Saturday, August 28, 2004

War News for August 27 and 28, 2004 Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting reported in Sadr City. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed, six wounded in Baghdad mortar attack. Bring ‘em on: Ten Iraqis, one US soldier wounded by Mosul car bomb ambush. Bring ‘em on: Twelve US soldiers wounded in three Baghdad grenade attacks. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed, 32 wounded in US air strikes near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute Italian journalist. Bring ‘em on: University lecturer assassinated in Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute two Turkish hostages near Beiji. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline attacked near Basra. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline attacked near North Rumalia oilfield. Bring ‘em on: Municipal councilman assassinated near Hilla. Insurgents evacuate ruined Najaf, fail to disarm. “They stood in a scene of devastation. Hotels had crumbled into the street. Cars lay blackened and twisted where they had been hit. Goats and donkeys lay dead on the sidewalks. Pilgrims from out of town and locals coming from home walked the streets agape, shaking their heads, stunned by the devastation before them. As the Mahdi Army fighters did not surrender themselves, neither did they give up their guns. Instead, they took the assault rifles and rocket launchers with which they had commandeered the shrine and loaded them onto donkey carts, covering them with blankets, grain sacks and television sets, and sending them away. Hours later, Mahdi fighters, some still dressed in their signature black uniforms, could be seen stashing rocket launchers in crates and pushing them into roadside shops.” One US soldier killed, one injured in vehicle accident near Fallujah. Kuwaiti trucking company suspends operations in Iraq. Allawi vs. Chalabi. “US-backed Iraqi police forces on Friday raided the Baghdad office of the Iraqi National Congress of disgraced Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi and expelled party members, an INC official said.” US congresscritters get the Wolfowitz Welcome in Baghdad. “A congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller got a close-up look at combat in Iraq when two mortar shells exploded about 500 yards from where the lawmakers were waiting to board a helicopter.” Lying Rummy. “In his first comments on the two major investigative reports issued this week at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday mischaracterized one of their central findings about the American military's treatment of Iraqi prisoners by saying there was no evidence that prisoners had been abused during interrogations.” Commentary Editorial: “Failures in U.S. occupation policy have increased anti-American feelings among the Iraqi people, making it even more difficult to initiate a process of national reconciliation. Al-Sadr's stubborn uprising against the interim government and U.S. forces is a stark reminder of how Iraqi and U.S. authorities have bungled the postwar management of Iraqi affairs. The flip-flop pattern of U.S. military operations also seems to have worsened the situation. In April, U.S. troops launched a major offensive against the Mahdi Army to bring al-Sadr, a staunch opponent of the occupation, to his knees. The operation appeared to have succeeded as the two sides agreed to a ceasefire. But, in early August, fighting erupted again between U.S. forces and Mahdi militiamen who had taken positions inside the Ali Imam shrine, one of the most sacred sites in the Islamic world. The gold-domed mausoleum is dedicated to Ali Muhammad, the cousin of the prophet Mohammed and the first imam (leader) of the Shiite branch of Islam. The Najaf standoff poses a major challenge for the Bush administration as well. Although how it is going to deal with the situation is unclear at the moment, there is no denying that a failure to resolve the crisis will affect not only the administration's policy in Iraq but also Mr. Bush's re-election campaign.” Editorial: “The poisoned seeds that flowered so darkly in Abu Ghraib were planted much earlier in the flawed, postwar planning of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his minions. Stubbornly insisting on the surreal premise that Iraqis would greet invading coalition forces with flowers and candy after the defeat of Saddam Hussein, there were insufficient troops to handle the homegrown insurgency that followed. Overwhelmed, undertrained and inadequately supervised, those assigned to Abu Ghraib were left to their own devices with predictably shameful results. It is also impossible to untangle the Abu Ghraib scandal from an earlier decision by the Bush administration to circumvent Geneva Convention protections for ‘enemy combatants’ being held by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. The tortured legal arguments concocted by White House lawyers to sidestep the international treaty were not specifically intended to be applied to Iraqi prisoners. However, some of the personnel who were transferred from Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib brought the same atmosphere of lawlessness along with them.” Analysis: "Najaf is hardly the only problem area facing U.S. commanders in Iraq. Less noticed during the Najaf battles have been ongoing clashes in several areas closer to the capital. U.S. warplanes have repeatedly hit Fallujah, where the Marines pulled back after another brokered settlement in the spring. North of Baghdad, the Army has all but withdrawn from Samarra, another Sunni Triangle hot spot. Fighting also continues in Baqubah. ‘Currently, the insurgents are in charge of both Fallujah and Samarra,’ said a senior Army commander in Iraq. ‘The status quo in Samarra is unacceptable, and the final outcome is still in question.’” Casualty Reports Local story: Michigan soldier dies in Iraq. Local story: Alabama soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Pennsylvania Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Illinois soldier dies in Iraq. Local story: Texas Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Oregon soldier wounded in Iraq. Local story: California sailor wounded in Iraq. Local story: Idaho soldier and Marine wounded in Iraq. Rant of the Day This WaPo editorial represents the art of journalistic turd polishing at its best. Since this WaPo editorial severely frosted my tender hiney this morning, I’ve decided to provide some commentary.
"AT BEST, PROGRESS in Iraq during the coming months will be uneven, and the options facing U.S. forces will range from unappealing to unthinkable. In that context, a brokered truce that yesterday appeared to have ended, at least for now, the weeks-long battle of Najaf represents as bright an outcome as could have been realized."
WaPo got this part right. Thanks to consistent bungling, first by Bremer’s CPA and now by Nergoponte and Allawi, there are no good policy options left for the United States occupation of Iraq.
"The difficulties are well-known. The Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has performed relatively well since it took over in June, and it has at least one major factor on its side: Most Iraqis still seem to share the overall goal of shaping a coherent, multi-ethnic democratic state. Mr. Allawi's commitment to hold elections by early next year while seeking to restore as much security as possible is in sync with that goal. But he does not have a strong enough army or police force to deliver as much security as Iraqis expect, and the U.S. and allied troops he must therefore rely upon are deeply unpopular. Meanwhile the enemies of democratic transition, including foreign terrorists, Islamic militants and Saddam Hussein-trained Baathists, may comprise a small minority of the population, but they are ruthless and capable of terrible mayhem and intimidation. Mr. Allawi must navigate these currents while Iraqi forces continue to be trained."
Since June 28th, Allawi’s government has performed as well as the CPA did before June 28th – they have screwed up everything except their effort to bamboozle the US media. Like the CPA, the Negroponte/Allawi gang has chosen to pursue a military solution to the insurgency while deliberately offering the insurgents unacceptable political solutions, except that Allawi provides more belligerent rhetoric than Bremer. As with the CPA, military solutions have failed miserably and served only to stiffen opposition. Worse, each failure reveals the weakness of the military option and encourages further insurgent violence. Allawi’s battleship mouth has only succeeded in revealing the weakness of his rowboat ass. The WaPo editorial board makes a tremendous leap of logic by assuming that because “most Iraqis still seem to share the overall goal of shaping a coherent, multi-ethnic democratic state,” most Iraqis support the Allawi regime. It appears that a growing majority of Iraqis do not support Allawi for the same reasons they gradually grew to resent and despise the former Iraqi Governing Council: Allawi is an outsider without any significant political base in Iraq, he has no intention of holding anything but a rigged election and his government is propped up only by the use of foreign troops who regularly bomb Iraqis at his direction. Allawi’s only success in navigating Iraqi "currents" has been his perversion of the Iraqi judicial system and his use of the few trustworthy police he controls in isolating and prosecuting his political enemy, Ahmed Chalabi’s exile faction.
"Moqtada Sadr, the firebrand young Shiite cleric whose militia had seized control of Najaf's revered mosque, sought to derail the process. He led an uprising that at one time seemed to be gaining strength through much of Iraq's southern Shiite heartland, and his goals, while never entirely clear, certainly did not include multi-ethnic democracy or a U.S. presence in Iraq. U.S. Marines and soldiers, fighting alongside a small and untested Iraqi force, performed bravely for the past several weeks, inflicting substantial losses on the Sadr forces while taking care not to damage the mosque. If the respected Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had not intervened, U.S. forces were prepared in the next few days to force a final battle, with Iraqi troops assigned to reclaim the mosque itself. Instead, Mr. Sadr was permitted to go free in exchange for vacating the mosque and ordering his militia to lay down their arms."
Again, the WaPo editorial board draws a false conclusion from the events in Najaf. Aside from the notion that Sadr has never made his goals clear – he has, and those goals include an immediate end to both the US presence and the Allawi government – Sadr’s militia did not lay down their arms. They left the shrine and dispersed with their weapons. We will see them again.
"Is this a defeat for the government? Mr. Sadr is a murderous outlaw, and Iraq would be better off without him. But it's not certain that Iraqi forces could have prevailed in a final battle, at least not without harming the sacred shrine in a way that would have redounded against U.S. forces and the Iraqi government. Now the shrine has been reopened, thanks to the intervention of Mr. Sistani, who worked in cooperation with the Allawi government and who supports the same democratization schedule as Mr. Allawi and the international coalition. Mr. Sadr cannot be trusted to honor any agreement, but he has failed for a second time to derail the process."
In one day, Sistani accomplished what the US military and the Allawi government have failed to do since April, and this should be a clear indication of the weakness of the Allawi government in general and military solutions in particular. Sistani has shown no support of the Allawi government. In fact, he pointedly refused to deal with the CPA, and only his implied threat to use his tremendous influence coerced Bremer to abandon the CPA’s plan to impose a Chalabi exile government through regional caucuses rather than direct elections. Sistani’s intervention in Najaf only shows that he wants Sadr and Allawi to go fight someplace else.
"Mr. Allawi should take credit for the reopening of the mosque and thank Mr. Sistani for his role. He and his U.S. allies should avoid any future threats they cannot back up, but they must move to regain control of Sunni cities as they moved in Najaf. They also must accelerate the dispensing of U.S. and allied aid in places such as Baghdad's Sadr City slum, which is named for Mr. Sadr's late -- and far more respected -- father, but where the young cleric remains popular. No one should think that yesterday's truce is a turning point toward stability in Iraq. But it has given the allied effort another bit of breathing room."
While Allawi might thank Sistani for his role in saving the mosque, he can take credit for nothing but failure. Turd polishing, a speciality of the WaPo editorial board, is a phenomenon unique to American journalism and while the WaPo board might think their efforts shine up the debacle in Najaf, it's still a turd. The saddest part is that men and women, American and Iraqi, young and old, are dying and suffering for WaPo's bright and shiny turd. 86-43-04. Pass it on.


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