Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Sad Ending in Iraq

This is very sad:

Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote 'NYT' Op-Ed Die in Iraq.

My old friend Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher writes:

The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead.

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the "surge." The names have just been released.

Gen. Petraeus was questioned about the message of the op-ed in testimony before a Senate committee yesterday.

Their August 19 New York Times article began:

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

The piece ended:

Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are--an army of occupation--and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

The piece can be read now as an all-too poignant rejoinder to the stay-the-course presentation Petraeus made thrice on Capitol Hill this week. It's quite tragic that two of its authors are no longer alive and can no longer make their case that Americans are dying and killing for "absurd ends."

Posted by David Corn at September 13, 2007 10:14 AM


capt said...

Very sad.

capt said...

President Petraeus?

Iraqi official recalls the day US general revealed ambition

The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.

Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

"I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, 'No, that would be too soon'," Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said.

General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America's apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012.

His able defence of the "surge" in US troop numbers in Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made him the best-known soldier in America. An articulate, intelligent and energetic man, he has always shown skill in managing the media.

But General Petraeus's open interest in the presidency may lead critics to suggest that his own political ambitions have influenced him in putting an optimistic gloss on the US military position in Iraq .

Mr Khadim was a senior adviser in the Iraqi Interior Ministry in 2004-05 when Iyad Allawi was prime minister.

"My office was in the Adnan Palace in the Green Zone, which was close to General Petraeus's office," Mr Khadim recalls. He had meetings with the general because the Interior Ministry was involved in vetting the loyalty of Iraqis recruited as army officers. Mr Khadim was critical of the general's choice of Iraqis to work with him.

For a soldier whose military abilities and experience are so lauded by the White House, General Petraeus has had a surprisingly controversial career in Iraq. His critics hold him at least partly responsible for three debacles: the capture of Mosul by the insurgents in 2004; the failure to train an effective Iraqi army and the theft of the entire Iraqi arms procurement budget in 2004-05.

General Petraeus went to Iraq during the invasion of 2003 as commander of the 101st Airborne Division and had not previously seen combat. He first became prominent when the 101st was based in Mosul, in northern Iraq, where he pursued a more conciliatory line toward former Baathists and Iraqi army officers than the stated US policy.

His efforts were deemed successful. When the 101st left in February 2004, it had lost only 60 troops in combat and accidents. General Petraeus had built up the local police by recruiting officers who had previously worked for Saddam Hussein's security apparatus.

Although Mosul remained quiet for some months after, the US suffered one of its worse setbacks of the war in November 2004 when insurgents captured most of the city. The 7,000 police recruited by General Petraeus either changed sides or went home. Thirty police stations were captured, 11,000 assault rifles were lost and $41m (£20m) worth of military equipment disappeared. Iraqi army units abandoned their bases.

The general's next job was to oversee the training of a new Iraqi army. As head of the Multinational Security Transition Command, General Petraeus claimed that his efforts were proving successful. In an article in The Washington Post in September 2004, he wrote: "Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being re-established." This optimism turned out be misleading; three years later the Iraqi army is notoriously ineffective and corrupt.

General Petraeus was in charge of the Security Transition Command at the time that the Iraqi procurement budget of $1.2bn was stolen. "It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Iraq's Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, said. "Huge amounts of money disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

Mr Khadim is sceptical that the "surge" is working. Commenting on the US military alliance with the Sunni tribes in Anbar province, he said: "They will take your money, but when the money runs out they will change sides again


capt said...

Superior Derided Petraeus as Suck-Up, Opposed the Surge

In sharp contrast to the lionization of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the US Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus' superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickens**t" and added, "I hate people like that," the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on to develop his own alternative to Petraeus' recommendation for continued high levels of US troops in Iraq during the summer.

The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when the Washington Post reported Sep. 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to "bad relations" between them is "the understatement of the century."


capt said...

The General Lies


Ambassador Crocker actually had the nerve to compare the bloody religious fratricide in Iraq, which our inane invasion unleashed, to the American battle over state’s rights, once again reducing the complexities of world history to an easily understood but totally irrelevant example from the American experience. In this case, a better analogy might have been made to the American Indian wars, given that the only thing the United States has been able to do effectively in Iraq is unleash superior firepower. At the current rate, Iraq will be liberated when there are no Iraqis.

Perhaps that is why this week’s ABC/BBC poll shows that 70 percent of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated since the surge began and that 60 percent believe attacks on U.S. forces are justified. And 93 percent of Sunnis, whom the general and ambassador claim are joining our side, want to see us dead. As for optimism, only 29 percent of Iraqis now think the situation will get better, as opposed to 64 percent who shared that optimism before the surge—which almost 70 percent of Iraqis believe has “hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development.”

So, ambassadors and generals lie. Get used to it.


capt said...

Fetal Neurons Still Operate in Adult Brain

A population of nerve cells crucial for proper brain wiring may serve a completely different function in adult and fetal brains, according to a new study in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Previously, most of these cells, known as subplate neurons, were thought to die off shortly after development, leaving behind 10 to 20 percent of the original fleet as nonfunctional remnants. Several tests conducted by a pair of researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, however, revealed that the leftover neurons are not just vestiges but electrically active messengers that can send and receive signals to and from any of the six layers of the cerebral cortex (the brain's outermost layer, which is essentially the brain's central processing unit).


*****end of clip*****

Our inner child never leaves - no surprise.


capt said...

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 - 1944), "The Little Prince", 1943

capt said...

Sadr's office lashes out at Petraeus Iraq report

Moqtada al-Sadr's powerful Shiite movement reacted angrily on Wednesday to a progress report by the top US general and diplomat in Iraq, contesting their findings and vowing to fight on until all American troops leave.

"The report did not touch on Iraqi reality," said Abdul-Mahdi al-Mutayri, a member of the politburo of Sadr's office in the central city of Najaf.

"It has damaged the interests of the people because it does not reflect the true situation in Iraq," Mutayri told AFP.

"The security situation is still bad, contrary to what the report said. The people are still isolated from each other because of sectarian strife, especially in Baghdad," he added.

He was referring to claims by US commander General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker that violence levels had dropped significantly because of an American troop "surge" in Iraq.

Appearing before the US Congress on Monday, Petraeus said that as a result of the improved security situation, 30,000 troops could be withdrawn by July next year.

Mutayri scoffed at the withdrawal timetable outlined by Petraeus, which would see the first batch of Marines return home as early as this month.

"Our basic aim is not a timetable but full withdrawal... we will keep demanding that until the last soldier leaves Iraq," he said.

Petraeus's announcement, he added, was merely for "media purposes" and to camouflage the fact that the US administration wants to maintain "the largest possible number of forces in Iraq for strategic purposes."

Fiery anti-American cleric Sadr, who has a thousands-strong militia known as the Mahdi Army, has constantly demanded the departure of foreign troops from Iraqi soil since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

It launched two uprisings in 2004 but suffered bloody defeats at the hands of US forces in both, although the militia has continued its attacks on foreign troops.

A member of parliament representing Sadr political bloc, Ghufran Saad, told AFP that Petraeus's announcement of possible troop cutbacks was "not fresh news."

"Every year they say numbers of troops will leave, but what we see is that their number is in fact increased," Saad said.

"The Sadr group did not need to listen to the report to know what they were going to say because we know that the Americans are always trying to impose their mandate on Iraq," she added.

The timetable for withdrawal was "a deception of the Iraqi people because their presence or departure should be determined by the Iraqi government."

Sadr's spokesman Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi was sceptical that the withdrawal would happen in the way outlined by Petraeus.

"The command of the US forces will not hesitate to keep them in Iraq if the situation changes for a real or fabricated reason," he said.

On August 29, Sadr ordered the Mahdi Army to halt its militia activities, including assaults on US-led forces, for six months after it was widely accused of fomenting violence during a huge pilgrimage in the shrine city of Karbala that left 50 people dead.

Attacks on American forces continue, however, with US commanders blaming "rogue" Mahdi Army elements beyond Sadr's control.

Najaf, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Baghdad where Sadr has his headquarters, is Shiite Islam's holiest pilgrimage city and home to the shrine of Imam Ali.


*****end of clip*****

Knock me over with a feather - Who could have seen this one coming?


David B. Benson said...

Capt --- Fortunately my irony meter is calibrated and working...

capt said...

New Thread