Monday, February 21, 2005

War News for Monday, 21 February 2005 Bring ‘em on: A car bomb killed a member of Iraq’s National Guard and a civilian in the northern city of Baquba. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians were wounded when a bomb exploded as an Iraqi police patrol passed in Basra. Bring ‘em on: Two Kurds killed in an apparent accidental explosion of an ammunition dump in Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: Huge fire breaks out in pharmaceutical plant after clashes between US forces and insurgents in Mosul. Bring ‘em on: US and Iraqi troops have launched a large-scale operation around the rebellious city of Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen in Iraq have abducted a female Iraqi television presenter in the northern city of Mosul. Civil War Plans Even under the U.S. umbrella and prodding, the Kurds were unable to establish a working Parliament or a common administration for Kurdistan. Include the Shiites, who follow the dictates of Ali Sistani, and the chances of any democratic give-and-take look remote. One might see the kind of political turmoil and brinkmanship that was witnessed in Damascus after the collapse of the Ottoman armies and the arrival of Emir Feisal's supporters, as depicted in the film “Lawrence of Arabia.” British troops had “liberated” the Arab lands, but they had their own agenda. As does the U.S. administration in “liberated” Iraq – its oil and strategic control of the region. The Shiites have got a dominant role by virtue of U.S. guns, tanks, helicopters and F-16s; it is not an organic political evolution. The continuing Sunni Arab insurgency, which is a national resistance aimed principally at the U.S.-imposed institutions and the new Iraqi government, could provoke a Shiite backlash and lead to a civil war. The U.S. forgets that Indian troops left Bangladesh as soon peace was restored; still, the new state was hardly thankful. In Iraq, the Shiites wouldn't be grateful, either, if exiles were imposed as rulers and U.S. troops stayed put. The United States has seen underground Shiite organization in spite of decades of Sunni-dominated secular regime. Soon after the toppling of Saddam's statue in March 2003, U.S. Special Forces encouraged Shiites to take revenge against members of the Baathist regime. U.S. and British Special Forces remain active in Iraq to this day, making for a violent brew. What if the Shiite followers of Moqtada al-Sadr also turned on the occupation forces? Election News Chalabi last week claimed in an Associated Press interview that he had enough support among the 140 alliance delegates elected to the National Assembly to beat Jaafari. He repeated the assertion in an appearance Sunday on ABC's “This Week” television show with George Stephanopoulos. “I believe I have a majority of the votes on my side right now,” Chalabi said. Torture A British official was involved in drafting rules permitting extreme interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, centre of the controversy over the use of torture by US forces against Iraqi prisoners. Last night it emerged that the government has been forced to retract claims that no British military officer had seen or been involved with the crucial document allowing guards to subject detainees to interrogation methods including the use of dogs, sleep deprivation and stress positions, in breach of the Geneva Convention. Last year the jail achieved notoriety when photographs emerged of guards forcing prisoners to strip naked and simulate sex acts. Other photographs showed detainees being set upon with dogs and beaten. The Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, has admitted in a letter to a Plaid Cymru MP, Adam Price, that a senior British Army lawyer assigned to the coalition's legal department in Baghdad contributed to “comments provided by his superior” when drafting the document. I am shocked that smiling, compassionate and caring Tony Blair could order such deeds! PR News President Bush set out Sunday on a European trip to strengthen ties with allies after sharp disagreements over the war in Iraq. He waved and called out, "See you all," as he crossed the South Lawn to his helicopter, waiting to take him to Air Force One at nearby Andrews Air Force Base. The president was accompanied by his wife, Laura. The president is making stops in Belgium, Germany and Slovakia over five days. He will attend NATO and European Union meetings and hold separate meetings with three of the most vocal critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq: French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other prickly issues on the agenda will be European negotiations aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear program and Europe's plans to scrap its 15-year ban on selling weapons to China. When will the dumb US mainstream media wake up? Strengthen ties? The US is vilified across Europe, any move by “Old Europe” to give Bush a mulligan on Iraq (Watch this drive!) will be greeted by riots on the streets. Secret Talks US diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq's Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported today, citing Pentagon and other sources. The Bush administration has said it would not negotiate with Iraqi fighters and there is no authorized dialogue but the US is having ''back-channel'' communications with certain insurgents, unidentified Washington and Iraqi sources told the magazine.The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the US military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency. A US officer tried to get names of other insurgent leaders while the Iraqi complained the new Shi'ite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi negotiator. ''We are ready to work with you,'' the Iraqi negotiator said, according to Time. Oh hell’s bells and buckets of blood, the Iranians have won control of Iraq, we need to get Rummy Dummy out to renew old acquantancies. Hackworth Speaks As with Vietnam, the Iraqi tar pit was oh-so-easy to sink into, but appears to be just as tough to exit. This should be no big surprise! Most slugfests - from bar brawls to military misadventures like Vietnam and Iraq - take some clever moves to step away from once the swinging starts.This is why most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout. That’s not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield. Never before in our country’s history has an administration charged with defending our nation been so lacking in hands-on combat experience and therefore so ignorant about the art and science of war. Now the increasingly flummoxed Bush team is stealing the page on Vietnamization from Nixon’s Exit Primer, coupled with the same deceitful tactics he used to get us out of the almost decade-long Vietnam quagmire: telling lies. The Nixon gang kicked off its con in 1969 via a killer of a PR snow job to pacify an American public whose support for the war was exhausted. The guts of this spin show were: We have clobbered the enemy; the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) is main-event material and ready to take over the fighting; and we can bring our troops home. This propaganda was supported by ARVN combat-readiness reports systematically doctored by our brass to show that the units we were advising were good-to-go.I was on the ground as an adviser to ARVN when the campaign launched, and I was completely floored. Even the elite outfits - Rangers, Special Forces, paratroopers - were not fully capable of defending their country when put to the test. And these gung-ho troops were ARVN’s finest. Average ARVN grunts down in the ordinary infantry divisions were so ineffective that they couldn’t have fought their way out of a day-care center without massive U.S. air support. Meanwhile, U.S. units started redeploying. Two years after the last grunt climbed on the last silver “freedom bird” and headed home, ARVN folded like a wet noodle.All that blood, sacrifice and billions of American taxpayer dollars went for naught because politicians hadn’t worked out the endgame before Round One. And then their solution-without-honor was to lie their way out of a no-win war.Thirty-five years later, President Bush told the nation that Iraq had nine fully trained combat infantry battalions. Just as he was proclaiming the prowess of the Iraqi army, a major in the Iraqi Training Command told me that the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, when committed to their first battle, threw down their weapons and ran. “Not sure where the president is getting his info, but we have only one battalion that’s good-to-go,” he said. Inquiring minds want to know: Is our president still being fed bad skinny comparable to the intel incorrectly linking Saddam to Sept. 11 or claiming that Iraq was chockablock full of weapons of mass destruction? More recently, Pentagon hype claimed 140,000 trained and equipped Iraqi troops were set to go toe to toe against an estimated 15,000 insurgents. But when congressional pressure from both Republicans and Democrats lit fires around the feet of both Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, they were quick to admit that only 40,000 Iraqi soldiers were ready to meet the tiger. The rest, according to Myers, “were useful in less-taxing jobs . . . in relatively stable southern Iraq.” The hard truth is that it takes a good 10 years to build an army from the ground up. And the major emphasis must be placed not on numbers such as how many battalions have been fielded or how ready the recruits are, but rather on good, old-fashioned officer training. Until this happens and the corrupt Iraqi officer leadership - from gold bar to four stars - gets a good scrub, our troops are stuck in the tar.Bush needs to set up a truth squad directly outside his Oval Office door quicksmart. Then, whenever the Pentagon plays fast and loose with the truth, the liars can be immediately rounded up and punished.Because lying won’t get our troops out of Iraq without our national security taking a long-term hit that our country simply cannot afford.


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