2004/08/28

News Flash! Bush admits screwups in Iraq!

Very, very interesting.

In the New York Times we hear that:

Mr. Bush also acknowledged for the first time that he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be'' in postwar Iraq. But he insisted that the 17-month-long insurgency that has upended the administration's plans for the country was the unintended by-product of a "swift victory'' against Saddam Hussein's military, which fled and then disappeared into the cities, enabling them to mount a rebellion against the American forces far faster than Mr. Bush and his aides had anticipated.

He insisted that his strategy had been "flexible enough'' to respond, and said that even now "we're adjusting to our conditions'' in places like Najaf, where American forces have been battling one of the most militant of the Shiite groups opposing the American-installed government.

Mr. Bush deflected efforts to inquire further into what went wrong with the occupation, suggesting that such questions should be left to historians, and insisting, as his father used to, that he would resist going "on the couch'' to rethink decisions.

So, exactly how costly has this insurgency been?

2004 Iraq deaths now exceed 2003 deaths

It happened this week almost without notice: The number of Americans killed in Iraq during 2004 now exceeds the number killed in 2003.

More remarkably, the 488 killed thus far this year died in just 239 days (2.04 daily average), while the 482 killed last year died during fully 287 days (1.68 daily average), which means that not only has 2004 been bloodier than 2003 in absolute terms, but in relative terms as well.

Is this progress? Is this stability and safety?

---------------
MaryScott OConnor adds that there are about 11,000 dead Iraqis.

And how are things in Iraq after the glorious American victory at Najaf?

Insurgents evacuate ruined Najaf, fail to disarm. “They stood in a scene of devastation. Hotels had crumbled into the street. Cars lay blackened and twisted where they had been hit. Goats and donkeys lay dead on the sidewalks. Pilgrims from out of town and locals coming from home walked the streets agape, shaking their heads, stunned by the devastation before them. As the Mahdi Army fighters did not surrender themselves, neither did they give up their guns. Instead, they took the assault rifles and rocket launchers with which they had commandeered the shrine and loaded them onto donkey carts, covering them with blankets, grain sacks and television sets, and sending them away. Hours later, Mahdi fighters, some still dressed in their signature black uniforms, could be seen stashing rocket launchers in crates and pushing them into roadside shops.”

As Melanie points out in Bump in the Beltway:

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the most powerful man in Iraq. By treating with him successfully, Moqtada has become the power broker of the poor of the slums in the Shiite south. Ayyad Allawi may be a strong man and a thug, but he has just been made extraneous, for all the world to see, even John Negroponte.

The emergence of the Shiite cleric as the real power in Iraq (this was predictable, and predicted by everyone from me to Juan Cole to Steve Gilliard) is going to make the Sunni, Turkmen and Kurds less than happy. They are restive now, whether or when they will be provoked to uprising is a guess.

Allawi and the fake council which was just selected will have everything they do ratified or vetoed by Sistani. They were a joke before, they are extraneous now. Note to Ambassador Negroponte: the same is true for you.
As several readers pointed out on Hullaballoo, the determination of the Bush Administration to go to war regardless of the anticipated problems was not due to not having the information, it was due to wanting to go in anyway and not having a competent Secretary of Defense to plan apropriately.
One of the comments:

digby, it isn't that Bush "miscalculated" what he would face in post-war Iraq...it's that, faced with expert advice and carefully laid out scenarios that truthfully gave him the information he could have used to do the job right, he and his neo-con artists deliberately CHOSE to ignore such information, and forged ahead with their usual "fuck you" attitude.
James Fallows did a remarkable piece for The Atlantic in January called "Blind Into Baghdad", in which he logged the progress of the war, including missteps and screw-ups, and the dogmatic devotion of BushCo to the party line that got us there.
In the article he details the State Department's carefully researched Future of Iraq project, which final report described all the problems we have since faced, and how we could have avoided them.
The cold truth is that this man started an illegal war and has the blood of thousands of innocents and American soldiers on his hands precisely because, far from "miscalculating", he deliberately ignored all the information that would have saved lives and Iraq's patrimony. His legacy will haunt us for decades, while he safely slumbers the rest of his worthless life in the womb of his ranch. He should be in the dock with Milosovic.



2004/08/27

The "Will to Win"

From an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer Aug 27


Real issue is our will to win
Kevin Ferris
is a member of The Inquirer Editorial Board

There are questions about Vietnam we should be raising.
Not about John Kerry. Vietnam wasn't about him.
There are bigger issues. What did we learn about leadership in wartime, about recognizing what's at stake, about maintaining a will to win even during difficult times?
For some, the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are clear. Casualties and mistakes in Iraq are way beyond what's acceptable. We're the problem. Bring the troops home. Now. That's where many Democrats are.

-snip-

But, regrettably, we are at war. The next president has to lead the fight,
and any action taken in Iraq sends signals about the larger war on terror. Yet there's nothing in Kerry's public record since Vietnam to indicate that he's comfortable wielding America's military power.
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) voiced concerns about America's will to win during a Bush rally in York earlier this summer. He quoted Middle East expert Bernard Lewis, who worries that Americans may not fully understand the dangers of Islamic fundamentalists.
"His perception is that we don't take them seriously as a threat to this country," Santorum said in an interview. As a result, "people don't take this war seriously. They don't think it's real. It's being fought in Iraq, and it's not going to come to us, much less come to them."

-snip-

But we're not focused on this very difficult time. That's a tactical political decision the Democrats made at their convention. Next week,
it's the Republicans' turn. They'll also talk about their candidate's war record - from this century. If they're smart, they'll also craft a message about leadership, about the lessons of Iraq, about what's at stake, about the will to win. To succeed, that message will need to resonate far beyond the confines of Madison Square Garden.


Very good points, but I'm not the slightest bit convinced that the Republicans are serious either. In comparing the First Family to the British Royal family of World War II, what do we see? The British Royal family was extremely conscious of setting up an appearance of "We're all in this together", princes have traditionally joined the Royal Navy and served as officers, princesses have traditionally gone to tend casualties in the hospitals, the whole family visibly sacrifices for the good of England.
What has the Bush family done? George W has yet to publicly attend a single funeral and has yet to review soldier's coffins coming home through Dover Air Force Base, Laura has spent a great deal of time reading to pre-schoolers and making campaign speeches for her husband but I have yet to see a single picture of her visiting wounded soldiers, the daughters spend their time partying and making social rounds and generally living it up. Any of the services would be happy to have the Bush daughters serving as officers as they're both college-educated.
I have yet to see pictures of any of them seeing troops off at the airport or the seaport. I have yet to see any of them make any sort of sacrifice for the troops.
What of the larger community? The rich are enjoying their three rounds of massive tax cuts. Nobody is being urged to buy bonds or join the workforce to produce war material, there's no urging by the president to sign up with the Army, there's no call for sacrifice of any kind. As a conservative complained about Vietnam, we're being asked to fight this war in cold blood, without anger, without passion, without sacrifice.
Yes, liberals should take this war seriously, but Republicans, with both houses of Congress and the Presidency, should do so first.

2004/08/24

Lewis Libby is looking like the one who outed Plame

Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who called the claim of Iraq's obtaining of uranium from Niger false, was outed by a member of the Bush Administration.

In a statement Tuesday, Time [Magazine] said reporter Matthew Cooper agreed to give a deposition after Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, personally released Cooper from a promise of confidentiality about a conversation the two had last year.

And from DailyKos on the 23rd:

We know that various administration officials, including Cheney and Bush, have gotten lawyered up. Cheney has retained Terrence O'Donnell, a senior partner in the Washington law firm of Williams & Connelly, while Bush has Jim Sharp, a trial lawer (who does a great deal of criminal defense work) and former assistant U.S. attorney.

John Dean explains why it's significant that Bush & Cheney have obtained outside lawyers.
Looks like Bush will go into the convention having to explain why his people outed a CIA agent.

2004/08/22

Responding to a right-wing rant

BTW: I do not mean to suggest that left-wingers don't rant or that there's anything wrong with ranting, I'm just specifying what kind of statement I'm referring to.

The war on terrorism is a war against fanatical, racist, sexist, backward, oppressive mutants from hell. You antiwar morons should be ashamed of your overt displays of cowardice, ignorance, hypocrisy, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and support for terrorists who would just as soon kill you than look at you.
-snip-
You babbling idiots rant and rave against racism, sexism and oppression, yet the Islamic Neanderthals you support currently run, or used to run, the most racist, sexist and oppressive regimes on Earth.
rickoreilly-sucks.com
Dec. 3, 2003

It's reported in the NY Times that

New accounts from officials in Afghanistan and the United States indicate that five of the at least 57 Afghan detainees released have returned to the battlefield as Taliban commanders or fighters.

What this means is that even after holding Muslim prisoners for roughly two years, American interrogaters still had no idea of who was friendly and who was not. Obviously, as hostilities again moved up to "major combat operations" with the assaults on Fallujah and later Najaf, the US command cannot distinguish between groups of Muslims that are friendly to the US and those who are not.
So how, pray tell, are we to distinguish between "...fanatical, racist...terrorists who would just as soon kill you as look at you." and the good Muslims we can deal with? We can't even do that when people have been in custody for two years and when America was probably using the type of horrific abuses seen at Abu Ghraib.
Sounds to me like this guy is recommending the ol' "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" kind of pacification procedure.
So the question then becomes "How many Muslims are we willing to kill to get the bad guys?"
Sorry, but I believe the peaceniks have a better solution.

Update: The new government has done a survey of it's police force and has decided that 30,000 members are unsuitable and must be discharged. Gee, we did such a good job of deciding who was trustworthy...

2004/08/20

Addendum to "Outrageous..."

In a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority's own Inspector General, it was found that $8.8 billion could not be accounted for. Thyis statement was especially infuriating:

In one example, the audit said the CPA paid for 74,000 guards even though
the actual number could not be validated. In another, 8,206 guards were listed
on a payroll but only 603 people doing the work could be counted.


2004/08/15

Sensitivity & Conducting Guerrilla Warfare

Much has been made of the evident confusion of the Bush Administration over whether a warrior should be sensitive. From Atrios, who in turn was tipped off to this interview by a reader.


Cheney vs. Cheney

On Hugh Hewitt's show:


HH: Vice President Dick Cheney, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

VP: It is good to be on here.

HH: Today you brought attention to John Kerry's plan to wage a more 'sensitive'
war on terror. What do you think John Kerry meant when he said 'sensitive,' Mr.
Vice President?

VP: Well, I'm not sure what he meant (laughing). Ah, it strikes me the two words
don't really go together, sensitive and war. If you look at our history, I don't
think any of the wars we've won, were won by us being quote sensitive. I think
of Abraham Lincoln and General Grant, they didn't wage sensitive war. Neither
did Roosevelt, neither did Eisenhower or MacArthur in World War II. A sensitive
war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans, and who seek
chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more....


...[later]...


HH: Will the Najaf offensive continue until that city is subdued even if that
means a siege of the Imam Ali shrine?

VP: Well, from the standpoint of the shrine, obviously it is a sensitive area,
and we are very much aware of its sensitivity. On the other hand, a lot of
people who worship there feel like Moqtada Sadr is the one who has defiled the
shrine, if you will, and I would expect folks on the scene there, including U.S.
commanders, will work very carefully with the Iraqis so that we minimize the
extent to which the U.S. is involved in any operation that might involve the
shrine itself.


The confusion here is: when does one need to be sensitive and where is toughness needed?

Maoist theories of revolution are a good place to start. Mao Tse-Tung (The Chinese now use Pin-yin to spell his name Mao Zedong) was a truly terrible dictator and was responsible for the deaths of millions during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, his theories on revolutionary warfare are quite sound. He said that there were two essential elements to any guerrilla struggle, the “fish” and “the sea” they “swim” in. The “fish” or active guerrilla fighters, or the “hard men” as the Irish revolutionaries call them, can number in the hundreds or the thousands. The “sea” or their sympathizers, the people who supply the guerrillas with food and cover, can number from the tens of thousands to the millions.


In Vietnam At War, Lt Gen. Davidson lets it slip that ordinary Vietnamese soldiers were motivated to fight the Americans by promises that they would get to own their own land (The US couldn't match that offer as Americans had allied themselves with Vietnam's landowning Mandarins.) and that when the Land To The Tiller program was adopted anyway (Giving ordinary Vietnamese their own land.) it was by far the most successful counter-insurgency measure the Americans ever took.


The hard men of Vietnam were committed Marxist-Leninists who were very concerned with political power and abstract theory. Their guerrilla fighters, who did the actual hands-on fighting, were more concerned with real and immediate comforts and concerns. The sympathizers who provided the fighters with cover, proved that they could be won over by real-world, concrete concessions that made an immediate and practical difference to their lives.


I read many years ago that Hitler made the same mistake in his invasion of the Soviet Union. Citizens of the Ukraine were disaffected from Joseph Stalin and Russia and Communism generally, but by not seeing to their concrete concerns (It's been suggested that the occupying Germans kept the hated communes intact and had those been broken up and private property been restored, the Ukrainians would have cheerfully joined with the German invaders.) were met, the Ukrainians joined in with the Russians and helped to toss the Germans out.


Also, in a book on guerrilla war, it was pointed out that when the British pacified Malaysia in the 1960s, they did so in a step-by-step manner. They flooded a provice, town or city with troops, set up an efficient municipal administration, saw to basic tasks like garbage collection, restoration of electrical power and sewage repairs, and saw to it that basic policing was done. When the area was stabilized, they left a small detachment away from the populated area and moved on.


The torments of Abu Ghraib were not just contrary to American ideals and international law, they completely missed the point. Had the United States restored electric power and conducted meaningful elections, there is a great deal of evidence that Iraqi guerrilla sympathizers would have cast their lot with the American occupiers instead. There were sporadic attacks from May 2003 to July 2003, but the serious fighting did not begin until August 2003 and the open combat did not begin until the Battle of Fallujah in April 2004, which was kicked off by the slaughter of four American mercenaries, which in turn, was said to be provoked by knowledge of the atrocities of Abu Ghraib.


The atrocities of Abu Ghraib were designed to give the United States critical tactical knowledge as to what the hard men were up to, the plans of the guerrilla fighters. What American forces needed to do was to win over the sympathizers, the people who were interested in concrete, material improvements in their lives. Iraqis were quite aware that the evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, managed to get electrical power back up and running within a month of the first war's ending in 1991. The fact that the United States couldn't even meet the standard set by Hussein was noted by the hard men of Iraq and exploited to the maximum. From the capture of Baghdad in April 2003, it was clear that the Americans had no interest in basic, low-level police work. "River" reported in late August 2003 that gangs were becoming highly organized, that over 400 females had been abducted (And those were only the reported ones.) and that 70 cars a day were being hijacked.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that sensitivity could have saved Americans a lot of lives and could have defused a seriously violent situation. The error of the Bush Administration is to confuse what you need to do with the hard men of al Qaeda and the Iraqi resistance and what you need to do with the millions of sympathizers that make the actions of the hard men possible. In fact, we can see with the memo leaked in October 2003, that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld envisioned the War on Terror as being an almost entirely military struggle (Not surprisingly, as there was no clue in the memo that the President's cabinet had ever discussed the issue as a group.) Rumsfeld's question to the group was revealing: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the clerics are recruiting, training and deploying?”


This was not a small gaffe or glitch by Cheney, this reveals a fundamental confusion at the heart of American policy for the past several years.


2004/08/10

Does the Left Hate George Bush?

Let's look at this article first:

We've 'turned corner,' been mugged

August 10, 2004

BY JESSE JACKSON

Chicago Sun-Times

-snip-

Bush offers himself for re-election with the following record:

Worst jobs record since the Great Depression. Worst trade deficits ever. Worst budget deficits ever. Most dramatic decline in our nation's financial straits: from more than $5 trillion projected surplus to $5 trillion in new debt.

It is hard to remember the unity we enjoyed at home after Sept. 11, and the international support that rallied to our side. In a few short months, the president and his men turned national unity to a bitter partisan divide, ''rolling out'' the Iraq War as a club against his opponents. And, of course, the president's debacle in Iraq has left us more isolated, less admired, and far less safe, turning much of the Muslim world into seething anger at us. Acting unilaterally, without U.N. sanction, he launched a war without a plan for the peace, leaving U.S. troops exposed in a bloody occupation and U.S. taxpayers with the staggering cost: more than $150 billion and rising.

That is why foreign high-level military and State Department leaders from the Reagan and Bush I administrations have publicly charged the president with making us less safe, and are urging Americans to turn the president out of office this fall.

