Tag Archives: Iraq

Surely we have room

How about we get really humanitarian. Let us reach out and invite the persecuted Yazidi minority threatened by ISIS to establish a community here in the US.  We’ve sent bombers but those people are still in desperate straits.

The entire world population of Yazidis may be as few as 700K, and those in Iraq probably number between 200-300K, possibly less.  There’s already a large community in Nebraska.

As we send ‘advisors’ back to Iraq . . .

Dexter Filkins* today.

In 2003, when American troops first rolled into Baghdad, they destroyed the Iraqi state and its institutions; for the next eight and a half years they tried to build something to replace it. The truth is that the political system imposed on the Iraqis has never worked very well without substantial U.S. involvement; since the Americans left, it hasn’t worked at all. American diplomats and military advisers can’t save Iraq and they can’t govern it, but the decision by President Obama to return to Iraq amounts to a recognition that there was work left unfinished. It’s likely to be a long and difficult job

*Filkins reported from the onset of Iraq War in March of 2003 through 2006.  In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize as part of a team of New York Times reporters in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His book recounting those years – Forever War – is stunning and should be read by anyone who wants to see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan up close. Reviews almost universally described it as a classic in the tradition of witness, a true account from the type of war correspondent rarely seen these days.

LA Times said it “is likely to be regarded as the definitive account of how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were experienced by those who actually waged them.” That’s about right.

And somewhere Paul Wolfowitz is saying we can clean up this mess in Iraq quickly and easily and it won’t cost the price of a movie plus popcorn. For sure.

http://murfinsandburglars.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/auto-tune-news-bill-kristol-all-in.jpg?w=300

It’ll be easy. Honest.

Shamelessly do I copy/paste an entire post from Andrew Sullivan today since I just saw that battle-hardened warrior Bill Kristol on the teevee saying with a straight face what Sullivan recounts here. It was an utterly  hallucinatory experience.

Here’s Sullivan: What do you do with near-clinical fanatics who, in their own minds, never make mistakes and whose worldview remains intact even after it has been empirically dismantled in front of their eyes? In real life, you try and get them to get professional help.

In the case of those who only recently sent thousands of American servicemembers to their deaths in a utopian scheme to foment a democracy in a sectarian dictatorship, we have to merely endure their gall in even appearing in front of the cameras. But the extent of their pathology is deeper than one might expect. And so there is actually a seminar this fall, sponsored by the Hertog Foundation, which explores the origins of the terrible decision-making that led us into the worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam. And the fair and balanced teaching team?

It will be led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, who served during the Persian Gulf War as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and as Deputy Secretary of Defense during the first years of the Iraq War, and by Lewis Libby, who served during the first war as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and during the Iraq War as Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Next spring: how the Iraq War spread human rights … by Donald Rumsfeld.

Most people are aware that relatively few of the architects of a war have fully acknowledged the extent of their error – let alone express remorse or even shame at the more than a hundred thousands civilian deaths their adventure incurred for a phony reason. No, all this time, they have been giving each other awards, lecturing congressmen and Senators, writing pieces in the Weekly Standard and the New Republic, being fellated by David Gregory, and sucking at the teet of the neocon welfare state, as if they had nothing to answer for, and nothing to explain.

Which, I suppose makes the following paragraph in Bill Kristol’s latest case for war less shocking than it should be:

Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011. The crisis is urgent, and it would be useful to focus on a path ahead rather than indulge in recriminations. All paths are now fraught with difficulties, including the path we recommend. But the alternatives of permitting a victory for al Qaeda and/or strengthening Iran would be disastrous.

But it is shocking; it is, in fact, an outrage, a shameless, disgusting abdication of all responsibility for the past combined with a sickening argument to do exactly the same fricking thing all over again. And yes, I’m not imagining. This is what these true know-nothing/learn-nothing fanatics want the US to do:

It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. This is the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with al Qaeda or being at the mercy of government-backed and Iranian-backed death squads, and that we have not thrown in with the Iranians. It is also the only way to regain influence with the Iraqi government and to stabilize the Iraqi Security Forces on terms that would allow us to demand the demobilization of Shi’a militias and to move to limit Iranian influence and to create bargaining chips with Iran to insist on the withdrawal of their forces if and when the situation stabilizes.

