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Insight
Must Draw Up Plans To Face All-Out Civil War
01/30/2007 1:35 PM ET
Robert Cornwall of The Independent foresees a ghastly situation for the US and an all-out civil war; in fact, he argues that the US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

He adds that this is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution in D.C., based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

Analysis
New Army Term for Surge Light: “Just Enough to Lose"
01/29/2007 9:02 PM ET
Peter Singer a senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at The Brookings Institution, Washington has an insightful piece in Defense News.

Singer makes the point that the military welcomes the extra troop count there are some unintended and negative consequences of the surge.

- The military requested between 35K to 110K troops, they got 20k - it is a Two year program - The “Surge” is really a “Stretch” “Army troops originally were going to be there 12 months. Now, many will be there 16 months. For Marines, their deployments will be extended from seven to 12 months. For many of the troops, this will be their third or more deployment, making this extension even more raw for them, and especially their spouses and children who were expecting them home earlier. A concern in our largely married military is the effect of such repeated deployments on families and the corresponding steady rise in divorce rates”

In 6 months the follow-up deployment will require lifting limits on the 24 month cumulative Reserve and National Guard call-ups

“the new policy will squeeze the training, deployment and demobilization into a maximum of 12 months. This new expedited program will raise concerns among troops and their families that it risks sending in unprepared units.”
The high rotation also flies in the face of counterinsurgency which assumes that soldiers build trust and relationships with locals. More importantly the “Build” part of Clear Hold and Build” is lacking any plan or substantive backup.
“ the doubling of PRTs sounds impressive, it actually comes out to just over 150 civilians, a drop in the bucket for what is really required.”

Singer sees a shortage in new equipment required for dealing with IED’s. “ electronic jammers that disrupt signals sent by insurgents to explode improvised explosive devices, or vehicles like the Cougar or the M117, which, unlike the Humvee, are designed to protect against mines and explosives.”

Singer is careful to point out that the troops will suck up longer and multiple deployments and even the lack of new generation equipment but at some point the effect will be felt.

“A fear voiced by military officers is of an increasing number of troops voting with their feet in the years ahead because of unmet expectations and the sense that there are only so many times one can deploy and redeploy. The more the force feels that promises to it have been broken, the more we must worry that the force itself becomes broken.”

Only on Slogger
Latest Cartoon: The Civilian Defense Reserve Corps
01/29/2007 1:20 PM ET

To learn more about Ted Rall, visit his Web site.

Link To Report
"Is Former Iraqi Propaganda Minister Inhabiting the Soul of Our VP?"
01/27/2007 5:35 PM ET
Click here for Greg Mitchell's report.
Insight
"Iraq Is The Schism In The Electorate Today"
01/26/2007 1:00 PM ET
Jonathan Singer of My Direct Democracy has an interesting posting on his blog, discussing whether Iraq will be an election issue or not.

Excerpt: "Over in Breaking Blue Matt makes an interesting catch that bears expanding on: According to an article today in The Politico by Ben Smith, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer believes that the 2008 elections will not center on the issue of Iraq. To be specific, Schumer told Smith, "I think Iraq will not be as strong an issue in the 2008 elections," and that he believes that "the surge will fail and the president will have no choice but to begin removing troops."

Leaving aside, for a moment, whether or not the President will admit that his surge is a failure and will begin to redeploy troops out of Iraq before the election, it's instructive to take a look at how public sentiments currently stand on American involvement in Iraq, not only in terms of sheer numbers, with somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent of the country disapproving of the war, but also in terms of what these numbes mean. Over at the Mystery Pollster blog on Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal writes the following:

You rarely see media pollsters cite correlation coefficients in their reports. On the other hand, you rarely see a correlation as strong as the one ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer cites in his tour de force summary of public attitudes on the State of the Union:

The root of Bush's problems can be summed up in three words: Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. It drives his unpopularity. Among people who oppose the war, a mere 10 percent approve of Bush's job performance; among war supporters, three-quarters approve. The correlation between attitudes on the war and on Bush is a near-perfect .98.

The extraordinary polarizing effect of the Iraq War explains more than Bush's problems. It is also the lens through which Americans currently view much of our national politics. While pollsters have been making that point since the 2004 elections, the dominance of the Iraq War on our politics has obviously intensified. Right now, for better or worse, it's all about Iraq.

It would be difficult to illustrate more clearly, beyond Langer's numbers cited by Blumenthal, that Iraq is the schism within the electorate today.

Al-Mahdi Wants Iran, Other Neighbors, to Engage in Regional Forum
01/25/2007 3:49 PM ET
The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland provided the backdrop for an engaging Iraq debate today, with Iraqi vice- president, Adil Abd al-Mahdi, calling for a forum of Iraq's neighbors and other interested countries to discuss cooperative measures to stem regional tensions.

Al-Mahdi condemned "old policies... of fighting others" and declared: "Neighbouring countries should be partners." One principle should be non-interference in each other’s affairs. Asked whether Iran would accept Iraq’s definition of partnership, the vice-president--who had earlier greeted Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami among the participants in Davos--affirmed: "I see no reason why Iran should not." Session Chair Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations, USA, noted that a similar forum had worked to solve problems in Afghanistan.

The panelists for the Iraq: Uniting for Stability discussion--including Adnan Pachachi, Member of Parliament, Iraqi National Assembly, a former President--agreed that effective protection of minorities and a natural security force loyal only to the government are the keys to achieving stability in Iraq. Pachachi noted that Iraq’s government is currently divided among factionalist Ministers, some tied to the armed groups.

Reminded that many observers see equitable distribution of oil revenues as an essential element for peace, al-Mahdi reported that a new law providing for fair distribution is in "an advanced stage" with final provisions being discussed. A road map sets out steps for sharing political decision-making, not just ministries, among Iraq’s communities.

Soldier Mom
Soldiers: "Real Americans W/ Real Families, People Who Love Them"
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/25/2007 2:33 PM ET
The first time your child is deployed, the letters home are all happy letters. They never tell you of the danger they are in, if they complain at all, it is about the food, or things they can't get. It isn't until they come home that they tell you about the close calls they had, the friend that died. But after multiple deployments, my son knows that I know the realities of life on a battlefield. Now he is more likely to tell me of the mission he just returned from, the successes and the failures, what worked and what did not.

The email he sent me this week told about the mission they had just returned from. They had secured and cleared a village; forcing the insurgent into the canals around the village, and away from the villagers for the battle. They were able to draw the insurgents into fighting them on their own terms.

They were able to do this, destroying no homes or built-up structures, like mosques. My son took great pride in that fact. He feels they are making progress, that they figuring out how to win this war. But my son is out in the provinces and not in Baghdad; an urban battlefield, where fighting insurgents is very different.

Every morning we awake to see new images of the violence that occurred in the city while we were asleep. And I fear that violence will get even worse as we move from the Sunni dominated neighborhoods into the Shiite controlled neighborhoods. That is a much more difficult battle for our soldiers.

Back in Washington, our politicians are having their own battle, deciding where they stand on the war. While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated the issue, the first troops of the surge had already arrived in Baghdad.

Soldiers are not ping-pong balls. They are real Americans, with families and people who love them. And when they die, we all lose the future potential they had to offer this country. At the beginning of the war, the president made the decision that the media would not be able to show the flag draped coffins returning from the war. Initially that decision annoyed me, for it seemed he wanted to hide the sacrifice our young men and women were making for their country.

But the side effect of that has been that the media now shows us photos of the soldiers, telling us their name, their rank, and often details of their lives. Instead of nameless flag draped coffins, each week we see real, young men and women, with faces often to young, who have died in this war. We are reminded these are real people who are dying.

The decisions made in Washington have real impact on the lives of our soldiers. Sen. Richard Lugar said, "We have the ability to require weekly updates from our diplomats and military commanders about the status in Iraq. We should be engaging the administration on almost a daily basis concerning the mission and needs of our troops?"

We should demand of the president precise explanations of his political and diplomatic strategy. We should conduct what amounts to a continuous audit of our economic assistance, to ensure that we are maximizing results."

The reality is that this president is going ahead with the surge; a non-binding resolution is not going to change that. Instead of picking sides on the surge issue, our politicians ought to spend their time making certain that the surge has a clear objective for our troops, that they are continuing to make progress in meeting that objective, and that our soldiers have all they need to achieve this mission.

My fear is that Congress will not provide oversight; they will simply pick sides and wait to see what happens in Iraq, hoping that when 2008 comes around, they were on the right side of the issue. The soldiers are not ping-pong balls, we cannot afford for those opposing the surge to be right, that it was a waste of soldiers' lives.

We need them to take action now; to make sure, right or wrong, this surge is not a waste of life. The surge is happening, and now we have to figure out how to make it work. My son's life, and the life of many other people's sons, depends on it.

--------

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of BellaOnline.com, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at IraqSoldierMom@gmail.com.

Full Report PDF
F.J. Bing West: Marines, Army Can't Wait For Strategic Clarity
01/23/2007 4:21 PM ET
F.J. Bing West, a former Marine and former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan likens the military’s mission in Iraq to “Waiting for Godot” in an extremely comprehensive 11-page article in Military Review. He says it is unwise to hope for “strategic clarity” that is unlikely to arrive.

The pdf of the article: West.pdf

He writes: Indeed, the level of pessimism among the policy-making elites, the Congress, and the press is astonishing. Having visited with 15 U.S. and Iraqi units in September and October, I am a solid five on a scale of one (disaster) to ten (success). He then paints a grim picture of an Iraq with a “feckless” government, divided between religious sects, unable to overcome decades of oppressive rule. But, he says, the fight should continue.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq, however, is real, evil, implacable, and dedicated to killing. collapsed Iraq would result in a wider, messier regional war. defeat for the United States would be more than a national humiliation; it would adversely affect trade, our economy, our domestic comity, and the willingness of other nations to ally with us. Losing is not an option.

So what is the mission today? To train Iraqi security forces capable of restoring a modicum of enduring stability. Whether this will be accompanied by a Western-style democracy or by a military controlling things behind the scenes, as was the case in Turkey and South Korea a few decades ago, remains to be seen.

And he concludes the 11-page essay — a wide-ranging critique, including words for the American media — with “four lessons” for the military to get through the rest of the war, and the aftermath:

• First, senior military leaders in Iraq should convey a common set of expectations about aggressive mission behavior for the duration of this politically divisive war.

• Second, we have to evaluate our military performance with candor, and not copy the politicians who refuse to acknowledge error—no one gets through life, war, or a football game without a lot of mistakes.

• Third, the social contract between the Soldier and the American public needs to be restored. The new secretary of defense should go out of his way to reaffirm the virtue of valor and urge the press and to do the same.

• Fourth, the competition for defense resources is going to be fierce. To lessen the budgetary cuts that follow after an unpopular war, a credible general officer must articulate a convincing strategy for land forces.

Liz Cheney Says Senator Has "Not So Much Steel in The Spine"
01/23/2007 4:00 PM ET
Liz Cheney, vice-president Dick Cheney's daughter, and former assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, hurled an insult at Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post, calling her spineless.

She writes that: "Sen. Hillary Clinton declared this weekend, " I'm in to win." Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency. I wish she felt the same way about the war."

She adds that: "I suppose Hillary Clinton's announcement was a sign of progress. In 2007, a woman can run for president and show the same level of courage and conviction about this war many of her male colleagues have. Steel in the spine? Not so much. America deserves better. It's time for everyone -- Republicans and Democrats -- to stop trying to find ways for America to quit. Victory is the only option. We must have the fortitude and the courage to do what it takes. In the words of Winston Churchill, we must deserve victory. We must be in it to win."

She asks all politicians who want to retreat from Iraq to consider the following:

· We are at war. America faces an existential threat.

· Quitting helps the terrorists.

· Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war.

· Retreat from Iraq hurts us in the broader war. What about Iran? There is no doubt that an American retreat from Iraq will embolden Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making it even less likely that the Iranian president will bend to the will of the international community and halt his nuclear weapons program.

· Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them.

Insight
Weekly Standard: "Hillary and Co Should Hear Him Out"
01/23/2007 1:51 PM ET
Fred Kagan and William Kristol write in the Weekly Standard, saying that Senator Hillary Clinton and others should hear Petraeus out.

