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Leadership Deficit

Iraq and the Commander in Chief. Communication failure? Plus much more.

8.23.05

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LEAD US TO VICTORY
Re: Jed Babbin's GWOT Is It?:

Thank goodness I am not losing my mind. My husband and I are strong supporters of the president and have daughters working in the administration. Where has he been? Where is the strong leadership we saw in the past? We understand all too clearly that these people want to dominate the world with extreme Islam and destroy all who stand in their way. This is not going to end.

We watched the first part of the special on 9-11 Sunday evening. It makes me angry that we have been so far behind in realizing what has been taking place over many years. I realize this is a difficult time for our intelligence and a difficult organization to infiltrate. But over the years these terrible individuals have been setting themselves up all over the world -- they are in place -- we are trying to put our fingers in the dike. I want to see a tough, hard response by our military -- wherever it's needed. We must show strength and resolve and those who wring their hands on human and civil rights be damned. We are fighting for our existence. We know these people will not hesitate to use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or any other means to destroy us. The president has much ground to make up on this. We have said time and again the he needs to be out in front of the American people at least once a month pounding home the idea of what we are up against, how we're doing, and the resolve to do it. I feel sure the American people will gladly and with relief fight this war as if we really mean it.

Thank you for your very timely and hard-hitting piece. Let's just hope the powers that be take it to heart.
-- Sharon Millerwise

I am one who is not happy with the way Bush is handling the war. If polls were taken that asked another question, do you think more force should be used in the war on terror, instead of do you approve of the way it is being fought, I think the results would surprise you. If we are going to win this war, then get in there and WIN it.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

Mr. Babbin raises some disturbing issues that echo many of the thoughts I and others, who support the GWOT, have as to the totality of the war effort. In fairness to the President, this war has been fought under an insane set of principles dictated by antiwar individuals and groups as well as the MSM, whose interests are inimical to the war effort. No aspect of this war has gone unscrutinized by these people without their constant minute criticisms (i.e. Abu Ghraib), yet the enemy is given a complete pass as to their acts of cowardly barbarism and depravity. Moral relativism has been the theme of this crowd since 9/11. The MSM have failed miserably in their obligation of informing the American people and providing "big picture" perspectives to all of the complex components of the war. Instead, we are treated to the daily lazy and biased media reports of the ubiquitous car bombing and casualty count. All this being said, it appears that the President and his administration have been loath to ridicule these perceptions and absurd restrictions demanded by these people on the military. At times it appears that lawyers & the Marquis of Queensbury are running our war effort. Timid and plaintive pleas by the president's press secretary for media fairness only results in full attack mode by the likes of Ms. Bumiller of the N.Y. Times. It would be refreshing to see this administration finally take off the gloves and give weak kneed Republicans and war critics alike a taste of a new "new tone" I hope the President starts tonight.
-- A. DiPentima

It's nice to see those of you on the right who still think that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a good idea to start criticizing Bush if not necessarily for the same reasons. Bush still talks of not leaving until we achieve "complete victory" and your editorial also speaks of "victory." Can any of you people who supported this myopic invasion and occupation please tell us just what "victory" is (though I notice that the Bush administration has recently been vastly playing down what constitutes success in Iraq as a helpful sign that they are coming to grips with reality)? After needlessly spending hundreds of billions of dollars not to mention getting hundreds of thousands of people killed and wounded on both sides the reality in Iraq is that we will most certainly end up with an Iranian-allied Shiite government running Iraq along with a raging civil war led by a minority but very tenacious Sunni sect who have lost the most with this invasion and occupation. This is victory? When we had sensible "realpolitik" people running our government (both under Republican and Democratic administrations) Saddam, as imperfect and undesirable as he was, was seen as a bulwark against the Iranian hegemony and part of the balance of power situation over there. Now Iran is the big winner with their Shiite brothers now in power in Iran. The Iraqi Shiite religious leader, al Sistani, was born in Iran and the current Iraqi prime minister spent the 1980s Iraq/Iranian war in exile in Iran. As Senator Hagel recently pointed out, the Middle East stability has worsened by what Bush has done and now we're in a pretty much damned if we stay and damned if we leave situation.

