Apr 24, 2008

Petraus new Centcom CG - Afghan War to suffer ?

Petraeus promotion keeps U.S. on war course

Next president will inherit steadfast military defenders of Bush's policies

Associated Press -updated 4:03 a.m. ET, Thurs., April. 24, 2008

WASHINGTON - President Bush is promoting his top Iraq commander, Army Gen. David Petraeus, and replacing him with the general’s recent deputy, keeping the United States on its war course and handing the next president a pair of combat-tested commanders who have relentlessly defended Bush’s strategies.

Bush will nominate Petraeus to replace Navy Adm. William J. Fallon as chief of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday. The command’s area of responsibility features some of the most vexing military and foreign policy problems facing this administration and its successor — including Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, parts of Africa and Afghanistan in addition to Iraq.

Fallon resigned last month, saying news reports that he was at odds with the White House over Iran policy had become a distraction. He was the first Navy officer to lead Central Command; the Petraeus choice represents a return to the more common practice of making it an Army slot.

Petraeus would be succeeded at a pivotal time in Baghdad by Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who was the No. 2 commander in Iraq for 15 months. He has been credited by many with deftly managing security gains that Petraeus told Congress this month have opened a pathway for potential political progress in the country.

Gates said he hoped the Senate would act on both nominations by next month and expected Petraeus to switch to the Central Command job, which is based in Tampa, Fla., by late summer or early fall.

That is the point at which Petraeus is likely to make an initial recommendation to Gates and to Bush on whether conditions in Iraq are stable enough to permit a further reduction in U.S. troop levels.

The United States has about 160,000 troops in Iraq and about 28,000 in Afghanistan. The strain of those wars has taken a heavy toll on U.S. ground forces.

Politically sensitive questions

Among the politically sensitive questions Petraeus would face as head of Central Command is whether the military focus on Iraq is limiting what U.S. and allied forces can accomplish in Afghanistan. And he would be pressed on the matter of using military force against Iran.

The next president taking office in January would not be compelled to keep either Petraeus or Odierno, but normally the lineup of senior commanders — as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — is not changed with administrations.

“There is no precedent in U.S. tradition for a new president changing these kinds of officers,” said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an occasional adviser to Petraeus. “For an incoming president to change them (in 2009) would be a real statement.”

Many Republicans, including all-but-certain presidential nominee John McCain, are enthusiastic Petraeus supporters. Democrats on Capitol Hill are not expected to oppose either Petraeus or Odierno, but they are likely to raise tough questions during confirmation hearings.

Ready to act on new president's directive?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted after Gates’ announcement that any war commander must be committed to “implementing major changes in strategy” if directed to do so by a new president.

“The Senate will carefully examine these nominations, and I will be looking for credible assurances of a strong commitment to implementing a more effective national security strategy,” said Reid, D-Nev.

John Batiste, a retired Army two-star general who was a division commander in Iraq in 2004-05, said in an e-mail exchange that he has confidence in the abilities of Petraeus and Odierno, but he questions whether their experience and expertise can make the crucial difference in the U.S. war on terror.

“The best military in the world ... cannot redeem a national strategy which fails in the more important diplomatic, political and economic components of strategy and when the nation is not mobilized behind our incredible service men and women,” wrote Batiste, who was among the retired officers who spoke out against the war two years ago in what became known as the revolt of the generals.

The issue of Iran

At a Pentagon news conference, Gates said he did not foresee that the new lineup at Central Command and in Iraq would mean any changes in the way the United States is approaching the issue of Iranian influence in Iraq. Petraeus and Odierno have both accused Iran of aiding rebels opposing U.S. troops.

“It’s my belief that General Odierno and General Petraeus and Admiral Fallon were all in exactly the same position when it came to their views of Iranian interference inside Iraq,” Gates said. “And it is a hard position. Because what the Iranians are doing is killing American service men and women inside Iraq.”

Petraeus will face broader aspects of the Iran issue if he is confirmed as Fallon’s replacement. A number of U.S. officials, including Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have asserted that Iran also is supplying arms or otherwise supporting the Taliban rebels in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, Gates said that while war with Iran would be “disastrous on a number of levels,” the military option cannot be abandoned so long as the Iranians remain a potential nuclear threat.

Many had seen a strong possibility that Gates’ senior military assistant, Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, would replace Petraeus in Baghdad if Petraeus were nominated for the Central Command job.

Asked why he had recommended Odierno, Gates said, “General Odierno is known recently to the Iraqi leadership, he’s known to the Iraqi generals, he is known to our own people, he has current experience,” and so the odds of a smooth transition in Baghdad “are better with him than with anybody else I could identify.”

Odierno, currently commander of the Army’s 3rd Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, served as the No. 2 commander in Iraq from December 2006 to February 2008. Chiarelli, who preceded Odierno in that post and then joined Gates’ staff, will be nominated as the next vice chief of staff of the Army. Bush had nominated Odierno for that job some months ago; Gates said that nomination will be withdrawn.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Apr 22, 2008

SectDef Gates @ West Point - "Be Blunt - Be Accurate"

Evening Lecture at West Point

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, U.S. Military Academy, New York, Monday, April 21, 2008

Thank you. Thank you, General Hagenbeck.

First things first. Congratulations on beating Navy in lacrosse. Army football will be at Texas A&M in College Station on September 27th. When the two teams last played in San Antonio two years ago, y'all took 10 years off my life, years I can't afford. I expect it'll be another great game, and I think I'll stay away in a safe place, like Baghdad.

And in normal speech, I'd thank y'all for coming, but I know full well that this evening is not exactly optional – and my apologies. So I'll be content with thanking you for staying awake, or at least trying to, given the schedule that y'all have here.

