David Woods of the Patriot News asks, “Are there limits to American might? If so, are we reaching them?”
- The Iraq invasion caught the Pentagon so short of military cargo planes that it had to hire Russian aircraft to ferry tanks and other materiel. “We had exhausted all of our resources,” said Mark Voorhis, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The United States chartered Russian AN-124 aircraft for 79 missions at a cost of $28.9 million in 2003, and is still chartering them.
- The Army wore out 9,000 heavy weapons and vehicles that need fixing and renovating — “a huge task” for which “we do not have the funds,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker recently told Congress. If another conflict breaks out, the equipment won’t be available.
- The Navy is so short of money it’s requiring pilots to fly simulators rather than real jets to practice carrier landings, according to Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr., deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness. To keep aging ships and aircraft going costs $3 billion more every year, but the budget for new ships is down 13 percent.
- Adjusted for inflation, the cost of military personnel, pushed by tripling health care expenses, rose 16 percent over the past decade. Competing with the private sector to attract and keep good people, the Pentagon offers re-enlistment bonuses as high as $40,000; already, average annual military compensation has reached $99,000 in cash and benefits.
- To handle new missions, the Army is recruiting 30,000 soldiers and hiring 20,000 civilians to free up troops for combat jobs. Still, it is short of infantrymen. Specialists in high demand for the war on terrorism, they make up only 4 percent of military personnel. “We’re trying to defend the empire with a force about the size of the New York City police department,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., former commandant of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.
The Iraq invasion was badly planned and what inadequate planning was done so irreparably crippled by unrealistic expectations of the situation the American military would be facing that not only is the military stretched to the breaking point in terms of soldiers, but the policies implemented to deal with the shortage of troops are terrible morale-busters like Stop-Loss. Adding to the demoralization of the troops is a serious shortage of equipment and chaotic resupply, but the real back-breaker is knowing that there is no relief in sight. Presently, the troops which originally invaded Iraq are being told that they are next up to go back.
When looking at the shabby situation for resupply of the American troops, keep in mind that the only relief for American troops that the Bush administration has indicated might be forthcoming is the hasty hustling into service of thousands of Iraqi security troops and the “New Iraqi Army.” Left unexplained is the question of how, if the American military is so badly undersupplied, the Iraqis will be equipped.
The contract for equipping the Iraqi troops has been handled in the same incompetent and corrupt manner as the great bulk of Iraq contract fiascos. First, the contract was awarded to a buddy of Ahmad Chalabi’s who was clearly incapable of handling it. When the companies passed over for this crony contract cried foul, the contract was “investigated” and reassigned. This means even more time and money wasted, and Iraqi police forces, already a favored target for attack by guerillas, are sitting ducks with their inadequate weapons and vehicles.
In light of these egregious failures, the continued sabre-rattling by the pro-war neocon hawks in the Bush administration can be dismissed as so much empty rhetoric. The American military has been used and abused to the point that it is struggling to cover current commitments, making new invasions extremely unlikely, regardless of the belligerent declarations issuing from the neocon hawk nests.
40 aborted bombing runs:
Australia’s F/A-18 pilots defied the orders of American commanders and refused to drop their bombs on up to 40 missions during the invasion of Iraq, it can now be revealed.
In a remarkable account of how our airmen applied Australian rules of engagement, an RAAF pilot has told The Sun-Herald each of the 14 RAAF Hornet pilots aborted three to four bombing runs because intelligence given at pre-flight briefings did not concur with what they found at the target.
Last night, The Sun-Herald could not confirm whether or not American field commanders raised objections about the Australian pilots’ actions, nor if US pilots later carried out the bombing runs themselves.
But Australia’s Defence Force chief, General Peter Cosgrove backed the pilots’ action, and said there were no recriminations.
Squadron Leader Daryl Pudney last week described how he and other Australian F/A-18 pilots were forced to weigh up the risk of civilian casualties in a split second before dropping their bombs.
He said pilots broke off many missions after they saw the target and decided there was not a valid military reason to drop their bombs.
What can I say? The implications for more horrible American intelligence and avoidable civilian casualty repercussions are enormous. What was the ratio of American bombing missions to Australian ones? How many American pilots aborted bombing runs to spare civilians?
A few paragraphs in this March 12th entry by Riverbend, a woman blogger in Iraq, caught my eye. It is about four Iraqi men detained by the US military who were able to buy their freedom when their families coughed up $300 payments to the soldiers holding them. I hadn’t realized that we were charging a fee to release detainees from American custody. Is this official military policy, or are these cases of outright extortion? Are the thousands of detainees still held by the US in Iraq merely in prison because they can’t come up with their $300 fee? I realize this story is hearsay but it has somewhat of a ring of truth to it, at least to my ears.
They agreed that one of the soldiers would accompany the man back to the city and wait while he came up with $300/detainee. The rest of the men would be freed a couple of days later. And it worked. Two days later, his three relatives came walking home after being dropped off on the side of the road. Basically, they paid a ransom for their freedom. … read more
I note there is no mention of fees to be paid by a detainee in these requirements for release outlined by Paul Bremer back in January, 2004.
“First, the person released must renounce violence. Second, the person released must have a guarantor, such as a prominent person in his community or a religious or tribal leader who will accept responsibility for the good conduct of the individual being set free.”
Chris Albritton, writing in his blog, Back to Iraq, believes there’s reason to consider that the Madrid train bombing might be a joint operation:
There’s no reason that al Qaeda wouldn’t work with — or help fund — groups that further its own ends in the short run. (Which is why it never worked with Saddam. Not only did it not share any long-term goals with Iraq, and in fact wanted to destroy Saddam’s government, but it didn’t share any short-term goals either. Saddam didn’t want to destroy the United States. He wanted an end to sanctions so he could go back to trying to dominate the Middle East — something bin Laden wants to do himself.)
So. What conclusions may be drawn? As Juan Cole notes, if the ETA did it, it would be seen as local significance and probably bolster the standing of Jose Aznar’s conservative party prior to the Sunday ballot. If it’s jihadists, this will be seen as on par with Sept. 11, 2001, Bali and Lockerbie — and the War on Terror will have suffered a setback. The U.S., paradoxically, probably would like to have the bombers come from al Qaeda because that would bolster Bush’s charge that the War on Terror is ongoing — so don’t change commanders in the middle of a war.
However, either/or is too limiting. I think this was probably some kind of joint venture between the ETA and jihadists, but, still, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this as a wholly Islamist enterprise. We just don’t know the full story yet.
As Chris points out, it is too early to know but this is an interesting insight that the mainstream media, to my knowledge, has not written about.
Update: I was wrong. BBC is speculating about collaboration.
Roderick Long gives Abu Hafs Brigades, who claim responsibility for the Madrid train bombing which killed at least 200 people, an “F” in Logic.
Death of Rachel Corrie in Rafah
US Campaign National Day of Action for Rachel Corrie
Peace activists will mark the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq this weekend with a march on Washington beginning at the site of the military mortuary that accepts U.S. casualties.
Military veterans and members of families who have lost loved ones in the war will join in the memorial procession and rallies outside Dover Air Force Base and the White House.
The Dover base is home to the nation’s largest military mortuary, where bodies of U.S. soldiers are processed and prepared for return to their families.