Saturday, October 21, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, October 21, 2006 Cartoon by Steve Bell. (See below "Tony Blair shifted ground...") 150 Mehdi Army militiamen attacked a police station in Suwayra 45 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad. Eight gunmen died. A Sadr spokesman said the attack on the police station was a response to a raid by U.S. troops backed by helicopters on a Sadr office that killed six people. U.S. military said it had no reports of helicopter attacks.
A US helicopter on Saturday bombed an office of Al-Sadr militia in Suwaira, 45 kilometers south of Baghdad, witnesses said. Witnesses told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that a US helicopter fired four missiles on the militia's office, noting that a number of militiamen were killed and wounded in the bombing, but the presence of Iraqi and US forces made it impossible to figure a death toll. Clashes between Al-Sadr Militia (also-known-as Al-Mahdi Army) and the Iraqi forces erupted today in Suwaira, killing nine people, eight of them were militiamen, and wounding an Iraqi Police captain. Rival Shiite militiamen battled near the ancient city of Babylon on Saturday until American forces and helicopters rushed to separate the combatants. Gunfights broke out in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, after a bomb exploded near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that sponsors the Badr Brigades militia. The party's supporters accused members of the Madhi Army headed by the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr of being behind the blast, Police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali said. He said Iraqi army and police called for reinforcements and backup from American forces, who imposed a curfew. There was no immediate confirmation of U.S. involvement from a military spokesmen. Father south in the city of Amarah, where the Mahdi Army briefly took control on Friday, shops and government offices reopened and Iraqi army units manned checkpoints, keeping the militia fighters off the streets.
Iraq's Interior Minister visited Moqtada al-Sadr in the wake of serious clashes between militias and his police forces. Bolani's police forces were routed and their stations burned in the city of Amara on Thursday and Friday when militiamen claiming nominal loyalty to Sadr retaliated for the police arrest of one of their members. (...) "Moqtada al-Sadr sought to calm the situation and give the security institutions time to play its role," said the interior minister. Bolani, who hails from the southern Iraq himelf, was brought in as an honest-broker with no ties to any political party, to purge the police forces of extensive militia infiltration. It is believed that much of the Amara fight and subsequent outbreaks of violence Saturday in Babil and Wasit provinces had more to do with rivarly between militias than hostility towards the institution of the police. [this being unquestionably the slant adopted by the press on this matter, it's completely at odds with the view expressed in "What the Media Intentionally didn't said about the Conflict in Al-Amarah" in the Roads to Iraq blog: "The thing that media don't say is: - The conflict is not between Mehdi Army and the Iraqi police; it is between Mehdi Army and Badr Brigade." -- zig] An envoy of Iraq's prime minister on Saturday met tribal leaders in the southern town of Amara in efforts to ease the tension after fierce battles between militia gunmen and police.
British military officials said they would return to al-Amara if Iraqi troops do not maintain security against attacks by armed groups. British forces, who withdrew two months ago because of daily mortar attacks, were poised to re-enter the southern Iraqi community after armed groups stormed several Iraqi police stations.
Bring 'em on: Three U.S. Marines were killed in combat Saturday in Anbar province, the military said, making October the deadliest month for American forces in Iraq this year. The deaths raised the October toll to 78, surpassing the previous high figure of 76 in April and making October - with more than a week left - on course to be the deadliest month for American service members in two years. Bring 'em on: A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died at approximately 2:37 a.m. today [Friday] when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised-explosive device in southwest Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Friday casualties included a U.S. soldier [see above] and a Salvadoran Army captain whose vehicles were hit by explosive devices in separate attacks south of Baghdad. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Four people were killed when a bomber blew himself up outside Baghdad's Baratha mosque, one of the city's most important Shia sites and a frequent target of attacks. The bomber was driving a minibus when it exploded near the mosque on Saturday, also wounding 15 people. Two people were killed when a car bomb blew up near the Sarafiyah bridge across the Tigris river in northern Baghdad. The bomb apparently missed its intended target, an Iraqi police patrol. A car bomb on Cairo Street in northern Baghdad wounded four people. A car bomb in the southern Amel district of Baghdad wounded two people. A suicide bomber has blown himself up on a bus crowded with Baghdad holiday shoppers, killing four people. Mahmoudiyah: Mortar rounds rained down on a crowded outdoor market south of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens. A bicycle rigged with a bomb tore through the market in Mahmoudiyah first, followed by at least a dozen mortars. Kut: The bodies of four electric company workers kidnapped Friday