October 14, 2005
Scales of Military Justice
On Tuesday the 11th, Special Report With Brit Hume had a truly inspiring interview with Major General Bob Scales, whose assessment of the Iraqi Army was very good news indeed. They made the transcript available the next day, but I've been dilatory in putting it up here.
First the setup. General Scales went to Iraq to evaluate with his own eyes the combat-readiness of the Greater Iraq Army. He had no particular expectations either way, since he had heard both positive and negative assessments.
We were there for six days. We spent time in Baghdad. And then we went up to a place called Taji, which is the headquarters of the Ninth Iraqi Mechanized Division.
We specifically asked not only to see our American men and women but, "Let's just go up north and talk to the Iraqis, look them straight in the eye, and get a sense of their military readiness," not readiness in terms of readiness reporting, you know, how many vehicles have you got, what's your percent filled and all that.
Instead, we wanted to look at things like, you know, their training, their will to win, the courage factor, bonding, and cohesion, and leadership, and all those intangibles that really make an army effective, rather than just, you know, "How are you equipped?" And, frankly, what I saw was very encouraging.
Scales discussed a particular unit he interacted with extensively while there, a self-created mechanized infantry division, I believe (actually, I'm just assuming infantry, since he didn't say armored cavalry). The unit was only partially formed, but already it was patrolling and fighting the Sunni terrorists around Baghdad. Significantly, 75% of the unit comprised combat veterans. And although they had American embeds, they only numbered a dozen -- in a division that already had eight or nine thousand soldiers.
All in all, General Scales said that the Iraqi Army had 117 battalions, of which 80 were currently fighting alongside American forces, sometimes taking the lead (as in Operation Restoring Rights in Tal Afar).
Scales gave a vivid example of the progress that has been made in just a few months:
SCALES: Remember about eight months ago, Bill Cowan was in here talking about the BIAP [Baghdad International Airport] road, you know, the airport road?
HUME: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, the alley of death.
SCALES: Right. I drove the BIAP road, five miles along that road. And it's clear of the enemy. It's full of commerce. And who's protecting it? The Iraqi Sixth Infantry Division.
And in many ways, they're better than we are, in the sense that they're better able to gather intelligence. I mean, they can spot insurgents by their body language and by how they act and the language they use. They can spot foreigners far better than our soldiers can.
And they're better able to engage these terrorists when they find them oftentimes than our own soldiers are. You know, being part of the culture really means a lot when you're fighting an insurgency.
General Scales' final assessment was tremendously upbeat:
The insurgency is on a steady downward trend, mainly because U.S. forces and Iraqi forces have been successful in cleaning out the ratlines.... But I think the greatest hope is Iraq, Iraq units, the regular army, building them up very quickly so that they can take over the fighting and increase the probability of coming out of this OK.... It's happening.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 14, 2005, at the time of 5:36 AM
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Tracked on October 23, 2005 2:58 AM
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
Karl Zinsmeister was on radio this morning (Bill Bennett's show) saying about the same thing. One of his points: Obviously the Iraqi Defense Forces are not in a position now to do fast-infiltration raids by themselves. They don't have the air transport and the close air support needed. But they can hold territory, and they do it very well. And, the desertion problems that we heard about pretty much disappeared after that first election, when Iraqi Forces started getting some positive feedback from the Iraqis. So, when they have the other tools they need--attack helicopters and more armored troop transport--then they should be able to do it all. Why not?
The following hissed in response by: Linh_My
I was, as an American sailor, involved with the South Vietnamese military from 1970 to 1972. Posts like this one tend to miss, what I believe is, the point. To the Left the reality on the ground is irrelevent.
The Vietnamese Navy and its personal that I served alongside was a professional and compatent orginazation. The Vietnamese Army was also professional and compatent. They fought well untill it became evident that America had decided to abandon them.
The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith
Like Linh_My, I also had an opportunity to watch some Vietnamese in action, their Air Force in my case. As a member of a USAF Aerial Port Mobility team in 1972 I watched VNAF pilots fly in and out of Kontum during periods when the USAF considered the strip too hot to land on. I was also there when a VNAF crew stayed with a burning C-123 long enough to taxi off the runway so others, including the US C-130 that eventually extracted our team, could continue to use it. Bravery knows no race or nationality; the South Vietnamese lost the war because we abandoned them, not because of anything lacking in their character. I pray that as a nation we have the good sense and honor not to repeat our shameful mistake in Iraq.
Personal to Linh_My: Welcome home. Thank you for your service.
The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith at October 14, 2005 1:41 PM
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
Re: Linh_My at October 14, 2005 12:06 PM
But in South Vietnam's case, their opponents were getting supplied with high-tech military hardware by both China and the Soviet Union. That makes a big difference. Whereas terrorists in Iraq, at least for the foreseeable future, don't have any access to that kind of modern armament and high-tech intelligence gathering that the North Vietnamese had, along with a well-organized political and military culture.
The following hissed in response by: RiverRat
It's clear you know little of the Vietnam war. high-tech military hardware from the Soviets and Chinese? Name some.
I commanded river assault and patrol craft in Vietnam in '68 and '69. The armament of mainforce NVA units and the Cong consisted of WWII small arms, company grade artillery, and a lot of what we now call IEDs. Yeah right, It was high-tech by 1942 standards.
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