Tuesday, July 19, 2005

War News for Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Thirteen Iraqis killed in ambush of a minibus carrying workers to a US military airbase in Baquba. One policeman and one member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party killed in roadside bombing in Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: Three Sunni members of the committee drafting Iraq’s constitution assassinated in a Baghdad attack that left their driver wounded.

Bring ‘em on: Eight policemen killed in gunbattle in Khadra, insurgent casualties unknown. Six police officers, including a colonel, killed in five separate attacks across Baghdad. One policeman killed in shootout with insurgents in Taji. Police colonel shot to death in Samarra. One employee of the Iraqi Trade Ministry killed in Dora. One municipal worker killed and one wounded in shooting on the road between Samarra and Balad. The body of an unidentified man with multiple gunshot wounds found dumped on the road in the same vicinity. One Al Qaeda field commander killed by coalition forces in western Iraq.

Bring ‘em on: At least one person, believed to be a civilian, killed in car bombing targeting US and Iraqi troops in Rawah. Two Iraqi soldiers killed in eastern Mosul. Brother of an Iraqi member of parliament assassinated in Mosul. One US Marine killed in a ‘non-hostile incident’ in Ramadi. Iraqi general announces the capture of 50 suspected insurgents in ‘Operation Thunder’ in Baghdad.

Ever-mounting toll: Nearly 25,000 civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003, a report says.

Based on more than 10,000 media reports, the dossier is the first detailed account of such deaths.

"The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq," said John Sloboda, one of the report authors.

The Iraq Body Count and Oxford Research Group, made up of academics and peace activists, carried out the survey.

The Dossier on Civilian Casualties in Iraq 2003-2005 says 37% of all non-combatant deaths were caused by US-led forces.

Almost a fifth of the 24,865 deaths were women or children and nearly half of all the civilian deaths were reported in the capital Baghdad.

"On average, 34 ordinary Iraqis have met violent deaths every day since the invasion of March 2003," said Mr Sloboda.

"It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two-and-a-half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed."

Markedly worse: I visit Baghdad at least four times a year, to see how things are developing. Since the fall of Saddam in May 2003, and the capture of Baghdad, after which major operations were declared over, I have been here eleven times.

Each time the security situation has been markedly worse than the time before.

Briefly, after the election in January, which brought an Iraqi government to power, things seemed to improve; then, after some weeks of fewer bombs and fewer deaths, the level of attacks rose again.

Now it is higher than it has been at any time since May 2003. The supply of suicide bombers seems endless.

Two separate campaigns appear to be going on: the Baathist resistance movement which Saddam Hussein planned and provided vast stocks of weapons and money for, is targeting the Iraqi army and police, and to a lesser extent the American and British forces.

As far as anyone can tell, this is the larger and better equipped of the two main underground movements.

The other is the extremist religious movement headed (we assume) by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which announced last year that it was associating itself with al-Qaeda. Foreign Muslims in sizeable numbers have come into the country to support it.

Intelligence officials in Baghdad say this group gives the appearance of being more active, because it apparently has a policy of claiming responsibility for major attacks whether or not it has actually carried them out.

But to be honest, who does what is largely a matter of guesswork.

Iraqi Politics

Working overtime: In the face of seemingly irreconcilable differences, Iraqi politicians are working overtime to put together a permanent constitution that can eventually guide the country to a peaceful future.

Keeping the political process on track is the only way to keep an edge vis-à-vis the insurgency, Iraqi and US officials say. And sticking to the schedule, increasingly, looks to be the key to preventing full-scale civil war.

Finding a sectarian compromise appears especially urgent amid a spike in suicide bombings over the past week, including Saturday's attack at a gas station next to a Shiite mosque in Musayib, south of Baghdad, which killed more than 90.

At each critical juncture in the political process, the Sunni-dominated insurgency is under pressure to prove its continued relevance, US officials argue.

However, the main factions on the drafting committee - Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis - say they agree on the rough shape of the constitution. They are now working "day and night" to hammer out a mutually acceptable draft by Aug. 15, the deadline for parliament to approve the document prior to a nationwide referendum to be held by Oct. 15.

They could finish by the end of the month, unless they don’t: Iraq's parliamentary committee charged with drafting a permanent constitution could finish its job by the end of this month if they are able to overcome the disagreement over outstanding issues, President Jalal Talabani said on Tuesday.

"The committee is working on the constitution and about to complete the constitution which could be ready by end of the current month," Talabani told reporters after a meeting with former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

He said the committee has made a good progress "but there are some Arab brothers who have some reservations that are under discussion," Talabani said, referring to the Sunni Arabs who were at odds with fellow Kurds and Shiites over the definition of federalism.

This may slow things a bit: Gunmen shot dead three Sunni Arab members of the team drafting Iraq's new constitution on Tuesday, striking a blow against the body seen as the best hope for providing a political end to the insurgency.

Drawing Sunni Arabs on to the committee, due to deliver a new constitution by Aug 15, was the cornerstone of the U.S.-backed strategy of persuading members of the restive minority to move off the streets and into peaceful politics.

The three men represented a Sunni umbrella group called the Iraqi National Dialogue.

Hours earlier, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, issued a statement saying he hoped the draft constitution could be ready early -- by the end of this month -- if Sunni concerns could be quickly addressed.

How will this fit into that constitution?: Shiite parliamentarian Khudayr al-Khuzai called on the government Sunday to "bring back popular militias" to protect vulnerable Shiite communities. "The plans of the interior and defense ministries to impose security in Iraq have failed to stop the terrorists," he told the National Assembly.

Following Mr. Khuzai's outraged speech in parliament, other members of the Shiite-led majority bloc said they also wanted militias to help stop such attacks. "We need militias to provide protection," said Saad Jawad Kandil, a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a key party in the Shiite-led alliance that dominates parliament.

Under US-drafted provisional legislation, nongovernmental militias are meant to be either disbanded or integrated into the government security apparatus as part of Iraq's transition to democracy and rule of law. But with no side willing to give up its firepower, the militia issue appears to have been sidestepped during current talks aimed at producing a permanent constitution.

"Correct course of action": Moqtada Sadr, the radical Iraqi Shia cleric whose militia led uprisings against US troops in Najaf has told the BBC armed "resistance is legitimate".

Speaking to Newsnight, Mr Sadr said that even US President George W Bush would agree that fighting an occupation force was a correct course of action.

However, he did call upon Iraqis to exercise restraint with US troops.

And he said he would not interfere with the democratic process, saying "Whoever wants to take part, let him do so".

"Resistance is legitimate at all levels be it religious, intellectual and so on," Mr Sadr said, in his first interview with Western media.

"The first person who would acknowledge this is the so-called American President Bush who said 'if my country is occupied, I will fight'."

Hey, they absorbed about $9 billion with no trouble: As fresh violence engulfs Iraq, the officials in charge of its government pressed a major meeting of donor nations here on Monday for billions of dollars in new financing to repair a country that remains in a state of physical and economic collapse.

But in a finely balanced argument, the Iraqi officials also said their country and its fledgling financial institutions were stable and secure enough to manage the influx of that much money.

Your money or your security: Iraqi officials warned the international community today that more delays in delivering on aid pledges would further destabilize the country and threaten global security.

Planning Minister Barham Salih thanked the United States for what it has done to help Iraqis. However, he stressed that Iraq must now become an "international project" to help the people of Iraq overcome the challenge.

Bungled reconstruction: In language both sharp and subtle, Iraqi and international officials on Monday criticized the U.S.-led rebuilding effort for moving too slowly to improve the lives of Iraqi citizens.

They said the United States' $18.4-billion effort had fallen short of restoring essential services such as power, water and sanitation. The criticism reflected a growing belief in Iraq and elsewhere that the Bush administration had bungled the reconstruction by giving billions to private corporations to tackle major infrastructure projects. The State Department, in a little-noticed report released this month, acknowledged the necessity of "adjusting [U.S.] support" to improve the reconstruction plan. More than $6 billion in U.S. funds and billions more in Iraqi money have been spent so far, but the country's electricity supply is far from meeting demand; oil production is below prewar levels; and barely half of Iraqis report having access to safe, stable supplies of drinking water. Unemployment is estimated at between 25% and 50%; fuel and food subsidies have resulted in a significant budget deficit; U.S. and Iraqi audits have been unable to account for billions in spending; and at least three U.S. officials and scores of Iraqis, including two former government ministers, are facing corruption charges. In addition, more than 350 contractors working on reconstruction have been killed; scores have been kidnapped. Insurgents have also targeted Iraqi civilians working with U.S. firms.

Medical crisis: More than two dozen doctors walked out of one of Baghdad's busiest hospitals on Tuesday to protest what they said was abuse by Iraqi soldiers, leaving about 100 patients to fend for themselves in chaotic wards.

Physicians said the troubles started when soldiers barged into a woman's wing at Yarmouk hospital, opened curtains and conducted searches as patients lay in their beds on Monday.

A 27-year-old internal medicine specialist said a soldier began intimidating and abusing him.

"Before he left he said, 'Why are you looking in disapproval?' Then he came and punched me lightly on my arm before sticking his rifle into my stomach and cocking it," the doctor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, told Reuters.

"I stayed quiet but relatives of the patients told him to calm down before pulling him out of the room. Just then, four more soldiers came in and pointed a rifle at my head. At that point I became scared and begged them to leave me alone."

Turkey claims right to intervene: A top Turkish general said on Tuesday the United States had given direct orders for the capture of rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leaders in Iraq, Turkish media reported.

General Ilker Basbug, second in command at Turkey's politically influential General Staff, said Turkey had the right to stage an incursion into Iraq against PKK guerrillas as a last resort if no action was taken.

"The United States has given the order for the capture of the leadership of the PKK terror group," state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Basbug as telling senior media executives.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara declined to comment, and no Turkish or U.S. government comment was immediately available.

Iraq And The London Bombings

Blair says no connection: Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Tuesday against making a connection between the London bombings and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that would be adopting the "perverted" logic of terrorists.

A third of the people sampled in a British opinion poll published Tuesday thought Blair bore "a lot of responsibility" for the attacks, because he joined the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Of course these terrorists will use Iraq as an excuse. They will use Afghanistan," Blair said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Sept. 11 happened of course before both of these things, and then the excuse was American policy, or Israel. They will always have their reasons for acting. But we have got to be really careful of almost giving in to the perverted and twisted logic with which they argue."

Chatham House begs to differ: Britain's position as a subordinate ally of the United States has been a "high-risk policy" that has left it vulnerable to terrorist attacks such as the recent bombings of London's transportation system, according to a briefing paper released early Monday by one of the country's most prominent foreign affairs research groups.

The British government "has been conducting counter-terrorism policy 'shoulder to shoulder' with the U.S., not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as pillion [back-seat] passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat," said the report published by Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which has close ties to the government.

The policy, it added, "has proved costly in terms of British and U.S. military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign."

British government denies link: The government reacted sharply on Monday to a private research report that said Britain was particularly exposed to a terrorist attack because of its role in Iraq as an ally and "pillion passenger" of American policy.

Coming 11 days after four bombers struck London, killing 56 people, the reaction showed the depth of government sensitivity to suggestions that its own policies invited the capital's bloodiest attack in decades. A pillion passenger is one who sits behind the driver of a motorcycle.

"The time for excuses over terrorism is over," Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said in Brussels.

The government's response added to indications that Britain's role in Iraq is again returning as a political specter, likely to be linked with accusations of a failure by Britain's intelligence agencies to focus sufficient attention on Al Qaeda, whose "evil ideology" Prime Minister Tony Blair has blamed for the attacks. That failure was also cited in the report by Chatham House, a nonpartisan research group.

The government has sought to define the London bombings on July 7 as part of a campaign by Al Qaeda that dates back to the World Trade Center attack in 1993, long before the war on terror inspired by the onslaught of Sept. 11, 2001, or the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But, in denying a link between the July 7 attacks and its policies in Iraq, the government seems sharply at odds with the advice given by its own security services weeks before the London bombings. At that time, Britain lowered its assessment of the threat it faced. Yet its security services had also warned that the war in Iraq contributed to the threat of terrorism. "Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the U.K.," said a confidential British terror threat assessment.

Richard Clarke begs to differ: The carnage in the London Underground follows an even more horrendous attack on Madrid commuters 16 months ago. When President Bush sought recently to reassure Americans about his Iraq policy, he emphasized that we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we do not have to fight them here at home. Unfortunately for Britain and Spain, fighting terrorists in Iraq did not immunize them from attacks at home.

Earlier this year the administration revealed that Osama bin Laden had communicated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of ''Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia,'' urging him to send some of his many fighters to the homelands of the United States and its coalition allies. Zarqawi's network has apparently been quite successful in recruiting new terrorists in Arab nations and in Islamic communities in Europe. Before the London attacks, the police arrested Zarqawi recruiters in Britain, Germany, Spain and elsewhere. (Among those arrested in Spain was a terrorist thought to be connected to the Madrid attacks.) Iraq acts both as a motivator for the new jihadis and as a training ground. It has replaced Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. Now, Muslim radical youth go to Iraq to prove themselves and learn the trade of terror.

