September 15, 2008

It's Not Because Of The Surge Iraq

Patrick Cockburn, one of the very best Western journalists covering Iraq, puts the "surge" in much needed perspective. The Independent:

As he leaves Iraq this week, the outgoing US commander, General David Petraeus, is sounding far less optimistic than the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, about the American situation in Iraq. General Petraeus says that it remains "fragile", recent security gains are "not irreversible" and "this is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not a war with a simple slogan."

Compare this with Sarah Palin's belief that "victory in Iraq is wholly in sight" and her criticism of Barack Obama for not using the word "victory". The Republican contenders have made these claims of success for the "surge" – the American reinforcements sent last year – although they are demonstrably contradicted by the fact that the US has to keep more troops, some 138,000, in Iraq today than beforehand. Another barometer of the true state of security in Iraq is the inability of the 4.7 million refugees, one in six of the population, who fled for their lives inside and outside Iraq, to return to their homes.

Ongoing violence is down, but Iraq is still the most dangerous country in the world. On Friday a car bomb exploded in the Shia market town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing 32 people and wounding 43 others. "The smoke filled my house and the shrapnel broke some of the windows," said Hussein al-Dujaili. "I went outside the house and saw two dead bodies at the gate which had been thrown there by the explosion. Some people were in panic and others were crying."

Playing down such killings, the Iraqi government and the US have launched a largely successful propaganda campaign to convince the world that "things are better" in Iraq and that life is returning to normal. One Iraqi journalist recorded his fury at watching newspapers around the world pick up a story that the world's largest Ferris wheel was to be built in Baghdad, a city where there is usually only two hours of electricity a day.

Life in Baghdad certainly is better than it was 18 months ago, when some 60 to 100 bodies were being found beside the roads every morning, the victims of Sunni-Shia sectarian slaughter. The main reason this ended was that the battle for Baghdad in 2006-07 was won by the Shia, who now control three-quarters of the capital. These demographic changes appear permanent; Sunni who try to get their houses back face assassination. [...]

The perception in the US that the tide has turned in Iraq is in part because of a change in the attitude of the foreign, largely American, media. The war in Iraq has now been going on for five years, longer than the First World War, and the world is bored with it. US television networks maintain expensive bureaux in Baghdad, but little of what they produce gets on the air. When it does, viewers turn off. US newspaper bureaux are being cut in size. The result of all this is that the American voter hears less of violence in Iraq and can suppose that America's military adventure there is finally coming good.

An important reason for this optimism is the fall in the number of American soldiers killed. (The 30,000 US soldiers wounded in Iraq are seldom mentioned.) This has happened because the war that was being waged against the American occupation by the Sunni community, the 20 per cent of Iraqis who were in control under Saddam Hussein, has largely ended. It did so because the Sunni were being defeated, not so much by the US army as by the Shia government and the Shia militias. [...]

If McCain wins the presidential election in November, his lack of understanding of what is happening in Iraq could ignite a fresh conflict. In so far as the surge has achieved military success, it is because it implicitly recognises America's political defeat in Iraq. Whatever the reason for President George Bush's decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, it was not to place the Shia Islamic parties in power and increase the influence of Iran in the country; yet that is exactly what has happened.

The surge only achieved the degree of success it did because Iran, which played a central role in getting Nouri al-Maliki appointed Prime Minister in 2006, decided to back his government fully. It negotiated a ceasefire between the Iraqi government and the powerful movement of Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra, persuading the cleric to call his militiamen off the streets there, in March and again two months later in the Sadrist stronghold of Sadr City. It is very noticeable that in recent weeks the US has largely ceased its criticism of Iran. This is partly because of American preoccupation with Russia since the fighting began in Georgia in August, but it is also an implicit recognition that US security in Iraq is highly dependant on Iranian actions.

General Petraeus has had a measure of success in Iraq less because of his military skills than because he was one of the few American leaders to have some understanding of Iraqi politics. In January 2004, when he was commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, I asked him what was the most important piece of advice he could give to his successor. He said it was "not to align too closely with one ethnic group, political party, tribe, religious group or social element". But today the US has no alternative but to support Mr Maliki and his Shia government, and to wink at the role of Iran in Iraq. If McCain supposes the US has won a military victory, and as president acts as if this were true, then he is laying the groundwork for a new war.

In Iraq, in the real world, the violence and the privation and the horror continue. But here in the US, people are bored. They've changed the channel. As if it were all just some tv series that has run its course. Let's see what else is on. As if it weren't happening in the real world, to real people — because of us.

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March 23, 2008

4000 Iraq

In Iraq, the killing and dying goes on.

US troop deaths in Iraq hit 4000 today.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, millions more displaced, a nation in ruins.

A sizable majority of Americans now oppose the war, joining the overwhelming majority of people around the world. And yet the war goes on, and on, and on. Why? Because it's not enough just to tell a pollster you're against the war, nor is it enough just to plan to vote for the least war-like candidate come November. Action is required.

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February 27, 2008

The Disintegration Of Iraq Iraq

Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, writes that the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq only accelerates Iraq's ongoing disintegration. Excerpts:

Iraq is disintegrating faster than ever. The Turkish army invaded the north of the country last week and is still there. Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming like Gaza where Israel can send in its tanks and helicopters at will.

The US, so sensitive to any threat to Iraqi sovereignty from Iran or Syria, has blandly consented to the Turkish attack on the one part of Iraq which was at peace. The Turkish government piously claims that its army is in pursuit of PKK Turkish Kurd guerrillas, but it is unlikely to inflict serious damage on them as they hide in long-prepared bunkers and deep ravines of the Kurdish mountains. What the Turkish incursion is doing is weakening the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish zone, the creation of which is one of the few concrete achievements of the US and British invasion of Iraq five years ago.

One of the most extraordinary developments in the Iraqi war has been the success with which the White House has been able to persuade so much of the political and media establishment in the US that, by means of "the Surge", an extra 30,000 US troops, it is on the verge of political and military success in Iraq. All that is needed now, argue US generals, is political reconciliation between the Iraqi communities.

Few demands could be more hypocritical. American success in reducing the level of violence over the last year has happened precisely because Iraqis are so divided. The Sunni Arabs of Iraq were the heart of the rebellion against the American occupation. In fighting the US forces, they were highly successful. But in 2006, after the bombing of the Shia shrine at Samarra, Baghdad and central Iraq was wracked by a savage civil war between Shia and Sunni. In some months the bodies of 3,000 civilians were found, and many others lie buried in the desert or disappeared into the river. I do not know an Iraqi family that did not lose a relative, and usually more than one.

The Shia won this civil war. By the end of 2006 they held threequarters of Baghdad. The Sunni rebels, fighting the Mehdi Army Shia militia and the Shia, dominated the Iraqi army and police, and also under pressure from al Qa'ida, decided to end their war with US forces. They formed al-Sahwa, the Awakening movement, which is now allied to and paid for by the US.

In effect Iraq now has an 80,000 strong Sunni militia which does not hide its contempt for the Iraqi government, which it claims is dominated by Iranian controlled militias. The former anti-American guerrillas have largely joined al-Sahwa. The Shia majority, for its part, is determined not to let the Sunni win back their control of the Iraqi state. Power is more fragmented than ever. [...]

[I]n the long term neither Sunni nor Shia Arab want the Americans to stay in Iraq. Hitherto the only reliable American allies have been the Kurds, who are now discovering that Washington is not going to protect them against Turkey.

Very little is holding Iraq together. The government is marooned in the Green Zone. Having declared the Surge a great success, the US military commanders need just as many troops to maintain a semblance of control now as they did before the Surge. The mainly Shia police force regards al-Sahwa as anti-government guerrillas wearing new uniforms.

Meanwhile, the most any American presidential candidate will say is that the US attack on Iraq was a "mistake," a "strategic blunder," instead of what it is: a vicious crime that has destroyed a nation and inflicted incalculable suffering on its inhabitants. It's happening to real people, in a real place, now, as you read this.

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December 27, 2007

3900 Iraq

In Iraq, the dying goes on.

US troop deaths in Iraq hit 3900 today.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, millions displaced. For what?

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December 14, 2007

"Iraq Doesn't Exist Anymore" Afghanistan  Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

From an excellent interview with Nir Rosen:

Question: Is the "surge" working as Bush claims or is the sudden lull in the violence due to other factors like demographic changes in Baghdad?

Nir Rosen: I think that even calling it a surge is misleading. A surge is fast; this took months. It was more like an ooze. The US barely increased the troop numbers. It mostly just forced beleaguered American soldiers to stay longer. At the same time, the US doubled their enemies because, now, they're not just fighting the Sunni militias but the Shiite Mahdi army also.

No, I don't think the surge worked. Objectively speaking, the violence is down in Baghdad, but that's mainly due to the failure of the US to establish security. That's not success.

Sure, less people are being killed but that's because there are less people to kill.

The violence in Iraq was not senseless or crazy, it was logical and teleological. Shiite militias were trying to remove Sunnis from Baghdad and other parts of the country, while Sunni militias were trying to remove Shiites, Kurds and Christians from their areas. This has been a great success. So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead. There are just less people to kill.

Moreover, the militias have consolidated their control over some areas. The US never thought that Muqtada al Sadr would order his Mahdi Army to halt operations (against Sunnis, rival Shiites and Americans) so that he could put his house in order and remove unruly militiamen. And, the US never expected that Sunnis would see that they were losing the civil war so they might as well work with the Americans to prepare for the next battle.

More importantly, violence fluctuates during a civil war, so people try to maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible. It's the same in Sarajevo, Beirut or Baghdad — people marry, party, go to school when they can — and hide at home or fight when they must.

The euphoria we see in the American media reminds me of the other so-called milestones that came and went while the overall trend in Iraq stayed the same. Now Iraq doesn't exist anymore. Thats the most important thing to remember. There is no Iraq. There is no Iraqi government and none of the underlying causes for the violence have been addressed, such as the mutually exclusive aspirations of the rival factions and communities in Iraq. [...]

Question: The media rarely mentions the 4 million refugees created by the Iraq war. What do you think the long-term effects of this humanitarian crisis will be?

Nir Rosen: Well, the smartest Iraqis — the best educated, the professionals, the middle and upper classes — have all left or been killed. So the society is destroyed. So there is no hope for a non-sectarian Iraq now.

The refugees are getting poorer and more embittered. Their children cannot get an education and their resources are limited. Look at the Palestinian refugee crisis. In 1948 you had about 800,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes and driven into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. Over time, they were politicized, mobilized and militarized. The militias they formed to liberate their homeland were manipulated by the governments in the region and they became embroiled in regional conflicts, internal conflicts and, tragically, conflicts with each other. They were massacred in Lebanon and Jordan. And, contributed to instability in those countries.

Now you have camps in Lebanon producing jihadists who go to fight in Iraq or who fight the Lebanese Army. And this is all from a population of just 800,000 mostly rural, religiously-homogeneous (Sunni) refugees.

Now, you have 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, a million in Jordan and many more in other parts of the Middle East. The Sunnis and Shiites already have ties to the militias. They are often better educated, urban, and have accumulated some material wealth. These refugees are increasingly sectarian and are presently living in countries with a delicate sectarian balance and very fragile regimes. Many of the refugees will probably link up with Islamic groups and threaten the regimes of Syria and Jordan. They're also likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

They're also bound to face greater persecution as they "wear out their welcome" and put a strain on the country's resources.

They'll probably form into militias and either try go home or attempt to overthrow the regimes in the region. Borders will change and governments will fall. A new generation of fighters will emerge and there'll be more attacks on Americans.

Question: You have compared Iraq to Mogadishu. Could you elaborate?

Nir Rosen: Somalia hasn't had a government since 1991. I've been to Mogadishu twice. Its ruled by warlords who control their own fiefdoms. Those who have money can live reasonably well. That's what it's like in Iraq now — a bunch of independent city-states ruled by various militias — including the American militia and British militias.

Of course, Somalia is not very important beyond the Horn of Africa. It's bordered by the sea, Kenya and Ethiopia. There's no chance of the fighting in Somalia spreading into a regional war. Iraq is much more dangerous in that respect.

Question: Is the immediate withdrawal of all US troops really the best option for Iraq?

Nir Rosen: It really doesn't matter whether the Americans stay or leave. There are no good options for Iraq; no solutions. The best we can hope for is that the conflict won't spread....The civil war has already been fought and won in many places, mainly by the Shiite militias.

The Americans are still the occupying force, which means that they must continue to repress people that didn't want them there in the first place. But, then, if you were to ask a Sunni in Baghdad today what would happen if the Americans picked up and left, he'd probably tell you that the remaining Sunnis would be massacred. So, there's no "right answer" to your question about immediate withdrawal. [...]

Question: The US-led war in Afghanistan is not going well. The countryside is controlled by the warlords, the drug trade is flourishing, and America's man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, has little power beyond the capital. The Taliban has regrouped and is methodically capturing city after city in the south. Their base of support, among disenchanted Pashtuns, continues to grow. How important is it for the US to succeed in Afghanistan? Would failure threaten the future of NATO or the Transatlantic Alliance?

Nir Rosen: Although the US has lost in Afghanistan; what really matters is Pakistan. That's where the Taliban and al Qaeda are actually located. No, I'm NOT saying that the US should take the war into Pakistan. The US has already done enough damage. But as long as America oppresses and alienates Muslims; they will continue to fight back. [...]

Question: The US military is seriously over-stretched. Still, many political analysts believe that Bush will order an aerial assault on Iran. Do you think the US will carry out a "Lebanon-type" attack on Iran; bombing roads, bridges, factories, government buildings, oil depots, Army bases, munitions dumps, airports and nuclear sites? Will Iran retaliate or simply lend their support to resistance fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Nir Rosen: I think it's quite likely that Bush will attack Iran; not because he has a good reason to, but because Jesus or God told him to and because Iran is part of the front-line resistance (along with Hizballah, Syria and Hamas) to American hegemony in the region. Bush believes nobody will have the balls to go after the Iranians after him. He believes that history will vindicate him and he'll be looked up to as a hero, like Reagan.

There is also a racist element in this. Bush thinks that Iran is a culture based on honor and shame. He believes that if you humiliate the Iranian regime, then the people will rise up and overthrow it. Of course, in reality, when you bomb a country the people end up hating you and rally around the regime. Just look at the reaction of the Serbs after the bombing by NATO, or the Americans after September 11. [...]

Question: Bush's war on terror now extends from the southern border of Somalia to the northern tip of Afghanistan — from Africa, through the Middle East into Central Asia. The US has not yet proven — in any of these conflicts — that it can enforce its will through military means alone. In fact, in every case, the military appears to be losing ground. And it's not just the military that's bogged down either. Back in the United States, the economy is rapidly deteriorating. The dollar is falling, the housing market is collapsing, consumer spending is shrinking, and the country's largest investment banks are bogged down with over $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt. Given the current state of the military and the economy, do you see any way that the Bush administration can prevail in the war on terror or is US power in a state of irreversible decline?

Nir Rosen: Terror is a tactic; so you can't go to war with it in the first place. You can only go to war with people or nations. To many people it seems like the US is at war with Muslims. This is just radicalizing more people and eroding America's power and influence in the world. But, then, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

There's a lot more in the original interview. It's worth reading in full.

One thinks of Yeats:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed...

And one thinks of Humpty Dumpty. This particular Humpty Dumpty won't be put back together again any time soon.

None of this was necessary.

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Fake Calm In Iraq Iraq

There's no denying that US troop deaths are down in Iraq. Is peace breaking out? Don't believe the hype, says Pierre Tristam:

When Kuwait was liberated in 1991 — a strange concept, Kuwait having been free neither before being invaded by Iraq nor since — its citizens lined up the streets of their capital and waved thousands of American flags as troops drove by. "Did you ever stop to wonder," a man called John Rendon proudly asked during a speech to a government agency, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" He answered his own question: "That was one of my jobs then."

The first Bush administration hired Rendon to produce the television show known as the first Gulf War. With the Rendon Group, his public relations firm, Rendon won multi-million dollar contracts to make the American occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan look good, and do the same on behalf of the Afghan and Iraqi governments. Propaganda has been a lucrative business in these wars. It gave us such classics as the fabricated toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad early in the war, the taxpayer-supported Pentagon effort to plant positive stories in the Iraqi press, and the more recent mini-series about the successes of the American "surge."

The propaganda controls are clearly in effective hands today. There's been no need, as there is in more discriminating Iraq, to plant positive stories in the domestic press. For the most part the mainstream news media here seem as willing as they were in 2003 to buy the Bush administration's latest recasting of the Iraqi catastrophe as a country on the mend. But caveats grow as lush as date palm in Iraq. Here's this season’s crop.

Al-Qaida was routed. Not exactly. The semi-mythical invention of "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" was never a force as potent as its Iraqi enemies. One thing Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis agree on is rejection of foreign meddling, be it bin Laden's or Bush's. Iraqis reviled al-Qaida before the invasion and had no connection to 9/11. They revile al-Qaida more today, now that Bush's invasion made its brand of terrorism possible on Iraqi soil. Absent American troops, ironically, al-Qaida would have faced an unrestrained assault from Shiite and Sunni militants, to whom tribe comes before religion, and religion before caliphate.

That's just as true in the rest of the Arab world. A Brookings Institution survey of Arab opinion in six countries last year showed bin Laden’s popularity never breaking 5 percent. Bin Laden's popularity in the Middle East is itself an invention, convenient to the Bush administration's offensive posture there, inconvenient to Arabs who must pay its price. Bin Laden is the Arab world's Timothy McVeigh, a fringe loon, but one lucky enough to be constantly re-validated by Bush's monomaniacal war on Islamowhatever.

Refugees are coming back: The return of 25,000 refugees from abroad, out of a total of 2 million, is deceptive. News reports have generally neglected to mention that Syria, where most of Iraq's refugees have gone, shut its door to them two months ago and is now requiring refugees already there to apply for visas — through the Syrian embassy in Baghdad. In other words, Syria is booting them out.

Our friends the Sunnis. The Bush administration says the new alliance with former Sunni insurgents is a benefit of the surge's supposed rout of al-Qaida. But those Sunni insurgents had themselves began routing al-Qaida before their alliances with American troops, and well before the "surge" peaked. The Pentagon reversed the chronology to make itself appear as the new strategy's broker — and to obscure the deeper reason the Bush administration is aligning itself with Sunnis anew. Osama or a free Iraq are not it.

Our former friends the Shiites: Southern Iraq is already a fiefdom under the control of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite who got rid of most of the British presence, and is biding his time before being rid of the American. Sunnis dread a Shiite take-over unrestrained by American occupation. So does Bush, because so do oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates, where militant, resentful Islam is the shifty sands under those authoritarian, unelected, lavishly corrupt and American-backed sheikhdoms. In Iraq, the Bush administration is rediscovering that a Sunni-dominated authoritarian regime wasn't such a bad thing after all. Lacking that, Sunnis as a proxy force against Shiite hegemony will have to do.

Peace isn't breaking out in Iraq. A colder, longer war is. It's further miring the United States in the shards of the Sunni-Shiite divide. And it's confirming once again in Arab eyes that America's end game is control of the Middle East's authoritarian houses of cards. If Enron was an emirate, Bush would be its principal shareholder right now, with America's foreign policy as collateral.

Seldom mentioned is the fact that Muqtada al Sadr unilaterally called a halt to attacks by his Mahdi Army. That had nothing to do with the "surge."

For a darker and deeper analysis of the "surge" and the state of Iraq, see the next post.

[Thanks, Miles]

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November 15, 2007

"Suicide Epidemic" Among US Vets 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  War and Peace

A CBS news investigation has found that US veterans are committing suicide at an alarming rate, led by young veterans of the US "war on terror." Herald Sun:

The US military is experiencing a "suicide epidemic" with veterans killing themselves at the rate of 120 a week, according to an investigation by US television network CBS.

At least 6256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 - an average of 17 a day - the network reported, with veterans overall more than twice as likely to take their own lives as the rest of the general population.

While the suicide rate among the general population was 8.9 per 100,000, the level among veterans was between 18.7 and 20.8 per 100,000.

That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 - almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.

"Those numbers clearly show an epidemic of mental health problems," CBS quoted veterans' rights advocate Paul Sullivan as saying.

CBS quoted the father of a 23-year-old soldier who shot himself in 2005 as saying the military did not want the true scale of the problem to be known.

"Nobody wants to tally it up in the form of a government total," Mike Bowman said.

"They don't want the true numbers of casualties to really be known." [...]

"Not everyone comes home from the war wounded, but the bottom line is nobody comes home unchanged," Paul Rieckhoff, a former Marine and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America said on CBS.

It's not just the horror and stress of combat. It's hard getting most people to kill, so recruits have to be subjected to intense conditioning. The military's gotten very good at this. I read somewhere that during the Second World War, only 25% of US soldiers actually fired their weapons in battle; in Korea, it was up to 50%; in Vietnam, 95%. But people aren't machines. You change their programming, and it's hard to change it back. Too little thought is given to the large-scale consequences of taking a significant fraction of young people, conditioning them in this way, and then returning them to the general population with their whole lives lying before them. It's hard on the veterans, obviously, but it also warps the psychological climate and culture of American society as a whole, and not in a good way. Yet another uncounted cost of war.

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October 29, 2007

Body Armor Profiteer Indicted Iraq  Politics

David Brooks, who made a fortune selling faulty body armor to the Army and Marines, has been indicted. Marine Corps Times:

The former CEO of the nation’s leading supplier of body armor to the U.S. military was indicted Thursday on charges of insider trading, fraud and tax evasion in a scheme that netted him more than $185 million, prosecutors said.

David H. Brooks, 53, the founder and former chief executive of DHB Industries Inc., appeared in federal court on Long Island and was ordered held without bail. His lawyer entered a not-guilty plea. [...]

The charges were outlined in a superseding indictment that also named Sandra Hatfield, 54, the former chief operating officer of DHB. The pair was accused of falsely inflating the value of the inventory of DHB’s top product, the Interceptor vest, to help meet profit margin projections. [...]

Authorities allege the scheme propelled the company’s stock from $2 a share in early 2003 to nearly $20 a share in late 2004. When the pair sold several million DHB shares at that time, Brooks made more than $185 million and Hatfield more than $5 million, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. [...]

Brooks and Hatfield also are accused of failing to report more than $10 million in bonus payments to themselves and other DHB employees to the Internal Revenue Service.

Brooks also is accused of using DHB funds to buy or lease luxury vehicles for himself and family members, and to pay for vacations, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, country club bills and family celebrations.

Prosecutors say he threw lavish bar and bat mitzvahs for his children in which entertainers like Tom Petty, Aerosmith and the Eagles performed.

Brooks, who owns more than 100 horses and races them at harness tracks around the country, also used DHB funds for his private horse racing business, prosecutors said.

At the beginning of the Iraq war, Brooks' company had a monopoly on the production of body armor. The Army and Marines eventually had to recall some 23,000 of his vests. Brooks, surprise, surprise, was a hefty contributor to Republican political campaigns.

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October 26, 2007

Many-Fold Increase In US Airstrikes This Year In Iraq Iraq

They tried this in Vietnam, too. Keep troop deaths down by bombing from the air. Except it doesn't work (never mind the morality of it) in a counterinsurgency war. Too many civilians get killed. USA Today (via Xymphora):

The U.S. military has increased airstrikes in Iraq four-fold [sic] this year, reflecting a steep escalation in combat operations aimed at al-Qaeda and other militants.

Coalition forces launched 1,140 airstrikes in the first nine months of this year compared with 229 in all of last year, according to military statistics.

Airstrikes are up in Afghanistan, too. Coalition planes have made 2,764 bombing runs this year, up from 1,770 last year. The figures don't include strikes by helicopter gunships.

The increasing use of air power also stems from improved accuracy and smaller munitions that allow commanders to launch airstrikes against insurgents who travel in small groups and sometimes hide among civilians. [...]

"We are using air power in lieu of putting extensive forces on the ground," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center.

However, increased use of air power raises the chances of killing innocent civilians, said Mark Clodfelter, a professor at the National War College. Winning over the population is key to defeating insurgents.

"You don't want bombing to be a recruiting method for the insurgents," Clodfelter said. [Emphasis added]

The article says a four-fold increase, but their arithmetic's wrong. 1140 versus 229 is a five-fold increase, and that doesn't take into account the fact that the 1140 figure is for only 9 months. Extrapolate that out to a year, and the increase is more than 660%. Clearly, a sea change in tactics, one that is practically a secret here in the US.

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October 24, 2007

Dems Suck, Too Iran  Iraq  Politics

The other day, I got a fund-raising call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I told the caller I was sick of the Democrats' caving in to Bush on Iraq, Iran, torture, wiretaps, and everything else, and they weren't getting any of my money, and I hung up. What surprised me was how angry I was. I've had it with the Democrats, and I guess I'm angrier than I knew. Chris Floyd is pissed, too:

Outrage follows outrage, surrender follows surrender: Every day the unreality of our political discourse worsens, even as the reality on the ground grows more bitter and uncontainable. As we approach the anniversary of the Democrats' recapture of Congress — an event that was supposed to mark the repudiation of the Bush administration's lawless, blood-soaked enterprise — it is undeniable that the situation is actually worse now than before.

The prospect of a Democratic victory in 2006 was for many people the last, flickering hope that the degradation of the republic could be arrested and reversed within the ordinary bounds of the political system. This was always a fantasy, given the strong bipartisan nature and decades-long cultivation of greed, arrogance and militarism that has now come to its fullest bloom in the Bush administration. But desperation can crack the shell of the most hardened cynic, and no doubt there were few who did not harbor somewhere deep inside at least a small grain of hope against hope that a slap-down at the polls would give the Bush gang pause and confound its worst depredations.

One year on, we can all see how the Democrats have made a mockery of those dreams. Their epic levels of unpopularity are richly deserved. At every step they evoke the remarks of the emperor Tiberius, who, after yet another round of groveling acquiescence from the once-powerful Roman Senate, dismissed them with muttered contempt: "Men fit to be slaves." The record of the present Congress provides copious and irrefutable evidence for this judgment.

After 10 full months of Democratic command in the legislative branch -- 10 full months under the "liberal," "progressive," "antiwar" Democratic leadership -- where are we? The Iraq war, far from being ended or even curtailed, was instead escalated by Bush in the face of popular discontent and establishment unease: the first, and most egregious, Democratic surrender. Bush's illegal spying on Americans was not only not punished, it was formally legitimized by Congress, whose Democratic leaders are now hastening to give their telecom paymasters retroactive immunity for taking part in what they knew to be a massive criminal operation...The Military Commissions Act -- which eviscerated 900 years of habeas corpus, as even Arlen Specter admitted (before slavishly voting for the bill anyway) -- remains on the books, unshaken by the Democrats, despite all the cornpone about "restoring the Constitution" they've dished out for the rubes back home.

And now we stand on the brink of another senseless, useless, baseless war, this time with Iran -- a conflict that, as Juan Cole pointed out on Salon recently, is likely to make the belching hell of Iraq look like a church picnic. Dick Cheney's bellicose outburst Sunday in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies -- a reprise of many similar war dances he performed in the run-up to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq -- takes us one step closer to this new crime. But Cheney's assertions of Persian perfidy -- all of them unsubstantiated, and in the case of the nuclear program, refuted by the IAEA -- were simply the culmination of a remarkable bipartisan campaign of demonization in which the Democrats have actually taken the public lead, repeatedly castigating the administration for not being "tough enough" on Iran, and repeatedly vowing that "all options are on the table" against the mad mullahs. [...]

The Democrats have already overwhelmingly -- and officially -- accepted the administration's arguments for war against Iran. The first on-the-record embrace came in June, on a 97-0 Senate vote in favor of a saber-rattling resolution from Fightin' Joe Lieberman [that] affirmed as official fact all of the specious, unproven, ever-changing allegations of direct Iranian involvement in attacks on the American forces now occupying Iraq. [...]

But even this was not enough. A few weeks later, there was a new resolution, carefully calibrated to mesh with the all-out propaganda blitz surrounding the appearance of Gen. David Petraeus on Fox News in September. (He also put in an appearance on Capitol Hill, it seems.) Once again, the majority of Senate Democrats voted with the monolithic Republicans for yet another Lieberman-sponsored measure, which effectively if not formally authorized military action against Iran by declaring the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization" and tying it to attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. [...]

Even the clueless Joe Biden...gets it. He told George Stephanopoulos Sunday that Bush will seize on the resolutions exactly as predicted: "The president's going to stand there and say ... 'Ladies and gentlemen, as the United States Congress voted, they said these guys are terrorists. I moved against them to save American lives.'"

But Bush is not the only president -- or potential president -- who might seize on the Senate votes. Last week -- just a few days before Cheney's speech -- Hillary Clinton weighed in with a "major policy article" in Foreign Affairs that regurgitated the administration's unproven allegations against Iran as indisputable fact. This too is ominous stuff, coming from a strong front-runner who not only is leading in the opinion polls but is also way out in front among an elite constituency whose support is much more important and decisive than that of the hapless hoi polloi: arms dealers. Clinton has surpassed all candidates -- including the hyper-hawkish Republican hopefuls -- in garnering cash payments from the American weapons industry, the Independent reports. Obviously, these masters of war are not expecting any drop-off in profits if Clinton takes the helm.

And indeed, beyond her "all options" thundering at Iran, Clinton has vowed to do the one thing guaranteed to breed more war, more ruin, more suffering, more "collateral damage," more terrorist blowback: keeping American forces in Iraq, come hell or high water. Clinton's "withdrawal" plan calls for retaining an unspecified number of "specialized units" in Iraq to "fight terrorism," train Iraqi forces and protect other American troops carrying out unspecified activities. Is it any wonder that she's the apple of Lockheed Martin's eye?

But in fact, the "antiwar" plans of the other "liberal" candidates -- the "serious" ones, that is -- are remarkably similar. In other words, the Democrats are promising a permanent (or in the current weasel-word jargon, "enduring") U.S. military presence in Iraq -- which of course has been one of the primary war aims of the Bush administration all along (even before it took office). Credible analysis shows that up to a million people or more have been slaughtered in this ghastly enterprise -- and still the Democrats will not act to end it or, God forbid, try to remove its perpetrators from office. Instead they will keep the red wheel of death rolling toward the ever-vanishing horizon. [...]

[The people] turned to the only serious alternative the system provided: the Democrats. And this is what they got: more war, more torture, more tyranny, more corruption, more lies. [Emphasis added]

The game's rigged. Democrats and Republicans pretend to be different by having different positions on abortion and gay marriage. But on issues of war and peace, military spending, government surveillance, and even torture, they're peas in a pod. Fraternal twins. Coke and Pepsi. An exquisite scam: keep people excited about abortion and gay marriage to make them feel like they have a meaningful choice, then ignore what they want on everything that really matters to the Big Money that drives the system.

What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Democrats tell different lies to get elected. A pox on both their houses.

[Thanks, Miles]

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September 26, 2007

Winding Down — Not Iraq  Politics

Bush's request for war funding in 2008 will be the biggest of the war. LAT:

After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure — totaling nearly $200 billion — to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

If Bush's spending request is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war. [...]

The funding request means that war costs are projected to grow even as the number of deployed combat troops begins a gradual decline starting in December. Spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to rise from $173 billion this year to about $195 billion in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1.

When costs of CIA operations and embassy expenses are added, the war in Iraq currently costs taxpayers about $12 billion a month, said Winslow T. Wheeler, a former Republican congressional budget aide who is a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. [Emphasis added]

Good thing we elected all those Democrats last year. What a difference it's made.

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Privatizing War Corporations, Globalization  Iraq  War and Peace

A startling piece of information from John Robb. Private military contractors probably provide almost as many "trigger pullers" in Iraq as the entire US military does:

There are currently 20,000 PMC [Private Military Company] trigger pullers in Iraq. These men are guarding facilities and key people across the country. This is likely nearly the same number of trigger pullers (as opposed to support personnel) as the entire US military currently has in the country. Without these men, the US military would barely be able to field a force large enough to patrol Baghdad. [Emphasis added]

Privatization of war-fighting is bad news for a variety of reasons. It undermines democracy, because it is infinitely easier to sell a war that's fought by mercenaries than one fought by uniformed soldiers that people still think of as their sons and daughters. It removes accountability for the conduct of the fighting, since the contractors are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It supports the creation of standing private armies and fosters the further militarization of domestic law enforcement. And it creates a built-in constituency for more war. When war is a profit center, the obvious way to grow profits is to promote war. When PMCs have soldiers on the ground (not just in Iraq, but in many hotspots around the world), they have all sorts of opportunities to drum up business.

Where is this all headed? LA Times:

[Erik] Prince, the former Navy SEAL who founded Blackwater, is straightforward about his company's goal: "We're trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service."

Since FedEx rendered the post office irrelevant for all but the most trivial forms of mail, this means you can kiss our national security apparatus goodbye. [Emphasis added]

The Founders considered any form of standing army a grave threat to liberty. And now we're going to convert much of the standing army into a profit-making enterprise under private control.

Whatever else corporations are, they are undemocratic: what the boss says, goes. And corporations are committed to maximizing growth. So when corporations have armies — when corporations are armies — how can it end well?

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September 25, 2007

3800 Iraq

The carnage continues in Iraq.

US troop deaths in Iraq hit 3800 today.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, millions displaced. For what?

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September 23, 2007

I'm So Proud 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

Our president:

(Via Cryptogon)

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September 21, 2007

Blackwater Un-Banned In Iraq Iraq

Well, that didn't take long. Blackwater is going back to work in Iraq.

In case you were wondering if Iraq's supposedly sovereign government actually has final say-so.

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September 17, 2007

Barbarian Invasion Iraq

In Iraq, five millenia ago, civilization began. Today, among the many bitter fruits of the US invasion is this: the ongoing — and soon to be complete — ransacking, looting, and destruction of thousands of the world's most ancient archaeological sites. Robert Fisk:

Today, almost every archaeological site in southern Iraq is under the control of looters.

In a long and devastating appraisal to be published in December, Lebanese archaeologist Joanne Farchakh says that armies of looters have not spared "one metre of these Sumerian capitals that have been buried under the sand for thousands of years.

"They systematically destroyed the remains of this civilisation in their tireless search for sellable artefacts: ancient cities, covering an estimated surface area of 20 square kilometres, which – if properly excavated – could have provided extensive new information concerning the development of the human race.

"Humankind is losing its past for a cuneiform tablet or a sculpture or piece of jewellery that the dealer buys and pays for in cash in a country devastated by war. Humankind is losing its history for the pleasure of private collectors living safely in their luxurious houses and ordering specific objects for their collection."

Ms Farchakh, who helped with the original investigation into stolen treasures from the Baghdad Archaeological Museum in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, says Iraq may soon end up with no history.

"There are 10,000 archaeological sites in the country. In the Nassariyah area alone, there are about 840 Sumerian sites; they have all been systematically looted. Even when Alexander the Great destroyed a city, he would always build another. But now the robbers are destroying everything because they are going down to bedrock. What's new is that the looters are becoming more and more organised with, apparently, lots of money.

"Quite apart from this, military operations are damaging these sites forever. There's been a US base in Ur for five years and the walls are cracking because of the weight of military vehicles. It's like putting an archaeological site under a continuous earthquake."

Of all the ancient cities of present-day Iraq, Ur is regarded as the most important in the history of man-kind. Mentioned in the Old Testament – and believed by many to be the home of the Prophet Abraham – it also features in the works of Arab historians and geographers where its name is Qamirnah, The City of the Moon. [...]

The legions of antiquities looters work within a smooth mass-smuggling organisation. Trucks, cars, planes and boats take Iraq's historical plunder to Europe, the US, to the United Arab Emirates and to Japan. The archaeologists say an ever-growing number of internet websites offer Mesopotamian artefacts, objects anywhere up to 7,000 years old.

The farmers of southern Iraq are now professional looters, knowing how to outline the walls of buried buildings and able to break directly into rooms and tombs. The archaeologists' report says: "They have been trained in how to rob the world of its past and they have been making significant profit from it. They know the value of each object and it is difficult to see why they would stop looting." [Emphasis added]

Millenia have passed, empires have come and gone, and the antiquities have survived it all. But now, in the blink of an eye, they will be gone.

It's disgraceful and appalling, but it fits: we trash the world with reckless disregard for the generations to come after us, so of course we care nothing for the ones who came before. But these things, once done, cannot be undone. It is cause for deep and everlasting shame.

[Thanks, Miles]

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Blackwater Banned In Iraq Iraq

Iraq's Interior Ministry says it has banned the infamous mercenary outfit Blackwater USA from further operations in Iraq. CNN:

Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead. The U.S. State Department said it plans to investigate what it calls a "terrible incident."

In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, an Iraqi official said. [...]

Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk.

The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square. The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, the ministry said.

One witness told The Associated Press that he heard an explosion before the gunfire began.

"We saw a convoy of SUVs passing in the street nearby," Hussein Abdul-Abbas, owner of a mobile phone store in the area, told the AP. "One minute later, we heard the sound of a bomb explosion followed by gunfire that lasted for 20 minutes between gunmen and the convoy people who were foreigners and dressed in civilian clothes. Everybody in the street started to flee immediately."

A team from another security company passed through the area a few minutes afterward.

"Our people saw a couple of cars destroyed," Carter Andress, CEO of American-Iraqi Solutions Groups, told CNN on Monday. "Dead bodies, wounded people being evacuated. The U.S. military had moved in and secured the area. It was not a good scene."

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, said, "We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq. The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice." [Emphasis added]

This is going to be interesting. Will the Iraqi government be allowed to make this stick?

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September 16, 2007

Greenspan: Iraq War Was For Oil Iraq

Sunday Times:

America's elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W Bush's economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil," he says.

Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East. [Emphasis added]

Duh.

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September 14, 2007

1.2 Million Iraqis Killed By The War Iraq

ORB, a leading British survey research firm, reports:

In the week in which General Patraeus reports back to US Congress on the impact the recent "surge" is having in Iraq, a new poll reveals that more than 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have been murdered since the invasion took place in 2003.

Previous estimates, most noticeably the one published in the Lancet in October 2006, suggested almost half this number (654,965 deaths).
These findings come from a poll released today by O.R.B., the British polling agency that have been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,461 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:

Q How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003.

Detailed analysis (which is available on our website) indicates that almost one in two households in Baghdad have lost a family member, significantly higher than in any other area of the country. The governorates of Diyala (42%) and Ninewa (35%) were next.

The poll also questioned the surviving relatives on the method in which their loved ones were killed. It reveals that 48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance. This is significant because more often that not it is car bombs and aerial bombardments that make the news – with gunshots rarely in the headlines.

As well as a murder rate that now exceeds the Rwanda genocide from 1994 (800,000 murdered), not only have more than one million been injured but our poll calculates that of the millions of Iraqis that have fled their neighbourhoods, 52% have moved within Iraq but 48% have crossed its borders, with Syria taking the brunt of refugees.

Whether the true number is really 1.2 million or not, one thing is clear: the number, whatever it is, is a really big number. But no one on the tv will say it's true, so no one will believe it — and of course no one wants to believe it. And then there are the millions of refugees, a number that no one seems to dispute. The overall scale and scope of the suffering is impossible to grasp. This is all happening in a real place, to real people — millions of them.

But General Petraeus seemed like such a nice man.

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September 11, 2007

Pentagon Report To "Differ Substantially" From Petraeus' Iraq

General Petraeus makes it sound like the Centcom commander and the Pentagon brass all agree with him. Not so, apparently. Newsweek:

Newsweek has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will "differ substantially" from Petraeus's recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will "recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there." The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts. "There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views" to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus. [...]

John Arquilla, an intelligence and counterinsurgency expert at the Naval Postgraduate School, is even harsher in his assessment of Petraeus. "I think Colin Powell used dodgy information to get us into the war, and Petraeus is using dodgy information to keep us there," he said. "His political talking points are all very clear: the continued references he made to the danger of Al Qaeda in Iraq, for example, even though it represents only somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of the total insurgency. The continued references to Iran, when in fact the Iranians have had a lot to do with stability in the Shiite portion of the country. And it's not at all clear why things are a little better now. Is it because there are more troops, or is it because we're negotiating with the insurgents and have moved to small operating outposts? On any given day we don't have more than 20,000 troops operating. The glacial pace of reductions beggars the imagination." [...]

According to a former senior civilian official in the Coalition Provisional Authority, Petraeus is a "total performer." This reporter observed Petraeus's political skills up close while flying with him above the Iraqi city of Mosul in a Blackhawk helicopter in early 2004. Speaking through headphones over the loud whirring of the chopper engines, Petraeus pointed out to then-Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer III how many satellite dishes had popped up on Iraqi homes during the general's tenure as commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Citing the dishes as a sign of progress, he proposed that Bremer go national with Petraeus's "Mosul's most wanted" TV show, launched to get locals to call in with insurgent tips. And Petraeus called in a large press gaggle to observe training exercises at his local Iraqi military training academy. Later, back in Baghdad, Bremer shook his head and laughed indulgently. "He loves headlines," Bremer said. "But he's very good." [Emphasis added]

Something tells me the Pentagon brass who disagree with Petraeus won't get two days in the media spotlight to say so.

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September 10, 2007

Petraeus' Performance Iraq  Politics

Watching Petraeus' performance, you get the impression that great strides are being made in Iraq. But note what he actually said: by mid-July of next year, if all goes well, the US should be able to go back to the same number of troops it had before the surge. I.e., the withdrawal he's talking about is withdrawal of the surge. Back to where we were before. That's all. Nearly a year from now. And after that — who knows. Petraeus:

Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008. However, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time.

Petraeus comes across as smart, competent, straight-forward, on top of things. No wonder, given how much prep and practice he's had. Still, you listen to him and you think, wow, that's encouraging.

But Iraqis beg to differ. BBC:

Coming at a crucial moment, a new BBC/ABC News opinion poll suggests ordinary Iraqis have a damning verdict on the US surge.

The poll, conducted in August, also indicates that Iraqi opinion is at its gloomiest since the BBC/ABC News polls began in February 2004.

According to this latest poll, in key areas - security and the conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development - between 67 and 70% of Iraqis, or more than two-thirds, say the surge has made things worse. [...]

Since the last BBC/ABC News poll in February, the number of Iraqis who think that US-led coalition forces should leave immediately has risen sharply, from 35 to 47%, although that does mean that a small majority - 53% - still says the forces should stay until security has improved.

But 85% of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in US and UK forces. [...]

In terms of quality of life, 80% of Iraqis say the availability of jobs is bad or very bad, 93% say the same about electricity supplies, 75% for clean water, 92% for fuel.

And 77% of Iraqis say the ability to live where they want, without persecution, is bad or very bad. [...]

There are some more encouraging results.

Sixty-two per cent of Iraqis still say Iraq should have a unified central government, and 98% say it would be a bad thing for the country to separate along sectarian lines. [...]

This is the fourth BBC/ABC News poll since the US-led invasion. And the polling reveals two great divides.

The first is between the relative optimism recorded in November 2005, and the gloom reflected in the two polls conducted this year. [...]

The other great divide is that revealed between the Sunni and Shia communities.

Eighty-eight per cent of Sunnis say things are going badly in their lives.

Fifty-four per cent of Shias think they are going well.

Also, strikingly, 93% of Sunnis say attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, compared with 50% of Shia (the overall total is 57%). [...]

But both communities think equally overwhelmingly (by 98%) that sectarian separation is a bad thing. Iraqis are also somewhat suspicious of their neighbours.

Seventy-nine per cent of them think that Iran is actively encouraging sectarian violence in their country, 66% think the same of Syria and 65% think likewise about Saudi Arabia. [Emphasis added]

It's helpful, too, to know that people close to Petraeus call him "a walking mass of ambition" and "the most competitive person I have ever known — ever," a man who will not just beat you but "make a point of it." And he probably wants to be President. So take his performance with a heaping helping of salt.

And there's this. Military leaders are not supposed to be the ones to sell a policy. That's supposed to be a job for civilians. The White House is hiding behind the general, using the general to cow Congress, which is not how a democracy is supposed to work.

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September 07, 2007

Progress! Iraq

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The Decider Down Under Iraq  Politics

Feel the pride. AP:

President Bush had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Sydney Opera House.

He'd only reached the third sentence of Friday's speech to business leaders, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, when he committed his first gaffe.

