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Bringing the Troops Home, Beginning with a Lieutenant Colonel

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A Dishonorable Discharge for Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich would be a start. This officer epitomizes the insane combination of religious right and power mad, when they infiltrate and lie dormant within the American armed services. The classic comparisons to General Jack Ripper from Dr. Strangelove and his ‘precious bodily fluids’ are almost

Case in point. David Finkel, in a stunning July 9th article in the Washington Post, describes Kauzlarich putting at risk the 27 members of his Alpha Company on a fool’s errand. From their Baghdad neighborhood combat outpost to an Army base four miles away, the purpose of which was to attend a memorial service for a fellow soldier, who had died eight days earlier.

Bravado to no purpose. Stupidity in the line of duty. An inescapable and potentially deadly order of no possible military value. Would a dead comrade be honored by putting his buddies at deadly risk?

As Finkel reports, 2nd Battalion had been in Iraq four months, among the first arrivals of Bush’s ‘surge.’ It hadn’t been pretty.

“In March, its first full month of deployment, the battalion was hit by 12 roadside bombs, referred to by the military as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In April, as soldiers began moving into neighborhood outposts and rounding up suspected insurgents, that number was 21. In May, as they met with local leaders and got some community improvement projects going, the number was 27.

“And then came June, when there were 80 roadside bombings, with 13 other bombs discovered before they exploded. And it wasn't just bombs targeting the battalion: There were also 52 instances of direct fire involving small arms or rocket-propelled grenades and 26 instances of attacks with rockets or mortars. By the end of the month, one soldier had lost a hand, another an arm, another an eye, another had been shot in the face, 19 in all had been injured and four others had died.”

If you have served in the military, you will be aware that your life and your best interests are not always served by sane men making sane decisions. It has been thus since man advanced from throwing rocks to night-vision goggles. There have always been Kauzlariches in command of brighter and more considerate, but less empowered men. The lucky survive, but they never get entirely over the experience of a lunatic commander.

“One explanation for such a surge in attacks: "We're winning. They wouldn't be fighting if we weren't winning. They wouldn't have a reason to," said Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, the battalion commander. "It's a measure of effectiveness."

The way things actually are becomes more honestly apparent as you decline the chain of command and leave the zealots behind to pace their offices, swagger-stick under arm.

“ . . . his second in command, Maj. Brent Cummings, described it as "a crappy, crappy month." The commander of Alpha Company, Capt. Ricky Taylor -- who would be the one to decide whether to walk or drive -- called it "very, very difficult"; 2nd Platoon Sgt. 1st Class Corey King -- who would be the one to plan the route -- called it "ugly. Ugly. Ugly."

So, if Kauzlarich is to be believed, the enemy (however one defines ‘enemy’ in this morass) wouldn’t have a reason to fight if we weren’t winning. Ergo; we stop winning, they stop fighting. As we turn tail, they lay down their arms and retire to the bosom of family and friends, a plan for peace at last.

Yet an infinite number of pay grades above that reasoning, up there near (or in) the Oval Office, we are told that ‘to not win is to turn Iraq and the whole Middle East into a cauldron of death and destruction.’

C'mon, guys. It's just not possible for these two strategic visions to occupy the same Iraq policy. Take your pick, either Kauzlarich or Bush must go.

It’s a hard choice. On the one hand we have a president who can’t seem to do anything right, who persists in the defense of the indefensible Alberto Gonzales and locks down the free flow of information within American government. On the other, we have a religious fanatic light colonel who covered up the Pat Tillman  killing and insulted the Tillman family in the process.

Such choices are never easy. In the Tillman matter, according to Wikipedia;

He (Kauzlarich) was the Army officer who directed the first official cover-up of the circumstances that led to the death of Pat Tillman . . . the commanding officer who chose to split Tillman's unit in two, resulting in the fratricide. He was later the officer assigned to investigate Tillman's death.

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, Regimental Executive Officer at Forward Operating Base Salerno on Khowst, Afghanistan under which Pat Tillman was serving at the time of his death.

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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)
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