Tuesday, February 01, 2005
War News for Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Bring ‘em on: Four detainees killed, six wounded in riot at
Bring ‘em on: Three US Marines killed in combat south of
Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, two wounded in roadside bomb attack in Ramadi. Humvee destroyed in another bomb attack in Ramadi, crew escaped with minor wounds.
Nine RAF airmen and one British soldier killed in crash of RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft. No official determination of cause at this writing. Two militant groups claim responsibility for shooting it down.
Note to Readers: The first more-or-less free elections in 50 years have just taken place in
Granted, overall the news is nowhere near as bad as it might be. Turnout in the non-Sunni provinces was good. ‘Only’ around 40 people died and a few dozen were wounded – less, as one article points out, than a typical bad day since the invasion, for what that’s worth. For those of us who were worried that election day would dissolve into a blood bath this outcome is a relief.
On the other hand, in spite of the most overwhelming security presence the country has seen since the start of the occupation, the total number of attacks set a new record – as Yankee said in his post, it was a particularly violent day, though not as bloody as it might have been. Clearly the insurgents feel that the issue is far from settled and the fact that they were able to operate so widely under such strict security does not bode well for the future.
The real key is what is going to happen over the next year. For those who aren’t up on the details, here’s the plan:
After votes are counted, a 275-member national assembly will be formed, its seats allocated by the share of votes gained by each competing bloc. Election organisers say it may be 10 days or more before they can announce final results.
The assembly will elect a presidency council, consisting of a president and two deputies. The council must have the backing of two thirds of the assembly, or 184 members.
The three-person council will then select a prime minister and a cabinet. It must name a prime minister within two weeks and the decision must be unanimous.
The prime minister and cabinet will seek a vote of confidence from the national assembly, requiring only a simple majority of 138 votes. The government can then start work.
The national assembly will draw up a draft constitution for
The draft constitution must be put to the Iraqi people for approval in a referendum to be held no later than October 15.
The constitution needs a simple majority of Iraqi voters to pass, as long as two thirds of voters in three or more of
If the constitution is approved, a general election will be held by December 15 and a new government installed by the end of the year. If the constitution is rejected, the national assembly will be dissolved and an election for a new one will take place by December 15.
Clearly, there is a lot to be done. It is going to take a true statesman to negotiate a new constitution that satisfies Sunni demands for representation, Kurdish demands for autonomy, Shi’ite demands for power, and that allocates resources in a way that all regions perceive as fair. Let’s hope Sistani is up to it.
Another problem is that the new government that is being formed based on the election results is not going to be any more sovereign in practice than the current Allawi regime. It will still not control its own borders, foreign policy, army, resources, or be able to prevent a bunch of well-armed foreigners from shooting and bombing its citizens at will. This is going to severely limit its ability to maneuver politically.
And finally, there is the festering question of restoring jobs and infrastructure. The post-election euphoria is not going to last long if people can’t find work, can’t feed their families, can’t rely on the power supply, and can’t even get clean drinking water. The track record on these critical issues is not good so far and the elections aren’t going to do anything much to solve those problems.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. The Bushies did manage to assemble something that looked a lot like an election and it did create a temporary sort of hump of optimism. In this mess, we’ll take whatever optimism we can find.
Here’s a selection of the news from the western press. Inclusion of articles does not necessarily indicate agreement with their conclusions:
Allawi speaks: Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has urged his countrymen to unite after an election lauded by world leaders as an historic breakthrough that should not be undermined by sectarian conflict.
But in a stark reminder of the presence of insurgents, three
No surprises here: President Bush declared
"Today, the people of
Most reactions to the election, which was closely watched around the world, seemed to hit the same notes as Bush.
Praise for the bravery of Iraqi voters was universal, as was acknowledgment of the hardships ahead. The differences came in the arrangement and interpretation of the notes.
An opposing view: It doesn’t matter how many people voted yesterday in
The real resistance—the resistance that attacks the
Get out the vote: Voting in
Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government to increase voter turnout.
IECI officials have meanwhile 'downgraded' their earlier estimate of voter turnout. IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier, a figure given also by the Bush Administration. But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.
Arab reactions: The spectacle of celebration and violence that marked election day in
For even the most skeptical columnists, the images of dancing Iraqis, ink-stained index fingers held jubilantly overhead, were powerful evidence that a suffering nation may have taken a decisive leap forward. Nonetheless, even the most hopeful among the pundits also cautioned that a single day, no matter how inspired, did not mean that
World reactions: The day after Iraqis defied the threat of violence and voted by the millions, world leaders from Europe to the Middle East, many of whom had opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, said yesterday the national election was a step forward.
