Wednesday, December 20, 2006
WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2006
“Absolutely, we’re winning.” George W. Bush, Press Conference, October 25, 2006
“We’re not winning, we’re not losing.” George W. Bush, interview with the Washington Post, published December 20, 2006
What a difference an election makes! -m
A policeman was killed by gunmen in the southern Shia city of
On Tuesday, 53 bullet-riddled bodies were found in
Police commandos in southern
The commander of a Green Zone police station and 13 police officers were arrested in connection with the escape of
Gunmen dressed in plain clothes abducted in broad daylight the chief resident doctor at the Al-Alwiyah maternal hospital in central
Coalition forces killed an insurgent in eastern
A car bomb wounded two people in Bayaa district in southern
A car bomb wounded two people in
A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a police checkpoint near
A car bomb in the parking lot of an Interior Minstry office charged with issuing identity cards killed four people and wounded eight in Adhamiya district in northern
Gunmen killed university professor Muntathar Mohammed Mehdi in his car, along with his brother and cousin, relatives and hospital sources said. Relatives said Mehdi was a member of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political movement.
The deputy dean of the Al Mushtanriya University law faculty and three other Iraqis were killed by gunmen in the Sunni district of Adhamiyah.
Gunmen killed another person and wounded seven more at a bus station popular with students elsewhere in north
A teacher, whose famous actor brother was discovered dead Tuesday, was also shot dead in a Shia neighbourhood in eastern
At least half a dozen other explosions were heard, some in the area of the Green Zone, where
A suicide car bombing killed one civilian and injured four in northeastern
Gunmen kidnapped six Sunni men at a fake checkpoint 15 miles south of
Police said a Palestinian teacher was killed in a drive-by shooting Wednesday morning in eastern
A roadside bomb killed two motorists and wounded three north of
Coalition forces killed two insurgents in Falluja, the military said.
An Iraqi soldier was killed and three others wounded when a suicide bomber blew up a car near a checkpoint in
The bodies of two people were found, shot dead and tortured, in the town of Mahmudiya, about 30 km south of Baghdad.
Gunmen shot dead five people across the northern city of
Carnage in Diyala: One night last month in
Meanwhile, in the market towns of the restive region, the overwhelmingly Shiite police force routinely tortures Sunni suspects, according to a civilian
"I was told about a guy nicknamed 'Cable Ali' because he tortured and hit guys with a cable," the lawyer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"So I asked the police, 'Does this guy exist?' and they said 'Yes he does, but he only tortures the guilty ones,'" he said.
Earlier this month a high-level
Electrical siege: Over the past six months,
The battle has been waged in the remotest parts of the open desert, where the great towers that support thousands of miles of exposed lines are frequently felled with explosive charges in increasingly determined and sophisticated attacks, generally at night. Crews that arrive to repair the damage are often attacked and sometimes killed, ensuring that the government falls further and further behind as it attempts to repair the lines.
And in a measure of the deep disunity and dysfunction of this nation, when the repair crews and security forces are slow to respond, skilled looters often arrive with heavy trucks that pull down more of the towers to steal as much of the valuable aluminum conducting material in the lines as possible. The aluminum is melted into ingots and sold.
What amounts to an electrical siege of
Oil siege: A report issued by the Iraqi Oil Ministry yesterday said that losses from sabotage acts to
Fixing a nonexistent state: As President Bush weighs his options for forging a new
The state created by the iron fist of Saddam Hussein has been wiped away, replaced by a resurgent tribal society ruled by mutually distrustful political parties that find unity all the more elusive as sectarian violence rages. The result: More than three years after the invasion, the
"The problem is that institutions that did exist have been destroyed ... and that leaves a large political vacuum that can't be fixed short-term," says Phebe Marr, an
International Crisis Group report: Radical action is needed to save a "hollowed-out and fatally weakened" Iraqi state and ease violence that a new Pentagon report says is at an all-time high, a prominent think-tank warned on Tuesday.
