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 23, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nearly 300 Shiite residents of Baghdad's southern Saydiyah district, whom sectarian violence drove them out their houses, take to the streets of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007, demanding the government to offer protection for them to return. The turning point in relations between Iraq's two major Muslim sects, Sunnis and Shiites, can be traced back directly to 22 Feb. 2006, when a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, was bombed by Sunni extremists. (AP Photo / Karim Kadim) Note: Although the AP caption does not explain this, the protesters were specifically calling for the disbanding of a militia formed by the U.S. as part of its strategy of co-opting Sunni insurgents. See below for story from VoI.

Security Incidents


One Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and another wounded when an explosive-formed penetrator detonated on their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 22.

Iraqi police found 9 dead bodies throughout Baghdad. 1 in Qahira, 2 in Zafaraniyah, 2 in Saidiyah, 2 in Doura, 2 in Amil.

McClatchy also reports:

  • Around 10 a.m. a road side bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy on the Highway near Shuala neighborhood. One Iraqi civilian was injured, Iraqi police said.
  • A road side bomb targeted civilians in Eskan neighborhood today. Two civilians were injured.
  • Gunmen burned 3 houses in Al Washash neighborhood. the houses were empty after the families were displaced in the last two days, Iraqi police said

Mortar attack on Green Zone. No reports of casualties.

U.S. says it killed the leader of a car bomb network on Friday, identified as Rafid Sabah, known as Abu Taghrid or Abu Azar.

Here's an odd story: An official source from the Children's Hospital in western Baghdad said on Saturday an Iraqi force raided the hospital and beat the guards, leading patients along with their relatives to flee the hospital. The source added "when the guards and policemen assigned to protect the hospital tried to uncover the cause of the raid, the assault force beat a few and detained two guards. The force elements also fired their weapons over their heads, causing patients to panic while families accompanying patients fled the hospital," the source said. The hospital physicians threatened to go on strike if they did not receive an explanation from the authorities for the cause of the raid as it represented "a threat to their lives," the source concluded. (Protection racket, maybe? -- C)


Battle between police and unidentified gunmen leaves 4 dead, identified as 1 police officer and 4 of the unidentified group.

Two civilians killed in mortar attack. No information on possible motivation.

Hihib (north of Baquba)

Suicide vehicle bomb attack no Iraqi army checkpoint injures 3 Iraqi soldiers, 2 others.


Attack on police checkpoint injures one officer. Attackers escape.

Merchant killed in drive-by shooting.

Police arrest 28 people, described as a mix of "militants" and people who were "illegally residing in the city." "The operation ended by Sunday morning and most of the detainees turned out to be persons coming from other provinces to live in Kirkuk without having obtained the necessary security permits." (Note that this is obviously really about the struggle between Kurds and Arabs for control of the city. The story is not specific, but a likely interpretation is that Kurdish forces are engaged in expelling Arabs from the city. -- C)

Three civilians injured by roadside bomb on road to Baghdad. Same source also reports that Iraqi forces shot someone planting a bomb on Saturday night.


Suicide bomb attack on police patrol kills one officer, injures another.

Gunmen kill an off-duty police man.

Yahtrib (near Balad)

Suspected al Qaeda militants killed an off-duty police lieutenant and three of his relatives on Saturday, according to police.

Jbela (south of Baghdad)

Four bodies, including a policeman, were found shot.


Police found the bodies of three men.

Additional Coalition casualty reports

MNF reports the death of a Task Force Lightning soldier in a vehicle accident in Diyala on Saturday.

British Ministry of Defence announces the death of Sergeant Mark Stansfield, who died Friday of injuries sustained on Wednesday in an accident at a munitions depot. He is survived by his wife, who is pregnant.

DoD has identified an officer who died on Friday in Kirkuk of unspecified non-hostile causes, as Capt. (Dr.) Roselle M. Hoffmaster, 32, of Cleveland, Ohio.

Other News of the Day

Thousands of protesters demand that the government disband the "al-Sahwa (Awakening)" contingent formed by the U.S. forces.

Baghdad, Sept 23, (VOI) – Thousands of people in the southwestern Baghdad district of al-Sayidiya protested in front of the Baghdad provincial council on Sunday morning, urging the Iraqi government and the interior ministry to disband the al-Sahwa (Awakening) contingent formed by the U.S. forces.

"The contingent, an offshoot of the special forces the Iraqi Scorpion Brigade, has relocated more than 10,000 families in the area, set a number of houses on fire and killed civilians," Muhammad al-Jurani, the chairman of the al-Sayidiya displaced families committee, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The protests lasted for two hours and if our demands were not met the march would develop into a sit-in," said Jurani.

He pointed out that the "official statistics we have indicate that the return of more than 6,000 displaced families to this area was not approved so far." No comments were made by the Iraqi authorities on these protests.

