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 9, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, September 9, 2007

A man lies wounded on the ground near a burnt vehicle after a bomb attack in Mahmudiya, 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, September 9, 2007. Two people were killed and six wounded when a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle near an Iraqi army checkpoint in the town of Mahmudiya, police said. REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan (IRAQ)

Casualty Report

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Sept. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province. The incident is currently under investigation.

Security Incidents


Suicide car bomber kills 15 people in Dakhil neighborhood of Sadr City on Saturday evening. (This occurred too late to make it into yesterday's post.)

Mortar round lands near Maisaloun Square, injures four police and two others.

Eleven bodies are found around the capital on Saturday.

A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol killed one person and wounded two near the al-Shaab National Stadium in central Baghdad, police said.


t least four Iraqi soldiers were killed and 15 injured Sunday in a suicide bombing outside a military checkpoint in the town of Balad, an Iraqi military official said. Deputy governor of Balad Amir Abdel Hadi told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) a suicide bomber driving a large truck blew himslef up outside a checkpoint on a bridge linking Baghdad to Balad, 70 kilometres north of the capital. Emergency teams and US forces were searching for more people under the rubble, Abdel-Hadi said. Human remains and mutilated bodies were found, the official said adding that the number of soldiers who were at the checkpoint at the time of the blast was not known.

Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded when they shot a suicide bomber driving a fuel tanker toward their checkpoint. This may be an early report of the same incident, but it is possible that there were two such attacks.


Headless bodies of two women are found in separate locations.


Seven bullet-riddled bodies were discovered, with their hands bound.

DPA also reports that Iraqi army forces launched a rocket attack on a gathering of militants south of Kirkuk, killing seven, according to police sources. The Iraqi forces were said to be "aided" in an unspecified manner by U.S. troops. Among the dead is said to be a leader of Ansar al Sunna.

Joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols detained 14 suspects in a village west of the city, two of whom were said to be on a wanted list. (Why the 12 others were arrested is not stated.)


Seven police killed, two seriously injured, in armed assault on a station on the road to Bayji. The attackers fled, according to DPA. Xinhua reports that there were 40 attackers, and includes a claim that villagers captured some of them. (This seems unlikely given that these were obviously well-armed professional fighters -- C)

Roadside bomb attack on U.S. patrol destroys a vehicle. No word on casualties.


Car bomb near Iraqi army checkpoint kills two, injures six. Dead are a soldier and a civilian, injured are two soldiers and four civilians.

al-Muatassim (south of Samarra)

A "civilian worker" is assassinated. The role of this individual is unspecified, implication is this was some sort of government official.


Bomb in Kufa market kills 4, injures 7.


Joint U.S. Iraqi force arrests sixteen people, who Iraqi police say are members of the Mahdi Army. However, Sadrist spokesman says only three of those arrested are Sadrists.


Gunmen killed four members of the same family -- three women and one man. No further explanation is given.

Other News of the Day

U.S. claims that on Sept. 3, it killed a mastermind of the Aug. 14 attack on Yazidi villages in an airstrike near Mosul. They identify him as Abu Mohammad al-Afri, an al Qaeda in Iraq "emir." It is not clear why they waited nearly a week to make this announcement, nor do they provide any evidence for the claims.

Daylong security conference of neighboring states convenes in Baghdad, under extraordinarily tight security. Parliament is unable to meet because many members cannot make it through the roadblocks. Excerpt from the AP account:

Iraq's foreign minister urged neighbors to prevent "terrorists and killers" from crossing into his country and warned Sunday that the violence in Iraq could spill across its borders.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari's comments came during the opening of a daylong conference that brought to Baghdad officials from all of Iraq's neighbors and other Mideast countries, as well as representatives from the U.N. and the Group of Eight industrialized nations.


The Iranian and Syrian deputy foreign ministers headed their countries' delegations while other regional countries were represented by their ambassadors, Zebari told the AP ahead of the meeting. In addition to neighbors Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, delegations from Egypt and Bahrain were present.

With Crocker in Washington, the U.S. was represented by the deputy chief of mission in Iraq, Patricia Butenis.

