Eagles: this is where we come in–to ensure that Americans understand that we are WINNING the war in Iraq and to ensure that the moonbats don’t drive that wedge between the troops and the American public. A great read…
By Tony Perry
TONY PERRY is a staff writer for The Times.
June 3, 2007
UNDER A sweltering Iraqi sky, the general asked for questions from his troops. Many were reluctant, but one stepped forward.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jack Kessel, 19, of Raleigh, N.C., asked about something that had been gnawing at him as he and his buddies go about the dangerous business of winning hearts and minds in Al Anbar province.
“How are we supposed to fight a war when people back home say we’ve already lost?” he asked.
It was a question that Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis had anticipated as he toured Marine outposts in the sprawling province that is the home of the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq. After four years of war — and nearly 900 Marines killed and 8,000 wounded — many Marines believe they have begun to drive a wedge between the civilian populace and the insurgency in Al Anbar.
But at the same time, troops are keeping an eye on what is happening at home, where polls show that an increasing percentage of Americans feel the war was unnecessary, has been poorly executed and is unwinnable, if not already lost. In January, for instance, a Times poll showed that 62% of Americans thought the United States should not have invaded Iraq — up from 43% in November of 2003.
During the Vietnam War, the growing opposition of the American public to the war had a devastating effect on troops in the field. Drug problems among soldiers, race-related disputes — and even faltering support among the troops themselves for their own fundamental mission — could often be traced back to the fact that the public had turned against the war.
So what is the effect on troop morale of declining public support for the war in Iraq and the increasingly contentious political debate at home? Like so much about modern military life, the answer may seem counterintuitive to civilians.
After my fifth trip to Iraq to report on Marines, I’ve concluded that, at least among Marines, morale remains high — high not despite the public’s disaffection with the war but possibly because of it. The declining poll numbers and rising political upheaval appear to have driven Marines closer together.
Marines, for instance, continue to exceed their reenlistment goals; a recent study showed that those who have deployed twice to Iraq are more likely to reenlist again than those who have only gone once — and that the Marine least likely to reenlist is one who has not deployed to Iraq.
Whether the same spirit can be found among Army and National Guard troops is for others to determine. Their missions, histories and institutional cultures are different than the Marines. Young men join the Marines with the expectation — many even with the fervent hope — that they will deploy quickly to a war zone. That’s not true for, say, the National Guard, and that kind of motivation doesn’t waver with public opinion polls.
As Cpl. Alexander Lengle, 21, of Lancashire, Pa., said of the debate that dominates much of the news: “That’s political. It’s not our part of the spectrum. We’ve got a job to do.”
At chow halls at the larger bases, there are usually televisions at opposite ends, one set to sports, one to news. The TV showing sports gets the larger audience, particularly among the young enlisted troops. “It’s like noise in the background,” Lance Cpl. Jacob Holmes, 21, of Tallahassee, Fla., said of the news channels.
When the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment needed volunteers to extend their enlistments so they could return to Iraq and mentor younger Marines making their first deployment, the talk was not of foreign policy but of loyalty to each other. Two hundred Marines — 25% of the battalion — volunteered to return to war-torn Ramadi.
“It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely for me,” said Sgt. Kemp Miller, 25, of Philadelphia, making his third deployment.
In my many discussions with Marines, Lance Cpl. Kessel was one of the few who raised the issue of support for the war. He said he had picked up negative vibes about the war while he was back home. Other Marines acknowledged that they’d heard the same kind of comments but said they had dismissed them. Kessel, however, said he kept worrying.
Keeping up morale is a top-priority mission among Marine brass and senior noncommissioned officers, who know that alienation can set in quickly and spread rapidly.
During the assault on Baghdad in 2003, young Marines frequently asked reporters whether the public backed their mission. At the time, the answer was yes, overwhelmingly so.
Many of the Marines were the sons of Marines or soldiers who had fought in Vietnam. They had grown up hearing tales — real or apocryphal — of returning veterans being scorned. There seemed to be a palpable fear among the Marines that the same fate might await them if the public changed its mind about the mission.
Instead, something different happened. As support for the war waned, support for the troops increased. A tidal wave of paperback books, goodie boxes of candies and other things and banners done by schoolchildren has engulfed the troops. At Christmastime, so many stockings and presents arrived for the troops that the loot had to be distributed to Iraqi children to keep it from clogging warehouse space.
It’s a point that Mattis, the commanding general of Marine Forces Central Command, made repeatedly as he talked recently to troops.
“There’s a lot of dissent about the war, but there’s zero dissension about the troops,” he said. He used the example of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), possibly President Bush’s most ardent opponent on the war but also the most aggressive member of Congress in getting money for a safer combat vehicle.
Mattis told the Marines to believe their own eyes rather than news accounts on the issue of who is winning the war. Don’t be discouraged by the politicians and pundits who haven’t been to Iraq and don’t understand, he said.
“Don’t hold it against them,” he said to Kessel and the others gathered at a base in Habbaniya. “The only reason they have that freedom of speech is because you’ll fight for it.”
Kessel nodded. “I understand now,” he said later.
(Bolded emphasis mine)Marines are not the only branch exceeding enlistment and REenlistment goals as the numbers shown on a previous post here tells us.
Despite the rhetoric to the contrary it seems that the latest recruiting numbers for the military are not new but actually have been a trend this whole year. (Hat Tip Say Anything)
January 2007: (Click graph to enlarge)
February 2007:(Click graph to enlarge)
March 2007:(Click graph to enlarge)
April 2007:(Click graph to enlarge)
Direct quote from Say Anything Blog:
So what does this mean? It means that recruiting is strong for the branches of our military that see the most action in Iraq (Army and Marine active duty), and gets only slightly weaker for those branches where a troop is less likely to see action (Army NG and then on down through the Navy/Air Force reserves). Which means that of the people choosing to sign up for the military, most of them are signing up with an inclination toward going to Iraq.
Sort of throws a monkey wrench in that whole “Bush’s unpopular war” line when the military has such little trouble finding citizens willing to risk their lives for it, doesn’t it?
Wapo shows us today that only 1 in 5 people blame Iraq for their negative outlook, other reasons are gas prices, debt,jobs and the economy, yet you keep hearing the Democrats cry that the "majority" blames the war, or they completely ignore the CNN exit poll from the 2006 elections, showing that corruption was their "mandate", not Iraq.
Among the nearly three-quarters of Americans expressing a pessimistic viewpoint, about one in five blamed the war for their negative outlook, and about the same ratio mentioned the economy, gas prices, jobs or debt as the main reason for their dissatisfaction with the country's direction. Eleven percent cited "problems with Bush," and another 11 percent said "everything" led them to their negative opinion.
The new poll showed that Americans have recalibrated their view of who is taking the lead in Washington. Earlier this year, majorities of Americans said they believed that the Democrats were taking the initiative in the capital, but now there is an even split, with 43 percent saying Bush is taking the stronger leadership role and 45 percent saying the Democrats are.
That shift occurred across the political spectrum. In April, 59 percent of independents said Democrats were taking a stronger role, but that figure has dropped 15 points, to 44 percent.
They simply lie and expect their base to follow along, which they do like little robots.
In the most recent IBD/TIPP poll, Congress is now more unpopular than Iraq and congressional approval ratings are LOWER than Bush's.
The public has noticed their incompetence, their games, their rhetoric and if you look at the polls at that last link, they have also stated that although they want our troops home, they believe bringing them home in VICTORY is the goal and what is needed.
Go, look at the polls yourself, look at the number of people that believe success in Iraq is important and neccessary, this is information the Democrats run from, refuse to acknowledge and continue to lie about, because they understand their far far left base is too stupid to look for themselves if it is something they do not want to see.
In other news, General Petraeus tells us of the progress being seen in Iraq, something you won't see our MSM blaring from the front pages of their issues.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, good evening to you all. We've had two good sessions with the House and the Senate -- good exchanges. We provided an update on the situation in Iraq, the operational environment, the challenges, the progress to date, the setbacks to date, and then had a number of good exchanges -- questions and answers and so forth.Q General, did you give the members any specific number in terms of violence, and what numbers did you give them?GEN. PETRAEUS: What I did highlight was one of the areas in which there has been progress, and that is in the reduction in sectarian murders in Baghdad, which is about one-third now of what it was in January. That's an important development because the sectarian murders can be a cancer in a neighborhood. It is something on which our commanders and the Iraqi commanders have focused quite a bit, and it is an area in which, as I say, there has been progress. Having said that, the ability of al Qaeda to conduct horrific sensational attacks obviously has represented a setback and is an area in which we are focusing considerable attention, as you might imagine.Q Any other numbers you can share?GEN. PETRAEUS: No, that really -- that -- really trends was what I was talking about.Q General, a number of the members came away saying that you delivered a sobering report. Do you have an idea -- I mean, is the progress not what you expected? Why would they come away with that?GEN. PETRAEUS: I -- what I tried to do is to give an accurate depiction of the situation in Iraq -- a forthright assessment. It's an assessment that therefore includes areas in which there's been progress. As I mentioned, for example, the reduction of sectarian murders in Baghdad -- a very important development. And again, remember we're in very early days on this. We're only about two months into the surge. We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June and I pointed that out to them, and noted that Ambassador Crocker and I would be doing an assessment in early September and provide that to our respective bosses at that time. That's something we agreed when Secretary Gates was out there.I also pointed out the progress in Anbar Province, which has been very substantial, as you know. Literally over the last two months, Anbar has gone -- or certainly over the last six months -- from being assessed as being lost, to a situation that now is quite heartening because of the decision by a number of Sunni Arab tribes to join the fight against al Qaeda, saying no more -- they've had it -- and linking arms with the coalition to take on al Qaeda and one city after another really cleaning them out all the way down the Euphrates River Valley from al Qaim and Husaybah through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and so forth, although as I pointed out to each of the respective bodies -- the House and the Senate -- there still is considerable work to be done in Anbar Province although all the trends are in the right direction. And in fact the two additional Marine battalions that are part of the surge are now operating just for the first couple of weeks in Anbar Province, and they'll be joined by some additional forces later on as with the two additional Army brigades as they move in to their respective areas in and around Baghdad.
[...]Q Would you say that you are where you want to be in this operation by now? I mean, you took command.You must have had an idea how this was going to work. Are you where you wanted to be, or are things not going so well?GEN. PETRAEUS: Sure, we are actually ahead of where I wanted to be in some areas and probably behind where we might have hoped to be in some other areas. We are ahead, I think, with respect, as I mentioned, to the reduction of sectarian murders in Baghdad. Progress in Anbar is almost something that's breathtaking. We have made huge inroads. I think that you just saw an announcement -- the killing of the security emir of al Qaeda Iraq in eastern Anbar province, the detention of the Qazali network. This is the secret cells of the Shi'a extremist network. I'm not sure whether we've announced it, but we picked up the Shavani (ph) network head in Iraq. That's the explosively formed projectile element inside Iraq that gets from the other in Iran the explosively formed projectiles. We have learned a great deal more about Iranian involvement, very nefarious involvement involving funding, training on Iranian soil, advice and the provision of, again, lots of arms and ammunition, including these explosively formed projectiles that have been so lethal against some of our armored vehicles.In some other areas, we obviously have work to do, and that is, obviously, in the area of the car bomb networks. Although we did police-up the Resafah car bomb network in eastern Baghdad, one that was responsible for killing 650 Iraqis in a two and a half month period prior to their detention, and have picked up a number of others and a number of network leaders and other important participants in al Qaeda Iraq. Clearly, we have additional work to be done to make inroads into those who are carrying out these horrific suicide bombing attacks against all Iraqis.In fact, the other day, Secretary of Defense Gates said that his sense was that al Qaeda Iraq has declared war on all Iraqis. They have attacked Sunni Arabs, they have attacked Shi'a, they have attacked Iraqi Kurds. No one has been outside their crosshairs. And they have targeted indiscriminately civilians, crowds outside mosques and all the rest of that.There has been progress in terms of hardening markets, in terms of hardening neighborhoods. And although there is a big discussion about this one neighborhood, Adhamiya, which is sensitive because it's the site of a very, very important Sunni Arab shrine, by and large, these have gone on uneventfully. Most of the neighbors want to be secured against the bad guys who are coming in. This is not about walling off Sunni from Shi'a. This is about walling off neighborhoods. Sometimes they are predominantly one sect or the other. Sometimes, they are mixed. And again, the idea is you cannot hold the neighborhood if you cannot control access to it. And that means that you have to have a method of controlling vehicle flow in and out of it. And that's why in fact Iraqis as well as coalition forces have carried forward this kind of effort. We have done the same thing in Ramadi, by the way, and it has been crucial, as we've literally reclaimed that city with Iraqi partners right by our side -- in some cases in advance -- literally pushing cement forward. And people talk about the concrete caterpillar that grows 500 meters every night in certain parts of Baghdad or the Arizona creeper. All of this is part of efforts to control population and to provide security for people in Baghdad and in other locations.Thanks very much for waiting. Thank you, all.
General Petraeus is a straight shooter and it is a pity that after saying for so many years that the President should listen to the commanders on the ground, the Democrats in the Senate and the House now choose to ignore everything the commanders have to say.
Talk about hypocracy.
There is work to be done, hard work and our troops only ask the American people for one, single thing.... to let them get the job done.
For some, giving moral support is too much to ask and doing everything in their power to demoralize the troops seems to be their only goal... Baghdad Reid is the perfect example of that because that first soldier quoted above would never have had to ask that question if Reid hadn't deliberately tried to harm our troops with his public words.
Our soldiers are doing a splendid job and deserve for us to say two simple words to them