Category ►►► Iraq Matters

January 11, 2007

Building a Case for Casus Belli

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

It's a sad fact that in today's world, no good deed goes unpunished. America is the most generous of all countries, not just of our treasure but our blood: no other country on earth would have led a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein when it was so much easier just to mass troops along Iraq's border and threaten war -- in order to extort a huge oil-lease jackpot, like everyone else was doing.

No other country contributed as much to Tsunami relief as did we. No country has done as much to help the poor around the world. No other country has stood up to tyranny and injustice as we have. And what do we get in exchange? Faugh.

Yes, I said "faugh," and I meant it to sting!

Now we have the ludicrous situation where Iran is frantically trying to develop nuclear weapons; Iran controls the largest terrorist organization on the planet; Iran repeatedly -- incessantly -- nakedly threatens to obliterate another nation, wiping Israel from the map; Iran has been caught red-handed shipping high explosives into Iraq to kill Americans... yet we still would become world outcasts were we to attack Iran without iron-clad evidence that they had declared war on us first.

Unfortunately, we cannot live without international commerce; the days of Fortress America are long gone, if they ever existed at all. Therefore, before actually doing anything about Iran -- the "Herman Option," for example -- we must build the case for casus belli.

Fortunately, it shouldn't be a hard case to build... and even more fortunately, we have a president who seems determined to lay out exactly such a case. Thus, today we raided an Iranian government building in Irbil (not a consulate, as has been erroneously reported) and captured six Iranians:

The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled northern part of Iraq, 220 miles from Baghdad.

A resident living near the building said the troops used stun bombs and brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. military official said the building was not a consulate and did not have any diplomatic status. The six Iranians were taken in a "cordon-and-knock" operation, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

I'm not sure why, but the extraordinarily ungrateful Kurds seem to be hopping mad. But the Iranians are showing a great deal of restraint... the kind one shows when one has been caught with his hand in the milk bottle:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by coalition forces reflected a "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.

Note the tortured logic to imply what they seem wary of saying out loud, lest they be called up on to prove it: they do not actually claim that those in the building have "diplomatic immunity," but boy do they try to imply it! Evidently, any Iranian in Iraq legally is, therefore, on a "diplomatic mission." What does that say about those Iranians in Iraq illegally... such as those four we caught in December? We're still holding two of them; the other two actually did have diplomatic immunity -- which shows the Iranians are not shy about asserting it when they can prove their case.

And what about this minor incident? Do the Iranians think we've forgotten that we seized from Iraqi Shiite militia members a batch of Iranian-made weapons and munitions -- with a manufacturer's date of 2006?

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official....

Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.

Each of these incidents is just another brick in the wall; but when the wall has enough bricks, I believe we're actually going to drop it on someone: something along the lines of the "Herman Option;" and in Bush's speech announcing it (while it's already going on), I believe he will lay out each piece, brick after brick, until even the Democrats will be stymied.

After all, what will they argue: that we should announce to the world that it's open season on Americans?

In his most recent Mullings (the January 11th, 2007 edition), Rich Galen notes an interesting conundrum for those Democrats who have come out hard and angry against President Bush's new strategy:

  • If the change in strategy works, and we make measurable and unambiguous progress in the Iraq War, then the bitching and moaning Democrats will look like cowardly, defeatist, un-American dolts;
  • If the change in strategy fails, then what are they going to say? "See, we told you America was finished!"

Americans love a winner; but even if we lose -- and everyone has to lose now and again -- they still love a man who goes down swinging, rather than one who won't even step up to the plate, because he knows he's going to strike out anyway.

So let's give George the bat and get the hell out of his way.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 11, 2007, at the time of 11:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

President Bush Speaks - FAQ

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

(With a cool nod towards Dean Barnett, who does this sort of thing a lot on Hugh Hewitt's blog.)

Q: Didn't Bush seem really nervous last night?

Somewhat; I wouldn't say "really." My guess is that he and his national-security team were working on the speech right up until the day of delivery, so the president had no time to thoroughly rehearse some parts of it.

But how he delivered the speech is less important than the content: the new plan sounds a lot better than the old plan.

Q: What makes you think this will work? Adding more troops never worked before!

Although it gets all the headlines, "adding more troops" is not the most important change in strategy enunciated last night.

The big-box media would love to have Americans believe that all we're doing is "adding more troops." Put it that way, and you get substantially negative reactions ranging from disappointment among Republicans to outright frothing at the ears by Democrats. AP-Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post polls found that large majorities -- weighted heavily towards Democrats, as usual -- opposed "sending more troops to Iraq" and thought it wouldn't work. While the polls are fundamentally flawed (see next post), it's clear that if we were merely sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, nothing would change.

The more important changes are:

  • A redeployment of troops -- 18 Iraqi brigades (more than 60,000 soldiers) and five American brigades (17,500 soldiers and/or Marines) -- within Iraq to be able to capture and hold strategic chokepoints within Baghdad; and an additional 4,000 American forces and an unknown number of Iraqis into Anbar Province, home of the Sunni terrorists, including al-Qaeda, to work with local tribal sheikhs -- who have recently turned strongly against al-Qaeda -- in sealing the border with Syria;
  • A committment to "hold" captured territory much longer than before, up to 18 months, to prevent the return of enemy forces; this provides the critical middle section of "capture, hold, release": take control of territory used by the enemy; hold it for a significant period time to thoroughly scour it of enemy presence; release the territory to local Iraqi forces to maintain security and keep the enemy from returning;
  • A committment (probably written) from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that no combatants are off-limits, including Shiite militias (e.g., the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Militia);
  • A significant loosening of the rules of engagement (ROE) against those combatants.

Without these changes, simply adding 21,500 soldiers under the old rules and understandings would indeed be futile. Fortunately, George W. Bush and his military advisors are not utter fools, as the Democrats imagine they are (simple projection, I assume).

Q: What are "rules of engagement?"

Rules that govern when a military (or police) unit is allowed to use force, and what level of force is allowed under what circumstances. Such ROE can range from absolutely restrictive -- as in our Beirut deployment as "peacekeepers" in 1983, where even the sentries were unable simply to fire upon a vehicle for trying to run the barrier -- to almost wide open, as in a "free fire zone," where American forces are permitted to open fire on any identifiable enemy soldiers, no matter what they're doing (except surrendering), without receiving specific permission first.

Until now, we have operated under a frighteningly restrictive ROE. For example, we were not allowed to attack known armed militia forces merely because they appeared in public heavily armed; we had to wait until they did something, then apply to the Iraqi government for permission (unless they attacked us, of course).

I don't know how loose they will now be; but I suspect that Bush put it pretty harshly to Maliki in their recent 2-hour video conference: if Maliki wants to remain prime minister, he will have to get over his love affair with Muqtada Sadr and actually give us license to fight this war as a real war.

The troop "surge" will take at least a month or so (we'll probably bring the new troops in from Kuwait, where they're already sitting); but the change in ROE can happen immediately.

If we shortly begin hearing about many more engagements with first Sunni terrorists, then Shiite militias, it will be a very, very good sign.

Q: What difference do rules of engagement make anyway? Can't we already attack anyone who atttacks us or attacks Iraqi civilans?

Not necessarily. Under the current ROE, we need permission from the Iraqis to undertake virtually any sustained operation. Worse, as Tony Snow just explained it on Hugh Hewitt, we can be in the middle of an operation -- for instance, when we had cordoned off Sadr City, the Mahdi Militia's neighborhood of Baghdad, and were going house to house to root them out -- and suddenly, the commander receives a cell-phone call from the Minister of the Interior or some high-ranking member of parliament saying "I'm getting complaints... stop what you're doing and back off," or "you just arrested an insurgent, but he's my third cousin... release him at once!" -- and we would have to do it.

As of right now, that's finished: we forced agreement from Maliki that no terrorist, combatant, or lawbreaker is off-limits... including Muqtada Sadr himself; and that we don't have to get permission for every operation first. Even if Maliki later tries to back out of that agreement, we can simply ignore him or other interfering ministers, because we already have a binding agreement.

Q: But will this so-called "new strategy work?" None of Bush's other plans have worked!

I cannot possibly say that it will; but it has a much great chance of working than any previous strategy we have used: it's different in many ways from previous strategies.

We tried strategy A; when it didn't work, we tried B; when that didn't work, we tried C. Now we're trying D: the naive approach is to assume that three failures means that all subsequent attempts must likewise fail (it's a trend!) But this is an infantile projection: every plan is different; the failure of one doesn't mean another won't succeed.

This is a very different plan specifically developed after careful analysis of previous failures; it clearly has a better chance of success by definition.

Q: Then why the heck didn't we do this in the first place? Why didn't Bush just skip A, B, and C and jump directly to the working strategy, D?

Because there is no way to know, before trying a strategy, that it won't work. It's easy in hindsight to say that obviously, A, B, and C were doomed to failure. But unless your Magic 8-Ball works better than mine (mine is stuck on "Ask again later"), you know that precisely because they were tried and didn't work.

Q: Wait -- doesn't that mean we don't know for sure that this new strategy will work any better?

Yes, it means that. There is no certainty this side of the grave. But we have a pretty good idea what will happen if we fail... so unless you have a better strategy to win the war, I'm uninterested in hearing your complaints about other people's strategies.

Q: Hasn't this war been a complete failure from beginning to end? Shouldn't we just admit that we have been defeated and bring our boys home?

Let me quote from one expert analyst of what Bush has accomplished so far in the Iraq War:

And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government.

We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.

This speaker is not exactly a Bush lover; but he is quite correct: each of these events he describes was a tremendous victory -- achieved against all the dire democratic predictions of doom and defeat.

Now the Democrats are making dire predictions of doom and defeat for this new strategy, as well. If anybody has a really, really bad record on such predictions... it's the Democrats, not the administration.

Q: When did you become a paid shill for the Repuglicans under Herr Bushitler?

On October 11th. That's when I received my first check for $87,000. I have received regular checks in that same amount every month since then... though I'm getting a little impatient for this month's check. Hey, Bushitler -- what the heck is going on with your accounts payable department?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 11, 2007, at the time of 04:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2007

So Where IS Lieutenant Kije?

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

At long last, after weeks of fumfahing around, the Associated Press has labored and labored and finally given birth -- to a mouse.

They managed to cajole a spokesman of the Iraq Ministry of the Interior (MOI), Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf (who has also been quoted on Reuters, albeit in other contexts -- so I'm willing to accept that he, at least, exists) into admitting the existence of a Police Captain Jamil Hussein -- actually Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein -- working at the Khadra police station. So here is at least a candidate for Baghdad's own Lt. Kijé!

For those who have forgotten the earlier Big Lizards post already (yes, we are eminently forgettable), in the 1927 tale by Yury Tynyanov, the entirely ficticious Lt. Kijé is "invented" when the Czar mishears a word in his general's report. As it is death to contradict the Czar, the general must concoct a series of adventures of the mythical lieutenant. Soon it becomes a game, where everybody in the Czar's court is telling fantastical farces of daring-do by the elusive Lt. Kijé.

But half a mo'; has anyone besides AP spoken to Lt. Kijé himself about this? Back on December 21st, the MOI questioned Ghlaim (or Gholaiem), and as our dearest Michelle reports, he denied being the Jamil Hussein who was blabbing to AP:

Meanwhile, my CPATT sources informed me today that MOI officials have now questioned Captain Jamil Ghlaim at MOI headquarters. Ghlaim continues to deny speaking to AP or any other media outlet.

I may be the last skeptic standing; but I must point out, in a loud and clear voice, that we still have no independent verification that the Jamil Hussein reportedly found by the MOI is the same Jamil Hussein repeatedly interviewed by AP. We have only AP's word for it -- and a denial by Lt. Kijé himself. At the moment, the identified Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein remains as elusive as Elwood P. Dowd's 8-foot tall invisible rabbit, Harvey. (Is Jamil a Pookah?)

Of course, I'm not entirely sure I trust the MOI about Hussein's denial, either: JGH could have lied to avoid prosecution. But at the very least, if the issue is the credibility of Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) as a source, then the fact that he is inclined to lie whenever he finds it pays is certainly worth at least a mention, I should think. So I ask again: has any news source besides AP actually questioned Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein of the Khadra police station about the 62 stories for which he was allegedly AP's principal source, including more than a dozen where he was actually named?

Let's assume Hussein is not, in fact, the blabbermouth; since the AP source was explicitly identified as "Jamil Hussein" at "Khandra," didn't Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein wonder why he was being quoted, if he actually never spoke to AP? Did he think there was another Lt. Kijé of the same name, working at the same police station as he? Or does he just not read the papers?

On the other hand, if we assume he is the AP source -- then did he actually deny it to the MOI? And why hasn't he spoken to any other new agency to verify his existence, reaffirm all of his claims, and clear his good name (or names)?

Since we now know that at least one Jamil exists in a disclosed location, it should be child's play for Reuters, the Times, the Times, the Post, CNN, or some other newspaper or television network to hound the guy into an interview with them: have they? For that matter, has anybody -- other than AP -- even interviewed Brigadier Khalaf and asked him about Jamil Hussein?

I get the strong sense that a lot of news agencies are reluctant (to the point of phobic) to investigate further, lest they uncover the sordid underbelly of the rampant, promiscuous use of Iraqi "stringers" to gather putative news stories... and just how much of the last three years reporting out of Iraq may have been concocted by sources driven by their own, private agendas.

Imagine, by analogy, that everthing ever reported about global warming came from officials of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international agency that brought us the Kyoto Protocol; yet the news wires, newspapers, and TV news networks consistently failed to note the inherent bias of sourcing from the primary political organization pushing global-warming theory... especially as global-warming skeptics are never quoted. (Oh, wait...)

Meanwhile, in a long but fascinating post Friday, Confederate Yankee recaps the actual content of the AP reporting on the Burning Sunnis story, which has shifted like the desert sands of Iraq itself... and which relies, not only upon the unsupported testimony of Jamil Hussein -- who may or may not be Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein -- but also in part upon the pronunciamentos of the Association of Muslim Scholars, or the Ulema Council.

The Ulema Council is split between one faction of Sunni clerics and scholars who merely issue fatwas ordering Sunnis not to cooperate with the Iraqi government, and another faction that actively collaborates with al-Qaeda in suicide bombings against "infidels," very liberally construed. (Can we call this second faction the Baghdad Ten?)

Which faction did AP interview to get the poop on the "inflammatory" burning of Sunni mosques and the Sunnis contained therein? The merely anti-Shiite government faction, or the Sunni terrorist faction? They don't tell us. (And don't blame me for the pun above; it's Confederate Yankee's pun, sir.)

But before we even get into the specifics of what Lt. Kijé claimed in the scores of stories where he was the primary source (often the only source)... can't we at least settle the question of whether the AP's Jamil Hussein really is the same person as the Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein working at the Khadra police station? Something akin to an admission by Hussein himself (and a retraction of his earlier denial) -- carried by some news organization other than AP.

Then, perhaps, we can move on to the actual substance of the charges.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 07, 2007, at the time of 04:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 06, 2007

Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - iii

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Continued yet again from previous post...

The great mosaic

Boehlert wags his finger, pointing out that in the same week this "six burnt alive" story came out, hundreds more were killed:

Keep in mind that in the seven days surrounding the Burned Alive story, hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence.

To date, warbloggers have not raised serious questions about any of those slayings or the reporting surrounding them. Yet viewing Iraq through the soda straw that is the Burned Alive story, they insist the press, thanks to its pro-terrorist sympathies, is creating the illusion of "chaos" in Iraq.

This is simple misdirection. "Warbloggers" rightly focus on the particular source for this story, "Police Capt.Jamil Hussein," who has figured prominently in more than 60 AP articles in the last two years. It is not unfair to say that Jamil Hussein, who we have labeled Baghdad's own Lieutenant Kije, is AP's "go-to guy" whenever they need a story about innocent Sunni victims being brutalized and butchered by Shiite death squads, under the complacent eyes, if not direct orders, of the Iraqi government. That is, whenever AP needs to spread the meme that the new Iraqi government is just as bad -- nay, far worse! -- than the Baathist hell it replaces.

If he is not a reliable source -- or worse, if he does not actually exist (and despite AP's claim to have verified his existence, we still don't know for sure from independent reporters not employed by AP) -- then what are we to make of these 62 stories we have read during the last two years? Those stories are the only evidence we have of systematic, widespread slaughter of Sunnis by death squads.

Did they really happen? Did they happen the way Lt. Kije claimed? Did he make them all up? Even “warbloggers, who have virtually no serious journalism experience among” are allowed to wonder whether we can take seriously a source who gets wrong as many fundamental facts as Hussein did. At what point are we entitled, even duty bound, to say we will no longer believe a fellow who is extraordinarily reckless with the truth (or extraordinarily reckless with lies, take your pick).

But it's not just Lt. Kije; Boehlert also neglects to mention that another Iraqi “official,” Lt. Abdel-Razzaq, who has been featured in 23 AP articles, was held for questioning by the Iraqi government for unauthorized press contacts. (Hat tip Flopping Aces)

Now, Boehlert certainly has a point in one respect:

The AP also didn't think much of CENTCOM's suggestion that reporters only quote people found on the government's approved list of sources.

This is self-evident; reporters should never agree to accept only official sources, official stories, or get the approval of officials before publishing. But Boehlert seems oddly unconversant with the shameful (and admitted) history of "reporting" by his beloved mainstream media in Iraq. In 2003, after the Coalition invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Eason Jordan admitted in a New York Times editorial that CNN (and all other journalists) had deliberately reported Baathist propaganda during the Saddam era... because it was more urgent to keep their Baghdad bureaus than to tell the truth about that brutal regime.

Even by Boehlert's own standards, this should be even worse than chastising low-ranking police officers because they anointed themselves media sources, a task normally falling to higher-ranking official spokesmen. So... can we at least agree that Eason Jordan and Capt. Hussein and Lt. Abdel-Razzaq were perhaps not all honorable men?

As Boehlert never tires of reminding us (as if we should scuff our feet in shame), we are not professional journalists. We don't work on newspapers. Heck, we didn't even graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism (though Bill O'Reilly did; what does Eric Boehlert think of him?)

We cannot look into every story coming out of Iraq; we must, of necessity, pick and choose: We can spot check. The method is used all the time in a manufacturing; if the failure rate of sampling is too great, the entire batch is considered a failure.

It may seem like we are picking on a small stone of a big mosaic. But what the heck does Boehlert think makes up the big mosaic in the first place but the same small stones we're spot-checking? If too many stones turn out not to be true, then what can we conclude about the entire mosaic?

The bloodthirsty warbloggers

Eric Boehlert concludes that we have a secret motive for demanding on-the-ground reporting by American reporters, rather than simply taking the word of stringers, who could as easily be terrorist sympathizers as honest native journalists. Boehlert does not consider any of us to be honorable men. He believes that deep down, we're hoping to see journalists slain (yet Boehlert echoes the charge leveled earlier by Eason Jordan, and I thought we already agreed Jordan might not be an honorable man... oh, let it slide):

To watch warbloggers taunt journalists for being cowards is also unsettling. Curt at Flopping Aces wrote: "If the reporters would leave their comfy hotel rooms and actually go out and survey the scenes themselves then I am sure we would get a completely different picture." Honestly, is there any irony sharper than members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, blogging comfortably from their air-conditioned stateside offices while obsessively googling AP dispatches in search of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that don't meet the right-wing standard of excellence, lecturing on-the-ground news reporters about the need to witness the Iraq conflict up close?… [Curt, the "fighting keyboardist," spent five years in the United States Marine Corps, followed by six years as a police officer. Just FYI.]

The notion is demented, but given their wild online rants, I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that warbloggers want journalists to venture into exceedingly dangerous sections of Iraq because warbloggers want journalists to get killed. That's how deep their hatred for the press runs... Also, by publicly demanding the AP "produce" Capt. Hussein -- for him to hold some sort of a press conference and announce his presence at a time when Iraqi police officers are being targeted daily for assassination [Sunni police officers?] -- indicates that warbloggers don't much care whether Hussein lives or dies either, as long as they can peddle their anti-media rants.

Whew! Perhaps one of the multiple layers of mainstream-media editing at Media Matters could speak to Boehlert about the length of his paragraphs.

Putting aside his curt dismissal of Curt as a member of the "101st Fighting Keyboardists" (another unkindness from this honorable man?), Boehlert appears ignorant of such embedded bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Fumento, who have each embedded with the military many times, traveling outside the Green Zone and into danger. Not to mention all the mil-bloggers who have actually fought in Iraq and currently fighting. (And also not to mention the upcoming embedding, if that's exactly the word I mean, of Michelle Malkin herself in Iraq.)

Where does Boehlert blog from, one wonders? As an honorable man, I am certain he spends quite a bit of time in the Iraq or Afghanistan war zone. If he has any military background, he certainly doesn't mention it in his presumably self-written bio over at the Huffington Post, where he also blogs (some posts may simply be crossposted with Media Matters, including this one).

The conspiracy of shared vision

There is indeed an elite "conspiracy" of a very particular sort, the kind enunciated in Thomas Sowell's seminal work the Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy... the conspiracy of shared vision.

Those who hold this shared vision (the "anointed") need not meet and decide in advance what they will write, what narrative will permeate their stories; they simply all believe the same things, a shared quasi-religious gestalt that bursts forth like Athena from Zeus's brow, full-formed and insistent. The gestalt colors everything the reporter says or writes, all he believes, every story he pursues.

Yesterday, the gestalt was that Iraq was a "quagmire" that would send "20,000" American soldiers home in "body bags." Today, the gestalt is that we only win in Iraq if it becomes violence free, a paradise on Earth; and since that is impossible, we can only prepare ourselves for the inevitable "emerging defeat." When enough agencies report the same message over and over again, the meme becomes 'the truth" in some grotesque, McLuhanesque sense.

"Warbloggers" are painfully aware of this dynamic. The Goliath media are much stronger than any number of blogging Davids. Their access to the people dwarfs ours. So what could cause Eric Boehlert, probably speaking for far more of the elites than he is willing to claim, to become annoyed enough (or scared enough) to post such a personalized attack against a handful of people?

Perhaps because Boehlert is aware that a meme need not be shouted from the rooftops (via the big-box media) in order to grow, thrive, and ultimately replace the standard media gestalt itself: it only needs to be more powerful than the memes it feeds upon... which, in the case of the vision of the anointed, is not particularly difficult: the standard media gestalt requires you to believe six impossible things before breakfast (such as that only white Europeans can handle democracy, that Shia and Sunni kill each other in Iraq because of Israel, that the more terrorists we kill the more there are, that Iraq was calm and peaceful under Saddam Hussein, and so forth).

Hence this frantic attempt to stamp it out, like a campfire spreading to the surrounding weeds. But I doubt it will work; "warbloggers" are unlikely to be cowed by Eric Boehlert. This is the only true sense in which "information wants to be free": not that books and CDs anthropomorphically "want" to be distributed for free to pimply faced teenagers who expect something for nothing -- but that truth will ultimately prevail; it cannot be suppressed forever.

Thus, this honorable men -- all these honorable men -- trying to hard to save us from ourselves, to use the vision-vaccine to innoculate us against free inquiry, are on a fool's errand; they're tilting at winos. The future looms; they know that every year, more of the population rejects them as the final arbiters of reality and seeks alternatives.

The Boehlerts know, deep down, that their hegemony won't last much longer. They just want a few more quiet years to publish their books (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, by Eric Boehlert) and write their gestalt-stories... then get out while the getting's good.

Here was a Boehlert! when comes such another?

And that's the last word.

(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 06, 2007, at the time of 02:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - B

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Continued from previous post...

You put your left foot in...

If the mainstream media has no agenda, and their misreporting can solely be blamed upon the fog of war, we should see the mistakes benefiting the both sides equally; half the time, they should wrongly report a great American victory that turns out not to be so great after all. I now pause for readers to wrack their memories to recall the last time AP, Reuters, CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Herald, the Wall Street Journal, or Media Matters did so.

Go ahead; I'll wait.

Curiously enough, every time a major media source blows a story, they do so by publishing something that advances the message of the "emerging defeat" in Iraq, and that only thing we can do is to manage that inevitable defeat. (Similarly, mistakes on restaurant bills always seem to be in the restaurant’s favor.)

We have never read a headline such as “American troops kills 100 terrorists,” only to find out later that we bombed a simple wedding party. It is always the other way around; the wedding-party meme always comes first, followed by a quiet correction in a little box at the bottom of an inside page.

But let us not call it an MSM conspiracy or say that Boehlert is a part of it; for they are all honorable men, and honorable men would not sling such libelous accusations without rock-solid proof.

Let us instead examine some of the stringers upon whose reports the media (especially AP) rely:

Snuff films on Haifa Street: In December 2004, masked gunmen pulled two Iraqi election workers out of their car in broad daylight and assassinated them. An AP photographer-stringer just happened to be standing a few yards away, snapping pictures of the multiple homicide. The terrorists just happened to let him live. They even let him keep his camera and film. This was fortuitous, since the report earned an AP reporter a Pulitzer Prize.

After initial denials, AP first admitted that the photographer had been tipped off; then at last, they revealed the rest of the dirt on the endless supply of stringers ready and willing to accomodate "[i]nsurgents [who] want their stories told as much as other people." As Power Line's John Hinderaker concluded:

That makes the admission pretty well complete, I think. The AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists; this is for the purpose of helping to tell the terrorists' "stories." The photographers don't have to swear allegiance to the terrorists--gosh, that's reassuring--but they have "family and tribal relations" with them. And they aren't embedded--I'm not sure I believe that--but they don't need to be either, since the terrorists tip them off when they are about to commit an act that they want filmed.

Stringing AP along: In April 2006, Bilal Hussein was taken into US custody as a member of a terrorist group. Hussein had been working as an AP photographer-stringer; he had sent AP a series of pictures taken inside the terrorists’ training camp.

He also snapped a picture of terrorists boldly posing by the body of a murdered Italian journalist. But perhaps Hussein was only tipped-off by, not embedded with, the killers.

PhotoShop phantasies: In August 2006, Reuters had to fire their Lebanese photographer-stringer Adnan Hajj, after his photo-shopped pictures were exposed by some sharp-eyed bloggers.

These are not isolated cases; the major news media have published hundreds of such photographs by Iraqi photographer-stringers, and thousands of stories by Iraqi writer-stringers. The standard media narrative of tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, as well as the entire case for "the emerging defeat" in Iraq (as Eric Boehlert gleefully puts it), is based upon the concatenation of these questionable stories... many of which have all the earmarks of enemy propaganda disseminated via the reliably compliant (and incurious) American and international media.

How can we ever know how much of what we read and see about Iraq is real, how much exaggerated, and how much simply defeatist fabrication? Is Eric Boehlert even curious to know the answer himself? Or does he, like Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles' magnum opus, believe the people will think what the media tells us to think?

If that is what he believes, and if he is right, then thank heavens they are all honorable men: just imagine what mischief they could concoct were they not!

Believing is seeing

Meet Salam Daher, AKA Abu Shadi Jradi, AKA Abdel Qader, AKA Green Helmet Guy (how many names do Moslem extremists get to use?)

In July 2006, in Qana Lebanon, in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on a rocket-launching site, the photograph of a Lebanese "civil defense worker," his face anguished as he held a dead child in his arms, was plastered across the front pages of newspapers around the globe. Yet there was something odd about the guy, a discordant note. Many bloggers pointed out that he had been photographed throughout the day for hours, ghoulishly holding up the same dead child in various poses.

Green Helmet Guy told reporters conflicting stories about the number of children found dead. And then, Germany's NDR found footage of this guy directing scenes, using the dead body of a child as a prop, toted to the site from storage somewhere. Not only that... Green Helmet Guy had done the exact, same thing 10 years ago:

This is nothing new. In Gaza, Palestinians have been staging battles and coaching witnesses for years. We even have a name for it: Pallywood. Here is an 18 minute video from YouTube, taken during the second intifada from 2000 to 2002:

For the first ten minutes, you will see Palestinians staging various events:

  • A man shoots into a building as if he were defending himself; but the building is actually deserted;
  • Civilians direct soldiers and crowds of "innocent bystanders" (extras) how to act prior to filming a scene;
  • Footage of a funeral march in Jenin, after the "Jenin massacre," where the pallbearers accidentally drop the corpse from a stretcher -- and the dead fellow obligingly hops back aboard.

But the most telling footage starts about the 11th minute: an interview conducted by a Palestinian “reporter” with a new mother and father and with the doctor who had just delivered their baby at the local hospital. (I wonder if the reporter is a stringer for AP?)

On the way to the hospital, the reporter discusses with his staff what kind of story he is looking for: the terrible conditions that Palestinians must endure because of the wicked Israelis. At the hospital, the reporter tells the doctor that the young couple must say that the road was so dangerous, they couldn't get to hospital in time... and the young husband had to deliver the baby all by himself. In fact the doctor had delivered a healthy baby in the hospital few hours earlier.

Chillingly, all three subjects -- father, mother, and doctor -- agree; they give the interview, describing the terrible ordeal that never occurred.

How many times have we heard that eyewitnesses, bystanders, and doctors had all "verified" some calamitous event caused by the Israelis, the Americans, or our Coalition partners in Iraq? Oh, wait, here's one:

For the record, along with Hussein, the AP based its Burned Alive reporting on an account from Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder who told Al-Arabiya television about the killings. (He later recanted his story after being visited by a representative of the defense minister.) The AP also spoke to three independent eyewitnesses (two shopkeepers and a physician) and confirmed the story with hospital and morgue workers.

This is from the very piece by Eric Boehlert that is the subject of this discussion.

Please also notice that the "Sunni elder" recanted... but that this was "after being visited by a representative of the defense minister." Not that Boehlert is implying any threats, intimidation, or torture... he would never do such a thing without a shred of evidence, for Boehlert is an honorable man.

So are they all. All honorable men.

Continued yet again next post...

(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 06, 2007, at the time of 02:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007

Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

The Iraq war -- indeed, the larger GWOJ (global war against jihadism) -- is as much a propaganda war, a war of ideas and "memes," as it is a shooting war. Paul Josef Goebbels understood the power of propaganda; so too did Tojo, Walter Cronkite, and so does al-Qaeda, of course. Alas, it appears that both the Bush administration and the GOP are completely clueless in this respect.

The Democrats and the elite media, to the extent they are not the same entity, understand perfectly, however.

When CNN broadcast the al-Qaeda propaganda video showing an American soldier being killed by a terrorist sniper, terrorists gloated that our sensationalist media was always willing to help them out by showing their recruiting videos on the nightly news. The media, for reasons of their own which appear more compelling to them than national security, long ago decided to work with America's enemies; the most charitable conclusion is that they're so deathly afraid of American military might becoming American imperialism, that they would rather see an America defeated, humbled, and on its knees than triumphant, dominant, and ascendent.

To think that the internationalists in the elite media are cheerleaders for success in Iraq, let alone the larger GWOJ, is naïve; to imagine that the tilt is so subtle that ordinary readers don't realize it -- is downright insulting.

Yet that is exactly what columnist Eric Boehlert, from Media Matters for America, does in "Michelle Malkin fiddles while Baghdad burns." Boehlert, and many others like him in the drive-by media, criticize sites such as Michelle Malkin, Flopping Aces, and Confederate Yankee (from the best of intentions!) They call us -- he didn't mention Big Lizards, but I feel some solidarity with the ones he did -- they call us "warbloggers," who are “chronically incorrect” and uninterested in the truth... unlike the perennially truth-seeking mainstream media. (Hat tip, who else? Michelle Malkin.)

In fact, while I wouldn't say Boehlert has it exactly backwards -- there are many bloggers (even "warbloggers") who are just as biased (or corrupt) as Mary Mapes and Eason Jordan -- the mere fact that there is so much more big political money in the professional media than in the blogosphere itself argues in favor of more honesty within the latter.

For Boehlert is an honourable man; so are they all, all honourable men

In fact, Boehlert himself gives us a perfect example of the deep, underlying, and contemptuous atitude of the elites in the professional media towards the upstarts "who have virtually no serious journalism experience among them." In his lengthy harangue on his Media Matters blog, he attempts to discredit Michelle Malkin -- the bête noire he seems to fear more than the rest of the blogosphere combined -- with an off-topic and puzzling slap:

It should be noted that Malkin's breathless excitement over the AP story nearly matches the enthusiasm she used to spread online smears about the press in the spring of 2005 during the Terri Schiavo right-to-die controversy. That's when Malkin backed the novel conspiracy theory that press reports about how congressional Republicans had drafted a talking-points memo in order to properly spin the Schiavo story were all wrong. In fact, according to Malkin's fact-free analysis, an unknown Democratic operative had concocted the phony GOP talking-points memo and duped the media in order to make Republicans look bad.

This was a big story, in which the honest and honorable media reported not only that a Republican wrote it -- true, Brian Darling, legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL, 100%) -- but also that the Republicans distributed it to the party faithful on Capitol Hill -- which turned out to be completely false: Martinez gave it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%), and it was then leaked to the media. By charging Malkin with having "backed the novel conspiracy theory" that Democrats wrote the memo, he paints her as a delusional loon who can simply be dismissed.

But wait... did she really push that "conspiracy theory?"

As proof she did, Boehlert links to another post on Media Matters -- attributed to "J.W.," though there is nobody listed on the masthead of Media Matters with those initials; not only does J.W. not back up Boehlert's accusation, he says precisely nothing about Malkin's position:

[Josh] Claybourn [of In the Agora] posted a March 26 blog entry claiming that four anonymous GOP Senate staffers had accused a Reid aide of distributing "distributing forged 'talking points' to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship. Though this information has since been excised from the post [J.W. must mean excised from the Claybourn post], conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who has been actively following this subplot on her blog, stated in an April 7 post that In the Agora originally identified them as staff members of Martinez and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

So all that J.W. is saying is that Malkin correctly reported that a Josh Claybourn post identified staffers for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) as the culprits behind the false charge that the Schiavo memo was written by a Democrat. J.W. says nothing remotely like Boehlert's claim that Malkin said "an unknown Democratic operative had concocted the phony GOP talking-points memo." Eric Boehlert simply made that charge up.

But of course, Eric Boehlert is an honorable man.

In fact, it's even worse: Michelle Malkin was skeptical of Claybourn's informants' information from the beginning. On March 26th -- nearly two weeks before the J.W. post above -- Malkin published a post titled Eyewitnesses?, question mark included. In it, she quoted from the Claybourn post, then added this:

I don't buy it. Here's why:

[We skip her five reasons for rejecting the In the Agora accusation.]

Unless someone is prepared to stand up and publicly point the finger at a specific individual and explain the decision to delay disclosing the true source of the memo, I can only conclude that ITA's sources are probably lying.

Note not only Boehlert's peculiar relationship with the truth of the matter -- saying that Malkin had championed the idea that the Shiavo memo was written by Democrats, when in fact she immediately rejected it -- but also the fact that he is so dismissive of those of us who didn't go to J-school, that he thinks we won't even bestir ourselves to follow his link and see what Malkin actually said. He believes he is safe, because "warbloggers" are either too stupid or too lazy to do the least bit of research.

Eric Boehlert believes his own arrogant fantasy of pajama-clad losers warblogging from their mothers' basements. But Boehlert is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.

The blogosphere -- threat or menace?

Boehlert's main subject, however, is the recently discredited and partially retracted Associated Press story about four mosques being "burned" and six Iraqi Sunnis being doused with kerosine and burnt alive; he latches hold of this story and tries to demonstrate how paranoid are the "warbloggers" he despises.

(Before reading further, please first read Patterico's excellent summary of what we know (as of today) AP got wrong about that story.)

In his post, Boehlert shows utter contempt towards any blogger who dares question elite media reporting (rather than simply receiving it like tablets from Mount Sinai). He mocks the very notion that the MSM could be willing accomplices (or useful idiots), out to make us lose the war in Iraq... just as Walter Cronkite helped us lose Vietnam by falsely (and deliberately) reporting the Tet Offensive -- a Viet Cong attack that failed catastrophically, resulting in the destruction of the Viet Cong as a serious military force -- as a tremendous enemy victory that meant America had already lost the war.

Boehlert equates "warbloggers" like Michelle Malkin and Confederate Yankee with lunatic conspiracy theorists, disdaining as "illogical obsession" our suspicions about the accuracy, and even the veracity, of Iraqi and Afghan stringers and informers. He crows that we only question the MSM because we cannot face the reality that we lost the war (which certainly would be news to the American military personnel fighting in Iraq; and to the Iraqis; and for that matter, to al-Qaeda or Muqtada Sadr or whomever we're supposed to have lost the war to).

Boehlert's central j'accuse is that we "warbloggers" ignore the carnage of sectarian violence, clinging instead to irrelevant minor discrepancies (such as non-existent mosque burnings and burnt Sunnis who cannot be found) like “a ray of hope.”

And he also tries to slip another one across. Unable to seriously damage the credibility of "warbloggers" by actually finding errors or maladroit reasoning in their war-related posts, Boehlert embarks upon a campaign of drive-by discrediting: he finds some post somewhere, typically unrelated or only tangentially related to the war, where the warblogger in his crosshairs wrote something to which Boehlert objects. He then trots this out as more evidence of the "warblogger" being "unhinged," "obsessed," "demented," or harboring "unbridled hatred of Arabs and Muslims" and wanting to see journalists "get killed":

Warning: Confederate Yankee is the same warblogger who recently posted a Reuters photo of an elderly Iraqi woman wrapped in a headscarf and crying beside a coffin. Confederate Yankee sensed foul play and claimed the picture had been mischievously doctored by the wire service because the Iraqi woman's face was actually George Bush's mug superimposed onto the picture. I kid you not.

Actually, "kid you" he does... because following the link to Confederate Yankee makes it perfectly clear that Bob Owens was simply joking, for heaven's sake. (Strangely, Boehlert never links directly to a blog; instead, he always links to a Media Matters redirect to the link target. I don't know why he does this; perhaps it's a pompous Media Matters house rule. But it's annoying, since I actually must click through to every source to get the URL, rather than right-clicking and selecting "Copy link location".)

Here is what Confederate Yankee writes:

Apparently, even nominal quantities of over-the-counter cold medications can cause you to see the most interesting things.

I know this, because this Reuters picture has all the earmarks of a crudely-edited PhotoShop, from the rather odd smudges and apparent artifacts around the heads of the two women on the left when the photo is enlarged, to the rather uncanny resemblance that one person in the picture has to someone I feel I should know.

After Adnan Hajj, Reuters wouldn't fall for this sort of stuff again, would they?

It’s a good thing I can chalk this up to cough syrup. If not, I might have to start questioning the media’s accuracy.

If Boehlert cannot figure out that this is a joke, then he shares his sense of humor with John Kerry. The alternative is that Boehlert knew it was a joke, but he decided to pretend it was serious, in order to discredit Owens. But I cannot imagine he would do such a thing, for Boehlert is an honorable man.

Warning: Having now seen two examples of Eric Boehlert confabulating false charges against the "warbloggers," who seem to haunt his dreams at night, I will follow the links on each and every such accusation that he makes from now on. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 217 times in the same post, and I'll resign from the blogosphere in disgrace.

Baghdad mosques are burning down, burning down, burning down

Here is Boehlert in full cry, expounding his thesis like Marc Antony bestriding Caesar's dagger-riven body (so Boehlert's head does not explode, I confess that all emphasis is added for clarity):

By inflating the disputed incident into a monumentally important press story, warbloggers, who have excitedly pounded the story for weeks, convinced themselves that blame for the United States' emerging defeat in Iraq lay squarely at the feet of the press. Specifically, warbloggers claim that American journalists, too cowardly to go get the news themselves, are relying on local Iraqi news stringers who have obvious sympathies for terrorists and who purposefully push propaganda into the news stream -- the way Hussein did with the Burned Alive story -- to create the illusion of turmoil. Warbloggers, who have virtually no serious journalism experience among them, announced that what's coming out of Iraq today is not news at all, but simply terrorist press releases -- "a pack of lies" -- regurgitated by reporters (or "traitors") who want to see the insurgents succeed....

But warbloggers aren't interested in an honest, factual debate about a single instance of journalistic accountability. And they're not really interested in the specifics of the Burned Alive story. They're interested in wide-ranging conspiracy theories and silencing skeptical voices.

Shakespeare weeps with envy.

But Boehlert is no fool; he knows that the MSM, like everyone else (including Boehlert himself), has an agenda. Boehlert is unhinged because the media elite, which he is part of, no longer dominates the news cycle, as they used to do before first talk radio, then the blogosphere threatened their monopoly. "Warbloggers" (many of whom are former soldiers) ask too many inconvenient questions; and it is Boehlert, not Malkin or Owens or the fellows at Power Line, who is rather desperate to "silence skeptical voices."

But Boehlert is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.

Continued next post...

(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post)

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 05, 2007, at the time of 09:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

All Right, He Died Like a Man

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In the end, Saddam Hussein died like a man.

There, I said it. It's an interesting phenomenon: that a despicable scum may nevertheless go to his death with courage and grace. I first encountered the idea in William Shakespeare's MacBeth: at the end, with Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, confronted with the fact that MacDuff was "not of woman born," and now in full knowledge that he is doomed to die in this very duel... nevertheless, MacBeth neither cries nor whimpers nor rails at his fate, but calls out:

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'

MacBeth, Act V, Scene VIII

I tripped across it again in Mark Twain's wonderful book Roughing It, mostly reporting his trip out west with his brother Orion Clemens, who had just been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada.

In the section about the "road agent," John Slade, Twain (this is nonfiction) describes how the man was originally hired by the Overland Stage Company to run all the outlaws out of the territory near the stage line. Slade succeeded by astounding acts of bravery and brutality; eventually, outlaws avoided the Overland stage like taxes. But Slade grew bored and began terrorizing ordinary people in drunken shooting sprees through the town. He would rage and pick fights, once even burning a buliding. Later, when he sobered up, he was contrite and paid the damages... but it was just too much.

Eventually, he became such a bully and a menace that a hundred miners from the silver fields felt compelled to lynch him. But -- and here's the part this leads into -- when Slade's time came, he stood up, looked them in the eye, and put his own head into the noose. Slade died like a man, and folks remembered that.

~

I recently watched the cell-phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution. Now, I'm extremely squeamish about watching innocent people being murdered; I simply won't do it. I've never seen an al-Qaeda beheading video, and I never shall. But I have no problem at all watching guilty people being executed, whether by hanging, gas, lethal injection, or even Old Sparky. I've seen videos, and I would jump at the chance to witness an actual execution live.

So I watched with interest... and what I saw was a horrific mass murderer -- his bodycount a minimum of 300,000, perhaps as many as 5,000,000, depending on who you believe -- who nevertheless walked to his doom as a man, not a whipped dog. He must finally have understood that this was it: no last-minute reprieve, the Americans wouldn't save him, and his French, Russian, and Chinese pals cut him from their speed-dials. But as some grotesque Lefty I know remarked (broken clocks), the only person at that hanging to show any dignity or understanding of the solemnity of the proceedings was... Saddam Hussein.

For me, the capper was when Hussein heard that Sadrite idiot shouting "Muqtada! Muqtada!" The dictator sneered at the shouter and sarcastically asked, "Muqtada?" Then he says something that can be translated as "do you consider this bravery?" or "do you consider this acting like a man?"

He refused a hood or blindfold; he didn't struggle futilely or blubber like a baby. He didn't beg. He stepped forward calmly into oblivion.

I read an account by one of the execution witnesses who said he "saw fear" in Hussein's eyes; but I think that man was just whistling past the gravy train: I saw a man, standing amid a shriek of capering baboons.

I do not believe Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, would have died as well or as bravely in similar circumstances.

~

As I watched, I remembered I had seen this scene before! But where? Yesterday it came back... the second of Richard Lester's productions of the Alexandre Dumas classic the Three Musketeers (the movie is called the Four Musketeers) begins with the attempted execution of Cardinal Richelieu's spy, Rochefort -- played by the inestimable Christopher Lee.

He is in the course of being shot by a firing squad in the Huguenot city of La Rochelle, where he has been caught spying. They're taking forever at their task, having to prime their muskets, load their muskets, and so forth. A man comes up with a blindfold for Rochefort, but he is stymied by the fact that the spy once lost an eye and wears a patch. At length, Rochefort suggests, "I'll close one eye."

At last, the men line up, aim, and fire... and every shot misses. At this point, an exasperated Rochefort rolls his eye and says, "I could die of old age..."

I wonder if Hussein had seen the movie?

~

As I said, it's an interesting phenomenon: Saddam Hussein was one of the worst human beings ever to have lived, and if there is a God, as I hope there is, Hussein is right now burning in hellfire hotter than a thousand suns, breathing Cyclosarin gas and having his feet perpetually mutilated in a plastic shredder. But he was also a man; a despicable a man, but man nonetheless.

In George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, when Joan of Arc is put to the flame, one of the English soldiers steps forward and gives her a pair of sticks, tied into a cross, for her to hold. It was his one act of kindness in a life of brutish, thuggish, violence... and for that mercy, one day in every year, God allows him out of Hell.

Hussein was much worse a human being than that poor, vulgar soldier who was only following orders. But for the way he died, I believe Saddam Hussein will also get that one night of paradise -- perhaps only once each century.

I'm terribly glad he's dead, and I applaud the Iraqis for having the guts and good sense to string him up. Let's get on with the show trials for the rest of his atrocities. (I very much support show trials in cases like this; I mean, it's not as if Hussein could claim he had an alibi!)

Yet I cannot help but admire the way he went; and I hope, if my time ever comes, I can match the grace and dignity of that evil dictator.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 03, 2007, at the time of 02:44 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 01, 2007

Saddam's Execution "Upsets" Saddamites

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning display of perspicacity and sophisticated nuancing, if I'm allowed to coin that neologism, the drive-by media has discovered that long-time supporters of Saddam Hussein in Iraq are irked that he was hanged.

No, really:

Rage over the hanging of Saddam Hussein spilled into the streets in many parts of the Sunni Muslim heartland Monday, especially in Samarra where a mob of angry protesters broke the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader.

Sunni extremists had blown apart the glistening dome on the Shiite holy place 10 months earlier, setting in motion the sectarian slaughter that now grips the troubled land.

(I love that parenthetical second paragraph... just in case the Shia had forgotten their rage, in the joy of seeing Saddam dancing on air, AP helpfully reminds them.)

So, what are we talking about, how large a "mob of angry protesters?" Was it ten thousand rallying in Samarra? A hundred thousand rocking Baghdad? Oh, here it is:

In northern Baghdad, hundreds of Sunnis conducted a demonstration to mourn Saddam in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood.

"The Baath party and Baathists still exist in Iraq, and nobody can marginalize it," said Samir al-Obaidi, 48, who attended a Saddam memorial in the Azamiyah neighborhood. [Is he perhaps a Baathist?]

In Dor, 77 miles north of Baghdad, hundreds more took to the streets to inaugurate a giant mosaic of Saddam. Children carried toy guns and men fired into the air. ["A giant mosaic of Saddam."]

Mourners at a mosque in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit slaughtered sheep as a sacrifice for their former leader. The mosque's walls were lined with condolence cards from tribes in southern Iraq and Jordan who were unable to travel to the memorial.

Great Scott, if we add hundreds to hundreds, we get hundreds -- possibly a thousand. Out of a population of 8.5 million Sunnis. Evidently, they're not quite as upset with Saddam's execution as feminists in America are that abortion rights have been slightly trimmed, or as illegal immigrants are here that they might be made, ah, "illegal." Amazingly, however, Saddam's execution gets the old razzberry from his most ardent Baathist supporters.

(In fact, the "good news" is that, so far at least, it's not hundreds or thousands, or even just thousands.)

The rest of the story consists of the writer salivating over the final deaths that occurred in Iraq on the last day of 2006: two U.S. soldiers, six Sunni insurgents, and the alleged finding of "the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies" -- don't you love the multiple layers of editing in the elite media?

I write "alleged" because of the discovery that AP's long-time police source for such stories, "police captain Jamil Hussein," the Lieutenant Kije of Baghdad, has been shown not to exist... or at least AP cannot produce him, he doesn't appear on the payroll of the Interior Ministry (as all other National Police do), and nobody else can find hide nor hair of him. He appears instead to be an anonymous Sunni propagandist stringer working for AP. Thus, we can no longer trust any claim that AP makes about "police" reporting the finding of dead bodies.

In fact, here is how they phrased it:

Police reported finding the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad on the first day of the New Year. A police official, who refused to be named out of security fears, said "15 of these bodies [were] found in one place," the largely industrial Sheik Omar district in northern Baghdad.

Perhaps the Associated Press has retired the "Jamil Hussein" house name but hasn't yet thought up a replacement.

The only grafs that could possibly be considered "news" in this entire story are that we raided the offices of a Sunni member of parliament who is believed to be an insurgent running an al-Qaeda safe house (or not so safe, as it turns out)... a supposition made more plausible by the fact that when we went to his office -- the suspected site -- we were met with heavy military resistance:

Also, U.S. forces killed six people in a raid on the Baghdad offices of a top Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, on suspicion it was being used as an al-Qaida safe house, the military and Iraqi police said.

The U.S. military said [they] took on heavy fire from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades as they sought to enter the building. Al-Mutlaq is a senior member of the National Dialogue Front, which holds 11 of the 275 seats in Iraq's parliament....

Ground troops were backed by helicopters that "engaged the enemy with precision point target machine gun fire," the military said. It was unclear whether the deaths resulted from the ground assault or fire from U.S. helicopters.

Shouldn't the headline have read "U.S. Forces Storm al-Qaeda Safe House," and the lede have noted that the house was the Baghdad office of Member of Parliament Saleh al-Mutlaq? Then they could have dropped all the useless fluff about former Baathists being upset that Iraq hanged Saddam and simply included eight column inches of white space.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 01, 2007, at the time of 03:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 29, 2006

Clinton Judge Has Opportunity to Shine! - UPDATED

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: see below.

In a desperate, 11th-hour publicity stunt, Saddam's lawyers have filed for a stay of execution of his, ah, execution -- and they've filed in a United States district court:

Hussein's lawyers filed documents Friday afternoon asking for a stay of execution. The 21-page request was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Attorneys argued that because Hussein also faces a civil lawsuit in Washington, he has rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he is executed. He has not received notice of those rights and the consequences that the lawsuit would have on his estate, his attorneys said.

"To protect those rights, defendant Saddam Hussein requests an order of this court providing a stay of his execution until further notice of this court," attorney Nicholas Gilman wrote.

Another condemned Iraqi convict, former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court Awad Hamed al-Bandar, filed a similar motion yesterday and was denied; that denial is under appeal, but it's hard to believe the D.C. Circus would rule that foreigners being tried by foreign courts for foreign crimes committed in foreign countries against foreign victims were nevertheless protected by the United States Constitution: we're not Belgium.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly was appointed to the bench by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1997... so this is her opportunity to strike a blow against the by-now universal belief that the Clinton judges are all a bunch of wild-eyed maniacs, yahoos, termagants, and misanthropes who will stoop to committing any monkeyshines that may be necessary to come to the politically correct decision. She should look (former U.S. Attorney General under LBJ and current -- or recent -- Saddam defense lawyer) Ramsey Clark in the eye, adjust her glasses, and ask, "are you out of your frigging mind?"

Then she can tell him that if he files any more frivolities, he can jolly well appear before her at six o'clock the next morning and explain why he should not be tossed in her courtroom clink for making overtly risible motions in a federal court, which simply must be valid cause for a contempt citation, if this is a sane world.

Clearly, no American civil court has jurisdiction to prevent Iraq from executing its own criminals on its own soil, for heaven's sake... whether he is or is not a defendant in a civil trial here. But if we want to make the point clear, we should hand over custody of Saddam Hussien immediately to the Iraqis... so that even if Judge Kollar-Kotelly reverts to type, we can simply shrug and say "we currently have no prisoner by that name."

Let them file for a stay with the Iraqis, if they want; they're the ones executing the bugger, not us. Or perhaps they can file with the Warty Bliggens Court of Cosmic Justice (convened in a frog-pond somewhere in Belgium, no doubt). But not here.

Come come, judge -- redeem your peer-group and tell Mr. Clark to go boil an owl. Let Saddam go to his Maker, and be done with him.

UPDATE December 29th, 2006, 7:18: Judge Kollar-Kotelly shone; she rejected the Hail Mary, if that's the appropriate phrase.

Within a matter of hours -- or minutes -- Saddam's feet will have nothing beneath them but air.

UPDATE December 29th, 2006, 7:23:

Consummatum est

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 29, 2006, at the time of 02:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 27, 2006

Careful What You Threaten; You Might Have to Deliver

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Muqtada Sadr's faction in Iraq is up in arms -- not quite literally yet -- because we killed a top Sadr aide who was also an "improvised explosive device facilitator" and "implicated in a bomb attack on a police chief in October."

The Mahdi Miltia, while insisting that Saheb al-Amiri was not a member, nevertheless threatened retaliation for his death (go figure). Reuters warns the United States that we'd better watch out and, presumably, stop killing Mahdi Militia bomb-makers (yes, I confess I believe American military spokespeople in preference to Sadr's propagandists):

Najaf, home to Iraq's top Shi'ite clerics, was the site of a 2004 rebellion against U.S. forces by militias loyal to Sadr, who also has power bases in Baghdad.

Another uprising against U.S. forces by Sadr Mehdi Army militias would be a major headache for the U.S. military, which has 135,000 troops in a country gripped by Shi'ite-Sunni strife.

But is that really true? Would it really be a "headache" for us? Or would it, contrariwise, be a great gift to us -- allowing us to tear into the Mahdi Militia without having to get a permission slip from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki?

If Sadr were to order his Mighty Morphin Mahdi Militia to assail American forces, to take a third bite at the apple by investing Najaf, I think it would be a dream come true: there is no way that Maliki -- already compromised by his close connection with Sadr -- could order us to ignore the Mahdi Militia doing something as over-the-top as capturing a city and declaring themselves a power separate from the Iraqi government... certainly not when the largest Shiite political party, the SCIRI, is already scheming to oust Maliki for being too beholden to Sadr (thus to Iran).

The Sadr bloc, which comprises 30 members of parliament and six cabinet ministers, have been boycotting Maliki's government since he met President Bush last month.

The best that Maliki could do would be to stay silent, say nothing while we turned upon Sadr and his merry men and ground the militia into a shadow of itself. This would yield three great outcomes:

  • It would severely damage the most violent and destructive Shiite militia in Iraq;
  • It would cripple Nouri al-Maliki by hurting his patron, making it much easier to oust him (or alternatively, to induce him to switch parties from Islamic Dawa to SCIRI and repudiate Sadr);
  • Finally, by knocking Sadr out of the power block, it would even more seriously cripple Iran.

Unfortunately for us, all of the players can make the same calculation; thus, it's extraordinarily unlikely that the Mahdi Militia will actually attack American forces, or Iraqi forces, or anything else that could serve as casus belli to draw the United States into a pitched battle that we couldn't possibly lose.

Now that I think about it, there are a lot more cards on the table today than there were in November. We have:

  • A restive Mahdi Militia that might make a critical mistake and open themselves up to a terrible defeat;
  • A fairly open attempt to remove Maliki and substitute someone from SCIRI, who will be very happy to go after Sadr hammer and nail (the attempt is not viewed happily by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but I doubt he can stop the attempt);
  • Proof positive that Iran is directly killing Americans and Iraqis in Iraq --
  • -- and whose economy is tanking and oil revenues running dry
  • -- whose students are in open revolt and whose citizens are voting against President Ahmadinejad --
  • -- and which just spat in the face of the UN Security Council so blatantly that even the French were stunned.

We already had the best starting hand (the U.S. military), and now we've picked up a lot of good cards. We should be feeling pretty good about our chances right about now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 27, 2006, at the time of 11:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 20, 2006

Solvalogging: Jamil Hussein... Baghdad's Own Lieutenant Kije

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

So John over at Power Line sez,

I assume that Associated Press reporters don't just make stuff up, and, when in doubt, attribute it to a fictitious character named Jamil Hussein.

Bah, humbug, sez I. I think that is exactly what they have done in this case!

In a 1927 short story by Yury Tynyanov, a Russian general is reading a report to Czar Paul I; the czar mishears a word and thinks the general is talking about a "Lieutenant Kijé," who sounds like a brave and brilliant fellow. Czar Paul demands to hear more about him.

As it is death to contradict the czar, the general makes up several wonderful missions and adventures of the entirely fictitious Lieutenant Kijé. Soon other commanders join in the fun; eventually, there is an entire cottage industry of Kijé sightings, Kijé adventures, and Kijé romances. Lt. Kijé eventually gets married -- and while the czar never seems to run into the fellow himself, the soldiers sure do enjoy all the vodka the czar supplies!

The story was turned into a movie in 1934 by Aleksandr Fajntsimmer, with music by Prokofiev (the music is much more famous than either the movie or the story).

I see an exact parallel to AP. Whenever a journalist is concocting a story, especially one designed to fit snug and tight into The Story (the predetermined vision that fills the reporter even before heading out to Iraq or Afghanistan or Upper Iguana), he typically ends up with a handful of important, tendentious points he desires to make... but which no actual named source is quite willing to supply. At that point, our intrepid reporter has only three options:

  • He can just shrug and let them go; but this runs afoul of the primary duty of the profession of journalism: to save the world from the likes of George W. Bush and other sordid Republicans;
  • He can simply make the points himself in his own voice; but this gets him in trouble with the managing editor, unless he has a big enough name that he's been dubbed a "news rainmaker," allowed to blatantly interject his own idiot opinions into alleged news stories (e.g., Bob Woodward's "interview" of Bill Casey);
  • If he's not the type only interested in reporting facts, and he's not a rainmaker, then there is but one surefire technique available to him, which is taught in the upper-division classes at J-school: he can simply invent a source and attribute those essential points of The Story to him.

But it's hard work to fabricate a source, complete with a believable name, a sufficiently impressive but safely vague enough background, and a job profile that would put him in the thick of whatever things the reporter is assigned to cover.

I'm sure at some point it has occurred to every reporter that it would be quite useful to have a small handbook of pre-fab fictional sources. That way, rather than straining to create one himself -- and perhaps coming up with "Sheikh Omar Kayyam al-Arglebargle, a Baghdad greengrocer and turbin adjuster," who travels all over the country witnessing war crimes the way Jessica Fletcher witnesses murders at every dinner party she attends -- the cub reporter can just thumb through the Handbook of Purely Believable Sources (Pure-BS) and find one to take the blame.

The Pure-BS would presumably group them by province; it wouldn't do to cite Police Captain Jamil "Kijé" Hussein in a story about American atrocities in Anbar, and have somebody else cite him the same day about Sunni crimes against humanity in Sadr City! But it probably wouldn't divide the provinces themselves up much, because that would require the reporter to actually know where he was, or to risk embarassment by having to ask his driver. Thus, the various reporters (stringers and actual AP employees) just use Jamil Hussein solely on the basis of how recently he's been cited and whether there is another fictitious source waiting his own turn.

Presumably, Reuters, CNN, and the Times each has its own handbook; we could test the theory for each media outlet by looking for those sources who get cited most often without any visible signs of existing. (Look for them not appearing on any payroll, never being seen by anybody but the reporter, or being described in the article as a six-foot tall rabbit named Mohammed al-Pooka). But perhaps they can "loan out" a particularly juicy Kijé to a rival for a fee.

Just like the "real" Lt. Kijé, now that the heat's on AP, look for Police Captain Jamil Hussein to suddenly turn up dead... murdered by a joint American/Shiite death squad who found out where he lives because Michelle Malkin and other right-wing bloggers outed him -- those dirty spoilsports!

I'm appalled by the lack of creativity and imagination in the blogosphere. Must it always be left to Big Lizards to suggest the obvious explanation for everything?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 20, 2006, at the time of 06:10 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 13, 2006

Jefferson Would Be Ticked...

Blogomania , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

...And he's a bad-ass you don't want to mess with: he was 6'3" at a time when the average height of a man was closer to 5'3"; that would be rather like being 6'10" today -- and he was no wimp, either.

There is a phrase that grates on my eye every time I read it... and that seems to be quite a lot anymore.

The most recent use was by Dean Barnett, an intelligent guy, even by my exalted standards, whose blogposts on Hugh Hewitt's blog I normally read with pleasure. But in the midst of one of Dean's infamous Q&A posts, he wrote the following (the boldface and numbering are Dean's):

11) So, the big question: Can the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis live peacefully alongside each other?

It depends on how fundamentalist and radicalized each sect in Iraq is. We know each sect has its elements that are bent on violence. The question is whether these elements are fringe groups or the mainstream. If they’re fringe groups, they can be destroyed and peace could break out. If they’re the mainstream, there’s no hope.

12) So what if they’re the mainstream? Then what?

Then the country has to be broken up, with the Sunnis getting a piece and the Shiites getting a piece and the Kurds holding onto their piece.

13) That’s disappointing. It doesn’t quite match the original vision of an Islamic Jeffersonian democracy that swirled about our heads three years ago, does it?

Radical Shiites and radical Sunnis have as much interest in living in a Jeffersonian Democracy as the typical American has living under Sharia. The quicker we come to peace with that fact, the better.

The question is, can any of you figure out what particular phrase leapt out at me as something that makes me want to go to Dean's house and run my fingernails across his chalkboard, so he understands how I feel?

And guess what? I'm going to be a total jagoff -- and not tell you the answer until you click the "Slither On" button. Hah. (But please take some time first, and get your guess firmly in mind.)

I suspect all but three of our regular commenters (you know who you are!) will have correctly picked out the phrase "Jeffersonian Democracy" as the offender. It's just about the biggest straw-man argument lobbed against Bush's Iraq policy, used only by right-wingers and libertarians who want to heap scorn upon the very idea that non-Europeans could possibly have a functioning democracy... and I sincerely believe it to be racist in its very essence.

First, nobody has ever used that phrase except those who oppose the very idea of trying to plant a democracy in the Middle East; I support the policy of Iraqi democracy... but try searching on "Jeffersonian" on Big Lizards and see how many times the phrase "Jeffersonian democracy" is used: until this post, the score was 0.

Second, nobody in the Bush administration has ever said he expected to see a Jeffersonian (that is, "perfect") democracy in Iraq. All any supporter of the policy has ever said is that a democracy could be set up there -- and it's obvious from context that the example they had in mind was the democracy (and it is one) in Turkey, another Islamic country.

Turkey is not a nice place (by European standards); it's violent; there are clashes between ethnic groups that result in dead pickles. There is terrorism. There are Islamists, and in fact they won the last elections.

But it is, by Allah, a functioning, secure, and honest democracy. For eight decades, they've had civil rights; they've had real elections; and they've generally abided by the results, even when the ruling party is ousted... even in spite of at least four coups d'état: in each case, after a few years, the ruling military relinquished control to civilian authorities again (most recently following the Islamist victory in 1996).

In Turkey, the army frequently acts as a "moderator," preventing any swings too far to left or right: when they intervene, it's generally to oust an extremist government in favor of moderation. I fully expect the American-trained New Iraqi Army to serve the same function, preventing either a Muqtada Sadr or a Musab Zarqawi coming to power.

Despite such military intervention, to quote that bastion of 100% perfect -- dare I say Jeffersonian? -- information, Wikipedia:

Turkey is a democratic, secular, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the OIC, the OECD and the OSCE, a member state of the Council of Europe since 1949 and of the NATO since 1952, and is currently in accession negotiations with the European Union, being an associate member since 1964. [I excised all the footnotes: they looked silly, and I wasn't about to insert seven links into one paragraph.]

I agree that Iraq started off on the wrong foot by adopting a European-style parliamentary system, rather than becoming a constitutional republic like the United States; but with as many parties as they have (dozens), it was probably the only system that would get a majority of Iraqis to support it. Nevertheless, three elections later, it's frankly ridiculous to argue that democracy isn't "working" in Iraq.

It's violent and bloody; but so was Greece during their civil war from 1946 to 1949, during which they finally crushed the Communist insurgency. The Britannica says that more than 50,000 combatants were killed during those three years, plus many tens of thousands of non-combatants who got in the way -- and that may not even count those who died in the first phase, 1942-1944, during which the right-wing socialists (quasi-Fascists) fought the left-wing socialists (Communists) to see who would lead the resistance to Nazi occupation of Greece. (Hugh Hewitt was just talking about it on his show today, which sparked my curiosity, causing me to look it up.)

That is, more Greeks were butchered during that war than all but the most hysterical estimates of Iraqis killed since the liberation. Yet nobody today says that Greeks are incapable of governing as a democracy.

And certainly, many times more Americans died during our Civil War -- more than 800,000 -- than in Iraq; more even as a percent of our population then. Yet nobody would dare claim we were not a democracy in 1864, even in spite of the suspension of habeus corpus: for Abraham Lincoln had to stand for re-election right in the middle of the campaign... and he had to run against his former top general, George McClellan, whom he had dismissed for inaction!

Finally, the Iraqi democracy has shown a remarkable resilience: despite horrific attacks, deformations, and a campaign of mindless murder that beggars the imagination, not one single party has broken away from parliament and declared the democracy experiment dead. They're still plugging away. Even the attempt to oust Nouri al-Maliki is being conducted according to the Iraqi constitution: the SCIRI, the Kurds, the Sunni, and the seculars are trying to vote down Maliki's government with a "no confidence" referendum.

Thus, Dean Barnett's sarcasm notwithstanding, the Iraq democracy is faring far better than the pessimists (like Barnett) could have imagined. Iraq is not even in a civil war; yet Barnett has the bizarre idea that a functioning democracy somehow doesn't count if there are a lot of deaths... but only when we're talking about non-Europeans. When countries whose citizens are of European extraction experience years of violent bloodshed, we still allow them to be called democracies -- whether it's Greece, the United States, or Northern Ireland.

I suspect that Dean is not even aware of his double standard; he's a nice guy, with his head well-screwed-on anent other topics. But he just reacts viscerally (via the reptilian part of his brain) to the very idea of democracy in an Arab country.

I can't really fault Dean; my friend and worth co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver is exactly the same way: he understands and agrees that the "Realist" school of propping up a "friendly" dictator doesn't work and probably never did work well... but still he cannot wrap his brain around the idea that non-Europeans are advanced enough to create a functioning, stable democracy. (For some reason, Japanese and Koreans count as Europeans in this game.)

In Brad's case, he's more straightforward. Alas, Dean Barnett reacts by setting the bar impossible high: for God's sake, not even the United States is a "Jeffersonian democracy!"

So anyway, the next time you see that phrase... just bear in mind that it's a shibboleth of conservatives that serves no purpose but to mock the idea that Arabs can form a democracy -- and it's illogical, counter-empirical, and darned offensive.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 13, 2006, at the time of 04:02 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

President Bush's Way Forward

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I heard a strange rumor a couple of days ago, but I couldn't find any substantiation, so I didn't blog on it. But of a sudden, it has burst forth in the form of an article on Yahoo by a couple of AP stringers, Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra. (I Googled them, but they appear to be run-of-the-mill reporters; I didn't see anything weird or suspicious about either reporter.)

