Category Archives: Iraq War

Whoops, how could I have forgotten this one?

In previous posts on this tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I failed to mention the Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle. He called early, often and urgently for us to send our young people to die in Iraq. By the time Bush got into office, Perle  was on the official Iraq War Marketing Team. On The Dish, Andrew Sullivan reminded us and quotes Pearle in an interview ten years on:

Montagne: Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?

Perle: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done with the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say we shouldn’t have done that.

s-PERLE-largePerle was an early member of PNAC  calling for a ‘new American Century” and the removal of Saddam.

From David Corn in Mother Jones:

Perle began calling for war in Iraq nanoseconds after September 11. He told CNN, “Even if we cannot prove to the standard that we enjoy in our own civil society they are involved, we do know, for example, that Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama bin Laden. That can be documented.” In 2002, he suggested a war against Iraq would be a cakewalk: “It isn’t going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either.” He asserted Saddam was “working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons.” He claimed the post-invasion reconstruction in Iraq would be self-financing. He got everything wrong.

And still he said: “You can’t a decade later go back and say we shouldn’t have done that.”

Maybe he can’t. We can.

By the way, Sullivan himself was an early and ardent supporter of the Iraq invasion. He’s been tripping all over himself in the last recent years saying he was wrong and apologizing for that. But my oh my how he did once love that war. He proved it by damning – over and over again in strong language - those who would dare oppose the war likening such opposition to anti-Semitism and calls for American defeat. He wasn’t just wrong – as he admits – he nearly called the left traitors.

And like many at the time – and right up to today – he claimed that opposing the war was equivalent to morally condoning Saddam’s record of human right abuses.

This lazy form of moral equivalence is not rare among the radical left in this country. But it is based on a profound moral abdication: the refusal to see that a Stalinist dictatorship that murders its own civilians, that sends its troops into battle with a gun pointed at their heads, that executes POWs, that stores and harbors chemical weapons, that defies 12 years of U.N. disarmament demands, that has twice declared war against its neighbors, and that provides a safe haven for terrorists of all stripes, is not the moral equivalent of the United States under President George W. Bush. There is, in fact, no comparison whatever. That is not jingoism or blind patriotism or propaganda. It is the simple undeniable truth. And once the left starts equating legitimate acts of war to defang and depose a deadly dictator with unprovoked terrorist attacks on civilians, it has lost its mind, not to speak of its soul.

Really? Sullivan never apologized for that part. Here’s his March 2003 archive; lots of nasty stuff.

As I said below about Wolfowitz, the ones who got it wrong still occupy positions of influence. They may be scorned on this tenth anniversary, but mostly they’re in the background making money and calling always for more war, war, war. It’s what they do.

Ready.Fire.Aim. Yield? 190,000 dead; $2.2 trillion; ten years

And so it began ten years ago tomorrow.

This week Brown University (another bastion of liberal lies and anyway, it’s un-American since it was founded before the American Revolution) published a comprehensive study of the costs – in blood and treasure – of our adventurous invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq. (The full report is here. It’s broken down by subject – dollars, lives, politics etc.)

According to the report, the war has killed at least 190,000 people, including
men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians and will cost the United
States $2.2 trillion.

Among the group’s main findings:

  • More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
  • The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
  • Th $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
  • The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
  • Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
  • Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
  • The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.

Dont know if they touch on this, but neither electricity nor oil production has reached pre-war levels yet. And there is that business of Iraq now being a Shia ruled country aligned with Iran. But Cheney et al got their blood. So there’s that.

We’re coming up on a tenth anniversary so Kevin Drum remembers Paul Wolfowitz.

Like Drum (inventor of Friday Catblogging at Cal Pundit, founding blogger of Political Animal at Washington Monthly and now at Mother Jones – I’m a long time fan), I too remember Wolfowitz. I watched him testify to Congress advocating for the invasion of a sovereign nation. He told them war in  Iraq was unlikely to cost more than three billion, and, anyway, Iraq could easily repay that from oil revenues he said. Remember? A great moment in Congressional testimony. Drum sums it up:

Paul Wolfowitz’s “fanciful” testimony before Congress, of course, had come a week earlier, when he told Congress that Eric Shinseki’s postwar troop estimates were “wildly off the mark”; that there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq; that Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force; that “even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction”; and that published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding were way too high. It was an epic tour de force of wrongness, quite possibly the wrongest war prediction since Allied generals figured that troops would be “home by Christmas” after the start of World War I.