The report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said an international effort was needed to prevent
"Hollowed-out and fatally weakened, the Iraqi state today is prey to armed militias, sectarian forces and a political class that, by putting short-term personal benefit ahead of long term national interests, is complicit in
Outreach to Baathists: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s new olive branch to reinstate former army officers and soldiers was “too little, too late” and more steps should be taken to ensure peace for this war-ravaged country, an analyst said.
“This is too little, too late as there are a lot of problems which need tough measures to bring back peace, like the disbanding of militias and fighting corruption,” said Dr Sabah al-Mashhadani, a Baghdad-based analyst at the
The Iraqi government held a two-day national reconciliation conference starting on 16 December in
In a bid to reach out to Iraq's Sunni Arabs, who are seen as the core of the insurgency in Iraq, al-Maliki, who is a Shi’ite, urged officers of the regime of former President Saddam Hussein to join the new army and said there would be a review of the government ban against members of the outlawed Ba’ath party.
Sistani approves political coalition: Iraq’s most venerated Shiite cleric has tentatively approved an American-backed coalition of Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that aims to isolate extremists, particularly the powerful Shiite militia leader Moktada al-Sadr, Iraqi and Western officials say.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein the cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been the spiritual custodian of Shiite political dominance in
But Ayatollah Sistani has grown increasingly distressed as the Shiite-led government has proved incapable of taming the violence and improving public services, Shiite officials say. He now appears to be backing away from his demand that the Shiite bloc play the dominant political role and that it hold together at all costs, Iraqi and Western officials say.
As the effective arbiter of a Shiite role in the planned coalition, the ayatollah is considered critical to the Iraqi and American effort.
The memorandum of understanding was signed by visiting Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani and his Syrian counterpart General Bassam Abdul Majid.
It calls for closer cooperation between their two ministries in a bid to strengthen security on the border between
Bolani traveled to
On November 21,
Media war: The men with laptops sat around an unadorned conference table, chatting amicably about their plans and operations.
The scene on the newly launched Al Zawraa satellite television channel could have been footage from the boardroom of any company, if it weren't for the ski masks the men wore and the subject of the meeting: future mortar attacks on
The renegade, pro-insurgent Al Zawraa channel, with a 24-hour diet of propaganda against
An analysis by the media watchdog found that 55 journalists were killed as a direct result of their work during 2006, up from 47 in 2005. The group is still investigating whether another 27 deaths were work-related.
Militias: Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has replaced al Qaeda in
Attacks by Iraqi insurgents and sectarian militias jumped 22 percent from mid-August to mid-November, and Iraqi civilians suffered the bulk of casualties, according to the quarterly report released on Monday.
The average number of attacks reported each week jumped during that period from nearly 800 to almost 1,000, the report said.
The two most prominent militias -- the Mehdi Army and the Badr Organization -- are armed wings of Shiite political parties whose support is crucial to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The Mehdi Army in particular "exerts significant influence in
The number of attacks recorded in September and October were the highest on record, the report found, but it provided no specific figures.
Nearly 70 percent of attacks targeted
Najaf handover: Iraqi forces assumed security responsibilities in relatively peaceful Najaf province Wednesday, marking the first such handover by
Najaf was the third of
Erdogan held a news conference at U.N. headquarters as President George W. Bush's administration weighed a change in course in
Kurdish separatism: Every year, young men coming of age in this dusty, impoverished town in southeastern
"A free Kurdish nation doesn't solve the poverty of our region," conceded Yusug Turgay, the mayor of this town of 5,000, where donkeys still haul wood to heat the homes, much as they did when Girmeli was founded 1,760 years ago. "That's solved only through jobs, which don't come to troubled corners of the world. We know this, but still our young men go into the mountains, to join the fight."
The PKK, as the Kurdistan Workers Party is known in its Kurdish initials, has been fighting this battle for 22 years, and by all accounts losing. At least 50,000 Kurdish men and boys have joined its cause over the years, but the PKK controls no territory. More than 30,000 Turkish soldiers and PKK guerrillas have been killed in fighting.
