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, December 14, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, December 14, 2008

A woman whose husband was killed during a shooting by employees of U.S. security firm Blackwater, sits next to her daughter while attending a meeting with prosecutors and U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in Baghdad December 13, 2008. Some of the Iraqi victims of a shooting by security guards working for U.S. security firm Blackwater expressed hope that justice will be done after meeting U.S. federal prosecutors in Baghdad on Saturday. REUTERS/Atef Hassan (IRAQ)

Reported Security Incidents


Gunmen assassinated Brigadier General Hussein Derwish Alwan, of the Ministry of Interior, near Shalal market in Shaab neighbourhood, northern Baghdad at 7 p.m. Saturday.

A roadside bomb detonated in Nidhal street near a restaurant in Karrada neighborhood around noon. Three people were wounded.

Wassit Province, north of Kut

Unidentified gunmen invade the home of Na’em Ali, head of the municipal council in al-Wihda district, and apparently kill him (although the story is unclear on this point), and injure a police officer. Nine of the attackers are said to be in custody.


Dean of the Medical College, Dr. Mozahem al-Khayyat, is injured by gunfire on his way to work.

Other News of the Day

Gen. Odierno, it turns out, does not believe that the mandate in the SOFA for U.S. forces to leave Iraqi cities by June actually means that U.S. forces will leave Iraqi cities by June. Reports AP's Robert Reid, "Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, told reporters that troops who serve in training and mentoring teams would not be included in the mandate to pull combat troops from the cities. 'We believe that's part of our transition teams,' Odierno said at the U.S. Balad air base where he met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates." Reid further reports that Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says some U.S. troops may remain in Iraq after 2011 as trainers.

Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al-Masoudi is not pleased, however: "We believe that comments by top U.S. troops commander is a clear evidence that the U.S. troops will never leave Iraqi cities by the end of next June according to the security agreement," Ahmed al-Masoudi, spokesman for Sadr movement in the Iraqi parliament said in a statement on Sunday. "Iraqis will discover that the government has deceived them about this agreement."

MP Osama al-Nejefi of the Iraqi National List has similar sentiments: "The U.S. side will not abide by the published text of the agreement, which has been approved by the Parliament. There will be clear breaches of the agreement. The first breach was U.S. Commander Raymond Odierno’s statements about the presence of U.S. troops in cities after June 2009…" (The INL is a secular coalition, with 25 seats in Parliament.)

George W. Bush arrives in unannounced visit for a triumphal farewell tour of the heavily fortified Green Zone. Bush, on his fourth visit to Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, was scheduled to stay for only a matter of hours, the reports said.

Meanwhile, a draft report on the history of the Iraq reconstruction effort highlights Mr. Bush's dynamic leadership. NYT's James Glanz and T. Christian Miller give us some of the stirring highlights:

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure. . . .

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

U.S. prosecutors visit Nisoor Square, where mercenaries from Blackwater corporation killed 17 Iraqi civilians on Sept. 16, 2007. One has pled guilty to charges in connection with the incident, and 5 others have been indicted in the U.S. for manslaughter. The prosecutors also met with families of the victims and Iraqi police. AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra quotes some of the survivors:

"My husband was looking for a job at the square that day. When he reached the square, the security members killed him," said Milad Khalil, whose husband Odai Ismael was killed in the incident. "My two girls need money to cover the elementary school expenses."

Adel Jabr, who was wounded at Nisoor Square, said he wants punishment for the guards and compensation for his suffering. "I have undergone several surgeries including skin grafts," he said. "I am spending most of time lying in bed. I have a family to feed, but I cannot work. We want to be treated the same way that U.S. citizens are treated."

Younis Khudhair Abbas, whose uncle and cousin were killed at the square, said family members were told not to discuss details of the meeting because their comments might be used by the defense.


Army Sgt. Jose Regalado, Los Angeles, Killed in Action November 12, 2008.

Corporal Aaron Allen, USMC, of Buellton, California, Killed in Action November 14, 2008.

Afghanistan Update

Three Canadian soldiers killed by bomb blast on Highway 1 west of Kandahar. One is injured. The Canadian military has identified the dead as Corporal Thomas James Hamilton, Private John Michael Roy Curwin, Private Justin Peter Jones, all part of Golf Company, of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.

Bomb attack in Kandahar kills 3 police officers, injures 11 others people.

Iran skips a meeting in Paris on promoting the stability of Afghanistan, apparently in a snub to French President Sarkozy following remarks he made concerning Iran's "threats" against Israel.

However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is attending and expresses hope for a productive outcome.

Zofeen Ebrahim of IPS interviews Pakistani analysts who dispute the U.S. military's downplaying of the effect of recent attacks on supply lines to Afghanistan. Excerpt:

After that raid [Dec. 13], the U.S. military in Afghanistan had played down the damage in a statement that said it would have only "minimal effect on our operations’’. U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul Lt. Col. Rumi Nielsen-Green was quoted saying: "It's militarily insignificant.’’

But analysts here think otherwise and say that if the attacks continue they will impact plans to double the strength of NATO troops in Afghanistan from the present 67,000 -- nearly half of them from the U.S.

"More troops mean more supplies," said Ikram Sehgal, a noted defence analyst. Sehgal does not buy the U.S. dismissal of the attacks as insignificant. "If I’m hurt bad, I’m not going to own up. It is a significant loss whether they (U.S.) admit it or not. It will create horrendous problems."

If troop deployment is increased as planned then an estimated 70,000 containers of supplies will have to be shipped to Afghanistan annually.

"If the supply lines are cut off, it will have a choking effect on the troops," said Brig. Mehmood Shah, former home secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) that borders Afghanistan.

Quote of the Day

You know how the Republicans in the Senate refused to spend $30 billion to bring the US auto industry back from the brink?

It turns out that they were prefectly happy to waste $50 billion in taxpayer money on reconstruction boondoggles in Iraq on explicity partisan grounds. A veteran Republican lobbyist, says the NYT, explicitly appealed to the then head of the Office of Management and Budget:

"To delay getting our funds would be a political disaster for the President . . . His election will hang for a large part on show of progress in Iraq and without the funding this year, progress will grind to a halt.”

So "a show of progress" in Iraq was just so Bush could get reelected in 2004? The irony of it is that Iraq turned into a huge catastrophe in 2004, and the American public reelected Bush anyway.

Juan Cole