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Author Gathering Place

Joseph Gedan

Sunday, October 31, 2004


Troops need competent
leadership, not stickers

Support our Troops" stickers and decals seem to be on every other car. Some cars have two or three. They weren't present in the first Gulf War -- it's a new phenomenon. I see the appearance of these decals as an expression of great anxiety about the welfare of our troops.

As I put my decal on my car, I paused with the realization that this decal does nothing to actually support our troops. With only my decal, I am at best a cheerleader for our troops. My placing of a "Support our Troops" decal on my car no more supports our troops than cheerleaders help players competing on the field. There is nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines cheering for our troops, but it should not be confused with supporting them in a tangible manner. This leaves the question then, how best can we actually give support?

We begin by identifying what is working against our troops and then see if we can do something about it. One huge problem dogging our troops is the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. It has been generally acknowledged that the conduct of the war, from its inception and continuing through the present day, has been grossly mismanaged. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni has gone so far as accusing high Pentagon officials of dereliction of duty in the lead up to and conduct of the war. Those primarily responsible for this mismanagement have been President Bush's political appointees in the Department of Defense -- Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and their crew. They have been colossal failures.

They failed to recognize that once the Iraqi army and police were disbanded, more troops than those deployed would be necessary to run the country; and that lacking sufficient troop strength, chaos, anarchy and banditry would develop. They failed to allow that amid this chaos, war lords would develop and that would lead to a powerful insurgency, one for which they were not prepared. Our troops are now trapped in that quagmire.

In the rush to secure the oil fields, our undermanned forces were forced to ignore the Iraqi ammunition depots, and as a result the insurgents became very well armed. Now it has been announced that some 360 tons of powerful explosives are missing. That translates into more body bags and maimed bodies.

Their failure to send in enough troops to secure Iraq's borders has resulted in al-Qaida operatives and foreign fighters flocking to Iraq to join the growing insurgency. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz failed to recognize that an occupying force would soon be hated regardless of their good intentions. Finally, many of our troops are forced to use unarmed SUVs, offering easy targets for the insurgents.

Something can be done and "business as usual" is not the option. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz need to be replaced.

With the war going from bad to worse, President Bush has not replaced a single official except Hawaii's Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff. The ultimate irony is that Shinseki wanted more troops in Iraq and was fired for constantly asking Rumsfeld for them. On the other hand, Bush continually praises Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. If Bush is reelected we will have the same incompetents managing the war. We certainly can do something about that.

We have asked our troops to risk their lives for our country, and yet we suffer them to serve under incompetent civilian Pentagon officials. They deserve better. Stickers and decals don't do it.


Joseph Gedan is a former counsel to numerous committees of the Hawaii territorial and state Legislatures; a former first assistant U.S. attorney; and a retired U.S. magistrate judge. He lives in Honolulu.

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