BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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A protestor challenges police at the G-8 Summit Conference at Gleneagles, Scotland. Among other problems, President Bush appeared determined to block efforts to control global warming.
Stretched to the breaking point and pinned down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military can no longer expect to defend the country against more than one conflict.
GIVING UP ON THE
Until now, U.S. Defense planners have been convinced that the U.S. should be able to defend itself on two different battle fronts. The Bush administration's inability to bring the war in Iraq to resolution, and Donald Rumsfeld's refusal to expand the size of the military may be changing that. Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt report in the New York Times: "The intense debate reflects a growing recognition that the current burden of maintaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the other demands of the global campaign against terrorism, may force a change in the assumptions that have been the foundation of all military planning..."
(Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, July 5, 2005)
DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
Slate's Fred Kaplan suggests that the disputes over Rumsfeld's efforts to "transform" the military may be not much more than a tempest in a teapot. The real issue is not so much strategy, but a runaway defense procurement program that has little relation to actual threats. Kaplan has a point: why when the major threats are coming from elusive terrorists, and drug peddling bandit revolutionaries is the Pentagon wasting tax payers' money on yet another generation of stealth aircraft or the soon-to-be-updated F-18? And what about the trillion dollar anti-ballistic missile program which doesn't work, and in any case could never handle a massive attack from real ICBMs. Kaplan does not say so, but the answer seems to be that a large part of defense has to do with domestic politics and the money that political parties increasingly depend on for their own survival. Rumsfeld is unlikely to change any of that. (Read Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 6, 2005)
HOUSE MAY PLAN ITS OWN QUADRENNIAL DEFENSE REVIEW
House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., says the Pentagon's year-long review "largely is based on perceived budgetary constraints. What we need is to have a QDR based on threats."Then it will be up to Congress to prioritize the allocation of available funds to meet those threats, he said. "What we need to do first is to meet the threats." (Daily Briefing, GOVEXEC.com, June 9, 2005)
THE U.S. MAY NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD
HIGH-TECH "TRANSFORMATIONAL" ARMY
Dennis S. Ippolito, writing for the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, notes that defense spending inevitably competes with domestic programs. "Current defense plans," he says, "contain optimistic, and arguably unrealistic, assumptions about long-term funding for the core defense budget. Recent Future Years Defense Programs have projected real (inflation-adjusted) spending levels well above Cold War peaks and assumed that these levels, unlike the Cold War peaks, can be sustained indefinitely. However, with unusually severe budgetary constraints in place for the foreseeable future, defense spending levels will likely be lower and more volatile than current planning envisions. The challenge for strategic planners, then, is to impose clear priorities on a defense budget that cannot accommodate all they deem desirable. These priorities must also be prudent, which in a wartime context means protecting funding for the urgent and the necessary--readiness and traditional modernization -- against the highly uncertain potential benefits of transformational modernization." (Dennis S. Ippolitio, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, june 2005)
THE DEFENSE STRATEGY REVIEW PAGE (multiple resources)
OVERLOOKING THE WOUNDED
"...Veterans Affairs budget documents projected that 23,553 veterans would return this year from Iraq and Afghanistan and seek medical treatment. However, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson told a Senate committee that the number has been revised upward to 103,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. He said the original estimates were based on outdated assumptions from 2002..." (Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post, June 29, 2005)
MULTIPLE EXPLOSIONS STRIKE LONDON TRANSIT SYSTEM One caller to BBC Five said his friend had seen "the bus ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies everywhere."
London tube passengers escape along tracks after bombs hit across the city and demolished a bus
The pattern of the bombing--careful coordination covering a geographical arc around the City of London, pegged to a critical political event--the G8 conference --resembled the strategy favored by Al Qaeda or a splinter group. One British analyst noted: "Whatever we have been doing in the War Against Terrorism, it isnn't working."
(BBC, July 7, 2005)
--The Economist recaps the events and police assessment
--Technorati offers a broad selection of London blogs with eyewitness accounts
FRANCHISING AL QAEDA
Splintering under pressure from a wide range of police and intelligence organizations, the terrorist movement is morphing into a brand rather than a coherent, organized, top-down structure. Think of Hercules' battle against the Hydra. Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser report on the current analysis in the Washington Post (Steve Coll, Susan Glasser, Washington Post, July 8, 2005)
AN OUTLINE AL QAEDA STRATEGY AGAINST COALITION PARTNERS, INCLUDING ENGLAND
An Al Qaeda policy document on the internet in 2003 explains the strategy behind the Madrid train bombing which took place several months later. It also suggests England as a likely target: "Poland is unlikely to withdraw from the coalition (in Iraq) because there is political consensus on foreign policy, and the country has a very high tolerance for human casualties.Britain is easier to force out of Iraq, because the popular opposition to the war and the occupation is so high. However, the author estimates that Britain will only withdraw from Iraq in one of two cases: either if Britain suffers significant human casualties in Iraq or if Spain and Italy withdraws first..." The document was translated by Forsvarets Forskning Institutt, the Danish Defense Institute, in late 2003. The New Yorker reported on it it in reference to the Madrid train bombing.
