[QUOTE]Gen. William Odom writes that opponents of the war should focus public attention on the fact that Bush’s obstinate refusal to admit defeat is causing the troops enormous psychological as well as physical harm.

By William E. Odom

Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it – with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems.

There are only two ways to fix this problem, both of which the president stubbornly rejects. Instead, his recent "surge" tactic has compelled the secretary of defense to extend Army tours to 15 months! (The Marines have been allowed to retain their six-month deployment policy and, not surprisingly, have fewer cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome.)

The first solution would be to expand the size of the Army to two or three times its present level, allowing shorter combat tours and much longer breaks between deployments. That cannot be done rapidly enough today, even if military conscription were restored and new recruits made abundant. It would take more than a year to organize and train a dozen new brigade combat teams. The Clinton administration cut the Army end strength by about 40 percent – from about 770,000 to 470,000 during the 1990s. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld looked for ways to make the cuts even deeper. Thus this administration and its predecessor aggressively gave up ground forces and tactical air forces while maintaining large maritime forces that cannot be used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the lack of wisdom in that change in force structure is being paid for not by President Bush or President Clinton but by the ordinary soldier and his family. They have no lobby group to seek relief for them.

The second way to alleviate the problem is to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as possible and as securely as possible. The electorate understands this. That is why a majority of voters favor withdrawing from Iraq.

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq.

The public is ahead of the both branches of government in grasping this reality, but political leaders and opinion makers in the media must give them greater voice.

Congress clearly and indisputably has two powers over the executive: the power of the purse and the power to impeach. Instead of using either, members of congress are wasting their time discussing feckless measures like a bill that "de-authorizes the war in Iraq." That is toothless unless it is matched by a cut-off of funds.

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.

To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. From 1977 to 1981, he was Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
E-mail: [email]diane@hudson.org[/email]


Submit a comment - Jump to bottom of list

Posted by Nick Egnatz - Northwest Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War, VVAW, VFP
07/06/2007, 10:33 AM
As a former enlisted man in the Vietnam War, it is great to see a senior officer speak with such candor and clarity. I would like to address two of the points that General Odom has made.

From my own personal research both in reading and talking to vets, the number one trigger of PTSD is the act of killing another human being. If we were involved in a war legally and morally justified, this trigger would not be as great as it is with the legal and moral morass that is the Iraq War and Occupation.

Secondly, while I am delighted that General Odom is bringing up impeachment, I am disappointed that he is not advocating for it immediately. The Nuremburg Tribunals called a war of aggression the "supreme international crime". If such a war of aggression based on a willful propaganda campaign of lies and half truths, is not grounds for immediately impeaching the entire Administration, I don't know what is. Throw in warrantless wiretapping, torture, loss of habeas corpus, politicizing the Justice Department, refusal to respond to congressional subpeonas, and the "unitary executive theory" that the president is king or dictator and in this humble former enlisted man's opinion, not doing everything we can to immediately impeach the lot of them is a crime.

Where will the troops come from . . .
Posted by Paul Breslin -
07/06/2007, 01:03 PM
. . . if we double or triple the size of the armed forces, as General Odom recommends? Recruiters are already having trouble meeting their quotas. Such an increase would require reviving conscription, and a draft might not be such a bad thing, since the armchair warriors who got us into Iraq would suddenly have to worry about their own flesh and blood being involved.

A wiser alternative, though, would be to reconsider our obsession with ilitary power as the solution to all international problems. Stateless terrorist organizations cannot be defeated by military force alone. We do need a strong military as a credible deterrent (which we don't have right now, because the whole world knows we're bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.) But military action should be a last resort when other means have failed. You don't, for instance, give a U.N. inspector the bum's rush out of Iraq because he is finding no WMD's and thus messing up your rationale for war.

We have a huge military budget, which dwarfs expenditures on any other need. (Think what just a fraction of that money could do toward developing sustainable energy sources. Moreover, if that were accomplished, our political principles wouldn't be held hostage to our need for oil: no more support for such dubious regimes as that of Saudi Arabia.)

Throwing even more money and manpower into the military isn't going to solve our problems. Time to speak to the rest of the world in terms other than ultimatums.

Posted by Eric Meiers -
07/07/2007, 01:24 AM
the proponents of the war say the press is not giving the whole story its the left view they say. Well the former commander of forces Gen. Ricardo Sanchez the man who would authorize Enhanced interrogation tecknics in a speech 4-5 wks ago said the best america can hope for in Iraq is to stave off defeat and salvage a STALEMATE. No mainstream media reports this and the lies pile up end this stupid crusade,set our troops free.

supporting our troops
Posted by richard young -
07/07/2007, 02:48 AM
This is the clearest and best plan for action to really "support our troops" that I have encountered. From an appreciative Korean War veteran, thank you General Odom. If there is any way I can assist in bringing this message to Congress, please call on me.

War For ExxonMobil & Halliberton Profits
Posted by paul Lozowsky -
07/07/2007, 09:39 AM
The Bush/Cheney Mission To Plunder The American Family & Enrich Big Oil Companies & Giant Defense Contractors is Accomplished!
Christian Coalition Troops Occupying Sacred Muslim Land is Destabilizing The Middle East & Causing Big Oil & ExxonMobil & Big Defense Contractors & Halliburton To Earn Massive Profit!

