Monday, August 20, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 20th edition

August 20, 2006: A soldier with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team cuts the lock of the entrance gate of a home during a cordon and search mission in Baghdad.

August 20, 2002:

Bush's Summer Reading List Hints at Iraq

Looking for signs about President Bush's thinking on an Iraq attack? Check out his vacation reading.

This vital intelligence comes from an interview with the industrious Associated Press reporter Scott Lindlaw, who went on a brush-clearing, pickup-riding, sweating-and-bleeding tour of the Bush ranch outside Waco last week. The president disclosed that he has been reading "Supreme Command," a new book by Eliot A. Cohen, a neoconservative hardliner on Iraq with the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

In his reading choice, Bush seems to be following the advice of Bill Kristol, the arch-neoconservative who has been using his Weekly Standard magazine to chide Bush for being too soft on Saddam Hussein. It is Kristol's blurb, after all, on the back cover of Cohen's book suggesting: "If I could ask President Bush to read one book, this would be it." Former Quayle man Kristol, suspected of playing puppeteer to a number of hawkish officials in the Bush Pentagon and National Security Council, appears to have added the marionette-in-chief to his act.

"I was tickled pink," Cohen said of the president's summer reading selection, although Bush is no Oprah. "The Amazon numbers spiked for a little bit then went back down." (Monday's sales rank: 5,498)

Cohen's central message is the same as Clemenceau's: "War is too important to be left to the generals." It is a study about the importance of civilian leadership and its responsibility to probe and harass the military brass, who are chronically full of reservations about any war.

Cohen said this does not necessarily mean the bombing begins at noon. The book is the result of 15 years of work and is meant, he says, to apply to any military action -- not necessarily Iraq.

But other hawks see particular relevance for Cohen's book now as Bush confronts doubts from the Pentagon brass about an assault on Iraq. Kristol wasn't recommending the book so Bush could have a fuller understanding of Appomattox. Kristol, in his current issue, accuses those raising doubts about a U.S. attack on Iraq of trying "to stop President Bush from setting American foreign policy on a course of moral clarity and global leadership."

Kristol is gloating about Bush's reading. "I stand by my blurb," he said.

Cohen himself, in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal last week titled "Generals, Politicians and Iraq," criticized people in the Pentagon for their tendency "to whinge to the press" about their doubts surrounding an Iraq attack.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

August 20, 2003:

World Bank to withdraw presence from Iraq

The World Bank has decided to pull its staff out of Iraq after the bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

Staff at the institution, a key part of the US-led coalition's efforts to rebuild Iraq's economy, would be relocated to Jordan "for security reasons until we are certain the situation has improved", it said.

The bank has also suspended plans to open an office in Baghdad within the next few weeks.

The decision is the first concrete sign that Tuesday's bombing could hinder the coalition's efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Some countries considering sending troops to Iraq, such as India and Pakistan, were finding pressure building against such deployments, foreign officials said on Wednesday.

Governments in several countries approached by the US to send troops have sought a UN resolution authorising deployments. But some US officials think these are delaying tactics as potential participants assess the security situation.

The US sought to play down the impact of Tuesday's attack on security in Iraq.

"The security problem now has got a terrorist dimension, which is new, but the rest of the security is basically in better shape than it was three months ago," Paul Bremer, the US administrator, told CBS. "It is true that we're taking some casualties among the coalition forces, but that's largely coming from a small group of bitter-enders."

Read the rest at the Financial Times

August 20, 2004:

Military doctors allegedly collaborated in prison torture

Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights, a bioethicist charges in The Lancet medical journal.

In a scathing analysis of the behavior of military doctors, nurses and medics, University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles calls for a reform of military medicine and an official investigation into the role played by physicians and other medical staff in the torture scandal.

He cites evidence that doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured. No reports of abuses were initiated by medical personnel until the official investigation into Abu Ghraib began, he found.

Read the rest at Newsweek

August 20, 2005:

Army chief says troop level in Iraq may last through 2009

The Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq — well over 100,000 — for four more years, the Army's top general said Saturday.

In an Associated Press interview, Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the Army is prepared for the "worst case" in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower if called for by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers.

Schoomaker said commanders in Iraq and others will decide how many troops will be needed next year and beyond. His responsibility is to provide them, trained and equipped.

