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The Military Point of View

There was an article in the NYT yesterday (9.23) on Iraq, which appears to be critical of the Obama Administrations’s efforts to end the military presence in Iraq:  “In US Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts of Americas Last Months in Iraq”.  It’s an excerpt from a book due out next week called the “Endgame: The inside story of the struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama” by Michael Gordon, the NYT reporter and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainer.  The timing is suspiciously political.  It’s even a 2nd printing.  Didn’t attract enough attention the first time?


Vice President Biden comes off as naive and foolish, and Obama himself is criticized for coming late to the negotiations as well as botching them.  It seems to me that the situation on the ground had already been thoroughly botched by the Bush Administration beyond the point of the rescue of the so-called American interests.


The article is written mostly from the military point of view.  The military never wanted to leave Iraq, even under George W. The military never wants to give up on an operation, even when there is no choice as in Vietnam. It dragged its feet in Iraq, and now it’s dragging its feet again in Afghanistan. 


George & Co. had already made such a mess of things by the time Obama arrived in office that there was not much that could be done to create that chimera of the “balanced, stable democracy”.  It was the American post colonial policy of divide and conquer under the Provisional Authority that set the stage for all the struggles that followed, including the civil war and Maliki’s slide toward authoritarian rule.  The American government never learned much about Iraqis and Iraq all the time they were present in the country.  They only saw their own point of view, their wants, their needs.  No one ever asked the Iraqis what they wanted until the elections were forced on them in 2005, and then the arrangements were pretty much rigged to favor the Shia continuing the sectarian divide.  The Bush administration was never able to get Maliki to agree to leaving some soldiers in Iraq because it would have had to go through parliament which wanted all Americans out of Iraq.  What influence the Americans had was pretty much gone by the time the Bush administration was gone and Obama came in.


To attempt to blame Obama for the mess we left in Iraq is to have some kind of political agenda that ignores history and the present facts on the ground.  There was no way they were going to undo what George & Co. had created.  It will take time and a lot of hard work on the part of the Iraqis to come out of the chaos that followed the invasion.  We here at home should be extremely wary of those who think our military can do everything.  They can’t, as we have found to our sorrow in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


A more accurate analysis can be found in Michael Schwartz’s “War without End: The Iraq War in Context”.  Just because it’s a political season doesn’t mean that newspaper articles should be irresponsible.

Another News Conference

Monday, April 05, 2004
The President made a statement in his news conference today, saying, “we’re now in the process of determining what the entity [to whom we transfer sovereignty] will look like” An amazing statement!. Some 85 days before the supposed transfer, and he still doesn’t know? Like everything else they’ve done in Iraq, one more time they make it up as they go along and mostly blunder. Especially when most of what they’ve tried hasn’t worked very well, and what they’re trying now (overwhelming force on civilians) is a recipe for disaster for the US and Iraq, and further destabilization of the entire Middle East.


Moqtada Al-Sadr. That’s the Western spelling, I thnk, Raed spells it Muqtada AsSadr. Either way it’s the young (age 25-31) Muslim cleric who is using the poor and unemployed to raise an armed militia (Mahdi Army) and to incite revolt and conflict in several cities in Southern Iraq. Raed asks why we didn’t see this coming , and do something about it while it could be done without making an uproar in Iraq and internationally. Faiza cites the Iraqi frustration and impatience after all our empty PR promises and the killing of Sheik Yassim in Gaza. I agree, we should have seen it coming or something like it long before the invasion ever happened. This is more of the stuff inside that Pandora’s Box that our careless, so-called President opened when he dismissed the objections of most of the rest of the world and jumped into Iraq in ignorance without thinking of the consequences. The possibility that a religions fundamentalist faction would take over the power in Iraq was always there in the extremism that has been part of the region’s psyche forever and especially since the advent of Israel. The whole difficulty was predictable and predicted by many.

I wonder if there are any in our government who understand the implications of Muslim religious education and the extremism it breeds. If all you know is the Quran and the ancient glorious and bloody history of the Arabs, how can you be anything but extreme? Raed calls it the opposite of the rational stream of the Iraqi character – chaos. Iraq has eventually thrown off the yoke of every foreign occupation it had, and it has a long history of internal dispute and violence.

The CPA now announce an arrest warrant from months ago for Al-Sadr, but an attempt to arrest him will undoubtedly bring more violence, and if he is killed, he will become a martyr, making Iraq even more of a quagmire than it is already. He is successfully putting the US in an untenable position, but it is our own fault for trying to impose a fake “interim” government controlled by us. Bases in the desert? Untenable without wholesale slaughter. A 3,000 person Embassy whose occupants can’t leave their walled and guarded compound? Huh? More fantasies. Just wait.


Is there another way to do this, to retrieve a disintegrating situation without killing off the people of Sadr City, Fallujah, or bludgeoning the Shia cities of the south with the same brutality as Saddam Hussein? The CPA’s lack of knowledge and intelligence, the fantasy plans in Washington and its lack of understanding and creativity will surely find us thrown out of the region on our ears in humiliation and defeat. The UN can’t rescue us from the mess we’ve made. Neither can NATO. Those are just more forces imposed from outside and will be greeted in much the same way – with resentment, hatred, violence and revolt.

What would the Iraqis do if we withdrew our armies? What kind of a state would emerge, if any? An Iran-like type of theocracy seems what Al-Sadr aims for, and perhaps Al-Sistani too. Would they leave the Kurds and other Sunni’s in peace? Would its neighbors swoop in, and split up the country in pieces? They all have interests and axes to grind. Depressing thoughts.


Senators Lugar and Biden were on PBS Nightly News last night . Biden says there may be a fight going on inside the Administration (again! still!) between State and Pentagon over control of Iraq.

And it seems to me we’re not leveling with the American people here. This can be done, but remember, we made the announcement as far back as late November of last year to June 30 was the date. Here we are, in April, and they still haven’t resolved the dispute in the administration between the State Department and the vice president’s office or who ever else is arguing about this as to what is the plan.

Of course, they are also complaining about being kept in the dark about the Administrations plans, if any for months. Could part of the flap inside the Administration be over the silly suggestion of Wolfowitz as the first Ambassador, or much deeper, more ideological stuff? And why on earth does it need 3,000 people to administer the “reconstruction”? The NYT piece that talks about this suggests other possibilities as well and asks the question, why would anyone want the job? Why indeed! It also talks of moving it out of the Green Zone into a less conspicuous spot in Baghdad. Now, realistically, how are you going to make 3,000 people going in and out of the same building headed by Americans with their American cars and SUVs inconspicuous?! And will they stick it in an ordinary business block so as to make it an even better target for bombers and assassins? Is there not even recent memory of what happened to the Baghdad UN headquarters in Washington?

I can’t find out how many people are in the CPA office now. In November 2003, there were 60 Department of State people, but that is the only number I’ve been able to find in an hour of searching. I’m sure there are many more, but are there anywhere near 3.000?

I just snipped this from State Magazine, the magazine for State Department people in an article by the DG, Ambassador Robert W. Pearson (Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources):

On July 1, 2004, a new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will assume full responsibility for representing U.S. interests
and programs in Iraq. Approximately 1,500 American direct hire employees will come under chief of mission authority at the embassy. The Department alone will field what soon may be the largest number of employees in any country in the Middle East. In early February, I issued a cable seeking bidders for 150 positions. The list will be updated as requirements become more refined. We will need people with the attitude and the aptitude to do whatever it takes to get the work done.

1500 doesn’t quite sound like 3,000. I wonder which number is correct or if the higher number includes Iraqis or DOD people. Still 1500 Americans won’t be easy to “blend in” to the local population. They will probably stick out like sore thumbs making security a nightmare.

Explosions and other events

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The suicide bombers and users of mortars have been at it again and bloodier than ever. On the Shia festival of Ashura, they attacked crowds gathered at mosques in Karbala and Baghdad, killing more than 140 people. What a monstrous act! The New York Times called it the “…deadliest day of violence since the American-led occupation of Iraq began”. Can anything be retrieved from this situation that will be of help to the Iraqis and not just feed various egos in Washington and Iraq? The immediate reaction is more anti-Americanism among Iraqis that will be hard to erase, and make it even harder for them to come to some sort of compromise on their own future.

The official American version blames a man known as Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who they say was born in Jordan and is linked to Al-Qaeda. Since every so-called bad guy they blame is always linked to Al-Qaeda, I’m very skeptical of the official version. It just sounds like more official attempts to link Iraq and al-Qaeda which we have seen to be a fantasy of the Bush Administration since nothing was ever proved about the supposed link with Saddam Hussein’s government. After all the lies and exaggerations that convinced so many to support the war, it is now almost impossible to believe much of what officials may say about Iraq.

Christopher Allbrighton has a stunning piece on his Back to Iraq site about Ahmed Chalabi. (See February 23) Chalabi appears to have conned the Administration into believing all the nonsense about WMD, and now says that being in error doesn’t matter because he is now back in Iraq and Saddam is gone. This is the man who was sentenced for bank fraud by Jordan and who is now setting up companies in Iraq to take advantage of American generosity in contracts and is a member of the Iraq Interim Governing Council.

How can any good come from such people? And why is anyone still listening to this man? And why is he on the IGC?


John Kerry will be the candidate for the Democrats. I hope he has the spine to stand up to all the dirty tricks the Republicans will certainly play on him. 8 months is a long time, and they have unseemly amounts of dollars to spend to try to make him into some kind of a dangerous “Liberal” and worse. I wavered between voting for him and voting for John Edwards who really impressed me with his manner and positive message, but in the end I decided that Kerry had the best chance to win being experienced in the ways of political parties and Washington. Lots of other people evidently had the same idea. I hope Kerry chooses Edwards as his Vice President, but it’s much too soon to tell how that will turn out.

Howard Dean won his own state of Vermont even though he is no longer a candidate.