Thursday, July 26, 2007
Check out this great video for some good old plain talk about the War on Terror from World War II's most colorful general (as portrayed by George C. Scott and a creative video producer):
SFC Chuck Grist
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"These are the times that try men’s souls."
Thomas Paine, 1775
No matter how well our service men and women in Iraq are waging that war, there is little doubt that changes will begin to take shape over the next few months.
We cannot abandon Iraq to the terrorists and/or the fundamentalist forces, but our military can only do so much. The Iraqis themselves must resolve the differences between their various factions.
If the citizens of Iraq fail to figure out how to get along, then it will difficult for the Coalition to prevent the catastrophe that may follow.
The following article from the Baltimore Sun's David Wood shows the uncertainty facing the decision-makers, including the politicians and the generals.
* * * *
July 22, 2007
How Many U.S. Forces Required For Iraq?
The number depends on who sets timetable and role for Americans
By David Wood, Sun Reporter
WASHINGTON--For all the fierce debate over withdrawing troops from Iraq, no one has been able to shed light on the main question: How many troops are we talking about?
Virtually everyone, from the White House to the Democratic presidential candidates, agrees that some of the 156,247 men and women in Iraq, as of July 15, eventually must be withdrawn.
"Bringing our troops home," President Bush said last week, "is a goal shared by all Americans."
Pulling out all combat units, as some have demanded, would reduce the force by less than half, leaving more than 80,000 support troops in Iraq without protection and allowing the insurgency to run rampant.
To avoid that, nearly everyone also agrees that some combat forces should remain in Iraq to fight foreign insurgents, to train the Iraqi army and police, and to protect remaining American troops, diplomats and contractors.
How many soldiers and Marines will that take?
"I think in the tens of thousands," said Lee Hamilton, who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that recommended in December that the U.S. begin scaling back its military operations in Iraq.
"Only military professionals can determine those numbers," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said on the Senate floor.
"We have not asked [the Pentagon] for an estimate," said Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island. And, in any event, "I think it would be difficult to get," Reed admitted.
The commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, said he hadn't been asked.
"What do they want me to achieve? Once I'm given that, I'll be able to give you an assessment of what's needed," he told a recent Pentagon briefing, adding that it could take until November to make such an assessment.
Yet the question could become more pressing long before then.
While Senate Democrats have set aside, for now, their drive to force Bush to begin a troop withdrawal, that effort will likely intensify in September, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is due to report with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on progress under the 28,000-man "surge" that the president ordered in January.
At the same time, the Pentagon is running out of fresh troops to maintain the current force of almost 160,000.
In March, many of those troops are scheduled to rotate home after 15 months in combat. The Army says it will have "a very difficult time" finding enough troops to replace them, a staff officer said.
By April, the military's ability to sustain current troop levels in Iraq "vanishes," Reed, a former Army paratrooper, said July 13 on CSPAN.
For these political and military reasons, "it is likely that there will be changes in military missions and force levels as the year proceeds," said Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana.
Already, the 74,600 combat soldiers and Marines in Iraq are far too few to carry out the counter-insurgency strategy developed last fall by Petraeus. That strategy, enshrined in U.S. Army Field Manual FM100-34, calls for 20 troops for every 1,000 persons in the local population, a formula which would put 120,000 soldiers just in Baghdad.
For those advocating even further reductions, matching troop numbers to a specific military mission has been difficult.
For example, a plan championed by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, would require that a much smaller U.S. combat force be authorized to fight only those insurgents associated with al-Qaida, but not other insurgents, a distinction that could be difficult to make in a firefight.
A plan advanced by Illinois Sen. Barrack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, would remove "all United States combat brigades" from Iraq - except those needed to fight terrorists, train Iraqis, protect Americans "and other purposes" the president may decide. No numbers were specified.
Republican Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia and Lugar urge that U.S. forces be refocused on these same missions, which would require "some level" of troops, their proposal said.
Outside the military, a lively chorus of civilian analysts and academics has been at work figuring out how small the U.S. combat force should become.
Shrinking the total number is difficult because of the enormous support community needed to maintain combat troops in the field: headquarters staffs, intelligence, medical, communications and logistics specialists, civil and combat engineers, civil affairs and explosive ordnance detachments, technicians, mechanics and others.
At present, roughly 80,000 American troops provide these services, including about 6,000 military personnel working as advisers and trainers with Iraqi police or Army units, and about 3,000 Special Forces soldiers, sailors and airmen. In addition, at least 20,000 American civilians work in Iraq as contractors.
