Saturday, September 22, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 22nd edition

September 22, 2005: U.S. Navy sailors of the Electronic Attack Squadron 141 "Shadowhawks" receive a Navy Prowler back from flight onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt after it provided close air support for a Marine mission in Al Asad, Iraq.

September 22, 2002:

Bush given Iraq battle plan by Pentagon

President George W Bush has been presented with a Pentagon war plan laying out how allied forces could "decapitate" Saddam Hussein's regime while limiting damage to Iraq's infrastructure.

The plan, the first to be delivered to the White House, envisages a devastating air bombardment followed almost immediately by a ground invasion using a fraction of the number of troops deployed in the Gulf war in 1991.

Iraqi soldiers would not be specifically targeted as they were 11 years ago. Pentagon planners envisage mass defections by Iraqi units once it becomes clear that Saddam faces inevitable defeat.

"Our interest is to get there very quickly, decapitate the regime and open the place up, demonstrating that we're there to liberate, not to occupy," one military planner told The New York Times.

The plan was drawn up by Gen Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command after Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, demanded a strategy based on a smaller and more mobile invasion force than traditional US army doctrine would require.

Within the Pentagon, war with Iraq is seen as inevitable even as the United Nations is grappling with how to avoid it.

Senior officials have said privately they do not want UN arms inspectors to return to Iraq as this would delay a war for at least six months and constrain Mr Bush's ability to control events.

According to the plan, troop numbers would probably be just over 100,000, compared to the 500,000 in the Gulf war.

This would include a significant British component, with the SAS likely to focus on hunting storage and production sites for chemical and biological weapons.

It concentrates on eliminating "regime targets" such as Saddam's bodyguards, the Republican Guard, military communications facilities and presidential palaces.

Hostilities would begin with a huge air attack in which hundreds of aircraft, including some from the RAF, and cruise missiles would destroy Saddam's anti-aircraft systems and much of his capacity for using weapons of mass destruction.

One option is to fly 16 B-2 bombers from Missouri or the British territory of Diego Garcia on the first night of the air campaign to drop high-explosive 2,000lb bombs capable of burrowing into underground communications and weapons bunkers.

At the same time US ships and submarines would launch cruise missiles to hit Saddam's palaces and intelligence headquarters. Iraqi troops would be told they would be spared if they remained in their bases and did not follow orders to fight.

The invasion would probably begin between two days and a fortnight after the start of the air war, compared to five weeks in 1991.

One of the principal targets would be Saddam's home town, Tikrit, 100 miles north of Baghdad. It is a stronghold of his security police, who protect him and guard weapons of mass destruction.

A central element of the planning is the building of a democratic regime to replace Saddam's dictatorship.

A senior US defence official has told The Telegraph that the Bush administration wants a "de-Nazification process" to take place after the war.

American officials were trying to find out "who are the good bureaucrats and who are the Ba'athists" beforehand.

The Pentagon is concerned that troops massing in Kuwait and Qatar before an invasion might be attacked with chemical or biological weapons. This risk could be minimised by using a small force that is assembled as secretly and as far away as possible.

Mr Bush has said repeatedly that he had no war plan on his desk but the White House confirmed that he "has options now" and was considering them while diplomatic negotiations continued at the UN.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

September 22, 2003:

U.S. administrator in Iraq opposes early sovereignty, paramilitary force

The top American official in Iraq said Monday that the Iraqis are not ready to rule themselves and rejected any quick handover of sovereignty before a constitution is drawn up.

The Iraqi Governing Council set up by U.S. officials has been pressing to win sovereignty as an interim government in Iraq. At the same time, France and Germany are leading a push to give the United Nations more authority in Iraqi reconstruction and to set a timetable for handing over power to the Iraqis in a matter of months.

Those issues have become central in a debate over a U.S. draft resolution aimed at getting United Nations' backing for international troops and funds for Iraq.

But Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, said he opposed any quick transfer of power to the Iraqis.

Asked on CBS's The Early Show, if he thought the Iraqis were ready to rule themselves, Bremer replied: "No, they're not."