• American People in the last election spoke loud and clear & demand OUT OF IRAQ! The American People WERE BETRAYED BY PELOSI & REED! DO NOT BETRAY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AGAIN!
• Bush/Cheney policies have created a holocaust event in the middle east, wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on military spending, destabilized the Middle East which has raised the price of a barrel of oil to $70 and a gallon of gasoline to $3-$4 ! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
• Democracy anywhere must include an independent media. CORPORATE CONTROL HAS REPLACED INDEPENDENT MEDIA! THERE ARE NO independent voices appearing on CNN, MSNBC and FOX NEWS! Only Neutered Republican & Democratic Strategists!
• There are 463 Million Muslims in the Middle East. Most want Christian Coalition Troops off their land and many are willing to support Al-Qaeda with money or manpower to make it happen.
• US Government can make Al-Qaeda cease to exist and make them a rebel without a cause and dry up all their financial support! Get US troops Out of Muslim Land.On March 21, 1983 Ronald Reagan called Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden “Freedom Fighters” when they fought and ousted the Soviet Occupiers and ended their puppet government in Afghanistan. Why is the US Government so surprised to find them (Al-Qaeda) doing to US Troops in Afghanistan & Iraq in 2007 (killing them) what we wanted them to do to Soviet Troops in Afghanistan in 1978 (kill them)!

• Over a million Iraqi & Iranian soldiers were killed in the 1978-1988 War. The Bush Administration with the consent of congress is headed for another catastrophic war - with Iran with the possible use of nuclear weapons – At risk is massive loss of US Troops in Iraq!
• Only Diplomatic resolution to nuclear buildup in the Middle East can remain on the table. The greatest risk of worldwide nuclear war comes not from Iran’s Enrichment Program but Israel’s 200-400 targeted and ready to be launched thermonuclear weapons! Time to end this cover-up!
• 2 out of every 3 barrels of oil on planet earth are located in 5 countries in the Middle East and is worth over 44 trillion dollars.

Required Reading
Posted by Neil Ringlee - Retired Marine
07/07/2007, 09:59 AM

Thank you for your article and perspective on the issue of the real price we are paying in Iraq. The Vietnam generation is trying to get the word out on the real price we shall pay for this war, and your analysis of tour/rotation policies relating to PTSD hit the nail on the head. One key point to mention in relation to Nick's comments is that killing is a key trigger, witness to killing follows, but when you fight in someone's neighborhood, putting women and kids and innocent civilians who just have no place else to go in the line of fire, we have a mix that goes well beyond previous experience. Our "surge" is doing exactly that.

I am amazed and disappointed when I talk with most people of our generation about the war. Those who protested my presence in Viet Nam now have nothing to say, and are shocked when I, a career Marine and mustang Officer, come out blasting the war, the events leading up to the war, and the current conduct of the war.

I personally know a lot of our counterinsurgency "experts." I can tell you that they gained their expertise by a "quick read in" after realizing "major combat operations" were not over. The were conspicuously absent from the nasty little wars we fought in the 80's hence their lack of hands on experience, and more critically, lack of perspective. Their perspective and experience was based solely on the Warsaw Pact and allies, and not on the most likely scenario, the nasty little "Small War" in remote, alien lands.

I have two quick reads for them. I cannot find them on any of the "Professional Reading Lists" of the services. They are worth the time, will fit in a cargo pouch, and are well documented:

Steven Kinzer "Overthrow"

Chalmers Johnson "Blowback"

Thank you for your efforts General. I must agree that current efforts to end or redirect the current mess are seemingly futile. Semper Fidelis, N. R. Ringlee

"Has America Lost? War Doctrines of Kutusov & Clausewitz
Posted by Dr Subroto Roy -
07/07/2007, 10:18 AM
Has America Lost? War Doctrines of Kutusov vs Clausewitz May Help Explain Iraq War

First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page, Special Article, July 3 2007, [url]www.thestatesman.net[/url] ...

republished [url]www.independentindian.com[/url] ...

By Subroto Roy

Has the United States lost the war in Iraq? How would we tell if it has or not? If American commanding officers of general rank, once they go into retirement, say the Iraq war is lost or if the vast majority of the American people say it is not worth fighting, does that mean the USA has lost? When someone loses someone else wins ~ there are no "draws" or runners-up in war. If America has lost, does that mean Saddam won? How can a man who was hanged in sight of the whole world win a war from beyond his grave? It is all very strange in this most abominable of all wars.

Battle of Borodino

In the Battle of Borodino in 1812, the Russians under Marshall Mikhail Kutusov withdrew and the French held the field of battle at end of day ~ the single bloodiest day of warfare in modern times with between 66,500 and 125,000 casualties including several dozen generals. Though the French won, it signalled the end of French power and fall of Napoleon. Borodino was a Pyrrhic victory.

Marshall Kutusov, against his generals' advice, and courting extreme unpopularity with St Petersburg, continued to withdraw after Borodino and declined to give battle to defend Moscow itself. His remaining forces and most of the civilian population withdrew beyond Moscow. The city was emptied and allowed to burn. The French took it without a fight, Napoleon entered and tried to feel himself its ruler, his generals tried to create a cooperative local government from among the remaining residents.

Kutusov waited, waited and waited some more without giving battle. Then one day, some months later, just as Kutusov had been praying, news came that Napoleon and the French had gotten up and left. Napoleon's retreat was the biggest catastrophe his Grande Armée suffered, and they were harassed by Russian attacks all the way to the border.

Saddam was reported to have had two Russian generals advising his army, who quietly left before the Anglo-American attack occurred. Russian generals learn about Kutusov on mother's knee. Even Stalin invoked Kutusov's name when his 1939 pact with Hitler had failed and Hitler attacked Russia on 22 June 1941.... more at [url]www.independentindian.com[/url] ...as there is no space... [/QUOTE]