Oh, and what happened to all of the big oil supply benefits the neocons promised us? Currently Iraq is pumping and exporting less oil than in the pre-invasion days and while there are many factors affecting the price of oil, Bush's invasion and occupation has definitely made things worse in this area.

I'm curious to see what Bush and his war supporters have in mind to get us out of this self-made pickle and I hope it isn't some kind of big air strike on Iran which might play well temporarily with the Johnnie-Reb redneck crowd and provide a rally around the flag poll boost for Bush but which would ultimately make the situation far worse and create a killing field in Iraq as the Iranian-allied Shiites go on the rampage in revenge against the occupying American forces. This would make the current Sunni triangle insurgency look like a walk in the park. This current mess in Iraq is by far the most counterproductive self-inflicted foreign policy disaster in our history.

And aren't you on the right sick and tired as well over all of the nonsensical inanities that our president keeps spouting to justify all of this?
-- Kevin

If we choose to believe the mainstream media in this country, the war on terror and the battle for Iraq is all but lost. In my opinion the American people have become a nation of "instant gratificationists." Video games, the Internet, cell phones, credit cards, etc. have given us almost instant access to nearly anything material. Not all Americans fit the categories I just described but a large percentage do. The anti-war leftists along with readily available "Rent-a-Mob" misfits and the all too willing media have fueled the opposition to the battle for Iraq's freedom. World War II raged on all over the world it claimed millions of our very best and it took five long sorrow filled years to win, then after winning the war it took another 10 years of occupying Germany before it was finally declared safe from terrorism. During the five years of WWII the American people were rationed of food, goods and products they did so willingly believing these sacrifices were toward a just cause. Are we being asked to make these sacrifices today? In today's world would the American people be willing to make those sacrifices, somehow I doubt it. No, we would have the ACLU, trial lawyers, the NAACP, would be Cindy Sheehans, wannabe Michael Moore or Al Frankens this type would be whining, crying and gnashing their collective teeth in protest that their civil right had been violated, "Give me a break Jake!" What these people don't realize is that the murdering thugs we're killing would most likely kill them first as they are activists and so called leaders and a totalitarian government will not tolerate activism of any sort. A good example of the repression is China, North Korea, Iran or Cuba, read actual eyewitness accounts of how the people of these countries are denied their freedoms and even food; it is almost beyond our comprehension.

"GW" warned the American people long ago this would be a long bitter struggle and it's a struggle we must win, a loss would mean a rapid decline of an entire way of life for the American people. I do agree President Bush could possibly do more explaining the war to the people but an overload of information could also work against the President and aid our many enemies. We elected our leaders to protect us and I do not think the American people could comprehend or need to know everything concerning our nation's security. We as a whole are ignorant of history and just to prove my point I offer a challenge to anyone, go up to anyone under 40 on the street and ask them who our first President was, where the Civil War was fought or who was U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, I dare you. As a whole the American people must quickly realize that if we don't kill these murderous terrorists on their streets they will soon be on our streets trying to kill us and that's a fact and sadly I cite the tragic 9-11 events as an example.
-- Carlton E. Leslie
Hagerstown, Maryland

I'm afraid Jed Babbin's article is quite disturbing to me and a lot of others, but the man speaks the truth. He has put into words something that has been in the back of my mind for some time now about Bush's leadership on this. We lost Vietnam at home through the PR campaign, now we just might do the same with Iraq. I believe, though, that Iraq is the center of the GWOT. It is the killing ground. The enemy is feeding terrorists into this country and we are killing them. Should we expand the war and take on other nests of terrorists? Should we have gone into Cambodia, Laos, even China in the Vietnam conflict? Or should we just be content to stay in Iraq and kill the enemy as they cross the border? Of course, there's Afghanistan but that is another can of worms (in more ways than one). We should bear in mind one thing though. If we cut and run in Iraq ("peace with honor"), the killing won't stop for us as it did in Vietnam. No we will still be bombed and killed but here instead of in Iraq. I also doubt if these left-wing "peace" loving cowards who are clamoring for our defeat will crawl out of their holes long enough to help defend us. That is the reality Jed, no matter what our concerns might be and yes, you are right, Bush had better start showing his leadership on this. While that comes about, this ol' boy will hold the fort up here in la la land until they pry the pen (and computer keyboard) from my cold dead hands.
-- Pete Chagnon

