War News for Thursday, August 11, 2005
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police lieutenant killed in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi intelligence official assassinated in Basra
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed, 45 wounded in rioting in Samawa
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed by gunfire in Sherkah
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi soldiers killed, three wounded in attack on Beiji
Bring 'em on: Iraqi mother and father killed, daughter wounded in Baghdad
Another record month
. "July was a record month at Baghdad's main morgue, where the bodies pile up so fast they often have to be buried before they can be identified to make way for the next day's arrivals. A total of 1,100 corpses were received in July, a sharp increase from the previous record of 879 in June, and far exceeding the morgue's 10-a-day capacity, according to its overworked director, Faed Bakr. The figures exclude casualties from bombings, which are not taken for autopsy because the cause of death already is known. While car bombings and suicide attacks have garnered the most attention and have claimed thousands of lives in Iraq, shootings have accounted for thousands more civilian deaths since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. At the morgue last month, more than 60 percent of the deaths--676, or more than 20 a day--came from shootings, in yet another indicator that overall violence in the world's most violent capital keeps getting worse, even as the U.S. military and the Iraqi government insist that the insurgency is being tamed."
Calling Condi! We found your fucking mushroom cloud
! "Iraq is dangerously close to the threshold - the point of no return at which an ideological-sectarian chain reaction is triggered and a rapidly accelerated disintegration along sectarian lines occurs. The blinding flash of Iraq's disintegration will be followed closely by a powerful shockwave radiating outward in all directions, then by an irresistible reverse force that will pull Iraq's neighbors into the vortex. That is the point at which the US begins to suffer an irreversible forfeiture in Iraq. The political detonation described here, in which Iraq's enriched, fissionable sectarian factions or elements are rammed together forcefully by the current US-driven political process, finally reach critical mass and then detonate to cause Iraq's violent disintegration, is imminent. Consequently, not only has the US finally uncovered Iraq's political WMSD (weapons of mass self-destruction) but it is also, knowingly or unknowingly, racing toward the triggering of a political fission bomb of enormous yield with widespread regional and even global fallout."
begins. "The head of a Shia Muslim militia associated with one of the main parties in the Iraqi government says Shia should have their own federal state in the south. 'Federalism has to be in all of Iraq. They are trying to prevent the Shia from enjoying their own federalism,' Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Brigades, told thousands of Shia gathered in the southern city of Najaf. 'We have to persist in forming one region in the south or else we will regret it. What have we got from the central government except death?' Another Shia leader also called on Thursday for a federal state covering all Shia areas in the south. 'Regarding federalism, we think that it is necessary to form one entire region in the south,' said Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of one of the Shia parties leading the government. The calls for a southern Shia state come at a critical time when Iraqi leaders are trying to finish a draft constitution to submit to parliament before a self-imposed 15 August deadline."
Democracy in action
. "A spokesman for the municipality rejected details of Tamimi's account, estimating that far fewer armed men were involved in the takeover, which occurred during a sandstorm when few people were at work. Some at the building said perhaps only 30 took part. But there was no dispute that Baghdad Gov. Hussein Tahhan had taken over the mayor's job. He insisted Wednesday that he would serve only temporarily. Tahhan is a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that is a member of the prime minister's parliamentary bloc. On Wednesday, Jafari weighed in, saying he favored replacing Tamimi. Tamimi, a civil engineer who once worked in Iraq's nuclear program, fled the country in the 1990s and returned after President Saddam Hussein's ouster, promising to clean up Baghdad. He was appointed mayor before the U.S. transferred sovereignty back to Iraqis in June 2004. A new Baghdad provincial council was elected in January, and it asked Tamimi to step down. Some members had questioned his integrity; others expressed frustration that he had not delivered on promises to provide basic services and get rid of corruption. Jafari said Tamimi's removal was justified because he had also failed to satisfy the Iraqis running the local government." I wish they could do this in Spokane
At least another year
. "The official stressed that it was 'important to calibrate expectations post-elections. I've been saying to folks: You're still going to have an insurgency, you're still going to have a dilapidated infrastructure, you're still going to have decades of developmental problems both on the economic and the political side.' U.S. military officials in Iraq said last month that it might be possible to withdraw 20,000 to 30,000 of the 138,000 American troops by next spring if Iraqi civilian leaders managed to meet deadlines for drafting a new constitution and holding elections. On Wednesday, the military official said a significant spring withdrawal was 'still possible.' But while primary military responsibility for some parts of Iraq could likely be handed over even before the elections, the official said, U.S. forces would have to play a lead role in fighting the insurgency for at least a year. Even if a new government is elected on time in December, 'the earliest they're going to be capable of running a counterinsurgency campaign is . . . next summer,' the official said."