"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The president's next goof went uncorrected — by him anyway. Talking about Howard's visit to Iraq last year to thank his country's soldiers serving there, Bush called them "Austrian troops."

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show Bush saying "Austrian," the official text released by the White House switched it to "Australian."

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out — the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others redirected the president to center stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theater.

The event had inauspicious beginnings. Bush started 10 minutes late, so that APEC workers could hustle people out of the theater's balcony seating to fill the many empty portions of the main orchestra section below — which is most visible on camera.

Even resettled, the audience remained quiet throughout the president's remarks, applauding only when he was finished. [Emphasis added]

Mr. Magoo.

Kinda funny, I guess, but then there's this (SMH):

[Bush] arrived in Australia in a chipper mood.

"We're kicking ass," he told Mark Vaile on the tarmac after the Deputy Prime Minister inquired politely of the President's stopover in Iraq en route to Sydney. [...]

[In his press conference,] Bush said [Afghanistan and Iraq] were "both theatres in the same war". [...]

His defiance on Iraq is growing. He implied that those who argued against the war in the first place had no role in the current debate.

Perhaps encouraged by the expectation that he will soon be able to withdraw some troops and claim success, regardless of what the rest of the world believes, Bush appeared as a man who has convinced himself he is on the right track and will crash or crash through. [Emphasis added]

"We're kicking ass." The guy's delusional.

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September 04, 2007

Winding Down — Not Iraq

Average number of US troop deaths in Iraq for the past six months and each six month period previously:

Not a good trend.

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September 03, 2007

Dead Certain Iraq  Politics

The NYT has some excerpts from interviews Bush gave to author Robert Draper for his forthcoming book, Dead Certain:

[I]n an interview with a book author in the Oval Office one day last December, [Bush] daydreamed about the next phase of his life, when his time will be his own.

First, Mr. Bush said, "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, "I don’t know what my dad gets — it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."

Then he said, "We’ll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world. But he added, "I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch."

For now, though, Mr. Bush told the author, Robert Draper, in a later session, "I'm playing for October-November." That is when he hopes the Iraq troop increase will finally show enough results to help him achieve the central goal of his remaining time in office: "To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence," and, he said later, "stay longer." [...]

As Mr. Draper described it, Mr. Bush began the interview process over lunch last Dec. 12, in a week when he suddenly had free time because his highly anticipated announcement of a new Iraq strategy had been postponed.

Sitting in an anteroom of the Oval Office, he eschewed the more formal White House menu for comfort food — a low-fat hotdog and ice cream — and bitingly told an aide who peeked in on the session that his time with Mr. Draper was "worthless anyway."

But as Mr. Draper described it, and as the transcripts show, Mr. Bush warmed up considerably over the intervening interviews, chewing on an unlit cigar, jubilantly swatting at flies between making solemn points, propping his feet up on a table or stopping him at points to say emphatically, "I want you to get this" or "I want this damn book to be right." [...]

And in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, he continued, "This group-think of 'we all sat around and decided' — there's only one person that can decide, and that's the president." [...]

In response to Mr. Draper’s observance that Mr. Bush had nobody’s "shoulder to cry on," the president said: "Of course I do, I've got God's shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot." In what Mr. Draper interpreted as a reference to war casualties, Mr. Bush added, "I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count as president."

Yet Mr. Bush said his certainty that Iraq would turn around for the better was not for show. "You can't fake it," he told Mr. Draper in December. [...]

"I've been here too long," Mr. Bush said, according to Mr. Draper. "Every time I start painting a rosy picture [about Iraq], it gets criticized and then it doesn't make it on the news."

But he said he saw his unpopularity as a natural result of his decision to pursue a strategy in which he believed. "I made a decision to lead," he said, "One, it makes you unpopular; two, it makes people accuse you of unilateral arrogance, and that may be true. But the fundamental question is, is the world better off as a result of your leadership?" [...]

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen."

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush's former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army's dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'" But, he added, "Again, Hadley's got notes on all of this stuff," referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

Mr. Bush said he believed that Mr. Hussein did not take his threats of war seriously, suggesting that the United Nations emboldened him by failing to follow up on an initial resolution demanding that Iraq disarm. He had sought a second measure containing an ultimatum that failure to comply would result in war.

"One interesting question historians are going to have to answer is: Would Saddam have behaved differently if he hadn't gotten mixed signals between the first resolution and the failure of the second resolution?" Mr. Bush said. "I can't answer that question. I was hopeful that diplomacy would work." [Emphasis added]

So, he's The Decider, but he's got no idea how the Iraqi Army got disbanded. Doesn't remember all of that "stuff". I bet Cheney remembers.

Dead Certain. Could the irony of that title be any more grotesque?

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August 30, 2007

Chaos And Disintegration Iraq

A month ago, we noted that southern Iraq is fragmenting into a failed state, with various warlords carving out their piece of turf. Forget Sunni v. Shia. It's way more fragmented than that, way more terrifying.

John Robb points to another disturbing story along those lines (AP):

Fighting erupted Tuesday between rival Shiite militias in Karbala during a religious festival, claiming 51 lives and forcing officials to abort the celebrations and order up to 1 million Shiite pilgrims to leave the southern city.

Security officials said Mahdi Army gunmen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fired on guards around two shrines protected by the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Residents of Karbala contacted by telephone said snipers were firing on Iraqi security forces from rooftops. Explosions and the rattle of automatic weapons fire could be heard during telephone calls to reporters in the city 50 miles south of Baghdad.

In addition to the deaths, security officials said at least 247 people were wounded, including women and children.

The clashes appeared to be part of a power struggle among Shiite groups in the sect's southern Iraqi heartland, which includes the bulk of the country's vast oil wealth. [Emphasis added]

A million pilgrims forced to flee amid explosions and automatic weapons fire. Impossible to imagine.

There's no telling where the fragmentation will end. Humpty-Dumpty is not going to come magically back together. Chaos, suffering, and collapse — and it will deepen and spread. As Robb says, "We haven't found the bottom yet."

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August 27, 2007

Allawi Resurfaces Iraq

Ayad Allawi, darling of American neocons, is being pushed back into the limelight as a possible replacement for Prime Minister al-Maliki.

But let us not forget this (and here). Of course, here in the US you wouldn't even know it happened unless you read blogs.

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Rules Of Engagement Iraq

This isn't new, but I hadn't seen it before. Shameful on so many levels. Be sure to read the accompanying text.

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August 24, 2007

America To The Rescue 9/11, "War On Terror"  Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq

A little history lesson from Jon Stewart:

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August 23, 2007

Iraq Coup? Iraq

Juan Cole's sources say a military coup may be in the offing in Iraq. Spreading freedom and democracy.

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August 20, 2007

The War As They Saw It Iraq

Yesterday's NYT carried an enlightening op-ed authored by seven US soldiers who served in Iraq. Worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

[T]he most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the dominant narrative will continue to be that the "surge" is "working". The media will continue to listen to the spin of people who have every reason to lie, and they will ignore the words of soldiers who have nothing to gain by coming forward. And collectively, we will all continue down the path to ruin.

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Petraeus Report To Be Written By White House Iraq  Media  Politics

We're supposed to all be waiting to hear what General Petraeus will say in his September "progress" report. But buried deep in an LA Times story about the upcoming report, we find this:

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,'" the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to...just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.'"

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?" [Emphasis added]

Everybody pretends the report will be from Petraeus, but it's being cooked up by political hacks in the White House. Which is to say, it will be completely useless as a basis for deciding anything. Watch, though, as the mainstream media play along and portray it as a serious evaluation originating from Petraeus himself. Pardon me while I retch.

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3700, 4000 Iraq

The carnage continues in Iraq.

While I was gone from the blog, US troop deaths in Iraq passed the 3700 mark, and total coalition deaths surpassed 4000. Totals as of today: 3707 and 4004, respectively.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

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August 02, 2007

Stats Iraq

The spin doctors tell us that July saw the lowest number of US troop deaths since November. So, therefore, the "surge" must be working.

But here's a graph of US troop deaths since January '06:

The highlighted months are this July and July a year ago. That's progress?

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US Cannot Account For 190,000 Weapons Given To Iraqis Iraq

The US points the finger at Iran for supplying weapons to the insurgents in Iraq. But the foreign power who's supplying the most weapons is, evidently, the US. AFP, via RawStory:

The US government cannot account for 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to an investigation carried out by the Government Accountability Office.

According to the July 31 report, the military "cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armour and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces."

The weapons disappeared from records between June 2004 and September 2005, as the military struggled to rebuild the disbanded Iraqi forces from scratch amid increasing attacks from Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

Since 2004 the military "has not consistently collected supporting records confirming the dates the equipment was received, the quantities of equipment delivered, or the Iraqi units receiving the items," the report said. [...]

US commanders often accuse foreign powers such as Iran of supplying arms to illegal militias fighting in Iraq, but the report shows they cannot fully account for the hundreds thousands of weapons they brought in themselves.

Last month, Turkey raised concerns over reports that separatist Kurdish guerrillas launching cross-border raids from northern Iraq had received US-supplied guns supposedly destined for Iraqi security forces. [Emphasis added]

A circular firing squad of epic proportions. Unbelievable.

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August 01, 2007

Gasoline On The Flames Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

The US has announced that it will send $63 billion in military aid to the Middle East: $20 billion for the Saudis and several small Gulf states, $13 billion for Egypt, and $30 billion for Israel.

William Arkin writes in the Washington Post:

There has been no official talk of a new U.S. military alliance in the Middle East. But my sense is that the Bush administration may be looking to solidify one before it leaves office — and the recently announced $63-billion Middle East arms deals are a stepping stone toward this goal.

The details are still sketchy. But from a strategic standpoint, the administration sees the alliance as serving at least two purposes. One, it ensures that some future president won't give up the fight. And two, it legitimizes future conflict with Iran.

"We are out here to talk about the long term," Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said at a press conference yesterday in Egypt. "The United States has been in this region and in the Gulf specifically for some 60 years. We have every intention of being here for a lot longer."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice equally spoke of "future security cooperation" beyond Iraq.

The new military alliance even has a temporary name: GCC+2. Yesterday, Rice and Gates met with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council of six nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — plus Egypt and Jordan.

"We have had historic interests in this region and we have pursued them through security cooperation for decades," Rice said, declining to go into the specific nature of any discussions. And indeed they were wide-ranging: Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, terrorism, Iran, Syria.

There is no question that the main event was enlisting the mostly Sunni-dominated governments to do more to prop up Baghdad and support the United States in Iraq. [Emphasis added]

Because if there's anything the Middle East needs more of, it's weapons. And I think we can pretty much conclude that all talk about a US withdrawal from Iraq is just that — talk. Just to placate us. Nobody, Democrat or Republican, who is serious about pulling out is ever going to be allowed to get in a position to make it happen. Not while there's oil in the ground.

See what they do, not what they say.

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July 30, 2007

Southern Iraq: Failed State Falling Under Control Of "Warlords" Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Nearly all of the Western news coverage in Iraq centers around Baghdad, so one could get the impression that elsewhere in Iraq things aren't so bad. But one would be wrong. CNN reports that much of Iraq is devolving into failed state status, with various warlords fighting it out to define the limits of their turf. Think Somalia. CNN:

The fight between US-led forces and militants in and near Baghdad and the sectarian civil war raging in the capital has overshadowed another grim wartime reality — the factional strife in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland.

Experts who study the region attribute the instability to turf battles among "warlords" and their fighters in an unstable political and social environment that is coming to resemble a failed state.

"Iraqi politicians are progressively turning into warlords," Peter Harling, senior analyst with the Middle East Program of the Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group. What has been unfolding in the south, he says, is a "very crude struggle over power and resources."

"Violence has become the routine means of interacting with the local population," Harling says of the militias, which have filled the power vacuum after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"They see no interest in seeing a functional state emerge."

The south has always been relatively quiet compared with the mixed Baghdad and Diyala provinces and the largely Sunni Anbar province, where Sunni militants conducting large-scale terror attacks have emerged as the major foe of the United States.

But fighting has erupted between Shiite political factions in the southern cities of Basra, Diwaniya, Karbala, Nasiriya and Samawa in recent months, and U.S., British and other coalition forces have conducted raids on insurgents in those regions. [...]

The major movements in the south are the Sadrists; the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the longtime Shiite group led by Iraqi politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; the Dawa Islamic Party, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; and the Fadhila Party, which holds great power in Basra.

And there are fighters, such as al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, aligned with such groups. There are splinter and rogue elements among these groups, and there are smaller entities as well.

This factionalism goes against the notion that Shiite communities are united, says Jon B. Alterman, director and senior fellow of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies' Middle East Program.

"They are unified when confronted with Sunni or Kurdish power, but within the Shia community there are a variety of parties, with a range of different leaderships, all competing for power and influence."

Alterman says he sees the emergence of "warlords" who "are staking out their claims to different parts of Iraq." [...]

[O]n the ground, Alterman says, "the central government is not central to how politics works anymore. What matters are guns and money and access to resources." [...]

"In a place bereft of services and security, people look to a leadership that can protect them and feed them," Alterman says. [...]

Pang calls the environment the "militarization of local politics."

"Militias have entrenched themselves into the fabric of the society of the southern region of Iraq. They've assumed control of the oil. They've assumed control of the customs. They've assumed control of the police," Pang says. [Emphasis added]

So much for the claim that the violence in Iraq is caused by a centuries-old vendetta between Sunnis and Shia. (Which never made sense anyway — why weren't they killing each other pre-Saddam?)

I just cannot see how this particular Humpty-Dumpty gets put back together again. Much more likely: it will spread. Chaos, suffering, and collapse. Brought on by a small gang of lunatics and fools in the Bush administration. Who will never pay for their crimes.

Proof that time travel is impossible: nobody from the future came back to strangle Dick Cheney at birth. Or maybe it's not impossible. Maybe it's just that Earth's humans won't be around long enough to learn how.

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Eight Million Iraqis Need "Immediate Emergency Aid" Iraq

The horror of what's unfolding in Iraq really is beyond imagining. Consider this (AP):

About 8 million Iraqis — nearly a third of the population — need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, relief agencies said Monday.

Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq.

The report said 15 percent of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, and 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003. It also said 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared with 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.

"Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people," said Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International. "Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty."

The report said more than 2 million people — mostly women and children — have been displaced within Iraq, and 2 million Iraqis have fled the country as refugees, mostly to neighboring Syria and Jordan. [Emphasis added]

A nation destroyed.

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July 25, 2007

Can We Handle The Truth? Iraq

This past Sunday, Firedoglake hosted a truly extraordinary online chat with a Dr. Maryam, an Iraqi pediatric oncologist who runs a refugee camp for Iraqi children orphaned by the American war.

She pulls no punches. This is a voice we haven't heard much here in the US, but it's one we desperately need to hear. Excerpts are below.

Brace yourselves.

Thank you for your welcome.

What shall we talk about today you and I?

....

I am in Europe buying and arranging for supplies of medications to be brought. When I am in Irak I live in and run a refugee camp for children whose parents have been murdered by the American war against my people. I will be back there in a few days. For obvious reasons I will not under any circumstances detail my movements to any American.

....

Q: In the days of Saddam, all Americans felt that the Iraqi people were good, and the Iraqi government was bad. Is there a similar feeling in Iraq about the American people and our government?

Stop telling lies to yourself American. We know that your racist brutal murdering war criminal troops came from your society and reflect its values. we know that because we see how they behave and have to bury their victims. If you are stupid enough to think we feel anything but hatred and contrempt for your soldiers and the country that sent them to make war on my people then you are a fool.

As to Saddam, bad though he was your country is far worse.

....

"The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I’m about to introduce them to it."

[That quote] is from a senior American officer. It is a perfect example of how your troops regard us. Which is why we highlight it.

....

Q: If I were an Iraqi my thinking might go something like this. President Bush is doing these atrocities in my country. And the American people elected this man not once, but twice.

As I am an Iraki and as my job is to treat children maimed and deformed by the weapons your country uses and then prevented me from getting the medicines used to treat those cancers you will forgive me if I tell you that you too are telling lies to yourself. What we know is that when it comes murdering Iraki civilians that there is no difference between the cynical and corrupt party called the Democrats and the cynical and corrupt party called the Republicans. Both are infected with the belief that America has the right to behave as it wishes especially when the people being killed are not white.

....

Q: I don't think [Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds] lived in peace before. If they weren't fighting each other it's because Saddam enforced some semblance of order.

Wrong. We lived in peace for centuries.

And Saddam was no friend of the Kurds or the Shia.

So how came it that 60% of the officer corps was Shia? Saddam was brutal in his response to rebellion. He did not particularly care which sect you were a member of. What he was interested in was whether you were loyal to him or not.

....

How does it feel to know that your country "the shining city on the hill" is not only well into genocidal territory but has been for a long time.

....

Nobody cares what your stupid congress thinks or does. Your country is defeated the only question now is the scale of the defeat.

It is not for the loser to dictate terms. Until your troops leave the resistance will keep on killing them because that is the only thing that works with racist empires such as the American empire.

Irak is for the Irakis. The murdering pigs who have boiled my people alive in a sea of their own blood are the government and people of the USA. Expecting us to tolerate the presence of your war criminals in uniform on our soil is too fucking stupid to be worth refuting.

....

Al Maliki is a traitor to Islam and a traitor to Irak. He collaborates with the invaders.

....

There has been no electricity none in more than half of Baghdad for 10 days. In the rest of Baghdad 1 to 1½ hours per day.

....

Q: In your opinion, Maryam, why did America invade Iraq?

Because you're an empire now and you can make your own reality. Working really well isn't it?

....

[Because of the US use of depleted uranium weapons] I treat cases like this.

....

The problem in Irak is the presence of the invaders. It is not possible to even begin to reconstruct until that problem is solved. The violence is because the American invader is there. Not despite it. If as you claim, you want to help, then you tackle the root problem. Which is that your troops are in our country. Until then the violence will escalate. The attacks are to make the country ungovernable and they are working.

....

This is [my nephew's] reality. This is what America has created for his generation:

When I heard the bomb explode last Saturday the first thing I did was telephone my father. But there was no reply. Again and again and again I tried to phone him. My fingers hurt I stabbed them onto the buttons on my phone so hard. I fell onto the floor and prayed please let him not be dead. Please let it be that he died quick if he is dead.

In the time since he wrote that:

His brother Hussein Ibn Laith was killed by a bomb as he ran with his rescue team to the site of a bombing.

His parents were killed in the Arba'in massacres.

His younger brother was wounded in the Al Qhilani bombing as was Mohammed himself and his sister.

Aged 16, Mohammed is the head of his family.

I will let him speak about forgiveness:

Let Us Understand One Another You And I

O God! Pardon our living and our dead, the present and the absent, the young and the old, the males and the females.

I am a Muslim I am Iraki

What america does to Irakis especially to our children

Do not come to me talking of your feelings. Do not come to me asking for forgiveness. Who do you think you are?

I will not ever forgive or forget what your country has done to us. I will not ever forget or forgive what your country has done my family, my city, my country, my people.

Never.

My grandchildren's, grandchildren, will teach their grandchildren to hate America for what she has done to us. Never ever ever will I, or they, forget or forgive what your barbaric country has done to us.

Never.

If you read the whole thing, I think you'll be struck by how very hollow the questioner's protestations of innocence sound. Yes, our country is doing these things, but it's not us, blah blah blah. One of the haunting mysteries of the 20th century is how the German people allowed themselves to stand by as their leaders committed unspeakable crimes. But it's really not so hard to understand now, is it? Our culpability is all the greater because we have the German precedent to show us the consequences of inaction.

This all has a context. The US has been at war with Iraq's children since at least the first Gulf War. Please see this (including the comments). Please. And google "depleted uranium," if you dare.

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." — Thomas Jefferson

[Thanks, Miles]

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July 23, 2007

UNICEF: Catastrophic Conditions For Iraq's Children Iraq

While US politicians posture and delay, the conditions under which Iraq's children are living, which were already horrific, are worsening. AFP:

Conditions for children in Iraq have deteriorated sharply in recent years as their humanitarian plight has fallen largely into neglect, a senior UNICEF official said Monday.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that the condition today is much worse," Dan Toole, acting deputy executive director of the UN Children's Fund, told journalists after being asked for a comparison with the situation under Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Children who have had to flee Iraq — and millions have fled — are much worse off than a year ago and they certainly are much worse off than they were three years ago," he added.

Toole said there were signs that the health and nutrition for Iraqi children was "changing for the worst", despite recently released two-year-old indicators that had shown signs of an improvement.

UNICEF said the information gleaned from people leaving Iraq, and from the agency's "quite limited" access within the country, indicated that the number of female-headed households has increased "dramatically" because mostly men have been killed in the violence there.

"Many of those women are too frightened to bring their children to health clinics, many are too frightened to send their children to school," he added

Only two-thirds of Iraqis have access to clean water, according to UNICEF.

"My concern is that the focus on Iraq is on the political situation, the security situation, it is not on the lives of Iraqis living day in, day out, with deprivation, with lack of food, with lack of medical supplies," he said.

"That says something about the attention of the world, the attention of our leaders," Toole added, urging a greater focus on the impact on children.

UNICEF says its aid programmes for children in Iraq have only received about one-third of the funding they need. [Emphasis added]

These things are happening in a real place, to real people. Imagine if they were your children. Iraqis may never forgive us. Can you blame them?

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July 20, 2007

Lying Liars' Lies 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

As they say, if you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.

Well, this should help:

A nation of suckers, that's us.

[Thanks, Kevin]

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July 19, 2007

Iraq Vets Speak Iraq

Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian have a piece in The Nation that pulls together a number of accounts told them by Iraq veterans. It's a long piece (21 pages printed out), but an important read. As Gwynne Dyer wrote, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." Here we see why. I've excerpted some snippets below:

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado..."You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us." [...]

Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.

Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. [...]

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant." [...]

The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses. [...]

Raids

The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects. [...]

"You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.

"You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you'll ask the interpreter to ask him: 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all--anything--anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?'

"Normally they'll say no, because that's normally the truth," Sergeant Bruhns said. "So what you'll do is you'll take his sofa cushions and you'll dump them. If he has a couch, you'll turn the couch upside down. You'll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you'll throw everything on the floor, and you'll take his drawers and you'll dump them.... You'll open up his closet and you'll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.

"And if you find something, then you'll detain him. If not, you'll say, 'Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.' So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes." [...]

"We scared the living Jesus out of them every time we went through every house," he said. [...]

Intelligence

In the thousand or so raids he conducted during his time in Iraq, Sergeant Westphal said, he came into contact with only four "hard-core insurgents." [...]

Arrests

"They were so sick and nervous. And sometimes, they were peeing on themselves. Can you imagine if people could just come into your house and take you in front of your family screaming? And if you actually were innocent but had no way to prove that? It would be a scary, scary thing." [...]

Spc. Patrick Resta...recalled his supervisor telling his platoon point-blank, "The Geneva Conventions don't exist at all in Iraq, and that's in writing if you want to see it." [...]

The Enemy

American troops in Iraq lacked the training and support to communicate with or even understand Iraqi civilians...Few spoke or read Arabic. They were offered little or no cultural or historical education about the country they controlled. Translators were either in short supply or unqualified. Any stereotypes about Islam and Arabs that soldiers and marines arrived with tended to solidify rapidly in the close confines of the military and the risky streets of Iraqi cities into a crude racism. [...]

In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, "a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want." [...]

Iraqi culture, identity and customs were, according to at least a dozen soldiers and marines interviewed by The Nation, openly ridiculed in racist terms, with troops deriding "haji food," "haji music" and "haji homes." In the Muslim world, the word "haji" denotes someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is now used by American troops in the same way "gook" was used in Vietnam or "raghead" in Afghanistan. [...]

"We were told from the first second that we arrived there, and this was in writing on the wall in our aid station, that we were not to treat Iraqi civilians unless they were about to die..." [...]

Convoys

[W]hen [convoys] of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way. [...]

Following an explosion or ambush, soldiers in the heavily armed escort vehicles often fired indiscriminately in a furious effort to suppress further attacks, according to three veterans. The rapid bursts from belt-fed .50-caliber machine guns and SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapons, which can fire as many as 1,000 rounds per minute) left many civilians wounded or dead. [...]

Convoys did not slow down or attempt to brake when civilians inadvertently got in front of their vehicles. [...]

"...basically, your order is that you never stop." [...]

Patrols

Soldiers and marines who participated in neighborhood patrols said they often used the same tactics as convoys — speed, aggressive firing — to reduce the risk of being ambushed or falling victim to IEDs. Sgt. Patrick Campbell, 29, of Camarillo, California, who frequently took part in patrols, said his unit fired often and without much warning on Iraqi civilians in a desperate bid to ward off attacks.

"Every time we got on the highway," he said, "we were firing warning shots, causing accidents all the time. Cars screeching to a stop, going into the other intersection.... The problem is, if you slow down at an intersection more than once, that's where the next bomb is going to be because you know they watch. You know? And so if you slow down at the same choke point every time, guaranteed there's going to be a bomb there next couple of days. So getting onto a freeway or highway is a choke point 'cause you have to wait for traffic to stop. So you want to go as fast as you can, and that involves added risk to all the cars around you, all the civilian cars.

"The first Iraqi I saw killed was an Iraqi who got too close to our patrol," he said. "We were coming up an on-ramp. And he was coming down the highway. And they fired warning shots and he just didn't stop. He just merged right into the convoy and they opened up on him." [...]

The killing of unarmed Iraqis was so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape. [...]

Checkpoints

The US military checkpoints dotted across Iraq...were often deadly for civilians. [...]

Sergeant Mejía recounted an incident in Ramadi in July 2003 when an unarmed man drove with his young son too close to a checkpoint. The father was decapitated in front of the small, terrified boy by a member of Sergeant Mejía's unit firing a heavy .50-caliber machine gun. By then, said Sergeant Mejía, who responded to the scene after the fact, "this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment." [...]

"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," he said. "This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3. And they briefed this to the general. And they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen.'" [...]

Rules of Engagement

Some said they were simply told they were authorized to shoot if they felt threatened..."Basically it always came down to self-defense and better them than you..." [...]

"Cover your own butt was the first rule of engagement," Lieutenant Van Engelen confirmed. "Someone could look at me the wrong way and I could claim my safety was in threat." [...]

Sergeant Flatt recounted one incident in Mosul in January 2005 when an elderly couple zipped past a checkpoint. "The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn't even see the soldiers," he said. "The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they literally sat in the car for the next three days while we drove by them day after day." [Emphasis added]

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that when the US military went into Vietnam, they didn't know any better, at least not at first — for the sake of argument. What conceivable excuse is there this time? And yet here they are, taking the same evil, stupid path of least resistance. They will kill uncounted numbers of Iraqis, lay waste to a country, and it will all end in failure — and they don't care. Doing things correctly, carefully, judiciously, humanely is just too hard. Instead they careen around, running over civilians, ransacking homes, shooting up the countryside. And they wonder why people want them gone.

This time there can be no excuse. Knowing what we know and doing these things anyway — it's unspeakable. It's evil. And incredibly, incredibly dumb.

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July 18, 2007

That "Senior Leader Of Al Qaeda In Iraq" Iraq  Politics

It was all over the news today: the US military captured a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader. CNN:

The U.S. military on Wednesday announced the arrest of a senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent who, the military said, is casting himself as a "conduit" between the top leaders of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq.

But, in case you missed it, here's a little detail that didn't make the headlines: the guy was captured two weeks ago (July 4) and they only announced it today. He's supposedly this super-important al Qaeda guy, the "conduit" between global al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, the demonstration of a significant link between Bin Laden and the insurgency, a supposed proof of something the administration has been dying to establish forever. And they only thought to mention it today.

Yesterday, it was the National Intelligence Estimate that trumpeted the al Qaeda threat. Today, it's this. Neatly timed to take the Republican filibuster of the Senate vote on a troop drawdown and blow it off the front pages. Funny how that works.

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July 17, 2007

Madness Iraq

Stop what you're doing and go watch this. Complete and utter insanity. Vicious, pointless, criminal insanity. The curse of being born in a country that sits on one of the last great oil reserves in the desperate twilight of the Age of Oil.

While US politicians posture, it goes on and on and on. Shame on us all for not making it stop.

[Thanks, Miles]

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USAF Steps Up Iraq Operations Iran  Iraq

Air power cannot defeat the insurgency in Iraq. It's a blunt instrument that inevitably kills non-combatants (i.e., people like you and me), alienating the few remaining Iraqis who don't already hate US forces. For the US military, though, it's seductive; it seems like an easy technological fix to an otherwise insoluble problem. But it cannot, will not, work. Vietnam taught us that. Even so, the US Air Force is ramping up Iraq operations in a big way. AP (via Cryptogon):

Away from the headlines and debate over the "surge" in U.S. ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces.

Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq. [...]

Inside spacious, air-conditioned "Kingpin," a new air traffic control center at this huge Air Force hub 50 miles north of Baghdad, the expanded commitment can be seen on the central display screen: Small points of light represent more than 100 aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time. [...]

Early this year, with little fanfare, the Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" attack planes — a dozen or more aircraft — to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons here at Balad. Although some had flown missions over Iraq from elsewhere in the region, the additions doubled to 50 or more the number of workhorse fighter-bomber jets available at bases inside the country, closer to the action.

The reinforcement involved more than numbers. The new F-16Cs were the first of the advanced "Block 50" version to fly in Iraq, an aircraft whose technology includes a cockpit helmet that enables the pilot to aim his weapons at a target simply by turning his head and looking at it.

The Navy has contributed by stationing a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the reintroduction of B1-Bs has added a close-at-hand "platform" capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.

Those big bombers were moved last year from distant Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed base in the Persian Gulf. Since February, with the ground offensive, they have gone on Iraq bombing runs for the first time since the 2003 invasion. [...]

The demand for air support is heavy. On one recent day, at a briefing attended by a reporter, it was noted that 48 requests for air support were filled, but 16 went unmet.

"There are times when the Army wishes we had more jets," said F-16C pilot Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, a component of Balad's 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

In addition, the Air Force is performing more "ISR" work in Iraq — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "We have probably come close to doubling our ISR platforms the past 12 months," said Col. Gary Crowder, a deputy air operations chief for the Central Command.

Those proliferating reconnaissance platforms include Predator drones, high-flying U2s and AWACS, the technology-packed airborne warning and control aircraft, three of which returned to the Persian Gulf in April after three years' absence.

The F-16Cs and other attack planes also do surveillance work with their targeting cameras, keeping watch on convoy routes, for example. By Oct. 1, Crowder said, all squadrons will have "ROVER" capability, able to download real-time aerial video to the laptop computers of troops on the ground — showing them, in effect, what's around the next corner.

"They love it. It's like having a security camera wherever you want it," said Col. Joe Guastella, the Air Force's regional operations chief.

Air Force engineers, meanwhile, are improving this centrally located home base, which supports some 10,000 air operations per week.

The weaker of Balad's two 11,000-foot runways was reinforced — for five to seven years' more hard use. The engineers next will build concrete "overruns" at the runways' ends. Balad's strategic ramp, the concrete parking lot for its biggest planes, was expanded last fall. The air traffic control system is to be upgraded again with the latest technology.

"We'd like to get it to be a field like Langley, if you will," said mission support chief Reynolds, referring to the Air Force showcase base in Virginia.

The Air Force has flown over Iraq for many years, having enforced "no-fly zones" with the Navy in 1991-2003, banning Iraqi aircraft from northern and southern areas of this country. Today, too, it takes a long view: Many expect the Army to draw down its Iraq forces by 2009, but the Air Force is planning for a continued conflict in which it supports Iraqi troops.

"Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to sufficient capability, I think the coalition will be here to support that effort," Lt. Gen. Gary North, overall regional air commander, said in an interview. The new Iraqi air force thus far fields only a handful of transports and reconnaissance aircraft — no attack planes.

North also echoed a common theme in today's Air Force: Some of the U.S. planes are too old. Some of his KC-135 air-refueling tankers date from 1956. Heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan is cracking the wings of some A-10s, the Air Force says.

"We are burning these airplanes out," North said. "Our A-10s and our F-16s are rapidly becoming legacy systems." [Emphasis added]

One thing is clear: the US does not plan on pulling out its warplanes any time soon. Far from ramping down the air presence, they are busily ramping it up, building new facilities, adding aircraft.

And what in the world are long-range B-1B bombers, which cost something like a third of a billion dollars each, doing flying close air support against insurgents with AK-47s and homemade bombs? I hope the following story isn't a clue. Deutsche Welle (via Cryptogon):

The Ramstein air base in southwestern Germany, long the largest US nuclear storehouse in Europe, has been completely emptied of its atomic arsenal according to experts who say the weapons are out of the country.

This week the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said in a study that the US army had apparently completely removed its stock of an estimated 130 nuclear weapons from the Ramstein air base. [Emphasis added]

B-1B bombers and a bunch of repurposed nukes. Please say this has nothing to do with Iran.

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July 16, 2007

How The News Works Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq  Media

This is excellent.

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June 27, 2007

Legacy Iraq

There are no words. WaPo:

Marwa Hussein watched as gunmen stormed into her home and executed her parents. Afterward, her uncle brought her to the Alwiya Orphanage, a high-walled compound nestled in central Baghdad with a concrete yard for a playground. That was more than two years ago, and for 13-year-old Marwa, shy and thin with walnut-colored eyes and long brown hair, the memory of her parents' last moments is always with her.

"They were killed," she said, her voice trailing away as she sat on her narrow bed with pink sheets. Tears started to slide down her face. As social worker Maysoon Tahsin comforted her, other orphans in the room, where 12 girls sleep, watched solemnly.

Iraq's conflict is exacting an immense and largely unnoticed psychological toll on children and youth that will have long-term consequences, said social workers, psychiatrists, teachers and aid workers in interviews across Baghdad and in neighboring Jordan.

"With our limited resources, the societal impact is going to be very bad," said Haider Abdul Muhsin, one of the country's few child psychiatrists. "This generation will become a very violent generation, much worse than during Saddam Hussein's regime."

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes, half of them children, according to the United Nations Children's Fund. Many are being killed inside their sanctuaries -- at playgrounds, on soccer fields and in schools. Criminals are routinely kidnapping children for ransom as lawlessness goes unchecked. Violence has orphaned tens of thousands. [...]

In a World Health Organization survey of 600 children ages 3 to 10 in Baghdad last year, 47 percent said they had been exposed to a major traumatic event over the past two years. Of this group, 14 percent showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a second study of 1,090 adolescents in the northern city of Mosul, 30 percent showed symptoms of the disorder. [...]

Many of the children [Iraqi psychiatrist] Abdul Muhsin treats have witnessed killings. They have anxiety problems and suffer from depression. Some have recurring nightmares and wet their beds. Others have problems learning in school. Iraqi children, he said, show symptoms not unlike children in other war zones such as Lebanon, Sudan and the Palestinian territories. [...]

"We adults are afraid of what's happening in Iraq. How do you think it will affect the children?" [...]

At Sadr General, as many as 250 children arrive for treatment every day, nearly double from last year. "We only treat the first 20 children who arrive and then we run out of drugs," Sahib said. There is no child psychiatrist on staff.

At the orphanage, Dina Shadi sleeps a few feet away from Marwa Hussein. Twelve-year-old Dina had recently received two telephone calls from relatives. She learned that her 17-year-old brother had been killed and that her aunt had been kidnapped and executed. [...]

"Now Dina expects another call with more bad news. She has a very dark image of the future. More and more, she's afraid of the future."

UNICEF officials estimate that tens of thousands children lost one or both parents to the conflict in the past year. If trends continue, they expect the numbers to rise this year, said Claire Hajaj, a UNICEF spokesperson in Amman, Jordan. [...]

At a primary school in the Zayuna neighborhood of Baghdad, three teachers sat in the head office lamenting how Iraq's sectarian strife had affected their classrooms. A quarter of their students had left for safer areas. Some parents were too scared to send their children to school, fearing attacks.

"Now, the young students when they enter the school, they ask their classmates whether they are Sunni or Shia," said Nagher Ziad Salih, 37, the school's principal.

"Yesterday, I was taking my 6-year-old grandson for a walk. He asked me 'Is this a Shia street or a Sunni street?' " said Um Amil, who asked that her full name not be used because she was afraid she could become a target. "I said: We are all Muslims. But he was still determined to know if this was street was Sunni or Shia."

"Such a child, when he grows up, what will he become?" she asked.

Salih said children quarreling on the playground now invoke the names of armed groups. "The child would say: I'll get the Mahdi Army to take revenge," she said. "The other kid would say back: My uncle is from the [Sunni] resistance and he'll take revenge against you."

The third teacher, Um Hanim, spoke up.

"Now the kid whose parent is killed by a Sunni or a Shia, what will be his future?" she said, also insisting that her full name not be used. "He will have a grudge inside him." [...]

Twenty-year-old Yasser Laith, short with a thin goatee and a cold stare, cannot sleep at night. When a rocket crashed into his family's house in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya in November, he crawled into the kitchen and curled up in fear.

"Whenever I hear an explosion, I start trembling," mumbled Laith, as he waited at Ibn Rushed hospital for a 10-day supply of anti-psychotic drugs.

Another day, intense clashes erupted on his street, and U.S. combat helicopters hovered over the area. Laith grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle, rushed to his roof and began firing into the sky.

"My father is ashamed of me. I wanted to show that I was as good as the others," Laith said with a half-crazed smile. "After that I felt satisfied."

Today, he takes pills to help control his violence and stop him from hitting his two younger sisters or abusing his parents. Several of his friends, he said, had joined the Sunni insurgency. He, too, was tempted, especially after learning that one of his friends had been killed by the Mahdi Army.

"I had the desire to seek revenge," Laith said, smiling again.

When Laith left the room to go to the bathroom, his 57-year-old mother, Sahira Asadallah, said she was scared that her son would commit a crime or join an insurgent group. She wondered how long Laith would have to take the drugs, then answered herself: "This will only end with the end of the war." [Emphasis added]

Actions have consequences. Iraq isn't some tv show. It's a real place where real people, millions of them children, are subjected to unspeakable suffering and terror, day in, day out. The inevitable result is a legacy of hatred and violence that will endure for generations. Among the people we supposedly were liberating.

And here in the US, the unspeakable Ann Coulter gets to go on television and say this:

We need to be less concerned about civilian casualties — we bombed more people in Hamburg in two days — I'd rather have their civilians die than our civilians — we should kill their people.

I want to scream.

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June 15, 2007

The Surge Iraq

An average of 98 US troops per month were killed in Iraq over the past six months (Dec 06 through May 07). How does that compare with other six month periods of the war?

Each bar represents a six month period, with the bar at the right being the most recent.

Not a good trend.

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June 14, 2007

3400, 3500 Iraq  Media

The carnage continues in Iraq.

While I was gone from the blog, US troops deaths in Iraq passed the 3400 mark. Then 3500. US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3513.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

230 US troops were killed in April and May, the worst two-month total of the entire war, a fact worthy of some public discussion, one might think.

The situation is deteriorating. Fox News responds by cutting its Iraq coverage, a policy Bill O'Reilly likes just fine. Yes, let's all shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears, and go "La la la la." As if this isn't all happening in a real place, to real people. Unspeakable.

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May 09, 2007

Support The Troops Iraq  Politics

In case you haven't already seen this...

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May 03, 2007

The War Through Women's Eyes Iraq

This is an absolutely devastating video made by two Iraqi women who spent three months travelling around Iraq, visiting other women and filming what they saw. Life as it's being lived today in Iraq, especially by Iraq's women. It's worse than you think.

Watch (via Sabbah):

There was a time when we were told the "liberation" of Iraq would mean liberation for Iraq's women. Watch the video and you'll see what an unspeakably grotesque lie that has turned out to be.

It's a humble, low-key amateur production, eloquent in its simplicity, and that makes it all the more heart-breaking. A truly stunning document of the insanity of the US war.

Often, we're led to believe that the suffering and violence are confined largely to Baghdad, that elsewhere in Iraq things are relatively peaceful, life relatively normal. Watch this film and you'll see that nothing could be further from the truth. Iraq is in ruins. The US has committed a crime of unimaginable proportions, a crime which continues, and deepens. Shame on us all.

[Thanks, Miles]

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April 27, 2007

Kristol Gets Nailed Iraq

Chickenhawk William Kristol gets a good talking to by an articulate, pissed-off military wife. Worth a listen.

[Thanks, Clay]

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April 26, 2007

Disintegrating Iraq Iraq

Iraqi blogger Riverbend, writing about the wall that's being built around a "Sunni" area in Baghdad, and about the wreckage that is Iraq today. It's heart-breaking:

The wall, of course, will protect no one. I sometimes wonder if this is how the concentration camps began in Europe. The Nazi government probably said, "Oh look — we're just going to protect the Jews with this little wall here — it will be difficult for people to get into their special area to hurt them!" And yet, it will also be difficult to get out.

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently — Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer — like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".

I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.

I remember Baghdad before the war — one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were — we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it — depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea — leaving ones home and extended family — leaving ones country — and to what? To where? [...]

So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees — the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare — stay and wait and try to survive. [...]

The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends... And to what? [Emphasis added]

There may have been people in the White House and the Pentagon who actually believed that US troops would be greeted as liberators and accepted as the new de facto rulers of Iraq. Or maybe the game plan has always been to create such chaos that Iraqis would eventually demand partition of their own country. Or — perhaps most likely — both, with various factions working at cross-purposes. In any case, I think we need vehemently to resist the notion that if only the US had done this or that thing differently — short of immediately pulling out after the fall of Saddam, something that was never in the cards, just look at the enormous US embassy under construction in Baghdad — it all could have ended well. There isn't some "right" way to invade and occupy a nation of people who do not want you there. The problem isn't that the invasion was done wrong. The problem is that the invasion was done at all. And every day that US troops remain in Iraq, the failure and the unimaginable suffering only deepen.

The US has so much to answer for. If we don't redeem ourselves soon — assuming that redemption is still even possible — it seems inescapable that, one way or another, the US will pay a dark and heavy price. Call it karma, cause and effect. Or call it justice.

[Thanks, Miles]

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April 20, 2007

The Failure Of Iraqification Iraq

The Iraqification of the war — Iraqi troops "standing up" so US troops can "stand down" — has always been an absurdly impossible dream. Never happen. McClatchy Newspapers say the Pentagon's finally facing up to that fact, but unfortunately it's replacing it with an even more impossible dream: US troops single-handedly defeating the insurgents and gaining control of Iraq. Never happen. Excerpts:

Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq. [...]

Maj. Gen. Doug Lute, the director of operations at U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activities in the Middle East, said that during the troop increase, U.S. officers will be trying to determine how ready Iraqi forces are to assume control.

"We are looking for indicators where we can assess the extent to which we are fighting alongside Iraqi security forces, not as a replacement to them," he said. Those signs will include "things like the number of U.S.-only missions, the number of combined U.S.-Iraqi missions, the number where Iraqis are in the lead, the number of Joint Security Stations set up," he said.

That's a far cry from the optimistic assessments U.S. commanders offered throughout 2006 about the impact of training Iraqis.

President Bush first announced the training strategy in the summer of 2005.

"Our strategy can be summed up this way," Bush said. "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." [...]

Throughout 2006, Casey and top Bush administration leaders touted the training as a success, asserting that eight of Iraq's 10 divisions had taken the lead in confronting insurgents. [...]

[But] in nearly every area where Iraqi forces were given control, the security situation rapidly deteriorated. The exceptions were areas dominated largely by one sect and policed by members of that sect.

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, which Bush celebrated last year as an example of success, suspected Sunni Muslim insurgents set off a bomb last month that killed as many as 150 people, the largest single bombing attack of the war. Shiite Muslim mobs, including some police officers, pulled Sunnis from their homes and executed dozens afterward. U.S. troops were dispatched to restore order.

Earlier this month, U.S. forces engaged in heavy fighting in the southern city of Diwaniyah after Iraqi forces, who'd been given control of the region in January 2006, lost control of the city.

U.S. officials said they once believed that if they empowered their Iraqi counterparts, they'd take the lead and do a better job of curtailing the violence. But they concede that's no longer their operating principle. [...]

Many officials are vague about when the U.S. will know when troops can begin to return home. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. is trying to buy "time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that's required."