What’s staggering is the maximalism of their goals and the lies they are insinuating into the discourse now, just as they did before.

Last time, you could ascribe it to fathomless ignorance. This time, they have no excuse. ISIS is not al Qaeda; it’s far worse in ways that even al Qaeda has noted undermine its cause rather than strengthen it. It may be strategically way over its head already. And the idea that the US has to fight both ISIS and Iran simultaneously is so unhinged and so self-evidently impossible to contain or control that only these feckless fools would even begin to suggest it. Having empowered Iran by dismantling Iraq, Kristol actually wants the US now to enter a live war against ISIS and the Quds forces. You begin to see how every military catastrophe can be used to justify the next catastrophe. It’s a perfect circle for the neocons’ goal of the unending war. I don’t know what to say about it really. It shocks in its solipsism; stuns in its surrealism; chills in its callousness and recklessness. So perhaps the only response is to republish what this charlatan was saying in 2003 in a tone utterly unchanged from his tone today, with a certainty which was just as faked then as it is now. Read carefully and remember he has recanted not a word of it:

February 2003 (from his book, “The War Over Iraq“):  According to one estimate, initially as many as 75,000 troops may be required to police the war’s aftermath, at a cost of $16 billion a year. As other countries’ forces arrive, and as Iraq rebuilds its economy and political system, that force could probably be drawn down to several thousand soldiers after a year or two.

February 24, 2003:  “Having defeated and then occupied Iraq, democratizing the country should not be too tall an order for the world’s sole superpower.”

March 5, 2003: “We’ll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction.”

April 1 2003: “On this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.”

Yes, “always been very secular”. Always. Would you buy a used pamphlet from this man – let alone another full scale war in Iraq?

Oh damn them damn them and damn them again

When (perhaps ‘if’ but I’m not hopeful) Iraq dissolves and brings eastern Syria and Kurdistan with it and the region falls into a few more decades of war, I will remember Paul Wolfowitz assuring the Senate before our 2003 invasion that ‘there is no history of sectarian violence in Iraq’. Really, he said that. In a neighborhood where sectarian war has been the norm for  a thousand years. He said that.

Damn them all.

Let’s remember more than the fallen . . .

image006 (2)Today is the 240th day of the twelfth year of the US war in Afghanistan. So as we approach 13 years there, and pass the 11th year of the Iraq occupation, let’s tune out those who would call a President who moves to extricate us a ‘traitor’. Instead, let’s remember Korea and Vietnam and the lessons we failed to learn from those two hapless interventions.

Afghanistan is already slipping back into its territorial and tribal fights and Iraq is facing increasing sectarian conflict reminiscent of the Sunni/Shia ‘civil war’ of 2005-06.

My hope for today is that those who call for more war will find no ears to hear. Let them shout into the wind.

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.

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.

 

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”.

Perhaps he’s hitting a few golf balls?

I sure hope George Bush is having a nice life.

Today is the 145th day of the 11th year of the War in Afghanistan.

And are we still at ‘war’ in Iraq? We invaded that country nine years ago this month, so something like 4,000 days?

$1.3 Trillion American dollars (mostly borrowed, can’t raise taxes ya’ know; this ain’t the 1940’s fer Elvis’ sake!). Watch the dollar clock here.

US military dead in Iraq – 4486.

US military dead in Afghanistan – 1914.

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 next Friedman Unit in Iraq should be interesting

I posted this morning about Turkey’s military movement into Northern Iraq which was followed today by Obama’s abrupt announcement that all US troops (not just combat troops) would be out of Iraq by the end of this year (although this is always a bit confusing since the Embassy will have 16,000 personnel).

And now, it seems that we closed the last US norther base in Iraq yesterday.

