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Power User
Posts: 42461

« Reply #450 on: June 14, 2008, 11:38:16 PM »

The trend lines are clear. Iraq war seems to be winding-down. At this rate it is entirely conceivable that at the end of 2008 we will be able to say, in good conscience, that the Iraq war has ended.

Of course this is speculation.

Grabbing headlines today is the news that Australia is drawing down it’s forces from Iraq. The Australian military is comprised of some of the finest soldiers in the world. Yet the Australian government’s commitment to the war in Iraq has been militarily insignificant. The loss of the Australian military contingent is strategically irrelevant.

I’m in constant communications with forces on the ground in Iraq. al-Qaeda continues to be hammered into the dirt. The Iraq Army has demonstrated great competence in Sadr City. They are at the fore front of destroying al-Qaeda in Nineveh province.

Washington Post reports growing success in Basra by the Iraq security forces. Violence in Iraq is reaching an all time low, perhaps lower than at anytime in several decades. But make no mistake Iraq and it’s people have been ravaged by decades of war. Finally they are getting their chance at freedom thanks to the sacrifice of the men and women who have set them free from tyrants. With any luck, on my next trip to Iraq I will see little to no combat.

There are several new dispatches on the website. Free copies of Moment of Truth in Iraq are available with a one year subscription to Town Hall Magazine.



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Posts: 42461

« Reply #451 on: June 17, 2008, 12:20:16 PM »

Why Iraqis Back McCain
June 17, 2008; Page A21
However it turns out for John McCain this fall -- and so far he's running his general election campaign the way Gen. Ricardo Sanchez ran counterinsurgency ops -- the Arizona Republican is sure to carry at least one battleground state by a landslide. That state is called Iraq.

Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries. Result: From Japan to Tanzania to Germany to Russia, the world has "more confidence" in Barack Obama than in his Republican rival to "do the right thing regarding world affairs."

But Pew did not poll Iraqis, whose opinions about the choice America makes should weigh at least as heavily with us as the collective wisdom of, say, Brazil. Whom would they prefer as the next U.S. president?

Associated Press 
Constraints of time and money being what they are, I have not gotten round to phoning 1,000 Iraqis to get their views on Obama-McCain. But I did sit down last week with four key provincial Iraqi leaders, Sunnis and Shiites, who -- without actually endorsing Mr. McCain -- made their views abundantly clear.

"The Iraqis are really fearful about some of the positions the Democratic Party has adopted," says Sheik Ahmed Abu Rishah. "If the Democrats win, they will be withdrawing their forces in a very rapid manner."

Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alawi, the governor of Anbar province, agrees. "We have over a million casualties, thousands of houses destroyed," he says. "Are we going to tell [Iraqis] that the game is over? That the Americans are pulling out?"

Messrs. Abu Rishah and Awani, both Sunni, have possibly the toughest political jobs on the planet. Sheik Abu Rishah inherited the leadership of the Iraq Awakening movement when his brother was killed by al Qaeda last September. Gov. Awani's immediate predecessor was kidnapped and killed by insurgents, and he has survived more than a score of assassination attempts.

Today, the governor speaks with a mixture of confidence and foreboding. He insists al Qaeda has been vanquished. But, he adds, "Iraq is in a strategic location and has huge resources. There are a lot of eyes on Iraq." Later in the conversation, he makes his point more precisely. "Liberating Iraq is a very good dish. And now you are going to hand it over to Iran?"

A sense of incredulity hangs over the way Iraqis see the U.S. political debate taking shape. The governor tells a moving story about their visit to Walter Reed hospital, where they were surprised to find smiles on the faces of GIs who had lost limbs. "The smile is because they feel they have accomplished something for the American people."

But the Iraqis came away with a different impression in Chicago, where they had hoped to meet with Mr. Obama but ended up talking to a staff aide. "We noticed there was a concentration on the negatives," the governor recalls. "The Democrat kept saying that Americans have committed a lot of mistakes. Yes, that's true, but why don't you concentrate on what the Americans have achieved in Iraq?"

The Iraqis are even more incredulous about Mr. Obama's willingness to negotiate with Iran, which they see as a predatory regime. "Do you Americans forget what the Iranians did to your embassy?" asks the governor. "Don't you know that Ahmadinejad was one of [the hostage takers]?"

Here Hussein Ali al-Shalan, a Shiite from Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, offers a view. "For a long time, Iran has felt like Iraq is theirs. Our fear [about U.S. negotiations with Iran] is, you will be giving them something that we believe would prolong our agony. We are not against Iran. We have to coexist and work toward our mutual interests. The question is, is this possible at this stage? That's why we need the army to give a final push so the Iraqis can feel the fruits of our democracy."

It's not just Iran. "There is no other country that supports us," says Gov. Awani. "What is happening in Iraq scares everyone," by which he means the neighboring autocracies that have something to fear from a successful democratic model in their midst.

That only makes America's ambivalence toward its democratic creation that much stranger to the Iraqis. Will the next administration abandon both its principles and its friends in the region? For what?

The administration and the Iraqi government are now wrangling over a status-of-forces agreement -- evidence that Iraq has reached a point where it can once again act like a sovereign nation. But the Iraqis leave no doubt that they want a deal, not least "so Iraq would be able to protect U.S. interests in the region," as Sheik Abu Rishah puts it. Having lost 4,100 Americans for Iraq, the Iraqis are offering to return the sacrifice -- assuming only that the alliance endures.

Throughout our interview, the men did not stop fingering their prayer beads, as if their future hinges on their ability to make their case to the American public. They're right: It does. Which is why Iraq, all but alone among the nations, will be praying for a McCain victory on the first Tuesday in November.

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« Reply #452 on: June 21, 2008, 08:29:29 AM »

OMG! Can this be the NYTimes?  cheesy

BAGHDAD — What’s going right? And can it last?

Violence in all of Iraq is the lowest since March 2004. The two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra, are calmer than they have been for years. The third largest, Mosul, is in the midst of a major security operation. On Thursday, Iraqi forces swept unopposed through the southern city of Amara, which has been controlled by Shiite militias. There is a sense that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government has more political traction than any of its predecessors.
Consider the latest caricatures of Mr. Maliki put up on posters by the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric who commands deep loyalty among poor Shiites. They show the prime minister’s face split in two — half his own, half Saddam Hussein’s. The comparison is, of course, intended as a searing criticism. But only three months ago the same Sadr City pamphleteers were lampooning Mr. Maliki as half-man, half-parrot, merely echoing the words of his more powerful Shiite and American backers. It is a notable swing from mocking an opponent perceived to be weak to denouncing one feared to be strong.

For Hatem al-Bachary, a Basra businessman, the turnabout has been “a miracle,” the first tentative signs of a normal life.

“I don’t think the militias have disappeared, and maybe there are sleeper cells which will try to revive themselves again,” he said. “But the first time they try to come back they will have to show themselves, and the government, army and police are doing very well.”

While the increase in American troops and their support behind the scenes in the recent operations has helped tamp down the violence, there are signs that both the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government are making strides. There are simply more Iraqi troops for the government to deploy, partly because fewer are needed to fight the Sunni insurgents, who have defected to the Sunni Awakening movement. They are paid to keep the peace.

Mr. Maliki’s moves against Shiite militias have built some trust with wary Sunnis, offering the potential for political reconciliation. High oil prices are filling Iraqi government coffers. But even these successes contain the seeds of vulnerability. The government victories in Basra, Sadr City and Amara were essentially negotiated, so the militias are lying low but undefeated and seething with resentment. Mr. Maliki may be raising expectations among Sunnis that he cannot fulfill, and the Sunni Awakening forces in many cases are loyal to their American paymasters, not the Shiite government. Restive Iraqis want to see the government spend money to improve services. Attacks like the bombing that killed 63 people in Baghdad’s Huriya neighborhood on Tuesday showed that opponents can continue to inflict carnage.

Perhaps most worrisome, more than five years after the American invasion, which knocked Mr. Hussein from power but set off great chaos, Iraq still lacks the formal rules to divide the power and spoils of an oil-rich nation among ethnic, religious and tribal groups and unite them under one stable idea of Iraq. The improvements are fragile.

The changes are already affecting Iraq’s complicated relationship with America. In the presidential campaign, a debate is rising about whether the quiet means American soldiers can leave.

Iraqi Officials Gain Confidence

American military commanders are seeing a new confidence among Iraqi leaders. They said they believed that the success of the recent military operations had played a role in the Iraqi government’s firm rebuff of American negotiators over a new long-term security pact to govern the United States military presence after the end of this year.

“They are feeling very strong right now, after Basra, Mosul and Sadr City,” said one senior American official.

The most obvious but often overlooked reason for the recent military success has been an increase in the number of trained Iraqi troops.

The quality of the recruits and leadership has often been poor, even in recent months. In Baghdad’s Sadr City, one Iraqi company abandoned its position in April, forcing American and Iraqi commanders to fill the gap with hastily summoned reinforcements. In Basra, more than 1,000 recently qualified soldiers deserted rather than obey orders to fight against Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army. One senior Iraqi government official conceded that the deserters simply “felt that the other side was too strong.”

But sheer numbers have helped to overcome the shortcomings. After the embarrassing setback in Basra, Mr. Maliki was able to pull units from elsewhere to provide reinforcements and saturate the city with checkpoints and patrols, restoring a measure of order after years of domination by Islamist militias and oil-smuggling mafias.

American officials said 50,000 members of Iraqi security forces took part in the Basra campaign, 45,000 in Mosul, and 10,000 in Sadr City — troops that would not have been available to Mr. Maliki’s predecessors. The Iraqis had by far the largest numbers of troops, although American and other coalition troops provided crucial air power, reconnaissance, logistics, medical support and even expertise in psychological operations.


One key source of that manpower has been training: Over the past year the Iraqi Army has added 52,000 soldiers; the Iraqi police and the national police have added 59,000; and Iraq special operations forces have added 1,400 troops, Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, chief of the American security training and equipping mission, said last month. Yet another reason was that many troops were not tied down fighting Sunni insurgents in places like Anbar Province. That is thanks to the Sunni Awakening, and a related program in which the American military has paid thousands of former insurgents and militia fighters and made them neighborhood guards.

“Our successes reduced the pressure on the Iraqi security forces by more than 50 percent,” said Sheik Hussain Abaid, the leader of one such pro-American group south of Baghdad.
Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, an Awakening leader in Anbar, said an entire Army regiment of Anbari tribesmen was sent to fight in Mosul, while a division based in Anbar was rushed to Basra after commanders decided that a more stable security situation in Anbar meant the troops could be freed to fight elsewhere. Even Shiite government officials, long suspicious of the Awakening because it employs insurgents responsible for the deaths of Shiites, agreed. “Before, there was a security void in their areas, but they were able to fill it,” said Ali Adeeb, a senior official in the Dawa party and a close ally of Mr. Maliki.

Defining a Military Victory

But the government’s successes in Basra and Sadr City were not so much victories as heavy fighting followed by truces that allowed the militias to melt away with their weapons. “We may have wasted an opportunity in Basra to kill those that needed to be killed,” said one American defense official, who would speak candidly about the issue only if he was granted anonymity.

And in Mosul, the celebrations over the performance of the Iraqis who fought there have glossed over the tremendous — but hidden — role played by American Special Operations forces to clear out the toughest enemy fighters before the Iraqi soldiers arrived in full. “It is underreported how much the secret guys did to set the conditions for the Iraqi Army to go in and do what they did,” the official said.

What remains to be seen is whether the Iraqi government can capitalize on the operational successes with concrete steps that improve the lives of people in the three areas, like basic municipal services and economic opportunities. “The fear is unrealistic expectations,” the American defense official said. “Services do take time.”

Failure to follow through could wipe out many of the gains in places like Hayaniya, one of Basra’s most deprived areas and a Sadrist stronghold, where residents already grumble that they have seen little evidence of improvement. “They said they will repair schools and roads — but when and where?” said Ali Alwan, 45. “It is only talk. We suffered during the military operation, but what is the reward?” Mr. Maliki’s operations against fellow Shiites in Basra and Sadr City have bought at least temporary political good will from Sunnis who long saw his Shiite-dominated government as the enemy. Interviews with three dozen Sunni merchants, academics, teachers, laborers, government officials and office workers in former insurgent strongholds like Falluja, Tikrit, and Baghdad’s Adhamiya, Amiriya and Fadhil neighborhoods suggested that the prime minister had gained some ground with a group whose loyalty is essential in building a unified and stable state.

Abdul Hadi Jasim, a barber from Adhamiya, said, “Now, after one of the biggest Shiite militias that ravaged Basra was targeted, I think there is a sense of justice and fairness.” But old suspicions linger, and Sunnis remember the slaughter inflicted by Shiite militias from 2004 to 2007, and how Shiite death squads were protected by Iraqi security forces. In addition to the Mahdi Army, many Sunnis fear the Badr organization, the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a close ally of Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party. Badr forces dominate some Iraqi security force units.

“Maliki’s war was a selective one,” says Falah Muhammad Abdullah, 46, an engineer from Falluja. “Why does Maliki’s government hunt down the Mahdi militia while it neglects Badr?”

Sunni Skepticism Remains


Many Sunnis are convinced that Mr. Maliki is trying to serve other masters: Iran, the Americans, or his own Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council. Both face a serious challenge from the Sadrists in provincial elections later this year.

Mowafaq Abu Omar, a 52-year-old street merchant in Adhamiya, voiced a common suspicion — that the true aims of the Basra operation were to seize control of Iraq’s only significant port and to advance the creation of a large, autonomous and oil-rich Shiite super-province in the south.

There is also less enthusiasm for the recent operation in western Mosul, which is largely Sunni. Eman al-Hayali, a teacher in Amiriya, praised Mr. Maliki for weakening Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army but said she feared the Mosul operation was intended to satisfy the Maliki government’s patrons in Iran and telegraph a message to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Do not worry, your excellency, we are also killing Sunnis.’ ”

With such suspicions just below the surface, stability would be jeopardized if former insurgents serving in the Awakening forces come to believe that they are being used by the Shiite-led government while getting little in return.

“We are pleased with the government only regarding the war against the Shiite militias,” says Khalid al-Summaraie, a Sunni militia leader in Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood. He added pointedly, “They haven’t done anything for us that will give us a better standard of living.”

Another important factor buoying Mr. Maliki has been the sharp rise in oil prices, which, among other things, has allowed the Iraqi central bank to buy back its currency at a feverish pace, forcing the value of the Iraqi dinar higher and limiting increases in consumer prices. Driven by higher food costs, inflation stood last month at the rate of 16 percent, up from 11 percent in January.

But that rate might be a good deal higher without the central bank’s aggressive policies. The bank spends $1 billion to $1.5 billion every month in oil revenue to buy Iraqi dinars on the open market, said Mudher M. Salih Kasim, senior adviser to the bank. This is the main lever for controlling consumer prices, said Mr. Kasim, who noted that the value of the dinar had risen about 20 percent against the dollar. An oil price crash, he added, would be “a disaster.”

The government is also trying to funnel money to placate Iraqis who endured the military operations in Sadr City, Mosul and Basra and cement their loyalty. Tahseen al-Sheikhly, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said $100 million would go to Sadr City to upgrade economic and social conditions there in the wake of the two-month military operation, which left buildings shattered and markets destroyed. Dr. Safaa al-Deen al-Safi, who is charged with carrying out development and reconstruction activities, said another $100 million would be spent on areas like health and education.

Reversible Gains

The anti-government and anti-occupation forces have also stumbled. The Islamist Sunni insurgents alienated many Iraqis with a trail of blood and bans on alcohol and smoking. And as attacks on Shiite areas by Sunni insurgents dropped, Shiites who had looked to the Mahdi Army for self-defense were less willing to put up with abuses.

But the improvements in Iraq face an array of destabilizing provincial, national and regional forces. The Sunni insurgency — now in many places operating as pro-American Awakening groups — continues to wait to see whether the government makes good on promises of jobs and a less sectarian administration of security and public services and infrastructure.

The Sadrists remain powerful and may not forgive what many consider a betrayal by Mr. Maliki, who could not have become prime minister two years ago without their blessing. Mohanned al-Gharrawi, a senior Sadrist cleric in Baghdad, said, “We feel like a bridge that they used to reach their aims and goals, and then they left us behind.”

Despite their newfound confidence, some senior Iraqi officials close to Mr. Maliki said that without an American military safety net they are vulnerable to threats from outside and inside their borders. One important but less-noticed element of the security negotiations has been Iraq’s effort to extract an American pledge to defend the government against foreign or domestic aggression. Mr. Adeeb, the top Maliki adviser, said officials wanted the Americans to protect the Iraqi government against anything the government viewed as a threat — not just what the Americans saw as a threat.

“Our political system is weak, the terrorists and former regime members are sparing no effort to overthrow the system, and neighboring countries have their own ambitions,” Mr. Adeeb said. “Our army is not qualified to defend Iraq yet.”
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Posts: 42461

« Reply #453 on: June 24, 2008, 05:05:05 PM »

U.S. troops will formally hand over security responsibility for Iraq’s largest Sunni province, Anbar, to Iraqi security forces June 28, according to a June 23 Reuters report. Despite real and impressive security gains in the last year because of sectarian conflict and strong intra-Sunni contentions in Anbar, the move is problematic at best. How the security handover plays out in Anbar could prove the most critical indicator of the future position of Sunnis in a Shiite-dominated Baghdad, which in turn is the key element in the U.S.-Iranian struggle for Iraq.

Related Special Topic Page
Iraq, Iran and the Shia
Gov. Mamun Sami Rasheed of Anbar province, Iraq’s largest Sunni province, said the U.S. military will transfer control of the province’s security to Iraqi forces June 28, Reuters reported June 23. U.S.-led coalition forces have so far transferred security control for three Kurdish provinces in the north and six Shiite provinces in the south. Though Anbar will be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces returned to Iraqi security control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, it will thus be the first predominantly Sunni region handed back to Iraqi government control.

While the performance of Iraqi government security forces has been mixed, they have begun to demonstrate a limited capability to stand on their own. In Anbar, these forces will meet Sunni forces known as the Awakening Council that have imposed a tribal-controlled peace on the province. The meeting of these Sunni elements and government forces will serve as a key litmus test for Iraq’s emerging post-Baathist security establishment.

As late as 2006, chronic tensions between local Sunni police forces and Shiite-dominated national police and army units in Anbar province were palpable, occasionally even breaking out into isolated gunbattles.

These tensions arose because Iraq’s police and army are dominated by Shia while Anbar — the country’s largest province in terms of land area — until late 2006 was a major insurgent theater for both Sunni nationalist and jihadist groups. Intra-Sunni rivalries in the western province will play a key role in assisting the Shia to take control. This could lead to a resumption of violence in Anbar as various groups seek to take advantage of the new security environment.

Anbar’s size makes it key to the future Sunni entry into a Shiite-dominated political system, explaining why the United States has given the province a disproportionate amount of attention. Much of this attention was spent on assisting in the formation of an 80,000-strong tribal force known as the Awakening Councils. Not only were these groups instrumental in controlling the Sunni nationalist insurgency, they turned their guns against al Qaeda-led jihadists. It is these fighters, currently on the Pentagon’s payroll and backed by Saudi Arabia, that have both the Iraqi Shia as well as their Iranian patrons extremely concerned. Under the Awakening Councils’ tenure, Anbar has gone from one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq to one of the safest.

Tehran already has warned of a major uprising if the ongoing talks between the al-Maliki and Bush administrations on a future U.S. military presence in Iraq lead to a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, especially one conferring significant security powers on the United States. Meanwhile, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has been blocking any progress on the re-Baathification process, which is supposed to oversee the return of Sunnis in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy, even when the Shia agree to it in principal. Therefore, the Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies view the transfer of Anbar’s security as an opportunity to check the Sunni resurgence in the new Iraqi republic.

