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, September 16, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iraqis protest in the Shaab neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. Protesters burned the U.S. flag as they denounced the behavior of U.S. soldiers and called for the Iraqi government to intervene. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) Another of those interesting stories reported only in a photo caption. -- C

Casualty Reports

MNF reports the death of one Task Force Marne soldier in attack on a dismounted patrol on Friday, four injured in the incident. Location not given. Task Force Marne generally operates south of Baghdad.

Marine killed in Anbar on Tuesday, apparently by a sniper. Whisker informs us that this death has not been announced by the military. Note the odd description of the incident from this local newspaper, however: "He was at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, apparently ready to leave, when a bullet killed him at 1:55 a.m. local time Friday, his family said."

Security Incidents

A lot of violence reported today, and some confusion over details among various sources. I've done my best to sort it all out, but haven't completely succeeded. -- C


Car bomb at bakery in Southwest Baghdad, at start of iftar, kills 11, including two children.

Mercenaries guarding a convoy open fire killing nine civilians and injuring 15 near Nisoor Sq. So far, among western media, only McClatchy reports this story, as a passing mention in a factbox. This is, of course, a fairly routine incident. Xinhua provides further details, says the mercenaries were responding to sniper fire. They are of course, completely unaccountable for their actions. -- C

Car bomb in al-Mansour district kills 2 and injures 7. Subsequent armed clashes among unspecified combatants kill 7 more, injure 12. Same report mentions a second car bomb in nearby al-Harithiya that injures four more. Reuters gives death toll in first bombing as 5, and also says one killed in second bombing, but does not mention subsequent armed clashes. AFP characterizes the armed clashes as "insurgents opened fire on security forces."

Reuters gives separate report of a bombing in al-Harthiya that kills one and injures three, but this may be an error, and refer to the same incident as above.

Reuters also reports assassination of a municipal official of the Doura district, and:

  • Roadside bomb kills 1, injures 2 in central Baghdad;
  • Defense Ministry claims Iraqi army killed 47 "insurgents," captured 21, in past 24 hours. Perhaps this includes the 12-year-old "insurgent" killed in Diwaniyah. -- C

Police find 11 bodies dumped in various parts of the city.

Tuz Khurmato

Bombing at a cafe kills 8, injures 22.


Authorities order a 36 hour curfew after six car bombs are found on Saturday.


Two killed, four wounded by mortar barrage.


Joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on home of a Mahdi Army leader misses its target, succeeds in killing his 12 year old son and his father. That oughta teach him. -- C

In nearby Ifech, gunmen assassinate a police colonel. Police respond by arresting a member of the town council.


Militants kill 14, injure 7, burn 12 shops. Motive is unclear but Reuters reporters suggest this may be linked to the threat by Islamic State in Iraq against collaborators.


U.S. forces capture one Fallah Khalifa Hiyas Fayyas al-Jumayli, who they claim is "linked" to the assassination of sheikh Sattar Abu Reesha.

Karma (north of Fallujah)

Police find three bodies of members of the Jumaili tribe, said to be opposed to al Qaeda.


Grenade attack on a police checkpoint kills one civilian, injures 5 police.


Bomb attack on civilian vehicle injures 2. McClatchy also reports a rocket attack, apparently aimed at police headquarters, that missed the target.

A roadside bomb exploded near the convoy of a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), wounding a guard and a pedestrian.


Gunmen hijacked an ambulance carrying eight people.


Shiite militias attack rival tribe, killing two and injuring three.

In what is probably a somewhat different description of the same incident, AP reports that "shop owners from the Albu Jassim tribe fought back against militia fighters, leaving one civilian dead, a provincial police official said. The bullet-riddled bodies of a traffic police chief and his 11-year-old son also were found after they were kidnapped during the fighting."


Gunmen assassinate a pharmacist who is a member of the Sadrist movement.

Other News of the Day

Sadrist parliamentary bloc announces it is withdrawing its support for the government, leaving the main Shiite alliance. However, NYT's Alissa J. Rubin sees limited impact of the move. (Note: It's probably true that in terms of Green Zone politics this doesn't matter much, but that's never been very important anyway. The real question is what it means for the Red Zone, i.e. Iraq. The AP report, which follows, makes this clear. -- C) Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 15 — In a sign of frustration with the government, the movement of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr announced Saturday night that it would withdraw from the largest political bloc in Parliament, a coalition of Shiite parties.

