Archive for the ‘Iraq News’ Category

The “War on Terror” is a Brazen, Bald-faced Lie

December 2nd, 2007 4 comments

Put these two stories together. Boldface is mine, to emphasize the primary contrast. First from the Associated Press via MSNBC:

The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press. …

The [Homeland Security Department] wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half — $1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document.

And then this, from Voice of America News:

But the president’s top priority is to win congressional approval of his $196 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money is for the 2008 fiscal year, which began October 1. The president and the Pentagon argue that further delays in approving these funds would force cuts in military operations across the United States and ultimately compromise the war on terror.

The administration’s stated reason for slashing counterterrorism funds domestically: he doesn’t think that the money was “well spent.” Because, after all, the trillion and a half dollars the Iraq War has and will cost has been spent very wisely.

Pay careful attention to the last sentence in the second quote: “The president and the Pentagon argue that further delays in approving these funds would force cuts in military operations across the United States and ultimately compromise the war on terror.” Ah. Massively underfunding counterterrorism at home somehow bolsters the “War on Terror,” while not spending 140 times more on a failed war in a country with zero relevance to terrorism would “ultimately compromise” the “War on Terror.” Gotcha.

Just more proof that the Bush administration doesn’t give a rat’s ass about fighting terrorism; it is a pure and flagrant front for massive new military spending, engorging fatcat contributors and cronies, and imposing a neocon agenda on the Middle East (in a remarkably idiotic and incompetent manner).

In other words, money “well spent.”

Categories: 9/11 News, Iraq News Tags:

Or Maybe It Wouldn’t Explode

November 17th, 2007 2 comments

You know, all of us are assuming that Iraq would explode in violence were we to completely pull out. The main difference is that conservatives cling to the belief that should we stay, maybe after 5 or 10 years, we could stabilize the nation enough that it would become a democratic stronghold, and we could have bases there, cheaper oil, etc. etc., while liberals believe that Iraq will explode whether we stay there one more month or one more decade, and our staying there will only have the effect of getting our soldiers killed without much hope of any positive outcome.

But are we missing the target again? After all, before 9/11, we all believed that Saddam had at least some WMD; it’s just that conservatives thought Iraq was brimming with ’em, and would have nukes soon, while liberals believed that Hussein just had some chemical and bio weapons stashed somewhere, left over from a while back, but not enough to be a threat, nothing he would share with terrorists, and Hussein could be contained like he had been for a decade before.

But almost all of us missed the mark: Hussein had zip, nothing.

What if we were wrong about Iraq exploding in violence? This from a British general:

Attacks against British and Iraqi forces have plunged by 90 percent in southern Iraq since London withdrew its troops from the main city of Basra, the commander of British forces there said Thursday.

The presence of British forces in downtown Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, was the single largest instigator of violence, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns told reporters Thursday on a visit to Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“We thought, ‘If 90 percent of the violence is directed at us, what would happen if we stepped back?’” Binns said.

What if we go further, and think beyond just attacks on our troops? What if the U.S. pulling out were enough to bring some stability? What if the violence subsides between the now-segregated communities, and the different groups work out a plan for dividing the country’s wealth and find a way to create an uneasy truce?

The only thing for certain is that whatever happens, however it happens, to Bush’s 25% core base, and to much of the media (which tends to follow his base’s lead), everything positive that comes out of the conflict will be a credit to Bush, and everything negative will be the fault of the Democrats. After all, their thinking is that the economic boom of the 90’s was more Reagan’s & Bush 41’s than Clinton’s, and virtually everything bad that happened on Bush’s watch, up until and including today, is Clinton’s fault. Hell, just today, Fox Noise blamed Nancy Pelosi for high oil prices, as if she and not Bush had everything to do with it. Rather astounding, the level to which it goes. So, if a Democrat wins the election and is able to pull out the troops, the right wing will assault the move as “cutting and running” by the “Defeatocrats”; if Iraq falls apart, that will be the Democrats’ fault, but if Iraq instead stabilizes because of our withdrawal, it will be all due to Bush’s genius.

That part is easy to predict with 100% certainty.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

“god, I love freedom”

November 9th, 2007 2 comments

This statement by Bush has been getting a lot of press lately, for good reason:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. My question is on Iraq. Mr. President, this morning you talked at length about Afghanistan, Iran, but not Iraq. And I wanted to ask both of you, is France reconciled with the United States, the United States is reconciled with France? So what about Iraq? Can France, for instance, help to get out of the Iraqi quagmire? And President Bush, where do you stand on Iraq and your domestic debate on Iraq? Do you have a timetable for withdrawing troops?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I don’t — you know, “quagmire” is an interesting word. If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you’d be saying, god, I love freedom — because that’s what’s happened.

Now, you could defend Bush by pointing out that millions of Iraqis who are not better off today than they were under Hussein are not “living in Iraq.” A few million have fled Iraq because of the threat of being tortured and murdered in sectarian violence. And then there are the hundreds of thousands–if not a million, by this time–who are simply not living at all anymore.

But I suppose that things might be different for a member of the Mahdi Army, who has killed a few hundred of his neighbors after torturing them and cutting off their limbs, and then abandoning their bodies in trash heaps in the street. Such a man might take delight in the fact that he has planted dozens of IEDs in the streets so that when American soldiers, driving in unarmored vehicles and without sufficient body armor, come close to the device, get blown apart and ripped to shreds by the explosion.

I expect that Bush is exactly right about such a person, who might just this moment be uttering, “Allahu Akbar, I love freedom!!”

Heckuva job, Bushie!

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags:

Bush’s Iraq

September 22nd, 2007 1 comment

There is an excellent story in a Canadian journal, called “MacLean’s” about Iraq. It is titled “How George Bush Became the New Saddam,” and sports a picture of Saddam with Bush’s face Photoshopped in. This has brought it to the attention of some liberal web sites, but that attention may be a bit shallow; the article is not a polemic against Bush, but rather a surprisingly in-depth, knowledgeable, and frank dissection of the current Iraqi social situation and its formation, from a reporter with a great amount of experience in and understanding of Iraq. The author, Patrick Graham, previously spent a year with resistance fighters there.

This is not to say that much in the article can’t be used to tear the Bush administration a new one; there is quite a lot of that, and I am not below doing so myself, as you’ll see below. But the article is not partisan, either; it jabs the American left as well, and though that part is given less attention, it is only insofar as the left is that much less involved in direct control over and administration of Iraq.

A reading of this article will give you much greater insight into the fundamental errors of the American occupation, the current state of Iraq from an on-the-ground view not generated or influenced by the U.S. PR machinery, and a better understanding of why Iraq will not be so easily won–or so easily left behind.