About 138,000 U.S. troops, including about 25,000 Marines, are now in Iraq.

"We are now into '07-'09 in our planning," Schoomaker said, having completed work on the set of combat and support units that will be rotated into Iraq over the coming year for 12-month tours of duty.

Read the rest at USA Today

August 20, 2006:

U.S. military calling back troops who've been out of uniform for years

Spc. Chris Carlson had been out of the U.S. Army for two years and was working at Costco in California when he received notice that he was being called back into service.
The 24-year-old is one of thousands of soldiers and Marines who have been deployed to Iraq under a policy that allows military leaders to recall troops who have left the service but still have time left on their contract.

"I thought it was crazy," said Carlson, who has found himself protecting convoys on Iraq's dangerous roads as part of a New Jersey National Guard unit. "Never in a million years did I think they would call me back."

Although troops are allowed to leave active duty after a few years of service, they generally still have time left on their contract with the military that is known as "inactive ready reserve" status, or IRR. During that time, they have to let their service know their current address, but they don't train, draw a paycheck or associate in any other way with the military.

But with active duty units already completing multiple tours in Iraq, the Pentagon has employed the rarely used tactic of calling people back from IRR status, a policy sometimes referred to as a "backdoor draft."

According to the U.S. Army Reserve, approximately 14,000 soldiers on IRR status have been called to active duty since March 2003 and about 7,300 have been deployed to Iraq. The Marine Corps has mobilized 4,717 Marines who were classified as inactive ready reserve since Sept. 11, and 1,094 have been deployed to Iraq, according to the Marine Forces Reserve.

The 1st Squadron of the 167th Cavalry RSTA, which is based in Lincoln, Neb. and oversees the New Jersey guard unit here in Iraq, has about 40 IRR soldiers within its ranks of roughly 1,000 soldiers, and officers in the squadron say the troops have merged into the unit without any problems.

Jason Mulligan, 28, of Ridgefield, Conn., left the army back in 2002 after two years in the infantry. He was working as a painting contractor while studying wildlife conservation when he received his letter last fall alerting him that he'd been mobilized.

The letter was followed up by another warning to Mulligan that if he didn't comply, the government would prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

"My family and my fiancee were telling me 'Don't' report. Don't show up,' said Mulligan, who also serves with a New Jersey National Guard unit as a gunner on a Humvee helping patrol the territory around Camp Anaconda, a base about 50 miles north of Baghdad. "And I thought, 'Well I got that nasty letter saying they were going to put me in jail if I don't show up.'"

Anthony Breaux, 24, from La Place, La., said he had a feeling that eventually he would be recalled to service after hearing of so many other soldiers who were pulled from IRR status. Breaux, who left active duty in September 2002, said he knew it was part of the bargain when he joined the army.

"Well, I signed up. I signed the papers. So you know what? I got to do what I got to do," Breaux said, before getting ready for a reconnaissance patrol around Camp Anaconda.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said part of the reason that the military has called up so many people who were on reserve status is that certain skill sets such as military police or civil affairs were concentrated in the reserves after the Cold War ended.

But he said the sheer numbers of IRR soldiers being mobilized also are a sign that the military doesn't have enough people to fight this war, now in its fourth year.

"It seems clear in retrospect that the active-duty force wasn't big enough to sustain a 'long war' against global terrorism, and also lacked the proper mix of skills to wage that war with maximum effectiveness," Thompson said.

That thought is echoed by many of the IRR soldiers. Mulligan said the military's reliance on IRR soldiers shows how "desperate" the services are for troops.

"Maybe it says something for maybe the way the military is treating the people that are over here, because they're just not wanting to stay on," said Mulligan.

Some of the IRR soldiers, such as Carlson, still will have time on their military contracts when they return from this deployment, meaning they could possibly be called back another time. But others will end their IRR status around the same time their deployment in Iraq ends next spring or will have so little time left that they would not be deployed again.

Spc. Mark Wiles, 27, of Phoenix, said his 6½ years of active duty and the time he'll have served on this deployment mean that his reserve status will be over when the unit gets home. The only way that the military could keep him is if they extended the unit's stay in Iraq.

"Those of us who are IRR are seriously hoping they don't do that," Wiles said.

Read the rest at USA Today