War News for Thursday, September 22, 2005
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police colonel and driver assassinated near Baquba
Bring 'em on: Three US convoys attacked by roadside bombs in Baghdad and Taji
Bring 'em on: Four Iraqi government workers killed, two wounded in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi journalists assassinated in separate attacks in Mosul
Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed, six wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Kirkuk
Bring 'en on: Nineteen Iraqi border guards executed by insurgents near Balad
Bring 'em on: Heavy fighting reported in Ramadi
One US soldier killed in road accident near Kirkuk
Round 'em up
. "US troops detained an Iraqi police chief and dozens of policemen on Wednesday after insurgents attacked a US supply convoy on Tuesday, police said. 'US soldiers detained Brigadier Muhammed Khalaf al-Jubouri,police chief of Dhuluiyah town, north of Baghdad, and about 60 policemen for failing to deal with insurgents,' a police source in Tikrit told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The source said US troops have sealed off the town, some 100 kmnorth of Baghdad, and detained some 400 people, including policemen, since insurgents attacked a convoy of trucks carrying military supplies for US troops on Tuesday."
. "Local authorities in Iraq's southern city of Basra have said they will refuse to engage with British troops following a British raid on a police station this week. 'All regular meetings between the governorate and British troops have been cancelled and we will not allow British soldiers into the governorate building or any other public office in Basra,' Nadim al-Jaabari, spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP on Thursday. The head of the 41-member provincial council, Mohammed Saadun al-Abidi, confirmed the decision to refuse all contacts with British forces which are responsible for security in the region. 'Yesterday, the provincial council voted in session to boycott British troops and we are demanding that they return the two British soldiers to Iraqi custody,' Abidi said."
. "Government officials and academic experts agree that the virtual expulsion of some ethnic groups from mixed communities is troubling and threatens the nation's stability, which depends upon a degree of ethnic harmony. Some worry the purges are setting the stage for civil war. They say homogenous neighborhoods could become battlegrounds in the capital. Indeed, some government officials concede that insurgents, mainly Sunnis, are controlling parts of Baghdad. 'Civil war today is closer than any time before,' said Hazim Abdel Hamid al Nuaimi, a professor of politics at al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. 'All of these explosions, the efforts by police and purging of neighborhoods is a battle to control Baghdad.' In some Baghdad neighborhoods, residents are finding death threats under their doors or fliers signed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted terrorist, calling on Iraqis to kill their Shi'ite brethren. Others said their family members have been killed and that insurgents in Sunni neighborhoods have threatened Shi'ite clerics and shut down mosques."
. "U.S. public support for President George W. Bush's Iraq policy has nosedived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but this seems unlikely to force the administration to change tack, political analysts said on Wednesday. 'Katrina has changed many things but I don't think it will change Iraq policy. There is almost no elasticity in that policy,' said Danielle Pletka of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, an acknowledged supporter both of Bush and his Iraq policy. Political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University agreed. 'There's no way back for Bush on Iraq. He can't run away from that policy. He has to secure something he can plausibly point to as success.' Public support for the president on Iraq had been gradually eroding in the past year as the U.S. military death toll mounted toward 2,000 and little progress was made in stopping a bloody insurgency that began soon after the 2003 invasion. But backing for his policy, that U.S. troops would stay until Iraqis can establish a government and army that can govern and defend itself, has dropped dramatically since Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi. A Gallup poll published on Monday found 66 percent of respondents favored the immediate withdrawal of some or all of the U.S. troops in Iraq, a 10 percentage point jump in two weeks. Bush's personal approval on Iraq fell from 40 percent to 32 percent in the same period. In a CBS/New York Times poll the previous week, 75 percent said Bush had no clear plan for bringing U.S. troops home."
Support the troops
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush and Republicans in Congress have refused to consider rolling back the $336 billion in new tax cuts that the richest 1 percent are slated to get over the next five years. They say we need to pay for reconstruction not by asking the wealthiest to sacrifice just a little bit, but by massive cuts to spending. And now we see what that means: The Navy Times today reports that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." This, while troops are in battle.
The Republicans have put their cutting efforts in military terms, calling it "Operation Offset" - a further insult to the men and women in uniform they are now trying to screw over. The specifics are ugly. They are, for instance, asking troops to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families." Additionally, "the stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed." In the past, this idea "has faced strong opposition from parents of children attending the schools because public schools [in and around bases] are seen as offering lower-quality education."
Media priority: celebrity tits
. "Tyra Banks underwent a televised sonogram on her new talk show to prove that her breasts aren't fake." (Link via Martini Republic.)
Britain's Independent newspaper quoted the Liberal Democrat Party's leader, Charles Kennedy, as saying: "The events ... confirm what many of us have worried now over many months -- that Iraq is moving more in the direction of civil war."
U.S. officials can point to some encouraging signs: political engagement, military successes in some limited areas and a buildup of Iraqi forces. But, in Basra, the Iraqi police were part of the problem, at least for the British troops who had to free colleagues who had been taken to a police station. Most police there reportedly are loyal to militias rather than the Iraqi government.
The Bush administration systematically misled Americans about the causes for war, neglected planning for post-invasion security and rejected sending enough troops to maintain order. Now, Americans must ask themselves whether disorder is devolving into a civil war, with foreign troops more part of the problem than the solution.
: "Before the war, Washington saw Iraq not only as a likely beacon for democracy but also as potentially a stable source of oil and a well-positioned strategic base. Reflecting lowered expectations, the source said the priority for withdrawal was merely that 'George Bush is not seen to have failed.
He will have to have at least set Iraq on the road to democracy'. Iraqis are scheduled to vote on October 13 on a new constitution and in December in a general election: allowing Mr Bush to claim he had put down democratic roots." (Emphasis added.)