The guys who made war: only Cheney and Bush are missing

The guys who made war: only Cheney and Bush are missing

I want to be sure you got this part: he said there was “no history of ethnic strike in Iraq”. I could say that all day and weep.  Did any of those Congress critters listening that day remember the 1991 Gulf War? Or the Shia slaughter in the South? Guess not – heads nodded, guns were loaded and boys went off to die and 18 months later Iraq was on fire in an ethnic Civil War.

But Wolfowiz is still in the fold, still considered to be a serious person. He was even appointed – by Bush – to lead the World Bank. A prophet once anointed is always a prophet I guess, no matter how reality later unfolds.

I can’t remember him without also remembering Ahmad Chalabi. He would be Iraq’s savior and leader said Wolfowitz. He has a great following inside Iraq said Wolfowitz. they’ll flock to his side nad support him said Wolfowitz. (At the time, Chalabi was wanted for banking fraud around the Middle East, but no matter), he was a savior and would be loved said Wolfowitz.

And so the great and imaginary hero of Iraqi flew back to his homeland, kissed the soil, and the Iraqis said “Ahmad who”? And it got so much better – from Evan Thomas at the time:

For the hard-liners at the Defense Department, the raid came as a surprise. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior deputies, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, got the news from the media. When Iraqi police, guarded by American GIs, burst into the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, looking for evidence of kidnapping, embezzlement, torture and theft, the men who run the Pentagon were left asking some uncomfortable questions.

Until at least very recently, Chalabi had been the darling of these top Pentagon officials. How could it be that the men who run the most powerful military in the world could not know that their own troops were about to run a raid on a man once regarded as the hope of free Iraq?

Before the invasion, at the 2003 State of the Union, Chalabi sat smugly next to Laura Bush as her war-hungry husband named the ‘axis of evil’ and set the stage for the disaster to come. Great moment. Good times.

Cheney still keepin’ it classy

chickenhawk-cheney-billboardPure patriot is our Dick – these comments from a former Vice President will serve so well the interests of The United States out in the wider world. Thanks for having our back you creep.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military.

Right. Because you didn’t tear the military to shreds with two wars over a decade -  unless soldier suicides don’t count. And it doesn’t count that the military is overwhelmed with caring for those with traumatic head injuries. Or that we became so desperate for new cannon fodder that the Army lowered standards to accept felons. Mr. “I had other priorities” went on:

 “The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal,” Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party.

 Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation’s national security that “good folks” hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense.

Like Rumsfeld, who Bush wanted to fire but was continually blocked by Cheney.

 “Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” he said.

Like I said, keeping it classy.

Hi.

Much been happening around here? I just took a quick look at activity stats and it seems I’ve some catching up to do. Perhaps you’ve noticed the unbloggy bug is going around (election season withdrawal?); I got hit hard but am getting back up on my feet.

One thing I did observe over these recent days is that poor old Grampa McCain  is still railing at anyone and everyone to ‘get off my lawn!’.

But the Sunday gasbags must like that;  he remains the reigning champion for appearances at those (sooo tired) secular services -  I believe it’s 88 times on Meet the Press alone.

I think the old dear needs people to believe that Vietnam Iraq was a necessary and just war.

Fuel to fire, or, how to incite the opposition

I like Michael Moore. He has been the  authentic artistic voice of the abandoned industrial cities of the mid-West and has grown into a successful and talented film maker and provocateur. I like him. And we need provocateurs always, but as a film director might concede, timing is everything.

Moore did no favors today for Chuck Hagel nor for the likely contentious confirmation battle to come once Obama, as expected, nominates Hagel for Sec Def. Moore penned a column for The Huffington Post. Here’s a bit:

But what you probably haven’t seen — because everyone has forgotten — is that back in 2007, Chuck Hagel went totally crazy and told the truth about our invasion of Iraq. Here’s what he said:

“People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.”

Hagel was and is a brave and pretty honest guy. He shares many of the qualities that make people like Chris Christie – candid, fearless. But Moore’s is a voice that inflames the right and when he stands up publicly for Chuck Hagel, I fear he makes the coming battle even  more difficult because we may now expect an even louder torrent of outrage from the usual suspects.

I’m reminded of a single line of movie dialogue from the 90′s. The film was The American President (one of my favorite films and in many ways a perfect movie). As the prez, Michael Douglas says “And we’re gonna get the guns. If we have to go door to door, we’ll get the guns.”

That probably didn’t help either.

Chuck Hagel? I can get down with that

While quite conservative, he was a good Senator, a thoughtful man. So if he ends up at Defense, that looks good to me. (I think he was also a fierce critic of W’s Iraq Adventure.) Will his former GOP colleagues confirm him?

Story is from Bloomberg. Notice the other headline too. So John Kerry gets State. I’m down with that as well.

hagel

 

There was this too

PBS coverage ended so I’m over at MSNBC for the first time (this is the fun part). Mathews called Christie’s speech ‘almost Churchillian’. And he meant it. He clearly admired the speech.

Tom Brokaw however, just had the most interesting observation: in all these hours, with all these speakers, there was not one single mention of the two longest wars in America’s history.

How ’bout that.  Enough. Off to bed.

 

“Fridays at the Pentagon”

Here is a story for Memorial Day – a wonderful and tender story (it’s still linkable here). I came to be familiar with the author, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, in the early days of the Iraq war via Eric Alterman’s blog  Altercation, then housed at Media Matters, where Bateman was a frequent contributor and where this story first appeared around 2005.

So for Memorial Day 2012, as Eric used to say: “here’s Bateman”:

“It is 110 yards from the ‘E’ ring to the ‘A’ ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

“This hallway, more than any other, is the ‘Army’ hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew. Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.

“10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

“A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

“Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet.

“Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier’s chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

“Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

“11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. ‘My hands hurt.’ Christ. Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway — 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

“They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

“There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband’s wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son’s behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

“These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.”

What goes around . . .

Remember how in 2003, Iraqis fled across the border into Syria?

Now, here we are in 2012: Syrians are fleeing across their border into Turkey.

As Linda Ellerbee used to say, “and so it goes”.

What do you call it?

In a recent comment thread here, a phrase used by blogfriend jonolan got me wondering about how we name things. Language, as we know,  has power. For instance:

Did you know that in Iraq, Iraqis speak only of The American War? Of course, we call it The Iraq War.

Re the War between the States, jonolan calls it the War of Northern Aggression. We of the North always call it The Civil War

(I’ve a friend in South Carolina who told me her mother always called it “the recent unpleasantness”. Love that!)

Dick Cheney’s true heir

Liz is a chip off the old block, she is.

“I think, in fact, what President Obama is doing is something that America’s enemies–the Taliban, al Qaeda–have been unable to do, which is to decimate the fighting capability of this nation . . .” – Liz Cheney

Damn that Obama! Wonder if Liz knows that today is the 76th day of the 11th year of the War in Afghanistan.

Thief of Baghdad

POSTED BY ORHAN

Several times a day what I read in the news makes me want to throw up, but this sentence on MSN took me way beyond the dry heaves to something I can only call brainpuke, the involuntary expulsion of ideas so vile that they and sanity cannot be retained by the mind simultaneously. Here we see the media in action, already manufacturing the “Iraq War” that will be inscribed in the history books:

President Barack Obama meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Monday, marking America’s exit from a war launched in a aerial “shock and awe” assault that went on to deeply wound both nations.

The notion of some sort of equivalence or mutuality of suffering between Iraq and the United States–some kind of shared pain experienced by both sides in this war, or even that it can be called a “war”: it was an invasion and occupation, on a false pretext, and it laid waste to a nation that had done nothing to ours; almost 5000 US soldiers dead, compared to between 100,000 and a million Iraqis; millions of internal and external refugees, infrastructure ravaged, cities reduced to rubble, children playing in streets strewn with depleted uranium, civil society extinguished, civil war continuing to rage–should be beyond the conceivable and the civilized; yet it’s what we need to believe and so we do, safely ensconced in our sense of moral certitude.

