Thursday, June 22, 2006
What is it about the occupation of Iraq that is so popular among the Administration and Congressional Republicans? There is certainly something in it for them that they continue to resist the idea of an end to an armed presence inside that country. Else, how does one explain the persistence?
It is far from a still-raging war. That would imply that: A) Congress actually declared war which it did not do in the case of Iraq, and B) that President Hussein's armies still were functioning and the capital and the countryside was under his control. The Iraqi Army was routed in scant time by the U.S. military, and the President himself declared that major combat operations were over. It is not knowable if that statement meant that minor combat operations were just beginning, but it was unequivocally accepted as a victory speech by President Bush.
What is left is a low-level civil war (obviously the result of unleashing the ethnic strife between three groups of people) and a resistance movement against the U.S. occupation. The insurgency does not exist to re-fight the war but to remove and resist the occupier. Those that are self-described jihadists (along the lines of al Qaeda in Iraq) number a small fraction of the total insurgency as can best be ascertained by those close to the events.
So the fall of Iraq as a nation has been accomplished, and a new government erected and blessed by the U.S. authorities stands in its place. Again, from the surface this does not sound like an ongoing war.
Let us add to this one very plain notion repeated often enough to be quoted verbatim, "as the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down." It is said quite a bit actually. By its very nature, that rule explicitly implies that it is not the duty of the United States military to kill every last insurgent, or collar every single jihadist. From the Administration's own rhetoric, leaving is not to be based on when the last person like Zarqawi is dead. Hence there is no further victory to be had; the military presence acts more like a caretaker force until such time that Iraq's nascent army can take modest control.
Recall that the debate in the Senate focused on "surrender" and "cut and run," without aknowledging that even the President has not committed the Army, Air Force, and Marines to fully occupy Iraq until 100% peace is achieved. It is almost as if Republicans on the Hill are asking that the men and women who remain targets in Iraq to simply accept that this is their sole function. From what can be found on the web today about Iraqi security force levels the number approximately comes to 117,900. This accounts for Iraqi Army personnel, Support Forces, and Special Operation Forces. The Ministry of the Interior claims 145,500 individuals. 263,400 security personnel, and not many American servicemen have been called back home. How tall do those Iraqis have to stand up?
One can question whether the Iraqis would be able to maintain a stable country were it not for the American forces, yet should the civil war expand and consume the several provinces, will the U.S. take a side? covertly combat all ethnic groups and force a peace?
Cut and run? It was suggested that the euphimism for the Republican desire be "Sit and wait." Maybe it would help America to continue the debate without the quips and snips of the opposite side. Even still, Americans and Iraqis will continue to die for months if not years to come in an unending occupation.
At some point the American public will thoroughly sour of the adventure. Maybe then some sense will begin to take hold in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
By way of the Cunning Realist from Andrew Sullivan, we have a review of Ron Suskind's book The One Percent Doctrine by Barton Gellman.
In the book it is put forward that the Administration puffed up the resume of captured al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. What was thought to be a top leader of the secretive terrorist organization may actually have been a mentally unstable member who was given primary duties of assisting members in moving people around such as wives and families of al Qaeda members. It was also known that his diary was written in the voice of three separate people. Not quite stable.
After his case was presented as such to top Administration officials, they continued with the theme that this was a top official of bin Laden's inner circle. President Bush alluded to Zubaydah as the "chief operating operator". Not to be shown up, the Vice President brought Abu back out in December of 2002, saying:
"...we've captured or killed many key leaders within the al Qaeda organization. These include Abu Zubaydah, bin Laden's chief of operations, who was seized last March in Pakistan and has been providing valuable information to U.S. interrogators".
Suskind puts forward that after it was known that Zubaydah wasn't as critical a piece of the terrorist network as was thought, steps were taken to add some pressure to his interrogation.
From the Washington Post review:
Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
To be fair, this was an Administration that in 2002 was still preoccupied with hunting down al Qaeda and their techniques were quite unpolished. They were also still contemplating if torturing suspects was legal.
If the story bears out to be true, is there still a question as to whether the Administration will use any device possible to convince citizens that they are protecting the country?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This may well prove to be the best week for President Bush of 2006. It will be difficult to determine if it is the best week of his second term until January 2009.
What seems likely is that Iraq will not become a miracle next week or next month. More violence and strife will befall the people of Baghdad and in Kirkuk. Basic services and security will be daily struggles for what may be years to come with or without the Unite States Army and the Marines presence. A grisly first-hand account of an event from June 14th. There will be more of these stories.
It may well be that there is more good news coming from Iraq of the Zarqawi kind, repleat with video of the bombs landing and photos of the blast site. Yet the civil war will continue to weigh heavily on both countries.
At least there was one good week.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
There is much to be thankful for when a radical along the lines of Zarqawi is removed from the picture though capturing him alive would have rendered vital information on various aspects of his group. Even if Zarqawi was propped up by the U.S. government to fit a need to incorporate terror, there is a very good chance that he was heavily involved in making lives much worse in Iraq.
Yet with all the puffery it could muster, the White House put forward the news as if Saddam Hussein had been captured. This is good news of course for the Executive branch, yet this is far from a sign of curtailing of violence in Iraq. Moreover, it was not the singular work of Zarqawi that exposed sectarian tensions but more than likely the democratic process and the fight for power in the country that has brought about the rifts between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Far from being a moment when peace will settle in to the land of Iraq, the death toll will continue to rise day by day, and American forces will be placed further down the hole of occupying a land that is in civil war.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Greenwald is a Constitutional attorney in Manhattan. His politics had been worn far away from his sleeve before the terrorist hijackings on September 11, 2001. After this moment, he found himself in favor of an attack against Afghanistan. When the Administration pushed for a war in Iraq against a country that had not attacked us in 2001, his views began to turn away from support of the President and towards a more skeptical view of his policies and practices.
Then came the eavesdropping on phone calls. Americans participating in calls from or to foreign countries were being listened to without the Administration first obtaining a warrant. The explanation given by President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was that these were only calls from known numbers that were linked to terrorist organizations.
In December 2005, the New York Times disclosed that there was a secret program in which the Administration went around the FISA courts in order to eavesdrop on telephone calls. There is still relatively little known about the program other than an acknowledgement of its existence by the President after the story was reported. Congress was notified of its existence if one may conclude that if the leadership of each house was notified and sworn to secrecy then Congress as a whole knew of its existence.
Greenwald picks up on the story after the article and dissects the reasons and logic that supporters of the President and of the policy use to defend the eavesdropping. One by one, his view is that either the logic is flat out false (that FISA is unnecessary during a time of war) or that the justification of the country at war is enough to warrant drastic executive powers that curb civil liberties is a flimsy veneer meant to hide illegalities. There are many points that he takes time to outline, but the underlying theme in How Would A Patriot Act?, is that of a Presidency that has dizzying difficulties in distinguishing what is right and what is wrong.
Greenwald revisits the detention and removal of citizenship rights of two men by the names of Hamdi and Padilla who have been batted about in ethereal legal limbo for upwards of three years. Both men were labeled terrorists and detained without charges and without legal representation and locked up in military brigs. In Hamdi's case, the Supreme Court eventually ruled that the Executive does not have a Constitutional right to detain without charges a citizen of the U.S. For Padilla, a similar situation arose where the Attorney General (at the time Ashcroft) proclaimed his arrest as a terrorist attempting to plot a dirty bomb somewhere in the U.S. Thus, he was labeled an enemy combatant; an ill-defined status that allows for the Commander-in-Chief to decide what fate he may wish to mete on the subject. Before his detention could be challenged the Administration finally charged him with crimes that were unrelated to those claimed at the time of his original detention. More on Padilla from Glenn Greenwald's web log.
In closing his book, Greenwald focuses on why terrorism is so important to the White House and to the Republican-controlled Congress: fear. His suggestion is that with the fear of further attacks the conservative response of strength to the indifference of civil liberties will reward the government with greater control through electoral success. There must certainly be an honest belief within the West Wing and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue that what is being done in the name of safety is really helping the country, yet one may only read the speeches at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City to learn how fear dominated the discourse.
In order to defend its policies whether they be torture, warrantless eavesdropping, rescinding habeas corpus, or an overly secretive state, President Bush made use of fear in order to quell any popular resentment at the loss of civil liberties. All of our lives could be wiped out tomorrow if he is not permitted to listen in to calls without a warrant. Never mind that the President very carefully told an audience in Buffalo, NY that when he talks about wiretaps there is always a court order involved. He knew that not to be the case, but when it would poll well to admit to illegally eavesdropping on American citizens if it was couched in, "I'm protecting you," language, then so it must be.
If the reader has the chance, this book is strongly suggested to better understand what it is that upsets those who wish their civil liberties not be trampled upon. Glenn Greenwald may not have delivered a book epic in length, but it captures the spirit of patriotism and indignation that is the movement against this Administration.
Visit Glenn's web log or buy the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Borders.