One State Department official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, expressed the same sentiment in blunter terms. "Our strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something," he said. [Emphasis added]

This is what the surge is about: US troops shouldering aside the Iraqis. But we've seen this movie before, in Vietnam. There are plenty of differences between Iraq and Vietnam, but some things haven't changed. Once again, we see a succession of increasingly desperate plans, each touted as the answer, the one that will turn things around, and each diverging farther and farther from reality. Can-do planners see US "credibility" as being on the line, so they keep upping the ante — and sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand. No general or politician wants to be the one to say it can't be done. They've got their egos and careers to consider. But it's Iraqis who pay the awful price.

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April 19, 2007

War Czar Execution Manager Humor & Fun  Iraq





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April 18, 2007

Loan Wolf Humor & Fun  Iraq  Politics

A great Jon Stewart bit on Paul Wolfowitz:



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Today In Baghdad Iraq

Violence in Baghdad Wednesday "killed at least 171 people and wounded scores" (CNN).

That's many times the death toll at Virginia Tech. The people of Iraq endure that every day. Day in, day out. Year in, year out. Because of the US.

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April 17, 2007

From Bad To Worse Iraq

Iraq is going from bad to worse. First, the casualty rate among US troops is accelerating. Miami Herald:

Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began, an indication that the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. forces even after more than four years of fighting.

From October 2006 through last month, 532 American soldiers were killed, the most during any six-month period of the war. March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces.

Senior American military officials attribute much of the increase to the Baghdad security crackdown, now in its third month. But the rate of fatalities was increasing even before a more aggressive strategy began moving U.S. troops from heavily fortified bases into smaller neighborhood outposts throughout the capital, placing them at greater risk of roadside bombings and small-arms attacks. [Emphasis added]

And the chaos is spreading outward from Iraq. James Zogby:

With the discovery of an Al Qaida cell in Morocco, and deadly suicide terrorist attacks in Algiers and the National Parliament in Baghdad, it is now clear that Bin Laden's cancerous group has metastasised, spawning affiliates and copy-cat groups across the region. What is also clear is that war in Iraq is aggravating this growth in two other ways.

On the one hand, the war itself, the occupation and the behaviour associated with it, have fuelled extremism. Of equally deadly consequence is the fact that Iraq is now playing the role once reserved for Afghanistan. Reports coming out of Morocco and Algeria, establish that hundreds of young men from both countries have travelled to Iraq for training and combat, and have returned to their home countries with evil intent. [...]

In Iraq, demonstrations led by Moqtada Al Sadr brought out hundreds of thousands of Iraqis calling for an end to the US presence in their country. In a surprising display of unity in Najaf, Sunni and Shiite clerics walked together, in the mass mobilisation. This outpouring came in response to Al Sadr's call to all Iraqis to cease fighting each other in sectarian attacks and to unite around a single cause: ending the United States' 'occupation' of Iraq. A possible contributing factor to this display of unity may be found in a US Pentagon report noting that casualties in Iraq have actually increased since the beginning of the Bush Administration's 'surge'. While it is true that violence has decreased in Baghdad, it is more than offset by killings in the rest of Iraq as insurgents and sectarian terrorists have dispersed to other locations.

But, Baghdad is still not safe, as was made clear on Thursday when a suicide bomber penetrated multiple layers of security to detonate his bomb in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament building. All of this directly challenged the notion that the 'surge' is working. In Afghanistan things are no better; Taliban attacks are up, as are Nato casualties. A recent report by a former US army general claims that much of Afghanistan has reverted into a lawless narco-state. [Emphasis added]

An Iraqi group said to be linked to al-Qaeda says that Iraq has become a "university of terrorism." Irish Times:

The head of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq said the country had become a "university of terrorism", producing highly qualified warriors, since the 2003 US-led invasion.

In an audio recording posted on the Internet today, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, said his fighters were successfully confronting US forces in Iraq and have begun producing a guided missile called al-Quds 1 or Jerusalem 1.

"The largest batch of soldiers for jihad ... in the history of Iraq are graduating and they have the highest level of competence in the world," Baghdadi said. [...]

"We would like to inform the mujahideen all over the world, and especially in Iraq, that the Quds (Jerusalem) 1 rocket has gone into the phase of military production," Baghdadi said, adding that its length, weight, range and precision "matches those of world powers". [...]

"The fear of the American Marines has disappeared from the hearts of the people of the world, as the mujahideen have become thousands from the few they were after the fall of the infidel Baath regime," Baghdadi said. "These are just some of the achievements of four years of jihad." [Emphasis added]

I hate to think about where this is all heading, but it's hard to see any way that it doesn't become a whole lot worse before it gets any better. All the King's horses and all the King's men (what horses and men the King has left) can't put this Humpty-Dumpty together again.

Failed states don't spontaneously recover, and chaos only breeds more chaos in a self-reinforcing feedback loop. The Soviet Union once seemed impregnable; then it got tied down in Afghanistan, and things unravelled quite suddenly and unexpectedly. It's hard to imagine the US imploding the way the Soviets did, but we sure seem determined to follow in their footsteps. The USSR seemed stable and secure — until it wasn't anymore. Chaotic, nonlinear systems can shift to new equilibrium states quite suddenly and unexpectedly. The pace of change is accelerating; nothing lasts forever.

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April 16, 2007

Study: Iraq's Children Severely Traumatized By War Iraq

Even if the war were to end today, which of course it won't, its legacy will be felt for generations. USA Today:

About 70% of primary school students in a Baghdad neighborhood suffer symptoms of trauma-related stress such as bed-wetting or stuttering, according to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

The survey of about 2,500 youngsters is the most comprehensive look at how the war is affecting Iraqi children, said Iraq's national mental health adviser and author of the study, Mohammed Al-Aboudi.

"The fighting is happening in the streets in front of our houses and schools," Al-Aboudi said. "This is very difficult for the children to adapt to." [...]

Many Iraqi children have to pass dead bodies on the street as they walk to school in the morning, according to a separate report last week by the International Red Cross. Others have seen relatives killed or have been injured in mortar or bomb attacks.

"Some of these children are suffering one trauma after another, and it's severely damaging their development," said Said Al-Hashimi, a psychiatrist who teaches at Mustansiriya Medical School and runs a private clinic in west Baghdad. "We're not certain what will become of the next generation, even if there is peace one day," Al-Hashimi said.

The study was conducted last October in the Sha'ab district of northern Baghdad. The low- to middle-income neighborhood is inhabited by a mix of Shiites and Sunni Arabs. Al-Aboudi said he believes the sample was broadly representative of conditions throughout the capital. [...]

The study "shows the impact of the violence and insecurity on the children and on children's mental health," said Naeema Al-Gasseer, the Iraqi representative of the WHO. "They have fear every day." [Emphasis added]

The effects of early childhood trauma last a lifetime. They are extraordinarily difficult to overcome. And they will reverberate down the generations.

Look at that photo. That is the human reality of what the US has done and continues to do. It is unspeakable. It is insane. It is unforgivable. If you can look at that photo without wanting to weep, then you are made of sterner stuff than I.

[Thanks, Miles]

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3300 Iraq

The carnage continues in Iraq.

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3302.

100 in just the past month.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

Update: [5:55 PM] Since just this morning, the count has jumped to 3308.

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April 12, 2007

Turning Baghdad Into A Prison Iraq

Robert Fisk reports that the US is planning to seal off large portions of Baghdad as walled enclaves, with people's movements and activities tightly controlled. Excerpts:

Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad - despite President George Bush's "surge" in troops - US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.

The campaign of "gated communities" - whose genesis was in the Vietnam War - will involve up to 30 of the city's 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq.

The system has been used - and has spectacularly failed - in the past, and its inauguration in Iraq is as much a sign of American desperation at the country's continued descent into civil conflict as it is of US determination to "win" the war against an Iraqi insurgency that has cost the lives of more than 3,200 American troops. The system of "gating" areas under foreign occupation failed during the French war against FLN insurgents in Algeria and again during the American war in Vietnam. Israel has employed similar practices during its occupation of Palestinian territory - again, with little success. [...]

The latest "security" plan, of which The Independent has learnt the details, was concocted by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Baghdad, during a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Those attending the course - American army generals serving in Iraq and top officers from the US Marine Corps, along with, according to some reports, at least four senior Israeli officers - participated in a series of debates to determine how best to "turn round" the disastrous war in Iraq.

The initial emphasis of the new American plan will be placed on securing Baghdad market places and predominantly Shia Muslim areas. Arrests of men of military age will be substantial. The ID card project is based upon a system adopted in the city of Tal Afar by General Petraeus's men - and specifically by Colonel H R McMaster, of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment - in early 2005, when an eight-foot "berm" was built around the town to prevent the movement of gunmen and weapons. General Petraeus regarded the campaign as a success although Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, has since fallen back into insurgent control.

So far, the Baghdad campaign has involved only the creation of a few US positions within several civilian areas of the city but the new project will involve joint American and Iraqi "support bases" in nine of the 30 districts to be "gated" off. From these bases - in fortified buildings - US-Iraqi forces will supposedly clear militias from civilian streets which will then be walled off and the occupants issued with ID cards. Only the occupants will be allowed into these "gated communities" and there will be continuous patrolling by US-Iraqi forces. There are likely to be pass systems, "visitor" registration and restrictions on movement outside the "gated communities". Civilians may find themselves inside a "controlled population" prison.

In theory, US forces can then concentrate on providing physical reconstruction in what the military like to call a "secure environment". But insurgents are not foreigners, despite the presence of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. They come from the same population centres that will be "gated" and will, if undiscovered, hold ID cards themselves; they will be "enclosed" with everyone else.

A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus's plans is sceptical of the possible results. "The first loyalty of any Sunni who is in the Iraqi army is to the insurgency," he said. "Any Shia's first loyalty is to the head of his political party and its militia. Any Kurd in the Iraqi army, his first loyalty is to either Barzani or Talabani. There is no independent Iraqi army. These people really have no choice. They are trying to save their families from starvation and reprisal. At one time they may have believed in a unified Iraq. At one time they may have been secular. But the violence and brutality that started with the American invasion has burnt those liberal ideas out of people ... Every American who is embedded in an Iraqi unit is in constant mortal danger." [...]

[A]nother former senior US officer has produced his own pessimistic conclusions about the "gated" neighbourhood project.

"Once the additional troops are in place the insurrectionists will cut the lines of communication from Kuwait to the greatest extent they are able," he told The Independent. "They will do the same inside Baghdad, forcing more use of helicopters. The helicopters will be vulnerable coming into the patrol bases, and the enemy will destroy as many as they can. The second part of their plan will be to attempt to destroy one of the patrol bases. They will begin that process by utilising their people inside the 'gated communities' to help them enter. They will choose bases where the Iraqi troops either will not fight or will actually support them.

"The American reaction will be to use massive firepower, which will destroy the neighbourhood that is being 'protected'." [Emphasis added]

Today's bombing attack inside the Iraqi parliament building underscores the utter lunacy of this plan. The insurgents will find ways around any security measures that are put in place. It's their country, their city, their neighborhood. They know the people, they speak the language, they can pick the time and place to attack.

To see how crazy this plan is, project forward into the future. What's the best-case scenario? The US puts a lid on the violence (not going to happen, but we're talking best-case here) and then maintains a brutal occupation forever? Like Israel in the West Bank? Forget it.

No permanent resolution can come from this plan. It's just a way to mark time and postpone the inevitable: an American defeat and withdrawal. It can't possibly work, and therefore it's madness.

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April 09, 2007

Get Me Rewrite! Iran  Iraq  Media

A couple of months ago, the government line was that resurgents' use of EFPs was proof of high-level Iranian involvement. Remember this? CBS:

U.S. military officials charged on Sunday that the highest levels of the Iranian leadership ordered Shiite militants in Iraq to be armed with sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 American forces. [...]

The deadly and highly sophisticated weapons the U.S. military said were coming into Iraq from Iran are known as "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs.

But now Reuters says different:

"Iraqi army soldiers swept into the city of Diwaniya early this morning to disrupt militia activity and return security and stability of the volatile city back to the government of Iraq,” the US military said in a statement.

[Lieutenant-Colonel Scott] Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches. [Emphasis added]

So the devices that couldn't possibly have come from anywhere but Iranian government sources are actually manufactured by insurgents in Iraq. Not surprising in itself: what don't they lie about? But the story doesn't end there. As Atrios noticed, the Washington Post online picked up the Reuters story, as captured by Google News:

Then almost immediately, the original version was down The Memory Hole, becoming instead:

The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers died in separate roadside bombings in the east and west of Baghdad on Friday.

One of the bombs was an explosively formed projectile, a particularly deadly type of device which Washington accuses Iran of supplying Iraqi militants. [Emphasis added]

Like it was written by the Pentagon itself. Either it was, or the WaPo thinks it's their job to do the Pentagon's work without being asked. Either way, disgraceful.

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Surge Iraq

The Baghdad "surge" is producing a surge in troop deaths.

Already in the first 9 days of April, 47 US and British troops have been killed, an average of 5.22 per day. That's considerably higher than any month's average since the initial three weeks of the war.

 

For what?

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April 07, 2007

Iraq Mortality For Children Under Five: More Than 1 In 8 Iraq

The US war on Iraq has given us any number of reasons for sorrow and for shame. But this story is in a class by itself. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. IPS:

"Iraq was known to be the best in healthcare in the region," Dr. Iyad Muhammad from Ramadi General Hospital told IPS. "Best doctors, hospitals, nurses and cheapest medicines. The situation now is the opposite." [...]

"Our situation now has become worse than during the sanctions period (in the 1990s after the first Gulf war) when more than one million died and we had very little medicine and supplies to treat them."

Iraq's health index has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s, Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division and an Iraq specialist has said. [...]

"I appeared on a documentary concerning Iraqi hospitals, and that was the biggest mistake I ever committed," Dr. Rafi Jassim from Baghdad told IPS. "I was lucky to learn in proper time that militias were to raid my house that night. Now I am on the run just like any fugitive criminal, and my family faces the threat of a terrorist attack any moment."

A combination of sanctions, war and occupation has brought to Iraq the world's worst deterioration in child mortality rate. According to a report 'The State of the World's Children' released by UNICEF this year, Iraq's mortality rate for children under five was 50 per 1000 live births in 1990, and 125 [per 1000] in 2005, an annual average deterioration of 6.1 percent.

When the U.S.-led invasion was launched in 2003, the Bush administration pledged to cut Iraq's child mortality rate by half by 2005. Instead, the rate has worsened, now to 130 in 2006, according to Iraqi Health Ministry figures. [...]

"We have been exporters of medicines to Iraq, but we are not able to get any contract now to supply the Ministry of Health with medicines," Dr. Hammed al-Nuaimy, manager of a large medical supply company told IPS in Baghdad. "This is the case even though we always submit the best prices and brands of European origin."

Al-Nuaimy would not say why his company failed to get supply contracts despite competitive offers. "I leave it for you and your readers to answer," he said.

"We are being ignored by our government and by the Americans," 55-year-old Hammad Hussein from Fallujah told IPS on a visit to Baghdad. "The promises of a better life have just turned out to be ugly death."

Hussein added, "Our hospitals and clinics are paralysed and we do not find the simplest treatment, so we always have to buy medicines from the commercial market which means we have to sell something like a refrigerator or a TV set to cure a sick member of the family."

Sanaa Sulayman, studying for a biology degree at the University of Baghdad's science department told IPS that no one seems to look at health in Iraq from the environmental perspective.

"The huge amounts of explosives dropped on Iraq including those 'special weapons' like radioactive Depleted Uranium and white phosphorous have caused a dramatic increase in numbers of patients and severity of diseases," Sulayman said. "It is still getting worse by the day and no one seems to care."

A dentist from Fallujah told IPS that most Iraqis have been neglecting dental care because they are unable to afford it.

"Dental care is considered a luxury by Iraqis now, and they will not visit our clinics unless they have an intolerable toothache," said the doctor. "Most of them would ask for a tooth to be pulled rather than filling it because they cannot afford proper treatment."

The mental health situation is equally grim for Iraqis.

In a study 'Psychological effects of war on Iraqis' the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (AIP) reported in January 2007 that of 2,000 people interviewed in all 18 Iraqi provinces, 92 percent said they feared being killed in an explosion.

Sixty percent of those interviewed said the level of violence had caused them to have panic attacks, and this prevented them from going out because they feared they would be the next victims. [Emphasis added]

More than 1 child in 8 dies before age 5. The annual deterioration since 1990 of 6.1% is "a world record, well behind very poor and AIDS- affected Botswana." (Al-Ahram) Can Iraqis ever forgive us? Can we ever forgive ourselves?

As I have written before in connection with the economic sanctions that killed so many Iraqis, children especially: ultimately our collective failure is a failure of imagination. A failure to imagine the reality of hundreds of thousands of children killed. To imagine hundreds of thousands of little caskets, hundreds of thousands of mothers' hearts broken. This is happening in a real place, to real people. Imagine their sorrow and their rage.

[Thanks, Miles]

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April 03, 2007

Iraqis Unimpressed By McCain Visit Iraq  Politics

Baghdad residents were unimpressed with Senator McCain's Baghdad photo op. AP:

Iraqis in the capital said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain's account of a heavily guarded visit to a central market did not represent the current reality in Baghdad, with one calling it "propaganda."

Jaafar Moussa Thamir, a 42-year-old who sells electrical appliances at the Shorja market that the Republican congressmen visited on Sunday, said the delegation greeted some fellow vendors with Arabic phrases but he was not impressed.

"They were just making fun of us and paid this visit just for their own interests," he said. "Do they think that when they come and speak few Arabic words in a very bad manner it will make us love them? This country and its society have been destroyed because of them and I hope that they realized that during this visit."

Thamir said "about 150 U.S. soldiers and 20 humvees" accompanied the McCain delegation. [...]

"I didn't care about him, I even turned my eyes away," Thamir said. "We are being killed by the dozens everyday because of them. What were they trying to tell us? They are just pretenders."

Karim Abdullah, a 37-year-old textile merchant, said the congressmen were kept under tight security and accompanied by dozens of U.S. troops.

"They were laughing and talking to people as if there was nothing going on in this country or at least they were pretending that they were tourists and were visiting the city's old market and buying souvenirs," he said. "To achieve this, they sealed off the area, put themselves in flak jackets and walked in the middle of tens of armed American soldiers." [Emphasis added]

Fly in, use the war as a backdrop for campaign visuals, smile for the camera, tell the folks at home that up is down and black is white, fly out again. Can it get any more grotesque?

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April 02, 2007

War As Testosterone-Fueled Video Game Iraq

Why the US is doomed in Iraq. A highly disturbing video (via ICH):

Exactly the wrong way to conduct a counterinsurgency war: the callous, undisciplined, indiscriminate killing of civilians. But it's pretty close to inevitable, as troops realize that what they're doing makes no sense and is, finally, unjust and dishonorable. They live with it by flipping a mental switch — the people around them aren't people. They're just targets. And at that point the war is already lost. Iraqis won't rest until US troops are out of their country. Not after stuff like this.

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Cutting Off War Funds Versus "Supporting The Troops" Iraq

Doonesbury explains.

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March 27, 2007

Bolton On BBC Iraq

Things you won't hear on American tv:

[Via BuzzFlash]

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March 26, 2007

UK Ministry Of Defence Concluded Lancet Methodology Was Sound Iraq

When a peer-reviewed study published last October in the Lancet concluded that the war had already killed 655,000 Iraqis, the number was dismissed out of hand by US and British authorities, who publicly bad-mouthed the study's methodology. Internal documents obtained by the BBC, however, show that UK's ministry of defence was advised that the study's methodology was sound. BBC:

The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt.

Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet.

But the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser said the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".

Another expert agreed the method was "tried and tested". [...]

The Lancet medical journal published its peer-reviewed survey last October.

It was conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health and compared mortality rates before and after the invasion by surveying 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 provinces in Iraq.

The researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people.

In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.

Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate.

He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report."

But a memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: "The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."

One of the documents just released by the Foreign Office is an e-mail in which an official asks about the Lancet report: "Are we really sure the report is likely to be right? That is certainly what the brief implies."

The reply from another official is: "We do not accept the figures quoted in the Lancet survey as accurate."

In the same e-mail the official later writes: "However, the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."

Asked how the government can accept the Lancet's methodology but reject its findings, the government has issued a written statement in which it said: "The methodology has been used in other conflict situations, notably the Democratic republic of Congo.

"However, the Lancet figures are much higher than statistics from other sources, which only goes to show how estimates can vary enormously according to the method of collection.

"There is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures."

In fact some of the British government criticism of the Lancet report post-dated Sir Roy's comments.

Speaking six days after Sir Roy praised the study's methods, British foreign office minister Lord Triesman said: "The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern...." [...]

If the Lancet survey is right, then 2.5% of the Iraqi population - an average of more than 500 people a day - have been killed since the start of the war. [Emphasis added]

Most people don't understand statistical sampling, so they tend to form an opinion based on a sort of rough average of all the comments they happen to hear. If pretty much everybody who gets on tv says one kind of number, a study like the Lancet study can't make much of a dent in how people think. It seems like too much of an outlier. No matter that most of the numbers being thrown around have little scientific basis, certainly not the kind of scientific basis the Lancet number has: the Lancet number gets shouted down.

It may be that the Lancet figure is too high. But a rough head count of what statistically-illiterate pundits and spin doctors say is not the way to make that determination. Especially when they have already lied about everything else.

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Army Deploys Seriously Injured Troops Iraq

Salon reports that the Army has been sending seriously injured troops to its desert training base to inflate unit readiness stats. Some seriously injured troops have even been deployed to Iraq. Excerpts:

Last November, Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, a communications specialist with a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, had surgery on an ankle he had injured during physical training. After the surgery, doctors put his leg in a cast, and he was supposed to start physical therapy when that cast came off six weeks later.

But two days after his cast was removed, Army commanders decided it was more important to send him to a training site in a remote desert rather than let him stay at Fort Benning, Ga., to rehabilitate. In January, Hernandez was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where his unit, the 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, was conducting a month of training in anticipation of leaving for Iraq in March.

Hernandez says he was in no shape to train for war so soon after his injury. "I could not walk," he told Salon. ..."I was told by my doctor and my physical therapist that this was crazy." [...]

[W]hen he got to California, he was led to a large tent where he would be housed. He was shocked by what he saw inside: There were dozens of other hurt soldiers. Some were on crutches, and others had arms in slings. Some had debilitating back injuries. And nearby was another tent, housing female soldiers with health issues ranging from injuries to pregnancy.

Hernandez is one of a dozen soldiers who stayed for weeks in those tents who were interviewed for this report, some of whose medical records were also reviewed by Salon. All of the soldiers said they had no business being sent to Fort Irwin given their physical condition. In some cases, soldiers were sent there even though their injuries were so severe that doctors had previously recommended they should be considered for medical retirement from the Army.

Military experts say they suspect that the deployment to Fort Irwin of injured soldiers was an effort to pump up manpower statistics used to show the readiness of Army units. With the military increasingly strained after four years of war, Army readiness has become a critical part of the debate over Iraq. Some congressional Democrats have considered plans to limit the White House's ability to deploy more troops unless the Pentagon can certify that units headed into the fray are fully equipped and fully manned.

Salon recently uncovered another troubling development in the Army's efforts to shore up troop levels, reporting earlier this month that soldiers from the 3rd Brigade had serious health problems that the soldiers claimed were summarily downgraded by military doctors at Fort Benning in February, apparently so that the Army could send them to Iraq. Some of those soldiers were among the group sent to Fort Irwin to train in January.

After arriving at Fort Irwin, many of the injured soldiers did not train. "They had all of us living in a big tent," confirmed Spc. Lincoln Smith, who spent the month there along with Hernandez and others....His records list his problems as "permanent" and recommend that he be considered for retirement from the Army because of his health. [...]

The soldiers who were at Fort Irwin described a pitiful scene. "You had people out there with crutches and canes," said an Army captain who was being considered for medical retirement himself because of serious back injuries sustained in a Humvee accident during a previous combat tour in Iraq. [...]

Military experts point to the brigade's readiness statistics, including "unit status reports" that carefully track personnel numbers and are sent up through the Army's chain of command. "There are a number of factors used to establish whether a unit is mission-capable," explained John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, an independent organization that studies military and security issues. "One of them is the extent to which it is fully manned," he said. Pike says he suspects the injured soldiers were camped out at Fort Irwin so that on paper, at least, "the unit would have a sufficient head count to be mission-capable." [...]

But injured soldiers from the brigade were not just shuttled to California; some were sent on to Iraq. Earlier this month Salon reported that on Feb. 15, shortly after returning from Fort Irwin to Fort Benning, 75 injured soldiers from the 3rd Brigade lined up for screenings at the troop medical clinic. Some of the soldiers there that day described cursory meetings with a division surgeon — meetings designed to downgrade their health problems, the soldiers said, so that they could be deployed to the war zone. Records for some of those soldiers show doctors had previously concluded that those soldiers could not wear body armor because of serious skeletal and other injuries.

A military official knowledgeable about the training in California in January and the medical processing of the injured soldiers at Fort Benning in February told Salon that commanders were taking desperate actions to meet an accelerated deployment schedule dictated by President Bush's so-called surge plan for securing Baghdad. [...]

The New York Times reported on March 20 that of the 20 Army brigades not currently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, only one has enough equipment or soldiers to be sent quickly into combat. [Emphasis added]

Unbelievably grotesque, and a real sign of desperation.

All to protect the egos of the fools at the top.

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March 24, 2007

Fooling The Eye In The Sky Future  Iraq

Seven US Marines and a Navy medic are accused of the cold-blooded murder of a disabled Iraqi police officer named Hashim Ibrahim Awad. What's remarkable is the steps they allegedly took to fool surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles, making the murder look like a firefight. Wired (via Xymphora):

As they carried out the killing of an Iraqi civilian, seven Marines and a Navy medic used their understanding of the military's airborne surveillance technology to spoof their own systems, military hearing testimony charges. [...]

The case is remarkable for the fact that the killers nearly got away with their alleged crime right under the eye of the military's sophisticated surveillance systems. According to testimony, at least three times the warriors took deliberate, and apparently effective, measures to trick the unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs in military parlance — that watch the ground with heat-sensitive imaging by night, and high-resolution video by day. [...]

The killing took place in the early morning darkness of April 26, when a "snatch party" of three Marines and a medic set out to kill and make an example of a suspected insurgent named Saleh Gowad, who'd been captured and released many times, according to testimony. Not finding him, they went next door and seized the sleeping Awad from his home, while the four remaining squad members waited nearby.

They men allegedly flexicuffed Awad's hands and marched him about a half-mile to a bomb crater, where they bound his feet and positioned him with a stolen shovel and an AK-47. Then they returned to an attack position and shot him.

On the way, according to testimony, the forward party took at least three steps to disguise its actions from aerial surveillance, steps that initially persuaded investigators the killing was justified. One Marine went forward and dug around in the crater. At the same time, the three other troops crouched with Awad behind a low wall in what [an attorney] described as a squad in a typical military posture.

They held that pose as the surveillance UAV passed over, creating an infrared tableau of four troops watching a bomber dig a hole along the road.

After the UAV passed, and they dodged being seen by a U.S. helicopter, the four rose from behind the wall to march Awad to the crater, according to the medic's testimony. While they were moving Awad the final 125 yards to his death, according to Bacos, they heard the UAV return. Cpl. Trent Thomas quickly wrapped himself around Awad so that the two men would appear as a single person on the heat-reactive infrared sensors, according to testimony.

Then they put Awad in the hole where the Marine had posed with the shovel seconds before, backed off and signaled. Six of the eight troops opened fire — staging a firefight with a bomb-planting insurgent.

"Congratulations, we just got away with murder, gents," the squad leader told them, according to Bacos' testimony. [...]

Steps similar to those the alleged killers apparently took may someday be a routine part of planning a crime, as U.S. law enforcement agencies clamor to put UAVs over U.S. airspace for domestic surveillance. [Emphasis added]

Welcome to the future, which is already in progress.

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March 21, 2007

Time To Leave Iraq

Lawrence Korb, Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, responds to Bush's speech on the war:

In a speech yesterday to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush defended his decision to topple Saddam and offered a challenge to his critics. "It can be tempting," Bush said, "to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that your best option is to pack up and go home." But, he continued, "the consequences for American security would be devastating."

Bush has it backwards. In order to protect the security interests and to wage the global war on terror more effectively, the US must withdraw its military forces from Iraq as soon as possible. It can make the most of the withdrawal by announcing publicly that it will immediately begin a phased redeployment that will be completed in the next 18 months, and adding that we will not maintain any permanent bases in Iraq.

Embracing such a strategy will have five advantages. First, it will put the US in control of its own destiny. Without such a plan for getting out by a certain date, this country will remain hostage to events on the ground. If the green zone were to be shelled by mortars, causing a large number of casualties, or if the Ayatollah Sistani were to be assassinated, unleashing even more violence, the American public would most likely demand a much more rapid — but much less thoroughly-considered — withdrawal.

Second, the timetable will give the Iraqi political leaders an incentive as well as a reasonable period in which to make the compromises necessary to create an Iraqi nation that its security forces would be willing to fight and die for. As long as the Iraqi leaders know that the US will not "stand down until they stand up", they will not feel compelled to make the difficult choices about how to share the oil revenues equitably, balance the powers of the central and regional government and safeguard minority rights. And by remaining 18 months, or until mid-2008, the US can fulfill its moral responsibility to the Iraqi people for overthrowing their government without a realistic plan for dealing with the aftermath.

Third, the US withdrawal will undermine the power of the 1,300 al-Qaida fighters in Iraq. The vast majority of the small numbers of Iraqis who support these terrorists do so because they share the common objective of forcing us to leave. Once it is clear that we are leaving that support will dry up.

Fourth, it will put the six nations bordering Iraq on notice that the future of Iraq will be their responsibility — as well as ours — and they must become more constructively involved in preventing Iraq from becoming a failed state.

Fifth, the phased withdrawal will allow the US to relieve the strain on our overstretched ground forces. The vast majority of the Army brigades in Iraq have not had the required two years between deployments that are necessary to train and equip them properly for the next mission. At least four of the brigades now in Iraq have not even had a year between deployments. The withdrawal will also allow the US to bring its Army National Guard back to the States to focus on homeland defense. [...]

To make the most of the withdrawal, the US must also undertake a diplomatic surge to complement the strategic redeployment of its military forces in the region. This diplomatic surge will involve appointing a special envoy (with the stature of a former secretary of state) and charging him or her with getting all six of Iraq's neighbors involved in working with us to stabilize Iraq. While the interests of all these nations are not identical to ours, none of them wants to live with an Iraq that becomes a failed state. [Emphasis added]

Carl Oglesby wrote a very interesting little book thirty years ago called The Yankee and Cowboy War that looked at various seemingly-unrelated upheavals in American political life as the surface tremors accompanying an ongoing tectonic power struggle ruthlessly pitting Northeast Establishment banking and Wall Street money (Yankees) against upstart Sun Belt oil and aerospace money (Cowboys). The Council on Foreign Relations is, of course, the foreign policy group for the Yankee Establishment, while George Bush is the quintessential Cowboy politician. It may be interesting, as the rest of Bush's term plays out, to watch events through Oglesby's lens.

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March 20, 2007

Iraq: A "Deepening Nightmare" Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is one of the very few Western journalists in Iraq who knows first-hand what's happening on the ground. On the fourth anniversary of the invasion, he writes:

Four years ago, in the middle of the US invasion, I drove safely from Arbil in northern Iraq to Baghdad. There were heaps of discarded weapons beside the road, and long lines of former Iraqi soldiers walking home. Signs of battle were few, aside from the hulks of burned-out tanks, but they all seemed to have been hit by US aircraft after their crews had fled.

If I tried to make the same journey today, I would be killed or kidnapped long before I reached Baghdad. Kurdish ministers in the Iraqi government dare not travel by road between the capital and their homeland. Three bodyguards of the Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, were ambushed and killed when they tried to do so a month ago.

Tony Blair and George Bush still occasionally imply that the picture of Iraq as a war-torn hell is an exaggeration by the media. They suggest, though not as forcibly as they did a couple of years ago, that parts of the country are relatively peaceful. Nothing could be more untrue.

In reality, the violence is grossly understated. The Baker-Hamilton report by senior Republicans and Democrats, led by James Baker, took a single day last summer, when the US army reported 93 acts of violence in Iraq, and asked American intelligence to re-examine the evidence. They found the real figure was 1,100--the US military had deliberately understated the violence by factor of over 10. [...]

Most [ordinary Iraqis] wanted rid of Saddam Hussein because they expected a better life after his fall. Since they had oil reserves comparable to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iraqis felt, why could they not have an equivalent standard of living to Saudis and Kuwaitis?

In fact almost every aspect of Iraqi day-to-day life has got worse over the last four years. In May 2003, people in Baghdad were getting 16 to 24 hours of electricity a day. Today the official figure is just six hours a day — and even that is on the optimistic side. In a city with one of the hottest climates in the world, it is catastrophic when fridges, freezers or air conditioners cannot be used.

There are 4.8 million Iraqi children under the age of five, who have lived most of their lives since the fall of Saddam Hussein. UNICEF figures show that 20 per cent of them are so severely malnourished that their growth is stunted.

Under Saddam Hussein most Iraqis worked for the state. This worked well while he had oil revenues to pay them, but after 1990, UN sanctions meant that millions of people who had enjoyed a middle-class standard of living became totally impoverished, and four years ago more than half of Iraqis were unemployed. One of the worst scandals of the occupation is that they still are — although billions of dollars have been spent, billions were stolen.

For all the money supposedly being spent on developing the economy, there were no cranes to be seen in Baghdad except a cluster in the Green Zone, at work on a vast new American embassy.

But whatever the material failings of life, over the last four years it is the lack of security that has dominated everything else for Iraqis. By the end of 2003 I could already see mothers becoming hysterical at a school near my Baghdad hotel, because if they could not find their children they immediately feared that they had been kidnapped.

Since 2003, Iraqi life has become drenched by violence. Many Iraqis now carry two sets of papers, to pass through Sunni and Shia areas, but often it is not enough. The UN, using figures from Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry, says 3,462 civilians were killed in Iraq in November and 2,914 in December. Many died at the hands of death squads, picked up on the street or caught at checkpoints. [...]

People in Baghdad used to say that under Saddam Hussein, life was fairly safe if you kept out of politics. This was true of crime: during the war of 1991 I was once stranded in the semi-desert between Baghdad and Mosul when my car broke down, because the petrol in the tank had been watered down. I travelled on to Mosul, hitching lifts from farmers without any threat to my safety. If I did that today, I would be stopped and probably murdered at one of the official or unofficial checkpoints on the road. [Emphasis added]

A million children under the age of five who are so malnourished that their growth is stunted. As a percentage of population, that's equivalent to more than 10 million children in the US. Imagine the resulting anguish and rage. Even if the war were to end today, its effects will be felt for years, if not for generations.

[Thanks, Miles]

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March 15, 2007

3200 Iraq

The carnage continues in Iraq.

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3203.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

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March 08, 2007

Worst Case Scenario Global Guerrillas  Iraq

Rolling Stone convened a panel of experts and asked them about Iraq. All agreed that the war is lost. The only question is how bad is it going to get. The experts: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Clarke, Nir Rosen, General Tony McPeak, Senator Bob Graham, Ambassador Chas Freeman, Paul Pillar, Michael Scheuer, Juan Cole.

Best case scenario: Civil war in Iraq and a stronger al Qaeda. Most likely scenario: Years of ethnic cleansing and war with Iran. Worst case scenario: World War III. A few quotes:

Graham: I believe the chance that the chaos in Iraq could bring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia into the mix is in the forty to fifty percent range. The big danger is what I call the August 1914 Syndrome. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo — what would have been in the scale of history a minor event — set in motion activities that turned out to be beyond the ability of the Western powers to control. And they ended up in one of the most brutal wars in man's history by accident. If the Saudis come in heavily on the side of the Sunnis, as they have threatened to do, and the Iranians — directly or through shadow groups like Hezbollah — become active on behalf of the Shiites, and the Turks and the Kurds get into a border conflict, the flames could spread throughout the region. The real nightmare beyond the nightmare is if the large Islamic populations in Western Europe become inflamed. Then it could be a global situation.

Rosen: Iraq will be the battleground where the Sunni-Shia conflict will be fought, but it won't be limited to Iraq. It will spread. Pandora's box is open. We didn't just open it, we opened it and threw fuel into it and threw matches into it. You'll soon see Sunni militias destabilizing countries like Jordan and Syria — where the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood is very strong. It took about ten years for the Palestinians to become politicized and militarized when they were first expelled from Palestine. You're likely to see something like that occurring in the huge Iraqi refugee populations in Syria and Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan is resented for being an American stooge and an accomplice with Israel. I'm convinced that the monarchy in Jordan will fall as a result of this, and Israel will be confronted with a frontline state on its longest border with an Arab country.

Scheuer: I can't help but think we've signed Jordan's death warrant. The country is already on a simmering boil because of the king's oppression of Islamists. It could turn into a police state like Egypt, or an incoherent, revolving-door-type government like Lebanon is becoming now.

Rosen: You're going to see borders changing, governments falling. Lebanon is already on the precipice. Throughout the region, government officials are terrified. Nobody knows how to stop it. This is World War III. How far will it spread? Anywhere there are Islamic movements, like in Somalia, in Sudan, in Yemen. Pakistan has always had Sunni-Shia fighting. The flow of Iraqi refugees will at some point affect Europe. [...]

McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference. [Emphasis added]

Too bad generals don't speak that frankly before they retire.

In some ways, they may be underestimating the dangers. People still tend to think in terms of nation-state actors, but globalization melts borders. Globalization supports a free flow of people, funding, ideas, ideologies, techniques and technologies (including techniques and technologies for guerrilla war), and it weakens people's loyalty to the nation-state. More and more, people identify with their religious, ethnic, or tribal group. So on one level, globalization unites the world, but, paradoxically, it atomizes it at the same time. All of this is a recipe for a decentralized, entrepreneurial, "open source" form of war by what John Robb calls "global guerrillas" not acting on any nation-state's behalf. As in Iraq. August, 1914 may not be the best analogy. More like, Lord of the Flies.

Pandora's box, indeed.

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March 07, 2007

Seven Countries In Five Years 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq  Politics

I'm astonished that this hasn't been all over the news. On February 27, Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark. Clark said this:

About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" — meaning the Secretary of Defense's office — "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don’t show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!" [Emphasis added]

It seems inconceivable that Clark is just making this up. So I guess it's official: we're in the hands of complete and utter lunatics. Seven countries — seven unprovoked, preemptive wars — in five years. They think they're Hitler, or Napoleon, or Alexander the Great — with nukes. In their minds, the Republic is over; it's Empire time.

People who think like this, what are the chances they're going to accept defeat in Iraq quietly? If you're not scared yet, you should be.

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March 06, 2007

It Didn't Start With Dubya Iraq  Politics

Before Bush's lies about Iraq's WMD, there were Clinton's lies, as former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter reminds us:

From January 1993 until my resignation from the United Nations in August 1998, I witnessed first hand the duplicitous Iraq policies of the administration of Bill Clinton, the implementation of which saw a President lie to the American people about a threat he knew was hyped, lie to Congress about his support of a disarmament process his administration wanted nothing to do with, and lie to the world about American intent, which turned its back on the very multilateral embrace of diplomacy as reflected in the resolutions of the Security Council...and instead pursued a policy defined by the unilateral interests of the Clinton administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

I personally witnessed the Director of the CIA under Bill Clinton, James Woolsey, fabricate a case for the continued existence of Iraqi ballistic missiles in November 1993 after I had provided a detailed briefing which articulated the UN inspector's findings that Iraq's missile program had been fundamentally disarmed. I led the UN inspector's investigation into the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, in August 1995, and saw how the Clinton administration twisted his words to make a case for the continued existence of a nuclear program the weapons inspectors knew to be nothing more than scrap and old paper. I was in Baghdad at the head of an inspection team in the summer of 1996 as the Clinton administration used the inspection process as a vehicle for a covert action program run by the CIA intending to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

I twice traveled to the White House to brief the National Security Council in the confines of the White House Situation Room on the plans of the inspectors to pursue the possibility of concealed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, only to have the Clinton national security team betray the inspectors by failing to deliver the promised support, and when the inspections failed to deliver any evidence of Iraqi wrong-doing, attempt to blame the inspectors while denying any wrong doing on their part. [...]

In February 1998 the Clinton administration backed a diplomatic effort undertaken by then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to help get the weapons inspection process back on track (inspections had been stalled since January 1998, when a team I led was prevented by the Iraqis from carrying out its mission because, as the Iraqis maintained, there were too many Americans and British on the team implementing the unilateral policy of regime change instead of the mandated task of disarmament)...[President Clinton] initially supported the Annan mission, not so much because it paved a path towards disarmament, but rather because it provided a cover for legitimizing regime change.

I sat in the office of then US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, as the United States cut a deal with then-United Nations Special Commission Executive Chairman Richard Butler, where the timing and actions of an inspection team led by myself (a decision which was personally approved by Bill Clinton) would be closely linked to a massive US aerial bombardment of Iraq triggered by my inspection. I was supposed to facilitate a war by prompting Iraqi non-compliance. Instead, I did my job and facilitated an inspection that pushed the world closer to a recognition that Iraq was complying with its disarmament obligation. As a reward, I was shunned from the inspection process by the Clinton administration.

In April 1998 Bill Clinton promised Congress that his administration would provide all support necessary to the UN inspectors. In May 1998 his National Security Team implemented a new policy which turned its back on the inspectors, seeking to avoid supporting a disarmament process which undermined the policies of regime change so strongly embraced by Bill Clinton and his administration. When I resigned in August 1998 in protest over the duplicitous policies of Bill Clinton's administration, I was personally attacked by the Clinton administration in an effort to divert attention away from the truth about what they were doing regarding Iraq. Four months later Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. [...]

It turned out Saddam was in fact already disarmed. And it turned out that...President Bill Clinton...knew this when he ordered the bombing of Iraq in 1998. [Emphasis added]

As I've noted before, Bill Clinton probably killed more Iraqis than George Bush ever has (although Bush is far from done). Clinton killed via sanctions, quietly, off-camera, not via bullets and bombs.

But Ritter's article is aimed directly at Hillary Clinton. I cut that part out just because I wanted to bring Bill Clinton's role into sharp focus. But in 2002 Hillary voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, and she, of all people, knew better.

Weapons inspections work. They are a highly sophisticated technical enterprise. We're supposed to picture a collection of hapless Inspector Clouseaus bumbling around aimlessly, but that's not how it works. Inspections rely on teams of highly skilled scientists and technicians, armed with a variety of extraordinarily sensitive sensors, satellite and aircraft surveillance, and so on. The inspectors knew Iraq had no WMDs. Clinton knew it. Bush knew it. Hillary knew it, but still she voted for war.

What we need now is peace. Let's not settle for less. We can do better than Hillary Clinton.

[Thanks, Miles]

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February 27, 2007

Are We Being Played? Iraq  Politics

Digby had an interesting post yesterday on ways the Senate Dems are soft-pedaling Iraq, supposedly out of fear that Joe Lieberman will jump to the GOP, thereby ending the Democratic majority and (supposedly) putting the Republicans in control of Senate committees.

Except for one thing. As Digby points out, WaPo and MediaMatters have reported that the current Senate's organizing rules don't require the Democrats to relinquish control if they lose their majority. To regain control, the Republicans would have to pass new organizing rules, something that the Dems could — and presumably would — filibuster.

It's hard not to conclude, therefore, that Lieberman is being used as a convenient excuse by timid Senate Democrats who don't want to stick their necks out on Iraq. Yes, politics is a devious game, but there's a war on. The country needs principled and decisive action, not phony political theater.

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February 24, 2007

Everlasting Shame Iraq

Iraqi blogger Riverbend, who had not been heard from for a while, writes a heart-breaking post from Baghdad:

It takes a lot to get the energy and resolution to blog lately. I guess it's mainly because just thinking about the state of Iraq leaves me drained and depressed. But I had to write tonight.

As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can't talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

She might just be the bravest Iraqi woman ever. Everyone knows American forces and Iraqi security forces are raping women (and men), but this is possibly the first woman who publicly comes out and tells about it using her actual name. Hearing her tell her story physically makes my heart ache. Some people will call her a liar. Others (including pro-war Iraqis) will call her a prostitute — shame on you in advance. [...]

