Category: Arab World


 

Time reports on ‘America’s broken-down Army’

RAW STORY
Published: Thursday April 5, 2007
 


 

President Bush’s rush to send thousands of additional troops into combat in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the point of crisis, according to an article by Mark Thompson in Time.

As a result of the increased pressure to add more troops on the ground in Iraq, soldiers are receiving inadequate training, leaving them less equipped to handle combat. Time writes of one soldier, Matthew Ziemer, who was killed just two hours after taking up his combat post in Iraq, having been in Iraq only a week. Prior to deployment, Zeimer received nine weeks of basic training but was forced to miss the standard 4 weeks of pre-Iraq training that troops deployed previously received.

“Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture,” writes Thompson. “That’s the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals’ household staffs the finer points of table service.”

According to Thompson, that lack of training may have contributed to Zeimer’s death. “Zeimer’s mother was unaware of the gap in her son’s training until TIME told her about it on April 2,” he writes. “Two days later the Army disclosed that Zeimer may have been killed by friendly fire.”

The Army has been stretched thin in other critical areas as well. “Disintegrating” equipment, lack of armor, and more frequent deployments with shorter breaks have led retired Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell to declare the active Army “broken.”

Gear and equipment is now left in the war zone for use by newly arriving troops, which “grinds the equipment into scrap up to 10 times as fast as in peacetime,” Thompson writes. “The lack of guns and armor back home has a boomerang effect: many of the troops training in the U.S. are not familiar with what they’ll have to depend on once they arrive in Iraq.”

Extended deployments with shorter breaks are leading to a decrease in morale and an increase in cases of suicide, desertion, and post traumatic stress disorder.

“Ever since the war started, they’d be saying all they wanted to do was to get back to their buddies in Iraq to keep on fighting,” one retired general said of wounded soldiers he visited at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “Now it’s more about getting out and wondering about civilian jobs. There’s very little chatter about rejoining the unit.”

Excerpts from the article follow…

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A volunteer Army reflects the most central and sacred vow that citizens make to one another: soldiers protect and defend the country; in return, the country promises to give them the tools they need to complete their mission and honor their service, whatever the outcome. It was Bush, on the eve of the 2000 election, who promised “to all of our men and women in uniform and to their parents and to their families, help is on the way.” Besides putting Powell at State, the President reinforced his Administration with two former Defense Secretaries: Vice President Dick Cheney and, in the job for a second time, Donald Rumsfeld.

So it is no small irony that today’s U.S. Army finds itself under the greatest strain in a generation. The Pentagon made that clear April 2 when it announced that two Army units will soon return to Iraq without even a year at home, compared with the two years units have traditionally enjoyed. One is headed back after 47 days short of a year, the other 81. “This is the first time we’ve had a voluntary Army on an extended deployment,” says Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who advises his old service. “A lot of canaries are dropping dead in the mine.”

The main consequences of a tightly stretched Army is that men and women are being sent into combat with less training, shorter breaks and disintegrating equipment. When those stories get out, they make it harder to retain soldiers and recruit them in the first place. “For us, it’s just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out,” wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

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LINK TO FULL TIME ARTICLE

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Iran’s Saudi Counterweight

Iran’s Saudi CounterweightDespite a recent summit meeting, tensions are brewing between the two regional powers. (AP/Saudi Press Agency)

March 15, 2007

Prepared by:

Lionel Beehner

Iran is not the only ascendant power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, its regional rival, has also seen its fortunes rise. Thanks to high oil prices, the country’s gross domestic product has doubled to $350 billion over the past four years. Saudi leaders also face easing pressures from Washington on democracy promotion, due to the Bush administration’s troubles democratizing Iraq, not to mention elections in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that brought Islamist parties to power. Emboldened, the House of Saud has taken “on the long-abandoned mantle of Arab leadership,” argues the Economist, particularly on issues like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Sunni Arab fears of a rising Shiite Iran have only strengthened Saudi Arabia’s position. It has also helped lessen the tension Saudis feel toward Israel. With Iran now the “evil empire,” writes Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Israel almost stops being an enemy and perhaps becomes an ally.” On Lebanon, the Saudis have angled for position to ensure that Iranian-backed Hezbollah does not oust Fouad Siniora’s government in Beirut. And on the Palestinian issue, Riyadh has spearheaded a new power sharing arrangement that draws new borders (to reflect pre-1967 realities) and addresses the Palestinian refugee situation. The peace proposal will get hashed out at the Arab League summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, on March 28. Continue reading