All of them need bases in which to operate, and the bases must be supplied. At present, 2,000 trucks are on Iraq's roads every day in normal supply operations.
That support should be sharply reduced to a leaner force, some analysts said. "I'm saying take the force down to 100,000 immediately, and then to 50,000 to 60,000," said Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine officer and well-known strategic analyst in Washington. "Of course, that means you have to do without your dentists and chaplains, and go without ice cream every night."
The Center for a New American Strategy, a centrist think-tank in Washington, proposed a gradual reduction to 60,000 troops by 2009, a force that would include a substantial expansion of American advisers to 20,000 soldiers, more than triple the current number.
"That's back-of-the-envelope planning," said James Miller, a senior vice president of the center and former Pentagon war planner. "Our real recommendation is that the military should do this."
But a smaller combat force may itself be problematical.
For a force that is half of today's size, "it's very hard to find something for them to do that is simultaneously safe and useful," said Steven Biddle, senior analyst on defense issues for the Council on Foreign Relations.
"So you end up with a kind of worst-of-both-worlds situation," Biddle said in an e-mail interview. "You have too few troops to do anything useful, but too many to reduce casualties to an acceptable level."
* * * *
The next twelve months will be dangerous indeed.
SFC Chuck Grist
Friday, July 20, 2007
Without the citizens who serve on active duty as soldiers, Marines, sailors or airmen, the United States could not wage war anywhere in the world. Those old distinctions between reservists/guardsmen and active duty service members have been permanently blurred in the war on terror.
Check out this story at Military.com about the extraordinary actions of Marine Sergeant Jeff Hunter, an American warrior who was recently awarded the military's third highest medal for valor.
SFC Chuck Grist
Monday, July 16, 2007
The latest weapon in the hunt for terrorists will soon be prowling the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. This unmanned “hunter-killer” weapon is awesome. Hopefully, many terrorists will be sent to "paradise" with this new aircraft.
Go here for a story from Associated Press reporter Charles J. Hanley.
Once the latest generation of video gamers sees this, there will be plenty of people wanting to enlist as "pilots" for the absentee flyin' and shootin'.
SFC Chuck Grist
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Although I am on active duty, I attended part of the monthly drill for our weekend reservists. I learned that Master Sergeant Harvey Warshawsky was retiring and it was his last drill.
“Ski” is also a Vietnam veteran and he first went into the Army in 1966. He retired as a corrections officer from the State of New York and now he will be putting away the Army uniform as well.
He was the only other remaining “old soldier” in our unit and he had a great time reminding me that I was now the last Vietnam veteran in our battalion. The term "Last of the Mohicans” was used in reference to me and a few chuckles were shared by the youngsters in the unit.
(The above picture is me in a small Vietnamese village as a young lieutenant - trying to have my morning coffee and cocoa with an audience.)
I read an article recently that only about 5,600 soldiers over the age of 50 had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Certainly, only a small percentage of them are Vietnam veterans. Many of these old soldiers have given their lives.
I wish I knew how many Vietnam veterans were still serving in the military. If anyone has any of these statistics, I would love to know the details. I am fairly certain none of them are on active duty (except maybe the rare general or sergeant major), but I know there are some of us hanging on in the National Guard or Reserves.
My own military service will end on February 28, 2009 when I turn 60 years old. All good things must come to an end, right? For now, I will be satisfied to be the last “Nam” guy in my unit.
And then there was one….
SFC Chuck Grist
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
An Associated Press report quotes a Draft National Intelligence estimate that Al Qaeda is stronger than ever and is targeting the U.S. by trying even harder to sneak its operatives into this country. The estimate also says that the terrorist group has most of what it needs to strike us here.
It's also suggested that one of the main reasons for this enemy capability is Al Qaeda’s use of their safe haven along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There they can train, recruit and plan attacks in peace. The terrorists are safe because the Pakistanis won’t fight them and we won’t go after them either.
It is absurd to believe we can defeat Al Qaeda anywhere in the world as long as they have their protected bases in Pakistan. Perceived political correctness and the fear that such attacks may imperil the Pakistani leader are not enough to allow this breeding ground to exist.
When Al Qaeda and the Taliban were on the run from us in Afghanistan, they had no place to land or take root. Now they have northwestern Pakistan. This must end and those sanctuaries must be destroyed along with any terrorists that are there. Civilian casualties are tragic, but if the terrorists have their families with them, then that's their shame, not ours.
If we continue to wage a "limited" war against the Islamic militants, there's a grave risk that we could ultimately lose this epic battle against terrorism. The Muslims have the patience to wait for many years to defeat their enemies – and they believe they are fighting for God. They have the safe haven, the strength of will and the determination to kill all of us if they can – or if we let them.
