Thursday, June 29, 2006

New Yorkers

When I read about these NYC soldiers and Marines -- the ones that enlisted, re-enlisted or went to OCS after 9/11 -- I am awestruck.
RAMADI, Iraq(June 28, 2006) -- New York City Police Department Detective Evan L. Schwerner had nearly 21 years off active duty in the Marine Corps when in the four-year wake of Sept. 11, 2001, he decided he could better serve his family and country in the global war on terror as a Marine in Iraq.

Cpl. Schwerner joined the Marine Corps Reserve in May 2005 as a hazardous material and waste Marine then volunteered to deploy with the 3rd Civil Affairs Group. He was subsequently assigned to the CAG’s Detachment 4, currently based at the Provincial Civil Military Operations Center and Government Center in Ramadi, Iraq.

Known to other CAG Marines as “Pappy,” the 43-year-old civil affairs noncommissioned officer’s duties as part of the detachment’s force protection team include searching visitors at the entry control point who conduct business at the PCMOC and providing escort security for the detachment commanding officer, Col. Frank Corte.

“It’s our job to ensure the safety of detachment personnel and all Iraqis who visit the PCMOC,” said the Shrub Oak, New York, native.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Amnesty for insurgents

This amnesty is far more serious and offensive than any amnesty for an illegal alien. Before a sampling of some press coverage, here are a few points. 1.) The administration has often stressed the jihad/terrorist/al Qaeda element in the insurgency. I doubt Iraq would grant amnesty to them, but it should be noted that they insurgents have been labeled terrorists (as many are) by the president and vice president. 2.) Sadr's boys have repeatedly attacked Americans and Iraqis. If they aren't in the amnesty deal, there will be hell to pay.

Now the coverage.

The Financial Times:
However one of the more controversial proposals, an amnesty for suspected insurgents, was left ambiguous. The text of the plan would exclude “those involved in crimes or terrorist acts or crimes against humanity”.

Most in Iraq agree that those guilty of terror attacks against Iraqi civilians should be punished, but are divided as to whether or not those who fought Iraqi security forces should also be eligible for a pardon. Washington is also reportedly unhappy about giving its approval to a plan that could set free insurgents who targeted US troops. The plan called for building up Iraq’s security forces so foreign troops could be withdrawn, but did not spell out any timetables.
The NY Times:
(06-26) 04:00 PDT Baghdad -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presented a muted national reconciliation plan Sunday that outlined a general direction for his new government, but offered neither a broad amnesty for insurgents nor any new options for members of Saddam Hussein's long-ruling Baath Party, the two most heavily disputed issues.
The A.P.:
BAGHDAD -- Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, unveiled a 24-point national reconciliation initiative yesterday, offering amnesty to insurgents who renounce violence and who have not committed terror attacks.
The Los Angeles Times:
The 28-point plan, presented to parliament, includes amnesty "for those not proved to be involved in crimes, terrorist activities and war crimes against humanity," deliberately vague language hammered out over long and heated closed-door discussions involving both Iraqis and Americans.

Maliki, speaking to lawmakers packed inside the Baghdad Convention Center in the high-security Green Zone, said the plan "does not mean honoring and accepting killers and criminals." However, it calls for releasing thousands of suspected insurgents who "pledge to condemn violence and vow to back" the government. It also advocates ending rules that keep some former members of the once-ruling Baath Party out of political life, provided they haven't committed crimes.
Yes, this president is going to try for an amnesty for Iraqi insurgents that have targeted and killed Americans. That will be the end result. No doubt it will be spun as something patriotic by the morons who follow his lead.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Some amazing news. Fortune Magazine:
"I know what I want to do," he said, "and it makes sense to get going." On that spring day his plan was uncertain in some of its details; today it is essentially complete. And it is typical Buffett: rational, original, breaking the mold of how extremely rich people donate money.

Buffett has pledged to gradually give 85% of his Berkshire stock to five foundations. A dominant five-sixths of the shares will go to the world's largest philanthropic organization, the $30 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose principals are close friends of Buffett's (a connection that began in 1991, when a mutual friend introduced Buffett and Bill Gates).

The Gateses credit Buffett, says Bill, with having "inspired" their thinking about giving money back to society. Their foundation's activities, internationally famous, are focused on world health -- fighting such diseases as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis -- and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ignoring those who need the most

At the end of 1997, the Consumer Price Index was at 161.3. Minimum wage was $5.15.

Today, the CPI is at 202.5, and the minimum wage will remain $5.15.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Senate refused Wednesday to raise the minimum wage, rejecting an election-year proposal from Democrats for the first increase in nearly a decade.

The vote was 52-46, eight short of the 60 needed.

"I don't think the Republicans get it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who backed a proposal for a three-step increase in the current wage floor to $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been fixed at $5.15 an hour since 1997.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John Kerry was for troop withdrawal before he was against it

Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry is pushing back by six months the deadline he wants to set for removing combat troops from Iraq, as he seeks to build support in the Senate for his plan for troop withdrawal.
If this Blog had "tags" this would be under: Like.It.Matters, John.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why is this a story?

I'm very confused. What if he played for Manchester United and waved a British flag? Would they feel it was a slight to Northern Irish Catholics?

WUERZBURG, Germany (Reuters) -- Ghana officials apologized on Monday after defender John Paintsil waved an Israeli flag to celebrate their 2-0 World Cup win against the Czech Republic.

Team spokesman Randy Abbey said it was important to point out that the Ghanaian FA was not trying to take sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Paintsil plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv and had wanted to acknowledge the Israeli fans who had travelled to Germany to support him, Abbey said.

"He is obviously unaware of the implications of what he did. He's unaware of international politics. We apologise to anybody who was offended and we promise that it will never happen again.

"He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naive... we don't need to punish him."

Paintsil celebrated the two Ghana goals on Saturday by taking out a small Israeli flag from his sock and waving it above his head.

Abbey said neither the Ghanaian FA nor Ghana as a country had a strong political position on the subject and said they were just in Germany for the World Cup.

"We are not in support or against Israel or the Arab nations. We are here to do football, we are not here to do politics."

Two bloggers on Iraq

Omar at Iraq the Model makes some interesting observations from experience:
Just an hour ago I heard of another series of bombings, also in Baghdad and the news reports are talking about 5 new car-bombs that went off mostly at police and army checkpoints a short while before curfew time was there.

I was afraid that this would happen but I was also hoping it would not…unfortunately yet not surprisingly it did.

I think the problem with the new security operation is that the tactics employed so far are not new and were not adjusted in a way to meet the needs of the changing security challenges and its worst weakness is that it focused on fixed checkpoints.

My guess is that the terrorists/insurgents were frightened by the size of the operation and the amount of troops deployed but they were able to check the pulse of the new security measures and adjust accordingly, thus was the period of relative calm we had in Baghdad during the first two or three days between Wednesday and Friday.

The terrorists apparently were able to study the geographic distribution of checkpoints and a)find safe routes to move around and carry out their attacks without passing through checkpoints, and b)make the checkpoints themselves targets for their attacks.

I will not say Forward Together has failed as it's still early to make judgments but we will be waiting for the next phases of the operation which is the announced plans to disarm the city and attack the terrorists in their safe homes because that is the way to reduce violence.

Having checkpoints is a good idea, but these checkpoints should have no fixed places or schedules. On the other hand fixed checkpoints can be very helpful at the entrances and exits of Baghdad and these should be fortified enough to sustain themselves and repel possible attacks.
Rick Moran of the Right Wing Nuthouse:
Americans back then knew the Generals, knew the battles, knew what taking Caan meant to the invasion, knew that Operation Market Garden could shorten the war – they knew all these things because they had a living, breathing, stake in ultimate success or failure of our troops.

