Iraq War

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  If Iraq FallsAugust 27, 2007 08:57 While we don't disagree with this... unfortunately, Bush's terrible mishandling of the region seems to have put us in an unwinnable situatoin. Pullback and containment may be the best alternative.

In contrast to President Bush's dark comparison between Iraq and the bloody aftermath of the Vietnam War last week, there is another, comforting version of the Vietnam analogy that's gained currency among policy makers and pundits. It goes something like this:

After that last helicopter took off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon 32 years ago, the nasty strategic consequences then predicted did not in fact materialize. The "dominoes" did not fall, the Russians and Chinese did not take over, and America remained No. 1 in Southeast Asia and in the world.

But alas, cut-and-run from Iraq will not have the same serendipitous aftermath, because Iraq is not at all like Vietnam.

Unlike Iraq, Vietnam was a peripheral arena of the Cold War. Strategic resources like oil were not at stake, and neither were bases (OK, Moscow obtained access to Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay for a while). In the global hierarchy of power, Vietnam was a pawn, not a pillar, and the decisive battle lines at the time were drawn in Europe, not in Southeast Asia.

The Middle East, by contrast, was always the "elephant path of history," as Israel's fabled defense minister, Moshe Dayan, put it. Legions of conquerors have marched up and down the Levant, and from Alexander's Macedonia all the way to India. Other prominent visitors were Julius Caesar, Napoleon and the German Wehrmacht.

This is not just ancient history. Today, the Greater Middle East is a cauldron even Macbeth's witches would be terrified to touch. The world's worst political and religious pathologies combine with oil and gas, terrorism and nuclear ambitions.

In short, unlike yesterday's Vietnam, the Greater Middle East (including Turkey) is the central strategic arena of the 21st century, as Europe was in the 20th. This is where three continents -- Europe, Asia, and Africa -- are joined. So let's take a moment to think about what would happen once that last Blackhawk took off from Baghdad International.

  Edwards: Congress Should Use All Tools To Demand Troop WithdrawalAugust 27, 2007 08:38 Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Sunday that Congress should continue to push for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq regardless of what top military advisers say in their progress report next month.

The former North Carolina senator started the last day of his four-day bus tour of New Hampshire outside Manchester's City Hall, where he told several hundred people that they should ask themselves two key questions when the report is released. First, has Iraq made progress toward a political solution? And second, how long will troops be deployed if there is no progress?

Edwards said if he were president, he would remove about 50,000 American troops immediately, with the rest redeployed over about nine months.

"Although they haven't done squat yet, I would give (Iraq prime minister Nouri al-Maliki) and the Sunnis at least few months to reach a compromise. But they've got to know there's a deadline," he said.

He repeated his stance that Congress should not submit any Iraq funding bill to President Bush unless it includes a timetable for withdrawing troops.
  Al-Maliki'S Government Ineffective, Key Report SaysAugust 24, 2007 14:25 A National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday said that U.S. troops are making some progress in Iraq, but it cast doubt on the effectiveness of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.

The report's key findings, the only unclassified portion of the document, concluded that "Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively," adding that the nation's government "will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months" because of internal dissension. But it noted that the "perception" of imminent withdrawals could lead to intensified violence.

The findings were released as Senator John Warner, the senior Republican on the Senate armed services committee, returned from Iraq and called on President George W. Bush to begin bringing some of the 162,000 troops home by Christmas.

"I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum, but certainly in 160,000-plus [troops], say, 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year," Mr. Warner said. "That's the first step."

  Iraq Government IncompetenceAugust 23, 2007 12:53 Iraq's political leaders still can't govern effectively and the level of sectarian violence in the nation will remain high over the six to 12 months, according to a new report by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The addition of about 30,000 U.S. troops in recent months has had some success in curbing violence and there have been ``modest improvements in economic output,'' yet ``Iraq's sectarian groups remain un-reconciled,'' and al-Qaeda ``retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks,'' according to a declassified version of the report issued today.

Moreover, the government will likely become more precarious, and, if U.S. forces -- as planned -- give up their lead combat role to serve primarily to support Iraqi forces, the ``security gains achieved thus far'' would erode, the report says.