Of course, falling asleep in a lecture or a class is one thing. Falling asleep in a small meeting with the president of the United States is quite another. But it happens. I was in one Cabinet meeting with President Reagan where the president and six members of the Cabinet all fell asleep

But former President Bush created an honor to award the American official who most ostentatiously fell asleep in a meeting with the president of the United States. This was not frivolous. The president evaluated candidates on three criteria – (laughter) – first, duration– how long did they sleep? Second, the depth of the sleep; snoring always got you extra points. And third, the quality of recovery – (laughter) – did one just quietly open one's eyes and return to the meeting, or did you just jolt awake– and maybe spill something hot in the process? Well, the award was named for Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft who was the first President Bush's national security adviser. He was, as you might suspect, the first awardee, and, I might add, won many oak leaf clusters.

I actually regret a lot that I will not be here for the commencement of the class of 2008 because of an overseas commitment, but I am honored and grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you this evening. And in fact, I think this is better than commencement, because at commencement the firsties – by then near second lieutenants – would be only thinking about how fast they could get off post. In this way, I get to speak to all of you at least once for about 35 minutes or so – just for those of you who are checking your watches – and while I am secretary of Defense, and I have every confidence you can make it, just keep nudging the person next to you.

This evening's talk is the culmination of a day spent on the road. And I've already made a bunch of headlines at the Air University at Maxwell, criticizing the Air Force. So, now it's the Army's turn. But it is always a welcome duty to be away from Washington, D.C. The faculty should have issued a warning by now that most of you, if you stay in the Army long enough and do everything you're supposed to in your career and are successful, you will one day be punished with a job in the Pentagon.

Some of you may have already heard the jokes and stories from your instructors about the sheer size of the building and the bureaucracy.

The late newsman David Brinkley told a story about a woman who told a Pentagon guard she was in labor and needed help in getting to a hospital. And the guard said "Madame, you shouldn't have come here in that condition." And she said, "When I came here, I wasn't." (Laughter.)

Even the great General Eisenhower was flummoxed by the experience of making his way around the Pentagon. Soon after returning to Washington, he made the mistake of trying to return to his office all by himself. He later wrote, quote, "So hands in pockets and trying to look as if I were out for a carefree stroll around the building, I walked…and walked and walked, encountering neither landmarks nor people who looked familiar. One had to give the building his grudging admiration. It apparently had been designed to confuse any enemy who might infiltrate it."

No doubt many of you have studied Eisenhower in your time here. Last year I read Partners in Command, a book by Mark Perry. It is an account of the unique relationship between Eisenhower and General George Marshall, and how they played a significant role in the American victory in World War II and laid the foundations for future success in the earliest years of the Cold War. Eisenhower and Marshall are, of course, icons, legends etched in granite. Their portraits hang in my office.

But one of the things I found compelling in Partners in Command is how they were both influenced by another senior Army officer who is not nearly as well-known and in fact, as a reader of history, I had never heard of.

His name is Fox Conner, a tutor and mentor to both Eisenhower and Marshall. Conner and Marshall first became friends when they served together on the staff of General "Black Jack" Pershing during World War I. And in the 1920s, Eisenhower served as staff assistant under Brigadier General Conner in the Panama Canal Zone.

From Conner, Marshall and Eisenhower learned much about leadership and the conduct of war. Conner had three principles of war for a democracy that he imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall. They were:

· Never fight unless you have to;

· Never fight alone;

· And never fight for long.

All things being equal, these principles are pretty straightforward and strategically sound. We've heard variants of them in the decades since, perhaps most recently in the Powell doctrine.

But of course, all things are not equal, particularly when you think about the range and complexity of the threats facing America today, from the wars we are in to the conflicts we are most likely to fight. So tonight I'd like to discuss with you how you should think about applying Fox Conner's three axioms to the security challenges of the 21st century, the challenges where you will be on the front lines.

“Never go to war unless you have to.”

That one should only go to war as a last resort has long been a principle of civilized people. We know its horrors and costs. War is, by its nature, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Winston Churchill wrote in January 1942: "Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter… Once the signal is given, the statesman is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."

In a dictatorship, the government can force the population to fall in behind the war effort, at least for a time. The nature of democracy, however, limits a country's ability to wage war – and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed with perhaps the exception of World War II, every conflict in America's history has been divisive and controversial here at home. Contrary to what General Patton said in his pep talks, most real Americans do NOT like to fight.

Consider the conflicts today. Afghanistan is widely viewed as a war of necessity – striking back at the staging ground of the perpetrators of the September 11th attack. The Iraq campaign, while justified in my view, is seen differently by many people. Two weeks ago I testified, in front of the Congress on the Iraq War. I observed that we were attacked, at home in 2001, from Afghanistan. And we are at war in Afghanistan today, in no small measure, because we mistakenly turned out backs on Afghanistan after the Soviet troops left in the late 1980s.

We made a strategic mistake in the endgame of that war. If we get the endgame wrong in Iraq, I told the Congress, the consequences will be far worse.

Truth to tell, it's a hard sell to say we must sustain the fight in Iraq right now and continue to absorb the high financial and human cost of the struggle, in order to avoid an even uglier fight or even greater danger to our country in the future. But we have Afghanistan to remind us that these are not just hypothetical risks.

Conner's axiom – never fight unless you have to – looms over policy discussions today over rogue nations like Iran that support terrorism; that is a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia and, in my judgment, is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. And in fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat – either directly or through nuclear proliferation.

And then there's the threat posed by violent jihadist networks. The doctrine of preemption has been criticized in many quarters, but it is an answer to legitimate questions. With the possibility of proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical materials, and the willingness of terrorists to use them without warning, can we wait to respond until after a catastrophic attack is either imminent or has already occurred? Given the importance of public opinion and public support, how does one justify military action to prevent something that might happen tomorrow or several years down the road? While "never fight unless you have to" does not preclude preemption, after our experience with flawed information regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, how high must the threshold of confidence in our intelligence have to be to justify at home and abroad a preemptive or preventive war?

Conner's second axiom was "Never fight alone."

