Commanders are telling Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that ground troops do not understand the generally negative press that their missions receive, despite what they consider significant achievements in rebuilding Iraq and instilling democracy….
Mr. Rumsfeld appeared on several Sunday talk shows yesterday to express concern about the effects of the political discussion on U.S. forces.
“We also have to understand that our words have effects,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Put yourself in the shoes of a soldier who thinks that we’re going to pull out precipitously or immediately, as some people have proposed. Obviously, they have to wonder whether what they’re doing makes sense if that’s the idea, if that’s the debate.”
However, Rumsfeld’s spokesman says another thing:
But Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, said commanders are not telling the Pentagon that morale is sinking, although they have long-standing concerns about the press.
“The commanders often have expressed their incredulity at the difference between the progress they are seeing in Iraq and the manner in which that progress is obscured, in Washington, by the disproportionate focus on the challenges, in lieu of the many reasons to feel proud and satisfied at all that is happening,” he said.
So the MSM is creating concerns. Not surprising. What do the troops on the ground say?
“I have not heard of any morale problems related to the political debates,” said Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman in Baghdad.
Lt. Col. David Lapan, a Marine spokesman in the violence-wracked Anbar province, said, “We haven’t conducted any surveys so obviously we can’t speak to the morale of every Marine, sailor and soldier out here. However, based on comments from commanders and leaders who interact daily with troops at all levels, I’d say morale remains pretty high.”
So morale’s pretty high, according to the guys who are there. Huh. But wait, according to someone who’s not there, morale isn’t so good:
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, an author of books on military transformation, said he is hearing something different from returning troops.
“Soldiers see no viable mission, no plan and no strategy,” Col. Macgregor said. “No one trusts any of the Arabs in the Iraqi army, only the Kurds. Soldiers want to survive to go home and are fighting to keep each other alive. There is no Iraq. There is Kurdistan, which the soldiers all love. Then, there is the Sunni Arab center and the Shi’ite south that most think is an autonomous province of Iran.”
So, there you have it. Morale may be damaged, or it might not. The press may be a subject of concern. Clear as mud.