They abducted her from her house in an area in southern Baghdad called Hai Al Amil. No — it wasn't a gang. It was Iraqi peace keeping or security forces — the ones trained by Americans? You know them. She was brutally gang-raped and is now telling the story. Half her face is covered for security reasons or reasons of privacy. I translated what she said below.

"I told him, 'I don't have anything [I did not do anything].' He said, 'You don't have anything?' One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did — I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause — sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.' So they answered, 'No, an American committee came.' They took me to the judge.

Anchorwoman: Sabrine Al Janabi said that one of the security forces videotaped/photographed her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the rape. Another officer raped her after she saw the investigative judge. [...]

[Sabrine:] [Crying] He picked up a black hose, like a pipe. He hit me on the thigh. [Crying] I told him, 'What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you rape me? But I can't... I'm not one of those ***** [Prostitutes] I don't do such things.' So he said to me, 'We take what we want and what we don't want we kill. That’s that.' [Sobbing] I can't anymore... please, I can't finish."

I look at this woman and I can't feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They'll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she's one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries — that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren't they? That is gone too. [...]

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation — are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It's worse. It's over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq's first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile. [Emphasis added]

There was a time when we were told the American occupation of Iraq would improve the lot of Iraq's women. Do you remember? A particularly grotesque and bitter lie in the long list of lies. We are fools if we think there won't be consequences — for years, decades, generations to come.

These are real events, happening to real people. It's unspeakable. Shame on us. Everlasting shame.

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February 15, 2007

Hard To Be This Wrong About Anything Iraq

You really have to work at it to be this wrong. AP:

Some of the planning by Gen. Tommy Franks and other top military officials before the 2003 invasion of Iraq envisioned that as few as 5,000 U.S. troops would remain in Iraq by December 2006, according to documents obtained by a private research organization.

Slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act contain a PowerPoint presentation of what planners projected to be a stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. [...]

"First, they assumed that a provisional government would be in place by 'D-Day', then that the Iraqis would stay in their garrisons and be reliable partners, and finally that the post-hostilities phase would be a matter of mere 'months'. All of these were delusions." [Emphasis added]

What a bunch of arrogant, self-deluded fools.

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February 07, 2007

Preemptive Strike? 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq

You know things are bad when former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski starts to sound like the sanest guy in the room. Here's an excerpt from Brzezinski's testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran — though gaining in regional influence — is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about "a new strategic context" which is based on "clarity" and which prompts "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world. [...]

One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture. [Emphasis added]

The section highlighted in red above clearly suggests that the White House may seek to use a terrorist incident as a pretext to push the country into war with Iran. Possibly even that the White House may fabricate such an incident. An amazing suggestion for a national-security insider like Brzezinski to make in open testimony. Draw your own conclusions, but it seems to me that Brzezinski knew exactly what he was doing. It was a prepared statement, and Brzezinski's too careful and experienced an operator not to understand how his words would be taken. Note also the quotation marks around "defensive."

In the Q&A, Brzezinski had more to say along these lines. Barry Grey (via RI):

Following his opening remarks, in response to questions from the senators, Brzezinski reiterated his warning of a provocation.

He called the senators' attention to a March 27, 2006 report in the New York Times on "a private meeting between the president and Prime Minister Blair, two months before the war, based on a memorandum prepared by the British official present at this meeting." In the article, Brzezinski said, "the president is cited as saying he is concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the action."

He continued: "I'll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to the New York Times: 'The memo states that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.'

"He described the several ways in which this could be done. I won't go into that... the ways were quite sensational, at least one of them.

"If one is of the view that one is dealing with an implacable enemy that has to be removed, that course of action may under certain circumstances be appealing. I'm afraid that if this situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, and if Iran is perceived as in some fashion involved or responsible, or a potential beneficiary, that temptation could arise." [Emphasis added]

The "sensational" provocation that Brzezinski alluded to was this (NYT):

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

As I say, draw your own conclusions, but one has to ask why someone like Brzezinski would want to open this particular can of worms in public. It may have been a sort of preemptive strike: an attempt to create enough suspicion before the fact that the White House would be discouraged from trying to carry out the kinds of provocations Brzezinski warned about.

None of this received any coverage in the major US media.

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February 06, 2007

3100 Iraq

The carnage continues in Iraq.

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3101.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

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February 05, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance Iran  Iraq  Politics

While administration rhetoric against Iran grows more heated, a new US National Intelligence Estimate finds it "not likely" that Iran is a significant cause of violence in Iraq. Seattle Times:

The Bush administration is escalating its confrontation with Iran, sending an additional aircraft carrier and minesweepers into the Persian Gulf as it accuses the Islamic regime of arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. troops.

A new U.S. intelligence estimate Friday, however, concluded that Iranian and other outside meddling is "not likely" a major cause of the bloodshed in Iraq, and a new McClatchy analysis of U.S. casualties in Iraq found that Sunni Muslim insurgents, not Iranian-backed Shiites, have mounted most — but not all — attacks on American forces.

The Bush administration, which made exaggerated or incorrect claims about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to al-Qaida to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, hasn't provided evidence to back up its charges. [...]

"The vast majority of Americans who are being killed are still being killed by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] set by Sunnis," said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA and White House expert on Persian Gulf affairs. [...]

"The evidence that I am seeing does not seem to support the level of rhetoric, let alone the military actions" the administration is taking, Pollack said. [...]

On Friday, the National Intelligence Council, comprising the top U.S. intelligence analysts, released an assessment of the Iraq crisis that said "lethal support" from Iran to Shiite militants "clearly intensifies" the conflict, but isn't a significant factor.

"Iraq's neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events in Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining" sectarian strife, said the analysis, known as a National Intelligence Estimate.

Intelligence officials said they have strong evidence of Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army. The question is how great a role they're playing in the conflict.

"No one sees a problem," said a U.S. defense official who requested anonymity because the issue involves top-secret intelligence. [Emphasis added]

The analysts who generated the NIE have seen whatever evidence exists. If they haven't seen any evidence that Iran is playing a significant role in Iraq, it's because there isn't any evidence.

No one should be giving the White House the benefit of the doubt on this. Not after all the lies they told us to sell their attack on Iraq. The penalty for lying is not to be believed.

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February 02, 2007

Fool Me Once Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq  Politics

The influence of Israel (via AIPAC) on US politics is enormous, and that influence is pushing us towards war with Iran. The Democrats are, if anything, more in AIPAC's debt than the Republicans. On Iraq, the Dems are making gestures, at least, of opposition, but Iran is another story. Digby has a very important post on this subject. It deserves to be read in full, but let me just highlight a few things.

First, Hillary Clinton speaking the other night at an AIPAC dinner (IHT):

Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation.

"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."

And John Edwards, speaking in Israel (RawStory):

Although Edwards has criticized the war in Iraq, and has urged bringing the troops home, the former senator firmly declared that "all options must remain on the table," in regards to dealing with Iran, whose nuclear ambition "threatens the security of Israel and the entire world."

"Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons," Edwards said. "For years, the US hasn’t done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran. As my country stayed on the sidelines, these problems got worse."

Their rhetoric is utterly indistinguishable from the White House's. So much for the opposition party. Digby says he's "starting to get agitated" about the Democrats' approach to Iran. He calls it "discouraging," a misguided political strategy. But it goes way beyond just a strategy. It's who the Democrats are. Unfortunately.

All the hysteria about Iran getting a bomb is wildly overblown. As Jacques Chirac put it:

"Where would Iran drop this bomb? On Israel?" he asked. "It would not have gone off 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground."

Iran doesn't want to nuke Israel. The Iranians want a deterrent, so they won't be attacked by the US and/or Israel. The US attack on Iraq — but not North Korea — has proved the importance of a deterrent. Especially, if you've been designated a member of the "Axis of Evil." In any case, international inspections could keep a rein on an Iranian weapons program. But, as was the case with Iraq, the US refuses to take yes for an answer and let inspections do their work.

The final, horrifying irony is that an attack on Iran is certain to be far more dangerous and destructive to Israel than would be a situation where Iran is sitting with a bomb or two as a deterrent. As Digby says:

It is very unfortunate that it came to this. But you also have to recognise that as unpalatable as it might be to have another nuclear armed nation in a volatile region, it doesn't really take us much closer to the end of the world or even the end of Israel, despite all the kooky talk coming from Ahmadinejad.

Attacking Iran, however, just might. The repurcussions of such a move would cut the last frayed ties with many allies, finally destroy all of our moral authority and convince the world that we are a super-power to be contained, not an international leader that can be relied upon to behave rationally. It is a disasterous strategic move on virtually all levels that only someone with a puerile "might makes right" strategic vision would even contemplate.

As John Robb says, a war between the US/Israel and Iran "would quickly destabilize every state in the Middle East and allow them to fall prey to open source war like Iraq." I.e., we'd have not just one Iraq on our hands, but many. Failed states, torn apart by tribal guerrillas, jihadists, and criminal gangs, as in Iraq. It's hard to imagine what centripetal force would ever put those Humpty-Dumptys back together again. There are right-wingers in Israel — and here in the US — who embrace that scenario: if the other nations in the Middle East collapse, Israel will be left to dominate the region. But it's lunacy. Once those atomizing forces are put in motion, chaos will be inexorable. These people are playing with matches in a world of gasoline.

But more and more people seem to buy that Iran is "on the brink" of getting nukes (plural), that that's "unacceptable," that the Iranians are madmen, worse than Hitler, etc., etc. Why? Because that's what they're saying on the teevee? It's exactly the same script that was used to sell Iraq, but for some reason a lot of people think this time it's on the level. Please.

The people telling us what to think about Iran are the same people who lied through their teeth to get us into Iraq. They are the same people who were absolutely wrong about what the outcome of that would be. Everything they have ever said on the subject was a lie or wrong. Everything.

What are we, suckers?

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The Great War Powers Flip-Flop Iraq  Politics

This post by Glenn Greenwald is fascinating.

The wingnuts love to say that President Clinton "emboldened" terrorists by "cutting and running" from Somalia after the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993. Something I didn't realize, pardon my ignorance, was that it was Republican senators who forced Clinton to withdraw by setting troop withdrawal deadlines and threatening further restrictions. The same Republican senators who today say Congress lacks the power to limit troop deployments to Iraq.

Leading the way, the great flip-flopper himself, John McCain, who in 1993 said:

Dates certain, Mr. President, are not the criteria here. What is the criteria and what should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal from Somalia. And if we do not do that and other Americans die, other Americans are wounded, other Americans are captured because we stay too long — longer than necessary — then I would say that the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States who did not exercise their authority under the Constitution of the United States and mandate that they be brought home quickly and safely as possible. [Emphasis added]

As Glenn Greenwald says, the Constitution hasn't changed since 1993.

[Thanks, Ken]

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January 31, 2007

Parry: US-Israeli Attack On Iran May Be Imminent Iran  Iraq

Robert Parry is part of a dying breed in the US: a true investigative reporter. Among other things, Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra revelations while working for AP and Newsweek in the 1980s. He's continued writing about covert ops and national security matters to this day. In other words, he's a responsible guy with sources. Here's what he wrote today.

First, an attack on Iran may be imminent:

While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran.

Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But there is growing alarm among military and intelligence experts that Bush already has decided to attack and simply is waiting for a second aircraft carrier strike force to arrive in the region — and for a propaganda blitz to stir up some pro-war sentiment at home.

One well-informed U.S. military source called me in a fury after consulting with Pentagon associates and discovering how far along the war preparations are. He said the plans call for extensive aerial attacks on Iran, including use of powerful bunker-busting ordnance.

Another source with a pipeline into Israeli thinking said the Iran war plan has expanded over the past several weeks. Earlier thinking had been that Israeli warplanes would hit Iranian nuclear targets with U.S. forces in reserve in case of Iranian retaliation, but now the strategy anticipates a major U.S. military follow-up to an Israeli attack, the source said.

Both sources used the same word "crazy" in describing the plan to expand the war to Iran. The two sources, like others I have interviewed, said that attacking Iran could touch off a regional — and possibly global — conflagration.

"It will be like the TV show '24'," the American military source said, citing the likelihood of Islamic retaliation reaching directly into the United States.

Though Bush insists that no decision has been made on attacking Iran, he offered similar assurances of his commitment to peace in the months before invading Iraq in 2003. Yet leaked documents from London made clear that he had set a course for war nine months to a year before the Iraq invasion.

In other words, Bush's statements that he has no plans to "invade" Iran and that he's still committed to settle differences with Iran over its nuclear program diplomatically should be taken with a grain of salt. [Emphasis added]

As if that weren't bad enough, Parry writes that the situation in Iraq is worse than we know:

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq is seen as another factor pressing on Bush to act quickly against Iran.

Other sources with first-hand knowledge of conditions in Iraq have told me that the U.S. position is even more precarious than generally understood. Westerners can't even move around Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities except in armed convoys.

"In some countries, if you want to get out of the car and go to the market, they'll tell you that it might be dangerous," one experienced American cameraman told me. "In Iraq, you will be killed. Not that you might be killed, but you will be killed. The first Iraqi with a gun will shoot you, and if no one has a gun, they'll stone you."

While U.S. war correspondents in most countries travel around in taxis with "TV" taped to their windows, Western journalists in Iraq move only in armed convoys to and from specific destinations. They operate from heavily guarded Baghdad hotels sometimes with single families responsible for security since outsiders can't be trusted.

The American cameraman said one European journalist rebelled at the confinement, took off on her own in a cab — and was never seen again.

Depression also is spreading among U.S. intelligence officials who monitor covert operations in Iraq from listening stations sometimes thousands of miles away. The results of these Special Forces operations have been so horrendous that morale in the intelligence community has suffered. [Emphasis added]

Meanwhile, the LA Times reports today the US Air Force and Navy warplanes are stepping up aggressive patrols along the Iraq-Iran border. It's hard not to suspect that the purpose is to create a provocation that can lead to an incident that will be used to justify an attack. Excerpt:

The Air Force is preparing for an expanded role in Iraq that could include aggressive new tactics designed to deter Iranian assistance to Iraqi militants, senior Pentagon officials said.

The efforts could include more forceful patrols by Air Force and Navy fighter planes along the Iran-Iraq border to counter the smuggling of bomb supplies from Iran, a senior Pentagon official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing future military plans.

Such missions also could position the Air Force to strike suspected bomb suppliers inside Iraq to deter Iranian agents that U.S. officials say are assisting Iraqi militias, outside military experts said. [Emphasis added]

Maybe this is all a big game of chicken with the Iranians. But given all the White House lies about Iraq, who is going to believe anything they say about Iran? What is not clear is what can be done to stop them — even though the country is overwhelmingly against widening the war. A crazy spot to be in in a democracy.

[Thanks, Miles]

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January 30, 2007

Feingold: Congress Needs To Break "Taboo" Iraq

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold:

Americans are not looking to Congress to pass symbolic measures, they are looking to us to stop the President's failed Iraq policy. That is why we must finally break this taboo that somehow Congress can't talk about using its power of the purse to end the war in Iraq. The Constitution makes Congress a co-equal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it. We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the brave troops whose lives are on the line, to end the war. We can and must force the President to safely redeploy our troops so that we can get back to focusing on those who attacked us on 9/11. [...]

I want everyone to be clear on exactly what my proposal will do. The first and most important thing to know is that my plan does not cut funding for the troops. Our troops will continue to receive the salaries, equipment, training and protection they need. What I am proposing is ending funds for the continued deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after the enactment of the bill. This will require the President to safely redeploy troops from Iraq by that date. My bill does provide exceptions to allow for specific types of military missions within Iraq past the six-month deadline, such as targeted counter-terrorism efforts, the protection of American personnel and infrastructure, and a limited number of troops needed to help train Iraqi security forces. But these will be limited forces used for specific missions.

Suggestions that our troops will be left in the lurch couldn't be further from the truth. My proposal would bring the troops out of harm's way.

Congress has used this power several times before, most recently in Somalia and in Bosnia in the 1990s. Nevertheless, I'm sure the White House and others will resort to their usual intimidation tactics to try to paint this proposal as not supporting the troops. I'd like to hear from the President exactly how sending 21,500 more U.S. troops into a civil war supports them. We must not let this administration continue to intimidate like it did in the lead-up to war. [Emphasis added]

Attaboy Russ. Makes me proud that I live in Wisconsin.

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January 28, 2007

Clinton: US Should Withdraw Before End Of Bush Term Iraq  Politics

Hillary Clinton has finally taken a position on Iraq that seems like a step in the right direction. AP:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

A clever move, politically. Creates a timetable without seeming to pick an arbitrary date out of the air. Defines the war as Bush's war and, by extension, the GOP's war. Gives Hillary a way to hammer Bush and the eventual Republican candidate from now through election day.

Bush is determined to foist the war onto his successor. Even if he succeeds in that, the war must be seen as Bush's failure, since that's what it is. The danger in Clinton's position, however, is that it could be taken as giving Bush two more years to try to "win".

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January 22, 2007

Al-Sadr Interview Iraq

When we hear someone praised or vilified, it's a good idea to stop and consider the source. Ask: what axe is being ground. It's not foolproof, but it's helpful. So, for example, when wealthy Wall Streeters never tire of telling us what a genius Alan Greenspan was, the rest of us might want to look to our wallets.

Which brings us to the much vilified Moqtada al-Sadr, the target of the US escalation in Iraq. US authorities tells us what a bad man he is, but they're hardly a credible source. What does al-Sadr himself say? Here's an interview with al-Sadr conducted by Renato Cabrile for the Italy's La Repubblica. From the translation at Dark Mirror:

Caprile: So how did it come about that al Maliki, whose government until recently included no less than six ministers from your movement, suddenly came to the conclusion that the religious militias, and yours most of all, are the real problem that must be solved?

Al Sadr: "Between [al Maliki] and myself there have never been very warm relations. I always suspected he was manipulated and I never trusted him. We have only met on a couple of occasions. On the most recent of which he said to me "you are the backbone of the country," and then he confessed that he was "obliged" to fight us. Obliged, you understand.

Caprile: The fact remains that your people are about to be struck with an iron fist.

Al Sadr: The operation has already started. Last night they already arrested over four hundred of my men. It is not us they want to destroy, but Islam — we are only an obstacle. For the time being, we shall not put up any resistance against them.

Caprile: Do you mean that you will hand in your weapons?

Al Sadr: During [the holy month of] Muharram the Quran forbids us to kill. So let them kill us if they want to, for a true believer there is no better time to die: Paradise is assured. But God is generous, not all of us shall die. After Muharram the tide will turn.

Caprile: Some say that the army and police are heavily infiltrated by your men and that the marines would never be able to disarm you on their own.

Al Sadr: The truth is exactly the opposite: it's our militia that's swarming with spies. And in any case, it's not a hard task to infiltrate a people's army. And these are the very same people who have been committing unworthy deeds to discredit the Mahdi Army. There are at least four armies ready to strike us. One is a "shadow force" which no-one ever talks about, trained under the most secret conditions in the Jordanian desert by the Americans. And then there's the private army of Allawi himself, that infidel who will soon take Maliki's place, which is readying itself for the fray in the former military airport of Muthanna. Then there are the Kurdish peshmergas, and lastly there are the American regular troops.

Caprile: If what you say is true, you have no hope of standing up to them.

Al Sadr: We too are very many. We represent the majority of the country, who do not want Iraq to become what Allawi is dreaming of: a secular state, a slave to the western powers.

Caprile: For the last week you have been officially in the crosshairs. The government maintains that without their leader the religious militias [would be] militarily weakened.

Al Sadr: I am aware of this. This is why I moved my family to a safe place. I even made my will, and I keep constantly on the move, making sure that only a few people know exactly where I am. But even if I should die, the Mahdi Army would still continue to exist. Men can be killed, faith and ideas cannot.

Caprile: It has been said that amongst the crowd watching Saddam's execution you too were present. Is this true?

Al Sadr: This is absolute rubbish. If I'd been there they'd have killed me too. As for Saddam, I certainly shed no tears for the man who massacred my family and tens of thousands of my people. But if it had been up to me, I'd have had him executed in a public square so all the world could see.

Caprile: Even if you weren't there, can you deny that the execution room was full of your men?

Al Sadr: No, those were not my men. They were people paid to discredit me. To make it seem I was the person really responsible for that hanging. The proof lies in the fact — just listen to the audio — that when they recited my prayer they left out some essential parts. A mistake that not even a single child in Sadr City would ever have made. The aim was to make it seem Moqtada was the real enemy of the Sunnis. And they succeeded. Some time back, I was received with full honours in Saudi Arabia. But straight after that charade under the gallows my spokesman al Zarqani, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca, was arrested. An all too explicit way to make me understand that I was no longer listed amongst their friends.

Caprile: In any case, the war between you and the Sunnis goes on.

Al Sadr: It is true that we are all Muslims and we are all sons of the same land, but they must first distance themselves from the Saddamists, from the radical groups, from Bin Laden's men, as well as repeating their "No" to the Americans. All we're asking is for the ulemas to accept these conditions of ours. They haven't yet done so.

Caprile: Can it really be true that there is nothing but blood in Iraq' future?

Al Sadr: If the future is a country split in three, I cannot see any alternative. That is what Bush wants so he can control us more easily, but it's certainly not what the Iraqis want. In my opinion, there is only one possible way a solution can be reached: immediate withdrawal by the Americans. [Emphasis added]

Sounds like a nationalist who wants the foreign occupiers out. No wonder he's the boogeyman. Of course he has his own axe to grind. Still, why can't we hear more of al-Sadr's side of the story?

[Thanks, Miles]

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January 21, 2007

Newsweek Poll Iraq  Politics

The latest Newsweek poll is a doozy.

Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq:
Approve: 24%
Disapprove: 70%

Trust more to make decisions about Iraq:
Bush: 32%
Democratic leaders in Congress: 55%

US making progress in Iraq:
Making progress: 24%
Losing ground: 67%

US troop levels in Iraq:
Increase: 23%
Decrease: 50%
Same: 18%

Bush's "surge" plan:
Favor: 26%
Oppose: 68%

Democrats in Congress block funding for Bush's "surge" plan:
Should: 46%
Should not: 46%

The level of support for blocking funding for the troop "surge" is remarkable, considering that it's a question of withholding funding in the middle of a war.

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January 17, 2007

Cakewalk Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq

Tom Tomorrow, from April Fool's Day, 2003.

[Via Atrios]

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January 15, 2007

Iraq Fuels "Worldwide Surge In Islamic Radicalism" (Duh) 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq

Newsweek:

Intel director John Negroponte gave Congress a sobering assessment last week of the continued threats from groups like Al Qaeda and Hizbullah. But even gloomier comments came from Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator. An ex-CIA operative, Crumpton told Newsweek that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. "Certainly, we haven't made any progress," said Crumpton. "In fact, we've lost ground." He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States. [Emphasis added]

As has been obvious from day one.

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Gratitude Iraq  Politics

From Scott Pelley's 60 Minutes interview of President Bush:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

Wow. How creepy is that?

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January 13, 2007

Bringing Terri Schiavo Back From The Dead Iraq

John Aravosis has a plan for bringing Terri Schiavo back from the dead.

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Rice: Bush Authorized Raids On Iranians Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq

Condoleezza Rice says Bush personally authorized aggressive raids against Iranian targets in Iraq. NYT:

A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

"There has been a decision to go after these networks," Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.

Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted "after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity" among Iranians in Iraq, "and increasing lethality in what they were producing." She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, being used against American troops were made in Iran.

Ms. Rice was vague on the question of when Mr. Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall.

The administration has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, providing weapons and training to Shiite forces with the idea of keeping the United States bogged down in the war. Ms. Rice's willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a new hostility to Iran that was first evident in Mr. Bush's speech to the nation on Wednesday night, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond.

Until now, despite a series of raids in which Iranians have been seized by American forces in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, administration officials have declined to say whether Mr. Bush ordered such actions.

The White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran's ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war. Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

In adopting a more confrontational approach toward Iran, Mr. Bush has decisively rejected recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that he explore negotiations with Tehran as part of a new strategy to help quell the sectarian violence in Iraq. [...]

In the view of American officials, Iran is engaged in a policy of "managed chaos" in Iraq. Its presumed goal, both policymakers and intelligence officials say, is to raise the cost to the United States for its intervention in Iraq, in hopes of teaching Washington a painful lesson about the perils of engaging in regime change.

Toward this end, American officials charge, Iran has provided components, including explosives and infrared triggering devices, for sophisticated roadside bombs that are designed to penetrate armor. They have also provided training for several thousand Shiite militia fighters, mostly in Iran. Officials say the training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. [...]

This week, American forces in Iraq conducted at least two raids against suspected Iranian operatives, including the raid in Erbil. The United States is currently detaining several individuals with Iranian passports who were picked up in those raids. [...]

A defense official said Friday that such raids would continue. "We are going to be more aggressive," he said, referring to the suspected Iranian operatives. [Emphasis added]

There seems to be a fundamental misconception at work here: that if insurgents are succeeding against the US military, there has to be a nation-state behind them, pulling the strings. This is 19th century thinking in a 21st century world. See the previous post.

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All The King's Men Global Guerrillas  Iraq

John Robb, of Global Guerrillas, sees globalization as a force that fosters the disempowerment and, eventually, the disintegration of nation-states. Globalization is the atomizing context within which Iraq is disintegrating, and Iraq is but one example. So long as US leaders (and leaders of nation-states generally) fail to face up to the new world in which they're living, they're doomed to fail. Which brings us to Robb's take on Bush's "new" plans for Iraq:

[T]he failure of these periodic efforts [to tweak tactics in Iraq] may be due to an inability to revisit a key assumption upon which the present US effort is based: that strong states tend to form naturally if provided the right minimalist conditions. I believe the opposite is true: that states, once broken, tend to remain hollow and in perpetual failure. The reason is that in the current environment minimalist conditions yield social disintegration (we will see this minimalist/disintegration paradigm repeated world-wide, even in the absence of war, as globalization continues to rapidly grow and spread — which fatally undermines any argument that the success of globalization means that "we win," if "we" means the US and nation-states in general) and the ascendent military power...is in the hands of those [global guerrillas] who would disrupt the state rather than form it. If this revised assumption is correct, it is safe to conclude that building a stable Iraq would require a level of effort that is beyond our ability to provide... [Emphasis added]

Globalization and global communications networks dissolve borders. As that happens, people's loyalties shift from nations to things that still have meaning in a world without borders: tribes, religious and ideological groups, like-minded communities. When a nation breaks down, it's pretty much Humpty Dumpty time. All the King's men — even 20,000 more of them — can't put Humpty Dumpty together again.

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January 11, 2007

Prepping For A Wider War Iran  Iraq

Investigative journalist Robert Parry looks at Bush's words — and, more importantly, his deeds — and sees a clear pattern of preparation for a wider war. Parry:

At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming.

Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush's nationwide address, NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said "there's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue – in the country and the world – in a very acute way."

Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.

"The President's inference was this: that an entire region would blow up from the inside, the core being Iraq, from the inside out," Williams said, paraphrasing Bush.

Despite the already high cost of the Iraq War, Bush also defended his decision to invade Iraq and to eliminate Saddam Hussein by arguing that otherwise "he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb and if we didn't stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or to China and things would be much worse," Russert said.

If Russert's account is correct, there could be questions raised about whether Bush has lost touch with reality and may be slipping back into the false pre-invasion intelligence claims about Hussein threatening the United States with "a mushroom cloud." [...]

While avoiding any overt criticism of Bush's comments about an imaginary Iraqi-Iranian arms race, Russert suggested that the news executives found the remarks perplexing.

"That's the way he sees the world," Russert explained. "His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound." [...]

In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" in Iraq.

"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," Bush said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

"I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region," Bush said. "We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies."

Though most news accounts of Bush's speech focused on his decision to send about 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq – on top of the 132,000 already there – Bush's comments about his regional strategy could ultimately prove more significant.

Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.

However, both deployments would be useful to deter – or defend against – retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory. [...]

In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.

Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush's escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.

So, Bush's actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war – a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously.

Other data points are aiming in that same direction.

On Jan. 4, Bush ousted the top two commanders in the Middle East, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, who had opposed a military escalation in Iraq. Bush also removed Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who had stood by intelligence estimates downplaying the near-term threat from Iran's nuclear program.

Bush appointed Admiral William Fallon as the new chief of Central Command for the Middle East despite the fact that Fallon, a former Navy aviator and currently head of the Pacific Command, will oversee two ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The choice of Fallon makes more sense if Bush foresees a bigger role for two aircraft carrier groups off Iran's coast. [...]

McConnell is seen as far more likely than Negroponte to give the administration an alarming assessment of Iran's nuclear capabilities and intentions in an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate. To the consternation of neoconservatives, Negroponte has splashed cold water on their heated rhetoric about the imminent threat from Iran. [...]

Bush reportedly has been weighing his military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities since early 2006. But he has encountered resistance from the top U.S. military brass, much as he has with his plans to escalate U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. military officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep underground. [...]

"Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said.

But one way to get around the opposition of the Joint Chiefs would be to delegate the bombing operation to the Israelis. Given Israel's powerful lobbying operation in Washington and its strong ties to leading Democrats, an Israeli-led attack might be more politically palatable with the Congress. [...]

While some observers believe Israel or the Bush administration may be leaking details of the plans as a way to frighten Iran into accepting international controls on its nuclear program, other sources indicate that the preparations for a wider Middle Eastern war are very serious and moving very quickly. [Emphasis added]

The country's moving one way — as witness the November elections, the national opinion polls, and the Establishment position represented by the Iraq Study Group — and the White House neocons another. And they sure seem to be in a hurry. They appear determined to get into a war with Iran, and they must know their time is running out. 2008 is just around the corner.

It's not clear at this point that anyone can or will stand in their way. All the discussion of the troop "surge" may just be so much misdirection — a red herring to distract us while the wider war takes shape.

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Orwell Lives Iraq

BBC:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned that the US will take action against countries destabilising Iraq.

Bombing of Washington, DC to begin forthwith.

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January 07, 2007

Mission Accomplished Energy  Iraq  Peak Oil

"Respectable" opinion has it that only naive ex-hippies are so simple-minded as to believe that the US attacked Iraq for its oil. Whatever. But read this. The Independent:

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big [US and British] oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.

Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.

Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals.

Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, a human rights and environmental group which monitors the oil industry, said Iraq was being asked to pay an enormous price over the next 30 years for its present instability. "They would lose out massively," he said, "because they don't have the capacity at the moment to strike a good deal."

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, who chairs the country's oil committee, is expected to unveil the legislation as early as today...The Iraqi government hopes to have the law on the books by March.

Several major oil companies are said to have sent teams into the country in recent months to lobby for deals ahead of the law, though the big names are considered unlikely to invest until the violence in Iraq abates.

James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire." [Emphasis added]

Iraq's reserves are one of the last great untapped sources of inexpensive conventional oil left on Earth. The profits involved will be almost unimaginable, especially as world oil production peaks, driving prices skyward.

Pop quiz. Now that US and British oil majors are getting a 30-year lock on those profits, what are the chances that the US and Britain will walk away and leave all that money lying on the table? Or will they, as Big Gav put it, "fight on in Iraq until the end of the oil age"? It doesn't take a naive ex-hippie to know the answer to that one.

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January 06, 2007

"Grand Strategy At Its Worst" Iraq

The coming escalation in Iraq — more specifically, in Baghdad — is the height of folly, says former Pentagon analyst Franklin Spinney at CounterPunch:

Sun Tzu said avoid protracted war and attack cities as a last resort.

President Bush has managed to do the opposite in Iraq. Now he is about to escalate his long-war strategy with a door to door assault on Baghdad. The aim will be to cleanse Baghdad's neighborhoods of insurgents and local militias. But as Patrick Cockburn has shown, most of these militias are allied to the different factions of the Iraqi government we put into place.

Once the Battle of Baghdad starts, and casualties and frustrations mount, the US military will do what it always does: it will fall back on a technology-intensive firepower strategy.

But militias and insurgents will not cooperate by standing and fighting. Our adversaries will not provide the kind of targets so conveniently assumed by the Pentagon in the computer models it uses to sell its high-cost hi-tech weapons to Congress and the American people. The local fighters will counter with hit and run raids on US forces.

The increasing rubblization of Baghdad will create more opportunities for dispersing, for ambushing, and for mining. As the German's learned in Stalingrad, and we should have learned at Monte Cassino, the irregularity of rubble makes it easier for defenders to hide in or disappear into the environmental background, or what the Pentagon antiseptically calls the "urban battle space."

Couple this battlespace with the rising sea of intelligence support provided by increasingly hostile local residents, and it is likely that the US forces will be bogged down in a highly destructive unending battle.

Given the dubious nature of Mr. Bush's real motives for invading Iraq and our military's predilection for substituting firepower for ideas, the strategy of providing greater security to Baghdad's local population by destroying their city is an oxymoronic fantasy that will increase division at home, embolden adversaries, alienate allies and uncommitted nations, and make it impossible to end this conflict on favorable terms that do not sow the seeds for future conflict.

This is grand strategy at its worst.

But then, we have seen how fantasies come easily to the armchair strategists careening around the hall of mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac. [Emphasis added]

US forces are increasingly engaged in fighting militias associated with, as Spinney says, "different factions of the Iraqi government we put into place." Think about what that means. The US claims that it's bringing democracy to Iraq. But, more and more, the people the US is fighting are forces of the very government Iraqis voted into office.

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January 04, 2007

Olbermann On "Sacrifice" And The "White Noise" Of Endless War Iraq  Media  Politics

As Bush prepares to sell a troop surge escalation in Iraq in terms of "sacrifice", Keith Olbermann provides blistering commentary:

 

One of Olbermann's best. Just outstanding.

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January 01, 2007

Gasoline On The Fire Iraq

The hanging of Saddam Hussein was carried out in such a thuggish, barbaric, and chaotic manner that it defies belief. It seemed like an improvised lynching, not a state execution.

A cell phone video shows the execution to be a Shiite affair, complete with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada." Saddam is the most dignified guy in the room, and the manner of his execution is sure to make him a martyr in the eyes of some.

AP reports that Sunni outrage is building. Excerpt:

Enraged crowds protested the hanging of Saddam Hussein across Iraq's Sunni heartland Monday, as a mob in Samara broke the locks off a bomb-damaged Shiite shrine and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the dictator.

The demonstration in the Golden Dome, shattered in a bombing by Sunni extremists 10 months ago, suggests that many Sunni Arabs may now more actively support the small number of Sunni militants fighting the country's Shiite-dominated government. The Feb. 22 bombing of the shrine triggered the current cycle of retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiia, in the form of daily bombings, kidnappings and murders. [...]

Until Saddam's execution Saturday, most Sunnis sympathized with militants but avoided taking a direct role in the sectarian conflict — despite attacks by Shiite militia that have killed thousands of Sunnis or driven them from their homes. The current Sunni protests, which appear to be building, could signal a spreading militancy.

Sunnis were not only outraged by Saddam's hurried execution, just four days after an appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence. Many were also incensed by the unruly scene in the execution chamber, captured on video, in which Saddam was taunted with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada."

The chants referred to Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shiite cleric who runs one of Iraq's most violent religious militias. He is a major power behind the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Many Sunnis are also upset that Saddam was put to death the day that Sunni celebrations began for Eid al-Ahda, a major Muslim festival. The judge who first presided over the case that resulted in Saddam's death sentence said the former dictator's execution at the start of Eid was illegal according to Iraqi law, and contradicted Islamic custom.

The law states that "no verdict should implemented during the official holidays or religious festivals," said Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd. [Emphasis added]

Everything about the execution seems designed, deliberately or not, to inflame sectarian enmity between Sunnis and Shiites. It is gasoline on the flames. Barbaric and disastrous.

(See also: Baghdad blogger Riverbend and Glenn Greenwald.)

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December 31, 2006

3000 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3000.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

December was the deadliest month for US troops in more than two years.

Americans want out — approval for the war is under 30% — but Bush prepares to send more troops.

New Year's resolution: Voting isn't enough. We must act. We need to make the political cost of continuing the war too great for Washington to bear. We must resist.

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December 29, 2006

Widening The War Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Two important items from Swoop. First, regarding the White House's Middle East counteroffensive following the November elections and the Iraq Study Group recommendations. Swoop:

During his current consultations on the new strategy for Iraq, President Bush has told those advising him that he is not interested in any proposals that do not involve "success." "Anyone who does not believe in victory should leave the room right now," was how he began one consultation session. Top National Security Council officials are describing the Iraq Study Group as "discredited" and "dead and buried." Instead a new policy is taking shape. Based on recent discussions between former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan and NSC Middle East Director Elliott Abrams, this policy foresees a central role for Saudi Arabia as a supplier of money and weapons to local conflicts involving Iranian surrogates. This is already happening in Lebanon, where anti-Hezbollah groups are receiving substantial Saudi help. Israeli intelligence officials are also encouraging these moves. "What we are seeing here," a second NSC official commented, "is the Administration's counter-attack to the ISG. Bush wants to negotiate from strength not weakness. He is trying to create new facts on the ground. This is an ambitious strategy. If it works, it allows us to recover much of the ground that Iraq has cost us. The opposite is also true. This strategy could double our losses. The key point here is that the Administration is still playing for a win in the Middle East. It is not leaving quietly." [Emphasis added]

Second, on Iran. It's not just a question of Iran's nuclear program. Far from it. Swoop:

A change of emphasis is taking place in the US approach to Iran. State Department officials tell us that they now see the nuclear weapons issue as just one aspect of a more all-encompassing competition with Iran. "It is clear that Iran is challenging us for mastery of the Middle East. Lebanon, Syria, the peace process, terrorism, energy: We are always bumping up against Iranian meddling. The stakes go far beyond nuclear weapons. It is clear that we have to orientate our policy so that we can teach Iran a decisive lesson." Support for this policy of long-term confrontation with Iran extends widely inside the Administration and Washington’s political elites. How this confrontation expresses itself remains undecided, with the military option still confined to the group around Vice-President Cheney and his circle. This group is, however, actively seeking international support. Privately the conservative Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council are urging the US to mount a broad counter to Iran. [Emphasis added]

Joshua Landis at SyriaComment speculates that the White House is using Saudi Arabia as a cutout to fund covert action in the Middle East, à la Iran-Contra. Excerpt:

The NSC diehards and Bandar (with Israeli coordination) have been working on a covert action program, the purpose of which is to strike back at Iran through surrogates, with the arrangements made in such a way as to obviate the need for a Presidential Covert Action Finding, which in today's Washington could not be kept secret. The Saudis would play the role of paymasters and prospective unindicted co-conspirators in case the operation is exposed (which seems to be the likely outcome). [...]

The sudden unannounced departure of Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki suggests that Saudi Arabia will be the financier of this operation. Prince Bandar bin Sultan's return to Washington in the form of his young protégé, Adel al-Jubeir. Polished and American-educated, Mr. Jubeir, 44, once worked for Prince Bandar when he was ambassador to Washington. Over the past few months, we know that Prince Bandar has been visiting Washington frequently, staying at the Hay Adams Hotel and visiting people at the White House. He was not notifying Prince Turki of these visits, which has been a flagrant and insulting breach of diplomatic protocol, to say nothing of its personal discourtesy to his own brother-in-law.

Another curiosity has been the repeated rumors of a meeting between Bandar and some unidentified Israelis, time and place unspecified. (The strongest rumor was that one meeting took place in Amman last summer.) The rumors have been persistent, and deserve some credence. [Emphasis added]

So, the American people think they got their message across in the November elections, and following the Iraq Study Group report they think Bush's current round of policy discussions is aimed at doing what everybody else wants: extricating the US from Iraq. But if the stories above are accurate, what's happening is quite the opposite: Bush is raising the stakes, widening the war, counter-attacking with "victory" — whatever that may mean — still the goal. It's crazy, but when has that ever stopped them?

[Thanks, Miles]

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December 27, 2006

Call It What It Is: Escalation Iraq

Democrats took control of the House and Senate largely because voters want out of Iraq. Even the Iraq Study Group said it's time to start thinking about getting out. So, Bush's response? Surge. Escalate. Retired Army General Jack Keane and AEI's Fred Kagan, in WaPo:

Reports on the Bush administration's efforts to craft a new strategy in Iraq often use the term "surge" but rarely define it. Estimates of the number of troops to be added in Baghdad range from fewer than 10,000 to more than 30,000. Some "surges" would last a few months, others a few years.

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad — the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development — is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

The key to the success is to change the military mission — instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control. [...]

Success in Iraq today requires a well-thought-out military operation aimed at bringing security to the people of Baghdad as quickly as possible — a traditional counterinsurgency mission. [Emphasis added]

"Surge" is pure marketing. The proper term is: escalation. And it's going to happen, voters be damned.

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December 24, 2006

What Atrios Said Iraq

Sad, but true.

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December 21, 2006

Record Number Of Bodies Recovered In Baghdad Iraq

Iraq continues its slide into the abyss. LAT:

The bodies of 76 unidentified people were recovered Wednesday in Baghdad, police said, the highest 24-hour toll for the anonymous slayings that have become a grim part of life in the capital.

All of the victims were men between the ages of 20 and 50. Although they died violently, all shot with automatic weapons, the men were not slain execution-style — no handcuffs or blindfolds, morgue staff members said. Only a few showed signs of torture. [Emphasis added]

It is impossible for most of us to imagine what it is like to live under such hellish conditions, but, as always, it is incumbent on us to try. These events are happening in a real place, to real people, and it's only going to get worse.

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December 20, 2006

"Unbelievably Rapid" Escalation Of Violence Iraq

It just keeps getting worse. WaPo:

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.

"The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence...That is the premier challenge facing us now."

The rapid spread of violence this year has thrown the government's future into jeopardy, Pentagon officials said.

"The tragedy of Iraq is that in February in Samarra, the insurgents achieved what one could call a partial strategic success -- namely, to trigger what we've been dealing with ever since, which is a cycle of sectarian violence, that indeed is shaking the institutions," Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said at the briefing.

He was referring to the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya mosque, a holy Shiite shrine, in the ethnically mixed city of Samarra north of Baghdad. [Emphasis added]

People still talk like there's a military solution out there somewhere, but they're kidding themselves. More troops won't help.

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December 18, 2006

Our Tinhorn Napoleon Iraq

All this talk of a US "troop surge" in Iraq, as if the November elections never happened. It's crazy, it's outrageous — and it's doomed to end very, very badly. Juan Cole:

[Consider] the Iraq War Coup now being conducted by W. You thought that the American people had spoken [in the November elections]? They want the troops out? They want to be extracted from the quagmire? Too bad.

You see, we do not have a democracy, with the Bush administration in power. We have an elective dictatorship. The elections are like lotteries. Many of them don't even reflect the popular vote or the general will. The Rehnquist Coup of 2000...And the incumbents feel they owe nothing to the electorate, nothing whatsoever. They have the Power. They act as they please. The rest of us are just onlookers.

So Bush's response to the clear public demand for a change of course and a disengagement? It is to run to Henry Kissinger's apron strings. And what does the Butcher of Chile and Indonesia urge? That Bush should put another 40,000 US troops into Iraq!

The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals. And, apparently, they would be sicced on the Shiite Mahdi Army in hopes of permanently crippling the Sadr Movement headed (in part) by Muqtada al-Sadr. And maybe they'd be used in a new offensive against the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

Let me explain why it won't work. It won't work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad. The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology. [...]

I am not saying that popular protests cannot be crushed. They can and have been. I am saying that when you have a whole country that is politically mobilized and has substantial resources, a crack-down is likely doomed unless it is almost genocidal. [...]

The US is not going to commit the half a million troops it would take to have a chance of winning in Iraq. Nor is it going to use genocidal methods to strike absolute terror into the hearts of the Iraqi people.

The Iraq situation has gone beyond the point where 40,000 troops can retrieve it. And that is if we even had 40,000 troops to put into Iraq and keep them there any length of time, which we do not.

In fact, since most of the "coalition of the willing" troops have now left (Italy, Spain, etc.), one of the two US divisions would only be putting the number of Coalition soldiers back up to what it was earlier in the Occupation, when things were also not going well.

