Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
StateSide:Opinions
Archive: March 2007
View by
   Reset

Document PDF
McCaffrey Says Success, Stability, Security Still Possible
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/28/2007 5:10 PM ET
Gen. Barry McCaffrey (USA Ret.) speaking on Meet the Press in June 2006.
Alex Wong/Getty
Gen. Barry McCaffrey (USA Ret.) speaking on Meet the Press in June 2006.

“The majority of the Iraqi population support armed attacks on American forces," writes Gen. Barry McCaffrey (USA Ret.) in a memo to colleagues at the U.S. Military Academy, where he is an adjunct professor of international affairs.

McCaffrey recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and has written a lengthy analysis (attached) of what he found there based on his conversations with the 65 "sources" listed in the letter.

Overall, McCaffrey outlines a very bleak view of the situation in Iraq, writing that "the US Armed Forces are in a position of strategic peril." Contrary to the view expressed yesterday by new U.S. CENTCOM head Adm. William Fallon, McCaffrey says Iraqi is in the midst of a "low-grade civil war."

Further, McCaffrey directly contradicts the public perception the US military has carefully cultivated of those who would attack US interests in Iraq by acknowledging that the insurgency receives the bulk of its manpower and financing from domestic sources, and that the majority of the population supports attacks on US forces.

"In total, enemy insurgents or armed sectarian militias (SCIRI, JAM, Pesh Merga, AQI, 1920’s Brigade, et. al.) probably exceed 100,000 armed fighters. These non-government armed bands are in some ways more capable of independent operations than the regularly constituted ISF. They do not depend fundamentally on foreign support for their operations. Most of their money, explosives, and leadership are generated inside Iraq."

Despite the bleak outlook, McCaffrey expressed confidence in the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus, Lieut Gen. Ray Odierno, and Amb. Ryan Crocker, and optimism in their capacities for improving the situation:

"In my judgment, we can still achieve our objective of: a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, not producing weapons of mass destruction, and fully committed to a law-based government. The courage and strength of the US Armed Forces still gives us latitude and time to build the economic and political conditions that might defuse the ongoing civil war."

This brief summary only offers a glimpse of Gen. McCaffrey's assessment, though the memo deserves a complete reading. McCaffreyIraq.pdf

Commentary
Sen. John Kyl Enters Weekly Standard Piece Into Congressional Record
03/27/2007 12:38 PM ET
During Senate proceedings yesterday, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) discussed the following Weekly Standard piece by Frederick Kagan and William Kristol titled "Wrong on Timetables," and asked that the commentary be added to the Congressional Record.

Wrong on Timetables

By William Kristol and Frederick W. Kagan

Let's give congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt: Assume some of them earnestly think they're doing the right thing to insist on adding to the supplemental appropriation for the Iraq war benchmarks and timetables for withdrawal. Still, their own arguments--taken at face value--don't hold up.

Democrats in Congress have made three superficially plausible claims: (1) Benchmarks and timetables will "incentivize" the Maliki government to take necessary steps it would prefer to avoid. (2) We can gradually withdraw over the next year so as to step out of sectarian conflict in Iraq while still remaining to fight al Qaeda. (3) Defeat in Iraq is inevitable, so our primary goal really has to be to get out of there. But the situation in Iraq is moving rapidly away from the assumptions underlying these propositions, and their falseness is easier to show with each passing day.

(1) The Iraqi government will not act responsibly unless the imminent departure of American forces compels it to do so. Those who sincerely believe this argument were horrified by the president's decision in January to increase the American military presence in Iraq. It has now been more than ten weeks since that announcement--long enough to judge whether the Maliki government is more or less likely to behave well when U.S. support seems robust and reliable.

In fact, since January 11, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has permitted U.S. forces to sweep the major Shiite strongholds in Baghdad, including Sadr City, which he had ordered American troops away from during operations in 2006. He has allowed U.S. forces to capture and kill senior leaders of Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army--terrifying Sadr into fleeing to Iran. He fired the deputy health minister--one of Sadr's close allies--and turned a deaf ear to Sadr's complaints. He oversaw a clearing-out of the Interior Ministry, a Sadrist stronghold that was corrupting the Iraqi police. He has worked with coalition leaders deploy all of the Iraqi Army units required by the Baghdad Security Plan. In perhaps the most dramatic move of all, Maliki visited Sunni sheikhs in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and formerly the base of al Qaeda fighters and other Sunni Arab insurgents against his government. The visit was made possible because Anbar's sheikhs have turned against al Qaeda and are now reaching out to the government they had been fighting. Maliki is reaching back. U.S. strength has given him the confidence to take all these important steps.

(2) American forces would be able to fight al Qaeda at least as well, if not better, if they were not also engaged in a sectarian civil war in Iraq. The idea of separating the fight against al Qaeda from the sectarian fighting in Iraq is a delusion. Since early 2004, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has sought to plunge Iraq into sectarian civil war, so as to critically weaken the government, which is fighting it. AQI endeavors to clear Shiites out of mixed areas, terrorize local Sunnis into tolerating and supporting AQI, and thereby establish safe havens surrounded by innocent people it then dragoons into the struggle. Now, heartened by the U.S. commitment to stay, Sunni sheikhs in Anbar have turned on AQI. In response, AQI has begun to move toward Baghdad and mixed areas in Diyala, attempting to terrorize the locals and establish new bases in the resulting chaos. The enemy understands that chaos is al Qaeda's friend. The notion that we can pull our troops back into fortresses in a climate of chaos--but still move selectively against al Qaeda--is fanciful. There can be no hope of defeating or controlling al Qaeda in Iraq without controlling the sectarian violence that it spawns and relies upon.

(3) Isn't it too late? Even if we now have the right strategy and the right general, can we prevail? If there were no hope left, if the Iraqis were determined to wage full-scale civil war, if the Maliki government were weak or dominated by violent extremists, if Iran really controlled the Shiites in Iraq--if these things were true, then the new strategy would have borne no fruit at all. Maliki would have resisted or remained limp as before. Sadr's forces would have attacked. Coalition casualties would be up, and so would sectarian killings. But none of these things has happened. Sectarian killings are lower. And despite dramatically increased operations in more exposed settings, so are American casualties. This does not look like hopelessness.

Hope is not victory, of course. The surge has just begun, our enemies are adapting, and fighting is likely to intensify as U.S. and Iraqi forces begin the main clear-and-hold phase. The Maliki government could falter. But it need not, if we do not. Unfortunately, four years of setbacks have conditioned Americans to believe that any progress must be ephemeral. If the Democrats get their way and Gen. Petraeus is undermined in Congress, the progress may indeed prove short-lived. But it's time to stop thinking so hard about how to lose, and to think instead about how to reinforce and exploit the success we have begun to achieve. The debate in Washington hasn't caught up to the realities in Baghdad. Until it does, a resolute president will need to prevent defeatists in Congress from losing a winnable war in Iraq.

Photo Gallery
03/18/2007 5:27 PM ET
Washington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war student demonstrators chant slogans prior to a march to the Pentagon 17 March 2007 in Washington DC.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty
Washington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war student demonstrators chant slogans prior to a march to the Pentagon 17 March 2007 in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: Pro-war activists counter-protest prior to an anti-war march to the Pentagon March 17, 2007 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty
WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: Pro-war activists counter-protest prior to an anti-war march to the Pentagon March 17, 2007 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Arlington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war demonstrators wave flags and signs as they march towards the Pentagon 17 March 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty
Arlington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war demonstrators wave flags and signs as they march towards the Pentagon 17 March 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.