Coalition and Iraqi commanders want to transition about 20 percent of the Awakening Councils fighters — or about 15,000 out of the total of 80,000 Sunni tribal militiamen — to the Iraqi Security Forces, which comprises the army, national police and Iraqi police. Most of these fighters would be inducted into the national police, which is recruited and deployed locally, giving the Awakening Councils some degree of official influence at the local level. Shiite-dominated Baghdad sees the 15 percent figure as sufficient, but it falls far below the expectations of the Anbar’s Sunnis.

Awakening Councils also are in the process of transitioning from a militia into a political movement, and hope to take advantage of provincial elections slated in the fall to consolidate their de facto gains into formal political power. The Iraqi Sunnis know that a demographic-based constitution severely limits their share of power in the central government, so the Sunni’s best bet is to entrench themselves in their region (comprising Anbar, Salah ad Din, At Tamim, and Ninawa provinces, and to lesser degree, Baghdad, Diyala and Babil provinces) as much as possible.

But at the local level, intra-Sunni rivalries between those Sunnis who are already part of the state (such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’s Tawafoq Iraqi Front, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament) and those who initially shunned the post-2003 political system (e.g., Awakening Councils, the Sunni religious establishment, various tribal elements, Islamist insurgents, and Baathists) will prevent the Sunnis from consolidating their power. The internal problems of the Sunnis could thus give the Shiite-dominated security forces a tactical advantage in establishing their control in Anbar.

Sectarian and intra-Sunni dynamics have the potential to recreate security problems in Anbar as Iraqi forces assume responsibility for security. Ultimately, an Iraqi state imposing its writ on its territory will require a U.S.-Iranian understanding establishing an ethno-sectarian balance of power in Iraq. But before that can happen, a balance of power has to be achieved within both Shiite and Sunni communities. The outcome of the coming provincial polls will to a great degree settle the internal balance within Iraq’s Shia and Sunnis, thereby preparing the two sides for and ultimate face off.

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Power User
Posts: 42461

« Reply #454 on: June 25, 2008, 04:27:56 PM »

A response to the preceding article from another forum:
Great article Crafty Dog. This is all pretty real for me, I will celebrate one year since the day I left Anbar on July 14th, in Camden no less.

there have been great gains in Anbar. I had the privelige of spending 16 1/2 months there in 2006 and 2007. When we got there, we were told Anbar is lost, don't try to save it, just try to keep it from getting any worse. I am most familiar with the Fallujah, Lake Habbiniyah, Habbiniyah, RTE Lyman/Michigan AO. So I can't speak for Ramadi or along the border. But 3 months before we left, SECDEF came and gave a speech and Camp Fallujah and praised Anbar for the gains the province had made. I didn't get to see it, somebody had to keep Abdullah and Achmed from dropping a mortar on him from down by the river.

Anywhoo, when we got there we hadn't even seen IA or IP, not even recruiting posters, some of the people hadn't heard of them. When We left they were directing traffic on Michigan on the other side of the bridge in Fallujah. They were running their own COPs on Lyman doing checkpoints over the bridge(the bridge blew up a months after they took over, but baby steps). That tribal shit was just starting when we left as well.

I don't miss Anbar in particular, it is a cruel unforgiving place. I miss certain things about war a bit, but I am glad to hear that things are still improving there.
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Posts: 42461

« Reply #455 on: July 04, 2008, 12:39:47 PM »

Iraq seeks ban on religious imagery in elections
Ammar Awad / Reuters
POPULAR: A street vendor in Najaf sells posters of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in 2004. His image was used widely by Shiite parties in the 2005 vote. This year he has prohibited them from doing so.
The government calls for parties to avoid using images of religious leaders. The proposed election law changes also include allowing voters to choose individuals rather than entire lists.
By Doug Smith and Saif Hameed, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
July 4, 2008
BAGHDAD -- In a move to separate mosque and state, the Iraqi government said Thursday that Islamic houses of worship should be off limits for campaigning in provincial elections scheduled for the fall.

Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh also said that photos of anyone but the candidates would be banned from campaign advertising.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's administration issued the recommendations in the hope of preventing a repetition of the use made of the country's revered religious figures in the 2005 election campaign.

Shiite Muslim political slates plastered their campaign literature with images of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader, and some mosques sent out cars with loudspeakers promoting candidates.

Dabbagh announced several other recommendations Thursday, including the use of an open slate that would allow voters to pick individual candidates, rather than vote for entire slates as in 2005.

To deflect concerns that the measure would reduce the chances of women being elected, Dabbagh said, there should be at least one woman in the first three spots on each slate.

The open slate was proposed as an improvement over the unpopular system used in 2005, but it also has critics who say it will be so confusing that the votes won't be counted properly.

Parliament may try to draft a hybrid when it takes up the election law. However, there appears to be a majority in favor of banning the use of religious images, said Usama Najafi, a lawmaker from the secular Iraqi National List slate headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

"Referring to religious symbols in campaigning is against the constitution," Najafi said. "It is deceiving people that the religious figure supports a given slate, and this is not right."

Even before the announcement, Iraq's religious leaders appeared to be voluntarily backing away from the practice. Sistani this week prohibited the use of his name or image by any groups.

A spokesman for anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose larger-than-life image is routinely posted in heavily Shiite areas, said his group would not use religious imagery. Sadr's image will not be used in campaigning because "it would decrease the majesty and eminence of such religious symbols," Salah Ubaidi said.

The Sadr movement isn't fielding its own slate but will support individuals, said Ghufran Saidi, a pro-Sadr lawmaker.

Dabbagh, the government spokesman, also said Thursday that Jordan's King Abdullah would soon visit Iraq to meet with Maliki.

Meanwhile, a car bomb went off near Yarmouk Hospital in west Baghdad, killing five people and injuring 10, police said. In Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, a bomb exploded in a cafe late Wednesday, killing four, police said.

Times staff writer Saif Rasheed in Baghdad and a special correspondent in Najaf contributed to this report.
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« Reply #456 on: July 06, 2008, 08:58:27 AM »

“If you are fighting to install sharia [Islamic law] on this country, you are going to have to be killed"

**Ah, if only europeans had this resolve....**
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Posts: 42461

« Reply #457 on: July 09, 2008, 11:49:48 AM »

Maliki's Withdrawal Card
July 9, 2008; Page A14
A year ago, the conventional Beltway wisdom had it that Iraq was a failed state. Today, the same wisdom holds that it is less chaotic but still fragile, dependent entirely on a U.S. presence to survive. But judging by recent comments from Nouri al-Maliki, even this view may be out of date.

Addressing Arab ambassadors in Abu Dhabi on Monday, the Iraqi prime minister made headlines by saying his government was "looking at the necessity of terminating the foreign presence on Iraqi lands and restoring full sovereignty." Mr. Maliki has also been playing hardball with the Bush Administration in concluding a status-of-forces agreement by the end of the year, when the current U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S. presence in Iraq expires.

Mr. Maliki's comments are an assertion of confidence in his country's stability – and not without cause. Fully nine of Iraq's 18 provinces are now under domestic security control. Al Qaeda is being smoked out of its last urban refuge in Mosul. The Iraqi army has performed with increasing skill and confidence against Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which has also been ousted from its urban strongholds. Iraq will take in some $70 billion in oil revenue this year. T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil magnate, told us yesterday that Iraq could double its current production, to five million barrels a day, in coming years.

More important, Iraq seems to have been able to consolidate the security gains achieved by the surge, even as the last of the surge brigades deployed in 2007 are now returning to the U.S. That makes further reductions in U.S. force levels look increasingly plausible, a further validation of President Bush's "return on success" strategy.

Mr. Maliki's comments were also designed for domestic Iraqi political consumption – another sign of that country's robust democratic debate. With elections scheduled for the autumn, Mr. Maliki wants to show he's nobody's pawn, especially not America's. The Sadrists continue to play the nationalist card, even as they are themselves pawns of Iran. The rise of Iraqi nationalism is inevitable and largely welcome as a unifying national force. Remember all of those who said an Iraqi Shiite government would merely be a tool of Iran?

The Prime Minister is also making it clear to his Arab neighbors that his government is not about to collapse. Apparently, they believe him: Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have announced plans to break the Arab diplomatic embargo of Iraq and return their ambassadors to Baghdad; the UAE has also forgiven $7 billion of Iraqi debt. Perhaps Saudi Arabia and Egypt will follow.

The significant question now is the pace and extent of any U.S. withdrawal, and the nature of any long-term U.S. military presence. Despite Mr. Maliki's comments, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie was quick to add that the call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal was "conditioned on the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security," according to the Associated Press. In other words, Mr. Maliki is not endorsing the Barack Obama agenda of immediate U.S. withdrawal starting on January 20.

Our view is that Iraq and Mr. Maliki would benefit from striking a security agreement this year while Mr. Bush is still in office. Despite Iraq's impressive security gains, Iran can still do plenty of mischief through its "special group" surrogates. The U.S. can help deter Iranian trouble, especially with Iraq elections scheduled for this year and next.

Inside Iraq, a significant long-term U.S. presence would also increase the confidence of Iraq's various factions to make political compromises. And outside, it would improve regional stability by giving the U.S. a presence in the heart of the Middle East that would deter foreign adventurism. This is the kind of strategic benefit that the next Administration should try to consolidate in Iraq after the hard-earned progress of the last year.

Our sense is that, with the exception of the Sadrists, all of Iraq's main political factions want the U.S. to remain in some significant force. Iraq is now a democracy, however, and perhaps as their confidence grows the Maliki government and Iraq public opinion will think differently. But that kind of withdrawal timetable should be mutual – and not imposed by a new U.S. President acting as if the Iraq he'll inherit in 2009 is the same as the Iraq of 2006. That would mean U.S. forces could be withdrawn with honor, and in victory.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #458 on: July 16, 2008, 11:04:06 PM »

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« Reply #459 on: July 17, 2008, 09:49:28 AM »

From The Man himself:

We have won the war in Iraq.  By "we" I mean the Coalition and the Iraqis.  Unless there is some unexpected reversal, what lays ahead is the challenge of building a better Iraq.  There is still violence.  We have lost four soldiers to combat this month, but there were times when we lost that many on an average day.  There still are attacks, though we have finally reached the point where all that's left are truly "dead-enders."  Al Qaeda is still a problem, but their numbers are decreasing in Iraq.  The Iraqi people are sick of the violence.  The Iraqi Army is filled with courageous soldiers who can fight.  It is possible that by the end of the year we can really say, "Mission Accomplished," except for the continued support that Iraq will need.
Personally, my optimism has never been higher for Iraq.
Please click for some statistics.
Very Respectfully,
Michael Yon
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« Reply #460 on: July 17, 2008, 10:23:14 AM »

**Even the "Associated with terrorists Press" has to agree**

Iraq's al-Qaeda fighters now ‘furtive terrorists’

Article posted July 17, 2008 - 04:10 PM

COMBAT OUTPOST COPPER, Iraq - It's quiet around here in farm country, south of Baghdad where al-Qaeda once held sway. Just months ago US foot patrols through the wheat fields nearby would regularly draw fire — if the soldiers managed first to elude al-Qaeda-planted roadside bombs.

"The difference is night and day," says Capt. George Morris, 26. He and his soldiers in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division walked the area this week to visit a handful of farm families five miles east of the town of Latifiyah, not far from the Tigris River.

And it's not just here. Throughout the country, al-Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent organization thought to be affiliated with the global terrorist network but comprised mainly of Iraqis, has lost so much clout it is close to becoming irrelevant to the outcome of the war. The group has not been eliminated, however, leaving open the possibility of resurgence if the Iraqi government fails to follow up the military gains with civilian services like the irrigation that's badly needed here.

When President Bush announced in January 2007 that he was sending more than 21,000 extra US combat troops to Iraq — mostly to the Baghdad area — as part of a new approach to fighting the insurgency, commanders said their No. 1 focus was degrading al-Qaeda's ability to foment sectarian violence.

In the Latifiyah area, it's not hard to see that goal appears to have been achieved — an accomplishment that adds to the expectation that Bush will be able to further reduce US troop levels this fall.

Iraqi Army Capt. Jassim Hussein al-Shamari, whose men were part of Morris' foot patrol, has one explanation for al-Qaeda's fall.

"The people themselves will turn over the terrorists" if they show themselves, says al-Shamari. He's speaking through an interpreter to Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, a deputy commander of U.S. forces in the swath of once-violent territory stretching south of Baghdad from the Iranian border to Anbar province.

Buchanan sees it much the same way.

"The people are fed up with what they experienced under (al-Qaeda's) presence," Buchanan said, adding that the key to keeping the terrorist group down is having the government in Baghdad step in and provide more essential services, like the irrigation that farmers in the Latifiyah area find in short supply.

And there is a troubling disconnect between the central government and local leaders.

"The link to the government of Iraq is almost nonexistent here," Morris said.

So it remains an open question: Once US combat forces depart, whenever that may be, will al-Qaeda find an avenue for resurgence? It is generally accepted among US officers and intelligence specialists that despite its decline, al-Qaeda will remain in Iraq at some level long after the Americans are gone. The group had no meaningful foothold in the country before US forces invaded in March 2003.

There is no available official estimate of the number of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq. A US intelligence estimate early this year put it at a maximum of 6,000, although it probably has fallen far lower recently. Perhaps more importantly, US officers said in a series of Associated Press interviews over the past 10 days that so many al-Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed that its remnants are ineffective.

Col. Al Batschelet, chief of staff for the US command overseeing military operations in the Baghdad area, said that once the leadership began disappearing, lower-level technicians were pressed into duty.

That had the effect of accelerating the group's decline: the technical experts were not as good at organizing and executing attacks, and by taking the lead they exposed themselves to being captured or killed. That, in turn, has left even less-technically skilled fighters to perform the specialized work of assembling bombs like al-Qaeda's signature weapon, the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, officers said.

The triggering mechanisms of al-Qaeda's bombs have become less sophisticated and less effective, Batschelet said. Also, vehicle-borne IEDs used to contain hundreds of pounds of explosives, but they now typically are only 25 pounds.

"They just can't get the material any more to do what they want to do," Batschelet said. "But they still try. So we are unable to say that we've defeated their will" to continue their acts of violence.

Col. Bill Hickman, commander of 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, sees much the same thing in the neighborhoods of northwest Baghdad where his soldiers have witnessed a dramatic decline in violence this year.

"There are still disrupted cells of al-Qaeda in our area," he said in an interview. "So they're active, but they're not as effective as they used to be. And their IEDs are small IEDs now."

As for eliminating al-Qaeda entirely in Iraq, "That's probably not achievable," said Batschelet.

Although US and Iraqi forces have put enormous pressure on al-Qaeda by pursuing its leaders with relentless raids informed by improved intelligence this year, an even more important factor, arguably, was the decision by Sunni Arabs who had opposed the US occupation to ally with the Americans against al-Qaeda.

Whether those newfound allies — dubbed Sons of Iraq by their Americans benefactors — remain in opposition to the Sunni extremists, or decide to switch sides again, will tell much about al-Qaeda's future in Iraq.

Either way, however, the moment seems to have passed when al-Qaeda could prevail in this conflict. It has been forced out of its original strongholds in Anbar province, and more recently it has lost Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, although it still can pull off a deadly attack there and elsewhere.

Stephen Biddle, an Iraq watcher in Washington at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview that without an urban hideout, al-Qaeda is reduced to the role of being "furtive terrorists."

"If they don't have an urban area with a friendly population that can enable them to operate" — and from which to recruit fighters — "then they're going to be isolated terrorist actors," Biddle said. Thus, eliminating them entirely need not be the goal of US commanders and the Iraqi government.

"That's not central to the outcome of the war," Biddle said. - AP
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« Reply #461 on: July 17, 2008, 10:39:47 AM »

Iraqis torn on troop withdrawal

The New York Times has a balanced and interesting article on how Iraqis view proposals to get American troops out of Iraq.  Most of them would like to see American combat troops out of the country, but many of those fear a too-rapid withdrawal and the chaos that would follow.  And while Iraqis see Barack Obama as a breath of fresh air, they don’t appear to like his military strategy anywhere near as much:

A tough Iraqi general, a former special operations officer with a baritone voice and a barrel chest, melted into smiles when asked about Senator Barack Obama.

“Everyone in Iraq likes him,” said the general, Nassir al-Hiti. “I like him. He’s young. Very active. We would be very happy if he was elected president.”

But mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.

“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”

Thus in a few brisk sentences, the general summed up the conflicting emotions about Mr. Obama in Iraq, the place outside America with perhaps the most riding on its relationship with him.

Withdrawal itself is not unpopular among Iraqis; a lot of them would like Americans to leave.  Most of them recognize, though, that the Iraqi Army won’t be ready to replace US troops for quite some time.  In some Sunni neighborhoods, the mainly Shi’ite IA can’t or won’t patrol to avoid provocations.  And while the numbers of IA troops have grown significantly, most of them need a lot of training and seasoning before they can operate completely independently of American leadership and logistics — and the Iraqis have no air power at all.

What they do not want to do is to provide an opening for al-Qaeda or militias to start another round of violence.  Another Golden Mosque bombing could touch off more sectarian and tribal feuding, and without the American troops nearby, the IA would still be unlikely to contain it.  As General Hiti understands, the nation needs stability for the next several years while all of the elements of security get developed to independent status, including air and naval power, both of which the Iraqis have had to postpone in order to get its army and police reconstituted.  Otherwise, all of the gains made in the last year will evaporate, and the Iraqis will have to go back to a bunker existence.

The article doesn’t break new ground as much as it gives background for the question which will remain primary in the upcoming American and Iraqi elections.  When can the Americans end its combat stance in Iraq, and what comes afterwards?    Even the Iraqis have no clear conception of the answers, but as one said, the Americans have a moral obligation to finish what we started and make sure the job gets done right.
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« Reply #462 on: July 21, 2008, 10:08:35 AM »

I'm curious, since Iraq seems to clearly and unequivocally wants us out, be it
14 months or 16 months (BO's timetable)  and that day comes and Iraq's government
says, "please leave, begin now to withdraw all your troops immediately",
however the U.S. commander's on the ground say this is a big mistake,
do we immediately obey the Iraqi government and leave? 

McCain, who might be President at that time, seems to give credence to the opinion of the
U.S. commander's on the ground, however it seems to me that it is the Iraqi's country, their choice
as to when we leave - whether we are ready or not or whether we think it is
appropriate is not relevant; it's their country - their sole decision.

I don't get the debate.
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« Reply #463 on: July 21, 2008, 04:18:55 PM »

Where do you get the idea that the Iraqis clearly and unequivocally want us out?
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« Reply #464 on: July 22, 2008, 08:50:19 AM »

Where do you get the idea that the Iraqis clearly and unequivocally want us out?

Ahhhh I think it was the Iraqi Parliament over one year ago that clearly stated they
wanted a timetable for withdrawal - the sooner the better.  And of course this
past week, Maliki jumped on board and clearly (before the spin) stated he
wanted a timetable for our withdrawl within the next two years.  Elections are
in the fall, the people of Iraqi want our withdrawal; they simply want "termination
of foreign presence on Iraqi lands and to restore full sovereignty".  Either Maliki
gets on board or he might be out.  Similar to President Johnson; he too may finally bow
to the people and leave office.

It's not the U.S. commander's on the ground's decision; they don't get a vote.  The
vote belongs to the Iraqi people.  It's their country; we are merely a visitor.  Like the
analogy I gave above, visitors are great, but they can overstay their welcome.  Sometimes,
they need to be sent packing.

McCain never seems to address the issue of the Iraqi people's desire.  His only concern
seems to be with the U.S. commander's opinion and us saving face.  But it is the people's
choice, we finally got out of Vietnam (what a mess) because the people demanded it.
Now it seems the American people and the Iraqi people are demanding the same.

