Monday, July 31, 2006
"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire,'' al-Sistani said in a clear reference to the United States. "It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon,'' he added. ``If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region.''Sistani had earlier condemned Israeli air raids on Lebanon but had confined himself to ordering the Iraqi Shiite religious establishment to provide aid to victims of the war in Lebanon. Sistani's statements of early Monday morning (which are not yet reflected at his website in Arabic) go substantially beyond his earlier statement. Several questions arise: 1) Why is Sistani speaking like this? 2) What can he do about it all? and 3) What are the possible consequences if he turns anti-American in practice, not just in rhetoric, as in the past? Sistani is taking such a hard line on this issue not only because he feels strongly about it (his fatwa against the Jenin operation of 2002 was vehement) but also because he is in danger of being outflanked by Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's Mahdi Army is said to be "boiling" over the Israeli war on Hizbullah, since after all the Sadrists are also fundamentalist Shiites and they identify with the Lebanese Hizbullah. There have already been big demonstrations in Baghdad against the Israeli attacks, to which Sadrists flocked but probably also other Shiites. Sistani cannot allow Muqtada to monopolize this issue, or the young cleric's legitimacy will grow among the angry Shiite masses at the expense of Sistani's. (...) Sistani has issued a warning to the United States. He wants Bush to intervene to arrange a ceasefire, i.e. the cessation of israeli air raids on Lebanon in general. What could he do if he were ignored? Sistani could call massive anti-US and anti-Israel demonstrations. Given Iraq's profound political instability, this development could be extremely dangerous. US troops in Baghdad and elsewhere are planning offensives against Shiite paramilitary groups, so tensions are likely to rise in the Shiite areas anyway. But big demonstrations could easily boil over into actual attacks on US and British troops. Both depend heavily on fuel that is transported through the Shiite south. Were the Shiites actively to turn on the US for its wholehearted support of continued Israeli air raids, the US military could be cut off from fuel and supplies. The British only have around 8,000 troops in Iraq, and they would be in profound danger if Iraq's Shiites became militantly anti-occupation. (...) Sistani does not issue threats lightly, and he has repeatedly shown a willingness to back them up with action. Bush and US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will ignore him to their peril. read in full... QANA WILL IMPACT IRAQ Expect life to get short, lonely, and interesting, for a lot more American
Sunday, July 30, 2006
AP, Sunday, July 30, 2006 BAGHDAD, Iraq — Changes will be made in the Iraqi Cabinet following an escalation in violence threatening Baghdad, politicians said Sunday. The Cabinet changes could take place as soon as next week, said Hassan al-Suneid, a lawmaker from the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. Among the ministries that could be affected is Interior because of a collapse in security as bloody sectarian attacks escalate. Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani is under fire because of the ongoing violence. On Sunday, al-Bolani acknowledged sectarian influences have corrupted the government and jeopardized the country. He conceded corruption exists in his own ministry. "We will not allow any act of violence and sectarianism inside the ministry. Our country faces big confrontations and challenges," al-Bolani told parliament members as he briefed them on what he said is a new security plan to be announced in September. Al-Suneid said the minister's previous comments to parliament "have not been encouraging," adding that "there are fears he will be replaced and that's why he addressed the parliament." Al-Bolani, however, told The Associated Press he was unaware of any cabinet reshuffle. Some ministries expected to be affected include the health, transport and justice ministries. The first set of changes in al-Maliki's cabinet will include the service ministries, followed shortly afterward by security ministries — which are among the most important as bloody sectarian clashes threaten to unravel the country. Sheik Mahid Mualla, a cleric from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's biggest Shiite party, said upcoming changes are necessary for the country to survive. "The success of these is the success of the government," Mualla said.Rumors circulate of a possible coup attempt in Iraq. Excerpt:
By Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan Washington Post Staff Writers Saturday, July 29, 2006; Page A13 BAGHDAD, July 28 -- A Shiite Muslim political leader said Friday that rumors were circulating of an impending coup attempt against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and warned that "we will not allow it." Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament from Iraq's most powerful political party, said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf that "some tongues" were talking about toppling Maliki's Shiite-led government and replacing it with a "national salvation government, which we call a military coup government." He did not detail the allegation. A new government would mean "canceling the constitution, canceling the results of the elections and going back to square one . . . and we will not accept that," he said. Amiri is also a top official in the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading member of a coalition of Shiite political parties governing Iraq.U.S. troops in Iraq suffering from kidney stones due to excessive Gatorade consumption. Command Sgt. Major Lawrence A. Hall of the 1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry, is restricting Gatorade consumption at Camp Anaconda. A secondary benefit -- "Cutting back on the amount of Gatorade also means fewer convoys on the highways bringing the stuff in and, as a result, fewer people dying from roadside bomb attacks.." You can't make this stuff up -- C NOTE: As many people have noted, the Lebanon war has drawn attention away from Iraq. We want to make sure we stay focused on our mission. However, for a comprehensive update and analysis of the situation in Lebanon, I recommend Juan Cole's post today. There's no need for me to reinvent it. -- C QUOTE OF THE DAY In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib. . . . If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support. Believe it or not, The New York Times.
Four Marines were killed Thursday in unspecified "enemy action" in the western
Armed men in two cars sprayed gunfire at the Muhammad Rassulluallah mosque shattering windows and damaging walls. An hour later gunmen stormed the nearby Ashra al-Mubashara mosque, fleeing when police arrived.
Two roadside bombs in different parts of
Iraqi security forces said they had arrested over 60 suspected insurgents in different parts of
Iraqi forces captured a foreign fighter on Thursday in a raid on the Abu Ghraib district in western
A grenade attack wounded 12 people as they queued for temporary labour work in central
One policeman was killed and another wounded when gunmen opened fire in a drive-by shooting on their patrol in the oil refinery city of
Gunmen opened fire at two brothers in south of Baquba, killing one of them and wounding the other.
Gunmen kidnapped a man in the busy market of Baquba and seriously wounded another, while another local resident, Hassan Humoud, was also kidnapped in the city by a group of gunmen.
American troops clashed Saturday with gunmen of the Mahdi Army militia, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of
Seven police were wounded in a joint
(These reports appear to describe the same incident but note that who was wounded is different. Go figure.)
Suspected Sunni radicals planted a bomb in a small Shiite shrine in Diyala province, northeast of
Unknown gunmen on Saturday killed two people, wounded two others and kidnapped two more in separate incidents in Diyala province in northeast
Gunmen assassinated the western regional commander of the Iraqi Border Protection Force, Brig. Gen. Jawad Hadi al-Selawi, in
Iraqis waiting in a long line of cars to buy gasoline in
A car bomb in northern
Gunmen shot dead an Iraqi army soldier in Maqdadiyah.
A minibus driver was killed when three gunmen in a car opened fire on him in southeastern Mosul.
The U.S. military provided more information about a clash with Shiite militiamen Sunday in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. U.S. troops, along with Iraqi soldiers and police, killed 33 insurgents in the daylong battle, the U.S. military said in a statement. The U.S. troops came under gunfire and "rocket-propelled attack" when they entered the downtown area and responded with the assistance of Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks.
An Iraqi soldier shot dead a policeman after an argument at a checkpoint in Najaf.
A suicide bicycle bomber hurt two policemen when he blew himself up at their checkpoint near Qaim, in western Anbar on the Syrian border. The bomber died.
A woman was killed and two others wounded when a mortar hit a house in the small town of al-Alam, near Tikrit.
A Sunni cleric from a tribe opposed to al-Qaeda was killed while driving in Samarra.
There was an explosion on an oil pipeline near Samarra.