Yet the PKK, which the U.S. State Department lists as a terrorist organization, is a growing concern for Turkish officials, largely because of disintegrating conditions in
Turkish officials fear that should Iraq's central government collapse, the three Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq, with their own military and their own government, would become an autonomous nation - and a source of inspiration for Kurdish separatists. Officials in
US Iraq-Related News
Meet the new boss: Robert Gates assumed the helm at the Pentagon on Monday, warning in his first public remarks as defense secretary that failure in
The former CIA chief pledged to give President Bush his honest advice on the costly and unpopular war, and said he would go to Iraq soon to see what U.S. commanders believe should be done to quell the growing violence.
"All of us want to find a way to bring
First on the agenda – PR: New Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an unannounced trip to the battlefront, said Wednesday he discussed with
On just his third day in his post, Gates journeyed to
"We discussed the obvious things," Gates told reporters after meeting with top
His trip so soon after taking office underscored the Bush administration's effort to be seen as energetically seeking a new path in the conflict.
Abizaid to retire: Gen. John Abizaid -- head of the U.S. Central Command -- has officially put in his retirement papers, and is expected to leave his post in mid-March.
Abizaid, who was supposed to retire in the spring of 2006, agreed to extend his tour at the request of President Bush and then-Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Central Command is in charge of activities in
This comes as Gen. George Casey, the top
These developments give new Defense Secretary Robert Gates the opportunity to be involved in selecting key members of his team.
Powell says we’re losing: Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the
Mr Powell's comments broke his long public silence on the issue and placed him at odds with the Administration.
Pentagon says anti-US forces are succeeding: The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in
In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in
"The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. . . . That is the premier challenge facing us now."
Is some reality finally penetrating the bubble?: President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the
As he searches for a new strategy for
In another turnaround, Bush said he has ordered Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to develop a plan to increase the troop strength of the Army and Marine Corps, heeding warnings from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill that multiple deployments in
But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the
Flailing for a strategy: A White House laboring to find a new approach in
The military's caution on shipping thousands of additional troops temporarily to
Commanders also worry that the already stretched Army and Marine Corps would be even thinner once the short-term surge ended. Bush's newly expressed interest in making the military larger would have little impact on that worry because it will take much longer to add substantially to the size of the military.
Generals also question whether sending more troops to
A stupid idea but it makes it look like they’re doing something: The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to
Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in
But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul: The US military may have reached a critical point in generating Army and Marine ground forces to fight its global war on terror.
When it comes to force levels, finding 15,000 to 30,000 additional troops for
More difficult is deciding how long to keep those extra units there. After years of war, US active duty ground forces are stretched to the limit. Many National Guard and reserve personnel can't be deployed to
"The other issue is equipment," says Kevin Ryan, a retired Army brigadier general and fellow at
This is a disappointing article from the Christian Science Monitor, usually a fairly objective source. It mostly covers the ‘surge’ issue from the perspective of an American Enterprise Institute study that, surprise surprise, states that such a surge "is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient." It does not provide the essential context of pointing out AEI’s previous warmongering and how often and profoundly that collection of neocon dimwits were wrong about everything relating to the
Still, the neocons are always good for a little comedy. Here’s my favorite line from the article: “The president must call for young Americans to volunteer to defend the nation in a time of crisis," notes an outline of the AEI report. Ha ha! Now, where could Mr. Bush find some prime-military-age young Americans to volunteer for duty in
We already have a defense budget equal to all the rest of the world so clearly we need a bigger army: President Bush said Tuesday he plans to increase the overall size of the
Bush said he has asked his new defense chief, Robert Gates, to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president did not say how many troops might be added, but he said he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the military is stretched too thin to deal with demands of fighting terrorism.
"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops — the Army, the Marines," Bush told The Washington Post in an Oval Office interview. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."
Put it on your kid’s credit card: A force structure expansion would accelerate the already-rising costs of war. The administration is drafting a supplemental request for more than $100 billion in additional funds for the wars in
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has approved more than $500 billion for terrorism-related operations, including those in
It’s not like we need to account for all that money anyway: The Pentagon is still struggling to get a handle on the unprecedented number of contractors now helping run the nation's wars, losing millions of dollars because it is unable to monitor industry workers stationed in far-flung locations, according to a congressional report.