Zebari said they needed to talk about helping the Iraqi government bring security and stability to Iraq internally, but added that the country's neighbors needed to "actively work on controlling the borders and prevent terrorists and killers from infiltrating across into Iraq."

"Terrorism should be fought ... because the fires that they are igniting in the land of the two rivers (Iraq) will spread outside the borders and endanger neighboring countries," Zebari said.

He did not identify any country by name, but the Iraqi and U.S. governments have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq and say Iran is supplying Shiite militias with weapons — claims that both countries deny. The Iraqi government has also said that many of those who carry out suicide attacks in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.

Well knock me over with a feather department: Petraeus and Crocker expected to call for staying the course in upcoming Congressional testimony. (Wow, those AP investigative reporters can really ferret out the secrets! And please note the humorous juxtaposition in the last two paragraphs of the excerpt. -- C) Excerpt:

President Bush's top two military and political advisers on Iraq will warn Congress on Monday that making any significant changes to the current war strategy will jeopardize the limited security and political progress made so far, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has been less forthcoming than Gen. David Petraeus in advance of his testimony, will join Petraeus in pushing for maintaining the U.S. troop surge, seeing it as the only viable option to prevent Iraq and the region from plunging into further chaos, U.S. officials said.

Crocker and Petraeus planned to meet on Sunday to go over their remarks and responses to expected tough questioning from lawmakers - including skeptical Republicans. But they will not consult Bush or their immediate bosses before their appearances Monday and Tuesday, in order to preserve the "independence and the integrity of their testimony," said one official.

Petraeus and Crocker did have lengthy discussions with the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when Bush visited Iraq on Labor Day.

For what it's worth, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh rejects report of the Gen. James Jones commission which depicts Iraqi national police as corrupt and riddled with sectarian militias. He claims 14,000 Interior Ministry personnel have been fired over time for not respecting human rights.

Satire is Obsolete Department: Peace Institute Recommends Five More Years of War.

In-depth Reporting, Commentary and Analysis

Boston Globe's Charles Sennot reports on families of Iraq veterans with traumatic brain injuries fighting for better care. VA facilities are said to be overstressed, technologically obsolete, families are demanding care in private facilities. This is long investigative story, but I'll offer a couple of paragraphs to give you the idea.

Marine Corps Private Eddie Ryan was shot in the head on his third tour of duty in Iraq on April 13, 2005, sustaining severe TBI. His parents, Angela and Chris, both praise the care their son received from military surgeons. And when Ryan was transferred to the VA's polytrauma center in Richmond, they said they went with a positive attitude.

But they were quickly disillusioned. Angela Ryan describes the Richmond VA facility as "very poor" and the staff as stretched thin. "The conditions on the floor were horrible. It was dirty. Our son developed a bedsore from not being moved enough and then it became infected," said Ryan, who quit her job as a lunchroom aide at a nearby elementary school so she could be by her son's side. She stayed in a hotel room paid for by the Marines.

"I came one day and found my son sitting in his own feces," she added. "The nurses would not allow us to change him because of the IV and the monitors. So he was made to just wait. . . . They made him wait an hour and a half. . . . We knew we had to get him out of there."

While tending to her son, she watched other patients struggle as well. She said she often saw TBI victims left for long stretches in the hallways with meal trays in front of them. She said she watched them get thinner and regress.

Asked about the complaints by the Ryans and others about nursing shortages and unsanitary conditions, Dr. Lucille Beck, the VA's chief consultant for rehabilitation services, said she could not address specific cases. But, she said, "In today's hospital system, every institution faces shortages. Every hospital is looking at how do we deal with that."

Scott Ritter points out the obvious, which is deeply unserious of him. Excerpt:

Iraq has become a prestige destination for every aspiring journalist or struggling anchor, determined to get “the big story.” The most recent manifestation of this syndrome is CBS News anchor Katie Couric, who earlier this week traveled to Iraq because she was (in her own words), “Curious about very basic questions regarding living conditions, about how much fear there is in the street, about how the soldiers really are doing.” That the situation in Iraq has been boiled down to these three big, burning issues (living conditions, fear in the streets, and how the troops are really doing), and that CBS is sending their multi-million-dollar investment to investigate, speaks volumes about the truly degenerate state of American journalism today.

