Sunday, March 12, 2006

Attacking Sadr city

A series of car bombs in Sadr City, Baghdad could be the latest escalation in a broadening sectarian conflict in Iraq. CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Six car bombs killed at least 46 people and wounded 204 others in Baghdad's largest Shiite neighborhood Sunday, Baghdad emergency police said.
Mike Allen (and others) report in this week's TIME magazine that:
In an acknowledgment that he needs to offer a more convincing message on Iraq, the President is scheduled to deliver a series of three speeches this month that aim at persuasion, a departure from his usual hallmark of repetition. Bush plans to describe U.S. efforts to develop new defenses against insurgents' improvised explosive devices and give town-by-town case studies of how his strategy for victory in Iraq is playing out. "It's not going to change people's anxieties," a White House official said. "What it will do is help provide a greater understanding of why these events are happening and what we're doing to try to change them. We talk about the strategy oftentimes from 30,000 feet. What we're trying to do here is say how it is actually being applied on the ground."
While Bush will try and demonstrate competence (no one should be fooled on that one anymore), Senator Biden offered this ominous anecdote on today's Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, if they don’t get a government together, and we do get out, and we leave chaos behind, is that not a foreign policy disaster for the U.S.?

SEN. BIDEN: It is an absolute foreign policy disaster. What I said was that we’re going to have to have a different deployment of the troops. We’re going to have to figure out a containment policy, Tim. You may find a debate begins to ensue: Do we help the Badr Brigade and the Peshmerga deal with the Sunnis? Do we decide to cordon off the north? Do we decide—it’ll be a different policy. We’re not going to just be able to walk away. It will be a disaster. I—when I got back from Iraq a little while ago, I went down to see the president, and I sat with the president, and he kept talking about terrorists. And I said, “Mr. President, if every single al-Qaeda personality, every single al-Qaeda operative or anyone like him tomorrow were blown away, you still have a war, Mr. President. This is well beyond terrorists.”

There’s an insurgency, Tim, a gigantic insurgency that has nothing to do with terrorists. It’s a big deal. And there’s no serious—we put these military guys so far behind the eight ball, because we didn’t go in with the 5,000 police trainers that I talked about on your show two and a half years ago and others did, because they said we didn’t need it, because we said we had all the oil we needed when in fact the oil companies told us we needed $30 billion dollars in. These guys are about two years behind the curve. The civilians have done a disservice, in my view, to the military on the ground. We said we needed more troops. Remember on your show, I called for more troops the year we went in? Then John McCain called for more troops. What were we told? “No, the folks on the ground don’t want the troops.” Now what’s coming out, including Bremer? “Yeah, we needed more troops, we wanted more troops.” This has been a debacle. This has been a debacle. The president, literally, this is a test of his leadership. He’s got to unite the international community to bring every pressure possible on these guys or it’s not going to get done.
The authors of Cobra II provide an example for the level of incompetence in this administration and its negative consequences:
MR. GORDON: That’s true and it’s in the book, and here’s a plug for The New York Times. It’s in the next edition of, of the, of The New York Times and the series we’re doing on it.

But what happened is, granted the intelligence was wrong. That’s not the fault of the military. But in the first few weeks of the war, in Nasiriyah, in Samawa, in An Najaf, in all of these towns in southern Iraq, there were fierce battles with a paramilitary, irregular enemy that didn’t wear uniforms, that fought with RPGs in Toyota pickup trucks. And the field commanders, General Wallace, General Conway from the Marines, General McKiernan, the land war commander, they all agreed that something had to be done, you ought to pause the march to Baghdad, turn to these paramilitary foes and defeat them. But back at Central Command, General Franks was very impatient with them, he wanted to press the march to Baghdad. I don’t think Secretary Rumsfeld ever really appreciated the significance of the Fedayeen.

And so the larger point here is that there was a sense in the first few weeks of the war that we were fighting an entirely different kind of enemy, an irregular enemy, a guerrilla—with guerrilla-style tactics, an enemy that wasn’t going to go away after Baghdad falled, that didn’t depend on explicit orders from Saddam Hussein. And it was a Marine intelligence officer who had a prescient analysis he sent through the classified channels saying that these, these Fedayeen could indeed become involved in an insurgency. This is in the first few weeks of the war. General Franks, Secretary Rumsfeld never internalized this message, they stuck with the plan. Not only, not only did they send more troops, they actually stopped the flow of reinforcements by not sending the First Cavalry Division.

MR. RUSSERT: General Trainor, almost three years ago the president landed on an aircraft carrier, this was May 1st of 2003, and he offered these comments to our country and the world. Let’s listen.

(Videotape, May 1, 2003):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: That was nearly three years ago. What do we new—do now as a country? You’re a military man, you understand that you can’t just send an army to war without the support of its people. What do we do?

GEN. TRAINOR: Well, this war has, has changed in its complexion on, on a number of occasions. Number one, it was the battle that the president talked about, taking Baghdad and defeating the Iraqi regular army and Republican Guard. That phase—that was just one round in, in a 15-round bout. Then the next thing, of course, you see the, the rise of the insurgency, and we have adjusted to that, and now seem—the, the, the target now does no longer seem to be the, the American forces, it seems to be the Iraqi governance. And then that’s another round. And now we’re moving into another phase which people, of course, call it possible civil war, but at least it’s a sectarian war between the Sunnis and, and the Shias. So each time we have seen a, a different complexion to this particular war.

In this, this particular junction, the Americans are almost like a, a policeman on the beat getting involved in a domestic dispute, the last thing a policeman wants to do. And hopefully that they will be able to have some conciliatory group bringing the—a sense of national unity to Iraq with us standing in the background so they solve their own problems.

From the outset, from the day that Baghdad fell, what we were facing was a power struggle as to who was going to run Iraq at the end of the day. And that battle goes on. And in that sense, the Americans are irrelevant; we’re in there, we just can’t move—leave precipitously. But we should look and accept the fact that this is going to require an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi and an Arab problem.

MR. RUSSERT: There is a paragraph, I think, that pretty much summarizes what you have found in your book, Michael Gordon, and I’ll read it. “There’s a direct link between the way the Iraq War was planned and the bitter insurgency the American-led coalition subsequently confronted. The ambitious plans that the president announced to transform American defense proved at to be at odds with his bold plan to transform a region.”
The forward thinking people on Iraq, including Ambassador Khalilzad and General Abizaid, are using terms like "sectarian". Abizaid has used "insurgents" since Summer 2003. Bush is still referring to these people as terrorists, even in informal meetings with Senators.

To defeat an enemy, you must understand that enemy -- and yourself. President Bush has provided little support in that aspect. If anything positive develops in Iraq, it will be the work of Khalizad and Abizaid -- not Bush and his small cadre of spent quasi-intellectuals.


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