The fact is that if provincial elections were held today, the Sadr Movement would sweep to power in all the Shiite provinces (with the possible exception of Najaf itself). It is increasingly the most popular political party among Iraq's Shiite majority. For the US to cut the Sadrists out of power in parliament and then fall on them militarily would just throw Iraq into turmoil. It would increase the popularity of the Sadrists, and ensure that they gain nationalist credentials that will ensconce them for perhaps decades.

The "surge" tactic is being generated by Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard and by Frederick W. Kagan and Bill Kristol, i.e. by the same plutocratic American Enterprise Institute (Likudnik Central) that brought you the Iraq War with champagne toasts in the first place.

Kagan has a recent book on Napoleon. Napoleon's most prominent characteristic was his willingness to waste his troops' lives lightly. [...]

Bush is the Napoleon of our age, trampling on whole peoples, a Jacobin Emperor mouthing the slogans of liberty and popular sovereignty while crushing and looting those he "liberated." [...]

And you thought a mere election would make a difference. No one had to elect the American Enterprise Institute. No one needs to crown the emperor, he can do it himself. Welcome to Year 1 of the Empire. [Emphasis added]

The November elections were a referendum on Iraq, but you'd never know it. Not by what the Republicans are doing — or the Democrats either. People want to believe elections will change things, but like the Wobblies used to say, if voting really mattered, it would be illegal. It's going to take a lot more than voting, a lot more.

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December 16, 2006

A Clarification Iraq

Sometimes, in trying to keep posts succinct and focused, I can overdo it. One of the hazards of blogging. In a post last Monday, I wrote:

There's a kind of collective mental illness at work when people can get away with suggesting that the Iraq war is not about oil. As if the US would have even noticed (let alone invaded) Iraq were it located in a part of the world where the principal export was, say, bean sprouts.

I first wrote "had nothing to do with oil", then changed to "is not about oil" in the interests of brevity. Unfortunately, it came out sounding like I was saying the war was only about oil, and anybody who disagrees with me is mentally ill. Not what I meant.

I do think the oil of Iraq, and of the Middle East generally, was and is a prime motivation for the US war. But I also think a confluence of other interests were served. PNAC neocons wanted an opportunity to stun the rest of the world into a state of "shock and awe" at US military power (that didn't work out too well). The Halliburtons and Raytheons of the world stood to make a whole lot of money. Bush/Rove Republicans thought war would give them a permanent lock on power. And, certainly not least, a hard-core faction of pro-Israel neocons sought to advance the agenda of Israel's right wing. Honest observers can differ on how they rank the relative influence of these interest groups, but I think they're all real, all important.

My crack about "collective mental illness" referred to the massive level of denial that lets American politicians and media celebrities get away with talking about the war as a well-intentioned, if misguided, campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East (among other putative "good guy" motives), as if the US military were some kind of "bizarre armed charity", as Nicholas von Hoffman put it. Talk about divorced from reality. If Americans knew any history, which they mostly don't, they'd know how the US reacts when foreign voters choose the "wrong" leader (see, for example, Mossadegh, Arbenz, Allende, Chavez). So much for US "democratizing."

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December 15, 2006

UK Knew Iraq Had No WMD Iraq

UK's Independent has published testimony given by Carne Ross in 2004 to the Butler Inquiry that looked at pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD leading up to the war. It's damning. The UK knew Iraq had no WMD and had known for years. And in discussions with their US counterparts, it was apparent that the US knew as well. An excerpt:

I am in the Senior Management Structure of the FCO [UK's ministry of foreign affairs]...I was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.

During that time, I helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym I coined late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). I took part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US government. I attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the US State Department in Washington, New York and London. [...]

I read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my posting. This daily briefing would often comprise a thick folder of material, both humint and sigint. I also talked often and at length about Iraq's WMD to the international experts who comprised the inspectors of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, whose views I would report to London. In addition, I was on many occasions asked to offer views in contribution to Cabinet Office assessments, including the famous WMD dossier (whose preparation began some time before my departure in June 2002).

During my posting, at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that "regime change" was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.)

Any assessment of threat has to include both capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot: many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that they believed Iraq had no significant materiel. With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear material. [...]

Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates). [...]

I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD [Ministry of Defense] working on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light. I discussed this at some length with David Kelly in late 2002, who agreed that the Number 10 WMD dossier was overstated.

The claims that the White House was misled by an "intelligence failure" on Iraqi WMD have always been ridiculous on their face. From the first Gulf War on, the US had complete control of Iraqi airspace and constantly monitored Iraq from both aircraft and satellites. UN inspectors installed a variety of highly sensitive and sophisticated detectors on the ground that monitored the air for even the tiniest traces of chemicals associated with WMD development. The US and UK tightly controlled imports into Iraq. As Scott Ritter has explained in detail — but nobody listens — UN inspections were thorough and highly technical operations. Etc., etc.

This testimony by Carne Ross is confirmation. It deserves to be treated as a bombshell, but of course it won't be, not here in the US anyway.

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Flyover Statement Humor & Fun  Iraq

The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, who brought us Tough Day, Great Opportunity, one of TDS's best bits ever, is back with another good one. It's not on YouTube yet, but you can watch it here. Check it out.

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December 13, 2006

"Iraq Is Beyond Repair" Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is one of the very best Western journalists working in Iraq. Here's his take on where things stand in the aftermath of the ISG report:

During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, "a careful review of the reports...brought to light 1,100 acts of violence".

The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: "If you do I am in real trouble." [...]

In December 2004 the CIA station chief in Baghdad said that the insurgency was expanding and was "largely unchallenged" in Sunni provinces. Mr Bush's response was: "What is he, some kind of a defeatist?" A week later the station chief was reassigned.

A few days afterwards, Colonel Derek Harvey, the Defence Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer in Iraq, made much the same point to Mr Bush. He said of the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse." According to the US political commentator Sidney Blumenthal, the President at this point turned to his aides and asked: "Is this guy a Democrat?" [...]

[The false picture of Iraq] has been exposed as a fraud by the Iraq Study Group.

Long-maintained myths tumble. For instance, the standard stump speech by Mr Bush or Tony Blair since the start of the insurgency has been to emphasise the leading role of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and international terrorism. But the group's report declares "al-Qa'ida is responsible for a small portion of violence", adding that it is now largely Iraqi-run. Foreign fighters, their presence so often trumpeted by the White House and Downing Street, are estimated to number only 1,300 men in Iraq. As for building up the Iraqi army, the training of which is meant to be the centrepiece of US and British policy, the report says that half the 10 planned divisions are made up of soldiers who will serve only in areas dominated by their own community. And as for the army as a whole, it is uncertain "they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda".

Given this realism it is sad that its authors, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, share one great misconception with Mr Bush and Mr Blair. This is about the acceptability of any foreign troops in Iraq. Supposedly US combat troops will be withdrawn and redeployed as a stiffening or reinforcement to Iraqi military units. They will form quick-reaction forces able to intervene in moments of crisis.

"This simply won't work," one former Iraqi Interior Ministry official told me. "Iraqis who work with Americans are regarded as tainted by their [own] families. Often our soldiers have to deny their contact with Americans to their own wives. Sometimes they balance their American connections by making contact with the insurgents at the same time."

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome. [Emphasis added]

As Gwynne Dyer noted, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." But every imperial power thinks it will be the exception. Even after a Vietnam. The lessons of history are no match for imperial arrogance.

So millions of Iraqis are trapped in a living hell that drags on and on simply to pander to the egos and careers of American politicians and generals. There are no words.

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December 11, 2006

It's Still About The Oil Energy  Iraq

You'd never know it by the media coverage, but the Iraq Study Group report has a lot to say about the disposition of Iraq's oil. Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, noticed. LAT:

While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we [sic] are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. State Department's Oil and Energy Working Group, meeting between December 2002 and April 2003, also said that Iraq "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war." Its preferred method of privatization was a form of oil contract called a production-sharing agreement. These agreements are preferred by the oil industry but rejected by all the top oil producers in the Middle East because they grant greater control and more profits to the companies than the governments. The Heritage Foundation also released a report in March 2003 calling for the full privatization of Iraq's oil sector. One representative of the foundation, Edwin Meese III, is a member of the Iraq Study Group. Another, James J. Carafano, assisted in the study group's work.

For any degree of oil privatization to take place, and for it to apply to all the country's oil fields, Iraq has to amend its constitution and pass a new national oil law. The constitution is ambiguous as to whether control over future revenues from as-yet-undeveloped oil fields should be shared among its provinces or held and distributed by the central government.

This is a crucial issue, with trillions of dollars at stake, because only 17 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields have been developed. Recommendation No. 26 of the Iraq Study Group calls for a review of the constitution to be "pursued on an urgent basis." Recommendation No. 28 calls for putting control of Iraq's oil revenues in the hands of the central government. Recommendation No. 63 also calls on the U.S. government to "provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law."

This last step is already underway. The Bush administration hired the consultancy firm BearingPoint more than a year ago to advise the Iraqi Oil Ministry on drafting and passing a new national oil law.

Plans for this new law were first made public at a news conference in late 2004 in Washington. Flanked by State Department officials, Iraqi Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (who is now vice president) explained how this law would open Iraq's oil industry to private foreign investment. This, in turn, would be "very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies." The law would implement production-sharing agreements. [...]

In July, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced in Baghdad that oil executives told him that their companies would not enter Iraq without passage of the new oil law. Petroleum Economist magazine later reported that U.S. oil companies considered passage of the new oil law more important than increased security when deciding whether to go into business in Iraq. [...]

All told, the Iraq Study Group has simply made the case for extending the war until foreign oil companies — presumably American ones — have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields and until they are assured the best legal and financial terms possible.

We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we [sic] wish to spill more blood for oil. [Emphasis added]

There's a kind of collective mental illness at work when people can get away with suggesting that the Iraq war is not about oil. As if the US would have even noticed (let alone invaded) Iraq were it located in a part of the world where the principal export was, say, bean sprouts.

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December 08, 2006

Taibbi: Baker-Hamilton A "Classic Bullshit-Cloud" Iraq

Matt Taibbi unloads on the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group in his usual gonzo style. RollingStone:

What a fiasco this whole Baker-Hamilton episode is, with all its attendant leaks and media manipulations — a veritable symphony of Typical Washington Bullshit. It has all the hallmarks of the pusillanimous, cover-your-ass mentality that rules our nation's capital, where all problems are political problems and actual real emergencies never make it to the desk of anyone who matters. [...]

Baker-Hamilton from the very start was a classic bullshit-cloud in the proud tradition of those damnable congressional "studies" we hear about from time to time, in which "bipartisan panels" are convened to much fanfare and packed off to the wilds of suburban Virginia for years of intellectually masturbatory activity — the usual solution, whenever House or Senate leaders are faced with a genuinely thorny political issue that offers no easy or obvious solutions, i.e. a problem that can't be simply blamed on one or the other political party, but which needs actual fixing.

Whenever one of those issues pops up, Washington politicians generally find themselves at a loss. They don't know what to do. For the vast majority of these buffoons, their expertise lies elsewhere. These guys know how to spread their legs for campaign contributors, raid the budget for redundant public works projects and worm their way onto the six o'clock news wearing a hardhat or a Cubs cap — but the average elected official knows very little about actually solving real political problems, because in most cases that's not what got him elected. [...]

And so, when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there's only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party's leader, embrace him, announce that you're going to find a "bipartisan" solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

It's important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry — like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a "War on Terrorism" needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all...Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like "heightened caution," dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force.

Hence the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report were predetermined virtually from the start. We could all have expected that the group's only unequivocal conclusions would restate the obvious — that we need an eventual withdrawal of troops, that there needs to be more "robust regional diplomacy," that Iraqi forces need to assume more of the security burden, and that there will be no hope of a political solution without some cooperation from Syria and Iran. Duh! Because the really thorny questions are the specifics: when do we leave, and, more importantly, what do we offer Iran and Syria in return for their cooperation, what horrifying inevitable humiliation will we be prepared to suffer at their hands, and what form will talks with those gloating countries take? [...]

In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush's Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago. But even this pathetically timid intellectual assertion was deemed too controversial to risk unveiling before the 2006 midterm elections, and it's obvious now that both parties have decided to wait until 2008 to deal with the more important questions of "when" and "how." [...]

We may soon have to face this fact: With the midterm elections over, and George Bush already a lame duck, the Iraq war is no longer an urgent problem to anyone on the Hill who matters. The Democrats are in no hurry to end things because it will benefit them if Iraq is still a mess in '08; just as they did this fall, they'll bitch about the war without explicitly promising to end it at any particular time. George Bush has already run his last campaign and he's not about to voluntarily fuck up his legacy with a premature surrender or a humiliating concession to Syria or Iran. At least publicly, John McCain is going to head into '08 siding with those in the military who believe the problem is a lack of troops.

For the Iraq disaster to end, someone among these actors is going to have to make a difficult decision — admit defeat, invite a bloody civil war, lose face before a pair of rogue terror-supporting states — and it's obvious that none of them is ever going to do that, not until there's absolutely no choice. [Emphasis added]

Republicans don't want to admit they screwed up. Democrats don't want to let Republicans off the hook. Nobody wants responsibility for the war's aftermath. So the war drags on and on. But of course it's not just a political game. Real people are stuck in a real-world living hell. Thousands die each month. All so American politicians and generals can protect their egos and careers. Could anything be more obscene?

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December 03, 2006

2900 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2900.

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

No end in sight.

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Bill O'Reilly's Question Activism  Iraq  Politics

Stan Goff is somebody worth reading and listening to. He's a veteran of the US Army Rangers, Airborne, Delta Force, and Special Forces, who served in Vietnam, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, and Haiti. Which is to say, he's seen imperialism up close in a way few of us ever will. Now he's a very determined, very smart, and very thoughtful activist, working against war, patriarchy, and empire. Here's a post of his on a question of Bill O'Reilly's:

There is nothing more tragically amusing than watching the right-wing catch liberals off guard.

Bill O'Reilly has caught the whole crew flat-footed with one of those trick questions: Do you want the United States to win in Iraq? Set aside for the moment that this ignores the fact that the US government has already lost in Iraq, and that the question is constructed a little like, "Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?"

This is pissing off the Democratic Party establishment because it is outing them, the same way Republicans outed John Kerry by stating, quite accurately, that Kerry supported the war when the national blood was up. Not a single public official will answer this question the way it needs to be answered if we want go on record saying that the lives of people from abroad are as valuable as American lives.

O'Reilly needs his bluff called.

Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?

ANSWER: No.

The US occupation force in Iraq is there with a malignant purpose. It was sent there to install a puppet government and establish permanent US bases as part of the post-Cold War re-disposition of an imperial military. The invasion and occupation was illegal and immoral; and it has been characterized by the slaughter of innocents by US forces, by premeditated murder and rape, by prisoner abuse, by the systematic humiliation of the people who live there, by the destruction of whole cities, and at the material, mental, and moral expense of the people who — for a host of reasons — find themselves in the US military. The Iraqis have a right to defend themselves, and a right to fight invaders.

Moreover, the US reliance on the miltiary to prop up its domestic economy and justify the future employment of militarism against other people is a net negative in the world. It is also a net negative for the US people, as opposed to defense contractors and politicians. One way to inhibit the future use of military invasion and occupation as a tool of US control over other peoples' lives and economies is to learn the hard way — by accepting the humility that comes with divesting of our overweaning naitonalist pride, our self-delusion of superiority, and our belief that we have the right to direct the affairs of the whole damn world (using soldiers, of course...none of the engineers of these adventures suffer a day of discomfort).

Not only do I not want the US to "win" in Iraq — whatever that is supposed to look like. More importantly, Bill, the US has already lost. What I want is, I want the US to acknowledge its loss sooner than later. Because the Bill O'Reillys and George Bush's of the world are not paying the price; and neither are the Democrats who are wringing their hands when they are confronted with the terrible specter of their own inescapable national chauvinism.

You're acting like cornered rats. Oh me, oh my, yes, we want to win, but it's complicated. Your complication is your desire to further your shitty careers by avoiding the uncomplicated truth. I'm glad Bill O’Reilly put Democrats' asses on the spot. You are walking over the bodies of the dead when you equivocate.

The price of this standing defeat is being paid right now, today, by Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq. And the civil war there now is not being quelled by the American presence; it is being catalyzed by it.

Bring them home now. [Emphasis added]

Amen to that. Dennis Kucinich aside, where is the Democrat with the courage and heart to say such things?

(See also this, from a year and a half ago.)

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December 01, 2006

Lind: No Amount Of Additional US Troops Will Help Iraq  Politics

Fourth Generation War expert William S. Lind explains why putting more US troops in Iraq is doomed to fail:

The latest serpent at which a drowning Washington Establishment is grasping is the idea of sending more American troops to Iraq. Would more troops turn the war there in our favor? No.

Why not? First, because nothing can. The war in Iraq is irredeemably lost. Neither we nor, at present, anyone else can create a new Iraqi state to replace the one our invasion destroyed. Maybe that will happen after the Iraqi civil was is resolved, maybe not. It is in any case out of our hands.

Nor could more American troops control the forces driving Iraq's intensifying civil war. The passions of ethnic and religious hatred unleashed by the disintegration of the Iraqi state will not cool because a few more American patrols pass through the streets. Iraqis are quite capable of fighting us and each other at the same time.

A second reason more troops would make no difference is that the troops we have there now don't know what to do, or at least their leaders don’t know what they should do. For the most part, American troops in Iraq sit on their Forward Operating Bases; in effect, we are besieging ourselves. Troops under siege are seldom effective at controlling the surrounding countryside, regardless of their number.

When American troops do leave their FOBs, it is almost always to run convoys, which is to say to provide targets; to engage in meaningless patrols, again providing targets; or to do raids, which are downright counterproductive because they turn the people even more strongly against us, where that is possible. Doing more of any of these things would help us not at all.

More troops might make a difference if they were sent as part of a change in strategy, away from raids and "killing bad guys" and toward something like the Vietnam war's CAP program, where American troops defended villages instead of attacking them. But there is no sign of any such change of strategy on the horizon, so there would be nothing useful for more troops to do.

Even a CAP program would be likely to fail at this stage of the Iraq war, which points to the third reason more troops would not help us: more troops cannot turn back the clock. For the CAP or "ink blot" strategy to work, there has to be some level of acceptance of the foreign troops by the local people. When we first invaded Iraq, that was present in much of the country.

But we squandered that good will with blunder upon blunder. How many troops would it take to undo all those errors? The answer is either zero or an infinite number, because no quantity of troops can erase history. The argument that more troops in the beginning, combined with an ink blot strategy, might have made the Iraq venture a success does not mean that more troops could do the same thing now.

The clinching argument against more troops also relates to time: sending more troops would mean nothing to our opponents on the ground, because those opponents know we could not sustain a significantly larger occupation force for any length of time. So what if a few tens of thousands more Americans come for a few months? The U.S. military is strained to the breaking point to sustain the force there now. Where is the rotation base for a much larger deployment to come from?

The fact that Washington is seriously considering sending more American troops to Iraq illustrates a common phenomenon in war. As the certainty of defeat looms ever more clearly, the scrabbling about for a miracle cure, a deus ex machina, becomes ever more desperate — and more silly. Cavalry charges, Zeppelins, V-2 missiles, kamikazes, the list is endless. In the end, someone finally has to face facts and admit defeat. The sooner someone in Washington is willing to do that, the sooner the troops we already have in Iraq will come home — alive. [Emphasis added]

What's maddening — and disgusting — is the way wars are prolonged and intensified simply to serve the egos and ambitions of individual politicians and generals. It's hard to believe anyone would be willing to prolong a war just to advance his own career (McCain) or save himself from personal embarrassment (Bush), but we see it all the time. Sociopaths in high places.

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November 30, 2006

Colin Powell: Call It Civil War Iraq

CNN's Hala Gorani (via ThinkProgress):

Well, within the context of the leaders conference in Dubai and also within the context of this debate, this semantics debate, over whether to call what is going on on in Iraq a civil war, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he thinks we can call it a civil war and added if he were still heading the State Department, he probably would recommend to the Bush administration that those terms should be used in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground.

This White House coming to terms with reality? Not going to happen.

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November 28, 2006

Marines: Anbar Is Lost Iraq

A Marine Corps intel report has concluded that Anbar province is pretty much lost. WaPo:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

The Marines recently filed an updated version of that assessment that stood by its conclusions and stated that, as of mid-November, the problems in troubled Anbar province have not improved, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, the official said.

The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post, is far bleaker than some officials suggested when they described it in late summer. The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital.

True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1. [...]

"Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says. [...]

[Report author Col. Peter] Devlin wrote that attacks on civilians rose 57 percent between February and August of this year. "Although it is likely that attack levels have peaked, the steady rise in attacks from mid-2003 to 2006 indicates a clear failure to defeat the insurgency in al-Anbar."

Devlin suggested that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division — 15,000 to 20,000 troops — plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency. [Emphasis added]

The threat of pogroms. A daily fight for survival. US/Iraqi forces no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency. This isn't how Marines normally talk. It must really be a hell on earth.

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November 27, 2006

"This Is Civil War" Iraq

Michael Ware has long been one of the truly indispensable Western journalists reporting from Iraq. He never dissembles, never engages in euphemism. Watch this (via Atrios):

It just keeps spinning out of control, ratcheting up and up. It's pretty much impossible to imagine how it can better before it gets very much worse.

The US has so much to answer for.

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November 22, 2006

Hortatory Talk Humor & Fun  Iraq

General Shinseki and the Iraq war's only instance of 20/20 foresight. Jon Stewart:

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The "Take This War And Shove It" Act Iraq

PoorMan (via Atrios) has a brilliant suggestion:

[Let's] introduce a bill to let soldiers get a General Discharge, no strings attached, if they give two week's notice. Call it "The Take This War And Shove It Act".

If a war isn't important enough or viable enough to retain the support of the people who have to fight it, why should they be forced to continue? Are they not free citizens of a republic?

Ok, it's never going to happen. But the very idea sure clears away the cobwebs.

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Just A Few Months More Iraq

Fabius Maximus samples statements by pundits and public officials regarding the time horizon in Iraq:

“And it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
February 7, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of Defense
Speaking at a “TownHall Meeting” held at Aviano Air Base, Italy

"I think the next few months will be crucial."
July 3, 2003
Senator Pat Roberts (Republican - Kansas)

"Looking at what we have today in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, and looking at the whole region and how infectious it can be for positive or for widespread trouble in the world, I think we may be going through a series of weeks and months that are crucial to the future history of freedom and stability. The determination of the British people, the Royal Airforce (RAF) and the Battle of Britain and Dunkirk success, if it was a success, probably saved not just Britain, but the Western world at that time. I am convinced that there is going to have to be a determination by the American people, military, particularly American military, quality and quantity, not just presence but capability, and a confidence in the Iraqi people that they can have a stable and representative government.
July 10, 2003
Representative Ike Skelton (Democrat - Missouri)
Speaking at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee

[Question: When you speak of victory, how do you define it today in Iraq?]

MCCAIN: Probably when the people of Iraq are governing themselves. That's probably the best benchmark, and that probably could happen sooner rather than later, as far as being directly related to the return of the basic services  the electricity, the water, the sanitation, the law enforcement  those kinds of things. … And I'm not sure how long it would be, but I don't think that we have time on our side. I think it's critical that we act quickly by sending more troops there. And if not, we run the risk of the Iraqi people turning against us.

[Question: Are you thinking 6 to 12 months? Or do you think that's dreaming at this point?]

MCCAIN: I don't know because I don't know how quickly we're going to act in the form of sending troops. I don't know how quickly we're going to be able to provide them with the security. So, it's sort of up to us. But I would argue that the next three to six months will be critical.
September 10, 2003
Sen. John McCain (Republican - Arizona)
Speaking on CNN’s “American Morning”

"The next six months in Iraq  which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there  are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time."
November 30, 2003
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

"The next six to seven months are critical."
December 1, 2003
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat - NY)
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

"The important thing is to realize we are about to enter into a very critical six months … We have got to get on top of the security situation properly and we have got to manage the transition. Both of those things are going to be difficult."
January 4, 2004
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Speaking during a surprise visit to Iraq

"Iraq now faces a critical moment."
May 24, 2004
President Bush
Speaking at the United States Army War College

"What I absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a UN-approved Iraqi-caretaker government made up of  I know a lot of these guys  reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. I don't get it. It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? Can we let this play out, please?"
June 3, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air”

“The next few months will be critical as the new government must establish security, continue to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, and prepare the Iraqi people for national elections scheduled for January 2005.”
July 22, 2004
Senator Richard G. Lugar (Republican – Indiana)
Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"What we're gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war."
October 3, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS's “Face the Nation”

"Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile."
November 28, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“There are rare occasions when two distinct geopolitical processes reach a pivot point at the same time, that precise place where the evolution of a process takes a critical turn. Last week saw three such points. In Iraq, the security network around the guerrilla leadership appeared to be breaking wide open.”
March 1, 2005
George Friedman, Stratfor

“As the political process evolves, further government victories could be in the offing. Intense negotiations on the formation of the Cabinet, involving the United Iraqi Alliance, Kurdish List, Sunnis and other factions, have already begun. With Sunnis incorporated into a new government, progress on the political front likely will lead to further success on the battlefield as U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to keep pressure on the insurgents with raids, arrests and all-out offensive operations. These developments ultimately will support the U.S. strategy of turning the combat burden over to an emboldened and maturing Iraqi army.”
March 23, 2005
Stratfor

“Washington has moved beyond the military stage of the U.S.-jihadist war and is now in the phase of negotiated settlements.”
April 6, 2005
Stratfor

"I think the next nine months are critical."
June 29, 2005
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
Speaking on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”

“This attack probably will be instrumental in turning the Iraqis against the militants, especially the transnational jihadists who are not only seen as using the general insurgency in Iraq for their cause (which has very little to do with the Sunni community's grievances or Iraqi nationalism), but now seem to have reached the point where they will not shirk from killing children as part of their attack plans.”
July 13, 2005
Stratfor

“I think the next 18 months are crucial."
July 18, 2005
General Barry R. McCaffrey, retired
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

“I have long been invested with ensuring the development of a peaceful, democratic Iraq. We are nearing the resolution of that process, and the next months will be critical.”
August 4, 2005
Ambassador John Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Statement to the Security Council

“But the fact is these next six months are going to be very critical in Iraq, not just the constitution writing, referendum, the election, but also within that six months' period, we're going to see whether the Iraqis are really going to be capable of defending themselves, governing themselves and supporting themselves.”
August 18, 2005
Senator Chuck Hagel (Rep- Nebraska)
Speaking on CNN’s “Situation Room”

"I think we're in the end game now…. I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt I think the next congressional election  that's my own feeling   let alone the presidential one."
September 25, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on NBC's “Meet the Press”

“The next 75 days are going to be critical for what happens”
September 29, 2005
General George Casey, Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq
Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee

"… Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time."
September 28, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“And the developments over the next several months will be critical  as General Casey and General Abizaid and the secretary made very clear over the course of last week  as the constitutional referendum in the mid part of this month, the general elections in mid-December and then the subsequent formation of a new government all take place.”
October 5, 2005
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, Former Commander, Multi-National Transition Command Iraq and NATO Training Mission Iraq
News Briefing

As always, whenever the Bush administration helps to pull off an election in Iraq, you have to hand it to them. Poor job on occupation, no doubt, but this thing keeps muddling through. … Meanwhile, a lot of Sunnis are shifting from fighting the system altogether to working within the political process. This is crucial. … Iraq is doing just fine given all poorly planned occupation (F to the neocons, C+ to the officers doing their best in a crappy situation on the ground).
October 17, 2005
Thomas P. M. Barnett

“We are entering a make or break six month period, and I want to talk about the steps we must take if we hope to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that's not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict. …

“To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately  I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase "we will stay as long as it takes," who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say  No, that will only lead us into a quagmire. …

“To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays. …”
October 26, 2005
Senator John Kerry (Democrat – Mass)
Speech at Georgetown University

“And we're seeing a lot of them [officials from the Iraqi government] because this is a critical time in Iraq going into the elections, and it is very important that these elections produce an outcome, that it reflects the will of the Iraqi people, that results in a government  that is broadly based, drawing from all elements of the Iraqi society, that gets stood up quickly and is a strong government that can take the kinds of difficult, economic and security decisions that the new government is going to have.”
November 10, 2005
Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor
Comments at White House Press Briefing

"We've got, I think, six months."
Nov. 17, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

“Instead, we need to refocus our attention on our mission — of our mission on preserving America’s fundamental interests in Iraq. And there are two of them, in my view. One, we must ensure that Iraq does not become what it was not before the war — emphasize “was not before the war” — a haven for terrorists, a jihadist stronghold. And we must do what we can to prevent a full-blown civil war that runs the risk of turning into a regional war. To accomplish that more limited mission and to begin redeploying our troops responsibly, it seems to me we have to make significant, measurable progress toward three goals, and you only have about the next six months to demonstrate that progress.”
November 21, 2005
Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat - Delaware)
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations

“What the debate is telling us is that we have come to a defining moment in the war and in U.S. policy toward the war. … The administration's position in Iraq is complex but not hopeless. Its greatest challenge is in Washington, where Bush's Republican base of support is collapsing. If it collapses, then all bets will be off in Iraq. Bush's challenge is to stabilize Washington. In fact, from his point of view, Baghdad is more stable than Washington right now. …”
November 21, 2005
George Friedman of Stratfor

“I served in the last year of World War II in the Navy. Franklin D. Roosevelt did just exactly that. In his fireside talks, he talked with the people, he did just that. I think it would be to Bush's advantage. It would bring him closer to the people, dispel some of this concern that understandably our people have about the loss of life and limb, the enormous cost of this war to the American public, and we've got to stay firm for the next six months. It is a critical period, as Joe and I agree, in this Iraqi situation to restore full sovereignty in that country and that enables them to have their own armed forces to maintain their sovereignty. …

[Question: “What happens if not enough Iraqis step forward to defend their country?”]

“At that point then we have to come to the realization that the program has not met the target and we have to determine what we're going to do. I would not want to posture what that decision would be. You'll have to wait. You shouldn't speculate. We'll have to wait for those six months.”
November 27, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

“But it was necessary for the president to go out and reinforce to our troops and the other coalition forces and to the world that we have a resolve in these next four to six months in Iraq which are critical to bring about achievement of our goals. … We should not at this time in these critical four to six months be worrying about a timetable to withdraw or even talking about it.”
November 30, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
PBS “Online Newhour”

"[The Iraq elections are] necessary, not sufficient … [the] next six months are going to tell the story. Two important things. What’s the government going to look like? If it’s Mr. Mahdi who ends up representing the SCIRI Party, who’s aligned with Iran, then we got a real problem.
December 18, 2005
Senator Joseph Biden, Jr. (Democrat - Delaware)
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation”

"We've teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together."
December 18, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation”

"We're at the beginning of I think the decisive I would say six months in Iraq, OK, because I feel like this election  you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it."
December 20, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on PBS's Charlie Rose Show

"The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it  and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful."
December 21, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“We have reached a crucial test in Iraq. … Whatever the explanation, this is the crucial moment. The elections were held and a political track was set. If this offensive derails the negotiations, it will be a defining moment in the war. If the negotiations go forward anyway  for any of the reasons discussed above  then the probability of a drawdown in the war in 2006 is very real. In the end, the reasons for the offensive are less clear than its potential significance. As they say, this is it.”
January 6, 2006
Stratfor

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand."
January 23, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on the Oprah Winfrey Show

"I think we're in the end game there, in the next three to six months, Bob. We've got for the first time an Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick with it, or they're not, in which case I think the bottom's going to fall out."
January 31, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS; program is uncertain and not been verified.

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq."
March 2, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on NBC's “Today”

“Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, told the Security Council in an open briefing this morning that the next six months in Iraq are going to be critical.”
March 15, 2006
http://www.un.org/News/ossg/hilites/hilites_arch_view.asp?HighID=522

“If there is ever going to be an end game in Iraq, we are now in it. Operation Swarmer, launched Thursday, seemed designed to attack jihadists in the Sunni regions. The key to the U.S.-Sunni conversation has been getting the Sunnis into the political process and, as a result, getting the Sunnis to help liquidate the jihadists. If Swarmer was launched on the basis of Sunni intelligence, and if that intelligence turns out to be accurate, it will be a key event in recent Iraqi history. Those are big "ifs," of course. At the same time, if the Sunnis are joining the political process, then it is time for Iran to negotiate its final price on Iraq, and that appears now to be happening. Taken together, this is not the end, but the beginning of the end game, and success is not guaranteed.”
“The Beginning of the End Game”
Mar 17, 2006
Stratfor

"Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us."
April 23, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on “CNN Late Edition with Wold Blitzer”

"Well, I think that we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months  probably sooner  whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're going to have to just let this play out."
May 11, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on MSNBC's “Hardball”

“We would say that the next six weeks, rather than months, will show us where things are.”
“Core Issues in Iraq”
May 22, 2006
Stratfor

“The violence in Iraq will surge, but by July 4 there either will be clear signs that the Sunnis are controlling the insurgency  or there won't. If they are controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. If they are not controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. Regardless of whether the deal holds, the U.S. war in Iraq is going to end: U.S. troops either will not be needed, or will not be useful. Thus, we are at a break point  at least for the Americans.”
“Break Point”
May 23, 2006
George Friedman, Stratfor

“The next six months will be critical in terms of reining in the danger of civil war. If the government fails to achieve this, it will have lost its opportunity.”
June 7, 2006
Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador to Iraq
Interviewed in Der Spiegel

“Second, international oil companies have been waiting for two things before investing in the Iraqi oil complex: a domestically chosen, internationally acceptable representative government, and an end to the insurgency. The first has happened; the second may finally be in sight.”
“Iraq: The Implications of Al-Zarqawi's Death”
June 08, 2006
Stratfor

“If we are right and this is the tipping point, then things just tipped toward a political settlement. This will become clearer over the next few days. Violence will certainly not disappear, but it should reduce itself rather rapidly if the Sunni and Shiite leadership have put out the word. We thought this was the week for something to happen, and something has. Now to find out if it was what we were waiting for, and to find out if it will work.”
Jun 09, 2006
“Al-Zarqawi and the Tipping Point”
Stratfor

“This is a decisive period for everyone and everyone knows it. The next six months will determine the future of Iraq.”
October 5, 2006
General George Casey, Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq
Official statement after a 39-nation meeting in Warsaw to discuss “the challenges facing Iraq and the US-led coalition."

"Time is short, level of violence is great and the margins of error are narrow. The government of Iraq must act. The government of Iraq needs to show its own citizens soon and the citizens of the United States that it is deserving of continued support. The next three months are critical. Before the end of this year, this government needs to show progress in securing Baghdad, pursuing national reconciliation and delivering basic services."
September 19, 2006
Lee Hamilton, former Congressman (Democrat – Indiana), member of the Iraq Study Group

The next six months are likely to be critical in determining whether the situation in Iraq turns worse or whether we may yet salvage a measure of political stability that addresses our long-term security interests in the region.“
Rep. Mark Udall (Democrat - Colorado)
June 22, 2006

These people don't know what they're doing. They have no idea where we're headed or what needs to be done. They're clueless. Utterly clueless, but that doesn't stop them from lecturing the rest of us, endlessly.

Why is anyone still listening to them?

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November 20, 2006

McCain: Send More Troops Iraq  Politics

People need to get it through their heads that John McCain is a dangerous man. A Cheney with charm. Now he wants to send "an overwhelming number" of additional US troops to Iraq. IHT:

"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel." [...]

McCain, a front-running Republican presidential hopeful for 2008, said the U.S. must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks — in the region and possibly on American soil.

"The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation. Because it's not the end when American troops leave. The battleground shifts, and we'll be fighting them again," McCain said. "You read Zarqawi, and you read bin Laden. ... It's not just Iraq that they're interested in. It's the region, and then us." [Emphasis added]

Part of what this is about is Israel's impact on US politics. But McCain's record generally is one of the most conservative records in the Senate. People confuse his personal likability with his poliicies and beliefs. A dangerous mistake.

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November 13, 2006

Bechtel Takes The Money And Runs Iraq

Halliburton's not the only company with friends in high places that is making a killing in Iraq. There's also construction giant Bechtel, who has picked up $2.3 billion for accomplishing next to nothing. Now they're leaving. IPS News:

The decision of the giant engineering company Bechtel to withdraw from Iraq has left many Iraqis feeling betrayed. In its departure they see the end of remaining hopes for the reconstruction of Iraq. [...]

Bechtel, whose board members have close ties to the Bush administration, announced last week that it was done with trying to operate in the war-torn country. The company has received 2.3 billion dollars of Iraqi reconstruction funds and U.S. taxpayer money, but is leaving without completing most of the tasks it set out to.

On every level of infrastructure measurable, the situation in Iraq is worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That includes the 12 years of economic sanctions since the first Gulf War in 1991, a period that former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday described as "genocidal" for Iraqis.

The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even oil production has matched pre-invasion levels.

The security situation is hellish, with a recent study published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet estimating 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq as a result of the invasion and occupation.

The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illness are causing 70 percent of all child deaths, and that "of the 180 health clinics the U.S. hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed — and none opened."

A proposed 200 million dollar project to build 142 primary care centres ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance that the World Health Organisation described as "shocking."

Iraqis are complaining louder now than under the sanctions. Lack of electricity has led to increasing demand for gasoline to run generators. And gasoline is among the most scarce commodities in this oil-rich country. [...]

"The [electricity] situation now is much worse and it seems not to be improving despite the huge contracts signed with American companies. It is strange how billions of dollars spent on electricity brought no improvement whatsoever, but in fact worsened the situation." [...]

Bechtel's contract included reconstruction of water treatment systems, electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.

Two former Iraqi ministers of electricity were charged with corruption by the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up under the occupation. One of them, Ayham al-Samarraii, was sentenced to jail but was taken away by his U.S. security guards. He insisted that it was not he who looted the ministry's money. [...]

Bechtel was among the first companies, along with Halliburton, where U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney once worked, to have received fixed-fee contracts drawn to guarantee profit.

Ahmed al-Ani who works with a major Iraqi construction contracting company says the model Bechtel adopted was certain to fail.

"They charged huge sums of money for the contracts they signed, then they sold them to smaller companies who resold them again to small inexperienced Iraqi contractors," Ani told IPS. "These inexperienced contractors then had to execute the works badly because of the very low prices they get, and the lack of experience."

Some Iraqi political analysts, rather optimistically, look at Bechtel's departure from a different angle.

"I see the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq," Maki al-Nazzal told IPS. "It started with Bechtel and Haliburton's propaganda, and might end with their escape from the field. They came with Bremer and introduced themselves as heroes and saviours who would bring prosperity to Iraq, but all they did was market U.S. propaganda."

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on a visit to Iraq last June: "You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people."

By his standards, the position in Iraq is now much worse. [Emphasis added]

$2.3 billion is one hell of a lot of money. Especially since it doesn't seem to have bought much of anything. But Bechtel, like Halliburton, won't suffer because of its failure to get the job done. When the next multi-billion dollar contracts come along, they'll be right back at the head of the line. The game's rigged, and they're playing with our money.

Crony capitalism is way too polite a term. It's pillage and plunder, rape and looting. They're pirates, gangsters, vampires with their fangs in the neck of the world.

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November 03, 2006

"Donald Rumsfeld Must Go" Iraq

Editor and Publisher says that on Monday, the day before the election, four leading military newspapers — the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times — will all publish an editorial calling for Donald Rumsfeld's head. Here's the editorial:

Time for Rumsfeld to go.

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on "critical" and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go. [Emphasis added]

Think back to all the assurances we've received from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice that the Iraqi security forces are getting ready to stand up so US forces can stand down, that US commanders have been given everything they've asked for, etc., etc. All lies.

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November 02, 2006

Katie Couric Gets Shrill Iraq  Media

From the NBC Nightly News CBS Evening News (via Atrios):

Whoa. Things really must be unravelling over there if mainstream network news is this dark.

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November 01, 2006

"Edging Toward Chaos" Iraq

The NYT today published a classified CENTCOM assessment that portrays Iraq as moving steadily closer to chaos, with "violence at all-time high":

A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an "Index of Civil Conflict." It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory.

The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from "peace," an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked "chaos." As depicted in the command's chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide reads "urban areas experiencing 'ethnic cleansing' campaigns to consolidate control" and "violence at all-time high, spreading geographically." [...]

One significant factor in the military's decision to move the scale toward "chaos" was the expanding activity by militias.

Another reason was the limitations of Iraqi government security forces, which despite years of training and equipping by the United States, are either ineffective or, in some cases, infiltrated by the very militias they are supposed to be combating. The slide notes that "ineffectual" Iraqi police forces have been a significant problem, and cites as a concern sectarian conflicts between Iraqi security forces.

Other significant factors are in the political realm. The slide notes that Iraq's political and religious leaders have lost some of their moderating influence over their constituents or adherents. [...]

[F]or a military culture that thrives on PowerPoint briefings, the shifting index was seen by some officials as a stark warning about the difficult course of events in Iraq, and mirrored growing concern by some military officers.

Shorter version: everything the White House has been saying about Iraq is a lie. It's getting worse. Iraqi security forces will never be in a position to "stand up" so US forces can "stand down". The Iraqi "unity government" is a Green Zone fiction. It will all end in chaos. What then?

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105 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq in October: 105.

And thousands of Iraqis. For what?

October was the deadliest month for US troops since January, 2005 (107), and the fourth deadliest month of the entire war.

No end in sight.

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October 25, 2006

Staying The Course Iraq  Politics

Awesome video (via AmericaBlog):

They were for "stay the course" before they were against it. Has a familiar ring.

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October 23, 2006

2800 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2800.

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

This is already the deadliest month for US troops in the past year — with another week to go.

No end in sight.

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October 21, 2006

Men From Mars Iraq

An excellent short film from the Guardian and BBC, Iraq: The Real Story. It pretty much demolishes all the talk of Iraqi security forces "standing up" so US forces can "stand down". The US troops in the film might as well be men from Mars, stomping around Iraq pretty much devoid of any understanding or empathy for the people they are supposedly liberating.

Guerrilla wars are won by the superior use of minds, not of weapons. One of the soldiers in the film says US forces will never be able to leave Iraq because Iraqis are "too lazy". But it's the Americans who appear to be too lazy to even try to understand the reality of what they see around them. Learning another language, absorbing new customs and political facts of life, fitting into an alien cultural milieu, those things are hard work. Way too hard for Americans.

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October 19, 2006

Shame Iraq

Stop what you're doing and read this.

Shame on us all.

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October 18, 2006

Coming Unglued Iraq

The electricity has been on in Baghdad an average of only 2.4 hours a day this month, the lowest level yet (graph). Before the war, the average was 16-24 hours a day.

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Iraq: 10 US Troops Killed Yesterday Iraq

10 US troops were killed in a single day yesterday in Iraq, bringing the total for October to 69 killed with almost two weeks to go. At the current pace, October will be the deadliest month for US troops since January, 2005.

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October 16, 2006

W Humor & Fun  Iraq  Politics

The leader of the free world. It's so embarrassing:

And as for cuttin' and runnin'...

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October 15, 2006

Why We're Still In Iraq Iran  Iraq  Politics

Conservative William S. Lind, a leading thinking on fourth-generation warfare, tells us why we're still in Iraq:

At least 32 American troops have been killed in Iraq this month [as of October 11]. Approximately 300 have been wounded. The "battle for Baghdad" is going nowhere. A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, "It didn't get any better while I was there, and it's not going to get better." Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.

Actually, I think the White House knows it too. Why then does it insist on "staying the course" at a casualty rate of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President's watch. That is why we still fight.

Yep, it's now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective "Rovian." Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.

Not that it's going to help. When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence. Jeffrey Hart, who with Russell Kirk gone is probably the top intellectual in the conservative movement, has already written that George W. Bush is the worst President America ever had. I think the honor still belongs to the sainted Woodrow, but if Bush attacks Iran, he may yet earn the prize. That third and final act in the Bush tragicomedy is waiting in the wings. [Emphasis added]

Lind sees no reason to expect Democratic victories in next month's midterm elections to change anything:

A Democratic Congress will be as stupid, cowardly and corrupt as its Republican predecessor; in reality, both parties are one party, the party of successful career politicians. The White House will continue a lost war in Iraq, solely to dump the mess in the next President's lap. America or Israel will attack Iran, pulling what's left of the temple down on our heads. Congress will do nothing to stop either war. [Emphasis added]

It is disgusting to think of a war being continued just to protect the egos of powerful men, but we've seen it before. Vietnam lasted for years after it was evident that no victory would be forthcoming, simply because neither Johnson nor Nixon wanted to be the first American president to lose a war. Now it's happening again. Except the danger this time around is that Bush et al will expand the war by attacking Iran, applying the desperate gambler's strategy of last resort: doubling the size of the bet, then doubling it again.

