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Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

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November, 2006 was a time of celebration and high hopes. The newly elected Democratic majority would soon wrest control of a hated war from the sole control of a megalomaniacal President, and begin the process of returning our courageous military to their families and loved ones. Beyond the progressive thinking of Congress the country could expect a field of presidential candidates, any of whom could be counted on to bring the dawn of new hope to despondent America.

That was then. Today, the country remains mired in a war showing no signs of progress, and in fact has become even more deadly. Not only has the surge failed to end the violence, the current deployment has increased the casualty rate for our soldiers and marines. While the visible death and injury rate continues to grow, while the once relatively safe Green Zone is now subject to almost daily shelling, it seems far too optimistic to expect that the President will give even the most passing thought to the terrible psychological damage suffered by repeated deployments to the combat zone. A recent MSNBC article sheds the light of day on Athis dark problem:

“While much of the attention has been on physical wounds like traumatic brain injuries, as well as squalid living conditions for recovering soldiers, doctors, families and lawmakers are expressing growing concerns that veterans are not be getting the right mental health help.

“Those worries come as President George W. Bush has ordered almost 30,000 more troops to Iraq. Already 1.5 million soldiers have been deployed in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, with one-third serving at least two combat tours, which increases the chances of PTSD.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 12 percent to 20 percent of those who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD. A 2004 Army study found 16.6 percent of those returning from combat tested positive for the disorder.

“Individuals suffer from PTSD if they relive the trauma, experience emotional numbness, isolation, depression, substance abuse, and memory problems. These often lead to job instability and marital troubles."

An article written by Lawrence Korb, Peter Ogden and Frederick W. Kagan and published in the July/August 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs makes clear the extent to which the Iraq war has decimated the ability of the United States Military to maintain, let alone expand its warfighting manpower resources.

 "The U.S. military suffers from a glaring manpower deficiency. The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that in operations such as counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, stabilization, and peacekeeping, even the United States' impressive technology cannot substitute for soldiers. As Kagan observes, only soldiers possess the requisite combination of brainpower and weaponry to "mix with an enemy's population, identify the combatants intermingled with that population, and accomplish the critical tasks of governance and reorganization that are so essential in persuading an enemy government to surrender."

"The Bush administration, however, does not share this assessment, as evidenced by its handling of the invasion of Iraq. Before the war, Rumsfeld was dismissive, even contemptuous, of warnings from senior U.S. military officials, such as former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, that securing Iraq would require a vast number of boots on the ground. The secretary and his allies contended that the war and the occupation could be managed with a relatively light and short troop deployment. This belief reflected the strategic theory underpinning Rumsfeld's military-transformation agenda, which prioritizes long-range airpower and the development of ever more technologically sophisticated equipment and weaponry over expanded ground forces."

And so the war rages on. Congress talks and talks and talks, passes legislation aimed at starting withdrawal, while the President scolds, and ignores. Meanwhile the slate of Democratic presidential candidates universally decries the continuation of the war. Yet none offer  a plan for ending the actions of a President run amok. Instead we hear vague references to “phased withdrawal,” and “benchmarks,” as though either of these concepts will be implemented during the remainder of Bush’s term.

I have yet to hear a single candidate, Democrat or Republican, present an action plan for addressing the war. By “action plan,” I mean something more substantive than John McCain’s lemming-like fantasy of adding more non-existent warriors to achieve what even he acknowledges, is, at best, a hoped for “Victory.”

When the pejorative, “Surrender Monkeys,” issues from an O’Reilly, Hannity, or Beck, most will simply discard such primitive name calling as the drooling product of the low end of the spectrum of knuckle-draggers. Yet, when carefully considered it seems quite appropriate as a description of our elected leaders – bereft of solutions, and lacking the courage to implement, even when they are clearly evident.

Can there be any among us that can make a single argument on behalf of retaining Alberto Gonzalez as the Attorney General of the United States? Are there any who find reasonable doubt in the assertion that he has violated the sacred trust that he shall protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, prosecuting lawbreakers, while protecting citizens from the excesses of an unfettered government? Daily, new  evidence of his criminality, dishonesty, and incompetence is piled higher and higher for all to see.

An argument can be made explaining the failure to find solutions to the problem of a chaotic, confused and disorganized Middle East Region. The consequences are serious, options limited, and resources, few. Yet the same cannot be said for the continuing criminality of Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez and Rove. The solution is clear. Removal from office is the only way we can rid ourselves of those who have either forgotten or never knew of their responsibility and accountability to those who elected them.

The process for removal is available now. But it takes moving from talk to action. It takes courage to take the lead, or just simple agreement to act in a way that  may bring with it potential political consequences; it take placing the good of the country in place of self-interest.

In short, it takes Leadership. Between now and the primaries, and the 2008 election, we all will have the opportunity to find who will lead, and who not.

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An OpEdNews editor, Sherwin Steffin is a retired educator, and research analyst. His working career ranged from classroom teacher, university administrator, founder and CEO of two software companies, independent consultant, (more...)

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