And that’s the huge difference between then and now. Where George Bush has failed miserably as President is in not offering to make the American people full partners in this conflict, sharing the sacrifices and giving all of us a stake in the outcome. It doesn’t matter very much that most Americans know little of military history or how to read a map. What matters is that the burden of sacrifice has fallen on so few of us. Part of this is a consequence of having an all volunteer, highly professional army. But while most Americans “support” the troops, they have no personal stake in the success or failure of our war policy.

I’m not sure how he could have or should have done this. I know that after 9/11 he could have tried. Congress, the press, the people were all with him. If this is truly a war for our survival – and I am absolutely convinced that it is – then our Commander in Chief has done a piss poor job of making the war our number one national priority. He has, in fact, tried to do the exact opposite. He pushed his domestic agenda, hoping that the war would drift off the front pages, forgotten by all but the families of our military who bear the bitterest fruit from this strategy. It is they who wait anxiously for their loved ones to come home.

Hopefully this is not true

The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 19 —An Islamic militant group that says it represents Al Qaeda claimed it had kidnapped the two American soldiers who disappeared in an attack Friday night, but offered no proof. American military officials remained skeptical of the claim.

Protecting the homeland

A major new release from Ron Suskind, details in the New York Daily News:
WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda decided not to launch a deadly cyanide gas plot in New York's subways because it wouldn't have killed enough people, according to the author whose bombshell book revealed the frightening scheme.

"Al Qaeda's thinking is that a second-wave attack should be more destructive and more disruptive than 9/11," writer Ron Suskind said in an interview with Time magazine. "Why? Because that would create an upward arc of terror. ... That fear and terror is a central goal of the Al Qaeda strategy."

News of the 2003 plot to use homemade cyanide bombs, the details of which have been confirmed by the Daily News, was first revealed Friday in excerpts from Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine."

The Christian Science Monitor:
Nearly five years after 9/11, the United States remains far too vulnerable to natural disaster and major attack.

That's the consensus of security experts and a new federal report released Friday. Most states and local authorities lag in emergency planning, the report found. At the same time, the federal government is still struggling to close big security gaps in airline passenger screening and port security and at chemical plants, these experts say.

The reasons are many, they add, but a crucial one is American industry's limited security efforts. An estimated 85 percent of critical infrastructure is in private hands. But the Bush administration has largely resisted mandating the minimum security standards for business.

Friday, June 16, 2006

MSM Blogs blog better than the Bloggers

Maybe. Maybe not. Best headline on a Friday I could manage.

William Arkin posts a fantastic recent recap, reproduced entirely w/ links:
Baghdad Acts Like a Real Government

An aide is fired for uttering the truth, an enemy “document” is unveiled in a PR stunt, basic data is deemed classified and will no longer be released.

Now Baghdad's acting like a real government.

Yesterday morning, I commented on troubling details between Iraqi proposals for amnesty and American political and cultural realities: The new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was considering extending clemency to Iraqi insurgents. Any insurgents who had killed innocent Iraqi civilians wouldn't be eligible, Baghdad officials said, but those who had fought (and killed) Americans were okay.

I know I might have sounded like some Ann Coulter railing about indignities to American honor; my intent was merely to highlight a potential sticking point between al-Maliki's plan for reconciliation and what America would be able to bear.

President Bush was somewhat flustered in his press conference yesterday when he was asked about amnesty. A "sense of the Senate" resolution calling on the President to oppose the amnesty idea was promptly introduced.

Then national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley was asked in his press conference what he thought of the proposals, and whether Washington had communicated its displeasure with Baghdad.

Calling the prisoner releases and reconciliation a "complicated process," and "tricky business" with "lots of elements" involving "steps" and "details" and "mechanics," Hadley didn't answer the question.

"It is going to take them some time to work through the details and mechanics of all these things," Hadley said. He said his Iraqi national security counterpart was obviously going to have to address questions raised by the press reports and "some concerns on the Hill," but he urged some time, space, advice, counsel. "There's a lot to be discussed," Hadley said.

Or not discussed. Al-Maliki promptly accepted the resignation of the aide who described the amnesty plan. The Washington Post reports today that the aide, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stands by his account that amnesty might be extended to those who have not been involved in killing Iraqis, which of course is what al-Maliki himself suggested, and which, I understand, was briefed to U.S. officials.

I guess the whole issue will be swept under the rug, that is, until Baghdad indeed unveils its amnesty plan and it turns out to be exactly what the fired aide was describing.

Also swept under the rug, according to an earlier Hearst report in the Detroit Free Press (thanks SA) are statistics on the state of readiness of Iraqi army units. It seems that the U.S. has decided to stop releasing detailed readiness reports. The decision, Hearst says, came after the publicly released reports "showed a steady decline in the number of qualified Iraqi units."

That number is now classified. I spoke to a JCS source about this report. It appears that the issue in "the building" is that the four-tiered system used for rating Iraqi units was too stringent and perhaps "misleading."

Under the system, Iraqi units are rated Levels 1 through 4, from most capable to least prepared, and though the Pentagon rated three Iraqi battalions in Level 1 -- "capable of conducting attacks without U.S. involvement" -- last June, by February, no Iraqi battalions were so rated.

The talking points stress that "Level 1," that is, requiring no U.S. assistance whatsoever (meaning no assistance with logistics, intelligence, command and control, etc.), doesn't describe a absence of readiness. Some NATO units, my JCS source says, could not meet the Level 1 standard.

The solution? Well, guess what, it isn't to get more Iraqi units to Level 1 or come up with new standards that might reflect combat readiness; instead, the Pentagon decided to make the numbers classified. The Pentagon now rolls statistics into a larger grouping that combines Level 1 and Level 2.

My source though also muttered something very Washington and elliptical about not undermining the al-Maliki government, about "encouragement" and "progress." He proved he could be national security adviser to the President in his carefully parsed explanation about conveying the wrong "impression" of both Iraqi readiness, that the statistics were really owned by Baghdad and it was up to them to reveal the readiness of their forces, not Washington.

According to briefing materials prepared for the President's trip, Iraqi security forces are projected to reach their "end-state" strength of more than 325,000 members in December. The new metric of readiness is how many square miles of Iraq indigenous units have assumed responsibility for. That has shown a two-thirds increase since the beginning of the year.

In Baghdad meanwhile, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Rubaie magically released a captured al Qaeda in Iraq document yesterday, a document that gives a gloomy assessment of the state of terrorist forces and the insurgency. Never mind that the language of the document immediately called its authenticity into question.

"We believe al Qaeda in Iraq was taken by surprise," Rubaie says of the post-Zarqawi crackdown. "They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now."

I for one hope that they are powerful, though I suspect the al-Maliki government is as much fighting its own PR war, claiming strength and readiness as a means of reassuring the Iraqi people. They of course, will be a lot more confident in their own security and in their government when some of those square miles under Iraqi control happen to extend into Baghdad or other places where people actually live.
Nice stuff, huh? Oh, I'd add one thing though: the surface area metric is a nice way to blend progress with the long standing goal of an enduring base in Iraq (at least one). If we had an Iraqi army that operated at a true Level 1 status, we'd leave the country.

"More matter, with less art"

The liberal blogosphere is replete with hyperbole and indefensible spin, just like Fox News. Notice this garbage from Abu Aardvark:
Let's just say that were I a strategist for a military which had just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and seized a bunch of documents full of actionable intelligence, I might not choose to, you know, release them to the media. On the other hand, had I just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I wanted to follow up on that operational success by sowing confusion and disarray among his followers (and maybe even scoring some points with the domestic public opinion which my Secretary of Defense has identified as a principle theater of conflict), I might very well release a bunch of "documents" showing that the recently deceased was highly pessimistic about his prospects and that his movement was on the run.


