War News for Friday, September 7, 2005
Bring 'em on: Four US Marines killed by roadside bomb near Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Heavy fighting continues in western Iraq
Bring 'em on: US bombs eight bridges in Euphrates
Bring 'em on: Eight Iraqi civilians wounded in car bomb attack on security contractors in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Nine Iraqis killed, nine wounded in car bomb attack on police patrol in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Four US soldiers wounded by car bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi policemen killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Baghdad
Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Car bomb attack on US troops in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Five Oil Ministry guards killed in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Car bomb attack on US troops in Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police discover 22 bodies near Badra
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi police killed, two wounded in Baghdad
List of ten terrorist plots
Lieutenant AWOL claims were thwarted since September, 2001. These polts have two things in common: all were thwarted using intelligence and police methods, and none through military operations. So please explain how Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terror
. "The Congressional Research Service says the Bush administration is spending about seven (b) billion dollars a month, including nearly six (b) billion in Iraq. The report says costs could total 570 (b) billion dollars by the end of 2010, provided troops are gradually withdrawn. The report underscores how the price tag has been gradually rising. A year ago, the Pentagon said its average monthly costs were less than five (b) dollars."
Iraqi troops stand up
. "Two more battalions will soon join troops charged with protecting oil installations in Kirkuk, the army said. Brigadier Jamal Abdullah said the force, comprising 2,000 troops, will be stationed at Kirkuk’s oil fields and along the pipelines ferrying crude oil to Turkey. The first batch is expected to finish training on October 14 and will be deployed south of Kirkuk, an oil-rich region which has seen a surge in acts of sabotage."
. "Jimmy Massey, a former staff sergeant, told AFP that the daily attacks now doled out to US-led forces and Iraqi civilians are "because of the brutality that the Iraqi people saw at the start of the invasion." In his book, "Kill! Kill! Kill!", he says he and other Marines in his unit killed dozens of unarmed Iraqi civilians because of an exaggerated sense of threat, and that they often experienced sexual-type thrills doing so. The book was being released first in France -- and in French -- because, he said, 'I didn't find an American publisher.' The French journalist who helped him write the work, Natasha Saulnier, said she believed the US companies were reluctant to touch the book because its 'controversial' nature threatened commercial interests and the US public's image of their fighting forces."
. "The U.S. Defense Department plans to invest $35 million in research on improved artificial arms. USA Today reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hopes for arms that can function almost like natural ones."
Support the troops
! "Utah's senators voted against a proposal to provide $360 million in additional funds to up-armor trucks and Humvees in service in Iraq. The vote on the amendment came late Wednesday, a day after The Salt Lake Tribune reported many trucks used by soldiers attached to the Utah-based 146th Transportation Company still lack the type of armor that would help vehicles withstand roadside bombs. Others rely on "hillbilly armor," pieced together from salvaged scrap heaps."
Americans want to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq, and Mr. Bush offered quite a bit. "Area by area, city by city, we're conducting offensive operations to clear out enemy forces and leaving behind Iraqi units to prevent the enemy from returning," he said. Best of all, there were "more than 80 Iraqi Army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces." Unfortunately, the real questions are how many of the cleared-out towns actually stay clear once American troops have gone, and how many Iraqi units are capable of fighting on their own, without American soldiers at their side. In both cases, the answers are far more dismal than Mr. Bush suggested.
As a candidate, Mr. Bush got a lot of mileage out of offering the same simple, positive thoughts over and over. But now the nation doesn't need more specious theories about why the invasion was a good idea and cheery assurances that the original plan is still working. If Mr. Bush still cannot acknowledge the flaws in his policy, how can he fix them?
Americans need clear guidelines for judging how long it makes sense to stay in Iraq. Are our troops helping create a nation, or simply delaying an inevitable civil war? Does a continued American presence help push the Middle East toward peace and democracy, or simply inflame hatred of the United States and serve as a rallying point for Al Qaeda? The fact that the president isn't willing even to raise the questions does not increase confidence in the ultimate outcome.
Given the state of the American adventure in Iraq and the way it has sapped the strength and flexibility of the United States armed forces, it was unnerving to hear Mr. Bush talk so menacingly about Syria and Iran. It was also maddening to listen to him describe the perils that Iraq poses while denying that his policies set them in motion.
Ever since the terrorist attacks, the main thing Americans have wanted from Washington is a sense of safety. That takes more than hyperalertness to suicide bombing threats, important as that is. No matter what the terrorists are up to, it is not possible to feel safe if the federal government does not appear to know what it is doing on so many different levels.
Yesterday was an ideal moment for Mr. Bush to demonstrate that he was really in control of his administration. He could have taken any one of a number of pressing worries and demonstrated that he was on the job, re-examining the problems, working on answers. For instance, he could have addressed the crisis facing the overstretched military due to the endless demands made by Iraq on both the Army and the beleaguered National Guard.
The speech came one day after the White House threatened to veto a bill onto which the Senate added a ban on the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against prisoners of the American government. This president could not find the spine to veto a bloated transportation bill that included wildly wasteful projects like the now-famous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. What kind of priorities does that suggest? If we ever needed the president to demonstrate that he has a working understanding of exactly where he wants to take this country, we need it now.
The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating. For most of us, the memories are fresh and painful. We mourn the people who died on Sept. 11, as we mourn Daniel Pearl and other Americans, not to mention innocents from other countries, who were murdered by terrorists. The administration's penchant for using them as political cover is offensive. It threatens to turn our wounds, and our current fears, into cynical and desperate spin.