from the Hafriyah area, 25 miles south of Baghdad, were turned in to the morgue in Kut. Mosul: A roadside bomb wounded two police officers and a woman in a market in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. Kirkuk: One policeman was killed in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. Al Hawija: Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and one wounded in Al Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle. >> NEWS Bush reviewed Iraq strategy on Saturday with top generals for a second day in a row amid increasing election-season pressure to make dramatic changes to address deteriorating conditions. Before a midmorning bike ride, the president consulted for 90 minutes at the White House with his national security team, spokeswoman Nicole Guillemard said. Gathered around a Roosevelt Room conference table with Bush were Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East; Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley; and other officials. Vice President Dick Cheney and Gen. George Casey, who leads the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq, joined in by videoconference. Gunmen staged military-like parades in a string of towns west of Baghdad, underlining the growing confidence of Sunni insurgents in a part of Iraq where U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain a heavy counterinsurgency presence. Like the audacious show of force by up to 60 insurgents in the city of Ramadi on Wednesday, the latest parades - including two less than a mile from U.S. military bases - were staged in support of an announcement this week by a militant Sunni Arab group that it had created an Islamic state in six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad. The declaration was made Sunday by the Mujahedeen Shura Council - an umbrella organization of Sunni insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq - in a video posted on the Internet. Iraqi insurgents are not known to control any territory in Iraq, but the declaration appeared designed to counter the adoption this month of a law that paves the way for Iraq's mainly Shiite south to establish an autonomous region similar to a Kurdish one in the north. Significantly, two of yesterday's four parades - involving dozens of gunmen in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah - took place less than a mile from U.S. military bases, according to witnesses. There were no reports of clashes. Besides Haditha and Haqlaniyah, parades were also held in the towns of Bani Daher and Rwah, all of which are in Anbar, a vast and mostly desert province where the Sunni insurgency has been fiercest since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. Ramadi is Anbar's provincial capital. Tony Blair shifted ground on the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq by saying it was government policy to leave the country within 10 to 16 months - so long as the security situation allowed. The prime minister also agreed with the chief of the general staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, that the presence of British forces could become a provocation, but disagreed with Gen Dannatt by insisting it was still the government's aim to secure a liberal democracy in Iraq. Mr Blair's comments at prime minister's questions appear to be an attempt to pacify the restive mood of the British army, as well as to reflect the developing view in Washington that some radical policy change is imminent after the US mid- term elections. Frantic efforts are under way in Washington and London to find an exit strategy for Iraq as a renewed surge in violence led George Bush to admit yesterday that tactics there might need to change. Diplomats and politicians in both capitals are desperately reviewing and debating options that were once regarded as unthinkable. (...) In Washington, Mr Bush said he would consult his top military commanders in Iraq today over whether a change of tactics was necessary. But the president, who is under intense pressure to rethink his Iraq strategy if not his whole approach to foreign policy, said talks with the generals would only concern tactics, not strategy. "We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives and right now, it's tough," the president admitted to the Associated Press. (...) Pressure for a change of strategy is partly the result of leaks from a review from a study group set up by the former US secretary of state, James Baker, at Mr Bush's request. The leaks from Mr Baker's Iraq Study Group (ISG), which is due to report after next month's Congressional elections, suggest it will recommend a fundamental change of course. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document. A confidential cable from the United Nations' top official in Baghdad, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, said the Iraqi prime minister is seeking to exercise greater control over the release of the country's politically sensitive death toll. U.N. officials expressed concern that the move threatens to politicize the process of counting Iraq's dead and muddy international efforts to gain a clear snapshot of the scale of killing in Iraq. Qazi warned in the cable that the development "may affect" the United Nations' ability to adequately record the number of civilians killed or wounded in the Iraq war as it endures a bloody new phase of sectarian violence. He said U.N. human rights workers would have "no guaranteed means to corroborate" figures provided by the government. >> REPORTS Al-Hayat reported secret talks in Amman between an American delegation and the Islamic Army, the largest armed factions in Iraq, for two days ago,co-side with representatives of the Sunni "Al-Tawafiq" Front