Saturday, March 19, 2005

Iraq War: The second anniversary

The Knight-Ridder service has established a strong record for itself on reporting on the Iraq War and on the phony WMD hype that the Bush administration used to justify it.

2 years after U.S. invasion, jury still out on Iraq's future Knight Ridder 03/17/05

On March 19, 2003, U.S. troops stormed into Iraq after President Bush declared the Iraqi dictator, President Saddam Hussein, a threat to the world. Bush concluded that Saddam had evaded United Nations efforts to uncover and eliminate Iraq's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and had ties to international terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

No, back before the war, none of the Bush administration officials were talking about how Saddam had the intention to someday develop programs that might produce "weapons of mass destruction" that he might give to an Al Qaeda type group if he ever should develop a relationship with one.

Two years after war, U.S. troops stuck in Iraq training local troops by Tom Lasseter, Knight-Ridder 03/16/05

The Bush administration had expected a swift military victory followed by a quick transition to an exile-led government that would bring democracy and reconstruction to a nation that had been oppressed for years by a dictator. Instead, widespread looting in Baghdad allowed insurgents to pick weapons depots clean and launch a guerrilla war that continues to this day.

"What I think did leave the door open was that we did not `defeat/destroy' our enemy as we have in the past wars we have fought ... we invited a situation where those elements could melt back into the public and wait us out," said a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad who insisted on anonymity. "Just as we would wait for the right opportunity to engage, so did they."

I guess all that looting really did matter.  I wonder why a US military official would need anonymity to state that our grand strategists may have not adequately appreciated that our enemies might adapt them response to play to their strengths and our weaknesses.  It would have been so much easier if all the Iraqi Army had just stood there and left American airpower kill them all off.

Overhauling Iraqi security forces could cause collapse, analysts say by Hannah Allam, Knight-Ridder 03/13/05

Iraq's fledgling security forces are in danger of collapse if the newly elected government follows through on promises to purge the ranks of former regime members, politicians and analysts here warn.

The dismantling of Saddam Hussein's military is widely viewed as one of the gravest mistakes of the U.S.-led occupation, and the Bush administration has worked in the past year to reverse it by helping the interim Iraqi government restore the jobs of some highly skilled troops who served under Saddam.

Now, analysts say, the incoming government led by Shiite Muslims is at risk of repeating the error that was blamed for swelling the mostly Sunni insurgency.

American withdrawal, according to the current mantra, is dependent on Iraq putting in place effective military, paramilitary and police forces.  It could be awhile.

Knight-Ridder is also featuring a special report called Discharged and Dishonored about the shortcomings of the programs designed to provide benefits to veterans.

The Christian Science Monitor has also been holding up its reputation for good international reporting in the Iraq War:  Patchwork of progress and perils in Iraq by Jill Carroll Christian Science Monitor 03/18/05.

Two years after US forces rolled into Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, contradictory forces are tugging at the war-torn country. Iraqis turned out in droves to vote for an 275-member assembly that took its seats Wednesday. Many are enthusiastically tapping into a world long closed to them by sanctions - snapping up satellite TV dishes and imported food.

But an aggressive insurgency has stymied crucial tasks of rebuilding and providing security, disillusioning ordinary Iraqis who thought the US presence would bring rapid change. ...

By now, military planners had envisioned a US presence that was a fraction of the 150,000 troops currently in Iraq. Oil revenues and foreign business investment were expected to provide jobs and buoy the economy.

Carroll's article also reports on some of the good news that the Foxists claim that the reality-based media don't cover.  Even disasters can contain elements of progress, and that's true of this one, as well.

Military analyst Andrew Bacevich assesses the last two years of war in Iraq:  Nothing 'New' in This War by Andrew J. Bacevich Washington Post 03/19/05.

Two years later war is no longer doing the president's bidding. In recent weeks, much of the news from the Middle East has been about the movements for democracy and free elections in Iraq and neighboring countries. But the claims that "freedom is on the march" cannot conceal this fact: In Iraq, protracted conflict is draining the lifeblood from America's armed services.

Evidence that U.S. forces are badly overstretched has become incontrovertible. Recruits for the all-volunteer force are drying up. Only the quasi-permanent mobilization of tens of thousands of part-time soldiers allows the Army to meet its day-to-day requirements -- an arrangement that the chief of Army reserves has declared unsustainable. Meanwhile, revelations of GI misconduct accumulate, a worrisome sign of eroding discipline. Worst of all, the casualty list grows ever longer. To the discerning observer, stress fractures in the imposing edifice of American military supremacy have begun to appear.

"Discerning observer" is one of those "reality-based" concepts that are regarded and strange and alien things on FOX News and Oxycontin radio.

