Tag Archives: Iraq

Hardly Worth Mentioning

One of the ways to see how much attention a story is getting is to notice the number of times it comes across the feed reader. For example, in the last two days there has been eight stories, mostly duplicates, about Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz.

In contrast, this story about the withdraw of 4000 troops from Iraq has come across once.

The US military on Thursday announced the withdrawal of another 4,000 troops from Iraq next month as violence across the country hit a four-year low.

Of course it’s nothing but straight reporting. [/ sarc]

The military said it was pulling out troops deployed as part of a controversial “surge” of forces in February 2007.

It must be painful to report good news.

The US military said that last week had seen the lowest level of violence in four years across Iraq, but gave no casualty figures.

Figures maintained by the independent website www.icasualties.org show that the number of US fatalities so far this month was 19, the lowest average since the American invasion in March 2003.

I wonder how much coverage this will get throughout the day.

“this country returned to me my life”

The title is a quote by a very special Iraqi citizen living in the U.S., Safaa Wadi.

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) – Safaa Wadi moved to this former mill city after his life was threatened in his native Iraq while serving as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. He expects to soon head back to Iraq—not as a civilian interpreter, but as a U.S. soldier.

Wadi arrived in the United States in September with a special immigrant visa for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters. But with his savings nearly depleted and unable to land a decent job, Wadi enlisted in the Army. He begins training in South Carolina on Monday.

Wadi isn’t worried about returning to Iraq, where many of his countrymen considered him a traitor because he worked with American forces. His allegiance is now to the United States, he says.

“I want to serve this country because this country returned to me my life,” Wadi said. “If I had stayed in Iraq, I’d be dead now.”

[…]

Wadi decided last summer the time had come to leave Iraq. Now he says the time has come to put on a uniform. In a matter of days, he’ll be Army Specialist Wadi. “I think I’m the first guy to do this,” he said.

Upwardly Global and an Army spokeswoman said they weren’t aware of any other Iraqi interpreters joining the Army. But they would be welcome to do so because enlisting would give them good benefits and put them on the path toward U.S. citizenship while filling a need for the Army, Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb said.

Wadi expects to be used as an interpreter again when he returns to Iraq. He plans to put in four years in the military.

“After the Army,” he said, “I hope to go to an American university, get a job and be a productive citizen.”

This We’ll Defend.

Huh?

This is just a quick comment on something I heard in Barack Obama’s victory remarks last night.

George Bush won’t be on the ballot this November.

George Bush won’t be on this ballot. My cousin, Dick Cheney, won’t be on this ballot.

But the Bush-Cheney war and the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy, those will be on the ballot. When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won’t be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the start.

Of course I haven’t asked Senator McCain, but I can make a pretty educated guess that he never would claim that Obama supported the war in Iraq. In fact, I would be willing to guess that should the two of them be meeting in November that John McCain will be quite clear that his opponent never supported the war.

This isn’t a discussion of how the war in Iraq will play a part in the general election. It just struck me as quite the odd thing for him to say.

Support Redeployment Now!

Cut and Run. Redeployment. Whatever you want to call it, it’s taking place. The left should be thrilled, right? Whoops, it’s not our troops that are being redeployed.

Some leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups are fleeing Iraq with cash to escape US forces and possibly to try to regroup outside the country, a senior US commander said Monday.

Major General Mark Hertling, commander of US forces in northern Iraq, said other Al-Qaeda fighters are dispersing from cities into the desert because of fear of capture.

Ooo, ooo, take the money and run.

So, the surge isn’t working I guess.

“We have had many indications that many of them are leaving the country because of what they perceive as an increasing amount of pressure,” Hertling told reporters here via video link from Iraq.

“We’ve also had several indications that several of their leaders are leaving the country, leaving the country with cash, the cash that they were sent to pay fighters with,” he said.

[…]

The dispersal of extremist fighters has also coincided with a spike in kidnapping for ransom, as fighters try to raise cash for themselves or their organizations.

“And this is not only AQI, this is also ISI, Islamic State of Iraq, and several of the other extremist groups,” he added.

He said they were leaving because of the intensified pressure from US and Iraqi security forces in the north, and fears that they will be “ratted out” by locals who now feel more confident about security.

This is redeployment that I can support.

Looking Back at 2007 – July/August

I’m taking a look back at 2007 this week. It’s interesting to see just what I posted about, and what was going on through the year.

July — This was the month when progress started to be observed in Iraq, as even some critics such as Michael E. O’Hanolon and Kenneth M. Pollack began to observe.

Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

August — Resignations were the theme for this month. They included Tony Snow, Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove.

Tomorrow — September/October

Previously

Iraq and the 2008 Elections

Iraq and the overall war on terrorism will be a factor in the 2008 elections. The questions are, to what degree will the war be a factor and how will conditions on the ground influence voters thoughts and votes?

It is something of which the candidates are most assuredly aware.

Some Democrats say frustrated voters have given up on altering President Bush’s handling of the war, and will make Republicans pay in 2008. Others say Democratic candidates are stubbornly and dangerously out of step with an improving situation, and their most promising campaign issue may prove far less potent by next November.

Of course the importance and influence varies from voter to voter. Much of this will play out in the primaries where the voters are likely to be much more politically active.

Iraq is going to be a real problem for the Democrats.

While the Iraq situation is somewhat fluid, the top Democratic presidential contenders are locked in their Iraq-is-a-disaster message because anti-war voters play such a huge role in the party’s primaries, several politicians said. It’s possible the message will sound a bit off-key by mid-2008.

“The Democratic Party has become emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq — reluctant to acknowledge the progress our troops are now achieving,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, a hawkish independent from Connecticut who was the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2000. “If Democrats don’t take off their ideological and partisan blinders,” he said, “they risk compromising our national security and losing next year’s election.”

Of course Joe Lieberman is an exception. Quite a few others on the left disagree with his assessment.

“The American people are more negative about Iraq than ever before and want a change,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., one of his party’s top strategists. “They’ve concluded what they’ve concluded about Iraq. They’re done.”

Moreover, he said, voters will take out their anger on Republicans next year because the great majority of GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates have supported the administration’s main war policies.

“George Bush is on the ballot in 2008,” Emanuel said.

That attitude, that they are running against George Bush in 2008, is silly and wrong. Not that I don’t understand what they’re trying to do, tie the candidates to the President. That has been a common tactic since the beginning of electoral politics. This is just different. The left have such a blue-white hate for George Bush that they are not just trying to pose an identity with the current administration and it’s policies, they are going over the top and attempting to hypothetically and retroactively defeat George Bush for 2000 and 2004.

But to get back to the issue of Iraq as it relates to the 2008 elections, the left have invested heavily in defeat. The deny it, but their actions speak quite loudly. As do some of their words. The most striking example, if perhaps the most honest, was S.C. Rep James Clyburn who said,

I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us.

And it is a real problem for them. How do they appeal to their base, especially the MooreOnCodeKos cut and run portion of their base, which is by far the most vocal and influential at this point of the primary season.

Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard points to a NYT article that is, “acknowledging that Democrats are having to tapdance with all their might to try to avoid the trap they set for themselves on Iraq. They bet heavily on an American defeat and now have to face the fact that the situation in Iraq is improving despite their efforts and pronouncements.” Part of what he quotes,

While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war — a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters — they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military.

If security continues to improve, President Bush could become less of a drag on his party, too, and Republicans may have an easier time zeroing in on other issues, such as how the Democrats have proposed raising taxes in difficult economic times.

Gaius sized up the problem very well.

The Democrats bet the farm on defeat. If it does not happen – or if the Democrat’s Congressional tactics end up causing a funding crisis just when things are going well, they just might get one big surprise next year. Riding a tiger is fairly straightforward in theory. The big problem with riding a tiger happens when you try to get off.

And it is the reliance on defeat for their political fortunes that has the left looking for a way to spin the position they have staked out.

Ed Morrisey has this analysis:

For the past year, the Democrats have portrayed the American effort in Iraq as a failure. Their leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, publicly announced that we had lost and that we should immediately retreat. Their leading candidate for President, Hillary Clinton, all but called the commander of American forces in Iraq a liar when he reported on the progress that even the Times now acknowledges as real and obvious.

Democrats have a problem larger than just the message. The substance of their policy remains defeatist. They claim that they want a new strategy in Iraq, all but oblivious that the new strategy adopted in January has proven very successful. Their strategy — smaller forces, disengaged from a reeling enemy — would actually return us to the failing strategy of 2006. It would provide al-Qaeda in Iraq and the militias a respite just when they have been pushed to the last extremity.

The spin they are trying to engage in is to say that even if the conditions are improving that enough hasn’t been done politically.

Democratic officials are quick to note that the overall trend toward less violence has not resulted in the type of Iraqi political reconciliation that might lead to a stable government after most U.S. troops leave.

“The purpose of the surge was to create a secure environment in which the Iraqi government would have the opportunity to make the political change” needed to stabilize the country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently told reporters. “They have not taken advantage of that opportunity.”

I’m not going make any prediction about what impact Iraq will have on the 2008 election. As Michael O’Hanlon notes in the AP story linked above, “people make predictions about the Iraq war’s impact on the next election at their peril.”

However, if the left continues to place all pf their eggs in the basket of defeat, I may have to take my chances.

If You Don’t Believe General Petraeus. . .

. . .will you believe the troops on the ground?

Soldiers in Iraq Back Petraeus Testimony

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq (AP) – At this wind-swept base near the Iranian border, the main points of Gen. David Petraeus’ testimony to Congress were met with widespread agreement among soldiers: The American troop buildup is working, but the military needs more time.

Most of the soldiers at FOB Delta, some 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, were out on patrol or sleeping when Petraeus’ comments were broadcast late Monday and Tuesday in Iraq.

But some heard it and others have read about it, and say they agree with their commander’s assessment.

I was able to watch and liveblog most of the General’s testimony before the House committees. I did not see yesterday’s Senate questioning. The impression I was left with from many of the pols on the left was the sense that they didn’t care what the General, or Ambassador Crocker, had to say. Their minds were already made up.

Many on the left spent the days leading up to the General’s appearances attempting to preemptively dismiss his coming assessment. It’s just not what they want to hear, in spite of his honest portrayal of conditions.

Those who are there, doing the work, have a much clearer understanding than any member of Congress.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Nicholls of the 71st Medical Detachment, visiting FOB Delta from his post in southern Iraq to do an assessment, said the military still needs time to clean up mistakes made after the 2003 invasion, including the need to build an Iraqi army from scratch and to secure the borders.

“I think our initial assessment was too rosy,” he said after reading about the hearings while sitting in the library at the recreation center. “It takes time to build an army and I think we should’ve secured the borders right away.”

The 36-year-old from Mobile, Ala., also said American politicians need to be more understanding.

They can be critical because they are politicians and their main goal is to be re-elected, but they see a much more limited piece than the troops on the ground,” he said.

“What happens in Washington D.C. when somebody signs a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily make it here in the desert,” he said. “You can’t make everybody come together. Sometimes the best you can do is find intermediaries and that takes time.”

This young Sargent gets it as well:

Sgt. Nathaniel Killip, 24, of Indianapolis, caught part of the general’s presentation on TV and said he agreed that withdrawing all U.S. troops or setting a date to do so before Iraqi security forces have proven themselves ready to take over would open the doors for insurgents to attack.

“They’re just going to lay back and wait until it’s a softer target,” he said.

Killip said the troop buildup had made a noticeable difference since more forces arrived at FOB Delta in June, pointing to a dramatic drop in rocket and mortar attacks against the base in the past two weeks.

The men and women of our military in Iraq provide a much better endorsement of General Petraeus than any two faced member of Congress who thanks the General for his service and in the next breath says we think you’re lying.

Staff Sgt. Nicholls got it exactly right. Let me repeat the quote I highlighted above. “They can be critical because they are politicians and their main goal is to be re-elected, but they see a much more limited piece than the troops on the ground.”

It’s time they started listening to those troops, and the General whose assessment they back up.

Watching General Petreaus

I am watching the Live Video feed of General Petreaus. I will try to give some live blog coverage, but may get called away from the computer.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) (Chairman – House Armed Services Committee) is speaking.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) (Chairman – International Relations) is up.

Does General Petreaus even need to be there, or are they all just going to bash what he is about to say, and the President?

Lantos – “I don’t buy it” preemptive commentary. “It’s failed”

So far all that I’ve heard is, we don’t care what you have to say, you’re going to do it our way.

Duncan Hunter (R-CA) (Ranking member – Armed Services committee) “Spent the last week attacking the credibility of the witness.” Mentions Moveron.org ad.

[Note: many of the quotes will be paraphrased. Quotes and paraphrased quotes will be in quotation marks. I will put “quotes” that are my thoughts in italics.]

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (Ranking member – International Relations) “We can’t rely on accommodation”.

General Petreaus – His mic isn’t working. (Waiting for the House AV Club?)

{Several people making disturbances have been removed. I am betting there will be more.}

5 minute break while they work out the technical issues. Does anyone else find this humorous?

Fixed. General Petreaus – “This assessment is mine.” “Iraqi forces have been standing and fighting, and sustaining losses.” “Can reduce the troop level to pre-surge level by next summer.” Says the large part of the violence is due to ethno-secterian forces. Overall improvement seen.

“al-Qaeda not defeated, but it is diminished.” “The most significant development in the past six months – tribes and local citizens rejecting al-Qaeda and violence.” “Other tribes inspired by the actions in Anbar.” “Iraq is spending more on security then it receives in support from the US.”

Report title – “Security while Transitioning – (I missed the sub title)”

Stepping down force strength between December 2007 and July 2008. Hesitant to project further into the future.

Ambassador Crocker {after some more protesters are removed} “It is possible for the United States to see it’s goals realized in Iraq.” “The process will not be quick, it will be uneven, and there will be setbacks.” “A sober assessment, but not a disheartening one.”

“Understanding where Iraq is now requires knowing where they’ve been.”

“Iraq is, and for some time will remain, a traumatized society.”

“We should not be surprised or dismayed that the Iraqi’s haven’t reached answers on these issues, but should look at how they are addressing them.” Gains more pronounced on the provincial level. “al-Queada overplayed it’s hand in Anbar.”

[NOTE: I will have to leave for a little while to make a school pick up. If anyone wants to keep things up in the comments until I get back, please do!]

“2006 was a bad year in Iraq. 2007 has brought some improvements. Change the dynamics for the better. Much harder for terrorists to make attacks.”

“Thanks to the support of Congress we have an appropriate civilian presence in Iraq.”

[NOTE: Time to go. I’ll be back as soon as possible.]

[BACK: I am too old and too out of shape (read:fat) to be walking that far in 90 degree heat.]

Rep. Leo Berman (D-CA) Q about al-Qaeda in Iraq – “How many more are their to capture or kill? Are we creating more terrorists?”

GP – Best estimate several thousand plus “affiliated groups.”

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) (Recounting previous meetings with General P.) {More idiots taken into custody.} “What will be the result if we leave to soon?”

AC – “I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t say for certain. Iran and their proxies will assume ascendancy.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) “Genocide if we leave prematurely? Are there better benchmarks that could be used to measure progress?”

GP – Recognize the organizations and groups that are willing to stand up against the enemy.

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) What are the diplomatic policies?

GP – There have been diplomatic efforts and others need to be pursued. “We have to look at the internet resources the enemy is using as well.”

AC – We have to apply more pressure to regional players.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) “This is not part of the international war on terror.” “We’re trying to be in the middle of a violent, dysfunctional family.” “Why aren’t you making this claim.” “Why we wait for this to happen how much more blood will be shed?” “Will this be worth it four years from now?”

GP – al-Qaeda Iraq is a part of al-Qaeda. They have poured gas on all ready burning embers.

{He doesn’t want to hear the answer.}

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) “Is al-Queda Iraq part of the greater war on terror?”

GP – “Yes.”

Rep. B. “Would abandoning Iraq be a plus or minus to the overall war on terror?”

{Not sure if it was Dan Burton. Thought I heard him say he was from NY. Can’t find a Rep. Burton from NY. ???}

Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL) “Is our presence in Iraq hindering our ability to fight al-Qaeda world wide?”

GP – A better question for the General overseeing the overall war.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) “When I was in Iraq it looked to be an all American show.”

GP – They are there.

Rep. Taylor – I want a date when we are going to leave.

GP – This process is ongoing. We have a provincial Iraqi control document. Will be provided.

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) “Can we fight on two fronts?” Strain on the military.

GP – The effect on the forces was taken into consideration as I made my recommendations. Says that he is focused on the mission in Iraq, not best equipped to answer questions about the general state of military readiness.

{This was much easier before the house filled back up. :-D )

{I was away. Who is this speaking?}

Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) “Why is it taking the Iraqi army so long to become efficient?” Contends that Iraq is worse off then before al-Qaeda came into the picture.

GP – The tribal leaders want to be part of the process. Until they came to grips with the Taliban like nature of al-Qaeda. They want to have their place at the table. They are starting over in many ways. They didn’t even have a Ministry of Defense building. Use the example: “This is like building the worlds largest aircraft while it’s in flight and while it’s being shot at.”

{Taking a 5 minute break. Good. I can use one!}

While they are taking this break let me welcome all the readers from Pajama’s Media. Please take a look around, and come back to visit again some time. By the way, your comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Returning now.

Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) – Tell us about the claim that the “Army is broken.”

GP – What impresses me is that they (troops) continue to raise their right hand and continue to volunteer for additional tours. Morale is an individual thing and can come down to the kind of day you’re having.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) Asks again about morale.

GP – Repeats that it is an individual state, but overall it is “solid.” Know the the men and women to the right and left of them share the same devotion to duty.

[NOTE: The video is starting to break up. I don’t know if the problem is on their end or mine.]

{I don’t know to who’s question this is a response.} GP – You reconcile with your enemies, not your friends. That’s why it’s called reconciliation.

GP Explains the difference between Iraqi forces that are acting on their own and a report that says the Army is to ready to act on its own. He says that those are two different things. While individual units are acting on their own, the army as a whole still has to build up the institutions that can support those groups.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) “If Congress passes a law that says no funds can be used for fighting in Iraq and the President says fight in Iraq, what do you do?” “The country wants the Petraeus report.” “Wants hundreds of pages, written in Baghdad by you.”

Idiot.

{Sorry. Getting homework started, adults out the door to work, cousins out the door home, things are a bit hectic this time of day.}

Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC) What kind of country will Iraq become. (That’s a wildly paraphrased version.)

AC – “That is really the question. That is the challenge. Iraqis will have to work through that. Perhaps federalism is the way this country needs to go.” There are no easy quick answers. There is no magic switch that can be thrown to make the politics come together. It will take their resolve and our backing to make this happen.”

[couldn’t see the name of the questioner.] “Where is the line between giving them space to make the decisions they need to make and providing cover for them not to do anything.”

AC – “Our leaving early may very well push them in the wrong direction.”

{Same questioner} “Other than the military, what leverage can we use?”

AC – “That’s some pretty good leverage.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) “What is the political solution we are moving towards?”

AC – “Changing course now could have some very nasty humanitarian consequences. According to the Iraq constitution Iraq is a Federal State. The debate is what kind of Federal State will they become.” “Iraq can stabilize as a Federal State.”

{Don’t know who} “It’s become obvious to me (after saying I don’t believe a thing you’ve said today) that Iraq won’t step up until we step out.”

“Why should we believe that your assessment today is any more accurate than your assessment three years ago?”

GP – “I still stand by it. I said at the time that there were still improvements to be made. I was saying that things were on track. They were. Sectarian violence tore much of the advances down.” “We have made changes to that that allow the military advances to occur.”

AC – “As security conditions stabilize we see progress in local councils and regional councils.”

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) “The BBC and ABC polls say Iraqis want us out.” “Do you have different data?” It’s worse, we’re evil, why aren’t we out? I don’t really have a question, I just want to bash the administration, you, and our military.

AC – “Polling in Iraq is not exactly an exact science.”

Rep. S – “I think they can count better than most of the Generals in Iraq.”

Adjourned.

I am exhausted. My respect for the General and Ambassador for performing admirably in these hearings is profound.

Petraeus Before Congress

That headline could have two interpretations. Of course most political and news junkies know that General Petraeus will be speaking before Congress today. Some have concluded, before he has said a word, that the General’s assessment is wrong.

“The reality is that, although there has been some mild progress on the security front, there is, in fact, no real security in Baghdad or Anbar province, where I was dealing with the most serious problem, sectarian violence,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., a 2008 presidential candidate who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

[…]

Biden said Petraeus’ assessment missed the point. Biden said focusing on a political solution, such as by creating more local control, was the only way to foster national reconciliation among warring factions.

“I really respect him, and I think he’s dead flat wrong,” Biden said.

Biden contended that Bush’s main strategy was to buy time and extend the troop presence in Iraq long enough to push the burden onto the next president, who takes office in January 2009, to fix the sectarian strife.

“This president has no plan — how to win and how to leave,” Biden said.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., agreed. “The problem is, if you don’t have a deadline and you don’t require something of the Iraqis, they’re simply going to use our presence as cover for their willingness to delay, which is what they have done month after month after month,” he said.

“I think the general will present the facts with respect to the statistics and the tactical successes or situations as he sees them,” Kerry said. “But none of us should be fooled — not the American people, not you in the media, not us in Congress — we should not be fooled into this tactical success debate.”

The other take on the headline I used could be the little tidbit I found in the last paragraph of this story.

Meanwhile, a New York Times/CBS News Poll found that Americans trust military commanders far more than the Bush administration or Congress to bring the war in Iraq to a successful end. Five percent of Americans said they most trust the Bush administration to resolve the war, the poll found; 21 percent said they would most trust Congress; and 68 percent expressed the most trust in military commanders.

Count me in that 68 percent.

UPDATE: The live hearing is starting now. I am posting on it here.