Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: We have 140,000 more we can offer up at the altar of oil.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We have 140,000 more we can offer up at the altar of oil.






Petraeus/Bush 140,000 Until Bush Is Gone; Then It’s Someone Else’s Problem!


One of the things we Americans are not very good at is staying in touch with issues in-depth and seeing the relationships of the parts of an issue over time so let’s approach the Petraeus testimony of today by looking at where things were yesterday and what the expectations fo today were. Then we’ll look at today’s events, mindful of the fact that the historical record of this Presidency hangs in the balance and the hopeful Presidencies of three Senators is in play, and then there is the reality of the War and what is really happening on the streets of Iraq.


Iraq Looks Like Vietnam Without Water!


On the April 7 edition of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski previewed Gen. David Petraeus' April 8 congressional testimony by reporting, among other things, that Petraeus "will tell Congress tomorrow he's still determined to withdraw all five U.S. surge combat brigades -- nearly 20,000 soldiers -- by the end of July.



But Petraeus will stop there." Miklaszewski also reported: "U.S. sources tell NBC News Petraeus wants to keep some 140,000 American forces in Iraq at least through the U.S. presidential elections in November, and, depending on the level of violence, perhaps through the end of the year."


Absent from Miklaszewski's report, however, was any mention of recent testimony by Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody before the Senate Armed Services Committee that "[t]oday's Army is out of balance" and that "[t]he current demand for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds our sustainable supply of soldiers, of units and equipment, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies.


Our readiness, quite frankly, is being consumed as fast as we can build it." Referring to the withdrawal of the surge combat troops, Cody added: "[W]hen these five brigades come out ... we'll still be short as we continue to rotate." Yet, to date, neither Miklaszewski nor any other reporter has mentioned* Cody's April 1 testimony on NBC's Nightly News.


During Cody's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) asked Cody about Petraeus' upcoming report and what effect his possible "recommendation with regard to the size of the force required to continue operations in Iraq" would have on troop readiness. Cody replied by discussing how "the five-brigade surge" has affected troop and equipment readiness, and then added:


CODY: A long answer, but this is very complex in terms of when these five brigades come out, we'll have to provide all those 15-month-deployed units 12 months' dwell time minimum, which means that we'll still be short as we continue to rotate, and it may take us 15 months to get ourselves to a 12 months' boots on the ground and an 18 months' dwell time. And quite frankly, where we need to be with this force at this time is no more than 12 months boots on the ground and 24 months back at home.


Cody outlined his concerns about the current state of the military in greater detail in his April 1 prepared remarks for the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing:


CODY: Today's Army is out of balance. The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. While our Reserve Component (RC) are performing magnificently, many RC units have been assigned missions as an operational force, when they had been resourced as a strategic reserve for decades. Current operational requirements for forces and insufficient time between deployments require a focus on counterinsurgency training and equipping to the detriment of preparedness for the full range of military missions.


CODY: Given the current theater demand for Army forces, we are unable to provide a sustainable tempo of deployments for our Soldiers and Families. Soldiers, Families, support systems, and equipment are stretched and stressed by the demands of lengthy and repeated deployments, with insufficient recovery time. Equipment used repeatedly in harsh environments is wearing out more rapidly than programmed. Army support systems, designed for the pre-9/11 peacetime Army, are straining under the accumulation of stress from six years at war. Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the All-Volunteer Force and degrades the Army's ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.


From the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing:


CODY: As the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army have testified, the coming decades are likely to be ones of persistent conflict, and I agree with that assessment. To defend this nation in a dangerous and unpredictable world, the Army, as part of the joint force, must be fully prepared to conduct prompt and sustained operations across the full spectrum of conflict worldwide.


But today, our army is out of balance. The current demand for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds our sustainable supply of soldiers, of units and equipment, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. Our readiness, quite frankly, is being consumed as fast as we can build it.


Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time at home station have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and on their families, testing the resolve of the all-volunteer force like never before. And while we should be extremely proud that our men and women in uniform have proven incredibly resilient so far, we must never take their selfless service for granted.


SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, General McNabb.


I have a question for all of our witnesses. In General Petraeus's report to Congress next week, he is expected to make a recommendation with regard to the size of the force required to continue operations in Iraq. He may say that a force of about 140,000 troops is still required or he may indicate that the force may be reduced, but we expect to hear from him next week.


Very briefly, what are the non-deployed forces' readiness implications for each of you if the force stays about the same or if the force begins to draw down? Also, if General Petraeus recommends that forces may be reduced, what readiness objectives and actions have your services planned that will make immediate -- that will take immediate advantage of the lower operational tempo?


General Cody?


GEN. CODY: Thank you, Senator, for that question.


I'm not sure what General Petraeus is going to come back and say, but I'll try to put it in a strategic context for you in terms of the United States Army, where we are. When this surge went -- and by the way, this is about the fifth surge we've had during this war. We've surged several times for elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq.


When the five-brigade surge went in last year, that took all the stroke out of the shock absorber for the United States Army. That put 23 brigade combat teams into combat as well as into Kosovo, and we had 17 brigades back that were in reset that had already served 12-month tours. And that is why, when we put the five brigades in, we had to extend the other brigades to an additional three months per to give General Petraeus the amount of forces he needed to provide a safe and secure environment for the Iraqis and to give time, as he stated, to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army.


So if he comes back and says a certain number will not have to be replaced, it will not be instantaneous in terms of how we will be able to reduce one, the 15-month boots-on-the-ground deployment time as well as those units that are coming back that have already served 15 months. We have to give them at least 12 months' reset time.


At the same time I say it took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers in terms of our brigade combat teams, it also forced us to issue the last of our prepositioned stocks in that area so that we could get those five brigades in there. And so over time in '06 and '07 we rebuilt two brigade combat teams' worth of equipment. We had to use that equipment to provide for the surge. And so on the backside of how many brigades come out and don't have to be replaced, we also have to turn around and reset quite a bit of equipment.


The brigades that we have today that are getting ready to deploy are all going back to either Afghanistan or Iraq. They will all have 12 months' dwell time. Many of them are at a readiness rate, in terms of equipment in an unclassified setting, of not where they need to be. In the training area, as Senator Thune had mentioned, they are training solely for counterinsurgency operations and focusing on the mission of the brigade they're replacing in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and they're not training to full spectrum for other operations.


In terms of their equipment, in many cases we will not be able to get them to fully up for equipment just prior to their major training exercise before they deploy, and that is the status at this time.


A long answer, but this is very complex in terms of when these five brigades come out, we'll have to provide all those 15-month-deployed units 12 months' dwell time minimum, which means that we'll still be short as we continue to rotate, and it may take us 15 months to get ourselves to a 12 months' boots on the ground and an 18 months' dwell time. And quite frankly, where we need to be with this force at this time is no more than 12 months boots on the ground and 24 months back at home.


From the April 7 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:


BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): Ten Americans have been killed in Iraq over the last two days; 10 American families tonight dealing with the worst possible news. Against that backdrop, and after spiking violence in Iraq as we mentioned, General David Petraeus, the commanding general for U.S. forces there, has come to Washington this week to testify before Congress. Our own Jim Miklaszewski, at the Pentagon, has a preview tonight.


MIKLASZEWSKI: Military officials say General David Petraeus will tell Congress tomorrow he's still determined to withdraw all five U.S. surge combat brigades -- nearly 20,000 soldiers -- by the end of July. But Petraeus will stop there. U.S. sources tell NBC News Petraeus wants to keep some 140,000 American forces in Iraq at least through the U.S. presidential elections in November, and, depending on the level of violence, perhaps through the end of the year.


GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY (Retired, U.S. Army): We don't want to be there with inadequate U.S. combat power between now and the end of this administration.


MIKLASZEWSKI: Most of the 10 American soldiers killed in the past two days died in fierce fighting in Sadr City and in rocket attacks on Baghdad's green zone. The White House is concerned that Iraq not collapse into chaos in the closing days of the administration. At the Pentagon recently, President Bush himself warned against withdrawing U.S. forces too rapidly.


BUSH: The terrorists and extremists step in. They fill vacuums, establish safe havens, and use them to spread chaos and carnage.


MIKLASZEWSKI: President Bush is expected to announce later this week he's going to cut those punishing 15-month combat tours for U.S. soldiers back to one year.


MIKLASZEWSKI: General Petraeus will face some tough grilling tomorrow about Iraqi security forces and that failed offensive in Basra two weeks ago. But Democrats tell us most of their fire will be aimed at the Bush administration's handling of the war. And their biggest question, how soon can more U.S. troops come home? Brian.


WILLIAMS: Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon for us tonight. Jim, thanks.


TODAY!


April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Army General David Petraeus told lawmakers today that progress in Iraq is too ``fragile and reversible'' to allow U.S. troop levels to fall below about 140,000 earlier than September.


Petraeus, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, recommended a 45-day evaluation after the final brigade from last year's ``surge'' of troop reinforcements into Iraq is withdrawn in July. Only after that period can consideration of further withdrawals begin, he said.


``This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable,'' Petraeus, 55, said. ``However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so far and sacrifice so much to achieve.''


Iraq's stability, Iran's influence on the country and the ultimate cost of the occupation to the U.S. in lives, money and military readiness were the major issues lawmakers debated during today's hearing.


Democrat Carl Levin, the Armed Services Committee's chairman, immediately criticized Petraeus's proposal, calling it a ``a plan which has no end.''


Levin, a senator from Michigan, said Iraqis had failed to use the drop in violence attributed to the surge to push toward political unity and away from dependence on American forces and on U.S. reconstruction funding.


MCCAIN'S VIEW


A possible future U.S. commander in chief, Senator John McCain of Arizona, defended President George W. Bush's strategy, saying the U.S. is no longer ``staring'' at defeat in Iraq.


``Today it is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq,'' said McCain, the top Republican on the panel and his party's presumptive nominee for president. ``An American failure would almost certainly require us to return to Iraq or draw us into a wider and far, far costlier war.''


McCain's questioning was interrupted by an unidentified man shouting ``bring them home'' seven times before police officers removed him from the room.


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who sat alongside the general, that the Iraq strategy hasn't produced the ``promised results'' and the U.S. should begin the ``orderly'' withdrawal of forces.


CLINTON OBJECTS


Clinton objected to a Bush administration plan to negotiate a long-term agreement with Iraq on the presence of American troops without submitting the accord to Congress for approval.


Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who also seeks a pullout from Iraq, will question Petraeus later today in a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


Beginning two days of testimony before Congress, Petraeus said Bush's deployment of about 21,000 more U.S. troops last year helped quell violence in Iraq.


Under questioning, Petraeus did describe as disappointing the performance of some Iraqi troops who were sent last month to defeat Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra. The offensive ``could have been better planned'' by the Iraqis, the general said.


There are currently more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. As of today, 4,017 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003, and 29,676 Americans have been wounded, according to the Defense Department.


`INCREASING PRESSURE'


Crocker told lawmakers that the trend in Iraq is ``positive'' as Iraqi politicians overcome ``sectarian barriers'' to pass needed legislation, including a budget.


``The strategy that began with the surge is working,'' Crocker said. ``This does not mean, however, that U.S. support should be open-ended or that the level and nature of our engagement should not diminish over time.''


Both Petraeus and Crocker warned lawmakers about Iranian meddling in Iraq.


Petraeus said Iranian-backed militia groups ``pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.''


``The extent of Iran's malign influence was dramatically demonstrated when militia elements armed and trained by Iran clashed with Iraqi government forces in Basra and Baghdad,'' Crocker said.


OIL REVENUE


Senators criticized Iraq for not taking a greater role in paying for reconstruction, particularly with oil prices near record highs.


``Sky-rocketing oil prices have swelled Iraqi oil revenues beyond all expectations,'' Levin said. ``But Iraqi leaders and bureaucrats aren't spending their funds.''


In response, Crocker pledged that ``the era of U.S.-funded major infrastructure projects is over'' as Iraq begins to use more of its own money to pay for rebuilding.


Iraq pumped 2.38 million barrels of crude a day last month, according to Bloomberg estimates. That output is among the highest recorded since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Republicans, who generally supported Petraeus at the hearing, expressed some disappointment with the performance of Iraqi forces.