A short excerpt:

"There is one man who should be recommending the size of American forces in Iraq, and that is the incoming commander, General Petraeus. Neither the Bush administration nor any collection of congressmen should preempt his professional evaluation of the situation and of the forces necessary to accomplish his mission. It is foolish and absurd for politicians to propose resolutions on American troop strength in Iraq before even hearing General Petraeus's voice in the debate. And when he has spoken, Senator Clinton and her colleagues should carefully weigh the burden they will take on themselves if they dismiss his advice."

Analysis
Says "Clear, Hold and Build"
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 01/23/2007 11:06 AM ET
The Clear, Hold and Build plan is a tired and failed synthesis of the Bush administration's lack of choices in the deadly theater of GWOT, the Pentagon and Beltway's need for expansion and the neocon's seeming unshakable concept of America's role as Globo-cop.>

When Petraeus puts his new Counterinsurgency Manual into action he will have the full support of the Bush adminstration. He puts into play a classic "pacify the natives" program that is designed to choke off support, movement and refuge for a old-fashioned guerilla movement. Petraeus will front the plan ultimately chosen by President Bush as this administration's version of "The Way Forward". Petraeus's plan has been jerry rigged to include tactics and strategy from an academic-penned fantasy entitled "Choosing Victory, A Plan for Success in Iraq". A neoconservative plan that lays out a long-term and depressing view of victory that requires longer deployments, greater expenditure of U.S. lives and dollars and an endless commitment to whatever government is running Iraq.

Regardless of the draconian neocon view of a locked down Iraq, General Petraeus is the right man for the job...if he is allowed to think on his feet, be flexible and put his considerate ground experience into play. In other words, Petraeus must be allowed to apply ground smarts even if it flies in the face of the neocon agenda. Plain speaking, smart commanders have historically been the anathema of the Bush administration and a trait that Petraeus is famous for having, based on his efforts in Mosul.

The high points of the "Clear, Hold and Build plan are simple:

-U.S. troop levels will increase over the next four months to 150,000 total (17,500 troops Baghdad and 4,000 to Anbar province). The build-up has already begun with the departure of the 82nd Airborne and increased deployment notices sent.

- Iraqi Army units will increase with units sent from Kurdistan and Basra to add one Iraqi Army Brigade to each of the nine sectors. The units are already moving into U.S. and Iraqi bases.

-Iraqi Police will be integrated into operations.

-Baghdad to be cordoned into 9 different sectors, the operation will begin in Sunni neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital such as Salman Pak and Abu Ghraib.

- Some districts are to be walled in with only one entrance in and out, some will have earth bermed walls to prevent movement outwards and inwards.

- There will be 27 high visibility "Joint Security Stations", essentially small fortified local bases staffed by US and Iraqi units an manned 24/7

- Troops to use “cordon and knock”, violent "no knock entries" will be replaced with more diplomatic entries but no discussion of the negative use of air strikes in built up areas.

- Ideally insurgents will be forced out of the secured zones, residents will be issued with IDs and provided protection. This was done in Fallujah with little to no long term success

- Reconstruction programs will employ locals, reducing the number of available insurgents recruits and lowering hostility.

- The unemployed will be put to work in the hope of reducing the incentives for extremism as part of the third tier of the policy of pacification.

- Finally Iraqi troops will increase their peacekeeping skills due to direct U.S. involvement and they will carry on security operations by themselves.

The problem is that Petraeus will not be replaying his successful role as Warlord of Mosul. Petraeus simply went against many of Rumsfeld's and Bremer's edicts and ran Mosul as his own fiefdom, rewarding those who helped, punishing those who didn't. Bottom line i that his methods worked...until he left.

Petraeus will now be in the middle of an insurgency...but more likely he will also be in the middle of what some call a civil war. A war that is focused on ethnic cleansing not attacking U.S. assets. A civil war that is partially abetted by the current Iraqi government. Yes, there are hostile groups that will attack U.S. interests but the battle for Baghdad is now one of the Shia majority versus the Sunni minority. A battle that cannot be won by simply locking down violent neighborhoods.

There are upsides; better intelligence will be gathered, a softer stick will be used and perhaps a more enlightened understanding of what freedom to the Iraqi's actually means will be sent back to the White House. Freedom in Iraqi terms may be not be a U.S.-centric future but an pan-Arab one with closer ties to Iran and Syria and hostility to U.S. allies like Turkey and Israel. There are wild cards; Saudi Arabia may increase its covert support for Sunni insurgent groups, Shias may openly revolt against their own government cracking down on them and there is still no solution for the growing outflow of Iraqis into Syria and Jordan. At best the plan is similar to a prison lock down, the prisoners patiently outwaiting their jailers while their cels are searched until they can resume their internal violent machinations.

What They Don't Tell You

- The "Strongman" option has been abandoned. Former Baathist and Saddam security head Iyad Allawi has had his CIA-funded personal protection detail pulled and has moved to Amman, Jordan.

-There may be spectacular high tech violence meted out in built-up areas. Air strikes, smaller smart bombs, heavy artillery, AC 130 gunships and even the F-22A Raptor are being readied for use inside Baghdad.

- Many of Petraeus' published wisdom, warnings and writings directly contradict what is about to happen (see the Slogger stories on Petraeus and his advise)

- Iraq is much of the way through ethnic cleansing. The Kurds have literally created a Kurdish nation in the north. The Shia's are very successful in pushing Sunni's westward and the south is in effect a Shia region.

The Petraeus project or Bush's Way Forward, flys directly in the face of the Baker Hamilton report by welding on a flawed fatal twist, "pacify-in-place" to a standard "draining the ocean" tactic.

The clearing or cleansing method has been tried by the U.S. in Iraq many, many times with little success. The excuse has always been the inability to hold secured areas. The new tactic is evidence of a how Bush has embraced a neocon written plan that assumes that a)insurgents are somehow different than the general population (ie an outside funded and sparked event) and that b) Iraqis will magically take over the efforts and commitments of the U.S. miltiary even thought Iraqi security forces clearly lack the resources, cohesion and even purpose of the Bush administration.

This summer's progenitor; "Operation Forward Together" failed when Iraqi troops did not arrive to support the multi-staged clearing events. Cleansing in place is difficult since the insurgents can simply go dark, patiently waiting for the operation to end. City after city, district after district has been searched, cleaned and then simply returned to the control of the violent groups who live there.

The author of the latest reiteration "Choosing Victory,"plan is 36 year old Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute . Kagan is a major supporter of Petraeus and the architect of the "surge" idea

- Petraeus is the chief architect of the Army's new Counterinsurgency manual based on traditional counter insurgency tactics but he is not fighting an insurgency, but rather a conflict that increasingly looks like a Shia government condoned cleansing operation

-the "Surge" also is lockstepped with increased expenditures and added value for military equipment manufacturers and supplies.

- The plan will involved increasing contractors and civilian roles in the reconstruction, a move hinted at in Bush's speech and in Petraeus' questioning but not quantified in numbers or dollars.

-There is no mention of what will happen to the thousands of young men who are currently fighting against each other and the U.S./Iraqi forces. Will they be detained in large concentration camps, tried for crimes or encouraged to fight and be killed as in Fallujah?

The concept of isolating villagers into safe zones and fighting insurgents in the outlands has been the standard counter insurgency concept since the British used the idea in Malaya, which itself was a less brutal modification of the British tactic used against the Boer's in South Africa. In that instance hostile villagers were resettled in armed prisons called "concentration camps". A tactic used by the Americans against the Japanese in World Two and by the Nazis against the Jews, insurgents and ethnic minorities in Germany. Concentration camps work, but only when they population is displaced leaving a clear battleground and disrupted support networks.

The US used this tactic in Vietnam to create "strategic hamlets", Israel concentrates Palestinians and Indonesia and China have launched major concentration and resettlement programs to reduce insurgent levels in hostile regions.

The most recent use of this tactic has been in Russia where "Zachystas" or cleansing operations were used against villages in Chechnya. But even with Russia's brutal tactics, the region may be stumbling back into life but the war goes on 12 years after it began.

The neocons are right that if America "stays the course" and applies endless resources to solving insurgencies, we can "win the war on terror". The problem is that they are shooting for the moon, with a direction but no clear deadline, cost or victory date. We all wish Petraeus luck, Baghdad and Iraq needs security.

Exclusive
In Message to IraqSlogger, Professor Writes of Horror Stories
01/22/2007 07:41 AM ET
A woman who teaches at Baghdad University has written to IraqSlogger about kidnapping. IraqSlogger warns that some of her views might be upsetting and are only her own views. They are important, however, in that they represent the views of many Iraqis, and must be understood if Iraqis are to be understood. Terror rules life in Iraq and fantastic rumors spread like wildfire in the absence of good information. In particular, conspiracy theories involving Jews are widespread among both Sunnis and Shias in Iraq and are often perpetuated in mosque sermons as well. Some of this is a legacy of the former regime. The writer also clearly sympathizes with Saddam Hussein, but this too is typical of a significant minority in Iraq. All this reflects the extent to which Iraqis are not in control of their fate and struggle to understand the forces such as Saddam, the Americans, terrorists, militias and others, who have controlled their lives.

“Kidnapping is a new phenomenon that has become known to us following the American occupation. It widely affects all the people, ordinary people, journalists, artists and the educated... etc. As for us, we the professors of the universities are threatened directly or indirectly. For instance, during this month a professor in the Mathematics Department was kidnapped a week ago. Months before, a professor from the Geography Department was nearly kidnapped but God rescued him. This professor used to live in the professors’ complex (a place inside the university provided by the government to house professors) and he was going to the university teaching campus in a van from his home. In the van there were several other university professors and more in another van that was driving ahead of them. An armed group stopped one of the two vans. This armed group asked all the teachers to step off the van and asked by name for this professor in the Geography Department. The armed men inspected all the teachers and took their identity cards to find him. The teachers in that van told the armed men that the professor (who they were looking for) was not in this van but in the second van behind them. When the armed men left the first van the teachers alarmed the other van in which the wanted professor was sitting, and that van changed direction and escaped. The professor fled from the van, then fled from his house and his country, leaving Iraq, his work, his home and all his belongings.

A girlfriend of mine is a professor in the same department I teach in. Her father and brother were abducted together from their house in the Shaab district after the curfew had already begun, on the day of the execution of the President and our leader Saddam Hussein (God have mercy upon his soul). A group of Iraqi policemen driving a car raided their house and kidnapped her father, her brother and some other men from the same street. Two weeks later, their bodies were found in the morgue. Mind you, they were Baath Party members (who were peaceful men) during the time of Saddam. Only God knows what it is happening in my country. I heard some eyewitnesses in my neighborhood in Baghdad saying that they have seen an American helicopter deploying a group of Afghans in Baghdad to kill, kidnap and bomb. Everyone knows, even our despicable government knows, that the Jews and the Americans bring the terrorists and the Afghans who amazingly spread now in Baghdad.”

Analysis
Seyid Hassan Nasrallah in Wide Ranging Interview
By NIR ROSEN, AMER MOHSEN 01/21/2007 8:28 PM ET
On Friday the 19th of January, Lebanese Hizbullah's Secretary General Seyid Hassan Nasrallah was interviewed by
Seyid Hassan Nasrallah
Seyid Hassan Nasrallah
Arab Satellite channel al Manar that is supported by his movement. Although the bulk of his interview focused on internal Lebanese politics, Hizbullah perceives the conflict in Lebanon as part of a wider American project for the “New Middle East” that also includes the occupation of Palestine and Iraq. Just as American policy in Lebanon cannot be divorced from its wider policy in the Middle East or the Muslim world, so too is the increasing sectarianism in Lebanon linked to the civil war in Iraq and its effects on relations between Sunnis and Shias in the region.

The American government has accused Hizbullah of supporting the Mahdi Army militia in Iraq, arming and training the Shia footsoldiers of Muqtada al Sadr. They have offered no proof however, and given the pattern of American statements on Iraq, it must be treated with extreme skepticism. American and British officials accused Hizbullah of sending members to Iraq during the 2003 American war that overthrew Saddam Hussein. They later accused Hizbullah of doing so again in 2004 and most recently in late 2006, when Hizbullah’s victory in the July war in Lebanon put it under the American crosshairs once more.

