Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Will the Center Hold in Iraq?

Don't bet on it.

Bush's arrangement of the deck chairs on the Iraqitanic is irrelevant because ship is listing. The erratic heeling of this crippled craft is due to the untethered ballast below decks in the hold which is fluid, loose and moves unpredictably with each wave against the hull.

Bush's Officer-of-the-Deck, into whose eyes he looked in June and who he proclaimed to be 'the right man for Iraq', does not now want to serve out his term as Prime Minister. Instead, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has made it clear he dislikes being the country's leader and longs to leave Office before his four-year term ends in 2010.
I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term. . . I didn't want to take this position. . . I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again.
Late last year, the New York Times published a memo from the White House national security adviser which contained a withering analysis of his leadership. It described him as
. . . a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so . . . .
So much for Bush's man in Iraq. But how about that moving ballast below decks? They are not the shy and retiring types are they?

Take Moqtada Al Sadr. Several times the Anglo-American coalition has made hints towards moving against the Mehdi army, but they never have taken him on directly. Tensions rose again this August, and some sources said U.S. and Iraqi forces had decided to mount an offensive against al-Sadr with the intent to kill him. But in October 2006, he made public appearances with the current president of Iraq which raised his stature and perceived influence in Malicki's government.

His demands are clear: he wants a time table for American withdrawal; otherwise he will not play ball with the elected deck furniture. He told Newsweek on 8-May-06:
. . . things became clear and resulted in the Sadr trend—a powerful, loyal political and military force. I reach out my hand to cooperate and to make peace in Iraq, to drive away the shadow of the armies of darkness. The occupation is the creator of all problems. I pray to Allah to take away the problems and their creator.

Their threats are still on, and my life is cheap as a price for the service of Islam. America is baring its teeth against Shiite mosques and sanctuaries.

There is no Sunni or Shia resistance; there is an Iraqi Islamic resistance.

There is only an incomplete sovereignty in Iraq, which means that the occupation is the decision maker. Any attack is their responsibility. The U.S. ambassador and Rumsfeld have ignited the sectarian crisis here.

Everyone builds Iraq the way he sees fit. The most important issue is the timetable for the U.S. withdrawal. We know there will be no justice under occupation, at any time and any place. In fact, there will be no stability for anyone, since Iraq defines the destiny of the world.
And in the stormy aftermath of Saddam's hanging, the Sunni Baathists announced their appointment of Hussein's former deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as its new leader. Mr Douri was the thin, red-headed dapper-clothed figure of military stature, usually seen wearing a military-style beret. Douri was the King of Clubs in the US military's deck of cards and still has a $10 million award on his head. This is the same guy whom the Los Angeles Times just last Sunday pronounced as having been killed sometime in 2005. This announcement of his death seems to have been premature.

He has had national control of the Baath party and its insurgency since Saddam Hussein's capture in December 2003. In an internet statement posted Tuesday, this fugitive deputy vowed that Saddam's execution would only strengthen the anti-US insurgency. As the most senior leader of the ousted regime still at large, Douri called for the formation of a broad resistance front to free Iraq from US occupation:
Saddam Hussein`s assassination at the criminal hands of the US administration and its English, Zionist and Persian Safavid allies will only strengthen the determination of the Baath, its people and the Arab nation to wage jihad and resistance until the enemy is destroyed and Iraq liberated . . . .

I call on the valiant commanders of the jihad and the brave fighters in all jihadi groups to strive seriously to create a jihad and resistance front .. in order to destroy the enemy and liberate our beloved homeland . . . .

. . . .I vow to pursue the sacred jihad and step it up until the total liberation of our homeland. . . .

From this it is understood that Douri is appealing to his following among the Baathists and the Sunni clans to heed Saddam's last demands to quit the anti-Shiia strikes and instead to unite behind national front to avenge and expel Iraq's invaders.
Whether bridges across the sectarian divides can be built remains to be seen. But, I submit, Douri and Al Sadr will be around after Maliki withdraws or is erased from the scene.

The Hanging of Saddam Hussein

How Many Lives Does One Death Cost?

Time magazine reported that in March 2002, a full year before the invasion, Bush disclosed his real intentions toward Iraq. The president stuck his head in the door of a White House meeting between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and three senators discussing strategies for dealing with Iraq through the United Nations. The senators laughed uncomfortably at Bush’s remark when he said,
Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.
Well, as the world now knows, Bush has finally seen to the fucking of Saddam Hussein as of last Friday. Accounts differ, depending on who in Iraq you talk to, as to whether he was executed or lynched.

Whichever it was, it is also fitting that we ask how much it has cost America for Bush to launch his hanging posse. But there again, accounts differ.

Most estimates indicate that before our Anglo-American posse returns from Iraq, Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) will have easily cost current and future generations of Americans $1 trillion.

But, in truth, we can't be sure of any of these numbers, since the Pentagon says it cannot tell us what the war has already cost, will not tell us what it might cost in the future and has ignored congressional requests and legislation asking for honest budgets, transparent reports on spending and projections of future costs.

Senators and representatives have had to rely on their own estimates to get some sense of the costs for the war. The Congressional Research Service estimates that Iraq has already cost about $380 billion, before the next "emergency" request, but confesses that in the absence of data from the Pentagon, it cannot be sure this is correct.
  • The Pentagon doesn't ask Congress for money for Iraq; it asks for money for the global war on terrorism, or GWOT, without sorting out what belongs to Iraq, what to Afghanistan and what to other operations. Congress has already provided more than $500 billion for the GWOT, roughly 75 percent of it for Iraq.
  • The Pentagon doesn't provide details on what the funds will be spent on. Instead, it asks for lump sums for things like "operations and maintenance, Army," and hopes to be trusted that those funds will go toward Iraq and not some other operation.
  • The Pentagon sends up the GWOT budget as an "emergency," which means it hasn't been through the tough scrutiny of its own budget offices.
  • The Pentagon has asked for things that aren't emergencies, like helicopters and aircraft and funds to transform Army divisions into separate operating brigades. These belong in the regular budget, but the Iraq emergency is a handy way to buy things that wouldn't fit in the regular budget. "Emergency" requests escape the scrutiny of the congressional budget and armed services committees, and go straight to the appropriators--the ones who vote the money--with very little time for them to take a close look at the details.
  • Once the Pentagon has the money, it does not report back to Congress on how the money has actually been spent. Repeated legislation requiring such reporting has been rebuffed with the argument that one cannot sort out Iraq from everything else.
The Iraq Study Group called on President Bush to include Iraq war costs in the budget he will send up in February, but there is no indication the president will comply.

As to the human costs of the UULUIUOI, there is also a degree of uncertainty.

We do have statistical clarity about our KIA: 3,003. We are clear about our service men and women sustaining wounds: 22,032. We have to remember a large portion of wounds suffered - 12,458 - were serious enough to require retirement from combat. Of these, a large but undetermined percentage of guys and gals have sustained life-altering injuries involving amputations, severance of spinal columns, blindness, internal organ damage and brain damage. To provide our heroes and their families with the rehabilitative care and support they deserve will not be a measurable societal cost during their life times.

All of the above costs are tangible in some sense. The untangible costs of the UULUIUOI, include the imponderable damage to America's reputation as a force for peace and justice in the world.

Arranging for the hanging of Saddam Hussein has been the most costly lynching in American history.
Chicago Tribune