Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 15th edition

May 15, 2006: A soldier from Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, secures the perimeter during a patrol in Tikrit

May 15, 2002:

Blair's call to 'get rid' of Saddam

Tony Blair has repeated his desire to "get rid" of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "if possible".

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Blair said military action against Saddam Hussein is not inevitable.

But he added: "I certainly endorse the policy of doing everything we can to get rid of Saddam Hussein if at all possible."

Asked whether this might include a military assault, he replied: "That depends".

Read the rest at the BBC

May 15, 2003:

U.S. Intensifies Security Crackdown in Iraq

L. Paul Bremer III, the senior U.S. civilian in Iraq, pledged in his first news conference that Iraqi saboteurs loyal to the former Hussein government will be hunted, tens of thousands of common criminals released by Hussein will be returned to prison, and top officials of the outlawed Baath Party will be prevented from regaining positions of power.

"We are determined that Baathists and Saddamism will not come back to Iraq," said Bremer, who arrived this week to oversee rebuilding and the creation of an Iraqi authority that will gradually assume responsibility for national affairs. "Iraq must remain a free and independent, stable and representative country."

Despite widespread violence and insecurity that has sharply limited economic activity and cast doubt on the ability of U.S. forces to restore order, Bremer painted a promising picture. He said President Bush sent him to Iraq to face a "wonderful challenge."

"This is not," he declared, "a country in anarchy."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 15, 2004:

How the U.S. Can Get Out

The situation on the ground in Iraq is getting worse. This may or may not be linked to Washington's faulty rationale for occupying Iraq in the first place, but it is certainly a consequence of poor U.S. comprehension of the dynamic of the country. The current prison scandal is but one more example of the United States' bad fit in Iraq. This in turn is a key factor in addressing the next important issue: How does America get out?

The current exit strategy -- democratization beginning June 30 -- looks destined to flounder or fail. Though it may appear at some point to be working, and while involving the United Nations is well advised, the United States should be wary of the implications of Shiite rule in Iraq, even if installed democratically...

Here are a few preliminary ideas, with their pros and cons. Some are familiar from the debate about Iraq that preceded the U.S. occupation:

Settle for a less-than-democratic regime with a strong security arm that offers stability and a pro-American policy. This would undoubtedly involve some loss of face, but with clever administration spin the real problem would not be abandoning democratization. After all, it is already clear that what the United States is doing in the greater Middle East is regime change, not democratization: Moammar Gaddafi of Libya can stay even though he's a dictator, because he turned over his weapons of mass destruction, while Yasser Arafat, the most democratically elected leader in the region, has to go because he's a terrorist. Rather, the problem is finding the right strongman and, worse -- because the United States dismantled the Iraqi army and is hard-put to field a replacement -- putting together an adequate local security apparatus.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 15, 2005:

Ombudsman: News Over There, but Not Here

My e-mail in-box was once again inundated last week by write-in campaigns provoked by two self-described media watchdog organizations, both on the liberal side of things. The first critic out of its box and into mine is called Media Matters for America. The second one was FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), an organization that I wrote about last month.

There were more than 1,000 e-mails, plus some phone calls, all of them blasting The Post and some of them blasting me. The Post was attacked for not following up the disclosure by the London Sunday Times on May 1 about a secret memo by an aide to British Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 2002, recounting a meeting among Blair and his top aides eight months before the invasion of Iraq and after a trip to Washington by the head of British intelligence. The memo reported, among other things, that "military action was now seen as inevitable" in Washington and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"...

The main reason I didn't express a view was that, at the time of my writing on May 5, I didn't know much about the London Times report other than what the six or seven readers who had e-mailed me said at the time.

The Post had reported essentially nothing. There was a glancing mention of the leaked memo in the Style section by columnist Tina Brown on May 5 and a one-sentence reference inside a news story on May 6 about Blair's election victory.

So what I chose to do was to give readers at least some idea what they were missing by including what seemed to be the most important quotes from the secret memo, but without further comment, in part because it was not clear to me yet if the memo was authentic or if there was something about its substance that wasn't apparent. When I asked editors at the time why there had been no coverage, I was told that "it was a story that, in the best of all worlds, would have been in the paper, but we were tied up with election coverage."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 15, 2006:

Uniformed Killers Difficult to Identify

BAGHDAD -- In a row of grimy market stalls off Thieves Market, a shopper's hand passes over a display of steel handcuffs, police batons and jumbled wool balaclava masks with oval slots gouged out for the eyes.

The hand pauses over a dark circular patch, embroidered in white with the letters "IP." "Five hundred dinar," the bored vendor grunts, about 35 cents for a badge marking the wearer as a bona fide member of the Iraqi police.

A set of Iraqi police officer's insignia: "Five hundred." A full army uniform, one of a dozen or so dangling on hangers from the tin roofs of the stalls, above the mud puddles and browsers in the grimy market: "Twenty thousand" -- about $13.50.

In Iraq, anyone can be anyone for the price of a uniform. And no one can be sure who that anyone is when armed men come knocking at the door at midnight or wave traffic to a stop. Iraq is awash in foreign and domestic security companies; insurgent movements; religious militias of tens of thousands of men representing themselves as "people's armies" or as bodyguard details; armed wings of political parties; army, police and paramilitary groups; and criminal gangs posing as all of them.

The criminal gangs kidnap, rob and kill, but so do many of the others.

Read the rest at the Washington Post