Sunday, December 10, 2006

An Early Contender For Understatement Of The Century And A Quiz

After Baker, what next for the war in Iraq? | World | The Observer:
Gordon Smith stood up on the Senate floor, his voice slow and serious. The Republican Senator from Oregon had been an ultra-loyal supporter of the Iraq war and President Bush. Until last week.

Now he had changed his mind. Smith labelled US policy in Iraq absurd and 'maybe even criminal'. He had been spurred to speak, he said, by White House reaction to last week's Iraq Study Group (ISG) report. 'Let's cut and run, or cut and walk ... because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way,' Smith told colleagues.

[snip]

It was an astonishing speech made all the more so by Smith's previously spotless Republican pro-war credentials. But then it has been a remarkable week in Washington. The ISG report spelt out the sheer scale of the disaster in Iraq. Many experts saw it as a devastating indictment of Bush's policies. But the panel, headed by Bush family friend James Baker and former Democrat congressman Lee Hamilton, also laid out a blueprint for success. Its 79 recommendations envisioned a gradual withdrawal of US combat troops by 2008 and a diplomatic offensive to engage Iran and Syria to bring stability to the country.

Many expected Bush and his coterie of top officials to accept the report. Or at least be chastened by it. In fact, neither happened. Just as the report exposed the divisions in Iraq, it also revealed the chasms in American attitudes to the conflict. Bush's reaction revealed a White House still determined to go its own way. Far from looking for a way out, he is still looking for a way to win the war. 'Some people believe the central challenge is how the US can leave Iraq. He believes the central challenge is how to make it work. He wants victory,' said Larry Haas, a political commentator and former Clinton White House official.

[snip]

There is also a brutal political reality at work. The ISG report is entirely non-binding. The only decisions that really matter are made in the White House. 'Jesus Christ himself could be on the panel. It does not matter,' said Haas. The same goes for the rivalry last week between Baker, who was Secretary of State under the elder George Bush, and the current office holder Condoleezza Rice. Baker may have first known Rice when she was just a Soviet analyst during the Cold War, but she calls the shots now. While last week Baker was conducting high-profile interviews against her diplomatic strategy and urging talks with Iran and Syria, Rice, a known advocate of isolating Syria and Iran diplomatically, remained silent. By the end of last week Baker seemed to have given up. He told one interviewer he would take part in today's morning political talkshows but after that he would stop speaking out. 'I'm finished,' he said. Read in full:
The Americans don't see how unwelcome they are, or that Iraq is now beyond repair: Independent Online Edition > Commentators:
Patrick Cockburn: The Americans don't see how unwelcome they are, or that Iraq is now beyond repair
The main purpose of Bush invading Iraq was to retain power at home Published: 10 December 2006

During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, "a careful review of the reports ... brought to light 1,100 acts of violence".

The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: "If you do I am in real trouble."

Few Chinese emperors can have been as impervious to bad news from the front as President George W Bush. His officials were as assiduous as those eunuchs in Beijing 170 years ago in shielding him from bad news. But even when officials familiar with the real situation in Iraq did break through the bureaucratic cordon sanitaire around the Oval Office they got short shrift from Mr Bush. In December 2004 the CIA station chief in Baghdad said that the insurgency was expanding and was "largely unchallenged" in Sunni provinces. Mr Bush's response was: "What is he, some kind of a defeatist?" A week later the station chief was reassigned.

A few days afterwards, Colonel Derek Harvey, the Defence Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer in Iraq, made much the same point to Mr Bush. He said of the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse." According to the US political commentator Sidney Blumenthal, the President at this point turned to his aides and asked: "Is this guy a Democrat?"

[snip]

"This simply won't work," one former Iraqi Interior Ministry official told me. "Iraqis who work with Americans are regarded as tainted by their families. Often our soldiers have to deny their contact with Americans to their own wives. Sometimes they balance their American connections by making contact with the insurgents at the same time."

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome. Full text of article here:

(The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Hardcover) by Patrick Cockburn is published by Verso)
Telegraph | News | Wounded to get millions in compensation: [One consequence of the "Mission Accomplished" speech. Now if only the payment were to come from Blair's private resources ... - mfi]
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph Last Updated: 1:14am GMT 10/12/2006

Hundreds of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be awarded millions of pounds in compensation following a ruling by the Government that they are victims of crime not war.
A Chinook helicopter comes in to pick up troops from the Helmand Task Force
British troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will be paid compensation on a sliding scale of about £1,000 for a small facial scar, up to a maximum of £500,000 for the loss of a limb

Forty injured servicemen are to receive payments of up to £500,000 each in a series of test cases. This is expected to lead to claims from hundreds more of the estimated 1,000 troops injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

Payments will be made on a "sliding scale" of about £1,000, for a small facial scar, up to a maximum of £500,000, for the loss of a limb. The ruling was agreed, it is understood, after Government lawyers raised fears that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could be subject to a legal challenge by troops claiming they were victims of crime because they were wounded in Iraq after the end of "at war" hostilities in May 2003. Read "Wounded to get millions in compensation" in full:
Telegraph | News | Rogue TV tells Sunnis 'to eat Shias for lunch':
Rogue TV tells Sunnis 'to eat Shias for lunch'
By Aqeel Hussein in Baghdad and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph Last Updated: 1:14am GMT 10/12/2006

Sporting an olive green Ba'ath Party uniform and a bushy moustache, the newsreader barks his bulletins between blasts of patriotic Saddam-era martial music.

Presenters on satellite TV channel Al Zahraa call on Sunnis to act before Shias can kill them

With his gleeful boasts about Iraqi insurgent strikes on US troops, his demeanour is reminiscent of "Comical Ali", the former information minister who famously boasted of victory as American tanks rolled into Baghdad.

For coalition commanders in Iraq, however, the most sinister aspect of his broadcasts is not the bile directed at them but the equally venomous ticker-tape that runs at the bottom of the screen.

"Chase the Shias from neighbourhood to neighbourhood," it urges. "Eat them for lunch before they eat you for dinner. Defend your houses by killing them."

[snip]

The attempt at censorship backfired: the station is back on air from a secret location and freed of any obligation to broadcast responsibly.

[Funny how that works isn't it? - Remember the boost to Al-Sadr provided by Bremer ordering that his newspaper be shut down? "Foolish Bremer" was the headline to the editorial in question, and Bremer of course couldn't resist proving just how foolish he was. - mfi]


[snip]

"Many of the Shia watch it just to make themselves angry," said Ibrahim al Hassan, 23, a Shia from Baghdad. "We are waiting for the Shias to make their own channel that will be the same."

Al Zahraa's popularity illustrates the scale of the difficulties facing coalition officials.
[This has got to be an early contender for understatement of the century - mfi]
Telegraph | News | Rogue TV tells Sunnis 'to eat Shias for lunch| Full Article:

Telegraph | Comment | Why the generals have to speak out:
Why the generals have to speak out
By Col Tim Collins Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 10/12/2006

When General Sir Mike Jackson took the podium in the headquarters of the London Scottish to deliver the 31st Richard Dimbleby lecture on Wednesday evening, the mandarins of the Ministry of Defence must have been smugly confident of another robust defence of their policies. They were in for a shock. General Mike, the recently retired Chief of the General Staff, lambasted the Ministry for its failure to support the Army on operations, for the poor conditions of service, for appalling accommodation and for low pay.

To a hushed hall and with journalists scribbling furiously, he detailed shortcomings in the relationship between the military and politicians: "Frankly, the Chiefs of Staff rather find themselves in the opposite position to that old aphorism about the ladies of the night, who are deemed to have power without responsibility." Read in full:
Telegraph | News | Just how bad a President is George W Bush?:
Just how bad a President is George W Bush?

By Philip Sherwell, US Editor, Sunday Telegraph Last Updated: 1:14am GMT 10/12/2006

When President George W Bush and his wife Laura switched on the 25,000 coloured lights on the White House Christmas tree last week, the cheers from onlookers came as a rare respite from the torrent of bad news dogging his administration.

[snip]
It was a far cry from another White House press conference two years ago, just after he won his second term. Then the president bounced into the room with a spring in his step, and declared his intention to spend the "political capital" he had just earned in his election victory.

He must regret how quickly that "capital" has been squandered. [Phil Sherwell usually regards his job as the journalistic equivalent of licking in between Bush's toes (that's the polite version). If he's writing 5 pagers like this ...... ] Read more:

Secret American talks with insurgents break down - Sunday Times - Times Online:
Secret American talks with insurgents break down
Hala Jaber, Amman
SECRET talks in which senior American officials came face-to-face with some of their most bitter enemies in the Iraqi insurgency broke down after two months of meetings, rebel commanders have disclosed.

The meetings, hosted by Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, brought insurgent commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, together for the first time.

After months of delicate negotiations Allawi, a former Ba’athist and a secular Shi’ite, persuaded three rebel leaders to travel to his villa in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to see Khalilzad in January.

“The meetings came about after persistent requests from the Americans. It wasn’t because they loved us but because they didn’t have a choice,” said a rebel leader who took part. Full Article here:
Bush Sr Breaks Down In Tears Days Ago At The Damage Done To Bush Crime Family - Sunday Times (Owned by Murdoch Crime Family) Finally Notices:
Tears of Bush Sr testify to US torment
Sarah Baxter, Washington
IT WAS an emotional moment for President George H W Bush. His son Jeb was soon to step down as Florida’s governor and he was recalling some rough moments during his boy’s first campaign.

There was some “unfair stuff”, he recalled in a speech last week but “Jeb didn’t whine about it, he didn’t complain”. Then Bush began to sob. As he struggled to continue, he said haltingly, “A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat”, before breaking down in tears again. Full lachrymose article here: Picture of people who really have something to cry about as a result of the actions of the criminal dynasty headed by the 41st whinger immediately below:
2 year old wounded child and man with child in mortar attacked house

BostonHerald.com - International: Iraq police academy set to implode: Advisers: Crumbling campus symbolizes law-and-order woes:*
A U.S. project to turn the Baghdad Police College into the crown jewel of Middle Eastern law enforcement academies is such a shoddy mess that parts of it face demolition and the sprawling facility itself may be forced to shut down in two weeks, an American adviser in Iraq tells the Herald.

[snip]

In its report on Tuesday, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group said the 300,000 Iraqi Security Forces that the State Department claims have been recruited since the 2002 invasion have “neither the training nor legal authority to conduct criminal investigations, nor the firepower to take on organized crime, insurgents, or militias.”

Iraqi cops cannot control crime and “routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture and execution of civilians,” the group said.

Burke said the combination of bad buildings, poor recruiting and abbreviated training has “frustrated our ability to build a professional police force that can offer Iraqis a sense of safety and hope.” Read More:

* Token Story from US newspaper to prevent claims of discrimination - mfi
So you think you know all about Iraq? Well, take our test ... | Backbench | Guardian Unlimited Politics:
So you think you know all about Iraq? Well, take our test ...
Armando Iannucci Sunday December 10, 2006 The Observer

Last week was the week that the war in Iraq was officially declared a complete disaster. In fact, the sheer wrongness of the Iraq venture has become so obvious that it has now attained the status of scientific fact. On a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the internationally recognised unit of Absolute Wrongness, then most computers have calculated that Iraq comes out at 46.8, which is pretty wrong (or PW, as it is commonly known).

Since there are now fewer people in existence who believe that Iraq was the right thing to do than believe in the existence of the yeti, I thought it would be fun to set a general knowledge quiz this week to test your knowledge of how objectively and verifiably wrong the whole Iraq idea was.

So here are a number of factual questions, with a number of multiple-choice answers. Enjoy yourselves and remember - for each question, there is at least one factually correct answer.

· Those MPs in the Labour party who, in the build-up to war, grumbled a bit about the importance of the UN but went on to vote for war on the basis of Tony Blair's evidence to the House of Commons are:

a) Mental plankton so incapable of doing anything of their own free will they probably have to eat 14 pounds of Viagra before they can even kiss their mum goodbye in the morning.

b) Gullible zeroes with less mental originality in their heads than the contents of a worm's thought-bubble.

· Newspaper columnists who, to this day, still bang on about what an amazing difference democracy has made to the lives of normal Iraqis are:

a) Incapable of processing any events in front of their faces. In fact, they're so detached from reality that they can't form any coherent assessment of anything involving people, places, sensory experiences, communicated signals or experiential phenomena of any kind. They're the journalistic equivalent of Helen Keller completely off her face on cider.

b) Reanimated zombies, being the souls of journalists from the time of the Boer War but inserted into the lifeless body of the likes of Melanie Phillips. She may look like Melanie Phillips, she may write like Melanie Phillips but, in fact, she's the ranting thought-pus of a brain-dead Victorian.

· American neocons are:

1) The neo-bastard offspring of a sex bout between a swarm of locusts and the unfrozen sperm of John Wayne.

2) The human equivalent of a bowel movement.

· People who were in favour of the war but are now in favour of a withdrawal are:

a) The sort of people who like vomiting in front of their pet dogs and then asking them to clear it up. And then posting them the bill for a new carpet.

b) About as reliable as a car made from cream.

· Lib Dem MPs who've spent the past four years bleating about how they never voted for war but who went quiet as soon as it started for fear of looking unpatriotic:

a) Deserve a special place in hell reserved for people guilty of halfhearted support. In this special sector of the underworld, Satan spends all eternity ripping out their fundaments with his teeth and then fashioning surgical supports for them made out of half their hearts.

b) Tits.

· British television's ranks of news and current-affairs journalists who failed in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq to broadcast how crap an idea it was are:

a) Still mostly in employment

b) Worse at their jobs than a claustrophobic lift attendant.

· Tony Blair is:

a) A spiritually broken manslaughterer, doomed to spend the rest of his living days haunted by the failings of his foreign policy and facing 30 years of people shouting 'lying failure' at him when he goes for a walk, which may sound a horrific fate but at least it's not as bad as having your arms ripped out by a cluster bomb.

b) That's it.



markfromireland

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