Hail to the chief

POSTED BY ORHAN

Despite the media hoopla and the Obama administration’s braggadocio surrounding the troop exit from Iraq, the US planned to maintain troops in the country indefinitely. The only reason for the withdrawal is that the Iraqi government refused to grant future immunity to US troops.

It was a slick move by Maliki, and demonstrates Obama’s lack of negotiating skills, even when he’s holding the big stick. He should have asked George W. Bush for advice.

In any event, only a neocon could be unhappy with the outcome: US troops out of Iraq.

Meet the new boss

POSTED BY ORHAN

According to today’s BBC, “an Iraqi judicial committee has issued an arrest warrant for the mainly Shia Arab country’s Sunni Arab Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi. The warrant was issued under anti-terrorism laws…”

The main Sunni political party is now boycotting the cabinet and accuses Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of “monopolizing power”.

Meanwhile Danny Schechter reports, “Maliki has dipped into Saddam’s playbook by deploying his own secret police and military to round up hundreds of former Baathist supporters…A US think-tank documenting his crackdown is saying that Maliki is primarily concerned with his own survival.” Sort of like, uh, Saddam Hussein. And, like Saddam, “he too uses his son, Ahmad, to evict US firms from the Green Zone in Baghdad and do his father’s forceful bidding. And human rights groups are criticizing him for running secret jails, imprisoning journalists and critics, and firing 100 professors from a university in Saddam’s old hometown of Tikrit.”

Schecter continues, “With Maliki now terrorizing his own enemies, often in the name of questionable “plots” to overthrow him, Iraq will remain volatile. Bear in mind that after all these years, the Iraqis are still suffering from a broken electricity system as well as serious food and medical shortages.”

The unbearable justifications of the self important

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, former editor Bill Keller wrote a lengthy article, in which he apparently explains why he ‘wanted war’ with Iraq in 2003 so much that he put the whole paper behind the drums of war.

I stopped reading in the fourth paragraph when he listed other liberals who – he claims – were suddenly bloodthirstty. Here’s his astonishing list of ‘liberals’:

  1. Thomas Freidman
  2. Fareed Zacharia
  3. George Packer
  4. Jeffrey Goldberg
  5. Richard Cohen
  6. Andrew Sullivan (he’s really reaching, isn’t he)
  7. Paul Berman
  8. Christopher Hitchens
  9. Kenneth Pollack

I stopped reading right there. Dishonest then, dishonest now. No link.

Never forget this either

POSTED BY ORHAN

Since 9/11, America has dished out a lot more than was done to us that day.

Some of the “achievements” that resulted from the 9/11 attacks include: the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and displacement of up to four million more, as well as strengthening Iran’s influence in the region; the murders of hundreds of innocents by drone attacks in Pakistan, destabilizing the government and triggering the rise of the Pakistani Taliban; the breakdown of the rule of law, including preventive war and detention, kidnappings and renditions, extrajudicial murders, outsourcing of torture; the normalization and popular acceptance of torture techniques that we hanged war criminals for after WWII; the massive expansion of executive power to the point the President now asserts the authority to order the killing of anyone, Americans included, anytime, anywhere in the world, without explanation or justification; the expansion of domestic government surveillance of all Americans, including logging all internet activity and monitoring of phone conversations and financial transactions; normalization and acceptance of stop-and-search, humiliating pat-downs at airports, machine gun-wielding soldiers on streets and in subways, arrests of anti-war activists; expansion of the propaganda machine used to keep the population in perpetual fear, e.g., the three Pakistanis supposedly on their way to the US yesterday to attack by car bomb.

All this is old news, but it must be remembered, too. Today’s ceremonies are an integral part of the propaganda machine, even allowing for the fact that our tears are real; the cry “never forget” is now part of the national DNA. And we won’t forget: a hundred years from now, if America still exists, 9/11 will be used as an excuse for bombing third-world countries. 9/11 has become little more than a pretext for endless war and repression.

UPDATE FROM MOE: I just came accross this graphic at Sekan’s blog, along with a related story. I think it’s a perfect compliment to Orhan’s post and adds even more perspective, so I throwing it in.

War news is great this week!

Yeah for us!! We’re getting those numbers up in Afghanistan; that must mean we’re trying harder, yes?  August is now the month with the very mostest US troop fatalities in The Forever War*.

But that’s not all - this new report from the Wartime Contracting Commission chronicles the $60 billion we’ve wasted over the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A staggering $12 million squandered every day for the last 10 years — that was among the findings the Wartime Contracting Commission uncovered in more than two years of investigating war-related spending since 2001.

Good news all around and there’s even more! Today is the 329th day of the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan.  Think that’s all? Wait for it . . . . only 6 more days till the eleventh year!

Records falling everywhere in WarWorld. USA! USA! USA!

Wonder if they’ll have political parties?

I hope they have enough traffic lights

Guess the wars are on my mind today – all this deficit talk without any talk of wars is disgraceful. So I decided to check in and see how things are going with our new Embassy in Baghdad.

Did you know:

  • It’s the largest and most expensive embassy in the world
  • It’s two and a half times the size of Vatican City
  • It’s budgeted at $6.2 billion
  • The embassy complex comprises 21 buildings on a 104 acre (42 ha) site (Disneyland is 85 acres).
  • A Kuwaiti company got the contract to build it

From Wikipedia:

The embassy has extensive housing and infrastructure facilities in addition to the usual diplomatic buildings. The buildings include:[8]

  • Six apartment buildings for employees
  • Water and waste treatment facilities
  • A power station
  • Two “major diplomatic office buildings”
  • Recreation, including a gym, cinema, and a swimming pool

The complex is heavily fortified, even by the standards of the Green Zone. The details are largely secret, but it is likely to include a significant US Marine Security Guard detachment. Fortifications include deep security perimeters, buildings reinforced beyond the usual standard, and five highly guarded entrances.[citation needed]

Your basic small city. Embassy my ass. We’re never leaving Iraq.

And let us not forget the 800 or so military bases we have across the world which cost us about $102 billion yearly.

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Dana Rohrbacher is an embaressment

A spokesman for the Iraqi president has said that the congressional delegation chaired by US Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) is no longer welcome in the country. Here’s what Rohrbacher said:

“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country… we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” Rohrabacher told journalists at the US embassy in Baghdad.

“We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs.”

He said he raised the issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Rohrabacher, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, declined to give specifics on how much should be paid back, or over what timeframe.

Want another great Rohrbacher quote? Here ya’ go:

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? … Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?”

I guess he skipped fourth grade.

Days, dollars, dead

2001 to present: Iraq and Afghanistan

DAYS: I just can’t count them – a decade times two. Figure it out.

DOLLARS: $1.2 trillion

DEAD SOLDIERS: 6060

Afghanistan – nearly into the tenth year; 1600 US fatalities, 11,700 wounded, $419 billion.

Iraq – well into  the eighth year of that war; 4460 US fatalities, 32,227 wounded, $783 billion.

And me? I’m headed off to visit, eat hamburgers, hot dogs, wilted salad and watermelon. And so it goes.

The French Foreign Legion reborn in the UAE

In the United Arab Emirates, everyone is a prince, so they  hire lesser beings to work for them and run their country. So why not some Special Forces?

Enter aspiring warlord and Oliver North wannabe, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (the infamous mercenaries hired by our own government for inside Iraq). Prince moved to Abu Dhabi a few years ago when US criminal investigations into his company got a little too hot.

From The New York Times yesterday:

[Prince was] hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops . . .

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

A real Freedom Fighter that guy.

Blind over Iraq

In my father’s final years his macular degeneration progressed to the point that he was no longer able to read. When that happened, we signed up with a remarkable books-on-tape program offered by the socialist Library of Congress; a special tape player was shipped to him along with a thick socialist catalogue of book titles with detailed descriptions from which to choose. This catalogue of new books came every two months. For a few years, he and I went over each issue together, choosing his reading for the next two months. Eventually I did it alone. “You know what I like” he said. I placed his orders on the socialist organization’s website and the tapes began arriving immediately. Each title came in a rigid plastic case, which we faithfully dropped back in the socialist mailbox for return as soon as it was were finished.

Besides books – history, religion, fiction, true crime – there were news magazine in his mail very week and The New York Times weekly summary of the news. (His secret pleasure was People magazine and until this moment no one but me ever knew that.)

His favorite newspaper, the twice monthly National Catholic Reporter, was not avialble on tape. So I began to read it to him.

That how it came to be that I – the most secular of people – became such a fan of NCR that I made sure the subscription was redirected to me after his death. It offers fresh and thoughtful perspective on global issue. So, like I said, I’m a fan.

The April 29 issue has a powerful editorial on our forgotten war in Iraq. It’s not online, so no easy cut and paste or linkie. Here’s an edited summary with the gist of it:

. . . the Iraq war is as real today for millions of displaced Iraqis as it was the evening we launched cruise missiles over Bagdad . . . in this country of only 30 million people up to two million of them – the best and brightest – have fled to Jordan and Syria. Most will never return. Another two million have been uprooted internally . . .these mostly impoverished millions scramble for basic necessities – jobs, apartments, food, health care. It’s as if the residents of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania had to leave and go to Canada.

The effects of war linger far beyond the battlefields of conflict. It took 20 years to settle the two million Vietnamese ‘boat people’. That war had complex roots, but the roots of the Iraq war are traceable right to the Bush White House. The United States then, carries unique responsibility for the displaced Iraqis. We cannot shirk our moral responsibility.

This is as good a time as any to mention that we’re in the ninth year of the war in Iraq and today is the 213th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan. We’ve spent $1.2 trillion and lost 6000 troops. Casualty numbers are enormous as well.

MENA – odd way of saying it

A post by Orhan and the discussion in comments reminded me this morning that the denominator “Middle East North Africa”  seems to have linguistically replaced our old friend, the ever volatile “Middle East”.  And I’m reminded too that another old ‘friend’, the war in Afghanistan is happening  further to the east of that area close to Pakistan (and thus India and the slow simmering rivalry over Kashmir).

This AfPak, India, Kashmir nexus is something we no longer even mention. And yet, and yet . . . a failure of the government in Pakistan probably presents as much if not more danger to us as MENA.

So let’s remind ourselves that in the midst of all that, today is the 198th day of the tenth year of our war in Afghanistan. (And we’re now in our eighth year in Iraq.)

Must admit, the lady can turn a phrase

UPDATED BELOW: Maureen Dowd today on Paul Wolfowitz, who is impatient for us to get involved in Libya (and getting time on all the news shows to say so).

Iraq? It'll be a cakewalk.

  “You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture.”
 
UPDATE: Well, they’re all crawling back out from under the woodwork. Seems young Billy Kristol, legacy neo-con and  professional chicken-hawk also thinks we ought to go at it. To wit:

“I think at this point you probably have to do more than a no-fly zone. You probably have to tell Qaddafi he has to stop his movement east and that we are going to use assets to stop him from slaughtering people as he moves east across the country. We might take out his ships in the Mediterranean. We might take out tanks and artillery.”

So Bill, you enlisting this time?
 

Old men who send young men to war

Maureen Down in the NY Times today looked upon Donald Rumsfeld and found it distasteful. As she should.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld asked for a comprehensive report on the weapons intel. From Down today we learn this:

“Major Gen. Glen Shaffer, then the director for intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense, responding to Rummy’s request to know the “unknowns” about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, wrote “We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.” Schaffer wrote. 

“Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence,” the report said. “The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”

It added: “We don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know.” And continued: “We do not know if they have purchased, or attempted to purchase, a nuclear weapon. We do not know with confidence the location of any nuclear weapon-related facilities. Our knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely — perhaps 90% — on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

On biological weapons: “We cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi facilities that produce, test, fill, or store biological weapons,” the report said, adding: “We believe Iraq has 7 mobile BW agent production plants but cannot locate them … our knowledge of how and where they are produced is probably up to 90% incomplete.

On chemical weapons: “We cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi sites that produce final chemical agent.” And on ballistic missile programs they had “little missile-specific data.”

DOWD added: “Somehow that was twisted into “a slam-dunk.” You go to war with the army you have, but the facts you want.”