The investigation by the Government Accountability Office, which released the report Tuesday, found that the Defense Department's inability to manage contractors effectively has hurt military operations and unit morale and cost the Pentagon money.
Justice, Military And Otherwise
Haditha charge: A Marine captain has been told he will be criminally charged in connection with the killing of 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of
Capt. Lucas McConnell, 31, was told by his commanding officer that he will be charged with dereliction of duty, said Kevin McDermott, his attorney.
"We're just absolutely clueless as to what kind of dereliction of duty he could have committed," he said, adding that his client was not present during the killings.
Separately, two military officials said a group of Marines would be charged Thursday for their alleged roles in the killings.
These guys are really earning their paychecks: A Justice Department team responsible for investigating accusations that civilian government employees had abused detainees has decided against prosecution in most of the nearly 20 cases referred in the last two years by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, said lawyers who have been officially briefed on the effort.
The prosecution team, which was established in June 2004 at the
The team has been unable to collect forensic evidence or find witnesses needed to bring indictments out of war-ravaged areas of
The team was set up in the aftermath of the uproar over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in
The military justice system, meanwhile, has won convictions against a number of soldiers in cases from Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in
A real forehead slapper:
Overall, 13.6 percent of soldiers reported suffering from acute stress in late 2005, when the survey was taken. Among soldiers serving their first tours, 12.5 percent reported suffering such stress. But among soldiers on their second tour of duty, the number reporting acute stress jumped to 18.4 percent.
``There is a sense that the yearlong deployments are challenging even if morale is good,'' said Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general. ``The normal things -- births, first steps, birthdays -- those are missed. When soldiers are on second or third tours, my sense is they feel that a bit more.''
The adverse effects of multiple, long deployments is a critical factor for military leaders as they consider increasing the number of soldiers in
In addition, the number of soldiers on their third tour is likely to increase next year, with the return of the Army's Third Infantry Division to
No surprise suicides are up: Suicides among soldiers sent to
Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general, said suicides climbed to a rate of 19.9 per 100,000 in 2005, just above the 18.8 rate of 2003. It had fallen to 10.5 in 2004.
The actual number of suicides in
…The main reasons for the suicides were relationship problems, legal problems and problems with other soldiers, according to the survey.
The rate of suicide was higher for troops in
What A Waste
To die for Oliver North and FOX News: Marine Maj. Megan McClung, a public affairs officer who became the highest-ranking woman killed in Iraq when she died two weeks ago, had been escorting Oliver North and a FOX News crew through Ramadi just moments before a roadside bomb took her life, a military spokesman told E&P on Monday.
When the explosion occurred on Dec. 6, McClung was in the midst of escorting a Newsweek staffer, according to Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, a public affairs officer stationed at
Opinion, Analysis and Commentary
Barry Lando on the ‘surge’ and why it’s a stupid idea: The idea that “surging” twenty thousand more American troops to Iraq can make any real difference to what is already a full scale civil war is risible. Colin Powell pointed this out over the weekend but Colin Powell—as usual—is a latecomer to the party.
Folks talking about increasing U.S. troop levels should first consider some painful military statistics: first of all, according to the Pentagon’s own figures, every front line soldier requires at least three other military types to back him up: engineers, electricians, medics, bookkeepers, etc. Which means that 20,000 more troops to
There’s another jolting irony: while the conflicts in
On top of that is the soaring cost to prepare each American soldier: $120,000 for training plus $25,000 for basic equipment. For that amount, the government could instead send each new troop to Harvard for three years.
Robert Parry on why Gates is unlikely to make any significant strategic changes: In early December, when Senate Democrats politely questioned Robert M. Gates and then voted unanimously to confirm him as Defense Secretary, they bought into the conventional wisdom that Gates was a closet dove who would help guide the United States out of George W. Bush's mess in Iraq.