When the American military besieged and attacked the holy Shia city of Najaf in May 2004, Seyid Hassan offered assistance to Muqtada’s Shia resistance fighters. Muqtada al Sadr recently proclaimed his allegiance to Hizbullah during the Israeli war on Lebanon in July of 2006. Muqtada has been seeking to emulate Seyid Hassan’s movement and leadership style since his rise to power in April 2003. His supporters sold posters showing Muqtada together with Seyid Hassan and modeled their militia on Hizbullah, though unsuccessfully, since unlike Hizbullah, the Mahdi Army is sectarian and engages in attacks against civilians.

Iraq has also come to Lebanon. Possibly hundreds of fighters from Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps flocked to Iraq to fight the American occupiers, most never returning, but some made their way back. They belonged to movements such as Jund al Sham and Usbat al Ansar. Lebanese Salafis from northern Lebanon also fought in Iraq and some returned to Tripoli and its environs. A new group, calling itself al Qaeda fi Bilad as-Sham, or al Qaeda in the lands of the Levant, emerged following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. In January 2006 former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi declared his movement’s responsibility for missile attack on Israel launched from southern Lebanon. Zarqawi also condemned Hizbullah for “protecting the Zionist enemy against the strikes of the Mujahedin in Lebanon,” an usual accusation but true in the sense that Hizbullah jealously guards the South as its own and prevents other groups from operating there. Zarqawi’s last statement denounced Hizbullah and specifically addressed Sunni concerns in Lebanon. In the protests that followed the Danish cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhamad, some Lebanese clerics chanted in support of Zarqawi, as if seeking to adopt him as their symbol. Lebanese Sunnis have also been particularly incensed by the execution of Saddam that aroused so much sectarian anger in the Muslim world.

So it was no surprise that Seyid Hassan’s long interview dealt with Iraq and what American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has called the New Middle East. “In short, the ‘New Middle East’ signifies a collection of statelets that are divided along religious, sectarian and racial lines,” Seyid Hassan explained, “from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Iran to Turkey to Afghanistan to Pakistan; all the way to Saudi Arabia and Yemen and the rest of the Gulf States, reaching North Africa. And here...I would like to warn everyone in the Arab and Islamic World, whichever sect or religion they identify with, whether they be Muslim or Christian, Shia or Sunni or Druze, whichever race they belong to, Arabs, Kurds, Turks, etc... Whoever believes that the ‘New Middle East’ will grant him his own independent state, that may be the case, but they should not ignore that a founding pillar of the ‘New Middle East’ is continuous conflict between these statelets.” Seyid Hassan added: “What that means is that no sect or religion or ethnicity in the region will be given a secure state with secure borders, or an internally stable country, instead, we will witness the erection of statelets that remain in a condition of constant infighting and conflict.”

On Iraq, Seyid Hassan added: “I ask all the Sunni brothers in the Arab and Islamic Worlds, no matter what their reaction was to the circumstances of the execution of the ex-Iraqi President; whether they have a position against the ruling on principle, or whether they have a different assessment of the personality of the man (Saddam). Or those who had a problem with the timing or the circumstances of the execution, whatever their assessment is, I ask them to place the responsibility on the side that did the execution, and not place the responsibility on all the Shias in Iraq and the rest of the world. Let us agree on a principle, and let us say that if I made a mistake “I made a mistake”, and not all the Shias in the world. And if Doctor X or Sheikh Y committed an error, it is their fault, and not that of all Sunnis. That is how we should proceed if we have a regard for the Arab and Islamic and national interests.”

He added: “here I direct a request to Mr. Nuri al Maliki (Iraqi Prime Minister), because the Americans have opened this dossier and left the Iraqi government alone to weather its consequences. Let him have the courage to show the American role in this issue. Today, it is starting to appear as if Shias are killing Sunnis in this region, and the Americans intervene to protect the Sunnis in the Arab World from the Shiism of Iraq. This is the image that emerged after the incident (the execution). Let him (Maliki) be clear and describe the American role in the execution, in the decision of the execution, in the details of the execution, there are serious questions. The Iraqi ex-president was in the hand of the Americans, why did they hand him to the Iraqi government a day or two before the Eid? What were they (the Iraqis) told? And how was the execution filmed? And who were those shouting slogans? Did they do it on their own volition or were they instructed to do so? Who filmed and who leaked the film? And everyone knew that such mistakes would be used to instigate broad tensions in the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

Seyid Hassan: “the real issue today is that we witness the tragedy of a people called the Iraqi people: Shias and Sunnis and Kurds and Turkomen and all the constituents of the Iraqi people. This people has been living a painful and destructive tragedy for over thirty five years, no people in the region has suffered like the Iraqis, before the war and after the war and during the war. We should all be moved, not just by a single execution, but by the images of the bodies of children and women and men that are being strewn by car bombs and kidnappings and assassinations, thrown in the waterways and the Tigris. Our premise for dealing with the Iraqi situation should be to salvage it, because if we do, we would not only be saving the Iraqi people, but the entire Nation. The brothers in Iraq, Sunnis and Shias, seem to think that their salvation is in the political process. If I were to be asked, following the examples of the Lebanese experience and similar ones around the world, I would say that the Americans did not come to establish a democracy in Iraq, or even to establish a democratic central state, the Americans came to divide Iraq and the entire region. And the American occupation in Iraq is a threat to the Iraqi people. Since day one our call was clear: we support the option of the Iraqi resistance, in all its dimensions and the military resistance first and foremost. We believe that the salvation of Iraq begins with the adoption of the armed resistance and struggle against the forces of the occupation.”

He added: “I am saddened to say that in the context of sectarian agitation that has been adopted in the last couple of months; some have tried to introduce the happenings in Iraq into the Lebanese scene. It is bizarre here that some politicians in Lebanon who are intimately tied to the US, and who are known to coordinate closely with the Americans, these politicians are agitating Sunnis against Shias under the pretext that Shias are American collaborators. This is a bizarre, surreal contradiction. What I say is that we should keep the tensions of the Iraqi scene in Iraq and besiege their effects, and go there together to solve them.”

Blogosphere
Says "Mainstream Media Is Dead Wrong" On Iraq
01/20/2007 7:00 PM ET
Arianna Huffington has bones to pick with the journalists covering Iraq. On Huffington Post she writes: "Divorced from the reality of what's going on in Iraq. Wedded to a deluded perception of the war. Unwilling to acknowledge widespread and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Sound like anyone you know? No, I'm not talking about President Bush -- though it's certainly true of him as well. I'm talking about the mainstream media, and their relentless depiction of the Iraq war as a left/right issue, even as the facts give lie to this hoary framing."
Insight
Says "America Will Emerge A Better Nation"
01/20/2007 5:00 PM ET
Deepak Chopra talks about the best things in Iraq, in his latest posting on Intentblog.

An excerpt is below, though the whole piece is worth reading.

He says: "Although there are no scraps of good news from Iraq, America will emerge from the debacle eventually, and it will do so a changed nation. In many ways, the U.S. could become a better nation. Events are already unfolding that way in several areas:

--The Bush White House gave up its program of wiretapping without legal sanction. They offered no reason for putting wiretapping back under the scrutiny of the courts (where they belonged in the first place).

-- A recent broad study of suicide bombings in the world--of which there have been between 350-450 since 1991, including both the Middle East and Sri Lanka--has led to a surprising finding. Rather than being chiefly motivated by religious fanaticism, suicide bombers are more likely to be outraged by foreign occupation.

If that's true, the U.S. has a chance to achieve some real security without losing more lives. This nation can pull its military presence out of the Middle East, reducing it to the bare minimum.

-- The Iraq war has struck a blow against de facto colonialism. The right-wingers who plunged us into the conflict were staging the modern equivalent of gun-boat diplomacy...It's a mistake this country is much less likely to repeat again soon.

Ultimately, these small pieces of good news, should they shape the future, amount to little until the greatest lesson of Iraq is learned. America is headed for disaster if it keeps asserting itself as a military super power. Few people noticed a small item that appeared in the news last December, where it was noted that once again the U.S. was the largest arms dealer in the world. It is shameful that our economy remains tied up with militarism and mechanized death. One hopes that the next generation will turn the tide around, because as long as war is good for business, our ideals will continue to suffocate.

Video
PBS Documentary Set to Air in April
01/18/2007 4:31 PM ET

This preview clip of The War in Iraq, a forthcoming edition of PBS's "America at a Crossroads" series, has been making its way around the Internet this week.

It is a fascinating bit of footage, considering that it follows neocon Richard Perle, former head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, as he attends an anti-war rally in Washington. The most amazing part is that Perle wasn't set upon by the protestors, and in fact seems to be applauded by them as the clip begins (one has to wonder if they actually knew who he was).

The bulk of the clip shows a soldier's anti-war wife patiently questioning Perle about the reasons for the Iraq invasion. She refers to the war as being one based on lies because of the way it was sold to the American people as being somehow connected to 9/11. Perle's response: "I didn't hear statements to the effect that Iraq was responsible for 9/11."

While true that no member of the Administration ever said that Saddam 'ordered' 9/11, it is a convenient re-writing of history to pretend that this was not an important element of the narrative the Bush Administration used to drum up public support for the invasion.

Perle forgets the common talking point regularly used by many Administration principals was that (paraphrased), 'This is a fight that started on 9/11.' Dick Cheney continued to cite the fabled Prague meeting between Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer long after the event had been conclusively disproven by the CIA and Czech government. James Woolsey, Perle's fellow member on the Defense Policy Board, always had a list of Saddam-al Qaeda connections he liked to cite on his regular cable news talking head appearances in the run-up to the war.

In Bush's Fall 2002 nationwide speaking tour, one regular section of his stump speech tried to tie Saddam to 9/11. This quote is from his November 1, 2002 speech in Pennsylvania:

"The United States will lead a mighty coalition of freedom-loving nations and disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

See, I can't imagine what was going through the mind of this enemy when they hit us. They probably thought the national religion was materialism, that we were so selfish and so self-absorbed that after 9/11/2001 this mighty nation would take a couple of steps back and file a lawsuit."

Immediately prior to the invasion, the President's March 18, 2003 letter to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate continued to make the connection:

"Acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 (Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq) is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Therefore, though Perle may not technically be lying when he says that no member of the Administration said that "Iraq was responsible for 9/11," that is most certainly the impression their public statements were intended to give the American public.

The War in Iraq is scheduled to broadcast on PBS in April, but an advanced preview will be held next Wednesday at NYC's 92nd St. Y.

Insight
Neither Party Eager To Hasten Inevitable Reckoning
01/17/2007 3:24 PM ET
Middle East Report online released its opinion on President Bush's plan for troop surge.

They write: President George W. Bush again made it clear that his successor will be the one to extricate US troops from their Mesopotamian entanglement -- and to cope with the anarchy that the United States will probably leave behind in Iraq itself. Democrats in Congress, despite their clear electoral mandate to de-escalate the war, are avoiding bold measures so as to hang the Iraq albatross exclusively around Bush's neck. But the partisan blame game is only the surface of the sordid spectacle that is US policy in Iraq and its attendant discourse. Withdrawal from Iraq would indeed have great strategic costs for the US, and neither party is eager to hasten the inevitable reckoning.

Blogosphere
Columnist/Blogger Files Initial Reports, Promises Much More
By EASON JORDAN 01/17/2007 1:59 PM ET
Michelle Malkin and her colleague Bryan Preston are back from their Baghdad tour, and they are busy filing blog and video and syndicated column reports on their time in Iraq. An excerpt from Michelle Malkin's blog post today:

Bryan's first post-trip essay, a thorough assessment of "mistakes, fumbles and ways forward to win--and what victory actually looks like," is here. He's also got video stills of our encounters with shady operators on both sides of the sectarian divide while on patrol with U.S. troops.

My syndicated column today provides an overview of the counterinsurgency efforts we witnessed first-hand--and I'm posting the column below, illustrated with photos I took throughout the trip.