Early in the telling of the story, one understands much better why Iraq is not like an “Indiana marketplace in the summertime”:

Going back to Iraq is like sitting through a depressing Scheherazade, 10,001 Nights of Horror Stories. Everybody had them. Do you want to see a picture of someone’s 10-year-old boy, chopped up in pieces and put in a cooking pot because his parents couldn’t pay the Shia militia’s ransom? Here, look at the burns on my body, inflicted by the bodyguards of the Sunni politician who sold my eight-year-old son and me to al-Qaeda. Let me tell you about being kidnapped in Falluja by a gang that pretended to be al-Qaeda–they made me drink urine and had a fake beheading studio where they set up mock video executions to scare us into raising ransoms. … Sadly, these stories are true, while so much that is said about Iraq is myth and delusion. As the famous American war correspondent Martha Gellhorn wrote about armed conflict, there is “the real war and the propaganda war.”

There may be areas of Iraq–especially in the northern Kurdish areas–where violence does not prevail, but not so in so many places in Iraq, and certainly not where it matters.

Graham explains how the country is falling apart politically, and how the current government has very little real chance of succeeding:

Certainly the notion of there being any cohesive central power in Iraq is a myth. Whatever is running the country, it’s not a government. Iraq’s body politic has some kind of autoimmune deficiency syndrome in which the antibodies designed to defend it have turned on its own organs. It’s a perfect environment for opportunistic parasites, in this case Iraq’s neighbours. So it seems almost unfair to criticize Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to govern, as if somehow he was in charge of anything that could be called a state.

He also explains a very cogent reason why sectarian violence has fallen in some areas–and it’s not because of the effectiveness of the “Surge”:

By one estimate, Baghdad was once 65 per cent Sunni; today it is 75 per cent Shia. Deaths from sectarian killings are reportedly down, in large measure because there are few mixed neighbourhoods left. Almost the entire Sunni middle class lives in Jordan or Syria. If you are named Omar, a traditional Sunni name, chances are you are dead or living abroad.

He also points out that Iran really has little choice but to be involved in Iraq. It is not to say that Iran should be allowed to do what it is doing, that Americans should not take notice, or that Iran is warm & cuddly; it is simply to point out certain realities, and to understand that Iran has its reasons. Without understanding those reasons, one can hardly make sound judgments about what to do in the situation.

Iraq, Iran’s neighbour to the west, is Tehran’s self-declared security zone. Iran has already been attacked once from Iraq–by a then-American ally, Saddam–and won’t let it happen again. Nor do the Iranians want, as the West does, a secular Iraqi government that could destabilize their own theocracy. For them, Iraq is a survival issue. U.S.-led invasions have conquered not only Iraq but Afghanistan on Iran’s eastern flank. The U.S. Navy is floating off Iranian shores. Every few weeks, Washington debates whether to bomb Iran. How could Iran afford not to be involved in Iraq? Following the American example, the Iranians have learned that it’s better to fight the U.S. on the streets of Baghdad than the streets of Tehran.

Iran is hardly admirable, but one can easily see why they feel they need to be involved here. As it is with al Qaeda in Iraq and elsewhere, Iran’s involvement is very much the creation of the Bush administration’s handling of affairs in the region.

Graham points out another problem we now have to handle:

These days, though, the biggest concern on the highways of Baghdad is not Sunni insurgent bombs, but the explosively formed penetrators that fire a molten copper slug through even American heavy armour. According to U.S. intelligence, they are provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to Shia militias. Of course, U.S. intelligence accusations are now as suspect as the Iranian government denials that they provoke.

This is a very real, and to me, a very worrying problem. Iran may well be a terrible threat. However, the Bush administration has turned America’s intelligence agencies into PR and propaganda arms of their administration. This is disastrously dangerous, as it impairs our ability to assess the real situation in Iraq and Iran–no doubt exactly what the administration wants. Without reliable information, we are blind–and the administration is the only source of guidance we have. Imagine being lost in a pitch-black cave deep underground, and your only hope of survival is to be led by the hand by a sociopath. That is effectively where we are right now.

The article also explains the nature of al Qaeda in Iraq, and America’s part in its creation. More and more, it is becoming apparent that al Qaeda was created as much as–or even more–by the United States as it was created by Osama bin Laden. This is true not just of al Qaeda in Iraq, but al Qaeda in general. The truth is, what we and now others call “al Qaeda” is a loose federation of various cliques who are in contact with each other. America generated the name “al Qaeda” and the specter of an ominous force; the cliques simply appropriated this very convenient and menacing name. As Graham put it: “America’s other main enemy is al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda what a cheap watch is to a Swiss timepiece–effective, easily reproduced, and disposable.”

The main value of this article, however, is how Graham does a good job of laying out the divisions and structure of Iraqi society. I say “lay out” instead of “clarify” because I am not so sure it can be “clarified,” being the jumbled mess it is.

And as I noted above, this is not a liberal screed; Graham paints the Democrats as being similarly clueless, just from a position of potential control rather than actual control:

As Visser points out, U.S. Democratic party supporters have found the argument for partition to be a convenient solution for a problem they have no clue how to solve, but which makes them sound less clueless and cruel than saying, “Forget the Iraqis, let’s leave.”

And, to continue the previous point and to sum up:

The discussion in Washington and New York has always drowned out the reality of Iraq. One of the terrifying aspects of the war is the monumental failure of analysis and action on the part of America’s political, military, journalistic and even business elites.

That problem may be systemic–the result of a “fact-based” America confronting a society it did not understand and simply making up an alternate reality, guns ablaze. So far, the Republicans have done an impressive job at failing in Iraq. Soon it may be the Democrats’ turn to fail, albeit in a different way. It’s a shame because Iraqi political parties are perfectly capable of doing that on their own. Indeed, they seem to be going out of their way to compete with the Americans on that score.

One down point of the article: I cannot see Graham making suggestions or arguments to fix the situation. Either he is as clueless as the rest of us on that problem, or he simply did not want to include his personal conclusions in contrast to the more objective reporting of the article.

Alas, the title and cover photo for the story are somewhat misleading; the article does not really focus too greatly on how Bush is equal to Saddam. One can come to such a conclusion obliquely, but Graham doesn’t really focus on it. However, it does become apparent through inference. If anything, Bush is actually worse then Hussein was. Like Hussein, he is playing factions within Iraq against each other; he is threatening war with Iran; he is running prisons with torture and rape rooms; he is killing of large portions of the populace. One can defend Bush by saying that these are not policies, but then again, Baathists could have tried to make the same claims about Saddam–yet another similarity.

In one way, however, Bush can be painted as even worse than Saddam: with the exception of the Kurds in the north, it can easily be said that life under Bush’s Iraq is even worse than it was under Hussein’s:

Arriving in Baghdad has always been a little weird. Under Saddam Hussein it was like going into an orderly morgue; when he ran off after the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003 put an end to his Baathist party regime, the city became a chaotic mess. I lived in Iraq for almost two years, but after three years away I wasn’t quite ready for just how deserted and worn down the place seemed in the early evening. It was as if some kind of mildew was slowly rotting away at the edges of things, breaking down the city into urban compost.

