Friday, June 01, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 1st edition

June 1, 2005: U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, rest at the end of a day of cordon and search operations in Fallujah

June 1, 2002:

Bush: U.S. Will Strike First at Enemies

WEST POINT, N.Y., June 1 -- President Bush told future Army officers today that the United States can no longer deter attacks from other nations by threatening massive retaliation, but instead must strike looming enemies first.

Bush's new description of his foreign policy, sketched during the graduation address he gave at the United States Military Academy, sharply revised the positions he took as a candidate, when he emphasized the need to limit U.S. intervention to regions with immediate bearing on the nation's strategic interests.

Today, Bush said the nation "must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries," or roughly one-third of the world. He renewed his months-old promise to "confront regimes that sponsor terror," even though he has found few American allies to endorse his desire to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the Pentagon has told him that the military could be stretched too thin.

"We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge," Bush told the cadets, who listened pensively on West Point's football field as their parents applauded robustly from the stands. "In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."

The speech was the broadest definition to date of the way Bush sees America's new role in the world after the Sept. 11 attacks. He said that not only will the United States impose preemptive, unilateral military force when and where it chooses, but the nation will also punish those who engage in terror and aggression and will work to impose a universal moral clarity between good and evil.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 1, 2003:

Amnesty begins for automatic weapons

BAGHDAD — A coalition initiative to get automatic weapons off Iraq's streets was off to a slow start Sunday. Few people turned guns into military authorities on the first day of a two-week amnesty on the weapons.

"Given the conditions here, people are scared," said Army Spc. Stephen Lamoreux, manning a post in downtown Baghdad. "People want to protect their family and property."

Iraq is awash in guns. Virtually every family keeps assault weapons or pistols at their home or business. Coalition forces are trying to curb robberies, kidnappings and other violent crimes that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Under the new policy, machine guns and other heavy weapons will be banned. Rifles and pistols will be allowed in homes or businesses, but Iraqis will need a permit if they want to carry weapons. Those who fail to turn in banned guns by June 14 face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 1, 2004:

Email shows Cheney 'link' to oil contract

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, helped to steer through a huge contract for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry on behalf of his old firm, Halliburton, Time magazine reported yesterday.

The report, based on an internal Pentagon email, joins a steady stream of allegations of cronyism involving Halliburton. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Houston company has won $17bn (£9bn) in contracts to rebuild Iraq, far outstripping its competitors.

Mr Cheney, who ran Halliburton for five years before he became George Bush's vice-president in 2000, has maintained that he severed all links to the company when he entered public life.

However, Time said it had obtained an internal email from a Pentagon official indicating that Mr Cheney's office had been intimately involved in awarding a multibillion-dollar contract for the restoration of Iraqi oil.

The email, dated March 5 last year, said that Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defence for policy and an avid promoter of the war, had approved a contract with Halliburton "contingent on informing WH [the White House] tomorrow".

The email says that Mr Feith received authorisation for the Rio (Restore Iraqi Oil) contract from the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. The email, from an unidentified official with the Army Corps of Engineers, says: "We anticipate no issues, since action has been coordinated with the VP's office."

No other bids were sought, and Halliburton was awarded the contract.

A spokesman for Mr Cheney's office denied any connection to the contract. "The vice-president and his office have played no role in government contracting since he left private business to campaign for vice-president," in 1999, Kevin Kellems said.

But Mr Cheney has not severed his links with Halliburton. Last year, he received $178,437 in deferred compensation from the company.

Read the rest at the Guardian

June 1, 2005:

War-weary Americans ready to stay the course despite casualties

Strong US public support for the war in Iraq - in spite of mounting costs and casualties - has been one of the main factors encouraging the administration of President George W. Bush to stay the course.

For more than a decade before battle began in March 2003, about 65 per cent of Americans consistently favoured military means to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq. Even the revelation that the former dictator did not possess mass destruction weapons did not alter the majority of Americans' belief that the war had been the right choice at the right time.

But with the resurgence of violence in Iraq since the January elections, a variety of opinion polls is showing a slow but steady decline in those who think the war has been worth the effort. Depending on the wording of the question, the percentage saying the benefits of the war have outweighed the costs has fallen from near 70 per cent in the middle of 2003 to between 40 and 45 per cent today.

More immediately worrying for Mr Bush is research showing that the rise in US war deaths, which are nearing 1,700, is a large factor pulling down his job approval ratings to near 40 per cent, the lowest of his presidency. Political scientists Richard Eichenberg and Richard Stoll estimate that Mr Bush's approval rating has dropped nearly 1½ percentage points for each 100 US battle deaths in Iraq, although their research predicts the numbers are unlikely to get much worse unless the casualty rate increases dramatically.

With little prospect of a pullout of US troops in the near future, the question is whether public opinion - which so far has given Mr Bush a free hand to conduct the conflict as he sees fit - might turn more sharply against the war.

Since US troops left South Vietnam in 1973, there have been two schools of thought on the public's willingness to tolerate a long conflict and heavy casualties.

The first has held that Americans would quickly tire of anything but a short, decisive war with minimal casualties; the second has countered that as long as the stakes were high and mission was clearly articulated by the president, Americans might tolerate deaths in the tens of thousands.

With the US now more than two years into its first prolonged conflict since Vietnam, neither appears quite right. US casualties are still a fraction of those for Vietnam, but majority sentiment has already turned against the Iraq conflict. During the Vietnam War, a majority did not declare the war a mistake until 1968, a year in which nearly 17,000 Americans died in battle.

At the same time, there is little public desire to pull US troops out and leave Iraq to its fate. "There's not a lot of optimism, but people don't want to cut and run," says Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, who has pulled together all the poll results on Iraq and previous conflicts. Despite the growing feeling that the war was a mistake, only 20 to 40 per cent say they want troops withdrawn immediately.

Read the rest at Financial Times

June 1, 2006:

Damaged Iraq marshes show renewed signs of life

The marshes of southern Iraq, devastated in recent decades by Saddam Hussein's regime, are showing a "remarkable" recovery, according to an ecological survey team led by scientists at Duke University and the University of Basrah, according to a press release by EurekAlert.

In their latest and most thorough evaluation of the marshes -- claimed in some quarters to be the site of the biblical Garden of Eden -- the researchers found that populations of many native fish, invertebrate animals, birds and plants are well on their way to recovery.

"When we first arrived in June 2003 with an exploratory team, soon after the start of the current military activities, there were serious questions about whether these areas could ever be restored," said Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center and co-leader of the team. "What's exciting is that when our Iraqi colleagues surveyed the area again in September 2005 -- it was too dangerous by then for American scientists to work there -- their data revealed that more than 40 percent of the marshes have been reflooded.

"What's even more exciting is that the team members recorded tremendous growth in the giant reeds that naturally made up most of the marshes, and they observed bird species that hadn't been seen in 25 years," he said. "In the three areas the team was able to survey, we have proof that an amazing recovery has now begun."

The researchers reported their findings in the June 2006 issue of the journal BioScience. Najah A. Hussain, a fisheries biologist at the University of Basrah, in Iraq, served as co-leader of the team.

The Mesopotamian marshes, which once were twice the original size of Florida's Everglades, were all but destroyed during the 1980s and 1990s by Hussein's troops, who ditched and diked the marshes to cut off the natural inflow of water from the nearby Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The intent, according to many observers, was to punish the people living there, known as Marsh Arabs, for their support of a Shi'a revolt following the first Gulf War.

Hussein's troops also reportedly killed tens of thousands of the Marsh Arabs, and tens of thousands more who were unable to pursue their traditional means of livelihood -- fishing, herding water buffalo and hunting -- fled to southern Iran.

When Richardson made his first trip to evaluate the marshes shortly after Hussein's downfall, he found that some of the remaining inhabitants had begun to blow up the dikes and dams. As a result, portions of the marshes had reflooded, and some native plants were beginning to re-establish themselves in the restored areas, Richardson said.

"That was good news," he said. "But the evaluation could be considered only preliminary, at best."

Official organizations soon launched more formal projects to restore the marshes, supported, in part, by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Richardson said.

During their latest ecological evaluation, Richardson and his colleagues found that in many respects the restored marshes are functioning at nearly normal levels. "The fast recovery of plant production, overall good water quality, and rapid restoration of most wetland functions seem to indicate that the recovery of ecosystem function is well under way," he said.

But the marshes still face problems, said Richardson, a professor of resource ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and chief science adviser to the USAID efforts to restore the marshes.

One major question is how much water the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will supply to the marshes in coming years, he said.

Heavy snowfall in the region over the past two years and the resulting snowmelt in Turkey have led to a strong flow of fresh water into the marshes, Richardson said. "But if there should be a drought, there may not be enough water in the rivers to feed the marshes," he said. "Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran also need water for people and agriculture. In fact, Iran is now building dikes to close off river water supplies to part of the last remaining natural marsh on its border with Iraq, reportedly so it can sell the water to Kuwait."

Iraq and neighboring countries also must use available water more efficiently and cut waste if they are to protect the long-term health of the marshes, Richardson said.

"For example, the continued use of the ancient method of flooding vast agricultural fields from open ditches, coupled with the extremely high evaporation rates that characterize these hot regions, results in massive losses of water to the atmosphere and increased soil salinity problems," he said.

"Modern drip irrigation approaches used in other parts of the Middle East, which slowly feed water onto crops at a measured rate, need to be employed to preserve Iraq's dwindling water supply."

Other questions concern whether the marshes, which had been broken up by years of draining, can be sufficiently reconnected to restore and maintain species diversity, and whether the marshes can be protected if pressure builds to tap the vast quantities of oil believed to lie beneath them.

Read the rest at the Hindu