War News for Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Not too much News on Iraq today
: Coalition and Iraqi forces will be out in strength Thursday to protect voters. Borders and airports have been closed, the nighttime curfew extended and use of private vehicles has been banned during the balloting.
No World Support
: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday lamented what she said has been an effective boycott by the world community of support for the war crimes prosecution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Not Many Monitors
: "Many international monitoring organizations refused to send its personnel to Iraq to oversee the polls out of fear they may be killed or taken hostage."
"Most of the foreign observers will be in the northern Kurd areas as the security situation is relatively better there," he added.
Safwat Rashid, a member of the IECI Board of Commissioners, which manages the electoral process, told IOL some 700 to 800 foreign observers, mainly embassy staffers in Baghdad, will monitor the voting.
Ballots from Iran - A Lie Apparently
: Strict security measures have been imposed throughout Iraq to prevent disruption by insurgents on the eve of Thursday's parliamentary elections. Private and commercial vehicles have been banned from the streets and overnight curfews have been in place.
Police in the border town of Badra said they had seized an oil tanker filled with thousands of forged ballot papers travelling from Iran.
But the head of Iraq's border guards denied the reports. Lt Gen Ahmed al-Khafaji, the commander of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement, told Reuters it was a lie.
: Criticism has increased against the two main Kurdish parties ruling the autonomous region in northern Iraq: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Recently, the moderate Kurdistan Islamic Union, which was a part of the Kurdistan Alliance list during January's elections, decided to break away from the grouping for the forthcoming elections.
In the past week, Islamic Union offices in the northern city of Dohuk were burned and looted. Four members of the Islamic Union were killed - one of them a senior politburo member - and about 20 others were injured. The leader of the KIU, Salahuddin Muhammad Bahauddin, accused KDP officials of the attacks and called for the election to be postponed in the Dohuk area. KDP leader Massoud Barzani condemned the violence.
: US President George Bush's series of speeches on Iraq have done little to persuade Americans he has a plan for victory in Iraq, according to a new poll. Fifty-eight per cent of those polled in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said Bush did not have a clear plan on Iraq; 38 per cent said he did have a plan for victory.
Half a Trillion Dollars
: The Pentagon is in the early stages of drafting a wartime request for up to $100 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers say, a figure that would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars. Reps. Bill Young, R-Fla., the chairman of the House appropriations defense panel, and John Murtha, D-Pa., the senior Democrat on that subcommittee, say the military has informally told them it wants $80 billion to $100 billion in a war-spending package that the White House is expected to send Congress next year.
: The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups. “I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far,” says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.
Opinion and Commentary
In the days shortly before and shortly after the U.S. invasion, we were given rosy promises some of them by the invaders themselves and some others by Iraqi exiles who returned to the country. We were told each Iraqi family would be given a share of the revenues from our massive oil riches.
Iraqis would no longer suffer from lack of food, medicine or housing, we were told. There would be no more jobless Iraqis, they made us to believe, and that the days of constraints and restrictions on our movement would go for ever. They even said there would no more torturing of prisoners, no more summary arrests and nor more extra-judicial killing or imprisonment.
We were too naive to believe them.
Today, they are reiterating the same pack of lies. They are making similar promises in the run-up to the general elections scheduled for December 15. The incumbent government, for example, is making so many promises none which it bothered to realize during its term in power. Other political factions vying for power are making even rosier promises.
Going to polls is a duty which I encourage all eligible voters to do. But before casting our votes, we need to make sure those we select will not deceive us again. Otherwise there is not point in voting.Allies to the Exits
As my Cato Institute colleague Ted Galen Carpenter archly observes, ''There always has been a dearth of evidence to support the 'international rescue' thesis'' advanced by both sides. Countries that opposed America's invasion of Iraq had little cause to join the occupation, despite the administration's fantastic belief that victory would generate a global bandwagon.
Even most US friends preferred to write letters of support than to send cash or especially deploy soldiers.
The bloody insurgent and terrorist campaigns have deterred all but the hardiest or most dependent allies. Some countries frankly put a price on their participation; others intervened only if their forces were kept away from the fighting and, in the case of Japan, actually protected by soldiers of other nations.
Even so, ever fewer friends are willing to stick around.
Already gone are 10 nations, including Honduras, Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain and Thailand. Ukraine will be out soon. Australia, Bulgaria, Japan and Poland say that they intend to begin withdrawing soon.
Worse, the ''big three'' _ Britain, Italy and South Korea, which collectively provide 14,800 of the 21,500 coalition troops _ are signalling that their commitments have limits.
