Iraqi Intifada Gearing Up

The Iraqi intifada hits second gear, and weapons of mass destruction fade ever further from the news pages.

The story now in Iraq is the growing resistance to the American occupation, not weapons of mass destruction. As casualty reports continue their grim drumbeat, the death toll rose to 201 American troops killed since the war started March 20, with the two G.I.s found dead yesterday part of five troops killed since Thursday. In all, 24 American troops have died in attacks since May 1, when President Bush declared the major hostilities over. (Sixty-three have died in non-combat related accidents with 39 of those deaths coming since May 1.) George over on Warblogging has a good summary of the recent deaths.
8390999.jpgSaddamists and criminals who cling to the spectre of Saddam’s return are likely fueling this resistance. Oh, and Islamic fundamentalists, foreign Arab fighters and Iraqi nationalists, as well.
“It was predictable,” said Iraqi political scientist Saad al-Jawwad [in the Guardian.] “To any man or any woman or anybody who’s living in despair what could he do? He has nothing left but to carry arms and defy the people who are here occupying his country and doing nothing for him or his family. Where is democracy? Nonexistent. Where is stability? Nonexistent. Where’s electricity? Where’s water?”
Meanwhile, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld denied the U.S. was facing a guerilla insurgency. “I don’t know that I would use the word,” he said, when asked if the occupation was becoming a guerrilla conflict. He noted that the attacks consisted of 10-20 men, with no large formations involved.
Uh, aren’t small, disorganized cadres of insurgents, making hit-and-run harassment attacks kind of the definition of guerrilla warfare? As Stratfor points out:

The more concentrated the force and the more centrally commanded, the easier it is to defeat. Successful guerrilla movements are inherently “disorganized” — if by organization, one means a command structure that is vulnerable to attack. They certainly don’t aggregate into large units and rarely need to coordinate attacks. It is the very lack of coordination that makes them unpredictable and difficult to defend against. They adopt a basic doctrine, such as attacking convoys, pipelines and electrical infrastructure. Then small units carry out these operations on their own initiative.

Blaming the attacks on criminals completely glosses over the fact that the attacks, regardless of who is making them, are inherently political acts; they are attacks on an occupying power.
Stratfor points out that if this is indeed the beginning stages of a guerrilla war, regardless of whether Rumsfeld says it is or isn’t, it looks like the United States has been ill-prepared to deal with it despite last night’s launching of a counter-insurgency operation, dubbed “Sidewinder,” aimed at capturing whoever is behind the growing attack on U.S. troops. Already, 60 people have been captured as a show of force.
in Washington, officials continue to insist there’s no central command to the burgeoning Iraqi intifada, but troops on the ground are convinced it’s organized. “Somewhere in Diala province, something happens every night,” said Capt. John Wrann [in the Guardian], referring to the province northeast of Baghdad where much of the operation was taking place. “It’s got to be a coordinated thing.”
But, like so many post-war events, Operation Sidewinder has an ad hoc feel to it. Not the operational details, which by nature have to be developed to respond to rapidly changing threats, but the very need for it. One gets the distinct impression that the U.S. never planned at all for the possibility of an insurgency.
Rumsfeld seems to be arguing that the lack of a comprehensive military strategy to deal with this isn’t a problem if it’s criminals and other no-goodniks making trouble, not guerrillas in the midst of American troops. Criminals are a problem for the police and society, not the military — or so the thinking at the Pentagon goes. (Which is ironic, considering the current blurring of the lines between the criminal and the military justice systems in the United States.)
But the bottom line is that Rumsfeld & Co. never planned for a guerrilla war because they listened too much to the Iraqi National Congress, which gave them ridiculously rosy scenarios. I seem to remember a war sold as a “cakewalk” — at least according to Sharif Ali, a spokesman for the INC, said on Aug. 8, 2002.
“All of Iraq has suffered for many years from the oppression of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and there is not a single person out there in Iraq that will fight for or defend him, and therefore, we have full expectations that they will turn against Saddam Hussein. And that is one message we are giving the administration,” Ali told the National Press Club that day.
And not to pull an “I told you so,” but, as I wrote back on Jan. 12, 2003,

Instead of a nice, clean occupation that results in the first Arab democracy … I predict the United States will have years of guerilla insurgency from nationalistic Iraqis (some of the fiercest nationalism in the Arab world), the dirty job of suppressing Kurdish and Shi’ite independence movements and Sunni power grabs, the problem of al Qai’da slipping across the borders (with the help of Iran and sympathetic Saudis) into the country to strike at American troops and meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs by Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia. And don’t forget the resentment in the region that will occur when the United States begins exploiting the Iraqi oil fields for its own purposes.

