Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 10th edition

October 10, 2006: Iraqi security forces undergo Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) training at Forward Operating Base McHenry near Hawijah.

October 10, 2002:

House gives Bush authority for war with Iraq

President Bush praised the House of Representatives for voting to give him authority to go to war to disarm Iraq Thursday, calling it "a debate and a result that all Americans can be proud of."

The House voted 296-133 to give Bush the authority to use U.S. military force to make Iraq comply with U.N. resolutions requiring it to give up weapons of mass destruction. Across the Capitol, a companion measure cleared a procedural vote by a wide margin earlier Thursday and drew the support of the chamber's Democratic leader.

"The House of Representatives has spoken clearly to the world and to the United Nations Security Council. The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally," Bush said. "Today's vote also sends a clear message to the Iraqi regime: It must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions, or it will be forced to comply."

The resolution passed by the House authorizes Bush to commit U.S. troops to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring that Iraq give up weapons of mass destruction. It requires Bush to declare to Congress either before or within 48 hours after beginning military action that diplomatic efforts to enforce those resolutions have failed.

The Bush administration and its supporters in Congress say Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has kept a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons in violation of U.N. resolutions and has continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Bush also has argued that Iraq could give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists.

"Saddam Hussein is seeking the means to murder millions in just a single moment. He's trying to extend that grip of fear beyond his own borders and he is consumed with hatred for America," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Under the resolution passed Thursday, Bush also must certify that action against Iraq would not hinder efforts to pursue the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked New York and Washington last year. And it requires the administration to report to Congress on the progress of any war with Iraq every 60 days.

Most opposition came from Democrats, who were sharply divided on the issue. Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq could avert war by demonstrating the United States is willing to confront Saddam Hussein over his obligations to the United Nations.

"I believe we have an obligation to protect the United States by preventing him from getting these weapons and either using them himself or passing them or their components on to terrorists who share his destructive intent," said Gephardt, who helped draft the measure.

But Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Congress and the administration were being driven by fear.

"It is fear which leads us to war," Kucinich said. "It is fear which leads us to believe that we must kill or be killed. Fear which leads us to attack those who have not attacked us. Fear which leads us to ring our nation in the very heavens with weapons of mass destruction."

Six House Republicans -- Ron Paul of Texas; Connie Morella of Maryland; Jim Leach of Iowa; Amo Houghton of New York; John Hostettler of Indiana; and John Duncan of Tennessee -- joined 126 Democrats in voting against the resolution. A total of 215 Republicans and 81 Democrats voted for it.

Iraq has denied having weapons of mass destruction and has offered to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return for the first time since 1998. Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Tawab Al-Mulah Huwaish called the allegations "lies" Thursday and offered to let U.S. officials inspect plants they say are developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

"If the American administration is interested in inspecting these sites, then they're welcome to come over and have a look for themselves," he said.

Bush wins Daschle's support
The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the measure late Thursday or early Friday. Thursday morning, Majority Leader Tom Daschle announced he will support Bush on Iraq, saying it is important for the country "to speak with one voice at this critical moment."

Daschle said the threat of Iraq's weapons programs "may not be imminent. But it is real. It is growing. And it cannot be ignored." However, he urged Bush to move "in a way that avoids making a dangerous situation even worse."

Daschle, D-South Dakota, had expressed reservations about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, and he was not part of an agreement between the White House and other congressional leaders framing the resolution last week.

Supporters of the White House-backed measure Thursday turned back an amendment by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, that would have limited U.S. military action to enforcing a new U.N. resolution to eliminate Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. If the United Nations did not act, Bush could seek a second vote to move against Iraq without U.N. support.

The amendment died on a 75-24 vote. An earlier 75-25 vote cut off the threat of a filibuster by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said the votes are likely to reflect the final outcome.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that would be the vote on the substance on final passage, but it's probably pretty close," said Lott, R-Mississippi.

Byrd argued the resolution amounted to a "blank check" for the White House.

"This is the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again," Byrd said. "Let us stop, look and listen. Let us not give this president or any president unchecked power. Remember the Constitution."

Read the rest at CNN

U.S. disputes Iraq occupancy plans

The Bush administration Friday disputed a report it is focusing on U.S. military occupation of Iraq as a leading option if Saddam Hussein's regime is toppled, but acknowledged an American presence would be needed "until such time as you can put in a better system."

The report, in the New York Times, quoted senior administration officials as saying the White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the post-World War II occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if U.S. forces oust Saddam. It quoted one senior official as saying the administration was "coalescing around" the concept.