and tribal leaders, in addition to the._Sources close to the Islamic Army in Iraq said: senior leaders "received a positive response from the American [...] Iraqi hospitals are dangerous places. Policemen and soldiers carry their wounded comrades into operating theatres and demand immediate treatment, forcing doctors at gunpoint to abandon operations on civilians before they are completed. The hospital system is not a haven from the war. The Health Ministry is controlled by the supporters of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who did well in the elections in December. Intelligence officers claim hospitals are now being used by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia as its headquarters and hospital basements are used as prisons. At least 914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than a third since an increase in sectarian bloodshed at the start of this year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday. Video: IRAQ THE REAL STORY Sean Smith, the Guardian's award-winning war photographer, spent nearly six weeks with the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq. Watch his haunting observational film that explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country. link 'WE HAVE LIBERATED AMARA FROM THE BRITISH. BASRA NEXT' Ten days ago I sat on a mattress on the floor of a Mahdi army safe house talking to Abu Mahdi, a slim 40-year-old, bearded former Arabic teacher and low level commander in the Shia militia. I had first encountered him in Najaf in August 2004, when the Mahdi army seized the holy city. Now he boasted of how his comrades were effectively in control of his home town, 200 miles south of Baghdad. "As we have liberated Amara from the British, Basra is next," he said. "My men are everywhere, can you see the British anywhere? For the people in the street it's my men who rule the town." Yesterday morning the militia loyal to the Baghdad-based cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated that fact - and the acute dillemma facing British and American military planners - in the most dramatic fashion. read in full... Ali Al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail: GOVERNMENT DEATH SQUADS RAVAGING BAGHDAD Death squads from the Ministry of Interior posing as Iraqi police are killing more people than ever in the capital, emerging evidence shows. The death toll is high - in all 1,536 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue in September. The health ministry announced last month that it will build two new morgues in Baghdad to take their capacity to 250 bodies a day. (...) While there is little evidence of direct U.S. involvement, questions have arisen over what the U.S. forces have done - or not done - to encourage such killings. A UN human rights report released September last year held interior ministry forces responsible for an organised campaign of detentions, torture and killings. It reported that special police commando units accused of carrying out the killings were recruited from Shia Badr and Mehdi militias, and trained by U.S. forces. Retired Col. James Steele, who served as advisor on Iraqi security forces to then U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte supervised the training of these forces. Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisor group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers. The violations Negroponte oversaw in Honduras were carried out by operatives trained by the CIA, according to a CIA working group set up in 1996 to look into the U.S. role in Honduras. The CIA records document that his "special intelligence units," better known as "death squads," comprised CIA-trained Honduran armed units which kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of people suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas. read in full... THE EIGHT OPTIONS: WHAT WASHINGTON AND LONDON ARE DISCUSSING 1 British out now One of the British diplomats involved in talks on Iraq policy said the UK, which has responsibility for the south of Iraq, "could go tomorrow almost ... It would not look pretty, but it is doable". Against British diplomats pinpoint three problems if the UK was to pull out immediately. One would be political: the US would not welcome being left virtually alone. The second is military: the US would no longer have a dependable force in the south. The third is security: without British forces in place, fighting between the various militia groups and the criminal gangs in Basra and elsewhere would intensify. For The British presence is part of the problem. If Basra, Amara and other places were to disintegrate after British forces leave, the FCO hopes Shia religious leaders and Iran, which has influence over the Shia, could quickly establish stability. Likelihood Not being seriously considered yet. Halving British forces next summer, with further reductions later on, is still the likeliest outcome. 