A recent C.I.A. analysis reportedly concluded that those being recruited by Zarqawi are receiving better training and preparation by fighting in Iraq than previous terrorists received from bin Laden in Afghanistan. The report went on to say that these new terrorists will probably leave Iraq and practice their skills elsewhere. A Canadian Intelligence Security Service analysis reportedly says that terrorists trained in Iraq are likely to be involved in attacks in other countries. Commenting on the report, a former Canadian security officer said that terrorists are ''still planning very imaginative actions like we saw on 9/11.''

British government sticks its fingers in its ears and goes la la la: A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.

Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.

Regarded as a career diplomat of impeccable integrity, during his time in post-invasion Iraq, Greenstock became disillusioned with the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer. Their relationship had deteriorated by the time Greenstock returned to Britain.

The decision to block the book until Greenstock removes substantial passages will be interpreted as an attempt by ministers to avoid further embarrassing disclosures over the conduct of the war and its aftermath from a highly credible source.

Of course, none of the above could have anything to do with this: Britain could start withdrawing its troops from Iraq during the next year, Defense Secretary John Reid said Sunday, confirming the contents of a leaked government memo. In an interview with CNN's "Late Edition," he said neither Britain nor the United States had "imperialist ambitions" in Iraq, and both want Iraqi forces to take over responsibility for security.

The British government has long declined to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, fearing doing so would give heart to militants waging a bloody insurgency there. Britain has about 8,500 troops in Iraq, mostly in the generally peaceful Shiite south, where support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is stronger. Since the war started in March 2003, 92 British service personnel have died in Iraq.

A New Revelation From Seymour Hersh

Manipulated elections?: The January 30th election in Iraq was publicly perceived as a political triumph for George W. Bush and a vindication of his decision to overturn the regime of Saddam Hussein. More than eight million Iraqis defied the threats of the insurgency and came out to vote for provincial councils and a national assembly. Many of them spent hours waiting patiently in line, knowing that they were risking their lives. Images of smiling Iraqis waving purple index fingers, signifying that they had voted, were transmitted around the world. Even some of the President’s harshest critics acknowledged that he might have been right: democracy, as he defined it, could take hold in the Middle East. The fact that very few Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, chose to vote was seen within the Administration as a temporary setback. The sense of victory faded, however, amid a continued political stalemate, increased violence, and a hardening of religious divides. After three months of bitter sectarian infighting, a government was finally formed. It is struggling to fulfill its primary task: to draft a new constitution by mid-August.

Whether the election could sustain its promise had been in question from the beginning. The Administration was confronted with a basic dilemma: The likely winner of a direct and open election would be a Shiite religious party. The Shiites were bitter opponents of Saddam’s regime, and suffered under it, but many Shiite religious and political leaders are allied, to varying degrees, with the mullahs of Iran. As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways—including covert action—to manipulate the outcome and reduce the religious Shiite influence. Not everything went as planned.

Random News From The USA

On your kid’s charge card: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost taxpayers $314 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office projects additional expenses of perhaps $450 billion over the next 10 years.

The could make the combined campaigns, especially the war in Iraq, the most expensive military conflicts in the last 60 years, causing even some conservative experts to criticize the open-ended commitment to an elusive goal. The concern is that the soaring costs, given little weight before now, could play a growing role in U.S. strategic decisions because of the fiscal impact.

"Osama (bin Laden) doesn't have to win; he will just bleed us to death," said Michael Scheuer, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA who led the pursuit of bin Laden and recently retired after writing two books critical of the Clinton and Bush administrations. "He's well on his way to doing it."

Frontline: Private Warriors: Watch the PBS television documentary on the 120,000 private contractors working in Iraq.

Three myths about Iraq: THE TERRORISM MYTH -- IRAQ WAR HAS ENHANCED U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY: There is yet more evidence that the war on Iraq -- the cornerstone of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy -- has actually had the very opposite effect, not only inciting more terrorist acts but creating new terrorists.

THE DEMOCRACY MYTH -- IRAQI ELECTIONS WERE FREE AND FAIR: In last month's major Iraq address, President Bush recalled that "In January 2005, more than eight million Iraqi men and women voted in elections that were free and fair." Iraq's elections may have been free, but according to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, they were not at all fair, thanks directly to President Bush.

THE PROGRESS MYTH -- HIGH-INTENSITY VIOLENCE ON THE DECLINE: On July 8, Maj. Gen. William Webster, who oversees coalition forces in Baghdad, announced that the ability of insurgents "to conduct sustained, high-intensity operations, as they did last year, we've mostly eliminated that." Tragically, though not unexpectedly, Maj. Gen. Webster's remarks were disproven in gruesome fashion.

War photos: In May, the Los Angeles Times released a survey revealing how few photographs of wounded or dead American service members in Iraq were appearing in U.S. publications. Newspaper editors seemed to agree that one primary obstacle was logistical: Given the sporadic nature of the violence occurring in a country the size of California, getting to the news is a dangerous challenge in itself. But when photographers are indeed able to capture such scenes, what happens to those images?

The Times' survey of six months of coverage found almost no pictures of Americans killed in action at a time when 559 Americans and Western allies died; the same publications ran just 44 photos from Iraq to represent the thousands of Westerners wounded during the same period. But according to photo services, pictures are sometimes transmitted and left unused.

AP's Lyon agrees that internationally there's more an appetite for those types of pictures. He feels the reluctance of U.S. newspapers to publish those images is not an issue on which AP should comment. "We're providing photos and text to our subscribers, and it's up to them to use pictures as they see fit," he observes. "We've covered our mission. Of course, as a journalist, I think the truth needs to be told." For Swanson, who captured a particularly vivid truth while embedded with Echo Company, which lost 12 of its Marines in a two-week period, the poverty of images has removed death from the war: "It's war, whether you agree to it or not ... death needs to be shown. You have to know what you might lose before you commit so many lives. A country needs to be reminded that an 18-year-old has just died, and that Memorial Day and Veterans' Day are not just days for picnics at the beach."


Comment: Let me remind you that the underlying issue in the Karl Rove controversy is not a leak, but a war and how America was misled into that war.

Enough is known to surmise that the leaks of Rove, or others deputized by him, amounted to retaliation against someone who had the temerity to challenge the president of the United States when he was striving to find some plausible reason for invading Iraq.

The role of Rove and associates added up to a small incident in a very large scandal - the effort to delude America into thinking it faced a threat dire enough to justify a war.

Editorial: Even by the standards of insurgent violence in Iraq, the killing Wednesday of nearly 20 children who flocked around a U.S. Army vehicle to seek candy from soldiers was horrific. A suicide bomber drove into the crowd and detonated his car. Iraqis should be outraged, but they need to go beyond emotion to action. They need to take the lead to root out men, whatever their proclaimed motives, who murder the innocent and the young. The attack in a residential Baghdad neighborhood also killed a U.S. soldier and several Iraqi adults; it was the deadliest insurgent assault in more than two months. No one claimed responsibility. Significantly, a statement purported to be from the Al Qaeda in Iraq group headed by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi denied participation in the attack.

The disavowal could indicate worry about a backlash against the deaths of youngsters. Iraqis have asked why insurgents were killing their fellow citizens in an attempt to force coalition troops to leave. Now they ask again, "Why kill children?"

Since the invasion in March 2003, insurgents have killed the top United Nations official in the country, the Egyptian ambassador, clerics and many police recruits. They have planted bombs by the road, dispatched suicide bombers and beheaded some of their victims. Security forces can't stop all attacks; they depend on help from Iraqis to provide intelligence about guerrilla plans. Even those who want coalition troops to leave immediately should understand that a nation can't be built on the bones of murdered children.

Opinion: There is a widespread view, even among many who opposed the invasion, that we have a responsibility to keep our troops in place until certain minimum conditions are achieved: some degree of security for the Iraqi people; a reasonable start on stable and representative self-government; and partial reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure. Prompt withdrawal is considered unthinkable by most Republicans and Democrats, because it is difficult to envision a pullout that leaves a peaceful Iraq in its wake and doesn't invite further unrest in the region.

So the expectation is that we will be in Iraq for several more years, perhaps with a somewhat reduced presence, but spending considerable money (more than $1 billion per week) and sacrificing lives ( one dozen to two dozen deaths and serious casualties per week), while working to achieve those minimum objectives required for withdrawal.

This conventional view, however, ignores two important questions. The first is, how much are American interests in the Arab world being harmed by our continued presence in Iraq? Second, how much does the United States' presence in Iraq reduce our ability to deal with other important security challenges, notably those posed by North Korea, Iran and international terrorism? Those who argue that we should "stay the course" because an early withdrawal from Iraq would hurt America's global credibility must consider the possibility that we will fail in our objectives in Iraq and suffer an even worse loss of credibility down the road.

I do not believe that we are making progress on any of our key objectives in Iraq. There may be days when security seems somewhat improved or when the Iraqi government appears to be functioning better, but the underlying destabilizing effect of the insurgency is undiminished. When, after the fall of Baghdad, the decision was taken to disband the Iraqi Army, an impossible security situation was created: a combination of hostile ethnic factions supported by demobilized, but armed, military and security units with surrounding nations actively supporting them.

The insurgency cannot be overcome easily by either United States military forces or immature Iraqi security forces. Nor would the situation be eased even if, improbably, the United Nations, NATO, our European allies and Japan choose to become seriously involved.

Our best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements. Politically, the United States should declare its intention to remove its troops and urge the Iraqi government and its neighbors to recognize the common regional interest in allowing Iraq to evolve peacefully and without external intervention. The first Iraqi election under the permanent constitution, planned for Dec. 15, is an appropriate date for beginning the pullout.

Opinion: I hate to introduce this hoary old idea, but I believe it is true: an American withdrawal will be interpreted as a sign of weakness by aggressive enemies (and we do have enemies). If the US diminishes or gives up its military presence (that is, our police station) in the Middle East, it may only be a matter of time before we lose access to two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies that happen to be located there. We would also have to wonder how long our military bases in Afghanistan and several former Soviet republics could hold out in the face of a withdrawal from Iraq -- with the additional problem of the combined displeasure of Russia and China militating against our presence there.

What I believe will happen: the Jihadi violence will continue, the American public will lose patience with the attrition in Iraq, other flash points (North Korea, Pakistan, Venezuela, Mexico) will make it clear that the US Army is not capable of conducting land operations elsewhere, events will evolve to choke off oil imports to the US as our hegemony slips away, terror events in Europe will continue and provoke a backlash against Islamic imigrants, which will only inflame the Islamic world further, the US will revert to a naval strategy of attempting to protect our interests -- namely access to oil -- which will not be effective, and America will be plagued at home by political recrimination, blaming, scapegoating, and a futile campaign to keep the car-dependent utopia going.

Ultimately, the world will enter The Long Emergency, a horizonless era of conflict, withering global economic relations, and energy starvation -- with plummeting standards of living.

Meanwhile, we are doing nothing at home to prepare for this future, for instance a crash program to restore the American railroad system, or to restore true fiscal discipline to the mortgage industry in order to stem the insane spread of even more car-dependent suburban sprawl (a.k.a. the housing bubble). Where is the Democratic party (my party) on this? Lost in the raptures of sexual and racial pandering.

Comment: Most of the time you'd hardly know there's a war going on, that boys and young men in America's all-volunteer army are fighting and dying in places like Falluja and the remote mountain provinces of faraway Afghanistan.

Sixty years ago, the beaches of Normandy were littered with the bodies of Americans who knew what they were fighting for. The same could be said of the people back home. The war effort was the main thing in those days.

Today, war is perfectly OK as long as nobody is inconvenienced, as long as the Red Sox keep winning and topless young women continue lining up on the Howard Stern Show to reveal what's under their thongs.

Most of us can rattle off David Ortiz and Johnny Damon's batting averages. We can also repeat more than anybody needs to know about celebrities like Johnny Depp and Mariah Carey. But when it comes to understanding why America's No. 1 enemy, Osama bin Laden, is considered a hero in so many parts of the world, we're completely in the dark.

Even television has distanced itself from the terrorist and Iraqi conflicts and their underlining causes. But then one must keep in mind who owns and controls the news and entertainment industry, an industry that has a far greater stake in selling cars, beer, hamburgers, toothpaste and deodorant than in exposing the real reasons why the nation is bogged down in a bloody war not only in the Middle East but throughout today's deeply troubled world.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Omaha, NE, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Fallbrook, CA, soldier killed in bombing in Baghdad.

Local story: Cedar City, UT, soldier killed in bombing in Iraq.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?