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October 11, 2006

600,000 Iraq

Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that 654,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, 600,000 of those due to violence. Baltimore Sun:

In an update of a two-year-old survey that sparked wide disagreement, Johns Hopkins researchers now estimate that more than a half-million Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and its bloody aftermath.

Reporting this week in the online edition of The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, the researchers estimated that 654,000 more Iraqis died of various causes after the invasion than would have died in a comparable period before.

The scientists attributed 600,000 of those deaths to acts of violence.

Gunshots emerged as the leading cause of death, accounting for 56 percent of the total. Airstrikes, car bombs and other explosions each accounted for 13 percent to 14 percent. Almost 60 percent of the deaths were among males 15 to 44.

"In this conflict, like all other recent conflicts, it's the population that bears the consequences," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author and co-director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"To put these numbers in context, deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003," he said.

With deaths increasing at that pace, Burnham said, the crisis in Iraq qualifies as a "humanitarian emergency," a public health term applied to situations in which populations die at twice or more the usual rate. [...]

The Pentagon declined to comment on the study, saying that officials had not yet read it. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, said the force was "interested" in the study but doesn't normally comment on Iraqi deaths.

"We're obviously trying to reduce the amount of violence of all kinds in Iraq, but it's really a government of Iraq issue," he said.

In August, the Defense Department reported to Congress that the number of civilian casualties had increased sharply, without estimating total deaths.

In 2005, however, the Bush administration estimated that 30,000 civilians had died. A report by the Los Angeles Times in June, based on statistics from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, put civilian deaths at 50,000.

To estimate deaths for this week's report, the Hopkins group recruited Iraqi doctors to conduct household surveys in 47 neighborhood clusters across Iraq that contained 1,849 households and 12,801 people. The doctors asked family members to report births, deaths and the movement of people into and out of their households.

When people reported deaths, researchers asked them about the cause and obtained death certificates in 92 percent of cases. The data were then projected onto the entire nation, about 26 million people.

The Hopkins estimate is many times higher than any other group's, including Iraq Body Count, a Web-based organization that put the death count at 48,693 yesterday. Members of that group, which criticized Hopkins' earlier estimate as wildly inflated, were unavailable for comment.

Unlike the Hopkins study, Iraq Body Count has based its estimates on reports from morgues and the news media.

Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar who criticized the last Hopkins study, said the method used by the Hopkins researchers this time was seriously flawed.

"The numbers are preposterously high," he said. "Their numbers are out of whack with every other estimate."

Burnham, however, said that no one else has done a population-based survey of deaths in Iraq. "There are people who have taken numbers reported from various facilities and so forth, but statistically you can't [extrapolate] from various morgue and newspaper reports to a national figure," he said.

He said the group employed standard epidemiological methods used to estimate deaths from calamities ranging from natural disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina to the bloody war in the Congo.

In its earlier study, published in October 2004, the Hopkins group estimated that close to 100,000 people had died in the 17 months after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Critics attacked that study, in part, because of a wide "confidence interval," a range within which the true number exists.

In that case, the interval was 8,000 to 194,000 deaths, though researchers said 100,000 was most likely the actual number.

To avoid that problem this time, researchers increased the number of neighborhood clusters from 33 to 47. Additionally, Burnham said, by the time the second survey was conducted, hostilities had spread more widely through the country, reducing the possibility that the overall projection was skewed by pockets of extreme violence.

The researchers now say that Iraqi deaths totaled between 392,000 to 942,000. Their best estimate is 654,000.

In the earlier study, Iraqis told interviewers that about a third of all deaths were caused by coalition forces. Since then, the proportion has dropped to about a quarter — although the absolute number of deaths has risen in each year of the conflict. [Emphasis added]

It is noteworthy that the researchers obtained death certificates in 92% of reported cases. That creates a high level of confidence that the reports were true and accurate. The only question, then, is whether their statistical methodology was sound — i.e., that the sample was sufficiently representative and random and the extrapolation to the total population was done correctly. Note also that their confidence interval puts 392,000 as the minimum figure, already an astonishing number.

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September 26, 2006

2700 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2703.

And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

No end in sight.

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September 12, 2006

Rationalizing Our Way To Disaster Global Guerrillas  Iraq  War and Peace

John Robb talks sense, as usual:

We are now at the start of a long process of rationalization over the US defeat in Iraq. The most common of these rationalizations include: if only we had "...not disbanded the Baathist army," "...sent in more troops," or "...become better at nation-building." However, in each case the approach is one dimensional, since we tend to view ourselves as the only actors on the stage. The actions and reactions of the opposition are discounted and explained away as fluff and background noise (those pesky terrorists...).

A better, and more sane approach, is to embrace the concept that war is a conflict of minds. There are two sides. For every change in approach there will be counters mounted by the opposition. In the case of Iraq, that opposition was extremely difficult to beat since it was organized along the lines of open source warfare. This organizational structure gave it a level of innovation, resilience, and flexibility that made it a very effective opponent. Given this, the simplest explanation for the outcome in Iraq is that we were just beaten by a better opponent (the Israeli's seem to be getting this, why can't we?).

The real question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not our maximalist goals in Iraq could ever have been achieved given the capabilities of the opposition and the limited levels of commitment we were able to bring to to bear on the problem. I suspect the answer is no. The goals didn't match our capabilities and there weren't any simple tweaks to our strategy that would have changed the outcome. This was a difficult way to learn this lesson, but given our tendency towards rationalization, I doubt that it will be learned at all.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. [Emphasis added]

There's a fundamental irrationality in the Pentagon's approach to fighting this new kind of war: namely, its reliance on high-tech weapons — i.e., machines that kill — instead of methods that produce a political outcome. No amount of killing will produce the desired political outcome. Working at a political level is hard work, though — all those languages to be learned, and so on. Not much money in it, either. Way more fun and way more profit in building high-tech weapons, even if, in the long run, they cannot win. The weapons makers still get paid regardless, and if there's anything humans are good at, it's rationalizing their own self-interest.

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September 06, 2006

CIA Task Force On Iraq Ramped Up Months Before 9/11 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

David Corn drops some bombshells in an article on what it was Valerie Plame Wilson really did at the CIA:

In the spring of 2002 Dick Cheney made one of his periodic trips to CIA headquarters. Officers and analysts were summoned to brief him on Iraq. Paramilitary specialists updated the Vice President on an extensive covert action program in motion that was designed to pave the way to a US invasion. Cheney questioned analysts about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. How could they be used against US troops? Which Iraqi units had chemical and biological weapons? He was not seeking information on whether Saddam posed a threat because he possessed such weapons. His queries, according to a CIA officer at the briefing, were pegged to the assumptions that Iraq had these weapons and would be invaded — as if a decision had been made.

Though Cheney was already looking toward war, the officers of the agency's Joint Task Force on Iraq — part of the Counterproliferation Division of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations — were frantically toiling away in the basement, mounting espionage operations to gather information on the WMD programs Iraq might have. The JTFI was trying to find evidence that would back up the White House's assertion that Iraq was a WMD danger. Its chief of operations was a career undercover officer named Valerie [Plame] Wilson. [...]

In July 2003 — four months after the invasion of Iraq — Wilson would be outed as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" in a column by conservative journalist Robert Novak, who would cite two "senior administration officials" as his sources. (...[O]ne was Richard Armitage, the number-two at the State Department; Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, was the other. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, also talked to two reporters about her.) Novak revealed her CIA identity — using her maiden name, Valerie Plame — in the midst of the controversy ignited by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, her husband, who had written a New York Times op-ed accusing the Bush Administration of having "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

The Novak column triggered a scandal and a criminal investigation. At issue was whether Novak's sources had violated a little-known law that makes it a federal crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US officer (if that official knew the officer was undercover). A key question was, what did Valerie Wilson do at the CIA? Was she truly undercover? In a subsequent column, Novak reported that she was "an analyst, not in covert operations." White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that her employment at the CIA was no secret. Jonah Goldberg of National Review claimed, "Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already."

Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President's case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled. [...]

In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer — before 9/11 — word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group. [...]

"We knew nothing about what was going on in Iraq," a CIA official recalled. "We were way behind the eight ball. We had to look under every rock." Wilson, too, occasionally flew overseas to monitor operations. She also went to Jordan to work with Jordanian intelligence officials who had intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes heading to Iraq that CIA analysts were claiming — wrongly — were for a nuclear weapons program. [...]

The JTFI found nothing. The few scientists it managed to reach insisted Saddam had no WMD programs. Task force officers sent reports detailing the denials into the CIA bureaucracy. The defectors were duds — fabricators and embellishers. (JTFI officials came to suspect that some had been sent their way by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that desired a US invasion of Iraq.) The results were frustrating for the officers. Were they not doing their job well enough — or did Saddam not have an arsenal of unconventional weapons? Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed to consider the possibility that their small number of operations was, in a way, coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam's WMDs because the weapons did not exist. Still, she and her colleagues kept looking. (She also assisted operations involving Iran and WMDs.) [...]

As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn't able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration's justification for war and had come up empty. [Emphasis added]

It's been pretty obvious that the Bush team had Iraq in their crosshairs from the very beginning, but this is the first published evidence I can recall that months before 9/11 the administration already had the CIA ramping up a major effort on Iraq. Then 9/11 came along and triggered the military phase of the plan. How very convenient, that.

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August 17, 2006

The End Of Iraq II Iraq

In a post last night I wrote:

[O]ne has to wonder why — if the intent all along was to arrive at just this endgame — the administration didn't just declare early on that the ethnic realities of Iraq demanded that Iraq be broken into three states, break it up, declare victory, and be done with it? Why this elaborate and enormously costly charade, ending in what must certainly be viewed as defeat for the US?

A regular reader emailed me with an answer: it took all this chaos and bloodshed to break Iraqi society down to the point where Iraqis are killing each other in the street. The Kurds have always been separatist, but otherwise Iraq is tribal before it's Sunni and Shiite. Many of the large tribes are mixed. In New Orleans, it took a Katrina to really expose the fault lines in American society, and even under those conditions people were a very long way from forming death squads and militias. Think what it would take to bring us to such a point. Iraq was a civilized and largely secular society. It has taken a lot to bring them to a state of civil war.

Excellent point.

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August 16, 2006

The End Of Iraq Iraq

On Point Radio today carried an extraordinary conversation, noteworthy for its frankness, about the current state of Iraq. It's online, and very much worth a listen.

The consensus was pretty dire:

  • if anything, things are much worse than is reported in the US
  • a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is already underway
  • the country has de facto broken into three states (Kurd, Sunni, Shiite)
  • the current "unity government" governs little but the Green Zone
  • the White House has no intention of committing the personnel and resources it would take to change these facts
  • the White House is just trying to hang on long enough to foist the inevitable pullout onto Bush's successor.

    The inescapable conclusion: Iraq will be officially broken into three statelets defined along ethnic lines.

    Something not considered in the discussion: maybe the breakup of Iraq has been the desired outcome all along. Various observers have contended from the outset that this is the outcome administration neocons have wanted. It is certainly what Israeli hardliners have wanted.

    An observer (from Mars, say) who could only see the administration's actions, not hear its rhetoric, might well conclude it's all been purposeful. It's been one long succession of screwups, but somehow with every screwup the eventual breakup of Iraq became more assured. So were they really screwups?

    It's hard to know, but one has to wonder why — if the intent all along was to arrive at just this endgame — the administration didn't just declare early on that the ethnic realities of Iraq demanded that Iraq be broken into three states, break it up, declare victory, and be done with it? Why this elaborate and enormously costly charade, ending in what must certainly be viewed as defeat for the US?

    Various hypotheses suggest themselves. It could just be what it looks like: they're incompetent, arrogant fools who were blinded by their belief in America as hyperpower, the new Rome, and who just don't get fourth-generation war. Or, it could be that different elements in the administration are working at cross-purposes: for example, Cheney, Rumseld, et al are deliberately driving towards an outcome of their choosing, and Bush (perhaps), Congress, and much of the military don't know they're being played. The only way for them to pull this off would be to make it all look like incompetence.

    What's the reality? Beats me. Either way, unified Iraq is toast. Wingers who say we're winning, that it's the mainstream media's fault that things look bad, are out to lunch, as will become painfully clear in the very near future.

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    August 13, 2006

    Baghdad Violence Continues Unabated Iraq

    The ongoing destruction of Lebanon and the militarization of US airports and civil aviation have pushed Iraq off of the front page, but the bloodbath in Baghdad goes on. NYT:

    As American forces conducted a new security sweep in western Baghdad on Sunday, five apparently coordinated bombings in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood on the city’s south side killed at least 57 people and wounded 148, an Iraqi government official said.

    The death toll could rise, the official said, as emergency workers searched for victims in the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed as a result of the bombings.

    The attacks, which killed civilians in a largely residential neighborhood, were the deadliest in the capital since the American military dispatched new forces here more than a week ago to quell a surge in killings and kidnappings by sectarian militias and criminal gangs. [Emphasis added]

    As always, we must pause to remember that this is happening in a real place, to real people, people whose only crime, for the most part, is to live atop some of the largest oil reserves in the world. It's hard, given the steady drumbeat of horrific news, to put ourselves in their place, but basic morality and simple human decency demand that we make the effort. Imagine it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    August 12, 2006

    2600 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2601.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    August 09, 2006

    60% Oppose Iraq War Iraq

    Looks like Iraq is now the most unpopular war in US history. CNN:

    Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began with the commencement of the war in March 2003, according to poll results and trends released Wednesday.

    And a majority of poll respondents said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year, according to results from the Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last week on behalf of CNN. The corporation polled 1,047 adult Americans by telephone.

    According to trends, the number of poll respondents who said they did not support the Iraq war has steadily risen as the war stretched into a second and then a third year. In the most recent poll, 36 percent said they were in favor of the war — half of the peak of 72 percent who said they were in favor of the war as it began.

    Sixty-one percent, however, said they believed at least some U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. Of those, 26 percent said they would favor the withdrawal of all troops, while 35 percent said not all troops should be withdrawn. Another 34 percent said they believed the current level of troops in Iraq should be maintained.

    Asked about a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, 57 percent of poll respondents said they supported the setting of such a timetable, while 40 percent did not and 4 percent had no opinion. [Emphasis added]

    Too bad we don't have a parliamentary system allowing us to go immediately to a no-confidence vote. Yesterday's vote in CT was a start.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 31, 2006

    Rumsfeld "In A Parallel Universe And Slightly Deranged" Iraq  Palestine/Middle East  Politics

    Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria on ABC Sunday (via ThinkProgress):

    If I were a Democrat, I would make up a campaign commercial almost entirely of Donald Rumsfeld’s press conferences, because the man is looking — I mean, it's not just that he seems like a bad Secretary of [Defense]. He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged as a result. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he's living in a different world, not a different country. [Emphasis added]

    Rumsfeld and Cheney both. They're delusional men with enormous egos and enormous power. Not a happy combination. Incapable of admitting error or defeat, they will continue to escalate. Bush won't stop them and they won't stop themselves. They'll go to their graves convinced that they were right. The only question is whether they will take the rest of us with them.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:40 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 30, 2006

    Doubling Down Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East  War and Peace

    Josh Marshall links to an article in today's Jerusalem Post:

    [Israeli] Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria. [Emphasis added]

    He goes on to say:

    [T]here do appear to be forces in Washington — seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade — who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. [Emphasis added]

    That's my fear as well, that the Bush/Cheney regime has painted itself into such a desperate corner that doubling down may seem, as Billmon put it a few months back, "like the only move left on the board." Billmon:

    What we are witnessing...may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to a situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

    Classic historical examples of the flucht nach vornes include Napoleon's attempt to break the long stalemate with Britain by invading Russia, the decision of the Deep South slaveholding states to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election, and Milosevic's bid to create a "greater Serbia" after Yugoslavia fell apart.

    As these examples suggest, flights forward usually don't end well — just as relatively few gamblers emerge from a doubling-down spree with their shirts still on their backs.

    It's depressing to think how much human suffering is caused by a handful of men with big egos. Some guys would rather take us all down in flames than admit error or defeat. But there's something unbelievably archaic about issues like war and the fate of nations being held hostage to the pyschopathology of individual men (and maybe a few women) in leadership positions. It's like we think we're still a small band of primates living in the forest somewhere: the alpha males call the shots. Time to grow up.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 29, 2006

    From Lebanon To Iran Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

    As I wrote in an earlier post, if US forces are inserted into southern Lebanon, the inevitable Hezbollah attacks on those troops are sure to lead to a wider war pitting the US and Israel against Syria and/or Iran.

    John Robb agrees, but believes the target will be Iran:

    If the US sends troops to Lebanon as peacekeepers and/or as a force to disarm Hezbollah, we will see a quick escalation. Any attack (and it would be inevitable) on US forces by the Hez would be seen as a direct attack on the US by Syria and Iran. This would lead to an immediate expansion of hostilities (to include an EBO [effects based operation] against both countries as a means of punishment). From that point on, the situation would be beyond repair. [...]

    I do not think I am overstating the danger here. Once momentum starts moving in that direction, we might soon find ourselves in another situation where stubborn pride, as much as anything else, would make it hard for us to modify our rhetoric and admit our inability and that of our Israeli allies to disarm and dismantle the military arm of Hizballah. It's a proxy war right now, but if our surrogates (the Israelis) fail to achieve their objectives, they will attempt very purposefully to broaden the conflict into a much larger one directly involving the United States and Iran. [Emphasis in the original]

    Robb cites former CIA analyst Ray Close, who writes:

    My source confirmed in detail the fact that intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran. My source considers this an exaggerated picture of the real situation. He believes that this assessment contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time. [Emphasis added]

    These people have their heads in a bubble, and they are going to get a lot of people killed. The idea that Hezbollah is being "directly controlled and closely managed" by Iran is as outmoded as the idea that the opposition in Iraq is just a bunch of foreign jihadists and Baathist dead-enders. And we know how that turned out. If the US allows itself to be drawn into a war with Iran, we will look back on our current difficulties with nostalgia.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Summer Rerun Iraq  Media

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Boy, are they ever. E&P:

    An analysis released today by Frank Newport, director of The Gallup Poll, shows that current public wishes for U.S. policy in the Iraq war eerily echo attitudes about the Vietnam war in 1970.

    The most recent Gallup poll this month found that 52% of adult Americans want to see all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, with 19% advocating immediate withdrawal. In the summer of 1970, Gallup found that 48% wanted a pullout within a year, with 23% embracing the "immediate" option. Just 7% want to send more troops now, vs. 10% then.

    At present, 56% call the decision to invade Iraq a "mistake," with 41% disagreeing. Again this echoes the view of the Vietnam war in 1970, when that exact same number, 56%, in May 1970 called [Vietnam] a mistake in a Gallup poll.

    While the U.S. involvement in the Korean war is often labeled unpopular, the highest number calling it a mistake in a Gallup poll was 51% in early 1952. That number actually declined to 43% by the end of that year. [Emphasis added]

    So, the Iraq war is now tied for most unpopular American war ever.

    There's one essential difference between now and 1970, though. Back then, opposition to the war had become a somewhat respectable position, openly advocated by the likes of Walter Cronkite and Bobby Kennedy. Today, if all you did was watch tv, you'd think it's only fringe elements who want the US to pull out of Iraq. Instead, it's a majority of Americans. Liberal media.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 23, 2006

    Meanwhile In Iraq Iraq

    How many corners have we turned now in Iraq? Most recently, there was the election of the national unity government. And the killing of al-Zarqawi. American troop drawdowns were said to be in the offing. But reality doesn't watch Fox News. AP:

    The deteriorating security situation — especially in Baghdad — has alarmed U.S. officials, who had hoped that the new national unity government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would be able to ease tensions so that the U.S. and its international partners could begin removing troops this year.

    But the situation has gotten worse since al-Maliki took office May 20. Security is likely to top the agenda when al-Maliki visits the White House this coming week.

    The Baghdad area recorded an average of 34 major bombings and shootings [daily] for the week ending July 13, the U.S. military said. That was up 40 percent from the daily average of 24 registered between June 14 and July 13.

    Much of the violence was due to sectarian attacks. Months of worsening violence has deepened the distrust between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis.

    Instead of cutbacks, a senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was moving ahead with scheduled deployments to Iraq next month and was moving one battalion to Baghdad from Kuwait, where it was in reserve, U.S. officials said.

    The U.S. command had drawn up plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12 by September. But that plan has been shelved for the time being because of the security crisis in the capital. [Emphasis added]

    The invasion of Iraq didn't work out as planned. So what do they do? They widen the war. Lunatics.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 22, 2006

    Not A Domino 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East  Peak Oil

    The following was written a year and a half ago, but it is, if anything, more timely today with the war widening. Jeff Wells:

    The Mosul bombing likely has some Americans thinking, as they do only when the media reports a mass US casualty event, that Iraq could be Vietnam redux. I wish they'd stop that; this is no time for vainglorious optimism. Iraq is much worse.

    It's not just about the clicking of the casualty counter, though it did take the better part of a decade for American casualties in Vietnam to reach the level of "sustainable losses" the US military is now taking in Iraq. [...]

    We need to remember that Vietnam was a "domino." It was a piece in a geopolitical game, and not a very important one at that. Vietnam [lay] on the fringe of America's sphere of interest. And still it took 58,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives before it was over. [...]

    Iraq will never be over, because it's not a domino. Dominating the diminishing oil reserves of the Middle East is not a sideshow; it is the essence of US strategic interest. We're talking about the centerpiece of empire in the New American Century. So this war — and it will not be contained to Iraq — will not be over until the American Empire falls.

    Iraq is not Vietnam, because the war won't end with a dash for the helicopter on the roof of the Baghdad embassy. It will end with a dash for Marine One on the grounds of the White House. [Emphasis added]

    Dick Cheney, yesterday:

    This conflict is a long way from over. It's going to be a battle that will last for a very long time. It is absolutely essential that we stay the course.

    I didn't sign up for this. Did you?

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 20, 2006

    A 9/11 Every Month Iraq

    While Israel's attack on Lebanon dominates the news, the violence in Iraq continues to escalate. The number of Iraqi civilians killed every month is now approximately equal to the total number of Americans killed on 9/11. CNN:

    More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.

    Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says. [Emphasis added]

    Those are civilian casualties, not insurgents or other combatants. A 9/11 every month. Actually, in proportion to Iraq's population, a 9/11 every two or three days. Do the math.

    We in the US, spoiled as we are, have acted as if the events of 9/11 put us into a whole different category from the rest of the world, entitling us to go on a rampage. Why do we imagine the people of Iraq (and elsewhere) won't react similarly to the suffering we cause them? The reverberations of what we do now will be felt for years, if not for generations.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 19, 2006

    Reality Begs To Differ 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq

    Regarding Condi's recent comment that "the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque", you might want to revisit these two posts.

    She can have her opinion, but the facts refute her completely. Stubborn thing, reality.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 17, 2006

    Grotesque Iraq

    Condoleezza Rice yesterday said it was "grotesque" to suggest that the US attack on Iraq has contributed to reqional instability:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the war in Iraq many argued that going into Iraq would stir up a hornet's nest...Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration's actions have unleashed, have helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?

    RICE: Well, first of all, those hostilities were not very well contained as we found out on September 11th, so the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque. [Emphasis added]

    I'll tell you what's grotesque. People who can — after all the killing and dying and in spite of their own culpability — look straight into the camera and say such nonsense.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 15, 2006

    Baghdad Today Iraq

    The Iraq stories pile up, and it's inevitable that sometimes we just glance at them and move on. For those of us who've never been in a war zone, it's especially hard to grasp the human reality of what's happening daily to real people in Baghdad, Fallujah, Haditha, and the rest.

    But it's our moral duty to try. That's why I urge you to take a few minutes and read the latest post by Riverbend, the young Iraqi woman who writes the blog Baghdad Burning. I won't excerpt it here, because I want you to read the whole thing. Read it and weep.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:42 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    July 10, 2006

    "A Lot Worse...Than Is Reported" Iraq

    Establishment journal Foreign Policy interviewed Rod Nordland, Newsweek's Bagdad bureau chief for two years. Excerpt:

    FOREIGN POLICY: Are Americans getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in Iraq?

    Rod Nordland: It's a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. [...]

    [I]n the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that's not true.

    FP: How often do you travel outside of the Green Zone?

    RN: The restrictions on [journalists'] movements are very severe...[T]he military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story — they use the word slant — what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don't like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn't happy with the work they had done on embed. But we get out among the Iraqi public a whole lot more than almost any American official, certainly more than military officials do. [...]

    FP: Are journalists and the military seeing two different pictures in Iraq?

    RN: Sometimes it's hard to say. Many in the military are here on their second or third tour and they don't want to feel that this is all a doomed enterprise. I'm not saying it is, but to some extent they are victims of their own propaganda. Two reasonable people can look at the same set of information and come to different conclusions. A good example: I traveled recently to Taji for the handover of a large swath of territory north of Baghdad to the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division. This was meant to be a big milestone: an important chunk of territory that has lots of insurgent activity, given over completely to the control of the Iraqi Army. But when we spoke to the Iraqi Army officers, they said they didn't have enough equipment. They are still completely dependent on the U.S. Army for their logistics, their meals, and a lot of their communications. The United States turned territory over to them, but they are not a functioning, independent army unit yet. [Emphasis added]

    The sectarian violence grows more vicious with every passing day. It's Hell on Earth. Thanks to us.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 23, 2006

    Bill Of Particulars Iraq

    Are Iraqis better off because of the US invasion? William Blum has compiled a list of the many ways they're worse off. It's a long list.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:01 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 21, 2006

    To See Ourselves As Others See Us Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

    Who's the biggest threat to world peace? We are, according to a poll spanning 15 nations. Guardian, via CommonDreams:

    George Bush's six years in office have so damaged the image of the US that people worldwide see Washington as a bigger threat to world peace than Tehran, according to a global poll.

    The Washington-based Pew Research Centre, in a poll of 17,000 people in 15 countries between March and May, found more people concerned about the US presence in Iraq than about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. [...]

    The survey, carried out annually, shows a continued decline in support for the US since 1999. [...]

    But even in the UK, Washington's closest ally, favourable ratings have slumped from 83% in 1999 to 56% this year. The pattern is similar in France, down from 62% to 39%, Germany 78% to 37%, and Spain 50% to 23%.

    In Muslim countries with which the US has traditionally enjoyed a good relationship, such as Turkey - a member of Nato - and Indonesia, there have also been slumps. In Indonesia favourable ratings for the US have dropped from 75% to 30%, and in Turkey from 52% to 12%.

    "It's all [because of] Iraq," Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Centre, said. [...]

    Favourable ratings of the US in India dropped over the year from 71% to 56%. [...]

    Throughout the period the poll was conducted the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme, intensified by hardline comments from its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was repeatedly in the news. Iraq, too, has been in the news on an almost daily basis, with the formation of a new Iraqi government being accompanied by fears of a civil war.

    Only in the US and Germany is Iran seen as a greater danger than the US in Iraq. Public opinion in 12 of the other countries - Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and China - cite the US presence in Iraq as being the greater danger. Opinion in Japan was evenly divided.

    As well as Iraq and Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also high on the list of issues that present a danger to world peace. Public opinion in about a third of the countries polled put it at the top of their list of threats. [...]

    By contrast, concern about Iran has almost doubled in the US over the past two years. Some 46% of Americans view Mr Ahmadinejad's government as "a great danger" to stability in the Middle East and world peace, up from 26% in 2003. The concern in the US is shared in Germany, where 51% see Iran as a great danger to world peace, against 18% three years ago. [...]

    Those are remarkable numbers: US approval cut more or less in half under Bush. Meanwhile, the media blitz here in the US has done its work: nearly half of Americans now view Iran as "a great danger". They didn't arrive at that conclusion on their own. It's disheartening to realize what sheep we are. Small wonder that media ownership and control is such a priority for elites here and elsewhere.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:58 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 20, 2006

    Iraq: Millions Of Barrels Dumped Disasters  Environment  Global Guerrillas  Iraq

    So, how's that Iraqi reconstruction coming along? Check this out. NYT:

    An environmental disaster is brewing in the heartland of Iraq's northern Sunni-led insurgency, where Iraqi officials say that in a desperate move to dispose of millions of barrels of an oil refinery byproduct called "black oil," the government pumped it into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set it on fire.

    The resulting huge black bogs are threatening the river and the precious groundwater in the region, which is dotted with villages and crisscrossed by itinerant sheep herders, but also contains Iraq's great northern refinery complex at Baiji.

    The fires are no longer burning, but the suffocating plumes of smoke they created carried as far as 40 miles downwind to Tikrit, the provincial capital that formed Saddam Hussein's base of power.

    An Iraqi environmental engineer who has visited the dumping area described it as a kind of black swampland of oil-saturated terrain and large standing pools of oil stretching across several mountain valleys. The clouds of smoke, said the engineer, Ayad Younis, "were so heavy that they obstructed breathing and visibility in the area and represent a serious environmental danger." [...]

    ...He added that at least some of the black oil was already seeping into the river.

    Exactly how far those pollutants will travel is unknown, but the Tigris passes through dozens of population centers from Baghdad to Basra. In the past, oil slicks created when insurgents struck oil pipelines in the Baiji area have traveled the entire length of the river.

    As much as 40 percent of the petroleum processed at Iraq's damaged and outdated refineries pours forth as black oil, the heavy, viscous substance that used to be extensively exported to more efficient foreign operations for further refining. But the insurgency has stalled government-controlled exports by taking control of roadways and repeatedly hitting pipelines in the area, Iraqi and American officials have said.

    So the backed-up black oil — known to the rest of the world as the lower grades of fuel oil — was sent along a short pipeline from Baiji and dumped in a mountainous area called Makhul.

    A series of complaints handed up the Iraqi government chain were conveyed to oil industry officials, and as of last weekend the fires had at least temporarily stopped, but black oil was still being poured into the open valleys, according to Mr. Younis, who works in the province's Department of Environment and Health Safety. [...]

    But with few options for disposing of Baiji's current production of black oil and so much at stake for the Iraqi economy, it is unclear whether the government will even be able to hold the line on the burning at Makhul. A United States official in Baghdad, speaking anonymously according to official procedure, said earlier this month that Baiji was still turning out about 90,000 barrels a day of refined products, which would yield about 36,000 barrels a day of black oil.

    Iraq's refineries will grind to a halt if the black oil does not go somewhere. "Unless we find a way of dealing with the fuel oil, our factories will not work," said Shamkhi H. Faraj, director of economics and marketing at the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

    The dumping and burning has embarrassed ministry officials and exposed major gaps in the American-designed reconstruction program, even as President Bush appeals to the international community for much more rebuilding money in the wake of his visit to Baghdad. [Emphasis added]

    This is how a modern insurgency can bring a country to its knees: isolated, relatively low-risk actions by small teams that hit the country's economic infrastructure at key points where the effects cascade and are magnified manyfold. Blow up an oil pipeline here, sabotage a refinery there, and in the end, you've got the government dumping millions of barrels of heavy oil into valleys and reservoirs. The downward spiral feeds on itself.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 18, 2006

    Something Doesn't Add Up Iraq

    Amid all the hoopla surrounding the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, no one but Patrick Cockburn (one of the most courageous Western journalists covering Iraq) has thought to ask how it was that al-Zarqawi, supposed terrorist arch-villain and mastermind, was living virtually unguarded with five companions that included two women and an eight-year-old girl. It doesn't add up. Cockburn:

    In the days before he was tracked down and killed by US laser-guided bombs Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was living with almost no guards and only five companions, two of whom were women and one an eight year old girl. [...]

    The ease with which Iraqi police and US special forces were able to reach the house after the bombing without encountering hostile fire showed that Zarqawi was never the powerful guerrilla chieftain and leader of the Iraqi resistance that Washington has claimed for over three years.

    Amid the broken slabs of concrete and twisted metal was a woman's leopard skin nightgown, a magazine with a picture of Franklin Roosevelt and a leaflet apparently identifying a radio station in Latafiyah which might be a potential target for attack. It is not clear how long the little group had been in the house. [...]

    The only resistance encountered by black-clad American commandos was from local Sunni villagers in the village of Ghalabiya, near Hibhib, who thought the strangers were members of a Shia death squad. Villagers who were standing guard fired into the air on seeing the commandos who in turn threw a grenade that killed five of the guards. American regular army troops later came to Ghalabiya to apologise and promise compensation to the families of the dead men.

    The manner in which Zarqawi died confirms the belief that his military and political importance was always deliberately exaggerated by the US. He was a wholly obscure figure until he was denounced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003. Mr Powell identified Zarqawi as the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein though no evidence for this was ever produced.

    Iraqi police documents were later discovered showing that Saddam Hussein's security forces, so far from collaborating with Zarqawi, were trying to arrest him. In Afganistan Zarqawi had led a small group hostile to al Qa'ida. Arriving in Iraq in 2002 hee had taken refuge in the mountain hide out of an extreme Islamic group near Halabja in Kurdistan in an area which the Iraqi government did not control.

    Over the last three years Zarqawi has had a symbiotic relationship with US forces in Iraq. After the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 Zarqawi was once again heavily publicised by US military and civilian spokesmen as the preeminent leader of the resistance. His name was mentioned at every press conference in Baghdad. Dubious documents were leaked to the US press. The aim of all this from Washington's point of view was to show that by invading Iraq President Bish was indeed fighting international terrorism.

    US denunciations and Zarqawi's own videos of himself beheading western hostages together spread his fame throughout the Muslim world enabling him to recruit men and raise money easily. But, for all his vaunted importance, the US spokesmen admitted that Zarqawi's suicide bombers concentrated almost entirely on soft targets and were responsible for very few of the 20,000 American casualties in Iraq. [...]

    It is not clear how far American or Iraqi government statements about how they located him should be believed. It appears unlikely that he was having meeting with his lieutenants, as was first suggested, given that only two other men died with him. [...]

    The myth of Zarqawi, which may originally have been manufactured by Jordanian and Kurdish intelligence in 2003, was attractive to Washington because it showed that anti-occupation resistance was foreign inspired and linked to al Qa'ida. In reality the insurgency was almost entirely homegrown, reliant on near total support from the five million strong Sunni community. Its military effectiveness was far more dependant on former officers of the Iraqi army and security forces than on al-Qa'ida. They may also have helped boost Zarqawi's fame because it was convenient for them to blame their worst atrocities on him. [...]

    The killing of Zarqawi is a boost for the newly formed government of Nouri al-Maliki, but Iraqis noticed that when announcing it he stood at the podium between Gen George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, and Zilmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador. "It showed the limits of Maliki's independence from the Americans," noted one Iraqi commentator. "It would have been better if they had let him make the announcement standing alone." [Emphasis added]

    Why do we buy that al-Zarqawi was everything they say he was? After they've lied about everything else?

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:11 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 17, 2006

    Desert Dunkirk? Iraq

    Nicholas von Hoffman, writing in The Nation, speculates that the US military in Iraq may be facing a nightmare scenario: an overstretched and exhausted force that is forced, finally, to abandon its bases and equipment and make a desperate evacuation under fire, a la Dunkirk. Excerpts:

    We could be moving toward an American Dunkirk [in Iraq]. In 1940 the defeated British Army in Belgium was driven back by the Germans to the French seacoast city of Dunkirk, where it had to abandon its equipment and escape across the English Channel on a fleet of civilian vessels, fishing smacks, yachts, small boats, anything and everything that could float and carry the defeated and wounded army to safety.

    Obviously, our forces in Iraq will not be defeated in open battle by an opposing army as happened in 1940, but there is more than one way to stumble into a military disaster. Fragmented reports out of Iraq suggest we may be on our way to finding one of them. Defeat can come from overused troops. It does not help that one by one, the remaining members of the Coalition of the Willing give every appearance of sneaking out of town. [...]

    Filtering out from Iraq are indicators of a military organization in danger of creeping disintegration. For three years our troops have been in a foreign land fighting God knows who for God knows why for God knows how long and God knows how many times. This now well-quoted paragraph from the June 12 edition of Newsweek hints at the price paid in order and morale: "The wife of a staff sergeant in the 3/1 battalion — members of which are currently accused of murdering Iraqi citizens in Haditha — says that there was "a total breakdown" in discipline and morale after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani took over as battalion commander when the unit returned from Fallujah at the start of 2005.... 'There were problems in Kilo Company with drugs, alcohol, hazing, you name it,' she tells Newsweek..."I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha." [...]

    The Internet is alive with pessimistic stories and opinions about what may be happening, one of which informs its readers, "Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war 'is lost' and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month. Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is 'just the tip of the iceberg' with overstressed, out-of-control American soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally."

    The New York Times's John Burns, a good-to-go-to-war man from before the first American smart bomb fell on Baghdad, was on the air the other night warning that, in effect, the invading army had lost both the initiative and control. Readers of Juan Cole's authoritative Informed Comment blog get a daily summing-up of deaths, murders and atrocities not available to TV viewers and ordinary newspaper readers. The simple numbers tell the story of a large and growing bloodbath. [...]

    The Defense Department is not telling what it knows but no wartime government ever, ever tells the truth. Even Abraham Lincoln did not let on how badly things were going, even when they were very bad indeed.

    In the south of Iraq, in the Basra region, the British who occupy that sector have all but given up aggressive patrol. They are holed up in their encampments on the defensive. Some reports have it that it is now too dangerous for them to fly helicopters by day. At the point when they must choose between being overrun or withdrawing, the small contingent of British troops facing unknown numbers of militia hidden in and among a hostile population should be able to evacuate the port of Basra even under fire.

    The situation for American troops may be even more precarious. While our forces are still able to carry out aggressive patrolling, it nets little except to increase popular hostility, which, of course, makes it yet easier for the various insurgents and guerrilla groups to operate against us. It appears that in many places our people may have simply hunkered down to stay out of trouble. The vast construction projects of a few years ago are all but closed down, too, as the American forces appear to be doing less and less of anything but holding on and holding out.

    The shortage of troops, which three years ago was a restraining factor, has become a potential disaster, with the ever-rising level of hostility to the American presence. [...]

    Air evacuation would mean abandoning billions of dollars of equipment. There is no seaport troops could get to, so the only way out of Iraq would be that same desert highway to Kuwait where fifteen years ago the American Air Force destroyed Saddam Hussein's army.

    Dunkirk in the desert. [Emphasis added]

    Will it come to that? The end may not be so precipitous as von Hoffman imagines, but nothing suggests the situation is likely to improve, either. Barring a military draft, the US may indeed run out of capable troops. The insurgency simply has to outlast the occupation forces. That's true of insurgencies everywhere, which is why, as Gwynne Dyer noted, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." Always. Eventually.

    Always.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 16, 2006

    2500 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2500.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 12, 2006

    Fixin' To Stay, And Stay, And Stay Iraq

    Via BillMon:

    The impression that's left around the world is that we plan to occupy the country, we plan to use their bases over the long period of time, and it's flat false. — Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference, April 21, 2003

    Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill...that would require the Bush administration not to use any appropriated funds for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq. — Think Progress, Congress Has Spoken: No Permanent Military Bases In Iraq, May 4, 2006

    I've told the American people I'd like to get our troops out as soon as possible. — George W. Bush, Press Conference, June 9, 2006

    Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country...Senate aides said Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills before House and Senate negotiators convened this week in a late-night work session to write a compromise spending bill. — Reuters, Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition, June 10, 2006

    Mr. Bush on Friday made clear that the American commitment to the country will be long-term. Officials say the administration has begun to look at the costs of maintaining a force of roughly 50,000 troops there for years to come, roughly the size of the American presence maintained in the Philippines and Korea for decades after those conflicts. — New York Times, U.S. Seeking New Strategy for Buttressing Iraq's Government, June 11, 2006

    To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world. — Larry Diamond, The seeds of insurgency, June 30, 2005

    And yet all you hear in US public discourse is that the White House is trying to establish democracy in Iraq. That's a given. The only debate is about whether it's working.

    It's not about oil. It's not about putting the US military's thumb on the world's oil jugular. There happens to be oil there, but that's not the point. It's about democracy.

    Idiotic nonsense. Only a professional pundit would believe it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    The al-Zarqawi Bounce Iraq  Politics

    We're supposed to think the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is some sort of turning point in Iraq. But people aren't buying it.

    CBS poll:

    80% of Americans think attacks on US troops will increase (30%) or stay the same (50%) in the aftermath of al-Zarqawi's death. Only 16% think attacks will decrease.

    83% think the terrorist threat against the US will increase (22%) or stay the same (61%). Only 13% think it will decrease.

    Bush's approval rating: 33%, down from 35% last month.

    It's really got to suck to be Dubya.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 08, 2006

    Michael Berg On CNN Iraq

    CNN's Soledad O'Brien today interviewed Michael Berg, father of Nick Berg, who's videoed beheading was attributed to al-Zarqawi. Berg's reaction is a model of maturity:

    O'BRIEN: Mr. Berg, thank you for talking with us again. It's nice to have an opportunity to talk to you. Of course, I'm curious to know your reaction, as it is now confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man who is widely credited and blamed for killing your son, Nicholas, is dead.

    MICHAEL BERG: Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that.

    I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence.

    O'BRIEN: I have to say, sir, I'm surprised. I know how devastated you and your family were, frankly, when Nick was killed in such a horrible, and brutal and public way.

    BERG: Well, you shouldn't be surprised, because I have never indicated anything but forgiveness and peace in any interview on the air.

    O'BRIEN: No, no. And we have spoken before, and I'm well aware of that. But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, 'I'm glad he's dead, the man who killed my son'?

    BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead? [...]

    Now, take someone who in 1991, who maybe had their family killed by an American bomb, their support system whisked away from them, someone who, instead of being 59, as I was when Nick died, was 5-years-old or 10-years-old. And then if I were that person, might I not learn how to fly a plane into a building or strap a bag of bombs to my back?

    That's what is happening every time we kill an Iraqi, every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance. And, you know, when are we ever going to learn that that doesn't work? [...]

    O'BRIEN: There's a theory that a struggle for democracy, you know...

    BERG: Democracy? Come on, you can't really believe that that's a democracy there when the people who are running the elections are holding guns. That's not democracy. [Emphasis added]

    That's how a grownup talks.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Al-Zarqawi Killed Iraq

    The lesson we are about to learn from the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is that the insurgency is anything but a top-down monolithic organization. Instead, it's a decentralized, loosely-knit affair, with any number of small ad hoc groups acting independently, learning from one another in "open source" fashion. Al-Zarqawi's death is unlikely to matter much at all.

    The guy to read on this subject is John Robb of Global Guerrillas.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:18 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    May 27, 2006

    Making Us Safer Afghanistan  Iran  Iraq  War and Peace

    The International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual global security assessment says Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea threaten a "perfect storm" of simultaneous crises. Guardian:

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the west's growing confrontation with Iran, and efforts to divest North Korea of its nuclear weapons are all approaching crucial turning points that could combine to create a perfect storm of simultaneous international crises, independent defence experts said yesterday.

    Launching the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) annual assessment of global security threats, John Chipman, its director general, said: "Many parts of the world are engaged in brutal combat ... Overall, the dangerous triptych of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran continues to dominate the security agenda as do the wider, iconic problems of terrorism and proliferation." [...]

    Dr Chipman said the new Iraqi government faced "fundamental challenges" that could quickly overwhelm its attempts to hold the country together and invite regional intervention. "It is doubtful that a collective sense of Iraqi nationalism can survive in a context of increasing sectarian violence and the continuing security vacuum. Democracy has exacerbated Iraq's ethnic and religious tensions, with voters largely dividing along Sunni, Shia and Kurdish lines." [...]

    Presenting the report, entitled The Military Balance, Dr Chipman warned of a rising Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan aimed at British and Nato troops who are replacing some US forces. "This year will be crucial for Afghanistan as well as for Nato as it expands its mission into the south," he said. "The Taliban are likely to increase their operational tempo - not least because they know that casualties among European Nato states may mobilise domestic opinion against the war." [...]

