pinkmonkeybird

...busting up my brains for the words

Friday, October 22, 2004

Book review

I recently finished reading Inside CentCom: The Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by Lieutenant General Michael DeLong, USMC (retired).
This book was co-written by Noah Lukeman. I think it's safe to say that this book was actually written by Lukeman. A quick survey of Lukeman's other writings show that he has authored books about writing.
I bought and read this book in hopes that it would be a commanding investigation of the recent wars of liberation in Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying exclusive insights upon the latest in modern warfare. After all, DeLong was Tommy Franks' right-hand man on those battles. His resume is very impressive. The first paragraph of this book is from the initial chapter entitled, WELCOME TO CENTCOM in which he explains how he got the job of Deputy Commander of the United States Central Command;

An appointment as deputy commander of United States Central command is not something you ask for. You have to be nominated by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then approved by the secretary of defense, and then approved by the president himself. The nomination comes before the Senate, and it must formally take a vote. To get recommended in the first place, you have to be chosen out of a pool of several hundred decorated generals. It is one of the hardest spots to land in all of the armed forces.

Sounds plausible to me. And thus far, I'm really happy to be reading this book. What amazing treasures and inside tracks will be revealed herein? This man was in the middle of the action of two major wars of our modern times as responses to the most deadly attacks ever perpetrated upon U.S. soil.
DeLong explains how the globe is divided into crucial strategic chunks overseen by the United States military. And CentCom is the hotest chunk in the world today. It's known as an AOR, an Area Of Responsibility. (I remember when AOR stood for Album Oriented Rock on FM radio. But that's a different time, a different story.) CentCom's AOR comprises the span of the globe that we have suddenly become so focused on these past few years. It stretches from the Horn of Africa to the steppes of the Himalayas. That's some responsibility.
DeLong carries the eager reader forward from his promotion to Deputy Commander, through 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the ramp-up to the liberation of Iraq and then that engagement and its aftermath.
But I am sorry to say that there really isn't very much insight provided here that was not already apparent from the daily reads of the newspaper accounts of these events. And as such, yes, this book serves as a handy recap of the military response to the most terrible attack upon American soil in its history. But I really did not learn very much here.
The book serves as an authoritive statement of the U.S. Military's position on these wars. It is recounted that there were many dangers that were feared before the invasion. Saddam was known to have used Weapons of Mass Destruction in the past. The evidence of his possession of these deadly weapons was overwhelming. Yet, the world seems to have come to a consensus that the WMD never existed. DeLong maintains that "we will eventually find Iraqi WMD. The intelligence evidence we had before the war was too overwhelming to be wrong. Iraq is a country the size of California, and not only is it easy to hide such weapons --chemical weapons can be hidden on a single truck; biological weapons can be hidden in a briefcase -- but the Iraqis were masters at hiding these weapons after more than a decade of playing shell games with UN weapons inspectors. Part of the problem is that the members of Saddam's inner circle we have captured are experts at lying - they had to be in order to survive under Saddam's reign. The people who managed to survive in his inner circle did so by either being non-threatening yes-men (and are still too terrified of Saddam to talk), or by hiding information. They know. They're just not talking.

But where's the evidence? I have often wondered if the U.S. military's spy planes and space satellites might have taken definitive pictures of suspicious shipments traveling from Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. No such hints are played in this book. I don't mind saying that I believe Saddam had WMD. After all, we know that Sarin gas was found in post-war Iraq. That is a direct violation of the UN's resolution 1441. The media glosses over this. And I am appalled that US government high officials will actually agree that "no WMD have been found in Iraq." This is false. Sarin is a WMD. WMD have been found in Iraq.
The usual assurances abound within these covers that the media has spun a dismal picture of these wars and that the realities on the ground are actually much better than they are portrayed to be. Well, yes. But I already knew that by reading the Weekly Standard and National Review and the Wall Street Journal.
And how many times must I read that Iraq is roughly the same size as the State of California? Can't we find a different gauge? Isn't there some valley on the Moon that is measured to be 450,000 square miles so we can stop equivocating Iraq with the Left Coast?

I got the distinct feeling that this book is actually Lukeman's enterprise. He perhaps realized that a buck was to be made by publishing a book with DeLong's name on it that would validate the Administration's position and praise the very worthy accomplishments of our United States military. One of the success stories recounted in this book is the innovation of joint military cooperation. This is credited to Tommy Franks. Franks knew that the new, modern military as envisioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld required the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marines as well as the Special Ops, to cooperate with one another as one, rather than the fiercely competitive and uncooperative attitudes that pervaded those forces in the past.
There is also a recounting of the precision of new technological weapons advances. This is a key element of the success of the the liberations of Afghanistan & Iraq. But I didn't really get any key information in this book that wasn't readily available elsewhere.

My read was not a waste of time, by any means. But I did not gather enough crucial insider information from it so as to meet my expectations. After all, we are living in historic times. When I read a book by the Deputy Commander of CentCom, I expect more than the unvarnished truth. I expect the heretofore undisclosed details.

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