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February 03, 2007

I've got a plan for Iraq and I'll go there as well



To the editor:

Here's an interesting question to contemplate the next time you have some spare time. When President Bush asked for critics of his new plan in Iraq to present their own plans if they believe they could do better, would Mr. Bush actually consider a more realistic alternative strategy or was his challenge to critics disingenuous?

I for one happen to enjoy a challenge, (to a certain degree) which is one of the reasons why I enlisted in the military on active duty in 1989 and I chose a career in the information technology industry. Over the past 17 years, I have built a successful career utilizing my analytical and problem-solving skills to resolve complex business software applications problems, often saving, retrieving, and/or recovering millions of dollars for large companies. So quite naturally when I come across complex problems outside of my career path, my mind automatically begins to perform analysis in an attempt to identify the root of the problem and move towards problem resolution.

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The quagmire in Iraq, thanks to the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress, is no exception. In fact, I'd be willing to bet my last dollar that I have personally performed more meaningful and realistic analysis on this issue than the majority of advisers to the president have and I've done this with access to less information.

If I actually believed the president's challenge to critics would be seriously considered, this might be one of the strategies presented based on the information currently available to me.

First, I would need to be brought up to speed on all the information relative to the Iraq debacle. Not necessarily review all the information but just a better understanding of the information not currently available to the public.

Second and more importantly, I would perform my own evaluation of military personnel to better assess the mental and physical capabilities of those tasked with execution of any plan(s) or strategy presented. This is one area where I believe has been most overlooked by President Bush, Andrew Duck, Barak Obama, Hilary Clinton, or any other politician and bureaucrat who actually believes he/she has the right "plan" for Iraq. To date, I have not heard one single plan in Iraq that placed emphasis on assessing the mental and physical status of military personnel.

I regularly interact with other veterans at the VA medical centers in Baltimore and Martinsburg, W.Va. I see soldiers who are recovering from injuries and going through physical therapy. I talk to active duty soldiers on the street and in the airports preparing for deployment to Iraq, usually for a second, third or fourth. I speak to family members of military personnel and the one thing that I'm not seeing in any of them is the spirit of victory. When I look into some of these young boys (19, 20 or 21 years old) eyes, I don't see that "gung ho" spirit.

What I do see is fear! Fear that this is the last time they'll see loved ones. Fear that if they return home, they'll be all mangled up from the casualties of war. I see broken spirits in the eyes of many who know life will never be the same for them without one or both legs, or maybe a missing arm. Time and again I listen to how frustrated many of them and their families are. "First it was terrorism and Saddam's connection to al Qaeda, next it was weapons of mass destruction, next it's about Iraqi freedom and now it's stop the insurgency. Wat's next," they say.

Simply put, it is futile to set the direction for the military without determining how much more the military can handle. Right now the military is exhausted and frustrated. Therefore, any strategy or plan developed should be preceded by a thorough assessment of the military all the way from General down to Private E1.

Next, I would attempt to establish dialog with Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr on what he believes needs to happen in Iraq that would enable the U.S. military to quickly begin redeployment. I would discuss ways the U.S. could assist him and the Iraqi government on establishing security and to ensure that the Iraqi people are well protected from the likes of the Iranian government.

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