War News for Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Bring 'em on: Turkish businessman kidnapped in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police chief gunned down in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Two killed and eleven injured in suicide bomb attack on police patrol in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi-American businessman kidnapped on May 17 feared dead
Bring 'em on: Iraqi army captain gunned down in Khalis
Bring 'em on: Roadside bomb kills traffic policemen and wounds ten in Dahuk
Bring 'em on: Iraqi colonel in the Facility Protection service gunned down in Mosul
Bring 'em on: US soldier injured by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Gulag of our time
Amnesty International branded the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay a human rights failure on Wednesday, releasing a 308-page report that offers stinging criticism of the United States and its detention centers around the world.
“Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time.” Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said as the London-based group launched its annual report.
Amnesty International called for the Guantanamo camp to be closed down.
The annual report accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections and has instead created a new lexicon for abuse and torture.
“Attempts to dilute the absolute ban on torture through new policies and quasi-management speak, such as ’environmental manipulation, stress positions and sensory manipulation,’ was one of the most damaging assaults on global values.”
Operation Market Garden
"Right now there's a larger threat than should be in Haditha, and we're here to tell them that they're not welcome," said Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, which is part of the operation.
The assault, called Operation New Market, focused on this city of about 90,000 people, where the US military says insurgents have been using increasingly sophisticated tactics.
Earlier this month insurgents launched a multistage attack from a Haditha hospital, killing four US troops in an ambush that included a suicide car bomber, a roadside bomb, and gunfire from fortified positions in the hospital, which was partially destroyed in the attack.
According to initial reports, three insurgents were killed during fierce gun battles that broke out after US forces entered this town before dawn, Marine Capt. Christopher Toland told an Associated Press reporter embedded with US forces.
Cholera is spreading in Baghdad’s impoverished al-Amil quarter where overcrowding and contaminated water are leading to fears of an epidemic. City officials blame insurgent attacks on infrastructure for the outbreak in southwest Baghdad.
Children have so far been the worse affected, with one doctor at a Baghdad hospital saying he is now seeing young cholera patients on a daily basis.
Nadia Shawkat was in line at the Central Children’s Hospital waiting for a doctor to treat her daughter.
“My only baby girl has cholera, and the reason is water pollution, as the physician confirmed,” she said.
To prevent a further outbreak, Imad Hassoon, a pediatrician at the Central Children’s Hospital, has been advising parents to keep their children off the streets.
But in this poor and crowded area of southwestern Baghdad, children like four year old Allawi continue to play around stagnant pools of dirty water, despite the danger.
“We don’t care about this dirt and water any more because we've got used to it,” he said.
Two can play the al-Zarqawi Game
An al-Qaida-linked group in Iraq says in a website statement that its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been wounded and urges Muslims to pray for him.
The statement, which purportedly was from the group's media coordinator, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi, did not say how or when al-Zarqawi was injured.
In Baghdad, US army Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Boylan, spokesman for US forces in Iraq said: "We have no information on whether he's wounded or what the state of his health is. He's still our number one target to be captured or killed and until that happens, the hunt is still on."
He also said that such reports had been heard frequently before and were almost impossible to verify.
The break-up of Iraq
As Iraq begins writing its new constitution, leaders in the country's southern regions are pushing aggressively to unite their three provinces into an oil-rich, semi-autonomous state, a plan that some worry could solidify Iraq's sectarian tensions, create fights over oil revenues and eventually split the nation.
In the southern Shiite Muslim city of Basra, where the provincial government launched the campaign, signs on the streets encourage residents to support the plan. Local leaders have held several conferences to map out their proposed state and regional government.
Muhammed Musbih al Waely, the governor of Basra province, said Shiites suffered under the last centralized government, Saddam Hussein's, and that they wanted to control the development of their region.
"The next few months are going to witness a big change in the region," al Waely said.
Al Waely's proposal would unite the contiguous southeast Shiite-dominated provinces of Maysan, Basra and Dhiqar into a single state. Basra, the country's second-largest city and the principal port city, would be the new regional government's capital.
Aziz Kadhim Alwan, the governor of Dhiqar - whose provincial capital is Nasiriyah - said he was on board.
The region is rich with resources and trade opportunities. Dhiqar could expand its trading business through Basra's port; Maysan could expand the other two provinces' trade with Iran. Basra would be a more powerful city, with more oil, agriculture, trade and tourism under its control.
Oil exports suspended
Iraq has suspended oil exports to the Turkish port of Ceyhan because of a production shortage in the northern fields of Kirkuk, an Iraqi official said Tuesday. The northern pipeline and facilities regularly are sabotaged by insurgents.
In the south, Iraq's oil output has fallen by nearly 190,000 barrels a day since Monday because of technical problems, said the Oil Ministry official, who asked not to be named for security reasons.
''There has been no pumping from Kirkuk to Ceyhan since Saturday and the pipeline won't be pumping until probably Thursday,'' the official told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that there was not enough crude to pump.