He recognized from the onset that the way World War I ended – and particularly the terms of the Versailles Treaty – made another major conflict with Germany almost inevitable. Victory would require a strong partnership of the Anglo-American democracies, and the most successful Army officers would have to adapt to working with allies and partners. Eisenhower and Marshall executed this concept brilliantly in World War II, despite the fact that, as one historian wrote about Allied generals, Eisenhower had to deal with, "as fractious and dysfunctional a group of egomaniacs as any war had ever seen."

Nonetheless, as Perry writes, “Eisenhower was a commander who believed that building and maintaining an international coalition of democracies was not a political nicety…but a matter of national survival.” And he brought this concept to the founding of NATO.

But what do you do when, as is the case today with NATO in Afghanistan, some of your allies don't want to fight; or they impose caveats on where, when and how their forces may be used; or their defense budgets are too small as a share of national wealth to provide a substantial contribution? Not counting the United States, NATO has more than two million men and women under arms, and yet we struggle to sustain a deployment of less than 30,000 non-U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and we are forced to scrounge, hat in hand, for a handful of helicopters.

In August 1998, after the terrorist bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, I wrote an op-ed in the The New York Times about terrorism and national priorities, and I noted that taking a more aggressive approach to terrorism would, in virtually all cases, require America “to act violently and alone.” And even after September 11th and a string of attacks in Europe and elsewhere, the publics of many of our democratic allies view the terror threat in a fundamentally different way than we do – and this continues to be a real obstacle with respect to Afghanistan and other issues.

But as Churchill said, the only thing worse than having allies is not having them at all. They provide balance, credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. And in the case of Afghanistan, one should never discount the power of the world's wealthiest and most powerful democracies coming together – as they did in Bucharest three weeks ago – to reaffirm publicly their commitment to this mission. Nor, above all, should we forget the superb performance in combat and the sacrifices of allies like the British, Canadians, the Australians, the Danes, the Dutch and others. And I would note with sympathy that last Friday, the same day that the general took command of the Dutch forces, his son, a lieutenant, age 23, was killed in Afghanistan.

Just about every threat to our security in the years ahead will require working with or through other nations. Success in the war on terror will depend less on the fighting we do ourselves and more on how well we support our allies and partners in the modern Muslim world -- moderate Muslim world and elsewhere. In fact, from the standpoint of America's national security, the most important assignment in your military career may not necessarily be commanding U.S. soldiers, but advising or mentoring the troops of other nations as they battle the forces of terror and instability within their own borders.

Finally, Fox Connor said, "Never fight for long."

According to Perry, General Connor believed that “American lives were precious, and no democracy, no matter how pressed, could afford to try the patience of its people.” Early on, Connor instilled the idea in both Eisenhower and Marshall, on finding the enemy, fighting the enemy, and defeating the enemy all within a short period of time.

In World War II, the American people had already begun to lose patience by the fall of 1944, when the lightning dash across the plains of France following D-Day gave way to a soggy, bloody stalemate along Germany's western border. And that was only two-and-a-half years after Pearl Harbor.

Eisenhower no doubt had this in mind when he became president during the third year of the Korean war. He believed that the United States – and the American people – could not tolerate being bogged down in a bloody, interminable stalemate in Northeast Asia while the Soviets menaced elsewhere, especially in Europe. Eisenhower was even willing to threaten the nuclear option to bring that conflict to a close.

It has now been six-and-a-half years since the attacks on September 11th, and we just marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. For America, this has been the second-longest war since the Revolution, and the first since then to be fought throughout with an all-volunteer force. In Iraq and Afghanistan, initial, quick military success have led to protracted stability and reconstruction campaigns against a brutal and adaptive insurgency and terrorists. This has tested the mettle of our military and the patience of our people in a way we haven't seen in a generation.

At the turn of the 21st century, the U.S. armed forces were still organized, trained and equipped to fight large-scale conventional wars, not the long, messy, unconventional operations that proliferated following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The same traditional orientation was true of our procurement procedures, military health care, and more. The current campaign has gone on longer and has been more difficult than anyone expected or prepared for at the start, and so we've had to scramble to position ourselves for success over the long haul, which I believe we're doing.

A drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq is inevitable over time – the debate you hear in Washington is largely about pacing. But the kind of enemy we face today – violent jihadist networks – will not allow us to remain at peace. What has been called the “Long War” is likely to be many years of persistent, engaged combat all around the world in differing degrees of size and intensity. This generational campaign cannot be wished away or put on a timetable. There are no exit strategies. To paraphrase the Bolshevik Leon Trotsky, we may not be interested in the long war, but the long war is interested in us.

How America's military and civilian leadership grapples with these transcendent issues and dilemmas will determine how, where and when you may be sent into the battle in the years ahead.

In discussing Fox Conner's three axioms, I've raised questions and provided few, if any, answers, and that's the point. It is important that you think about all this, not just at the Academy but throughout your military careers, and come to your own conclusions.

But in order to succeed in the asymmetric battlefields of the 21st century – the dominant combat environment in the decades to come, in my view – our Army will require leaders of uncommon agility, resourcefulness and imagination; leaders willing and able to think and act creatively and decisively in a different kind of world, in a different kind of conflict than we have prepared for for the last six decades.

One thing will remain the same. We will still need men and women in uniform to call things as they see them and tell their subordinates and their superiors alike what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

Here too Marshall in particular is a worthy role model. In late 1917, during World War I, U.S. military staff in France was conducting a combat exercise for the American Expeditionary Force. General Pershing was in a foul mood. He dismissed critiques from one subordinate after another and stalked off. But then-Captain Marshall took the arm of the four-star general, turned him around and told him how the problems they were having resulted not from receiving a necessary manual from the American headquarters – Pershing’s headquarters. And the commanders said, “Well, you know, we have our problems.” And Marshall replied, “Yes, I know you do, General…but ours are immediate and everyday and have to be solved before night.”

