Category Archives: War in Iraq

Return to Iraq–What Could Go Wrong?

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/06/13/the-seven-people-who-need-to-stfu-about-iraq-right-now/#.U5tf1StV6rM.twitter

“Hush you guys. The guy who thought Sarah Palin would make a good vice-president is explaining to us what we should do in Iraq.”

And do you remember which genius said this, about how long success in Iraq would take: “It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months“?

Giving me an excuse to post this excerpt, which I love:

But imagine if “Donald Rumsfeld” was a wholly imaginary character and that the events recounted in his memoir were audacious fiction, a wicked satire describing an implausible campaign of deceit that ultimately ensnared even the deceivers themselves, leading to a catastrophically lethal blunder in which trillions were squandered and hundreds of thousands slain. Yet despite that all-too-predictable outcome, this fictional narrator with the oddly Dickensian name is unrepentant, effusively praising himself as a hero and a champion of virtue. If it were fiction — the product of conscious artifice rather than of unconscious artifice – Known and Unknown would be on the syllabus of English literature classes everywhere.

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Billions Wasted/Lost in Iraq

In unsurprising news: http://news.yahoo.com/auditors-billions-likely-wasted-iraq-174443860.html

 

“The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known,” the report said.

The auditors found huge problems accounting for the huge sums, but one small example of failure stood out: A contractor got away with charging $80 for a pipe fitting that its competitor was selling for $1.41. Why? The company’s billing documents were reviewed sloppily by U.S. contracting officers or were not reviewed at all.

With dry understatement, the inspector general said that while he couldn’t pinpoint the amount wasted, it “could be substantial.”

Also, I highly recommend the book We Meant Well; How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren. It’s entertaining as well as informative. Man can write.

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Senseless Killing of Zoo Animal Becomes Broadway Play

Do you remember back in 2003 how an endangered Bengal tiger in the beleaguered Baghdad zoo was shot to death by a scared soldier with an illegal weapon because the hungry tiger was tasting another soldier? Well, they’ve made it into a Broadway play. And Robin Williams stars! As the tiger! I am not joking.

Now that this play exists, it’s difficult to internet research on the original story, even in Arabic. For instance, in the play the tiger’s name is Mamdouh. Can’t find any corroboration of that, though.

It wasn’t impossible, though. Okay what happened was some army reserve officer decided it would be a good idea to treat his soldiers to a cookout, and that a good place to roast a lamb would be in the middle of zoo full of underfed carnivores. More fantastic decision making took place that night, when a reservist decided to stand within reaching distance of a tiger. The story we heard at the time was that the soldiers had been drinking, but apparently they hadn’t drunk a significant amount. So the guy who stood a couple feet from a tiger and turned his back was sober. So anyway, as the 11-year-old tiger was munching this soldier’s arm, his buddy pulled a contraband pistol and shot the tiger dead. The snack soldier lost the use of his arm.

Sounds fishy, right? Most zoos don’t have tiger enclosures within reaching distance of the public. Neither did this one. The soldier was between the inner and outer enclosure, that is to say, in a really, really stupid place to be.

If Jurassic Park has taught us anything, it’s that we can create life and therefore we don’t need to think about wildlife conservation, because if you want more tigers, you can just whip them up in a lab.

So anyway, yeah, someone made a Broadway play out of this story.

The play, which is at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, takes place in Baghdad, shortly after “Shock and Awe.” Director Moises Kaufman says the playwright may have come up with a theatrical equivalent, as he attempts to describe Bengal Tiger: “There is a tiger that talks, there is a ghost of the son of Saddam Hussein, there is the ghost of a young girl, there are two American soldiers, one of whom dies in the middle of the play and becomes a ghost.” He concludes, “It’s part ghost story, part war play, part satire, part theater of the absurd.”

Bummer. While researching this I found out that US soldiers also killed four lions that had escaped from the zoo.

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Checking in on the Iraq War, Thanks to Wikileaks

Remember how successful the surge supposedly was? The surge started in early 2007. And the new leak of documents through Wikileaks (NY Times article here) show us this other piece of information, that jibes with what we heard a while back (but also after the fact) that it was ethnic cleansing rather than “the surge” that worked.

But it was systematic sectarian cleansing that drove the killing to its most frenzied point, making December 2006 the worst month of the war, according to the reports, with about 3,800 civilians killed, roughly equal to the past seven years of murders in New York City. A total of about 1,300 police officers, insurgents and coalition soldiers were also killed in that month.

From a 2008 story:

“Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning,” said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict. “By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left.” The night-light signature in four other large Iraqi cities — Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit and Karbala — held steady or increased between the spring of 2006 and the winter of 2007, the UCLA team found. None of these cities were targets of the surge. Baghdad’s decreases were centered in the southwestern Sunni strongholds of East and West Rashid, where the light signature dropped 57 percent and 80 percent, respectively, during the same period.’

Back to today’s NY Times story:

The documents also reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians — at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations. Such killings are a central reason Iraqis turned against the American presence in their country, a situation that is now being repeated in Afghanistan.

But it does seem to suggest numbers that are roughly in line with those compiled by several sources, including Iraq Body Count, an organization that tracked civilian deaths using press reports, a method the Bush administration repeatedly derided as unreliable and producing inflated numbers. In all, the five-year archive lists more than 100,000 dead from 2004 to 2009, though some deaths are reported more than once, and some reports have inconsistent casualty figures.

According to one particularly painful entry from 2006, an Iraqi wearing a tracksuit was killed by an American sniper who later discovered that the victim was the platoon’s interpreter.

One of the most infamous episodes of killings by American soldiers, the shootings of at least 15 Iraqi civilians, including women and children in the western city of Haditha, is misrepresented in the archives. The report stated that the civilians were killed by militants in a bomb attack, the same false version of the episode that was given to the news media.

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The sad thing is how the Iraq war has fallen out of the news in the United States.

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Wikileaks Video: US Pilots Shoot Reuters Photographers

Wikileaks has a video obtained from the cockpit of a helicopter whose crew shot and killed two Reuters employees and injured some children and others in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007. It’s also on YouTube. Wikileaks also has a site devoted to this video, Collateral Murder.

I was fixin’ to post it here but because the video contains graphic and horrible footage, YouTube requires me to prove my age by signing in, and I don’t want to. Anyhow, click a link if you haven’t seen the footage yet.

Personally, I only watched the beginning. Just reading comments on the video on Balloon Juice was plenty to dissuade me from watching the whole thing.

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That 30:1 Kill Ratio Might Have Something to do With It

Stephen M. Walt wrote a great column over at Foreign Policy in response to Tom “Friedman Unit” Friedman’s scrawlings about why Muslim extremists want to kill Americans. This was about two months ago, but somehow I forgot to blog about it earlier.

Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday’s New York Times, which is saying something given his well-established capacity for smug self-assurance. According to Friedman, the big challenge we face in the Arab and Islamic world is “the Narrative” — his patronizing term for Muslim views about America’s supposedly negative role in the region. If Muslims weren’t so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize that “U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny.” He concedes that we made a few mistakes here and there (such as at Abu Ghraib), but the real problem is all those anti-American fairy tales that Muslims tell each other to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.”

To repeat: I have deliberately selected “low-end” estimates for Muslim fatalities, so these figures present the “best case” for the United States. Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.

It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans should also bear in mind that the figures reported above omit the Arabs and Muslims killed by Israel in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank. Given our generous and unconditional support for Israel’s policy towards the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular, Muslims rightly hold us partly responsible for those victims too.

Contrary to what Friedman thinks, our real problem isn’t a fictitious Muslim “narrative” about America’s role in the region; it is mostly the actual things we have been doing in recent years.

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This unrelated article at Dawn News says Predator drones in Pakistan have killed 700 civilians and 5 al-Qaeda or Taliban leades.

According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day. Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

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“…But You Throw One Shoe…”

Muntazar al-Zaydi is the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at president Bush, yelling the immortal words, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” and, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

Immediately after his release in September he left the country for medical treatment, then got some love in Switzerland before returning to Iraq.

Now he has established a foundation . Maybe some day he’ll be remembered for something other than the shoe-throwing incident.

The MAZ Foundation being secular and independent of all political and religious institutions intends to bring financial, medical and logistical aid to the victims of the breaches to Human Rights in Iraq. It is also the ambition of the foundation to play a role in the prevention of the violating of Human Rights by giving media coverage to individual and collective tragedies and to making international opinion aware of the suffering of the Iraqi people. The MAZ Foundation also intends to finance all national and international legal actions leading to the acknowledgement of guilt and responsibility for the physical, material and moral prejudice suffered by the civilian population.

Here’s the contact page if you should wish to donate.

And here the immortal words in Arabic, in case you have a use for them:

هذه قبلة الوداع من الشعب العراقي أيها الكلب

and

وهذه من الأرامل والأيتام والأشخاص الذين قتلتهم

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