An email received, questions asked

An email I received today from a soldier’s wife asks some hard questions as to why America is in Iraq. The author has good reason to be concerned.

I received this email today:

Well, I was going to post a comment, but it just didn’t seem appropriate because I didn’t really have anything to add. I’m a military spouse, and this is the first time I’ve ever even heard of your website. My husband, who happens to be a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, was deployed last Saturday (whoever picked that date should be shot, I swear! :)) back to Iraq. Since I can’t get a straight answer out of his command, or the military in general, let alone any government official (huge surprise there…). I was wondering if you could offer some insight into exactly why we are sending thousands of troops back into Iraq this month. I understand that their purpose, ostensibly, is to relieve those that have been on the ground for a year now, but I thought that we would be receiving some relief from other countries’ troops, and that now that we were no longer officially on a wartime footing, the number of our troops in Iraq would be decreased, not increased.
Anyway, call me crazy (or maybe I just misunderstand), but the entire situation lacks any sort of sense that I can detect. A transition of power is all well and good, but if it’s to be anything other than a puppet government, shouldn’t the UN be directing it, not GWB?
Any input would be appreciated…
Julia [Last name withheld by request]

Julia has agreed to allow me to post her email and my response. Here it is.
First of all, I hope your husband will be OK. I’m so sorry he shipped out on Saturday (Valentine’s Day), and it seems that the military has the mother of all bad timings. My best friend in the world has also been mobilized (He’s Army Reserve) and he’s due over there in early March. He has two daughters (5 and 3) and a lovely wife. They mobilized him a week or so before Christmas, and gave him five days to get his affairs in order.
Anyway, on to your question: Yeah, it’s the largest troop rotation since WWII, and it’s to spell the guys who have been there for a year. But your question is more about why isn’t anyone helping us out. Well, there are several reasons:

  1. Bush alienated so many allies in the run-up to the war that they’re disinclined to support us now, especially if, like France and Germany, they have massive majorities in their populations opposed to the war. Even if France and Germany wanted to help out (and there are growing signs that they do) it will be very difficult for them to do so without sparking massive protests in the streets of Paris and Berlin. They’re democracies, after all, and they do have to listen to the voters on occasion.
  2. Rumsfeld blew it and put in too few men when the Americans first went in. That initial mistake is a root cause of the main problem: a lack of security. Many foreign governments don’t want to send their soldiers to fight a war — again one that their people probably opposed. Peacekeeping is one thing, fighting a war is another.
  3. The Bush Administration has not evidenced a willingness to trust the U.N. — not without reason. The U.N. probably isn’t in step with American goals in Iraq, which were not WMD or freeing the Iraqi people, but far more about maintaining a strategic base of operations in the heart of the Middle East from which to pressure Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Check out Why Iraq? as to my theories on this.

As to why there’s an increase in the number of troops, it’s got to do with overlapping and training the new guys. But there are also some thoughts that the 200,000+ that will be in Iraq during the rotation will be for a spring offensive against the insurgents. We’ll see what happens.
Best wishes, and give my respect and regards to your husband, please.
thank you,
By publishing Julia’s letter, I’m hoping to spark a dialogue among the readers, so she might gain a deeper insight.

Bush, Blair nominated for Peace Prize

Bush and Blair have been nominated for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. My god. We’re in Bizarro World.

George Bush and Tony Blair have been nominated for the 2004 Nobel Peace prize.

They were nominated by Jan Simonsen, an independent member of Norway’s Parliament who says the pair got rid of a dictator and made the world safer.
“Bush and Blair definitely still deserve it,” he said.
“Even though they haven’t found those weapons they got rid of a dictator and made the world more safe. They got rid of a madman.”

I don’t have a thing to add except… You’ve got to be f—ing kidding me! Simonsen sounds like the madman.
Thankfully, they have almost no chance of winning. Duh.

Progress in Iraq?

