Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 26th edition

June 26, 2006: A soldier from 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, secures the perimeter during a patrol through the Ameriyah area of Baghdad

June 26, 2002:

Americans in survey support first strike by military

WASHINGTON — Americans strongly support the option of U.S. military strikes against enemies who have not attacked first, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.

The survey appears to back President Bush's first-strike strategy against terrorists and states with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Bush said earlier this month that he would reserve the right not to wait until an enemy attacked the United States before taking pre-emptive action.

Four out of five of those polled favor military action against a country that is planning to attack the United States or is aiding terrorists who target Americans. Almost three-fourths in the survey favor action against enemies that are developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The questions were asked of 527 adults Friday through Sunday.

"It says that the American public is frightened about the potential for rogue states and some of the terrorist groups they support to conduct something like a Sept. 11 again, or worse," says Kenneth Katzman, terror analyst with the Congressional Research Service.

The poll did not name Iraq or its leader, Saddam Hussein, whose regime Bush has said must be replaced. Other recent surveys have shown softening support for invading Iraq. A Gallup Poll last week found that support for sending U.S. troops into Iraq has fallen from 74% in November to 59%.

The administration is "going to have to go to the American public and make the case why a strike is necessary," says Stuart Rothenberg, an independent political analyst. "One way to do that is to demonstrate a clear and present danger to Americans."

Read the rest at USA Today

June 26, 2003:

US widens postwar Iraq review

The Pentagon has sent a team of outside policy experts to conduct an independent review of postwar operations in Iraq amid growing criticism that the US failed to prepare adequately for occupation.

A group from Washington left on Thursday at the invitation of Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary.

They are under instructions to provide an outside opinion on a strategy review being conducted by Paul Bremer, America's de facto viceroy in Iraq, and the Defense Department.

The mission comes as companies looking to invest in Iraq or win reconstruction contracts are being warned of an "even" chance of the country descending into open revolt.

The US military reported on Thursday that one special forces soldier was killed and eight more injured in an attack, while one Marine was killed and another two injured in an accident on the way to assist forces that had come under fire. In addition the Pentagon confirmed that two other soldiers were missing.

The risks for companies have been highlighted by apparent sabotage attacks on oil pipelines.

Intelligence gathered by Kroll, the corporate security group, advises clients that political transition is unlikely to go smoothly.

"It is pretty unlikely that the kind of liberal capitalist democracy that has been talked about is going to emerge any time soon," said the consultancy.

The Kroll report, which is being sold for $5,800 to corporate clients and agencies, outlines four potential short-term scenarios but says two - a stable "soft landing" or complete fragmentation - are extremely unlikely.

Instead, it concentrates on the even chances of a "wobbly landing" or an "Iraqi revolt". Its findings are based on field visits and the advice of security experts.

The Bush administration's decision to call in people from outside government, who wrote policy papers on postwar Iraq, suggests growing discomfort in Washington at the security problems facing its forces.

Read the rest at Financial Times

June 26, 2004:

Iraq war casualties mounting for U.S. citizen soldiers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Iraq war is taking a growing toll on soldiers of the National Guard and Reserve, which have suffered more deaths since April 1 than in the previous seven months combined.

The trend may continue after the transfer of sovereignty, since the size of the U.S. military force in Iraq — including Guard and Reserve soldiers — is not shrinking, and may even increase. Military officials warn that while the U.S.-led occupation authority ends Wednesday, the danger for troops will not.

"We should expect more violence, not less, in the immediate weeks ahead," Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee this past week.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, testifying with Pace, predicted that the next six months will be "particularly difficult, particularly dangerous," for American forces in Iraq.

That forecast was underlined by Thursday's surge of insurgent attacks across Iraq which killed more than 100 Iraqis and three American troops — an Army Reserve soldier from Wisconsin and two Army National Guardsmen from North Carolina.

Part-time soldiers of the National Guard and Reserve have played a role in virtually every U.S. conflict, including the 1991 war against Iraq. But rarely have they suffered so many casualties. Some states are reporting their first Guard combat deaths since World War II.

The Guard and Reserve are on active duty by presidential order. They might have played a somewhat smaller role in Iraq, but the Bush administration could not get as many foreign troop contributions as it anticipated and the Iraqi insurgency has been more violent than expected.

Throughout the conflict, deaths among National Guard and Reserve troops have represented 15% to 20% of the monthly U.S. total. In May that figure jumped to 28%, and it jumped even higher this month, when 18 of the first 35 Americans who died were members of the Guard or Reserve.

The Pentagon has not publicly announced all the units that will be going to Iraq in the next rotation of forces, which begins in July, but the National Guard and Reserve are likely to represent at least 35 percent-40 percent of the total force. They make up about 35% of the troops there now.

Army Gen. George Casey, chosen to assume command of all U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, told Congress on Thursday that that National Guard and Reserve troops could make up as much as 50% of the total U.S. force in Iraq in the months ahead.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 26, 2005:

U.S. Talks With Iraqi Insurgents Confirmed

The U.S. military in Iraq has been holding face-to-face meetings with some Iraqi leaders of the insurgency there, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the U.S. commander in charge of Iraq confirmed yesterday.

The talks are part of the military's revised campaign to drive a wedge between the Iraqi and foreign insurgents, according to U.S. commanders. Pentagon officials have acknowledged the new strategy but have not, until now, spoken openly about efforts to make contact with some Iraqi insurgent leaders.

