Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 30th edition

May 30, 2005: A soldier with the 3rd Infantry Division yells "room clear" to his squad leader during a raid of an office building used by suspected terrorists, in Baghdad. The soldiers captured 12 suspects believed to be behind a plot to use chemical weapons against Iraqi Delegates in the International Zone

May 30, 2002:

Armed Resistance

Last week, as thousands of Europeans took to the streets to protest American plans to topple Saddam Hussein, a similar cry went up along the Potomac. It didn't come from liberal editorial writers; and it didn't come from Democratic members of Congress. No, the opposition to invading Iraq came from the very force that would be doing the invading: the U.S. military. We know this because high-ranking officers have been leaking like sieves--to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others--about how silly they consider the whole enterprise to be. In the Post, for instance, "one top general" told reporter Thomas Ricks that "the 'Iraq hysteria' he detected last winter in some senior Bush administration officials has been diffused." And indeed, over the past week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush himself have gone to unusual lengths to downplay the possibility of military action against Saddam. We find that disappointing and hope that in the coming months the president will remember what he seemed to understand so well in the searing weeks after September 11: The case for taking on Saddam doesn't require believing that an invasion carries no risks, but merely that they pale beside the risk of allowing his regime to remain in power. But in the meantime, the president needs to make another decision: He needs to fire some of his generals. Not because they oppose going to war with Iraq, but because they have been advertising their opposition in the nation's newspapers.

That the military brass opposes going to war shouldn't surprise anyone not frozen in amber. The officer corps resisted doing so in Iraq a decade ago. It resisted doing so in Bosnia half a decade ago. It resisted doing so in Kosovo three years ago. And even September 11 couldn't shake their reluctance to put sizable forces on the ground. In last December's crucial battle in Tora Bora, for instance, General Tommy Franks's decision to rely on lethargic Afghan proxies rather than American G.I.s allowed the enemy to escape.

But timidity is one thing; insubordination is another. The military establishment has crossed that line several times over the last decade--when a general named Colin Powell penned op-eds in 1992 cautioning policymakers against intervening in Bosnia; and in 1999, when the Army brazenly dragged its feet in delivering to Albania the Apache helicopters President Bill Clinton had ordered for the Kosovo campaign. And now it appears they are doing so once more. Of course, senior officers have every right to voice their concerns and reservations--at least until the president makes a final decision. But they don't have the right to use the media to create a political environment that forecloses the president's options. Doing so violates the very essence of American military professionalism, which is defined by the Constitution's strict subordination of the military to its civilian masters in the executive and legislative branches.

Read the rest at the New Republic

May 30, 2003:

Wolfowitz comments revive doubts over Iraq's WMD

BRUSSELS (AP) — As President Bush begins a European tour to patch up trans-Atlantic relations, comments from senior defense officials about Iraq's weapons have revived controversy in Europe over whether the war was justified.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz cited bureaucratic reasons for focusing on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and said a "huge" result of the war was to enable Washington to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.

"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair.

The magazine's reporter did not tape the telephone interview and provided a slightly different version of the quote in the article: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Iraq's weapons of mass destruction may have been destroyed before the war.

"It is also possible that they (Saddam Hussein's government) decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz suggested Washington fabricated weapons claims, and an aide to the defense secretary, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted their remarks had been misinterpreted.

However, the remarks were widely published in Europe and were seen by skeptical Europeans as a tacit admission that the United States overstated Iraq's weapons threat.

The Daily Express of London ran a report Friday on the statements by the two U.S. officials with the headline "Just Complete and Utter Lies."

Read the rest at USA Today

May 30, 2004:

U.S military: Iraqis deserting police force

About 100 Iraqi police who arrived in Najaf over the past week to begin joint patrols with U.S.-led coalition forces on Sunday apparently deserted their posts, U.S. military officials said.

In the past few days, U.S. forces coordinated and trained with Iraqi police to begin patrols in Najaf, a Shiite holy city, that has been besieged by fighting between U.S. forces and al-Sadr's militias.

It is not clear why the police left the city, but their disappearance added to the skepticism at the U.S. military base in Najaf that a unilateral peace agreement announced three days ago by Shiite representatives would quell the ongoing violence.

