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, October 4, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Iraqi policeman inspects the scene after a fuel tanker exploded Sunday near a checkpoint outside Baghdad International Airport, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009. The road, dubbed 'Route Irish' by the U.S. military, connects the fortified Green Zone with the airport. It gained notoriety after the 2003 U.S.-lead invasion because of the frequent attacks along it during the height of the insurgency. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Reported Security Incidents


Iraqi Parliament building evacuated in bomb scare, as dogs alert to the area where representatives of the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr sit. The Iraqi government has not issued any official announcement as to whether explosives were found, but an associate of Nouri al-Maliki has downplayed the issue. Nevertheless, contentious debates over the election law and corruption in the electricity ministry were delayed by one day.

A fuel tanker outside Baghdad airport explodes, injuring five people. After initial reports that a sticky bomb was the cause, Baghdad Operations Command now claims the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. Perhaps we shall learn more, perhaps not. -- C


Iraqi forces undertake a campaign of mass arrests, detaining more than 150 people. According to a defense ministry spokesman, the arrested people include "Arabs, leaders from Al-Qaeda and the enemies of the political process." The chief of Nineveh Operations Command says merely that they are "wanted people" who have been arrested for committing crimes. Baghdad Dweller, citing Arab language sources, says that the arrests follow the failure of negotiations, based in Jordan, to persuade opponents of the regime to reconcile, which failed because "the leaders in Jordan insisted that Maliki’s coalition is a sectarian based coalition who refuses to accept the former Iraqi army members and their legal rights." "[A]according to Al-Sharq AL-Awsat most of the arrested are businessmen, former army officers and Academics in Mosul University."

Reuters reports three additional incidents in Mosul:

  1. Gunmen killed an off-duty traffic policeman on Saturday near his home in eastern Mosul

  2. A roadside bomb went off near a truck and killed its driver on Saturday in southern Mosul

  3. Police said they found the head of a woman in a graveyard on Saturday in central Mosul.

Thi Quar

Two civilians injured by a roadside bomb, police then defuse two other bombs in the area.

Other News of the Day

Ayman al-Zawahri is not what you would call a reliable source, but his latest public pronouncement does remind us of some real history -- and he might even be telling the truth. Reuters tells the tale. Excerpt:

Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri accused Libya of torturing to death a militant whose confession was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Libya's state prosecutor said in May that Libyan Ali Mohamed Abdelaziz al Fakhiri, also known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, committed suicide while serving a life jail sentence.

"A false confession was obtained from him through torture about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," Zawahri said in a video posted on an Islamist website.

Fakhiri made up the story about a link between Saddam and al Qaeda to avoid torture while in the custody of a third country, according to a 2006 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report. U.S. human rights groups have said he gave the account to interrogators in Egypt, where he was sent by the United States in January 2002. Fakhiri later recanted, the committee said.

He was sent secretly to Libya by the United States in 2006, and Zawahri said al Qaeda would punish the United States for handing him over to Tripoli.

LA Times obit of Army Sgt. Joshua W. Soto, KIA June 16, 2009, leaving a widow and a one year old son.

Drought in Diyala destroys croplands, creating a refugee crisis. (Note: It is impossible to tell from this account whether Iran has any option to provide more water, or what the status is of any agreements between the two countries regarding water rights. -- C) Excerpt:

Local Iraqi officials say hundreds of families have left their villages in the northeastern province of Diyala in recent weeks after drought and low river levels from Iran turned their agricultural fields into a wasteland, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports. Farmers told RFI that dams erected by Iran have reduced the flow of the Harran River from Iran to a trickle, and they cannot afford the price of fuel to pump the remaining water up to their fields.

One man said he and other farmers have to share the water collectively bought by villagers in tankers with their chickens, cattle, and dogs. Tuhmaya, a village near the Iranian border and one of the worst hit by the water shortage, is almost completely deserted.

Afghanistan Update

Eight U.S. troops killed in fighting near the Pakistan border. The provincial police chief says that 15 Afghan police were also captured in the fighting. A U.S. spokesperson says the bodies of 5 enemy fighters were found after the battle. Excerpt from the AP report:

Militant fighters streaming from an Afghan village and a mosque attacked a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistani border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and as many as seven Afghan forces in one of the fiercest battles of the eight-year war.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack for coalition forces since a similar raid in July 2008 killed nine American soldiers in the same mountainous region known as an al Qaeda haven. The U.S. has already said it plans to pull its soldiers from the isolated area to focus on Afghan population centers.

Fighting began around dawn Saturday and lasted several hours, punctuated by American airstrikes. Jamaludin Badar, governor of Nuristan province, said the two outposts were on a hill - one near the top and one at the foot of the slope - flanked by the village on one side and the mosque on the other.

Large street protest in Herat against government's failure to provide security.

Peter Galbraith, former UN diplomat fired in dispute with his superiors over how to respond to voter fraud in Afghanistan, says as many as 30% of Karzai's votes were fraudulent. (Yes, that Peter Galbraith.)

Whisker's post yesterday included mention of this incident, but we now have more detail. An Afghan policeman on patrol with U.S. soldiers opened fire on the Americans, killing two of them before fleeing. "Halim Fidai, governor of Wardak, said two people who recommended the alleged assailant for his job were in custody for questioning. Fidai also said a team of American and Afghan officials was investigating the attack, interviewing the soldiers and the Afghans who had been on the patrol."

Quote of the Day

Certainly, Obama and Democratic congressional leaders may still end up defying public will by making the lamentable choice to escalate the Afghanistan War. But after recent quagmires justified by knee-jerk subservience to military prerogative, America should at least applaud these lawmakers for refusing to immediately rubber stamp that course of action. In exploring all options, they are honoring the Constitution’s separation of powers—and our nation’s most democratic principles.

David Sirota