With an election coming soon, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government is nervous and has started pulling out. The Republic of Korea announced an impending cut of one-third in its contingent the day after President Bush visited South Korea to acclaim the fortitude of the Korean government.
British Defence Minister John Reid, says that British forces will remain ''until the job is done'', but that will be defined as when Iraqis are taking over their nation's security.
Which means most anytime London wants to start toward the exit. Indeed, Prime Minster Tony Blair says that it is ''entirely reasonable'' to consider beginning to withdraw in a year. Some reports suggest that London will start bringing home its troops in May.Terrorism or Insurgency
With public support for the Iraq war at low ebb, the White House is more eager than ever to conflate Iraq's insurgency with terrorism. But last week, just after President Bush gave yet another speech repeatedly depicting the U.S. war effort in Iraq as a battle against terrorists, Rep. John Murtha debunked the claim. His refutation deserved much more news coverage than it got.
"You heard the president talk today about terrorism," Murtha told reporters at a Dec. 7 news conference. "Every other word was 'terrorism.'" Speaking as a lawmaker in close touch with the Pentagon's top military leaders, he went on to confront the core of the administration's current argument for keeping American soldiers in Iraq.
"Let's talk about terrorism versus insurgency in Iraq itself," Murtha said. "We think that foreign fighters are about 7 percent – might be a little bit more, a little bit less. Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."
Murtha threw cold water on the storyline that presents U.S. troops as defenders of Iraqis. He cited a recent poll, commissioned by Britain's Ministry of Defense, indicating that four-fifths of Iraqis now want the American and British forces out of their country. "When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us," Murtha said.
Contrary to what countless pundits still contend, Murtha sees the U.S. presence in Iraq as a boon, not an impediment, to terrorism. "I am convinced, and everything that I've read, the conclusion I've reached is there will be less terrorism, there will be less danger to the United States and it'll be less insurgency once we're out," he said. "I think the Iraqis themselves will turn against this very small group of al-Qaeda. They keep saying the terrorists are going to control Iraq. No way."Boy in the Bubble
Bush's tendencies seem to reflect a broader trend. America has developed an imperial style of diplomacy. There is much communication with foreign leaders, but it's a one-way street. Most leaders who are consulted are simply informed of U.S. policy. Senior American officials live in their own bubbles, rarely having any genuine interaction with their overseas counterparts, let alone other foreigners.
"When we meet with American officials, they talk and we listen — we rarely disagree or speak frankly because they simply can't take it in," explained one senior foreign official who requested anonymity for fear of angering his U.S. counterparts.
It is worth quoting at length from the recently published — and extremely well-written — memoirs of Chris Patten (who is ardently pro-American), recounting his experiences as Europe's commissioner for external affairs.
"Even for a senior official dealing with the U.S. administration," he writes, "you are aware of your role as a tributary; however courteous your hosts you come as a subordinate bearing goodwill and hoping to depart with a blessing on your endeavours... In the interests of the humble leadership to which President Bush rightly aspires, it would be useful for some of his aides to try to get into their own offices for a meeting with themselves some time!
"Attending any conference abroad," Patten continues, "American cabinet officers arrive with the sort of entourage that would have done Darius proud. Hotels are commandeered; cities brought to a halt; innocent bystanders are barged into corners by thick-necked men with bits of plastic hanging out of their ears. It is not a spectacle that wins hearts and minds."
Apart from the resentment that the imperial style produces, the aloof attitude means that American officials don't benefit from the experience and expertise of foreigners. The U.N. inspectors in Iraq were puzzled at how uninterested American officials were in talking to them — even though they had spent weeks combing through Iraq. Instead, U.S. officials, comfortably ensconced in Washington, gave them lectures on the evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
"I thought they would be interested in our firsthand reports on what those supposedly dual-use factories looked like," one of then told me (again remaining anonymous for fear of angering the administration). "But no, they just explained to me what those factories were being used for."
In handling postwar Iraq, senior American officials in Washington avoided any real conversations with U.N. officials who had been involved in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Mozambique and other such places.
To foreigners, American officials increasingly seem clueless about the world they are supposed to be running. "There are two sets of conversations, one with Americans in the room and one without," says Kishore Mahbubani, formerly a senior diplomat for Singapore and now dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Because Americans live in a "cocoon," Mahbubani fears that they don't see the "sea change in attitudes towards America throughout the world."
The imperial style has its virtues. It intimidates, allows for decisive action and can force countries to follow the lead. But it racks up costs. And it is particularly ill suited for the world we are entering. As other countries come into their own, economically and politically, they want to be listened to, not simply tolerated. They resent being lectured to by the United States. They are willing to be led, but in a very different style.