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 29, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, March 29, 2009

U.S. troops take position on a major street after a gunfight sparked Saturday at the dominantly Sunni neighborhood of Fadhil in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 29, 2009. U.S. and Iraqi troops are exchanging gunfire with Sunni militants in central Baghdad a day after the arrest of a local leader of Sunni security volunteers sparked a gunfight, a police officer says on condition of anonymity because he wasn't supposed to release the information.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

An Iraqi soldier prevents civilians from crossing a street leading to Baghdad's Fadel district. Iraqi forces clashed with members of an anti- Al Qaeda militia group in Baghdad for a second straight day, as US troops backing them ordered residents to hand over weapons or face reprisals. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

Reported Security Incidents


Fighting in Fadel neighborhood continues for a second straight day between the army of Iraq's Shiite-led government, backed by U.S. forces, and Sunni Sahwa fighters originally organized, armed, trained and financed by the United States. After two people were killed and 15 injured in fighting yesterday, as the government forces arrested Sahwa leader Adel Mashhadani, the army has cordoned off the neighborhood and is searching for other others, while ordering the Sahwa to disarm. I link to another, in-depth account from the NYT below.

According to Xinhua, Sahwa members have captured 5 Iraqi soldiers.


One police officer, 6 sanitation workers killed, several people wounded in bomb attack on Sinaoya Himdan road south of the city. The AFP account of what appears to be the same incident is slightly different. AFP names "Iraq oil installation guards" as the target, says 5 civilians and a "security guard" were killed.


Eight police officers injured by an IED attack. Two are said to be in critical condition.


Reuters reports two incidents in eastern Mosul: A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded an officer; a second policeman injured by gunfire.

Female textile worker killed by armed militants, no motive is given.

KUNA also reports a woman is killed by a bomb attack on a police patrol. Not clear if this is the same attack Reuters reports as injuring a police officer.

Other News of the Day

Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzón considers whether to issue arrest warrants for Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, Jay S. Bybee, David S. Addington,and Douglas Feith for violations of international law, centered on the torture of prisoners. (I note that the inclusion of Addington makes it difficult to see why Dick Cheney is not also named. -- C)He would base his jurisdiction on the five Spanish citizens who were among the victims. NYT's Marlise Simmons has the details. Excerpt:

The 98-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, is based on the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which is binding on 145 countries, including Spain and the United States. Countries that are party to the torture convention have the authority to investigate torture cases, especially when a citizen has been abused.

The complaint was prepared by Spanish lawyers, with help from experts in the United States and Europe, and filed by a Spanish human rights group, the Association for the Dignity of Prisoners. The National Court in Madrid, which specializes in international crimes, assigned the case to Judge Garzón. His acceptance of the case and referral of it to the prosecutor made it likely that a criminal investigation would follow, the official said. Even so, arrest warrants, if they are issued, would still be months away.

United Nations drafts a power sharing plan for Kirkuk. No indication of whether any of the parties are interested in this compromise, however. Au contraire. -- C Excerpt:

A draft of the U.N. plan, according to two Western officials who have read it, offers five options. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been finalized and they are not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Three of the options in the draft likely will be dismissed immediately as too extreme or unworkable, the officials said. The remaining two are:

—Making Kirkuk a "special status" province where both Iraq's Shiite-led central government and the Kurdish government in Irbil could have power. Final decisions would be left to provincial officials. The special status would likely last between three and 10 years, giving officials more time to figure out Kirkuk's final status.

None of Iraq's 17 other provinces, including the three that make up Kurdistan, currently has such an agreement.

—Making Kirkuk politically autonomous but still somewhat reliant on Baghdad for funding. This plan, favored by the Turkomen with political ties to Turkey, also would allow Kirkuk to collect revenue from federally owned North Oil Corp. refineries in the province.

Details of the formulas are still being negotiated. Remaining sticking points include how jobs will be divided among each group, and when, and who can be counted as a legal resident among the 400,000 Kurds who moved to Kirkuk after Saddam's ouster. Arabs and Turkomen call them illegal squatters.

Two people trying to steal crude oil from a well are killed by gas seepage.

NYT's Allisa J. Rubin and Rob Nordland provide an in-depth discussion of the ongoing fighting in Baghdad. Could Gen. Petraeus's much-vaunted strategy be unraveling? Excerpt:

Many of the Awakening groups recently have complained about mistreatment and warned that some of their followers might switch back to supporting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group believed by American intelligence to have foreign leadership. Mr. Mashhadani has been a strong critic of the failure of the Iraqi authorities to incorporate Awakening Council fighters into Iraqi security agencies, as had been promised.