Welcome to Bush’s Iraq.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Hey, I Guessed Right

September 15th, 2007 3 comments

As to Bush’s “36 Nations” fib, my own speculation was that they were including the NATO training mission:

Perhaps he is counting the ten extra countries involved in NATO’s training mission, a non-combat affair–where none have more than 15 people involved?

And it turns out that was the case. Of course, the accounting is still bogus even if you accept the NATO mission as “troops on the ground.” In the list of countries the White House released, Canada (1 “liasion officer”) and Tonga have withdrawn–Tonga, in fact, withdrew almost three years ago. Other problems with the “36” count are detailed in the TPM Muckraker article, but suffice to say that the Bush nation count has always been bogus in some form or another, like counting Costa Rica, which has no military.

The problem is, this count is so bogus it makes me wonder why they included it. Were they so careless that they just used an old number from somewhere? Are they so desperate for the illusion of international support that they’ll say anything no matter how blatant? Or were they so deeply engaged in lying throughout the speech that they figured, “hey, we don’t fact-check anything else in this speech, why fact-check this?”

Or did they throw this lie in intentionally so that people would focus on what is really an inconsequential statistic, and give less attention to the whopping huge lies in the speech, like “things are improving in Iraq,” “the surge is a success,” or “you can trust me on this”?

Bonus material: Here’s a fun geography game to play. Assuming you have basic country-on-the-map identification skills (and you’re not one of those poor schlobs who can’t fine the U.S. on a map), then look at the list of nations that have “troops on the ground” according to the White House. See the list? OK, now go to an unmarked map of the word, and see if you can correctly identify all those nations on a map.

The point: the list of 26 nations not in the NATO mission, even people with reasonably good geographical skills would have trouble locating even half of those on a map. At least one of the countries most people could get–Japan–withdrew a year ago. I imagine that most people would only find five or six. The NATO list is far easier–but then again, these are not actually “troops on the ground” in the sense that they’re fighting the war.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Selling Iraq, Part CXXVII

September 14th, 2007 1 comment

So Bush spoke on Iraq today, which is to say that he lied. Six of one.

Once again, Bush attempted to strengthen the idea that Iraq=al Qaeda, Iraq is a direct result of 9/11, that if we leave Iraq, then 9/11 will happen again like it happened before. All in all, Bush mentioned al Qaeda twelve times:

Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda. … The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. … Today, a city where al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. … They pledged they would never allow al Qaeda to return. … They show al Qaeda that it cannot count on popular support…one of the brave tribal sheikhs who helped lead the revolt against al Qaeda was murdered. … One year ago, much of Diyala Province was a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital of Baqubah was emerging as an al Qaeda stronghold. … A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. … Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries. … We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda… It is never too late to deal a blow to al Qaeda.

As if al Qaeda were the only, or even the predominant, enemy. As if even the element that identifies itself as al Qaeda in Iraq is the same “al Qaeda” that wants to “follow us home” and attack the U.S., when in reality, al Qaeda is more of an idea in Iraq than an organization, and those who subscribe to it have no interest in following us anywhere.

But Bush claims that leaving Iraq not only would be abandoning Democracy itself, but that it would pose a clear and present danger to the people of the United States in their homes. He punctuated it with a blatant 9/11 reference:

We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world. And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people.

Of course, Bush is not saying that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, right? He’s only stating things in a way that will make uninformed listeners believe that such is the truth.

In making his case, Bush had all the sincerity of a farmer smearing lipstick on a pig: the Anbar leader who Bush lauded was assassinated today. Bush emphasized that remaining leaders pledge to push on, but the news was a blow to the success of the province, which is anything but stable. Despite its relative security, Anbar remains the second most violent province in Iraq today, after Baghdad itself. More lipstick included the oil-revenue-sharing Bush lauded has been deadlocked for a long time now and has less chance to succeed than it has to fail.

In his speech, Bush pushed idea that Anbar Province is proof of success of the surge. The problem with that statement? Anbar started turning around only because of internal Sunni politics. The leader who was killed today decided to turn last September–months before even the idea of the surge was known. And the violence started dropping in Anbar last year in November. The “Surge” was announced in January, and the full force of the surge did not arrive in Anbar until later. All Bush did here was move the “Surge” into an area where local politics was fueling success, then went on a PR trip there to claim the success as his own.

Bush continued his speech by building on the Anbar “success” and suggested that this “success” is spreading throughout Iraq. “Ordinary life is beginning to return.” Rosiness all around, everything is going peachy. Except that it’s not. Bush simply chose one or two bright spots in Iraq and ignored the dark areas, the places that have gotten worse, like Kirkuk, Tikrit, Samarra, Diyala, Balad, Basra, Mosul, and Amarah. As so many have pointed out, Iraq–like most insurgencies–is a whack-a-mole situation, where violence will ebb in one place only because the insurgents have moved on to easier grounds elsewhere to spread their violence.

And then there is the claim that Bush is “pulling troops out of Iraq,” when really what he’s planning is to bring troop levels back down to pre-surge levels–and even then, not until the summer of 2008–which, by coincidence, is just before the elections. Surprise!

You know when you go to a store and see an item marked down “50%”? And you know that the item was probably assigned a retail price by the manufacturer that was lower than you’re looking at, but the store then pasted their own ridiculous “retail” price to it, and then “slashed” that price to give you the illusion of a bargain? That’s what we’re getting sold to us here–a troop draw-down which is really just a restoration to what we had before.

Actually, Bush is probably pulling down those numbers more because of resource constraints than anything else: he has so crippled our military that we simply cannot maintain the “Surge” numbers beyond the timelines he has set down.

When it comes down to it, when Bush leaves office, two years after the American people gave the clear and undeniable message that they wanted out of Iraq, we will have about the same presence in Iraq that we had before the 2006 midterms. By using the “Surge” and throwing in all these delays (“just wait a little longer… and then longer after that… and then we’ll reveal that all that is needed is to wait a little longer!”) and tweaking troop levels, he will have successfully played Americans for fools and completely ignored their clearly-stated demands.

At the end, Bush could not help but to shamelessly use the sacrifice of a soldier and the grief of his family to paint a poignant facade on his incompetence. Once again, he tied the utter failure of his administration in Iraq to the honor and sacrifice of the troops, as if the two had any connection whatsoever. This continues to strike me as the most reprehensible of all political maneuvers. If Bush wants to honor the troops for their sacrifice, great; if he wants to make his case about Iraq, let him. But to honor the sacrifice of the troops only as a selling point for his miserable failure that caused the needless sacrifice that the soldiers bravely supplied, this is contemptible beyond expression.

After Bush’s speech, politicians were given the mic and more or less gave their standard stump speeches. Barack Obama said, “The bar for success has been lowered so far that it is almost invisible” (a variation on the statement he’s made in the past day, “The bar for success is so low that it’s almost buried in the sand”).

John McCain, on the other hand, expressed an interesting new twist in rationalizing the “Surge” which he helped author: blame Rumsfeld. He characterized everything bad that happened as the “Rumsfeld strategy,” and painted himself as having heroically fought against that since the beginning–as if there was nothing wrong with the invasion or with the administration’s management of the war aside from Rumsfeld, and McCain only suggested stuff that worked. As with Obama, McCain cribbed from his stump speech, he’s been on a “blame Rumsfeld” kick for a week or so now.