In the Shiite town of Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, Mayor Hussein Mohammed al-Ghurabi, said Saturday that more than 500 armed Sunnis had gathered in a nearby village and were firing on his town daily.
Police said they pulled two headless corpses wearing military uniform from the Tigris river in the town of Suwayra.
Death threat: Iraq's national soccer coach has resigned after receiving death threats against him and his family, a top sporting official said yesterday.
Troop increase: The U.S. command announced Saturday that it was sending 3,700 troops to Baghdad to try to quell the sectarian violence sweeping the capital, and a U.S. official said more American soldiers would follow as the military gears up to take the streets from gunmen.
The 172nd Stryker Brigade, which had been due to return home after a year in Iraq, will bring quick-moving, light-armored vehicles to patrol this sprawling city of 6 million people, hoping security forces respond faster to the tit-for-tat killings by Shiite militias and Sunni Arab insurgents.
Tour extensions: The tours of 4,000 American soldiers who had been scheduled to leave Iraq in the coming weeks have been extended for up to four months, signaling that there would almost certainly be no significant troop pullout before the year’s end, military officials and analysts said Saturday.
The new security plan allows almost no room for significant troop withdrawals by the end of 2006, Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in an interview on Saturday.
If any troop pullout takes place in the coming months, “it would be so cosmetic that it would be meaningless,” he said. “It would be statistical gamesmanship.”
“People are now talking about 2009 as the goal for achieving really serious security,” he added.
Reassurance: Pentagon officials have said plans call for adding military police, armored vehicles and tanks to the streets of the capital to work alongside Iraq's U.S.-trained police and army units. Those units are heavily Shiite, and the presence of Americans is intended to assure Sunnis that the Iraqi forces are not Shiite death squads in uniform.
U.S. and British officials have said Iraqi units, especially the police, have been infiltrated by Shiite militias and have lost the confidence of many Iraqi civilians.
However, the strategy also risks further discrediting Iraqi forces, affecting their morale and making Americans more vulnerable to attack. U.S. casualties have eased in recent months as Americans handed over more security responsibility to the Iraqis and assumed a support role.
But the bitterness of the sectarian conflict and the high stakes at play have proven too much for the Iraqi force in the capital. The surge in attacks also pointed to the failure of al-Maliki's security plan for Baghdad, unveiled with great fanfare last month.
Calmer in Baghdad – we’ll see what happens elsewhere this week: Heavily armed American troops have returned to some of the most violent areas of Baghdad, patrolling the streets and setting up checkpoints in an attempt to regain control of the city and quell increasing sectarian violence.
Their return sparked fierce criticism from opposition leaders but was welcomed by many ordinary Iraqis desperate for peace after months of murderous violence between rival militias.
Yesterday proved to be one of the most peaceful days in months with no deaths reported in the capital by late afternoon, although two Sunni mosques were raked by gunfire which injured a guard. In contrast, an average of 100 people have been dying in sectarian attacks every day in Baghdad.
Another $5 billion down the rathole: Appearing with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki earlier this week, President Bush vowed to provide more equipment to Iraq's security forces. There are no specifics yet, but defense analysts say the forces are woefully under-equipped. Aside from concerns that the United States could be equipping a civil war, the cost is substantial.
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey says the Iraqis need about 2,000 armored Humvees, 2,000 M-113 armored vehicles, 120 Blackhawk transport vehicles, and 24 C-130 transport planes. McCaffrey says the cost -- an estimated $5 billion -- has both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Office of Management and Budget concerned.
Team Shiite objects: One of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders rejected the use of US forces to stabilize Iraq's security situation, as the Pentagon announced an increase in troop numbers.
Abdel Aziz Hakim told a rally in the holy city of Najaf that Iraqis should handle their own security, despite the mounting death toll in Baghdad, which is in the grip of a dirty war between rival Sunni and Shiite death squads.
Coup talk: A Shiite Muslim political leader said Friday that rumors were circulating of an impending coup attempt against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and warned that "we will not allow it."
Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament from Iraq's most powerful political party, said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf that "some tongues" were talking about toppling al-Maliki's Shiite-led government and replacing it with a "national salvation government, which we call a military coup government." He did not detail the allegation.
A new government would mean "canceling the constitution, canceling the results of the elections and going back to square one ... and we will not accept that," he said. Al-Amiri is also a top official in the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading member of a coalition of Shiite political parties governing Iraq.
Life In Iraq
Death in the morgue: As violence in the Iraqi capital continues to rise, the task of tracking down missing people here has become a grim ordeal. Iraq’s anemic investigative agencies have been ill-equipped to keep up with soaring crime, so for families seeking information, the morgues have often provided the only certainty.
Now, even the morgues have become a source of danger, at least for Sunni Arabs. In recent months, Shiite militias have been staking out Baghdad’s central morgue in particular, and the authorities have received dozens of reports of kidnappings and killings of Sunni Arabs there.
Many Sunnis now refuse to go there to look for missing family members and are forced to take extraordinary measures to recover a relative’s body, including sending Shiite friends in their stead.
Sickening uncertainty: The violence here is mercurial and episodic. A politician is assassinated in a drive-by shooting. Several men are pulled from a bus and are later found floating in the Tigris River with bullets in their heads. Militiamen clash with government forces in a running battle through a residential block. A suicide bomber walks into a mosque and wipes out the congregation.
It can strike inside the fortified Green Zone or out, against the rich and the poor, in darkness or daylight. Its motivation might be sectarian, or it might be simple greed or anger. It’s this randomness and ubiquity that makes it so insidious.
The constant threat has forced a redesign of the urban landscape. Neighborhoods have been carved up by concrete barriers and roadblocks, forcing residents to relearn how to get around town. Soldiers and the police are everywhere.
But the violence has reconfigured the emotional geography as well — and this is what Umm Hassan was saying. Iraqis live with the creeping, paralyzing dread that anything can happen at any time, and when it does, they will be powerless to stop it.
So they struggle to control their environment by limiting their movement, cutting off all but the most essential contact with other people and staying indoors. The space in which people believe they can safely operate shrinks with every attack, no matter where it occurs.
Bank robbers: The two armored vans left a branch of the Warka Bank on Thursday around noon, loaded with 1.191 billion dinars, or nearly $800,000. Almost immediately, on a busy street near the Baghdad zoo, the drivers spotted an oncoming Iraqi Army convoy, led by a shiny new Humvee. They followed standard procedure and pulled over.
But the convoy stopped, and an officer politely ordered the surprised drivers and guards to lay down their guns while his men searched the vans for bombs.
Within minutes all eight drivers and guards had been handcuffed and locked in the back of one of the vans on a suffocating 120-degree day, the cash had been stolen by the men in the convoy — whoever they were — and the Iraqi banking system marked another day of its slow slide into oblivion.
This Is Worrisome
Things could get a lot worse: Opposition parties in the parliament have given their full support to the Turkish Cabinet’s statement that “Turkey is going to make full use of its international rights to prevent terrorist attacks against the country.”
The Republican People's Party (CHP) said the decision may even be called a belated one, while the True Path Party (DYP) said they would fully support the government in a “cross-border operation.”
The Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) said Turkey should risk everything for the unity of the country.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) stated Turkey’s legitimate defense right is fully supported in international law, while the Great Union Party (BBP) announced Turkey should enter northern Iraq and eradicate terrorism by implementing permanent measures.
Priorities, priorities: A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed from the U.S. Army under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, though he says he never told his superiors he was gay and his accuser was never identified.
Bleu Copas, 30, told The Associated Press he is gay, but said he was "outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
An eight-month Army investigation culminated in Copas' honorable discharge on Jan. 30 -- less than four years after he enlisted, he said, out of a post-Sept. 11 sense of duty to his country.