The real big three she should be addressing are “Why do Americans keep dying?” “Who is killing them?” and “Why?” Of course, answering these questions would undermine the very fantasy world Couric is being sent to cover, one where Americans are doing good deeds in the name of peace and justice for downtrodden Iraqis. Couric’s jaunt is fraud on a massive scale. Ironically, she herself acknowledged this when she admitted that her upbeat reports from Iraq were reflective of what the U.S. military wanted her to see, and not honest “reporting” on her part.

If Couric and her ilk won’t answer these questions, I will. “Why do Americans keep dying?” Simple: Because we are in Iraq. We don’t belong there. Our presence is derived from our own violation of law, not someone else’s, and as such any effort to sustain our presence is tainted by this same foundation of illegitimacy. In short, Americans will keep dying in Iraq as long as we remain in Iraq. If Katie wanted to really get to the bottom of this story, she could venture out on her own to any one of the villages and towns where Americans have been killed recently. Of course, she would probably end up dead herself, which would defeat the purpose of trying to report the story.

“Who is killing them?” Another easy answer: Iraqis. We are occupying their homeland. We are violating their sovereignty. We are butchering, abusing and torturing their citizens. Our continued presence is an affront to the socioeconomic-political fabric that is (or was) Iraqi society. If someone occupied my hometown in the same manner Americans occupy Iraq, I’d be killing them any way I could. And I would be called a hero by my own people, not a terrorist. The Bush administration, in an effort to deflect public attention away from this reality, has created the fiction of a massive al-Qaida presence in Iraq, working in parallel with a similarly large Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command presence, which apparently is responsible for the majority of anti-American violence and dead U.S. troops.

Rhetoric aside, however, American officials who make these claims have been unable to back them up with hard facts and figures. There is an al-Qaida presence in Iraq. However, the majority of what is known as “al-Qaida in Iraq” is composed of Iraqis, not foreigners. The whole phenomenon is a direct result of the American occupation of Iraq, and would dissipate the moment America left the country. Likewise, the accusation of direct Iranian involvement in anti-American violence is questionable. Iranian political support of Iraqi Shiite groups who violently oppose the American occupation of Iraq is real, but then again we know this: We invited the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to join us in toppling Saddam. Based out of Iran, functioning as a de facto arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, SCIRI did as we asked. Why, then, are we shocked when SCIRI maintains ties with the very entity that created and nurtured it? It is Iraqi Shiites who are killing Americans, not Iranians. And they would kill us with or without the support of Iran.

Now we come to the third and perhaps most difficult question: “Why?” In some odd way, Katie Couric’s jaunt to Iraq answers that question: Because Americans truly don’t care. Oh, we care about vague softball issues, such as “conditions in the street,” “fear,” and of course, “how the American troops are really doing,” especially when they are fed to us in 30-second sound bites or three-minute “in-depth” stories. Little feel good segments planted in between commercials, designed not to infringe on our intellectual curiosity for more than 30 minutes so we don’t loose our focus watching the latest “reality” show or made-for-television drama.

The fact is, Couric’s made-for-television news is to what is really happening in Iraq as “CSI: Las Vegas” is to what is really happening on the streets of Sin City. CBS knows that, which is why they are packaging Katie in this fashion. The shame is that for most Americans watching, they think they’re getting the real deal. They are not, but will continue to wallow in their ignorant indifference. Katie will struggle to tell us that our kids keep dying in Iraq to “improve the quality of life” and “reduce the level of fear” on the streets of Baghdad. She solemnly informs us that “our boys and girls” are suffering, but they know it is in support of a just and noble cause. Katie will continue to report the story in Iraq from the perspective of an American political dynamic, not Iraqi reality.

Quote of the Day

Credit where it's due:

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly.

In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years -- a tragic mistake.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be "irresponsible." On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal -- not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process -- would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

U.S. presidential candidate Bill Richardson