« September 2003 | Main | November 2003 »

October 31, 2003

I scanned in that bizarre picture of Clark...

After searching the Getty image archives in vain, and googling for the photographer (A.J. Mast), I finally decided to scan in the newsprint image from the NYT's Book Review.    I can't decide if Clark's channelling a Jedi Knight in the picture or if its just a garden variety case of demonic possession.      In any case, props to the photo editor responsible for choosing it as well as the elusive Mister or Ms. A.J. Mast. 

Gen. Wesley C. Clark (Ret.), formerly of the Federation Star Fleet Command

October 31, 2003 at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abortion rights, DPRK style...

Not for the squeamish.   (Link from Gweilo Diaries.)

October 31, 2003 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

Interesting photo journal of an Iraqi family

The BBC did an informative "day in the life" photo montage of an Iraqi family living on the banks of the Tigris in Baghdad.   Given that it was done by the BBC, it is surprisingly even-handed.   (Hat tip to the Command Post.)

October 30, 2003 at 08:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Could this be a symptom of mass smoke inhalation?

I'd somehow missed this story about the latest in celebrity wackiness.   (Hat tip to Gwelio Diaries.)   Its a great story, but when you look at the reality of what this group is really trying to do (build social bridges between Israelis and Palestinians), they may actually be on to something.   I don't know if Brad and Jennifer can help (other than perhaps by writing a check), but its not a bad idea, really.

October 30, 2003 at 07:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who are we fighting in Iraq?

There hasn't been much discussion of who, exactly, the Coalition forces are fighting in Iraq.   This is an important question because the various combatants have different strategies, tactics and goals.

In my view there are at least two, and possibly three, distinct groups offering armed resistance to the Coalition:

  1. Baathist die hards:   Mainly former security officers and political leaders from the deposed regime or members of the elite Palace Guard divisions, they are active in the "Sunni triangle" in the center of the country. Some of these groups may have access to significant financial resources that were stolen by the former regime and are using this money to hire fighters to attack US troops.   These are the folks that are responsible for most of the "IEDs" (improvised explosive devices) buried alongside roads, or the hit-and-run RPG and AK-47 attacks on American convoys and patrols.   It is unclear, at least at this point, how coordinated these groups are and to what extent there is an integrated command and control system to tie them together.   These guys may have been the ones who put together that homemade missile launcher to try and kill Wolfowitz in Baghdad last week.   Their goal is to try to return to power, in a secular, totalitarian (or at least authoritarian) Iraq governed by the old Sunni elite.

  2. Al Queda and other Islamist radicals:   These are the "foreign fighters" that have been responsible for the suicide attacks on Coalition forces and the international organizations, including the bombing of the Jordanian embassy and the UN and Red Cross headquarters.   (They probably also were behind the coordinated bombings of Iraqi police stations, but this is less certain.)   Their goal is clear: they want to drive out "the infidels" and create an Islamic state in Iraq.   At all costs, they want to prevent the emergence of a modern, secular, democratic Iraq that would be friendly to the West and Western cultural influences.   And they are willing to kill a lot of Iraqis (not to mention infidels) in order to make this happen.   The tipoff to their presence is the use of suicide attacks, since it is very hard to get someone to kill themselves for money or power alone.   Many of these fighters are Arabs from outside Iraq and may well be veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan.   They may also have the support of states which have sponsored terrorist activity in the past, like Syria, and/or international terrorist organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas.

  3. Shiite radicals:   This is the real wild card in the bunch.   Some Iraqi Shiites (a minority, I suspect, but who knows?) would like to create an Iranian-style Islamic state in Iraq.   To some extent, Iran may be providing financial or logistical support to these groups (many of which were based in Iran during the Saddam era).   Being religious fundamentalists, they might be willing to use suicide tactics to advance their cause.   Centered in the Baghdad slums of the former Saddam City as well as the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, radical imams like Moqtader al-Sadr may be involved in some of this violence, but it is not clear as yet.

If the second group (the foreign Islamists) are the major threat, this would support the view that it is important to reconstitute an Iraqi military as soon as possible.   Iraqi troops, for example, would be very helpful in sealing off infiltration routes from neighboring states and would also be well suited to identify foreign fighters seeking to blend into the Iraqi population.

However, if the Baathist die hards are the most significant problem, creating new Iraqi security forces will have to be done deliberately, in order to be sure that no former Baathists are allowed to gain responsible positions.

