A retired senior Army official on Wednesday told a group of Glendale Unified students that the U.S.-backed military invasion of Iraq developed into a “full-scale insurgency” and warned that the effort in Afghanistan threatens “to keep soaking up our national treasure.”
The comments by retired Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton came via teleconference with the Geopolitics Club at Clark Magnet High School — from the perspective of a man who was in charge of training the Iraqi military between 2003 and 2004.
He retired in 2006 after more than 30 years in the U.S. Army. Now 62, he works for the National Security Network in Washington, D.C.
In Clark's media lab, students pressed Eaton for his take on the Iraq war.
After the U.S. invaded Iraq, Eaton said there were no “post-conflict” plans “where you take the state you just knocked over and bring it back online.”
Instead, the war, Eaton said, “evolved to full-scale insurgency and involved getting a lot of people killed — more than 4,000 Americans and untold thousands of Iraqis.”
“At the operational level of warfare, we didn't do a particularly credible job,” he said. “That was the fault of civilian leadership and military leadership.”
In 2006 and 2007, the U.S. military worked to manage the security of Iraq's civilians. Soldiers were pushed out of operating bases and posted at rural and urban areas to support Iraq's military and police.
The move was critical to the outcome in Iraq, Eaton said.
“What it allowed us to do was to secure the population — secure the environment for a political reconciliation,” he said.
When a Clark Magnet student asked Eaton if the U.S. should return to drafting people into the military, Eaton said it would be appropriate.
“From a moral, from an ethical, from a fair perspective — we need to have the draft,” he said. “Every American should contribute to the defense of the nation.”
Eaton's two sons and daughter are enlisted. His daughter was set to deploy to Afghanistan this week. His sons share seven combat tours between them.
On Afghanistan, he said: “We're not going to change Afghanistan. Afghanistan is just going to keep soaking up our national treasure.”
But the next best outcome, he said, would be to secure the country to deny an attack on the U.S., possibly with “a small number of people” working in intelligence and operations in the interest of U.S. security.
Wednesday's teleconference was organized by Clark Magnet senior and Geopolitics Club founder Greg Grigoryan, who has been accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just want students to know these people so they can become their role models,” he said.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.