Category ►►► Good News!
July 4, 2012
There's Nothing Sweeter
As I now sip my beer and grill some tasty meats, I take time to thank the good Lord that I am free and independent, as our Founding Fathers declared over two centuries ago.
Happy Birthday, America -- and may all of us count the blessings of liberty so many have sacrificed so much to secure for us.
January 27, 2009
Still Stuk in Irak
Good news! More Americans are joining the military. Last fiscal year, all components of the military -- active duty, reserve, and National Guard -- met or exceeded the recruitment goals, for the first time since 2004. "And the trend seems to be accelerating," quoth the New York Times.
The NYT has its own idea why; the Gray Lady believes recruiting success is due to a recent sluggish economy... in other words, more people getting "stuk in Irak." As we all know, only uneducated slobs would join the military; so when times are tough, and all those morons cannot compete in the regular labor market, recruiting skyrockets. Simple!
Needless to say, I'm quite skeptical of that analysis. From previous research for earlier blogposts here, I know that our active-duty military has met or exceeded its recruiting goals except one branch in one year -- the Army in 2005. (Note that the links in first table apply to all tables; where the data simply says a service "met" its goals, we entered a score of 100% -- though it could of course be higher):
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, our active-duty military has consistently met or exceeded its goals, with only that one blip in 2005. Even in the militarily tough years like 2004 through 2006, when things were not looking good in Iraq, our active duty units only once failed to recruit enough new soldiers. (And bear in mind, the recruiting goals themselves were increased under President Bush; the military services met them anyway.)
But here is the most astonishing point, given the breathless tone of the Times article: If you look at the chart for active duty units, the rate of recruits for fiscal year 2008 is essentially no different from previous five years.
It is true that sometimes our reserve units (and often our National Guard units) had difficulty meeting their goals:
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
|2003||104%||(no data)||(no data)||(no data)|
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
|2003||(no data)||N/A||(no data)||N/A|
This is easily understood: During wartime, it's highly likely such units would be called up; this creates problems in life-planning -- you know you'll probably end up going, but you don't know exactly when. Therefore, potential recruits might as well enlist as active duty: The benefits are much better, and life is more predictable.
Contrariwise, as the Iraq war wound down, and it became less likely that reserve or Guard units would be nationalized and sent abroad, the easier career planning would attract more people to such units. The sluggish economy may be a minor factor, but the main reason for the rise in reserve and Guard recruiting is simply that we achieved victory in Iraq.
Too, we cannot neglect patriotism as a motivator: While we're actively fighting a savage and bitter enemy who has vowed to kill us all, American patriots who feel their honor and resolve questioned want to join active-duty service to show the militant Islamists how an American fights, wins, and if necessary, dies. (I haven't looked into it, but I suspect that after V-E Day and V-J Day signalled that we had won World War II, recruitment into the active-duty military dropped significantly in favor of a rise in National Guard and reserve forces.)
But what about all those stories in the elite media, month after month, year after year, crowing that the Army had missed its recruiting goals? There were hundreds of such stories... were they all lies?
Not exactly, but they were highly misleading: If you paid attention, you'd have noticed the reports almost always came out in the months of June, July and August. During the summer, recruiting always drops; kids coming out of high school or university typically want to take their last summer off instead of rushing to join the service. Therefore, recruiting often falls short in summer months.
But those numbers were invariably made up during the month of September, the last month in the fiscal year; and the Army (and all other branches of the active-duty military) always ended up meeting their goals for the year anyway. This same pattern happened every year, surprise surprise.
Contrary to the agenda of the New York Times, military service has never been unpopular in the United States, and particularly not during wartime (at least since Vietnam). The Army and Marines Corps -- where recruits are virtually guaranteed to see action during wartime -- often exceeded their goals and never (except once for the Army) had problems attracting young, patriotic men and women. Even more telling, the retention rate of all branches of the military are also very high, typically exceeding goals, and have been so throughout the Iraq-war period... and recall that by definition, service members who are "retained" (reenlist) past their current enlistment include a great many who have actual combat experience. Evidently these non-coms and commissioned officers don't think of themselves as simply "stuk in Irak."
In other words, there is no new trend. Nevertheless, the Times insists upon explaining “the trend”:
As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.... ["Lured?"]
The Army has managed to meet its goals each year since 2006, but not without difficulty.
As casualties in Iraq mounted, the Army began luring new soldiers by increasing signing bonuses for recruits and accepting a greater number of people who had medical and criminal histories, who scored low on entrance exams and who failed to graduate from high school.
Actually, the Navy actually tightened its test requirements during this period. But there are several problems with this non-explanation for non-failure that didn't happen:
- I immediately object to portraying our military as an evil organization which "lures" young, lazy bums who hate going to school with the promise of high pay (heh) and scholarships, turns them into donkeys, and sends them to the salt mines.
For one obvious incongruity, why would lazy bums be attracted by college scholarships?
- The Times forgets to mention that this entire time, we have been growing our military by tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
These recruiting goals are actually moving targets, increasing each year. Yet all active-duty branches and nearly all reserve branches have still met them anyway, with only that one exception one time.
- During wartime, actual combat, especially the Special-Force dominated combat of contemporary warfare, is inherently more dangerous than any job in the civilian world; and it takes money to recruit people into dangerous jobs.
...Though not as much money as recruiting people into dangerous civilian jobs, such as policing, fire-fighting, or underwater welding, because of the benefits of American patriotism, which is higher than any other country in the West except perhaps Israel.
But the fact some recruits are attracted by higher benefits doesn't diminish or taint the job of recruiting. Except for missionaries, we all expect to get paid well, even if we love our jobs; why expect our warriors to be any different than any other American? Why shouldn't they be compensated generously for the vital work they do defending the country?
The point is, there are many reasons why young people join the service, and all are equally valid and equally honorable. But the Times does not even consider the possibility that our nation's youth is excited about winning the Iraq war and wants to continue defending the country from Islamic terrorists and other enemies. Love of freedom and a sense of patriotism does not even enter into the minds of drive-by journalists, still gloating that they won in November.
Did they ask the recruits why they want to join the military? The Times gives us a handful of self-serving anecdotes:
Sean D. O’Neil, a 22-year-old who stood shivering outside an Army recruitment office in St. Louis, said he was forgoing plans to become a guitar maker for now, realizing that instruments are seen as a luxury during a recession. Mr. O’Neil, a Texas native, ventured to St. Louis for an apprenticeship but found himself $30,000 in debt. Joining the Army, his Plan B, was a purely financial decision. With President-elect Barack Obama in office, he expects the troop levels in Iraq to be lowered.
Going to war, although likely, feels safer to him. “I’m doing this for eight years,” he said. “Hopefully, when I get out, I’ll have all my fingers and toes and arms, and the economy will have turned around, and I’ll have a little egg to start up my own guitar line.”
Ryen Trexler, 21, saw the recession barreling toward him as he was fixing truck tires for Allegheny Trucks in Altoona, Pa. By last summer, his workload had dropped.... As the new guy on the job, he knew he would be the first to go....
Just a few months ago, Guy Derenoncourt was working as an equity trader at a boutique investment firm in New York. Then the equity market fell apart and he quit....
“I really had no intention to join if it weren’t for the financial turmoil, because I was doing quite well,” Mr. Derenoncourt, 25, said, adding that a sense of patriotism made it an easier choice.
This is a classic elite media debate trick; the quotes were clearly selected to reaffirm the paper's agenda, as shown by the complete lack of numerical context. How many soldiers primarily joined because of "eight years of the worst economy since the Great Depression" (as so many Democrats in Congress have put it) -- and how many joined up because of the traditional reasons Americans have always enlisted: patriotism, learning leadership skills, wanting some direction in their lives, learning discipline, getting mentally and physically stronger, and so forth?
These paltry few tendentious personal stories don’t tell the whole story. The Times could have surveyed a representative sample of recruits, asking them to list five reasons why they want to join and score them one to five. But that wouldn't serve the primary purpose of showing that our military recruits are still "stuk in Irak" because of the catastrophic economic policies of the incompetent Bush regime, would it?
April 2, 2008
Who Won the B. of B., and Who Lost? Hint: Listen to the Military Guys
Power Line asks "the question;" so do the Counterterrorism Blog and Col. Austin Bay. Bill Roggio is too busy answering the question to ask it. The elite media thinks it has the answer, but it's fooling itself (and us), as usual.
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line is skeptical of all sides, as is his wont. Alas, in this case, extreme skepticism leads to terminal agnosticism; but I think we have, at the least, a method we can follow to decide who won: Stop paying attention to the spin and just look at the actual facts on the ground.
Start with this one: In any military engagement, the side that calls for a ceasefire soonest and loudest is almost certainly the losing side. Why would the winner be anxious to terminate a successful operation before it's over?
In the case of Operation Knights' Charge, all sides agree that it was Muqtada Sadr who called for a truce, and he did so repeatedly. Buttressing this position is the fact that Sadr accompanied his call for a ceasefire with a series of imperious demands -- for example, that the Iraqi government must immediately release all imprisoned members of the mighty Mahdi Militia who had not yet been convicted of crimes. Yet despite the concession inherent in that last point, nobody, not even the elite media, claim that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has acquiesced to a single demand... but the Mahdi Militia surrendered Basra anyway.
For example, a fawning, almost sycophantic story yesterday on Time Magazine's website mentions the main demand, but then curiously drops the subject without saying whether Maliki accepted it:
One of Sadr's principal demands when he met with the delegation of Shi'ite political leaders to discuss the new cease-fire was that more of his forces be released under the amnesty law. This was to appease his disgruntled followers whose brothers and uncles are the ones behind bars and who feel they have taken an unfair brunt of the surge while former Sunni insurgents are getting paychecks in the Concerned Local Citizens units. Like any good politician, he has to prove he can deliver the goods to his followers -- even if he has to go to war for it.
And there the piece ends! Does anyone think that if reporter Charles Crain had the slightest bit of evidence that Sadr's demand was met, he wouldn't have shouted it from the rooftops? Especially in a piece titled, in typical unbiased fashion, "How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra."
Location, location, location
Another clear indicator is where each side is when the fighting stops. At the beginning of the Battle of Basra, all sources agree that the Mahdi Militia was virtually in control of the city of Basra -- thanks to the British policy of walking softly and carrying a toothpick. The militia patrolled the streets, they shook down citizens, they paraded openly, they held major rallies in public. They kidnapped and killed people at will; they controlled the airport, the seaport, and the oil fields.
Today, it is the Iraqi Army that patrols the streets of Basra; the militia -- again, all sides agree -- has pulled its fighters from the streets and no longer asserts control of the city. From the International Herald Tribune:
Iraqi troops met no significant resistance as a dozen-vehicle convoy drove Wednesday into the Hayaniyah district of central Basra, scene of fierce clashes last week with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters.
Troops set up checkpoints and searched a few houses before leaving the neighborhood after a couple of hours, witnesses said.
Here is what Bill Roggio says:
While the intensity of operations against the Mahdi Army in Basrah and the South have decreased since Sadr called for his unilateral cease-fire, Iraqi security forces continue to conduct operations. Today the Iraqi Army marched through the Mahdi Army-infested Hayaniyah district in central Basrah. On April 1, the Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics unit captured 20 “smugglers” in Basrah. On March 31, Iraqi Special Operation Forces killed 14 “criminals” during a raid against Mahdi Army forces occupying a school in Basrah.
The Iraqi security forces will continue to clear Basrah, according to the Army. During Sunday’s press briefing, Major General Abdul Aziz said several districts of Basrah were cleared, and these operations would continue. “Our troops managed to clear certain areas in Basra, Najubya, Al Ma’qil, Al Ashshar Wazuber and Garmat Ali and other places as well,” said Aziz. “Starting from today, we will work on clearing the other places from the wanted individuals and criminals and those who are still carrying weapons....”
The Iraqi Army has also moved troops into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr in Basrah province on April 1. The Iraqi troops replaced the facility protection services guards, who are often accused of criminal activities.
Clearly, the Iraqi Army ends the operation (or rather, the major-combat element of it) in a significantly improved position from where they started, while the militia is correspondingly dispossessed. Based on this metric alone, the winner should be clear.
Hip hip, chin chin, to the rhythm section
Another good measure is which side controls the post-combat operational tempo. Here again, there is no dispute, even among those who claim that Sadr won: The Iraqi Army continues its operations, while the militia removes itself from the streets, and it hides. The army continues raiding "safe" houses, arresting wanted militants, securing the area, and sending in reinforcements to hold the territory.
The Potter's Field
The "body count" metric is not always dispositive by itself; but combined with the other measures above, it adds its amicus curiae argument. Hundreds of Mahdi Militia members were killed, hundreds more captured, and hundreds more were wounded. Nobody claiming that Sadr won has even hinted that Iraqi Army casualties were anywhere near that high.
Roggio's latest numbers:
The Mahdi Army has also taken high casualties since the fighting began on March 25. According to an unofficial tally of the open source reporting from the US and Iraqi media and Multinational Forces Iraq, 571 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed, 881 have been wounded, 490 have been captured, and 30 have surrendered over the course of seven days of fighting.
Austin Bay has slightly different numbers (because they are official, so probably err on the side of caution):
A dispute over casualties in the firefights has ensued, as it always does. An Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman alleged that Sadr's militia had been hit hard in six days of fighting, suffering 215 dead, 155 arrested and approximately 600 wounded. The government spokesman gave no casualty figures for Iraqi security forces.
No one, of course, could offer an independent confirmation, but if the numbers are accurate they provide an indirect confirmation of reports that Sadr's Mahdi Militia (Jaish al-Mahdi, hence the acronym JAM) had at least a couple thousand fighters scattered throughout southern Iraq. This is not shocking news, but a reason to launch a limited offensive when opportunity appeared.
Assuming Austin Bay's estimate of 2,000 fighters (before Knights' Charge) in southern Iraq is accurate, that means that Sadr lost at least 18.5% of his force killed or captured, taking the official Iraqi Interior Ministry lowball, and perhaps as much as 53% (!) if Roggio is more accurate. But even a loss of 18% of the southern force and an overall casualty rate of 48% is a staggering blow... particularly to a clandestine organization that will now have a significantly harder time recruiting, since they're no longer seen as being "in charge."
How the elite media tries to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
So how on earth does anyone argue that Sadr was the victor? Very simply; in each case (yes, even with Andrew Cochran's tendentious editorial on the Counterterrorism Blog), those claiming Sadr won -- or more accurately, those claiming that Maliki lost -- completely ignore the facts on the ground and claim that Maliki suffered a political loss because the Iraqi Army didn't grind Sadr's bones to make their pita bread... and do it in six or seven hours, eight tops.
The fact that Sadr is still sucking air, that he can still give orders and have some portion of the militia listen, and the fact that the intrasectarian struggle ain't over yet -- hey, that's good enough to throw Maliki under the tank treads. Time Magazine:
In the view of many American troops and officers, the Mahdi Army had splintered irretrievably into a collection of independent operators and criminal gangs. Now, however, the conclusion of the conflict in Basra shows that when Sadr speaks, the militia listens.
That apparent authority is in marked contrast to the weakness of Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He traveled south to Basra with his security ministers to supervise the operation personally. After a few days of intense fighting he extended his previously announced deadline for surrender and offered militants cash in exchange for their weapons. Yet in the cease-fire announcement the militia explicitly reserved the right to hold onto its weapons. And the very fact of the cease-fire flies in the face of Maliki's proclamation that there would be no negotiations. It is Maliki, and not Sadr, who now appears militarily weak and unable to control elements of his own political coalition.
He does? Despite numerous calls by Sunni, Kurdish, and pro-Sadr Shiite elements within Iraq, Maliki not only continued to fight, the army continues its operations against Sadr to this very day. Yet Crain, who seems to have an odd and somewhat disturbing admiration for Muqtada Sadr, insists it was really Sadr who won because when he called on his troops to abandon control of Basra, they listened to him. Such loyalty!
In Cochran's case at the Counterterrorism Blog, the partisan nature is diametrically opposite that of Time, which evidently wishes Sadr (hence Iran) would take control of the entire country. It's clear to me, by contrast, that Cochran is furious that Maliki didn't press the assault until every last Sadr lieutenant, every wanted militant, every member of the militia, every Shia who had ever picked up a gun, and Sadr himself were all dead and dismembered... and the little dog he rode in on, too.
(Killing Sadr would have been a particularly remarkable achievement, since I've seen no evidence that Muqtada Sadr has even returned to Iraq from Iran. Certainly none of the articles I've seen has claimed he's back; when they need a Sadr quotation, they always get it from his spokespeople.)
Despite Time and the Counterterrorism Blog being on opposite sides, they link arms to attack the center in a conspiracy of shared short-term interests. Thus, Cochran agrees with Time that Maliki lost; he believes that Sadr won because he's still sucking air, as if a Monty Pythonesque "I'm not dead yet!" is Sadr's only victory condition:
Based on reports from the area since then, including this morning, I'll conclude that the short-term gains that U.S. forces made are bound to give way to a long-term strategic victory in Iraq for Moqtada al Sadr, the broader Shiite community, and Iran, unless the U.S. redeploys significant numbers of our troops to Shiite strongholds throughout Iraq.
Contradictory signals abound in asymmetric conflicts like the Iraqi offensive. An Iranian general who is a designated terrorist played some significant role in the ceasefire, thus vaildating my prognosis. Sadr's backers in Baghdad are claiming victory today, even as U.S. troops patrol their streets. [Sic; Roggio, et al, say it is the Iraqis patrolling the streets; Cochran offers no evidence that American forces are doing it instead.] The British are now freezing plans to withdraw more troops from that city, signaling a lack of confidence that the Iraqis will secure the area anytime this year. But an admission from a U.S. Army general in Iraq is telling:"Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said he welcomes the Iraqi government’s commitment to target criminals in Iraq’s second-largest city but he concedes there are challenges. He said most of the Iraqi troops “performed their mission” but some “were not up to the task” and the Iraqi government is investigating what happened. The government was surprised by ferocious resistance from followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to the offensive. The Iraqi campaign in Basra also faced desertions and mutiny in government ranks before a cease-fire order by al-Sadr on Sunday."
The "admission" by Gen. Bergner has been flashed around the news world by the drive-by media; it's their only take-away from the fight: Some Iraqi "security units" (as AP calls them) "were not up to the task." Left unexplained is whether these security units were army or police (both were involved in the fight), how many were not up to the task, and whether they damaged the operation or just didn't fight as effectively as we hoped. If it's a small number of units, mostly from the National Police, and if they were helpful but not as much as demanded by our very high standards, that's a far cry from the media implication -- that the entire Iraqi Army is worthless.
But the last sentence in the Cochran quote above is hardly a surprise: We have long known that some National Police stations were compromised by Sadrites. The main 30-man unit that defected to Sadr's side, or probably was in Sadr's pocket all along, has been captured and disbanded... which is yet another blow to the Mahdi Militia, which now has one fewer covert platoon in the Iraqi National Police.
Victory through superior winning
Reading through Cochran's biography, it appears he was a career bureaucrat (lawyer, CPA) at the Commerce Department, then senior oversight counsel to the House Committee on Financial Services, where he first appears to have gotten experience with counterterrorism... in particular, tracking terrorist groups by the financial trail of breadcrumbs they dribble behind them. This is an incredibly valuable skill, and I have no doubt he is an expert in all fields financial and in the finances of terrorism.
But I don't see any indication of a military background or strategic experience. Consequently, I prefer to listen to the military guys, like Bill Roggio and Austin Bay, rather than financial guys like Andrew Cochran. Particularly when Cochran's analysis doesn't even mention any of the military facts on the ground.
So to answer Paul Mirengoff's question, I would have to say that the clear winners were Nouri al-Maliki and Iraq. Not a single one of these points is even in dispute:
- It was Sadr who called for the truce, made the Mahdi Militia's surrender conditional, then surrendered anyway even when the conditions were not met by the Iraqi government;
- The Iraqi Army now controls the territory formerly controlled by the Mahdi Militia;
- The army has continued operational tempo, while the militia is in hiding, its leader afraid to show his face in public (in Iraq, at least);
- The militia suffered a loss of at least 18% of its total southern force with another 30% wounded;
- The most that critics of the war can say is that Sadr "won" by virtue of not being killed (wherever he is) and because his Mahdi Militia was not utterly annihilated and have not utterly repudiated him.
If readers still wish to be agnostic about victory, well, it's a free country... now.
March 30, 2008
You Be the Jug
Here's Bill Roggio's take on the possible capitulation by Muqtada Sadr:
Six days after the Iraqi government launched Operation Knights’ Charge in Basrah against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia terror groups, Muqtada al Sadr, the Leader of the Mahdi Army, has called for his fighters to lay down their weapons and cooperate with Iraqi security forces. Sadr’s call for an end to the fighting comes as his Mahdi Army has taken serious losses since the operation began.
"Sadr has sent a message to his loyalists urging them to end all armed activities," the Al Iraqiya television channel reported. Sadr "disowned anyone attacking the state institutions or parties' offices and headquarters...."
Sadr’s call for an end to fighting by his followers comes as his Mahdi Army has taken high casualties over the past six days. Since the fighting began on Tuesday 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basra.
From March 25-29 the Mahdi Army had an average of 71 of its fighters killed per day. Sixty-nine fighters have been captured per day, and another 160 have been reported wounded per day during the fighting. The US and Iraqi military never came close to inflicting [such] casualties during the height of major combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2007.
Here is the New York Times' version of today's events:
The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr on Sunday took a step toward ending six days of intense combat between his militia allies and Iraqi and American forces in Basra and Baghdad, saying in a statement that his followers would lay down their arms providing the Iraqi government met a series of demands.
The substance of the nine-point statement, released by Mr. Sadr on Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr, according to several officials involved in the negotiations....
Iraqi forces, backed up by American war planes and ground troops, have been in a stalemate with Shiite militias affiliated with Mr. Sadr in Basra for the past six days, in a military operation that has stirred harsh criticism of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Mr. Maliki’s campaign to take back militia-controlled parts of the southern city has met with far more resistance than was expected from militia fighters, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded last week.
Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis....
The move by Mr. Sadr stood in stark contrast to his actions in 2004, when he ordered his militia to fight to the death in the old city of Najaf, suggesting that Mr. Sadr’s political sophistication and skill at military strategizing has grown in the past few years.
So according to Roggio, a beaten Sadr is desperately seeking a face-saving way out of a war he is losing badly. But according to the Times (reporting by Erica Goode), a triumphant Sadr has trapped American forces and feeble, helpless Iraqi lickspittles and lapdogs in a quagmire; and now we are begging Sadr to give us (following our acquiescence to a series of "demands") a face-saving opportunity to run away with our tails between our legs.
I draw two conclusions: First, Bill Roggio, with his infantry background and current military connections (he has embedded with the Army, Marines, the Iraqi army, and the Iraqi National Police many times during the last four years), is far more likely to understand the situation on the ground in Iraq. Therefore, I trust his take on Sadr's surrender more than I trust the Times.
Second, based on the elite-media coverage of Operation Knights' Charge against the Mahdi Militia over the past week, I can only conclude that it must be an election year.
March 27, 2008
Iran's Pawn Squirms Under Knights' Assault
All right, we've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?
Why am I asking you?
The good news is that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is proving steadfast at taking the initiative and maintaining operational tempo (like the military-sounding buzz phrases?) against the Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia, ensconced in Basra, thanks to our British allies, and in the Sadr City slum of Baghdad. Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq and the center of its oil industry, according to Bill Roggio.
The bad news is that the elite news media still doesn't get it.
In the AP story, good and bad news crowd together like fans and hooligans jostling each other at a soccer match:
The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area as military operations persisted for a fourth day with stiff resistance.
"We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat," al-Maliki said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.
The events threatened to unravel a Mahdi Army cease-fire and lead to a dramatic escalation in violence after a period of relative calm that had lasted for months.
Let's get to the good stuff first... a line whose significance not even the reporter, Kim Gamel, realizes: "The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area..."
What's significant about Maliki's audience is that he is talking to Shiite tribal leaders in Basra... the very people who would have been Sadr's strongest supporters just a year or so before. I highly doubt he would give a speech to his enemies; in Iraq, that's tantamount to suicide (without martyrdom). Thus the logical conclusion is that "salvation councils," by whatever names, are sweeping Shiite Iraq as they did Sunni Iraq, causing the Shia to reject Muqtada Sadr and his Iranian masters just as the Sunni turned on al-Qaeda this year.
Neither in the AP story nor the New York Times version do we find any recognition of this major breakthrough. Nevertheless, it presages a complete defeat of the Shiite insurgents; just as al-Qaeda in Iraq has been driven from pillar to pooch, to the point where they have but a single stronghold left, in Mosul... and in a few months, they will have none.
I anticipate the same fate for Iran's insurgents in Iraq; but the elite media doesn't understand that this is the real lede, not the fact that 5,000 Sadrites paraded around Sadr City with balloons and banners, protesting the crackdown.
Here is a naturally arising example, by the way, of the Argument by Tendentious Redefinition so beloved of the Left:
The demonstrating Sadrists are angry over recent raids and detentions, saying U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of the August cease-fire to crack down on the movement.
They have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective campaign after the Iraqi parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.
U.S. commanders have insisted the fight is being led by the Iraqi government and was not against al-Sadr's movement but breakaway factions believed to be funded and trained by Iran, which has denied the allegations.
The word "cease-fire" has two definitions: the order to stop shooting, or a negotiated truce between warring parties. Clearly this putative cease-fire was not the latter sort; neither we nor the Iraqis engaged in any negotiations to craft a truce with the Mahdi Militia.
But if all AP means is that the leader of the militia ordered his people to stop resisting, then what is the problem with "taking advantage" of that partial surrender to go after the holdouts who refuse to lay down their arms? That's a perfectly normal response -- not just here but in the Middle East, as well. Yet the protesters react as if Sadr's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire created a bilateral truce, which the Iraqis have violated.
It seems clear to me that this is the take-away AP pushes: Those dastardly, Bush-backed Iraqis took "advantage" of the trusting Sadrites to violate the cease-fire in a surprise attack!
But of course, a unilateral cease-fire is just that: one-sided. It imposes no moral or ethical obligation on anybody else, so long as a state of hostilities still exists (as clearly it does).
And of course, it's not as if even the Mahdi Militia itself were keeping this so-called "cease-fire." From Bill Roggio's post:
Basrah has seen an uptick in Iranian-backed terror activity since the British withdrew from the city late last year. Political assassinations and intimidation campaigns have been on the rise as the Iranians work to extend their influence in the oil-rich city....
Sadr's Mahdi Army has been formed by Iran's Qods Force along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria in February, was among those behind the formation and training of the Mahdi Army. Iran established the Ramazan Corps to run weapons, fighters, and support to the Special Groups, which include significant elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army.
With Sadr himself having, in his own words (per Roggio), "isolat[ed] myself in protest" of his own failure to conquer Iraq, drive out the Americans, and Islamicize the Iraqis, many of his former commanders have left Sadr behind and led their own attacks against the Iraq government and against the Coalition. Maliki had ample reason to go after them hammer and tooth.
Back to the protesters. The Times has more detail on their complaints, since that -- not the successful extension of the counterinsurgency by the Iraq army to Iran's proxies -- is the focus of the story:
In Baghdad, close-packed crowds numbering perhaps 5,000 demonstrated in Sadr City, the focal point of the capital’s protests, taking over the main street, chanting, dancing, holding up banners, and declaring their readiness to continue to oppose the Iraqi Army’s attempt to wrest control of Basra from Mr. Sadr’s Shiite militiamen, a major onslaught that began on Tuesday....
Some of the protesters criticized the United States -- Mr. Sadr considers the Americans occupiers -- but most of their criticism was aimed at Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mr. Hakim leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which has emerged as a rival political force to Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army and also commands a rival militia, the Badr Organization. [Which, however, has not been attacking anyone lately.]
The protesters criticized what they said was a strengthening alliance between Mr. Hakim’s political group and the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power. Mr. Maliki’s government depends on support from Mr. Hakim’s party, reducing the need for alliances with the Mahdi Army and making it easier for Mr. Maliki to move against it.
(That shift in support from Muqtada Sadr -- Maliki's original patron -- to Hakim is a direct result of the Mahdi-Militia bloc boycotting the Iraqi parliament for several months last year. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.)
The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; the Times disgorges the self-description by the protesters themselves, then makes no further comment. My sense is that they side (as usual) with the protesters but are cagey enough to realize that wouldn't go down well with most Americans; so they stand, silent and smug.
But let's ask ourselves: Don't we want "the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power?" Isn't this the answer to exactly what war critics have decried, that radical Shia would turn Iraq into a theocracy? The Iraq army's Operation Knights' Assault, which (per Roggio) follows a troop buildup that began last August, is precisely aimed at the Iran-backed theocrats in the Mahdi Militia; what more could the Left ask for?
Oh, I forgot; they're only against theocracy and sharia where its allied with America, such as the UAE... where they're the wrong kind of theocrats. When theocracy is anti-American, as in Iran, then the Times is all for it.
Everything the protesters say should make a real American more supportive of Iraq, Maliki, and Operation Knights' Assault; yet by their refusal to take sides between Iran-controlled terrorists and ordinary Iraqis who just want to live their lives, the elite media in fact side with the Sadrites.
Finally, although they're forced to admit it's going fairly well so far, the media wants to assure us that it will all end in tears and defeat. Again from the Times:
American officials have presented the attempts by the Iraqi Army to secure Basra as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation on its own. But a failure there would be a serious embarrassment for the Iraqi government and for the army, as well as for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own.
During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out.
I'm not sure I can take seriously such denigration coming from an official of our allies... who sadly failed in their task in Basra, even while we were succeeding in the rest of Iraq. Rather than switch to a counterinsurgency strategy and finish the job, as soon as Tony Blair passed the torch to Gordon Brown, the new prime minister pulled all the British troops back to the Basra airport. From the Guardian in September 2007:
The Iraqi flag flew over Basra Palace today as British troops completed their withdrawal from the city in a move Gordon Brown said was "pre-planned and organised" and not a defeat.
The removal of 550 British troops to the city's airport leaves Basra largely under the control of Iranian-backed Shia militias.
The move came as the US president, George Bush, made a surprise visit to Iraq in an attempt to win support from an increasingly sceptical US public for his "surge" of troops....
The 550 soldiers began handing over control of the palace, the last British stronghold in downtown Basra, to the Iraqi army shortly before 1am local time (2200 BST yesterday), the army said. They then joined the 5,000 other British troops based at an airfield 13 miles away on the fringes of the port city.
And now Basra has become the last redoubt of the mighty Mahdi Militia... and some British bloke sniffs that the operation to clean up the mess the Brits left won't work, because the Basra police are fatally compromised. Thanks, mate.
The hidden assumption is that all members of the Mahdi Militia are true believers who actually declare Muqtada Sadr to be the Mahdi Himself. But as we all know (or ought), a hallmark of powerful political movements is that they force everyone to join the party, literally.
Oskar Schindler likely joined the Nazi Party because it was the only way to do business in Nazi Germany. He obviously had no serious objections to Adolf Hitler -- at first; but by the same token, he was no Horst Wessel either.
The same is likely true for many Shia in Basra or Sadr City who "joined" the militias (Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades -- now the Badr Organization). There is no doubt that many members are fanatical fighters; but in addition, a great many are "fair-weather" members. The significance is that the latter can be turned.
Erstwhile "members" of AQI, tribal leaders who supported Musab Zarqawi in 2006, turned against the terrorist leader and against al-Qaeda in general in 2008, once they had a lingering, dyspeptic taste of the caliphate. So too can many "members" of the Mahdi Militia who have "infiltrated" the Basra police forces (alternatively, people who want jobs as policemen in Basra who discover that one of the de facto job requirements is to swear fealty to Muqtada Sadr) will turn, once they see that the federal government really is a government for all Iraqis, as Maliki and George W. Bush have been saying... and not under the leash of the Americans, as Sadr has said (from under the leash of Iran).
That is what counterinsurgency is all about; and that's what our eternal friends the Brits should have been doing in 2007 and 2008, instead of fleeing to the airport and prematurely handing over the province to "the Iraqis," without first inquiring exactly which Iraqis were reaching for it.
But better late than not at all. Let Operation Knights' Assault continue and the good news roll!
March 19, 2008
Bad Break for Barack, Wonderful Win for World
In a stunning disappointment to the Barack Obama candidacy, the Iraq presidential council did a U-turn today and approved parliament's plan for provincial elections in the fall. Alas, the news is even worse than that: All sides agree that the determinant factor in the reversal was the undiplomatic behavior of Vice President Dick Cheney, who reportedly sternly argued the council into withdrawing its objection.
A confusticated Obama may now have to revamp his line that "[John McCain] completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades," unless the audacious change-agent intends to argue that a successful, stable democracy itself emboldens our enemies.
From the AP story:
Under strong U.S. pressure, Iraq's presidential council signed off Wednesday on a measure paving the way for provincial elections by the fall, a major step toward easing sectarian rifts as the nation marks the fifth anniversary of the war.
The decision by the council, made up of the country's president and two vice presidents, lays the groundwork for voters to choose new leaders of Iraq's 18 provinces. The elections open the door to greater Sunni representation in regional administrations.
And on the Cheney connection:
The decision by the council came two days after Vice President Dick Cheney visited Baghdad to press Iraqi leaders to overcome their differences and take advantage of a lull in violence to make progress in power-sharing deals to heal sectarian and ethnic divisions.
A spokesman for the biggest Sunni bloc, Saleem Abdullah, said Cheney pushed hard for progress on the provincial elections as well as a long-stalled measure to share the country's oil wealth.
This is one of the four major political "litmus tests" of the success of the counterinsurgency that began last July. The Iraq government must enact:
Elections are now completely signed off at the federal level; it's up to the provinces to design the specifics of each provincial election, much as our own states set up the specifics of gubernatorial and state legislative elections.
A "long-term security arrangement" with the United States to allow us to keep troops there for regional stability.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cheney obtained endorsements from the two most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq (not counting Muqtada Sadr, who is probably still in Iran) for a continued security agreement that would allow us to remain at bases in Iraq. Both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), the largest party in parliament, urged us to stay and gave personal assurances that we would have long-term bases in Iraq for American troops.
An oil-revenue sharing bill.
According to the same WSJ article --
There is some reason for hope there too, despite the seemingly endless negotiations that have already taken place over the oil law. After the breakdown in negotiations last year, Kurdistan moved ahead with production agreements with some international oil companies. But Baghdad has responded by essentially freezing those companies out of negotiations for its central government contracts, diminishing their interest.
And U.S. officials in Iraq say the central government is consolidating its power over oil in other ways. They note privately that the Iraqi central government soon will begin awarding contracts to major multinational oil companies to improve production on the country's giant existing fields, as a likely prelude to contracts for new exploration and production. Kurdistan, meanwhile, has to worry about an eventual cutoff of the revenue sharing that it's now receiving from the central government.
Iraq's proven oil reserves are so big that only Saudi Arabia's and Iran's are thought to be larger... and Iraq's reserves have barely been tapped so far.
Anti-debaathification laws to allow former members of the Baath Party -- who do not have blood on their hands -- to return to civic life in Iraq.
When the parliament approved the provincial elections law last month, it was bundled with a general amnesty law that would release all Baathists from prison except for two classes:
Those held in U.S. custody;
Those who are charged with or were convicted of specific charges: "terrorism, kidnapping, rape, antiquities smuggling, adultery and homosexuality."
This was the most important anti-de-Baathification law to pass; the same law also allowed former Baathists (except the above) to once again take jobs in the public sector. Anti-de-Baathification has by most measures been resolved, leading to greater reconciliation.
Given such sweeping, positive political changes since the counterinsurgency produced such a huge drop in killings and al-Qaeda presence in Iraq, the elite media find it ever harder to maintain both party solidarity with the Democrats and also their own credibility. Still, the Democrats been banging the drum and pronouncing that there's no need to worry... all is still lost! (Evidently, the tape loop from 2006 is still running through the heads of the heads of the elite media.)
For real people living in the real world, however, Iraq has turned around and is now a victory at a level it would have been difficult to imagine just eighteen months ago. It appears that even when al-Qaeda and allied terrorists celebrate a historic, holy conquest, it's as ephemeral as Democratic-Party unity.
January 23, 2008
No Fanfair for the Common Grunt
I suppose no news must be good news.
When we stop hearing about Iraq, it does not mean nothing is happening. In fact, many good things happened in Iraq last year; we just didn't read much about it in the press. But Bill Roggio reports significantly diminished Al-Qaeda activities in Iraq:
During a press briefing in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said al Qaeda in Iraq has been ejected from its strongholds in the cities to the rural regions of Iraq.