Coalition officials had hoped to eventually turn over the security situation in Najaf to Iraqi police, a measure called for by al-Sadr's agreement with other Shiite leaders.

While Iraqi police officers left no clues to a motive for their disappearance, al-Sadr's militia considers them collaborators with U.S. occupying forces and often targets them for attacks. Additionally, Iraqi police are not provided with body armor that might protect them while on duty.

The U.S.-led coalition was not involved in forming the details of al-Sadr agreement.

U.S. officials accuse al-Sadr, a maverick, anti-U.S. Shiite cleric, of fomenting unrest in a number of southern Iraqi cities, including the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

Al-Sadr is wanted in connection with the killing of a rival cleric last year.

Read the rest at CNN

May 30, 2005:

Insurgency, Terrorism or Civil War?

How many deaths does it take to make a civil war? Can the conflict in Iraq, pitting suicide bombers against both home-grown and foreign militaries be described as an internal struggle for control? At what point does the claim that violence in Iraq is "merely" the work of a bunch of terrorists lose its tenability? In Iraq, it's a set of questions being asked more and more often as the death toll this May continues to rocket upwards.

On Monday, the violence continued, with two suicide bombers blowing themselves up amid a crowd of policemen in the town of Hillah south of Baghdad. Twenty were killed and just short of 100 were wounded. Sadly, however, such violence -- world news had it occurred in Berlin, Britain or Boston -- is little more than a footnote coming out of Baghdad. After all, 34 people were killed on Sunday in a variety of attacks and roughly 700 have lost their lives at the hands of insurgents in the month of May. Bits of bodies flying through the Iraqi air has become the norm and is no longer terribly newsworthy.

And yet, below the numbing continuity of suicide bombs, things are changing in Iraq, and not necessarily for the better. Last week, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's government announced a crackdown against the insurgents in which he planned to commit 40,000 soldiers and paramilitary police officers. Leaving aside the question as to whether the Iraqi government is capable of fielding that many troops, the announcement is worrisome. Most of the Iraqi forces are Shiites, whereas the insurgency is largely a Sunni affair.

Even worse, according to the New York Times on Sunday, many Sunnis in Iraq believe that the sweeps launched by the government over the weekend were inspired by the Shiite Badr Organization, a military group founded in Iran and connected to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the two Shiite religious parties in the Iraqi government. Whether the suspicion is true or not is hardly relevant. The situation is dicey enough that rumors and inklings can be just as dangerous as hard facts.

Furthermore, the insurgents in Iraq have more than just suicide bombers and roadside mines at their disposal. An assault on a detention center in the city of Amariya on Sunday -- a facility where a number of suspected resistance fighters are being held -- involved dozens of insurgents wielding rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine guns.

It is still, perhaps, too early to call the chaos in Iraq a civil war. But should it ever come to that, this weekend could well be in the running as the date on which it started.

Read the rest at Der Spiegel

May 30, 2006:

Pentagon: Iraq insurgency steady until '07

The Sunni Arab heart of the Iraqi insurgency seems likely to hold its strength the rest of the year, and some of its leaders are now collaborating with al-Qaeda terrorists, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
In a report assessing the situation in Iraq, required quarterly by Congress, the Pentagon painted a mixed picture on a day when the U.S. military command in Baghdad said 1,500 more combat troops have arrived in the country.

The extra troops are part of an intensified effort to wrest control of the provincial capital of Ramadi from insurgents.

The report to Congress offered a relatively dim picture of economic progress, with few gains in improving basic services like electricity, and it provided no promises of U.S. troop reductions anytime soon.

On the other hand, it said the Iraqi army is gaining strength and taking lead responsibility for security in more areas.

The U.S. government has struggled for three years to understand the shadowy insurgency in Iraq, which began in the Sunni Triangle west and north of Baghdad. In Tuesday's report, the Pentagon said the "rejectionists" who are a key element of the insurgency are holding their own against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"MNF-I expects that rejectionist strength will likely remain steady throughout 2006, but that their appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007," the report said. The term MNF-I refers to the Multinational Force-Iraq, the top American military command in Baghdad.

It also said for the first time that the Sunnis who reject the U.S.-based government are collaborating with al-Qaeda.

Read the rest at USA Today