Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 10th edition

July 10, 2006: A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and an Iraqi soldier uncover a hidden weapons cache near Bayji.

July 10, 2002:

Timing, Tactics on Iraq War Disputed

An increasingly contentious debate is underway within the Bush administration over how to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with the civilian leadership pushing for innovative solutions using smaller numbers of troops and military planners repeatedly responding with more cautious approaches that would employ far larger forces.

Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are pushing most forcefully for aggressively confronting Hussein, arguing that he presents a serious threat and that time is not on the side of the United States, according to several people involved in the closely held discussions.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and CIA Director George J. Tenet are asking skeptical questions about a military campaign, especially about the aftermath of what most in the administration assume would be a fairly swift victory, according to those taking part in the deliberations.

Much of the senior uniformed military, with the notable exception of some top Air Force and Marine generals, opposes going to war anytime soon, a stance that is provoking frustration among civilian officials in the Pentagon and in the White House. In addition, some suspect that Powell's stance has produced an unusual alliance between the State Department and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.

What is not being debated, officials said, is the ultimate goal of removing Hussein from power, an outcome that President Bush has repeatedly said he is determined to pursue. But how to do that still has not been decided. Officials stressed that the administration is still early in the process of discussing a variety of approaches to attacking Iraq and that no formal plan has been put before the president.

Some top military officials argue that the policy of aggressive containment -- through "no-fly" zones, a naval enforcement of sanctions and the nearby presence of 20,000 U.S. military personnel -- has kept Hussein from becoming an immediate threat. Bush has also approved a covert operation to try to dislodge Hussein from power, working in part with Iraqi opposition groups. The questions being debated now, officials said, are whether to move against Hussein with overt military action and, if so, when and how.

The lack of answers to those questions is producing new stresses within the administration, some defense experts said. Two people involved in the debate -- one inside the Pentagon, one outside it -- said Cheney and others at the White House are growing concerned that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military leaders have fought Rumsfeld and other civilian hawks to a standstill. "I'm picking up a concern that people at the top of the Pentagon are overwhelmed," said one Republican foreign policy expert...

There are deep differences of opinion about how the debate is likely to end, even among people intimately involved in the process, officials said. Some think the military's concerns will put the brakes on those advocating a direct confrontation with Hussein, while others say the president has been so clear about his determination to remove the Iraqi president from power that he cannot back down.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

July 10, 2003:

Franks unsure how long Iraq occupation will last

WASHINGTON (AP) — American troops could still be in Iraq four years from now, the war's former commander told members of Congress concerned about persistent, deadly attacks.

The number of U.S. troops in Iraq probably won't decline significantly from the current 148,000 until sometime next year, Gen. Tommy Franks said Thursday. The kinds of hit-and-run attacks that killed two American soldiers Wednesday will continue, he warned.

"We need to not develop an expectation that all of these difficulties will go away in one month or two months or three months," Franks told the House Armed Services Committee.

"I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future," Franks added later. "Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know."

President Bush also asked for patience Thursday, saying the United States would "have to remain tough" in Iraq despite the attacks that Franks said were coming at a rate of 10 to 25 per day.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in remarks taped for CNN's Larry King Live, said: "I regret that we are still losing troops and young men and women are being wounded, but they're being wounded by people who don't want to see the Iraqi people free. ... Security will be achieved and then we can get on with the business of rebuilding a country and helping that country put in place a representative form of government."

Read the rest at USA Today

July 10, 2004:

Engines of Industry Sputtering in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Once a month for the past year, Essam Awada, 28, went to work to pick up his pay. The genial warehouse foreman would sit around with the other guys at the water tank factory, tell a few Saddam jokes, and they would get their money and go home. But now, he said, he doesn't bother. A neighbor brings him his pay.

"They told us not to even come in. There's no work," Awada said, shrugging.

A friend, Mohammad Armut, is an aircraft engineer. He used to work on the Iraqi military's Russian fighters. But there are no more military planes, no civilian airline and no work for him. Armut, like other workers, got a raise when the Americans took over. He gets a check every month for doing nothing.

The minister in charge of Iraq's vast number of state-owned industries says about two-thirds of his workforce is unneeded. Other officials estimate that more than half the state-owned companies are not running and that the remainder are limping at a fraction of their capacity.

That gap illustrates the vast scale of the difficulties facing the interim Iraqi government, which took the reins of civilian authority June 28.

Fifteen months after the U.S. occupation began, with its ambitious goals of converting Iraq into a free-market model for the Middle East, the wheels of Iraq's daily economy are barely turning.

