"I Feel Like Nero Did When Rome Was Burning."
Posted by CTuttle on September 08, 2008 • Comments (0)Permalink

Today's segment of Woodward's "The War Within" series is subtitled: Outmaneuvered And Outranked, Military Chiefs Became Outsiders. It is a damning indictment of Shrub's decision-making process and his two-faced rhetoric to the American public and the military...

Let's look at what Shrub said to the troops at Ft. Benning on 11 Jan. 07 the morning after his national prime time speech announcing his decision to 'Surge' five brigades...

"The commanders on the ground in Iraq, people who I listen to -- by the way, that's what you want your commander-in-chief to do. You don't want decisions being made based upon politics or focus groups or political polls. You want your military decisions being made by military experts. They analyzed the plan, and they said to me and to the Iraqi government: 'This won't work unless we help them. There needs to be a bigger presence.' "

Bush went on, "And so our commanders looked at the plan and said, 'Mr. President, it's not going to work until -- unless we support -- provide more troops.' "

Really? You may have heard the recommendations of the commanders on the ground, but, did you listen to the decisions made by the commanders on the ground? If you did heed them how can you explain this...

In Baghdad, Gen. Casey realized that he had lost a basic, necessary ingredient for a commanding general in wartime. He had lost the confidence of the president, a stunning and devastating realization.

He wasn't alone. The president was not listening to Casey's boss, Gen. John P. Abizaid at Central Command, anymore, either.

"Yeah, I know," the president said to Abizaid at a National Security Council session in December, "you're going to tell me you're against the surge."

Yes, Abizaid replied, and then presented his argument that U.S. forces needed to get out of Iraq in order to win.

It gets better (or worse)...

"The tank meeting was a very important meeting," Bush told me during a May 2008 interview. "In my own mind, I'm sure I didn't want to walk in with my mind made up and not give these military leaders the benefit of a discussion about a big decision."

The president said that if he were just pretending to be open-minded, "you get sniffed out. . . . I might have been leaning, but my mind was open enough to be able to absorb their advice."

I told him that, based on my reporting, some of the chiefs thought he had already decided, that they had sniffed him out.

"They may have thought I was leaning, and I probably was," Bush said, noting that the chiefs had felt free to express themselves. "But the door wasn't shut."

Still, Bush fully understood the power of his office.

"Generally," he said, "when the commander-in-chief walks in and says, done deal, they say, 'Yes sir, Mr. President.' "

Early in today's segment, Woodward, pointed out who's advice Shrub actually listened to for the 'Surge'...

Pace, Schoomaker and Casey found themselves badly out of sync with the White House in the fall of 2006, finally losing control of the war strategy altogether after the midterm elections. Schoomaker was outraged when he saw news coverage that retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff, had briefed the president Dec. 11 about a new Iraq strategy being proposed by the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.

"When does AEI start trumping the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this stuff?" Schoomaker asked at the next chiefs' meeting.

Excellent question... I found this quote from our current JCS Chairman Adm. Mullen fascinating...

Adm. Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, voiced concern that the politicians were going to find a way to place the blame for Iraq on the military. "They're orchestrating this to dump in our laps," Mullen said. He raised the point so many times that Schoomaker thought the Navy leader sounded "almost paranoid."

Then JCS Chairman, Gen. Pace thought he'd made some progress in his discussions with the WH and relayed it to the Pentagon...

The atmosphere in the tank was tense Monday, Nov. 27, 2006, as Pace briefed the chiefs and the colonels on a White House meeting about Iraq the day before. J.D. Crouch, a deputy to national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, had presented the results of a secret strategy review on how to respond to the escalating violence. "I walked out happy because I got my views on the table," Pace said, making it clear that this was not always the case.

The president, Pace told the group, is "leaning into announcing a new phase in the war that will help us achieve our original end state. . . . By April 1, 2007, we would have five more brigades in Iraq."

Schoomaker was dismayed. Suppose the surge didn't work? "What is our fallback plan?" he asked.

There was no fallback, Pace replied.

"Are people engaged on this," Schoomaker asked almost defiantly of the surge proponents, "or is this politics?"

"They are engaged," Pace replied. But if progress is still lacking "after we surge five brigades," Pace said, "then you are forced to conscription, which no one wants to talk about." To mention a draft was to invite the ghosts of Vietnam into the tank.

"Folks keep talking about the readiness of U.S. forces. Ready to do what?" Schoomaker growled. "We need to look at our strategic depth for handling other threats. How do we get bigger? And how do we make what we have today more ready? This is not just about Iraq!"

Part of the chiefs' job was to figure out how to accelerate the military's overall global readiness and capacity, Schoomaker said. "I sometimes feel like it is hope against hope," he said. "I feel like Nero did when Rome was burning. It just worries the hell out of me."

Several colonels wanted to applaud. It worried them, too. Others disagreed, feeling it was more important to focus on the current war. But they all maintained their poker faces.

Well, can we handle another crisis? Afghanistan is deteriorating at an exponential rate and Pakistan, possessors of the bomb, is on some very precarious footing...

God help us all if some other crisis develops on another continent...!

Not to mention another natural disaster occurring here at home with many of the National Guard units either deployed and/or depleted from their continuous deployments...!


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