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 21, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, December 21, 2008

Iraqi students chant slogans during a demonstration at the Technology University in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008. The student were protesting against a US. military overnight raid on the University, they said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Yet another of those incidents which is only reported in a photo caption.

Reported Security Incidents

Unspecified Location

A Coalition force Soldier died of non-combat related causes Dec. 20. No further information is available. Note: This announcement is unusual. Usually they give the name of the unit and at least a general location, but in this case they give no information.

Near Hilla

Public prosecutor killed by U.S. forces, while driving on a highway north of the city. No further explanation given for this incident.


An Iranian national is arrested for entering the country illegally. No further information is available. Note: This is a formerly disputed city now under Kurdish control.


Two Iraqi soldiers killed by roadside bomb.

One Iraqi soldier killed, 2 injured by car bomb. This appears to be a separate incident from the one reported above by Reuters, as details differ.

U.S. forces claim to have killed an al Qaeda member. They also claim to have arrested 25 others in various Iraqi cities. Note: Obviously, none of these individuals has been tried and the U.S. presents no evidence. In a normal context, these people would be described as suspects.

Gunmen kill a police officer.

Other News of the Day

The killers of a Communist Party’s women league official in Kirkuk city were arrested on Sunday, a local media source said. The suspects confessed to stealing her valuables, which suggests this may have been a common crime rather than a political assassination.

U.S. releases 35 prisoners from Camp Cropper, which won't make much of a dent since the U.S. currently holds 15,000 prisoners, who are slated to be turned over to Iraqi control next year.

Gen. Odierno says U.S. troops will move into southern Iraq to replace departing British troops. I'm confused. I thought U.S. forces were going to withdraw from Iraqi cities, but Gen. Odierno says they're going to move into Basra.

PM al-Maliki alleges that an unnamed individual who "is involved in slaying many Iraqis" was behind the actions of show-thrower Muntadhar al-Zaidi. He offers no evidence or specifics about this. He also threatens Baghdadiya television with unspecified consequences if it continues to champion the act, and denies that Zaidi was tortured.

Mudhafer al-Husaini and Erica Goode report that Iraqi soldiers are abusing prescription drugs to cope with stress, and that drug abuse is a widespread problem in the country. Excerpt:

For an Iraqi Army soldier patrolling Baghdad's unpredictable streets, each 12-hour shift is an exercise in terror and uncertainty.

So Ahmed Qasim takes a small, white tablet called Artane to help him through his duties. "For me, it helps me to get the job done," he said. "I can't bear working without taking Artane. It makes me happy and high, but I still can control myself."

The abuse of prescription drugs, widely available in Iraq on the black market and through private pharmacies, has significantly increased since 2003, doctors and other health specialists say, nourished by the stresses of the war and the lack of strict government regulation.

Dealers do a brisk business in tranquilizers, painkillers and other drugs, specialists say, and drug abuse is a problem in the prisons and among Iraqis who live in poor neighborhoods or who are unemployed.

After announcement yesterday that Interior Ministry officers arrested in the past week would be released, their actual status remains unclear. Campbell Robertson and Timothy Williams report:

A senior adviser to the minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that some of the ministry detainees had been released Saturday and that others would be released Sunday. The Interior Ministry spokesman, Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, told news agencies including Reuters that all the ministry detainees, reported earlier to be 24 people, were freed Saturday morning. But other Iraqi officials, including senior Interior Ministry officials, said all of them were still in custody as of Saturday afternoon, an account confirmed by a police officer who knows several of those held. . . .

Officials have delivered conflicting accounts on what possible crimes are being investigated, but some have said that the detainees are suspected of supporting terrorist operations and having affiliations with Al Awda, a party related to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, which was banned after the U.S. invasion.

Display of religious images banned in Karbala throughout the holy month of Muharram, for fear of inciting sectarian conflict. One million pilgrims are expected during the month. Note: Ironically, Muharram, the first month of the lunar calendar, is one of four months during which Islam forbids fighting. Ashurah, the 10th day of Muharram, is a day of fasting. The first 10 days of Muharram are of particular importance to Shiite Muslims, as 10th Muharram is said to have been the date of the martyrdom of Hussein, the son of Ali. During this period, Karbala is the scene of passion plays and rituals of grief.

Afghanistan Update

Two tons of cannabis found in an abandoned school in Kandahar. "[A]s the U.S. and other Western nations have tried to help Afghanistan stamp out its poppy fields, an increasing number of farmers have turned to marijuana, which is receiving less attention from authorities."

Taliban said to kill two Afghan citizens accused of spying for the U.S., in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal district.

Meanwhile, in the in the Bajaur tribal agency of Pakistan, Pakistani air strikes are said to have killed 4 militants.

Grenade attack near the home of the Mayor of Herat causes damage but no casualties. Mayor Mohammad Rafiq Mojadadi denies that his home was the target.

Afghan foreign minister says the government welcomes the announcement by Adm. Mike Mullen that the U.S. will send up to 30,000 additional troops by mid-year. However, a Taliban spokesman "dismissed the US troop pledge, saying it would be as useless as a similar 'surge' by the Soviets in the 1980s, and would only provide the insurgents with more targets."

Afghan foreign ministry accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to rescue a kidnapped Afghan diplomat. Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the consul general in Peshawar, disappeared 3 months ago.

Quote of the Day

Why is Cheney so sanguine about admitting he is a war criminal? Because he's confident that either President Bush will preemptively pardon him or President-elect Obama won't prosecute him.

Both of those courses of action would be illegal

Marjorie Cohn