After the meeting, Marshall was approached by other officers offering condolences for the fact he was sure to be fired and sent off to the front line. Instead Marshall became a valued adviser to Pershing, and Pershing a valued mentor to Marshall.

Twenty years later, then-General Marshall was sitting in the White House with President Roosevelt and his top advisers and Cabinet secretaries. War in Europe was looming but still a distant possibility for an isolated America. In that meeting, Roosevelt proposed that the U.S. Army – which at that time was ranked in size somewhere between that of Switzerland and Portugal – should be the lowest priority for funding and industry. FDR's advisers all nodded. Building an army could wait.

And FDR, looking for the military's imprimatur to his decision, said, “Don't you think so, George?” And Marshall, who hated being called by his first name, said, “I'm sorry, Mr. President, I don't agree with that at all.” The room went silent. The Treasury secretary told Marshall afterwards, “Well, it's been nice knowing you.” And it was not too much later that Marshall was named Army chief of staff.

There are other, more recent examples of senior officers speaking frankly to their civilian senior officers. Just before the ground war started against Iraq, in February 1991, General Colin Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, met with the president, first President Bush. I was there in the Oval Office. Colin looked the president in the eye and said words to this effect: “We are about to go to war. We may suffer thousands of casualties. If we do, are you prepared to drive on to victory? Will you stay the course?” Colin wanted the President to face reality. The President gave the right answer.

I should note at this point that in my 16 months as secretary of Defense, I have changed several important decisions because of general officers disagreeing with me and persuading me of a better course of action. For example, at one point I had decided to shake up a particular command by appointing a commander from a different service than had ever held the post. A senior service chief persuaded me to change my mind.

On trips to the front, I've also made it a priority to meet and hear from small groups of soldiers ranging from junior enlisted to field-grade officers, and their input has been invaluable and shaped my thinking and decisions as well. All in senior positions would be well-advised to listen to enlisted soldiers, NCOs, and company and field-grade officers. They are the ones on the front line, and they know the real story.

More broadly, if as an officer – listen to me very carefully – if as an officer you don't tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then you've done yourself and the institution a disservice. This admonition goes back beyond the roots of our own republic. Sir Francis Bacon was a 17th century jurist and philosopher as well as a confidante of the senior minister of England's King James. He gave this advice to a protégé looking to follow in his steps at court: “Remember well the great trust you have undertaken; you are as a continual sentinel, always to stand upon your watch to give [the king] true intelligence. If you flatter him, you betray him.” Remember that. If you flatter him, you betray him.

In Marshall's case, he was able to forge a bond of trust with Roosevelt not only because his civilian boss could count on his candor, because once a decision was made, FDR could also count on Marshall to do his utmost to carry out a policy – even if he disagreed with it – and make it work. This is important because the two men clashed time and again in the years that followed, ranging from yet more matters of war production to whether the allies should defer an invasion on the mainland of Europe.

Consider the situation in mid-1940. The Germans had just overrun France and the battle of Britain was about to begin. FDR believed that rushing arms and equipment to Britain, including half of America's bomber production, should be the top priority in order to save our ally. Marshall believed that rearming America should come first. Roosevelt overruled Marshall and others, and came down on what most historians believe is the correct decision – to do what was necessary to keep England alive.

The significant thing is what did not happen next. There was a powerful domestic constituency for Marshall's position among a whole host of newspapers and congressmen and lobbies, and yet Marshall did not exploit and use them. There were no overtures to friendly congressional committee chairmen, no leaks to sympathetic reporters, no ghostwritten editorials in newspapers, no coalition-building with advocacy groups. Marshall and his colleagues made the policy work and kept England alive.

In the ensuing decades, a large permanent military establishment emerged as a result of the Cold War – an establishment that forged deep ties to the Congress and to industry. And over the years, senior officers have from time to time been tempted to use these ties to do end runs around the civilian leadership, particularly during disputes over purchase of large major weapons systems. This temptation should and must be resisted.

Marshall has been recognized as a textbook model for the way military officers should handle disagreements with superiors and in particular with the civilians vested with control of the armed forces under our Constitution. So your duties as an officer are:

· To provide blunt and candid advice always;

· To keep disagreements private;

· And to implement faithfully decisions that go against you.

As with Fox Conner's lessons of war, these principles are a solid starting point for dealing with issues of candor, dissent and duty. But like Conner's axioms, applying these principles to the situations military leaders face today and in the future is a good deal more complicated.

World War II was America's last straightforward conventional conflict that ended in the unconditional surrender of the other side. The military campaigns since – from Korea to Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq today – have been frustrating, controversial efforts for the American public and for the American armed forces. Each conflict has prompted debates over whether senior military officers were being too deferential or not deferential enough to civilians, and whether civilians, in turn, were too receptive or not receptive enough to military advice.

In the absence of clear lines, of advance or retreat on the battlefield, each conflict has prompted our nation's senior civilian and military leadership to seek the support of an increasingly skeptical American public, using a variety of criteria and metrics – from enemy body counts to voter turnout and more. Then as now, the American people relied especially on the candor and the credibility of military officers, in order to judge how well a campaign is going and whether the effort should continue.

Candor and credibility remain indispensable, because we will see yet more irregular and difficult conflicts, of varying types, in the years ahead; conflicts where the traditional duties of an officer are accompanied by real dilemmas – dilemmas posed by a non-linear environment made up of civilian detainees, contractors, embedded media and an adversary that does not wear uniforms or obey the laws of war; an adversary that could be your enemy on one day or, as we've seen in Iraq's Anbar province, your partner the next.

Many of you have gone over some of these scenarios, in ethics classes, or heard the accounts from returning veterans; a situation where, for example, a beloved platoon sergeant is killed by a sniper shot believed fired from a house by the side of a road. When the soldiers arrive, the sniper's gone. But the old lady, who lives in the house, is still there. The battalion and brigade commanders pass down orders to demolish the house – to teach the enemy's sympathizers a lesson and take away a possible sniper position. The platoon leader conducts an investigation and concludes this course of action is counterproductive. So the lieutenant makes the call not to destroy the house. And his CO stands by him. This is a true story from Iraq – a campaign that has been dubbed the “Captain's War” because, as in any counterinsurgency, so much of the decisive edge is provided by the initiative and the judgment of junior officers.

When you are commissioned, it will all too quickly be your judgment and your leadership that your soldiers will rely upon. As you prepare for this awesome responsibility, learn all the lessons you can learn here, from heroes with real-world experience and wisdom in and out of the classrooms – people like Master Sergeant Reginald Butler, NCO Tac Company D-3.

And speaking of lessons learned, I should note that during my time as secretary, I have been impressed by the way the Army's professional journals allow some of our brightest and most innovative officers to critique – sometimes bluntly – the way the service does business; to include judgments about senior leadership, both military and civilian. I believe this is a sign of institutional vitality and health and strength. I encourage you to take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful, but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it. And agree with the articles or not, senior officers should embrace such dissent as healthy dialogue and protect and advance those considerably more junior who are taking on that mantle.

I wrote my first and far from last critique of CIA in a professional journal in 1970, four years into my career. Without the support of several senior agency officers, my career would have quickly been over.

Here at West Point, as at every university and company in America, there's a focus on teamwork, consensus-building and collaboration. Yet make no mistake, the time will come when you must stand alone in making a difficult, unpopular decision, or when you must challenge the opinion of superiors or tell them that you can't get the job done with the time and the resources available – a difficult charge in an organization built on a “can-do” ethos; or a time when you will know that what superiors are telling the press or the Congress or the American people is inaccurate. There will be moments when your entire career is at risk. What will you do? What will you do?

These are difficult questions that you should be thinking about, both here at West Point and over the course of your career. There are no easy answers.

But if you follow the dictates of your conscience and the courage of your convictions while being respectfully candid with your superiors while encouraging candor in others, you will be in good stead for the challenges you will face as officers and leaders in the years ahead.

Defend your integrity as you would your life. If you do this, I am confident when you face these tough dilemmas, you will, in fact, know the right thing to do.

I'll close with a few words to all of you but especially to the class of 2008. Soon you will take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. I have taken that oath seven times in the last 42 years, the first when I enlisted in 1966 and the last when I became secretary of Defense. I want to encourage you always to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution: the Congress and the press. Both surely try our patience from time to time, but they are the surest guarantees of the liberty of the American people.

The Congress is a co-equal branch of government that under the Constitution raises armies and provides for navies. While you read about the intense debate over Iraq, you need to know that members of both parties now serving in Congress have long been strong supporters of the Department of Defense and of our men and women in uniform. As officers, you will have a responsibility to communicate to those below you that the American military must be nonpolitical and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them, especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems.

The same is true with the press, in my view, an important guarantor of our freedom. When the press identifies a problem in the military, our response should be to find out if the allegations are true – and if so, say so and then act to remedy the problem, as at Walter Reed; if untrue, then be able to document that fact. The press is not the enemy, and to treat it as such is self-defeating.

As the Founding Fathers wisely understood, the Congress and a free press, as with a nonpolitical military, assure a free country – a point underscored by a French observer writing about George Washington in 1782. He wrote, “This is the seventh year he has commanded the army and that he has obeyed the Congress. More need not be said.”

Finally, we hear a good deal about men and women who volunteered for military service in the wake of the September 11th attacks. For you Firsties, your admissions applications for the academy would have come due early in 2004. By that point, it had become clear that Iraq as well as Afghanistan would be long, grinding and complex campaigns. Your decision to come here and the decision of all the Academy classes that have followed was made with the knowledge of almost certain deployment to distant and dangerous battlefields, with the likelihood of more tours to follow. Each of you – with your talents, your intelligence, your record of accomplishments – could have chosen something easier or safer and of course better-paid. But you took on the mantle of duty, honor and country, passed down the Long Gray Line of men and women who have walked these halls and strode these grounds before you, and for that you have the profound gratitude and eternal admiration of the American people.

It is undoubtedly politically incorrect for me to say, but I feel personally responsible for each and every one of you, as if you were my own sons and daughters. And so my only prayer is that you serve with honor and return home safely. And I personally thank you for your service from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you.

Apr 20, 2008

Muqtada threatens "Open War" against US

Iraqi cleric threatens 'open war'

To ‘declare open war until liberation’ if crackdown on followers continues

The Associated Press
updated 4:46 p.m. ET, Sat., April. 19, 2008

BAGHDAD - Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gave a "final warning" to the government Saturday to halt a U.S.-Iraqi crackdown against his followers or he would declare "open war until liberation."

A full-blown uprising by al-Sadr, who led two rebellions against U.S.-led forces in 2004, could lead to a dramatic increase in violence in Iraq at a time when the Sunni extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq appears poised for new attacks after suffering severe blows last year.

Al-Sadr's warning appeared on his Web site as Iraq's Shiite-dominated government claimed success in a new push against Shiite militants in the southern city of Basra. Fighting claimed 14 more lives in Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Fighting in Sadr City and the crackdown in Basra are part of a government campaign against followers of al-Sadr and Iranian-backed Shiite splinter groups that the U.S. has identified as the gravest threat to a democratic Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, has ordered al-Sadr to disband the Mahdi Army, Iraq's biggest Shiite militia, or face a ban from politics.

In the statement, al-Sadr lashed back, accusing the government of selling out to the Americans and branding his followers as criminals.

Al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, said he had tried to defuse tensions last August by declaring a unilateral truce, only to see the government respond by closing his offices and "resorting to assassinations."

"So I am giving my final warning ... to the Iraqi government ... to take the path of peace and abandon violence against its people," al-Sadr said. "If the government does not refrain ... we will declare an open war until liberation."

Al-Qaida's offensive against American soldiers

Al-Sadr's statements came as al-Qaida in Iraq announced a one-month offensive against U.S. troops. In a new audiotape released on a militant Web site, a man claiming to be the purported leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, called on followers to attack U.S. soldiers and members of awakening councils, Sunni Arab tribesmen and former insurgents who changed sides and are now fighting al-Qaida.

A week of violence has raised concerns that suspected Sunni insurgents are regrouping in the north. U.S. and Iraqi troops have stepped up security operations in Mosul, believed to be one of the last urban strongholds of al-Qaida in Iraq.

U.S. officials say the awakening councils and al-Sadr's truce were instrumental in reducing violence last year. But the truce is in tatters after Iraqi forces launched an offensive last month against "criminal gangs and militias" in the southern city of Basra.

The conflict spread rapidly to Baghdad, where Shiite militiamen based in Sadr City fired rockets at the U.S.-protected Green Zone, killing at least four Americans. U.S. officials say many of the rockets fired at the Green Zone were manufactured in Iran.

The Iranians helped mediate a truce March 30, which eased clashes in Basra and elsewhere in the Shiite south. But fighting persisted in Baghdad as U.S. and Iraqi forces sought to push militiamen beyond the range where they could fire rockets and mortars at the Green Zone.

More fighting in Sadr City

The Americans are attempting to seal off much of Sadr City, home to an estimated 2.5 million people, and have used helicopter gunships and Predator drones to fire missiles at militiamen seeking refuge in the sprawling slum of northeast Baghdad.

At a news conference Saturday, Iran's ambassador to Baghdad said his government supports the Iraqi move against "lawbreakers in Basra" but that the "insistence of the Americans to lay siege" to Sadr City "is a mistake."

"Lawbreakers (in Basra) must be held accountable ... but the insistence of the Americans to lay siege to millions of people in a specific area and then bombing them randomly from air and damaging property is not correct," Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi said.

Qomi warned that the American strategy in Sadr City "will lead to negative results for which the Iraqi government must bear responsibility."

At least 14 people were killed and 84 wounded in Saturday's fighting in Sadr City, police and hospital officials said. Sporadic clashes were continuing after sundown, with gunmen darting through the streets, firing at Iraqi police and soldiers who have taken the lead in the fighting.

The U.S. military said its forces in Sadr City killed seven "criminals" — two in gunbattles and five in two separate airstrikes. The military said it does not engage if civilians are spotted in the area.

According to the Interior Ministry, at least 280 Iraqis have been killed in Sadr City fighting since March 25, including gunmen, security forces and civilians.

Pushing into Basra stronghold

In Basra, Iraq's second largest city about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers backed by British troops pushed their way into Hayaniyah, the local stronghold of al-Sadr's Mahdi militia.

As the operation got under way, British cannons and American warplanes pounded an empty field near Hayaniyah as a show of force "intended to demonstrate the firepower available to the Iraqi forces," said British military spokesman Maj. Tom Holloway.

Last month, Iraqi troops met fierce resistance when they tried to enter Hayaniyah. On Saturday, however, Iraqi soldiers moved block by block, searching homes, seizing weapons and detaining suspects.

Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan said he expected the whole area to be secured by Sunday. He said troops had detained a number of suspects but refused to give details until the area was cleared.

The fighting in both Basra and Baghdad is part of a campaign by al-Maliki, a Shiite, to break the power of Shiite militias, especially al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and improve security in southern Iraq before provincial elections this fall.

Al-Sadr's followers believe the campaign is aimed at weakening their movement to prevent it from winning provincial council seats at the expense of Shiite parties that work with the United States in the national government.

Tension among Shiite parties

Tensions between the Sadrists and other Shiite parties have been rising for months before the Basra crackdown and escalated after parliament last month approved a new law governing the provincial elections.

Clashes also broke out near Nasiriyah, a Shiite city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, leaving at least 22 people dead, police said. A curfew was clamped on the town of Suq al-Shiyoukh, where the fighting broke out between police and al-Sadr's followers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Salahuddin province. The military did not release the soldier's name, pending notification of family.

The military also said Saturday that an Army Special Forces soldier was killed by a burst of small-arms fire while trying to capture an al-Qaida leader in an Iraqi town.

At least 4,039 members of the U.S. military have now died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Apr 17, 2008

Is Iraq Now Un-Winnable ??

Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'a major debacle' with outcome 'in doubt'

By Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott, McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush 's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins , a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

It was published by the university's National Institute for Strategic Studies , a Defense Department research center.

"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," says the report's opening line.

At the time the report was written last fall, more than 4,000 U.S. and foreign troops, more than 7,500 Iraqi security forces and as many as 82,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed and tens of thousands of others wounded, while the cost of the war since March 2003 was estimated at $450 billion .

"No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans' benefits or the total impact on service personnel and materiel," wrote Collins, who was involved in planning post-invasion humanitarian operations.

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted "manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers" from "all other efforts in the war on terror" and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.

"Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq ) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East ," the report continued.

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country's descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.

"Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt," said the report. "Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army."

"For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a 'must win,' but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a 'can't win.'"

The report lays much of the blame for what went wrong in Iraq after the initial U.S. victory at the feet of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld . It says that in November 2001 , before the war in Afghanistan was over, President Bush asked Rumsfeld "to begin planning in secret for potential military operations against Iraq ."

Rumsfeld, who was closely allied with Vice President Dick Cheney , bypassed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the report says, and became "the direct supervisor of the combatant commanders."

" . . . the aggressive, hands-on Rumsfeld," it continues, "cajoled and pushed his way toward a small force and a lightning fast operation." Later, he shut down the military's computerized deployment system, "questioning, delaying or deleting units on the numerous deployment orders that came across his desk."

In part because "long, costly, manpower-intensive post-combat operations were anathema to Rumsfeld," the report says, the U.S. was unprepared to fight what Collins calls "War B," the battle against insurgents and sectarian violence that began in mid-2003, shortly after "War A," the fight against Saddam Hussein's forces, ended.

Compounding the problem was a series of faulty assumptions made by Bush's top aides, among them an expectation fed by Iraqi exiles that Iraqis would be grateful to America for liberating them from Saddam's dictatorship. The administration also expected that " Iraq without Saddam could manage and fund its own reconstruction."

The report also singles out the Bush administration's national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley , saying that "senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect."

Collins ends his report by quoting Winston Churchill , who said: "Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. . . . Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think that he also had a chance."

To read the report:


Apr 14, 2008

Cpl Jason Dunham; by LtGen William Caldwell, IV

Frontier Six, LTG William B. Caldwell, IV, Sends:

Remembering our Heroes

Corporal Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps

Four years ago Corporal Jason Dunham did the unimaginable when an insurgent tossed a grenade into the middle of his unit. In a split second, he placed the welfare of his comrades above his own. Covering the grenade with his Kevlar helmet and his body, he saved the lives of the Marines around him. Tragically, he died of his wounds eight days later. Jason’s actions may come as a shock to us, but not to the people who knew him because they reflect the character of the man he was.

Jason was always concerned for others. He had extended his term of enlistment because he wanted to stay with his squad for their entire tour in combat. His good friend, Lance Corporal Mark Dean said “you’re crazy, why would you do that?” Jason’s response was “I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive. I want to be sure you go home to your wife alive." Shortly before deploying to Iraq, Lance Corporal Dean was a little short on cash and Jason bought him a phone card so he could call his wife.

From his first day in the Marines, Corporal Dunham stood out for his outstanding leadership abilities. One of his leaders, Staff Sergeant John Ferguson, said he showed "the kind of leadership where you're confident in your abilities and don't have to yell about it." A fervent patriot, his father, Dan Dunham said "Jason believed that all men on this earth should be free."

No, Corporal Jason Dunham’s actions were no surprise to the people who knew him because Jason was a man of character and integrity, a selfless servant and leader. He embodied all the qualities we want in the men and women serving in our military. Jason also had something extra; the dedication to go above and beyond the call of duty, to care just a little more.

I am always amazed to hear stories like Jason’s; amazed, but also thankful. Thankful that people like Deb and Dan Dunham raised a young man with Jason’s character, compassion, and concern for others. Thankful that our nation always seems to produce another generation of heroes who are willing to step up and serve when their nation calls.

For his actions that day, Corporal Jason Dunham was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. At that time, it was only the second Medal of Honor awarded for actions during the Global War on Terrorism. The first was to SFC Paul Smith of the US Army and the other two were awarded to Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officer Michael Monsoor both of the US Navy. They each made the ultimate sacrifice. Now it is our job to ensure their sacrifice and the lives they lived will never be forgotten.

On April 14th 2008, let’s honor the incredible sacrifice of Corporal Jason Dunham and those who loved him so dearly.

Apr 13, 2008

Immigration & the Military

Foreign-born troops become U.S. citizens in largest naturalization ceremony in Iraq Sgt. Jasmine Chopra, MND-C PAO

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Two hundred fifty-nine foreign-born U.S. troops currently serving throughout Iraq became American citizens at al-Faw Palace here April 12, in the largest naturalization ceremony to date in Iraq.

Among the newest citizens were several Soldiers who entered the United States as refugees from war-torn nations, including Spc. Simon Nbenye, an Arabic interpreter with Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Born in war-ravaged Sudan, a place where youth are sometimes snatched from their homes and forced to fight as child soldiers in a bloody civil war, Nbenye and his family faced religious and racial persecution from the Arab-Islamic government.

“The situation was terrible for my family,” Nbenye said. “No jobs, no finances and too, too much violence.”

Part of the Nbenye family, including Simon, moved to the Sudanese capital, while other family members stayed south in the town of Maridi. Fearing his son would be forced to become a soldier, Nbenye’s father urged his son to flee Sudan.“They go to your home, knock on your door and ask your father where you are. If he refuses to get you, they kill him, get you and put you in the army. There is no guarantee you’ll ever make it back home alive and they send you down to kill your own people,” Nbenye said. “I had friends from school who were captured, sent to fight and I have never seen them again.”

Travelling illegally through several countries in Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Egypt, Nbenye finally connected with the United Nations office in Cairo and gained refugee status. He entered the United States legally in 2001.

“When they granted me refugee status, it gave me so much hope,” Nbenye said. “It meant for me a chance to start a new life in a safe place.”

In 2006, upon hearing the Army needed Arabic speakers to help with the Global War on Terrorism, Nbenye, fluent in Arabic, enlisted.“America did something good for my life and my family by accepting me, so I decided I want to do something for the American people, to show them I am grateful,” Nbenye said.

Until he came to the United States, he had never truly experienced freedom, Nbenye said. “My whole life, there is war in my country. No peace, never knowing for sure if you go out, you’ll come back home. In America things are different. I feel safe.”

Now that he is a citizen, Nbenye hopes to get a better job, visit his family in Sudan and help them become American citizens too.

More than 40,000 service members are not American citizens, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These foreign-born men and women have pledged commitment to the U.S. Constitution by serving in the military and many are availing themselves of a July 2002 executive order making members of the Armed Forces immediately eligible to apply for citizenship.

Nearly 5,000 service members have earned U.S. citizenship while serving abroad since 2004.

Apr 11, 2008

Where is the Cavalry ?

From CNN / Anderson Cooper, 11 April 2008

by Major General Paul Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commander of Iraqi Armed Forces and their development command

The Bush administration has chosen to abandon our under-equipped and over-burdened military to fight alone in Iraq.