We'll report on our investigation of the Associated Press's media malpractice in an upcoming New York Post exclusive.

And we'll both be publishing much more over the next several days, including more in-depth interviews with, and profiles of, the troops at our embed unit on Forward Operating Base Justice--plus some lighter moments on our journey involving The Stinky Pants, our Chai drink-a-thon, an appearance by Che Guevara, and my Helmet Bobblehead imitation. We have tons of folks to thank (I'm hoping to get in touch with each and every one you personally) and I'll have reflections on the embed program, new media, and the info wars at the end of our series.

Her full blog posting, complete with 10 photos, is a must-read. Her first Hot Air video report is here.

Michelle says she "left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve."

Michelle posted an addendum to her blog post as part of her syndicated column. In the addendum, she addresses her critics and promises video reporting on the Jamil Hussein case. Read it.

While I take issue with some of what Michelle wrote, my only major quibble with her report is her argument that the counterinsurgency battle must be won in part because "It’s about keeping Americans safe--by sending a message that the mightiest military in the world cannot and will not be outwitted and outlasted by the fleas." On that basis, the U.S. would have stayed on in Somalia after "Black Hawk down" until total victory. In some conflicts, there comes a time when the fight is not worth the price in lives and expense. Americans want America to win, now and always. But Iraqi insurgents are not themselves a threat to U.S. shores. Iraqi insurgents are virtually all home-grown, want the U.S. out of their country, and express no desire to take their fight to the U.S. mainland. Al Qaeda is the threat, and Al Qaeda must be wiped out. Most Americans have made it clear they oppose the "surge" and want U.S. military involvement in this conflict to wind down regardless of whether the insurgent "fleas" are defeated. No doubt the insurgency in Iraq will continue in some form at least until the U.S. departs. And keep in mind most of the killing now in Iraq is not insurgency-related violence but is Iraqi-on-Iraqi sectarian bloodshed -- de facto civil war. Most Americans do not want the U.S. military embroiled in an Iraqi civil war.

Michelle and I have had our differences and surely will continue to disagree on occasion. That said, I salute and congratulate Michelle and Bryan for making the trip, am pleased they emerged safely, and I welcome them home.

Steve Coll Re-Visits McGeorge Bundy's Advice to Johnson
01/16/2007 4:57 PM ET
In February 1965, McGeorge Bundy wrote Pres. Johnson a memo reassuring him that the path of escalation they were pursuing was the correct one for political purposes, even though Bundy himself believed there to be only a 25% chance the strategy would stabilize the situation in SE Asia.

"Even if it fails, the policy will be worth it. At a minimum it will damp down the charge that we did not do all that we could have done, and this charge will be important in many countries, including our own."

In the latest New Yorker, Steve Coll makes the case that a neo-Bundyesque view has pervaded the Administration's deliberations for the 'way forward' in Iraq.

An Administration formulating foreign policy to assuage domestic political concerns? Shocking!

Soldier Mom
Soldier Mom Calls on US Govt to Spend More to Protect Troops
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/15/2007 11:40 PM ET
The Baltimore Sun featured an article about the how some soldiers are being sent into battle without the safest armored vehicles. If you even saw the article, you probably didn't pay much attention to it. But I, like a lot of military families, immediately sent off an email to my son. What kind of armored vehicle does he ride in? Is he in the safest armored vehicle? Unfortunately, my son is out of email contact for a few weeks, so I have to wait for my answer. I looked at the photos he has sent me, no Humvees or other vehicles in the background, so no clues there. I still have some sleepless nights ahead of me before I get my answer.

Most soldiers patrol in the old M1114 Humvees. It has a flat bottom and that absorbs the impact from the IEDs. There are twenty thousand of the old Humvees in Iraq. The newer Cougars and M117 Armored Security Vehicles, known as MRAPs, are built with a V-shaped hull that deflects the blast outward. There are fewer than one thousand of the newer MRAP armored security vehicles in Iraq. A Marine commander said that, "If you are hit by an IED, your chance of survival is four or five times greater in an MRAP than in a M1114." Ok, that's enough for me, I want my son in an MRAP armored security vehicle instead of a M1114 Humvee. But Armored security vehicles are not like body armor or helmet inserts, I can't just hold a car wash a raise the five hundred thousand to seven hundred thousand dollars each one costs. Even if I could, where would I buy one, how would I send it to him? Would the Army let him use it? Besides, I know my son. He would insist I buy one for everyone.

If that article wasn't enough to give a mother an anxiety attack, MSNBC's Countdown did a story on Trophy, the Israeli built anti-RPG system. This system can stop RPGs, rocket propelled grenades ninety-eight percent of the time. Trophy is battle-tested and ready to be deployed today. The Army fears that the purchase of Trophy systems will jeopardize the development of its Future Combat System, which has an anti-RPG component. The Future Combat system will not be battlefield ready before 2011. I know that policy decisions are difficult and budgets are not unlimited. In some ways, I am glad these decisions are not mine to make. I would buy Trophy today to keep my son safe. But I will feel enormous guilt if in 2011 someone else child lost his life on a battlefield because state of the art equipment was not developed to keep him safe because they spent the money buying Trophy to keep my son safe in 2007.

This is the first major long-term military conflict since the Mexican American war in 1846-1848 that American have not been asked to pay a special tax to fund the war; no additional tax for individual citizens, no excess profit tax for corporations. It isn't the private citizen or the corporations that are being asked to sacrifice in this war. This month, we will be getting our W-2s and filling out our tax forms. We will be looking at how much we have to pay, how much refund we will receive. On that form there is a box you can check if you want three dollars of your tax burden to be allocated to paying for presidential election campaigns. I wonder if there was a box on the form that you could check if you wanted to pay for the war, if you wanted to pay for our soldiers to have the best equipment to keep them safe; how many Americans would check that box?

--------

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor Editor of BellaOnline.com, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at IraqSoldierMom@gmail.com.

Insight
Attacking Iran May Be the Administration's Next Move
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 01/14/2007 1:31 PM ET
It could be said that the war with Iran began on November 4, 1979 when Iranian Revolutionary Guards kidnapped 66 people, mostly U.S. Embassy workers. The issue was resolved 444 days later on January 20th, 1981, when the Iranians announced they would release the remaining hostages twenty minutes after Ronald Reagan took office.

Since then the relationship between Iran and the U.S. has been contentious but has never escalated into full scale warfare. Both sides have waged a proxy war through supporting terrorist or dissident groups to undermine the efforts of their respective enemy. Many people actually question why our war on terror did not begin with America's most visible enemy. is it Iran's skill at employing proxy forces to conduct terrorist acts against the U.S. that may have stayed President Bush's hand, the impact of Iranian oil embargoes or the simple lack of troops required to subdue the well armed nation?

The Arab Times Online echoes a popular perception and well founded speculation in the military community that a sea and airborne attack is in the works. Ahmed Al-Jarallah, Editor-in-Chief makes the case for a carrier and sub based attack against Iranian nuclear facilities and oil industry. Much speculation was triggered by President Bush's constant references and veiled threats towards Iran in his speeches. Global Security.org has an illuminating time line and some forward looking speculation on what windows are ideal for the attack on Iran They position the attack against the political purpose of the attacks taking the last window of opportunity out to inauguration day of January 20th, 2009.

"The new President is inaugurated. Depending on political calculation, a final window of opportunity to strike Iran opens during the transition from the old President the new. If Bush judged that his incoming successor lacked the resolve to take the necessary action, or if it were judged that blaming Bush would ease the way of the new President, there might be arguments for striking after the election but before the inauguration."
The Arab Times is making the same point that has been made in the media as far back as Seymour Hersh in a January 2005 New Yorker piece. Hersh has a history of being fed inside information by those who feel that the government may be involved in folly or deceit. Hersh's source says " “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

Hersh also mentions the take out of selected hard targets, many of them situated in the Eastern part of the country to keep them out of reach of Israeli attacks.

It was abundantly clear that when President Bush invented the "Axis of Evil" that Iran and North Korea were being put on notice. His clumsy rhetoric against the taliban and then Saddam Hussein resulted in military action.

The War on Terror seems to be unfolding in stages; Special Forces supporting mercenary and proxy forces in Afghanistan, "Big Army's" Invasion of Iraq, CIA Proxy and SAD forces patrolling HOA (Horn of Africa) leading to the takeover of Somalia, The Navy and Air Force destruction of Iran and perhaps culminating in a theatrical pyrotechnic final act, A Star Wars or non nuke ICBM/stealth attack of North Korea government and nuclear resources.

The recent hurried invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, movement of more naval assets into the region and the appointment of 62 year old Admiral. William Fallon to head CENTCOM are also important clues to this administration's next steps.

The US presence in Djibouti, the CIA station in Puntland and the robust actions to secure Somalia lend credence to an impending move. An Islamic hardline Somalian government can threaten the strategic sea lanes to the west and the 17,000 ships that travel through the narrow shipping lanes every year. To the east of the Arabian peninsula sit the Strait of Hormuz a 21 mile wide channel that has two one mile wide shipping lanes.

Iran has practiced plans to shut off the flow to the west More importantly the impending attack on Iran seems to be about oil, and Iran's ability to threaten the flow of it in the region. An industry former oil men like Cheney and Bush know well.

VP Dick Cheney points out our Achilles Heel in the region in an interview on today's Fox News Sunday; "they're pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons. They are in a position where they sit astride the Straits of Hormuz, where over 20 percent of the world's supply of oil transits every single day, over 18 million barrels a day." The "stand off" war tactic of employing air and sea-launched ordnance may reduce the short term casualties a land war could cause but may generate an escalated climate of fear as Iran reverts to their time proven tactic of attacks, bombings and revenge against U.S. assets, personnel and allies.

According to my sources in the special operations community we have been training and supporting Iranian dissident groups.There is support for Iranian Kurds, Baloochis, Turkmen and Arabs who currently provide the numerous amount of attacks inside Iran. There is the to be expected dissident organization there have been active surveillance activity via unmanned drones and human assets. There is also much buzz on the real threat: Israel. Much as Saddam's phantom chemical or nuke tipped SCUDs would pose a threat to Israel, Iran is considered Israel's arch enemy...and both sides have made it abundantly clear.

Strategically it appears that our reduction from 155 to 5 permanent bases in Iraq, escalation of troop strength, alliance with Pakistan and current assets in Afghanistan and long standing relationships with dissident groups in Iran will be critical to any hostile action. With Iran in a vice between U.S forces in Afghanistan and Iraq things may look good on a map but do not bode well in an international war on terror. Accordingly the U.S. has been cautious even though Iran (and North Korea) have increased their hostile stance.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US would attack groups "that are providing support through actions inside the territory of Iraq" He emphasized "that there is no need to attack targets in Iran itself," He then took a hard line and declared Iranian support of jihadists to be "unacceptable"

White House Spokesman Tony Snow described the rumors of an impending Iran attack as an "urban legend".

Although recent Iranian elections show a softening in the Iran hard line stance, the latest media tour from the Administration clearly puts Iran on notice and at the same time insists there is no impending military action directed towards Iran.

But it appears that indicators prove otherwise.

Insight
Viewpoint: "Most Dangerous Foreign Policy Since Vietnam"
01/14/2007 11:00 AM ET
Mark Pitzke of Germany's largest newsweekly magazine Der Spiegel writes a searing chronicle of Bush's last attempt to win the war in Iraq -- efforts that are meeting with great opposition. He says that Republicans are criticizing Bush with brutal candor, calling his new ideas for Iraq a disaster.

He writes: "Bush is almost completely isolated -- like Richard Nixon during his final days in office. Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, has ambitions to move into the White House. And since the race for electoral victory in 2008 has already begun, Mr. Hagel has no more time for losers -- even if one of those losers happens to be George W. Bush, his own president. That became brutally clear on Thursday in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which invited Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to explain President Bush's newest approach to Iraq. Despite being at pains to perform well, the conscientious emissary didn't get very far -- especially since five designated presidential candidates are sitting on the committee."

