Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cindy, Patrol, Cook, Rubin x 2

1) If you've got the gumption, ability, and inclination, consider going to Crawford, TX and protesting with Cindy Sheehan. She and her several dozen supporters may be arrested today, and it is time they got more support:


[It appears as though this site is either swamped, or being torpedoed by someone, but it's all there is]

2) This patrol sounds like a nightmare. What can one do when everyone is against you, and no one says a word?:


Insurgents in western Iraq town prove an elusive enemy for Marines

Knight Ridder Newspapers

HAQLANIYAH, Iraq - (KRT) - The U.S. and Iraqi troops trudged through the narrow, dusty alleyways looking for an enemy that disappears like a ghost and hoping a rocket-propelled grenade would not come screaming from the rooftops. They squinted at graffiti calling for their execution, and tore down leaflets bragging about 20 Marines killed nearby last week.

With most of the fighting over after a large-scale invasion of the western Iraq town Friday, the troops in Haqlaniyah spent hours Sunday under a fiery sun looking for an adversary that often shoots and vanishes without a trace.

Their frustration mirrors that of units in much of western Iraq, where homebred Sunni Muslim insurgents - some angry about the downfall of secular dictator Saddam Hussein, others seeking the dream of a Sunni theocracy - have joined with foreign fighters coming across a porous desert border looking for the glory of international jihad.

The guerrilla fighters often leave a rear guard to fight advancing U.S. forces, while moving the majority of their men on to other towns where the Marines have no presence and the police have fled or been disbanded.
For the past two years, the U.S. military has staged operations through the vast deserts of western Iraq, chasing insurgents up and down the Euphrates River valley that splits the sands.

As troops walked in and out of houses Sunday, they heard phones ringing. An Iraqi interpreter working with the Marines, who gave his name as Sabah, picked up phones when he could reach them in time.

When he hung up, Sabah smiled. The callers said to be careful - the Americans are on their way.

"We need to win the intelligence war, that's what it's all about," said Marine Capt. John A. Kasparian, a spokesman for Marines in the area. As more Iraqi troops move into towns, they hope to be able to get a better idea of who the insurgents are and how they operate, he said.

Standing in front of their homes, Haqlaniyah's sons said the insurgents - called mujahadeen, or holy warriors, here - are everywhere, but they did not know where to find them.

Army Capt. Terrence Sommers spent much of the day with the Iraqi troops he advises, looking for some hint of the enemy.

Khalif Hamadi, a paunchy, middle-aged man with a bemused grin, told Sommers that the mujahadeen run the town of Haqlaniyah.

"You say the area is bad, but where do the bad people live?" Sommers asked.

"I see them driving on the roads but I don't know where they live," Hamadi said. "I don't know where they're going."

Hamadi and Sommers stood for awhile, staring at each other, both knowing that Hamadi was not telling all he knew.

Hamadi broke the silence: "Nobody can say anything about them because they are dangerous people."
Down the street, there was a newly built wall between two buildings that, from the street, looked like the back of a small home. On the other side, though, was a footpath that led to another footpath that led to a road a couple of blocks away.

"Damn," Sommers said, "that's a great escape route."

In a formation of Iraqi troops behind Sommers, Sgt. Ahmed Waheed said he thought most insurgents had hidden their weapons and gone back to tending their gardens or herding sheep.

"I know the difference between a foreign Arab fighter and an Iraqi, but when the fighter is Iraqi, I cannot tell who he is," Waheed said. "We cannot recognize the enemy because he dresses like a civilian and he drives in a civilian car. He looks like everyone else."

The men found traces in some houses. Three brothers were found with a high-powered pair of binoculars. A man had a flour sack of new tennis shoes hidden in a barrel behind a goat pen. And a medical clinic had fliers on the wall extolling the virtues of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Rifling through the bag of shoes, Sommers frowned.

"The doctor heals them, these guys give them shoes, another guy is the forward observer - it's like an assembly line," said Sommers, 34, of Augusta, Ga. "They know when we're coming and going. There's not much we can do."

A few miles to the north was Haditha, the site of a bloody ambush that killed six Marines on Aug. 1 - including one whose corpse was reportedly videotaped by insurgents - and a powerful roadside bomb that killed 14 on Wednesday.

"Those insurgents, they'll pay for what they did last week - it may not be tomorrow, but they'll pay," said
Marine Private First Class Scotty Sanders, 20, of Woodstock, Ala. "That's why we're here."

Late in the morning, Sommers and his men stopped to speak with an elderly man and his son, Mohammed, an employee in Iraq's Ministry of Oil. The old man, who did not give his name, was busy warning about the dangers of the insurgency as Iraqi troops searched his son's truck.

There was a stack of cassette tapes. They popped one in and turned up the volume. A man's voice wailed: "The people must come to Jihad in Iraq. The Americans are here, come to Jihad."

As Sommers walked through the downtown market area later, his translator called out the meaning of graffiti spray-painted on almost every storefront - "Allah is our God, Jihad is our way"; "Long live the mujahadeen"; "Long live jihad"; "It is your duty to fight for jihad in Iraq"; "Death to those who collaborate with Americans."
Sweat poured down Sommers' face. His uniform was caked with dirt. An Army reservist who has a private legal practice in Augusta, Sommers had just 16 days before finishing his tour in Iraq. It was something he looked forward to, he said.

Back in the Iraqi formation, Waheed said he didn't know where the insurgents were, but he was certain of one thing: "When we leave, they will come back."

3) Here's a Robin Cook Op-Ed written on the one yearanniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which shows whyhis sudden death is quite a loss:


Robin Cook, who died on Saturday, was one of the mostprincipled and eloquent politicians of our time. Here,in a column he wrote for 'The Independent' in Marchlast year, he holds the Government to account for itswar on Saddam. His strikingly prescient words are morerelevant than ever

"We would have made more progress against terrorism ifwe had brought peace to Palestine rather than war toIraq"

Published: 08 August 2005

Britain is a nation given to commemorating ourmilitary actions. Even 60 years on, we are preparingto remember the D-Day invasion and honour theincomparable courage of the men who waded ashore thatday.
It says much about the nervousness in government overIraq that they have no plans to mark tomorrow'sanniversary of the invasion of Iraq. This is verysensible on their part. Any retrospective examinationwould inevitably draw attention to questions that theyfind increasingly difficult to answer, such as whythey ever believed Saddam was a threat since he turnsout to have had no nuclear programme, no chemical orbiological agents, and no delivery system with whichto fire them.

A fitting way to mark the anniversary would be todrive a stake through the doctrine of pre-emptivestrike and bury it where it cannot be disinterred tojustify another unilateral military adventure. The newBush doctrine claimed the right to make war on anycountry that could be a potential threat some yearsdown the road. Iraq has proved beyond any reasonabledoubt that intelligence cannot provide evidencereliable enough to justify war on such a speculativebasis....

5) And now for something completely different, from the opposite side of the spectrum. This writer urges "no compromise" with the insurgents and Ba'athists in Iraq, and cites examples where -- and this is interesting if one ponders -- after Ba'athists who had been placed in power were removed, violence broke out. He claims that this is a sign that they should never have been given the chance to seed the interim government with their own appointees. It could equally be said to prove that the Ba'athists are actually pretty popular in certain parts of the country, and if you remove them from power and imprison them, you have an insurgency. Anyhow, read his posting and figure out for yourself which theory holds more water. The only consolation when reading tripe like this is that it would appear as though such neo-cons are actually losing the debate, along with their precious war:

The Price of Compromise
by Michael Rubin
New York Sun
August 8, 2005


Insurgent violence has taken a heavy toll on the U.S. in Iraq. A series of attacks earlier this month pushed the total of American fatalities past 1,800. The mounting casualties have shaken American confidence. Terrorism has hit Iraqis even harder. On Capitol Hill, there are bipartisan calls for the White House to establish a timeline for withdrawal. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has been floating trial balloons. Senior military officials and diplomats, meanwhile, seek to deflate the insurgency. They urge Iraqis to embrace and engage former Baathists, Islamists, and Arab Sunni rejectionists. If the Sunnis can be brought into the fold, the conventional wisdom goes, peace and reconciliation will prevail.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong. The insurgency has gained momentum as a result of failed U.S. policy and well-meaning but wrong-headed assumptions.

The coalition's ouster of Saddam Hussein was popular among the vast majority of Iraqis. They greeted American troops warmly. There were flowers and candies. Iraqis danced as Saddam's statues fell. But the honeymoon faltered and collapsed amid looting and confusion about American intentions.

Throughout the 35-year Baathist dictatorship, survival depended upon maintaining a low profile and divining the leader's wishes. Iraqis would note with whom the leader met as a sign of favor. Officials would parse televised speeches to fine-tune their sycophancy.

Generations of Iraqis continued their Kremlinology when Jay Garner arrived as the director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. They watched as he repeatedly met with Saad al-Janabi, a former Baathist businessman and a close associate of Saddam's late son-in-law, Hussein Kamal. Iraqis interpreted Garner's outreach to an agent of influence of the former regime as a sign that the White House might restore the former regime to power. The fear had precedent. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush called upon Iraqis to rise up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein. They did. But the White House did not come to their aid. According to the Iraqi narrative, Washington shared responsibility for the subsequent massacres by releasing Republican Guard prisoners-of-war in time for their redeployment against the civilians. Garner's choice of dinner guests might have been innocuous to American diplomats and military officers eager to catalyze reconciliation, but it created a chill of distrust among ordinary Iraqis. More importantly, it convinced high-level Baathists that they need fear no justice.

A faulty belief in reconciliation is largely responsible for the disintegration of security in Mosul. Rather than confront Baathists and Islamists, General David Petraeus empowered them. Discussing his strategy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on April 7, 2004, Petraeus explained, "The coalition must reconcile with a number of the thousands of former Ba'ath officials ... giving them a direct stake in the success of the new Iraq." Good in theory, but the result was Potemkin calm.

Petraeus assigned former Baathist General Mahmud Muhammad al-Maris, for example, to lead Iraqi Border Police units guarding the Syrian border. Al-Maris handpicked allies and poked holes in an already porous border. Petraeus allowed another former Baathist, General Muhammad Kha'iri Barhawi, to be Mosul's police chief. Not only did such a choice demoralize Iraqis who suffered under the former regime, but it undercut security.

On July 26, 2004, Brigadier General Andrew MacKay, head of the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team, told Pentagon officials. "We are seeing an increasing confidence within the Iraqi Police Service as they realize they are more than a match for the terrorists - even more so when they are led by officers of Major General Barhawi's ability." Unfortunately, the confidence was misinterpreted. After the November 2004 uprising in Mosul, Coalition officials learned that Barhawi had organized insurgent cells and enabled Islamists and former Baathists to briefly seize the city. Barhawi is now in prison. And both Iraqis and Americans are dead because of misplaced confidence and baseless theories.

Under Saddam Hussein, Baathists survived by ingratiating themselves to power. Too often, U.S. officials would base judgments on their own conversations, unaware of what former regime officials said behind their backs. The loyalty former regime elements and Islamists show is illusionary. In January 2004, for example, a delegation from the Ninewah provincial council visited Makhmur, a town in the Erbil governorate but tied administratively to Mosul. When an accompanying diplomat excused herself briefly, a translator - a former student of mine - said that councilmen berated the mayor for collaborating with the Americans. In Mosul, Petraeus created not placidity, but rather a safe-haven for terror.

Engagement and reconciliation may be the bread-and-butter of diplomacy, but in Iraq they are a prescription for failure. There is a correlation between re-Baathification and violence. Baghdad's security situation deteriorated sharply after Coalition Provisional Administration head L. Paul Bremer on April 23, 2004 declared, "Many Iraqis have complained to me that de-Baathification policy has been applied unevenly and unjustly. I have looked into these complaints and they are legitimate."

While Bremer argued that only implementation - not policy - changed, Iraqis felt otherwise. Their perception was validated one week later when Coalition forces lifted the siege of Fallujah and empowered former Baathists and insurgents in the name of reconciliation. Within a month, car bombings across Iraqi had increased 600%.

A belief persists in Foggy Bottom, Langley, and the White House that extensive de-Baathification is unpopular and destabilizing. Facts suggest otherwise. The Embassy embraced politicians like Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and former Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi because they favored Baathist reintegration. Given a choice at the ballot box, however, Iraqis rewarded candidates who promised tough implementation of de-Baathification. Pachachi, once the shining star of the State Department, failed to win a single seat. Incumbent Allawi mustered only 15% of the vote.

Engagement has a price. In June 2005, word leaked that U.S. officials had engaged Iraqi insurgents in order to encourage them to join the political process. A National Security Council senior director rationalized the approach by differentiating between "talking to" and "negotiating with" insurgents. The Arab world drew no such distinction. A June 28, 2005 ash-Sharq al-Awsat cartoon depicted Uncle Sam, surrounded by barbed wire, with an insurgent blocking his path to escape. The lesson drawn was that the U.S. was weak, not magnanimous. Violence spiked soon after.

Political compromises sometimes carry a high price. As a consequence of adding 15 Sunni Arab members to the Constitutional Commission, women may lose their rights across Iraqi society. Contrary to popular wisdom, Iraq's Sunni political leaders are more Islamist than many of their Shi'ite counterparts. Blatant sectarian pandering backfires.

American strategy in Iraq is fatally flawed. Not just policy implementation has gone awry, but rather the assumptions upon which policy is based. Iraq is neither an academic problem nor a template upon which to impose theories imported from Bosnia and Kosovo. It is a unique society with a very vocal population. Blinded by a false conventional wisdom, we refuse to listen. The cost has been bitterness among natural allies, emboldening of terrorists, and unnecessary American and Iraqi casualties.

Mr. Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

6) Interestingly, in the below article, I actually agree with the same writer who wrote the howler above. Here he urges a drawdown of the US civilian presence in the Green Zone -- and he's entirely right on that count:

Less Is More in Iraq
by Michael Rubin
Washington Post
August 9, 2005


As Iraqis near a deadline to unveil their new constitution, violence continues to plague the country, undercutting reconstruction and spurring talk of a U.S. military withdrawal. "Once Iraq is safely in the hands of the Iraqi people, and a government they elected under a new constitution, our troops will be able to come home with the honor they have earned," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Aug. 2.

While Washington sees the constitutional milestone as an opportunity to withdraw some forces, policymakers should not limit their downsizing to the military presence. It's time for many of the civilians to go home as well. The embassy and contractor presence in Iraq has grown too large, and diplomacy and reconstruction have suffered as a result.

Baghdad boasts the world's largest U.S. embassy. More than 800 diplomats and half that many intelligence officials work within the marble corridors of Saddam Hussein's former palace. Large blast walls -- so heavy that they have damaged the local sewer system -- secure the neighborhood.

The ill-placed cantonment has inconvenienced a city of 5 million. A drive from middle-class Mansur to the University of Baghdad once took 15 minutes. It now takes over an hour. Ordinary Iraqis do not meet these diplomats; regulations prevent embassy personnel from leaving the Green Zone. After the November 2004 death of education adviser Jim Mollen, the embassy sent e-mails to all staff, underlining the prohibition against leaving the compound unless escorted by a military convoy. Approval, which takes three days, is no certainty. The Bureau of Consular Affairs continues to warn that "travel to and from the International Zone is extremely limited."

Such isolation undercuts both the confidence even Iraqi political leaders have in their interlocutors and the ability of diplomats to advise. Elsewhere in the Middle East, diplomats cultivate sources. They wine and dine them. They visit each others' homes. Their children attend the same schools. But in Iraq, while diplomats can send cables about conversations they have with Iraqi politicians inside the Green Zone convention center, where the National Assembly meets, Iraq's power brokers hash out their deals at night and in private homes. The real Iraq cannot be seen by helicopter. Embassy cables and reports from the U.S. Agency for International Development are sterile.

Outside the Green Zone, much of the civilian presence is at best an irritant. As I was traveling down the "Highway of Death" from the airport to central Baghdad recently, traffic screeched to a halt behind a slow-moving convoy of private security contractors waving weaponry and shouting obscenities. To avoid the mess, my Iraqi driver detoured through both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, providing me an instant primer on both the resourcefulness of Iraqi commerce and its problems: gasoline black marketing, gerrymandered generators and businesses shuttered for lack of electricity -- a world largely invisible to most of the outsiders roaming the area.

The civilian presence has become a drain on resources. In 2004 officials shifted a quarter of the funds allocated for water and electricity to security, which at times probably does more harm than good. In January insurgents killed a dozen Iraqis working on Baghdad's electrical plant one day after two U.S. contractors had made a visit, escorted by an ostentatious convoy of Humvees and SUVs. A surprise visit by a single Iraqi with a digital camera would have enabled the same oversight and saved 12 lives.

A smaller embassy in Baghdad would mean more funds for Iraqis. One contractor, Research Triangle Institute International, had to shut down some of its projects to divert reconstruction funds to security. Local workers can do without the private security people whom foreign contractors employ and whose recklessness Iraqis despise. Iraqi civilians and politicians both identify the security contractors as the biggest impediment to the battle for hearts and minds. Nor would Iraqis spend aid money on unnecessary foreign personnel. Last month USAID allocated $32,000 for a driver to chauffeur the head of its mission in the protected zone. Injected into the local economy, such an amount could purchase a generator that would keep several local businesses going.

Oversight is important, but absent the ability of accountants and auditors to leave the security zone, their effectiveness is no better than if they were based in Washington. Layers of bureaucracy have not stamped out corruption among either Iraqis or Americans. A better model would be expansion of the Commander's Emergency Relief Program, which allows U.S. military officers to disburse funds immediately to replace power lines, rehabilitate water treatment plants and renovate schools. Officers remain in the field and accountable for their decisions. In contrast, less than a third of the $18.4 billion Iraq Relief and
Reconstruction Fund, appropriated in November 2003, has been spent.

Iraqis have shown what they can accomplish without us. Today Iraqi Kurdistan is a model for the rest of the country, and yet in 1991 it was devastated by an uprising and looting. With international protection but no significant external aid for several years after, the Kurds rebuilt their region. The progress evident in Baghdad -- new stores, private banks, Internet cafes -- is largely despite us rather than because of us.

It would be nice to bring troops home, but many civilians should come along as well. A smaller embassy shifts responsibilities and accountability to Iraq's new government. That is what the country's transition to democracy should be about.

The writer, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of Middle East Quarterly.

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