My question below was do you think McCain will comply if the Iraqi government demands
a short term withdrawal plan regardless of U.S. commander's opinion on the ground?

Whose country is it?
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« Reply #465 on: July 22, 2008, 09:59:44 AM »


It is long standing US policy that if the people/govt of Iraq says we should go that we go.  That has never been in question and I think your concern, though understandable, to be misplaced.


If I were President, I certainly would want to know my generals' thoughts on where the Iraq govt and people are in that process-- this certainly would be of help in reading the cacaphony of noise coming out of the beginnings of a democracy that we have enabled there with our blood, sweat, and tears.

McC is quite right: it is worth noting fully that BO took his position is one formed before he ever went there and spoke to anyone there-- either our generals or the Iraqi leaders.  While this speaks to BO's order of priorities as a CIC (e.g. getting elected/domestic politics first) it is not the central point: The problem with BO's timeline is that it IS a timeline. 

I don't know if you have any experience translating from one language to another for accuracy and nuance.  My experience is limited to translating judicial decisions and lawyer letters from Spanish to English.  This I found to be a pretty good trick, and it was far less nuanced than the subject matter here.  Furthermore Spanish-English translation is relatively easy compared to Arabic-German, let alone adding the additional layer of then going to English.  As I read it (and I do think the MSM spins these things heavily, whereas you seem to take its presentation here as honest/accurate, so here we disagree) Maliki's comment was that he thought it would take about as long as BO's timeline.  THIS DOES NOT MEAN HE FAVORS A TIMELINE.   

You seem to take at face value the MSM assertion that Maliki's comments are post-fact spin.  Of course this is possible, but also possible is that someone didn't get it quite right (either by accident or on purpose) and that given the political coup that the original and misleading translation seemed to provide BO, the MSM continues to spin and s*ck BO's d*ck by denying Maliki's complaint of mistranslation by spinning it as trying to cover up his moment of honesty.  As covered in the Media threads and the BO Phenomena threads, its not like this is not going on in a massive way across the board anyway!!! angry

Without MSM trying to spin this BO's way, Mailiki's statement IMHO is properly read as an Arab politician trying to surf his way through the competing tensions of several audiences and possibilities:

a) His Shia base
b) the Sunnis
c) the Kurds
d) the possiblity that BO wins
e) the possibility that McC wins
f) Iran

In this context, especially a) and d), it makes sense for him to want to sound relatively specific and able to work with BO should he win, but as a practical matter to really have our exit defined by the reality on the ground-- which is exactly what he says he said!!!  This is NOT what the original German article said, and Maliki is right to have complained.

We also need to remember that the make-up of the current government was defined by elections in which the Sunnis did not really  participate to the benefit of the Shia, and that , , , ahem , , , once the current government defines certain matters concerning the next elections (the date of which keeps getting postponed  wink ) the make-up of the next government will include a lot more Sunnis-- who on the whole look quite a bit more favorably on our sticking around and guaranteeing their safety than do the Shia who support Maliki.

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« Reply #466 on: July 22, 2008, 11:56:42 AM »


Frankly, I have not read it so clearly put that our longstanding and official policy was that if the people/gov't of Iraq says that we should go, then we should go.  That is reassuring.

As for McCain, he does raise some good points.  And, I think he definitely has more experience in foreign matters especially as it relates to military actions.  But I think America is tired; like Vietnam, they simply want out albeit with some honor.

As for translations, I have done a little, and have a friend who is an expert (Caucasian guy (PhD. Yale) doing Chinese and Japanese) doing mostly legal work.  He finds the nuances frustrating/challenging and needs a rest every thirty minutes during depositions because he is exhausted concentrating so much.  That being said, this subject matter was not scientific or legal; rather it was straightforward and the German Magazine has confirmed that they will stand by their article and translation.  I think the "spin" came after.

And yes, I agree the Sunnis hope/pray we remain.  Yet I find it odd, a few years ago the Sunnis were our enemies.  Now of course we worry about the Shia.  Sometimes I think we replaced one bad apple with another.  I am not sure which apple is more rotten.  I always thought there was some truth to the comment, "sure he's a dictator, but he's our dictator."  I worry that in 5-10 years the Shia will only be worse and Iraq in general will suffer more than they ever did before.

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« Reply #467 on: July 22, 2008, 12:56:15 PM »

**A bit of historical perspective on how the dems are the best friends are enemies could ever ask for.**

Al-Qaeda's No. 2 Applauds Democrat War Bill
By Amanda B. Carpenter (more by this author)
Human Events
Posted 05/08/2007 ET
Updated 05/08/2007 ET

Over the weekend, the second-highest ranking member of al Qaeda called Democrat-led initiatives to end the war symbols of American defeat in Iraq.

In a 67-minute interview released on May 5, known terrorist Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri said legislation to tie war funding with a timetable for withdrawal, “reflects American failure and frustration.”

Last week, President Bush vetoed a bill delivered to him from the Democrat Congress that did this. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D.-Calif.) House has since failed to overturn his veto and now negotiations to proceed appear to be in a stalemate.

Zawahiri lamented that “this bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in this historic trap” but said it proved jihad “is moving from the stage of defeat of the Crusader invaders and their traitorous underlings to the stage of consolidating Mujahid Islamic Emirate.”

Zawahiri said the withdrawal legislation helped to “raise the banner of Jihad as it makes its way through a rugged path of sacrifice.”

A senior government official said it was “stunning” that Zawahiri was watching Congress so closely.

The video was likely encouraged by comments from Democrat leadership. In an April 19 press conference Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) told media, “This war is lost.”

Two days later, in a statement issued from the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda used Reid’s declaration as evidence of their success. “In the past few days it became clear to every watcher and observer the magnitude of damage that hits the American administration and the defeated declarations of its leaders about the situation in the field in Iraq,” it said. “A serious statement came from ‘Harry Reid’ the Democrat majority leader in the Congress who said: "'the war is in Iraq is hopeless and that the situation in Iraq is similar to Vietnam War.'”

The Vietnam War was ended with the 1973 Foreign Assistance Act that cut funding for operations in the region. The end effect of the Foreign Assistance Act was best captured in a photograph taken by Hubert Van Es that showed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians queuing up for the last American helicopter out of Saigon. Soon, without American troops or any resources to protect the Vietnamese, the Communists took over South Vietnam and millions were killed by the Khmer Rouge communist regime in the power vacuum left by American withdrawal.

Similar actions could be taken by al Qaeda forces, who have failed to hold territory in Iraq and Afghanistan or disrupt American-led political processes there, should U.S. troops withdraw from the region.

Throughout the 2004 presidential election, Democrat candidate Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) was also quoted by name in communications from Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Miss Carpenter is congressional correspondent & assistant editor for HUMAN EVENTS. She is the author of "The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's Dossier on Hillary Rodham Clinton," published by Regnery (a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).
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« Reply #468 on: July 22, 2008, 02:44:15 PM »

**A bit of historical perspective on how the dems are the best friends are enemies could ever ask for.**

Al-Qaeda's No. 2 Applauds Democrat War Bill
By Amanda B. Carpenter (more by this author)
Human Events
Posted 05/08/2007 ET
Updated 05/08/2007 ET

Over the weekend, the second-highest ranking member of al Qaeda called Democrat-led initiatives to end the war symbols of American defeat in Iraq.

In a 67-minute interview released on May 5, known terrorist Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri said legislation to tie war funding with a timetable for withdrawal, “reflects American failure and frustration.”

Last week, President Bush vetoed a bill delivered to him from the Democrat Congress that did this. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D.-Calif.) House has since failed to overturn his veto and now negotiations to proceed appear to be in a stalemate.

Zawahiri lamented that “this bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in this historic trap” but said it proved jihad “is moving from the stage of defeat of the Crusader invaders and their traitorous underlings to the stage of consolidating Mujahid Islamic Emirate.”

Zawahiri said the withdrawal legislation helped to “raise the banner of Jihad as it makes its way through a rugged path of sacrifice.”

A senior government official said it was “stunning” that Zawahiri was watching Congress so closely.

The video was likely encouraged by comments from Democrat leadership. In an April 19 press conference Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) told media, “This war is lost.”

Two days later, in a statement issued from the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda used Reid’s declaration as evidence of their success. “In the past few days it became clear to every watcher and observer the magnitude of damage that hits the American administration and the defeated declarations of its leaders about the situation in the field in Iraq,” it said. “A serious statement came from ‘Harry Reid’ the Democrat majority leader in the Congress who said: "'the war is in Iraq is hopeless and that the situation in Iraq is similar to Vietnam War.'”

The Vietnam War was ended with the 1973 Foreign Assistance Act that cut funding for operations in the region. The end effect of the Foreign Assistance Act was best captured in a photograph taken by Hubert Van Es that showed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians queuing up for the last American helicopter out of Saigon. Soon, without American troops or any resources to protect the Vietnamese, the Communists took over South Vietnam and millions were killed by the Khmer Rouge communist regime in the power vacuum left by American withdrawal.

Similar actions could be taken by al Qaeda forces, who have failed to hold territory in Iraq and Afghanistan or disrupt American-led political processes there, should U.S. troops withdraw from the region.

Throughout the 2004 presidential election, Democrat candidate Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) was also quoted by name in communications from Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Miss Carpenter is congressional correspondent & assistant editor for HUMAN EVENTS. She is the author of "The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's Dossier on Hillary Rodham Clinton," published by Regnery (a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

As we appropriately leave it to the people/gov't of Iraq to decide their fate, I think one should remember that so too was the Vietnam War left to the people.  The American people voted overwhelmingly to get out of Vietnam.  It was democracy in action.  Of course we have a right to speak and to disagree with policy - that's what people do in a democracy.

As for the Khmer Rouge reference, I am a bit confused.  The Khmer Rouge were in Cambodia, not Vietnam.  They never killed Vietnamese and no "power vacuum" was left in Cambodia since we had no power in Cambodia.  No doubt the Khmer Rouge were terrible; but note it was the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the same army we fought) in 1979 who attacked and destroyed the Khmer Rouge; let's be fair; it was the Vietnamese were the saviors of Cambodia, not the U.S.

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« Reply #469 on: July 22, 2008, 05:07:29 PM »

Yes we can debate in this democratic republic of ours, but those in opposition should think of the consequences of what they say and how they say it-- AND they can and should be held accountable for those consequences.    In my considered opinion, substantial elements of the Democratic opposition and the media have acted with despicable disregard for the consequences of their lies, distortions, hatred of Bush, and lust for power.

Here's one perspective on the ongoing negotiations with Iraq-- IMHO this is the sort of person BO should be talking to BEFORE forming an opinion.

July 20, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Surge Protector


THE prospect of a long-term security arrangement between the United States and Iraq has become a lightning rod for criticism. Yet such an agreement — which the White House believes could be completed this month now that the two countries have agreed to set a “general time horizon” for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq — would be in the best interests of the governments of both countries, and of the people who live in a region of the world that urgently needs stability.

The United Nations Security Council resolution that authorizes coalition operations in Iraq expires at the end of this year. But the calendar is not the most important reason for the United States to enter into a long-term pact with Iraq. The opportunity presented by the improved situation on the ground begs to be exploited lest it disappear in the ever-shifting sands of Middle East strife.

Are the desires of the American people and the Iraqi people different? I don’t think so. During my year in command of all American forces in the Middle East, I met often with Iraqis of all walks of life. Discussions with people — from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to clerics, governors and generals to men in the streets of Baghdad and towns and cities throughout the country — left me with several strong impressions. The top objective of both countries is security and stability in the region. Letting Iraq’s security forces assume responsibility for their country is another mutual goal. Withdrawing the vast majority of American and coalition troops from Iraq as soon as possible is a clear priority.

Why is achieving these aims so difficult? The most significant obstacle is war weariness. The war has dragged on so long that people are fixated on yesterday’s many negative aspects and are not aware of the profoundly different and improved situation in Iraq today — which is very different from only a few months ago.

Another major challenge is the continuing tendency to view anything to do with Iraq in the polarizing terms of yes or no, in or out. The prudent and rational approach is more nuanced, and more likely to achieve both countries’ mutual goals.

There are two key aspects of the bilateral security accord that has been proposed. The first is a status of forces agreement, which is a detailed compilation of the procedures and legal protections that govern the presence of foreign troops in another country. The second element is a higher-level strategic framework agreement, in which the two parties agree on the principles that will guide their mutual actions to create long-term security in Iraq. This more important part of the accord focuses on major policy issues like the roles and missions for each country’s military, the control of forces in various security situations, procedures for detainees, and the transition of responsibility.

Objections and objectors to the agreement are numerous. From the American side, we hear that it would tie us to an open-ended commitment to defend Iraq from external threats; that it would continue to drain resources from a faltering domestic economy; and that it violates Congressional prerogatives enshrined in the Constitution.

Some Iraqis, meanwhile, complain that any continued American presence in their country perpetuates what they see as an occupation and an infringement of their national sovereignty. They and other skeptics in the region object to the potential for long-term military bases, and they denounce America’s alleged hegemonic intentions.

And Iran objects to every aspect of continued American-Iraqi cooperation while promoting instability and supporting attacks on coalition forces in Iraq by providing arms and training to Shiite extremists and criminals.

These objections are obscuring what may be a one-time opportunity to achieve the goals so keenly desired by the majority of Americans and Iraqis, who care about peace and stability in the world. Most of the concerns involve worst-case possibilities that play to the fears of the poorly informed. For example, the security accord would define future commitments rather than perpetuate the perception of an “open-ended” engagement. The United States needs access to bases in Iraq to support the current level of operations. As responsibility for security passes to Iraqi forces, the need for bases will diminish.

Negotiators can sort through the issues. Given their recent history in Iraq, contractors and their rights and protections are a controversial topic. But civilian contractors perform a wide range of essential tasks, and the terms of their future service needs to be included in the agreement. Control of Iraqi airspace is another important component that will require clearheaded negotiations to preserve our military’s ability to ensure the safety of the many airplanes flying over Iraq and the timeliness of combat air support for troops on the ground.

The benefits that could be achieved are considerable. The agreement could reap dividends similar to those gained over the past year through the sacrifice and efforts of so many who have carried out an enlightened counterinsurgency strategy.

The number of incidents of violence nationwide in Iraq is less than a tenth of what we were experiencing in the spring of 2007. The casualty rate among American troops is the lowest in more than four years and continues to improve. Ethnic and sectarian violence among the Iraqi population has declined to levels not seen since the early days of the war.

Iraq’s security forces, with only modest coalition support, have demonstrated unprecedented initiative by taking control and assuming security of previously insurgent-dominated areas like Amara, Basra, Diwaniya and Sadr City. These actions signal a more confident and capable Iraqi leadership and military.

The government of Prime Minister Maliki has assumed an increasingly large share of the cost of Iraqi security, paying $3 for each American dollar contributed, and is on track to assume near total responsibility next year as revenues from oil exports continue to rise. Economic activity in Iraq is accelerating. Major oil companies are signing development contracts to improve the infrastructure.

The government of Iraq is eager to exert its sovereignty, but its leaders also recognize that it will be some time before Iraq can take full control of security. They are acutely aware of Iran’s behavior and of the need for continued cooperation with the United States.

This is a pivotal time. The aspirations of the hopeful could come to fruition: a stable Iraq, with a modern oil industry and substantially increased export capacity, that is part of the growing regional economic and political cooperation in the Middle East. This is not wishful dreaming but a very real possibility.

But it will happen only if security in Iraq is maintained. And a long-term arrangement with the United States is key to Iraq’s future security.

Reasonable objectors to the security pact, in both countries, must jettison the rhetorical and emotional baggage of the recent past. Forget the errors and bad decisions and deal with the present. Real progress has been made, and this positive momentum must be maintained.

Compromise, of course, will be essential. But confidence will be, too. The Americans need to trust Iraq’s security forces, and the Iraqis need to trust America’s intentions. The United States must give the Iraqi government an opportunity to demonstrate sovereignty over its territory while the government of Iraq must recognize its continued, if diminishing, reliance on the American military.

But the political posturing in pursuit of short-term gains must cease. All interested parties should cooperate for the general good.

We have come a long way in Iraq. It is in the mutual interest of the United States and Iraq to continue the transition to Iraqi forces and the drawdown of American troops in circumstances most likely to provide for stability. Certainly there is some risk involved. But the opportunity is unprecedented and the potential vast.

William J. Fallon, a retired admiral and a fellow at the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, was commander of the United States Central Command from 2007 to 2008.
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« Reply #470 on: July 22, 2008, 07:20:54 PM »

As we appropriately leave it to the people/gov't of Iraq to decide their fate, I think one should remember that so too was the Vietnam War left to the people.  The American people voted overwhelmingly to get out of Vietnam. 

**After having been throughly mislead by the MSM and the "peace" movement, i'd cite the misreporting of the Tet offensive as a perfect example, the public opinion was affected by the psyops. It's the same steady drumbeat of doom that was tried to undercut this war. Do you really think the public would have supported cutting off aid to South Vietnam if they knew the horrors that would follow?**

It was democracy in action.  Of course we have a right to speak and to disagree with policy - that's what people do in a democracy.

As for the Khmer Rouge reference, I am a bit confused.  The Khmer Rouge were in Cambodia, not Vietnam.  They never killed Vietnamese and no "power vacuum" was left in Cambodia since we had no power in Cambodia.  No doubt the Khmer Rouge were terrible; but note it was the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the same army we fought) in 1979 who attacked and destroyed the Khmer Rouge; let's be fair; it was the Vietnamese were the saviors of Cambodia, not the U.S.

**After the democrats cut off funding and support to Lon Nol's forces in Cambodia and South Vietnam the communists began the mass murders that were warned about.**

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« Reply #471 on: July 22, 2008, 07:43:31 PM »

Admiral Fallon is truly a diamond in the rough; you might remember he was an advocate of a speedier withdrawal of
troops from Iraq in contrast to Bush and General Petraeus and that Admiral Fallon finally resigned in protest over the Bush's Iran policy?  I fully agree, BO would do well to listen to his advice.  Admiral Fallon is a man of experience and an individual willing to stand up and express an opinion against the norm.

Marc, perhaps I don't fully understand your point opening point.  Yes, our country is a democracy, a republic, and our cornerstone is the Bill of Rights; we are truly blessed.  Therefore of course we can say whatever we want to say; the Supreme Court has held that the right of free speech is an basic right and rarely can it be abridged. 

Two people, two parties can disagree.  Vietnam War protesters truly thought they were doing the right thing; maybe they were, maybe they weren't, but they changed history.   Some conservatives wanted to invade North Vietnam and bring China into the fight.  Again, maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong.  But their voice was drowned out by the majority - the people who opposed the war in Vietnam.  In a democracy as ours people are entitled, they are encouraged to speak out and express their opinion.  And there is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion or criticism diametrically opposed to our President, our Congress, or our Military's thoughts. They exist to serve the American people.  Perhaps these individuals are "despicable" only because you disagree with them???  However, in contrast to your opinion, I think they cannot and should not be held accountable for expressing their right to free speech.  It the end, I truly believe it is what has made our country special and unique.  Try "free speech" in China, N. Korea, Russia........

I do think lies are wrong, distortions are subjective, hatred of Bush is wrong (I don't agree with him, but like Bush, I have many conservative friends with whom I disagree and yet I still respect.  Further he is our President; the Office as well deserves respect)
and lust for power - well that has been going on by politicians and individuals for hundreds of years; hard to stop.
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« Reply #472 on: July 22, 2008, 08:04:39 PM »

**After having been throughly mislead by the MSM and the "peace" movement, i'd cite the misreporting of the Tet offensive as a perfect example, the public opinion was affected by the psyops. It's the same steady drumbeat of doom that was tried to undercut this war. Do you really think the public would have supported cutting off aid to South Vietnam if they knew the horrors that would follow?**

Sadly, yes, I do think the public would have still supported cutting off aid to South Vietnam.  Nobody here cared/cares about the "masses of brown people" (your words) or black people (see Darfur).
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« Reply #473 on: July 22, 2008, 08:31:14 PM »

Americans give record $295B to charity

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes last year, setting a record and besting the 2005 total that had been boosted by a surge in aid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the Asian tsunami.
Donors contributed an estimated $295.02 billion in 2006, a 1% increase when adjusted for inflation, up from $283.05 billion in 2005. Excluding donations for disaster relief, the total rose 3.2%, inflation-adjusted, according to an annual report released Monday by the Giving USA Foundation at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.

Giving historically tracks the health of the overall economy, with the rise amounting to about one-third the rise in the stock market, according to Giving USA. Last year was right on target, with a 3.2% rise as stocks rose more than 10% on an inflation-adjusted basis.

"What people find especially interesting about this, and it's true year after year, that such a high percentage comes from individual donors," Giving USA Chairman Richard Jolly said.

Individuals gave a combined 75.6% of the total. With bequests, that rises to 83.4%.

The biggest chunk of the donations, $96.82 billion or 32.8%, went to religious organizations. The second largest slice, $40.98 billion or 13.9%, went to education, including gifts to colleges, universities and libraries.

About 65% of households with incomes less than $100,000 give to charity, the report showed.

"It tells you something about American culture that is unlike any other country," said Claire Gaudiani, a professor at NYU's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and author of The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism. Gaudiani said the willingness of Americans to give cuts across income levels, and their investments go to developing ideas, inventions and people to the benefit of the overall economy.

Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7%. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73%, while France, with a 0.14% rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany.

Mega-gifts, which Giving USA considers to be donations of $1 billion or more, tend to get the most attention, and that was true last year especially.

Investment superstar Warren Buffett announced in June 2006 that he would give $30 billion over 20 years to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Of that total, $1.9 billion was given in 2006, which helped push the year's total higher.

Gaudiani said that gift reflects a growing focus on using donated money efficiently and effectively.

"I think it's also a strategic commitment to upward mobility exported to other countries, in the form of improved health and stronger civil societies," she said.

The Gates Foundation has focused on reducing hunger and fighting disease in developing countries as well as improving education in the U.S. Without Buffett's pledge, it had an endowment of $29.2 billion as of the end of 2005.

Meanwhile, companies and their foundations gave less in 2006, dropping 10.5% to $12.72 billion. Jolly said corporate giving fell because companies had been so generous in response to the natural disasters and because profits overall were less strong in 2006 over the year before.

The Giving USA report counts money given to foundations as well as grants the foundations make to non-profits and other groups, since foundations typically give out only income earned without spending the original donations.
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« Reply #474 on: July 22, 2008, 08:48:57 PM »

Who Really Cares?

By Jamie Glazov | 1/2/2007

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Arthur C. Brooks, Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Nonprofit Studies Program at Syracuse University 's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. In 2007, he will be a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Brooks earned his PhD in Public Policy Analysis from the Rand Graduate School in 1998, and also holds an MA and BA in economics. He is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His latest book is Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.

FP: Arthur C. Brooks, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Brooks: Thanks very much. It's a pleasure to be with you.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Brooks: For years I did research on the economics of charity and philanthropy, looking at important -- but fairly dry -- topics like tax deductibility. The trouble was, I always felt I was missing the real story about why people give. When I discussed giving with donors, they never talked about their taxes; they talked about their values. I saw that I needed to investigate giving as a cultural issue, and that's what this book does. It asks who is really giving in America , and why. As a result of what I found, my views on charity have changed a lot.

FP: So how do myths about charity in America differ from reality?

Brooks: The biggest myth about charity today stems from the stereotype that conservatives are less compassionate than liberals. Here in Syracuse , New York , the most popular campaign sign before the 2004 presidential election proclaimed, "Bush Must Go! Human Need, not Corporate Greed." Now, keep in mind that New York was not a state in play in the election (Bush lost the state by more than a million votes), so this was nothing more than a moral statement about Bush and his supposedly-selfish supporters.

Conservatives are less supportive than liberals of government income redistribution, which is typically how progressives define economic compassion. (Conservatives, we should note, often argue that redistribution is not compassionate when it leads to dependency by recipients, but that's another story.) But another -- perhaps more obvious -- measure of compassion is private, voluntary sacrifice: charity. And conservatives tend to give more, not less, than liberals and moderates. For example, one major survey from the year 2000 showed that the average conservative-headed household in America gave 30% more money to charity than the average liberal household, despite earning, on average, 6% less in income.
This said, the evidence shows that the charity gap between conservatives and liberals is not a function of politics per se -- being a conservative by itself doesn't make somebody virtuous -- it is the values and culture typically associated with a conservative worldview: especially religion and attitudes about the government's role in our lives.
FP: I have always noticed that leftists like to talk a lot about the importance of the redistribution of wealth but that they themselves have a big problem redistributing their own wealth. Can you talk a bit about the pathology that lurks between the discrepancy between leftists' social criticism and the ingredients of their private lives?
Brooks:  The data do in fact show that people who think the government should redistribute income and wealth give a lot less, privately, than do people who not believe this. For example, in 1996, people who said the government should not take greater measures than at present to reduce income inequality gave, on average, four times as much money to charity each year as those who believed the government should equalize incomes more.

I think this charity gap comes down to a difference in how the two groups see the rights and responsibilities of individuals. Conservatives believe that everything starts with individual behavior; liberals often view large groups as the only effective vehicle for meaningful social progress. Sometimes, this translates into a neglect for private voluntary action on the left, and a focus instead on laws and regulations which apply to huge groups.

There is an old joke, that a socialist is a man who loves humanity in groups of one million and above. That's unfairly harsh, of course -- there are lots and lots of charitable liberals out there. But it's pretty amusing nonetheless.
FP: Absolutely, the Left depersonalizes real people and individuals. It pretends it loves humanity as a whole, but when it comes to really caring for and loving the individual up close, leftists are, in my own personal experience, frighteningly callous and indifferent.
So, in other words, Conservatives believe more in the value of personal generosity, correct? Because they believe in big government and little (or no) individual responsibility, leftists are more prone to seeing human suffering and getting upset that something isn’t being done by someone else (i.e. the government) about it, rather than doing something themselves as individuals about it.
And, let’s be honest, socialism is based on theft anyway. The people who believe in stealing from others who have earned wealth to give it to those who haven’t aren’t really going to be the kind of people who are symbols of personal generosity.
Just provoking a bit of discussion here to get some more wisdom from you. What do you say?
Brooks: I think many conservatives simply find it easier than liberals to give privately because they have more opportunities to give in their daily lives, and have had the importance of charity wired into them throughout their lives. I'm talking about religion, of course: Conservatives are much likelier to practice a religion than liberals are, and this gap is widening, not narrowing. (Presently, there are about three times more religious conservatives in America than there are religious liberals.) Houses of worship are great for stimulating both the supply and demand for charity -- and not just religious charity; secular charity as well. Religious folks -- irrespective of the actual religion, incidentally -- give far more time and money than secularists to all kinds of charities, including to totally secular causes like the United Way or the PTA. The data on this point are just stunning.

And as we have discussed, it is also true that conservatives generally have a more individualistic worldview than most liberals do, which is good for stimulating private service to others. (Incidentally, I'm working on a new book right now on happiness. It appears that this individualistic worldview is quite important for life satisfaction, and part of the reason conservatives tend to be happier than liberals.)

None of this is destiny, of course. Many liberals -- especially religious liberals -- take individual responsibility very seriously and give as much as religious conservatives do. In addition, there are plenty of conservatives who, despite the giving culture, are not generous. In fact, the least charitable group in America today is made up of secular conservatives, although this fact doesn't hurt the overall conservative giving stats much because this group is relatively small. But in general, the biggest giving challenge is on the political left today, in my view -- particularly as the left continues to secularize and advocate government income redistribution. This is something progressive leaders need to take very seriously if they wish to avoid a widening (and unnecessary) political charity gap.

FP: Why does it matter whether Americans give to charity or not?
Brooks: One of the most exciting areas of research in economics and psychology looks at the benefits of giving to givers themselves, as well as their communities and our nation as a whole. There is strong evidence -- detailed in my book -- that these benefits are just enormous. In a nutshell, giving makes us richer, happier, and healthier than we would be if we didn't give. Givers are more effective in their jobs after they give; they are happier and feel more in control; they are better citizens; they even suffer less from physical and psychological ailments. In point of fact, voluntary charity is a major source of American strength and vitality. Giving is not just about the time and money charities get -- it is also crucially about what we all get because we and our neighbors are givers.

This has big implications. For example, we displace privately-funded charities with government programs at our peril. Not that there is no role for government spending on certain activities, but private giving has no substitute, and we need to protect and nurture it. Ralph Nader once said, "A society that has a more justice is a society that needs less charity." This stems from the common misconception that charity is just about cash, so the government might as well just raise taxes and pay for everything.
FP: Is it worth it in academia to write a book that is "subversive"?

Brooks: I've been told that this book is a bit subversive indeed. But I think it's part of my job, especially as a full professor with tenure, to question assumptions and follow the evidence where I believe it leads. When academics don't question our assumptions, we are doing society a tremendous disservice. We are a privileged, protected class of professional thinkers. This system can be abused, as we all know, but it can also be used for good, when we try and uncover hard truths in the data, and carry knowledge forward.

Of course, there is a prevailing political and social ideology in academia that we all know about, and doing research that goes against the established dogma can sometimes be a little disconcerting. It doesn't necessarily provoke a lot of high-fives around the office. But honest inquiry and academic freedom are not about being part of the academic amen corner.
FP: I can tell you that when I was doing my doctorate in academia I was quite open about being a Conservative and the fact that Ronald Reagan was my favorite president.
You can just imagine the reception I received.
I was, to put it mildly, shunned, ostracized and made into a non-person by many in the academic establishment. Not that I cared in the least, because those aren’t the friends I seek anyway. But that was the reality.
In my own experience, leftists make friends according to how people fit into the structure of their ideas, not according to what they like about people themselves. Look at the long list of ex-leftists who were abandoned by their communities after they changed their politics.
What is your experience? Do you think you might lose some friends over this? Might you be hurt in some other way in academia?
Brooks: The book is brand new, so the full effect remains to be seen. Wish me luck! The Wall Street Journal called it a "tidy time-bomb of a book," which I loved, but which made me think I had best run away before it blows up.

Seriously, though, I have no doubt I'll be harangued here and there. I've already had the experience of showing up to give a scholarly talk at a university, and finding a few folks looking for a fight before I even open my mouth because I'm supposedly a right-winger. But that sort of thing is simply a cost of doing business if I want to do work that has an impact on the national conversation.

I'm lucky to be stationed at a university where the leadership is supportive of my work. Also, I sit in a school of public policy, which tends to be a less ideologically-rigid environment than many other parts of academia. In fact, most of today's top policy schools are making noises about taking all reasonable worldviews more seriously -- even those of conservatives and religious people. We haven't achieved anything like "balance" yet, but I think it is probably getting less scary for grad students and junior faculty to do policy-oriented research that doesn't support a particular political or social agenda. Academic entrepreneurs and sincere scholars on both the left and right need to push this progress along, and to help it spread around the academy.

FP: What do you hope this book will achieve?

Brooks: I really hope this book will do two things. First, I hope people will read it, examine their own giving, and give more as a result -- for everyone's good, including their own. Second, I hope researchers will see this book as a conversation-starter and undertake new work on charity. This book is not the last word on these issues by any means; there is a lot more research to be done. Some of that might come to different conclusions than mine, and that's fine. We need more thinking about charity from all perspectives.
FP: Arthur Brooks, thank you for joining us.

Brooks: It's been a pleasure. Happy New Year to you and FrontPage's readers.
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« Reply #475 on: July 22, 2008, 09:08:23 PM »,1,4976271,full.story

"Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans have a responsibility to the oppressed. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction."
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« Reply #476 on: July 22, 2008, 10:34:53 PM »

GM; enough!  America is great at charity; we have big heart.  America is great at giving MONEY,
but do you want your son or daughter to DIE for Darfur, or anyone in African, or
 "masses of brown people"?  The answer for most Americans is "No".  We will die
for America, we will die for Europe, maybe Israel; I think that's it.  I worry for Taiwan and Japan.  It all
sounds good, but when the chips are down, people fold.  I grew up in upper
middle class, La Canada (near LA) and now own a home there, but live in LA proper.
Many fine people talk about charity and give money, but when CA state, quite some years ago
offered a $500,000 to La Canada in addition to paying for the construction
to pay for low income housing, the La Canada say, "no thanks" - Not In
Back Yard (NIMBY).  I bet Marc's neighborhood would do the same.

People "care" (after the war) about the people in Vietnam, but it's talk.  It's easy
to give money; it's clean, and you feel good.  But America doesn't like to get their hands dirty.
And they sure were not willing to die to save them.  Wrong or right; I don't know.  We can't
save all the world.

So please don't tell me about how much money Bill Gates gives (I think it's fabulous)
when you are talking about war and genocide and America caring.  Deep down,
it doesn't.  We have always been a nation of isolationists.

And I have a suggestion.  Marc had once suggested that we talk like we are
at dinner.  Superb idea.  Agree/Disagree; but enjoy the wine and conversation. 
But simply cut and paste articles serve no purpose.  I suppose I could cut and
paste 100 articles in my favor, but is that a discussion???  Imagine if I did that
at our dinner together?  You seem intelligent, albeit we disagree smiley; so give me
your opinion, reference a quote if you like, but give me your opinion.  It makes
it much more interesting (let's have a drink one day) than simply cut and paste.

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« Reply #477 on: July 23, 2008, 12:04:02 AM »

Woof James:

Gold stars for having read the rules of the road!  grin

GM can speak for himself most ably, but allow me to interject that if you take the time to surf back through the various threads, you will see that many of them are mostly articles-- IMO on the whole articles of well above average quality I might add.  This forum's custom of organizing threads by subject matter/themes IMO enables this forum to serve as a tremendous resource for people who want to read about a subject/theme seriously and gain the perspective that can come from seeing what is thought and said over time.

Although it may not readily be apparent at first, these articles often ARE the conversation.  GM and I go back and forth sometimes on libertarian questions concerning governmental surveillance, so when he posts about some successful use of data collection, I know he is twitting me a bit and when I post about overzealous or inappropriate use of surveillance cameras, he too knows it is part of the continuing conversation.  Thus in the threads, you will often see a comment asking a pithy question or comment--which is then followed by various articles/pieces offering differing perspectives on that question/comment.  Again, properly understood, these articles ARE part of the continuing conversation.

Case in point-- you had no problem in understanding GM's point about America's big heart which he made by use of some articles.

The advantage to articles is that they often say what we want to say far better (and quicker than composing a piece of our own).   As time goes on I think you will find GM to be an unusually informed and thoughtful man-- one who has been through many times many of the points which are commonly made by many people.  As such, he already has a source which is precisely on point and rather than compose a whole new post, he posts it.  Case in point-- his use of an article from last year about Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Bird saying "We've lost! Run away! Run away!"   To me this clearly makes the point I was seeking to make about the reckless indifference of some of the opposition to the consequences of what it says.  Yes of course he has the right to say it!  And those of us who wish us success, and those in the field putting their asses on the line (a fine example methinks of Americans giving  more than money!!!) also have the right to be pretty steamed that it encouraged the enemy to fight harder in the hope that we were in the process of giving up and about to run away-- as well as discouraging those who think to ally with us.

I have the right to find despicable that a former VP and Prez candidate (Al Gore) speaks recklessly in Saudi Arabia of Abu Graib (which was revealed by the PENTAGON after all!!!) and placing it in moral equivalence to AQ cutting off the heads of captured civilian aid workers.

I have the right to loathe the LA Times for publishing about a secret program to get our point of view into the Iraqi press, or the NY Times revealing a program that tracked AQ's money flows.  These things seem treasonous to me.

But I digress , , ,  smiley

In short, GM and I ARE having an after dinner conversation  smiley  That said, perhaps GM and I can do better in putting in a paragraph fleshing out WHY it is that we are posting a particular piece.  I can't speak for GM, but I know I will work at it and I suspect he will as well.

The Adventure continues,
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« Reply #478 on: July 23, 2008, 09:34:52 AM »

What Crafty said....

I'd say more but work was long and I gotta sleep.
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« Reply #479 on: August 07, 2008, 12:31:46 AM »

The Times
August 5, 2008

Secret deal kept British Army out of battle for Basra
Deborah Haynes in Baquba and Michael Evans, Defence Editor

A secret deal between Britain and the notorious al-Mahdi militia prevented British Forces from coming to the aid of their US and Iraqi allies for nearly a week during the battle for Basra this year, The Times has learnt.

Four thousand British troops – including elements of the SAS and an entire mechanised brigade – watched from the sidelines for six days because of an “accommodation” with the Iranian-backed group, according to American and Iraqi officers who took part in the assault.

US Marines and soldiers had to be rushed in to fill the void, fighting bitter street battles and facing mortar fire, rockets and roadside bombs with their Iraqi counterparts.

Hundreds of militiamen were killed or arrested in the fighting. About 60 Iraqis were killed or injured. One US Marine died and sevenwere wounded.

US advisers who accompanied the Iraqi forces into the fight were shocked to learn of the accommodation made last summer by British Intelligence and elements of al-Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia Muslim cleric.

The deal, which aimed to encourage the Shia movement back into the political process and marginalise extremist factions, has dealt a huge blow to Britain’s reputation in Iraq.

Under its terms, no British soldier could enter Basra without the permission of Des Browne, the Defence Secretary. By the time he gave his approval, most of the fighting was over and the damage to Britain’s reputation had already been done.

Senior British defence sources told The Times that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who ordered the assault, and high-ranking US military officers had become disillusioned with the British as a result of their failure to act. Another confirmed that the deal, negotiated by British Intelligence, had been a costly mistake.

The Ministry of Defence has never confirmed that there was a deal with al-Mahdi Army, but one official denied that the delay in sending in troops was because of the arrangement agreed with the Shia militia.

A spokesman for the MoD said that the reason why troops were not sent immediately into Basra was because there was “no structure in place” in the city for units to go back in to start mentoring the Iraqi troops.

Colonel Imad, who heads the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, the most experienced division, commanded one of the quick-reaction battalions summoned to assist British-trained local forces, who faltered from the outset because of inexperience and lack of support.

He said: “Without the support of the Americans we would not have accomplished the mission because the British Forces had done nothing there.

“I do not trust the British Forces. They did not want to lose any soldiers for the mission.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Chuck Western, a senior US Marine advising the Iraqi Army, told The Times: “I was not happy. Everybody just assumed that because this deal was cut nobody was going in. Cutting a deal with the bad guys is generally not a good idea.”

He emphasised, however, that he was not being critical of the British military, which he described as first-rate.

Captain Eric Whyne, another US Marine officer who took part in the battle, said that he was astounded that “a coalition force would make a pact with essentially their enemy and promise not to go into their area so as not to get attacked”. He alleged that “some horrific atrocities” were committed by the militia in Basra during the British watch.

A senior British defence source agreed that the battle for Basra had been damaging to Britain’s reputation in Iraq. “Maliki, and the Americans, felt the British were morally impugned by the deal they had reached with the militia. The British were accused of trying to find the line of least resistance in dealing with the Shia militia,” said the source.

“You can accuse the Americans of many things, such as hamfistedness, but you can’t accuse them of not addressing a situation when it arises. While we had a strategy of evasion, the Americans just went in and addressed the problem.”

Another British official said that the deal was intended as an IRA-style reconciliation. “That is what we were trying to do but it did not work.” The official added that “accommodation” had become a dirty word.

US officials knew of the discussions, which continued until March this year. They facilitated the peaceful exit of British troops from a palace compound in Basra last September in return for the release of a number of prisoners. The arrangement fell apart on March 25 when Mr al-Maliki ordered his surprise assault on Basra, catching both the Americans and British off-guard.

The Americans responded by flying in reinforcements, providing air cover and offering the logistical and other support needed for the Iraqis to win.

The British were partly handicapped because their commander, Major-General Barney White-Spunner, was away on a skiing holiday when the attack began. When Brigadier Julian Free, his deputy, arrived to discuss the situation with Mr al-Maliki at the presidential palace in Basra, he was made to wait outside.

The first British troops only entered the city on March 31.

The MoD spokesman said that the operation was launched at such short notice that the only support that could be given in the first few days was air power – in the form of Tornado ground attack aircraft – and logistics.

He said that after British troops were withdrawn from Basra last year it was realised that the Iraqi forces still needed help, which was why the current British force contained more instructors and trainers.
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« Reply #480 on: August 07, 2008, 08:48:47 AM »

second post of the AM

Moqtada Packs It In
August 6, 2008; Page A14
Good news out of Iraq is becoming almost a daily event: In just the past week, we learned that U.S. combat fatalities (five) dropped in July to a low for the war, that key leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have fled to the Pakistani hinterland, that troop deployments will soon be cut to 12 months from 15, and that Washington and Baghdad are close to concluding a status-of-forces agreement.

Now this: Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr plans to announce Friday that he will disarm his Mahdi Army, which was raining mortars on Baghdad's Green Zone as recently as April. Coupled with the near-total defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, this means the U.S. no longer faces any significant organized military foe in the country. It also marks a major setback for Iran, which had used the Mahdi Army as one of its primary vehicles for extending its influence in Iraq.

The story, broken yesterday by the Journal's Gina Chon, marks the latest of serial defeats for Mr. Sadr, beginning in February 2007 when he was forced underground (reportedly to Iran) in anticipation of the surge of U.S. troops. More recently, the Mahdi Army was defeated and evicted from Basra and other southern strongholds by an Iraqi-led military offensive. The Mahdi Army capitulated without a fight from its Baghdad enclave of Sadr City. Now the young cleric will focus his group's efforts on politics and social work, perhaps while he pursues theological studies in Iran. He wouldn't be the first grad student in history with a tendency toward rabble-rousing.

In many respects, the story of the Mahdi Army's decline follows the same pattern as al Qaeda's: Not only was it routed militarily, it also made itself noxious to the very Shiite population it purported to represent and defend. It enforced its heavy-handed religious edicts, coupled with mob-like extortion tactics, wherever it assumed effective control. The overwhelming Shiite rejection of this brand of politics is another piece of good news from Iraq, as it means that Iraqis will not tolerate Iranian-style theocratic rule.

It is also an indication that Iraqi politics is developing in a healthy way. There was considerable anxiety that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as the leader of the Shiite-dominated Islamic Dawa Party, would practice a sectarian form of politics and toe a pro-Iranian line, particularly since it had long been headquartered in Tehran. Mr. Maliki's coalition initially included Mr. Sadr's loyalists, including several cabinet members.

Mr. Maliki had little choice but to make political alliances with Shiite sectarians and seek good relations with Iran, but he has also proven to be more than a sectarian politician and no Iranian pawn. Instead, he has turned out to be a muscular Iraqi nationalist, a stance that enjoys far greater popular support than many Western "experts" on Iraq believed possible. (Remember Senator Joe Biden and others who advised only last year that Iraq had to be divided into three parts?) It's thus no surprise that the more Mr. Sadr aligned himself with Tehran, the faster his popularity declined.

As with so much in Iraq, Mr. Sadr's sudden turn to moderation remains reversible. Breakaway factions of the Mahdi Army, aided by Iran, will surely launch fresh attacks on U.S. targets -- especially as U.S. and Iraqi elections near. That's all the more reason to regret the U.S. failure to arrest Mr. Sadr in 2004 for the murder the previous year of Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei, widely believed to have been undertaken on Mr. Sadr's orders.

That mistake, like others the U.S. has committed in Iraq, can't be undone. But our recent and considerable successes can be, which is all the more reason to see our involvement in Iraq through to an irreversible victory. With Mr. Sadr's "retirement," we've taken another long stride in that direction.

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« Reply #481 on: September 02, 2008, 09:53:14 AM »

Victory in Anbar
September 2, 2008
Two years ago, on September 11, 2006, the Washington Post stirred an election-year uproar with this chilling dispatch:

"The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there . . ."

But there was something we could do: Pursue a different counterinsurgency strategy and commit more troops. And on Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. "We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near," said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory.

Yes, the stunning progress in Anbar owes a great deal to the Awakening Councils of Sunni tribesmen who broke with al Qaeda terrorists and allied with U.S. forces. But those Sunni leaders would never have had the confidence to risk their lives in that way without knowing the U.S. wasn't going to cut and run. The U.S. committed some 4,000 additional troops to Anbar as part of the 2007 "surge," along with thousands more Iraqi troops.

The world has since seen al Qaeda driven even from what the terrorists and many in the Western press had claimed were Sunni enclaves that welcomed the terrorist help against the American "occupation." The result has been the most significant military and ideological defeat for al Qaeda since the Taliban was driven from Kabul in 2001. In danger of being humiliated in Iraq in 2006, the U.S. has demonstrated that it has the national will to fight a longer war. The Sunni Arab world in particular has noticed -- and is now showing new respect for Iraq's Shiite government.

For Iraqi politics, the Anbar handover is especially meaningful because the Shiite-dominated Iraq military will now provide security in a largely Sunni province. Anbar is the 11th of 18 provinces that the coalition has turned over to Iraq control, but the first Sunni province. The government of Nouri al-Maliki now has a further chance to show its ability to represent the entire country, the way it did when the Iraqi military routed Shiite militias in Basra and Sadr City in the spring.

For U.S. politics, it is worth recalling that that 2006 Washington Post story became part of a Beltway consensus that defeat in Iraq was inevitable. Democrats made withdrawal the center of their campaign to retake Congress, Republicans like Senator John Warner became media darlings for saying the war couldn't be won, and the James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group laid out a bipartisan road to retreat. According to memos disclosed Sunday in the New York Times, even senior officials at the State Department and Pentagon opposed the surge. President Bush, heeding Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno as well as John McCain, overruled the defeatists and ordered a renewed U.S. commitment to Iraq.

The Anbar handover is above all a tribute to the hundreds of Americans who have fought and died in places like Fallujah, Ramadi and Hit over these last five years. Over the horizon of history, we tend to recall only the successes in previous wars at such places as Guadalcanal, Peleliu and the Chosin Reservoir. We forget that those wars and battles were also marked by terrible blunders and setbacks, both political and military. What mattered is that our troops, and our country, had the determination to fight to an ultimate victory. So it is with the heroes of Anbar.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #482 on: September 04, 2008, 09:50:17 PM »

Michael Totten embedded with the Marines in Fallujah. Well worth reading.
« Reply #483 on: September 06, 2008, 07:04:29 AM »

U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq
By Joby Warrick and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 6, 2008; A01

By the time he was captured last month, the man known among Iraqi insurgents as "the Tiger" had lost much of his bite. Abu Uthman, whose fierce attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians in Fallujah had earned him a top spot on Iraq's most-wanted list, had been reduced to shuttling between hideouts in a Baghdad slum, hiding by day for fear neighbors might recognize him.

In the end, a former associate-turned-informant showed local authorities the house where Uthman was sleeping. On Aug. 11, U.S. troops kicked in the door and handcuffed him. They quietly ended the career of a man Pentagon officials describe as the kidnapper of American journalist Jill Carroll and also as one of a dwindling number of veteran commanders of the Sunni insurgent group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Uthman, whose given name is Salim Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri, was one of the bigger fish to be landed recently in a novel anti-insurgent operation that plays out nightly in Baghdad and throughout much of Iraq. U.S. intelligence and defense officials credit the operation and its unusual tactics -- involving small, hybrid teams of special forces and intelligence officers -- with the capture of hundreds of suspected terrorists and their supporters in recent months.

The "fusion cells" are being described as a major factor behind the declining violence in Iraq in recent months. Defense officials say they have been particularly effective against AQI, which has lost 10 senior commanders since June in Baghdad alone, including Uthman.

Aiding the U.S. effort, the officials say, is the increasing antipathy toward AQI among many ordinary Iraqis, who quickly report new terrorist safe houses as soon as they're established. Fresh tips are channeled to fast-reaction teams that move aggressively against reported terrorist targets -- often multiple times in a single night.

"Wherever they go, they cannot hide," said a senior U.S. defense official familiar with counterterrorism operations in Iraq. "They don't have safe houses anymore."

The rapid strikes are coordinated by the Joint Task Force, a military-led team that includes intelligence and forensic professionals, political analysts, mapping experts, computer specialists piloting unmanned aircraft, and Special Operations troops. After decades of agency rivalries that have undermined coordination on counterterrorism, the task force is enjoying new success in Iraq with its blending of diverse military and intelligence assets to speed up counterterrorism missions.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said in a recent interview that the cells produce intelligence that nets 10 to 20 captures a night in Iraq.

"We're living in a world now where targets are fleeting," Mullen said. "I don't care if they're on the ground, in the air, on the sea or under the sea -- you don't get much of a shot, and you've got to be able to move quickly."

Fusion cell teams have helped collect and analyze intelligence not only against AQI and Sunni insurgents but also against Shiite militias and foreign fighters, say U.S. military officials.

Headquartered in an old concrete hangar on the Balad Air Base, which once housed Saddam Hussein's fighter aircraft, about 45 miles north of Baghdad, the Joint Task Force in Iraq runs fusion cells in the north, west and south and in Baghdad, U.S. officials said.

The headquarters bustles like the New York Stock Exchange, with long-haired computer experts working alongside wizened intelligence agents and crisply clad military officers, say officials who have worked there or visited.

Huge computer screens hang from the ceiling, displaying aerial surveillance images relayed from Predator, Schweizer and tiny Gnat spycraft. The Bush administration's 2009 supplementary budget request included $1.3 billion to fund 28 unmanned aircraft, officials said, and all will go to the interagency teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the Air Force.

For the Joint Task Force, the CIA provides intelligence analysts and spycraft with sensors and cameras that can track targets, vehicles or equipment for up to 14 hours. FBI forensic experts dissect data, from cellphone information to the "pocket litter" found on extremists. Treasury officials track funds flowing among extremists and from governments. National Security Agency staffers intercept conversations or computer data, and members of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency use high-tech equipment to pinpoint where suspected extremists are using phones or computers.

Fusion cells remain one of the least-known aspects of U.S. operations in Iraq, U.S. officials said, but they have produced significant captures. In March, a fusion cell team captured Hajji Mohammed Shibl, whom U.S. authorities had linked to a string of gruesome attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces. His Shiite militia group has ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"The capabilities for high-end special joint operations that exist now only existed in Hollywood in 2001," said David Kilcullen, a terrorism expert and adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Data gathered in a raid at midnight -- collected by helmet-mounted cameras that can scan rooms, people, documents and cellphone entries and relay the pictures back to headquarters -- often lead to a second or third raid before dawn, according to U.S. officials.

"To me, it's not just war-fighting now but in the future," Mullen said. "It's been the synergy, it's been the integration that has had such an impact."

Defense officials said Uthman's capture reflected the success of the program and also sent a powerful message to remaining AQI members, who are now surrounded by foes even in regions once regarded as friendly. While AQI remains capable of staging deadly suicide bombings, its leaders are becoming reviled throughout the country and are hard-pressed to find sanctuary anywhere in Iraq, according to U.S. defense and intelligence officials.

The progress has somewhat eased concerns among military analysts about an al-Qaeda resurgence in Iraq after U.S. combat troops draw down, Pentagon and intelligence sources said.

The shift also is tacitly acknowledged inside al-Qaeda's base on the Afghan-Pakistan border, as Osama bin Laden has begun retooling his propaganda campaign to emphasize the conflict in Afghanistan instead of the failing effort in Iraq, the officials said. While there is little evidence that al-Qaeda is attempting to move fighters and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, the Iraq conflict is no longer driving recruitment and donations for al-Qaeda as it did as recently as nine months ago, they said.

Attacks inside Iraq by AQI, meanwhile, have dropped sharply, with 28 incidents and 125 civilian deaths reported in the first six months of this year, compared with 300 bombings and more than 1,500 deaths in 2007.

"Iraq will always be a target that resonates for al-Qaeda, but we believe it will never again be the central front," said a U.S. counterterrorism analyst who was not authorized to speak on the record. "Their ability to affect what is going on in Iraq has been greatly diminished."

AQI's decline can be traced to several factors, the officials said. Last year's troop increase helped stabilize Baghdad and other major cities, freeing combat forces to take on AQI strongholds throughout the country.

Even before the "surge," the much-celebrated Anbar Awakening movement signaled a rift between tribal leaders of Iraq's Sunni minority and AQI. Since 2006, defense officials have described a deepening revolt by Sunnis repelled by al-Qaeda's brutal attacks against civilians and forced imposition of sharia, or Islamic law. Sunni leaders also objected to AQI's takeover of smuggling routes and black-market enterprises long controlled by local chiefs.

"We don't see the Sunni community going back to al-Qaeda under any circumstances," the senior defense official said.
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« Reply #484 on: September 12, 2008, 06:10:29 PM »

Iraqi forces will soon be taking control of the last of the two provinces in the Shiite south that remain under U.S. military control. The handover will mark a key development in the Iraqi Shia’s bid to consolidate their power base. In turn, this will facilitate Iranian national security policy regarding Iraq, where the Shiite south can act as a buffer between Iran and Iraq’s Sunni population.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader Jassim said Sept. 10 that Iraqi security forces would soon take control of Babil and Wasit — two key Shiite provinces — from the U.S. military.

Babil and Wasit are the only two provinces in Iraq’s Shiite south where security is still in the hands of U.S. forces. Iraqi security forces have already taken over security responsibility for the seven other provinces in the region — Maysin, Basra, Dhi Qar, Al Qadasiya, Al Muthanna, An Najaf and Karbala. Together, these nine provinces constitute the envisioned Shiite southern federal autonomous zone — a proposal being championed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite (and most pro-Iranian) party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

While the notion of federalism is part of the Iraqi Constitution and is already manifested in the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north, several hurdles remain in the path toward this objective, especially intense intra-Shiite power struggles and disagreements over the idea. Whether or not an autonomous southern Shiite zone takes shape, the reality is that the handover of these two provinces will be a major step in the consolidation of Shiite power in the south. A key reason for this is that control over the security forces — police and army — in the south will be in Shiite hands through both the central government in Baghdad and the provincial authorities in each of the nine provinces.

Most of the governors in the Shiite south are affiliated with ISCI, including the governors of Babil and Wasit. Babil, which has a significant Sunni population, is a strategic province in that it is the only direct land link between Baghdad and the Shiite south. Together, the nine Shiite provinces in southern Iraq allow Tehran to keep its historic enemies — Iraq’s Sunnis — far from its borders.

(click map to enlarge)
The Zagros Mountains, which serve as a natural bulwark protecting Iran against an attack from the west, extend from the northern Kurdish areas down to Diyala, a province contested by each of the country’s three principal sectarian groups. Put differently, the Iranian-Iraqi border that runs south of Wasit all the way to Basra is more or less flat territory vulnerable to an attack and a gateway to Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is also home to ethnic Arabs opposed to Tehran. This is why the Iraqi Shiite south is of critical strategic importance to Iranian national security.

Iran would like to use the Shiite domination of Iraq as a launch pad for projecting power into the region, but there are significant obstacles — namely, the natural competition that characterizes the various Shiite factions — that will prevent that from happening in any meaningful way. But, at the bare minimum, the pro-Iranian Shia dominating southern Iraq and Baghdad should serve as sufficient assurance for Tehran that Iraq will not attack Iran, as many Persian regimes over the millennia have feared.

Of course, the Iraqi Shia do not want their dominion to become Western Persia, but they are new to the game of governance in their country and they want to ensure that the Sunnis (who have the backing of the region’s wealthy Arab states) do not pose a threat to their hold on power. This is why the Iraqi Shia are likely to remain closely aligned with Iran — the only state actor patron at their disposal — for the foreseeable future.

This alignment is the single most important reason behind the mostly backchannel dealings between the United States and Iran over the past several years, which have yet to culminate in the form of an understanding on the final makeup of Iraq. A U.S.-Iranian settlement has become all the more critical in the wake of last month’s Russian intervention in Georgia, because Washington is now desperate to free up its military capability to more directly confront and deter Moscow. But the situation remains complex, and a deal remains elusive.

Tehran, however, can take comfort from the fact that its plans for Iraq, for which it has been laying the groundwork for years, seem to be taking shape in the form of the consolidation of Shiite power in the south.
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« Reply #485 on: September 15, 2008, 02:10:59 PM »

Bush's Lonely Decision
September 15, 2008; Page A22
Now that even Barack Obama has acknowledged that President Bush's surge in Iraq has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," maybe it's time the Democratic nominee gives some thought to how that success actually came about -- not just in Ramadi and Baghdad, but in the bureaucratic Beltway infighting out of which the decision to surge emerged.

That's one reason to welcome "The War Within," the fourth installment in Bob Woodward's account of the Bush Presidency. As is often the case with the Washington Post stalwart, the reporting is better than the analysis, which reflects the Beltway conventional wisdom of a dogmatic and incurious President. But even as a (very) rough draft of history, we read Mr. Woodward's book as an instructive profile in Presidential decision-making.

Consider what confronted Mr. Bush in 2006. Following a February attack on a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, Iraq's sectarian violence began a steep upward spiral. The U.S. helped engineer the ouster of one Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in favor of Nouri al-Maliki, an untested leader about whom the U.S. knew next to nothing. The "Sunni Awakening" of tribal sheiks against al Qaeda was nowhere in sight. An attempt at a minisurge of U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad failed dismally. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, believed the only way the U.S. could "win" was to "draw down" -- a view shared up the chain of command, including Centcom Commander John Abizaid and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Politically, the war had become deeply unpopular in an election year that would wipe out Republican majorities in Congress. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, run by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, was gearing up to offer the President the option of a politically graceful defeat, dressed up as a regional "diplomatic offensive." Democrats united in their demands for immediate withdrawal, while skittish Republicans who had initially supported the war, including Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon, abandoned the Administration.

From the State Department, Condoleezza Rice opposed the surge, arguing, according to Mr. Woodward, that "the U.S. should minimize its role in punishing sectarian violence." Senior brass at the Pentagon were also against it, on the theory that it was more important to ease the stress on the military and be prepared for any conceivable military contingency than to win the war they were fighting.

Handed this menu of defeat, Mr. Bush played opposite to stereotype by firing Mr. Rumsfeld and seeking advice from a wider cast of advisers, particularly retired Army General Jack Keane and scholar Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. The President also pressed the fundamental question of how the war could actually be won, a consideration that seemed to elude most senior members of his government. "God, what is he talking about?" Mr. Woodward quotes a (typically anonymous) senior aide to Ms. Rice as wondering when Mr. Bush raised the question at one meeting of foreign service officers. "Was the President out of touch?"

No less remarkably, the surge continued to face entrenched Pentagon opposition even after the President had decided on it. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went out of his way to prevent General Keane from visiting Iraq in order to limit his influence with the White House.

The Pentagon also sought to hamstring General David Petraeus in ways both petty and large, even as it became increasingly apparent that the surge was working. Following the general's first report to Congress last September, Mr. Bush dictated a personal message to assure General Petraeus of his complete support: "I do not want to change the strategy until the strategy has succeeded," Mr. Woodward reports the President as saying. In this respect, Mr. Bush would have been better advised to dictate that message directly to Admiral Mullen.

The success of the surge in pacifying Iraq has been so swift and decisive that it's easy to forget how difficult it was to find the right general, choose the right strategy, and muster the political will to implement it. It is also easy to forget how many obstacles the State and Pentagon bureaucracies threw in Mr. Bush's way, and how much of their bad advice he had to ignore, especially now that their reputations are also benefiting from Iraq's dramatic turn for the better.