The Bush Plan
Major Criticism Of New Bush Plan
01/14/2007 08:20 AM ET
The view from Berlin on Bush's new Iraq plan for a troop surge appears to be getting widespread criticism from all the major daily newspapers in the country. Germany's largest newsweekly magazine Der Spiegel gives a sampling of all of the major daily papers and their reaction to Bush's new Iraq strategy.
Viewpoint: "Securing All The Oil Is The Aim"
01/13/2007 7:00 PM ET
A Canadian think tank gives its take on the real reason for the troop surge in Iraq. Chris Floyd, a fellow at The Center for Research on Globalization based in Quebec, says that: "The reason that George W. Bush insists that "victory" is achievable in Iraq is not because he is deluded or isolated or ignorant or detached from reality or ill-advised. No, it's that his definition of "victory" is different from those bruited about in his own rhetoric and in the ever-earnest disquisitions of the chattering classes in print and on-line. For Bush, victory is indeed at hand. It could come at any moment now, could already have been achieved by the time you read this. And the driving force behind his planned "surge" of American troops is the need to preserve those fruits of victory that are now ripening in his hand.

At any time within the next few days, the Iraqi Council of Ministers is expected to approve a new "hydrocarbon law" essentially drawn up by the Bush Administration and its U.K. lackey, the Independent on Sunday reports.

The new bill will "radically redraw the Iraqi oil industry and throw open the doors to the third-largest oil reserves in the world," say the paper, whose reporters have seen a draft of the new law. "It would allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil companies in the country since the industry was nationalized in 1972." If the government's parliamentary majority prevails, the law should take effect in March.

As the paper notes, the law will give Exxon, BP, Shell and other carbon cronies of the White House unprecedented sweetheart deals, allowing them to pump gargantuan profits from Iraq's nominally state-owned oilfields for decades to come.

This law has been in the works since the very beginning of the invasion -- indeed, since months before the invasion, when the Bush Administration brought in Phillip Carroll, former CEO of both Shell and Fluor, the politically-wired oil servicing firm, to devise "contingency plans" for divvying up Iraq's oil after the attack.

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. He is the author of the book, Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.

Insight
Washington Think Tank: "No Traditional Insurgency Conflict"
01/13/2007 4:00 PM ET
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has written an interesting analysis about the debate surrounding U.S. military strategy in Iraq. It raises legitimate questions about the current strategy in Iraq. The piece was written by Andrew Exum, who is a Soref fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on contemporary Middle Eastern insurgencies.

From the piece: Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz offers this classic directive: it is essential to understand the nature of the war you are fighting. To this end, the U.S. military in Iraq no longer faces a traditional insurgency conflict -- as those the French fought in Algeria or the United States fought in Vietnam -- in which one faction seeks to undermine and supplant the national government. Instead, the strategic landscape of Iraq today bears far more resemblance to the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s and 1980s, in which various sectarian militias battled each other for control of specific parts of the country. The Iraq war has indeed become a militia war.

Given this reality, does traditional U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine still apply to the current environment in Iraq? It is useful to compare the Iraqi militias to traditional insurgent groups. In general, insurgencies develop in stages. First, the insurgent group organizes and wins the support of the people, working to achieve political unity while at the same time establishing themselves as local military powers. Second, they equip military forces and begin insurgent operations. At the same time, they begin to administer part of the country, providing security, services, and government to the population among whom they live. Third and finally, they launch a maneuver war to defeat the opposition and establish themselves as the legitimate national authority

Soldier Mom
Weighing the Merits, Settling in for the Long Haul
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/12/2007 9:27 PM ET
We have finally heard the long-awaited surge speech from the president. Like most military families, I was waiting to hear what the president would ask of our soldiers. What was the mission? What would they have to do before they could come home? I didn't hear a lot about what our soldiers would have to do. I heard a lot about what the Iraqis would have to do. It seemed that the mission hasn't changed. It is still wait and support the Iraqis until they decide to stand up. When they stand up, we will stand down. So far, the Iraqis have not managed to stand up.

How do you get the Iraqis to stand up? President Bush reminded us that just over a year ago nearly twelve million Iraqis went to the polls to vote. He said they went to vote for a unified and democratic nation. Is a unified and democratic nation what the Iraqis voted for? The government they elected doesn't seem to have much interest in being a unity government, in sharing power with the minorities. If the Iraqis wanted unity and democracy, would our soldiers be refereeing sectarian violence between the Shias and Sunnis?

President Bush tells us that the Iraqis are ready to quell the violence, that they have a plan. They have had plans before. They haven't worked. The president says they didn't work because there weren't enough soldiers. We have sent more soldiers before; he is sending more soldiers again, but only twenty-thousand. Will twenty-thousand make a difference? The increase in soldiers is a tough one for me. Every additional soldier on the ground probably makes my son safer while he does his job. But, in the long run, will it be enough to quell the violence? Will it just escalate the war? Will it mean this deployment will be extended? Does having more soldiers on the ground, possibly making him safer, change the odds of his being killed or wounded if he has to stay there longer?

President Bush said that if the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people, and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. What does this mean? According to an ABC News/WP poll, fifty-eight percent of Americans think the war isn't worth it. Is there some magic number where the president will decide that the Iraqi government has lost the American people? As far as losing the Iraqi people, the government hardly has the support of all Iraqis. Many Iraqis feel shut out of the political process. That is why there is a civil war going on. Then what? What will the president do if the Iraqi government loses the support? Will he bring our soldiers home? Will he orchestrate another regime change? As the president pointed out, this is the government the Iraqis elected. We can't just hit the reset button and start the game over.

The Iraq Study Group recommended negotiating with Iran and Syria, but the president has chosen instead to send a carrier strike group to the region. I don't see how this helps to create stability in the region. I worry that the increase in firepower will result in the expansion of the war on terror to another front. I would feel better if we finished one war before beginning another. The president did commit to working with Congress to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps -- something necessary if we are going to continue to commit our troops at the level we have been. I wonder if Americans are wiling to pay more taxes to support a larger military. Will these new recruits be found by increasing enticements or lowering standards? No one wants their soldier on the battlefield serving next to a soldier who is not of the highest caliber. The president talked about the sacrifices of soldiers and their families, the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table. I heard nothing in the president's speech that gives me hope that there will not be lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table in the years to come.

-----------------

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor Editor of BellaOnline.com, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at IraqSoldierMom@gmail.com.

Video
Irate MSNBC Anchor/Commentator Lambasts Bush on Iraq
01/11/2007 10:29 PM ET
On his MNSBC "Countdown" show tonight (Thursday), Anchor Keith Olbermann unleashed a furious, scathing verbal assault on President Bush and his Iraq policies. The transcript doesn't do it justice. Must-see, especially since he appears close to coming unhinged near the end of his commentary.

Click here to see the nine-minute video.

Click here for the transcript.

Only on Slogger
Editorial Cartoonist Ted Rall: Bush's Iraq Follies
01/11/2007 6:31 PM ET
By Ted Rall

Learn more about Ted Rall at his Web site.

Analysis
FT Opinion: "Like Taking A Drink, Have To Take Another"
01/11/2007 4:05 PM ET
The Financial Times' chief foreign affairs commentator discusses the new Iraq strategy. Gideon Rachman writes about the troop escalation, reminding us of John F. Kennedy's response when asked to send troops to Vietnam. “The troops will march in; the bands will play; the crowds will cheer...Then we will be told we have to send in more troops. It’s like taking a drink. The effect wears off, and you have to take another."

The fear - as Kennedy explained - is that each escalation is never quite enough. The Americans will soon be feeling the need for another "drink" - more troops for Iraq. But for Mr Bush this is very much a case of "last orders". He may even have trouble getting this new troop request through Congress. And if this latest infusion of soldiers does not do the trick, it really is hard to believe that Congress would accept a further troop request. Nor is is clear where the soldiers would come from.

Says President in "Delusion and Denial"
01/11/2007 2:59 PM ET
The Financial Times publishes an editorial comment, saying George W. Bush’s new direction in Iraq is certainly not a strategy for victory, whatever that word, which is used ever more desperately by the US president, now means. The FT editorial says of a troop surge: It may be one last heave. It may be a cover for US withdrawal. But two things are quite clear. Right now, Mr Bush has the support of no more than one in four Americans for this so-called surge of an extra 20,000 or so troops. Very soon, as the already indecipherable ethnic and sectarian patchwork of Iraq is pulled further and even more bloodily to pieces, he will have none.

Second, this policy will not succeed in fixing an Iraq traumatised by tyranny and war and then broken by invasion and occupation. But it may end with the US “surging” into Iran – and taking the Middle East to a new level of mayhem that will spill into nearby regions and western capitals.

Mr Bush’s body language in the speech bespoke a chastened man. Yet, caught in a wilfully spun web of delusion and denial, he seems still unable to comprehend the depths of the debacle he has caused in Iraq.

Analysis
Dissecting Bush's Speech; A Graph by Graph Critique
By EASON JORDAN 01/11/2007 04:18 AM ET
President Bush's remarks are in regular typeface. Jordan's critique is in bold type.

Good evening. Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.

While a new U.S. strategy in Iraq is overdue, it's unclear whether whatever happens in Iraq will help make America and Americans safer. Polls show a growing majority of Americans reject Bush's claim that Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Polls also show the majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq has made the U.S. and the world less safe from terrorist attacks.

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

Democracy in Iraq, while to be applauded in principle, gave us an Iraqi prime minister whose primary sponsor is the biggest trouble-maker in Iraq: Moqtada al Sadr. Prime Minister Maliki panders to Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has been ruled enemy number one by the U.S. military in Iraq.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

Largely true, although simplistic and unfairly putting all the blame on Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists.

They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

Accurate, while failing to note those radical Shia elements (namely Sadr's gang) are part of the political process, hold dozens of seats in the Iraqi parliament, and are the Iraqi prime minister's biggest backers.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people - and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

Correct, and those mistakes are many. Certainly U.S. forces have performed heroically and sacrificed greatly.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

Yes, a U.S. strategy change is essential. Spare us the lip service to the Iraq Study Group, whose recommendations were largely rejected by the Bush Administration. No doubt "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States." But the U.S. has failed thus far, and it's highly unlikely nearly four years into this war that a genuine U.S. victory can be achieved there. So would it be a greater failure to up the ante, putting more lives at risk and spending tens of billions more U.S. taxpayer dollars?

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

Legitimate concerns. If, however, the U.S. feels compelled to attack our enemies where they plot to attack the U.S. mainland, Afghanistan and Pakistan are arguably bigger priorities.

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

This Iraqi government has put forward one plan after another to quell the violence -- and consistently failed to achieve its goal.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Here's a third reason: Until now, the Iraqi and U.S. governments and militaries haven not considered stopping sectarian violence in Baghdad their top priority. Evidence of that: the vast majority of U.S. and Iraqi military forces are not in the Baghdad area. U.S. and Iraqi forces have instead focused on fighting the traditional insurgency and al Qaeda. As for military commanders saying "this plan can work," that's far from an endorsement from military commanders, several of whom have made clear they oppose boosting troop levels in Iraq.

Now, let me explain the main elements of this effort. The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi army and national police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations; conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

The Iraqi government has consistently failed to deliver promised security forces. Now the Iraqi government is saying, effectively, "trust us, and we'll deliver this time." Iraqi officials say Kurds will make up a big part of the Iraqi reinforcements being sent to Baghdad. Here's a problem: most Kurds don't speak Arabic, making it difficult for them to gain the trust of the Arabic-speaking Shia and Sunni in Baghdad.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

"A strong commitment" is not a guarantee of a genuine willingness or ability to deliver on that promise. Note it's U.S. commanders -- not Iraqi officials -- saying the Iraqis need our help. Iraqi officials have made it clear they do not want more U.S. troops in Baghdad; this is a purely U.S. initative. If the U.S. commits additional forces, that should be done only as the Iraqi government delivers on their promises.

The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Okay. The U.S. is banking on the Iraqi government and security forces stepping up and delivering -- something they've failed to do thus far in Baghdad.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents - but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods - and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

It's a canard to blame all the violence in Baghdad on terrorists and insurgents. Most Baghdad violence is sectarian-driven -- Shia and Sunnis killing each other -- not violence aimed at killing Americans or bringing down the Iraqi government. Whether Maliki can and will deliver on a promise to permit U.S. forces to enter Sadr City, for example, remains to be seen. In recent months, he's opposed that.