Virginia Republican John Warner, a former chairman of the committee, interrupted Petraeus during a long answer about whether the war was making the U.S. safer.


``My time on the clock is moving pretty quickly,'' Warner said. ``Can you now, just in simple language, tell us, yes, it is worth it and it is making us safer here at home?''


``I do believe it is worth it,'' Petraeus replied.


To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at njohnston3@bloomberg.net ; Ken Fireman in Washington at kfireman1@bloomberg.net


BUT WHAT ABOUT REALITY ON THE STREETS OF IRAQ?


BAGHDAD (AFP) - "We're scared," admitted Abu Muamel as the sudden blast of a mortar round fightened the baby in his arms to tears and set US and Iraqi armoured vehicles racing through Sadr City's smoke-choked streets.


"It's too dangerous to stay here," Abu Muamel added as he and his family of eight on Tuesday fled the sprawling district in eastern Baghdad that is the theatre of raging battles between Mahdi Army militiamen and security forces.


"A mortar landed in our street, killing a boy. I'm taking my family out of here. We're going to stay with relatives in Mansur," the 42-year-old artisan said, referring to a relatively safe part of western Baghdad.


As he spoke another two mortar rounds slammed into a nearby neighbourhood. The explosions drowned out the whine of US Stryker armoured troop carriers and the relentless clatter of Apache helicopters, which have been blasting away at mortar and rocket teams with Hellfire missiles for the past three days.


"That's Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) trying to hit the Americans," explained an Iraqi soldier manning a checkpoint at the edge of Sadr City.


"They don't target us, only the Americans," he added as one of Abu Muamel's small daughters began coughing from the acrid smoke in the air.


"We're going now," said the father, herding his children, wife and sisters-in-law through the checkpoint, one small boy tightly clutching his hand, a slightly older girl toddling alongside him carrying a bag crammed with clothes and cuddly toys.


Screaming fire engines sped by, startling supermarket owner Abu Said as he struggled with two young sons to push a large wooden cart crammed with foodstuffs towards his store, three kilometres (one and a half miles) away.


The violence, a vehicle curfew in Sadr City and the destruction in the fighting of the vast Jamila food market have added layers of extra hardship to Abu Said's life.


"People want food so I have to go every day to Al-Shorja market (in central Baghdad) for supplies. Because we can't use vehicles, I have to use this push cart," said Abu Said, dressed in long flowing robes and perspiring from the exertion.


"It takes me three hours to fetch my stocks instead of just half an hour as it did when I used to go to Jamila," he said.


Jumar Kadhum and his wife joined the throngs of people heading through the streets with bags of food they had brought from a market outside Sadr City, taking advantage of an earlier lull in the fighting.


"There are no supplies left inside Sadr City," said Kadhum, balding and in his forties. "We have left our children at home. We all stay in one room because we are so frightened. The children do not go out at all. We have just left quickly to get some supplies. Mortars have been falling all around us. We have seen bodies in the streets."


Other residents said they were stocking up in case the fighting gets worse and they become trapped for days.


"We are all frightened. There is so much gunfire and mortars," said Umm Rusul, carrying supplies of rice, tinned food and bottles of cooking oil, while her young daughter struggled under a large bag of tea.


"There are 17 of us living in the house," she said. "We hear explosions all the time. My children have learnt to tell the difference between a mortar, a rocket, a rocket-propelled grenade, an IED (roadside bomb) and a JDAM (guided bomb).


"It is very dangerous," she added, as three pickup trucks sped by, packed with heavily armed men wearing the uniforms of Iraqi special forces.


"Those were Americans," said an Iraqi soldier wearing wrap-around sunglasses despite the pall cast by the numerous fires set during the fighting.


"The Americans know that the Mahdi Army doesn't target the Iraqi security forces so now they are dressing like Iraqis," added the soldier, expressing a belief, whether true or not, that now seems to be taken as gospel on the streets of the impoverished township of around two million people.


A motor mechanic with a round belly and oil-stained clothes wished the fighting would end.


"I have not been able to work for three days. This is the first time I've left my home since Saturday.


My family needs food.

We just want peace."

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