War News Update, Monday, January 9, 2005
Bring 'em on: Car bomb kills two in Baqubah
Bring 'em on (update)
: Two suicide bombers wearing police uniforms and holding security passes tried to attack National Police Day celebrations Monday, with police shooting one to death and the other exploding his vest, killing 29 people.
Opinion and Commentary
Illegal and Immoral
It is impossible to exaggerate the damage caused by the US president's improvident decisions. Yes, these tactics are immoral. Yes, they violate US norms and values. Yes, they are in many respects illegal. All this, by itself, is enough to warrant condemnation by Congress and the public. But it is the lethal effect of these decisions on America's capacity for success in the "war on terror" that most concerns us here.
By employing tactics that only serve to heighten the destructive consequences of a failing strategy, Bush has in essence guaranteed America's failure. In the final analysis, the president's incompetent management of the "war on terror" has helped the jihadis take better advantage of their strengths while exploiting America's weaknesses. This does not bode well for the future of global peace and stability.
For too long, the American public has accepted the myth of presidential effectiveness in the "war on terror". But as the practical implications of Bush's incompetence become ever more apparent - lamentably, through the continued spread and potency of radical jihadism - this last, crucial prop of the president's support could soon fall away. As 2005 was the year in which Bush's fatal incompetence in domestic affairs was revealed to all through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, 2006 could prove to be the year in which his failed leadership in the "war on terror" finally comes back to haunt him.The Shrinking Coalition
The credibility of the coalition as an example of staunch international support for the US invasion of Iraq has always been somewhat suspect, considering its members over time have including small numbers of forces from countries such as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Tonga, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova and Mongolia, to name a few.
Other countries have serious political opposition at home to keeping their forces in Iraq. As of mid-December, 201 non-US coalition forces had been killed in Iraq, including 98 from Britain, 27 from Italy, 18 from Ukraine, 17 from Poland, 13 from Bulgaria and 11 from Spain.
The withdrawals are not that militarily significant as, with the exception of Britain (which is down from an original 40,000 troop commitment to about 8,500), the other countries have not been fighting insurgents; but politically, they are the latest evidence of declining support for the US presence in Iraq.
The withdrawals, however, do have operational consequences. They will increase pressure on Iraq to deploy its own military and security forces, probably including many forces that are not yet fully trained or equipped.
Of course, given that US officials have been leaking the news that they expect to withdraw some troops from Iraq this year, it is not surprising that other nations would do the same.
Consider some recent news. For the US, the most positive news is that at the end of last month, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, as the supreme armed-forces commander, agreed to his cabinet's request to extent Poland's military mission in Iraq until at least the end of this year. But the size of the mission will be reduced from the current 1,400 troops to 900, with the possibility of a further reduction, and the mission's profile will change to focus chiefly on advice and training.
New Polish troops going to Iraq in March will maintain military readiness to support Iraqi forces if need be, but will not undertake military operations themselves.
It should be noted that this news had been expected, but the announcement was postponed to improve Poland's position in talks with Washington, with which it is negotiating military aid. Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz stressed, "The Americans are very much interested in the mission being perceived as an international one rather than solely as a US operation."
Also at the end of 2005, the US asked Japan to consider having a few senior, colonel-class, ground-troop officers remain in southern Iraq after a troop withdrawal from the southern city of Samawah, to participate in US provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. Japan, however, has remained reluctant to join the teams.
On December 8, the Japanese government formally extended the deployment of its troops in Iraq into a third year, with an eye to withdrawing key ground troops as early as this summer. The country has just under 600 troops in the country on a strictly humanitarian reconstruction mission.
Another end-of-the-year development was the news that Denmark's 534 soldiers stationed in Iraq would come home this year. A pullout of Danish soldiers is expected to begin about October or November. The Danish forces' parliamentary mandate to operate in Iraq expires on February 1. The Danish government intends to request an extension until July 1.
On December 30, the last batch of 147 Bulgarian peacekeeping soldiers in Iraq arrived back home. Their two-year mission has now concluded, marking the return of about 400 troops deployed in Iraq since August 2003. The Bulgarian parliament decided in May to withdraw the contingent before the end of the year.
Ukraine has also withdrawn the last of its 150 troops. Evidently, the millions of dollars it took from the US for its past elections were not enough of an inducement to keep its troops there.
In the midst of President George W Bush's visit to Asia on November 19, South Korean defense officials said they were seeking to reduce their troop contribution in Iraq (the second-largest among US coalition partners, after Britain). South Korea's parliament approved a government plan on December 30 to bring home one-third of the country's troops, but extended the overall deployment for another year.
The plan calls for the withdrawal of about 1,000 of the 3,200 South Korean military personnel who are helping rebuild a Kurdish area of northern Iraq. The reduction begins in the first half of this year.Some Blog Views
Comments from Left Field
Yet every time that there is question about troop strength in Iraq the White House response is that the force levels are an operational commander level decision and not a NCA level decision --- ie the field generals are getting everything that they asked for.The Smirking Cynic
Something Republicans may want to make note of was the open audience. Unlike…well, any Republican speaker, Murtha and Moran subjected themselves to any and all questioners. In fact, the first person who was at the mike actually spent their time criticizing Murtha stating that he was mischaracterizing the morale of the troops. But for the most part, questioners thanked Murtha for finally speaking out.
There were three things that really drew applause from those in attendance: soldiers there who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, those who thanked Murtha for taking a stand when other Dems seem either unwilling or unable to, and those calling for either the resignation or impeachment of the Preznit. I should add that the latter was met by Moran with the answer that it’s not going to happen.The Moderate Voice
There's a new controversy about U.S. troops reportedly entering the home of an Iraqi journalist at night firing their guns. This one will be complicated by what the young award-winning Iraqi journalist had been writing about. Details here.
Even though the U.S. news media will be focused on the Alito confirmation hearings this incident is going to create huge p.r. problems for the United States abroad — not to mention (justifiable) calls for a complete explanation of the whole affair. Just suggesting he's in touch with terrorist sources won't do (any reporter reporting from there will be working to have the best and most extensive source network possible). Read the piece and make your own decision (and people will differ on this).WebSpherePower
While 2005 will be forever seen as the year the US government managed to keep unilateral control of the Internet, everyone failed to notice a related change that will have far greater implications for everyday Internet users and for the Internet itself. That change will see greater state-controlled censorship on the Internet, reduce people's ability to use the Internet to communicate freely, and leave expansion of the Internet in the hands of the people least capable of doing the job. It is also another example of where the US government's control has--in real, verifiable terms--had a direct, unchecked impact on the Internet, despite constant assurances that it takes only a benevolent and passive role. And it has come as a result of the US administration's hugely controversial decision to invade Iraq.Al cont'd.
Nevertheless, I think we can agree that words suggestive of finality, like “victory” and “defeat” and “unwinnable”, are ill-suited to describe the Iraqi scene which is very fluid and will remain so most likely for years to come, whether the U.S. military is present or not. Sometimes I think our temptation is to see foreign policy issues as discrete, neatly defined stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. But what’s true for a good work of fiction certainly isn’t true for life as we experience it. The Iraq war (and foreign policy issues in general) demands that we continuously revise our goals and assesments in pursuit of the lesser of evils.