Let's review. The people who argue that the U.S. needs to send more troops to Iraq include: The State Department, the Pentagon, John McCain, and an assortment of hawkish pundits (oh, and Anthony Zinni). On the skeptical side of the fence: Colin Powell; Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East; Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq; and... most of the rest of the world. That brings us to this past Friday, when the New York Times reported:
Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American officer in Iraq, has been the allied forces' operational commander for the past year, and he has resisted a troop increase, the officials say, believing an American-financed job creation program could do as much to weaken the insurgents and political militias.
General Chiarelli's successor, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who took over at a ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday, is bullish, seeing a troop increase as a way for American and Iraqi troops to gain the upper hand in Baghdad and Anbar Province, a desert region virtually overrun by Sunni insurgents, the officials say.
So the debate goes on, and "surge" proponents seem to be gaining the upper hand. But who, by the way, is Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno? He seems like a rather important figure in all of this. Thomas Ricks offered this little vignette in a long article for the Washington Post last July:
Today, the 4th Infantry and its commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, are best remembered for capturing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.... But in the late summer of 2003, as senior U.S. commanders tried to counter the growing insurgency with indiscriminate cordon-and-sweep operations, the 4th Infantry was known for aggressive tactics that may have appeared to pacify the northern Sunni Triangle in the short term but that, according to numerous Army internal reports and interviews with military commanders, alienated large parts of the population.
The unit, a heavy armored division despite its name, was known for "grabbing whole villages, because combat soldiers [were] unable to figure out who was of value and who was not," according to a subsequent investigation of the 4th Infantry Division's detainee operations by the Army inspector general's office. Its indiscriminate detention of Iraqis filled Abu Ghraib prison, swamped the U.S. interrogation system and overwhelmed the U.S. soldiers guarding the prison.
Lt. Col. David Poirier, who commanded a military police battalion attached to the 4th Infantry Division and was based in Tikrit from June 2003 to March 2004, said the division's approach was indiscriminate. "With the brigade and battalion commanders, it became a philosophy: 'Round up all the military-age males, because we don't know who's good or bad.'" Col. Alan King, a civil affairs officer working at the Coalition Provisional Authority, had a similar impression of the 4th Infantry's approach. "Every male from 16 to 60" that the 4th Infantry could catch was detained, he said. "And when they got out, they were supporters of the insurgency."
Sounds like the latest "last, big push" will be in good hands.