Thursday, July 28, 2005

War news for Thursday, July 28, 2005 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, five wounded by roadside bomb near Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: US convoy attacked in Samarra; curfew imposed and city blockaded. Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed, one wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Seventeen Iraqis killed as insurgents ambush two busses in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi killed, four wounded as railway bomb sets train ablaze near Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed, 37 wounded in mortar attack in central Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, five wounded defusing roadside bomb near Kirkuk. Equipment mismatch. “In the March 15 memo, Gen. Chaves tells top commanders in Baghdad that he does not have the right mix of weapons to fire from the turrets of armored Humvees and other vehicles that guard supply trucks. ‘Previously, reports indicated that excessive use of force, to include unauthorized deadly force, was employed by some convoy escorts,’ Gen. Chaves writes to the commander of all multinational forces in Iraq in a memo stamped ‘secret.’ A copy of the memo was obtained by The Washington Times. ‘While defending combat logistics convoys, soldiers manning heavy crew-served weapons in turrets of gun trucks are challenged to use the appropriate elevation of force toward hostile acts of demonstrated hostile intents,’ he wrote. “The memo does not provide details of excessive-force incidents.” Shinseki tried to tell them. “The report said the critical miscalculation of Iraq war-planning was the conclusion that reconstruction would not require more troops than the invasion itself. Not only are more troops needed but they should be trained for postwar duty, the task force said. In Iraq, the task force said, postwar requirements did not get enough attention, and there were misjudgments, as well. This, the report said, ‘left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance and economic demands’ after the war. And this, in turn, undermined U.S. foreign policy and gave an early push to the insurgency in Iraq, the task force said. In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, the report said, the postwar period has been marked by inefficient operations and billions of dollars of wasted resources.” Business opportunity.
The licenses to operate Iraq's three cell phone companies are running out and potential new operators are assembling in the United Kingdom this week to sort out the risks and rewards involved in what is one of the world's most dangerous, but lucrative business opportunities. The risks are clear. Employees at the three existing Iraq cell phone operations have been kidnapped, according to published reports, and U.S. military forces have had to jam service to prevent insurgent cell phones from detonating bombs along convey routes. But the operations are profitable and offer unbridled growth possibilities to companies willing to take the risk. "You can actually make handsome returns in Iraq despite the risks," said Jonas Lindblad of Pyramid Research in an interview Wednesday. "There's a lot of money chasing around a few deals in the [Middle East] region. In one way or another, they are linked to oil money." Lindblad, senior analyst Middle East for Pyramid, believes the initial licensees probably have already made money on the existing franchises.
Torture policy. “Two Iraqis at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison were bitten by dogs as they were being handled by sergeants who were competing to see who could scare more detainees, a witness testified Tuesday. Pvt. Ivan L. ''Chip'' Frederick II -- himself convicted of abusing inmates at the military prison -- testified by phone in the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, for Sgts. Santos A. Cardona and Michael J. Smith.” Torture policy. “Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show. Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism. In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members.” Progress report. “The electricity ministry said six attacks in the last 10 days on the power grid has led to a reduction in the electricity supplies to Baghdad and nearby southern provinces, according to government newspaper al-Sabah. Power in Baghdad is down to a half an hour of electricity followed by a six-hour blackout.” Recruiting.
Deep into a four-hour congressional hearing on why the active Army and its reserve components are missing recruiting goals, Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., turned a spotlight on the elephant in the room. The war in Iraq, Snyder said, is unpopular with many Americans, a fact that needs airing, given the all-volunteer nature of the U.S. military. Until that moment in the July 19 House armed services subcommittee hearing, blame for recruiting shortfalls had focused on negative news coverage of the war, an improving economy, the pace of military operations and an unexplained drop in propensity of parents and other “influencers” of American youth to recommend military service. Nothing was said of a nation that, polls show, is souring on a war that was launched to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and shifted, after none was found, into an open-ended occupation and a Herculean effort to turn a fractionalized Muslim nation into a democracy.
Morale indicator. “A company of the California Army National Guard has been put on restricted duty and its battalion plunged into disarray amid allegations that battalion members mistreated detainees in Iraq and extorted money from shopkeepers, according to military officials and members of the unit. Col. David Baldwin, a California state Guard spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that investigations are underway into the allegations of mistreatment of prisoners by members of Fullerton-based Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment. The company, made up of roughly 130 soldiers, is deployed at Forward Operating Base Falcon outside Baghdad. It has been put on restricted duty while the Army reviews its performance, Baldwin said. Baldwin also confirmed the existence of the investigation of the alleged extortion, which involves members of another company in the battalion. The battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Frey, has been suspended while the investigation is conducted, Baldwin said.” Supply and demand. “Coffin makers are unable to keep up with the demand for caskets in Iraq where tens of people die every day due to the continual armed attacks and bombings.” Via Hairy Fish Nuts. Commentary Editorial:
In spite of expressions of determination by President Bush and members of his administration to stay the course, the flow of bad news out of Iraq indicates that it is a mess which will get worse before it gets better. The fighting has transformed itself largely into civil war. The 170,000 Iraqi security forces, largely Shiite in composition, represent the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. They are opposed and targeted by the largely Sunni insurgents. The Kurds of the north mostly go their own way, except that their autonomy is encouraging Kurds in Turkey and Syria to bestir themselves against their host governments. Mr. al-Jaafari's government is taking steps to improve its relations with the Shiite-dominated Iranian government. Minister of Defense Saadoun Duleimi visited Iran earlier this month and concluded a military cooperation pact that provides for Iranian training of Iraqi military forces. This is a step that is painful to the Bush Administration, given its antagonism with the government in Tehran. Iraqi insurgent attacks focus on Americans, when they can get a crack at them, and on the Shiite security forces. U.S. war losses are climbing toward 1,800, from a force now standing at about 140,000. Mr. Bush claims not to want to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal because that would encourage the insurgents to wait the Americans out. That is, of course, what they are doing in any case; progressive American withdrawal will give increasingly free rein to intra-Iraqi warfare as the Iraqis dispute post-American control of the country among themselves.
