Monday, July 30, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 30th edition

July 30, 2003: An Iraqi exults as a U.S. Army supply truck blazes on a road near the town of Taji.

July 30, 2002:

Iraq air strikes 'not enough'

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said air strikes alone will not be enough to destroy Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

As media speculation continues about alleged US plans to attack Iraq, Mr Rumsfeld told a news conference in Virginia that the main problems were that many of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear arms sites were "deeply buried" and highly mobile.

"A biological laboratory can be on wheels in a trailer and make a lot of bad stuff. And it's movable and it looks like most any other trailer," Mr Rumsfeld said in response to a reporter's question on why the US did not simply bomb the sites.

"So the idea that it is easy to simply go do what you suggested ought to be done from the air is a misunderstanding of the situation."

His statement also coincides with growing criticism of US plans by countries in the Middle East - the latest by King Abdullah of Jordan who is visiting Washington.

Mr Rumsfeld said that the Iraqis had learned how to conceal the "precise actionable location" of military targets and that they had "an enormous appetite for nuclear weapons".

He refused to say how US might deal with such arms depots, but again critised a media reports speculating about Washington's military options.

"You don't believe everything you read in the newspaper, do you?" he said when asked about a report in the Washington Post that many US military chiefs wanted to continue the current policy of "containment" of President Saddam rather than forcefully removing him.

US analysts have warned that a possible US invasion - involving possibly hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft - could result in high casualties.

The New York Times has recently reported that Washington was studying the idea of seizing the capital, Baghdad, and key command centres and weapons depots to topple President Saddam.

Both President Bush and Mr Rumsfeld have said the media speculation could place US soldiers at risk.

Read the rest at BBC News

July 30, 2003:

Bush offers lengthy defence of Iraq war

President George W. Bush said on Monday that the creation of a democratic government in Iraq would produce a strategic transformation throughout the Middle East that "will make America much more secure."

In his last news conference before a month of holidays in Texas and re-election fund-raising in the US heartland, Mr Bush urged the country to be patient in the face of the continued attacks on US troops in Iraq. "Even in our own experiment with democracy, it didn't happen overnight," he said. "I never would have expected Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period."

He pledged that US forces would continue their missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, saying: "We'll keep our word to the people of those nations."...

Mr Bush has faced growing political pressure over the past month on charges that he and his administration exaggerated ambiguous intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Democrats have harangued the president over the rising costs of the war, the growing numbers of US troops killed and the veracity of pre-war claims that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the US.

Mr Bush's job approval rating has slipped below 60 per cent, similar to the numbers before the Iraq conflict and only slightly above his ratings prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

But in a lengthy defence of the Iraq war, he refused to second-guess the intelligence, and insisted that the war would be measured by the results it produces in one of the world's most troubled regions.

He said that if the US could foster a democratic and peaceful government in Iraq, the success would reverberate throughout the Middle East, making it easier to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and discouraging countries like Iran and Syria from destabilising those efforts.

"The rise of a free and peaceful Iraq is critical to the stability of the Middle East, and a stable Middle East is critical to the security of the American people," he said in prepared remarks. A free Iraq would demonstrate to other countries in the region the virtues of democracy, he said, and freer societies "will be less likely to produce ideologies of hatred and produce recruits for terror."

Read the rest at the Financial Times

July 30, 2004:

America's habit of self-deception

No weapons of mass destruction? It’s the fault of the “intelligence community.” Wide-spread abuse of Iraqi prisoners? It’s the “wrongdoing of a few.” Iraqis want the Americans to go home? It’s because they “fail to understand our motives.” For President Bush and his advisers, failure is always to be laid at someone else’s door. This attitude flows from a worldview so ideologically proscribed (Christian fundamentalist elements in government see themselves on a mission from God) that it filters out discordant aspects of reality. You just hide yourself from unwanted facts with the tenacity of cult devotees and use an old tactic to maintain the resulting fantasy -- evidence that does not fit your paradigm is rejected, and those who offer it lack patriotism.

Take the case of weapons of mass destruction. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department did gather intelligence that raised doubt about weapons programs in Iraq. However, such a conclusion did not meet the needs of the administration. Their worldview demanded an invasion, and that required the existence of such weapons and a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Therefore, major pressure was put on the analysts to come up with conclusions the data did not support, and Vice President Dick Cheney created his own “intelligence office” within the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans. Its job was to “data mine” the intelligence so it would fit the administration’s worldview. When Bruce Hardcastle, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior officer for the Middle East, told the White House that their “handling of the evidence was wrong,” the response was to “do away with his job,” according to Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian Feb. 5. There was no failure of the intelligence community. They were simply censored.

In a similar effort, outriders of the administration, in the persons of Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, are now attacking American Middle East scholars because most of them challenge the neoconservative worldview. Pipes and Kramer claim that these scholars have failed to serve U.S. government interests because they do not make acceptable predictions of events in the Middle East, as Kramer wrote in Ivory Towers on Sand. As punishment, those who come up with such “wrong assessments” should lose federal funding for their research until they cease to be “intellectually corrupt.”

In truth, American academics studying the Middle East have been remarkably prescient. Most warned that American policies in the region were and are bad ones. U.S. support for dictatorships, the overthrow of popular governments and support for Israel’s systematic destruction of the Palestinian society were all bound to arouse violent anti-Americanism. But pointing this out contradicts an administration worldview that is blindly pro-Israel, determined to control the Middle East by force and incapable of admitting that American practices are self-defeating. As a result we now have an effort to censor (as with the recently passed House bill HR3077) offending Middle East scholars who are accused of being “un-American.”

The Bush administration’s reaction to the unfolding scandal of prisoner abuse fits this pattern of blinkered perception. They insist that the abuse is the “wrongdoing of a few.” However, in the judgment of the Red Cross’s director, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, “what we have here is part of a pattern and a broad system” of abuse over an extended period of time. The Red Cross warned of such abuse as early as March 2003. The fact that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top generals did not care enough even to read the reports on the problem suggests, once more, that facts contradicting a priori notions (Iraqi prisoners are terrorists who need to be “softened up”) get ignored. For Rumsfeld, the real problem is not the abuse, but getting caught at it.

Such egocentric blindness is not unique to the present. In the 18th and 19th centuries, America adhered to a self-glorifying paradigm of manifest destiny. Blessed by God, we spread across the continent and beyond, bringing “modernity and progress.” Simultaneously, we murdered millions of Native Americans and Filipinos. In the 20th century America fought the “empire of evil” and millions more died in places like Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, while we self-flagellated with Red Scares and McCarthy hearings (today we have the grotesquely misnamed “Patriot Act”). Now, thanks to decades of antidemocratic policies in the Middle East, things have caught up to us. Sept. 11 marks the day when our hubris drew a fateful, albeit fanatical and terrorist, reaction. And how do we react? Not with introspection and a thorough policy review to find out why they hate us. Instead, we slip into yet another manifest destiny paradigm that allows us to maintain the hubris, retain God’s blessing and push the worst of U.S. policies to their extreme in the name of “freedom.” Every dead American and Iraqi, too, dies for our “freedom” to exploit Iraqi resources and control its foreign policy.

Can America’s habit of self-deception be broken? If so, we might have a chance to initiate foreign policies that really are guided by the best of our domestic principles. But such transformations usually require a crisis as a catalyst. Neither Vietnam nor the events of Sept. 11 seem to have been sufficient to achieve this. But the present game has not yet played itself out. Bush and his cohort have laid the basis for more crises to come. Let us hope we learn their lessons correctly.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Reporter

July 30, 2005:

A look at U.S. military deaths in Iraq

As of Saturday, July 30, 2005, at least 1,789 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,382 died as a result of hostile action. The figures include five military civilians.

The AP count is three lower than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EDT Friday.

The British military has reported 92 deaths; Italy, 25; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands, two each; and Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia one death each.

Read the rest at the Grand Rapids Press

July 30, 2006:

U.S. to shift 3,700 troops to Baghdad

The U.S. command announced Saturday that it was sending 3,700 troops to Baghdad to try to quell the sectarian violence sweeping the capital, and a U.S. official said more American soldiers would follow as the military gears up to take the streets from gunmen.

The 172nd Stryker Brigade, which had been due to return home after a year in Iraq, will bring quick-moving, light-armored vehicles to patrol this sprawling city of 6 million people, hoping security forces respond faster to the tit-for-tat killings by Shiite militias and Sunni Arab insurgents.

The U.S. military hopes more armor will intimidate gunmen, who in recent weeks have become more brazen in their attacks.

“This will place our most experienced unit with our most mobile and agile systems in support of our main effort,” said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq. “This gives us a potentially decisive capability to affect security in Baghdad.”

President Bush said this week that he had decided to send more troops to Baghdad after the surge in reprisal killings began to threaten the unity government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which took power May 20.

The wave of violence has dashed administration hopes for substantial reductions in the 127,000-member U.S. mission in Iraq before the November midterm elections.

According to the United Nations, about 6,000 Iraqis were killed in insurgent or sectarian violence in May and June — despite American hopes that the unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds would win public confidence and ease the security crisis.

The U.S. statement did not say when the Stryker Brigade would move to the capital from its base in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, but the redeployment was expected soon.

A U.S. military official told The Associated Press that more troops will follow the Stryker brigade, normally based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The official gave no further details and spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Pentagon officials have said plans call for adding military police, armored vehicles and tanks to the streets of the capital to work alongside Iraq’s U.S.-trained police and army units. Those units are heavily Shiite, and the presence of Americans is intended to assure Sunnis that the Iraqi forces are not Shiite death squads in uniform.

U.S. and British officials have said Iraqi units, especially the police, have been infiltrated by Shiite militias and have lost the confidence of many Iraqi civilians.

However, the strategy also risks further discrediting Iraqi forces, affecting their morale and making Americans more vulnerable to attack. U.S. casualties have eased in recent months as Americans handed over more security responsibility to the Iraqis and assumed a support role.

But the bitterness of the sectarian conflict and the high stakes at play have proven too much for the Iraqi force in the capital. The surge in attacks also pointed to the failure of al-Maliki’s security plan for Baghdad, unveiled with great fanfare last month.

Read the rest at MSNBC