Now She Tells Us

Condi Rice admits to being having no head for long-term planning, the guys in the Baghdad are all ideologues and my best friend has been mobilized. Yeah, no good news today.

Well, this kind of explains a lot, no? In an upcoming interview with _Reader’s Digest_, National Security Advisor “Condoleezza Rice”:http://www.warstories.cc/person/?personId=17 admits that, “There’s nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that _serendipity or fate or divine intervention_ has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I’ve been open to those twists and turns because I didn’t have a long-term plan.” (Emphasis added.)
Oy. And this woman is in charge of the United States’ Iraq policy? Granted, the question was about her running for office some day, but as we’ve seen, traits in one’s personal life often have a way of manifesting themselves in one’s professional life.
Oh, and don’t miss a great _Washington Monthly_ piece by “Joshua Micah Marshall”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com, Laura Rozen, and Colin Soloway on the “ideologues in Baghdad”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.whoswho.html running the Coalition Provisional Authority. To wit:

When the history of the occupation of Iraq is written, there will be many factors to point to when explaining the post-conquest descent into chaos and disorder, from the melting away of Saddam’s army to the Pentagon’s failure to make adequate plans for the occupation. But historians will also consider the lack of experience and abundant political connections of the hundreds of American bureaucrats sent to Baghdad to run Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority.

In their place, the architects of the war chose card-carrying Republicans — operatives, flacks, policy-wonks and lobbyists — for almost every key assignment in the country. Some marquee examples include U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer’s senior advisor and liaison to Capitol Hill, Tom Korologos, one of the most powerful GOP lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Then there’s the man in charge of privatizing Iraq’s 200-odd state owned companies, Tom Foley, a venture capitalist and high-flying GOP fundraiser. Foley was one of the Bob Dole’s top-ten career donors, Connecticut finance chair for Bush 2000 and a classmate of the president’s from Harvard Business School.

CPA officials say that the older GOP functionaries do a reasonable job keeping their partisanship publicly under wraps. But the younger Republicans in Iraq spend much of their time plotting against the Democrats. “Everything is seen in the context of the election, and how they will screw the Democrats,” said one CPA official. “It was really pretty shocking to hear them talk.”
“They are all on the campaign trail,” said another official. “They see this as a stepping stone to a better job in the next Bush administration.”

And on a personal note, I found out today that my best friend, a lieutenant in the Army Reserve, has been mobilized. He has a wife and two small children to leave behind. When he signed up a few years ago, he said he wanted to serve his country. I have tried to convince him that there’s no dishonor in disobeying orders and fleeing an unjust war waged by an unelected commander-in-chief. To his credit, while he has been as critical of this war as I have, he still says he has to serve out his commitment. (He’s a lifelong Democrat, by the way.) I wish he would reconsider, consider a flight to a neutral country, but I know he won’t. He has a sense of honor and duty that should shame his “commander in chief”:http://www.warstories.cc/person/?personId=1, who went AWOL in Vietnam after he got airlifted by his father’s influence into a cushy Texas Air National Guard spot.
I admire my friend a lot for his sense of patriotism and duty, even though he knows he will be missing 18 months of his daughters’ lives, even though he believes Iraq is a colossal screw-up and a mistake of mammoth proportions. He would never say a disrespectful thing about George Bush while mobilized, but I can: To hell with Bush and to hell with this war.
Anyway, this has made it all the more imperative that I go back and, as I joke with him, make sure nothing happens to him.

Iraq’s Mass Graves Could Hold 300,000 victims

U.S. officials announce that Saddam killed 300,000 people and buried them in 263 mass graves. They also point out that these graves date from when Saddam was America’s ally in the Gulf.

The top human rights official for the “CPA”:http://www.cpa-iraq.org/ says Saddam Hussein killed at least 300,000 opponents and buried them in 263 mass graves located around the country.

Sandy Hodgkinson [the U.S. official in charge of disinterring these hellish pits] said the administration has been sending forensic teams to investigate those grave sites reported to U.S. officials. So far, the existence of about 40 graves has been confirmed.
“We have found mass graves with women and children with bullet holes in their heads,” she said.

Hodgkinson said the majority of people buried in the mass graves are believed to be Kurds killed by Saddam in the 1980s after rebelling against the government and Shiites killed after an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
President Bush has referred to Iraqi mass graves frequently in recent months, saying they provide evidence that the war to drive Saddam from power was justified.

Without WMD or convincing ties to al Qa’ida, Bush’s pointing to Saddam’s well-documented brutality as justification for March’s invasion seems a little thin, since Hodgkinson says the graves date from 1983 to 1991. Saddam’s Iraq was a U.S. client state until Saddam invaded Kuwait that year, touching off the Gulf War.
Hameda Farag, 46.JPGHameda Farag, 46, a victim of 1988 Halabja attack, photographed in Halabja’s single hospital. It was near sunset when she smelled something odd. “I didn’t know it was a chemical attack until I fled to Iran,” she said. She was pregnant at the time and lost the child. Since then, she has had three miscarriages and now can no longer have children. At the time, the U.S. didn’t care. ®2002, Christopher AllbrittonThese mass graves don’t surprise me. I witnessed the aftermath of Saddam’s viciousness when I interviewed victims of the 1988 gas attack in Halabja last year (the largest single attack in the Anfal campaign that saw multiple gassings of smaller villages across Iraqi Kurdistan.) What I’m curious about, however, is the seeming lack of mass graves _after_ the 1991 Gulf War. Are there none? Did Saddam clean up his act after his defeat from Kuwait? I find that hard to believe. In “this post”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000474.php, the debate in the comments section focuses on balancing the actual number of Iraqis killed in the war (between 11,000 and 15,000) versus the “hundreds of thousands of people that will not be tortured and put to death in Saddam’s ‘security’ apparatus, and who would have been if we had not gone to war,” according to commenter Gary Robinson.
I’m not trying to use Gary’s words against him; he has a valid point. But what if the sanctions imposed on Iraq and “strong inspections, as apparently Iraq was willing to sign on for in order to avoid war”:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/06/politics/06INTE.html, was keeping not only Saddam’s WMD aspirations in check, but also his thuggish instincts toward his subjects? In the absence of mass graves from the 1990s to the present, how can we say that we saved more Iraqis by going to war than if we hadn’t? And to broaden the picture, can we say it was worth it to bog down a good chunk of the U.S. military — that could be used to fight terrorism elsewhere — and damage so many international institutions if Saddam weren’t brutalizing his people to the degree that he was said to be doing?
I don’t know the answers to these questions because there is no evidence — so far — that Saddam was filling graves with “hundreds of thousands” when he was Public Enemy No. 1. Instead, the evidence points to him filling them when he was an ally of America. Until other or more recent evidence shows up, supporters of the war should realize that by pointing to these graves as justification for invading Iraq and causing the actual deaths of tens of thousands, many of them civilians, they’re pointing out that the United States, too, has the blood of Saddam’s victims on its hands. Anyone want to bet the Iraqis don’t know this?

Meanwhile, back in Iraq…

While much deserved attention is paid to battle for the truth against the Bush administration’s many changing rationales for war, the battle for Iraq is still ongoing. Newsday has a chilling interview with a man known as Khaled, who claims to be a commander of the Saddam Fedayeen, and says the resistance is organized, growing and ruthless.

While much deserved attention is paid to battle for the truth against the Bush administration’s many changing rationales for war, the battle for Iraq is still ongoing. _Newsday_ has a chilling interview with a man known as Khaled, who claims to be a commander of the _Saddam Fedayeen_, and says the resistance is organized, growing and ruthless.
“We have many more people and we’re a lot better organized than the Americans realize,” said Khaled, 29, who gave an hour-long interview to _Newsday_ on Wednesday on the condition that only his first name be published. “We have been preparing for this kind of guerrilla war for a long time, and we’re much more patient than the Americans. We have nowhere else to go.”

Khaled described the workings of a loosely organized network of former Baath Party members, Iraqi soldiers, intelligence officers and other die-hard Hussein supporters who have been responsible for an unknown number of the attacks that have killed 29 U.S. soldiers and injured dozens since May 1.
He said the network operates in cells of five or six members that answer to a secret leadership structure. It goes by various names — the Fedayeen, the Iraq Liberation Army, Muhammad’s Army — and Khaled said only a handful of people know its full reach. He said its members draw inspiration from Hussein and from the belief that the ousted Iraqi leader is alive and will regain power once U.S. troops are forced to leave.

What has the United States marched its troops into? A quagmire? An abattoir?
I respectfully disagree with other sites that the U.S. should bring the troops home by Christmas. While I resent that the men and women I met while in the war were lied to and put in harm’s way for a myriad of shifting rationales, the fact of the matter is that Iraq is a mess. Pulling out the troops now would make it even worse, if you can believe that.
Iraq is a dangerous place, full of dangerous men. Saddam’s regime terrorized his people leaving resentments, fury and the urge for revenge. If the U.S. pulled out before the country was stabilized, there would be a civil war that might spill over into Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Kurds would be massacred as Turkey and Iran move in to protect their interests. The Persian Gulf would be impassable. Energy infrastructure from Basra to Baku in Azerbaijan would be destroyed, slower or otherwise impaired. The world’s economy would grind to a halt. And the real danger to the West, al Qa’ida, would be able to operate much more freely.
That’s not to say there aren’t any alternatives, but none of them are very good. Turning Iraq over to a U.N. trust to be administered and policed by the body is a popular one. That’s a tough call, however. Iraq would be the biggest project of this kind ever undertaken by the United Nations, and its track record is mixed. Any realistic U.N.-sanctioned force needed to establish security would have to include a sizable portion of Americans — if only for logistical purposes — who would be even less welcome in Baghdad a second time around. Avoiding additional ill will would probably require placing American troops under an Islamic command, possibly Turkish or Pakistani. Can anyone really imagine any president, Republican or Democrat, doing that?
Many, many opposed this war — I did. I thought it was a mistake of colossal magnitude — still do. U.S. troops face 10 to 25 attacks _a day,_ and, as Khaled implied, it will get likely worse. The choices available are all bad. Simply put, *the Americans can’t stay, but neither can they leave.* What they call “liberation,” _tahrir_ in Arabic, too many Iraqis are calling _ihtilal,_ — “occupation,” with the overtones of the Christian Crusades, the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in the 13th century, the divvying up of the region between Britain and France after World War I and the Israeli presence in Lebanon and the occupied territories. As Salon.com writer Nir Rosen says:

The most common refrain one hears from Iraqis these days is: “They came as liberators and now they are occupiers.” The significance of the liberation vs. occupation debate can get lost in translation here, but its immense political implications were evident in a June 2 meeting, hosted by the Coalition Provisional Authority, for nearly 300 tribal leaders of all religions and ethnic groups. Hume Horan, a political advisor to Bremer, also was present. Horan, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and fluent Arabic speaker, addressed the audience in Arabic about the coalition’s efforts and its need for Iraqi support.
After Horan finished speaking, Sheik Munther Abood from Amarra thanked President Bush for removing the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein and stated that he had seen the mass graves full of dead Shias in the south and was firmly opposed to Saddam. He then asked Horan if the coalition forces in Iraq were liberators or occupiers. Horan responded that they were “somewhere in between occupier and liberator.”
This was not well received by the audience. Sheik Abood stated that if America was a liberator, then the coalition forces were welcome indefinitely as guests, but that if they were occupiers, then he and his descendants would “die resisting” them. This met with energetic applause from the audience. Several other sheiks echoed the same sentiment. Then the meeting deteriorated and a third of the audience stood up and walked out, despite efforts by Horan and other organizers to encourage them to stay. At which point the meeting ended. It was not a public relations success.

