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Soldier Mom
US Withdrawal Debate Gives No Hope for Imminent Homecoming
By TRACEY CALDWELL 05/30/2007 1:23 PM ET
I got a lot of phone calls and emails, expressing condolences that Congress had passed a spending bill without timelines for withdrawal from Iraq. They seemed to think if the Congress had passed a bill with timelines my son would be on his way home. I never expected that Congress would pass a bill with a magic homecoming date, but even if they had, it wouldn't mean our soldiers would just pack up and come home.

One thing that frustrates me when I hear politicians talking about withdrawal is that both Republicans and Democrats talk in terms of an Iraqi to-do-list. But even if the Iraqi reached every benchmark, we would still have some serious questions to answer before we could come home.

The reality is we are coming home from Iraq, whether it is six months, six years, or sixty years, our troops will not remain forever in Iraq as a combat force. If not this president, then some future president will decide he has had enough of this war. When we do decide that our combat troops are coming home, then we have to go to work on the hard questions.

What do we need to do to mitigate a humanitarian crisis before we can pull out our combat forces? What do we need to do to protect American interests before we can pull out our combat forces? What do we need to do to protect our combat troops when we redeploy them out of Iraq?

Do you notice something about all these questions? They are all about what we need to do.

We don't really like to-do-lists for ourselves; it so much easier to make them for the Iraqis. Then there really isn't anyone to hold accountable when the list isn't done; we can just blame them. But if the to-do-list was for us, then we would looking for someone to hold accountable when it wasn't done.

I can't make a timeline for how long it would take me to run my errands, until I figure out what my errands are. Right now the politicians are to busy trying to figure out the right time and the right way for them to get credit for ending this war successfully--too busy to figure out the right time and the right way to actually end this war successfully.

I will believe they are serious about getting our combat soldiers out of Iraq when they start debating a to-do-list for the US. When they debate what we need to do and how long that will take, and how much money it will cost, then I will know they are done with the political games and want to bring our combat troops home. Until then, I don't expect to see my son home soon.

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at

Price Floyd Writes of Difficulty "Selling" Policy Initiatives to Public
Price Floyd left his post as director of media affairs for the State Department several weeks ago after seventeen years of service to the US government. Now Floyd has published an op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the difficulties he had putting a favorable spin on Bush Administration policies.

Since 9-11, the State Department has undertaken an unprecedented effort to reach audiences both in the U.S. and overseas to explain our foreign policy objectives. My former office there arranged more than 6,500 interviews in the past six years, about half of those with international media. On any given day, senior department officials, including the secretary of state, were doing four or five interviews.

Yet during this time, poll after poll showed an alarming trajectory of increased animosity toward America and this administration in particular, both here and abroad.

This contradiction -- reaching a larger audience than ever before to explain our foreign policy goals and objectives, while the support for those policies fell -- underscores the gap between how our actions have been perceived and how we want them to be perceived.

Floyd lists a number of US policy decisions that have eroded international support for the American global agenda, writing, "Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been 'selling' through our actions, which speak the loudest of all."

Floyd explains that during the many crises the US faced in his 17 years with the State Department, "We at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it."

Floyd concludes:

"This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn't listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

"We need a president who will enable the U.S. to return to its rightful place as the "beacon on a hill" -- a country that others want to emulate, not hate; a country that proves through words and deeds that it is free, not afraid....

"We must do the real work of public diplomacy, not public relations... Given where we stand in the eyes of the world, the results of these efforts will take years, possibly decades, to reap any positive benefits. But this change is vital to U.S. national security. It is also a moral obligation that we owe to the world."

It's interesting to note that Floyd does not so much as mention Iraq in his op-ed. Considering that opinion polling indicates the decision to invade Iraq has been the single-most devastating policy decision that has negatively impacted US support abroad, it can probably be assumed that Floyd reserved criticism on that issue either at the request of or as a courtesy to his former colleagues.

Hat tip to Laura Rozen for picking up on this first.

Strain of Extended Deployments Drive Compromised Thinking on Ethics
By WINSLOW WHEELER 05/28/2007 1:08 PM ET
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The press recently reported on the findings of a five-month-old study dealing with soldiers' ethics and mental health from the Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army Medical Command. Some accounts focused on an alarming statistic in the executive summary of the report: 10 percent of the Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported "mistreating noncombatants (damaged/destroyed Iraqi property when not necessary or hit/kicked a noncombatant when not necessary)." The articles raised the specter of widespread mistreatment of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops -- an issue darkly hinted at by previous -- but seemingly isolated -- reports of rape and murder, such as in Haditha, Iraq.