“There’s a 50-50 chance that Awakening guys who are not very loyal to Iraq or who need to support their families may decide to join Al Qaeda again,” Mr. Mashhadani said in an interview a week ago.

Abu Mirna, the media coordinator for the Fadhil Awakening Council, said: “American forces have broken the alliance with us by arresting our leader. Now there are clashes in the area between the Americans and Awakening fighters and you can hear shooting. It’s chaos.” Heavy gunfire could be heard over the telephone while he was speaking.

PKK spokesmen respond rather uh, uncongenially to Jalal Talabani's ultimatum for them to disarm. Excerpt:

"Talabani wants to please the Turkish generals, and we have lost all hope of seeing him play a positive role in a solution to the Kurdish problem," senior Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) official Murad Qiralian told reporters. "No one can eject us from our mountain stronghold here, and recent battles are proof of this," he said. "We recommend rapprochement between Kurds instead of submitting to pressure exerted by neighbouring countries."

On Wednesday, the prime minister of Iraq's Kurdish regional government backed Talabani's call for the PKK rebels to lay down their guns.


"What is strange, to say the least, is that Ankara arms 90,000 Kurdish mercenaries and at the same time wants to disarm us," Qiralian said of anti-PKK groups. "We will never accept talks if preconditional on us disarming."

Afghanistan and Pakistan update

DPA gives a roundup of security incidents:

  1. Taliban militants ambushed a police vehicle in Pashtun Zarghoon district of western Herat province on Sunday morning, killing four policemen, Abdul Raouf Ahmadi, spokesman for police forces in the western region said. Attack injured the district police chief of the Qades district of neighbouring Badghis province.

  2. Another policeman was killed and two others were wounded when the militants attacked a police post in Rabat Sangi district of the same Herat province on Saturday night, Ahmadi said, adding that three attackers were also killed when police fought back.

  3. Separately, three Afghan soldiers were killed and four others were wounded Saturday when their vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled roadside bomb in the Zurmat district of south- eastern province of Paktia, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

  4. Rebels also fired rockets at an Afghan army base in Angoor Adah area of neighbouring Paktika province near the Pakistan border but caused no casualties, the ministry statement said. Troops pinpointed the insurgent location and responded with heavy artillery, killing five militants, including their commander Abdul Jabar, and their comrades took the bodies across the border.

  5. Seven other Taliban militants were killed in a separate clash with Afghan forces backed by NATO soldiers in Gerishk district of southern Helmand province on Saturday, the army statement said.

  6. In the northern province of Kunduz a roadside bomb was detonated Saturday as a convoy of German forces was passing by, German military sources said in Berlin. The blast caused no casualties or damage to the military vehicles, the sources said.

Taliban kidnap 11 Pakistani policemen in attack on a security station near the Khyber pass.

Afghan government claims a new operation is underway to eradicate poppy crops in Helmand. Yeah, yeah. -- C

Shakeela Ahbrimkhil, reporting for Quqnoos, describes an epidemic of suicide in Afghanistan, mostly among women. Her English is a little weak, but I've left it alone. -- C Excerpt:

This is an enormous number of Afghans, mainly women, trying to commit suicide to flee violence in life. Based on the figures given by the Ibn-e Sina Emergency Hospital in Kabul more than 600 incidents of suicide attempts have been referred to this hospital during the past 12 months.

Vice-chairman of the hospital, Dr. Nasim Hamdard said they receive around ten victims each week who have tried to commit self-murder. “Most of the victims are women who use different medications in attempt to commit suicide,” Dr. Hamdard said. The Ministry of Public Health confirms the boost in the number of suicidals.

Dr. Abdullah Fahim, the spokesman for the ministry said most of the victims have survived from their attempts. “Famliy violence, poverty, mental ailment and weak religious beliefs provoke self-murder in Afghanistan,” said Abdullah Fahim.

While the women use arsenal [sic -- probably means arsenic] and insomnia medicines to commit suicide, but the men hang, shoot or dive from top floors.

Quote of the Day

The government needs to revolutionise these procedures or just throw them in the bin. The ground is not ripe for investment in Iraq. The laws and procedures I think belong to First World War times.

Iraqi investor Mohammad Hassoun Taha, complaining about red tape.