Monday, July 16, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 16th edition

July 16, 2005: Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division kick open a shed door in Mushada during a search for IED makers.

July 16, 2002:

U.S. Boosts Stocks Of Weapons That Could Be Used Against Iraq

U.S. weapons makers have doubled the production rate of laser-guided bombs, added a shift to assemble satellite-guided bomb tail kits and boosted output at one ammunition factory to its highest level in 15 years.

Some of the ordnance will replace weapons used in the war in Afghanistan, but another reason for the buildup is to stockpile weapons for possible military action against Iraq, analysts say.

President Bush has said he wants to see Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein removed from power, accusing Saddam of hoarding chemical and biological weapons and seeking nuclear bombs. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld say they have no immediate plans to go to war against Iraq, however.

"The job of Central Command is to be prepared for that Iraq contingency, and that plan is probably pretty well in development," said retired Rear Adm. Stephen Baker, a former naval operations director for Central Command.

"One thing they need to do is bring the stockpiles up, particularly of the laser-guided bombs and JDAMs and Tomahawk missiles."

JDAM stands for Joint Direct Attack Munition, the satellite-guided bomb that has been a favorite U.S. weapon in the war in Afghanistan. Military planners love the JDAM for its pinpoint accuracy and relatively low cost of less than $25,000 each.

About 9,000 new JDAMs have been built this year, compared with about 10,000 total by the end of last year. Analysts have estimated that more than half of the first 10,000 JDAMs were used in Afghanistan and even more would be needed for an attack on Iraq.

The military still has only a fraction of the 40,000 to 50,000 JDAMs it wants, said analyst John Pike of

"They had obviously used up a significant fraction of what was on hand, and what was on hand a year ago was only a small fraction of what they want to have on hand," Pike said.

Precision weapons like JDAMs would be key to any attack on Iraq, since they would allow the United States to focus its firepower on Saddam's military infrastructure while minimizing civilian casualties. The accurate weapons also allow the same number of planes to hit more targets in less time.

Pike said one Navy admiral has credited the JDAM with increasing the lethality of an aircraft carrier fivefold.

"It's only when you start thinking about that quantum leap in air power lethality that it starts to become plausible that you could take military action against Iraq without having a massive, multi-month (troop) buildup like they had a decade ago," Pike said.

Read the rest at CBS News

July 16, 2003:

US heads for $1.9 trillion deficit as Iraq war costs $48bn

The Bush administration yesterday admitted the federal budget deficit this year would be 50% higher than previous forecasts as it emerged that the Iraq war had so far cost the Pentagon $48bn (£30bn).

The White House said the US would end the year with a record $455bn budget shortfall, up from previous estimates of $304bn. Over six years, the deficit is now forecast to reach $1.9 trillion, up from an earlier estimate of $1.4 trillion.

The admission came a day after President George Bush, whose malapropism has spawned dozens of websites and books, uttered one of his most extraordinary gaffes yet when he told reporters that the US had invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had refused to allow weapons inspectors in.

Pressed during an Oval Office press conference on the now infamous assertion that Iraq had sought to buy uranium ore in Africa, he said: "The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons programme? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in.

"And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region."

The comment, made on Monday, received little coverage in the US media. Although it did raise some eyebrows at the Washington Post, which, in understated style noted: "The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to the war this spring."

Saddam had in fact allowed weapons inspectors back in to Iraq on November 27 last year for the first time in four years and they remained there, albeit in a largely fruitless search, until the US and Britain decided to invade.

The White House did not return calls seeking comment.

Read the rest at the Guardian

July 16, 2004:

U.S. Won't Turn Over Data for Iraq Audits

The Bush administration is withholding information from U.N.-sanctioned auditors examining more than $1 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton Co. and other companies in Iraq without competitive bidding, the head of the international auditing board said Thursday.

Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, the U.N. representative to the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), said that the United States has repeatedly rebuffed his requests since March to turn over internal audits, including one that covered three contracts valued at $1.4 billion that were awarded to Halliburton, a Texas-based oil services firm. It has also failed to produced a list of other companies that have obtained contracts without having to compete.

The Security Council established the IAMB, which includes representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in May 2003 to ensure that Iraq's oil revenue would be managed responsibly during the U.S. occupation. The council extended its mandate in July so it could continue to monitor the use of Iraq's oil revenue after the United States transferred political authority to the Iraqis in June.

