BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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The Bush administration cannot afford to lose in Iraq, but it may not be able to afford the price of winning either. Locked into an increasingly lethal stalemate, U.S. military generals are speaking tentatively of downsizing while it is increasingly clear that they currently lack the manpower to effectively stop the insurgency.
|Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan confronts a sheriff on the road to Bush's ranch
ANSWERING TO THE MOTHERS OF THE U.S. DEAD IN IRAQ
President Bush takes pride in ignoring the "elite" U.S. news media, but ignoring the mothers of the 1,800 servicemen and women who have died as a result of his decision to go to war in Iraq may turn out to be a different matter. Hardly anyone noticed that the president had embarked on yet another extended "working vacation" at his ranch in Crawford, Texas during one of the bloodiest weeks in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of 24-year old Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Baghdad last year, decided to go to Crawford to see her dead son's Commander-in-Chief. Not surprisingly, the president hid, incommunicado, behind a phalanx of Texas sheriffs.
The New York Times noted in an editorial on August 9, that Cindy Sheehan is "is tapping into a growing popular feeling that the Bush administration is out of touch with the realities, and the costs, of the Iraq war." The Times adds: "A few families, like Ms. Sheehan's, have paid the ultimate price. Many more, including National Guard families, are bearing enormous burdens, struggling to get by while a parent, a child or a spouse serves in Iraq. But the rest of the nation is spending its tax cuts and guzzling gas as if there were no war." (New York Times editorial, August 9, 2005)
TRYING TO REACH THE PRESIDENT
The Crawford Texas Iconoclast's Nathan Diebenow followed Sheehan's efforts to reach George Bush's summer retreat on Saturday. The local sheriff, given the thankless task of keeping Sheehan and a mild-mannered gaggle of anti-war activists at bay, seemed mostly concerned by the media attention that she was attracting. (Nathan Diebenow, Crawford Texas Iconoclast, August 6, 2005)
THE O'REILLY FACTOR
When the pain of losing a son in Iraq is seen as an attack against America. O'Reilley and Michelle Malkin find it comfortably reassuring to agree on the less than patriotic intentions behind the events at Crawford, Texas. In the process, they ask themselves why the "Main Stream Media" and especially the New York Times, are thoughtless enough to find Cindy Sheehan a sympathetic figure. O'Reilly's remarks are presented in quick succession online and make an interesting study of on-air inconsistency. Media Matters, which culled the clips, is clearly not a fan of O'Reilly or Fox News, but in replaying Fox's efficient use of inflamatory images and innuendo with O'Reilly's authorative voiceover, it provides a fascinating example of Fox's current style of no-holds-barred rightwing agitprop. In the clips, O'Reilly not only manages to impugn the integrity and intentions of the families of dead servicemen in Iraq, but also questions the loyalty of the families of victims at the World Trade Center during 9/11.
(MediaMatters, August 9, 2005)
ADDING UP THE COST
The reasons for not abandoning Iraq are obvious. Besides the loss to American prestige, which would encourage guerrilla movements around the world to try their hand at taking on the U.S., Iraq in the wrong hands would not only become a safe-haven for enemies and terrorists, but it would also have access to enormous oil wealth in order to finance future mischief. On the other hand, at $5 billion a month, there are questions about how long the administration can continue with a campaign that not only appears to be headed nowhere, but also serves as an engine and training ground for an international terrorist movement that is drawing much of its public support from the war. The New York Times pointed reported over the weekend that two leading U.S. generals were suggesting that 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops could be pulled out next Spring--roughly 6 months before the next U.S. Congressional elections. Newt Gingrich, member of a Pentagon advisory panel, also frets about the war's impact on Republicans.
"When you wake up in the morning and lose 14 marines," Gingrich noted. "people say, 'What's going on?' " (New York Times, August 7, 2005)
--Lt. Gen Bernard Trainor(ret.) and Col. Douglas MacGregor(ret.) on the lack of strategy and repeating the mistakes of Westmoreland...
Interviewed on the News Hour, General Trainor discusses the limitations of U.S. equipment in Iraq, and notes that without a comprehensive strategic design, U.S. Marines have been left to figure out the war on the fly. "It's kind of a decentralized approach, "says Trainor. "You know, you put the guy on the ground and say you've got the buck, and you've got to run with it and you do it as you see fit and we'll give you as much support as we possibly can. " (NewsHour, August 4, 2005)
TONY KARON: COMPARING THE WAR TO VIETNAM? HOW ABOUT WORLD WAR II?
