War News for Saturday, July 23, 2005
Bring 'em on: Three Fallujan policemen found shot dead in Karma
Bring 'em on: Indian businessman injured in kidnap attempt in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two Algerian diplomats kidnapped in Baghdad
Today is the third anniversary of the Downing Street Memo
Saddam Hussien expected to be sentenced and executed within weeks
The Sunnis' temporary withdrawal from the process has worried the Bush administration, which views their inclusion in the political process as the decisive factor in deflating the Sunni-led insurgency. Additionally, many Sunni Arabs boycotted elections in January, and the Bush administration's fear is that should Sunni Arabs not help finish the constitution-writing process, their sense of alienation from the new Iraqi government could deepen, with catastrophic results.
Arguably the most contentious remaining issue is regional autonomy. The Western diplomat said that while the Shiites and Sunni Arabs have agreed that the Kurds should keep their autonomous powers, a debate remains over whether and how the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan should be redrawn. At the same time, the Sunni Arabs appear adamant that no other part of Iraq, namely the Shiite-controlled south, should be able to declare autonomy.
The Sunnis are concerned that with Kurdish autonomy in place in the north and Shiites agitating for an autonomous region in the oil-rich south, they will be left with an impoverished region barren of any natural resources.
A prominent Sunni Arab cleric on Friday criticized proposals to transform Iraq into a federal state, saying such a "division of the country" would be a betrayal of the population. "The voices that call for federalism are not those of loyal people," the cleric, Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidie, said Friday at the prominent Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad, Agence France-Presse reported. "The patriots are against dividing the country, and I call on them to fight for maintaining a united Iraq."
Opinion and Commentary
in the Christian Science Monitor comments:
Washington's policy toward Iraq is dangerously adrift, showing no convincing signs of crushing or even containing the insurgency there. No insurgency can be beaten using military means only - and Washington has produced no plan for a political endgame capable of rallying the Iraqi citizenry around an anti-insurgent platform.
Some have argued that the US needs to "stay the course" in Iraq and increase the numbers of US troops there, if needed. But the US simply doesn't have enough troops to do this, or even to sustain present troop levels past the end of the summer. Anyway, for the US, Iraq is not primarily a military problem. It's a political problem - one that the Bush administration has shown itself incapable of resolving.
The interests of both Americans and Iraqis have been badly harmed by the three-year US occupation of Iraq (though far more Iraqis have suffered than Americans). If these two peoples are to be saved from further - even cataclysmic - harm, then Washington must quickly devise and implement a withdrawal strategy that's total, speedy, and generous to the Iraqi people.
Some Americans seem not to understand how deeply, in most postcolonial societies, including Iraq, the fears of foreign domination still linger. So long as President Bush refuses to set a date for withdrawal, these fears will continue to multiply. No Iraqi political forces, except some in the Kurdish north, can be expected to support a long-term US troop presence in their country. (Kurdish leaders who think this might be a good idea would do well to remember the lawless condition of Kosovo, six years after its partial "liberation" by Western armies.)
Here's how I'd answer the most common objections to such a proposal:
• How can the US negotiate a withdrawal when the political forces inside Iraq are still so fragile and mutually contentious?
A negotiated withdrawal is generally better, but unilateral withdrawals, like Israel's 2000 exit from southern Lebanon, can work well, too. Despite Israeli fears of postwithdrawal mayhem and revenge (in Lebanon), none came to pass. Likewise, as Iraqis see the US starting to withdraw, political figures at all levels will undoubtedly be happy to make the arrangements needed for that process to continue. A prior US announcement of imminent total withdrawal will focus the minds of Iraqis considerably and show them they'll truly be masters of their own fate. They'll see the need to work together politically to figure out what follows. And they'll be far less hospitable to insurgents, especially those who get their impetus from the prospect of a prolonged foreign occupation.
• But the Iraqi security forces seem so incapable of taking over!
The Iraqi troops' main problem is not one of raw military expertise. (Most Iraqi men have had years of military training.)It's one of unit cohesion and motivation. In other words, it's a political problem, and will become resolved as the political situation becomes clearer and more stable.
• Won't the US strategic posture in the world be dented by a speedy withdrawal from Iraq?
Realistically, yes, a little. But steps can be taken to minimize this. As when President Reagan withdrew US troops from Lebanon in 1984, the maneuver can be labeled a "redeployment offshore." And if the various steps of the withdrawal are accompanied by generous reparations to Iraq, some Iraqis may stand up and laud American wisdom and foresight.
Washington's global strategic posture is already being eroded with every additional week US troops stay in Iraq. And imagine if there were one or more Beirut-style cataclysms inside Iraq, or an undignified Saigon-style exit.
• But there might be a bloodbath in Iraq if we leave...
To argue this is to assume that the US presence is a stabilizing factor there. It's not. In the week of July 10 alone, 152 Iraqis died in four major acts of violence, and scores more in "smaller" incidents. It would be difficult for Iraqis to judge that the US presence has brought them stability.