The reality on the ground doesn’t gibe with Rumsfeld’s beliefs, and Stratfor sums it up thusly: “Rumsfeld and U.S. intelligence did not expect to be facing a guerrilla war following the fall of Baghdad, and there are no coherent plans in place for fighting one. Therefore, there is no guerrilla war.”
And if Rumsfeld truly believes this — and there is a precedent for Rumsfeld ignoring facts that don’t fit with what he believes — Stratfor worries that the guerillas have a massive advantage and that Rumsfeld is in fact buying time while he works on Plan B, whatever that is.
Concerning WMD — Remember Those?
All this focus on the Iraqi intifada has caused the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the raison de guerre, to fade. No one, it seems, in the United States particularly cares that they’ve not been found, and any scrap of evidence is increasingly lept upon with breathless hype that starts to sound more than a little desperate. The materials mentioned in the story found date from the before the 1991 Gulf War, when the Americans knew Saddam was working on nuclear weapons. The scientist who buried the barrel, Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, sat on this stuff for 12 years and never got the call to start up the ol’ uranium enrichment program. Why not, if Saddam were intent on bringing the civilized world to its knees and dominating the Gulf?
Before this war, I was convinced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction — not nukes, but likely biological and chemical arms. After all, he had them before, and used them against the Iranians and the Kurds in 1984-1988 (along with the compliance if not the blessings of the West.) And he had plenty of opportunity to develop them, with the United Nations weapons inspectors out of the country since 1998.
So I thought there was something there. But I didn’t think he had them in any quantity that rendered him an existential threat to the United States, nor did I think he would cooperate with Al Qa’ida. I didn’t think the threat from iraq rose to a level that required a war, and I didn’t trust the Bush administration to follow through with an enlightened “liberation.”
Well, as it turns out, people who thought this way have been proven catastrophically correct, with one exception: It looks like there were no weapons of mass destruction at all. Some evidence may still be found, of course, but it is increasingly obvious that any program to be uncovered was nowhere near the level of development the White House said it was. Can anyone of reasonably sound mind argue to me that weapons so well hidden or programs in a state of such abeyance could be an imminent threat to the United States?
So if there were no weapons, why didn’t the Iraqis say so and avoid an extremely unpleasant war, as former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix once mused? Well, actually, they did. All throughout the fall and winter’s diplomatic cage death match the Iraqis claimed they had nothing. And look what it got them: invaded.
War supporters usually say now that happy, liberated Iraqis were the reason for the war and that the WMD don’t matter. To which I reply: Stop changing the damn subject. There are obviously a fair number of Iraqis neither happy nor particularly liberated, so those post-war rationalization don’t hold much water.
So if there are no weapons of mass destruction and Iraqis increasingly nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” of security, surveillance and secularism are killing Americans troops, why are we in Iraq?

B-52s en route…

Stratfor is reporting thath At 1808 GMT (1:08 p.m. EST, 9:08 p.m. Baghdad) B-52 bombers were reported taking off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom. Flying time to Iraq is about six hours.

From Stratfor:

At 1808 GMT (1:08 p.m. EST, 9:08 p.m. Baghdad) B-52 bombers were reported taking off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom. Flying time to Iraq is about six hours. Earlier today, they were reportedly loaded with cruise missiles. The British press has also reported that skirmishing has commenced between Iraqi troops and U.S. and British special operations forces near Basra. Coalition aircraft also have attacked 10 Iraqi artillery pieces in the southern no-fly zone, and Israelis have been ordered to open and fit their gas masks, keeping them nearby at all times.

*If* this is true, that would put the bomber in range at 7 p.m. or so EST, one hour prior to the deadline. Cruise for an hour and drop. If I can inject a wry comment at this time, President Bush _is_ known for keeping things punctual.