Iraq Parliament announces the formation of a "feminist bloc".

Baghdad, Sept 23, (VOI) – Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani announced the establishment of a feminist bloc with the aim of activating the role of women in the political decision-making process.

"The objective of this bloc is to underline the issues of the widows, orphans, the displaced, and families whose providers were killed," Mashhadani told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Sunday. Member of Parliament Safiya al-Suhail said the idea was intended to resist a male-dominated parliament, noting that the feminist bloc would seek solutions for problems the legislative and executive authorities could not reach." "The objective of this bloc is to underline the issues of the widows, orphans, the displaced, and families whose providers were killed."

(That sounds great, but of course the government has no real power and I'm not holding my breath for substantive results. -- C)

Iraqi government backs down on expelling Blackwater, denies reports of video evidence showing culpability. (it's pretty clear who calls the shots in "sovereign" Iraq. -- C) Excerpt:

BAGHDAD - Iraq will not take immediate steps to expel US security firm Blackwater, under investigation over a shooting which killed 11 Iraqis a week ago, a government security official said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had vowed to freeze the work of Blackwater, which employs about 1,000 people guarding the US embassy in Baghdad, after the shooting in western Baghdad last Sunday but it was back at work five days later.

The Iraqi government and US officials have agreed to set up a joint inquiry into the work of private security companies like US-based Blackwater, which many Iraqis see as private armies acting with impunity.

In what appeared to be a further softening of Iraq's response to the shooting, a government spokesman for Baghdad security said Blackwater and other private security companies were doing important work guarding foreign diplomats.

"If we drive out or expel this company immediately there will be a security vacuum that will demand pulling some troops that work in the field so that we can protect these institutes," spokesman Tahseen al-Sheikhly, speaking through an interpreter, told a news conference.

"This will create a security imbalance," he said.

Maliki's government has called the shooting a "flagrant assault" and a crime that angered the Iraqi people. Suggesting the US embassy stop using Blackwater, Maliki said on Wednesday he would not allow Iraqis to be killed in cold blood.

Blackwater, one of the biggest private security contractors in Iraq, has said its guards reacted "lawfully and appropriately" to an attack against a convoy it was guarding.

Its guards were back on Baghdad streets on Friday, after the US embassy eased a three-day ban on road travel by US officials outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

A senior Iraqi police source close to the investigation denied reports that the joint inquiry was examining video taken from the scene which showed that Blackwater guards had opened fire without any apparent provocation.


US military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox said it was too early to speculate on what the joint inquiry might find, or when it would it would present its findings.

On the other hand, Iraqi officials are saying that they will bring criminal charges against individual Blackwater employees. (We will see if this indeed happens. I'm betting no. -- C) Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi government will file criminal charges against employees of U.S. security firm Blackwater who are blamed for a gun battle in Baghdad in which civilians were killed, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Sunday. It is unclear how Iraqi courts will attempt to bring the contractors to trial. A July report from the Congressional Research Service said the Iraqi government has no authority over private security firms contracted by the U.S. government.

The Iraqi government claims that as many as 20 civilians were killed by the private contractors, who were guarding a U.S. diplomatic convoy.

Iraqi officials, who claim the shootings were unprovoked, dispute the U.S. claim that the guards were responding to an attack and said on Saturday they had a videotape that showed the Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation.

Note that the videotape has already been disappeared. -- C

Iran closes a border crossing with Kurdistan following the arrest of an Iraqi diplomat by U.S. forces. Excerpt:

Baghdad - Iranian authorities closed on Sunday an important border crossing between its territories and northern Iraq after US forces arrested an Iranian citizen, almost causing a diplomatic rift between Iran and the autonomous Kurdish region.

Local official Omar Farag described the move as 'unexpected,' saying that closing the crossing would have its negative effect on the markets of the Kurdish region.

Farag told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that food prices would increase, which is considered a problem during the holy month of Ramadan, a time when both Shiite and Sunni Muslims fast during the day and hold food banquets at night.

The Iranian authorities cut electricity along this stretch of border.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent an 'angry' letter to US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C Crocker and General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, demanding the release of the Iranian delegation currently detained by the US Army.

'The Islamic Iranian republic is threatening to close the borders between Iran and (the autonomous Kurdish region),' if the Iranian delegate, who was visiting the northern city of Sulaymanyah as a member of an Iranian trade convoy, was not set free, the letter said.

The Iranian man was on an official mission in the autonomous Kurdish region, and the Kurdish government was pre-informed of his visit, according to the letter which Talabani branded 'a letter of anger.'

UN Secretary General departs Baghdad after international meeting. While agreeing that the UN presence should be increased, he says security improvements are necessary first. Excerpt:

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- A high-level meeting on Iraq ended here Saturday with support for a bigger UN role in the war-ravaged country, but also acknowledgment that this will require a greater security improvement. UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki spoke of broad support for an expanded UN role, at the end of a two-hour meeting that brought together representatives of more than 20 countries and multilateral agencies.