Michael Ware on CNN had an excellent sum-up of how Bush’s claim that “ordinary life is beginning to return” is full of it.

If the president means by ordinary life, families essentially living locked up in their homes, in almost perpetual darkness, without refrigeration, or perhaps constantly struggling — struggling for ever more expensive gas to run generators, if he means waiting in their homes, wondering if government death squads will drag them off and torture and execute them, if he means living in sectarian, cleansed neighborhoods where people who were your friends have had to flee, if he’s talking about living in communities that are protected by militias, then, yes, life has returned to ordinary.

Ware painted a very bleak picture of “ordinary life” in Iraq today. He may have emphasized the despair too much, but I would bet good money that his assessment of life in Iraq today is far more accurate than Bush’s.

One last nitpick: Bush said in his speech that “We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq….”

Thirty-six? According to Wikipedia, there are 22 countries with troops on the ground in Iraq today (21 by the count of the Center for American Progress), including the United States. There were 18 other nations that sent troops (if you include Iceland’s 2 soldiers and several other nations, like Japan, who sent troops for strictly non-combat duties). Perhaps he is counting the ten extra countries involved in NATO’s training mission, a non-combat affair–where none have more than 15 people involved? Even with that, it doesn’t add up to 36.

So, where is he getting the number 36? The best I can tell, there were by some counts 36 nations in the Coalition with troops on the ground when the invasion of Iraq began–but Bush used the present tense, “have troops on the ground,” not “had.” That’s written in the pre-released transcripts as well.

Edit: I started writing this just after Bush finished his speech–but it looks like I’m not the only one who caught the “36 nations” lie.

Bush can’t even tell the straight truth about how many countries are helping us–or he is in extreme denial over the countries who have lost faith in the mission and have pulled out.

For Bush, Iraq continues to be one colossal, bloody lie.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

You Can Trust the Generals, Right?

September 13th, 2007 2 comments

A great deal of the credibility of the Petraeus report is based upon the idea that since he’s a general, he is therefore respectable and we can trust us to give it to us straight.

The problem, of course, is that by this time, any high-level Iraq War posting is more likely than usual to attract a general who is more oriented towards political ambition than would be otherwise. The good generals have resigned over this in principle. Among what we have left are the kind of people who gravitate to the top in an administration like this one.

Evidence of the fact: Petraeus, it seems, has presidential ambitions.

The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.

Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq’s Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

“I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, ‘No, that would be too soon’,” Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said.

General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America’s apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012.

Which means that Petraeus is a political animal as much as, if not more than, a clean-cut military man, and what he does now is very likely colored by what he believes will serve him in a political campaign not too far in the future.

I know what the knee-jerk right-wing response will be: what about Wesley Clark? Well, his service in the military gives him the same basic standing as Petraeus. Because we know Clark has presidential ambitions, we weigh his words with those ambitions in mind. The exact same applies to Petraeus. Both generals must be considered not to simply give the straight story, but rather the story that serves them best as far as a political campaign is concerned.

The difference is, Petraeus is active, still serving in the military, and so should be above such things. That is precisely the image the White House is depending on: this report comes not from a politician, but from a general, and we can trust them.

Petraeus, as it turns out, however, is just another politician. And his performance in spinning the data to political advantage certainly gives us no reason to doubt this.

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We’re So Successful We Just Can’t Stand It

September 4th, 2007 2 comments

This just out:

President George Bush used a surprise visit to Iraq yesterday to raise the prospect of withdrawing some US forces if “current successes” continue, but insisted that he would not be influenced by political considerations or opinion polls. …

“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces,” Mr Bush said.

In other words, to help out Republicans in next year’s election, we’ll be withdrawing at least some troops… not because Iraq is a complete disaster, but because it is such a stunning success.

Of course, I never said these guys didn’t write fiction for a living….

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

More Numbers

August 24th, 2007 4 comments

Recently, I posted about the Iraq War and noted that right wingers have touted a “drop” in Coalition troop fatalities as evidence that the Surge™ is working and things are getting better in Iraq. I pointed out that a July dip in casualty numbers has been a pattern that has held true over three years and so it does not have anything to do at all with the “Surge.”

A frequent visitor who gamely carries water for the Bush administration pointed me to an article in USA Today which seemed to support the idea that the “Surge” is working: that “major attacks” have declined since the “Surge” began. That, plus a claim that tips from local Iraqis about insurgents have quadrupled, were the only “hard” evidence that things were getting better in Iraq. My visitor challenged me to read that and answer to it.

My reply: it was cherry-picking data, choosing just two figures from two dates each, out of a virtual galaxy of statistics, and claiming that they represented the whole of the image:

If your source showed *all* the data, I would take it more seriously. Instead, it is an example of the administration releasing a story through indirect agents (in this case, military officials including a retired general friendly to Petraeus) who uses cherry-picked numbers to make his case. For all we know, the trend could be increasing–and the reporter, like so many these days, simply reports what he’s fed. Did he investigate the whole dataset, get all the numbers and facts and figures, so as to confirm or deny the numbers he was given as accurately portraying a trend? Apparently not–he most likely just accepted what was set before him and wrote it up like a good little puppy.

Show me the level of said violence each month over the past one or two years. Add the number of people killed as opposed to simply the number of attacks–were the 130 in March killing just a dozen on average and the 70 in July killing 50 on average? Then add the *total* number of attacks of all types, and the total number of Iraqis killed–also month-by-month over the last year or two.

Well, ask and ye shall receive. Kevin Drum just happened, a few days after those comments, to post an entry that had far better data–not all that I asked for, but a lot further along those lines than the USA Today article provided. Here is the data as provided by Drum (from The Brooking Institute [pdf file]):

Violence Metrics


Iraqi Military and Police Killed 349 429 Up 23%
Multiple Fatality Bombings 110 82 Down 25%
# Killed in Mult. Fatality Bombings 885 1,053 Up 19%
Iraqi Civilians Killed
(All violent causes)
6,739 5,300 Hard to say1
U.S. Troop Fatalities 104 187 Up 80%
U.S. Troops Wounded 983 1,423 Up 45%
Size of Insurgency 20,000+ ~70,0002 Up ~250%
Attacks on Oil and Gas Pipelines 8 143 Up 75%

1Methodology changed dramatically between 2006 and 2007, so numbers are highly suspect.
2Number is for March 2007.
3Numbers are for June only. No July numbers are available.

Infrastructure Metrics


Diesel Fuel Available 26.7 Ml 20.7 Ml Down 22%
Kerosene Available 7.08 Ml 6.3 Ml Down 11%
Gasoline Available 29.4 Ml 22.2 Ml Down 24%
LPG Available 4,936 tons 4,932 tons Down 0.1%
Electricity Generated 8,800 Mwatts 8,420 Mwatts Down 4%
Hours Electricity Per Day 11.7 10.14 Down ~14%

4No numbers available for June/July. Figure is extrapolated from May and August numbers.

As you can see, the numbers support the USA Today claim that there has been a decline in the number of multiple-killing attacks… but confirms my suspicions that the number of people killed in those attacks has increased. And almost every other figure presented shows things getting worse, not better.

Is this absolute proof? No, of course not. There’s a lot more data in the Brookings report, not all of it bad–but only if you ignore general trends and believe that all immediate downward ticks (just one or two months’ turn as opposed to four+ years of numbers) will continue that way, when they never have in the past. As I have pointed out, there has always been a July dip in those numbers, and the real picture cannot be well-understood until perhaps the end of the year or further beyond. Looking at the whole of the situation in terms of long-term trends, it seems impossible that laying a few tens of thousands of troops on the problem for a few months is really going to turn the war around and put us in a position where we could “win,” where it would be at all worthwhile to stick it out for another three or ten years. As I said yesterday:

The theory is that if we can just apply enough pressure to dampen violence in Iraq for a while, then Iraq can heal itself, pull itself together, become a unified whole, pick itself up and banish the insurgents. That’s all, not much.

And that, my friends, is the extent of the pipe dream. The Iraqi government cannot pick its nose without falling apart at the seams; the insurgents, even if suppressed, are still there and are not going anywhere; the Iraqi militia, when they are not giving their weapons to insurgents or actively participating in the insurgency, are incapable of policing Iraq on their own; there is no solution in sight for solving the problems of sectarian division; and so many, many other problems.

I stand by that. If the data says anything, it says that there is a short-term dip in bad news that coincides with July patterns over time, and that the long-term prospects are dim at best, with violence up significantly over last year even after the short-term dip.

But that’s not what we’ll hear in the report about the “Surge.” The White House, always claiming that “the generals” tell them what to do and they just follow those brilliant men in uniform, is actually writing the script for General “Sock Puppet” Petraeus, and the USA Today article is almost certainly just a pre-report softening-up PR campaign to try to get the impression out there that, het, maybe the “Surge” is working.

If only it were true. If only there was hope in this situation. If only there were something we could do at this point. I wish it too, folks–but wishing don’t make it so, and I for one am not willing to sacrifice another thousand of our young soldiers on a self-serving, Bush-perpetrated pipe dream.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Bush and His Wacky Analogies

August 23rd, 2007 Comments off

From teh Bush:

President George W Bush has turned the comparison between Iraq and Vietnam on its head in a speech to war veterans, arguing that America’s experience in south-east Asia support the case for keeping US troops in the Middle East.

He said that the rapid US withdrawal from Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975 had led to bloodbaths, persecution of those who worked for the Americans and the boat people refugee crisis.

He argued that a premature US exit from Iraq could have similar consequences.

“Many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people,” he said, addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars association in Kansas City.

Oh, Lord, so many things wrong, so little time.

First of all, let’s point out that last bit, about “Many argued.” That’s the famous Straw Man appeal. Now, I wasn’t really paying attention to politics much then, mainly because I was, like, under ten years old, but were there really many serious people who argued that a U.S. pullout from Vietnam would not result in any continued violence? Even if there were–and I doubt that–Bush’s statement makes the suggestion that there are a similar “Many” today who argue that a pullout from Iraq will also have “no consequences” for the Iraqi people–which, of course, is utterly false.

Then, as to the basic comparison, one could make so many other analogies between Vietnam and Iraq–the mistake of going in in the first place, the hopelessness of a major guerilla land war in Asia, investing more and more in a quagmire because it would look bad to pull out….

And let’s not forget an oldie but a goodie: the scare theory of what will happen if we leave. In Vietnam, it was the Domino Theory: if we leave, the Communists will start making victories that will topple the other countries until Communists take over Asia and we have a bigger problem and maybe a war taken to our doorstep. In Iraq, the shorthand version is, if we stop fighting them there, they’ll follow us home and make war on our doorstep. Same basic idea: if we end the war, disaster will befall us, and the boogeyman will come get us.

Then there is the whole argument that things will get worse if we leave, as if going in in the first place was not the error that led to the damage. That somehow the decision to invade was a good idea, that staying in is a good idea, and the only course that will do us harm is deciding to leave. The sad fact is, the invasion itself was the error, and withdrawing is the least bad of all resolutions to that error.

Bush claimed that it was the withdrawal from Vietnam that emboldened al Qaeda, suggesting the inference that withdrawing from Iraq would cause similar damage. However, the damage has already been done: it was the invasion of Iraq that emboldened our enemies; the withdrawal is only a painful resolution to a mistake already made, Staying in Iraq indefinitely would embolden our enemies further still, worse than if we were to withdraw. It has already proven to be a huge recruitment and fundraising bonanza for al Qaeda.

“In Vietnam, former American allies, government workers, intellectuals, and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished.”

This shouldn’t be too much of a problem in Iraq: almost all of those people have already left the country. Why? Because they have been targeted by death squads. In short, the horrors Bush warns of have already been taking place.

It also drew on a long-running belief in the military that the US Congress threw away the chance of victory in Vietnam by pulling troops home early.

And here we get into the real fantasy: that this is something we can “win.” Naturally, it is far easier to dream of a victory than to actually achieve one. Right-wingers argue that the “Surge” is working, allegedly because violence is on a downswing (many point to July’s numbers, ignoring the fact that over the past three years, July has always seen a downturn in violence). I would direct you to read what these soldiers have to say about the matter.

Here’s the thing: even if the surge were having the effect that right-wingers claim–and I have seen no persuasive evidence that this is actually the case–but even if it were, then the idea that this means we could win the war is still utterly a pipe dream. As I said before, Iraq is an arterial gash: you can make it look like it is bleeding a bit less by applying pressure to it, but that alone won’t be enough to repair the damage and bring the patient back to health. It is an illusion of repair, not repair in fact.

The theory is that if we can just apply enough pressure to dampen violence in Iraq for a while, then Iraq can heal itself, pull itself together, become a unified whole, pick itself up and banish the insurgents. That’s all, not much.

And that, my friends, is the extent of the pipe dream. The Iraqi government cannot pick its nose without falling apart at the seams; the insurgents, even if suppressed, are still there and are not going anywhere; the Iraqi militia, when they are not giving their weapons to insurgents or actively participating in the insurgency, are incapable of policing Iraq on their own; there is no solution in sight for solving the problems of sectarian division; and so many, many other problems.

So the optimists are saying, “Hey look, all we had to do was pour tens of thousands of extra U.S. troops which we cannot maintain for very long, and the number of violent attacks in Iraq fell by ”x“ percent, so that means all those other problems are not so insurmountable!”

I weep for the poor teen who thinks he’s immortal and gets suckered in by the huge signing bonuses now being offered to join the military. It does not matter if he has patriotism in his heart–in fact, it is worse if he does, for that only intensifies the tragedy of what he will be put through to satisfy the fantasies of those who say we will win this thing, but always find reasons not to serve in the military themselves.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:


June 18th, 2007 1 comment

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you should be aware of the story that the man charged with investigating Abu Ghraib has now come out with the true story behind the investigation. The upshot: he was ordered to limit his investigation to the soldiers who were in the photos, and to turn a blind eye to people at “higher levels”; Rumsfeld knew about the images when they denied they knew, and there was an intent to deceive investigators and the public about who knew what, and when. Taguba was threatened because of his report, to the extent that “I thought I was in the Mafia.” And there’s much more, a lot of incriminating stuff.

The story ends:

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

Next step: wait for the Bush administration to smear the hell out of this soldier so as to cover their asses. Again.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Iraq Complied with Weapons Inspectors before 2003 War

June 8th, 2007 2 comments

Here’s a question to which the answer is worth clarifying: did Saddam Hussein block weapons inspectors from inspecting any sites in the 2002-2003 buildup to the Iraq War? Because that’s definitely the impression that has been given. I have stated several times on this blog that Hussein let the inspectors in and that they found nothing, but I believe that the general impression–given by Bush, of course–was that they were not allowed to inspect fully, that they were blocked, impeded.

However, that does not seem to be the case. From the Arms Control Association:

UN weapons inspectors worked in Iraq from November 27, 2002 until March 18, 2003. During that time, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) conducted more than 900 inspections at more than 500 sites. The inspectors did not find that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons or that it had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Although Iraq was cooperative on what inspectors called “process”—allowing inspectors access to suspected weapons sites, for example—it was only marginally cooperative in answering the questions surrounding its weapons programs. Unable to resolve its differences with Security Council members who favored strengthening and continuing weapons inspections, the United States abandoned the inspections process and initiated the invasion of Iraq on March 19.

So the inspectors were given full access and were not blocked in any substantive way, and inspected hundreds of sites suspected of producing and/or storing WMD. Furthermore, “UN inspectors [were] given the authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around sites to be inspected and [had] the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish[ed].” Iraqi compliance could be confirmed by satellite and aircraft observations. So it is not as if the Iraqis were able sneak huge or even small amounts of WMD from sites to be inspected.

No WMDs, nor any trace of a WMD program, were found.

What was then the contention was that Iraq did not accurately account for WMDs that had been produced at an earlier stage. Iraq submitted a rather massive report, but this was judged to offer little new information.However, that judgment was made by the Bush administration in a way that cannot be verified objectively; the full report that Iraq submitted has still today not been made public. Furthermore, even though some stockpiles were confirmed to exist as late as 1998, weapons inspector Scott Ritter stated that not only had Iraq’s WMD program been 90-95% verifiably eliminated, but that the “stockpiles” had a shelf life short enough as to render them ineffective by 2003, when the war started. According to Ritter, “Even if Iraq had somehow managed to hide this vast number of weapons from inspectors, what they are now storing is nothing more than useless, harmless goo.”

People talk about the intelligence reports as being the damning things, but the inspections were supposed to be the real benchmark–and those produced nothing, despite cooperation from Iraq. After discounting all that could be verified, there was virtually no room left to believe that Iraq had any WMD program that could be a threat to us.

If you believe differently, kindly point me to an objective source of information that shows otherwise.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Memorial Day

May 29th, 2007 Comments off

On the one hand, I felt it might be a good idea to read what Bush was saying on Memorial Day. I glanced at Google News and saw a story about Bush at some ceremony, no doubt piously claiming that he honored the troops. But I couldn’t bring myself to read it. I just couldn’t stomach it today.

Here’s a guy who has metaphorically defecated on the troops since before he was even president. The act of not only approving of the Vietnam War but also admonishing his Yale classmates for thinking of dodging the draft–and then using his wealth and privilege to dodge it himself–was the first such act of disrespect. That disrespect became more clear as I watched a 60 Minutes piece on Iowa Guardsmen called to serve in Iraq. One was in law school, but withdrew to serve in the war. There are others like him, most notably Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative football contract to serve. Place them next to a young George W. Bush, begging for deferments and then using daddy’s connections to get him a safe National Guard post stateside–and not even bothering to serve just that easy stint. After the same pissant of a young man sneered at college classmates for thinking of going to Canada. This is the character of George W. Bush, a man who doesn’t deserve to call himself a member of the same Guard as the magnificent young men he himself sends to fight and die.

But it was when he became president that the real harm began.

Part of what helped him get into a position in the polls where some Florida election fraud could help get him into office, was his campaign position that Clinton had virtually emasculated the military. Untrue, of course–Clinton was following the same path Bush Sr. had set at the end of the Cold War–but Bush Jr. used the lie effectively, his first baby steps at using the military as a political prop.

However, it hasn’t been the use of troops as a PR backdrop or captive friendly audience that has brought real harm; such is merely indicative of Bush’s willingness to use the image of the military shamelessly, like when he dressed up in his jump suit and had a pilot land him on an aircraft carrier purely for show. That is by far the most innocent of Bush’s relationship with the troops.

The real damage started in full force with Iraq. Bush refused to listen to the generals, refused to ask the country to sacrifice, and so sent to Iraq enough troops to win the initial fighting (“Mission Accomplished!”), but not nearly enough to hold Iraq together. Bush sent them there without the equipment they needed; very early in the war we started hearing stories of family members forced to purchase standard military equipment–especially flak jackets, but also so much else–and mail it to their sons, brothers, and fathers in the field. Some soldiers were even forced to dig through garbage to find body armor they needed to survive. It’s not as if this could not have been foreseen–Bush was moving pieces into place so far in advance that these shortages should have been seen to well before the fighting started. But Bush didn’t give a crap about whether or not a soldier had the armor needed to save his life. When called to task for neglecting the troops, Bush and his cohorts blew off the lack of planning with the flippant phrase, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.” Then they blamed such lacks to slow production or other such bullshit–and never apologized when it was shown that they simply neglected to put in the orders. Soldiers died because of this. Many died. That conservatives don’t make a big deal about this much themselves shows how much they care about soldiers as well.

Bush did not honor the troops when he neglected to craft an exit strategy (any exit strategy). Nor when he neglected to protect arms caches, instead protecting oil facilities; when Iraqis looted, Rumsfeld said for Bush, “in a free country people are free to do bad things, like looting and robbing.” And so the insurgents got their hands on arms and explosives that they use to kill American soldiers to this day. Bush did not honor the troops when he decided to abandon America’s long stand against torture, instead encouraging it, leading to Abu Ghraib.

But what happened when Bush was criticized for not sending in enough troops? (“I listened to the generals!”) What happened when Bush was criticized for not guarding the weapons? (“It’s not me you’re criticizing, it’s the troops!”) What happened when Bush was criticized for Abu Ghraib? (“It was troops who got out of control, we never authorized that!”) That’s right… time and time again, when things went wrong, somehow it was never Bush that was to be criticized… he always dumped the blame on the troops. Most often, he did this by shifting blame–when Bush was criticized, he claimed it was the soldiers who were really being criticized–thus using the honor, bravery, and heroism of the troops as cover for his sorry political ass. And every time it was “criticize the troops, or criticize nobody.” Nobody honors the troops by being such a sorry-assed coward.

