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.”

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?