officespace.jpg

Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco and long-time military affairs reporter, had a very disturbing portrait in the WaPo of the mess that is the "training" of the Iraqi "military":

Some advisers reported being personally targeted by infiltrators. "We had insurgents that we detected and arrested in the battalion that were planning an operation against me and my team," Allen said.

But Iraqi officers may have had even more to fear, because their families were also vulnerable. "I went through seven battalion commanders in eight weeks," Allen noted. Dixon reported that in Samarra both his battalion commander and intelligence officer deserted just before a major operation.

Iraqis also had some complaints about their U.S. advisers, most notably that junior U.S. officers who had never seen combat were counseling senior Iraqi officers who had fought in several wars. "Numerous teams have lieutenants . . . to fill the role of advisor to an Iraqi colonel counterpart," the Lessons Learned report stated.

Farrell, the officer in east Baghdad, said some advisers were literally "phoning in" their work. Some would not leave the forward operating base "more than one or two days out of the week — instead they would just call the Iraqis on cellphones," he said.

Dixon was grim about the experience. "Would I want to go back and do it again?" he asked. His unambiguous answer: "No."

Hmmm…don't I recall folks in the Bush Administration saying things were going great with the training?  Why, yes, I do.  But have officers — both former and current been critical of the poor way things have been handled and the way that it puts our troops and the stability of the entire nation of Iraq even more at risk the longer we allow things to continue along this failing path?  Why, yes, they have:

Bing West, a former Marine officer who runs a government-consulting firm and who has been to Iraq numerous times captured the situation thusly:

"140,000 American soldiers, 3,000 advisors. My goodness gracious, less than two percent. If you're serious about building up the Iraqi forces there's something wrong with that equation. I think just coming back from Iraq that really throughout our ranks you sense they know that. They get it. So almost independent of the Congress and the executive branch, the military is most likely going to move in a major way – reducing the overall forces but really building up the advisors. Why? If you go to any Iraqi battalion or any police unit, the first thing the advisors there tell you is they can't stand without us. They're not ready yet and probably will not be for several more years. So if you hear one chorus from over there, it's to embed more Americans with the Iraqis – then you don't need as many Americans."

Jay Garner, the retired Army general who was the American viceroy in Iraq until he was shoved out by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, was also on the panel. Garner gave the problem some scale by offering a guesstimate on how many Iraqi units still need significant advising and training.

"What we have right now is a 100-plus certified Iraqi battalions – about 110, I think," Garner said. "I'm not sure what certified means but it does not mean that they're capable of operating by themselves. A few of them are maybe somewhere between five and ten." Each Iraqi battalion has between 400 and 600 men.

So almost the entirety of the Iraqi forces being called certified that can't operate effectively without being "robustly advised" in Garner's words.

Thomas Hammes, a retired Marine colonel who wrote "The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century," said during a recent National Public Radio interview that we need 60 U.S. advisors with each battalion instead of the current 10.

They would need to be non-commissioned officers and officers and maintained for "a very long period of time." This would mean an additional 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops being sent to Iraq.

Is it me, or does it seem as though the President of the United States is asking our military officers and the innocent citizens in Iraq to just keep on filing duplicate copies of useless TPS Reports in the hopes that lining up the paperwork will somehow make the whole mess go away? And how depressing is it that George Bush as Lumbergh in "Office Space" is a comparison that works altogether too well? 

But it gets even worse, as Frank James of the Chicago Tribune describes:

Not only does the U.S. military not have enough service members devoted to advising and training, but as Ricks's piece indicates, many of the people we've assigned to advise Iraqi forces don't have the right skills or experience to do the job.

All the experts I've listened to recently expect the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman, to recommend that the U.S. ramp up its advisory and training activities. That is a key part of any responsible exit strategy.

But as Ricks's story and other evidence indicates, the U.S. is frighteningly far from where it needs to be if we are, in good conscience, to move our forces from Iraq and leave behind an indigenous military adequate to the task of dealing with the insurgency and sectarian violence.

In other words, it is even more of a mess than those of us pessimistic souls already know it to be. Much worse.  Just reading the last few days at Juan Cole's blog has made sleep difficult, and this catch by Laura Rozen earlier regarding Iraqis who have now sought asylum in Scandanavian nations should give everyone pause.

Someone is going to need to sit down with the Shrub soon and have a talk. Because the rose-colored glasses schtick isn't working with anyone whose brain has half a working synapse, and it is getting worse by the hour in Iraq.  And it is worth asking, over and over again until someone gets a straight answer, where the President got the idea that the Vietnam war was winnable with just a few more bombs?  Because if that is the perspective that he and his advisors bring to the table in any consideration on Iraq, then we are going long and then some…until some time after 2008, at the very least.

This is a mess of George Bush's making, of his choosing, of his pushing.  The accountability for this failure is at his feet. 

The neocons bear a lot of responsibility for pushing their agenda and failed "flowers and candy" idiocy along — they are not even remotely blameless in this no matter how quickly Richard Perle tries to scuttle away from the bright lights and back into whatever lair he resides in the off-political-seasons.  And Adelman and his ilk sure don't get a pass either. 

But Iraq and its endless ripples of violence and hatred and cultural and secular division…this will all be laid at George Bush's feet as his legacy, his Presidency, his monumental hubris and failure.

It is past time for accountability.