Opinion and Commentary
The Metrics of Losing
Numbers, "metrics", ways of measuring success are now multiplying in Iraq. This in itself is a measure of frustration. Victory seldom needs metrics. Okay, maybe once upon a time, quantifiable loot and slaves mattered; more recently, the metric of victory was territory conquered - and when American troops reached Baghdad and the Bush administration thought its war a raging success, no metrics were necessary.
Our iconic metric of war, which also proved a measure of a losing war, was, of course, the body count, which we associate with Vietnam. The body count was, however, an invention of the later years of the Korean War, a way of measuring "success" once the two sides had settled into the bloodiest of stalemates and the taking of significant territory - in fact, the wild movements of armies up and down the Korean peninsula - had become a thing of the past. In a sense, the body count, aka "the meat-grinder", was from its inception both a measure of nothing and a measure of frustration.
It reappeared quite early in the Vietnam War for reasons allied to those that called it up in Korea. We were involved in a struggle with guerrillas for whom the holding of territory was not the crucial matter, while our North Vietnamese enemy was bomb-able but not open to invasion (given the larger Cold War context). The body count became a shorthand way of measuring success in a war in which the taking of territory was almost meaningless, the countryside a hostile place, the enemy hard to tell from the general population, and our own in-country allies weak and largely unable to strengthen themselves. The body count was, as in Korea, also part of a secondary struggle - for international "credibility" and for support at home. Those dead bodies, announced daily by the military to increasingly dubious reporters in Saigon, were the most public face of American "success" in those years. When the dead bodies and success began ever more visibly to part ways and, in the terminology of the times, a "credibility gap" opened gapingly between the metrics and reality, the body count became a symbol not just of a war of frustration, but of defeat itself. It came, post-My Lai, to look both false and barbaric. Whose bodies were those anyway?
In our new world of conflict, where our leaders had imbibed all the "lessons" of Vietnam, Centcom's General Tommy Franks, then commander of our Afghan War (now on the board of Outback Steakhouse, which donated shrimp and steak dinners to our troops in Afghanistan), declared that "we don't do body counts". He was not talking about Iraq, but the principle was later extended to that country where we were obdurate in our unwillingness to count enemy dead (or keep any public tally whatsoever of the Iraqi civilian dead).
Insurgency increasing their capabilities
Edward B. Atkeson, a senior fellow at the Rand Institute of Land Warfare, believes it is the inability of U.S. authorities to produce an Iraqi security force capable of taking over complete control of Iraq that continues to place American troops in the firing line.
"Whenever you take a larger part in the security operations you have to be prepared to take a larger part of the casualties," Atkeson, a former U.S. military intelligence chief in Europe, said from Alexandria, Va.
Charles Heyman, a senior defense analyst with Jane's Consultancy Group in Britain, said the rate of attacks against American forces are the same as any time during the conflict - but the key difference is the increasing capabilities of the insurgents.
"We would have hoped that the insurgency would have decreased in line with the ability of the Iraqi security forces to hold the ring and become more capable," Heyman said. "But it doesn't appear to be panning out that way with the insurgents increasing in their abilities to kill, attack and strike when and where they want."
Sometimes you are just screwed
, writes Juan Cole; well worth reading in full:
In an ideal world, the United States would relinquish Iraq to a United Nations military command, and the world would pony up the troops needed to establish order in the country in return for Iraqi good will in post-war contract bids. But that is not going to happen for many reasons. George W. Bush is a stubborn man and Iraq is his project, and he is not going to give up on it. And, by now the rest of the world knows what would await its troops in Iraq, and political leaders are not so stupid as to send their troops into a meat grinder.
Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.
In the long run, say 15 years, the Iraqi Sunnis will probably do as the Lebanese Maronites did, and finally admit that they just cannot remain in control of the country and will have to compromise. That is, if there is still an Iraq at that point.
Try Five Years
It could take at least five years before Iraqi forces are strong enough to impose law and order on the country, the International Institute of Strategic Studies warned yesterday.
The thinktank's report said that Iraq had become a valuable recruiting ground for al-Qaida, and Iraqi forces were nowhere near close to matching the insurgency.
John Chipman, IISS director, said the Iraqi security forces faced a "huge task" and the continuing ability of the insurgents to inflict mass casualties "must cast doubt on US plans to redeploy American troops and eventually reduce their numbers".
Insurgents have killed 600 Iraqis since the new government was formed. The IISS report said: "Best estimates suggest that it will take up to five years to create anything close to an effective indigenous force able to impose and guarantee order across the country."
The report said that, on balance, US policy over the past year had been effective in emboldening regional players in the Middle East and the Gulf to rally against rogue states.
But it warned that the inspirational effect of the intervention in Iraq on Islamist terrorism was "the proverbial elephant in the living room. From al-Qaida's point of view, [President] Bush's Iraq policies have arguably produced a confluence of propitious circumstances: a strategically bogged down America, hated by much of the Islamic world, and regarded warily even by its allies".
Iraq "could serve as a valuable proving ground for 'blooding' foreign jihadists, and could conceivably form the basis of a second generation of capable al-Qaida leaders ... and middle-management players", the report said.