The findings are bleak news for the Bush administration. Only yesterday, the president reiterated his confidence in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as part of a broad argument to rally support for staying in Iraq and fending off attempts by Congress to set a timetable for withdrawing the 162,000 U.S. military personnel in the country.

General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, are scheduled to give Congress next month their assessment of the impact of the extra troop deployments announced in January and the political progress being made by Iraq's government.
  Bush Campaigning To Sustain 'Surge'August 23, 2007 08:18 Opening a new campaign to sustain his "troop surge" strategy in Iraq, US President George W Bush on Wednesday compared Washington's ongoing struggle there to both World War II and the Vietnam War, in the latter of which, he said, Washington's withdrawal led to disaster for "millions of innocent citizens".

Speaking in the state of Missouri to the perennially hawkish Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, Bush also reiterated strong

support for Iraq's increasingly besieged prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, whose reluctance to implement US plans for national reconciliation has spurred growing disillusionment - and even calls for his ouster by influential lawmakers here.

"Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job, and I support him," Bush declared. "And it's not up to the politicians in Washington, DC, to say whether he will remain in his position. That is up to the Iraqi people, who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship."

Bush's remarks, the first in a series of appearances and other administration initiatives designed to rally support for maintaining as many as 170,000 US troops in Iraq well into next year in advance of a critical report to Congress due in mid-September, suggested to supporters and critics alike that the president remains as determined as ever to hold out against pressure, even from his own party, to begin withdrawing troops in the coming months.

"The president is not going to change; he's going to insist on staying the course," said retired General John Johns, a counterinsurgency specialist. "What is required is that the Republican leadership in Congress force the president [to change course]. I do not see that in the works today, and I don't understand why."

Bush's speech, which followed the overnight crash of a US Black Hawk helicopter in which 14 American soldiers were killed - the worst one-day US death toll in more than a year - came amid growing speculation about both the fate of Maliki's government and the report by Washington's ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and its military commander there, General David Petraeus, which Congress may receive as early as September 11.
  U.S. Military Deaths In Iraq At 3,674August 06, 2007 21:31 As of Monday, Aug. 6, 2007, at least 3,674 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 3,010 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 14 more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.
  Large Numbers Of U.S. Weapons Delivered To Iraq Gone MissingAugust 06, 2007 21:17 The U.S. Defense Department has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols delivered to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The newspaper, citing a new government report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through to early this year as part of an effort to train and equip troops.

The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The United States has spent 19.2 billion U.S. dollars trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least 2.8 billion dollars on buying and delivering equipment.

But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Pentagon did not dispute the GAO findings, saying it has launched its own investigation and indicating it is working to improve tracking, the Post report said.

Although controls have been tightened since 2005, the inability of the United States to track weapons with tools such as serial numbers makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. military to know whether it is battling an enemy equipped by American taxpayers.

The GAO reached an estimate of 190,000 missing arms -- 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols -- by comparing the property records of the Multi-National Security Transition Command for Iraq against records Petraeus maintained of the arms and equipment he had ordered.

  U.S. Squad Leader Convicted In Iraqi KillingAugust 02, 2007 21:11 A U.S. Marine squad leader who told his men "We just got away with murder" after they kidnapped and killed an Iraqi grandfather in Iraq last year was found guilty Thursday of unpremeditated murder, larceny, making a false official statement and conspiracy.

Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III was found not guilty of kidnapping, assault, housebreaking and obstruction of justice.

The conspiracy conviction includes conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit larceny, conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to make false official statements.

Witnesses said Hutchins led the unit in planning to kidnap and kill a terror suspect in the middle of the night. But when the unit could not find the suspect, they randomly executed Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four who lived next door.

After Hutchins shot the man in the head, the squad then set a stolen AK-47 and shovel next to the corpse to suggest he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.

In an earlier trial, Petty Officer Melson Bacos said Hutchins' anger over the release of a suspected "terrorist" from Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison prompted the murder of the man's neighbor.

"He was just mad that they kept letting him go when he was a known terrorist, sir," Bacos said.

The prosecutor in the case, Lt. Col. John Baker, said in closing arguments that Hutchins masterminded "a cold and calculated plan ... to take the law into his own hands."