Take away the safe haven first; then kill them, capture them or put them on the run. Only then will their strength of will and determination be wounded or destroyed. We must show the terrorists that we have just as much resolve as they do. If we don’t fight them as though our civilization depends on it, then we and our children are in for a tragic struggle down the road.
Al Qaeda has said that the central battleground in this war is Iraq. The surge is just now getting up to full strength, but it depends on the Iraqis to also step up to the plate. Just in case they don’t, we better develop an alternate plan now for both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The strategy of fighting "half-wars" will never work.
SFC Chuck Grist
Saturday, July 7, 2007
“We regard Iraq’s success to be our success.
And, God forbid, Iraq’s failure will also be ours.”
Zalmay Khalilzad, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on February 20, 2005
I still remember the faces and the voices of the Iraqi men, women and children I met in 2004. When my team and I left to come home, some of those Iraqis who became our friends cried real tears. I was going home to my family and to safety. They were remaining in a life filled with uncertainty and fear. (Above photo of me and some Iraqi school kids courtesy of Captain Matt Pedersen.)
Needless to say, some of that survivor’s guilt remains and it probably always will. Now that I’m close to entering my last year in the Army, it’s unlikely I’ll go back to Iraq. Because just knowing an American can be deadly, I can’t even try to contact these friends who may or may not be alive.
In the modern world of instant gratification and self-absorption, we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. There is an inherent goodness in the vast majority of the Iraqi people and it’s sad that our political leaders and even our military leaders seem to be moving toward an end-game in this war. The need of many of our people to “get past” the war or “move on” to more “pleasant” subjects means that we may very well leave Iraq before the job is done.
During the American Revolution, only a few million people lived in the colonies. I once read a history book that said the largest the Continental Army ever became was only about 30,000 soldiers. The vast majority of the patriot warriors’ fellow citizens either supported them quietly or remained publicly neutral because of fear. Some continued to support the enemy.
The people in Iraq have a history much longer than ours, so we can imagine how hard it must be for them. It’s not surprising that they are constantly terrified of the brutal insurgent enemy even as they try to squeeze a living out of that war-torn country.
Yes, the various political factions should try harder to work together – the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds. Yet the citizens themselves don’t always find that there’s such a great difference. There are Sunnis married to Shiites and a great many Iraqis would be very happy to live in a secular country where everyone could just get along, raise their families and enjoy life.
The Iraqis will hopefully get that chance – if we don’t leave that nation to fall into a protracted civil war from which another dictator will surely arise. The leading candidates for such a dictatorship are probably among the Shiite religious leaders. That’s right – Iran, Jr.
Our service men and women have done a remarkable job in Iraq. They have sown the American spirit among the Iraqi people and they have spread good will everywhere they went. Sadly, many have given their lives in the process.
It could only be “intellectual arrogance” that led some of our leaders to believe we could conquer a nation of 25 million people, remove their government, their soldiers and their cops, and then solve all the problems with only 140,000 troops. Our own soldiers always knew there was a better way. Although the politicians have admitted their errors, it may or may not be too late.
As I help send more soldiers to the war zones, I am filled with confidence in their capabilities, their determination and their sense of duty. They believe in their missions and they are patriots as great as those who won our freedom over two hundred years ago.
Unfortunately, their ultimate success will depend in large part on a bunch of political animals in the halls of Congress. This is where the Vietnam analogy might play out and our warriors could be withdrawn before the job is done. I hope this is not the case.
General Douglas MacArthur may have said it best: “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”
SFC Chuck Grist
Friday, July 6, 2007
I’ve spoken at length in this blog about the support of the various Iraqi insurgent factions by Iran, Syria and others who do not have freedom’s best interest at heart.
The above photo of Iran's Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei depicts the real power behind figurehead and mouthpiece Ahmadinejad. Khamenei's own website refers to him as the "Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
The following article from the Associated Press discusses the well-planned January attack in Karbala – a “commando raid” – which resulted in the deaths of American soldiers:
Iran Linked to U.S. Troops' Deaths
Associated Press - July 02, 2007
BAGHDAD - Iran is using the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a "proxy" to arm Shiite militants in Iraq and Tehran's Quds force had prior knowledge of a January attack in Karbala in which five Americans died, a U.S. general said Monday.
U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20 in southern Iraq. Bergner said Dakdouk served for 24 years in Hezbollah and was "working in Iraq as a surrogate for the Iranian Quds force."