Then again, American history offers plenty of examples of wartime Presidents who faced similar challenges: Ulysses Grant became Lincoln's general-in-chief in 1864, barely a year before the surrender at Appomattox. What matters most is that the President had the fortitude to insist on winning. That's a test President Bush passed -- something history, if not Bob Woodward, will recognize.
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« Reply #486 on: September 26, 2008, 01:28:18 AM »

Iraq Political Progress


For some better news this week, turn the channel to Iraq. The Parliament in Baghdad just undid the biggest political knot in the country. Wednesday's deal to hold provincial elections opens the way for former insurgents and their supporters, mainly Sunni Arabs, to join the democratic process in Iraq. That in turn should help consolidate the stunning security gains of the past year.
[Iraq Political Process] AP

An American soldier stands guard as an Iraqi soldier hands out leaflets of wanted men in Baghdad, Sept. 24, 2008.

We used to hear from Joe Biden, the Pentagon and others on both sides of the aisle in Washington that only political reconciliation and a U.S. force pullout could stem the violence. They got it backwards. The "surge" and General David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, in a matter of months, turned or neutralized Sunni and Shiite militias and all but defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. Only now that it's calmer do Iraqis feel secure enough to make political progress.

Under the compromise, elections are to be held by January in 14 provinces. Expect Sunnis to win a large chunk of seats in Anbar, Diyala and other regions; most Sunnis sat out the previous polls in 2005 and won't make that mistake again. The notable exception is Tamim, home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk disputed by Kurds and Sunnis. Iraqi parliamentarians agreed to kick this problem down the road. Elections there will be put off into the spring once disputes over voter rolls and other questions are resolved. This was the necessary compromise to break the deadlock in Baghdad.

Less noticed but also critical is the manner of voting. In the coming provincial elections, Iraqis will choose from a slate of candidates nominated by political parties. Three years ago, they got to vote only for a "closed slate" of parties without knowing which particular politician would end up representing them in the regional or national assemblies.

The change to a so-called open slate is a step forward. It makes politicians more directly accountable to their constituents and reduces the power of party bosses. The national elections, which are expected by 2010 but were also held up by the dispute over the provincial vote, are expected to be open slate, as well.

Unfortunately Iraq remains stuck with "proportional representation," a 2005 gift from U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that helped exacerbate sectarian tensions and bring weak coalition governments. Under this system, Iraqis don't vote for individual candidates in set constituencies. Instead they choose among party slates that are then awarded a share of seats based on their showing. This gives a strong incentive for Iraq to have only ethnic-based parties.

Iraqi party bosses are attached to this system, and fought behind the scenes even against an open slate. No surprise there: What politician wants to risk losing power? A move from proportional representation to constituency voting would be hard and time consuming. A U.S. official in Baghdad tells us that Washington "won't take a position" on a preferable system for Iraq. Maybe it should. A constitutional reform that further blunts sectarianism in politics and strengthens this young democracy would seem to be in the American -- and Iraqi -- interest.

For all the remarkable progress, the war in Iraq isn't over. An ambush on Iraqi police in the volatile Diyala province, also Wednesday, left 35 policemen dead. Whoever wins the White House next year would imperil the recent gains by drawing down American forces before Iraq holds provincial and national elections. They're needed to ensure security and guard against sectarian backsliding. As importantly, the U.S. is a trusted neutral observer whose robust presence will reassure various Iraqi communities that the elections are fair.

The election compromise is a major breakthrough and shows that political reconciliation is happening in Iraq. It is also further proof that the sacrifice of American soldiers has not been in vain.
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« Reply #487 on: October 15, 2008, 09:38:11 AM »

US troops kill No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 57 minutes ago

American troops acting on a tip killed the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq — a Moroccan known for his ability to recruit and motivate foreign fighters — in a raid in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The military statement described the man, known as Abu Qaswarah, as a charismatic leader who had trained in Afghanistan and managed to rally al-Qaida followers in Iraq despite U.S. and Iraqi security gains.

Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, also said the military suspected that Iranian agents were trying to bribe Iraqi politicians to oppose negotiations over a security pact that would extend the presence of American troops in Iraq.

But, he said, the military had no reason to believe Iraqi politicians had taken the Iranians up on the offers.

"There are indicators that Iranian agents may come across the border and use money or other bribes to influence Iraqi politicians," Driscoll said. "It's a whole different matter whether Iraqi politicians would accept that."

U.S. troops killed Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, on Oct. 5 after coming under fire during a raid on a building that served as an al-Qaida in Iraq "key command and control location for" in Mosul, the military said.

Abu Qaswarah — one of five insurgents killed — was later been positively identified, the military said, without elaborating.

The insurgent leader became the senior al-Qaida in Iraq emir of northern Iraq in June 2007 and had "historic ties to AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the military said.

It called him "al-Qaida in Iraq's second-in-command" as the senior operational leader for al-Zarqawi's successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Driscoll said Abu Qaswarah directed the smuggling of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq and reportedly killed those who tried to return to their homelands rather than carry out suicide bombings and other attacks against Iraqis.

The announcement would indicate that al-Qaida in Iraq's leadership has maintained a presence despite recent reports that many had fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan where fighting has been on the rise.

Abu Qaswarah was described by the military as a "charismatic AQI leader who rallied AQI's northern network in the wake of major setbacks to the terrorist organization across Iraq."

The death of the senior al-Qaida in Iraq leader will cause a major disruption to the terror network, particularly in northern Iraq, the military said.

Nationwide violence has declined drastically over the past year, particularly in Baghdad, but the U.S. military has consistently warned al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents remain a serious threat.

A recent series of killings of Iraqi Christians in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has highlighted the continued dangers in northern Iraq, where many insurgents fled intensive U.S. military operations in the capital and surrounding areas.

The number of Christian families fleeing violence in Mosul since last week has reached 1,390 — or more than 8,300 people, local migration official Jawdat Ismaeel said Wednesday.

Ismaeel said humanitarian teams are distributing food and aid materials to all displaced families, who are largely seeking refuge in nearby Christian-dominated towns and villages.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S. invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks declined as areas became more secure following a U.S. troops buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire. Driscoll said the attacks against the Christians bore the hallmarks of a "typical al-Qaida in Iraq tactic" of trying to provoke retaliatory killings by pitting members of religious and ethnic groups against each other.
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« Reply #488 on: October 28, 2008, 05:36:06 AM »

Its the NY Times, so caveat lector:

MOSUL, Iraq — A new Iraqi military offensive is under way in this still violent northern city, but the worry is not only the insurgents who remain strong here. American commanders are increasingly concerned that Mosul could degenerate into a larger battleground over the fragile Iraqi state itself.

The problems are old but risk spilling out violently here and now. The central government in Baghdad has sent troops to quell the insurgency here, while also aiming at what it sees as a central obstacle to both nationhood and its own power: the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north and the Kurds’ larger ambitions to expand areas under their control.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani.

The Kurds are resisting, underscoring yet again the depth of ethnic and sectarian divisions here and the difficulty of creating a united Iraq even when overall violence is down. Tension has risen to the point that last week American commanders held a series of emergency meetings with the Iraqi government and Kurdish officials, seeking to head off violence essentially between factions of the Iraqi government.

“It’s the perfect storm against the old festering background,” warned Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, who oversees Nineveh and Kirkuk Provinces and the Kurdish region.

Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. If the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will “step aside,” General Thomas said, rather than “have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.”

The competing agendas of the Kurds and central government have nearly provoked violence before, but each side eventually grasped the risks. That may be the case now. At the moment, the Americans are hoping to refocus each side on fighting the insurgency rather than each other.

But the tensions underline that achieving basic security is only the first step toward deeper progress in Iraq — and that much remains, bitterly, unresolved.

Mosul falls outside the borders of the Kurdish region, but Mr. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party came to control the provincial government after Sunni Arabs boycotted the provincial elections in 2005. The Kurds say, however, that they will not abandon the city until they reclaim five areas in Nineveh Province, putting them on a political collision course with the central government.

Tense personal relations between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Barzani worsened, officials on all sides say, after a standoff in September between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish security forces, the pesh merga, in eastern Diyala Province. American forces helped contain that confrontation.

More broadly, the two men do not see eye to eye on issues as fundamental as the sharing of oil resources, the resolution of disputed internal borders and the shape of the Iraqi nation. The Kurds want a loose federation, while Mr. Maliki, playing on nationalist sentiments, is increasingly pushing for a strong central government.

Relations have deteriorated to the point that the Kurdish leadership has described Mr. Maliki as a new Saddam Hussein, recalling how Mr. Hussein ruthlessly crushed the Kurds in the 1980s. The borders of Iraqi Kurdistan were established as an internationally enforced security zone in 1991.

Testing Loyalties

In this latest offensive against insurgents, Mr. Maliki has been pushing to lessen Kurdish military influence here, and that is testing loyalties at a delicate time.

Mr. Maliki sent nearly 3,000 national policemen from Baghdad to Mosul to prop up the local force. The officers, almost all Shiites and Sunni Arabs, will be in charge of the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab west side of the city.

Predominantly Kurdish units of the army stationed in Nineveh are slowly being replaced by the mainly Sunni Arab and Shiite contingents.

The Defense Ministry also recently appointed Maj. Gen. Abdullah Abdul-Karim, Mr. Maliki’s brother-in-law, as the new commander of the Second Division on Mosul’s east side. Mr. Barzani, sensing a plot to purge the Iraqi Army in the north of its Kurdish leadership, personally intervened recently to freeze a ministerial order to transfer 34 Kurdish officers, said Col. Hajji Abdullah, a battalion commander in the Second Division.

“If the Arabs do not change now, things will get worse and I see confrontation,” Colonel Abdullah said.

In the turmoil, he and another officer in the division, Brig. Gen. Nadheer Issam, say their loyalties are first and foremost to Kurdistan.


Page 2 of 3)

“If I were made to choose, I would not even think for a second — I would leave the army,” General Issam said. “We have sacrificed too much fighting the Baathists,” he added, referring to Mr. Hussein’s political party.

 The United States has relied on Kurds from the very beginning in Mosul. Ignoring longtime enmities between the city and Mr. Barzani’s party, American Special Forces units accompanied pesh merga fighters beholden to the party when they took Mosul in April 2003. The United States drafted more pesh merga units into the city in 2004 and 2005 when the whole provincial government and the police force collapsed at the hands of insurgents.

Although many of the pesh merga units in Nineveh were merged into the national army, an estimated 5,000 men remained from an elite Kurdistan corps in the province’s north. All these actions have stoked anger in Mosul toward Americans and Kurds.

Karam Qusay, who works in the Zuhoor neighborhood of Mosul, said he wanted the city to be free of the Kurdish military presence, both in the army and outside of it.

“We wish they would leave,” he said. “We despise them.”

Mosul’s allegiance to Mr. Hussein was so staunch that the city was known as the “regime’s pillow.” Now Mr. Maliki appears to be trying to win over the city by playing on grievances toward the Kurds.

“The government wants to extend its authority, and this clashes with the will and ambitions of the Kurds,” said Maj. Ali Naji, a Sunni Arab in one of the army units sent recently from Baghdad. “I predict fighting between Iraqi forces and the pesh merga.”

Sami al-Askari, one of Mr. Maliki’s senior advisers, said he hoped that talks between his boss and Mr. Barzani would head off any such confrontation.

But he made the government’s position clear: that the presence of Kurdish forces outside of the national army and beyond the borders of Kurdistan was “unlawful.” And he said the refusal of Kurdish officers in the Iraqi Army to obey their transfer orders from Nineveh was a “mutiny that must be severely punished.”

The repercussions of a face-off between Baghdad and the Kurds in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, would be far more serious than the recent tensions in eastern Diyala.

Tenuous Security

Nineveh, wedged between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria and close to Turkey, remains a focal point for a number of Sunni insurgent groups linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown terrorist group that American officials say is led by foreigners, and to the Baath Party. Both are fighting the Americans, Mr. Maliki’s government and the Kurds.

Despite numerous offensives by American and Iraqi forces since the start of the year, security remains tenuous at best. This was underscored this month when 2,270 Christian families, according to the Human Rights Ministry, fled Mosul after a number of killings and other attacks against Christians.

The overall level of violence has dropped in Mosul to 9 or 10 attacks a day from an average of 40 a day a year ago.

Yet killings continue, and fear is palpable. Judges are so intimidated or corrupt that the Iraqi government has flown in judges from Baghdad. Their main job is to issue arrest warrants for wanted suspects.

People other than Christians are also being attacked. A senior provincial official was killed as he left a mosque last month. Even a man who makes tea in the provincial building was recently killed in what is probably the most secure part of the city, said an American official working with local authorities.

In his push to subdue Mosul and marginalize the Kurds, Mr. Maliki is trying to curry favor with disaffected Sunnis. Last week he sent his deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni, here with promises of a reconstruction and investment initiative that would be coordinated this time by respected Sunnis from Mosul.

More significant, Mr. Maliki is courting former army officers and tribal leaders like Sheik Abdullah al-Humaidi, who leads the powerful Shammar tribe in western Nineveh. All are strong nationalists who believe that Kurds must be confined to the borders of Kurdistan drawn after the Persian Gulf war in 1991.


(Page 3 of 3)

General Thomas said Mr. Maliki was promoting Riad al-Chakerji, a Sunni Arab who is a former army general, as the next governor of Nineveh. Mr. Chakerji acts as an adviser to a committee set up to carry out the central government’s new economic initiatives for Mosul.

 “The central government must be very strong, especially now,” Mr. Chakerji said.

Mr. Chakerji, Sheik Humaidi and people like Hassan al-Luhaibi, a former Iraqi Army commander who led the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, have all joined a new political coalition known as Al Hadba, which will run in the coming provincial elections.

The coalition is led by Atheel al-Nujaifi, a prominent businessman who owns a ranch in Mosul that once supplied purebred Arabian horses to Mr. Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

A Call to Keep a Promise

Mr. Nujaifi said the United States military ignored the province’s enmity toward Mr. Barzani and turned itself into a party to the conflict when it relied on pesh merga forces upon arriving in Mosul.

He said that for Mr. Maliki to assert his authority in Mosul he must first make good on his promise to drive out Kurdish forces.

“Many insurgent groups will become law-abiding after that,” Mr. Nujaifi said.

Mr. Nujaifi and his brother Osama, a member of Parliament in Baghdad, blame the Kurds for instigating a campaign against the Christians in Mosul to deflect the central government’s pressure.

One Kurdish leader called the accusations “ludicrous,” and the United States military said it was most likely the work of militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

But a group of Christian leaders who met with General Thomas last week in the town of Qosh, outside Mosul, blamed the struggle between the central government and Kurdistan for the plight of their people. Sweeping out both sides, they said, may be the only way to restore calm and trust.

“You have done a great job removing Saddam’s regime,” the Rev. Bashar Warda told the general. “Continue with removing this regime, and start over again.”

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« Reply #489 on: November 12, 2008, 11:20:53 AM »

A friend recently arrived in Iraq (Baghdad) comments he saw more Burkhas in the DC area than he sees in Baghad.

Iraq's Kurds have consistently been America's closest allies in Iraq. Our Peshmerga forces fought alongside the U.S. military to liberate the country, suffering more casualties than any other U.S. ally.

And while some Iraqi politicians have challenged the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, Iraq's Kurdish leaders have endorsed the pact as essential for U.S. combat troops to continue fighting terrorists in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is committed to a federal, democratic Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors.

We have benefited enormously from the service and sacrifices of America's armed forces and their families, and we are deeply grateful. We are also proud to have shared in such sacrifices; my brother was among those severely wounded during the liberation of Iraq.

Last year, following a U.S. request, we deployed Kurdish troops to Baghdad. These troops played a decisive role in the success of the surge. Last month I once again visited Baghdad to meet with the leadership of the federal government. We stressed our commitment to developing an Iraqi state that abides by its constitution and that is based upon a federal model with clearly delineated powers for its regions.

In spite of all this, some commentators now suggest that the Kurds are causing problems by insisting on territorial demands and proceeding with the development of Kurdistan's oil resources. These allegations are troubling. We are proceeding entirely in accord with the Iraqi constitution, implementing provisions that were brokered by the U.S.

In the constitutional negotiations that took place in the summer of 2005, two issues were critical to us: first, that the Kurdistan Region has the right to develop the oil on its territory, and second, that there be a fair process to determine the administrative borders of Iraq's Kurdistan Region -- thus resolving once and for all the issue of "disputed" territories.

Unfortunately, ever since the discovery of oil in Iraq in the 1920s, successive Iraqi governments have sought to keep oil out of Kurdish hands, blocking exploration and development of fields in Kurdistan. Saddam Hussein's government went even further, using Iraqi oil revenues to finance the military campaigns that destroyed more than 4,500 Kurdish villages and to pay for the poison gas used to kill thousands of Kurdish civilians.

The Kurdish leadership agreed to a U.S.-sponsored compromise in 2005 in which the central government would have the authority to manage existing oil fields, but new fields would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the regions. Since then, the KRG has taken the lead with Baghdad in negotiations on a hydrocarbon law that is faithful to Iraq's constitution and is conducive to modernizing Iraq's oil infrastructure and substantially increasing its oil production.

We have awarded contracts for foreign oil companies (including some American ones) to explore our territory. In so doing, Kurdistan is not threatening the unity of Iraq. It is simply implementing the constitution.

The "disputed territories" have a tragic history. Since the 1950s, Iraqi regimes encouraged Arabs to settle in Kirkuk and other predominantly Kurdish and Turkmen areas. Saddam Hussein accelerated this process by engaging in ethnic cleansing, expelling or killing Kurds and Turkmen, or by requiring nationality corrections (in which non-Arabs are forced to declare themselves to be Arabs) and by moving Arabs into Kurdish homes.

The dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds over Kirkuk has lasted more than 80 years and has often been violent. All sides have now agreed to a formula to resolve the problem, to bring justice to Kirkuk, and to correct the crimes against Kurds committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. Iraq's constitution requires that a referendum be held in disputed territories to determine if their populations want to join the Kurdistan Region. Conducting a plebiscite is not easy, but it is preferable to another 80 years of conflict.

In today's Opinion Journal

Obama's Lame Duck OpportunityMischief in Minnesota?Same Old Berlin Wall


Business World: Obama's Car Puzzle
– Holman W. JenkinsThe Tilting Yard: Goodbye to All That
– Thomas Frank


Is Now the Time to Buy Stocks?
– John H. CochraneKurdistan Is a Model for Iraq
– Masoud BarzaniThis Election Has Not 'Realigned' the Country
– Jennifer MarsicoIf the pro-Kurdistan side should lose the referendum in Kirkuk, I promise that Kurdistan will respect that result. And if they win, I promise that we will do everything in our power to ensure outsized representation of Kirkuk's Turkmen, Arabs and Christians both on the local level and in the parliament and government of the Kurdistan Region.

Regional stability cannot come from resolving internal disputes alone. That is why expanding and deepening our ties with Turkey is my top priority.

My meeting last month in Baghdad with the Turkish special envoy to Iraq was a historic and positive development. There should be further direct contacts between the KRG and Turkey, as well as multilateral contacts that involve the U.S. We are eager to work with Turkey to seek increased peace and prosperity in the region.

I am proud that the Kurdistan Region is both a model and gateway for the rest of Iraq. Our difficult path to a secular, federal democracy is very much inspired by the U.S. And so we look forward to working with the Obama-Biden administration to support and defend our hard-fought successes in Iraq, and to remain proud of what the Kurdistan region is today: a thriving civil society in the heart of the Middle East. When we insist on strict compliance with our country's constitution, we are only following America's great example.