Some of the press accounts of the surgeon general's study, "Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) IV; Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07," also reported the more detailed findings from its chapter on "Battlefield Ethics." The information became more disconcerting; the problems were clearly more serious and pervasive than the executive summary indicated:

* "Only 47 percent of soldiers and only 38 percent of Marines agreed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect." * "Well over a third of soldiers and Marines reported torture should be allowed, whether to save the life of a fellow soldier or Marine ... or to obtain important information about insurgents...." * 28 percent of soldiers and 30 percent of Marines reported they had cursed and/or insulted Iraqi noncombatants in their presence. * 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively, reported damaging or destroying Iraqi property "when it was not necessary." * 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively, reported hitting or kicking a noncombatant "when it was not necessary.

* The study also reports that only 55 percent of soldiers and just 40 percent of Marines would report a unit member injuring or killing "an innocent noncombatant," and just 43 percent and 30 percent, respectively, would report a unit member destroying or damaging private property.

It is notable that these are the responses the survey team received; there are probably more soldiers and Marines who may have been reluctant to respond completely and accurately to an Army questionnaire on such sensitive topics. Therefore, the data recorded should be regarded as a floor, not a ceiling.

Regardless of just how frequent the abuse may be beyond the survey results, these are descriptions of behaviors that can only alienate the Iraqi population against the U.S. military presence there, and against any among that population, including its politicians, who welcome or even tolerate our presence. It is not just that we are not winning; we are helping the enemy. When the historians explain why America lost the war in Iraq, this study should be prominent evidence.

Reacting to the surgeon general's devastating study, our commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, said he was "very concerned" and that he had been writing "a memorandum to our leaders and to our troopers to discuss these kinds of issues and to note that we can never sink to the level of the enemy" ("General to 'Re-Educate' Troops on Values," UPI, May 9, 2007). It is the kind of reaction one might expect from a politician being careful to offend no one (except Iraqis), or perhaps a bureaucrat who believes memoranda make the world go around.

If he read the entire study from the surgeon general, Petraeus probably hopes that no one else reads it. The study seeks to explain the reasons for our troops' abusive behavior, and that explanation casts devastating illumination on the logic of this war. It also provides a prospective explanation for why the "surge" of American troops in Iraq, which Petraeus has accepted as his mission, can only make things worse.

Page 38 of the surgeon general's study states that "soldiers who screened positive for a mental health problem (anxiety, depression or acute stress) were twice as likely to engage in unethical behavior (i.e., abuse of Iraqi civilians) compared to those soldiers who did not screen positive." Subsequent pages make the same point about Marines.

What causes the "anxiety, depression or acute stress" that can result in the abuse? For Army personnel, deployment tempo is a major factor: "Soldiers deployed to Iraq more than once were more likely to screen positive for acute stress," notes the report. And perhaps even more significantly, given the rotation schedule in Iraq: "Long deployment length (described as one year) continues to be the top concern for ... soldiers."

The study recommended extending the period of time soldiers spend at home with their families to 18-36 months, while also decreasing the length of deployments in Iraq to under one year.

As the study noted, Marines typically deploy to Iraq for six or seven months, and the study found that "because of shorter deployments, Marines tend to have fewer deployment concerns" and the resultant stress from that cause (16). But the Marines engaged in the same "unethical" behavior toward Iraqi civilians. The study made it clear that Marines share other conditions with soldiers, especially involvement in combat.

The study categorized three levels of combat involvement: high, medium and low, as determined by how much time soldiers and Marines spent "outside the wire" of base camps, garrisons or the infamous "Green Zone" in Baghdad. The study found a "linear relationship between combat level and screening positive for anxiety, depression, acute stress and any mental health problem."

Then, the study noted:

"Thirty percent of soldiers in the high combat condition screened positive for a mental health problem compared to ... 11 percent for the low combat condition, with soldiers from the high combat spending 56 hours a week outside the base camp compared to approximately ... 12 hours for soldiers in the low combat condition."

As above, the number of troops reporting they experienced "anxiety, depression or acute stress" should also be regarded as a floor to the data. Just as was the case from Vietnam, it may be years before we, and the rest of American society, know how many of our soldiers and Marines have been permanently and deeply scared by their combat experiences in Iraq.

The study continued:

At no time in our military history have soldiers and Marines been required to serve on the front line in any war for a period of 6-7 months, let alone a year, without a significant break in order to recover from the physical, psychological and emotional demands that ensue from combat. During World War II, entire units were withdrawn from the line for months at a time in order to rest and refurbish. Even during Vietnam, weeklong combat patrols in the field were followed by several days of rest and recuperation at the base camp. Yet, in Iraq neither soldiers nor Marines experiencing high levels of combat receive significant in-theater periods of recovery. ... Arguing that the intensity of the combat operations in Iraq is not comparable to those of previous wars such as World War II and Vietnam and, therefore, recovery periods are unnecessary demonstrates a lack of appreciation of what constitutes combat in general and ignorance as to the level of combat soldiers and Marines are experiencing in Iraq. Being in mortal danger for hours on end, every day of the week for months at a time is at best physically exhausting and mentally draining.

It must be noted that the study was written in November 2006, shortly before President George W. Bush announced the "surge" that Petraeus would command. The surge, as implemented by Petraeus, is doing everything exactly wrong for the soldiers and Marines described in this study, namely:

The surge has increased the frequency of soldier deployments; it requires them to serve 15 months in Iraq on each deployment, rather than 12, and it reduced to 12 months the period they can expect to be at home with their families to recuperate.

Most importantly, for both soldiers and Marines, the surge exacerbates their already prolonged exposure to combat. It is not just a question of operations being more intense; a fundamental aspect of the surge is to locate soldiers and Marines outside their base camps and garrisons into forward locations, in the middle of towns and cities, in civilian neighborhoods.

The soldiers and Marines are being asked to mingle on a 24-hour per-day basis among the very same civilians we now know have been on the receiving end of widespread abusive behavior from soldiers and Marines previously stressed out by the mismanagement of how we deploy them.

The surge plan is to take those factors that alienate our soldiers and Marines from Iraqi civilians, make those factors worse, thereby increasing the likely alienation from those civilians, and then telling the soldiers and Marines to live among those civilians 24 hours a day and to protect them.

It is a prescription for disaster: more stress, more abuse, more alienation, more sympathy and support for the enemy, more combat, more stress, and so it goes on and on.

Petraeus told us he was writing a memo to his soldiers and Marines, exhorting them to interact with Iraqi civilians in a positive manner. He is not altering how, when or where our troops are being deployed, either inside Iraq or to and from it. Making their circumstances worse, Petraeus now tells our troops to simply "suck it up."

Our soldiers and Marines are in an utterly impossible situation: Their leadership creates circumstances that cause their alienation from the Iraqi civilian population and then forces them to live among those same alienated people.

The ill-logic of this war -- started for reasons no one now accepts -- continues to astound. It is impossible for our soldiers and Marines to endure it without great cost to themselves or the civilians who surround them, almost certainly both. Having failed to alleviate the circumstances of their stress but aggravating them, many political figures in the Pentagon and Congress will surely declare themselves shocked and repelled by the unavoidable results. The next step is the inevitable punishment of the perpetrators, but only the ones they will prefer to identify lower on the totem pole than themselves. The leadership of this war will prance on, pointing the finger of blame at someone else when the inescapable failure becomes unmistakable.

See the full report here. MHAT_IV_Report_17NOV06.pdf

Winslow T. Wheeler is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.

Soldier Mom Slams Critic of Military Recruiters
By TRACEY CALDWELL 05/23/2007 1:03 PM ET
PARRIS ISLAND, SC: Recruit Temyrance Johnson (C) responds to his commanding officer following the final run before graduation from boot camp at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.
Scott Olson/Getty
PARRIS ISLAND, SC: Recruit Temyrance Johnson (C) responds to his commanding officer following the final run before graduation from boot camp at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.

The headline "Pentagon's Teen Recruiting Methods Would Make Tobacco Companies Proud" made me expect an article again about some overzealous recruiter violating Army regulation. What I found was very different.

Terry Allen, Senior Editor of In These Times, began her article:

"Congratulations: You have lived long enough to cringe at the bad decisions you were seduced, dared, stoned, bullied, or inspired into making as a teenager. Thousands of America's children, however, are not so lucky. Almost 600,000 of America's 1 million active and reserve soldiers enlisted as teens...."

Wow! My son wasn't eighteen when he enlisted. At twenty-one, having gone to college, he was not seduced, dared, stoned or bullied into enlisting. Nor, after more than six years of service, does he consider it a bad decision.

Was he inspired to join? Certainly not in the star-struck way. It was not blind patriotism; he had no illusion of US perfection. He does believe this a great country, affording Americans unprecedented freedoms. With that freedom comes responsibility--a duty to protect what is precious.

Allen makes the argument that, "Turning children below the age of brain maturity into soldiers exploits that vulnerability." She cites a study by Jay Geidd of the National Institutes of Health, showing that the brains of eighteen-year-olds are not fully developed.

I don't know anything about the science behind the development of eighteen-year-old brains. What I do know is that we let eighteen-year-olds do a lot of things that have far more serious consequences, like participating in electing the civilian government that will decide how that military is used, what wars it will fight, what the rules of engagement are.

I have a message for Ms. Allen:

You may think this war is wrong, you may think it is being mismanaged, you might even think all war is wrong. But our safety, the ability to protect our country, the ability to influence others in the world, depend on the strength of our military. You can be ashamed of how our civilian leadership chooses to use the military but you never should be ashamed, cringe at the choice of young men to serve, to protect and defend this great country.

We live in a representative democracy. We elected the civilian leadership that has made the decision to increase the size of the military. Recruiters must fulfill the demand.

Their job is to sell the military. That job is very difficult in today's society where our children are taught to take and consume, not give and serve. If more young men learned that they ought to spend some time defending and protecting their country, then recruiters could wait and expect that when young men finished their college education, when their brains were fully developed, when they had a greater perspective on the world, they would join and serve their country proudly.

Instead, they learn it is a bad decision, one they will later regret. So it's best to attract them when they are young and have not figured out what to do with their lives, when they don't have other competing opportunities, when it's still easy to convince them that this is a country worth defending.

Allen objects to the military marketing itself to thirteen-year-olds, using what she terms as "psychological manipulation" to steer them towards the army. Personally, I rather they approach my child while he is young, while my opinion and values still have influence over him, and I can discuss the role of the military in our society, and explain that joining the military is not a decision lightly made.

My son made a commitment to serve, without question, to go where our civilian leadership sends him. He gave up the right to question publicly whether those decisions are good or bad. He is required to place his trust in the civilian leadership the people of this country have chosen. Even if the leadership may change, or he doesn't agree with the decisions or policies, he is still be required to serve, to trust that the citizens who elected that civilian leadership knew what they were doing when they voted for them.

There was a time, not to long ago, when getting a waiver to enter the military without graduating from high school was very difficult. It still takes a parent's permission to enlist when you are under eighteen; a parent, whose brain is fully developed. The military would prefer better-educated, better-skilled, more experienced soldiers, but it has been charged by the civilian government, we elected, to increase the size of the military. It must meet that demand.

Question the decision to go to war. Question the civilian leadership and the generals being invested in the defense industry. Question whether their official decisions will increase their personal wealth. Question whether their motives are pure, in the best interests of the country.

But don't question the soldier's decision to serve and protect this country, or the military's decision to attract men and women to serve and protect this country, when that is what the civilian leadership, we elected, have asked of them.

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at

Soldier Mom
Son More Discouraged About War, But Maintains Sense of Duty
By TRACEY CALDWELL 05/09/2007 1:19 PM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: A US soldier from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion scans rooftops to provide security for fellow soldiers below (unseen) during a patrol in the Dora neighbourhood of southern Baghdad, 16 March 2007.
David Furst/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: A US soldier from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion scans rooftops to provide security for fellow soldiers below (unseen) during a patrol in the Dora neighbourhood of southern Baghdad, 16 March 2007.

My son has been home on his mid-deployment leave for a week now. It has been a flurry of activity and he only has one more week to see everyone and do everything he wants to do, before he goes back to Iraq. There have been visits with family, friends, and lots of shopping--new music, a new iPod, a lighter, smaller laptop. In Iraq, there aren't many places to spend money. It is great for savings, but when they come home, they want many things to make life back in Iraq a little easier.

I see a change in my son this visit. He is more discouraged about the situation in Iraq. Each time he returns to the war, the situation seems a little worse, more confusing, more frustrating. He says when they go on a mission to one village, the insurgents just move to another village--relocating the problem without solving it. The troops should go out to all the villages at the same time, but most the time that doesn't happen.

The rate of progress in Iraq is extremely slow. As long as the borders are not secure, the insurgents will continue to be re-supplied, resulting in endless missions. He told me the Iraqi soldiers are improving in basic skills like maintenance and marksmanship, and says the Iraqi soldiers who want Americans out of Iraq make the most progress. They are eager to run their own mission and defend their own country; other Iraqi soldiers seem not to care at all.

He finds this mid-deployment leave somewhat disconcerting. The change of environment takes some getting used to, yet he doesn't want to settle into much because he'll soon return to a war zone. Even though the official word is that they will be home after fifteen month of deployment, he really doesn't believe it. He expects it will be extended again to 20 months. As a stop-loss soldier, he finds it difficult. He would like to make plans for the moving on with his life after the military, but with no date certain, he feels he can't commit to anything.

When people asks how he feels about going back to Iraq, he says there is nothing to feel about it. He is going back; he always knew he was going back. It is his duty. He just wants to make as much as he can of the time he does have back at home.

I guess I feel the same way. I am grateful he is home, but I know he has to go back, so there is no point in wishing he would stay home. My son has never been the kind of kid to miss an opportunity just because it is dangerous. He has always lived his life to the fullest.

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at

Compares Abandonment of Iraqis to Holocaust-Era Refusal to Assist Jews
05/04/2007 12:09 PM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqi displaced children play outside a camp for displaced people in Baghdad's al-Karrada neighbourhood, 25 March 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqi displaced children play outside a camp for displaced people in Baghdad's al-Karrada neighbourhood, 25 March 2007.

In an assessment certain to make Bush Administration officials squirm, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has used the occasion of an introduction to a book, Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust, to compare the treatment of Iraqi refugees in recent years to the despicable era of humanitarian insensitivities during the rise of Hitler, when many governments blocked Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Holbrooke begins his piece:

"Imagine that you are a consular officer in the middle of a diplomatic career that you hope will lead to an ambassadorship. There are two rubber stamps on your desk. Using the one that says "APPROVED" would allow the desperate person sitting in front of you to travel to your country legally. Using the other stamp, which says "REJECTED," could mean consigning that person to prison or even death."

Holbrooke relates the stories of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, and Hiram Bingham IV, an American State Department official, who each paid a high price--Wallenberg with his life--for rebelling against the prevailing powers of their own governments to save the lives of Jewish refugees.

The situations brave men such as Wallenberg, Sousa Mendes, and Bingham faced are not just ancient history. They are similar to what is happening now in Iraq. Since the 2003 invasion, the U.S. government has allowed only 466 Iraqi refugees to enter the United States, even though more than two million have fled the country (mostly to Jordan and Syria). Among those desperately seeking safety are thousands of Iraqis who worked with or supported U.S. personnel in Iraq. They are at the greatest possible risk. In an embarrassing interview recently, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, told 60 Minutes that the small number and slow processing is the result of new, post-9/11 security requirements. Even Iraqis who were given security clearances to work with U.S. troops in sensitive positions in Iraq have to wait several years to get approved. Sauerbrey boasted about increasing this year's Iraqi refugee quota to 7,000 -- still a pathetically small number given U.S. responsibility for the desperate plight of fleeing Iraqis. Under similar circumstances, between 1975 and 1980, Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter took in over 500,000 refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. Those refugees were initially put into camps of "first asylum" for security screening before being permitted to settle in the United States, where today they are a vibrant part of American life.

In fact, if it were not for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has made refugees a prime concern for over 40 years, the Bush administration would probably still be ignoring the issue; President George W. Bush has yet to mention it in public. That the sorry story of the 1930s is being repeated -- with so little public outrage -- is more than disturbing; it is shameful. Why is the White House doing so little? And where are the Binghams and Sousa Mendeses of 2007?

Every age will present people in positions of authority with similar difficult dilemmas. The details will vary, but the challenge will be the same. If you were in such a situation, would you realize it? And if you did, what would you do?

Tyler Drumheller Criticizes Account of Curveball in "Center of the Storm"
05/02/2007 12:27 PM ET
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 14: U.S. President George W. Bush awards former Director of the CIA, George Tenet, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House December 14, 2004 in Washington DC.
Win McNamee/Getty
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 14: U.S. President George W. Bush awards former Director of the CIA, George Tenet, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House December 14, 2004 in Washington DC.

As people read through George Tenet's At the Center of the Storm I hope the basic errors and misstatements of fact do not detract from the most important point: the Bush administration came into office with the idea of attacking Iraq and then proceeded to misuse and manipulate intelligence to support their preconceived views, both before and after 9/11.

The problem for George is that he was not a peripheral player, he was "at the center of the storm," but apparently stood by as the Vice President, Secretary of Defense and others led the country into an ill conceived, ill-planned war of choice. He was, after all, DCI and as such had the responsibility for how intelligence was being used. I will not pretend to understand why he stood by when he knew what was at stake and had his own questions about the entire affair. In the end, although he served in many senior staff jobs, he was ill prepared to deal with the great crisis of his professional career. Taking lines out of individual presidential speeches and stopping one of many questionable speeches by the Vice President, simply does cut it when balanced against standing by as the country moved toward war.

Through his actions and inaction, George allowed the administration to pick and chose intelligence to fit their views, and to make matters worse he and his deputy, John McLaughlin, were aware of the fact that key pieces of intelligence were flawed and should not be used in the decision making process. This includes not only the now infamous Curveball case, but other pieces of intelligence that are still classified and can not be openly discussed. The standard for reporting to support the administration position was extremely low, while anything questioning the administration position was held to an extremely high standard of proof.

At the risk of diverting attention from the big picture, I am compelled to address the section of his book dealing with my role in the Curveball case, where George falls back on faulty memory, facts taken out context and his inability to find documentation to defend his actions in this key matter. In point of fact, he and John know that by early December 2002 and possibly as early as November 2002 the lead analyst on this issue knew and was already complaining about my meeting with the German official who had raised the first questions about Curveball in the Directorate of Operations.

They know very well that a series of meetings took place in December 2002 where the details of the Curveball case were fiercely debated by all of the DI and DO offices involved. These meetings were chaired by John's chief of staff and the emails summarizing the results included the special assistants and chiefs of staff for both George and John. These emails exist at headquarters and some are paraphrased in Silberman-Robb.

These December meetings also resulted in a message being sent to the president of the German intelligence service (BND) at the request of John's chief of staff, asking that they answer a number of questions related to Curveball and the use of his information in public statements. In the book, George fails to mention that this German cable was in reply to a request from his office. The German reply is the letter George claims he never saw.

In fact, the text of the German letter came in a cable from Berlin. This cable was attached to an email and sent to the special assistants and chiefs of staff for both George and John. There was no answer from George and Berlin sent the message a second time. Eventually the letter arrived in the pouch and a copy was forwarded to the office of the DCI, but only later in February, long after George and John read its text in the cable. It is also important to remember that while we sent the message to the DCI attached to an email, his office would have received a direct copy of the original cable from communications, as is standard with any cable dealing with action involving the DCI. We received an acknowledgment of this response and note of thanks from John's chief of staff.

Most of this material is included in my book, but looking back in the light of what George has written, you have to wonder, if George had no concerns involving Curveball, why were they asking the BND president to vouch for his reporting?

In late January, after the State of the Union address, and a look at the draft of the Powell speech, I realized that despite the meetings and other contacts, the DCI's office had not come to grips with the serious concerns regarding Curveball himself.

I met with John Mclaughlin the week before the Powell speech. John can say what ever he wants on this point but he, his chief of staff and George all know the meeting took place, and that I warned them that there were questions about the reporting. In the book, George throws up a good bit of dust talking about fabricators and burn notices, reinforcing the fact that we sometimes forget--he was not a professional intelligence officer. If he were, he would know that Curveball was a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) case and a BND source. We were not able determine that he was a fabricator until we obtained direct access to him in March 2004, but he should also know that while the issue of fabrication is being investigated you can not responsibly use the reporting the case produces. Also, I know exactly what John said, "Oh my, I hope not."

