War News for Saturday, September 24, 2005
Bring 'em on: Heavy fighting continues in Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed, five wounded in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi Ministry of the Interior assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Immigration Ministry official escapes assassination attempt in Baghdad
, four guards killed.
Bring 'em on: One child killed, two policemen and two civilians killed by car bomb in Musayyib
Bring 'em on: Fighting continues in Dhuluiyah
: Please take a few minutes to read Helena's most recent commentary over at Just World News
. "An Iraqi judge has issued arrest warrants for two British undercover soldiers who were freed after a controversial British raid in the city of Basra, an Iraqi lawyer said on Saturday. Judge Raghib Hassan accused the men of killing an Iraqi policeman and wounding another, carrying unlicensed weapons and holding false identification, said Kassim al-Sabti, the head of the lawyers syndicate in the southern city."
. "'There are 30 to 40 battalion-level operations going on across Iraq on any given day,'' said Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. 'What you are seeing is the pattern of operations that we have been conducting almost every day here.''"
Boots on the ground
. "The Pentagon announced on Friday that 9,400 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq beyond their scheduled yearlong duty, Reuters reported. The soldiers have been ordered to stay in Iraq for an extra seven to ten days beyond their previously scheduled departure, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The 9,400 troops have all been scheduled to leave Iraq in mid-January."
. "The rare insight into the chaos of the combat ¬ including an order to open fire on all taxis in the city of Samawa because it was believed Iraqi forces were using them for transport ¬ comes as US support for the war in Iraq slumps to an all-time low. Polls suggest that 60 per cent now believe the war was wrong. Mr Bush's personal approval ratings are also at a record low."
U.S. leaders have claimed that the metrics of casualties being inflicted on the insurgents in Iraq prove that the war was going better for the United States and its Iraqi allies. But unfortunately there are solid grounds to dispute that assertion.
First, on Friday the Department of Defense announced that 9,400 active-duty U.S. troops in Iraq who were scheduled to finish one-year tours in January will be kept there an extra seven to 10 days. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq currently remains high, around 147,000. Keeping and boosting troop numbers does not indicate a security strategy that is going well at a time when the number of attacks on U.S. and allied forces are remorselessly increasing.
Second, as we have noted before in these Iraq Benchmarks columns, kill figures for insurgents and figures of those arrested are usually in any war and military operation vastly inflated by both genuine confusion and wishful thinking. And the more solid reason for skepticism, unfortunately, is that the metrics, or numbers of measurement, on casualties suffered by U.S. and allied Iraqi military forces has been going up remorselessly all around Iraq again.
Worse yet, this has been happening right after the counter-insurgency offensive by U.S. and allied forces in Tel Afar and while the insurgents were carrying out a bombing blitz of almost unprecedented intensity in the capital Baghdad itself.
The clear conclusion to be inferred from these developments is that even -- or especially -- if the U.S. estimates of casualties being inflicted on the insurgents are correct, the insurgency is steadily growing in the numbers of active participants it call can upon and in its capabilities to inflict attacks on its targets.
Sistani and Hakim lead the urban rich, Muqtada leads the urban and rural poor. Young, poor men support Muqtada not because he is a religious man like Sistani, but because he is a man of principle, they believe, and precisely because he is a rebel. His images are plastered all over Shi'ite towns in southern Iraq, but particularly in Sadr City, a slum inhabited by 2 million on the outskirts of Baghdad that was once called Saddam City but renamed after Muqtada's father after Saddam's fall in 2003.
In Sadr City, Muqtada is king. His authority surpasses that of any other Shi'ite leader in Iraq. He has his own welfare system, one codes, laws, education and police system. Judges in Sadr City are appointed by Muqtada himself and verdicts are enforced by his stalwarts. The selling of alcohol is prohibited, as are video cassettes, CDs and cinemas. Veiling is obligatory. The religious police force resembles those that existed in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and under the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Liberal and secular Shi'ites claim that Muqtada's authority in Sadr City is "worse than Saddam". Senior clerics in the community, fearing his radical politics, issued an official condemnation of Muqtada and his Mahdi Army, saying: "The army is composed of suspicious elements including individuals from the extinct regime who have wrapped their heads with white and black rags to mislead people into believing that they are men of religion, when in truth they are devils. We do not need your army. The imam [al-Mahdi] is in no need of an army made up of thieves, robbers and perverts under the leadership of a one-eyed charlatan."
Is Muqtada an imposter and a perverter of the Shi'ite cause? Is he a terrorist who must be killed? Or is he a true Shi'ite rebel and honest Iraqi nationalist? Regardless of the answer, it is too late to do anything about the rebel Shi'ite. Had the Americans wished, they could have killed him in 2003 when they first came to Iraq. They issued threats to have him arrested, but stopped short of doing that for a variety of reasons. One was that they underestimated how strong he really was and how much he could mobilize the Shi'ite street. Another reason was that they did not want to make a martyr out of him and inspire a new rebellion.
Alani said multiple power struggles are visible in Basra. "There are three levels of struggle now in Basra. One is a Shi'ite-Shi'ite struggle between the two major militias over who is going to control the city. There is an ethnic cleansing of the Arab Sunnis and Christian communities from Basra by these militias. And the third dimension is the clash between the Mahdi Army group and the British forces, because British forces try to impose a certain degree of control and security and [to do so] they have to confront this militia group," Alani said.
