2006 April 13 Thursday
As Ethnic Cleansing Deaths Escalate In Iraq US Generals Object To War

I can see the positive spin now: Conditions in Iraq causing real estate building boom.

BAGHDAD – For the past nine weeks, Nabil Abdul Hassan has had more business than he can handle. He's a home builder in Chikook, a western suburb of cinder-block houses that is filling up with Shiite Iraqis who are increasingly fleeing sectarian violence in religiously mixed villages.

"I've built 20 houses in the past two weeks, and it's been like that since what happened in Samarra," he says, referring to the attack on the Askariya shrine, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, on Feb. 22. "The other builders in this neighborhood say the same. And it is like that in other neighborhoods nearby."

I think the United States government should find ways to help the Shias and Sunnis flee each other. The more separated they become the less violence they will inflict on each other.

Reporting from Baghdad Jonathan Steele reports on the killings by Shia militias, the development of Sunni vigilante groups in response, and the flight of both Sunnis and Shias from areas where they are in danger from each other.

"More Iraqis are dying from militia violence than from the terrorists," Khalilzad said recently. "The militias need to be under control."

His blunt comment came in the wake of over 1,000 abductions and murders in a single month, most of them blamed on Shia militias. Terrified residents of Baghdad's mainly Sunni areas talk of cars roaring up after dark, uninhibited by the police in spite of the curfew. They enter homes and seize people, whose bodies turn up later, often garotted or marked with holes from electric drills - evidence of torture before assassination.


In fact Iraq has no history of Balkan-style pogroms where neighbour turns against neighbour, burning homes and shops. But it could develop now. The rampaging by Shia militias and the rise of defensive Sunni vigilantes have launched a low-intensity ethnic cleansing. Up to 30,000 people have left their homes in the last few weeks.

Some Iraqis are changing their names to hide their ethnic affiliations.

The Americans say they are seeking to disband the militias, though they have tried it before without success. Iraqis themselves are not pinning hopes on that; many are applying to change their names so it will be less obvious which sect they belong to.

US Generals are increasingly going public with their objections as the debacle in Iraq escalates. John Batiste wants Rumsfeld replaced.

"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."


Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: It is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld. Also, before going to Iraq, he worked at the highest level of the Pentagon, serving as the senior military assistant to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense.

He's served the neocons up close.

Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, also ripped on Rumsfeld's leadership. Note that when these guys rip on Rumsfeld they are saying that US strategy and tactics in Iraq are very flawed. Note as well that these guys say what they say from reitrement. Officers serving at high levels can't be as frank. The recent retirees provide an indication of what the serving officers think.

Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold says in a Time magazine essay entitled "Why Iraq Was A Mistake" that The Who had it wrong when Daltrey sang "We won't get fooled again".

It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

Some conservatives support the war because of leftist opposition to the war. They figure if the leftists are against something it must be a good idea to support it. Well, US military generals are a rather conservative lot who aren't pacifists and they know a great deal about what is happening in Iraq. They are also very unhappy with the Bush Administration's conduct of the war. Many think the war never should have been started in the first place.

Update: Former US ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke points out that more top US officers may heed Newbold's call and resign in order to protest the war.

This has put President Bush and the administration in a hellish situation, and at a time when the security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating. If Bush yields to the generals' revolt, he will appear to have caved in to pressure from what Rumsfeld disingenuously describes as "two or three retired generals out of thousands." But if he keeps Rumsfeld, he risks more resignations -- perhaps soon, from generals who heed Newbold's stunning call that, as officers, they took an oath to speak up and should now do so on behalf of the troops in the field and the institution that he feels is in danger of falling back into the disarray of the post-Vietnam era.

The serving officers legally are not allowed to speak out. So the retirees provide the best indications we have into the views of the currently serving generals. As more generals retire expect the number of generals who speak out against Rumsfeld, Bush, and the war to grow.

What a tragedy and loss for the United States. The Bush Presidency has been a disaster on foreign policy, immigration, spending, racial preferences, and other areas.

The reason serving officers are not publically critical of Rumsfeld and Bush is that it is against the law for them to make such statements.

In fact, Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prescribes a court-martial for any commissioned officer who "uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense" or other federal or state officials.

That prohibition, of course, does not forbid serving officers from speaking candidly in private when asked for advice on military matters. Some of Mr. Rumsfeld's critics also fault General Pace and others for not being more forceful in questioning the guidelines put forward by Pentagon civilians that have kept American forces relatively lean in Iraq and have led to the quick disbanding of the Iraqi army.

Neither does the prohibition on "contemptuous words" apply to retirees. And the propriety of the onslaught of attacks on Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership from recently retired senior military leaders, including some who served in Iraq, is a matter of intense debate.

If these officers didn't speak out they'd be doing the nation a disservice. We need expert and informed advice from the officers about the war because the public ultimately must judge the decisions of the elected civilian leadership.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 April 13 09:56 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

John S Bolton said at April 15, 2006 2:18 AM:

One theme which stands out in the generals' criticisms, is that they appear to have motivation from objection to our troops being blamed for Iraq not turning into Disneyland. They don't like it that Rumsfeld will not take responsibility, while continuing with unrealistic demands.
With a swish of a cartoon character's magic wand, does the administration imagine that moslems will prove the universal absolutism of peace, love, equality, brotherhood, diversity, altruism, compassion, openness, tolerance, understanding and respect, as ideals?
"... for peace and understanding"! How old, or should I say, young, was W. A. Mozart when he wrote that?
Such ideals are by no means universal if we have enemy populations; the administration apparently still does not see that war is not
peace, love, etc.
Another aspect which I wish the generals would bring up, is that blaming the troops for the failure of fake ideals, is also a way of trying to deny them their due, in terms of promotions for distinction in the war theaters.
Someone should tell us, from the inside, that the reason why Defense is using bonuses and special deals instead of promotions, and trying to blame the troops for theoretical nonsense that was imposed on them ,is because they want to incease the minority quotas among officers.
That the government is, in wartime, using affirmative action, shows a traitorous quality in the administration. How can they look at the military as a welfare project for disadvanataged minorities, at this time?

Ivan Kirigin said at April 15, 2006 12:36 PM:

When people in the military support the war, they are brainwashed or deluded. When those in the military or retired oppose the war, they are brave people standing for the truth.

gcochran said at April 15, 2006 2:52 PM:

Serving officers can't publicly criticize the Administration: it's illegal. Traditionally, retired officers hardly ever critize either. When they do, it's an indication that they think that something is very seriously wrong. We have had more military voices criticizing our invasion and occupation of Iraq than anytime since the Civil War, I would guess - but then, as Newbold makes clear, Newbold who was a mere three-star Marine general and the operations officer of the Joint Chiefs, it's not every day we manage to invade the wrong country.
Reminds of when I wrote a little piece comparing the US in Iraq to Napoleon's sojourn in Spain - various cretins called me names, and I directed them to the plans officer for the 1st Marine Expeditoionary Foce in Iraq, who had written a similar essay (without the sarcasm) and tied for first place in the War College essay cntest.

Odom, a smart three-star who headed the NSA during the Reagan years, thinks this is the greatest strategic blunder in American history. Two out of the last three Centcom commanders (Zinni and Hoar) think the whole thing was ridiculous. Norman Schwartzkopf made clear that he tought invading iRaq was a mistake. Now we have Newbold, Swannack, Riggs, Batiste. We have Swannack was commander of the 82st airborne in Iraq saying that Rumsfeld is a doofus. Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry division in Iraq - up for promotion to number 2 in Iraq, he retired rather than serve under Rumsfeld. Smart move.

They know something of war. The president, the Secdef, Cheny, know nothing, and can't be bothered to learn. They're busy not admitting that jackasses they are, at great national expense.

The professionals think that the Administration is nuts, bad for the country: it's obvious enough.

Mik said at April 15, 2006 5:07 PM:


"They (ed. retired generals) know something of war. The president, the Secdef, Cheny, know nothing, and can't be bothered to learn."

While somewhat true in case of Junior Bush and VP, Rumsfeld was Navy pilot on active duty for 3 years and 20 years after that in Reserves. I bet that experience matches pretty well with some of the generals, the once who were either too old or too young for Vietnam.

Junior bravely fought Vietnam war in Texas bars with occasional field trips on outdated jets. Cheney was fighting commies in PhD seminars, but he also was SecDef during Gulf war 91, and that war looks better and better as Peace and Democracy Loving Iragis progress toward abyss.

The problem is NOT that this troika knows nothing about war. They clearly know much more about military than most modern politicians, compare them with Clintonoads for example.

The problem is a fundamental world model they have, a liberal dogma stating that all people are the same and want the same things, dogma painted over by delusional neocons and reduced to elementary school soundbytes so that Junior can understand and say them.
That model is wrong. A strategy based on that model is going to be wrong. Doesn't matter if Junior was drinking in Vietnam between his flights or in Texas. McCain who was whoring in Vietnam between flights, strongly supported war.

It would still be possible to win if Junior was willing to brutally prosecute the war, as Roosevelt or Truman would have done. It is clear now that Shrub is way too liberal for that.
It is not clear if he could have gotten away with it even if he was not a modern liberal.
It is not clear if US Army is capable of prosecuting a brutal war now (but Marines probably could do it),
way too many officers are squishy liberals in various stages.

Way too many military personal were shocked by a small insignificant event at AbuGraib for which a few people should have been suspended without pay for a few days/weeks.

There was nothing wrong to teach Saddam, and by extension the Arab, a small lesson. The crime is the way the war was fought. If Laura Bush was prosecuting this war, how would it have been different?
Hillary Clinton would probably have been tougher.

As Hugh Fitzgerald at jihadwatch.org says, Shia and Sunnies killing each other is not necessarily bad for infidel's interests. While they are killing each other they are not killing infidel.

I hope there is a contingency plan for Iraq collapse, as it probably will. Retreat to Kurdistan, keep 30-50K troops there, patrol ME from there and let Sh and Su Arabs fight each other. Snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

I hope for such a plan, but Bushites are pretty mediocre and incompetent bunch, I'm not holding my breath.

Rob said at April 16, 2006 7:47 AM:

Dr. Cochran, I truly enjoyed all your pieces in TAC, are they online, and are you writing for them any more?

I love watching the neocons calling our officer corps leftist liberals. The military votes ~90% Republican. Are they homosexuals too? Because if you call them enough names, I might start believing it.

Bob Badour said at April 16, 2006 12:16 PM:
Snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

That's a lot to hope for considering we are near the 3rd anniversay of the day they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. (In my view, the day anarchy broke out under the impotent supervision of too few US troops.)

Bill Buckley said at April 20, 2006 1:50 PM:

"When people in the military support the war, they are brainwashed or deluded. When those in the military or retired oppose the war, they are brave people standing for the truth."

What a facile and silly argument! Excellent pap! Keep up the good work!

garryowen said at May 7, 2006 6:54 PM:

"It is not clear if US Army is capable of prosecuting a brutal war now (but Marines probably could do it),
way too many officers are squishy liberals in various stages."

Mic, I think that the place for a true conservative warrior such as yourself is in the Army, in the front lines in Iraq, helping stiffen the spines of all those lily-livered liberal officers that the Army is so full of. Put down that bag of Cheetos® and ask your mother to give you a ride to the nearest recruiting station.

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