From an institutional perspective, the really disturbing part of the Curveball story is that if the DDO, Jim Pavitt, had not asked us to try to get access to Curveball, George and the other leaders of the intel community would have been happy to accept without question the reporting of this unknown source. What George describes sarcastically as DO officers having a "gut feeling" about Curveball were in fact the legitimate concerns raised by the failure of this case to rise to even the basic level of professional standards expected of any case by the directorate of operations, let alone one with the potential impact of Curveball.

This brings us to the final point of the Curveball drama as described by George. He discusses the memo over my signature for BND president Hanning's visit to CIA headquarters in May 2003, where we asked George to thank him for Curveball and ask if we could have access to him. This was a diplomatic ploy, worked out with George's input, to get the German's to allow us to have access to Curveball. George, citing White House interest, had been pressing us to get this access. I suppose he has forgotten this context, but that is too bad, since, in this case his input had affect and set in motion the negotiations that led to us obtaining direct access and confirming that Curveball was a fabricator in March 2004.

I don't want this to be a point by point study of George's book, but it is also interesting to note that George completely ignores the fact that we had reporting from a separate sensitive source, refuting what Curveball was saying. In a real case of tragic irony, this reporting from a senior Iraqi official was manipulated, diluted and never properly used in the policy process.

The run up to the war on Iraq is a complicated and murky picture and it is important to remain focused on the main; the policy on Iraq was set by political leaders in the administration who then picked and chose intelligence, no matter what the source, to support their position. George's role is equally complicated and in the end sad, as only he knows how he was able to stand by while the matter moved toward war.

Tyler Drumheller, spent 26 years at the CIA, is a former chief of the CIA’s Europe division, and author of On the Brink: An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence.
Soldier Mom Finally Gets a Sound Night Sleep
By TRACEY CALDWELL 05/02/2007 11:36 AM ET
My son is home on mid-deployment leave. He is out of Iraq, but then he goes right back; a two-week respite from the war. I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster since he told me was coming home. When he told me he would be getting leave in two weeks, he also told me his commander was going on leave in a few days, so there would be no more missions. He would be staying behind the wire, in relative safety.

I had not realized how much I had begun to relax until an email arrived that started out "Sorry Mom," He went on to say that might be late getting home, they were going on another mission after all, and since you never know what will happen on a mission he wasn't sure when he would be coming home. I felt a tightening in my chest, and that is when I realized I had begun to relax and allow myself to think my son was safe. Letting your guard down when your child is in a war zone is never a good idea. I have heard from to many parents who lost a child, that their first response was "no, you must be mistaken, he was..." In the back of your mind, you have to always be prepared for the knock at the door, the ringing of the phone, delivering bad news.

Then a few days later came good news again, he would not be going on the mission, though he still did not know when he would be coming home. The helicopters would be used on the mission, so they would have to wait until it ended to get rides to Baghdad International Airport.

A few days after that came even better news; the mission had been canceled altogether. They would be leaving as planned. Believing now that my son really was coming home, I began to prepare, freshening up the room, picking up some of his favorite foods at the store. Another email came, all it said was, "I will be home soon." But that same day there was a bad attack in the town where he is at. I wondered if they would be sent out on a mission after all. I emailed him asking, but I never got a response. I heard nothing from him for five days. I wondered is it because they are on a mission or is it because he is on his way home?

It was late in the evening when the phone rang--late enough that I knew it wouldn't be any of my friends calling. I braced myself for bad news as I picked up the phone, but on the other end was my son. He told me he was in Ireland, but he still didn't know when he would get home. I told him it didn't matter. He was out of Iraq. He was safe. He would get home when he got home.

The next morning the phone rang, "Hey Mom, I am in Dallas, I will be home this evening." The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Fire and Rescue had greeted them with a "Shower of Affection," a water salute from two water turrets carrying 3,000 gallons of water with nozzles discharging 1,500 gallons per minute. Since my son would be flying into the airport near my brother's home, I called my brother and arranged for him to pick my son up from the airport.

About a half-hour sooner than I expected, my son came walking through the front door in his uniform. All he had with him was a small bag. Because he had been in Iraq, he had no civilian clothes. So after some hugs and little conversation, we had to rush out to buy him some clothes before the stores closed.

A late dinner, a lot of conversation, it had been along day. But I knew I would sleep well. My son was home safe and sound.

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at


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