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[The back door draft in Iraq is yet another attempt to address a system in trauma. It can hardly be called a strategy.—CB]
THE STRETCH: AMERICA’S BACK DOOR DRAFT
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August 30th 2006, 2:13PM [PST] - In the sixth year of “the New American Century” our hearing remains out of range of the ululations of grief and triumph in the region that bridges China, India, Europe and Africa. Insulated as we are, an ocean-and-a-half away, the survivors of a hundred a day that die now in Iraq cry out, and the sounds dissolve. In the same way, the victory whoops for the defeat of US stalking horse Israel at the hands of Hezbollah remain unheard in the air-conditioned Occident. But there remains one connection to this strategic region that cannot be closed down. The thin thread of ostensible control exercised by the Generals uses the living bodies of those who wear the uniforms of the two most populous armed services, the Army and the Marines.
Last week, when the Bush administration signed an order to authorize an open-ended call-up of the Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), the last available layer of personnel for armed service, even the most phlegmatic observers were surprised.
Speaking with the Boston Globe, Charles Henning, a retired career officer at the Congressional Research Service, noted, “The announcement surprised me. I see no indication that they are having trouble manning their units.”
In fact, the Iraq-induced recruitment crisis has been kept within manageable proportions by sheer political will. Recruiters have been given enormous budgets to proselytize and cajole young people. Madison Avenue has cleaned up on slick, high-priced media buys. The combination Stop Loss as a stick with the carrot of outrageous re-enlistment bonuses has improved retention. Serendipitous assistance arrived with the stagnant, WalMart-ish job market for the average 18-year-old.
But “manning” the units is only one aspect of the problem faced by the career non-combatant New Centurions in Washington, D.C. Over 10,000 Army IRR have been recalled to fill certain key specialties since the adventure began in March 2003. It is the addition of the Marine Corps that is surprising pundits.
The atypical application of this call-up to the Marine Corps, which has been employed as an infantry adjunct to the Army in Iraq, is partly in response to the desperate campaign to impose order on Baghdad, a euphemism for blunting the growing influence of Hezbollah-sympathetic Muqtada al Sadr. This campaign has siphoned 7,000 US combat troops from the hinterlands into the capitol.
The massive bases in Mosul, Ramadi, Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Taji, as well as dozens of forward operating bases (FOBs) scattered throughout the country, still require core technical and security personnel. Infantry and armor have been gutted from these bases, where many troops were languishing rather than risk politically-perilous casualty data. They are now tasked to bully people in Baghdad, but the need for roadblocks and checkpoints to secure key logistical routes did not go to Baghdad with them. Nor did the requirement to provide security for re-supply and communications convoys.
While the macho cachet of the Marines has assisted the Corps in bringing aimless and alienated youth into entry-level positions, the reality of their employment in Iraq is creating a shift in reserve status. The BBC story that first publicized the new Marine Corps IRR call-up quoted Colonel Guy Stratton, head of USMC Manpower Mobilization, that when Marines were being discharged from active duty, fewer and fewer of them were electing to enter the Reserves, instead choosing the unpaid status of IRR. Repeated deployments into Iraq to shore up the Army when the Iraqi resistance was most effective, or when the US government wanted to “teach the Iraqis a lesson,” has replaced the cachet with a dose of disturbing reality.
The nerve center of the occupation in Iraq is the Green Zone -- a ten-square-kilometer “American bubble” in a former presidential compound along the Tigris River. It is home to the putative Iraqi government, the US Embassy, the British Embassy, and a host of high-priced “security contractors.” It has a layered physical defense system that is continually expanding in response to attacks. But it can’t expand far enough to the west. That is where the Baghdad Airport is that serves as its lifeline. That six-mile gap has been called the most dangerous commute in the world. On one side of the Green Zone is Sadr City, the base of the Medhi militias, and on the other side, what control exists, is exercised by militias influenced by Iran.
When the human body suffers a vascular crisis, like shock, the treatment protocol is to ensure the perfusion of oxygen to the core -- the heart and brain in particular. Liquids are infused into the vascular space to raise blood pressure. The patient’s legs are raised to shunt blood north. An oxygen mask is used. Sometimes even pressurized “trousers” are applied. Anything to make sure the brain doesn’t quit receiving a steady supply of that vital gas riding inside the red blood cells.
In the hinterlands of Iraq, the US has already been defeated. What order exists in places like Anbar and Nineveh is managed by Iraqis hostile to the occupation. Rumsfeld’s calculation at this point is nothing so orderly as a calculation at all. It’s a shock protocol.
The latest infusion of Marines is one more backdoor version of what the administration knows it needs to do if the US Army and Marine Corps are to be sued anywhere outside of Iraq and Afghanistan… and cannot. Implement conscription. On this count, their collective back is already firmly against the political wall. An active draft would guarantee the end of one-party rule in the United States.
So much for the New American Century.