We need to see a whole lot more of this: The youngest son of U.S. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam and a vocal proponent of more American troops in Iraq, will soon report for duty in the Marine Corps, Time Magazine reported on Saturday.
Jimmy McCain, 18, will spend three months in boot camp in California this autumn and another month in specialized training.
Depending on his unit, the younger McCain could eventually wind up in Iraq where Marines have experienced heavy fighting, Time reported. Marines are also in combat in Afghanistan.
(McCain is an asshole but I honor his son’s service. As usual, though, the kicker is the very last paragraph in the article…)
The percentage of members of Congress with children serving in the military is only slightly above 1 percent. Sens. Christopher Bond, a Missouri Republican, and Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, have had sons serve combat missions in Iraq, Time said.
Your Tax Dollars At Work
Shell game: The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.
The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.
Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.
Overuns: The United States is dropping Bechtel, the American construction giant, from a project to build a high-tech children’s hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the project fell nearly a year behind schedule and exceeded its expected cost by as much as 150 percent.
Called the Basra Children’s Hospital, the project has been consistently championed by the first lady, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was designed to house sophisticated equipment for treating childhood cancer.
Now it becomes the latest in a series of American taxpayer-financed health projects in Iraq to face overruns, delays and cancellations. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled more than $300 million in contracts held by Parsons, another American contractor, to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq.
Readiness: Up to two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday, citing unclassified documents.
In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that "nearly every non-deployed combat brigade in the active Army is reporting that they are not ready" for combat. The figures, he said, represent an unacceptable risk to the nation.
Training: The father of a Wisconsin National Guard member killed in Iraq says a top military leader told him a team will be sent to talk with his son's fellow troops about his concerns that they didn't get adequate training or equipment. Stephen Castner from Cedarburg also tells The Associated Press that since he went public with his complaints, relatives of other Guard soldiers have been contacting him to say they heard the same reports. He says every one of them has said their sons told them the training had nothing to do with what's in Iraq. An Army official has defended the training, saying the unit was -- quote -- "trained to standard."
Mercenaries: * In addition to its ongoing assignments guarding American officials and facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blackwater has won contracts to combat the booming opium trade in Afghanistan and to support a SEAL-like maritime commando force in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic.
* On the home front, Hurricane Katrina's $73 million purse has persuaded Blackwater officials to position themselves as the go-to guys for natural disasters. Operating licenses are being applied for in every coastal state of the country. Governors are being given the pitch, including California's Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom a Blackwater official recently visited to discuss earthquake response.
"We want to make sure they're aware of who we are and what we can bring to the table," said Seamus Flatley, deputy director of Blackwater's new domestic operations division. "We want to get out ahead of it."
* Last year, the company opened offices in Baghdad and Amman, Jordan. More recent expansion plans call for a Blackwater West in Southern California and a jungle training facility at the former Subic Bay naval base in the Philippines.
Image is already affecting the Philippines deal. News reports out of the area indicate strong local opposition, fueled by fears of an influx of "mercenaries." A Filipino senator says he intends to investigate accusations that Blackwater is recruiting his countrymen for security jobs in Iraq; the Filipino government forbids its citizens to work there.
Finally, Our Mideast Policy Is Articulated
War is good: At today’s press conference, NBC’s David Gregory noted that, three years ago, the Bush administration predicted that “the invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace,” but that hasn’t happened.
In response, President Bush proudly declared that American foreign policy no longer seeks to “manage calm,” and derided policies that let anger and resentment lie “beneath the surface.” Bush said that the violence in the Middle East was evidence of a more effective foreign policy that addresses “root causes.”
Unprecedented divisions: No military conflict in modern times has divided Americans on partisan lines more than the war in Iraq, scholars and pollsters say — not even Vietnam. And those divisions are likely to intensify in what is expected to be a contentious fall election campaign.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows what one expert describes as a continuing “chasm” between the way Republicans and Democrats see the war. Three-fourths of the Republicans, for example, said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while just 24 percent of the Democrats did. Independents split down the middle.