Al Qaeda in Iraq's network has been significantly degraded, but is still a threat. .... "Although the group remains a dangerous threat, its capabilities have been diminished," said Odierno. "Al Qaeda has been pushed out of urban centers like Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baqubah, and forced into isolated rural areas. Many of their top leaders have been eliminated, and finding qualified replacements is increasingly difficult for them." Multinational Forces Iraq also estimates it has significantly degraded al Qaeda's ability to fund operations by dismantling its financier networks and leaders.
Operation Phantom Phoenix, the current nationwide operation targeting al Qaeda's remaining safe havens, was launched on Jan. 8. Iraqi and US forces have captured or killed 121 al Qaeda fighters, wounded 14, and detained an additional 1023 suspects. Al Qaeda's leadership has been hit hard during the operation, with 92 high values targets either killed or captured.
Although most of the missions were US/Iraqi joint operations, Iraqi security forces conducted some completely independent operations, and they were very successful. More and more Iraqis are stepping up to the plate:
Iraq's army and police could be ready to take over security in all 18 provinces by the end of this year as the U.S. military moves toward a less prominent role in the country, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The Roggio post has some illuminating animation showing the evaporation of al-Qaeda's operational area from December, 2006 to December, 2007 (scroll to the bottom of the post). The difference is so obvious and significant that even honest Democrats, assuming there are any left, can no longer deny that we have by and large won this war and that the counterinsurgency was a brilliant success; it's not exaggerated to say that COIN completely flipped the dynamic of the war.
Powerline has graphs showing the decline of coalition and civilian casualties during 2007, including a 90% decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad from January to December.
So which member of the elite media is reporting this wonderful news, celebrating our incredible sucess? Aside from a few bloggers and some military-related sites, no one is, despite a January 17th press release distributed to the elite media and available online. And Reuters is the only major news service to carry ongoing coverage of operation Phantom Phoenix.
The Boston Globe has some news about increased Iraqi forces. AFP reported on Phantom Phoenix only as an afterthought; the main story was about six American deaths in a booby-trapped house; AFP did not report the overall success of COIN. Fox news posted a story about the reduction of American troops -- without ever mentioning the success that made the troop cuts possible.
Our presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republican, don't mention the war very much anymore; it has become a non-issue. When we seemed on the brink of failure, people couldn't wait to talk about it... how many civilians were blown up today? how many troops were ambushed? quagmire, quagmire!
But here is what actually happened over 2007:
Civilian deaths in 2007
Coalition deaths in 2007
Shouldn't this be on the front page of New York Times, rather than "Worries That the Good Times Were a Mirage" and "Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28"?
It gets harder every day to draw any conclusion except the obvious one: The media elites are downcast that America has finally turned the Iraq war around; they don't want to report our success because they are afraid it will buoy the voters, lead to more successes, and therefore help the eventual Republican nominee: All of the major Republican candidates support victory; all of the major Democratic candidates are deeply invested in defeat.
Victory or defeat; which hand do you choose?
In other words, it's very, very difficult not to conclude that the elite media desperately hope for America to lose -- for the good of the Democratic Party; and that they do everything in their power to bring that about, from suppressing good news to "outing" highly classified intelligence vital to the long war.
Sadly, it's true: The elite news media have become America's new Copperheads.
January 10, 2008
Operation Phantom Phoenix
Two new joint American-Iraqi operations are currently under way in Iraq: Phantom Phoenix and Iron Harvest. The first is nationwide operation, while Iron Harvest focuses on a new al-Qaeda safe haven that had been developing in Diyala province, created by terrorists who were pushed out of Anbar. According to Bill Roggio of Long War Journal, Coalition forces have "launched a series of feints in Diyala to confuse al Qaeda's leadership."
Coalition forces are meeting less resistance than they expected, according to AP:
The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Wednesday a nationwide operation launched against insurgents was meeting less resistance than expected, but that troops would pursue the militants until they were dead or pushed out of the country.
Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told reporters in Baghdad that in his area of control alone, 24,000 American troops, 50,000 members of the Iraq army and 80,000 Iraqi police were taking part in the offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq....
First, U.S. and Iraqi forces would try to clear areas of insurgents. Then, Iraqi police would move in to establish some semblance of law and order. Finally, Hertling said, the so-called "Awakening Groups" or "Concerned Local Citizens" -- mostly Sunni fighters who have joined the Americans in the battle against al-Qaida - would be relied upon to maintain stability after troops move out of areas....
Hertling said his troops had killed 20-30 insurgents so far.
Unfortunately, the reason for the light resistance appears to be that the operation was blown, and many of the insurgents fled north to avoid it. Information tends to escape the Iraqi forces. From the Long War Journal post on Iron Harvest:
Both Iron Harvest and Phantom Phoenix "are seeing less resistance than expected," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "There are expectations that the decrease in resistance can be due to leaks in the [Iraqi security forces] or extremists might have seen an increase in helicopters in their areas prior to the operation."
And from AP:
Hertling said reports that insurgents in Diyala had fled north just before Phantom Phoenix began were probably accurate, a reason troops have met relatively little resistance so far. He also said the insurgen[cy] probably learned of the military's plans in advance.
"Operational security in Iraq is a problem," he said, noting that the Iraqi army uses unsecured cell phones and radios. "I'm sure there is active leaking of communication. That is why we have to keep a tight line on operational security."
It appears that "a tight line" now includes keeping Iraq security forces out of the loop of specific attacks until just before they launch.
I do not understand why Iraqis or anyone else would use unsecured phone lines, given how easily those are intercepted (which should be common knowledge by now). However, communications security is always a number-one concern for any military. Remember, "loose lips sink ships!"
(My father, who handled confidential information all his life as an attorney, is particulary tired of the Japanese media's (or US, for that matter) complete disregard for national security. He even accuses me of talking too much about my work. "'Unclass' does not mean you can disclose to public. It should still be 'need to know basis.'" He is correct about the last, of course; but everything we discuss here at Big Lizards is already disseminated to the public. We never post confidential, classified, or even sensitive information here.)
Unlike the pre-Petrateus days, our counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) requires our troops to remain in the area once we secure it; so once we expel the terrorists -- or even if they flee northward after picking up intel from blabbermouths in the Iraqi Army -- they will never be able to come back. Rremember what happened to Sadr when he fled back to Iran? A few weeks of exile has turned permanent... at least permanent exile from command of any militia units.
It's not necessarily a bad thing that the terrorists fled. With every such retreat, they have fewer and fewer places to go; and eventually, they will run out of options. Bill Roggio reports:
Al Qaeda's attempt to establish a new base of operation in the Mosul region is believed to have been blunted. Yet a series of bombings against Christian churches in the region are believed to be an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the area, a senior military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal. Al Qaeda has also attempted to increase sectarian violence in the flashpoint city of Kirkuk, where Arab and Kurdish groups are vying for political power in the oil-rich city.
The Samarra region may also be a focal point of Operation Phantom Phoenix. The Samarra-Tarmiyah region is believed to be a command and control node for al Qaeda in Iraq’s central leadership. Multiple media cells and senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders have been killed or captured in the region, including Abu Abdullah, a regional emir.
Phantom Phoenix may also target the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the Shia terror cells targeting Coalition and Iraqi security forces, Iraqi political leaders, and civilians.
Then can always run away; but unlike the prodigal son, they can't slink home again and expect their former victims to fall on their necks and kill the fatted calf for them. [If they do fall on their necks, it will probably be with scimitars...! -- Dafydd]
September 10, 2007
The Surge That Never Was - the Setback That Was Never Set
The scare headline in the New York Times: Afghan Police Suffer Setbacks as Taliban Adapt.
Over the past six weeks, the Taliban have driven government forces out of roughly half of a strategic area in southern Afghanistan that American and NATO officials declared a success story last fall in their campaign to clear out insurgents and make way for development programs, Afghan officials say.
Curious about this bizarre claim -- everyone else says the Taliban have been thwarted in their attempt to "surge" this summer -- I pored over the story; and I was not shocked to discover it to be one of those articles where good news is disguised as bad. Within the maze of meandering maundering, I dug out some very hopeful news indeed...
The setback is part of a bloody stalemate that has occurred between NATO troops and Taliban fighters across southern Afghanistan this summer. NATO and Afghan Army soldiers can push the Taliban out of rural areas, but the Afghan police are too weak to hold the territory after they withdraw. At the same time, the Taliban are unable to take large towns and have generally mounted fewer suicide bomb attacks in southern cities than they did last summer.
The Panjwai and Zhare districts, in particular, highlight the changing nature of the fight in the south. The military operation there in September 2006 was the largest conventional battle in the country since 2002. But this year, the Taliban are avoiding set battles with NATO and instead are attacking the police and stepping up their use of roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices or I.E.D.’s.
“It’s very seldom that we have direct engagement with the Taliban,” said Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche, the commander of Canadian forces leading the NATO effort in Kandahar. “What they’re going to use is I.E.D.’s.”
Three main points may be extracted from these few paragraphs. First, the shrinking scope of the Taliban "resistance":
- They're no longer able to seize cities where NATO and Afghan forces operate; instead, they must resort to attacking poorly manned, remote police depots.
- Nor can they any longer engage in large scale military assaults; they're forced to ape al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.
Second, the shrinking number of forces they can field for any purpose, which is masked by that disinformational phrase "bloody stalemate." By "bloody stalemate" (at least they didn't say "quagmire!"), the Times means a series of engagements that resulted in 646 Taliban deaths and 83 captures this summer, including such big names as Mullah Dadullah, Mullah Berader, and Mullar Akhatar Usamani, according to a number of articles on the Fourth Rail.
And third, the Taliban's loss of focus. Once a fighting movement that fielded an army (and actually ran the country), they have steadily defined their modus operandi downward, adopting the kind of intimidation tactics against ordinary Afghans that al-Qaeda famously began applying to Sunni in Anbar province... and which gave rise to the Anbar Salvation Council and led directly to AQ being driven out of Anbar, Salahuddin, and Baghdad like Jesus beating the money-changers out of the Temple:
Reported security incidents, a broad category that includes bombings, firefights and intimidation, are up from roughly 500 a month last year to 600 a month this year, a 20 percent increase, according to the United Nations.
This is another uninformative paragraph from the Times; just what does "intimidation" mean? It appears to be criminal thuggishness -- not as the Taliban used to practice, when it controlled most of Afghanistan, but more like the tactics of the Yakuza in Japan, the Mafia in Italy and the United States, or gangs of teenagers and "youths" around the world. And about this "20 percent increase"... How much of the increase is from more bombings (bombing attacks are down, says the Times above), firefights (also down since 2006, per paragraphs above)... and how much is attributable solely to more "intimidation?"
In other words, what was once an actual military has degenerated into a low-rent protection racket and kidnapping scheme.
The Times continues the "bad news": The Taliban have managed to kill more civilians and NATO and Afghan forces than last year:
The rising attacks are taking a heavy toll. At least 2,500 to 3,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence so far this year, a quarter of them civilians, according to the United Nations tally, a 20 percent increase over 2006. [Note the neutral term "people;" keep reading for a breakdown, using the Times' own figures.]
NATO and American fatality rates are up by about 20 percent this year, to 161, according to Iraq Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan [Mathematically, that means there were 134 at this point last year, so it's an increase of 27 NATO and Afghan fatalities combined]. The Afghan police continue to be devastated by Taliban bombings and guerrilla strikes, with 379 killed so far this year, compared with 257 for all of last year.
But notice the missing statistic: How many Taliban were killed?
Using the Times' own stats and a little mathemagical manipulation, we find that among the 3,000 dead "people":
- 750 (25%) were civilians;
- 161 were NATO or Afghan troops;
- And 379 were policemen.
- That leaves 1,710 unaccounted deaths... I wonder who they could be?
But even this number of enemy dead is too low, according to the Associated Press:
More than 4,200 people -- most of them insurgents -- have been killed so far this year, according to an Associated Press count. [There's that word "people" again.]
Remember, last year, NATO forces killed over 3,000 Taliban, an average monthly rate of 250. If AP's number is correct, and the percent of true "civilian" vs. Taliban casualty rate is accurate, and if icasualty's number for NATO troops and Afghan police deaths are all correct... then the number of Taliban killed or captured this year is 2,460, an expanded rate of 307 bad guys per month. That's 23% higher than last year, for the math-impaired. More bad news!
If this keeps up, by the end of the year, we will have removed nearly 3,700 Taliban from the fight. How long do we suppose they can keep this up? As they are seen more and more as the "weak horse" (or the kind of dog that Michael Vick would... well, you know), will it become easier or harder for the Taliban to recruit?
It's true that the Taliban now resorts more to intimidation and terrorist tactics; but that's because they can no longer attack us with a conventional military force. This is the exactly the falling trajectory one would expect an ousted "movement" to follow: from rulers to an insurgency to terrorists; the next step down is a simple criminal gang -- and that's the level where we can leave the policing to the Afghans, once we've trained them at least up to the level of an American police force.
As I wrote in February in the Big Lizards post linked above:
When the Taliban actually stand and fight (which they do often), they are humiliatingly routed; this happens time and again. I heard the Taliban are now considering an al-Qaeda type of "insurgency" against the NATO forces. I'm sure they'll try anything; but if 2006 is any indication, they will fail.
And they have... "big time," as a certain quail hunter said about a certain newsman.
September 3, 2007
Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down
I have a difficult argument to make. Your natural impulse may be to roll your eyes and accuse me of special pleading... but one's first impulse is often naive.
AP reports, with much fanfare and not a little gloating, that "civilian deaths rose" from 1,760 in July to 1,809 in August. AP's explicit conclusion is that this is a terrible setback for the counterinsurgency:
Civilian deaths rose in August to their second-highest monthly level this year, according to figures compiled Saturday by The Associated Press. That raises questions about whether U.S. strategy is working days before Congress receives landmark reports that will decide the course of the war.
But they embargo a critical fact until later in the article, a point that makes all the difference to their central thesis: The August total includes the huge triple-bombing on August 14th that killed 520 Yazidis (AP's count). The attack occurred far away from the counterinsurgency forces, up in Kurdistan on the Syrian border.
Were it not for that single incident, the civilian death toll would have dropped to 1,289, by far the lowest level this year. So what looks to the naive eye like bad news is, in fact, very good news; the situation is complex and you cannot use a simplistic metric.
Here is where Democrats would doubtless scream foul; but you cannot logically expect that U.S. forces in one part of the country will be able to stop suicide bombings in a completely different part of the country two hundred miles away. When the counterinsurgency expands into Mosul, then will be the time to ask whether we're decreasing the violence there. Until then, the question is not what's happening outside the counterinsurgency but what is happening inside it.
And it was an anomalous attack: Nothing like it had been done before, and it's not likely to be repeated anytime soon. By analogy, suppose you decide you must decrease your monthly expenses. In January, you took home $4,000 and you spend $3,900; in February you spent $3,700; in March it was $3,500. By July, your expenses are down to $3,000.
But then in August, your car's transmission seizes up, and it costs $1,200 to replace it. Your total expenses that month are $3,700; should you wail and moan because you're right back up to where you were in February? No, just the opposite: You should revel in the fact that, were it not for the unexpected car-repairs, you would have spent only $2,500 in August -- a big decrease from July and a huge drop from January.
The $1,200 in car repairs was not a regular expense... it was a one-shot that more than likely will not recur in September and later months. It's absurd to treat it as if it were a harbinger for a massively higher spending in subsequent months.
Getting back to the Iraq death toll, even the 1,809 figure is well below the deaths in November (1,967) and December (2,172), as is the worst month this year, May (1,901). Alas, I cannot find a link to AP's casualty count; but looking at Iraq Coalition Casualties' count of civilian deaths, August (1,598) is only the fifth deadliest month this year, behind (in decreasing order of death toll) February (2,864), March (2,762), May (1,782), and January (1,711): Different counts yield different numbers.
Taking the freakish Yazidi attack out of the equation, the August figure of 1,098 would be the lowest death toll since July 2006, more than a year ago.
To get almost offensively pedantic, considering that we're talking about human lives, the mean average for the first three months of 2007 was 2,445.67. August -- even with the Yazidi bombings -- was 35% below the early average; without the anomalous bombings, it's 55% below the early average.
This is hardly the picture of a "U.S. strategy" that has failed, is in disarray, or is even questionable; rather, it's exactly what a successful counterinsurgency strategy looks like: continued decreasing violence overall (the month to month may fluctuate, especially in response to individual acts of terrorism) -- with the worst violence being pushed outside the area in which we are fighting.
Then, as we succeed in pacifying more areas (such as Anbar and Baghdad), we will expand the counterinsurgency into areas like northwestern Mosul, where the Yazidis were hit.
There are several other nuggets of good news sprinkled through this article ("interred" would be more accurate). First, the Mahdi Militia -- called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM -- is losing some of its charm:
Many Shiites see the militia as their best protection against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida, which have carried out similar attacks on Shiites.
However, Mahdi's credibility has been shaken by allegations of extortion, murder, robbery and other crimes committed by members who appear to be beyond the control of the youthful [Muqtada] al-Sadr, who said he would use the six-month hiatus to restructure the force "in a way that helps honor the principles for which it was formed."
Second, we appear to finally have a clue about the value of wartime propaganda, in this case directed against the "special groups" of the JAM; that is, those elements that are sucking from the Iranian udder:
Leaflets scattered around Sadr City urged people to report on Shiite militants who are cooperating with the Iranians, providing a cell phone number and an e-mail address for people to make anonymous tips.
"The criminal Iraqis who work with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are toys under Persian control," read one of the leaflets, which pictured a puppet dancing on strings. "Iranian Revolutionary Guards are interfering in Iraq's affairs while Iraqis are dying."
An excellent start; coupled with our stunning and continuing ascendency over al-Qaeda in Iraq, I'd have to say the war is going better than we have been told even by the White House. President Bush appears to be underselling our achievements there, perhaps giving the Democrats enough rope to tie themselves into a Gordian knot by November 2008.
Good news can be found most anywhere, if you're willing to spelunk for it.
July 12, 2007
Iraq Preliminary Benchmark Assessment: Pretty Good, Could Be Better
Elite media reporting: not so good, vast room for improvement.
The White House has released its first, preliminary assessment of Iraq's progress during the counterinsurgency, Operation Phantom Thunder; and considering how short a time the operations have been fully manned and actually under way (only since June 15th), Iraq has already made quite remarkable progress. (The report can also be downloaded in HTML, rather than pdf.)
Nevertheless, there are areas -- mostly political -- that are lagging. This is exactly what we would expect: The purpose of the new strategy is to give Baghdad "breathing room" to enact the necessary legislation: oil and natural gas revenue sharing; initiating local elections; un-de-Baathification (letting former Baathists who do not have blood on their hands back into government and society); removing police units from sectarian, even militia control; and stopping political interference with military operations. Obviously, political gains will all come towards the end, after security has been reestablished. That's the whole point of the security operation.
By Big Lizards' independent count, seven of the 18 benchmarks are making satisfactory progress, five are not, and the last six are indeterminate for one of several reasons. Let's start with the good news...
Overall, of the 18 benchmarks established by Congress, Iraq has made clear, unambiguous, satisfactory progress on seven (39%):
- (i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review;
- (iv) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions;
- (viii) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
- (ix) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations;
- (xii) Ensuring that, as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, “the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation;”
- (xiv) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad;
- (xvi) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
They have made clearly unsatisfactory progress on five benchmarks (28%):
- (ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform;
- (iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner;
- (x) Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
- (xv) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently;
- (xviii) Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF.
Mixed or inappropriate measures
The remaining six benchmarks (33%) either show mixed results, or else facts on the ground indicate that they are not appropriate metrics at this time:
- (v) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.
This is a multi-part benchmark; the first part -- establishing the electoral commission -- is proceeding satisfactorally, but establishing the law for local elections has not yet happened. Thus, parts 3 and 4 cannot yet be implemented, as they await the law.
- (vi) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty [of those who fought against the Coalition or against the new Iraqi government].
The White House and Pentagon believe that the conditions on the ground are not yet ripe for a general amnesty; it's more important to continue to turn more and more Sunnis against al-Qaeda and Shia against the miltias. Once the fighting is over, then it may be time to talk about a general amnesty; but not while the war still rages.
- (vii) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq.
Again, the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the U.N. do not believe this is the right time to enage in DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration):
Assessment: The prerequisites for a successful militia disarmament program are not present. In fact, international experts, including the U.N., have expressed reservations to advancing this proposal at the present time. The U.N. DDR Advisory Mission to Baghdad Report (April 25 - May 2, 2007) stated, “The Iraq environment makes it most unlikely that traditional DDR can take place, and planning should take this into account.” Likewise, a State Department internal review has shown that the timing is not right for a full-scale DDR program in Iraq. Given the absence of the necessary conditions for DDR, the absence of legislation on militia disarmament has had no effect. The current plan and strategy calls for the passage of such legislation when the necessary conditions are present.
It is silly to count as "unsatisfactory" a benchmark that was premature to begin with; such an assessment does not adequately convey what is actually happening.
- (xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
In this case, much progress has been made; but because we have set such a high standard, they had to say "unsatisfactory."
However, simply saying progress has not been satisfactory gives entirely the wrong impression. As the report says:
Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not at this time made satisfactory progress in ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law; however, there has been significant progress in achieving increased even-handedness through the use of coalition partnering and embedded-transition teams with Iraqi Security Force units. The presence of Coalition Forces in JSSs and Combat Outposts (COPs) has had a positive effect on ensuring a more even-handed approach, and Iraqi officials continue to communicate the importance that all terrorist organizations be targeted, regardless of their affiliation or ethnic background. ISF performance has generally been adequate, particularly when partnered with Coalition Forces.
This is another mixed benchmark: They're making progress, but the standard for measuring the benchmark was set much too optimistically. Simply saying they're not making satisfactory progress masks the extraordinary progress they have made, especially considering the starting point last year.
- (xiii) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.
Another two parter: The level of sectarian violence in Iraq is down substantially; but there are still too many local security units infiltrated by Shiite or Sunni militias.
- (xvii) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
This benchmark has subtlely mixed results: Iraq has made satisfactory progress in allocating the $10 billion; but infrastructure is not yet present for them to spend it.
Elite media disinformation campaign
The final score is thus 39% positive, 28% negative, and 33% mixed or inappropriate measures. This is actually a remarkably good score, considering conditions in 2006.
But that's not what the drive-by media wanted to see. It's not even what their double-secret sources told them: They predicted that the assessment would be "gloomy," would show a lack of progress, and would be more fodder for the Democrats' psalm of surrender.
Thus, they reacted as one would expect from people whose overriding interest is saving the world -- meaning "saving the world from George Bush and the Republicans" -- not reporting facts: They simply ignored the differences between their expectation and the reality... and reported the expectation.
Thus, virtually every news source, from AP to the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, and even the Fox News report, falsely claims that there were eight satisfactory benchmarks, eight unsatisfactory ones, and only two mixed -- instead of the seven sats, five unsats, and six mixed one gets from a realistic assessment of the assessment.
I suspect many media sources simply played follow-the-leader without doing their own independent count (as we do above); but the ringleaders knew exactly what they were doing... they were lying.
What is the point of this falsehood? Simple: If the score is 39% to 28%, then clearly the report is overall positive. But if instead it's 44% to 44%, then it's at best disappointing, and perhaps overall negative, if the media decide (as most do) that a tie goes to the cut-and-runner.
As usual, the LA Times is the most aggressive, heading their story "Iraq's failure on benchmarks is fodder for Democrats." The others have more neutral headlines, through they emphasize the negative in the story itself. For example, here is the lede from the WaPo piece:
Iraqi progress on political and military goals sought by Congress has been mixed during the past several months, with slow advances toward some of the targets and paralysis or even reverses in other areas, the White House said today in a much-anticipated assessment.
What, nothing is actually going well? Did we read the same report? (Answer: No; Big Lizards read the report... the Post reread their stories from yesterday, before the report was released.)
AP summarizes (or caricatures) the report thus:
The report said that despite progress on some fronts by the government of Nouri al-Maliki, "the security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging," the "economic picture is uneven" and political reconciliation is lagging.
Considering this is a preliminary report compiled less than a month after Operation Phantom Thunder began, it's hardly surprising that security would still be "complex and extremely challenging." (All three vague charges could also apply to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Israel!)
Even the New York Times, which makes a faint effort to be even-handed, betrays its bias. They allow a number of hard-core Democratic leftists to negatively characterize the preliminary assessment -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Harvard, 95%) -- but did not ask the opinion of even a single Republican on Capitol Hill.
They also trot out a shopworn Democratic talking point:
Asked why he was resistant to the idea of a change of course in Iraq, which has found wide support among Americans in recent polls, Mr. Bush said he was not surprised that there was deep concern. “I believe we can succeed,” he said, “and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political track to succeed as well.”
Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that he is willing to be flexible on Iraq strategy and tactics, but that he will be guided by his military commanders, not by opinion surveys.
But what they fail to quote is the long section after the first part of Bush's answer in which he argues that he did change course, disputing the fundamental premise of the Democratic position (and their elite-media water carriers):
I went to the country and said, I have made this decision. I said, What was happening on the ground is unsatisfactory in Iraq.
In consultation with a lot of folks, I came to the conclusion that we needed to send more troops into Iraq, not less, in order to provide stability, in order to be able to enhance the security of the people there.
And David asked for a certain number of troops. David Petraeus asked for a certain number. General Petraeus asked for a certain number of troops. And he just got them a couple of weeks ago....
Since the reinforcements arrived, things have changed.
For example, I would remind you that Anbar province was considered lost. Maybe some of you reported that last fall.
And yet today, because of what we call bottom-up reconciliation, Anbar province has changed dramatically.
The same thing is now beginning to happen in Diyala province.
There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where violence is down. There are still car bombs, most of which have the Al Qaida signature on them.
But they're declining, you know. So there's some measurable progress.
So the Times is still up to its old tricks; but even they were forced to admit much progress, according to the report that yesterday they predicted would report virtually no progress at all.
Their wannabe namesake, the LA Times, has the most absurd take: They imagine that the very idea of measuring benchmarks was a "costly blunder", leading to fury among unnamed administration or military "officials":
The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks for measuring the progress of the Iraq mission is now seen by some U.S. officials as a costly blunder that has only aided the White House's critics in Congress and its foes in Iraq.
When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, while helping sustain political support for the effort at home. The yardsticks include steps vital to Iraq's stability: passage of a law to divide oil revenue among the key communities, reforms to allow more members of Saddam Hussein's party back into the government, and elections to divide power in the provinces.
Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. Administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals -- some of which are less ambitious but have been attained....
In private, many officials were more scathing in their critique, saying that defining the goals in such a way galvanized resistance in Iraq and gave war critics a way to argue that the U.S. mission was falling short.
"You better believe it was a mistake," said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity when criticizing administration policy. "In any armed conflict, trying to predict the future is folly. You are setting up some degree of failure."
So all in all, if I had to give Iraq a letter grade on the benchmarks established by the administration, I would have to allocate a B-. It would be a C+, except that three of the six "mixed or inappropriate" benchmarks shouldn't be counted at all. Thus, the proper percent is 7 satisfactory assessments out of 15 valid benchmarks, or 47% positive, compared to 5 out of 15 (33%) negative, which is signficantly more positive than negative.
But grading the elite media's coverage, I have to give them a D+... they didn't so much report on what was actually in the interim report, as repeat and justify what they expected and predicted would be there; they warped their coverage to justify what they wrote earlier, rather than just reporting straight.
So a B- for Iraq and a D+ for the media; looks like both have shown improvement!
July 2, 2007
COINs and Moles and Stuff; a Round-Up
Let's start with the good news (sorry, no bad news this time; so this can't be mainstream News!) Baghdad pacification proceeds apace, and we now firmly control half of the city that all agree is the linchpin of Iraq (or, with the recent executions, perhaps the lynchpin):
In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough -- with the recent arrival of reinforcements -- to complete his mission....
Fil said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48% to 49% of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19% in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40% of the city was under control.
Fil defined "control" as "where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces." [In Col. David Galula's lexicon, these would be "white" areas.]
U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36% of the capital's neighborhoods ["pink" areas] -- about the same percentage as in April, he said. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared ["red" areas -- now down to 15% of Baghdad], coalition forces are "disrupting" insurgent forces, Fil said.
And it's not just Sunni areas we're holding, clearing, or disrupting: We have commenced moving heavily into Sadr City, much to the public chagrin (and temper tantrum) of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum - a politically sensitive district for him - in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 Iraqis dead.
The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But residents said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.
It's odd that we're always "firing wildly;" and yet in these gunfights, there typically are major enemy casualties -- and hardly any Americans shot.
Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.
Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.
And now he's whining again. Fiddle-de-dee! I suspect it's more for internal theater than any real objection to our raids: Muqtada Sadr, still nominal head of the Mahdi Militia, represents a rival Shiite power source; it's hard to imagine Maliki's loyalty to his old friend would slop over into carrying water for the renegade, virtually illiterate "cleric"... who himself is carrying water (or perhaps Uranium) for the Iranian mullahs.
Maliki's faux anger reminds me of Groucho Marx ("Otis P. Driftwood") in a Night at the Opera. He's having lunch with a floozy he picked up, when he sees rich patron of the opera Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool) -- with whom he was supposed to lunch -- waiting in annoyance at the next table. The waiter brings the check for the meal that Driftwood and his girl du jour just ate, and he picks it up...
Then Groucho promptly switches tables and begins sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool. I strongly suspect that after declaring our raid to be an outrage, Maliki too will quietly switch tables and suggest a few more Sadr-City oases to hit. (Another movie quote, this time from Casablanca, that is apropos: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!")
The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians.
Of course... technically, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri are also "civilians;" they're certainly not in anybody's official army, navy, or air force. So let's say both sides are right: We killed 26 civilian terrorist combatants -- sorry, make that "terrorists," scare-quotes and all.
But what's all this in service of? Where are we really going with this counterinsurgency? Who better to instruct us but retired Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen. Who is David Kilcullen, some might ask? Well, Wikipedia is usually fairly reliable for simple biographical details of newsmakers:
David Kilcullen, Ph.D. (born 1967) is a leading contemporary practitioner and theorist of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. A former Australian Army officer, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 and is now a senior civil servant, seconded to the United States State Department. He is currently serving as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq, a civilian position on the personal staff of American General David Howell Petraeus.
Currently based at the US State Department, Dr Kilcullen, 39, has a doctorate in political anthropology, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies. (His thesis was on the political power-diffusion effects of successful and failed counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia.) He has served in several counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare campaigns in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. While based at the U.S. State Department he has served as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia. He has also written several very influential papers on the insurgency in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
(He also advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which I find surprisingly unsurprising.)
He wrote one of the most fascinating explications of the general purpose behind a counterinsurgency strategy ("COIN") and how it differs from ordinary warfare. Here is the most important point from Kilcullen's important summation of the important purpose and method of the urgently important counterinsurgency in Iraq:
When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain -- as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.
The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.
Kilcullen notes that this isn't due to kind-heartedness; rather, the purpose of the strategy is fourfold:
- To separate the terrorist enemy from his most potent weapons: the Iraqi people;
- "The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed." That is, we know where to find the population, but we cannot distinguish the insurgents from the citizens who just want to live, work, and trade. We cannot kill all the enemy; that's impossible. But we can protect the population and drive out the insurgency. So we do what we can and not what we can't.
By cutting the insurgents off from their captive populations, we "asphyxiate" them:[The enemy] has either to come out of the woodwork, fight us and be destroyed, or stay quiet and accept permanent marginalization from his former population base.
Finally, we know who the population is but not who the insurgents are:[W]e know who the population is that we need to protect, we know where they live, and we can protect them without unbearable disruption to their lives. And more to the point, we can help them protect themselves, with our forces and ISF in overwatch.
(I know, I know, some of the differences between these points are subtle; don't worry, I don't get them either.)
So if our goal is to protect the population, rather than kill some target number of terrorist insurgents, is it working? Are we protecting the population better than we have been in the past?
We certainly don't know for sure yet; the actual COIN operations have barely begun (they started in earnest about two weeks ago). But even so, already civilian casualties are dropping like a stone; here's Power Line's John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger from my favorite blog:
Iraqi government figures suggest that civilian casualties nationwide were down something like 36% in June, for the lowest total this year. I don't know how reliable these numbers are, but the trend clearly seems to be positive. American military commanders said it is too soon to credit the "surge," since the full complement of troops has only been in place for a couple of weeks and operations are ongoing. Again, though, the cause and effect relationship appears pretty clear.
But it's not just the government; even the elite media agree. The website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count keeps track of all media reports of civilian deaths and woundings in Iraq; it's certainly not influenced by the governments of either Iraq or the United States, and it's a completely different count than the one from the Iraqi government.
Yet it shows virtually the same result:
The civilian death toll shows that in May of 2007, there were 1,782 civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the MSM. In April, it was 1,521, and in March, 2,762.
But last month, June of 2007, the elite media reported only 1,146 civilian deaths: that's a drop of 36% from last month (just as the government figures showed by a different count), a 60% drop from this year's high (February, 2,864 deaths), and the lowest rate of civilian deaths since last July.
So to put it on a nutshell...
- We now control 50% of Baghdad;
- We're moving hot and heavy in both Sunni and Shiite enclaves;
- Our purpose is less to kill insurgents than to protect the population from the terrorists' wicked depredations;
- And in point of fact, there is hard (albeit early) evidence that we're succeeding at just that.
And that is the very definition of -- good news!
June 29, 2007
Operation Arrowhead Ripper Far Ahead of Schedule
According to Stars and Stripes, Operation Arrowhead Ripper -- the battle for Baqouba, capital of Diyala province, and the self-declared "capital city" of the Islamic State of Iraq (the umbrella group that subsumed al-Qaeda in Iraq) -- is going amazingly well; in fact, commanders on the ground believe they have passed the major-combat phase and now enter the phase where they must purge the population of al-Qaeda support and sympathy, and induce the rest of the citizenry to start outing them:
That sort of information could prove vital as U.S. and Iraqi forces move into the next phase of operations in Baqouba. With almost no hostile fire reported in days, combat operations are winding down. The focus of the effort now is to consolidate control and persuade local residents to begin cooperating with U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.
The overall intent of this phase of the Baqouba operation, said Capt. Issac Torres, commander of Company C, is to “lock down the local population and keep pressure on them” until they begin turning in al-Qaida and other insurgents who remain in the city.
Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, says that "about half of the estimated 300 to 500 fighters" fled Baqouba; of the remaining 200 or so, we killed 60 and captured 74 (see the sidebar to the article), for a total of 134. We assume the remaining 65 are still hiding in the city somewhere... which is exactly why the new phase of the operation needs to win, if not the hearts and minds, then at least the self-serving cooperation of citizens sick of losing fingers for smoking or being beaten for allowing vegetables potentially to fornicate. (From Michael Yon, hat tip to Power Line.)
The second phase of the operation is the critical component of counterinsurgency (COIN) that was missing at the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq back in May of 2003:
Two years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq declared the city, about 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to be its capital. Fighting in the city and surrounding areas has worsened since last January when insurgents flocked into Diyala province after President Bush announced a plan to send additional U.S. forces to secure Baghdad.
Although fighting to retake Baqouba proved much easier than expected, the next 60 days will prove crucial as U.S. and Iraqi government forces try to win over the local population and restart the economy and government services. [Amazing that everywhere Wahhabi or Twelver terrorists rule, all government functions come to a grinding halt. What bad luck to have so many decades of bad luck!]
The difference this time from 2003? Both the commander of MNF-I (Gen. David Petreaus) and of CENTCOM (Adm. William Fallon) thoroughly understand that we're fighting a COIN strategy -- not a "war of attrition;" in Vietnam terms, we're emulating winner Creighton Abrams, not loser William Westmoreland.
We enter now the most delicate and difficult phase: We must convince the Baqouba Sunnis that al-Qaeda, instead of being mujahadeen and martyrs fighting holy war, are actually terrorist apostates engaging in unholy war -- "irhabiyoun murtaddi" committing "hirabah," to use the "new lexicon" for the war against global jihad (or rather, global hirabah) suggested by Jim Guirard at Small Wars Journal... and assuming I'm getting the endings correct.
(I think I'll change our category "War on Global Jihadism" to "War on Global Hirabah," just to inaugurate the anti-terrorist newspeak. That will take place a few hours from now, after I rebuild the database.)
If once a big enough minority of Iraqi citizens admit that the butchers among them (Shia and Sunni) are not fighting a holy but an unholy war, and that they're terrorists and apostates, not martyrs and faithful, the job will finish itself. So fingers crossed (how Crusader like!) that the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team is as successful in Phase II as they have been in Phase I.
If so, then even Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy "the surge has already failed" Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will be hard-pressed to enunciate a convincing reason for immediate panic and withdrawal.
June 26, 2007
Wacking the Moles, Sealing the Holes
Warning, this post contains no great analysis, no brilliant insights, and no genius-level discovery of hitherto unrealized connections. In other words, it's a great departure from typical Big Lizards fare.
Instead, I assume the smart-man's burden of straight reporting (more or less) of what you might not have seen, depending on how deeply you bore down into the boring world of mainstream journalism.
