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, March 15, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Iraqi Army soldier and U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Co., 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment stand guard during a joint patrol in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 13, 2009. See Nick McDonnell's report from Mosul, below. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


VoI reports that U.S. forces killed a civilian woman during a raid on a house when they saw her husband carrying a weapon. According to the report, the U.S. has denied the incident. They always do. Note that Iraq is a dangerous place, and most Iraqis keep weapons in the house, which they are allowed to do. But once the U.S. stops denying the incident, we'll see what they have to say about it. -- C

Daqquq, near Kirkuk

Police find three bodies of people who had been shot.


Auto store owner is wounded by unidentified gunmen. Could be a politically motivated attack, or an extortion racket, who knows? -- C

Near Baquba

Xinhua reports an Iraqi soldier is killed, 2 injured, by an explosion.

Xinhua also reports a sewage facility in Baquba was stormed by gunmen who kidnapped three workers.

Other News of the Day

Jalal Talabani signals he will not run for reelection as president of Iraq, but will remain active in the PUK. This may be a purely personal decision but it also represents a possible step toward Kurdish secession. Many observers believe it is unlikely Talabani's successor will be a Kurd. -- C

In case you were wondering -- U.S. announces no cessation of combat activities after forces withdraw from FOBs on June 30. No, I wasn't wondering. -- C

In Karbala, hundreds protest on behalf of a populist candidate for governor who was denied the post even though he received the most votes. This apparently hinges on the exigencies of coalition politics, which reporter Hamza Hendawi does not explain very well, but for what it's worth -- Excerpt:

Hundreds of Shiites took to the streets in one of Iraq's holiest cities yesterday to insist that a populist candidate who won the most votes in provincial elections become governor. The rally for Youssef al-Haboubi in the city of Karbala was the latest sign of a backlash against the mainstream and religious parties that have dominated Iraqi politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The 51-year-old independent candidate won nearly 15 percent of the vote in the Jan. 31 balloting but was given only one seat on the provincial council because he ran as
an independent without political allies.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's allies and another Shiite party won fewer votes than al-Haboubi but were expected to join forces to gain the majority on the provincial council, which chooses the governor. Supporters of al-Haboubi carried Iraqi flags and pictures of him and chanted "No to dominant parties" and "We demand the rights of voters" as they converged in the area between two revered Shiite shrines.

Baghdad municipal workers are on a campaign to exterminate stray dogs, but some citizens are more interested in clean water and sewer services. Sam Dagher reports:

While human beings in Iraq were killing each other in huge numbers, they ignored the dogs, which in turn multiplied at an alarming rate. Now stray dogs are such a menace that municipal workers are hunting them down, slaughtering some 10,000 in Baghdad just since December. This is not exactly good news, but it does seem a measure of progress that Iraqis have the luxury of worrying about dogs at all.

"Give us clean water instead of killing dogs!" Hussein Ali, 62, yelled recently at a group of veterinary employees enticing a pack of strays with meat laced with strychnine. "The dogs are not harming us, it is the water."

Many Iraqis still lack the most basic services, like sewage systems and potable water.

One of the dog control officers, out poisoning dogs on a crisp and clear winter morning, explained that he was only doing his part, unglamorous maybe, to make life here better. "Iraq has many problems," he said. "We are here on a mission to kill stray dogs."

With fewer bombs going off and hardly any bodies being dumped anymore, the dogs are perhaps the biggest problem on the filthy and rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad. Packs of strays scare schoolchildren and people who get up at dawn to go to work. They gather at open-air butcher shops where customers choose their meat from flocks of live sheep.

Time Magazine's Nick McDonell reports that Mosul is still not exactly hospitable to U.S. forces. Excerpt:

On a clear afternoon in the week of the Prophet Mohammed's 1431st birthday, the week before the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an American infantry platoon was walking a loop around the neighborhood.

"It's like clockwork," says Lieutenant Richard Kim, 24, of Chicago, leading the foot patrol. Kim is a soft-spoken officer on his first tour. He had always wanted to be a soldier. "Twenty-five to 30 minutes after we get here, they come after us."

He was exactly right. After 30 minutes of walking through the uneven, sepia alleys of Ras al-Koor, his patrol opened fire as a grenade bounced up to the rear guard and then exploded, perhaps 10 meters from the closest man. None of the soldiers were injured, and, even as our ears rang, they very professionally split into groups and bolted after the thrower.

Afghanistan Update

Once again, attackers overrun a NATO supply terminal near Peshawar and destroy dozens of containers and vehicles.

Two killed, six injured, by an explosion in Kabul. Other reports say the target was a NATO patrol.

Mayor of Kandahar survives an assassination attempt by IED, but a bystander is killed and 2 are injured.

On Saturday, a French soldier and five Afghan troops are killed in fighting in Kapisa province.

British soldier killed in Helmand.

Two Afghan armed private security guards killed in Farah Province. Quqnoos also reports two police killed in Lashkargah, Helmand.

Quote of the Day

This confirms the widely-held suspicions that leading officials and political advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq. The jigsaw of how the public and some MPs were duped nears completion with this crucial revelation, and further strengthens the case for a full public inquiry.

Ed Davey, spokesman for the UK's Liberal Democratic Party, referring to recently disclosed secret e-mails appearing to show that the case for invading Iraq was fraudulent.