Thursday, September 20, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 20th edition

September 20, 2006: Soldiers from the 66th Armor Regiment pass a shepherd and his family during a patrol in Hana Qadim.

September 20, 2002:

Bush outlines first-strike doctrine

The Bush administration released a report Friday outlining an aggressive national security policy that says the United States must adapt its forces and planning toward favoring pre-emptive action against terrorist groups and hostile states that possess or are developing weapons of mass destruction.

The 33-page report, mandated by Congress, reflects many of the policy arguments that have emerged since last year's terrorist attacks and are front-and-center as the Bush White House argues in favor of an aggressive policy of confrontation with Iraq.

The debate over how and when the United States should use military force has been evolving since the Cold War ended more than a decade ago.

It has gained prominence and urgency as Bush pursues a war on terrorism on two fronts: pursuit of a group accused of attacking the United States - al Qaeda - and contemplation of a military strike against Iraq. The sovereign state has not been tied to any terrorist attack, but the administration has declared it is pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The document, titled "The National Security Strategy for the United States of America" says the United States would prefer to act within international bodies and with international allies. But it also is blunt, saying, "We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively."

In addition, it says administration policy envisions perhaps "compelling states" to stop actions the White House considers to be assistance to terrorists.

The report, which was required by law, has been in the works for months. It makes clear that the Bush administration has no plan to cede the military superiority the United States has built up since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States," it says.

In a statement, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said:

"This strategy states that the safety and security of America is the first and fundamental commitment of our government. America must always stand for and protect the universal values on which it was founded. To this end, President Bush makes clear that the United States will use its position of strength and influence in the world to defend, preserve and extend the peace."

Read the rest at CNN

September 20, 2003:

Iraq: the hard road ahead

EVEN a cursory look at US media will show the significant transformation that has taken place in the American mood since the end of the Iraq war. At no time was this more visible than on the recently observed second anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.

The certainty of the last year, the absolute resolve, the unshakeable confidence that seemed so American are now conspicuous by their absence. The early successes in Afghanistan are long forgotten. The main aim of the military action — to take Osama bin Laden dead or alive is rarely mentioned.

Even the elation over the quicker military success in Iraq has given way to a rising sense of alarm as American soldiers continue to die. The frustration of the troops and their relatives who expected a short war and a quick trip back home is rising. The main aim of the war to rid the world of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction has become a political scandal in Britain and an embarrassing awkwardness in the United States where the reason for the Iraq war is now rationalized as ridding the world of a terrible dictator and bestowing the gift of democracy on the Iraqi people. What is even more unnerving is the fact that despite the $25 million rewards for information, the Americans have so far no clue whether Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are alive and, if so, where they are to be found.

There are numerous reasons for the somber mood. The Iraqi occupation is costing Washington $3.9 billion a month, not to mention the continuing loss of American lives. The amount for the fiscal year beginning October 1 $87 billion would more than double the cost to date of what Mr. Bush calls the ‘war on terrorism’. It is greater than the world’s annual official foreign aid total for all countries.

Another cause for concern is that the US-led occupation forces are now faced with a war of attrition that is becoming increasingly more lethal and sophisticated. They have not only failed to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people, such as regular supply of electricity and water, but have also been unable to control the roads and borders of Iraq. Since the efforts to improve the lives of weary Iraqi people are proceeding too slowly to win their hearts and minds, resistance to occupation is becoming more widespread and effective.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was expected to have a sobering effect on the so called “rogue states”. But as the Americans find themselves on the brink of a quagmire, the post-war developments have only emboldened the “axis of evil”. The North Koreans are openly defiant; Iran’s nuclear programme continues to be active; and Syria is once again permitting Hizbollah to use its territory for attacks on Israel. The Bush roadmap for peace between Israel and the Palestinians appears to be in tatters. And there is no sign of an emerging democratic transformation elsewhere in the Middle East.

Given the Republican majority in both houses of Congress, Mr. Bush will probably get the money he has asked for. But he may have to pay a political price for it. US officials, however, insist that the American taxpayers would not meet the entire bill because a substantial part of $87 billion would be met from Iraqi oil revenues, seized assets and international contributions...

The Bush administration’s move to seek United Nations help in securing and rebuilding Iraq has been described by Britain’s Guardian as “a humiliating diplomatic climbdown.” According to the Financial Times, the US is going “meekly, co-operatively, multilaterally to the institution it derided and mocked only a few months ago.” The senior Democrat on Senate’s armed services committee, Senator Carl Levin says the administration’s task is now more difficult because it delayed so long in trying to involve the United Nations — “Their go-it alone chickens are coming home to roost,” says the Senator.

Read the rest at the Dawn

September 20, 2004:

Classic guerrilla war forming in Iraq

War is never by the books. Adversaries learn and adapt. The political climate shifts on both sides. Loyalties and alliances couple and decouple. The civilian populace - caught in the crossfire - often remains passive just to survive.

To many experts, the conflict in Iraq has entered a new phase that resembles a classic guerrilla war with US forces now involved in counterinsurgency. And despite the lack of ideological cohesion among insurgent groups, history suggests that it could take as long as a decade to defeat them.

"Guerrilla warfare is the most underrated and the most successful form of warfare in human history," says Ivan Eland, a specialist on national security at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. "It is a defensive type of war against a foreign invader. If the guerrillas don't lose, they win. The objective is to wait out your opponent until he goes home."

From the Filipino insurrection during the Spanish-American War to Vietnam to El Salvador, American troops have had plenty of experience in fighting home-grown enemies that look nothing like a conventional army. As have France in Algeria, Britain in Malaysia and Northern Ireland, Israel in the occupied territories.

Though "counterinsurgency" calls up memories of Vietnam, there may be as many differences as similarities.

Iraqi insurgents have no means of deploying battalion-size forces, as North Vietnam and the Viet Cong did with help from the former Soviet Union. Iraq won't become a proxy conflict between superpowers, as the Vietnam War was. There is a heavy criminal dimension to the violence in Iraq, just as there has been in Algeria, Colombia, and Chechnya. And there is unlikely to be a negotiated resolution as long as Iraq is seen as part of the broader war on terrorism.

Still, Iraqi insurgents have the advantage of terrain - not jungles but an urban setting. They appear to have at least the passive support of many Iraqis. It's often difficult to tell the fighters from innocent civilians. And they try to force American forces to overreact, causing civilian casualties and consequent outrage.

"No two insurgencies are alike," says retired Army Col. Dan Smith of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. "Except that they are violent affairs in which noncombatants tend to suffer most and national infrastructure tends to be destroyed."

Since early April, when the health ministry in Baghdad began keeping figures, some 3,200 civilians (not including Iraqi police or insurgents) have been killed - some in terrorist attacks, some by the US-led coalition. On average, insurgents now are attacking US forces 87 times a day. More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped, and some 30 of those killed. Attacks on oil pipelines are occurring nearly every day now.

In fact, Iraq at the moment has four simultaneous insurgencies: Sunni tribalists, former Saddam regime loyalists, fighters loyal to anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and foreign jihadists.

"Most importantly, the insurgents haven't made much effort to develop a coherent political program or identify a leadership," says Professor Steven Metz of the US Army War College. "I see this as their most serious weakness."

Still, they do have a common enemy: those they see as foreign occupiers, not liberators.

Within the US military, much of the debate over how to deal with insurgencies revolves around one assertion: "No more Vietnams."

Army Lt. Col. Robert Cassidy, who has served in Iraq and is now stationed in Germany, notes that the US military "has had a host of successful experiences in counterguerrilla war, including some distinct successes with certain aspects of the Vietnam War."

But, he writes in a recent issue of the Army journal Parameters, "Because the experience was perceived as anathema to the mainstream American military, hard lessons learned there about fighting guerrillas were neither embedded nor preserved in the US Army's institutional memory."

"Unconventional war" in fact has been studied, trained for, and practiced for more than 40 years. But fighting guerrillas doesn't necessarily allow for the best use of the largest, most technologically advanced armed force in human history. Nor does it always address the real basis for defeating an insurgency, which rests more on political, cultural, and economic factors. Other militarily dominant countries have learned this as well.

"In many aspects, the French counterinsurgency effort typified the frustrations faced by modern powers in a classic unconventional conflict," states a US Marine Corps training document. "Like the US in Vietnam, the French in Algeria were unable to transform military successes (of which there were many) into a political victory."

Defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute sees two basic defects in the US-led counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq today.

"First, policymakers wrongly assume that Sunni Arabs can be induced to join in a democratic government where they are assured of permanent minority status," says Dr. Thompson, who supported the US invasion of Iraq. "Second, policymakers insist on viewing violence through the prism of the war on global terrorism, which obscures the sources of conflict and requirements for victory." Thompson's controversial answer would be to partition Iraq into three countries: Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab, and Kurd.

That US military planners did not adequately plan for an organized Iraqi resistance that would become an insurgency reflects a way of thinking that has often afflicted governments and militaries, says RAND Corp. analyst Bruce Hoffman, who spent a month this year in Baghdad advising the Coalition Provisional Authority on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

What this amounts to, writes Dr. Hoffman in a recent RAND paper, is "the failure not only to recognize the incipient conditions for insurgency, but also to ignore its nascent manifestations and arrest its growth before it is able to gain initial traction and in turn momentum."

With the insurgency apparently gaining traction and momentum, such criticisms now are coming from prominent Republicans in Congress. "The lack of planning is apparent," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana said last week. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) Nebraska, a decorated infantry squad leader in Vietnam, says the recently announced shifting of reconstruction funds to security is "an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble."

Classified British documents, reported in the Daily Telegraph newspaper over the weekend, warned a year before the invasion of Iraq that even if a democratic government could be created there, "it would require the US and others to commit to nation-building for many years" and that this would "entail a substantial international security force."

Even if the insurgents dwindle to a handful of terrorists, their impact on security and stability in Iraq could far outweigh their numbers. RAND's Hoffman points out that just 20-30 members of the Baader Meinhof Gang terrorized the former West Germany for two decades; 50-75 Red Brigadists did the same in Italy; and some 200-400 IRA gunmen and bombers required the prolonged deployment of tens of thousands of British troops in Northern Ireland.

Is it possible to prevail over the Iraqi insurgency?

First, says John Pike of the group, enemy combatants must be killed, captured, or demoralized faster than new ones can be recruited, and the majority of the population must come to see the insurgency as illegitimate and its defeat as inevitable.

It's a tough job, one that's likely to take years - as long as 10 years, says Dr. Metz at the Army War College. And the outcome is by no means assured.

"The government must appear to be legitimate, inevitable, and effective at providing security and services," says Mr. Pike. "As long as Iran does not stir the pot, these objectives could be approached by the end of this decade, with luck."

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor

September 20, 2005:

U.S. Troop Death Toll In Iraq Tops 1,900

The U.S. military said Tuesday that four U.S. soldiers died in two roadside bombings near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi and a fifth died in a blast north of Baghdad, pushing the toll of American forces killed in Iraq past 1,900.

Also Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed four other Americans — a diplomatic security agent and three private security agents — in the northern city of Mosul, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Four of the soldiers were killed in two separate bomb attacks Monday during combat operations in Ramadi, a volatile city 70 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. The victims were U.S. Army soldiers attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

The fifth soldier, from the 18th Military Police Brigade, was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb 75 miles north of the capital, the military said.

As of Tuesday, 1,904 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Read the rest at KUTV

September 20, 2006:

Civilian death toll in Iraq climbs again, to more 6,599 in July and August, U.N. says

The number of civilians slain across Iraq climbed to unprecedented levels in July and August, with 6,599 people killed by violent acts over that time, the United Nations said.

The report Wednesday from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq raised new questions about U.S. and Iraqi forces' ability to bring peace to Baghdad, where the bulk of the violent deaths occurred. It offered a grim assessment of other indicators as well, from unlawful and questionable detentions, to the growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and the rise in "honor killings" of women.

Iraq's government, set up in 2006, is "currently facing a generalized breakdown of law and order which presents a serious challenge to the institutions of Iraq," the report said.

At the heart of the U.N. findings are the casualty figures that combined two counts: from the Ministry of Health, which records deaths reported by hospitals; and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, which tallies the unidentified bodies it receives.

According to those two sources, violent civilian deaths in July reached an unprecedented high of 3,590 people, which averages more than 100 a day. The August toll was 3,009 people, the report said.

Of the total, the report said 5,106 of the dead were from Baghdad.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Sgt. died while on extended Iraq tour

In late July -- less than a week before he was to return home from Iraq -- Army combat medic Sgt. David J. "Joey" Davis of Lisbon learned that his one-year tour of duty had been extended until after Thanksgiving, perhaps until February.

Military commanders had selected the sergeant's heavily armored brigade for a critical crackdown on Shiite militiamen in the epicenter of Baghdad's sectarian violence: the dangerous, 2 million-person slum of Sadr City.

It was there Sunday that a homemade bomb detonated near Sergeant Davis' eight-wheel, 19-ton Stryker Armored Vehicle, killing the 32-year-old and injuring two other soldiers, one severely.

"He was mad, very disappointed that he couldn't come home," his older brother, James "Andy" Davis, said yesterday. "But he knew they had a job to do. He wanted to stay with the guys he had been with. They needed him if they got hurt."

The last-minute extension of duty took members of the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade by surprise.

Sergeant Davis, who married his second wife, Roberta, in Alaska last year, delivered the news in a phone call home to his mother.

She relayed the news to the nearby Lisbon Volunteer Fire Station, where Sergeant Davis began working after graduating from Glenelg High School in 1991.

Yesterday, members of the Lisbon fire company remembered him as an eager volunteer, among the first to arrive in his pickup truck whenever the station's siren would sound.

"He wanted to get into the military because he wanted to be a career firefighter," said Capt. Jim Baker, who had been sitting down at the station's computer to send his friend an e-mail when a fellow volunteer broke the news of Sergeant Davis' death.

"The fire service looks at the military as something good and could be a deciding factor in getting a job," said Captain Baker. "It's good training."

He said that when Sergeant Davis was just 18 years old, he took him under his wing as a new volunteer, getting him accustomed to the firehouse.

At that time, Sergeant Davis' life centered around "the firehouse, girls, like all 18-year-old boys, and he was big into rodeos," Captain Baker said.

"He mostly watched [rodeo]. I think he rode a few times and got knocked around," Captain Baker recalled.

Captain Baker and Andy Davis described Sergeant Davis as a "country boy." He loved country music and trucks and was most at home in a cowboy hat, boots and jeans, they said.

Before joining the Army, he worked on his brother's cattle farm in Emmitsburg, did construction work and drove tractor-trailers.

As a "thunderhorse," or dismount medic in Iraq, Sergeant Davis cared for injured soldiers on the scene of any medical emergency.

"That EMT training he used in the Army, he first received as a volunteer firefighter," his brother said.

He said his younger brother rarely spoke about the stress of battle.

The soldier's e-mail correspondence mostly centered on packages bringing the comforts of home that would make what he planned to be his final year in the Army more tolerable.

From an October 2005 message: "It's 120 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Thanks for the package. My buddy Ray-Ray gave me some ideas for care packages. I'd like to have some handy snacks, cheese and crackers, Strawberry Twizzlers, gummy bears, Ding Dongs, May Day candy bars, Chex Mix, Planters peanuts and also some more baby wipes."

Sergeant Davis used the wipes to clean the sweat and sand off his large, black protective goggles.

The family is waiting for the remains to be delivered to Dover, Del.

Read the rest at the Baltimore Sun