I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people - and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The prime minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation."

Promises, promises. Maliki is not his own master. He is beholden to Sadr and others who made him prime minister.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet, over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace. And reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

Hope and pray.

Iraqi aid

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

Good. Finally.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

The Iraqi government consistently fails to meet its security objectives; it's highly unlikely the Iraqi government will oversee responsibility for security in all of Iraq by November. The other commitments are promising, but more is needed.

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi army division.

Encouraging, although many of the Iraq Study Group recommendations apparently won't be implemented.

We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

Encouraging.

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

Fine, although most of the violence in Anbar is attributable to the anti-occupation domestic Sunni insurgency, not Al Qaeda or foreign fighters. Almost surely the violence in Anbar would be sharply curtailed if U.S. forces departed, although the "bad guys" could and likely would use it as a base for trouble-making elsewhere in Iraq, if not beyond.

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders - and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And, as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan - and we will not allow them to re- establish it in Iraq.

Certainly make every effort to wipe out al Qaeda, but know it's responsible for a small percentage of the violence in Anbar.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity - and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

This hints at U.S. attacks on Iran and Syria -- worrying, especially since the U.S. military has its hands full in Iraq. Perhaps a better idea: engaging the Iranian and Syrian governments peacefully in hardball talks before seriously considering violent action.

Diplomacy

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

This seems more worrying and costly than reassuring.

We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists - and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors - and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an international compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region - to build support for Iraq, and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

"Iraq's unity government" is arguably not a true unity government -- a big part of the problem in Iraq, and a big part of the problem in trying to convince the Sunni Arab governments elsewhere in the region to support the radical Shia-backed Iraqi government.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy - by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom - and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

Agreed with a big, troubling caveat. While democratic ideals are admirable, in the Arab world, the three geunine democracies are the three most troubled countries in the region: Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine -- hardly shining examples of the greatness of democracy.

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists - or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

Polls show most Arabs want the U.S. out of Iraq and opposed the war from the outset.

The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security. Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue - and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

Back to hoping and praying and wrongly blaming all the violence on "terrorists and insurgents."

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world - a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them - and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren.

Let's hope.

This new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States - and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad - or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces.

Correct.

We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

All options are bad. He's arguing this is the least bad choice.

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Okay.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration. It will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas - where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

Is Iraq the war on terror? Most Americans think not. As for the bipartisan working group, it has merit only if it includes a multitude of viewpoints.

In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us. These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary - and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time. They serve far from their families, who make the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table. They have watched their comrades give their lives to ensure our liberty. We mourn the loss of every fallen American - and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Yes, America's military men and women are heroes. But few Americans would have supported going to war in Iraq or elsewhere on the basis "the advance of freedom is the calling of our time."

Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can and we will prevail.

Having faith in any Iraq plan is difficult after being subjected to so many erronenous claims, flawed plans, and other missteps that have cost so terribly much in lives and money.

We go forward with trust that the author of liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.

Good night and good luck.

Analysis
Says "Iraq Troop Surge Is Like Vietnam and Not"
01/10/2007 10:20 PM ET
The BBC runs an analysis on the ways that Iraq is like Vietnam -- and the ways it is not.

Paul Reynolds, World Affairs correspondent writes that: "President Bush's new plan for Iraq - expected to include reinforcements of 20,000 US troops and to be announced on Wednesday night - has echoes of Vietnam in the belief that another push will get the job done. The strategy also has potential contradictions between the hope for quick results and the gradualism favoured by the US Army's newly formulated counter insurgency tactics."

Excerpts: "What happened in Vietnam might not happen in Iraq, but there are parallels that are interesting to note." He says the similarities include: realizations Washington is not winning, policies of trying to hand over responsibility to the local government in the midst of battle, beliefs that more troops are the answer, an opposite belief by others that the enterprise cannot work and disengagement must happen, and consultation by the President from an outside group, who urged withdrawal.

Lastly, he writes about the differences: "Vietnam was on a much larger scale. The US deployed more than half a million troops. It was fighting against the regular North Vietnamese army as well as against the Viet Cong insurgency. It was a bigger task. There is also the Bush factor. He is already acting against the thrust of the Iraq Study Group proposals, which were for a US withdrawal from the battle as soon as possible. Instead he appears to be throwing more troops into the battle. He is determined not to have a Second Vietnam."

More Troops "An Incredible Strain on Morale"
01/10/2007 9:23 PM ET
Immanuel Wallerstein, senior research scholar at Yale posts an opinion on Arab American news, discussing an opinion on the new strategy in Iraq -- or the lack of one.

He writes: So what will happen now? Bush will push through the plan for more U.S. troops. As every serious commentator has pointed out, this will make no military difference. Of course, if the United States sent in 300,000 troops, it might quash both the insurgency and the civil war. But sending in even 30,000 troops will be an incredible strain on the viability and morale of the U.S. military. By June 2007, at the latest, it will be clear to even the most stubbornly blind, like George W. Bush and the surviving neo-cons, that the United States is in a dead end and bleeding badly.

Why doesn't Bush then cut his losses? He can't. His entire presidency revolves around the Iraq war. If he tries to cut his losses, he admits that he is responsible for a national disaster. So he has no choice but to try to bluff his way into 2009 and turn over the disaster to someone else. That is, he has no choice acceptable to him. But Bush is going to learn something in the next eighteen months. The situation is out of control and even the president of the United States can be forced to do things he finds abhorrent.

Immanuel Wallerstein is the author of "The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World" (New Press). Copyright ©2007 Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global.

Soldier Mom
New Feature Column: U.S. Soldier Mom's Perspective
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/09/2007 6:53 PM ET
When you are the mother of a soldier, when your child is in a war zone, the nightly news can look very different. Your first reaction is always, how will this affect my child today? Will he be in more danger? Unfortunately, you can't just worry about tomorrow. The long-term picture can put your child in just as much, if not more, danger. My son is currently serving in Iraq. This is his fourth deployment in six years, his second time in Iraq. After college, my son enlisted in the military. Now six years later, I have reached the point where having my child in a war zone has become a part of his normal adult life. Since he left college, he has been training to be in a war zone, or he has been in a war zone. This is not what I imagined his life would be like when he was a kid, when I was taking him to swim team practice, piano lessons, and science camp. This isn't even what I imagined when he enlisted in the military. He enlisted before 9/11, when the world was a very different place.

Today the actions of someone in Iraq -- a politician, an insurgent, an ordinary citizen -- might change my son's life forever, or even end it. The actions of someone in the United States -- a politician, a military officer, an ordinary citizen -- might change my son's life forever, or even end it. The stakes could not be higher. The decisions they make, may not just change the next election, they may change my son's life forever. This changes the way you look at the nightly news. You are not just a citizen worrying about what this means for our country, what this will mean for the world. It is much more personal than that. But you are still a citizen and you do have to worry, not just about your child, but about your country, the world you live in.

When you first learn that your child will be going to a war zone, you worry. There will be a lot of rumors going around about when he will be leaving and where he will be going. The information changes almost daily. They are going, and then they are not going. In the end, they always go. You will hear, he will be here and then he will be there. You find self, looking at a map of country, trying to pick out the names of the cities, you learn geography in a way you never did in school. What is the place like -- a city, a remote village, desert, mountainous? What does the highway, the river near the town mean? Do they like Americans? What are the people like? What do they believe? How will they react when they encounter your child? What kind of danger will child be in?

You worry about your child, has he been trained well enough for this mission? Does he have the equipment he needs to do his job and stay safe? Is there anything you can buy, anything you can send, that will make him safer? You feel helpless, there isn't a lot that you can do. You know your child's strengths and weaknesses; you worry about how this war will change him. When he is first there, every battle you hear about, every soldier killed, send fear through your heart. You wait for the phone call, the knock at the door, telling you it was your son. But now, I have been through this several times, he has spent years in a war zone. He went this time, into a war zone, more realistic about what he would experience. I knew what to expect. I know that when things go silent, when I don't hear from him or about him, he is alive. If he were dead, I would have heard, there would have been that phone call, that knock at the door.

You still listen, you still search for every scrap of news on Iraq, on the province, on the town where he is at. But you filter that news from a place of less panic. Often I hear from my son daily in emails. I am able to filter these news events through his perspective on the ground. Other times, I will go for weeks hearing nothing from him, left with no input from him on what all this means. We find our shared perspective a valuable resource to both of us. He can't always see the larger picture bogged down in the day to day details of living and working in a war zone. From him, I gain valuable insight in how an event or decision will, on a practical level, affect the troops on the ground. What I will try to do here, in this column, is to show you what the news looks like to a mother of soldier on the ground in Iraq.
----------

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor Editor of BellaOnline.com, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at IraqSoldierMom@gmail.com.

Ed Koch: "If Allies Don't Come In Now, We Are Out"
01/09/2007 4:34 PM ET
Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, continues his Jerusalem Post blog, saying that:

"President Bush will shortly propose a "new direction" for the United States in Iraq. It is widely believed that part of this new direction will be the deployment of an additional 20,000 or more US troops. That would bring the US forces in Iraq to 160,000 or more."

Koch adds that, "Former secretary of state Colin Powell has stated our army in Iraq is "about broken." Without the resources of our allies, regional and NATO, standing with us shoulder to shoulder and an Iraqi government supported by the three major Iraqi communities -- Shia, Sunni and Kurds -- nothing positive can be accomplished by our remaining with ever fewer allies -- Great Britain intends to withdraw its forces this year -- to take the casualties and fight the fight that must be fought, not primarily by us but by the Iraqi army against Iraqi insurgents and terrorists. If they won't or can't do it now, they never will be capable of saving their country and we can't save it."

Lastly, he says that: "We should immediately issue the ultimatum that I have urged over the last year, warning our allies that if they don't come in now, we are out -- now. If the president won't do this, the Congress should use its power to end our presence in Iraq by directing that the expenditures of funds authorized by the Congress may not be used to send additional troops to Iraq. All monies authorized should be used to protect US soldiers in place and for their exiting the country.

Blogosphere
"Offer Them Control of Iraqi Oil Fields"
01/09/2007 3:04 PM ET
The solution might seem strange and radical, but Blogcritics Magazine runs a post today by Dave Nalle, who says that there should be a new plan for Iraq: Give it to the Chinese. Dave Nalle runs his own blog called The Elitist Pig.

Excerpts from the post: "China is anticipating an enormous oil shortage as a result of its growing industry and population, a shortage like nothing the world has ever seen. It's the one thing standing between them and what they perceive as their economic destiny. China has the largest army in the world with 2.8 million soldiers. They aren't the best trained or equipped, but there are a hell of a lot of them. The Saudis have the oil the Chinese need and the money to outfit at least part of their army with more modern hardware, and the Chinese would have none of the manpower problems the US has had. If doubling the troops in Iraq would solve the problems there, well that's just 1/10th of their available forces."

The Chinese have more than just the need for oil to motivate them. They've already got problems with domestic Islamic minorities like the 16 million Uighur in Xinjiang province who could easily fall into the Iranian sphere of influence. They don't much want a huge theocratic empire controlling most of the world's oil and sitting pretty much on their western border.

This isn't something the United States could do on our own, but we could certainly act as a matchmaker to bring Riyadh and Beijing together for their mutual interest. So why not invite the Chinese into the Persian Gulf? Offer them control of the Iraqi oil fields, with a certain amount to be paid to the people of Iraq, along with the requirement that they provide security for the region, which means putting Shia-dominated southern Iraq under the control of the Chinese Red Army. This would essentially be another partitioning plan, with the Sunnis retaining control of the 'Sunni triangle' with the help of the US and other international forces, but with the added clout of the Chinese thrown in. And while the Red Army may not be as well trained as the superb US military, they likely have more experience and more appropriate training for suppressing unruly civilian populations which is something our military just isn't trained to do.

Current Plan Falls Below One Troop Per 50 Iraqis Threshold
01/09/2007 2:50 PM ET
Slate's Fred Kaplan says Bush's "surge" plan apparently disregards key advice from the soon-to-be top U.S. general in Iraq.

