It goes without saying that this story is bad. I wrote a couple of days ago that the decision to leave this facility unguarded -- while putting troops on oil facilities and other critical infrastructure -- was probably a big mistake. Now we have some hint of the cost of that decision. This story also shows the price of not having enough troops to do the job at the precise moment necessary. The critical window for establishing order was right after Saddam's statute fell -- that's when the looting happened; that's when the proverbial radioactive cat got out of the bag.
These cases of radiation sickness may, unfortunately, be irreversible and incontrovertible evidence of that. But at this point, hand-wringing won't do much good. We have to get enough soldiers on the ground to secure Iraq -- whether they come from NATO, the National Guard, or elsewhere. Once the streets are secure, we need to get all the NGOs and aid organizations necessary into Iraq to fix this kind of stuff. There may not be much that we can do for children like Amar. But if they get there fast enough, groups like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Crescent can try to save thousands of others.
Phil also has an excerpt from military prophet Ralph Peters and his own analysis about the issue of sufficient boots on the ground. He also takes a hard look at Rumsfeld's plans to remake the Army with less emphasis on human beings and more on technology:
Secretary Rumsfeld is right that transformation needs to happen. But the Office of the Secretary of Defense does not necessarily have all the answers about transformation. In my old unit, the 4th Infantry Division, the smartest minds on transformation were usually the junior officers and sergeants who actually used the stuff in the field. Similarly, Secretary Rumsfeld should realize that some of the best ideas on transformation may be out in the field right now -- perhaps even in the Army. Furthermore, acrimony between the OSD staff and the Army staff is not in the best interests of America's defense. If there are legitimate areas of disagreement, so be it -- let the best ideas prevail. If there are personality conflicts, those need to be dealt with. But the price for pursuing the wrong vision of transformation will be paid in American blood. Eventually, the OSD and Army staffs are going to have to find the right answer together, and put the Rumsfeld v. Army feud behind them.
Rumsfeld's conflict with eth Army is at the root of our problems in winning the peace in Iraq - we have ideology interfering with practical needs. I'm adding Phil to my daily readme list for now - his insights are just too valuable to risk having missed.