The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. -- Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
Tonight on "Hardball," the Hot Shots segment was actually watchable. Fill-in host Norah O'Donnell was joined by Joe Scarborough, Margaret Carlson and Craig Crawford.
DB has heard plenty of people on television talking about how the soldiers at Haditha might have "snapped," but nobody on the old brain vacuum seems to be discussing the mental health of our troops and the disturbing way in which soldiers with mental problems are being sent right back into the heat of battle, sometimes immediately after receiving drugs that require weeks of monitoring.
But there were some excellent points made (not the least of which was O'Donnell's continual usage of the phrase "Failure of Leadership," which is coincidentally the title of DB's lengthy post on the subject).
The best part of the segment:
CARLSON: It's not "a few bad apples" as everyone wants to say as much as it's good apples who are in horrible situation where they're scared to death almost every minute of the day. And what Haditha does, in a larger sense, is it shows how the nature of this war has changed so that we have military forces fighting in a situation that they aren't trained for. It's a police action. It's neighborhood by neighborhood. It's house to house. Your comrade gets killed and you go into the nearby house and you go crazy because you don't know what happened. Now, this looks like it went further than that because there were children and women in their pajamas in the house.
But the nature of this war is now so terrifyingly awful with the secret militias. Not just the Sunni insurgents. Nobody knows who the enemy is and where they're hiding. Haditha is I think a bigger story even than the possible criminal behavior.
O'DONNELL: War is always ugly, but this is a particularly ugly incident. Craig, how much do you think, that this is, in some ways, a failure of leadership? That our troops have been put in a terrible situation?
CRAWFORD: Very much so. I think it's even more of a failure of leadership than the individuals who may have perpetrated this, as much as they probably should be punished. We have a situation over there, as Margaret and Joe have talked about, that is very difficult for people who aren't trained for what they're asked to do. The American military did what it's trained to do and what it was expected to do. They invaded that country, they got to Baghdad in short order and they eventually got Saddam Hussein. They did what the military was supposed to do. Now, for almost two years now, we're asking them to do something they're not prepared to do and that is to be policemen.
They nailed it. Not just policemen, but prison guards. Regardless of how we got into this war (sigh), there was a turning point -- a key moment when the war changed from taking down Saddam to the quagmire we've been stuck in for two years. A key moment when the situation changed not just from fighting to rebuilding, but from a war our troops were prepared and equipped to win into a mess they were asked to clean up without the neccessary support or tools.
It's probably foolish to pinpoint the exact moment in time when the situation shifted, but DB has an eye on what this blogger would call the prime candidate. No, not "Mission Accomplished." Not the fall of the Saddam statue or when they pulled him out of the spider hole.
No, the turning point was Dec. 11, 2003. The president had already denied that the "mission accomplished" banner behind him on the USS Abraham Lincoln referred to the entire war effort (and just six weeks earlier he blamed the Navy for putting up that banner).
After a cabinet meeting, Dec. 11, 2003, the president made it clear that, despite what he said about the banner, in his view the war was essentially won.
"Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that."
Aside from the fact that giving billions to companies like Halliburton is in no way a reflection of the sacrifices made by our troops, the president's use of the word "risked," in the past tense, highlights that he felt that the risks had already been taken and it was time to enjoy the rewards.
The president had an opportunity to bring other nations into the crucial and more difficult phase of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, but he didn't want to share the profits. So he told the rest of the region and the rest of the world to take a hike. It was this greed and the administration's immense misreading of reality that essentially doomed U.S. forces to be left to defend Iraq against the insurgency all alone, without sufficient troop levels, body armor, mental health resources... the list goes on.
When the airbags on television talk about bad apples and complain that the troops are getting a bad rap, just remember that the troops are in the situation they're in because of greed and hubris in the White House. This is why Haliburton is a scandal. Not because of a couple million for that lowlife in the Vice President's office. No, it's a scandal because of the high price in blood and souls that the world is paying for Bush's buddies to have an exclusive deal.