Mr. Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
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« Reply #490 on: November 19, 2008, 12:12:44 PM »

Published: 19 November 2008

Email Address

Happy Ending

Between 2007 and 2008, I got to know a man in South Baghdad whose codename was “Bishop.”  This is the short story of his life.

His parents were Kurdish Sunnis.  They moved to Baghdad 34 years ago – recently married and excited to make a new life for themselves and create a family.  Bishop’s real name was Bashar Akram Ameen; the name given to him when he was born on October 6, 1978 in the Abu Ghraib apartments in Baghdad.  Bashar had three sisters and one brother.  His schooling included graduating from a Baghdad high school in the class of ’96 and attending the Agriculture College of Baghdad University from 1997 until 2002 when he graduated.  America had just set its sights on toppling Saddam.
Shortly after graduating, Bashar began service in the Iraqi Army Reserve, but that lasted only three months, because the U.S. crushed a great part of the Iraqi Army and then officially dissolved the rest.  For three months, Bashar was one of those unemployed young men we worried about.  He got a job in October of 2003 as a bodyguard for an Iraqi judge.  His first job didn’t last long because insurgents assassinated the judge.  Feeling lost and a bit frightened, Bashar decided to look for a “safer” job, and began interpreting for, as he called it, “the Sally Port Security Company” in al-Mansour, Baghdad.  Insurgents in his neighborhood figured out that he was working for an American company, and on February 21, 2006, as he left his job at 6:00 pm, they started shooting at him in his car, “…but I miraculously survived,” Bashar  explained to me, “and that was the reason to leave my job at that company.”

His own safety, and therefore that of his loved ones, was in jeopardy, and so, as Bashar recalled, “I quit visiting my family for over four months.”  Though he had used caution, his family was forced to flee in order to avoid imminent suffering or death from the insurgents. Bashar explained, “They had killed our neighbor’s son, so their father gave the key of his house to my father to keep the house safe until maybe the situation getting better.  Then, on the next day, the same killers of our neighbors came to my father and asked him about the key, so he refused to give it away and he said that he don’t have it and he don’t know anything about it.”  The insurgents warned Bashar’s father that they would check the validity of his information, and if it was untrue, “they will teach my father and us a lesson.” His family, doing what they must to survive, reluctantly left their home.  Bashar wrote to me, “My father packed some basic stuff and moved from our own house in Ameriya, Baghdad; Iraq.”

By now, the civil war was raging in Baghdad.
Not everything was so bleak.  Even at the height of the civil war, life went on.  Bashar met a woman named Alyaa, who worked in legal administration at the “Sally Port Security Company.”  They courted for a year, and got married on September 14, 2006 –  all the while, sectarian violence raged around Iraq.  A year later their first son, Mustafa, was born. Around that time, however, the local Shia militia (called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM) figured out that Bashar, who is Sunni, had worked for the Americans at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon (where he got the codename “Bishop”). “They began coming around to bother my wife while I was at work,” he recalls. “So we moved again to live in al-Mansour, Baghdad. And since then, I stopped making any type of relationships with the neighbors just because you can’t trust anybody.  In al-Mansour, we had very quiet time….”
And so Bashar began working for the American Army as an interpreter, for various units, at the time of peak fighting.  I first met Bishop when he worked for 1-4 Cav in South Baghdad.  The 1-4 Cav soldiers kept Bishop busy, working him hard, and he became one of the team.  As the months rolled by and I came back to 1-4 on several occasions, their area had become quieter and quieter until, really, there was nothing going on except progress.  The younger infantrymen were proud of the progress, but wanted to get up to Mosul or out to Afghanistan, where the fighting was.  But not Bishop.  He’d seen the worst of it and did not want to see any more war.  He was old beyond his years and wanted peace.

Bishop with General Petraeus (center) and LTC Crider (right)

The two most dangerous jobs for Iraqis were probably journalist and interpreter.  Bishop wanted to come to the United States.  As a result, 1-4 Cav Commander, LTC James Crider, and some of the soldiers Bishop had worked with helped with the paperwork.
Just a small aside: LTC Crider and his battalion were serious contributors to success in Iraq.  I got e-mails from LTC Crider about his struggles with Iraqi bureaucracy on behalf of Bishop, even after he went home to America.  I’d seen this LTC Crider go to bat for Iraqis over and over again in Iraq.  In just one example, Crider and his staff waded for months through the Iraqi legal labyrinth to try to free a man who had been wrongfully detained for a bombing he could not have committed; the bombing had never occurred.  Crider and his battalion were welcome fixtures in that neighborhood, because he and his men had brought peace and serenity to a place that had previously been one of the most perilous places in Iraq.  The last time I was there, I walked around with no body armor or helmet, and bought popcorn on the street.  (I was just there again on about November 15; the progress continues without violence.)

I heard that many Iraqis cried when 1-4 redeployed to America.  One captain had even been offered a home if he would come back to live in the neighborhood.  The captain knew how to get things done, while still making the time to learn the names of every kid there.  And he knew their mothers and fathers, too.  But that was it; 1-4 went home and Bishop was left behind, with his family scattered by the war.
His father died in July 2007, his mother and two sisters still live in Baghdad, his brother in Kirkuk, and another sister in Syria.
LTC Crider and others struggled…and struggled…and finally succeeded.  On November 6, 2008, Bishop emigrated to America, landing in Nolensville, Tennessee along with his wife, Alyaa (who is carrying their second child), and their son, Mustafa.  And the amazing 1-4 Cav keeps winning battles, without firing a shot, long after leaving the war.

So now, Bashar is no longer “Bishop,” and he has begun an American life, with the many ups and downs we all have to face.  His next fight is to find a job in our troubled economy and overcome a high-voltage dose of culture shock.  He will come to understand that our culture is just as complicated as the one he left behind – but without the violence, threats and scars of war.

Many people have welcomed him to America.  I think Bashar can be of particular value to America at this time, simply by getting on the radio stations and talking to reporters and telling his story – the story of Iraq –  and showing people how it really is over here.  (I write this from Iraq.)  Perhaps he can explain why many of us think that it was all worth it.  I asked Bashar if I could publish his e-mail address, and he agreed.

This is not just a happy ending, but a happy beginning.  Please welcome this new family to America and pass this story to your local papers and radio stations.  Ask them to talk with a real Iraqi who just got here.  People need to know what happened in Iraq.   

Bashar can be reached at:
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« Reply #491 on: November 20, 2008, 05:08:19 PM »

U.S. shifts its approach in Iraq
Focus shifts to reconciling factions through programs and peace marches
By Mary Beth Sheridan
The Washington Post
updated 12:17 a.m. PT, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2008

BAGHDAD - It was billed as a peace concert in war-scarred Baghdad. But after 30 minutes of poetry and patriotic songs, only a scattering of tribal leaders and dark-suited bureaucrats were sitting in the vast expanse of white plastic chairs before a stage painted with doves.

That didn't trouble Col. Bill Hickman, whose soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division helped organize the event.

"We have sheiks from different places who will sit here and talk to each other," he said, standing at the edge of the audience with his men, a striking sight in their body armor and night-vision goggles.

With violence down sharply this year, the U.S. military is broadening its efforts to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites, reintegrate former insurgents into society and repair the rift between residents and their government.

But as American forces begin to withdraw, some Iraqis question the long-term impact of the pacification campaign. Iraq has no history of democracy, and the government that has come to power since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion is sharply divided along sectarian lines.

"The idea or identity of this is American, not Iraqi," Kassim Daoud, a former Iraqi national security minister, said of the U.S. efforts. Although the Iraqi government has declared its support for reconciliation, he said, "it hasn't got a real program or a map."

Reality lags behind rhetoric
At the concert, city officials spoke glowingly about reconciliation. But some in the audience acknowledged that reality lagged far behind.

Abdul Ameer, 48, a Shiite who attended the event with his two young sons, said he had Sunni friends but couldn't visit them. The friends live in the town of Tarmiyah north of Baghdad, he explained: "It's only for Sunnis. I can't feel safe if I go there."

The U.S. reconciliation campaign includes some major projects, but much of the American effort is decentralized, consisting of reconstruction programs, peace marches and meetings with rival tribal leaders over platters of rice and lamb. In many cases, soldiers are making up the details as they go along.

Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, 42, has had to figure out how to keep the peace in an area of northwestern Baghdad that was previously a hotbed of Sunni insurgents. He became worried last spring when U.S. commanders announced a plan to release thousands of Iraqis detained for alleged ties to insurgents.

"We're like, man, how are we going to keep these guys from falling back into it?" asked Willoughby, an earnest, freckled officer from Clever, Mo., who commands the 4th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to the 101st Airborne.

Willoughby decided he needed someone to help the detainees reenter society. And that is how a squadron of macho U.S. infantrymen and gung-ho tankers came to hire their first professional nurturer.

Fawaz Kashmoola is their "rehabilitation manager."

"The role I play is, when the prisoners get released, I show them love and mercy," said the Iraqi lawyer, a 45-year-old with combed-back hair.

Love, housing and jobs
Love isn't all the former detainees get. Kashmoola and his fellow managers line up housing as well as jobs or training programs. Then the managers check up on the men to ensure they stay out of trouble.

On a recent sunny Thursday, Kashmoola and Willoughby attended a detainee release ceremony on the lawn of a blue-domed mosque. The U.S. military has made these into gala affairs, with flag-waving crowds and speeches from Muslim leaders and Iraqi army officers. The 48 newly freed men were handed gift-wrapped bags of chocolates by U.S. soldiers who a year ago might have flex-cuffed them.

Willoughby said the military is sending a message to men who might be tempted by insurgents' offers to attack the Americans: "We have reconciled with you. We are giving you your next chance. Your community cares about you. We want you to learn a trade, provide for your family -- not be putting IEDs for $200."

In his area, only one of 82 freed detainees has been rearrested. Several other battalions in Baghdad have hired their own versions of Kashmoola.

Detainee-release ceremonies reflect a dramatic change in military doctrine. The Army issued a field manual last month on "stability operations" to guide its troops in facilitating reconciliation and providing essential services. It was produced after the Department of Defense in 2005 elevated "stability operations" to the same level in its doctrine as offensive and defensive operations.

"It's a very different Army from the one that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003," said John Nagl, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security and a former Army officer.

Building support for government institutions is a key part of the U.S. military's pacification effort in Iraq. In Willoughby's area of northwestern Baghdad, for example, American troops have cleaned out sewers, rebuilt schools and put in a swimming pool.

"As you, as a citizen, are looking on, you've got to say, 'It's nice to live here,' " Willoughby said. If insurgents return, the U.S. officers hope, Iraqis will consider what they have to lose.

It can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of some of the American programs. Hickman's soldiers, for example, have helped organize soccer games between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, providing the young players with T-shirts or uniforms.

The matches aren't billed as peace events, he said, but the parents mingle, re-creating an atmosphere that existed before the invasion. The games draw them from neighborhoods divided by giant blast walls and painful memories of sectarian warfare.

"The nuance here is for the Sunni and Shiite to come together," said Hickman, who commands the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Peace concert problems
U.S. troops had envisioned the Baghdad peace concert as an event for the public to enjoy. But they organized it jointly with Iraqi officials, who are still unaccustomed to such unscripted activities. Park officials barred most people without a government invitation from entering, resulting in scores of empty seats.

Iraqi government officials have praised the American peace efforts but say they have their limits.

Safa Rasul Hussein, the deputy national security adviser, said the U.S. programs had been helpful, particularly on outreach to the Sunni minority. But he noted that some Iraqi parties and armed groups refuse to talk to the American military.

"Maybe reconciliation will be more when they leave," he said.

The Iraqi government has launched a number of its own reconciliation activities, from organizing political conferences to setting up assistance centers for families displaced by violence.

Sons of Iraq fear U.S. pullout
One of the U.S. military's biggest reconciliation efforts involves the Sons of Iraq, once-hostile Iraqis who became American-paid neighborhood guards. The U.S. military considers the mostly Sunni guards to be a critical factor in the drop in violence over the past year.

It has urged Iraq to integrate the guards into its security forces, but the Shiite-led government has been slow to do so. On Oct. 1, the Iraqi government assumed control of about half the 100,000 guards and last week started paying them.

But the U.S. military is taking no chances. It held two high-level meetings with Iraqi officials to ensure they were prepared to pay the guards under their control. When the Sons of Iraq protested that the Iraqi government wanted to cut their monthly salaries from $300 to $250, the U.S. military stepped in and got the decision changed. On payday, American soldiers sat next to the Iraqi troops handing out the cash.

The Sons of Iraq say they're nervous about what will happen if the American role diminishes, especially because many of them haven't been told yet what their new jobs will be.

"There was some talk in the Iraqi media that the Iraqi government wasn't accepting the Sons of Iraq as it should. We don't know what is going to happen in the future," said one guard, Alaa Ghazi.

Ghazi, 27, is one of hundreds of guards who have been accepted into the Iraqi police academy. On a recent day, he took a break from drilling on a dusty parade ground outside the facility.

The Sons of Iraq program would continue to work well "with the help and support" of the U.S. forces, he said. But asked whether it could succeed without them, he shook his head.

"No, no, no!" he cried.
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« Reply #492 on: November 24, 2008, 11:28:35 PM »

November 24, 2008, BAGHDAD

THE Iraq War is over.

Flames still burst from various sources and wild cards remain, such as the potential that Muqtada al-Sadr might stomp his feet and encourage his diminished militias to attack us. Yet support for Sadr among Shia is hardly monolithic. In fact, many Shia view him as a simpleton whose influence derives strictly from respect for his father. Others cite the threat from Iran, but the Iranian participation in the fighting here remains overstated.

Nobody knows what the future will bring, but the civil war has completely ended.

The Iraqi army and police grow stronger by the month, and even the National Police (NP) are gaining a degree of respect and credibility.

As recently as last year, the NPs were considered nothing more than militia members in uniform who murdered with impunity. To go on patrol with NPs was to invite attack. But the Americans worked to help alleviate the disdain.

On one occasion, US soldiers peacefully disarmed a local militia that was apparently about to ambush NPs who had harassed it the same morning, and the soldiers sent the NPs to their station and later gave the locals back their guns. The next day, we were at the NP station as the US commander, Lt-Col. James Crider, gave professional instruction to the NP commanders.

Over time, the extremely frustrating process of mentoring the NPs worked. Last week, I went on foot patrol with US forces and NPs in the same Baghdad neighborhood. Kids were coming up to say hello. And the same people who used to tell me they hated the NPs were actually greeting them.

Similar dynamics have occurred in places like Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh. Tour after tour of US soldiers carried the ball successively, further down the field.

Through time, trust and bonds have been built between the US and Iraqi soldiers, police and citizens. The United States has a new ally in Iraq. And if both sides continue to nurture this bond, it will create a permanent partnership of mutual benefit.

Surely, one could pick up a brush and approach a blank canvas using colors from the palette of truth, and, with a cursory glance, smear Iraq to look like a Third World swamp. But Iraq is a complicated tapestry with great depth and subtle beauty. This land and its people have great potential to become a regional learning center of monumental importance.

Iraqis are tired of war and ready to get back to school, to business and to living life as it should be.

Last week, I shed my helmet and body armor and walked in south Baghdad as evening fell. The US soldiers who took me along were from the battle-hardened 10th Mountain Division; about half the platoon were combat veterans from Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Though most were in their 20s, they seemed like older men. None had even fired a weapon during this entire tour, which so far has lasted more than eight months, in what previously was one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.

Americans and Iraqis had, in those earlier times, been killed or injured on the very streets we patrolled that day. Patched bullet holes pocked nearly every structure as if concrete-eating termites had infested, and there was resonance of car bombs once detonated on these avenues.

Now, the SOI (Sons of Iraq; what pessimists used to scathingly call "America's Militias") are monitoring checkpoints. I talked with an SOI boss and found that he was getting along side-by-side with the neighborhood NP commander, and in fact they were laughing together. Those who derisively called the SOI "America's Militias" have lost much credibility, while the commanders who supported the movement have earned that same credibility.

Though we are still losing American soldiers in Iraq, the casualties are roughly a tenth of previous highs. Attacks in general are down to about the same.

I asked some Iraqis, "Why are the terrorists attacking mostly Iraqis instead of Americans?" One man explained that the terrorists see the Iraqi army getting stronger and unifying with police, and the terrorists fear the Iraqi government.

Focusing on a few "Iraqi trees," one could make the argument that the war is ongoing and perilous. But to step back and look at "the forest," one cannot escape the fact that Iraq's long winter is over, and the branches are budding.

Iraqis and Americans aren't natural enemies. We have no reason to fight each other, and we understand each other far better than we did back in 2003. True bonds have been formed. Iraq and America realize that we have every reason to cooperate as allies.

But the greater, much more important, milestone will be the day when American, British and Polish students are studying in Iraq, while Iraqi students are studying in our countries. Cementing these ties takes time and patience. But we can do it.

Michael Yon has been reporting on the War on Terror since December 2004 at His latest book is "Moment of Truth in Iraq."
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« Reply #493 on: November 25, 2008, 09:58:38 AM »

Thanks for the post.

Maybe one day history will redeem W for saving Iraq from Saddam.   I still feel we did the right thing against all political correctness.

Of course as things quiet down allowing BO to start withdrawals the MSM will rush to give *him* all the credit.

Like Rome, Americas weakness comes from within, lack of will, political infighting.

The only good thing from the financial mess is that it may slow BOs wish to make the US into an international cream puff.

Bo's foreign policy consists of "Americans need to speak more French than just merci beaucou".

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« Reply #494 on: November 25, 2008, 11:09:29 AM »

Here is another write up from Cal Thomas that confirms the same.  That Iraq is stabilized.  Instead of the W being given credit he is of course demonized by his political enemies.

Russia is going to have a total field day getting concessions from the closet marxist who now leads our country.  Let see.  If Putin gets in the octagon with Hillary whose derierre is going to be kicked??? rolleyes

***Mission Accomplished II

By Cal Thomas | Nineteen months after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the war in Iraq "lost" and just nine months after Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted the war has been a "failure" because it had not brought political change leading to reconciliation, it can now be said conclusively that both were wrong.

One of the great military reversals in history is close to achieving victory. That is contributing to stability in Iraq, along with reconciliation between warring factions.

These conclusions are contained in a report compiled by retired General Barry R. McCaffrey after a recent visit to Iraq during which he consulted with Iraqi and American military leaders and diplomats.

McCaffrey, now an adjunct professor of International Affairs at the United States Military Academy at West Point, wrote a memorandum for his academic colleagues. It concludes, "The United States is now clearly in the end game in Iraq to successfully achieve what should be our principle objectives: the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. ground combat forces ... in the coming 36 months; leaving behind an operative civil state and effective Iraqi security forces; an Iraqi state which is not in open civil war among the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds; and an Iraqi nation which is not at war with its six neighboring states."

While adding that the security situation is "still subject to sudden outrage at any moment by al-Qaida in Iraq" or to "degradation because of provocative behavior by the Maliki government," McCaffrey concludes that "the bottom line is a dramatic and growing momentum for economic and security stability, which is unlikely to be reversible."
 McCaffrey notes the sharp drop in attacks and casualties in the last two years and praises the "genius of the leadership team of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General David Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates." He credits these three with "turn(ing) around the situation from a bloody disaster under the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld to a growing situation of security."

While McCaffrey is cautious about the Maliki government, he adds that Maliki "clearly has matured and gained stature as a political leader since he assumed his very dangerous and complex leadership responsibilities." Provisional elections are scheduled for January 2009, district elections for mid-year and national elections sometime next December. McCaffrey says fighting is now more about politics than shooting and bombing and that Americans should "have a sense of empathy for these Iraqi politicians (who) have survived a poisonous Saddam regime and a culture of intrigue and murder from every side."