Toppling Saddam Hussein opened a Pandora's box of unanticipated complications. Whether it was attacks on oil pipelines or insurgents infiltrating into the new Iraqi security forces, events time and again caught U.S. officials flat-footed. Even success proves transitory, with yesterday's apparent accomplishment becoming unglued today.

To which anyone with even a passing knowledge of history would reply: of course. This is what war has always been -- grueling, filthy, confusing, replete with accidents and miscues that victimize the innocent, giving rise to unforeseen consequences and loose ends. What qualifies as truly perplexing is not that the conflict in Iraq has reaffirmed this reality but that so many Americans, seduced by claims that this nation could bend war to our purposes, indulged in the fantasy that it would be otherwise.

But that is the miserable story of war.  One generation learns that war is "grueling, filthy, confusing, replete with accidents and miscues that victimize the innocent, giving rise to unforeseen consequences and loose ends."  The next generation is ready to listen to the Pied Piper themes of glory and heroism and easy victories.  And if you have a huge military-industrial establishment that needs constant deadly threats to justify its budgets and boondoggle Star-Wars-type projects, it always creates new variations on the siren song of war.

But, never fear, we're turning the corner.  We're reaching a tipping point.  Someday we may actually start withdrawing troops from the Iraqi nightmare:  Sizable Cut in U.S. Forces in Iraq Called Possible in '06 by Eric Schmitt New York Times 03/18/05.

The Army's second-ranking general said Thursday that the number of American troops in Iraq would probably decline by early 2006, largely because of post-election progress in combating insurgents and training more Iraqi troops to take over security duties.

The officer, Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, did not give specific figures, emphasizing that the decision would be made next month by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, and senior Pentagon officials. But other senior military officials said American troop levels could drop to around 105,000 by early next year from 150,000 now.

The Pentagon has previously said that by the end of this month the size of the American forces in Iraq would decrease to about 138,000 troops, the level preceding the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, and most likely remain at that level through the end of the year.

But, is this progress?  Or a shortage of troops?  Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military by Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post 03/19/05.

Two years after the United States launched a war in Iraq with a crushing display of power, a guerrilla conflict is grinding away at the resources of the U.S. military and casting uncertainty over the fitness of the all-volunteer force, according to senior military leaders, lawmakers and defense experts.

The unexpectedly heavy demands of sustained ground combat are depleting military manpower and gear faster than they can be fully replenished. Shortfalls in recruiting and backlogs in needed equipment are taking a toll, and growing numbers of units have been broken apart or taxed by repeated deployments, particularly in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. ...

The Iraq war has also led to a drop in the overall readiness of U.S. ground forces to handle threats at home and abroad, forcing the Pentagon to accept new risks -- even as military planners prepare for a global anti-terrorism campaign that administration officials say could last for a generation.

No matter.  Bush the Magnificent, Liberator of Peoples and Hooder of the Unrighteous, says everything is just fine:

Now, because we acted, Iraq's government is no longer a threat to the world or its own people. Today the Iraqi people are taking charge of their own destiny. In January, over eight million Iraqis defied the car bombers and assassins to vote in free elections. ...

Free governments reflect the culture of the citizens they serve, and that is happening in Iraq. Today, Iraqis can take pride in building a government that answers to its people and honors their country's unique heritage. ...

Iraq's progress toward political freedom has opened a new phase of our work there. We are focusing our efforts on training the Iraqi security forces. As they become more self-reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly assume a supporting role. In the end, Iraqis must be able to defend their own country, and we will help that proud, new nation secure its liberty. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.

Today we're seeing hopeful signs across the broader Middle East. The victory of freedom in Iraq is strengthening a new ally in the war on terror, and inspiring democratic reformers from Beirut to Tehran. ...

Because of our actions, freedom is taking root in Iraq, and the American people are more secure.

Freedom is on the march.  Everyone loves America.  What glory Dear Leader Bush has brought to our country.

But just to remember why we supposedly went to Iraq in the first place:  The Intelligence Made Me Do It by Ray McGovern CommonDreams.com 03/19/05.  McGovern is a former CIA analysts.  Foxists no doubt find him "shrill":

Let’s review now. It was bad intelligence that made President George W. Bush invade Iraq, right? No, you say, and you are correct; that is just White House spin. The “intelligence” was conjured up many months after President George W. Bush’s decision to attack.

Now, two years and tens of thousands of lives later, I marvel at the ease with which the White House has succeeded in getting Congress to scapegoat the intelligence community. All it takes is “a few good men”—like Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and former Marine Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), living out the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi—always faithful.