U.S. shutters northern HQ in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military closed the second of its three regional headquarters in Iraq on Thursday, redeploying 750 soldiers, consolidating command of nationwide operations under a single Army unit and maintaining a rapid pace of withdrawal 10 weeks before the expiration of its security agreement with Baghdad.

I doubt very much that these are unrelated events. I just had the news on and it’s all chitterjaberchatter about the troop withdrawal announcement. But I haven’t heard anything about the Turkish troops.  But the story in the Washington Post notes that:

As the U.S. military carried out its deactivation ceremony, 10,000 Turkish soldiers engaged in a ground offensive against Kurdish rebels who had attacked border towns Wednesday, the Turkish military said.

Iraq, part deux?

Remember “Kurdistan:, that region spanning northern Iraq and eastern Turkey that has. for decades, sought independence? Iraq might have allowed it to happen were it not for a dispute over Tikrit, an important oil city. But Turkey was never going to allow it to happen.

I was just visiting my friend Mac at Talk and Politics, and guess what?

After the Kurdish PKK killed 26 Turkish security forces this week – Turkey has now launched a big military operation into Northern Iraq with 22 battalions with air support.

For the U.S., I think this is going to be ‘rock and hard place’. Our presence there, despite the drawdown of combat troops, remains murky. From wikipedia:

In a speech at the Oval Office on 31 August 2010 Obama declared “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”[87][88][89] Beginning September 1, 2010, the American operational name for its involvement in Iraq changed from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn.” The remaining 50,000 U.S. troops are now designated as “advise and assist brigades” assigned to non-combat operations while retaining the ability to revert to combat operations as necessary.

UPDATE: Obama just announced that all US troops, not just combat troops, will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. That’s really interesting.

Still rebuilding Iraq. The US can wait.

Those cranes would be welcome in my home town

Our ’embassy’ in Baghdad opened in 2009. We call it an embassy, but it’s really a small city behind enormous blast walls and protected by thousands of troops and contractors. It’s entirely independent of Baghdad itself, and has its own power plants, water supply and waster water treatment facilities.  There are 21 stand alone buildings.

It is larger than Vatican City. It is larger than Disney World. And up to now security has been the responsiblity of the US Department of Defense.  That ends soon and all tasks, including security, are to be turned over to the US State Department.

The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing up buildings and marshalling contractors in its biggest overseas operation since the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.

While attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that may remain in Iraq, they will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.

I certainly understand that appearances matter – a diplomatic presence is less hostile than a military presence. It’s friendlier. And that’s a good thing.  But come on . . . !

The list of responsibilities the State Department will pick up from the military is daunting. It will have to provide security . . . in a country that is still rocked by daily bombings and assassinations. State is contracting a security force of about 5,000.

. . . The State Department will operate its own air service — the 46-aircraft Embassy Air Iraq — and its own hospitals . . .  4,600 contractors, mostly non-American, will provide cooking, cleaning, medical care and other services. Rounding out the civilian presence are about 4,600 people scattered over 10 or 11 outside sites.

I wonder what the budget is?

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.

Afghanistan, cost of war and money to the Taliban

It’s been way too long since I posted an Afghanistan update, something I used to do frequently. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been there so long now that it’s receding into a background noise. The news media barely mentions Afghanistan any more unless more than a few Americans are killed.  (As for Iraq, it’s not mentioned at all.)

But I did continue my Afghanistan calendar and can tell you that today is the 292nd day of the tenth year of the war. That’s 73 days short of the 11th year. And we’ve spent almost $500 billion there. Add in Bush’s war, Iraq, and we’ve spent $1.3 trillion.

Here’s a little something from the Washington Post this morning – breaking news: we’re wasting money in Afghanistan and bunches of it are going to arm Taliban fighters:

. . . money was traced from the U.S. Treasury through a labyrinth of subcontractors and power brokers. In one, investigators followed a $7.4 million payment to one of the eight companies, which in turn paid a subcontractor, who hired other subcontractors to supply trucks.

The trucking subcontractors then made deposits into an Afghan National Police commander’s account, already swollen with payments from other subcontractors, in exchange for guarantees of safe passage for the convoys. Intelligence officials traced $3.3 million, withdrawn in 27 transactions from the commander’s account, that was transferred to insurgents in the form of weapons, explosives and cash.