Oh, enough delicacy. These documents seem like a fairly obvious bit of strategic communication, psy-ops, whatever you want to call it. Nothing wrong with that as a way of pressing a temporary advantage against the jihadi wing of the insurgency, spreading confusion, that sort of thing - kind of a textbook move, even. Just as long as nobody serious is silly enough to actually believe any of it. Wouldn't want blowback now, would we?
These are doubts derived from an already suspicious blogger and based entirely on a hypothetical line of reasoning -- the blogger as strategist in the military. It is not worth the kilobytes it's printed on.

Let me posit a little "fairly obvious" psychoanlysis of this blogger -- I am well aware of the irony, it's actually my point: this blogger does not want to believe that the U.S. military has scored some major points late in the game on Al Qaeda in Iraq, and he'll try his damndest to paint these points in their most dubious light. He did so, in fact, with little to no evidence but his own suspicions.

Kevin Drum liked what he saw.

Abu has since updated with these two paragaphs from a Washington Post story:
Also Thursday, the Iraqi government released a document it said was found before Zarqawi's death during a raid on an insurgent safe house. The document, which described the insurgency as "gloomy" because of gains by Iraq's security forces, called on insurgents to foment strife among Shiites and between the United States and Iran.

The authenticity of the document, which closely echoes accounts of insurgent strategy offered by Iraq's Shiite political leaders, could not be independently verified. It was written in a style different from typical statements issued by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which refer to Shiites as "rejectionists" or "dogs" and to U.S. forces as "crusaders."
Zarqawi was, more or less, illiterate in addition to being a savage. A U.S.-Iran war seems to be a massive undertaking for a group of 1,000 (so we are told) insurgents, and a substantial departure from their policy of attacking Iraqi Shiite shrines. None of these more careful and subtle points are raised, however, it's all Psy Ops and Conspiracy! Shadow lurking!

How exciting.

Juan Cole has a very different notion from this find of the savage's documents:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was hoping to provoke a US-Iran war as a way of bogging the Americans down further and defeating them in Iraq.

Remember all those times Bush, Rice and Rumsfeld came out and said they suspected that Shiite Iran was somehow aiding the Sunni Arab insurgency? You remember how baffled I was at this bizarre allegation? You wonder whether they were being fed disinformation by a Zarqawi agent, and falling for it.
Why does this really bother me? Because in the leap to peg this on some Psy Ops operation, Abu Aardvark claims that they are not to be believed by well informed people, belittling the troops he no doubt claims to support when it is expedient to his agenda. That is the link in kind between Fox News and elements of the liberal blogosphere. Kool Aid abounds.

Major developments in Iraq (part 3)

I'm just posting the articles that catch my eye. All emphasis is mine.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen killed the local head of a Sunni religious group in the Iraqi Shi'ite city of Basra on Friday, the group and state television said.

Unknown gunmen shot dead Yusif al-Hassan near the mosque where he led prayers in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, colleagues said.
The New York Times:
A man wearing explosives in his shoes blew himself up as worshippers gathered at a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad today, killing 11 and wounding 25. The attack came just days after military forces launched a sweeping security operation aimed at calming terrorist violence in the Iraqi capital.
Stars and Stripes:
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Iraqi city of Ramadi may be full of insurgents, but U.S. military leaders are not planning a major operation along the lines of the battle of Fallujah in 2004 to clear the nest, according to a senior Pentagon official.

“I think those who are looking for, perhaps, a large-scale offensive [in Ramadi] may be somewhat off the mark,” Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, Deputy Director for Regional Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Times:
Caldwell said U.S. officials for days debated whether releasing the photo and a brief biographical sketch would bolster the Egyptian's media profile, and play into his hands. "Our intention is not to glorify him," he said.

The U.S. intention instead appears to be to keep attention on the foreign element of Iraq's insurgency — a small but effective force within a broader opposition led by Sunni Arabs. Masri and Muhajir mean "Egyptian" and "immigrant," respectively, in Arabic.

"He has absolutely no ties to this country," Caldwell said.
The Christian Science Monitor:
BAGHDAD – An Al Qaeda document linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi purports to show that Iraq's insurgents believe they face a "current bleak situation" that may require fomenting a war between the US and Iran to "get out of this crisis."

The document, released Thursday, could not be independently authenticated. But senior Iraqi officials were ebullient about its message, as well as the magnitude of intelligence "treasure" that has emerged surrounding Mr. Zarqawi's death.


"The documents and all the arrests mean there has been a depletion of talent" among Zarqawi's group, says Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

Specter of past elections

Do you think the White House now regrets their lack of support for removing the PA Senator?

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter yesterday renewed his vow to hold an oversight hearing on the Bush administration's use of signing statements, saying he ``totally opposed" the president's practice of pronouncing himself exempt from obeying statutes even as he signs them into law.

``I think there is a very strong sense in the Congress in opposition to signing statements," Specter told reporters yesterday. ``We're going to go into the background and get some specifics from the administration on why they think they're appropriate, and consider what we can do. . . . We want to get a fuller statement from the president about what he thinks his authority is here."
WASHINGTON - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter cranked up his dispute with the Bush administration over executive power yesterday, threatening to subpoena documents on the White House's warrantless surveillance program.

Specter said he had not received a response to his request that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appear before the panel this month to answer questions about the surveillance program and other touchy subjects - such as the FBI raid on a lawmaker's office last month.

"I will ask for authorization for a subpoena if we do not get an adequate response," Specter told the committee.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Major developments in Iraq (con't.)

Sorry for infrequent posting...

The Washington Post:
In a Rose Garden news conference just over six hours after his surprise whirlwind visit to Baghdad, Bush said that "I sense something different happening in Iraq" and predicted that "progress will be steady" toward achieving the U.S. mission there.
The Christian Science Monitor:
The bottom line: Iraqis are facing what US officials call a "reconstruction gap" as they assume responsibility for rebuilding. Meeting already-identified needs might require a further $18 billion to $28 billion, according to one estimate.

Domestic Iraqi resources, and aid from countries other than the US, might help close this gap. But some experts say that additional US funds - beyond what's currently planned - might be needed, or crucial goals could remain unmet.
The Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, June 14 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday proposed a limited amnesty to help end the Sunni Arab insurgency as part of a national reconciliation plan that Maliki said would be released within days. The plan is likely to include pardons for those who had attacked only U.S. troops, a top adviser said.
Will Arkin:
So which is it? That we will leave when the security situation has stabilized, or that we will leave when the Iraqi government and Iraqi forces take responsibility for the security situation?

The answer is the latter, and that means that withdrawal is actually on the horizon.

But there might be one issue looming that could interrupt the feelings of goodwill and progress, and that is the proposed "amnesty" for Iraqi insurgents.

I don't mean to be inflammatory, but under an emerging Iraqi government "plan," if someone has not killed innocent Iraqis -- civilians I presume -- but fought against the U.S. military and even killed U.S. soldiers, they could be granted clemency.
The Los Angeles Times: "Baghdad Residents See Security Clampdown as Business as Usual"

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Clashes broke out between insurgents and Iraqi security forces and a car bomb killed at least two people in Baghdad on Wednesday as the government launched a security clampdown to root out al Qaeda militants.
Bin Laden tightend grip on AQI (my two cents). The NY Times:
General Caldwell said that Mr. Masri started out in 1982 in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and then went in 1999 to Afghanistan, were he received training. He later became an explosives expert in car bombs and operated out of Falluja and Baghdad and Falluja, where he first started working with Mr. Zarqawi.

The announcement came on the same day that Iraq's national security adviser said that Iraqi forces have found materials that provide details of Al Qaeda's plans to strengthen their network in Iraq. The adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, described the find as "very important" and said the materials, which included a thumb drive and a laptop, were found in one of the "dens" of al Qaeda in Iraq.

"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al Qaeda in Iraq," said Mr. Rubaie in televised remarks.A document released today by the Iraqi government said Iraqi forces that participated in the operation that killed Mr. Zarqawi found documents that reveal how the group planned their strategy to counter what they said was the ability of the Shiites and Iraqi National Guard to work with and shield American forces.
CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq(June 14, 2006) -- A stretch of highway once called “IED Alley” just might get a new nickname.