Iraq's military and police forces well may become an instrument of Kurdish and Shi'ite domination of the Sunni minority. Assuming the putative worst case, namely that Shi'ites increasingly wage civil war against a Sunni resistance, their young men will continue to fill uniforms even if casualty rates rise drastically. Iraq's Shi'ites have no choice about it. The alternative would be to capitulate to a combination of Ba'athist remnants and Islamists whose agenda would be to restore the Sunni dominance of the status quo ante. "Iraqification" bears no resemblance to "Vietnamization". Hanoi commanded a regular army of more than half a million men, with a record of conventional military victories going back to the siege of Dien Bien Phu in 1953-1954. It could count upon unlimited Russian materiel. After "Vietnamization", Northern regulars beat the army of the Republic of Vietnam in conventional war. The new Iraqi armed forces, haphazard as their organization might be, face no challenge from regulars, only the constant annoyance of suicide attacks. As noted, the Shi'ites have nowhere else to go. "Iraqification" may turn out to be a dog's breakfast, but no one will have to consume it on the Potomac. Washington is embarrassed by this turn of events, but has no other choice than to adapt to it by removing American troops from the line of fire. Although President George W Bush and his advisors would prefer a stable and democratic Iraq, no degree of violence among Iraqis will undermine American interests. In an earlier era, the British would have encouraged such things. America lacks the sophistication, not to mention the cynicism, to stir the pot, but the pot appears to be stirring itself briskly enough without outside encouragement.
Recent events on Capitol Hill and new resounding statements made by top US administration officials prove that sanity is not much of a priority on the agenda of President George W Bush. On Wednesday, July 20, the House of Representatives resolved that an early withdrawal from Iraq would "embolden terrorists", therefore any such notion must be scrapped. Written off as well by the House decision was the idea of a measurable timetable for any pullout. A withdrawal of the 160,000-strong US forces is only possible when national security goals are met, according to the measure. It also argued that such a move would "undermine the morale" of US and allied forces. Capitol Hill's elite, as ever detached, perhaps willingly, from national and international realities, are determined to disregard or diminish the untold losses suffered by the military, economy, and their country's reputation, not to mention the morale of the entire nation. According to a recently disclosed US Army report, triggered by an inquiry into the alarmingly high suicide rate among American soldiers in Iraq, morale among troops is at its lowest, as is the confidence in their units' ability to perform their mission. Fifty-four percent of soldiers rated their units' morale as low or very low, reported the Associated Press. This dwindling spirit and lack of confidence on the battlefield is met with increasing agitation with Bush's war, as more than half of the American population now believes that the war has made their country "less safe". The tiring argument that terrorists are attacking us because of our freedom and way of life is losing its constituents, and it is becoming clearer by the day that the price for such hollow rhetoric can no longer be swallowed. One must not subscribe to the illusion that the Iraq debacle is just a temporary nuisance that can be weathered by a few billion dollars and a few thousand lives; that questioning the Bush administration's actions is not only unpatriotic, but in fact it provides the enemy with a moral boost and fuels their insurgency; that the insurgents are a bunch of disgruntled Sunnis without a cause, randomly blowing up people because they despise democracy and the spreaders of democracy for marginalizing them, and so forth. Even the US administration finds it difficult to stick to such simplistic views.
Iraq was supposed to be a first step. Iran was also in the neoconservatives' sights. The neocons envisaged U.S. control of the region (and its oil), to be followed inevitably by the realization of their ultimate dream, a global American empire. Of course it sounds like madness, which is why we should have been paying closer attention from the beginning. The madness took a Dr. Strangelovian turn in the summer of 2002, before the war with Iraq was launched. As The Washington Post first reported, an influential Pentagon advisory board was given a briefing prepared by a Rand Corporation analyst who said the U.S. should consider seizing the oil fields and financial assets of Saudi Arabia if it did not stop its support of terrorism. Mercifully the briefing went nowhere. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it did not represent the "dominant opinion" within the administration. The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration. But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour. Lyndon Johnson ignored the unsolicited advice of Senator George Aiken of Vermont - to declare victory in Vietnam in 1966. The war continued for nearly a decade. Many high-level government figures believe that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for a minimum of 5 more years, and perhaps 10. That should be understood by the people who think that the formation of a permanent Iraqi government will lead to the withdrawal of American troops. There is no real withdrawal plan. The fighting and the dying will continue indefinitely.
Casualty Reports Local story: Alabama soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: North Dakota Marine wounded in Iraq.


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