War News for Thursday, June 23, 2005
Bring 'em on: Thirty-eight Iraqis killed by seven car bombs in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Three US soldiers killed in fighting near Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Seven insurgents killed in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Turkmen politician escapes assassination attempt in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi policeman killed, seven civilians wounded by car bomb near Tuz Khormato
Bring 'em on: Two insurgents killed in premature detonation of tractor bomb near Tikrit
Bring 'em on: US checkpoint near Ramadi
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi child killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Baquba
. "Major units within the 1st Armored Division could be headed to Iraq earlier than expected. In January, soldiers received an official e-mail from 1st AD headquarters telling them to expect to deploy between Nov. 1, 2005 and January 2006. But 1st AD spokesman Maj. Michael Indovina said Tuesday that the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Baumholder, Germany, now expects to deploy 'in the fall,' which he described as anytime between September and November. That could be up to two months earlier than previously reported… A Pentagon release in February listed Europe-based units that would deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa between April and January 2006. However, no 1st AD units were on that list. Another unit not on the list, the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion from Wiesbaden, left for Iraq last week. The unit left 'early,' Patton said, because they had been home for 10 months, not the full year most units get after a deployment."
At the moment in Baghdad, the power is off for four hours, then on for only two. Even those lucky enough to own generators struggle to find the power to run vital air conditioning units.
In the southern city of Basra there were protests about the situation this week.
The temperature there can rise to 50C with 98% humidity. It can be almost unbearable.
The Iraq budget for US-Aid alone, since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, has been more than $5bn. But most Iraqis simply have not seen a difference.
On one job creation project, there is a budget of $88m. It has paid for a series of training centres, like one I visited in the impoverished Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad.
I found trainers teaching Iraqis computer skills. In another room, two classes of women were learning to use Chinese-made sewing machines.
They are popular classes. But the day I visited, nothing was moving. The power was down once again.
Corruption Provisional Authority
. "The inspector general monitoring reconstruction in Iraq told Congress yesterday that he has presented evidence of three potential fraud cases to federal prosecutors in Alexandria. The cases stem from an audit released last month that found that nearly $100 million intended for reconstruction projects in south-central Iraq could not be properly accounted for. The audit reported that criminal investigators were looking into the matter. Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said publicly for the first time yesterday that his office gave the information to the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Bowen would not provide details of the cases, which have the potential to set precedents in the largely untested legal realm of crimes committed by U.S. civilians in Iraq."
Wanker of the Day
. "It's unfortunate that we have lost 2.1 soldiers per day. It's also a terrible truth that more people are killed each day in America by automobiles. It might be better to keep a running account of the number of people killed in auto accidents over a period of two years than to keep a tally on soldiers killed. This is what we pay soldiers for--to protect American citizens and our freedom."
Walter L. Brown
. "Army recruiting quotas are not being met. Now, in this time of need, the nation's focus should rightfully focus on the clerics of the religious right: Dobson, Robertson, Falwell, Parsley, etc. Can they focus? Can they refocus? Can they get the job done? Perhaps many of these clerics are hesitant to focus on military recruiting because they are former unfocused draft-dodgers. They need to get past their unfocused youthful follies. They need to refocus their focus on military recruiting. According to religious-right reports (not propaganda), at least two to three million potential recruits have attended taxpayer-funded meetings, where they have 'signed' one of the most important of all pledges: No sex before marriage. These are ideal military recruits. Certainly, the clerics can make changes where the lady pledges can focus on appropriate gender-specific tasks under the focus of their natural masters. This clerical focus should focus exclusively on the Army and Marine Corps, where all the killing is focused. Let those other people (you know who I mean) populate the Navy and the Air Force." Link via Big Brass Blog
It is nice that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team feel as if they have achieved closure on their prisoner abuse issues and are ready to move on. The problem is, they are still in deep denial. The Bush administration has not only refused to face the problem squarely, but it is also enabling a pervasive lack of accountability.
The most recent evidence of this sad state of affairs came this week in an article in The New York Times by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, who reported that the Pentagon believes the Abu Ghraib scandal has receded enough in the public's mind that Rumsfeld is considering a promotion for Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who was commander of American forces in Iraq at the time of the disaster.
We can see why Sanchez would expect a promotion; Bush has rewarded the people who drafted the policies that led to the illegal detention, abuse, humiliation and, ultimately, torture and even killing of prisoners at the hands of American military forces. A couple were nominated to the federal appeals court. One became attorney general. Rumsfeld still has his job.