An email making the rounds, allegedly from a chaplain in Iraq is full of lies, damn lies and statistics.

Recently, a list of Coalition accomplishments were posted to the comments on B2I. Allegedly from “Karl Nielson LT, CHC, USNR 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Chaplain,” the the poster said the list was circulating on GI mailing lists.
Now, I’ve not been able to make out if the list is genuine or not, but it’s certainly been “picked up by the pro-war Web”: I’ll reproduce it here, in its entirety, as posted, with a few comments in italics.

Making the rounds of GI e-mail traffic in Iraq these days is the following inspiring missive. It is reproduced below in its entirety and exactly as written by Karl Nielson LT, CHC, USNR 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Chaplain:
Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1:
The first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty (~60,000 Iraqis providing security to citizens). They will receive weapons by June 2004. How are they are on active duty and providing security with no weapons? Stern warnings?
Nearly all of Iraq’s 400 courts are functioning and 24 judges have passed the American bar.
The Coalition approved Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
Power generation hit 4,518 megawatts for one day in October exceeding prewar output. According to Riverbend, who I trust more than “Karl Nielson,” said electricity was on for 22 hours a day pre-war. Now, they get 10 hours a day — and she considers herself privileged. But don’t take her word for it. The CPA itself estimates that “Iraq needs 7,000MW/day”:, which is 2,600MW/day more than the pre-war level. The CPA itself doesn’t project meeting that demand until spring 2005. Infact, it will be summer 2004 before they hit 6,000MW/day, a good 3,600MW below estimated demand. While 4,518MW is indeed higher than the 4,4000MW/day prewar, it is still not enough.
All 22 Universities & 43 technical institutes/colleges are open and most of them have teachers.
Nearly all primary and secondary schools are open for at least ninety minutes a day. Ninety minutes! Wow. The pre-war schedule was 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for primary kids and 2 p.m. for secondary students. Maybe if more than 30,000 teachers hadn’t been purged for Ba’ath membership — joined to get a job rather than a for true beliefs — the schools could stay open longer.
Coalition has ‘rehabbed’ 1,500+ schools (500 ahead of schedule) and many of them have roofs and electricity.
Teachers earn from 12-25 times their former salaries.
All 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open and 10% have running water. Ten percent of the hospitals have running water? This is progress?
Hoosiers has opened its first restaurant in Bagdad. I don’t even know what “Hoosiers” is and haven’t been able to find a thing on the Web about it. Does this chaplain mean “Hooters”? If so, I find it hard to believe a chaplain would be talking up a restaurant like Hooters in a Muslim country.
Doctors salaries are at least 8 times what they were under Saddam.
Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from almost zero to 12,000 tons and Prozac has been made available for free. This is news to the Iraqis I know, both in the United States and in Iraq. Prozac for free? Does this guy know what unsupervised Prozac subscriptions can do to someone? Again, no news of this on Google or Nexis.
Five Wallmarts are set to go up in the main cities of Iraq. Leaving aside that it’s Wal-Mart, and not “Wallmart,” a Wal-Mart spokeswoman told me there are no plans to expand to Iraq, as the market just isn’t there for the company.
Coalition has cleared 14,000+km of Iraq’s 27,000km of weed-choked canals which now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created 100,000+ jobs for Iraqi men & women.
Three golf courses have been built. I actually kinda believe this one.
Coalition has restored over 3/4 of prewar telephone services and 2/3+ of potable water production. This is interesting. According to the CIA world fact book, in 1997, there were “675,000 main telephone lines in use”: Two-thirds of that would be 450,000 lines operational. However, note this next “accomplishment:”
4,900+ full-service telephone connections (~50,000 by year-end). OK. Now you see the sloppy thinking here and which leads me to think this whole list is bogus? One one hand, telephones are at 75 percent capacity. In the very next item, it’s a tiny fraction of that. And even 50,000 lines will still be a tiny fraction. If you believe that 4,900 working lines is an accomplishment, that’s pathetic. UPDATE 1/23/04 This list is bogus and a hoax, but this part about the telephone lines warrants further explanation. See my “other post”: on this for a full explanation on what the hoax list was based on, but the 4,900 lines refers to Internet connections, not telephones as the hoaxster mentioned.
