General Petraeus may be a reliable, educated, and stalwart military officer, but the sense one gets from his robotic circumlocutive responses to questions about his mission is that he must be hiding a great deal from the American people. Since it's the American people who are shedding blood and money for the Iraq War, hiding anything at all about the war from them is both un-American and dangerous. Is Petraeus capable of straight talk? I don't know. It's unfortunate that if he is indeed capable of straight talk, he chooses to do otherwise when he has the attention of millions of his countrymen.
The Iraq War is a bungled operation that's now lost. We have 140,000 soldiers in Iraq fighting about 10,000 ragged men with no heavy weapons, no armor, no air power, and primitive communication and transportation technology. We are not fighting an army, we're fighting pick-up "militias" who zoom from place to place in pick-up trucks waving rifles and shouting slogans. They do know how to make and use bombs, whether planted in a road or an automobile or around the chest of an exploited suicide bomber. They have the advantage of fighting on their home ground.
We have been embroiled in Iraq five years. We have suffered 4,000 dead and 30,000 to 60,000 wounded, and the people who sent us into this war keep telling us to be patient.
Be patient, they say.
Well, some of us are old enough to say we've heard that song before.
In 1955, William Bruckner, the U.S. Secretary of the Army, told us: "With a little more training, the Vietnamese army will be the equal of any other army in the world in its ability to combat the enemy and will be able to defend itself against the Viet Minh if attacked."
In 1962, U.S. Army General Barksdale Hamlett told us: "The training, transportation, and logistical support we are providing in Vietnam has succeeded in turning the tide against the Vietcong."
In 1963, General Paul Harkins told us: "Victory is in sight."
In 1965, Walt Rostow of the U.S. Department of State, told us: "It looks very good. The Vietcong are going to collapse within weeks. Not months but weeks."
In 1965, Ronald Reagan told us: "It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas."
In 1966, Senator Everett Dirksen told us: "Hold on a little longer and pretty soon we will have them on their knees at the bargaining table."
In 1969, Admiral John S. McLain told us: "We have the enemy licked now. We have the initiative in all areas. My optimism is based on hard military realism."
In 1969, Melvin Laird, U.S. Secretary of Defense, told us: "I think we've certainly turned the corner."
In 1969, journalist William Buckley told us: "The enemy is reeling from successive disasters. We are, in fact, winning the war."
In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon told us: "Militarily and politically, Hanoi is losing."
Our Vietnam War lasted 16 years, from 1959 to 1975, at a cost of 84,000 American soldiers.
The Iraq War goes on and on. If it lasts another 10 years, maybe 8,000 more American soldiers will die. It's a lost adventure, a fiasco, a mad calamity, five years of dripping American blood and money that must be benefiting someone somewhere -- either that or we're all crazy as lemmings rumored to jump off a cliff.
I'm a scientist. I'm supposed to be reserved about everything. Then I see on television the faces of dead kids blown to pieces in a war hardly anyone wants and whatever reserve I have is gone.
I'm the author of a book called Junk Science, a book about how people twist science for their own ends. If I had a taste for it, I'd write a book called Junk War, a book about how people twist the realities of war for their own ends.
The generals and war-mongering politicians were wrong about Vietnam and they're wrong now about Iraq.
We've had enough of this junk war. We need to get out of Iraq as fast as possible. Whatever General Petraeus is hiding from us, it's transparent that we need to get out.