Mr. Babbin's call for the President to lead is stirring, and one fervently hopes that Mr. Bush gets the message.

But, sir, "palimpsest"? What the devil is a palimpsest? I have a high school diploma, thank you, but I haven't the slightest idea what a "palimpsest" is.

Nor will I look it up in a dictionary.

As Mr. Babbin so aptly pointed out, wartime presidents have to tell our people what is going on, and why.

It seems to me that a similar obligation must be born by wartime analysts: they have to tell our people what in heck a "palimpsest" is.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

Jed, you have come through with possibly your best column, EVER. It would be impossible for a fallible human to be more right than you are in this article. You have identified the true source of the problem and cut directly to the chase.

It seems to this humble observer that a large part of the problem is President Bush's absolute refusal to publicly admit that the fight is with a fundamentalist form of Islam that hold the allegiance of tens of millions of Muslims worldwide. He simply will not utter the truth.

It has also been admitted by his compatriots that Pres. Bush detests the persuasive art of politics. He will do it during actual campaigns, but the rest of the time he insists of "governing" and ignoring "politics." He has done this on the GWOT. He has done this on judicial nominations. He has done this regarding Ellsworth AFB and the fortunes of Sen. Thune. He did try to continue the hard sell tactics on the issue of Social Security and his illegal alien amnesty program, but he is finally being forced to admit that those goals are not doable at this time.

Jed, you have, as they say, got the bit in your mouth now so run to the front and don't look back. You are spot on; don't stop pointing out the truth. Iraq has become a deadly holding action and Afghanistan is showing signs of turning for the worse. I wonder what ever happened to the Axis of Evil.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

Mr. Babbin has hit one of the major problems of the Administration's handling of the War in Iraq on the head, lack of communication with the American people. This has always been a major problem in this administration.

It is fundamental in any endeavor, and more so in one that is difficult and actively opposed, to keep up the morale of participants. And all of the American people are participants in this war. They have more than a right to know what is actually going on and why, they have a need to know. People need to be told that the Independence and democratization of Iraq is essential for the future security of the United States and they need to be told that it can not be imposed from without, but nurtured to grow from within.

This, the President has failed to do. He took decisive action against Afghanistan and Iraq after the attack on America, and then allowed a publicly hostile CIA and State Department to continue their activities to undermine his power. In his second term, he took steps to correct this through appointments to the leadership of those agencies. Then, he turned his energies to reform of Social Security and further stimulation of the economy through tax reform. Worthwhile goals, but they cause the country to lose sight of a far more serious matter, our own security.

The President has to have a clear vision of his legacy. He is the Security President and I do not mean Social Security. The physical security of this country is of paramount importance at this point in time and must be constantly addressed. International security, border security, and internal security are all part of the one whole. They can be accomplished with existing laws, without the acquisition of broader powers and they must be accomplished. Iraq is part of that and the people of this country must be told, unequivocally, exactly why we are there, why we must stay there, the aims of the war and why we must continue to prosecute it in the manner that we are and what we are willing to do to continue the engage and defeat terrorist aims against this country and the rest of the world.

Hopefully, President Bush will be able to accomplish this and, thereby, cement his legacy. People do not want to feel safe, they want to be safe.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Actually, there is an argument for using force against Saddam's Iraq: Make an example of THEM while there is still time for THEM to get the message. Before the Billion of THEM fully unite over what has been festering for more than 60 years in the Great War that has never stopped for more than 5,000 years. So where, indeed, is America's Leading Cyclist, after Lance Armstrong, on the issue? Plus, there is that other minor stuff about the inadequacies of our military, intelligence, Social Security, border security and energy independence. Having lived in Dallas, I am unable to understand why anyone would want to spend five days in Crawford, Texas during August, let alone five weeks. Perhaps it is an act of contrition of some sort. Or maybe he is planning to throw out the first ball at the Waco Beach Volleyball Championships. If anyone can reach our First Frat Boy, could they please tell him that we are getting tired of having to peer past Cindy Sheehan's trendy new sandals in order to find out where he is. Talk to us, Georgie. While it still matters.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

HIM AGAIN
Re: James Bowman's Sheehan Is Believing:

Cindy Sheehan would like the answer WHY we went to war. That's it. I don't understand how you people who voted for Bush don't feel duped. Bush lied. He told you, and us, that Saddam had WMD and was a threat to us. Neither is or was true. Why are you not angry?

I heard Bush say it was because Saddam had WMDs and was going to attack us. Did I hear wrong or was Bush lying his arse off? Do you Bush devotees ever listen to him? Or do you just unconditionally love him?
-- Wil Burns

Bush's feeling of sympathy or empathy with bereaved families is a totally human reaction. But it is we citizens who are ultimately responsible for the war in Iraq. To prosecute it, we need the president to believe in the mission and to have the fortitude to execute it. In order to do that, he cannot wear himself out in concern for the unavoidable casualties. If we citizens are not able to accept the casualties, then we should have Congress pull the plug on the war. But let's not have the worst of both worlds by putting an unsustainable weight on the president. No previous president has been charged with individually dealing with bereaved families, as opposed to a statement of purpose and policy such as the Gettysburg Address.
-- Greg Richards

Most people are not fooled because they ask the obvious question, "Why aren't these people in Iraq demanding an audience with Saddam Hussein to extract HIS explanation for starting the war?"
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

Right on, the last sentence of James Bowman's article says it all.
-- unsigned

WHO DO YOU TRUST?
Re: P.J. Pluth's letter (under "Getting It -- and Not") in Reader Mail's Still Crazy and John Connly Walsh's My Iraqi Friend and Constitutional Indifference:

I disagree with the reader P. J. Pluth not continuing the dispatches from John Connly Walsh. I very much enjoy his writing. I have been disturbed by his recent dispatches about the trouble his friends have gotten into, however unwillingly. I need to read these because I REFUSE to read criticism of the war effort ANYWHERE else. I am sick to death of it, but as I trust the motives of MOST of the writers, and even most letter writers, I can read these. There is no need to be Pollyannaish about this war -- there are elements that are not going well. I think someone, not sure who, needs to look into the fact that Iraqis are becoming policemen (or stealing uniforms) or soldiers and kidnapping innocents.

I do believe we are winning the war. (I do not believe in the tooth fairy.) I also believe there will never be a clear cut "victory" as in WWll. Sniping will go on forever and the cost of this war will be eternal vigilance. I do think we need to hear contrary points of view, but I am only willing to listen to a point of view of someone I believe to be sane, like Mr. Walsh. I was greatly disturbed by one of his previous writings, but I trust his instincts. Besides, as with the soldiers, he is there on the ground. We are not. I am more than willing to trust him a bit farther.
-- Janis Johnson
Independence, Missouri

Walsh's point that the 30 or so Iraqis he talked to couldn't care less about the Constitution probably mirrors the same level of day to day involvement in politics in our own country. Most of the people I meet every day are incredibly ill informed about what's going on politically in their world, whether it's local, state or national. How many people even now about the recently passed and signed bloated Highway bill? Almost none. And we don't even have the distraction of a daily struggle for basic fundamentals.

In the days following the Revolution in this country, I wonder how many people were concerned about the Constitution? Walsh is making much ado about not much...
-- Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

BERLIN, NORTH DAKOTA
Re: The Prowler's The Anti-American Germans Are Coming:

One simple word describes this endeavor: preposterous.
-- Angelo Zenga
Mississauga, Ontario

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