War News for Monday, September 19, 2005
Bring 'em on: Iraqi forces on high alert as the Shi'a celebrate Imam Medhi in Karbala
Bring 'em on: Bodies of twenty Iraqis security force workers found in the Tigris near Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Fifteen Iraqi soldiers taken hostage in Samarra
Constitution - At the Printers
: The National Assembly only approved a final text of the constitution on Sunday, giving little time for the United Nations to print five million copies and distribute them nationwide ahead of the referendum.
Two and a half years too late
: Former US president Bill Clinton sharply criticised George W. Bush for the Iraq War and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit, according to AFP report. Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors, Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction." The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Clinton said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.
: A billion dollars is reported to have disappeared in Iraq during the awarding of lucrative defence contracts, leaving the country's army desperatly short of military equipment. According to the Independent, the theft occurred during deals with Polish and Pakistani arms dealers, when upfront payments were made. The cash was to be used to train and equip the Iraqi army but was instead siphoned abroad.
: A report from a working group of bishops says the war was one of a "long litany of errors" relating to Iraq. As the government is unlikely to offer an apology, a meeting of religious leaders would provide a "public act of institutional repentance," it said. It urges a "truth and reconciliation" meeting, but acknowledged that arranging it could be difficult. The report, entitled Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11, was written by a working group of the Church of England's House of Bishops. It suggests the meeting would be an opportunity to apologise for the way the West has contributed to the situation in Iraq, including the war.
St. Patrick's Four
: Four activists go on trial in federal court in Binghamton today on charges stemming from a protest on St. Patrick's Day 2003 in which they poured blood inside a military recruiting center. It appears to be the first federal felony prosecution in the country related to protests against the Iraq war. Penalties include up to eight years in prison and $360,000 in fines if the activists are convicted on four charges, the most serious of which is a felony charge of conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States.
More Troops needed
: Britain said on Sunday it would if necessary increase the number of troops in Iraq as fears mount that the country is sliding towards civil war. Britain, the main ally of the United States in Iraq, has about 8,500 soldiers deployed there and has frequently said its soldiers will stay until the Iraqi government asks them to leave.
: British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq to allow the Iraqis to take charge of their own security, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell is set to argue. Despite the worsening security situation in Iraq, which he acknowledges is verging on civil war, Sir Menzies will say it is time to begin bringing the occupation of the country to an end.
Hunger Strike Working
On Friday, the Kuwaiti foreign minister met with the US Ambassaor at large for war crimes, Piere Prosper,and discussed Kuwait’s concern on the reported deteriorating health state of the Kuwaiti detainees. “I have also explained to him that the measures you have taken have no legal grounds and are not in conformity with the American constitution and such measures are more harmful than that the acts taken by terrorists against American interest,” he told reporters after the meeting. During the meeting Sheikh Mohammed stressed the significance of the “humanitarian treatment of those on hunger strike, that the cause of the hunger strike must be addressed and thirdly there has to be a solution to the legal status of the detainees”.
He said Kuwait is discussing with the United States the possibility of handing over to Kuwait five Kuwaiti detainees, saying that Kuwait has the desire “to receive all the 11 detainees”. Meanwhile the hunger strike at the US military’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has unsettled senior commanders and produced the most serious challenge yet to the military’s effort to manage hundreds of terrorism suspects, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Opinion and Commentary
Baghdad or Biloxi
Has the focus on fighting terrorism eroded preparedness for natural disasters? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency for domestic disaster relief, was clearly downgraded by the White House, shoved into the Department of Homeland Security and headed by a political crony. Restoring FEMA to cabinet status might help, but the real question is whether the agency will get the leadership and resources it needs.
Has Katrina diminished President Bush's stature as a leader? So far the answer is yes. In the latest ABC poll, 57 percent disapproved of his overall performance. Almost two out of three people criticized his handling of Iraq and said he lacks a clear plan for post-Katrina recovery.
These results strike at the center of Bush's political success. He won re-election mainly because he convinced Americans that he would keep them safe. As voters watched the devastation unfold after Katrina, they started asking themselves questions, such as: Can I still trust the president to keep us safe? Or has his fixation with Iraq left us more vulnerable at home? Is Baghdad more important to this White House than Biloxi?
The failure of Iraqification is bad enough. How the commanders in Baghdad are coping with that failure is even worse. To keep up their sweeps in the Sunni Triangle (and sustain the fiction that the Iraqis are gradually learning how to conduct such operations on their own) the brass is relying heavily on Shi'a units and the Kurdish peshmerga -- particularly the latter, which is probably the only significant combat effective Iraqi force (on our side, anyway).
This means sending Shi'a troops to bust down doors, search women and arrest men in the Sunni heartland or -- as was the case in Tal Afar -- sending Kurdish militiamen to kill ethnic Turks. It's hard to imagine a better way to fuel sectarian hatreds and push Iraq closer to civil war (and/or trigger a Turkish intervention in Kurdistan.) You read about stuff like this and you have to wonder: Is FEMA secretly running the war in Iraq?
But the unreliability of the new Iraqi Army -- and the likelihood that its Sunni units have been penetrated by the insurgents -- may have had more direct lethal consequences for the U.S. military.
