Denying credit where none is due...
In a story you are unlikely to see broadcast nationally, the mayor of the Iraqi city of Tal Afar journeyed to the United States to say just two words: thank you.
Of course, this thanks should be well targeted - indeed, he was thanking the men and women on the front line who made it possible. He was also thanking the American people who supported the effort to rid the planet of Saddam and of the subsequent thuggish band that fought against the peaceful emergence of self-government in Iraq.
To the not in my name crowd, don't worry, we will keep you to your word.
Where is this story on the news? I've been amazed at the complete disconnect of the American press from any desire to see a positive outcome in Iraq. Face it, the only stories that make the broadcast news out of Iraq are of death. It's a Dead Pool, a gallows tally. Has any nation ever had a news establishment with a vested interest in such defeatism?
I do not want the media cheerleading the war, nor spiking truthful stories about the conflict. Merely act as if they had a stake in victory - which they do.
It's just not a political stake, and it seems to me that is what currently decides what is newsworthy...
No, I didn't switch to GEICO...
There are reports - early ones, notoriously unreliable - that al-Zarqawi may have been killed.
An early Christmas present, err, holiday present?
One wonders about the timing if this turns out to be true. Just a coincidence that this happened after the ill-received bombing of a Jordanian wedding in the Muslim world?
The first thing springing to mind when hearing al-Zarqawi might have exited the planet is - was the Jordan bombing his Fredo moment? Had al-Zarqawi done irreparable damage to the al-Qaeda family, damage that couldn't be undone so long as he drew breath? Was that hovel in Mosul like Fredo's boat on the lake?
There is no reason to think the al-Qaeda organization is any different than any other organization in terms of the factions and internecine warfare that takes place, be it a crime family, or a terrorist organization. Perhaps that great evil at a Jordanian wedding will end in just a small amount of good...
Bad news for al-Zarqawi - upon entering the afterlife, you know those 72 virgins? Well... you're one of them...
If this man falls... who will pick up the white flag and carry on?
In a suprising move, a man in Washington repeated himself.
What, you don't notice the repeat? The crack investigators of the American Media Establishment failed to notice that Congressman Murtha has mentioned troop withdrawal before.
Interesting how many stories related to this statement relate how Congressman Murtha is a "hawkish" Democrat - either to give his statement some special gravitas, or perhaps simply extract him from the larger pack of Democrats for whom the outcome of the war seems less important than the imminent end of it.
Of note in Murtha's prior arguments - the statement that we should pull out if we do not increase the presence of US forces in Iraq.
"We either have to mobilize or we have to get out," Murtha said, adding that he supported increasing U.S. troop strength rather than pulling out.
Whereas today, Murtha now argues a point counterintuitive from his earlier position - that the presence of US forces IS the problem:
"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, the Saddamists and foreign jihadists."
The question is - why now? After two enormous votes, electing an interim government and ratifying a constitution, and another vote just weeks away, after the clearout of Fallujah, as Iraqi's are increasingly demonstrating skill in maintaining order and dealing with security threats with a deftness that grows with time - why only now are US forces the catalyst for violence? Did this change at some point? Who precisely were the insurgents and foreign Al Qaeda terrorists attacking before? The US Army? The Salvation Army?
And one could easily argue - very successfully in fact - that the new target of violence is indeed not American forces, but Iraqi security forces. Where are the car bombs going off? Police and Army recruitment centers. The Iraqis are bearing the brunt of the violence from the insurgents now - not American forces. The clear attempts to foment civil war in Iraq, to create sectarian violence, directs violence at and among Iraqis, not coalition forces.
And the one thing keeping US and coalition forces in Iraq is the violence - we can question the rationality of anyone who uses terrorism as a weapon, but even Al Qaeda in Iraq and former Baath elements know with certainty that the one thing keeping US forces from drawing down is the very violence that Murtha claims is caused by the presence of American forces. Does Murtha think the insurgents are unaware of American desires to draw down forces and leave Iraq?
The question is then asked - so why does the insurgency continue to fight? Why is Al Qaeda there attacking American forces when the Al Qaeda and insurgent presence and the ensuing security situation mandates that American forces remain? Because the violence destabilizes the government, and the failure of Iraq to synthesize as a nation is the only avenue for each of these two groups to achieve it's goals. The US forces aren't the catalyst for violence in Iraq, but they provide a justification for those predisposed to want to believe it.
The question I have for the newly compunctious Democrats and Republicans - when the nation went to war in the first place, did it ever occur to some of these people to want to win it?
When the going gets tough, the tough have to listen to whining...
Ah, the itch under my skin, the splinter in my mind - it is the attempts at revisionism and prevarication from those who now, seeing Iraq as a political liability, attempt to cast themselves as victims of a cruel hoax.
It isn't working. There is too much material out there. The RNC captured it well in a video here.
I have an indescribable disgust for those who now seek to play the fool rather than swallow hard and step up to what they themselves - no one else - said, and supported, and by act of commission or omission allowed to go forward in Iraq.
It seemed for many a natural extension of aggressive American policy posture to Iraq during the Clinton years - especially 1998, which saw major US strikes in Iraq, as well as the Iraq Liberation Act.
It seems many Democrats have the appetite for war, but not the stomach for it.
When so many other are getting it wrong, or not at all...
No matter how you feel about the wisdom of deposing Saddam Hussein and policing Iraq until a new government is seated, if you want to know what it's like where the metal meets the meat, you positively must read Michael Yon's Blog.
Don't read it expecting to like or dislike it, just read it and see what life is like for the men on the line.
The President reminds the nation how we got here, panic ensues...
The President's televised address on Iraq and the war on terror in general was what we've come to expect from him - he spends most of the time sounding like a man reading a speech. But there are moments where you can see he isn't reading someone else's words, but is speaking them as his own, and the effect is powerful. But the only thing some ears heard in the speech were the forbidden words "Iraq" and "September 11th" in the same paragraph.
Breathless may be the best way to describe the reaction of some pundits and Democrats to the President's speech. The claim? That the President "tied" Iraq to 9/11, with the clear intonation that the President sought to justify our presence in Iraq as being directly connected to complicity in the September 11th attacks.
