Saturday, March 29

Encouraging:
Iraqi civilians were reported to be emerging from Basra yesterday to pass critical intelligence information to British-led forces to aid attacks against Saddam Hussein's forces within their own city.

British intelligence officers said there had been a steady stream of information coming from the population in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, about the movements and activities of paramilitaries loyal to Saddam.

Source: The Telegraph (Hat Tip to Analyst at AcePilots.com )

As usual, Friedman's latest column is worth a read. His argument that NATO will not only survive the Iraq war, but thrive in the future as a US-led alliance in the war against terror is most intriguing. The current situation in Afghanistan vis-à-vis NATO was unknown to me, and does lend some credence to his argument.

Still, we shall see.

Somewhat amusing: Top Stories Photos
Desperation Tactics: This--Iraq Says Suicide Strikes Are 'Policy'--is not the move of a military that believes it can win, but rather a move of desperation to attack the coalition's resolve. For a regime that so many claimed did not have any usage for terrorism, it is remarkable to degree to which all the regime has are terrorist tactics. I still believe that many of the mainline military would have quit if it weren't for the terror being applied by the regime to its own citizens.

It is worth noting that one does not create suicide bombers overnight. Clearly the regime has been fomenting some of its own Islamic extremism to create these "weapons."

Line of the Day: "If the Americans stay here, we are afraid of nothing." (Majmadin Majid, a Kurdish regular) Source: WaPo.
Excellent: Kurdish-U.S. Assault Takes Town
With U.S. Special Forces operating field artillery, calling in airstrikes and supervising a massive infantry charge, 6,000 Kurdish fighters today overwhelmed a band of radical Islamic Kurds in a remote mountain valley in northeastern Iraq.

The combined Kurdish-U.S. assault began at dawn and ended in a rout. By midafternoon this rugged village in the Shram Mountains near the Iranian border was no longer the headquarters of Ansar al-Islam, a small but dangerous militant group that the Bush administration charges has links to the al Qaeda terror network.

I Thought the Iraqis Eschewed Terrorism? Suicide Bombing Kills U.S. Troops
60 Minutes II on Umm Qasr

Did anyone see the 60 Minutes II piece on Wednesday night on the distribution of aid to Iraqi civilians at Umm Qasr? If anyone saw the US serviceman, who had tears in his eyes because of the joy he saw on the faces of Iraqi children because the US had brought water, and still can call this cause unjust, or worse, claim that we are purposefully killing women and children, are out of touch with reality. Further, the fact that a substantial part of the reason that the people in Umm Qasr didn't have water was because the regime halted shipments even before the war started should quell any talk of the moral equivalency of the two sides.

Indeed, the 60 Minutes II piece that same night on the Fadayeen Saddam should utterly destroy any arguments that the two side are in any way the same.

Flipper Lives!

There is just something surreal and very American about all of this (plus, great pic):


Source: U.S. Navy/NPR

The whole story is here.

May They Be Successful: U.S. Teams Seek to Kill Iraqi Elite. And I suspect there is quite a bit that we don't know about:
The previously undisclosed operation suggests U.S. efforts to destroy the Iraqi government's leadership are far more extensive than previously known, and have continued since the March 20 airstrike on a residential compound in the suburbs of Baghdad.

That paragraph leapt out at me, as the press often presents this omniscient attitude that they know all, see all, and therefore can critique all.

The Result of the Irregulars The ironic thing, it occurs to me, of the increase in guerrilla, irregular, and terrorist tactics by the Iraqis will bolster the hard-core pro-war faction, as these acts simply prove the evil that the regime contains (I am especially thinking of the nefarious tactics of the Fedayeen Saddam), while those who were opposed in the first place will simply point to all of these terrible happenings as evidence we shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place.

Friday, March 28

Elite Eight: Hook'em again: Texas 82, Connecticut 78
The Calculus of War

While I will admit to thinking that things were going remarkably well a week ago today, and I would have predicted that we would have been farther along by today, I must admit that the layer of gloom that the press, and many armchair generals, are laying on right now is a bit thick. While I know some pontificated that this was going to be super-easy, I don't think that most informed persons thought this would be the case. (It is noteworthy that public opinion polling seems to indicate that the American people understand the complexity of the situation, even if the media, on balance, does not). I never thought this was would be won in a week. A month, yes, a week? Please.

Further, I think that our time perception has been distorted by the live coverage and twenty-hour-a-day coverage. It makes us impatient. And I find that the more information I have, the more I want. I am rarely satiated. I always know there is more to know.

In additional to all of that, and understanding the amount of time it takes is an issue, I would note the following: First, wars cannot be truly evaluated as to their success or failure until after they are completed. Second, consider the following metrics of war, and then tell me if the gloom is warranted:

  • Who controls the skies of Iraq?

  • How much territory is under the control of the regime, and how much by the coalition?

  • How many US/coalition soldiers have been wounded, killed, or captured? How many Iraqis?

  • How many US military assets have been destroyed? Iraqi assets?

  • How many Iraqi targets of military significance have been destroyed or seriously damaged in the last week?

  • Which military faces likely serious re-supply problems shortly?

  • and the list goes on...

I recognize that there are political considerations as well: how many civilian casualties? How many civilians and infrastructural facilities have been damaged or destroyed, how long is it going to take, etc. But the bottom line is that by any objective standard, there is no cause for doom and panic. Rather, the thing that can be said is that the best case scenario did not take place, and it rarely does.

Line of the Day: "Their name, Fedayeen Saddam, is a lie, because their purpose is certainly not to make martyrs of themselves, but to make martyrs of innocent Iraqis opposed to Saddam's rule. But we will take them at their word, and if their wish is to die for Saddam Hussein, they will be accommodated" (SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld, 3/28/03, DoD News Briefing).
I'm Back! Lots to catch up on. Some entries to follow tonight.

Wednesday, March 26

PoliBlog Status Report

I will be out of town over the next several days at the Latin American Studies Association conference. See you all back in Blogosphere on Friday.

Speaking of Reaping What You Sow… I think we are paying the price of diplomacy, as one analyst put it yesterday. Clearly while we played footsy with the UN and the French, Saddam was able to deploy secret police and various irregular troops into civilian populations. Clearly many of the Iraqis are afraid to surrender, revolt or otherwise support our military. There have been reports of Iraqis dressed as US military, accepting surrendering Iraqis soldiers and then executing those seeking to lay down their arms. It isn’t a pretty picture, and I suspect we will learn a good number of horror stories along this line.
Ghosts of the Past

I used to be of the position that I understood why the Forty-One administration did not head on to Baghdad when the chance was there. However, in retrospect, I find myself somewhat sickened by the fact that we asked the Iraqi people to rise up and then did not come to their aid. I think that we are at least partially reaping the results of that policy. While I still maintain that the vast majority of the Iraqi people will ultimately see this conflict as a liberation, I think many are waiting to make sure that we are serious, and that we are indeed going to kill the regime, before rising up again. The situation in Basra, however, is most encouraging.

The part that sickens me is the thought of brave men and women, wanting to get free from tyranny, risking their lives with the hope that cavalry was coming, but the good guys on white horses never arrived. It is truly a crime to have done that to those people.

Tuesday, March 25

You Have Got to be Kidding Me: France Seeks Big Role in Post-War Iraq
Tax Set-Back? As has been well-reported today, an amendment passed on the floor of the Senate today that halved the President's tax proposal. This has widely been described as a "set back" (if not outright defeat) to the President's domestic policy agenda. However, as was also reported, but then ignored most of the day, the House passed the tax package intact. Now, that means something very simple, and very important: it is far from over with as to what will be in the tax package. The Senate vote is no more total defeat than the House vote is total victory. The bills will have to be reconciled, and any number of things may yet happen. Indeed, the reconciliation process is multi-faceted, complex and could result in the tax package dying entirely, being restored entirely, or radically altered in some way.

I can never decide if the media writ large simply does not understand how the legislative process works, or if they are willfully ignorant in public to enhance the significance of the part of the vote they prefer. Neither is a flattering picture.

more of PoliBlogger's Mediaese-to-English Dictionary: "Protracted War"

USAGE: "Well, Peter, it seems that since the war was not won within 72 hours, the coalition now faces a protracted war."

TRANSLATION: In plain English, this means "a war," or "a real war." see also: battle, conflict, fight. In other words, it might take a few weeks, maybe a month. Like the entry on "unexpectedly strong resistance" when used by speakers of mediaese it connotes a failure. Note: do not confuse speakers of mediaese by pointing out that the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam all took years.

This Continues to Sound Promising: Anti-Saddam rising unfurls in Basra
And stocks rally: US stocks rise; Dow adds to gains by midday

It is almost comical, good news, stocks up! bad news, stocks down! It does make for an interesting, if imperfect, barometer as to the national mood vis-a-vis the war.

Good News from the same story linked below:
Earlier, British military sources said about 20 of Saddam Hussein's henchmen were killed and a key party official captured in a raid by British forces near Basra on Monday night.
PoliBlogger's Mediaese-to-English Dictionary: "Unexpectedly Strong Resistance"

USAGE: "US forces have encountered unexpectedly strong resistance leading many to wonder if the strategy is flawed."

DEFINITION: The phrase means, in plain English, "the best case scenario did not take place" (synonym: everything isn't perfect), and carries the connotation, by native speakers of mediaese (and many anti-warites), that some failure has occurred, even if no such failure has occurred. Proper translation should take this into account.

"Peace Activism": Dennis Prager has an excellent column on the specific case of Rachel Corrie's death during her attempt at shielding a Palestinian home against an Israeli bulldozer, and the broader issue of idealistic peace activists. I will say that I have mixed, and mostly negative, feelings on the Israeli policy of bulldozing the homes of homicide bombers' families. I am not convinced that it is an effective policy. It may contain a measure of justice (assuming that the families are indeed accomplices, which is not necessarily the case), but it likely does much more harm than good. However, trying to stop a bulldozer by squatting in a house in the process of being torn down is not smart. Further, protesting the Israelis while supporting Palestinian terrorists is not a noble cause.

Some worthwhile snippets from the Prager column:

Rachel Corrie chose to side with a society that breeds some of the cruelest murderers of innocent people in the world. Rachel Corrie gave her life trying to protect people whose declared aim is to annihilate another country. In the name of saving children's lives, Rachel Corrie chose to defend a society that teaches its young children to blow themselves up and which deliberately targets children for death. And Rachel Corrie went to America's enemies to burn her country's flag.

And, specifically, his comments on peace activism, and “idealism” in general is worth reading, as I think he is spot-on:

We are told repeatedly that Rachel was idealistic -- as if that matters. Virtually every person who commits great evil -- the Nazi, the Communist, the Islamic terrorist -- is idealistic. Idealism is morally neutral. It is good only when directed to good ends. But in young people, idealism is at least as likely to lead to bad as to good because few young people are wise -- and idealism without wisdom is very dangerous.

We are told ad nauseam that Rachel Corrie was a "peace activist." So let it be said once and for all that most of these people are moral frauds. Why? Because "peace activists" routinely protest only against peaceful countries. Has there been one Evergreen State or other "peace activist" in Sudan during its Islamic government's slaughter and enslavement of millions of blacks? Are there any "peace activists" in Tibet to protect its unique culture from being eradicated by the Communist Chinese? Did you notice any "peace activists" trying to save the millions of North Koreans dying at the hands of their lunatic government? Of course not. Rachel Corrie and other "peace activists" only target peace-loving Israel and America.

An alleged love of peace at any cost, often leads to a furtherance of evil. The situation in Iraq underscores this--those who protest in the name of "peace" and the "Iraqi people" would have been satisfied with the status quo, which allowed Saddam Hussein to terrorize his population and use it wealth for his own selfish ends. Hardly a good trade off.