Maybe something along the lines of “Darkhorse Drive.”

Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, are making steps to secure Main Supply Route Michigan, the highway connecting Fallujah and Ramadi. They built several new observation posts along the way, an area near the Euphrates River with no distinct city lines or local government.

The Marines are cutting into insurgents’ ability to move and plant improvised explosive devices.

“It’s to keep the major lines of communications open, prevent IEDs from getting in place, so as units transit back and forth it’s safer,” said Staff Sgt. William W. Heidelberger, a platoon sergeant for K Company.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Major developments in Iraq.

Surprise visit

Sure, it's a PR stunt. But, give credit where it is due; President Bush has made a surprise visit to Iraq. The Los Angeles Times:
As he climbed up the rear steps of the plane, Bush, wearing a navy blue baseball cap, dark pants and blue button-down shirt, yelled out at reporters, "The POTUS is on board!" referring to the White House acronym for President of the United States.

On arrival in Baghdad, at 4:11 p.m., Air Force One pilots made a swift, spiraling descent to Baghdad International Airport to avoid anti-aircraft fire. Bush then got into an armed Black Hawk helicopter for the six-minute journey to the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Walking into the Republican Palace, where the U.S. Embassy headquarters is based, Bush greeted Maliki, who had been informed only minutes before that Bush was visiting in person. "Good to see you," Maliki said. "Thanks for having me," Bush replied.
The New York Times on the strategy summit:
The meeting was as much a media event as it was a high-level strategy session, devised to send a message that this is "an important break point for the Iraqi people and for our mission in Iraq from the standpoint of the American people," in the words of the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett.
Securing Baghdad

It's got to be done if this new government has any chance. AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's new prime minister promised Tuesday to show ''no mercy'' to terrorists and said before President Bush arrived for a surprise visit that a long-awaited security plan for Baghdad will include a curfew and a ban on personal weapons.

Bush, who was expected to be in Baghdad for about five hours, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss Iraq's next steps.

Security officials said tens of thousands of Iraqi and multinational forces would deploy Wednesday throughout Baghdad, securing roads, launching raids against insurgent hideouts and calling in airstrikes if necessary.


Iraqi security forces planned to deploy 75,000 Iraqi and multinational forces in Baghdad as part of al-Maliki's ambitious plan to crack down on security in the capital, a top Iraqi police official said.
Violence spreading to other provinces

The New York Times on Basra:
BASRA, Iraq — Politics, once seen as a solution to the problems of a society broken by years of brutal single-party rule, has paralyzed the heart of Iraq's south.

This once-quiet city of riverside promenades was among the most receptive to the American invasion. Now, three years later, it is being pulled apart by Shiite political parties that want to control the region and its biggest prize, oil. But in today's Iraq, politics and power flow from the guns of militias, and negotiating has been a bloody process.

"We're into political porridge, that's what's changed," said Brig. James Everard, commander of the British forces in Basra. "It's mafia-type politics down here."
Attacks in Kirkuk, as reported by the Washington Post:
Two high-level Iraqi police officials narrowly escaped death this morning in a series of suicide attacks that left 20 people slain and scores more wounded.

The explosions targeted police commanders, police stations and patrols, as well as a busy food market in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said.
More oil found in Kurdistan. The Times of London:
Fears that Kurdish oil ambitions could ignite political conflict between Baghdad and Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan, were aroused last month when Hussein al-Shahristani, Iraq’s new Oil Minister, declared that all oil exploration, production and export of oil should be handled by the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad. His assertion appeared to conflict with the Kurdistan regional government’s grant of licences to foreign firms, including DNO, which in 2004 acquired exploration rights over 250 square miles of Kurdish territory.
Iraqi al Qaeda's new look

Enter the Jordanians, as reported by Borzou Daragahi and Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times:
After the bombings, Iraq became, and remains, Amman's primary security worry, even though Jordan also abuts the simmering tensions in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The hotel bombings alarmed the Jordanians, forcing them to seek a more active role in combating Iraq's troubles, the two intelligence officials said.

The attack also showed a skeptical Iraqi government, suspicious of its neighbors' security forces, that Zarqawi was training Iraqis for cross-border operations in Jordan, a source close to Jordanian intelligence officials said.
The new leader of AQM...

The Times of London:
Insurgent sources told The Times that al-Muhajir — a nom de guerre meaning “migrant” — was Egyptian and had fought in Afghanistan and against US forces during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004. He knows the Koran by heart and follows the teachings of Abdullah Azzam, the late mentor of Osama bin Laden.

“He has fought battles around Baghdad and was never wounded or came close to being caught . . . he’s one of the strongest members after al-Zarqawi, and that’s what won him the job,” one source said.

Another said: “He is one of those who is always wearing a suicide belt in case he is captured.”
Asia Times (very important information, my emphasis):
In a communique released on the Internet, al-Qaeda said Muhajir had been unanimously selected by the Shura Council of the Mujahideen, a coalition of six Sunni insurgency groups created by Zarqawi in January.

Some immediately speculated that the communique was a bluff, so obscure was the name.

However, Asia Times Online can confirm, via sources in Syria and Iraq, that Muhajir certainly does exist. He is an "intellectual" intelligence commander in al-Qaeda, not a hands-on military leader like Zarqawi. As the new commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he will be more of a "political prince".

Military strategy will be formulated by other veterans, such as Abu Aseel, 62, a former general in Saddam Hussein's army (who had been tipped to replace Zarqawi). Political strategy and day-to-day politics will now be handled by Muhajir - and possibly even by Osama bin Laden.

This information is supported by Muntaser al-Zayyat, a lawyer who works with Islamic groups in Egypt and who is an expert on al-Qaeda. Zayyat confirmed that Muhajir was among the circle of people who knew Zarqawi well and who had worked with him closely since 2001.

He is believed to have been born in 1965 or 1966 - making him about the same age as Zarqawi.

He was based in al-Qaim, a small town on the Syrian border 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, where he welcomed new troops and gave them orientation courses on al-Qaeda operations and objectives.

Recently, however, Muhajir moved to Kirkuk. If he is currently based in Kirkuk, it might explain the series of bombs that went off on Tuesday, killing 24 Iraqis and wounding another 40.

Muhajir's nationality, however, has not yet been identified. Some speculate that he is from Libya, while others claim he is from Yemen. One Islamic source whose name was not given was quoted in the London Al-Hayat newspaper as saying that Muhajir was an Iraqi "who had contributed to jihad in Afghanistan".

But this is strongly debated by those familiar with the internal dynamics of Zarqawi's al-Qaeda. Being a Jordanian himself, Zarqawi never fully trusted the Iraqis he was leading, fearing that they would abandon him in favor of a local Iraqi commander.

He surrounded himself by, and delegated authority to, only non-Iraqis and his closed circle, which comprised Yemenis, Syrians, Libyans and Saudis. If Muhajir was close to Zarqawi, he would have to have been non-Iraqi.

If he was hand-picked by bin Laden, however, he could be an Iraqi, since the al-Qaeda founder wants to mend the rifts within the Iraqi insurgency created under Zarqawi, who was bent on fomenting sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

Sunnis would welcome someone like Muhajir, especially the Sunni tribes, which played an important role in expelling Zarqawi from his former hiding place in Anbar, forcing him to seek refugee in the remote village where he was tracked down and killed by the Americans. By appointing an Iraqi as head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, bin Laden would thus be trying to win over the tribes.

The lawyer Zayyat and other al-Qaeda experts say that Muhajir worked with bin Laden and lived with him in Sudan until 1995. After that, he moved to Peshawar in Pakistan and then to Afghanistan, before settling in Iraq with Zarqawi in 2001.

Others put the date after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Since 2003, Muhajir has been in charge of recruiting young Arabs into al-Qaeda and served as chief of al-Qaeda intelligence in the Middle East and North Africa.

He travels to various Arab countries, under false passports, and meets with potential young Muslims who would be willing to join al-Qaeda in Iraq. His recruitment has reached as far as Algiers.

Since the invasion of Iraq, however, he has not been involved in Iraqi domestic issues nor in the Iraqi insurgency, concentrating on recruitment and ideological training for young Arabs. He lectures them on jihad and anti-Americanism.

Method behind the choice

The reason for the last-minute sidestepping of Abu Aseel is that since he is a former officer in the Iraqi army, Iraqis have a lot of information about him. They have his picture, his former contacts and dozens of files on him, collected over the decades. He would be a sitting duck.

Muhajir, however, is completely unknown to the Iraqis (and just about everyone else). Zarqawi had become a virtual movie star. He liked to put on a show, either directly or through a proxy, and was well known to everybody - the Americans, the Iraqis, the Syrians and the Jordanians.

As Zarqawi had been a criminal in Jordan, Jordanian intelligence had records, pictures and detailed information about his contacts, habits and character. The Saudi channel Al-Arabiya quoted a well-informed source on al-Qaeda as saying, "Muhajir has no picture or identity. He is like a ghost."

The appointment of an unknown such as Muhajir would also give bin Laden the opportunity to assert control of the Iraqi insurgency, which was forcefully captured from him by Zarqawi from 2003.

Bin Laden opposed Zarqawi's war against Iraqi citizens and the Shi'ites, claiming that this gave al-Qaeda a bad name among Muslims, preferring instead to target the Americans and those cooperating with them in the Iraqi police force and army.

Bin Laden might thus have hand-picked Muhajir as a puppet commander to ensure that he never became as strong as Zarqawi and never challenged bin Laden for command of al-Qaeda.

Since Zarqawi's death, al-Qaeda in Iraq has vowed to carry out large-scale attacks that will "shake the enemy", claiming responsibility for more than 50 attacks in the 24 hours after news of Zarqawi's killing became known.

A new face. Same struggle.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Positive recruiting numbers

The Defense Department's recruiting and retention numbers for May look strong. Last summer, recruitment shortfalls were a prominent story in the MSM.

Iraq's effects on the region

CNN reports a new leader for Al Qaeda in Iraq:
The sites identified the militant group's new leader as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, which means "the immigrant," indicating that he -- like Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi -- is not Iraqi.
The Boston Globe:
AMMAN, Jordan -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's unyielding, lethal anti-Americanism initially won him accolades across the Arab world. But his terror campaign ultimately killed far more Islamic civilians than Americans, turning the wave of early support into a tide of revulsion among many Arab Muslims.
The Washington Post:
But for Abu Haritha, that battle is over. As he sits in this northern city, Lebanon's second-largest, he waits for what he believes will be a more expansive war beyond Iraq, a struggle he casts in the most cataclysmic of terms. In the morning, he jogs; he lifts weights for hours at night. In between, with his cellphone ringing with the Muslim call to prayer, he proselytizes in streets that are growing ever more militant, sprinkled with the black banners that proclaim jihad and occasional slogans celebrating the resistance in Iraq.

"It's an open battle, in any place, at any time," he said, his voice calm. "History has to record that there was resistance."
Asia Times:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, though it is a major development related to Iraq, is hardly a reason for a prolonged celebration. That is the message that is emerging from a number of informed sources in Washington and in Iraq's immediate neighborhood.

Jordanian intelligence is claiming that it played a crucial role in bringing an end to Zarqawi's short life (he was Jordanian and wanted in that country for acts of terror) and highly turbulent career.

But the same sources are proffering highly sobering analysis of the depth of anger that currently prevails in Jordan, Iraq and the occupied territories toward the United States and toward Arab regimes that are seen as friends of Washington, and, by extension, toward Jerusalem. That anger needs to be watched in the coming months.

Like it or not, there is a timeline

Draw down is in the air (again).

A prominent Iraqi official on CNN yesterday:
BLITZER: This is what the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said on May 24th.

He said: "Our forces will be able to take over the security file in all Iraqi provinces in a year and a half."

That sounds like a very ambitious schedule that he has in mind, because if Iraqi forces can take over security in all the provinces, that means U.S. and other coalition forces can leave within a year and a half.

Is that realistic?

AL-RUBAIE: Let me tell you something, Wolf. We have what we call a condition-based agreement with the coalition forces, with the coalition in Iraq.

Basically, the more our Iraqi security forces, our police, our army, the more they grow in number, in training and are ready and able to perform and to protect our people, then the less we need of the multinational forces.

I believe, by the end of the year, of this year, I believe that the number of the multinational forces will be probably less than 100,000 in this country.

And by the end of next year, most of the multinational forces will have gone home. And by the middle of 2008, we will not see a lot of visibility, neither in the cities or in the towns, of the multinational forces.

So the overwhelming majority of the multinational forces will leave, probably before the before the middle of 2008.
The Washington Times:
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq yesterday predicted a gradual drop in American troops deployed there through next year, while Iraq's new national security adviser said all multinational forces could be out of his country by 2008.

"I think, as long as the Iraqi security forces continue to progress and as long as this national unity government continues to operate that way and move the country forward, I think we're going to be able to see continued gradual reductions of coalition forces over the coming months and into next year," Gen. George Casey told CBS' "Face the Nation."
The Baltimore Sun covers the two-day conference beginning today:
The high-level retreat comes at a pivotal moment: Bush is under pressure to show progress in Iraq amid growing calls for a new strategy that could hasten the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Few expect the president to relent on his refusal to give a timetable for troop reductions, but the meetings are an opportunity for Bush to convince critics that he is eager to roll up his sleeves - outside of a formal governmental setting - and deal with the issue.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ramadi to be cleared?

The Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD — Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Putin and dwindling democracy in Russia

I have a bad feeling about this. First, a passage on Augustus:
On that day, Octavian entered the senate and, to the shock of those not in the know, surrendered his position and retired to private life. The senators, possibly confused, reacted with indignance and insisted that Octavian remain at the helm of the state. After a show of reluctance, Octavian graciously accepted a share in the running of the state, gaining command of Spain (except Baetica), Gaul, Syria, Cyprus, and Egypt while the senate and people kept the rest. Within his extended provincia, granted for ten years, Octavian could appoint legates to administer regions on his behalf.
The Times of London:
KREMLIN hardliners pushing for President Putin to serve a third term have been given a significant boost by an opinion poll indicating that 59 per cent of the population would support such a move.

Mr Putin, who took power in 2000, has promised to step down before the next presidential election, in 2008, because the Russian Constitution does not allow anyone to serve more than two consecutive four-year terms.

However, none of the potential successors identified so far has the popular appeal of Mr Putin, whose sobriety and steely manner have consistently won him approval ratings of higher than 70 per cent. And the Kremlin controls more than the two-thirds majority in the Duma needed to amend the Constitution to allow Mr Putin, 53, to stand for a third term. The poll by the respected Levada Centre suggested that 59 per cent would support that move, compared with 44 per cent last September.
Also from today's Philadelphia Inquirer: "As Putin hails press freedom, some gag"

Iraq's last chance for democracy?

That appears to be the case. I remain very skeptical. However, Nouri al-Maliki has an Op Ed in the Washington Post saying all the right things. Now, it has to be implemented.:
To provide the security Iraqis desire and deserve, it is imperative that we reestablish a state monopoly on weapons by putting an end to militias. This government will implement Law 91 to incorporate the militias into the national security services. Unlike previous efforts, this will be done in a way that ensures that militia members are identified at the start, dispersed to avoid any concentration of one group in a department or unit, and then monitored to ensure loyalty only to the state. In addition, we will engage with the political leaders of the militias to create the will to disband these groups.

While security represents the major impediment to reconstruction and the provision of essential services such as electricity, administrative corruption is also contributing to the problem and robbing Iraq of its wealth. We will fight corruption from the top down. We will revamp and strengthen our anti-corruption watchdog, the Commission for Public Integrity, and initiate necessary political, economic and civil reforms. This will include gradual reductions in government subsidies, which impede Iraq's economic recovery and abet corruption, coupled with the establishment of a social security program for the least privileged.

The political and economic reforms outlined here are guided by a common belief in democracy. Liberty is the essence of a democratic system, which is why I believe they must go hand in hand.

Finally, to achieve this vision, it is necessary that Iraq's neighbors not interfere in its internal matters. While some neighboring countries provided refuge for many Iraqis during the rule of the dictatorial Baathist regime, this does not give them a right to meddle in Iraq now or turn a blind eye to terrorists' operations.
The crucial ministry positions as detailed in the Washington Post:
The new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, was nominated by the Iraqi United Alliance, the largest Shiite bloc in the parliament. But unlike his predecessor, Bayan Jabr, he is not connected to Shiite militias. He had been an engineer in the Iraqi air force until 1999. He became involved in politics after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government and eventually joined Iraq's interim parliament.

After his appointment was announced, he pledged on television to perform his job with "hard effort and integrity."

The new minister of defense, Abdul-Qadir Muhammed Jasim, was approved over the protests of parliamentarians from western Anbar province. Jasim served as commander of the Iraqi forces in that region during the 2004 military operation against insurgents in Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad.

Sheerwan al-Waeli, the new national security minister, also encountered some opposition. The leader of the main Sunni Arab group in the parliament, Adnan al-Dulaimi, complained that his group had not been consulted on the position.

Zarqawi's last words were mumbles to US service personnel

Makes me smile: Bang and a whimper. OK, the latest.

Positive note (with caution) from William Arkin:
Of course it is true al Qaeda in Iraq is not dead, and the insurgency that has grown up in Iraq has become home grown and multi-faceted and persistent. But the active involvement of governments of Iraq and Jordan point to an increasingly authentic common mission: After many years of false starts and a steep American learning curve, what we are witnessing is no longer mere collaboration with American occupiers to hold on to power and make a buck.

Amidst sectarian strife, real Iraqis and Jordanians increasingly see the threat that lawless extremism and terrorism in their midst poses, not just to the rule and control of the elite, not to the grand dream of democracy as some far off goal. Al Qaeda in Iraq and the rampant violence perpetuated by Shi'ite and Sunni criminals and insurgents is a basic threat to the safety, security and stability of actual people and families.
How they did it, in the Los Angeles Times:
An intelligence source, probably a detainee or defector, revealed that the key insurgent target was often accompanied by a religious advisor named Sheik Abdel Rashid Rahman.

U.S. troops, including special operations soldiers, then used intelligence and electronic surveillance to track Rahman for at least six weeks until he led them Wednesday evening to an isolated house near the village of Hibhib, eight miles west of Baqubah.
That was the tip, I guess.

Terrorism scholars in the New York Times:
Farther afield, Mr. Zarqawi had been rapidly building a network that has raised the anxieties of intelligence and law enforcement officials in Europe and elsewhere. This adds more complexity to the situation for those who were trying to cope with the new breed of so-called self-starter terrorists, like those responsible for the bombings in London last year and in Madrid the year before.

According to the federal National Counterterrorism Center, Mr. Zarqawi's operatives are at work in 40 countries and linked with 24 extremist organizations. At a terrorism trial in Germany last fall, a judge declared that "Zarqawi should also be sitting on the defendants' bench." In Afghanistan, local intelligence experts believe that Mr. Zarqawi was responsible for dispatching operatives to increase the violence against the government and NATO forces.
Bloomberg News:
June 9 (Bloomberg) -- The death of terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi in Iraq offers a much-needed boost to President George W. Bush that White House aides hope will help spark a revival in his sinking political fortunes.
Baltimore Sun:
WASHINGTON // The U.S. strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a rare and badly needed burst of good news for President Bush, whose popularity has been battered by the war's steady drone of violence and setbacks.

But Bush's uncharacteristically subdued comments on the al-Qaida leader's death - just as the Iraqi prime minister filled key security posts in his new government - reflected a recognition at the White House that the successes could be a fleeting boost amid continuing violence and disorder.
Now, because it is a Friday, Patton (movie):
For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.
So much remains to be done. It appears that Bush has finally realized this.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Terror post Zarqawi

It seems as though CNN has dropped this crucial detail from General Casey in their latest update:
"Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baquba when the airstrike was launched.
The network has added analysis from Bush and Rumsfeld, however:
Al-Zarqawi's death gives Iraq a chance to "turn the tide" in the fight against the nation's insurgency, President Bush said at the White House.

"The ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders," Bush said. "Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda."

"Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq," Bush said. "Now Zarqawi has met his end and this violent man will never murder again."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said al-Zarqawi's death will have "worldwide" effects. "Let there be no doubt the fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country, and I would say worldwide because he had interests well outside of Iraq."
The Los Angeles Times shows an apparent inconsistency from the Iraqi PM as compared to Casey:
Nouri Maliki said the attack on Zarqawi was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information.
Were the tipsters residents of the area or Iraqi members of his organization? Or both? It's important to know this.

The Washington Post reports:
A statement purportedly from al-Qaeda in Iraq posted today on mosques in Ramadi, a violence-wracked city in western Iraq, claimed that the organization would be led by "a new prince" who had been named by Zarqawi to succeed him in the event of his death. "He will be a copy" of Zarqawi, the statement said.

Casey, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, acknowledged that "although the designated leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat."
President Bush's announcement. Prime Minister Tony Blair's remarks.


John Leicester of the A.P.:
PARIS (AP) — The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi deprives Islamic terrorism of one of its most high-profile and violent poster boys. But it leaves largely intact the threat of attacks from small, independent cells — the "100 bin Ladens" that Egypt's president once said could be spawned by the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Once they absorb the psychological blow of his death, al-Zarqawi's followers and other militants outside of Iraq not directly associated with him could regroup and continue with their bomb plots and killings.

Al-Qaida has shown great resilience, and its network of networks and followers has continued even as top leaders have been killed or captured. Even with Osama bin Laden in hiding, other militants have stepped forward to make good on his calls for terror attacks. Hundreds of arrests in France, Britain, and elsewhere in Europe have thwarted plots but did not stop the attacks on transport systems in Madrid, Spain, and London.
Ned Parker in the Times of London:
"One of the most interesting things about the news of his death is the timing. There have been talks going on since the election last December by US and Iraqi officials to try to bring the homegrown insurgency back into the political process. Certainly there was tension between the homegrown Iraqi insurgency and Zarqawi's foreign fighters.

"So it's possible a deal was finally cut by some branch of the Iraqi insurgency to eliminate al-Zarqawi and rid themselves of his heavy-handed influence.


"Nor was he ever the reason why there was so much violence in Iraq, although he did contribute to that violence. Iraq' s insurgency was fueled by the power vacuum and Sunni alienation after the fall of Saddam. He capitalised on the chaos and forged alliances and perhaps eclipsed the homegrown Sunni resistance.

"The bigger question is whether Iraq's homegrown Sunni insurgency can now be co-opted and brought into the political process. If you can do that, then obviously it will be harder for those foreign insurgents to operate, and you can partially cut off the flow of money and suicide bombers coming into the country."
Former hostage Rory Carroll in the Guardian (blog):
There is no question that his death in a US bombing raid north of Baghdad is a major propaganda coup for the Iraqi government and the the US military and a setback for those who regarded Zarqawi as a symbol of resistance. But what impact it will actually have on the conflict is impossible to predict, an uncertainty born of a figure who was as much a myth as a man.

We can assume that al-Qaida in Iraq will attempt reprisal attacks as soon as possible, to show it is still in business; also that the organisation will operate at less than full steam while it tries to fill its leadership void.

Beyond that, the significance of this week's US strike on Baquba, 40 miles north of the capital, is difficult to gauge. Too much mythology, too much spin, encrusts the name Zarqawi to know at this stage whether his death is a turning point or a footnote.
The Atlantic was publishing this as a profile of Zarqawi, but it has since been rebranded as an obituary. It addresses the elements of myth-making in his brutal career.

Zarqawi killed

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, was killed in a coalition airstrike near Baquba, jubilant U.S. and Iraqi authorities announced Thursday.

Al-Zarqawi's killing is a major coup for the embattled coalition forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Gen. George Casey, the highest-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad announced the development at a news conference.

"Today, Zarqawi has been killed," al-Maliki said. The announcement was greeted by cheers and applause.

Khalilzad -- who called al-Zarqawi "the godfather of sectarian killing and terror in Iraq" -- said the death "marks a great success for Iraq and the global war on terror" and calls it a "good omen" for the new Iraqi government.


Casey provided details about the strike that killed al-Zarqawi.

He said al-Zarqawi and a key lieutenant, spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, were at an isolated safe house at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baquba when the airstrike was launched.

Baquba is a volatile area northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, a mixed Shiite-Sunni jurisdiction. There have been many roadside bombings and shootings throughout the province and within the week, severed heads were found in fruit boxes there.

"Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter," Casey said. "We have been able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars."

In addition to Zarqawi and the spiritual adviser, seven others died in the attack.

Casey wouldn't provide many details about the action but said that "all of these operations are the result of a long, painstaking process where tips and intelligence are received, processed and checked out."

This particular operation had been in the works for a couple of weeks, leading to the location of the house and the meeting, he said. He noted that the dwelling was in a wooded area.

Casey, proudly saying "the movement has lost its leader," cautioned that "this is just a step in the process" to defeat the insurgency.

Al-Maliki indicated that the strike on al-Zarqawi was the "result of cooperation" with the citizenry, saying that authorities many times have asked the citizenry to provide information.

"This is a message to all those who take violence as a path."

Khalilzad said the demise of al-Zarqawi won't end the violence in Iraq, but it is "an important step in the right direction." He said "there will be difficult days ahead" but said that "today is a good day."
"Iraqi senior leaders from his network"... Notice that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The age of al Qaeda

One event transpired mostly in Canada, and the other the Horn of Africa. But, bin Laden's movement remains alive and well.

The Baltimore Sun:
WASHINGTON // The discovery of an alleged Canadian terrorist cell represents as much a victory for the movement Osama bin Laden has spawned as it does for government counterterrorism campaigns, intelligence officials said yesterday.

The apparent proliferation of small, homegrown cells inspired by bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist group, they said, is heightening concerns among counterterrorism officials that the recruitment efforts of Islamic extremists are paying off - and that similar groups are likely to form in the United States, if they haven't already.
The Boston Globe:
``The Islamist takeover means that the policy and the strategy of the United States has gone terribly wrong," said Suliman Baldo , director of the Africa program for the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit that works to resolve conflicts around the world. ``The US will need to think very quickly [what are] the alternatives to that strategy" that had depended upon Mogadishu's ousted warlords.

For two years, CIA officials have traveled frequently to the Mogadishu area and other Somali cities in hopes of learning more about and disrupting small bands of Al Qaeda members, who also operate in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, Kenyan pilots and two Somali warlords said recently in interviews. US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said that three Al Qaeda members indicted in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were still being protected by Islamists in Mogadishu.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I believe no one can argue, with any authenticity or sanity, that the situation in Iraq has improved over the past few months, even as a new government has made tentative progress. Unfortunately, there is an indication that our counterinsurgency efforts are improving, while the government of Iraq weakens. Had the counterinsurgency efforts improved in 2004 or 2005, and across the country, we may have seen a different Middle East than that which seems to be developing. Just another administration failure and a reason for Rumsfeld to go.

Asia Times has a positive story on some counterinsurgency efforts:
In al-Qaim, marines under Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Alford instead consolidated their position by spreading out on to more than a dozen small bases inside towns and along major roads. That constant presence among the civilian population has helped the Americans keep insurgents from re-establishing a large-scale presence in the area.

"You can't give these guys sanctuary, and that's what the big battalion [base] does," said Alford's successor, Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Marano. "Wherever you're not, that's where they are."
But, there is a great deal of bad news. Reuters:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to crush insurgents and sectarian gangs but a power struggle in his Shi'ite Alliance threatens the government's survival.

Maliki failed to push through parliament nominees for the crucial Interior and Defence Ministry posts on Sunday after leaders of the SCIRI party in his Shi'ite Alliance blocked him.


Officials in the Alliance and other blocs question whether his government can survive the pressure of internal rivalries and bloodshed.

"Maliki's government may only last for another six months. That is what many think. There is too much pressure and too many players," said an Alliance source outside Maliki's Dawa party.
BBC News on the trouble in Basra:
The relative calm British forces enjoyed when they first took control here three years ago has gone. The past month has been the deadliest since the 2003 invasion - nine soldiers have been killed.

But it is Iraqis who have paid the heaviest price. Hundreds have been kidnapped and murdered over the past few months.

The situation is still a long way from that in Baghdad, but concern is growing. The kind of bombings and sectarian killings the capital experiences daily are becoming more common here. Last weekend, at least 30 people were killed in one attack.

In response, Iraq's new Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has declared a one-month state of emergency.

Bloody Baghdad

These numbers DO NOT include insurgent bombs. They are ONLY the numbers brought to the Baghdad morgue.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nearly 1,400 Iraqi civilians died in a wave of targeted killings in Baghdad last month, according to a high-ranking Iraqi Health Ministry official.

The figure does not include civilians killed in insurgent bombings, the official said. Even so, the number is the highest monthly death toll in the capital since the war began three years ago.

In May 1,398 bodies were brought to the Baghdad morgue, the official said.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Impostors and trouble in Basra

CNN: "Police impostors kidnap 50 in Baghdad"

Ian Bruce in the Independent:
There are simply not enough British "boots-on-the-ground" to handle the problems. Basra's UK garrison is about 7200 men and women.

The city's population is more than one million.
Given that the Army could not control a very much smaller and less well-armed Belfast with 27,000 troops in the 1970s, keeping a lid on an increasingly volatile Basra is something of a forlorn hope.


What concerns military commanders is that the attacks are becoming more lethal and the insurgents' advance planning more meticulous. Roadside bomb incidents and occasional sniper fire have averaged two incidents a day since January.

When troops uncovered a cache of weapons and bomb-making equipment last week, they found one armour-piercing device disguised as roadside debris.

Britain's troops in Iraq have responsibility for the four southern provinces of Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Muthanna and a patrol sector of several thousand square miles, which ranges from crowded cities to empty desert.

A US government security assessment in late April rated the last three provinces as "moderate" and Basra as "serious", placing it on a par with Baghdad. Only Anbar is classed as "critical".

The bulk of the UK soldiers and their headquarters are located in and around Basra itself.

The garrison is split into detachments covering the main airport, the city itself, the rural area towards the marshes bordering Kuwait to the south and the logistics hub at Shaiba which underpins the entire operation.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Senate immigration bill unconstitutional

Oops. The Washington Times:
The long-fought Senate immigration bill that opponents say grants amnesty to 10 million illegal aliens is unconstitutional and appears headed for certain demise, Senate Republicans now say.

A key feature of the Senate bill is that it would make illegals pay back taxes before applying for citizenship, a requirement that supporters say will raise billions of dollars in the next decade.

There's just one problem: The U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits revenue-raising legislation from originating in the Senate.

"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives," according to the "origination clause" in Article I, Section 7.

