- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008


Baleful Bush bash

John McCain slamming President Bush for his handling of Hurricane Katrina is an act of political cowardice in the name of expediency, the likes of which I have never seen before (“McCain slams Bush for Katrina,” Page 1, Friday).

Mr. McCain forgets that Mr. Bush had all the resources the federal government could muster at the borders of the affected states days before full landfall of Katrina and was held at Louisiana’s borders by the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of the state. They were engaged in a struggle to determine what was the most politically safe thing to do.

By the time Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco — both Democrats — acted, it was too late, and once they invited the federal authorities in, the death and destruction had taken its toll in Louisiana.

One only has to look at Mississippi to see how it could have turned out had the mayor and governor not decided to play politics with the lives of their constituents. Mississippi is mostly rebuilt and thriving. The people there were self-reliant and decisive once they saw the danger posed by Hurricane Katrina.

That people like Mr. McCain are bashing Mr. Bush is unbecoming to any aspirant to the presidency, regardless of their political affiliation.



Future combat imperiled

John R. Guardiano is absolutely right: More money needs to be spent on military modernization so that we can prepare our soldiers and Marines for rapidly emerging new threats (“Defense spending beacons,” Commentary, April 1).

Yet many in Congress appear poised to again cut one of the U.S. military’s most critical modernization programs: the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS).

I now work as a military C2 software contractor for Overwatch Systems. But I say this, really, in my capacity as a retired Marine officer, Iraq war veteran and father.

Like other military leaders today, I had the unenviable task of explaining to my young Marines that although they’ve grown up with cell phones capable of instantaneous voice and data communication, they instead had to depend upon 1980s-era radio technology to save their lives in combat.

Back in the states, my Marines could access mash-ups like Google Earth on their laptop computers while riding a city bus. Yet in Iraq and Afghanistan, they couldn’t see real-time intelligence inside their vehicles as they rolled into enemy-held territory.

Those armored vehicles were designed in the 1970s and are logistical burdens, using more fuel than a small airplane. But our families back home drove vastly more fuel-efficient vehicles — including electric-hybrid SUVs — with OnStar diagnostic and navigation capabilities.

I usually attributed the discrepancy between technology in the military and commercial worlds to a lack of political will. I urged my Marines to vote if they want to see things change.

We all know, I explained, that military technology must keep pace with advances in the civilian sector, which is the source of so many new enemy capabilities.

Yet the Army’s only top 15 weapon system program, FCS, is facing another round of budget cuts. This after some $800 million was cut from the program in the past three years. The rationale: current-force requirements are more important than modernization.

But FCS accounts for less than 3 percent of the Army’s budget and is the only top 15 weapon acquisition program that directly affects the grunts on the ground.

Moreover, defense spending today accounts for the smallest share of the gross domestic product than during any wartime period in our nation’s history. America can — and must — support both current operations and modernization.

Congress’ seeming inability to protect defense investments that transcend the next election cycle will ensure that my grandchildren will fight for their country with the same aging weapon systems with which I was sent to war. It’s already too late to help my sons and their generation.

America’s soldiers and Marines will always adapt and innovate; they will always fight with big hearts and tenacious spirit. Our Congress needs to be equally courageous.

Put military modernization ahead of porkbarrel politics. Provide our soldiers and Marines with the tools and systems created in this century. They deserve no less.


Austin, Texas

Al-Sadr excluding himself

Mohamad Bazzi is correct that the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr does have an important role to play in the future of Iraq, but it must be one of a serious and committed politician who has the best interests of his country in mind (“Don’t exclude al-Sadr,” Op-Ed, Thursday).

It is Sheik al-Sadr who is excluding himself from the upcoming elections by maintaining his armed militia and by his continued verbal threats of violence against his own countrymen.

Mr. Bazzi argues that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is singling out Sheik al-Sadr as a political rival. I argue that he is not being singled out as a rival but as a constant barrier to security and peace throughout the region.

His militia spreads fear and chaos and rules people through intimidation. This is nowhere more evident than in the recent actions of his militia in Basra. The government’s military actions were only in response to the open actions of the Mahdi militia’s targeting of Iraqi Security Forces and the government of Iraq.

Although the cease-fire has been an important aspect in reducing violence overall, it still remains as a veiled threat of authority to be used at anytime he does not get his way. I applaud the government’s efforts to crack down on violence and place security efforts at the forefront of its policy.

The author writes that the Sadrist trend enjoys wide support from the young and poor Shi’ites. Those two groups are very impressionable, but I question why he does not have support from the older, educated, and middle-class Shi’ites?

There must be a reason that those three groups did not vote for his movement during the last elections. There are two other groups that are well-known for providing social programs and a military movement to the people — they are Hamas and Hezbollah. If Sheik al-Sadr has a serious commitment to politics, then let him disavow his militia and move forward on his credentials alone.

The author writes that “Sheik al-Sadr is a home-grown leader with … two main claims to leadership: as the son of a revered ayatollah … and as someone who never left Iraq to live in comfortable exile.”

Being the son of a revered figure certainly does not equate to the passing of leadership credentials. This cannot be a game of riding coattails when the lives of one’s countrymen are at stake.

He may not live in exile abroad, but he certainly does not live in Iraq and certainly does not share the same hardships of the people he wishes to represent. How convenient it is to be furthering one’s studies in the relative peace of Iran while Iraqi people struggle daily to further the roots of democracy.

The April 13 draft voting laws barring candidates with militias from running should come as no surprise and have prior history to back them up. Under the Iraq Transitional Administration Law of 2004, candidates were prohibited from possessing or receiving funding from a militia.

This latest law is as clear now as the law was four years ago and is aimed at cleaning up the electoral process. Now is the time for Sheik al-Sadr to disband his militia, stop the violent rhetoric, get off the military bandwagon and come to the political round table. It is time for him to be the leader of change.


Baghdad, Iraq

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