President Jacques Chirac, who led a diplomatic campaign against the war, told President Bush by phone the vote was ''an important step in the political reconstruction of Iraq" and declared the turnout and organization a success.
Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, one of the more vocal opponents of what is widely perceived in Europe as the Bush administration's dangerous and unilateral approach in Iraq, said he believed Berlin was right to have opposed this war, but wanted to look to the future and help Iraqi people establish a democracy.
Most of the caution expressed yesterday came from
More Arab reactions: Praise for millions of Iraqis who defied attacks to vote poured in from world leaders yesterday but most rulers in the Arab world, where elections are either rigged or never held, remained silent.
While much of the Arab press hailed the courage of Iraqi voters, the most open official comments came from King Abdullah of
"People are waking up," the king told CNN. "[Arab] leaders understand that they have to push reform forward and I don't think there is any looking back."
Shiites approve: Leading clerics here in the holiest city of
The United Iraqi Alliance, the large slate of candidates cobbled together by the most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is expected to emerge as the top vote-getter once all the ballots are counted.
The holding of elections was seen by many Shiite leaders as a way to legitimize rule by the majority Shiites, who have been governed by the minority Sunni Arabs for decades, most recently during the oppressive reign of Saddam Hussein.
Another challenge: The ballots are still being counted, but the hard bargaining to form a new Iraqi government has begun.
Less than a day after millions of Iraqis flocked to the polls, the leaders of the major political parties said they were reaching out to potential allies in what is almost certain to be a coalition government. Between rivals, candidates signaled that the battle lines had been drawn
The most likely contest, political leaders here say, will pit the largest coalition of Shiite parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, against a group led by the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The struggle, in addition to setting the composition of the next government, will raise fundamental questions about the nature of the new political order. Principal among them, these political leaders say, will be the role of Islam in governing the country and the relative influence of the
Sunni participation: Reversing decades of political dominance by minority Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds probably won the most seats in Sunday's national assembly election.
The voting seems almost certain to guarantee that
Voting was almost nonexistent in the largely Sunni provinces of Al Anbar, Salahuddin,
Security concerns: With Iraq still counting millions of ballots from Sunday's historic national elections, US and Iraqi officials looked ahead yesterday to their most pressing challenges, from taming an insurgency that mounted a record 250 attacks on election day to coaxing the many Sunni Muslims who did not vote into accepting the new government.
US and Iraqi officials said, meanwhile, that
But a US diplomat cautioned that their ability to fend off attacks on polling stations -- on a day that 100,000 of the total 130,000 security personnel were on the job and car traffic was halted across the country -- does not mean Iraqi forces are ready to take on the insurgency.
Not too fine a point: Insurgents made good on their repeated threats to attack
In all, there were more attacks than on any other day in
"Yeah," said one
Perfect, except for the record number of attacks: Officials said the one-day operation was months in the making. On the military side, commanders dated their campaign for a safe election day to November, when
At the same time, commanders and officials laid out a plan for election weekend. To put every possible uniform on the street, the interim government cancelled all leaves for police officers and soldiers and offered the police extra pay to stick around.
Aircraft were deployed en masse. The skies over the capital buzzed with U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and F-18A fighter jets — in large part because captured insurgents have said they are especially intimidated by aircraft, one official said.
As a final touch,
"The security plan is perfect," interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced after casting his vote.
Not over till it's over:
Ramadi: Security concerns, roadside bombs and a series of brief gunbattles kept most Ramadi citizens from participating in Sunday’s historic Iraqi elections.
No timetable: President Bush, pressed by Democrats for an exit strategy from
Still a long way to go: Iraqi security units are still far from reaching expanding
Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new urgency in training is helpful but almost a year too late. “We’re only now beginning to train forces against the insurgency problem,” he said.
In a recent analysis, Cordesman suggested that
A day after the al Qaeda militant group vowed to pursue "holy war" in
Remote control occupation: Late last week, in a parking lot in New Jersey, the U.S. Army unveiled what may be the future of war: 3-foot-tall robotic "soldiers," outfitted with tank tracks, night vision and mounted automatic weapons capable of firing more than 300 rounds at a burst. Known as SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems), these battle bots are on the leading edge of a new kind of warfare, in which — or so the argument goes — our troops will one day remain hidden (and, presumably, protected) while engaging the enemy by remote control. The Army intends to deploy 18 SWORDS units to
Cute acronym too.