Sacrifice is sacrifice.

The A.P.:
BERLIN (AP) — Kimberly Dozier, the CBS reporter wounded by a car bomb in Iraq, now has a Purple Heart at her bedside in a U.S. military hospital in Germany after a young American soldier gave her his medal, the network said.

Dozier, 39, was seriously injured in a blast Monday while covering a story on Memorial Day in Iraq. Her camera crew, Britons Paul Douglas and James Brolan, were killed in the attack, along with a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi translator.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New Yorkers abandoned

The City has every right to be furious. Bin Laden promised a strike this January.

The New York Daily News:
The city was stunned yesterday to find that its share of federal anti-terror funds was slashed nearly in half by bureaucrats who said it has no national icons to protect and lousy defense plans.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff determined, however, that cities that have never been targeted by Al Qaeda — like Louisville, Atlanta and Omaha — deserve whopping increases.

"This is a knife in the back," fumed a furious Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "As far as I'm concerned, the Department of Homeland Security has declared war on New York."

Mayor Bloomberg ridiculed Homeland Security's reasoning.

"When you stop a terrorist, they have a map of New York City in their pocket. They don't have a map of any of the other 46 places or 45 places [that get funding]," he fumed.
The threat:
If it were up to him, Mike Scheuer says Abu Jandal would be locked up somewhere. "Anyone who is as dedicated as he is and clearly desires to be a martyr, we ought to be taking care of him one way or another."

"As far as value goes, how does he compare to most of the prisoners in Guantanamo?" Simon asks.

"Oh, I think he's probably far more important than anybody we've got in Guantanamo. Because he had direct exposure to Osama bin Laden. He’s very, very knowledgeable about the organization worldwide," Scheuer replies.

Simon asked Abu Jandal for his take on bin Laden's last audiotaped message. In January, bin Laden offered the Americans a truce. If Washington doesn't take him up on it, he said, there will be consequences.

"He made a similar proposal to the Europeans. He warned them and gave them six months," Abu Jandal says. "When there was no response, he started with the Madrid bombing, then London. So I believe Osama bin Laden is planning a new attack inside the United States. This is certain."

Asked if he is sure Osama is preparing a new attack, Abu Jandal said, "When Sheikh Osama promises something, he does it."

Andrew Sullivan's tough questions

There has always been a military solution to Iraq. There still is, as Fred Kagan recently showed in a long article in the Weekly Standard. It just required resources to achieve it, to pacify a post-totalitarian society, provide order and the context in which politics can happen. The American public would have approved the resources necessary, and made sacrifices if asked. And yet Bush has deliberately and by conscious choice allowed anarchy and terror to decimate Iraqi civil society. None of this helps the war; and none of it helps him. There are many times when I am simply baffled by the whole farce. Is he this stupid? Is he this blind? Or was this never a serious venture? Did Cheney and Rumsfeld never want to build a democracy in Iraq, just reduce it to rubble and chaos, while ensuring that Saddam could get no WMDs? Even now, I have no idea. But something here doesn't add up. Incompetence doesn't quite capture the enormity of the failure or the incoherence of the project. And so we stagger on, desperate for hope, but forced to confront the worst-managed war since Vietnam. Except the stakes are far, far higher than Vietnam. And the consequences of failure close to existential. I know that in part because Bush keeps telling us. Is he lying? Or is he just drowning in a job that he is simply unable to do?

Tearing into the Bush administration

The author of The Sling and the Stone tears into the White House's Iraq policy in the New York Times:
Next, the administration deeply cut financing for democratization efforts, many of them undertaken by nongovernmental groups. The proposed budget for fiscal 2007 asks for a paltry $63 million. This token sum — in a war that costs some $200 million a day — may simply reflect a belief that the security situation prevents such efforts from being effective. But democratization has always been one of the administration's cherished goals, and cutting spending there sends the wrong message.

The latest administration budget also recommends cutting overall Army and Marine troop strength. If Mr. Bush and his advisers are really committed to sustained support for the "long war" in Iraq, how do they reconcile that with cutting the budgets for the most engaged forces?

President Bush and his aides have also repeatedly hinted at significant troop reductions in Iraq this year — perhaps to as low as 100,000 from the current 130,000. This is despite the growing violence in Baghdad and the fact that our military leaders in Iraq have consistently said that we can withdraw troops safely only if conditions improve. The administration may simply be talking fewer troops to reassure the electorate before midterms. Unfortunately, American voters are not the only audience. What do the Iraqis think?

The administration has long stated that the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams — groups of 100 or so political, economic, legal and civil-military relations specialists who help distribute aid and advise regional Iraqi officials, which have had success in Afghanistan — are critical to our strategy in Iraq. Yet The Washington Post reported in mid-April that only 4 of the proposed 16 teams had even been inaugurated.

In addition, the Army staffs and units in Iraq, even those training Iraqi security forces, continue to be undermanned. Meanwhile, former colleagues outside the war zone — in the Joint Forces Command, the European Command and the Pacific Command — tell me their commands remain at full strength. It seems the Pentagon does not consider the Iraq war important enough to shift from its peacetime manning models.

Last, the administration has repeatedly said efficient and law-abiding Iraqi security forces are central to our strategy, yet has failed to provide them with more than minimal equipment. Three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, most Iraq troops are still using open-backed trucks and unarmored S.U.V.'s.

Let's face it: this laundry list of inaction on the part of the Bush administration leaves a prudent Iraqi with no practical choice but to prepare for a United States withdrawal long before the Iraqi central government and security forces are capable of running the nation. For most Iraqis — Arab or Kurd, Sunni or Shiite — this will mean looking to religious and ethnic militias, criminal gangs and Islamist insurgents for protection. This, in turn, greatly increases the chance of civil war.

The militias are already looking ahead: some are carving out safe areas they will use as bases in the coming war by driving Iraqis of other ethnic and religious groups out of mixed neighborhoods and villages. Iraqi government officials estimated that more than 100,000 families have already fled their homes. This falling back on militias and preparing for internecine conflict is not a new phenomenon. It is exactly what we saw in Afghanistan nearly two decades ago. Once the Afghans believed the Soviet troops were finally pulling out, the various insurgent groups stopped fighting the invaders and began positioning for a multisided civil war. That conflict, of course, lasted until the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

The Bush administration, despite all its missteps since the fall of the Baathists, has clung to one correct idea: that an intact Iraq is a better outcome than a splintered one. To keep it unified, however, the White House must commit to long timelines and to providing the money necessary for both the military and reconstruction efforts. The alternative is for Mr. Bush to change his mind and tell the American and Iraqi people that we must start planning for a peaceful division.

In any case, the uncertainty resulting from trying to have it both ways will result in the worst possible outcome: open civil war.

More on Haditha

An A.P. reporter who was embedded with the Marine unit before the incident:
Minutes after the Aug. 3 attack, Marines covered the maimed corpses of their friends with cheap military blankets. A Marine officer later described the rage that immediately consumed his unit, swelled by the knowledge that local residents likely saw the men who planted the bomb that killed their friends.

But restraint held that day.

"We don't do that. We're better than that," the officer told me just a couple of weeks later.

Other Marines talk about the temptation to seek reckless vengeance, often fueled by exasperation toward an unhelpful Iraqi public either too fearful of insurgents or spiteful toward the Americans. On that day in August, the powerful, raw emotion that sought revenge was quelled.

But, if investigators are right, the rage in Haditha wasn't contained for much longer.
The Washington Post:
The U.S. military investigation of how Marine commanders handled the reporting of events last November in the Iraqi town of Haditha, where troops allegedly killed 24 Iraqi civilians, will conclude that some officers gave false information to their superiors, who then failed to adequately scrutinize reports that should have caught their attention, an Army official said yesterday.

The three-month probe, led by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, is also expected to call for changes in how U.S. troops are trained for duty in Iraq, the official said.