Military Strapped, General Angry

The 2005 Bush budget includes no funds for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means the services will have to make do until a supplemental appropriation comes through. Also, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker failed to say to the Senate Armed Services Committee if he supports the invasion of Iraq. His silence speaks volumes.

Shameful. Because President Bush’s 2005 budget didn’t include any spending for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military will run out of funding at the end of September unless Bush requests a supplemental appropriation.
Now, this is an important story, and shows the depths of dishonesty to which this administration will sink when it comes to cooking the books. Or maybe it’s just incompetence. Congress approved two administration requests last year totalling nearly $166 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, which were _not_ popular — especially that $87 billion Bush asked for. The president is going to have to come back and ask for more money, and if he waits until the end of September that won’t go down well with the voters. Joshua Bolten, the White House budget director, said a supplemental bill could be as much as $50 billion.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Army is spending $3.7 billion a month in Iraq and $900 million a month in Afghanistan.
But the most interesting part of the story came when committee chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked the joint chiefs if they had any doubts about the intelligence they had before the war. The story says, “Three said they still support the decision to go to war, in spite of questions being raised about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the time U.S. troops invaded.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, all said they supported going to war despite doubts about the intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Gen. Schoomaker didn’t “address the issue,” the story says.
That’s interesting. The general in charge of the branch that’s taking it on the chin in Iraq declines to state he supports his commander-in-chief’s decision to go to war? He wasn’t on active duty at the time, yes, but if he supports the decision, he wouldn’t be criticized for saying, “I wasn’t on active duty when we went to war, but I support the decision now that I’m in charge of the Army.” No one in the White House would fault him for that. But he can’t criticize his commander-in-chief, even implicitly; it’s not allowed under Title 10, Section 888, Article 88 of the U.S. Code.

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

So rather than risk court-martial or a demand for his resignation, he shuts up, begs off. I think with the lack of financial support from the White House, and the less than full-throated defense of the president’s policies from one of his joint chiefs, Bush has made some enemies in the services.
Hardly surprising. To date, one U.S. soldier is missing and 535 are dead in Iraq. Exactly 100 have died in Afghanistan. More than 2,600 soldiers have been wounded, and that number is likely much higher. Most of those casualties have been U.S. Army, and now the Bush White House forces the Armed services to dip into their maintenance and modernizing funds to fight two hot wars? That maintenance and modernizing money is used to replace old weapons with new ones. It’s to replace tires, boots, damaged bullet-proof vests and pay for ammunition. It’s not money for sexy, new, expensive weapons system — it’s money that keeps American soldiers alive. Schoomaker knows this, and his silence speaks volumes.

U.S. vs. al Qaeda: Spring offensives planned

Both the United States and al Qaeda are planning spring offensives. America because it can, and al Qaeda because it must.

The United States is planning a spring offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban positions in Afghanistan, and a spokesman for the U.S. military said America’s armed forces are “sure” they can catch Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar “later this year.” Unfortunately, al Qaeda likely has a spring offensive of its own in the plans.
But first, confirmation of the American plans from Stratfor:

Former Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Chief Lt. Gen. Hameed Gul (Ret.) has told the daily _Nawa-I-Waqt_ that reports of a planned U.S. offensive against al Qaeda in the spring were true. Gul said CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid had asked countries bordering Afghanistan for permission to carry out operations within their borders. Gul implied that Pakistan had not granted its consent. In further comments, he said Washington would postpone elections in Afghanistan in order to conduct this operation and had been pressuring Islamabad regarding its nuclear program to coerce its cooperation.