Commerce is expanding rapidly (bicycles, satellite dishes, cars, RV vehicles, etc) in all major cities and towns. Ah, the favorite “life is coming back!” line that pro-war people seem to like. Well, here’s news for you. Life goes on, even in war time. People don’t curl up into fetal positions and give up on life when they’re occupied. They probably do when bombs are falling near them, but that’s pretty rare. And hint, hint: Iraq was one of the most prosperous states in the Gulf, pre-1991, and there were a lot of bicycles and cars — it’s a petroleum-producing state, after all.
95% of all prewar bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily and receiving a free toaster. Free toaster?
Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.
Iraq has one of the world’s most growth-oriented investment and banking laws. The Bagdad Stock Exchange opened stimulating a blossoming business in speculation. Ah, no. The last mention of the Baghdad Stock Exchange was in a Washington Post “article”: and it says that efforts to get the Exchange open are still ongoing. The article dates from Dec. 27.
Iraq has a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years. Despite many demands from monetory authorities Vice-President Dick Cheney turned down requests to allow his picture to be used on the currency. You’re kidding, right? Dick Cheney?
Satellite TV dishes are legal. true
Foreign journalists are not on ’10-day visas’ paying mandatory fees to the Ministry of Information for minders. There is no such Ministry. But there is a Ministry of Communication headed by Dr. Haydar al-Abadi. However, this is a welcome change.
There are 170+ newspapers. The first issue of Playboy was published. Yes on the number of papers, nope on Playboy. C’mon guys, this is a conservative society.
Plans have been approved to open 45 McDonalds restaurants. Nope. McDonald’s has no plans, according to spokeswoman Anna Rozenich.
Iraqi Chambers of commerce, businesses, schools and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country.
Over 170,000 credit cards have been issued to qualified individuals.
For the first time in 35 years, in Karbala, thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam. Oy. It’s the 3rd Imam — “Imam Husain”:, the grandson of the prophet. Details, details… (Thanks to Ameer for this catch!)
Bloomingdales has been signed as the anchor store in the new Metro Bagdad Mall. Nope. Kelly Moro, a spokeswoman for Bloomingdale’s, wasn’t even sure there was a Metro Baghdad Mall, much less one with Bloomingdale’s as an anchor store.
The Coalition has completed 13,000+ reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of a strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. Sure, I’d buy this.
American businesses are making tremendous profits from the reconstruction to offset the expense and loss the United States suffered in the war. And I’d really buy this. I’m sure all those “tremendous profits” are consolation for the families of the 500+ American soldiers who have died.
Uday and Queasy are dead, and no longer feeding Iraqis to the zoo lions, raping the young daughters of local leaders to force cooperation, torturing Iraq’s soccer players for losing games, or murdering critics. That’s “Qusay,” buddy. If you’re going to mention horrible crimes, don’t dishonor the victims by making a joke out of their torturer’s name.
Children aren’t imprisoned or murdered when their parents disagree with the government. Excellent.
Sesame Street and Barney, previously forbidden in Iraq, is now aired daily. They weren’t banned before the war.
Political opponents aren’t imprisoned, tortured, executed, maimed, or forced to watch their families die for disagreeing with Saddam. This is true.
Millions of long-suffering Iraqis no longer live in perpetual terror. This is a wash. Perpetual, low-grade terror has been replaced by flashes of manic violence, either at the hands of insurgents, bandits or wildly-shooting U.S. troops. The fact is the Iraqi people are not free from fear, because the security situation is still very bad.
As a side effect, in neighboring countries, (1) Saudis will hold municipal elections, (2) Qatar will allow citizens to use credit cards which were formerly forbidden under Islamic law, (3) Jordan has begun broadcasting American television programming; Friends, Sienfield, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, (4) through Coalition influence the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded (first time) to an Iranian (Muslim woman) who speaks out for human rights/democracy & peace.
(1) Municipal elections have been promised by have not yet happened. (2) According to Financial Times (via Nexis), citizens of Qatar and Lebanon used credit cards for about $500 million in purchases — in 2002. Saudis alone spent $19 billion with credit cards — again in 2002. “The total extent of credit card usage in the entire Arab Middle East came to $40 billion.” Forbidden? Doesn’t sound like it. (3) Jordan has a “free-trade agreement”: with the United States, as of “Sept. 28, 2001”: It’s stupid to think that Jordan wouldn’t show some American television shows, since the agreement predates the Iraq war by, oh, 18 months or so. (4) Shirin Ebadi, who won the Peace Prize in 2003, had “some choice words”: for the situation in Iraq:

Moreover, a question which millions of citizens in the international civil society have been asking themselves for the past few years, particularly in recent months, and continue to ask, is this: why is it that some decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council are binding, while some other resolutions of the council have no binding force? Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented promptly, yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq, once on the recommendation of the Security Council, and the second time, in spite of UN Security Council opposition, were subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation??

Saddam is gone. And in a protected POW status so that he can’t spill the beans on the “U.S. involvement in his crimes.”:
Iraq is free. An occupied country is free?
Little or none of this information has been published by the Press Corps that prides itself on bringing you all the news that’s important. Iraq, under US lead control, has come further in six months than Germany did in seven years or Japan did in nine years following WWII. Military deaths from fanatic Nazi’s and Japanese numbered in the thousands and continued for over three years after WWII victory was declared. It took the US over four months to clear away the twin tower debris, let alone attempt to build something else in its place.
OK. First of all, little or none of this information is accurate or even true. And the rest is spin. That’s why you’ve not seen it published. As for military deaths in the thousands after WWII, that’s an “out and out lie”: The only military deaths in post-WWII Germany and Japan came from things like auto accidents and illness. Don’t believe me? The post-war German resistance was “mostly a hoax”:

Tom Schlesinger, a retired Army major and professor at Plymouth State University who served in Army intelligence in occupied Germany, described the werewolves as “almost a deliberate urban myth.”
“I was in Germany all through the surrender and, although at lower rank, had access to all classified intelligence distribution as part of the occupation security force,” Schlesinger said. “The werewolf story turned out to be mostly a hoax, perhaps some wishful thinking of a few SS officers, though it caused us a few inconveniences due to the phony alerts.”
It’s possible, Biddiscombe said, that some isolated werewolf cells or officers may have continued to operate for a few months after the war. Guerrilla-style attacks did take place against U.S. soldiers – stringing wires across roads to decapitate soldiers or pouring sand in gas tanks were two examples – and there were several suspicious deaths of U.S.-appointed mayors. In some towns, leaflets and posters threatened Germans who cooperated with the U.S. occupiers. But none of that activity can be directly attributed to the werewolves, historians say.
“The Army put bars on jeeps to prevent decapitation by wires, but that was the only action taken by the Army,” said Farrell of Fort Leavenworth. “There’s very little evidence of the werewolves offering effective resistance.”
Moreover, historians say, the comparison between postwar Germany and postwar Iraq is questionable because of the scale of events taking place now in Iraq. In particular, the rate of attacks against U.S. occupation forces in Germany was lower than is the case in Iraq.
There were about 1 million U.S. troops in occupied Germany – a territory slightly smaller than Iraq – compared with nearly 150,000 U.S. troops in occupied Iraq. For the first month or two after the Nazis’ surrender, there were about the same number of sabotage and sniper attacks in Germany as have taken place in postwar Iraq. But in Germany, such attacks dropped off after June 1945, a month after the surrender, and for the rest of that year deaths of U.S. troops subsided to “tens.”
“Certainly, there weren’t American troops dying at the rate that they are in Iraq,” Biddiscombe said.