And we feel Sanchez's pain. As the army's own investigation showed, he lacked the experience to command the forces in Iraq. Once given that job, he labored under Rumsfeld's obsession for waging war with too few troops inadequately equipped. For months, Bush and Rumsfeld were pretending the war was over, while Sanchez faced a mushrooming insurgency. He ordered his soldiers to start getting tough with prisoners to get intelligence.
Between the moment in late 2003 when I wrote "The Time of Withdrawal" and today, Iraq has, in fact, crept ever closer to some kind of civil war - it may already have begun; western Iraq has been transformed into a "haven" for terrorists and jihadis; American "credibility" has collapsed not just in the Middle East but globally; the Bush push for "democracy" does look embattled; and oil prices, which in 2003 were surely hovering around $30 a barrel, are now up at close to double that price, while Iraq is almost incapable of exporting significant amounts of oil and "instability" in the Gulf has risen significantly.
A similar situation played itself out in Vietnam back when nightmarish visions of what might happen if we withdrew ("the bloodbath") became so much a part of public debate that the bloodbath actually taking place in Vietnam was sometimes overshadowed by it. Prediction is a risky business. Terrible things might indeed happen if we withdrew totally from Iraq, or they might not; or they might - but not turn out to be the ones we've been dreaming about; or perhaps if we committed to departure in a serious way, the situation would actually ease. We don't know. That's the nature of the future. All we know at the moment, based on the past two years, is what is likely to happen if we stay - which is more and worse of the very nightmares we fear if we leave.
The most essential problem in such thinking is the belief that, if we just hang in there long enough, the US will be capable of solving the Iraqi crisis. That is inconceivable, since the US presence is now planted firmly at the heart of the crisis to be solved.
One guarantee: the Bush administration won't hesitate to deploy such fantasies of future disaster to paralyze present thinking and planning. Expect it. And it will be all too easy to take our eyes off this disastrous moment and enter their world of grim future dreams. After all, they already live in a kind of ruling fantasy world. They step to the podium regularly, their hands dipped in blood, call it wine or nectar, and insist that the rest of the world drink. They will be eager to trade in their best future nightmares so that the present nightmare can continue. (They argue, by the way, for the use of torture, under whatever name, in quite a similar fashion, proposing future nightmares - let's say we held a terrorist who had knowledge of an impending nuclear explosion in a major American city and you only had two hours to get that information from him, what would you do? - in order to justify the ongoing horrors at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and other places.)
Downing Street Memos
Although Blair and Bush still insist the decision to go to the U.N. was about averting war, one memo states that it was, in fact, about "wrong-footing" Hussein into giving them a legal justification for war.
British officials hoped the ultimatum could be framed in words that would be so unacceptable to Hussein that he would reject it outright. But they were far from certain this would work, so there was also a Plan B.
American media coverage of the Downing Street memo has largely focused on the assertion by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British foreign intelligence, that war was seen as inevitable in Washington, where "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
But another part of the memo is arguably more important. It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the U.S. had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B.
Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.
British government figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that although virtually none were used in March and April, an average of 10 tons a month were dropped between May and August.
But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate. They didn't provide the excuse Bush and Blair needed. So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war.
The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.
In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.
Like many of you, during the entire lead-up to the war with Iraq, I thought the whole thing was a set-up. I raise this point not to prove how smart we are but to emphasize that I followed the debate closely and probably unconsciously searched for evidence that reinforced what I already thought. Most people do that.
I read some of the European press and most of the liberal publications in this country. I read the Times, the Post, The Wall Street Journal and several Texas papers every day. It's my job.
But when I read the first Downing Street memo, my eyes bugged out and my jaw fell open. It was news to me, and as I have tried to indicate, I'm no slouch at keeping up. Yes, it has long seemed to me that the administration had been planning the war for months before it began its public relations campaign to scare a skeptical public.
That was no easy task. Public opinion was still evenly divided at the time we invaded. The administration actually said it could invade another country without even consulting Congress or the United Nations. Pretty much everything that followed was a charade.
: "A young boy, his left leg missing from below the knee, sat on the sidewalk near a mangled bicycle, screaming as a man tried to comfort him. The force of the blasts blew off store shutters, and the surrounding sidewalks were covered with debris, including shattered glass, concrete slabs and charred vegetables and fruit."
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