Sunday, June 17, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 17th edition

June 17, 2004: Iraqis remove the charred remains of a victim of a car bombing at an army recruiting base in Baghdad which killed at least 15 and wounded more than 70 others.

June 17, 2002:

Wall Street Journal: 'Turn Toward Iraq' Has Been Made

The Bush administration has decided to attack Iraq and military preparations should be ready within six months, the Wall Street Journal reported in a page one story this weekend.

The paper said despite conflicting and limited intelligence of Iraqi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, evidence first emerging last October indicates that terrorists have been planning to make and explode a dirty bomb potentially in Washington or New York.

This and other developments have erased any remaining reservations that Iraq must be neutralized in a preemptory strike of some nature.

Delaying the inevitable are only the logistics of preparing and mounting out some 200,000 troops, a task likely to consume about six months. Some in the administration argue that the job can be done more surgically -- but the job will be done, concludes the Journal...

In tracing the evolution of administration policy on Iraq, the Journal focuses on several salient developments that has moved the administration’s crosshairs over Baghdad.

- In late October, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warns of coming attacks that would, "make Sept. 11 look like child’s play by using some terrible weapon." The most likely provider of that terrible weapon is Iraq, opines Rice.
"[I]t is because Iraq is one of those places that is both hostile to us, and, frankly, irresponsible and cruel enough to make this available," Rice says.

- Just weeks ago, Bush admonishes the cadets at West Point, "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.”

- In Germany last month, Bush calls a potential Iraq-al-Qaeda alliance "a threat to civilization itself”...

- Percolating in the mix: Czech intelligence officials report that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met an Iraqi agent in Prague in April 2001.

- Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haidari, a concrete contractor, tells U.S. authorities in December that he helped build dozens of Mr. Hussein’s latest weapons labs, and that they were scattered throughout Baghdad underneath homes and mosques. He has work orders to back up his claims.
- In Bush’s State of the Union speech in January, he depicts Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil.” Bush warns, "They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.”

- In late fall, U.S. troops discover rudimentary designs for nuclear weapons in an al-Qaeda hideout. Although inconclusive, a cache of documents, computers, books and notes demonstrates al-Qaeda’s earnest quest for weapons of mass destruction.

- Most recently, Vice President Dick Cheney sallies forth with the fighting words, "A regime that hates America and everything we stand for must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.”

The Journal concludes that the most specific declaration about the administration’s immediate intentions towards Iraq remains Bush’s pronouncement to reporters in the United Kingdom last April: "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go. That’s about all I’m willing to share with you.”

Read the rest at NewsMax

June 17, 2003:

America's rebuilding of Iraq is in chaos, say British

The American-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is "in chaos" and suffering from "a complete absence of strategic direction", a very senior British official in Baghdad has told The Telegraph.

The comments paint a grim picture of American incompetence and mismanagement as the Coalition Provisional Authority struggles to run post-Saddam Iraq.

"This is the single most chaotic organisation I have ever worked for," the official said yesterday.

The source revealed that Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, had "fewer than 600" staff under his control to run a country the size of France in which the civil infrastructure was on the point of collapse.

"The operation is chronically under-resourced and suffers from an almost complete absence of strategic direction," he added.

Similar frustrations have been voiced privately in London, where British ministers are said to be fed up with being "taken for granted"...

Officials said a crippling problem is the fact that the US has transposed Washington's inter-departmental fighting to Baghdad.

For instance, the payment of salaries has been slowed down by Washington's inability to decide which currency to use - US dollars, the former regime's "Saddam dinars" or the so-called "Swiss dinars" used in the Kurdish areas.

In Baghdad the senior British official said the chaos at the heart of the coalition was seriously hampering its ability to deliver vital services to the Iraqi people, such as salaries, electricity and security.

"We are facing an almost complete inability to engage with what needs to be done and to bring to bear sufficient resources to make a difference," he said.

The official added that a dangerous gulf was opening up between the expectations of the Iraqi people and what the coalition was realistically able to deliver. The growing dissatisfaction among ordinary Iraqis - intensified by the temper-fraying heat of a Baghdad summer - is easily discernible on the streets of the capital.

As 10 local builders used shovels and wheelbarrows to repair the Baghdad police station, residents outside demanded to know when they would see more Iraqi police on the streets.

Some April salaries remain unpaid and the electricity supply remains extremely unreliable.

The heavy-handed presence of American soldiers and, perhaps more importantly, the lack of any visible Iraqi partnership in Government is further fuelling resentment.

The official, who was involved in the planning for post-war Iraq from its conception, said Washington had been seriously caught out by the discovery that Iraq was no longer a functioning country.

"The original post-war plan was to solve the humanitarian crisis - should it have arisen, which it did not - and then use the existing Iraqi ministries and officials to get the country running again as quickly as possible."

In the event the coalition arrived in Baghdad to find the ministries looted and destroyed and Iraqi civil servants "unable to make decisions themselves" after years of living in a police state.

"They demand written authority to do the tiniest thing, as a consequence of living under Saddam," he said. Within weeks it became obvious that the operation would take years not months.

Joseph Collins, head of stability operations at the US Defence Department, conceded to Congressmen last week that bringing order to Iraq had proved "tougher and more complex" than had been expected.

The situation was not irretrievable, the British official said, before warning that the coalition could face serious difficulties and even unrest if it was unable to raise its game in the coming months.

"This is a difficult period, particularly with the extreme temperatures," he concluded, "It could be said that we are currently sowing the seeds of a better Iraq, but if we don't have anything to harvest by the autumn, we could face the consequences."

