Friday, September 21, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 21st edition

September 21, 2004: A soldier inspects the crash site of a UH-60A Black Hawk near Nasiriyah which wounded three crew members.

September 21, 2002:

Bush Shifts Strategy From Deterrence to Dominance

In a muscular new statement of U.S. strategic priorities, President Bush declared yesterday that the United States must maintain unchallenged military superiority to win the fight against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction that now pose the greatest threat to U.S. national security.

Deterrence and containment, the previous foundations of U.S. strategy, are no longer valid, Bush said in a 31-page document titled "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." Instead, the United States must identify and destroy the terrorist threat "before it reaches our borders," if necessary acting alone and using preemptive force.

The report is the first Bush has issued under a 1986 law requiring the president to present Congress with an annual strategic statement. Overall, it gives the United States a nearly messianic role in making the world "not just safer but better."

Possessing "unprecedented -- and unequalled -- strength and influence in the world," it begins, and "sustained by faith in the principles of liberty and the value of a free society," the United States also has "unparalleled responsibilities, obligations and opportunities. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom."

Bush's strategy, it says, is a "distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests."

While the report describes goals such as cooperation among "world powers" and the promotion of freedom, democracy and free trade as intrinsically desirable and important parts of U.S. policy, it sets them largely within the context of their contribution to the fight against terrorism.

Most of what is contained in the report language is adapted from a series of speeches Bush has made since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But a senior administration official, who briefed reporters, said the strategic statement brings "these common themes . . . together into one coherent document."

The "three strategic priorities," the official said, were to "lead the world" against terrorists and "aggressive regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction," to preserve the peace by "fostering good relations among the world's great powers," and to extend the benefits of liberty and prosperity through the spread of American values and tangible rewards for good governance.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

US ready to attack Iraq: general

The commander of U.S. forces based in the Gulf has said he is prepared for an attack on Iraq.

General Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, said Saturday: "We are prepared to undertake whatever activities and whatever actions we may be directed to take by our nation.

"We are prepared to do whatever we are asked to do," he told a news conference in Kuwait...

But Franks added: "The president of the United States has not made a decision to go to war.

Read the rest at CNN

September 21, 2003:

Iraq costs require some perspective

A year ago, while I was serving as President Bush's White House economic adviser, I caused quite a controversy when I said that our objective in Iraq would be well worth spending 1% to 2% of America's gross domestic product. At the time, the president had not made any decisions about war with Iraq, so putting any price tag on the mission — particularly one so steep — was considered premature.

It now seems that the cost of deposing Saddam Hussein and re-establishing civil government in Iraq will be in that range. Critics are using words like "massive" and "staggering" to describe the cost. But what we really should ask is: Compared with what? We cannot walk away. If we have no choice but to fight, it makes sense to spend what it takes to win. While any dollar amount in the billions is substantial, it's important to put it into perspective. The Vietnam War cost 12% of GDP at the time and World War II cost 130% of GDP.

The cost to defeat Saddam was less than half a percent of America's annual income (measured as gross domestic product). If spending continues at the current pace, our involvement could cost us 0.4% of our income for the rest of this year. If President Bush's request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is approved, the cost of these two fronts will amount to about 0.8% of our income next year.

But what does that really mean? Each year American households spend about 1% of their income on alcoholic beverages and another 1% on tobacco products. We spend about 0.7% of our money on cosmetic products. In other words, our combined operations to combat terror in the Middle East cost a bit more than we spend on makeup and shampoo and a bit less than we spend on booze or tobacco.

What truly matters, however, is what would have happened had we not deposed Saddam. This is necessarily hypothetical. But we do know that taxpayers funded an extra $40 billion in federal spending immediately after 9/11. This came on top of the costs paid by others, notably insurance companies, and reflects the direct costs, not the cost of the disruption to our economy. Moreover, the lives lost on that day remain priceless.

One cannot tell with any certainty what would have happened if Saddam had stayed in power. Certainly, damage done by a chemical, biological or radiological attack on America would make the costs of Sept. 11, 2001, seem small by comparison. Having watched closely what happened to our economy on a day-by-day basis immediately after 9/11, I am certain that global economic growth would not be possible if such weapons were used by terrorists in America or on one of our major trading partners.

We know Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people. We know that in 1998 President Clinton publicly worried about the weapons of mass destruction Saddam had. Moreover, we know there were terrorist training camps in Iraq and that members of terrorist groups now are entering Iraq to fight us.

In an ideal world, the U.S. should not pay the whole cost of deposing Saddam and rebuilding Iraq. Countries such as France and Germany, which sold Saddam weapons parts and helped him build underground bunkers, are getting a free ride. They benefited from trading with Saddam and now gain from the reduction in potential terror by his departure, all the while enjoying the luxury of criticizing us.

But their record in combating tyranny is hardly exemplary. Without America, the French would be speaking German and the Germans would be speaking Russian. Europeans never have repaid us for our efforts on their behalf during the 20th century. But it was still in America's own interest to be involved in those conflicts. The same is true of deposing Saddam and building a more democratic Iraq. It's worth it, whether or not countries like France contribute.

On 9/11, we were attacked because terrorists did not fear retribution. We had not retaliated against attacks abroad or against the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Cutting and running from Iraq would embolden our enemies and risk untold loss of life and damage to our economy, costing far, far more than what we now spend on cigarettes or shampoo.

Read the rest at USA Today

Iraq set to allow 100-percent foreign ownership

Iraq's U.S.-backed Finance Minister Kamel al-Keylani is set to announce on Sunday a sweeping set of economic reforms including allowing full foreign ownership in state-dominated sectors except for oil.

A statement by al-Keylani scheduled for release in Dubai later on Sunday said the reforms "will be implemented in the near future".

The reforms also allow foreign banks to buy local financial institutions, a free transfer of foreign exchange earnings and full independence for the central bank.

Read the rest at Forbes

More U.S. Casualties in Iraq

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: There are more U.S. casualties in new attacks in Iraq.
CNN's Walter Rodgers is live in Baghdad now with more details on this -- Walter, good morning to you.


Tragically, three more American families will be getting that cable from the Pentagon, from Washington, saying that they had loved ones killed in Iraq overnight. Three more dead Americans, two separate incidents. The first incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. local time in Iraq in the Ramadi area. A soldier in the U.S. 3rd Armored Regiment was riding down a road on a convoy. Beside the road, an unexploded -- an improvised device went off and it killed that soldier. He died en route to hospital.

Then, in addition to that, just about 40 or so minutes later, two more soldiers, these in the 800th Military Police Brigade -- I believe that's a reserve unit out of the Long Island area. Two military policemen killed at the Abu Ghurayb Prison. Mortars were fired into that prison. By the way, that is a site which is a favorite of the Iraqi insurgents trying to kill the Americans. There are at least four mortar attacks on that particular prison facility in the course of a week.

The prisoners inside the facility are common criminals, everything from murderers to common thieves. There are also some security detainees in there. The exact number of prisoners, we can't tell you. But, again, there two American prisoners killed by mortars. These are stand-off weapons which are fired from afar into the prison. Thirteen other Americans wounded there -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Walter, as you say, this prison complex is the target for mortar attacks an average of about four out of seven days a week. Anything now that they are going to try to different security wise?

RODGERS: Well, the Army has, upon realizing that this is a hot target, they've done several things, not the least of which is put hard covers over where the American military police are. But apparently these were lucky shots or a lucky shot, whichever it was. The mortars came in and they just happened to hit some Americans who were outside the protective cover area.

This is one of the tragedies of war and for some reason the Iraqis who were shooting into this old prison -- by the way, this prison was one of the prisons that Saddam Hussein used for the people he hated the most. There are torture chambers in there, execution areas. In any event, the American soldiers were in the wrong place at the wrong time -- Heidi.

COLLINS: It's tragic.

Read the rest at CNN

September 21, 2004:

Iraq war was right, Bush tells UN

President George Bush today used his speech to the United Nations general assembly to defend the US-led mission in Iraq as having "enforced the demands of the world".
Mr Bush was speaking five days after the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, described the decision to go to war in Iraq without the security council's approval as "illegal".

In a strongly-worded speech that could be seen as a direct response to Mr Annan's comments - and perhaps as an implicit critique of the UN's reluctance to support military action - Mr Bush said there was a need to "fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity"...

Mr Bush made no reference to the prisoner abuse scandal.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Dubious Dreams About Iraq

Sounding like Mark Twain mischievously insisting that Wagner's music is better than it sounds, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is not known for drollery, says events in Iraq are better than they seem. Speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Allawi said the insurgency is "still raging" but that is a good sign -- a sign that "it's not getting stronger, it's getting more desperate."

Other good news, as Allawi sees it, is that the violence is not just internecine Iraqi strife; it is "an international war that's being fought on Iraqi territory" by "foreign terrorists" who are "still pouring in." He says "Iraqi forces" will enter Fallujah "soon." When he says that "by four months a lot of things will change," he implies that the elections scheduled for January could not occur under today's conditions.

Allawi disputes his U.N. ambassador's judgment that more U.S. and British troops will be needed to defeat the insurgency, but he disputes it by confirming that current forces are inadequate: "No, we need more participation from other countries."

After "This Week" arranged with Allawi's office for Sunday's interview, the State Department called ABC to say that the office of U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte in Baghdad had decided that the interview would not happen until this coming Sunday, after Allawi's U.S. visit. This attempt by the U.S. Embassy to exercise sovereignty over the prime minister raised interesting questions about just what was actually transferred on June 28 when sovereignty was supposedly given to the Iraqi government. The White House recognized the inconvenience of such questions. The interview occurred...

Time will tell whether Allawi will ride the whirlwind or be consumed by it -- whether he will be Iraq's Alexander Kerensky. Allawi certainly seems tougher than that mild Russian who briefly held power in Russia in 1917, during a semi-democratic moment after the czar and before the Bolsheviks swept him, and parliamentary government, aside. Kerensky died in New York in 1970.

When President Bush proclaims, as he regularly does, that "freedom is on the march," he cannot be thinking of Russia. Across its 11 time zones, freedom is in retreat, again.

When Allawi addresses a joint session of Congress Thursday, he will stand where British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood in July 2003 to proclaim that it is a "myth" that American and British "attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" -- a myth that "freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law" are Western rather than universal values. Allawi will not say anything less plausible to an audience that is sadder, and perhaps wiser, than it was 14 months ago.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 21, 2005:

Iraq may be years from returning to peak oil output, ex-minister says

Big oil companies have no concrete plans to develop the Iraqi oil industry, meaning that it will be several years before the country has a hope of returning to its 1979 peak in production and probably a decade before Iraq could pump the 5.5 million to six million barrels a day suggested by its reserves, a former Iraqi oil minister said Wednesday.

The prospect of raising Iraqi oil production to improve the lives of its people was a central vision held out by the U.S. administration and other supporters of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. But much equipment was looted from pipelines, pumping stations and other facilities in the immediate aftermath of the invasion and continuing extreme insecurity has kept even plucky foreign oil companies away.

In addition, there has been a lack of clear institutions and laws to manage the oil industry.

Issam al-Chalabi, who was oil minister in Iraq in the late 1980s, before the 1991 Gulf war in which a U.S.-led coalition drove the Iraqis from Kuwait, told a conference here bluntly, "There is no plan to develop the Iraqi oil industry"...

Looking at current production, he said that "Iraq will be lucky" to maintain its level of some 1.5 million barrels a day.

In what he called the medium term, he doubted that Iraq could return to its 1979 record production levels of 3.5 million barrels a day until 2009.

As for long-term production, which would involve opening up new fields that could raise Iraqi production to 5.5 or even six million barrels a day, Chalabi said, "we can only pray," and he said his guess was that it would be 2013 or 2014 before this was achieved.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Saudi says U.S. policy is handing Iraq to Iran

U.S. policy in Iraq is widening sectarian divisions to the point of effectively handing the country to Iran, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said yesterday.

"(Iraq's) people have been separated from each other," al-Faisal told the Council on Foreign Relations. "You talk now about Sunnis as if they were a separate entity from the Shiite."

He urged the United States, which is battling a Sunni Arab insurgency against occupying U.S. forces and backs the Kurdish-and Shiite-led Iraqi government, to work "to bring these people together."
Saudi Arabia has voiced fears that an Iraqi constitution, due to be put to a referendum Oct. 15, could split the country apart and disenfranchise a Sunni minority that lost power when a U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"If you allow civil war, Iraq is finished forever," al-Faisal said.

Such a conflict, he said, would bring in Iran because of its interest in the Shiite-dominated southern part of Iraq, the Turks because of their concern about an autonomous Kurdish surfacing in the north, and Arab nations in the region.

"Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason," he said.

Iranians, Faisal said, go into areas that American forces have pacified and "pay money . . . install their own people (and) even establish police forces and arm the militias that are there."

"And they are protected in doing all this by the British and American forces," he said.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

September 21, 2006:

Top U.S. general says Iraq war changing to internal power struggle

The conflict in Iraq is changing from a fight against U.S.-led coalition forces to an internal struggle for political and economic power, the top U.S. general in Iraq told The Associated Press in an interview today.

Gen. George Casey acknowledged the security situation has become more difficult in the past few months, and said Iraqi leaders must find common ground on key issues if progress is to be made.

"We're starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis," Casey told the AP.

The general made the comments as he finished a visit to a northern Baghdad neighborhood to talk with local officials about an operation aimed at curbing violence in the capital.

Maj. Gen. Bashar Mahmood Ayoub, commander of the 9th Iraqi army, said the situation has deteriorated in recent months.

"These days, the violence is worse and the politicians are not supporting us," Ayoub told the AP. He said it was up to political leaders to resolve the security situation, adding that the army could do nothing further for now.

Casey acknowledged the difficulties.

"I think the security situation is more complex and more difficult than it was in December '05," when Iraq held general elections.

Read the rest at the Seattle Times

U.N. expert says torture in Iraq may be worse now than under Saddam

Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, made the remarks as he was presenting a report on detainee conditions at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay as well as to brief the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global body's top rights watchdog, on torture worldwide.

Reports from Iraq indicate that torture "is totally out of hand," he said. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Nowak added, "That means something, because the torture methods applied under Saddam Hussein were the worst you could imagine."

Some allegations of torture were undoubtedly credible, with government forces among the perpetrators, he said, citing "very serious allegations of torture within the official Iraqi detention centers."

"You have terrorist groups, you have the military, you have police, you have these militias. There are so many people who are actually abducted, seriously tortured and finally killed," Nowak told reporters at the U.N.'s European headquarters.

"It's not just torture by the government. There are much more brutal methods of torture you'll find by private militias," he said.

A report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq's Human Rights office cited worrying evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a 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" such as police and security forces and the legal system, the U.N. report said, noting that torture was a major concern.

Nowak has yet to make an official visit to Iraq and said such a mission would be unfeasible as long as the security situation there remains perilous. He based his comments on interviews with people during a visit to Amman, Jordan, and other sources.

"You find these bodies with very heavy and very serious torture marks," he said. "Many of these allegations, I have no doubt that they are credible."

According to the U.N. report, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August hit 6,599, a record-high that is far greater than initial estimates suggested, the U.N. report said Wednesday.

It attributed many of the deaths to rising sectarian tensions that have pushed Iraq toward civil war.

Read the rest at USA Today