[These are some random thoughts I've been cogitating on over the past week or so, but I haven't had to chance to post them.]
Operation 'Save Rummy's ass':
I read in the NYT a few days ago that W.'s special Iraq commission, led by James Baker III, won't be reporting to W. or Congress on its findings until after the mid-term elections. We've only been there for three and half years, after all, we don't want to rush into anything. I'm sure the soldiers being held over, long after their tours are up; to fight the "Battle of Baghdad" will appreciate the political realities of the situation. Of course, instead of calling the present operation "Together Forward," a better name might be "Operation Save the GOP Majority." Now that's something worth dying for, eh?
They've stood up, we're not standing down:
Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson told reporters that over the past two years 4,000 Iraqi policemen have been killed by insurgents and 8,000 have been wounded. In 2005 alone 1,497 were killed and 3,256 were wounded. Peterson says, "They have paid a great price yet Iraqis are signing up as recruits everyday." So my question is; are they incredibly patriotic or just desperate to have any kind of job at all? Who in their right mind would want to be an Iraqi policeman? [Hear an Anne Garrels report on Iraqi policemen from ATC to find out]
In any case, supposedly there are some 300,000 Iraqis now trained and ready to go, so why aren't we going? John Warner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said after a one-day visit to over there that the situation in Iraq was "drifting sideways." Warner suggests the US should consider a "change of course" in Iraq. Gosh, you think? Now the last time I checked Warner was a staunch supporter of the president and his policies in Iraq, so what's going on here? Besides Rummy, W., Cheney and Henry Kissinger, is there anyone left that thinks we should still be in Iraq?
Getting ready to fight the last war:
The US Army has reworked its strategy to fight the insurgency. AP reports that a new field manual to be released later this month "emphasizes the importance of nonmilitary solutions, such as promoting economic development and making sure basic services are restored to deprive insurgents of support. It also urges interaction with the Iraq people." Hey, that's great I'm happy to see after three years of screwing up royally and the deaths of 2,700 US troops we're finally getting around to developing a strategy to deal with the insurgency in Iraq. Of course, the issue now is that the biggest challenge facing us today is the fight against the various battling religious militias. Have we got a strategy for that?
The NYT reports that there is a worry within the military establishment that all this emphasis on insurgency fighting is taking attention away from fighting regular wars. The NYT: "The Army is stretched so thin and so many units are focused on rehearsing for Iraq and Afghanistan at the training center that concerns have grown that the Army may be raising a new group of officers with little experience in high-intensity warfare against heavily equipped armies like North Korea." Another problem with the new thinking on fighting the insurgency is that there aren't enough troops to get the job done. Gen. Jack Keane, a former acting chief of staff, told the NYT that, "the Army does not have nearly enough resources, particularly in terms of people, to meets its global responsibilities while making such a commitment to irregular warfare."
That's alright, if anyone is worried about what might happen next in North Korea, have no fear. Speaking last year on the subject of pulling several thousand troops out of South Korea for redeployment to Iraq, W. said we have "capacity" in Northeast Asia:
"We've got good capacity in Korea. We traded troops for new equipment, as you know: we brought some troop -- our troop levels down in South Korea, but replaced those troops with more capacity." We don't need no stinkin' heavily equipped army to fight in Korea; we've got "capacity." I feel reassured, but W. says we're not going to attack the Hermit Kingdom anyway. Just in case, though, perhaps Japan will just go ahead and build a warhead or two, just to be on the safe side.
[Reuters, 8/7/06: "The United States will lower troop levels in South Korea beyond a previously agreed reduction to 25,000, but the cut will not be 'substantial,' a senior defense official said on Monday. . . The official said the cut was possible due to South Korea's improved capabilities [i.e. they're better cannon fodder], and noted that judgments about the threat posed by North Korea were driving changes in the U.S.-South Korean military relationship.]
The forgotten war?
It may be difficult to hear the explosions of a US military munition dump blowing up in Baghdad over the rumble of the North Korean nuclear test, but things are going from bad to worse in Iraq again. Not to worry, though, General George Casey, standing with Rummy at a press conference today, says progress is coexisting with chaos in Iraq. Also progressing is the number of US troop casualties. Over the past month we've suffered over 776 injured and over a hundred dead. In just the first 11days of October the number of US dead is 44.
Of course, I guess this type of thing is to be expected when you're engaging the enemy. So says the pentagon, anyway. From where I'm sitting it looks like we're getting ourselves into a much bigger version of Fallujah. It is pretty amazing that having taken Baghdad three years ago, having fought two Fallujahs, several Ramadis and a few Tal Afars, we're at the point where we find ourselves again re-fighting the Battle of Baghdad. General George Casey explains that Baghdad: "Is the center of gravity for the country. Everybody knows that. The bad guys know it, we know it, and the Iraqis know it. So we have to help the Iraqis secure their capital if they're going to go forward."
My question is; which Iraqis exactly are we helping? I mean, we're going after the Sunni insurgents; we're going after al-Qaeda (remember them?); we're battling the Shiites, infiltrated into the security forces -- which we've spent the last two years arming and training -- and we're going after the Mahdi army; so who's left? There's the Iraqi military which is apparently more or less on the government's side, but the government itself is the problem. What exactly are we spending all this blood and treasure for if the PM of the country is beholden to one of the main militia leaders? How can we be fighting the Mahdi Army at the same time we're propping up the very government the leader of that militia is a part of?
Body count wars:
A new Johns Hopkins University study published in the British magazine The Lancet says the number of Iraqis killed as a result of our invasion of Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands. [NYT] The exact amount isn't known for sure but it could be anywhere from 300,000 to 900,000. Naturally, W. has an answer for that: "the methodology" used in the study "is pretty well discredited." They're just "guessing" about these numbers he says. Of course, how would he know anything about the methodology used, in the first place, and who is he to talk about credibility? All the information he gets about the war is filtered through Cheney and when he does get bad news the barer of that news is shown the door, so who am I going to believe: The guy who told us Saddam had nukes or a group of scientists who risked life and limb to go door to door in the hellhole W.'s lies created to count the dead?