10/19/2004

Suicide Mission a sign things are really bleak for ALL troops

Suicide Mission
The meaning of the soldiers’ rebellion in Iraq
by Justin Raimondo

Spc. Amber McClenny’s voice on the answering machine was emphatic and no
doubt more than a little panicked, early Thursday morning, as she
relayed the latest news from Iraq
to her mother:

"Hey, Mom. This is Amber. Real, real big emergency. I need you to
contact someone. I mean, raise pure hell. We had broken down trucks. No
armored vehicles. Get somebody on this. I need you now, Mom. I need you
so bad. Just please, please help me. It's urgent. They are holding us
against our will. We are now prisoners."

Nineteen members of a supply platoon, part of the 343rd Quartermaster
Company

based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, refused to go on a convoy mission

because their unarmored vehicles were unsafe. One soldier described the
mission – a 200-mile journey in a convoy of unarmored vehicles going 40
miles per hour, in which they had a 75 percent chance of being hit—as a
"death sentence." Furthermore, "The fuel was contaminated for the
helicopters," said the grandfather of one of the detained soldiers
. "It would
have caused them to crash. That's why they refused to deliver the fuel.
They saved lives." They took a vote – hey, there’s democracy in Iraq for
you! – and unanimously decided to decline the mission.

This could not have come at a worse time for the U.S. government, as the
Potemkin village of
"liberated" Iraq comes down all around them. They’re already downplaying
it as "an isolated incident." As a Coalition spokesman in Baghdad put it:

"A small number of the soldiers involved chose to express their concerns
in an inappropriate manner, causing a temporary breakdown in discipline."

There’s nothing temporary, however, about the conditions that brought
this on.

Jacqueline Butler of Jackson, Miss., told reporters that her husband,
Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, would not have refused to carry out an order
unless his own life and the lives of his fellow soldiers were
gratuitously put at risk:

"I know that for him to take that drastic measure, they put him in a
no-win situation. I know he ain’t going to jeopardize (his years of
service) unless it was dangerous to his life, a suicide mission."

But that’s what the war against the Iraqi insurgency amounts to: a
suicide mission. I predicted in this space
that our troops in Iraq
would be sitting ducks once the real war, the war of occupation,
commenced, but there is no satisfaction in being right. We are engaged
in a grinding, ultimately futile war of attrition, a Sisyphean
struggle in which
the best we can do is maintain our tenuous position. But lately we are
even unable to do that. This mutiny is the latest signal that we are
headed for a major meltdown: the mighty U.S. military is staring defeat
straight in the face.

The frequency and severity of attacks on U.S. troops has increased,
quadrupling

from 700 in March to 2,700 in August, and the insurgents are getting
bolder. The recent attacks in the heart of the Green Zone
, the
epicenter of the U.S. command structure and the main headquarters of the
Allawi government, have underscored the vulnerability of the American
position and the growing power and reach of the insurrectionists, who
can apparently attack the occupiers with impunity.

While the military authorities are claiming that "no soldier has been
arrested, charged, confined or detained as a result of this incident,"
eyewitnesses say that the Rock Hill 19 were held in a tent at gunpoint.
That’s how we’re going to have to fight this war: with guns pointed not
only at the insurgents, but at our own soldiers.

With a back door draft

in force as a result of extended tours of duty, and the original
rationale for the invasion thoroughly debunked in the public
consciousness, the troops are beginning to realize that they’ve been
had, along with the rest of the country. They came as liberators, and
are being treated like occupiers – while the insurgents use them for
target practice and they have to buy their own body armor
. I’m surprised
they haven’t mutinied, the whole lot of them, long before this.

But with tens of billions being shoveled into Iraq hand over fist, how
is it that our soldiers don’t have body armor, don’t have armored
vehicles, and don’t merit an armed escort when convoying supplies
through enemy-held territory?

The reason is the "transformation
"
of the American military to its new post-9/11 "light and flexible
" mode, designed for
maximum speed and aggressive offensive action. In short, Rumsfeld & Co.
are creating an army designed to suit an ultra-interventionist foreign
policy. The neoconservatives who ginned up this war convinced themselves
that they could do it with less than a hundred thousand troops: all it
would take was a core force of some 50,000 or so
, they
claimed early on, because the Iraqi people themselves would rise up and
hail us as their benefactors. It was supposed to be a "cakewalk
."
When General Eric Shinseki ,
the former Army chief of staff, told them it would take easily
150,000-plus
to
police occupied Iraq, they attacked him

in public, and handed him his walking papers, forcing him into
retirement .

As Seymour Hersh points out in his new book, Chain of Command: The Road
from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
:

"According to a dozen or so military men I spoke to, Rumsfeld simply
failed to anticipate the consequences of protracted warfare. He put Army
and Marine units in the field with few reserves and an insufficient
number of tanks and other armored vehicles. (The military men said that
the vehicles they did have had been pushed too far and were
malfunctioning.)"

In the rush to war, Rumsfeld and his neoconservative advisors were
committed to their "light and lean" model of "flexible" military force
for purely political reasons: it was necessary to get the attack force
in position before the flimsy case for war burst apart at the seams. The
lies they told were so tenuous, the rationale for war so tentative, that
it was necessary to move quickly – there was no time to build up the
kind of invasion force that was up to a protracted struggle against an
indigenous rebellion.

Our elites are still intoxicated by their post-cold war triumphalism,
still chattering about building an American imperium on the British
model: the U.S., they aver, is a "global hegemon
," and the world is now
"unipolar ," with
Washington, D.C., the New Rome, the epicenter of the mightiest empire
the world has ever seen.

Hogwash.

Blinded by their own conceit, the neoconservative ideologues who turned
Iraq into our version of the West Bank are so far removed from reality
that they’re still touting the
"unknown successes" of this war, which the "liberal" news media is
supposedly too "biased" to publicize.

More hogwash.

This is not only a futile war, it is a criminal war, as Abu Ghraib and
the revelations about its origins detailed by Seymour Hersh
have revealed.
The idea was not to "liberate" Iraq, or to democratize it, but to
destroy it, to literally break it apart and reduce it to rubble.

In that, the administration has "succeeded."

Our soldiers are mutinying in Iraq – when will we join them? When will
the American people say "Basta!" "Enough!"? There’s no way to know. But
one thing I do know: if so much as a single one of those refusenik
soldiers is prosecuted – and they are being "investigated" for possible
charges of insubordination, or worse – the American people will rise up
as one to defend them.

If Rumsfeld is smart, he’ll let this one drop, and the memory of it fade
away – unless, of course, this is only the beginning of something much
bigger. In which case he’s in a lot more trouble than he and his
civilian "chickenhawk "
advisors ever thought possible.



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