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Signs of the Times for Tue, 11 Apr 2006

Signs Editorial:

March 27, 2006 Updated April 8, 2006
Signs of the Times
Having many cherished friends, from many walks of life, a good listener hears many different voices from many different sources. Let this listener share with you those things he has been told of late from many whom he dearly loves and does not want to lose. They, all those human beings who dare to Be and to Love, in this brief whirl of endless doubts we think of as life, are precious, and the Shadow now falling over far too many of them on the blood soaked sands of Iraq seems very dark and dire.

It is not yet possible to provide enough hard data to fully support the following speculations. It is all told by way of "scuttlebutt" from rank and file, military-on-the-job rumors, and old fashioned soldiers' and sailors' gossip and intuitions. It is offered in that "for what it's worth" category, in the hopes that it will make a few more folks think about the hell on Earth that is the day to day reality for U.S. "boots on the ground" in Iraq.

In general, my experiences over many years of close friendships with honorable, career military and National Guard members, from among both officers and non-commissioned personnel, have proven that the "scuttlebutt" is often more accurate than the official line being handed out from the current CentCom. That was certainly true in Vietnam, and the similarities between Iraq and "The Nam" are abundant.

Remember, however, this is only "scuttlebutt." Do not take it as fact but as food for thought, and perhaps as a warning.

In Iraq, many, perhaps most, of the American forces in the forward operations areas are essentially pinned down. They stay huddled for safety within their small, fortified (as best possible) bunkers and camps, both rural and urban, emerging only upon direct commands, to conduct their assigned patrols and sweeps while looking first and ever more exclusively to their own survival in all regards. They are literally stressed and terrified out of their minds, and most of them are also physically ill, many seriously so, from the effects of Depleted Uranium poisoning. Many of them, especially with their psychopathic "leaders" giving them almost carte blanche to do such, have taken on a "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" modus operendi, at all times and in all circumstances when they're outside of their bunkers.

The truth of this "scuttlebutt" is now being born out by numerous Iraqi eyewitnesses and by the latest statements and sworn testimony coming from members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and in a Canadian courtroom where an American army deserter is pleading for political asylum to keep from returning for another tour of duty in Iraq. Those soldiers who do still have empathy and conscience alive within themselves post Iraq War will suffer hell's own psychological and spiritual torments for the rest of their lives, as have a majority of Vietnam combat veterans. Their having either engaged in or witnessed daily massacres of civilians, including women and children, will leave them broken for life in the deepest parts of themselves. But, their having been driven to the point of unflinching barbarity in Iraq is also very understandable, just as it was among combat troops in Vietnam where the "kill 'em all" sobriquet originated.

These days, the areas they "patrol and sweep" are growing smaller, and their unit actions becoming shorter and more perilous, as they go about the impossible task of "clearing" each day's designated areas of IEDs and "insurgents." The conditions of their daily lives are deplorable. The rate of suicides among them is astronomical, setting an all time record for any U.S. military deployments, in any war or other combat action ever. Some of the oldest among National Guard members now in Iraq were forced back into active duty after having been retired for years. Their ages go up to and include some members who are in their fifties and even a few field medics and nurses in their early sixties. Thus some now in Iraq were there, in The Nam. They know of what they speak, and they say it is even worse in Iraq now than it was in Vietnam in the months before the end.

In many of the Forward Operations Bases or Camps, American soldiers do not dependably receive enough daily drinking water, let alone water enough for washing, and for many there are still no regular showers. For the most remote locations, there are no showers at all, not even with the foul, recycled and often unsafe "yellow water" that has become notorious among U.S. troops' Iraq war tales. Many bivouacs have no air conditioning and most are in areas where there is no electricity for most of the time, which is true throughout nearly all of Iraq outside of the Green Zone.

Having their own generators doesn't help them much when the fuel supplies can't and often don't get through the heavy fields of fire and explosives from the Iraqi resistence. Some U.S. troops in Iraq even lack for adequate supplies of MREs episodically, let alone of fresh foods. They are sometimes left hungry at the end of their long, desperate days, an awful insult added to all the other dangers and deprivations of their days and nights. They are often without laundry facilities, without real beds as opposed to cots, and even without flush toilets in some isolated camps.

They are supposedly rotated out of the grueling forward positions to the large, new bases already finished, (almost 8 of them now) every two to four weeks, but the operative phrase on that is always "if possible." Their successful rotation to more tolerable conditions largely depends on the current "heat" of the resistence around a particular forward base. Some units deployed, especially in the more remote and heavily resistence dominated areas, have now been virtual prisoners, out in the deserts, for several months.

