coffees.” — Chicago Tribune
“The Trends Research Institute is the Standard and Poors of Popular Culture.” — The Los Angeles Times
“If Nostradamus were alive today, he’d have a hard time keeping up with Gerald Celente.” — New York Post
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Although some of the above endorsements come from "news" organizations that I don't trust all that much, some conservative sources that I do respect (i.e. Fox News) have also spoken with Mr. Celente. No one is perfect, but his track record is impressive.
This is scary, sobering and we all hope such a devastating scenario never happens.
God help us all if it does.
Charles M. Grist
Thursday, December 4, 2008
From a Kentucky friend:
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"I believe we have arrived at the destination Thomas Jefferson warned us about. Jefferson, in some cases, could be called a prophet.
Here are some Jefferson quotes:
‘When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.’
‘The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.’
‘It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.’
‘I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.’
‘My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.’
‘No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.’
‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.’
‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’
‘To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.’
In light of the present financial crisis, it's interesting to read what Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:
'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'
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Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Charles M. Grist
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
A friend of mine who retired from both the police department and the Air Force sent me the following article. :
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American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman
By Jean-Marc Liotier
September 28, 2008
The US often hears echoes of worldwide hostility against the application of its foreign policy, but seldom are they reached by the voices of those who experience first hand how close we are to the USA. In spite of contextual political differences and conflicting interests that generate friction, we do share the same fundamental values - and when push comes to shove that is what really counts.
Through the eyes of that French OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) infantryman you can see how strong the bond is on the ground. In contrast with the Americans, the French soldiers don't seem to write much online - or maybe the proportion is the same but we just have less people deployed. Whatever the reason, this is a rare and moving testimony which is why I decided to translate it into English, so that American people can catch a glimpse of the way European soldiers see them. Not much high philosophy here, just the first hand impressions of a soldier in contact - but that only makes it more authentic.
Here is the original French article , and here is my translation:
"We have shared our daily life with two U.S. units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing 'ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events'. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.
They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.
Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.
Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.
And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.
And combat? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.
We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.
To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America's army's deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owed this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers."
* * * *
Sometimes, we have a tendency to focus on our differences with other nations around the world. In our joint defense of freedom and with a friendship borne of sacrifice in wars of the last century and, now, of this century, we should remember that we have much in common with our French friends.
Thanks to the soldiers in the French army for their own sacrifices and for their courage in the War on Terror. Vive la France!
Charles M. Grist
Monday, December 1, 2008
My military historian friend sent me the following op-ed piece from what he refers to as the “New York Times-Jazira”. He also criticizes the last paragraph which appears to be an attempt to get the Democrats to take credit for the end of the Iraq war.
George W. Bush and his administration accepted the harsh reality that the Iraqis decided there would be a timetable for withdrawal. It is, after all, their country. It is the Bush administration that negotiated the end of American participation in Iraq’s long-term struggle with itself and with the extremists inside its borders. The Democrats cannot claim this victory; that legacy belongs to Mr. Bush.
By the way, President-elect Obama may be selecting his new advisors, but he’s spending way too much time posing for coffee mugs, hats, t-shirts, dinner plates, balloons, coins and other collectibles. For crying out loud, the guy hasn’t even done anything yet.
He and his supporters are probably checking to see if there’s enough room in the Lincoln Memorial for another statue…
* * * *
November 30, 2008
Obama's Iraq Inheritance
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Here's a story you don't see very often. Iraq's highest court told the Iraqi Parliament last Monday that it had no right to strip one of its members of immunity so he could be prosecuted for an alleged crime: visiting Israel for a seminar on counterterrorism. The Iraqi justices said the Sunni lawmaker, Mithal al-Alusi, had committed no crime and told the Parliament to back off.
That's not all. The Iraqi newspaper Al-Umma al-Iraqiyya carried an open letter signed by 400 Iraqi intellectuals, both Kurdish and Arab, defending Alusi. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of press freedom. I can't imagine any other Arab country today where independent judges would tell the government it could not prosecute a parliamentarian for visiting Israel - and intellectuals would openly defend him in the press.
In the case of Iraq, though, the federal high court, in a unanimous decision, vacated the Parliament's rescinding of Alusi's immunity, with the decision delivered personally by Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud. The decision explained that although a 1950s-era law made traveling to Israel a crime punishable by death, Iraq's new Constitution establishes freedom to travel. Therefore the Parliament's move was "illegal and unconstitutional because the current Constitution does not prevent citizens from traveling to any country in the world," Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for the court, told The Associated Press. The judgment even made the Parliament speaker responsible for the expenses of the court and the defense counsel!
I don't think it's reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an independent judiciary is good news. It's a reminder of the most important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual politics and independent judiciaries. And it's a reminder that a decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.
Al Qaeda has not been fully defeated in Iraq; suicide bombings are still an almost daily reality. But it has been dealt a severe blow, which I believe is one reason the Muslim jihadists - those brave warriors who specialize in killing women and children and defenseless tourists – have turned their attention to softer targets like India. Just as they tried to stoke a Shiite-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and failed, they are now trying to stoke a Hindu-Muslim civil war in India.
If Iraq can keep improving - still uncertain - and become a place where Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can write their own social contract and live together with a modicum of stability, it could one day become a strategic asset for the United States in the post-9/11 effort to promote different politics in the Arab-Muslim world.
How so? Iraq is a geopolitical space that for the last three decades of the 20th century was dominated by a Baathist dictatorship, which, though it provided a bulwark against Iranian expansion, did so at the cost of a regime that murdered tens of thousands of its own people and attacked three of its neighbors.
In 2003, the United States, under President Bush, invaded Iraq to change the regime. Terrible postwar execution and unrelenting attempts by Al Qaeda to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war turned the Iraqi geopolitical space into a different problem - a maelstrom of violence for four years, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. A huge price was paid by Iraqis and Americans. This was the Iraq that Barack Obama ran against.
In the last year, though, the U.S. troop surge and the backlash from moderate Iraqi Sunnis against Al Qaeda and Iraqi Shiites against pro-Iranian extremists have brought a new measure of stability. There is now, for the first time, a chance - still only a chance - that a reasonably stable democratizing government, though no doubt corrupt in places, can take root in the Iraqi political space.
That is the Iraq that Obama is inheriting. It is an Iraq where we have to begin drawing down our troops - because the occupation has gone on too long and because we have now committed to do so by treaty - but it is also an Iraq that has the potential to eventually tilt the Arab-Muslim world in a different direction.
I'm sure that Obama, whatever he said during the campaign, will play this smart. He has to avoid giving Iraqi leaders the feeling that Bush did - that he'll wait forever for them to sort out their politics - while also not suggesting that he is leaving tomorrow, so they all start stockpiling weapons.
If he can pull this off, and help that decent Iraq take root, Obama and the Democrats could not only end the Iraq war but salvage something positive from it. Nothing would do more to enhance the Democratic Party's national security credentials than that.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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President Bush may not have done everything right, but the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are free and he can rightfully be proud of that.
Charles M. Grist