Karon notes that a major contrast to the War in Vietnam, is that in Iraq, the enemy is just as befuddled as the U.S. The observation seems lost on the administration, which is still fantasizing about the period immediately following World War II. Writes Karon, "...In Iraq the U.S. can’t win nor can anyone else — it’s worth dwelling on the conservative flip-side of the Vietnam comparison: For the Bush administration and its backers, the analogy in Iraq is not the trauma of Vietnam, but the triumph of post-war Germany and Japan. As preposterous as that may sound to anyone vaguely familiar with events in the Middle East, it’s a folly that appears nonetheless to have shaped the thinking at the very top of the Bush administration on how to manage Iraq..." (Tony Karon, The Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 3, 2005)
HIDING THE HUMAN DAMAGE FROM HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI
Editor&Publisher editor Greg Mitchell describes the lengths which the War Department went to prevent graphic film footage from reaching the American public in the years following World War II. Mitchell also published an account of the government censoring of news dispatches by Chicago Daily News correspondent George Weller, who defied MacArthur's orders in order to see what had actually taken place at Nagasaki. (Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, August 8, 2005)
William L. Laurence, who covered the bomb for the New York Times, was on the payroll of the War Department
A staunch supporter of the use of the atomic bomb, Laurence never bothered to look at the bomb damage on the ground. He did get to fly along on the raid, and to visit the secret sites where it had been built. The 10-part series he wrote for the Times earned him a 1946 Pulitzer, but in retrospect the series now appears as a particularly skillful piece of government propoganda. (Bob Garfield, On the Media, August 5, 2005)
IRAN IGNORES EUROPE AND DECIDES TO GO NUCLEAR
Iran has carried out its threat to restart its nuclear programme, removing the seals on part of its uranium-conversion plant at Isfahan. European offers of political and economic incentives, designed to dissuade the theocratic Middle Eastern state from building atomic bombs, have not proved enticing enough. (The Economist, August 8, 2005)
IRAN'S NEW PRESIDENT HATES AMERICA AND DOESN'T CARE FOR POLITICAL REFORM
That said, the International Crisis Group advises against jumping to bellicose conclusions. Says the latest ICG report: "...Iran is governed by complex institutions and competing power centres that inherently favour continuity over change. More importantly, none of the fundamentals has changed: the regime is not about to collapse; it holds pivotal cards on Iraq and nuclear proliferation; and any chance of modifying its behaviour will come, if at all, through serious, coordinated EU and U.S. efforts to engage it..." (ICG, August 8, 2005)
RESURGENCE OF IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS
guards of Khomeiny's revolution are back, and beginning to take a more influential role in Iran's military thinking. (Houchang Hassan-Yari, Eurasianet.org, August 7, 2005)
LAURIE GARRETT: COULD THIS BE THE ULTIMATE PLAGUE ?
Taking a More Serious Look at Avian Flu
Scientists have long forecast the appearance of an influenza virus capable of infecting 40 percent of the world's human population and killing unimaginable numbers. Recently, a new strain, H5N1 avian influenza, has shown all the earmarks of becoming that disease. Until now, it has largely been confined to certain bird species, but that may be changing.The havoc such a disease could wreak is commonly compared to the devastation of the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people in 18 months. But avian flu is far more dangerous. It kills 100 percent of the domesticated chickens it infects, and among humans the disease is also lethal: as of May 1, about 109 people were known to have contracted it, and it killed 54 percent...(Laurie Garrett, Foreign Affairs, July-August 2005)
THE OIL FOR FOOD SCANDAL AT THE U.N.
In its third report, the UN-appointed Volcker panel said Benon Sevan took nearly $150,000 in cash bribes. UN chief Kofi Annan lifted Mr Sevan's UN immunity at the panel's request. Meanwhile, a former UN procurement officer has pleaded guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from UN contractors. The move came hours after investigators said Alexander Yakovlev had receiving almost $1m in bribes outside of the oil-for-food programme. (BBC, August 8, 2005)
--Full text of the latest Volker report on the scandal
LAW, ORDER AND RECONSTRUCTION
In the rush to go to war in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld and a small clique of Pentagon neocons largely ignored established military doctrine and the advice of senior U.S. military commanders concerning the troop levels. They also disdainfully ignored the U.S. State Department's warnings about the need for planning for post-conflict reconstruction. Most of the neocons (Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle and Bolton) have now been moved to a safe distance from policy making functions, and Condoleeza Rice has discretely replaced Rumsfeld's maladroit approach to some of the most important strategic questions concerning Iraq, but Rumsfeld's most serious mistake--committing the U.S. to a war with inadequate resources, i.e. boots on the ground and the wrong equipment--may be beyond anyone's capacity to fix. RAND, in a new study, points out that the ratio of troops to population needed to establish credible security in a situation like Iraq is roughly 1 to 100, or approximately 100,000 more troops than the ceiling that Rumsfeld imposed on U.S. commanders. RAND's logic is compelling. (Read RAND's report, August 2005)
FAREWELL TO A PRESCIENT FOREIGN MINISTER
Robin Cook, who died on Saturday at the age of 59, courageously resigned his cabinet post as Britain's foreign minister in March 2003. As Cook explained in a speech to Parliament, he could not participate in what he saw as a ruinous decision to follow the U.S. into an unnecessary war. The BBC carries the full text of Cook's resignation speech to the House of Commons, as well as an online video. The speech is not only eloquent, but an extraordinarily accurate prediction of what would take place in the ensuing two years. (Robin Cook, BBC, March 2003)
--Robin Cook's column in The Independent
The invasion of Iraq has handed the terrorists a whole new weapon to deploy on the Arab street. The great irony is that invading Iraq is precisely what al-Qa'ida wanted us to do, because it served their agenda of polarising the West and the Islamic world. As George Soros has observed, "We have fallen into a trap".... In truth we would have made more progress in rolling back support for terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq, but President Bush's promise that he would give priority to peace in the Middle East has become another of the commitments given before the invasion and broken in the year after it..." (Robin Cook, The Independent, March 19, 2004)
WHAT IS AT STAKE IN CENTRAL ASIA?