The Mahdi Army has twice launched rebellions against the US-led occupation of Iraq and remains a volatile force, even as some of its top leaders participate in the government in Baghdad. The SCIRI is a major player in Iraq's interim government. Analysts say the Shi'ite-dominated government in Baghdad tolerates the situation in Basra because of the strong role of the Shi'ite religious parties there.
The British have fewer than 9,000 soldiers in densely populated southern Iraq - not enough to clamp down on the militias by force. Now, London must decide whether to continue trying to deal with them through diplomatic means, or by increasing its forces. Similarly, the militias will have to decide whether now is the time to try to wrest full control of the city from the British or to continue with the present uneasy situation.
Complicating the situation in Basra still further is the role of Iran, which has strong ties to the SCIRI's Badr forces and seeks to build its regional influence through them. Iran's Revolutionary Guards equipped the Badr Brigades as a guerrilla force fighting against Saddam Hussein from bases in Iran until the US toppled the Iraqi leader in 2003.
Indeed, the CSIS study estimates that only a small percentage of the Iraqi insurgents are foreigners -- no more than 10 percent and perhaps as little as 5 percent. Just as important, even the foreign fighters in Iraq, according to the study, are motivated less by an all-encompassing Islamist ideology than by the specific goal of expelling Western occupiers from an Arab land.
So Bush is wrong to claim that continuing warfare in Iraq will defeat terrorism, when we know that terror is expanding there and that terrorist organizations are winning new adherents due to the war. He is also wrong because the Iraqi insurgency is a homegrown nationalist force, not a foreign-directed terrorist conspiracy.
Nevertheless, the war could end in a perceived defeat for the United States -- and a perceived victory for al-Qaida and its allies. Bush is understandably determined to prevent that, and even many of his most implacable critics agree that such an outcome must be avoided. The problem is that neither this arrogant and inept president nor his critics have outlined a plausible plan to escape the disaster he has created.
That's because Iraq has become as much a quandary as it is a quagmire. If American troops leave precipitously, the country will descend into a horrific civil war, perhaps even worse than what is happening now. Yet so long as our troops remain, more Iraqis are provoked into supporting the insurgency, and the situation continues to deteriorate.
The best and perhaps only way out is a negotiated settlement, reached under the auspices of the United Nations and Iraq's neighbors -- which could eventually persuade the Sunni nationalist rebels to lay down their weapons and enter the nascent political system instead. The way to bring the insurgents to the bargaining table is to promise that if they agree to a cease-fire and begin talks with the Iraqi government, we will begin to withdraw troops -- and to assure the Iraqis that a successful negotiation would lead to our complete withdrawal.
No doubt Bush would reply that we must not "negotiate with terrorists," but that would merely be more diversionary and meaningless verbiage. The long-standing policy of the U.S. government is to deal when necessary with governments that sponsor terror, such as Pakistan and Iran -- and to encourage our allies, such as Israel, to negotiate with terrorist groups. Certainly we can negotiate with the Sunni insurgents, despite their vile tactics, in order to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
Viewed properly, in fact, the war in Iraq is actually part of the post-hurricane reconstruction effort. Consider that thousands of soldiers from Louisiana and Mississippi are serving in Iraq, and some of them have been rendered homeless by storm damage. Fortunately, the war enables us to offer them housing and a good job over in Iraq.
You see, it's all connected, if you just think about it long enough. President Bush put it best: "You know, something we — I've been thinking a lot … and it's clear to me that Americans value human life…. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people. It's a war on terror…. These are evil men who target the suffering. See, sometimes we forget about the evil deeds of these people. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. They've killed in Madrid, and Istanbul, and Baghdad, and Bali, and London, and Sharm el Sheik, and Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. Around the world they continue to kill. They have a strategy."
Well, anyhoo … what was I saying?
Oh, yes. Only connect. I mean, think of the waste, with all those empty boots lined up by antiwar protesters just to make some kind of political point. Wouldn't it be so much more uplifting to donate those boots to hurricane victims?
The stark question now before the country is: Should it sit still for the next three-plus years of George W. Bush’s presidency or demand accountability, including possibly the removal of him and his political team from office?
Though it’s true that impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would be an extreme step, this constitutional option must be judged against the alternative of a continued national leadership that is facing worsening crises while known for a trademark refusal to admit mistakes or to make meaningful adjustments to its policies.
Over and over, Bush has made clear that he has no intention to reverse himself on any of his core decisions, which include the Iraq War, tax cuts weighted toward the upper incomes, tolerance of record budget deficits and rejection of the chief international agreement on global warming, the Kyoto Treaty. (Bush even questions the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming.)
So, the hard choice is whether the country would be better off starting this political battle now with an eye toward a change in control of Congress in 2006 or simply waiting for the next presidential election in 2008.
Local story: Vermont
Guardsman killed in Iraq.
Local story: Montana
Guardsman killed in Iraq.
Local story: Utah
contractor killed in Iraq.
Awards and Decorations
Local story: Wisconsin
soldier posthumously decorated for valor.