Chump change: An official US audit provided evidence yesterday of widespread corruption in postwar
The scathing report by Stuart Bowen Jr, the inspector general for reconstruction, said that while the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was careful to monitor the spending of US taxpayers' money in Iraq, it failed to provide proper oversight of projects paid for with Iraq's own funds.
"It is clear that the monitoring and accounting systems were dysfunctional, and set a precedent for corruption that continues to this day," said David Phillips, a former state department adviser on
Compare and Contrast
Dead Americans: President Bush will propose a dramatic increase to $100,000 in government payments to families of
In addition to the higher gratuity, the Pentagon would substantially increase life insurance benefits,
Including the retroactive gratuity payments and the cost of subsidizing more life insurance coverage, the first-year cost of the proposed changes would exceed $450 million, officials said.
Dead Iraqis: When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami caused by an Asian earthquake in December, the immediate reaction in the
Two months earlier, the reaction in the
Project for the New American Century – Letter to Congress: While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.
There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current
Does anyone have the time to do a search on the list of signatories to this document to see how many have children serving in the military?
More Rummy lies: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in an Op-Ed blaming "conspiracy mongers" for "attempting to scare and mislead young Americans," insisted that "the idea of reinstating the draft has never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by anyone in the Bush administration."
That assertion is demonstrably false. According to an internal Selective Service memo made public under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency's acting director met with two of Rumsfeld's undersecretaries in February 2003 precisely to debate, discuss and ponder a return to the draft. The memo duly notes the administration's aversion to a draft but adds, "Defense manpower officials concede there are critical shortages of military personnel with certain special skills, such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network engineers, etc." The potentially prohibitive cost of "attracting and retaining such personnel for military service," the memo adds, has led "some officials to conclude that, while a conventional draft may never be needed, a draft of men and women possessing these critical skills may be warranted in a future crisis." This new draft, it suggests, could be invoked to meet the needs of both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
The memo then proposes, in detail, that the Selective Service be "re-engineered" to cover all Americans -- "men and (for the first time) women" -- ages eighteen to thirty-four. In addition to name, date of birth and Social Security number, young adults would have to provide the agency with details of their specialized skills on an ongoing basis until they passed out of draft jeopardy at age thirty-five.
Editorial: The voting is over, but sorting out what it means will take days, weeks and possibly years. There were some discouraging signs; the Sunni minority, which has long held the reins of power in
Even in a stable country, this would be a daunting task.
Yet, the first step has been taken, and that's worth celebrating.
On the flip side of this coin, it probably shouldn't be celebrated too much. Sunday's vote is being touted as the turning of the corner, the light at the end of the tunnel. But the corner was supposedly also turned with the fall of
Opinion: Bush is counting on Sunday's images from Iraq to turn the tide of public opinion in the U.S. Scenes of men and women lining up to vote, defying the dire predictions of the insurgents, breathe life into Bush's second inaugural speech, particularly his statement that the "survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." He is counting on average Americans to share his belief that "the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
However, unless Americans buy into Bush's rhetoric for years to come, his experiment with democracy will fail.
Juan Cole: With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed "election."
Fareed Zakaria: Unless there is a major change in course,
In April 2003, around the time
Editorial: Tony Blair and George Bush were quick to characterise yesterday's election as a triumph of democracy over terror. Bush declared it a "resounding success", while Blair asserted that "The force of freedom was felt throughout
Draconian security measures left
The Rude Pundit: No, really, let's celebrate the act of voting, even if, in the end, the election doesn't change much and is just another mile marker on the road to legitimizing the occupation. Even if there's still no plan to bring American troops home for at least another two years. Even if, even if . . . But, c'mon, everyone. We should be acting like the proud parents of a baby, should we not? A severely disabled baby? We're just so thrilled to have a child, but, Christ, what hardship and heartache lie ahead. But it was worth it, right? Isn't that what we need to keep telling ourselves over and over, as more and more loss happens, that it was just fucking worth it? Otherwise, the act of voting was just like watching a mime. See, there is no box, but it sure as hell looks like that fucker's trapped.
Local story: Two
Local story: First Australian soldier dies in
Local story: Wounded