In Japan, it was the same. In fact, the RAND Corporation showed that the post-World War II combat deaths in occupied Germany and Japan were “zero.”: Car bombs were not being “exploded at the gates of the occupation’s HQ”: nine months after “major combat operations are over.”
Now, take into account that many people in our government and media continue to claim on a daily basis on national TV that this conflict has been a failure. Taking everything into consideration, even the unfortunate loss of our sons and daughters in this conflict, do you think any other country in the world could have accomplished as much as the United States and its coalition partners have in so short a period of time?
Go team. When you take into account that you have to resort to clumsy propaganda to buck up morale, yeah, things aren’t going well. But honestly, this thing is probably a hoax and has never been sent out.

The reason I spent so much time on this is that the right-wing sites like NewsMax and FreeRepublic have been trumpeting it and it will eventually make its way into the mainstream media, once Fox picks it up. Think of this post as a pre-buttal. Want to get some truth out of Iraq? Send me back. I’ll report whatever I see as best I can.

Revenge Killings in Najaf

Two Ba’athists killed in Najaf in revenge killings. This must stop.

Two former Ba’athists have been killed in the Shi’ite city of Najaf, in what appear to be revenge killings for their role in Saddam Hussein’s old regime.

On Friday, gunmen killed Ali Qassem al-Tamimi, the district mayor of Najaf’s al-Furat neighborhood, as he was shopping with a friend in downtown Najaf, according to Lt. Raed Jawad Abdel Saada.
Early Saturday, two assailants riding by on a bicycle opened fire on former provincial party official Damiyah Abbas and her son as they were leaving their home.
The 5-year-old boy was killed instantly, and Abbas was hospitalized in critical condition, according to another police officer, Lt. Raed Abbas.
Damiyah Abbas was believed to have participated in putting down a 1991 Shi’ite uprising against the government of Saddam.
Al-Tamimi’s position would have involved him acting as an informer, reporting to Baath Party officials in Baghdad on the political activities and jobs of residents.

Now, some readers consider these killings no bad thing. But I say this: Revenge killings, while part of the culture, are a recipe for disaster.
To those who look on with satisfaction at the vigilante justice meted out to these people, I say this: You are encouraging the destruction of Iraq as a country. You are encouraging its collapse into warring factions that will make the current chaos appear like a pre-game warmup. There can be no justice at the hands of a mob, for such “justice” breeds fear, suspicion and hatred. And God knows there’s enough of that in Iraq right now. Many Sunnis already feel scared and insecure about their role in the new Iraq. These murders will drive already frightened Sunnis into the arms of the insurgents and will lead to civil war.
No, it’s better to let the courts — whatever form they may take — deal out justice. A mob is the basest form of human organization, and anyone who’s been one knows how terrifying they can be. Even a happy mob is a frightening thing. A society’s judiciary, however, can represent its best angels. A well-functioning bench represents the ultimate triumph of the forces of civilizations over the rule of nature, red in tooth and claw. It represents the faith citizens place in the power of the state to be fair and impartial, allowing them to forgo the freelance pursuit of justice.
If you who cheer the deaths of Ba’athists at the hands of a mob truly want a democratic Iraq, one that respects the human rights of _all_ the peoples of that country, you’ll work for and encourage an Iraqi justice system that is fair, transparent and independent, for such an institution would mean in Iraq the United States will have done its job well. It would mean America will have left behind faith in the rule of law, something Iraqis have never had. An independent and fair judiciary would lead Iraq’s citizens to genuinely respect the Iraqi state, instead of living in a republic of fear.
These acts of violence should be condemned, regardless of whether they’re perpetrated by Shi’ite, Sunni or Kurd. To do otherwise is to dishonor the birthplace of civilization.