Oil was certainly not the only concern that prompted the American invasion of Iraq, but it weighed in heavily with many senior administration officials. This was especially true of Vice President Dick Cheney who, in an August 2002 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, highlighted the need to retain control over Persian Gulf oil supplies when listing various reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein.
Nor is there any doubt that Cheney's former colleagues in the oil industry viewed Iraq's oilfields with covetous eyes. "For any oil company," one oil executive told the New York Times in February 2003, "being in Iraq is like being a kid in FAO Schwarz." Likewise, oil was a factor in the pre-war thinking of many key neo-conservatives who argued that Iraqi oilfields - once under US control would cripple the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and thereby weaken the Arab states facing Israel.
Still, for some US policymakers, other factors were preeminent, especially the urge to demonstrate the efficacy of the Bush Doctrine, the precept that preventive war is a practical and legitimate response to possible weapons-of-mass-destruction ambitions on the part of potential adversaries. Whatever the primacy of their ultimate objectives, these leaders shared one basic assumption: that, when occupied by American forces, Iraq would pump ever increasing amounts of petroleum from its vast and prolific reserves.
This sense of optimism about Iraq's future oil output was palpable in Washington in the months leading up to the invasion. In its periodic reports on Iraqi petroleum, the Department of Energy (DoE), for example, confidently reported in late 2002 that, with sufficient outside investment, Iraq could quickly double its production from the then-daily level of 2.5 million barrels to 5 million barrels or more.
So, four years later, how is the PNAC is doing? The short answer is not so well. Because it represents a coalition of different, although like-minded varieties of hawks, its own influence - or at least the perception of that influence - is highly dependent on the coalition's unity.
But that unity began to fray even as US troops were flowing into Iraq. Sensing that Rumsfeld, in particular, was not committed to using the kind of overwhelming force - and keeping it there - necessary for "transforming" Iraq (and the region), Kristol and Kagan, among other neo-conservatives, began attacking the defence secretary and have repeatedly called for his resignation.
Moreover, their tactical alliance with "liberal internationalists" - mostly Democrats - in appealing for the resources required for "nation-building" has, by many accounts, deeply offended Rumsfeld and other "assertive nationalists" in and outside the administration.
Some in turn have blamed neo-conservatives for deluding themselves and Bush into thinking that US troops would be greeted with "sweets and flowers" in Iraq. The exile of Wolfowitz to the World Bank and the resignation last summer of Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith should be seen in this light.
But the breakdown in the coalition's unity and coherence resulted at least as much from external factors, as well, beginning with the tenacity of the Iraq insurgency. In bogging down US land forces, it has put paid to the coalition's original dreams of the armed forces being prepared to intervene in any crisis - anytime, anywhere.
In addition, the unanticipated and enormous costs associated with the occupation in Iraq - to which might now be added the unanticipated and enormous costs of recovery from Hurricane Katrina - has also demonstrated, both to some right-wing but budget-conscious nationalists, as well as to the rest of the world, that the money for the kind of military PNAC has always lobbied for is simply not available.
It may not be long before administration officials start telling us that we can't withdraw from Iraq exactly because of the world energy situation. Already, two days after Katrina hit, there was the president standing in front of the USS Ronald Reagan - this administration's advance men have never seen an aircraft carrier they didn't want to turn into a photo op - offering a new explanation for the war in Iraq: "If [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks; they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions ..."
We're guaranteed to see more Pentagon planning and war-gaming based on the control of world energy supplies, not to speak of more and ever better military bases planted in far-flung, oil-rich areas of the world. So it's important to take stock of what actually happened to Iraqi oil and the dreams of global dominance that went with it.
Energy is a strange thing to control militarily. As Iraq showed and Katrina reminded us recently, its flow is remarkably vulnerable, whether to insurgents, terrorists or hurricanes. It's next to impossible to guard hundreds, not to say thousands, of miles of oil or natural gas pipelines.
It's all very well to occupy a country, set up your "enduring camps" and imagine yourself controlling the key energy spigots of the globe, but doing so is another matter. (As the saying went in a previous military age, you can't mine coal with bayonets.)
In the case of Iraq, one could simply say that the military conquest and occupation of the country essentially drove Iraq's oil deeper underground and beyond anyone's grasp. Hence, the signs should indeed say: "Blood for no oil." It's the perfect sorry slogan for a sad, brainless war; and even the Pentagon's resource-war planners might consider it a lesson worthy of further study as they think about our energy future.
The war on Iraq was also a war on the freedom of the press, or whatever could be salvaged of it, considering that the corporate media decidedly participated in the same process that was aimed at coercing the media and free press. At home the scene was equally grim. Self-censorship was at an all time high. Those who dared challenge the rosy view of war were reprimanded, disciplined and even fired.
But did Katrina indeed save the day, liberate the media from its implicit and overt loyalty to the government, to the business interests that own and finance it? The answer is unfortunately ‘no.’ Still the tragedy was an important reminder of the convoluted efforts involved in shaping the imagery and controlling the narrative. It shows us how the absence of such mechanisms can prove liberating for both honest reporters and public opinion. It created more pressure on an administration so eager to rush to war, thousands of miles away, and yet so idle in responding to a devastating and predictable crisis in its own country. It raised questions about the cost of war, about class and race and ultimately crashed the president’s approval ratings.
A truly free press is a menacing threat that the Bush administration has labored to avoid at any cost. It has done so in Iraq and will likely continue as long as there is a reason to misrepresent and a motive to fabricate. And considering the administration’s deepening crises in Iraq and New Orleans, causes for deceit remain plentiful.
Local story: Iowa
contractor killed in Iraq.