"There was an emphasis by many speakers on the key UN role in helping to promote national reconciliation," Ban said during a joint press conference with Maliki. "There was clear agreement that the international community cannot turn away from or ignore Iraq," he added. "Its stability is our common concern."

But the UN chief also cautioned that, although security has been improving in Iraq, "much more needs to be done" before the world body can substantially increase its presence.

The United Nations allowed a maximum of 65 staffers to reside in Iraq after its Baghdad office was hit August 19, 2003 by a truck bomb that killed 22 people, most notably its special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. Currently, there are 95 UN international staffers in the country - 65 in Baghdad, and 30 in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil - in addition to several-hundred international security personnel. Some 235 UN-affiliated staffers also work out of Jordan and Kuwait.

AP reports that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and PM al-Maliki kept a polite distance at this meeting, apparently due to the rift over Blackwater and other mercenaries operating in Iraq.

Juan Cole provides summaries in English of two interesting articles in Arabic. (For the Cole bashers out there, I see no sectarian bias in these posts. It's just info. -- C)

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf on Saturday. Jaafari was expected to meet with representatives of the Sadr Movement later that day. Al-Hayat says that two main interpretations of the visit have been put forward. One is that Jaafari is attempting to repair the rifts in the United Iraqi Alliance, the ruling Shiite fundamentalist bloc created by Sistani in the fall of 2004. In that case he was getting Sistani's blessing for the effort and seeking his intercession with Muqtada al-Sadr, who has withdrawn his bloc from the coalition.

The second interpretation is that Jaafari is attempting to make a new bloc in parliament that would include the Sadrists, and which would undermine Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In that case he was seeking Sistani's blessing for the effort or at least ensuring that the grand ayatollah was not dead set against it.

Al-Hayat also reports on the worsening security situation in the south. It reports one member of the federal parliament as complaining about a wave of assassinations in Basra. Some 100 persons were cut down just in the past week, he alleged, including two aides to Sistani. He demanded the resignation of the Basra police chief and threatened a vote of no confidence against the minister of the interior if nothing was done to stem the killings.

Sawt al-Iraq in Arabic says that not just one but several parliamentarians are called for the resignation of Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bulani because of the downward security spiral in the south.

The head of the parliamentary committee on security, Hadi al-Amiri, agreed about the worsening situation but said that the security forces were doing the best they could. Al-Amiri is head of the Badr Organization paramilitary, attached to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and many police and other security men in Basra were drawn from Badr. So, ironically, the head of the parliamentary security committee is also the leader of one of Iraq's best-trained Shiite militias.

Quote of the Day

Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man. And he obviously should have refused that order and resigned rather than ruin his military career. The upshot is and contrary it is, to the MoveOn advertisement he betrayed himself more than he did us.

But there has been in his actions a sort of reflexive courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time of crisis. That the man doesn’t understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops, is not so much his fault as it is your good, exploitable, fortune.

But Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of ‘the planted last question’ at a news conference, to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond.

That is not only un-American but it is dictatorial.

And in pimping General David Petraeus and in the violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.

You did it again today and you need to know how history will judge the line you just crossed.

Keith Olbermann

Whisker's Afghanistan Update

#1: Italy's Defense Ministry said Sunday that two Italian military personnel were missing in Afghanistan, and police in the country's west said they were searching for the pair. The Italian Defense Ministry said that contact had not been established with the two missing military personnel for several hours, that their families had been notified and that an investigation was under way. The two Italians, their driver and a translator drove through a police checkpoint in the Shindand district of Herat province on Saturday, and they have not had any contact with anyone since, said Gen. Ali Khan Hassanzada, chief of police criminal investigations in western Afghanistan.

#2: In northeastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, NATO helicopters fired on a group of suspected insurgents, killing four and wounding 12 others in what may have been a case of mistaken identity, the alliance said Sunday. Initial reports indicated they were Afghan police and road construction security guards ``dressed in civilian attire and carrying weapons on an uncoordinated patrol,'' NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. ``The 12 wounded are civilians, we know that for sure,'' Afghan army commander Gen. Qadam Shah said.

#3: The rocket attack Saturday on the base in the Sirkanay district of Kunar province left one Afghan soldier wounded, ISAF said.

#4: A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said all the occupants of two military vehicles of US forces were killed in the two roadside bomb blasts in Zurmat district of Paktia province. 'Two Humvees of US soldiers were blown into pieces while on the way to the Ghorja area this midday. According to our information, all the personnel in the vehicles were killed and their bodies were later flown by helicopters,' Mujahid told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. A senior provincial official, who did not want to be named, confirmed killing of at least two US soldiers and wounding of two in the blasts. He declined to elaborate on the incident.