Friday, November 21, 2008

The Pentagon's Argument of Last Resort on Iraq

A 'must read' by Tom Englehardt. Links at site.

It's the ultimate argument, the final bastion against withdrawal, and over these last years, the Bush administration has made sure it would have plenty of heft. Ironically, its strength lies in the fact that it has nothing to do with the vicissitudes of Iraqi politics, the relative power of Shiites or Sunnis, the influence of Iran, or even the riptides of war. It really doesn't matter what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or oppositional cleric Muqtada al-Sadr think about it. In fact, it's an argument that has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with us, with the American way of war (and life), which makes it almost unassailable.

In a nutshell, the Pentagon's argument couldn't be simpler or more red-bloodedly American: We have too much stuff to leave Iraq any time soon. In war, as in peace, we're trapped by our own profligacy. We are the Neiman Marcus and the Wal-Mart of combat. Where we go, our "stuff" goes with us -- in such prodigious quantities that removing it is going to prove more daunting than invading in the first place. After all, it took less than a year to put in place the 130,000-plus invasion force, and all its equipment and support outfits from bases all around the world, as well as the air power and naval power to match.

Some have estimated, however, that simply getting each of the 14 combat brigades still stationed in Iraq on January 20, 2009, out with all their equipment might take up to 75 days per brigade. (If you do the math, that's 36 months, and even that wouldn't suffice if you wanted to remove everything else we now have in that California-sized country.)

Getting out? Don't dream of it.

[...] As the Pentagon's budget soared, its civilians and the high command went on an imperial spending spree the likes of which may never have been seen on this planet.

For them, Iraq has been war as cornucopia, war as a consumer's paradise. Arguably, on a per-soldier basis, no military has ever occupied a country with a bigger baggage train. On taking Iraq, they promptly began constructing a series of gigantic military bases, American ziggurats meant to outlast them. These were full-scale "American towns," well guarded, 15-20 miles around, with multiple PXes, fitness clubs, brand fast-food outlets, traffic lights, the works. (This, in a country where, for years after the invasion, nothing worked.)

In other words, abroad, we weren't the Spartans, we were the Athenians on steroids. [...]

Now, back in the days when we had less experience fighting losing wars, Americans in retreat simply shoved those extra helicopters off the decks of aircraft carriers in chaos, burned free-floating cash in tin drums, and left tons of expensive equipment and massive bases behind for the enemy to turn into future industrial parks. At the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in April 1975, while everything in sight was being burned or destroyed including precious advanced electronic equipment, money actually rained down from the Embassy incinerator on the roof upon amazed Vietnamese allies huddled below, waiting for a promised airlift to safety that, for most, never came.

Withdrawal then was unsightly, unseemly, and environmentally unsound. But, as we know, the lessons of Vietnam were subsequently learned.

And don't forget the shrink-wrapping of those helicopters -- who knows how many -- for that long, salt-free sea voyage home.

All our shit's worn out from years of operation in sand. Protecting sand-scoured shit from salt air makes no sense at all. "No sense at all" is the Pentagon's main operating principle.

[...] When it comes to withdrawal, the most militarily profligate administration in memory has seemingly ensured that the highest military priority in 2009 will be frugality -- that is, saving all American "stuff" in Iraq.

Irony hardly covers this one. [...]

Every last piece of equipment over there is worn out and tore up from the floor up, or as good as, and will need to be rebuilt anyway, which is more expensive than buying new.

Let's take a lesson from the evacuation of Dunkirk.

First, blow all the stockpiled ordnance in place. I think Fixer would be glad to come help. Heh.

Second, treat the breeches and barrels of every artillery piece larger than an 81mm mortar to some thermite grenades to render them into unusable lumps. Keep the mortars lest the mortarmen have nothing heavy to carry and feel unloved.

Third, fly out everything flyable. For the rest, see "blow in place" and "thermite grenades".

Fourth, use every available vehicle to transport troops. Use the best vehicles to take them to Kuwait for transport home. The balance of vehicles take them to airfields and ports. The last man out of each vehicle will be the driver, who will drain the oil, restart the engine, and board outbound ships or planes.

Call this "Operation We Need All New Shit Anyway". It'll be good for our economy, not to mention a burgeoning Iraqi scrap-metal industry. Win-win!

All non-combatant civilians will have been evacuated first, of course. The mercenaries can find their own goddam way out.

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