ARLINGTON - MARCH 17: An anti-war activist shouts slogans during a march towards the Pentagon March 17, 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty
ARLINGTON - MARCH 17: An anti-war activist shouts slogans during a march towards the Pentagon March 17, 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war demonstrators arrive at the Pentagon 17 March 2007 during a march in Arlington, Virginia, to protest the US presence in Iraq.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty
Arlington, UNITED STATES: Anti-war demonstrators arrive at the Pentagon 17 March 2007 during a march in Arlington, Virginia, to protest the US presence in Iraq.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: An anti-war activist participates in a march with other protesters on the Memorial Bridge towards the Pentagon March 17, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty
WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: An anti-war activist participates in a march with other protesters on the Memorial Bridge towards the Pentagon March 17, 2007 in Washington, DC.

DC Buzz
Organizers Estimate Tens of Thousands Will Turn Out
03/16/2007 1:37 PM ET
The Dancing Flowers march in protest of the war in Iraq, January 2007.
The "Dancing Flowers" march in protest of the war in Iraq, January 2007.

An anti-war rally and march marking the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War will take place in Washington, DC this Saturday. Organized by the Answer Coalition, the "March on the Pentagon" is meant to recall to mind the historic October 1967 March on the Pentagon.

In 1967, a loosely-affiliated ad hoc coalition on anti-war groups organized a gathering of protesters that began near the Lincoln Memorial and marched across the river to end with a rally in the Pentagon parking lot.

A reported 100,000 turned out for the initial protest on the Mall, with some 35,000 making the march to the Pentagon. About 700 were arrested for civili disobedience on the steps of the building.

For Saturday's march, protesters will assemble on the north side of the Mall, near 23rd and Constitution, at 12:00. Speakers and/or performers scheduled for the Pentagon rally following the march will include former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, peace-mom Cindy Sheehan, hip-hop artist Immortal Technique, among others.

The Pentagon will be adequately protected by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, a Pentagon spokeswoman told the Washington Post.

A "Gathing of Eagles" pro-troop rally is also being planned to take place near the Vietnam Memorial, and will include those from "Move America Forward" who kicked off their cross-country trek with a demonstration in San Francisco last week.

Commentary
Rolling Stone Cites Chorus of Like-Minded Experts
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/13/2007 3:11 PM ET
Ask a bunch of experts known for their vocal criticism of the Iraq war for an opinion, and the scenarios they propose will be enough to depress even the most diehard Pollyannas. That's the lesson to be drawn from the round-up of views in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

This criticism is in no way intended to insult the qualifications or expert knowledge of any of those cited in the piece--Slogger's own Nir Rosen contributes his views to the article--but only to question the one-sidedness of an exploratory exercise hypothesizing on the future of Iraq that begins with an assumption--shared by everyone involved--that all is already lost.

A selection of the comments are below, and the entire piece can be read on Rolling Stone's website.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: If we are willing to engage with all of Iraq's neighbors -- including Iran -- in a regional effort to contain the violence, the best we can hope for is an Iraq that is politically passive but hostile toward America.

Richard Clarke: All the things they say will happen are already happening. Iraq is already a base for terrorists; there is already a civil war. We've got 150,000 troops there now and we can't stop it.

Nir Rosen: There is no best-case scenario for Iraq. It's complete anarchy now. No family is untouched by kidnappings, murders, ethnic cleansing -- everybody lives in a constant state of terror.... That's not only the government's fault, that's our fault: We deliberately created a weak government so that we would have final authority over everything in Iraq.

Michael Scheuer: Even in the best-case scenario, the disaster we're seeing now is nothing compared to the disaster that we'll see after we leave. The real issue here is American interest: The longer we stay, the more people we get killed. I don't think the longer we stay, the better we make Iraq. Probably the reverse.

Gen. Tony McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works.

The Latest
Says He Should Have Focused "Less on My Personal Moral Views"
03/13/2007 2:19 PM ET
Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, General Peter Pace gestures as he answers a question during a press conference in Jakarta, 13 February 2007.
Adek Berry/AFP/Getty
Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, General Peter Pace gestures as he answers a question during a press conference in Jakarta, 13 February 2007.

Responding to the firestorm of criticism that has erupted in response to his published comments that the US military should not "condone immoral acts" by allowing gays in the military, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has just issued the following statement:

“Yesterday, during a wide ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, I was asked if I think the current policy as codified in U.S. Code, generally referred to as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” should still hold. “People have a wide range of opinions on this sensitive subject. The important thing to remember is that we have a policy in effect, and the Department of Defense has a statutory responsibility to implement that policy. “I made two points in support of the policy during the interview. One, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” allows individuals to serve this nation; and two, it does not make a judgment about the morality of individual acts. “In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct. “I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views.”
Poll Results
Majority Supports Withdrawal Within One Year
03/13/2007 1:23 PM ET
CNN has a new poll out that quantifies the American public's distaste for the war in Iraq. Support for the president's decision to surge more troops in Iraq increased slightly--to 37% from 32% in January's poll results--but a strong majority indicated that they want troops pulled out either immediately or within one year.

The brief breakdown of CNN's poll results:

--52% say Congress should block funding for new deployments, 43% oppose --59% oppose/37% support the president's latest plan --21% want an immediate pullout --37% want pullout within a year --39% say troops should stay as long as needed --47% say Congress/33% say President should be "primarily responsible" for setting war policy

U.S. Military
Says Army Should Not Condone Acts by Allowing Gay Soldiers
03/13/2007 11:53 AM ET
Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, General Peter Pace gestures as he answers a question during a press conference in Jakarta, 13 February 2007.
Adek Berry/AFP/Getty
Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, General Peter Pace gestures as he answers a question during a press conference in Jakarta, 13 February 2007.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is coming under fire for comments he made to the Chicago Tribune while discussing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military.

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

"As an individual, I would not want to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has demanded Pace apologize for the remarks:

“General Pace’s comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces,” said C. Dixon Osburn, the group’s executive director.

"Our men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices for our country, and deserve General Pace’s praise, not his condemnation. As a Marine and a military leader, General Pace knows that prejudice should not dictate policy. It is inappropriate for the Chairman to condemn those who serve our country because of his own personal bias. He should immediately apologize for his remarks.”

Commentary
Advises Withdrawal Before Move Becomes Matter of Necessity
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/07/2007 6:11 PM ET
Steve Simon, CFR senior fellow and Middle East security expert, in an interview posted today perfectly articulates the dilemma faced by the Bush Administration in timing the military withdrawal from Iraq:

"They can wait to withdraw as part of a victory or they can withdraw in advance of a rout. That seems to me really to be the choice, because public opinion in the United States has turned very decisively against the war, and casualty tolerance is a very brutal thing under these circumstances. So, public opinion and the way in which politicians act on it could well force a withdrawal sooner rather than later, or at least sooner than the administration would like. And it makes sense given that possibility for the United States to disengage militarily from Iraq while it can still do so as a deliberate and methodical volitional act, instead of one being forced upon it."

The idea of what "victory" in Iraq might look like is constantly under revision, but the Bush Administration may be hoping that the surge will improve the situation just enough to allow a withdrawal under the imprimatur of success--no matter how fleeting.

The rest of Simon's Q&A is available on CFR's website.

Full Report PDF
Iraq Chapter a Bureaucratic Account of Extreme Suffering
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/07/2007 11:48 AM ET
The State Department released it 2006 Human Right Report yesterday, with a chapter on Iraq that attempts to translate all the human suffering of the past year into a dry bureaucratic narrative tinged by diplo-speak.

The annual reports can provide a helpful snapshot of the state of human rights in a particular country, but diplomatic limitations and/or US policy requirements often restrain the criticism of allies. This year's Iraq report should be assessed with that in mind, most particularly with regard to its mentions of government-affiliated death squads.

In the opening summary, the report describes a situation where, "predominantly Shi'a militias with some ties to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), targeted Sunnis in large-scale death squad and kidnapping activities. While the law provides for civilian authorities' control over the security forces, there were many instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently."

Violence is later ascribed to "errant government agents," though it also mentions "MoI-affiliated death squads" in a paragraph citing measures the Ministry has taken to crack down on the problem.

Overall, the report stops short of implying, or even seriously considering, that higher levels of the Iraqi government play any role in giving orders to the "MoI- affiliated death squads" who have operated with such brutality against the civilian population.

Given its reporting on torture and arbitrary detention, it does not seem that State restrained itself for the diplomatic nicety of not criticizing the Iraqi government.

"During the year, local and international human rights organizations continued to report that detainees held in several MoI and MoD detention facilities, as well as in KRG security forces detention facilities, were tortured and abused. Incidents of abuse included application of electric shocks, fingernail extractions, and other severe beatings. In some cases, police threatened and sexually abused detainees and visiting family members."

The torture of detainees is nothing that needs disturb the current state of relations between the US and Iraq--particularly in light of exposed American abuses at Abu Ghraib.

However, if the State Department were to even publicly contemplate that the official strategic plan of top elements of the Iraqi government might include the mass murders and kidnappings that have acted as a driving force behind the sectarian strife, it would put tremendous pressure of the Bush Administration to confirm or refute the charges, and to pull support for Maliki's regime if true. While Maliki still satisfies American interests, the USG will ignore persistent rumors that the death squads operate with official approval.

Rather than delving into this more complicated, but important, aspect of human rights abuses in Iraq, the report instead, somewhat ironically, positively cites that, "The Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Defense (MoD) both increased the numbers of trained security forces, which can be directed to establish an improved rule of law environment."

Of course trained security forces "can be directed to establish an improved rule of law environment," but they can also be used to carry out clandestine extrajudicial measures if the Iraqi government wanted to obscure its direct involvement. For now, it remains to be conclusively determined how they are being employed by the MoI and MoD.

The file is available for download here: 2006_DOS_HR_Iraq.pdf

Poll Results
Solid Majority Believes US Made Mistake Invading Iraq
03/06/2007 4:02 PM ET
Public disapproval over the war in Iraq has matched its previous September 2005 record, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll released today. Of the 1,001 adults polled by phone March 2-4, 59% believed sending troops to Iraq was a mistake.

The number of Americans who believe the US can not win in Iraq spiked significantly to 46%, a full ten points higher than previous record of 36% from April and December 2006 polls. Only 28% believes the US will achieve victory.

A solid majority (60%) supported withdrawing troops within a year, while 13% believed in sending more troops.

Though the statistics speak to strong sentiments against the war, a majority (61%) also disapproved of denying funding to send additional troops into Iraq, and a slim majority (52%) said they do not want Congress to attempt to revoke the 2002 Use of Force Authorization. However, a slight majority (54%) did support the idea of enacting caps on the troop levels.

Finally, President Bush only recieved a 33% approval rating, among the lowest since taking office.

The complete breakdown of the USA Today/Gallup poll is available here.

The Bush Plan
Administration "Unable to Grasp the Realities of Iraq"
03/02/2007 1:25 PM ET
"President Bush's plan has no chance of actually working," Peter Galbraith writes in the the latest edition of the New York Review of Books.

Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, obviously comes to assess the Bush strategy predisposed by a certain pessimistic bias. Even so, Galbraith makes a sound case that President Bush has based the new strategy on a number of assumptions that aren't supported by the circumstances. For one:

Bush's strategy assumes that Iraq's Shiite-led government can become a force for national unity and that Iraqi security forces can, once trained, be neutral guarantors of public safety. There is no convincing basis for either proposition. The Bush administration's inability to grasp the realities of Iraq is, in no small measure, owing to its unwillingness to acknowledge that Iraq is in the middle of a civil war.

Galbraith does not report any new information in his piece, but his perspective on the forces at play in Iraq makes it a worthy read.

SloggerHeadlines






































































Wounded Warrior Project