August 19 2008

gun totin chaplain

Iraqi policemen deploy in the Wadi al-Salam cemetery in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Ö
AP via Yahoo! News - Aug 15 12:16 PM AP via Yahoo! News


by Kelly Thomas

Sometimes you read and re-read and suddenly, it is "ah hah." I recently felt this with an article in the New York Times Magazine.

It seems lately that a lot of my commentary comes from there. Why? Well, because the magazine does in depth articles for one thing and the editors obviously donít mind giving a writer a few pages, not the usual 500 words or less. The article,The Last Battle (The Fight Among Iraq's Shiites) by Michael Gordon, is probably the best article I've read about Iraq: succinct and shows where we are NOW after all the millions of dollars and lives given.

The article had to do with a team called Phoenix(not the other infamous Phoenix Operation- The CIA engineered project for assassinating enemy combatants in Vietnam).

The Phoenix Team included three young captains that General Petraeus recruited to work with Sunnis and Shiites to create a greater sense of security, provide some jobs through a neighborhood watch program, and, in general, be his eyes and ears in a region of the country that seemed the most conducive to employing General Petraeus' counter- insurgency philosophy.

I was very impressed that the good general would be this open, creative, and very protective of these three young soldiers who were not career types, although true believers. There has to be an amazing "back story" to this project. Here are three soldiers: a female Lieutenant, later Captain; another, having done several tours in Iraq became a Harvard graduate; an enlisted guy who could have been an officer but through some idealistic view wanted to be an enlisted man and later became a Sergeant.

baghdad AP via Yahoo! News
These soldiers connections to Petraeus, to each other, to the Marines, and ultimately to this story is almost too much to believe.

The article is too long and involved to fully convey the gist of the Phoenix Team and their responsibilities, even if I wanted to. Several lessons can be learn from the article. One included the military should not be put in a position to make promises or offer incentives that they cannot deliver. Reminds me so much of Vietnam. We made all these promises to the people and in the final analysis, didnít deliver.

But, more than anything, what The Last Battle pointed out was the overwhelming complexity that we are in the middle of in Iraq: tribes, sheiks, political alliances, fanatical believers who all make an impossible venue for democracy.

Here's a thought: the best we can hope for is that a kinder Saddam and surely less crazy, might emerge. The Last Battle reinforces that any idea of a democracy as we know it is a will of the wisp fairy tale.
A U.S. soldier from the Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment runs at the site where an explosive device went of inside a house during security operations in Diyala province August 8, 2008. Picture taken August 8.
REUTERS/Andrea Comas (IRAQ)


by BN- Vietnam class of 1966-1970

I couldn't agree with you more about the article,The Last Battle, the fight among Iraq's Shiites, by Michael Gordon. It was one of the most informative I've read about the war. And, I think, if read carefully, spells how the NOW looks in Iraq like I have not read before.

I was incredibly impressed with the absolute flexibility and openness of General Petraeus. The very idea that he would use three Captains as Team Phoenix, employing creative and innovative ideas in working the Iraqis, was very impressive. The fact that they became somewhat disillusioned is par for the course.

As an ex-military type, I, like you, found the simple telling of how some things came to be slightly incredulous. There has to be much more in the background than we could possible read in one very informative article. The article spelled out the futility of our attempts in working the fragile democracy of Iraq, if such a thing exists anyway. And, you are right, the players are legion: Sheiks, tribal alliances, religious factions, various political alliances, impossible.

Project Phoenix, these three young Captains, America's brightest and dedicated working against impossible odds-we need to do whatever it takes to keep these three young dedicated officers involved, either directly or indirectly. As far as the good General is concerned, I hope we are readying him for a run at the White House; anyone this innovative and creative should be President.

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