--Documents described by Forsvarets Forsknings Institutt
--Lawrence Wright's analysis of Madrid bombing in the New Yorker with the Forsvarets document (July 26, 2004)
G-8 FORGES ON DESPITE BOMBING--Guardian
G-8 SUMMIT FAULT LINES
Summits are supposed to help world leaders get together on the same wave length. Before the terrorist bombing hit London, this one seemed likely to hilight the growing differences. First, French President Jacques Chirac, insulted British cuisine during a conversation with Russia's Vladimir Putin, claiming that Britain's major contribution to world agriculture has been mad cow disease. Then, George W. Bush made it clear that despite the evidence for global warming, he has no intention of trying to curb U.S. carbon emissions, and he is only half-heartedly behind efforts to deal with Africa's crushing poverty. And that isn't taking into account the anti-global protesters, who have already begun filling Gleneagles' jails. That said, BBC commentator John Simpson suggests that this summit could produce some surprises, and possibly a few ambushes from Tony Blair, who is not only hosting the summit, but will also head the European Union for the next six months.
(John Simpson, BBC, July 5, 2005)
G-8 SUMMIT WEBSITE
WILL BRITISH LEADERSHIP MAKE OR BREAK THE EUROPEAN UNION?
London's plans for European political integration look fairly explicit. Tony Blair will try to save the E.U.'s enlargement from the rising anti-enlargement sentiment of Western European countries. He'll also try to promote a further liberalization of the European market. His support of European security and defense capabilities will be largely dependent upon the transatlantic relationship...If, on the contrary, Paris and/or Berlin try to promote a European core -- to be used in a more competitive, multipolar sense -- a serious clash between Britain and the continental powers is likely to explode in the coming months. Given the weakness of the present French and German governments, such ambitious moves would be very hard for Paris and Berlin to sustain. ( Federico Bodonaro, Power and Interest News Report, July 6, 2005)
Before the bombing made everyone pull behind London, and before Britain won the competition for the 2012 Olympics, Jacques Chirac stirred the G-8 pot at a meeting in Russia on Sunday when he joked to Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder that the British could not be trusted and worse food was only found in Finland...According to Liberation, the French president declared that the only thing the British have ever brought to European agriculture is mad cow disease.... (The Guardian, July 5, 2005)
IRAQ'S INSURGENCY ENTERS A NEW PHASE: ATTACKS AGAINST ISLAMIC DIPLOMATS READY TO HELP THE U.S.
Gunmen ambushed two senior diplomats from Muslim countries in apparent kidnap bids after the weekend abduction of Egypt's top envoy. The attacks appear aimed at isolating Iraq in the Muslim world - even as the government makes progress in overtures to its disaffected Sunni Arab minority.(Beirut Daily Star, July 6, 2005)
INSURGENCY MURDERS EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR
A video on the website showed a blindfolded man who identified himself as Mr Sherif saying he had worked at Egyptian embassies in Iraq and Israel.(BBC, July 7, 2005)
BUSH AGAINST THE REST OF THE WORLD ON GLOBAL WARMING...
