War News for Saturday, June 25, 2005
Bring 'em on: Eight Iraqi policemen killed, one wounded in attack on police station near Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Six US Marines killed, 13 wounded in car bombing, firefight near Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Sistani aide, two bodyguards assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Beiji
Bring 'em on: Six Shiite Iraqis beheaded near Baquba
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed, three wounded in Baghdad
Payback is a bitch
. "An Italian judge has ordered the arrest of 13 officers and operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency on charges that they seized an Egyptian cleric on a Milan street two years ago and flew him to Egypt for questioning, Italian prosecutors and investigators said Friday. The judge, Chiara Nobili of Milan, signed the arrest warrants on Wednesday for 13 C.I.A. operatives who are suspected of seizing an imam named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, as he walked to his mosque here for noon prayers on Feb. 17, 2003." This is clearly Berlusconi's payback for the death of Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari in Baghdad. The Italian government never believed the US version of that event, so Silvio slipped little George a big hunk of hot, wet pepperoni sausage right between his cheesy cheeks. This is how the intelligence game is played
Take the bus
. "Elsewhere Friday, a dispute between the new Transportation Ministry and the Western firm that provides security at Baghdad's international airport shut down civil aviation in the country, company officials said. The closure temporarily squelches one of the few economic bright spots in Iraq. Royal Jordanian Airlines flies to Baghdad from Amman 14 times a week, while regular charter flights from the emirate of Dubai have increased trade and travel between Iraq and its Persian Gulf neighbors. Iraqi Airways recently began flying between the capital and cities in northern and southern Iraq. With armed bandits and insurgents roaming the roads, air travel has become a vital link between Iraq and the outside world. Civilian flights across Iraq were canceled at 5 p.m. Friday after a dispute between Global Strategies Group, a London-based contractor, and the ministry. Discussions were continuing, said Giles Morgan, a spokesman for Global. In a statement, the British Embassy said it might be four days before flights resumed."
Stay the course to disaster
Standing in the East Room beside Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Mr. Bush once again promised that he would not set a schedule for moving troops out.
"There are not going to be any timetables," he said. "Why would you say to the enemy, you know, 'Here's a timetable; just go ahead and wait us out?' "
Dr. Jaafari, who spoke mostly in Arabic, opened his comments by speaking in English to emphasize his agreement with Mr. Bush. "This is not the time to fall back," he said.
He echoed White House efforts to argue that good news in Iraq is being drowned out by the steady string of bombings, casualties and roadside attacks. "I see from up close what's happening in Iraq, and I know we are making steady and substantial progress," he said.
With polls showing that Americans' support for the war in Iraq is declining, Mr. Bush's insistence that he will stay the course sets up a delicate political task for Tuesday night, when the president has asked the major networks to broadcast a prime-time address from Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. The speech is timed to mark the first anniversary of the end of the American occupation and the transfer of power to the Iraqis.
. "Anthony Cordesman, a strategist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, blamed the Bush administration for 'major strategic mistakes in preparing to deal with Iraq once Saddam Hussein was overthrown.' Cordesman, who traveled to Iraq earlier this month, said he 'did not see progress in aid. I did not see progress in economics. I did not see that the U.S. has a plan for using the aid they are providing.'"
More last throes
In the chaos that followed the morning's attacks, much of central Baghdad was gridlocked and felt more menacing than usual. Masked Iraqi commandos riding in pickups and waving Kalashnikov rifles shut down streets and rerouted motorists.
By noon, U.S. tanks were rolling through the streets of Karada in one of the largest public shows of force in the area since Iraqis went to the polls Jan. 30, an event celebrated as a triumph of democracy over terrorism.
The unrelenting violence of the Iraq spring soon obscured the memories of defiant voters displaying ink-stained fingers after casting their ballots. Just a few days ago, however, U.S. and Iraqi officials were declaring Baghdad a success story, a place where a sweep called Operation Lightning had depleted the ranks of car bombers.
In fact, some of the blasts late Wednesday and early Thursday appeared to have been detonated remotely, perhaps supporting U.S. assertions that the supply of suicide bombers — who have functioned as the insurgency's precision weapons — is dwindling.
Still, with so many unfulfilled predictions of imminent triumph, cautious commanders in recent days have stopped short of declaring victory. Most acknowledge that the insurgency is likely to last for years, with "spikes" of multiple attacks.
