"If the war in Iraq was going better, we wouldn't still be asking how we got into it. But it isn't, so we are. For some, the deciding argument for going to war with Iraq was self-defense...it was nuclear. If Saddam Hussein had the bomb or was about to [get it], we had to stop him.
How many times were we told the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud? How many times did the vice president tell us that Iraq had a nuclear program? Who can forget that the President himself used his State of the Union to warn of Saddam cutting a deal down in Africa? It was a smart, shrewd strategy...talking about mushroom clouds. It got people off the fence. It carried the undecideds. It shut down the opposition. It got us into Iraq. But it was based on faulty, bogus evidence.
Two years ago, with our forces fully engaged in Iraq, the nuclear threat was long seen as inoperative. Now a former Ambassador [Joseph Wilson], who had been sent to Africa before the war looking for evidence of an Iraqi uranium deal, said he came back empty. But he wasn't the first to try and knock down the nuclear argument. Intelligence agencies had been doing that for months, just as unsuccessfully.
The larger scandal in this White House/CIA leak story is not just who leaked the name of an undercover agent, but whether we were given a case for war---the deciding factor for many of us---knowing that it didn't hold water. As we work to find our way out of Iraq, we should focus a bit...on how we got in."
The Chris Matthews Show
The war in Iraq is now joining the Boer War in 1899 and the Suez crisis in 1956 as ill-considered ventures that have done Britain more harm than good. It has demonstrably strengthened al-Qa'ida by providing it with a large pool of activists and sympathisers across the Muslim world it did not possess before the invasion of 2003. The war, which started out as a demonstration of US strength as the world's only superpower, has turned into a demonstration of weakness. Its 135,000-strong army does not control much of Iraq.
Khalid is free!
Hard to un-teach the affects of neocolonialism and Islamic fundamentalism. In an over-simplified nutshell, we're at a point in history where both are just reactions to the other and include effective brainwashing techniques on their most devout members. Cheney and Bin Laden are just human manifestations, salesmen, if you will, of these ideas. If death and violence were the anecdote to our current situation, we'd be well on our way to succcess. You know me, the consummate optimist.
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
I looked over Jordan and what did I see
Comin' for to carry me home
A band of angels comin' after me
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
If you get to heaven before I do
Comin' for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I'm comin' there too
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
I'm sometimes up and sometimes down
Comin' for to carry me home
But still I know I'm heavenly (freedom) bound
Comin' for to carry me home
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
If I get there before you do
Comin' for to carry me home
I'll cut a hole and pull you through
Comin' for to carry me home
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home
How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons
The hawks who launched the Iraq war believed the deal-making exile when he promised to build a secular democracy with close ties to Israel. Now the Israel deal is dead, he's cozying up to Iran -- and his patrons look like they're on the way out. A Salon exclusive.
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By John Dizard
May 4, 2004 | When the definitive history of the current Iraq war is finally written, wealthy exile Ahmed Chalabi will be among those judged most responsible for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. More than a decade ago Chalabi teamed up with American neoconservatives to sell the war as the cornerstone of an energetic new policy to bring democracy to the Middle East -- and after 9/11, as the crucial antidote to global terrorism. It was Chalabi who provided crucial intelligence on Iraqi weaponry to justify the invasion, almost all of which turned out to be false, and laid out a rosy scenario about the country's readiness for an American strike against Saddam that led the nation's leaders to predict -- and apparently even believe -- that they would be greeted as liberators. Chalabi also promised his neoconservative patrons that as leader of Iraq he would make peace with Israel, an issue of vital importance to them. A year ago, Chalabi was riding high, after Saddam Hussein fell with even less trouble than expected.
Now his power is slipping away, and some of his old neoconservative allies -- whose own political survival is looking increasingly shaky as the U.S. occupation turns nightmarish -- are beginning to turn on him. The U.S. reversed its policy of excluding former Baathists from the Iraqi army -- a policy devised by Chalabi -- and Marine commanders even empowered former Republican Guard officers to run the pacification of Fallujah. Last week United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi delivered a devastating blow to Chalabi's future leadership hopes, recommending that the Iraqi Governing Council, of which he is finance chair, be accorded no governance role after the June 30 transition to sovereignty. Meanwhile, administration neoconservatives, once united behind Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress he founded, are now split, as new doubts about his long-stated commitment to a secular Iraqi democracy with ties to Israel, and fears that he is cozying up to his Shiite co-religionists in Iran, begin to emerge. At least one key Pentagon neocon is said to be on his way out, a casualty of the battle over Chalabi and the increasing chaos in Iraq, and others could follow.
"Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat," says L. Marc Zell, a former law partner of Douglas Feith, now the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a former friend and supporter of Chalabi and his aspirations to lead Iraq. "He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's got another." While Zell's disaffection with Chalabi has been a long time in the making, his remarks to Salon represent his first public break with the would-be Iraqi leader, and are likely to ripple throughout Washington in the days to come.
Zell, a Jerusalem attorney, continues to be a partner in the firm that Feith left in 2001 to take the Pentagon job. He also helped Ahmed Chalabi's nephew Salem set up a new law office in Baghdad in late 2003. Chalabi met with Zell and other neoconservatives many times from the mid-1990s on in London, Turkey, and the U.S. Zell outlines what Chalabi was promising the neocons before the Iraq war: "He said he would end Iraq's boycott of trade with Israel, and would allow Israeli companies to do business there. He said [the new Iraqi government] would agree to rebuild the pipeline from Mosul [in the northern Iraqi oil fields] to Haifa [the Israeli port, and the location of a major refinery]." But Chalabi, Zell says, has delivered on none of them. The bitter ex-Chalabi backer believes his former friend's moves were a deliberate bait and switch designed to win support for his designs to return to Iraq and run the country.
Chalabi's ties to Iran -- Israel's most dangerous enemy -- have also alarmed both his allies and his enemies in the Bush administration. Those ties were highlighted on Monday, when Newsweek reported that "U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq." According to one government source, some of the information he gave Iran "could get people killed." A Chalabi aide denied the allegation. According to Newsweek, the State Department and the CIA -- Chalabi's longtime enemies -- were behind the leak: "the State Department and the CIA are using the intelligence about his Iran ties to persuade the president to cut him loose once and for all."
But the neocons have bigger problems than Chalabi. As the intellectual architects of an "easy" war gone bad, they stand to pay the price. The first to go may be Zell's old partner Douglas Feith. Military sources say Feith will resign his Defense Department post by mid-May. His removal was reportedly a precondition imposed by Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte when he agreed to take over from Paul Bremer as the top U.S. official in Iraq. "Feith is on the way out," Iraqi defense minister (and Chalabi nephew) Ali Allawi says confidently, and other sources confirm it. Feith's boss, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, may follow. Bush political mastermind Karl Rove is said to be determined that Wolfowitz move on before the November election, even if he comes back in a second Bush term. Sources say one of the positions being suggested is the director of Central Intelligence.
In part, the White House political crew is reacting to pressure from the uniformed military, which is becoming a quiet but effective enemy of the neocons. The White House seems to be performing triage to save the political capital of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, Iraq hawks who have close ties to the neocons. "Rumsfeld and Cheney stay," says an Army officer. "Powell has his guy Negroponte in there. But the neocons are losing power day by day."
Why did the neocons put such enormous faith in Ahmed Chalabi, an exile with a shady past and no standing with Iraqis? One word: Israel. They saw the invasion of Iraq as the precondition for a reorganization of the Middle East that would solve Israel's strategic problems, without the need for an accommodation with either the Palestinians or the existing Arab states. Chalabi assured them that the Iraqi democracy he would build would develop diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, and eschew Arab nationalism.
Now some influential allies believe those assurances were part of an elaborate con, and that Chalabi has betrayed his promises on Israel while cozying up to Iranian Shia leaders. Whether because of intentional deception or a realistic calculation of what the Iraqi people will accept, it's clear that Chalabi won't be delivering on his bright promises to ally a democratic Iraq with Israel. Had the neocons not been deluded by gross ignorance of the Arab world and blinded by wishful thinking, they would have realized that the chances that Chalabi or any other Iraqi leader could deliver on such promises were always remote. In fact, they need have looked no further than the Israeli media: A long piece in Israel's Jerusalem Report magazine published nine days before the war began last year featured Israelis who dismissed Chalabi's promises about Israel as a political ploy, "a means by which to appeal to the Jewish lobby and, in turn, the administration."
"Chalabi has no use for Israel. He knew all along that this was a nonstarter," says Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer who led covert U.S. operations inside Iraq in the mid-1990s aimed at toppling Saddam. "Chalabi knows exactly what Israel stands for in Iraq and in Iran, with or without Saddam. The idea of building the pipeline to Haifa, or rapprochement with Iran ... I'm sure he told [the neocons] these things could happen, that he played to their prejudices and said, 'This is the new Middle East,' but he didn't believe any of it. That's the way Chalabi operates."
"He was willing to ally with anyone to get where he is now, whether it was the neocons, the Israelis or the Iranians," adds Baer. "He wanted back into Iraq and nothing was going to stop him."
It could have been predicted that Chalabi would want to deal with Israel's enemies in Iran. He and his relatives have made that clear. As Iraq's defense minister, Ali Allawi, says, "We have a lot of problems in common with Iran. If we could involve them in a regional security agreement with us, that would be very fruitful." Still, Chalabi's visit to Iran last December and his repeated assertions that peace in Iraq requires peace with Iran first alarmed, then embittered, his old friends.
Chalabi's neoconservative friends, however, seem to have looked away from evidence that the businessman has always allied himself with whomever can help him the most. In the 1980s, Chalabi's scandal-plagued Petra Bank funneled money to Amal, a Shia militia allied with Iran in Lebanon. And according to a former CIA case officer who worked in Iraq, Chalabi had close ties to the Iranian regime when he was in Kurdish Northern Iraq in the mid-1990s trying to foment resistance to Saddam. He even dealt with Saddam himself when the price was right, and initiated a method to finance the dictator's trade with Jordan in the 1980s through his Petra Bank.
Chalabi's Arab admirers say they knew he'd never make good on his promises to ally with Israel. "I was worried that he was going to do business with the Zionists," confesses Moh'd Asad, the managing director of the Amman, Jordan-based International Investment Arabian Group, an industrial and agricultural exporter, who is one of Chalabi's Palestinian friends and business partners. "He told me not to worry, that he just needed the Jews in order to get what he wanted from Washington, and that he would turn on them after that."
Ahmed Chalabi refused to speak to Salon. He has denounced U.N. envoy Brahimi as an "Arab nationalist" and compared the U.S. decision to bring back some former Iraqi soldiers to "allowing Nazis into the German government immediately after World War II." Douglas Feith, Chalabi's longtime ally and sponsor, also declined a request for an interview. Nevertheless, the outline of the new conflict between the Shiite former exile and his erstwhile sponsors is clear, based on interviews with Iraqi officials, U.S. military personnel and intelligence officers, and politically connected Israelis.
The crux of the conflict is Iran, and whether the U.S. should try to make a deal with the Islamic Republic to enlist its support for peace in Iraq. Before and immediately after the war, the neoconservative position was that U.S. empowerment of the long-disenfranchised Shia community would make possible an Iraqi government that would make a "warm peace" with Israel. This in turn would pressure the rest of the Arab world to make a similar peace, without the need to concede land to the Palestinians.
This was, of course, a pipe dream: The Shia community in Iraq, like the Sunni community, is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, and the entire range of its leadership has close ties with Iran. Belatedly realizing that Chalabi's promise to build a secular, pro-Israel Shiite government is not going to come true, in the past couple of months the neocons in the Defense Department have tried to come up with a new plan. Feith, Wolfowitz and others are backing away from the Shia, due to their ties to Iran as well as Chalabi's deceptions. They are trying to cobble together a coalition of rehabilitated Sunni Muslim Iraqi Army officers and Kurdish leaders backed by their militias that would have Shia participation, but in a reduced role. For proponents of this strategy, the front-runner to be prime minister of the next version of the transitional government is Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the founder and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
This policy has very little support. It's opposed by those neocons who still back Ahmed Chalabi and his Shia allies -- including influential former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, along with neocon intellectuals Michael Ledeen, Bernard Lewis and Barbara Lerner. Although they like Talabani, they oppose the tilt toward the Sunnis, and some are still adamant that Chalabi play a role. "He's effective in bringing groups of Iraqis together, something he's done for many years," Perle said on CNN on March 28. "He believes in democracy. I have complete confidence in him, and I hope the people of Iraq are wise enough to see his benefits."
The shift in strategy toward Talabani is also being dismissed, for different reasons, by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, John Negroponte, the new ambassador to Iraq, and the uniformed military. They look at the Iraqi population statistics, which show a Shia majority; a map of the country, which shows a long, hard-to-defend border with Iran; and the U.S. military order of battle, which shows overstretched armed forces, and conclude there cannot be a stable Iraqi government that isn't led by the majority Shia.
Even the Kurds have their doubts about the new rise in their standing with the neocons. Richard Galustian, a British security contractor in Iraq who works closely with the Kurdish authorities, says, "The political elevation of the Kurds within Iraq will be very unpopular with other Iraqis, and will be treated with caution by the Kurdish leaders themselves. Many will be skeptical of the ability of the U.S. administration to sustain and remain consistent in any new relationships." If the Americans can turn on the Shia, the reasoning goes, why couldn't they later turn on the Kurds?
President Bush's ability to impose order on this mess is not obvious, and he doesn't have more than a couple of weeks to figure out a solution. With photographs of U.S. troops torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners inflaming the Arab world, U.S. casualties soaring, the June 30 date to turn over sovereignty looming and no exit strategy in sight, Bush's Iraq adventure has turned into a deadly mess that seems certain to make the U.S. more at risk from terrorism, not less. Bush brought this trouble on himself by buying into the neocons' interpretation of the dynamics of the Middle East, and into Ahmed Chalabi's plans for Iraq -- maybe most disastrously by buying Chalabi's assurances that a secular government dominated by Israel-friendly Shia was possible. If Bush and the neocons wanted to know about Chalabi's real deal-making nature, the signs were there for them to read. But they didn't want to know.
Chalabi appears to have recognized that the neocons, while ruthless, realistic and effective in bureaucratic politics, were remarkably ignorant about the situation in Iraq, and willing to buy a fantasy of how the country's politics worked. So he sold it to them.
Ahmed Chalabi's family, Shia Muslims from Kut in southern Iraq, has a tradition of working with occupation governments, starting with the regime of the Ottoman Turks in 1638. Chalabi's father, Abdul Haydi Chalabi, was a member of the council of ministers of King Faisal II, whose short-lived Hashemite dynasty was installed by the British in 1921. He was also president of the Iraqi Senate created by the Hashemites.
The Hashemites are Sunni Muslim nobility, originally from a region in today's Saudi Arabia. While they lost their leading position in the Arabian peninsula to the Al Sa'ud family, they were successfully installed as monarchs in both Jordan and Iraq with British support. The Jordanian Hashemites found a base of support in the local Bedouin tribes, and retain power to this day. The Iraqi Hashemite branch, though, was strongly opposed by the local Shia Muslim ayatollahs from the beginning. So in 1922 the Iraqi Shia religious leaders in Najaf issued a fatwa, or decree, forbidding observant Shia from supporting the Hashemites. The Chalabi family wasn't deterred, though. They were among the few Shia to defy the fatwa and support the British-imposed dynasty. They were rewarded with royal patronage, and wound up controlling the flour milling industry in Baghdad and Basra. The fatwa was finally lifted in 1937, and by then the Chalabis had made a fortune.
Ahmed Chalabi was born in 1944. His family reached the peak of its wealth and influence during his childhood. In 1958, though, the Hashemite royals were slaughtered during a military coup d'état, and the Chalabis fled, first to Jordan, then to Britain. Chalabi reportedly still has a British passport.
The highly intelligent Chalabi enrolled at MIT at 16, where he earned a degree in mathematics. He then took a Ph.D. in math at the University of Chicago in 1969. (His thesis was "On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Algebra.") Despite these serious power-geek credentials, Chalabi has always been known as charming, worldly, and a skilled networker. While at Chicago, Chalabi met Albert Wohlstetter, an applied mathematician and one of the founders of the neoconservative movement. Wohlstetter introduced Chalabi to future movement leaders like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz.
After earning his doctorate, Chalabi returned to the Middle East and became a math professor in Beirut. At the time Beirut was the peaceful financial center of the region, and in 1963 Chalabi's family had, along with some local partners, started Mebco, or the Middle East Banking Corp. It was run by Chalabi's brother Jawad. They had also established a Swiss financial company, Socofi, in 1954, as well as a Swiss subsidiary of MEBCO.
As Ahmed Chalabi has told the story, the Jordanian Hashemite crown prince, Hassan bin Talal, persuaded him to start the Petra Bank in Jordan in 1977. Chalabi's associates say the family had given the Jordanian Hashemites some of the assassinated Iraqi Hashemites' overseas assets after the 1958 coup, which no doubt helped smooth the way. The Chalabi family's other banking and financial companies provided further support.
Just after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Chalabi seems to have first established his ties with the Iranian Shia theocracy. The new Islamic Republic turned on the shah's former allies in Israel with a vengeance. The Iranian regime set up a substantial intelligence and political apparatus in Lebanon, among the oppressed local Shia.
One of the key Shia institutions in Lebanon was MEBCO in Beirut, which by the 1980s had become a banker for the Shia Amal militia. Amal and Hezbollah were the principal private armies in Lebanon tied to the regime in Iran. Chalabi was placing Petra depositors' money with MEBCO in those years; by the time Petra collapsed in 1989, bank auditors found, the equivalent of $41 million in transactions with MEBCO were on the books. "All the Lebanese banks were divided between political parties and factions," says Hassan Abdul Aziz, a former director at Petra Bank. "MEBCO bank was no different. All the Shia were close to Iran emotionally or otherwise." A former CIA case officer in Lebanon has a less sympathetic view. "This was basically funding a civil war, which meant murders, assassinations, and blowing up Israelis. MEBCO was putting their chips on every square." Iran and the Shite militias were not the only violent elements destabilizing Lebanon in the '70s and '80s, of course. The bloody Israeli invasions of Lebanon, along with later punitive expeditions, inflamed the Shia and other Lebanese.
But Lebanon was not the only venue for the Chalabi family's flexible and innovative approach to international finance. This may come as a surprise to some of Ahmed Chalabi's newer friends, but he helped finance Saddam Hussein's trade with Jordan during the 1980s. Specifically, Chalabi helped organize a special trading account for Iraq at the Jordanian central bank. Due to the problems created by the war with Iran, Saddam Hussein was unable to obtain credit on normal terms. The special account with the Jordanians allowed him to swap oil for necessary imports -- at least Saddam thought they were necessary -- without going through the international credit system. As Hassan Abdul Aziz explains, "Petra was the first to give letters of credit to Iraq, which they did for 23 months before Banco del Lavoro did in 1984. (The Banco del Lavoro scandal involved the provision of U.S. government commodities loans to buy arms for Saddam Hussein.) By 1986 Jordan had $1 billion in annual trade with Iraq this way, and Petra Bank had 50% of the market." It makes the neocons' insistence that Saddam was behind Petra's fall -- and Chalabi's conviction for embezzling and fraud -- even less credible.
After Petra was seized by the Jordanian authorities in August 1989, Chalabi fled Jordan in the trunk of Crown Prince Hassan's car. Chalabi and his family were still wealthy, despite the collapse of their banking empire, but his career in Middle East banking was over. He was now a double exile, from Jordan as well as Iraq, comfortably ensconced in London. Just a year after his fall, though, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. When the subsequent Gulf War weakened but did not topple Saddam, a new possibility beckoned: the return of the Chalabi family to power in Iraq.
Like many people in the Middle East, Ahmed Chalabi may have had the image of the CIA as an all-knowing organization of worldwide puppet masters. If so, he soon learned otherwise. But in the early 1990s the CIA looked like a good prospect to sponsor an anti-Saddam Iraqi exile movement. At the same time, though, Chalabi was also looking to the Islamic regime in Iran for help.
Chalabi and some fellow exiles founded the Iraqi National Congress in 1992. The INC was largely funded by the CIA, which provided part of its support through the Rendon Group, a Washington public relations company that also does international political work for the Department of Defense. The CIA's support for the INC paid for two radio stations, various propaganda operations, and training camps in northern Iraq for Iraqi army defectors. (Northern Iraq, controlled by various Kurdish factions and protected by U.S. air cover, was a safe haven for Iraqi dissidents along with U.S. and allied intelligence operators.)
While Chalabi was perfectly willing to take the CIA's money, he quickly learned that it had become an ineffectual, self-obsessed bureaucracy. "He had absolute, total disdain for D.C.," says one of his former case officers in northern Iraq. "He looked at the Agency, and Rendon, and they flashed incompetence."
The case officer doesn't know precisely when Chalabi developed a deep relationship with the Iranian clerical regime, but it was in place when Chalabi was in northern Iraq in the early '90s. As the case officer recounts it, "He was given safe houses and cars in northern Iraq, and was letting them be used by agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security [Vevak], and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. At one point he tried to broker a meeting between the CIA and the Iranians."
The same officer says from time to time Chalabi would offer him "intelligence," which the officer would turn down. "I knew it wasn't any good, and he knew I knew. He took the refusal in good humor. We had a good relationship. I like him."
The CIA's relationship with Chalabi came to an end after a failed offensive in March 1995 against Saddam's forces by the small group of INC exiles and the militia of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The CIA had withdrawn the support it had initially offered for the offensive, in what looks like a classic conflict between field officers and desk officers. Chalabi left northern Iraq the next month, and the CIA cut off its funding for the INC. It was at this time that Chalabi turned his attention to the American neoconservatives. The neocons were deeply disturbed by the Israeli government's "land for peace" negotiations with the Palestinians. The usefulness of the West Bank for "defense in depth" was less important than it would have been from the '40s to the '70s, given the increase in Israel's relative technological and military advantage over the Arabs. However, the idea of giving up what Israel's right-wing Likud leaders and some of the neocons themselves believed to be Israel's God-given lands on the West Bank of the Jordan River was anathema to them. The solution to Israel's strategic dilemma, in their view, was to somehow change the Arab governments.