While optimistic, McCaffrey's memo is filled with caveats that have much to do with America's willingness under a new president to finish the job. The Iraqi military, he says is still "anemic," lacking adequate weapons and equipment. "Their military officer corps is immensely better than a year ago — but the bench is thin."

Though the economy struggles — (unemployment is 20 percent and under-employment is probably 60 percent, he says), the financial system is "immature," investment capital is lacking, enterprises are run with "badly maintained, outmoded equipment" and the country suffers from "brain drain" — things are markedly better than at any time since the war started. "The markets are open. The roads are again viable. Oil and electricity (are) no longer routinely sabotaged by the insurgents and criminals. Cell phone communications, satellite TV, and radio are all operating."

McCaffrey is critical of those responsible for managing the war during its early years: "It did not have to turn out this way with $750 billion of our treasure spent and 36,000 US killed and injured." Still, he says, it is critical that force reductions are conducted in a "deliberate and responsible manner," leaving "a stable and functioning state."

Many still argue — as president-elect Barack Obama does — that we should never have invaded Iraq. But if a stable Iraq results and serves as a bulwark against terrorism and terrorist states, it may turn out to have been worth it. While much could still go wrong, McCaffrey's conclusion that gains are now "irreversible" is the most optimistic assessment since President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln five years ago.

That sentiment was premature, but if this one is correct, don't look for the current president to get short-term credit. That will go to Barack Obama for pulling the troops out. Long after any Republican can derive political credit, historians will be forced to acknowledge that freedom won and state terrorism lost in Iraq.***

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« Reply #495 on: November 30, 2008, 08:51:40 AM »

Even TF acknowledges what is happening in Iraq-- the last two paragraphs are gibberish IMHO though.

Obama’s Iraq Inheritance
Published: November 29, 2008

Here’s a story you don’t see very often. Iraq’s highest court told the Iraqi Parliament last Monday that it had no right to strip one of its members of immunity so he could be prosecuted for an alleged crime: visiting Israel for a seminar on counterterrorism. The Iraqi justices said the Sunni lawmaker, Mithal al-Alusi, had committed no crime and told the Parliament to back off.

That’s not all. The Iraqi newspaper Al-Umma al-Iraqiyya carried an open letter signed by 400 Iraqi intellectuals, both Kurdish and Arab, defending Alusi. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of press freedom. I can’t imagine any other Arab country today where independent judges would tell the government it could not prosecute a parliamentarian for visiting Israel — and intellectuals would openly defend him in the press.

In the case of Iraq, though, the federal high court, in a unanimous decision, vacated the Parliament’s rescinding of Alusi’s immunity, with the decision delivered personally by Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud. The decision explained that although a 1950s-era law made traveling to Israel a crime punishable by death, Iraq’s new Constitution establishes freedom to travel. Therefore the Parliament’s move was “illegal and unconstitutional because the current Constitution does not prevent citizens from traveling to any country in the world,” Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for the court, told The Associated Press. The judgment even made the Parliament speaker responsible for the expenses of the court and the defense counsel!

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an independent judiciary is good news. It’s a reminder of the most important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual politics and independent judiciaries. And it’s a reminder that a decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.

Al Qaeda has not been fully defeated in Iraq; suicide bombings are still an almost daily reality. But it has been dealt a severe blow, which I believe is one reason the Muslim jihadists — those brave warriors who specialize in killing women and children and defenseless tourists — have turned their attention to softer targets like India. Just as they tried to stoke a Shiite-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and failed, they are now trying to stoke a Hindu-Muslim civil war in India.

If Iraq can keep improving — still uncertain — and become a place where Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can write their own social contract and live together with a modicum of stability, it could one day become a strategic asset for the United States in the post-9/11 effort to promote different politics in the Arab-Muslim world.

How so? Iraq is a geopolitical space that for the last three decades of the 20th century was dominated by a Baathist dictatorship, which, though it provided a bulwark against Iranian expansion, did so at the cost of a regime that murdered tens of thousands of its own people and attacked three of its neighbors.

In 2003, the United States, under President Bush, invaded Iraq to change the regime. Terrible postwar execution and unrelenting attempts by Al Qaeda to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war turned the Iraqi geopolitical space into a different problem — a maelstrom of violence for four years, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. A huge price was paid by Iraqis and Americans. This was the Iraq that Barack Obama ran against.

In the last year, though, the U.S. troop surge and the backlash from moderate Iraqi Sunnis against Al Qaeda and Iraqi Shiites against pro-Iranian extremists have brought a new measure of stability to Iraq. There is now, for the first time, a chance — still only a chance — that a reasonably stable democratizing government, though no doubt corrupt in places, can take root in the Iraqi political space.

That is the Iraq that Obama is inheriting. It is an Iraq where we have to begin drawing down our troops — because the occupation has gone on too long and because we have now committed to do so by treaty — but it is also an Iraq that has the potential to eventually tilt the Arab-Muslim world in a different direction.

I’m sure that Obama, whatever he said during the campaign, will play this smart. He has to avoid giving Iraqi leaders the feeling that Bush did — that he’ll wait forever for them to sort out their politics — while also not suggesting that he is leaving tomorrow, so they all start stockpiling weapons.

If he can pull this off, and help that decent Iraq take root, Obama and the Democrats could not only end the Iraq war but salvage something positive from it. Nothing would do more to enhance the Democratic Party’s national security credentials than that.

More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on November 30, 2008, on page WK8 of the New York edition.
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« Reply #496 on: December 01, 2008, 10:18:01 AM »

The Art

of the

End of War


Published: 01 December 2008
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

(Travel from Iraq to Afghanistan, and needless bureaucratic delays, nearly killed this dispatch.  Though many photos were made during the recent journey in Iraq, none are included here.  Bureaucracy unrelated to our combat forces continues to steal frontline photos and words from your screen. We seem to have two Armies: One Army of true soldiers moving mountains to win wars, while the other Army does everything possible to break the machine while playing soldier.  Though I am with excellent U.S. forces in the hinterlands of Afghanistan, this dispatch describes my final “mission” outstanding soldiers in Iraq.)

Baghdad, Iraq

On the morning of 14 November, soldiers from 2-4 Alpha of the 10th Mountain Division set off on a mission in south Baghdad, and I tagged along.  About half the soldiers are combat veterans from Afghanistan and/or Iraq.  For instance, SSG Zacchary Foust, the 1st Squad Leader of 3rd Platoon, said he had done two combat tours in Afghanistan, and this was his second go in Iraq, making this his fourth combat deployment.  Working with multi-tour veterans makes my job much easier, especially when they have worked in more than one war.  The words and expectations from the veterans are more measured and matured, even when the soldiers might be young.  Combat veterans also tend to be much more relaxed with correspondents.  Most of them seem to view correspondents as if we are zoo animals, since most soldiers, even if they have done multiple tours and seen lots of al Qaeda and Taliban up close, have never seen a correspondent up close.  I almost expect them to ask, “What do you eat?  Do you live in trees or on the ground?”  The one constant with service members over here is politeness and professionalism.  Combat soldiers are among the most courteous people I have ever met.

SSG Foust explained that after the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, his group spent long periods patrolling in the Sinjar mountains in Nineveh where many Yezidis live.  He said there was no fighting with Yezidis and that the Yezidis were so friendly that they continuously invited the soldiers to eat with them in the villages.  Foust said that though the soldiers brought along Army food, they didn’t really need it because the Yezidis kept them stuffed, and the Yezidi food was much better than army food.  Foust said the Yezidis offered the best tobacco he’s ever tasted, because they grow their own.  It wasn’t until later that Foust learned the Yezidis are supposed to be “devil worshippers,” which seemed a bit perplexing because they seemed like normal people to him.

I said to SSG Foust what I tell our pilots who fly near Yezidis: If your aircraft goes down near Yezidis, you might be sipping tea with your laundry being folded before search and rescue can get to you.  And they’ll cook lunch for the rescue team.  This is why a lot of Americans who know Yezidis are angered when al Qaeda attacks Yezidi people.  Many personal bonds have been formed during this tragic war.  We are no longer enemies with the Iraqis, and there is no good reason why Iraq and America should ever fight again.

And so we rolled out of FOB Falcon in those giant MRAPs.  It seems that most of the seriously experienced combat soldiers do not like MRAPs.  Yes, MRAPs are great for the main roads and convoys, but they are too big and too cumbersome, and they get stuck in mud that you could peddle a bicycle through.  MRAPs are not offensive vehicles.  There is no doubt MRAPs can save lives – they’re like giant vaults on wheels, though I did see the wreckage of one in Afghanistan that had been nearly obliterated.  When we’re on the main roads, I love MRAPs, but we will never win wars or major battles with those things, or by staying on main roads.  MRAPs need good roads.  Good roads are bomb magnets.  In Afghanistan, many of the Taliban scoot around on motorcycles, and there is no doubt that mobility is a weapon.  We should melt most of the MRAPs down and forge that metal into killing machines like Strykers.  The combat vets from 10th Mountain that day were also not fans of MRAPs.  And though it’s easy to find MRAP-lovers, the hardcore fighters seem to want more mobility than steel.

We rumbled into various neighborhoods in south Baghdad.  Nothing was going on.  No gun battles.  No mushroom clouds from car bombs or IEDs.  I wore the headset and the incessant radio alerts about units fighting here or there was completely absent.  In the old days, while the Iraq war was hot, there was constant chatter about fighting, car bombs, snipers, name it.  Today, there were no alerts at all.  There was more chatter about the Kenyan sitting in front of me who had been in the Army for a couple years.  The other soldiers said he should get automatic citizenship for volunteering to fight, and we all agreed.  The soldier came straight from Kenya into our Army.  Did not even pass GO, and suddenly was in Iraq.

On another day, I had lunch with a soldier from Ghana.  He told me that Ghana has the same constitution as the United States, and that he was proud to join the American Army.   He had become an American, to which I said, “Welcome aboard.”  He had one of those Ghana accents and was black as coal.  By the time he finished telling me about his homeland, I was sold on wanting to travel there someday.

“Are Americans welcome?”  I asked.

“Sure!”  He seemed to think the question was humorous for its simplicity about Ghana.  He said that American soldiers in Ghana are treated like kings, and if anyone gives a hassle, a U.S. soldier has only to show his military ID, and the clouds all disappear.  The soldier from Ghana told me that when he goes home on leave, the police actually salute him because he joined the American army.  I was incredulous, and asked for reassurance, “Really?!  They salute you?”

“Yes,” he said, with that funny Ghana accent.  “They Salute American soldiers in Ghana!  They love America and many Americans retire there.”

Sounded like Kurdish Iraq, where the kids ask soldiers for autographs, and even ask interpreters for autographs if they work for American soldiers.

The Baghdad mission with 10th Mountain Division soldiers was uneventful, other than the soldiers being proud to say they haven’t had to fire a single shot in combat this year.  One soldier wanted to buy a roasted chicken, but the chicken stand no longer takes dollars, only Iraqi dinars.  Several stores we stopped at now only take dinar, though I bought a sim chip for my cell phone with dollars.  Later in the day, a soldier with a pocket full of dinar bought kebabs for the squad and we devoured the whole lot.

The SOI, or Sons of Iraq, which many people used to derisively call “America’s Militias,” were out there and their behavior was polite.  The SOI were even getting along with the National Police (NP) who were with us; just a year ago the SOI and NP used to kill each other.  In another encouraging sign, the Iraqi government has started paying the SOI, and their pay is nearly as much as that of Iraqi soldiers.  For SOI who want jobs that do not include carrying a gun, there are job training programs that I wanted to cover, but there was no time.

I normally don’t ask British or American soldiers about politics, but I had been asking many American soldiers what they think of Obama vs. McCain, and I came away with no fixed answer.  Many wanted McCain, while it seems just as many wanted Obama, though none of the soldiers seem so emotional about it like the folks at home, or in other countries.  But across the board, as expected, whether soldiers like Obama or not, nobody wanted to see Iraq get neglected, and I was with them on that.  The biggest endorsement for Obama came from al Qaeda’s Vice President, the bitter hate-man and racist Dr. Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, when he declared war on Obama.  Al Qaeda obviously is afraid of Obama, just like they are afraid of Bush who has been chasing al Qaeda like rats since 9/11.  I’ve never enjoyed a day in the Iraq war, or in Afghanistan, but there have been many days of quiet satisfaction when al Qaeda or Taliban were brought to final justice before my eyes.  It would be something to see Zawahiri or Bin Laden, captured like rats, shaved of hair and beards, put before the world to face the families of the thousands of Americans, Iraqis, Afghans, and so many others in Pakistan, Africa, and Europe, that they have murdered.  Nobody suffers more at the hands of al Qaeda than Muslims.

Al Qaeda was handed a vicious defeat in Iraq, and it can be said with great certainty that most Iraqis hate al Qaeda even more than Americans do.  Al Qaeda can continue to murder Iraqis for now, but al Qaeda will be hard pressed to ever plant their flag in another Iraqi city.  The Iraqi army and police have become far too strong and organized, and the Iraqis will eventually strangle al Qaeda to death.

I still find people in America, Nepal, Thailand, UAE and other countries who believe al Qaeda propaganda that they attack us because we support Israel or occupy Muslim holy land.  This would not explain the decapitated Iraqi children I photographed when locals told me al Qaeda did it.  This would not explain the Iraqi children al Qaeda has blown up, or the Afghans and Pakistanis killed by al Qaeda, or the Africans who are murdered by the same cult of serial killers.  Did those decapitated children in the Iraqi village even know where America or Israel are?  What about the Shia mosques they destroyed in Iraq?  Were they occupying Saudi Arabia or supporting Israel?

The streets that I was this day patrolling with Iraqi National Police and soldiers from 10th Mountain Division, were once controlled by al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda had intentionally stoked the fires of civil war in Iraq.

What’s next?  If you are in this same neighborhood next week (now last week), please go to the art Iraqi Art show that people were talking about:

Rashid Leaders Plan, Prepare for Art and Culture Show

Friday, 21 November 2008
By Capt. Brett Walker
4th Infantry Division 

The Doura Art and Culture Show is tentatively scheduled to be held Nov. 26 in the Doura community of southern Baghdad. Approximately 100 pieces of art are expected to be on display at the show. The theme of the event is

FOB FALCON — For the first time in a generation, an art and culture show will be hosted in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad, Nov. 26.

Twenty renowned Iraqi artists, many of them professors at the Baghdad Art Institute, have agreed to participate in the Doura Art and Culture Show, “New Life, New Culture.”

The event’s organizer, Faruq Fu’ad Rafiq Hamdani of Baghdad’s Mansoor district, said he expects approximately 100 pieces of art including paintings, photographs, sculptures and conceptual art pieces to be displayed at the event.

“Southern Baghdad is not thought to be supportive of the arts,” explained Faruq, regarding the theme he personally selected. “Southern Baghdad has a reputation for violence, but this show will change that perception. This show will introduce a new way for the people of Iraq to live.”

The show will be hosted by Ali S. Al Khalid, the dean of the Doura Technical College, on the campus of his academic institution.

“This event will bring much prestige to the Rashid district, and it will provide an excellent educational opportunity for my students,” Ali said.

The Doura Technical College is located in the Rashid district of Baghdad, the dominant district of southern Baghdad consisting of 1.6 million residents.

Hashem Mahmood, the district’s elected deputy chairman, said he will preside over the opening ceremony of the show in recognition of his ardent support of the event.

“I have wanted to see something like this in Rashid for a long time,” Hashem said. “To my knowledge it has not been done in my lifetime.”

The Rashid District Council Chairman Yaqoub Yosif, said he also plans to support the event and plans to attend the opening day.

“I think this is a very good idea,” Yaqoub said. “Everyone I have spoken to about it likes it, too.”

Faruq, the event’s coordinator, as well as a contributing artist, said that the event began as a humble art show with eight contributing artists, but has since attracted the interest of many other members of the Baghdad cultural community, many of whom volunteered to participate for free.

The art show became an art and culture show with the addition of 12 more artists, a three-part orchestra, instructional lectures on art technique, local food purveyors and gifts for any adolescent attendants, he explained.

“This event constitutes an important contribution to redefining the way the world perceives Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Watson, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.

The battalion provided funding for the inaugural event, added Watson, who hails from San Diego.

“It is about creating a new cultural identity beyond that of violence and war,” Watson said. “It is about instilling pride in the Iraqi people for their own rich, cultural heritage.”

The “Warriors” Battalion of the 4th Inf. Regt., deployed to the Rashid district in support of MND-B and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is part of the 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division, stationed at Fort Polk, La.

A civil society is one that admires artists, and has time to admire and critique and argue about their creations.  An advanced society is one that can generate and support an Army that promotes the art of a former enemy, to find peace. The Iraqi artists have the opportunity and social obligation to promote healing.

Yes, the war is over.  And it will be a great day when the last American division leaves Iraq, and Americans and Iraqis never fire another shot at each other, and we can honestly call each other “friends.”

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« Reply #497 on: December 01, 2008, 10:45:56 AM »

Gibberish yes.

Democratic party loving and bush hating bias pure and simple.  Of course.  He is already giving all the credit to BO and detracting from W.

***I’m sure that Obama, whatever he said during the campaign, will play this smart. He has to avoid giving Iraqi leaders the feeling that Bush did — that he’ll wait forever for them to sort out their politics — while also not suggesting that he is leaving tomorrow, so they all start stockpiling weapons.***
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« Reply #498 on: December 04, 2008, 12:17:04 PM »

You know you are in Baghdad when the sign on the back of your hotel room door not only tells you what to do in event of a  fire, but also tells you what to do in event of:

·         Indirect fire attack

·         Small arms attack

·         VBIED attack

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« Reply #499 on: December 06, 2008, 08:04:57 AM »

Progress in Iraq is often measured in declining rates of terrorist violence, the number of provinces under Iraqi control, growing Iraqi troop strength, and the new U.S.-Iraq Security pact that received final Iraqi approval this week. But a pair of recent Iraqi court decisions also tells us something about the moral distance the country has traveled since the days of Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, an Iraqi court handed down a second death sentence to Ali Hassan al-Majeed, better known as "Chemical Ali." Mr. Majeed, a cousin and top lieutenant of Saddam, was first sentenced to die last year for using poison gas against thousands of Kurdish villagers in the late 1980s. This time, he stood trial for his role in suppressing the 1991 Shiite uprising in southern Iraq, in which an estimated 60,000 people were slaughtered.

In today's Opinion Journal


Bridge Loan to NowhereJustice in IraqOf Jobs and 'Stimulus'


Declarations: 'At Least Bush Kept Us Safe'
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Environmental Test
– Kimberley A. Strassel


The Weekend Interview: Andy Stern
– Matthew KaminskiHow the Credit Crisis Will Change the Way America Does Business
– Henry KaufmanIndia Is a Key Ally in the War on Terror
– Douglas J. FeithCross Country: A Property Tax Cut Could Help Save Buffalo
– Steven H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. WaltersDivorce Lawyers Could Use Subsidies Too
– Raoul FelderThink what you will about the death sentence -- and Mr. Majeed was initially spared due to Iraqi President (and Kurdish leader) Jalal Talabani's opposition to it -- it's hard to name anyone who has inflicted more cruelty than Mr. Majeed, and his sentence is of a piece with the justice meted to the Nazis at Nuremberg.

Now take the case of Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi legislator who visited Israel in 2004 and paid for it when his two sons were murdered the following year. Undeterred, Mr. Alusi returned to Israel in September, only to be sanctioned by parliament on the grounds that he had violated Saddam-era statutes forbidding travel to the Jewish state. Fortunately, Iraq's constitutional court disagreed, noting that Saddam-era laws don't apply in the new Iraq. Mr. Alusi will now be returning to his parliamentary duties.

It's a shame that Iraq's young democracy isn't prepared to recognize Israel, as Egypt and Jordan have. Then again, any state which sentences a man like Mr. Majeed to die while defending the rights of Mr. Alusi has put itself on the right side of history, and deserves our continuing support.

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