He called the creation of the Governing Council in July an "important transfer of power" and pointed to the council's naming of a Cabinet earlier this month. "They're running the ministries now," he said.

But Bremer underlined that it was too early for a more full transfer of power. "The path to sovereignty is very clearly laid out," he said. "There must be a written constitution. ... There must be a written constitution followed by democratic elections. That will then lead to a fully sovereign Iraqi government. This will happen as quickly as Iraqis can write the constitution."

A key official in the U.S.-led coalition told The Associated Press that Bremer would veto any move for sovereignty by the 25-member Governing Council. He would also block any council attempt to set up a militia to replace U.S. troops as Iraq's primary security force.

"Ambassador Bremer will definitely say no to both proposals if they're adopted by the council," said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. "He'll not budge on issues impacting on the long-term, political future of Iraq."

Bremer has the right of veto over council decisions, while U.S.-led coalition forces have the ultimate responsibility for security.

Many Iraqis view the council as a toothless body serving as a front for foreign occupation. While members accurately reflect the ethnic and religious makeup of Iraq — a first for any Iraqi government body — many of them were unknown to Iraqis until the council's formation in July...

Members of the Governing Council have been actively pleading their case to Western politicians visiting Baghdad and in meetings abroad with other European officials.

A delegation of council members leading the drive for early sovereignty will be in New York this week to attend the U.N. General Assembly meetings and lay a claim to Iraq's seat at the world body. The delegation is led by Ahmad Chalabi, current head of the council's rotating presidency, and includes Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and a senior council member.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will also be in New York. Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women in the council and a proponent of early sovereignty, had been expected to go to New York too but was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt outside her Baghdad home Saturday.

Dan Senor, a Bremer spokesman, told reporters Friday that it would not be in Iraq's interest to ignore a process laid out by Bremer — a seven-step plan for a new constitution and a freely elected government by the end of 2004 or early in 2005.

"It's incredibly important for the Iraqi people to view whatever government that's left here when we depart as legitimate and credible and one way to help ensure that legitimacy is through a serious, credible and legitimate constitutional process," he said.

"There is no basis for a process toward independence and free elections in this country and that's why we established the seven-step plan and we are going to stick to it."

The council retook Iraq's seat in the Arab League and will try to do the same in the United Nations this week. Iraq has also been invited to attend this week's OPEC meeting in Vienna and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meeting in Dubai, also this week.

Chalabi has publicly blamed the continued anti-U.S. insurgency and persistent criminal violence on the council's exclusion from keeping the peace.

Iyad Allawi, of the Iraq National Accord, is another council member who is pushing for the paramilitary force and speedy return to sovereignty. Others on the campaign are Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite Muslim leader whose elder brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, was killed in a bomb blast Aug. 29 along with at least 85 others.

They argue that U.S. forces are not trained for police work and lack knowledge of the local terrain and customs to be effective.

Read the rest at USA Today

September 22, 2004:

U.S. Now Taking Supporting Role in Iraq, Officials Say

Three months after the handover of power, the interim government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is making most key decisions politically and militarily, while the new U.S. Embassy is increasingly deferring and acting in a supporting role, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.

U.S. diplomats and military experts say the United States is now doing what it should have done a year ago: ceding authority to Iraqis; focusing on smaller, labor-intensive reconstruction projects to generate jobs rather than big ventures by U.S. companies; and assuming a low profile.

Allawi's interim government, meanwhile, is consolidating control over Iraqi ministries once tightly managed under former U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, officials say. Iraqis, for example, are allocating the nation's oil income, overseeing the struggle to restore basic government services and guiding distribution of U.S. aid.

The U.S. military is conducting fewer patrols and raids and turning over more day-to-day operations to newly trained Iraqi forces, even as the security situation deteriorates. Insurgents said yesterday they had executed a second American hostage in as many days.

"The changes, they're fundamental. Ambassador Bremer had a veto. . . . Now you have sovereign government," Finance Minister Adel Abdel-Mehdi said. "Of course, it's a weak sovereign government. But even so, the relationship has changed. There's a clear shift. Now the government is taking the initiative."