Is it any wonder people like Khaled find support? “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea,” Mao once said. (He also said, “Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are decisive.” Khaled and people like him are proving Mao right.)
All Americans should be aware of the agonizing position Team Bush has put them in. There are few good solutions to this that will a) benefit the Iraqi people and respect their dignity and sovereignty, and b) keep the region stable and secure while reducing American casualties. The answers that do look viable — pumping massive quantities of aid and money aimed at rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and dealing with Iraqis on their terms and not on the Americans’ — don’t seem to on the table in Washington and Baghdad. Perhaps it’s just not in this White House’s political DNA to deal with anyone except at gunpoint. (“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” — Mao, again.)
Former CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks says the world is facing a four-year presence in Iraq. So, electing a Democrat into the White House in 2004 won’t be a solution. As I’ve argued above, the chaos and anarchy that would result in a premature pullout will force any president to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq. (Americans should still turn Bush and his cronies out on their collective ass, though. The list of reasons to do so other than Iraq are encyclopedic.)
The comments from Khaled, Franks, Horan and Sheik Abood remind me of the apocryphal story told of the encounter between an American colonel and his North Vietnamese counterpart at the Paris Peace Conference. “You know,” the American said, “you never defeated us on the battlefield.” His counterpart responded: “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

French students getting the “non!” from America

French students getting the cold shoulder from American host families because of Paris’ stance on the Iraq war. This is beyond ridiculous.

Oy. Seems the anti-French sentiment in America is hitting even student exchange programs, since many of them are reporting that host families are turning away French teenagers.
C’mon, people. This is ridiculous, and it’s stories like this that convince the rest of the world that for Americans, loyalty is a one-way street. If terrorists had blown up the Eiffel Tower, would the _New York Post_ have run a headline blaring, “Jourd’hui Nous Sommes Tous Français!” [“Today, We Are All French!”] as _Le Monde_ did after Sept. 11? I doubt it. (OK: They wrote “We Are All Americans Today” but you get the point.)
I’m waiting, on this 227th Day of American Independence — which, in part, inspired the French Revolution — for my fellow citizens to stop being so pigheaded about this. Stop wallowing in self-absorption, righteous victimhood and pique. Why is it OK for the United States to invade Iraq in the service of _its_ self-serving national interests, but when France opposes the invasion for its own, self-serving, reasons they’re suddenly perfidious, treacherous and an enemy of freedom everywhere? Plus, we no longer want their wine or cheese?
So if anyone reading is interested in taking in French exchange students and teaching them that there are aspects of American culture worth celebrating, please do so. It’s small gestures like this that can heal the rift between two old friends.
(I would take a student in myself, but I’m a single guy living in a _very_ small one-bedroom in Manhattan. I’m barely qualified to have a puppy, much less take care of a French teenager for the summer.)

First Responders Unprepared, Underfunded for Next Terror Strike

A new report from the Council on Foreign Relations reveals what we suspected all along: That the nation’s first responders — the police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel — are woefully underfunded and unprepared to deal with another attack on the scale of Sept. 11.

The United States is dangerously unprepared for another major terror strike, with local police, fire and other emergency personnel unable and generally ill-trained for dealing with another Sept. 11-sized attack, according to a report published Sunday by the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared” says that:

  • On average, fire departments across the country have only enough radios to equip half the firefighters on a shift, and breathing apparatuses for only one third. Only 10 percent of fire departments in the United States have the personnel and equipment to respond to a building collapse.
  • Police departments in cities across the country do not have the protective gear to safely secure a site following an attack with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
  • Public health labs in most states still lack basic equipment and expertise to adequately respond to a chemical or biological attack, and 75 percent of state laboratories report being overwhelmed by too many testing requests.
  • Most cities do not have the necessary equipment to determine what kind of hazardous materials emergency responders may be facing.

If the nation does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could have an even more devastating impact than the September 11 attacks.

12190008.jpgMoreover, the various local first-response agencies around the country will by underfunded by $98.4 billion over the next five years if the current funding levels are maintained.
Currently, the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies spend about $5.4 billion a year on first responders, according to the Washington Post. The study says they should be spending about $25 billion annually to do the job.
The federal government will spend about $27 billion on first responders over the next five years, and the hard-to-forecast state and local agencies will spend between $26 billion and $76 billion, according to the report.
The budgetary figures were developed with the Concord Coalition and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The Council’s report is a follow-up to the Council’s previous report, “America — Still Unprepared, Still in Danger” published in October 2002 and researched by the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force on Homeland Security, co-chaired by former Sens. Warren B. Rudman, R-N.H.�and Gary Hart, D-Colo. The current report was authored by the Independent Task Force on Emergency Responders and was chaired by Rudman.
“I believe in the next five years — can’t tell you when, where, what or how — there will be an attack,” Rudman told Tim Russet Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“And, God forbid, it’s an attack with either chemical or biological or worse, some sort of nuclear device. We are not prepared to deal with that.”
CFR president Leslie Gelb echoes that sentiment in his forward:

It is likely that a terrorist group somewhere in the world is developing plans to attack the United States and/or American interests abroad using chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or catastrophic conventional means. At the same time, diplomats, legislators, military and intelligence officers, police, fire and emergency medical personnel, and others in the Unites States and across the globe are working feverishly to prevent and prepare for such attacks. These two groups of people are ultimately in a race with one another. This is a race we cannot afford to lose.

According to the New York Times, Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said Sunday that the additional $98 billion recommended by the council report for first responders is “grossly inflated.”
This report comes on the heels of blatant partisanship. Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the first of 13 appropriation bills that fund the federal government. This one dealt with the Department of Homeland Security. House Democrats complained of the short-changed first responders and said the bill fell “dangerously short” of what was needed. Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., offered an amendment that would have added $1 billion for police and firefighters, paid for by reducing the amount of the 2004 tax cut for those earning more than $1 million a year from $88,326 to $83,326. The Republicans, ruling the amendment out of order, defeated it in a party-line vote of 222-200.
“Do we trust President Bush and his team to set homeland-security policy, or do we think it should be set by the same members of Congress who voted against the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in the first place?” asked DeLay. (Actually, it was Senate Democrats who first proposed the Department of Homeland Security and pushed and pushed for months until a reluctant White House finally caved.)
Leaving aside the noxious fact that someone making $1 million will get more than an $80,000 tax cut, what’s really out of order is that the DeLay Brigade refuses to ask its millionaire patrons to contribue $5,000 more a year each in an attempt to fund the people who protect and serve those millionaires. (You know, even Obey’s proposed $83,326 taxcut is way more than the average yearly salary of a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker. Just think how much the first responders would get if the tax cuts were actually realistic and sane.)
So this lack of funding is not a great surprise. The Bush 2004 budget cuts benefits to veterans and active duty soldiers, services the poor and middle-class depend on and gives short shrift to just about every environmental initiative going. Americorps is on its last legs, thanks to spending cuts and the Medicare initiative is a bait-and-switch to get the elderly to move into private HMOs. And while Bush says one thing — “I’ll make America safer” — his actions are a combination of ruinous foreign policy that destabilizes the world and a domestic national security agenda that attacks basic civil rights, ignores vulnerabilities such as ports, border crossings and stabs stressed out, underfunded police and firefighters in the back. All this while his Republican allies in Congress wrap themselves in the twin flags of hypocrisy and selective amnesia whenever someone tries to do what’s right — even if it’s only $5,000 worth of rightness.
There is no excuse this time if (when?) another terror strike catches the nation unaware. One can almost buy the White House’s failure of imagination regarding Sept. 11 — if you’re feeling generous, which I’m not. But if (when?) another attack kills large numbers of Americans, Bush, thanks to his asinine spending priorities and gnat-like attention span, will be an accessory to murder.