The general also said that Dakdouk was a liaison between the Iranians and a breakaway Shiite group led by Qais al-Kazaali, a former spokesman for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Bergner said al-Kazaali's group carried out the January attack against a provincial government building in Karbala and that the Iranians assisted in preparations.
Al-Khazaali and his brother Ali al-Khazaali, both captured in March, have told U.S. interrogators that they "could not have conducted it (the Karbala attack) without support from the Quds force," Bergner said.
Documents captured with al-Khazaali showed that the Quds Force had developed detailed information on the U.S. position at the government building, including "shift changes and defense" and shared this information with the attackers, the general said.
U.S. officials at the time of the Karbala attack said it was unusually sophisticated, with the attackers dressed in U.S. uniforms to get close to the building, and suggested Iran may have had a role in it.
The U.S. military in the past has accused the Quds Force - the external arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards - of arming and financing Iraqi extremists to carry out attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces. Tehran has denied the U.S. accusations.
Bergner said Iraqi extremists were taken to Iran in groups of 20 to 60 for training in three camps "not too far from Tehran." When they returned to Iraq, they formed units called "special groups" to carry out attacks, bombings and kidnappings, he said.
Dakdouk helped train and organize the groups, making four visits to Iraq in the past year after a May 2006 trip to Iran, the general said. Hezbollah, he said, helps the Iranians as a "proxy ... to do things they didn't want to have to do themselves in terms of interacting with special groups."
"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," he said. Asked if Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be unaware of the activity, Bergner said "that would be hard to imagine."
* * * *
This war is already beyond the borders of Iraq and has been since the beginning. Those of us who served in Iraq in 2004 suspected the Iranian connection even then – if for no other reason than people like Muqtada al Sadr were making regular visits to Tehran.
SFC Chuck Grist
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
The American rebels valiantly defended their position against two charges by the far more professional British soldiers. Lightly armed and poorly trained, these Massachusetts citizens were essentially out of ammunition and the third and final charge by the enemy would be a bloody hand-to-hand encounter.
Although the British had bayonets, the American defenders did not. When that final assault came and the two forces commenced their close-quarters battle, a British officer would recognize Dr. Joseph Warren, a member of the Sons of Liberty and one of the well-known leaders of the rebel forces.
Warren had just received a commission as a major general in the patriot army, but that commission would not take effect for three days. The men leading the defense of Bunker and Breed’s Hills begged Dr. Warren to take command, but he chose to fight as an individual soldier. When the British officer shot Warren in the head, killing him instantly, one of America’s first citizen soldiers had given his life for the cause of liberty. (The above painting depicts Warren's death in battle.)
I was raised with the story of Dr. Warren as though I was hearing about a distant cousin. My grandmother, Leona Sumner Terrell Lindell, was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution based on another relative’s service, but the family had “Warrens” too and we came to believe that there was at least a fair chance we were also related to this great man as well.
Today we are all their cousins and we remember the sacrifices of these courageous patriots and those who have followed them throughout our nation’s history. America is still a shining beacon of liberty to those who are oppressed or those who seek to make a better life. Every citizen must help ensure that this bright light of freedom is never extinguished, either by apathy or by conquest.
Happy Fourth of July to all…..
SFC Chuck Grist
Sunday, July 1, 2007
I hope Presidential candidate John Edwards has been watching the news when he’s not getting his hair done. Perhaps he will re-consider his comment that the war on terror is just a “bumper sticker”. (Photo above from Scottish television.)
Since our own law enforcement community has done such a good job of preventing terrorist attacks in America since 9/11, many of our fellow citizens have come to believe that the threat is essentially over as far as we are concerned. With these recent plots by likely Islamic militants who had murder on their minds, the concern of average folks around the world will hopefully be re-awakened.
Al Qaeda may or may not be the force behind the recent incidents in London and Scotland. All of the incidents seem to have been amateurish in nature – so far. Still, amateurs or not, wanna-be terrorists will be cropping up more and more in various corners of the world – including the United States, and they can kill people just like the professionals they are trying to emulate.
The British have had a continuing problem with fundamentalist Islamic immigrants. Indeed, some of the interviews on television with the leaders of these Muslim movements have indicated that they would rather see the imposition of harsh Islamic law than continue their lives under a democratic form of government. Yeah – they’re nuts, but they are crafty - not stupid.
These plots overseas only reinforce the need to do a better job of watching our borders. We also don’t need to tie the hands of law enforcement with an over-abundance of “political correctness”. The dangers to our lives and to our civilization are not only from outside our borders.
The enemy is here among us and only a fool would believe otherwise.
SFC Chuck Grist