Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shaken, but not stirred on Herb’s Beach and Beyond

Herb’s Beach… Just a granade toss from Sharm El Sheik

This place has this old soldier, Herb, who came on the first rotation to the Sinai in 1982 and never left. He was in original OSS/Special Forces. Killed captors and escaped in Korea and killed captors and escaped in Vietnam. Wow. Now he wanders around muttering positive affirmations all day. They named this unique beach and gym after him.

The Good Old Sharm - An American Military at It's Breaking Point
In the good old days, before 9/11, a trip to the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) was a rotation or training assignment to “Camel Camp” for multinational units, various special operations teams and elite American such as battalions of the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Air Assault in American’s Cold War quick reaction force. Thousands of American servicemen received their first introduction to desert operations outside of CONUS on their Sinai deployments at the North Camp and South Camp (where Herb's Beach is situated) near Sharm El Sheik, Egypt the site of yet another terrorist bombing.

But times have changed. MFO units are now chiefly Army National Guard (ARNR) in the Sinai and the Balkans. Training and resource shortages due to Bush’s “GWOT” (Global War on Terror) mean that many units now deploy not fully prepared or equipped on these now secondary missions over 60,000 man force requirements beyond the 140,000 in Iraq.

These are the lucky ones that get the Sinai, but for nearly all ARNR soldiers that luck is running out as a deployment(s) to Iraq are all but certain. According to A-JCS Gen. Cody in an UNCLASSIFIED briefing in June of 2005, over "800,000 Americans now wear combat patches" indicating their deployment in combat areas in Afghanistan and Iraq. The reallocation and deployment of men and material from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was the largest, most rapid logistics task of the American military since WWII and it went “largely unnoticed”.

Marine units are now on their 5th nine month rotations and Army units starting their 3rd twelve month redeployment to Iraq. Many service men and women will be breaking their 30-month marks on combat assignment. While our brave soldiers continue to demonstrate the necessary will and resolve, our military, particulary the Army and Marines both active and reserve, is strained past its breaking point.

In fact, in quiet corners of the defense community, some officers and experts feel that if the US force levels in Iraq are not lowered to about 80,000 by the end this winter, our armed forces, the Army and National Guard in particular, will be in very serious trouble.

The Latest Sham - A New Defense Report to Congress
This week the Department of Defense (DoD) submitted a performance metrics report to Congress called the Report to Congress - Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. The report required by the US Congress was a week late, as it was due on July 11, 2005, and submitted on July 18, 2005. ''There is nothing to hide," said a senior Army officer who asked not to be named. ''We wanted a chance to absorb it."

The Report’s intro reads:

"This report to Congress is submitted pursuant to the section entitled 'Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq' of House Conference Report 109-72 accompanying H.R. 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, Public Law 109-13.

The report is divided into two sections corresponding to those identified in the Conference Report. The initial section of the report focuses on Stability and Security in Iraq and enumerates goals and progress regarding Iraq’s political stability, security environment, and economic progress.

The second section of the report, on Security Force Training and Performance, provides indicators of the training and development of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), including the forces of the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the police and other paramilitary forces of the Ministry of Interior (MOI).

A classified annex to this report will address U.S. military requirements and various possible force rotations, and classified data concerning security force training and performance."

The Report continues:

“Through a collaborative, interagency approach, performance metrics have been developed to measure progress towards these objectives. Data relating to Iraq’s political, security, and economic spheres of activity are collected from both Iraqi and U.S. sources, including Multinational Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) and the U.S. Mission in Iraq. The Joint Staff coordinates collection and compilation of data for the security objective within its Assessment and Integration Center. U.S. Government staff from relevant agencies of the executive branch regularly review and assess trends in the data relative to the objectives and provide assessments for review by the Deputies and the Principals of the relevant executive departments and agencies and the National Security Council.”

Absorb it? Just a cursory review makes one ask who actually wrote it.

The quality of this hastily prepared paste-job is seriously lacking in the standards that would be expected for the $80 billion and other resources (lives and additional treasure) the American people spent. If you can't measure it, it can't be controlled or carried out. There is now more money unaccounted for in the Iraq operations, some $6-7 billion, more than was spent on the first Gulf War “officially”, which cost taxpayers some $5 billion.

In spite of Rumsfeld’s opposition, his staff and DoD are now being forced to measure, control and manage operations in Iraq. Such measured accountability and responsibility is long over due. However, don’t become too excited, as this document is just another reflection of the lack of strategic planning required to get Iraq, or even Afghanistan for that matter, on track. It reads like something from the book “How to Lie with Charts” and fails to pass any basic analytical review.

The Sad Fact is...
The lack of a strategic vision and the intellectual bankruptcy of the Bush Administration are breathtaking. For example, Rumfeld continually morphs his assessments of the war in Iraq. First it was to last six weeks or six months, then six or even an astonishing twelve years. On the nature of the Iraqi operations, and our future role there, as the straight forward Helen Thomas put it to the White House “did we invade” or “were we invited”. The adminstration’s fundamental logic is missing in action.

Dr. Condoleeza Rice in Promoting the National Interest Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2000 wrote:

"The President must remember that the (US) military is a special instrument. It is lethal, and is meant to be. It is not a civilian police force. It is not a political referee. And it is certainly not designed to build a civilian society."

Hello. Talk about flip-flops, not of the beach sort, but of the major policy sort, the OIF is the most expensive humanitarian, nation building operation in US history.

To state the obvious, for the first time in modern history a US policy of pre-emptive war has been unleashed on the world. These neo-con contrivances were, and continue to be, "mythed" by the Dick Cheney's National Security Council (NSC) shadow organization, the PNAC and related think tanks, through their OSP doctored materials and activities, and a not so secret, amateurish form of Boltonized intelligence.

There is there is no more serious event in the history of a nation, or its leadership, than the decision and justification to make war on another nation, period.

As Joe Wilson says “This is not about me and less so about my wife. It has always been about the facts underpinning the President's statement in the state of the union speech”. It’s all about the mushroom cloud argument, for which many was a tipping point, and other failed assertions that were used to justify to the American people a predetermined decision to go to war in Iraq.

See a Neo Prose Team's analysis, Bush Moons America, of the 2005 State of the Union Speech here.

Back to Herb's Beach
The continued bombings at Sharm El Sheik have some similarities to those in the London Financial District on 7/7, they strike in places are symbolic of Western culture, the accumulation of wealth and our places of luxury and leisure, and are now centered on locations that have traditionally been deemed “secure”. Sharm El Sheik, as the location of many peace negotiations and key meetings about the Middle East is clearly meant to make the statement “there will be no peace.”

Multiple terrorists groups continue to improve and demonstrate their ability, however reduced, to strike targets where and when they choose, while the necessary resources and assets to hinder them are tragically dedicated to major nation-building activities, something the Bush Vulcans said they would never do. What's next on the flim-flamer's list?

As Herb, the retired Command Sergeant Major likes to say, “When the will is strong, everything is easy." Don’t we all wish that was so?

Sadly, all the will in the world will do us no good, against these terrorists without real leadership and vision to define the mission that we must accomplish.

The Bush Administration has been shaken, but still is not stirred into finally creating the necessary plans, processes, and strategies, including international cooperation, that are required to prevent waves of terror crashing on our shores for decades to come.

The White House refuses to accept the ground truth realities of what really is happening, the topic of discussion between military and intelligence special operators sipping cocktails at Herb’s Beach and Bar for decades.

This essay prepared by members of the Defense & Security Team @ Neo Prose.