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General Casey Turns To Plain Speaking

Four-star US Army Gen. George Casey.

Japan calls US policy in Iraq 'naive'
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 4 - Japan's foreign minister has criticised the United States policy in Iraq as "very naive" and blamed it for spiralling unrest there, in another swipe at US tactics by the key Washington ally. Taro Aso said late Saturday in Kyoto that the then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld "started off the war, but the operation after the occupation was very naive." "Because this operation did not work well, it (Iraq) is in trouble now," he said, quoted by Jiji Press. "It became clear that the operation after a war is very important when you think about peace-building."

Aso's comments came on the day a suicide bomber blew up his Mercedes truck in a Baghdad market, killing at least 130 people and injuring hundreds, in the second deadliest attack since the US-led invasion of 2003. They follow comments by Japanese Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma who has made a series of critical remarks about US policies, which provoked displeasure from the US State Department. Last month Kyuma said US President George W. Bush was wrong to invade Iraq and warned that Tokyo might not automatically renew its air force mission to the war-torn country. Shigeru Ishiba, then defence chief when the pacifist nation took the historic step to send troops to Iraq in January 2004, Sunday criticized Kyuma. "I don't know if it's appropriate for Japan, which relies on the United States the most (for national security), to make such comments when the US is going through the most difficult time," Ishiba said in a TV Asahi programme.

"The US is the only ally for Japan," he said. "If a North Korean missile flew to Japan now, it's only the US that could protect Japan." Japan, forced by the United States to renounce war after World War II, has largely depended on the US military forces for its national security.

The Japanese-US alliance has been touted in both capitals as the strongest in decades. But incoming number two US diplomat John Negroponte cautioned after Kyuma's remarks that Washington should not take its relations with its staunchest ally in Asia for granted. Kyuma also has criticised Rumsfeld, saying that "he was too bullish on the conditions in Iraq" and called the US decision to invade "premature". Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has insisted Japan will continue supporting Iraq, however. Tokyo ended the Iraq mission in July but has kept its air force engaged in transporting goods and personnel to the war-torn country.

by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Feb 02, 2007
An almost unprecedented event happened in the halls of Congress this week: A serving four-star Army general publicly contradicted and embarrassed his commander in chief in congressional testimony. Gen. George Casey, the outgoing ground forces commander in Iraq, is not a happy man. Casey has served long and loyally commanding a difficult, thankless campaign where he has been given no clear strategic direction and impossible goals to implement with a far too small, over-stretched and exhausted force whose morale has steadily eroded.

The level of guidance and input he and his staff received from the enormous, 1,500-strong staff of civilian analysts in the Pentagon has been execrable. (By contrast, U.S. Army military intelligence on the insurgency and the developing situation in Iraq has been prescient and impressive consistently over the past three and a half years.)

But now Gen. Casey is being hung out to dry. Although the president has named him to be the next Army Chief of Staff -- a position that his Iraq experience as well as his previous outstanding record makes him the obvious man for -- he faces a probably tough Senate confirmation process. Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee will be eager to embarrass Bush by derailing his choice.

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the front-runner for the Republican Party's presidential nomination next year, is a strong advocate of pouring more troops into Iraq and has already made clear he opposes Gen. Casey's judgment on that matter, and on much else. Among Washington's pontificating class, Gen. Casey is widely seen as a busted flush. He commanded in Iraq. Things got worse on his watch. Blame him. Simple.

There is certainly a great deal of legitimate criticism that can be made of the strategy Gen. Casey tried to implement in Iraq. And it certainly did not even dent the capabilities of the Sunni insurgency there, as we have repeatedly recorded in these columns and in our companion UPI Iraq Benchmarks columns.

But Gen. Casey was never a free agent in Iraq. He served Donald Rusmfeld, a defense secretary who despised the operational requirements of the regular army and who actively sought to crush and over-ride the independent judgment of its most senior officers more than other DefSec in U.S. history.

Rumsfeld was rigid and closed-minded in the way he insisted the Iraq war be run. At the very end of his disastrous six year reign in the Pentagon, he tried to cover himself with a memorandum belatedly acknowledging the problems in Iraq. But he had flatly refused to heed any senior Army officer or intelligence expert who had monitored them ever since he allowed chaos to run rampant in the streets of Baghdad in mid-April 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein with the airy comment "Stuff happens."

Now, Gen. Casey is being replaced by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the co-author of the U.S. Army's manual on counter-insurgency. Petraeus and his theories of increased ground presence of U.S. troops at grassroots in Baghdad to restore security ot the city are the new hot number in White House and the corridors of power and pontification inside the Washington Beltway. Casey is yesterday's man -- the convenient scapegoat for a disastrously failed policy that he did not create but tried to implement by loyally serving his president and commander-in-chief.

Four star general officers of the Armed Forces of the United States are not used to being used, abused and discarded that way. They are not in the habit of publicly embarrassing their commanders-in-chief either. But on Thursday, Gen. Casey did just that.

Casey did not do a Gen. Douglas MacArthur and advocate a more hawkish, aggressive or irresponsible policy during a war in which he held a top command position as MacArthur did in early 1951 before President Harry S. Truman fired him and replaced him with Gen. Matthew Ridgeway. But in terse, short answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee, he contradicted the president and challenged his commander-in-chief's expertise and the wisdom of his policies with one short, bullet-point answer after another.

Do the U.S. forces in Iraq require the much touted five additional combat brigades that Bush is sending out as part of his new "surge" policy. No, said Gen. Casey, they do not. Only two additional brigades would suffice.

Had he then not requested the president to authorize the sending of the five brigades, the general was asked by Sen. John Warner, R-Va.. No, he said, he had not. "I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission."

What is even more remarkable is that these comments did not come from an officer whose career was being terminated, as Rumsfeld and his deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, humiliated then-Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki for correctly warning before the invasion of Iraq that hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers would be needed to secure the country.

Gen. Casey not being pensioned off by the administration -- at least, not yet. He is being promoted to Army Chief of Staff. That is perfectly normal procedure for a such an experienced and capable senior officer who has served a difficult tour of duty as a theater commander in war. Gen. William Westmoreland came back from Vietnam to hold the post while that war was still raging too. The practice obviously has much to commend it. But incoming U.S. Army chiefs of staff are not expected to publicly contradict their commanders-in-chief either. That has especially been the case in the Bush administration, as Gen. Shinseki's's fate graphically confirmed.

However, new Defense Secretary Robert Gates is a different kind of man than his predecessor Rumsfeld. There have already been many signs that Gen. Petraeus is being sent out to Iraq with a far freer hand than the disastrous know-it-all policies and theories that shackled Gen. Casey.

Giving Petraeus a free hand to implement very different policies is obviously no guarantee for success and victory in Iraq. But the decision to do so, combined with Gen. Casey's frank speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, suggests that a wind of freer debate and inquiry is finally starting to blow down the endless huge ring corridors of the Pentagon.

Source: United Press International

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Bush Takes One More Gamble In The Mideast
Moscow (UPI) Feb 05, 2007
What if U.S. President George W. Bush's recently announced new strategy on Iraq proves to be not only a tactical election campaign trick but also a well thought-out operation to redress the situation and ensure a comfortable U.S. presence in the Middle East? The dispatch of two Marine battalions and five army brigades will not be a key point of this strategy.

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