The thinking was that Gates, a former member of the Iraq Study Group, would represent the views of James Baker and other "realists" from George H.W. Bush's administration. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee praised Gates for his "candor" when he acknowledged the obvious, that the war in
Since the Gates confirmation vote on Dec. 6, however, Bush and Gates have signaled that they have no intention of extricating the
The New Yorker on the Kilcullen counterinsurgency doctrine: In 1993, a young captain in the Australian Army named David Kilcullen was living among villagers in
Kilcullen, the son of two left-leaning academics, had studied counterinsurgency as a cadet at Duntroon, the Australian West Point, and he decided to pursue a doctorate in political anthropology at the
“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in
Sean Penn on the need for accountability at the top: Now, there's been a lot of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment should be "off the table." We're told that it's time to look ahead - not back...
Can you imagine how far that argument would go for the defense at an arraignment on charges of grand larceny, or large-scale distribution of methamphetamines? How about the arranging of a contract killing on a pregnant mother? "Indictment should be off the table." Or "Let's look forward, not backward." Or "We can't afford another failed defendant."
Our country has a legal system, not of men and women, but of laws. Why then are we so willing to put inconvenient provisions of the
Which is to say that, globally, the
John Graham on the Iraq-Vietnam comparison: Sometime in 1969, the White House, faced with unrelenting facts on the ground and under siege from the public, had quietly made the decision that
Nixon and Kissinger didn't put it that way, of course.
It was a rigged game from the start. All but the wildest zealots in Washington knew that the South Vietnamese would not and could not meet our ultimatums: an end to corrupt, revolving-door governments, an officer corps based on merit not cronyism, and the creation of a national state that enjoyed popular allegiance strong and broad enough to control the political and cultural rivalries that had ripped the country's fabric for a thousand years.
During the eighteen months I was in
But none of that was the point. Vietnamization was not a military strategy. It was a public relations campaign.
The White House hoped that Vietnamization would keep the house of cards upright for at least a couple of years, providing what CIA veteran Frank Snepp famously called a "decent interval" that could mask the American defeat by declaring that the fate of South Vietnam now was the responsibility of the South Vietnamese. If they didn't want freedom badly enough to win, well, we had done our best.
To make this deceitful drama work, however, the pullout had to be gradual. The plan (Vietnamization) had to be easily explained to the American people. And the
Living in the bulls-eye, we understood the reality very well, especially when, as public pressures for total withdrawal increased in 1971-72, most of the "force protection" troops went home too. That left scattered handfuls of American trainers left to protect themselves. As the very visible
In April 1972. North Vietnamese forces swept south across the DMZ, scattering the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) defenders and driving to within six miles of Hué. I and a handful of other American trainers and advisors could only watch as a quarter-million panicked people gridlocked the road south to Danang, in a terrifying night reverberating with screams and explosions. We knew that any choppers sent to save us would be mobbed by Vietnamese eager to escape. I'm alive because American carrier jets caught the advancing North Vietnamese just short of the city walls and all but obliterated them.
Now we have the Iraq Study Group Report, advising that the mission of US forces shift from fighting a war to training Iraqi troops and police. The Report calls for the
I've lived through this one before.
Deteriorating conditions on the ground soon will force President Bush to accept this shift in mission strategy. It is Vietnamization in all but name. Its core purpose is not to win an unwinnable war, but to provide political cover for a retreat, and to lay the grounds for blaming the loss on the Iraqis.
Cynthia Tucker on the need to divert resources from
That's a brutal, ugly truth, but it is a truth widely acknowledged by many experts. No amount of hand-wringing or finger-pointing will change it.
A. Alexander on the delusions of our leaders: Robert Gates, Bush's nominee for Defense Secretary, was sworn in on Monday. Gates immediately exhibited the single most important characteristic that the President seeks in those joining his administration: The ability to remain delusional in the face of overwhelming reality.
Gates gave the obligatory post-swearing speech and without even cracking a smile, like Bush et al, pretended
Smintheus on yet another Friday night document dump: The Bush administration, always bursting with embarrassing information, is famously addicted to the document-dump. I discovered long ago that the ritual dumps on Friday evenings had become so widely anticipated that the White House began experimenting with Thursday document-dumps. But any convenient day for burying the bad news will be welcome among this gang.
Given that Robert Gates was sworn in as the new Defense Secretary yesterday, I naturally went looking to see what information the Pentagon would be flushing out the back. The website did not make it particularly easy to discover where the trash was buried. No mention on the "Today in DOD" or the "News releases" pages.