It appears that there is now a serious push, backed (and possibly fomented) by the Bush Administration, to oust the incompetent Nouri al-Maliki, number-two in the (Shiite) Islamic Dawa Party, from his position as Iraqi prime minister. The ouster would be entirely legal, in the form of a vote of no confidence, which requires only a simple majority of the members of parliament.

I suspect replacing Maliki is one of the "new directions in Iraq" Bush has had in mind for some time, hence his own version of "the way forward," to counter the "diplomatic offensive" and draw-down recommended by the Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton commission).

(Captain Ed blogged about this earlier, but I didn't see his post until after I wrote this. Still, we tackle different aspects of the same story; both are worth reading!)

The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence.

The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim [of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI] , who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying above the grinding day-to-day running of the country.

A key figure in the proposed alliance, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab [of the Iraqi Islamic Party], left for Washington on Sunday for a meeting with Bush at least three weeks ahead of schedule.

For those keeping score, that's two of the top politicians in the bloc both meeting with President Bush within a week of each other: there is no question but that the Bush administration is at least closely involved with the attempt to oust Maliki.

Maliki has long been unable -- or unwilling -- to do anything to rein in the murderous Mahdi Militia; which is hardly surprising, since that militant death squad is led by Maliki's own master (and Iranian puppet), Muqtada Sadr. Sadr has almost single-handedly kept Maliki in power, having planted him on the petal throne last May. And so long as the Mahdi continues to murder Iraqis by the thousands, its rivals among the Sunni tribes (including both al-Qaeda and renegade former Baathists) and even among other Shiite groups (include the Badr Brigades, now called the Badr Organization, of SCIRI) will refuse to stand down.

Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia is believed to be responsible for the majority of the internecine butchery in Iraq; if they were to lose power, perhaps along with Maliki's Dawa Party, it would be a strong blow to Iran, Sadr's patron: while SCIRI too has some ties to Iran, they are nowhere near as deep as Dawa's... whose leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the former and equally incompetent prime minister (Maliki is merely the deputy leader, even though he is the current PM).

Both Dawa and SCIRI were based in Teheran during the Iran-Iraq war, and both received support from Iran; but SCIRI has no equivalent to the Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr... who, while not being a member of any established party, has forged a very close working relationship with Maliki, serving as Iran's conduit into the heart of the Iraqi government.

This is certainly not a done deal yet; there is a major hurdle to overcome:

The groups engaged in talks have yet to agree on a leader, said lawmaker Hameed Maalah, a senior official of al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

One likely candidate for prime minister, however, was said to be Iraq's other vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite who was al-Hakim's choice for the prime minister's job before al-Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate and won.

Sadr, Maliki, and everyone who still profits from the chaos of Iraq will of course fight viciously to retain the status quo, especially as they are hopeful that, with the Democrats controlling Congress, America's defeat and withdrawal is just around the corner. (I don't believe it is; but what matters is what Sadr believes, not I.) Still, the bloc of Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia hoping to replace Maliki claims that it has the 138 votes out of 275 that it needs to prevail:

Al-Maliki's government, under the Iraqi constitution, could be ousted if a simple majority of parliament's 275 members opposed it in a vote of confidence. Parties in the talks expressed confidence they had enough votes.

"The question of confidence in this government must be reconsidered," Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, told legislators Sunday. "Why should we continue to support it? For its failure?"

If Maliki were to be removed in favor of a new prime minister from SCIRI, Sadr would lose a large portion of his power. If the new government moved decisively against the militias (and disbanded the Badr Organization), as is expected -- Maliki's failure to do so is the driving force behind the attempt to remove him -- it would be a stunning breakthrough in "winning the peace" in Iraq.

Bush could absolutely point to this as tremendous progress in Iraq, and the body count would plummet. If they could sustain this progress for a year or so, we could begin cautiously withdrawing American troops from that country, while still maintaining enough force to stop any attempt by Sadr (or Iran directly) to seize control again.

(Not surprisingly, James Baker's ISG did not so much as suggest "regime change" in Iraq as part of the plan to win, even perfectly legal regime change. Baker's "Realism" philosophy always prefers negotiating with the devil it knows to dealing with the unknown.)

Let's hope that they are indeed powerful enough, perhaps with Bush's help, to force a vote of no confidence in Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, causing his government to fall and a new one, based upon this bloc, to be formed. This probably represents our best chance for palpable movement towards victory in Iraq.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 11, 2006, at the time of 03:48 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 07, 2006

Does Robert Kaplan Read Big Lizards?

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Robert Kaplan, author of the seminal book Imperial Grunts, completely agrees with the Big Lizards take on the ISG report.

He agrees on both the good, such as the fact that many of the 79 recommendations are Bush policies that the Democrats have been fighting for years; and the bad, such as James Baker's peculiar belief that we can talk the Iranians into helping stabilize Iraq as a democracy because, after all, "the Humungus is a reasonable man."

In fact, Kaplan agrees so much about the report -- even using nearly identical phrases to describe it -- that were it not for my firm conviction that we're a flea on the hair on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea compared to someone like Robert Kaplan, I would wonder whether he had actually read our two posts!

But we are, so he didn't. Ne'ertheless, he still agrees; two thoughts with but a single mind between them, or however that expression goes. And if you don't believe me, just read the transcript of Kaplan's interview on Hugh Hewitt, whenever Duane puts it up on Hugh's transcript archive page.

That that, Hugh.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 07, 2006, at the time of 04:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Important Readers Note

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards analyzed the entire James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group report in a pair of posts yesterday:

  1. Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno
  2. Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei

It's important that we make clear the purpose of our posts. Many people deride the report on the grounds that the ISG really want us to withdraw, but they were too craven to call for it outright... so they instead (this theory goes) recommended "withdrawal lite."

Maybe, maybe not. Big Lizards could not care less what the commission thought it was doing.

I approached this analysis entirely, ah, analytically: given the facts on the ground and in D.C., the political reality that the voters will demand that President Bush accept most (if not all) of the ISG's 79 recommendations, can he do so while still fighting for true victory in Iraq?

And the answer I came up with was: yes he can.

Mind, I consider most of the ISG's recommendations silly and unworldly. Jed Babbin, whom I mostly disagree with, hit the nail with a needle:

The ISG report has all the attributes -- and all of the failings -- of an academic study. It is both theoretically sound and thoroughly inapplicable outside the laboratories of the schools of diplomacy.

The great majority of the 79 Commandments, including the entire "diplomatic offensive," by which we're going to persuade Iran to act against its own interests and help us stabilize Iraq as a democracy, is nought but a big time waster.

But since it only wastes the time of people whose time I consider valueless -- diplomats, even good ones like John Bolton -- I brush that aside. Besides, if properly construed, even the "diplomatic offensive" could conceivably be of some use... if we send someone like Bolton, who would use it as an opportunity to issue a series of ultimata to Iran and its organ-grinder's monkey, Syria.

In fewer words, Bush can take these recommendations and run with them. Most recapitulate what he's been trying to do anyway; and with the extra "bottom," or gravitas that the ISG adds, he will better be able to counter the Democratic floccillation, as they try to pick off this or that vital national-security program.

So take the analysis for what it is: not an examination into the motives or ultimate goal of the commission members, but rather as an examination of whether there are any underwater mines in the ISG report that will blow the Iraq war -- hence the larger GWOT -- out of the water.

And the answer is no, if President Bush chooses not to let it. Everything the report proposes can be squared with winning the war and standing up a stable, functioning democracy in Iraq (which, as a irrelevant aside, is clearly what the entire operative second section of the ISG report assumes is the ultimate goal).

Bush can accept the document and make frequent reference to it, even as he takes the upcoming Pentagon assessment as his actual lodestone. He might even get a little mileage out of it, in terms of holding the Democrats' noses to the fire on some of Bush's policies.

So everyone stop kvetching and bellyaching, and let's get back to our regularly scheduled war!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 07, 2006, at the time of 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2006

Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

This is the continuation of the previous post about the Iraq Study Group's final report....

(The report itself, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, can be found here.)

Watcha gonna do about me?

Or us, actually; by "us," I mean "US," of course... what is the U.S.'s role in creating "national reconciliation" in Iraq? Here is how the commission steps into the fray:

The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is a key topic of interest in a national reconciliation dialogue. The point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose. The point is for the United States and Iraq to make clear their shared interest in the orderly departure of U.S. forces as Iraqi forces take on the security mission. A successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.

Again, not bad as a principle; implementing it won't be a piece of pudding, however, as we have to balance the effects on all the different groups in Iraq of a United States threat to leave: such a threat might be effective on moderate Sunni and Shiite groups, who understand the fragility of the newborn democracy; but Sunni terrorists and Shiite militias would both love for us to leave -- for the former, because of the chaos this would cause, allowing Iraq to become like Sudan; and for the latter, because they could embark upon a Hitlerian "final solution" to the Sunni question.

I don't agree with the second part of recommendation 35; here is the explanation that precedes it (the recommendation itself is just to implement this explanation):

Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a highlevel American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders. The United Nations can help facilitate contacts.

I believe that here, James Baker has allowed his Realist bias towards negotiation -- which always requires at least two negotiating partners -- to cloud the obvious (to me) judgment that Muqtada Sadr is no more a negotiating partner than was Yassir Arafat, or than is al-Qaeda today; the actual recommendation specifically excludes talking with al-Qaeda... I would do the same for Sadr. In addition to being a bloodthirsty butcher who has nothing constructive to add to any "national reconciliation," he is also a paid agent of Iran; in other words, he is a traitor to his country and the catspaw of Teheran.

Instead of talking to him, we should simply kill him and the entire inner cadre of the Mahdi Militia.

Killing Sadr (and his butt monkeys) would go a long way towards ending Iran's easy access to the Iraqi parliament; it would send a message to the mullahs (the only kind they understand); and once the dust settles, it would dramatically improve chances of a true national reconciliation.

After that point, it would make sense to "talk directly... to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders." To quote the thoroughly unquotable Arafat, "of course you make peace with your enemies; you can't make peace with your friends. With my friends, I make business!"

Recommendation 38 -- that we allow "neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" -- is a sin; but it's a venial one. They will of course interfere with necessary military action, but I doubt they can interfere very much.

Withdrawal from fancies of withdrawal

The most important thing in the ISG report is the thing that wasn't in the ISG report, the dog that didn't bark, as Sherlock Holmes noted: the complete lack of any demand for any significant immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

-- Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur, "Silver Blaze," the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1893.

Originally, a couple of months ago, the Democrats were jubilant (and many conservatives bitter and despairing) at the widely reported claim that the ISG report was going to call for a phased withdrawal of troops to begin immediately, lending an air of authority to the Democrats' campaign promise. But when we read the actual report itself, we discover that once again, the Democrats have been betrayed by their own supposed informants on the committee (mostly likely Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta). In the end, this is what the report says:

While [the national reconciliation] process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.

Most of this is straight out of the Bush administration's playbook. The ISG recommends embeds in all Iraqi Army units, all the way down to company level. How many soldiers do they envision doing this?

Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role. This increase in imbedded troops could be carried out without an aggregate increase over time in the total number of troops in Iraq by making a corresponding decrease in troops assigned to U.S. combat brigades.

The Pentagon report is likely to recommend something substantially similar, though they may also want to use U.S. troops more directly to disrupt violence in places like Anbar and Baghdad provinces... a possibilty that the ISG report itself raises, if done on a temporary basis. (Everything is "on a temporary basis;" Bush certainly doesn't contemplate leaving 150,000 troops in Iraq for the next thirty years!)

The report does, of course, recommend an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces; but that too has been our policy from the very beginning; this is nothing new. The ISG is looking at a timeframe of about a year and a half:

While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

About the only thing the Democrats get out of this is a little bit of face saving: they can say to their constituents, "see? We did get at least some defeatism into the thing... don't hate us!"

As far as capping overall force level, Newsweek reports today that the man incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) appointed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%), wants to significantly increase the level of American troops in Iraq to squash the militias, and has explicitly allied himself with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) on this issue:

In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”

Given that Silvestre echos the views of "experts" that the Democrats themselves trotted out during the election, such as Gen. Eric Shinseki, it will be very easy for Bush to accept the recommendation of more embeds -- but to do so via an increase of the force level, rather than holding it steady, as the ISG suggested.

Even the ISG itself recognizes the possible need for a short-term "surge" of U.S. forces to stabilize Iraq:

We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.

(Pulling together the views of Rep. Silvestre, Gen. Shinseki, Gen. Pace, and the unanimous report of the Iraq Survey Group, President Bush can call the troop increase an act of "national reconciliation" for the United States!)

And what will the slow, steady reduction of forces, which has been the policy of the Bush administration from the very beginning, leave us in the region? From the ISG report:

At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue [oh, is that all?]. Intelligence and support efforts would continue [ah, there we go -- the last two components!]. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan.

By the way, for those who thought the ISG would demand we hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria, the report envisions four "missions" for the remaining U.S. forces; three are just what you would expect -- but here is number four:

Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.

Sounds good to me!

There follows a long list of recommendations for the repair and maintenance of equipment (and troops) as they return from Iraq, and for continued training of U.S. forces back home. I have no objection.

The police are there to preserve disorder!"

Much of the foregoing has been acceptable but not particularly helpful (not unhelpful either); its only utility is in the many cases of a Bush-administration policy that Congress was loathe to fund, but whose prospects will rise now that Bush can wave the ISG report in their faces and threaten to denounce them as refusing to follow it (that's a congressional disincentive).

But here's a suggestion that I think is actually innovative and a great idea: the ISG recommends that the Iraqi National Police and the Border Police shift from the Interior Ministry to Defense.

The Ministry of the Interior is riddled with corruption and Shiite sectarianism, and its has repeatedly been accused -- with a great deal of justification -- of running death squads out of police stations and filling the police ranks with boatloads of Mahdi Militia and Badr Brigades members. Contrariwise, the Defense Ministry has done a much better job with the Iraqi Army, which the police agencies would thus join as paramilitaries.

Most Sunnis trust the army far more than they trust the police; and even the Shia admit that the army has been fair, even when it fights against the militias. Removing the national cops from the dreaded Ministry of the Interior is an inspired stroke which can only have come from the mind of commissioner Ed Meese.

Left to Interior would be control of local (not national) police, prosecutions and investigations, and payroll for all the police, including those transferred to the operational control of the Ministry of Defense.

Other than this one new idea, the ISG proposes only that current Bush administration programs to train, embed with, reform, and improve the technological capabilities of the Iraqi police forces should continue, harder and faster.

The last 18 of the total 79 recommendations are technical suggestions relating to the Oil Ministry, to American intelligence collection and analysis (such as hiring more people who speak Arabic and retaining analysts who have studied the Iraq insurgency, terrorist groups, and militias), and to budgeting for the war; you're not particularly interested in any of them. (And if you really are, they start on page 83 of the document, 101 of the PDF.)

Hey, Big Lizards reads these things so you don't have to!

"And in conclusion..." whereupon thunderous applause spontaneously erupts

The most important point I want to make is the one that I suspect nobody else will make: the tone of the report. There is very little hectoring in the second section; it's all confined to the first one, which is why I opined (all right, a bit tongue in cheek) that the Assessment section was the one written by the Democrats.

In fact, throughout the operative section, the Way Forward, the ISG assumes that the purpose of the report is to suggest ways to win in Iraq... if by "win" we mean establishing a stable democracy in Iraq that has the military, police, and judicial strength to crush al-Qaeda, disband the militias, and pull together as a coherent national unit.

Even when they drift into Realist fancies and follies, such as the useless blathering on and on about "regional conferences" and "international dialogs" and "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings," it's quite clear that the ultimate purpose is not to transition Iraq to a dictatorship with "our own guy" planted on the throne, as I was afraid it might be, given James Baker's political leanings.

This ISG report will never be mistaken for something Henry Kissinger could have written.

It recommends an initial period of no reductions in force, but a shifting of priorities in the direction that the Bush administration has said all along it wants to go, but which it hasn't really done enough of yet. Even there, the report itself recognizes that there might be advantages -- political as well as military -- to a temporary bump, or "surge," of American muscle... a sentiment that is shared by powerful voices as diverse as the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the former Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Thus, the defeatist Democrats will almost certainly be stymied in their long dream of an immediate "redeployment" of U.S. troops to next-door Okinawa.

There are a few recommendations that are actually interesting, notably the notion that the Iraqi national cops be shifted from Interior to Defense and made a part of the Iraqi Army. And a lot of technical recommendations that look good, and which the Bush administration has tried to get for a long time now, but which the parsimonious (when it comes to defense and intelligence) Democrats have thwarted -- including more spending on reconstruction, on the military, and on the clandestine agencies, and an almost Rumsfeldian reorganization of the latter.

The focus on useless diplomacy will eat up a lot of the brainpower and company time of the liberals and internationalists, while the rest of the country gets on with the business of winning the war and rebuilding Iraq in a stable, functioning democracy.

All in all, if you can ignore the smarmy and offensive lecturing at the beginning -- think of it as a very extended forward; the actual meat of the document isn't bad at all. Certainly the president can easily follow all of its recommendations as part of his own adamantine intention to fight this war to victory and not bring the troops home except as victors.

...No matter what Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol, and Christopher Hitchens say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 06, 2006, at the time of 08:05 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Ah, I think I know how the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group managed to get unanimous agreement for a report that is, on the whole, nowhere near as bad or dangerous as we were led to believe. The members clearly cut a deal between themselves:

  • The Democrats on the panel got to write all the nasty, Bush-bashing spin and hype of the introductory "Assessment" section of the report (and script the press conference) -- which was the role they relished and had demanded from the git go;
  • The Republicans wrote the actual recommendations in section II, "the Way Forward" -- that is, the operational part of the report.

(In legal terms, the Democrats wrote the dicta, but the GOP wrote the holdings.)

Thus, the first part is full of snide and arrogant analysis of how "bleak" and "dire" the situation is, which will allow perpetually backward-looking Democrats to spend the next two years rattling on about how terrible it was to invade Iraq in the first place. But the fairly open-ended and helpful recommendations in Section II are not too onerous on their face, and many are readily adaptable to the strategy of winning in Iraq that will come from the Pentagon group headed by Gen. Peter Pace, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I leave the discussion of dicta to others (since that part really irritates me anyway); I'm more interested in what the ISG considers "the way forward," and how it can be achieved only through victory, not by the Democrats' dream of defeat, defeat, and more defeat.

A note on structure: as this post got very long (I read the entire report and discuss most of it), I'm splitting it into two posts that will be posted more or less simultaneously. This is Part Uno, as you have doubtless already gathered.

Part Zwei will follow. Again, this is unlikely to shock many of you.

"Buckle your seat belts, gentlemen; it's going to be a bumpy night!"

The "diplomatic offensive"

Let's start with recommendation 1 of the Iraq Study Group's report (actually, the first two, since the second is really part of the first), just to get a flavor of what we're dealing with and how we can work with it for victory. (Don't worry, Big Lizards is not going to plough rigidly and lugubriously through every, last one of the 79 recommendations.)

RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:

i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.

ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.

iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.

iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.

v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.

vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.

vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.

viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.

x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.

Admittedly, this is mostly nonsense on stilts; neither Iran nor Syria has any interest in any of these specific initiatives. But the ISG is correct that Iran has its own problems with disunity: the Arab, Azeri, and Kurdish populations of Iran are always in danger of trying to break away... and that, of course, is a good example of a "disincentive" we can offer Iran to get them to back off from supporting Muqtada Sadr and other Iraqi Shia: we let them know that if they continue trying to destabilize Iraq, perhaps we should begin helping Kurds and Azeri in Iran that are interested in learning more about democracy, freedom -- and independence. (You'll read about "disincentives" later in this post; just keep this one in mind.)

But of course, all depends upon who, exactly, is tasked on the American side to deal with these negotiations. As this is a special envoy, not a permanent position, it's important to remember that the appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Thus, since one of our finest ambassadors is currently at liberty, I strongly urge that the head of the diplomatic "offensive" be Ambassador John Bolton. As we certainly also need someone with extensive military experience in the region, Bolton's chief military attaché could be Gen. John Abizaid or Gen. Casey, both of whom are near the end of their current tours, and each of whom needs a political tour in order to burnish his credentials for an eventual shot at being the next Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

With the negotiations in the hands of Bolton (or someone like him), I would not worry about this "diplomatic offensive."

"Dealing" with Iran (oh, and Syria)

We skip many recommendations, all of which center on sundry "groups" that we can set up so that Bolton (or whoever) doesn't have to shuttle between different cities to carry out these negotiations. Let's jump right to the first really controversial one: "dealing with Iran and Syria," as the report puts it.

(Dealing? As in, Monty Hall and Let's Make a Deal? I doubt that's in the cards.)

Here is the first part that you're not likely to hear from talk radio and maybe not even on some other blogs:

The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.

What is a "disincentive?" Well, the dictionary says it's "something that prevents or discourages action; a deterrent." That is, we say to Iran, "if you continue supplying men, material, munitions, and training to Iraqi Shia, we're going to do the following horrible things: A, B, C..."

(For example, do you recall that bit -- I warned you it would be on the test -- about us threatening to encourage Arab, Azeri, or Kurdish minorities within Iran to break away if the Iranians continue their assault on Iraq? That is a perfect example of the kind of "disincentives" we can use.)

I'll bet you hadn't heard that that was in the report, did you? Not if all you did was listen to talk radio and read most other blogs.

From the sentence structure, it's quite clear that the ISG expects disincentives, not incentives, to be the default mode: they caution President Bush not to use disincentives alone... hey, look, here are some incentives you can also use!

Whether or not that's what the ISG had in mind, that is what they wrote: and it's perfectly reasonable for Bush to take it that way and say, "look, here I am doing just what the commission recommended: giving a disincentivizing ultimatum to Iran and Syria."

The list of specific steps that Iran can take aren't bad:

  • "Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq."
  • "Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government."
  • "Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation."
  • "Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq."

Only the last one is problematical; and even there, the weasel-words "right circumstances" allows Bush to put that last one off until the right circumstances prevail: that is, until Iran has become a democratic state like Iraq.

F--- the Jews

Naturally, the ISG being co-charied by James Baker, due deference must be paid to Baker's "poor King Charles' head," his bête noir: Israel.

The title of this section of the post refers to Baker's infamous (alleged) comment to "a colleague" -- later identified as Jack Kemp, I believe -- during a conversation about Israel while Baker was George Herbert Walker Bush's secretary of state: "f--- the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway!" Baker denies he ever said it.

This entire section is imminently ignorable, as the five recommendations it contains all boil down to nothing beyond "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings."

Hear hear! Have some more meetings. Have as many meetings as we can stuff into a fiscal year. If the Palestinians and the Syrians remain intrasigent, refusing to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah, then Bush (and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- say, shouldn't Israel pass a law barring anyone named "Ehud" from holding public office?) can legitimately and honorably say "we followed those B-H recommendations to the letter: we unconditionally called and held several meetings, by gum.

Now can we get on with it?

Afghanistan

The ISG says to send more troops and money, amounts unspecified. Any objections?

Iraq milestones and suchlike

Note the great specificity of the next set of recommendations for Iraq itself to achieve:

  • Recommendation 19: "[T]there must be action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones.... [T]the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed."
  • Recommendation 20: If Iraq "demonstrates political will" and "substantial progress" towards these unspecified milestones, we should "continue political, military, and economic support for the Iraqi government."
  • Recommendation 21: If they blow us off, we should "reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government."
  • Recommendation 22: Ritual formula: we should say we don't "seek" military bases in Iraq; but if they ask us to keep a presence there permanently, we should consider it, just as we would "in the case of any other government." (In other words, they have to ask; we can only nudge them, not order them.)
  • Recommendation 23: "The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil."

While the ISG didn't enunciate its own set of milestones, it more or less accepts (recommendation 25) the milestones suggested by Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself. It's a laundry list, some elements of which are easily achievable ("approval of the Provincial Election Law and setting an election date"); others are ambitious but possible ("provincial elections" by June); while some are dubious, to say the least ("Iraqi control of provinces" by September). You can read them for yourself; they're on page 63 of the report (page 81 in the PDF).

Come together

The longest non-diplomatic subsection of the operative section is all about achieving "national reconciliation" in Iraq; this is divided into what the Iraqis need to do, and what we need to do. Most of the recommendations here are obvious, common-sense stuff. But here are a few that might provoke some interest...

Right off, the commission makes another bold and unexpected statement, sparking great rejoicing:

U.S. forces can help provide stability for a time to enable Iraqi leaders to negotiate political solutions, but they cannot stop the violence -- or even contain it -- if there is no underlying political agreement among Iraqis about the future of their country.

Um... okay.

Recommendation 27 says that de-Baathification has gone far enough; with the exception of top Saddam Hussein officials, Iraq should start letting people back into low levels of government even if they were members of the Baath Party under Hussein.

I actually have no problem with this; Hussein completely controlled Iraq for 24 years, and the Baathists ran the joint for the previous 16 years before that. Thus, for forty years, the only way to get ahead in Iraq was to join the Baath Party, which was the only legal political party anyway. It's hardly surprising that scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, policemen, and military personnel became "Baathists."

To permanently and forever exclude these people from participating in the recreation of Iraq is unjust; but much more important, it's profoundly foolish ("it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder," as Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe said of the execution of the Duc d'Enghien). Heck, if we could put ex-Nazi Wernher von Braun in charge of the United States rocket and missile program, then surely the Iraqis can allow ex-Baathist scientists to work in the Ministry of Technology, or whatever they call the thing.

I'm glad the Republican Guards dispersed, and I wish we had done so in a more systematic way with the national police. But that was then, this is now: many members of the New Iraqi Army are military veterans, and many cops were cops before. Some of these people cause problems, especially in the police, which were never properly purged... but that's the price you pay for revolution, especially when externally applied.

(The ISG actually has a really interesting idea for the Iraqi national police forces; but that has its own subhead in the next post.)

The reality is that the Iraqis need certain people, even if they were Baathists in another life. An excellent step to make this process much less threatening would be to carry out the execution of Saddam Hussein as expected in January; since Hussein was the Baath Party from 1979 onward, and is thus the only embodiment of the party that most ex-Baathists can remember, Hussein's execution will make him "the death of the party."

Recommendation 28 warns against distributing oil revenues by "region," which is code for religious sect: if revenues were disbursed according to region, then the Kurds and Shia would get it all, and the Sunni -- in the middle region, which has no oil fields -- would get bubkes. That's hardly the way to bring Sunnis into the fold! Again, I think we all agree that cutting the Sunnis out of all oil revenue is a prescription for civil war.

To be continued next post...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 06, 2006, at the time of 08:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 05, 2006

Not "Last" - Try "Next of Many"

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal leapt upon the convulsing Iraq-war dogpile with a contrarian argument: rather than discussing how best to manage a withdrawal, as the uninformed media demand, most of the uniformed military recommends sending more troops into Iraq to secure Baghdad and increase trainers and embeds in the Iraqi Army (per Captain's Quarters). From the Journal story, which is free for the moment -- get 'em while they're hot:

As demands mount to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, a growing number of senior military officials are arguing that the only way to salvage the situation is to add more U.S. forces and more U.S. money.

Outside the military, most of the debate is focused on a U.S. troop withdrawal. But inside the Pentagon, the recent dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given some new life to arguments by military officers who say the U.S. must pour more troops and money into the country to expand the Iraqi army -- the one institution in Iraq that has shown some promise -- and stabilize the capital.

We've discussed this quite a bit on Big Lizards over the last few months, most recently here:

We also noted that noted historian Victor Davis Hanson opines that we don't really need to increase the force level; all we need do, he says, is change the rules of engagement (ROEs) to allow fighting more aggressively; from the second of the two posts above:

Historian Victor Davis Hanson is thinking along the same lines. Here is how he ended a recent column on NRO:

So yes, let us talk about sending more troops, or taking them out altogether, or cry about bad news coverage. But the truth is that, if they were given more tactical leeway to go on the offensive, we would already have enough soldiers in Iraq to win a victory that even a hostile media will have to acknowledge and enemies watching must respect -- but only if we persevere here at home in this latest climate of renewed hysteria.

But after thinking a second time, I believe it's better that we do send more troops. It would produce several undeniable benefits:

  • It would dismay our enemies to see that the net effect of their multi-year effort to influence the American electoral process resulted, not in an "immediate withdrawal" of troops from Iraq -- but in an immediate increase instead;
  • It would hearten our Iraqi allies and perhaps finally convince them that they're not about to be overwhelmed by either al-Qaeda terrorists or Iranian-backed Shiite militias; the more Iraqis shift to having hope for the future, the fewer will be willing to stake all on those 72 raisins in paradise (as their raisins d'etre)... and the more will be willing to risk dying for their new country by joining the army to fight the murderers;
  • We really do need more embedded American soldiers in Iraqi military units; the Iraqi Army does not have the long, long history of honorable service to their country that we have, and they need longer supervision than a couple of years;
  • We desperately need to crack down on Iran, Syria, and even Saudi Arabia, all of whom are still funneling men, munitions, and miltary intelligence across the borders... where they're used to kill Americans as well as Iraqis; if we were to shut the borders entirely except for a few checkpoints (each manned by hundreds of American and Iraqi troops), and undertake to destroy -- no questions asked -- any vehicle or group of men crossing the frontiers anywhere but at a legal checkpoint, we would significantly reduce the resupply for terrorists and militias.

As conservatives never tire of telling us, no country is truly sovereign until it can control its own borders: what is true for the United States is even more true for Iraq, surrounded as it is by deadly enemies.

On that last point, our cheeks (at both ends) should be flushed red to read this story from ABC News online, where we have seized from Iraqi Shiite militia members a batch of Iranian-made weapons and munitions -- with a manufacturer's date of this year, 2006:

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

Iran has been supplying both equipment and training for their puppet Muqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Militia, including:

  • Advanced, armor-piercing IEDs;
  • Anti-tank weapons;
  • Terrorism training and support from Hezbollah in Lebanon;
  • And actual Hezbollah terrorist personnel from Syria into Iraq.

(I reckon that will be a major "bargaining chip" we can use when we "talk" to Iran...)

The post linked above from Captain's Quarters, as well as earlier Big Lizards posts, have covered all the top points; but one phrase in the WSJ article really jumped out at me, because the drive-by media -- which sadly includes the news division of the Journal, thought not the editorial page -- has been using the same phrase for some time now:

Rumsfeld Exit Revives Push to Boost Troops, Money in One Last Effort to Stabilize Baghdad....

Senior military officials seeking to make one last push to stabilize Baghdad might find a receptive ear with President Bush.

And here's one we linked in the Guardian Spills the Beans post from the UK Guardian almost three weeks ago:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Note that, despite the wildly misleading quotation marks, we do not, in fact, have a direct quotation from President Bush saying "a last big push." The Guardian is in reality quoting unnamed "sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations." In fact, if Bush actually said "a last big push," I'd be so stunned, you could knock me over with a bank.

Why would he say "last?" Does the Guardian -- and now the Wall Street Journal -- expect us to believe this is some sort of diabolical bargain Bush has made with the forces of evil; that if this push doesn't work, then he'll prematurely withdraw and leave our Iraqi allies holding his sack?

Far more likely that this is just another invention of the liberal left and its natural allies in the elite media: all right, maybe Bush is in such deep denial that he thinks Iraq is still winnable... but I'm sure that after America fails one "last" time, he'll come to his senses and join the party of defeatism.

How about this reformulation: the US and its allies must make a renewed push to win the war in Iraq; and if that is only partially successful... then, b'God, we'll do it again and again and again, until we achieve victory.

Which is, of course, what every American wants. Right?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 05, 2006, at the time of 07:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

XVOA

Cultures and Contortions , Future of Civilization , Global War on Jihadism , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In the last two posts on Big Lizards, we discussed demography, democracy, and Americanism:

  • Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians
    Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.
  • Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism:

    Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.

All right, we know what to do and why we need to do it; but how do we do it? How can we "shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world?"

Let's start with the fundamentals. I have always thought that the best way to teach any subject, from civics to calculus, is to take a historical approach: things happen for reasons; seeing the historical progression makes it a lot easier to understand what we do and why it works (or doesn't work).

Take affirmative action. You can't understand why it's a controversy, why we're even talking about it, without knowing about Jim Crow laws; and you can't understand those without first learning about Reconstruction; and for that, you need to know about the Civil War; and understanding the Civil War requires an examination of slavery; and that takes us all the way back to the Constitutional Convention and the great compromise.

What do foreigners learn about us by this? They learn that we really take seriously the concept of all people being equal under the law; that we have struggled to lift everyone up; that sometimes we go to far trying to help the underdog and need to get back to first principles. And in subtext, it shows how freedom of speech really works, that we're free to criticize the government, and how a real dialog can develop because of this freedom.

In other words, to show the truth about America -- hence Americanism -- we must teach American history to the rest of the world... most of which is woefully ignorant of the subject. (So are most Americans; but believe me, as little as our citizens know about our own history, people in Japan and Italy -- let alone in Iraq and Yemen -- know even less.)

But how can we teach American history to people who live in foreign countries? Must we invade and conquer their school systems, assuming they even have any? Fortunately, there is an easier way...

Television has become the universal language of the world. Even villages in remote locations often have access to a television (perhaps only one in the chief's hut); and certainly most people who live in cities, even in Islamic countries, have TVs. So the idea here would be for the United States to disseminate programming that teaches American history.

Often, the real history is very much at odds with what jihadist or totalitarian governments tell their people about the "Great Satan;" so why would any of these countries allow such broadcasts? The answer is that they wouldn't... so we do it without their consent -- and if they don't like it, too damn bad. Part of fighting a war of ideas is that we cannot be fastidious about the "sovereign right" of nations to malign us and suppress the truth about America's astonishing contribution to the world.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, a reader of the Anniston Star wrote this in a letter to the editor:

The next time you feel doubts about the direction of this country, remember this:

The only two defining forces that have ever been willing to die for you are: (1) Jesus Christ and (2) the American soldier! One died for your soul and the other for your freedom -- even to read this!

I don't know if this is original with James W. Anderson from Talladega, Alabama (Vietnam 1967-68), or if he heard or read it somewhere; but I'm happy to give him credit until another claimant comes along. It's an amazing insight, no matter who originated it... and one that virtually nobody outside the United States really understands. So no pussyfooting.

There are several nuts-and-bolts considerations for this project:

  • The shows themselves cannot be dry, academic productions; we can make a signal available, but we obviously cannot force people to watch it.

Now, there's no way that a documentary produced by the State Department could be anything but video death... so we need to hire real professional writers, directors, and producers instead. Better yet, a wealth of such shows has already been produced, from documentaries like the Day the Universe Changed and the Adams Chronicles to movies like Gettysburg and the Patriot. We could go a long way just broadcasting these excellent productions.

  • We cannot rely on people speaking English well enough to be able to follow such movies and television series; they must be translated and dubbed.

And by translated, I mean into every language necessary to spread Americanism throughout the world, from Polish to Croatian to Arabic to Pashtun to Farsi to Nubian, and so forth. This must be treated as a major national-security program -- with money and manpower to match. I'd like to see the XVOA (eXtreme Voice of America) funded as well as NASA is ($20 billion), or at least the National Science Foundation ($5½ billion).

In addition, we need to find native speakers of each of these languages, preferably with acting experience, for dubbing. For obscure languages that are hard to find here (not that many, with the number of immigrants we have from everywhere!) we may need to find native speakers and train them to act. As with Bullwinkle and Rocky, each actor may need to play multiple voices.

And we need to pay top dollar... so that aspiring actors are attracted to this project even with the competition.

  • We need to put people on the task of finding every possible way to disseminate these dubbed programs everywhere in the world.

Buying a channel (or several) on every satellite TV system is just the beginning; we also need to find a way around governments that go around smashing satellite receivers and jamming transmissions. If necessary (and I think it often is), we should take out jamming stations in enemy countries with cruise missiles. Let 'em scream... what are they going to do about it, declare war on us?

What we're talking about is not just Voice of America, but a super-sized, hyperthyroid, 24/7 American history and propaganda machine. Our biggest worry is the Democrats, who may decide this is the perfect venue to spread anti-Americanism faster than ever before; for this reason, I suggest keeping the XVOA in the hands of the Administration, which is much less likely than Congress to be overtly hostile to the country, even if a Democrat is elected.

Every aspect of American history illuminates one or more elements of Americanism, showing where we came from, what we've gone through, and who we really are. This would do far more for our image in the world (including the ummah) than sending billions to Bangladesh the next time they have a flood (that would be next rainy season) or to Thailand the next time they have a Tsunami (that would be next earthquake season): even when we do that, the local governments lie to the people and tell them all the rescue efforts and food and medical aid came from themselves, not from us.

It would do much more to spread Americanism than would tens of billions spent on foreign aid -- nearly all of which goes to dictators who, again, disburse it as if it came from their own pockets.

And it would be far more effective countering jihadism than the haphazard mix of "American" soft-core porn movies and TV jiggle shows -- from American Pie to Baywatch to Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold -- that inundate the world, showing the worst aspects of America exaggerated beyond all reason by Hollywood's addiction to sensationalism. (At least, it would show them that we have a better side.)

Visual imagery is powerful, and movies already influence people everywhere. Why shouldn't America, which invented motion pictures and is the most relentless purveyor of them, be able to use them more effectively than jihadis to "sell" our ideology?

This is just the first cut; does any of you have other ideas for spreading the ideology of individualism, freedom, and capitalism?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 05, 2006, at the time of 05:16 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 04, 2006

Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism

Cultures and Contortions , Global War on Jihadism , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

A commenter on our previous post, Robert Schwartz, quoted a fellow who writes at the Asia Times online under the improbable name of "Spengler" (I cannot find out his full name):

The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord's Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims.

But is this really true? We all know Moslems who do not believe in or practice jihad as the terrorists believe in it and practice it. Besides my personal acquaintances, which it may not be fair to cite (since you don't know them), there are also well known people like the fellows at Iraq the Model, as well as those not well known but whose existence everyone knows about: Moslem American soldiers, CIA officers, policemen, firemen, doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers -- who don't, as a rule, advocate or support jihad as the Taliban or the Iranian mullahs do.

So it is possible, even though jihadism is a very powerful ideology that has taken control of a large portion of the ummah. Isn't there some ideology that can infect Islam as thoroughly as has jihadism, a "counter-ideology" that is positive and life-affirming, not a death cult, and which does not require Moslems to convert to Christianity?

Yes, there is... and we all know it, even if we rarely think of it in those terms.

Transforming jihad

The most important point to bear in mind is that such questions as the actual meaning of jihad are answered by cultural, not religious force: I don't believe that the jihadis in Iraq or Gaza believe in militant jihad because they've been religously persuaded by theological argument -- but because all their neighbors believe it.

The way to change that belief is to create swaths of territory (real estate) in which the cultural belief is that jihad is an individual inner struggle against sin, rather than an external war against sinners; a struggle that each individual must freely choose, or it's meaningless; and most important, one that can have immediate material benefits to each individual person, rather than nothing but the promise of eventual "paradise" in the afterlife.

We must create a large territory within the ummah where everyone is surrounded by others who believe the same thing... thus, by the natural human desire to avoid cognitive dissonance, the psychological pressure will be towards sanity.

Ideology and counter-ideology

But how do you get those core swaths in the first place? You must beat down militant jihadism with that counter-ideology I mentioned above; and that requires a very powerful, adaptable, and cohesive counter-ideology; we must directly counter jihadism with an equally strong (or superior) ideology which does as good a job of promoting a sense of community and pulling together as jihadism does.

This is difficult to find but not impossible. In fact, we already have just such a counter-ideology:

  • Individualism, as contrary as it may sound, is part of that ideology, as we've seen in our own country. By vigorously supporting the rights of the individual -- which Europe, Japan, and Canada don't support -- America has become the most cohesive and communal country in Christendom. This despite frequent denunciations of individualism by, e.g., the pope and other European religious leaders of Christianity.
  • Freedom is another component of that counter-ideology; and again, we find more of that in the United States than in any other country.
  • Finally, capitalism, which is the greatest engine of wealth creation ever invented, is absolutely critical... because the hope of wealth by individual effort -- capitalism -- as opposed to wealth by tribal or political affiliation (socialism), is vital in any war that hopes to defeat "holy warriors," who primarily appeal to the poor by saying, in effect, "join our tribe and we will support you."

Individualism plus freedom plus capitalism... we already have a catchy name for that ideology, which has served as a counter-ideology for 230 years against jihadism, against Communism, against Fascism and Naziism, against imperialism, and again monarchism: we call it Americanism.

Ideological synthesis: Americanism

Note that Americanism is neither religious nor secular but can exist in both kinds of subculture: evangelical Christians here still believe in Americanism, as do people like myself who are not religious at all, and in fact come from a non-Christian cultural background as well. And so do American Moslems; Americanism does not require giving up Islam in favor of Christianity (pace, Ann Coulter!)

The rest of the "West" -- Europe, Canada, Japan, and Israel -- have no unique ideology that binds them together as a people the way the combination of freedom, individual rights, and capitalism do here; the French have nothing to counter jihadism when it comes a-courtin'.

So our first great task is to convert our allies to Americanism (which will probably require a different name!); that alone would likely give them enough hope for the future that they start breeding again, which is an excellent start for our cultural defense. But it has a more immediate effect: Americanism is confident enough to believe that it can convert those who immigrate here, what we call "assimilation." But assimilation is a two-way function: American culture is Borg culture. We add bits and pieces of new cultures to American culture, and in return, we Americanize new immigrants.

What else can we say about the power of Americanism?

  • America is far richer with a more robust economy than any other Western country;
  • We as a culture (despite tolerating individuals who don't fit that profile) retain a vigorous warrior spirit that leads us to savagely defend what we see to be ours;
  • We remain intensely curious and pursue science and techological improvement more than any other nation on the planet;
  • We think of ourselves as Americans first, everything else second... even liberals who are in fact internationalists still must do ritual obeisance to calling themselves Americans ("hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue");
  • We are the most religiously free country on the planet -- the First Amendment guarantees it -- as well as the most religous free country on the planet (that is, we have more churchgoers than any other country that does not compel religious observance);
  • And we at least breed at the replacement level -- though not evenly: even there, it's precisely those areas that most exemplify Americanism (individualism + freedom + capitalism), the so-called "red" states and "red" communities, that breed at significantly more than replacement rate; and it's the "blue" areas that are the least Americanist and the most Europeanist that don't really hold up their end.

These are all unmistakable signs of a vibrant, confident, and growing cultural identity -- which can only be explained by the planetary success of the ideology we're calling Americanism. There is no other explanation: we have the same language as countries that are not so successful (Great Britain, Canada, Grenada); we have the same religions as other failed countries (Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandanavia); and we have a hodge-podge of many races living here, along with polyglot millions for whom English is a second language.

We have the same democratic government -- though with a uniquely American flavor, a constitutional republic as opposed to a parliamentary democracy -- as the entire rest of the West; but even there, the ideology came first and propelled our Founding Fathers to create the first democracy in an era of kings as a representative, constitutional republic. Those democracies that followed (leave England out for a moment) tended to organize themselves along the lines of the French Revolution... which has turned out to be far less successful a model than ours.

(England's Parliament goes all the way back to the nobles who wrested some control from the king in Magna Carta, the "great charter;" it is, like the American system, sui generis. However, it's still too close to the continental model and has proven less able to maintain its distinct cultural identity than Americanism. Propinquity may play a role here: we were protected from the European cultural decline by a great ocean.)

The distinctions between America and the world are nontrivial and nonrandom:

  • We are the most capitalistic nation on the planet, and we're the richest;
  • We are the freest country, and we're the country with the most immigration;
  • We have the most religious freedom of any country, yet we have the most freely embraced religion;
  • We are the most individualist country -- and the country with the greatest percent of citizens ready and willing to defend it.

That last point is not a contradiction, though most throughout the world would think so: individualism leads to a greater sense of community than does collectivism... it's not a contradiction, but it is a paradox. For example, the more individualist a community, the more charitable are the individuals in it... because they see charity as the duty of individuals, not the State.

This extends upward: even when government action is required, real Americans prefer that action be conducted at the lowest possible level of government, where we have the most control: city instead of county, county instead of state, state instead of national... and always national over international. Americanism is the ideology of self-control, self-governance, and self-sufficiency. It is ultimately empowering, while jihadism is ultimately infantalizing.

American culture as Borg culture: resistance is futile

Many anti-immigrant politicians (such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, 100%) and pseudo-politicians (like Pat Buchanan) push the false meme that Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants "don't assimilate." This is complete nonsense. There is always a loud and angry fringe element that marches in the streets waving Mexican flags... but look at the numbers: in the biggest rally against the House bill that made illegal immigration illegal (I'm being unfair here just for a giggle), they got a few hundred thousand people -- most of whom were not waving Mexican flags.

This in a county that has literally millions of Hispanics, most either directly or ancestrally from Mexico. The population of Los Angeles County is about 10 million; there are 4.65 million Hispanics and only 3 million non-Hispanic whites. So for the first rally, which the Aztlan separatists successfully portrayed as just anti-bill, not anti-American, they still only got 10% of the Hispanic population (at most) to show up and march.

Subsequent marches, after the anti-Americanism of the march leaders was made clear, drew far fewer participants, closer to 1%. And even there, we're just talking about marching; how many Hispanic separatist terrorists are there? Answer: zero.

Our immigrants assimilate, and they partially assimilate (change) the culture; that confidence in our own ideology is one of the things that makes us strong: in Osama's terms, we act like the strong horse, we have confidence that we're the strong horse, therefore we are the strong horse... even with the Democratic Party weighing us down.

There are always exceptions, and of course, some immigrants never Americanize. But unlike in Europe, even if the immigrants themselves resist -- resistance is ultimately futile, because their children belong to us. In France, the children of Algerian Moslem immigrants are much more anti-France and jihadist than their parents (it's the kids leading the French intifada, not the parents); but in America, it works just the opposite: each succeeding generation is more American and less inclined towards the "old country" than the previous.

Expand that outward: there is nothing magical about our mountains, our rivers, or our plains that is any different that the geographical features of other countries; the thing that converts Irish and Italians, Canadians and Cambodians, Nicaraguans and Nigereans is the ideology of Americanism... and the ideology can be exported.

The exception proves the pudding: Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.

The way forward

This is the way forward, to borrow a phrase that will probably permeate the Baker-Hamilton report (and already trips from the lips of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley almost every time he goes on a Sunday yak show): export the "stronger horse," Americanism, to the rest of the world -- starting with our new allies in Eastern Europe and moving to our old allies in Western Europe, thence beyond the pale to Africa, Araby, and the Orient. Americanism comes ready to adapt to any other culture, any other country: you can have a capitalist, free, and individualist Frenchism, Germanism, Britishism, and even Iraqism, if we but try.

We have right now one of the most Americanist presidents of recent years; George W. Bush isn't as good a communicator as Ronald Reagan, but he's every bit as Americanist. By contrast, BIll Clinton and George H.W. Bush, as well as Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and of course Jimmy Carter, were more Europeanist: they all looked to Europe for a lead; they truly believed international organizations (the U.N. or even NATO) were the wave of the future; and I can't imagine any of them believing that "America is the greatest nation on God's green Earth," to rip a phrase from Michael Medved.

But I'm utterly certain that both Reagan and Bush-43 believe (and believed) exactly that, deep in their souls. That, ultimately, is why I do not fear that Bush will use the ISG report as a fig leaf to cover retreat from Iraq, or even from the mission to democratize that country: for George W. Bush, renouncing that policy would be the same as renouncing his religious faith and becoming an atheist.

And that he will not do... no matter how much "pressure" the Democrats bring to bear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 04, 2006, at the time of 05:54 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians

Cultures and Contortions , Global War on Jihadism , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The Discordians were (are?) a crazy bunch of weirdos who had some truly great ideas. Led by Malaclypse the Younger (usually Gregory Hill) and Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (typically Kerry Thornley), and later joined by science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson (usually writing as Mordecai Malignatus), they invented a whole new religion disguised as an elaborate joke disguised as a religion.

They also invented the Law of Fives, the Sacred Chao (a "chao" -- pronounced cow -- is a single unit of chaos) with its associated Hodge and Podge, and the myth of Eris and the golden apple. (Well, they didn't actually invent the last; the ancient Greeks did. But the Discordians pontificated about it a lot.)

They also invented a great game called Po that I've used endlessly to my amusement and enlightenment (and to my neighbors' annoyance and reporting to the authorities). The idea is that you take two contradictory concepts, say "fire" and "water." Then you write them in a line with the word "po" in between.

Po stands for some relationship: this begins the game, which is to find what relationship the po stands for and what is the result of the equation. In this case, we have "fire po water," and the most obvious answer is that po =
"heats," and the solution is "steam." You could say this game of po gave us the industrial age, when humans realized that by superheating water, they could produce steam that would drive steam engines.

(The Discordians would point out that po could also equal "puts out," and the result of "fire po water" would be a soggy campfire. Some solutions are more useful than others.)

Well, the past is prologue. (And what follows is epilogue, since there is no actual content to this post, at least nothing worth reading.) I have been metaphorically devouring Mark Steyn's book America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It; and I have also just read the New York Times' breathless speculation about what will be in the Baker-Hamilton report from the Iraq Study Group and how the president will respond to it.

Steyn, the demography predestinarian, believes that the plummeting birthrate of the West (minus the United States) will inevitably (or at least barring a miracle) lead to the countries of continental Europe being denuded of Europeans, who will be replaced by Moslems, bringing Europe fully into the ummah.

The Times is jazzed about its own prediction -- based upon leaks to them from "commission members" and "officials familiar with" the report (excuse our presumption in assuming that those commission members willing to leak to the New York Times are probably in Lee Hamilton's group of Democrats, rather than James Baker's cabal of "Realist" Republicans).

These leaks to the Times indicate the ISG will recommend we abandon the idea of democratizing the Middle East and withdraw to the "Realist" position (now apparently shared by some of the lads at Power Line) of sitting in our Iraq-based Fortress of Solitude, striking at al-Qaeda when they mass together, and otherwise allowing Iraq to turn into a Shiite dictatorship... but an America-friendly dictatorship (hah). I don't know that the ISG will suggest this course, but they may well.

I know this post is jumping around like a liberal ducking facts, but I'm actually going somewhere with this. Using the game of Po, the secret to my widespread failure, I get this: "Steyn po ISG." The po in this case is "eats," and the result anent Iraq is this very interesting formulation:

In the long run of the war on jihadism, planting a stable democracy in Iraq is far more important than defeating al-Qaeda.

Take a moment and think about that: it's the exact opposite of the Power Line position, which has become the mainstream position: that our only legitimate interest in Iraq is stomping al-Qaeda in Iraq; promoting stable democracy -- or even stopping the gangland war between militias and death squads -- is an irrelevant conceit that we must abandon, in our Realist way, for the good, old-fashioned, .time-honored, and extraordinarily successful tactic of allying with certain dictators against other dictators.

I think I can prove it. Suppose we succeed in destroying the organization formerly led by Musab Zarqawi and now by Hamza Muhajir, but we allow the bloody massacres to continue until the Sunni of Iraq flee into Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. This would leave nothing but Kurdistan in the north -- and in central and south Iraq, a Shia-dominated Iraqi government under the thumb of Muqtada Sadr, hence under the grandthumb of Hezbollah and the great-grandthumb of Iran. Haven't we just jumped out of the pot and into the kettle?

In the short view, if southern Iraq simply becomes part of Greater Iran, we have just helped our greatest non-Communist enemy to become vastly stronger.

But in the long view, it's even worse. If Steyn is right that Europe is committing societal suicide, and white Christian Europeans are abdicating sovereignty over the continent to the influx of Moslems... then how can we stop it? There are only two ways:

  • We could possibly find some inducement for Europeans to have more babies. This is true terra incognita: the problem is not physical impotence but the loss of belief in the future, which leads (Steyn argues persuasively) to a turning inward towards the present, towards pure narcissism: live for today, and damn tomorrow!
  • Alternatively, we could go the American route (which seems to be working here): rather than stop the substitution of Moslems for Christians in Europe, we could try to create a new Moslem ideology to compete with Islamism and jihad. So far as I can think, the only ideology that could prove strong enough is freedom, individualism, and true capitalism.

This way, as Moslems sweep into control in Europe, they will have effectively been Westernized: this is Islam shorn of its totalitarianism, its tribalism, and its worship of death over life.

What difference does it make to drive al-Qaeda out of Iraq if they just regenerate in Sudan, Pakistan/Kashmir, or Saudi Arabia? For that matter, so what even if we wipe al-Qaeda out of existence entirely -- if that just cleans the docks for Iranian-Hezbollah jihadis instead? As Caiaphas sings in Jesus Christ, Superstar, "we need a more permanent solution to our problem."

Al-Qaeda is a symptom; the symptom is itself dangerous and must be treated... but we'll never be safe, in the Middle East, Europe, or here in America, unless we likewise cure the disease itself. And the disease is a death-cult ideology that is sweeping the fastest-growing and most aggressive culture on the planet.

We need to introduce anti-jihadism leukocytes into Islam's circulatory system. I have actually been arguing this point since long before Big Lizards began, during a long-running discussion, "Are We There Yet?," in the Heinlein Journal in the 1990s; and I continued this discussion in the first week of this blog in my post Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?

Simply put, we need to break the link between Islam and jihad. Just as Christendom finally broke the link between Christianity, crusades, and combustion of heretics, the ummah must do the same -- or World War IV will dwarf its three predecessors, each of which has been more horrific than the last.

We would probably win; but what world would we inherit as our prize? Would enough people survive to maintain civilization? Alternatively, the Moslems could "win" -- but the cost would be even greater, as it's only the science, medicine, technology, and creativity of the Western world that keeps Islam afloat. There are 1.2 billion Moslems today; but during Islam's "Golden Age" (A.D. 700-1400 -- and yes, the irony of the dating is delicious), the entire human population of the earth never exceeded 300 million, which is about all that a pre-technological planet can sustain.

Thus, even if the jihadis succeeded in converting everyone to a Taliban-style Islam, the cost would be the destruction of 75% of all Moslems on Earth. The ummah would consist of scattered, disconnected villages dotting the otherwise unpeopled wilderness. Oh, joy.

Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.

We need to turn our attention to that war; and for that reason, Mark Steyn (whether he realizes it or not) makes a wonderful case for the expansive goal of President Bush to plant a functioning democracy in the heart of the Arab-Moslem-jihadi Middle East.

Nothing less will save our children's children's children.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 04, 2006, at the time of 04:30 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Nancy Drew She Ain't

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Incoming (as in artillery) Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), responds to a press conference by President Bush. First the president:

"There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place [in Iraq], fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," Bush said. "And we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements."

Now from the same article, we have the response by Nancy Pelosi, second in succession to the presidency (and who Rich Galen of Mullings fame has taken to calling "Pelosium-2007," evidently confusing her with the Polonium-210 that was used to assassinate former Russian spy turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko). After hearing Bush discuss the violence fomented in large part by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group formerly headed by Musab Zarqawi (until we finally killed him), and now by Hamza Muhajir, the divine Ms. P. opines:

"My thoughts on the president's representations are well-known," Pelosi said. "The 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again."

Blink. Blink blink.

Can it really be true that Nancy Pelosi has never heard of Zarqawi, Muhajir, and al-Qaeda in Iraq, hence misunderstood Bush to be talking about the larger al-Qaeda run by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri?

For some reason I can't put my finger on, this reminds me of the scene in the movie the Shining, where Shelly Duvall (Olive Oyl) discovers that the entire manuscript of the book that Jack Nicholson (the Joker) has been writing for months consists of nothing but "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," repeated thousands and thousands of times... you know, that moment of frisson when we realize that old Jack didn't just go insane... he's been a stark, raving lunatic for months -- and Duvall has been sleeping right next to him that whole time.

I don't know why this latest Pelosi escapade brought that scene to mind. Never mind, forget I even brought it up.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 05:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hostile Takeover

Global War on Jihadism , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been thinking about Iraq lately.

All right, all right; I rarely think about anything but Iraq lately, unless it's to think about Iran. Or Syria. Or the GWOT in general. A few days discussing the principles behind police raids was a welcome respite. But here I am again, like a junkie, back in Iraq (mentally).

Yep, I'm goin' to Mes'potamia in my mind.

The Iraq war was really two main phases. Some folks split it finer, but that's more detail than I want at the moment. Broadly speaking, we had the kick-out-the-Baathists phase I -- which was a screaming success -- and the build-up-a-stable-democracy phase II... which has been less than a screaming success. I wouldn't say phase II was a failure; but it was sure going a lot better a year ago than it is today.

For some reason, this reminded me of the classic example of a start-up technology company: they often have an incredible first two or three years; they introduce radical and highly profitable technological advances, allowing them to capture a small but still significant market share... but then they tend to stagnate.

Suddenly, they can't do anything right: they mismanage their IPO; they start having labor problems; QC becomes a big problem, and they're swamped with help-desk calls. They promote their smartest engineers to head up the European division, and within six months they're hopelessly mired in regulatory purgatory. They drop a bundle on TV advertising -- and sales actually go down, rather than up!

The Midas touch has turned to a black thumb. What's going on? How did they go from gold to grunge in such a short time?

Often the very person who made them such a success at the very beginning -- the entrepeneur who started the company and whose vision has been guiding it all along -- is precisely the reason they fail later. The successful engineer is not only creative and innovative, he is easily bored by the mundane reality of running a middling large company. Of course he is; if he weren't, then he probably would have continued working where he was before starting his own company!

The very act of starting a new company implies the entrepeneur prefers to roll the dice than slog through the day-to-day quagmire of corporate shenanigans. But when a company reaches a certain size, it needs an innovator at the helm far less than it needs a steady and experienced player who knows how to work the machine and where all the metaphors are buried.

Innovation is essential; but it's less essential than really knowing how to get a payroll out, how to mollify the workers and (if necessary) deal with the unions, and yes, how to grease the skids of foreign regulatory systems: who you must pay off to get certified for retail sales in Upper Iguana.

The company no longer needs an entrepeneur at the helm: it needs a CEO.

But the founder will rarely leave his baby voluntarily; thus, unless the board of directors ousts him and hires an actual corporate-manager CEO, the company will probably founder, becoming yet another failed start-up.

I think you may see where I'm going with this...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been one of the most innovative SecDefs in American history; a recent article or blogpost I read about him said he had initiated over one hundred major reforms at the Pentagon. His "snowflakes" (Post-It notes asking tough questions or suggesting alternative ways to think about some problem) are legendary.

And he had a tremendous impact on the American military, probably moreso than any SecDef in the last forty years.

But Rumsfeld has also antagonized the hell out of the E-ring of that five-sided building. He has become the lightning rod for everybody who hates American hegemony. He has been subject to scurrilous and vicious attacks by former generals, foreign defense ministers, the U.N., NATO, and many other representatives of "the military industrial complex" around the world.

In other words, Rumsfeld, like the classic entrepeneur with a cool start-up, has been long (very long) on innovation but quite short on management and people-relations. For a good, long while, that was exactly what we needed.

But now that the Iraq war has shifted into a new state -- call it phase II.V, if you want -- where what it needs is finesse, management, diplomacy (to drag in more coalition allies and make them actually fight), diplomacy (to wheedle a reluctant Democratic Congress aboard), diplomacy (to sooth the ruffled feathers of the brass and hold their hands while the reforms creak slowly forward), and above all, diplomacy (to do a better job explaining to the American voters what the heck we're doing)... well, I think maybe it's time for the entrepeneur to step aside in favor of the experienced CEO.

Robert Gates may be just the fellow:

  • He's a career bureaucrat who rose up the ranks of the CIA from a mere analyst to the Director of Central Intelligence... probably the only man ever to do that; so he knows how to play a bureaucracy probably better than anyone currently in government. (In that respect, the Pentagon is likely little different from Langley.)
  • He has served in the White Houses of five different presidents, both Democratic and Republican; so he knows how to talk to both sides of the aisle and cajole them into doing what the current president needs to have done.
  • He worked closely with James Baker -- and with Ronald Reagan.
  • He can convincingly peddle the line that he had nothing to do with getting us into Iraq... but now that we're there, we'd bloody well better win, not lose.
  • He has credentials both as a "neocon hawk" (with Reagan against the Soviet Union) and as a "moderate realist" with Baker and Scowcroft... so he will probably get along better with various factions within the GOP.
  • And he might turn out to be better at communicating with everyone that Rumsfeld was -- which frankly wouldn't be hard, as the current SecDef is notoriously prickly and closemouthed.

The reforms that Rumsfeld initiated have become part of the system; the best person to shepherd them through now is probably someone who is part of that system, not an outsider imposing it from above. Such monomaniacal brilliance was necessary to kick-start reform in the first place; the insiders were too comfortable endlessly refighting World War II. But now that the bureaucratic reform ball is a-roll, I suspect we need a bureaucrat (who isn't afraid of innovation) to keep it rolling in the right direction.

The entrepeneur vs. the CEO; I have always suspected that the larger a corporation, the more it resembles government. I think we're about to see just how far that analogy applies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 05:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 21, 2006

Good Hunting in Ramadi

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

After surviving three weeks in Virginia before, during, and after the election mania, followed by three weeks underway a-sea, I am finally back on land. As usual I did not get sick at all in the stormy weather on board. But I am quite land-sick at this moment! Now if I can somehow find my way back to California just before Thanksgiving without living the nightmare of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I will be OK.

Now let's get back to the serious business of war shall we?

If the terrorists and "insurgents" in Iraq thought Democrats taking both houses meant American defeat in Iraq, they are devastatingly mistaken. Last week, American and Iraqi forces engaged in a series of attacks against Sunni terrorists, killing and apprehending a large number of targets without any deaths of our own. Bill Roggio reports: (Hat tip Belmont Club)

In Kirkuk, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Division of Iraqi Army, in conjunction with the 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division conducted a brigade sized operation in and around the northern city of Kirkuk. The operation, originally announced on November 16th, was a major success. The Iraqi Army and U.S. forces killed nearly 50 insurgents and captured an additional 20 in a raid on a "large cache complex." "The caches included over 400,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 15,000 rounds of heavy machine gun ammunition, five mortar bipods, three heavy machine guns, three anti-tank weapons, two recoilless rifles and numerous mortar rounds, grenades, flares and artillery rounds," according to Multinational Forces Iraq. The soldiers also found materials to make roadside bombs as well as "propaganda materials and a large amount of U.S. dollars." Seven al-Qaeda were detained in a separate raid in Kirkuk.

In Baquba, Iraqi and U.S. Army forces engaged Sunni insurgents. Eighteen were killed and 19 wounded, although it is not clear if these were insurgents or if civilians are included. Multinational Forces Iraq has not released information on the contact. [No] Iraqi or U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting. On Saturday, Coalition forces killed nine insurgents and captured two during a raid in Yusifiyah. [The missing word "no" at the start of the last sentence is clear from Roggio's earlier summation that "in each engagement, Sunni insurgents took massive casualties with no U.S. or Iraq forces killed" and by the odd sentence structure. -- Dafydd]

In Ramadi, the flashpoint of the the Sunni insurgency in Anbar province, and arguably the most dangerous city in Iraq outside of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces conducted two large raids over the past week. On November 13 and 14, U.S. forces killed 11 insurgents in 3 separate incidents. The insurgents were emplacing roadside bombs and were engaged with tank and small arms fire....

On Saturday, Coalition forces killed 8 insurgents and detained 2 during a morning raid in Ramadi.

This kind of lopsided victory is typical of our battles against terrorists. Then why, you may ask, do "insurgents" keep on fighting?

There are two major reasons:

  • The western media, American reporters in the lead, keep telling them that any moment now, Americans are going to lose interest in the war and quit. If the terrorists will just persist, eventually they will win. (There are always plenty more where their lost comrades came from -- or so our own media keeps telling them!)
  • Second, we have not yet seriously engaged either Iran or its sock puppet Syria along the borders, putting an end to those two terrorist states supply of weapons, manpower, and terrorist training to the Iraqi Shia, specifically to the Mahdi Militia of Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr... who continue to kill ordinary Sunni at an alarming rate.

    Because of that, as Bill Roggio points out, Sunni terrorists believe they must "fight back"... not only against Iraqi Shia but also against American forces, who they see not as neutral arbiters but active collaborators in the "genocide" of Sunnis in Iraq.

I cannot completly blame them for believing that, since we pushed for this government and we're not forcing them to crack down on the Shiite militias -- so far, at least. But the Sunni must come to realize that siding with al-Qaeda and fighting against Americans is not the way to ensure their safety. Contrariwise, it's a certain path to their own ultimate destruction.

I believe we could seal the borders, if we were willing to continuously patrol them by air and change the rules of engagement (ROE) such that we simply fire missiles upon any vehicles or bodies of men crossing the border anywhere but one or two checkpoints manned by heavy joint American and New Iraqi Army forces. So far, we have not done so, at least so far as I've heard.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson is thinking along the same lines. Here is how he ended a recent column on NRO:

So yes, let us talk about sending more troops, or taking them out altogether, or cry about bad news coverage. But the truth is that, if they were given more tactical leeway to go on the offensive, we would already have enough soldiers in Iraq to win a victory that even a hostile media will have to acknowledge and enemies watching must respect — but only if we persevere here at home in this latest climate of renewed hysteria.

The time is now: we must disband all the Shiite militias, starting with the Mahdi Militia -- and Muqtada Sadr must go. Permanently. As long as they (and he) exist, there will be no peace in Iraq.

But, saying and doing are not the same thing. In the battle against the Shiite militias, American forces are facing the same problem we faced back in 2004 against al-Qaeda in Fallujah and elsewhere: while we have overwhelmingly superior forces and we win every battle, even after taking territory we cannot hold it. The enemy simply trickles back as soon as we leave. (In fact, that was Hussein's very intelligent resistance plan from the very beginning, something we didn't realize until two years after we invaded.) This is the "whack-a-mole" situation, and it's very hard to break out of that routine.

The way we resolved the Fallujah situation was to train up Iraqi troops -- and then use them to secure the cities we captured: Americans conquered, Iraqis held. The danger is that we cannot trust the Iraqi troops entirely: many of them are sympathetic to the Shiite militias. I still believe that is the only workable approach; but we need more American troops to keep and eye on the Iraqis as they hold the territories.

It will take time to purge the Shiite militia members from the Iraqi Army and police forces. But if we can secure the area temporarily with American troops, we will have time to clean up the Iraqi forces and kill off militia. Pace Victor Davis Hanson, but maybe that would be a good reason to send 20,000 or 25,000 more American troops to Iraq: to serve as occupation forces. (With such emphasis on lightning-war as we've had recently, could we even successfully occupy territory? I think we would still remember how to do that.)

I hope Americans will have the political will to commit ourselves to this. It can be done. Military victory can be achieved. All we need is a renewed commitment.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 21, 2006, at the time of 07:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 20, 2006

Four "Conservatives" In Search of an Ideology

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Again, the New York Times demonstrates its extraordinary cluelessness about any politics to the right of Bill Clinton.