Asked about that during an interview Friday afternoon on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We are obviously doing contingency planning and there are lots of different models from history that one could look at -- Japan, Germany -- but I wouldn't say that anything has been settled upon."

Earlier at a White House news briefing, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "The U.S. being an occupying power, no one views us as that."

He said U.S. forces would be on the ground in Iraq, possibly as part of a United Nations or international coalition aimed at keeping the peace, or through a "U.S. military civil affairs unit" responsible for restoring Iraq's infrastructure.

"We are looking for how to quickly transfer power to the Iraqi people both from inside Iraq and from outside Iraq and in the process we want to make sure stability is achieved so that Iraqi people can have water, they can have food, they can have heat, they can have electricity. And those are the issues that are being looked at now," Fleischer told reporters.

The question also came up at the Defense and State Department briefings.

"I would specifically and aggressively wave you off any hard and fast conclusions about what might happen in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq," said Pentagon spokeswoman Tori Clarke, adding that President Bush "has not said that military action will occur."

Powell said that if Bush does decide on war, "Obviously troops are going to a theater and to a country and in the immediate aftermath of such a conflict, there would have to be a need for some presence until such time as you can put in place a better system.

"I mean, the United States has done this many times in the course of the last 50 or 60 years and we always try to get out as quickly as we can once we have re-established peace, put in place a stable system," he said.

"It is never our intention to go and stay in a place and to impose our will by the presence of our military forces."

Fleischer said an American presence inside Iraq after a regime change would be welcomed by the Iraqi people.

"People want to be free, around the world. It doesn't matter what country they are, whether it is the United States or anywhere in the world," he said. "Nobody wants to live under a brutal dictatorship, and the people of Afghanistan view the United States as liberators."

The president himself, in a recent speech on the progress of restructuring Afghanistan, used the example of U.S. military and diplomatic involvement inside that country to make the case for staying in Iraq.

"We've got a great tradition of liberating people, not conquering them," Bush said.

"We never seek to impose our culture, or our form of government. We just want to live under those universal values, God-given values. We believe in the demands of human dignity that apply in every culture in every nation."

Read the rest at CNN

October 10, 2003:

Bush Urges Public To Be Upbeat on Iraq

President Bush, launching a new bid to halt the long slide in support for the occupation of Iraq, urged Americans Thursday to be optimistic and assured the public that the U.S. efforts there are proceeding better than it appears.

Addressing reservists and National Guardsmen at a time when more are expected to be sent to Iraq to quell violence and disorder, the president marked the sixth month of the fall of Baghdad by bidding Saddam Hussein "good riddance" and noting that the seemingly chaotic situation in Iraq is "a lot better than you probably think."

Bush's twin speeches here in New Hampshire, to service members and business leaders, were meant to be the keynote of the administration's reply to critics urging a reduced U.S. commitment in Iraq. "Americans," the president said, "are not the running kind." Bush's speech, however, was delivered on one of the more violent days in postwar Iraq: An attack on a police station killed eight, a Spanish diplomat was slain and another U.S. soldier was killed in an attack on a convoy.

Bush did not directly acknowledge Thursday's bloodshed, but he implicitly addressed the difficulties and their toll on his standing. "When you become the president, you cannot predict all the challenges that will come, but you do know the principles that you bring to the office, and they should not change with time or with polls," he said. "The challenges we face today cannot be met with timid actions or bitter words; our challenges will be overcome with optimism and resolve and confidence in the ideals of America."

Bush's largely identical speeches Thursday, delivered in Portsmouth and Manchester, received substantial advance billing as the White House has worked to shift the focus from the violence in Iraq, the lack of international help, the absence of proscribed weapons and the controversy over the administration's leak of the identity of a CIA operative who is married to a critic of Bush's Iraq policy. Bush used many of the same lines he commonly uses in the remarks he gives at fundraisers, but with a more measured tone.

Still, the speeches furthered the administration's shift in emphasis from Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction to his desire for such weapons and the general evil he represented. Echoing his speech to the United Nations almost two years ago about the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush celebrated the fall of Hussein's statue in Baghdad, six months ago today.

"Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power?" Bush asked. "There's only one decent and humane reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein: good riddance."

Bush repeated national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's contention Wednesday that it is "undeniable" that Hussein violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 -- not necessarily with actual weapons, but with biological laboratories that could have been used to produce weapons and with work on missiles that could have exceeded legal limits. "I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman," Bush said...

Bush blamed the news media for the public's negative impression of events in Iraq. "Life is getting better; it's a lot better than you probably think," he said. He cited improvements in Iraq's infrastructure that are "much different from the perceptions that you're being told life is like."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Cheney Defends Administration Actions on Iraq

Vice President Dick Cheney picked up where President Bush left off a day earlier, saying Friday that removing Saddam Hussein from power was one of few offensive actions the United States has taken to combat terror.

Picking up the baton passed among administration officials throughout the week, Cheney said the president took the bold move of declaring war on terror because he recognized that what had previously been viewed as individual terrorist acts were actually part of a coordinated effort by a ruthless network.

"For Al Qaeda, the World Trade Center attack in 1993 was part of a continuing campaign," Cheney told an audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "For us, that war started on 9/11. For them, it started years ago when Usama bin Laden declared war on the United States."
He said that the United States and its allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator who "cultivated ties to terror" and "had an established relationship with Al Qaeda, providing training" in the development of biological and chemical weapons production.

"Our mission in Iraq is a great undertaking and part of a larger mission that the United States accepted now more than two years ago," Cheney said.

The vice president received applause on more than one occasion, including when he repeated the Bush administration declaration that those who sponsor or harbor terror will be held to account.

Read the rest at Fox News

October 10, 2004:

The CIA 'old guard' goes to war with Bush

A powerful "old guard" faction in the Central Intelligence Agency has launched an unprecedented campaign to undermine the Bush administration with a battery of damaging leaks and briefings about Iraq.

The White House is incensed by the increasingly public sniping from some senior intelligence officers who, it believes, are conducting a partisan operation to swing the election on November 2 in favour of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, and against George W Bush.

Jim Pavitt, a 31-year CIA veteran who retired as a departmental chief in August, said that he cannot recall a time of such "viciousness and vindictiveness" in a battle between the White House and the agency.

John Roberts, a conservative security analyst, commented bluntly: "When the President cannot trust his own CIA, the nation faces dire consequences."

Relations between the White House and the agency are widely regarded as being at their lowest ebb since the hopelessly botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by CIA-sponsored exiles under President John F Kennedy in 1961.

There is anger within the CIA that it has taken all the blame for the failings of pre-war intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes.

Former senior CIA officials argue that so-called "neo-conservative" hawks such as the vice president, Dick Cheney, the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and his number three at the defence department, Douglas Feith, have prompted the ill-feeling by demanding "politically acceptable" results from the agency and rejecting conclusions they did not like. Yet Colin Powell, the less hardline secretary of state, has also been scathing in his criticism of pre-war intelligence briefings.

The leaks are also a shot across the bows of Porter Goss, the agency's new director and a former Republican congressman. He takes over with orders from the White House to end the in-fighting and revamp the troubled spy agency as part of a radical overhaul of the American intelligence world.

Bill Harlow, the former CIA spokesman who left with the former director George Tenet in July, acknowledged that there had been leaks from within the agency. "The intelligence community has been made the scapegoat for all the failings over Iraq," he said. "It deserves some of the blame, but not all of it. People are chafing at that, and that's the background to these leaks."

Fighting to defend their patch ahead of the future review, anti-Bush CIA operatives have ensured that Iraq remains high on the election campaign agenda long after Republican strategists such as Karl Rove, the President's closest adviser, had hoped that it would fade from the front pages.

In the latest clash, a senior former CIA agent revealed that Mr Cheney "blew up" when a report into links between the Saddam regime and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist behind the kidnappings and beheadings of hostages in Iraq, including the Briton Kenneth Bigley, proved inconclusive.

Other recent leaks have included the contents of classified reports drawn up by CIA analysts before the invasion of Iraq, warning the White House about the dangers of post-war instability. Specifically, the reports said that rogue Ba'athist elements might team up with terrorist groups to wage a guerrilla war.

Critics of the White House include officials who have served in previous Republican administrations such as Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA head of counter-terrorism and member of the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan.

"These have been an extraordinary four years for the CIA and the political pressure to come up with the right results has been enormous, particularly from Vice-President Cheney.

"I'm afraid that the agency is guilty of bending over backwards to please the administration. George Tenet was desperate to give them what they wanted and that was a complete disaster."

With the simmering rows breaking out in public, the Wall Street Journal declared in an editorial that the administration was now fighting two insurgencies: one in Iraq and one at the CIA.

In a difficult week for President Bush leading up to Friday's presidential debate, the CIA-led Iraqi Survey Group confirmed that Saddam had had no weapons of mass destruction, while Mr Rumsfeld distanced himself from the administration's long-held assertion of ties between Saddam and the al-Qaeda terror network.

Earlier, unguarded comments by Paul Bremer, the former American administrator of Iraq who said that America "never had enough troops on the ground", had given the row about post-war strategy on the ground fresh impetus.

With just 23 days before the country votes for its next president, both sides are braced for further bruising encounters.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

October 10, 2005:

Death toll rises for U.S. reservists in Iraq

The National Guard and Reserves are suffering a strikingly higher share of U.S. casualties in Iraq, their portion of total American military deaths nearly doubling since last year.

Reservists have accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. deaths since the Iraq war began, but the proportion has grown over time. It was 10% for the five weeks it took to topple Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and 20% for 2004 as a whole.

The trend accelerated this year. For the first nine months of 2005 reservists accounted for 36% of U.S. deaths, and for August and September it was 56%, according to Pentagon figures.

The Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve accounted for more than half of all U.S. deaths in August and in September — the first time that has happened in consecutive months. The only other month in which it even approached 50% was June 2004.

Casualties in Iraq have shifted toward citizen soldiers as their combat role has grown to historic levels. National Guard officials say their soldiers have been sent into combat in Iraq in numbers not previously seen in modern times — far more than were sent to Vietnam, where active-duty troops did the vast majority of the fighting.

Charles Krohn, a former Army deputy chief of public affairs, said the reservists are taking up the slack for the highly stressed active-duty Army.

"Decisions made years earlier made going to war in any significant way impossible without Guard and Reserve participation. But I can't imagine anyone postulated the situation we face today: We don't seem very anxious to bring back the draft and we can't get enough volunteers for a war that is not universally popular," Krohn said.

Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war — 220 of the 487 total — occurred in the first nine months of 2005, according to Pentagon figures. The deadliest month was August, when 49 Guard and Reserve members died.

The mounting casualties among reservists in Iraq has been overshadowed by the attention focused on a rising overall U.S. death toll, now approaching 2,000. It complicates recruiting for the National Guard and Reserve, which often attract people who think of the military reservists' role as something other than front-line combat.

Gone are the days when the National Guard and Reserve served mainly as "rear-area" support, far from the front-line fighting.

In Iraq the front line is everywhere — on rural roads where Guard and Reserve soldiers drive supply trucks, at urban checkpoints, in remote villages and at major supply bases. Some units also have been attached to active-duty units with the specific mission of conducting offensive operations.

The casualties have contributed to what has been the most challenging time for the Guard and Reserve since the military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. In addition to fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and helping keep the peace in the Balkans, the Guard in particular was called to action in large numbers for rescue and relief from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

At one point this year more than half of the combat forces in Iraq were National Guard.

"That's a first," said Army Maj. Les Melnyk, historian for the Pentagon office that manages the Army and Air National Guard. "The Guard can't claim that (level of combat) for World War II or World War I — the other major wars we fought in. Never more than 50% of the combat forces were Guard."

At present, of the approximately 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about half are reservists: 49,000 Army National Guard, 22,000 Army Reserve and 4,000 Marine Reserve, according to figures provided by those organizations.

The trend is almost certain to be reversed next year, when the active-duty Army is scheduled to make a proportionally larger contribution to the overall force. The number of National Guard brigades in Iraq, for example, is scheduled to drop next year from seven to two.

Since the Vietnam era, the military has given the Guard and Reserve more vital support functions like military police and engineers, so that any major conflict would involve more than just the active-duty force. Thus it was inevitable that a sizable portion of the force in Iraq would be Guard and Reserve; what has made the Iraq experience so different is the large numbers of reservists getting killed and wounded.

At least 300 soldiers of the National Guard, 78 of the Army Reserve and 93 of the Marine Corps Reserve, have died in the Iraq conflict. The Navy Reserve has lost 13, the Air Force Reserve three and the Air National Guard one. Together that is one-quarter of the total U.S. death toll, which stood at 1,947 on Monday, by the Pentagon's count.

Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, said in an interview that the increased reliance on the Guard and Reserve in 2005 was deliberately planned to allow active-duty units like the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division to complete a reorganization before they returned to Iraq.

"It bought us the time we needed," Lovelace said.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 10, 2006:

Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

The survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are being published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet.

The same group in 2004 published an estimate of roughly 100,000 deaths in the first 18 months after the invasion. That figure was much higher than expected, and was controversial. The new study estimates that about 500,000 more Iraqis, both civilian and military, have died since then -- a finding likely to be equally controversial.

Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.

"We're very confident with the results," said Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins physician and epidemiologist.

A Defense Department spokesman did not comment directly on the estimate.

"The Department of Defense always regrets the loss of any innocent life in Iraq or anywhere else," said Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros. "The coalition takes enormous precautions to prevent civilian deaths and injuries."

Read the rest at the Washington Post