The photos from Abu Ghraib and the tales of mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq and Afghanistan have badly stained the U.S. image. The contention of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that those we brand terrorists are not entitled to treatment accorded prisoners of war drags this country down to the lowest level of those we fight.
In his speeches and public statements, the president routinely takes the high road, which makes his administration's opposition to the McCain amendment all the more frustrating. Although Bush's address Thursday to the National Endowment for Democracy was mostly a recital of tired themes, the president showed his sensitivity to the Muslim world by quoting from the Koran. (He cited an injunction against killing innocents.)
By far the more eloquent statement of U.S. goals and policy came from the Senate floor on Wednesday. Speaking for his amendment, McCain explained why the Geneva Convention matters to America's captives and America itself. He and his fellow prisoners of the Vietnamese three decades ago "took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them," he said. By passing this amendment, Congress could show those fighting in Iraq and elsewhere "that they need not risk their or their country's honor to prevail."
The House of Representatives should sign on to the Senate amendment, understanding that it can help prevent atrocities such as Abu Ghraib and lessen the danger that captured U.S. troops will be mistreated. And then the president should sign the bill and show that he, too, understands that how we fight this war is just as important as winning it.
But the Senate action was significant, both as a proposed remedy to a problem that shocked world opinion and as an indicator of a second key element underlying the vote: increased uneasiness among Republicans over how the President has exercised his authority and conducted the conflicts in Iraq and against terrorists.
The Senate vote does not mean that they are deserting the President, nor should they be expected to.
But significant numbers of GOP lawmakers have now acknowledged the need to prohibit cruel treatment of detainees -- and rejected both the administration's resistance to a clear policy and its practice of blaming only low-ranking personnel for abuses.
They also seem increasingly inclined to think for themselves.
Those are two good reasons to cheer.
: "Why is this a big deal? Because we are actually destroying infrastructure in a country we occupy. We are saying that the military value of the bridges to the insurgancy is greater than the value to us in either a military or economic/social way. This can be compared to the use of chemicals to destroy the jungle in Vietnam. Not because it caused cancer but because it was the long term destruction of some portion of the country." There's another aspect to this: the ability of the insurgents to use these bridges surpasses the capabilities of the Coalition forces to secure them
From Iraq to Afghanistan to the Central Asian republics, Western militaries are finding it is one thing to train a local army, quite another to obtain its loyalty.
The US and British militaries have suspended their training programs for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan after more than 800 troops from these countries deserted, and many reportedly joined militant groups, such as al-Qaeda and Chechen rebel forces.
According to intelligence sources quoted in the media, the deserters escaped with weapons, including M-16s, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), communications equipment, night vision goggles and other ordnance items.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, IRIN News of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs earlier this year quoted an Afghan Ministry of Defense report saying that more than a quarter of the Afghan National Army (ANA) had deserted since its formation in mid-2002. "Around two to three thousand soldiers have fled the ANA so far," General Zahir Azimi, a spokesperson for the ministry, told IRIN.
There may be a debate raging within the American elites between the gung-go, armchair warrior neo-cons and the "exporting democracy" gang, but meanwhile the Greater Middle East concept keeps accumulating facts on the ground. The divisive project for the new Iraqi constitution, to be voted in the end of next week, is a mechanism to soften the partition of Iraq.
But in the Arab world, as Asia Times Online has learned, the fear is that the death of Iraq will mean in fact the death of Arab nationalism. That's the view, among others, of Abdullah al-Ashaal, a former planner at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: he sustains that de-Ba'athification is being instrumentalized to blow up the foundation of the Iraqi state; Iraq's Arab identity is being threatened so three statelets based on ethnic-religious differences may be created.
The same analysis is shared by Paris-based Lebanese Antoine Basbous, director of the Observatory of the Arab Countries. He confirms that pan-Arabism is a key target of Bush's Greater Middle East and is convinced Iraq's break up is inevitable, not so much because it was an initial American objective, but because now, with extremism being unleashed on all fronts, Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds are ready to go to battle to preserve their interests. More worringly, Basbous predicts that this pattern will be repeated all over the Middle East.
The neo-con allegation that democracy is incompatible with Islam is rubbish: Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, all Muslim countries, are democracies. The specific - and crucial - problem of Arab lands is that the US cannot possibly promote democracy beyond mere rhetoric; otherwise its satraps and client states are in danger of being taken over by Islamist-leaning and certainly anti-US regimes. That would certainly be the case in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Hurricane Katrina has sealed the public image of Bush as a failure. He is, after all, a one-issue president. His success hinges completely on getting high marks in protecting us from danger. Now his big gamble - turning the "war on terror" into a war on Iraq - is backfiring big time. When the waters of Lake Pontchartrain washed away much of New Orleans, they also washed away most of Bush's "political capital". But he had already been losing plenty of that between the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Bush administration still doesn't seem to get it. With hundreds of thousands descending on Washington to protest his war, the president could only repeat his stale old mantra: "will, resolve, character." With more of the same coming from the White House, we can pretty well count on a steadily weakening presidency - unless there is another terrorist attack that kills a large number of Americans or destroys a symbol of American nationalism.
The president's only chance to recoup would be a reprise of September 11, sending another chill of fear up the spine of the body politic. Bush's success has always depended on the fear factor, on the prospect of threat without end.
Fear does move public opinion. That's a lesson the anti-Bush forces have learned well. Their nemesis in the White House has turned out, in this way, to be their master teacher. They are using fear most effectively to bring down a presidency built on fear. It's a delicious irony.
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