Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 12th edition

June 12, 2006: U.S. Marines and Navy corpsmen assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, clear the landing zone after rushing a wounded Marine to a CH-46 helicopter for medical evacuation at Observation Post Falcons

June 12, 2002:

Bush has 'solid basis for showing Saddam is lying'

President George W Bush had a "solid" basis for showing that Saddam Hussein is lying when he insists Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, the White House said yesterday.

The comment came as Saddam made the latest move in his chess game with America and Britain when he declared that United Nations weapons inspectors would be given a "proper chance" to go about their work in Iraq.

Saddam's conciliatory words, shown on state television, contrasted sharply with the belligerence of his senior aides.

They have repeatedly attacked the inspectors, calling them "spies" from the CIA and Mossad.

United States officials will not reveal how they will respond to Saddam's inventory, due to be delivered to the UN by Sunday but promised for tomorrow.

However, there are increasing signs that the Bush administration will use it to try to prove that Saddam is engaged in deception.

Ari Fleischer, Mr Bush's spokesman, said: "The president and the secretary of defence [Donald Rumsfeld] would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it."

Mr Rumsfeld said earlier this week: "Any country with an active intelligence programme knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

Read the rest at the Telegraph

June 12, 2003:

CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data

A key component of President Bush's claim in his State of the Union address last January that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program -- its alleged attempt to buy uranium in Niger -- was disputed by a CIA-directed mission to the central African nation in early 2002, according to senior administration officials and a former government official. But the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies, the officials said.

The CIA's failure to share what it knew, which has not been disclosed previously, was one of a number of steps in the Bush administration that helped keep the uranium story alive until the eve of the war in Iraq, when the United Nations' chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council that the claim was based on fabricated evidence.

A senior intelligence official said the CIA's action was the result of "extremely sloppy" handling of a central piece of evidence in the administration's case against then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But, the official added, "It is only one fact and not the reason we went to war. There was a lot more."

However, a senior CIA analyst said the case "is indicative of larger problems" involving the handling of intelligence about Iraq's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and its links to al Qaeda, which the administration cited as justification for war. "Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was [consistent] was not seriously scrutinized," the analyst said.

As the controversy over Iraq intelligence has expanded with the failure so far of U.S. teams in Iraq to uncover proscribed weapons, intelligence officials have accused senior administration policymakers of pressuring the CIA or exaggerating intelligence information to make the case for war. The story involving the CIA's uranium-purchase probe, however, suggests that the agency also was shaping intelligence on Iraq to meet the administration's policy goals...

Armed with information purportedly showing that Iraqi officials had been seeking to buy uranium in Niger one or two years earlier, the CIA in early February 2002 dispatched a retired U.S. ambassador to the country to investigate the claims, according to the senior U.S. officials and the former government official, who is familiar with the event. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity and on condition that the name of the former ambassador not be disclosed.

During his trip, the CIA's envoy spoke with the president of Niger and other Niger officials mentioned as being involved in the Iraqi effort, some of whose signatures purportedly appeared on the documents.

After returning to the United States, the envoy reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," the former U.S. government official said.

However, the CIA did not include details of the former ambassador's report and his identity as the source, which would have added to the credibility of his findings, in its intelligence reports that were shared with other government agencies. Instead, the CIA only said that Niger government officials had denied the attempted deal had taken place, a senior administration said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 12, 2004:

How to lose friends and alienate people in Iraq

The country beyond Ramadi flattens out like a cracker biscuit. A six-lane desert highway stretches westward, all the way to Jordan. At times it crosses ribbons of green that sketch the route of irrigation canals; in other places it detours around scenes of battle-charred tanks and trucks, broken bridges and decapitated date palms.

Before the war, the four-wheel-drive would head north for a couple of miles, taking a sandy track over the railroad and away from "the big house". When it paused briefly at a junction on the Jordan highway, the tribal sheikh behind the wheel was taking his life into his hands. Literally.

When Malik Abdul Karim al-Kharbit turned left, he was going to Amman. It meant that as one of the more powerful tribal leaders in all of Iraq, he was putting his family and his business empire on the line. He was headed for the Jordanian capital, about 800 kilometres away, where he would betray Saddam Hussein in secret meetings with US intelligence agents.

Under the cover of social engagements with senior government officials and sometimes with the king of Jordan himself, Sheikh Malik delivered priceless information that had been fed to him by members of his Kharbit clan and by others at all levels of Saddam's military and security apparatus. An official who attended some of these debriefings was emphatic: "Malik was very much Washington's man in Iraq."

Now Sheikh Malik is dead, but it wasn't Saddam Hussein who killed him - it was the Americans. In the avalanche of reporting that marked the collapse of Baghdad early in April 2003, little attention was paid to a statement from the US Central Command claiming the US had bombed the home of Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, a half-brother to Saddam Hussein and former head of Iraqi intelligence. The attack was on April 11, two days after the demolition of the great Saddam statue in Baghdad. Reporters were told that six smart bombs had hammered into a house near Ramadi, in the centre of Iraq. There was speculation that Barzan was dead - that a joker had gone from the Americans' "most-wanted" deck of cards.

But when US Central Command announced later that Barzan was alive and had just been captured in the capital, no questions were asked. Barzan did have a stake in a poultry farm west of Ramadi, which locals said had been bombed by the US on April 4, but he was not known to have a house nearby. The only American attack near the town, on April 11, was 13 kilometres further west, and the target was the big house, Sheikh Malik's family home. The result was an atrocity that in the roiling Iraq crisis went virtually unreported; 22 civilians died, mostly women and children, almost all of them Malik's immediate relatives. They died as six powerful explosions tore his home apart.