Not only is the question of why we invaded Iraq of questionable relevance anymore - this event occurred, the regime toppled, this rubicon passed - but the President's remarks about September 11th in no way attempt to create or imply any causitive link between the attack itself and Iraqi involvement in it.
Let's show the statements that are in question:
"The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September 11, 2001."
"After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again."
"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden."
"They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail."
"After September 11, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult and that we would prevail."
It requires the most tendentious nature to offer that the above statements were meant to justify the Iraq War as retaliation for the 9/11 attacks - but this is what is implied by the phony consternation eminating from many on the left. The President did not, nor will he, attempt to cast his decision to invade Iraq as some sort of get-even for 9/11. What this President does get, and most on the left don't, is that 9/11 wasn't a singly bad day, a single event or moment in time. It was in fact a new stage in a long brewing conflict between Islamist radicalism and the West, the United States in particular as leader of the free world and strong supporter of Israel. Terror is the weapon of choice in the Middle East, used by innumerable groups for innumerable causes. And this nation must stand against them all or abandon the principles which undergird all the better notions we stand for.
To suggest that after 9/11 the only task before the American people was retribution against those directly responsible for the attack is to commit an act of cognitive irresponsibility and shortsightedness - not to mention prescription-strength stupidity.
The big game this Sunday isn't the Super Bowl, it's the Iraqi elections...
This Sunday is a day of enormous import in the nation of Iraq. While Iraqi terrorists are looking forward to Sunday and preparing for big attacks, the Iraqi people may show the world that we have underestimated their desire for a free election.
Sure, voting is going to be tough in parts of the country - hasn't stopped people before. In Central America, in El Salvador, bombs routinely went off at polling places - and the people returned. In Ukraine, the people demanded to vote twice when their first vote was corrupted. In Afghanistan, women prepared their bodies for death with ritual adornment and ceremony before going to the ballot box, where suprisingly little violence occurred.
So why not Iraq? The terrorists are betting they can disrupt the election and spoil the outcome.
But this Sunday, I'm taking the Iraqi people, minus the points...
The director of CARE in Iraq appears to be dead...
You may recall we mentioned the case of Margaret Hassan, director of CARE International's Iraq operations, who was kidnapped some weeks ago. It appears she may have been executed for her two decades of troubling to feed the hungry in Iraq...
We mentioned previously how we were worried about her fate in one instance - the re-election of President Bush. It appears that our fears have been realized. With no real advantage to be gained by releasing her, it appears she was executed to garner whatever press the anguish of her loved ones might provide.
It must certainly be clear to most people in Iraq by now - being taken hostage is merely a delayed death sentence. Do not provide them with comforting propaganda, do not humor them with tears or pleadings, do not embolden them with easy compliance, rather for God's sake carry a gun and take one of them with you.
Iraqi trainees massacred, St. Valentines style...
In an attack that indicated collusion with real or impersonating authorities, fifty some Iraqi miltary trainees were killed in Iraq after attending a training session.
It is unclear what level of complicity or penetration exists within the trainees or those who knew of their mission. It's possible it's a matter of mere dumb luck that this bus of unarmed trainees was hit. But it's more likely not the case.
These incidents make us wonder - those who decry the dissolution of the Baathists and the old Iraqi army, do they not expect that such people would behave in a similar, treacherous fashion? The best solution seems a long term re-establishment of a new, uncronyed Iraqi armed forces.
But for God's sake... don't send them anywhere unarmed - they are targets moreso than any other group in Iraq.
A new Iraqi hostage has a long history of helping Iraq, and a short history of irressoluteness...
A British aid worker who has lived in Iraq since before Saddam Hussein took power is the latest hostage to appear on that spyglass into Hell, Al Jazeera, after being kidnapped and videotaped pleading for her life, saying "this might be my last hour."
Unfortunately, the obvious lesson - that there is no alternative to destroying people who will kidnap women who aid the poor and threaten to behead them, and that is why we fight - is lost when the media parrots this unfortunate womans pleadings. Would we continually broadcast tape of a woman held in a bank heist, pleading with the police to just stay away and let the thieves leave? No - it is a grotesque exploitation and we have no part of it. But we don't hold the same standard for Iraqi kidnappings, because of how it inflames our political debates. Here's Margaret Hassan, begging and pleading, sobbing, asking for troops to leave Iraq - which surely will make Iraq a better place, won't it?
There is not a high likelihood that this woman will perish - even those sympathetic to the thugs will not find chopping a woman's head off very appealing. I expect the kidnappers will milk her capture for all of it's worth - her last hour, hardly, they want every bit of mileage possible. That does not hold though for one circumstance - if Bush is re-elected next month. If that occurs - I fear for this woman's safety.
And for God's sake woman, fight the tears and find the courage of Erica Pratt...
A unit that refuses orders better hope the rope is just for a flogging...
A reserve unit in Iraq has apparently refused a mission they deemed too dangerous - citing everything from a lack of armed escort to poor vehicle repair.
Perhaps they could cite their own cowardice.
We respect greatly the men and women of the armed forces, top to bottom, general to private. While most talk the talk, these men and women walk the walk. But refusing an order in a combat zone is something that cannot be tolerated. Whatever they refused to deliver, there were men in harms way that needed those supplies. And when they refuse to go, others must go in their place. In this case, the order was apparently carried out by other soldiers without incident.
This likely reveals a problem both with these soldiers and their immediate chain of command - a problem that if found to be true without mitigating circumstances will likely be resolved with dishonorable discharges at the least.
Instances of undisciplined actions such as this and Abu Ghraib cast an undeserved pall on the actions and heroic efforts of far too many...
Saddam couldn't stop thinking about Iran...
Sitting in his cage, Saddam has apparently revealed to his interrogators his consistent fixation on Iran.
While logical in context, with regional adversarial roles stretching long back, there is something that doesn't wash with Saddam as merely reacting to his own fear of Iran. He certainly attacked Iran without provocation in a war that badly damaged both nations, sought nuclear materials a full two decades prior to Iran, and his aggression against Kuwait cannot be seen in any context as a response to Iranian hostilities. Rather, it's easier to accept on it's face what is apparent - Saddam was a megalomaniacal aggressive tyrant who's track record is one of internal repression and external aggression (channelled Jesse Jackson briefly there).
Missing from this is the context of his relationship with the Bush Presidents. Iraq may have seen President George H.W. Bush as a potential friend, considering his role as VP during the 80's when the United States supported Iraq over it's far more inimical nemesis Iran. But it was the first President that ruined Saddam's reach at regional hegemony and glory, to which Saddam replied by trying to have him assassinated in Kuwait during a 1993 visit. And it's that President's eldest son, the current President Bush, who certainly had not forgotten that.
Word has it Saddam has asked to vote absentee in the US elections...
And you thought Willie Horton was bad?
In a stunning turn of events that makes the Dukakis furlough program pale, a man held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as an enemy combatant for eight months rejoined the Taliban after release, and got his parole permanently revoked by Afghan forces.
This was only a matter of time. Thankfully, this person was killed by Afghan forces. But what if he hadn't been? Can we imagine the outrage and furor if someone who was held at Gitmo, then released under pressure from handwringing concerns either foreign or domestic, went on to commit an act of terror that resulted in innocent deaths?
There is a disconnect between the policies of the war on terror and the rhetoric. Everyone wants to be tough on terror, nobody wants to be tough on the terrorists. The people in Gitmo aren't people who have a funny last name and tried to check a plastic spork through airline security, these are people who were taken in arms against American forces.
The EU and ACLU need to just get over it. Guantanamo Bay needs to be a Roach Motel where the vermin check in, but don't check out...
Bush sees the Iraq glass half-full, Kerry sees through a glass darkly...
In comments from the Rose Garden, President Bush and Iraqi PM Allawi both re-iterated strong support for the effort in Iraq, both in the decisions to topple Saddam as well as stridency to stay the course and overcome current difficulties. Senator Kerry clearly is seeing things differently, and with the Republicans firing back, is exposing a weakness in his new campaign tactics on Iraq.
The problem Kerry has is not that he sees things going badly in Iraq, or points out problems and issues for criticism - this is valid from any part of the political spectrum. Kerry's problem politically is that he doesn't transition his criticism to any positive vision or outcome for America or Iraq.
American voters may not like the way things are going, and may be willing to listen to someone say they'd do things differently, but it must be toward a positive end. Kerry unfortunately doesn't spell out a positive end, other than an end to bad news. His argument that he would be more effective diplomatically in getting other nations to support our actions in Iraq may be altruistic lip service, but it'd at least be palatable to voters if it was toward a noble end - but to Kerry, it's simply so we can pull our troops out. It's not so we can defeat terrorists and bring hope to Iraqis and to the entire middle east, it's not so we can defeat terrorists and further the advance of human liberty, it's simply so we can hurry up and return home to Fortress America.
Listen to Bush talk about Iraq - he talks about freedom, liberty, elections, schools, democracy. Listen to Kerry talk about Iraq - misleading, mismanaged, dangerous, dire, wrong. There is no good end in Iraq when you listen to Kerry's words. Rather than offer a new vision to support Allawi and the new Iraqi government by doing things differently than Bush, Kerry chops Allawi off at the knees as nothing but an apparatchik. If there is a word American's hate, it's defeat, but defeatism is the cause celebre at the Kerry Campaign, and it may make time with the base inclined to want to beat a hasty retreat, but not to those who may want a fresh approach on Iraq that doesn't involve a white flag.
Kerry can see the glass as half empty, but he has to stop seeing Iraq as through a glass darkly...
The Winter Soldier returns...
In a story about Kerry and Iraq that implausibly begins "Staking out new ground on Iraq", Senator Kerry finally embraced the girl he's been flirting with the whole campaign - his old girlfriend - the anti-war voter.
Today's incarnation of Kerry's Iraq policy continues the insult to the greatest friend and ally a nation could have, decrying the Iraq War as a unilateral one, ignoring contributions from numerous countries who have lost troops and who will certainly be surprised to hear that America is in Iraq alone. He once again proclaimed the US rushed to war, despite babysitting and running Operation Southern Watch for thousands of sorties for what most people refer to as a "decade".
Most Americans find backseat driving unseemly, but sometimes that's what a challenger has to do against an incumbent. But they really dislike combining backseat driving with Monday-morning quarterbacking. For all of the problems the US has in Iraq, there is a litany of problems we don't have. For every uprising in Fallujah, we didn't have a siege and urban war costing thousands of dead Americans in taking Baghdad. For every Moqtada Al-Sadr, there are two dead Hussein's and Saddam in a ratcage. For every problem with supplies, we didn't have a mass exodus or humanitarian crisis. For every shutdown of the Iraq pipeline, we didn't have years of putting out well fires. For every Baghdad blackout, there was no lack of fresh water for the people of Iraq.
War, it's been said, is a series of catastrophes that result in victory. You cannot trade one set for another, nor would you often want to. We do well to appreciate the fact that difficulties in Iraq are not insurmountable, not remotely. But Kerry is behind - enough so infact that his campaign has decided to Go Dean, which will probably become a phrase in our political lexicon. His campaign had tried to co-opt any attacks and weaknesses a Democrat faces on military issues by presenting Kerry as a Viet Nam veteran who spoke hawkishly on Iraq, with lip service to "do it better" as a wink and nod to the anti-war base. Kerry needs property to the right of Bush, he can't cede the ground between them. But with Kerry's vascillation, he's ceded the center by being to the left and right on Iraq, but never consistently in either location. Now, he has to take his stand on his own field, rather than staking claim on new turf.
The problem for Kerry is that this move buys him credit with the already converted - those egregiously offended by the war in Iraq already plan to vote against Bush, and most likely for Kerry. Rather than expanding his core to include disaffected independents who may like the idea that Saddam is gone but not like seeing Al-Sadr going free, he is consolidating his anti-war base. Base turnout may be where the Democrats see this election being decided. But Kerry lost credibility on this issue long ago - it's good to finally have a position he can call his own, but having been all over the map on the issue means that any discussion of Iraq with Kerry will inevitably involve phrases like "flip-flop" or "voted for before I voted against".
