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 27, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thousands of Shiite Muslims with the green banner that reads in Arabic, "Oh Hussein" gather along the walk way between the Imam Hussein Shrine and the Imam Abbas shrine in the southern city of Karbala. Millions of Shiites across Iraq have joined ceremonies marking the climax of solemn Ashura rituals, marred by a bomb attack on a procession near Kirkuk that killed five people. (AFP/Mohammed Sawaf)

Reported Security Incidents

Tuz Khurmatu

Four pilgrims killed,15 people injured in bombing targeting a procession.


Bomb attack on a police patrol injures 6 police officers.

Sahwa Council member shot dead in front of his house al-Rubaida al-Kabeera village, southwest of the city.

Reuters reports 2 additional incidents. U.S. forces killed one man, wounded another and captured a third after they were seen digging and placing an "unknown object" in a roadside north of Kirkuk on Friday night. Also, A bomb stuck to a policeman's car wounded him in central Kirkuk.


One civilian killed, 4 injured by IED attack in Mansour. Reuters reports that this was a bomb attached to a minibus.


Three rockets fired at Delta Base on Saturday evening, no reported casualties. Here is information from Stars & Strips about FOB Delta, which has been expanding.

Rows of one-room trailers spring up almost overnight on vacant gravel lots, and by mid-February they will replace most of the base’s tent housing. A new theater is scheduled to open in mid-February, and construction is under way on a second dining facility worth $30 million.

Since last May, the U.S. military has pumped $70 million into construction on a base that once had a perimeter so porous that Iraqi farmers and their goats had to be chased off the grounds. But the biggest change is the number of Americans at this former Iraqi air force base. About 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed here today, up from just 200 last spring.

Other News of the Day

Under tight security, millions of Shiites gathered at shrines around the country to mark the climax of Ashura. In the past few days, attacks have been sporadic and smaller in scale than past years, nevertheless there have been many casualties. Excerpt:

Some 20,000 members of Iraq's security forces formed cordons around Kerbala, vehicles were banned and 1,000 snipers were perched on the roofs of buildings. Troops stood watch with bomb-sniffing dogs and the wands used to detect explosives.

Pilgrims, most dressed in black, thronged the streets leading to Kerbala's golden-domed shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, many beating their chests in mourning and chanting accounts of Hussein's death on the battlefield at Kerbala.

For Shi'ites, Hussein's death symbolises confronting tyranny in the face of overwhelming odds. It is also a reminder of the rift with Sunnis, who do not revere Hussein as Shi'ites do, over the prophet Mohammad's succession.

In spite of high unemployment in Iraq, foreign firms continue to hire non-Iraqis. Excerpt:

With joblessness high in Sierra Leone, war-torn Iraq has drawn the attention of thousands of unemployed youths in the west African state, Deputy Labour Minister Moijueh Kaikai said last Wednesday.

"About 10,000 Sierra Leonean youths have signed up for security jobs in Iraq" under a contract agreement brokered by the British security firm Sabre International, he said.

The minister added that "the latest group of 420 youths, including 10 women, left overnight for Iraq, while an overall total of 10,000 are on the roll call for the programme."

He said another batch will be leaving within the next two weeks but did not indicate the number.

"A Sierra Leone ministry of labour official is presently in Iraq in Camp Smith to oversee the programme," Kaikai said, adding "the security situation where they will be working is relatively safe and they will not be working in any combat area.

"According to the agreement, Sierra Leone diplomats in the region will be visiting the workers at intervals to monitor the conditions."

"The government has benefitted from the scheme as the programme has addressed the unemployment situation in Sierra Leone. The workers' salaries will be about $250 a month; $50 will be paid to them in Iraq and the rest deposited in their foreign accounts in Freetown," the minister explained.

Michael O'Hanlon thinks the past year has been moderately successful for U.S. war efforts but admits he isn't so sure about that and it's a matter of opinion. Decide for yourself. -- C

Afghanistan Update

ISAF says a U.S. soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing total deaths of Americans for the year to 310, twice last year's total.

Rocket strikes grounds of interior ministry, no reported casualties.

General Khodiad, who has been nominated to continue as anti-narcotics minister, tells Reuters the government is riddled with corruption from narcotics trafficking. In other news, the winter solstice occurs on December 21. He is depending on NATO forces to attack the opium trade. Excerpt:

General Khodaidad, who has been nominated to continue his job as counter-narcotics minister in a new cabinet, said people at all levels were profiting off the drug -- from the lowly police recruit to government officials running major smuggling networks.

While catching small dealers was one thing, rooting out corrupt officials and ringleaders was near impossible, Khodaidad, who has served as Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister for the past three years, told Reuters in an interview.

"We can catch small (traffickers) everyday. It is very difficult to identify ... big drug dealers. They are not involved themselves but they are ... behind it, they are behind the network," said Khodaidad, who goes only by one name.

Asked who these big players were, Khodaidad said: "They are inside the government, they are outside of Afghanistan ... they are behind these networks."

Afghan asylum seekers detained by Indonesia threaten a hunger strike.

Quote of the Day

Remember: being selected for QotD does not imply endorsement by the management of any or all of the quotee's statements. You decide what you think of it. -- C

A few hundred of these young American men will be sent home in coffins or with their legs blown off. A few thousand Afghans will get blowed up real good by our Predator drones and newer, follow-up flying robots, in a military enterprise that could only have been dreamed up by someone who's spent too much time playing Dungeons and Dragons in his dormitory basement. Why?

Vin Suprynowicz