“The present divisions are quite without precedent,” said Ole R. Holsti, a professor of political science at Duke University and the author of “Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy.”
Spying on citizens: The American Civil Liberties Union released a compilation of covert government surveillance of war protesters and other political activists in California, decrying it as evidence of a "greater expansion of government power and the abuse of power" since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The ACLU's Northern California branch said the findings show oversight of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies is too weak and called for the state to create a new watchdog over their activities.
War crimes: An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.
Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.
Language in the administration's draft…seeks to protect U.S. personnel by ruling out detainee lawsuits to enforce Geneva protections and by incorporating language making U.S. enforcement of the War Crimes Act subject to U.S. -- not foreign -- understandings of what the Conventions require.
The aim, Justice Department lawyers say, is also to take advantage of U.S. legal precedents that limit sanctions to conduct that "shocks the conscience." This phrase allows some consideration by courts of the context in which abusive treatment occurs, such as an urgent need for information, the lawyers say -- even though the Geneva prohibitions are absolute.
Secret prisons: A United Nations human rights body told Washington on Friday that any "secret detention" centers for terrorism suspects it operated abroad violated international law and should be shut immediately.
Saying it had "credible and uncontested" reports of such jails, the U.N. Human Rights Committee said the United States appeared to have been detaining people "secretly and in secret places for months and years".
"The state party should immediately abolish all secret detention," it said, echoing a similar demand in May by the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
Michael Hirsh: Reading "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks's devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men—actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency. For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.
As most U.S. military experts now acknowledge, these tactics violated the most basic principles of counterinsurgency, which require winning over the local population, thus depriving the bad guys of a base of support within which to hide. Such rules were apparently unknown to the 4th ID commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno. The general is a particular and deserving target of Ricks's book, which is perhaps the most exhaustive account to date of all that went wrong with Iraq. Nonetheless—according to that iron law of the Bush administration under which incompetence is rewarded with promotion, as long as it is accompanied by loyalty—Odierno will soon be returning to Iraq as America's No. 2 commander there, the man who will oversee day-to-day military operations.
David Sirota: Maliki's government cannot protect Iraqis from their own neighbors, so he is looking to Bush to be his nation's cop-on-the-beat. But can the US military be an effective police force in a society increasingly plagued by sectarian violence that has little, if anything, to do with the fight against al Qaeda and Islamic jihadism? Maliki's own government is even part of the problem. Death squads connected to the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry have been lead players in the current killing spree. If Maliki cannot control these elements, how can the US military? (In his speech to the US Congress, Maliki didn't address the knotty matter of the government-linked death squads. He briefly referred to "armed militias" but claimed that the rule of law and human rights are "flourishing" in Iraq.)
Sunni leaders--who once called for US forces to quit Iraq right away--now fear the ascendancy of Shiite killing squads so much that they have quieted their demands for a US withdrawal, fearing such a move would leave the Shiite militias even more unfettered. But should the United States remain in Iraq in response to such concerns? If so, US troops would be risking and sacrificing their lives to assist a government that is tied to death squads in order to prevent (Sunni) opponents of the leading (Shiite) bloc of that government from being killed by (Shiite) supporters of that leading bloc. Yes, politics in the Middle East have always been notoriously complicated and Byzantine. How many books--or intelligence reports--has Bush read about the intricacies of Arabic culture, history and politics?
Bush, all too obviously, has no good ideas how to navigate these shoals--which may not be navigable. After saying that more troops would be deployed to Baghdad, Bush was asked by an Iraqi reporter what could be done to improve the security situation in Baghdad. "There needs to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account," he replied. "In other words if you find somebody who's kidnapping and murdering, the murderer ought to be held to account. And it ought to be clear in society that that kind of behavior is not tolerated....We ought to be saying that, if you murder, you're responsible for your actions. And I think the Iraqi people appreciate that type of attitude."