Asked to respond to a report that U.S. military representatives had meetings with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News that "there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to "split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.

Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.

The military plan, approved in August 2004, seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents who are responsible for most of the suicide bombings -- which have killed more than 1,200 people in the past couple of months -- and whose larger political aims are unclear.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 26, 2006:

If wanton murder is essential to the US campaign in Iraq, it's time to leave

Every four years it's the same. The hand of God, the sending off, the miskick that finds only our net - the fluke that shatters the dream. Each World Cup some freakish incident dashes England's hopes with such predictable regularity that the only truly surprising thing is the surprise itself. Rather than resign ourselves to the fact that our national team is good, but not that good, we delve into the detail of each particular defeat as though it alone holds the key to us winning the trophy in four years' time.

Both logically and statistically there is only so long that we can continue to describe a regular occurrence as anomalous and still be taken seriously. To treat the consistent as aberrant not only defies common sense but prevents any intelligent assessment of the nature and scale of the problem at hand.

So it is with the slew of alleged atrocities committed by the US military in Iraq. Many have produced their own investigation, occasionally their own sanction, and inevitably their own version of shock and bore among the American public. Amazement that American soldiers could be involved in such despicable actions is soon followed by a lack of interest in the consequences.

Last week the US military charged eight marines with kidnapping and murdering a disabled Iraqi civilian in Hamdania on April 26. According to the charges, they dragged Hashim Ibrahim Awad, otherwise known as "Hashim the lame" because of the metal plate in his leg, from his home and bound his feet and hands. Locals say the marines then shot him four times in the face. According to prosecutors they put an AK47 and a shovel next to his body to make it look as though he had been digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb.

This is not to be confused with the alleged execution of 11 Iraqi civilians, including four children, near the city of Balad. Or the investigation into the murder of three Iraqis held in custody in Salahaddin province, north of Baghdad. Or the two soldiers charged in connection with the murder of an unarmed man near Ramadi who then placed an AK47 next to his body. Which, in turn, should not be mistaken for the atrocities at Haditha, where marines killed 24 civilians - including 10 women and children and an old man in a wheelchair.

Let us leave aside for the moment that these are just a few of the atrocities reported in Iraq, that there have almost certainly been atrocities that haven't come to light and that untold thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by US forces in conditions considered insufficiently atrocious to be worthy of investigation.

To treat even these few incidents as isolated chapters is to miss the broader, enduring narrative. For these are not the unfathomable offshoots of this war but the entirely foreseeable corollaries of it. This is what occupation is; this is what occupation does. There is nothing specifically American about it. Any nation that occupies another by force will meet resistance. For that resistance to be effective, it must have deep roots in local communities where opposition to the occupation is widespread. Unable to distinguish between insurgent and civilian, occupiers will regard all civilians as potential insurgents and all territory as enemy territory. "Saying who's a civilian or a 'muj' [mujahideen] in Iraq, you really can't," one marine under investigation told the New York Times recently. "This town did not want us there at all." Under these circumstances, dead women, children and disabled people are the price you pay for being invaded.

Take Haditha. It lies deep in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where several US troops have been killed by insurgents. On November 19 a 13-man squad of marines were about two miles from their base when a roadside bomb exploded, killing one soldier and seriously injuring two others.

Civilian survivors say the marines then went on the rampage, killing five unarmed men in a car and bursting into houses and shooting people at close range as they tried to protect their children or prayed for their lives. The death certificates describe well-aimed shots to the head and chest: a massacre by any definition of the word. "I think they were just blinded by hate ... and they just lost control," said James Crossan, one of the injured marines, referring to his colleagues.

The US squad leader now under investigation describes things differently. He says that after the bombing he saw young men jump out of a white car and run away. So he shot them, understanding that the rules of engagement allowed him to shoot men of military age running away from the site of a bombing.

Then, believing they were under fire from nearby houses, he says, they broke into a house. One threw a grenade into a room where they heard voices while another sprayed the room with gunfire. This is called "prepping the room". They murdered seven civilians, including a four-year-old boy.

They claim they then saw a back door open and, believing they were in "hot pursuit" of a gunman, broke into a second house and prepped another room, killing eight civilians, including two women and five children aged from three to 14. The imperialist "wears a mask", wrote George Orwell, "and his face grows to fit it".

Bear in mind that this is the marines' account, according to their lawyers - in other words, the account they feel puts them in the best possible light. Let's assume they were telling the truth. Given everything we know about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by the US, what military-aged Iraqi male in his right mind would not run from a battalion of American soldiers after a bomb has gone off? How does blindly spraying a room of civilians with gunfire square with winning hearts and minds?

After Haditha was exposed, the US military pledged to provide its troops with a course on "core warrior values" to ensure they were aware of battlefield ethics. But the problem is not just that these marines did not play it by the book - the book itself is the problem. These atrocities are not contrary to the ethics of this particular occupation but the natural and inevitable consequence of it.

In response to news of Haditha, George Bush said: "If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment ... The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."

International law was broken but there will be no punishment. The few who are responsible remain in the White House while the many who are embroiled in the conflict are brutalised or murdered, or both. "You've got to do whatever it takes to get home," said one marine. "If it takes clearing by fire where there's civilians, that's it." There is, of course, another option. Just go home. If the wanton murder of civilians is what it takes to complete your mission, there is clearly something wrong with the mission. You can only talk about a few bad apples for so long before you need to take a serious look at the barrel.

Read the rest at the Guardian