October 30, 2003 at 07:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More news from Iraq

Here is an interesting post from Seyad, the Iraqi dentist blogger in Baghadad, regarding this week's terrorist bombings in that city:

The minister of Health Khudheir Fadhil stated yesterday that the failed suicide bomber had recovered completely. He had fractures in his right and left shoulders and other minor injuries. The minister added that the bombers condition was critical on the day of the attack and was transferred to another hospital for special treatment.
I had mentioned in the last entry that he was Syrian. Well, it appeared after questioning him that he is a 22 year old Yemeni who had entered Iraq legally by his Syrian passport two days ago. An Iraqi doctor described him as dressed elegantly and said that the bomber refused to talk at first and alleged that he was mute. He was apparently baffled by the good treatment he had recieved from the Iraqi doctors. Have to say I'm baffled as well.
The IP said that on the attempted attack there were two other passengers with him in the car who fled when they started shooting. Nothing else is known about them. The Yemeni was handed over to coalition investigators.

The attack on Al-Khadhraa' police station was also carried out by an ambulance. The ministry of Health has denied that any of its ambulances were stolen. I wonder where they got them. A policeman from that station was talking about a threat letter they received a week ago signed by a Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of an Assad Allah group (haven't heard of that one). It goes like this: "Repent fast and fight in the name of Allah. Jihad is a duty of every Iraqi citizen today. Do not follow the ignorants who refuse to call for Jihad against the infidels. Whoever kills you instead of the Americans is not to blame. Blame only yourselves. You have entered an alliance with the Americans to kill your Mujahedeen brethren instead of supporting them and fighting the infidels along with them". That together with a bunch of Quran verses that warn believers not to side with their enemies. Typical stuff.

Another incident my Aunt told us about yesterday which I didn't hear about in the news yet. She was at the Iraqi Central Bank in the morning when suddenly all hell broke loose. Police sirens, IP, FPS, and American MP all over the place. They had captured six suicide bombers who turned out to be Morrocans with explosive waist belts trying to enter the bank. Since that area (Al-Rashid street) is closed to traffic, they couldn't use cars to bomb it. I hope they can get some important information out of those desperate bastards. Oh, and don't go asking me for news sources to back this up, if my aunt didn't see that with her own eyes, I wouldn't have written about it.

October 30, 2003 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friedman agrees Iraq is not Vietnam

Thomas Friedman, who has generally been supportive of the war to depose Saddam (though with occassional lapses and waffles), has an excellent column in today's NYT discussing the recent terrorist attacks in Iraq.   Its worth reading the whole thing, but here is main point, presented in un-Timesianly stark language:

Since 9/11, we've seen so much depraved violence we don't notice anymore when we hit a new low. Monday's attacks in Baghdad were a new low. Just stop for one second and contemplate what happened: A suicide bomber, driving an ambulance loaded with explosives, crashed into the Red Cross office and blew himself up on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This suicide bomber was not restrained by either the sanctity of the Muslim holy day or the sanctity of the Red Cross. All civilizational norms were tossed aside. This is very unnerving. Because the message from these terrorists is: "There are no limits. We have created our own moral universe, where anything we do against Americans or Iraqis who cooperate with them is O.K."

What to do? The first thing is to understand who these people are. There is this notion being peddled by Europeans, the Arab press and the antiwar left that "Iraq" is just Arabic for Vietnam, and we should expect these kinds of attacks from Iraqis wanting to "liberate" their country from "U.S. occupation." These attackers are the Iraqi Vietcong.

Hogwash. The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge — a murderous band of Saddam loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule themselves. They are killing us so they can rule Iraqis.

Have you noticed that these bombers never say what their political agenda is or whom they represent? They don't want Iraqis to know who they really are. A vast majority of Iraqis would reject them, because these bombers either want to restore Baathism or install bin Ladenism.

Let's get real. What the people who blew up the Red Cross and the Iraqi police fear is not that we're going to permanently occupy Iraq. They fear that we're going to permanently change Iraq. The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.

October 30, 2003 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2003

More interesting stuff on Iraq

Michelle Goldberg (the very smart, intellectually-honest, Brooklyn-based Salon freelancer) has an excellent piece describing her experiences at the protest in DC last Saturday against the presence of US troops in Iraq.

It was a day full of purposeful misunderstandings. Members of Military Families Speak Out, a group of soldiers' relatives who oppose the war their loved ones are fighting, shared the stage with members of ANSWER, a group that's aligned itself with the guerrillas who are killing American troops and those Iraqis who cooperate with them. Both want to end the occupation, but for quite different reasons.

The rally was just the latest example of liberal confusion and mixed messages over postwar Iraq, as progressives try to figure out how to oppose Bush's policies in a way that doesn't punish the Iraqi people for the administration's mendacity. Angry at the way Iraq's reconstruction has turned into a bonanza for Bush's corporate cronies, powerful Democrats along with some Republicans have tried to block grants to rebuild Iraq, and progressive groups have adopted nativist arguments insisting that Americans' money should be spent in America. What's lost in such reasoning, of course, is any sympathy for beleaguered Iraqis, whose misfortune it was to live under Saddam Hussein, and be liberated by a president who lied to his own people and alienated the world.

Also worth reading is an article by Tish Durkin appearing on the front page of the current issue of the liberal weekly NY Observer looking at what the people in Iraq appear to want the US to do.  Durkin, who has spent four of the past six months travelling in Iraq, found that:
One, most Iraqis do not want America to leave now or very soon. Two, while it is true that a huge proportion of Iraqis have at least some very negative opinions about the war and life here since, it is also true that a huge proportion of those opinions boil down to anger at the Americans for not being enough of a presence here, not anger at the Americans for being too much of a presence. Three, there is very little to support the notion that Iraqis would be, or feel, notably better off under United Nations occupation than under a United States–led occupation. Four, although the Bush administration should be hung out to dry for whatever it has lied about, it is widely accepted here that various of their pet assertions happen to coincide with the truth. Iraqis do not need Mr. Bush to tell them that most of the troublemakers here are not resistance fighters, but highly paid, often imported thugs; Iraqis have been saying that from the start. Fifth, a steady stream of terrible events has generated a steady stream of legitimately negative news stories about Iraq, the sum effect of which seems to have been to leave the rest of the world with the impression that Iraq now appears in the dictionary next to "unqualified disaster"; that hardly anything is improving here, and that hardly anyone is or feels any better off than he or she did before the war. This impression is false.

October 29, 2003 at 08:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Putting Iraqi troop losses in perspective...

Max Boot in an OpEd in yesterday's LAT put it thusly:  

But as awful as the car bombings and mortar attacks and roadside ambushes are, it's important to keep things in perspective, which is something the news media have a tough time doing. During the "major combat" phase in Iraq, which ended May 1, the U.S. lost 115 soldiers to enemy fire. Since May 1, we have lost 113 more. In fairness, it must be added that more than 700 have been wounded since May 1, many severely, and that dozens more have died from accidents or other causes. But so far, Saddam Hussein and his gang have killed just 228 Americans.

This isn't Vietnam (47,355 battle deaths). It's not even the Spanish-American War (385).

For purposes of comparison, I went to the Defense Department Web site that lists U.S. military deaths from all causes. Look at the figures and you see that 1,007 service people died last year, only 17 of them in combat (presumably in Afghanistan). The other 990 were victims of accidents (538), illness (178), suicide (130), homicide (46) and causes yet to be determined (98). Assuming that the noncombat death figures for this year will be roughly similar to last year's, it appears likely that far more service people will have died of accidents or illness than from Iraqi bullets and bombs.

Other national statistics add to the context. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 114 police officers have died in the line of duty this year, almost exactly the number of service people who have been killed by Iraqi insurgents since May 1. And more than 41,000 people are killed on the nation's highways every year, according to the Department of Transportation. So during the last six months, while more than 300 Americans were dying in Iraq, more than 20,000 were dying on the roads at home.

October 29, 2003 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Halliburton misses analysts' estimates for the 3rd Quarter

Halliburton (remember them, the company that hired the US government to go to war with Iraq so that they could get all those sweetheart contracts?) evidently isn't getting rich yet.   This morning, the company announced earnings for the quarter ending September 30th of 21 cents a share (from continuing operations) versus the median analyst estimate of 27 cents a share.   Government contracts related to Iraq contributed $34 million in pre-tax income during the quarter, or 5 cents a share on an after-tax basis.

Look for the stock to get hammered today.   (Not that that will have any influence on the left-wing fantasies about the Cheney/Halliburton cabal.)

Oops! HAL actually beat the consensus forecast, excluding the effect of an 11 cents per share charge for a litigation settlement.   As of 10:30am this morning HAL's share price is down fractionally.

October 29, 2003 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack