Friday, April 14, 2006

A lopsided scorecard... 
Compare and contrast the fawning press coverage given to MG General Swannack (Ret.), my old division commander when my battalion was attached to a brigade which was attached to the 82nd Airborne, and his call for a new SecDef

and the Icarus Drowning press treatment given to XVIII Airborne Corps Commander LTG John R. Vines, announcing that his intelligence is telling him that Al Qaeda is conducting a strategic withdrawal from Iraq.

In other words, Al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq and its presumed leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, have conceded strategic defeat and are on their way out of the country, a top U.S. military official contended yesterday.
The group's failure to disrupt national elections and a constitutional referendum last year "was a tactical admission by Zarqawi that their strategy had failed," said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commands the XVIII Airborne Corps.
"They no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism," he said in an address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I know, we've heard that before - the "last throes" of the week and all that. But a gradual disengagement by Al Qaeda would certainly help explain the substantial decrease in the number of car bombs and the number of civilian casualties, dontcha think?

And when you factor in that an increasing number of those civilian dead is as a result of the Shia getting some long overdue payback, then the slowdown in civilian casualties is all the more remarkable, because not only is the number of murdered civilians down, but Al Qaeda is responsible for a smaller fraction of them than before.

And if you follow events back to the early indications of red-on-red violence, and the rebellion against Al Qaeda by local sheikhs in Ramadi and out by the Syrian Border - ably reported on by Bill Roggio last year, it makes more and more sense.

What news outlets will successfully disengage themselves from the narcissistic gossip-fest catfight of all the retired generals and take a step back and look at the big picture?

Well, forget it: I'll do a compare and contrast for you...

Number of news stories this afternoon hitting on Swannack: 1,037.

Number of news stories hitting on John Vines: 8.

And one of them is The Jawa Report - a blogger.

Anyone still think they're being well served by the mainstream media?

Splash, out


The "glide path" of Charles Swannack:

1. Swannack, 11/18/03:
"So where we are on a glide path now to the future in Iraqization. I talked to you about governance. We're doing a great job. We're on the glide path to go ahead and get the security situation under control. We are infusing jobs into the society to reduce the unemployment numbers. And the one bright spot is that essential services out there in Al Anbar are better now than they were during the -- prior to the war."

2. Swannack, 01/06/04:
I also can tell you that we're on a glide-path toward success as attacks against Task Force All American forces have decreased almost 60 percent over the past month... We have turned the corner, and now we can accelerate down the straightaway. There's still a long way to go before the finish line, but the final outcome is known. There certainly will be some friction along the way, but we will continue to kill or capture enemy forces, train Iraqi security forces to work independently, continue to create jobs, reduce the availability of weapons and ammunition, and finally, transfer the governance to local control that is legitimately recognized by the people."

3. Swannack, WaPo, 05/09/2004:
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

4. Swannack, 04/14/06:
"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him," Swannack told CNN's Barbara Starr..."Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there," Swannack said in the telephone interview..."And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press ... and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward."
On the record with John Batiste:

1. Batiste, 10/06/2004:
PHILLIPS [CNN]: General, while we watch the successful operations go down side by side with Iraqi troops, of course we continue to see a lot of violence throughout Iraq. We see children being targeted and, most recently, Ambassador Paul Bremer coming forward saying there was a mistake in the strategy in Iraq, and there just weren't enough troops post Saddam Hussein.

Do you agree with that?

BATISTE: Let me answer that by saying that while we were conducting the operation in Samarra, at the same time we were conducting a battalion task force level air assault into an objective in the vicinity of Sharkak (ph), at the same time we were conducting a battalion level operation in the vicinity of Muqdadiyah. And at the same time, we were conducting a battalion level operation south of Balad. So, I think we had plenty of flexibility. Add to that the Iraqi security forces. They really do bring a lot to the fight now.

2. Batiste, 12/24/2004:
Afterward, Rumsfeld flew off for Tikrit in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flanked by an aerial security escort. Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, met Rumsfeld in Tikrit, where the secretary also met with troops. Batiste told Rumsfeld that he was "comfortable we're heading in the right direction" regarding security issues for the upcoming Iraqi elections slated for January.

3. Batiste, 12/24/2004:
Rumsfeld visits 1st Division in Tikrit. MajGen. Batiste: "It is an honor to welcome to the 1st Infantry Division our country's 23rd Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld. This is a man with the courage and the conviction to win the war on terrorism..."

4. Batiste, 01/13/2005:
"Together with civic, tribal and religious leaders, the Iraqi security forces have achieved irreversible momentum towards prosperity and representative government. Based on the competencies of the Iraqi team, I am confident in the future of Iraq. We are right where we need to be in this important mission."

5. Batiste, 01/13/2005:
"Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News, sir....on the helicopters, how many did you have three weeks ago, and how many do you have today, to give a sense of buildup there for quick reaction?

GEN. BATISTE:"... I'm not going to give you numbers. But suffice it to say I've got twice what I had, and it's more than enough."

6. Batiste, 04/13/2006:
BATISTE:...It is much harder than warfare, and you need to have sufficient troops on the ground to control the people, to secure the borders, to intimidate the insurgency, to own the ground in every respect. My area in Iraq was the size of the state of West Virginia, huge. And we were forced over time to conduct a series of movements to contact where we only controlled the ground for a moment in time; that's not how you fight an insurgency.

JIM LEHRER: Did you ask for more troops?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We always asked for more troops, within our chain of command.

JIM LEHRER: And what happened when you asked for more troops?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We saluted and executed; I had to keep my soldiers alive and focused on the mission at hand.