Kaplan determines how many troops would be necessary to quell the violence in Baghdad using the counterinsurgency tactics developed by General David Petraeus in the new U.S. military Counterinsurgency Manual.

Petraeus and his co-authors discussed this strategy at great length in the Army's counterinsurgency field manual. One point they made is that it requires a lot of manpower—at minimum, 20 combat troops for every 1,000 people in the area's population. Baghdad has about 6 million people; so clearing, holding, and building it will require about 120,000 combat troops. Right now, the United States has about 70,000 combat troops in all of Iraq (another 60,000 or so are support troops or headquarters personnel). Even an extra 20,000 would leave the force well short of the minimum required—and that's with every soldier and Marine in Iraq moved to Baghdad. Iraqi security forces would have to make up the deficit.

Read the entire commentary here.

Analysis
Chris Patten: "Its Interesting Blair Denies He Was Pathetic"
01/09/2007 2:40 PM ET
Lord Chris Patten, chancellor of Oxford University and former EU commissioner for external affairs writes in the Financial Times: "These are extraordinary times in Britain when criticising the lynch-mob execution of Saddam Hussein – which for many in the region turned a wicked and murderous tyrant into a dignified Arab victim – appears to be regarded as a brave expression of independent thought. Can things get more humiliating? Yes, they probably can."

He adds that, "Looking back on the whole Iraq debacle, it is interesting that Tony Blair now denies he has been pathetic – declining to press on US president George W. Bush the case for multilateralism and restraint – and insists that he has in fact been bravely complicit – a true believer in every Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld decision. So perhaps this week he will be cheering a US military surge in Iraq and giving the president a thumbs-up as he rejects the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report. The prime minister’s total identification of the British national interest with the implacable folly of White House policy weakens moderate opposition in America to Mr Bush. Throughout 2002 and 2003, Mr Blair’s uncritical support for US policy hamstrung those in and outside the administration, like Colin Powell, who were trying to re strain the neoconservative hawks. How were their warnings about the international implications of the headlong drive for war helped by Mr Blair’s promise that whatever happened he would back the president? Not only did we fail ourselves to exert any recognisable influence over the conduct of US policy, we also reduced the influence of those we might have regarded as like-minded internationalists in Washington."

He continues: "Now Mr Blair seems set on repeating the error, arguing that the only good friends of America are those who take their cue from Bush-Cheney. The Baker-Hamilton report offers a difficult but plausible way out of the present bloody mess. At its heart is the proposition that Washington should internationalise the pressures on Iraqi leaders – émigré politicians, militia warlords and gangsters – to stabilise the country around devolved governing institutions and shared oil revenues. America should work with the United Nations, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Iraq’s six neighbours. Far better for America to share political responsibility in Iraq in this way than carry the can alone."

Tombstone Gives His Last Thoughts On War
01/09/2007 2:19 PM ET
The AP reports that: "Lest anyone forget that former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook opposed the war in Iraq, his family have emblazoned it on his tombstone." It says, "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war." Cook, who died Aug. 6, 2005, at age 59, was the only member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet to resign before the invasion because of opposition to the war.
Cannot Stop the War So More Troops Will Die
01/08/2007 1:34 PM ET
Gary Younge of the Guardian discusses the reasons why Democrats won't do anything to stop the war:

Excerpts from the piece: "Opposition to the occupation was demonstrated most clearly at the polls in November, when Democrats won both houses of Congress. Indeed just a couple hours after Vollmer was lowered into the ground the new Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, raised her gavel for the first time. To lend the inauguration the appearance of vitality the party has dedicated itself to a raft of legislative changes over its first 100 hours in power. Among other things, the Democrats will raise the minimum wage, cut interest on student loans and bring in stricter laws on lobbying - all modest, manageable, sensible and centrist. But none of them deals with the key question of the day and the principal reason why they were elected - the war."

He continues: "There are two reasons for this. First, the Democrats have no coherent position on the war. In fact, most of them voted for it. Second, given that the president is the commander-in-chief and conducts foreign policy, there is a limit to what the Democrats can constitutionally do about it, beyond refusing to fund it. This would represent great political risk, making Democrats vulnerable to the Republican charge that they are putting American soldiers at risk for partisan reasons. Such a stance would demand both principle and determination - neither of which has proven to be their strong suit."

He argues that the Democratic Congress will not take action, and thus it is up to the public to do so.

Viewpoint: It Seems No Act Too Gruesome For Public To See
01/08/2007 12:11 PM ET
The U.S. media is rethinking its gung-ho response to the dictator's death, but the web is making debates about taste irrelevant, writes Edward Helmore in British paper The Observer.

He writes that one week later, "with a backlash against a grotesque and hasty execution continuing to build, even members of the hang 'em high US press are warming to the sentiment that the execution was little more than a US-sponsored lynching in which the central player, Saddam Hussein, was the only actor to perform his part with dignity...The mainstream media has all but lost control of what reaches the public domain...In all probability, the established media no longer has much choice but to agree. The internet is offering all possible variations of the execution - pre-hanging without sound, hanging with sound, hanging without the drop and convulsions, or the full, two-minute unedited cut."

How West Will Will Profit From Iraq Oil
01/07/2007 2:26 PM ET
The Independent today runs a piece about how the West will profit from "Iraq's most precious commodity," writing about the draft of a new law that would give Western oil companies a massive share in the third largest reserves in the world.

They ask: "To the victors, the oil? That is how some experts view this unprecedented arrangement with a major Middle East oil producer that guarantees investors huge profits for the next 30 years. So was this what the Iraq war was fought for, after all? As the number of US soldiers killed since the invasion rises past the 3,000 mark, and President George Bush gambles on sending in up to 30,000 more troops, The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country's massive oil reserves. And Iraq's oil reserves, the third largest in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels waiting to be extracted, are a prize worth having. As Vice-President Dick Cheney noted in 1999, when he was still running Halliburton, an oil services company, the Middle East is the key to preventing the world running out of oil Now, unnoticed by most amid the furore over civil war in Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad. Its provisions are a radical departure from the norm for developing countries: under a system known as "production-sharing agreements", or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil.The Independent writes in today about how the West will profit from "Iraq's most precious commodity."

Was Written On Saddam's Face When He Declined Black Hood
01/07/2007 2:19 PM ET
Howard Jacobson writes in the Independent Online that even the wicked deserve some dignity.

From the post: "My subject today is the aesthetics of downfall. I state it baldly so there will be no confusion: my subject is not Iraq, not American foreign policy, not Blair's long silence in the matter of Saddam Hussein's execution, not politics at all except in so far as the political, too, is subject to aesthetics. From the moment Saddam Hussein was captured in his dirt hole our perception of him changed. What we saw was suddenly not what we had seen before. First, the beard. Wild, matted, shot with grey - a tramp's or hermit's beard. The hair, too, overgrown and frantic. And the black, distracted eyebrows. We cannot help ourselves - we attach the idea of sorrow to dishevelment of this sort. Only something beyond the bounds of ordinary suffering and loss - some unendurable disappointment, some unimaginable grief - explains it. Of course we knew what actually explained it in this instance, but associations are associations - let the facts speak of a deposed tyrant and braggart unearthed where he'd gone to ground, what the aesthetics told us was that a man had become a frightened animal. And by the perverse logic of our sympathies, we find the first shoots of nobility in that."

Right-Wing Hawk's Op-Ed: "More Troops = More Targets"
01/05/2007 8:31 PM ET
In an op-ed today, Oliver North argues against sending tens of thousands more U.S. combat troops to Iraq, saying "adding more (U.S.) trainers and helping the Iraqis to help themselves" makes sense, while "Sending more U.S. combat troops is simply sending more targets."

Click here to read Oliver North's op-ed.

Mistakes, Lessons Learned, Lingering Questions
By EASON JORDAN 01/05/2007 01:08 AM ET
The Associated Press and the AP's supporters surely are breathing a sigh of relief now that the Iraqi Interior Ministry has confirmed to the AP that elusive Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein is genuine.

This comes six weeks after Iraqi and U.S. officials insisted the frequent AP news source, Captain Hussein, was non-existent and that AP reporting attributed to him was baseless.

Here's the latest AP story with the hard news and the background.

Here's the original AP report that sparked the controversy.

But the fuss is not over, lessons must be learned by all involved, and lingering questions must be answered.

All the key players in the Jamil Hussein controversy have been sullied in this process.

Mistakes

Iraqi officials and U.S. military spokesmen look foolish for making the mistake of flatly stating in late November that there was no Iraqi police captain by the name of Jamil Hussein. Those clumsy, baseless statements were unfair to the AP. Those erronenous statements -- and their statements questioning the information the AP attributed to Captain Hussein -- triggered the six-week-long controversy that followed.

Jamil Hussein made a mistake by waiting six weeks to speak out on this matter.

The AP erred in part by responding in a hot-headed, antagonistic way to questions about the existence of Jamil Hussein and the credibility of AP reports featuring comments from Captain Hussein. The AP's harsh statements fueled the suspicions of critics and those who otherwise would give the AP the benefit of the doubt. Another mistake: the AP took too long to provide irrefutable evidence of Captain Hussein's existence.

The AP's most strident critics were wrong to accept the word of U.S. and Iraqi officials as the absolute truth while dismissing the AP's sourcing, stories, and explanations as outright lies.

Third parties -- IraqSlogger included -- trying to get to the truth in this matter did not dig aggressively enough to determine the facts because otherwise we seemingly would have discovered proof of Captain Hussein's existence sooner. In IraqSlogger's case, Iraqi police sources told our team in Baghdad both that Captain Hussein did exist and that he did not exist -- flimsy and conflicting circumstantial evidence from less than reliable sources (information we chose not to report until we could get confirmation, either way, while prompting us in our reporting to leave open the possibility that Captain Hussein was real).

Lessons Learned

U.S. and Iraqi officials should never say they are sure of something unless they are absolutely certain. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior needs to know who is in its employ.

Since Jamil Hussein was willing to be quoted by the AP dozens of times, he should have come forward sooner to end the dispute about his existence.

In the end, the AP did the right thing -- proving Jamil Hussein's existence -- but in the wrong time frame. If the AP had done so sooner, it would have spared itself much grief. Further, the AP should have taken the high road in public statements, defending its reporting without using pejorative language and angrily denouncing those questioning the AP's reporting.

The AP's critics would do well to presume the AP innocent until proven guilty. That said, news consumers, like journalists, should have a healthy skepticism and ask probing questions about questionable reporting and statements.

Third parties trying to determine the ground truth must work harder to achieve that goal. That said, determining ground truth in Baghdad is hugely challenging.

Lingering Questions

Why did it take all parties so long to provide proof of Captain Hussein's existence?

Is Captain Hussein a reliable news source? While we now know he's genuine, he was not an authorized spokesman. His critics, including his Iraqi government bosses and the U.S. military, have challenged the veracity of many of AP reports attributed to him. Many violent incidents reported by Captain Hussein via the AP were not reported by other western news organizations, raising suspicions about whether all those incidents occurred. The controversy likely will linger in this area, with third party reporting being done to determine the accuracy of Captain Hussein's statements to the AP.

Will all involved learn from their mistakes?

Conservative David Cameron: "The Alternatives Unpalatable"
01/04/2007 4:00 PM ET
The BBC reports that: Conservative leader David Cameron says he believes a stable Iraq is possible as "the alternatives are frankly unpalatable". He said the situation in Iraq, where the government says almost 2,000 civilians died in sectarian violence in December alone, was "truly dreadful".

Mr Cameron, who visited Iraq last year, said a political settlement between Sunni, Shia and Kurds was needed.

This would "show that this Iraqi government can and will work."

"There can be a coming together, but there has to be a real exercise of political will amongst those at the centre to say 'we're going to make this country work, we want a whole Iraq and not a broken one' and they're going to have to really focus on security " he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

In the end it must be an Iraqi government that gets its act together David Cameron Conservative leader With the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki stating that he dislikes being the country's leader and would prefer to leave the job before his first term ends, Mr Cameron said there was "a huge amount of work" to make the government "stronger".