Global warming is likely to return as a major concern once the reaction to the latest wave of terrorism dies down. The Bush administration remains the bogeyman on the issue. The Independent asks, "Can America prevent the rich countries agreeing what to do about climate change?" asks The Independent. "That's the other vital question at Gleneagles alongside Africa and its poverty and, last night, the omens did not look good..." (Michael McCarthy, The Independent, July 5, 2005)
EUROPEANS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
"The issue is not Kyoto as normally understood—that's happening anyway, notwithstanding the U.S. nonparticipation. The issue on which we now require the U.S.'s constructive and creative engagement is the huge challenge beyond Kyoto, beyond 2012..."(Background briefing by Nigel Purvis, Brookings Scholar on Environment and Development, and others at the Brookings Institution, April 18, 2005)
AFRICA NEEDS HELP BUT THE FUROR OVER DEBT SUSPENSION MAY BE A DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL ISSUES
Some doubt that debt relief will do much good, since most loans to Africa are heavily subsidized. The Economist frets that by focusing too heavily on Africa, the G-8 was likely to miss more serious problems. As the Economist puts it: "...Some continue to think that the focus on Africa is misguided. Last week David Dodge, the governor of the Bank of Canada, told the Financial Times that the G8 should be addressing the gigantic economic imbalances that are threatening the current burst of global prosperity, rather than concentrating on aid to Africa. He has a point. In recent years, the world has grown far too dependent on American consumer demand to support export-linked growth in other countries—and the American consumer has grown far too dependent on cheap money to fuel spending, much of it lent by Asian central banks trying to keep their currencies artificially cheap in order to stimulate exports. This is clearly unsustainable. If the central banks, or consumers, suddenly decide to retrench, many worry the result could be a “hard landing” for the American economy—which would fall even harder on poor countries’ export industries than on Americans..." (The Economist, July 4, 2005)
-CANADA'S NATIONAL POST ON DAVID DODGE AND THE G-8
U.S. MARINES ACCUSED OF SHOOTING THE COUSIN OF IRAQ'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.
In a letter to colleagues, Iraq's ambassador to the U.N., Samir Sumaidaie, said that his cousin,Mohammed, an engineering student, was visiting his family home when some 10 marines with an Egyptian interpreter knocked on the door at 1000 local time. Mohammed opened the door "happy to exercise some of his English", said the ambassador.When asked if there were any weapons in the house, Mohammed took the marines to a room where there was a rifle with no live ammunition. It was the last the family saw him alive. Shortly after, another brother was dragged out and beaten and the family was ordered to wait outside. As the marines left "smiling at each other" an hour later, the interpreter told the mother they had killed Mohammed, said Mr Sumaidaie."In the bedroom, Mohammed was found dead and laying in a clotted pool of his blood. A single bullet had penetrated his neck."The US military said the allegations "roughly correspond to an incident involving coalition forces on that day and in that general location". (BBC, July 1, 2005)
KNIGHT-RIDDER REPORTER KILLED
"...Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for Knight Ridder, was shot to death in Baghdad last Friday.The shot appears to have been fired by a U.S. military sniper, though there were Iraqi soldiers in the area who also may have been shooting at the time..."(Tom Lasseter, Knight-Ridder, June 29, 2005)
RETHINKING THE WAR
With the Sunni-dominated insurgency in Iraq unchecked and marked by a continuous stream of suicide bombings aimed at Iraqi security forces, kidnappings of foreign workers and diplomats, attacks on coalition troops, sabotage of public services, and, most importantly, assassinations of Shi'a leaders, the Bush administration has been challenged by its critics to come up with new policies that might turn the situation in Washington's favor. The administration chose instead to reaffirm its current policy of counting upon the constitution-drafting process in Baghdad to lead to the formation of a legitimate government, and of encouraging the strengthening of Iraqi security forces to the point at which they will be capable of resisting the insurgency successfully on their own account...The most significant result of the Congressional pressure for policy revision was the revelation of cracks in support within the administration for its official positions..." (Michael Weinstein, Power and Interest News Review, July 5, 2005)
ANTHONY CORDESMAN ON THE PRESIDENT'S IRAQ PRESS CONFERENCE: SOME REALITY BUT STILL PLENTY OF SPIN
"The President correctly referred to hundreds of foreign fighters, their horrifying extremism, and the very real threat they pose," says Cordesman, "(but) he totally failed to mention the thousands of native Iraqis that make up the core of the insurgency, the fact we have only some 600 foreign detainees out of a total of 14,000, the fact most intelligence estimates put foreign fighters at around 5% of the total, and the fact we face a major native popular Sunni uprising and deep Sunni distrust..."(Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 28, 2005)
NEW YORK TIMES: CONDOLEEZA RICE HAS CORRECTED SOME OF JOHN BOLTON'S MESS...WHAT'S NEXT
"John Bolton was a destructive presence in the State Department under Mr. Powell," notes the Times edtorial, "and his administration fans were lobbying to see him promoted to the No. 2 job. Ms. Rice avoided that disastrous possibility by backing Mr. Bolton instead for the job of ambassador to the United Nations. She chose the far more stable and grounded-in-reality Robert Zoellick, the former trade representative, as her deputy. Granted, siccing Mr. Bolton on the rest of the world at the United Nations isn't exactly the best way to sideline him, but at least he has been removed from dangerous areas like North Korea policy..." (The New York Times, July 4, 2005)
GOOD-BYE TO CHECK POINT CHARLIE
In Berlin these days, real estate outweighs souvenirs of a past that everyone would just as soon forget. Workers on Tuesday began tearing down a memorial to people killed at the East German border during the Cold War after the private Checkpoint Charlie museum lost a court fight over the real estate where the field of 1,067 crosses stood. The bank that owns the parcel — in a high-rent downtown district — wanted out of its lease to the museum at the former crossing point through the Berlin Wall. The museum had until Tuesday to raise the ?36 million (US$43 million) to buy the land from the bank. When time ran out, court bailiffs arrived to supervise the memorial’s removal. (International Herald Tribune, July 5, 2005)
DEALING WITH THE CAUSAL TOURIST-TERRORIST
Like many others who visit a foreign country, Syrian national and Spanish citizen Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun documented his 1997 travels to the United States with a video camera. In San Francisco, he shot footage of the Golden Gate Bridge; in Chicago, he videotaped the Sears Tower. While in New York City, he showed a particular fascination with the World Trade Center, filming it from numerous angles.
