Young American soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq because their Commander-in-Chief, the President so ordered. Had he cared for their lives, let alone the Iraqi civilian lives, he would not have sent them to war on false, contrived and now discredited pretexts of Saddam’s collusion in the 9/11 attacks and his possession of WMDs.
Soldiers are patriots, they swear to protect and defend the Constitution. They join the military for many reasons. To rise above the circumstances of their birth, to follow the family tradition, or see the world, but above all to serve their country proudly. Soldiers follow orders. They go to war in the belief that they are doing it for the right reason. They are not schooled in deceit, propaganda and hubris emanating from Washington. The generals and the civilian policy makers are supposed to look after the soldier’s welfare.
In a democracy, the generals are subordinate to the elected president. They are supposed to advise and follow orders, not as spineless toy generals, but as proud upholders of a tradition with courage and honesty. It is indeed excruciating for a top general to resign rather than follow orders of the President, even if based on false premise or injurious to the soldiers and the country. While ordering the soldiers for the ultimate sacrifice, they at least should consider a career sacrifice for themselves.
Many retired generals strongly criticized the Bush policy, but the serving generals could not. They could have, only with a resignation in hand. It is no great mystery, why the retired generals can see the falsehood but the serving generals cannot. General Eric Shinseki the chief of the army staff in early 2003 strenuously asked for a much larger force. He angered the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld by testifying honestly before the congress. He was humiliated and side lined. The rest of the generals got the message.
If the war is not for conquest as in the colonial times, but for self-defense, with time to prepare – the following three principles are the most important ingredients for success.
- The war should be the last resort, based on truthful presentation of facts to convince friends and even the enemies that the grievances are genuine and worthy of their material and moral support.
- The military should be allowed to plan without micro-management from the civilian leadership. To achieve the objective, the force should be overwhelming and equipped with the best the nation can provide. Granted, the soldier is paid and has made the commitment freely, but the lives of the soldiers are precious and should not be wasted wantonly.
- Respect for the national and international laws augments the righteousness of the cause. It protects our soldiers against torture and it convinces the soldiers and civilians of the enemy country that they would be treated fairly and humanely. It induces them to lay down their arms to accept a just peace.
All of the above principles were willfully violated by the Bush administration.
- The war in Iraq was surreptitiously planned based on contrived false evidences. It was launched over the objection of the world community not as a last resort but in a headlong rush, with the hope of conclusion before the elections of 2004. Many friends strenuously objected; others sulked afraid of US power. The enemies saw it as another developing quagmire for a superpower to be tamed. In the much-flaunted coalition, except for the UK, we have no substantial help from any other country.
- Military experts were over-ruled about the number of troops needed, in favor of the publicized "shock and awe" tactics of Rumsfeld. The brutal bombings shocked the world and awed the Americans in the comfort of their homes, who were told that the Iraqi oil would substantially pay for the war and it would be over soon. With insufficient forces on the ground, Iraq became a quagmire. Inadequate armor protection for the soldiers and vehicles took its toll. It took a year of death and criticism to even get the attention of the Pentagon.
- The Bush administration connived and circumvented the US and international laws through sophistry. Now exposed, secret memos approved torture at Guantanamo Bay and the off shore Gulags in Iraq, Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and many others. The worst revealed example of depraved torture was the Abu Ghraib prison, eliciting national and international condemnation.
Afraid of independent inquiry, Rumsfeld chose a white wash of internal inquiries. Some lowly soldiers received "slaps on the wrists." As a result internationally and even more so in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one trusts the word of the Bush administration.
For the acts of less than one percent of sadistic American soldiers backed by the policies of the administration, all American soldiers were tainted in the Iraqi eyes. It became the greatest propaganda and recruiting tool for the Iraqi resistance, as well as the terrorists and has revived the Afghan resistance in the last few months.
In effect, Bush by his convoluted policies is creating new "terrorists" for the American soldiers to kill and die fighting. Brave American soldiers can defeat any enemy for a just cause, God save them from their friends in the White House.