Read the rest at the Telegraph

June 17, 2004:

Bremer satisfied with Iraq's progress

BAGHDAD — Despite an increase in violence before the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, the American administrator of Iraq says the country is on a path to democracy that will carry it through to elections and a representative government early next year.

"This is a very different country than it was 15 months ago," Paul Bremer said in an interview this week with USA TODAY. "We've established the concept of rule of law governing society, instead of the rule of man — one man," he added, referring to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Bremer will leave Iraq in the hands of a new interim government run by Iraqis on June 30. But as the turnover date approaches, Iraq has been hit by a new wave of violence. Saboteurs have blown up major oil pipelines, bringing exports to a halt. Suicide bombers have struck almost every day this month, including Thursday's attack on police recruits in Baghdad that killed at least 35 and injured scores more.

Bremer says such setbacks should not diminish the gains that have been made since last year's invasion. "I think Americans can be quite satisfied with the political and economic changes that we have started. We certainly haven't completed the process, but it's going the right way." Among the changes instituted by Bremer:

• Economic reforms, including an independent central bank, free trade and a liberal policy toward foreign investment. Iraq also has a balanced budget law — something the United States has not done for itself.

• An independent judiciary and a bill of rights, written by the Iraqi Governing Council appointed by Bremer.

• Representative government. Although the interim government now is appointed, Bremer signed a law setting elections for next January.

Although Iraqis approve of those changes, they have not won much affection for Bremer or his occupation government.

Meanwhile, polls show Iraqis have lost their patience with the U.S. presence here because of the violence and the continuing lack of services such as electricity. Where Iraqis once welcomed the Americans, they now want them to leave.

Ending the violence, one of Bremer's major goals, is one task he will have to leave for the next government.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 17, 2005:

What motivates suicide bombers?

We have entered a new phase of the Iraq war since the optimism following the Jan. 30 elections there, and the manifestations of the changes are everywhere.

Every American general who comes out of Baghdad now speaks only in words that are hesitant, relative, depressed. Here at home, the figures emerging from even the Pentagon are frightening: The Army and the Army National Guard are likely to meet only 75 percent of their recruiting targets in the next year.

Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center reported this week that disillusionment is setting in with the American people over Iraq. "We are seeing more and more saying, 'Get the troops out,' " he said this week. "They are getting the continuing portrait of an insurgency that just doesn't quit. Six months ago, 65 percent of Americans were saying the war could meet its goals; now only 46 percent are saying that." London's International Institute of Strategic Studies says U.S. troops will be needed for six more years.

Yet, despite these surface indications of trouble ahead, the administration sticks stubbornly to its underlying thesis: Suicide bombers are religious zealots who must be defeated there, lest they attack us here. The logic has not budged an inch in two years: They are crazy and brutal Islamic fundamentalists, motivated by religious beliefs that would radicalize the entire Middle East were it not for us.

The problem now is that the rationalization for all the mistakes that led us into Iraq and keep us there is quite awfully turned on its head. According to ground-shaking analyses by two brilliant, nonideological scholars, it is our military presence in the Middle East that is every day creating the suicide bombers – and will continue to do so until we change our policies.

Robert A. Pape, associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, has also been heading the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. With a team of analysts, he has studied suicide terrorist bombers from Sri Lanka, where they began, to Israel-

Palestine, to Lebanon, to Iraq. He has created a database – the first ever conceived – of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 to 2003, and his findings are unequivocal.

First, he did not find the bombers to be fanatical or essentially unusual people – "Suicide terrorists' political aims, if not their methods, are often more mainstream than observers realize," he wrote in his recent book, "Dying to Win." "They generally reflect quite common, straightforward nationalist self-determination claims of their community."

Second, contrary to the beliefs of this administration, religion plays a very small role in their motivations. "Rather," Pape pointed out to me when we met recently at the University of Chicago, "what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause."

Third, the president's beloved idea that "regime change" and "democratization" will decrease suicide bombings and other related violence is flawed. In fact, Pape says: "An attempt to transform Muslim societies through regime change is likely to dramatically increase the threat we face. The root cause of suicide terrorism is foreign occupation and the threat that foreign military presence poses to the local community's way of life.

"The stationing of tens of thousands of American combat troops on the Arabian Peninsula from 1990 to 2001 probably made al-Qaeda suicide attacks against Americans ... from five to 20 times more likely. Hence, the longer American troops remain in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf in general, the greater the risk of the next Sept. 11."

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

June 17, 2006:

Search continues for 2 soldiers in Iraq

A farmer claiming to have witnessed an attack on a U.S. military checkpoint said Sunday that insurgents swarmed the scene, killing the driver of a Humvee before taking two of his comrades captive.

U.S. troops, backed by helicopters and warplanes, fanned out across the so-called "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad searching for the missing servicemen. At least four raids had been carried out, but the captives were not found, the military said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said Saturday a dive team also was searching for the men, whose checkpoint was near a Euphrates River canal not far from Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad. The Sunni region is the site of frequent ambushes of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi troops.

Ahmed Khalaf Falah, a farmer who said he witnessed the attack Friday, said three Humvees were manning a checkpoint when they came under fire from many directions. Two Humvees went after the assailants, but the third was ambushed before it could move, he told The Associated Press.

Seven masked gunmen, including one carrying what Falah described as a heavy machine gun, killed the driver of the third vehicle, then took the two other U.S. soldiers captive, the witness said. His account could not be verified independently.

The U.S. military said Sunday it was continuing the search.

"Coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to search everywhere possible, uncovering every stone, until our soldiers are found, and we will continue to use every resource available in our search," it said.

Read the rest at USA Today