It also ignores one political reality - people would rather believe the best about their country than the worst. Presented with two plausible cases - on the one hand, the argument in support of a liberating America removing Saddam and working to make the world safer, and on the other, the argument that Iraq was a bad idea borne of bad intelligence with a dark horizon - Americans will almost always choose the one that appeals to their better nature, with rheotric of a higher purpose and grand vision. The Kerry campaign lacks a vision on Iraq that is anything but irrepressibly bleak.
It seems they've determined the only way to victory is to throw a Hail Mary - make the war in Iraq a political football and throw it as far as you can, and hope you come down in the end zone with the election...
Kerry continues his incoherence on Iraq...
With polling emerging that shows Bush with a solid lead over Kerry as the candidates race the back stretch and approach the clubhouse turn, Kerry has moved toward a more provocative difference with the White House on Iraq, creating a real mess of his position on the war in Iraq, and is likely to gain little.
Kerry's position has evolved recently from a guarded similarity with Bush, stating at the August 5th UNITY conference remarking that knowing what we know now "You bet we might have" gone into Iraq, itself incoherent but at least plausibly indicating a forceful confrontation with Iraq, to a spirited defense that he "voted to hold [Saddam] accountable and continues to believe that it was the right thing to do", to his statement to the American Legion that when it came to Iraq, he "would have done almost everything differently", to today's iteration, which is now full circle on Iraq, saying "It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time".
This latest statement of course begs the question - why on Earth did you vote for it then? It also echoes of a war past, and anyone with spare time and a LexisNexis account may find this isn't the first time he's mentioned such words...
We noted that the Kerry campaign was veering left, likely on advice from his staff, and this appears to be part and parcel of the attempt to draw a distinction between the candidates, which is what a challenger, and a losing one especially, must do. The problem is that Kerry has made his bed on Iraq, with tough talk in the 90's and leading to the final measure to remove Saddam, his vote to authorize force to depose him, and his subsequent half-hearted and equivocated but nonetheless passable support.
The other component that doesn't get as much attention but is just as if not more offensive is the continued disdain of the other nations supporting the US in Iraq, and today Kerry offered his most derisive and insulting statement yet, calling the coalition helping the US "the phoniest thing I ever heard." Phony as Christmas in Cambodia? Easter in Tehran? Arbor Day in Damascus?
While consistently underplayed in the media, this is a seriously offensive line to take with countries who have people dying in Iraq. And as Kerry offers timetables of six months to four years on withdrawals, he would do well to remember that said withdrawals are based on the assumption of additional troops from other nations, who are sure to appreciate Kerry's kind words for our current allies.
This is all new Iraq language showing Kerry thinks he is behind, long term, so he must reshuffle the deck and play a new hand. The problem is, these cards are not going to draw a hand high enough to beat an incumbent President. His strongest suit is domestic issues, but seeing Bush's pile of foreign policy chips Kerry can't resist playing his hand for them.
Americans are willing to elect a President who supported the Iraq war. Americans are willing to elect a President who opposed the Iraq war. Americans will not, however, elect a President who cannot decide between them.
The good news is, if Kerry's talking about Iraq, at least he's not talking about Viet Nam...
UPDATE: The President returns fire here...
If he has nine lives... use ten bullets...
As the seeminly intractable confrontation between both Iraqi and US forces and Iraqi ne'er-do-well Moqtada Al-Sadr drags on, the US and Iraqi interim government are once again in danger of allowing this situation to fester, and become worse.
This situation has deteriorated to the point of folly. When the US presses, Al Sadr is allowed to use negotiations as his last line of defense and escape, only to at some other point in time return to the same intractable conflict. All this serves to do is increase Al Sadr's Baghdad street cred as someone who can consistently confront the US and not pay the price. The compunction that prevents decisive action against Al Sadr strengthens him, emboldens him, and makes future dictats from the Iraqi government or US forces a starting point for negotiations.
The time has come, indeed passed, to remove Al Sadr from the equation. Examining the biography of most tyrants, you'll find a history of inexplicable survival, where superior forces seemingly had ample opportunity to deal with them, but somehow they managed to squirm away, every time. We are watching this in real time.
There is something rotten in Najaf, and US forces need to start taking out the trash...
Crank the handle, and ten years later, Saddam pops out - the folly of containment...
As charges and rhetoric fly between the Bush and Kerry campaigns regarding Iraq, and who did and did not support the Iraq War, and who did and did not support the troops, or the funding, the notion that Saddam posed no threat, and was contained, has floated forth.
The notion of containment as a solution ignores the fundamental fact that containment is never a solution, merely an improvisation until a real solution presents itself. An outbreak is contained, until those infected can be cured. A fire is contained, until it can burn itself out. Yet international relations do not readily lend themselves to self-curing episodes - a problem placed in a box, tends to stay a problem in a box.
Imagine discovering a snake in your home. Would most consider simply putting a box on top of the snake a solution?
A snake in a box is no less a problem than a snake on the loose - one merely presents a more immediate threat. You have merely exchanged one problem for another - you've exchanged the problem of a snake loose in your home with the problem of a snake in a box in your home. The snake is no less deadly - he simply has an immediate barrier between you. An improvement in immediate situation, but no solution. You can rely on the barrier, the box, that he will not escape it, that it will maintain integrity - and trust to that. Sleep tight.
Or you can kill the snake.
Only in the latter is the threat removed, the problem solved.
The same is certainly true of Saddam's now-deposed regime in Iraq. The Saddam problem that was placed into a box in 1991 is the Saddam problem the world found itself dealing with over a decade later. The Iraqi army, broken in 1991, was still largely broken. Saddam, a tyrant in 1991, was still ruling by fiat and threat. Nothing had changed in the interim, though we did discover his WMD programs were far more advanced than we'd first thought. It is argued that somehow Saddam's regime was something we could keep safely in a jar on the shelf, a box in the corner, indefinitely until the problem of the Iraqi dictator solved itself. Containment, it is argued, as a solution.