Little reconstruction is evident. Bombed or looted buildings remain vacant shells. Factories remain still, idled by lack of electricity, the absence of a market and a shortage of raw materials, equipment parts and motivation. U.S. plans to privatize Iraq's antiquated government-run industries fell flat. Iraqi officials say their American supervisors came, surveyed the problems and left.

"The Americans came in thinking it would be a picnic," said Hachim Hasani, the new minister of industry and minerals. "They were misled."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

July 10, 2005:

Why Iraq Has Made Us Less Safe

Sir Ivor Roberts, Britain's Ambassador to Italy, declared last September that the "best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda" was none other than the U.S. President, George W. Bush. With the American election entering its final furlongs, he added, "If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it is al-Qaeda." The remarks, made at an off-the-record conference, were leaked in the Italian press, and Sir Ivor, facing the displeasure of his Foreign Office masters for committing the sin of candor, disowned the comments. But now, as the soot settles in the London Underground, the words hang again in the air.

It is, of course, bad manners to point the finger at anyone but those responsible for the killings in London. They shed the blood; they must answer for it. But as the trail of bodies that began with the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 continues to lengthen, we need to ask why the attacks keep coming. One key reason is that Osama bin Laden's "achievements" in standing up to the American colossus on 9/11 have inspired others to follow his lead. Another is that American actions--above all, the invasion and occupation of Iraq--have galvanized still more Muslims and convinced them of the truth of bin Laden's vision.

The conflict between radical Islam and the West, like all ideological struggles, is about competing stories. The audience is the global community of Muslims. America portrays itself as a benign and tolerant force that, with its Western partners, holds the keys to progress and prosperity. Radical Islamists declare that the universe is governed by a war between believers and World Infidelity, which comes as an intruder into the realm of Islam wearing various masks: secularism, Zionism, capitalism, globalization. World Infidelity, they argue, is determined to occupy Muslim lands, usurp Muslims' wealth and destroy Islam.

Invading Iraq, however noble the U.S. believed its intentions, provided the best possible confirmation of the jihadist claims and spurred many of Europe's alienated Muslims to adopt the Islamist cause as their own. The evidence is available in the elaborate underground railroad that has brought hundreds of European Muslims to the fight in Iraq. And the notion that the West would enhance its security by occupying Iraq has proved utterly illusory. Coalition forces in Iraq face daily attacks from jihadists not because Saddam Hussein had trained a cadre of terrorists--we know there was no pre-existing relationship between Baghdad and al-Qaeda--but because the U.S. invasion brought the targets into the proximity of the killers.

Those who bombed the Madrid commuter lines last year were obsessed with Iraq. They delighted in the videotape that showed Iraqis rejoicing alongside the bodies of seven Spanish intelligence agents who were killed outside Baghdad in November 2003; they spoke of the need to punish Spain (their adoptive country) for supporting America; they recruited others to fight in the insurgency. They began work on their plot the day after hearing an audiotaped bin Laden threaten "all the countries that participate in this unjust war [in Iraq]--especially Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy." It had been the first time Spain had been mentioned in an al-Qaeda hit list.

We may learn that the London bombers were, like the Madrid crew, a bunch of self-starter terrorists with few or no ties to bin Laden. U.S. and partner intelligence services have done such a good job running to ground members of the original group that there may be no connection with the remnants of al-Qaeda's command on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. We may also learn that the killers belong to a network being built by Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, who has emerged in Iraq as bin Laden's heir apparent.

Or we may find that the bombings were engineered by returnees from Iraq. Muslims from Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere--along with several thousand from Arab countries--have traveled to Iraq to fight in what has become a theater of inspiration for the jihadist drama of faith. A handful are known to have trickled back to Europe already. Western intelligence services fear that more are on the way and will pose a bigger danger than the returnees from Afghanistan in the 1980s and '90s, the global jihad's first generation of terrorists. The anxiety is justified; the fighters in Iraq are, as the CIA has observed, getting better on-the-job training than was available in al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan.

Britain has been on al-Qaeda's target list since the group's earliest days in the 1990s; the country's appointment with terror was ensured. But now, because of the invasion of Iraq, it faces a longer and bloodier confrontation with radical Islam, as does the U.S. America has shown itself to be good at hunting terrorists. Unfortunately, by occupying Iraq, it has become even better at creating them.

Read the rest at Time

July 10, 2006:

News Analysis: Bush's vision collides with post-Iraq realities

President George W. Bush has never made apologies for enshrining pre-emption as the defining doctrine of his first term. He has declared many times that in a post-Sept. 11 world, presidents no longer have the luxury of waiting for the slow grinding of diplomatic give-and-take when unpredictable dictators are assembling arsenals that could threaten the United States.

But as he leaves for Europe and Russia this week, where the simultaneous nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea will top the agenda, Bush finds himself struggling to square his muscular declarations with the post-Iraq realpolitik of his second term.

At every turn, and every provocation, he finds himself in an unaccustomed position: urging patience.

"These problems didn't rise overnight, and they don't get solved overnight," he told reporters during a news conference in Chicago on Friday.

At another point, he said: "You know, the problem with diplomacy, it takes a while to get something done. If you're acting alone, you can move quickly." Underscoring the idea again, he said, "It's painful in a way for some to watch because it takes a while to get people on the same page."

The Chicago news conference was notable because it seemed to mark the completion of a rhetorical journey for Bush. It is a journey that has steadily moved away, in public pronouncements - if not the president's own thinking - from the lines he drew in the 2002 State of the Union address.

In that famous "axis of evil" speech, he identified the threats from Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the three most pressing post-Sept. 11 challenges facing the United States.

"We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side," he said in one of the most- quoted passages of what became the signature speech of his administration. "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

Yet to some conservatives who backed Bush's decision in Iraq, "standing by and waiting" is the essence of Bush's current strategy.

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in The Wall Street Journal after North Korea's missile tests last week that North Korea had achieved more "strategic successes" under the Bush administration than it had under President Bill Clinton.

"Apparently unwilling to move against North Korea's nuclear challenges by itself," he wrote, "and evidently incapable of fashioning a practical response involving allies and others, the Bush administration's response to Pyongyang's atomic provocations is today principally characterized by renewed calls for additional rounds of toothless conference diplomacy."

Over the weekend in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, another prominent conservative voice, wrote: "The red lines, pink lines, and mauve lines of U.S. foreign policy seem increasingly to be written in erasable ink. What was 'unacceptable' to President Bush a week ago (a North Korean missile launch) has been accepted." He called the current policy "Clintonian."

Bush's aides, who decline to speak about their internal deliberations on North Korea and Iran for attribution, say their critics have done everything but describe a workable alternative.

Iran, they note, is five or more years from a nuclear weapon - and, in their more candid moments, they acknowledge that it has numerous options for retaliating for any military action.

A military attack on North Korea's missile pads, they say, has always been regarded as an unacceptable risk - even before U.S. forces were tied up on the other side of the world.

That is why they were so quick to dismiss a call two weeks ago by Clinton's defense secretary, William Perry, and Perry's top aide on nuclear issues, Ashton Carter, to conduct a lightning, precision strike on North Korea's Taepodong-2 long-range missile before it could be tested.

"It sounds good," one of Bush's national security aides said at the time, "until you ask yourself the question, what good is a strike if it leaves their nuclear capability untouched?"

To Bush's critics, the question goes to the heart of the new argument over pre- emption: whether Bush, in focusing on Iraq in 2003, missed his chance.

It was in January of that year, as U.S. forces were flowing toward the Middle East, that North Korea threw out the international inspectors who had been watching over its stockpile of nuclear fuel and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The action did not have the drama of a multiple-missile launching. But it was a clearer violation of international law (any country has a right to quit the treaty with 90 days' notice, but the North evicted the inspectors before that period expired).

Bush made no effort then to seek sanctions at the UN Security Council, or to rally China and Russia to impose economic sanctions.

One senior former official who was involved in the discussions said that Bush was briefed on his military options to strike at the nuclear facilities before the spent fuel rods were moved - but the options looked bad, and he turned back to the Iraq invasion plan.

Administration officials still defend that decision, saying that Saddam Hussein lived in a more volatile neighborhood and needed to be dealt with first. But as one senior U.S. diplomat who was involved in the Iraq decision conceded late last week, "the decisions we made then narrowed our options now."

In short, Bush is discovering the limits of his own pre-emption doctrine - and the frustrations of its alternative.

He knows, aides say, that even to hint at military action or deadlines if Iran refuses to suspend enriching uranium, or if North Korea continues to test missiles and make bomb fuel, would probably destroy any chance of getting China and Russia aboard a common strategy.

But failing to lay out the consequences clearly - the kind of straight talk Bush used to say distinguished his administration's foreign policy - may embolden Iran and North Korea to try to run out the clock, to produce more nuclear material and hope for a better deal with the next president.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune