Sunday, September 09, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 9th edition

September 9, 2004: Men carry out a body found in the rubble of a house hit by a U.S. air strike in Fallujah.

September 9, 2002:

War Cabinet Argues for Iraq Attack

President Bush, preparing to make his case against Iraq at the United Nations, deployed five members of his war cabinet to yesterday's talk shows to argue that Saddam Hussein is aggressively assembling nuclear weapons and that waiting any longer to disarm him could prove catastrophic for the United States and its allies.

Vice President Cheney struck a newly measured tone, reflecting a decision by White House officials to show deference to Congress and the United Nations while not backing away from Bush's determination to deal swiftly with Hussein. The administration officials suggested that Bush would accept a last-chance effort by the United Nations to deploy weapons inspectors in Iraq but would not agree to a prolonged process.

"We're trying very hard not to be unilateralist," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in his first televised interview in four months. "We're working to build support with the American people, with the Congress, as many have suggested we should. And we're also, as many have suggested we should, going to the United Nations."

Nevertheless, the officials said Bush remains committed to a timetable so rapid he may ask Congress to authorize military force within weeks. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Bush wants lawmakers to approve a resolution before their pre-election recess, which is scheduled for Oct. 4 but could slip a week or more.

"The president thinks it's better to do this sooner rather than later," Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition." "I don't think anyone wants to wait for the 100 percent surety that [Hussein] has a weapon of mass destruction that can reach the United States, because the only time we may be 100 percent sure is when something lands on our territory."

The appearances by Bush's war planners provided a detailed preview of the logic and evidence Bush will use in his address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Thursday, the day after the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 9, 2003:

CIA expected post-war struggle

The CIA and other US intelligence agencies warned the government before the Iraq war that the post-war period would pose more problems than the war itself, and that there would be significant resistance to a US-led occupation, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The post-war scenarios presented by the Central Intelligence Agency and its counterpart agencies in the Pentagon and State Department were more pessimistic than senior Pentagon officials expressed before the war, but their views generally remained submerged, congressional and administration officials familiar with the reports told the newspaper.

"Intelligence reports told them at some length about possibilities for unpleasantness," said a senior administration official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The reports were written, but we don't know if they were read," he added.

The post-war threats outlined by the intelligence community included the possibility that the "Iraqis probably would resort to obstruction, resistance and armed opposition if they perceived attempts to keep them dependent on the US and the West," a senior congressional aid said.

The CIA believed that members of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard and his Baath party had plans to carry on resistance efforts after the war, said a senior intelligence official.

"They had been given instructions should the regime fall," the official added.

Based on the pessimistic view of post-war Iraq, then army chief of staff Eric Shinseki told lawmakers in February that several hundred thousand occupation troops would be needed to stabilise Iraq following a US-led war.

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, however, rejected Shinskei's estimate at the time as "wildly off the mark".

Read the rest at News 24

Reserves face longer stay in Iraq

Like active duty troops held longer than expected in Iraq, National Guard and reservists also are having their tours of duty extended, defense officials said Tuesday.

With the Army stretched thin by the Iraq campaign, the global war on terror and other duty around the world, officials ordered that Guard and Army Reserve troops now in Iraq and surrounding countries serve 12-month tours.

The new order, signed Friday night and not publicly announced, covers some 20,000 people and means some of them will remain months longer than they thought they would, officials said.

There are 130,000 Americans — including active duty — inside Iraq and more than 40,000 more in Kuwait, Qatar and so on.

The subject of troop rotation has been a sensitive one in the Iraq campaign, with some soldiers and their families complaining bitterly about delays in their homecoming. Members of the 3rd Infantry Division, for instance, fought their way to Baghdad in late March and were told they'd be going home, only to remain in Iraq for months afterward because of continuing problems the coalition encountered in ending the violence there.

But officials said the Guard and reservists mobilized are still needed in Iraq to augment active duty troops in skills across the spectrum, including as military police, civil affairs officers and other duties.

Earlier in the summer, the Pentagon spent weeks struggling to come up with a troop rotation plan because the Army has become so stretched during the Bush presidency, with major commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq in addition to peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo and long-standing deployments in South Korea, Japan, Germany and the Sinai peninsula.

The Army, the largest of the armed services, has had portions of every major active-duty combat unit committed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, with the exception of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is in Korea.

In announcing the rotation plan in late July, officials said units that went to Iraq next were to serve one-year tours, with a few exceptions. One exception was the National Guard brigades, which will serve six-month tours.

In other words, Friday's order applies only to troops already in the theater of battle and not those scheduled to deploy in coming months.

Read the rest at USA Today

September 9, 2004:

Aid agencies say they may pull out of Iraq

The remaining international aid agencies in Iraq are considering pulling out of the country after the kidnapping of four humanitarian workers, including two Italian women, from their headquarters in Baghdad, it was claimed yesterday.

Jean-Dominique Bunel, a coordinator for the agencies, said the abduction on Tuesday had already prompted some aid workers to leave and others would follow by the end of the week. "We are reviewing the situation," he told Reuters.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse, he said: "It seems that most of the international non-governmental organisations are preparing to leave Iraq and some expatriate [staff] already left this morning.

"More will follow in coming days. The flights are full until Friday."

Mr Bunel said he was speaking for about 50 international agencies operating in Iraq.

Read the rest at the Guardian

U.S. Troops' Death Rate Rising in Iraq

With the latest spike in violence in Baghdad, more U.S. troops have died since the turnover of power to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June than were killed during the U.S.-led invasion of the country in the spring of 2003.

A total of 148 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the partial transfer of sovereignty on June 28, compared with 138 who died in March and April of 2003, Pentagon figures show.

That trend is a grim indication that, 18 months after the invasion, the fighting appears to be intensifying rather than waning. While attention has been focused largely on standoffs in Najaf and other well-publicized hotspots, an analysis of the figures shows the U.S. military has taken more casualties elsewhere, including the deaths of about 44 troops in the western province of Anbar and 10 others in the city of Samarra.

The wide geographic dispersion of the violence reflects the strength of a resurgent opposition and also frames the challenge U.S. commanders face in the coming months as the United States seeks to hold an election to establish a new Iraqi government, said military officers and defense analysts.

"The 'peace' has been bloodier than the war," said Capt. Russell Burgos, an Army reservist who recently returned from a tour of duty with an aviation regiment in Balad, Iraq. In his view, the U.S. experience in Iraq is coming to resemble Israel's painful 18-year occupation of parts of southern Lebanon.

Before the war, predictions by even the most skeptical Bush administration critics did not include scenarios of escalating violence this long after the invasion, or of the U.S. military issuing a news release such as the one it sent out Tuesday morning, headlined "Fighting Continues in Eastern Baghdad." In addition, several cities near Baghdad have slipped from U.S. control in recent months and have become "no-go zones" for U.S. troops.

"No one that I know of, to include the most pessimistic experts, predicted a full-scale insurgency would break out within a couple of months of the overthrow of the old regime," said Steven Metz, a guerrilla warfare expert at the Army War College.

Now, Metz said, "the current situation may be sustained for a very long time."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 9, 2005:

Powell calls '03 speech on Iraq 'painful'

The former secretary of state, Colin Powell, said in a television interview to be broadcast Friday that his 2003 speech to the United Nations, in which he gave a detailed description of Iraqi weapons programs that turned out not to exist, was "painful" for him personally and would be a permanent "blot" on his record.

"I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world," Powell told Barbara Walters of ABC News, adding that the presentation "will always be a part of my record."

Asked how painful this was for him, Powell replied: "It was painful. It's painful now." Asked how he felt upon learning that he had been misled about the accuracy of intelligence on which he relied, Powell said, "Terrible." He added that it was "devastating" to learn later that some intelligence agents knew the information he had was unreliable but did not speak up.

Powell also implied in the interview that the United States did not go to war in Iraq with sufficient troops to secure the country and failed to keep sufficient Iraqi forces to help stabilize the country.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Security Contractors in Iraq Under Scrutiny After Shootings

The pop of a single rifle shot broke the relative calm of Ali Ismael's morning commute here in one of Iraq's safest cities.

Ismael, his older brother Bayez and their driver had just pulled into traffic behind a convoy of four Chevrolet Suburbans, which police believe belonged to an American security contractor stationed nearby. The back door of the last vehicle swung open, the brothers said in interviews, and a man wearing sunglasses and a tan flak jacket leaned out and leveled his rifle.

"I thought he was just trying to scare us, like they usually do, to keep us back. But then he fired," said Ismael, 20. His scalp was still marked by a bald patch and four-inch purple scar from a bullet that grazed his head and left him bleeding in the back seat of his Toyota Land Cruiser.

"Everything is cloudy after that," he said.

A U.S. investigation of the July 14 incident concluded that no American contractors were responsible, a finding disputed by the Ismaels, other witnesses, local politicians and the city's top security official, who termed it a coverup. No one has yet been held responsible.

Recent shootings of Iraqi civilians, allegedly involving the legion of U.S., British and other foreign security contractors operating in the country, are drawing increasing concern from Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders who say they undermine relations between foreign military forces and Iraqi civilians.

Private security companies pervade Iraq's dusty highways, their distinctive sport-utility vehicles packed with men waving rifles to clear traffic in their path. Theirs are among the most dangerous jobs in the country: escorting convoys, guarding dignitaries and protecting infrastructure from insurgent attacks. But their activities have drawn scrutiny both here and in Washington after allegations of indiscriminate shootings and other recklessness have given rise to charges of inadequate oversight.

"These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force," said Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is responsible for security in and around Baghdad. "They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."

No tally of such incidents has been made public, and Aegis, a British security company that helps manage contractors in Baghdad and maintains an operations center in the capital's fortified Green Zone, declined to answer questions. In the rare instances when police reports are filed, the U.S. military is often blamed for the actions of private companies, according to Adnan Asadi, the deputy interior minister responsible for overseeing security companies.

"People always say the Army did it, and even our police don't always know the difference," he said.

The shootings became so frequent in Baghdad this summer that Horst started keeping his own count in a white spiral notebook he uses to record daily events. Between May and July, he said, he tracked at least a dozen shootings of civilians by contractors, in which six Iraqis were killed and three wounded. The bloodiest case came on May 12 in the neighborhood of New Baghdad. A contractor opened fire on an approaching car, which then veered into a crowd. Two days after the incident, American soldiers patrolling the same block were attacked with a roadside bomb.

On May 14, in another part of the city, private security guards working for the U.S. Embassy shot and killed at least one Iraqi civilian while transporting diplomats from the Green Zone, according to an embassy official who spoke on condition he not be named. Two security contractors were dismissed from their jobs over the incident.

Employees of private security firms are immune from prosecution in Iraq, under an order adopted into law last year by Iraq's interim government. The most severe punishment that can be applied to them is revocation of their license and dismissal from their job, U.S. officials said. Their heavy presence stems in large part from the Pentagon's attempts to keep troop numbers down by privatizing jobs that would once have been performed by American forces.

There are now at least 36 foreign security companies -- most from the United States and Britain -- and 16 Iraqi firms registered to operate here, according to the Interior Ministry, and as many as 50 more are believed to have set up shop illegally. Their total workforce is estimated at 25,000; many are military veterans, though levels of experience vary. As of December, contracts to provide security for U.S. government agencies and reconstruction firms in Iraq had surpassed $766 million, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 9, 2006:

Iraq's Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War

A declassified report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed that U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.

Far from aligning himself with al-Qaeda and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Hussein repeatedly rebuffed al-Qaeda's overtures and tried to capture Zarqawi, the report said. Tariq Aziz, the detained former deputy prime minister, has told the FBI that Hussein "only expressed negative sentiments about [Osama] bin Laden."

The report also said exiles from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) tried to influence U.S. policy by providing, through defectors, false information on Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capabilities. After skeptical analysts warned that the group had been penetrated by hostile intelligence services, including Iran's, a 2002 White House directive ordered that U.S. funding for the INC be continued...

As recently as Aug. 21, Bush suggested a link between Hussein and Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed by U.S. forces this summer. But a CIA assessment in October 2005 concluded that Hussein's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates," according to the report.

White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the findings as old news.

Read the rest at the Washington Post