This is not the story you hear on the stump, nor at the Republican convention, or even from much of the mainstream media. But it is undeniably true. You can make excuses for the president's record, but you can't simply deny the scope of the failure. Most independent voters are reluctant to vote out a president, particularly in the middle of a war. But outside of the luxury suites, it's hard to believe that many people think we ought to continue on the same course we're on.

Notice in what I believe is an article typical of what I've been reading for the last several years, Jesse keeps his attention firmly focused on President Bush's policies. Upon the policies Bush has been applying and proposing and enforcing. No talk anywhere about Bush's personal qualities, nothing about his wife or children, no predictions based on his personality ("Well, knowing Bush, he'd probably ...").
About two weeks after the President spoke on Iraq in September 2002, I went to an anti-war protest and have been going ever since. I may be a little atypical of protesters as I mostly spent my time with PRAWN, the Philadelphia umbrella group for the peaceniks. In smaller groups, people could engage in more free-form discussion. I did a few meetings with smaller groups and today have gravitated towards Peace Action. But at no time then or now have any group discussions veered off into discussion of Bush's personal qualities.
I noticed on one of the blogs (Atrios, I think) that there was a discussion of a woman columnist, a physically attractive hard-line right-winger named Ann Coulter. The post said something about Ann's wild sexual habits. And that's it. Not one of the lefties in the comments section thought it was worth their time to get any details as to what her habits were, no one engaged in any speculation, nothing. I saw another post on Ann's wild sexual habits in another blog a few months later. Again, the story was a bare-bones "Just the facts, Ma'am"-type story. No one followed up. Naturally I have my own theories about what these wild habits may be, but no one on the Left appears interested in delving into the sordid details.
So my conclusion is no, we on the Left don't hate President Bush. We hate his policies. We hate what his actions have done to America's reputation around the world. We are fanatically interested in seeing him voted out in November. Okay, many of us don't see a whole lot of difference between him and John Kerry. But we're all perfectly happy to see him removed from office in a legal and proper manner, whether that's through a perp walk to the Hague or a going-back to Crawford, TX for good.

2004/08/08

Outrageous!! Whether one approves of the war or not.

It's truly outrageous that our armed forces can't seem to get the equipment they need for the battelfield. It's pointed out here that an employee of a bank in Minneapolis needed, and thanks to the truly patriotic spirit of his bank, received $1400 worth of equipment that he needed for doing his job in Iraq.
At the same time, it's pointed out that the US Government gave over 20,500 pieces of equipment to Halliburton (Computers, trucks, furniture, etc) and nearly 7000 are missing, gone, unaccounted for, no one knows where they went.

From a January 16 Buzzflash ediorial:

Government By & For Halliburton: Foreign Actions

Halliburton's reach in government policymaking is not confined to domestic affairs. With substantial business interests throughout the world, the company has a stake in some of the Administration's most important foreign policy actions:

IRAQ -- Awarding Halliburton No-Bid Contracts, Despite Company's Record: Halliburton received $2.26 billion in no-bid contracts from the Federal Government for reconstruction in Iraq. The total value of contracts in Iraq could eventually reach $15.6 billion. They were given these contracts despite having a history of price gouging. A 1997 GAO report found the company "billed the Army for questionable expenses for work in the Balkans, including charges of $85.98 per sheet of plywood that cost $14.06." And in 2002, the Pentagon's inspector general and a federal grand jury had investigated allegations that a Halliburton subsidiary "defrauded the government of millions of dollars by inflating prices for repairs and maintenance. The company was forced to pay $2 million in fines."

IRAQ -- Ignoring Halliburton War Profiteering, Then Stonewalling Investigation: After revelations surfaced that Halliburton overcharged the government by $61 million in Iraq, the White House stripped out a provision from the $87B Iraq spending bill that would have subjected the company and other price gougers to criminal penalties. When career government auditors demanded a probe of the controversy, the Administration "obstructed the audit."

IRAQ -- Permitting Halliburton to Mistreat U.S. Troops: The Bush Administration has yet to penalize Halliburton or suspend its contracts, even after the Pentagon "repeatedly warned the company that the food it was serving the 110,000 U.S. troops in Iraq was 'dirty.'" The Pentagon specifically found "blood all over the floor" of kitchens, "dirty pans," "dirty grills," "dirty salad bars" and "rotting meats ... and vegetables" in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq. Halliburton's promises to improve "have not been followed through" -- and yet no action has been taken by the Administration to reprimand the company.