A case of déjà vu

Dear Editor:March 19 marked the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. On my bookshelf, next to George Orwell’s essential “Animal Farm,” sits “Dereliction of Duty” written by then-Maj. H.R. McMaster. The subtitle of the book reads: “Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and The Lies that Led to Vietnam.” The gist of the book is that the catastrophe of Vietnam was the result of failures by the political and military leadership to act honestly and in the best interests of the American and Vietnamese people, and especially of their military.This book became a notorious must-read within the Pentagon and was a special favorite among generals critical of the military course in Iraq. Ironically, the now-Col. McMaster was an aide to the outgoing Gen. Abizaid and now advises Gen. David Petraeus, commander in Iraq. McMaster is struggling to do it better. But, strangely, it is “déjà vu all over again.”America, once again, suffers from a political leadership that has proven to be utterly dishonest and incompetent. The military leadership, once again, put their careers ahead of their sworn responsibility to do what is best for the country and for the troops under their command.To focus just on today’s military, you need only to compare the vast military revolution of WWII. Within just the same four years, brand new ships, planes and equipment were designed, tested, built and put into service. But today, troops in the field remain short of up-to-date body armor. Vehicles that are safe from roadside bombs, the No. 1 killer, have been available since before the invasion; a few hundred are just now being ordered. An Israeli company has a defense weapon for RPGs, rocket propelled grenades. The Defense Department will not buy it.If this weren’t bad enough, we now know the disaster that awaits returning injured troops. The military is systematically trying to reduce their obligations to the disabled veterans.But what has not been discussed in the national media is the fundamental tactical failure of the U.S. military in Iraq. Everyone feels so beholden to “support our troops,” they are blind to what is actually being done. The Pentagon recently produced a new manual addressing counter-insurgency. This manual states that everything the military has done to date, and continues to do, is self-defeating. Bombing civilians in buildings, breaking into peoples’ homes in the middle of the night, jailing every man of military age, shooting civilians at checkpoints, boarding up hospitals that might treat insurgents, and fomenting a civil war between sects are all disastrously wrong.Like Vietnam and Dante’s Inferno, Iraq continues to descend to ever worse rings of hell. But in this second time around, we should have all known better.Patrick HunterCarbondale