Rumor has it that upwards of 5,500 U.S. combat troops have walked out of Iraq, into adjacent countries such as Turkey, Iran and Syria, and have kept on going from there to places in Europe and elsewhere. They were largely from among those units stuck in the farthest, most isolated positions, and the scuttlebutt says that the Iraqi resistence fighters have even helped some of them to get across the borders and have provided them with food, water, contacts and money for the journey. On several occassions, by the time the transport helicopters came in to take them out to one of the big new bases for a break, the entire unit was gone but for one or two die hards.

It was the U.S. occupation's own "back" that really got broken at Fallujah. Please note the steadily shrinking sizes and numbers of cleverly named U.S. military assaults and initiatives that have taken place since then. The annihilation of Fallujah, and the U.S.'s massive slaughter of innocent civilians there, increased support for the resistence to almost 100% among the Iraqi people. It is most accurate to say that the American combat forces in Iraq are now largely fighting a defensive war. Those with a knowledge of military tactics and history will recognize that to be the worst possible position an invading and then occupying army can get into. To have that be the case this long after the initial invasion, when neither the troops nor their equipment are able to operate at anywhere near to peak condition and efficiency, is even worse.

In addition to the other shortages the troops on the front lines face in these bases, they are also short on ammunition. Despite all of the Bush administration's propganda to the contrary, the resistence owns the highways and roads of Iraq, with the possible exceptions of a very few and very shaky stretches in and around the "Green Zone" and, maybe, maybe not, the main airport road out of Baghdad. The military's ability to resupply its forward troops is rapidly approaching nil. The remote troops are being kept alive by air drops delivering almost everything that does reach them now.

Unfortunately, the anti-aircraft fire from the resistence, always present and heavy, from at least small arms, surrounds the U.S. forward bases and is especially strong near the most remote and smallest ones. For that reason, the drops of supplies to forward combat units are not as precise as they need to be in order to keep supply levels adequate, and some things like diesel fuel, gasoline and ammunition cannot be air dropped regularly or at all. Again, despite the official reports, the recent increases in helicopter "crashes" shows the growing prowess of the Iraqi fighters in bringing them down.

Note too that, except for numerous and frequently fatal vehicular "accidents," there has been scant media or press mention lately of the U.S. military's huge convoys of transport trucks that were formerly hauling supplies to the U.S. troops from the depots and distribution centers in Kuwait and at the Baghdad airport and the new air bases. They have not been rolling very reliably since just after Fallujah. The U.S. troop and supply convoys cannot safely travel in Iraq these days, nor keep any kind of a regular schedule, partly due to the increasing resistence skills in stopping them by causing roll overs and other "accidents," and partly because the vehicles themselves are worn out beyond any safe usage.

The military's equipment is all used up, and there is not a steady stream of replacement materiels coming in, quite the contrary. While the mercenary companies have grown richer than Croesius, the National Guard, Reserves and regular military have gone broke. In person-power, weapons, vehicles, tanks, ammunition, body armor, ordinance, and all else, the U.S. military is drained dry and used up, even to being short on replacement uniforms for active duty combat troops. U.S. soldiers are often caught on camera these days in heavily patched uniforms. Close scrutiny of the next cable or network news clips of frontline soldiers may prove quite revealing.

Much of what is air-dropped in for the most remote U.S. troops is promptly grabbed up by the Iraqi resistance fighters surrounding their encampments. Thus, CentCom, which is well aware of this precarious situation, often does not dare to air drop ammunition, ordinance, replacement weapons or parts, and much else. The troops are being gradually deprived of even their most basic capacity for self-defence against the increasingly numerous, better armed, better organized and often cleaner and better fed "insurgency."

It is an intolerable situation for any soldier to live in, day after day, for weeks and months on end, and it is not going to get better. The conditions currently being denied by the brass and stoically, depressively endured, with no hope of a say in the matter, by the "grunts" in the forward operations zones, is not unlike that faced by soldiers in the trenches of WW I. In fact, if the U.S. does not soon withdraw its forces, it may have very few left to withdraw. Of course, this too may be far from coincidental. Only such a massive and "unforeseen" troop loss will avoid the full, horrible truth from eventually reaching the American public. Most of the U.S. military personnel who have done duty in Iraq are now so radioactive, from their constant and ultimately lethal exposures to the DU, Depleted Uranium, present in all of the U.S. munitions, and the heavy armored assault vehicles in use in Iraq and in Afghanistan as well, that they really cannot be safely returned to home soil in large numbers.

They themselves are literally toxic. The very cells of their bodies are heavily, permanently contaminated with ceramic uranium oxide gases and particulates that can and will spread from their own flesh into everything and everyone they touch, breathe upon or even stand near to, from other human beings to plants, soil, buildings, furnishings and onward. This is not a rumor but a tragic, brutal fact.

A strong and persistent rumor, told by Iraqi civilians and a few old Iraqi soldiers as well, has it that a comprehensive, post-invasion military strategy was designed and implemented well before the U.S. and "coalition" forces ever arrived. With years of advanced planning by the best military minds of Saddam Hussein's armed forces and intelligence services, the Iraqis were well prepared for Bush's war when it came. Remember that George W. Bush had openly stated his wishes, and his PNAC friends had widely published their "scholarly" position papers, which included plans to re-invade Iraq, well before the 2000 "election." From the December 12, 2000 appointment of Bush to the presidency until the Iraq invasion began, the planning and implementation went into high gear in both Iraq's career military and in its civilian high command. They made preparations for just such an invasion as did occur in March of 2003. In fact they planned for a much larger invasion force than was deployed, having anticipated some 300,000 to 500,000 U.S. troops.

Much of Iraq has been honeycombed with miles upon miles of fortified tunnels, virtual super highways and cities built deep underground, shielded against electronic and aerial detection, with hospitals, support staff, dormitories, kitchens, and several years worth of supplies. The plan, then and now, was to lure the American command, by using huge initial successes against token military resistence as bait, into spreading the U.S. troops throughout Iraq, and thereafter breaking them up into ever smaller, less unified groups, sub groups and so on over a period of several years.

Eventually, without their ever having noticed it was happening, by the artful use of an "insurgency" constantly stinging at the U.S. forces like wasps, they would gradually be drawn awry and herded, stationed here, there and everywhere, willy nilly, in Baghdad, at their brand new but largely unmanned military and air bases, around the oil fields and the pipelines, in their fortified city and rural bunkers, in a helter-skelter pattern of troop concentrations all widely separated from each other. And that is exactly how it now is with the positional deployments of the majority of American and other coalition forces in Iraq. They are now, worst of all, very far removed from the means to withdraw them quickly if they should become overwhelmed by a superior force. Just as the large transport helicopters and cargo planes cannot dependably get in to keep them well supplied, they cannot dependably get in to bring the troops out either.

This was the Iraqi strategy from the start. Once they got the U.S. forces sufficiently scattered and pinned down, they could, and will, at the time of their choosing, close the traps, bring the still unaccounted for majority of the pre-invasion Iraqi army out of hiding, and wipe out or capture the American forces in a very brief and total sweep.

Let us now consider some of the facts and matters of record closely related to this "hypothesis" of the pre-war Iraqi planning for the defeat of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

No post invasion censuses, nor any other registrations of Iraqis, were ever conducted, and such dared not to be conducted in order to hide the massive numbers of civilian deaths and wanton massacres. There was no orderly, immediate U.S. take over and no exercise at all of any necessary civil control. Any such would have stifled the rampant graft and pillaging planned and done by the Coalition Provisional Authority. There still is no broad and stable civil order in Iraq today, except in the delusions and propaganda of the Bush administration, and in the desperate attempts to keep up appearances being provided by the very carefully selected Iraqi "government" and its puppets. Not even the corporate media and press is, for the most part, any longer able to pretend that Iraq has a functional and effective civil control structure in place, not anywhere.

There is literally no record at all of where Iraq's huge, pre-war standing army, nor its equipment and materiels really went. Whatever truly did become of them, the U.S. command and the Bush government have no idea of it, not one way or the other. All they have ever had, told and sold as "facts," were their own irrational assumptions, fixed ideas, wishful thinking and deceitful PR, to put it bluntly, their own wild and not very bright guesses and stories for a gullible public and a compliant media and press. The possibilities shared here are based on a good deal more reason and fact than all of that, having at least good, solid "scuttlebutt" behind it.

Remember too that there were vast caches of UN-sealed conventional weapons that the U.S. troops opened and then left abandoned and unguarded when they went tearing through Iraq in a patently chaotic fashion, during and immediately after the invasion. All of those massive caches of arms, ordinance, tanks, missiles, aircraft yet unaccounted for, high yield conventional explosives, detonators and tons upon tons of ammunition, ALL of the munitions caches, got emptied out by the same unknown, faceless, trackless hoardes of Iraqi men who also stripped every last Iraqi military base bare, right down to the concrete blocks, the windows and frames, the electrical wiring, the lamps, the plumbing fixtures and even the pipes. To have been executed so quickly and thoroughly, that task alone had to have been well planned, in great detail and in advance. That the Bush administration called it "looting" is ludicrous. It was far too systematic and well organised to have been mere looting.