But faithful to what? Faithful, first and foremost, to the party, in what—let us be frank—has become for all intents and purposes a one-party state. That pejorative label, you may recall, is what we used to pin on the dictatorship in the U.S.S.R., where there were no meaningful checks and balances. It is getting scary. ...

What about intelligence on Iraq, where the war’s still on. Army Special Forces Col. Patrick Lang (ret.) told me last fall, “The sad thing is that US combat intelligence in Iraq does not seem to know who the insurgents are, where they are, how many they are, or what they plan to do.” That this state of affairs persists was made painfully clear at the February 3 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fumbled questions regarding the size of the resistance.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) expressed puzzlement at a recent remark by Gen. George Casey, the senior US commander in Iraq, that in the past year 15,000 suspected insurgents had been killed or captured, while US military authorities had earlier said that only 6,000 to 9,000 hard-core fighters existed. (Adding to the confusion, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service claimed in January that there are 200,000 insurgents, of whom 40,000 are hard-core fighters.)

Myers lamented that coming up “with accurate estimates is just very, very difficult.” This drew an irritated response from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “I don’t know how you defeat an insurgency unless you have some handle on the number of people that you are facing.” Indeed. His observation is a painful reminder to those of us who were around for Vietnam.

Ray McGovern is obviously a malcontent.  Everything is fine, Ray.  Pay no attention to that raging insurgency in Iraq.  Look, they just had municipal elections in Saudi Arabia.  Freedom is on the march.  But, this is what happens to these stodgy "reality-based" types:

Intelligence analysts with integrity may have to move quickly before that inscription is sandblasted away. Many of us alumni remain stunned that, of the hundreds of analysts who knew in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq posed no threat to the US, not one had the courage to blow the whistle and warn about what was about to happen.

This is by no means a water-over-the-dam issue. If plans go forward for an attack on Iran, it may become necessary for those intelligence professionals with the requisite courage to mount their own preemptive strike against the kind of corrupted intelligence that greased the skids for war on Iraq. Sadly, the normal channel for such redress, the inspector generals of the various agencies, is a sad joke. And, clearly, appealing to subservient congressional intelligence “watchdog” committees would be a feckless exercise.

For many people, making up phony reasons to justify going to war and killing people is quite a serious thing:  Missing Weapons Of Mass Destruction: Is Lying About The Reason For War An Impeachable Offense? by John Dean, Findlaw.com 01/06/03.

In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I haveseen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.

As I remarked in an earlier column, this Administration may be due for a scandal. While Bush narrowly escaped being dragged into Enron, it was not, in any event, his doing. But the war in Iraq is all Bush's doing, and it is appropriate that he be held accountable.

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI.  After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.

Nixon claimed that his misuses of the federal agencies for his political purposes were in the interest of national security. The same kind of thinking might lead a President to manipulate and misuse national security agencies or their intelligence to create a phony reason to lead the nation into a politically desirable war. ...

But "9/11 changed everything," right?

2 comments:

ibspiccoli4life said...

Bruce,

Do you ever get the feeling that Americans don't care?  Can you imagine Nixon getting away with this?  For that matter, can you even imagine Clinton getting away with this? It's hard to imagine.

dave

bmiller224 said...

Actually, I'm "Jacksonian" enough to think that a lot of people do care.  It may seem fine to have people being tortured if you're a country-club Republican or a fan of junkie bigots like Rush Limbaugh.

But most people can understand that stripping a prisoner naked and letting a dog loose on him to rip out chunks of his flesh, and similar entertainments that go on in the S&M playrooms of the Bush-and-Rummy gulag, are disgusting, criminal and wrong.  It's just not that hard to figure out if your brain is unclouded by Oxycontin.

The big problem right now is that the Republican Party that controls both houses of Congress doesn't care.  In practice, the checks and balances in the Constitutional system that were designed to prevent tyranny from developing are not functioning very well right now.  During the Vietnam War, both Republicans and Democrats were criticizing various aspects of the war.  Democrats like George McGovern and William Fulbright were openly critical of Johnson's conduct of the war, while during Nixon's administration Republicans like Mark Hatfield and Jacob Javits were willing to criticize the President of their own party over Vietnam policy.

But now, what do we have?  John McCain the famous "maverick" grumbles about this or that occasionally, all the while calling for escalating the war.  Supposedly cool-headed realists like Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel express some critical perspective.  But what are any of them doing about it?  Did they make a stink over the nomination of Alberto "the torture guy" Gonzales as Attorney General?  Are they demanding that senior military and civilian officials be held accountable for the torture scandal?

Let me know if you hear about Republicans doing anything serious along those lines beyond the occasional verbal posturing during TV interviews. - Bruce