23 thoughts on “The Hubris of Colonel Dana Pittard: Why We’ll Lose in Iraq – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. How are we supposed to win the war if we start admitting our mistakes and begin taking corrective actions?

    I myself am frustrated that Bush is attracting votes by ignoring the facts on the ground in Iraq (which you have outlined above) and using such dislogical arguments as “how can the liberal win the war when he says its the wrong war?”

  2. I am currently in Baghdad and I enjoy reading your blogsite. However, I must comment on the facts of your story on 3rd Brigade and Colonel Pittard. The 48 Iragi Army soldiers were actually massacred in the province of Wasit just south of the province of Diyala near the Iranian border; Wasit is in the Polish Division’s sector. Before they were killed, the Iraqi Army soldiers had just departed a training base in eastern Diyala that belonged to the 30th Brigade (North Carolina NG). Colonel Pittard commands the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division which is responsible for western Diyala. Eastern Diyala is not in 3rd Brigade’s sector. I have also met COL Pittard and he impressed me as being quiet, humble, and very smart; definitely not the “outspoken hubris type.”

  3. I am the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division PAO, and I work for Col Pittard. I do not check blog sites often because I feel that sites like this do not warrant comments because of inaccuracies. It is my job get the correct information out to the public. Perhaps I failed to get this correct information to you because you have not come to visit us in Baqubah (Western Diyala Province). The person who wrote the comment about this incident not happening in Diyala Province is absolutely correct.

    As much as this was a tragic event, the 3BCT does not control Diyala Province. We encourage any media individuals to come visit and see first hand the difference our Soldiers are making. Colonel Pittard loves to have media here and since I joined the brigade in May, we have had over 32 news agencies and 75 embedded reporters.

    I would encourage you to join us.

  4. The confusion of what happened where is evident from this story (written in the LA Times by Monte Morin with Faris Mehdawi):
    http://www.tdn.com/articles/2004/10/25/nation_world/news01.txt or http://www.latimes.com/news/yahoo/la-fg-iraq25oct25,1,7636606.story

    “U.S. military sources said the incident occurred about 60 miles south of Baqubah in neighboring Wasit province, an area patrolled by Polish and Ukrainian troops.

    Iraqi officials said the killings occurred roughly 95 miles northeast of Baghdad, in the turbulent province of Diyala. Police in that area, particularly in the provincial capital of Baqubah, have been targets of assassinations, car bombs and drive-by shootings. Eleven police recruits were recently shot dead there while riding in a minibus.”

    Even if a reporter were visiting Col Pittard in Baqubah, the reporter would have to rely on reports from those who actually found the scene of the massacre in order to know where it took place.

  5. Your post left me conflicted. On one level, as an American who is a permanent resident of the European Union and is in no way affiliated the the United States government, I agree with you; the war in Iraq is not an ideal situation (from a military, economic, and political perspective) and, at present, there is not a clear “exit strategy” in sight. However, to declare at this stage of the war: “when you’re placed in an untenable situation in the midst of an unwinnable war, there’s simply no way you can succeed” is, indeed, shortsighted and premature at best.

    Your argument is muddy. You imply that the United States forces in Iraq should declare victory, run home and leave the citizens of Iraq who have no meaningful experience running governments, particularly complex democracies, take over. Puzzling.

    Worse, your take on Pittard is absolutely conceived in error. Succinctly, your mistook hubris for confidence. Certainly, it is reasonable to expect someone such as Pittard who has a high aptitude for leadership, a first tier university education, experience working with the most powerful men and women on the planet, and commitment to his profession to be confident.
    He has that and, thus far, he, through his organization, are making progress. Certainly, one could argue with the extent to which progess is being made; however, undeniably, progress in his region of Iraq is occuring.

  6. No Mike, my arguments are clear as a bell. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. I’m shocked that living in Europe you wouldn’t have been inundated by both the news reports & learned Mideast experts who explain this to us in the most minute detail. Anyone who still maintains a cheerful disposition in the face of such chaos & catastrophe has their head in sand.

    You maintain that my argument is flawed because Iraq would turn into chaos after we left. Yet Iraq isn’t in chaos now? It may be controlled chaos, but it’s chaos nonetheless. Whenever we leave there’s very likely to be chaos, even if we leave at a date of Bush’s choosing. And since when is it the U.S.’ role in a global context to guarantee that nations are stable?? Darfur & Sudan are regions far more in need of our stabilizing influence, yet they don’t fit Bush’s global terror strategy so we essentially ignore the 70,000 innocent civilians who’ve died there & the scores of thousands more who’ll be dying in the coming months. What about Rwanda? What about Bosnia (we went in there but far too late to avoid the worst of the massacres)?

    I love getting comments on my blog posts including yours. But I’ve written often about Iraq and this is the first time that not one, but two serving officers in Iraq have written in response to any post. One soldier works directly under Col. Pittard & the other doesn’t know him personally, but rather by reputation. You coyly described something of your affiliations, but left salient information out. I’d like to know if you serve in the U.S. military or have any personal connection to Col. Pittard? The comments you made about his background were just specific enough to tell me (perhaps incorrectly) that you know him better & more personally than I.

    Pls. don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong (in fact, just the opposite is the case) with U.S. military personnel or you commenting in my blog. But I strongly believe that we should lay all our cards on the table & not omit information that allows people better to judge the source in context.

  7. Richard —

    Dana is a personal friend of me and my family since, oh, the 80s of the last century. (Oh, my! Is it really that long ago?)
    He was then stationed in Germany and we’ve been in contact ever since — throughout his postings all over the US, his time as an advisor to Pres. Clinton, his Harvard time, during his time in Kosovo (that’s not necessarily chronological).

    I know him and his family.

    He’s exactly like that news article described him. He’s smart, humble, friendly. He’s — oh. He’s a good guy. He’s one of the last people I’d accuse of hubris. I have nothing but highest respect for him and his work.

    He was one of the few officers I ever met who made a big effort to learn German while stationed there. He knew German history much better than most Germans. He loved learning about German customs. He’s 100% soldier but he’s a soldier with a brain and he uses it.

    I was opposed to the war from the beginning. I am still opposed to the war. Geez, I’m a German Green, how much more opposition do you want?

    But if the US has any chance at all, it’s because of people like Dana. You’ll want him there because he’s as good as they come. Trust me on that.

  8. Richard,

    We agree in general terms that current developments in Iraq are less than ideal (in fact far from it). From my perspective, you overstate them whereas I suspect you feel as if I understate them. Europe like America, for the most part, is a democracy and as such there are a variety of opinions regarding Iraq. On the whole most Europeans I interface with, like myself, feel as if the war was a mistake.

    The issue, though, that you have raised is not about the correctness of this war. Instead, it revolves around the issue of political, economic, and social stability which you surmise is impossible to achieve. At this juncture, I am not ready to concede this point. It is simply too early in the process of “nation building” to tell. As much as it pains me to admit it, pulling out AT THIS POINT would do more harm than good. Good people can disagree, correct?

    Are your comments about Rwanda, Dafur, and Sudan are predicated on morality? State craft and morality are, for the most part, incompatible. A cursory review of Near East politics reveals that.

    I did not intend for the description of my relationship with Pittard to be coy. I simply did not think it was pertinent to my position that you wrongly attacked a very decent person because he is implementing policy which you deplore. I did serve in the army from 1986 to 1989 (my parents felt as if a college education would be worth more if I paid for it) and the experience on the whole was not my cup of tea. Next to my wedding day and the birth of my children, getting out of the army was the happiest day of my life. So, in the spirit of laying all of the cards on the table: I never voted for a Republican in my life, did not take a vacation in the army for two years in order to leave the service two months early, and left the United States to live in Europe to be employed by a foreign government.

    In the army I was commanded by Pittard and his perspective of the army was, literally, opposite of mine. He enjoyed the army very much, was very skilled, and poured his soul into his profession whereas I could not wait to get out, was skilled enough to stay out of trouble, and did not let the army within a light year of my soul. Yet, given these gaping differences I (even as a typically stupid 20 year old) recognised Pittard to be a fine person who was enormously gifted at his profession. His profession, however, was not my cup of tea.

    So, on the issue of Iraq we seemed to have some commonality; that is, our differences are in degree rather than in kind. However, on the issue of Pittard, you are wrong. People such as myself who ran from the army the first chance they got understand Pittard is many things; hubris, though, he is not.

  9. Mike —

    If you served from 1986 to 1989, was that in Germany? Just curious… that’s the time I met Dana, when he was stationed in Bad Kissingen.

    Small world.

  10. Claudia:

    I don’t know how closely you’ve read my comments on this post, but I made clear in response to the those posted by 2 soldiers that I had no problem with Pittard as a person or soldier. But my problem is with the very military & political thinking that went into ginning up this war & pursuing it. As I said in my comment, a mediocre soldier thrown into a well-thought out military operation may come out looking pretty good. But the most brilliant military mind thrown into an untenable, unwinnable war is going to end up eventually looking like a fool. My comment about hubris was meant to point out the irony of Pittard & other U.S. commanders who talk about “making progress” & “winning hearts & minds” of Iraqis, when the next day practically, 50 Iraqi recruits are murdered in cold blood within a stone’s throw of his command (though not in his territory).

    Pittard isn’t to blame. It’s Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Sanchez & their ilk who are the real culprits.

  11. Mike (& your fellow commenters): This is starting to resemble a Dana Pittard online reunion. I appreciate the loyalty, friendship & respect you have for him. But this is about more than just a single human being & soldier. This is about the overall strategy that the U.S. pursued in starting, pursuing the war & “winning” the peace.

    You say we’re nation building? In what sense? I see a nation in absolute chaos. Where’s the nation-building? That’s what I mean by you having your head in the sand.

    So let me see if I understand you–our intervention in Rwanda, Sudan & Bosnia if they’d happen/ed would’ve been predicated on “morality.” But our intervention in Iraq is predicated on what? What makes Iraq so important for us to have to be there preventing the various ethnic groups from ripping each others hearts out (as they will likely do when we leave). And what makes those other disasters less commanding or ugent. There’s a huge flaw in your world view if Rwandan intervention is somehow worth less to this country than an Iraqi intervention.

    But you see you are precisely wrong about not revealing your connection to Pittard. When you’re on-line, no one knows who you are, where you come from & what your agenda is. That’s why there’s so much correct mistrust of people’s bona fides on the web & that’s why it would’ve been much more helpful for you to have revealed your connection to him as the previous commenters have done. I’m not saying that your connection to him makes your comments any less valuable or worthwhile. But I used to have a friend who’d always say to me: “Consider the source.” You must know the background of a source to know how much credibility & reliability to grant it.

    Finally, again regarding Pittard’s “hubris.” His hubris consists of his belief that he can win over the Iraqis to his point of view & pacify his sector or the entire nation. Once we pull out, once he leaves his sector to the Iraqi forces who will take over from him; all of his good work will quickly evaporate and bloodbath will ensue. Finally, I was reserving the true hubris for Pittard’s higher ups for they are much more culpable for this utter catastrophe that is Iraq.

  12. Odd, I don’t see these posting as anything remotely resembling a reunion. Instead, it is an attempt to correct your false statements with respect to Pittard by a few people who, inspite of their political differences that they may or may not have with him, know him to be a very fine person. In your latest post you have back tracked your comments with respect to Pittard and I’ll interpret that as an admission of error on your part.

    Indeed, this: The Hubris of Colonel Dana Pittard: Why We’ll Lose in Iraq

    and this: Finally, again regarding Pittard’s “hubris.” His hubris consists of his belief that he can win over the Iraqis to his point of view & pacify his sector or the entire nation. Once we pull out, once he leaves his sector to the Iraqi forces who will take over from him; all of his good work will quickly evaporate and bloodbath will ensue. Finally, I was reserving the true hubris for Pittard’s higher ups for they are much more culpable for this utter catastrophe that is Iraq.

    are inconsistent.

    I put the terms “nation building” in quotes because I could not think of what else to call it. Thus far the process is a very murky mixture of post war Japan, post war Germany, post US Civil War, Vietnam, South Korea in the 70’s, the Balkans in the teens, 40’s and 90’s, Tunisia in the 50’s, and the Thirty Years War. And again, what ever you label it, a catastrophe or a work in progress, it is still to early to tell how this business will unfold. You have no more ability to see the future than I.

    With respect to morality and state craft you absolutely did not understand me. My world view and my analysis of state craft are not flawed. Instead, they are grounded in the notion that morality and state craft are separate concepts. States simply do not conduct the business of international relations with morality in mind. This is the way state craft functions irrespective if one’s head is in the sand or not. Certainly, you must admit that, from a position of state craft, the United States involvement in Palestinian and African affairs has been a mixture of the teachings of B.F. Skinner, with the mentality of J. Edgar Hoover, and the morality of Charles Manson. And yes, in this type of perverse dynamic the intervention of Iraq is infinitely more important than the intervention in Rwanda. To quote Run D.M.C. “its like that and that the way it is.

    My point of view with respect to Pittard speaks for itself. Hopefully, you are stricken by the fact that a German Green and an American expat were taken back by your attack on an Army Colonel. I liken it to a man receiving a glowing letter of support from his ex-wife; it rarely, rarely happens.

  13. ou, my friend, have no sense of humor. You don’t think it’s funny that you & Claudia are passing notes to each other about the time you spent in Germany with Dana Pittard? I’d call that an online reunion.

    You’re getting mighty testy & if you want to denigrate me or my integrity or completely & deliberately misinterpret what I say, you’re going to have to do it elsewhere. My statements about Pittard were not “false” & I challenge you to show that they were. I also am not backtracking on what I said in my post about Pittard’s statements.

    For the millionth time (don’t you read?), I didn’t say he wasn’t a “fine person.” I’ve said precisely the opposite. Are you the kind of person who doesn’t believe someone when they say something to you? Seems like you are.

    Pittard DID make statements about how safe and secure his territory was & the progress being made there. I think that looks like hubris in light of what happened almost on his doorstep. Again, I’m not blaming him for what happened–it wasn’t even in area under his direct command. I’m merely pointing out that an untenable war like this one makes even a well-intended, honorable statement like Pittard’s look foolish. You can call it hubris, call it ill-advised, call it what you will.

    If Iraq to you is a more important intervention that a U.S. intervention into Rwanda would’ve been, then I’m delighted that you’re not running U.S. foreign policy because I think you’d make an even worse bollocks of it than the current practitioners are doing. I’m also happy that I’ve never heard anyone before use Run DMC to explain what U.S. foreign policy should be. And I hope never to hear anyone use the group’s lyrics in that way again. At least Bill Clinton admits the horrible mistake he made in not intervening in 1994 when we could’ve saved 600,000-800,000 lives. You’d justify our callous indifference & call it statecraft. What a egregious load of crap!

    You, my friend, are a monster in the guise of a human being. I’m sorry to say something so extreme & possibly hurtful to you. But if saving the lives of 800,000 people doesn’t fall under the guise of statecraft, morality and absolute necessity to you, then you deserve the opprobrium I levelled on you.

    With that I invite you to look elsewhere for blogs to read. I’m simply aghast about your statement about Rwanda & don’t wish to hear from you again. Of course, I can’t stop you. But I hope you’ll honor my wishes.

  14. Gee Richard,

    Your are upset. Is this the way you normally operate? Call people hurtful things under the guise of morality? Ignore the crux of arguments? Misinterpret what I write as you claim I am doing it to you? I think I see a pattern here.

    Hmm…. does not seem like a healthy way to make the world a better place.

    Well Good Luck,


  15. Pittard insisted on being saluted IN THE FIELD. Which any soldier would recognize as stupid and aggainst SOP’s. This policy assisted insurgents in identifying his vehicle and targetting him with an IED (a road side bomb). Of course in the safety of an uparmored vehicle Pittard suffered no injuries. His exposed gunner with half his body outside the vehicle, however was killed. Good Job Danna!!!! That’s right we still remember do you?

  16. Search for Dana Pittard’d good times with CPT Estrada. CPT Estrada was exactly what Pittard is trying to play himself as… an outside the box thinker. In Estrada’s case this brought him at odds with Pittard. [ED.-The commenter refers to a Washington Post story written by Estrada which Col. Pittard took issue with, causing him to remove Estrada from his duty station. Here’s a link which describes the story and links to Estrada’s article]

    And many of the killings in Dyala were predictable had the Brigade there taken action they could have saved many lives as well as preserved credibility in Iraqi and US FOrces

  17. Sir,

    I realize this comment is very very late, I was searching for now General Pittard and came across this posting. In hindsight what you said about the Diyala Province falling apart at the brigades departure was absolutely correct. I was in C Co. 2/63 AR, 3rd Brigade, 1ID. I was located at FOB Scunion, directly across the road from Warhorse, COL. Pittards HQ. I had many opportunities to meet Col. Pittard and never did impress upon me to salute, as a matter of fact, he offered to carry my laundry when I almost knocked him down returning to my room. I believe hubris is a bit strong. In his defense, whilst we were there, the province did experience less violence. I believe that the people that cared knew and felt that Col. Pittard really wanted what was best for their people. I also believe that they knew his tenure there was brief and would make little over all progress. The follow on unit lost a considerable ground made in less than a months time. The war was possibly a mistake, it isn’t my call to make. It also isn’t our call to make on the rest of the world. Genocide is horrible, but it isn’t the United States responsibility to police every single hotspot. Iraq was a lost cause before our intervention, I submit that others were as well. The UN is supposed to initiate intervention but are largely impotent. The Bush Administration had flaws as all administrations do. I don’t know why Iraq got attention and Darfur didn’t. The supposition is it was financially motivated. Possible, but unlikely. Darfur wasn’t bragging about harboring insurgents immediately following 9/11. Please understand I am not defending allowing millions to die elsewhere, but I am presenting that there are reasons for everything, regardless of popularity or seemingly right. Dana Pittard stood on his beliefs. He performed, I feel, admirably in a very untenable situation. The hubris, as you stated, was from Washington D.C., not Dana Pittard.

    Bob LaSerre

    1. Thanks for your valuable perspective on this. I appreciate it. I perhaps was too harsh on Col. Pittard. But I felt at the time he was being used by the Bush administration & Pentagon for propaganda purposes.

  18. On 22 October 2006, two days before that interview of Pittard with the AP reporter, 4 days before your comments on this website, he had ordered a war crime in Buhriz, a small town south of Baquba, Dyala Province, killing kids and planting weapons as if the crime was out of self-defense.

    The details are here:


    This is the reason of his fear, with all his friends hurrying to defend his “character”

  19. Came across your blog dated October 2004,
    Here it is 11 years later and the outcome of the war in Iraq , as you predicted ( sadly) is dead on

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