Yet containment does not hold. Examine for instance the situation on the Korean peninsula. North Korea was contained - at peace, if you consider socioeconomic stagnation and military brinksmanship across the 38th parallel peace. Except that over fifty years of containment, North Korea managed to nuclearize itself. Now, a starving, nuclear North Korea casts a shadow across Seoul. Containment doesn't solve problems, it simply removes their immediacy. It also allows those problems with a will to escape, to eventually do so.
Containment is one of those things that works, until it doesn't work. The fire was contained - until it spread. The infection was contained - until it spread. North Korea was contained - until it nuclearized. The Taleban were contained - until their harboring of terrorists bore fruit.
Saddam's containment was already cracking. Despite US pressure, Iraq was obtaining capital outside the grossly corrupt Oil-For-Food program. Pressure was mounting at the UN as well as regionally to reduce or even outright lift the sanctions - yes, the same sanctions now proclaimed to have been all that was needed to keep Saddam in his cage.
Containment isn't a plan - it's what is done when a plan fails. It is a mere stopgap measure that can allow one time to solve a problem, but it solves nothing in and of itself. In the age of terrorism, and nuclear and biochem proliferation, containment isn't a solution.
Iraqi cleric promises to fight to the death - sounds reasonable...
Troublesome, corpulent cleric Moqtada Al Sadr is once again challenging coalition forces, and has defiantly declared his willingness to die in his struggle.
For the last five days, US forces have accomodated those wanting to martyr themselves for Al Sadr, to the tune of several hundred dead. This is unfortunately a result of the prior policy which allowed Al Sadr to simply fade away, rather than insist on his immediate defeat. It's unclear if this was a policy born in Washington, Baghdad, or on the front lines. But the policy once again shows peace requires victory - simply taking your adversary's will to fight isn't enough. The US is playing by a different set of rules, and until they change from trying to stop Al Sadr, to trying to defeat Al Sadr, we can expect flare-ups, shootings, and rebellions.
"I will remain in Najaf city until the last drop of my blood has been spilled.?
Your proposal is accepted.
And he's gonna kidnap a glass of milk...
The recent spate of kidnappings in Iraq is growing predictably in response to cowardice and compunction from some fairly unreliable governments, from Madrid to Manila.
Between Spanish elections and Phillipino withdrawals, the message to the terrorists is - crime pays, at least when dealing with countries that have precious little backbone. It's simple demonstrable logic - if countries give in to kidnappings, more countries will see their citizens kidnapped. Having tasted the success of operations against Spain and the Phillipines, the terrorists are looking to wash it down with more kidnappings against others like Poland, Bulgaria, Egypt, Turkey, and Kuwait.
It's a strategy borne of years of warfare - kill all they send, and eventually, they will stop sending them.
Those countries in Iraq, or considering commitment of forces to Iraq, must at a minimum consider that either the cause is worth fighting, killing, and dying for, or it is not - there is no middle ground in warfare. To Manila, it was worth raising a little capital for workers and improving relations with Washington, but not worth doing any actual fighting or dying.
The Phillipines came to Iraq for the wrong reason - and hence, is susceptible to easy coercion. And now, defeating those who will kidnap foreigners for political ransom will be that much harder, and the price paid much higher - rather than taking a stand, drawing a line and saying here, and no further, Manila has erased the line, forcing it to be redrawn in starker relief with the blood of others. Weakness is provocative, as is cowardice.
Ask any criminal - they don't look for the richest mark, they look for the easy mark...
Cheney cuts through the feldercarb...
Vice President Cheney made clear his, and by extension the US, policy position on Saddam's soon to be shortened life.
Cutting to the chase - no pointless dithering in whether Saddam is guilty or not - Cheney gave a simple matrimonial "I do" to whether or not he things Saddam should be executed.
Mentioned in the story is one of the sillier discussions surrounding Iraq and Al Qaeda - the notion that they never actually got around to collaborating on terror attacks. And that is supposed to undermine the war to remove Saddam? That they'd talked about it, but never had gotten around to doing it?
Good grief, it's September 10th in America again...
Saddam appears in court, checks his chair for attached electrodes...
Saddam Hussein got his first taste of his impending doom during a visit to the Iraqi court that will be evaluating his crimes.
Defiant and at times cocky, Hussein continued to proclaim himself rightful elected leader of Iraq - of which he is most certain, as he personally created the vote total himself. The Iraqi judge, for his part, tried to contain Saddam's more fanciful claims, including slandering the Kuwaiti's and President Bush.
Increasing calls have come from more handwringing quarters asking if Saddam can get what his regime arguably never provided - a fair trial. If one defines a 'fair trial' as a trial where the defendent has a chance to go free, or a 50/50 chance of being found not guilty, then no, certainly, his trial will not meet that misguided standard.
If, however, 'fair' means justice, the rule of law, punishment befitting the crime, settlement of a debt incurred by criminal recklessness and malice - then this trial can only barely achieve fairness. For how can a court impose a punishment fitting so heinous a group of crimes as genocidal warmongering and torturous, barbaric tyranny? Saddam is unworthy even with his life to begin to compensate and deliver justice to the families of perhaps one million people who were subjugated and slaughtered under his regime.
If Saddam cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him, unless they are in a mass grave in the Iraqi desert...
In NATO class...
Iraq is sovereign. And free.
Of course it's op-ed, but a nice, incisive look in the NY Times on Kerry and his Iraq position dilemma...
A very insightful article on the delicate balancing Kerry is having to do on Iraq, and the pitfalls that remain for him.
An even more cerebral read on the war on terror at NRO here.
When you care enough to send the very worst...
Al Qaeda has released a pointed message aimed at Italian PM Berlusconi, making special note of it's latest handiwork.
Name calling is the last resort in a losing argument, and Al Qaeda has started showing the desperation in their rhetoric. Clearly perturbed that the Italian leader has stood by the US, the usual gambit of killing a citizen and expecting compliance has gone nowhere. Without the ability to capitalize on fear and compunction, Al Qaeda has nothing but petty insults to hurl, like a child losing an argument on a schoolbus.
