Sunday, May 20, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 20th edition

May 20, 2005: UA 240G machine gun sits atop a telepresent rapid aiming platform during a field test held at Camp Mercury. The robotic system allows Marines to fire through use of remote hand units from up to 100 meters away.

May 20, 2002:

Cheney: Future Attacks Are 'Almost Certain'

Vice President Cheney starkly laid out the administration's fear about another terrorist attack yesterday, warning that a strike is "almost certain" and "could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year...

Administration officials said Saturday that the government recently intercepted a series of vague but menacing communications, apparently among al Qaeda members, boasting of a coming strike in the United States. Rice said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the series of messages was not new, but she said the volume has increased because of information from suspects in custody and the "worldwide mobilization of other intelligence agencies and cooperation to get information."

The administration's sober forecast came at a time when the White House is trying to show it responds robustly to intelligence reports, after the disclosure last week that Bush was briefed Aug. 6 about intelligence suggesting Osama bin Laden's followers could use hijacking to attack the United States. No specifics were included in that briefing, Cheney and Rice insisted...

Between them, Cheney and Rice appeared on all five major Sunday shows as part of the administration's efforts to reassure the public that it has learned from the Sept. 11 disaster and is taking steps to disrupt and mitigate future attacks.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 20, 2003:

Iraq loses experts in U.S. purge

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The removal of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public office in war-torn Iraq is creating problems for U.S.-led administrators trying to get the country back on its feet.

Even the civilian authority's new chief admits the plan to sack up to 30,000 public sector workers will leave Iraq without the experts it needs in services like health care, power and water. Under Saddam's one-party state most public servants had to be Baath members.

L. Paul Bremer, a former State Department counterterrorism official who took office last week, said he would issue orders "to extirpate Baathists and Baathism from Iraq forever ... We have and will aggressively move to seek to identify these people and remove them from office." (Full story)

"In some cases, we have found, people who have offered to work with us have turned out to be members of the Baath Party," Bremer said. "Those people have been put out of office when we found that out."

But by forcing senior and mid-ranking levels out from all parts of public life, the coalition could be losing many of Iraq's most educated and experienced administrators as they strive to rebuild the shattered country.

Officials from schools, transport and hospitals are also expected to be removed in the next few months.

Read the rest at CNN

May 20, 2004:

U.S. military report draws Iraq, Vietnam parallel

WASHINGTON – U.S. action in Iraq could prove a foreign policy debacle if the Bush administration ignores Washington's painful failure at nation-building in South Vietnam a generation ago, a new Army report warns.

As in Southeast Asia, the United States is trying to fashion a legitimate state in Iraq against a backdrop of insurgency, rising U.S. death tolls and tenuous support at home, said the report published this month by the Army War College.

But U.S. troops, viewed by many Iraqis as invaders, lack the advantage of South Vietnam's large domestic security force as they seek to build new institutions under the pressure of a June 30 deadline for transfer of sovereignty.

"In Vietnam, we were trying to prop up a government that had little legitimacy. In Iraq, we're trying to weave together a government and support it so it can develop legitimacy. Both are extremely hard to do," said co-author W. Andrew Terrill, of the War College's Strategic Studies Institute.

The Vietnam War, a Cold War catastrophe that still haunts American policymakers, ended in the 1970s with 58,000 U.S. war dead after public opinion turned against policies aimed at containing Communism in Southeast Asia.

Administration officials have rejected assertions Iraq, now a main front in the U.S. war on terrorism, poses a Vietnam-like quagmire for the 135,000 U.S. troops now inside the country.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

May 20, 2005:

US generals say Iraq outlook 'bleak'

US military commanders from both Iraq and Afganistan, in a series of briefings and interviews over the past week, gave downbeat assessments of the situations in both countries. The New York Times reports that the generals "pulled back" from predictions made earlier this year that the US would be able to substantially reduce its troop level by early 2006.

One general said that the US would be in Iraq and Afghanistan for "many years to come."

Another senior officer in Baghdad, speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, said unless the new Iraq government gives Iraqis something to believe in, the US mission in Iraq could collapse.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor

May 20, 2006:

Inside Iraq's hidden war

Some men hold paper tissues under their noses; others wrap their kuffiya ends around their mouths. It is a hot and humid day at the city's main morgue where 20 men stand in a yard, their faces pressed with silent urgency against the bars of a window, next to a white plastic sign that baldly announces the location of "The Refrigerator".

Inside sits the clerk of the morgue, his computer monitor turned towards them. Faces flash on the screen: a man with his face blackened and bruised; another man, older, maybe in his 50s, with a white beard and an orange-sized hole in his forehead; and another on a green stretcher, his arms twisted unnaturally behind him.

Occasionally the silence of Baghdad's daily slideshow of death is broken by an appalled act of recognition, as one of the men mumbles "No god but the one God" or "God is great."

So many bodies arrive at the morgue each day - 40 is not unusual on a "quiet" day - that it is impossible to let relatives in to identify them. Hence the slideshow in the yard outside. The bodies are dumped in sewage plants or irrigation canals, or just in the middle of the street. Many show signs of torture. Every morning a procession of pickup trucks, minibuses and cars line up with their coffins outside the concrete blast walls of the ministry of health to pick up their cargo. One death often courts another. Many Sunnis say the mourners are attacked en route. When they go to retrieve the body of a relative, family members often wait in the car clutching their weapons in anticipation.

The ministry is under the control of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and a large mural of his dead ayatollah father decorates the entrance to the compound. Most of the security guards in the morgue and the ministry are affiliated to his militia, the Mahdi army, one of the militias thought to be behind the sectarian killing going on in their neighbourhoods.

"Why do you want to go inside? Those inside are all terrorists, Sunni terrorists," said Captain Abu Ahmad, the officer in charge of security at the morgue, when the Guardian presented a document granting permission from the ministry of health to visit. "If you want to see innocent victims, go to the hospitals and see the victims of Sunni terrorism on Shia civilians."

After months of argument about whether Iraq is teetering on the verge of civil war, a "national unity" government is due to be inaugurated today. Legislators plan to swear in a new prime minister and cabinet, and much will be made in London and Washington of the fact that this completes a democratic transition that began in December with the election of its parliament. But the reality encountered during three weeks behind the barricades of Baghdad's increasingly bloody sectarian conflict has more in common with the "ethnic cleansing" of the Balkans than the optimistic rhetoric to be heard on the manicured lawns of the embassy compounds and in western capitals.

Read the rest at the Guardian