In other words, just say no to killing. That's not much of a plan.
Brian E. Fogarty: Imagine this situation: Your country has had a military setback in a war that was supposed to be over after a few months of "shock and awe." Because of that war, it has lost the goodwill and prestige of much of the international community.
The national debt has grown to staggering size. Citizens complain bitterly about the government, especially the legislative branch, for being a bunch of do-nothings working solely for themselves or for special interest groups. In fact, the political scene has pretty much lost its center -- moderates are attacked by all sides as the political discourse becomes a clamor of increasingly extreme positions.
It seems there are election campaigns going on all the time, and they are increasingly vicious. The politicians just want to argue about moral issues -- sexuality, decadent art, the crumbling family and the like -- while pragmatic matters of governance seem neglected.
Sound familiar? That society was Germany of the 1920s -- the ill-fated Weimar Republic. But it also describes more and more the political climate in America today.
Glenn Greenwald: For almost two years now, polls have continuously shown (.pdf) that a solid majority of Americans opposes the war in Iraq — the signature policy of the Bush administration and its followers — and believes it was a mistake. But a new analysis of Gallup poll data reveals that opposition to the war isn’t just substantial, but is greater than it was for the Korean War, and roughly equal to the opposition Americans expressed towards the Vietnam War even as late as 1970:
An analysis released today by Frank Newport, director of The Gallup Poll, shows that current public wishes for U.S. policy in the Iraq war eerily echo attitudes about the Vietnam war in 1970. The most recent Gallup poll this month found that 52% of adult Americans want to see all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, with 19% advocating immediate withdrawal. In the summer of 1970, Gallup found that 48% wanted a pullout within a year, with 23% embracing the “immediate” option. Just 7% want to send more troops now, vs. 10% then.
At present, 56% call the decision to invade Iraq a “mistake,” with 41% disagreeing. Again this echoes the view of the Vietnam war in 1970, when that exact same number, 56%, in May 1970 called it a mistake in a Gallup poll.
Polling data such as this conclusively demonstrates — in a way that even the national media can no longer ignore — just how dishonest and corrupt has been the favorite tactic of pro-war Bush followers: namely, to depict their pro-war views as "mainstream," while even more loudly characterizing truly mainstream anti-war views as being fringe, radical and anti-American.
Andy Ostroy: As the need for a multi-nation peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon becomes paramount towards finding an end to the violence there, the Pentagon has made it clear that U.S. forces are stretched so thin primarily from Iraq that we cannot, unlike in the past, send out troops to participate in this mission. "As far as boots on the ground, that doesn't seem to be in the cards," said John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This position was echoed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "I do not think that it is anticipated that U.S. ground forces . . . are expected for that force." That we need to rely on France, Turkey and other nations to go it alone without U.S. participation is a sad day for America in its role as the great super-power and defender of freedom. That we now also have to send even more troops to safeguard Baghdad, as announced earlier this week, is mind-numbing. As the Middle East is imploding, with terror organizations and the countries that sponsor them--Syria and Iran--tipping the balance of power, it's criminal that we are so handcuffed by Iraq, so drained by this debacle, that we cannot play a meaningful role in securing the region. I don't care what color your state is, every American should be outraged at the Bush administration for taking this nation down such as self-destructive and wasteful path. That we're now subjected to the constant cable news images of an impotent United States, with a tired, frustrated Rice with her head in her hands trying to blow smoke up the world's ass while it contributes nothing diplomatically or militarily, is an utter disgrace and an embarrassment. We're the United States of America, for crap's sake, and we're coming off dazed and confused and powerless. It's especially infuriating as we compare America's stature and influence in the world today to that of the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy days. In the eyes of the world, and on the political, diplomatic and military stage, America's become a sad joke. And we can thank our court jester Bush for that.
President Bush proudly declared that American foreign policy no longer seeks to “manage calm,” and derided policies that let anger and resentment lie “beneath the surface.” Bush said that the violence in the Middle East was evidence of a more effective foreign policy that addresses “root causes.”
This is sheer, abject lunacy of the sort that imagined the invasion of Iraq would lead to city squares in Iraq named after George W. Bush and the invasion would pay for itself out of oil revenues. The only appropriate reaction is to very loudly proclaim this is the reasoning of madmen. No rational human being thinks like this.
Andrew Greeley: What is the worth of a single Iraqi life?
The New York Times reported that during recent months a hundred Iraqis die violently every day, 3,000 every month. In terms of size of population, that is the equivalent of 300,000 Americans a month, 10,000 every day. Yet the typical television clip on the evening news -- an explosion, automatic weapon fire, dead bodies on the streets -- has become as much a cliche as the weather report or another loss by the Cubs. The dead Iraqis are of no more value to us than artificial humans in video games. The Iraqis seem less than human, pajama-wearing people with dark skin, hate in their eyes, and a weird religion, screaming in pain over their losses. Weep with them, weep for them?
Rarely do Americans tell themselves that the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is responsible for this slaughter. In a spasm of arrogance and power, we destroyed their political and social structure and are now unable to protect them from one another. Their blood is on the hands of our leaders who launched a war on false premises, without adequate forces, without plans for the time after the war and then sent in inept administrators who could not provide even a hint of adequate public services.
The hundred who die every day are not merely numbers, they are real human beings. Their deaths are personal disasters for the dead person and also for all those who love them: parents, children, wives, husbands. Most Americans are not outraged. Iraqis are a little less than human. If a hundred people were dying every day in our neighborhoods, we would scream in outrage and horror. Not many of us are lamenting these daily tragedies. Quite the contrary, we wish the newscast would go on to the weather for the next weekend.
Is blood on the hands of those Americans who support the war? Again, one must leave them to heaven. But in the objective order it is difficult to see why they are not responsible for the mass murders. They permitted their leaders to deceive them about the war, often enthusiastically. How can they watch the continuing murders in Iraq and not feel guilty?
How would you feel if the street were drenched with the blood of your son or daughter, if your father was in the hospital with his legs blown off?
We cannot permit ourselves to grieve for Iraqi pain because then we would weep bitter and guilty tears every day.
His family in the Midwest never doubted that R.J. Mitchell II would do whatever was necessary to protect his fellow Marines in Iraq. "We were concerned about him, of course, but we always knew he'd take care of himself and the men under him," said Bill Raiser of Lamoni, Iowa, Mitchell's maternal grandfather. Just how well Mitchell took care of his men as a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be recognized here Friday as he receives the Navy Cross for heroism during the vicious house-to-house fighting in Fallouja in 2004.
A 21-year-old Ohio Marine killed in Iraq had planned to return on leave in October to see his daughter, born two weeks ago, for the first time, family members said.
Cpl. Timothy Roos of Delhi Township in suburban Cincinnati was killed Thursday in Ramadi, said his father, Rick.
Family members laid to rest on Saturday a Marine who died in combat earlier this month in one of Iraq's most volatile regions.
Cpl. Julian A. Ramon of Queens was killed July 20 while in the Anbar province, west of Baghdad. He was on his second tour of duty and was due to return home in September. Military officials told his family he had died in an explosion.
A sailor from Towson has died in Iraq after ordnance exploded during a disposal operation, the Pentagon said. Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward A. Koth died July 26 at Camp Victory in Iraq, the military said. Koth, 30, was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight, serving with Multinational Corps Iraq in Baghdad.
Saturday morning residents of Ruckersville gathered at William Monroe High School to pay tribute a fallen hero. Adam Fargo was stationed in Iraq when he was killed last week and community members took part in a memorial celebration remembering one of their own.