Big Bad Wolfowitz and the coalition starting lineup

Wolfowitz Speaks! And State shows that, hey, one is *not* the loneliest number.

_Newsweek_ interviewed Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz last Wednesday. In this transcript, helpfully provided by the Dept. of Defense, Wolfowitz refuses to name names in the coalition (*see below), talks about how American leadership is different from other leadership and explains other countries’ opposition to the war by saying they’ve had a “free ride.” And that’s just in the first few questions.

*Newsweek:* … If a threat is so imminent and the dangers are so real, why is it so difficult to get the international community, or at least much more of the international community on board here? What happened? What’s going on? Is this a Kitty Genovese moment, you know, in the sense that people just don’t want to know how bad it is? What’s going on?
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* I think for one thing there’s a lot of what can be called free rider activity going on. People are so used to the United States taking care of problems and they know the President’s going to deal with this one so they can reap the benefits in whatever form serves their purposes, and frequently that’s domestic politics. Sometimes it’s as simple as they don’t want to buck a domestic tie. Blair’s a real stand-up guy and it takes a lot of political courage to do that, but unfortunately part of his problem is caused by a number of leaders who are actually demagoguing this issue and whipping up opinion.
*Newsweek:* But in all these countries it’s a really strong domestic tide.
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* But it’s fed by leadership. Leadership matters. American opinion is different because our leadership is talking about it differently.
*Newsweek:* But even in those countries that are really strong traditional allies of ours where the leadership is with us, a country even like Poland, their majority is against them.
*DepSecDef Wolfowitz:* But they’re hearing all these echoes from France and Germany and supposedly respectable European opinion.
I think another part is that they’re not threatened directly the way we are. They didn’t experience September 11th. They’re not the target of Saddam’s threats the way we are.

The rest of the interview is an interesting read, but be warned: if you don’t trust Wolfowitz, your head will explode with all the reasons he gives for attacking Iraq.
* Oops! The State Department released the starting lineup today. The “Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq” (CIDI?) includes

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan (post conflict), South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Britain, Uzbekistan.

George over at Warblogging gets it right, again, calling it “Coalitionstan.”
(P.S. Warblogging is a consistently good read. I’m proud to be associated with it.)
The real question is, of course, how much help these countries are giving. Australia and Britain are sending troops — although the Brits kept Washington sweating until just now — but what about the other countries? Turkey is still dithering, despite initial reports that said Ankara was about to flip. Other countries have no doubt granted overflight or basing rights, but do those permissions and verbal cheering (i.e., issuing “me too” statements) count as being a member of the coalition? To use an sporting metaphor, are cheerleaders members of the team?
I guess it depends on how much support is forthcoming. Egypt’s keeping the Suez Canal open, to me, doesn’t count, since that’s what it’s supposed to do anyway. The deployment of Czech Republic anti-chemical troops does, however.
In other news, I’m _still_ waiting on word on my Syrian visa. The Turkish one should be forthcoming within a few days as I’m just getting a tourist visa. I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to get in through Turkey, but the more visas in the passport the better.
My friend at the Washington office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told me that Iran closed the border today. Another journalist i know in Tehran told me that it doesn’t matter as the Persian new year (March 20-24) pretty much shuts down the country anyway. Just as well, as the Iranians were dragging their heels on my visa, not telling me anything. I may hit Rome first, as I heard the embassy there is easier to work with. I’m still looking at a departure date about two weeks from yesterday, though, which would put me in country in early April.

Turkey allows U.S. troops; Saddam to Iraqis: “lock and load!”

Turkey has apparently reversed course and will now allow its territory to be used by U.S. troops. Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis arm themselves.

Whoa. Turkey has apparently reversed course and will now allow its territory to be used by U.S. troops.
There are no details on how all this will go down yet, but the Turkish lira slid to a new low against the dollar, suggesting at least one reason for Turkey’s sudden conversion.
BlobServer.jpgMateriél and equipment has been transiting the country for weeks, but no troops other than a token contingent of “base inspectors.” Most of the boats that were always described as “idling off the Turkish coast” have split for the Suez Canal and Kuwait. What good is this reversal?
Well, as reported before, hanging back until it was too late to offer much help (except maybe overflight rights) was probably Turkey’s plan along. But now that Erdogan is Prime Minister, he’s going to do all he can to prove his intentions to Washington. Perhaps he’s reasoning that if Turkey’s help is too little, too late that can hardly be blamed on him, can it?
Meanwhile, farther south, average Iraqis are apparently arming themselves in preparation of the chaos that will surely follow the onset of hostilities, um, Wednesday? It’s apparently an old cultural tradition of Iraqis, but this time — surprise! — it’s been encouraged by the Ba’ath regime.
But the real danger is not that Iraqis will start firing on American troops but on each other. “No one knows at whom these weapons will be pointed and after a U.S. strike we might see a new Iraq, in the Lebanese or Algerian style,” an Arab diplomat said.

Bush to address the nation at 8 pm EST

President Bush will address the country at 8 pm EST tonight and call on Saddam to leave the country to avoid war.

President Bush will address the country at 8 pm EST tonight and call on Saddam to leave the country to avoid war.
Also, French ambassador says a large majority on Security Council would have voted against the resolution, not the close vote that the U.S. and the U.K. maintained would have been the result. It’s -like- likely the United States never got much more than four votes: U.S., U.K., Spain and Bulgaria.
The U.S. never wanted this resolution anyway.

More DU used in Iraq?

In the process of saving Iraq from Saddam by thoroughly bombing large cities, the United States may be upping the depleted uranium (DU) used in munitions for this war.

In the process of saving Iraq from Saddam by thoroughly bombing large cities, the United States may be upping the depleted uranium (DU) used in munitions for this war.
As the Federation of American Scientists say:

In military applications, when alloyed, Depleted Uranium [DU] is ideal for use in armor penetrators. These solid metal projectiles have the speed, mass and physical properties to perform exceptionally well against armored targets. DU provides a substantial performance advantage, well above other competing materials. This allows DU penetrators to defeat an armored target at a significantly greater distance. Also, DU’s density and physical properties make it ideal for use as armor plate. DU has been used in weapon systems for many years in both applications.
Depleted uranium results from the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Natural uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that is present in most rocks and soils as well as in many rivers and sea water. Natural uranium consists primarily of a mixture of two isotopes (forms) of uranium, Uranium-235 (U235) and Uranium-238 (U238), in the proportion of about 0.7 and 99.3 percent, respectively. Nuclear reactors require U235 to produce energy, therefore, the natural uranium has to be enriched to obtain the isotope U235 by removing a large part of the U238. Uranium-238 becomes DU, which is 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium. [Other sources list it as 60-65 percent — Ed.] Since DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, there is very little decay of those DU materials.

In addition to the radioactivity, DU is chemically toxic, pyrophoric — meaning it burns fiercely on penetration — and usually spreads aerolisized particles over a large area on impact. The particulates can be carried on the wind up to 26 miles and enter the human body through ingestion, inhalation or through openings in the skin.
ktank.jpgThere has been no link proved between DU munitions and Gulf War Syndrome, which has affected about 100,000 veterans of that conflict, or the increased rate of childhood cancers in southern Iraq. The Pentagon has denied any danger from DU (well, apart from being used in bombs, of course.) Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen once compared it to lead paint.
“Where it’s unsafe, it’s like leaded paint,” Cohen said. “Leaded paint does not pose a problem to you unless it starts to peel and then children or others ingest it.”
I’m a little slack-jawed at this comment. Lead paint was banned in U.S. homes in 1978 due to its extreme toxicity.
Overall, I’m personally dubious. While the Pentagon has played down the dangers of DU, this is also the agency that furiously denied for years that Gulf War Syndrome existed at all, regardless of the causes. And while DU in an unexploded munition might be relatively harmless, burned and aerosolized DU will be spread over a much larger area and could enter the soil and water table of the environment. How many studies have been done? Why are NATO allies nervous about exposing their troops to American munitions?
Perhaps DU really is as harmless as the DoD contends. But in a world in which the U.S. has _lost_ a PR battle with Saddam Hussein, is it really a wise move to use munitions that many believe increases the risk of childhood cancers? (Irony alert: The U.S. will open itself up to charges that it used a weapon against an enemy who may have used aflatoxins, which can cause liver cancer in children, against the Kurds of Halabja.) My point is not that there’s a moral equivalence between Saddam’s regime and the United States government — there’s not one, and I strongly disagree with people who make that argument — but that the United States shouldn’t be _looking_ for more reasons to have the world suspicious of its actions and/or motives.
I know that in any war soldiers should use the best weapons available to them; these weapons could end the war more quickly. But heavy use of DU weapons in a “shock and awe” campaign strikes me as yet one more reason to oppose Mr. Bush’s Splendid Little War.
*Correction:* Earlier, I referred to José María Aznar as the Spanish _prime minister_ but a Spanish reader has informed me he’s Spain’s _president_. The CIA World Factbook 2002 also refers to him as the president. Oops! (In my defense, however, almost every English-languag media I’ve seen refers to him as prime minister.)