"I would say we have been relatively successful in reducing the violence in Baghdad," Army Maj. Gen. William G. Webster, whose forces patrolled the city and environs, said before the latest spasm of attacks. "I believe that … saying anything about 'breaking the back' or 'about to reach the end of the line' or those kinds of things do not apply to the insurgency at this point.
"The insurgency is shifting all the time," he said. "This is a learning enemy."
In fact, the bombings Wednesday and Thursday, which officials say were probably coordinated, represent some of the most violent and best-planned insurgent attacks in the capital to date.
. "In his opening remarks, Rumsfeld had compared the struggle in Iraq to World War II and argued that there are always concerns in the aftermath of war about whether the United States is losing the peace. Graham picked up on that comment, saying he believed it was fair to compare rebuilding Iraq to rebuilding Europe. 'It is a World War II event, but the public views this every day, Mr. Secretary, more and more like Vietnam,' Graham said." Senate Republicans can't bring themselves to admit that Bush's bungled policies and Rummy's mismanagement have brought about the looming disaster in Iraq. Instead, they think this is merely a public-relations problem
Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.
But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?
In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.
"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles.
Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."
"As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer," said Lee, who has a cousin deployed in the Middle East.
In an election season overwhelmed by memories of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military's newest war ranks supreme among the worries confronting much of Generation Y'ers. Iraq is their war.
"If there was a need presented, I would go," said Chris Cusmano, a 21-year-old member of the College Republicans organization from Rocky Point, N.Y. But he said he hasn't really considered volunteering.
If the war is going according to plan, someone needs to rethink the plan. Progress has been measurable on the political front. But even staunch supporters of the war, like the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a hearing this week that President Bush was losing public support because the military effort was not keeping pace. A top general said this week that the insurgency is growing. The frequency of attacks is steady, or rising a bit, while the repulsive tactic of suicide bombings has made them more deadly.
If things are going to be turned around, there has to be an honest discussion about what is happening. But Mr. Rumsfeld was not interested. Sneering at his Democratic questioners, he insisted everything was on track and claimed "dozens of trained battalions are capable of conducting anti-insurgent operations" with American support. That would be great news if it were true. Gen. George Casey, the commander in Iraq, was more honest, saying he hoped there would be "a good number of units" capable of doing that "before the end of this year."
Americans cannot judge for themselves because the administration has decided to make the information secret. Senator John McCain spoke for us when he expressed his disbelief at this news. "I think the American people need to know," he said. "They are the ones who are paying for this conflict."
The Pentagon strategy is not working, and it won't work for two main reasons. The neo-conservative American project for Iraq was based on ethnic, confessional sectarianism for a start. The current pre-civil-war atmosphere is just a consequence of privileging Kurds out of proportion and marginalizing Sunni Arabs - not to mention the blowback (from Washington's point of view) of a weak Shi'ite-dominated, Islamic-leaning, Iran-friendly government having to fight not only the Sunni Arab guerrillas, but a Sunni-Sadrist political opposition. Moreover, the development of the so-called Iraqi defense forces may take at least five years. The current militia inferno - tolerated or even encouraged by the Americans - is bound to derail the country for at least a generation.
Just like in Vietnam, the Americans have no meaningful intelligence on the resistance. It's a massive, American strategic, cultural and linguistic failure. That's why American "counterinsurgency" in Iraq these days is reduced to supporting militias nested in the Interior Ministry - "Rumsfeld's boys", as they are known - as well as operations conducted by El Salvador-style death squads. There's no way this will win Sunni Arab hearts and minds. For most Sunni Arabs, from the simply alienated to the terrified, most of them impoverished to sub-Saharan conditions, the American presence - in the form of awesome firepower - only means death and destruction.
The hearings this Thursday in Washington may have been just the tip of the iceberg. The real facts on the ground are, in Iraq, a horrific quagmire; and in the US, the unstoppable rising of anti-war sentiment. This is not a "last throes" scenario - rather the first throes of a national American rejection of the Iraqi imperial adventure. Just like in Vietnam.
So when Kagan and others talk about "sacrifice," what do they mean? They mean the other guy. This is not actually something new under the sun -- older men have forever sent younger men to war -- but this war is a category unto itself. It's not just that there is no draft -- and none contemplated -- but also that taxes have not been raised and we're not even asked to save paper or aluminum foil or something like that for the war effort. The war is being conducted out there, on television, and although U.S. fatalities are creeping toward 2,000, they are nothing like the numbers from Vietnam (58,000). The sacrificing can continue for years before most of us are asked to sacrifice a thing.
Dunne's rebuke hectors me, and I simply have been unable to reconcile his position with what I think are the realities of power politics. But I nonetheless find myself studying the mini-profiles of the dead and noting those who were young and those who were not so young -- the enlistees and the reservists, the career guys (and gals) and the short-timers. Many in every category were seeking some vocational training or some spending money or the chance to go to college. (No recruiter emphasizes the chance of getting killed.) The hard truth is that for a lot of enlistees, if they had had more cash in their pockets, they would now be doing something else.
Dunne liked to refer to "sunshine patriots" -- those of us who called for others to fight a war we or our children would never fight. This war was conceived by sunshine patriots and directed by them -- and fought for reasons that some in the administration knew were exaggerations or, in some cases (Dick Cheney's nuclear scare-mongering), sheer fabrications. It has become the sorriest of wars, conceived for one reason, fought for another, good enough for others to fight, not good enough for ourselves and, maybe, an awful quagmire in the making. It's time the sunshine patriots looked outside.
Statements by army officials in recent months have hinted at an agonizing struggle within the Pentagon to find someone out there to blame for the recruiting shortfall. The strategy they have apparently settled on is to blame what they call "the influencers"—the media, teachers and parents—for failing to convince young people to go to Iraq. Major General Michael Rochelle, the Fort Meade–based official in charge of recruitment, said recently that the "influencers" have effected what amounts to a blackout of information about the benefits of army service.
"It's getting harder because of the influencers who are discouraging young people from simply acquiring information" about the Army, he said. "Influencers not wanting recruiters to call, not wanting recruiters to sit down and talk."
Yes, it must be tough to get that message across to young people—especially with just $250 million for your advertising budget, with federal laws that force all schools participating in No Child Left Behind to give recruiters access to high school grounds and student records, and with billions of dollars in cash bonuses to hand out to high school grads in an economic environment where even a Wal-Mart cashier's position is considered a good job. Perhaps No Child Left Behind II will require schools to let recruiters physically sit on the chests of students at graduation ceremonies; until then, the unfair disadvantage unfortunately persists.
The army has already tried all the conventional bribes to service, has already bent every existing plank in its bureaucratic structure to try to boost recruitment numbers. If you don't want to take your chances with a two-year commitment, it now offers an 18-month gig, meaning you can go straight to war from basic training, skipping the traditional unit training that recruits used to go through before deployment. It is mulling a change in its policy of only accepting high school grads (the GED will soon be sufficient) and is reconsidering its traditional opposition to certain kinds of criminal histories.
This has been an illuminating fortnight in US domestic politics. The light does not reveal a pretty picture. There is only one thing left to ponder: when, if ever, is anyone going to stand up to the political thugs and media bullies who now apparently run the US and its foreign policies? Don't expect it anytime soon from the Democrats: they had a chance to nail George W Bush to the wall for lying to the American people over Iraq, but decided that would not be a vote winner. Bush was reelected anyway, despite the Democrats' concerted focus on their man's Vietnam War medals. Don't expect it from the mainstream US media either: all the evidence that proves Bush lied is largely ignored as "an old story".
Finally, one can only laugh in resignation at Limbaugh's professed outrage over the whole Durbin saga, expressed at the conclusion of his broadcast: "That's what happens when the culture of Washington, DC, is dominated by the left."
Local story: Rhode Island
Marine killed in Iraq.
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Marine killed in Iraq.
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soldier dies in Iraq.
Something I wish I had seen
"This war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged," Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, told Rumsfeld. "And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire."
"Our troops are dying. And there really is no end in sight. And the American people, I believe, deserve leadership worthy of the sacrifices that our fighting forces have made, and they deserve the real facts. And I regret to say that I don't believe that you have provided either," Kennedy added.
"Well, that is quite a statement," Rumsfeld, flanked by top U.S. commanders, responded. "First let me say that there isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."
"The suggestion by you that people -- me or others -- are painting a rosy picture is false," Rumsfeld.
"The fact is from the beginning of this we have recognized that this is a tough business, that it is difficult, that it is dangerous, and that it is not predictable," Rumsfeld added.
Kennedy asked Rumsfeld, "Isn't it time for you to resign?"