War News for Sunday, June 26, 2005
Bring 'em on: At least four Iraqi policemen killed in a suicide bomb attack on police district headquarters in Mosul
Bring 'em on: At least five Iraqi policemen killed and two wounded in suicide bomb attack on a police patrol in southern Mosul
Bring 'em on: Two civilians killed after three bomb attacks is followed by a battle involving U.S. tanks and helicopters that lasted about three hours in Tal Afar
Bring 'em on: Suicide bomb attack and insurgent gun attack on the home of a special forces police officer kills at least nine in Samarra
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed by armed gunmen 75km south of Amarah
Bring 'em on: Body of a uniformed Iraqi policeman found in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Firefighters continue to battle a huge fire on a crude oil pipeline near Yussifiyah
Bring 'em on: One truck driver killed after insurgents launched a gun and RPG attack on a convoy in northern Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Kurdish rebels killed by the Turkish military near the Iraq/Iran border
Peace Talks or Therapy?:
After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tribal leaders, a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face to face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies.
The talks on June 3 were followed by a second encounter 10 days later, according to an Iraqi who said that he had attended both meetings. Details provided to The Sunday Times by two Iraqi sources whose groups were involved indicate that further talks are planned in the hope of negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq. I sincerely hope that the wingnuts and the warmongers will not construe this as giving therapy to the terrorists.
Iraq: Two Brothers, Two Deaths
600 extra reservists
boosts Britian's military presence in Southern Iraq.
Opinion and Commentary
The seemingly endless flow of bad news has sparked deep unease among many Republicans with an eye on tough mid-term elections next year. It has also opened up an apparent gap between senior White House officials and the army. Both Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney made aggressive statements saying that the war was on track and the insurgency was being defeated. However, senior generals, including John P. Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, paint a much less rosy picture.
Such developments have emboldened Democrats to go on a fierce offensive. In a response to Bush's radio address, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under Jimmy Carter, slammed the President for turning Iraq into a training ground for terrorists. He said the war had been conducted with 'tactical and strategic incompetence' and made the United States less safe.
But America has is finally realising that it has been cruelly misled; drafted into this war under false pretences. A majority of the Americans now tell opinion pollsters that the war wasn’t worth it. Nobody seriously believes that the invasion has lessened the risk of international terror. The CIA warned last week that a new breed of super-militant jihadists is being schooled in Iraq, much tougher and more ruthless even than the mujahideen who emerged from the Afghanistan in 1980s. Well, they were warned.
Pretty soon, American mothers are going to demand a halt. An exit strategy. But the defence planners never had one. They believed their own propaganda. They thought that with smart weapons, stealth bombers and computerised logistics, this war could be fought from the air. Shock and awe would show that resistance to American might was futile. Bush thought his boys would be coming home almost as soon as they arrived.
This has been shown to be the US’s biggest military miscalculation since Vietnam. It isn’t quite the same scale of disaster as the war in Indochina, but it is going the same way. Donald Rumsfeld conceded last week that there could be no timetable for troop withdrawal. His exit strategy is “one more heave”.
As in Vietnam in 1965, America is now facing a difficult choice: escalate or get out. But it will take many more deaths and many more billions to sort out Iraq – if indeed it can be.
But it must surely be clear, even to Bush, that this is simply not possible. The only safe withdrawal would have been not to go in in the first place.
Now, there are many who argue that – whatever the merits of the invasion – the allies have a moral obligation to remain in Iraq “until the job is done”. It’s our mess, and we should clear it up. We owe it to the Iraqi people to restore law and order and essential services before we clear off.
It is highly likely now that there will be some kind of civil war in Iraq once the Western armies finally leave. This is now a heavily militarised nation, where violence is endemic and weapons are plentiful. Society has been shattered, essential services – electricity, water – have still not been restored, and the economy is in ruins.
This is true. However, it is hard to see how peace and order can be restored while the country is under foreign military occupation. The nominal government is only able to function so long as it remains in the US-protected Green Zone. It can have no legitimacy when it appears to be held hostage by the US.
As far as civil war is concerned, we may only be delaying the inevitable. A timetable for withdrawal might at least force the rival factions to the negotiating table. It could get the international community to re-engage with the problem. The longer the war goes on, the more it will divide the West and sour the climate of international relations.
Indeed, it is arguable that Iraq has been at least partially responsible for the breakdown of this month’s EU summit. The enmity between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac dates from the war of words over the second UN resolution, which we almost accused France of opposing because it wanted to win contracts from Saddam. The attempt to divide the continent between “old” and “new” Europe was also a result of the desperate diplomacy before the invasion.
The enmity will not be far below the surface at Gleneagles. However, instead of sniping at each other, world leaders should use this G8 to agree on an exit strategy from Iraq, complete with a UN- sanctioned timetable for withdrawal. America needs to be saved from itself.
