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Veteran concerned with situation in Iraq

Posted: June 12, 2014 - 5:18pm  |  Updated: June 13, 2014 - 9:22am

As a citizen, retired Marine, and veteran of the Iraq conflict, I view the situation in Iraq with great concern. I spent three tours totaling 27 months in Iraq, the vast majority in Anbar Province. During my second tour in the fall of 2004, I commanded a battalion during clearing operations in Fallujah. During my final tour in 2007, I was the intelligence director in Anbar with responsibility for targeting Al Qaeda and its affiliates in an area stretching from Syria to Baghdad. When I returned from Iraq in February 2008, I felt that Al Qaeda, if not dead, was mortally wounded. My thinking was that with continued partnership with the U.S. military and intelligence services, the Iraqi government would be able to effectively deal with the diminished extremist threat.

Our President, however, in an effort to placate his base and make good on his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq at all cost, made a strategic error in not solidifying a strategic basing or Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government. Military organizations take a long time to build and without continued training, mentoring, and partnership with a small residual U.S. force, the Iraqi military actually regressed as an effective fighting organization.

In January 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an extremist organization so ruthless as to have been disenfranchised by Al Qaeda, seized control of Fallujah and Ramadi in western Iraq. I contacted both of our Senators and our Congressman expressing concern about this national security threat and the waste in blood and treasure caused by the ISIS resurgence. I received a mix of democratic talking points and polite canned responses for my efforts.

Fast forward to June 2014, and the ISIS has now seized Mosul, the second largest city on Iraq, Tikrit, Samarra, and the Baiji Oil refinery, the largest in Iraq. The ISIS and the Syrian al Nusra Front have also completely erased the Iraqi and Syrian border in the western desert, effectively establishing an extremist Caliphate stretching from central Syria to the western suburbs of Baghdad.

Many would wave off my concerns thinking that it’s a long way away and no longer concerns us. You would be sadly mistaken to believe that. I know this enemy. He is smart, dangerous, brutal, and totally committed. They hate us and they will come for us here in the homeland. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but come for us they will.

Many of a more liberal persuasion would argue that we shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place. While they might be right, the argument is also irrelevant. We are where we are. The current administration’s idea of foreign policy as it relates to extremists threats in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be to throw up the white flag of surrender wherever confronted with the black flag of Al Qaeda. The administration seems completely paralyzed and unable to formulate a coherent response to the current crisis. Our idea of action is for the State Department to send a tweet. The Iraqis don’t need tweets, they need steel on target and a President with enough steel in his spine to put it there.

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jford 06/13/14 - 01:40 pm
Trying to alter history to fit your view won't work.

The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (official name: Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq) was a status of forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.

It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011

Got that? Signed by GW Bush. It was Bush's decision to end the SOFA. Get your facts straight.

When you want to lay blame for something, do use facts and not your imagination. Do not attempt to revise history to suit your one sided argument.

Want to know who lost Iraq?

The local rulers did. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lost Iraq.

But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq?

He was the product of a series of boneheaded decisions made by the Bush administration. He was installed by the Bush administration.

Having illegally invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called “the worst war plan in American history” — the administration needed to find local allies. It quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed. These moves — to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy and purge Sunnis in general — might have been more consequential than the invasion itself. Those moves were orchestrated by Bush and his bungling incompetent administration.

And those were only a few of the major bungles performed by the Bush administration.

And we know what the neocons, the chicken hawks, and the right wing media had to say about their invasion, how their war would go, we'd be welcomed, it wouldn't cost a thing and it would be freedom and liberty til the end of time.

Yeah, right. Now when it blows up you should lay the blame where it belongs, on Bush, his administration, the neocon warmongerers, the chicken hawk armchair generals, and the right wing media who positively drooled at the thought of having a nice little war to celebrate.

If the only way you can sell your warmongering ideology is to first attempt to revise history in an attempt to erase the mistakes made which got us there, you're doing it wrong.

Go rattle your saber somewhere else, we don't need any more cheerleaders wishing only to put steel on target. We tried that, remember? Bush, his inept administration, and the neocon warmongerers created the blowback we see today.

Those liberals who you concede might have been right, and events proved them right, also said the ill-conceived illegal invasion and occupation would create massive blowback. They also said the blowback would destabilize the region for a long time to come.

You should have been more concerned before the illegal invasion and occupation got the green light.

And no, what happened before isn't irrelevant. We are where we are because of what went on before. It's relevant. It's all too relevant.

As to your imaginary suppositions about what we are doing or what we ought to do. The reality isn't something you get to dream up or dictate, reality isn't as you wish to paint a picture. The reality is not as you portray it, no matter how much you wish you could make revisions wherever they don't suit your preformed conclusions.

leewaytooo 06/14/14 - 03:11 am
"Many of a more liberal

"Many of a more liberal persuasion would argue that we shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place. While they might be right, the argument is also irrelevant. We are where we are."


it is the only currant relevant point........

"we are where we are"......

and that is we are not IN Iraq and not wasting money and

more importantly, we are NOT wasting lives....

boys and their toys KILL...

3 to 4 trillion dollars wasted by [filtered word] on two wars

that should have never been...

if you have the ability to retaliate from a distance....then

do that...........never expose yourself to harm by getting

up close and dead.........

Suss 06/14/14 - 07:55 pm
Dear Sir

Colonel Pollock, for a G-2 background I would think you would have information about the current administration's activity with drone strikes that tend to show a much different role this President has towards defending our country.

Your published bio lists many laudable postings with the Marines.

Pre-9-11 work at the NSA may color your perception of what this country should or should not be doing.

I do thank you for your service.

Booz Allen Hamilton? Wasn't that Snowden's last employer?

Here is another Vet's take on going to war again........

bluelight413 06/14/14 - 09:22 am
Suss, et al...

Darn Suss, who worked in the intelligence community me or you?? Nice background pull :) Couple points I want to clarify.

Jford, The SOFA negotiation I was discussing was the follow on negotiation to renew the original SOFA that was to run out on Dec 31 2011. A SOFA is a treaty with a set end date so that if it isn't renewed, all troops have to be withdrawn. The USG wasn't looking to withdraw all US troops based on the original SOFA, the assumption was that the Obama administration would work with the Iraqi govt to extend it during his administration. We have SOFA agreements with countries all over the world. The follow on called for a train, advise and assist mission, not a combat mission. Numbers ranged from 3,000 to 10,000 troops. I am and will continue to be critical of Pres Obama's inability to negotiate an agreement as I think it is a factor in the current situation. Many other factors as you point out, but this was one we had some control over. Second point, don't confuse my criticism of one President's policy with an endorsement of another's. You draw some conclusions about my positions that aren't supported in fact.

Suss, I do have a pretty good understanding of the drone program. I think it has been shown to be an effective instrument in destroying/degrading terrorist networks in denied areas such as Pakistan. I think it may be our best option in dealing with the current threat in Syria and Iraq in that it minimizes risk to our people. I would also tell you that we haven't launched a drone strike in the PAK/AF border region since Jan. I don't know why we haven't.

Yes, I did work at NSA during the late 90's. It was a very different place with a very different mission pre 9/11. I'm sure you realize how much technology has changed since then. I am a bit offended by the insinuation that I in some way believe in violating a citizen's civil liberties. As a Marine Officer, I swore an oath to uphold the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I took it seriously. If I read to much into your statement, I apologize.

I did work for BAH, so did Snowden. I only worked there for about 4 months. Short stint between trips to Afghanistan. Its a global company, never would have run into him.

So after reading the comments on this page, I have to ask do we want to stand by and let Rome burn? I have no love for the Maliki government and the problem in many ways is of their own making but 1500 captured Shia soldiers were executed by the ISIS due to their religious beliefs. Christian churches are being burned in N. Iraq. The ISIS will execute everyone of a different faith that they can get their hands on. The Nazis undertook a similar program in the 30's as the world stood by and watched.

I'm not endorsing going back into Iraq. What I am suggesting is a campaign of manned and unmanned airstrikes to dismantle the infrastructure of this group before they turn their sites on the United States.

jford 06/18/14 - 09:54 pm
The lame attempt at revisionist history is not going to work.

As to claiming the president didn't hold up his end, saying Bush signed the SOFA 'expecting Obama' to right his wrong, and that he failed, that's another lie. A plain and simple lie. That's a fabrication, meant to deflect from the reality.

And it's not new, it's been debunked for years, ever since right-wing media started trying to claim that the current violence in Iraq is the result of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and President Obama's willful failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In reality, Iraq refused the terms of a SOFA with the U.S. despite Obama's efforts to maintain a military presence there. Iraq supported Bush's decision to sign an end to the earlier SOFA, and Iraq was the reason there was no further SOFA.

Quit attempting to deceive, plenty of people have already tried it before you and they aren't any more successful. You failed in your attempt to deceive, just as the colonel failed, and just as Mr Smith failed.

It makes not a whit of difference if you claim to be critical of the president's efforts, you aren't being honest, and your 'criticism' is thus irrelevant.

If you'd lied about your age in order to join the military, that's one thing, but lying in an attempt to revise history, that's not honorable.

jford 06/19/14 - 10:57 am
Oh, and save the saber rattling claptrap,

we've heard that misconceived notion before.

Right, we have to hit them there so we won't have to fight them here.

Next I suspect you'll be telling us there's an imminent threat, mushroom clouds are just around the corner.

Yes, let's have some old fashioned air strikes, what could possibly go wrong.

Shock and awe, idiocy and failure.

Yeah, we shouldn't wait to repeat that brilliance.

( I hear Ari Fleischer and Dick Cheney are headed to Iraq to fight ISIS. Dream come true for them, right?)

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