Two days before Uzbekistan gave the U.S. six months to clear out of the Karshi-Khanabad airfield, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington held a briefing on the dilemmas facing the U.S. in both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Presentations by experts, including Stephen Blank of the U.S. Army War College, are now available online. (CSIS, June 27, 2005)
NETANYAHU'S RESIGNATION LEAVES HIM A HOSTAGE TO THE EXTREME RIGHT
Four large, well-pressed Israeli flags decorated the bluish wall behind the departing finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday. Not one or two, but four, as though his resignation announcement were actually an Independence Day ceremony. Indeed, for Netanyahu the announcement was a kind of private Independence Day. It was the day he disengaged from the Sharon government, in which he served as a punching bag from right and left, a government in which his opinion on political-security matters was irrelevant, like the voice of the lowest-ranking minister. (Yossi Verter, Haaretz, August 8, 2005)
ICG UPDATE ON SUDAN AFTER JOHN GARANG
Will the Sudanese People's liberation Army still have the clout to push for peace in Sudan?(ICG, August 8, 2005)
Recruiting on the Internet
SALMAN RUSHDIE'S CALL FOR REFORM IN ISLAM
Pondering the turmoil in London's Muslim community, Salman Rushdie argues for a fresh approach to interpreting the Koranic texts. "The insistence that the Koranic text is the infallible, uncreated word of God renders analytical, scholarly discourse all but impossible," reasons Rushdie. "If, however, the Koran were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages. Laws made in the seventh century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st. The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance of the concept that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities..."(Salman Rushdie, The Washington Post, August 7, 2005)
JIHAD ON THE INFORMATION SUPER HIGHWAY
While Washington policy planners--and especially the FBI--have been slow to take advantage of the Internet (see RAND's study), the Islamic insurgency has shown itself remarkably adept at maximizing the effectiveness of the latest publicly-available technology. Michael Scheuer, who tracked al Qaeda and bin Laden for the CIA, notes in the latest issue of the Jamestown Foundation's Global Terrorism Analysis that: Western experts are continuing to debate whether the 7 and 21 July 2005 attacks in London and the 23 July 2005 attack in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, were directed and controlled by al-Qaeda's leaders, undertaken by so-called al-Qaeda "franchise" groups, or staged by al-Qaeda-inspired free-lancers. While this debate proceeds, it seems useful to step back and consider the possibility that, whoever exercised command-and-control over the attacks, al-Qaeda's assiduous effort to cultivate and train professional insurgents and urban warfare specialists via the Internet is bearing fruit…Always aware of and eager to exploit the latest in modern communications technology bin Laden did not put all his marbles in training camps. By the late 1990's, al-Qaeda's use of the Internet was well underway in regard to theological and paramilitary training. This trend accelerated rapidly after 9/11 when U.S. airpower made the use of physical training camps problematic... (Michael Scheuer, Jamestown Foundation's Global Terrorism Analysis, August 5, 2005)
THE WASHINGTON POST LOOKS AT AL QAEDA AND THE INTERNET
Steve Coll and Susan Glasser report in a 3-part series for the Washington Post that guerrillas in Afghanistan relied almost as much on laptops as they did on AK47s. The Washington Post report includes online video showing some of the al Qaeda internet video presentations. Writes Coll and Glasser, "...As the Taliban collapsed and al Qaeda lost its Afghan sanctuary, Osama bin Laden biographer Hamid Mir watched 'every second al Qaeda member carrying a laptop computer along with a Kalashnikov' as they prepared to scatter into hiding and exile. On the screens were photographs of Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Nearly four years later, al Qaeda has become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet cafes, young code-writing jihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet.
Steve Coll and Susan Glasser, The Washington Post, August 7-9, 2005)
PART 2 (The British Jihadist webmaster)
London's "Free Babar Ahmad" website
AL QAEDA--DRAWING STRENGTH FROM "EURABIA"
In its prescient documentary on Al Qaeda's surging support among Muslims in Europe, PBS' Frontline in conjunction with the New York Times, points out that the war in Iraq as well as continuing resentment over Palestine--amplified by newly created Arab mass media-- is providing a ready source of new recruits who see al Qaeda as an effective tool for combating what they--or at least the religious advisors inciting them--see as U.S. world domination. The documentary is now viewable online and is accompanied by several cogent interviews with European anti-terrorist security experts, who are increasingly alarmed at Washington's handling of the situation.
(PBS Frontline, January 2005)
LETTING BIN LADEN ESCAPE
Gary Berntsen, the leader of the CIA team tasked with tracking down Bin Laden in Afghanistan contends in his new book that Pentagon missteps and a miscalculation of the forces needed allowed bin Laden to escape a U.S. dragnet. (Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, August 8, 2005)