Messages from the Allies to Al Qaeda are normally written in chalk on metal before being dropped by an F/A-18...
George W. Bush...metrosexual?
Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi gave his personal support, and appraisal, of President Bush as well as his approval of the Iraq mission.
The Italian Prime Minister called Bush a man "open to everyone's feelings" and cautions those who don't know his "sensitive side".
With elections coming in Europe, it may be important for allies of Bush to soften Bush's image on the continent. But in the US, the metrosexual Presidency is a sure loser - don't expect pictures of Bush crying at "Terms of Endearment" or holding kittens. Do expect pictures of him carrying a grass scythe wearing boots and a cowboy hat, or castrating a bull...
Bush speech mixed bag...
President Bush's address on Monday evening reviewed the Iraq conflict, addressed where we've been, and detailed some where might be going.
As a speech, it was a mixed bag. Carefully stating that things may get worse before they get better, Bush made clear his unalterable course on the transfer of power on June 30th, and the continued US security presence in Iraq. But missing was the name "Hussein" when reviewing where the conflict has come from. These days, Saddam seems also-ran news, but to reiterate that removing him was the key objective in the Iraq war cannot be too frequently stated.
The speech picked up toward the end, and the President always seems more comfortable and effective talking about positions than particulars. He's not a hands on executive, he's a big picture guy, so you can see the light bulb go on when he talks about liberty, freedom, and security, and the light bulb go off when he's talking about process, regional councils, and a 5 step program...
The White House still has communication problems. The President has a strong hand, but his speeches have yet to play it. This could be a case of waiting to make the big bet when it matters later in the game...
Fighting in a mosque means a short trip to the funeral...
Coalition forces have dropped Queensbury rules and are engaging insurgents and other hostile forces in mosques in Najaf and elsewhere in Iraq.
US forces apparently have learned that you aren't going to win any friends avoiding mosques, and aren't going to lose any friends by attacking insurgents using them as ammo dumps and bases. Giving a voice to anti-American stridency regarding holy sites and mosques disserves logic - while we hear of Iraqi's being offended US forces attacked insurgents there, we hear little of offense they were used as ammo dumps and sniper nests to begin with.
Now that forces have begun taking care of business in mosques and holy sites, grumbling is growing louder for al-Sadr to take his rabble out. And American insistence on pressing the issue should demonstrate they can get out, or get carried out...
It was gas gas gas...
A roadside explosive device that detonated in Iraq on Saturday did contain the components for sarin gas, according to DoD tests.
Another explosive device found earlier had remnants of mustard gas. All seem to be old devices, predating the first Gulf War. Part of the justification for the war was to prevent such devices from finding their way into the hands of terrorists, though that is now where we seem to be finding them.
Which of course presents a problem for the Bush Administration, who for the longest time have been browbeaten by opponents decrying the abscence of WMD in Iraq. Emergence of a WMD threat may vindicate their concern, but present a new problem and new criticism. To be honest, it's best to face such weapons with troops in Iraq with MOPP gear than in US cities with saran wrap and Michael Jackson surgical masks.
Time will tell if the terorrists knew what they had, or simply stumbled into possession of munitions that Saddam had collected like baseball cards.
The Iraqi general of the Fallujah brigade sees the big picture...
The Iraqi general who has taken over security in the contested city of Fallujah spoke to local leaders in a forthright fashion defending the United States and it's mission there.
It's always tempting, and prudent, to take such comments with a grain of salt - he wouldn't be the first general to say what the US wants to hear in order to aggrandize his own personal power base. But these words are needed in Iraq - and here at home. There is precious little air time given to those speaking and acting in support of the United States in Iraq - about as little given to those speaking on it's behalf here.
In a nutshell, the general get's it - the US came to remove a coward, and will help build a better Iraq, but only if the insurgents stop shooting at us. If he can get it, why can't Ted Kennedy?
Are there any cities in Iraq that aren't holy?
The US military has started hitting mosques in ubiquitous Iraqi holy cities where Al-Sadr militiamen are using them as ammo dumps and bases of operations.
This is most welcome news. Not only is the battle being taken to the enemy, not only are locals happy to see Al-Sadr get his, not only is it obvious to the world how the mosques are being misused, but this hopefully will begin to end this practice of hiding behind domes and watching the American forces hem and haw with handwringing compunction. And notice the end result - a Machiavellian lesson for the US military on how to deal with your enemy. The ending comments indicate this mistake is less likely to be repeated.
When it comes to building ammo dumps in mosques, the insurgents and world must know - if you build it, we will come...
Worse before it gets better? Define better...
Word is out that there are some three discs chock full of pictures of mistreatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison. Donald Rumsfled alluded to the presence of these photos, described as more graphic than the existing photos, when he remarked it would get "worse before it gets better".
At some point, a point we've already passed, more viewing just becomes salacious. The repeated replay of the same Barrel O' Iraqis has transitioned past informative to the prurient and exploitative. We are aware of the photos, their content - and they can be put away now.
Releasing more photos is likely a continued exercise in the same vein. We know what they contain - and seeing these pictures once was enough. As inappropriate as the acts depicted are, one has to ask -
Who thought taking pictures was a good idea?
Who thought posing with naked Iraqis was a good idea? Photos convey what it was like to be someplace you are not. Who wants to convey what it was like to sodomize an Iraqi detainee with a chemical lamp?
Just like being there? No thanks...
Know when to hold him, know when to fold him...
With the release of the Iraq abuse photos, numerous calls have come from expectedly Democrat corners for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
During his Senate testimony, he was asked by several Democrats, including the sage Evan Bayh, about resignation. Rumsfeld stalwartly declared he will stay on. The court of public opinion for now has Rumsfeld in the lead - most want to keep him on. Most like his fiery candor, and even those who oppose his policies grudgingly respect him. But there is only one person who gives the thumbs up or down - the President. And the President has given his strong thumbs up.
Why, when it might be expedient to let Rummy swing for this?
The President both respects and rewards personal loyalty. Witness the extended tenure of George Tenet, who he could have fired for several reasons. Second, the political damage of removing Rumsfeld is far greater than the political cost of keeping him - can anyone imagine an election year mid-war SecDef Senate confirmation?
These costs could change, and change the calculation - but the President isn't one to change his mind, and Rumsfeld isn't going anywhere.
When Trent Lott was twisting in the wind, it was the President's non-endorsement that spelled the end for him. With Rumsfeld on the block, it's the President who wields the axe, and he's made it clear he will not use it.
Americans are willing to die for Iraqi freedom, when will Iraqis be willing?
As Iraq stumbles toward the June 30th transition toward a semblance of self rule, an increasingly loud question is being asked - when will Iraqis step up for Iraq?
It's not enough for Americans to die for Iraqi freedom. Iraqis must do it as well. In this domestic conflict, the side willing to kill, fight, and die will prevail. The terrorists, Baathists, Saddam loyalists, and extremists ALL are willing to kill or be killed. Until it matters that much to Iraqis, hope is dim.
This is partially a function of circumstance - those men likely willing to stand and fight for freedom were already liquidated by Saddam's regime. But fight they must. The real move in American public opinion is caused by seeing Americans die for an ungrateful cause - we will lay down our lives to do what is right, but not for the unappreciative or those who will not help themselves.
The Kurds in the north of Iraq are a notable exception. They have stood by America, and fought hard for their freedom. While the geopolitics have prevented formation of an independent Kurdish state, the US needs to remember who was part of the solution, and who was part of the problem.
Americans are willing to die for freedom. But until the Iraqis are, they will continue to be a ruled people, bound by fear and submission.
Trying to out-Saddam Saddam...
60 Minutes II's expose on abuse of Iraqi captives undermines every attempt at goodwill the US has put forth in Iraq.
What on earth where these people thinking? That the Iraqi's hadn't suffered enough under Saddam, been abused by Saddam enough, brutalized, dehumanized? Did they think they could top it?
Every person involved should have time in the stockade and a dishonorable discharge.
Both come out on top tonight...
Arlen Specter beat back a very close challenge from Pat Toomey in the Republican Pennsylvania primary tonight. The same day, another Spectre dished out a little made-in-America goodness in Najaf and Fallujah.
Specter's win bolsters White House hopes of winning Pennsylvania in the general election. Bush is running well there currently, and with Specter on the ticket, Bush will get the advantage from fencesitters who feel stronger about Specter than Bush.
Toomey ran too soon, and in the wrong cycle. He showed he has some appeal, and as a Congressman, electability. But White House designs on re-election and the chance of the Senate to remain Republican brought out the heavy hitters, and both Rick Santorum and George Bush campaigned for Specter, and it seems clear, made the difference. This makes Pennsylvania more likely to run Republican this fall.
Around Fallujah and Najaf in Iraq, the ungainly but ferocious AC-130 pounded Iraq insurgents who dared to expose their position. This hopefully brings to an end the pointless cease fire in Fallujah, and demonstrates the US is not intimidated by hysterical reproaches about holy sites when it comes down to business. Never do an enemy a half-measured injury. If the insurgents need to be cleaned out of Fallujah... the insurgents need to be cleaned out of Fallujah. Show an animal hesitation, and it will try and exploit it to it's advantage. Now is the time to demonstrate the willingness to do what it takes to take the battle to the enemy, be they in a headscarf, a street, or a mosque. Half measures will not suffice.
Like an abscess, the longer Fallujah and Najaf fester, the more painful the eventual outcome will be.
The solemn pride of placing so costly a sacrifice on the altar of liberty... (thanks Abe)
Fabrizio Quattrocchi has company.
The death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan was shocking to a nation that had pushed the continued efforts there to the back burner, and to a country that has no real sense of wide sacrifice in the war - no rationing, no draft, few casualties.
Like Fabrizio, Pat was defiant in the face of terror. After 9/11, leaving a new wife, wealth, and fame behind, he and his brother joined the Army Rangers. Refusing to parade in the press with self serving interviews, the service Pat had in mind was to his country.
In the end, fallen in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman lost his life, and with it his former life of fame and fortune, of ease and celebrity, exchanged in honor's forge for that which cannot be achieved without sacrifice...
A hero shows what a nation lacks...
In a story you are unlikely to hear recounted in the main circles of news, the last seconds in the life of an Italian hostage in Iraq are breathless in their account of defiance in the face of tyranny.
Showing more courage and backbone in the face of tyranny than an entire nation on the Iberian peninsula, this man refused to be a victim, refused to bow to terror. His defiance should be remembered, his resolve championed, his dignity honored.
That we should all face death with near the courage... one man who embodies Roma Invicta.
Spain, ruled in whole or in part by Muslim invaders for 800 years, gives in to them again...
The newly sworn in socialist leader of Spain hurriedly ordered Spanish troops in Iraq to evacuate within 15 days...
Beating a retreat worthy of that part of Europe, Spain has moved in a way that highlights the real divides on Iraq - the political left against the political right, with the notable exception of Tony Blair. Spain's conservative government under Aznar was a strong supporter - the new socialist government is a strong critic.
In a sense, John Kerry's recent comments that he'd bring together a new coalition in Iraq is somewhat correct - it's not that kidnappers and extremists aren't worth fighting. But the European left worries less about fighting for the right side than it does in being seen fighting alongside the right.
Time for Andy to wear a sweater that ties in the back...
Andy Rooney has lately taken his cantankerous cynicism to a new level - from his all out offensive on Mel Gibson's Passion, to his latest polemic on Iraq, Rooney has crossed the line between charming crank and bitter sociopath.
Rooney claims it's "disingenuous" for Americans to idolize American troops in Iraq as heroes to encourage them. Now, I'm pretty sure Rooney hasn't been at risk of taking a bullet for his country lately, so you have to wonder - is there a prescription not being filled here?
He then rolls on to proclaim that the suicide of 23 servicemen in Iraq indicates just how awful and unhappy the troops are. That comes out to 13.5 per 100,000 troops. Sure seems high - except that the rate for the entire Army was 10.9 - a questionable difference, and that compares with 15.7 in 1993. What was so depressing about soldiering in 1993?
Not satisifed with the morbid task of politicizing US troop suicides, he now bestows on them victimhood - "...we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes." Thanks Andy, that'll sure get the spirits of our armed forces up.
Andy's like an empty beer can. It once held something good that you enjoyed, but now it's spent, and serves no useful purpose but to emit the occassional stale odor.
Blair has meeting of the minds with Bush, can't get meeting with Kerry...
Tony Blair - the eloquent one of the Blair/Bush senior circuit western civilization defense auxiliary - once again lays out the quiet, cogent case for patience and perserverance in Iraq.
While Blair clearly gets Iraq, what he can't get is a meeting with John Kerry - which makes what would be a 15 second story with facetime on the news next week into a wierd story that details the sordid reasons they won't meet. The Kerry campaign cites "scheduling conflicts" - or perhaps Kerry's Palm Pilot is broken.
There is tom-foolery, and then just foolery - this is the latter. Never turn down positive face time on the tube...
The type of person you are determines the type of person you see....
Like a traditional Rorschach test, what you see depends on the kind of person you are.
In the picture linked above, some see the reason to leave Iraq, proof we are unwelcome, proof of enemy resolve, proof of nationalist outrage at the presence of an occupying power.
In the picture linked above, some see precisely the reason troops must stay.
Cowardice in the face of terror and thuggery creates the purest Pavlovian response from the perpetrators - more terror and thuggery. Which in turn creates the Pavlovian response from societies prone to diffident apprehension, and the cycle repeats itself.
If a nation and it's leader are prepared to see in the images an evil that needs confronting, terrorism can be defeated. If a nation and it's leader see in the images reasons not to act, they can be defeated by terrorism.
Resolve is about to be tested, and history is a harsh grader...
Major outbreaks of anti-coalition violence have flared in the chronically unstable Sunni triangle, with heavy casualties on both sides.
A bridge is approaching, and we need to decide whether to cross it.
Are the Iraqis a people able to live in a peaceful, representative government? Or like a child of abuse, have they come of age as irreversibly violent and uncontrollable adults? News appears to indicate that the 'enemy of my enemy' axiom is producing shared actions from radical Shiites and anti-coalition Sunnis.
To a country beaten and whipped under tyranny, that has known only violence, that was conquered so very easily by the coalition and shamed in the Arab world, to this country it may seem empowering to now lash out at the object of their deliverance from Hussein. With no idea how to be free, they revert to what they know - naked violence, seeking power. If there is to be a progressive Iraq, it will need to start now, with statements from al Sistani, condeming violence against US forces and condeming al-Sadr as a heretic.
The US must decide - is Iraq worth the cost, and are we prepared to do what must be done to achieve it. The Sunni triangle and other Shia elements have indicated they will not accept the US created Iraqi government, nor respect it as a legitimate source of authority.
The question to be asked, all the way to the President is - what are you prepared to do?
- Are you prepared to pacify major Iraqi cities?
- Are you prepared to, in the face of resistance, raze entire city blocks to demonstrate that killing US forces is not acceptable?
- Are you willing to exact the ultimate price to those who will oppose you?
Because if you are not, the US should withdraw our forces and money and go home. Those opposing you are willing to sacrifice their lives to oppose you. If you are not willing to accomodate them, then you should leave now. And this policy must be strongly stated by the White House.
American blood and treasure will not be squandered. If those opposing us are truly not representative of the broader Iraqi public, they need to be removed without mercy. If they are typical of the Iraqi populace, then no amount of American expenditure will ameliorate the situation. If we are unwilling to match those who oppose us action for action - if we decide we will stop short of going all out - then we will not prevail.
Iraq appears like Viet Nam in one sense - we need to decide whether or not we want to do what it takes to win.
The time has come to show the benevolent occupier has a benevolence limit...
In the deadliest day of fighting since the initial stages of the war, 10 US servicemen were killed in separate incidents in Iraq on Sunday.
The time has come to demonstrate a limit has been reached.
A failure to confront al-Sadr and his henchmen will simply embolden them. As troops surround Fallujah in response to the mutilation of four dead US security contractors, this uprising marks the first real test of American security in the light of general rebellion and the upcoming transfer of authority to Iraqis. An important message must be sent - dissent is tolerated, violent usurpation of the rule of law is not.
Paul Bremer seems to get it.
If Iraq devolves into sectarian violence upon America's withdrawal, it will be because they chose war, not because they weren't offered peace. It will not be said the US simply abandoned the Iraqis to their own fate, fomented violence by inaction, created a vacuum without filling it.
UPDATE: An Iraqi arrest warrant is out for al-Sadr. Apparently, this warrant was issued months ago on an unrelated charge to the current violence, but is only now being actively enforced. One wonders if this was withheld under the tacit understanding that al-Sadr would play nice with others.
I say we take off, and nuke the entire site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure...
There is understandably righteous indignation and outrage following the deliberate targeting of US civilian security forces who were killed in a rocket attack as they provided security for a food convoy driving into Fallujah.
While certainly a case of grenading the hand that feeds you, the further grisly acts of dragging charred corpses around turned a story that would otherwise come and go into a full fledged avalanche of anger and calls for retribution. I've heard everything from razing the town to the ground to decimating it's inhabitants, to Peggy Noonan's more measured indignation.
Much of this is the price paid by a benevolent occupier in an area that never had the horror of war visited upon it. Imagine Berlin if fighting had stopped at the Rhein. Rather than salting the earth in the Sunni triangle, allied forces have made school repairs and food deliveries.
The danger in overreaction is to take a problem between some thugs in Fallujah and US forces and turn it into a problem between Iraqis and US forces.
Political concerns will be dictated not on the loss of the four US civilians - nor even on the US reaction in and of itself. The long term view will be based on the Iraqi reaction to US retaliation. Will a targeted minimalist response entice a broader outbreak? Will an overwhelming response draw vocal outrage but teach a lesson that needs teaching?
Global realpolitik will likely dictate the former, though we will cheer loudly for the latter...