If the US leaves, it's likely there will be some continuing violence in Iraq. But the US will no longer be responsible - either morally, or under international law - for that situation, as it now is. In addition, if the US exit policy is "generous," then the US can, working through the UN and other friends, deliver aid that Iraqis themselves can use to start the long-awaited rebuilding of their country. After Israel's 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, the focus on postwithdrawal reconstruction did much to keep the border area calm. No reason the same could not happen in Iraq.
The ever great and lucid Billmon comments
upon Juan Cole's opinion piece that was discussed on Thursday:
It may be that an Iran with nukes would not lead to Armageddon in the Middle East (well, actually Armageddon is in the Middle East, about 30 miles east of city of Haifa. But you know what I mean.) Some analysts argue that the same balance of mutually assured destruction that kept the peace between the US and the USSR for fifty years would also prevail between a nuclear Iran and a nuclear Israel.
Maybe so -- although if you throw a nuclear Saudi Arabia (not to mention a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear India and, of course, a nuclear America) into the mix, you have to wonder how stable the "balance of terror" would be. Melman quotes some Israeli hawks who argue that the Jewish state is too small and too vulnerable, vis-a-vis Iran, for a durable strategic balance to emerge.
Seriously, though, I we should all pray (long and hard) that this is just Dick Cheney trying out Dick Nixon's "madman theory" -- acting like a genocidal maniac in hopes of convincing the other side that you really might be a genocidal maniac. (like the Chinese generals I mentioned above.)
It's also possible that this is part of some kind of smokescreen being blown to convince the Frank Gaffneys of the world that the administration isn't about to pull a U-turn on Iran policy. But then why leak it to the neoconphobes at the American Conservative?
It should be obvious why I badly want to believe that this is a bluff or a ruse. The alternative is that the Vice President of the United States and his trained seal are contemplating the ultimate war crime. And the good little Germans in the Air Force are going right along with it -- lest they injure their promotion potential.
It doesn't get any worse than that.
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If he were a thinking person, George W. Bush might today be increasingly concerned that any positive legacy he had ever hoped for was slipping into oblivion. Many observers have long understood that Bush's first target for solidifying U.S. global domination has been the Middle East rather than East Asia or any other area. By now it should be evident even to him that U.S. imperial dreams are already disintegrating into the dust of Iraq.
But Bush by nature is disinclined to think any problem through with care, and glories instead in his chosen image of macho, frontier-American decisiveness -- a "decisiveness" that unfortunately looks much like common stubbornness because it is not buttressed by a rigorously curious or honest intellect. This self-chosen image rather than facts determines Bush's policies when it comes to war and peace, and he still clings to the goal of "transforming" unfriendly nations of the Middle East into neocolonial territories of the U.S. Specifically, despite the continuing drain of Iraq on U.S. resources, he has given no sign of moderating his desire for quick regime change in both Iran and Syria.
The point that should be made here is not new, but it deserves constant reemphasis: Bush now believes the most important objective of his foreign policy, to be accomplished well before his time as president comes to an end, is to oust the regimes of both Iran and Syria, using as much violence as he finds necessary.
At one level, the affair about who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, former diplomat's wife and CIA undercover operative, is utterly baffling. A special prosecutor has been on the case for almost two years, but no one has been indicted; indeed it is not even clear any crime has been committed. The journalist who published the agent's name goes about his business seemingly without a care in the world, but another reporter who never wrote a word about Ms Plame languishes in a suburban Washington jail for refusing to divulge her source for the same information. For once in a city where everyone claims to have the inside track, no one is sure what is going on.
But in another way, everything is blindingly simple. The Plame leak may not be a scandal in itself. Unquestionably, it is a dirty outgrowth of a real Washington scandal for which no one has been held accountable: the misuse and distortion of prewar intelligence about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, that the US and Britain used to justify their unprovoked invasion of Iraq.
It was a mistake
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on the last day of his three-day visit to the US, said that the invasion of Iraq by the United States was a mistake.
“In my sincere view, the invasion (by the US) was a mistake,” said Dr. Singh when asked what he felt about the US attack on Iraq to topple the government of Saddam Hussain on charges of possessing weapons of mass destructions.
Dr. Singh was addressing members of the National Press Club, the largest and most prestigious club in the world with membership that includes national and international reporters, in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
One of the noticeable differences between Thursday`s failed terror attempts on the British capital and the bombings that claimed 56 lives exactly two weeks earlier was the relative absence of Prime Minister Tony Blair from the public airwaves.
After issuing a statement during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in London for talks, the British premier disappeared, returning, he said, to his normal schedule of events.
While this may have been an effort to minimize disruption and maintain public calm, it came in marked contrast to the day of the July 7 blasts, when there was little respite from the torrent of public statements and news conferences.
Of course this was not the only difference. Thursday`s attempts -- taking place, as those two weeks ago, on three underground trains and a bus -- were largely unsuccessful, with devices only partially detonating and only one person suffering injuries.
However Blair may have been avoiding the public gaze for an entirely different reason. Having enjoyed a brief period of public and political acclaim for his show of strength in the immediate aftermath of the July 7 attacks, he is now facing mounting charges that Britain`s role in the Iraq war increased the threat of such attacks, and that he, as the instigator of that policy, must take at least some of the blame.