War News for Monday, July 11, 2005
Bring 'em on: Two US marines killed by indirect fire in Hit
Bring 'em on: Nine Iraqi soldiers killed in coordinated checkpoint attack in Khalis
Bring 'em on: Four bullet ridden bodies found in the river in Latifiyah
Bring 'em on: Nine bricklayers, arrested as suspect insurgents, suffocate in the back of a police van in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: IED attack on US convoy involved in Operation Sword in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi soldier shot dead on patrol in Baquba
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi security personnel wounded in bomb attack in Tuz
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi truck drivers, believed to be working for the US, found murdered in Baghdad
Opinion and Commentary
Bring 'em Home
Why are we there? The average American cannot clearly explain it. That may be the most telling comment of all.
The people are paying a political price for the war. The president declared certain American citizens "unlawful combatants" with no constitutional rights, and sent his attorney general to the Supreme Court to justify it. And at the first suggestion of the war, the president said it did not require a vote of Congress. He has had to back down on some of these assertions of executive authority, but not all.
He justified the invasion of Iraq on a pretext, "weapons of mass destruction," that turned out to be false. After conquest, he gave a new reason to stay - creating Iraqi democracy - that matters far less to the American people than their own safety, and turns out to be a hazardous and uncertain road.
The supporters of war say, "Support the troops." We support them. We are proud of them. Our soldiers' performance in combat has been superb. If it were a matter of winning the war, the discussion would be over. Now, it is a matter of securing a peace and that is where our soldiers' civilian masters made many mistakes.
Now that the people think of bringing the troops home, they are told we cannot because it would make America look weak. We remember that argument from Vietnam, from Somalia and other places. It is a phony argument. We can bring our troops home. We have done it before and can do it again.
The Bush administration's failed peace in Iraq draws its most stinging rebuke from a former insider, Larry Diamond, a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow, who was recruited by a former colleague, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority and help Iraq prepare to govern itself.
Diamond believes democracy can yet prevail in Iraq but efforts have been compromised by arrogance, ignorance, isolation and incompetence. Fundamentally, the failure to plan for the peace meant never having enough military and civilian resources to manage.
A primary failing was taking the job of post-conflict reconstruction and nation-building from the State Department and handing it to the Pentagon, which left the plans untouched. Disbanding the Iraqi military and purging Saddam's Baath Party from the civil service destroyed the economy and put skilled people - including teachers - out of work.
A U.S. attitude of occupation and impulse for control fueled deep resentments among Iraqis who want Americans out. Diamond says the U.S. failed to consult early and often enough with Iraqis and the failure of planning included translators, interpreters, secure vehicles and helicopters to get Americans out to build support.
Diamond opposes a snap withdrawal from Iraq, but he believes the U.S. has to be clear about eventual plans to leave, and that means no permanent military bases. He argues exiting will require more troops on the ground and a heavier financial commitment.
Americans who doubt they were told the full truth about the Iraq war can know for certain their government failed to plan for, and be candid about, the full cost in blood and treasure.
Iraqi oil was once considered the golden goose that would provide the $55 billion the United Nations and World Bank have estimated it will cost to rebuild Iraq. Not much is heard about that now. That's because Iraq is a long way from being a large and reliable oil supplier. The country's oil reserves are estimated to be either the second- or third-largest in the world. But efforts to tap them are hampered by antiquated equipment and sabotage.
Large swaths of Iraq remain untouched by oil exploration. Only 17 of the country's 80 known oil fields have been developed, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Only 2,300 oil wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with Texas, which has about 1 million.
Contributions from other countries also either have not been generous or have not arrived as promised. A conference held last month on Iraq's reconstruction - sponsored by the United States and the European Union - received mostly rhetorical support from 80 countries in attendance. The newly installed Iraqi government has received only a fraction of the $13 billion pledged at a similar conference two years ago.
It is time to face this reality: The lives and dollars paying for the war are coming from America. The longer we stay, and the longer we fight, the more it will cost.
What is Victory?
To realise victory, we have to understand this struggle is more complex than we have been led to believe. Simple slogans telling us we fight terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to fight them here in US, are just that: slogans, not comprehensive policies. In fact, as London shows, terrorists can fight in two places at the same time. Or three. Or 10. And the great danger, of course, is that they can fight with dangerous weapons. The calculus of terror would change irrevocably if one of these splinter groups were ever to get its hands on nuclear materials or biological pathogens. So far the Bush administration has not given this danger the priority it urgently requires.
The broader shift that needs to take place, however, is a better definition of victory. America’s political leaders continue to give their citizens the impression that victory means ensuring that there will be no other attack on American soil as long as we go on the offence abroad, get perfect intelligence, buy fancy new technologies at home, screen visas and lock some people up. But all these tough tactics and all the intelligence in the world will not change the fact that in today’s open societies, terrorism is easy to carry out. The British authorities, perhaps the world’s best at combating terror, admit they had no warning about last week’s attack. The American response to the London bombs has been a perfect example of US grandstanding. We immediately raised the alert level, scaring Americans, with no specific information about terror attacks in America. Why? Because were something to happen here, politicians and bureaucrats want to be able to say, "Don’t blame us, we told you."