Yet, as Allawi arrives tonight in Washington for talks at the White House and Congress, Iraqi and U.S. officials express increasing concern on two counts. They are nervous about whether the recent shift is too late. "We've dug a pretty deep hole," said a Marine colonel who served in Iraq. They also are worried about whether Allawi, who was appointed by U.N. and U.S. envoys, has sufficient legitimacy among Iraqis to pull off this second phase of the transition.

"Obviously, Iraqis do not embrace this government as authentic or representative of them. From the beginning, they have tolerated it as something better than the occupation and as a bridge to an elected, more legitimate government," said Larry Diamond of Stanford University, an expert on democracy who served in the U.S.-led occupation. "Allawi may be an able man or the best politician around, but the fact that he was America's man seriously diminishes his legitimacy."

Some critics also charge that the U.S. Embassy has not relinquished control on sensitive issues involving U.S. interests, such as Iraq's amnesty offer to end the insurgency -- even to Iraqis who killed Americans. The plan was scrapped. Others suggest Washington has ceded to Allawi because he is a puppet doing its bidding. The talking points by President Bush and Allawi at the United Nations yesterday echoed each other.

The new assertiveness of the Iraqi government was prominent, U.S. officials say, when rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia seized the sacred Shiite shrine in Najaf last month, a move comparable to taking over the Vatican. At crisis talks in Najaf, Allawi and the local governor mapped out a strategy. The top U.S. military official in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and senior U.S. diplomat Robert Ford were not invited to the table and instead sat along the wall, silent. Only afterward did the governor notice Ford and acknowledge him.

It was a far cry, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, from the 14-month occupation, when Bremer ruled with singular power and Iraqis served as advisers, at best.

"When it comes to calling the plays on the field, especially on sensitive military operations, there's only one quarterback, and his name is Allawi," U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said in an interview yesterday. "Obviously, they need a lot of help, but we're working on reducing that reliance and building up their capacity. . . . In the meanwhile, there's no question who's taken the lead in terms of political leadership or with respect to military operations."

U.S. troops are still the main security force, but they are now effectively accountable to Iraqis, U.S. officials say. Casey and U.S. diplomats attend the national security meetings as "invited guests," Negroponte said in an earlier interview. And the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq attends the meetings only "occasionally," he added.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Frank Hoffman, who recently reviewed Marine operations in western Iraq, said: "It's a real change," and unlikely to revert back.

In Samarra, a hotspot in the Sunni Triangle, the U.S. military has held back to allow Allawi to make overtures to tribal sheiks and resistance leaders. U.S. troops went in to check on police stations and help reseat the city council, missions conducted with the interim government's approval.

U.S. advisers at Iraq's ministries have also decreased -- and they now act as consultants, rather than running the ministries under the guise of advisory roles, as during the occupation, State Department officials say. The interim government now determines how to spend as much as $70 million a day generated by oil, assuming a role of Bremer's office. Adm. David Nash coordinates the revised reconstruction agenda with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih so more money is channeled faster into creating jobs.

The interim government still has a long way to go to gain full control, Iraqi and U.S. officials say.

Allawi's credibility is also still on the line, despite an early August poll indicating varying degrees of support from more than 60 percent of Iraqis. Some Iraqis are already expressing frustration with his leadership.

"Allawi is a good and strong figure. . . . [But] I think he failed in maintaining security and that led people to lose their trust in him," said Suhail Jasim, 35, who owns a supermarket in Baghdad.

With the first democratic elections four months away, timing is critical while political and military obstacles are mounting.

"The Iraqi government has taken a lot of positive steps -- and if only we had done this 18 months ago. But the problems are so big and we've allowed them to fester for 18 months, while Iraqi expectations have continued to rise," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former National Security Council official now at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "There are now real questions about whether there are enough resources to make a difference in the time frame Iraqis are expecting."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 22, 2005:

Iraq's Democracy Dilemma

The Transitional National Assembly was to be a starting point for Iraq's fledgling democracy, fostering political debate and consensus building.