But eventually I smelled it out. I knew there would be something, somewhere. It's the week before Christmas.
Yesterday, it turns out, the Pentagon released to the public its quarterly report on the situation in
…Here is a collection of highly remarkable and inconvenient facts about
p. 27: Since January, sectarian executions have increased more than five-fold.
p. 25: Average weekly attacks are up more than 100% since summer 2005. Civilian casualties are nearly 3 times higher than they were a year ago. And as high as that rate was in the previous quarter, it continues to mount.
p. 45: The number of Iraqi battalions in combat dropped slightly during this quarter.
p. 42: Although the number of Iraqi security forces is said to have increased this quarter, the majority are Ministry of Interior forces, which have a phenomenally high (but unspecified) rate of absenteeism. Therefore the increased numbers are illusory.
p. 17-18: Since the start of the quarter, both oil production and electricity generation are down. Electricity is being generated at a slightly lower rate than in 2004, though unmet demand has greatly increased. Oil revenues are down since 2004.
p. 27: In every region of
p. 29: Between August and October, the confidence that Iraqis expressed in the ability of their government to protect them from violence dropped between 30 and 80% in many provinces. In most of the other provinces that did not witness steep drops, Iraqis already had virtually no confidence in the government.
Another feature of this report, on nearly every page, is the determination to find some way, any way, to put a more positive spin on the grim news.
Juan Cole on the correlation between Operation Forward together and increased insurgent attacks:
Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith with an optimistic article about accountability: The year 2006 will be remembered as one in which the American people and the world rose up to challenge the criminal actions and deceit of the Bush Administration.
Despite massive evidence that top Administration officials have been complicit in systematic violations of national and international law through aggressive war, illegal occupation, rendition and detention of terror suspects without trial, secret prisons and torture, so far they have not been held accountable. Now a diverse array of forces is contesting Bush Administration impunity for war crimes and trying to reassert the rule of law over the executive branch. Each is operating in different arenas and pursuing different kinds of accountability--from public shaming and political disempowerment to international isolation and even criminal prosecution. While all of these initiatives have been reported in the press, their convergence is one of the great underreported stories of 2006.
George Monbiot on the United States of Torture: That the
The New York Times reports that prisoners held by the
Alfred McCoy, professor of History at the
Neither the military nor the civilian authorities have broken much sweat in investigating these crimes. A few very small fish have been imprisoned; a few others have been fined or reduced in rank; in most cases the authorities have either failed to investigate or failed to prosecute. The DAA points out that no officer has yet been held to account for torture practised by his subordinates.
Norman Solomon on the pathetic Colin Powell: When Colin Powell endorsed the Iraq Study Group report during his Dec. 17 appearance on "Face the Nation," it was another curtain call for a tragic farce.
Four years ago, "moderates" like Powell were making the invasion of
The Baker-Hamilton report stakes out a position for managerial changes that dodge the fundamental immorality of the war effort. And President Bush shows every sign of rejecting the report's call for scaling down that effort.
Fred Hiatt on our delusional Secretary of State: Most of all, Rice says, there is a struggle between extremism and moderation. The
But here's where things get a bit more complicated than Rice in her fluency makes them sound, because the forces of moderation -- the "mainstream actors," as she calls them -- are hardly all democratic, and the fruits of democracy are hardly all moderate. The good guys, in her view, include dictatorships (not her word) such as
It grows even more complicated when Rice attempts to fit the neat strategic frame of moderation vs. extremism over the mess her administration has helped create in
Rice is determined to see "real advantages for the
The administration's credibility for such visions is near zero, and justifiably so, given its record of wishful thinking. Rice noted that administration insiders had debated before the war whether it would be "good enough to overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a strongman," and had decided emphatically no, and had understood even then that the democracy-building alternative would be difficult.
But then why did they not share that with the public? And why did they fail so abjectly and repeatedly to prepare for the difficulties? Why, even now, does the president seem to be re-creating the conditions for the infighting that plagued his first term, hiring a defense secretary who seems much closer to Baker than to Rice in his view of the world?