Tick-tock, tick-tock…

As Bush declared tomorrow is the “moment of truth” for the world to demand that Iraq disarm completely and unconditionally, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein responded by threatening to unleash war “wherever there is sky, land or water.”

The news today is dominated by the events in the Azores, where U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime MInister José María Aznar delivered a deadline to … the United Nations.
The Axis of War (hey, there are three of them!) told the world body that its members had “overnight” to think about supporting the U.S.’s efforts to march on Baghdad.
“There’s a simple choice,” Blair told reporters after the council of war. “People have got to decide whether they are going to allow any second resolution to have the teeth to make it clear that there is a real ultimatum, and that’s what we are going to have to find out overnight.”
As Bush declared tomorrow is the “moment of truth” for the world to demand that Iraq disarm completely and unconditionally, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein responded by threatening to unleash war “wherever there is sky, land or water.”
This, obviously, is either a warning or call for terror retaliation, which many — OK, me — have feared for a while. (Hearing the first plane snarl overhead at 8:45 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001 and watching both towers fall from blocks away makes one leery of a misguided foreign policy that has a goal of war without end, amen, and a blowback that invites and encourages terror attacks like suicide bombings on the subways.) The New York Times reports that anger at the Iraqi campaign is boosting al Qa’ida recruitment on three continents, something I mentioned two weeks ago (scroll down.) In the Palestinian territories, Islamic factions are calling explicitly for a jihad against the West, and the United States in particular. In a communiqué distributed to journalists during a march in Gaza City, Hamas Leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin called on the Islamic nation “to strike at Western interests everywhere if Iraq is conquered. … The hate-drenched West, headed by America, declared today a crusade on the [Islamic] nation and on the Muslim belief when it gathered to strike Iraq.”
Yassin called on the Iraqi people to join ranks under the banner of jihad, and demanded that Iraq “open its borders to all Muslims across the world so that they can play their part in the defensive battle of the [Islamic] nation.”
Oddly enough, this happened once before when a superpower invaded a Muslim country and set up a puppet government. Thousands of radicalized young men poured into the country and began a guerilla campaign that eventually led to the the humbling of the superpower and its retreat. The country eventually fell into chaos, gangsterism, rule by warlords and ultraharsh Islamic fundamentalism. The country, of course, is Afghanistan and the superpower was the Soviet Union.
And, ominously, I received an email today from a Muslim man in France who promised to become an “explosive martyr” — with no specifics given — in the event of a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“Irak after this war, where childs and parents will die, Irak will recognize this zionist project [Israel] as [a] state but the world will cry and scream.
“Yes, I will be an explosive martyrs [sic] as you said.”
If all that’s not enough to scare the crap out of you, in upstate New York a 20-lb. carp, just prior to being killed, allegedly began to yell in Hebrew, shouting “Tzaruch shemirah” and “Hasof bah,” which in essence means account for yourself for the end is near. (Can some Hebrew speakers check that translation?)
The fish was eventually butchered and sold, prompting a gefilte fish company to toy with the idea of adopting the slogan, “Our Fish Speaks for Itself.”
Jokes aside, the world seems closer to midnight than ever. “I am living at the Villa Borghese,” wrote Henry Miller in the opening line to _Tropic of Cancer_. “There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.”
It’s a beautiful day today in New York.