JIM LEHRER: As you know, Secretary Rumsfeld has said from the beginning every time the military asked for more troops in Iraq, they were given what they wanted. Not true in your case?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I suspect, going way back five years to the beginning of this whole war, there were ample times when people said to him, as General Shinseki did, "We need more." In the case of General Shinseki, he was retired early. And as I recall, the secretary didn't even go to his retirement ceremony; I have never forgotten that.

7. Batiste, 04/14/2006:
"We went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team."
Footnote on Batiste [courtesy David Axe, DefenseTech.org, 4/13/2006]:

I met Batiste a year ago when he was commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. We spoke for an hour about the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and the upcoming January election for an interim national assembly. The difference between Batiste's attitude then and his attitude now is suprising. Last year, he said the insurgency was "not an impressive effort", insisted that Al Qaeda was behind the worst attacks in Iraq and predicted that everday Iraqis would soon turn against insurgents. And the kicker -- he described the chunk of the World Trade Center that he kept in his office to remind himself why we had to invade Iraq.
From the safety of retirement, and with his buddies watching his back, Batiste has lashed out at Rumsfeld. But Batiste is guilty of lapses in judgement just as gross as Rumsfeld's. The only difference is that Rumsfeld ranks higher, so his lapses have greater consequences. I'm not defending Rummy. But if Batiste were Secretary of Defense instead, I doubt we'd be much better off.

Below are excerpts of my interview with Batiste:

Q: What is the insurgent strategy?

BATISTE: I haven't seen an insurgent strategy. I've seen disparate efforts. A piece of me says that we give them too much credit.

Q: What is the gravest threat [in the 1st Infantry Division area of operations]?

BATISTE: Al Qaeda.

Q: How are Iraqi security forces shaping up?

BATISTE: The enemy ... he's a coward, is what he is. It's not an impressive effort, and these great Iraqi security forces are figuring that out.

Q: What does a successful election mean for Iraq?

BATISTE: A good election is a huge victory. Our challenge is to give Iraqis an alternative to an insurgency. You know, I carry a piece of the World Trade Center ... to remind me why we're here.

Q: Why are we here?

BATISTE: To end radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Q: But wasn't Saddam Hussein's regime hostile to radical Islamists?

BATISTE: We could argue about that all night.

[end of interview]

The "arrogance" of Generals Abizaid and Casey:

1. 04/30/2004 Briefing
Q General Abizaid, Bret Baier from Fox News Channel. I wanted to ask you -- obviously, there have been a lot of critics out there saying that you need more troops on the ground. Whenever we ask somebody here in the Pentagon or throughout the administration, they say if General Abizaid asks for it, he's going to get it. Do you have enough troops in Iraq? Why haven't you asked for more beyond the extension? And are you pleased with the number currently?

GEN. ABIZAID: ...So asking the question about do we need more capacity in Iraq, we need more Iraqi security capacity and we need more international security capacity. I think many of you have heard me say on a number of occasions that I do not favor large increased numbers of American troops unless they have to deal with an immediate security problem, which is what we currently have. I do favor the inclusion of more international troops, especially more Muslim troops... I believe, and I think Iraqis will second me on this, this needs to be less of an American occupation and more of an international military activity that includes Iraqis,international forces and Americans. Am I comfortable with where we are now? Militarily, yes. If the situation were to move into less secure circumstances than are currently visible in the country, I would go to the secretary and ask for more forces, and General Sanchez agrees with me on that. But I don't see a need to do that now.

2. Casey, 06/27/2005:
"GEN. CASEY:...I went around to visit all the division commanders just prior to coming back and asked them, one, how's the situation, how are things going? And to a person, they all responded that this is moving in the right direction in their areas. Then I asked them did they have enough troops to do what they needed to do. And to a person, they all said they had what they needed to get the job done."
Finally, on Gen. Shinseki:

Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony, 06/25/2004

SEN. CLINTON: At some point, Mr. Secretary, will there be any kind of after-action review by the civilian leadership in the Pentagon with respect to this mission? You know, certainly those of us who heard General Shinseki, who at the time was the Army chief of staff, testify, based on his best knowledge and experience, the numbers that were needed, have to conclude there was at least a debate within the professional military. Now how that debate was determined -- obviously, we have a regime of civilian leadership -- is obviously clear. But I'd think to dismiss out of hand testimony we heard with our own ears and testimony that was very compelling and led to the public embarrassment of a distinguished soldier is a little bit difficult for us to accept.

MR. WOLFOWITZ: I'm sorry. I don't think to disagree with someone should be publicly embarrassing. General Shinseki was in fact disagreeing with all of his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combatant commander, General Franks. Isn't that right, General Myers?

GEN. MYERS: Actually, we didn't -- as we discussed about troop strength with then -- the commander, General Franks, which we did many times during the planning, during conflict, and then for post-conflict and then later on, with General Abizaid, the issue of more troops never came before -- never was brought up in our deliberations. Nobody said, "You need more." It was General Franks that proposed what he thought was right. We'd have discussions and talk about it, and then we'd provide our military advice to the secretary and the deputy secretary. But there was never a push inside the Joint Chiefs of Staff for more forces.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator, that you raise that question which -- continually raised about General Shinseki's figure. And my own independent research on that reveals that -- I'm not questioning the integrity of that fine officer -- but I cannot find any trace of the Joint Staff ever discussing a figure of the magnitude that he mentioned right from that seat you're in, Secretary Armitage, nor in the Army and its deliberations, of a figure of that nature. If I'm wrong, let somebody show me the documents that support that anywhere in that building that figure was discussed and carefully thought through...

Thanks, Reg! That's great stuff!

You rock. Your analysis of this is the best I've sen. Press on.

What decrease in civilian casualties?


Are you talking about the Brookings institute study (PDF format)? Sorry, but the figure for March of 446 civilian deaths is WRONG. There are at least 901 reported civilian deaths.
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