Then and now, Ghalyoun claims he was a tourist fulfilling a lifelong dream of traveling to the United States. Spanish authorities believed otherwise. When they discovered Ghalyoun's tapes during a 2002 raid of his Madrid home, they accused him of aiding the 9/11 hijackers and charged him with mass murder. (According to an attorney for the 9/11 families, Ghalyoun's footage ominously traces what would become the hijackers' flight pattern into the Twin Towers.) But upon closer inspection, the tapes included enough touristy behavior--an audible "Say cheese!"--and amateurish picture quality that in late May Spain's High Court freed Ghalyoun on bail, a signal that he might be cleared of wrongdoing...
(Josh Schollmeyer, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July-August, 2005)
Karl Rove: his lawyer insists that he didn't knowingly reveal the identity of the under-cover CIA agent.
When Henry David Thoreau, the philosopher of civil disobedience and the inspiration for both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, found himself in prison, his exasperated friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, pleaded, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau snapped back,"What are you doing out there?" There are times when honor demands prison and when it is almost dishonorable not to be there. Judith Miller's imprisonment is likely to absolve both her and the New York Times of past journalistic lapses. History may not be so kind to those who put her there. Time Magazine and Norman Pearlstein are better not mentioned. The most positive aspect of the current fiasco is that it may force the American public to take another look at the circumstances and the White House mess that created the fiasco.
Romanesko's column provides links to details on the arrest and reactions (Romanesko, Poynter Institute, July 6, 2005)
THE NEW YORK TIMES: A PROUD, AWFUL MOMENT
"This is a proud but awful moment for The New York Times... She is surrendering her liberty in defense of a greater liberty, granted to a free press by the founding fathers so journalists can work on behalf of the public without fear of regulation or retaliation from any branch of government..." (New York Times Editorial, July 7, 2005)
MILLER'S HUSBAND, JASON EPSTEIN, DESCRIBES THE REPORTER'S SPIRIT ON THE WAY TO JAIL
Book editor Jason Epstein, who has been married to Judy Miller for more than a decade, describes her spirit on being led off to prison.
(Jason Epstein, Editor and Publisher, July 6, 2005)
FORMER TIME EDITOR STEVE LOVELADY ON NORMAN'S CHOICE
Time's "corporate editor" Norm Pearlstein seems likely to be remembered by colleagues as the "Marshall Petain" of contemporary American journalism. Steve Lovelady, a former Time editor observes in the Columbia Journalism Review's daily online edition: "...Pearlstine noted that President Harry Truman bowed to the Supreme Court in 1952 when it blocked his plans to nationalize the nation's steel mills, and that 20 years later Richard Nixon turned over the Watergate tapes after the courts ruled that investigators' demands trumped executive privilege...So, sorry, Norman, you're no Harry Truman. Unfortunately, neither are you a Henry David Thoreau or a Martin Luther King...For while it's true that "we are not above the law," as Pearlstine solemnly intoned in an interview with CNN, it's also true that, as press critic Sydney Schanberg put it in the Village Voice, "sometimes, our history tells us, when a good citizen believes the law is acting wrongly, he can oppose it with respectful civil disobedience and accept the consequences, including going to jail. Does Thoreau come to mind, Norm?" (Steve Lovelady, Columbia Journalism Review Daily, July 1, 2005)
WHAT DID ROVE REALLY SAY?