Pakistan has already apparently taken the lead on this offensive. On Jan. 13, according to the _Pakistan Daily Times_, about 250 commandos from the Pakistani military’s elite Special Services Group (SSG) along with regular infantry troops were shifted from North Waziristan to the Wana area in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, notes Stratfor.
The goal of both America and Pakistan will be to root out al Qaeda’s entrenched positions in the lawless Northwest Territories. Ideally, Pakistani troops will be used for the bulk of the fighting, and this is the reason for Gul’s denial to the United States.
However, Pakistan’s refusal should be seen as a net gain for both countries. The United States has apparently been planning this offensive for some time, and with the Bush administration’s history of unilateral action at the expense of other countries’ sovereignty pretty well known, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has some cover for going into a region hostile to outside control. He can’t be seen by his people as acquiescing to the Americans’ wishes, so he denies them access and moves his own troops into the region as a show of strength and sovereignty. He knows full well that the United States will move into Pakistani territory anyway, and his thinking is that there’s not a lot the Pakistanis can do to stop Washington. At the same time, because Pakistan is making an effort to to root out bin Laden and his jihadists, the White House can’t accuse Musharraf’s government of not stepping up to the plate. And — bonus! — any pressure on Pakistan’s nuclear program from Washington will probably ease a little bit. The upshot? Washington gets to act against its real enemies without destabilizing Musharraf, and he doesn’t look like a patsy to his own people. Also, Islamabad gets to keep the Bomb, a source of great national pride in Pakistan.
With this strategy, the goal is to have the war against al Qaeda wrapped up some time in 2005.
But back to bin Laden. What will be al Qaeda’s response? Three things: It will to 1) destabilize or overthrow the Saudi Arabian royal family (a long-held goal), 2) destabilize Pakistan or 3) weaken U.S. resolve by massive attacks inside the United States, possibly with WMD. These strategies could be — and likely will be — used together.
In Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda could build on its string of bombings and attacks to such a degree that the survival of the current regime in Riyadh is in doubt. The U.S. would be forced to intervene, using the military hardware it has and will have in Iraq once the March rotation is in motion. (Riyadh is already on high alert for terror attacks during the hajj.) If al Qaeda can bog down the United States by causing it to stretch its already thin forces in Iraq into Saudi Arabia, it will strengthen its hand in Pakistan, too.
By destabilizing Pakistan — the two recent assassination attempts against Musharraf are probably just the first of many to come — al Qaeda makes the United States’ war infinitely more difficult. With Musharraf in control, the U.S. can cut backroom deals that allow it to operate in Pakistan to attack al Qaeda positions with relative freedom, as discussed above. With a militant Islamist _junta_ ruling from Islamabad — a nuclear-armed _junta_, mind you — that’s no longer an option. Can the United States occupy Afghanistan, Iraq _and_ Pakistan? No.
Finally, al Qaeda may attempt another massive attack on the scale of 9/11. Would massive American casualties sap the will of the United States? Possibly. Or maybe not; Sept. 11 didn’t cause the United States to cut and run. Instead, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon propelled the United States into a war with militant Islamists and the fallout — Iraq, most notably — has divided the West internally and pitted the United States against the Muslim world. This may have been bin Laden’s main goal all along. What would be the result of another massive attack? The answer depends on how much sympathy the U.S. could garner from a world that may have exhausted its supply of goodwill toward America. Instead of a replay of 2001’s season of solidarity, would the United States be seen as reaping what it has sown? The Axis of Evil 8-Ball on this one says, “Sources cloudy; ask again later.” If its any consolation, bin Laden probably doesn’t know either. What is known is that _nothing_ would stop an enraged and wounded America from hellish retaliation.
So for the moment, that’s where all the players stand. Al Qaeda has to demonstrate its effectiveness before the United States starts its offensive this year to preemptively stall any momentum Washington may gather. It also has to show its members and supporters that it still has the capability to lead the jihad against the West. I predict intense attacks in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, the United States will attack in Pakistan and al Qaeda likely will be dealt a death blow and bin Laden captured or killed. That would be a stunning setback for militant Islam, what with its spokesman and folk hero felled by the infidel.
That won’t spell the end of militant Islam of course, nor will it mean the end of the terror threat against the United States and the West. Al Qaedaism is more than just the group and it’s more than bin Laden. Smaller groups will continue to exist, operate and network. But without the charisma of bin Laden — and his web of financing — terror groups affiliated with al Qaeda can be reduced to a chronic, but manageable, problem.

Mukhabarat Agent: No WMDs here!

No WMDs in Iraq but plenty of chaos!

The _Jerusalem Post_ has an interesting interview with a former colonel in Saddam’s secret police, the _Mukhabarat_, who says Iraq had no WMDs in the run-up to war.

Concern that Saddam had actively concealed deadly weapons of mass destruction served as one of primary reasons’ for the Coalition forces’ invasion of Iraq in March.
“In 1991 we were very close to developing a nuclear weapon, but had nothing at the time of the [March 2003] war, after so many years of [UNSCOM] inspections,” said the agent, adding, “they destroyed everything.”

It will come as little surprise to people who read this blog and others, but this is just one more little stone added to the mountain of evidence that the White House lied about/misused/screwed up whatever intelligence it was getting about WMD programs in Iraq.
But, and this fits in with everything I encountered in Iraq and from my own research and readings, Saddam was also fooled — by “maniacally sycophantic commanders and bodyguards who deceived him into believing that Iraq” stood a chance again the United States’ military.
I also believe Saddam felt he could bluff the West by claiming to have no WMDs, which is what everyone thought he would say, while acting like he did. By behaving like he had a royal flush when all he had was a measly pair of sixes, he could buck up his standing in the Arab world as the only leader to stand up to the United States, maintain his grip on his subjects who well remembered the gas attacks on the Kurdish north from 1984-1988 and keep his hold on power. But America called his bluff and now the world is what it is. I imagine the White House is feeling a bit like it won a huge pot of Monopoly money.
Two leaders lying, for their own purposes rather than for the good of their people. And such a mess of it all now. Today, Juan Cole reports, “three U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Kirkuk and Mosul”:http://www.juancole.com/2003_12_01_juancole_archive.html#107173487313180742; pro-Saddam demonstrations continue in Mosul, where police shot four students and protesters attacked Turkmen offices in the city; roadside bombs were exploded in Humairah and Baghdad; a senior member of the “Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000451.php#000451 from the al-Hakim family has been killed; and a former Ba’ath official was literally torn limb from limb by a mob in Najaf.

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.

Is Syria Next?

There’s been a lot of speculation that Iraq was just the first in a line of nettlesome problems in the Middle East that neo-cons wanted to “solve.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview almost a year ago that Iran should be the next target. However, it seems Washington has decided to step up its campaign against Syria.

There’s been a lot of speculation that Iraq was just the first in a line of nettlesome problems in the Middle East that neo-cons wanted to “solve.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview almost a year ago that Iran should be the next target. However, it seems Washington has decided to step up its campaign against Syria.
I44038-2003Oct17L.jpg
U.S.-led coalition troops treat wounded soldiers after an attack on a Humvee on the main road about 50 miles south of Baghdad. The extent of the soldiers’ wounds was unclear. (Greg Baker — AP) Click to enlarge
Last weekend, “to caution Israel’s enemies at a time of heightened tensions in the region and concern over Iran’s alleged ambitions,” Washington revealed that Israel now has land-, air- and submarine-based nuclear launch capability. This came just days after Turkish lawmakers voted to send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq. With the Turks now a dues-paying member of the “Coalition of Willing,” this means Syria is effectively surrounded. Remember that the major fighting in Iraq ended with Syrian and American forces skirmishing on the border, and now Damascus is pressed on the north and south by the formerly neutral Turkey and its old enemy Israel. The pressure is on Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to cease support for groups such as Hizballah and other groups operating out of Damascus. Asad is facing a dangerous gamble: Is the United States bluffing in its deployment of its and its allies’ forces around Syria in an attempt to force behavior change? Will a regime change follow if Syria’s behavior doesn’t alter?
Adding further to pressure is the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (HR 1828). It passed the House this week, and particular note should be paid to Section 4 — Statement of Principles:

  1. Syria will be held responsible for attacks committed by Hizballah and other terrorist groups with offices, training camps, or other facilities in Syria, or bases in areas of Lebanon occupied by Syria;
  2. the United States shall impede Syria’s ability to support acts of international terrorism and efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction;
  3. the Secretary of State will continue to list Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism until Syria ends its support for terrorism, including its support of Hizballah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon and its hosting of terrorist groups in Damascus, and comes into full compliance with United States law relating to terrorism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (September 28, 2001);
  4. efforts against Hizballah will be expanded given the recognition that Hizballah is equally or more capable than al Qa’ida;
  5. the full restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity is in the national security interest of the United States;
  6. Syria is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982) through its continued occupation of Lebanese territory and its encroachment upon Lebanon’s political independence;
  7. Syria’s obligation to withdraw from Lebanon is not conditioned upon progress in the Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Lebanese peace process but derives from Syria’s obligation under Security Council Resolution 520;
  8. Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs threaten the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
  9. Syria will be held accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq due to its facilitation of terrorist activities and its shipments of military supplies to Iraq; and
  10. the United States will not provide any assistance to Syria and will oppose multilateral assistance for Syria until Syria ends all support for terrorism, withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon, and halts the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction and medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

Note that many of these principles are almost identical to those expressed against Iraq, particularly the violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the weapons of mass destruction and its ties to terrorism — in this case Hizballah, which has been promoted to Al Qa’ida rank in evil. Even the “axis of evil” rhetoric has been heated up, as this statement from the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, illustrates:

Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilized world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere. We’ll send a clear message to President Asad and his fellow travelers along the axis of evil: The United States will not tolerate terrorism, its perpetrators, or its sponsors. And our warnings are not to be ignored. (Emphasis added — Ed.)

Stratfor.com notes that the capture of Baghdad shocked the Arab world, and the United States seized the psychological initiative with the city’s fall. The United States went from being perceived as a hated but impotent power to a hated but feared one. Since the fall of Baghdad, however, the perception that the United States is bogged down by guerillas has taken hold and much of the initiative has been lost. The passage of HR 1828 and the coalescing of a regional coalition against Syria is required if the United States’ is to regain its footing and momentum. If pressure by Washington works, then Syria will reduce support to terror groups targeting Israel and halt the flow of fighters into Iraq. If it doesn’t, the United States will need to deal with Syria by force.
Related link: Why Iraq?

Security Report

Iraq Today’s Security Bulletin shows how bad things are around Baghdad.

Well, this is pretty bleak. Iraq Today, Baghdad’s independent, English-language newspaper, publishes a Security Bulletin that doesn’t paint an encouraging picture:

CMCC [Civil-Military Coordination Center] cites Adhamiyah, Rusafa, Thowra, al-Muthanna, Shaab, Hurriyah, Shuahla and the area around Saddam International airport as uncertain or hostile areas.
Carjacking is rife in the capital. Do not walk around the streets with bags or mobile/satellite phones.
The curfew in Baghdad begins at 11pm and ends at 4am.
Iraq’s highways are considered dangerous. Highway 10 between Baghdad and the Jordanian border is especially hazardous, particularly around the Ramadi area. Armed bandits operate this route, using fast cars to stop large convoys of vehicles. Highway 8, between Baghdad and Hillah is also considered a no go route by humanitarian organisations. Highway 1, between Baghdad and Qasim is also very dangerous.
Police are present on the streets of the capital but they are Out-gunned and outnumbered.

Jeeze. Good to know. Especially about Highway 10. I took that highway when I left Baghdad in late April, but didn’t have any problems. We ran it during the day, and there were a number of places where earthen embankments had been set up forcing the taxi to follow a tight “S” path verrrrrrry slowly — in other words, it would have been great for an ambush. Luckily, nothing happened. When J., my friend who left a week or so before me, took that route, however, he mentioned that his driver stopped to chat with a man on the side of the road wearing a black face mask and carrying an AK-47. Nice.

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.”