2 US coalition out now "We could pull out now and leave them to their fate," a Foreign Office official said. "But the place could implode." The advantage of this option would be to cut short the agony. Against A premature pull-out could precipitate an even more ferocious civil war. Faced with world outrage over the level of human rights abuses and carnage, the US might then have to consider going back in circumstances even worse than before. For The presence of US forces is making things worse. The insurgency would lose its patriotic justification. A pull-out might force the Iraqi parties and security forces to work together or face a descent into anarchy. Likelihood Such an early exit is unlikely. It would be an unpalatable humiliation for the Bush administration and most of its critics agree that a hasty withdrawal could ultimately oblige the troops to go back. 3 Phased withdrawal This is the present policy, but any pull-out is contingent on Iraq developing its own security forces. But there are increasing calls in Washington and London for a timetable. A Foreign Office official said: "The date might possibly have to be secret." Otherwise it could encourage insurgents to step up attacks. During this stage, the US could pour in money for employment programmes. Against The risk of agreeing a secret date with the Iraqi government is that, as with much else in Iraq, the date would probably leak out anyway. For The prospect of the removal of its security blanket might force the Iraqi government to face up to the many issues it ignores at present, such as the rise in sectarian violence. It also allows more time for training the Iraqi army and trying to train and reform the police force, a policy that has so far proved to be slower than coalition forces had hoped. Likelihood Still the likeliest option. 4 Talk to Iran and Syria There appears to have been virtual consensus in the Baker commission for talks with Iraq's two most difficult neighbours on the grounds that they must ultimately want stability but will not pursue it while excluded from negotiations. The FCO, which has an embassy in Tehran, is pushing for engagement too. Against Iran and Syria could make demands in return for help that the Bush administration would find hard to accept. Iran would, at a minimum, demand that the US stop calling for regime change. Syria could urge the US to put pressure on Israel to return the Golan Heights, lost in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. There is some question over whether either country could stop sectarian killings. For Whatever the limitations of their influence, the bloodshed is only likely to worsen until they are brought on board. Likelihood There may be too much resistance in the Bush administration to direct talks, but the US could well give the nod to negotiations between a sovereign Iraq and its powerful neighbours. 5 Iraqi strongman The US and British governments have been disappointed so far with Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's elected prime minister who took over earlier this year, mainly over the reluctance of his Shia-dominated coalition to tackle Shia death squads. Washington and London could press for his replacement with a strongman at the head of a junta, such as Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister from 2004-05 - and roll back democracy. Against Ousting a democratic government, with its carefully crafted constitution, would amount to a scandalous policy failure. "I do not see that as an option for western democracies," a British official said. Allawi is treated with suspicion by religious Shias because he is secular and detested by Sunnis because he presided over the attack on Falluja. For Only a strong, secular Iraqi leader could break the sectarian deadlock and broker the kind of compromises over oil and regional autonomy that are essential to prevent civil war and keep the country together. Likelihood Not likely. 6 Break-up of Iraq Iraq is moving towards a federal model that could result in its break-up. The Kurdish area to the north is virtually autonomous anyway. The Shia-dominated area stretching from Basra in the south to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf further north could form another bloc, leaving the Sunnis with much of the west and centre - mostly oil-free desert. Advocates of such partition talk about using coalition forces to escort minority populations across the ethnic divides to streamline the partition and working out a fair revenue-sharing formula for oil. Against The break-up would leave a power vacuum in the region, which Iran, Syria and Turkey could exploit. The partition of Iraq would not be easy. Baghdad, which has huge Sunni and Shia communities, could explode. For The sectarian killings are creating de facto partition. Military escorts for civilians displaced by the violence would at least reduce the death toll. Likelihood Events on the ground may make it inevitable. 7 Redeploy & contain There are two variations. One is for US forces to leave populated areas and retreat to "super-bases" in the desert from where they could support Iraqi forces - something the army has already begun. An alternative would be for the US forces to move out of Iraq altogether and use bases in nearby countries. Against "Super-bases could be the worst of both worlds," argues Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority. The troops would be too cut off from the streets to have much impact, but they would remain foreign occupiers. It could be difficult to persuade other Arab countries to provide bases, and once out, it will be harder going back. It could also be perceived as cutting and running. For US forces would no longer be in the firing line and with them gone, the motivation for many of the insurgents might evaporate. They would still be at hand to prop up the elected government. Likelihood Quite possible in the short term as the US tries to stem its casualties, but unlikely as a lasting solution. 8 One last push This would involve an increase of troops in the short term in the hope of creating sufficient security to deliver economic gains and create confidence in the Iraqi government. This roughly is Senator John McCain's preferred option, but might also appeal to Mr Bush as it would not immediately require a policy U-turn. Against It might be too late to curb the escalating violence and it would be politically unpalatable at home. It could leave even more US forces stuck in the middle of a civil war. For Military experts have long said there are not enough coalition forces in Iraq to seal the borders against infiltration and stamp out sectarian killings. It would be a sign of backing for the Baghdad government and would force sectarian leaders to take it more seriously. Likelihood A final gamble by Mr Bush is not to be discounted. Senator McCain is a presidential frontrunner for 2008, but by then Iraq may look very different. read in full... IRAQ: WHAT DOES 'JOB DONE' MEAN? The mantra, since the bloody and illegal war in Iraq started, has been: "we will leave Iraq when the job is done." What exactly does this mean? Why doesn't anyone ask Mr Bush/Blair what 'job done' means? Yesterday, Mr Blair told MP's at Question Time: "Troops will be out of Iraq in 16 months." No one asked him about an earlier report by Kim Sengupta in The Independent (22.09.06), who wrote: "A force of around 4,000 British troops will stay behind in Iraq for an indefinite period, even after all provinces controlled by the UK are handed over to the Baghdad government in nine months' time, senior defence sources said yesterday. " The soldiers will be positioned at a base in Basra ready to act to "protect the investment" made by US and British forces in the country, it was disclosed." WHAT 'investment'? It is important to read Mr. Holland's well researched article (18.10), Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil1 "Even as Iraq verges on splintering into a sectarian civil war, four big oil companies are on the verge of locking up its massive, profitable reserves, known to everyone in the petroleum industry as "the prize." This 'prize' is probably also why there is reportedly a new US base being built near the oil fields in Northern Iraq. With regard to the disintegration of Iraq, a recent Washington Post article (14.10.06) spoke of Iraqi death squads and their connection with the Facilities Protection Service (FPS). Ms. Knickmeyer neglected to mention that Donald Rumsfeld, with the enthusiastic support of President Bush, was the originator of the FPS. Rumsfeld was/is ultimately thus responsible for the training of these Iraqis, now labeled as 'death squads.' One must then ask if the reason for the disintegration of Iraq is directly related to U.S. Government policy. This breakdown goes 'shoulder to shoulder' with corporate control of resources remaining in the hands of the occupiers. It no longer matters whether there are troops in Iraq or not, as long as 'some' US/UK troops are in the Green Zone and at key US/UK bases2 surrounding Iraqi oil resources to safeguard Bremer's Laws and to "protect their interests." That Iraqis are being tortured and murdered in obscene numbers is irrelevant to the more important matters at hand for the US/UK governments. 'Job Done.' link THE US INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF IRAQ WASN'T WORTH IT AFTER ALL The straightforward answer is of course, NO. As the manifested neocons' agenda of going into war in Iraq, was to dislodge Saddam from power. Because he was marketed as possessing WMDs, and had a link with Al-Qaeda. The latent agenda nonetheless, was to punish Saddam for hitting Israel with long-range missiles, in 1991. Whether that was for bad reasons, is a different story. The fact of the matter, he did risk his political fate, and fired missiles on Israel. Thus, the war was launched upon protecting Israel's national security, not more, not Less. As such, the WMDs, and Al-Qaeda connection upon which the war was said to be fought, had now been obsolete. Had Saddam remained in power, Wouldn't things have been far much better for the World's safety, and security than they are now? The straight forward answer is of course, YES. read in full... A COUP IN THE AIR I first raised the possibility of a coup [in Iraq] in an October 6 column, "Coup in Iraq?" for TomPaine.com. It followed a drumbeat of comments and statements from Bush administration officials, US military officers, US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner and former Representative Lee Hamilton - co-chairman with James A Baker III of the Iraq Study Group - all of whom warned Maliki ominously that he had only a matter or weeks or months to get a handle on Iraq's paramilitary armies, militias and death squads. The consequences for the prime minister of failing to do so were left unsaid, but the warnings were so explicit that Maliki spoke to President George W Bush this week about how he should interpret the barrage of deadline-like statements, and the president replied, according to spokesman Tony Snow, "Don't worry, you have our full support." (Think: Heck of a job, Maliki!) In fact, whatever consoling words the president might have had for him, the Iraqi prime minister has almost no reservoir of support left either in Washington or among US military commanders in Iraq. (...) David Ignatius - an exceedingly well-connected reporter at the Washington Post - wrote a column on October 13 citing Mutlaq as well, and suggesting that Iraq's own intelligence service (created, funded, and run by the Central Intelligence Agency - CIA) is involved:
The coup rumors come from several directions. US officials have received reports that a prominent Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, visited Arab capitals over the summer and promoted the idea of a national salvation government, suggesting, erroneously, that it would have American support. Meanwhile, top officials of the Iraqi intelligence service have discussed a plan in which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would step aside in favor of a five-man ruling commission that would suspend parliament, declare martial law and call back some officers of the old Iraqi army.
Frustration with Maliki's Shi'ite-led government is strongest among Iraq's Sunni minority, which dominated the old regime of Saddam Hussein. But as sectarian violence has increased, the disillusionment has spread to some prominent Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians as well. Some are said to support the junta-like commission, which would represent the country's main factions and include former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi - still seen by some Iraqis as a potential 'strongman' who could pull the country back from the brink. To be sure, Allawi - in London - denied any reports in an interview with Newsweek that he is involved in plotting a coup. "Total nonsense. To plot a coup, I don't sit in London," huffed Allawi, a long-time asset of the CIA and British intelligence. "I would be sitting in Baghdad trying to make a coup." Allawi's denials aside, when I spoke to a former CIA officer with wide experience in the Middle East, far from pooh-poohing the idea he had this to say:
It's being talked about in Washington. One scenario is, the Iraqis do it themselves, some Iraqi colonel who's fed up with the whole thing, who takes over the country. And it would take the United States forty-eight hours to figure out how to respond, and meanwhile he's taken over everything. The other side of the coin is, we do it ourselves. Find some general up in Ramadi or somewhere, and help him take over. And he'd declare a state of emergency and crack down. And he'd ask us to leave - that would be our exit strategy. It's a distinct possibility. I've raised this with a number of foreign service and intelligence people, and most of them - remembering the days of the coups d'etat in the Middle East - say, "Hear, hear!"
And you know what? I think Rumsfeld would jump on this idea in five minutes. Of course, no coup will happen at all - no general or colonel would dare try - without, at the very least, a wink and a nod from the CIA, the US military, or Khalilzad. And most likely, it would take significantly more than a wink, something like explicit support and promises of assistance. But, according to my reporting, that is precisely what is being discussed in Washington, even among the inner councils of Baker's Iraq Study Group, the realist (that is, anti-neo-conservative) commission set up last spring to figure out what to do about Iraq. Salah Mukhtar, a former top Iraqi official who served as Iraq's ambassador to India and then Vietnam in the period just before the US invasion of Iraq, is not a spokesman for the Iraqi resistance. But he is very well plugged in to the thinking of that country's insurgent leaders. When I spoke to him this week by telephone, he assured me the resistance was well aware that elements in the Bush administration might be planning a coup. According to him, the main focus of such a coup - even one fostered by the United States - would be to mobilize the Iraqi Army against the Shi'ite militias: The increase in the volume of mass killing in Iraq is creating a willingness among the people to accept a military coup. I would say that 80% of Iraqis are willing to accept it, to accept anything that would help to crush the Iranian gangs [ie, the militias of the Shi'ite religious parties, such as the Badr Brigade and the Mehdi Army]. The United States is making contacts with some old Iraqi generals in Jordan. They are former Ba'athists. The United States is looking for people to topple the government of Maliki. Some of them are in Iraq, and some of them are based in Jordan. Some of them turned down the US offers, but some of them accepted. If there is a military coup in Iraq, that coup will be [sympathetic to] the Ba'athists. If its leader is not pro-Ba'athist, there will be a second coup against that leader. So either way, it will result in a pro-Ba'athist government ... It would be a crazy move by the United States. It shows that they don't understand Iraq. (...) Iraq is utterly anarchic, a Mad Max world of clashing paramilitaries, gangs, warlords, sectarian fighters, death squads, criminal enterprises, government-backed mafias, and several hundred thousand army men, police, Interior Ministry commandos and special units like the Facilities Protection Service that are only loosely under the control of the central government. So how would a prospective coup-maker, even with Washington's fervent backing, impose his will on all that? The answer is: he couldn't. If a coup happens, it will likely signal that the center of gravity inside Baghdad's Green Zone has shifted from the Shi'ite majority (and its religious parties, such as Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) to a more centrist, more pro-Sunni, less sectarian, less religious and less ideological bloc. It might be seen as an attempt by the CIA and the US military to re-install a more Saddam-like regime in Baghdad, perhaps with the intent of undoing the damage that has been done to Iraq's unity and stability by the neo-conservatives. But like all too-clever-by-half strategies, this one would probably make things not better but a lot worse in a country that has already been torn to shreds by the US invasion and occupation. read in full... U.S. COMMAND ANNOUNCES BATTLE OF BAGHDAD LOST [And Iraq War] [When the occupation command started this, they boasted that this was the "Battle Of Baghdad," and if Baghdad couldn't be "taken back," the war was lost. And now, for the results.]
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 19, By JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times The United States military command in Iraq acknowledged on Thursday that its 12-week-old campaign to win back control of Baghdad from sectarian death squads and insurgents had failed to reduce violence across the city. In one of the most somber assessments of the war by American commanders, a statement read by the spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said the campaign had been marked by increasing attacks on American troops and a spike in combat deaths. (...) "The violence is indeed disheartening," General Caldwell said. (...)
Senior officers have spoken of the campaign in "make or break" terms, saying that there would be little hope of prevailing in the wider war if the bid to retake Baghdad's streets failed. (...) Perhaps the most striking element in the news conference was General Caldwell's candor. Although American commanders have struck a generally sober tone in the past year, they have been careful not to hint in public at the increasingly gloomy view that some, at least, have taken in private.
link SO IT'S ALMOST OFFICIAL You'd think I'd be heartened by pronouncements from the Pentagon, numerous talking heads and now various Reptilican misleaders that they're now deciding that the Iraqi fiasco is an unwinnable war with no good options that has us mired in Quicksand. (note the dates on the posts). But 3 years into this fucking mess, with potentially hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, almost a million displaced, the destruction of the country's entire infrastructure, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, the destruction of thousands of priceless antiquities and artifacts, the releasing of nuclear materials and the unrecoverable tarnishing of America's might and prestige abroad, and the very distinct possibility of this transforming into a regional firestorm, well - pardon me if I don't feel charitable to those coming late to the reality-based community. link CONSTANTLY CHANGING Paul Richter and Doyle McManus write in the LAT about the likely change in course in Iraq after the November elections. It starts by pointing out a recent addition to Bush's speeches I've been meaning to mention, a claim that "Our goal hasn't changed, but the tactics are constantly adjusting". They suggest that this is his way of making changes without admitting to the failure of his old policies. That's part of it, but I'd highlight the function of that adverb "constantly," which is to fend off proper analysis and debate. Every time he's used the strategy/tactics distinction recently, he's said that tactics are "constantly" changing. While the strategy and goals are (the Bushies insist) beyond debate because of their set-in-stonedness, there is no point for Congress or anyone else to discuss tactics for the exact opposite reason: they're changing all the time; by the time you've discussed one failed tactic (Operation Forward Together, which was to restore stability to Baghdad, for example), they're already on to the next one, because they're "flexible," see, and they react according to events in Iraq, not Washington. read in full... NOT IN SPITE OF, BUT BECAUSE The people running everything in the U.S. government obviously don't know the most basic information about life on earth. Do they get to their positions in spite of not knowing anything, or because they don't know anything? Here are some interviews, from a recent Frontline special called The Lost Year in Iraq, about the appointment of Paul Bremer to be head of the CPA:
THOMAS RICKS (author of Fiasco): [Bremer] had worked for Henry Kissinger, kind of respected in counterterrorism from a diplomatic point of view, but doesn't know a whole lot about the Middle East, doesn't speak Arabic, doesn't know the region... JAMES DOBBINS (former Assistant Secretary of State): What he lacked was the practical experience, and it was that lack of experience that commended him, in large measure, to the Bush administration. MICHAEL WOODS (co-author of Cobra II): Bremer had never served in the Middle East...we were sending a person who had never served in the Middle East and who had no nation-building experience to be the dominant personality in Iraq. Now, given where the Bush administration was coming from, this apparent lack of qualifications was seen as a plus, because he didn't have the Middle East mind-set of the State Department, and he wasn't contaminated by the Clinton-era thinking. But there were really huge gaps in his r�sum�.
Not in spite of, but because. link >> BEYOND IRAQ SO, DOES THAT RNC OSAMA AD SUCK OR WHAT? All they've got left is telling Americans that we're going to be attacked again? That's it???
The Republican Party will begin airing a hard-hitting ad this weekend that warns of more cataclysmic terror attacks against the U.S. homeland. The ad portrays Osama bin Laden and quotes his threats against America dating to February 1998. "These are the stakes," the ad concludes. "Vote November 7." Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the ad would run on national cable beginning Sunday, but he declined to discuss specifics of the buy. [...] The ad displays an array of quotes from bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that include bin Laden's Dec. 26, 2001 vow that "what is yet to come will be even greater."
Man, they're really losing their touch. I watched the ad, and my first question afterwards was 'Why is Osama still out there, able to threaten America?' Does the RNC really want people asking that question? link


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