It is impossible to forget the bizarre scene that appeared on the televisions of the world, in the live, real time broadcasts coming from the Iraq war, on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, BBC, etc., et al, immediately after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces. For three, entire, mind bending days the cameras revealed, from dawn until dark, the sight of thousands, upon tens of thousands, upon literally uncountable numbers of unarmed, unburdened Iraqi men, all able bodied and roughly of military age, all clean and in civilian clothing, all walking casually in an endless stream down the main highway of Iraq, from North to South.

They were many miles out in the middle of nowhere, without so much as a backpack on their shoulders or a hobo's bindlestiff in their hands, heading South. That is all we really ever knew for sure of their destination, just South, despite the speculations of reporters that they were going home to Baghdad, and all we ever really knew for sure of their origin was that they had mysteriously appeared from the North. They were miles from any town or city when the first TV camera crews spotted them. All we really heard about them was the speculation from the cable and network news reporters.

Not one U.S. military unit came to question them, nor did the media do so effectively. The few questions asked got smiling, friendly replies in suspiciously "broken" English, utterances of "going home" or "no more fighting now" which were devoid of real factual content, and skillfully so. No slightest attempt was made to stop or detain any of them, and it was obvious, at least to this viewer, that they were behaving in a planned and very orderly manner. Smiling and cheerful, as if on some kind of a grand, holiday lark of a walkabout, they walked on and on and on in their countless thousands, an endless stream. The oddest part of all was that no one detected any noticeable influx of tens of thousands of men, or more, into Baghdad during the 3 days that the march continued. Although network camera crews in Baghdad and other cities to the south of the march had been alerted to watch for their arrivals, and did so, they were never seen.

They just vanished into the sands of Iraq, somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, after staging a masssively distracting march down the main highway between Tikrit and Baghdad for three days, days in which that single distraction might well have hidden many another action from view. Countless Iraqi males of the right ages and fitness to have been soldiers simply disappeared at points unasked then and unknown still.

They vanished overnight. Come the dawn of day four, the highway was empty. Not so much as a scrap of paper marked their passing. Not so much as a shoe, or a rag, or a food wrapper had been left behind. Oddly, one reporter and camera crew, from CNN, briefly went into the desert for a few yards on either side of the highway that strange, silent, fourth dawn, and could find not one set of tracks leading away from the highway that had, as of dark the night before, been covered by an endless file of walking men.

Bear in mind that Iraq's standing army at the time of the Bush invasion was over 2.5 million strong. Make no mistake, they were not delighted to have the U.S. armed forces invade their country and take control of it away from Saddam Hussein. Let's face it, with males above the age of 10 in Iraq being allowed to own an unlimited number of guns of all kinds if they so chose, had the domestic opposition to Saddam ever been even so high as a full 50% of the Iraqi people, especially had it been so among the Iraqi military forces and men, then Saddam would have been long gone. He wasn't. That alone should have given any reasonable person the idea that there was much more to the political situation in Iraq than the extremely simplistic picture of an intolerably oppressive and despotic regime as was promoted by Bush Sr., the Clinton administration, Bush Jr., the neocons of the PNAC and the corporate media and press.

Now is that terrible circumstance and time when the U.S. troops themselves, somehow sensing that they have all been long since written off as expendable, must continue to hunker down in terror, abandoned by a government of, by and for their pathologically selfish, greedy, amoral, psychopathic rulers. A war that had no justifiable cause for its beginning may very possibly, and very soon, have a very well justified ending imposed upon it.

But, again, the true price will not be paid by those who created that war for their own selfish gains in power, prestige and wealth. The only ones who'll pay for it, in the highest measures of all, are those American soldiers who were either idealistic enough, foolish enough, obedient enough, or all three, to have gone to the faraway land of Iraq and fought in it, and those Iraqis who have either been killed by the U.S. invaders or forced to fight them to the death so that their nation and people could again live in freedom from occupation by foreign forces, and hopefully, someday, in peace.

The ultimate truth about all wars, on all sides, for all those who fight in them, for all those who love the fighters as friends and kin, and for all those civilians who are the innocent victims of "collateral damage" is that there are no real winners, and the losers are always the maimed, the dead, and the bereaved.

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