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 6, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, December 6, 2009

Iraqi policemen stand guard at a checkpoint in central Baghdad in June. Four Iraqi police who had been deployed to guard shoppers and vendors at a vegetable market west of Baghdad were among six people killed Sunday by unknown gunmen, government and security officials said. (AFP/File/Ali al-Saadi)

Reported Security Incidents


Gunmen attack a police checkpoint in Abu Ghraib, kill 4 police officers.

Five Iraqi soldiers injured by a roadside bomb in Bab al-Muadham, north central Baghdad, late Saturday.

Driver injured by a sticky bomb in al-Adhamiya.

Police seize explosives and ammunition in Abu Ghraib area. I link to this mostly because the inventory of seized ammo includes "12 cannon balls." What century is this again?


Six civilian casualties in a marketplace bombing. The story does not specify the number of killed and injured.


Gunmen kill a policeman.

Iraqi soldier killed in a drive-by shooting.

Private security guard killed outside HQ of the National Unity Gathering (a political party) killed in a drive-by. It is possible this is actually the same incident as the killing of a policeman reported by KUNA, can't tell for sure.

In a separate incident, 2 police are injured and their car destroyed in a bomb attack.


Former policeman killed in a drive-by shooting.

Other News of the Day

Amnesty International reports that more than 900 Iraqis face imminent execution. AI denounces the Iraqi criminal justice system, says that confessions are extracted under torture, and that the courts may be politicized. Excerpt:

The Iraqi authorities must immediately stop the executions of more than 900 people on death row who have exhausted their legal appeals and could be put to death at any time, Amnesty International said. The prisoners, who include 17 women, are said to have had their death sentences ratified by the Presidential Council, the final step before executions are carried out.

At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq so far this year. . . .

One of those women facing execution is Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah, who was sentenced to death on 15 August 2005. She had been found guilty of the murder of her uncle, his wife and one of their children in Baghdad. Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah was reported to have blamed the killings on her fiancĂ©, who, she said, had carried them out in order to rob her uncle.

At her trial, Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah alleged that, after her arrest, police in Hay al-Khadhra, Baghdad, had beaten her with a cable, beaten the soles of her feet (falaqa) and subjected her to electric shocks to make her “confess”. The judge failed to order an investigation into her allegations, and sentenced her to death.

Her father, Sa’ad ‘Abdel- Majid ‘Abd al-Karim, told Amnesty International the trial was concluded in less then two days, that he was not permitted entry to the court, and that Amal ‘Abdel-Amir al-Zubaidi, one of Samar’s lawyers, was ordered out of the court by the trial judge.

Salah Hemeid for Al-Ahram reports on the deepening drought in Iraq which has destroyed much of the nation's agriculture. Excerpt:

Experts at a conference held in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra last week warned that below- average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq bone dry for a third year in a row. Drought has wrecked swaths of farm land, cut power supplies in most Iraqi cities, threatened drinking-water supplies and increased desertification, the experts said, the latter leading to the fierce sandstorms that in recent years have coated much of the country in brown dust.

Governor of Basra Hamid Sheltagh told the conference that only 30 cubic metres of water is currently flowing into the Shat Al-Arab waterway, which Iraq's second-largest city relies on for irrigation and drinking water. The shortage is threatening human health, agriculture and livestock, he told Iraqi and international delegates at the conference, with Basra having to "bear the unbearable". . .

Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture officials say that more than 50 percent of families working as farmers in the country have left their villages and migrated to Iraqi cities in recent years. Some international organisations are even warning that with time Iraq could become as barren as much of neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The consequences of such changes are expected to be severe. In 2009, less than 50 per cent of the land was in use, and most yields were marginal. According to official estimates, Iraq now cannot cover even 40 per cent of its demand for fruit and vegetables, and next year alone it will need to import some four million tonnes of wheat at a cost of $1.4 billion. Overall, Iraq will have to buy some 80 per cent of its food needs next year.

Hashemi is still non-committal on whether he will again veto the election law.

Liz Sly of the LA Times reports on the influx of Kurds to Kirkuk and the ethnic conflict over the territory. Our readers are well aware of this problem but the story offers some detail and local color.

Afghanistan Update

ISAF says a U.S. soldier was killed on Saturday in a bombing, gives no further details. DPA also reports a NATO airstrike killed six "militants" in Laghman; that NATO forces also killed six people planting a mine on a road in central province of Wardak on Saturday; and that five Taliban militants were killed in a firefight with Afghan and NATO forces in Panjwayee district of the southern province of Kandahar on the same day.

Turkey will send no additional troops to Afghanistan.

It turns out that sending 30,000 troops into a mountainous country with few and primitive roads is not so easy. It also has quite the carbon footprint. Excerpt:

The Pentagon was able to deploy a brigade -- an army unit of up to 5,000 soldiers -- a month during the troop buildup in Iraq and Mullen said the pace will have to be slower in Afghanistan. The NATO-led mission has to rely more on supplying troops by air in Afghanistan and in the east, steep mountains make soldiers heavily dependent on helicopters.

An estimated 80 percent of military supplies come in through Pakistan, much of it via a single, vulnerable road that threads through the Khyber Pass and has been attacked repeatedly by armed insurgents.

From tanks to armored vehicles to helicopters and warplanes, the Afghan operation consumes huge amounts of fuel, with the military guzzling up to 83 liters or 22 gallons of gasoline per soldier every day. More troops will require more truck convoys to ferry fuel to remote bases, raising the prospect of more casualties as fuel trucks are coveted targets for Taliban insurgents planting roadside bombs.

Karzai says he'll announce his cabinet appointments within three days. The world is watching to see whether corruption and warlordism are purged from the new government.

Al Jazeera continues its coverage of the story of an Afghan girl who was raped, and now lives in fear of her attackers, and whose father has been imprisoned for seeking justice. "Eight years after the US-led invasion that was supposed to liberate Afghanistan, women are still living without the most basic rights, vulnerable to abuse and often deprived of education. "Nobody cares about women," Fatana Gailini, the chairperson of Afghanistan's women's council, told Al Jazeera."

Gen. James Jones says U.S. has no intention of leaving Afghanistan in the near future, certainly not in 2011." Glad we cleared that up.

Quote of the Day

If you closed your eyes during much of the President’s speech on Afghanistan Tuesday night and just listened to the words, you easily could have concluded that George W. Bush was still in the Oval Office.

Matthew Rothschild