Mr Cameron, who met Mr Maliki during his November visit, said: "The key to the future of Iraq is for there to be a settlement at the centre between Sunni, Shia and Kurd that they are going to make this country work, that they are going to form a compact together to disarm the militia, to make sure their writ runs through the country.

Only on Slogger
Controversy Will Haunt the AP Until It Does What is Right
By EASON JORDAN 01/01/2007 7:19 PM ET
If an Iraqi police captain by the name of Jamil Hussein exists, there is no convincing evidence of it - and that means the Associated Press has a journalistic scandal on its hands that will fester until the AP deals with it properly.

This controversy and the AP's handling of it call into question the credibility, integrity, and smarts of one of the world's biggest, most influential, most respected news organizations, the New York-based Associated Press.

The back story: On November 24, the AP quoted Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein as the source of a sensational AP story that began this way:

"Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by."

It was a horrific report that was an AP exclusive - a story picked up and reported by news outlets across the U.S. and the world.

The U.S. military and Iraqi officials were quick to call the story baseless, saying there was no evidence that six Sunnis were burned to death in Hurriya and that there was no record of an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein. The U.S. military and the Iraqi government demanded the AP retract the story and explain itself.

The AP fired back with at least three strong statements defending the initial AP report and provided a follow-up report from Baghdad quoting anonymous witnesses as confirming the original immolation story.

In the absence of irrefutable evidence that Captain Hussein exists and that the original AP report was accurate, bloggers and a few mainstream media journalists kept plugging away in an effort to get to the truth about whether there is a Captain Hussein and whether six Sunnis were burned alive that day.

Five weeks after the disputed episode, key questions remain unanswered, but what is clear is the AP has botched its handling of this controversy - and it's not going away until the AP deals with it forthrightly and transparently.

IraqSlogger's probe into the case is inconclusive, with conflicting and unconfirmed information regarding whether there's a Captain Hussein and whether the reported immolation happened.

Inquiries by others point to there being no Captain Jamil Hussein, although there is no proof of that.

While proof might yet surface to substantiate the AP's story - there is circumstantial but unreliable evidence in that regard - conclusive evidence has not yet materialized.

The AP has steadfastly refused to answer questions about this episode from IraqSlogger and other news outlets and bloggers.

In statements, the AP insists Captain Hussein is real, insists he has been known to the AP and others for years, and insists the immolation episode occurred based on multiple eyewitnesses.

But efforts by two governments, several news organizations, and bloggers have failed to produce such evidence or proof that there is a Captain Jamil Hussein. The AP cannot or will not produce him or convincing evidence of his existence.

It is striking that no one has been able to find a family member, friend, or colleague of Captain Hussein. Nor has the AP told us who in the AP's ranks has actually spoken with Captain Hussein. Nor has the AP quoted Captain Hussein once since the story of the disputed episode.

Therefore, in the absence of clear and compelling evidence to corroborate the AP's exclusive story and Captain Hussein's existence, we must conclude for now that the AP's reporting in this case was flawed.

To make matters worse, Captain Jamil Hussein was a key named source in more than 60 AP stories on at least 25 supposed violent incidents over eight months.

Until this controversy is resolved, every one of those AP reports is tainted.

When two governments challenge the veracity of your reporting, when there are reasonable doubts about whether your prime named source for a sensational exclusive story exists, when there's no proof a reported horrific incident occurred, when the news outlet responsible for the disputed report stonewalls and is stridently defensive, when the validity of dozens of other of your reports has been called into question as a result, then that news organization has a scandal on its hands, and that is where the AP finds itself.

Having learned from my own successes and failures and those of others, I know that a journalistic scandal can be handled effectively only when the news organization's management deals with it proactively, constructively, and transparently, with a readiness to admit any mistake, to apologize for it, and to take appropriate corrective action.

The AP has failed to do so in this case.

I, therefore, urge the AP to appoint an independent panel to determine the facts about the disputed report, to determine whether Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein exists, and to share the panel's full findings and recommendations with the public.

Until this matter is resolved, the AP's credibility will suffer.

Meantime, IraqSlogger and others will doggedly pursue the truth in this case.

Blogosphere
But Iraqi Citizens Must Remain Steadfast
01/01/2007 2:08 PM ET
Dave Nalle runs a blog called The Elitist Pig. In this piece, he writes about risk, opportunity and the future of Iraq, saying that there is plenty of economic opportunity, as long as people remain committed to seeing growth.

He has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a Capitol Hill staffer, a game designer and a history professor. He now designs fonts for a living. He was born in Beirut, as his parents were in the diplomatic service there.

He begins by telling readers why he wrote this piece:

I wrote this after reading several mentions of various positive aspects of the economic situation in Iraq in other articles and on a couple of Iraqi blogs, so I went and researched some of the specifics they mentioned and in the process discovered some other economic data, all of which together presented a very different picture of the situation in Iraq from what we get in the media here in the US. I thought the contrast between the economic indicators and all the political problems and violence was interesting. My dissertation advisor in grad school was a specialist in border history, and it reminded me of some of the situations she talked about where frontier societies always faced a lot of challenges and had a high level of violence, but they were also the place where upward mobility was the most powerful and where the emerging fortunes of an era were being made. In some ways the situation in Iraq seems to fit into that mold, so I wrote about it.

He continues: By now we all know that Iraq is a disaster, a quagmire, the worst foreign policy mistake in US history. It's hopeless and doomed and destined only to get worse. Hell, Iraq isn't even a country anymore, it's just one big civil war with everyone fighting everyone else and bodies piling up in windrows too fast to even be buried.

According to The Lancet, so many people died in our first three years there that the entire country must have been excavated and turned into one mass grave. And now we've called in all the crusty old architects of past foreign policy failures to tell us how best to run away with our tail between our legs, because there is no hope and there are no other options.

Congress tells us it's a lost cause. The media just counts bodies and throws talking heads at us. Even President Bush is having a hard time talking about 'stay the course'. They're all agreed. Something is horribly wrong in Iraq. All the pundits say so, and how could such distinguished gentleman be confused or misleading us?

And then all the despair and concern and hand-wringing and recrimination runs smack into the brick wall of fact and we're left scratching our heads and not knowing who to really trust. Here are some facts from Iraq to put all of the media hype and political bluster in perspective:

* Iraq's oil production hit a postwar high of 2.5 million barrels per day starting this summer and production is near capacity, according to Iraq's Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani. Based on current prices oil revenues are likely to total more than $41 billion this year, which reflects both an increase in price and in production. Every month this year has shown an increase in production over the same month in 2005 with an estimated increase in overall production of at least 17%. If production continues to increase, it's likely that the Iraqi oil fields will be up to full production at pre-war capacity by the end of 2007, and the Oil Ministry has set a very conservative target of 4 million barrels per day by 2010. This leaves the government with an awful lot of money and they're scrabbling around to find ways to spend it effectively.

* One solution is to increase loyalty and reduce corruption among bureaucrats by giving them a substantial increase in pay starting in January. The overall payroll increase will be 60%, with raises allocated based on longevity and qualifications.

* Salaries in the private sector are also up, having increased more than 100% on average since 2003. Salaries in Iraq are about double the worldwide median salary, and comparable with nearby nations like Syria and Egypt. Unemployment remains high by western standards, but comparable with other states in the region and with the rate under the previous government at about 25%. Real unemployment is hard to gauge because so much business takes place off the books.

* The Iraqi Parliament is also discussing plans to redistribute oil income to the public. All of the details have not yet been worked out, but ultimately the result would be a distribution of more than $500 a year to every Iraqi adult, excluding convicted criminals and those already earning more than a million dinars a month. That's more than a third of the average yearly salary of working Iraqis.

* Business registrations are booming. More than 20,000 new businesses have been registered between April of 2003 and the end of 2005 and thousands more have been registered since then, including 286 in November. This is about three times the number registered between 1946 and 2003.

* The Iraqi dinar is strengthening. It is now at a high of 1360 to the dollar, an 8% increase in the past two months alone. This suggests higher consumer, investor, and business confidence, which is surprising in a country which is supposedly in the midst of a civil war.

* Iraq has a GDP growth rate of 13 percent for 2006, down from 17 percent for 2005. That's about four times the GDP growth rate of the United States, which has one of the strongest GDPs in the world.

* The Iraqi government has cut income taxes from 45 percent to 15 percent to stimulate the economy and because oil revenues have increased enough to cover expenses without a need for high taxation. With salaries low, a substantial tax cut will help working Iraqis and encourage consumer spending at all those new businesses.

* There's a sort of a real estate boom going on in Iraq in the most stable areas, where real estate prices have more than tripled in the past two years and construction and related industries are also doing well.

* There's such a demand for cars in Iraq that used cars are being brought in by convoy from neighboring countries and you're more likely to get stuck on the road because of a normal traffic jam than because of a bombing.

* As the many Iraqi bloggers demonstrate, Internet cafes are booming in Baghdad and all over the country, including in small towns where you'd never expect to see them. Another sign of vibrant economic activity.

* There are now over 7.1 million cellphones in use in Iraq, five times the number in use two years ago. Cell towers are everywhere, and service is cheap and reliable. Quite a change for a country where you could be executed for possessing a satellite phone five years ago. Iraqna, the leading cell phone company expects to make $520 milion in profits this year. How does this square with concerns about inadequate rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure?

This all paints a very strange picture of Iraq. If we assume that the country is indeed operating with a high level of violence and chaos, it's really remarkable that the economy seems to be so strong at the same time. Does it make sense that Iraq can build new houses, import cars, and build cellphone towers and networks while bombs are going off and they have trouble keeping power supplied to their cities for more than eight hours a day?

Iraq has essentially become the modern equivalent of the Wild West, where danger and opportunity walk hand in hand every day. People who are willing to take the risks and spend a third of their company budget on security can make a lot of money, and the people of Iraq are working hard despite hardships and making a living by taking advantage of the opportunities created by rapid change. For the most part it is not the United States or the Iraqi government which are driving economic growth in Iraq. Most of the growth is homegrown and in direct response to the failures of those governments. People have had to take their welfare into their own hands.

A great example of this is the much-discussed failure to get the Iraqi power grid up and functioning at capacity. Power production has barely attained the levels Saddam had in his power plants operating at before the war, and because distribution is now more balanced, areas like Baghdad actually have less power per day than they used to.

The common complaint is that Saddam gave Baghdad 24 hours of power and the rest of the country had none, but now Baghdad has eight hours and everyone else has two hours and doesn't know what to do with it. Well, in some areas private enterprise has provided the solution. If the government can't get you power, then you generate your own. With gas at about 65 cents a gallon you can run a generator for a long time at relatively low cost, and entrepreneurs are setting up generators all over Baghdad and other cities to augment government-provided power for those willing to pay for it.

Seeing the success of private, neighborhood-based power generation, the Iraqi government has actually done something sensible and is purchasing generators to distribute to areas where power is unreliable so that they can generate power on a local basis rather than waiting for the infrastructure to catch up with their need.

The power situation is typical of how the successes in Iraq get misreported here in America. We hear about the underproduction of the government power plants, but no one bothers to explain that there are alternative sources of power or that demand for power is higher than ever before because people need it to keep their businesses running and their lights on because they have work to do and money to make, plus they are using more power than they did five years ago because now they have cell phones to charge and computers with which to access the Internet.

Yes, the violence and chaos in Iraq is horrible. No one should have to live under those conditions. But the point which many miss is that you can live under those conditions and you can do very well, because often reward is commensurate to risk, and violence can go hand in hand with the dynamic forces of change which create opportunity.

People can learn to live with a certain level of violence. Look at Israel or South Africa, which have highly functional societies despite high levels of violence from terrorism or crime. Honduras actually has more murders per capita than Iraq because of drug and gang related crime, but no one is talking about it being a 'disaster'. It's got a democratically elected government which is trying to deal with a lot of problems and people have learned to live with a certain level of violence and chaos. Not so different from Iraq.

Iraq is going through massive change and it has a lot of internal problems and faces external threats. It's a fragile and volatile situation, but it's not a lost cause. It's only a lost cause when the people there have given up, and it's abundantly clear from evidence on the economic front that the people of Iraq are working to build their future. If they believe in that future, maybe we should try to believe in it too.

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