You can't help but be impressed as you listen to Rice discourse on how the region has changed and why the old approaches won't work. You feel less certain, when she's finished, that she or her boss have come up with any alternatives that will.
Jonathan Steele on the ‘blame the Iraqis’ strategy: A rare joke was circulating among Iraqis shortly before their prime minister met George Bush in
It was a barbed reference to the huge number of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homeland since the
The joke also encapsulated the growing Iraqi feeling that the Americans are reaching the climax of a three-year exercise in shifting blame. Whatever has gone wrong in
The line that "it's all up to the Iraqis now" also runs through the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, albeit in a subtle form. The report calls for
Nicole Stracke on Iraqi security forces: Among the 79 recommendations listed by the Iraq Study Group headed by former
The current Iraqi government has no interest in promoting the role of the army. Since the establishment of this government in May 2006, the army has only played a marginal role in securing the country. The Iraqi Constitution subjects the army to the political leadership. Accordingly, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is commander-in-chief of the armed forces; he is in charge of the military institution of the country, including the appointment of the defense minister. Rather than re-building and promoting the army, the Maliki government decided to cushion its political power by politicizing the police forces and allying them with the diverse armed militias. The government’s intention to limit the army’s influence, restrain its capability and make it rely on the police was clearly demonstrated in the prime minister’s proposal to the Parliament in July 2006 wherein Maliki suggested recalling 80,000 troops from the disbanded Iraqi Army, but with 60,000 of them going to the police forces and only 20,000 actually re-employed by the army.
This proposal came at a time when it was already well known that many parts of the police forces were corrupt, politicized and infiltrated by Shiite militias, and hence considered unreliable to be given the responsibility of stabilizing the country. But the proposal reflected the government’s style of governance whereby its power and protection are derived from various militias and a politicized police. The leadership and different political factions, including the prime minister’s Hizb Al-Dawa party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Al-Hakim group), and the Al-Sadr group, rely on armed militias which have been responsible for the destabilization of the country by competing with each other for control and power, thereby contributing to the collapse of security and pushing the country gradually to a sectarian and civil war.
Muhammed Abdel Kader on life in
I work non-stop, 12 hours a day, six days a week. I have never made so many coffins a day in my life. I have to make as many coffins as I can to meet demand in
Before the war, we were making about two or maximum three coffins a day for people who had died from diseases or car accidents. But today we make at least 20 a day for victims of the violence.
For me, this is good business because the more people I bury the more income I get. I usually get US $10 per burial. But I can't be inhuman and say that I don't care because the suffering of the families sometimes makes me think about changing my profession so that I don't ever have to see such depressing scenes.
We coffin makers are in so much demand these days. My job is essential to the country because of the dozens of people who are killed daily and if I don't make coffins, there will be more chaos.
I remember a day, some four months ago, when I and my colleague had to make 50 coffins. Soon there will be no more places here in the cemetery to bury so many bodies.
Some of the dead have been killed by militias or insurgents or in bomb explosions. Others have been killed by gangsters for money or in senseless sectarian violence.
My worst experience was making the coffin of my own brother, Ahmed. He was a 33-year-old cabinet maker with two children. I had to help burying him. He was killed in a bomb explosion and fate had it that I was the one working in the cemetery on that day. Sometimes you don't even have time to cry for the loss of your relative.
After burying my brother, I had to help make coffins for 13 other people who had died on the same day.
My brother's death was a tragedy for my family. We were only two brothers helping our parents because my father lost his leg in the 1991 Gulf War and a month earlier my uncle had been killed by insurgents inside his home - but thank God I didn't have to bury him as it was my day off.
It is very sad to see
An Indiana National Guardsman who died in a suicide bomb attack just weeks before he was to return home from
Gov. Mitch Daniels and Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, will present the medal to the family of Sgt. Joseph E. Proctor today at the Statehouse.
Proctor, 38, who lived in
Proctor was killed May 3 during an attack on a
Local Stories and Casualty Reports
A Hawaii-based Marine was killed in
A 20-year-old Kingwood man who attended
Three soldiers, including one from
A Marine from
Funeral services for a Marine from
A 27-year-old Marine helicopter pilot from