Now that Time is more or less soft peddling its already softball Washington coverage, it had to be Newsweek which revealed over the weekend that Time's source at the White House before the launching of the Valerie Plame fiasco was none other than Karl Rove. It is not clear what it was that Karl Rove actually said, and in fact, the public may never know, given the glacial pace of the Special Prosecutor's investigation. Almost forgotten is the original cause of the furor--patently false information which was inserted into President Bush's State of the Union Speech leading up to the war in Iraq. As a result, the speech contained an accusation that Niger had been selling uranium to Iraq. To a gullible Congress and even more gullible public, the information seemed to be another piece of evidence backing up the White House's insistence that Iraq really was building weapons of mass destruction. It seemed to be a powerful argument for going to war, despite warnings from allies that Iraq had no connection to 9/11 or to international terrorism at the time and that other sources represented more serious threats to U.S. security. The only problem with the information about Niger was that it was false. Not only was it based on carelessly forged documents, but the CIA had dispatched Joe Wilson, a former ambassador to Iraq to investigate the charges. Wilson had alerted the CIA early on to the hoax, and his conclusion was supported by numerous other sources. Wilson was not an unknown figure. He had served as a Foreign Service Officer in Niger and had been ambassador to two African countries, and more important, he had run the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during the critical weeks leading up to Desert Storm. At the time, Wilson was Deputy Chief of Mission. The ambassador, April Glaspie, was out of the country. Wilson played a critical role in saving the lives of U.S. citizens trapped in Iraq and threatened by Saddam. George Bush's father had considered him a hero. Wilson's warning about the fake report on Niger came well in advance of President Bush's State of the Union speech, and it was well known in Washington that the story about the uranium sales was wrong, yet the fatal lines appeared in the speech anyway.When White House advisors continued to suggest that the charges against Niger were credible, Wilson wrote an Op Ed for the New York Times, explaining publicly what had really happened. Shortly after the OpEd appeared in the New York Times, Wilson says he received a call from a well placed Washington journalist, letting him know that the administration was out to get him. A few days later, "two senior White House officials" allegedly telephoned a number of reporters trying to peddle a story to the effect that Wilson's wife was working for the CIA. Columnist Robert Novak took the bait, and apparently ignored CIA requests not to divulge the inromation. As it turned out, Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, had been an undercover operative for 20 years. In blowing her cover, the White House officials had not only put her life at risk, but had also endangered the lives of an undisclosed number of foreign agents who had risked their lives to work for the United States. In two years since the incident, it appears that the only suspects threatened with arrest are two reporters, who had only peripheral connections to the story. They now face prison terms for refusing to say who in the White House agreed to talk to them. Under pressure, Time has apparently now revealed that Karl Rove was one White House advisor who talked to its reporter before Novak broke the story. But it is still not clear what Rove actually told the reporter. That won't be clear until someone decides to clarify the matter in public, and Rove has refused interviews on the subject. While confirming that conversations took place, Rove's defense attorney told reporters that his client did not knowingly reveal Plame's identity. The qualification "knowingly" is critical here, because intentionally revealing the identity of a CIA agent under cover has been a felony ever since former CIA agent Phil Agee published a book that also revealed the names of several active agents. Agee's disclosure led to the murder of the CIA station chief in Athens. Reactions to the ongoing flap have depended on one's political orientation. Neocons have tended to dismiss the affair as not much more than a case of bare-knuckle politics gone awry, effectively dismissing the national security considerations as irrelevant or frivolous. Others see it differently. For some, the faulty information helped engineer Congressional and public acceptance of a war that has now caused the deaths of more than 1,700 U.S. service men and women, and that has stretched U.S. military capabilities to the breaking point.
NEWSWEEK broke the story about Rove's name showing up in Time's internal notes, but has been cautious at this point to take it much further... (Newsweek, July 4, 2005, click here...)
--The NEW YORK TIMES provides background on Valerie Plame (NYT, February 5, 2005)
-- In 2004, Julian Borger, writing in THE GUARDIAN provided background on Rove's rise from college dropout and budding Nixon dirty trickster to dazzling campaign architect and Bush II confidant. In the waning days of Watergate, Rove toured the country lecturing Young Republicans. Borger notes that Rove claimed that a videotape showing him regaling his audience with descriptions of political dirty tricks, had been doctored to exclude a disclaimer. Borger adds that others claimed that Rove had simply advised his audience:"Don't get caught." (Julian Borger, The Guardian, March 9, 2004--click here for article)