You may recall that in early August six Marine snipers were ambushed and wiped out in Anbar province, near the insurgent-infested city of Haditha. It was a humiliating blow -- Marine snipers are supposed to hunt, not be hunted -- although it was quickly overshadowed by an even bigger humiliation when 14 Marines riding in an antiquated amphibious vehicle (in the middle of the desert!) were blown up in the same neighborhood.
But the destruction of those Marine sniper teams may have been even more ominous than it appeared at the time. Military analyst William Lind, who has excellent sources inside the Corps, says he's been told that the snipers were attacked and killed by the Iraqi unit they were attached to.
Lind also says he's not been able to confirm that report. But if it's true -- or if other Marines even think its true -- the implications for Iraqification are stark. How do you "stand up" an Army when you can't risk turning your back on the troops once they stand up? As Lind says:
Wild Goose Chase
If it did happen and the public was not told, the Bush administration will have been caught in yet another lie. That, too, has strategic significance in a war we were lied into in the first place. If a strategy initially based on lies must rely on more lies for its continuation, it is probably not pointed toward success.
Under the circumstances, that seems like quite an understatement.
Instead of the threat of Iran developing a nuclear warhead being at the top of our nation's priorities, we are forced to first tend to our newborn democracy wailing in the next room. Being this young, it requires constant attention.
It's disappointing that the most powerful country in the world, with the greatest potential to be a conflict-ameliorating force, has been reduced to a geopolitical nanny because of a $200 billion wild goose chase.
Once again, Iraq is the albatross around our nation's neck.
Iran is fully aware of the fact that the United States has its hands tied in the region. Our Iraq experiment has given nations like Iran and North Korea breathing room to follow through with their plans, and left the United States in a vulnerable position with less leverage then is necessary to handle these situations.
President Bush and his administration talk tough, hinting at the possibility of military intervention, but Iran pays it no heed. And why should they?
You can only bluff if you're actually holding cards.
Hello? Did anyone in the higher ranks of the U.S. military ever hear the term "cultural intelligence?" Using Kurds against a Turkish city is like turning Hutus loose on Tutsis or the IRA on Orangemen. We can now add a Kurd vs. Turkmen civil war to the one already underway between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites.
Nor does the damage stop at the Iraqi border. I would bet dinars to dollars that the Kurdish assault on Tal Afar has been the front-page story in every newspaper in Turkey for days. Worse, the whole Turkish population has seen the U.S. military hold the Kurds’ coat for them while they kick the crap out of fellow Turks. The Post reported that, "Some of the American soldiers taunted the detainees by asking them, ‘Can you say Abu Ghraib?’" So much for winning at the moral level.
Fortunately, war is often a contest in blunders, and the other side has made one too, also at the moral level. As Iraqi Sunnis register in droves to vote against the new draft constitution, al Qaeda in Iraq announced that it would target anyone who takes part in the voting.
Here once again is a golden opportunity for us to do the one thing that might allow us to avoid total defeat in Iraq, namely split the Baathist resistance from the Islamic resistance. The Baath is still strong enough among the Sunnis that could probably clean up al Qaeda in short order. At present, unfortunately, our policies push the two together, despite the fact that they hate each other’s guts.
We need a deal with the Baath, and the Baath might be open to a deal with us. They need us to stop targeting them while they go after al Qaeda, and they need our help on the political level (the draft constitution outlaws them).
To persuade Americans that the war on ‘terror’ is worth the price in money and human life, the U.S. administration keeps telling them that Iraq has become the hub for terrorists in the world. The U.S., the administration says, will remain safe so long as U.S. troops remain in that country fighting terrorists thousands of miles away from home.
But the administration fails to mention that Iraq harbored no such terrorists before its decision to invade the country and station more than 130,000 troops there. As this U.S.’s Third World War rages, we the Iraqis have become its fodder whether we like it or not. Everyone with a grudge against America, or everyone who hates American and would like it to be preoccupied with Iraq, now has a stake in this war.
As this ruinous struggle continues, we are the ones who are paying with our blood. The U.S. war on terror, now being waged on our land, is a creation of the U.S. invasion of our country and has turned upside down U.S. plans and strategies for a vital region in the world of which Iraq is only one part.
There is no way our government, no matter how good-intentioned or powerful, to succeed under such circumstances. Warring parties – U.S. and anti-U.S. forces – have converged on our land. And for many Iraqis taking sides is an easy matter. Instinctively, most of them cannot side with the foreigners who have come to occupy their country.
The results of circumstances like these are not hard to predict. If any thing, they can never be favorable for Iraq. The ten successive and highly coordinated suicide bombings in the morning of a single day last week provide clear evidence that this war on ‘terror’ raging on our land cannot and will not be of benefit to us.
Those who paid for this reckless, brutal and inhumane bombing were innocent Iraqi victims and no one else. Innocent Iraqis have become this war’s fodder.
Reports and Analysis
U.S. Defense Department study has determined that Muslims in the Middle East do not yearn for freedom.
A Pentagon advisory board has released a report that asserted that Muslims in dictatorial regimes do not seek freedom as those in countries that had been dominated by the Soviet Union after World War II. The board said that unlike those who lived in East Bloc states, Muslims do not see the United States as their liberator.
"There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies -- except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends," the Pentagon board said in a report.
The 102-page report by the Defense Science Board reviewed U.S. information policy toward the Arab and Muslim world as part of an effort to stem the tide of anti-Americanism. The board concluded that Washington has failed to adequately explain its diplomatic and military policy to Muslims around the world.