The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New of the Day for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Morgue workers look at the bodies lying on the ground outside a morgue in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad April 29, 2007. About 10 bodies with gunshot wounds were found in a village near Baquba, police said. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ) Note: This is yet another of those incidents that is reported only in a photo caption. It seems odd that Reuters publishes this photo, but does not include the incident in its report for the day. -- C


U.S. fires artillery barrage at southern Baghdad. According to a statement from a military spokesman, "Eighteen rounds of artillery were fired from Forward Operating Base Falcon," but the U.S. has not identified the target. According to the AP, "The size and the pattern of the explosions, which began after 9 a.m. and lasted for at least 15 minutes, suggested they were directed at Sunni militant neighborhoods along the city's southern rim. Such blasts have been heard in the evenings but are rare at that time of day."

Three Iraqis were killed and eight wounded when roadside bomb detonated in the Zaafaraniyah neighbourhood southern Baghdad, police sources said. This is probably the same incident reported by AP, but AP says there were two bombs.

Yet another journalist targeted: Gunmen seriously wounded Amal al-Moudares, one of Iraq's best known radio and television journalists, in an attack near her home in Baghdad, police said.

Three civilians shot dead in Adhamiya.

At least seven Katyusha rockets landed near a Sunni mosque in Adhamiya, killing two guards and wounding seven others on Saturday, police said. (Doesn't seem like the wall would have been much help. - C)

Reuters also reports claims by U.S. and Iraqi forces:

  • U.S. troops captured 72 suspected insurgents and seized nitric acid and other bomb-making materials in overnight raids on al Qaeda in the north and west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Sunday.
  • Iraqi army killed two insurgents and arrested 112 others during the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

According to Aswat al-Iraq, the Baghdad Operations Command claims 138 arrests.


A roadside bomb exploded near the house of Jawad Magtouf, a Sadr Movement representative in Kut's city council, on Saturday, police said. He was not hurt but his 12 year-old son was killed and nine family members were wounded.

Three Iraqi policemen were killed and four others wounded in clashes with unidentified gunmen in northeastern Kut, a police official in Wassit province said on Sunday.


Authorities in northern Iraq imposed an indefinite curfew in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra after leaflets signed by rival insurgent groups threatened policemen if they did not quit their jobs and promised to target any oil company that wants to explore in the area. The warnings to the policemen were signed by al-Qaida in Iraq and threatened to destroy their houses if they didn't comply.

Gunmen set fire to 15 fuel trucks and kidnapped their drivers on a main road near the city of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


A U.S. armored vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb in the district of al-Dalouiya, Salah ad-Din province, local police said.


One civilian was killed and another wounded when gunmen shelled the villages of Jadou and al-Abtah in the district of Talafar, in Mosul, on Saturday night and Sunday morning, security sources said.


An unidentified number of people were killed and wounded and a U.S. Hummer vehicle was destroyed by a bike bomb on Sunday in central Haditha, local residents said.

Other News of the Day

However, in a blow to regional diplomatic efforts, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has refused to meet with Maliki prior to the conference. Excerpt from WaPo's Robin Wright's report:

The Bush administration has invested significantly in the Egypt meeting, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in a television interview last Thursday that the United States holds a "lot of hope" that the conference will serve as a catalyst for garnering regional and international support for solving Iraq's problems.

David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, has been in the region for two weeks trying to broker behind-the-scenes agreements in the run-up to the summit. A debt-relief accord for Iraq is expected to be signed on the first day, and discussions among Iraq's neighbors are scheduled for the second day.

The official reason for the Saudi decision, Iraqi officials said, is that the king's schedule is full. But sources involved in the negotiations say the king is increasingly unhappy that Maliki is not doing more on reconciliation, despite pressure from the Arab world, the United States and other nations.

Saudi Arabia, ruled by a Sunni royal family, is concerned about the growing influence of Shiite-ruled Iran. The kingdom, guardian of Islam's holiest sites and birthplace of one of its most conservative ideologies, has been playing a more prominent role in regional affairs, so its snub is likely to resonate throughout the Middle East, Arab sources say.

Since taking office a year ago, Maliki's government has made repeated promises about reaching out to Iraq' s Sunni minority, addressing controversial laws and reconciling politically to end escalating sectarian tensions. But Sunni governments charge that nothing has been done. Arab diplomats said on Saturday that they had hoped that Maliki would come to the conference with a list of steps already taken, but that instead he will offer only more promises.


The Saudi decision follows Abdullah's statement at an Arab League summit a month ago that the U.S. presence in Iraq is an "illegitimate occupation."

Maliki says that Iranian Foreign Minister will attend the Sharm al-Sheikh conference on Iraq, scheduled for May 3, but Iran has not confirmed this. In fact, WaPo's Robin Wright (see link above), reports "The Saudi snub comes amid indications from Iranian officials that Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki might not attend the summit -- which could undermine U.S. hopes of a potential meeting between Rice and her Iranian counterpart." Along with the growing tension between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, there appears to be growing tension between the Saudis and Iran over the sectarian divide in Iraq. In other words, as we approach Mission Accomplished day on Tuesday, fears about ways in which the destabilization of Iraq could expand into regional conflict are continuing to grow. --C

Department of "So what else is new?" Iraq reconstruction projects are failures. (I seem to remember reading this story every few months -- C) Excerpt:

By JAMES GLANZ. The New York Times. April 29, 2007

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.


Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.

Leader of Iraq Accordance Front threatens to withdraw from government. Excerpt:

An Iraqi Sunni lawmaker urged his party Sunday to withdraw from the Shiite-led government if it fails to better protect citizens from sectarian bloodshed.

Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, said his party should set a timetable for the government to end mass killings and "stop threatening lawmakers" from his party.

Al-Ilyan's announcement came less than a week ahead of a conference on Iraq in which Arab countries are expected to demand that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government do more to reach out to disgruntled Sunni Arabs before they pledge substantial aid to the country.

Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, along with Egypt, Bahrain and representatives from the five U.N. Security Council members have agreed to attend the conference, which will be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik on Thursday and Friday.

"I call on the Accordance Front, its leaders, Cabinet ministers and lawmakers, to rise to their responsibilities and to clearly state their position on the deteriorating situation in Iraq," al-Ilyan told reporters in Amman. The Accordance Front holds five Cabinet posts and 44 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.

He urged them to "threaten to completely pull out of the government, unless our legitimate demands are met within a specific period of time to protect our citizens." He declined to specify the timeframe.

Claims of Responsibility: The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bombing Friday in the western city of Hit, saying it was targeting the police chief. The attack killed nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians, although police chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family were unharmed.

• In a statement posted on a militant web site, al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb Thursday that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flashpoint city 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Rice appears to rule out any compromise with Congress over Iraq funding, says "President [sic] Bush will not support a war spending bill that punishes the Iraqi government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress."

In-Depth Reporting, Commentary and Analysis

WaPo's Thomas Ricks (a former war cheerleader, now disillusioned) rounds up various experts to make the case that the U.S. faces huge risks from failure of the Iraq adventure. (However, it's unclear whether this is intended as an argument for "prevailing," a la John McCain, or an admission that the cause, whatever it may have been, is lost. I fear this is how the debate will continue to be framed. -- C) Excerpt:

"In terms of the consequences of failure, the stakes are much bigger than Vietnam," said former defense secretary William S. Cohen. "The geopolitical consequences are . . . potentially global in scope."

About 17 times as many U.S. troops died in the Vietnam War -- the longest war in U.S. history -- as have been lost in Iraq, the nation's third-longest war. Also, despite widespread public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, the debate over it has not convulsed American society to the extent seen during the Vietnam conflict. However, Vietnam does not have oil and is not in the middle of a region crucial to the global economy and festering with terrorism, experts say, leading many of them to conclude that the long-term effects of the Iraq war will be worse for the United States.

"It makes Vietnam look like a cakewalk," said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, a veteran of the Vietnam War. The domino theory that nations across Southeast Asia would go communist was not fulfilled, he noted, but with Iraq, "worst-case scenarios are the most likely thing to happen."

Iraq is worse than Vietnam "in so many ways," agreed Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a retired Army officer and author of one of the most respected studies of the U.S. military's failure in Vietnam. "We knew what we were getting into in Vietnam. We didn't here."

Also, President Richard M. Nixon used diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union to exploit the split between them and so minimize the fallout of Vietnam. By contrast, Krepinevich said, the Bush administration has "magnified" the problems of Iraq by neglecting public diplomacy in the Muslim world and by not developing an energy policy to reduce the significance of Middle Eastern oil.

Sahar writes that the men in her family were unable to attend the funeral of a slain relative, because it was in a Shiite neighborhood. However, the women decide to attend.

Would it interest anyone to know that another member of our extended family has perished?

Or has death in Iraq become old, boring news?

He was killed on his doorstep, in full view of his wife and three daughters.

Our men couldn’t attend the funeral, because the deceased was Shiite, and the ceremony was held in his brother’s home in a Shiite neighbourhood.

My mother, my cousin and I decided that we would do our best to attend the women’s ceremony.

They (the family of the diseased) asked for the car’s registration no, its make and colour, and the number of women expected in it. They said we were to reach the former Central Market building (now a great heap of rubble) and stop to await our escort, without which we would not be able to enter the neighbourhood at all – we would be shot, or worse – abducted.

We drove slowly to the meeting place, kept the car running, and waited.

Some minutes (ages) later a car stopped in front of us.

One of the brothers, with him his daughter (20) stepped out of the car and approached us.

He greeted us gravely, and told his daughter to ride with us. He told us that this was insurance given by him, that we were “safe”, his daughter was to ride with us.


A whole living district quite, quite empty.

Hundreds of homes, quite, quite empty.

Shops shuttered, schools hollow, and windswept courts, where the laughter of children used to fill the air.

And the dust, a deep layer of dust, perhaps the most telling sign that these homes were homes no longer…

We paid our respects, wept together with any who came in to show their sorrow.

But in our hearts we knew – we were weeping for ourselves and for our sorry existence bereft of our loved ones.

Note: Sahar's blog accepts comments. You may offer your condolences if you wish.

Quote of the Day

The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests. But it has served Iran’s interest by revenging Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran’s influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda’s interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did. A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed. No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us.

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, US Army, ret.