After successfully alienating potential allies in the prosecution of our war in Iraq, this Administration continues to view our first truly interagency war as a purely military event. The absence of credible State Department participation in this fight and the absolute failure of the rest of the Executive Branch to participate in this war leaves the entire burden upon the shoulders of our Soldiers and Marines.

To witness press and Congressional preoccupation with the military commander at this week’s hearings and mild interest in State’s man, Ambassador Crocker, one would surmise that they don’t understand, either.

Iraq is not the plains of Germany during the Cold War. Iraq is an insurgency.

Our commanders need the application of the full power of the United States to bear upon the fight in Iraq. We need a focused and determined Diplomatic Surge within Iraq — and without. Every interested player –- and that includes all border countries, Israel and Egypt –- needs a seat at the table. Interests need to be identified and let the negotiations begin. Not unlike the Egyptian/Israeli accord or Dayton.

This is hard diplomatic work, and is apparently beyond our current Secretary of State’s intent or capability. The recent example of Turkey’s attack into Iraq is the most recent indicator of our failure to work a competent diplomatic program. A fully engaged diplomatic effort would address internal tensions that bedevil the Al Maliki government and foster competent internal government.

We need to get angry Arab men off the street, gainfully employed. The rest of the President’s cabinet and their departments are very much needed by our military. We need a reinvigorated Provincial Reconstruction Team program – new life to an idea that worked very well for the French in Algeria. In the words of one commander, “I don’t need more combat troops, I need agriculture and water experts.” Yet Commerce, Transportation, Education, Treasury and the rest of the President’s cabinet have been AWOL in this war.

General Petraeus was polite during the hearings. He never once complained. He never asked the President: “Where is the cavalry?”

Apr 8, 2008

US Long-Term Iraqi Strategy: Troops, No Time Limit

Secret US Plan For Military Future In Iraq

Document outlines powers but sets no time limit on troop presence

By Seumas Milne
The Guardian (UK)
4-8-08 P.1

A confidential draft agreement covering the future of US forces in Iraq, passed to the Guardian, shows that provision is being made for an open-ended military presence in the country.

The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked “secret” and “sensitive”, is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security” without time limit.

The authorisation is described as “temporary” and the agreement says the US “does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq”. But the absence of a time limit or restrictions on the US and other coalition forces — including the British — in the country means it is likely to be strongly opposed in Iraq and the US.

Iraqi critics point out that the agreement contains no limits on numbers of US forces, the weapons they are able to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term US security agreements with other countries. The agreement is intended to govern the status of the US military and other members of the multinational force.

Following recent clashes between Iraqi troops and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in Basra, and threats by the Iraqi government to ban his supporters from regional elections in the autumn, anti-occupation Sadrists and Sunni parties are expected to mount strong opposition in parliament to the agreement, which the US wants to see finalised by the end of July. The UN mandate expires at the end of the year.

One well-placed Iraqi Sunni political source said yesterday: “The feeling in Baghdad is that this agreement is going to be rejected in its current form, particularly after the events of the last couple of weeks. The government is more or less happy with it as it is, but parliament is a different matter.”

It is also likely to prove controversial in Washington, where it has been criticised by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has accused the administration of seeking to tie the hands of the next president by committing to Iraq’s protection by US forces.

The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued in February that the planned agreement would be similar to dozens of “status of forces” pacts the US has around the world and would not commit it to defend Iraq. But Democratic congress members, including Senator Edward Kennedy, a senior member of the armed services committee, have said it goes well beyond other such agreements and amounts to a treaty, which has to be ratified by the Senate under the constitution.

Administration officials have conceded that if the agreement were to include security guarantees to Iraq, it would have to go before Congress. But the leaked draft only states that it is “in the mutual interest of the United States and Iraq that Iraq maintain its sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence and that external threats to Iraq be deterred. Accordingly, the US and Iraq are to consult immediately whenever the territorial integrity or political independence of Iraq is threatened.”

Significantly — given the tension between the US and Iran, and the latter’s close relations with the Iraqi administration’s Shia parties — the draft agreement specifies that the “US does not seek to use Iraq territory as a platform for offensive operations against other states”.

General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq, is due to face questioning from all three presidential candidates on Capitol Hill today when he reports to the Senate on the results of his surge strategy, which increased US forces in Iraq by about 30,000 last year.

Both Clinton and Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama are committed to beginning troop withdrawals from Iraq if elected, Obama within 16 months of taking office. Republican senator John McCain has pledged to maintain troop levels until the country is secure.


Apr 2, 2008

Remembering Our Heroes; by LtGen William Caldwell

This Friday (4 April 2008) will mark the fifth year anniversary of the incredible sacrifice of SFC Paul Ray Smith, our first Congressional Medal of Honor awardee in the War on Terror, and the only one awarded to a Soldier in our Army.

On 4 April 2003, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division were fighting near Baghdad International Airport. That battle might have simply been remembered as one more stop on the journey if not for the actions of one, SFC Paul Ray Smith. For on that day, SFC Smith placed the needs and welfare of his Soldiers and his country above his own.

SFC Smith's unit was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of more than 100 fellow soldiers, SFC Smith quickly organized a hasty defense. He braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an APC struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round.

Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, SFC Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel
carrier. He singlehandedly manned the gun from an exposed position with total disregard for his own life. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.

For his actions that day, SFC Smith became the first person to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in the War on Terror. Currently only two other individuals have received our Nation's highest military award in more than six years of war; CPL Jason Dunham, USMC and USN Seal LT Michael Murphy. A fourth has been approved for Navy Seal Mickey Monsoor and will be presented shortly. Since it's creation in 1861 only 3463 have received the award. SFC Smith serves as an example of all of our heroes and the Families who selflessly support them. For more than 233 years Soldiers have made the commitment to leave family and the safety and comforts of home to protect our nation and preserve liberty. They have answered the call "This We'll Defend."

On the anniversary of SFC Smith's incredible sacrifice, let's take a moment to remember all of our heroes.

Lieutenant General, USA