It had been one of the most imposing homes in the region. When I was there, the sight of the sandwiched concrete slabs, once the floors, compelled me into the rubble. The shredded remains of a woman's gold embroidered blouse lay tangled in broken cinder-blocks; shattered ceramic tiles were littered among the foam stuffing ripped from a couch; there was a smiling Barbie doll in a yellow polka-dot dress, the heat of the blast fusing her blonde hair with the mangled plastic of an electrical fitting; and here were the children's charred school books.

I went to Ramadi towards the end of the Iraqi summer of 2003, seeking but not quite believing the story of Malik's death. But the recollections of a young man named Fahal Abdul Hamid, a nephew of the dead sheikh, made the events of a terrible night all too real: "It was 2am and the house was crowded - more than 50 people . . . Most of the men were in another building watching the war on satellite TV. There was a blast of light and a fog of dust; it was hard to breathe. I went towards the big house but not much of it was left. More than half of the victims were kids under the age of nine; Malik's six-month-old daughter was never found; his mother, his wife, his sister and four of his nieces died; I found my younger brother - dead. We thought we'd be safe because . . . we believed the Americans had to know where Malik was. We have houses in Jordan, Syria and Egypt. We could have gone anywhere but we chose to stay because the sheikh should be among his people when times are hard."

Months after the US strike, chaos still gripped the clan. The new sheikh, Malik's 33-year-old brother Hamad, had not yet come to terms with the death in the bombing of four of his daughters, all under the age of five, and the loss of his only son, aged two. For the time being, it had fallen to Sheikh Abdul Hamid, the father of Fahal, to hold things together by stepping in to act as leader of the Kharbit clan.

Malik, by all accounts, was a man of rare qualities. By tradition, the eldest son of a sheikh assumes the leadership on the death of his father, but Malik was handpicked as a child by his father ahead of his older brothers and groomed for leadership. Thirty-five years old when he died, he was a shrewd tribal chief and businessman.

Family members offered a litany of reasons for the sheikh's decision to become a US agent: the regime was frustrating his business plans; he was tired of the suffering of ordinary Iraqis after more than a decade of UN sanctions; most of all, he was tired of Saddam.

The symbolic heart of an Iraqi tribe is its mudhef. It is here that the sheikh holds his daily court, dispensing largesse and receiving troubled tribesmen, passers-by and visiting dignitaries. To enter what was once Sheikh Malik's mudhef is to step into another world, a parallel universe to the one in which the Bush Administration struggles to manipulate a Rubik's Cube of Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish elements, hoping to resolve them into a democratic whole. As the US focuses on its self-appointed task, around it, unseen, are the pillars of an ancient tribal society that, along with religious crossbeams of equal strength and proportions, are likely to doom the American quest. When I visited Malik's mudhef, a feast was produced even though I had arrived unannounced and it was the middle of the day. Fahal, the nephew of the dead sheikh, pointed to the steel doors, making what turned out to be a tribal declaration of survival: "This mudhef is always open."

It is still not clear how, let alone why, the Americans came to destroy one of their key sources of information about Saddam and his regime.

It seemed incredible to me that someone who had already been so useful to the Americans, and who could have been even more useful in advising them how best to gain some degree of acceptance in the most hostile territory in Iraq, could be killed without so much as an apology. Was it simply a colossal blunder? Perhaps. Yet Malik's death opens a window on to the American attempt to impose its version of democracy in a lonely place where it needs all the friends it can get.

Read the rest at the Age

June 12, 2005:

Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Postwar Iraq Plan

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."

The July 21 memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a meeting with his national security team two days later that has become controversial on both sides of the Atlantic since last month's disclosure of official notes summarizing the session.

In those meeting minutes -- which have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo -- British officials who had just returned from Washington said Bush and his aides believed war was inevitable and were determined to use intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his relations with terrorists to justify invasion of Iraq.

The "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," said the memo -- an assertion attributed to the then-chief of British intelligence, and denied by U.S. officials and by Blair at a news conference with Bush last week in Washington. Democrats in Congress led by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), however, have scheduled an unofficial hearing on the matter for Thursday.

Now, disclosure of the memo written in advance of that meeting -- and other British documents recently made public -- show that Blair's aides were not just concerned about Washington's justifications for invasion but also believed the Bush team lacked understanding of what could happen in the aftermath.

In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 12, 2006:

Armor on Iraq Humvees Is Linked to Deadly Rollovers

DAYTON, Ohio, June 11 -- Thousands of pounds of armor added to military Humvees in Iraq have made the vehicles more likely to roll over and kill or injure soldiers, a newspaper reported.

"I believe the up-armoring has caused more deaths than it has saved," Scott Badenoch, a former Delphi Corp. vehicle dynamics expert, told the Dayton Daily News for its Sunday editions.

Congress and the Army have spent tens of millions of dollars on armor for the Humvee fleet in Iraq, the newspaper said.

That armor -- much of it installed on the M1114 Humvee built at the Armor Holdings Inc. plant north of Cincinnati -- has shielded soldiers from harm.

But serious accidents involving the M1114 have increased, and accidents are much more likely to be rollovers than those involving other Humvee models, the newspaper reported.

An analysis of the Army's ground-accident database, which includes records from March 2003 through November 2005, found that 60 of the 85 soldiers who died in Humvee accidents in Iraq -- or about 70 percent -- were killed when the vehicle rolled, the newspaper said. Of the 337 injuries, 149 occurred in rollovers.

"The whole thing is a formula for disaster," said Badenoch, who is working with the military to design a lighter-armored vehicle.

Army spokesman John Boyce Jr. told the Associated Press on Sunday that the military takes the issue seriously and continues to provide soldiers with additional training on the armored Humvee.

The Army has made safety upgrades to the vehicle, including improved seat restraint belts and a fire-suppression system, he said.

There are more than 25,300 armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post