So it’s okay I guess.

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.

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.)

Beirut Roxx

POSTED BY ORHAN

“Whilst the idea of a flash mob isn’t a new thing, a Dabke / Hip-Hop flash mob in Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (Beirut Duty Free) at a time when the region is in flux is certainly a first.

On March 5th, 2011, passengers experienced something a little different. A flash mob performed a mix of Dabke and hip-hop to entertain and delight passengers and airport staff alike.”

Dabke is the most popular Arab folk dance in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

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.”

Don’t bother me with details dammit!

Shock n' Awe! This is more fun than those boring old weapons inspections!

Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has a book to sell, so he’s left his hidey-hole to appear on the teevee again and tell us all about the Iraq War.
The Washington Post Fact Checker took issue with this exchange last week on Good Morning America:

George Stephanopoulos: “But you had inspectors in the country [Iraq]. Why was it necessary to invade–”
Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld: Saddam Hussein “had thrown them out about the second or third or fourth time.”

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the timeline as we marched into Iraq knows that Mr. Rumsfeld is lying here. (I could say ‘obfuscating’ or ‘fabricating’ or ‘dissembling’ – I believe these are the words our media prefer, ‘lying’ being so, well, so succinct. So it’s just not done my dear – unless of course you’re Rep. Joe Wilson and then you can call  the President of the United States a liar in front of the whole world.)

Or maybe the old fellow really doesn’t know what happened in that war he led.

From the Fact Checker:

2002-2003 inspections

The departure of the inspectors in 2003 is much more clear-cut: They wanted to keep looking for weapons of mass destruction and reported that Iraq was showing increasing cooperation. But the Bush administration clearly had its own timetable for military action.

From November 2002 through February 2003, the inspection teams conducted more than 760 inspections of 500 sites. Hans Blix, who headed what had been renamed UNMOVIC, reported there was no evidence of active chemical or biological weapons programs or stockpiles.

The IAEA reported no evidence of any kind of reconstituted nuclear weapons program. In a March 2003 appearance before the Security Council, then-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei (now active in the Egyptian protests) went even further, directly disputing key pieces of evidence that the American administration had touted in its case for war.

Blix, in his memoir “Disarming Iraq,” notes that in early March he began getting warnings from senior U.S. and British officials about the safety of the inspectors. Then the company that supplied helicopters for the teams withdrew its equipment from Iraq.

The inspections ended quickly. On March 17, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the inspectors would be withdrawn. A day later, they left the country. On March 19, the U.S.-led invasion began, without explicit authority from the Security Council. (The Arms Control Association has another timeline, while the Congressional Research Service has an excellent report on the inspections.)

No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.

And the beat goes on . . .

While the Middle East appears to be going through its thing (Renaissance? Reformation? French Revolution?), I’m reminded there are still protesters (the kind that blow up bombs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While our eyes have been focused elsewhere, our wars go on; it seems to be bombs in Iraq and bullets in Afghanistan, where today is the 117th day of the tenth year of the war there.

We were all Fair Game

Convicted criminal Scooter Libby with his boss, Dick Cheney

Saw Fair Game yesterday, the current movie about the outing of  the CIA’s Valerie Plame by the Bush White House, done to punish her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson for speaking truth to power –  it was a classic drama in real time and a worthy movie subject.

But. It would have been a much better movie without Sean Penn and it would have been a much more honest movie had it not borrowed so freely from All The President’s Men. Penn was a problem – I thought – because his personal involvement with left-wing causes spilled over into the Wilson character.

It’s always good to be reminded of some of the more sordid moments in our history. Especially given – as we’ve since learned – how deeply Plame was involved in counter-terrorism at the time that the White House ‘outed’ her. How petty the retribution against Wilson was – had they understood any history, they would have known that the best way to minimize damage from  Wilson’s revelations would have been to ignore them. But they let their lesser natures rule and did far more damage to their cause than Wilson’s op-ed ever could have. Silly and petty people.