    The IISS said North Korea had obtained enough plutonium to build between five and 11 nuclear weapons and long-running talks to induce Pyongyang to disarm were at an impasse.

    In an implicit criticism of Washington's policy of ostracism and financial sanctions, Dr Chipman said North Korea had concluded that "the Bush administration is not serious about negotiations and [has] hostile intent". [...]

    The report also highlighted growing US concerns about China's military build-up and intentions, quoting the findings of the recent US Quadrennial Defence Review. It said China was "a power at a strategic crossroads that is still pointing largely in the wrong direction and which has the greatest potential to emerge as a military rival to the US". [Emphasis added]

    Everything they're doing is making us less safe, not safer. Swat hornets' nests with baseball bats and then wonder why all the stinging: not exactly a sign of intelligence.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    May 25, 2006

    Ethnic Cleansing On A Massive Scale Iraq

    To hear Bush and Blair tell it, Iraq has turned some kind of corner. Patrick Cockburn, one of the most courageous Western journalists covering the Iraq war, begs to differ. Independent (via CommonDreams):

    Across central Iraq, there is an exodus of people fleeing for their lives as sectarian assassins and death squads hunt them down. At ground level, Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale.

    The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves. "Be gone by evening prayers or we will kill you," warned one of four men who called at the house of Leila Mohammed, a pregnant mother of three children in the city of Baquba, in Diyala province north-east of Baghdad. He offered chocolate to one of her children to try to find out the names of the men in the family. [...]

    The same pattern of intimidation, flight and death is being repeated in mixed provinces all over Iraq. By now Iraqis do not have to be reminded of the consequences of ignoring threats.

    In Baquba, with a population of 350,000, gunmen last week ordered people off a bus, separated the men from the women and shot dead 11 of them. Not far away police found the mutilated body of a kidnapped six-year-old boy for whom a ransom had already been paid.

    The sectarian warfare in Baghdad is sparsely reported but the provinces around the capital are now so dangerous for reporters that they seldom, if ever, go there, except as embeds with US troops. Two months ago in Mosul, I met an Iraqi army captain from Diyala who said Sunni and Shia were slaughtering each other in his home province. "Whoever is in a minority runs," he said. "If forces are more equal they fight it out." [...]

    Salam Hussein Rostam, a police lieutenant in charge of registering and investigating people arriving in terror from all over Iraq, gestured to an enormous file of paper beside him. "I've received 200 families recently, most of them in the last week," he said. This means that about one thousand people have sought refuge in one small town. Lt Rostam said that the refugees were coming from all over Iraq. [...]

    The flight of the middle class started about six months after the invasion in 2003 as it became clear Iraq was becoming more, not less, violent. They moved to Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The suicide bombing campaign was largely directed against Shias who only began to retaliate after they had taken over the government in May last year. Interior Ministry forces arrested, tortured and killed Sunnis.

    But a decisive step towards sectarian civil war took place when the Shia Al-Askari shrine in Samarra was blown up on 22 February this year. Some 1,300 Sunni were killed in retaliation. [...]

    Every community has its atrocity stories. The cousin of a friend was a Sunni Arab who worked in the wholly Shia district of Qadamiyah in west Baghdad. One day last month he disappeared. Three days later his body was discovered on a rubbish dump in another Shia district. "His face was so badly mutilated," said my friend, that "we only knew it was him from a wart on his arm."

    Since the destruction of the mosque in Samarra sectarian warfare has broken out in every Iraqi city where there is a mixed population. In many cases the minority is too small to stand and fight. Sunnis have been fleeing Basra after a series of killings. Christians are being eliminated in Mosul in the north. Shias are being killed or driven out of cities and towns north of Baghdad such as Baquba or Samarra itself.

    Dujail, 40 miles north of Baghdad, is the Shia village where Saddam Hussein carrying out a judicial massacre, killing 148 people after an attempt to assassinate him in 1982. He is on trial for the killings. The villagers are now paying a terrible price for giving evidence at his trial.

    In the past few months Sunni insurgents have been stopping them at an improvised checkpoint on the road to Baghdad. Masked gunmen glance at their identity cards and if under place of birth is written "Dujail" they kill them. So far 20 villagers have been murdered and 20 have disappeared. [Emphasis added]

    If Iraq has turned a corner, it's a corner in Hell.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    May 23, 2006

    Jessie Macbeth Iraq

    Last night, I posted a link to a video interview with Jessie Macbeth, regarding atrocities he says he participated in while serving in Iraq. It appears, however, that there are a number of reasons to question his veracity, so I've pulled the post. I should have been more skeptical. My apologies.

    [Thanks, Jason]

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:09 AM | Comments (10) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    May 18, 2006

    2450 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2450.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:08 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    May 11, 2006

    200,000 AK-47s Iraq

    UK's Mirror reports that 200,000 AK-47 assault rifles that were supposed to be shipped from a US base to Iraqi security forces have apparently disappeared, possibly into the hands of insurgents. Excerpt:

    Some 200,000 guns the US sent to Iraqi security forces may have been smuggled to terrorists, it was feared yesterday.

    The 99-tonne cache of AK47s was to have been secretly flown out from a US base in Bosnia. But the four planeloads of arms have vanished. [...]

    It follows a separate probe claiming that thousands of guns meant for Iraq's police and army instead went to al-Qaeda. [...]

    A coalition forces spokesman confirmed they had not received "any weapons from Bosnia" and added they were "not aware of any purchases for Iraq from Bosnia". NATO and US officials have already voiced fears that Bosnian arms - sold by US, British and Swiss firms - are being passed to insurgents. A Nato spokesman said: "There's no tracking mechanism to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. There are concerns that some may have been siphoned off." This year a newspaper claimed two UK firms were involved in a deal in which thousands of guns for Iraqi forces were re-routed to al-Qaeda. [Emphasis added]

    Fools or knaves? You decide. Not good either way.

    [Thanks, Mike]

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 30, 2006

    Peace Takes Courage Activism  Iraq

    Alabama native Ava Lowery, 15, has produced an excellent set of Flash animation videos against the Iraq war.

    WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) is a powerful piece that provoked a lot of positive response, but also death threats and other vicious emails, as reported by my friend Matt Rothschild of The Progressive. Undaunted, Ava pieced together many of those comments for a new video, The 32%. As Ava says, peace takes courage.

    Perhaps most poignant of all is No More Broken Promises, that looks at the heartbreak from American soldiers' families' point of view. Hard to watch without weeping.

    Be sure to have the sound turned on.

    [Thanks, Kent]

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 29, 2006

    2400 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2400.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 28, 2006

    Costlier Than Vietnam, By Far Iraq

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan taken together are going to cost far more, in constant dollars, than Vietnam. WaPo:

    The cost of the war in Iraq will reach $320 billion after the expected passage next month of an emergency spending bill currently before the Senate, and that total is likely to more than double before the war ends, the Congressional Research Service estimated this week. [...]

    Once the war spending bill is passed, military and diplomatic costs will have reached $101.8 billion this fiscal year, up from $87.3 billion in 2005, $77.3 billion in 2004 and $51 billion in 2003, the year of the invasion, congressional analysts said. Even if a gradual troop withdrawal begins this year, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by an additional $371 billion during the phaseout, the report said, citing a Congressional Budget Office study. When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War.

    "The costs are exceeding even the worst-case scenarios," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. [Emphasis added]

    Amazing. Has any American administration in history done so much damage to the country in so little time? And note the year-to-year trend: 51 billion, 77.3, 87.3, 101.8. Remember Mission Accomplished?

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 25, 2006

    A Great Way To Spend $50 Activism  Iraq  Media

    Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, who made Outfoxed, Uncovered, and Wal-Mart, is starting production on a new documentary, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.

    This is from an email from Brave New Films:

    Hello friends and brave new supporters,

    Some exciting news at Brave New Films. We're ready to start production on Robert's new documentary: "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers." Over the last few months we've recruited a core team, and with the help of our volunteer field producers, have uncovered some devastating and powerful material that hasn't been seen before. We need your help to make it, more about that in a minute.

    We can't tell you anything more specific about the film yet, but I can assure you it will have an enormous impact when it comes out shortly before the elections this November.

    War time is about sacrificing for the common good. So many soldiers and families have paid unimaginable sacrifices, and for some to profit OBSCENELY from that sacrifice is one of the worst crimes possible. It's a crime against all of us, not just as Americans, but as human beings.

    IRAQ FOR SALE: The War Profiteers will hold these corporations accountable for crimes against humanity. Watch the teaser trailer and a message from Robert here:

    http://iraqforsale.org/

    To start shooting, we need money. Overall, the film will cost about $750,000. We can expect about $450,000 of it to be offset by DVD sales, selling foreign rights, and an advance from our retail store distributor, but we still need $300,000.

    A generous donor just stepped up and will contribute $100,000 if we can match it with $200,000 from someone else.

    That someone else is you! 4000 people giving $50 each. We'll put everyone's name in the credits. You can give these donations as gifts in someone's name or in memory of a loved one if you'd like.

    http://iraqforsale.org/donate.php

    Imagine that. 4000 names scrolling by at the end of the film. Almost as many people as in the Lord of the Rings credits!

    More importantly, this is people standing up to corporations. It's a clear message... a beautiful thing and exactly what the film is about. Every newspaper article written will talk about how IRAQ FOR SALE was funded by YOU.

    This is 50 bucks well spent. I would love to see this film come out before the elections, and I'd love to know I helped make it possible. So I gave my $50, and I urge you to do the same.

    This is extremely important material. So long as people in high places make a killing off of war, they'll continue to see war as a good idea. The best way to stop them is to expose them.

    50 bucks. That's not even a tank of gas anymore. And how cool will it be to see your name in the credits (and on their web site). Go chip in.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 22, 2006

    The Biggest Embassy In The World — By Far Iraq

    A remarkable feature of US public discourse is the extent to which discussion is based on what the government says, not what it does. For example: in all the discussion of Iraq — what the US war aims really are, whether the US intends to stay in Iraq long-term, whether the US ever intends to let Iraq have an independent democracy, instead of a puppet government — people mostly ignore certain glaring facts on the ground. There are the enormous military bases the US is constructing in various locations in Iraq. Even more glaring, because it's located in the center of Baghdad itself, is the new US embassy currently under construction. It's going to be colossal, the largest embassy anywhere in the world. By far. AP (via CounterCurrents):

    The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

    The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

    "We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

    A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

    The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial. [...]

    The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the [current] embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

    This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism.

    "The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

    State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here.

    "It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several [sic] years," he said in Washington.

    Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission — hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments.

    ...[N]ext year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

    Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

    "Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall. [...]

    The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

    It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewater-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

    Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

    Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says. [Emphasis added]

    Obviously, they don't plan on leaving anytime soon. They think they're building an empire, and the Iraq embassy is to be the command center from which they hope to rule the Middle East. Iraq was just the first stop.

    Events on the ground haven't turned out like they thought, though, so it remains to be seen if the US really can manage to hang on in Baghdad. What's ominous, though, is what the embassy says about the administration's mindset. They'll escalate before they retreat, compounding the disaster.

    [Thanks, Cedar]

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 12, 2006

    "Casualness And Swagger" Iraq  Politics

    Three-star General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff, writes in Time magazine (via Sojourners):

    From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq — an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

    I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice. [...]

    I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.

    What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results. [Emphasis added]

    It really does matter when you put a bunch of empty suits in power. These people are superficial, immature, and deeply, deeply foolish. High time for grownups to take back the reins.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Lies, Lies, Lies Iraq  Politics

    WaPo:

    On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

    The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

    A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

    The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories. [Emphasis added]

    All governments lie. But this government seems to lie about absolutely everything.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 04, 2006

    Iraqi Civilian Deaths Surging (AP) In Civil War (UPI) Iraq

    AP reports that its count shows Iraqi civilian deaths surging in recent months. Their figures:

    MonthIraqi Civilian Deaths
    Dec375
    Jan608
    Feb741
    Mar1,038

    UPI Senior News Analyst Martin Sieff says the sharp increase in sectarian violence shows that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war:

    Despite President Bush's repeated denials, the figures are clear: 900 sectarian killings in a single month in Iraq means a civil war is well under way. [Emphasis added]

    US media outlets have so far avoided calling the conflict a civil war, but that's probably about to change — much to the distress of the White House. Some things are too obvious even for the anemic US media to ignore.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    April 03, 2006

    Dump Rummy Iraq

    Who should resign over the mistakes made in Iraq? Rumsfeld, for starters, say two retired generals. NYT:

    For the second time in two weeks, a former general has called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over what both generals described as serious mistakes made in the war in Iraq.

    In remarks Sunday on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who once led the United States Central Command and retired from the Marines in 2000, said Mr. Rumsfeld, among others, should be held accountable for tactical mistakes in Iraq.

    When asked who should resign, General Zinni said, "Secretary of Defense, to begin with," adding that resignations should also come from others responsible for planning the war efforts and from military officials who sat by without pointing out potential problems.

    On March 19, similar sentiments were expressed by Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, General Eaton criticized Mr. Rumsfeld's handling of the war and said that "President Bush should accept the offer to resign that Mr. Rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once."

    Several days later, Mr. Bush dismissed calls for Mr. Rumsfeld to step down, saying he was satisfied with his job performance. [Emphasis added]

    Not that firing Rumsfeld would do much to turn things around, at this point, but it can never hurt to affirm the principle that job performance matters, especially in something as serious as a war. In a just world, Rumsfeld wouldn't just resign, he'd resign in disgrace, with war crimes trials to follow. And he wouldn't be the only one.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 29, 2006

    Absolute Bloody Chaos Iraq

    Riverbend, the Iraqi woman who blogs at Baghdad Burning, yesterday posted this (excerpt):

    I sat late last night switching between Iraqi channels (the half dozen or so I sometimes try to watch). It's a late-night tradition for me when there's electricity — [...]

    I paused on the Sharqiya channel which many Iraqis consider to be a reasonably toned channel (and which during the elections showed its support for Allawi in particular). I was reading the little scrolling news headlines on the bottom of the page. The usual — mortar fire on an area in Baghdad, an American soldier killed here, another one wounded there... 12 Iraqi corpses found in an area in Baghdad, etc. Suddenly, one of them caught my attention and I sat up straight on the sofa, wondering if I had read it correctly.

    E. was sitting at the other end of the living room...I called him over with the words, "Come here and read this — I'm sure I misunderstood..." He stood in front of the television and watched the words about corpses and Americans and puppets scroll by and when the news item I was watching for appeared, I jumped up and pointed. E. and I read it in silence and E. looked as confused as I was feeling.

    The line said:

    وزارة الدفاع تدعو المواطنين الى عدم الانصياع لاوامر دوريات الجيش والشرطة الليلية اذا لم تكن برفقة قوات التحالف العاملة في تلك المنطقة

    The translation:

    "The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area."

    That's how messed up the country is at this point.

    We switched to another channel, the "Baghdad" channel (allied with Muhsin Abdul Hameed and his group) and they had the same news item, but instead of the general "coalition forces" they had "American coalition forces".

    [T]oday as it was repeated on another channel. [...]

    It confirmed what has been obvious to Iraqis since the beginning — the Iraqi security forces are actually militias allied to religious and political parties.

    But it also brings to light other worrisome issues. The situation is so bad on the security front that the top two ministries in charge of protecting Iraqi civilians cannot trust each other. The Ministry of Defense can't even trust its own personnel, unless they are "accompanied by American coalition forces". [...]

    They've been finding corpses all over Baghdad for weeks now — and it's always the same: holes drilled in the head, multiple shots or strangulation, like the victims were hung. Execution, militia style. Many of the people were taken from their homes by security forces — police or special army brigades... Some of them were rounded up from mosques. [Emphasis added]

    How bad does it have to be for the Ministry of Defence to go on the air and publicly advise people to ignore the orders of its own army and police unless they're accompanied by Americans. The same army and police that Bush says are "standing up" so US forces can "stand down."

    The horror that is unfolding in that country is impossible to imagine. We have so much to answer for.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:02 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Chomsky On Iraq And Oil 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Peak Oil

    On Friday, the Washington Post hosted an online chat with Noam Chomsky. The first Q&A went right to the connection between Iraq and oil:

    Q: Why do you think the US went to war against Iraq?

    Noam Chomsky: Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, it is right in the midst of the major energy reserves in the world. Its been a primary goal of US policy since World War II (like Britain before it) to control what the State Department called "a stupendous source of strategic power" and one of the greatest material prizes in history. Establishing a client state in Iraq would significantly enhance that strategic power, a matter of great significance for the future. As Zbigniew Brzezinski observed, it would provide the US with "critical leverage" [over] its European and Asian rivals, a conception with roots in early post-war planning. These are substantial reasons for aggression — not unlike those of the British when they invaded and occupied Iraq over 80 years earlier, at the dawn of the oil age.

    Reading this statement, one is struck by how rare such candor is in US public discourse. Pretty much everybody in the mainstream avoids stating the obvious: Iraq is about oil. Yes, other interests are served, but oil is the driver behind US foreign policy today and into the future. It's obvious, yet no one will say it.

    Talk about the Emperor's New Clothes.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 28, 2006

    The Long War 9/11, "War On Terror"  Energy  Iraq  Peak Oil

    James Kunstler loves to go overboard, but in his latest missive, he's got a point: the Iraq debate is grounded in delusion. Kunstler:

    This is how deluded the American public is now: Various polls are showing that the war in Iraq has reached new lows of unpopularity. The dumb bunnies in the news media are implying that when the numbers get low enough, we will pull our troops out and go home.

    This is not going to happen. Our inordinate hubris has led us to believe that this conflict is optional.

    Notice, too, that the war-weary public has done, and continues to do, nothing to change its habits of profligate oil use which have driven us to project our military into the Middle East. We have not even begun a discussion of what we might do. We just expect to keep running American society exactly the way it has been set up to run — as a nonstop demolition derby, with hamburgers and fries between laps around the freeway.

    At the highest level of public discourse, the cluelessness is shocking. The New York Times Sunday Book Review ran a front-page piece yesterday on Francis Fukuyama's latest salvo, America at the Crossroads, which is largely about our Middle East war policy, without once using the word "oil." [...]

    The plain truth is, if anything happens to upset the current management and allocation system of the the global oil markets, the industrial economies of the world will collapse, and America's will collapse hardest and worst because of the way we have arranged things for ourselves. The global oil markets currently revolve around Middle East oil production. If the region is overcome by instability, than it's simply GAME OVER. [...]

    Our denial runs deep and hard. Even the educated minority (including the tech wonks) believe that we can run the freeways and the WalMarts on alternative fuels. They flatter themselves listening to the morning yammer about "renewables" on NPR as they make the daily commute from, say, the suburban asteroid belts of Northern Virginia into Washington, DC. They bethink themselves progressive, cutting edge, morally superior in their Priuses. [...]

    What can we do? Oil man Jeffrey Brown of Dallas has made the interesting suggestion that we replace some or all of the national income tax with a substantial national gasoline tax. A congressional debate over that would be worth hearing. It would be a good start in concentrating our minds in the right direction: that is, toward the problems we have created for ourselves at home. There are many other things we could do also, from rebuilding our railroads to removing incentives for suburban development. They would all require major shifts in our behavior. We can either begin them voluntarily or wait for events to compel us to live differently. In the absence of that, our presence in Iraq is not optional. [Emphasis added]

    Iraq is about oil. Obviously. And the oil problem isn't going away. We should understand, therefore, that the architects of the war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice — have absolutely no intention of withdrawing US forces. Not till the oil runs out.

    They have lied about everything else, and they will lie about this, too, but actions speak louder than words. We just need to look at the bases US forces are building in Iraq. AP (link via Deep Blade):

    Balad Air Base, Iraq - The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a "heli-park" as good as any back in the States.

    At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq’s western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.

    At a third hub down south, Tallil, they're planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.

    Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.

    "I think we'll be here forever," the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base. [...]

    The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and other U.S. officials disavow any desire for permanent bases. But long-term access, as at other U.S. bases abroad, is different from "permanent," and the official U.S. position is carefully worded. [...]

    U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked about "permanent duty stations" by a Marine during an Iraq visit in December, allowed that it was "an interesting question." He said it would have to be raised by the incoming Baghdad government, if "they have an interest in our assisting them for some period over time."

    In Washington, Iraq scholar Phebe Marr finds the language intriguing. "If they aren't planning for bases, they ought to say so," she said. "I would expect to hear 'No bases.'"

    Right now what is heard is the pouring of concrete.

    In 2005-06, Washington has authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for U.S. military construction in Iraq, as American forces consolidate at Balad, known as Anaconda, and a handful of other installations, big bases under the old regime. [...]

    "The coalition forces are moving outside the cities while continuing to provide security support to the Iraqi security forces," [Major Lee] English said.

    The move away from cities, perhaps eventually accompanied by U.S. force reductions, will lower the profile of U.S. troops, frequent targets of roadside bombs on city streets. [...]

    Al-Asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man’s-land and build new security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the Yellow or Blue bus routes to get around the base, or buy bicycles at a PX jammed with customers.

    The latest budget also allots $39 million for new airfield lighting, air traffic control systems and upgrades allowing al-Asad to plug into the Iraqi electricity grid — a typical sign of a long-term base. [...]

    Here at Balad, the former Iraqi air force academy 40 miles north of Baghdad, the two 12,000-foot runways have become the logistics hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq, and major upgrades began last year.

    Army engineers say 31,000 truckloads of sand and gravel fed nine concrete-mixing plants on Balad, as contractors laid a $16 million ramp to park the Air Force's huge C-5 cargo planes; an $18 million ramp for workhorse C-130 transports; and the vast, $28 million main helicopter ramp, the length of 13 football fields, filled with attack, transport and reconnaissance helicopters. [...]

    "[W]e're good for as long as we need to run it," [Lt. Col. Scott] Hoover said. Ten years? he was asked. "I'd say so." [...]

    In the counterinsurgency fight, Balad's central location enables strike aircraft to reach targets in minutes. And in the broader context of reinforcing the U.S. presence in the oil-rich Mideast, Iraq bases are preferable to aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, said a longtime defense analyst.

    "Carriers don't have the punch," said Gordon Adams of Washington's George Washington University. "There's a huge advantage to land-based infrastructure. At the level of strategy it makes total sense to have Iraq bases." [...]

    "It's a stupid idea and clearly politically unacceptable," [Anthony] Zinni, a former Central Command chief, said in a Washington interview. "It would damage our image in the region, where people would decide that this" — seizing bases — "was our original intent." [...]

    If long-term basing is, indeed, on the horizon, "the politics back here and the politics in the region say, 'Don't announce it,'" Adams said in Washington. That's what's done elsewhere, as with the quiet U.S. basing of spy planes and other aircraft in the United Arab Emirates. [...]

    From the start, in 2003, the first Army engineers rolling into Balad took the long view, laying out a 10-year plan envisioning a move from tents to today's living quarters in air-conditioned trailers, to concrete-and-brick barracks by 2008. [Emphasis added]

    In its latest Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon stopped talking about a war on terror. Instead, they're talking about "the long war". They're not kidding.

    It's all one big Gordian Knot: Iraq, peak oil, global warming. We need to understand that and not forget it. If we don't deal with energy, we will be stuck with war and catastrophic climate change. It's all one problem.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 19, 2006

    "Nothing Less Than Complete Victory" Iraq

    In his weekly radio address yesterday, President Bush once again conflated Iraq with 9/11, as he tried to cast the Iraq war in Churchillian moral terms. WaPo:

    On the eve of the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, President Bush yesterday promised to "finish the mission" with "complete victory," urging the American public to remain steadfast but offering no indication when victory may be achieved.

    "More fighting and sacrifice will be required," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "For some, the temptation to retreat and abandon our commitments is strong. Yet there is no peace, there's no honor and there's no security in retreat. So America will not abandon Iraq to the terrorists who want to attack us again." [...]

    A White House fact sheet on Iraq...buttressed the president's assertion last week that Iraqi security forces are assuming greater battlefield responsibility.

    Democrats noted last week, however, that a recent Pentagon report said the number of "Level 1" Iraqi units capable of operating independently of the United States had dropped from one to zero. [...]

    Three years ago, the fact sheet said, "life in Iraq was marked by brutality, fear and terror" and Iraqis "had no voice in their country or their lives." Today, it said, "the reign of terror has been replaced by a democratically elected government." [...]

    "These past three years have tested our resolve," he said. "The enemy has proved brutal and relentless . . . and our troops have shown magnificent courage and made tremendous sacrifices" which, along with Iraqi sacrifices, had given Iraq a "historic opportunity" to rebuild itself.

    "The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people," Bush said, "and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory." [Emphasis added]

    Nothing less than complete victory. Can he possibly believe what he's saying? Meanwhile, former Iraq Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the BBC that Iraq has descended into civil war. CNN:

    "We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," [Allawi] said.

    Although conditions have not passed the "point of no return," he said, if that point is reached, fragile efforts to build a new government "will not only fall apart but sectarianism will spread throughout the region, and even Europe and the U.S. will not be spared the violence that results." [Emphasis added]

    Sounds like something less than complete victory to me.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 15, 2006

    Iraq's Electricity At Three-Year Low Iraq

    The right wing likes to say that we're not getting all the good news out of Iraq. All the great reconstruction work that's been done, for example. In their dreams. AP (via Xymphora), yesterday:

    Electricity output has dipped to its lowest point in three years in Iraq, where the desert sun is rising toward another broiling summer and U.S. engineers are winding down their rebuilding of the crippled power grid.

    The Iraqis, in fact, may have to turn to neighboring Iran to help bail them out of their energy crisis — if not this summer, then in years to come.

    The overstressed network is producing less than half the electricity needed to meet Iraq's exploding demand. American experts are working hard to shore up the system's weaknesses as 100-degree-plus temperatures approach beginning as early as May, driving up usage of air conditioning, electric fans and refrigeration.

    If the summer is unusually hot, however, "all bets are off," said Lt. Col. Otto Busher, an engineer with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.

    "We're living miserably," said housewife Su'ad Hassan, a mother of four and one of millions in Baghdad who have endured three years of mostly powerless days under U.S. occupation. Her family usually goes without hot water and machine washing, she said, and "often my children have to do their homework in the dim light of oil lamps."

    Despite such hardships, Army Corps of Engineers officers regard their Restore Iraq Electricity project as one of the great feats in corps history, along with the building of the Panama Canal a century ago. [Emphasis added]

    Like the building of the Panama Canal. Yeah, whatever. Milo Minderbinder lives.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:42 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 04, 2006

    2300 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2300.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 01, 2006

    Desperation Iraq  Media

    From ThinkProgress:

    Flailing in desperation.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 27, 2006

    Marching Into Quicksand Iraq  War and Peace

    Digby's got an excellent essay exploring the linkage between Vietnam and Iraq, as viewed through the lens of Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly. Highly recommended.

    Nobody's going to want to be the one to "lose" Iraq by ordering a US withdrawal, but somebody's going to have to do it. Meanwhile, hubris and pride keep us marching deeper into the quicksand. Two and a half millenia ago, the Greek tragedians already knew how the gods punish hubris: with nemesis — catastrophe and destruction. Stubborn denial solves nothing. The longer we procrastinate, the angrier the gods get. With good reason.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 25, 2006

    Pack Of Lies 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq

    Jay Bookman, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via CommonDreams), reminds us how many of the Bush administration's lies about Iraq have since been exposed by people who were there at the time:

    For example, take the claim that the administration decided to invade Iraq because "Sept. 11 changed everything."

    Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first treasury secretary, long ago revealed that administration officials were intent on invading Iraq from the moment the president took office.

    "It was all about finding a way to do it," O'Neill says of Cabinet meetings he attended before Sept. 11. "That was the tone of it. The president saying, 'Go find me a way to do this.'"

    In his new book "State of War," James Risen confirms that account by reporting that in April 2002 — long before most Americans had even heard war was a possibility — CIA officers in Europe were summoned by agency leaders and told an invasion was coming.

    "They said this was on Bush's agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it," one CIA officer recalled to Risen. "They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq."

    Then there were those weapons of mass destruction. The administration now implies it was misled into war by bad U.S. intelligence, but that's not true. While the CIA was indeed wrong about Iraq possessing at least some WMD, those faulty reports played no role whatsoever in the administration's decision to invade. WMD was the administration's excuse for a war it had already decided upon for other reasons.

    The head of the CIA's Middle East bureau from 2000 to 2005 makes that clear in a new article in Foreign Affairs magazine. Paul Pillar writes that under the Bush administration, "official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions." Instead, "intelligence was misused to justify decisions already made," citing Iraqi WMD as a prime example.

    In his article, Pillar also confirms that Bush told a monumental whopper in claiming that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had informally allied against us.

    Pillar is not the first to expose that fact. The Sept. 11 commission concluded back in June 2004 that there had been no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and bin Laden. But Pillar, who saw every scrap of intelligence about the Middle East, takes it further, saying the claim by Bush and others "did not reflect any judgment by intelligence officials that there was or was likely to be anything like the 'alliance' the administration said existed."

    In other words, they made it up.

    It is yet another example of how we were deceived into war by Bush, a man in whom Americans of both parties had put enormous amounts of faith in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

    Of course, accusing Bush of deliberately lying to the country still sets off a contentious counterattack. Historians, though, will have no qualms whatsoever about reaching that same conclusion; the evidence is that overwhelming.

    And then there was the incompetence. The claims that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction, that we would be welcomed as liberators, that there were no serious ethnic splits in Iraq, that we had enough troops...the list is lengthy. How could the administration have been so wrong?

    Well, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

    If you're contemplating invading and occupying another country — and risking much of your own country's future on the outcome — your first step would be to request an assessment of the situation from your experts, right?

    "As the national intelligence officer for the Middle East, I was in charge of coordinating all of the intelligence community's assessments regarding Iraq," Pillar writes. "The first request I received from any administration policy-maker for any such assessment was not until a year into the war." [Emphasis added]

    When the US finally admits defeat and withdraws from Iraq, as it inevitably must, there will be a revisionist tendency, as we saw with Vietnam, to characterize it all as a well-intentioned but tragic "mistake." US motives were (as always) pure, but some people just refuse to be helped.

    We need to do everything we can to resist that kind of interpretation. US foreign policy is like that of any great power: amoral, self-serving, and ruthless. As long as Americans live in a fantasy world where the US is always on the side of good, where US motives cannot be questioned, there will be more Vietnams, more Iraqs.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 23, 2006

    What's At Stake Future  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

    Yesterday's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra triggered widespread sectarian violence and prompted the withdrawal of Sunnis from talks aimed at forming a new Iraqi government. There can be little doubt that the bombers, whoever they may be, intended to spark a massive escalation in sectarian fighting, perhaps all-out civil war.

    Since the target was a Shiite shrine, everyone seems to assume the attackers were Sunnis, but there are any number of possible candidates. All-out sectarian civil war would bring Iraq a giant step closer to partition into three statelets along sectarian lines — a happy outcome, for example, for neocons here and abroad. Are they pulling the strings? I have no idea. But it is sometimes hard to escape the feeling that the whole Iraq campaign has had, from the outset, the unstated goal of Iraq's partition. Pretty much everything that's happened has furthered that end. But it's perhaps even harder to believe that the people managing the war are secret (evil) geniuses — given that they still can't manage, for example, to armor their own troops. Meanwhile, who knows what other actors are working for Iraq's partition to further their own ends.

    Dark days in Iraq.

    A longtime reader of PastPeak who sends me thought-provoking emails from time to time wrote me late last night (excerpt):

    The destruction of Iraq cannot be undone. The bombing today of the Shiite shrine, which serves no conceivable Sunni insurgent purpose, but brings much closer the final breakup of what was once a modernizing, secular and economically equitable country, cannot be undone. And of course an attack on Iran, by what will, given current European rhetoric, be viewed by Muslims everywhere as an attack by the West, will finally make real the "Clash of Civilizations" the neocons have been dreaming of.

    You are right about the overarching importance of Global Warming, and the consequences of the end of the oil economy. In the meantime though all possibility of a rational response to these things will be destroyed by war with the Islamic world.

    That last paragraph brought me up short. Of course, he's right. Should the Middle East continue its downward spiral into a far wider war, the war's deadliest consequence would be that the world would miss a critically important window in time, perhaps our last best chance to avert catastrophe on the climate and peak oil fronts.

    As we slide towards war in Iran or Syria, let us remember this: peace is a prerequisite for rational and constructive action on the real problems facing humanity. The stakes couldn't be higher. We need peace.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 22, 2006

    A "Critical Moment For Iraq" Iraq

    Iraq took a giant step toward all-out civil war today with the bombing, in Samarra, of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines, followed by reprisal attacks on scores of Sunni mosques. Canadian Press:

    Insurgents detonated bombs inside one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 90 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war.

    With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, leaders on both sides called for calm and many Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

    The unprecedented spasm of sectarian violence seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

    "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

    U.S. President George W. Bush pledged American help to restore the mosque after the bombing north of Baghdad, which dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to keep Iraq from falling deeper into sectarian violence. [...]

    U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, called the attack a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian strife and warned it was a "critical moment for Iraq."

    No one was reported injured in the bombing of the shrine in Samarra.

    But at least 19 people, including three Sunni clerics, were killed in the reprisal attacks that followed, mainly in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite provinces to the south, according to the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni political group.

    Many of the attacks appeared to have been carried out by Shiite militias that the United States wants to see disbanded. [...]

    The new tensions came as Iraq's various factions have been struggling to assemble a government after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

    The Shiite fury sparked by Wednesday's bombings, the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days, raised the likelihood that Shiite religious parties will reject U.S. demands to curb militias. [...]

    In the hours after the attack, more than 90 Sunni mosques were attacked with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, burned or taken over by Shiites, the Iraqi Islamic Party said.

    Large protests erupted in Shiite parts of Baghdad and in cities throughout the Shiite heartland to the south. In Basra, Shiite militants traded rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire with guards at the office of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Smoke billowed from the building. [Emphasis added]

    Martin van Creveld, one of the world's leading military thinkers, has called Bush's war "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them."

    And it's a long way from over.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 20, 2006

    CIA And The Science Of Torture 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq

    Alfred McCoy, history professor at UW here in Madison, made his reputation exposing CIA complicity in the international drug trade. Now he's written a new study of the CIA's history of perfecting and applying techniques of psychological coercion and torture.

    What follows are excerpts from an interview McCoy gave to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. It's very important material.

    [I]f you look at the most famous of photographs from Abu Ghraib, of the Iraqi standing on the box, arms extended with a hood over his head and the fake electrical wires from his arms...In that photograph you can see the entire 50-year history of CIA torture. It's very simple. He's hooded for sensory disorientation, and his arms are extended for self-inflicted pain. And those are the two very simple fundamental CIA techniques, developed at enormous cost.

    From 1950 to 1962, the CIA ran a massive research project, a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind, spending over $1 billion a year to crack the code of human consciousness, from both mass persuasion and the use of coercion in individual interrogation. And what they discovered — they tried LSD, they tried mescaline, they tried all kinds of drugs, they tried electroshock, truth serum, sodium pentathol. None of it worked. What worked was very simple behavioral findings, outsourced to our leading universities — Harvard, Princeton, Yale and McGill — and the first breakthrough came at McGill. [...]

    Dr. Donald O. Hebb of McGill University, a brilliant psychologist, had a contract from the Canadian Defense Research Board, which was a partner with the CIA in this research, and he found that he could induce a state of psychosis in an individual within 48 hours. It didn't take electroshock, truth serum, beating or pain. All he did was had student volunteers sit in a cubicle with goggles, gloves and headphones, earmuffs, so that they were cut off from their senses, and within 48 hours, denied sensory stimulation, they would suffer, first hallucinations, then ultimately breakdown.

    And if you look at many of those photographs, what do they show? They show people with bags over their head. If you look at the photographs of the Guantanamo detainees even today, they look exactly like those student volunteers in Dr. Hebb’s original cubicle.

    Now, then the second major breakthrough that the CIA had came here in New York City at Cornell University Medical Center, where two eminent neurologists under contract from the CIA studied Soviet KGB torture techniques, and they found that the most effective KGB technique was self-inflicted pain. You simply make somebody stand for a day or two. And as they stand — okay, you're not beating them, they have no resentment — you tell them, "You're doing this to yourself. Cooperate with us, and you can sit down." And so, as they stand, what happens is the fluids flow down to the legs, the legs swell, lesions form, they erupt, they separate, hallucinations start, the kidneys shut down.

    Now, if you look at the other aspect of those photos, you'll see...people are standing with their arms extended, that's self-inflicted pain. And the combination of those two techniques — sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain — is the basis of the CIA's technique. [...]

    What they found time and time again is that electroshock didn't work, and sodium pentathol didn't work, LSD certainly didn't work. You scramble the brain. You got unreliable information. But what did work was the combination of these two rather boring, rather mundane behavioral techniques: sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain.

    And in 1963, the CIA codified these results in the so-called KUBARK Counterintelligence Manual. If you just type the word KUBARK into Google, you will get the manual, an actual copy of it, on your computer screen, and you can read the techniques. But if you do, read the footnotes, because that's where the behavioral research is. Now, this produced a distinctively American form of torture, the first real revolution in the cruel science of pain in centuries, psychological torture, and it's the one that's with us today, and it's proved to be a very resilient, quite adaptable, and an enormously destructive paradigm.

    Let's make one thing clear. Americans refer to this often times in common parlance as "torture lite." Psychological torture, people who are involved in treatment tell us it's far more destructive, does far more lasting damage to the human psyche than does physical torture. As Senator McCain said, himself, last year when he was debating his torture prohibition, faced with a choice between being beaten and psychologically tortured, I'd rather be beaten. Okay? It does far more lasting damage. It is far crueler than physical torture. This is something that we don't realize in this country.

    Now, another thing we see is those photographs is the psychological techniques, but the initial research basically developed techniques for attacking universal human sensory receptors: sight, sound, heat, cold, sense of time. That's why all of the detainees describe being put in dark rooms, being subjected to strobe lights, loud music...That's sensory deprivation or sensory assault. Okay, that was sort of the phase one of the CIA research. But the paradigm has proved to be quite adaptable.

    Now, one of the things that Donald Rumsfeld did, right at the start of the war of terror, in late 2002, he appointed General Geoffrey Miller to be chief at Guantanamo, alright, because the previous commanders at Guantanamo were too soft on the detainees, and General Miller turned Guantanamo into a de facto behavioral research laboratory, a kind of torture research laboratory. And under General Miller at Guantanamo, they perfected the CIA torture paradigm. They added two key techniques. They went beyond the universal sensory receptors of the original research. They added to it an attack on cultural sensitivity, particularly Arab male sensitivity to issues of gender and sexual identity.

    And then they went further still. Under General Miller, they created these things called "Biscuit" teams, behavioral science consultation teams, and they actually had qualified military psychologists participating in the ongoing interrogation, and these psychologists would identify individual phobias, like fear of dark or attachment to mother, and by the time we're done, by 2003, under General Miller, Guantanamo had perfected the CIA paradigm, and it had a three-fold total assault on the human psyche: sensory receptors, self-inflicted pain, cultural sensitivity, and individual fears and phobia. [...]

    In mid-2003, when the Iraqi resistance erupted, the United States found it had no intelligence assets; it had no way to contain the insurgency, and they — the U.S. military was in a state of panic. And at that moment, they began sweeping across Iraq, rounding up thousands of Iraqi suspects, putting many of them in Abu Ghraib prison. At that point, in late August 2003, General Miller was sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, and he brought his techniques with him. He brought a CD, and he brought a manual of his techniques. He gave them to the MP officers, the Military Intelligence officers and to General Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. Commander in Iraq.

    In September of 2003, General Sanchez issued orders, detailed orders, for expanded interrogation techniques beyond those allowed in the U.S. Army Field Manual 3452, and if you look at those techniques, what he's ordering, in essence, is a combination of self-inflicted pain, stress positions and sensory disorientation, and if you look at the 1963 CIA KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, you look at the 1983 CIA Interrogation Training Manual that they used in Honduras for training Honduran officers in torture and interrogation, and then twenty years later, you look at General Sanchez's 2003 orders, there's a striking continuity across this forty-year span, in both the general principles, this total assault on the existential platforms of human identity and existence, okay? And the specific techniques, the way of achieving that, through the attack on these sensory receptors. [...]

    When [Rumsfeld] was asked to review the Guantanamo techniques in late 2003 or early 2004, he scribbled that marginal note and said, you know, "I stand at my desk eight hours a day." He has a designer standing desk. "How come we're limiting these techniques of the stress position to just four hours?" So, in other words, that was a clear signal from the Defense Secretary. Now, one of the problems beyond the details of these orders is torture is an extraordinarily dangerous thing. There's an absolute ban on torture for a very good reason. Torture taps into the deepest recesses, unexplored recesses of human consciousness, where creation and destruction coexist, where the infinite human capacity for kindness and infinite human capacity for cruelty coexist, and it has a powerful perverse appeal, and once it starts, both the perpetrators and the powerful who order them, let it spread, and it spreads out of control.

    So, I think when the Bush administration gave those orders for, basically, techniques tantamount to torture at the start of the war on terror, I think it was probably their intention that these be limited to top al-Qaeda suspects, but within months, we were torturing hundreds of Afghanis at Bagram near Kabul, and a few months later in 2003, through these techniques, we were torturing literally thousands of Iraqis. And you can see in those photos, beyond the details of the techniques that we've described, you can see how that once it starts, it becomes this Dantesque hell, this kind of play palace of the darkest recesses of human consciousness. That's why it's necessary to maintain an absolute prohibition on torture. There is no such thing as a little bit of torture. The whole myth of scientific surgical torture, that torture advocates, academic advocates in this country came up with, that's impossible. That cannot operate. It will inevitably spread. [...]

    I looked at those photos, I didn't see individual abuse [by "bad apples"] . What I saw was two textbook trademark CIA psychological interrogation techniques: self-inflicted pain and sensory disorientation.

    [O]ne of the problems of talking about this topic in the United States, is that we regard all of this panoply of psychological techniques as "torture lite," as somehow not really torture...And we're the only country in the world that does that. The UN convention bars – defines torture as the infliction of severe psychological or physical pain. The UN convention which bans torture in 1984 gives equal weight to psychological and physical techniques. We alone as a society somehow exempt all of these psychological techniques. That dates back, of course, to the way we ratified the convention in the first place.

    Back in the early 1990s, when the United States was emerging from the Cold War, and we began this process of, if you will, disarming ourselves and getting beyond all of these techniques, trying to sort of bring ourselves in line with rest of the international community, when we sent that — when President Clinton sent the UN Anti-Torture Convention to the US Congress for ratification in 1994, he included four detailed paragraphs of reservation that had, in fact, been drafted by the Reagan administration, and he adopted them without so much as changing a semicolon. And when you read those detailed paragraphs of reservation, what you realize is this, is that the United States Congress ratified the treaty, but basically we outlawed only physical torture. Those paragraphs of reservation are carefully written to avoid one word in the 26 printed pages of the UN convention. That word is "mental." Basically, we exempted psychological torture. [...]

    [T]he White House had Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina amend McCain's amendment by inserting language into it, saying that for the purposes of this act, the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay is not on US territory...[T]hen in the last month, the Bush administration has gone to federal courts and said, "Drop all of your habeas corpus suits from Guantanamo." There are 160 of them. They've gone to the Supreme Court and said, "Drop your Guantanamo case." They have, in fact, used [the McCain] law to quash legal oversight of their actions. [Emphasis added]

    Key points to take away: There is a continuous history of CIA research in and use of torture spanning four decades or more. The torture techniques being used at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere, techniques that Rush Limbaugh compared to innocuous fraternity hazing, are actually the most destructive techniques uncovered in CIA research. They were not invented by a few "bad apples." They are not "torture lite." And the McCain torture amendment isn't the end of the story. The Bush administration succeeded in building in loopholes that made the amendment, at best, a fig leaf, at worst, a means of ending legal oversight of operations at Guantanamo.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:50 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 16, 2006

    Halliburton Stock Split Iraq  Politics

    At Halliburton, war is our business, and business is good. MarketWatch:

    Halliburton Co., coming off a banner year in the energy sector and flush with Pentagon contracts abroad, announced Thursday a series of measures to share the spoils with shareholders.

    The Houston-based company said its board of directors approved a two-for-one stock split that would double its shares outstanding to 2 billion. Stockholders must still sign off on the split.

    The quarterly dividend for Halliburton stock was also raised 20% to 15 cents a share. The higher payout is set for March 23 for shareholders as of March 2.

    A $1 billion share buyback is also in the works, the company said.

    The moves come as Halliburton is gearing up to spin off part of its KBR division, which last year became the U.S. Army's biggest contractor. In terms of defense contracts with all branches of the military, Halliburton now ranks sixth overall. [Emphasis added]

    The country may be circling the drain, but Halliburton shareholders are raking it in.

    Blood money.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    55%: Iraq War A Mistake Iraq  Politics

    New CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll:

    "In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?"
    Made a mistake: 55%
    Did not: 42%

    "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war with Iraq?"

    Favor: 40%
    Oppose: 56%

    I've commented on this before, but it's a remarkable feature of politics in America (and probably elsewhere) that as the majority comes around to agreeing with the position that progressives took from the outset, it never occurs to them that maybe progressives are people they ought to listen to in the future. They now find themselves agreeing with something that was transparently obvious to many of us, but it's as if they think we didn't come by the position honestly, that first you have to be wrong before you can be right. And so the next time we'll go through the whole process again. And the time after that.

    Funny creatures, humans.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 14, 2006

    Battleground: Thumbs Way Up Iraq

    While laid up with the flu the last couple of days, I watched GNN's documentary Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge on DVD. It's available from Netflix if you don't find it at your lcoal video store.

    Very highly recommended. It's a low-key and humane portrayal of a cross-section of Iraqis and Americans caught up in the invasion and its aftermath. Filming took place in 2003, when the insurgency was getting underway but had yet to become a full-blown war, but that only adds to the tragic inevitability of it all: as you meet the people, you know what awaits them.

    The film doesn't take an in-your-face position, it just lets the events and the personalities speak for themselves, and it really gets under your skin. Michael Moore, take note. The Iraqis, in particular, are quite unforgettable. There is a warmth, intimacy, and nobility in their relations that most Americans would envy. Very, very moving.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 11, 2006

    CIA's Top Iraq Analyst: White House Ignored Intelligence Iraq  Politics

    Somehow, the White House continues to get away with claiming that the decision to invade Iraq was based on "flawed intelligence", an "intelligence failure," when it's long been clear that they came into office already looking for a pretext to justify an attack. Iraq was in their crosshairs from the outset.

    Now the CIA's leading counterterrorism analyst, the man who was responsible for coordinating all Iraq assessments for the entire intelligence community, confirms that the administration requested no strategic assessments and paid little attention to the intelligence that was available to it. WaPo:

    The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

    Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade.

    "Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

    "It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.

    Pillar's critique is one of the most severe indictments of White House actions by a former Bush official since Richard C. Clarke, a former National Security Council staff member, went public with his criticism of the administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its failure to deal with the terrorist threat beforehand.

    It is also the first time that such a senior intelligence officer has so directly and publicly condemned the administration's handling of intelligence.

    Pillar, retired after 28 years at the CIA, was an influential behind-the-scenes player and was considered the agency's leading counterterrorism analyst. By the end of his career, he was responsible for coordinating assessments on Iraq from all 15 agencies in the intelligence community. He is now a professor in security studies at Georgetown University.

    It's remarkable that over, and over, and over again, the left's critique of administration actions and policies is proven right — but nobody notices. Politics is driven by psychology, not rational judgments. When you pick your auto mechanic, say, or your doctor, you want somebody who usually gets it right. But in politics, people tend to go with the person who confirms their prejudices and resonates with them on an irrational, psychological level. Even if they're wrong about absolutely everything. It's hard not to conclude that we are just superstitious primates, after all. Superstitious primates with guns.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 05, 2006

    Bush's Dangerous Ignorance Iraq  Politics

    The memo referenced in this earlier post talks about a meeting that took place on January 31, 2003. The article includes this jaw-dropper:

    There was also a discussion of what might happen in Iraq after Saddam had been overthrown. President Bush said that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". [Emphasis added]

    Bush apparently thought he was competent to make such a judgment — he's President, after all — but we know from other sources that only five days earlier Bush had no idea that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite. According to Peter Galbraith:

    January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl [on January 26]. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, "You mean...they're not, you know, there, there's this difference. What is it about?"

    There's ignorant, and there's so ignorant you don't know you're ignorant. Or maybe he just doesn't care: he's President, so he thinks he can just follow his gut.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:30 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    New Leaked Memo On Bush-Blair Prewar Discussions Iraq  Politics

    In the unlikely event that there's anybody out there who still doubts that Bush's (and Blair's) kabuki with UN Resolutions, WMD claims, etc., came long after the decision to attack Iraq had already been made, you might want to read this.

    Bush wanted, among other things, to paint a U2 spy plane in UN colors and fly it over Iraq in hopes the Iraqis would take a potshot at it. Foreign policy à la Inspector Clouseau.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    February 03, 2006

    Iraq: The Musical Activism  Humor & Fun  Iraq

    The Scarlet Pimpernel of freewayblogger.com has posted an animated musical bit on Iraq, dancing Abu Ghraib figures and all.

    Go here and click on Iraq: The Musical.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 19, 2006

    Suicide Note Iraq

    So sad.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 18, 2006

    Global Guerrillas And Open-Source Warfare Future  Iraq  War and Peace

    The article cited in the previous post, illustrating the adaptability of the Iraqi insurgents, is also linked to by John Robb of Global Guerrillas. Robb, counter-terrorism veteran and software entrepreneur, has lots of interesting things to say about the future of warfare. See his blog, here.

    Central to Robb's thinking is the idea that insurgencies around the world are increasingly decentralized, loosely-coupled, networked affairs created by "global guerrillas" who employ rapidly evolving tactics, often based on systems disruption swarms. A hallmark of the global guerrilla is open-source warfare, where the analogy is to open-source software development. Global guerrillas innovate, and their innovations are rapidly disseminated in a decentralized, viral fashion facilitated by global communications and the Internet. They learn from one another in real-time. Robb writes:

    [T]he insurgency isn't a fragile hierarchical organization but rather a resilient network made up of small, autonomous groups. This means that the insurgency is virtually immune to attrition and decapitation. It will combine and recombine to form a viable network despite high rates of attrition. Body counts — and the military should already know this — aren't a good predictor of success.

    ...[O]ut-innovating the insurgency will most likely prove unsuccessful. The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid — demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq).

    The Pentagon is big, clunky, hierarchical Microsoft; the insurgency is Linux and the Internet: rapidly mutating, highly networked, decentralized, loosely-coupled, constantly learning. The Pentagon can't keep up. In the long run (or maybe not so very long), it doesn't stand a chance.

    Global communications and the Internet are changing the world at an exponential pace. It was inevitable that they would change warfare, too.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Insurgents Adapt With Aerial IEDs Iraq

    The insurgents in Iraq (and elsewhere) adapt quickly. DefenseTech quotes Greg Grant of DefenseNews, who says that Iraqi insurgents have developed an aerial IED to attack US helicopters:

    Insurgents, who place these aerial IEDs along known flight paths, trigger them when American helicopters come along at the typical altitude of just above the rooftops. The devices shoot 50 feet into the air, and a proximity fuze touches off a warhead that sprays metal fragments, said Brig. Gen. Edward Sinclair, commander of the Army's Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.

    The bomb-builders may be obtaining radio-guided proximity fuzes from old Iraqi anti-aircraft and artillery shells and mortar rounds.

    Sinclair said these aerial IEDs have been used against multiple U.S. helicopters. He declined to say whether such IEDs had damaged any aircraft.

    The new weapon is one way insurgents are taking on Army aircraft, which come under fire between 15 and 20 times a month, Sinclair said. Other methods include small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and advanced shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

    "The enemy is adaptive," Sinclair said. "They make changes in the way they fight; they respond to new flying tactics."

    Three US helicopters have been downed in the last 10 days alone. Causes unknown.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    USAID: "Social Breakdown" In Iraq Iraq

    USAID's assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq is decidedly bleaker than the usual White House spin. Guardian (via Jerome-a-Paris):

    An official assessment drawn up by the US foreign aid agency depicts the security situation in Iraq as dire, amounting to a "social breakdown" in which criminals have "almost free rein".

    The "conflict assessment" is an attachment to an invitation to contractors to bid on a project rehabilitating Iraqi cities published earlier this month by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

    The picture it paints is not only darker than the optimistic accounts from the White House and the Pentagon, it also gives a more complex profile of the insurgency than the straightforward "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists" described by George Bush.

    The USAid analysis talks of an "internecine conflict" involving religious, ethnic, criminal and tribal groups. "It is increasingly common for tribesmen to 'turn in' to the authorities enemies as insurgents — this as a form of tribal revenge," the paper says, casting doubt on the efficacy of counter-insurgent sweeps by coalition and Iraqi forces.

    Meanwhile, foreign jihadist groups are growing in strength, the report said.

    "External fighters and organisations such as al-Qaida and the Iraqi offshoot led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors," USAid's assessment said. "Recruitment into the ranks of these organisations takes place throughout the Sunni Muslim world, with most suicide bombers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."

    The assessment conflicted sharply with recent Pentagon claims that Zarqawi's group was in "disarray". [...]

    The paper, whose existence was first reported by the Washington Post, argues that insurgent attacks "significantly damage the country's infrastructure and cause a tide of adverse economic and social effects that ripple across Iraq".

    "In the social breakdown that has accompanied the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime criminal elements within Iraqi society have had almost free rein," the document says. "In the absence of an effective police force capable of ensuring public safety, criminal elements flourish...Baghdad is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organised criminal groups-clans." [Emphasis added]

    This was an official assessment by a US government agency. If anything, the actual situation is probably even worse.

    [Thanks, Michael]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 16, 2006

    Superpower No More Economy  Iraq  Politics

    A post from last week pointed out that US GDP growth is being fueled entirely by debt. Old-school conservative Paul Craig Roberts (former Senior Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former Asst. Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan — which is to say, no liberal) agrees. He goes further, blaming the Bush administration and its disastrous war for bringing the US to the brink of an economic abyss. Excerpts:

    President George W. Bush has destroyed America's economy, along with America's reputation as a truthful, compassionate, peace-loving nation that values civil liberties and human rights.

    Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University budget expert Linda Bilmes have calculated the cost to Americans of Bush's Iraq war to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. This figure is five to 10 times higher than the $200 billion Bush's economic adviser Larry Lindsey estimated.

    Lindsey was fired by Bush because his estimate was three times higher than the $70 billion figure that the Bush administration used to mislead Congress and the American voters about the burden of the war. You can't work in the Bush administration unless you are willing to lie for Dub-ya.

    Americans need to ask themselves if the White House is in competent hands when a $70 billion war becomes a $2 trillion war. [...]

    Stiglitz's $2 trillion estimate is OK as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. My own estimate is a multiple of Stiglitz's.

    Stiglitz correctly includes the cost of lifetime care of the wounded, the economic value of destroyed and lost lives, and the opportunity cost of the resources diverted to war destruction. What he leaves out is the war's diversion of the nation's attention away from the ongoing erosion of the U.S. economy. [...]

    >In 2005, for the first time on record, consumer, business and government spending exceeded the total income of the country.>

    America can consume more than it produces only if foreigners supply the difference. China recently announced that it intends to diversify its foreign exchange holdings away from the U.S. dollar. If this is not merely a threat in order to extort even more concessions from Bush, Americans' ability to consume will be brought up short by a fall in the dollar's value, as China ceases to be a sponge that is absorbing an excessive outpouring of dollars. Oil-producing countries might follow China's lead.

    Now that Americans are dependent on imports for their clothing, manufactured goods and even high technology products, a decline in the dollar's value will make all these products much more expensive. American living standards, which have been treading water, will sink.

    A decline in living standards is an enormous cost and will make existing debt burdens unbearable. Stiglitz did not include this cost in his estimate. [...]

    The ladders of upward mobility are being rapidly dismantled by offshore production for U.S. markets, job outsourcing and importation of foreign professionals on work visas. [...]

    This fact is made abundantly clear from the payroll jobs data over the past five years. December's numbers, released on Jan. 6, show the same pattern that I have reported each month for years. Under pressure from offshore outsourcing, the U.S. economy only creates low-productivity jobs in low-pay domestic services.

    Only a paltry number of private sector jobs were created — 94,000. Of these 94,000 jobs, 35,800 — or 38 percent — are for waitresses and bartenders. Health care and social assistance account for 28 percent of the new jobs, and temporary workers account for 10 percent. These three categories of low-tech, nontradable domestic services account for 76 percent of the new jobs. This is the jobs pattern of a poor Third World economy that consumes more than it produces.

    America's so-called First World superpower economy was only able to create in December a measly 12,000 jobs in goods-producing industries, of which 77 percent are accounted for by wood products and fabricated metal products — the furniture and roofing metal of the housing boom that has now come to an end. U.S. employment declined in machinery, electronic instruments, and motor vehicles and parts. [...]

    When manufacturing leaves a country, engineering, R&D and innovation rapidly follow. Now that outsourcing has killed employment opportunities for U.S. citizens and even General Motors and Ford are failing, U.S. economic growth depends on how much longer the rest of the world will absorb our debt and finance our consumption.

    How much longer will it be before "the world's only remaining superpower" is universally acknowledged as a debt-ridden, hollowed-out economy desperately in need of IMF bailout? [Emphasis added]

    The guy sounds like James Kunstler. Kunstler has long insisted that the US economy consists nowadays of little more than the creation and servicing of suburban sprawl: construction, retail, hair cutting and fast food — the stuff that cannot be outsourced overseas. Roberts' figures bear this out, at least as regards new job creation. When the construction bubble bursts, what then?

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 13, 2006

    Army Finally Commits To Sending New Body Armor Iraq  Politics

    As reported here recently, a secret Pentagon study leaked to the NYT found that some 80% of the approximately 340 US troops who've died from torso wounds in Iraq could have been saved if they'd had proper body armor.

    Now, three years too late, the Army is finally committing to production of 230,000 new sets of ceramic body armor plates this year. It remains to be seen if they'll meet their goal.

    These guys never seem to do anything without a political motivation. Troops die; they drag their feet. A front-page story appears in the New York Times; they swing into action. Draw your own conclusions.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 08, 2006

    IEA: UK Oil Production To Fall Short Of Demand 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Peak Oil

    More on the worsening energy situation in the UK. As reported Friday, soaring natural gas prices have caused many British power stations and other gas users to switch to oil, and oil is now in short supply:

    The Association of United Kingdom Oil Independents has told the government that its members had never experienced such protracted and widespread problems...Meanwhile, the Buncefield oil depot fire, the run on oil and other fuels due to cold weather, and a faster than expected rundown of North Sea supplies have caused chaos across the energy sector.

    The underlying problem for the UK is that North Sea production has peaked and gone into steep decline (declining 10% in 2004 alone).

    Now the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that starting next spring British production will no longer be able to satisfy British demand. The UK will become a net importer of oil for the first time since 1992, and as bad as their oil & gas situation is now, it's all downhill from here. The Scotsman (via Oil Drum):

    The world's top energy watchdog has warned that the UK economy will become a net importer of oil this year for the first time in more than a decade — three years earlier than the government has predicted. [...]

    The IEA sees UK oil demand for 2007 of more than 1.8m barrels per day, which it expects North Sea production will only be able to match for the first three months of the year.

    Output is projected to fall to 1.65m barrels per day between March and June, and to 1.55m barrels per day between July and September, before rebounding slightly to 1.66m barrels per day in the last three months.

    The government's more optimistic forecasts do not see the UK becoming a net importer until 2010.

    Fyfe said: "In the last three years production has declined every year more than 200,000 barrels per day or more. We are looking at the slate of projects coming up and we are not factoring in any of the unexpected outages which have happened in the past few years."

    The IEA's warnings raise the prospect that the government may turn out to be as badly wrong-footed by the decline of UK oil production as it was by the decline of UK gas — a failure which has put the UK on the edge of a gas crisis this winter.

    A couple of things to note. First, crunch time came quicker than anyone expected — i.e., it doesn't pay to rely on rosy government projections. Second, if you were wondering why the UK — even though British public opinion overwhelmingly opposed the war — followed the US into the Middle East, the above provides a clue.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    2200 Iraq

    US troop deaths in Iraq have passed another joyless milestone: 2200. No end in sight.

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2206.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 07, 2006

    Supporting The Troops Iraq  Politics

    Support the troops, blah, blah, blah. But actions speak so much louder than words. NYT:

    A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials. [...]

    The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until this September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine Corps officials acknowledge.

    The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army is deciding between various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers; the officials said they hope to issue contracts this month.

    Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds. [...]

    The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in an ongoing examination of the military procurement system. [...]

    Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection to stop bullets from slicing through their sides. In the fall of 2003, when troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, the Army's Rapid Equipping Force shipped several hundred plates to protect their sides and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units continued to buy their own sets. [...]

    "Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. Another 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says. [Emphasis added]

    The article has lots more on the extraordinary series of Pentagon screwups that continue to plague production of body armor and armored vehicles. The incompetence is stunning. It defies explanation. It's the icing on the cake of this whole Iraq disaster. An observer from Mars might conclude that the Pentagon's been taken over by a foreign power out to destroy the US military. They seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 03, 2006

    Iraq's Oil Exports Hit New Low Iraq  Peak Oil

    As noted earlier, Iraq's oil industry's in crisis. Oil exports in December were the lowest since the war began. AP:

    Iraq's exports of oil hit their lowest level in December since the war, as the country's oil minister resigned in the wake of protests and riots over soaring gas prices and lengthening lines at the pump.

    Only 34.4 million barrels were exported in December, or about 1.1 million barrels per day, the lowest average since Iraq resumed exports after the US-led invasion in March 2003, according to figures released Monday.

    Almost all the oil was exported from Iraq's southern oil terminals because of continuing sabotage of the country's northern oil facilities. [Emphasis added]

    Not exactly a sign of progress. Not unless the plan is to hang onto as much of Iraq's oil as possible as a hole card to be played when world oil shortages hit in earnest.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 02, 2006

    Living In A Pre-War Era Energy  Iran  Iraq  Peak Oil

    A chilling note from diarist Stirling Newberry at dKos:

    On this, the first working day of the New Year, we are already getting a good stiff taste of the running theme of 2006. If 2004 and 2005 saw resource inflation, 2006 is the year when resource rich countries begin using those resources as weapons, and resource poor countries begin taking aggressive steps to secure resources. The current world market approach to energy is going to break down, as more and more nations are forced to jostle for position.

    Somewhere in the next two years it will dawn on the American public that we live in the pre-war, not post-war, era, and that Iraq was a foreshock. [Emphasis added]

    With Iran in the crosshairs, Russia withholding natural gas shipments to the Ukraine, and Iraq facing an oil supply crisis, 2006 is off to an ominous start. Horrifying to contemplate: Iraq may be just the beginning.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:05 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 31, 2005

    Wanker Of The Year Iraq

    Atrios picks the Wanker of the Year: Senator Joe Lieberman for his November WSJ op-ed.

    Lieberman's piece was forwarded to me at the time from a friend of a friend, a dittohead who seized on it as proof of the liberal media's suppression of the good news from Iraq. So I was interested to see this quote from Time's Michael Ware:

    I and some other journalists had lunch with Senator Joe Lieberman the other day and we listened to him talking about Iraq. Either Senator Lieberman is so divorced from reality that he's completely lost the plot or he knows he's spinning a line. Because one of my colleagues turned to me in the middle of this lunch and said he's not talking about any country I've ever been to and yet he was talking about Iraq, the very country where we were sitting. [Emphasis added]

    I doubt any Western journalist is in a better position than Australian Michael Ware to say what's really going on. Ware's been in-country for years. He spent months embedded with the insurgents, including contact with al-Zarqawi's group, and months embedded with US troops. Unlike Lieberman, he actually has some idea what he's talking about.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:40 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 30, 2005

    Chalabi Takes Control Of Iraq's Oil Ministry Iraq

    Ahmad Chalabi, darling of Pentagon neocons, is now in control of Iraq's oil ministry. Reuters (via Oil Drum):

    Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has assumed direct control of the powerful oil ministry as crude exports ground to a halt due to sabotage attacks and logistics problems, officials said on Friday.

    Chalabi, who has been improving his relations with Washington after falling out with the U.S. administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials said. [...]

    A ministry spokesman allied to Uloum said the country was facing what he called an impending oil supply crisis. "Production in the north, centre and south is about to suffocate," he said. [Emphasis added]

    John Robb, at the very interesting Global Guerrillas, says the insurgents lately have turned their attention to disrupting electricity and oil production. On the electricity front:

    Baghdad gets only 6 hours of erratic electricity a day now, down from 11 hours in October. The rest of the country averages 13 hours a day. The rapid shifts in focus are indicative of global guerrilla open source methods. It doesn't reflect central planning but rather an ability to swarm quickly on vulnerabilities to maximize impact at minimal cost. [Emphasis added]

    On the oil production front:

    Iraq's Beiji refinery (joined at the hip to a major power station that will likely be disrupted too) has been shut down due to threats against tanker drivers since December 19th. Iraq is already importing $200 million a month in gasoline and this disruption will cost the country up to an extra $20 million a day. With gas lines already a mile long and a recent tripling of the consumer price for gasoline to compensate for the costs of these imports, the hit to the new government's legitimacy is already in motion. [...]

    In order to exacerbate the cash crunch, the guerrillas again destroyed a section of the $7 million dollar a day northern pipeline system (29 December) returning it to its normal inoperative state (which indicates that while the Kurds may control Kirkuk's oil fields as well as other newly found fields, they might never be able to profit from it). Due to this disruption, the Basra terminal (the export location for Iraq's southern oil fields in the Persian Gulf) has again become a single point of failure. Nature provided a second disruption, in the form of a storm and rough seas, that has prevented exports from Basra since Christmas at a cost of $70 million plus a day (1.21 million barrels a day in lost exports). [Emphasis added]

    Iraq is importing gasoline. If that doesn't say US failure, what does. And now Chalabi's in charge at the Oil Ministry. Any lingering doubts Iraqis may have had about whether the US intends to control Iraqi oil have now been dispelled.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 28, 2005

    Kurds Plan To Invade South Iraq

    Knight-Ridder's Tom Lasseter reports (via ICH) that Iraq's various factions are putting their own people into the country's army not to defend a unified Iraq, but to equip and train their own armies in preparation for what they view as the inevitable breakup of Iraq. Excerpt:

    Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

    Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

    The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga — the Kurdish militia — and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

    "It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours." [...]

    Their strategy mirrors that of Shiite Muslim parties in southern Iraq, which have stocked Iraqi army and police units with members of their own militias and have maintained a separate militia presence throughout Iraq's central and southern provinces. The militias now are illegal under Iraqi law but operate openly in many areas. Peshmerga leaders said in interviews that they expected the Shiites to create a semi-autonomous and then independent state in the south as they would do in the north. [...]

    The interviews with Kurdish troops...suggested that as the American military transfers more bases and areas of control to Iraqi units, it may be handing the nation to militias that are bent more on advancing ethnic and religious interests than on defeating the insurgency and preserving national unity. [...]

    American military officials have said they're trying to get a broader mix of sects in the Iraqi units.

    However, Col. Talib Naji, a Kurd serving in the Iraqi army on the edge of Kirkuk, said he would resist any attempts to dilute the Kurdish presence in his brigade.

    "The Ministry of Defense recently sent me 150 Arab soldiers from the south," Naji said. "After two weeks of service, we sent them away." [...]

    In addition to putting former Peshmerga in the Iraqi army, the Kurds have deployed small Peshmerga units in buildings and compounds throughout northern Iraq, according to militia leaders. While it's hard to calculate the number of these active Peshmerga fighters, interviews with militia members suggest that it's well in excess of 10,000. [Emphasis added]

    In other words, everything they're telling us about progress in building a unified Iraqi army, to secure a unified Iraq, is bull. By providing weapons and training to the Iraqi army, all the US is doing is laying the groundwork for the coming civil war. Was the partition of Iraq the plan all along?

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:17 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Swift-Boating The War Iraq  Media  Politics

    Even President Bush admits the White House's prewar characterization of the threat posed by Iraq was mistaken, but that doesn't stop Move America Forward from airing tv ads claiming that Saddam Hussein did indeed have WMD and "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. WSJ:

    The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions."

    The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. But these advertisements aren't paid for by the Republican National Committee or other established White House allies. Instead, they are sponsored by Move America Forward, a media-savvy outside advocacy group that has become one of the loudest — and most controversial — voices in the Iraq debate.

    While even Mr. Bush now publicly acknowledges the mistakes his administration made in judging the threat posed by Mr. Hussein, the organization is taking to the airwaves to insist that the White House was right all along.

    Similar to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — the advocacy group that helped derail John Kerry's presidential campaign — Move America Forward has magnified its reach by making small television and radio ad buys and then relying on cable- and local-television news outlets to give the commercials heavy coverage. Move America Forward has no discernible formal ties to the White House or the Republican National Committee, and the group says it operates independently from the Republican Party establishment. Still, the organization provides a clear benefit to the administration by spreading a pro-war message that goes beyond what administration officials can say publicly. [...]

    Liberals question how the group has maintained its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, which requires strict nonpartisanship, given the anti-Democratic tone of its campaigns. The group's Web site, www.moveamericaforward.org1, for example, attacks the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, referring to "Howard Dean types who only see a future of failure for this country."

    "When you have people participating in partisan activities with nonprofit dollars, that's really something the IRS needs to look at," says Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, another frequent target for Move America Forward's rhetoric. "An organization with a shady tax status participating in partisan activities and saying things that aren't true is a rogue element in American politics." [...]

    MoveOn is a "political action committee," meaning its donations aren't tax-deductible and must be disclosed. [Emphasis added]

    If an equivalent tax-exempt group existed on the left, does anyone doubt for an instant that the IRS would be all over them?

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 27, 2005

    JCS Chair Says Troop Levels Could Increase Iraq

    Rumsfeld says US troop levels in Iraq will decrease next year, but Sunday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said differently. LA Times:

    The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said Sunday that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase next year, not decrease, if the insurgency continues.

    Gen. Peter Pace's comments, on "Fox News Sunday," suggested that the Pentagon's plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, announced Friday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, depended on several variables. [...]

    The four-star Marine general said that any decisions to withdraw troops — or to deploy more forces into Iraq — will depend mostly on whether the insurgency continues to launch deadly attacks against U.S. forces and friendly elements of the fledgling Baghdad government. [...]

    Rumsfeld announced Friday during a trip to Iraq that President Bush has signed off on the withdrawal of an undisclosed number of U.S. combat troops from Iraq next year. [Emphasis added]

    So, troop levels could come down, but don't hold your breath.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 23, 2005

    Hundreds Of Thousands Protest Iraq Elections Iraq

    As an addendum to the previous post, AP reports that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets today to protest last week's parliamentary elections, which they say were rigged. AP:

    Large demonstrations broke out across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that protesters say were rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition. [...]

    Several hundred thousand people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday, many carrying banners decrying last week's elections. Many Iraqis outside the religious Shiite coalition allege that the elections were unfair to smaller Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.

    "We refuse the cheating and forgery in the elections," one banner read.

    During Friday prayers at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque, the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni clerical group, Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaei told followers they were "living a conspiracy built on lies and forgery." [Emphasis added]

    Consistent with Patrick Cockburn's interpretation that the elections may prove to be not the birth of a unified, democratic Iraq, but its funeral.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    "Iraq Is Disintegrating" Iraq

    The White House claims it's trying to bring pro-western democracy to Iraq. Last week's parliamentary elections, purple fingers and all, were touted as a major milestone in that effort. Here, however, is Patrick Cockburn, reporting from Iraq (via DeepBlade):

    Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show that the country is dividing up between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions. The secular and nationalist candidate backed by the US and Britain was humiliatingly defeated.

    The Shia religious coalition has won a total victory in Baghdad and the south of Iraq. The Sunni Arab parties who openly or covertly support armed resistance to the US are likely to win large majorities in Sunni provinces.

    The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-western secular democracy in a united Iraq. Islamic fundamentalist movements are ever more powerful in both the Sunni and Shia communities. "In two-and-a-half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq," said Ghassan Attiyah, an Iraqi commentator.

    The success of the United Arab Alliance, the coalition of Shia religious parties, has been far greater than expected according to preliminary results from last Thursday's election. It won 58 per cent of the vote in Baghdad, while Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister whom Tony Blair has strongly supported, got only 14 per cent of the vote. In the second city of Iraq, Basra, 77 per cent of voters supported the Alliance and only 11 per cent Mr Allawi.

    The election was portrayed by President George W. Bush as a sign of success for US policies in Iraq, but in fact means the triumph of America's enemies inside and outside the country. Iran will be pleased that the Shia religious parties whom it has supported, often for decades, have become the strongest political force.

    Ironically Bush is more than ever dependent within Iraq on the goodwill of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for all his maverick reputation. It is the allies of Iran who are growing in influence by the day and have now triumphed in the election. The US will hope that Tehran will be satisfied with this. Iran may be happier with a weakened Iraq in which it is a predominant influence rather than see the country entirely break up.

    Another victor in the election is the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army militia fought fierce battles with US troops last year. The US military said at the time it intended "to kill or capture him." Mr Bush cited the recapture of the holy city of Najaf from the Mehdi Army in August 2004 as an important success for the US army. Al-Sadr will now be one of the most influential leaders within the coalition.

    All the parties which did well in the election have strength only within their own community. The Shia coalition succeeded because the Shia make up 60 per cent of Iraqis, but won almost no votes among the Kurds or Sunni each of whom is about 20 per cent of the population. The Sunni and the Kurdish parties won no support outside their own communities. [...]

    The election also means a decisive switch from a secular Iraq to a country in which, outside Kurdistan, religious law will be paramount. Mr Allawi, who ran a well-financed campaign with slick television advertising, was the main secular hope but this did not translate into votes. The other main non-religious candidate Ahmed Chalabi received less than one per cent of the vote in Baghdad and will be lucky to win a single seat in the new 275-member Council of Representatives.

    "People underestimate how religious Iraq has become," said one Iraqi observer. He added: "Iran is really a secular society with a religious leadership, but Iraq will be a religious society with a religious leadership." Already most girls leaving schools in Baghdad wear headscarves. Women's rights in cases of divorce and inheritance are being eroded.

    Sunni Arab leaders were aghast yesterday at the electoral triumph of the Shia, claiming fraud. [...]

    Mr Allawi's Iraqi National List also protested. [...]

    But while there was probably some fraud and intimidation the results of the election mirror the way in which the Shia majority in Iraq are systematically taking over the levers of power. They already control the Ministry of the Interior with 110,000 police and paramilitary units. Most of the troops in the 80,000 strong army being trained by the US army are Shia. [...]

    The elections are also unlikely to see a diminution in armed resistance to the US by the Sunni community. Insurgent groups have made clear that they see winning seats in parliament as the opening of another front. The US is trying to conciliate the Sunni by the release of 24 top Baathist leaders without charges. But the main demand of the Sunni resistance is a time table for a US withdrawal without which they are unlikely to agree a ceasefire even if they had the unity to negotiate such an agreement.

    The new constitution [of] Iraq, overwhelmingly approved in a referendum on October 15, already creates two super-regions, one Kurdish and the other Shia, which will have quasi-independence. Local law will be superior to national law. They will own newly discovered oil reserves. They will have their own armed forces. They envisage an Iraq which will be a loose confederation rather than a unified state.

    The break up of Iraq has been brought closer by last week's election. The great majority of people who went to the polls voted as Shia, Sunni or Kurds. The forces pulling Iraq apart are stronger than those holding it together. The election, billed by Mr Bush and Mr Blair, as the birth of a new Iraqi state may in fact prove to be its funeral. [Emphasis added]

    There's a school of thought that says this is what US neocons have wanted all along: Iraq broken up, weakened, thereby improving (supposedly) the security situation for Israel. It's either been one long, unbroken string of screwups, or it's all going according to plan. Hard to believe they're evil geniuses, though. Evil, ok. But geniuses?

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 21, 2005

    Guarding Cheney Iraq

    If you're a fan of twisted humor, you'll enjoy this. Via John Nichols, here's a line from the AP story regarding Cheney's recent "surprise visit" to Iraq:

    U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns. [Emphasis added]

    Picture it. Hilarious — and illuminating. They must have decided letting Iraqis with guns anywhere near Cheney would be, shall we say, imprudent.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 17, 2005

    Congress Does Not Have Same Access To Intelligence Iraq  Politics

    I wish I had a dollar for every time Bush, Cheney, and their supporters made the claim that Congress had access to the same intelligence Bush did prior to the war.

    This assertion has always been ridiculous on its face. Members of Congress don't get a daily briefing from the CIA. They can't pick up the phone and get the Director of the CIA, DIA, NSA, or FBI into their office any time they want. And members of Congress don't get raw intelligence before it's been shaped and filtered for their eyes. I.e., Congress gets what the the Executive chooses to give them. You don't need a security clearance to figure this out. It's obvious.

    Now there's corroboration via a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

    The CRS writes:

    By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority — which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted — to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President — in contrast to Members of Congress — have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress.

    In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the President and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions — information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress — that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence. [Emphasis added]

    The report stresses that what Congress sees are "finished intelligence products", i.e., reports that have been filtered and shaped by analysts:

    Congress generally receives access to most finished intelligence products that are published for general circulation within the executive branch. A finished intelligence product is one in which an analyst evaluates, interprets, integrates and places into context raw intelligence.

    ...[C]ongressional access is limited to such finished products...

    A number of classified intelligence products are not shared with Congress:

  • The President's Daily Brief (PDB) is a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President orally by a small cadre of senior Intelligence Community analysts...[I]ts dissemination is limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers.

  • Presidential Daily Brief Memoranda are products containing responses to questions posed by the President and any of the small number of designated senior policymakers who receive the PDB. After briefing the handful of designated policymakers, members of the analytic briefing team return to CIA each morning, and task Intelligence Community personnel to provide answers to the various inquiries posed during the each briefing session.

  • Senior Executive Memoranda are tailored analytic products that also can be produced in response to policymaker questions arising from PDB briefings.

  • National Terrorism Brief (NTB) is prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center, is appended to the daily PDB, and is briefed to the President by the DNI.

  • The Director's Daily Report is prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is used by the FBI Director to verbally brief the President.

  • Red Cell analyses are products that are speculative in nature and sometimes take a position at odds with the conventional wisdom.

  • Raw intelligence is unevaluated intelligence.

  • TDs (Telephonic Disseminations) are raw intelligence reports disseminated by the CIA's Directorate of Operations. TDs are slightly finished intelligence, in that they contain some commentary as to the credibility of the source providing the intelligence.

  • Chief of Station (COS) Reports are reports prepared by the CIA's chief representative in a particular country and contain the COS's views of the current situation. The COS can share his reports with the resident ambassador for comment, but is under no obligation to incorporate any comments by the ambassador into his final report.
  • Now, perhaps, the next time Bush or Cheney tells an interviewer that Congress had access to the same intelligence as they did before the war, the interviewer will call him on it. But don't hold your breath.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 12, 2005

    Pat Robertson: Criticism Is Treason Iraq  Media  Politics

    In Pat Robertson's world, the Iraq war has already been won, and wartime criticism of the president is treason. Here's Robertson last week (via MediaMatters):

    We've won the war already, and for the Democrats to say we can't win it — what kind of a statement is that? And furthermore, one of the fundamental principles we have in America is that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and attempts to undermine the commander in chief during time of war amounts to treason. I know we have an opportunity to express our points of view, but there is a time when we're engaged in a combat situation that carping criticism against the commander in chief just doesn't cut it. And I think that yes, we have freedom of speech — of course we do — but this has gone over the top and I think the Republicans are — well, they've taken advantage. [Emphasis added]

    The war's already been won — but it's also ongoing, so criticism is treason. We've got freedom of speech — but you can't use it to criticize the president, cuz he's commander in chief. Which, of course, is a "fundamental principle" of our democracy.

    Poor Pat.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:48 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 09, 2005

    Déjà Vu All Over Again Iraq

    Glenn Greenwald (via Digby) has collected a set of quotes from various American leaders over the course of the Vietnam War. Eerily like what we hear today. Check it out.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 05, 2005

    Answering The Top Ten Reasons Iraq

    At TomDispatch, Michael Schwartz does an excellent job of answering the Top Ten Reasons for Staying in (Leaving) Iraq.

    Recommended. Just the thing for prepping for those holiday dinners with the extended family.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Iraq's VP: Bush Is A Liar Iraq

    In his "strategy for victory" speech last week, Bush claimed the training of Iraqi security forces is coming along nicely. Iraq's Vice President apparently didn't get the memo. AP:

    The training of Iraqi security forces has suffered a big "setback" in the last six months, with the army and other forces being increasingly used to settle scores and make other political gains, Iraqi Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer said Monday.

    Al-Yawer disputed contentions by U.S. officials, including President Bush, that the training of security forces was gathering speed, resulting in more professional troops.

    Bush has said the United States will not pull out of Iraq until Iraq's own forces can maintain security. In a speech last week, he said Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of securing the country. [...]

    Al-Yawer also expressed grave concern that Iraqi army units might use intimidation to try to keep Sunni voters from the polls during the country's crucial Dec. 15 general election. [...]

    Al-Yawer said many Sunnis want to vote. But he noted that both intimidation and voter fraud occurred during the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum, and complaints to the Iraqi Electoral Commission and U.N. voting advisers went nowhere, he said. [...]

    Many outside experts have expressed concern that Iraqi security forces will actually increase tensions if they guard Sunni areas, rather than keep order. Al-Yawer did not specifically say that Shiites make up too much of the army, but said he would like to see more political and sectarian balance especially among the officer corps. [Emphasis added]

    Al-Yawer is a Sunni, so he's got an axe to grind, but he's a mainstream guy, a moderate "running on a slate of secular candidates along with former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi". In any case, his appraisal is a whole lot more believable than Bush's, given persistent news reports like this one:

    [E]vidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.

    Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

    Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

    Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison. In a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, American and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured. [Emphasis added]

    It just keeps getting uglier and uglier.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    25% Iraq

    A startling fact about Iraq: 25% of all US deaths in the entire war have occurred in just the last 7 months. It's not getting better.

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2130.

    And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 04, 2005

    Even Their Lies Are Idiotic Iraq  Politics

    Paul Krugman on Bush's much-hyped National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (via Free Democracy):

    It's an embarrassing piece of work. Yet it's also an important test for the news media. The Bush administration has lost none of its confidence that it can get away with fuzzy math and fuzzy facts — that it won't be called to account for obvious efforts to mislead the public. It's up to journalists to prove that confidence wrong.

    Here's an example of how the White House attempts to mislead: the new document assures us that Iraq's economy is doing really well. "Oil production increased from an average of 1.58 million barrels per day in 2003, to an average of 2.25 million barrels per day in 2004." The document goes on to concede a "slight decrease" in production since then.

    We're not expected to realize that the daily average for 2003 includes the months just before, during and just after the invasion of Iraq, when its oil industry was basically shut down. As a result, we're not supposed to understand that the real story of Iraq's oil industry is one of unexpected failure: instead of achieving the surge predicted by some of the war's advocates, Iraqi production has rarely matched its prewar level, and has been on a downward trend for the past year. [Emphasis added]

    Read the rest for more examples.

    It is amazing that the White House thinks it can get away with fakery this ham-handed and obvious. Your average blog couldn't get away with it; commenters would be all over it.

    In a related story, Andrew Natsios has resigned as head of USAID. Natsios, you'll remember, is the clown who confidently predicted that Iraq's reconstruction would cost US taxpayers a mere $1.7 billion. Here's Natsios on Nightline in April of 2003 (via Think Progress):

    TED KOPPEL: I mean, when you talk about 1.7, you're not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for $1.7 billion?

    NATSIOS: Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do, this is it for the US. [...]

    KOPPEL: You’re saying the, the top cost for the US taxpayer will be $1.7 billion. No more than that?

    NATSIOS: For the reconstruction. And then there's 700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don't competitively bid 'cause it's charities that get that money.

    KOPPEL: I understand. But as far as reconstruction goes, the American taxpayer will not be hit for more than $1.7 billion no matter how long the process takes?

    NATSIOS: That is our plan and that is our intention. And these figures, outlandish figures I've seen, I have to say, there's a little bit of hoopla involved in this.

    Unbelievable. Give him Brownie's old job over at FEMA.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:05 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 01, 2005

    Seymour Hersh On John Murtha Iraq

    As an addendum to the previous post, here's what investigative reporter Seymour Hersh had to say about Murtha in an interview the other day on Democracy Now:

    Murtha is one of those oldies, in his 70s now...He's on the Defense — he's one of the leading players on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He's a very conservative military guy, who controls the budget, not only the budget we know about, but the black budget, the covert budget. He's one of those people [who are] trusted...These are the guys that the generals talk to. And Murtha is one, in particular. He's known for his closeness to the four-stars. They come and they bleed on him.

    And so, for Murtha to suddenly say it's over, as he did three weeks ago or two weeks ago, as I wrote in this article, it drove the White House crazy. They were beyond mad, as somebody said to me, because they know that the generals are talking to him. So here you have a case where we don't have — you know, the generals are terrified pretty much, as they always are. That's just the nature of the game. But they don't speak truth to power. They're not telling the American people exactly what's going on, and they're clearly not telling the White House, because the White House doesn't want to hear.

    So Murtha's message is a message, really, from a — you can consider it a message from a lot of generals on active duty today. This is what they think, at least a significant percentage of them, I assure you. This is, I'm not over-dramatizing this. It's a shot across the bow. They don't think it's doable. You can't tell that to this President. He doesn't want to hear it. But you can say it to Murtha... [Emphasis added]

    If Hersh is right and Murtha is speaking for the generals, things in Iraq are in even worse shape than we thought. Bush keeps saying that troops levels and tactics are dictated by the generals on the ground. How does that work, exactly, when he refuses to listen to anyone? Hersh again:

    [W]hat's happening now is, I think, because [Bush is] so unreachable by common — I think one reason the generals went to Murtha is you can't tell this to the President...I think people [are] scared to death. I think some of the insiders are really scared to death that you have a president that's presiding over — it's — the exit plan for this war is totally dependant on the Iraqi military, which is comical. It's driven by militias...[T]he idea that withdrawal is going to be dependent on the Iraqi police and the military is a fantasy. [Emphasis added]

    Things are melting down, and Bush is off in fantasyland. What a nightmare.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    "Broken, Worn Out" Iraq

    Rep. John Murtha told an audience of his constituents yesterday that the US Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth" in Iraq. AP:

    Most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," Rep. John Murtha told a civic group.

    Two weeks ago, Murtha created a storm of comment when he called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq now. The Democratic congressman spoke to a group of community and business leaders in Latrobe on Wednesday, the same day President Bush said troops would be withdrawn when they've achieved victory, not under an artificial deadline set by politicians.

    Murtha predicted most troops will be out of Iraq within a year.

    "I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course," Murtha said, referring to Bush. "Staying the course is not a policy."

    Murtha, 73, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, expressed pessimism about Iraq's stability and said the Iraqis know who the insurgents are, but don't always share that information with U.S. troops. He said a civil war is likely because of ongoing factionalism among Sunni Arabs, and Kurds and Shiites.

    He also said he was wrong to vote to support the war.

    "I admit I made a mistake when I voted for war," Murtha said. "I'm looking at the future of the United States military."

    Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, said the Pennsylvania National Guard is "stretched so thin" that it won't be able to send fully equipped units to Iraq next year. Murtha predicted it will cost $50 billion to upgrade military equipment nationwide, but says the federal government is already reducing future purchases to save money. [Emphasis added]

    Probably no one in Congress is closer to the military or knows it better than Murtha. He's widely believed to be speaking for military leaders who are not in a position to go public.

    Just five years ago, the PNAC neocons (Cheney, Libby, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, et al) were talking in terms of the US military dominating the world "indefinitely" into the future. Now, just five years later, the Army's wheels are falling off. Nicely done.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    November 30, 2005

    Heart Of Darkness Iraq

    This is good.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    November 29, 2005

    Van Creveld: Just Withdraw Iraq

    Eminent Hebrew University military analyst/historian Martin van Creveld on the unfolding debacle in Iraq:

    What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietna