President Bush owes the Military an Apology

I think President Bush owes America’s fighting men and woman an apology.

First, some background.

It is a great honor to wear the uniform of the United States. I salute our fighting men and women. I took the oath of enlistment at age 18 to join the Air Force reserves and I am very proud of what I did. One of the reasons I am willing to undergo the rigors of a U.S. Senate campaign is because I want to go to Washington to speak on behalf of our active duty and retired soldiers, sailors, marines and air force personnel.

Our military people are incredibly brave. They will do anything to safeguard our shores and protect freedom. But our great fighting men and women should not be misused or squandered. Today Americans are dying in Iraq because of gross mismanagement and political manipulation at the Pentagon. That’s why I think the president owes our fighting forces an apology.

President Bush doesn’t like to apologize, but he should, for the people he put in control at the Pentagon.

Whether you support our policies towards Israel and Palestine, or do not, people who have a vested interest or bias in that policy should not be allowed to make American military decisions. It is no secret that Bush has allowed the Pentagon to become infested with civilians who place a high priority on support for Israel. Their vision of America’s interests abroad is often colored by what they think is in Israel’s interest. That’s a mistake.

Our fighting troops must never be used, or considered, as an extension of the Israel Defense Forces. That is dangerous for the United States, and it is equally dangerous for Israel.

And yet, the record is unavoidable that long before President Bush was even a candidate, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was pressing for an American-led holy war against Iraq to defeat Israel’s perceived enemy. It cannot be stated strongly enough that Israel’s enemies are not necessarily our enemies. Americans should not be hostages to Israeli military adventures and Ariel Sharon’s warped vision. But that is in large part why we find Americans bogged down in the middle of the Middle East, fighting Israel’s enemies, while Israelis use Iraq conflict to grab land from Palestinians and further embroil and endanger the United States. Let Israelis, not Americans, die for Israeli policies and interests.

Because waging war for Israel was and is unpopular, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld justified the invasion of Iraq as a small, simple, cheap little war, a police action to "fight terrorism." We would use a bare bones force and achieve victory through technology. Indeed.

But America’s military leaders, who are the antithesis of the militarists they are portrayed to be, said "whoa." When Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki warned of the need for a large occupation force, Wolfowitz said Shinseki was "wildly off the mark" and forced the general to retire. Well, the general was right and the pro-Israel politicos were horribly wrong.

It is basic military doctrine that when you don’t have enough troops to fight, the troops that do fight face an increased danger. That is the situation in Iraq today. Here are three examples.

Kufa is an ancient city. It a part of Shiite history. The great mosque at Kufa has stood since the dawn of Islam. Driving the streets of Kufa, which is joined to the Holy City of Najaf by an endless suburban-style series of shops, neighborhoods, and similar commercial activity, you see a sprawling metropolitan area.

Kufa is now in the hands of a rebellious militia. Rooting them out will be a very, very difficult chore. Even if the al-Sadr militia is removed quietly, it will not be disarmed easily. To pretend, as Bush spin meisters are now pretending, that there is no rebellion in Kufa, is a delusion.

We are increasingly embroiled in what could be a nasty internal battle for the control of Shiite power in post-occupation Iraq, between pro and anti Moqtada al-Sadr groups. L. Paul Bremer, III has blundered into this internal conflict. When you only have a handful of troops in Kufa, many of them from other countries such as Honduras and Italy, what can you do? Are Italians going to die for the greater glory of Ariel Sharon and Paul Wolfowitz? Doubtful. The coalition that now hangs by a thread, could see that thread snipped.

Second, in Fallujah, which has become synonymous with resistance to the non-occupation occupation, we have a small contingent of marines seeking quiet the city. Fallujah is also a sprawling city, of over 300,000 people. It was essentially abandoned by American troops months ago. Can a thousand marines now control and pacify this populace? In your dreams. We may do some symbolic maneuvering, but we do not have the resources to exert continuous control over Fallujah.

That is why today’s New York Times says American "reinforcements" for Iraq are being considered.

Finally, consider Sadr City, which is not a slum but rather a poor neighborhood ravaged by Saddam Hussein. We were welcomed as liberators a year ago. Today there is resistance. The people are increasingly angry. Again, Americans have been ignoring the place for many months. Now we are "occupying" Sadr City. Can an armored division "occupy" two million people? Please.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column in which I stated we had 100,000 military personnel in Iraq, surrounded by 300 million angry Arabs. My pithy comment doesn’t sound so far-fetched a few days later.

And, while I am debunking myths, what about the Iraqi police and paramilitary forces? Are they good people? The vast majority are, yes. Are they sincere in their desire to bring "law and order" to Iraq. I believe so. But they lack the resources to do so. Some have commented on how police stations and other facilities were recently "surrendered" to militiamen. The Iraqi police will have to live in Iraq long after Americans are gone. Would you want to shoot your own neighbors? I doubt it.

For many moths, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz & Co. have been living la vida loca, where they put poorly armed Iraqi police on patrol, and garrisoned Americans behind their concrete-barriered encampments. It didn’t work. Police and soldiers need to be out there, on patrol, on foot, visible, to create respect. We squandered an opportunity to do so when there was peace; now we may pay a high price as hostilities escalate.

The emerging catastrophe in Iraq is solid evidence that the agendas of other nations, and domestic sympathizers of those nations, cannot be allowed to drive, or even slightly influence, American policy. It is a prescription for disaster.

Ironically, in the long run, Israel’s American sympathizers have done Israel the greatest harm. Emboldening Ariel Sharon to commit atrocities against Palestinians, under cover of the Iraq confusion, was insane. Attacking Iraq to benefit Israel was bound to backfire. Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have united the entire Middle East against the United States.

Where do we go from here?

Step One: Bush must apologize to America’s fighting men and women. Our troops have been left exposed for no reason other than budgetary fictions and policy fantasies. They have been guinea pigs in a spectacle engineered by theoreticians like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Bush should ask Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and their cabal to go. They have done enough damage.

Step two: It is time for Bush to apologize to the Iraqi people.

Step three: Good question. Stay tuned.