First, a bit from AP about Operation Marne Torch in Diyala province:
Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks believed to be bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on extremists from all directions, military officials said.
But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital....
The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.
He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad. The U.S. has accused Iran of supplying mainly Shiite militias with EFPs, but Tehran has denied the allegations. [EFPs are also sometimes called explosively formed penetrators; even the Pentagon can't seem to make up its mind which phrase to use!]
Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."
From June 15th to the 26th is 11 days; that's two boats per day average, though I'm sure it varies day by day. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail gives a for-instance:
In Northern Babil province, Operations Marne Torch and Commando Eagle continue. On June 23, Coalition forces detained four suspects, destroyed two trucks and two barges used to transport insurgents and equipment, and found two weapons caches during operations south of Salman Pak. Coalition forces also detained 19 members of an IED cell near Mahmudiyah. The cell is believed to have brought down a bridge in northern Babil....
Maybe I just haven't heard about it before, but I think this riverine campaign is new: attacking boats that insurgents have been using to transport explosives. Obviously, a barge can hold tremendously more cargo than a truck; thus every barge destroyed is the equivalent of at least a "weapons cache," perhaps two -- judging from the size of most such caches that we see on TV. Killing these barges is a very big deal: As Col. Grigsby said, each of those "secondary explosions" was the sound of insurgent munitions dumps going up in smoke.
As for the "networks bringing armor-penetrating... EFPs... from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad," mentioned without much comment or analysis by AP, Roggio again has deeper information:
Coalition forces maintain pressure on the Iranian backed "secret cells" of the Qazali Network. A raid in Sadr City resulted in the death of "four Secret Cell terrorists."
In earlier posts, Roggio has extensively discussed Qazali:
Over 20 members of the network were killed, 6 wounded and 1 captured in the raid against “the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training” in Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir....
The raids in Amara and Majjar al-Kabir are the latest in a series of Coalition and Iraqi operations designed to dismantle the Qazali and the Sheibani networks, which are Iraqi manned and led networks operated by Iran’s Qods Force. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed at least 47 members of this network and captured 88 since major operations began in April 27, 2007.
These networks also have deep ties with Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian backed Mahdi Army. “The dead are believed to be Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who is a dominant force in Maysan province,” Fadhel Mushatat reported from Amara.
Multinational Forces Iraq has essentially taken off the gloves with identifying Iran’s involvement in backing the Qazali and the Sheibani networks. “Intelligence reports indicate that both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir are known safe havens and smuggling routes for Secret Cell terrorists who facilitate Iranian lethal aid,” noted the Multinational Forces Iraq press release. Qods force is directly identified. “Reports further indicate that Iranian surrogates, or Iraqis that are liaisons for Iranian intelligence operatives into Iraq, use both Amarah and Majjar al-Kabir as safe haven locations.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times explicates a brutal tactic -- houses rigged with bombs -- to which al-Qaeda in Iraq has increasingly turned, as they fail and fail, and fall and fall to American and Iraqi forces.
This story is very well written, almost novelic -- which is not surprising, as the author, Michael R. Gordon, has written at least two narrative histories: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, and Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. Here is one platoon's adventures on a single day, in a single neighborhood of one city, Baqouba, capital of Diyala province:
The enemy was a phantom who never showed his face but transformed a neighborhood into a network of houses rigged to explode....
Tracer rounds zipped through the air as the soldiers fired antitank weapons, mortar shells and machine guns at the abandoned houses they planned to inspect across the street.
They calculated that the firepower would blow up any bombs the insurgents might have planted in the houses, while providing cover so the first squads could move south across the thoroughfare.
The use of house bombs is not a new trick, but as the soldiers were to learn, the scale was daunting. The entire neighborhood seemed to be a trap.
For those who remember our post about Cougers and Buffalos and other "MRAPs," here is a blast from the past:
Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):
Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)
The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:
MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle
You'll be tickled to see that our new toys are already being used in combat in Iraq -- saving American lives and helping to win the Iraq war. From the Times article:
But there were a few early indications that the bomb threat in the area might be more challenging than the Americans had expected. The street the soldiers had raced across was strewn with slender copper wires, which the insurgents used to set off buried bombs powerful enough to upend armored vehicles.
As the platoon watched from its new foothold south of the road, a Buffalo vehicle, a heavily armored truck with a V-shaped body to dissipate bomb blasts and a giant mechanical claw, began to scour the nearby roads for bombs. It found three, which were exploded by American combat engineers.
“Controlled dets,” a soldier called out, referring to a deliberate detonation of a discovered bomb. The good news was that the buried bombs had been found and neutralized. But some had been deeply buried on the road the platoon had just crossed.
One interesting point about Americans is that we take our sense of humor with us wherever we go. Even when clearing houses and streets that have been turned into a weird, live-action videogame of explosives, springtraps, and other deadly snares:
To blast a path through the next bomb-ridden stretch of road, combat engineers brought in a mine-clearing device. A bright fireball appeared over the street and a cloud of gritty dust engulfed the platoon’s house as the soldiers huddled in the back and plugged their ears.
Afterward, as Sgt. Philip Ness-Hunkin, 24, walked to the house next door, he saw copper wires leading to the home. The gate was unlocked and the front door was invitingly open.
“Right in the front door there was a pressure plate under a piece of wood,” he said, referring to a mine that is set to blow when it is stepped on. “Over in that neighborhood there were wires going all over the place.”
“H-BIED,” a soldier called out, using the military’s acronym for a house-borne improvised explosive device.
"House-borne" improvised explosive devices! Only from Americans.
In the end, the platoon commander, 1LT Charles Morton, asked for the entire block of houses to be destroyed by artillery, since it was virtually impossible to move the platoon forward through the maze of munitions and copper-wired mines:
The next morning, an M1 tank arrived. The neighborhood reverberated with enormous booms as soldiers blasted the homes suspected of containing bombs with antitank missiles, artillery and tank fire. The platoon’s advance had been stymied for a day, but there were no American casualties and more bombs had been cleared out.
I have great faith in American military ingenuity; I predict that in just a few weeks, we'll have a much faster and more effective way to stymie such HBIEDs without having to blow up entire city blocks. But in the meanwhile, we are allowing nothing to stop our counterinsurgency operations: Phantom Thunder, Arrowhead Ripper, Marne Torch, and all the ancillary battles they spawn.
All we need now are more -- and more trustworthy -- Iraqi National Police to supplement the Iraqi Army. I am confident we'll get them; we're finally making incredible progress, and the Shiite Maliki government has no interest in handing Iraq back to Sunni insurgents.
They had a bellyful of that for forty years.
June 17, 2007
Even MSM Agrees: Barely Started Counterinsurgency On a Roll!
The elite media doesn't realize it yet, but they have given the new counterinsurgency strategy the best review they possibly could -- by admitting that, though it has barely begun, we already now "have full control" of 40% of Baghdad (our target), plus an additional 30% somewhat under control but not fully, leaving only 30% fully in insurgent hands.
In other words, Baghdad is now 40% white, 30% pink, and 30% red. Not bad for a "surge" that just began operations this week:
Odierno said there was a long way to go in retaking the city from Shiite Muslim militias, Sunni Arab insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. He said only about "40 percent is really very safe on a routine basis" - with about 30 percent lacking control and a further 30 percent suffering "a high level of violence...."
"There's about 30 percent of the city that needs work, like here in Dora and the surrounding areas," Odierno said. "Those are the areas that we consider to be the hot spots, which usually have a Sunni-Shiite fault line, and also areas where al-Qaida has decided to make a stand."
Naturally, this being the Associated Press, they chose to see the Persian slipper as half-empty of tobacco, headlining their piece "US: 60 Pct. of Baghdad Not Controlled." But you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to be able to do the math.
Most of the article dwelt upon the kidnapping and possible deaths of a few American soldiers a few weeks ago (airborne troops found the victims' ID cards; no word yet whether they're alive or dead) and upon the rise in American casualties that, oddly enough, seems to accompany our increased willingness to engage the enemy. As you can see, these issues fit perfectly with the theme of the article: the percent of Baghdad we control.
And frankly, the verified fact that we control or exert strong influence over 70% of the Iraqi capital, after merely preparing for a campaign, followed by one week of actual combat, is pretty darned good news presaging eventual victory.
Even if the drive-by media can't quite see beyond their front bumpers to realize it.
June 14, 2007
Counterinsurgency Strategy Working So Far - Even Though It's Just Beginning
This is very good news that the Washington Post is trying to spin as bad news (yes, I know you're too stunned to speak).
Let's start with a brief primer of what the counterinsurgency strategy actually entails (blue text represents preparation of the field of battle):
- Five new American brigades into Baghdad;
- Three additional Iraqi army brigades into Baghdad;
- Several new American battalions into Anbar;
- The objective is first to restore security to Baghdad and Anbar by driving insurgents out of the capital and out of al-Qaeda in Iraq's home province;
- After security is restored to those two provinces, the second objective is to expand that security to adjacent provinces (turning "red" to "pink" and "pink" to "white") by again driving insurgents outward (and killing or capturing them whenever possible);
- Continuing in this fashion, "expanding security outward," means that eventually, the insurgents have nowhere else to go in Iraq, and the country will be as pacified as any Arab Moslem country can be.
The fifth and final U.S. Army brigade is now in Baghdad and being readied, along with the Iraqi battalions; while the battalions have moved into Anbar. Thus we have completed prepping the battlefield and are just about to commence the actual security operation.
The Pentagon has just issued a report titled Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq, June 2007; the report covers the three-month period from February to mid-May. It reports... but no, let us allow the Washington Post to characterize the report first, in an article they aggressively title "No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup" (hat tip to Paul Mirengoff at Power Line):
Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.
In other words, without even realizing it, the WaPo reports that the Pentagon reports that the insurgents are being driven out of Baghdad and Anbar -- before the main combat of the counterinsurgency has even begun.
...Which happens to be exactly the victory we want to see in bullet-point 4 above.
This is to be a "clear and hold indefinitely" operation (or as I have dubbed it, "whack a mole and seal a hole"): As we and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clear the insurgents out of Baghdad, neighborhood by neighborhood, we move forward -- and the Iraqis stay, holding the liberated regions of the capital against reinfiltration by insurgents and terrorists. That is precisely the plan, as developed and implemented by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander MNF-I.
Clearly, it is working: The Pentagon reports significant drops in attacks in Baghdad and Anbar provinces already.
Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ [Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, the Arabic name of the current Baghdad security operation] and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province....
Since January 2007, Coalition reported murders in Baghdad proper have decreased by 51% as militia activity was disrupted by security operations....
In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels. The total number of attacks in Anbar has dropped 34% since December 2006, with Ramadi -- where attacks are at a two-year low -- accounting for the largest decline in violence levels. Attacks in Anbar have dropped from 35 per day in the previous reporting period to just under 26, dipping below average daily attacks in Salah ad Din Province.
The phrase "growing tribal opposition to AQI" in Anbar province refers to this phenomenon, about which we have written a number of times: Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders have gotten fed up with the mindless thirst for blood among al-Qaeda members, and they have declared war on al-Qaeda... and are slowly but inexorably driving them out of the Sunni belt -- Anbar, Diyala, Salahadin, and Baghdad.
The overall level of violence in Iraq this quarter remained similar to the previous reporting period but shifted location. Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province. Outside Baghdad and Anbar, reductions in Coalition force presence and reliance upon local Iraqi security forces have resulted in a tenuous security situation. Sectarian violence and insurgent attacks still involve a very small portion of the population, but public perceptions of violence have adversely affected reconciliation and contribute to population migration.
In other words, the report shows insurgents being driven out of Baghdad (due to Operation FAQ) and Anbar (due to Sunni tribes rising against al-Qaeda, with our help and encouragement; we're fighting side by side with Sunni Iraqis against al-Qaeda!)... exactly the direction we hoped to achieve with the counterinsurgency strategy.
This is what victory in Iraq looks like -- and will continue to look like: It is messy, it's violent, but we can discern actual movement towards the final elimination of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a viable terrorist force and of Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM, Muqtada Sadr's "Mahdi Militia") as a rallying point for Shiite insurgency.
The WaPo's bean-counting take is that, since there is no overall reduction in violence yet (before we begin our offensive) -- merely a shift from our areas of operation to outlying provinces -- therefore the "troop surge" is a failure. But contrarywise, what the Pentagon report demonstrates, and the Post unwittingly reports, is the beginning of victory in exactly the way Gen. Petraeus expected.
As always, I wonder whether the Post writer (Ann Scott Tyson) is simply ignorant of the strategy, what it entails, and what it expects to do... or whether she knows very well that it's working, and she just wants to help Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) in his urgent task of thwarting the counterinsurgency before it has a chance to succeed... and ruin everything!
June 3, 2007
Salvation à la Mode
Power Line continues the saga of the incredible shrinking terrorist front in Iraq; we ourselves previously blogged about this in several previous posts, beginning in March:
- Expect to See Much More of This In Iraq
- At Last - a Real Iraqi Civil War!
- Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq
- Should We Deal With the (Lesser) Devil?
The Anbar Salvation Council of Sunni tribes in Iraq's Anbar province has not only launched a full-scale war against al-Qaeda in what used to be the terrorists' own home town, they have opened franchises in three other Iraqi provinces as well: Baghdad, Salahadin, and Diyala, all of which used to be under al-Qaeda management. More and more, Iraqi nationalism is beating back sectarian identity, and a desire for peace and good governance is rising up against the tolerance for terrorism and theocracy that accompanies any deal with the "Great Satan" of al-Qaeda.
The most recent Power Line post on the subject (linked above) quotes from the New Straits Times of Indonesia; alas, the link appears to be dead. But the incomparable Bill Roggio -- an American national resource -- had an article up yesterday on the WeeklyStandard.com that covers much of what we know:
The battle between al Qaeda in Iraq on one side, and the residents of the Baghdad district of Amariyah, the Islamic Army of Iraq, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades on the other, dominated the headlines late yesterday and this morning. The Washington Post reported that the battle began Wednesday "over accusations that al-Qaeda in Iraq had executed Sunnis without reason," and portrayed the conflict as one pitting the residents of Amariyah against al Qaeda....
The Anbar Salvation Council has formed a "clandestine SWAT unit" that is capable of operating outside of the western province, an American military intelligence official close to the operations of the group told us. These are the "secret police" described by of [head of the Anbar Salvation Council] Sheikh al-Hais.
Roggio notes that the Anbar Salvation Council has engaged in previous "expeditionary" operations in Salahadin and Diyala, as well as the current fighting in Baghdad. And the American military is cautiously encouraging the movement:
The fighting in Amariyah comes just as Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, discussed the prospects of reconciliation with insurgent groups, with the exclusion of al Qaeda. "I believe there are elements [of the insurgency] that are irreconcilable, but I believe the large majority are [reconcilable]," said LTG Odierno in yesterday’s press briefing. "The figures I use, I believe, about 80 percent are reconcilable, both Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Sunni insurgents. I believe little, very few of al Qaeda are reconcilable, but there might be a small portion."
To conduct reconciliation talks, each insurgent group will first need to establish a political wing. This is where the Anbar Salvation Council, and its political arm, the Anbar Awakening, came into play in the province. "The Awakening is the face of reconciliation for all practical purposes in Anbar," the American intelligence official familiar with the group informed us.
According to the counterinsurgency strategy developed by Gen. David Petraeus, we must eventually do exactly this; so it appears we are, if anything, ahead of schedule. This bodes well for the report on the counterinsurgency due to Congress in September.
I have heard several people recently, one of them the Senate majority leader, misquoting Petraeus (deliberately or foolishly) about the role of the military in the Iraq counterinsurgency. For example, here is a video clip of Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) proclaiming that "General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily." He clearly implies that Petraeus meant that "the war is lost" (as Reid had already announced), or at least that it cannot be won.
But what Petraeus really said was that the war cannot be won by military force alone; the most important element is political. Reid professed not to understand the distinction, but it should be clear to all except those who swim in currents of ignorance so strong, their brains turn to oatmeal (to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill).
The "politics" that Petraeus means is precisely the sort of community retail politics we're now seeing in the Anbar Awakening (the political arm of the Salvation Council): one city, one province at a time. Such "townhall" politics must necessarily precede the macro-politics of the Iraqi parliament; the parliament cannot lead the way.
Our own federal government has a federal bias: Members of Congress tend to assume all political progress in Iraq must come from the national-level on down. But Gen. Petraeus and other military leaders must, of necessity, deal with Iraq at the level of neighborhood, district, and city; convincing neighbors to turn against al-Qaeda (or against Shiite death squads) is what determines whether we get good intel or not. Our soldiers understand, even if Sen. Reid does not, that the strength of Iraq -- and America and every other country -- resides in the people and the communities they form, not in the parliament; the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a lagging indicator of how the war against global jihad is going.
In short, what the Anbar (or Diyala, or Baghdad, or Salahadin) Salvation Council does is a lot more important than what the Sunni members of parliament do; and what these Sunni tribal leaders are doing more and more nowadays is and killing al-Qaeda's leaders and fighters.
This is what victory in Iraq looks like; this is how counterinsurgency strategy wins. The revulsion by Iraqi Sunnis against the bloodthirst and power madness of al-Qaeda, and their willingness actually to go to war against terrorism, leads them to ally even with Americans to defeat the monsters. The forces of nationalism thus triumph over chaos and human sacrifice.
Clearly, not all Moslems (not even all religiously zealous Sunni Moslems) are violent jihadis. The Salvation Councils and Anbar Awakening may not be "Moslem Methodists," like Indonesia's Nahdatul Ulama (NU); but 'twill serve.
And for everybody except Democrats who were counting on picking up "five extra seats" in the Senate "when we lose the war," it's very, very good news.
April 24, 2007
Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq
Most of this post derives from several sources:
- Historian Arthur Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Win In Iraq (and How to Lose);"
- Weekly Standard contributing editor and AEI scholar Fred Kagan's article in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, "Friends, Enemies and Spoilers." (Hat tip to frequent commenter Tomy for drawing our attention to this article.)
- Previous posts by Big Lizards or articles by Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (as linked at the time);
- What I see in the mainstream media, including Fox News, filtered through the knowledge base formed by the sources above.
Just as the title indicates, I'm simply looking at the current state of things in Iraq -- which is not only not "deteriorating," as the elites would have us believe; it's pretty good and is getting better; at the end, I'll mention a few things we can all do to help keep things moving in the right direction...
So what is this "new strategy" anyway?
We have already discussed, in How to Win/Lose In Iraq (based upon the Herman article), that the new counterinsurgency strategy envisions a very different way of fighting a war. First and foremost, in counterinsurgency, the emphasis is upon maintaining everyday security on the streets -- "clear and hold" -- rather than on hunting down and killing bad guys (the "search and destroy" tactics we used unsuccessfully early in the Vietnam war).
Sometimes clear and hold demands searching out and destroying a particular enemy; but on other days, it may demand adjudicating disputes between neighbors or neighboring tribes, engaging in simple policing in some dangerous areas, reconstruction and clean-up, police and army recruiting, training Iraqis in modern economics, marketing, and business practices, and so forth.
A second element of counterinsurgency is to deliberately mingle Iraqi and American forces to a tremendous degree, at Joint Security Stations (JSSs), as Kagan explains in the Weekly Standard article:
The new plan pushes most U.S. forces out into the population. Americans and Iraqis are establishing Joint Security Stations and Joint Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers eat, sleep, and plan together in these outposts and then conduct mounted and dismounted patrols continually, day and night, throughout their assigned neighborhoods. In Joint Security Stations I visited in the Hurriya neighborhood, in the Shiite Khadimiya district, American and Iraqi soldiers sleep in nearly adjoining rooms with unlocked and unguarded doors between them.
Being constantly seen in and among the Iraqi population, while we're doing everything we can to maintain the security of ordinary Iraqis and help them in their daily lives, we obtain far more intelligence tips; Americans are seen more as "part of the solution" than "the big problem." Kagan notes that since the counterinsurgency operation began, "[intelligence] tips have gone up dramatically over the past two months, from both Sunnis and Shiites."
Second, the basic strategy of counterinsurgency, as developed by French Lt.Col. David Galula, envisions a particular way of looking at the war in order to concentrate our forces:
Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.
Besides a continuous and visible military presence and the red-pink-white model, the third element of counterinsurgency is a sense of inevitability about our eventual victory -- so more and more terrorist supporters jump ship and come to our side instead. The large number of Sunni tribal leaders who have broken from al-Qaeda and now fight against it, along with the formation of an explicitly anti-al-Qaeda Sunni political party (see below), are strong signals that the third element is working as well.
So how goes it, mate?
Drive-by media sources I read earlier said that three of the projected five new brigades have now been deployed to Iraq, and Kagan and Roggio confirm this.
Now, if a person imagines that the "surge" consists of nothing more than adding a few troops to the same failed strategy -- I name no names, but refer you to a senator whose initials are Harry "Pinky" Mason Reid -- he might be tempted to believe that the "surge" is 60% completed, and that the 40% reduction in sectarian violence is all that it will accomplish.
That opinion betrays ignorance of the counterinsurgency strategy itself. Kagan notes that the real heavy lifting has yet to begin:
Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year....
Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged.
In other words, the very significant drop in sectarian murder we have seen in the last two months has not been due to the actual clear-and-hold strategy, turning red to pink and pink to white, because that phase has not even started yet. Rather, the drop in murders is the result of mere preliminaries, "laying the groundwork" for the major operation to come.
This bodes very, very well: When we shift from groundwork-laying to insurgent clearing, the bad guys will face an assault many times harder than what they have experienced to date... and they're already being disrupted and dispersed!
Evolution in action
Naturally, as with any battle plan, this one has not survived first contact intact: We are already making changes as the enemy responds. Fortunately, Gen. Petraeus's strategy is flexible enough to accomodate.
When al-Qaeda in Iraq reacted to the troop buildup by fleeing Baghdad to the southern suburbs and nearby towns, and also northward into Diyala province, we responded by redirecting some of the American and Iraqi Army troops to reinforce those areas.
When the leaders of both the Mahdi Militia (Muqtada Sadr) and the Badr Organization (Abdul Aziz al-Hakim) ordered their terrorist groups to stand down and not fight us, we seized the advantage to make more thorough pre-sweeps through Shiite areas, such as Sadr City, a neighborhood within Baghdad.
And as Iran began to take a more aggressive and explicit role in the fighting in Iraq -- shipping explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Shiite militias, training insurgents to build their own EFPs, and even sending the Iranian Revolutionary Guards "Qods Force" into Iraq to train and even fight alongside Iraqi insurgents -- we began methodically hunting them down, capturing a number of high-ranking Iranians and infuriating President Ahmadinejad... a sure sign that those operations were successful.
What about more generally?
The Iraqi Assembly of Representatives is not only stable, it's growing stronger as more and more Sunnis come to accept it as the legitimate government. There is no sign of any popularly supported attempt to overthrow it; no Hussein-like "strongman" looks likely to seize control.
When the six members of the government who were also top players in the Mahdi Militia resigned their portfolios, on Muqtada Sadr's orders, Sadr announced that this would cause the government to collapse. It did not, and there is no sign of a motion of no confidence.
Rather, the Shia-dominated government has moved to take firmer control of the Iraq National Police, which used to have a serious problem with Shiite-militia infiltration. From the Kagan article (reparagraphed for clarity):
[S]ectarian killings have dropped because of dramatically increased partnership between the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, and American forces. The Iraqi police were heavily implicated in the killings; the Iraqi army less so.
U.S. forces do not tolerate such behavior. The partnership has helped American units identify individuals within the Iraqi police and army who have participated in atrocities. As these individuals are identified, U.S. and Iraqi leaders work to prepare evidence packets to support their arrest, detention, and conviction.
As a result, the Baghdad Security Plan is supporting efforts to weed out the worst elements from the Iraqi Security Forces. In some cases, entire police units have been pulled off line, vetted, and "re-blued"--that is, retrained after the removal of known felons and militia infiltrators. In this way, the security plan is improving the quality of the Iraqi Security Forces, which is essential to giving these forces legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
This can only occur through the close cooperation of American and Iraqi forces at all levels.
The Iraqi demand that we create courtroom-ready "evidence packets" to go after the infiltrators, rather than just using military intelligence to pick them up as enemy combatants, is actually a very good sign: It means that the Iraqis no longer think of Iraq as a country under occupation, but rather as a sovereign nation that must operate under the rule of law, not "military expediency."
In my opinion, the same is true regarding Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to stop the construction of the ugly, prison-like wall surrounding the Sunni Baghdad community of Adhamiya, which is next to the radical Shiite community of Sadr City: While such "barriers" certainly are effective -- there's no denying that -- you cannot wall off all the dangerous areas of Baghdad or Iraq, because then you have de facto partitioned the country.
Maliki called for "other means of protection for the neighborhoods." I suspect what will actually result is a compromise: less intrusive fencing with sensors, better gating to isolate approaching vehicles and minimize the impact of a car bomb exploding at the gate itself, and more cross-neighborhood patrols of national and local police. I believe this would better serve to bring Iraq together than would a series of walled-off "Baghdad bantustans." (Bill Roggio disagrees, seeing the wall as "a crucial component of the Baghdad security plan.")
The same Roggio piece above notes the formation of a new Sunni political party that is specifically anti-al-Qaeda:
In Iraq's Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council continues to gain steam in its fight against al Qaeda. Seven new tribes have just joined the Anbar Salvation Council's political movement, the Anbar Awakening. Last week, the Anbar Salvation Council announced it was forming the Iraq Awakening, a national political party which would "oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process." The Iraq Awakening is scheduled to meet in May, and will be the first Sunni political party to openly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq.
The oil-revenue-sharing bill continues to work its way through the Iraqi parliament. This is the most critical economic compromise that must be wrought, determining whether the Sunnis of Iraq will have any access at all to the Iraqi economy: Needless to say, if they don't, they will have no incentive whatsoever to remain bound by ties of nationalism to the rest of Iraq. Failure to enact this bill would be a death-blow to a free and democratic Iraq.
Fortunately, the Shia and the Kurds -- who control all the oil -- recognize this necessity, and the party leaders have agreed upon a plan (the one mentioned above). There also appears to be broad general agreement on the principle of "un-de-Baathification," allowing former members of the Baath Party who have no blood on their hands to rejoin society... just as Germany eventually had to allow low-level ex-Nazis, most of whom only joined because it was necessary to conduct business, to eventually rejoin German society.
We are still waiting, however, for significant movement towards nationwide local elections.
Democrats gone wild
Looking ahead, there is very little that the Democratic majority in Congress can do to prevent us from fighting this war for at least the next two years:
- Unlike in 1973 and 1975, Congress does not have a cowed or compliant president to sign its defeatist bills; President Bush has promised to veto any bill that seeks to impose an artificial timetable for withdrawal or undercut the authority of the Commander in Chief to conduct war;
- Also unlike the end of Vietnam, there is no significant number of Republicans so anxious to surrender that they are willing to defy their own president to override a veto; there is virtual Republican unanimity on that point;
- The Democrats in Congress, while they have the majority, do not have the overpowering majority they did in the mid-70s; in fact, their margin in each house is slim: in the Senate, 49 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats (51%); and in the House, 232 Democrats (53%). By contrast, back in the 94th Congress (elected in 1974), the Senate was 60% Democratic, while the House was one representative shy of 67% Democratic.
- Many of the Democrats in both House and Senate were elected or reelected from fairly conservative districts in 2006... districts that certainly don't favor enforced defeat in the Iraq war;
- The Democrats' willing accomplices in the humiliation of America -- the elite media -- no longer enjoy an information monopoly, as they did back in the 70s; there is no "Uncle Walter" to tell Americans that we have already lost the war... just an Ugly Stepfather Harry Reid;
- Despite the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Bush administration about what would happen if supplementary war funding weren't approved by April 15th, in reality, the president has a wide latitude of spending power within Congressional appropriations: He can shift funds around from elsewhere in the military budget to cover ongoing operations for more or less the entire remainder of his term;
- But he won't have to do -- since the Democrats do not dare do anything to get the "anti-military" label slapped across their mugs again; not with a tight election coming up! The public attitude towards our military is very, very different today than it was in the mid-70s;
- And even the longer-term future looks brighter than it did at the end of the Vietnam "tunnel": While some conservatives are disenchanted with George W. Bush and less than enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and especially John McCain, conservative despair is nowhere near the depths it was during the Watergate-dominated periods of the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Conservatives will vote -- which they did not do in 1976, once Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. There is, thus, a very good chance that the tide will turn again, and Republicans retain the presidency, retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House as well;
- Finally -- and most important -- today, we have the horrible example of Vietnam and what happened in the aftermath of our shameful surrender, which we can throw in the faces of those counseling just such a betrayal in Iraq.
But what can I do?
All those who support the war can do their part to help win it by refraining from, on the one hand, schoolmarmish hectoring of every wartime decision the Commander in Chief makes, and on the other, Edvard Munch-like despair at every setback. (Republicans are especially prone to the latter.) Remember that we still get most (not all) of our news from the elite media, and they have a vested economic and class interest in forcing a humiliating loss for America. Don't trust them to tell the truth.
Send or raise money for organizations like Soldiers' Angels that support our troops in the field. Press your local churches, synogogues, mosques, and civic groups to similarly support the troops, whether or not they support the war.
Keep abreast of what is happening in both the larger war on global jihad and the individual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by reading books, newspapers and magazines, and especially non-MSM sources such as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (now sometimes carried by Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog).
The next time Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes doesn't know -- or care -- whether al-Qaeda is predominently Sunni and Shia, I want every questioner at the townhall meeting to be able to educate him. Maybe it will eventually stick.
If you have a Republican representative or senator, write him immediately and repeatedly, demanding that he support the war effort and refuse to join with Democrats who want to see us defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Use your superior knowledge base to point out the terrible catastrophe premature withdrawal would create.
If you have a Democrat in both positions, but you live in a nominally conservative or patriotic district, then write them both anyway. Who knows? Our pal above, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, actually supported a troop increase of 20,000 - 30,000 men, back in December, 2006.
If you live in San Francisco or Boston, write to fence-sitting members of Congress on either side of the aisle. If they're cowardly enough to be afraid of the war, they should be cowardly enough to be afraid of an outraged electorate, too!
Blog (or at least comment) in favor of fighting the war by the smartest means possible (which I personally think is Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy at the moment, but that's up to you).
Talk to your liberal friends about the war (yes, you "have to"). It's not enough to preach to the choir; you must preach to the anti-war "sinners." Don't hector them; but let them know that it is not a given that the war is "lost," that in fact it's going pretty well; that the Iraqis and the United States are both much better off with Saddam dead; that this is an existential fight; that the Democratic leadership really does want us to lose (look at Majority Leader Harry Reid); and so forth. Not every liberal wants to commit cultural suicide... look at Mort Kondracke and Joe Lieberman.
The biggest danger is if Republicans in Congress lose heart or misplace their courage, and the bulwark against despair or cowardice is a high morale. It would be humiliating indeed if those not even under fire sank into low morale at the very time our troops' morale is high. So don't do it, and don't let your congressional representatives or your governor do it.
Hold your head high; you're not being shot at. Be the eyes, the ears, and especially the mouth of reason and courage.
And that's the way it is, April 24th, 2007, in what is still the greatest nation that has ever existed on this planet.
April 16, 2007
What Goes Up...
I never cease to be astonished at how an event can flip from good to bad in a nanosecond -- depending on which way it needs to be spun to hurt George W. Bush.
Two fascinating stories out of Iraq in the last few days. Both would seem, at face value, to be good news. But in the hands of the skillful propagandists in the elite media, both turn into "proof" that the counterinsurgency isn't "working" (by "working," they mean "working perfectly without the slightest back and forth," like turning on a light):
- In response to a large number of arrests of top leaders of the Mahdi Militia by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, forcing renegade cleric Muqtada Sadr himself to flee to Iran -- and to a series of sweeps through Mahdi Militia strongholds in Sadr City, forcing the terrorist group to exit Baghdad and flee south -- Sadr has now ordered those members of the Mahdi Militia who were ministers in Maliki's government to resign their portfolios in "protest." Thus, Muqtada Sadr's followers no longer infest the Iraqi cabinet.
- Sadr called a "massive" rally in Najaf, his original stronghold -- and only 15,000 showed up (media sources across the world said "tens of thousands" attended, but none offered any source for that claim);
Those who have ever had the pleasure of going on a cruise (they're quite reasonable these days) are well aware of the old saying: Cruise-ship entertainers are either young kids on their way up or old has-beens on their way down. What you never see are established and popular acts; they're playing in New York or Los Angeles at $120 per ticket or more.
So using this analogy, does it look as though Muqtada is on his way up -- or dropping like a brick? I think the answer is obvious... and it couldn't happen to a viler guy.
Slither on to have your wisdom confirmed...
Giving up territory is never a sign of strength
The biggest objection people have had about Maliki over the past couple of years is that he is too close to Sadr, to the point of including members of the Mahdi Militia in his actual cabinet. For more than a year now, the United States has tried to get Maliki to sever ties with the terrorist group, to begin a crackdown on Shia as well as Sunni, and especially, to boot the militia out of the government.
Now he has done so -- and the elite media spin it as more evidence of failure! In fact -- honestly, I'm not kidding -- they now embrace Muqtada Sadr as their unofficial spokesman against the Bush administration's refusal to set a firm withdrawal date:
Cabinet ministers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government Monday, severing the powerful Shiite religious leader from the U.S.-backed prime minister and raising fears al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia might again confront American troops....
The political drama in Baghdad was not likely to bring down Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, but it highlighted growing demands among Iraqi politicians and voters that a timetable be set for a U.S. troop withdrawal - the reason al-Sadr gave for the resignations.
What a selfless guy, that Sadr; he joins hands across the ocean with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) to demand a specific "timetable" for Americans to declare defeat and go home.
And notice how AP tries to stigmatize Nouri al-Maliki by giving him the new title of "U.S.-backed prime minister"... as opposed to, say, "prime minister chosen by the majority of the Iraqi parliament, who were legitimately elected in a free and fair vote by the citizens of Iraq themselves." Is AP sinking so low that they're trying to encourage paranoid conspiracy mongers in Iraq (and America) who believe that Maliki is nothing but an American agent?
Well... yeah; that's exactly what they're trying to do:
The departure of the six ministers also was likely to feed the public perception that al-Maliki is dependent on U.S. support, a position he spent months trying to avoid. Late last year he went so far as to openly defy directives from Washington about legislative and political deadlines.
Why were Sadr's acolytes in the government in the first place? Obviously, because he believed their presence would influence, or even control, government policy. They threatened to leave several previous times, hoping that their departure would bring Maliki's government down.
Thus, Sadr believed he could ensure that the Shiite government would never go after the Mahdi Militia, and in fact would continue to stroke Sadr himself -- who might even at some future date deign to run for prime minister directly.
Might not the sudden failure of that scheme, as Maliki finally turned on them, be a more logical reason behind the resignations than the dubious idea that Sadr, from his hideout in mullah-controlled Iran, is just worried about the freedom and liberty of everyday Iraqis? (You know, just like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.)
So what will be the effect of the Mahdi Militia members quitting the cabinet? Simple: They will be replaced by ministers who actually care about Iraq, not about the elevation and aggrandizement of one man:
Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to al-Maliki, told The Associated Press that new Cabinet ministers would be named "within the next few days" and that the prime minister planned to recruit independents not affiliated with any political group. The nominees will need parliament's approval.
The media want to stoke fears that this means the Mahdi Militia will go on a rampage again; and it's very likely they will try. But in the meantime...
- We have dramatically diminished their ranks, both leadership and street thugs.
- We have severed their ties with the Shiite residents of Iraq.
- We have humiliated their leader and forced him to flee to Iran -- thus confirming his continuning status as Ahmadinejad's sock puppet.
- We're finally moving against the Mahdi Militia's trainers and suppliers, the Iranian Qods Force; we have captured Qods leaders, intercepted a large number of Iranian-built explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs), and broken up factories where militia members, under Iranian mentoring, were building their own EFPs.
- And we've already swept through and invested large parts of Sadr City, reducing the militia's territory and denying them safe haven from which to launch attacks.
There will be a spasm of violence for a while; Muqtada Sadr knows that his allies in the American Congress are begging for enough bad news to enable them to force the United States to give Sadr -- and al-Qaeda -- the greatest gift possible: our absence. Indeed, it has already begun:
With the political link severed, there are signs al-Sadr's pledge to control the militia might be broken as well. Forty-two victims of sectarian murders were found in Baghdad the past two days, after a dramatic fall in such killings in recent weeks. U.S. and Iraqi officials have blamed much sectarian bloodshed on Shiite deaths squads associated with the Mahdi Army.
They'll try; what else can they do, having "severed" their "political link" with the prime minister? (In fact, it was the other way around: Sadr's ministers resigned because we finally persuaded Maliki to sever his political links with them.)
But the counterinsurgency never expected -- or depended upon -- Sadr's continued presence by proxy in the Iraqi cabinet. In fact, it's best that all Iranian agents, including Muqtada Sadr, be booted out of all government positions. We want former Iraqi radicals to lay down their arms and join the political system... but we absolutely cannot tolerate Iranian lapdogs running Iraq. That is a prescription for national suicide.
Clearly, losing power in the cabinet cannot possibly be a sign that Sadr is on his way up. But how about the fizzled Najaf rally? What does that tell us?
What if they gave an uprising and nobody came?
Soon after we wrote about The 15,000-Man Million-Man March called by Sadr, Zeyad of Healing Iraq questioned that figure; he believes that there were actually many more people present, and that this proves Sadr's strength is growing, not shrinking. (We cannot figure out the permalink of any of Zeyad's posts; you'll just have to scroll down and try to find it. Sorry! It has no title, but it begins with a photo of a medium-sized gathering of people.)
He objects that "bloggers" (a small number who reposted from the original article on Gateway Pundits) posted what they thought was a picture of the rally in Najaf, but which turned out to be a photo of a 2005 rally in Baghdad. The photograph -- clearly a news-type photo taken from a nearby helicopter or small airplane, not aerial surveillance -- was posted by Multi National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to accompany the article about the rally.
MNF-I never said that the posted photo was of the Najaf rally, and certainly it was not one of the "aerial surveillance pictures" that the military intelligence officers used to determine the total number of attendees: It doesn't look anything like that sort of aerial photography, as can clearly be seen in this comparison of surveillance of Iran's Natanz nuclear-weapons facility and the photo that appeared on Gateway Pundits and other blogs:
Aerial surveillance of Natanz (L), news photo of Baghdad rally (R)
More than likely, it was simply added by the MNF-I webmaster as "eye candy," and he stupidly pulled a file photo of a different rally at a different city at a different time. (As my old DI would say, "yeah, just do it any old way.") But Zeyad is properly irked:
Some bloggers have taken this photo, published in a U.S. military report on the Sadrist demonstration in Najaf, and are running with it as proof that the demonstration was not as large as the media made it to be. And now the photo is all over the blogosphere.
Except that it's not really in Najaf. It's actually a photo of central Baghdad just outside the Sheraton Hotel. Ironically, the misleading photo was posted by bloggers who routinely attack the media for its perceived bias and sloppy reporting.
Zeyad used to be such a pro-America optimistic guy; but ever since he came to the US, he has been poisoned by Democratic "doom and gloomism." But in this case, he was right to point out the mistake, but not to leap to the conclusion that this means the rally was huge.
In fact, we do have a good idea of its actual size, notwithstanding the photo mixup. We quoted from Reuters in our previous post:
Reuters journalists estimated the size of the crowd at tens of thousands, while organizers said the number was far greater. The U.S. military said aerial surveillance pictures showed that 15,000 took part.
However, attacking bloggers who used this photo is unfair. Unlike Zeyad, most of us have never been to Iraq, and we wouldn't know a picture of Baghdad from one of Najaf.
But the main point is that most bloggers do not have the skills or the equipment to properly estimate the size of crowds simply by looking at a picture or two, and that includes Zeyad himself; if he had such training, he would have told us. He is no more able to gauge the size of the rally by looking at the photos he linked than he is to estimate the size of the Baghdad rally in the photo the bloggers posted.
But the intelligence officers at MNF-I do have that skillset, and they have the specialized software to help them: that's their job, estimating the size of, for example, an enemy military unit.
In any event, it doesn't really matter which photograph was posted on the web site, as long as the MNF-I MI officers used the correct aerial surveillance photographs to determine the figure; and as you can see above, it would be impossible for them to confuse the one with the other.
So far, I have not seen any other aerial-surveillance estimate other than 15,000 as originally reported. The elite media have never explained where they got their own claim of "tens of thousands of people."
By the way, here are another pair of photos for you to compare and contrast:
The photo on the left is of the march from Kufa to Najaf that preceded the rally last Monday. The photo on the right is of a march in Karachi, Pakistan, protesting against a hard-line Islamist school. Yes, an anti-al-Qaeda/Islamist march.
Here is what Reuters' caption to this photograph says:
Supporters of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a coalition partner in Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's government, attend a rally in Karachi April 15, 2007. Tens of thousands of people rallied in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi on Sunday to show their opposition to a radical religious school which has begun a Taliban style anti-vice campaign in the capital, Islamabad.
I wonder... does Reuters simply have a key-press macro that reads "tens of thousands of people?"
Nearly all mainstream media described this 15,000-man march as "massive," or "impressive." They desperately want to prove that Sadr is still a force to reckon with in Iraq... because they believe that will force us to embrace defeat and redeploy our troops to nearby Okinawa. Certainly, that is what Zeyad the pessimist believes; he links to actual pictures from the Najaf rally that he appears to believe prove it was massive and impressive (this is the set from Iraq Slogger, from which I copied the picture above on the left).
But is it really? If this were a local blood drive, it would definitely be considered "massive." But for a rally called by Sadr, it falls well short of his previous efforts -- and therefore shows a falling, not a rising star.
Let's recall what kind of crowds Sadr used to regularly gather. Back in August 2006, Zeyad's old school mate, Omar from Iraq the Model, reported on a rally held in Sadr City:
After all, popularity polls do not necessarily reflect the truth and today's demonstration indicates that as well; see, instead of the million figure that Sadr was aspiring to see in Baghdad and out of supposedly 2 million Shia residents of Sadr city only 100 000 showed up and that's only after Sadr summoned demonstrators from the southern provinces and sent busses to fetch them and let's not forget that the demonstration took place in Sadr's own stronghold where it's supposed to take no effort from supporters to show up and march; technically they were asked to march in their own front yard.
A hundred thousand! That is seven times as large as this Najaf rally. And in the past, Sadr has managed to orchestrate rallies of 400,000 plus supporters. So he has gone from nearly half a million, to about a hundred thousand, to fifteen thousand. Which way -- up or down -- would you say that indicates?
Some might argue that since Baghdad is a much bigger city, you would expect a much bigger rally ("Sadr City" is a slum suburb of sprawling Baghdad). But remember, Najaf was Sadr's original stronghold; that was where his 2004 "uprising" erupted. Even though Sadr City was named after Muqtada Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, the Mahdi Militia was not a large force in Sadr City back then. As Muqtada Sadr's strength grew, he moved his organization into the capital city of Iraq -- and that was a sign that he was on his way up.
But now, after three years of fighting, and after the expanding crackdown on the Mahdi Militia's insurgency, Sadr is back to calling rallies in Najaf, to which he can barely gather 15% of the strength he could muster a scant eight months ago... and he is too frightened to show up to his own demonstration.
I wonder how many fewer people would have come, had they known beforehand that Sadr himself wasn't going to show his face?
So let's review the seqence of events:
- We have a terrorist group that used to have six members in the Iraqi cabinet itself... but now they're gone.
- The terrorist leader issues a call for a colossal rally... but only 15,000 show up; and that number includes many who wouldn't have come, had they known the leader himself would not be present at his own rally.
- And the reason the terrorist leader didn't dare attend the rally is that he's currently hiding inside Iraq's greatest enemy, Iran, because he's so afraid he'll be seized if he returns to his "home" country.
Sadr and his Mahdi Militia -- it pleases him to call it an "army" -- are not just on their way down; they're swirling around the bowl, about ready to be flushed. They'll remain dangerous to individual victims for some time to come; but their days of glory, when it looked as though they might end up ruling Shiite Iraq, are gone... and such days do not come again.
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, "We will return no more";
And all at once they sang, "Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam."
Alfred Lord Tennyson, "the Lotos-Eaters," 1833, rev. 1842
April 10, 2007
The 15,000-Man Million-Man March
Renegade "cleric" Muqtada Sadr, still in hiding in Iran, called for a Million Man March to protest the fourth anniversary of the American occupation of Iraq... a huge show of force that would stagger the crusader infidels and send them fleeing in terror from Allah's land between the two rivers.
Yesterday in Najaf, his prayers were answered. But the fates are fickle with prayer, and sometimes the answer is "No."
The mighty al-Mahdi Militia gathered, along with its acolytes, camp followers, groupies, hangers on, and sunshine allies. They gathered to demonstrate Sadr's strength in the Shiite community and show contempt for America. But while the precise number of people gathered was... dicey, it turned out to be embarassingly small.
The elite media couldn't seem to get their testimony straight. The protest drew "tens of thousands," according to AP; but then they quoted a source who claimed an order of magnitude higher:
Tens of thousands of Shiites - a sea of women in black abayas and men waving Iraqi flags - marched from Kufa to Najaf on Monday, demanding U.S. forces leave their country on the fourth anniversary of fall of Baghdad. Streets in the capital were silent and empty under a hastily imposed 24-hour driving ban.
Demonstrators ripped apart American flags and tromped across a Stars and Stripes rug flung on the road between the two holy cities for the huge march, ordered up by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a show of strength not only to Washington but to Iraq's establishment Shiite ayatollahs as well...
Brig. Abdul Kerim al-Mayahi, the Najaf police chief, said there were as many as 600,000 in the march, although other estimates were significantly lower. He said 30 lawmakers made the hike and there was no American troop presence except surveillance from helicopters hovering above.
(We have no word yet on whether Police Brigadier Abdul Kerim al-Mayahi is related to Police Captain Jamil Hussein, but we're still searching for the latter -- who is "a person of interest" in the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman -- on every golf course in Southern California.)
Bill Roggio found some different numbers (neither "tens of thousands" nor "600,000"); the crowd size continued to shrink:
The demonstration in Najaf has been muted. While the Middle East Online claimed "hundreds of thousands of Shiites burned and trampled on US flags," the reality is the protest was far smaller than Sadr would have liked. Reuters puts the protest size in the thousands, and during a press round table briefing today, Rear Admiral Mark Fox noted the Coalition is closely monitoring the protest, and put the numbers at 5 to 7 thousand. The protest is monitored both on the ground and via air, which allows for a relatively accurate count of the numbers of protesters.
Reuters chimed in with a hearty "me too!" on the AP guesstimate ("tens of thousands"). Well, that's quite a range of guesses! But the definitive estimate was that based upon aerial photography by Multinational Force - Iraq:
Reuters journalists estimated the size of the crowd at tens of thousands, while organizers said the number was far greater. The U.S. military said aerial surveillance pictures showed that 15,000 took part.
Naturally, Sadr himself was a no-show for his own protest. Instead he issued series of written statements, including this message to the Iraqi police and army -- almost as if he were live-blogging his Not-Quite-a-Million Mahdi March from a remote location in Tehran:
"And here we can see in ... (Diwaniyah), a civil strife the occupier planned, to drag the brothers into clashing, fighting and even killing... Oh (Mahdi Army) and my brothers (Iraqi forces) enough of this clashing and killing. This is success for your enemy ... and (Iraqi army and police) don't be dragged behind the enemy... God has ordered you to be patient in front of the enemy and to unify your efforts against it, not against the sons of Iraq."
Bill Roggio aptly describes this as a "plea." Certainly, these are not the words of a defiant, winning leader; they read more like a desperate man who sees la rêve slipping away.
What, Sadr, desperate? Why, the man can still call a... well, not quite so large a protest march, but bigger than CAIR can get nowadays. And badness knows, the Mahdi Militia can still put up a fight; well, sort of.
But let's examine Sadr's original plan, how he dreamed the war would play out.
Back in January, when the Coalition and the Iraqi Army initiated the current counterinsurgency operation, Sadr actually ordered his men to stand down. He ordered them not to resist, even if they were arrested. At that time, he made several unfortunate assumptions:
- That Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was no more serious about this "crackdown" on the Shiite militias than he was about the previous ones. Maliki will just make a token effort, he thought, to appease the Americans and relieve some of the pressure on President Bush.
- That the American surge wouldn't last. Sadr assumed he could hunker down, hide in Iran, and wait it out. After Congress forced Bush to retreat, Sadr would triumphantly ride back into Baghdad atop a flying carpet, the savior and true Mahdi.
- And finally, that Sadr could use the "crusaders" to rid himself of dangerously insubordinate followers. He would set them up, deliberately leaking intelligence to the Coalition, which would be so good as to take care of a few potential rivals.
Well... that was the plan, anyway.
Sadr turned out to be a dreadful prophet. First of all, miraculously enough, Maliki was serious this time. Who woulda thunk it? The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government started really cracking down on the militias, especially including Sadr's own.
The omnipotent Mahdi Militia was driven out of the Sadr City slums of Baghdad and forced to run southward... where the American and Iraqi forces were waiting. Caught between the Devil and the deep, blue anvil, they were rolled up and ground down, slain via air strikes if they stood and captured by the dozens if they ran. Again from Bill Roggio:
Operation Black Eagle, the security operation against Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in the central Shia city of Diwaniyah, has entered its fourth day. The last news from the city indicates 39 fighters have been captured and "several" killed. Two known insurgent leaders have also been captured during the operation.
Diwaniyah is the city where large segments of Sadr's Mahdi Army fled to after the commencement of the Baghdad Security Plan, a U.S. intelligence official told us.
It's almost never a clever strategy to hand your territory over to the enemy. Now that the Iraqi Army with their embedded Coalition allies have dug in to hold what they have captured -- an important element of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus's counterinsurgency -- it's dramatically more difficult for the Shia to attack it than to have defended it in the first place.
In addition, it is none so easy to control a wild bunch like the Mahdi Militia, who are more or less a confederation of teenaged thugs. They have neither the discipline nor the patience of a real army. Without Sadr's constant presence, they will wander off to sniff every tree and fire hydrant they pass.
In fact, some of Sadr's men are already trying to reconcile with the Iraqi government. So it goes.
Sadr evidently has suddenly realized his gross miscalculation. He calls for an all-out war against the "occupier." But it is too late; Sadr's moment has passed, and it will not come again, it will not come, ever again.
The fact that he is too frightened to materialize for his own protest stinks of weakness. The miserably small demonstration stinks of more weakness, as does his rapidly disintegrating Mahdi "Army" and his loss of control over its remnants.
What was supposed to demonstrate Muqtada Sadr's strength instead illuminates his increasing irrelevance to the new and democratic Republic of Iraq.
And yes... that certainly is "good news."
April 6, 2007
Al-Qaeda in Iraq Committing Institutional Suicide
Another day, another suicide bombing in Iraq... launched by al-Qaeda in Iraq against their own erstwhile supporters in Anbar province.
This is so self-destructive, driving even more Iraqi Sunnis into the Iraqi military and police, that the only logical conclusion is that AQI realizes that it gambled and lost. It will never regain the trust and support of the Iraqi Sunni tribes, and there is nothing left now but a desperate, eleventh-hour "Hail Mary" (if that's really the phrase I want): They hope to terrorize the Sunni tribal leaders to the sidelines, so at least they will not fight on the side of Iraq and the Coalition.
But it won't work. By killing and eating its own, like the titan Kronos, AQI will merely spawn even more rage against itself, leading ultimately to its own destruction -- at Sunni hands. Al-Qaeda has become so obsessed with gathering the blood and flesh to feed their hungry god that they can no longer live even among their coreligionists; they have become anathema:
A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas crashed into a police checkpoint in western Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding dozens, police in the Anbar provincial capital said....
The bombing in Anbar province marked the ninth use of suicide chlorine bombs in the sprawling, mainly desert territory that has been a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.
Recently, however, many Anbar tribes have switched allegiance, with large numbers of military-age men joining the police force and Iraqi army in a bid to expel al-Qaida in Iraq fighters. Suicide bombings are an al-Qaida trademark.
Strange as it may seem to call a suicide gas attack "good news," it truly is: It means that AQI has abandoned all hope of forming any sort of "national front," even among the Sunnis, and now believes that every man's hand is against them. It means that Iraq will never be an al-Qaeda base, no matter what happens in the future; beyond hatred, they are despised; no one in Iraq will aid and supply them anymore.
It's also heartening to know that the Iraqi police did their duty: The bomb detonated at a security checkpoint, after the police opened fire on the vehicle. Had it gotten through, it could have killed a hundred people or more.
In more good news, Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to grind up the Mahdi Militia; so even if Muqtada Sadr decides to return one day, he will come home to very little in the way of the private army that was his only source of political power in the first place:
South of Baghdad, Iraqi forces backed by American paratroopers swept into a troubled, predominantly Shiite city before dawn, and the U.S. military said as many as six militia fighters had been killed.
Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, said eight others were wounded and five detained. There were no reports of civilian casualties in the assault on Diwaniyah, he said.
Residents reported heavy fighting between the U.S. and Iraqi forces and gunmen of the Mahdi Army militia in the city, 80 miles south of Baghdad.
It has also become clear that the Mahdi Militia is fleeing Baghdad, taking its fight to the south, towards Basra. The four British soldiers killed yesterday were blown up by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), a sophisticated anti-tank weapon which creates a blob of molten metal in a "spear" shape that can penetrate vehicle armor.
EFPs were developed by Western countries as anti-tank weapons in the 1960s or 70s, I believe, and have been used by terrorists at least as far back as 1989 (by the Red Army Faction in West Germany). The models now being found in Iraq come from Iran; in fact, that is exactly what the fifteen kidnapped British sailors and marines were searching for, along with other munitions from Iran, on their routine patrols in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq.
In the deep south of the country, the Basra police commander said the type of roadside bomb used in an attack that killed four British soldiers on Thursday had not been seen in the region previously. Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Moussawi's description of the deadly weapon indicated it was a feared Iranian-designed explosively formed penetrator.
Two more of the bombs were discovered planted along routes heavily traveled by U.S. and British diplomats in Basra. Weeks earlier, the American military had claimed Iran was supplying Shiite militia fighters in Iraq with the powerful weapons, known as EFPs. They hurl a molten, fist-sized copper slug capable of piercing armored vehicles....
The Basra region police commander, al-Moussawi, said two similar bombs had been discovered Friday morning; one was discovered on the road leading to Basra Palace, the compound that houses a British base and the British and U.S. consulates. A second was uncovered in the western Hayaniyah district where Thursday's attack occurred. The area is known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
So let us take stock:
- AQI has become so fearful of their former friends among the Sunni tribes that they have turned virtually their entire homicidal attention to them, rather than the rest of Iraq;
- Meanwhile, the Shiite death squads are being driven southwards, away from the capital and away, therefore, from power; they are being driven into the south, where they are being ground up like pork sausage;
- And Iran has planted a number of "gifts" to the British people -- in the form of EFPs now being supplied to the Shiite extremists in Basra province -- along roads frequented by British and American diplomats.
That last point is most worrisome. The EFPs were found in Basra province, which is most easily reached via the very waterway in which the British have now suspended boarding operations since the kidnapping (page 3 of the article):
[The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon] Band also confirmed that the Navy had suspended all boarding operations in the northern Gulf while it carried out a “complete review” of the incident which led to them being seized.
Our British allies need rather to step up patrolling and boarding; I hope that the "complete review" leads to beefing up the British naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and that future British boarding parties are much more heavily armed -- and more willing to fight, rather than passively allow themselves to be plucked like overripe limes.
March 18, 2007
At Last - a Real Iraqi Civil War!
A funny thing happened on the way to the civil war...
Since about three hours after the invasion of Iraq began on March 20th, 2003 (yes, the fourth anniversary is this Tuesday), the anti-war peaceniks have insisted that Iraq is in a "full-blown civil war." If that's true, then for consistency, we would have to say the same about Los Angeles during the 1970s gang violence between Crips and Bloods.
But the Left has been disappointed time and again by its arms-length allies, who consistently fail to field opposing armies, capture territory, enunciate a national front, set up a shadow government, or any of the other requirements of a civil war. It's getting increasingly hard for even the elite media to keep a straight face when they report that Iraq in 2007 is in the same boat as Spain in the 1930s, America in the 1860s, or England in the mid-17th century... or even Haiti in the 1990s. Hoi polloi insist upon going about their normal lives; don't they know there's an American election looming in a scant twenty months?
But recently, a bona-fide civil war has erupted in Iraq... in fact, two of them. And the Democrats would be applauding -- except that, just like all the WMD we've found, "it's the wrong kind" of civil war!
First, we read about Sunni tribal leaders throwing in their lot with the American and Iraqi forces, joining the battle against al-Qaeda. In response, the terrorists have begun to direct their car-bombs and "martyrdom operations," not against the Americans or even the Shia, but against their own people, Sunni Iraq:
Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala are stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports Local sheikhs in Diyala are organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government [is] beginning to plan military operations in Diyala as well. The Diyala sheikhs are beginning to organize, and are said to be forming a anti al Qaeda group akin to the Anbar Salvation Front, a grouping of former insurgents and tribes that oppose and fight al Qaeda's presence in western Iraq.
As a sign al Qaeda is concerned about this development, the terror campaign against hostile tribes is now underway. The homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen who oppose al Qaeda are being burned to the ground on the city of Muqdadiya. Unconfirmed reports indicate 30 to 100 homes have been torched in the city. Two days ago, a police station in Hibhib in Diyala province was overrun. One policeman was killed, 3 wounded and 10 have been reported missing.
And Thursday, we learned the same sort of "red on red" violence had begun among the Shia:
Gunmen opened fire on the convoy carrying [Muqtada Sadr loyalist] Rahim al-Darraji Thursday in eastern Baghdad, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards on Thursday, police and a local official said.
Al-Darraji was the principal negotiator in talks with U.S. officials that led to an agreement to pull fighters off the streets in Sadr City, a stronghold of the feared Mahdi Army, and a local commander said suspicion fell on a group of disaffected militiamen who are angry about the deal....
He said the attack has created tension within the ranks of the militia and renewed a debate on the merits of allowing the Americans to operate in Sadr City without resistance during a security sweep aimed at ending the sectarian violence that has raged since a Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
In January, when we first heard about Muqtada Sadr's plan to "stand down" his Mahdi Militia during the US and Iraqi forces' new security operation, then "return to power" when the coast is clear, it was plain Sadr had not really thought this through: the Mahdi Militia and their rivals, the Badr Organization (ne Badr Brigades) are not regular armies; they have no military dicipline and no patience to wait quietly for very long.
Rather, they're gang-bangers with AK-47s and explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) supplied by Iran's Qods Force. In addition, Sadr is hiding in Iran, and his orders from so far away cannot carry much weight, in contrast to the direct orders of "commanders" on the ground in Iraq.
Sadr ordered his men not to resist even if they were arrested; but we also know Sadr sold out some of his less-than-loyal followers, fingering them to the Americans and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces (Sadr is using us to punish his rivals). So imagine you're one of Sadr's men who is in imminent danger of being arrested during this security crackdown; what would you conclude?
Is Sadr going to rescue you, as he promised? Or is he going to sell you to the highest bidder between the U.S. Marines and the Iraqi Army?
If you think the latter (for which you have good justification), it would make more sense for you to rebel against Sadr now, rather than wait until he returns to power -- and until you get a change of address to the Sadr-City Sing-Sing.
"Sadr is weak," you would argue; "he's not fit to rule. He fled when he was needed the most, and he's cooperating with the infidel invaders!" He cannot sit on everybody's head at once; somebody is going make a move... and now, somebody has
So let's review the betting. Since the 2006 elections, which "crippled" President Bush, turning him into "the lamest of lame ducks," we have see the following:
- Bush's enemies among al-Qaeda and the Sunni rejectionists have begun to battle each other, wasting time and ammunition that could have been used against us;
- Bush's enemies among the Shia death squads have fallen upon each other hammer and tooth, initiating a war to choose a successor to Muqtada Sadr -- who is shocked, as he was unaware he was in such urgent need of succession;
- And Bush's enemies on Capitol Hill are locked in internecine warfare over how quickly to surrender in Iraq.
Thus, all the president's nemeses are busy locking horns with each other, leaving him free to jet around South America and look presidential. Not a badly played hand for the man that the dean of American political thought, Donald Trump, has called "the worst president in the history of the United States."
March 13, 2007
Expect to See Much More of This In Iraq
According to Bill Roggio, the security operation is having an excellent effect in Baghdad; but some of the Sunni terrorists have shifted the launching-point of their attacks from Baghdad to Diyala province, which stretches northeast of Baghdad to the Iranian border.
But this isn't sitting well with many of the tribal leaders there -- who are reacting more or less the way their fellow anti-al-Qaeda tribal leaders are reacting in Anbar province, on the other side of Iraq:
Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala are stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports Local sheikhs in Diyala are organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government [is] beginning to plan military operations in Diyala as well. The Diyala sheikhs are beginning to organize, and are said to be forming a anti al Qaeda group akin to the Anbar Salvation Front, a grouping of former insurgents and tribes that oppose and fight al Qaeda's presence in western Iraq.
As a sign al Qaeda is concerned about this development, the terror campaign against hostile tribes is now underway. The homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen who oppose al Qaeda are being burned to the ground on the city of Muqdadiya. Unconfirmed reports indicate 30 to 100 homes have been torched in the city. Two days ago, a police station in Hibhib in Diyala province was overrun. One policeman was killed, 3 wounded and 10 have been reported missing.
This year has seen a tipping point in the emphatic rejection of al-Qaeda by the very people it purports to "protect" and whom it desperately needs for its continued survival. More and more Sunni tribal leaders are not just walking away from al-Qaeda murderers; they're taking up arms against them.
In response, we've seen a dramatic increase in "red on red" violence, where Sunni al-Qaeda attacks Sunni tribal chiefs because the terrorists are just not getting any support from "their" populations.
American forces have already built sufficient flexibility into our security operation that the remaining three brigades yet to enter Iraq may choose to head to the Baghdad 'burbs, like Diyala and Karbala, instead of the city itself. And unlike previous "surges" (which this is actually not), we're not just clearing and leaving. This time we're clearing and staying.
Roggio also notes that the 23 Joint Security Stations (JSSs) we've already established around Baghdad are so successful, we've decided to double them from the original plan of about 35 up to at least 70. JSSs are stations where American and Iraqi forces live together, eat together, sleep in the same barracks, and in general share the space as if they were a single military unit, instead of two different units from two separate and quite disparate countries.
(And pssst... it also significantly helps the embedding process, allowing us to train the Iraqis to take over for us at an accelerated pace.)
Finally, Iraq is finally beginning to understand the symbolism of leadership, along with the brute-force aspect. Tell me if this doesn't sound like something George W. Bush or Don Rumsfeld would do. From AP:
Iraq's Shiite prime minister on Tuesday made a groundbreaking and unannounced visit to Ramadi, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, a senior staff member told The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had flown to the insurgent bastion Tuesday morning.
An AP reporter in Ramadi said police in the city told him al-Maliki was meeting tribal leaders and the Iraqi chief of security for the province at a U.S. base.
Maliki could of course have simply sent a surrogate, even a Sunni surrogate: There is a Sunni vice president, for example. But he decided that he could not resist the propaganda coup of marching right into the capital of Anbar province -- home of al-Qaeda In Iraq -- like he owned the whole country (which increasingly he does, or rather the Iraqi citizens do).
Good news is just busting out all around Iraq these days. Somebody better break out the smelling salts; I'm afraid Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) has got the vapors again.
March 5, 2007
Maliki No Longer Malingering
This AP article is extremely encouraging -- not just because of the good news it contains but because of the trend it represents: more and more elite-media news stories are admitting that the security operation is going very, very well so far... and we haven't even inserted the last three or four brigades yet (I'm not sure whether two or only one have gone in to date).
Though there is an amusing and somewhat telling mistake that somehow slithered through the six layers of editorial oversight: while discussing our attempts to move Maliki to split with Sadr, and how reluctant he has been until now, one of the paragraphs reads thus:
But pressure for change has mounted since President Bush ordered 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq last January despite widespread opposition in Congress and among the U.S. public - weary of the nearly five-year-long war.
That would be the "five years" from March 20th, 2003 until March 3rd, 2007, I suppose. Perhaps AP uses some really, really bad lunar calendar...
But on the whole, the article is much fairer and more accurate than we've grown accustomed to seeing over the last four years. (Or five years, if you prefer.)
The good news bits:
- The prime minister is going to "shake up" his cabinet... which evidently means giving the boot to the six Sadrites in his cabinet and shuffling some other offices around;
- Maliki also says he will start arresting "top officials" and members of parliament for aiding and abetting the Shiite death squads.
That last part is going to be especially welcome to the Sunni in Iraq, whose cooperation we need in order to bring Iraqis together as a nation, instead of allowing them to disintegrate into discrete groups separated by sect -- or even by tribe.
The government must convince Sunni Iraqis that it's not the Shiite Iraqi government, but a government for all Iraqis. Everyone knows that high-ranking Shia have been funneling money and weapons to the death squads, which use those resources to butcher Sunnis (who may or may not have any connection to al-Qaeda); thus, the only way to convince the Sunni that Prime Minister Maliki is finally serious is to start busting top Shia and chucking them into la calabooza:
Last month, U.S. and Iraqi troops arrested Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili, an al-Sadr ally, for allegedly diverting millions of dollars in government funds to the Mahdi Army and allowing death squads to use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings.
During the interview, al-Maliki said other top officials would face prosecution for ties to insurgents, sectarian militias and death squads - including members of parliament.
"There has been coordination between us and the Multinational Forces ... starting at the beginning of this year ... to determine who should arrested and the reasons behind arresting them," he said.
Al-Maliki did not elaborate on the U.S.-Iraqi coordination but said Iraqi judicial authorities were reviewing case files to decide which to refer to an Iraqi investigative judge, who must decide whether there is enough evidence to order a trial.
This problem is quite serious, and Iraqi authorities estimate as many as 100 government officials could end up in the dock.
One example is MP Jamal Jaafar Mohammed:
One Shiite parliament member, Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, is believed to have fled to Iran after U.S. authorities learned that he was convicted by a Kuwaiti court in absentia and sentenced to death in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait.
Mohammed fled Kuwait for Iran before he could be arrested and returned after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. U.S. officials have alleged he was a conduit for Iranian weapons and supplies smuggled to Shiite militias.
All in all, this news is excellent... and coming on the heels of the drop in homicides (even including the big blast today that killed 20-30 innocent civilians at a market), it definitely shows Iraq's significant movement towards becoming a stable democracy, able to handle its own defense with little help from us.
But of course, the Democrats in Congress are still determined to "stop the surge." More and more, however, it becomes clear they're not worried we might fail...
March 3, 2007
Did We Chop the Chopper-Killers?
The "U.S. military" -- Reuters isn't any more specific than that -- says we killed several "senior insurgents" yesterday suspected of shooting down some of the eight helicopters we recently lost:
A U.S. air strike killed senior insurgents suspected of targeting American helicopters in Iraq, and the Iraqi government said 39 militants had been killed in volatile western Anbar province in recent fighting.
The U.S. military said on Saturday the air strike took place on Friday north of Baghdad near the town of Taji, which is home to a major U.S. air base. It said weaponry, including a vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft artillery, was destroyed.
"Coalition forces believe key terrorists were killed during the air strike ... Intelligence reports indicated this network is responsible for threats to coalition aircraft," the military said in a statement without elaborating. [Maybe it has something to do with the "anti-aircraft artillery" we destroyed.]
AP doesn't mention the "39 militants," but they have a few more details about the raid against the anti-aircraft artillery terrorists:
Also Saturday, the U.S. military said American warplanes bombed an area near Taji, on Baghdad's northern outskirts, killing "key terrorists" who were using anti-aircraft artillery to fire at military helicopters.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, told The Associated Press that insurgents near Taji had been firing at U.S. helicopters with heavy machine guns mounted on the back of truck.
"It's mobile and it can inflict damage to our helicopters," Garver said. "Anything that can threaten our helicopters, we're going to try to get it off the battlefield," he said of the Friday air strike.
Not much to say about this one; we'll just have to wait and see. But AP mentions another raid of interest:
In a separate raid in the Taji area on Saturday, nine suspected insurgents were captured, including two believed to be responsible for recruiting and helping foreign militants join the insurgency in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The suspects were also accused of harboring al-Qaida in Iraq leaders, it said.
Iraq's defense ministry said Saturday that Iraqi troops killed three suspected militants in Khan Bani Saad, a mixed town northeast of Baghdad. Two men were arrested in the raid, the ministry said in a statement. Seven others were captured in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, it said.
The 39 terrorists killed in Anbar died in a long-running firefight by "Iraqi security forces." (Don't you just love the precise specificity of the elite media? We don't even know if the terrorists were killed by the Iraqi Army or the Iraqi Police Commandos.)
In Anbar Province, a number of Sunni tribal leaders have turned against al-Qaeda and are helping us fight them. Enjoy it while it lasts; tribes can be fickle.
Regardless of the missing specifics, clearly the security operation is working very well at the moment. I wonder if the Democrats are as pleased as I.
February 1, 2007
Democrats, Hagel Back Down on Surrender Resolution - Slight Correction
Correction: See below.
...But you would never realize it simply from reading the New York Times.
Here is the headline; when you read this, ask yourself whether that means attacks on the president's troop reinforcement are becoming harsher and more virulent -- or damping and diminishing:
Anybody reading just the headline would reasonably conclude that the big, anti-reinforcement snowball rolling downhill is picking up more and more support with every passing day. But wait... read the lede and second paragraphs:
A revised Senate resolution criticizing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, offered by Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, drew new support today as two of the authors of a sterner resolution of disapproval said they would accept the Warner compromise.
Senators Joseph R. Biden, Democrat of Delaware, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said they would back Mr. Warner’s new wording, which among other changes removed language that Democrats saw as creating a potential loophole. [How do you get a "loophole" in a non-binding resolution?]
In other words, the "new support" for the "Senate critique of Bush's Iraq War plan" consists of the sponsors of the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution shifting their support to Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) less confrontational "Surrender Slow" resolution.
Previously more radical reinforcement opponents are now somewhat less radical; and the Times headline portrays this as another hammerblow against President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq.
Nor is this just a rhetorical exercise -- "oh yeah, I support that one too, if ours doesn't pass." Contrariwise, the Democrats at the moment appear to have abandoned the harsher "Surrender Swift" resolution:
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was the third author of that plan ["Surrender Swift"]; on Wednesday night he had agreed to support Mr. Warner, the ranking Republican on that committee.
The Democratic leadership of the Senate now intends to use Mr. Warner’s proposal, co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, as the basis for the debate that will unfold next week, though Republicans could still raise procedural obstacles. [That is, they could -- and should -- and will filibuster.]
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) is hopping mad, issuing a statement trashing "Surrender Slow" for not explicitly opposing the "escalation" (the Democrats' contrived word for the reinforcement and change in the rules of engagement, ROEs; it's a wonder they don't simply start referring to Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads as "the VC").
He also charged that it doesn't explicitly demand that the United States go to Iran, hat in hand, and beg them to take over security in Iraq... an offer I'm sure Iran would be eager to accept. Their economy isn't doing very well right now, and selling off some other country's oil would be a big shot in the arm for the mullahs and President Ahmadinejad.
Finally, the Times is already preparing us for what I think is increasingly likely: that none of these resolutions can gain the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster:
Backers of the new Warner resolution will likely need to attract at least a dozen Republicans to reach the 60-vote total required to overcome a filibuster or other procedural obstacles. Six Republicans have so far voiced their support.
Yesterday it was five Republicans, with one supporting "Surrender Swift"; then Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%) backed away from the Democrats' version and instead will support the milder version ("Surrender Slow") pushed by Sen. Warner.
Not one single Republican beyond the original list has joined this "bandwagon;" in fact, two of the GOP senators who were "flirting" with signing aboard "Surrender Slow" -- probably Sen. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%) and Sen. George Voinovich (OH, 68%), but I can't be certain -- have so far refused actually to pull the trigger.
One more point, which is either sloppy writing on the Times' part -- or else a backdoor admission of further erosion. The paragraph quoted above says that "at least a dozen" GOP votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.
But wait: There are 51 Democrats, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (R-CT, 80%) is voting against both "Surrender" resolutions. That means the Democrats start with a presumed base of 50 votes for cloture, cutting off debate and anding the filibuster. They should only need ten GOP votes to make the magic number of 60.
Correction: As Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 95%) is still hospitalized and cannot vote, the Democratic majority should need 11 Republican votes to break a filibuster, not 10. Correction made throughout.
Why does the Times say a dozen? Has one more Democratic senator come out against Warner -- possibly Dodd or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) -- on the grounds of honesty, arguing that if the Senate isn't going to cut off funding, it shouldn't even bother with non-binding monkeyshines? If so, that would make it even harder to pass anything in the poisonous congressional atmosphere that the Democrats inherited... and promptly made more noxious and noisome.
So the New York Times' headline has it exactly backwards: not only is opposition to the reinforcement and change of ROEs not growing, it's actually diminishing, from hysterical screaming down to mere grumbling. There is now less chance than before that even the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution will pass muster in the Senate; after all this wrangling and arm-twisting, the Democrats are still six votes short of cloture.
And that is very good news indeed!
January 10, 2007
Chalk up another victory in the "war against global jihadism," as the Bush administration now (more correctly) calls it.
In one of the recent airstrikes by United States forces in Somalia -- the AP article is not clear which one -- we managed to kill Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.
Don't recognize the name? CENTCOM believes him to have been the planner and moving force behind the terror-bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998... which was the third worst act of terrorism against the United States, in terms of the death toll (after the September 11th, 2001 attack and the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 241 American military personnel, 58 French paratroopers, and one Lebanese custodian).
The 1998 American embassy bombings killed 224 people and wounded 4,000 (AP says 225 dead; I don't know where the discrepency lies... my number of 224 comes from a State Department press release about the criminal trial in 2001).
According to the AP story:
Mohammed, 32, allegedly planned the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people.
He is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.
Two other suspects in the embassy bombings, still considered to be at large in Somalia, are Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudan; I haven't seen any word that either of these has been captured or killed; but they're evidently in the thick of the fighting, so here's hoping.
A few more attacks we haven't heard much about:
U.S. attack helicopters also strafed suspected al-Qaida fighters in southern Somalia on Tuesday, witnesses said....
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because of its sensitive nature had said earlier that the strike in southern Somalia on Monday killed five to 10 people believed to be associated with al-Qaida....
Col. Shino Moalin Nur, a Somali military commander, told the AP by telephone late Tuesday that at least one U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al-Qaida training camp Sunday on a remote island at the southern tip of Somalia next to Kenya.
Somali officials said they had reports of many deaths.
On Monday, witnesses and Nur said, more U.S. airstrikes were launched against Islamic extremists in Hayi, 30 miles from Afmadow. Nur said attacks continued Tuesday.
This appears to be a major -- and very effective -- ongoing operation that is making significant inroads in the Somalia al-Qaeda element, which bubbled to the surface during the short-lived coup of the Taliban-like Council of Islamic Courts, often called the Islamic Courts Union.
The Union was more or less founded in 1999-2000 by the merger of several sharia courts that had ruled much of (Sunni Moslem) Somalia since the Somali government collapsed in 1991. The ICU was allied with al-Qaeda from the start; in 2006, the Bush administration began funding a counter-terrorism group of secular warlords called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (which should make Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft happy).
The ARPCT fought the ICU, but the Union initially had the better of the exchange: they captured Somalia's capital city of Mogadishu in June, controlled virtually all of Somalia by August -- and were then driven out of power by Ethiopian and national Somali troops (with American support) in December. The jihadis fled into the jungle (which AP now calls by the friendlier term "forest") in southern Somalia, up against the Kenyan border.
Back in 1993, two United States MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu; 19 American servicemen were killed (one killed two days after the battle) and between 700 and 1,000 Somali militiamen. In 1999, Mark Bowden wrote the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War about the battle; the book was made into a movie by Ridley Scott in 2001.
January 4, 2007
John Negroponte Demoted; Good News?
In an unexpected but I think good development today, President Bush announced that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte will leave his position. He is widely expected to be replaced by VADM John Michael "Mike" McConnell, former Director of the National Security Agency... though that announcement has not yet been made, and the White House cautions it is not a done deal.
Negroponte will take the lesser position of Deputy Secretary of State, the number 2 position behind Secretary Condoleezza Rice; although this is considered both a critical position and a a major career assignment, it has stood vacant for several months. Dr. Rice has evidently asked several people to take the position, but has been unsuccessful. This may be due to the terrible demands on that position right now, or else because the specific people she asked were happy where they were.
This is probably a good move: John Negroponte is a career diplomat who likely hopes to be Secretary of State himself one day, and being the principal deputy is certainly a boost in that direction. But he has very little intelligence experience: as a top ambassador (to the United Nations and then to Iraq), in the Philippines in the 1990s (appointed by President George H.W. Bush), and earlier as ambassador to Mexico, he would naturally have had extensive contact with the CIA officers in the embassy; but this is not the same as running intelligence operations.
When Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras, he was aware of and supported our covert aid to the contras in Nicaragua, and many Democrats were greatly exercised about this. But even so, Negroponte is primarily a diplomat; he has no experience actually spying, analyzing intelligence, or running covert operations. He will likely be much happier -- and undoubtedly more effective -- as the principal depute at State than as the DNI.
Still, it is unquestionably a demotion: as DNI, he was a cabinet official; as principal deputy to Condoleezza Rice, he is not. It's hard to spin that any other way.
I see the switch as an admission that Negroponte had risen to his level of incompetence, à la the Peter Principle. Bear in mind that "level of incompetence" doesn't mean the person is actually incompetent... just that he is less competent at the higher position than he was at the lower position. Bush, a good manager, is shifting Negroponte back to the area he knows well, even in a lower slot, rather than keeping him in the higher slot, where he is somewhat asea.
I just heard Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy, on Hugh Hewitt, and he doesn't like this appointment; he believes that Negroponte will encourage the "insubordination" and "sabotage" of the president's policies by State; but it's hard to take Gaffney seriously, as he is always crying wolf. It's hard to see John Negroponte as being anti-Bush.
Anent McConnell to be NDI, he worries that intelligence will be too skewed towards signals intel (electronic), as opposed to Bill Casey-style human intelligence. Since both the potential NDI and the current Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), Michael Hayden, come from the National Intelligence Agency, which handles signals intel, this is indeed a concern; but I think it's a big overblown. I doubt that McConnell will suggest, against everybody else's advice (including DCI Hayden), that we forget about humint and go heavier with sigint.
Assuming Mike McConnell is, in fact, Negroponte's replacement, he seems a much better fit as Director of National Intelligence. By contrast with Negroponte, McConnell has spent virtually his entire professional career in intelligence, including a five-year stint as Director of the National Intelligence Agency from 1992-1996 (again, appointed by former Director of the CIA and rumored long-time deep-cover CIA operative George H.W. Bush). Prior to that, McConnell was Director of Joint Staff Intelligence, which is the top intelligence position advising the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Earlier in his Navy career, he served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, Japan, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean -- four very hot spots. (And also a good reason to suppose McConnell appreciates and understands the urgency of actual "spooks on the ground" to gather intelligence.)
McConnell, in "Godfather" terms, is a "wartime consigliere" with long experience in military intelligence and wartime intelligence... much more what we need as Director of National Intelligence, who in addition to being the chief intelligence advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and Homeland Security, is also the director of the National Intelligence Program -- which makes him the top intelligence officer in the United States.
McConnell was a close friend to current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when Gates was Director of Central Intelligence at the same time McConnell was Director of the National Security Agency. It's also likely, in my opinion (though I cannot find documentation of this), that current DCI Michael Hayden worked within the NSA prior to becoming its director in 1999; if so, he was very probably a senior deputy at the same time that McConnell was Director of the NSA... which would mean that Hayden once worked under McConnell and will now be doing so again! (I hope they got along.)
If McConnell is tapped, and if the Senate confirms him, it would mean the final takeover of all civilian foreign-policy intelligence agencies by military personnel (which, during a war, is not a bad idea at all):
- Director of National Intelligence: Vice Admiral Mike McConnell;
- Director of Central Intelligence: Air Force General Michael Vincent Hayden;
- Director of the National Intelligence Agency: Army Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander (also Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare);
- And, of course, the Department of Defense intelligence agencies are all headed by military personnel: Air Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Nicely distributed between the services, too... though the Marines seem to have been stinted in the top three spots.
Only Robert Mueller, FBI Director, is not a senior military officer -- though he did command a rifle platoon in Vietnam as a Marine Corps officer; on the theory "once a Marine, always a Marine," the Corps can at least claim to hold one of the top intelligence positions!
There are several hurdles to overcome: both positions require Senate confirmation, and the Democrats seem poised to exploit the opportunity to rake all of Bush's policies over the dying embers of liberal wrath once more. They will likely attempt to extract firm promises from both McConnell and Negroponte that they will completely ignore anything the president says and instead take their orders directly from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%).
It's absolutely guaranteed that some Senate Democrats will mount a filibuster against one or the other (or both!); but unless something completely unexpected comes out -- highly unlikely, as each has gone through confirmation hearings several times -- the filibusters will be unsuccessful and will just make asses of the Democrats (again).
But if the switch manages to go through, I expect it will help the critical task of intelligence gathering and analysis; and Negroponte will make a much better top diplomat than he has as DNI -- assuming Frank Gaffney is incorrect that he will mold Condoleezza Rice into the next Colin Powell. So yes, on the whole, I think this does count as "good news."
January 1, 2007
Saddam's Execution "Upsets" Saddamites
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.
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.
November 21, 2006
Good Hunting in Ramadi
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.
November 6, 2006
Maliki's Life of Quiet Desperation
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!
October 5, 2006
Sadr and Masri: the Final Embrace
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.
October 4, 2006
Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade
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:
- Kill the current "irredeemables;"
- Cut power to the main militia leader, Muqtada Sadr;
- Undermine the sense of alienation that drive ordinary Iraqis to support death squads.
There's the plan; looks like a winner from here.
October 1, 2006
Ribbons and Strings and Lots of Nice Things
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.
August 31, 2006
"The Last Men Standing"
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.
August 24, 2006
Read All About It! (Just Not In the MSM...)
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.
August 22, 2006
Peaceful, Easy Baghdad Feeling?
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?
August 12, 2006
Good News from Iraq
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."
July 29, 2006
Good News from the Front Lines - News Roundup
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?
July 7, 2006
Great News Just Keeps On Coming in Iraq
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?
June 30, 2006
Mahdi Militia + Iranians = Big Fat Target
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.
June 28, 2006
Samarra Bomber Captured?
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.
June 27, 2006
Iraqi Marsh 60% Restored
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.
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.
Arab fisherman on the Great Salt Marsh (L); typical Marsh-Arab village (R).
And that's still a pretty picture, too.
June 15, 2006
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
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."
June 8, 2006
Musab Zarqawi Dead
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.
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...!
June 5, 2006
Swamp Samurai On the Marsh
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.
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.
May 23, 2006
80 Taliban Exit World
In 87 Taliban Killed In Setback For U.S, Dafydd pointed out how AP often portrays our victories as defeats in disguise. Perhaps they've been reading Big Lizards -- here is the headline from today’s article, “Up to 80 Taliban Dead in U.S.- Led Strike.”
Are they sure “80 Taliban,” not "80 people” or “80 innocent civilians including women, children, and girly-man journalists?”
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - A U.S.-led nighttime airstrike against Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan killed up to 80 suspected militants, the coalition said Monday. The local governor said 16 civilians were killed and 16 wounded....
In a statement, the coalition said it had confirmed 20 Taliban killed in the attack on the village in Kandahar province late Sunday and early Monday, while there were "an unconfirmed 60 additional Taliban casualties."
Yep, they are Taliban all right. So aside from the usual confusion between deaths and casualties, that means in the last few days, Afghan soldiers and Coalition forces have killed about 170 bad guys. Not bad.
In an update to the story a little later, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry upped the ante:
"The Taliban has suffered extraordinary losses in the last three or four weeks - several hundred Taliban killed in the field," he said. "We're the ones that are moving. They're the ones who are trying to hold."
"Several hundred" killed likely means four times as many wounded, many of whom won't make it (due to poor medical care for terrorists hiding in caves). So we have likely taken at least a thousand terrorists out of action in the last month alone.
Of course this being AP, they're not quite willing to admit these events are successes; from the earlier story:
The airstrikes brought the death toll of militants, Afghan forces, coalition soldiers and civilians to as many as 285 since Wednesday, according to coalition and Afghan figures. The storm of violence that erupted last week in the south was among the deadliest combat in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.
I really wish they would stop combining the deaths and casualties of the enemy, us, and random civilians; it muddies the reality.
The Taliban, like all terrorists, love to strike from within civilian areas, using locals as human shields and thinking that Americans will be so squeamish that we won't respond for fear of killing an innocent bystander. Very often, the shields themselves willingly help and protect the terrorists.
Small wonder that up to twenty "civilians" were also killed... though I'm not sure how you define a civilian in a war where the enemy wears no uniform and has no rank or insignia.
Even with the patented AP whirl, however, it's obvious that the recent attempts by the Taliban at creating a "Tet offensive" in Afghanistan were miserable failures. And that is very good news.
May 19, 2006
87 Taliban Killed In Setback For U.S.
Here's how it starts:
A brazen attack by hundreds of Taliban militants on an isolated town had been building for days, a coalition spokesman said Friday, after a wave of violence in southern Afghanistan left around 100 dead.
A hundred dead innocent villagers! Our policy is in tatters; Afghanistan is spiraling out of control in a cycle of violence... right?
Here is, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story:
The attack Wednesday night on Musa Qala in the volatile southern province of Helmand sparked eight hours of fighting and left about 40 Taliban and 13 Afghan police dead.
It was the epicenter of some of the fiercest combat since the Taliban regime's ouster by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 and raised new fears about deteriorating security in the hardline militia's former southern heartland.
In all, more than 100 people were reported killed in a string of attacks and engagements across Afghanistan that started Wednesday and continued through Thursday: up to 87 insurgents, at least 15 Afghan police, an American civilian training Afghan forces, and the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat.
"Deteriorating security?" All right, a show of hands: how many thought, reading the first paragraph, that a terrible catastrophe had just occurred in Afghanistan, and 100 peaceful civilians had just been brutally slain? I sure did; my heart leapt up my throat and almost gagged me.
This gets even better, however: we weren't the ones who killed 87 Taliban... it was the Afghan police and the townsmen of Musa Qala, making this absolutely great news:
[Coalition Spokesman Maj. Quentin] Innis said the Taliban often infiltrates villages and extorts money from tribal elders, but that leaders in Musa Qala had told the militants they weren't welcome. The militants then mounted their attack using machine guns and assault rifles.
Innis said coalition forces flew military aircraft overhead to scare the Taliban militants and as a show of force, but that the Afghan police forces did 100 percent of the fighting in the eight-hour clash.
"We see this as them taking control of the situation and sorting it out for themselves," he said. "We see it as very empowering on their part, and of course that's what we want, because eventually we're going to leave."
Why does the mainstream media do this? Even the best news is cast in a way that the casual reader will mistake it for dreadful news. At some point, surely some news reporter should rebel and say, "we're here to report history, not rewrite it." Don't they at least feel a little uneasy, deliberately misleading the American people?
I often wonder about this. The journalist community is largely left-liberal, but it's certainly not 100%. And even among the left-liberals, there must be some, a handful, who really do feel some small obligation to the truth.
So where are they? I went looking for the "Moslem Methodists" some months ago; should we send out a searching party for the Justice Journalists, the ones who say "darn the party line, I'm going to tell it like it is!"
But here, the rest of the rest of the story once again tries to undercut what's already been reported:
The fighting on Wednesday and Thursday was concentrated in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the scene of repeated bombings and suicide attacks this year. But it marked an escalation in a region where the U.S.-led coalition is to cede control of security operations to NATO by July.
Yes... an escalation in the death toll of our enemies, the enemies of freedom, the people who spent days and tons of ordnance desperately trying to "kill" a couple of holy statutes (in between stoning women to death for being too attractive) to prove their god was bigger than the Buddhist "god". How can an attack that kills seventeen good guys and 87 bad guys be anything but a catastrophic defeat for the Taliban?
I tell you true: journalism has found a new floor to fall through; they are even worse today than they were in the epoch when Uncle Walter conjured defeat out of the American victory in the Tet Offensive. I now believe that most journalists are seriously clinically demented. At the very least, they have become so disassociated from reality that they have become a danger to themselves and others.
And we know what that usually entails.
May 10, 2006
An Iraq Death Squad Leader Arrested
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.
April 20, 2006
Ibrahim al-Jaafari Ready to Muck His Hand?
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.
April 10, 2006
A Few More Good Men (and Women)
Back in September 2005, the antique media emitted a collective primal scream about the Army facing the "Worst Recruiting Slump in Years," as the Associated Press put it (rather triumphally).
So why is it that this good news gets hardly any attention at all? Could it be just because -- it is good news?
USA Today reports that in the first six months of this fiscal year (October 1st, 2005 through March 31st, 2006), the Army had an incredibly good soldier-retention rate (15% above the re-enlistment goal) plus new recruit numbers that actually slightly exceed the recruitment goal, even with the new, higher recruitment targets:
The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31. More than 39,900 soldiers had re-enlisted, according to figures scheduled to be released today by the Army.
Strong retention has helped the Army offset recruiting that has failed to meet its targets as the war in Iraq has made it harder to attract new soldiers. The Army fell 8% short of its goal of recruiting 80,000 soldiers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, although it is exceeding its goal this year. Army recruiting figures for the first half of the year are to be released today.
Note an interesting point: the Army missed its new recruitment goal last fiscal year by 6,400 soldiers. But in fact, since they retained an extra 5,000+ soldiers over the reenlistment target, the actual shortfall was only about 1,000 soldiers. This year, they're meeting their target of 80,000 new recruits -- and if reenlistment rates keep up this pace, the Army will likely have as many as 10,000 more experienced soldiers than they planned.
That would more than make up the slight shortfall of 2005... which means they'll probably have to stop accepting new recruits sometime in the next few months: no vacancy!
In fact, Army retention numbers have been exceeding the goal for the last five years. Bear in mind, these are the guys who actually have been to the war zone and fought there (the Marines have always exceeded their enlistment targets; the Army was the only short service among active duty branches). These reenlisted soldiers know what to expect... and evidently, they want to stay and fight.
Soldiers like the Army, "and the war is not causing people to leave," says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman. Through March, 2,325 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq; 1,593 were Army soldiers.
When I had a chance to talk to a Navy captain back in February, he said the same thing: there are actually too many sailors reenlisting, and he had to turn away many.
Not only is the war "not causing people to leave," it's attracting recruits and reenlistments in droves. Our military now has a higher percentage of experienced and motivated warriors than any time since directly after World War II. And we're still getting plenty of young kids, as well; the Army is not turning into the "fat, gray line," as many feared we would. We still have many "citizen soldiers;" it's not an army of nothing but career professionals.
The future of our military is very bright, indeed.
April 3, 2006
Wounded Vets Hit the Slopes
Because of advanced medical technology and superb evacuation techniques, many soldiers who would have died of their wounds in earlier eras now survive. That is one reason we have so few deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan: we're sending more wounded solders home alive.
The downside is that there are now many more veterans with serious, life-changing injuries, soldiers who face a difficult adjustment back to society. I've been wondering how we're taking care of these brave souls who sacrificed so much for our freedom.
It's wonderful to learn about a program like this:
Amputees being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center wrapped up the third annual Vail Veterans Program here yesterday, having taken another step ahead in their rehabilitation and more convinced than ever that they have the support of the American people.
The 24 veterans, who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent three days here at this world-class ski resort, courtesy of Vail Mountain and the Vail community. While enjoying the red-carpet treatment with free lodging, meals, ski gear, lift tickets and lessons, they skied and snowboarded their way to new emotional and physical milestones.
Such training not only helps the veteran’s physical recovery, it helps his psychological recovery and improves his morale:
Army Lt. Col. Barbara Springer, chief of Walter Reed's physical therapy service, said it's exciting to watch the transformation that takes place on the slopes. "I've seen a lot of people turn the corner," she said. "By the end of the first day, you could see the big smiles... [and] the sense of accomplishment on their faces."
That accomplishment will have a long-term effect on the wounded servicemembers' recovery, she said. "Once they build up their confidence to the point where they can face a challenge and meet that challenge, then they feel like they can do anything after that," Springer said.
Lets give a round of applause to the program organizers, and to the ski-resort employees of Vail, who went out of their way to make wounded vets feel welcome.
March 27, 2006
Who Is Policing the Police? We Are.
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.
March 23, 2006
Good News Unsuppressed
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!
March 20, 2006
Iraqi Battalion's First Independent Operation
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.
March 16, 2006
The Grand Tale of Tal Afar
I am sure readers must remember this thank you letter from Tal Afar Mayor Najim Abdullah Abid al-Jibouri to the commanders and men of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who, with the 1st Brigade, 3d Division of the Iraqi Army, finally liberated Tal Afar. The letter was widely reported in blogsphere back in February.
Last Sunday,(March 12, 2006, the CBS show 60 minutes featured the current situation in Tal Afar. Much to my surprise, the report by Lara Logan was amazingly balanced.
You should be able to view the video from here (click the "60 Minutes" link in the left sidebar, then click on the link titled "Al Qaeda's Town"); but when I tried, it stopped in the middle. It's RealPlayer: "abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
The quick take: the retaking of Tal Afar is a model for how we will fight such wars in the future... and a great vindication of the vision of President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the other architects of small-footprint warfare.
Tal Afar is located at the Syrian border, in the Ninewa province (sometimes called Nineva). It had been used for years as a conduit for terrorists entering Iraq from Syria. Back in 2004, U.S. troops kicked out the terrorists; but like in Fallujah, there were not enough American toops to hold the town; and the Iraqi troops back then proved unreliable. Inevitably then, when we left Tal Afar, the terrorists came roaring back -- literally with a vengence. The town was overrun by Musab Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, who began a spree of revenge killing, torture, and brutal, thuggish rule.
Sharia law as enforced (on the citizens; the terrorists seemed to have special dispensation). And 200,000 citizens of Tal Afer were held hostage. Mayor Najim describes the situation in his letter:
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed.
Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city.
Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.
After a year of training and building up the Iraqi Army, so that we would have a force that could actually hold a city like Tal Afar (or Fallujah) after we liberate it, we decided in September, 2005, that we were ready at last to recapture the town.
Col. H.R. McMaster is commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry and Multinational Force-Northwest; he now also serves as one of the military's top advisers on fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He described to 60 minutes what the 3d Cav found when they entered Tal Afar.
Masked gunmen led by al Qaeda roamed the streets of Tal Afar at will, publicly executing and kidnapping people. Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes some of the terrorists were foreign fighters, but many were Iraqis from the area. Pictures of their attacks were circulated in videos like one in which you can hear them chanting a call to jihad.
"They had schools for snipers. They had kidnapping and murder classes that were attended by people on the best techniques," says McMaster.
The terrorists they encountered were far more sophisiticated than anyone imagined. Aside from foreign fighters, there were many former soldiers and officers from Saddam's army, men with actual combat experience and training. The enemy organized well, both for combat and extreme brutality:
The colonel says he was surprised to learn the enemy in Tal Afar was so organized. "You had this blending of former military expertise and organizational ability with, with a radical Islamic ideology, and it was fertile ground here."
On September 3, 2005, the fight began. After three days of heavy ground fighting and air strikes, the fire was ceased for two days in order to let citizens escape. But then, three more days of delay were ordered by the Iraqi goverment, allegedly because they were concerned about civilian casualties. However, the recent exposure of "several ranking Defense Ministry officials" as allied with al-Qaeda -- either for money or ideology -- certainly suggests other explanations.
Regardless, this extra respite allowed many of the terrorists to escape as well. Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time Magazine, who was embedded with the 3d Cav, explains what happened:
"The al Qaeda presence in Tal Afar was surrounded. And the attack was primed. And then it was stopped dead in its tracks. And so, as the troops I was with battled throughout the day and into the night with al Qaeda fighters so close you could throw a stone and hit them, when we woke up the next morning -- poof -- they were gone!" says Ware....
When the troops finally entered the Sarai section of Tal Afar on the ninth day of the battle, they used tanks to blast holes through buildings so the soldiers could move forward without being exposed.
But after waiting so long, Michael Ware says the momentum was gone; and — so it seemed — was the enemy.
"Where an entire al Qaeda society had existed, the troops that I was with found one body," Ware recalls.
To prove they were not defeated, al Qaeda unleashed 12 suicide bombers in a day of bloodshed in Baghdad. They publicly called it revenge for the loss of Tal Afar, where the U.S. Army calculated enemy dead at 151. Eight Iraqi soldiers and one American were also killed. But Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes that using numbers to measure victory is a mistake.
"Body counts are completely irrelevant. I mean, what is relevant is, 'Is the population secure so that political development, economic development can proceed?'" he explains.
But what happened after the battle is more important: American troops began training the local police, recruiting both Shia and Sunni, and reopened schools and markets. Their success at winning the hearts and minds of the Tal Afar citizens is obvious from the 60 Minutes segment video.
American soldiers like Capt. Jesse Sellars have taken on added responsibilities. On regular patrols through the city, he is part politician and part policeman.
These days, he walks the streets like the pied piper, with crowds of Iraqi children chanting his name. They're the same streets he fought for just a few months ago.
I was struck by the children chanting Capt. Sellars first name like a cerebrity: "Jesse! Jesse!" This raises an important question: Is it actually legal for CBS to show footage favorable to President Bush, Republicans, or the U.S. military? Isn't there something in the Constitution against it?
The segment ends on an upbeat note:
"If anybody tries to operate in Tal Afar, they're gonna be detected and …" the colonel replied.
"But is that a yes, colonel? Are they trying to come back?" Logan asked.
"Oh yes. Of course the enemy is trying to come back. In an insurgency, there’s not going to be a big decisive battle and then the white flags come out and it’s over, OK," says Col. McMaster. "But what we have here is as close to that as you really can get."
The terrorists will come again; it's the Middle East, and they always come. They will slither back into Tal Afar and Fallujah and the Anbar province.
But this time, when they come, they will face Iraqi troops defending the town, province, and country. Training-up the Iraqi Army has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of any of the Democrats -- or Republicans -- in Congress; but the actual boots on the ground, the generals, the service secretaries and Donald Rumsfeld, and of course George W. Bush himself always knew it would turn the tide in the end.
The sentiments of the citizens of Tal Afar toward the American soldiers are summed up in the Mayor's letter. Let's let Mayor Najim have the last word:
God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women.
From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget.
To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land.
Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.
Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.
March 15, 2006
Iraq's Non-Sectarian "Sectarian" War - New Development
Yesterday Dafydd talked about the number of young military age men's bodies found in Iraq. Many of them had been toutured and killed execution style. Dafydd suggested this could be a result of vigilantism by Iraqis against the foreign terrorists and their Iraqi allies in Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaed In Mesopotamia group.
The captured Death List of Al Qaeda (hat tip to commenter Jim from California) and an announcement from Sunni Insurgents might shed some light on this issue. First, the "Death List":
Coalition forces in Iraq are believed to have captured some very sensitive al Qaeda documents. Apparently, one of these is a "Death List," giving the names of prominent Iraqis of all factions whom al Qaeda believes opposes its efforts to establish an Islamist state in the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the names on the list are of Sunni tribal and religious leaders who have been less than enthusiastic in their support for al Qaeda. Sadly, a number of those on the list have already been slain.
Probably not coincidentally, given that Iraqis are likely to know who is on al-Qaeda's "hit" parade even without having to see documents, Sunni insurgents -- Iraqis still fighting against Americans and until recently allied with Zarqawi -- announced yesterday that they killed a number of foreign terrorists in the Anbar province.
"We have killed a number of the Arabs including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Jordanians," London Daily Telegraph quoted an insurgent representative in the western province of Anbar as saying.
We have heard about the developing gulf between Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-in-Irag and Sunni Insurgents for quite some time. But what I did not know was that Sunni Insurgetns formed a special group to combat Al Qaeda.
It became an outright split when a wave of bombings killed scores of people in Anbar resulting in a spate of tit-for-tat killings.
In reaction, the Sunni tribal leaders formed their own anti-al Qaeda militia, the Anbar Revolutionaries. The group has a core membership of about 100 people, all of whom had relatives killed by al Qaeda. It is led by Ahmed Ftaikhan, a former Saddam-era military intelligence officer, the Telegraph reported.
The group claims to have killed 20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers. The United States has confirmed that six of Zarqawi's deputies were killed in the city of Ramadi in the province.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that an Anbar-based group has claimed it killed five top members of al Qaeda and associated groups in Ramadi.
The claim was posted on an Islamist Web site and attributed to the Anbar Revenge Brigade, the AP reported.
It listed the names of four suspected al Qaeda leaders. The fifth man, it said, was from Ansar al-Sunnah, a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda.
(Tip of the hat to Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail.)
So it is possible that at least some of the bodies found could be of terrorists killed by Sunnis -- either Sunni insurgents or Sunni patriots (which groups may have a large intesection). The "sectarian" war we thought we were witnessing may not be what it seems.
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 together:
Yesterday, the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries said they have reached an agreement requiring them to conduct all raids jointly, in a bid to stop the operations of death squads masquerading as police commandos.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who controls Iraqi police, is a Shi'ite. Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi is a Sunni Muslim.
This should prevent overly "enthusiastic" Iraqi police from abusing, kidnapping, and even killing Sunnis, as many Sunnis believe, with good reason, has been happening. They trust the Army much more that the police for several reasons:
- The Iraqi Army was directly trained by the Americans, while we are only just now starting to train the police.
- The Army is run by a Sunni Iraqi; while the police are under the Interior Ministry, which is run by Bayan Jabr of the United Iraqi Alliance, who is closely allied with the Muqtada Sadr-supported Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
- The Iraqi police have been heavily infiltated by Iranian-supported Shiite militias in some areas (notably in Basra and in the Sadr City slum section of Baghdad)... particularly by Muqtada Sadr's al-Mahdi militia; the police are also corrupt and incompetent; and many police stations are simply tribal strike forces, who actually launch attacks on other Iraqi police stations controlled by "enemy tribes."
Joint raids between police and Army would greatly reassure nervous Sunnis, many of whom were just as opposed to Saddam Hussein as were Shia and Kurds... but who have been lumped together with the Tikrit tribe as "Saddamists" by the ruling Shia and often treated as incipient terrorists solely because they are Sunnis and secular, rather than being Shia who want to follow sharia law.
And have we already forgotten that "Death List" from the beginning of this post? It's hard to dismiss the idea that the real reason Shiite "men in black" abuse the Sunnis is that so many Sunni tribal leaders are secularists who oppose "efforts to establish an Islamist state in the country" -- whether a Wahabbist state established by al-Qaeda, or an Iranian-style mullahcracy imposed by radical Shia.
Let us hope that this new policy succeeds.
March 13, 2006
Brits to Reduce Its Forces in Iraq
According to a recent Zogby poll, 72% of U.S. troops believe we should withdraw from Iraq within an year. As Dafydd said, I wish they had asked the troops why.
Today, Britain announced that they are reducing the forces in Iraq by 10 percent. Why?
Because, says Defence Secretary John Reid, "This is a significant reduction which is based largely on the ability of the Iraqis themselves to participate and defend themselves against terrorism, but there is a long, long way to go."
LONDON (AP) - Britain said Monday it will cut its forces in Iraq by 10 percent - a reduction of about 800 troops - by May because Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable of handling security. Defense Secretary John Reid said Britain's commitment to the Iraqi people "remains total"....
Britain had 46,000 military personnel in Iraq during combat operations in March and April 2003. That dropped to 18,000 in May 2004, and to 8.500 at the end of 2005...
At the time of the last withdrawal of British troops in October, Reid said there were 190,000 members of Iraqi security forces trained and equipped. Now the total is 235,000, and 5,000 more joined every month, he said.
Had Zogby troubled to ask the follow-up question, our troops might have said the same thing. Ah, but that's not what they wanted to hear, was it?
March 9, 2006
Brits Nab Terrorists in Basra
Good News Central, which collects good news from Iraq, posted this good news from Basra. (Did I forget to mention this was good news?) *
A team of Royal Air Force "Regiment gunners" from Scotland broke up a looming terrorist attack on a British base in the Basra airport. The eagle-eyed Sgt. Jonathon Tointon -- should we say "dragon-eyed," since he's Scottish? -- spotted a lone Iraqi canoeist plying the river. As the sergeant put it:
"It struck me as strange that the canoe was being paddled by only one man. Normally, Iraqi fishermen work in pairs as they have to haul in nets...."
That observation led to a stakeout. The result was busting up two terrorist not-so-safe houses, where raiders discovered over 100 pounds of explosives, three 122mm rockets and fuses, and many other pieces of evidence.
The most valuable asset of any fighting force is the ability of soldiers to spot the incongruity... an unusual event, something out of place. What is wrong with this picture?
I remember reading about warnings issued to troops on the ground, such as "watch out for trash, be careful of discarded bicycles, beware of an abandoned car," etc. But there are so many items to look out for that the warning becomes meaningless. The kind of ability Sgt. Tointon showed only comes through experience.
Read the entire account here.
* As promised in the previous post, you can learn much more war related information by reading the entire text of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
March 8, 2006
Wanted: Sunni Police Recruits
Following up on our earlier post, Year of the Police , we continue our look at the American effort to shape up the militia-infested Iraqi police force. The New York Times reports that this task has turned out to be rather difficult.
But it's still good news, because whenever we recognize a problem and "focus like a laser beam," it's well on its way to being solved. "Well begun is half done," as Mary Poppins said.
During last week's sectarian skirmishes, the Iraqi Army, trained by Americans, brought order back to the streets. The army behaved in such an exemplary fashion that Iraqis were both impressed and relieved all across the nation. Not a single soldier abandoned his post and joined the mobs.
By contrast, however, many Iraqi Security Forces -- the police under the Interior Ministry -- stood by and did nothing:
After the bombing, mobs led by Shiite militiamen attacked dozens of Sunni mosques and left hundreds dead. Many police units stood aside, either out of confusion or sectarian loyalties, according to Iraqi witnesses. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, said Friday that police officers had allowed militiamen through checkpoints in eastern Baghdad, where much of the violence occurred.
We had made a conscious decision to train the army first, leaving the police for later. But "later" is now, and Americans are beginning to implement a number of changes to shape up the Security Force:
- We are implementing quotas to recruit more Sunnis into the police academies. At the moment, although Shia are only 60% of the population of Iraq, virtually the entire Security Force (99%) are Shiite. This leads to the belief among Sunni and Kurd that the Security Forces are really just the Shiite Forces, and that they will not enforce the law against the Shia -- just against everybody else.
- We are forcing the Interior Ministry to start "firing Shiite police commanders who appear to tolerate militias." This is a no-brainer; it would be like having captains in the Los Angeles Police Department who have strong ties to the Crips or Bloods. Obviously such people have to go, and they have to go immediately. And humiliatingly... they need not only to be ousted but to lose face; otherwise, they'll be back as soon as our backs are turned.
- We are forming at least 200 "training teams" of American MPs and retired civilian police. These teams will be sent to Iraqi police stations, even those in locations so remote, they think of themselves more as warlords or tribal chiefs than national police.
The American effort to balance the police forces has met with strong oposition from Shia in the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, nominated by the Islamic Dawa Party of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to be permanent prime minister. Al-Jaafari bristles at the idea that the Americans might reform the Security Forces... though he appears happy that we reformed the Iraqi Army:
There is no quick or painless fix. The efforts risk alienating Shiite politicians, who have fiercely resisted attempts to wrest away their control of the security forces. The moves may appeal, though, to recalcitrant Sunni Arabs, whom the Americans want to draw into the political process...
Officials at the most powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI, also part of the UIA], which oversees the Interior Ministry, have lashed out at the Americans, arguing that the majority Shiites had every right to control security, because Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government had used the army and the police to abduct, torture and kill Shiites.
This attitude raises the disturbing possiblity that many in the Interior Ministry see the police as their mechanism for taking revenge against Sunnis in general for decades of tyranny by the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein. Such a program of vengeance would almost certainly cause Iraq to splinter into warring factions... particularly since renegade "cleric" Muqtada Sadr is behind much of the militia infiltration -- and is also responsible for al-Jaafari being nominated as the UIA's candidate for permanent prime minister.
The police units most plagued by militas are the paramilitary forces. No coincidence, the paramilitaries are the units that Shiite politicians are especially keen on personally controlling. The paramilitaries, equivalent to the FBI combined with nationwide "SWAT" teams, operate all over Iraq; they do not have specific districts or jurisdictions.
Sunnis accuse the Interior Ministry of sponsoring secret death squads, who may not actually be police, but who have the disconcerting ability to get hold of paramilitary uniforms when necessary. These death squads -- who also often wear all black and are typically referred to as "men in black" by Sunnis -- kill Sunni clerics, seize Sunni mosques (frequently mosques that used to be Shiite until they were seized and converted by Saddam Hussein) and terrorize ordinary Iraqi citizens, both Sunni and Shia who dare to speak up against them.
In a perfect illustration of the problem, just today, a number of these "men in black" -- again this time wearing police "commando" (paramilitary) uniforms -- kidnapped as many as fifty Iraqi Sunni members of a security company that guarded many businesses in Iraq, including a major cell-phone company:
Gunmen in Interior Ministry commando uniforms stormed the offices of a private security company and kidnapped as many as 50 employees Wednesday, while U.S. and Iraqi patrols reported the discovery of 24 shot or garroted bodies in the capital....
Unidentified attackers hit the al-Rawafid Security Co. at 4:30 p.m. and forced the workers into seven vehicles, including several white SUVs, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. The victims, including bodyguards, drivers, computer technicians and other employees, did not resist because they assumed their abductors were police special forces working for the Interior Ministry, al-Mohammedawi said.
Interior Ministry Undersecretary Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Khefaji denied any involvement by his department, saying: "It is a terrorist act."
It may well be "a terrorist act;" and the kidnappers may be militia members, likely working for Sadr, and not actually police paramilitaries. But where did they get the uniforms? And without Interior Ministry support, or at least sympathy, why have such militias not been broken up?
When the new police force was formed, the Americans did not require monitoring of the police recruits' religious sect. The Shia took advantage, and the Security Force is now 99% Shia. This staggering overrepresentation of Shia is a festering problem that must be addressed:
American officers say that when they try to talk to Iraqi commanders about the religious or ethnic breakdown of the forces, the commanders tend to shy away from those conversations, as most Iraqis do, saying they prefer to think of themselves as one people rather than in terms of sect.
They may be shy of talking about it, but they are certainly not shy of acting according to their sect's interest.
For much of last year, the Second Public Order Brigade had a particularly bad reputation. It was accused by many Iraqis, especially Sunni Arabs, of detainee torture and illegal killings. Its ranks were filled with men recruited from eastern Baghdad who were loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric who had led two rebellions against the Americans.
This year, we are dramatically increasing the number of American advisors embedded in each Iraqi police batallion, both in the cities and the remote police outposts. I am hopeful that this mentoring program will work; however, the core problem is not the police -- it is the Interior Ministry itself.
The Shiite politicians in the ministry are terribly corrupt with strong ties to militias such as the Mahdi "Army" of Sadr. Until those politicians can think outside of their tribal and religious affiliations -- "as one people rather than in terms of sect" -- fixing the police alone will not solve the problem. If we and the Iraqis don't also fix the Interior Ministry itself, then as soon as the Americans leave, the police will go right back to their old ways.
We urgently need to help the Iraqis institute a culture withing the Security Forces that respects rule of law, not tribal rule. They must deploy a merit system and eschew nepotism. In the old Iraqi Army and police of the Tikriti Saddam Hussein, the ranks were filled with relatives and friends of influential politicians. This is the culture we must eradicate. There is no room in the modern world for "Hutu and Tutsi"-ism.
But in order to do that, the Interior Ministry itself must start hiring more Sunni politicians and cease being the personal fiefdom of "leaders" like al-Jaafari. That will certainly be even harder than reforming the police.
February 25, 2006
Iraqi Army Improving, Unless You Read CNN
An article Friday on CNN.com falsely implies that the general readiness of Iraqi battalions are dropping:
The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday....
The battalion, according to the Pentagon, was downgraded from "level one" to "level two" after a recent quarterly assessment of its capabilities.
CNN briefly explains what these levels mean, but they miss the main point:
"Level one" means the battalion is able to fight on its own; "level two" means it requires support from U.S. troops; and "level three" means it must fight alongside U.S. troops.
But the fact is that virtually no foreign military units in the world rise to the standard of "Level One" -- even many British units would not be called Level One. The best armies in the world mostly comprise Level Two battalions. Remember, Level One means the battalion can supply its own logistics, intel, air support, MedEvac, administration, and every other aspect of a modern army. An Iraqi Army battalion can be superb fighters, but still require a US satellite uplink to be done by Americans for targeting purposes -- and that alone would make them Level Two.
The reason that the lone Level One Iraqi unit was downgraded was mostly due to a change of command:
Though officials would not cite a specific reason for downgrading the unit, its readiness level has dropped in the wake of a new commander and numerous changes in the combat and support units, officials said.
The battalion is still deployed, and its status as an independent fighting force could be restored any day, Pentagon officials said.
So by saying "the only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded," what CNN really means is that the unit is still Level Two, but we're not sure how independent it is until the new commander has been "blooded." That's considerably different from the implication CNN clearly intends us to take away.
And wait, haven't we read this before? Yes, indeed, I blogged about it nearly half a year ago, back in Septermber 2005, in a post titled "Slowly But Surely."
In it I wrote:
[A]ccording to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the level of readiness rating keeps on changing depending on a variety of factors.For example, initial readiness standards two years ago measured numbers of Iraqi troops. Later, those standards were based on the number of trained troops. Later yet, those standards were based on troops who were trained and equipped. As the bar continued to rise, the numbers dipped a bit, giving an impression that readiness was declining, the secretary explained.
Back in September, there were only one or two Level One battalions. Considering that the bar is raised constantly, the fact that the lone Level One battalion in January was downgraded to Level Two in February is not really bad news; it just reflects the changing nature of war and standards.
The really important metric is not how many elite Level One battalions the Iraqi Army has, but the number of competent Level Two battalions. CNN mentions that as an aside, as if it's of no real importance:
According to the congressionally mandated Iraq security report released Friday, there are 53 Iraqi battalions at level two status, up from 36 in October. There are 45 battalions at level three, according to the report.
Level two battalions have increased from 36 to 53, a 47% increase! Isn't that a tremendous achievement? Wars are won by Level Two battalions; Level One is extraordinary.
There is more; according to the same article,
Overall, Pentagon officials said close to 100 Iraqi army battalions are operational, and more than 100 Iraq Security Force battalions are operational at levels two or three. The security force operations are under the direction of the Iraqi government.
The training level of the Iraqi Security Force, which is under the control of the Iraq Interior Ministry, was considerably behind the level of the Iraqi Army under the U.S. Military's control. But even the Iraqi Security Force now has over 100 battalions of Levels Two and Three. That is great news indeed, for all that CNN wants to focus on what it simplistically sees as the negative.
Here is the best news of all: not a single unit of the Iraqi Army has even been accused of participating in the spasm of violence that followed al-Qaeda's destruction of the Golden Dome mosque. Not one.
Some witnesses have claimed that Iraqi Security Force (police) have been spotted attacking Sunni mosques, but not a single unit of the highly professional, American trained, and non-partisan Iraqi Army. Rather, the army acts as a stabilizing influence on the whole country, instead of the instigator of coups or atrocities, as it was in the Baathist era.
William F. Buckley, jr., is simply wrong. He is an old man, he has not been to Iraq, and he is simply wrong. We have won, not lost; and our Iraqi Army program has been the most successful reconstruction project of all. We turned a band of thugs, torturers, and murderers into a professional and civilized military; who, in history, can say as much?
And that is the best news of all.
February 24, 2006
Civil Peace In Iraq - More of the Story
With the day-and-night curfew imposed by the government, the violence has by and large ceased. In fact, Iraq has seen a tremendous outpouring of national unity -- surely the very last thing the venomous terrorists expected or wanted.
From Power Line:
Reader Haider Ajina has forwarded us his translation of a two articles and provided his own commentary on the mosque bombing that John wrote about last night. First Haider provides the translations....
"People of Samarah started local campaign to clean up ruble and start rebuilding the bombed Shrine, while other residence joined a demonstration calling for national unity. The crowd chanted 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The governor of Salahudien province announced that the province had received four billion Iraqi Dinars (2,800,000 USD) from the National Government & the Sunni Endowment party to help with rebuilding efforts. Local police reported that thousand of residences have voluntarily gathered at the damaged shrine to clean up debris since sun up. [Emphasis added]
"Local police further reported that thousands of local residences formed a demonstration, which headed to city hall. Demonstrators were chanting 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The demonstration dispersed by noon with out incidents.
Ajina goes on to say that:
This bombing in Samarah has brought more unity amongst Iraqis than any other incident since the stampede on the Kahdumiah bridge (when Felujans [mostly Sunni] donated blood for the wounded in Kahdumiah [mostly Shiite] in Baghdad). Iraqi political parties, community leaders, religious leaders, political leaders all are strongly condemning this bombing and asking for national support and help for the people of Samarah. This outpouring of compassion, support and help is what is not being reported.
I believe the terrorists took their last, desperate gamble: bombing the Golden Dome mosque was what they had dreaded doing all along, worrying that instead of fomenting uncivil war, they would bring about the very civil peace they fear. And it appears (so far at least) that the jihadis have lost that bet. After the initial spasm of hysterical violence, peace is now busting out all over Iraq.
And that is good news indeed.
February 17, 2006
Iraqi Army More Cohesive Than Democratic Senators
I'll bet you thought we'd totally forgotten about this category here at Big Lizards; or else you might have fretted that there wasn't any "good news" to be found. Not so! The only reason we haven't done one of these posts in a while is that they're Sachi's province, and she's been traveling on behalf of the war effort for the past several weeks.
Well, she's still traveling; but she e-mailed a heads-up to me, and I'm writing the post that she would have written, were she here.
As most of you know, Bill Roggio returned from his own peregrinations in Iraq; he's ensconced back in his hutch at the Fourth Rail, madly blogging away. His most recent post (as I write this) is a piece of most wonderfully excellent and amazingly good news indeed... though hardly unexpected, except (of course) among the Left, who never expect (or tolerate) any good news.
The Iraqi Army has improved markedly in the past five months; and bear in mind, this is improvement over and above their stunning advances of the previous six.
The Iraqi Amy is taking over a larger portion of the battlespace, as well as conducting independent security operations. Major General Richard Lynch recently stated Iraqi Army units are involved in over 70% of the operations, and are conducting 25% of these operations independently.
For a force that didn't even exist a couple of years ago -- and whose predecessor was an overrated, thuggish tool of the King of Spades' oppression -- this is absolutely unprecedented. They're not at the level of American forces yet... but then, truth be told, neither is anyone else, not even the Brits.
Jason Vansteenwyk points to slides of the progress of Iraq Army in taking control of regions. The Increase in responsibility from September of 2005 to January of 2006 is significant. And Mr. Vansteenwyk also points out the Iraqi troops are securing the most densely populated regions of Iraq.
Roggio links to a CentCom release that details two Iraqi Army operations last week, one of which netted over a hundred terrorists captured (including 25 on the Iraqis' most-wanted list) and two terrorists killed. The new Iraqi Army is taking control of more and more territory; and as Roggio wrote (paraphrasing Vansteenwyk), they now control the most densely populated parts of the country... meaning a very large percentage of Iraqis live on land that is completely controlled by Iraqis: an Iraqi government, Iraqi police and courts, and protected by the Iraqi Army.
The United States is slowly but steadily reducing its footprint in Iraq. Even on most missions where American troops work side by side with Iraqis, the Americans are in an advisory capacity only. It's almost the mirror image of Vietnam: in that war, we began with advisors and ended up running the war; in this operation, we began by doing all the fighting and heavy lifting, but now we're mostly just advising the Iraqis... who are quite capable in nearly all cases of managing their own areas of operation.
And the Coalition can couple this huge success with:
- Our recent, highly effective efforts to persuade previously militant Sunni groups to lay down their arms and join the political process;
- The replacement of the old chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial with one who is actually moving the case along and not allowing the former dictator to engage in his usual tantrums and antics;
- The tremendous work we've done in ridding the Iraqi police of corruption, cronyism, and militant Shia;
- And the amazing success we've had completing a number of rebuilding projects
Take it all together, and we're well on our way to succeeding at the most incredible program of "nation building" anybody has ever attempted, probably greater even than what we did in Germany and Japan, considering the state of things when we started rebuilding Iraq.
And while the Iraqi Army is sticking together tighter and fighting as a unit, 41 of the 44 Democrats jumped ship yesterday and made a fool out of their conference leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace). I know which group I'd prefer to have at my back.
And that can only be Good News!
(Wow... Link City, here we come. Too bad linking oneself doesn't count in the TTLB Ecosystem!)
February 4, 2006
When we think of Iraq, we typically think of vast deserts torn by vicious sandstorms. But actually, there used to be a huge swampy area in Iraq -- the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial salt marsh, also known as the Iraqi Marsh, or "Eden of Mesopotamia." (Some Biblical archeologists believe this was the actual historical site of Eden in the Bible; and anthropologists agree it certainly was one of the cradles of human civilization.) Around the marsh, all kinds of plants and animals used to flourish... along with an whole culture that Saddam Hussein tried to wipe out: the Marsh Arabs.
The marsh was systematicaly drained by the Baath Party starting in the 1950s, likely to supply aquaduct water to the more favored Sunni farmers (the Marsh Arabs are Shiite). But in 1991, Saddam Hussein escalated the program in retaliation for a massive Shiite uprising against his rule:
[A] more serious threat emerged in 1991, when Saddam Hussein's regime began building an extensive network of dykes and channels to take water away from the marsh area, which originally extended for almost 9,000 sq km.
Satellite images showed that by 2002, the area had shrunk to only 760 sq km; an estimated 70,000 people were forced into camps in Iran.
The displacing of the Marsh Arabs into refugee camps and the destruction of the marsh itself is one of the "crimes against humanity" with which Hussein is charged and will eventually be tried.
When the marsh was destroyed, so was the livlihood and the culture of the Marsh Arabs. However, immediately after the Coalition invasion brought down Hussein's regime, local Marsh people rushed to destroy the dykes. As soon as reconstruction started, one of the earliest goals of the Coalition was to rechannel the river water back to the Iraqi Marsh to reaquify it. The Coalition got the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) involved; and according to the UNEP, by August of 2005, 37% of water had returned to the marsh.
“The near total destruction of the Iraqi marshlands under the regime of Saddam Hussein was a major ecological and human disaster, robbing the Marsh Arabs of a centuries-old culture and way of life as well as food in the form of fish and that most crucial of natural resources, drinking water," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. “The evidence of their rapid revival is a positive signal, not only for the environment and the local communities who live there, but must be seen as a contribution to wider peace and security for the Iraqi people and the region as a whole.”
One of the forces leading this marsh revival effort is Japan. The government of Japan has already donated 2 million dollars to the project and plans to spend a total of $11 million. According to my online friend Silverlining, who participated in the recent UNEP conference held in Osaka, Japan is allocating an additional one million dollars to the project this year.
Japan's contribution is not just money. Japanese troops have been in southern Iraq since the end of 2003, many months before the UNEP got involved in July of 2004, helping the locals to restore clean water. (The Japanese troops are also helping open medical clinics in Iraq, something Americans rarely hear about: Iraq the Model's Omar once mentioned that the new clinic in Samawa was opened largely due to Japanese troops' direct efforts. Alas, it was some time ago, and we don't have the link.)
A major problem is that the Iraqi Marsh is a salt marsh with a very high sodium content, moreso now than when it was in its prime. In order to alleviate this problem, Japan employs highly technological desalinization equipment, equipment that needs constant maintenance and occasional repairs. (One of the best desalinization programs in the world is in Israel; but for reasons which should be obvious, Israelis cannot be involved with the program in Iraq.)
The good news is that there are many educated Iraqi civil engineers that the UNEP can reliably task to operate and maintain the desalinization plants. One Japanese official candidly told Silverlining that such a program could not possibly work in a place like sub-Saharan Africa, because there simply are not enough people who could keep it running.
Because of the abdication of the Antique Media from any news reporting about Operation Iraqi Freedom (other than an obsession with death counts), Americans and Europeans know virtually nothing about the numerous reconstruction (and construction) projects going on in Iraq. You would think that the American environmentalist groups would be ecstatic that we're busily restoring wetlands in Iraq; but then, as Ann Coulter says, they would have to be on the same side as the United States.
I have known a little about the marsh project due to my Japanese friends; but the details are not easy to ferret out. I am in contact with Silverlining, trying to extract more information from him, and I will keep you posted.
January 16, 2006
Talking Sunnis Down From the Ledge
You wouldn't know it from reading the American mainstream news, but for the last year or so, the U.S. military has quietly been negotiating with various militant Sunni tribes in Iraq to give up their arms and participate in the political process.
We've known for some time that a rift is growing between the Sunni rejectionists and the foreign al-Qaeda terrorists. Our military has exploited this rift to isolate the jihadis.
Our rationale is that the more militant Sunnis give up fighting and join the democratic Iraqi community, the fewer enemies we ultimately have to face in the final confrontations. At a bare minimum, the Sunni won't interfere while we exterminate those al-Qaeda, Zarqawi and his cohorts, who make a last stand -- which we all know must come eventually. If we could convince some of the militant Sunni that it is to their tribe's benefit to cooperate with us, they may give us valuable intelligence on their erstwhile allies... or even fight alongside us, as their brother Iraqis who accept democracy are doing today.
The strategy is paying greater dividends than we imagined. The Belmont Club has compiled a list of recent conflicts between al-Qaeda and Sunni rejectionists; the fault line between them has widened so much that some formerly militant Sunnis are actually helping the U.S. and Iraqi armies conduct military operations.
The Albu Mahal tribe is now an ally of the Iraqi government, and provides the majority of the troops for the Desert Protection Force, which is a organization of the local tribal fighters that provide for local security and act as scouts for Iraqi Army and U.S. Marines operating in the area.
Unsurprisingly, the international media considers this successful strategy of ours to be a betrayal of President Bush's “stay the course” policy. Through an absurdly literal reading of the metaphor, in which "the course" must always be a straight line, and any deviation left or right is tantamount to a complete repudiation, the Asian and European press agencies crow that America has surrendered -- when in fact, we stand on the threshold of historic victory.
For example, Gereth Porter opines in Asian Times that if the world "understood" our current strategy of persuading former Sunni rejectionists to throw down their guns and support democracy in Iraq, it would cause us "serious political problems":
The Republican Party has just unveiled a new television ad attacking Democratic Party chair Howard Dean for suggesting that the war in Iraq cannot be won.
Renouncing victory over the Sunni insurgents therefore undercuts the president's political strategy of portraying his policy as one of "staying the course" and attacking the Democrats for "cutting and running"…
The new soft line toward the Sunni insurgents is a belated administration response to the conclusion of the US military commanders in Iraq last summer that the Sunni insurgents could not be "defeated" and that there must be a political settlement with them.
Of course, what the commanders actually concluded was that they could not be defeated by military means alone, that there had to be a political component to the push; not only is Bush not "belatedly" accepting this idea, it has been the administration's plan from Day One of the invasion: we always planned to democratize Iraq as the long-term goal for rendering it no longer a threat to America.
In a stunning speech delivered on November 6th, 2003 to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush made explicit the Bush Doctrine, which calls for democratizing the hellholes of the world -- in particular, the Middle East -- as a way of securing America and liberating the captive peoples across the globe.
In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy -- and after three decades of tyranny, this work is not easy.... And we're working closely with Iraqi citizens as they prepare a constitution, as they move toward free elections and take increasing responsibility for their own affairs....
This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
We do not come late to the table of Middle-East democracy.
Contrary to Porter's overwrought accusation, negotiating the terms of your enemy’s surrender is not a sign of defeat. It is a sign of victory. We are not the ones giving up fighting in favor of peaceful participation in the political process. We are not the ones outing our former allies' hideouts and attack plans.
To see who is winning and who is losing, let's apply the simple test of asking "cui bono?" Who benefits? Clearly it is the American policy of democratizing Iraq, not the jihadi cause of returning Iraq to tyranny, that benefits from rejectionists giving up the fight and running for office.
Mr. Porter makes like he does not understand that in war, the wise general has many different plans working in parallel. Many are secret; we certainly don't make a habit of sharing our plans with the world -- unless some CIA or NSA snitch drops a dime to the New York Times! (Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would call that strategy "unhelpful.") But that doesn't mean we have no plans.
Cajoling the enemy into abandoning the fight, even while we engage in battle, is not a contradiction: unless our intention is to kill every last Sunni who has ever opposed us, which is absurd on its face, neutralizing the enemy by negotiation is always in order.
One more reason Mr. Porter considers our policy to be proof of "defeat" is that the militant Sunni keep trying to suggest a timetable for our withdrawal:
The insurgents can also increase the pressure on Bush by making public their offer, reportedly made by insurgent leaders to Arab League officials in Cairo last month, to deliver al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Zarqawi, to the Iraqi authorities as part of a peace agreement involving a US withdrawal timetable.
But the Sunni can offer anything they want; it's up to us to decide whether the offer is good enough for us to accept. If we do, it will be because what we gain is more valuable than what we give up; this is no more a "defeat" than it is when you and some seller come to an agreement on a piece of real estate: neither of you is a loser; you're both getting something more valuable to you than you had going in... it's a win-win situation, just as it is when the Sunni propose various incentives for us to leave, and we weigh each one and decide to accept or reject the offer. The final decision is ours, not theirs.
We still have the winning hand, and the rejectionists know it. Last December, when President Bush had pointedly refused to issue any timetable for Coalition withdrawal, the Sunnis still showed up at the polls in unexpectedly strong numbers (a higher percentage of all Iraqis, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, than showed up for our own vote a month earlier). The Sunni flatly rejected Zarqawi’s threat to escalate his terrorism if Iraqis voted.
Most Sunni rejectionists now understand that they are not in a position to make demands; the best they can do is cushion their fall somewhat. In the fight against the American military, the rejectionists, both Sunni and Shia, have been defeated. They know we can continue this war for at least the next three years, reducing their tribal lands to rubble if we so choose. Therefore, timetable or not, they will in the end have to meet our terms; they must choose whether to live -- or to die.
By and large, they are choosing to live. And that is the ultimate vindication of our winning strategy in Iraq.
January 8, 2006
A Shiite Sandwich
Sometimes, spelunking through a mainstream-media report on Iraq to locate the real story requires a helmet, headlamp, pick, rope, and other caving gear; it's a major expedition into the deepest, darkest depths of the media closet.
The classic technique for burying good news which should be the lede is the mirror image of what a blunt friend of mine, a master of the delicate phrase, always referred to as (I sink into euphemism) a "turd sandwich." (You can guess what he actually said, but please don't post your guesses here, thanks!) When you want to criticize someone, but you want him not simply to tune you out, you must encase the criticism within a sandwich of praise on each side: "your screenplay has excellent character development and flows well; if it has any flaw, it would be that the plot completely falls apart in act three... but I really liked your visual imagery."
The MSM uses the reverse technique: all of the good news is buried in the middle, unmentioned in the headline, and surrounded on both sides by as bad a set of facts as they can report with a straight face. In print, the media will use what media critic Patterico calls the Power of the Jump™: they put nothing but bad news on the first page of a story, saving any good Iraq news for after "the jump," the part following the phrase "continues on page 23," knowing most readers won't.
I call as my fortieth witness the following article from AP.
The most urgent and important news in this story is that the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds have already reached general agreement on a tripartisan government that will be formed by the middle of February, much faster than back in January, 2005 -- and with none of the rancor that marred the earlier election:
Iraq's fractious political groups, meanwhile, could form a coalition government within weeks, Talabani said Saturday....
[Note and remember that I elide one paragraph here; I will return to this point at the end.]
Meeting with Straw in Baghdad, Talabani said Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political groups had agreed in principle on a national unity government that could be formed within a few weeks. Western diplomats in Baghdad have speculated that a government could be in place by the second half of February.
Notice the telltale word "meanwhile" in the first quoted paragraph above. That is a dead giveaway that this was not the first graf of the article, as it should have been. This is great news! But you wouldn't know it unless you read into the middle-end of the story... because the headline is actually a completely unrelated story: 12 Thought Dead After Copter Crash in Iraq.
Sachi was the first to point out this technique to me. When the Associated Press (or any MSM source) wants to bury the lede, their most common technique is to surreptitiously shoehorn it, in the dark of a moonless night, into an article that would give no clue to the reader of the guilty, little nugget of good news buried inside. (Congress uses a similar technique, hiding a provision to spend $300 million of taxpayer money on the Sen. Ima Tachs Hogg Congressional Library within an agricultural bill for Nebraska locust relief.)
The AP story opens describing the terrible deaths of twelve brave Americans whose Blackhawk helicopter crashed; no word yet whether it was due to mechanical failure, weather, or enemy action, and no word as of this writing whether it was full of soldiers or civilians. (The New York Times reports that "Bad weather was thought to have played at least some role.")
AP then segues seamlessly into an account of the three Marines killed today and the two slain yesterday, lingering over the current American military death clock.
The story next dwells with some relish upon the various civilians killed in Iraq today (five), and upon a mosque that we raided (complete with an accusatory quote from the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group that often works hand-in-glove with the terrorists). It discusses a French hostage who was just released and waxes rhapsodic over the number of civilians who have been kidnapped in Iraq since the war began.
Oh, did you know the United States and the Iraqi government have been talking to a very large number of Sunni rejectionists, and that there has been "a recent 'uptick'" in the number of such groups now willing, since the December elections, to enter into discussions to rejoin the greater Iraqi community and turn their backs on the terrorists, further isolating the latter? You'd never know it unless you read deep into this completely unrelated story about a helicopter crash.
And only after all this do we finally come to what should be the real lede, the only piece of actual "news" in this entire article (unless you count the "uptick" as a newslet): negotiations on forming the new, elected government are going much better than anyone expected -- and better than anyone has hitherto reported. AP casually drops the good-news bombshell in paragraph twenty-nine out of thirty-seven.
But then, at the very end -- just to make sure to leave a bad taste even in the mouths of those hardy souls who read deep into what appears, at first glance, to be a typical "bad day in Baghdad" story -- the AP piece ends with the phrase "In other violence Sunday:"... followed by a list of various people shot today.
And there you have it: a good-news sandwich, where the surrounding bread is made up of every piece of bad news AP can find to disguise, bury, and minimize the real story -- the imminent creation of Iraq's first truly democratic, inclusive "national unity government," and the uptick in the number of militant Iraqi groups willing to lay down their arms and join the political process instead.
Oh, and the elision I committed in the quoted paragraphs above, marked by the "...." ellipsis? AP was so bubbling over with bad news they considered more important than the remarkable political story, they even found occasion to insert some right into the middle of the few grafs describing the formation of the government:
Talabani, a Kurd, offered a timeframe on the formation of a government after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said Iraqis remain optimistic despite a violent week that saw nearly 200 people killed in two days.
...Just in case you'd forgotten in all the excitement.
December 28, 2005
Just a Reminder of What We're Fighting FOR: the Gift of Life
A story like this warms my heart. Four Iraqi children who had likely fatal heart defects were brought to New York by a U.S. military program; at the Montefiore Medical Center, they were given life-saving heart surgeries.
Wsam is one of four Iraqi children who underwent surgeries in the last week to repair life-threatening congenital heart defects, in a joint effort by an international humanitarian organization and the U.S. military.
Last week a pediatric cardiac team at New York's Montefiore Medical Center performed a complicated procedure to increase blood flow to Wsam's heart and a major aortic artery.
Wsam was discharged this morning from the hospital in good condition, along with two other boys and one girl who also underwent critical heart surgery.
Wsam is 11 years old; the other three kids are Sivar Mohammad (6), Asaid Sibreai (14), and Ashjan Khaled (12). The surgeries were the first of many that will be performed on desperately ill Iraqi children, courtesy of Rotary International's Gift of Life organization; while in America, they stayed at Ronald MacDonald House and local host families. Part of the cost is also borne by the Rachel B. Cooper Foundation.
And who is responsible for bringing all these people together as a Christmas miracle for Moslem children?
The children arrived in New York City from Amman, Jordan, earlier this month after an Army reservist assigned to the U.S. military's Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center put their families in contact with the Gift of Life International....
In September, Staff Sgt. Marikay Satyrano, a Bronx school teacher stationed in Amman, identified 60 Baghdad children as potential candidates for heart surgery. Working with the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center, Satyrano organized trips to Amman for the children and their families so that they could be screened by a Jordanian pediatric cardiologist.
Yes, I know; the primary function of the military is to "kill people and break things." But that is its function, not its purpose. Its purpose, as defined by the American people, is to pursue and defend American interests around the world... and one of America's interests has always been humanitarian relief, whether that takes the form of billions of dollars of monetary and food relief for a dozen countries devastated by a massive tsunami -- or four small surgeries for four young kids who would not have survived to adulthood otherwise.
Darned neocons -- they're everywhere!
December 21, 2005
Air Power Over Iraq
We've long known that our attacks against the terrorists in Iraq intensified leading up to last Thursday’s election. But we're just starting to find out how much air power was utilized. This AP story has the figures:
The number of U.S. air strikes increased in the weeks leading up to last Thursday's election, from a monthly average of about 35 last summer to more than 60 in September and 120 or more [per month] in October and November. The monthly number of air missions, including refueling and other support flights, grew from 1,111 in September to 1,492 in November, according to figures provided by Central Command Air Force's public affairs office. [Emphasis added]
One of the most effective weapons against the terrorists -- beloved by the troops but considered a "war crime" by former attorney general and current Saddam Hussein defender "Ramzi" Clark -- are the unmanned, remotely controlled Predator drones. While their surveillance capability is pretty well known, many Americans have no idea they're also used for air-to-surface attacks. The RQ-1 Predator (and the Navy/Marine version, the Mariner) carries a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which have a range of up to five miles and can fly nearly 1,000 mph.
The Hellfire -- yet another silly, reverse-engineered acronym, standing for Helicopter-launched fire-and-forget, even though most models are not fire-and-forget, requiring someone on the ground to continuously "paint" the target with a laser -- is primarily an anti-tank weapon, but it can be used against any fortified position. It typically carries a HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead, which, despite being designed to destroy Sovet armor, still manages to work pretty well on pickup trucks, SUVs, and VBIEDs (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) -- which quickly become Airborne Already-Exploded Devices (AIRBALED).
RQ-1 Predator drone (l) and one of the two Hellfire missiles it carries (r)
From the Associated Press:
The role of the Air Force Predator is not secret but has been largely lost in the clutter of violence on the ground. At least five times this month an unmanned Predator flown remotely by airmen at flight consoles at an Air Force base in Nevada has struck targets in Iraq, mostly in insurgent strongholds in western Anbar province.
Gen. Michael T. Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview with reporters at the Pentagon last Tuesday that Predators are attacking targets in either Iraq or Afghanistan "almost every day." He gave no details.
The training of the Iraqi ground and mechanized army has been largely successful. However, Iraq still has virtually no air force. When the American troops finally begin to leave Iraq, we will still need to give the Iraqis air support for some time; but the good news is that training of Irqi airmen has already started.
The action by U.S. aircraft comes with the nascent Iraqi air force having no offensive strike capability. Late last month the crew of one of Iraq's three U.S.-donated C-130 cargo planes flew a mission without a U.S. instructor aboard for the first time.
Hence, previous missions did have American instructors on board; we have been training Iraqi pilots and flight officers for an unknown period of time. The next step is to build up the Iraqi Air Force, probably relying to some extent upon former Saddam Hussein pilots and other aviation officers. If we're worried about the loyalty and reliability of such men, it's easy enough to restrict their role to that of flight instructors and instructors in basic aviation intelligence, meteorology, ground ops, communications, maintenance, and other vital elements that do not put them in the position to fire missiles at anyone.
Iraq also needs a patrol-boat navy to stop terrorists from landing in the Umm Qasr region on the Persion Gulf and to patrol up and down the riverways in Iraq (perhaps Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and his magic hat could pop round and give them some advice and a pep-talk). But an Iraqi navy is a subject for a later post.
Looks like the US still has a lot of work ahead. Thankfully, the longer we're there, the less actual ground combat we will be seeing... and the more our mission will shift to mentoring, training -- and of course, close air support.
December 14, 2005
Couple this story --
Police Seize Forged Ballots Headed to Iraq From Iran
by Dexter Filkins
New York Times
December 14th, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 13 - Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.
The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.
Ex-general says Iranian led torture of detainees
by Paul Martin and Maria Cedrell
The Washington Times
December 13, 2005
BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi general formerly in charge of special Interior Ministry forces said yesterday that a senior Iranian intelligence officer was in charge of a network of detention centers where suspected insurgents were routinely tortured and sometimes killed.
Gen. Muntazar Jasim al-Samarrai spoke to The Washington Times just as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he had widened an urgent investigation into complaints of abuse and torture in the country's detention facilities.
...and I say that if they're both true, it all adds up to good news, not bad, for Iraq and the future of the Middle East.
What? How can I say that?
Elementary, my dear Whalid: because we already knew that the Iranians were a bunch of evil theocrats plotting to seize control of the Moslem ummah... whereas, had it turned out that the Iraqi Shia were running those torture centers, or that they had engaged in a massive ballot-stuffing operation, we would have a true political crisis on our hands; because it is precisely the Iraqi Shia who will end up the most powerful block of the four largest that will survive this vote.
The fact that the worst betrayals of freedom are being committed, not by Iraqis betraying their fellow nationals and all the words of democracy and freedom, but rather by the Iranian mullahs who are already Number One on the list of people we want to kill someday soon, is actually a wonderful relief. It's like the episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob Petrie discovers that his expensive, new watch was stolen, not by one of his close friends, but instead by a professional burglar who had broken into the house. What a relief!
Iranian infiltration and interference is expected and can be dealt with -- not just by us, but by patriotic Iraqis, including Shia. It may be hard; the Iranians may even win some rounds (two other trucks full of ballots are said to have made it past the border guards). But in the end, we're looking for foreign infiltrators, perhaps with some Iraqi traitors supplying the local connection. We're not facing a bona-fide insurgency (which we have not seen to date) that wants to break away from the nation of Iraq and form part of Greater Iran.
On the secret prison-camp story, the Washington Times continues:
Gen. al-Samarrai said the Iranian intelligence officer, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, works directly under the Kurdish deputy minister, Gen. Hussein Kamel, and is known throughout the ministry as "The Engineer."
"The Engineer was behind the torturing and killing in the ministry and was also in charge of Jadriya prison," said Gen. al-Samarrai, who left the ministry after a dispute with superiors and is now living in Jordan....
Mr. Lawandi, who had been a colonel in the Iranian Mukhabarat intelligence service, was granted Iraqi citizenship May 12, 2004, and awarded the rank of general, Gen. al-Samarrai said by telephone from Amman, Jordan, where he moved his family after two attempts on his life....
The general said Mr. Lawandi had worked with the minister and deputy minister to form a special security service to run the detention and interrogation operation and a separate group called the Wolf Brigade to capture suspects and bring them to the secret locations -- usually under cover of darkness....
Gen. al-Samarrai, a 46-year-old career officer, was ousted from the Interior Ministry in a purge of about 600 staff in July. Many were replaced by hard-line loyalists to new Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh and his allies in the Badr Brigade, a militia affiliated with Iraq's largest Shi'ite religious party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The general said the minister had brought 17,000 Badr organization fighters into the ranks of Interior Ministry forces after Iraq's militias were officially disarmed. Most had received military training in Iran and were infiltrated into Iraq soon after the defeat of dictator Saddam Hussein.
If this story is both true and accurate, it would appear that Interior Minister Solagh would be one of those "Iraqi traitors" I mentioned above; but we don't yet know how much of this is correct, so tread cautiously: there certainly is a great temptation to put all the onus on the foreign jihadis and none on the locals who aid them or even simply turn a blind eye.
It's still a dangerous, deadly situation; but it's aways better to face off against foreigners trying to grab power than a significant portion of one's own population turning traitor. Let's hope the Iraqis and our own forces crack down hard on Iran (and also upon the Iraqis who accept such "allies"), not only by stopping future adventurism but also by punishing Iran for these two schemes. Something permanent, embarassing, and debilitating, perhaps involving Hezbollah, the enforcement arm of the mad mullahs of Iran.
Let them eat sand. But make sure the Iraqis know their real enemies are across their borders -- not across the parliamentary aisle.
December 11, 2005
SEALs of my generation seldom used the term "Vietnam" and never "Nam." We said we were "In Country." Laos and Cambodia were "Up Country." Everything above the DMZ was "the North." The SEALs in Afghanistan and Iraq, the guns in this current fight, simply say they are going downrange--or back downrange.
I've been forcusing on the Iraq situation and neglecting our efforts in Afghanistan. Although the situation there is stable, comparatively speaking of course, the war against Jihadi terrorism is still being fought in that South Asian country.
A MilBlogger from Afghanistan, Going Down Range, reports an interesting perspective on the Afghan mindset in a recent post:
I have been working with the Afghans and I have come to the conclusions that most have a complete different set of values. If something does not happen or goes to s**t, it is not somebody’s fault or responsibility. It is “ishmal Allah” or God wills it. It is frustrating and I feel sorry for the interpreters who are stuck in the middle between a US soldier and the Afghan National Army, Police or Border Police. [One explicitive deleted. -- the Mgt.]
I think we often misunderstand what it means to be "religious" in the Islamic world. They may be fanatics, but that does not mean they actually cherish their own religion. They might claim that everything they do is in the name of Allah, but that does not mean thery really believe what they say. Our enemies know how we react to religious sensibility -- so they manipulate our perpetually guilty consciences.
How many times have Americans been accused of violating Islamic sensibilities by attacking Moslem terrorists on one of their hundreds of holy days, or planting our infidel boots in the 617th holiest city in the entire Anbar province? What about the hullabaloo over a single Koran that might have been touched by ungloved infidel hand, or over American soldiers burning the bodies of dead Taliban -- once they became a health hazard? Every time we manage to offend some Moslems somewhere by neglecting to notice one of the thousands of obscure Islamic laws, rituals, traditions, or dietary peculiarities, somehow we are at fault and must apologize.
And yet, Moslem terrorists do this kind of thing all the time... not only to us infidels but to fellow Moslems! The same people who get up in arms about the possibility that one Koran might have been mistreated by an American's hand will tomorrow turn around and attack a Mosque during Ramadan, not only killing a bunch of peolpe but destroying hundreds of Korans in the process.
We actually have no evidence that ordinary Moslems are particularly upset about us killing terrorists and burning their bodies:
Some of the Afghans I talked to said that the Taliban deserved what they got. One mentioned that car bombs are bad and why is the Taliban getting upset? What does a suicide bomber looks like after he perpetrates his evil deed? They blasphemed Islam and put Afghanistan through hell, so it is pay back.
This is an interesting point: when a suicide/homicide bomber detonates his bomb belt, his body (as well as those of his innocent victims) is burnt and destroyed -- thus unfit to be buried.
So, next time some activist or journalist starts flapping his wings about us burning terrorists' bodies for hygienic reasons, or "desecrating" a Koran by picking it up with our bare hands, we would do well to remind them of the four Americans whose bodies were burnt and hung from a bridge in Fallujah -- and quit worrying about the terrorists' feelings.
December 7, 2005
Another Day, Another Life
During my daily surf of MilBlogs, I stumbled onto this one: 365 and a Wakeup. 365 and a Wakeup is one of the finalists in the 2005 Weblog Award's Best Military Blog category. When you read a post like this one, you can easily see why. (I'm working my way through all the MilBlog nominees so I can vote intelligently.)
Thunder6, "Deputy Commander of A Co, 1-184 IN, 3ID in Southern Baghdad," describes a recent encounter with a young mother and her disabled son.
During our last patrol through the shantytowns a young mother waited patiently outside the bustling throng of children hopping back and forth between our vehicles. I don’t remember seeing her arrive, she just suddenly appeared on the outskirts of the roiling flock of children. In that sea of motion she stood as still and resolute as a obsidian tower, her black burkha providing a mute contrast to the gaudy kaleidoscope of children’s clothing. She was clutching a toddler tightly to her chest, and I reflexively assumed she was trying to secure some candy for her child.
It turn out she wasn't there for candy. Her son was feeble and couldn't stand, let alone walk. She was desperately hoping that the Americans could somehow cure him.
Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do medically to help. The child suffered from a congenital birth defect that left him frail and sickly. “Sir, we couldn’t help him even if we were in the States," said the company medic. But the sight of the poor little boy gnawed at Thunder6.
The memory of that wisp of a boy stayed with me, and after a few days I asked SSG Spite if he could think of anything we might be able to do for the family. SSG Spite said that he would see what he could do and then disappeared for the rest of the day. The following day I knocked on SSG Spite’s door and when I walked in I almost dropped my coffee mug in shock. There sat SSG Spite quietly cleaning his weapon… sitting in a wheelchair. SSG Spite seemed to sense my agitation without even turning around and after a pregnant pause he said “Don’t worry sir, I’m fine. The wheelchair is for the kid”. Then he turned around, gave me a sly grin and said “But I had you worried, didn’t I?”. We laughed for a few minutes and then SSG Spite said “If I didn’t feel sorry for the kid I’d keep the wheelchair – this is the best seat in the barracks”.
What kind of "occupiers" would stop and think to help a helpless child? The American kind, that's what.
The next time A-Company patrolled in the area where the woman and her son lived, they brought the wheelchair with them. After struggling their way through mobs of Iraqi children, who were ecstatic to receive the little Iraqi flags that they handed out, they knocked at the door of the woman. They brought her and her son out to their Humvees.
When we arrived SGT Bard opened one of the doors and pulled and tugged until the wheelchair slid through the armored door. I wish I could describe the womans face when we gently picked up her son and placed him in the wheelchair - but there are some emotions words cannot hope to touch.
The Howard Deans, John Kerrys, and Jeff Engelhardts of the world can call our guys and girls any despicable, schoolyard name they want and smear them from now until next November; they can call on us to cut and run and say the world would be better off if Saddam were still in power in Iraq. But the fact of the matter is that guys like Thunder6 are the norm, not the exception; and he and his men are making a world of difference over there. One child, one life at a time.
What's John Kerry done lately?
December 6, 2005
A Few Good Iraqi Men
Finding a real success story disguised as a catastrophe is becoming a hobby of mine. When I go through the familiar pessimistic headlines, I often stumble onto good news hidden in the corners. Take a look at this story from Reuters, which tries so hard to play the Iraqi Army as good, but not, well, good enough. Trying so hard, they don't even notice that they prove exactly the opposite: that the Iraqi soldiers are really as good as it gets.
The success of Iraqi Security Force training is undeniable. More and more Iraqi forces are taking over operations and leading attacks. Even the MSM have to admit the readiness of the Iraqi forces. But being the MSM, they also have to find some way to give it a negative spin. If they can't attack the Iraqis' ability, what can they pick on? Ah, lack of equipment, that's what!
Equipped with little armour or ammunition, [Iraqi Army] soldiers can often be seen wearing balaclavas and toting AK-47 rifles as they ride around in the back of Nissan trucks.
This sounds familier. Weren't the MSM complaining about lack of armored vehicle for the US troops not too long ago? But wait, there is more.
Iraqi soldiers could storm the village, conduct house-to- house searches and round up suspects, but with only a few unarmoured Nissan trucks to ride in, they'd never get out alive.
"We'll need the American military to lead us out of there," he said, noting that the route out of the village would probably be booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices and the Iraqi army didn't have vehicles that could withstand them.
But what's the real story? That Iraqi troops are now capable of leading a raid with the US troops serving only as backup. They just don't have enough Humvees. Well, actually they are short of something even more important:
Even as a group of [Colonel Mohammed Najem] Kharye's men prepared for the village raid by scrutinising a map drawn in the sand and marked with smooth stones, others squatted nearby, still waiting for identification badges.
They can map up and plan the raid, but they don't have enough ID badges! Actually, I wasn't kidding when I said this was "something even more important." But I'll wait until the end of the post to explain what I mean.
Shortage of equipment or lack of logistical support is nothing new. Every army suffers from such problems at one time or another. What's important is the troops' ability to solve the problem by improvising with what they have, to come up with a workaround. The Iraqi army is doing exactly that; this is where Reuters doesn't even understand the real story behind the superficial story they're reporting.
Though attacks on Iraqi forces are frequent, the soldiers do not have the armoured Humvees, Bradley fighting vehicles or tanks that are capable of withstanding bullets and some blasts.
In an attempt to make their Nissan trucks safer, Iraqi soldiers at Khamiss have welded sheet metal to the sides. AK-47 rifles and rocket propelled grenades are their main weapons -- they have not even been given mortar rounds.
Obviously, the better an army is equipped, better off they are. But if the army is not skilled, all the weaponry in the world can't bring a victory. And without the "heart" for combat, neither training nor equipment can make soldiers stick out a fight.
Saddam's army was armed to the teeth and even trained, after a fashion. After the fall of the regime, we found thousands of weapons' caches filled with state of the art weapons (side by side with virtual antiques). How well did that army fight? Confronted with the enemy (us), Saddam's soldiers simply threw away their guns and fled.
Within weeks of Saddam's fall in April 2003, U.S. authorities disbanded Iraq's 400,000-strong armed forces. U.S. officials said this simply formalised the fact that the army had evaporated in the aftermath of the war, with soldiers deserting en masse.
Weaponry and equipment are nice, but they don't make an army. Men (and women like Sgt. Hester) with the will to fight and the training to make it a good one make an army. From the looks of it, the new Iraqi Army has plenty of both -- now.
Even soldiers sometimes forget that; Americans -- heck, Westerners -- have had that kind of "heart" for such a long time, they sometimes forget it's a rare and precious thing. That more than anything else is why Western civilization dominates the world.
I was looking at the website Soldiers For the Truth, and I read a piece by former intelligence officer Michael Gifford. It's a great article; Captain Gifford says the road to getting out of Iraq leads through victory in training up the Iraqi Army... he's definitely no John Kerry! But then he falls into a trap that catches many others:
I spent 6 months training the police of the restive Al Anbar Province of Iraq in the winter and spring of 2004, and that was after 6 months of fighting in the streets along side them. For the few first months, we were wondering why they were deserting in huge numbers, why they were running from firefights. I realized very quickly that we were asking them these questions from inside our armored humvees and from behind our bulletproof vests. No wonder these guys were turning tail and running! I put myself in their shoes, and started to see just how bad they had it.
But wait... if that's the problem -- then why didn't the American Marines run from Iwo Jima? They didn't have any armor then, either. What about Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Volunteers on Little Round Top at the battle of Gettysburg, repulsing attack after attack from the Confederate forces? At the end of the battle, as the Grays massed for a final attack, Chamberlain realized his men were out of ammunition... so he ordered a bayonet charge which shattered the Confederate ranks.
The 20th Maine didn't have any uparmored Humvees. Neither did the 250 men who defended the Alamo, buying time for Sam Houston to raise a Texican army against Santa Anna.
For that matter, what about the 300 Spartans and their 4,000-5,000 Greek allies who held the gates of Thermopylae against the two-million-man Persian army of Xerxes, led by King Leonidas? At the end, the Spartans sent their allies away to live; but none of the Spartans survived.
The armor doesn't make the man; the man makes the armor.
And then came the body armor--my God, you should have seen the looks on their faces when we issued them new bulletproof vests in the winter of 2003. We went as far as to show them the actual test plates from the vests we were issuing--the plates that we took out to the range and shot--proving that they were able to stop both 9mm and AK47 rounds. A few weeks after their issue, I heard reports from Fallujah that the Iraqi police were really showing some cajones - much, much more confidence.
I don't think Captain Gifford understands what really happened, because it isn't a military question. It wasn't that the Iraqis were no longer afraid of dying. That body armor was a magic spell, the spell of acceptance: they had professional equipment, so they started thinking of themselves as professionals.
The same with the armored Humvees and the improved ammunition. Here is the proof:
Their morale began to increase with the equipment we began to provide. And once we began to outfit them with better uniforms, leather jackets and patches, you could really see their pride begin to swell. And anyone who's worked with the Iraqi Police or Army knows that pride is a huge factor in their morale.
New uniforms and leather jackets aren't the keys to destroying the insurgency, but it shows we give a damn about making sure they're safe and professional looking.
It showed that we treated them as equals -- and they began to perform as equals. And that is what I meant by saying that giving the Iraqi solders ID badges really was more important than Humvees: the badges (the Los Angeles Police Department calls them "shields," which reminds us of the Spartans again) were like the Wizard of Oz giving the Cowardly Lion a medal; the courage was there within him all the time... he just needed someone to help him find it.
Back to Col. Kharye's Iraqi troops and why they really have become "as good as it gets."
But Kharye says morale is high -- especially among soldiers who remember life in Saddam Hussein's army....
"In the past if you made a mistake, you were executed immediately, no questions asked," Kharye said. "Now we can debate the positives and negatives of operations. It's a big difference."
Saddam's army led from the top but the U.S. military is teaching Iraqi officers to encourage lower ranking soldiers to make decisions and take charge, said Arrington.
That is the real story... the one that Reuters missed because their big, fat agenda got in the way again.
December 1, 2005
Which Hand Do You Choose?
Here in the right hand, we have this:
Major General Rich Lynch, top spokesman in Iraq: “In the month of November: only 23 suicide attacks; the lowest we’ve seen in the last seven months, the direct result of the effectiveness of our operations.”
11.5% drop in U.S. fatalities in November
Fatalities dropped from 96 in October to 85 in November, despite the fact that November was the month of the phenomenally successful Operation Steel Curtain in Anbar and Ninawa, driving the terrorists out of their somewhat-less-than-safe houses along the Syrian border.
There are now more than 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions actively fighting against the terrorists
President Bush: "Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support.... At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods."
We've officially transferred 90 square miles of the Baghdad province to the Iraqis
Bush again: "Over a dozen bases in Iraq have been handed over to the Iraqi government -- including Saddam Hussein's former palace in Tikrit, which has served as the coalition headquarters in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions." The current policy of clear and hold has liberated 28 cities from terrorist control; those cities, including such major urban centers as Fallujah and Ramadi, are now controlled by pro-government Iraqis.
The Iraqis have held two successful, national, free elections in the past year
The first in January, electing an interim parliament; number two on October 15th, ratifying the new Iraqi constitution. And a third will be held -- and will doubtless be even more successful than the first -- on December 15th, choosing the first freely elected parliament under a constitution ratified by the people in any Arab (or Persian) country in the Middle East.
The terrorists and the Baathist bitter-enders have been unable to hold any territory whatsoever
Not only that, they have been unable to get a national front off the ground -- a national front is a unified and cohesive ideology that engages the support of a substantial portion of the population. But the goal of the die-hards (Saddam Hussein back on the throne) is rejected even by the Sunnis; and the terrorists' goal (a Mesopotamian caliphate with Zarqawi ruling the joint) is so terrifying to nearly all Iraqis that even with the very significant number of murders of police and army recruits, they continue to flood in... and more and more are Sunnis.
About the only thing everyone in Iraq agrees on is that eventually the Americans, the British, and other foreign Coalition forces should leave. But since "everyone" includes the Americans and the Brits, this is hardly a problem.
But on the left hand, we have this:
To show they are still in charge, terrorists have left some litter and graffiti on a street in the Anbar capital of Ramadi
After an unsuccessful attack on the U.S. base, in which only one granade was fired with no casualty in our part, "the insurgents [sic] left behind posters and graffiti saying they were members of al-Qaida in Iraq and claiming responsibility for shooting down a U.S. drone. There were no reports of any U.S. drones being shot down, though." (The so-called "insurgency" actually isn't, however; Reuters is simply illiterate. See the continuation of this post for an explanation why.)
The foreign terrorists still retain some ability to randomly kill women and children by blowing themselves up
I'm not sure exactly how this is supposed to help Zarqawi; most Iraqis seem to be less impressed than appalled, and they're deserting the terrorists (and turning them in) in droves. I don't think the two facts are unrelated.
The anti-Iraq forces do still maintain their strategic alliance with the U.N. bureaucracy, the internationalist nationalists in much of Europe, Africa, and in Venezuela, and with the American and international mainstream media, film community, and academe
Again, whether this will ultimately help them is questionable: if a Democrat is elected president, it will likely be a decisive coalition; but the mere fact of its existence works against any Democrat being elected president. Ever.
Finally, the cut-and-run policy of cowardice dictated by the gaggle of terrorists, mobsters, and once-weres in Iraq is rapidly becoming the majority position of the Democratic Party
Although this means the Democrats will likely not win control of any body of the government anytime soon, they can still make mischief by rolling the Republicans whenever they can gather enough cheerleaders for catastrophe to block a vital war bill via the filibuster, or to amend some critical piece of legislation into its mirror opposite by voting en banc, while the right remains fractured over some other, trivial contention.
On this last point, we have House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) coming out firmly in favor of Vietnamizing the Iraqi War, following closely on the heels of famed fair-weather feather Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) lending the shreds and patches of his tattered credibility to the same cause. Today, in an effort to rally the troops, Murtha offered more of his insightful military analysis:
Murtha Says Army Is 'Broken, Worn Out'
Dec 1, 2005
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) - Most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year, and the Army is "broken, worn out" and may not be able to meet future military threats to the country's security, Rep. John Murtha said....
Murtha predicted most troops will be out of Iraq within a year.
"I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course," Murtha said, referring to Bush. "Staying the course is not a policy." [It isn't? -- the Mgt.]
Murtha, 73, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, expressed pessimism about Iraq's stability and said the Iraqis know who the insurgents are, but don't always share that information with U.S. troops. He said a civil war is likely because of ongoing factionalism among Sunni Arabs, and Kurds and Shiites....
Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, said the Pennsylvania National Guard is "stretched so thin" that it won't be able to send fully equipped units to Iraq next year.
(We don't know how the administration responded to this bizarre rant because AP didn't see fit to ask for comment from anyonewho disagreed with Murtha.)
Democrats in the Senate are nervously shuffling in this same direction, with many a backward look; like Lot's wife, some of these reluctant fainthearts stand a good chance of being turned into a pillar of salt next November... which, contrary to confident prophecies by triumphalist Democrats and dolorous Republicans alike, I predict will be a very good month for Bush and the conservatives.
So... which hand do you choose? The right or the left? Asking myself what I always ask in such cases of moral dilemma -- WWZD? (no, the Z doesn't stand for Zarqawi, Zawahiri, or Zarathustra) -- I think I shall have to lead with the right, Señor.
How about you?
(If you're interested to learn why Rumsfeld was correct and Reuters churlishly wrong about the meaning of insurgency, read on.)
On the all-important diction front, the word "insurgent" does not mean "anyone fighting against any government." Even Reuters admits this -- though they don't understand they have admitted away their whole case.
Nov 29, 2005: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued on Tuesday that the guerrillas fighting U.S.-led foreign forces and the American-backed government in Iraq do not deserve to be called an "insurgency."Rumsfeld instead referred to the guerrillas in Iraq as "the terrorists" and "the enemies of the government." U.S. military statements also have referred to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces...."
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines an insurgent as "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government."
God preserve us from truncated internet definitions!
The next step is to ask, well what is a revolt then? A real dictionary, such as my Websters Third New International, defines a revolt thus: 1 a casting off of allegiance : an uprising against legitimate authority : a renunciation of allegiance and subjection (as to a government). And an uprising is: 1 an act or instance of rising up.
Put them together, and you have the indisputable requirement that an insurgency, revolt, or uprising requires those who formerly accepted allegiance to a government rising up, surging in support of a positive agenda against the policies of the government, then renouncing their allegiance to the government because it won't mend its ways. The impetus must come from within the people themselves, not be foisted upon them by foreigners; a discontent with the government that bubbles up from the heartland of an oppressed people yearning for release.
But neither Zarqawi nor the ex-Baathists hiding out in Syria ever professed allegiance to the current Iraqi government; nor do either of them lift the Iraqi people up on wings of a positive ideology... they simply kill them for daring to side with freedom. Nor do the people have any expressed grievance with the current government, which certainly is not oppressing them; the only grievance among some Iraqi Baathists is that they're no longer in charge, like they used to be.
Words have meanings; and those meanings are not created by dictionaries but merely chronicled (well or badly). The terms insurgency, revolt, and uprising have never been used to mean a case as in Iraq, where a foreign military coalition is fighting to protect the Iraqis from a foreign conglomeration of terrorists, while the remnants of the old, ousted government plink around the edges, hoping to sidle back into power.
The American Revolution was all three. It comprised folks who saw themselves and were seen by all as Englishmen. They first request more freedom, then begged for it, then demanded it -- only revolting from the crown when mad King George III refused even to hear their just demands. The American revolutionaries carefully nurtured the American people along by explaining the concepts of freedom and democracy and how they differed from tyranny and mob rule alike; they journeyed around the colonies preaching liberty and self-determination; and they were joined by at least a third of the entire population (about as many loyalists opposed them, and the rest were neutral and confused).
The Zarqawistas and the Saddamites have done none of this. They have not even tried. Therefore, Rumsfeld is correct: they don't deserve the honorable title of "insurgents." They are terrorists, aristos, and tatterdemalion baby-slayers, nothing more.
November 30, 2005
A Month In the Life
Bill Roggio from the Fourth Rail is now in Iraq (and now blogging at ThreatsWatch, as Dafydd mentioned). He linked up with the 1st Platoon of Lima Company of the 3rd Marines, 6th Battalion, call sign Jackal 1. Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah. Yep! You heard me right, in Husaybah.
Both Lieutenant Oren and Corporal Hall explained the successful patrol in Husaybah this afternoon would have been unheard of just three weeks ago prior to Operation Steel Curtain. “Over three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have gotten 200 feet into this city without taking fire”, said Cpl Hall.
Let's flash-back a few weeks to the Battle of Husaybah, courtesy of -- well, of Bill Roggio in a different incarnation:
Saturday, November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day): Operation Steel Curtain in Husaybah
Steel Curtain is directed at the town of Husaybah, and the objectives are to "restore security along the Iraqi-Syrian border and destroy the Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network" on the Syrian border. Steel Curtain is a subordinate operation to Hunter, whose objective is to bolster the U.S. and Iraqi presence in the western Anbar region from Qaim to Haditha and deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to establish safe havens in the region....
In a recent interview, Maj.Gen. Richard A. Huck, the commanding general of the 2d Marine Division discussed Operation Hunter and the importance of involving the Iraqi Security forces in the fight.“The Marines and Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division understand that we won’t be the ones who win this counter-insurgency, it will be the Iraqi soldiers... We do this by partnering our battalions with Iraqi battalions. This is the way we’re going to win. By partnering with Iraqi Security Forces we are gaining a lot of insights previously denied to us... We could walk down the same street ten times and not notice anything out of place, but an Iraqi soldier will notice something his first time on the street. It is not uncommon for them to stop a patrol and say ‘those men over there have Syrian accents’ or ‘that graffiti is anti-government propaganda’. Having the ISF out with us is truly a force multiplier.”
Later That Night: Steel Curtain Update
Coalition forces are wisely using the Desert Protection Force, which is comprised of local tribesmen from the region, to provide intelligence on al Qaeda's activities; "Members of the Iraqi scout platoons, specially recruited soldiers from the Al Qa’im region, are embedded with U.S. and Iraqi infantry companies and are helping to identify insurgent strong points and areas known to contain these homemade bombs."
There are no casualties reported among U.S. or Iraqi forces, and enemy casualties are as of yet unknown. Nine airstrikes have been directed at insurgent safe house, and six IEDs have been neutralized, along with a car bomb.
CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with the RCT-2, and reports on the estimated size and nature of the enemy resistance; "Soldiers believe insurgents in Husayba -- both foreign and home-grown -- will be the type that will fight to the death. Hundreds of insurgents are suspected to be in the city. Husayba insurgents are believed to be smarter and more experienced, survivors of other battles that move in squads of 12 to 15."
Sunday, November 6th: Steel Curtain and the Anbar Campaign
Day one of Operation Steel Curtain, which is aimed at dislodging al Qaeda from the border town of Husaybah and estabishing a permanent presence of Iraqi troops, has ended....
The street fighting has been reported to have been intense in the center and southwest corner of the city. Over thirty roadside bombs and booby trapped homes have been uncovered, along with two car bombs. "Dozens" of insurgent have been reported to have been killed. No Coalition deaths have been reported....
The avenues to the cities along the Euphrates have been closed, or made vastly more difficult and dangerous to travel with Coalition troops now permanently stationed in Husaybah, Sadah, Qaim, Rawah, Haditha, Haqlaniyah, Barwana, Khan Al Baghdadi, Hit, Ramadi, Habbaniyah, and Fallujah. This is the Anbar Campaign.
Today; now; a new Husaybah, and let's try this again:
Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah.
Without context, the savage magnitude of the Anbar Campaign is void of meaning. This is what the mainstream media does to truth, squeezes it dry of all context and content and reduces the war to an insipid "one American soldier was killed by an IED today" level. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!
But Roggio is in a Husaybah so calm that patrols are "uneventful" and he can sit and drink tea (was it sweet mint tea, I wonder?) with sheikhs that just a few weeks ago might have been on the other side, for all we know. That's progress!
Roggio also glows about how professional the Iraqi troops were:
They understood and responded to hand signals, maintained their intervals and guarded intersections during crossings. All the while talking to the residents of Husaybah. Other than their uniforms, they were virtually indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts - no small feat.
But of course, Roggio is just one man. His impression alone, informed as it is, is not "best evidence" of the Iraqi troops' competence. But Roggio is not alone. His observation is backed up by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's discussion during a recent press conference, and by President Bush himself. First Secretary Rumsfeld:
On Tuesday, Rumsfeld gave a preview of the administration's argument that Iraqi security forces are improving. He said about 29 military bases have been turned over to Iraqi control; the Iraqi army has seven division and 31 brigade headquarters in operation, compared with none 16 months ago; the number of Iraqi army battalions "in the fight" is now 95, compared with five 15 months ago, and there are now over 212,000 trained and equipped security forces, compared with 96,000 last year.
Secretary Rumsfeld was not just talking through his hat. The president just delivered a major speech to the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy at Anapolis this morning, and he echoed Rumsfeld's point (and gave more backing to Bill Roggio's on-the-ground assessment):
At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now, there are over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists -- typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support....
At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods....
Our coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi battalions have taken over responsibility for areas in South-Central Iraq, sectors of Southeast Iraq, sectors of Western Iraq, and sectors of North-Central Iraq. As Iraqi forces take responsibility for more of their own territory, coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis and hunting down high-value targets, like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.
We're also transferring forward operating bases to Iraqi control. Over a dozen bases in Iraq have been handed over to the Iraqi government -- including Saddam Hussein's former palace in Tikrit, which has served as the coalition headquarters in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions. From many of these bases, the Iraqi security forces are planning and executing operations against the terrorists -- and bringing security and pride to the Iraqi people.
The reason we started to hear from the Pentagon and Condoleezza Rice's State Department about an "event" table (with some projected times attached) -- not a time table -- for US troops' partial withdrawal is the readiness of the Iraqi troops themselves. The military has always had an event-driven victory strategy with projected times; but until now, they kept it private, because it has to be flexible, not certain. Events and milestones are more important than dates.
But the general public -- and more important, the terrorists -- don't always understand the flexible nature of such plans, and they might have taken any announced "time table" as carved in stone. What President Bush just said to the middies at Anapolis about a time table for withdrawal (as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, now advocates) applies to any date certain by which we promise to be gone:
Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."
Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.
To allow cabinet members and top generals to openly discuss how we will be withdrawning some of our forces over the next year, the White house must be very confident that the Iraqi Army can handle the terrorists even after the US have left. It is not like the terrorists are holding back; what more could they do, even if they knew we were leaving? Evidently, the president has decided we're doing so well that there is no longer any danger in talking about a responsible, event-driven withdrawal... not the cut-and-run that the Democrats in Congress (including the Minority Leader in the House) are calling for, but a true phased, milestone-driven draw-down.
Of course, this has been the plan all along, which President Bush announced more than two years ago -- to anyone who was actually listening!
November 28, 2005
Know Thine Enemy
How can we tell the difference between foreign terrorists, militant Sunnis, and Shiite insurgents? My initial answer to that question is, “who cares?” If they are attacking us, they are our enemies. It doesn’t matter what name they call themselves.
However, our top military spokesman, commenting on the last week’s Iraq Reconciliation conference, tells us that we should understand the difference between these groups in order to know how to fight each type.
"We understand the capabilities, the vulnerabilities and the intentions of each group of the insurgency - the foreign fighters, the Iraqi rejectionists and the Saddamists," said Major-General Rick Lynch....
"The group in the middle, the Iraqi rejectionists - (which) includes the Shia rejectionists and the Sunni rejectionists - we believe that deliberate outreach will allow them to participate in the political process and allow them to become part of the solution and not part of the problem," he said.
In other words, we must separate the various types of Iraqi and foreign fighters and treat them differently. But treat them differently how, and why should we? What is the difference between a Sunni Iraqi setting an IED ambush of an American military convoy and Musab Zarqawi ordering a car-bombing of a Shiite marketplace?
In the Iraqi Reconciliation Conference in Cairo, which brought together Iraqis who support democracy and the new government and the rejectionists who still fight against it, the participants concluded that resistance against occupation is legitimate, but that terrorism is never acceptable:
Although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance. Accordingly, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping that target Iraqi citizens, civilian, humanitarian, governmental institutions, national wealth, places of worship and we call for confronting terrorism immediately. [Emphasis added]
Asked about this language, which clearly implies that violent resistance against Coalition troops is not terrorism, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack seemed reluctant to deal with the issue:
"Although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance...I think that, you know, inasmuch as this statement talks about the right -- the legitimate right to peaceful protest, peaceful expression of differences -- absolutely, the United States has no quarrel with that idea.
Mr. McCormack is dancing around the point: the statement does not say that only peaceful resistance is acceptable; it draws a distinction between resistance and terrorism.
So let me answer the question that McCormack ducked: resisting a foreign military occupation force is not an act of terrorism; it is an act of war. The small number of former Saddam supporters and other anti-American Iraqi militants still left are actually attempting, however ham-fistedly, to build a native "insurgency."
Since we are occupying for a good purpose and with the consent of the most legitimate government Iraq has had in recent memory, one can argue that these Saddamites are misguided. We still have every right to fight back against the resistance to protect our own interest (and our own men and women). But the Reconciliation statement is correct: this kind of resistance against an armed and deadly military force is not the same thing as blowing up innocent civilians. The merely misguided can be persuaded to resist peacefully, via the ballot box and in parliament (see Sadr On the Rise, As the Times Sinks to a New Low). The terrorists can only be killed or driven into the desert.
It's clear how native Iraqis resisting the Coalition troops have the support of many other Iraqis who hide them and scrounge food and ammunition. But what about the bloodthirsty foreign terrorists, led by Zarqawi -- the ones who specialize in murdering ordinary Iraqis? How can they be tolerated?
In order for foreign terrorists like al-Qaeda to operate in Iraq, they need local support. No matter what the MSM says, local Sunnis must be actively providing logistic and military support to al-Qaeda. Disrupting this relationship would deal a tremendous blow to the foreign terrorists' operation.
At first, Iraqis must have thought the foreign fighters were there to support the ex-Baathists, under the command of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, vice-president of Iraq and deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the highest ranking Baathist still on the loose after Saddam Hussein was captured (al-Duri is reported to have died of leukemia on November 11th, 2005; but this has not yet been publicly confirmed by the Pentagon).
But as the tide of battle flowed, the Baathists withdrew from the field (to Syria, the other Baathist state, most likely), leaving the terrorists -- primarily Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda in Iraq -- in the driver's seat of the resistance. It seems very clear that as "resistance" more and more began to be synonymous with blowing up Iraqi Shia and occasionally Sunnis, rather than attacking Coalition forces, ordinary Iraqis began to be repelled by the vicious and indiscriminate butchery of their fellow citizens by the foreign terrorist organizations, led by Jordanian Zarqawi.
Thanks to the very successful attacks on al-Qaeda safe houses along the Syrian border and in Baghdad by Coalition and Iraqi forces, local support for the terrorists is waning; Arab culture does not encourage support for losers. Many of the recent attacks on terrorist safehouses were possible only because of tips received from local Sunni citizens, who clearly no longer support the foreign terrorists. Some Sunni tribes went so far as to actively fight against Zarqawi’s men.
This trend is so significant, even an America-hater like Juan Cole had to admit it:
[M]any Iraqi guerrillas are deeply dismayed at the al-Zarqawi group's tactic of targeting civilians and Shiites, and that significant numbers have deserted him to join the Iraqi group, The Islamic Army. Al-Zarqawi's "Qaeda in Mesopotamia" is angry about the desertions and refers to such Iraqis as "apostates." Nevertheless, The Islamic Army provides security to those who have left Zarqawi.
Iraqi insurgents have seen al-Qaeda being utterly defeated whenever they engage American or Iraqi government units. Everyone around the world now knows that the terrorists can do nothing aside from blowing up innocent civilians. The purely Iraqi insurgents, Saddamites and Shia, must have realized by now that they have no hope of winning militarily against the Americans; and the moment is rapidly approaching (if it hasn't already passed) where they have no hope even of defeating the Iraqi Army alone, even if we were to pull a John Murtha and "redeploy" out of Iraq immediately.
If we can convince the Sunni and Shiite insurgents (not the foreign terrorists) that the only way for them to have any kind of power at all is to join the political process, al-Qaeda will be further isolated in Iraq. Without the local support, they cannot possibly survive. They will be forced to flee Iraq as they fled Afghanistan when the Taliban fell, and as they fled Sudan before that.
So it seems we should care whom we are fighting against!
November 22, 2005
This past October 4th, as Ramadan began across the Middle East, Arabs were watching a the first of a thirty-episode television series titled "Al-Hour Al-Ayn," Arabic for "Beautiful Maidens" -- a reference to the 72 sloe-eyed virgins that supposedly await martyrs in Paradise. But what is significant about this series is its message:
DAMASCUS, Syria - A new television series being broadcast around the Middle East tells the story of Arabs living in residential compounds in Saudi Arabia and the militant Islamists who want to blow them up so they can collect their rewards in heaven - 72 beautiful virgins.
The show's message -- terrorism is giving Islam a bad name, and Muslims are suffering because of the actions of a few. [Emphasis added]
Considering the fact that the Syrian government is one of the primary terrorism-sponsoring states, this program, produced out of a studio in Damascus, is quite remarkable. But the way al-Qaeda terrorists have been operating, it was also inevitable.
The letter believed to have been writtin by Ayman Zawahiri to Musab Zaqarwi warned Zarqawi that his senseless slaughter of Moslems was alienating the militant-Islamist movement from Moslem society. This alienation appears to be spreading from country to country, a pandemic of sudden road-to-Damascus revelations in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Yemen, and many others.
Recently, Moslem societies have started openly rejecting the jihadis. The attack on the Radisson SAS Hotel (killing many members of a wedding party), the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and the Days Inn, all in Amman, Jordan, created a firestorm of rage against Zarqawi and his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda In Iraq -- and against terrorism in general. Zarqawi's own al-Khalayleh tribe in Jordan went so far as to sever all ties with him and denounce terrorism.
"If my son was a terrorist, I wouldn't hesitate to kill him," family member Mousa al-Khalayleh said during Friday's rally, claiming he spoke on behalf of the tribe. "This is the slogan raised by the tribe as of this moment."
Sunday's message was similar to one sent last year by some members of al-Zarqawi's clan to [King] Abdullah [of Jordan]. That message, which contained fewer signatories, severed links with the terrorist for claiming a failed plot in April 2004 that targeted the Amman headquarters of Jordan's intelligence agency, the prime minister's office and the U.S. Embassy.
The reactions of the terrorists and their supporters to the Syrian-produced television show being broadcast on a Saudi satellite station are likewise predictable and tiresome. A Saudi entertainment Journalist, interviewed on CNN today (sorry no link), said that actors were "receiving death threats."
The critics are demanding the Saudi-owned and Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, a popular Arabic satellite television station that bought the show and broadcasts it across the region, cancel it.
Others lambasted its Syrian Muslim director and producer, Najdat Anzour, as an infidel for tarnishing the image of Islam. But still others have praised the groundbreaking series.
But after a daily dose of such death threats for years now, how threatening can such threats still be?
During Ramadan, devout Moslems fast during the day; but that means they stay home at night, gorge themselves on food, and watch TV. Many new television series debut during Ramadan, then repeat throughout the year. Millions of Arab families have already watched the series. The anti-terrorism program is being broadcast throughout the Moslem countries of the Middle East via satellite and is also being broadcast on local television in Syria and Lebanon.
I'm sure that as months pass, the memory of the Jordanian hotel bombings will fade (as the memory of 9/11 has faded for many here in America). Then many Arabs will lose some of their hatred of terrorists, especially if the jihadis refrain from attacking Moslem targets. But every time something like this happens, a few million more Moslems cross the Rubicon, finally and permanently rejecting the whole "holy war" model for the bombings and killings.
At some point, the Islamists will be on the run and without friends and safety, even in Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad; the civilized world will have won the global war on terrorism.
A few months ago, I (Sachi) watched a documentary about Saudi TV news. In it, a producer talking with his staff members said "terrorism is evil." A young staffer responded, "that is your opinion." The producer snapped back: "No! that is the truth!"
Truth indeed. Militant Islamism is not only the enemy of the entire free world; it has foolishly made itself an enemy to Moslems as well. The sooner the Moslem world figures this out and loudly rejects the jihad message, the better this world will be for everyone.
November 6, 2005
Go Ahead -- Be Silly!
I think this is good news. Or maybe it's just silly news.
BlackFive reports that soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have problems with houses that have been booby trapped with tiny tripwires (so small they're invisible in the dark) attached to explosives, have found an amazing way to find those tripwire threads: Silly String!
Evidently, they spray the stuff into dark areas; when it floats down, it allegedly is caught by the tripwires, dangling from them. Since Silly String is bright, it makes the booby traps easy to spot and avoid, or to detonate from a safe distance.
Now, I caution that this could be a hoax; I have no way of knowing. It seems pretty reasonable on its face. BlackFive links to this website (not a blog), which has authentic-looking photos of the site author testing the theory in his home. And there's nothing inherently preposterous: Silly String is much, much lighter than a human brushing against a wire: it seems unlikely that it would have enough weight to trip the explosion.
I wonder how old this idea is? Silly String was around in the early seventies; supposedly, it was invented in 1969 -- so theoretically, it could have been used in Vietnam. But you'd think if this trick were a mainstay, BlackFive would have heard of it before. So is this new? Anybody out there use Silly String in previous military engagements to find invisible tripwires?
This is either a spectacularly clever practical joke -- or else it's a spectacular example of American ingenuity and sideways thinking, coming up with a brilliant solution using a child's toy to prevent Coalition and Iraqi forces from being killed by terrorists.
Either way, I reckon it's good news!
November 5, 2005
I was reading "old" history of Operation Iraqi Freedom and remembered the story about Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester. Something suddenly occurred to me that I haven't seen anyone mention so far. The award itself isn't really "news," because the MilBlogs were all over it at the time. But there is a special point to note that I'll get to a few paragraphs down.
Sgt. Hester is the first American woman awarded the Silver Star since World War II. The Silver Star is awarded for "gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force." But what is most interesting about Sgt. Hester is that I think she is the first American woman to be awarded that medal for actually attacking and killing the enemy!
Other recipients all received their medals (sometimes posthumously), whether Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, or even Medal of Honor, for heroically performing their duties during air raids or under fire. But those duties were almost all as nurses (the Medal of Honor winner was a Civil-War surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker), except for a couple of pilots. They bravely stuck to their posts and did their duty despite bombs and gunfire. But their duty was to heal, not to kill.
Sgt. Hester is a Military Policewoman. She was assigned to Raven 42, 617th MP Co, Kentucky National Guard, assigned to the 503rd MP Bn (Fort Bragg), 18th MP Bde. She got her Silver Star on June 16th this year for her gallantry during an ambush on a convoy of supply trucks some months earlier. Raven 42 saw the convoy stopped and they charged directly towards the sound of the gunfire.
After her Humvee came under fire, Sgt. Hester grabbed an M4 carbine and an M203 grenade launcher, jumped into an irrigation ditch being used by Iraqi terrorists to fire on her Hummer crew, and killed at least five jihadis. She had to return to her vehicle once to reload, then ran back to the trench to continue clearing it out. She is America's first medal-winning Rambette!
You can read the After Action Report about her engagement at Blackfive.
Of course, until recently, women were not allowed to carry weapons into combat zones (even as MPs). As time passes, we will probably see more and more awards like Sgt. Hester received. Eventually, a woman will be awarded the Medal of Honor for the same reason Audie Murphy received his: for killing bad guys!
Here is Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester receiving her Silver Star:
October 30, 2005
Togetherness is breaking out all over Iraq... and I understand that some sort of election might be about to be held. (Pssst! Nobody tell the Democrats... Carville and Begala might head out to drum up support for Hillary in 2008.)
Since the victory of the Iraqi constitution, an amazing thing has happened: in the midst of a terrorist war, Shia, Kurds, and even Sunni have begun to act like civilized people gearing up for an election: they're campaigning, making alliances of political convenience, giving speeches, and I wouldn't be surprised if they kissed a baby or two.
This is remarkable, because less than three years ago, they lived in a dictatorship that had never held a real, contested election in their lifetimes. The success of Iraq gives this skeptic of "nation building" a lot to ponder.
Islam Online reports that it's not just the Iraqi Islamic Party, but all three of the biggest Sunni parties have joined together to urge Sunnis to vote in the December elections -- and to warn them against boycotting this time.
The Conference of the People of Iraq (CPI), the Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue (IND) joined the political fray in Iraq on October 14 as one entity on October 14 to run in parliamentary elections.
"We want to run as a political bloc in the next elections in order to obtain the best results," IND head Sheikh Khalaf Alayan told reporters on Wednesday.
CPI chief Adnan Al-Dulaimi criticized those who might call for a boycott of the vote, saying they "sought to destroy the country".
"We hope that those who oppose this consultation will not place obstacles in our path," added Islamic Party number two Tareq Al-Hashimi.
In related and very odd -- and probably good -- news, even Muqtada Sadr, renegade functionally illiterate Shiite "scholar" and great disappointment to his revered father has, for the moment at least, given up his Mighty al-Mahti Militia and joined with the Sunni Arabs in Anbar province to present a joint slate of candidates for the Iraqi parliament:
NAJAF, Iraq, October 26, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr said Wednesday, October 26, he would present a joint list of candidates with Sunni Arabs in Al-Anbar province to contest the December 15 legislative elections.
The office of the anti-occupation firebrand said it decided to ally itself with the Sunnis due to "the difficult situation facing the country, to prevent the occupier and enemies of Iraq from attaining their goals, to consolidate national identity and to reaffirm its unity," reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Sadr's deputy, Fattah Al-Sheikh, joins eight Sunni candidates on a list for the Anbar representation. While we're not great admirers of the buffoon Sadr (as you can probably tell), at least it's a step in the right direction that he wants to run for Parliament instead of holing himself up in a mosque in Najaf and threatening to destroy the 6,225th most holy site in the entire ummah.
In really unalloyed good news, the largest Islamic association in Iraq, the Association of Muslim Scholars (Hayat Al-Ulama Al-Muslimin), has decided not to call for a boycott this time -- at least for now. With all the major Sunni political groups in Iraq now calling for Sunnis to vote, not boycott, it's likely this Sunni association will do so too.
Regardless of whether we like or dislike various political parties in Iraq, it's just plain better that they fight against each other with political campaigns and parliamentary votes than Kalashnikovs and car bombs.
Let me give over the floor to Mohammed of Iraq the Model; he wrote some stirring words today at the end of a post describing all the new parties and alliances and political factions lining up for the election. It's like there's suddenly politics going on in heart of the Arab Middle East! Western style politics, as in Spain or France. Iraq has made amazing strides in just two and a half years... which is a tribute not only to the Iraqis themselves (of course) but also to a man named George W. Bush.
[I]t has to be acknowledged that the political experiment in Iraq has matured by far during these two and a half years and the political language slowly began to take more realistic dimensions and we can sense a growing faith in the ways of democracy giving some sort of special divinity to the ballot box which shall remain the only base for building a new Iraq. The more Iraqis believe in elections and in voting as a way to express themselves, the weaker violence becomes and the more isolated the terrorists will be. Iraqis will prove that they do believe in democracy and they do want liberty and justice and the[y] will show the region an example of how partners can work out their differences in spite of all the hardships. [Emphasis added]
Well, he ought to know!
October 25, 2005
Great News for Iraq...
...But not-so-great for my petty, vainglorious self: I missed my prediction by one province!
From AP via Fox News:
Iraq's Constitution is Adopted
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq's landmark constitutional was adopted by a majority of voters during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, election officials said Tuesday.
Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission (search) of Iraq showed that Sunni Arabs, who had sharply opposed the draft document, failed to produce the two-thirds "no" vote they would have needed in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat it.
The commission, which had been auditing the referendum results for 10 days, said at a news conference in Baghdad (search) that Ninevah province, had produced a "no" vote of only 55 percent.
The New York Times has some more. Don't forget the new deal they have, where you have to suffer through an advert on your way to the story. Just click the "skip" button in the upper right corner. ( Why can't the ads hide behind the firewall along with the "premium" columnists?)
Alas for me, I had predicted that only one province would muster the necessary two-thirds to reject; Salahaddin messed me up -- but next-door Ninevah saved the day for Iraq.
Still, I had been confident throughout that the Sunni would not get their three; and on that prediction, I was correct. (Shoulda quit while I was ahead... but that doesn't suit my cheerful, optimistic nature!)
A great day for Iraq, and since I had no money riding on my prediction, I'll laugh it off and say a great day for me, too!
October 24, 2005
Gen. Pace: Thirty-Nine Iraqi Battalions "In the Lead"
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was just this moment a guest on the Hugh Hewitt show, with Jed Babbin (of NRO fame) sitting in for Hugh. Gen. Pace dropped a rather stunning bombshell.
Babbin asked Gen. Pace for an assessment of the Iraqi fighting forces, and the chairman made the following points:
- There are now over 200,000 Iraqis either in the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police forces.
- There are over 100 battalions of Iraqi army now considered battle-ready; Gen. Pace said he believed it was actually 117 battalions (which matches other reporting).
- And in breaking news, the chairman stated that fully one-third of these battalions are already "in the lead" in fighting the terrorists. The other two-thirds are fighting alongside American troops but not yet ready to assume the lead.
Assuming that last figure is correct, that would mean at least thirty-three Iraqi battalions and as many as thirty-nine battalions of the Iraqi army (as many as 39,000 men) are actually taking the lead in fighting for their own country. This is incredibly good news... and even though Sachi is traveling, it deserves to be reported.
I doubt I'll be able to scoop the MilBlogs (some of which you can see blogrolled to the right) -- they probably got this same information weeks ago during one of their weekly breakfast briefings with Gen. Pace -- but at least I have the forlorn hope of scooping Prof. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit!
(I will of course scoop the MSM with this good news... but that would still be true if I sat on it until Shrove Tuesday.)
October 23, 2005
US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq
On Saturday, American forces conducted a series of raids at the Syrian border. In western Iraq, the Anbar province, 20 terrorists were killed during raids on houses believed to contain foreign al-Qaeda fighters. The U.S. is continuing the offensive, not giving terrorists any breathing space.
A statement said U.S. forces found two large caches of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and bomb making materials, during the raids in the western town of Husayba. It said one insurgent was captured in the operation.
In another raid near Qaim, Coalition forces detained five terrorists and seized a large cache of weapons in an al-Qaeda not-so-safe house. The best news about this good news is how we obtained the intelligence in the first place... from ordinary local Iraqi citizens, who are turning against the foreign al-Qaeda invaders at an astonishing rate:
Intelligence sources and tips from local citizens led coalition forces to the location. Coalition aircraft, using precision guided munitions, destroyed the safe house and weapons cache after coalition forces left the scene.
Elsewhere in Iraq, quick thinking by Iraqi police officers attached to the Khalis Iraqi Police station thwarted a potentially devastating attack on the station.
Shortly after noon, a semitrailer approached the Khalis traffic circle and failed to slow and stop as directed. Guards fired on the vehicle, which then veered to the south. Its payload of explosives detonated when it hit a brick wall, killing a police officer.
A short time later, four mortars were fired at the traffic circle, seriously injuring two children in a nearby field. The children were taken to an Iraqi medical facility for treatment.
As the pace of our offensives increases, more and more foreign fighters have been targeted. This year alone, 376 foreign fighters had been captured and over 400 killed. The Fourth Rail reports:
With an estimated 150 terrorists entering the country monthly, well over half of the year’s total have been killed or captured, an exceedingly high attrition rate. General Lynch also points out that al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership is often of foreign origin.
Okay, okay: 776 out of 1800 is only 43%, not "well over half." Minor arithmetic errors aside, al-Qaeda’s foreign invaders are clearly losing this war -- "big time."
October 17, 2005
US Seizes al-Qaeda Webmaster, Hacks al-Qaeda Website
The US military captured Abu Dijana, a top propaganda agent for Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Dijana was the Webmaster of a "members-only" website called Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was responsible for blogging the day-to-day operations of al-Qaeda, such as bombing American convoys, Iraqi police, or citizens exiting from a mosque.
Abu Dijana was so efficient that, within minutes of some brutal act of terrorism, Al-Qaeda in Iraq would take credit on the website, posting video clips and triumphant boast-posts. Intelligence officers and major American media regularly used the site to make official determinations of responsibility.
In one typical case, just three hours after an attack, the site showed video of a man identified as the suicide bomber Abu Musab al-Iraqi, who says, "I have dreamed about this moment. I am sure if my family is watching this they will be more proud of me."
Musab's words are followed by a video of a car he is said to be driving, blowing up in the midst of an American convoy. The incident is replayed again and again with more of Musab's speech superimposed over the ball of flames and smoke rising above the U.S. convoy. "Thank God this day I went to kill many crusaders." His declaration ends, "Today I will be in heaven."
Not only are the attacks themselves coordinated, so is the recording of them. Abu Dijana gathered information of impending attacks and provided equipment to his cell members to record attacks. After each attack, the collected photographs and video were swiftly uploaded to the website.
The most obvious purpose of the website is to webcast terrorist attacks as a propaganda tool, but al-Qaeda also uses the site to recruit volunteers for more suicide bombings and intimidate local citizens. Al-Qaeda members use the site as a communication system as well, to coordinate attacks, train the recruits, and just to report the daily dish for jihadists. It's so popular, it's a wonder they don't have SiteMeter and a listing in the TTLB Ecosystem.
That's why the "al-Qaida in Iraq" site, available to members only, features highly detailed tutorials on bomb-making, strategy for assassinations, and even a workshop on hacking into secret American government Web sites. The Web site claims it has 4,000 members.
For reasons of security, each new member of the site must be approved by a committee of existing members. "It's full of intelligence information and the enemy might use it against us," one member said. With as many as 1,500 members logging on in a single day, the Web site is also an effective security tool for al-Qaida. When its operatives get word of an impending U.S. raid, it puts out flash security warnings to fighters who might be targets.
Evidently this precaution was not sufficient: the webmaster, Abu Dijana himself, was caught in just such a raid.
There are more unsecured websites in Iraq. Americans are closely monitoring such sites and hacking them for information gathering. Not only are we winning the war on land, sea, and air, we're beating them like a dozen eggs in the blogosphere, as well!
US Air Raid Kills 70 Terrorists
On Sunday, several different military operations involving U.S. warplanes, helicopters, and ground troops (both American and Iraqi) killed a total of 70 terrorists.
An American F-15 spotted a group of terrorists burying a roadside bomb in Ramadi; the Eagle dropped a single bomb, killing twenty. Subsequently, according to Reuters:
Another 50 militants were killed in a series of separate strikes, the statement added, saying military commanders had no indications of any U.S. or civilian casualties in the operation.
The military said separately that 18 insurgents had been killed in three separate clashes elsewhere in western Iraq.
Iraq's Defense Ministry said separately U.S. and Iraqi troops had killed 12 insurgents south of Baghdad on Sunday.
The Reuters article is poorly enough written that it's impossible to say whether the thirty deaths detailed above are part of the fifty mentioned earlier, or whether a total of 100 jihadis, not seventy, were killed.
Of course, being the MSM, they had to throw in this kicker:
However, Ramadi police Lieutenant Karim Salim said 20 of those killed were civilians, including some children as young as 11. Doctors in the city had made a similar assessment on Sunday.
I wonder how exactly a doctor can look at a patient brought to a hospital -- alive or dead -- and determine that he was a "civilian?" And what kind of civilian? A terrorist who isn't a member of the armed forces is a civilian, even if he is still a terrorist.
As far as the children who may have died, that is, of course, a despicable evil. But those deaths are the full responsibility of the jihadis who hide among children to fight, using them as human shields. God may have mercy on them, but America should not.
October 15, 2005
Bush's Teleconference: the Actual Q&A
In the comments section of an earlier post, AP Response to Bush Teleconference Staged!, I asked, “and what WERE the questions and the answers?” All we have heard from the MSM is speculation about whether the TV conference between President Bush and the toops was "staged," meaning scripted; but we have heard nothing about the conference itself. What did the president and the soldiers say? Does anybody know?
After some digging, I found a transcript. As I read it, I understood why the AP had to divert our attention to the trivial non-issue: once again, the MSM is determined to hide "good news from Iraq."
Since they're not going to tell, here are the actual questions and the answers, with commentary.
The ten American soldiers and one Iraqi soldier who participated in this conference are stationed in Tikrit, overseeing the security of the constitutional referendum vote. The purpose of this conference was for President Bush to learn how ready the Coalition and Iraqi security forces were to ensure security during the election.
After President Bush gave a short speech about how important it is for us to stay the course and bring democracy to Iraq, he began asking questions about pre-election operations: what Coalition forces had been doing, what their strategy was, and what was their assessment of Iraqi Army readiness.
Captain Brent Kennedy, who is responsible for coordinating the security response in the area of operation, responded:
Good morning, Mr. President, from Tikrit. I'm Captain Brent Kennedy. To my right is Sergeant Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army Division. We're working together here with the Iraqis in Task Force Liberty for the upcoming referendum. We're surging an operation, called Operation Saratoga, that includes the securing of over 1,250 polling sites. We're working right alongside with the Iraqis as they lead the way in securing these sites.
Captain Dave Smith added that Iraqi forces have been "conducting battalion and brigade-size operations since April." The local Iraqi military themselves coordinated with other Iraqi forces, such as police and local government agencies, Smith added; the Coalition forces took only a supporting role.
When President Bush asked them to assess the security forces’ readiness, Captain Steven Pratt responded:
The Iraqi army and police services, along with coalition support, have conducted many and multiple exercises and rehearsals. Recently we've conducted a command post exercise in which we brought together these Iraqi security forces with emergency service units, and the joint coordination center, in which we all sat around a model and discussed what each one would do at their specific location and what they would do at the referendum.
It was impressive to me to see the cooperation and the communication that took place among the Iraqi forces. Along with the coalition's backing them, we'll have a very successful and effective referendum vote.
Captain David Williams said that voter registration in North-Central Iraq was up 17 percent. “That’s 400,000 new voters in North-Central Iraq, and 100,000 new voters in the al-Salahuddin province.” He said. Captain Williams said that he spoke to his Iraqi counterpart, who told him the Tikrit locals were “ready and eager to vote in this referendum.”
Considering the extremely high turnout for this election (66%), and the extraordinarily low rate of successful violent attacks by the terrorists, it's clear that the information that Bush got from these soldiers was quite accurate on all counts: they and the Iraqis had done a very good job of securing the polling places... and the Iraqis (even the Sunni) were definitely "ready and eager to vote."
Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo reminded the President that she met him in New York, on November 11th, 2001, at Ground Zero, when he recognized the Rainbow Soldiers -- the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division of the Army National Guard. Bush took the opportunity put the soldiers at ease with a bit of ribbing, saying "I thought you looked familiar."
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I probably look familiar to you, too.
Sergeant Lombardo praised the improvement in the Iraqi forces over the past 10 months.
We've been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions [in the Tikrit area]. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.
Coalition forces have captured over 50 terrorists and detained thousands, she added.
Then President asked the only Iraqi participant in the conference, Sergeant Major Akeel, whether he had anything to add:
SERGEANT AKEEL: Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for everything. Thank very much for everything.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you're welcome.
SERGEANT AKEEL: I like you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that.
Finally, First Lieutenant Gregg summed up the situation. I can't improve on his words:
Back in January, when we were preparing for that election, we had to lead the way. We set up the coordination, we made the plan. We're really happy to see, during the preparation for this one, sir, they're doing everything. They're making the plans, they're calling each other, they've got it laid out. So on Saturday, sir, we're going to be beside them, we're going to be there to support them through anything. But we can't wait to share in their success with them on Sunday.
In closing, the commander-in-chief thanked the troops -- not only his own, but the Iraqis as well:
I wish I could be there to see you face-to-face, to thank you personally. It's probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit, but one of these days perhaps the situation will be such that I'll be able to get back to Iraq to not only thank our troops, but to thank those brave Iraqis who are standing strong in the face of these foreign fighters and these radicals that are trying to stop the march of freedom.
Finally, as for what kind of “rehearsal” and “staging” went on before the conference, you should read the account of Sergeant Ron Long of Tennesse who was actually there at the conference.
[W]e were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President.
The MSM knows very well that everyone rehearses before a live TV interview, and this was no exception. Participants had to know who would speak when, who would answer which questions, and practice passing the microphone to avoid "strangling" their neighbors with the microphone cord. They practiced speaking out loudly and clearly, both to be audible to the mikes and also to relieve the anxiety of junior officers and non-coms speaking directly to the commander-in-chief.
But that was as far as it went; nobody has managed to find any example of the White House scripting the soldiers' answers or changing what they wanted to say. It is terribly irresponsible of the mainstream media to hint at some sort of administration conspiracy, particularly by using inuendo and ambiguous phrasing. If that is what the Associated Press and the Washington Post want to charge, they should just do so straightforwardly... if they have any actual evidence, that is.
October 14, 2005
Scales of Military Justice
On Tuesday the 11th, Special Report With Brit Hume had a truly inspiring interview with Major General Bob Scales, whose assessment of the Iraqi Army was very good news indeed. They made the transcript available the next day, but I've been dilatory in putting it up here.
First the setup. General Scales went to Iraq to evaluate with his own eyes the combat-readiness of the Greater Iraq Army. He had no particular expectations either way, since he had heard both positive and negative assessments.
We were there for six days. We spent time in Baghdad. And then we went up to a place called Taji, which is the headquarters of the Ninth Iraqi Mechanized Division.
We specifically asked not only to see our American men and women but, "Let's just go up north and talk to the Iraqis, look them straight in the eye, and get a sense of their military readiness," not readiness in terms of readiness reporting, you know, how many vehicles have you got, what's your percent filled and all that.
Instead, we wanted to look at things like, you know, their training, their will to win, the courage factor, bonding, and cohesion, and leadership, and all those intangibles that really make an army effective, rather than just, you know, "How are you equipped?" And, frankly, what I saw was very encouraging.
Scales discussed a particular unit he interacted with extensively while there, a self-created mechanized infantry division, I believe (actually, I'm just assuming infantry, since he didn't say armored cavalry). The unit was only partially formed, but already it was patrolling and fighting the Sunni terrorists around Baghdad. Significantly, 75% of the unit comprised combat veterans. And although they had American embeds, they only numbered a dozen -- in a division that already had eight or nine thousand soldiers.
All in all, General Scales said that the Iraqi Army had 117 battalions, of which 80 were currently fighting alongside American forces, sometimes taking the lead (as in Operation Restoring Rights in Tal Afar).
Scales gave a vivid example of the progress that has been made in just a few months:
SCALES: Remember about eight months ago, Bill Cowan was in here talking about the BIAP [Baghdad International Airport] road, you know, the airport road?
HUME: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, the alley of death.
SCALES: Right. I drove the BIAP road, five miles along that road. And it's clear of the enemy. It's full of commerce. And who's protecting it? The Iraqi Sixth Infantry Division.
And in many ways, they're better than we are, in the sense that they're better able to gather intelligence. I mean, they can spot insurgents by their body language and by how they act and the language they use. They can spot foreigners far better than our soldiers can.
And they're better able to engage these terrorists when they find them oftentimes than our own soldiers are. You know, being part of the culture really means a lot when you're fighting an insurgency.
General Scales' final assessment was tremendously upbeat:
The insurgency is on a steady downward trend, mainly because U.S. forces and Iraqi forces have been successful in cleaning out the ratlines.... But I think the greatest hope is Iraq, Iraq units, the regular army, building them up very quickly so that they can take over the fighting and increase the probability of coming out of this OK.... It's happening.
October 13, 2005
Dawn Breaks Over Iraq
Dafydd and Sachi conspired on this post.
Bill Roggio's military blog, the Fourth Rail, has several detailed analyses and descriptions of the Anbar Campaign, an overarching military strategy that includes both Iron Fist and River Gate as recent operations. (Hat tip to commenter Terry Gain.) From Recent Operations on the Euphrates:
The current operations must be looked at in the context of the Anbar Campaign, which began in November of 2004 when U.S. and Iraqi forces executed Operation Dawn in Fallujah. Fallujah was al Qaeda’s easternmost headquarters, a safe haven where thousands of terrorists and their insurgent allies operated freely and directed attacks towards the heart of Iraq. Over one thousand terrorists and insurgents were killed and fifteen hundred were captured. Operation Dawn ejected the insurgency from Fallujah, but it was only the beginning of the Anbar Campaign.
The Anbar province is the poinky part in the middle-left (west) of Iraq, roughly hexagonal, which points at Jordan; the northwestern border of Anbar is Syria, and the Euphrates River runs near the northeastern edge. Big city: Ramadi.
The section of Iraq in between the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers comprises Salahuddin, spreading northwest from Baghdad, with the Tigris running northwest through it; big city: Samarra; and Ninevah, almost the very north of Iraq; upper Tigris runs right along the big city here, Mosul.
If we understand an earlier post on the Fourth Rail, the Anbar Campaign focuses on these three provinces... basically, in and around the two rivers and the land between them. This is where we find the "ratlines" connecting Syria in the northwest and the terrorists in the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad; it is through here that al-Qaeda elements in Syria and Syria itself ship jihadis and weapons: this is one of the two areas we must bring under control if we are to defeat the enemy (the other being the South, where Shiite militias receive arms and terrorists from Iran).
Operation Dawn was aptly named, for it began a year-long squeeze-play that first saw a number of search-and-destroy missions and battalion-sized or smaller operations, coupled with air strikes on al-Qaeda safe houses (or not-so-safe houses, to be more accurate); these were punctuated by some very large operations (corps-sized or larger).
The tempo is increasing. From Operation Dawn (Fallujah in November 2004) to River Blitz (Ramadi, Hit, Baghdadi and Hadithah in February 2005) was three months; another quarter-year elapsed before there was a flurry of operations in May. Since then, not a month has passed without multiple operations.
Not only is Operation Anbar squeezing the terrorists farther and farther west, right to the border with Syria, and seizing both banks of the two rivers, it's also the baptism by fire of the Greater Iraqi Army. From Recent Operations:
The Iraqi security forces have taken an increasingly larger role as operations progressed over the summer. They have a strong presence in Fallujah and Habbaniyah, and are beginning to appear in battalion strength in the Euphrates cities of Ramadi, Hit, Haditha and Rawah. In Tal Afar, the Iraqi Army took the lead and outnumbered U.S. troops three to two.
Through the Anbar Campaign, the Iraqi Army and Coalition forces are isolating the terrorists, ripping up their ratlines, driving them back into Syria, and seizing or destroying bridges that are crucial to the enemy being able to maintain his strength and resources. If that's not good news, I don't know what is!
October 11, 2005
News About "Good News" News
I have created a new top-level category, Good News!... click on that entry in the category list in the sidebar, and you can read all the news that just plain makes you feel good about things, especially our tremendous success in the Iraq War and the Global War On Terrorism. But other issues, too: if Congress finally makes permanent the repeal of the death tax, that will get Good News! as one of its categories, as well.
So now you've got a one-stop shopping center for whatever good-news stories get posted on Big Lizards (mostly by Sachi, of course, since I'm the dour Spockian of the two of us). I reckon that's good news itself!
Iraqi Constitution Deal Reached
AP is reporting that at the last minute, the Iraqi assembly has finally reached agreement between all three major ethnic groups, Shia, Kurd, and Sunni, on the new constitution (hat tip to John at Power Line). The agreement is only with one Sunni group -- the Iraqi Islamic Party -- but it's the first crack in the solid wall of Sunni rejectionism.
Iraqis Reach Breakthrough Deal on Charter
Oct 11, 2005, 8:53 PM (ET)
by Lee Keath
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi negotiators reached a breakthrough deal on the constitution Tuesday, and at least one Sunni Arab party said it would now urge its followers to approve the charter in this weekend's referendum. Suicide bombings and other attacks killed more than 50 people in the insurgent campaign aimed at intimidating voters.
Under the deal, the two sides agreed on a mechanism to consider amending the constitution after it is approved in Saturday's referendum. The next parliament, to be formed in December, will set up a commission to consider amendments, which would later have to be approved by parliament and submitted to another referendum.
The most significant addition only changes how future constitutional amendments will be considered. Sunni leaders are worried that the current federalist constitution gives too much autonomy to Shia and Kurds:
The central addition allows the next parliament, which will be formed in Dec. 15 elections, to form the commission, which will have four months to consider changes to the constitution. The changes would be approved by the entire parliament, then a referendum would be held two months later.
That is no guarantee that Sunnis will be able to make the changes they seek. They are likely to have a stronger representation in the next parliament, but would still face a strong Shiite and Kurdish majority that would likely oppose major changes.
This is indeed great news, assuming the agreement holds at least through Saturday's vote. No matter how hard the terrorists try to frighten the Iraqis out of freedom, the people are determine to have their constitution. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope rest of the Sunnis will vote "Yes."
Thirteen to One
The other day, I read a familiar headline about US troops getting killed in Iraq: “Six Marines Killed in Iraq Bomb Attacks,” the AP article said. If all we read are the MSM headlines, we almost can’t help feeling a sense of dread. It seems like we are losing, and losing badly.
In our two most recent major offensives in Iraq, Iron Fist and River Gate, we first were told that 1,000 US troops were fighting near the Syrian border; then the next thing we heard was that six soldiers were killed in those operations -- nothing in between! We fought; we died. Is that all?
What did we achieve? What did we win in return? Surely our troops did not die for nothing, no matter what Cindy Sheehan says.
The reality is that our troops have done an incredible job, though you have to hunt hard to find this information. Our troops' achievements are routinely buried in the middle of articles, sandwiched in between accounts of roadside bombs and ambushes. From the AP article linked above, fifteen paragraphs into the story:
On Thursday, warplanes dropped four precision-guided bombs on an abandoned three-story hotel seized by militants in the town of Karabilah, near the Syrian border, the focus of the Iron Fist assault. Twenty militants were killed in the bombardment, the military said. Seven more insurgents were killed when planes destroyed three buildings from which gunmen were firing on Marines, and two gunmen were killed in fighting in Karabilah.
The 29 deaths raised the insurgent death toll in Iron Fist to 71. At least six insurgents have been reported killed in River Gate offensive.
Wait a minute. 77 bad guys verses six good guys. That’s a 13 to 1 kill ratio. Isn’t that a remarkably successful operation? Shouldn’t the headline actually be “Iron Fist’s great success,” or “77 terrorists slain,” or something like that? That is the way the very same news agencies would have written the very same articles during World War II or Korea.
Why are we so shy about telling the American people how many terrorists we are killing or capturing? If we only hear about the cost but not the payoff, how in the world will the American people realize that we are winning, and winning big? Ever since the Korean War, the MSM has been determined to spin every engagement as an American loss, no matter what actually happened.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Iraq, Black Five reports that US Army troops raided two houses of terrorists and captured numerous bomb making devices:
How many Army and Marine lives saved does this successful raid represent? You'll never find out by reading the Associated Press.
October 6, 2005
Iraqi Children Thank Iraqi Troops
The Iraqi blog Friends of Democracy organized a touring gallery in many elementay and high schools in Iraq. The gallery displayed childeren's drawings and letters that show their appreciation and love for the Iraqi troops. Some of the heart warming pictures are shown here.
The words and drawings had a wonderful positive effect on the morale of our soldiers and policemen who received them with overwhelming happiness and tears of joy “we’re not going to let them down and these paintings will take their place on the walls in our base” these were the words of one grateful soldier to whom we handed some paintings while his unit was patrolling the streets of Baghdad, the next day we received a call from the officer in command asking for more of these paintings which he described as “a proof on national unity in this confrontation with the powers of evil”.
September 30, 2005
Slowly But Surely
I posted earlier that Iraqi troops are slowly but surely taking over Iraq's security, one city at the time. The latest example is in and around Karbala, at Forward Operating Base Lima, where Coalition forces and the Greater Iraqi Army (and Iraqi police) just held a transfer ceremony Wednesday.
Iraqi security forces took responsibility for Forward Operating Base Lima from U.S. forces Sept. 28.
Iraqi police, army commanders and government representatives, U.S. representatives, including Army Lt. Col. James Oliver, commander of the 1st Battalion, 198th Armored Brigade, attended the ceremony transferring local security responsibilities to the Iraqi police and the 4th Brigade, 8th Division, Greater Iraqi Army.
American troops had been in Karbala since January this year, providing security and infrastructure support.
(American) troops from the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery, have assisted the people of Karbala since mid-January, providing security and infrastructure support. Approximately 68 projects, totaling $21.5 million, have been completed to improve the city. The projects included water, sanitation, education, electrical, medical and humanitarian aid.
Some of this work is likely to continue, even after the transfer. But this is now the second Iraqi province where security responsibilities were officially handed over to the Iraqi military.
Good news keeps on coming!
In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq testified about the readiness of the Greater Iraqi Army battalions:
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago.
(Hat tip to wilsonkolb, in the comments.)
But that does not tell the whole story. According to the Department of Defense:
In May, Iraqi security forces conducted about 160 combined or independent operations at the company level and above, Casey said. By September, that number was up to 1,300.
Some 60,000 to 70,000 more Iraqi security forces will be available to provide security during the Oct. 15 referendum than during the January 2005 elections, he said. And by the time the next elections take place, Jan. 15 , Casey said he expects to have about 100,000 more Iraqi security forces.
The growth is so significant, the general said, that he's had to ask for only 2,000 additional coalition troops to help protect the referendum and election progress this year, compared to 12,000 in January .
But then what about that readiness, you may ask? As RBMN pointed out, according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the level of readiness rating keeps on changing depending on a variety of factors.
For example, initial readiness standards two years ago measured numbers of Iraqi troops. Later, those standards were based on the number of trained troops. Later yet, those standards were based on troops who were trained and equipped. As the bar continued to rise, the numbers dipped a bit, giving an impression that readiness was declining, the secretary explained.
If you just look at the raw numbers, it looks like things are getting worse; but in fact, the situation is actually improving. The “bar” rises or lowers as the needs of the situation change, and as we learn more about the sort of urban terrorist war we’re fighting in Iraq.
The number of Iraqi army troops that are considered in a state of “readiness” will certainly fluctuate up and down for the next several months, until the DoD settles on a single metric to use across all troops in the field.
September 26, 2005
Talk to the Terrorists?
We Americans do not negotiate with terrorists. No, we should kill them not to talk to them, shouldn't we?
Well, not exactly. I found this interesting article in Space War.com through Good News Central.
Lt. Col. Bradley Becker who leads 2nd battalion of the 8th Field Artillery Regiment explains. Just before he came to Quayyarah in northwestern Iraq, eleven months ago, Iraqi police and the Army were in a sorry state. He did not think his seven platoons could possibly cover the whole area.
"Anyone who comes to a counter-insurgency thinking it's about killing terrorists is missing the boat," said Becker. "It's really about winning the people. You can kill all the terrorists but then you've pissed people off and created 100 more,"
Since his platoons cannot be everywhere at the same time, he needed to effectively attack certain hot spots, and kill a small number of very key people. This required intelligence. They needed cooperation from the local residents.
I have always thought that, in order for terrorists to freely conduct their activity, they must have local Sunni help, whether through empathy or intimidation. But these people themselves are not necessarily terrorists. If the American military or Iraqi police could show them we are on their side and we can protect them, then some of these people can tell us where the terrorists are. And that is exactly what is happening in Iraq.
Connecting with local leadership is the only way a counter-insurgency campaign can work -- even if the leaders are part of the insurgency.
Time and again, U.S. officers say after a show of real force -- the kind of effectiveness that makes the shieks and imams and villagers think they might be safe if they throw their hat in with the Americans -- tips start to dribble in.
"Then they say 'the real guy you should be going after is X' and we follow another target," Gibler said. "The cycle is never ending. When you kill a bad guy he is going to be backfilled. But as you target these guys eventually they can't rebuild, and then you have real, no kidding security."
We don’t know who the terrorists are. But the people who live there do. It is essential that the security force gains the trust of the local Sunni shiekhs and imams, even if that means talking to marginal terrorist supporters. I am glad our commanders are doing just that.
September 25, 2005
Iraqi Troops Take Over
A round up of good Iraq news posted on other blog sites.
It is hard to believe, I know. But there is tremendous progress being made in Iraq. The American military has trained up to 200,000 Iraqi troops, much more and sooner than expected; as Captain Ed noted, a large number of these Iraqi troops now have battlefield experience. It is even possible we can significantly reduce the number of forces in Iraq by early spring next year.
After bombing two bridges near the Syrian border and severely damaging the infrastructure of terrorists in Najaf, the US military handed over the city’s security to Iraqi forces. In the Belmont Club, Wretchard quotes a September 6th story in the Washington Post about the Najaf battle:
The U.S. military pulled hundreds of troops out of the south city of Najaf on Tuesday, transferring security duties to Iraqi forces and sticking to a schedule that the United States hopes will allow the withdrawal of tens of thousands of its forces by early spring…Other cities in the heavily Shiite south, and in the Kurdish north, are likely to be next.
The Tal-Afar operation was conducted by a combined coalition of Iraqi and American forces. However, it was the 5000 Iraqi troops who conducted house-to-house searches and arrested over 200 terrorists. According to Iraqi officials, 141 rebel fighters were killed as well. In a different post, Wretchard quotes from the Telegraph:
Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, announced the start of the offensive in a statement yesterday morning.
"At 2am today, acting on my orders, Iraqi forces commenced an operation to remove all remaining terrorist elements from the city of Tel Afar," he said. "These forces are operating with support from the Multinational Force."
The readiness of Iraqi troops may have overly encouraged the Iraqi president. From the Washington Post (hat tip Captain’s Quarters):
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview yesterday that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops by the end of the year, declaring there are enough Iraqi forces trained and ready to begin assuming control in cities throughout the country.
Of course this does not mean we have any kind of timetable for withdrawal. But it is good to know we are in fact getting ready for it.
The successful operation of Tal-Afar offensive was felt in other parts of Iraq. The Iraq Defense ministry is considering sending Iraqi troops to several Iraqi cities including Samarra, according to Iraq the Model. During a negotiation with Sunni delegate from Samarra, the defense minister had stated that Iraqi troops’ success is encouraging many youths to join the Iraqi Defense Force. He encouraged Sunnis to cooperate with the government as well. In fact, with the memory of Tal-Afar being still fresh in mind, Sunni tribes are peacefully negotiating with the IDF, according to Omar of Iraq the Model.
Iraqi troops are slowly but surely taking charge of Iraqi security; Bush’s nation building concept may well be working here.
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