Friday, April 20, 2007


Isn’t it great to see the secretary of defense claiming a Fallujah dateline with his recent media availability. Look, it’s good to see the new guy taking a micro-viewpoint from the battlefield. I applaud his audacity to risk his hide in war zones to better see how we can handle things in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can only hope his leadership will be an improvement.
But it sounds like a public affairs tactic.
"Let’s talk to the press from Fallujah, so people can see we’re actually here on the ground assessing things."
But how much is Gates seeing, being escorted around by Gen. Petreus and more than likely a bunch of officer “hanger-ons”? In the transcript, they didn't say much. They got a tiny photo of him walking up some steps on page A-12 of the New York Times. The article focused on his visit to the Iraqi government, to tell Maliki and his boys that they have to clean up their shit and start fixing their own problems so we can say eventually say are strategy to support them has worked.
(I can't believe we are hanging our success on the Iraqis being able to get their act together - boy, are we some hopeful suckers! Iraqis I met wouldn't even pick up a broom and shovel to clean their own streets - they use the "Inshallah" (god-willing) attitude just to be lazy! If God wants the street clean, he will have me clean it. If not, he wants it dirty.)

When high-level officials are are coming, our troops are told to clean things up and say the right things before the brass roll through. Gates is certainly not likely to be out in the streets on patrol, interacting with Iraqis etc. So, he can only gauge the mission on what the senior brass are telling him. They are executive management – some are greater soldiers and great leaders too – but they are often removed from the reality of the battlefield because they are tucked within a headquarters surrounded by – well, other officers.

[I’ve been told often throughout my civilian and military career that my contempt for military officers often shows through. They are not all self-serving college-educated smug bastards on power trips. Some officers – especially those who were NCOs (sergeants) who went through officer candidate school are some of the best sellouts I ever served with!]

Joking aside, reports from within top headquarters reflect their perspective, not necessarily the ground truth.

Thankfully, Gen. David Petraeus is a straight shooter who is calling the success of the troops surge as he sees it – still a challenge with the bombings etc., but wait until June when all the extra boots are on the ground – to see how things pan out, he said - a realist, with a touch of optimism. I can handle that in a general.

Speaking of generals, one of the best moves following the Walter Reed scandal was for the military in March to assign Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker to be deputy commanding general at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Tucker is a mustang – started as an enlisted private, rose to the rank of sergeant first class on tanks, then went to officer candidate school before going through the entire officer rank structure and now – he’s a general! I was in Baghdad with him in Spring ’03, when he was a full-bird colonel in charge of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. This is a man who knows the Army, knows soldiers and gets missions accomplished – a well-kept secret among the public – but to those who served with him – most would say that Tucker is like a sergeant major in officer's clothing. (That’s a huge compliment from the enlisted perspective)
In a recent speech, President Bush called Tucker a “bureaucracy buster.” As a deputy commander, he will have hands on role with fixing shit that has gone awry. He belongs on a battlefield, so maybe Walter Reed is just the right place for him now. There is no better man for the job.

Wash. Post. Article On Tucker"

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