Despite myriad hearings, investigations and prominent trials of privates and specialists, no commissioned officer has received serious punishment for any of the many confirmed cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two of those involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal have received letters of reprimand. One was demoted. None has been court-martialed.
By contrast, Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, 55, a four-star general who served 36 years in the Army, was abruptly relieved of his command on Tuesday. According to his attorney, Gen. Byrnes, who is now divorced, stands accused of having had an extramarital affair with a civilian who is not his colleague, is not his subordinate and has no connection to the military. An officer familiar with the case told The Post that despite the apparent irrelevance of the affair, the harsh verdict -- apparently the only such demotion of a four-star general in modern times -- was justified: "We all swear to serve by the highest ideals, and no matter what rank, when you violate them, you are dealt with appropriately."
From this incident, it is possible to draw only one conclusion: It's okay for officers to oversee units that torture civilians and thereby damage the reputation of the United States around the world, do terrible harm to the ideological war on terrorism and inspire more Iraqis to become insurgents. Having an affair with a civilian, on the other hand, is completely unacceptable and will end your career.
The optimists say that we have trained, armed and equipped a 200,000-strong Iraqi security force that can increasingly take over the job of pursuing the insurgents and terrorists. The pessimists say that, in fact, the new Iraqi force is heavily infiltrated by the very people that are the enemy, and it is so poorly trained and led that perhaps no more than 5,000 of them can be trusted to operate independently without constant American support and in company with American troops.
The insurgents, the same ones Vice President Dick Cheney declared to be in the last throes of defeat, stage ever larger suicide bombings and use ever bigger roadside bombs to kill even more American soldiers and Marines.
In two days of horror a Marine Reserve unit from Ohio lost 20 men, a few killed in a shoot-out in the open with the insurgents, but most in an IED attack that took out the vehicle the Marines were riding in -an amphibious tractor, essentially an unarmored antiquated relic of the Vietnam war that was never intended to operate more than a few hundred yards off a landing beach.
It can be fairly stated that many of America's 1,800 dead and 14,000 wounded were killed because they were riding in unarmored or lightly armored vehicles that are totally inappropriate to the nature of the war and enemy we are fighting.
This while the heaviest and deadliest divisions in the world's best Army were being ordered to leave most of their best equipment - the M1A2 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles - parked at their home bases in orderly ranks.
This while the highly trained crews of those vehicles were ordered to dismount and become infantry to patrol the most dangerous streets and roads in the world in unarmored Humvees.
When Lyndon Johnson sent American troops into the flaming disaster of Vietnam he had no real strategy, no plan for winning the war. The idea, more or less, was that our boys, tougher and much better equipped, would beat their boys. Case closed. Fifty-eight thousand American troops succumbed to this schoolyard fantasy.
George W. Bush has no strategy, no real plan, for winning the war in Iraq. So we're stuck in a murderous quagmire without even the suggestion of an end in sight.
The administration has never been straight with the public about the war, and there's no reason to believe it will start being honest now. There is a desperate need for a serious national conversation about alternatives to the Bush approach in Iraq, which is tantamount to a permanent American military presence in that country.
The president, ensconced in a long vacation, exemplifies the vacuum of leadership on this crucial issue, which demands nothing less than the sustained attention of the wisest men and women the U.S. has to offer. They could be politicians, academics, civic or religious leaders, corporate executives - whoever. The longer they remain on the sidelines, the longer the carnage in Iraq will continue.
Members of Sheehan's tiny Gold Star Families for Peace believe that the president was wrong and is now clueless about what to do. They have stepped into the abyss of regret and senselessness that comes with knowing a child died for a mistake.
Sheehan reminds me of Lila Lipscomb, the Flint, Mich., mother who lost a son and got lost amid less compelling material in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." Lipscomb was an ardent supporter of the military who was devastated because she had encouraged her son to join up to get the education she couldn't afford to give him.
After a "9/11" screening for press and politicians in Washington, Lipscomb said a few words. When the lights came up, the audience spent a long time picking up its things. No one wanted to be seen crying, especially when our privileged positions protect us from ever having to endure what Lipscomb had.
On Friday, Bush will have to pass by Sheehan in his climate-controlled car with its tinted windows, or forgo a fundraiser nearby. He lives in a bubble — his prescreened audiences applaud him for platitudes and for his resolve. He goes nowhere alone. He took Dick Cheney to his interview with the 9/11 commission.
He isn't refusing to see Sheehan because he's callous but because he's like those of us listening to Lipscomb. Alone with Sheehan, he might find himself crying over something his privileged position means he will never have to endure.
In the period before September 11, neo-con writers often focused on the spread of a failed-state world, a supposed jungle of non-governable instability out there on the peripheries, one on which only the sole global hyperpower would assumedly have the capability to impose some level of order. Some of those neo-cons, in their eagerness to whack various regimes in the Middle East - Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon - probably didn't care greatly if, as a result, they created failed states throughout the region. Chaos didn't perhaps seem the worst fate for many of those lands (as long as Ariel Sharon's Israel was strengthened in the process).
Little did they know. Now, they have indeed succeeded in creating a failed-state right in the oil-rich heart of the Middle East and the chaos of Iraq has proceeded to suck the American military as well as Bush administration policies and dreams of every sort down with it, creating maneuvering space for countries as disparate as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
In fact, it's unlikely that the Bush administration - possibly any American government - will be able to live comfortably with Iraq as a failed state, its ripples of chaos spreading regionally, even globally. And yet the administration has already demonstrated with definitive thoroughness that it is capable of doing little about the situation - except continually making it worse.
Someday, withdrawal will come, "permanent" bases or no. Staying is not conceivable and the longer we remain, the worse the situation is likely to be when we depart. But on such subjects and on the matter of taking any responsibility for its actions, this administration is not only shameless, but quite hopeless. It can only create more chaos, foster yet more mad plans for future operations like - if the latest rumors leaked to former Central Intelligence Agency official Philip Giraldi of American Conservative magazine are to be believed - taking out the Iranian nuclear program using ... duh! ... nuclear weapons. Even Homer Simpson, six beers to the wind, couldn't have come up with that one, but evidently our vice president has.
In all, 18 unresolved points are being discussed by representatives of the country's Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, who have been debating for three months already. If they succeed in coming up with a constitution, parliament will ratify it, and it will then be submitted for a referendum two months later, in mid-October. If voters approve, new elections will then be held by mid-December.
Success would also mean that the US could start to withdraw some of its 140,000 troops by early 2006, and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and US President George W Bush would be able to tell the world that democracy, rather than terrorism, in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, worked after all.
If the constitutional assembly fails, according to the interim Iraqi constitution (Transitional Administrative Law - TAL), then Jaafari would resign, something that many parties involved, including the Americans, do not want to happen.
Failure of this crucial step in creating a democratic Iraq would only fuel insurgents, giving them more reason to create havoc in Iraq and undermine the new leaders of Baghdad and their sponsors in Washington. A last measure would be getting three-quarters of parliament to amend the TAL, to avoid Jaafari's resignation in the event that the assembly failed to meet the August 15 deadline.