Sunday, August 19, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 19th edition

August 19, 2004: A militiaman with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army sprints across a street in Najaf during the second week of battles with U.S. troops.

August 19, 2002:

Split over Iraq grows more public

A rift over Iraq has emerged among senior advisers in the Bush administration who helped wage the first Persian Gulf War and now face the possibility of a second.
On one side are hard-liners such as Pentagon adviser Richard Perle and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. They urge the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein now, with force if necessary. They say it's too dangerous to wait until he has weapons of mass destruction pointed at the United States and its allies. On the other side are those such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, who advise caution and warn of the consequences of war.

The divide traces its origin to the lingering question of whether the first President Bush made a mistake when he decided against marching to Baghdad after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi invaders from Kuwait in 1991. Those most concerned about moving too aggressively now are the same officials who recommended ending the Gulf War quickly in order to keep the coalition of Arab and Western states together. For them to urge swift action today would mean they were wrong then.

The hard-liners for the most part held lower-ranking positions under the elder Bush. To the extent they argued for toppling Saddam in 1991, they were overruled.

However the debate is resolved, it will be difficult for President Bush to build support among lawmakers, the public and allies around the world until he resolves disagreements in his own inner circle.

The level of tension among past and present Republican policymakers was apparent Sunday on TV talk shows. Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of State in the first Bush administration, accused Perle and Wolfowitz of maneuvering to correct what they consider the errors of a decade ago.

"I think they're devious," Eagleburger said on Fox News Sunday. He said they are "committed to getting rid of Saddam Hussein because they think we should have done it the first time around." He said he's "scared to death that they are going to convince the president that they can do this overthrow of Saddam on the cheap."

Read the rest at USA Today

August 19, 2003:

Huge explosion rocks U.N. headquarters in Iraq

A cement truck packed with explosives devastated the United Nations headquarters in Iraq on Tuesday, killing the top U.N. envoy and 19 other people in an unprecedented attack against the world body. At least 100 people were wounded.

The bombing blasted a 6-foot-deep crater and shredded the facade of the Canal Hotel, which housed the U.N. offices. The suicide attack stunned an organization that had long been welcomed by Iraqis, even by many who protested the presence of U.S.-led occupation forces.

Except for a newly built concrete wall, U.N. officials at the headquarters refused the sort of heavy security that the U.S. military has put up around some sensitive civilian sites. The United Nations "did not want a large American presence outside," Salim Lone, the U.N. spokesman in the Iraqi capital, said.

Emergency workers pulled bloodied survivors from the rubble and lined up the dead in body bags. Survivors reported other victims still buried.

The 4:30 p.m. blast may have specifically targeted Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy, said L. Paul Bremer, who heads the U.S.-led administration in Iraq. "The truck was parked in such a place here in front of the building that it had to affect his office," Bremer said.

Vieira de Mello — a 55-year-old veteran diplomat serving in what one U.N. spokesman called the world body's toughest assignment — was meeting with other U.N. officials in his office when the explosion brought the room down around them. Vieira de Mello was wounded and trapped in the rubble, and workers gave him water as they tried to extricate him. Hours later, the United Nations announced his death...

U.N. officials vowed to continue their mission in Iraq. But the blast, the shock at being targeted and the death of a rising star beloved in the organization struck deep. All the national flags that ring the U.N. headquarters' entrance in New York were removed from their poles, and the blue-and-white U.N. flag was lowered to half staff. Staffers, tears in their eyes, gathered in hallways and watched in shock as televisions reported on his death.

Read the rest at USA Today

August 19, 2004:

A year later, the United Nations an invisible presence in Iraq

The Canal Hotel sits eerily alone, surrounded by sandy hills and a filthy creek. Its blue and white arches still hang over a gaping black hole that spans three floors, where a year ago a truck packed with explosives blew up outside the building, the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations.

The blast on Aug. 19, 2003, killed 22 people and with it shattered the world body's belief that its humanitarian thrust gave it more protection than any security measures could.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered all U.N. international staff to leave Iraq after a second attack on the building last October. Since then the United Nations has maintained a low profile in Iraq.

International staff now direct operations from nearby Jordan.

"We provide advice from here. It's not easy to do something from here for a place where it's not safe to operate," said Adnan Jarrar, a spokesman in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Many Iraqis couldn't distinguish between the United Nations' humanitarian programs and its political arm. It didn't help that the Canal Hotel, which housed many of the humanitarian agencies, had been the office of the U.N. weapons inspectors before the war.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

August 19, 2005:

Britain rules out timetable for removing troops from Iraq

Britain reiterated Friday that it had ruled out setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, saying British troops will stay as long as they are needed.
Defense Secretary John Reid wrote in Friday's edition of The Times newspaper that Britain would pull out only when Iraqi security forces are able to defend the population.

"We will withdraw from Iraq when the job is done, not before," Reid wrote.

The remarks echo recent comments made by U.S. officials, including President Bush, who has also rejected a timetable.

The British government has long declined to set a timetable for withdrawing British troops from Iraq, fearing doing so would give heart to militants waging a bloody insurgency there.

"We have always made plain that any withdrawal of forces will be based on local conditions, not some immutable timetable," Reid wrote.

Reid said last month that Britain could start scaling back its troop presence in Iraq within 12 months. He made the remarks in an interview with CNN when asked to comment on a leaked British government memorandum that states Britain is considering cutting its troop presence to 3,000 by mid-2006.

Britain has about 8,500 troops in Iraq, mostly in the Shiite south, where there is generally less violence and support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is stronger.

But the region has seen several attacks recently, including a roadside bomb that killed three British soldiers north of Basra on July 16. Two weeks later, a roadside bomb killed two Britons who worked for a private security firm and were alongside a British consulate convoy in Basra.

The British military has reported at least 93 deaths since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Read the rest at USA Today

August 19, 2006:

Bush: Iraq War Keystone in Terror Fight

President Bush said Saturday that his administration's determination to remain in Iraq and its efforts to end violence in Lebanon are key to protecting the U.S. from future terrorist attacks...

"It is no coincidence that two nations that are building free societies in the heart of the Middle East _ Lebanon and Iraq _ are also the scenes of the most violent terrorist activity," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We will defeat the terrorists by strengthening young democracies across the broader Middle East."

He acknowledged that "the way forward will be difficult." But, the president said, "America's security depends on liberty's advance in this troubled region"...

Bush argued that his approach is working.

"We will defeat the terrorists and expand freedom across the world, we'll protect the American homeland and work tirelessly to prevent attacks on our country," he said. "The terrorists remain determined to destroy innocent life on a massive scale, and we must be equally determined to stop them."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Officer Called Haditha Routine

The Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the Haditha killings last November did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

"I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines," Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines, said in the statement.

"I did not have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action," he added.

Chessani's statement, provided to The Washington Post by a person sympathetic to the enlisted Marines involved in the case, helps explain why there was no investigation of the incident at the time, despite the large number of civilian deaths, and why it took several months for the U.S. military chain of command to react to the event.

It also provides a glimpse of the mind-set of a commander on the scene who, despite the carnage, did not stop to consider whether Marines had crossed a line and killed defenseless civilians.

It suggests that top U.S. commanders have been unsuccessful in urging subordinate leaders to focus less on killing insurgents and more on winning the support of the Iraqi people, especially by providing them security.

Chessani told investigators he concluded that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding.

"I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several firefights had occurred in the area the same day -- Nov. 19, 2005 -- Chessani said. Because of that conclusion, the commander added, he did not see any reason to investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been killed. "I just saw this as a large combat action that had been staged by the enemy," he told investigators.

Read the rest at the Washington Post