But in the past nine months since the parliament was elected, decisionmaking has largely taken place not on the assembly floor but behind closed doors, say lawmakers.

The country's most vital decisions - naming a president, picking ministers, and writing the draft constitution - were taken out their hands and given to only a few powerful leaders, say several members from different parties who were interviewed by the Monitor.

Assembly members say that more often than not they are told to go along with what party leaders want, whether they like it or not. This, coupled with the fact that many members rarely attend meetings - some worry about the threat of assassination - has largely neutralized the country's legislative body of any real power.

Some analysts say this is not uncommon in parliaments where the members are elected by being put on a list of candidates compiled by a party leader, indebting them to those leaders.

"I don't think it's a crisis but if it operates the way it has, it probably means if an Iraqi political system does take hold, you will see a government by back-room deal," says Nathan Brown, a constitutional expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Brown says such a system won't be a disaster "as long as it's consensual ... [but] if the party leaders treat the parliament as they do their own party, with indifference, and expect them to just go along," then there will be problems.

He says the critical question will be whether the party leaders are truly representing their constituencies in those back-room dealings.

According to Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law, the national assembly was supposed to be the key lever to force consensus building and inclusion of minorities. Bringing Sunnis into the fold politically is seen by many analysts as the only long-term solution to undercut support for the Sunni-led insurgency.

Hanan al-Fatlawi, a member of the majority Shiite list, says sometimes decisions made by the assembly's committees never reach the assembly floor for consideration. "The decisions made by the committees of the national assembly, they change it or hide it. Even the way they explain [a proposed] law to us, it is different every time," she says.

She also complains that the parties are often too worried about future political needs, rather than getting work done for the country.

Empowering the assembly rank and file would require a structural change in the way the members are elected, analysts say, but also a change in the political culture that is still strongly tribal, relying on patronage networks to determine who gets on the lists of candidates.

All that is difficult when constant violence keeps members from revealing their names, much less building ties to voters who would hold them accountable.

Being a national assembly member carries prestige but it also carries the threat of assassination by insurgents and a dangerous journey to the fortresslike Green Zone, the only place safe enough to hold the meetings.

Two weeks ago the assembly failed to open a meeting because they couldn't reach quorum. In frustration, deputy assembly speaker Hussein al-Shahristani issued a stinging rebuke to the absent.

"Let the nation see what is happening in the national assembly .... we will register those that aren't here," he said after starting the meeting late then delaying it another half an hour in the hopes more members would show up.

In the end, about 70 members were present, about half of the number needed for quorum and far from the full membership of 275 people.

Assembly member Nowal Jawad Shukur, who was at the cancelled meeting, says the assembly has kept busy since finishing its main work of writing a draft constitution. But, she notes, "A bird has to sing in tune with the rest of the flock."

Ms. Shukur says most list leaders don't meet with their members and rarely attend assembly meetings. Instead, a representative of the leader usually gathers members and tells them how to vote. "Even if we don't want it, we have to vote with the list," she says.

Last month's constitutional debate exposed the gulf between party leaders and assembly members when the law governing the process was essentially thrown out the window. The charter's deadline was delayed twice before leaders declared negotiations were over, presenting a lightly modified earlier draft to the body without holding a vote by the assembly.

All of this has left many Iraqis feeling excluded from a process that was meant to make them, and especially the Sunni minority, feel they had a stake in their own governance. "I feel like this constitution and the whole process is not for the sake of the people. Iran has a big influence within the constitution, [the leaders] are serving their interests these days," says Husham Hezawi, a Sunni.

"In the next election, people will not vote for this government," says Hayder Abbas, a Shiite who owns a construction and supply company. "The new government hasn't done anything for the people."

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor

Powerful Shiite cleric backs constitution

The country's most powerful Shiite cleric endorsed the draft constitution Thursday, rejecting opposition voiced by two popular leaders of Iraq's majority sect and underlining a rift also on display in anti-British violence in the southern city of Basra.
Two officials in the Shiite Muslim hierarchy in Najaf said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called senior aides together and told them to promote a "yes" vote among the faithful during the Oct. 15 national referendum on the constitution.

The officials refused to be identified because they are not authorized to speak for al-Sistani, who only issues statements through his office and makes no public appearances.

Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs, who lost power and privilege with the fall of Saddam Hussein in the U.S.-led invasion, are deeply opposed to the constitution. They form the bulk of the country's violent insurgency and have stepped up attacks on Shiites in advance of the vote.

Some saw a Shiite split in play during the violence this week in the predominantly Shiite city of Basra, where British troops clashed with mobs and smashed into a jail while rescuing two soldiers.

Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Affairs, said the escalation of tension in Basra underscored the simmering rift among Shiite factions ahead of the referendum and parliamentary elections in December.

"In large part, this is a reaction to a struggle between hard-liners and more moderate religious elements," he said.

Cordesman said the more moderate stance of the largest Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was not accepted in southern Iraq, where "a relatively hard-line religious takeover in Basra, one linked closer to Iran," has created animosity toward the British presence.

Rioting broke out in Basra on Monday after British armored vehicles and troops encircled a jail where two British soldiers were taken after their arrest by Iraqi police. Rioters threw fire bombs and stones at British forces, and TV cameras caught images of soldiers, some with their clothes on fire, jumping from burning vehicles and running from mobs. Five Iraqis reportedly died in the violence, but British soldiers suffered only minor injuries.

Later that night, British armored vehicles broke through exterior walls of the jail compound, smashed cars and demolished buildings in a rescue operation that freed the two soldiers who the British said were then in the hands of Shiite militiamen at a nearby house.

Basra authorities accused the British of violating Iraqi sovereignty, and the provincial governor ordered all Iraqis to stop cooperating with the British.

On Thursday, Gov. Mohammed al-Waili said violators would face unspecified punishment. But later in the day, he said he was in negotiations with the British and the dispute was "about to be solved and the crisis ended." He did not elaborate.

After the violence Monday, Britain pulled its forces off the streets, with patrols only returning to the city late Thursday and then only in armored vehicles.

"We need to understand that this is a warning," Cordesman said. "Over the next few months we're going to see a referendum on a constitution that's going to trigger more debates on Shiite identity ... The idea that the constitution or referendum is going to clear this up is unrealistic."

Iraqi security forces in the south have largely fallen under the authority of militias — the military wings of Iraq's various Shiite factions. The Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stands largely in opposition to the Badr Brigade, which owes allegiance to the biggest Shiite party, SCIRI.

SCIRI is beholden to al-Sistani, whose decision to endorse the constitution sets up a political showdown with al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army — both vehement opponents of the charter.

Al-Sadr was joined in his opposition Thursday by Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yaqoubi, who issued a statement from his office in Basra instructing his followers to vote against the constitution.

Iraqi and British officials have sought to play down the difficulties between local authorities in Basra and the 8,500-soldier British force.

"I do not think that this will be an obstacle that cannot be overcome," Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Thursday, a day after meeting with British officials in London.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in an interview with The Associated Press at the United Nations in New York, said that "what happened in Basra was a local flare-up." He said the incident was not instigated by Iran, as some have speculated.

"The people in the southern provinces have no interest whatsoever to see British forces leave because they're providing security, stability, structure, and relations have always been good ... really between the British forces and the local Iraqis in this area," Zebari said.

British Consul-General Stuart Innes said in Basra that the two soldiers whose arrest prompted the conflict had been on a reconnaissance mission aimed at "maintaining security and to put an end to terrorism in Basra."

He said the men were disguised as Arabs because that was the only way they could conduct the mission. He said a committee had been set up to address local officials' demands for compensation to victims and an apology.

Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, is 340 miles south of Baghdad. It has largely escaped the violence that has torn the Sunni heartland and taken the lives of 1,907 U.S. military personnel since the war started in March 2003.

Read the rest at USA Today

September 22, 2006:

U.S.: More Iraq Troops Needed in Baghdad

The U.S. needs 3,000 more Iraqi forces to join the battle in Baghdad, but requests have not been met because Iraqi soldiers are reluctant to leave their home regions, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman said that while the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Baghdad _ which military leaders say is the priority battlefront in Iraq _ only about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers are there. That is just a fraction of the 128,000 Iraqi Army troops that the U.S. says are now trained and equipped.

His comments came as the sectarian violence in Baghdad continued unabated. Gunmen opened fire on Sunni mosques and homes in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Hurriya, killing four people in an attack that drew the condemnation of Sunni leaders across the city.

In east Baghdad, meanwhile, police found the blindfolded and bound bodies of nine men from a Sunni tribe who had been dragged out of a wedding dinner the night before by men dressed in Iraqi army uniforms, police Maj. Mahir Hamad Mussa said. Four other bound and blindfolded bodies were found in other parts of the capital.

The U.S. military said an American soldier was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb late Thursday.

Getting more Iraqi troops involved in the operation has been hampered by the fact that Iraqi soldiers generally join battalions in their geographic regions. And Thurman said that "due to the distance, (they) did not want to travel into Baghdad." He said the Iraqi minister of defense is working on the problem.

"I'm confident that they're going to meet that requirement here within the next few weeks, but it's going to take a little time," he said.

Thurman said he asked for the additional Iraqi forces _ a total of six battalions _ early on in the Baghdad campaign, which began in June. He added, "I don't think putting more coalition (troops) in here is the right answer."

As an example, Thurman said that he has one U.S. battalion working with Iraqi Army and police in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite al-Baya neighborhood and the mixed southern neighborhood of Dora.

But, he said, "I felt like we needed more Iraqi Army in there to work side-by-side with the police and the national police, because those have been bad areas. And we're clearing the enemy out of there and we don't want them to come back."

There are a total of 302,000 Iraqi security forces, which include the army, national and local police. About 12,000 national police and 22,000 local police are serving in Baghdad, Thurman said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

U.S. troop numbers in Iraq not likely to drop soon

In recent days, U.S. military commanders have delivered a bleak message about Iraq: The number of American troops there is not likely to be substantially reduced anytime soon.

Yet the force may have been strained near the breaking point by frequent deployments to the region, say experts. That means in the months to come, the Pentagon could face increased pressure to expand the size of the active-duty Army, or rely even more heavily on call-ups of National Guard and Reserve units.

Recruiting more soldiers would take time. But any kind of action might be welcomed by those already in uniform, many of whom have served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East. "As a matter of fairness, we should be trying to help these people," says Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

About 144,000 US troops are in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said this week. There is no predetermined force level set months in advance, said Caldwell. Instead, the numbers depend on the requirements necessary to carry out the U.S. mission at any given time.

"What we've always said is that the level of troops here in the country of Iraq is conditions-based," said Caldwell.

Late last year, U.S. military officials said they hoped the number of U.S. troops on the ground could be cut to the 100,000 level by the end of 2006. But that turned out to be overly optimistic.

A surge in sectarian violence, and continued insurgent activity, means that the U.S. force in Iraq will stay at current levels through the beginning of next year, Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said this week.

Meanwhile, the pace of deployments to Iraq has battered the military, particularly the Army and Marine Corps.

Army officials would like to have a cushion of two brigades training and resting at home for every one brigade of approximately 3,500 personnel deployed overseas. But real-world conditions have meant the actual ratio is one brigade at home to one overseas.

In practical terms, this means that active-duty brigades get only one year at home in between tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, as opposed to the goal of two years.

Short of obligatory national service, moves such as opening the military to foreigners with no U.S. ties but who wish to move toward U.S. residence or citizenship might be necessary.

Read the rest at the Seattle Times

War Price on U.S. Lives Equal to 9/11

Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now surpass those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,974th to die in conflict. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

An Associated Press count of the U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 2,696. Combined with 278 U.S. deaths in and around Afghanistan, the 9/11 toll was reached, then topped, the same day. The Pentagon reported Friday the latest death from Iraq, an as-yet unidentified soldier killed a day earlier after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad.

Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed.

Read the rest at Fox News