Indeed: Cal Thomas' column is worth a look. Two issues strike me. First (not unlike what I said here:
If the war to liberate Iraq continues to go well; if there are relatively few coalition and civilian casualties; if an "environmental disaster" does not occur with the mass torching of oil wells; if chemical and biological weapons are not used either because American threats of severe consequences have been heard or coalition forces have preemptively taken them out; if Israel is not hit with Scud missiles; if, in short, we achieve every objective, what will the naysayers say?

And, especially:

Can any fair-minded person say we are behaving in a "habitually cruel" manner in Iraq? Have not the coalition forces gone out of their way to strike only military targets (as opposed to the habitually cruel homicide bombers in Israel who go after innocent civilians and Saddam Hussein who is an equal opportunity murderer?). Have we not declared our intention to install a democratic government in Iraq, run by Iraqis and not the United States, as soon as it is feasible?

Any who want to draw moral equivalencies between the US and Iraq in any way are clearly wearing willful blinders.

Brief Oscar Commentary: I didn't watch the Oscars, so got what little news about it from secondary sources. I just learned last night (in a wrap-up with sound and video bites) that Roman Polanski won the "Best Director" award. Polanski wasn't there, of course, because he is a fugitive from US justice, given a little, shall we say, dalliance, with a then 13-year-old girl (you know, the encounter which resulted in a child rape conviction?) Yet, when the award was announced there were great applause and celebration. This from the same audience where many sat in silence, or even clapped, during Michael Moore’s rant about President Bush and the war. Not to paint with an over-broad brush, but the moral bankruptcy of Hollywood was quite clear in that moment.
International Law Redux

The ongoing discussion of the treatment of POWs, and the issue of Iraqi irregular troops, wholly underscores the fragility of international law and agreements. One can assert that it is “illegal” for the Iraqis to parade our servicemen and women in front of the cameras, the President can state that we “expect” the Iraqis to treat our prisoners well, and General Franks can point out that fake surrenders that turn into ambushes are against the “rules” of combat, but the bottom line is that the force of “international law” cannot make the Iraqis behave. The War Referees, dressed in black and white stripes (and really loud whistles) are not going to pop up from behind a sand dune and flag the Iraqis. Indeed, the only power that is going to make the Iraqis adhere to the rules is the force applied to them by coalition forces. We can punish, ex post, war “criminals” but the reason we will be able to do so, is because we will win the military conflict.

And specifically on the topic of the Geneva Conventions, it is highly noteworthy (and indeed, has been noted by many, including James at OTB, that we follow the rules and humanly treat prisoners because that’s the way we do things, not because a treaty says so. At its root, international law is enforceable only by force, and only when the rules have already failed.

Monday, March 24

Here's a List of Casualties, POWs, MIAs. And at the risk of sounding overly callous, or cold, I must say that despite all the hand-wringing, to be into this war 5 plus days and have only 19 dead and 12 missing or captured it remarkable. And if you read the causes of death, many are not due to the enemy, but rather to accidents.

And the striking thing is that is one was to watch much of the news today, you would think 100 times as many people were dead.

They Can Complain, But...

Pentagon Complains About Fake Surrenders The story does provide some interesting insights into what is going on in Iraq:

"They are sending forces out carrying white surrender flags or dressing them as liberated civilians to draw coalition forces into ambushes," said Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "Both of these actions are among the most serious violations of the laws of war," she said.

Also of interest:

Asked about the relatively slow pace of Iraqi surrendering, McChrystal suggested that members of the Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's most trusted militia, had infiltrated regular Iraqi army units, telling them to "fight or be shot in the back."

This latter point is especially interesting. It reminds me that had Saddam not had all those months to prepare for this war, that it likely would be unfolding differently.

Thanks, UN. Thanks, France.

They Can Complain, But...

Pentagon Complains About Fake Surrenders The story does provide some interesting insights into what is going on in Iraq:

"They are sending forces out carrying white surrender flags or dressing them as liberated civilians to draw coalition forces into ambushes," said Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "Both of these actions are among the most serious violations of the laws of war," she said.

Also of interest:

Asked about the relatively slow pace of Iraqi surrendering, McChrystal suggested that members of the Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's most trusted militia, had infiltrated regular Iraqi army units, telling them to "fight or be shot in the back."

This latter point is especially interesting. It reminds me that had Saddam not had all those months to prepare for this war, that it likely would be unfolding differently.

Thanks, UN. Thanks, France.

Meanwhile, in the war against al Qaeda: Second Al Qaeda Trainee Pleads Guilty
An amusing pic over at OTB
Aziz Alive (unless, of course it is a body double): Saddam in 'Full Control,' Aziz Says. One does wonder why he didn't make any commments in English, however.
Uday, a Great Guy: From, of all places, SI Son of Saddam - Monday March 24, 2003 02:11 PM. I had meant to blog this this weekend after I read in it in the actual, believe it or not, Dead Tree version. The body double of Uday intereviewed in the piece was on TV this weekend (I forget what network). While he was anti-Saddam, he was also anti-war (which strikes me largely as a non sequitur).
Worse than I predicted this morning, but not surprising: Dow Falls Sharply Amid Fears of Prolonged War
An interesting piece on Iraqi nationalism, that provides some optimism that there is sufficient unity to sustain a post-Saddam state that maintains current national boundaries and identities: IDENTITY: Iraq, More Unified Than It Looks
Amusing:

3k!--PoliBlog just passed the 3000 hit-mark. Thanks for the all the visits!
SaddamWatch: One does wonder as to why, if he is alive, he doesn't just make a video that would 100% establish itself by content. Although, granted, the whole "body-double" issue would be in place, but the CIA seems to be able to deal with that. At ant rate, it is odd that all the tapes have been vague in terms of when they were shot.
Franks Speaks: "I see nothing unexpected here" (from today's briefing). And I am certain this is 100% true. I am no military expert, and while I have argued that the Iraqis will see us as liberators, I didn't expect every single soldier to throw down their arms immediately, nor did I expect the citizens to start giving parades as soon as we arrived. Anyone who applied a rational eye and mind to this knew that there was going to be resistance, and that there was going to be fatalities on our side. It simply stands to reason.

These people are still living in fear of Saddam. Further, many of their military know their days are numbered, insofar as they are war criminals, so why not fight? Really, as I keep noting, the set-backs to this point are minor in the grand scheme of things. And this is not to diminish death, or the fate of the POWs--but if we are going to go into panic over death in war, then we shouldn't wage war. Indeed, we might as well pack up the military. More American died in the two recent nightclub incidences than have died to date in this conflict.

Indeed: On Weekdays, It's a Web War (of course, in the Blogosphere, everyday is WebDay). And, samrt move:
Many newspapers greatly increased their bandwidth and server capacity after 9/11.

I remember everything being down on 911, and then the major sites going to text only. In fact, I first noticed the major news sources' lack of capacity during the 2000 presidential election.

I must say, I will be quite pleased when we finally get this guy, or proff that we already got him. I tired of these kinds of things: Iraqi TV Shows Hussein Rallying Troops (washingtonpost.com)
The Market: My guess is that the market will be down, or at least mixed, today. I suspect the negative news from yesterday will have an emotional effect on trading. We shall see. It is fascinating to watch how irrationally positive and irrationally negative reactions affect these things. It will also be interesting to watch and see how the Dow reacts through the day, depending on news from the war. Especially since we are getting close to Baghdad.
I just heard a clip of Michael Moore's "protest" speech at the Oscars last night. I was not surprised as his vitriol, but was surprised (and pleased) and the vigorously negative reaction from many in the audience.

Sunday, March 23

Despite the fact that some clearly horrible things happened today, to be four and a half days into a major armed conflict, and only have 20 dead or missing and 50 wounded is astoundingly positive. While today should remind us all that this is not, as a commentator on TV mentioned a while ago, a "video game or a movie," it should not generate great angst and pessimism either. Stats from here: Iraq Broadcasts Images of Prisoners — U.S. Assails Ruses
BTW, if I may say: Hook'em Horns: Texas 77, Purdue 67
We have hit that point in the news cycle where there is no real "new" news, so the pointless blather from people who don't know what they are talking about begins. Such is the downside of 24/7 coverage. Plus, one gets the impression that in the absence of new major events, the A-Team is at home resting up tonight.
What's Up with Greta? She is on Fox right now all pessimistic about the war, and insisting that there hasn't been enough "jubilation" in the streets, and is opining that this might be a "bad sign." Bill Kristol rightly noted that we really don't know what the Iraqis are thinking and that four days into the war it is a bit early to decide if the Iraqis believe themselves to be liberated or not.

The impatience (and lack of understanding how these things work) by some in the press is remarkable. Yesterday it was “but General, we haven’t found chemical weapons yet!” (and, it appears we now have), and now there is some negative news and one would think that the war has turned in the direction of the regime.

Also, I would note that there is probably a good reason why there is a lack of jubilation—in 1991 they rose up, but we didn’t stay and help. I would guess that most of the Iraqis who hate Saddam are wary, and therefore will bide their time before singing the Iraqi version of “Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead.”

The Command Post Has Moved: Command Post - A Warblog Collective
Not as Good as the Real Thing, But a Start

Source: MSNBC

Interesting (and it makes more sense): Iran: Missile was Iraqi (Hat tip to K Lo at The Corner at NRO)
Funny/Frightening: National guardman changed his name to a toy (Hat tip: Dave Barry).
Hopefully So, But I am Skeptical: Iraq Says It Will Follow Geneva Convention for POWs. Their track record in the past has not been too impressive, and they have already shown themselves to be in violation of the convention by parading them in front of TV cameras.

This situation is another example of the inherent weakness of international law. I noted in an earlier post that the US had the power to ignore international law if it wanted in going to war, demonstrating the lack of true enforce of such "laws." Unfortunately, in the case of POWs, there may well be rules about how the Iraqis should treat our soldiers, but at present, there is no one watching the Iraqis who can make them behave. As such, international laws governing the treatment of POWs are worthless when applied to states willing to abuse prisoners. We will follow international law regarding the Iraqis we catch, but we would have treated them humanly anyway.

My thanks to PolitiBlog for linking to PoliBlog.
PoliBlogger on Dead Tree (and my semi-secret identity revealed): Liberation faces test in Iraqi experiment. Loyal readers (reader?) will recognize the genesis of column from here on PoliBlog.
Rumscraft: Rumsfled confirms surrenders in the "1000s" in Iraq. He notes that resistant has been "uneven"--stiff in some cases, nonexistent in others.

He called general progress as "excellent."

Fascinating: I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam
We just sat, listening, our mouths open wide. Jake, one of the others, just kept saying, "Oh my God" as the driver described the horrors of the regime. Jake was so shocked at how naive he had been. We all were. It hadn't occurred to anyone that the Iraqis might actually be pro-war.

The driver's most emphatic statement was: "All Iraqi people want this war." He seemed convinced that civilian casualties would be small; he had such enormous faith in the American war machine to follow through on its promises. Certainly more faith than any of us had.

Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: "Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?"

And you have to love this epiphany:

Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom.

It is remarkable that the guy practically had to be hit over the head to see the obvious. And he is a journalist. It is utterly remarkable, the degree to which one can be blind to the facts plainly in front of one's face. (Hat Tip to PoliticaObscura via The Command Post.

Ironic, if Anything. There is no tactful way to say it, but it is nonetheless true that to date we have been more dangerous to ourselves than have the Iraqis. I am not sure of the current numbers, but I think actual combat deaths are in the low single digits, while crashed helicopters, friendly fire and a grenade rolling idiot in US uniform account for the preponderance of the deaths and causalities. In the overall calculus of war this signals success, but there is something profoundly disturbing about those deaths, as they all seem preventable in some way. One expects to have higher risk of death on the battlefield, but helicopter crashes and friendly fire, while just as inevitable a part of war as enemy fire, seem more of a waste.