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June 17, 2006

Flag Officers Conference on Iraq at Ft Carson CO

C R Mountjoy, author of the The Neo Con Blogger, has a fascinating post about a Rear Admiral (unnamed) who attended a flag officer conference at Fort Carson, Colorado. Mountjoy received his report via email from a retired US Army Colonel.

The conference took place last Saturday, June 10. . The conference was hosted by Major General Bob Mixon, Commanding General of Seventh Infantry Division, and " featured a panel of officers who had either very recently returned from commands in the combat zone or were about to deploy there in the next two months. Three of the recent returnees (and panelists) were Colonel H.R. McMaster, Colonel Rick S., and Captain Walter Szpak.." Some 54 generals and admirals were in the audience.

Col McMaster is famous for retaking Tal Afar back from the insurgents last September. At a press conference after the operation, when a reporter accused him of painting too rosy a picture, he responded that "Nothing's rosy in Iraq, okay?" but that "the enemy's on the run." That the operation was a success was attested to by the Mayor of Tal Afar who wrote an amazing letter that he addressed "to the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life."

"Colonel S" was with the Special Forces, this his anonimity. He is described as having "headed up all of the 31 special forces A-teams that are integrated with the populace and the Iraqi Army and national police."

Captain Szpak was the head of all the Army explosive ordnance teams in Iraq. His team studied the IEDs the enemy planted, and devised ways to disarm them before they went off. They also trained combat teams in recognizing and avoiding IEDs.

Although the obective of the conference was to discuss the modular brigade concept, it turned into a discussion on Iraq. The panelists held a Q & A with the audience members, and according to the Rear Admiral who sent the email, a summary of the discussion is as follows

· All returnees agreed that “we are clearly winning the fight against the insurgents but we are losing the public relations battle both in the war zone and in the States”. (I’ll go into more detail on each topic below.)

· All agreed that it will be necessary for us to have forces in Iraq for at least ten more years, though by no means in the numbers that are there now.

· They opined that 80% to 90% of the Iraqi people want to have us there and do not want us to leave before “the job is done”.

· The morale and combat capability of the troops is the highest that the senior officers have ever seen in the 20-30 years that each has served.

· The Iraqi armed forces and police are probably better trained right now than they were under Saddam, but our standards are much higher and they lack officer leadership.

· They don’t need more troops in the combat zone but they need considerably more Arab linguists and civil affairs experts.

· The IEDs and EFPs continue to be the principal problem that they face and they are becoming more sophisticated as time passes.

You'll want to go to the Neo Con Blogger and read the whole thing, but here is an important excerpt on the issue of Public Affairs:

We are losing the public affairs battle for a variety of reasons. First, in Iraq, the terrorists provide Al Jazeera with footage of their more spectacular attacks and they are on TV to the whole Arab world within minutes of the event. By contrast it takes four to six days for a story generated by Army Public Affairs to gain clearance by Combined Forces Command, two or three more days to get Pentagon clearance, and after all that, the public media may or may not run the story.

Second, the U.S. mainstream media (MSM) who send reporters to the combat zone do not like to have their people embedded with our troops. They claim that the reporters get “less objective” when they live with the soldiers and marines – they come to see the world through the eyes of the troops. As a consequence, a majority of the reporters stay in hotels in the “Green Zone” and send out native stringers to call in stories to them by cell phone which they later write up and file. No effort is made to verify any of these stories or the credibility of the stringers. The recent serious injuries to Bob Woodruff of ABC and Kimberly Dozier of CBS makes the likelihood of the use of local stringers even higher.

Third, the stories that are filed by reporters in the field very seldom reach the American public as written. An anecdote from Col. McMaster illustrates this dramatically. TIME magazine recently sent a reporter to spend six weeks with the 3rd ACR as they were in the battle of Tal Afar. When the battle was over, the reporter filed his story and also included close to 100 pictures that the accompanying photographer took. TIME published a cover story on the battle a week later, allegedly using the story sent in by their reporter. When the issue came out, the guts had been edited out of their reporter’s story and none of the pictures he submitted were used. Instead they showed a weeping child on the cover, taken from stock photos. When the reporter questioned why his story was eviscerated, his editors in New York responded that the story and pi ctures were “too heroic”. McMaster had read both and told me that the editors had completely changed the thrust and context of the material their reporter had submitted.

Two conclusions from this. First, while it is tempting to blame the whole thing on the liberal msm, we can't do that. Part of the problem is on our side. Second, if true it is disgraceful that stories are being changed because they are "too heroic".

The question now is one of time. The point that Col Nagl made in his 2005 book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, we screwed up in our first two years in Iraq but we've got it right now. Whether the troops will be allowed to complete their mission before political circumstances force a pullout remains to be seen.

Posted by Tom at June 17, 2006 12:19 PM

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Thanks Tom. An eye opener, this article.

Posted by: The Outlaw Michael Cosyns at June 18, 2006 10:42 AM

"First, while it is tempting to blame the whole thing on the liberal msm, we can't do that. Part of the problem is on our side."

Which part?

Posted by: Canoneer No 4 at June 18, 2006 8:12 PM

Cannoneer No 4 above caught me in some careless writing. (bty, I accidentally deleted his original comment while cleaning up spam, so recreated it in it's entirety).

My answer is that I meant to say that we needed to be more timely in getting out our side of the story. The first paragraph of the "Public Affairs" section tells of how it takes 6 - 9 days for our military to get clearance on stories.

However, in his own post on the subject, Cannoneer No 4 quotes "LTC Mike Lawhorn, soon to be Commander, AFN Korea, (who)commented on OPFOR" as saying that no, PR isn't the problem. Follow the link to his site to read what LTC Lawhorn has to say.

In retrospect, I think LTC Lawhorn to be correct.

Posted by: Tom the Redhunter at June 18, 2006 8:20 PM

A"ll agreed that it will be necessary for us to have forces in Iraq for at least ten more years"

And you claim you are winning?

Hilarious stuff.

Posted by: sonic at June 19, 2006 12:30 AM

Thanks for the hat tip...this is one of the best anaysis of the sit rep in Iraq I have ever seen - a scorching indictment on the media. And funny - there has been nothing in the MSM about its content. Even more ironic, I would think that NR, FOX and others would go after the way the media 'embedded' in the hotels of Bagdhad gets its stories.

Thanks again. Please pass this post to any and all who continue to seek the truth about our magnificent men and women of our military.


Posted by: patd95 at June 22, 2006 6:59 PM

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