It’s very difficult to get accurate information out of Iraq. Spin is the order of the day, and it’s even more difficult when the U.S. military does it in the Green Zone. I’ve seen my share of that. Once, I asked an American trainer about the makeup of the Iraqi Army unit he was working with. How many Shi’ites, Kurds, Sunnis? “Oh, we’re about half Shi’ite and half Sunni,” he said. “It’s a great example of the two sects working together.” I found this hard to believe, as this was a unit in Baghdad and it was about a year before the Sunni tribes had turned on Al Qaeda in Iraq and started joining the security forces. No Kurds? “Well, you know Kurds are mainly Sunnis,” he replied.
What rubbish. He knew the message of the day was Sunni and Shi’ite sittin’ in a tree, f-i-g-h-t-i-n-g al Qaeda together, and he was determined to get it out, even if he had to push Kurds’ Sunni-ness on me. (Kurds are probably the most secular of all Iraqis, and their ethnic identity is what defines them to other Iraqis, not their religion.)
Continue reading “‘Being Slimed in the Green Zone’”
This week, President George W. Bush stood up before the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and unspooled a whole lot of odd analogies to make the case that we need to stay in Iraq for… well, forever, I guess. I’ve not been in Iraq for more than a year but it’s still a central focus of my reporting here in the Middle East. So, this week, let’s step away from Lebanon — which is depressing anyway — and focus on Bush and his fantasies about Mesopotamia.
Because some days he makes it just too easy.
Bush’s VFW speech has received a lot of ink. Everyone’s been reporting on it, but what’s bizarre is that Bush was pointing to past wars in Asia — World War II against Japan, Korea and, most enigmatically, Vietnam — as lessons to learn from. For this White House, Imperial Japan was the al Qaeda of its day. The Korean War was a war to instill democracy on the Korean peninsula. And Vietnam was muffed up by Defeatocrats at home – pulling the plug lead to the deaths of millions.
“One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps,’ and ‘killing fields,'” the president said.
Really, it’s hard to know where to start.
Continue reading “Dien Bien Fool”
My friend Mitch Prothero [writes a roundup of the current Lebanon situation](http://yalibnan.com/site/archives/2007/08/deadlock_over_l.php) — *al wada* in Arabic — neatly summarizing the triple conflict that’s hitting this small country for the *Guardian*. It’s nothing you’ve not read here before, but it’s nicely packaged.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister and CIA asset Ayad Allawi kicks his campaign up a notch to get restored to the premier’s office in an op-ed for the *Washington Post*, in which he outlines a plan for Iraq.
What’s the plan? (Other than returning Allawi to power, of course.) First: fawn over the United States as having little blame for the problems in Iraq. Second, harshly criticize Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for sectarianism and being unable to organize a two-car parade. (Totally justified charges, by the way.) Three: Know which way the political winds in Washington are blowing and suggest a withdrawal of American troops over the next two years and a change in mission before that.
After that, it’s mostly details. Declare a state of emergency in Iraq (which was pretty much the *status quo* under Allawi) and absorb the various Sunni and Shi’ite militias into the security forces. Allawi comes out strongly against a loose confederation model for Iraq and praises the Kurds for their democracy. It’s an op-ed long on verbiage, but short on specifics. Just how will he incorporate the militias into a non-sectarian command structure? How will he “empower local and provincial institutions at the expense of sectarian politics and an all-powerful and overbearing Baghdad”? No clue. One of the few specifics: The ex-Ba’athist calls for the reversal of the de-Ba’athification law.
[Here you can read an interview I did with Allawi while he was still in office back in 2004.
This week marked the anniversary of the end of last summer’s war between Hezbollah and Israel. It was a stupid war, as most wars are, but the end of the conflict on Aug. 14, 2006 after 34 days of fighting saw a defiant Hezbollah and a chastened Israeli military. The day also saw a flattened Lebanon and a United States policy for the region in tatters. It was a disaster for almost everyone involved.
But a year later, it’s a good idea to come back and take a look at who really won the war and who lost. Where do all the major players stand and how significant was the “divine victory”?
There’s little doubt that Hezbollah came out of the war politically stronger, at least initially. The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, had Lebanon in the palm of his hand, which is another way of saying he had it by the balls.
Continue reading “Lebanon: One year later”