In today's bizarre media outing, they headline that Henry Kissinger now says that "victory in Iraq is not possible" (which is only accurate if you sort of squint and lean over to one side as you read Kissinger's actual quotation) -- and then go on to dub him as one of "a growing number of leading conservatives" criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the war.

"Well there's your problem on a nutshell!"

Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who regularly advises President Bush on Iraq, said today that a full military victory was no longer possible there. He thus joined a growing number of leading conservatives openly challenging the administration’s conduct of the war and positive forecasts for it.

“If you mean, by ‘military victory,’ an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible,” Mr. Kissinger told BBC News.

Ah; so what Mr. K. is really saying is that he's pessimistic about the attention span of the American public. After watching the results of the election, I can see how a dour cynic like Kissinger could arrive at that conclusion. Being neither dour nor cynical myself, I don't share his defeatism... but regardless, he certainly is not saying that military victory is impossible -- just that he doesn't believe the public will sit still for one.

Fiddle de dee; that's not my point. My focus is the title the Times bestowed, dubbing Dr. Kissinger "Knight of the Conservative Countenance." Heavens to Murgatroyd, if the writer or any of the thirteen layers of editors had troubled to read Kissinger's Wikipedia entry, they would have discovered that he was flatly described as a "liberal Republican" whose first non-academic job was as a paid advisor to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

(He's best known for working for President Richard Nixon -- also not a conservative. Nixon introduced affirmative action, revenue sharing, and détente with the Soviet Union, the last being the brainchild of Kissinger himself. Nixon was also the president who said "we're all Keynesians on this bus.")

Joining Kissinger in the tank are such "leading conservatives" as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) -- "a respected figure on military matters" -- Sen. Lindsay "JAG-man" Graham (R-SC, 96%), and the Mouth of the Potomac, Kenneth Adelman; who after making ludicrously pollyanna predictions about the ease of the Iraq war ("it'll be a cakewalk!") -- now has grown disillusioned that, three years on, we haven't democratized the entire Middle East. ("Aren't we there yet?")

What is striking is that not a single one of these people could credibly be called a conservative by anyone with the least familiarity with the conservative ideology:

  • Adelman is a typical neocon, though perhaps more muddled, impatient, and whiny than most;
  • Graham, during the entire year of 2006, paraded as a Homer-Simpson populist on virtually every important issue, from judges to terrorist interrogations to the conduct of the war;
  • McCain's only religion is McCainism, and he's the pope of it;
  • And Henry Kissinger is the very model of a modern realpolitik.

These folks all live, breathe, and work worlds apart from Ronald Reagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, or even John Bolton: they do not decide... they temporize. Instead of a compass, they carry a weathercock strapped to their backs.

It would be as if we were to proclaim that "leading liberals" now opposed tax increases -- and cited for our examples Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE, 55%), senator-elect Jim Webb, and former governor and senator Zell Miller!

But what is most remarkable is that the Times musters this mob in motley to present the appearance of "conservative" dissent on the future conduct of the war, to buttress the call for withdrawal from Iraq (the Times is ecumenical: they do not mind whether withdrawal is immediate or phased).

Yet each and every one of these gentlemen (no ladies, I notice -- is the New York Times going soft?) in fact calls for just the opposite: the addition of more troops, not fewer, to secure Iraq. Even in this very article, they all reject cutting and running out of hand. Yes, even "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger:

Mr. Kissinger, in the BBC interview, said the United States must open talks with Iraq’s neighbors, pointedly including Iran, if progress is to be achieved in Iraq. Mr. Bush has said the United States is ready for such talks, but only if Iran moves to halt its nuclear enrichment work. American officials say low-level talks with Syria have produced little progress.

But Mr. Kissinger also said that a hasty withdrawal from Iraq would have “disastrous consequences,” leaving not only Iraq but neighboring countries with large Shiite populations destabilized for years.

He said the United States would probably have to plot a road between military victory and total withdrawal.

Whatever that means -- if anything at all -- it sure doesn't mean what John Murtha or Carl Levin mean! So what does the Times mean? (If it means anything at all, either.)

Quote of the day goes to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) -- who probably is not being touted by the Times as one of those "leading conservatives." He has thoughts about how effective diplomacy could be, were we just to give it a chance... and he has a singular example in mind:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, cited Mr. Kissinger’s own negotiations with the North Vietnamese in arguing for engagement with Iran and Syria.

“If you pursue legitimate diplomacy, the way Henry Kissinger did when he made multiple trips, night after night, day after day, twisting arms, working; if you make the effort that Jim Baker did to build a legitimate coalition, I’m confident we can do what’s necessary to get the neighborhood — and I include in that Iran and Syria — to take greater stakes,” Mr. Kerry told Fox News.

Yes, well Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy certainly worked wonders in Vietnam. (Just imagine... were it not for the Boat People, where would dwellers in the inner city go to buy groceries each week?)

I'm always puzzled why organizations like the New York Times cannot seem to comprehend the modern conservative. You needn't be one; I'm not, but I daresay I have a better handle on the breed than does Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr., despite my lack of investigative resources, bureau chiefs on every continent, and multiple layers of editing.

Maybe the Times should open a Bureau of Conservatism? If they can find a translator who speaks the language, that is.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 20, 2006, at the time of 06:21 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 16, 2006

Take Him At His Word

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

After being crushed by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%) in the bruising battle to be number 2 -- there, there, Rep. Murtha, you'll always be number 2 in my book! -- John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) made the following petulant comment:

Murtha will chair the powerful defense subcommittee with responsibility for the war in Iraq and the Pentagon budget. "Nancy asked me to set a policy for the Democratic Party. Most of the party signed onto it," he said, referring to pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

All right, let's take him at his word. There will likely be 232 Democrats in the 110th. Congress. Half of 232 is 116; so "most" is 117. Let's be generous and say 150, or 65%.

That would leave 82 Democrats who do not "sign onto" the Murtha-Pelosi defeat-retreat. Add in the 203 Republicans, and you get a solid majority against "redeployment to Okinawa" of 285, or 66% of Congress.

Even if some Republicans despair and want to throw in the towel -- though nobody has found a single House Republican willing to say so -- you would have to lose 67 Republicans to get a majority in the House to vote defeatist. And that's assuming that when Murtha said "most," he really meant an overwhelming "most," not a bare "most."

Even if he did mean overwhelming, it would have to be virtually unanimous, assuming the Republicans stick together (which they likely will; no Republican ran on a campaign promise to yank the troops out immediately, handing Iraq over to the terrorists, so far as I know). With 203 nays, the Democrats would have to hold all but 14 members to a campaign to ensure defeat in Iraq, a remarkable percentage of 94% of House Democrats anxious to spit on the graves of 2,800 brave American soldiers and Marines.

I think it will be virtually impossible to get a defeatist vote out of the Congress, either house; let alone a big enough one to override an inevitable veto by President Bush (which would require all the Democrats plus nearly 30% of the Republicans). John and Nancy are out of luck in more ways than one today.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 12:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Guardian Spills the Beans

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a longish and fascinating article linked by Drudge, the left-wing U.K. Guardian (once the Manchester Guardian) offers us more analysis and realistic speculation than any American newspaper I've yet read. It's definitely worth reading in its entirety.

The basic thrust is here:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

I have read that George W. Bush is a very good poker player. I'm just a tyro, but I do know this much...

Suppose you're playing Hold 'Em. You're at the turn (the second to last face-up card dealt), and you have two pair and four to a flush. The only other guy left in the hand puts a really big bet down. Do you:

  1. Fold;
  2. Call his bet; or
  3. Raise?

There's no hard and fast answer, naturally. But were I the player, I would raise -- and I would go all in. The only other viable option is to fold; you're guaranteed to lose the hand, but you limit your losses. The worst decision, in my opinion, would be to call the bet... because then you're playing to his tempo, not yours.

If you go all in, you suddenly throw your opponent into his own quandry: he thought his hand was worth X, and now he has to decide if it's worth five times X. Good chance he'll fold: maybe you have a flush, maybe a full house -- is he willing to risk it?

You see? He's playing at your pace; or in military terms, at your operational tempo. That's why you raise -- and raise big. Here's the Guardian on Bush's decision and the impact it will have:

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

The four points are:

  1. Increase, rather than decrease the force level, possibly by 20,000 (I doubt the Guardian knows the exact number);
  2. More "regional cooperation," meaning more of Iraq's neighbors need to be persuaded that a full-scale civil war benefits nobody and is a disaster for many -- Turkey, for example, which is terrified of a widespread movement to create independent "Kurdistan" with the Kurds from Iraq and Turkey; and also Jorday, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia certainly don't want millions of Sunni refugees pouring across their poorly defended borders;
  3. A renewed push to get the Iraqi Sunni and Shia to "just get along," as Rodney King said; I don't believe the Iraqis really want a civil war: but that means a clampdown on the death squads and militias and a reinvigorated Sunni population ratting out more of the al-Qaeda terrorists.

    (3) can be helped a lot by (1), as I suspect a lot of Iraqis assumed that if the Democrats won, we would pull out instantly. If instead we send more troops and prove we're staying, we'll start getting more actionable intelligence;

  4. Pushing Congress hard to really get behind the war with more resources. This may be tricky, but if the Guardian and Big Lizards are right that the Iraq Study Group will recommend raising instead of folding, and with the anti-Rumsfeldian generals agreeing, the Democrats will be trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, caught between Iraq and a hard peace: they'll probably agree because otherwise, they'll be seen as the obstructionists -- a very bad move for the majority party.

Here is the neo-leftist take on the choice:

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

Gee, I wonder who that "former senior administration official" could be? A former secretary of state, perhaps? Or maybe his former loose-lipped, shaven-head deputy? I am still amazed that so many people at such high levels of government are so determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. How can they still be so invested in failure and disgrace?

The official added: "Bush has said 'no' to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they're going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

I think "the official" is still mad that President Bush wouldn't listen to his wise counsel of doing absolutely nothing.

There is this possibility, raised by the Guardian: maybe the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group was all set to say "let's declare defeat and go home." But maybe after Monday's talk with President Bush, they realized -- as Big Lizards suggested -- that if the commander in chief were adamant about not quitting, but the ISG made that their primary recommendation, they would be dismissed out of hand like insolent lackeys.

Rather than be humiliated like that (this theory goes), they are rewriting their conclusions and recommendations to something that is acceptable to the administration. That way, their advice might be heeded, and they look like they actually matter.

If this is what happened, it's a marvelous illustration of the power of a willful president for whom defeat is not an option. That is far more in keeping with Bush's previous history anent the Iraq and Afghanistan battles and the larger GWOT itself, than the silly suggestions from some quarters that Bush was about to quit, withdraw, and hand Iraq over to the tender mercies of Iran and Syria.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2006, at the time of 02:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

Won't Say "We Told You So," But...

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Long, long ago (I mean last Saturday), we posted the speech that we hoped -- and thought -- President Bush would be making some time in December or January. The essence was this (this is supposed to be Bush speaking):

I always said that when it came to waging wars, I would always listen first to the professionals who actually have the responsibility for victory. After having consulted extensively with the commanders on the ground, and with both the new leaders in Congress and also those of my own party, I have concluded that I was wrong, and the critics were right. We sent enough troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein and win the war. But after major combat operations ended, I did not leave enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace.

So tonight I am announcing that I have decided to send an additional 75,000 troops to Iraq. The command staff shall submit a report as soon as possible detailing exactly how many more personnel of each service we need and where we need them.

Specifically, we pointed to three major goals that we simply had to achieve in order to win in Iraq:

  1. "Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;"
  2. "Secure the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;"
  3. "Secure the capital city of Baghdad, where more than 20% of the entire population of Iraq lives."

The consensus around the blogosphere (both hemispheres) was that the Democrats -- many of whom ran on a Murtha-esque "yank 'em out now" or Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI, 100%) "Murtha Lite" -- had thereby painted themselves into a hole: they would have to push for some species of withdrawal, whether it was total or just a draw-down. (To remind you, Levin is the senator whose spectacles are superglued to the bulb of his proboscis.)

But now, a whole new paradigm has burst forth, like whoever it was from the other fellow's brow; and it's being argued by none other than the New York Times, epitome of left-wingwallowing, with a headline that gives away the plot twist... Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say:

One of the most resonant arguments in the debate over Iraq holds that the United States can move forward by pulling its troops back, as part of a phased withdrawal. If American troops begin to leave and the remaining forces assume a more limited role, the argument holds, it will galvanize the Iraqi government to assume more responsibility for securing and rebuilding Iraq....

But this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.

If this sounds familiar, it's because you read it here first (or at least "earlier"). For example, Big Lizards:

Certainly there is no consensus of the American people to give up, to surrender, to withdraw and leave Iraq to be dismembered by Iran and Syria. Americans aren't Spaniards.

Rather, Democrats were elected on a considerably more nuanced platform: they promised only a "change of course" in Iraq, mostly because they couldn't agree among themselves: John Murtha never convinced Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki never persuaded Harry Reid.

The New York Times:

Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it....

Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.

I would hate to think that the Times was taking its cue from Big Lizards for the proper response to win the Iraq war! If so, then why can't I get above 2,000 visitors a day "circulation?" (Of course, all the drive-by media may be headed down where Big Lizards is; maybe we'll pass them on the way up?)

John Batiste, another one of the "anti-Rumsfeldians," has chimed in supporting the Zinni proposal:

“The point of the proposal is to force the Iraqis to take hold of the situation politically,” Mr. [Carl] Levin said.

But some current and retired military officers say the situation in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq is too precarious to start thinning out the number of American troops. In addition, they worry that some Shiite leaders would see the reduction of American troops as an opportunity to unleash their militias against the Sunnis and engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing to consolidate their control of the capital [Baghdad].

John Batiste, a retired Army major general who also joined in the call for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation, described the Congressional proposals for troop withdrawals as “terribly naïve.”

“There are lots of things that have to happen to set them up for success,” General Batiste, who commanded a division in Iraq, said in an interview, describing the Iraqi government. “Until they happen, it does not matter what we tell Maliki....”

Indeed, General Batiste has recently written that pending the training of an effective Iraqi force, it may be necessary to deploy tens of thousands of additional “coalition troops.” General Batiste said he hoped that Arab and other foreign nations could be encouraged to send troops. [Fat chance, unless by "Arab and other foreign nationals," he means Syria and Iran -- who would be overjoyed to send armies into Iraq!]

And what exactly should be the goals of these new American forces? Rather, "Coalition" forces... assuming there are any countries left in the West besides us who can actually fight. The Times answers that question:

  • Reduce Iraqi unemployment;
  • Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;
  • "Enlist more cooperation" from tribal sheikhs -- in the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;
  • Weaken or crush the militias -- which primarily plague "the capital," i.e., Baghdad.

Finally, Kenneth M. Pollack, a Brookings Institution guy, argues that pulling out now will make a bona-fide civil war inevitable; as Wikipedia puts it, "the Brookings Institution is a center-left think tank, based in Washington, D.C.... currently headed by Strobe Talbott."

This is precisely the fig leaf the Democrats can use, if they choose, to turn on a dime and give a nickle change. Especially if the Iraq Study Group (the Jim Baker commission) recommends a troop increase, as I suspect they will, instead of a pull-out: then the momentum for sending in a bunch of troops to secure borders, borderlands, and Baghdad will become irresistable.

At least, let's keep our fingers crossed: not only will it make the war infinitely more winnable than if we were to pull out prematurely (like Onan did) -- which is the most important consideration -- but secondarily, it will enrage the nutroots and cause them to go all-out to force a Kossack wack-job on the party as the 2008 presidential nominee. I don't know if they'll succeed... but I like the idea of la bataille royale within the Democratic Party for the next two years!

One more thing; take a look at the last line from our previous post:

By the way... if I'm right, and the Democrats are willing to go for a change in this direction instead of insisting on that direction, then I predict they will also go ahead and confirm Robert Gates as SecDef.

And compare to Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) "top priority" that we quoted from an AP story yesterday:

[110th Congress Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid told The Associated Press that a top priority for the remainder of the lame-duck session will be confirming Robert Gates as defense secretary, succeeding Donald H. Rumsfeld. "The sooner we can move it forward the sooner we can get rid of Rumsfeld," he said.

Heh again.

The Democrats might surprise me and prove more stubborn and mulish in their demand for an American defeat than I imagined. But on the other hand, don't be too surprised if next month, or else at the beginning of the new year, you hear Bush give a (better written) version of the speech from our ancient post of four days ago.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2006, at the time of 04:42 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 13, 2006

More Evidence Bush HASN'T Changed His Mind About Iraq

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The elite media is starting to backstep from its initial preposterous claims that President Bush planned to order a quick withdrawal from Iraq, handing it over to Iran and its lapdog, Syria.

An AP story today confirms the president's stability on the Iraq war and his rejection of any timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. It's now quite clear that the intention of both the U.S. and the U.K. is victory in Iraq -- not retreat and defeat:

President Bush traded ideas on Iraq with a bipartisan commission Monday and promised to work with the incoming Democratic majority toward "common objectives." At the same time, he renewed his opposition to any timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops....

Asked about proposals by [incoming Chairman of the Senate Armed Serviced Committee Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%)] and others for a phased troop reduction, Bush said, "I believe it is very important ... for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground."

Even liberal Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%) rejected a timetable, along with moderate John Warner (R-VA, 88%), current Armed Services chairman; not a single Republican was quoted supporting even the Levin proposal (withdrawal over 4 to 6 months), let alone John Murtha's (D-PA, 75%) demand for "immediate withdrawal." So Bush and the Republicans in Congress are still completely in agreement on this point. (Point of order: while Graham has a higher partisanship rating than does Warner, that is from 2005; this year, Graham has taken a sharp turn to the left and is currently one of the more liberal senators in the Republican caucus.)

But what about the meme being spread by the media yesterday and earlier that President Bush was about to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria to "stabilize," which many in-BEDDD bloggers on the right were panicking about? Yesterday, I responded to that meme with a certain amount of scorn; but I had only my own judgment about Bush's committment to rely upon.

Today, there is evidence that the focus on Iran and Syria remains a "get-tough" policy, not appeasement. With Britain's lame-duck Prime Minister Tony Blair's tough speech, in which he essentially made Iran and Syria "a message they cannot refuse," and with the parade of high-level American security officials to Iraq to bitch-slap Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki for not disbanding the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, it's clear the only message being sent to Iran and Syria is to back off from Iraq or face total isolation:

The reference to Iraq's neighbors [Iran and Syria] coincided with a call by British Prime Minister Tony Blair for Iran and Syria to help stem bloodshed in Iraq and to join efforts to stabilize the Middle East.

In a major foreign policy speech Monday night, Blair warned there would be no incentives or concessions for doing so and that any failure to assist would lead to international isolation for the two countries.

As the definition of appeasement requires specific "incentives or concessions" -- "if we let you have Czechoslovakia, will you please give us peace in our time?" -- this is very heartening news. I certainly don't know whether it will work; unless we show a lot more muscle on the border, I doubt it. But this is clearly a stick-speech, not a carrot-speech.

A piece in the (London/UK) Times about Blair's speech confirms both the PM's ultimatum to Iran and Syria and also President Bush's committment to a free Iraq -- and his lack of interest in pressuring Israel to give up more concessions for "the peace process" (a.k.a., the process in pieces):

Mr Blair said there could be a new “partnership” with Iran if it stopped supporting terrorism in Iraq and gave up its nuclear ambitions. Syria and Iran could choose partnership or isolation, he said....

Mr Blair said that the choice for Iran was clear. “They help the Middle East peace process, not hinder it; they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq and they abide by, not flout, their international obligations. In that case, a new partnership is possible. Or, alternatively, they face the consequence of not doing so: isolation.”

Here is the Times on Bush's response to Syria (which the paper had earlier erroneously identified as one of "two countries once dubbed by President Bush as part of the 'axis of evil'" (the axis of evil actually comprised Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, not Syria):

But Mr Bush also had harsh words for Syria, a country with which, unlike Iran, the US has diplomatic relations. The President said that Syria should stop interfering in Lebanon and “harbouring extremists” and must begin helping “this young democracy in Iraq succeed”.

Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, said that his country was willing to engage with Britain and America.

I really adore this truculent paragraph in the Times about Bush and Israel:

And, in words clearly directed at Mr Bush as he prepares for his final two years in power, Mr Blair called for the United States to lead a new drive towards peace in the Middle East, including peace in Palestine and the Lebanon, arguing that ultimately it was the only way to defeat al-Qaeda....

The Prime Minister still hopes to persuade the US to engage fully in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but frustrated British diplomats in Washington say that the White House shows no real sign of being interested in the subject. Mr Bush yesterday said that he had discussed with Mr Olmert the two-state solution and the need for the Palestinian government to embrace the principles behind the road map for the Middle East peace process, but made it clear that their talks had focused on Iran and Iraq.

Heh.

Back to the AP article about various American defense officials pressuring Maliki to disband the Shiite militias:

Abizaid was the third top U.S. official to visit Iraq since Oct. 30, and the meeting came a day after al-Maliki promised to shake up his government in a bid to end the sectarian slaughter.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was first to visit, followed five days later by U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Before Abizaid pushed the same theme, Negroponte also demanded that al-Maliki disband militias by year's end - but was met with a flat rejection. Al-Maliki told Negroponte such a move would be political suicide. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, relies heavily on two major Shiite political groups which run the heavily armed militias.

In Monday's meeting, the government said, Abizaid "emphasized the multinational forces' commitment to training Iraqi security forces to handle security in all Iraqi provinces." [That is, the New Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Police -- not private militias, especially not the Mahdi Militia, which is controlled by Iran through Muqtada Sadr, or the Badr Brigades, which are at the least heavily supported by Iran.]

Note that, while Hadley and Negroponte delivered this message before the election, Abizaid affirmed the same demand today, not only after the election but after speculation that Bush would pull out of Iraq and hand it over to Iran -- and Iran's Iraqi militias.

This back-and-forth highlights the central conundrum in Iraq: Muqtada Sadr, the most pro-Iran politician (and militia leader) in Iraq, was the kingmaker who put Maliki on the throne and who keeps him there. But the United States is getting angrier and angrier about Maliki's refusal (or inability) to rein in the Shiite militias... both Sadr's Mahdi Militia, which is overtly pro-Iranian, and also their bitter enemy, the Badr Brigades (controlled by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, the strongest political opponents of Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party).

At some point, loggerheads will come to a head, and Maliki will be forced either to fish or get off the pot: he will have to choose between Sadr and Bush, because he won't be able to have the support of both. His attempt to get permission from the ruling parties to "shake up" his cabinet might be his first steps towards freeing himself from Muqtada Sadr's control; if Maliki succeeds, he might be able to substitute some SCIRI support for Sadr, thus freezing Sadr out of the government.

But in any event, it does appear that President Bush hasn't changed; he doesn't support withdrawal of U.S. troops; he isn't going to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria; and even Tony Blair offered an ultimatum, not appeasement, to those two troublemaking states.

Surprise!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2006, at the time of 07:57 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 12, 2006

In-BEDDD Bloggers

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm coining a new phrase: Bush Election-Disappointment Depression Disorder, or BEDDD. (And that's just where some of them should be staying for a while, until they start to recover; I also recommend plenty of fluids.)

I've talked about this before, but it's not getting any better; rather, it seems to be sweeping the Right like an epidemic, despite the best efforts of Captain Ed, Hugh Hewitt, and myself. And one of the most seriously infected is my all-time favorite blog, Power Line. Read this post and see if you concur with my diagnosis (the indented bits come from the Kansas City Star article Power Line links):

The commission’s discussions are said to be focused on an option presented by a panel of experts that the United States concede that the situation in Iraq cannot be stabilized and make plans for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Iraq "cannot be stabilized"? That strikes me as a ridiculous statement. One can legitimately ask whether Iraq can be stabilized at acceptable political, military or financial cost. But that would require some hard analysis of what the stakes are and what those costs may be. Notwithstanding the results of Tuesday's election, I think the American people are adult enough for such a discussion.

[Director of National Intelligence John] Negroponte reportedly has come to agree with what is expected to be the most controversial of recommendations from the Baker group: that the United States approach Iran, and, in tandem with Israel, approach Syria, for help with Iraq, according to a source familiar with Negroponte’s thinking.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but this sounds like the kind of harebrained scheme that only a team of foreign policy "realists" could come up with. Why on God's green earth would Iran and Syria, individually or in tandem, help us to pacify Iraq? Both have been doing everything in their power to create disorder in Iraq for the last three years, presumably because they think it is in their interest to do so. How, exactly, do the "realists" expect to change those countries' assessments of their interests?

Puzzling: so John Hinderaker now believes that President Bush, who has fought against incredible odds to invade Iraq and then to maintain the U.S. presence there, specifically to prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and jihadis, will now embrace a supposed recommendation that we simply negotiate with Iran -- the foremost sponsor of terrorism and the most jihadist state in the world -- and its sock puppet Syria to let them take over Iraq.

And what is the sourcing for these remarkable claims by the Kansas City Star? Let's examine the remarkably persuasive citations:

A top U.S. intelligence official has been meeting with Middle East counterparts to discuss proposals expected from the Baker commission on Iraq, Middle East sources have told Newsday....

The commission’s discussions are said to be focused on an option presented by a panel of experts that the United States concede that the situation in Iraq cannot be stabilized and make plans for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.

An alternative proposal, that the United States commit money and troops toward stabilizing Iraq before a withdrawal, appears less likely of adoption, according to sources familiar with the proposals.... [Say, this "alternative proposal" sounds remarkably familiar... where have I heard it before? And why didn't Power Line mention this part of the article?]

Negroponte reportedly has come to agree with what is expected to be the most controversial of recommendations from the Baker group: that the United States approach Iran, and, in tandem with Israel, approach Syria, for help with Iraq, according to a source familiar with Negroponte’s thinking. A spokesman for Negroponte did not respond to a request for comment Friday....

Whether [a pledge not to attack Iran from Iraq] would be enough to persuade Iran to be more helpful in Iraq is not clear, analysts say. Iranian intelligence officials are said to be extremely worried about a precipitous U.S. pullout from Iraq, and resulting chaos, in the wake of Tuesday’s elections....

“[Secretary Designate of Defense Robert] Gates’ world is Brent Scowcroft and Baker and a whole bunch of people who felt the door had been slammed in their face,” one former official who has discussed Iraq at length with Gates said Thursday. “The door is about to reopen.”

Well! Who could argue with that?

So what do we really have? The elite media, which is well known to obscure, distort, and outright fabricate evidence (Rathergate) to push "the story," whatever it is, publishes articles to the effect that a chastened and vacillating President Bush has decided to throw the conservatives under the bus, convert to liberalism, and has brought Bob Gates in to the Pentagon in order to cut a treasonous deal with Iran to subdivide Iraq.

All this so Bush can quickly yank the troops out of Iraq, thus turning against every last jot and tittle of what he has deeply believed and passionately argued about Iraq, Afghanistan, the GWOT, terrorism, Iran, Syria, and Israel... and every single source they cite is anonymous!

Yet we believe them!

This is almost ritualistically unhinged blather from the antique media, with the usual lack of any sourcing whatsoever. Why does any of us take it seriously?

Let's turn it around: suppose the same paper wrote the same tripe; but instead of saying it was Bush who was so anxious to get out of Iraq that he was willing to hand it over to our greatest enemies in the Middle East, suppose the Kansas City Star claimed that the American military, the soldiers and Marines, were calling for this. And suppose the same level of non-citation.

Would anybody in the dextrosphere believe a word of this folderol? Would any of us believe that the rank and file of the Army or the Marines were so anxious to bug out that they wanted us to hand over the real estate they fought and bled and died for to the enemy?

So why, praytell, do we believe it of the president? President Bush has been at least as stalwart and steadfast on this issue as has any member of the military.

If this turns out to be true, then I and nearly every Republican -- and even a huge number of Democrats -- will recoil in horror from the remains of what had been the Bush administration. They might even themselves call for impeachment... and the congressional Democrats, in that circumstance, would be only too glad to oblige. I would applaud such a man being hounded from office.

But for now, I haven't seen one scrap of evidence beyond the self-serving claims of the media. Remember, there is a "story" in progress here; the story is:

  1. The Republicans will suffer a catastrophic landslide in the 2006 midterm elections;
  2. The voters will repudiate the Iraq war, demand an immediately pull-out, and vent their spleens on the GOP candidates en masse;
  3. The Democrats will take over and immediately take steps to implement the Murtha Mandate: declare defeat and come home, or rather, redeploy just around the corner to Okinawa;
  4. The craven and feckless George W. Bush will turn on a weathervane and support the Murtha Mandate, thus proving that he and every other Republican is an unprincipled bastard who believes in nothing at all, and who has confessed to lying to everybody all along;
  5. The terrorists will be so moved and grateful to the Democrats for exposing the American tyrant that they will beat their swords into ploughhorses and study war no more;
  6. The Democrats will move on from victory to victory, John Edwards (or Hillary, or what-you-may-call-um) will be elected president, and the GOP will cease to exist, to be replaced by the Greens, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Gay Marriage Party;
  7. The unified and triumphant Left will spread its fecundity to the stars.

Of these plot elements in the Grand Story of the American media, not even number 1 has come to pass: in fact, the Democratic electoral victory fell far short of a landslide and doesn't even look necessarily permanent. But already, the Star and other farsighted newspapers and broadcast TV news stations are working on convincing us of number 4.

In the meanwhile, they're going to have a dickens of a time with number 2, as a new survey by Newsweek reveals. Huge majorities of Americans supported the "legislative priorities" of the Democratic party:

  • 92% support the feds lowering drug prices for Medicare recipients by negotiating directly with drug companies;
  • 89% support increasing the minimum wage;
  • 88% support decreasing the rate of federally guaranteed student loans.

(Wow, three historic legislative revolutions there!)

But then this suddenly bubbled up; naturally, the headline made no reference to these findings [hat tip to Sachi, who e-mailed this to me today]:

While a bare majority of 51 percent called the Democrats' victory "a good thing," even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 percent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.

Wait, I think I get it: Bush has become a weathercock who shifts with every political wind... which is why he will now cast all of his principles aside, go against everything he has ever argued, and spit upon the graves of American soldiers and Marines in order to implement a policy that is wildly unpopular among American adults.

Yeah. I believe it. And tomorrow, CNN will announce that Laura Bush has decided to join a hippie free-love commune in Big Sur.

Why are we always so quick to believe every horrible claim about President George W. Bush? I think the answer is twofold:

First, because, sad to say, what Thomas Sowell said about liberals in the Vision of the Anointed appears nowadays to apply equally well to conservatives: they have a vision; whoever shares the vision completely is one of the anointed and can do no wrong. But deviating from the vision in even the smallest degree of belief or ritual leads to excommunication; apostates are assumed to be unprincipled tyrants who will do every wicked thing for no reason other than nihilism and the joy of being beastly.

Bush deviates from the vision on one very important issue: rather than being a small-government conservative, he is a big-government conservative. Thus, he is utterly untrustworthy, and he's just looking for an excuse to stab us in the back -- so we'd better knife his back before he gets the chance!

Second, because I strongly believe that George W. Bush is still being punished for the sins of George H. W. Bush, the Judas-betrayer of Ronald Reagan. For after all, doesn't the Bible itself (Exodus 20:5) say...

I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of thy fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.

(Or if you prefer the Jewish version...)

For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me.

Bush the elder betrayed the god of conservatism; so many conservatives, who seem to believe moral weakness is a genetic trait (found on chromosome 19, perhaps), have assumed from the very beginning that Bush the younger was just waiting for a chance to do the same. Whether it's Harriet Miers, Dubai Ports World, or throwing Iraq to Iran like a baby to a hungry lion, these lay-a-BEDDDs are predisposed to believe the absolute worst of President Bush.

It's not just unseemly or even unjust; it's creepy. Why don't we all just back off and at least wait to see (a) what the Baker commission's recommendations are, (b) how Bush responds to them, and (c) what he can persuade the Democrats to do? It won't be long before we find out all of these; and there is nothing we can do in the meantime to affect the outcome of any of them anyway.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 12, 2006, at the time of 11:35 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

Bush's Iraq Speech Next January

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: I am remiss in forgetting to tip my hat to commenter jp phish, whose comment in a previous post started this train of thought down the narrow-gauge railway of my mind! Oops...

Contrary to popular belief (especially in the dextrosphere), the Democrats were not elected to control of Congress on a "platform" of withdrawing from Iraq: they were never that unified.

Certainly there is no consensus of the American people to give up, to surrender, to withdraw and leave Iraq to be dismembered by Iran and Syria. Americans aren't Spaniards.

Rather, Democrats were elected on a considerably more nuanced platform: they promised only a "change of course" in Iraq, mostly because they couldn't agree among themselves: John Murtha never convinced Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki never persuaded Harry Reid.

Now of course, to most of the Democratic leadership, "change of course" meant "redeploy to Okinawa." But the very circumlocutions they used prove that they weren't certain that the American people would come along for the defeatism ride.

Actual words matter; and as the only Democratic policy everyone could agree on was to gainsay Bush's "stay the course" mantra -- that leaves the door wide open for Democrats to spin on a dish, now that they are responsible to more than just the nutroots, and argue the exact opposite course from the one many of them championed before the election.

Shortly after the 110th Congress convenes, I believe George W. Bush should demand network time; and he should make the following speech (imagine this being rewritten by Peggy Noonan, to give it that real Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra mea culpa flavor):

Good evening, my fellow Americans. The election of last November was decided on many issues: some, like eliminating corruption and scandal, we can all agree on. Others are more controversial.

The Iraq war is a controversial issue. Some Americans, good Americans who love their country, believe the fight is unwinnable. They believe the only option left to us is to leave defeated, since they do not believe we can leave victorious. I don't agree, and neither do most Americans.

Others believe we should withdraw to secure bases inside Iraq and let the New Iraqi Army that we helped the Iraqis build handle the rest of the fighting. They worry that if we continue to patrol, more Americans will die, and that our national will cannot withstand that. Again, I do not agree: we must continue to patrol and remain in close contact with the Iraqi people, because that is how we gather actionable intelligence to strike at the terrorists among them: if we don't interact with ordinary Iraqis on a day to day basis, we won't find out who the evil-doers are and where we can find them.

But for some time, many insightful Americans, both inside and outside government, have argued that we had not too many, but too few troops in Iraq to finish the job, secure victory against the terrorists and jihadis, and establish a thriving democracy, however different from ours it may appear, in the middle of the Middle East.

I have resisted ordering a major increase, because I know that the bigger the American footprint, the harder it will be in the end for Iraqis to see themselves as responsible for their own country. But the chorus has become a consensus; and now, even the generals on the ground in Iraq agree.

I always said that when it came to waging wars, I would always listen first to the professionals who actually have the responsibility for victory. After having consulted extensively with the commanders on the ground, and with both the new leaders in Congress and also those of my own party, I have concluded that I was wrong, and the critics were right. We sent enough troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein and win the war. But after major combat operations ended, I did not leave enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace.

So tonight I am announcing that I have decided to send an additional 75,000 troops to Iraq. The command staff shall submit a report as soon as possible detailing exactly how many more personnel of each service we need and where we need them. But we have three goals that must be satisfied in order to win this war:

We must secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria. Both of those countries continue to smuggle weapons, explosives, and terrorists into Iraq. Until we can plug those leaks, we can never defeat the jihadis, because Iran and its proxy Syria can just send more.

We must secure the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar. This is where many of the Sunni terrorists are based.

And finally, we must secure the capital city of Baghdad, where more than 20% of the entire population of Iraq lives. This means we must dismantle the Shiite militias, including the Iranian controlled Mahdi Militia of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigades, which also have close ties with the ruling mullahs in Iran. The bulk of our new forces will be sent to Baghdad.

The new troops will stay at least a year. But they will not leave until the job is done. That is why they volunteered for this dangerous duty: to finish the job and win the war.

We will consult with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And as much as we can, we will work side by side with the Iraqi Army with the blessing of the Iraqi government. But we invaded Iraq in the first place for a purpose: not just to free the Iraqi people, but to protect the United States of America by denying al-Qaeda and other jihadist terror groups a safe haven in which they can plot their war against us, develop weapons of mass destruction to use against us, and from which they can strike out and kill Americans anywhere in the world, including the American homeland.

The United States will not leave Iraq without fulfiling that purpose. We are steadfast in adversity, we are courageous in combat. Until we are assured that Iraq will never again ally itself with extremism, terrorism, and never again threaten naked aggression against the rest of the world, including against American interests and even America itself, we will not falter or fail. We will do what must be done to protect ourselves, now and in the future.

I call upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to authorize this temporary increase in the level of force. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and their countparts in the Republican Party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Mike Pence, have already consulted their party caucuses in Congress. And we have all agreed that the only way to win a war is for everybody to pull together in the same direction.

Many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle made excellent contributions, and I thank them for their support. With the bravery and courage of the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine, and with the help and blessing of God, we shall prevail in this world-wide war against jihad, and in its most important battlefield, Iraq.

And now, all we need is for every American to have the same courage as those facing enemy bullets, bombs, and RPGs. Let's show the bombers and beheaders in Iraq what it really means to face a united America. They wanted a war with the West. They have one. Now let's make them rue the day they picked a fight with the United States of America.

Thank you, and may God bless every one of us.

Americans wanted several things anent Iraq:

  • A change of course to something that worked better and more visibly;
  • Bipartisan action from Congress;
  • A clear understanding why we're in it in the first place. We know what the Iraqis got out of overthrowing Saddam, but what's in it for us?

I hope that most Americans (unlike Nancy Pelosi) will be able to decide whether it's more important for us to win in Iraq or to leave Iraq... and that they will choose victory over defeat.

(The number 75,000 is arbitrary; it would be replaced with whatever figure Gen. George Casey, Commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq, recommends after consulting all the commanders on the ground, the Secretary of Defense, and -- close your eyes, quick! -- the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress.)

By the way... if I'm right, and the Democrats are willing to go for a change in this direction instead of insisting on that direction, then I predict they will also go ahead and confirm Robert Gates as SecDef.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 11, 2006, at the time of 10:18 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

Maliki's Life of Quiet Desperation

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

In the wake of Saddam Hussein's death sentence, we should be jubilant; but we are not, because a dark, uncertain cloud still hovers over our heads.

Last week's joint operation with Coalition (American) and Iraqi troops in Baghdad caught many high-value-targets. This is the good news; Bill Roggio reports:

On Saturday, Iraqi special forces, backed by U.S. advisers, conducted a raid inside Sadr City, the Baghdad bastion of Iranian proxy Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Three members of a "murder, kidnapping cell" were detained during the raid, and the Mahdi Army fired on Iraqi forces with small arms and RPGs as they departed.

This is the first operation inside Sadr City after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki ordered the lifting of the week-long cordon around Sadr City last Tuesday. On that same day, an operation inside Sadr City netted three terror cell suspects. The order to lift the cordon was hotly opposed by the U.S. military, and Iraqi's vice president also strongly disagreed with the decision. Serious questions have been raised about Maliki's commitment to quell the violence in Baghdad and suppress the power of Sadr's Shiite death squads.

The questions arise from the fact that Prime Minister Maliki heavily leans upon Sadr's political support to remain in office. He may not be wholly owned subsidiary of Sadr (as Sadr is surely an agent of Iran); Maliki shows occasional signs of independence, unlike his predecessor. But at the very least, he is torn between two teams of horses pulling in opposite directions.

The bad news is that Maliki is getting increasingly obstructionist against our effort to curb sectarian and tribal fighting. I'm sure readers heard about Maliki's controversial demand:

Mr. Maliki’s public declaration [lifting the Sadr City blockade] seemed at first to catch American commanders off guard. But by nightfall, American troops had abandoned all the positions in eastern and central Baghdad that they had set up last week with Iraqi forces as part of a search for a missing American soldier. The checkpoints had snarled traffic and disrupted daily life and commerce throughout the eastern part of the city.

The language of the declaration, which implied that Mr. Maliki had the power to command American forces, seemed to overstep his authority and to be aimed at placating his Shiite constituency.

The withdrawal was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite enclave where the Americans have focused their manhunt and where anti-American sentiment runs high.

I understand that Maliki is walking a tightrope, to use a different metaphore. He needs to look tough for the benefit of his constituency; he dares not be seen as an American puppet. But when the prime minister of Iraq is incapable of even trying to disarm the Shiite militas (either the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades), he is hardly in the position to dictate terms to American forces.

And we shouldn't be obeying him as if he were an actual, functioning head of state: he is at best a junior partner in this enterprise; if Iraq wants us to respect their sovereignty, then they should act so as to deserve respect.

I get the feeling that Maliki is not expecting Americans to stay much longer. I wonder where he could have gotten that idea? He's banking on the idea that Sadr will survive and become a powerful political player in Iraq... but that American troops will soon redeploy over the horizon to Okinawa.

When that happens (reasons Maliki), he wants to be on the side of the Pit Bull, not the Pekingese: acting like a swaggering leather-boy against the mighty Americans probably seems like necessary performance art.

But like many others who underestimated Americans, Maliki is dead wrong. No matter what happens tomorrow, we're not leaving before we settle with Sadr and his Mahdi Militia, and then the Badr Brigades. The president has a lot of plenary power, even against a hostile Congress... as Ronald Reagan proved again and again: he, not the Squeaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate, is the Commander in Chief; the president, not Congress, orders the troops around... especially as we already have an authorization for the use of force, which has the same legal consequence as a declaration of war.

I don't know why everyone underestimates our troops; yes, if you look at old history (in Clinton's time), America had a disturbing habit of bugging out... but that has not been true since the current president was elected. Why look to history when contemporary reality belies it?

We win battle after battle, and yet everyone (especially everyone with a "D" after his name) imagines defeat is always around the next corner (see today's astonishing paean to defeatism in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, via Power Line).

Of course, if you believe the Democrats' rhetoric -- and you believe they're going to win control of both houses of Congress -- then you would have to conclude that we'll engage in a "strategic rearward advance" before the job is done. All the elite media say so!

Al-Qaeda and Muqtada Sadr believe that if (when!) our congress turns Democratic, the terrorists will win. And they believe that the more people they slaughter, the more likely Democrats will take the control of Congress.

In fact, it's precisely the opposite: the more we are attacked, especially if we're attacked again in our homeland, the angrier Americans will get. Voters are hincky about the Iraq war, not because they're frightened of being attacked, but because the defeatists have convinced the American people that we're losing the war (by the timeworn technique of shouting it long enough and loudly enough that people start to believe it).

Maybe it will take a new president in 2009 to convince Americans that we really are winning (and some demonstrable, visible, and undeniable progress on the ground in Iraq); see Victor Davis Hanson's brilliant opinion piece on his blog yesterday, about which more later. For now:

Long forgotten is the inspired campaign that removed a vicious dictator in three weeks. Nor is much credit given to the idealistic efforts to foster democracy rather than just ignoring the chaos that follows war — as we did after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, or following our precipitous departure from Lebanon and Somalia. And we do not appreciate anymore that Syria was forced to vacate Lebanon; that Libya gave up its WMD arsenal; that Pakistan came clean about Dr. Khan; and that there have been the faint beginnings of local elections in the Gulf monarchies.

But in spite of all this, all Nouri al-Maliki cares about is his personal political future. How did Iraqi get stuck with this oaf? (Oh, that's right: because they were desperate to get rid of the previous Sadrite: Ibrahim al-Jaafari!)

Maliki is wrong about another point, too: Sadr will not last too much longer. Someone kill him long before we leave Iraq. And very soon now, Maliki and the rest of the Shia will have to decide whether to fish or get off the pot... because if he is still tied to Sadr when Sadr goes down, he'll drag Maliki to the bottom of the Euphrates River like a Jersey canary with a lead weight chained to his ankle.

Hm... not a bad image!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 06, 2006, at the time of 05:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

Will Saddam Get the Drop?

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and many of his lieutenants expects to announce the verdict Sunday, the London Times reports; and most expect it to be guilty with the death penalty for "crimes against humanity" -- which might be the first time such a sentence has been handed out for that charge since the Nuremburg Trials. Or were there any others in between?

Saddam, his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Taha Yassin Ramadan, his Vice President, and Awad al-Bandhar, a judge, face possible death sentences for the execution of 148 Shia villagers from the town of Dujail after a failed 1982 assassination attempt on the then Iraqi leader. Four others face lighter sentences. Saddam is likely to win the right to appeal against any death sentence.

Meanwhile, lots of folks are expecting Sunni terrorists to launch a horrific wave of violence when Saddam is sentenced to death; but frankly, I doubt it: such predictions are predicated upon the idea that until now, the terrorists have been "holding back," but now they'll really be hopping mad. I think that's rot: these murderous butchers been going flat out for three or four months now; the pedal's to the metal, and I don't think there's any more horsepower in that engine.

But the real question for me is, even assuming Saddam is sentenced to death... will he ever actually be executed? Or will the Europeans or the U.N. or the Humane Society meddle to prevent it, on the grounds that:

  • We don't know for absolute, 100% certain that Saddam really ordered mass executions in the town of Dujail, or that he was really the dictator of Iraq. He could have had an evil twin.
  • Even if he did it, maybe he was insane; look at him before the invasion: he must have been inhaling junk food! (Hey, it worked for Dan White.)
  • Finally, even if Hussein personally ordered the executions and was in his right mind when he did so, we can't execute him because it would be a barbaric and un-Christian to put to death a man merely because he slaughtered between 300,000 and 5,000,000 people over a few decades. And it wouldn't be fair; you're singling him out... after all, nobody ever executed Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Nicolae Ceauşescu. (All right, maybe Ceauşescu; but that was more like a revolution -- a people's revolution! -- so it doesn't count.)

As much as I doubt there will be "civil war" if Saddam is sentenced to death, that's just how much I doubt he will ever actually dance on air, be fried, gassed, needled, or given a haircut. I expect that, yet again, la Belle France will ride to the rescue of another mass-murdering dictator.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 03, 2006, at the time of 11:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

Time Flies When Killing Nothing But Innocent Bystanders

Blogomania , Elections , Iraq Matters , Polling Keeps a-Rolling , Science - Bogus
Hatched by Dafydd

By now, everybody and his unkie's monkle knows about the Lancet survey that purports to show that the Iraq invasion has killed about 655,000 extra Iraqis -- nearly all of them innocent.

Actually, since the Lancet's survey only went through July 2006, and assuming the rate is unabated, a total of more than 704,000 "extra deaths" should have occurred by now, the end of October 2006. I shall accordingly use this figure hence.

They arrived at this figure by interviewing a small number of grieving survivors (2,000 households) and asking them, offhand, how many members of their family have been killed by the wicked infidels (actually, they asked how many had died since the invasion; I doubt the significance escaped the respondents' notice).

Then they projected this figure throughout the entire population of Iraq to get a figure that is about 14 times the (likely inflated) "maximum" figure on Iraq Body Count, 49,760, and more than 20 times the more commonly accepted figure of 35,000.

Oddly enough, however, they must not be burying their dead, because mortuary records don't show anywhere near that many burials over the last 43 months, a fact at which even the Lancet hints.

Amazingly enough, it appears that half of all extended families in Iraq have lost someone -- assuming no overlap at all: I assumed that an extended family in Iraq would consist of a mother and father, an average of three kids, an average of three living grandparents (recall that grandparents in such a society could easily be in their late thirties or early forties), an average of five living aunts and uncles, who between them would have produced about eight cousins.

I'm probably underestimating much of this -- which would mean even more families would have to have lost members to evil, wicked Coalition soldiers, in order to arrive at Lancet's (reprojected) 704,000 figure. If there is overlap, that would increase the number of families that would have had deaths: each death would kill a father, an uncle, and a cousin, of three different households, perhaps.

To put it another way, if this guess were true, the war would have considerably more than doubled the national annual death rate of Iraq (5.37 per 1,000 per year), according to the latest figures from the CIA's World Factbook (or even 5.5, as Lancet calculates it).

What would it have taken to produce such a staggeringly huge death rate? The Belmont Club can help with that; they note that the Israelis bombed the heck out of Lebanon for 34 days, and only managed to kill 1,300 Lebanese (all of them innocent, once again; it's remarkable how luckless the innocent are in these Moslem countries, while the guilty seem to lead charmed lives... perhaps somebody down there likes them).

Whenever I see numbers, I have to whip out my calculator and play. It's a nasty habit, I know; but I'm too old a dog to change Spot now.

The Lebanese death rate works out to about 38 per day -- and that's with heavy, continuous bombing, shelling, and massive, daily assaults. Let's assume that same rate of death in Iraq; how long would it take to kill 704,000 people? A simple division: it would take 18,526 days, or approximately 50 years and 9 months.

Hm. Well, that doesn't quite work out, does it!

On the other hand, we have a lot more soldiers in Iraq than the Israelis had in Lebanon... so let's look at it the other direction: assume that we have killed 704,000 people in Iraq since the invasion, which began on March 19th, 2003; what is the daily rate of killing we would have to be seeing? (Lancet concluded that 601,000 of the 655,000 deaths were violent; projected forward, that would mean 646,000 of the 704,000.)

Again, it's a simple calculation, complicated only because we must first figure out how many days it's been: from invasion to March 19th, 2006 is 1,096 days (because 2004 was a leap year), plus 225 days since then, for a grand total of 1,321 days.

704,000 divided by 1,321 equals 533 innocent civilians dying each and every day, Sundays and holidays included. (Actually, since this is an Islamic country, we would expect to see more deaths during the Sabbath -- which is actually Friday, not Sunday -- and during holiday periods, like Ramadan.) If we restrict it to violent deaths, that's 487 violent deaths per day.

There was a lull from the end of major combat operations, May 1st, 2003, until the insurgency and terrorist activity really started to uptick, say about April 4th, 2004 with First Fallujah. But on the other hand, we would assume a very much increased daily rate during the month of MCO; even if they don't quite balance, it probably doesn't change much... we can assume the daily rate after the insurgency and terrorism started to be somewhere between 550 and 650 extra deaths per day.

I doubt even the wildest-eyed anti-war fanatic sincerely believes that all the reporters, non-governmental organizations, government departments, and the other medical researchers in Iraq (who actually check physical evidence, rather than relying upon surveys) could possibly have missed an additional 500 civilians dying per day, 460 of them killed violently -- and nearly all by Coalition forces, if you can believe the Iraqi respondents. But of course, figures don't lie!

The researchers assure us that asking Iraqi respondents how many have died is perfectly sound methodology. They don't need to look at death certificates, hospital records, or mortuary records; first, those hard data may be unavailable... and second, they don't yield a high enough number of extra deaths:

When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.

Fabricating deaths simply isn't done in Iraqi culture... quick, somebody, alert the Green Helmet Guy!

But I still want to know where the weekly quota of 3,731 bodies is being stashed; I should think that by now, every graveyard in the country would have been filled up, and the bodies would have to be packed into warehouses (refrigerated, one hopes) until the country can decide where to put them. Sort of like nuclear waste, I reckon.

If somebody can show me a photograph of a warehouse with bodies stacked like cordwood, or else dozens of mass graves dug post-Saddam, then I will believe it. Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to maintain a bit of skepticism about the Lancet's figure. It's conceivable that their methods are unsound.

So how does this relate to the election, as the category list indicates? Well, just an example of the goofy results that you can get from a poll when you deliberately disconnect it from any external, reality-based cross-checking.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 30, 2006, at the time of 06:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sadr Off!

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line makes a good point about the efficacy of putting Muqtada Sadr down. But it started a flock of seagulls in my brain.

Jack Kelly, national-security writer for the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, penned (phosphored?) a column forthrightly titled "We must get rid of al-Sadr." First, I must note that I'm very, very unimpressed by both the writing and thinking of Mr. Kelly. His column is written about at the level of a typical blog (Power Line is far more literate); it's conclusory and dismissive and drips with such sweeping opinion-mongering as "and people wonder why U.S. policy in Iraq is failing," and "it will be embarrassing for President Bush to admit the failure of the Iraqi government."

(Generally, Kelly thinks very little of the Iraq government; I certainly get the sense he thinks we'd all be better off if Iraq were our colony, much as the Congo belonged to France and Belgium.)

What's more, the only source he cites for anything is an anonymous "Army sergeant in a Baghdad intelligence unit," who e-mailed -- not Jack Kelly -- but the WSJ's James Taranto! Presumably, Kelly doesn't even know himself who the sergeant is or how qualified he is to make observations. Mr. Sergeant says just what Kelly longs to hear; to nobody's amazement, Kelly quotes Mr. Sergeant.

Nevertheless, the idea that we should kill Sadr is a good one. But I really wish I didn't have Mr. Kelly on my side, for he makes no particular argument at all how killing Sadr would help anyone -- nor does he consider any consequences other than Bush's "embarassing" admission of putative failure and a glib reference to an "uprising," as if that were of no consequence.

Paul has noticed this lack as well:

I wonder whether bringing down a given milita and/or its leader would make much difference at this point. My understanding is that the Shia militias exist mainly to inflict harm upon, and do battle with, the Sunnis. Given the "demand" for such units, it's questionable whether we can cut off the supply.

So let me fill in the missing argument that Mr. Kelly could not seem to articulate.

First, on the basic level, Paul is correct: killing Sadr would not put the Mahdi Militia out of existence. Actually, I would suggest killing not just Sadr, but the number two and number three guys, all more or less simultaneously (within a few days of each other). This would leave the lower tier people wondering which of them would become the new leader.

Let 'em fight it out.

Second, Paul asserts that there is a fixed "demand" on the part of Shia for killing Sunnis; but I'm not persuaded. Iraq has always been more tribal than sectarian. Many of the biggest tribes include both Sunni and Shiite members; and until Saddam came along and set the two sects at each other's throats (quite deliberately), they knocked together quite decently in Iraq.

I don't think the war between Shia and Sunni has gone on long enough in Iraq to have become the new norm. I don't even think the Shia thought of Saddam's as a "Sunni" dictatorship... more likely as the dictatorship of the Tikriti tribe, which included Shia, Sunni, and even a prominent Christian (Tariq Aziz).

I don't see this "demand" for continued butchery among most Iraqis... else we'd see Baghdad levels of sectarian slayings in the rest of the country. Were such demand universal, we would see armies of tens of thousands of Shia (and Sunni) fanning out across the country; it would be an actual civil war, not a tit for tat series of spree killings.

Rather, I suspect the killing continues because a small but very determined group of people thinks the gang-war is "winnable," and each person sees himself as the victor. It's less like the Civil War and more like the Mafia wars of mid-20th-century New York City: those, too, went on for decades... yet at no time could one say that the Italian population of that city "demanded" such killings.

If the leadership of that small cadre which is carrying out the slaughters were to be removed (by any means necessary), I cannot imagine that the Shia and Sunni residents of Baghdad would pine for the good old days of death squads committing 100 murders a day.

But what other effects would there be? Kelly casually mentions an "uprising" that would follow us snuffing Sadr; but he doesn't seem to lose any sleep over it:

If we act against Mr. Sadr, there will be an uprising. It will be bloody. But continued inaction pretty much guarantees slow motion defeat.

Well, yeah; but nobody is calling for "continued inaction." The Bush administration is not inactive; it's just active doing things other than what Mr. Kelly wants them to do.

But would there really be an uprising? Why? And who would lead it? Sadr, whatever his deficiencies in intelligence and theological knowledge (and they seem to be legion), has an immense personal charisma... obviously, otherwise that fat, unlettered slob wouldn't be the head of the strongest militia in Iraq. The Mahdi Militia gives all the appearance of being a cult of personality revolving around Muqtada Sadr's head.

By the same reasoning, Musab Zarqawi must have been astonishingly charismatic (it's a local function; he might not have impressed a gathering of Elks in Minnetonka). Zarqawi led al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in two major uprisings in Fallujah... yet when we killed him, I recall no massive uprising in his honor or memory.

Uprisings rarely happen sponteneously; riots happen spontaneously, but uprisings need leadership. The Badr Brigades are not going to mourn the passing of Sadr; nor will the Shia, and the Kurds won't care. The secularists under Iyad Allawi will be glad to see the back of him. So the only group we must fret over is the specific sect of Shiite militiamen who owe allegiance to Muqtada Sadr himself.

I'm sure some of them may try to take revenge; but if the Badr Brigades are doing their job, as soon as they realize Sadr has been whacked, they will launch an attack on their greatest enemy -- meaning those Iraqis closest to them in belief, custom, and history, the Mighty Mahdi Militia. What with the external attack and the War of the Roses going on to decide succession to Sadr, I doubt anybody in al-Mahdi will have much energy to devote to attacking Americans for a while.

But I still haven't articulated the good that would come of this... that is, aside from the sheer schadenfreude of seeing Sadr's earthly remains. First and foremost, Sadr is Iran's toehold in Iraq: he is Iran's go-to guy. Of course they would get someone else; but it would take time, they would be in disarray until they did, and he would not likely be as powerful and charismatic as Sadr.

But here is the hidden charm. I believe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would actually like to see the militias disarmed. Not because he's a good guy; don't mistake my point. Rather, I think Maliki reasons thus:

  1. I am the titular tribal warlord of Iraq.
  2. Yet I control no personal forces: the army and police belong to the state, not me personally; and I control none of the large militias.
  3. Now that I'm on top, it's time to blow the whistle and end the game. If the militias would all just "softly and suddenly vanish away," then there would be nobody who could challenge my military authority (except the infidels, and they don't really care anyway).
  4. But I cannot actually go after the militias... because that would require me to crack down on Moqtada Sadr, and I desperately need his voting bloc to stay in power.

Kelly referred vaguely and in passing to this point:

To maintain this fiction [of the Iraqi government], we won't take actions Mr. Maliki doesn't approve of. But he depends upon the 28 votes Mr. Sadr controls in the Iraqi parliament in order to maintain his tenuous grasp on power. Prodding from the United States has so far been insufficient to get him to give them up. Mr. Maliki has declared which side he's on, and it isn't ours.

True; but it's not Sadr's side, either. Maliki is on one and only one side: his own.

If Sadr were killed, and if Maliki were clearly not involved, then what would the "28" do? I can't see them allying with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), for they control the Badr Brigades. And they're certainly not going to support a Sunni or a Kurd.

This leaves the Dawa Party as the only other powerful Shiite political party. The head of Dawa is Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and his principal deputy is (ta da!) Nouri al-Maliki. Jaafari cannot be prime minister again; he was the one chucked out last time and is completely unacceptable to SCIRI, to the Sunnis, to the Kurds, and to the secularists.

So the only choice left for the 28 seats currently controlled by Sadr, in the event of his untimely demise, would be to continue supporting Maliki, as they have been doing all along.

Thus, were the Coalition to kill off Sadr, Maliki would still have the 28 votes of Sadr... but no Sadr sticking his hand up Maliki's badonkadonk (eew) to work the PM's mouth. Not only that, but with Mahdi in such distress, Maliki would have the green light to crack down hard on the Badr Brigades... the other Shiite party's militia. After all, Mahdi would be out of commission for a while.

So we would get a "twofer" -- the Mahdi Militia would be bereft of its leadership, leaving it to flop around like a beheaded snake; and the government of Iraq would likely move heavily against the Badr Brigades... and maybe even against the Mahdi Militia, once Maliki is sure of his power base in the absence of Muqtada Sadr.

Sometimes, when a situation has crystalized in a very unuseful position, the best thing we can do is vigorously shake the box: whatever we end up with will probably be better than what we have now.

I think this is one of those times. Rolling my eyes at the rest of Mr. Kelly's column, I second his call for us to put Sadr down.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 30, 2006, at the time of 03:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

Jonah and the Wail: the Virtue of Ignorance

Blogomania , Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae
Hatched by Dafydd

This is one of those rare moments when I must vehemently disagree with Patterico, one of the people who got me into blogging in the first place (quite literally: Patterico's Pontificaitons was the first of two sites that allowed me on as a guest blogger). He gives a one-handed round of applause to neocon columnist Jonah Goldberg -- who now reverses himself, arguing that going into Iraq was "a mistake."

Interestingly, Goldberg, and by extension Patterico, make a pretty big whopper of a mistake themselves.

Here is Goldberg, as linked by Patterico:

I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.

But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003.

Oh, I quite agree: if Congress had known in 2002 that Iraq was only twenty minutes to midnight, instead of two minutes to midnight, it would have punted on the invasion. Congress would instead have settled upon a really, really, really strong letter to Saddam, asking him to be nicer.

But that's not the definition of a mistake, Jonah Goldberg notwithstanding. After all, had Congress known just how bad the Civil War would get, with 600,000 dead Americans and a nation ravaged by all four horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's very likely they never would have voted to go to war; they would have accepted the secession of the Confederate States of America instead.

I do not believe it was a mistake for the Union to fight the Civil War. So thank God they didn't know what was going to happen.

Suppose we'd had perfect knowledge of what would transpire in Iraq, and therefore, as we all (Jonah, Patterico, and I) conclude, we did not invade Iraq. What would have happened then? This is the question that neither Goldberg nor Patterico essay to answer... but I will.

  1. The Iraq sanctions regime would have collapsed.

This was already well on its way, as the sanctions were routinely circumvented and outright violated by European powers, even while the U.N.-mandated regime was still in place. Doesn't anybody remember that this was exactly what the Oil for Food scandal was all about?

European nations were already applying heavy pressure on the U.N. to drop the sanctions, which were "killing millions of Iraqi children" (remember? doesn't anybody remember?) Even Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group agrees that the sanctions were likely going away very quickly, certainly de facto and likely de jure as well:

Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.

With increasingly shrill and bizarre claims of the death and destruction caused by sanctions, and the hundreds of oil deals Saddam cut with various countries that would only be implemented once sanctions were lifted, pressure to do so would have been irresistable.

And even if we used our veto power to keep them on the books, that is the only place they would exist: in the real world, sanctions only work when other countries cooperate. Europe had long ceased cooperating.

  1. When sanctions did collapse -- even if simply de facto, by rampant cheating and by European "inspectors" turning a blind eye -- Saddam was set to resume WMD development, using the knowledge, personnel, and WMD programs he had carefully retained from 1991 to 2003.

The ISG says this, too:

The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.

I think, after the revelations of Oil for Fraud, few reading this post think it at all farfetched that sanctions were already on life support and would have died entirely... probably in months, not years; and that when they did, Saddam Hussein had no intention of turning over a new leaf and becoming a peaceful member of the community of nations.

  1. Having once lifted sanctions, it would be politically impossible to reinstate them -- as France and Russia both have veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council;

Does the picture become clear? It's true that we almost certainly would not have invaded Iraq had we "known then what we know now" about the cost in blood and treasure... and that failure would have been a dreadful mistake of historic proportions -- far worse, in retrospect, than the decision not to oust Hussein in 1991, following the Gulf War.

  1. There is very strong evidence of an increasing tempo of cooperation between Hussein and al-Qaeda, as well as cooperation with more traditional terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Evidence even from the 9/11 Commission (which admitted a few connections), but much more elsewhere, including here, for example.

  1. Saddam Hussein would have recreated his chemical and biological weapons, but this time attaching them to longer-range missiles that could strike any country in the Middle East.
  2. He probably would not have been able to develop working nukes on his own; but he could eventually have bought them from North Korea or perhaps Pakistan;
  3. He would have become the dominant player in the the region, and would very likely have funneled WMD to terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, with the international reach to strike in the United States.
  4. We would have had an American intifada -- and our response to further WMD attacks within our own country would have been a draconian clampdown on civil liberties here that would truly undercut the Constitution... unlike the minor and trivial "infringements" of the USA Patriot Act.

It amazes me that neither Goldberg nor Patterico even considers the question of what would have happened had we not invaded Iraq in March of 2003. Both buy into the idea that, if we would have made a different decision then, knowing how hard it would be, that the other decision would necessarily be better than the one we made.

We stumbled into the Iraq War by our own ignorance: but this was another one of those astonishingly fortuitous accidents that lead people like Michael Medved to believe that God directly intervenes in human affairs. While I wouldn't go that far, I will say this, echoing what I said above about the Civil War:

Thank God we didn't know in 2002 what we know now about the Iraq War! The "rational" response to that knowledge would have been a catastrophe for American security... and indeed for the entire war against jihad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 19, 2006, at the time of 05:18 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Bush Is Right: Iraq Is Like Vietnam

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

...But not quite the way George Snuffleupagus meant it, and likely not the way other Democrats mean when they hurl the charge.

What am I talking about? (Do I know?) Oh, yes, it's this interview by Snuffleupagus of the president, which includes this exchange of which ABC makes much:

President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

Oh no! Bush is comparing Iraq to Vietnam! That means even he thinks we're doomed, right? What else could it possibly mean?

Well, it might mean that George W. Bush knows considerably more about the history of the Vietnam War than do George Snuffleupagus, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry "Invasion of the Landsnatchers" Reid, or any of a number of lefty bloggers.

Let's start with the basics. We all agree that, in the end, taking everything (including the politics) into account, we lost the Vietnam War. But that's about as much agreement as we're likely to get.

It is an article of deeply held faith among Democrats that the obscenely powerful North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and their allies in the South, the invincible People's Liberation Armed Forces (Vietcong, or VC), crushed and annihilated the American forces, sending us reeling back like the Nazis (that would be us) from the gates of Leningrad and Stalingrad, torn to pieces by the Mighty Red Army -- that would be the NVA and the VC.

That is, Democrats believe (the way Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus) that we Fascist, American, running-dog imperialists were militarily beaten by the people's revolution, and that was why we lost Vietnam.

The vision Democrats have of Vietnam is of mobs of hundreds of thousands of cowardly American troops fleeing in panic, deserting by the tens of thousands, being gunned down from behind by the victorious NVA. I'm not exaggerating; talk to any Democrat about the Vietnam War, and you will quickly realize that is exactly the picture that is seared, seared in his imagination.

The "proof" they offer for this bizarre fantasy is the Tet Offensive, a desperate attack by the NVA and the VC, which Wikipedia describes thus:

The Tết Offensive (January 30, 1968 - June 8, 1969) was a series of operational offensives during the Vietnam War, coordinated between battalion strength elements of the National Liberation Front's People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF or Viet Cong) and divisional strength elements of the North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), against South Vietnam's Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and United States military and other ARVN-allied forces.... The offensive began spectacularly during celebrations of the Lunar New Year, and sporadic operations associated with the offensive continued into 1969.

So divisions of the NVA poured across the border, while simultaneously, battalions of VC launched vicious attacks on virtually every major city in Vietnam. The idea was that, since (the Communists believed) the Americans and the government of South Vietnam were so unpopular, such an attack would trigger a nation-wide uprising, a revolution that would sweep the hated Capitalist pigs into the sea.

When Democrats say "Iraq is this generation's Vietnam," that is the context they mean: that Iraq is "unwinnable," as they claim Vietnam was; and that the Iraqi freedom-fighters have won battle after battle against the Fascist American imperialists. Soon, the Democrats fervently hope, America will be beaten and humbled (like on September 11th), and their own guilt at not being born poor, or at least black, will be mildly assuaged.

Well, the Tet Offensive didn't quite work out the way that the Commies planned -- or that the Democrats believe:

The Tết Offensive can be considered a crushing military defeat for the Communist forces, as neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese army achieved any of their tactical goals. Furthermore, the operational cost of the offensive was dangerously high, with the Viet Cong essentially crippled by the huge losses inflicted by South Vietnamese and other Allied forces.

Ah, but there is one other major pro-Communist force in 1968 that we haven't reckoned with yet: the American elite media, which desperately hoped for a catastrophic defeat of the American forces by North Vietnam and the National Front. Led by "Uncle" Walter Cronkite, the news media brazenly lied about the hammerblows that disintegrated the revolutionary forces; they reported instead that the attack was a historic victory for the Communists:

Many people, both at the time and in retrospect, have criticized the U.S. media for the negative light in which it portrayed both the war in general and the Tết Offensive in particular. Earle Wheeler, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complained of "all the doom and gloom we see in the U.S. press" after Tết.

The most famous example of an anti-war attitude on the part of an influential press figure was Walter Cronkite's special report on the war of February 27, 1968. After touring the ruined streets and battlefields of the Tết Offensive and interviewing discouraged soldiers and officers in the field, he directly criticized the military leadership and the Johnson administration: "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud." He concluded by saying that the U.S. was "mired in a stalemate" and called for a negotiated end [that is, for an American surrender] to the conflict.

While the Tet Offensive was a military defeat of colossal proportions for the Communists, our own media turned it into a equally huge Communist victory via their relentless propaganda:

Nevertheless, the Offensive is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, with the NLF and PAVN winning an enormous psychological and propaganda victory.... The Tết Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of propaganda, media influence and popular opinion in the pursuit of military objectives.

It is clear from the context of the interview, even in the snippets that ABC chose to highlight in their online story, that President Bush is well aware of the real meaning of Tet; he makes it quite plain in the next thing he says after the bit quoted at the top of this post:

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause [the] government to withdraw."

In other words, the president correctly understands that the only sense in which the enemy in Iraq is "winning" is in the propaganda that they inspire and provoke among the persistently anti-American news media... as represented in this case by one George Robert Snuffleupagus, late communications director for President Bill Clinton -- now the victorious strongman of what used to be This Week With David Brinkley.

And its only victory would be if the antique media terrified enough people that they forced us into premature withdrawal of our troops, before they finished the job.

The Democrats want to negotiate a treaty with the terrorists determining how fast we hand Iraq over to al-Qaeda; this puts the Dems in the position of defeatists who declared in 1943 that we could never win the Pacific or European wars -- and who demanded that we negotiate a "settlement" with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan over how quickly they would be handed the entire eastern hemisphere.

And President Bush is absolutely correct: in the sense of political theater masquerading as warfare, Iraq indeed is very like unto Vietnam.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 18, 2006, at the time of 11:25 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

October 05, 2006

Sadr and Masri: the Final Embrace

Good News! , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

Excuse me, does anybody remember that there's a war on?

There is a lot to talk about in Iraq. So let's not lose focus; there is a lot more serious stuff going on than some stupid Republican creep and a bunch of Democratic political creeps.

It may be noble for us to keep our moral standard high (to the point of absurdity). But the bottom line is, if we lose this election, we will lose the war. It is just that simple; the Democrats have promised us a shameful defeat if they're elected, and this is one Democratic promise I believe!

Now, the important news. As Dafydd pointed out yesterday on Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade , there are several operations going on to clean out the militias. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail reports that Coalition forces -- "CF" -- are finally cracking down on Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi "army" in the city of Diwaniyah, outside of Baghdad.

While much of the public's perceptions of the efforts against Sadr are shaped by operations in Sadr City in Baghdad, the Coalition and Iraqi government are chipping away at his power base outside of Baghdad. The series of raids and clashes, often masked as efforts against “criminals,” “thugs,” “death squads,” and “kidnappers,” are being conducted against the extreme elements of Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The goal is to remove Sadr from a position of influence, either by force or his surrender, and split his power base. Sadr's lieutenants are being systematically targeted, which will drive him to either fight or withdraw.

A window into these operations is available in the city of Diwaniyah. A joint U.S. and Iraqi operation, dubbed Constant Solidarity has been announced at the end of September. The operation is made up of elements of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, supported the soldiers of the Fires Brigade (artillery), 4th Infantry Division. The purpose is to “weed out more than 2,000 terrorists in and around the city of Diwaniyah.” Diwaniyah is a Sadr stronghold, the “terrorists” being referred to here are the Madhi Army. To demonstrate the seriousness of the operation, the U.S. has deployed MLRS launchers (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) in the region to hit back at the Madhi Army.

The operation, Constant Solidarity, has been going on since the beginning of September. But the first battle with the Mahdi army occurred on August 27th and 28th, when Iraqi Army forces killed 50 Sadrites, with a loss of only 20 of their own soldiers. Since then, CF has conducted various raids, including raiding the office of one of Sadr's top clerics.

In another action, according to Roggio, Operation Wilderness captured 32 of Sadr's death-squad terrorists. "On the 21st, another raid netted 'Salah al-Obeidi, a close colleague of firebrand Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, [who] was picked up from his home in Najaf along with cleric Bassim al-Ghuraifi,' according to Sadr's own office."

All this is designed to paint Sadr into a hole (as Dafydd says), and it is working: Sadr and his close allies are now calling for a "peaceful fight." Obivously, Sadr wants to survive politically; but I'm not so sure his militia members agree. They didn't join up for peace and reconciliation; they just want to kill Sunnis on behalf of Iran.

I have heard that Muqtada Sadr is losing control of his Mahdi milita. Without Sadr's Iranian connection, the rest of the militia won't have access to all the logistic help they need (intelligence) to conduct death-squad operations. That is a good thing -- for the good guys; but the Mahdi killers, none of whom have much chance of ending up in the government themselves, are seeing their happy, little excuse for serial torture and murder floundering... and they're not obeying Sadr's orders to quit fighting and start supporting his political ambitions instead.

Meanwhile, back at the al-Qaeda chicken ranch, CENTCOM's press release announced that "Coalition forces detained a former driver and personal assistant of Abu Ayyub al-Masri [the current leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq] along with 31 others during a series of 11 raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq activities in the Baghdad area Sept. 28":

This is the second close associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri captured in September, also believed to have been one of his personal drivers. Intelligence indicates his participation in the 2005 bombings of the Sheraton and the Al Hamra hotels in Baghdad that killed a total of 16 people and injured 65 others.

Three days after this operation, the Iraqi government released a video of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, instructing terrorists on how to build vehicle borne improvised explosive devices from the inside of a tanker truck. Intelligence indicates the suspected terrorist captured was working directly for Abu Ayyub al-Masri when the video was created.

Now, the game is afoot in the hunt for al-Masri himself. There was an earlier unconfirmed report on al-Arabiya TV, which the U.S. never bought, that al-Masri was killed during a raid; but subsequent DNA testing showed it was not he. However, just as with Musab Zarqawi -- who was finally killed after a series of his subordinates were captured and turned into singing canaries -- Masri's days on Earth can be measured in very small numbers.

So, folks, let's keep at it. Things are looking up. But we still have a lot to do in Iraq; this is no time to get distracted by the Foley Bergere.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 05, 2006, at the time of 05:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 04, 2006

Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Stealing a march on my colleague in crime here, I'm going to scoop Sachi on a piece of good news:

Iraqi authorities have taken a brigade of up to 700 policemen out of service and put members under investigation for "possible complicity" with death squads following a mass kidnapping earlier this week, the U.S. military said Wednesday....

The Iraqi police officers were decommissioned following a kidnapping Sunday when gunmen stormed a frozen food plant in the Amil district, abducted 24 workers and shot two others. The bodies of seven of the workers were found hours later but the fate of the others remains unknown.

The action appeared aimed at signaling a new seriousness in tackling police collusion with militias at a time when the government is under increased pressure to put an end to the Shiite-Sunni violence that has killed thousands this year and threatened to tear Iraq apart.

That last paragraph is no hyperbole. Everyone has known for some time that the Shia-dominated Iraqi National Police was at least turning a blind eye to Shiite militias massacring Sunnis (and rival Shia) in their relentless, sub-rosa campaign of murder and revenge; at worst, many assume that police units were actually engaged in such mass murder themselves. But the general feeling among nearly all Sunnis and even a great many Shia who actually care about their country was that the Shia-controlled government would never crack down on their "allies" in the police.

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally realized that the survival of his government, indeed, the survival of Iraq as a nation, depends upon stopping the tit-for-tat butchery from breaking out into a full-scale civil war. He offered a new "security plan" a few days ago that was praised and widely accepted by all parties... and this is the first bit of "earnest money" in that plan:

The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said the Iraqi police brigade in the area had been ordered to stand down and was being retrained.

"There was some possible complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when they should have been impeding them," he told a Baghdad news conference. "The forces in the unit have not put their full allegiance to the government of Iraq and gave their allegiance to others," he said....

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday that the commander of the unit, a lieutenant colonel, had been detained for investigation and the major general who commands the battalion that includes the brigade had been suspended temporarily and ordered transferred.

Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the chief ministry spokesman, said a random selection of troops in the suspended unit were being investigated for ties to militias.

This is major-league serious stuff. The investigated soldiers who turn out to have such militia ties will be prosecuted; if found guilty of killings, they may be executed under Iraqi law (which has the death penalty available). I don't know if this is likely, but it's certainly my preferred punishment.

And the commander of the brigade himself, if found to be complicit, should -- in my opinion -- also be executed. Hanged, in a proper legal way. In fact, even if there is no evidence that he knew about any militia ties, he should still be convicted in a court-martial of criminal malfeasance for failing to stop his own troops from participating in or enabling death-squads. At the very least, he should spend at least 5-7 years in a military penitentiary... Abu Ghraib, newly restored to Iraqi control, springs to mind.

That new security plan I mentioned sounds very promising, too. It includes several new ideas, of which one of the most intriguing is the creation of joint Sunni-Shiite "neighborhood watch" style committees to track violence. I firmly believe most Sunni and Shia just want the killings to stop; they're not interested in "defeating" the other -- they just want to live in peace.

While this is characterized as "vague" by the New York Times, it's actually perfectly clear. They even explain it themselves... once you get past all the defeatism, death-triumphalism (more dead Iraqis, more dead Americans, hoo-hah!), and attempts to drive away readers before reaching the good stuff. The negative occupies about two-thirds of the entire piece; once you get back to the actual story promised by the headline, see if this makes sense:

In an effort to make some strides against militias, Mr. Maliki’s security plan would create local committees of political leaders, tribal sheiks, clerics and members of the security forces that would monitor security in every Baghdad neighborhood....

The committees would have no control over the security forces and would instead function as arbitrators of local sectarian disputes, intelligence gatherers for security forces, and as a bridge between civilians and the police and army, according to lawmakers involved in drafting the plan.

“These commissions will never have any authority to lead or command security forces,” said Jalaladin al-Sagheir, a Shiite member of Parliament. “It will just let the people know that they are a part of their district’s protection.”

The local committees will report to a “central commission for peace and security,” which will work with Iraqi armed forces. There will also be a new commission for monitoring the news media, but no other details were available. The plan will be reviewed by lawmakers every month.

(That last point is probably to ensure that a supposed "news" organization isn't simply a communications relay from terrorist leaders to their troops in the field. Hm, tempting...)

This pretty specific plan actually addresses the "root cause" of much of the violence: I believe both the insecurity that makes people join or support militias and the license they think they enjoy to do anything they want (which also contributes to recruitment) stem from a single catastrophic problem: alienation. When people feel alienated from their own government -- not a part of society, disconnected from those who live around them -- they become afraid of those others, and they simultaneously see them as less than human, easily killed without a pang of conscience.

That sort of alienation from society is the major factor behind crime in the United States -- the criminal's idea that he's not really part of society, a predator on the outside looking in.

Thus, the best solution to terrorism, mass killings (whether "sectarian" or part of a power-struggle), and yes, even ordinary crime is to include as many people as possible into the arc of society. When people feel they truly belong to the society, and that the government is as much a part of society as they, they are enormously less likely to take up arms to kill their fellow countrymen.

Thus, to the extent that neighborhood-watch style committees comprising both Sunni and Shiite representatives can bridge that yawning chasm between the average Iraqi and his government, they will significantly diminish the number of borderline cases who ultimately decide to join death squads. Changing the center typically changes the margin; and if you retract the extremity of the margin, eventually you reach a tipping point where being in a death squad makes a person feel more alienated, not less.

At that point, roving death squads become unsustainable... as in the United States and other civilized countries.

(Note that in France, the riots were driven by the sense of alienation from French society by the rampaging youths of Algerian descent; this analysis is pretty universal. And no, I didn't invent it... I'm not that smart!)

Thus, I see great cause for optimism. I think that al-Maliki, whether by design or fortuitous accident, has hit upon a strategy that has a very good chance of success. Couple it with Operation Together Forward, where the U.S. concentrates more and more of its resources to Baghdad to reclaim it from the hard-core terrorists and militiamen and our systematic campaign against Muqtada Sadr outside of Baghdad (to disrupt his power base), and the basic plan emerges:

  1. Kill the current "irredeemables;"
  2. Cut power to the main militia leader, Muqtada Sadr;
  3. Undermine the sense of alienation that drive ordinary Iraqis to support death squads.

There's the plan; looks like a winner from here.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 04, 2006, at the time of 03:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 01, 2006

Ribbons and Strings and Lots of Nice Things

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

I was looking for more good news from Iraq; believe me, there's plenty for this post.

First from Bill Roggio, al-Qaeda's "Emir of Anbar" was killed by Task Force 145:

Task Force 145, the global hunter-killers of high value al-Qeda targets, is conducting a full court press in Iraq. The Kuwaiti News Agency reports al-Qaeda's Emir in Anbar province, Khalid Mahal, and Nasif Al-Mawla, his aide, were killed during an operation in the Thar Thar region. An American intelligence source will not comment on Mahal's death but did state “operations are ongoing."

Bill Crawford has a must-read recap of recent good news from Iraq at National Review Online. Here are some headlines:

  • 1,500 people attended the Iraq national reconciliation meeting;
  • Iraqi Kurds paid for a series of television ads thanking America for removing Saddam Hussein;
  • Iraqi security forces now number more than 300,000; nearly 70 percent of Iraqi battalions have the lead for security in their area of operations;
  • Tourism is returning to Dhi Qar province, which has many archeological sites; under Saddam, the area was closed to tourists and scientists;
  • Marines (with local assistance) captured a high-value insurgent leader during a raid in Saqlawiyah. Residents in the area cheer the Marines;
  • A top al Qaeda terrorist was arrested in Mosul; two others blew themselves up after being surrounded;
  • Thanks to modern insecticides, Iraqi farmers in Diyala had their best date harvest in years;

And congratulations to 1st Lt. Neil Prakash, who received the Silver Star for his part in the battle of Fallujah.

There is plenty more. But I want to talk about this ribbon cutting event:

Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 15 celebrating the re-opening of the Al Bawasil School in Muelha, a town in the northern Babil province, south of Baghdad.

Why is this important? A commenter on my last post said that good news -- such as opening a school -- is simply not "hot news." That may be... but when you look beyond the headlines, each case is unique in how our soldiers overcame the daily obstacles and bridged the divide between two cultures.

Al-Bawasil has many problems; for example, it needed a new middle school, since the closest was 10 miles away. In addition, the unemployment rate was very high in this area: people were eager to work, but there were no jobs.

Under ordinary circumstances, the solution would be obvious: hire all these out of work people to build a new school. But the local area insurgents wouldn't stop the violence against Coalition forces (CF) long enough to let them even start. Roadside bombs and terrorist attacks prevented the CF from getting involved at all in the civil affairs of al-Bawasil.

So what to do? Instead of just walking away in disgust (as most of us would have), the CF called upon the town council and negotiated a deal:

During a meeting with the town council in the spring, CF civil affairs officers brought up the school problems to the council and asked for a stop to the violence in exchange for refurbishment of the school.

“When the people in the area noticed we made the school a priority, the violence stopped,” said [Capt. Aaron] Scheinberg, (civil affairs officer, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.) “People in the town are excited and surrounding regions are envious of the improvements made in Muelha.”

Rather than the CF dictating to the council what would happen, they bargained with them, making it appear as if the school were a payoff for stopping the violence. Then they hired the locals to do the actual work, of course, giving them jobs. The council members saved their faces and could even brag to the locals what a hard bargain they drove, forcing the Americans to build a school and give work to the local lads.

“Everything we used for the school is made in Iraq and is of the highest quality available in the country,” said Abdul Raza, Iraqi project contractor. “We took our time with this project and I ensured it received the best materials because the project is for the kids and the kids will be the future of Iraq someday.”

Coalition Forces (CF) prefer to hire local contractors and workers from the area because it is in their best interest to do a good job because they live there, said Capt. Aaron Scheinberg....

“It was easy for me to find workers because most of the people here do not have steady jobs,” said Abdul. “The people actually thanked me for giving them a job. A lot of times we had to split the work between two different groups because there were so many people willing to work to make some money.”

In Iraq, community involvement has its own unique dynamic: Americans supply the money, the Iraqis do the actual work, and the city elders get all the credit!

It's frustrating to me that the people in Al Bawasil have to be told that it's beneficial for them to stop shooting and bombing us while we're trying to help them; it seems so obvious. We can help Iraqis, and we do -- when they let us. One region at a time, we must convince them to help themselves.

After so many decades of brutal infantilization, it's not easy to suddenly grow up in a couple of years.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 01, 2006, at the time of 09:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 28, 2006

The New Tora Bora Bazora

Global War on Jihadism , History , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm listening to Hugh Hewitt, who (after a completely inaudible "interview" with Mark Steyn via bad cellphone) is now broadcasting the Senate blathering of Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 100%) about the military tribunals bill. And this is what Leahy just said, word for word, near as I can recollect (and it is seared, seared in my memory):

Even though they [the Bush administration] had him [Osama bin Laden] cornered at Tora Bora, they yanked the special forces out of there to send them into Iraq.

Is it just me?

I was evidently misinformed that the Battle of Tora Bora took place sometime in December of 2001. There was not even a resolution on the table to invade Iraq at that time... the resolution was not even introduced into the Senate until October 2nd, 2002; it passed the Senate without amendment on October 11th, and was signed by the president on the 16th. And we did not send troops there until March of 2003.

So in the consensus reality -- rather than in Leahy's own private version of history -- more than two solid years elapsed between the battle of Tora Bora and the call-up of troops for an invasion of Iraq. Whatever caused us not to kill or capture bin Laden in 2001, it certainly had nothing to do with the not-yet-extant invasion of Iraq.

Has this been the Democrats' plan all along, why they took over the government schools: to so damage Americans' knowledge of history that demented demagogues like Pat Leahy can make risible claims like this on the Senate floor and not be laughed out of Congress?

I eagerly await the transcription in the Congressional Record, to see whether he decides to "revise and extend his remarks."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2006, at the time of 03:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 27, 2006

Weak Leak Soup, Ctd: Evolution of a Punk Job

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I was going to put a post up here noting that the president saw fit Tuesday to declassify the "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate from April (the one we discussed here too early Tuesday morn, before the announcement). If you'll recall, on Saturday, the New York Times published a story that claimed -- falsely, we now discover -- that the NIE concluded that the Iraq War had "worsened" the threat from terrorism:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

But when the document itself was released Tuesday, it turns out the key findings were far more mixed and balanced; and nowhere did the NIE say that the Iraq War had made terrorism worse: to use the phrase Hugh Hewitt used all afternoon, the Times got punked. Its sources sold it a bill of goods; and like the Sy Hersh travesty on Abu Ghraib, its reputation (heh) lies in tatters. Tatters.

So the MSM came out swinging, here, here, and here: with grim determination, as soon as the document was made available by the NID, they slapped up their stories saying: it confirms eveything we said before! Don't look! Just take our word for it! We wouldn't lie to you 365 days in a single year, would we? (They're nothing if not persistent!)

So I was going to write a post quoting from AP, Reuters, and the New York Tombs, then quoting from the NIE itself, to make them all look like the farkakte macacas they are. Alas, I spent too long on my hobby of painting extra zeros on all my $10 bills... and you-know-who slithered in ahead of me, posting exactly the article that I was going to post (except mine would have been better; no, really). If only I posted it. Or wrote it. Or came out of my digestive torpor soon enough.

So I'm just posting to let you know I won't be posting on this topic. I think, where one's friends are concerned, it's only polite to keep them apprised of one's good intentions, for future reference.

Well... maybe just a little. This is a brief sketch of what I might have said, if I'd said anything (which I didn't, and I'm not).

Prior to the release, the elite media tried to play the Sy Hersh game of creatively (and tendentiously) misinterpreting classified intelligence someone leaked to them, confident that the "secretive" Bush administration would never dare declassify and release it... thus proving them liars. When Bush double-crossed them, they found themselves like a Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off a cliff but doesn't fall... until he looks down.

For God's sake, don't look down! The MSM's instinctive reaction was to double-down and pretend that the law of gravity had indeed been repealed. Here is how AP began their first story after the publication of the NIE showed the entire world that they had relied upon sources who lied to them (the first link in the "so the MSM came out swinging" paragraph above); this was from late Tuesday morning, shortly after the release:

The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

Note the specific word "bleak," which they used in their story before the release. In fact, this by and large is the same story they ran before the release; all they did was pop the hood and install an aftermarket clause noting that the report had been "declassified and released."

Don't look down!

By early Wednesday, the AP had added a bit more to their article, softening the hard line that the full document completely vindicated their clumsy hit job:

White House release of a previously secret intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat gives both political parties new ammunition in the election-season fight over the Iraq war.

For Republicans, the excerpts of the document - declassified under orders from President Bush on Tuesday - are more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can't be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.

For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the U.S. less safe.

In a bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

For the first time, AP recognized that there were points on the side of those supporting the Iraq War; but they refused to get all radical on us and actually quote any of those findings. That would have been asking too much.

And note that the NIE is still characterized as "bleak," which is interesting; throughout these permutations, they cling to that word as a liferaft... despite the fact that it never appears in the NIE key conclusions themselves, and the fact -- easily ascertainable by reading them -- that they present a picture that is neither bleak nor rosey but simply a list of challenges and assessments.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, AP put up this story -- still written by the same reporter, Katherine Shrader. It begins thus:

The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.

Note the counterattack; AP begins to lay the groundwork here for an infamous argument made popular in the days of bulletin-board systems: the lurkers support me in e-mail. (I think it even became a "filk song" -- not a typo.) That is, the Bush administration is suppressing secret evidence that would actually prove we were right all along. Over the next few days (or weeks), this argument will take shape within other branches of the Democratic Party besides the antique media:

Oh, sure, the portion that Bush chose to release doesn't explicitly say that the Iraq War was a fiasco that made the world more dangerous for America... that part is in the sections he deliberately chose to leave classified! We demand he release every section, every paragraph, every line -- including the names of all the sources, all the top-secret intel we got from foreign spy agencies, and the names of every intelligence analyst who worked on this report... and if Bush refuses, then you know he's got something he's still hiding!

After a few paragraphs wasted arguing with Tony Snow over the release of the really heavily classified portions of the report, AP continues:

In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Peppered with questions Wednesday about the report, he [Snow, we presume] said the NIE report was "not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it's an intelligence document, it's a snapshot."

Snow said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. "Iraq has become, for them, the battleground," he said. "If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit."

He said that a bleak intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat was only a "snapshot" - not a conclusion

The last line I quote above is especially illuminating; no, I didn't accidentally cut off the period; it's missing in the original. It's clearly an editing mistake; she rewrote the line and separated "bleak" and "snapshot" onto two different lines, then forgot to go back and erase the original (so much for the vaunted "multiple layers of editing!") But note how important it was for Shrader, hence AP, to keep that word "bleak" prominently in the story. She was only dithering whether to place it lower or higher -- and she chose the latter.

AP picks up the Tony Snow argument again:

"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said....

A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jane Harman of California - have questioned whether that report has been stamped "draft" and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.

An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told lawmakers in writing only one month ago that he ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released Tuesday took about a year to produce.

AP rejects that obviously concocted explanation that an intelligence assessment might take longer than a month to prepare; it's patently obvious to Ms. Shrader that this is just a dodge to avoid releasing a report that would completely vindicate her -- oops, I mean vindicate the Associated Press -- along with the happy side-effect of bringing about the downfall, ah, defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 election. (Secret evidence that would support me...)

It ends with a couple of rollicking quotes from Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and John D. Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%), savaging the president and the war without allowing supporters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. And once again, AP does not quote those paragraphs that actually make Bush's case about the war -- the complete quotation from which the snippet "cause celebre" was cherry-picked:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

  • The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

By contrast, here is how the Iraq War's effect was described in the original New York Times story about it that was published when the elite media still thought the NIE would remain forever classified and uncheckable:

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

Clearly, the Times' source is describing an earlier section before the "key judgments" that come later; but equally clearly, that earlier section cannot have concluded that "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," as the anonymous source smirked; because if it had, then the corresponding key judgment would not have been so supportive of continued fighting in Iraq.

At worst, the early sections might have quoted one official saying such a thing (possibly Jay "100%" Rockefeller). But that is why we don't release the entire NIE: it's like a packet of court filings that contain arguments from both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney... you can't just grab a claim from one and act as if it's been proven in court.

If there were such an assessment by one specific person -- and we don't even know that much -- clearly it was not accepted in the final analysis, not even for a candid document that none of the principals thought would ever be released.

So far, most of the mainstream news stories about the released NIE have shied away from quoting this paragraph in full... likely because it so clearly argues the case for the Bush policy: if, at the end of the day, the jihadis are seen to be winner in Iraq, they will be emboldened and their recuitment will soar; contrariwise, if they are seen as failures -- if Iraq remains as a democratic state in control of its own destiny, rather than a Somalia-like failed state full of terrorist training camps -- then the jihadis will suffer a terrible blow, and their recruitment will drop off.

So the real conclusion of the NIE anent Iraq is that we must win at any cost; cutting and running is not a viable option, no matter what Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller -- or Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico, 95%) and John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) -- say.

Eventually, the media will be forced to admit this; it's been widely quoted in blogs and on the radio, and even in a few television programs. It's possible they've already snuck it into a few stories, buried deep.

But it won't help: they've been exposed, as Hersh was, not only as rampant partisans... but as DNC house organs so partisan they're willing, even eager, to lie, or at least pass along lies in reckless disregard for the truth, to further the political ambitions of their Democratic friends in Congress.

In Othello, the Moor of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?

I actually feel sorry for them. What must it be like to live behind those eyes?

Anyway, that's more or less what I would have written. Except I'm not going to post on this topic.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2006, at the time of 03:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 26, 2006

The Gatekeeper Effect, or, If Iraq Is Getting Better, Why Does the News Keep Getting Worse?

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

During the interview with in Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS, Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said the situation in Iraq is getting better. But how can that be, when the news reports sectarian violence is getting worse everyday?

Just this morning, I heard on the radio that the last two months were "the worst for the Iraqis since the Iraq war started." This sentiment is reflected in the recent USA Today/Gallup poll, which showed that 72% of likely voters believe that "civil war" is occurring in Iraq right now (in the link, scroll down to Gallup).

If things are getting better, why do we hear so much about the violence? Gen. Abizaid explains.

Baghdad's really the key problem. As a matter of fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of the sectarian difficulties that take place in Iraq take place within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad.

In those areas that we've been operating with U.S. forces and Iraqi forces -- and we continue to operate -- there is a decrease. But we're not everywhere. We're moving step by step, section by section, and it will take some time. We will begin to really see whether or not we're being successful in a month or two....

And it certainly -- look, it's a program that involves not just putting military forces on the street, but it also requires that Iraqi and U.S. special forces go after the death squads. We have to target them. We have to do the intelligence work necessary to know where they are. Then we've got to go after them and take them out of action, whether it's by direct military action or some other form.

Guess where 80% to 90% of the reporters in Iraq happen to be? That's right: in Baghdad, right where 80% to 90% of the attacks occur. This is probably not a coincidence; the terrorists know where their natural allies work, and they know the old newspaper adage, "if it bleeds, it leads."

In other words, what we've been hearing about all this time is the violence occuring within the immediate environs of Baghdad, and almost nothing about the rest of Iraq -- which is getting much better almost day by day: Iraq takes charge of Dhi Qar province .

“Today’s transfer of security responsibility in Dhi Qar province from the Multi-National Force – Iraq to the Government of Iraq and civilian controlled Iraqi Security Forces is another sign of progress toward a stable and secure Iraq. Dhi Qar is the second of 18 Provinces to be transitioned. This is an important milestone along the successful path toward Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign nation.

Another example:Iraq chiefs vow to fight al-Qaeda

Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi met last week to decide how to confront the daily bloodshed in their city.

"People are fed up with the acts of those criminals who take Islam as a cover for their crimes," Sheik Fassal al-Guood told the Associated Press news agency on Monday.

He said 15 of the 18 tribes in Ramadi "have sworn to fight those who are killing Sunnis and Shiites", and had put together "20,000 young men".

In fact throughout Jim Lehrer's interview with Gen. Abizaid (remember that? that's what we're talking about), Lehrer's questions reveal his (willful?) ignorance in this subject:

JIM LEHRER: I'm sure you're aware, General, that there's been a lot of commentary back here that the U.S. hasn't put enough effort into the training of Iraqi forces.

Lehrer should have been reading Big Lizards instead of listening to PBS news! We've followed this issue for more than a year:

A well-connected journalist such as Lehrer should know what the coalition forces have been doing and the success they've had; it's his business to know. But most journalists live their waking lives sealed into an elaborate cocoon of left-liberal, anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and anti-Iraq-War propaganda, until it seems as natural an environment as the air. Everyone they know believes the same as they; if they ever hear a discouraging word, it's only when they interview some "Repuglican" -- and you know what they're like.

So maybe Lehrer is simply puzzled: since everyone knows that the Iraq War has been one colossal failure from beginning to end, why doesn't the president just "declare victory" and yank out the troops? All of Lehrer's friends say that's what Bush has to do, in order to avoid being impeached next year when the Democrats control supermajorities in the House and Senate.

His question to Gen. Abizaid has nothing to do with trying to find out what is really happening, and everything to do with making an impression on the audience's mind: the training of Iraqi troops has turned out to be a complete failure, gosh darn it! Why don't you just admit it, General?

Needless to say, Gen. Abizid -- who actually does know what is happening in Iraq -- completely rejects Lehrer's starting premise:

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Jim, I really disagree with that. We have put an enormous effort into training and equipping the Iraqi armed forces and security forces. But it's also an enormous effort. It is literally building an institution from the bottom up.

So who is right, Lehrer or Abizaid? Per Bill Roggio's Fourth Rail, the Iraqi Army just arrested a top leader of Ansar al-Sunnah Shura, an Iraqi terrorist group with strong ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq:

The Iraqi government has arrested Muntasir Hamoud Ileiwi al-Jubouri, who the Associated Press describes as a “leader of Ansar al-Sunnah.” But al-Jubouri is not just an average leader in Ansar al-Sunnah, he sits on the terrorist organization's military Shura (or council), the decision making body for military operational issues. Al-Jubouri was captured in Al-Taeyh along with two aides. There is no information at this time if documents or computer equipment was seized along with al-Jubouri. Regardless, his arrest can potentially be a treasure trove of information for Task Force 145 and Iraqi counterterrorism commandos. [Note: Ansar al-Sunnah denies al-Jubouri was captured.]

The Iraqi army also arrested the leader of an insurgent group called the 1920 Revolution Brigades:

Iraqi troops arrested a neighborhood leader of a nationalist insurgency group early on Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Brigadier Qasim al-Musawi would not reveal the suspect's name but said he was the leader for western Baghdad of the 1920 Revolution Brigades insurgent group, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S.-led forces.

"We captured him at 5 a.m. (0100 GMT) this morning, along with seven of his aides, following accurate intelligence information in the Abu Ghraib district," he said. "It was an Iraqi army operation."

Although I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look as though Gen. John Abizaid, the Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM, knows more about the Iraq Army than even noted PBS journalist and liberal activist Jim Lehrer.

Speaking of good intelligence, based on a tip, our good friends the Brits have killed an important al-Qaeda operative hiding in Basra, Iraq:

British forces have killed a senior al-Qaeda fugitive in a raid on a house in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, security sources say. Officials named the dead man as Omar al-Farouq, a top lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden in south-east Asia.

Farouq was captured in Indonesia in 2002 but escaped from a US military prison in Afghanistan last year.

British military spokesman Maj Charlie Burbridge said Farouq, whom he called a "very, very significant man" had been tracked across Iraq to Basra. He said about 200 troops surrounded the house, from where they came under fire. A gun battle erupted and Farouq was killed in the exchange.

So if Iraq is getting better, why do we keep hearing nothing but bad news? The problem is the gatekeeper effect: the gatekeeper controls what information is allowed through and what information is kept away from the eyes and ears of the American people. An honest gatekeeper allows information through based upon its reliability; but a partisan gatekeeper never thinks any news is "reliable" if it contradicts what we call The Story -- the predetermined story-line that animates nearly all newspaper and broadcast coverage.

The Story is that Iraq has been a complete pig's breakfast, just as the elite media all predicted it would be. Oh, maybe we didn't get bogged down in the "quagmire" during the initial assault, as they said; but look, now we're trapped in the quagmire of the Iraq Civil War!

The Story provides the framework, and every piece of information is evaluated by how well it fits into The Story. Every fact is compared to this framework; if it fits -- dead American soldiers, dead Iraqi civilians -- the gatekeeper allows it through.

But if it doesn't fit -- peaceful provinces being turned over to the Iraqis, terrorists being captured or killed -- the gatekeeper knows that it must be unreliable... so he spikes it. And the worst part is, he believes he is actually doing his proper job as a journalist; he doesn't think of himself as a partisan... he thinks of himself as one of the "reality-based party" which is interested only in the truth ("just gimmie some truth!")

Jim Lehrer, along with scores of other elite liberals, is not really a journalist: he is a liberal gatekeeper, on the same moral level as the security guard at the gates of a country club, whose job to make sure that only the right kind of people get inside.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 26, 2006, at the time of 05:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Weak Leak Soup

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

In keeping with the madly egotistical Big Lizards motto -- Never first, always final -- I've been pondering Saturday's New York Times story about the impact of the Iraq War on the global war on terrorism (GWOT) ever since, er, Saturday. (Maybe Sunday; Saturday, I think I was pondering whether to raise the pot on the strength of a king and a trey with a queen-jack-eight on the flop.)

There is a powerful lot that the Times failed to tell us about that story; my idol, John Hinderaker at Power Line, has a great story up quoting several other passages from that same national intelligence estimate (NIE) (enough with the alphabet soup already!) that tend to undercut, to say the least, the spin put on the thing by the Times, as well as their sidekick and pale shadow, the Washington Post.

But craven that I am, I shrink from duking it out with Power Line, who has the actual factual response pretty well covered. Oh, I could think of better arguments to make against the bizarre claims in the media; but I'd just be making them up, so I'd better not.

Let's instead focus on the problems and deficiencies in the two main antique-media stories... by an amazing coincidence, the two I already linked above. Slither on, dude.

Journalistic clairvoyance

Let's start with a startling admission against interest on the part of the "elite" media:

  1. Neither the New York Times reporters nor the Washington Post reporters have actually seen the NIE. Or any portion of it; they rely entirely upon their various sources' characterization of the NIE.

In other words, they do not actually know if the report "has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks," as the Times puts it in a traditionally quaint run-on sentence; they have absolutely no idea. All they know is that one or more of their (anonymous and undescribable) sources claims that's what it says.

Von Unaussprechlichen Külten

Here's another good one:

  1. Neither the Times nor the Post deigns to name even a single source. Not one. O, for the good old days of Watergate, when Ben Bradlee demanded at least two sources for every claim -- only one of which could be anonymous! (Were that rule in effect today, both the Times and the Post would have to shut down and convert operations to printing vacation brochures and cereal boxes.)

They don't even characterize these sources; for all we know, they could be Oompa-Loompas. Here is how the Times introduces the presumed humans upon whom the entire shebang depends, which they finally get 'round to doing in paragraph 6:

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

So let's see... a senior CIA analyst would count, but so would a junior-grade employee of the Department of Agriculture. An "official" might be an aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%) or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), both of whom sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (hence could have access) -- or for that matter, an aide to the disgraced, corrupt liar, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 90%), who sits on the House equivalent.

But we do know one thing about some of them, courtesy of the Washington Post; we know that some, at least, of these "officials" have a partisan axe to grind:

"It's a very candid assessment," one intelligence official said yesterday of the estimate, the first formal examination of global terrorist trends written by the National Intelligence Council since the March 2003 invasion. "It's stating the obvious."

If this source begins with the idea that it's "obvious" that the Iraq War has caused us to be less safe, then he's hardly an unbiased source for relaying what the NIE has to say about that subject.

Past the expiry date

  1. The assessment was begun in 2002, before the Iraq War began -- and it was completed back in April of this year... five months ago.

An awful lot has changed in the past five months... much of it for the better, including the increasing tempo of turning provinces over to the Iraqis, the stunning buildup of the Iraqi military and national police forces, and of course the death of Musab Zarqawi. But this NIE cannot have taken those changes into account, because they hadn't happened yet when it was written.

The school for wives

Here is a minor point that is emblematic of how easy it is to get so lost, you can't see the forest for the weeds:

The Times notes, in a paragraph notable mainly for being oddly out of place in the article, that one danger is that jihadis fighting in Iraq can learn techniques that they subsequently pass along to others:

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

The implication is clear, if rather unbalanced:

  1. The Times frets that all we're doing in Iraq is training the next generation of jihadis, who will be faster, stronger, and more deadly because of the skill they learn from encounters with American forces.

But this discounts two very important points:

First, that it's the United States, not the jihadis, which has learnt the most from the Iraq War. The American military of 2003 was the most powerful and effective that had ever existed... but that is no longer the case: today, they could get their butts kicked -- by the American military of 2006. We have learned from every encounter, every battle, every victory, and even from the occasional defeat.

Our own effectiveness has grown much faster than that of the jihadis... that's why the death rate of our troops has dropped by nearly 1/3 from "period 3" (from the turnover of sovereignty to the Iraqis to the first set of elections) to "period 5" (from the last set of general elections to today) -- and dropped even further in the last year.

Second, this argument presumes that large numbers of Iraq-based jihadis survive their encounters with the Americans, so that they can pass their experience along to others. In fact, most of those who leave Iraq and head back to their home countries never actually engaged American forces, because we kill or capture a very high percentage of all the terrorists we engage.

In hock to post hoc

Finally, here is the most glaring omission -- whether from the NIE itself or merely from its mischaracterization by the elite media's "sources," we cannot possibly say without seeing the document itself:

  1. The storyline does not consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein.

A lot would have happened: most analysts believe that Hussein was on the verge of cutting a deal with the Europeans (via the corrupt U.N. "Oil for Fraud" program of direct and indirect bribery) to end the sanctions and inspections. As Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG... more letters, I'm afraid) assessed in its final report:

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.

Instead of considering this possibility and exploring which American action would have been better for the terrorists -- attacking Iraq or not attacking Iraq -- the argument of both these articles is strictly "post hoc ergo propter hoc": after the fact, therefore because of the fact. The Leftist, anti-war leakers in the CIA or NSA argue (through their sock puppets in the Times and Post) thus:

  1. We invaded Iraq, deposed Hussein, and occupied the country;
  2. Jihadi websites now cite the war to try to drum up recruits;
  3. Therefore, the Iraq War was a boon to jihadis!

But this is logical gibberish: if, after ranting on and on about Hussein, we had let him stay and even lifted sanctions, then that would be cited by jihadi websites to drum up recruits... just as they cite our failures in Somalia and Sudan, our refusal to retaliate for the Cole bombing, and so forth. The jihadis cite anything that shows us either running away or standing and fighting: either way, they'll spin it to their advantage.

If this is the central conceit of the NIE, as opposed to the media's misinterpretation, then this signals a fatal flaw still extant in the raciocination of our top intelligence services: they are still thinking linearally, as if al-Qaeda and its spinoffs and wannabes are really just funny-looking Europeans in headscarves, using Western two-value logic and classical game-theory analysis of their own actions and our responses.

If we keep thinking that way, Western civ will fall.

Moslems in general, and especially Middle-East Moslems, and most especially Middle-Eastern jihadis, think in very different, apocalyptic terms. They don't perform a rational calculus to decide whether, say, to try to explode a nuclear weapon in the middle of a Western city: in fact, the "Hidden Imam" theory of players like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that Mohammed al-Mahdi will arise when the jihadis have precipitated the final battle -- and are losing it badly!

In other words, Ahmadinejad expects to start World War III (or IV, if you count the Cold War), and he expects his side to lose; after which the Mahdi will come, leading the heavenly host of Allah, and wipe away all the infidel armies, ushering in the age of Islam. How do we threaten a man who believes that? Should we threaten not to fight, allowing them to win, and thereby failing to fulfill the conditions that will activate the 12th Imam's return?

If the media's understanding of this not-very-momentous NIE is accurate, then the CIA is still fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War; and we're in desperate trouble indeed!

As the Bangles sang, we've got to "Walk Like an Egyptian" (or a jihadi) to have a prayer of winning this last crusade. Doesn't mean we have to act like they; only that we must be able to think like they, lest we be surprised again and again by their unconventional and unexpected moves.

So nu?

What's wrong with this "report," at least as recounted in the mainstream media? Virtually everything. It's vague, unsourced, unbalanced, and shows clear signs of mental sclerosis.

But if this is not the NIE's real view, then how low the American media has sunk, if this is the best hit piece on the president and the GOP that they can muster in the last weeks before the election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 26, 2006, at the time of 05:15 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 22, 2006

VegasBlogging 1: "Milestones," Or Media Millstones?

Afghan Astonishments , Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

This AP story is one of the most maddening, infurating examples of elite-media manipulation I've seen in months. We start with the bizarre, defamatory, and demented headline:

War Price on U.S. Lives Equal to 9/11

Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next. Add casualties from chasing terrorists elsewhere in the world, and the total has passed the Sept. 11 figure.

The latest milestone for a country at war comes without commemoration. It also may well come without the precision of knowing who is the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just when it happens [what, no picture for the Wall of Martyrs?]. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

In the first place... huh? What's the point of this article? I was about to note that we lost fewer than 2,500 at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941; while a quick glance at the right sidebar to this very blog tells you that during the war for which that attack was the starting gun, 400,000 brave American sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airmen (then still part of the Army) were killed.

There is no relation, cause-effect, or connection between the number of people who died in a precipitating incident and the number killed in the war it precipitates. For heaven's sake, wasn't the War to End All Wars "started" by the death of a single arch-duck?

But then I discovered I didn't even need to make the argument -- because Calvin Woodward, the writer of this very article, made the same blasted argument himself... completely undercutting any point the piece itself might have had:

The body count from World War II was far higher for Allied troops than for the crushed Axis. Americans lost more men in each of a succession of Pacific battles than the 2,390 people who died at Pearl Harbor in the attack that made the U.S. declare war on Japan. The U.S. lost 405,399 in the theaters of World War II.

...But then, immediately he admits he has no point whatsoever, he beetles on, as if he hadn't just shot himself in the mouth:

Despite a death toll that pales next to that of the great wars [another stunning admission against interest!], one casualty milestone after another has been observed and reflected upon this time, especially in Iraq.

[And who's doing the observing and reflecting?]

There was the benchmark of seeing more U.S. troops die in the occupation than in the swift and successful invasion. And the benchmarks of 1,000 dead, 2,000, 2,500.

Now this.

"There's never a good war but if the war's going well and the overall mission remains powerful, these numbers are not what people are focusing on," said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University. "If this becomes the subject, then something's gone wrong."

You bloody well bet your bippy "something's gone wrong," Professor Zelizer... but it's not a failure of nerve of the American people: it's that, unlike any other war we fought prior to Vietnam, the post-Vietnam media has eschewed both the principle of "a search for the truth" and even the previous war principle of "may she always be right, but our country, right or wrong."

The new media motto is "Amerika, scourge of the world!" I want to make it absolutely clear that I don't question the media moguls' patriotism. I nakedly assert they have none.

I don't know if Woodward (any relation?) wanted to write this revolting article, or if some AP editor assigned it to him. But he clearly embraced his task with enthusiasm, an almost obscene gloating in the deaths of American military personnel. Perhaps I'm overreacting; but read this and tell me there's no trace of cock-crowing:

As of Friday, the U.S. death toll stood at 2,693 in the Iraq war and 278 in and around Afghanistan, for a total of 2,971, two short of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Pentagon reports 56 military deaths and one civilian Defense Department death in other parts of the world from Operation Enduring Freedom, the anti-terrorism war distinct from Iraq.

Altogether, 3,028 have died abroad since Sept. 11, 2001.

The civilian toll in Iraq hit record highs in the summer, with 6,599 violent deaths reported in July and August alone, the United Nations said this week.

Woodward reels off each number with the gusto of a sports fan reciting stats of his favorite baseball team. I almost get the impression he had them memorized already. (And don't forget, he already admitted that such milestones were meaningless; but not, evidently, to Calvin Woodward.)

The problem is not America. It's not the American people, or the right-wingers, or President Bush, or the neocons.

The problem is AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the news division of the Wall Street Journal (which is as liberal as all the rest, in contrast to the editorial pages). The problem is Woodward himself, and all those like him -- arch grotesques who dance a little Snoopy dance when they can announce another "milestone" of death... and the milestones become millstones around our country's neck, trying to drag us from victory towards defeat like one of Tony Soprano's enemies sinking slowly into the Hudson River with a pair of cement overshoes.

Look at the language of Calvin Woodward:

  • He tells us each American death statistic in precise detail; but he says nary a word about enemy casualties, which have been staggingly higher.
  • He fails to mention the ouster of the Taliban and of Saddam Hussein, the democratic votes in those countries, the freedom of the people, successes such as the abandonment of nuclear weapons by Lybia's Qadaffi, or the many, many nations that have changed their spots in the last five years and now fight against the terrorists they once tolerated.
  • He triumphantly announces that civilian deaths in Iraq "hit record highs in the summer," without troubling to mention that after that peak, they receded very significantly.
  • And he uses misleading statistics to suggest comparisons of Iraq to WWII (to Iraq's detriment), when in fact the situations are incomparable.

That last point bears looking at:

A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time.

Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34 percent have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17 percent from the highest income level.

That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.

The accusation is clear from the first paragraph above: "rich men" started the war, but they're sending "poor men" to fight it for them. I'm sure the statistic he cites is accurate; but I'm equally sure it's meaningless. What difference does it make whether a recruit comes from a community "reporting the lowest" or "the highest income level?" If you really want to argue that rich men are sending the poor to their deaths -- you need to look at the income level of the actual soldiers, not the "communities" from which they come.

And who chooses what constitutes a "community" anyway? If you draw the lines tendentiously enough, you can call any community either poor or rich, depending which is needed for the argument.

And of course, one reason that WWII, Korea, and Vietnam had greater participation by rich "communities" like the wealthy, liberal enclaves in New York, Connecticut, and Hollywood, California is that for those other wars, we had the draft. Does Woodward propose we bring it back, as liberal Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem, 100%) has repeatedly demanded?

The modern, all-volunteer, American military draws disproportionately from the South, not because the South (as a region) is "poor," but because its moral values are more traditional, and because it has a tradition of military service unlike any other region in America. When young men and women in San Francisco, Chicago, Bangor, Philadelphia, and especially Chappaqua are allowed to choose, they tend not to choose to enlist.

Very well; that's freedom for you. But don't, for God's sake, use freedom as a bludgeon against Republicans. There's a limit even to the liberal aphorism "any stick to bash a conservative."

Well... in a decent world, there would be.

It really is time for the antique media to pull up its pants and choose sides (those of them who haven't long ago chosen the side of America's enemies). Until they do, we should not let them get away with standing on the sidelines making snide comments and pulling sarcastic faces. Even New York Times readers deserve better.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 22, 2006, at the time of 07:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

Whack-a-Mole -- or Seal-a-Hole?

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The antique media is infamous for burying the lede: not understanding the real point of a story -- or else not wanting us to understand it! -- and instead hiding it deep within the article, where they know few eyes dare to scan (the eyes usually wandering off after the first two or three paragraphs of wretched writing).

In this case, an AP article focuses on a new tactic of digging trenches around Baghdad. The trench idea is interesting and probably smart; anything that makes it tougher for bad guys to creep like moles in the night into Baghdad can't help but be good for the war effort.

But AP lets slip a far more important point 22 paragraphs (out of 31) into the article: that Operation Together Forward, while being the worst-named operation in recent military history (which is saying a lot), designed to clear Baghdad of sectarian militia murders, is in fact working literally like gangbusters:

Both the Bush administration and military have said sectarian killings and violence are surging around Iraq and in the capital, although the military has said the attacks are limited to parts of Baghdad not yet included in the security operation.

In other words, it's working great in those areas where it has been used; and the violence is only spiking in areas that have not yet been subjected to the house-to-house searches and interrogations by the Iraqi Army and National Police and the American soldiers and Marines.

I later confirmed this unsourced claim by referring to a CENTCOM release:

This approach appears to be working in the focus areas, where violence is down, [Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell said.

However, he acknowledged that violence in other parts of Baghdad experienced a “spike” yesterday and noted that terrorist death squads “are clearly targeting civilians outside the focus areas.”

“Overall, Baghdad’s level of sectarian violence has been reduced,” he said, “but remains above the levels of violence we saw before the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra in late February.”

It's glib and easy to say, "gee, there's still violence in Baghdad -- nothing has changed -- the war is a failure -- let's declare defeat and head home." In fact, that pretty much describes the Democratic Party's “Real Security Act of 2006.” Alas, even some Republican jellyfish, such as Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT, 20%) have wriggled aboard that bandwagon.

Shays doesn't entirely buy the Democratic defeatism; he does not advocate the Democratic position of cutting and running, for example. But the central conceit for all the defeatists is that, "since January of this year there has been no progress," as Shays claims.>

Fortunately, this position is nonsense on stilts.

If you see somebody playing a game where he keeps whacking plastic moles on the head with a mallet over and over again for hours, it would be easy to conclude he's playing Whack-a-Mole. In that game, the moles pop up again and again from the same holes; every time you whack one, it goes down, only to be resurrected moments later.

But when you look closer, you discovered that every time the player whacks a mole, the mallet stays stuck in the hole, permanently blocking it. The player grabs a new mallet and whacks the next one, sealing off another hole. You notice that the moles never come popping up through the sealed holes, only through the holes that are still open... and you also notice that there are a finite number of holes -- and the player is rapidly sealing them up.

This is a new game called Seal-a-Hole, and it has a very different dynamic from Whack-a-Mole: the normal game is one of futility; the game continues until the player gets tired and quits or he runs out of money. But Seal-a-Hole actually has a victory point: when all the holes are sealed, the game is over -- and the player, America, has won.

Even though Seal-a-Hole is not futile, it nevertheless requires a great deal of patience; there are many, many holes, and each hole has a mole who must be whacked. Some of the holes, such as Sadr City, are very big and will require many mallets to properly seal. But if we have the courage and fortitude of our American forebears, we will seal those holes... and we will win.

Like all analogies, this one doesn't "prove" anything. But I hope it gives you a different perspective from which to view the actual evidence of success emanating from the penumbra of Baghdad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2006, at the time of 04:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

Because We Trusted Bush... Yeah, That's the Ticket!

Elections , Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae
Hatched by Dafydd

The story that Democrats are attacking President Bush over his magnificent, almost Churchillian speech last night is already being adequately covered by many other excellent bloggers. Oh, and also by those guys in the elite media, if anybody still reads them (besides us excellent bloggers, I mean). But I think we've found just a tiny hook that has not yet been exploited. (I was going to say "just a tiny nipple that has not yet been sucked," but I thought that unduly vivid.)

Check out this line from the Reuters story:

Top Democrats on Tuesday accused President George W. Bush of exploiting the September 11 anniversary to boost his faltering Iraq war policy and his party's sagging popularity in an election year. [Good, good -- squeezed two Democratic memes into the very first sentence!]

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush should have tried to recapture a spirit of national unity in a televised Oval Office address on Monday night.

Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.

Uh...

Uh...

Uh...

Say what?

Reid told reporters Democrats had been so confident the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan that they had not sought equal time on television to offer their party's response.

...Is it just me? Or does this sound roughly like Danish King Hrothgar saying "I was so confident that Grendel wouldn't come back and slaughter my warriors sixty-five times in a row, that I didn't bother posting any guards around Heorot last night."

(What do you mean, "what the hell are you talking about, Dafydd?" Couldn't you guys manage to stay awake during your high school English Lit classes?)

Considering that the primary meme of the Democrats is that Bush is all politics and no policy, what do you think are the odds that anybody in the DNC thought "the Republican Bush would be nonpartisan" in his prime-time speech on September 11th?

Of course, in reality, he was nonpartisan; he never even mentioned the Democrats (which is probably what really torqued them off). But this is a question of perception: if the Democrats think of Bush as the ultimate political-party animal (tomorrow, Bill Clinton sues for trademark infringement), then how risible is it for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Mirage Hotel and Casino, 100%) to claim it never occurred to them that he would be political?

(Friend Lee reminds me that Charles Krauthammer, in the commentary after that speech on Fox News Channel, correctly distinguished between a speech being political -- which it must be, if it's to talk at all about policy -- and the same speech being partisan, which requires not merely saying "this is my policy" but also "and here's the stupid policy of my opponent.")

So what's the real reason the Democrats didn't ask for equal time -- which I noticed and wondered about myself? Simple: for all the wrangling going on in the GOP these days over immigration, troops levels, and such, it's the Democrats who are in complete policy disarray. Look at their pathetic “Real Security Act of 2006,” where all they could get their caucus to agree on were three bland, vague platitudes -- and that Don Rumsfeld should be canned!

That's it; that's their entire defense + anti-terrorism plan for the looming November elections.

They didn't request equal-response time because they had no idea what they were going to say. An insider who must remain anonymous, but who was privy to the hastily arranged response conference, and who has secretly informed Big Lizards, reports the following minutes from yesterday afternoon:

3:08 PM EDT: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gaveled the response conf. to order, after a brief struggle with Minority Leader Harry Reid over who controls the gavel, which Rep. Pelosi won by repeatedly kicking Sen. Reid in the chest.

Rep. Pelosi: Shut up. Shut up you in the back, whoever you are. And stop clutching your chest like you're having a cardiac arrest. I took off my shoes before kicking you.

Now we all agree that Bush is essentially Hitler in all important points. But we can't say that. No, I will not recognize you, Russ; trust me, we can't say that. You shut up too, Bernie. We can't say that yet, so what do we say?

8:58 PM EDT: Meeting adjourned following five hours and fifty minutes of discussion; the 87 motions made were all tabled until next week by general consensus. Sen. Reid returned from Bethesda Naval Hospital just seconds before Rep. Pelosi banged the gavel down. No cause-effect should be inferred from the time relation between those two events.

See? No matter how long the media chickens have pecked at the story, there are always a few grains left to digest. I'm sorry, was that too vivid as well?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 06:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Newsflash: There's Violence in Iraq

Elections , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

As part of the campaign by the antique media to demonstrate "the deteriorating situation in Iraq," which leads directly to "President Bush's plummeting poll ratings" and "the widespread expectation that Democrats will capture one or both houses of Congress in November," Associated Press sent out the following dire story:

Violence killed at least two dozen people across Iraq on Tuesday, including six who died when a car bomb blew up in western Baghdad.

The gist of the story is that, when AP toted up all the reports of killings they received on Tuesday, which is already over in that nation of 26.8 million people, it totaled 24. If this is the norm, then it works out to an annual homicide rate of 32.7 per 100,000... which is more than in the United States but less than Colombia and most other South and Central American countries.

I picture the AP Iraq editors sitting around misty eyed, reminiscing: "Remember the good old days, when we could rely upon a solid triple-digit death toll each and every day?"

What is the world coming to, when newsmen cannot even count upon Iraq, of all places, to yield actionable campaign material for the Left? Perhaps they should remember the stirring words of one of their own, William Randolph Hearst:

"You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war."

AP and Reuters had better get cracking: so little time, so much staging to do!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 03:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sprint for Defeat!

Elections , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats, after years of threatening, have finally enunciated their own defense/anti-terrorist policy; it appears to be modeled on a pell-mell dash towards the exits, overturning the ottoman and the teakettle in their mad rush:

Mr. Reid and several colleagues offered what they called the “Real Security Act of 2006,” calling for the beginning of a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of this year, a heightened effort to enlist more countries to take part in building a new Iraq, the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and a faster adoption of the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Whew, a blueprint for victory if ever I saw one! Though it loses points for the lack of originality, having a disturbing similarity (approaching plagiarism) to their earlier plans for Vietnam and Somalia, and their mentors' plans for defending la belle France during the late unpleasantness with Germany.

Let's take these one at a time...

"A phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of this year"

There are exactly 117 days left until the end of the year, and there are about 150,000 American troops in Iraq. That means the Democrats want a "phased withdrawal" of forces at the rate of 1,282 soldiers every day. (Perhaps more, if they require the Pentagon to stick to the unions' 35-hour work week.) Call it the "battalion a day rout."

Withdrawing 1,300 soldiers a day from Iraq is probably about as fast as we reasonably could do it. So by "phased withdrawal," what they actually mean is yanking them all out at breakneck speed, pedal to the metal, as fast as humanly possible.

When Ehud Barak ordered the mass exodus of Israelis out of Lebanon, he made them flee so fast, they left armor behind; the IDF actually had to send helicopters in to destroy the Israeli Merkava tanks left in Lebanon, lest Hezbollah snatch them up and use them against Israeli towns. I wonder if the American Democrats want us to do that with our Abrams tanks, just for the heck of it?

At that speed, it would be absolutely impossible for the Iraqi Army to keep pace with our hysterical retreat. Vast stretches of Iraq would be left utterly unguarded; they would quickly fill up with militias and terrorists, leaving Iraq rather like Lebanon. Are the Democrats confused about which Western defeat they're trying to recreate?

Perhaps al-Qaeda could supply us extra transports to use to flee in disgrace. No doubt Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) would immediately take to the TV screens, with his floppy wrist and weak, ineffectual -- dare I say "reedy" -- voice, crowing that he told us all along that it would end in tears.

If he meant it would end in a Democratic victory in 2006, then yes, the nation would soon be in tears.

"A heightened effort to enlist more countries to take part in building a new Iraq"

What, off in a corner? I'm unsure where exactly this "new Iraq" is supposed to be built: most of the territory in the Middle East is already spoken for... perhaps in the Australian Outback? I understand that's mostly unoccupied, and it's barren enough that the Iraqis might go for it.

Seriously, what on Earth does Harry Reid mean this time? How does he plan for us -- or rather, other countries -- to "build a new Iraq?" Will France depose the current government of Monsieur Maliki?

Who -- besides those "other countries" enlisted -- gets the oil? It seems as if the Iraqis have by and large already decided what sort of government they want: a parliamentary democracy, along with eighteen provinces headed by provincial governors. It's somewhat tribal and somewhat federalist... but I don't think they're anxious to rip it apart and rebuild it.

And certainly not to satisfy Mr. Reid's whim to be seen as the "founding father" of a brand, spanking new Iraq, the model of a major Middle Eastern state as the Democratic Party see the region: caliphates and satrapies controlled by Iran, the Democrats' favorite "Arabic" "republic."

Pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm not completely persuaded that Mr. Reid can get the Iraqis to throw over their own political constructs for his.

"The ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld"

Come to think on it, this is the only part of the Democrats' Real Security Act of 2006 that is actually specific, concrete -- and non-negotiable.

Has Donald H. Rumsfeld made mistakes? Sure; he's trusted Democrats to put the country first, for example. Has he made decisions that the American people don't like? Certainly... especially after the unhelpful Democratic Party and their willing accomplices in the elite media get through chewing their newscud.

Has he screwed up so spectacularly that he needs to be removed? Of course not; he's won two major wars and is doing as well against the terrorist/insurgent/sectarian militia challenge as almost anyone could. Have we lost the Iraq War? Only if we elect the Democrats, would could snatch victory from the jaws of a crocodile.

Does Donald Rumsfeld frighten the Democrats? Evidently so.

Have we finished interviewing ourselves? I think so.

"And a faster adoption of the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks"

All right, I'll bite. What "recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks" in particular does Mr. Reid mean?

The 9/11 Commission -- sorry, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- offered a huge bunch of recommendations, which were followed by add-ons from numerous other commissions and groups:

  • The Gilmore Commission
  • The Bremer Commission
  • The Joint Inquiry of House and Senate Intelligence Committees
  • The Hart-Rudman Commission

You can read the entire schmear here, if you're really masochistic.

But for those of you who, like me, have the attention span of mayfly, here's the Campbell's Condensed Cream of Commission:

9/11 Cmsn Recs
  1. The U.S. government must attack terrorists and their organizations;

    Afghanistan. Iraq. Al-Qaeda. Got it... check. So how strongly do the Democrats support those attacks today? I'm just asking...

  2. The United States should be willing to make the difficult long-term commitment to the future of Pakistan;

    Pervez Musharraf; foreign aid; joint anti-terrorist operations. What more would Harry Reid do? Hm, maybe a case of bubble bath.

  3. The United States and the international community should make a long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan;

    NATO -- say, that's a good idea! Why didn't Bush think of that? Oh, wait...

  4. The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly;

    Hm... I'm sure there must have been a Democratic proposal in the House or Senate to work with Saudi Arabia to reform all the madrasses that preach nothing but hatred towards America, Israel, and the West; but I can't quite bring it to mind.

    Of course, the Bush administration has actually moved the House of Saud pretty significantly in the direction of shutting down al-Qaeda and some of the more radical clerics. I'm going to have to give the Republicans another upcheck on this one.

  5. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors;

    Let's see: leash-wielding, prisoner stripping, sex-obsessed guards at Abu Ghraib tried and convicted of crimes... check. Soldiers accused of rape or homicide arrested and threatened with the death penalty... check. Official policy opposing torture... check. Allow Red Cross to inspect prisons... check. All right, what more exactly would the Democrats offer, aside from cable TV (with the naked channel) and a high-speed internet connection?

  6. Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously;

    Er... what is Nancy Pelosi's position on full funding for Voice of America anyway?

  7. The U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund;

    If this is anything like the Boy Sprouts, we're probably already doing it -- and the Democrats are probably already suing it.

  8. Economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future;

    I think that would be called "Capitalism"... which to the Democrats is "the unknown ideal."

  9. Engaging other nations in developing a comprehensive coalition strategy against Islamist terrorism;

    I think that would be called "Democracy"... which to the Democrats is "the failed policy of the current administration."

  10. The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists;

    If that means America must move to embrace the average of the interrogation procedures of Europe, then that would mean we should expand our list of acceptable techniques to include the rack, the thumbscrew, and crucifixion.

  11. The U.S. should make a maximum effort to strengthen counterproliferation efforts against weapons of mass destruction by expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Cooperative Threat Reduction program;

    Uh...

    "The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is an international effort led by the United States to interdict transfer of banned weapons and weapons technology."

    "The Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program of the United States assists the states of the former Soviet Union in controlling and protecting their nuclear weapons, weapons-usable materials, and delivery systems."

    Now, I don't want to judge before all the evidence is in, but the fact that these are two long-term, ongoing programs of the United States would tend to imply that we're already doing this. But perhaps I've been misinformed.

  12. The U.S. should engage in vigorous efforts to track terrorist financing.

    Unless I miss my guess, that would be the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) terrorist-tracking program. And as I recall, but correct me if I'm wrong, the Democrats demanded it be killed after it was outed by the New York Times.

The American Left is not going to lie on the ground and merely play "speedbump" for the American response to terrorism; they're determined to rear up like underwater reefs and wreck the entire ship of state!

“Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, the American people deserve a government that has learned the lessons of the terrorist attacks,” the Democrats said in a statement. “Bush Republicans have talked tough but failed to protect this country.”

Given that the phrase "protect this country" in this context means protect it from violent attack, I can only conclude that there has been some significant terrorist attack since September 11th, 2001, on the American mainland -- or at least on our embassies, Marine barracks, or the USS Cole -- that Mr. Reid is privy to but which has been successfully concealed from the rest of us. I encourage the minority leader to file an FOIA request to liberate that information, so the Times or the Washington Post can publish it.

Either that or... do you think it possible that the Democrats (I know this is absurd) might finally have snapped, and are having a feverish argument with their own fantasy version of reality, like Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey? (More important, is Jimmy Stewart's character related in any way to Maureen?)

Oops, I might be in trouble under the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 for posting this so close to the November election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2006, at the time of 04:50 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 10, 2006

No Difference Between Democrats and Republicans? Think Again

Elections , Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

According to CBS News, Democratic Senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%) -- who has announced to the world that he's a dimwitted "dupe" of the idiot evil genius George W. Bush -- still thinks that we'd be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in charge of Iraq:

Rockefeller went a step further. He says the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq — even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq.

He said he sees that as a better scenario, and a safer scenario, "because it is called the 'war on terror.'" [Say, that's pretty hard to refute!]

Does Rockefeller stands [sic] by his view, even if it means that Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't invade?

"Yes. Yes. [Saddam] wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there," Rockefeller said. "He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources preventing us from prosecuting a war on terror which is what this is all about."

It's almost as if Karl Rove has been sending his mind-control beam directly into Jay Rockefeller's head, the latter having forgotten to wear his tinfoil hat. Are the Democrats actually trying to lose the election? If so, I certainly don't want to get in their way; but isn't if awfully precipitous for Rockefeller to rip the mask off before November 7th?

And is Rockefeller the only bloke in the Senate who doesn't understand that if we hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003, then today, in 2006, there wouldn't be any sanctions anymore?

Hussein would not be "isolated;" au contraire, he would be more powerful than at any time in the past fifteen years: he would have restarted his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; both the Iraq Survey Group and the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report say that was Hussein's intent all along. And European and Latin American representatives would be beetling to Baghdad to genuflect to the great man, hands out for oil allocations.

This is what Rockefeller considers "a better scenario, and a safer scenario" for America. And you want to know the worst part? If the Democrats win the Senate in the upcoming election, Jay Rockefeller will be the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Stick that in your pipe and step on it.

So Jay Rockefeller, nutty as a Froot Loop, would chair the Senate Intelligence Committee -- and spend the next two years investigating Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld... rather than al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. All because some Republicans insist there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between Republicans and Democrats, which means between Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS, 88%) and Chairman Jay Rockefeller.

Yeah, stay home and sulk instead of voting. Better yet, vote for a third-party candidate to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Great idea!

I'm sure hard-core conservative Republicans will be elected in droves in 2008. And their first order of business will be to begin the task of rebuilding half a dozen major American cities that were destroyed by al-Qaeda, while Congress was busy impeaching Bush for intercepting al-Qaeda phone calls.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2006, at the time of 05:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 07, 2006

Deteriorata

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

I've read at least five articles in the antique media in the last week that included some variant on the phrase "the deteriorating situation in Iraq." It was almost as if the entire MSM held a meeting and picked that week's buzz words.

According to the internationally accepted English-language dictionaries, "deteriorating" means "getting worse," of course; evidently, the media is using its own strange, new definition of which we were previously unaware.

In fact, we have several very good measures of how well or ill the Iraq strategy is working. Let's start with the easiest: how do American military personnel in Iraq fare these days?

Not too badly, actually; a lot better than in the previous two years. According to Iraq Coalition Casuality Count, the years 2004, 2005, and the first 250 days of 2006 have seen the following service deaths:

Deaths of American servicemen
and servicewomen in Iraq
Year Deaths Days Average per day
2004 848 366 2.32
2005 846 365 2.32
2006 480 250 1.92

That's a drop of 17% over 2005; and as the handoffs from Coalition forces to Iraqis continues, that number will continue to drop, as fewer American troops will be patrolling dangerous sections of Iraq. That may not be a stunning drop; but it sure as shootin' isn't any kind of an increase. Thus, by the standard of deaths (and the broader category of casualties) of our troops, Iraq is getting better, not worse.

Another metric is the number of civilians killed, wounded, or even attacked; after all, the whole purpose of an army is to do the fighting for the civilian population. If more and more Iraqi civilians were being killed every month, then that would inarguably be an example of things getting worse.

And we all know that things certain did get worse in July: Sunni and Shia militias turned on each other and began a wave of brutal "executions" and other murders. But July was more than a month ago; and the Iraqi security forces (the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi National Police, and the local, provincial police), along with their Coalition partners, responded to the spike in violence.

But was the response successful, or are the killings still proceeding apace? Alas, the website we just used doesn't report this number; instead, it combines Iraqi civilians and Iraqi military deaths into one lump sum -- which is rather useless when we're trying to separate the two.

The reality is that Operation Together Forward, despite its rather unfortunate name, has been quite successful, according to the best possible source: Multi-National Force -- Iraq, the Coalition itself.

MNF-Iraq spokesman, Maj.Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, gave a presentation and slide show to the press yesterday demonstrating how casualties, homicides, and attacks against civilians have all dropped markedly in Baghdad. But I haven't seen one word of this show up in the elite media today... so evidently, it didn't take.

(That's hardly a departure for them; as Sachi notes, they ignored the steady political and reconstruction progress made up to July, and they are ignoring the entire recovery after the July spike in violence. They focus like a laser beam, as Clinton used to say, on one bad month and pretend that's the norm.)

But in fact, we have some very cool slides from Caldwell's presentation that demonstrate this improvement in the Iraq endeavor (hat tip to Soldier's Dad; see the rest of the slides at the MNF-Iraq link above).

First, civilian killings in Baghdad -- the worst of the three provinces that are lagging the other 15:



Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Comparing sectarian killings in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Gen. Caldwell, in his presentation, explains this slide:

This is what it was in density, with red being the most dense, the highest number of those who have been murdered executed being found in this location here, and then somewhat more right in the center, right up here, and to where it's less dense, down. This is across the entire Baghdad city area. These are deaths that are reported, that are recorded, that we know about. And this is what it looked like in July. This is what it looked like in August, based on the casualty figures, as reported.

And then up in the Kadhimiya and the Mansour areas, you can see literally almost down to nothing here and then a little bit here.

As easily seen, sectarian and terroristic homicides have plummeted since Operation Together Forward began. That's not a "deterioration," that's a strong improvement... and you can see it graphically with your own eyes.

"All right, Mr. Lizard," I hear you kvetch, "so much for actual deaths; but what about attacks themselves? Aren't they still rising, even if killings are decreasing?"

All right, let's take a look at another slide:



Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Here is Caldwell on this slide (reparagraphed for clarity):

One more indicator that operations are in fact reducing the amount of attacks on civilians is shown here on this graph. What I'd like to do is talk you through.

This is the baseline in March. Without getting into specific, exact casualty figures, this is the casualty figures as we reported them, as we tracked them during the month of March.

We found in the month of April we had about a 3-percent increase over that baseline of March, and in the May time frame we had about a 39 percent increase from, again, the baseline in March. By the July time frame, we had experienced a 73 percent increase in the number of casualties -- these are murders, execution, indirect fire, IEDs, whatever it was -- attacks that were being levied on civilians within the Baghdad area.

And then in August, August 7th is when you saw that the operations commenced, Operation Together Forward phase two. This month at the end of the month it's an 8 percent increase from the baseline back in March.

That is a 38% drop in attacks in a single month of Operation Together Forward. (The only bad thing about this operation is the name; couldn't they change it to Operation Guardian Angel, or something?)

Caldwell continues:

Again, what this shows is the cycle of retaliatory violence has been slowed in the target areas as we have specifically focused our efforts here within the Baghdad area. Again, we remain very cautiously optimistic about these figures, but we also recognize that the real measurement of this progress isn't just this month's but rather the sustainment of this over the long period of time. As we said many times before, this operation is going to be conducted over many months, not over several weeks.

This is part of the greatest story never told: the increasing tempo of our success in Iraq. The antique media is terrified of reporting on any of this... because it utterly undermines the Story, which is -- here comes what we in the writing biz dub the "callback" -- which is "the deteriorating situation in Iraq."

Oh, how I wish I could lock the mainstream news anchors, the elite newspaper editors, and the wire-service presidents in a room and ask them a few questions, then just keep asking and asking until they finally broke down and answered. (All right, maybe just a soupçon of waterboarding.) For people who yammer endlessly about "the public's right to know," they're remarkably unforthcoming about anything that might hurt their patrons, the Democrats.

I'm still trying to sort out which newsmen are actively evil... and which are just useful idiots.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 07, 2006, at the time of 08:13 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Good Hunting Over the Weekend

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Headlines in the various wire services during the weekend were still the same old recycled Democratic talking points: Another U.S. soldier killed in action! Setbacks, quagmire! The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have failed... it's time to declare defeat and head to Okinawa!

Sometimes I feel the media ghoulishly enjoy counting bodies, especialy our own guys and gals. But even AP could not ignore this remarkable achievement of Canadian troops in Afghanistan:

NATO: 200 Taliban, 4 Canadians Killed

PASHMUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Warplanes and artillery pounded Taliban fighters hiding in orchards Sunday during a big Afghan-NATO offensive that the alliance said killed more than 200 militants in its first two days. Four Canadian soldiers also were killed.

Oh, Canada! The Taliban has attacked the NATO forces from time to time; but it always ends the same way: lopsided defeat. I don't understand why they keep on doing thing that don't work... unless it's just a mass expression of "suicide by soldier."

Given that the terrorists believe "death is a promotion" (as Ralph Peters puts it, paraphrasing Cal Thomas), we really do need to consider the possibility that the Taliban knows their attacks will fail, and they'll die in droves -- yet they continue anyway as an act of martyrdom.

Meanwhile in Iraq, we had quite a weekend, according to CENTCOM. I wonder if you saw these headlines in the antique media:

Iraqi and US Security Forces Capture 30 Insurgents, 38 Suspected Insurgents, Over Weekend Ops in Western al-Anbar Province

Iraqi police and soldiers, along with U.S. Marines and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 7, detained 30 confirmed insurgents and 38 suspected insurgents over the weekend throughout the western Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Over the weekend, Iraqi and Coalition forces carried out numerous operations throughout Iraq, and the results were spectacular:

  • "In Rawah, 50 miles east of the Iraqi-Syrian border, Iraqi police identified and detained 18 of the 38 captured suspected insurgents."
  • "In Hit, 70 miles northwest of Ramadi, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers detained one known insurgent and 10 suspected insurgents Sunday."
  • "Through a variety of counterinsurgency operations Saturday and Sunday, Iraqi police, Iraqi soldiers, and U.S. Marines captured 27 known insurgents and four suspected insurgents in the Haditha Triad, a cluster of three cities -- Haditha, Barwanah, and Haqlaniyah."
  • "In Sa'dah, a town just east of the Iraqi-Syrian border, U.S. Marines captured six more suspected insurgents Saturday. Marines also discovered an ordnance cache near the border on Saturday. The cache consisted of 120 mm rockets, 155 mm rockets, and 122 mm rockets."

We've got even more good news from Camp Fallujah, according to Maj.Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multi-National Force -- Iraq.

During recent clearing operations in Adhamiyah - as part of Operation Together Forward - Iraqi forces and Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, captured an improvised-explosive device-making facility. The find included a supply of bomb-making components, three mortar caches and engineering manuals.

On the heels of success in Adhamiyah, Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5, moving as part of Operation Rubicon, recently uncovered hundreds of weapons and combated insurgents in running gun battles in the town of Mushin, west of Habbaniyah.

If you'll recall, I promised that some of the security responsibilities were going to be handed over to Iraqis this month; but there was a brief delay. The elite media portrayed this as a "setback" for President Bush, implying the hand-over was never going to happen.

But of course, it turned out to be just what the Pentagon said it was: a brief miscommunication about certain duties and responsibilities. And now it's gone through with no problem:

Iraqi Soldiers Take the Lead

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division transferred responsibility of security for the majority of the Kirkuk Province to two battalions of the Iraqi Army during a ceremony at an Iraqi military compound just outside of Kirkuk, Aug. 31.

“With this ceremony, we complete the transfer of security responsibilities from our friends, the Coalition Forces, to our Brigade,” said Maj. Gen. Anwar, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division. Two battalions in the multi-ethnic (Arab, Kurdish, Turkomen) 2nd Brigade had previously assumed security responsibilities in other sectors of the Kirkuk Province. This ceremony, with the final two battalions assuming responsibility, demonstrates the readiness of Iraqi Army forces in the province....

The event marks the third time this year that Coalition Forces have transferred responsibility to Iraqi Security Forces in the 1st BCT’s area of operations in and around the Kirkuk Province. The ceremony now places the majority of the province in Iraqi control. The city of Kirkuk and the village of Hawijah remain under the control of coalition forces.

And finally, the Coalition (which means the United States) has begun the process of handing over complete control of the New Iraqi Army, which we built, to the Iraqi government, which was elected by the Iraqi people. Today we handed over control of one of the ten Iraqi divisions, plus the Iraqi Air Force and Navy:

Iraq Takes Over Command of Armed Forces

On Thursday, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a document taking control of Iraq's small naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based in the south....

Handing over control of the country's security to Iraqi forces is vital to any eventual drawdown of U.S. forces here. After disbanding the remaining Iraqi army following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, coalition forces have been training the new Iraqi military.

The nine other Iraqi divisions remain under U.S. control, with authority gradually being transferred. U.S. military officials said there was no specific timetable for the transition but U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday the Iraqis have "talked about perhaps two divisions a month."

AP, however, was far more enthused about a row that erupted between Sunni and Shiite members of the Iraqi parliament, which began when Sunni legislator Saleh al-Mutlaq accused the Shia of seeking "the division of Iraq." AP devotes more than half the story to that irrelevant non-news, instead of the hand-over in the headline.

(And I'm certain it's only a coincidence that such uncontrollable outbursts of unrelated, spurious copy in news stories -- "Spurrette's Syndrome," as Dafydd calls is -- always act to undermine any good news for President Bush, the Republicans, and the country. It's just "the luck of the draw" that Spurrette's Syndrome never interrupts or undermines bad news!)

So, folks, things are looking good. Let's stay the course, even if that means tacking back and forth a bit, to respond to changing conditions and enemy tactics.

Good hunting.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 07, 2006, at the time of 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 01, 2006

That (Not So) Gloomy Pentagon Report

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Or, Sen. Harry Reid Demands America Declare Defeat and Go Home

The wires and the antique media are abuzz with the report they've been salivating for; here are their headlines:

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), reacted with his usual brand of triumphal defeatism:

In response to the Pentagon's report Friday, the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said it showed the Bush administration is "increasingly disconnected from the facts on the ground in Iraq."

"It is time for a new direction to end the war in Iraq, win the war on terror, and give the American people the real security they deserve," Reid said.

The report covers the period from Nouri al-Maliki becoming prime minister (late May) to August 11th; but that means it misses the period of declining Iraqi violence that we discussed in Disconnections, It's Time For Maliki to Sadr Off, and more generally in "The Last Men Standing".

Here is AP on the new report, just to give you a flavor of the excited coverage:

Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

Well, you get the idea. Naturally, not a single one of these sources links to the report itself; I still haven't found such a link, and I'd be grateful to any Lizardite who can supply one in the comments section.

But if we don't have the report, we do have a story about the report on the Pentagon's main web page. In it, we find that the report contains several positive points undiscussed by the elite media:

  • The Iraqi government is "getting on its feet," having filled the entire cabinet during this period. The government also has a lot of support from rank and file Iraqis and is doing a good job assuming command and control of the New Iraqi Army and other Iraqi security forces (the National Police, under the control of the Interior Ministry, and local police under the control of provincial governors).
  • "The Iraqi economy is moving along. Estimates put gross domestic product growth in the country at about 4 percent for the year."
  • Oil exports are up, electricity is flowing, water is potable, sewage facilities are operational, and the rest of the country's infrastructure is rapidly recovering... not only from the war but from decades of decay during Saddam Hussein's repellant dictatorship.

The only major problem is security -- though of course that is a huge element of the equation. However, even there, the Iraqis themselves are responding, as the Pentagon story makes clear:

Violence is up, with most of the incidents being Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks in and around Baghdad. Most of the attacks are in only four of the 18 provinces, the report notes. Fourteen provinces remain fairly peaceful and in one – Muthanna in the south –no coalition forces are operating.

Sullivan said training and equipping of Iraqi forces continues on track. Iraqi security forces are at about 278,000 trained and equipped in the Iraqi Army, National Police and local police. This is an increase of about 14,000 since the May report, he said. [Rear Adm. Bill Sullivan is the Joint Staff’s vice director for strategic plans and policy.]

What’s more, Iraqi forces are assuming the lead in their areas. This allows coalition forces to take a more supporting role. “There are currently five Iraqi divisions, 25 brigades and 85 battalions that are in the lead in their areas,” Sullivan said. “This is a 32 percent increase since the last report.”

Coalition trainers in Iraq are now focusing their attention on combat support, combat service support capabilities – medical, logistics, maintenance and so on. “That will allow the Iraqis to be more independent in their operations,” Sullivan said. “There is also a focus on improving the capabilities of the Ministry of Defense and the Interior Ministry which is required over the long [haul] for the Iraqis to assume full responsibility.”

And the plan is working; civilian casualties declined dramatically, starting just after the period of this report ended... another point the ever-so-fair elite media report only grudgingly, buried deep within the story. The Times:

The period of the study does not cover either a surge in bloody attacks during the past week nor a relatively low number of civilian casualties earlier in the month; a joint American-Iraqi security campaign in Baghdad is expected to contribute to a relatively low civilian death toll for all of August.

And AP:

Col. Thomas Vail, commander of a 101st Airborne brigade operating in the mostly Shiite areas of eastern Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that an intensified effort to root out insurgents and quell sectarian violence in the capital is bearing fruit, leading to a decrease in sectarian murders in recent days.

And to be strictly fair ourselves, while Reuters doesn't mention this decline in violence in the article on the report, they do have a separate story out now that discusses the highly encouraging drop in violence the last few weeks -- even taking this week into account:

Iraq deaths down despite new carnage
Sep 1, 2006
by Alastair Macdonald

Violent deaths among civilians in Iraq may have fallen by a quarter last month, statistics indicated on Friday, despite a bloody week in Baghdad that ended with 70 dead in a series of explosions late on Thursday.

The partial data, provided by Iraq's Interior Ministry and based on figures from the Health Ministry, tend to confirm U.S. military confidence that a crackdown in the capital has slowed the bloodletting but also that dozens are still dying every day.

Yet the Times also illustrates an annoying tendency towards dissembling. Exhibit:

The assessment provides bad news on a variety of fronts.

It said that Al Qaeda [in Iraq] is active despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because of the group’s “cellular structure,” that the Sunni insurgency is strong and that militias are undiminished.

The implication is that al-Qaeda in Iraq is just as strong as ever, despite us sending Musab Zarqawi on to meet Allah. But that isn't what the report says at all; in fact, it says precisely the opposite. From Reuters:

Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq, the Pentagon said in a new report on Friday, as the "core conflict" has changed into one pitting Sunni Muslims against Shi'ites, with the Sunni Arab insurgency [al-Qaeda in Iraq] overshadowed.

But wait... wouldn't a general civil war be even worse than what Zarqawi was doing? Perhaps; but on the other hand, a civil war is primarily dangerous to Iraq, while Zarqawi -- having a wider vision of jihad via his close connection to Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri -- was more dangerous to the United States.

Since our purpose in invading Iraq was not to liberate Iraqis but rather to protect America, even a civil war in Iraq is preferable to a strong al-Qaeda presence there. But in any event, there is no indication that such a war has started; indeed, even Reuters admits the report makes that clear:

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq," the report stated, adding that concern about civil war has increased within the Iraqi civilian population.

"Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward a civil war can be prevented," added the report, which said the security environment was at its most complex state since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The Pentagon story underlines this critical point:

The fact that the national government is functioning is “one relevant data point” that shows Iraq is not engaged in a civil war, he said. ["He" is Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.]

So the real bottom line is that:

  • There was a big surge of sectarian violence in Baghdad --
  • Though it fell short of a civil war --
  • And was partially mitigated by a collapse in al-Qaeda in Iraq's terrorist war --
  • That started with the formation of the government...
  • But a major counteroffensive by Coalition and Iraqi forces in recent weeks has started to quell this violence --
  • Even taking into account several major massacres by Sunnis these last few days.

And brief though that summary is, it's deeper than anything you'll read in today's newspapers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 01, 2006, at the time of 05:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 31, 2006

"The Last Men Standing"

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Progress in Iraq is slow, and sometimes it's difficult to discern any at all. All we hear everyday is that another bomb exploded, killing a few dozen more Iraqis.

So how do we tell whether the overall strategy is working? One way is to see how much of the country is ready to be handed over entirely to Iraqi security forces.

The target goal for new (post-Saddam, post Baath) Iraqi security forces is 325,000. This force will mostly be in place by year's end, according to Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who, as commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I), is ultimately responsible for all training in Iraq. This is a remarkable achievment... but even so, training the Iraqi forces has not gone as smoothly as we hoped it would.

David Ignatius, who traveled around Baghdad recently with Gen. John Abizaid, Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), discusses the huge difficulty of this process (re-paragraphed, to make it readable to ordinary humans):

A visit to Iraq leaves me thinking that the right answer is tough love. We don't need radical new plans for federalism, or sharp deadlines for withdrawing American troops, as anxious members of Congress have recently recommended.

Instead, America and Iraq need to agree on a reasonable timetable for the transfer of military control around the country - and stick to it. When provinces meet the schedule, they should be rewarded with more economic assistance. When they miss their deadlines, they should get fewer resources.

For most of the country, that transfer should be possible within six to 12 months. In Baghdad and in Anbar Province, it will take longer. But everyone should understand that America isn't prepared to keep writing a blank check.

Ignatius doesn't pull any punches; there clearly are some areas where the training is making little headway. And throughout Iraq, we're having a tougher time than anyone expected beating some of this thinking into the heads of Iraqis, who come from such a totally different culture than we:

The Iraqi Army was supposed to take control of Qadisiyah and neighboring Wasit Province from coalition forces in September. But that timetable recently slipped to January or February because of worries that the Iraqis aren't yet fully ready. So Iraqi officials here continue to avoid making tough decisions about resources, and local insurgents keep lobbing mortar rounds into the compound where Polish and other coalition troops are working with the United States to maintain order.

Training Iraqi forces has turned out to be not only the most important task, but the most difficult as well. During major combat ops, Coalition forces rolled across Saddam's pathetic military like a Humvee over a sandbox. But taking territory is one thing; holding it is a totally different animal.

The grand strategy of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has turned out to be the only workable solution: the Coalition cannot stay indefinitely; we cannot write Iraq a "blank check," as Ignatius put it. In the end, only Iraqi forces can hold Iraq and keep it from the terrorists.

But that means that the United States trainers and advisors will have to stay in Iraq long after the regular fighting troops have left. Ignatius continues:

[Lt Gen.] Dempsey tells me that next year he hopes to consolidate [the Iraqi security force], teaching the Iraqis mundane skills such as logistics management that make a modern army work. He quotes what was said of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on the need for steady nerve in this process: "Now is the time for 2 in the morning courage." He says the timing of transition "is an art, not a science"....

"The chances of success are good, if we give ourselves time to succeed," says Abizaid.

The Iraqi forces are well equipped; we've seen to that. Their level of combat skills are high and growing; already, they're the strongest Arab military force in the world.

So what is holding them back? The main problem is the Iraqi soldier's mindset and his lack of dicipline, and these derive directly from military deficiencies in Arab culture. Some soldiers still don't get the idea that they are Iraqi soldiers, not tribal militiamen, says Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard in a CENTCOM press release:

Pittard confirmed that 100 members of an Iraqi battalion had refused to redeploy to Baghdad. The soldiers were part of the 10th Iraqi Army Division, in southern Iraq’s Maysan province....

“The majority of this particular unit was Shia, and… the leadership of that unit and their soldiers felt like they were needed down there in Maysan in that province,” [Pittard] said.

In a way Iraq as a country is fictional... and I mean that literally. Civilization has always existed in Mesopotamia (literally, "land between the rivers"); in fact, it's considered the cradle of civilization. But it existed as independent caliphates for centuries, and independent city-states for thousands of years before that. The Ottoman Turkish Empire crushed the caliphates in the late 13th century and ruled the region for six hundred years, until the Turks' ill-fated decision to side with the Germans in the Great War brought the Ottomans down.

The region that would become Iraq was later cobbled together by the British from three Turkish regions: Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra. In the 1930s, the new country of Iraq was granted limited liberty by the Brits, who then reoccupied it during the Even Greater War. A series of coups d'etat in the 1950s and 1960s culminated with the Baath Party seizing power in 1968.

In 1979, Saddam Hussein murdered his way to the top of the Party. But his rule over Iraq itself was sustained by controlling a number of different tribes (with his own tribe from Tikrit being the boss) via bribes, threats, and the occasional bloody massacre as demonstration.

But many "Iraqis" never really had an identity as Iraqis; rather, they thought of themselves as the Tikrit tribe or the Mosul tribe, and beyond that, as Sunni, Shia, or Kurd. Given this centuries-old culture, it's very difficult for many Iraqis to grasp the concept that the army is for Iraq, not just to protect one's own region. In trying to democratize Iraq, we've run straight into the Bronze Age wall of essential primitivism.

But the good news is that only a few soldiers refused to be deployed. Most accepted the necessity... and that means that our years of training are truly starting to have an effect. Just today, I read another story about a successful provincial hand over:

Iraqi forces will take over security of a southern province from coalition troops next month, and will have control of most of the country by the end of the year, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday

Dhi Qar will be the second province to come under the full control of Iraqi troops. British troops handed over control of southern Muthana province in July....

On Wednesday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said Iraqi troops were on course to take over security control from U.S.-led coalition forces within the next 12-18 months "with very little Coalition support."

Because of these transfers of power from the Coalition to the Iraqis, our allied forces, such as Italy's 1600 troops and Romania's 628 troops, will be able to leave Iraq by the end of this year.

So it seems we take three steps forward then two back. But that's not surprising, nor a sign of failure, considering that we're doing something nobody has ever done before: we are actually taking a pre-modern people and wrenching them into the "now" -- by patience, by demonstration, and even by what David Ignatius would call "tough love" over the long haul. The CENTCOM release continues:

[G]eneral (Pittard) said he sees a long-term job for Coalition training teams with the Iraqi forces.

“Our major mission is to help develop and support the Iraqi security forces, and of course to advise them.… U.S. forces will be here as long as the Iraqi government wants us here,” he said.

“But I'll tell you … after the majority of U.S. forces leave, we'll still see some level of advisory teams that'll still be here. In fact, I feel like we'll be the last men standing at the end of the U.S. presence here."

Slowly but surely, we are making progress. It's not as fast as we wanted, but it is happening. We've been amazingly patient for a country in such a hurry as America!

It would be a dreadful shame if the Democrats were to take control, then simply cut and run -- just when Iraqis need us the most to achieve full self-sufficiency.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 31, 2006, at the time of 11:50 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

It's Time For Maliki to Sadr Off

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

When Sadr arose from the ashes of his failed rebellion of 2004, still sucking air and still in command of a diminished al-Mahti militia in Najaf, many of us suspected he would continue to make trouble. Two years later, we now know he is the trouble.

But first, some good news

Insurgent attacks within Baghdad province averaged about 23 per day during the past week, Caldwell said. He noted that Baghdad’s average daily murder rate dropped 46 percent from July to August.

“And, if you look to just the past few weeks, from the 7th through the 25th of August,” he said, “the murder rate has dropped 50 percent over the daily rate for July.”

Vehicle-bomb attacks also have decreased in recent weeks, up until the renewed enemy improvised-explosive-device attacks that occurred today and over the past weekend, Caldwell said...

Iraqi and U.S. security forces began a stepped-up security campaign across Baghdad Aug. 8 to curtail deadly sectarian violence that had plagued the Iraqi capital city. As of yesterday, Caldwell said, Iraqi troops, with U.S. forces supporting them, had cleared more than 30,000 buildings, found 19 caches, seized more than 700 weapons and detained 70 suspects.

Also the New York Times slipped up yesterday: they actually reported the enemy deaths during the clash between the Mahdi militia and Iraqi troops. The editor must have been asleep at the switch to let this information slip through; but I'm sure a correction will be up on the Times website shortly...

At least 20 gunmen and 8 civilians were killed Monday when the Iraqi Army battled fiercely for hours with members of a militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, in Diwaniya, Iraqi officials said.

The violence, which one Iraqi general said included militiamen executing Iraqi soldiers in a public square, amounted to the most brazen clashes in recent memory between Iraqi government forces and Mr. Sadr’s militia.... [In this case, "recent memory" means less than two years, one presumes]

So how did this start? Often, readers have the mistaken impression that American and Iraqi soldiers simply set out on patrol, and then they're ambushed by the wily militiamen, like the Americans attacking the hapless British during the Revolutionary War. The way the elite media usually (and deliberately) report the encounters, it's not surprising if Americans think that the enemy always sets the operational tempo, always controls the time and place, and that we're just getting shot up for no good reason.

But that's not how it usually happens at all. In fact, it's the Coalition and the Iraqi Army and police that usually force the issue:

General Ghanimi and other Iraqi Army and police officials said several militias were involved, not just the Mahdi Army. But they said the seed of the violence on Monday was planted a week ago when a roadside bomb they believe was planted by the Mahdi Army killed at least two Iraqi soldiers. Two days later, the Iraqi Army arrested a member of the Mahdi Army....

General Ghanimi, a Sunni, denied torturing the Mahdi detainee, noting that Sadr representatives visited him on Saturday and found him healthy. He said they asked for the accused bomber’s release and when the army refused, fighting broke out as the militias sought [unsuccessfully] to free him from custody.

It was in that fighting, initiated by the Iraqi Army's capture of a top Sadr bombmaker, that the Mahdi militia lost twenty men and were driven off without seizing their prisoner back -- a total defeat.

Gunfire riddled the streets from around 2 a.m. to the early afternoon. Polish troops responsible for the area helped Iraqi soldiers encircle the most violent areas, as American helicopters hovered overhead without dropping bombs, according to an American official who declined to be identified because the information is supposed to be released by the Iraqi Army.

This article does not mention it, but I read in a Japanese newspaper yesterday that ten Iraqi troops were killed; this is a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the Iraqi Army; considering that there are "in excess of 267,000" members of the New Iraqi Army and at most 20,000 members of al-Mahdi, this doesn't end well for Muqtada Sadr.

The problem with Sadr and his Mahdi "army" is not really the strength of the militia but the strength of their political machine within the ruling Shiite coalition. This leads to a lack of political will on the part of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Dawa Party to confront Sadr -- who is, in fact, his ally against the other major Shiite group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI:

With sectarian violence soaring, American generals and the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, say that militias are now the single greatest threat to the stability of Iraq and that the Iraqi government must disband them.

But Mr. Maliki has yet to introduce any new policy, and has refrained from strong condemnations of Mr. Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army. Mr. Maliki relies on Mr. Sadr, who is enormously popular among poor Shiites, for political support against rival Shiite politicians. Mr. Sadr controls several ministries and at least 30 seats in Parliament, and he maintains close ties to Mr. Maliki’s political group, the Islamic Dawa Party.

Maliki has objected whenever Coalition troops -- or even the Iraqi Army -- uses heavy force against Sadr and his militia; for example, he denounced the air support we supplied to a raid by the Iraqis on a "Sadr stronghold in Baghdad" in early August.

Yet Mr. Sadr and the Mahdi Army remain an obstacle. Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite who depends on support from Mr. Sadr’s allies in Parliament, has not confronted Mr. Sadr publicly. Sadr City, a Mahdi bastion, has not been searched or raided in a thorough manner, even though it is one of the capital’s most violent areas.

But his objections are mostly oral and probably for voter consumption. And while he hasn't himself confronted Sadr, he has also not stopped the Iraqi Army from fighting al-Mahdi. There is no indication whether it was Maliki or the Iraqi and Coalition military leaders who have deferred a direct assault on Sadr City until later in the campaign.

Even so, Sadr is still causing problems; and if it turns out that Maliki cannot do it, then perhaps it is time that he should go. But we shall see.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 29, 2006, at the time of 04:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

Disconnections

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

To most of us, the following two statements seem somehow, you know, connected:

  • Deaths of American, Coalition, and Iraqi soldiers, along with civilians, have risen somewhat in the past week or so;
  • The Iraqi Army, with U.S. air support, initiated a major offensive against the mighty al-Mahdi militia of Muqtada Sadr in the past week or so.

But to elite, new-school journalists, these two observations are completely discrete from each other; there is no connection, and the first is only explicable by concluding that we must be losing (or have already lost) the war. Why, what other possible explanation could there be?

A suicide car bomber killed 14 people and wounded 43 outside the Interior Ministry in downtown Baghdad Monday, police said, a day after an upsurge of violence left more than 50 people dead across the country.

In one of the deadliest weekends for the U.S. military in recent months, the U.S. military said seven U.S. soldiers died between Saturday and Sunday night.

Also at least 34 people were killed and dozens injured in gunbattles between Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen loyal to a popular cleric in the southern city of Diwaniyah, officials said Monday....

[T]he renewed violence undercut Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's claim that government forces were prevailing over insurgents and sectarian extremists.

Despite the deaths, British Defense Minister Des Browne, visiting Baghdad on Monday, said the situation was improving.

Reuters is no better:

Six American soldiers were among more than 60 people killed on Sunday that challenged assertions by Iraqi and U.S. officials that their forces were gaining the upper hand.

Both these quotations contain the same odd meme: that the measure of whether one is "prevailing" is entirely how many of one's own soldiers died that week. No measure of territory captured or secured, plots thwarted, nor provinces handed over to Iraqi forces; not even a comparison count of the number of enemy killed.

Instead, the antique media offers this simplistic formula: if the number of Coalition and civilian casualties rises one week, that is proof that we're no longer "prevailing" or "gaining the upper hand." (Does that mean if it drops the next week, we're back on course? Then how come the media never report that paradigm?)

Back in the real world, we pajama-clad amateurs (I'm actually wearing acceptable streetwear as I type this) realize that when we embark upon a powerful offensive against enemy forces -- in this case, the Iran-backed militia of Sadr -- we're going to incur more casualties than if we just hunkered down in dug-in positions and didn't show an eyebrow above the trenches. Is this really that difficult a concept to grasp?

Is anybody unaware that we lost far more soldiers during the D-Day invasion of Normandy than we did in 1942; but would anyone seriously maintain that we were doing better right after Pearl Harbor than we were while crashing onto Omaha Beach?

Neither of these two stories, nor any others that I read in the MSM, so much as hint at how many of Sadr's men were killed in the same combat. But surely that is needed for the metric above to make any sense: if we lost seven soldiers over the weekend, but we managed to kill several score of the enemy, wouldn't that change the conclusion of whether we're winning or losing?

Evidently not. Nor does the fact that July saw the lowest rate of U.S. troops dying since the Fall of 2003, except for the aberrant month of March, 2006: only 1.48 soldiers, airmen, seamen, or Air Force-men died per day.

In the previous month, it was 2.10 per day; and before that it was 2.55/day; and before that it was 2.73. So far this month, 51 American soldiers and one British soldier have died in Iraq, over a space of 28 days, an average of 1.86 per day -- higher than July, but still well below the average for 2006, for the last two years, and for the entire war (2.27/day).

Civilian and Iraqi Security Force deaths are also down. In July, there was an average of 41.3 per day; but almost all the way through August, the average so far is 31.8 per day, a drop of 23%.

But all it takes is a single flare-up of deaths, due to an offensive initiated by the Iraqis that aims at driving Sadr out of the militia business -- or failing that, out of Iraq itself -- for the news bureaus to begin shrieking and jumping on chairs as if they just spotted a mouse. ("It takes but a single match to set the woods ablaze!")

Can't we get some older correspondents who at least know the most basic characteristics of war?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 28, 2006, at the time of 05:17 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

Read All About It! (Just Not In the MSM...)

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

The training of Iraqi security forces, both the New Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police, seems to have fallen off the front pages of the antique media. There is a good reason for this: it's going very well.

"If it bleeds, it leads;" but that means that if it's good news, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news just aren't interested. Don Henley was right: it's "give us dirty laundry!"

But if you hunt hard enough, you can actually find out what's going on around town... kind of like finding a really good movie hidden among all the theaters showing Snakes On a Plane. Fortunately for you, Big Lizards does the theater-crawling so you don't have to. Here are four great stories about Iraq, all of them very, very good news: one from the Department of Defense's website; one from the website of the Multi-National Force -- Iraq; one from Captain's Quarters (yet another obscure site!); and one from, of all places, USA Today. Enjoy.

Baghdad is still a dangerous place. Just the other day, a group of gunmen open fired on a large crowd of Shiite worshipers, killing 20 and wounding 300. But a quick response from the Iraqi security forces controlled the situation, demonstrating their improved capabilities:

“This was a tremendous demonstration of the increased capabilities of the Iraq security forces and the leadership of the government of Iraq,” Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters during a Baghdad news briefing....

Iraqi security forces quickly responded to these attacks, controlling the situation and killing six of the terrorists and detaining 19 others, Caldwell said....

Iraqi and coalition forces continue to pursue people intent on using violence to impose their beliefs on others. For instance, operations by Iraqi and coalition forces over the past week resulted in the capture of more than 100 known and suspected al Qaeda terrorists and associates and multiple weapons caches....

Iraqi and coalition forces also continue to target death squads. There have been 20 different operations just in the past week conducted specifically against these groups, he said.

Iraqi police forces have had a lot of problems, as we all know. But many months of US training have started to pay off. The first full Iraqi Army division will soon be operating without the mentoring of U.S. advisors, a U.S. Army official who oversees Iraqi security forces’ training; and for the first time, we're seeing the same sort of improvement in the Iraqi police that we saw some time ago in the Iraqi Army:

Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard discussed the formation of the Iraqi National Police and security concerns throughout Iraq in a briefing to reporters....

The INP is a relatively new command in the Ministry of Interior force structure. It was formed from the Police Order Brigade and Commando Brigade.

To become an officer in the INP, a candidate must successfully complete the initial 10-week training program and then train an additional four weeks of follow-up training.

Pittard looked back on his first deployment in Iraq as a point of reference for the Iraqi security forces’ progress, and commented on how much better they are doing now.

“The Iraqis fight and fight well,” he said. “It’s not the same as it was at all two years ago.”

Pacifying Baghdad is still a dangerous job. Policemen are often targeted by both terrorists and radical militiamen. But the Iraqi police department has no shortage of recruits:

More than 500 Iraqi men have joined the police in restive Anbar province -- a focal point of the Sunni Arab insurgency -- in the most successful recruiting drive in the region by U.S. and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said Tuesday....

U.S. Marines screened thousands of applicants earlier this month in various regions along the western Euphrates River valley before shortlisting the recruits for the Anbar police force, said a statement by the U.S. command…

To combat the insurgency, and sectarian and criminal violence in Baghdad, the Iraqi government and Coalition announced Operation Together Forward. USA Today provides a simplified breakdown of the operation. "The offensive is planned in stages and is designed to avoid an all-out attack. In the first phase, launched July 9, Iraqi security forces positioned checkpoints throughout the city. In the second phase, launched last week, Iraqi forces supported by U.S. troops began isolating and clearing parts of the city block by block. Iraqi security forces will remain to provide security once areas are cleared. When areas are stable, the government will bring economic assistance into blighted neighborhoods." This strategy is essentially what the Marines call the "3 Block War."

Operation Together Forward is focusing on four of the most violent neighborhoods of Baghdad: Doura, Mansour, Shula and Azamiyah. These are neighborhoods where the sectarian violence has been at its worst. Coalition forces have begun operations in Doura and Ameriya. In both cases, the neighborhoods were cordoned off, and each building was searched. "Kilometer after kilometer of barriers emplaced, building what some may call the semblance of a gated community, affording them greater security with ingress and egress routes established and manned by Iraqi security forces with coalition forces in support," as the Multinational Forces - Iraq press release describes the operation in Doura.

A similar strategy of cordon, search, secure and rebuild was successfully executed in Tal Afar, and is currently being executed in the Sunni insurgent stronghold city of Ramadi. Tal Afar, with populations of 170,000 was secured in less than a month, while Ramadi, with a population of 400,000 is still up for grabs.

And here is the new face of the Iraqi police:

The Humvee has barely rolled to a stop, and Iraqi army Col. Talib Abdul Razzaq is already out of the vehicle.

He moves like a politician, stopping on the sidewalk to playfully cuff a young boy on the head and joke with a man selling shoes. He quizzes several people about violence and militias in the neighborhood. Most say the streets have been quiet.

"I'm trying to make people believe in the Iraqi army," Razzaq says at the next stop, where a sidewalk vendor gives him a complimentary sandwich from his cart. "They will feel more safe." Razzaq hands the sandwich to an aide and keeps moving.

Twice a day, Razzaq patrols the troubled neighborhoods in his battalion's sector of Baghdad. He's checking on his troops, who have set up checkpoints in the area. And he's listening to what merchants, local leaders and ordinary people have to say about security in their neighborhoods.

"I am an officer, but my job is like a tribal leader," says Razzaq, who in this polarized society refuses to say whether he is a Shiite Muslim or a Sunni.

So there you have it; we promise, we deliver. I wonder -- how many of these stories made the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post? Maybe they were too busy telling us how Iraq was a lead-lined catastrophe, an utter disaster, how it has collapsed into a full-blown civil war "by any definition" (just like 1864!); so we should just declare defeat and redeploy over the horizon... say, in the Philippines.

I guess tales like these just don't fit The Story.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 24, 2006, at the time of 04:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

Peaceful, Easy Baghdad Feeling?

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Has anybody else heard anything about this before today? Or on any other news service besides what we used to call "al-Reuters?" Reuters reports that Baghdad has seen a marked decline in deadly violence in the past fortnight:

Violence in Baghdad has declined in the past two weeks and all but ended in some formerly deadly neighborhoods, the U.S. military said in a cautiously upbeat report on Tuesday on a major security clampdown in the city....

A day after President George W. Bush said he was concerned about civil war and was not about to withdraw U.S. troops, the chief military spokesman in Iraq said he saw no sign of such a conflict but U.S. forces were focusing on breaking sectarian "death squads" from both Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim communities.

Twenty-two raids in the past week against such groups in the capital had led to 37 arrests, Major General William Caldwell told a news conference. He presented statistics showing a 16 percent drop in the daily average of attacks in Baghdad since August 7, at 21 compared to 25 in the preceding two months.

"What we have seen in August is a downturn," Caldwell said, two weeks after beefed up U.S. forces and thousands of Iraqi troops and police launched a new phase of what Iraqi and U.S. leaders have called a make-or-break operation to pacify Baghdad.

The decline is specifically in those areas that were hardest hit by horrific attacks:

Attacks in Dora had dropped to virtually none from 20 to 30 a day, [Caldwell] said, after U.S. and Iraqi forces flooded the area, forcing out militants and sought to win over people with offers of cash and help with municipal projects like collecting trash.

"Most of the shops are still closed," 30-year-old laborer Sabah al-Shujairi said of his part of Dora. "But security is getting better. Before, we used to hear gunshots all over but now you rarely notice a thing. There is a relative calm."

And for those still believing that the perennial leakers of classified information are merely public-spirited whistleblowers with no political axe to juggle, let's read between the lines here:

Figures leaked from the Pentagon last week indicated that the number of bombs planted to hit troops or civilians in July was almost double that in January, a record since the invasion. But Caldwell said there had been a decline since last month.

I notice that the leakers rushed to let news organizations know that July was the bloodiest month in some time, with a death rate that exceeded 100 Iraqi civilians per day; but those same leakers -- still unlocated, still with the same access to new figures -- found no particular urgency in leaking figures showing a significant decline in the death toll this month.

I wonder why not?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2006, at the time of 03:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

Politics by Other Means

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Bill Roggio at Counterterrorism blog outlines how al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to win the hearts and minds of Sunni Iraqis by bribes and threats.

The late Musab Zarqawi tarnished the image of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in Iraq by killing too many innocent Iraqis... and often personally cutting off the heads of victims. Even Sunni Iraqis, who had seen Sadam Hussein's treatment of the Shia, were nauseated by the brutality of al-Qaeda.

Zarqawi's successor -- Abu Ayyub al-Masri -- has recognized that killing innocent Iraqis does not gain popularity for al-Qaeda. Recruitment for suicide bombers is not meeting the quota; although they can kill people by the bus load, threats alone are not enough to control the Iraqi people. In order for them to turn Iraq into terrorist haven, they need support from the local community.

In other words, al-Qaeda in Iraq has decided to enter politics. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, spokesman for multi-naitonal force, explains:

The sectarian violence in and around Baghdad defines the framework of the ongoing conflict in Iraq. Within Baghdad, death squads and terrorists are locked into a mutually reinforcing cycle of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shi'a extremists portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups.

In regards to al-Qaida in Iraq, their leadership has outlined the end state towards which their propaganda efforts are currently working. Specifically, as given to us by those who have been detained over the last two months, they seek to portray al-Qaida in Iraq as a legitimate political organization to be viewed as the alternative to the legitimate, duly-elected government of Iraq.

Their primary goal in discrediting the government of Iraq is the expulsion of the U.S. from Iraq in order to remove support for the government of Iraq and impose themselves, al-Qaida in Iraq, as the power.

This is yet another reason why it is critical that we stay at least long enough to build up not only the New Iraqi Army (already ready to assume complete authority in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces), but also the Interior Ministry forces -- the Iraqi police. Once both these groups, plus the national government, are able to function entirely on their own, we can pull most of our troops out, leaving only a small force to assist the Iraqis if need be and also to serve as a platform from which to strike elsewhere in the region.

In mirror-image form, it is equally critical for al-Qaeda to boot us out before the job is done. But aside from influencing the Democratic Party with predigested propaganda distributed through the elite media, how exactly does al-Qaeda plan to acheive this goal?

Al-Qaida in Iraq is making a concerted effort to gain legitimacy by marketing itself to the Iraqi people as a credible, helpful organization that appeals to Iraqis in desperate social and economic situations while projecting a civic-minded image. [That is, by doing in Iraq exactly what Hezbollah does in Lebanon: replace government assistance with their own, so that Iraqis will come to think of al-Qaeda as their "tribe."] They have produced propaganda that blames coalition forces and the Iraqi government for problems such as unemployment, security, government corruption, gas prices and the lack of power, in hopes that this will empower them to take on the role as their protectorate....

In regard to recruitment, al-Qaida in Iraq offers money, cell phones and vehicles to prospective recruits. These items appear somewhat attractive to young men. However, placement and access into the inner circles is won through personal associations, demonstrated loyalty and vetted experience. Key personalities are known associates of trusted members. Abu Uzman (sp) stated that his recruiting plan for the Umar (sic) Brigade relied on his associates talking with people they knew, who then talked to others and so on.

Americans and Coalition forces by and large destroyed the Sunni "resistance" movements against the occupying forces; however, new sectarian violence, instigated by al-Qaeda and fueled by Muqtada Sadr and his al-Mahdi "Army," cannot be so easily wished away.

To create a stable Iraq, we need the support of Iraqi Sunnis, as well as the Shia; Iraq cannot be seen by the Sunnis as a sectarian State. Too, we must be vigilant against al-Qaeda propaganda, and we must purge Shiite extremists; in other words, Sadr must die and the Mahdi Militia be obliterated. Maj. Gen. Caldwell concludes thus:

However, Iraqi security forces, with coalition forces in support, continue to degrade the al-Qaida in Iraq network by removing key to mid-level leadership and aggressively targeting the internal foreign fighter facilitator networks.

As al-Qaida in Iraq attempts to recover from this degradation, they continue to be a primary instigator of sectarian violence in Iraq. A significant portion of detained terrorists are providing clear, actionable intelligence for Iraqi and coalition forces to continue the methodical, deliberate efforts to eliminate terrorism here in Iraq. Iraqi and coalition forces will continue to work closely with each other and with the Iraqi citizens to establish peace and security throughout Iraq.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 21, 2006, at the time of 04:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

Good News from Iraq

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Mysterious Orient
Hatched by Sachi

Recently, I found myself getting too discouraged to write about good news from Iraq -- simply because I hear too much about bloodshed everyday. But then it got me thinking: hasn't it always been like this? Wasn't this the very reason I decided to start reporting good news in the first place?

Yes, folks, there is plenty to report. Just because we don't hear much about it in the elite media doesn't mean there isn't any.

First, some news from Samawa. Don't bother following the link -- it's all in Japanese! I'll translate it for you:

Orphanage Completed With Private Donations
August 9, 2006, Asahi.com

In Samawa, in southern Iraq, an orphanage was completed using private donations collected from Japan....

The facility is 360 square meters and can hold 240 students. The Lions Club in Saitama prefecture collected the "lion's share" of the 23 million yen building cost ($200,000)....

According to Mr. Ohno [of the Middle East Research Institute of Japan], Iraqi orphans were normally raised by their tribes. But due to the lengthy war, the economical situation had gotten difficult. "It is not safe in Iraq. There are too many deaths. I wanted to help people who are trying so desperately to live," Mr. Ohno said.

On another front, it was widely reported that after three years of deployment, the Japanese Self-Defense Force withdrew from Iraq. However, the Japanese Air Force is still there, still transporting supplies and wounded. Japanese forces have not left Iraq! Not yet, at least.

Meanwhile in Baghdad and Ramadi, US and Iraqi forces captured 60 Shiia militiamen and killed 34 Sunni insurgents. From Reuters :

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops rounded up 60 suspected militants overnight in a security clampdown to stem violence in the capital and killed 26 insurgents in a rebel Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad [they mean Ramadi -- the Mgt.]....

The sweep through the southern Baghdad district of Arab Jabour targeted a suspected bomb-making cell linked to attacks across the city of seven million.

"The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks, like the attack in Mahmudiya July 17 that killed 42," the U.S. military said in a statement.

In a separate operation in a south Baghdad district called Um al-Maalif, Iraqi soldiers killed eight militants.

Beefed-up U.S. and Iraqi forces this week began a systematic operation to claim back Baghdad's most dangerous rebel strongholds in an attempt to restore security and shore up confidence in the new Shi'ite-led government.

We are completing a lot of great jobs in Iraq... let's keep it up! Murtha or no Murtha, we won't cut and run. "No retreat, no surrender."

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 12, 2006, at the time of 11:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

Good News from the Front Lines - News Roundup

Afghan Astonishments , Global War on Jihadism , Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

There is a lot of good news from the two main fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan; but you're not likely to have heard of any of these small victories unless you read a lot of milblogs.

First, Iraqi Army forces took down six death squad suspects. From ThreatsWatch:

Iraqi Army forces conducted a pre-dawn raid in Baghdad on July 25, capturing six targeted insurgents, all of whom are believed to be involved in ‘death squad’ activities.

As coalition force advisers looked on, Iraqi forces raided an objective in southwest Baghdad consisting of four separate buildings and captured the cell leader and five other key members of an insurgent ‘punishment committee.’

Iraqi forces also seized two AK-47 assault rifles, one pistol, and one set of body armor.

The operation occurred without incident; there were no Iraqi or coalition force casualties.

Hm... that's not good: we captured six bad guys but didn't lose any of ours. Does this violate the Fairness Doctrine?

Second, "Capt. B" at Milblogs reports that the U.S. Marines rescued three kidnap victims in Fuhuylat, Iraq:

Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment rescued three hostages and uncovered a large weapons cache, including a fully-assembled suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, during Operation Spotlight.

The intelligence-driven operation was conducted alongside Iraqi Army soldiers from 2nd and 4th Brigades, 1st Iraqi Army Division recently. The three hostages were personal assistants of Dr. Rafa Hayid Chiad Al-Isawi, an Iraqi government official in Baghdad. They were held by al-Qaeda insurgents for 27 days....

Marines also recovered IEDs and IED-making material, mortar tubes and round, artillery rounds, machine guns, bulk explosives, anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, AK-47 assault rifles, small-arms ammunition and video cameras.

I think I can hear Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) already, calling our Marines bullies for not giving the Iraqis a chance. At least, given recent Democratic comments about Israel's "disproportionate" response, I assume that's what Reid would say, if he knew about this raid. Fortunately, he gets his news from the elite media, so he hasn't heard anything. At all.

The situation in Iraq is serious, but Iraqi forces are stepping up to the plate. Alongside American forces, they are raiding and arresting bad guys, not caring whether they're Shia death squad or al-Qaeda combatants.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, coalition forces killed seven terrorists who attacked them. From CENTCOM:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A Coalition patrol killed seven extremists on July 25 after they attacked Coalition forces in the Garmser District of Helmand Province.

There were no Coalition casualties in the fight. The Coalition unit received small arms, rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire from a group of extremists. The Coalition force returned fire, killing five insurgents

Later in the same area, insurgents fired small arms at an Afghan National Army mortar team, with a Coalition embedded tactical training team attached. The combined unit responded with machine gun fire and killed the remaining two insurgents.

“If enemy extremists fire upon Coalition forces, we will respond with deadly accuracy,” said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, Combined Joint Task Force -76 spokesman. “If they attack Afghan civilians, we will respond just as forcefully. We remain committed to engaging any threats to the peaceful future of the Afghan people.”

Afghan National Security forces continue to maintain a strong presence in the area of Garmser and provide security that will enable reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects to be delivered that will improve the lives of the Afghan people.

I don't know, it sounds awfully disproportionate to me: we inflicted seven deaths, six captures, and released three hostages from those poor, honest terrorists just doing their jobs (kidnapping and terrorizing, butchering the innocent, the usual stuff), without losing a single one of our guys.

Is that allowed under the New international Proportional-War Theory?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 29, 2006, at the time of 06:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Not Puppets

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, John Hinderaker of Power Line posted a heart-felt demand that we find and execute the terrorist swine who first killed Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker in Iraq and then mutilated their bodies:

In this instance, [President Bush] should put that reticence behind him and commit the full resources of this nation to avenging our soldiers' murders. And I'm not talking about capturing the perpetrators and feeding them three religiously appropriate meals a day in Guantanamo Bay.

With great respect and unaccustomed humility, I fully understand exactly how he feels; but I think that's about the worst damned idea I've heard in years.

Weak countries are ruled by national sentiments and emotions. Great ones are driven by national interests.

I understand Hindrocket's "cold fury," and he has every right to be furious: these jihadis behave like rabid dogs, then turn around and demand the full panoply of "rights" that properly belong only to actual prisoners of war from countries that fight with honor -- not dishonorable, subhuman targeters of the innocent and eaters of the dead. Still and all, it would be a mistake of almost cosmic proportions for Bush to follow John's advice this time.

Not because of any moral issue. I would happily put a pistol against any terrorist's head and squeeze the trigger, and I would not feel even a single, momentary pang of guilt or grief. However, in this case, committing the "full resources of this nation" to hunting down these barnyard animals is wrong for the same reason that torturing captured terrorists is wrong: because it's an ineffective and counterproductive way to fight this war.

I don't want to lop off the terrorists' hands; I want to waterboard them -- because that actually works.

Right now, the terrorists do not control the targets of the Coalition. They do not control the tempo; they don't control the time, the tools, or the level of tension. They control nothing; they have been reduced to being purely reactive... we pick a time, place, and target to launch an attack; the terrorists try to survive, then try to retaliate.

But they can't, not really; they cannot stand up to us in battle, and they know it. Instead, they're reduced to the cowardly shame of attacking defenseless Moslem women and children; and the whole ummah now considers them a sick in-joke, a thing that is either nauseating, pathetic, or laughable.

Terrorists would love nothing better than to become relevant again, to control the world around them. And what Hindrocket proposes would have exactly that effect: whenever terrorists feel neglected and ignored, all they need do is mutilate a U.S. soldier's corpse, and we rush to "commit the full resources of this nation to avenging our soldiers' murders."

It's structurally similar to paying ransom: we become puppets on a jihadi string, performing a herky-jerky jitterbug whenever they yank on the cords. "Look how weak and impotent the Crusaders are!" they will cry; "we can draw them here, we can draw them over there, we can tie them up for month after month!"

Far better, but very difficult, to do just what President Bush is doing: ignore provocation and go about the inexorable business of grinding them up like summer sausage... at a place and time of our choosing, at a tempo that we dictate, using whatever tools and allies we select. This response takes guts and willpower; but it's frighteningly effective for whomever has the tenacity to see it through.

That is the greatest revenge and will hurt them far more than a bootless hunt through the wilderlands of Anbar and Ninewah, which would probably be about as effective as our futile hunt for Osama bin Laden through the crags and clefts of the Tora Bora Mountains.

We have control right now; we are the wind, they are the sand. Like the old Outer Limits TV show:

We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear.

That is what I want to see, John. That is why we are prevailing now and will continue until our job here is done.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 10, 2006, at the time of 07:47 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

July 07, 2006

Great News Just Keeps On Coming in Iraq

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Iraqi Security Forces, accompanied by U.S. air power, captured two high-ranking commanders in Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia yesterday -- though one of the captured lieutenants may have been trying to create his own militia. The ISF also killed or wounded more than thirty of Sadr's fighters.

The two unfortunates are "Abu" Diraa, captured in eastern Baghdad, and Adnan al-Unaybi, arrested 60 miles south of Baghdad, near Hillah. On a cheery note:

An al-Sadr aide, Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, denounced the Baghdad raid, saying 11 civilians were killed and dozens wounded as U.S. jets fired on the area as people were sleeping on their roofs because of the searing summer temperatures and electricity shortages.

Perhaps Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) will rise, balancing precariously on his hind legs, and demand an immediate court martial for the pilots and flight officers who committed these war crimes against humanity.

And on an even more cheerier note:

There were no casualties among U.S. or Iraqi soldiers, the Americans said.

There, that's what I'm talking about -- a kill ratio of infinity to one. All right, as you were. Just thought you'd like to hear about these raids. If we don't point these things out -- who will?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 07, 2006, at the time of 04:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 02, 2006

Teleblogging 1: Finding Even More of the Wrong Kind of WMDs In Iraq

Iraq Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

Proving themselves utterly without shame or humility, American forces have insisted upon finding even more chemical weapons in Iraq:

The U.S. military has found more Iraqi weapons in recent months, in addition to the 500 chemical munitions recently reported by the Pentagon, a top defense intelligence official said on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not specify if the newly found weapons were also chemical munitions. But he said he expected more.

"I do not believe we have found all the weapons," he told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, offering few details in an open session that preceded a classified briefing to lawmakers.

He may not have specified, but I doubt he would have bothered telling the Armed Services Committee about finding a cache of AK-47s, IEDs, or cherry bombs -- which he knows nobody on that committee cares about.

At the Armed Services Committee, Maples also asserted that the rockets and artillery rounds that had been found were produced in the 1980s and could not be used as intended.

Ah -- this must be what the pooh-poohers mean by saying (in Mark Steyn's memorable phraseology), that no matter how much WMD we find, it's always the wrong kind. LG Maples' key qualifier, of course, is "used as intended."

Sadly, such autonomic gainsaying is not the exclusive reaction of Democrats or even of Democrats, the State Department, and the CIA; now we have to add the top brass at the Pentagon to the list of those who find it more urgent to find nothing than to find something, even if something is actually there to be found. (I'm probably being too harsh to LG Maples. Consider him a stand-in for the generals I really want to yell at.)

For example, even if the WMD found could not be used "as intended" (that is, being fired from and artillery piece), could it be used not-as-intended to cause death and destruction anyway? Judge for yourself. After first enunciating the soundbite above, he added the following, which completely undercuts the obvious point of the first statement:

If the chemical agent, sarin, was [sic, subjunctive case] removed from the munitions and repackaged, it could be lethal. Its release in a U.S. city, in certain circumstances, would be devastating, Maples said.

Devastating! So is it the wrong kind of WMD or the right kind? To me, it sounds like the right WMD but the wrong delivery system... and I'm very, very glad we got it away from the terrorists before they repackaged it.

Oh, and an addendum. In the category "shouldn't there be an IQ test before someone can run for Congress," here is the entry from Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA, 90%):

"It's very difficult to characterize these as the imminent threat weapons that we were told we were looking for," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat.

It has become a full-time profession, with a corner office and a pension plan, to inform Democrats that indeed, Bush never once said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat." Those words were never uttered -- except by shifty politicians and dunderheaded journalists looking to score a cheap knockout of a straw man.

For those who have forgotten, here is what Bush actually said about imminent threats:

Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Readers Digest translation: we can't wait until Iraq becomes an imminent threat, because by then it will be too late to stop it. So let's strike now -- when the threat is not yet imminent.

That is why we needed a new doctrine, the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Warfare. If Iraq really were an imminent threat, attacking it would have been uncontroversial. It was controversial precisely because we admitted the threat was as yet inchoate -- like a felon stocking up on heavy-duty firearms -- and argued that in today's world, an imminent threat is a realized attack, because once you discover it, it's too late to stop it.

Got it now, Ms. Tauscher?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 02, 2006, at the time of 05:10 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 30, 2006

Mahdi Militia + Iranians = Big Fat Target

Good News! , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Here is an interesting story to wake up to yesterday morning:

Iraqi and U.S. troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said U.S. helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding there.

Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which a sniper shot dead the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two of his men. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

Let's run through the points of interest:

  • Iraqi Security Forces (police) fighting side by side with Coalition (American) troops. Well, not too interesting; such cooperation has become so routine, it's almost blasé.
  • ...Fighting against a Shiite militia: in fact, Muqtada Sadr's mighty al-Mahdi "Army."

Now that's worth some attention: one of the most urgent tasks facing the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, under Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has been to persuade Sunni semi-rejectionists that even though the prime minister and the interior minister are both Shia, the country's police forces will still confront the Shiite militias that have terrorized and butchered so many Sunni.

We know that the Iraqi Army and the Interior-Ministry police forces are willing to go toe-to-toe with the Sunni terrorists; but until the ordinary Iraqi Sunni -- like, for example, Mohammed and Omar at Iraq the Model -- can be persuaded that the government cares about their lives, too, it will be very hard to reel in the Sunni hardliners.

This battle will go a long way towards reassuring the Sunni that the police are not just militias with uniforms.

  • And among the militiamen captured were a number of Iranian fighters. This is a very important discovery, since it's clear evidence that Iran is meddling with its neighbor to the west... and also more evidence that Muqtada Sadr, regardless of his denials, is in fact in the Ayatollah's pocket.

This is really great news, as the Iranian deception is coming unraveled. With every passing month, it becomes clearer that Iran is directly trying to seize control of the Shiite areas of Iraq... and harder for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to pretend otherwise, even to "impartial" European observers.

The story exhibits hallmarks of slovenly writing and muddled thinking:

[The Interior Ministry forces] did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

Uh... perhaps because they spoke Arabic with a Persian accent and were carrying Iranian identification cards? Really, doesn't Reuters suspect that Iraqi Arabs can identify Persians in their midst? They really are very different in language, culture, and even food.

The United States and Britain have accused Shi'ite Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and providing military assistance to Iraq's pro-government Shi'ite militias. However, there have been few instances of Iranians actually being captured inside Iraq.

Some Iraqis, particularly Sunnis, are quick to label Shi'ite fighters as Iranian agents. And among the militants are Iraqis who grew up in refugee camps in Iran, speak Iranian-accented Arabic and, in some cases, carry Iranian identity papers.

If they grew up in Iran, speak Persian (Farsi) as their native language, and have Iranian idenfication cards... then what the heck makes them Iraqi? Their ancestory? It's amazing to see the mainstream media embrace the racist position that one's nationality is completely determined by one's blood, not one's allegiance. These fighters are Iranian in outlook, language, and citizenship... but Reuters clearly thinks of them as "Iraqis" because that is the nationality of their progenitors!

Does that mean that my nationality is actually Polish, German, and Welsh, instead of American? With this attitude, it's no wonder that so many lefties are resurrecting the old libel about Jews having "divided loyalties." "The blood is the key!" as a mad scientist in some old horror movie said (I should ask Brad Linaweaver which flick).

If it looks, quacks, and smells like a duck, it's probably not a lampshade.

And of course, this being the antique media, the Ubiquitous Invisible Analyst makes an appearance:

Many analysts are skeptical of the feasibility of disarming large paramilitary groups linked to the most powerful political parties. Without that, however, persuading the Sunni minority to lay down their arms will also be difficult.

And these analysts' names are...? Whoops, sorry, can't reveal our anonymous sources. That's an important secret that we'll never reveal. But we have a great deal on some classified intelligence information!

But the big story is the cooperation between Americans and Iraqis under the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry duking it out with Shiite militiamen -- and capturing Iranian infiltrators in the bargain. All else is dicta.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 30, 2006, at the time of 06:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 28, 2006

Samarra Bomber Captured?

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Omar at Iraq the Model reports that the Iraqi Security Forces (we don't know whether it was the army or the police or both) have captured a terrorist who has confessed to bombing the Golden Mosque at Samarra -- the single terrorist attack that stands out for its perfidy, the vile, naked attempt to ignite a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq. (Hat tip to the Belmont Club.)

In a news conference currently being broadcast on TV, Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffak al-Rubaie says Iraqi security forces arrested Abu Qudama al-Tunisi in a raid in the suburb of al-Dhuloiya north of Baghdad.

15 other foreign terrorists were killed in the raid according to al-Rubaie.

The terrorist of Tunisian origin confessed that he was responsible for the attack that destroyed the Askari Shrine in Samarra back in February 22 of this year.

Muwaffak al-Rubaie said the security forces are still searching for Haitham al-Badri who is believed to be the field commander under whom Abu Qudama was operating.

If this is true, then this will probably rival the death of Musab Zarqawi, he should only rot in hell, alava shalom, tied for second behind the capture of Saddam Hussein -- as far as Iraqi Shia are concerned. Qudama's trial (assuming he makes it that far) should be illuminating indeed: did the bomber himself know the possible consequences of such a terrible attack?

Did the Sunni "rank and file" of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- foreign or Iraqi, they're still Sunni -- actually want to see a civil war in which, not only would tens of thousands of Iraqis die (perhaps hundreds of thousands)... but which the Sunni were virtually certain to lose badly? I thought that was one of the most insane acts in this entirely mad campaign of arbitrary assassination and meaningless mayhem.

[Iraq National Security Advisor Muwaffak] al-Rubaie described Al-Badri is a terrorist with connections to elements in the past regime who later became one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sunna and later al-Qaeda organization in Iraq....

Al-Rubaie described ho the bombing was organized and says details were taken from the confessions of the captured Abu Qudama:

4 Saudis, two Iraqis and one Tunisian entered the mosque at night, handcuffed and locked up the guards in a room and spent the night planting the bombs all around the mosque. Next day they kidnapped and murdered Atwar Bahjat while she was trying to cover the news of the bombing.

Bahjat reported for al-Arabiya.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2006, at the time of 03:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spare This Man Or We'll Shoot This Country

Iraq Matters , Laughable Lawyers
Hatched by Dafydd

Former American Ramsey Clark, now one of Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers, threatened more murder, mayhem, and anarchy in the streets unless his client is spared the death penalty:

Executing Saddam Hussein would fuel more sectarian violence in Iraq, a U.S. lawyer for the deposed Iraqi leader said on Tuesday.

"That execution would inflame a country that's already incinerating," former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said. "I hope the American people can realize that if there is ever a time to call for an end to executions, it is in this case."

"It'd sure be a shame if something were to, you know, happen to ya... capice?"

Well, now that Ramsey Clark's courtroom antics include blatant extortion -- publicly signalling the Fedayeen Saddam that a massive show of violence might spare the Dear Leader's life -- what is the next level of basement he can fall into? Will he smuggle an IED into the courthouse and hold everyone hostage unless his client is released? Or will he merely tamper with the evidence, as his colleague Leslie Abramson did in the Menendez Brothers trial?

How many defense lawyers suffer from some variant of Stockholm Syndrome, getting so involved in defending their clients -- guilty or innocent -- that they actually become accessories after the fact themselves?

At the end of this trial, I would dearly love to see Counselor Clark arrested... by the Iraqis. After all, we try the consigliere of the Mafia family right alongside the Don; why should the Iraqis let slip this golden ticket to do the world such a favor?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2006, at the time of 03:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 27, 2006

Iraqi Marsh 60% Restored

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

We have been following the progress of the Iraqi Great Salt Marsh, which was systematically drained in the early 1990s by Saddam Hussein as punishment for the Shiite rebellion shortly after the Gulf War. We talked about it before in Swamp Samurai and Swamp Samurai On the Marsh.



Iraq Great Salt Marsh: 1985 to 2000

Shrinkage of the Iraq Marsh: 1985 area (red) to 2000 area (blue)

BBC News, the only elite news source following up on this issue, has an update. According to Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraq's minister for water resources, 60% of the area has been restored. BBC reporters have overflown the area, and this is what they saw:

There were fisherman easing their narrow boats along reedbeds.

In places, we saw traditional marsh Arab villages, floating on thick mats of reeds, water buffalo wallowing alongside.

It sounds pretty good. But here comes "the big but": BBC continues: "the reality for the Marsh Arabs of today is not quite as romantic. Although the water is coming back, they have little else."

Of course, this is the antique media after all; they can't talk about good news without "balancing it" with a leavening of bad:

The government says it has now allocated millions of dollars for the marsh region - aimed at giving people "better services, education, health care and communications", says Mr Rashid, the minister.

But Kamel Mezher and other villagers say they have seen none of these funds....

[T]here are complaints [substantiated? the Beeb doesn't say] that some of the money set aside for marshland development has been misused.

When we are dealing with a country like Iraq, we must face the reality that their local politicians, civil servants, and ordinary Achmeds and Mohammeds are corrupt and incompetent. We shouldn't imagine that everything will run smoothly; it's a miracle when it runs at all!

Violence between small tribes, a lack of developmental planning, and misuse of funds hover always in peripheral vision, waiting to rise up and engulf any good project. For example, how does Iraq balance the needs of real people with the "needs" of nature?

Mr Rashid says some areas could be declared as a national park, to protect the unique wildlife....

He also talks of plans to allow small scale industry in some areas, to provide jobs. He denies there would be a conflict between "environment and development".

Despite the problems, I am encouraged by the progress. If they're to the point of arguing about preserving the environment versus developing the land, that is definitely good news indeed.



Marsh Arabs    Marsh Dwellings

Arab fisherman on the Great Salt Marsh (L); typical Marsh-Arab village (R).

And that's still a pretty picture, too.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 27, 2006, at the time of 11:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 23, 2006

Could We Start Again, Please?

Iraq Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

Is it Captain Kidd's treasure-hold or Al Capone's vault?

At last, the New York Times has finally deigned to notice that we found a huge bunch of chemical munitions -- WMD -- in Iraq... though only in the context of a story about "hobbyists" who keep alive the search for WMD. Amazingly enough, however, once you finish wincing at the patronizing theme, the story itself isn't half bad. Maybe only 0.25 bad.

Mr. [Dave] Gaubatz, an earnest, Arabic-speaking investigator who spent the first months of the war as an Air Force civilian in southern Iraq, has said he has identified four sites where residents said chemical weapons were buried in concrete bunkers.

The sites were never searched, he said, and he is not going to let anyone forget it.

The Times, they are a-changin'. But why now? I suspect the reasoning of "Pinch" Sulzberger and Bill Keller now embraces two points:

  1. As more and more WMD are found in Iraq, it becomes untenable to continue pretending not to see it. Eventually, the logo of the New York Times will have to encorporate the famous three monkeys.
  2. But -- if the Iraq Survey Group failed to find WMD that was there to be found, and if Bush ran the CIA (via his appointee, George Tenet), hence the ISG... then the "miserable failure" to find WMD can be laid at Bush's feet.

The Times has evidently arrived at the conclusion that the meme "Bush lied about Hussein having WMD" is pretty much played out... but there's still a vein of pure gold in the meme "Bush lied about Hussein not having WMD."

Admittedly, the second meme has more truth to it than the first; the only fly in the soup is that the Democrats, by pushing Meme 1 for so long and so stridently, have disqualified themselves from ever arguing Meme 2: they would have to denounce each other as liars before they could attack President Bush.

Still, that may be too subtle a point for young Pinch, as it requires a universe more than seven days wide, from three days in the past to three days in the future, with a day of rest every "today." (And Bill Keller is reportedly on vacation, ducking the angry response to the Times having outed yet another program to track terrorists.) Certainly, the Times manages both to disparage the WMD hunters while still embracing their main arguments:

Some politicians are outspoken allies in Mr. Gaubatz's cause. He is just one of a vocal and disparate collection of Americans, mostly on the political right, whose search for Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons continues....

The proponents include some members of Congress. Two Republicans, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania held a news conference on Wednesday to announce that, as Mr. Santorum put it, "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

American intelligence officials hastily scheduled a background briefing for the news media on Thursday to clarify that. Hoekstra and Mr. Santorum were referring to an Army report that described roughly 500 munitions containing "degraded" mustard or sarin gas, all manufactured before the 1991 gulf war and found scattered through Iraq since 2003.

Such shells had previously been reported and do not change the government conclusion, the officials said. [That is, discovering 500 unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq does not change the conclusion that there were no unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq. -- the Mgt.]

Even Fox News gets some favorable press in the press:

Such official statements are unlikely to settle the question for the believers, some of whom have impressive credentials. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant general, Thomas G. McInerney, a commentator on the Fox News Channel who has broadcast that weapons are in three places in Syria and one in Lebanon, moved there with Russian help on the eve of the war.

And they have even had some successes, at least in moving the administration off of its parrot-like repetition that there were no WMDs in Iraq:

The weapons hunters were encouraged in February when tapes of Mr. Hussein's talking with top aides about his arsenal were released at the Intelligence Summit, a private gathering in northern Virginia of 600 former spies, former military officers and hobbyists....

In March, under Congressional pressure, National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte began posting on the Web thousands of captured Iraqi documents. Some intelligence officials opposed the move, fearing a free-for-all of amateur speculation and intrigue.

But the weapons hunters were heartened and began combing the documents for clues.

Mr. Gaubatz, 47, now chief investigator for the Dallas County medical examiner, said he knew some people might call him a kook.

So let's consider the themes in this excerpt: there are bunch of sincere kooks and hobbyists, including retired lieutenant generals and CIA officers, who are still looking for WMD in Iraq -- the existence of which is being denied by the incompetent Bush administration. (Got 'em coming and going.)

But at least they are finally placing before the American people the fact that there was a lot more WMD in Iraq than we were ever told by the Iraq Survey Group -- run by the CIA, which is a child of the State Department. If the ISG could miss 500 artillery shells and rockets loaded with chemicals such as Sarin and mustard gas, couldn't they also have missed jugs of VX and vials of Smallpox and Anthrax?

The entire edifice of "Bush lied about WMD" is crumbling. I doubt that many Americans will be mollified by the Democrats, the antique media, and the State Department (through surrogates in the CIA) saying, "It's all right, Saddam's WMD was from before the Gulf War and is only 80% or 75% as deadly as it was back then... so it doesn't count."

Naturally, the Times continues the charade that weapons of mass destruction were the only reason we went to war with Iraq; lost down the memory hole are all the other casus belli:

  • Repeated violations of the truce agreement that suspended (not ended) the Gulf War;
  • Failure to disclose disposition of WMD (this is different from merely having it; Iraq lied again and again what they did with it);
  • Defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, most especially United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, but also Resolutions 660, 661, 678, 686., 687, 688, 707, 715, 986, and 1284;
  • Repeated attacks on United States military forces -- including firing upon American aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone;
  • The attempted assassination of a former president of the United States;
  • Ongoing crimes against humanity -- mass murder, ethinic cleansing, and environmental crimes;
  • Harboring international terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda, wanted for committing murderous acts against America (triggering the Bush Doctrine);
  • And most important, that Iraq was an illegitimate military dictatorship whose replacement by democracy and rule of law will start to drain the swamp of jihad in the heart of the ummah.

But the same Times story also touts several impressive achievements of these "hobbyists": not only did they get the NID, John Negroponte, to start putting on the web captured Iraqi intelligence and military documents; not only did they force the release of the report we talked about here; but recently, Gaubatz also got a meeting with officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency to try to persuade them -- at long last -- to start searching sites where residents claim WMDs were buried.

There is no question that most of such claims will fail to pan out. That is the nature of such a hunt... and if David Kay and Charles Duelfer were not in such a blasted hurry to declare defeat and head home, they would have understood that.

We should never have stopped purposefully looking; look how much we've found completely by accident. It's my understanding that the National Ground Intelligence Center is primarily tasked with investigating possible hazards to our troops; when soldiers or Marines stumble across a find that they think might be dangerous -- chemical, radiological, or biological -- they call the NGIC to come out, investigate, and dispose of the dangerous materials.

The NGIC is not out combing the hills and sand dunes, looking for WMD. That was the job of the ISG, which quickly disbanded itself after just a few months in the field.

What if they had they been sent out with a mandate to stay so long as our troops were in Iraq, searching continuously; would they have found these shells? Would they have found the other stuff that Iraq claims but cannot prove to have destroyed? Could they have investigated new claims of Syrian or Sudanese complicity in moving WMD out of Iraq?

Would the CIA have been so quick to dismiss all the WMD we found as "the wrong kind," as Mark Steyn put it, if that attitude were not a ticket to get them back home almost as fast as John Kerry's bogus Purple Hearts?

We'll never know... unless we bite the chemical shell and restart the search. But this time, leave the pathetically political CIA out of the loop. This search is a military matter, and it should be conducted by the Pentagon, using whatever military intelligence or force assets they need.

Mr. President -- could we start again, please? And this time, do it right: no time limit, no geographical limit, and without starting from the assumption, as the ISG did, that "there's no there there."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2006, at the time of 05:46 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

Those Darned 500 Chemical Artillery Shells That Shouldn't Exist

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

So far, besides the Cybercast News System (CNS) article cited in our previous post on this subject, I've found only a few other MSM reports on the WMDs that have been found in Iraq since 2003. Here's the story by Fox News; it's well written and gives us both sides -- actually "fair and balanced," if you like.

(It even links to the 4-page declassified summary of the original document, though it's not particularly informative.)

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist."

This is, of course, the "bombshell" (sorry) lede of the story... a story that AP, Reuters, and the New York Times have chosen not to even bother covering. Not even to debunk it! The antique media has for the most part left "the liberal man's burden" to tireless lefties, such as Weldon Berger at Betsy the Crow and Ellen at News Hounds, and to the Washington Post (more on that later).

The Santorum argument is that finding WMDs in Iraq means there were WMDs in Iraq to be found... but that the myriad international inspectors and the Iraq Survey Group failed to find; This seems pretty reasonable on its face and hard to counter.

The gist of the argument against is about what we predicted: these are chemical shells from before the 1991 Gulf War, so they don't count.

I'm not sure why they don't count; BTC seems to believe that "degraded" is the same thing as "disintegrated," and therefore these shells are harmless toys. This is preposterous enough that I'm sure Berger doesn't really believe it himself; it's just something you say to calm your troops, reassure them that (as Timothy Leary used to say) "situation normal, nothing has changed."

In fact, we don't know that all of the 500+ shells we found are unfirable; we don't know whether they could be used to deadly effect as IEDs; we don't know whether terrorists are clever enough to extract the Sarin or mustard gas and make their own WMDs; and we don't know how many of these shells have already been sold or given to terrorist groups -- to al-Qaeda In Iraq, for example. So it's a bit thick to dismiss their existence with an airy wave of the hand and a Scroogian "bah, humbug!"

Back to the elite media: the Washington Post is the only representative of that club to lumber forward with a debunking article. Alas, fantasy (literally) collides with reality in a self-indulgent dream world, and fantasy gets the better of it. Here, read this; you wouldn't believe me if I just told you about it:

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered....

The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.

This is astonishing on several levels:

  • How on earth does Dafna Linzer (the writer, one of the most anti-Bush writers for the Post) imagine he knows whether or not the Iraqis had "long forgotten" about those hundreds of chemical shells? The translated Iraqi documents make frequent reference to such caches.

    It's clear that Linzer simply added that line -- unsourced -- to make it appear as though the chemical munitions were no threat.

  • In an inversion of the normal rules of evidence, Linzer's point in the first graf above appears to be that we can't have found these chemical shells -- the official DoD report notwithstanding -- because the Pentagon said, back in 2004, that we hadn't found any WMD. Except for the pesky fact of "several crates of the old [chemical] shells" containing Sarin, found that same year... but which don't count, according to unnamed "intelligence officials" and Dafna Linzer.

Look, either we found the 500 shells or we didn't. If we did, then the Pentagon was wrong to close the books in 2004. If we didn't, then the Pentagon is wrong to report today that we did. Either way, whether we found them is not determined by what the Defense Department or the CIA said years ago. This one is a real head-scratcher; does Linzer really believe such nonsense?

The New York Sun has a more straightforward news article:

Since the formal search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was called off in January 2005, the American military has found more than 500 shells of ordinance containing Sarin or mustard gas.

While the shells are believed to date from the Iran-Iraq war, two Republican lawmakers are saying it raises enough questions for the president to order a new search for the biological, chemical and nuclear weapons program he said Saddam Hussein was concealing from the international community before the invasion of Iraq.

Particularly with the wealth of information we've gained from translated Iraqi military and intelligence documents, which were not available or not translated and sorted through in January, 2005... at least some of which refer to specific caches of WMD in specific sites.

The lefty bloggers keep saying the Pentagon has dismissed this report. What they refer to are unidentified "Pentagon officials" who say that these chemical shells were "not the weapons we were looking for." The Sun:

Indeed, unexploded chemical ordinance dating from before 1991 are different from the stockpiles of anthrax and other toxins the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council in January 2003 was awaiting inspectors in Iraq.

Yes, they are different: anthrax and "other toxins" (they mean VX and other nerve agents, as well as biological cultures) are significantly easier to hide than big, heavy artillery shells made out of metal.

And why, exactly, wasn't the Iraq Survey Group looking for Sarin-filled chemical artillery shells in small caches, scattered around the country? Isn't that exactly how we would expect to find an Iraqi WMD "stockpile?" If the ISG wasn't even looking for these, then we certainly should start a new search... and this time, look for everything -- not just for a big warehouse in Tikrit with a sign reading "Achmed's WMD -- Get 'Em While They're Hot!"

The Sun acknowledges the real point -- unlike the Washington Post, which is too busy pooh-poohing:

The latest information about the chemical weapons shells, however, is most damaging to those who suggest the work of former weapons inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer have provided the definitive word on the whereabouts of the suspected WMD, according to the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Duelfer after 18 months was not able to find this stuff," Mr. Hoekstra said. "We made this determination that hundreds [of weapons] were found. I think this is a significant quantity. What does this say about all of the other issues that continue to be raised [such as] stuff transported to Syria. I don't believe everything that is out there is credible, but it shows how much we still don't know."

That, of course, is the real lesson here: the ISG searched for a year and a half, after Saddam had been deposed... and they didn't find any of this. But since then, our soldiers and Marines have stumbled across more than five-hundred shells actually loaded with deadly chemicals... does that not speak volumes about the effectiveness of weapons inspectors in general?

If the ISG couldn't find these, under the ideal condition of actually occupying the country they were searching, then it's brutally clear that inspection regimes simply do not work.

Bear that in mind for future engagements.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt just perfectly encapsulated the line of attack by the Democrats:

No matter what WMD we find, it always turns out to be the wrong kind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 22, 2006, at the time of 02:24 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

June 21, 2006

Possible News Flash: WMD Found In Iraq?

Iraq Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

I can't find any information about this yet -- evidently, it just broke within the last hour or so -- but supposedly, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA, 96%) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 100%) just held a presser and announced that we have found a large number of chemical shells (Hugh said "500") filled with Sarin gas in Iraq. This according to Hugh Hewitt, who just announced it during his interview with Chris Hitchens.

Big Lizards has no, zip, zero, nought, nada information about this; in fact, consider this post a plea for further information from anyone who can scrounge something up. We're left saying "wha-? huh-? who ordered the veal cutlet?"

I'm a little skeptical; Hoekstra is chairman of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, but Santorum is only chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- a leadership position but nothing specifically to do with intelligence or armed services (Santorum's committees are Agriculture, Banking, Aging, and Finance). I understand why Hoekstra would deliver such a presser, but why Santorum? It always makes me suspicious when a stunning announcement is made by someone who does not, on paper, have any business making such an announcement.

Neither pol has anything about this on his website, at this moment. And we've been burned before by premature announcements of WMD finds.

We have argued for some time, here at Big Lizards (most recently in Mahmoud, Son of Xerox), that indeed we have found WMD in Iraq: empty chemical shells and rockets sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump with 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin is a "chemical weapon" in the same sense that an unloaded 9mm in the same house as a bunch of ammunition is a "firearm," and any felon caught in the second situation would be just as guilty as if the pistol were actually loaded. However, the Iraq Survey Group repeatedly refused to call such finds evidence of WMD.

But this -- if true -- would be a stunning development; not even the CIA would be able to argue that a bunch of shells loaded up with Sarin didn't constitute WMD. But as I said, I'm "Sgt. Schultz" at this moment.

As Matt Drudge likes to say, "developing..."

Help us out here... enquiring minds very much need to know!

UPDATE 4:11 pm: A bit more from Hugh... Santorum and Hoekstra are not talking about a single find; they're saying that since 2003, we have found "over 500" chemical weapons containing either mustard gas or Sarin (more likely, Cyclosarin, in our Lizardly opinion; Iraq was one of the few countries to use Cyclosarin, a pesticide, in chemical weapons... in fact, used in combat).

These are "pre-Gulf War" weapons; but their existence today obviously proves they existed before the current Iraq War began... hence, Bush was right that Iraq had CBW -- and the CIA was wrong about being wrong about WMD. Not only that, but the sacred "inspectors" of UNMOVIC and UNSCOM all failed to find these hundreds of chemical weapons... but I suspect Saddam Hussein knew where they were.

Hugh is interviewing Sen. Santorum right now: evidently, this comes from a partially declassified report from the National Ground Intelligence Center, possibly under the U.S. Army. Evidently, Santorum heard a tip about the existence of this classified report (secret, not top secret); he contacted Hoekstra, who had not heard of it (!) Hoekstra nosed about and found it; then he prevailed upon the "intelligence community" (I guess that would be the NID and the various service heads) to produce an unclassified version for release.

It was finally released at 4:30 pm EDT, and the intelligence committees were briefed a half-hour later; Hoekstra then told what he could legally tell to Santorum, and they called their press conference... which only 4-5 reporters bothered to attend. (That's not "the story," you understand.)

Santorum said that a version of the report was either published on a blog or at least discussed, but he could not remember which one or when that was.

But if we couple this report with several recently declassified and translated documents that, er, document ongoing Iraqi efforts, right up until the current war started, to conceal, disperse, and hide chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear program, then I think we are reaching a point of near certainty: Bush was right after all about WMD in Iraq.

We should eventually be able to find information about this here; but it's not there yet, at least not that I can find.

Commenter Mike has given us a link to a preliminary news report from Cybercast New Service (CNS) about this document. Thanks, Mike!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 21, 2006, at the time of 03:46 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

Revenge Killing? Hardly

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

In the last couple of days, al-Qaeda in Iraq killed one soldier, then kidnapped and killed two others. It's sad but expected: this is a war, and we're fighting terrorists whose interest in killing goes beyond mere revenge or warfare to a bizarre form of ceremonial cleansing and death worship.

The new leader of AQI, Egyptian-born Hamza Muhajir, a close friend of AQ number two Ayman Zawahiri, took credit for the killings. Big Lizards strongly suspects that sending a close friend and ally of Zawahiri to take over the organization founded by the now-dead Zarqawi is Osama bin Laden's and Ayman Zawahiri's way of regaining the control over al-Qaeda that they lost when Zarqawi, for a long time, became the most brutal and efffective player under the al-Qaeda ("the base") banner.

The home office is trying to recapture the rogue branch office. Zawahiri complained to Zarqawi that the latter's obsession with killing Iraqis was destroying the organization in the hearts and minds of Iraqis and even other Arabs. Zawahiri demanded that AQI focus more on killing the "crusaders" (Americans)... and the first set of killings by Muhajir indeed seem to be following the Zawahiri line, not the pattern set by Zarqawi.

It won't last; Zarqawi turned to killing Iraqi civilians because he discovered just how hard it is to kill Americans, and the same dynamic will force Muhajir down the same bloody road.

There is no guarantee the home office will succeed, even if Muhajir can stick to the Zawahiri plan; there are many more local butchers who will fight to keep control of al-Qaeda in Iraq in Iraq, and not let it return to Waziristan (or wherever OSM is hiding) -- though one major ally of Zarqawi, "Sheikh Mansour," was just killed (see below).

Some call the brutal torture-murder of the American soldiers a "revenge killing" for our successful attack on Musab Zarqawi; but that is ridiculous. Does anyone seriously argue that if we hadn't killed Zarqawi, AQI wouldn't have kidnapped or killed those two American soldiers?

That is what they do. They kidnap westerners and Iraqis alike, then kill them by brutal torture. This was an attack of opportunity, and it didn't start on June 7th.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of fallen soldiers. But please, our boys did not die in vain. Just before the ambush on these soldiers, a U.S. air strike killed a key AQI leader -- described (as usual) as a "religious emir."

Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani, or Sheik Mansour, and two foreign fighters were killed as they tried to flee in a vehicle near the town of Youssifiyah, in the so-called Sunni "Triangle of Death."

U.S. coalition forces had been tracking al-Mashhadani for some time, American military spokesman William Caldwell said in announcing his death. He said al-Mashhadani was an Iraqi, 35 to 37 years old, and that one of the men killed with him was an al-Qaida cell leader identified as Abu Tariq.

(Yet another al-Mashhadani! It does seem to be a common Iraqi name: in addition to Ali al-Mashhadani -- the Iraqi "journalism student" and former terrorist suspect who first claimed the US Marines massacred civilians in Haditha; Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani -- head of the previously unknown Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring who handed the suspect video to Ali; and the recently killed Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani -- see above -- there is also Mahmud Dawud al-Mashhadani, president of the Iraqi Parliament. Perhaps it's a tribal name.)

One more fascinating point about "Sheikh Mansour":

A document seized from an al-Qaida hideout and released by National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie that portrayed the Iraqi insurgency as being in "bleak" shape was directly linked to Mansour, Caldwell said.

Now there's food for thought.

But that attack, wonderful though it was, was not all that we've been up to. While Coalition forces were searching for our two missing solders, we managed to kill or capture even more insurgents:

Caldwell said that Iraqi and American troops involved in the search for the missing soldiers killed three suspected insurgents and detained 34 in fighting that wounded seven U.S. servicemen.

And elsewhere in Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S.-led forces killed 15 terror suspects and detained three others during raids Tuesday in a village northeast of Baghdad, the military said. Residents said 13 civilians also were killed.

The military said the raid targeted individuals linked with a suspected senior al-Qaida in Iraq member, but it did not identify him....

Coalition forces found 10 AK-47 assault rifles, a shotgun, a pistol and a crate of explosives at the site, the military said.

So, they killed three of our guys; and meanwhile, we killed 21 and captured 37. If the ambush was to avenge Zarqawi, then incoming AQI leader Hamza Muhajir is off to a grinding halt.

Oh, by the way, the terrorists who fled the US forces were found hiding behind the skirts of local women:

The detained suspects had fled but were found hiding amid nine women, the military said. It said one of the suspects was wounded, but the women were not injured.

How typical. This is the real picture of the "brave" enemy forces we face.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 20, 2006, at the time of 04:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Veteran Reporters

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

We have many reporters in Iraq; the major news organizations all send someone (usually many "someones") over there. Yet we rarely get accurate pictures of the battleground. Why?

The most frustrating thing about the antique media's coverage is the lack of perspective. It's true that most reporters are biased against our military; but the reality is much dumber: the reporters are simply too ignorant about the military and warfare to be coherent.

Many reporters have no basic knowledge of the armed services: not only have they never served in the military, they don’t even have a friend who has. Consequently, they don't understand how military operations work, what to expect, how missions are carried out, how long it takes, the overall strategy, or how one battle relates to another. That is why we hear random reporting of a battle here, an engagement there, without anyone ever engaging the reader. We "news consumers" have no idea if we are making any progress, because the media has never told us what "progress" would even look like.

Decades ago, we had a draft. While an army of conscripts has a lot of problems (just ask the Soviets), near universal conscription had one benefit: every male in America had either served himself or at least had close friends, relatives, and coworkers who served; and every woman had brothers, sons, or husbands who were in the military... so everybody knew who the servicemen were; they were not "others" or "outsiders;" the men on the wall peopled our own communities, from doctor to grocer to banker.

Most Americans have lost that connection; a huge chunk of those who serve are now professional, career warriors, and they hang with their own (as do the civilians). Fortunately for us, however, there are some extraordinary people who themselves had distinguished military careers, who then turned to reporting from the frontline after being honorably discharged.

For example, we already know Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who has been in Iraq and Afghanistan since Day 1. And we've followed the exploits of our fellow blogger Bill Roggio, also a former Army Special Forces soldier, once of Fourth Rail but now in Afganistan reporting on the Counterterrorism Blog.

Now we can add two more names to the list: Wade Zirkle, a former Marine Lieutenant who served two deployments to Iraq; and David Bellavia, a former Army Staff Sergeant, one of the many heroes of Second Falluja. (Hat tip Black Five)

Zirkel and Bellavia are the executive director and vice chairman (respectively) of Vets For Freedom, a non profit organization composed of Iraq and Afganistan veterans dedicated to telling the truth about the war. Lest we quote Pontius Pilate, "the truth" is what they, as soldiers and Marines, actually saw and participated in... not the rude caricature that slouches through the halls of Congress, led around by Murtha, Kerry, and Pelosi.

Vets for Freedom was founded by a group of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who believe in the mission of freedom in the Global War on Terror, but who have become frustrated with the way the operation has been politicized and reported to the home front.

Zirkel and Bellavia have just gotten back to Iraq as journalists and started their reporting. Bellavia is amazed by his completely different perspective as a reporter, rather than a soldier whose sole focus is his own mission:

Baghdad is absolutely beautiful. I mean shockingly majestic. This is a city for years we have been told is unsalvageable and I was amazed to see this level of cleanliness…

I feel that is the first time I have visited Iraq. Deploying to a place during a time of war and playing a part of that offensive operation, it is impossible to have any point of view besides the constant assessment of threat and responsive force. You can't appreciate landscapes or city streets. You are more preoccupied with observing the fine elements of city life and not the larger picture of community and family. You could deploy me to the Guggenheim and I wouldn't comment on anything other than the job at hand. Infantrymen are vigilant, quick tempered toward the enemy and always focused. Today I feel none of those things and that really is a great feeling.

Please read on. And salute when you're finished!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 20, 2006, at the time of 06:34 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 16, 2006

Intrigued, Not Convinced

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Michael Ledeen over at NRO believes the "planning document" seized in a raid shortly before we killed Musab Zarqawi is a "terribly done...shockingly amateurish...unbelievable" forgery by the Iranians.

I'm not convinced; but he does raise some intriguing questions that beg for answers.

The conceit of the piece is that Ledeen is consulting his Ouija Board to channel the spirit of James Jesus Moreno Angleton, a former CIA counterintelligency guy who died in 1987; in the "dialog," JJA refers to this disembodied spirit -- which is Ledeen's way of raising the questions. (Don't ask.)

For example, here is an early exchange:

JJA: Well, the assumption about this piece of paper is that it reflects the thinking of at least one important terrorist leader, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be important.

ML: Obviously.

JJA: So how come this terrorist leader makes so many mistakes? I mean, blatant factual errors. Let’s start with his statement -- #5 in the first set of numbered paragraphs -- that there has been “a decline of the resistance’s assaults.”

ML: Well, our casualties are certainly down, aren’t they?

JJA: Not really. May was one of the worst months since the fall of Saddam. Recently there’s been a dramatic increase in assaults and the number of dead innocents. Precisely the opposite of what the unnamed “leader” says.

May was bad, but April was a lot better. The document itself bears no date; so my first question for Ledeen would be, when does he think it was written? (Note the Breitbart.com has the wrong origin for the document; it came from a raid that preceded the death of Zarqawi.)

In the end, Ledeen concludes that it's a deliberately clumsy forgery by the Iranians in order to sow FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about any other papers we might find. But this still requires the document not to be a blatant fraud, else it wouldn't sow anything but laughter.

E.g., the fake evidence of Iraqi attempts to obtain yellowcake was only effective insofar as it was good enough to be believed; that way, some governments might have based all or part of their analysis on it. Then, when it's shown to be a fake, their entire intelligence structure is discredited. Those countries which rejected the fraud from the very beginning, notably the United Kingdom, were unscathed.

Thus, Ledeen's basic theme is inherently goofy: if it were a fraud by an advanced intelligence agency like Iran's, they wouldn't have put so many mistakes into it; however, we have certainly seen documents from, for example, the Iraq Intelligence Service prior to the invasion, that were sweeping in their inaccuracy... yet still provably authentic. It is entirely possible that a particular terrorist writing a particular document might be behind the times and not know that they had launched more attacks in May; he might well still be operating off of April's numbers, no matter when he wrote it.

So mere mistakes are not convincing to me. Let's move on to Ledeen's other criticisms.

JJA: And then — #6 in that first batch — he says that there’s been “an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation.” I guess he doesn’t read Italian, does he? And even the Brits have announced they’re going to leave. Again, the opposite of the facts. I could go on, but you get the point, don't you?

I think this is just a clumsy mistake on Ledeen's part (see? anyone can do it!) Probably, the writer of the document is referring to increased support from the ummah, from the Arab Moslem countries:

However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance for the following reasons....

6. By allowing an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation or at least allowing to become neutral in their stand toward us in contrast to their previous stand or refusal of the occupation.

Over the last year or so, a number of countries, particularly Arab countries -- and especially particularly Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- have offered a lot more help to the US in the GWOT in general and even in matters related to the terrorist threat in Iraq. That is most likely what the writer here is talking about, and Ledeen's claim of factual error in the document is simply wrong itself.

Here is another line of attack where I think Ledeen just plain misunderstands the point of the writer of this document:

JJA: Look at #2 in the second group of numbered paragraphs, the ones that make recommendations. It says that the terrorists should “infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard..... In fact they've done it, as everybody knows. The Iraqi people trust the army but they are terrified by the national guard, precisely because there are so many terrorists and terrorist agents in it.

First of all, Ledeen makes a very elementary mistake: the forces of the Interior Ministry are not called "the National Guard." That word in the document comes from the translation supplied by the Iraqi government; as it is not the standard word used for either the New Iraqi Army (Ministry of Defense) or the Iraqi Police (Interior Ministry), we know that it is a mistranslation.

What we do not know off the bat is what is should have read. But we can deduce; here is the description from the document itself:

1. By allowing the American forces to form the forces of the National Guard, to reinforce them and enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance.

That does not sound like a description of the Iraqi Police; they are more or less intact from the Saddam era. But after we toppled the Baathists, one of the first things we did (it was controversial, but I think necessary) was to disband the Iraqi Army and begin forming a New Iraqi Army. And it is the Iraqi Army, not the Iraqi Police, that we have spent so much time training to "enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance."

Thus, when the translator uses the term National Guard, he clearly refers to the New Iraqi Army -- not the Iraqi Police. Once you realize that, the statements about the "National Guard" make perfect sense, coming from a Sunni terrorist:

Such a study is needed in order to show the best means to accomplish the required goals, especially that the forces of the National Guard have succeeded in forming an enormous shield protecting the American forces and have reduced substantially the losses that were solely suffered by the American forces....

2. To assist some of the people of the resistance to infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard in order to spy on them for the purpose of weakening the ranks of the National Guard when necessary, and to be able to use their modern weapons.

Substitute "New Iraqi Army" for "National Guard" above (instead of substituting "Iraqi Police"), and it all falls into place.

Finally, there is what Ledeen evidently considers his killer argument:

JJA: Aha! It emerges bit by bit, but the whole thrust of the document is that Iran is a sweet innocent, actually an ally of the United States in Iraq, and that the terrorists should do everything possible to foster conflict between Iran and the Americans.

Here is what the document says:

It is not known whether American is serious in its animosity towards Iraq [sic -- Iran], because of the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Hence, it is necessary first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America and the west in general, of the real danger coming from Iran, and this would be done by the following.

But again, there is a ready explanation: the Iranians are helping the resistance... but they're mostly helping the Shia, not the Sunni; in fact, Iran-backed Shiite militias (notably that of Muqtada Sadr) are infiltrating the Iraqi Police in order to massacre Sunnis in the centrals areas of Iraq.

Sunni terrorists may well consider this "big support" to the Americans -- who they see as being in league with the Shia.

Thus, nearly all of Ledeen's objections are at least themselves questionable. This is why I say his column intrigues, but it does not convince.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 16, 2006, at the time of 06:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2006

Untrustworthy Narrator

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

Dafydd's post below about the "treasure trove" of information we seized from al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia before Zarqawi's death missed one interesting point: AP, which reports on the document, doesn't seem to be sure it's really authentic:

The language contained in the document was different from the vocabulary used by al-Qaida statements posted on the Web. For example, it does not refer to the Americans as "Crusaders" nor use the term "rejectionists" to allude to Shiites.

Much of what is in the statement from al-Rubaie echoes results that the U.S. military and the Iraqi government say they are seeking. It also appears to reinforce American and Iraqi arguments that al-Qaida in Iraq and its operatives are a group of imported extremists bent on killing innocent civilians.

I guess they think that U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell might have written it himself, the way they believe our military is always running around planting evidence.

I sure wish they would apply the same level of skepticism to the Haditha accusations.

Dafydd replies: Oops, good catch. My media skept-o-meter is broken today!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 15, 2006, at the time of 04:43 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

That hit on Musab Zarqawi turns out to have been the first shot of a new offensive that has already netted staggering gains, making it one of the most effective operations of the period following the capture of Saddam Hussein:

American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.

He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements."

I make that 863 bad guys we no longer have to worry about... just in the last week.

Meanwhile, the so-called "insurgency" is not just on the ropes... it's in despair. A document which was actually found before the Zarqawi hit portrays a terrorist campaign desperate to turn the Shia against Americans, to foment a war between the United States and Iran, to jump-start the Muqtada Sadr insurgency... anything to take the heat off of themselves:

A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday. The document, purporting to reflect al-Qaida policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein, also appear to show that the insurgency in Iraq was weakening....

Although the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the document was found in al-Zarqawi's hideout following a June 7 airstrike that killed him, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the document had in fact been found in a previous raid as part of an ongoing three-week operation to track al-Zarqawi.

The document makes clear that we are winning this war. There is no way that Zarqawi's replacement, Egyptian terror boss Ayyub Masri (a buddy of Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's "spiritual leader" and founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad), can possibly hold al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia together as well as Zarqawi, its founder. They will certainly continue plotting terrorist attacks; but they will likely be smaller and less effective, and more likely to be disrupted by Iraqi forces or by Coalition forces. The "director" is dead, and the second unit can't finish the movie.

Amazingly, even the elite media is being forced to report on the increasing tempo of victory. While Anne Frank was hiding in an attic from the Nazis (they would eventually find and murder her and her family), she wrote what is probably the greatest testament to optimism ever penned: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

My God, what an moving paean for that girl to write in those circumstances.

I don't know if I could go that far; but to paraphrase Frank, in spite of everything, I still believe in the innate rationality of the American voter. He can be fooled for a time, especially when one party has nearly all of the mainstream print and television media in its pocketses... but "you can't fool all of the people all the time," to quote another great optimist.

It's said that a lie can get halfway round the world before Truth finishes lacing up its boots. But here's an addendum that's often forgotten: when Truth finally gets out the door, it stomps the speedy lies as flat as roadkill. The American people will come to their senses in time, just as they did in 2000, 2002, and 2004.

And then we'll find out whether the Democrats exemplify yet another saying: "insanity is doing the same thing in the same way with the same outcome a hundred times, but expecting a different result the hundred and first."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2006, at the time of 04:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

John Kerry's "Murtha Moment"

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) has been reflecting on his presidential campaign: on the one hand, he did better in the primaries than former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who ran on a radical anti-war platform; on the other hand, Kerry was dogged throughout the general election season by demands to know why he had voted for the war.

But on the other hand, he came up with an answer to why he was still supporting it: "I actually voted against the $87 billion before I voted for it." But on the other hand, that answer didn't sit well with the electorate.

But on the other hand, in his upcoming campaign for the 2008 presidency, he has Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 100% -- "have war chest, will travel") running incongruously to his right; but on the other hand, the Democratic primary voters seem even further to the left than they were in 2004.

Having run out of hands, Kerry finally decided that this time, he will take the Al Gore route: he will run far, far to the left. Accordingly, he has denounced himself for voting for the Iraq War and for supporting it all these years. (We'll see whether Kerry will vote against the $94.5 billion compromise funding legislation next week -- which includes $68.5 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan; "I actually voted against the $68.5 billion before I voted for it.")

And in expiation for his sins, Kerry demanded that the Senate vote on his proposal to withdraw all but the most essential troops from Iraq "by year's end."

Kerry began working on submitting a formal version of this bill. Alas, he was a laggard... and he allowed Assistant Majority Leader (Majority Whip) Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 100%) to get the jump on him:

The Senate vote unfolded unexpectedly as the second-ranking leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced legislation he said was taken from a proposal by Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and war critic. It called for Bush to agree with the Iraqi government on a schedule for withdrawal of combat troops by Dec. 31, 2006.

Kerry protested in his angriest airy monotone, but to no avail:

Democrats sought to curtail floor debate on the proposal, and the vote occurred quickly.

Kerry and other Democrats accused Republicans of political gamesmanship, and promised an authentic debate next week.

And of course, the result fell out just as did the House vote on the Murtha Amendment to "redeploy" U.S. forces in Iraq to "over the horizon" positions (that is, outside the country): on the Kerry amendment, the Senate voted 93 to 6 to reject setting a timetable for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq. Murtha tried to save face by voting against his own resolution; Kerry, however, is made of sterner stuff: he joined with five other Democrats (and no Republicans) to vote in favor of his own proposal:

  • Barbara Boxer (CA, 100%);
  • Tom Harkin (IA, 100%);
  • Edward M. Kennedy (MA, 95%).
  • John Kerry (MA, 100%);
  • Russ Feingold (WI, 100%);
  • Robert Byrd (WV, 95%);

Remember those names, gentle readers; they are the face of today's Democratic Party... the face of retreat and surrender.

In the meanwhile, the Democrats are not yet out of the woods:

The [Senate] vote came alongside a daylong debate in the House, where Republicans defended the war as key to winning the global struggle against terrorism while Democrats excoriated President Bush and his policies.

"We must stand firm in our commitment to fight terrorism and the evil it inflicts throughout the world. We must renew our resolve that the actions of evildoers will not dictate American policy," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in remarks laden with references to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The war was "a grotesque mistake," countered the Democratic House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. "The administration continues to dig a hole. They refuse to come up and see the light," she said.

The political subtext was clear from the outset.

"Is it al-Qaida or is it America? Let the voters take note of this debate," said Republican Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia, attacking war critics as defeatists who do not deserve re-election.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate are finally starting to wake up to the fact that an election looms, and that it will be bitterly contested on both domestic and foreign-policy fronts. For the latter, no foreign issue is as politically important (at the moment) as the Iraq War: unless Republicans can turn around some public sentiment on that war, at least among wayward Republicans, they could lose heavily on November 7th.

So they have begun to stage a series of votes that will force Democrats and Republicans to state firmly where they stand. In the Senate, they forced Democrats to repudiate en masse two of their likely presidential candidates: Feingold and Kerry. The alternative was for the Democrats to acquiesce in labeling themselves the "cut and run" party.

And in the House, after the "impassioned" debate, Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL, 100%) will force a vote on whether the Iraq War is or is not part of the Global War on Terror:

Republicans arranged for the House debate to culminate in a vote either late Thursday or Friday on legislation - a [sense of the House] resolution - that labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism and says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest.

This is excellent work so far. You know it's effective for the Republicans by the squeals of outrage from Democrats, accusing the GOP of playing "partisan games." But we need a series of such votes on domestic wedge-issues, too -- from taxes to same-sex marriage to partial-birth abortion to federal control of the schools vs. school vouchers.

The purpose of such votes is to show the differences between the parties... or in some cases, as with the Iraq votes, to show that however much the Democrats may bluster about having better ideas, in fact they have no ideas at all and are reduced to parroting the GOP. Armed with that information, voters can choose whether to vote Republican or Democratic for their own representatives and senators.

This vote, like every vote, is a choice -- not a "referendum."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 15, 2006, at the time of 03:30 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

June 12, 2006

Provenance

Iraq Matters , Israel Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls
Hatched by Sachi

[Dafydd also contributed extensively to this article.]

We often describe a situation where different parties are saying completely different things, and there is no way to tell which is right, as a case of "he said, she said."

But to the antique media, when the "he" in this equation is a Moslem jihadi, then "he said, she said" usually turns into "he said, and that's good enough for us!"

Take the recent attack at the beach in Gaza, where seven (or eight) Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed by... by what? Palestinian spokesmen who were not present at the time insisted it was by an Israeli shell... and that's good enough for the UK Times online:

Israeli artillery fire killed a Palestinian family who were picnicking on the beach in Gaza yesterday, as the shoreline was packed with people on a Muslim holiday.

Body parts, bloodstained baby carriages and shredded holiday tents were left strewn on the sand near Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, after the late- afternoon strike that killed at least seven people, thought to include the parents and children of one family.

They seem awfully certain it was Israeli artillery fire, and not an errant Qassam rocket, that killed the civilians; but why? What is their source for saying so? They never say; in the entire article, not once does the UK Times online tell us how they know it was the Israelis and not Hamas that fired the deadly weapons.

The New York Times weighs in on the same story -- and takes the same line. After all, just because Hamas is a terrorist organization that specializes in killing innocent men, women, and children, wants to see Israelis all driven into the sea, believes Jews are responsible for all the ills afflicting the Palestinian and Arab peoples, and which has lied many times in the past, doesn't mean we can't take their word when they say that they know for certain that the family was killed by Israeli shelling (that's what the Ouija Board said):

Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel, a day after eight Palestinians were killed on a Gaza beach, apparently by an errant Israeli shell.

"Apparently?" What does that mean? Apparent to whom?

Israeli officials said they regretted any casualties among the innocent as Israel tried to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by shelling the areas from which they were launched. Defense Minister Amir Peretz sent a message expressing regret to Mr. Abbas, who called the incident "a bloody massacre" and declared three days of mourning.

On Friday, the Israeli Army was shelling a target area popular with rocket launchers 400 yards from the beach. The army believes that a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded.

The "army" believes? I guess they mean the Israeli Defense Force... but who exactly within the IDF told them that? Where did they get such information? The New York Times is no more willing to reveal a source for unraveling this mystery than their namesake in London was.

Here is a very interesting pair of sentences from the NYT story. Maybe somebody can figure out "what is wrong with this picture":

Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel....

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinians have fired hundreds of largely inaccurate missiles toward Israel, while Israel has fired more than 5,000 shells into Gaza.

That's a very interesting "truce" Hamas has been observing! What did they do, promise to limit the number of missiles fired at Israel to only "dozens of the inaccurate but potentially deadly Qassam rockets each month," as the UK Times put it?

And if the Qassam is so "inaccurate but potentially deadly" -- it has no guidance system at all -- then isn't it at least equally likely that the explosive thing that killed those eight (or seven) Palestinians on the beach was a Qassam, not an Israeli artilly shell gone awry? How do the two Timeses know to such certainty that the family were accidentally killed by Israelis (a "war crime"), rather than accidentally killed by Hamas militants (a tragic error?)

Associate Press has its own version of the story (this is starting to sound like the movie Rashomon), but it adds an interesting twist:

Pounding on the sand, Houda Ghalia shrieked for her father after he was killed with five of her siblings at a seaside picnic by what Palestinians said was an Israeli shell.

Footage of the 10-year-old screaming "Father! Father!" has played over and over again on television, driving home the devastating impact of what Palestinian leaders are calling "genocidal" and "a war crime...."

Israel expressed regret Saturday for the killing of eight civilians, but stopped short of taking responsibility, saying an investigation was under way.

Israel's military chief said the killings may have resulted from a misfired Palestinian rocket. Palestinians insisted they were caused by an Israeli artillery shell.

So maybe the IDF doesn't think that "a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded." At least, the part of the IDF that spoke to AP doesn't agree with the part (if any) that spoke to the New York Times. Never let your AP hand know what your Times hand is doing.

And everybody ignores the undisputed fact that previously, someone from Gaza was shooting Qassam rockets into Israel, despite a supposed "cease fire." Isn't that significant in deciding whether something was a "war crime," let alone "genocide?" (Do Palestinians even know what the word "genocide" means? Palestinians, other Arabs, and most Israelis are actually the same "race": Semites.)

As in Rashomon, we can never know for sure whose errant whatever actually fell on the beach and killed those seven or eight civilians. Even if the Israeli investigation shows that whatever fell left Qassam pieces, not artillery pieces, behind, who will believe them? The world would rather believe Hamas terrorists than Jews.

The same thing can be said about the Haditha "massacre." All we have are the words of anti-American "civilians" who may be in cahoots with the terrorists themselves... and a questionable videotape that only proves that somebody died violently somewhere in Iraq more or less around the time of the claimed "massacre." We don't even know whether those bodies in the video go with that incident or some other incident days earlier or later.

The MSM ignores the not so hidden agenda of the "witnesses" and "reporters;" after all, why bother investigating when you have handy Marines to blame?

This battle is being waged with very sophisticated propaganda tools: on Special Report with Brit Hume Friday night, during the "Grapevine" segment, Jim Angle showed a photograph that was run by the London Times, and later picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. It showed a number of dead Iraqis stacked up against a wall; the victims' hands were all bound behind their backs, and the wall was riddled with machine-gun bullet holes.

The London Times claimed that the photo showed Iraqis murdered by the US Marines in Haditha. Days later (maybe weeks), it was evidently pointed out to them that the photo did not match any of the witness statements about what supposedly had happened -- even from the Iraqis' point of view. The magazine investigated and discovered that the picture they'd run was actually of a group of Shia who were murdered by Sunni terrorists; it had nothing to do with Haditha or with the Marines.

The London Times (and the Chicago Sun-Times) eventually ran a correction and apologized. But that begs the question: how could a supposedly respectable newspaper editor and publisher look at such a photograph and say, "oh yes, that jolly well looks like just the thing the American Marines would do." What would make them think such a thing?

They might say "where there's smoke, there must be fire." But they, themselves are the ones who put all the "smoke" there in the first place. The only reason people keep thinking that US forces engage in massacres is that the elite media keeps saying so; they say so because it's so obvious to them, everyone knows it; and it's so obvious because, after all, look at all those other unsubstantiated stories of massacres in other newspapers.

It's the most circular of all circular arguments.

But finally, our side is speaking up.

A sergeant who led a squad of U.S. Marines accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha told his lawyer the unit did not intentionally target civilians, followed rules of engagement and did not try to cover up the incident, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The newspaper said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, told his lawyer several civilians were killed in November when the squad went after insurgents firing on them from a house. But Wuterich said there was no vengeful massacre and described a house-to-house hunt that went awry in a chaotic battlefield, his lawyer said.

"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the investigations of the deaths.

"He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians," he said.

I am not saying we should blindly believe what SSGT Frank Wuterich says. But we should understand it is still "he said, he said" -- not "he said, and that's good enough for the Times."

I will refrain from expressing my own opinion as to whom I would believe. We should wait for the investigation to be completed... in both incidents.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 12, 2006, at the time of 03:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 08, 2006

Musab Zarqawi Dead

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

According to Associated Press, Reuters, and the New York Times, confirmed by Iraqi officials and by the United States military by fingerprints and a direct look at his dead face, the erstwhile leader of al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia has officially attained room temperature.



Zarqawi RIP

Exit Musab Zarqawi

I thought that would be a nice day-brightener for breakfast. Go, team!

From the Times:

Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an American airstrike on an isolated safe house north of Baghdad at 6.15 p.m. local time on Wednesday, top U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Thursday.

At a joint news conference with Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the top American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said Zarqawi's body had been positively identified by fingerprints, "facial recognition" and other indicators. He said seven of Zarqawi's associates had also been killed in the strike.

Reuters explains why it matters that we finally "terminated" Zarqawi (Prime Minister al-Maliki's word):

"Zarqawi didn't have a number two. I can't think of any single person who would succeed Zarqawi.... In terms of effectiveness, there was no single leader in Iraq who could match his ruthlessness and his determination," said Rohan Gumaratna from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Oh and here's an extra bit of good news (She Who Must Be Obeyed is sleeping now, the more fool she, or she would have gotten to make this announcement): we haven't heard much about this, but the Iraq government has finally filled the two critical ministries that they'd been dithering about for weeks now, Interior (police) and Defense. Still Reuters:

Iraq's parliament approved on Thursday Maliki's candidates for new defense and interior ministers.

By a clear majority, it approved Jawad al-Bolani, a Shi'ite, as interior minister and General Abdel Qader Jassim, a Sunni and until now Iraqi ground forces commander, as defense minister.

Out of 198 deputies present in the 275-seat assembly, 182 voted for Bolani while 142 supported Jassim, the speaker said.

The two key security jobs were left temporarily vacant when Maliki's government of national unity took office on May 20 because of intense wrangling among his coalition partners.

Over at Iraq the Model, Omar has one other piece of information that is interesting:

Al-Maliki said that among the 7 killed with Zarqawi were two women who were responsible for collecting intelligence for the al-Qaeda HQ cell.

I guess even militant Islamist jihadis are forced to make affirmative-action hires...!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 08, 2006, at the time of 04:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 05, 2006

Swamp Samurai On the Marsh

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

Back in February, we discussed the Great Salt Marsh in Iraq, home of the Marsh Arabs, in our post Swamp Samurai. Saddam Hussein systematically destroyed the marsh by building numerous dykes and dams, displacing many Marsh Arabs who resided in the area -- first, before the Gulf War, simply to siphon off more water for the Sunni farms; then later to punish the Shiite Marsh Arabs for their rebellion against Hussein in 1991. (That was the rebellion encouraged -- but then not supported -- by President George H.W. Bush, "Bush-41.")

When the Coalitiion ousted Hussein, local Arabs destroyed the dykes. Coalition forces, particularly the Japanese, began restoring the marsh. Those efforts are showing a remarkable result.

Last time we reported that, as of August of 2005, 37% of the Great Salt Marsh had recovered. Now the June issue of BioScience has an update (hat tip Belmont Club):

Reflooding of Iraq's destroyed Mesopotamian marshes since 2003 has resulted in a "remarkable rate of reestablishment" of native invertebrates, plants, fish, and birds, according to an article in the June issue of BioScience.…

Richardson and Hussain report that 39 percent of the former extent of the marshes had been reflooded by September 2005. Despite incomplete data, the researchers found that in many respects the restored marshes they studied are functioning at levels close to those in one marsh that remained undrained. The fast recovery of plant production, overall good water quality, and rapid restoration of most wetland functions seem to indicate that the recovery of ecosystem function is well under way.

There is no way to know whether the increase in reflooding will proceed linearally; but it might give us a thumbnail guess of how long it will take to restore the marsh completely. From August to September 2005, an additional 2% was restored. That is a rate of 24% per year; as a very rough estimate, by September 2006, we might see 63% of the marsh restored, with full restoration by April, 2009.

But there are one-time events that may not reoccur, including a greater than normal snowmelt into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, leading to greater than expected river flows. It's probable the rate of reflooding will slow during the future, drier months:

Richardson and Hussain are not complacent about the marshes' future, however. The researchers point out that water inflow is unlikely to be sufficient to maintain the encouraging trends in coming years.

What we really don't know is how much of the marsh needs to be restored before the Marsh Arabs begin moving back in larger numbers. 90%, or 80%, or even 75% of the marsh may be able to support the full population of Marsh Arabs; we don't know how well it was utilized before the Baathists and Saddam Hussein destroyed it.

It also brings up a point that "environmentalists" never like to admit: nature is incredibly resilient. Anybody who has ever visited a jungle environment, from Africa to South America to Southeast Asia to the mangrove swamps of the Southeast United States -- understands how greedy nature is, always grabbing the land the moment humans turn their backs. Far from being fragile, nature is so powerful that it takes constant maintenance to keep it from encroaching on cities and homes.

We can't really say how long it will take to fully restore the marsh. But for the moment, at least, the work is going very well... not that you would know much about it from the popular press. For some unaccountable reason, "good news" stories out of Iraq seem to bore antique media editors and producers to tears.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 05, 2006, at the time of 03:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 04, 2006

The Skeptical Enquirer

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

The video report by CNN's Ryan Chilcote is interesting (click on "Watch a Marine's anguish over death").

The video of three child "survivors" of the alleged attack in Haditha was not taken by CNN reporters; they were not allowed to speak to any of the supposed witnesses. Iinstead, a representative of an unidentified human rights organization (which might have been the same Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, which produced the first videotapes of the supposed witnesses) "went back" to Haditha and videoed the three children.

But unlike CNN's usual uncritical acceptance of any narrative by supposed "victims," Chilcote's seems somewhat skeptical of the children's account. He says they have obviously told the story many times, which implies to us that they were coached. They did not need any probing.

Chicote noted that one of the girls made a very puzzling claim:

I knew the bomb was going to explode. So I covered my ears.

The Iraqi reporter does not follow-up to find out how she knew, or if she really did have foreknowledge; instead, the person from the "human rights group" dismisses it by saying the little girl was just "confused."

That may be true. But it's surprising that a CNN reporter would raise that point, that he was not satisfied with the explanation. If he were there, he would certainly have asked more (and more probing) questions.

I, myself have a question: the surviving children described the "massacre" in detail as a deliberate spree of premeditated, "execution style" murders.

But if that is how it happened, why were these child "witnesses" allowed to live? I can understand if the family members were killed during the fog of war, or in a fit of anger; I could understand that if the Marines were shooting at things in random, the chidren might survive. But if the report is correct, the Marines are supposed to have killed people methodically and at point-blank range... including several other children. In that case, why would they leave anybody alive, especialy witnesses?

We know that children can be coerced to say almost anything; see the McMartin case. Children have only a tenuous grasp of the essential difference between reality and fantasy or the consequences of bearing false witness. They can be browbeaten into falsely accusing their own parents of child molestation just to please the total stranger who is interrogating them. They can be threatened, either directly or by proxy (threatening their survivng relatives).

We also don't know the relationship between the children and the reporters. Children's relatives can be terrorists, terrorists sympathisers, or could have been threatened by terrorists; and "human rights groups" can be front groups for Musab Zaraqawi's al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia group. Each incongruity or unexpected connection forces us to examine the chilredn's stories carefully for internal consistency and consistency with the forensic evidence, as it develops.

Everything yields to the physical evidence; the supposed eyewitness testimony is less than useless, because they cannot be qualified as witneses and they cannot be relied upon to be honest: the city of Haditha is a terrorist stronghold, and many people might come forward and claim to have witnessed the American "atrocity."

If the DNA and ballistics evidence shows conclusively that the bullets which killed the civilians came from the guns used by the Marines -- or alternatively, that they did not -- then any inconsistency of the eyewitnesses' account is irrelevant. Similarly, if the physical evidence itself is inconclusive, the eyewitnesses accounts alone, questionable as they are, cannot be deteminative of the findings.

We must, of course, wait and see. What else can we do? But it's interesting that at least one CNN reporter, who has seen the complete footage of the interviews with the children, is starting to have doubts.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 04, 2006, at the time of 05:19 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

June 02, 2006

Questions? Who Cares? It Bleeds, So It Leads

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Now that the first wave of hysterical overreporting is past -- where antique media sources casually tossed around phrases like "U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of November 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead" (which "military officials" were those? why can't we find any such confirmation on the record?) -- we are finally starting to get a little skepticism... at least some probing questions.

Alas, aside from one CNN reporter who became suspicious about some of the children's Haditha testimony (which Sachi is working on a post about), all of the questioning is coming from the blogosphere.

But that's actually not bad: I've thought for some time that the best us of blogging is not to engage in original reporting (most of us have no access to the resources necessary to chase down stories), is not opinion-mongering (yeah, get in line, pal!), but rather applying actual skepticism to claims of certainty by the major media.

For example, Sweetness and Light has noted two interesting points about Iraqis involved in the Haditha story:

  • Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, the reporter who conducted the video interviews of the supposed survivors and witnesses, was just released in January after being held for five months at Abu Ghraib on suspicions that arose in connection with photographs he had in his camera (possibly of terrorists setting up IEDs) and other evidence that connected him with terrorist groups.

    Al-Mashhadani also wrote the major Haditha story for Time Magazine on March 21st, which is still being used by news services today as the template: claims, accusations, even entire phrases are still being lifted from this story... written by an Iraqi stringer who, whether you believe he was innocent or guilty, has more than enough reason to hate the American Marines.

    Additionally, al-Mashhadani shares a last name with the head of the Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani; Hammurabi is the group that first brought the supposed Haditha "massacre" to Time's attention. Sweetness and Light notes this may not mean much, if it's a tribal name; but the reporter sharing an unusual last name with his primary source should have been investigated by Time before running the story... if only to add "no relation to," if that's the case.

  • Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, the Haditha doctor who claims to have examined the bodies of the victims of Haditha and claims that they were all "shot in the chest and the head -- from close range" also claims to have himself been tortured by U.S. Marines back in October. Again, regardless whether this is true or false, if he actually believes it, it gives him ample reason to very much want to find that the Marines executed innocent people in November. (And if he doesn't really believe it, but he's saying it anyway, that's even worse.)

(Hat tip for the above to Little Green Footballs, and to commenter MTF, who first brought this to our attention in the comments of another post on this blog. Thanks, both!)

This must be set against the background of a previous claim of American forces -- soldiers, this time -- "massacring" innocent women and children in Ishaqi (north of Baghdad)... a claim that has now been emphatically refuted by a U.S. military investigation of the incident:

U.S. officials described a nighttime raid aimed at finding a specific guerrilla, who then fled the building but was later caught.

U.S. forces at the site began taking direct fire from the building, and the commander at the scene "appropriately reacted by incrementally escalating the use of force from small arms fire to rotary wing aviation, and then to close air support, ultimately eliminating the threat."

A defense official said an AC-130 gunship was called in to help.

As with the Haditha incident, local police forces and local "civilians" (scare-quotes because we really don't know, do we?) had claimed that the troops intentionally massacred the victims at Ishaqi:

Police in Ishaqi [said] five children, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up.

They said all the victims were shot in the head, and that the bodies, with hands bound, were dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Television footage showed the bodies in a morgue. Their wounds were not clear, although one infant had a gaping head wound.

This sounds eerily reminiscent of what is claimed about Haditha; but it turns out to be a complete fabrication. Which is not, of course, evidence that the Marines behaved appropriately at Haditha; we await the forensic evidence to draw any conclusions about that.

But these three points together do make the case that eyewitness testimony and even "expert" opinion are not necessarily as reliable in a country like Iraq, with its tribal affiliations and serious terrorism problem, as they might be in a more civilized country with more institutional safeguards against officials and witnesses simply making stuff up, either due to collusion or because they have been threatened into doing so by the very people who benefit most from these charges: Musab Zarqawi's "al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia" organization.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 02, 2006, at the time of 05:21 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

June 01, 2006

Haditha vs. Abu Ghraib

Atrocious Analogies , Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

I want to make perfectly clear what I'm talking about in this post: in the real world, the allegations (no proof or even evidence yet) of what was done at Haditha are of course infinitely worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. A series of deliberate murders of children, women, and non-combatant men is obviously far more horrific than mere humiliation.

That aside, let's turn to the lesser question of politics... which could turn out to be of more moment than the reality.

The politics of Haditha may well determine whether we continue in the Global War on Terrorism. If the anti-war, anti-Bush maniacs can spin this into a Nuremburg trial, where the entire military is indicted for war crimes and atrocities, then the 110th Congress (which begins next January) may severely curtail the war effort... and if there is a Democratic president in 2009, he or she may simply pull us out, willy-nilly. So as sad as it may be to admit, the politics and the policy are inextricably intertwined.

So it's fair to ask, what will the politics of Haditha be?

If a thorough investigation ends up exonerating the Marines, then I believe there will be little problem: the usual suspects (here, in Europe, and in the Middle East) will scream cover-up; but theyr'e always crying "wolf!" anyway. We've already factored in that reaction.

So for analytical purposes, the only case that needs to be looked at is the awful possibility that the charges are at least partly true: that some Marines did, indeed, deliberately kill civilians, possibly even including children.

I am not saying that happened; I am saying that is the only case where we really have to ponder how it may affect the war effort. Any lesser result of the investigation will have no particular effect at all.

Surprisingly, I believe that even if the essential Murtha charge turns out to be true, Haditha will not have as big an impact on public support for the war as Abu Ghraib did. We have spent so much time thinking about the substance, which is much worse than Abu Ghraib, that we've failed adequately to address the politics... which would be much less destructive than Abu Ghraib.

I know a lot of you are incredulous, but walk a few steps with me first.

What was it that caught our attention most about Abu Ghraib? It wasn't concern for the prisoners; we know they're most likely terrorists or at least terrorist supporters. They have killed innocents, and not many Americans care one way or another if they are tormented.

It was not the claim that prisoners were being beaten or threatened with dogs; we all understand that imprisonment is force, and war is deadly force -- and sometimes, those who administer force go too far. We punish them when they do; but we also understand why they did.

No... what stunned and infuriated voters was the sheer perversion of those American troops. Stripping Iraqi prisoners naked? Dressing them in women's clothing? Having a woman dance around and jeer at -- and publicly fondle -- their genitals? This is just weird, disgusting, sick, lurid stuff that belongs in the pages of the National Enquirer, not the playbook of military prison guards.

It was creepy: one of the rumors was that Lynndie England spent a lot of time prancing around the prison nude herself... not only in front of prisoners, taunting them, but the other American soldiers themselves. This claim of exhibitionism, whether true or false, is the kind of abnormal sexuality that preys upon the American sense of decency and morality. We desperately do not want to think of our soldiers as the sort of people who hang out in public restrooms and expose themselves. Any scandal that forces us to do so -- Tailhook, for instance -- outrages the American people more than almost anything imaginable.

It's weird; it's decadent. Worse... it's French.

Americans can understand mere murder, but sensationalism and sexual depravity freak us out. Even after being released from prison, we make convicted flashers register whenever they move into a community; but not criminals convicted of mere murder.

Logical or not, that's how we look at it. Maybe Europeans are different; certainly the U.N. appears to be, considering how blasé they are about allegations that "peacekeepers" and aid workers in Africa forced famine victims to give them sex in exchange for food.

Such debauchery and decadence outrages us far worse, I believe, than would a scandal where some Marines might have snapped under the pressure and turned into the sort of "Ghengis Khan" barbarians of the fevered imagination of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (Such people certainly were found occasionally in Vietnam; but there is not a shred of evidence John Kerry ever met any among the Swift Boat crews.)

And for that very reason, I believe the public will be far more willing to accept that such things happen in war: it's only the tiniest of minorities (perhaps five Marines out of 950,000 military personnel who have cycled through Iraq, 0.0005%); they will receive the maximum punishment if convicted -- probably death by hanging or firing squad; yet we still must move on with the war, not throw in the towel because some mentally deranged individuals killed civilians without reason.

I do not believe that Haditha will have the same grip on the American psyche that Abu Ghraib did (and still does today). Not because it's not as bad; it's worse in the cosmic sense. But because it's a more understandable kind of "bad."

Any honest person who isn't a dyed-in-the-mud pacifist can think of circumstances where he or she would contemplate committing murder. But how many Americans can even imagine themselves stripping prisoners naked and lovingly slipping women's panties over their heads?

Murder is evil. Abu Ghraib was grotesque.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 01, 2006, at the time of 06:21 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

A Warrior's Perspective

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Black Five referred us to Owen West's Op Ed piece in the New York Times. Owen West, a reserve Marine major who served in Iraq, is the founder of Vets for Freedom.

He thinks the warriors who are actually doing the fighting are tired of mean-sprited political bickering by both sides:

One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.

I don't think West is being fair to the president; rather, he seems to bend over backwards to blame both sides equally -- even when one side is clearly more culpable than the other. Although Bush has refused to take the MSM bait to expound on "the fifty most deadly errors you've made in your presidency," he has certainly been willing to change strategies and tactics in the Iraq War.

For example, by uparmoring Humvees and then substituting Strykers wherever possible; by changing commanders who were not getting the job done; by vigorously prosecuting those who engaged in crimes (such as at Abu Ghraib); and most especially, by completely revamping the training for the New Iraqi Army and for focusing at last on equivalent training for the Interior Ministry police forces.

Still, I can certainly understand West's frustration. He thinks the reason ordinary Americans are not rallying behind the troops like they did during WWII is that our military is too insulated from public. Our troops are all volunteers... which means a few sectors of the country (such as the South), where military service is a tradition, contribute the lion's share of the troops. Many people, especially in the more liberal districts that we most desperately need to bring into the fold, don't even know a single serviceman:

In the past, the American public could turn to its sons for martial perspective. Soldiers have historically been perhaps the country's truest reflection, a socio-economic cross-section borne from common ideals. The problem is, this war is not being fought by World War II's citizen-soldiers. Nor is it fought by Vietnam's draftees. Its wages are paid by a small cadre of volunteers that composes about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population -- America's warrior class.

The insular nature of this group -- and a war that has spiraled into politicization -- has left the Americans disconnected and confused. It's as if they have been invited into the owner's box to settle a first-quarter disagreement on the coach's play-calling. Not only are they unprepared to talk play selection, most have never even seen a football game.

In the past, we relied upon the draft to force even those who would not ordinarily think of military service into the Army. While it led to terrible conflicts (in Vietnam, but even in World War II), it also created a shared experience of service to society. Everyone in the country had either served himself or had relatives or close friends who had served. Everyone knew who the soldiers were: the soldiers were we, ourselves.

But today, in many parts of the country, soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors are aliens from another planet: most people living in San Francisco or Chicago or the entire state of Vermont don't know what a soldier is or what he (or she!) does; they don't know why he does it; and they certainly can't imagine what he thinks and worries about while doing it.

In a related vein, people have no idea how modern war is fought. All they see are bits and pieces of confusing, bloody pictures; if you probed, you would probably find that 50% of Americans think that war means the indiscriminate killing of everyone in some geographical area. If they think about military aviation at all, they imagine jet-powered B-29s obliterating entire cities in a single night.

But we don't fight like that anymore. We have conventional ordnance (MOABs, Massive Ordnance Air Blast, a.k.a., the Mother Of All Bombs) that can destroy 10 city blocks; but what we actually do nearly all the time is call down Hellfire and brimstone on a single building, leaving the structures on either side virtually untouched. Our weapons are smart; our targets are targeted. It's not that we're the most moral people in the world (though we are)... we don't want to waste explosive power on people who aren't threatening us.

Americans don't know soldiers; and too often, they don't know us. When we read about American troops being killed, we don't find out what killed them until two thirds of the way through the article; only then do we read that two American troops were killed in a terrorist ambush -- in which, by the way, 80 terrorists were slain, 30 wounded, and a dozen high-value targets captured.

America's conscience is one of its greatest strengths. But self-flagellation, especially in the early stages of a war against an enemy whose worldview is uncompromising, is absolutely hazardous. Three years gone and Iraq's most famous soldiers are Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England, a victim and a criminal, respectively. Abu Ghraib remains the most famous battle of the war.

Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare -- and the need to cultivate national guardians -- has not. As Kipling wrote, "The strength of the pack is the wolf."

I wish West had completed that couplet from Kipling's "the Law of the Jungle," from the Jungle Books:

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

It signals that as much as America needs her warriors, they need, just as desperately, an American culture that accepts and understands them. We cannot allow the "warrior class" to exist as anything but rhetoric; if they become an actual "class" separate from ordinary Americans, then it's only a short leap until they believe that they're better than "Americans."

Contrariwise, it would take only a little shift in perspective for American civilians to believe that the "wolves" are too wild to live. Our only salvation is if everyone is a wolf, and the pack comprises all of us.

This was always the case in America from the Revolution, and it's still true today... though the silver thread that connects "the men on the wall" to those within the city gates is stretching very thin indeed.

Finally, today's debates are not high-spirited so much as mean-spirited. To allow polarizing forces to dominate the argument by insinuating false motives on one side or a lack of patriotism on the other is to obscure long-term security decisions that have to be made now.

We are clashing with an enemy who has been at war with us in one form or another for two decades. Our military response may take decades more.

West is being too short-sighted here: our enemy has been at war with us for more than a dozen centuries!

Our enemy is a militant jihadi version of Islam that believes it has the moral duty to put everyone on Planet Earth to the choice of "convert or die;" they are at war not just with America, not even just with the men of the West; they are at war with modernity itself. For our enemies, they are always riding across the desert of the world "in perilous fight," with Mohammed himself leading the charge.

This is not all Islam; but it is a piece of Islam that cannot be reconciled with the rest of the world, and which seems to grow stronger with every passing year... and will continue to do so until we deal it the decisive blow that sends it reeling backward -- for a few decades. Until the next time.

If we do not understand and embrace those who defend us today, there may be no one left to defend us tomorrow. Let's sweep all the partisan bickering under the rug and focus on what all real Americans support: the defense of the West and modernity -- the virtues and values of this culture -- against those for whom history ended more than a millennium ago.

Surely that's a fight worth prosecuting; even for Democrats.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Deliberating On Mistakes

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

According to Omar at Iraq The Model, a CNN report on May 27th that quoted Iraq's foreign minister about Iran's nuclear program seriously mistranslated the comments from Arabic to English.

Here is what CNN reported:

Iran has a right to develop nuclear technology and the international community should drop its demands that Tehran prove it's not trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iraq's foreign minister said Friday....

"Iran doesn't claim that they want to obtain a nuclear weapon or a nuclear bomb, so there is no need that we ask them for any guarantee now," Hoshyar Zebari said after meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.

But Omar listened to the audio, and he says this is completely wrong. He supplies his own translation:

We respect Iran's and every other nation's right to pursue nuclear technology for research purposes and peaceful use given they accept [giving] the internationally required guarantees that this will not lead to an armament race in the region…

This is almost the polar opposite of what CNN reported, raising the dilemma of whether we trust Omar of Iraq the Model -- or the scion of Ted Turner. (Silly question.)

If it turns out CNN mistakenly reported, out of sheer incompetence, the opposite of what Zebari said, they should fire the translator.

But if the mistranslation were deliberate, rewriting the official statements of Iraqi officials to hew more closely to what CNN would prefer they said, then -- well, then that's just the traditional MO of the mainstream media, isn't it?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 04:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Big Lizards Has No Opinion. Yet. UPDATED - Hey, It's a Fast-Breaking Story!

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

But plenty still to say...

UPDATED: See bottom of post.

Everyone by now must be aware of an investigation by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service of a number of possible civilian deaths in Haditha last November. Alas, nearly everyone is leaping to a series of conclusions before the investigation is complete.

Some conclude that the Marines committed a war crime, a massacre of up to two dozens civilians, including women and children, just because the Marines got angry. Others conclude that the whole charge is a slanderous lie invented by anti-war activists like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 50%). Both sides are drawing conclusions far beyond the available data.

The fact is that we don't yet know the facts. The dribs and drabs we've gotten from Murtha, from the Los Angeles Times, and from other antique media are anything but illuminating; they critically depend upon anonymous sources, and they conceal weasel-words like "may be," "could be" behind a veil of unfounded certainty:

U.S. Marines could face criminal charges, including murder, over the deaths of up to two dozen Iraqi civilians last year, a defense official said on Friday.

The case could prove a further setback for President Bush who described the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal as America's "biggest mistake" and admitted saying "bring 'em on" to insurgents in 2003 may have "sent the wrong message."

Note two arrows in the quiver of journalism's jihad against Bush and the war:

  • First, that the Marines "could" face murder charges. Here is what Reuters' "defense official" actually said -- though you only get this by reading a different article; the explanatory context is dropped from the first article linked:

    The defense official noted that criminal investigations into deaths could lead to murder charges, but was not more specific about possible charges.
  • Second, the usual Tourette's-like eruption of irrelevant but negative commentary about Bush, designed to taint the sample... and therefore make people more likely to believe the worst.

(I've come up with a neologism to describe that last tendency: I shall call it Spurette's Syndrome, a portmanteau word formed by combining "spurious" and "Tourette's.")

What the Defense Department official clearly said was that one of the possible charges resulting from such an investigation would be murder... which should be obvious, as the claim (by an Iraqi "human rights" organization) is that the Marines wantonly killed unarmed women and children. Clearly, if -- a very big "if" -- if the investigation reveals that this is even partially true, all those involved should be charged with murder... and if they're convicted, I want to see them swing.

Yes, even if they are Marines; and even if they were upset by the IED-death of one of their own, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. There is no excuse, no mitigating factor, no conceivable rational explanation for executing children in front of their parents -- which is what the Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy alleges they did.

Any Marine who did such a thing -- if any of them really did -- has so dishonored the uniform and the Corps that he should first be dishonorably discharged and then hanged by the neck until dead... and everybody in the unit, indeed every Marine we have (via closed-circuit TV), should be forced to watch the hanging.

I don't know when is the last time we executed a member of the military; but if this allegation turns out to be true (I'm still very dubious), we should resurrect the practice.

But how likely is it? What do we actually know? Darned little:

  • So far, we have Iraqi civiilans who died, though the number is disputed;
  • We have a politician (John Murtha) claiming it was a massacre, but who is also known as a serial liar whose primary purpose has become to accuse American military personnel of committing atrocities and war crimes on a Kerryesque campaign;
  • And we have a videotape.

Reuters says it received a videotape of the alleged victims from the abovementioned Hammurabi human-rights group:

A video of people killed in the incident, given to Reuters in March by Iraq's Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, showed corpses lined up at the local morgue with bullet wounds in the head and chest.

The video showed houses with bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors. Residents described a rampage by Marines.

That's what we know (I don't believe Reuters is lying). But what don't we know?

  • We do not know whether the corpses in that video are actually from the incident at Haditha.
  • We do not know whether the gunshots are actually executions -- or shots fired from a distance that hit innocent bystanders.
  • We do not know whether the "bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors" betoken deliberate executions or a massive firefight.
  • We do not even know whether those bullet holes were made by M-16s or some other American weapon -- or whether they were made by AK-47s.

None of this information has been released, and no MSM report that I have seen even attempts to show evidence filling these vital lacunae. Here is how the Los Angeles Times luridly describes the supposed incident... and note especially how they characterize the provenance of their information:

Marines from Camp Pendleton wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

Officials who have seen the findings of the investigations said the filing of criminal charges, including some murder counts, was expected, which would make the Nov. 19 incident the most serious case of alleged U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

Which officials are those? Would they include Rep. Murtha and others of his ilk? Note that the LA Times does not even go so far as to say "military officials," which implies to me that the officials are not military; the Times is perfectly capable of using the longer term when they choose, to make their point stronger -- as here:

Marine officials also confirmed Thursday that an investigation had been opened into an April 26 incident in which troops allegedly killed a civilian in the town of Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.

Though the Times admits -- once -- that their entire source for the content of the report is the Ubiquitous Anonymous Informant, who did not even show editors or writers a copy of the report (the article is based upon what "officials said"), the entire rest of their piece is written in simple, declarative, absolute statements, expressing utter certainty about their story:

An administrative inquiry overseen by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found that several infantry Marines fatally shot as many as 24 Iraqis and that other Marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports.

The report concludes that a dozen Marines acted improperly after a roadside bomb explosion killed a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

Looking for insurgents, the Marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.

What they actually mean is, "according to what some civilian somewhere in the government said about the report, which he claims to have read, but won't show us." But besides being cumbersome, that wouldn't fit the "story" as the LA Times conceives it.

Again, we want to caution: Big Lizards is certainly no more prepared to say that the Marines are innocent than we are to say that they are guilty. We're agnostics on this... but we're militant agnostics: we don't know, and neither do you, dang it!

And neither will anyone know, save a handful of people, until the reports are actually released. Until then, as you read increasingly tabloidesque stories in the elite media, bear in mind not only what you have been told but what you haven't been told... particuarly about the source or sources of this story.

UPDATE, a few minutes later: a story in the New York Times gives more specificity to the allegations, though it adds nothing to the provenance: all is still attributed to anonymous "officials":

Congressional and military officials say the Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry is focusing on the actions of a Marine Corps staff sergeant serving as squad leader at the time, but that Marine officials have told members of Congress that up to a dozen other marines in the unit are also under investigation. Officials briefed on the inquiry said that most of the bullets that killed the civilians were now thought to have been "fired by a couple of rifles," as one of them put it....

All of those who discussed the case had to be granted anonymity before they would talk about the findings emerging from the investigation.

So it emerges that the investigation is centered around one or two rogue Marines who may have gone on a several-hour long rampage, and also upon several other Marines, probably to determine whether they tried to cover up the incident -- which would of course depend on whether they knew (or reasonably should have known) that what they were reporting was false. Assuming, that is, that it was false.

If true, this is still an atrocity; but rather than indicting the entire Marine Corps, the investigation appears to have narrowed the focus.

I still believe that if this is true (we're no further on that question), those convicted should be hanged and the rest of the Corps forced to stand at attention and watch. But we're still going to wait for the results to be released, and they certainly will be released publicly, before leaping to either conclusion.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2006, at the time of 05:50 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

Beautiful Pictures from Iraq

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Black Five featured several photographs taken by Staff Sergeant Russell Lee Klika. His photographs are simply amazing. The first feature is here, and the second here. Enjoy.

To whet your appetites, here are a couple samples....



UAV at Sunset    Kids of Iraq

"Soldiers of Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, launch a UAV prior to a mission from Camp Hope near Sadr City, Iraq" (L); children of Iraq (R) -- courtesy Black Five

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 25, 2006, at the time of 01:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

Maines Vs. Texas

Global War on Jihadism , Iraq Matters , Make Mine Music
Hatched by Sachi

Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines is digging the hole deeper and deeper. After three years of backlash and a stunted career, she is even more defiant. In 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, Maines hijacked a Dixie Chicks concert in Great Britain to announce -- to cheers from her audience -- that she was "ashamed" that President Bush came from Texas.

NEW YORK (AP) - The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines apologized for disrespecting President Bush during a London concert in 2003. But now, she's taking it back. "I don't feel that way anymore," she told Time magazine for its issue hitting newsstands Monday. "I don't feel he is owed any respect whatsoever."

In fact, Maines never really did "apologize" in the first place. She said something along the lines that the office of the presidency should be respected, no matter who holds it. I don't consider that an apology; and she didn't even mean that much. Now, Maines is repudiating even that half-hearted non-apology (which fooled nobody, by the way.)

To tell the truth, I really don't care what three dumb Chicks think of the president or the war. But I am angry at the relentless attacks on country singers, their fans, country western music, and the American spirit itself. Listen to what Martie Maquire, another band member, thinks of country western fans:

"I'd rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith," Maguire said. "We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."

We know what Maines thinks of Toby Keith; but now Reba's fans are also uncool? I take that personally.

The mainstream press has clearly taken the Dixie Chicks side of this "debate;" they even imply that other country stars made death threats against the chicks:

[Natalie Maines' anti-Bush] remarks led to death threats and a backlash from other country stars, including a high-profile spat with Toby Keith. It also stalled what until then had been the group's smashingly successful career.

Now, that also sentence could also be read to mean that Maines' remarks led to death threats -- and they also (separately) led to a "backlash" by other country singers. But it's carefully crafted so that it's equally proper to read it as saying that "other country stars" reacted with "death threats and a backlash." I think the ambiguity is deliberate: it's a "dual use" smear, like Hussein's WMD arsenal, to make it possible to deny bad intent when called to account.

So how about that "high-profile spat with Toby Keith?" This is true; there certainly was one. But what this story ignores is that the feud was started by Maines herself, who deliberately provoked it a year before her 2003 London smear -- possibly because the Chicks considered Toby Keith their biggest rival in country music at the time, and they may have wanted to piggyback on his success and celebrity to promote their own multiple nominations at the upcoming Country Music Awards. Specifically, both the Chicks and Keith were up for Entertainer of the Year in 2002, and only one could win. (Hint: it wasn't the Texas tornado.)

Toby Keith is actually from Oklahoma (though from Clinton and Moore, not from Muskogee); and interestingly, he is a Democrat -- in the Zell Miller mold -- and he opposed the Iraq war (from an isolationist standpoint). The Chicks never "got" Toby Keith, just like they never "got" country music itself: to this day, they seem to think Keith is a right-wing Republican war supporter.

Toby Keith originally did not say a single thing to Maines about her 2003 comment in London (let alone any death threats). But that wasn't when the "feud" began; in fact, it started well before 2003... but the attacks have mostly come from the Dixie Chicks, mainly from Natalie Maines herself.

Back in August of 2002, Natalie Maines made her first public, gratuitously nasty comment about Toby Keith's song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue":

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (LA Daily News) - ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings is apparently not the only celebrity to take issue with Toby Keith's chart-topping country hit, "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)." Now, the Dixie Chick’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, freely shares her dislike of the song.

"Don't get me started," Maines told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I hate it. It's ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture - and not just the bad people who did bad things. You've got to have some tact. Anybody can write, 'We'll put a boot in your ass.' But a lot of people agree with it. The kinds of songs I prefer on the subject are like Bruce Springsteen's new songs."

To which Toby Keith said, "you've got to be in my league as a songwriter before I'll even respond to you."

Since then, he's projected images of Maines and Saddam Hussein on big screens behind the stage when he's performing concerts.

But the most infantile attack after Maines' 2003 comment in London came not from Keith, but from the Dixie Chicks themselves:

On May 21, Maines performed on television at the AMC Awards wearing a F.U.T.K. tee shirt – which viewers declared a definite telling off of T.K. (Toby Keith). According to a Dixie Chicks rep, "It’s my understanding that according to chatter on their web site, Natalie’s T-shirt stands for FREEDOM, UNDERSTANDING, TRUTH, AND KNOWLEDGE."

Yeah. Right.

Around this time, a friend's child, whom Keith was very close to, died of cancer. Suddenly the feud between Maines and him just seemed really trivial, and he started ignoring them. Maines may have thought this meant she won; but the reality is that the Dixie Chicks simply ceased to matter in the world of country music: they lost all their award nominations and their CD sales plummeted.

Toby Keith, meanwhile, went on to become one of the greatest forces in the genre in decades. He now owns his own label and has become an institution.

I think at first the Chicks picked on Keith because they percerved him as a rival. They might have thought that attacking him would create the buzz they needed to sweep the CMA awards and launch a huge career in country.

But they wildly misjudged their audience. Toby Keith was not just a musical rival; after 911, and especially after "Courtesy," Toby Keith had become something much larger... and the Chicks never "got it." Keith came to symbolize the angry, defiant American: defiance of Osama bin Laden, of terrorism, and of European-style appeasement. To many Americans, he came to symbolize the spirit of America itself. Keith, the Okie from Clinton, was more Texan than those three dopey Texans.

Natalie Maines clearly understood the defiance part; that's exactly what angered her about Keith's song. Rather than accepting 9/11 as a just rebuke, rather than being humbled and apologetic for all the horrible things we were doing that brought 9/11 on ourselves, Maines understood that Keith's song -- and it's overwhelming reception across the country and especially among the military -- signalled that Americans did not accept the diminished role in the world that Leftists ordered for us. Instead, we made it plain that we were going to fight back -- violently, just as we'd been attacked violently. Keith was a powerful symbol of that resolve.

The Dixie Chicks gambled -- and they lost. They gambled that country fans were just like most rock fans: uncomfortable with the idea that there was something special and essentially good about America, compared to other countries. Maines and the other Chicks thought country fans were basically like the French.

They did not realize what country western music meant to many Americans. Thinking they were attacking American arrogance, they were really attacking the core values of real America. In doing so, the Dixie Chicks have alienated themselves from real Americans.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 22, 2006, at the time of 01:46 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

May 13, 2006

The 18½ Minute Gap

Iraq Matters , Scaley Classics
Hatched by Dafydd

Originally posted on Patterico's Pontifications, May 30th, 2005 -- a blast from the past! Now reprinted here courtesy the Big Lizards Scaley Classics series. Collect the whole set!

Interesting note: while researching my earlier post, I noticed that my very first blogpost anywhere was on Patterico: Sneaking Apples From the Great Wealth Tree, May 27th, 2005. That means my (Dafydd's) first blogospheric anniversary is coming up in only twelve days! In celebration, I will repost that first post of mine here on Big Lizards, for all to see.

(And how many readers will swiftly comment, "say, you've sure gone downhill in the last twelvemonth... what happened?")

The first anniversary of Big Lizards itself is not until September 16th.

Without further uninteresting ado....

~

If you enjoy arguing with Democrats about the validity of the Iraq War (do you also like to dart in front of a bull wearing long, red, flannel underwear?), you will discover that every such discussion always ends the same way: because we didn't find pyramids of carefully labeled nuclear missiles from the Acme WMD Warehouse, the whole war was a "complete fraud"... we had "no reason at all" for going into Iraq; consequently, the exercise was utterly "futile" and a "miserable failure."

(And how did that bull get into red, flannel underwear in the first place?)

It does little good to point out what nobody now denies: that Hussein had many ongoing programs to develop such chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; they just weren't as advanced as we were afraid they were. Given how little intelligence we had about that secretive country, the choice was to trust in Saddam Hussein's restraint and good judgment, or trust in the United States military. "You should have just waited a few more months," the lib invariably intones; "maybe a year. Then we would have known for sure."

In other words, they wanted us to wait until two minutes to midnight. Then we could have moved... unless it turned out our watch was slow.

But now we know that it was not just on WMD that the clock was ticking. As Claudia Rosett, George Russell, and others pointed out, the oil-for-fraud program was already starting to produce the nightmare scenario of terrorist groups with their own revenue streams, independent of individual donors and fundraisers. Articles written for Fox News and National Review Online revealed that at least one company linked to al-Qaeda was already involved in kickback schemes to make millions in profits from the U.N. program -- money that would be directly available to fund al-Qaeda operations, now that Osama bin Laden's personal fortune is long since spent. And it was not just al-Qaeda; several other terrorist organizations also wound up with oil leases, right under the noses of Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Iraq Programme (Oil for Food), Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and his spawn-of-the-devil Kojo (or is that Cujo?)

Had we waited just a few more months -- waited until two minutes before midnight -- even more high officials in Security-Council governments would have been corrupted; it's entirely possible that, in the end, even Britain would have bowed to international pressure and pulled out of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Would we still have gone to war, then? I don't think anyone can really say for sure.

So the Left is actually right, for a change: we miserably failed to wait until two minutes to midnight to strike against the tyrant. We struck at twenty till, instead. Maybe even twenty and a half minutes before the witching hour.

Which would make it the second time in history that an 18½ minute gap saved the presidency... and this time, possibly the entire Global War on Terrorism as well.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 07:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 10, 2006

An Iraq Death Squad Leader Arrested

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

As Iraqi's new cabinet shapes up, the most challenging task is to rid the country of the violent militias which have infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces, the police. So it's very good news indeed to hear that a high-ranking general in the Interior Ministry, which controls the Iraqi police, has been arrested for involvement in the infamous Shiite "death squads":

Iraq's interior minister said on Sunday his police had arrested a general in the ministry on suspicion of involvement in kidnaps and death squads.

Bayan Jabor, who is fighting to keep his job in a new government in the face of criticism that he has tolerated Shi'ite militias inside his ministry, made the announcement in an interview on Al Jazeera television.

"We have arrested an officer, a major general... along with 17 people who kidnapped citizens and in some cases killed them. He is now in jail and under investigation," he said.

"We also found a terror group in the 16th brigade that carries out killings of citizens," he added.

Although Reuters is saying that the Interior Minister is fighting to keep his job," that may not be exactly true. A few weeks ago, Jabor said in a TV interview, when it became clear Ibrahim al-Jaafari was being ousted, that he too was retiring as soon as a replacement could be found. But it's possible he changed his mind, or he was only posturing in the first place.

The former prime minister, Jaafari, was hand-picked by Iranian-backed renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr and was long suspected of secretly supporting the death squads of fundamentalist Shia militias (the Badr Brigades and Sadr's own Mahdi Militia) which had thoroughly penetrated the security forces. If that is true, then Jabor must have been complicit as well:

The U.S. ambassador, a key player in the negotiations, has made no secret of the fact that Washington would prefer a new face to lead the ministry.

Mohammed at Iraq the Model reports that the United Iraqi Alliance (the main Shiite bloc of parties that controls the lion's share of seats in the parliament) and the Iraqi National Accord (the primary secular party headed by ex-Baathist, rebel against Hussein, and former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi) agreed that both the Interior Minister and the Defense Minister should come from outside those two blocs.

Since Bayan Jabor is a member of the SCIRI, a Shiite party that is under the UIA umbrella, he will almost certainly not be chosen to remain as Interior Minister.

In any event, the ministry is beginning to clean up itself. Let's hope they succeed.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 10, 2006, at the time of 01:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 04, 2006

Sadr the Gamester

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

The most important agenda item for the new Iraqi government's incoming Interior Minister -- not yet chosen -- is to dismantle the militias and incorporate their members into the regular police forces. Not only has the Interior Minister not been picked yet -- according to Iraq the Model's Omar, no one seems eager to take the job... for the precise reason that going after the militias is a daunting prospect!

The biggest obstacle, of course, is the Iranian sock puppet, Muqtada Sadr. His Mahdi Militia is the only one openly refusing to integrate. The May 6th issue of Newsweek contains an interview of Sadr, talking about the future of his so-called "resistance movement."

I do not like the way Newsweek treats Sadr with such deference, describing him as "part of the political establishment." However, he does have power: Sadr was the cause of that four-month gridlock in forming a government, pushing his divisive candidates, such as Ibrahim al-Jaafari. I suppose we must grudgingly admit that, while he is not a part of the "establishment," he is a force with which Iraq must reckon.

In the interview, Sadr insists that his aim has always been to kick the American and other Coalition forces out of Iraq. He argues that his "powerful, loyal, political and military force" will "take Iraq to safety" (by which he means "take Muqtada Sadr to the Caliphate of Iraq").

At the same time, I reach out my hand [to the political parties] to cooperate to make peace in Iraq, to drive away the shadow of the armies of darkness [somebody call Bruce Campbell, quick!] The occupation is the creator of all problems. I pray to Allah to take away the problems and their creator.

Sure. That's why Sadr's Mahdi Militia has been killing Sunnis and Shiite political rivals... just their way of "make[ing] peace in Iraq."

Sadr divides his "resistance" into three "stages":

  1. Peaceful resistance;
  2. His two violent uprisings (in Najaf, the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, and across the Shiite areas);
  3. And now the stage of "political resistance, which we attained by reaching political posts and demanding a timetable for the departure of U.S troops."

Maybe it's just me, but I don't quite recall Sadr ever conducting a "peaceful resistance" stage; but maybe I just missed it. The first we heard of him was when he was credibly accused of assassinating Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei when he entered the Shrine of Imam Ali; then the next thing we heard was the Najaf takeover, timed to coincide with First Fallujah.

As for the political resistance, his normal method of operation is to "intimidate" rivals -- by murdering them. In other words, Sadr's only known "stage" of resistance is lethal violence.

In the interview, Sadr reached out to Sunni Iraqis, urging them to fight against the occupation forces (that would be us). But before he cooperates with the Sunni, he has few things to say to them:

I address the Sunnis through NEWSWEEK. One, they should specify their stance toward attacks on civilians. After the attack in Samarra, the Sunnis didn't have a clear stance. Two, their stance toward Takfiris [a name for followers of the extremist ideology espoused by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi] is not clear. Three, they should specify their stance toward the Shia. Are we Muslims or not? We will not be satisfied with anything less than that. Four, they should demand the execution of Saddam Hussein. And five, they should specify their stance toward [returning] families who have been displaced [by sectarian violence].

This might all sound reasonable... if we didn't know what Sadr himself has been doing all this time. But he does not even acknowledge the fact that the Mighty al-Mahdi Army is a militia, let alone that it's responsible for many of Sunni (and probably some Shiite) citizens done to death in Iraq. What, me militia? asks Sadr.

Newsweek: The Mahdi Army is supposedly the only faction that hasn't signed on to an agreement to incorporate militias into governing bodies. Can you explain why?

Sadr: The Mahdi Army is not a militia. You can't describe it or specify it as a militia. I issued a statement recently limiting the Mahdi Army personnel to cultural, social and religious acts....

Newsweek:Many people claim that Mahdi Army members have been responsible for sectarian attacks in recent weeks. Others say they're simply defending their neighborhoods that the government cannot defend. What do you say? (Sachi: What a softball question! You just gave him an out!)

Sadr: The Mahdi Army personnel are not sinless. But they are integrating themselves despite the harsh circumstances they live in. (Sachi: What's that supposed to mean?)

Newsweek: Do you think that some people dressed as or appearing like Mahdi Army members have carried out reprisal or vengeance attacks of a sectarian nature?

Sadr: And what are the clothes of the Mahdi Army? So that I can distinguish them from others. They don't have a specific uniform. They are people gathered by love, and faith is their weapon.

Ooh, stop, stop. I can't take anymore; I'll go into sugar shock.

Why are we listening to this palaver? Muqtada Sadr couldn't tell the truth even if his life depended on it, and he were pumped so full of Sodium Pentothol it was squirting out his ears. The only honest sentiment he says is that he hates America and wants American forces to leave... not because he wants peace and stability in Iraq, but because it's easier for him to control Iraq without the Coalition spoiling things. Sadr is nothing but trouble.

Newsweek: Do you recall that at one point the U.S military and political spokesmen said it was their aim to "kill or capture" you? Your reaction now?

Well, my reaction is -- "darn it, I sure wish we still had that plan!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 04, 2006, at the time of 04:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

Barry Bends

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Wretchard has an important, fascinating, but interminable post up about retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- he who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry during Desert Storm, later became Bill Clinton's Drug Czar (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy), and is currently an adjunct professor at West Point.

The Belmont Club post is essential reading; but it's very long. So as long as this post here is, consider this the CliffsNotes version of the Belmont Club post!

First, it's important to note that Gen. McCaffrey was not an Iraq-War supporter. In fact, he was quite a critic from the very beginning; and he's quite antagonistic towards Donald Rumsfeld.

This is important to note before going in: McCaffrey has developed an increasingly optimistic outlook on the war, a complete turnaround from his opinion in 2003, and especially intriguing in light of a New Republic article, written by Lawrence Kaplan, that makes clear McCaffrey's attitude as recently as 2004 towards Rumsfeld -- especially over his planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(The New Republican article is only available to subscribers from their website; but you can read it at the site of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council here.)

Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, who has become Rumsfeld's most outspoken critic, asked, "Why would you do this operation with inadequate power?" To McCaffrey, the answer is obvious: "Because you have such a strong ideological view, and you're so confident in your views that you disregard the vehement military advice from, particularly, Army generals who you don't think are very bright."

But in spite of this history, when McCaffrey visited Iraq on a fact-finding mission in June of 2005 -- and even more so when he returned in April of this year -- he was extremely optimistic about the war and its successful outcome.

Did the antique media even bother to report this? Isn't it rather more newsworthy when a widely respected and very experienced critic of the war admits that it has gone a lot better than he expected -- even in the "winning the peace" category -- than it is when long-time critics of the war, such as Weasley Clarke or Anthony Zinni, continue to sing the same defeatist ditty, despite never having gone to investigate its progress?

Shouldn't the McCaffrey memo of April, 2006, have been major, headline news? I reckon not: he came to the wrong conclusion.

In particular, McCaffrey found "simply awe-inspiring" the "morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces." He also heavily praised the New Iraqi Army:

The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population.... The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni.... This is simply a brilliant success story. [Emphasis in Belmont Club post.]

McCaffrey noted "marked improvement" in the previously poorly performing Iraqi Security Force (police). First, the bad:

The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF [Anti-Iraqi Forces -- the foreign terrorists] and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

Now the good:

The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable - a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT.

And the future:

This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face.... We absolutely can do this. But this police program is now inadequately resourced.

McCaffrey is, on the whole, very pleased with the job done by his old nemesis from the Gulf War days, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; the general is less sanguine, oddly enough, about the contributions (such as they are) from the State Department:

The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate.... U.S. consultants of the IRMO [Iraq Reconstruction Management Office] do not live and work with their Iraqi counterparts, are frequently absent on leave or home consultations, are often in-country for short tours of 90 days to six months, and are frequently gapped with no transfer of institutional knowledge.

McCaffrey seems to believe the problem arose back in 2003, under Secretary of State Colin Powell (or perhaps earlier, in the decades of the State Department's institutional intellectual lethargy). In his 2005 memo, he described the tenure of Paul Bremer as U.S. Administrator of Iraq (head of the Coalition Provisional Authority) thus:

The transitional Bremer-appointed Iraqi government created a weak state of warring factions.

But I think this is overly harsh against Bremer. It's not as if he had anything to work with, after the sudden and complete collapse of the Iraqi-despised Baathist regime, leaving a power vacuum... and the less than stellar performance of the first American "proconsul" of Iraq, retired Gen. Jay Garner. I think that Bremer did the best he could:

  • He formally disbanded Saddam's army, which had fallen apart anyway and was plagued by incompetence, cowardice, and corruption even before the invasion;
  • He ordered full-scale de-Baathification, which was urgently needed if the new government were ever to have credibility with the 80% of the country that was Shiite or Kurdish;
  • And he helped create -- and then handed power to -- the Iraq Interim Governing Council, marking the very first time that majority Shia and Kurds (and women) had a say in their own governing: before the Baathists, Iraq was briefly ruled by a military dictatorship, which had toppled the Sunni Hashemite kingdom, which had taken over from the Ottoman Turks.

(Although Bremer's position was under the Department of Defense, and he reported directly to Rumsfeld, Bremer himself was a career State Department offiical, a protégé of "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger, and was thoroughly imbued with the State ideology of stability über alles.)

McCaffrey makes two profound and inarguable points in his 2006 memo. Here is the first:

The bottom line is that only the CIA and the U.S. Armed Forces are at war.

...Meaning, of course, that the State Department and other departments of the government (Treasury, Energy, et cetera), as well as all of Congress and the Judiciary, still live in a September 10th world. It is critical to internalize this point if you want to understand the war.

McCaffrey worries about the public's taste for the task flagging, if they don't see us as actually "at war." This might cause the funding to run dry; if we do not sustain our own will to fight here, then as the adage goes, it is entirely possible for us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Iraq cannot sustain the requisite economic recovery without serious U.S. support. The Allies are not going to help. They will not fulfill their pledges. Most of their pledges are loans not grants.

But perhaps even more important is the yawning Grand Canyon of distrust that has separated our own military from the American press... a press which, if it came aboard, could educate the American people (as they did during World War II) and keep their attention riveted on Iraq, where history is being made.

As he notes in the memo from 2005, the difficulties of reporting out of Iraq (coupled with the media's knee-jerk reaction -- unmentioned by McCaffrey -- that the war is illegal, immoral, fattening, and a sign that we live in a Fascist dictatorship) result in the news media sending only "the second team" to Iraq.

The reporters have little to no experience with war, have typically never served in the military, dislike (or even hate) soldiers and military values, report in a facile and tendentious manner, misquote sources, rely upon native sources of unknown provenance (or even known sympathy for the enemy), and in general, hamper, not help, the military effort. It's hardly surprising that, as McCaffrey noted in 2005:

Military leaders on the ground are talking to people they trust instead of talking to all reporters who command the attention of the American people. (We need to educate and support AP, Reuters, Gannet, Hearst, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.)

Nearly a year later, and this aspect of the war has actually deteriorated, leading McCaffrey to note that "there is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces toward the U.S. media. We need to bridge this gap."

The general then writes his other profound inarguability:

Armies do not fight wars - countries fight wars. We need to continue talking to the American people through the press. They will be objective in reporting facts if we facilitate their information gathering mission.

But he is far more optimistic about the Iraqi political scene:

[I]n my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans -- the Iraqis want this to work.

In conclusion, Barry McCaffrey is extremely optimistic -- especially for a guy who was against the war from the git-go:

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

That question at the end of this paragraph is the whole enchilada: to persevere is to prevail; to falter is to fail. It's as simple as that.

(But read the whole thing at the Belmont Club.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 03, 2006, at the time of 07:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 01, 2006

Internal Powell Struggle

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Over the weekend, Colin Powell -- in a thoroughly expected surprise -- joined the revolt of the former generals complaining that we didn't follow the "Powell doctrine" when we invaded Iraq.

The Powell doctrine holds that:

  1. No military action should be undertaken unless the international community -- and especially France and Russia -- applaud it;
  2. And at least twenty Arab nations join it;
  3. And the goal of keeping the coalition intact supercedes all military goals;
  4. And Israel is ordered not to respond even if they're attacked;
  5. And the State Department runs it;
  6. And we first raise an army of "overwhelming force," as determined by Colin Powell, to utterly crush the enemy... until the Europeans get cold feet; at which point we abandon the conflict, declare victory, and head for home.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld failed to listen to Colin Powell; so he retaliated yesterday in an interview on a British television network, ITV, by attacking the execution of the war and calling everyone else's competence into question:

Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic - Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department.

For the Bush administration, it was a rare instance of in-house dissenter going public.

On Rice's mind was the political breakthrough that had brought her and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Iraq last week and cleared the way for formation of a national unity government.

Yet Powell sideswiped her by revisiting the question of whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.

Despite AP's feeble attempt at humor -- "a rare instance" indeed! -- this is a serious, yet all too typical, phenomenon today: the Left has settled upon the tactic of openly trying to wreck the Iraq War in an effort to discredit George W. Bush and the whole idea that countries have national interests that sometimes dictate going to war with other countries that threaten them.

In Colin-land, if we absolutely had to overthrow Saddam... then we should simply have made Iraq a colony, darn it, forever ruled by American colonial governors. Rather than try to build up democracy in the Middle East, we should have -- under the Powell doctrine -- just created an American empire that would control all the oil. (Powell has never been a big fan of democracy, preferring to deal with emirs and presidents-for-life, who can supply "stability" -- entertain him with lavish State functions held in palaces.)

It seems his model is the British Empire of the nineteenth century (or the Russian Empire of the twentieth). Of course, those didn't work out too well in the modern era; but perhaps if we just redouble our efforts, it will all be different this time.

Reuters is somewhat less tendentious about Powell's criticism:

In an interview with a private British television station, Powell said there had been debates about the size of the force and how to deal with the aftermath.

"The aftermath turned out to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated," said Powell, adding he had favoured a larger military presence to deal with the unforeseen.

Ordinarily, "anyone" would include Powell himself; I'm not sure if he gives himself an exemption, but at least he doesn't overtly claim psychic powers, like some of the other generals. And he makes it plain here that his views were considered... they were just not accepted:

"I made the case to General (Tommy) Franks, to (Defense) Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and to the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," he said.

He argued, however, that his view was not ignored but that those responsible for the troop levels believed they had the appropriate number.

I am most amused by the casual assumption of the antique media that if only we had sent two, three, four times the number of troops, then everything would have been much better. It's more than an assumption; they act as if everyone knows this, everyone accepts this, there are no demurs.

They seem oblivious to the fact that more is not always better in warfare: the Soviets spent a force of 100,000 men in a futile effort to conquer and hold Afghanistan; we successfully ousted the Taliban and created a nascent democracy with less than a twentieth of that by relying upon Northern Alliance forces and our own air power; during Operation Anaconda, the American troop presence rose to no more than 10,000. And at virtually no time since, except for one brief spike in 2003, have we kept more than 12,000-15,000 soldiers in that country.

Oddly, nobody seems to complain that we should have used the Powell doctrine in Afghanistan.

Even so, the media has an idée fixe that if only we had sent 500,000, 750,000, or a million men to Iraq -- instead of a paltry 200,000 -- there never would have been any insurgency. Do they imagine that we would leave such a large force (a very significant portion of our entire armed forces) tied down in one country in the Middle East indefinitely? And if not -- what do they think would happen when 80% of those forces left Iraq?

Yet the decision made by Rumsfeld, with extraordinary consultation with the entire warfighting senior staff under Tommy Franks, is offered as à priori proof of incompetence, as if it were mathematically proven to be wrong and need not even be discussed.

In reality, going to war with the army we had, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party were ousted from control in three weeks, and "major combat operations" ended after forty days.

Since then, there have been three major elections, each gaining a larger turnout than the last; 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are almost completely peaceful, and only one of the remaining four (Anbar) is actually considered critically violent.

We have built an amazingly professional New Iraqi Army of 200,000 plus, an Iraqi Air Force, and an increasingly honest and effective Iraqi police. Oil is flowing; electricity and water are running better in most parts of the country than they were under Saddam. And the Iraqi economy is already better than it was in the last ten years of Saddam Hussein.

But according to Wesley Clarke, Anthony Zinni, Colin Powell, and a half-dozen other malcontents and whiners, everything would have been much better if only we had listened to them -- and followed the Soviet example.

Why now? Why are all these people coming forward today, rather than last year? That's easy to explain, and AP inadvertently does so:

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

Simple as that: the grousing generals are coming forward today because the midterm elections will be held in just six months, and the Democrats and September-10th Republicans see an opening to destroy Bush.

The bipartisan Left has six months to convince Americans that the whole war was a catastrophe; that we accomplished nothing; that we might have had a chance were it not for the "incompetence" of Bush and Rumsfeld (if only they had listened to me!); and that our only option at this point is, as Joe Biden suggests, to partition Iraq into three separate regions -- just like Clinton and Clarke did in the success story of Bosnia! -- then declare victory, cut, and run.

Come on in, Colin; the water's fine.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 01, 2006, at the time of 03:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

Kerry Me Back to Old Baghdaddy

Iraq Matters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard this on Hugh Hewitt (guest-hosted by the perpetualy bemused Jed Babbin). Surely this must rank right up there with "I actually voted for the eighty-seven billion before I voted against it," if not quite up to the caliber of his "Genghis Khan" accusation of war crimes against the entire Vietnam-era military.

I wish I knew what show this was on; anybody out there in Lizardland who can point me to a transcript, I will be very appreciative and will correct any mistakes in the quotation below [quotation corrected; the comments have the two versions side by side, so readers can judge how close my remembered version was to the actual words. The show was This Week With George Snuffleupagus]. But here is what I heard him say to the best of my recollection, in his very own Boston-Brahmin, ersatz-Kennedy monodrone:

But there is no excuse three and a half years later for American troops to be driving by IEDs and getting blown up. Are you telling me that they can’t drive a truck?

Yeah, that's the problem -- the soldiers are getting blown up by IEDs because they have poor "defensive driving" skills.

If only we had listened to Sen. John Kerry (D-Beacon Hill) and shipped a few thousand high-school Drivers-Ed teachers over to Iraq, the whole problem would be cleared up before you could say "Boston baked beans." When the explosion began, our boys could simply swerve dexterously around it, just like in the movies.

Say, you do know that JFK is making another run for la Casablanca in 2008 (or perhaps starting this year), right? Boy, that gives us Republicans a nice, warm feeling.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2006, at the time of 05:21 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 22, 2006

What's Out Of Place In This Picture?

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Iraqi National Assembly meets, everyone more or less agrees on a unity government. This is really good news, though I'm still a bit suspicious about soon-to-be-prime-minister-elect Jawad al-Maliki. The other top slots are filled, nearly all by acclamation.

There is a government now in Iraq. This is deeper than the antique media want to admit; this is what we've been waiting for these last four months. Did we mention Ibrahim al-Jaafari is out?

But what about that mainstream media? Take a look at the first few paragraphs of the AP story. See if you can spot the incongruity, the Thing That Doesn't Belong. I hope I'm not giving too big a hint:

After months of political deadlock, Iraq's parliament convened Saturday to select top leadership posts, launching the process of putting together a new government aimed at pulling the country out of its sectarian strife.

Before the session, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said all sides were agreed on a package deal for the top spots: Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-president spots.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, would become parliament speaker with two deputies - Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.

Suspected insurgents, meanwhile, set off two bombs in a public market in northern Iraq, killing at least two Iraqis and wounding 17. The second blast was timed to hit emergency crews arriving at the scene.

On Friday, the Shiite alliance nominated a tough-talking Shiite politician, Jawad al-Maliki, as prime minister in a move that broke the long impasse over forming a new government.

Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians signaled they would accept al-Maliki, clearing the way for parliament to elect top leadership positions, including the president.

Did you spot it?

All right then, riddle me this. The headline of the story is Iraqi Lawmakers Meet to Choose New Leaders. It's 27 grafs long.

Nine of the first ten paragraphs are, in fact, about the Iraqi politicians meeting and electing people to various positions. One paragraph is about a couple of Iraqis being killed in "northern Iraq" -- that is, 60 miles from Baghdad, where the parliament is meeting.

What does that paragraph have to do with the story? It's like saying Mandy, who lives in Colorado Springs, had a trigonometry test today; she had studied well, and she earned an A-, which was her best grade all semester. She told all her girlfriends about how well she did. A man was murdered in Tampa, Florida. Mandy's parents were so proud of her score on the trig test that they celebrated by going out to dinner.

Just as an experiment, I ploughed through this boring story about early voting in the city elections in New Orleans. Can you guess what I didn't find? Right you are: I didn't find a single word about the guy in Los Angeles who shot himself yesterday after a high-speed pursuit. Oddly enough, not a word about that in the New Orleans vote story.

Is it just me?

About halfway through the Iraqi parliament story, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (the writer) plunges into a dizzying fugue that attempts to catalog every single death that occurred in Iraq on the same day the National Assembly met. The only purpose I can imagine for this is to reassure AP's natural audience that they needn't worry -- no matter how much progress was made forming a unity government, it was still a wretched, horrible day in Iraq. Thank goodness!

Then the story abruptly lurches back onto the rails, discussing the actual subject for the remaining nine grafs.

This is the execrable tactic of the antique media: no matter how good the news from Iraq is, it must be leavened with layers of awfulness, regardless how incongruous they may be to the subject at hand. Like Mr. Dick in David Copperfield, the newsies may set out to write a straight news story; but sooner or later, poor King Charles's head must creep into it... leaving them puzzled and a little sheepish, since they don't even remember how they ever thought they were going to tie together parliament meeting in Baghdad with a firefighter killed in Muqdadiyah.

What seems to be misplaced is the lost journalists' ethic of simply conveying the relevant facts -- rather than trying to force a certain reader reaction (of despair, in this case), no matter how inappropriate it may be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 22, 2006, at the time of 07:07 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

Maliki On the March - Maybe

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

According to the BBC, the UIA has chosen Jawad al-Maliki, the deputy leader of the Islamic Dawa party, as its new nominee for prime minister of Iraq:

Mr Maliki, a close ally of Mr Jaafari, recently headed a committee which purged members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life, raising fears his nomination might be rejected by Sunni factions.

He has been acting as spokesman both for the Daawa party and for the broader coalition of seven Shia factions which make up the strongest parliamentary bloc and, therefore, has the right to nominate the premier...

He has been in charge of the Daawa party's internal political organisation and has taken an active part in helping formulate the four agreements which Iraqi politicians have already reached on the platform and other structures to underpin a new national unity government.

I think the BBC is being disingenuous here. While it's true that Maliki might be rejected (see below), it wouldn't be because he "recently headed a committee which purged members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party." That's a snide and churlish suggestion, implying that all Sunni were big fans of Saddam and wish the Baathists were back... and quite typical of the British "yellow journalists," who are, if anything, even more desperate to see a real civil war in Iraq than their American counterparts -- as well as perhaps just a bit too cozy with Iran themselves.

Great that Jaafari is gone; but I'm a little concerned about that "close ally of Mr Jaafari" jazz. Does this mean that Maliki is also a close ally of Muqtada Sadr? Did Jaafari get permission from the master to throw in the towel because he knew the fix was in for another Sadr sock puppet to rule?

The best indicator will be the response of the Kurds and the Sunni. They certainly know better than any of us whether an Iraqi politician is controlled by Sadr -- or directly by Sadr's own bosses in Teheran.

Iraq the Model is skeptical:

However, the question remains that; will the real problem be solved by this agreement on the top posts?

I guess not because if any of the two new candidates gets to be the new PM, Iraq will–in my opinion-continue to descend for the next four years in the same way it's been doing since the interim government was installed last year. And after all, the UIA's decision to replace Jafari with al-Adeeb or al-Maliki is a solution designed for preserving the brittle unity of the UIA and not for the creation of a unity government because they know very well that the rest of blocs were hoping to see Abdul Mahdi replace Jafari and maybe the UIA is twisting arms with this new nomination and betting on splitting the lines of the anti-Jafari mass thinking those would not be willing to prolong the deadlock by refusing the new candidates.

Will we see a surprise in tomorrow's session? Will the deadlock remain? Could it be that the Kurds, Sunni and secular blocs are just trying to trick the UIA into approving a presidency council and get the dispute to the parliament to overthrow the UIA's candidate(s) and force their own candidate?

This is what we'll find out tomorrow.

Let's assume Omar is right; how would this work? The National Assembly might vote on all the other positions first, stocking the government except for the prime minister.

If they then reject Jawad al-Maliki, the nominee of the plurality party (the UIA), it's my understanding that other parties are then free to nominate their own candidates. Suppose the Sunni, the Kurds, and the secular Shiite parties were all to nominate the same guy -- Adel Abdul Mahdi of the SCIRI? Even though the SCIRI is a part of the UIA, and Abdul Mahdi was not the UIA nominee... they may decide to vote for their own party member anyway, reasoning that Maliki had his shot and was rejected; he wouldn't be elected in any case.

If the SCIRI joined the Kurds, Sunni, and seculars, that would probably be enough to elect Abdul Mahdi over the objections of the Islamic Dawa Party. But since he is still Shia, presumably he should still get strong support as the elected prime minister from Dawa and the other parties in the UIA. He could be a true "unity leader."

Best of all, Abdul Mahdi is well known as about the bitterest opponent of Sadr and Iran among the well-known Shiite politicians.

As Omar says, we should have a good idea what's happening tomorrow.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shia Voting on Next PM Candidate

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

It looks like nearly everyone in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the 130-seat Shiite bloc in the Iraqi National Assembly, is more or less assuming that the next candidate for the UIA will be somebody other than Ibrahim al-Jaafari:

Representatives of the seven parties within the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition, were to meet after Friday midday prayers to discuss a replacement for al-Jaafari, whom the Sunnis and Kurds refused to accept to lead a unity government.

Shiite officials said it was unlikely the alliance committee would agree on a single candidate at the meeting and would instead focus on the mechanism for choosing a nominee. If the choice is made by the 130 Shiite parliament members, the committee must decide whether the winner needs two-thirds support or simply a majority, officials said.

Such a vote would probably take place Saturday before an afternoon session of parliament.

Everyone, that is, except Jaafari's "senior advisor":

Adnan al-Kadhimi, a senior adviser to al-Jaafari, said the prime minister was still a candidate. "It is up to the alliance to decide who is its candidate, but that does not mean that the alliance will not nominate al-Jaafari again, " al-Kadhimi told The Associated Press.

Well... yes it does, Mr. Kadhimi; that's pretty much exactly what it means.

Stay tuned to Big Lizards -- same moonbat time, same moonbat URL -- for all the latest moves in the Mesopotamia Mambo!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 06:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

Clinic Budget Shortfall in Iraq

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Last night, I was watching the ABC evening news (sorry, I like to flip). They were talking -- finally -- about American reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

That's a nice change isn't it? We've been complaining about the near blackout of coverage of all the good things that are happening in Iraq. But then, since ABC is still part of the antique media, they dropped the hammer: they didn't talk about how many schools were built or how many clinics were opened. Instead, they focused like a laser beam on how Americans have squandered reconstruction money by bad planning and incompetency.

This seems to be the media's new counterattack on our criticism. Early this month, the Washington Post reported that we are running out of money to build clinics in Iraq... after "only" completing 20 out of 142 planned clinics:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq has run out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the flush early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.

Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say its failure serves as a warning siren for other U.S. reconstruction efforts coming due this year.

But wait -- we did build twenty clinics as part of this one project... right? When was that reported? I sure don't remember seeing anything about it; at least, not until it could be framed as another American failure.

And more to the point... while the Post clearly wants us to believe that those clinics will never be built -- "walk away from more than 120 clinics" -- what about this statement that immediately follows the one above?

Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Corps of Engineers commander overseeing reconstruction in Iraq, said he still hoped to complete all 142 clinics as promised and was seeking emergency funds from the U.S. military and foreign donors.

"I'm fairly confident," McCoy said.

So we're not talking about a failure; we're talking about a potential failure... one that the federal government is already aware of, already tracking, and already moving to turn into another success. So why all the anger and defeatism?

According to the Post, the reason for the money shortage is that our initial plan did not account for the high cost of security:

Violence for which the United States failed to plan has consumed up to half the $18.4 billion through higher costs to guard project sites and workers and through direct shifts of billions of dollars to ramp up Iraq's police and military.

Granted, we did not correctly assess the danger and cost associated with the security measures. We went overbudget.

But what defense contract doesn't go overbudget? (The entire DOD computer system comes to mind, something about which I'm personally familiar, as well as those multi-hundred-dollar toilet seats... which I'm not personally familiar with!) After all, Iraq is a war zone; nothing is predictable. It's unreasonable to expect us to anticipate everything.

True: some people "predicted" that there would be a huge "insurgency" that would overwhelm us and drive us out of Iraq (Saddam Hussien predicted it, for example). But those same people also predicted that we would be stuck in a "quagmire," that tens of thousands of our soldiers would be killed, and that the urban warfare, the house-to-house fighting would eat our Army alive: they didn't (and still don't) have a good track record, but even a broken clock can be right twice a day.

An editorial in the New York Times argues that we should have forseen everything:

There appears to be plenty of blame to go around for the health clinics fiasco. High on the list comes the Bush administration's stubborn refusal to factor the deteriorating military situation into reconstruction planning. By the time this contract was awarded, in the spring of 2004, it should have been clear that special security measures would be needed in many areas.

But we know about those increased costs now; we've known about them -- and been "factor[ing]" them into "reconstruction planning" -- since 2004, more than a year and a half before the Times' editorial from Monday.

This is what happened: for about a year in 2003-2004, we were trying to train the New Iraqi Army to stand on its own feet; the training was under the direction of Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and it was a disaster -- not necessarily because of any failing on Eaton's part. But the Iraqi Army was pathetic, incompetent, corrupt, prone to desertion, and especially likely to flee in the face of the enemy or let enemy fighters slip through the noose even when they were surrounded.

This was the period during which the terrorist threat grew, and also the threat from home-grown (but Iranian controlled) "insurgents" like Muqtada Sadr. The response of the Iraqi Army at First Fallujah (April 2004) was typical: many soldiers panicked and fled, and the terrorists were allowed to slip away.

It is totally false for the Washington Post to say that we "failed to plan" for post-war violence. We did plan; our plan was to train-up the New Iraqi Army... it just went badly at first.

We made some adjustments, and now it's working much better; but the damage had been done. By Spring of 2004, the security situation in Iraq had become a lot worse.

We recognized that our training system had completely broken down; in May of 2004, shortly after First Fallujah revealed the deep problems in the Iraqi Army, the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) was rolled into the new Office of Security Transition (OST). Maj. Gen. Eaton retired, and Maj. Gen. David Petraeus (commander of the 101st Airborne during major combat operations in Iraq) was promoted to Lt. Gen. and put in command of the OST. The OST expanded to include not only training the New Iraqi Army but also the police forces.

(Ironically, Maj. Gen. Eaton is one of the retired generals demanding Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resign. Is it possible that Eaton's own replacement and retirement in 2004 was not completely voluntary? I don't know, but it's probably worth thinking about, since some of the other "griping" generals have personal grudges against Rumsfeld.)

Either because of these changes, or maybe just because the Iraqis themselves started to realize their own survival depended upon the Iraqi Army becoming professional, from that moment, the training began to turn around. The difference was easily seen just six months later, in November 2004, when the Iraqi Army performed so much better at Second Fallujah.

Once the Iraqi Army began to flourish, grow, and become much more effective, the "deterioration" of security leveled off, and now things are getting better. Not only are U.S. casualties and deaths lower, so are civilian deaths in Iraq. So maybe Brig. Gen. William McCoy of the Army Corps of Engineers has good reason to believe the rest of those clinics will be completed.

Even the Washington Post had to admit (at the very end of the article) that we've had many notable achievements:

The Corps of Engineers says the campaign has renovated or built 3,000 schools, upgraded 13 hospitals and created hundreds of border forts and police stations.

So, what does this all mean? Despite difficulities, our guys are doing a heck of a job. OK, so we need more money. But now that the new Iraqi security forces are becoming more and more reliable, and the new government is finally -- I hope! -- going to be formed, the prospect is good. From NYT:

Let it not be said that thousands more Iraqis died needlessly because America walked away from its promise of health clinics with less than 15 percent of the job done.

Hey, the New York Times and I finally agree on something!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 05:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ibrahim al-Jaafari Ready to Muck His Hand?

Elections , Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as much as threw in the towel.

Although he has not resigned, nor has he taken his name out of contention, he agreed to send his nomination back to the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) for a revote.

The dramatic announcement was made shortly before a planned session of the Iraqi parliament to try to jump-start formation of a new government. The Shiites asked that the session be postponed until Saturday or Sunday, after they resolve the issue of al-Jaafari's nomination, said Shiite official Ridha Jawad Taqi.

Jawad al-Maliki, spokesman for the prime minister's Dawa party, told reporters that "circumstances and updates had occurred" prompting al-Jaafari to refer the nomination back to the alliance "so that it take the appropriate decision."

Al-Maliki said the prime minister was not stepping down but "he is not sticking to this post."

This is a stunning breakthrough. I wonder who was big enough to lean on Jaafari and push him outside the tent?

The nomination of Jaafari is what has held up the formation of a permanent government for four months after the December elections, in which a National Assembly was chosen. Fixing a permanent government is the first giant stride in stabilizing Iraq: with a real, elected government and an Interior Ministry not corrupted and controlled by Jaafari's puppetmaster, Muqtada Sadr, all the forces of order -- military and police -- can be focused on stopping the tit-for-tat violence and killing or driving out the terrorists.

The move represents the first sign that al-Jaafari has abandoned his quest to keep the prime minister's post, only a day after he had repeated his steadfast refusal to step down.

Last time, Jaafari won the nomination within the party by a single vote... and that was before the Sunni, the Kurds, the seculars, and even the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- the largest party within the UIA itself -- decided that Jaafari was utterly unacceptable under any circumstances.

With a revote, it's virtually impossible that he will be renominated: I firmly believe the nomination of Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be prime minister of Iraq is dead... and with it, the caliphate ambitions of the barely-literate, untutored, barbaric "cleric," Sadr -- he and his al-Mahdi Militia. The nomination will go to someone else in the Islamic Dawa Party (Jaafari's group):

[Jawad] Al-Maliki and another leading Dawa politician, Ali al-Adeeb, have been touted as possible replacements for al-Jaafari.

It won't be Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the SCIRI, the man Jaafari barely edged out last time; that would be too humiliating to the Dawa Party. Dawa and the SCIRI have more or less come to a tacit agreement that if Jaafari leaves, his replacement will also be from Dawa; this is to prevent the UIA from splitting apart at the seams.

Once it's clear Jaafari is sidelined, that clears the decks for various other appointments:

Resolution of the prime minister issue could smooth the way for filling other posts, including the president, two vice presidents, parliament speaker and the two deputy speakers. The Shiites could block Sunni and Kurdish candidates for those positions in retaliation for the standoff over al-Jaafari.

They could, but they won't; fewer Sunni voted in the last election than their percent of the population... and if the UIA cannot form a government, that task will either devolve to one of the other, non-Shiite parties -- or else there will be another election. If there is another election, the Sunni will probably get more seats at the expense of the Shia... and that's the last thing the UIA wants. They won't do anything to rock the boat after Jaafari leaves.

Let's wait until there is a formal announcement, possibly Saturday or Sunday (Iraq time), before popping the champers. The fat lady hasn't actually sung yet... but it sure sounds like she's warming up the old voicebox.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 20, 2006, at the time of 04:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

Still Strong Iraqi Spirits

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

This morning I read an article titled “Two teachers killed in front of students” A subsequent article changed the claim to a school security guard and a teacher being killed; but the most recent news is that both the local Iraqi police and U.S. forces investigated, but neither could find any evidence that such killings had taken place at all:

The Iraqi government said militants killed two people at elementary schools in a mainly Shiite district of Baghdad on Wednesday, but police in the neighborhood denied any attack occurred.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson also said American military teams went to both schools and found no evidence that any violent incident had taken place at either. It was unclear why the ministry released the statement.

How fleet of foot is rumor, especially when the tall tale is music to the ears of the antique media: horrific violence in Iraq! Bush a miserable failure! Video at eleven!

Then I read this tragic news from Iraq the Model: their brother-in-law was assassinated.

The victim was a doctor who received a degree in a foreign country, then came back after Hussein’s regime fell. He could easily have stayed on safe foreign soil, making a comfortable living with his wife and two children. Instead, he came back to help rebuild his country; he worked at a clinic for poor people who otherwise cannot afford medical care.

Since I started reading Iraq the Model, I cannot help feel like we're friends, even a large extended family. I feel great empathy towards the brothers, Mohammed and Omar; through their blog and others like it (including the blog of their other brother, Ali, which I couldn't get to today), I started to think of the Iraqi people as our brothers and sisters.

They are no longer just strangers in a strange and far-away land. So when something like this happens, it hurts me personally, almost as if I actually knew him.

He was not affiliated with any political party or movement and spent all his time working at the hospital or studying at home and he was dreaming of building a medical center for his specialty to serve the poor who cannot afford going to expensive private clinics.

We didn't know or anticipate that cruel times were waiting for a chance to assassinate the dream and kill the future.

These victims of terrorism -- doctors and schoolteachers (if not the fictional schoolteachers of the Ministry's announcement, there are plenty of others who were real) -- had nothing to do with politics. They were killed for no reason, just for doing something good for the Iraqi people.

Terrorists cannot allow Iraqis to have a stable society; they worship only death, chaos, and destruction. We cannot afford to lose people like Mohammed, Omar, Ali, and their brother in law. Iraq security forces must protect the citizens of Iraq... and for that, we need a stable government immediately, like yesterday!

A good news is that the Iraqi people are strong. Certainly our friends Mohammed and Omar are not giving up; they will continue to fight for Iraq's future.

The terrorists and criminals are targeting all elements of life and they target anyone who wants to do something good for this country…They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.

We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.

Unfortunately we cannot say the same thing about Iraqi politicinas. Acting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari obstinately refuses to step aside, and the gridlock continues. There is something very peculiar about his obsession; Jaafari must know he can never be confirmed, even if every Shia voted for him (which they will not all do). So why is he so adamant in his refusal to withdraw his name?

We believe it has something to do with the future plans of Jaafari's boss, renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr, who controls the largest private militia in Iraq, the Mahdi. For some reason, Sadr seems terrified of somebody else gaining control of the government... including the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the police and prosecutors.

We can all draw our own conclusions... but there is still that untried murder charge hanging over Sadr's head. If the Iraqis wanted him out of the way, and if someone other than Sadr's sock puppet controlled the criminal-justice system, wouldn't that be a convenient way to do it?

The brothers refuse to arm themselves, but I hope they change their mind. There is no shame in protecting their lives with a little help from Colonel Colt. Even so, may God protect our friends in Iraq.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 19, 2006, at the time of 06:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Politics As Unusual

Future of Warfare , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

The newest wrinkle in the "Seven Days In April" (Tony Blankley's term) conspiracy of generals to unseat Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and hurt Republicans in the November elections) brings the essentially political nature of the rebellion into sharp focus. Oddly, though it's a day old, it's still not being reported in American mainstream news media -- at least not as I write this.

Brit Hume mentioned on Special Report yesterday that the newest addition to the Griping Generals is none other than former NATO commander and former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. But I can't find that news on any American news feed (via Google News search; I don't subscribe to the hideously overpriced LexisNexis)... not even on FoxNews.com.

It's reported in foreign news sources, however. ABC News Australia:

A former commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, has joined six other retired United States generals in calling for the resignation of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

He says Mr Rumsfeld has also lost the confidence of some serving officers, because of his handling of the war in Iraq and because they believe Mr Rumsfeld does not listen to advice.

General Clark, who was a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004, said Mr Rumsfeld had pushed the US into war in Iraq, before the diplomatic process had ended.

But you won't find it by searching abcnews.go.com here.

The Guardian has it, though they fail to note the political significance:

Mr Rumsfeld's position became more tenuous after six retired generals called for him to quit, followed by the revelation he was "personally involved" in "degrading and abusive" treatment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, according to an internal military inquiry. On Saturday General Wesley Clark became the seventh ex-commander calling for him to go.

The Guardian misses the fact that Clark is not just an "ex-commander," he was also a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket.

And here's the Beeb, which highlights what the Guardian skipped:

Ex-Nato commander Gen Wesley Clark, who ran for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2004, backed calls for Mr Rumsfeld to resign....

Gen Clark said in a television interview: "I believe secretary Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go."

Gen Clark said he believed Mr Rumsfeld, along with Vice-President Dick Cheney, had helped push the Iraq invasion when there was "no connection with the war on terror".

Gen Clark said the secretary had lost the confidence of some officers in the military who were asking for "somebody in the military chain of command who will listen".

Gen Clark has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

So what is the political component here? Why do we say the addition of Candidate Clark changes the complexion of the criticism? Because it makes it clearer than ever that this is a political revolt against Republican policy, driven by the Democratic Party -- not the concerns of unbiased military professionals.

The leadership role played by Gen. Anthony Zinni -- who, according to Fred Barnes, organized this political stunt by actually telephoning generals to talk them into joining the rebellion -- already pointed towards the real core of dissent, as opposed to the stated reasons: they're unhappy with the 2004 election results and hope to do better in November.

Big Lizards has noted the intensely political nature of Gen. Zinni's opposition to Rumsfeld from our first post on this subject. Zinni is widely expected to be Rumsfeld's replacement if John Kerry wins election in 2008; other Democrats might also consider him. Zinni opposed the "unnecessary" Iraq War from Day-1; he has repeatedly said that sanctions against Saddam Hussein were working and keeping him "in his box."

In 2000, Zinni himself said that Iraq had WMD, active WMD programs, and that there was a danger that terrorists could get WMD from Iraq and other state sponsors of terrorism. But starting just before the 2004 election, Zinni began claiming the opposite, that the Bush administration manipulated pre-war intelligence on WMD to manufacture casus belli.

We noted how the Democrats immediately began using the talking points generated for them by the Gripers to attack the Bush administration. And now the mask is off: a once and Democratic candidate openly joins the ranks of the Gripers.

I believe the Democrats have once again overplayed their hand, as at the Paul Wellstone memorial. When the Gripers only comprised generals who had actually served under Rumsfeld, they could be portrayed as simply worried and concerned that Rumsfeld was screwing up the war.

When General Zinni emerged as the ringleader, however, that started to make clear the political motivation of the group (as well as making the generals themselves seem like sock puppets)... but only to those who followed politics closely enough to know who Zinni was in the 1990s and could be in 2009.

And with the emergency of Wesley Clark, light dawns. Even the most casual follower of current events should remember that Clark ran for president as a Democrat in 2004 then withdrew and campaigned for John Kerry; that he was the preferred candidate of Michael Moore and most of the Hollywood lefties; that he opposed the Iraq War even before it began, testifying against it before Congress in 2002; and that he touts himself as a "progressive" from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Clark should now seize the mantle of "spokesman" from Zinni; Clark is unquestionably the best-known member of the Grumbling Gripers, and one would think that he can get "face time" more easily than Zinni. But the curious reluctance of the antique media even to mention that Clark is now part if the mob seems peculiar... does it mean the MSM realizes how this changes the tenor of the revolt from concerned-but-loyal troops to partisan hacks feeding talking points to the Democratic Party? Or are they just being slow on the uptake, as so often in recent years?

Since the 1960s, the New Left has followed a deliberate policy of infiltration and subversion of great American institutions, twisting them into front groups for "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party": newspapers and television news, movies and television entertainment, schools (public and private), the clergy of several major religions, the Girl Scouts (they're still trying to get inside the Boy Scouts), corporate America, the Civil Rights movement, the AMA and APA, and so forth.

In this, they are only following in the footsteps of the Master, for such subversion was an integral part of the worldwide Communist subversion of the 1930s through the 1950s, the Stalinist period. (The red-diaper babies of the New Left, from the Port Huron Statement on, have basically been Luddite Stalinists, more radical than their pro-industry Communist parents. Their "useful idiots" are progressives, such as Zinni, Clark, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), and the like.)

It is now clear that they have infiltrated and subverted at least some portion of the military, reaching all the way up to the highest rank (Zinni and Clark are both four-stars). There exists now a slice of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps that is in fact the military branch of the Democratic Party. They serve the Party, not the country; although the public face comprises entirely retired general officers, they claim they have many allies within the active-duty ranks... and there is no reason to doubt that they do.

Certainly Tony Blankley buys it, per a column from which I got that catchy phrase "Seven Days In April" up top (hat tip, Scott Johnson at Power Line). Blankley references and quotes from a Washington Post column by former ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke:

First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside.... Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning period for the war in Iraq, made this clear in an extraordinary, at times emotional, article in Time magazine this past week when he said he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." He went on to "challenge those still in uniform . . . to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak."

Holbrooke is a relentless Democratic campaigner; President Clinton seriously considered him for Secretary of State to replace the retiring Warren Christopher (Clinton picked Madeleine Allbright instead). Holbrooke goes on in that column to insist the generals "are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats." He does not claim, however, that they are not overt Democrats; and indeed, the two ringleaders assuredly are. The rest repeat earlier Democratic talking points (such as that there was "no post-war planning"). [Hat tip to commenter jd watson, who spotted an error in the succession order of Clinton's two Secretaries of State. - the Mgt.]

Holbrooke makes clear his own sympathy with this group of revolting retired and active-duty generals:

The major reason the nation needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command.

Tony Blankley wonders whether a conspiracy among active-duty generals to retire, one by one, and then immediately denounce the Bush administration and the Secretary of Defense, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Republicans in general might constitute a crime, either under the federal civilian law or the UCMJ:

A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

Big Lizards is less concerned about that aspect (does Blankley suggest that Alberto Gonzales begin issuing arrest warrants?) than we are curious whether anyone will actually believe in such a drip, drip, drip of sudden and "independent" resignations and denunciamentos -- or whether, with each new "falling star," the public will grow more and more skeptical of the political independence of the group.

Especially when it is led by Wesley Clark, the man who would be president.

Big Lizards anticipates the latter: as we implied a few posts ago and mention supra, the Democrats have yet again overplayed their hand. But then, like the scorpion and the frog, it is their nature to do so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2006, at the time of 04:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

All Right, Shinseki Can Keep His Epaulettes

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Upon reading this story in the New York Times, I will revise my previous statement that Gen. Shinseki should have been drummed out of service for blabbermouthing to Congress his personal position on how many troops were needed for "peacekeeping" in Iraq.

First, the set-up. Everybody agrees on this much:

General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, testified before Congress in February 2003 that peacekeeping operations in Iraq could require several hundred thousand troops, in part because it was a country with "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

Why was Shinseki wrong to say this?

First of all, generals and other staff (civilian and military) express their opinions privately; they are privately evaluated, and then the President of the United States (POTUS) decides. The content of such privileged communications cannot be divulged: what happens with POTUS stays with POTUS. Without such privacy, policy advisors will be reluctant to give their candid assessments, because they might leak out with unpredictable results.

Second, once a decision is made, the generals do not have the right to tell Congress that the decision is wrong. (And telling Congress is functionally equivalent to calling a press conference and telling the world, because somebody in Congress is sure to do so.)

Such congressional testimony inevitably becomes a political meme that will cause no end of problems forPOTUS and his entire administration. The opposition party will seize upon it (right or wrong) as "evidence" that the Commander in Chief is incompetent, use it to undermine his leadership and stir up anti-war sentiment across the country... which in turn can severely undercut congressional support for the mission.

The Pentagon planners, the service secretaries, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush had already determined that we needed a smaller peacekeeping force (for good reason: see below) than Gen. Shinseki wanted.

Shinseki's congressional testimony called all that into question, as 535 "armchair Commanders in Chief" got to hear Shinseki's views -- but not the reasons why they were ultimately rejected.

For, third, as it happens, Gen. Shinseki's position was flatly wrong. He was only looking at the immediate military goal. There was a reason why Bush and Rumsfeld decided to do it the way they did.

Bush's overall plan -- enunciated in the January, 2003 State of the Union speech and other speeches before the Iraq war began -- was to democratize the Middle East, starting with Iraq. He believed, and rightly so, in my opinion, that there was no other way to drain the fever swamps, the centuries of accumulated moral filth, poverty, hopelessness, despair, and desperation that bred terrorism the way literal filth breeds disease.

For decades, we followed a policy of "stability, not liberty." But Bush came to believe (again, rightly) that the lack of liberty had not led to stability but its opposite -- chaos and madness, which had its demonic Omega in the 9/11 attacks.

Bush chose, as president, to follow instead a path of liberty -- not stability. Hence, the goal of Iraqi self-reliance was equally or more important than crushing a post-Hussein "insurgency."

You cannot set a country on the path to self-reliance by colonizing it. Had we inundated Iraq with "several hundred thousand troops," not only would that have offered many more American targets without a corresponding increase in effectiveness (we would be sending less-trained personnel and couldn't properly rotate them out, forcing them to stay for much longer tours)... but also, it would infantalize the Iraqis, leading not to self-reliance but greater dependency. We would simply substitute one despotic, condescending ruler for another... ourselves.

I'm sure we would have been an improvement over the Baathists. But we would not have advanced one iota towards the urgent goal of democratizing the region.

So what Gen. Shinseki said was wrong on three counts:

  • He had no authority to reveal the privileged communications between the Commander in Chief and his military and civilian staff;
  • Because Shinseki's recommendation was at odds with the final decision, it became a political football and damaged the president's leadership and public and congresssional support for the mission;
  • And the advice Shinseki gave was simply wrong, because he only understood the military goal... not the equally important, long-term political goal.

What he did was insubordinate. But I now think it likely that he was merely stupidly insubordinate, rather than mendaciously so. This, in particular, is the passage that caught my eye and slightly softened my stance:

General Myers said he believed that news media coverage had overblown the confrontation and had failed to take note that General Shinseki had been "put in a corner" in questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"General Shinseki was forced to make that comment under pressure, pulled a number out, wasn't wedded to it," General Myers said. He also said General Shinseki did not push for more troops after giving his Congressional testimony.

All right, Myers was presumably there; he probably knows the sequence of events. But he is wrong in one particular: Gen. Shinseki was not "forced" to answer that question. He could have refused... just as he would have had some Congressman asked for operational details of the upcoming invasion.

There are some questions you do not answer... and a four-star general who is the Army Chief of Staff is expected to know what those questions are.

I suspect Myers likes Shinseki and is miffed that one of his colleagues got (mildly) chewed out for doing something really stupid. But he still got off easy. As I now believe it was not deliberate politicking but simple dumbth, I agree he should not have been fired (as he was not).

He should have been reprimanded.

Shinseki should have gotten a letter in his file. No one else need see it; he was retiring anyway. But he should have retired knowing that he did something really, really stupid that damaged support for the war by making it seem futile and mismanaged, when in fact all the decisions made were reasonable and had right reason behind them.

Instead, all he got was a mild oral rebuke:

Days later, Mr. Wolfowitz, then the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, called the estimate "wildly off the mark," a sentiment that Mr. Rumsfeld repeated in comments that were widely interpreted in Washington and within the Pentagon as a rebuke of General Shinseki.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld then had to go to Congress and do damage control. And to this day, the president still has to defend himself against disingenuous accusations of sending too small a force... mostly from people who wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all.

I believe I understand why everybody behaved the way they did: Shinseki had a brain fart; Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were trying to undo the damage Shinseki's brain fart caused; Bush felt loyal to Shinseki and did not want to damage his career or push him into premature retirement; Myers is in a loyalty tug-o-war between his duty to his former commander and his friendship with Shinseki.

But the reality is that Gen.Shinseki got away with a "senior moment" that should have exacted payment more dear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 05:02 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

April 16, 2006

"Retired Generals," Democrats Join Forces Against Bush

Iraq Matters , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

In a move that shocked exactly no one, Democrats have run with the ball that the "retired generals" handed off to them, accusing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush of incompetence and mismanagement of the war -- and citing the generals, of course, as representing the entire active-duty military:

"My view is that the secretary should step aside," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "Besides the fact that the Iraq war has been mismanaged... we should listen to what these generals are saying...."

Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the critical comments from the retired generals could be considered a reflection of current senior officers not permitted to criticize Rumsfeld or Bush.

"We need a new direction in Iraq," he said. "We're looking at some incompetency in addition to the arrogance issues that have been raised. ... (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice talked about a thousand tactical mistakes the other day in Iraq the other day. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement."

Once again, we're offered a proxy measurement for morale -- rather than simply asking soldiers about their morale. This is very similar to what the Zogby poll did in February (and which Big Lizards discussed here and here). Dodd assumes that the retired generals who criticize Rumsfeld are representative of "current senior officers" -- but those retired generals who praise Rumsfeld speak only for themselves.

If anybody were in any doubt about the crassly political aspect to those "retired generals," we need only wait a few days to see if any of them now speaks out against having his deeply held, a-political convictions hijacked by the Democratic Party. Since we know they're not shy about voicing their opinions, if they say nothing about Democrats seizing upon their carping to urge people to vote against the Republicans, I think we will have our answer.

Anybody making book on whether a single one of these six retired generals will say, "hey, wait a minute -- I didn't mean everyone should vote Democratic; I just want us to send another 300,000 men to Iraq, even if we have to draft them!"

A man (or woman) who makes general is not stupid... and he is not a political naif. He knows how his words and deeds will be interpreted, because if he didn't, he would have been weeded out long before.

When a bunch of generals, led by persistent Bush critic Anthony Zinni, come forward and all demand that Donald Rumsfeld be fired, they are well aware that the Democrats and the press will seize the golden opportunity. When Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) then do exactly what everyone expected them to do, it's difficult not to conclude that the griping generals have gotten just what they wanted.

But Richardson may have pushed his attack a little too far for credulity:

"What you're seeing is deep frustration in the military," he said, "deep frustration within our troops who are not getting enough armor. ... It is obvious that Secretary Rumsfeld did not listen to them. ... That's why we're in this morass."

Yes, Governor, that's it; the Iraqis have been unable to form a unity government so far because our troops have to muddle along with last month's body armor.

Look for more of these stunts as the election looms, each one dutifully reported by the media as yet another example of the military rising up in righteous rebellion against the hated tyrant.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 16, 2006, at the time of 11:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 08, 2006

Dogfight In the O.K. Mosque

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

"Sectarian" (meaning "al-Qaeda") violence kills scores!

That's what newspaper headlines scream. But wait; something seems a little peculiar about this specific mosque attack:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Three suicide bombers dressed as women killed at least 71 people at a Shi'ite mosque on Friday, the bloodiest attack in Iraq for at least three months.

At least 140 people were also wounded in the attack in north Baghdad, the latest proof of how Iraq's leaders have been unable to tackle sectarian violence as they struggle to form a government.

But why assume the violence is "sectarian" (Shia vs. Sunni)? There's no evidence of that; and there is a simpler explanation the Reuters story fails even to consider. (Good thing the mainstream media don't have a bias.)

What's odd is that this mosque is not one of the million or so "holiest sites in all of Iraq," not like the Golden al-Askariya Mosque in Samara. It is, nevertheless, an important gathering place, though more for political than religious reasons: imporant to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to be specific. This mosque is one of the SCIRI's headquarters.

The SCIRI is the largest Shiite party in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); they are rivals of the Islamic Dawa Party, whose candidate, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the appointed prime minister and is running for election under the new, permanent government.

We've had a thing or two to say about Jaafari before:

Iraq the Model explains the connection:

But that's not the most important thing because this mosque is of considerable political significance, the preacher in this mosque is Jalal Addin al-Sagheer, a cleric from the SCIRI who was the first SCIRI member to publicly urge Ibrahim al-Jafari to withdraw his nomination for office.

This mosque is one of the headquarters of the SCIRI and its clerical wing in Baghdad, even that Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem's son Ammar al-Hakkem preaches occasionally in this mosque when sheikh Jalal is not available.

Well, taking that into consideration, we cannot simply assume the culprits are al-Qaeda. It looks like there might be a stronger suspect. Consider the way the attacks were organized (again from Iraq the Model):

Let's also take a look at the planning for the attack that is very well studied too, the suicide bombers did not start striking during Friday prayers when the place is usually heavily guarded and security personnel are at high alert but the first strike came more than 15 minutes later when an attack is less expected and after guards felt they accomplished their mission in protecting the worshippers during the main ceremony to be followed by the other two bombings that took advantage of the state of panic created by the first bombing. This in addition to the use of disguise has of course made the breach easier to make.

It seems that the killers, those who organized the bombings, knew entirely too much about the practices and procedures of a Shiite mosque. They knew just when the guards would relax, allowing them to strike for maximal damages.

We cannot say for sure, of course; but if we had to guess who really is responsible for this attack, renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr actually stands to gain more from an attack on SCIRI headquarters than does Musab Zarqawi, still the military head of al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia (Iraq). Sadr, and his sock-puppet Jaafari, have openly threatened the groups which did not support Jaafari, especially the SCIRI. Could this be a message that they're deadly serious about this power struggle? “Don’t oppose Jaafari!”

But if this is true, this is all the more reason not to confirm Jaafari. If his method of running for office includes killing off the opposition, we can guess how he would rule the country. Iraqis and Americans cannot afford to have this man to become full prime minister.

The Iraqi authorities must vigorously investigate who is behind this attack; if it turns out to be the Mahdi Militia, not al-Qaeda, it would help Iraqis understand that Sadr ain't nothing but a pooch for Iran -- and Jaafari is just Sadr’s lap dog.

Call this case the dogfight at the O.K. mosque

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 08, 2006, at the time of 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

When Civil War Is Too Darn Civil

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I had thoughts about the supposed "civil war" in Iraq, but I decided not to bother posting them. I thought nobody would be interested, because -- I assumed -- the claim was so tortuous that it would just be a passing fad.

Boy howdy, was I wrong about that. Here's former Democratic nominee John Kerry, that man who would have been president (but for three hundred thousand votes), tooting the "civil war" horn in his op-ed piece in today's New York Times:

We are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.

So maybe I was also wrong that nobody would be interested in my civil-war ruminations. Here was my point:

What bothers me most about the claim that Iraq is in a civil war is the mendacious motive behind it all. If a fellow were using a consistent definition of civil war for some sociological, political, or military purpose, and that definition was a little looser than I would like, it wouldn't really irritate me. But those who sling around the claim, like Sen. Kerry (D-MA), have a very shifty purpose in mind.

The technique is to redefine some common but horrific term to scoop in far more cases than it ought... but still rely upon the frisson of the original meaning to make readers think the situation is more dire than it is.

For example, the late gender-feminist Andrea Dworkin (Rush Limbaugh would definitely call her a "feminazi") redefined "rape" to include all heterosexual sex. PETA routinely redefines the word "murder" to include the killing of animals, even for food. Both rely upon the very real horror people feel when the contemplate the normal and usual definitions of those words to manipulate them into feeling the same horror for perfectly ordinary activities.

And now "civil war;" I have seen some very wide, obtuse definitions that could apply to virtually any conflict on any level, so long as the fighting takes place all in one country. One writer I know even claims that America in the late 1960s was in a "civil war."

(He refers to the protests and street action against the Vietnam War -- for example, the ructions surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which spawned this infamous mangled explanation by Mayor Richard Daley the elder: "The police in Chicago are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder!")

In some circumstances, such open-ended definitions can be useful. We can talk about infighting within a club as a civil war, or we can say "John and Mary's divorce turned into a civil war." We could talk about the Basque terrorism in Spain as being a "low-level civil war." And if we made plain how we were using the word and didn't try to imply anything stronger, we'd be on terra firma.

But the Democrats know very well what most people will imagine when they hear that "Iraq is in an escalating civil war": they think of Rwanda, with its hundreds of thousands butchered by machetes. They think of Bosnia or Kosovo; they think of Vietnam, where millions were killed.

Perhaps the more historical minded think of the bloody civil war in Russia after the Czar was deposed, the war between White and Red Communists, or the terrible civil war in Spain between the Fascists, the Communists, and the Anarchists. Americans probably think of Antietam and Shiloh and Gettysburg.

Clearly this is what John Kerry wants us to think, for in his very next breath, he is espousing near defeatism and calling on us to threaten to pull out immediately -- and in any event to leave by the end of the year:

Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.... [that we might win]

Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military....

If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end.

When John Kerry says "civil war," he may have in his mind something like what France is undergoing right now -- riots and general strikes -- plus some terrorism. But it's what he knows is in your minds that is offensive: deliberately relying upon the revulsion that average Americans feel towards actual, full-blown civil war, which would imply total failure of our effort, is undeniably a lie by inuendo.

It's like saying a man is a rapist and murderer, when what you really mean is he beds his wife, and he sometimes kills his own chickens for eats.

It's a vile, craven, boorish debater's trick that plays upon people's natural assumption that distinguished senators don't lie... and it makes me shake with retroactive terror at the thought that Kerry very nearly found himself ensconced in the Oval Office.

I know it's a tiny point, the logical fallacy of using one peculiar meaning of a word, knowing your audience will infer a quite different and much more apocalyptic meaning. There probably isn't even a Latin phrase for it. It's cheap and shoddy; it's the ultimate in "gotcha" arguments. And it is meaningless, except insofar as it may mislead the mentally weak.

So was it even worth bringing up at all? I'm still not sure.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 05, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

Shiite Alliance Splits

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

A couple of weeks ago, Dafydd reported in Al-Jaafari - Teetering On the Edge? that there was a strong indication that the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), may split over the controversial nomination of Muqtada Sadr's ally, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as prime minister.

Jaafari is currently the prime minister by appointment, but still under the old Transitional government; he was not elected under the recently approved Iraq constitution. Sadr is, of course, the renegade "cleric" whose Mahdi Militia has gone to war against the Coalition many times in the past three years.

SCIRI (Abdul-Mahdi's party within the UIA) may be about to split from [the Islamic Dawa Party] (al-Jaafari's party) on the question of the prime minister nominee, joining with Kurds and Sunni to form a majority coalition that can nominate Abdul-Mahdi and elect him to the post. This would break the logjam, were it to occur, and the government could finally form.
It seems we were right about that. On Sunday afternoon, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw paid a surprise visit to Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) announced the split:

It was not clear whether the joint visit by Ms. Rice and Mr. Straw, the top emissaries of the two countries that led the invasion of Iraq three years ago, played a direct role in the fracturing of the Shiite bloc and whether that split would lead to forward movement on forming a new government, which has been stalled for months.

But the developments suggested a new phase in Iraq's convulsions may have started by opening a possibly violent battle for the country's top job between rival Shiite factions, which both have militias backing them up. The incumbent prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has said he will fight to keep his job, and his principal supporter is Moktada al-Sadr, a rebellious Shiite cleric whose Mahdi Army militia has resorted to violence many times to enforce his wishes

I do not believe their visits directly influenced the split, since the SCIRI was never happy with the nomination; Jaafari won by a single vote within the UIA party caucus, amid many violent threats by Sadr against anyone who opposed his candidate. But pressure from both the American and British governments might have been the last straw for Shia who are fed up with a nominee who has no interest even in unifying the Shia, let alone all Iraqis.

Of course the splintering will cause problems for the Shia, especially the religious ones. The UIA does not have a majority of seats in the National Assembly (it has 128 out of 275 seats), but it's the biggest kid on the block. If it fractures, with its largest piece (the SCIRI) pulling out, it will become just another minority party... particularly so if the SCIRI takes the closely allied Badr Organization (Badr Brigade) with it when it leaves.

The SCIRI will have to form an alliance with Kurdish, Sunni, and secular Shiite parties -- such as the Iraqi National Accord, led by Dr. Iyad Allawi, another former prime minister (this time of the Iraq Interim Government, which predated the Transitional National Assembly government).

The eruption among the Shiites could also completely redraw Iraq's political coalitions, if some Shiite politicians leave the bloc amid the feuding to side with other groups in the 275-member Parliament. That would weaken the religious Shiites.

The most likely candidate arising out of such a realliance would be current Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, the man Jaafari barely beat in the UIA caucus. Both Kurds and Sunni have signalled acceptance of Abdul Mahdi. If one or both of those parties could be persuaded to withdraw their current nominees and send Abdul Mahdi's name up, then the anti-Sadrites within the UIA could vote for him without having to split the party itself. If not, then the SCIRI will have to break away and nominate him.

Sadr’s faction will not stand by quietly as their power base erodes further. They will step up the violence and may even try to assassinate candidates opposing Jaafari, such as the SCIRI's Abdul Mahdi or the Iraqi Democratic Movement's Kassim Daoud (the IDM is another party within the UIA bloc).

Sadr's only power is his ability to kill and threaten to kill; he has considerably less of an ideological following today than he did while he was carrying out his (briefly) successful "rebellion" against the occupying forces in Najaf. Take away that ability, and Sadr will fall.

One possibility is that Coalition and Iraqi forces could keep Sadr's Mahdi Militia busy by raiding even more of the Mahdi thugs’ offices. Once an Iraq unity government is established with a more patriotic and moderate prime minister -- one not beholden to Sadr, as Jaafari is -- Sadr might see the writing on the wall (a very appropriate metaphor, since ancient Babylon was where Iraq is now) and flee to his patron, Iran.

If Sadr splits, I am convinced his Mahdi Militia will disband. Some of the members will surely follow Sadr into exile; others will slide seamlessly into other militias (such as the Badr Brigade, now called the Badr Organization), so they can continue fighting against the Sunni terrorists led by the Jordanian Musab Zarqawi. The rest will probably just fade into the background and try to pretend they were never there.

But that constitutes the best-case scenario, which means the odds are against it: it's the Middle East, after all. Let's keep our fingers crossed that at the very least, Jaafari is forced out as prime minister, and someone else takes over who can actually rally all the democratic factions behind him.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 03, 2006, at the time of 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006

Jill Carroll Now Says Statement Was Coerced

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was taken captive in Iraq in January and just released on March 30th, now says that the statement she made saying her captors had never threatened her was coerced, and that she spoke out of fear for her life.

She now says they threatened her life many times:

In a video, recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. But Carroll said the recording was made under threat. Her editor has said three men were pointing guns at her at the time.

"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement read by her editor in Boston.

"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."

The kidnappers then "released" her... but what they literally did was transport her to the offices of the Iraqi Islamist Party in Baghdad, a Sunni political party. My guess is that she felt there might be some sort of connection between the party and the terrorists -- in which she is probably correct and probably has better information than any of us, being a reporter working in Iraq. When the Iraqi Islamist Party interviewed her, seeking her statement that the kidnappers had treated her well, she likely believed that the wrong answer might put her right back where she was before:

"At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times," she said. "Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: That I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military and that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither is true."

I hope that all those in the blogosphere who criticized Ms. Carroll for praising her captors even after she was supposedly "free" will correct themselves, noting that she was, in fact, not yet free when she made those statements. (Of course, if anyone can find similar statements she made after she got into the Green Zone or Germany, those would be much harder for her to justify; but I haven't seen any such evidence yet.)

If it turns out that she was condemned solely on the basis of statements made while still in the clutches of the Iraqi Islamist Party -- which might have been a party to the original kidnapping -- then she was very shabbily treated indeed... by American blogs.

Every time something like this happens, it's another slice in the 'sphere. It's another little piece of evidence the Antique Media can trot out to make blogs look less professional. So that we don't end up suffering the death of a thousand cuts, please, let's try to "think a second time" before posting! I know some of you have very itchy trigger fingers; but accuracy is more important than raw speed.

We're never likely to beat the time of the MSM; they have correspondents under every bed. So let's make up for our slower pace by being the thoughtful ones.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 01, 2006, at the time of 03:04 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

The Strolling Dead

Iraq Matters , Kriminal Konspiracies
Hatched by Dafydd

Here is a bizarre update on our three posts of yesterday: AP's Mainscream Media Bias, Iraq Army, Coalition Begin Mahdi Militia Campaign, and Who Is Policing the Police? We Are.

The American military is now flatly asserting that Sadr-linked Shiite leaders in Iraq moved the bodies and staged the scene to falsely accuse Americans of committing a massacre in the Mustafa "mosque." (This presumably would include gruesomely handcuffing some of the bodies post-mortem, to make it look like execution rather than combat, though the article doesn't get into that level of detail.)

U.S. commanders in Iraq on Monday accused powerful Shi'ite groups of moving the corpses of gunmen killed in battle to encourage accusations that U.S.-led troops massacred unarmed worshippers in a mosque.

"After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There's been huge misinformation," Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said.

He rejected the accusations of a massacre that prompted the Shi'ite-led government to demand U.S. forces cede control of security but declined to spell out which group he believed moved the bodies.

Well, Big Lizards has no such reticence. All one need do is look at who is screaming the loudest -- and who has the most to gain. "Cui bono?" as the Romans asked: who benefits?

Actually, while LG. Chiarelli wouldn't point a finger (likely because he knows that's beyond his pay grade), he rather roundly hinted:

Chiarelli stood by the U.S. account, disputed by Sadr aides and other Shi'ite leaders but which is broadly in line with police reports and some local witnesses who spoke of a fierce gun battle around the site....

Though he declined to be drawn on the possible involvement of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, whose political leaders have led condemnation of the raid, Chiarelli said: "I think the backlash has been caused by the folks who set the scene up."

That is, 'the folks who set the scene up are the Sadrites causing the backlash.' Another way to phrase that last sentence is, 'the Sadrites causing the backlash are the folks who set the scene up.' So I think -- like the immortal Barry Goldwater -- in Chiarelli's heart, he knows Big Lizards is right!

Nowadays, we routinely videotape most engagements (many soldiers have helmet cams), so I suspect we can easily prove our case. The only question is -- will Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari -- the "cui" who most obviously "bonos" -- allow us to?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 28, 2006, at the time of 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2006

Who Is Policing the Police? We Are.

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times published an amazingly balanced and informative article Friday on our effort to train-up the Iraqi police to the same professional standard that we've trained the Iraqi Army.

Well, "balanced" is a relative term; we are still dealing with the Antique Media, after all. The Times begins by noting the cases where things aren't going well, such as with Firas Sabri Ali, who is admittedly being detained by the Iraqi police (under the Interior Ministry) as "collateral" for his brother, the one the police really want.

"I hope they catch him, because then I'll be released," said Mr. Ali, 38, a soft-spoken man who until his arrest worked for a British security company to support his wife and three sons. "They said, 'You must wait.' I told them: 'There's no law. This is injustice.' "

But with that pro-forma shot out of the way -- I believe such anti-Iraq-democracy anecdotes are formally required by the Sacred Canons of Journalistic Bona-Fides -- the article settles down and shows that American forces actually take seriously such questions of justice and integrity:

Such is the challenge facing the American military as it tries to train the Iraqi security forces to respect the rule of law. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder....

The Americans are pushing the Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces to ask judges for arrest warrants, restrain their use of force and ensure detainees' rights.

Couple this policy with the campaign against Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia and the political pressure we're bringing to bear on the Shia-dominated Iraq government, and it is very clear that the focus of our attention has shifted from the pre-governmental phase of Iraq's development -- where foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi and home-grown insurgents setting off bombs and other terrorist attacks were the chief threat -- to the post-governmental phase, where the most urgent problem is to ensure that the government itself is sustainable as a democratic, representative, just, and inclusive institution.

Much of the problem is due to a simple shortage of judges and facilities. After decades of rule by Saddam Hussein -- and decades more by the Baath Party before that -- there are very few people with actual judicial experience who are not tainted by torture and corruption.

Camp Justice [a makeshift court and police base in northern Baghdad] was never meant to hold prisoners for more than a few weeks. Iraqi law says prisoners to be tried are to be transferred to a Justice Ministry penitentiary after interrogation. But the ministry has been unable to build enough jails to keep pace with arrests. It has 10 centers across Iraq, which hold 7,500 detainees, and an additional 7 are expected to be built, a ministry spokesman said.

So the detainee population at temporary police prisons like the one here, separate from those of the Justice Ministry, has ballooned to more than 10,000 in Baghdad alone, spread across a shadowy network of about 10 centers, an Interior Ministry official said.

But some cases, such as Ali above, are clear cases of abuse themselves.

"The tradition in this country of a law enforcement agency that had absolute power over people, we've got to break them of that," said Maj. Andrew Creel, the departing joint operations officer here. "I think it'll take years. You can't change a cultural mind-set overnight."

But we are making progress. Police recruits at the Public Order Forces acadeny now receive twenty hours of training in respecting the human rights of detainees, two and a half times what they used to get. And we have replaced a number of police and police commanders at units where we have discovered brutality or abuse of prisoners... for example, we replaced the commanders of the Second Public Order Brigade and of the notorious Third Brigade based in Salman Pak.

Col. Gordon Davis Jr., the head of Camp Justice's departing advisory team, praised the Iraqi commander here, Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, for showing a willingness to embrace human rights....

"I won't say he's gone 180, but he's realized that the best way of getting information is not to beat or abuse detainees," Colonel Davis said as he stood in the operations room, the walls plastered with maps of Baghdad.

"The current generation has been brought up with a certain code and a certain tolerance for abuse," he said in another interview. "They've got to be constantly worked on."

That, alas, is the lasting legacy of Saddam: the Shia are like adults who were abused as children; like them, they imprint the normalcy of abuse and fear -- and inflict them upon others when they have the power. It's very hard to break that cycle, but it must be done if Iraq as a democratic nation is going to endure and serve as a model for others in the Middle East to copy.

The increased attention is paying off in results. In the fall of 2005, American troops made the decision to move in and live with with the Iraqi police units, rather than living separately and simply coming by to inspect once in a while. Now the rate of abuse is much lower, and the Iraqis are more receptive to what we are teaching them about restraint, justice, and rights.

Colonel Davis says the warrant policy has had some effect. Because of it, and because the Iraqis are improving their intelligence gathering, the Public Order Forces no longer round up hundreds of people on each raid, he said. On a typical operation, he added, they may take in a dozen.

After being brought here, the detainees are fingerprinted and have their retinas scanned. A photograph is taken, partly to record their condition at the time of arrest. The Americans have asked the Iraqis to deliver a daily report accounting for all detainees held throughout the division; one recent printout listed 896.

Our strategy is two pronged: on the one hand, we train-up the Iraqi police forces just as we trained up the Iraq Army; and we are seeing the beginnings of the same improvement in professionalism.

On the other hand, we have begun a military campaign against the militias and tribal chiefs who continually try to infiltrate the police and turn them into private armies. Between the two, the Iraq experiment will likely succeed better than nearly anybody today is willing to predict.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2006, at the time of 06:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Iraq Army, Coalition Begin Mahdi Militia Campaign

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

As Big Lizards reported over the weekend, the Iraqi Army with American advisors clashed with (it is now clear) a unit of Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia. From the New York Times:

The country's Shiite political leadership on Monday angrily denounced an American-backed military raid on a Shiite compound that left at least 16 people dead, as political leaders suspended talks over the formation of a new government....

In a statement on Monday about the raid, the American command did not vary much from its original public account Sunday night. It maintained that Iraqi and American troops had raided "multiple structures" but not a mosque, as Shiite leaders have contended, and that troops received fire from "several buildings near the target area." The troops killed 16 insurgents, wounded three, detained 18 other people, discovered a weapons stockpile and released a dental technician who had been taken hostage, the statement said.

But Iraqi government officials and political leaders vociferously disputed the American command's version of events, insisting that Iraqi and American troops had raided the Mustafa mosque, in the Ur neighborhood, as worshippers gathered for evening prayer.

We have highlighted the new information since yesterday: that we and the Iraqi Army discovered a weapons "stockpile" and that we detained eighteen people from the raid. Naturally, Iraqi Shiite officials dispute our version; but they cannot even keep their own stories straight:

But even among Iraqi government and political officials, there were significant differences in their accounts of Sunday's events. Some said the death toll was higher than 20, though there appeared to be consensus that the majority of the victims were members of the Iraq Branch of the Islamic Dawa Party who were meeting at the time of the raid in a party office attached to the mosque.

Khudair al-Khuzaie, the spokesman for the Iraq Branch of the Islamic Dawa Party, said he knew of 16 victims, all of whom were killed in the party's office, which is accessible through a doorway from the mosque's courtyard. Of the victims, he said, 13 were party members and three were civilians visiting the office. None of those 16 victims were [sic] in the mosque to pray, he added. [Note that this actually verifies the U.S. version, as do the statements of residents who witnessed the firefight. -- the Mgt.]

[Haydar al-Abadi, a top advisor to Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari] said that at least 17 people died, and that there was no armed resistance to the raid. "The executions took place in cold blood," he said.

[Yet witnesses who live in that neighborhood described a furious gun battle that went on for more than an hour, and we recovered a "stockpile" of weapons. -- the Mgt.]

In the hours after the attack, an official in the office of Moktada al-Sadr, the renegade and anti-American Shiite cleric, claimed that members of his Mahdi Army were among the victims. But on Monday, another Sadr representative said no Mahdi Army fighters died in the raid....

At a funeral procession today for victims of the clash, the mood was tense and members of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, kept their weapons on prominent display.

The quote from Abadi raises an interesting point. So far, we have heard denunciations of this raid from Abadi, the "top advisor" for Ibrahim al-Jaafari; Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, hand-picked by Jaafari for the position; and Jawad al-Maliki, an "ally" of Jaafari. Jaafari was put into power partly through the support of Muqtada Sadr (which is one reason so many Sunni and Kurish Iraqis oppose his candidacy for prime minister); Sadr has also denounced the raid -- which appears to have been directed against his Mahdi Militia, who controlled that "mosque."

It's actually in dispute whether it was truly a mosque or just an unofficial gathering place for the Mahdi Militia. From Reuters:

One source of confusion over the site may be that the mosque in question, close to Sadr's Sadr City stronghold in northeast Baghdad, was not a traditional religious building but a compound of former Baath party offices converted by Sadr followers.

Do we detecta pattern here? So far, the only "officials" who have been quoted denouncing this raid as a massacre with Americans "entering the Mustafa Shiite mosque and killing worshippers" have been politicians closely connected with Muqtada Sadr -- who controlled the armed compound and whose militia was the target of the raid.

Healing Iraq's Zeyad recounts the incident. (Hat tip Belmont Club)

American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside.

Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight.

This battle has long been coming. The tempo of events makes very clear that there has been a long-expected shift in the Coalition and Iraqi Army strategy:

  • In mid-March, we reported that "the Iraqi Army's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraq Army Division has just taken over security in Sadr City." Sadr City is Muqtada Sadr's stomping ground, named for the renegade cleric's far more respected (and respectable) father.
  • On March 23rd, we posted about an incident in which U.S. forces prevented Sadr's Mahdi militamen from rescuing Shiite pilgrams who were attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists. Instead, the Iraq Army pursued the attackers:

    The United States is pointedly preventing Muqtada Sadr from positioning himself as the savior of the Shia. A senior Shiite cleric, Hazem al-Aaraji, said on the Iraqiya television network that militiamen from the Mahdi Army had been dispatched to save the pilgrims, but that American forces had stopped them.

  • And now, an Iraqi Special Forces unit, with American advisors, has actually raided a "prayer room" controlled by the Mahdi Militia, directly confronting Sadr and his forces for the first time in more than a year.

The conclusion is unmistakable: we have decided that the capacity of foreign Sunni terrorists under Musab Zarqawi to affect the destiny of Iraq has been more or less neutralized; they can still kill people, as they did today, but they are powerless to prevent Iraq from becoming a democratic nation.

Instead, we now conclude that the Shiite militias are the graver danger: they threaten to undermine the legitmacy of the nascent government itself, particularly because of the likely connivance of Transitional Prime Minister al-Jaafari in the increasing murders committed by the Mahdi Militia and the Badr Brigades, the other major Shiite militia.

If indeed the forces of Muqtada Sadr and Ibrahim al-Jaafari are behind much of the "sectarian" violence (which looks more and more like political violence), as most now believe, then it's hardly surprising that Sadr and various allies of Jaafari are the loudest and shrillest voices condemning this raid as a "massacre" of innocent Moslems at prayer in a "mosque"... and playing down the Iraqi Army, who actually conducted it, in favor of blaming the Americans.

We have always believed that Muqtada Sadr is more dangerous to Iraq's future than Zarqawi; Sadr must be stopped... which probably means that he must eventually be killed. He will never give up his ambition to become Caliph of Mesopotamia or his ties to Iran, and both are challenges we cannot ignore. However, Sadr is still a popular figure among poor Shia. Killing him or destroying his mitila will not be well received by many Shiite Iraqis, who see him as a crusading hero.

Usually not-so-anti-America Al-Iraqiya TV is already putting a spin on the story. Zeyad explains.

Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes.

Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."

"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.

"Oh, okay I'll film them."

Naturally, even the more moderate Shiia politicians are demanding full investigation; the raid caused a great deal of turmoil, and it must be fully explained to the Iraqi people.

President Talabani said at a news conference that Gen. George W. Casey Jr. agreed to the formation of the joint investigative committee. "I will personally supervise, and we will learn who was responsible," the president said. "Those who are behind this attack must be brought to justice and punished."

While this may sound ominous, like he had already made up his mind that the raid was unlawful, a fuller quotation from the Reuters article is more heartening:

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has been hosting the negotiations said: "We have to know the truth about what happened, and we must not be driven by rumours. This is a very dangerous incident which we must investigate."

Omar, a Sunni who blogs at Iraq The Model, wonders what the real motivation is for this investigation/inquisition:

Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 40 beheaded or strangles [Sunni] bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more...

The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.

Actually, it is already too late to pressure the Iraqi Army and the Coalition into easing attacks on the Mahdi Milita and the Badr Brigades. The strategy is set and we are implementing it with increasing operational tempo. I doubt we and the Iraq Army will quit until both paramilitary death squads are thoroughly suppressed.

Bill Roggio has a detailed account of the incident.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 27, 2006, at the time of 03:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

Good News Unsuppressed

Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Gateway Pundit has a wonderful story about the lady who asked the president what to do with a DVD-full of footage her Army broadcast-journalist husband Kent Taylor collected in Iraq during his tour. (Hat tip to John Hinderaker at Power Line, who asks us to spread the word. So we will.)

Kent and. Gayle Taylor attended a recent townhall meeting where President Bush answered questions from ordinary citizens about Iraq and other topics. Taylor complained about the fact that none of the Antique Media was interested in showing the DVD, which included much footage of successful reconstruction in Iraq. She asked the president how she could share this information with America... and he suggested using blogs!

CNN also took note. Last night, Mrs. Taylor and her husband Kent were on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and able to share some of the DVD (Expose the Left has some of the video). Note that Cooper also had Hugh Hewitt on the show the night before last, and last night he added Michael Yon (along with a returning Hugh) to the mix. It appears that some, at least, in the MSM are starting to realize there really is another side... that it's not just sense vs. nonsense, which has been their position until now.

Kudo to Cooper for picking up the story, even though it took Mrs. Taylor's face to face appeal to the President of the United States to catch Cooper's attention!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 23, 2006, at the time of 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fool Me Once...

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Two days in a row, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked police stations in Iraq. Tuesday's attack in Muqdadiyah was a partial success for the terrorists: they killed 18 Iraqi police and four innocent bystanders, while freeing 30 of their own number who were being held in that jail. But the Iraqi security force killed 10 of the terrorists.

One of Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia groups, the Mujahaddin Shura Council, took credit on their website, though there is no independent verification that it was indeed they. However, the governor of Diyala province had the police commander and other officers arrested for suspicion of complicity in the attack, which may well be accurate, considering how corrupt the police have been in the very recent past.

One of the major goals of the current training by American forces is to weed out those Iraqi cops who are either corrupt in the old-fashioned sense of taking bribes to turn their backs (or aid a jailbreak) -- or in the really old-fashioned sense of being pure tribalists, seeing their uniforms as license to attack rival tribes under color of authority.

Unlike Tuesday, however, Wednesday's attack was decidedly unsuccessful. In fact, it was a total disaster for the terrorists.

Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle.

About 60 gunmen attacked the police station in Madain, south of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, said police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi. U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire, he said.

Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit, and five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died, and among the captives was a Syrian.

This time, over 80% (50 out of 60) of the attackers were captured. Under interrogation -- perhaps none too gentle, if we let the Iraqis handle it, as we should -- any one of these fifty may reveal vital, operational intel about the cell that launched the attack and possibly others (including, perhaps, Tuesday's attack), and about Syria's involvement in smuggling jihadis into Iraq.

If the foreigner were Yemeni or Jordanian, he would almost certainly be a renegade; but Syria is the only other country in the world run by the Baath Party, it had close ties to Saddam Hussein, and it has an unavowed but obvious policy of interfering in Iraq. Every Syrian capture is a potential treasure-trove of intelligence.

The New York Times also carried this story; some of their facts differ slightly, though the thrust was the same:

Insurgents laid siege today to the headquarters of a police paramilitary unit near the capital, lobbing a volley of mortars that killed at least one senior officer and injured at least five, Interior Ministry officials said.

The police fought back, killing at least five insurgents, a commander in Baghdad said. By nightfall, the police were holding at least 76 people for questioning.

The predawn attack, on an infamous paramilitary force, unfolded as 14 mortars pummeled the former governorate center in the Sunni Arab-dominated town of Salman Pak, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.

According to Weekly Standard writer Stephen F. Hayes, Salman Pak is where one of the terrorist training camps was located during the era of Saddam Hussein. This claim is the subject of a determined, almost desperate push-back by anti-war writers, who take Saddam's word that the camp was really a counter-terrorist training camp.

They have some allies, including Seymour Hersh -- who was caught red-fingered in 2004, lying in the New Yorker about Maj. Gen. Taguba's report on the Abu Ghraib abuses -- and Scott Ritter, the disgraced former U.N. weapons inspector whose views on Iraq made an abrupt 180-degree turn in 1999, and who then received $400,000 from Hussein-connected Detroit businessman Shakir al Khafaji to produce a documentary defending the Iraqi dictator.

The Iraqi police in Salman Pak, even today, have a deserved reputation for ruthlessness and brutality -- which is both good and bad. In this case, that character may have served them well; but they bear watching. At least, they have already mastered fairly sophisticated investigative techniques; referring to the second attack, the New York Times notes:

The police initially detained 146 people, all Iraqis, and then released 70 after testing them for traces of explosives, said Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, the commander of the 7,700-strong Public Order Forces, which has four brigades operating in Baghdad and the Salman Pak area.

(This may not contradict the AP version, since not all of the 146 people attacked the station; the Times reports that the Third Public Order Brigade in Salman Pak detained only 76 people for explosives residue following the attack, which is not that different from the AP claim that "about 60 gunmen" participated and fifty were detained.)

Al-Qaeda has attacked police stations before. They suffer terrible losses whenever they find themselves up against U.S. troops; but now, at last, the Iraqi police are beginning to catch up to their Iraqi Army counterparts. The police lost one engagement, but they clearly won in the second: the net effect of the two was thirty terrorists freed from jail -- but sixty incapacitated, either by death or capture. A few more "successes" like this, and al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia may be out of business.

In a purely military strategic point of view, the Iraqi police got the upper hand in this two-day exchange. However, the "Tet-lite" propaganda value of the attacks was a big win for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda has demonstrated two things for their eager audience in the press corps:

  • The Iraqi police are still distinctly weaker than the Iraqi Army -- not surprising, since "we've only just begun" to train the former.
  • The attacks also showed that al-Qaeda is alive and, if not exactly well, at least functional and able to mobilize large number of personnel. We can't pull a Murtha and send our troops on a strategic rearward advance just yet.

The Times, naturally, finds great cause for optimism that the whole operation to train the Iraqi police is collapsing. Referring to the first strike, they opine:

That highly coordinated strike raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the Iraqi police forces, at a time when President Bush and American commanders are touting the growing capabilities of the police.

Others might note that in a war, battles are both lost and won: what the Times and other media should look at is the overall picture. Clearly, the terrorists are not winning, even against the police (let alone the Iraqi Army).

Although al-Qaeda overwhelmed the police station on Tuesday with 200 people, they still evidently needed inside help to pull it off. On Wednesday, without the help from inside, they were crushed. This tells us something else: when the police (with American help) manage to clean out the bad eggs and develop true esprit de corps, as the Iraqi Army has, the police will become a very effective fighting force, even under the Interior Ministry.

Some other events that the Times inadvertently reports, but to which they give insufficient attention:

  • The Iraqi police have become very proactive.
This afternoon, insurgents in Baghdad attacked two busloads of Shiite pilgrims in two different parts of the city. In all, at least 2 pilgrims were killed and 46 injured. Policemen rushing to the scenes fought the insurgents, and at least two policemen were killed and four injured.

The Times does not tell us how many "insurgents" (terrorists, of course -- they attacked unarmed pilgrims, for heaven's sake) were killed or captured; that doesn't fit the story.

  • The United States is pointedly preventing Muqtada Sadr from positioning himself as the savior of the Shia.
A senior Shiite cleric, Hazem al-Aaraji, said on the Iraqiya television network that militiamen from the Mahdi Army had been dispatched to save the pilgrims, but that American forces had stopped them.
  • The only displacement of populations from Iraq comprise a handful of pro-Saddam Palestinians.
The border between Jordan and Iraq remained closed today, as the two governments tried to deal with scores of Palestinian refugees fleeing sectarian violence in Baghdad. The refugees had left Iraq by the busload last weekend, but were stopped by Jordanian border officials, stranding them at the frontier.

Note "scores," not thousands or even hundreds. The Times notes the Palestinians were "favored by Saddam Hussein," which must rank as one of the understatements of the year.

But each of these sidepoints in the Times article indicate not only that there is no "civil war," but also that the entire war is going our way. Donald Rumsfeld's small-footprint strategy, much disdained by the self-styled Jacksonians in the Republican Party, is actually working quite well.

Perhaps we shouldn't throw him under the bus just yet.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 23, 2006, at the time of 03:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

AP: Saddam, the Frustrated Innocent Victim

Fiskings , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

An Associated Press laugher today from Charles J. Hanley introduces a "frustrated" Saddam Hussein, appealing Iraq's innocence of WMD-related charges to his inner circle, unable to understand why the meanies at the UN and the United States won't believe that Iraq long before gave up any ambition to develop WMD.

Mr. Hanley subsequently asserts -- perhaps forgetting the bright line AP always maintains between commentary and news reporting -- that this is all true: the assertion that Iraq maintained WMD programs (if not "large stockpiles") was a dreadful mistake (or lie) all along, Hussein was innocent, and (Mr. Hanley insists) the Iraq Survey Group's final report completely vindicated Saddam Hussein:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

-- Wm. Shakespeare, the Tempest

The final dispatch of Charles Duelfer's ISG investigation? Good; let's take that as our "gold standard." Let us compare it to the sheer audacity of Mr. Hanley's misstatements, sly inuendo, and outright fabrications. The result may astonish anyone not familiar with AP's modus operandi.

All right, let's kick on the afterburners and get this crate airborne....

(I know some readers dislike long posts; but sometimes, especially with fiskings, you just gotta do it. Apologies in advance.)

Exasperated, besieged by global pressure, Saddam Hussein and top aides searched for ways in the 1990s to prove to the world they'd given up banned weapons.

"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show.

At another, in 1996, Saddam wondered whether U.N. inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years" in a pointless hunt for weapons of mass destruction. "When is this going to end?" he asked.

Huh... can we figure out any reason -- other than pure anti-Saddam bigorty and prejudice on the part of the international community -- why the UN would intensify inspections in 1996, despite the fact (as Mr. Hanley sees it) that Iraq was not hiding anything, because (he states) they had nothing to hide?

Perhaps we can turn to the gold standard, the final Duelfer report. This is the section discussing the infamous "chicken farm" documents... which Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel had hidden in his chicken ranch, and which he revealed when he defected.

Kamel was one of Saddam Hussein's sons in law. He defected in August 1995 along with another son in law, Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid; both began cooperating with UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Although Kamel insisted that he had ordered all the pre-Gulf War WMD destroyed, the fact that there was so much more than anyone had suspected, more than the UN had found, and tremendously more than Iraq had ever revealed, shook the confidence of the UN that they could rely in any way upon Hussein's cooperation.

(Later, both Kamel and al-Majid were lured back to Iraq, where they were both slain "resisting arrest" by the Iraq security forces.)

When Saddam discovered that Kamel and al-Majid had gone over, he panicked. The Iraqis had no idea what Kamel was telling UNSCOM, but they knew that he knew a lot. They also knew they had to get out in front of the information. Since it was compromised anyway, Saddam believed that they could quickly release the evidence themselves and make some PR gains -- all oriented towards getting the sanctions, including the inspection regime, permanently lifted.

In February 1996, the Iraqis "discovered" the chicken-farm documents and released them to UNSCOM. But Saddam's hopes were dashed that this would help the case to lift the sanctions:

Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.

Might that possibly explain why UNSCOM increased the frequency and intensity of their inspections in 1996?

Let's see what else Mr. Hanley has to say....

[Inspections] ended in 2004, when U.S. experts, after an exhaustive investigation, confirmed what the men in those meetings were saying: that Iraq had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction long ago, a finding that discredited the Bush administration's stated rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 - to locate WMD.

This is the familiar trope: that the only reason the Bush administration ever enunciated prior to the invasion was WMD... and now that we haven't found "large stockpiles" of WMD, that has "discredited" the "rationale" for the war.

But in fact, each of the following was offered before the war as casus belli:

  • The WMD programs;
  • To enforce UNSC resolutions, particularly 1441;
  • Because of his non-compliance with his treaty obligations, primarily in refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM inspections;
  • Hussein's links with terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda, whose members he gave sanctuary to after they were routed from Afghanistan; but also including Hamas and Hezbollah, and (we now discover) al-Qaeda affilliate Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines;
  • Because of his staggering record of crimes against humanity;
  • In order to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictator; these first six can be found, e.g., in the president's 2003 State of the Union Addressed (January 28th);
  • In order to establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East to serve as a model for other Moslem countries (February 2003);
  • Because Iraq had repeatedly attacked American fighter jets patrolling the no-fly zone and had tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1999 (both put forward September 2002).

Well, quite a number of enunciated reasons other than WMD, all promoted extensively and very publicly prior to the invasion, which began March 19th, 2003. Yet Mr. Hanley seems completely unaware of, even oblivious to, their existence. Either he has forgotten (most reporters have the memory of a mayfly), or else he never even noticed at the time. I wonder which he would claim?

Here he comes again:

Even as the documents make clear Saddam's regime had given up banned weapons, they also attest to its continued secretiveness: A 1997 document from Iraqi intelligence instructed agencies to keep confidential files away from U.N. teams, and to remove "any forbidden equipment."

Since it's now acknowledged the Iraqis had ended the arms programs by then, the directive may have been aimed at securing stray pieces of equipment, and preserving some secrets from Iraq's 1980s work on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Thus are great nonsense arguments promulgated. Like the King of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, we begin with the verdict -- that "Iraqis had ended the arms programs by [1997]" -- and any subsequent evidence that they had not (the warning to remove "forbidden equipment") is reinterpreted in light of the preexisting conclusion. It's magic!

What does Mr. Hanley's gold standard say about this time period?

Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.

Pretty odd behavior for a regime that had ended their arms program long before and sought only to preserve a few "secrets" from their WMD efforts a decade earlier.

Saddam's inner circle entertained notions of reviving the programs someday, the newly released documents show. "The factories will remain in our brains," one unidentified participant told Saddam at a meeting, apparently in the early 1990s.

At the same meeting, however, Saddam, who was deposed by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is now on trial for crimes against humanity, led a discussion about converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses.

When a subordinate complained that U.N. inspectors had seized equipment at the plants useful for pharmaceutical and insecticide production, Saddam jumped in, saying they had "no right" to deny the Iraqis the equipment, since "they have ascertained that we have no intention to produce in this field (chemical weapons)."

Not that Mr. Hanley would ever editorialize in the middle of a news story, but -- converting bio-chem factories "to beneficial uses"? Doesn't he actually mean converting to civilian use? How do we know the uses were "beneficial," when there is a persistent charge that what Iraq really did, following the Gulf War, was convert their WMD programs to dual-use capability, military and civilian -- and then argued that having at least a potential civilian capability meant the stockpiles could not be considered WMD.

In the end, the Iraqis persuading the CIA... which of course desperately wanted to be persuaded, since that would damage Bush. And we did find tremendous stockpiles of potential (dual-use) WMD: for example, drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" concealed in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps, where they sometimes sat within feet of empty chemical rockets and shells. Iraq, by the way, is one of the few countries that used cyclosarin as a chemical weapon (for example, during the Iran-Iraq war). Other countries used the related but far more effective (and impossible to hide as "dual-use") sarin instead of cyclosarin.

Kenneth Timmerman has documented this extensively, for example in his piece in Insight Magazine -- which alas has exceeded its expiry date and is no longer available on Insight's website. It is available on Timmerman's own site, however (though in annoyingly large type).

And in fact, Duelfer himself reported that the Iraqi chemical-weapon scientists had been retained at "civilian" pesticide production facilities, such as the Tariq Company in Fallujah. I wonder why?

So what Mr. Hanley reports, with a straight face, as "converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses," actually means, though he may be ignorant of it, converting chemical weapons factories to dual-use capability, knowing this would mean the international community (which includes the American CIA and State Department) would rush to exonerate Saddam Hussein if the dictator gave them even the smallest hook to hang their hats on. As Pat Collins, the Hip Hypnotist, proved, the easiest thing in the world is to hypnotize those who urgently want to be hypnotized.

Repeatedly in the transcripts, Saddam and his lieutenants remind each other that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, and shut down those programs and the nuclear-bomb program, which had never produced a weapon.

The image of Hussein and his top regime officials loudly and emphatically "remind[ing] each other" -- at a meeting they themselves were videotaping -- that they had destroyed all their banned WMD reminds me of the lousy science fiction writing that frequently appeared in magazines edited by Hugo Gernsback in the early 1930s...

"Golly, Will-X2283, it is amazing that today, in 2034, we can sit in comfort while traveling at more than one hundred miles of an hour in this evacuated subway tube."

"Why yes, Jon-K1119! If a traveler from one hundred years ago were to be magically whisked to this time period, he would be amazed not only at our transportation innovations but also by the fact that our underground hydroponics fields can feed four thousands in the same space that, in his day, would only feed four hundreds."

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Hanley that videotaped meetings at which people vigorously "remind each other" of facts they all know are probably meant for eventual public consumption... or at least later legal cover.

In any event, Charles Duelfer himself -- Mr. Hanley's gold standard -- noted that Saddam Hussein was very suspicious even of his own top people and concealed from them much of the WMD work that was ongoing. He was contradictory and contrary, often telling a person they had no WMD on one day, and a few days later telling the same person that they had superweapons that would drive the infidels and crusaders from the land.

In any event, whatever top regime officials may have "remind[ed] each other" of during those meetings, the fact remains that in the early 1990s, Saddam had every intention of maintaining and reconstituting his WMD. Duelfer reports in the section "Decline (1991-1996)":

Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.

Since the next section of the final report is titled "Recovery (1996-1998)," the alert reader can probably surmise Duelfer's conclusion.

Two quick hits show the extraordinary depth and subtlety of Mr. Hanley's reasoning:

"We played by the rules of the game," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said at a session in the mid-1990s. "In 1991, our weapons were destroyed."

Why yes... by us. Aziz is quite correct: Iraq's weapons were destroyed in 1991 -- by the Coalition forces operating under UN authority. That is, we destroyed what we found.

But did we find it all? Mr. Hanley has an answer to that, too:

Amer Mohammed Rashid, a top weapons program official, told a 1996 presidential meeting he laid out the facts to the U.N. chief inspector.

"We don't have anything to hide, so we're giving you all the details," he said he told Rolf Ekeus.

Mr. Hanley says that Rashid in fact "laid out all the facts" to Ekeus... but then he quotes Rashid saying only that he told Ekeus that he'd laid out all the facts. Evidently, Amer Mohammed Rashid's word is good enough for Mr. Hanley. After all, the mere fact that a man is a tyrant, a terrorist, and guilty of crimes against humanity is no reason to impugn his character, is it?

And at last we come full circle, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, to where we began, with Mr. Hanley's remarkable claim about the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, written by the CIA's Charles Duelfer:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.

So what does Charles Duelfer say for himself about the latter period leading up to the war?

Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use....

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.

Perhaps I'm not adept at reading between the lies, but that really doesn't look much like saying the WMD programs "never resumed production." To me, it looks more like Iraq was gearing up to go back into full production the moment sanctions were lifted -- and even earlier, using dual-use technologies.

But then, it's Associated Press. Perhaps that's all I really needed to say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2006, at the time of 09:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Al-Jaafari - Teetering On the Edge?

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Earlier this month, Sachi posted Al-Jaafari Must Step Down to Unify Iraq, in which she argued that Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the major reason there has not yet been agreement on a permanent government.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), is the leading candidate for next Iraqi Prime Minister; but he is stirring up a hornet's nest across Iraq: the Kurds don’t like him; the Sunnis hate him; and secular Iraqis fear him. Even the top Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- a strong proponent of a unified Iraq -- is suggesting al-Jaafari step aside....

Many believe al-Jaafari is behind a series of killings targeting prominent Sunni clerics and former Baath members, under the guise of the Interior Ministry’s Security Forces, which are infested with Iranian influenced militiamen. Al-Jaafari, of the Islamic Dawa Party (within the UIA coalition), was strongly backed in the Shiite caucus by militia leader Muqtada Sadr, the anti-American militant who occupied Najaf, Sadr City, and Basra during a failed "uprising" in March of 2004, timed to coincide with a similar surge of violence in Sunni Fallujah.

In the "primary" of the UIA, al-Jaafari beat Interim Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) by a single vote; thereafter, the entire UIA insisted that al-Jaafari must be the nominee for prime minister in the permanent government. Boiled down, that is the block in forming a government in Iraq.

But there are persistent and growing indications that the UIA is splintering on this issue now. According to the website AdnKronosInternational -- whose accuracy and veracity is completely unknown -- SCIRI (Abdul-Mahdi's party within the UIA) may be about to split from Dawa (al-Jaafari's party) on the question of the prime minister nominee, joining with Kurds and Sunni to form a majority coalition that can nominate Abdul-Mahdi and elect him to the post. This would break the logjam, were it to occur, and the government could finally form. (Hat tip to Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail.)

Baghdad, 17 March (AKI) - The representatives of the Kurdish list, the Sunni Iraqi Concord Front and much of the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) have reportedly reached an accord on a new prime minister. Their agreement not to reconfirm Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister and instead nominate Abdel Mahdi, a leading SCIRI figure and currently vice president, was reported by the al-Arabiya network and confirmed by Sunni deputy, Salman Jumeiri. The nomination of a new prime minister is the main sticking point in efforts to forge a new government in Iraq after the elections in December....

The line-up of those endorsing Abdel Mahdi - who lost narrowly to Jaafari in an internal vote on a prime ministerial candidate - may well exclude MPs from the faction of radical Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr and those of the Islamic party Dawa, led by Jaafari.

Ordinarily, we would not put much faith in an unknown website's claim; but this rumor has circulated for several days now, and more people seem to be believing it. For example, Hugh Hewitt mentioned it on his radio show last week, though he gave no specifics. (Of course, Hugh might just have gotten it from the Fourth Rail, as we did!)

Logically, it makes sense: al-Jaafari is Dawa's candidate, and he polled essentially equal with Abdul-Mahdi, being pushed ever so slightly over the top by Muqtada Sadr's powerful influence. If SCIRI can do an end-run around Dawa to get their own guy in the top spot and also be hailed as the saviors of the December election, they would be stupid to turn it down.

I doubt that Dawa will try to punish SCIRI later; Dawa needs the UIA as much as SCIRI, if the Shia are to have their majority. In fact, as Dawa is generally less militant and fundamentalist than SCIRI (though the individuals involved this time reverse that tendency), many Dawa members might be secretly pleased that al-Jaafari -- and the invisible hand of Sadr -- are out of the picture.

And they do, of course, want to light the candle and get the government going; the Iraqi people are getting restless with the bickering.

So let's keep fingers crossed that this isn't just a wild rumor that spread out of control like a California wildfire.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2006, at the time of 04:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Iraqi Battalion's First Independent Operation

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

We have talked about the readiness of the Iraqi Army for months. So it's nice to read a story like this one from the 1st Marine Regiment and the Military Transition Teams (MTTs) who train the Iraqi troops. Iraqi soldiers from the "2-2-7" recently conducted their first independent counterinsurgency operation in the Anbar district:

More than 100 soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division conducted their first independently-executed mission to disrupt insurgent operations here March 14.

The soldiers, who were accompanied by a handful of Marines, patrolled through and cleared three kilometers of village just south of the town of Haqlaniyah along the Euphrates River in western Al Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad. The Marines, outnumbered by the Iraqi soldiers 10 to one, were on hand in an advisory role only.

“It’s good for the Iraqi people not to see us out there and to see the Iraqi Army doing all the work in keeping their community safe,” said Capt. Quintin D. Jones, a Memphis, Tenn., native and member of the Military Transition Team (MTT) here. MTTs are groups of Coalition servicemembers assigned to logistically assist and guide individual Iraqi military units’ transition to independent operations.

The Iraqi-led mission was part of the latest counterinsurgency operation, dubbed “Raging Bull,” conducted by Coalition forces in western Al Anbar Province.

Despite relentless negative reporting from the MSM, I cannot help feeling optmistic about Iraq. That is because I focus on progress, not setbacks.

Of course we need to look at the serious reality of the war; but there must be balance. "Reality" in Iraq has three legs: progress, promise, and cost. But the media teeters precariously on a one-legged stool.

Remember the first Falluja offensive, where Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and fled in the face of the enemy? Today, no Iraqi soldier will show his back to the terrorist vermin infesting his country. These soldiers (we can definitely use that proud term now) are eager to prove their courage and the skills they learned from the best in the world: our own United States Marines.

And today the 1st Marines are proud to count the Iraqi Army as comrades.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 20, 2006, at the time of 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mullahlogging

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line frets that our talks with Iran about Iraq can only spell trouble:

My sense is that such talks are a bad idea. Iran is involved in Iraq because it perceives an interest in supporting our enemies there. To talk Iran into changing course, we would have to offer it an incentive larger than the one that's pushing it to cause trouble now. The only such incentive I can imagine is backing away from our efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

I can think of another. I suspect our talks are more along the lines of Marshall Matt Dillon "talking" with the latest boozed up, sadistic outlaw who thinks he and his gang of five or six dissolute drifters can take over Dodge and do bad things to Miss Kitty... and the "incentive" Bush is offering is the mullahs' continuing residence in this world, rather than the next.

Why, after five years of a president whose fault has more often been talkin' too Texan than crawling on his belly, do worried conservatives still think that any moment now, George W. Bush is going to turn into Neville Ehud Clinton?

This is a very bad habit of the Right (note that I don't mean Paul here; my focus now shifts to the hysterics in the sliver of the Antique Media that leans conservative): they spent so many years in the wilderness, they've homesteaded defeat. The spasm of Right-wing media despair that precedes every election is wearying, and it can prove a self-fulfilling prophecy if allowed to go too far.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2006, at the time of 02:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

Anti-American Protests "Fizzle" On War Anniversary

Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Update: See below.

A newspaper headline from years ago is such a marvel of oxymoronia, it is perfection:

Million Mom March Draws Thousands

Keep that headline in mind as you read about the massive, worldwide anti-war protests.

Today, March 19th, 2006, marks the third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq. Not surprisingly, since the liberation was conducted by the United States, there were coordinated anti-war protests planned across the globe. Record high numbers of people flocked to major cities to protest against the Great Satan... well, not exactly....

In Sydney Australia, back in 2003, 250,000 protesters rallied against the war. Yesterday, a whopping 500 people showed up. Australia has 20 million people, so this is a turnout of 0.0025% of the population.

Around 500 protesters marched through central Sydney, chanting "End the war now" and "Troops out of Iraq." Many campaigners waved placards branding President Bush the "World's No. 1 Terrorist" or expressing concerns that Iran could be the next country to face invasion.

The Associated Press did not let the fizzly turnout dampen their enthusiasm:

Opposition to the war is still evident in Australia, which has some 1,300 troops in and around Iraq. Visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heckled by campaigners in Sydney this week, who said she had "blood on her hands."

(It's interesting to note that the total number of protesters in Australia was just over a third the number of troops they have in Iraq.)

Perhaps things looked better in London or Tokyo; let's take a peek:

Authorities shut down streets in the heart of London's shopping and theater district for the demonstration, which organizers had predicted would attract up to 100,000 people, but police estimated the crowd was about 15,000 people....

In Tokyo, about 2,000 people rallied in a downtown park, carrying signs saying "Stop the Occupation" as they listened to a series of anti-war speeches.

Great Britain saw a turnout of 0.02%; but Tokyo was truly galvanized, with nearly 0.0016% marching in the streets for World Peace Now!

Japan currenty deploys about 600 troops from the Self Defense Force to Iraq. Japanese polls show that a majority of Japanese still oppose the war; however, since the Iraq War and Japan's deployment began, the Japanese people have shifted very significantly in favor of changing their officially pacifist constitution to one that allows Japan to maintain a regular standing army. Largely due to the precedent set by the Self Defence Force, the Japanese now support the new constitution by nearly two to one (over 60% support).

The second-largest protest was in Turkey. Some 5,000 protesters showed up. Considering it is a Moslem country, 5,000 may seem rather small and insignificant... but still, it represents a staggering 0.007% of the Turkish population. The Turkish government had better watch out: if all these people chose to seize control to express their displeasure at a war that Turkey is not involved in, the Turks might have to mobilize one of their 200 regiments to put them down.

Not to be left out, the mighty Swedes mobilized 1,000 protesters to surround the American embassy. That's 0.01%... a small country, but a doughty batch of protesters!

In Sweden, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally in Stockholm before a march to the U.S. Embassy. Some protesters carried banners reading "No to U.S. warmongering" and "USA out of Iraq," while others held up a U.S. flag with the white stars replaced by dollar signs.

Yeah, yeah... but does anybody actually care?

Update: Meanwhile, back at le chateau, a few students are up in arms in France (or at least up in les cocktails Molotov). Hat tip Power Line:

The protests, which drew 500,000 people in some 160 cities across the country, were the biggest show yet of escalating anger that is testing the strength of the conservative government before elections next year.

Wow, half a million people. This was by far the biggest protest demonstration of them all, drawing 0.82% of the French population -- more than 40 times the London demonstration in terms of population -- more than 33 times the size in actual numbers.

Alas, we can't really count it -- because they're not protesting the Iraq war. Their boeuf is entirely domestic: the "conservative" government in France wants to change the law to allow employers to fire incompetent employees within first two years, which is currently illegal. (Evidently, the potential of being incompetent is a besetting fear among French youths. Possibly because they spend all their time at l'Université rioting instead of studying.)

In an apparent effort to set fire to a police van serving as a blockade, protesters instead torched the entrance of a nearby Gap store, apparently by accident, engulfing the small porch in flames.

(And before we forget... the "conservative government?" In France? Only in the sense that socialists are slightly to the right of Communists. The Communist Party is very strong in France, by the way, and the French Communist Party has 21 seats in the National Assembly. In fact, adding together the eight radical-left parties, they control 177 of the 577 seats, or 31%. Radical left candidates for president received more than 12.5 million votes in the first round, or 44%. The government of France is not "conservative" by any stretch, and Yahoo is lying again.)

Maybe the French government should expand the military to alleviate the unemployment problem. Oh, wait -- do we really want rampaging French youths to have les fusils?

Best to let sleeping chiens lie, I suppose. As Emily Litella would say....

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 19, 2006, at the time of 01:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 17, 2006

Operation Swarmer: a "Pyrrhic Failure?"

Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

The Antique Media's ability to spin a successful operation into a failure never ceases to amaze me.

In an article in today's Time Magazine, Brian Bennett and Al Jallam claim that Operation Swarmer -- the operation just undertaken by the Iraqi Army and the 101st Airborne -- "fizzled," simply because it did not live up to the exciting fantasy that Time mistakenly expected.

Evidently, Time anticipated a spectacular fireworks show that could make a four-color cover, with missiles and Willie Pete and maybe a couple of MOABs (or at least puny, little Daisy Cutters).

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war.... In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

Time complains that planes and helicopters didn't come screaming in like a World War II strafing run. But this operation was never supposed to be an airstrike; it was an air assault, a fact that even Time itself supposedly understood. The part I clipped out above with the elipses is this parenthetical explanation:

("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.)

In other words, Time already knew that we weren't planning a huge, Clintonian barrage of missiles all over the place, blowing up wedding parties and Boy Sprout jamborees with glorious abandon. Operation Swarmers was, according to Wretchard of the Belmont Club, a cordon and search operation... which is exactly what the Iraqi Army and the Americans did. And they found a bunch of weaponry and a lot of potential insurgents, making this a very, very successful "fizzle":

Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released.

This means 31 suspects are still in custody, formerly dangerous terrorists who now are nothing more than intelligence sources for us. Plus, they made it clear that no place in Iraq can be considered "safe" for terrorists... that we and the Iraqi Army can hit anybody anywhere.

The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces, says Lt Col Skip Johnson commander of the 187 Battallion, 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne. "They have the lead," he said to reporters at the second stop of the tour....

With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.

Note that in this air assault, the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police (the "Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion") raided together, just as promised as part of the brokered deal to regain control of the police. As we reported Wednesday:

As for the Shiite militia attacking Sunni citizens, there has been an amazing new development: the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries announced yesterday that from now on, anti-terrorist raids will be conducted with the Iraqi Army and the police operating to