But the use of soldiers to cover his ass did not end with that. When Abu Ghraib was getting headlines, the Bush administration used Pat Tillman, a man with real honor and integrity, to bail them out. How? By lying about his death. Lying to the grieving family members so the administration could use their dead son as a political PR device. Does any man who honors the troops do that? Hell, no.

Neither did it stop when the troops got home. Pay cut, benefits cut, medical care skimped on, veteran’s hospitals falling to pieces. Bush was happy to cash in on the automatic respect the presidency demanded, to be gifted with their purple hearts, to make the obligatory visit with the cameras rolling, always with the cameras rolling. But only to his own benefit.

Did Bush attend a single funeral of an American soldier? Not that I ever heard of. He did visit a memorial service for a fallen Australian soldier–a funeral that the widow was callously uninvited to, lest her presence be uncomfortable for Bush. And in the U.S., Bush did not even allow returning coffins to be photographed. It would be too embarrassing for the administration to officially recognize that our soldiers had given their lives for their country. If it was still widespread to use silver and golden stars in a home’s windows to show family members who served and who died, Bush would probably try to ban the use of the gold stars. This is how we honor our bravely fallen? Hell, no.

Hell, Bush couldn’t even be bothered to spend one minute a day signing form letters to the families of fallen soldiers. It just wasn’t worth it until somebody found out and embarrassed him with it.

So I hope you will forgive me if I do not wish to wade hip-deep in callous lies and hideously insincerely sentiments, the flowery language of speechwriters, language Bush would not think to waste time on except for that he can squeeze yet another PR event in which he can take the luster of the honor of the troops and try to rub some of its magic on his oily, pusillanimous hide.

This is not a man who could ever honor the troops, because of what he has done, unapologetically, and continues to do to the troops. This is a man who does not deserve to lick the boots of the men and women who serve where Bush fled, people who fought so Bush could steal their honor, soldiers who died so Bush could use their sacrifice as a political tool.

Our soldiers deserve far better than that. Our soldiers deserve to come home, only they won’t, not yet. Why not? Because when the American people spoke in the last election, they sent to Washington representatives they hoped would stop the war. But Bush twisted their cries of protest into a claim that they wanted him to surge, killing even more of our soldiers. Then, when faced with a popular demand to eventually end the war, Bush held the troops hostage, threatening to leave them in Iraq without funds needed to survive. And I think we all believe he would do that.

That is Bush’s memorial to the troops: “You are nothing more than a tool. You are fools who could not get out of fighting like I did. Fight and die for my hubris, for my campaign contributors, and I will use your deaths to pave the way for more, to aggrandize my own image. Survive and return home and you will find I spend your benefits and medicare care on my cronies. Either way, once I am through with my photo op with you, you can burn in hell for all I care.”

Those are Bush’s actual proclamations, because, after all, actions speak far louder than words.

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags:

Now the Troops Don’t Want to Be There, Either

May 28th, 2007 1 comment

One defense of the war in Iraq from conservatives used to be that the soldiers were gung-ho about their mission, that they felt they should stay. I always felt that was a weak defense–after all, soldiers are trained to be gung-ho about their missions. Also, it plays into the idea that the soldiers themselves are somehow tied in to the decision to go into a war or stay there, which the can be twisted by politicians to say that criticizing the politicians is equal to criticizing the troops. In the end, the whole claim is an attempt to save some politician’s ass by covering it with the loyalty of the troops.

But if you still subscribe to the idea that the troops’ attitudes toward the war are a reason to stay or leave, then you should not stop paying attention to what they are saying now:

“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.

A small minority of Delta Company soldiers – the younger, more recent enlistees in particular – seem to still wholeheartedly support the war. Others are ambivalent, torn between fear of losing more friends in battle, longing for their families and a desire to complete their mission.

With few reliable surveys of soldiers’ attitudes, it is impossible to simply extrapolate from the small number of soldiers in Delta Company. But in interviews with more than a dozen soldiers over a one-week period, most said they were disillusioned by repeated deployments, by what they saw as the abysmal performance of Iraqi security forces and by a conflict that they considered a civil war, one they had no ability to stop.

So, should our decision to stay or not still be based upon the opinions of the soldiers on the ground? Especially the veterans, the ones who understand the mission best? You should really read the whole article, whether or not you subscribe to that point of view.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:


May 28th, 2007 1 comment

I second TPM’s desire to quote Maureen Dowd:

The president said an intelligence report (which turned out to be two years old) showed that Osama had been trying to send Qaeda terrorists in Iraq to attack America. So clearly, Osama is capable of multitasking: Order the killers in Iraq to go after American soldiers there and American civilians here. There AND here. Get it, W.?

The president is on a continuous loop of sophistry: We have to push on in Iraq because Al Qaeda is there, even though Al Qaeda is there because we pushed into Iraq. Our troops have to keep dying there because our troops have been dying there. We have to stay so the enemy doesn’t know we’re leaving. Osama hasn’t been found because he’s hiding.

The terrorists moved into George Bush’s Iraq, not Saddam Hussein’s. W.’s ranting about Al Qaeda there is like planting fleurs du mal and then complaining your garden is toxic.

Had we not gone into Iraq, Iraq would still be a relatively stable wedge nation, keeping Iran and Saudi Arabia in check; yes, Saddam would have continued as a bloody tyrant, but he would have wreaked far less harm and damage in Iraq than George W. Bush has. Al Qaeda would be far less popular in the region, far less rich, and far less awash in volunteers. The American military would have done far better and probably would have succeeded in Afghanistan, bin Laden may even have been captured, al Qaeda would have been dealt a much more severe blow; our military would be in far better shape, and our budget deficits far lower; our name would not be so horribly sullied and resented worldwide, our standing and influence would have been much higher. Three and a half thousand American soldiers would still be alive, a few ten thousand more would still be in one piece.

But George W. Bush may have lost an election. So, in the end, I guess it was all worth it.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:


May 27th, 2007 1 comment

The surge has bloodied our troops. While troop deaths have surged in general over the past six months, the recent surge in and of itself has proved fatal to so many of our people on the ground. The current death toll for our troops in May is 106 (101 American), or 4.1 per day. The last time troop deaths were so high was January 2005–but then the death toll was high only because of two aircraft crashes, a transport plane crash that killed ten British soldiers, and a helicopter crash that killed 31 American soldiers.

So discounting January 2005, May 2007 is set to become the third bloodiest month strictly due to combat.

So far, I have not heard of evidence that we are much closer to winning the war as a result. This is not due to the failure of the troops; rather it is simply because Bush has by now rendered Iraq unwinnable. These good men are dying for no other purpose than to allow Bush to look like he’s doing something.

This is also known as “supporting the troops.”

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Give Me the Money or Else I Take It Out on the Troops

May 26th, 2007 1 comment

No doubt about it, the Democrats were once again the timid lapdogs that we came to know and disrespect during their minority days in the Bush administration. But that doesn’t excuse Bush or the Republicans, either. I am always struck by how people hold the Democrats responsible for the war because they did not stop it–as if Bush and the Republicans are not as responsible for actually starting it, and maintaining it.

But the real thing of note is how Bush rather unabashedly held the troops hostage in the whole issue. While it did not come down to a test, Bush made it very clear: if Democrats cut off funding for the war, the troops will stay in Iraq anyway without proper funding. That was his message, however it was dressed up. Even if our soldiers start dying because the money for ammo or support dries up, Bush would hold them there and the Democrats would be to blame for the troops not having what they need to fight.

Which, of course, is a false choice; Bush could also pull out. The Dems were not saying “underfund the troops,” they were saying “get the hell out of Iraq.” And Bush essentially replied, “give me the money or I’ll start depriving the troops, they’ll start dying more, and I’ll blame you for it.” And the Democrats caved.

One has to wonder how far Bush would have gone. I mean, had the Democrats withheld funding, and if we had passed Bush’s claimed deadlines for money to run out, and the a few months later, the money actually did run out… would Bush really keep the troops in Iraq without the money needed for them to stay alive? Really? Bush would have been content to do that, just so he could use it to bludgeon the Democrats?

Not that he hasn’t underfunded the troops already. From the start, our troops were not given the right equipment. Even years into the war, they still were not given sufficient body armor, nor vehicles armored well enough to protect them well. That stands true to this day. And when they got back, they got shafted further. If that’s Bush’s idea of “supporting the troops,” then god only knows what Bush’s idea of underfunding them might be. It has virtually been a policy of this administration to not give a rat’s ass about the troops, instead using them only to achieve political goals and as human shields.

But this is what it has come down to: Bush using the troops as hostages. Give me the money, let me continue the war, or the troops get it between the eyes.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

The Dishonorable Quarrel

May 15th, 2007 Comments off

Another must-read Josh Marshall article, on a war veteran who has been criticizing the war in Iraq–and who tragically has just lost his son to it. Marshall quotes Shakespeare to make a point that I have held strongly for some time:

Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.

In effect, those who fight and die for the King do not bear the shame or dishonor if the King’s cause proves wrong. How many men will die because the war is prolonged by those who use the honor of the dead to argue that even more should be sacrificed to a dishonorable war?

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

The Emboldening Lie

April 27th, 2007 2 comments

Something you hear conservatives repeat, again and again these days, is that Democratic folk who say that the war is lost or that we should withdraw in X number of months are “emboldening the enemy” and working against our troops, or some variation of that. Aside from the given assumption that these statements are purely political in nature, there is a very strong logical reason to dismiss such claims.

The basic presumption behind the assertion that saying such things is that the Iraqi insurgency is all but lost, is in its “last throes,” if you will, and they are ready to fold up and go home–but because some politicians in the U.S. say the war is unwinnable or that we must withdraw in a year and an half or whatever, the insurgents in Iraq, upon hearing this news, redouble their efforts and decide not to give up. You can’t get around this presumption; without it, the criticism is meaningless. You can’t argue that it means insurgents will escalate and that will hurt our troops; after all, if I were an insurgent and I was confident that the U.S. was on its way out anyway, I’d actually slow things down and wait for the exit so I could use my resources when the U.S. forces were out of the way.

But the other argument, that the insurgents are ready to lose their war, is even more ludicrous. It exemplifies a complete ignorance concerning the nature of insurgencies, especially unsuccessful ones. If there is one rule about them, it is this: they are not short. Go ahead, try to name a major insurgency in the last century that both failed and lasted only five years or so. You can’t, because there wasn’t one, especially not on the scale that we see in Iraq. The Palestinian insurgency has been going on for half a century; the Irish insurgency, maybe 30 years. Columbia, 40 years; South Africa also lasted about 40. The list goes on. The shortest insurgencies last about a decade, but they usually end early because the insurgents are successful, or they peter out before they really get going. The latter clearly does not apply to the Iraqi insurgency.

Also, despite Bush administration claims that the insurgency is ready to go belly-up, there is absolutely no indication in fact that this is so. If anything, the insurgency is escalating, not dying down. One grim piece of evidence to this effect is the slow but steady rise in the number of U.S. troops killed; previously only two per day, now an average of more then three troops are killed in Iraq each day, and Bush’s “surge” is only adding fuel to the fire.

The meaning of this is evident: the Iraqi insurgency, like most insurgencies, is in it for the long haul. They will go one a decade, two decades, or longer. Announcing a withdrawal date or recognizing the clear fact that Bush has clusterf*cked us into a loss will not “embolden” the insurgents in any meaningful way.

On the contrary, if we find ourselves unable to recognize the plain fact that the Iraq War is now unwinnable, if we find ourselves incapable of setting a withdrawal date out of any kind of fear, then we condemn our troops to fight and die for no good purpose. I sincerely believe that no soldier dies in vain because a soldier’s sacrifice is to the country and not to the specific cause; soldiers sign up to serve in whatever way the government deems necessary, not to fight a specific battle and then go home. But soldiers can be made to fight and die in a conflict that has no hope and purpose, and that is the ultimate dishonor against them.

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags:

Surge in the Wrong Direction

April 25th, 2007 1 comment

Example of Conservative Revisionism, Part CCXVII:

Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course.

You gotta give him credit for cajones, telling the American people what they meant, when it is in direct opposition to what they meant. America voted to get us out of Iraq, not deeper in. But this is the government we have to deal with: deaf to anything but their own fantasies and desires.

Meanwhile, some idiot officer speaking out against the Tillman family said that their problem was not that the military lied to them and used their son’s death as a propaganda tool, but rather because they are atheists and the absence of a Christian faith causes them to see their late son as nothing more than “worm dirt.”

And even more Republican Eloquence, this time from candidate Giuliani:
If any Republican is elected president —- and I think obviously I would be the best at this —- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what [the terrorists] will do and try to stop them before they do it.

He added that a Democratic president would put the country on “defense,” and would invite another terrorist attack.

Um… yeah, right. Because 9/11, after all, happened on the watch of a Democr… oh, wait. Well, after all, it isn’t like the Clinton administration successfully beat the Millennium terror attack (remember that one, the one that didn’t happen?) by using their strategy of collecting and successfully interpreting intelligence, or that the Republican president Bush immediately disassembled, allowing 9/11 to happen. It’s not like Bush completely failed in Afghanistan, allowing al Qaeda to survive and then going to war wastefully in Iraq, causing al Qaeda to thrive, right? It’s not like they put off the 9/11 Commission as long as they could, and then largely ignored their recommendations, is it? It’s not like Giuliani himself, after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, put the emergency response headquarters inside the World Trade Center, against the advice and warnings of others, right?

For Giuliani to say such things is the height of hypocrisy, and yet more revisionism.

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags: