Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Loose Ends ... Parts I (a), (b), II

I. a) I've been meaning to post something of substance about the agents provocateurs at Montebello for the past couple of days, but I haven't had the time to construct anything that I think is worthy of the effort of reading it.

But, in hoping to write something meaningful and failing, I've neglected to post anything at all.

I still don't have much time, but to meet my personal goal of posting daily, I think that I'll tie-up some loose ends.

Here (you'll remember), an anonymous right-winger takes issue with a Guardian news story from Iraq describing (with earnest support from army PR representatives) how exhausted US forces in Iraq are. It's quite clear:

It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.

They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'

Now, the anonymous one (who actually started his blathering at Canadian Cynic) and occasional commentor "hooligan" have (each in their own way) tried to educate this particular leftist that combat can be tiring, and that it's perfectly understandable that the troops are tired.

You can read for yourselves in the article that it's multiple deployments, inadequate rest periods, and so-on that is causing the chronic fatigue being described. I'd just like to respond to this nonsense on display here. Supposedly these "conservatives" (or whatever) thought that "leftists," being generally anti-military, might be incapable of grasping the real-world fact that combat can make you pooped. Not doing anything but laying around collecting welfare, or sitting on our fat asses watching the boss frantically do our work while our unions protect us from being fired, us lefties must be oblivious to the simple reality that the manly, heroic task of fighting can wear you out. So, the anonnymous one and hooligan decided to take me to school on that issue.

This is why right-wingers need to be in charge. Especially when it comes to something as important as "National Defence." Except for the reality: Everyone knows that you need "fresh troops" to fight effectively. Even a lefty such as myself knows that you don't turn your soldiers into barely functioning zombies through overwork and inadequate rest times. Seriously. You need to pull soldiers who have been in combat too long and give them time to recuperate. You keep them sharp by not keeping them out of the theatre of combat for too long. It's not like I imagine myself a brilliant tactician. This is commonsense. Something that a pro-war, soldeier-loving righty ought to know about, but apparently you can just keep soldiers in combat forever with no discernable impact on their performance. This is why you should reject right-wingers at every opportunity. They quite simply don't know what they're talking about, but they act as if they do. That's one reason why the Iraq occupation has been such a disaster, even by the neo-cons' own goals.

I was going to respond to something else, but I've run out of time this morning.

I. b) hooligan responded in the comments section by reminding me that he'd included the qualifiers about soldiers needing adequate rest periods, and so-on, in order to be considered "fresh" as opposed to "chronically fatigued." Did I forget that part? Quite honestly, I did forget that part. But seeing as how all the necessary information is in The Guardian article, I can't really see why hooligan needs to go elsewhere to find out if this problem (that moves US Army PR flaks to forget their assigned tasks in order to complain about it) is more than just being tired after an engagement.

II. Now, in another post, ... gotta go .... later today

... or the next day, as it turns out.

Yeah, I was going to mention "hooligan's" contribution on troop suicides. This was a reference to another of "nonny's" imbecilic forays on Canadian Cynic.

But first, let's review. A newspaper lays out the case that the US troops in Iraq are stretched to the point of exhaustion due to repeated deployments, 15-month tours of duty, and etc., ... to the point where Army PR men can't restrain themselves from emotional outbursts about the crisis.

A leftish, anti-war blog posts about this and "nonny" seeks to educate "leftards" that combat is tiring and pats himself on his warmongering back about his superior knowledge of all things military.

Then, "hooligan" attempts to say that maybe under his caustic tone, "nonny" has a point after all, and that sustained physical exertion and mental concentration have been tiring people out for thousands of years, so why should we be surprised if the American soldiers in Iraq are tired.

Of course, the whole point of it all is that if, after four years, the US military in Iraq is starting to fall apart (which is the subtext of the article in question) that this is a cause for concern. Especially for those who support the US occupation of Iraq, or who claim to care about "the troops."

But of course, we on the left, are accused of sapping the morale of the precious troops (American or Canadian) if we (Americans or Canadians) even dare to debate the nature and effectiveness of the respective Iraq or Afghanistan missions. That this sapping of morale will cause the troops' and therefore their missions' failure is of no consequence to us on the left, because it's just one more sign of our burning hatred for them, for our countries, and for ourselves.

Of course, pro-war dipshits like "nonny" can belittle the exhaustion of "the troops" with no damage done to their troop-loving credentials. And the same thing goes for their response to rising suicide rate among the sacred "troops."

WASHINGTON -- Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.

That's from the Washington Post. Here's "nonny's" response:

Oh, boy what a shocking development, an increase over a 26 year average of 62 suicides per year to 99, a rate not seen since the last Gulf War! The logical conclusion of the article: War is stressful. As I said, shocking and surprising. What's next from the Washington Post? War increases the likelihood of soldiers' getting shot at?

So as not to be sloppy or unfair, I'll reproduce "hooligan's" entire statement about this:

As for my opinion that the suicide rate is being overblown, I base that upon the information I gleaned from the papers: there are 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 99 have killed themselves, 28 while actually deployed, according to the link provided by the "Cynic". I hesitate to call these figures "insignificant" because of the subject matter, but it is undeniable that they wouldn't raise an eyebrow if the topic were different. The headlines, while not inaccurate, are misleading: relative percentage changes are often meaningless without knowledge of the base figures. A couple of years ago my speeding ticket total went up 100% with the second ticket I received, as an example.

More nuance. This is not that difficult to grasp however. Suicides have gone up. The highest rate in 26 years. People are suffering. The number of suicides in 2006 is larger than the number in the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so on. Simple really. Some things don't require elaboration.

We're not even asking warmongers to give a shit about the people of Iraq, when they so clearly don't. Lord knows what their suicide rates are like. But here's the precious, precious, sacred, godiworshipthegroundtheywalkon TROOPS, and what does a right-winger get away with?

"Big deal. War is hell."

The respectful response (given the subject matter) would be to either dispute those numbers, or to try to justify the stresses, strains, deaths, etc., by saying that the cause they're fighting for is worth it, that the sufferings will be minimized.


hooligan said...

I guess this is the "respectful" reply you said you felt my earlier comments deserved:
"They quite simply don't know what they're talking about, but they act as if they do."

I think, perhaps, you need to re-read what I wrote to you earlier: "Is the current situation more extreme, or is it simply better known? I don't know". Seems straightforward to me. I make no claim to superior knowledge.

Your remarks about how an army should treat its soldiers are spot on, in my opinion. But, as I said before, tales told by soldiers in previous wars make the same complaint.

I notice that you have neglected to deal with my remarks on the suicide numbers. I can only imagine what they'll be.

hooligan said...

"But seeing as how all the necessary information is in The Guardian article, I can't really see why hooligan needs to go elsewhere to find out if this problem (that moves US Army PR flaks to forget their assigned tasks in order to complain about it) is more than just being tired after an engagement."

Just a tad disingenuous there, thwap. My original comment to your earlier post dealt with historical perspective: since being exhausted is a common complaint of soldiers throughout history, is the problem today more extreme or not? The Guardian article does not touch on that point, as you well know.

hooligan said...

""Big deal. War is hell.""

If this is what you actually believe my position to be, after all I've written, then I am obviously wasting my time here.

thwap said...


Well, i'll grant you that there are nuances to what you have said, ... specifically, you mention your uncle's experiences in WWII and the overall fatigue of entire armies, and so-on.

But you don't tie your observations to any context of any real value, (the US Army in Iraq is falling apart, and for what? and who is hurting and what will the consequences of this be, and what should we do now? etc., etc., ) and your comments about the suicide rates were about as intellectually bankrupt as they could possibly be.

So, if you find that your airy subtleties aren't exactly treasured here, by all means, move on.