The Sadrists provided Nuri Kamal al-Maliki with the support he needed last year to become prime minister, but the political landscape has since shifted. As a result, while the fracturing of the coalition adds to the uncertainty that is crippling Iraq’s political process, it is not clear how damaged Mr. Maliki will be if the Sadrists follow through with their plans to withdraw.

Mr. Sadr’s lawmakers have complained repeatedly about being marginalized within the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance. They have not been included in talks by mainstream Shiite parties, including Mr. Maliki’s, with the Kurds and some Sunni Arab lawmakers about working together toward compromises on legislation. One of the proposals is to allow more former Baathists to return to government jobs, a move that Sadr lawmakers have staunchly opposed.

“Since the U.I.A. didn’t respond to the demands of the Sadrists, the political commission of the Sadrists decided to withdraw from the U.I.A.,” said Salah al-Obeidi, the spokesman for the Sadr Movement in Najaf. “We haven’t seen any serious discussions with us from the dominating powers in the alliance.”

AP sees Sadrist withdrawal from the ruling alliance as threatening greater instability in the south. This AP roundup story also features good coverage of other developments. Excerpt:

With U.S. and Iraqi overtures to the Sunnis under threat, the government faced a deepening political crisis with the announcement that al-Sadr's followers were withdrawing from the Shiite alliance in parliament. Al-Sadr's followers hold 30 of the 275 parliament seats.

The announcement, made to reporters in Najaf, means the Shiite-led government can count on the support of only 108 parliament members -- 30 short of a majority. However, it could probably win the backing of the 30 independent Shiite parliamentarians, as well as some minor parties.

Still, the decision by al-Sadr's followers will complicate further U.S.-backed efforts to win parliamentary approval of power-sharing legislation, including the oil bill and an easing of curbs that prevent former Saddam Hussein supporters from holding government jobs.

Al-Sadr's decision will also sharpen the power struggle among armed Shiite groups in the south, which includes major Shiite religious shrines and much of the country's vast oil resources.

Dawa Party also threatens withdrawal. Now this is really weird, this is Maliki's own party. -- C

London Sunday Times reports that Alan Greenspan's memoir will say the motive for the Iraq war was control of oil supplies. Why Alan Greenspan is in a better position to say this than I am, I don't know, but this will get some attention. Excerpt:

AMERICA’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W Bush’s economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

Anti-war protesters stage "die=in" at the U.S. Capitol, almost 200 arrested for civil disobedience. As usual, news media give equal attention to a far smaller pro-war rally. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested.

The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."

Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance.

"We're occupying a people who do not want us there," Cliburn said of Iraq. "We're here to show that it isn't just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war."

Counterprotesters lined the sidewalks behind metal barricades. There were some heated shouting matches between the two sides.

The arrests came after protesters lay down on the Capitol lawn in what they called a "die in" - with signs on top of their bodies to represent soldiers killed in Iraq. When police took no action, some of the protesters started climbing over a barricade at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Many were arrested without a struggle after they jumped over the waist-high barrier. But some grew angry as police with shields and riot gear attempted to push them back. At least two people were showered with chemical spray. Protesters responded by throwing signs and chanting: "Shame on you."

Islamic State of Iraq threatens Sunni tribal leaders who collaborate with U.S., announces Ramadan offensive.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates makes vague predictions of a reduced U.S. presence in Iraq, but says troops will remain for years. Says Bush should veto proposal by Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia that would require troops to get time at home equal to their time spent deployed. Doesn't sound to me like he has much of a reduction in mind any time soon. -- C

Quote of the Day

Mr. Bush, confident that he got away with repackaging the same bankrupt policies with a nonsensical new slogan ("Return on Success") Thursday night, is counting on the public's continued apathy as he kicks the can down the road and bides his time until Jan. 20, 2009; he, after all, has nothing more to lose. The job for real leaders is to wake up America to the urgent reality. We can't afford to punt until Inauguration Day in a war that each day drains America of resources and will. Our national security can't be held hostage indefinitely to a president's narcissistic need to compound his errors rather than admit them.

Frank Rich