The neoconservative strategy for Israel was laid out in a 1996 paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," issued by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem (but written by Americans). The principal authors for the paper were Douglas Feith, then a lawyer with the Washington and Jerusalem firm of Feith and Zell, and Richard Perle, who until last year was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
In the section on Iraq, and the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein, there was telltale "intelligence" from Chalabi and his old Jordanian Hashemite patron, Prince Hassan: "The predominantly Shi'a population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shi'a leadership in Najaf, Iraq, rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najaf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shi'a away from Hizbollah, Iran, and Syria. Shi'a retain strong ties to the Hashemites." Of course the Shia with "strong ties to the Hashemites" was the family of Ahmed Chalabi. Perle, Feith and other contributors to the "Clean Break" seemed not to recall the 15-year fatwa the clerics of Najaf proclaimed against the Iraqi Hashemites. Or the still more glaring fact, pointed out by Rashid Khalidi in his new book "Resurrecting Empire," that Shiites are loyal only to descendants of the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, and reject all other lineages, including the Hashemites. As Khalidi caustically notes, "Perle and his colleagues were here proposing the complete restructuring of a region whose history and religion their suggestions reveal they know hardly anything about." In short, the Iraqi component of the neocons "new strategy" was based on an ignorant fantasy of prospective Shia support for ties with Israel.
For Ahmed Chalabi, the neoconservatives' support was the key to getting Washington on his side. And Chalabi's leadership, in turn, was key to the neocons' support for the INC. Perle and Feith, along with future Bush administration officials Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, signed the February 1998 "open letter" to President Clinton, in which they listed nine policy steps that were in the "vital national interest" of the United States. The first of these was "Recognize a provisional government of Iraq based on the principles and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that is representative of all the peoples of Iraq." In October 1998, under intense lobbying pressure from the neocons, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the "Iraqi Liberation Act," which provided money and U.S. legitimacy for Chalabi's INC, along with six other exile groups.
However, while Chalabi had proven himself as a lobbyist, if not a guerrilla leader, he had a continuous uphill battle with U.S. intelligence agencies, diplomats and the military, who never liked the INC's loose ways with the facts and taxpayer money. This meant that Chalabi had to constantly reinforce his countervailing support from the neoconservatives -- at least until they took power in the Bush administration in 2001, and squashed all dissonant internal voices on Chalabi. That's when Chalabi and his allies stepped up their planning for an American overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Behind the scenes, Chalabi was also detailing for the neoconservatives and their Israeli allies in the Likud party how the INC would take care of Israel.
One of the key promises he made concerned the revival of the Iraq-Israel oil pipeline. The pipeline from the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul to Haifa had been built by the British in the late 1920s, and was one of the main targets of the Palestinian Arab revolt in 1936-38. The 8-inch line was finally cut after Israel's independence in 1948. The sections in Arab territory have mostly rusted away or been carted off for scrap. The Israeli section is used as an irrigation pipe. The fully surveyed right of way, though, remains. It could handle a modern, 42-inch pipe, sufficient to supply the Haifa refinery.
With Chalabi's encouragement, the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructure, which is responsible for oil pipelines, dusted off and updated plans for a new pipeline from Iraq. "The pipeline would be a dream," says Joseph Paritzky, the minister of national infrastructures. "We'd have an additional source of supply, and could even export some of the crude through Haifa. If we could build it, a pipeline would give us stable transport prices. Compare that to tankers; this year their price has almost tripled. We could also avoid problems such as strikes in our ports, which I've had to deal with. But we'd need a treaty with Iraq, and a treaty with Jordan to build the pipeline."
With Chalabi in power in Iraq, either in front or behind the scenes, L. Marc Zell confirms, the neocons were told there would be such a treaty with Iraq. "He promised that. He promised a lot of things."
Just after the U.S. takeover of Iraq, but before the establishment of the Governing Council of which Chalabi would be finance chair, Paritzky was lobbied by INC representatives in a meeting at the Dead Sea Marriott Hotel resort in Jordan. "We had a chitchat about it with the Iraqis, and with the Jordanians. But we couldn't go to the market and raise funds based on chitchat. We would have needed more to go on." Nevertheless, shortly afterward, on April 9, 2003, Paritzky announced a new technical appraisal of the pipeline.
The neocons in the Defense Department, such as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, were more optimistic about the pipeline project than Paritzky, who knew too much about the Middle East to be easily enthused by Chalabi's promises. The DOD neocons sent a telegram directly to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, violating protocol in bypassing the State Department, expressing interest and support for the pipeline project. The State Department had been told by the Jordanians that there would be no pipeline unless the Israelis reached a settlement with the Palestinians. The neocons didn't want to hear that. "If the government agreed to a pipeline without a Palestinian settlement," says a Jordanian official, "the monarchy would fall."
In the meantime, having used the neocons to get himself on the Governing Council, Chalabi appointed friends and relatives to key positions in the government. His nephew Salem (Sam) Chalabi, a lawyer, did much of the drafting of the interim constitution. Another nephew, Ali Allawi, was made minister of trade, with responsibility over foreign trade and investment in Iraq (he was later also named defense minister). Other Chalabi nominees went into the Central Bank, the Finance Ministry and the Oil Ministry.
But Chalabi had his eye on the bigger picture. The wealthy exile had visited Tehran before the war, in August 2002 and January 2003. On those trips he met with senior Iranian officials, and with Mohammed Bakr Al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Shia opposition group. The neoconservatives chose to overlook these visits to a member of the "Axis of Evil." It could be argued that there was no other way to liaise with Iraqi Shia leaders.
Then in December 2003, Chalabi went to Tehran to meet with Hasan Rohani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. At that meeting, Chalabi said, "The role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting and guiding the opposition in their struggles against Saddam's regime in the past, and its assistance toward the establishment of security and stability in Iraq at present, are regarded highly by the people of Iraq."
U.S. intelligence agencies, along with leading neocons, began to look again at just who Chalabi's real friends might be, especially since Iranian intelligence agents from his old friends at Vevak were known to be active in Iraq. Also, the Israelis began to notice that Chalabi's old promises had been forgotten.
"I just got the bid papers for a $145 million highway project that were put out by the Iraqis, and they had the Israeli boycott language in them," an Israeli in Baghdad told me in March. "Chalabi promised the boycott would be over."
Ali Allawi, the Chalabi nephew in charge of the Ministry of Trade, and now also the minister of defense, calls trade with Israel "a non-starter. We aren't plugged into that network, and as far as I'm concerned they sell things we don't need. As for the boycott. I don't care. What's the matter with it? The U.S. boycotts Cuba, and nobody says anything about it.
"Our future is more to the east, with Iran, and to the south, with the Gulf states. Iran has natural geographic ties to Iraq. I'm not interested in what those neoconservatives at the (Coalition Provisional Authority) have to say about Iran. We don't have sufficient port capacity, for example. We should use the Iranian ports and roads. Iraq should have fundamental economic and trade relations with Iran, and Turkey, as long as they reciprocate, and I think they will." He dismissed the Mosul-Haifa pipeline with a wave of his hand.
Nabil Al Moussa, the deputy minister of planning for the Oil Ministry, confirmed Allawi's position. Asked whether the ministry had any plans for rebuilding the pipeline to Israel, his previous professional courtesy went out the window. "Absolutely not, and never! Don't ever ask us if we will sell oil to Israel, because we never will!"
Told of Allawi's and Al Moussa's reaction, Joseph Paritzky was philosophical, and a little contemptuous of his would-be neocon benefactors. "How naive can these Americans be? What, they thought they had a deal? Didn't they notice they were in the Middle East?" A neocon's reaction to Paritzky was characteristic: "He's a populist asshole who should have kept his mouth shut." But Paritzky obviously understood Middle Eastern politics far better than the neocons.
While the neocons felt they could ignore negative reports on Chalabi from the CIA, the State Department and other bureaucratic enemies, they have a harder time dismissing what comrades like Marc Zell have to say. Nevertheless, for the time being, many are sticking to the Bush strategy of staying on message and never admitting to mistakes. For example, last week, Michael Ledeen, a leading neocon at the American Enterprise Institute, complained in the National Review Online about "the cascade of anti-Chalabi leaks from his many mortal enemies at the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency." Changing the message is painful. As one neocon says: "The worst part of all this [Chalabi's betrayal] is that it will be embarrassing to my friends in the Pentagon."
Defense minister Allawi doubts that the neocons will be able to prevail in their plan to replace Shia dominance in the new Iraq with the Sunni-Kurdish coalition. "This is the last stand of the neocons, I think. The U.S. does have a new policy, which is to find a way to leave. That plan isn't the way to do it. I hear Condi Rice's office opposes the idea, and so does Ambassador Negroponte."
"We really don't have any choice," says a former intelligence officer and West Pointer in Iraq. "We have to make a deal, though we probably don't have to deal with Iran directly. We can make it through the Shia clergy in Iraq."
Allawi dismisses Feith and the neocons and what he calls "their grandiose schemes," but adds, "The neocons still have some influence, partly because they have good ties with the Kurds. And Sharon is still the 840-pound gorilla for U.S. policy."
Clearly the neocons are now in the process of retreating and regrouping. The consensus they'd forged among themselves on Iraq policy has dissolved. The massive plans for the democratization of the Middle East are heading for the recycling bin. Meanwhile, Chalabi's hopes for playing a leadership role in Iraq appear to be gone, although the crafty businessman's ability to resurrect himself from the dead should not be underestimated. It should also be noted that Chalabi family members continue to wield power in Iraq, and will likely continue to. For example, defense minister Allawi insists that he is not "in my uncle's entourage. Instead I travel alongside him." The remark can be interpreted to mean that he doesn't take orders from his uncle, and yet they are still close. Allawi has had a rather more conventional business career than that of his uncle, which has helped his political position in Iraq. While an early investor in Petra Bank, he soon parted company with his uncle and the other partners. He went on to become a successful and respectable portfolio manager in London before returning to Iraq last year.
In the end, despite the neocons' best hopes, Iran has emerged as crucial to the administration's desire for a political settlement in Iraq. Governments in the neighboring countries have taken notice of the neocons' big blunder. "The Iranians have proven to be absolutely brilliant in all of this," says a well-connected Jordanian. "They're showing that they're going to be the ones to win this one, and they'll do it with American money and lives."
For his part, Allawi praises what he sees as the U.S. military's new realism about the need for what he calls "a cold peace" with Iran. "There is no way to have stability in Iraq without Iran," he insists. "The U.S. military has been very correct in its contact with Iran at the border, and has never violated the unwritten agreement."
The neocons' Iraq triumph of last year has turned to ashes. Their Likud allies in Israel are bitterly split over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for the settlements in the territories. They have a coldly hostile Iraqi government coming in the near future. The clerical regime they loathe in Iran has dramatically improved its strategic position. Some of them must be rueing the day they met Ahmed Chalabi, who told them the fairy tales they wanted to hear.
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About the writer
John Dizard is a columnist for the Financial Times.
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Hamstrung by the Iraq debacle, all Bush can do is gnash his teeth as the hated mullahs in Iran cozy up to their co-religionists in Iraq.
By Juan Cole
July 21, 2005 | Iraq's new government has been trumpeted by the Bush administration as a close friend and a model for democracy in the region. In contrast, Bush calls Iran part of an axis of evil and dismisses its elections and government as illegitimate. So the Bush administration cannot have been filled with joy when Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and eight high-powered cabinet ministers paid an extremely friendly visit to Tehran this week.
The two governments went into a tizzy of wheeling and dealing of a sort not seen since Texas oil millionaires found out about Saudi Arabia. Oil pipelines, port access, pilgrimage, trade, security, military assistance, were all on the table in Tehran. All the sorts of contracts and deals that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had imagined for Halliburton, and that the Pentagon neoconservatives had hoped for Israel, were heading instead due east.
Jaafari's visit was a blow to the Bush administration's strategic vision, but a sweet triumph for political Shiism. In the dark days of 1982, Tehran was swarming with Iraqi Shiite expatriates who had been forced to flee Saddam Hussein's death decree against them. They had been forced abroad, to a country with which Iraq was then at war. Ayatollah Khomeini, the newly installed theocrat of Iran, pressured the expatriates to form an umbrella organization, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which he hoped would eventually take over Iraq. Among its members were Jaafari and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. On Jan. 30, 2005, Khomeini's dream finally came true, courtesy of the Bush administration, when the Supreme Council and the Dawa Party won the Iraqi elections.
Jaafari, a Dawa Party activist working for an Islamic republic, had been in exile in Tehran from 1980 to 1989. A physician trained at Mosul, the reserved and somewhat inarticulate Jaafari studied Shiite law and theology as an auditor at the seminaries of Qom. His party, Dawa, was briefly part of SCIRI but in 1984 split with it to maintain its autonomy.
Iraq has a Shiite Muslim majority of some 62 percent. Iran's Shiite majority is thought to be closer to 90 percent. The Shiites of the two countries have had a special relationship for over a millennium. Saddam had sealed the border for more than two decades, but throughout centuries, tens of thousands of Iranians have come on pilgrimage to the holy Shiite shrines of Najaf and Karbala every year. Iraqis likewise go to Iran for pilgrimage, study and trade. Although neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz maintained before the Iraq war that Iraqis are more secular and less interested in an Islamic state than Iranians, in fact the ideas of Khomeini had had a deep impact among Iraqi Shiites. When they could vote in January earlier this year, they put the Khomeini-influenced Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq in control of seven of the nine southern provinces, along with Baghdad itself.
It was not only history that brought Jaafari to the foothills of the Alborz mountains. The Iraqi prime minister was attempting to break out of the box into which his government has been stuffed by the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. Jaafari's government does not control the center-north or west of the country and cannot pump much petroleum from Kirkuk because of oil sabotage. Trucking to Jordan is often difficult. The Jaafari government depends heavily on the Rumaila oil field in the south, but lacks refining capability. Iraq lacks a deep water port on the Gulf and needs to replace inland "ports" like Amman because of poor security. An initiative toward the east could resolve many of these problems, strengthening the Shiites against the Sunni guerrillas economically and militarily and so saving the new government.
The last time Iran and Iraq had really warm relations was the mid-1950s. Iraq then had a British-installed constitutional monarchy, and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said was fanatically pro-Western. The CIA had put Mohammad Reza Shah back on the throne in 1953, deposing the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh (who had angered the United States when he nationalized the Iranian oil industry). In 1955 Said and the shah both signed on to the Baghdad Pact, a U.S.-sponsored security agreement against the Soviet Union and Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The pact proved ill-fated, however. A popular revolution overthrew the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, and Nuri's corpse was dragged in the street. Another popular revolution overthrew the shah in 1979. In 1980-1988, Iran-Iraq relations reached their nadir, as Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards slugged it out on battlefields of a dreary horror not seen since World War I. Jaafari's visit was designed to erase the bitter legacies of that war.
Iraq's Eastern Policy does not come without at least symbolic costs. On Saturday, Jaafari made a ceremonial visit to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, on which he laid a wreath. In a meeting with Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei on Monday, according to the Tehran Times, Jaafari "called the late Imam Khomeini the key to the victory of the Islamic Revolution, adding, 'We hope to eliminate the dark pages Saddam caused in Iran-Iraq ties and open a new chapter in brotherly ties between the two nations.'" The American right just about had a heart attack at the possibility (later shown false) that newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been among the militants who took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979. But the hostage takers had been blessed by Khomeini himself, to whom Jaafari was paying compliments.
When Jaafari met the head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, on Tuesday, the two discussed expanding judicial cooperation between the two countries. Shahrudi said that cooperation with Iran's Draconian "justice system" has had a positive impact on other Muslim countries. He called for Iraq to coordinate with something called the "Islamic Human Rights Organization" -- an Orwellian phrase in dictatorial Iran, a state that tortures political prisoners and engages in other acts of brutality. And he urged the Iraqi government to put greater reliance on "popular forces" (local and national Shiite militias) in establishing security.
Jaafari was probably only indulging his clerical host, but his Dawa Party certainly does hope to have Islamic law play a greater role in Iraqi society. The New York Times revealed on Wednesday that the new draft of the Iraqi constitution will put personal status matters, many of them affecting women, under religious courts.
For his polite forbearance as his Iranian hosts boasted of the superiority of their Islamic government and grumbled about all those trouble-making American troops in the Iraqi countryside, Jaafari was richly rewarded. Iran offered to pay for three pipelines that would stretch across the southern border of the two countries. Iraq will ship 150,000 barrels a day of light crude to Iran to be refined, and Iran will ship back processed petroleum, kerosene and gasoline. The plan could be operational within a year, according to Petroleum Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, whose father is a prominent Shiite cleric.
In addition, Iran will supply electricity. Iran will sell Iraq 200,000 tons of wheat. Iran is offering Iraq use of its ports to transship goods to Iraq. Iran is offering a billion dollars in foreign aid. Iran will step up cooperation in policing the borders of the two countries. Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei has called for the preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq. In fact, Iran is offering so much for so little that it looks an awful lot like influence peddling.
The previous week, Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi had made a preparatory trip to Tehran, exploring the possibility of military cooperation between the two countries. At one point it even seemed that the two had reached an agreement that Iran would help train Iraqi troops. One can only imagine that Washington went ballistic and applied enormous pressure on Jaafari to back off this plan. The Iraqi government abandoned it, on the grounds that an international agreement had already specified that out-of-country training of Iraqi troops in the region should be done in Jordan. But the Iraqi government did give Tehran assurances that they would not allow Iraqi territory to be used in any attack on Iran -- presumably a reference to the United States.
Iranian leaders pressed Jaafari on the continued presence in Iraq of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian terrorist organization with ties to the Pentagon, elements in the Israeli lobby, and members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Saddam had used the MEK to foment trouble for Iran. Jaafari promised that they had been disarmed and would not be allowed to conduct terrorist raids from Iraqi soil.
Not surprisingly, the warming relations between Tehran and Baghdad have greatly alarmed Iraq's Sunni Muslims. They know that Iranian offers of help in training Iraqi security officers, and Iranian professions of support for a united, peaceful Iraq are code for the suppression by Shiite troops and militias of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. Many Iraqi Sunnis believe that the Sunni Arabs are the true majority, but that millions of illegal Iranian emigrants masquerading as Iraqi Shiites have flooded into the country, skewing vote totals in the recent elections. This belief, for all its irrationality, makes them especially suspicious of Shiite politicians cozying up to the ayatollahs in Tehran. A recent BBC documentary reported that the Sunnis of Fallujah despise Iraqi Shiites even more than they do the Americans, in part because they code them as Persians (in fact they are Arabs).
Although officials in Washington felt constrained to issue polite assurances that they want good relations between Iraq and Iran, the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and hawks in the Bush administration all have a grudge against Iran, and would as soon overthrow the mullahs as spit at them. But thanks to the Iraq debacle, that is no longer a viable option. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack revealed the true amount of influence Washington has in Baghdad when he admitted that the Bush administration has not "had a chance" to discuss Jaafari's trip to Iran with the prime minister.
The Iranians hold a powerful hand in the Iraqi poker game. They have geopolitical advantages, are flush with petroleum profits because of the high price of oil, and have much to offer their new Shiite Iraqi partners. Their long alliance with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani gives them Kurdish support as well. Bush's invasion removed the most powerful and dangerous regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein, from power. In its aftermath, the religious Shiites came to power at the ballot box in Iraq, bestowing on Tehran firm allies in Baghdad for the first time since the 1950s. And in a historic irony, Iran's most dangerous enemy of all, the United States, invaded Iran's neighbor with an eye to eventually toppling the Tehran regime -- but succeeded only in defeating itself.
The ongoing chaos in Iraq has made it impossible for Bush administration hawks to carry out their long-held dream of overthrowing the Iranian regime, or even of forcing it to end its nuclear ambitions. (The Iranian nuclear research program will almost certainly continue, since the Iranians are bright enough to see what happened to the one member of the "axis of evil" that did not have an active nuclear weapons program.) The United States lacks the troops, but perhaps even more critically, it is now dependent on Iran to help it deal with a vicious guerrilla war that it cannot win. In the Middle East, the twists and turns of history tend to make strange bedfellows -- something the neocons, whose breathtaking ignorance of the region helped bring us to this place, are now learning to their dismay.
More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it is difficult to see what real benefits have accrued to the United States from the Iraq war, though a handful of corporations have benefited marginally. In contrast, Iran is the big winner. The Shiites of Iraq increasingly realize they need Iranian backing to defeat the Sunni guerrillas and put the Iraqi economy right, a task the Americans have proved unable to accomplish. And Iran will still be Iraq's neighbor long after the fickle American political class has switched its focus to some other global hot spot.
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About the writer
Juan Cole is a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and the author of "Sacred Space and Holy War" (IB Tauris, 2002).
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And the winner is ... Iran?
Initial election results suggest that Iran could wield major power in newly democratic Iraq -- not exactly what the U.S. hoped for.
By Mitchell Prothero
Target: Faiz Al-Gailani Counselor / Deputy Chief of Mission Embassy of Iraq
Sponsor: Roey Rosenblith
We the undersigned demand that the security forces that have detained Khalid Jarrar immediatly release him, and that a full scale investigation be conducted into how it came to pass that an individual can be held captive for the sole reasoning of expressing their views. It behooves us as American citizens whose troops are occupying Iraq to demand that Iraq be adminstered in a fashion that protects individual rights.�
I thought my update from yesterday had published, but it hadn't. Here it is once again. My computer has been freezing up. Turns out I needed a defragging. All set now. There are approximately 370 signatures now and we're going to get many many more. Visit, Give Us Our Khalid Back, for more updates on the situation.
I'm going to go ahead and go public with this blog in order to possibly get a few more people to send emails, letters...and to make phone calls on behalf of Khalid. You may go here to get your specific congressional representative's number and address. Just enter your zipcode on the front page and you'll be able to find the information. You will also be able to find your senator's information there, too.
Here's the Iraqi government's consular information. The email is bouncing back, but keep trying and send hard copy letters to the following address. Thanks to Juan Cole for posting this information. I made this blog earlier, thought better of going out with it, but then thought if I could get even a few people to help Khalid and send some letters and emails to their representative, then it was worth taking all the possible trolling. Anyway, it's just the right thing to do in this moment of time.
Please give us our Khalid back.
1801 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 483-7500
Embassy hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 AM - 5 PM
Consular Section hours: Tuesday-Thursday 10 AM - 3 PM
Please note: email@example.com will continue to operate. However, the new general e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fax: (202) 462-5066
Counselor / Deputy Chief of Mission
Fax: (202) 462-0564 '
If the prerequisites for US military withdrawal from Iraq are the building of an effective fighting force and the Iraqis being capable of defending themselves, American troops may be here for a long, long time. What I saw of the Iraqi forces on the ground was sobering.
The whole of it. And on a similar note from an Australian army officer who trained soldiers:
I could go on and on. But I think you might get the message : the training system for Iraqi soldiers is a very sad joke. Rumsfeld's pronouncements about the number of "trained" soldiers are ridiculous and wicked lies. The man is not in touch with reality.
Blasted, my sleep pattern is jilted.
Karma police, arrest this man, he talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge, he’s like a detuned radio
Karma police, arrest this girl, her hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us
Karma police, I’ve given all I can, it’s not enough
I’ve given all I can, but we’re still on the payroll
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
Here's a wiki page about response to the London bombings.
As I find more links I'm going to put them up.
A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.
Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.
Regarded as a career diplomat of impeccable integrity, during his time in post-invasion Iraq, Greenstock became disillusioned with the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer. Their relationship had deteriorated by the time Greenstock returned to Britain.
The decision to block the book until Greenstock removes substantial passages will be interpreted as an attempt by ministers to avoid further embarrassing disclosures over the conduct of the war and its aftermath from a highly credible source.
Give us our Khalid back.
My thoughts and the thoughts of my family are with you, Khalid, in this difficult time.
Bush falls to new lows in various categories.
40% support bush's handling of Iraq*
36% think the country is going in the right direction
35% approve of bush's handling of social security*
42% support bush's handing of economy*
magic number : bush's Job Approval rating :) is 42%- a new low (43% June)
59% Disapprove of bush's handling of Iraq
59% think the country is going in the wrong direction
61% do not approve of bush's handling of social security*
56% do not support bush's handling of economy*
magic number : bush's Job Disapproval rating :( is 56%*- a new high (55% June)
* indicates new low or new high
Poll was taken from Monday through Wednesday (July 11-13),
with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%
"During the past two years, people could make money in Iraq on a scale that would astonish a Colombian drug lord," said an Iraqi politician who, like many, wanted to remain anonymous. "To protect the amounts of money they made, these people will kill very easily."
Now that I'm thinking more clearly I'd like to state my opinion on the matter. And this is thanks to a cousin who has called me and other Iraqi bloggers out on ignoring the facts. Fact 1: This act was carried out by a terrorist that deserved to die before he killed 24 Iraqi children. 2: There is no way one could justify these attacks in my eyes. The children may have been used to one degree or another, but it doesn't mean one shouldn't condemn those who initiated the attack. Smell my finga?
So, I am against the terrorists that destroyed families on this terrible day. On the other hand, I don't think it was bright to be giving sweets to so many Iraqi children when they knew the threat was high. The persons that deserve the heft of the blame are clearly the bastards that detonated the bomb that killed the Iraqi children.
I am now especially angered by those that don't recognize the difference. And I will take the piss out of you if you're one of these persons. Regardless, I do also reiterate my opinion that there must be a stop to the practice of handing out sweets to large groups of Iraqi children to avoid such incidents from EVER EVER occurring again.
* * * * * * * *
Even IF the intentions were only good, let me please ask American soldiers to STOP giving large groups of children candy. Where is the outrage, then? Was it even mentioned on CNN after the day it happened? Will American troops stop this practice in light of this barbarism? Or will they continue to put innocent Iraqi children at risk? Or will they accuse those children of being terrorists because they were deliberately baiting American troops into a trap that injured or killed only 1 or 2 soldiers?
And sure, maybe it's a situation of "damned if you do, damned if you don't"...but please, whatever. JUST STOP THIS PRACTICE RIGHT NOW. Give to children in smaller groups to avoid a situation where 24 of THEM can be wiped off the face of the earth.
And, again, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?
Oh, then there's the lock up the Iraqis in the metal box like they were animals and let them suffocate to death. Oh, ooops, you didn't mean to...so, it was an accident. So, you mustn't be accountable. Yes, Prof. Cole, exactly like Ghassan Kanafani's "Rijal bil Shamas" ( "Men in the Sun" ). I recommend you read this incredible story. He's a truly incredible writer.
WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? WHERE?
ARE IRAQIS NOT HUMANS, TOO?
WHERE IS THE FRICKIN OUTRAGE THEN?
But when you have young men (one of them was perhaps 19) who were born and raised in the UK blowing themselves up in the streets, then you have no choice but to address the underlying root causes of terrorism. I believe the UK and the people of the UK are more mentally equipped to move forward in this area.
Well, folks, I received this from an active duty officer with experience in the field. Just how stupid can we become? Eliot Cohen has an OP/ED in the W Post today in which he “examines his conscience” on the whole subject of the “thinking” that has governed the war. The occasion for this is the imminent deployment of his infantry officer son to the war that he helped create AND screw up. He has learned something. It is clear that others have not.I think it's important to make note of it. Certain people are averse to having soldiers know what's really going. Me oh my, war never changes.
“To: Patrick Lang
Subject: RE: Anyone like Juan Cole in the FBI?
I am in -------------------------------------------------------.
FYI- Juan Cole's site is being blocked at Ft ---------- and other installations by the thought police. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------.
From: Patrick Lang [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Sat 7/9/2005 3:25 PM
To: Patrick Lang
Subject: Anyone like Juan Cole in the FBI?
Not only is the Cheney administration the best recruiter for Al-Qaeda, they continue to lie to the American people. Not to mention the small lie about WMD in Iraq to the entire world...
Rove has been caught. Now, we will know for sure if Americans are living in quasi-fascism or if there is still such thing as accountability. Democracy is dead without accountability. And so far, so many cabinet officials have been derelict in their duties and have not only not been held to account, but they've been given awards and promotions.
So when you can lie and not be held to account, how can you call America a democracy? It simply isn't. After the Rove affair, we'll know exactly where we stand.
Armando of dK,
Well??? Who was it? Either the president's going down, or it's Karl Rove.
While the Right Wing seeks to defend Karl Rove by exploring the technicalities of the laws against exposing the identity of CIA agents, it is important to remember what the Bush Administration indisputably has already done in this affair -- lied to the American people.McClellan then:QUESTION: The Robert Novak column last week . . . has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that? McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.
Two years ago, Scott McClellan lied on behalf of Karl Rove and/or the President or McClellan was lied to by Karl Rove and/or the President. It can not be disputed now that Karl Rove did indeed "leak classified information." McClellan denied this fact two years ago. Who told McClellan to tell this lie to the American people? Was it Rove and/or Bush? Why do I speculate as to whether the President was involved in this lie to the American people? Very simple. Karl Rove STILL works for the President. He has not been fired. Forget for a moment whether a crime has been committed. The Special Prosecutor will determine that. What we know TODAY is that the Bush Administration lied to the American people. The question NOW is who directed that this lie be told? Was it Karl Rove? Or was it the President of the United States?No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the President of the United States. If someone leaked classified information, the President wants to know. If someone in this administration leaked classified information, they will no longer be a part of this administration, because that's not the way this White House operates.
Evidence we are heading into a global, self-sustaining insurgency thanks to the idiotic and reckless neo-con-job invasion of Iraq
New York and Washington. Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid. And now London.
When will it end? Where will it all lead?
The experts aren’t encouraged. One prominent terrorism researcher sees the prospect of “endless” war. Adds the man who tracked Osama bin Laden for the CIA, “I don’t think it’s even started yet.”
An Associated Press survey of longtime students of international terrorism finds them ever more convinced, in the aftermath of London’s bloody Thursday, that the world has entered a long siege in a new kind of war. They believe that al-Qaida is mutating into a global insurgency, a possible prototype for other 21st-century movements, technologically astute, almost leaderless. And the way out is far from clear.
In fact, says Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA analyst, rather than move toward solutions, the United States took a big step backward by invading Iraq.
Now, this is true...
Now, he said, “we’re at the point where jihad is self-sustaining,” where Islamic “holy warriors” in Iraq fight America with or without allegiance to al-Qaida’s bin Laden....and here's the evidence from the communique following the London attacks:
The cold statistics of a RAND Corp database show the impact of the explosion of violence in Iraq: The 5,362 deaths from terrorism worldwide between March 2004 and March 2005 were almost double the total for the same 12-month period before the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Thursday’s attacks on London’s transit system mirrored last year’s bombings of Madrid commuter trains, and both point to an al-Qaida evolving into a movement whose isolated leaders offer video or Internet inspiration — but little more — to local “jihadists” who carry out the strikes.
Community of Islam: rejoice at the good news! Community of Arabism: rejoice at the good news! The time of revenge has come for the crusader, Zionist British government.
Billmon connects the dots as usual.
Suffice to say, the Cheney administration helped make the split between the two disappear. Meaning, they helped make the world less safe. And you could almost make the point that they did this deliberately, as to justify racism and violence against all Arabs and Muslims no matter what their aims were. It's the very sick irony and utter folly about falsely linking Saddam with Al Qaeda as far as I see it. In destroying Iraq and making it into a recruiting ground for terrorists, it has become exactly what proponents of the war should have hoped to avoid creating: Summer camp for terrorists heading to the global insurgency. Of course, there should have been some forethought about what reaction such a foolish and illegal war would unleash upon the world. Like Scheuer, I believe the richer nations of the world will most certainly need to address the underlying causes of terrorism through alterations of their foreign policies if there is to be any hope in all of this death and darkness the future holds.
The original Arabic word for "Community of Arabism" is 'urubah – a term which has extremely negative connotations in the "Salafist" ideology that underpins Al Qaeda's world view. (I put the term in quotes because the concept of salafiyya, or respect for the "pious ancestors" of Islam, has other, far more benign, interpretations than those of the jihadis.)
Arabism is usually associated with the secular nationalism of Nasser, the PLO and – in extreme fascistic form – the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. While some Islamic thinkers, such as the late Palestinian scholar Isma’il al-Faruqi, have tried to reconcile Arabism and Islamism, militant Salafists have regarded the two as mutually hostile, at least up until now.
So, to the Cheney administration and all other people out there who still having delusions of grandeur: Please stop blowing sunshine out your asses and start paying attention to what is actually occuring.
Bob Herbert is not amused either.
Thank you, Dr. Fink, for that very kind introduction.
It is a great honor to be back at the Commonwealth Club.
When I decided to give a speech about Iraq, I knew I wanted to give it here. That’s because of the pivotal role the Commonwealth Club has played for more than 100 years, fostering real dialogue on the critical challenges that define the times in which we live.
Today, those challenges are vast, from the Supreme Court vacancy to the attack on Social Security. But the war in Iraq is the most daunting because the status quo—of Americans dying, of Iraqis dying, of young soldiers coming home by the thousands with injuries to mind and body—weighs so heavily on all Americans.
As a policy maker, I must push as hard as I can for a strategy that can succeed in Iraq and bring our brave men and women home. That will only happen if we immediately bring credibility, accountability, and responsibility to a war that has been lacking in all three.
Last week, President Bush had a chance to regain credibility when it comes to Iraq. In my opinion, he did not.
He mentioned 9/11 five times in 30 minutes, despite the fact that there is absolutely no connection between Iraq and that tragic day.
Iraq was a war of choice, not necessity. The war of necessity was the war against Osama bin Laden that we launched after 9/11…the war that every single Senator voted for…the war that was a clear response to the vicious attack of that day.
That’s why I was incredulous when Karl Rove said: "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war”
Therapy? By rewriting history, President Bush’s chief advisor is either trying to divide our nation, or divert attention from what is happening in Iraq.
Let me read you directly from my speech on the Senate floor on September 12th.
“We are resolved to hold those who planned these attacks and who harbor these people absolutely 100 percent accountable. They must pay because this is the test of a civilized nation…We will not back down. I stand proudly with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with our President. We will be resolved to do everything—and do it well and do it right—to bring justice…”
After 9/11, the Congress was determined to dedicate as many resources as necessary to find the people who planned the attack. We knew they were in Afghanistan. We knew the Taliban was complicit. And, very important, we knew that the entire world was standing with us.
Instead, the Administration took its eye off the ball and focused on Iraq.
On September 12, the same day that I spoke on the Senate floor, the top terrorism expert at the White House, Richard Clarke, sat down with the president and a few colleagues in the Situation Room. He describes this scene in his book. I quote:
“`Look,’ [the President] told us, `I know you have a lot to do and all…but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.’
“I was once again taken back, incredulous, and it showed,’ Clarke wrote. ‘But, Mr. President, al Qaeda did this.’
`I know, I know, but…see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.’
`Absolutely, we will look…again.’ I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive. `But, you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen.’
`Look into Iraq, Saddam,’ the President said testily and left us.”
No link was found. And yet, according to Bob Woodward, two months later, the President took Rumsfeld aside and asked, “What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.”
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill says that going after Saddam was raised at a meeting just 10 days after the first inauguration.
And then there’s the now-famous Downing Street memo. In July, 2002, months before Bush asked Congress for authority to wage war in Iraq, the head of British intelligence reported that, and I quote: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
So, what happened to the President’s aides who misled the public about the connection between 9/11 and Iraq, those who falsely claimed that this war was about terrorism, and that it wouldn’t cost us much—in lives, troops, or dollars?
Condi Rice, who said “We do know that there have been shipments going…into…Iraq…of aluminum tubes that…are really only suited for nuclear weapons programs,” was promoted to be our Secretary of State.
Paul Wolfowitz, who said, “Like the people in France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator,” got the top job at the World Bank.
George Tenet, who called the WMD claims a “slam dunk” was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
And the President? He had to know al Qaeda was not in Iraq before the war. [SHOW CHART]. His own State Department issued a report right after 9/11. It lists 45 countries in which al Qaeda operated. Guess who was not on that list? Iraq.
Now, there were some who tried to speak the truth. But they didn’t last long in the Bush Administration.
Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill are both gone.
Army Vice Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki estimated that it could take “several hundred thousand” soldiers to successfully stabilize Iraq, Wolfowitz called that number “wildly off the mark.” Shinseki retired early.
White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey said that a U.S. intervention in Iraq could cost between $100 and $200 billion. He was disputed, and ultimately left. We’ve now surpassed $200 billion.
The rest of us were told we had no right to criticize the President in a time of war.
Twenty six months ago, President Bush told us our mission was accomplished. It wasn’t. And do you know why? The Administration knew how to win phase one—the military invasion—but had absolutely no plan to win phase two—the peace. As former NSC Advisor Brzezinski said, “This war has been conducted with “tactical and strategic incompetence.”
So, where we are now? We have already lost 1,746 Americans in Iraq, 13,190 have been wounded. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, up to 17 percent of Iraq veterans suffer from major depression, generalized anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder. Divorces for active duty and enlisted personnel has nearly doubled and 8,000 Iraqis have been killed.
Here is the unvarnished truth. The Bush Administration’s failures thus far have left us with no good choices. If you went to the doctor with a diseased kidney and he took out the wrong one, you would feel distressed, angry, and frustrated about your options.
And that’s how many Americans feel now—distressed, angry and frustrated at the difficult situation facing our country and troops. All Americans love, support, and pray for our soldiers. The point is that our troops deserve far more than the status quo.
So, we must, as I have said, start being credible, truthful, if we want to succeed.
But it is also long past time for accountability, and that is my second point.
Last month, I co-sponsored Senator Feingold’s resolution asking the President to submit to Congress the remaining mission in Iraq, the time frame needed to achieve that mission, and a time frame for the subsequent withdrawal of our troops. Why?
Because after two and a half years at war, the American people finally need to hear what our mission is and a detailed plan to accomplish it. That will give our soldiers and citizens hope and confidence.
It is difficult to keep track of all the missions we’ve had so far in Iraq. There was the weapons of mass destruction mission. Then the regime change mission. Then the rebuilding mission. Then the democracy mission.
And finally, terrorism, which the president mentioned more than 30 times in his speech. “Our mission in Iraq is clear,” he said. “We will hunt down the terrorists.”
That mission is a guarantee of a never-ending cycle of violence because our open-ended presence in Iraq is itself fueling the recruitment of terrorists. With that as a mission, we will find ourselves on a treadmill that never stops. We stay there to hunt down the terrorists and more terrorists are recruited, so we fight them and more terrorists are recruited and so the cycle goes.
Let’s be clear: “What we have done in Iraq,” terrorism expert Peter Bergen explained, “is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams…It’s hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism.”
A report issued by the CIA’s think tank found that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists. But, the tragic irony is, terrorism was the result of the war, not a reason for waging it and so we are in greater danger.
I believe our mission in Iraq is this: Security for Iraqis provided by Iraqis. We need a Manhattan project to train the Iraqi soldiers and a successful plan to tighten the borders, which should include troops from around the world.
And what about our democratic goals? Yes, we must help the Iraqis create a government in which everyone has a stake, including the Sunnis. But, while we will likely continue to play an advisory role if asked, we cannot tie current troop levels to the goal of a well-functioning democracy, which, even under the best circumstances, takes generations to perfect. Ours certainly did.
And that brings me to this point. The Administration continually compares Iraq’s struggle for democracy to our country’s struggle for democracy. Fine. But we fought for it with our own people. That’s what countries do. Others helped us, sure. But the people power was American.
If there is to be a free Iraq, and I certainly hope there will be, then the Iraqis must want that freedom—and be willing to defend it—as much as we want it for them.
We need to hear from the Administration exactly how many Iraqi forces are needed; how to meet that goal; and by when. And the current pace will not cut it.
In March, I went to Iraq with six other Senators of both parties. You can read or hear about it. But nothing can prepare you for seeing the security challenges we face there.
Outside a meeting room I sat in, located in the safe green zone, two people had recently been killed. In the building where the Assembly gathers, the security was even more intense. Two guards with machine guns had to stand beside each of us everywhere we went.
We watched the dynamic U.S. Army Lieutenant General, David Petraeus, train the Iraqi security forces. He told us he has enormous confidence in the ability of the Iraqis to take over their own security soon.
Yet when we talked to the Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jafari, he was in no rush at all, emphasizing that you can’t build an army overnight.
So how many Iraqi troops do we have right now? The answers are all over the map. Recently, the Pentagon said they have 107 battalions, totaling 169,000 men.
But of those 107 battalions, military commanders consider that only about 5,000 Iraqi soldiers are capable of carrying out missions on their own. That’s especially troubling when you consider the size of the insurgency, which has been estimated at anything from 12,000 to 50,000 with many more supporters.
We must enlist all the countries willing to train Iraqi security forces outside of Iraq. France has offered. Egyptians have offered. The Jordanians have offered. Yet, Senator Biden says that none of these offers has been taken up. It’s time. It’s past time.
When the Administration said that our allies who opposed the war need not apply for reconstruction contracts, the message was clear and counterproductive. What a mistake. Leadership is now needed to turn this around, and make reconstruction truly the world’s responsibility.
Because inside Iraq, water, electricity, and fuel are in short supply. Sewage still runs through the streets. The situation in Baghdad is so bad that the Mayor has threatened to resign in protest.
Despite all those claims that Iraqi oil would pay for its reconstruction, we are still paying most of it. I believe more of the reconstruction money now going to Halliburton—who just over-billed our government by $1 billion—should go to the Iraqis so they can rebuild their own country.
So, where is the Congress in all of this? In every other war, Congress has played an oversight role. We are the voice of the American people. And the American people, who are fighting in and paying for this war, deserve to know the truth about everything. The truth about how we are measuring up to our highest ideals, including what happened at Abu Ghraib, a scandal that sickened everyone who saw those photos and has placed our brave troops in more danger.
And they deserve to know the truth about whether we are meeting our clearly-stated goals in Iraq—and, if not, why?
The Administration should come to the Hill often to report on specific progress. And the president himself should meet with the Senate in private sessions. Quite frankly, there are Senators of both parties—including Inouye, Warner, Lautenberg, McCain, Kerry, and Hagel—who have seen far more battles than the President and his core national security team. It would be wise to listen to these Senators.
We have no idea—none—how long the Administration plans to be in Iraq. Is it two years, ten, twenty? Condi Rice now calls it“a generational commitment.” The President’s message of `as long as it takes’ is counterproductive.
Retired General Gregory Newbold, who was one of the central planners of phase one of the war, told us: “We have to understand that the fundamental reason for the insurgency, the thing that ties all the various groups together, is their view that we are an occupying power.”
It is time for the President to send a clear message that we do not intend to remain in Iraq indefinitely or maintain permanent bases there. That doesn’t mean we should set an exact date for withdrawal. But it does mean we need a general timeframe to complete the mission.
And that brings me to my third and final point—responsibility. Responsibility to our troops and to the next generation.
In his speech, the President told us how important it was to honor the courageous young men and women of the military on the 4th of July. And I couldn’t have agreed more.
But, to me, we need to do more than that. We must also honor our soldiers every day by giving them the equipment they need while they are deployed and the health care they deserve when they come home.
Many of us have heard the heartbreaking stories about the soldiers sent to Iraq without proper armor to protect their bodies or vehicles. One wrote: “My mother, an elementary school teacher, shipped the bullet-proof ceramic plates to me from the states. Other soldiers weren’t so lucky, having to raid buildings and patrol dangerous streets while wearing inferior Vietnam-era flak jackets.”
Another wrote: “I was driving a high-back humvee with no armor…I lost three fingers on my left hand and took shrapnel in my legs and chest. Would an uparmor kit have kept my fingers from being blown off? No one will ever know for sure, but I think so.”
When roadside bombs are now the weapon of choice for insurgents, how can we fail to give our soldiers the jamming devices they need to protect themselves?
But, in April, I had to fight—too hard—for an amendment to provide $60 million for jamming devices. And, we had to fight—too hard—to get the Administration to finally admit that it was $1 billion short of funds to provide health care for soldiers returning from war.
It’s also no secret that we are facing a serious recruiting crisis, which the chief of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command called “the toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer army.”
More pressure on recruiters is making some so desperate they are encouraging recruits to lie about their education and fitness to serve. And new aggressive ways of gathering data on high school students is angering parents, and not respecting family values.
But those who are bearing the brunt of this recruiting crisis are our soldiers and their families. Many are forced to serve on multiple tours in Iraq, missing birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and the small moments that make up our life stories. National Guard and reserves are being kept away from both their families and their jobs.
And what about those who make the ultimate sacrifice? Shouldn’t we honor, not hide, them? We should see photos of their flag-draped coffins. We should see the President or his personally appointed representatives meeting the coffins when they arrive—every single one.
But we must do far more. We owe it to the fallen, to all those who serve bravely now, and those who will do so in the future, to get this war right. We cannot rewrite the history of the last three years, but we can write a new chapter in this war.
On December 11, Bob Woodward had just finished his second interview with President Bush. They stood by the glass doors looking out on the Rose Garden. And Woodward asked him, “Well, how is history likely to judge your Iraq war?”
“And he said, ‘History,’ and then he took his hands out of his pocket and kind of shrugged and extended his hands as if to say this is a way off. And then he said, ‘History, we don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”
Imagine if our forefathers fighting for independence had thought that way? Or those who fought in the Civil War? Or in the World Wars? Or those who risked their lives—like Martin Luther King Jr.—for civil rights? Or suffragists who almost died in a hunger strike for the right of women to vote.
When Americans dedicate, and even sacrifice, their lives for what is right, we do it because we have a sacred responsibility to those who come after us to leave behind a world that is better, not worse, than the one we found.
Because, 20, 50, even 100 years from now, another group will gather in this spot to discuss issues of war and peace. And, when they do, I hope they look back and say that the summer of 2005 is when Americans, brought credibility, accountability, and responsibility to a very tough situation.
I hope they say that we finally began to level with the American people. That we articulated a winnable mission and a detailed plan to fulfill it. And that we gave our troops the support they needed and deserved in Iraq and upon their return to our beloved shores.
We owe it to our soldiers, to the American people, to Iraqis, and, yes, to history, to do nothing less.
Almost two thirds of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq will have been pulled out by the end of next year, under plans drawn up in Whitehall to hand over two provinces to Iraqi control.I've been trying to wrap my mind around how it feels to now have family in danger in both Iraq and London. But lets be honest with one another...we knew full-well that Britain's involvement in Iraq increased the chances of an attack on London. So it's hardly a surprise. I'm just very thankful my sister and all my loved ones in London were not physically hurt. Anyway, it's been about as slippery a feeling as any I've had in recent years. I want the people who planned and staged the attacks in London behind bars as much as I want the people responsible for Abu Ghraib and the entire illegal Iraq war behind bars. Besides the now added complexities of having a sister who was extremely lucky, here are a few things that are clear to me. The Iraq war has made everybody less safe. And, still to many, it seems an Iraqi's life is not worth as much as a Brit's or American's life. With this leaked memo we have the first signs of a possible timeline for a draw-down of troops. The Brits could force the American hand by turning over the provinces currently under their control to Iraqis. I suggest the British government go through with this plan of a draw-down while insisting (even privately) for Bush Co. to issue a timetable of withdrawal. We need a light at the end of the tunnel. And we need it now.
The plan set out in a leaked memo written by the Defence Secretary John Reid, hints that the Government is keen to cut the heavy cost of patrolling southern Iraq.
The memo calculates that the current cost of the British presence in Iraq, around £1bn a year, could be halved if the number of troops were reduced to 3,000 during 2006. The memo implies that the British would formally hand over control to the Iraqis of the four provinces currently under British control by April 2006, but that it take another eight months before what the memo calls the "UK military drawdown" has been completed - and 18 months before the money comes through.
Revealingly, it hints at tension between the Pentagon and US Central Command, which want a rapid troop reduction, and commanders on the ground in Iraq.
The memo also warns that Japan may insist on pulling out the 550 Japanese engineers if they left with the only the Iraq army to protect them from insurgents. There will be a question mark, too, over the 1,400 Australian soldiers in Iraq.
The memo, entitled Options for future UK force posture in Iraq and headed "Secret - UK eyes only", was leaked to The Mail on Sunday, apparently by someone connected with the Defence department who suspected that Britain was preparing to get out quick as an economy measure, leaving the Iraqis to fend for themselves.
The defence department said it that various options were being considered for reducing the British presence in Iraq, and stressed that nothing has been finally decided.
The memo, sent to Tony Blair, said that the US government is also trying to scale down its military commitment to Iraq. "Emerging US plans assume 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction from 176,000 (allied troops) down to 66,000.
Memo in Full
Options for future UK force posture in Iraq
Paper by Secretary of State SECRET - UK EYES ONLY
We will need to reach decisions later this year on likely future UK force structure and disposition in Iraq into 2006.
This paper sets out some of the key contextual considerations; identifies areas of uncertainty; sets out what we know of US planning and possible expectations on the UK contribution; and assesses the potential impact on UK decision making.
2. Decisions on coalition, and within that, UK force levels will be governed by four factors, all of which are subject to a greater or lesser degree of uncertainty:
* Internal Iraqi pressure for further force posture changes.
* Successful progress in the potential process and extension/renewal of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546. (Mail on Sunday footnote 1)
* The continued development of the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
* The security situation.
3. None of this, however, undermines the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) (Mail on Sunday footnote 2)broad security strategy of:
a) Working with the Iraqis to contain and restrain the insurgency.
b) Assisting and encouraging the development of Iraqi security forces and structures which can progressively assume responsibility for all aspects of security including dealing with the insurgency, and thereby:
c) Enable MNF-I force reductions and eventual withdrawal.
4. US POSITION
US political military thinking is still evolving. But there is a strong US military desire for significant force reductions to bring relief to overall US commitment levels.
Emerging US plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in overall MNF-I from 176,000 down to 66,000.
There is, however, a debate between the Pentagon/Centcom (Mail on Sunday footnote 3) who favour a relatively bold reduction in force numbers, and MNF-I whose approach is more cautious.
The next MNF-I review of campaign progress due in late June may help clarify thinking and provide an agreed framework for the way ahead.
5. (Technical details)
6. UK POLICY CONSIDERATIONS
The current ministerially endorsed policy position is that the UK should not:
a) Agree to any changes to the UK area of responsibility.
b) Agree to any specific deployments outside Multinational Division South East. (Mail on Sunday footnote 4)
c) Agree to any specific increases in the roughly 8,500 UK service personnel currently deployed in Iraq.
7. Looking further ahead, we have a clear UK military aspiration to hand over to Iraqi control in Al Muthanna and Maysan provinces (Mail on Sunday footnote 5) in October 2005 and in the other two Multinational Division South East provinces, Dhi Qar and Basra (Mail on Sunday footnote 6) in April 2006.
This in turn should lead to a reduction in the total level of UK commitment in Iraq to around 3,000 personnel, ie small scale, by mid 2006.
This should lead to an estimated halving in the costs which fall to the reserve, (Mail on Sunday footnote 7) around £1 billion per annum currently. Though it is not clear exactly when this reduction might manifest itself, it would not be before around the end of 2006.
8. None of this however, represents a ministerially endorsed plan. There is a good deal more military analysis to do which is under way. We will need to consider handling of other MND SE allies.
The Japanese reconstruction battalion (Mail on Sunday footnote 8)will for example be reluctant to stay in Al Muthanna if force protection is solely provided by the Iraqis. The Australian position, which is highly influenced by the Japanese presence, may also be uncertain. (Mail on Sunday footnote 9)
I will bring further and more specific proposals to DOP-I (Mail on Sunday footnote 10) for the future UK force posture in Iraq, including handover to Iraqi control and subsequent UK military drawdown.
Mail on Sunday footnotes
Footnote 1:(UN resolution authorising allied troops presence in Iraq)
Footnote 2: (The Multinational Force of Allied troops in Iraq)
Footnote 3: (Centcom is the US military command centre in the US)
Footnote 4: (Not get involved in operations outside area around Basra under UK control)
Footnote 5: (two of the four provinces around Basra in UK control)
Footnote 6: (the other two UK run provinces)
Footnote 7: (The UK Treasury Reserve)
Footnote 8: (Japan has 550 engineers in UK area of Iraq)
Footnote 9: (Australia has 1,400 troops in Iraq ,whose main job is to protect the Japanese)
Footnote 10: (The Defence and Overseas Policy, Iraq sub committee of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister)
If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us think insurgency won't come to us?
"If you bomb our cities," Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, "we will bomb yours." There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush's "war on terror" and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.
And it's no use Mr Blair telling us yesterday that "they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear". "They" are not trying to destroy "what we hold dear". They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with the United States, and from his adherence to Bush's policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush - and Spain's subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives - while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali.
It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterday's bombings "barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".
If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us? One thing is certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by "fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain - fight them there rather than let them come here, as Bush constantly says - this argument is no longer valid.
To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don't need a PhD to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens. The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare.
A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning - and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the lives of the innocent- are characteristic of al-Qa'ida. And let us not use - as our television colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word identified with quality silver rather than base metal.
And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day, represented a total failure of our security services - the same intelligence "experts"who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners.
Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation appears to be the science of al-Qa'ida's dark arts. No one can search three million London commuters every day. No one can stop every tourist. Some thought the Eurostar might have been an al-Qa'ida target - be sure they have studied it - but why go for prestige when your common or garden bus and Tube train are there for the taking.
And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she's been racially abused.
I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.
And this is part of the point of yesterday's bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to resent.
But here's the problem. To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kutal-Amara has locked us into. Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?"
Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.
You expect me to slump into depression, to lash out in some fit of rage, to crush you with the density of mercurial verbosity...yet no, I am held back by the poetry of piping hot Asian BBC World reporters. Forget Nancy Ajram and Haifa Wehbe. I'm talking class and intelligence...I'm talking almost 75% as fine as female Al Jazeera reporters.
Due to the marvels of satellite technology I have been indulging in BBC World trying to keep up to speed on all developments of the insanity by which my Londoner sister has confronted along with many many others. Once some more details emerge, I will respond more seriously. In the meantime, I want to speak of the hot asian BBC reporters that have calmed my nerves while the pressure has risen. Only if you watch BBC World would you actually understand what I'm speaking of here.
Michelle Hussein: Perhaps the kindest on the eyes. Yes, she has the same name as the tyrant...but she's oh so fine. My lord! What could I possibly say about Michelle Hussein? You can't find photographs of Michelle H. on the net because she's too hot for photographs. Get a satellite and get BBC World.
Zeinab Badawi: She's Sudanese. And while not technically Asian, I say close enough. Need I say more? [relevant mp3]
And just so you don't think I'm racist, do you remember the Annie Lennox/Sinead O'Connor of BBC McBabes? Anita McNaught-y! Rawwwrrrr beby rawwwr!
So here's to London and all their hot BBC reporters doing overtime by looking sexy on satellite. Am I out of line? Good.
I chatted with her just now and we came to the conclusion that bush and blair are frickin' bastards and have made the world less safe because of their idiocy. ...that almost goes without saying, along with the fact that whatever bastards did this deserve to meet a painful death.
AND ANOTHER THING: When it happens in IRAQ, it's NO DIFFERENT! Grrrrrr...
My words'll expose George Bush and Bin Laden
As two separate parts of the same seven headed dragon
Remember this song? Download it here and the other, The Cause of Death, here.
I'm going to collate some links here soon.
Al Qaida/Taliban: World domination - do it our way or we attack
American Taliban: World domination - do it our way or we attack
Liberals: Peace and international cooperation
Al Qaida/Taliban: Executing Minors OK
American Taliban: Executing Minors OK
Liberals: Find this to be a barbaric and embarrassing practice
Al Qaida/Taliban: Hate it... kill it
American Taliban: Hate it... ban it
Liberals: Laugh at it... boycott it
Al Qaida/Taliban: Belief in their own infallibility
American Taliban: Belief in their own infallibility
Liberals: Willingness to consider other viewpoints
Al Qaida/Taliban: God is on our side and will help us kill our enemies
American Taliban: God is on our side and will help us kill our enemies
Liberals: God may or may not exist and will not help us kill anyone
Stem Cell Research
Al Qaida/Taliban: No Stem cell research
American Taliban: No Stem cell research
Liberals: Stem cell research
Al Qaida/Taliban: God choose Osama Bin Laden to defeat the Great Satan
American Taliban: God choose George W. Bush to lead us
Liberals: God didn't choose anyone
Use of Force
Al Qaida/Taliban: As a means of propagating a world view
American Taliban: As a means of propagating a world view
Liberals: As a last resort
Bush's War in Iraq
Al Qaida/Taliban: Love it!
American Taliban: Love it!
Liberals: It's a disaster
Al Qaida/Taliban: Control of the Press
American Taliban: Manipulation of the Press
Liberals: Freedom of the Press
Al Qaida/Taliban: Anyone who disagrees with us is an infidel and must be silenced
American Taliban: Anyone who disagrees with us is a traitor and must be silenced
Liberals: Anyone who disagrees with us is in for a spirited discussion
Al Qaida/Taliban: Conform or else
American Taliban: Conform or else
Liberals: Embrace diversity
Al Qaida/Taliban: You're either with us or against us
American Taliban: You're either with us or against us
Liberals: We're all in this together
Al Qaida/Taliban: Death to the infidels
American Taliban: Kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity
Liberals: Live and let live
Al Qaida/Taliban: Obedience to authority
American Taliban: Obedience to authority
Liberals: Critical reflection
Al Qaida/Taliban: Universe and man created 6,000 years ago by God
American Taliban: Universe and man created 6,000 years ago by God
Liberals: The Universe began as we know it at least 14 billion years ago, maybe more
Al Qaida/Taliban: Subservient to will of its leaders
American Taliban: Subservient to will of its leaders
Liberals: Will served by Representative government
Al Qaida/Taliban: Life is scary and uncertain, seek refuge in moral absolutes and scorn those that threaten those absolutes
American Taliban: Life is scary and uncertain, seek refuge in moral absolutes and scorn those that threaten those absolutes
Liberals: Life is scary and uncertain, seek refuge in accepting that respect for our fellow man and the individual choices he/she makes is eminently moral
Al Qaida/Taliban: A woman's place is in the home
American Taliban: A woman's place is in the home
Liberals: A woman's place is wherever she wants it to be
Al Qaida/Taliban: Marriage is only between a man and a woman
American Taliban: Marriage is only between a man and a woman
Liberals: Marriage is between any two people who love each other
Meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, and Russia - issued a joint statement saying the active military phase of the Afghan operation was coming to an end and calling on the US-led coalition to agree to a deadline for ending the temporary use of bases and air space in member countries.
We shall see what comes of this in the following days and weeks. Make no mistake, this is heavy-hitting geopolitics.
It looks like the Cheney administration is finally getting serious about losing the war in Iraq -- it's sending in the radio talk show hosts:A contingent of conservatives talk radio hosts is headed to Iraq this month on a mission to report "the truth" about the war: American troops are winning, despite headlines to the contrary.
The "Truth Tour" has been pulled together by the conservative Web cast radio group Rightalk.com and Move America Forward, a non-profit conservative group backed by a Republican-linked public relations firm in California.
If the Iraqi insurgents are smart -- and most of them are fucking geniuses compared to your average right-wing talk show host -- they'll spread the word: Leave these particular dumb ass infidels alone. (Not that any of them are likely to poke their porcine snouts outside the green zone without a brigade-strength escort. But you never know where the odd mortar round is going to land.)
Why? Because collectively, these guys are an enormously valuable asset to America's enemies -- both because of their utterly brainless support for Al Qaeda's strategy of turning the war against terrorism into a crusade against Islam, and because they've done such a splendid job of setting up the American people to be demoralized and disillusioned by the truth.
Obfuscating the truth for more delusional visions of victory won't be helpful. And I'm sure extremists in the region will welcome the wing nuts to town with open arms. Another sick twist...
All I can say is that it seems from my cousin's estimate that the criminals are operating at an endemic level. He later on went to say, "maybe we can all go back and live in Iraq in 10 or 20 years." Other comments I recall include, "There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Because the tunnel is so long and dark." and "We would like to see hope, but there is none." and "Each day is worse than the day before."
When you hear this, it gets very depressing. In the end he said, "We still have hope. We lived like this during the war and we live like this now. We always have hope."
Sure he contradicts what he says about there being no hope, but I think that shows a lot about the general Iraqi feeling these days. Teetering between hope and hopelessness. It's certainly how I've felt, though now I have less hope than ever before...exactly because each day the situation gets worse.
About the 90/10 split...of course it's hard to say what this estimate really is, but there must be truth to this feeling he has. Still, what can be done about it when it benefits them to keep things as unstable as possible? Why would these bastards mind if some foreign jihadi went and blew up a bunch of innocent Iraqis or if American troops made more grave errors by putting more innocent Iraqis in graves. It only helps these criminal thugs. Of course, these are the Iraqis involved that we spoke of...my cousin also was saying that each and every day the amount of foreign "single-wash brainwashed fanatics" (as he calls them) and other fighters coming into Iraq is more and more. This was his feeling at least. And, it sure does look like that from afar. If this was America's strategy for fighting the so-called war on terror...to make Iraq into a training center similar as how Afghanistan was when America was sponsoring Bin Laden to fight the Soviets, well doesn't that sound the alarm bell that such a place only makes the world less safe?
Just because the new sponsors are rich Saudis, doesn't make the situation any different today. In fact, I'd argue it is worse because we know less and less about how these sort of terror groups operate now. Of course, in the case of Afghanistan in the 80s, America created those groups to fight the Soviet Union. So now, essentially, America has helped created another incubator for terrorism...and that was a part of the strategy?
They couldn't tie Iraq and Al Qaeda together then, but they sure can now. Imagine, then...that was a goal of the Cheney administration. How sick and twisted can a foreign policy get?
I want to be completely clear about my position regarding American troops in Iraq. There absolutely needs to be a timetable for withdrawal. The notion the insurgents need some sort of reason to "wait it out" is absurd. Let's be serious, the insurgency doesn't need a reason to be encouraged to fight. They are only getting stronger and more sophisticated as time passes, while American forces continue to kill and alienate innocent Iraqis. These Iraqis are the lot made to suffer most. They are stuck between the insurgency and the occupation. This favors the insurgency in the long run of course. And I believe more and more honest Iraqis are dreaming to be rid of the occupation. And that spells a nightmare for the American wish to have a strategic foothold in the region. In short, it will be impossible for America to have bases in Iraq and for Iraqis to live in peace simultaneously. bases/occupation = chaos - Simple as that. Anyway, at this rate, I believe in one to two years such a timetable will be presented. Now it doesn't seem to be in the cards for whatever reason, but believe me it will.
Is this a solution? Of course not. I'm describing not prescribing. If somebody tells you they have a solution, they'd be lying through their teeth. Let's just say we know what is not a solution. It is not a solution to continue the occupation indefinitely. It is not a solution to not hold people accountable and operate above international law. It is not a solution for people to treat Iraqis like they don't matter in all this. Iraq is for Iraqis, not for America. I'm sick of how people don't ask Iraqis living inside Iraq how they feel about being occupied, how they feel about being humiliated daily, how they feel about being treated like strangers in their own land, how they feel about not being able to go for a walk down the street, how they feel about not having drinking water, how they feel about not having petrol for their cars while having the world's second largest reserves of the stuff, how they feel about being the real victim in all this chaos.
Who gives anybody the right to not include Iraqis in the reconstruction process...to be suspicious of them getting involved in such projects just by the virtue that they are Iraqis? I mean, isn't that completely insane? Exiles going back to help is wonderful, but when they are the only ones running the ship from an isolated cocoon, the ship is bound to go down.
Exiles should be serving a support role, not as the Emperor's servants. When the Iraqi that has lived through all the wars and sanctions is put under the thumb of exiles coming from their plush lives (and able to leave whenever they like, mind you) from Australia, Europe, and N. America...it just sets up the entire situation for animosity to incubate.
Sure, Iraqis need to learn about certain things...and exiles will offer that help. But by no means should they patronize the Iraqi who has lived and suffered through the past hell to be presented with a new and even worse hell that they don't even have ownership of now. Talk about adding insult to injury. If the "injury" was a gaping flesh wound...it's more like adding urine, spit, and a little doo doo to that injury...rubbing it all in, then adding a little salt and terpintine to the wound. And then saying, "you don't live here, it's my house now, get out and pay for the doo doo too."
Whether or not that makes sense, I could hardly care less. I'm so exhausted as today felt over 40 degrees until the sun went down. My body aches and I'd like to shower, but I can't because my towels are washing.
That's all for now. Blaaa.
Rove needs to be visited by the FBI Ferry and locked up.
Screw democrats and let them give birth to gremlins for being so weak in the knees on a woman's right to choose.
The current Iraqi "government" learned a lot from Saddam and then they upgraded their torture chambers to "torture camps" thanks to America's help at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
Remember to get your war on every once and a while.
And Tom Tomorrow cuts through the crap as usual. Check this one:
The Bush administration has decided to retain control over the principal computers which control internet traffic in a move likely to prompt global opposition, it was claimed yesterday.Can anybody say, unilateral take-over of the internet? I mean, they didn't even go to the UN for this one.
The US had pledged to turn control of the 13 computers known as root servers - which inform web browsers and email programs how to direct internet traffic - over to a private, international body.
But on Thursday the US reversed its position, announcing that it will maintain control of the computers because of growing security threats and the increased reliance on the internet for global communications. A Japanese government official yesterday criticised the move, claiming it will lend momentum to the debate about who controls the information flow online.