The presence of Christian occupiers in a Muslim country not only makes Iraq a magnet for every Islamic extremist on the planet, it also prevents there being any reconciliation of the antagonistic cultures within Iraqi society. America is the problem, not the solution.
There comes a time when you have to realise that if you want to stop breaking eggs you need to abandon the omelette.
Mr. Cheney's response, in a CNN interview, was to insist again that the insurgency faces defeat and that its attacks reflect its desperation.
Such wishful insistence poses at least two perils.
One is that if the administration believes that the present course is leading to imminent victory, it won't take necessary steps, such as: increasing pressure to make quick progress toward a new Iraqi constitution and elections; improving recruitment and performance of Iraqi security forces, and sealing the porous border between Iraq and Syria.
Another is that if the American people decide that their elected leaders cannot face or tell the truth, they are likely to become more pessimistic than even the current challenges warrant. That could lead to disastrous political pressure to withdraw U.S. forces prematurely.
Before the war, Mr. Cheney and other administration chiefs blithely shrugged off warnings about the difficulties of a postwar occupation and predicted that Americans would be welcomed by Iraqis as liberators.
They were laughably wrong then. They're wrong now, but there's nothing to laugh about.
Krugman: Hold Bush Accountable
In this former imperial capital, every square seems to contain a giant statue of a Habsburg on horseback, posing as a conquering hero.
America's founders knew all too well how war appeals to the vanity of rulers and their thirst for glory. That's why they took care to deny presidents the kingly privilege of making war at their own discretion.
But after 9-11, President Bush, with obvious relish, declared himself a "war president." And he kept the nation focused on martial matters by morphing the pursuit of al-Qaida into a war against Saddam Hussein.
In November 2002, Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, told an audience, "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war" - but she made it clear that Bush was the exception. And she was right.
Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy. It would have been an unprecedented abuse of power even if the war hadn't turned into a military and moral quagmire. And we won't be able to get out of that quagmire until we face up to the reality of how we got in.
Let me talk briefly about what we now know about the decision to invade Iraq, then focus on why it matters.
The administration has prevented any official inquiry into whether it hyped the case for war. But there's plenty of circumstantial evidence that it did.
And then there's the Downing Street Memo - actually the minutes of a prime minister's meeting in July 2002 - in which the chief of British overseas intelligence briefed his colleagues about his recent trip to Washington.
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam," says the memo, "through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." It doesn't get much clearer than that.
The U.S. news media largely ignored the memo for five weeks after it was released in The Times of London. Then, some asserted, that it was "old news" that Bush wanted war in the summer of 2002, and that WMD were just an excuse. No, it isn't. Media insiders may have suspected as much, but they didn't inform their readers, viewers and listeners. And they never have held Bush accountable for his repeated declarations that he viewed war as a last resort.
Still, some of my colleagues insist that we should let bygones be bygones. The question, they say, is what we do now. But they're wrong: It's crucial that those responsible for the war be held to account.
Let me explain. The United States soon will have to start reducing force levels in Iraq or risk seeing the volunteer Army collapse. Yet, the administration and its supporters effectively have prevented any adult discussion of the need to get out.
On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, still are peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its "last throes," Dick Cheney says. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: Anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.
The good news is that the public seems ready to hear that message - readier than the media are to deliver it. Major media organizations still act as if only a small, left-wing fringe believes that we were misled into war, but that "fringe" now comprises much if not most of the population.
In a Gallup poll taken in early April - that is, before the release of the Downing Street Memo - 50 percent of those polled agreed with the proposition that the administration "deliberately misled the American public" about Iraq's WMD. In a new Rasmussen poll, 49 percent said that Bush was more responsible for the war than Saddam Hussein, versus 44 percent who blamed Saddam.
Once the media catch up with the public, we'll be able to start talking seriously about how to get out of Iraq.
Exit: The Best Option
The general was right that growing public opposition to the Vietnam War pushed President Richard Nixon to pull the plug on that conflict.
He was wrong to imply that being guided by voters to set firm deadlines for withdrawing from a foreign quagmire was a bad thing for either side. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American deaths later, Vietnam is run by the same Communist Party that was our enemy back then.
It now seems to matter not at all. We’re perfectly happy to see them open their cheap labor markets to the West.
The sad irony is Iraq — unlike Japan or Germany during World War II — also wasn’t a viable threat to the U.S. when we pre-emptively invaded it.
Once again, we’ve been reminded that violent intrusions into other people’s history have unforeseen consequences, usually negative. First among these effects is the inciting of insurgencies, united only by common hatred of the occupying foreign soldiers.
Iraq, as Vietnam, likely will experience serious problems after the American withdrawal. These problems, however, will be Iraq’s, destined for Iraqis to sort out.
Simply put, the best thing we can do now to encourage stability in Iraq is to stop serving as a recruitment poster for the insurgency.