The dispute comes as the board released an initial audit by the accounting firm KPMG on Thursday that sharply criticized the U.S.-led coalition's management of billions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenue. The audit also raised concerns about lax financial controls in some Iraqi ministries, citing poor bookkeeping and duplicate payments of salaries to government employees.

The Pentagon did not specifically answer questions about withholding information to auditors, but released a statement saying the Coalition Provisional Authority worked hard to manage Iraq's oil resources.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

July 16, 2005:

Reporting from inside the Green Zone

I’ve always been something of an optimist, but everyone has a breaking point. Mine came on Saturday as I toured the infamous “Green Zone” in central Baghdad. This fortress is quite literally the heart of the new Iraq, not to mention the only safe place in the country. Then again, maybe not. Roadblocks, blast walls and barbed wire are the most common sights in this walled-in mini-city, called the international zone, which is fitting because these days it’s guarded by soldiers from Georgia—and I don’t mean the U.S. state.

The Green Zone has changed a lot since I was last here, around 18 months ago, and so has Iraq. But from what little I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, I wonder whether it’s for the worse. The security situation has deteriorated so badly that journalists rarely venture out unless they’re embedded with U.S. soldiers. That wasn’t the case early last year, when foreigners could walk the streets outside the Green Zone, shop in local markets, and, most important to journalists, talk to the Iraqi people. Those days are long gone.

The situation inside the Green Zone is scarcely better. Heavily armed troops guard government buildings and hospitals, menacingly pointing their weapons at any one who approaches. Soldiers manning checkpoints can use deadly force against motorists who fail to heed their instructions, so the warning signs say, and I have no doubt they’d exercise that right in a heartbeat if they felt threatened. All this fear and tension, and inside a six square mile area that’s supposed to be safe.

Amid this insecurity, confusion and oppressive summertime heat, my mind keeps returning to one thing: Dick Cheney. I don’t understand how the U.S. vice president concluded recently that the insurgency terrorizing Iraq was in its “last throes.” We’re obviously not reading the same newspapers. The mere fact that there is a Green Zone should tell you something.

The optimist in me says the U.S. will eventually train up the Iraqi army and police to the point where they can fight the insurgents alone, keep the country stable enough for the government to govern, to hold elections, pass laws, recover from economic sanctions and war, and move toward democracy. These are long-term goals, but it’s difficult to imagine they’re reachable when a prominent business inside the Green Zone is a carwash that specializes in detail work on tanks.

Is it really that bad in Iraq? It’s hard to say because the international media cannot adequately cover the war and Iraq’s reconstruction because it’s simply too dangerous. I would love to write about new schools being built and local village leaders learning about democracy, but I can’t go out to see such things. Maybe that’s why American friends who’ve never even been to Iraq—or read a book about the country for that matter—tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when I say things are so bad.

Say what you will about whether the United States was justified to invade this country. We’re well into the game, and it’s too late to argue over who got the ball first. But prior to April 2003, there were no suicide bombers in Baghdad, there was 24-hour electricity and people went out at night. Now, if you drive into town from the airport, there is a legitimate possibility you will get killed. How long can the insurgents keep it up? Who knows, but they haven’t let the dust and heat of summertime Iraq stop them. Let’s just say that the insurgency doesn’t take the day off because of weather conditions.

Danger aside, it’s always interesting being here. Not to mention amusing and tragic. I met an American journalist for Knight Ridder Saturday in the Green Zone who’s bravely dealing with a U.S. military investigation into the death of her Iraqi colleague last month, who was apparently killed by an American sniper. Minutes later, I had a U.S. soldier telling me about a Mickey Mouse Persian rug he mailed home for his daughter’s bedroom. He then offered to help me buy my own rug, though I’m partial to Tweety Bird. For better or for worse, historic changes are afoot here, and will be for some time. The final outcome in Iraq could have a bearing on the fight against terrorism, Middle East politics and even the future of democracy. That alone is worth being here to watch—if it’s not too dangerous to take a look.

Read the rest at Newsweek

July 16, 2006:

Putin Tells Bush Russia Doesn't Need a Democracy Like Iraq's

U.S. President George W. Bush held up Iraq today as a model of democracy for Russia to follow. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to say he wasn't interested.

Bush made clear before arriving in St. Petersburg for talks with Putin he would raise concerns Russia was rolling back some of the democratic advances made in the 1990s, a charge Putin firmly denies. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have all spoken out on the issue over the last year.

"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion," Bush told a news conference with Putin after their talks. "I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

"We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly," Putin shot back.

"Just wait," retorted Bush.

Read the rest at Bloomberg