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Brian Cloughey: Bring 'Em On? No, Bring 'Em Back


by Brian Cloughey

Even for him it was an astonishingly crass statement. On July 2 when Bush was speaking about the shambles that he, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have created in Iraq, he went on the political offensive. He announced "There are some who feel conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is : 'Bring 'em On'. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation".

Imagine the thoughts of the relatives and comrades of the young soldier who died from terrible wounds received in a devastating Iraqi ambush when they heard the commander-in-chief next day -- the very next day after he died -- issuing a challenge to the Army's potential assailants to attack US troops. They must have thought he was insane.

On July 7, five days after Bush delivered his juvenile taunt, the soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad were told by their commander, Major General Buford Blount, that they were going home. About 9000 of them, some two-thirds, would return to their base at Fort Stewart, Georgia, by the end of August. The news appeared on the formation's website. Two days later the increasingly peevish, confused and incoherent defense secretary, Rumsfeld, informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that one of General Blount's brigades would return home in August and another in September. This was reinforced by General Franks, who said to the Senate that "the third and final brigade of the 3rd Infantry will be out of Iraq by September." Note the "and final". The message was clear : the men and women of Third Division were told by the secretary of defense and their just-retired regional commander, in testimony to the US Senate, that they were all going home within the next ten weeks. Naturally enough, they had already informed their families of their impending return, then got back to the rotten job (for which they are not trained or equipped) of conducting low-intensity anti-guerrilla operations in the stinking heat.

Then came an astonishing reversal of their commander's promise to them, followed by lies about the reasons for the decision. The soldiers were told they weren't going home, after all. Associated Press reported that on 13 July Maj Gen Blount emailed the families of his soldiers "that he had 'disappointing news'. A decision was made at the 'highest levels' he said, to maintain the current force levels 'due to the uncertainty of the situation in Iraq and the recent increase in attacks on the coalition forces . . . That means that part [of the Division] will be staying here for a while longer. I wish I could tell you how long that is, but everything I have told you before has changed'."

The division's commander, as befitting a soldier, honourably told his troops the unvarnished and unpalatable truth: they (and he) were not going home because the security situation was so bad that they were required to stay and cope with the "increase in attacks".

Then, as usual, came the lies. Rumsfeld's chief of staff and Pentagon spokesman, Larry Di Rita, denied that cancellation of the division's return had anything to do with the security situation in Iraq. He was reported in the Los Angeles Times as saying "That's absolutely not what's under discussion. What's under discussion is how do you prepare for an orderly redeployment of these forces? There has been no change in the overall plans for the 3rd Division". Breathtaking stuff, and I for one would like to see whiz kiddie Di Rita rammed up against a wall by a soldier of Third Division with his hand on his throat, saying 'Lissen, Asshole, if you're not talking about the security situation then you damned well ought to be because its my life that's on the line, not yours'.

The contention by Di Rita that "there has been no change in the overall plans" for the division is so astounding in its deliberate mendacity that you have to wonder if the man has any moral principles or understanding of human feelings. Just as Bush said "Bring 'em On" in a fit of petulant irritation, so Di Rita, at the behest of the equally devious and dishonest Rumsfeld, tried to mislead America's soldiers and its citizens -- and the world. He used the word "redeployment" instead of the phrase "return home", which is a repulsive example of Bush administration Newspeak. To the wives who broke down sobbing when they got the news that the return of the Division was deferred to an unknown date this sort of weasel-wording is probably irrelevant. They got the simple message that they wouldn't see the person closest to them for a long time, in spite of being told by people they trusted that they would be seeing them soon. This is vile. And to the wider world it sends the message that human beings don't matter to the repulsive voodoo-men who run the PentaKremlin.

Then Rumsfeld came in with maximum insensitivity and both clumsy feet, yet again. He announced "Is it an important thing to be doing? Yes. Is it tough? You bet. Are more people going to be killed? You bet. Does it cost some money? You bet. Can we tell the world or anybody else precisely what it's going to cost or how long it's going to last? No."

Is he a monster? Has he no human feelings? You bet.

"Are more people going to be killed? You bet", he said, just when weeping wives were being told that the soldiers of the Third Division were not coming home to them at the time promised faithfully by Rumsfeld himself. "Daddy's coming home soon", they had told the children. Then all of a sudden they were let down. Thump. Let us consider how we would explain to a couple of excited kids that daddy won't be home in a few weeks, as we told them, and that a man called Di Rita has just said "there has been no change in overall plans" for daddy, but that the change in plan for daddy is that he is going to stay in Iraq instead of coming home soon. Further, give a moment to thinking about how we might tell the kids that the Boss Man of the whole thing your daddy works for has said that "more people are going to be killed. You bet".

When I got back to Australia from Vietnam it never fell to me to have to tell a new widow that she had become one as a result of enemy action, thank God. But I remember the eyes of the wives whose husbands were still there. (I was single when I served in Vietnam. Lucky me.) I remember the false gaiety with which they met the world, and the performance of normality they tried to maintain with their children. "Yes, daddy's in Vietnam, but he'll be home on the tenth of July, and we're going to Sydney to meet him, won't that be nice?" I cannot recollect any government figure, never mind the defence minister, saying that "more people are going to be killed. You bet". And nobody ever said "Bring 'em On" like some third rate circus ringmaster introducing a performing dog act. Even defense secretary McNamara, the ultimate, horrible, clockwork man, never actually got round to saying something as cold-blooded as that.

Bush and the people around him, isolated from the world, stumbling around in an ever more remote fantasy-land, have got to face the reality that the US army has a serious morale problem in Iraq, and that Rumsfeld has driven a wedge between commanders and men. He has shown the soldiers of Third Division that their welfare is not his concern, and that they are but cogs in the machine; even worse, he has, once again, publicly contradicted and embarrassed a senior commander. Just as he and the demented Wolfowitz humiliated the former Army Chief, General Shinseki, for his honesty (and accuracy) in stating that control of post-war Iraq would require many more troops than civilians and uniformed yes-men in the PentaKremlin considered necessary, he has humiliated General Blount by forcing him to retract a promise made to his troops. He has thus undermined the structure of the army by damaging the confidence that soldiers must have in their leaders. When their commander-in-chief, the posturing, flight-suited, deck-strutter, is so gross as to urge enemies to attack them, they must wonder what on earth has happened to their country's leadership. The Third Division must be replaced at once.

Don't Bring 'em On, Bush : Bring 'em Back.


- Brian Cloughley is a former military officer who writes on international affairs. His website is

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