And the thing they were protecting wasn’t information; they were protecting their own lies.

And so we’re still in Iraq. And of course we’re still in Afghanistan where today is the 70th day of the tenth year of that war.

Shoot the messenger – yet again

The Julian Assange saga brings to mind another truth-teller who had to go.    

    Remember Ashleigh Banfield, the former ‘next big thing’ in cable news? Her reporting from the Twin Towers on 9/11 (she personally pulled an injured cop out of harm’s way fer Elvis sake!) and then from Afghanistan and briefly from Iraq was substantial, exciting, fiercely honest.

Banfield in Tora Tora with Afghan fighters

That was then. In April of 2003, a month after we invaded Iraq, in a speech at Kansas State, she criticized the news coverage of Iraq and how news out of Afghanistan had dropped off the radar. She said news coverage of the wars was shallow. Continue reading

Wars are easy

Ben reminds me this morning that “the price is now estimated at some three trillion dollars for the two wars. Not only that, we’ve had to borrow that money from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries so we could have our tax cuts.”

Oh, shame, shame on us.

And meanwhile, today is the 64th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Fight our wars with citizen soldiers!

Today, The New York Times is all over the latest Wikileaks document dump. I’m pretty agnostic about the issue, but am of course interested in the contents. One story (they have many today looking at it from all aspects) in particular grabbed my attention – about our use of contractors in war since 2001.

From the story:

Blackwater in Baghdad

“Contractors were necessary at the start of the Iraq war because there simply were not enough soldiers to do the job. In 2004, their presence became the symbol for Iraq’s descent into chaos . . .

Even now — with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents — the military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

This practice, combined with the emerging military culture that lives in a different place than the rest of us, is I think dangerous. At the least, I think it’s immoral. If we finance wars, it should be us doing the fighting – and not just those who volunteer. If we inflict pain, let us feel pain. Otherwise what are we?

It’s wrong.

Let me add: Today is the 18th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Nine-eleven, nine years

Nine years since Al Quada took down the Twin Towers. Not a day any of us is likely to forget ever, especially if we were able to watch it happen in real time on teevee. I was in my office at the theatre that morning – no online live streaming then, at least not at my company – and at the first word, we all raced to a break room where there was a television. And we watched – about a dozen of us. And we didn’t speak. We just watched. Our building had by then  become a no-smoking building. But we smoked – for hours. No one said a word. About an hour after the second tower fell, we began going home. And didn’t come back for a few days except to staff the evening performances – the show always goes on. But during the day, no one came in. The phones had stopped ringing. The box office was silent. No one answered email. So we stayed home and watched New York and called friends and family.

Less than a month later, U.S. forces were in Afghanistan. And we have been there for eight years and 338 days.

It’s hard to know what’s been accomplished. The purity – don’t know if that’s the right word – the purity of our cause was soiled by the diversion to Iraq. The capture of our actual enemy was thwarted by the diversion to Iraq. The support of most of the rest of the world began evaporating in distaste after the diversion to Iraq.

Our leaders served us badly. And now I expect they’re somewhere playing golf. There should be a price to pay, but the only price being paid is by our troops.

  • In Afghanistan 2071 coalition troops have died and many many more have been casualties. Those might be acceptable numbers were it not for the fact that half of the deaths have occurred in the last 19 months.
  • In Iraq  4800 have died (over 30K seriously injured), but at least there the fatality numbers have gone steadily down since the civil war abated. And with the implementation of the (Bush) Status of Forces Agreement, there are fewer troops in the country, none of whom are designated combat troops. (They’ll all be going to Afghanistan soon.)
  • Since 2001 we’ve spent over A TRILLION DOLLARS on our wars – 800 billion in Iraq, and 300 billion in Afghanistan.

And after all that, we’re scared to death of shampoo bottles and our shoes. We Americans need to do some very serious soul searching before we’re ready to go in grace into this new century and this new millennium.

At the very least, we need to stop amusing ourselves with trivial nonsense. But we are what we are. Aren’t we.