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Sam Provance Advocates More Thorough Investigation
A former guard at Abu Ghraib refuses to quietly let go of his belief that the abuse at the prison demands a more comprehensive investigation than has yet occurred, and that the military leadership deserves blame for the abuse.

As Sam Provance described his background in a piece he wrote this week, "My career as an Army sergeant came to a premature end at age 32 after eight years of decorated service, because I refused to remain silent about Abu Ghraib, where I served for five months in 2004 at the height of the abuses."

After giving testimony to Major General George Fay for the internal Army investigation in 2004, according to Provance, "The Army then demoted me, suspended my Top Secret clearance, and threatened me with ten years in a military prison if I asked for a court martial. I was even given a gag order, the only one I know to have been issued to those whom Gen. Fay interviewed."

Provance testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations in February 2006, though nothing came of the hearing. With the help of Congressional aides and pro-bono lawyers, Provance was honorably discharged in October 2006.

Last month, Provance went to see Rory Kennedy's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and had what he calls a "surreal" experience.

"Everything in the film was all too familiar to me. The soldiers explaining they were just following the orders of their supervisors; the higher-ups vigorously shifting blame from themselves onto soldiers of lesser rank—the whole nine yards.

And to see those Iraqi faces again—the broken hearts and ruined lives of innocent Iraqi citizens detained, abused, tortured. And the systematic cover-up, with the Army investigating itself over and over again, giving the appearance of a “thorough” investigation."

In the discussion following the documentary, Provance was disgusted to hear Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) take a position that seemed to advocate the use of torture, using the "good stuff" reportedly gleaned from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as an example.

This raised again the question in my mind about just what kind of person professionally tortures somebody, and what kind of mentality would approve of it? (I found myself almost wishing such people could hear the screams—almost, because I would not wish that on my worst enemy.)

The obvious answer is: Sadists. Which is what the administration called the military police in the infamous photographs. And what was seen in them was small stuff compared to what else happened—and continued to happen even after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed.

Soldier Mom
Helpless and Worrying, Mailing Another Care Package Is All She Can Do
By TRACEY CALDWELL 03/28/2007 1:41 PM ET
I haven't heard from my son since I got the email I told you about last week. My aunt would tell you that I am spoiled; it used to be when soldiers went to war it could months between letters.

During this war, it varies. I might hear from my son everyday and then not at all for a couple of weeks. But usually, he will let me know if he expects to be out of email contact.

While my inbox remains empty, I can't help it, I begin to worry. I watch the news a little closer, listening for reports from the province he is in; listening to see what violence is occurring there, wondering if my child is safe.

When I have had enough, I work hard to just not think about it anymore. I focus on my work and try to not think about my son and the danger he might be facing. CNN still plays in the background because even though I don't want to think about Iraq, I also can't miss anything.

The phone rings and my heart stops for a moment.

I dismiss the thought that this could be "the call" and pick up the call. My daughter wants to ask if I have heard from her brother, but then launches into her own problems. She is struggling--balancing too many hours at work with her college schedule. Helping her to figure out how to manage her life takes my mind off my other child for the moment. Her problems are something I can actually do something about.

There really isn't anything you can do to ensure your child is safe in Iraq. You just have to trust the military and the training will protect him. Feeling completely helpless to do anything for him, I decide to send him a new care package, though I just sent him one last week.

Usually I would wait until that package arrives to ask if he needs anything else before I send the next one, but another package will not hurt--a soldier can never get to much junk food.

I keep a stash of flat rate postage boxes from the post office. I address the box and fill out the customs form, declaring junk food destined for the Middle East. I head to the store to pick up beef jerky, pretzels and candy bars, toss them in the box and seal it closed.

Then I'm off to the post office where, as usual, there is a line. My turn comes and the clerk asks me the usual questions. 'Would you like to insure the package?' I tell her no, it is just junk food. 'Is there anything dangerous in the package?' No, its just junk food. 'If we are unable to deliver the package, do you want it returned to me or abandoned?' Abandoned, I say, I don't think I would need food that has traveled all the way to Iraq and back. With a swipe of my ATM card, the shipping is paid and the box of goodies is on its way to Iraq.

It isn't much, but right now it's all I can do for my son.

I arrive back home and immediately check the answering machine. No calls from my son.

I go to the check my email. No emails from my son.

It is now the middle of the night in Iraq, so I am not likely to hear from him today. For now, I will turn CNN on low and try not to think about it.

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

Brits in the Gulf: What Goes Around Comes Around?
By BARRY LANDO 03/26/2007 1:51 PM ET
It was a small step for a Bush administration, which had reviled the Geneva Conventions as “quaint,” to run roughshod over diplomatic niceties as well. Part of the payback may be the current crisis involving British seamen seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy in disputed waters of the Gulf.

It’s a context that for some reason has been ignored by most of the mainstream media.

First, in December, 2006, U.S. forces in two raids in Iraq detained several Iranians they claimed were suspected of planning attacks in Iraq. The Iranians immediately protested. But surprisingly, so did a spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who said the President was working to obtain the Iranians’ release. He claimed that they had been invited to Iraq by the President to help improve the situation. Two of the officials who had diplomatic immunity were subsequently freed; the others remain in American custody.

The Iranian foreign ministry said the arrests contravened international law and might have “unpleasant repercussions.” They were part of George W. Bush’s new macho multi-pronged offensive against Iran—the country, Bush claimed, that was responsible for much of the continued mayhem in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of American troops.

Early in the morning of January 11th, 2007, the Americans struck again. U.S. troops swarmed out of assault helicopters to storm an Iranian office in Irbil in northern Iraq. Using stun bombs, they first disarmed the guards, then seized five employees--reportedly members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard--along with documents and computers.

The Iranian prisoners were again whisked away to be interrogated, U.S. officials explained, for possible complicity in organizing insurgent attacks against Coalition and American troops.

After raiding the office, the US forces reportedly headed for another area that houses foreigners, but Kurdish security forces surrounded the American vehicles to prevent them from carrying out further actions.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, also condemned the raid and called it a violation of international law. A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack claimed the detainees were not diplomats. His position was refuted not just by the Iranians, but by the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who stated—once again-–that the Iranians had been working in Irbil with the knowledge and appproval of the Iraqi government. The building where they were working, he explained, was a liaison office on its way to becoming a full consulate.

The offices of the Kurdish prime minister and Kurdish president also expressed their “disturbance and condemnation” at the pre-dawn operation and urged the US military to release employees arrested during the raid.

A bizarre situation to say the least: The US Army seizes Iranians—in an operation first hidden from and then condemned by Iraqi leaders—and then has the gall to charge the Iranians, as the White House put it, with “meddling” in Iraq’s affairs.

The recent disappearances of a number of high-level Revolutionary Guard generals has Iranian officials grumbling that the US is now “kidnapping” its personnel outside of Iraq as well. Reports from the West claim the officers may have defected, but the Iranian government has charged the officers were abducted and has threatened to respond in kind.

It should be considered that Tehran may have planned the current stand off as a way to communicate that it has reached its level of tolerance in not responding forcefully to the capture of Revolutionary Guard officers.

After the first arrests of Iranians inside Iraq last December, the Iranian Foreign Ministry warned there could be consequences. The January Irbil raid elicited another official warning.

More recently however, following the mysterious disappearance of the third high-ranking Iranian general, one official believed to have close links to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated: "We've got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed, blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks.”

According to a statement by a Revolutionary Guard leader in Iran, the seizure of the British sailors was not at all spontaneous, but had been planned for several days.

Barry Lando is an award-winning former longtime producer for CBS' "60 Minutes," and author of Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.

03/25/2007 4:34 PM ET

"Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum."– Cicero

Wheeler Says HR 1591 Is Porkilicious, With a Side of Spinach
By WINSLOW WHEELER 03/21/2007 6:25 PM ET
WASHINGTON - MARCH 08: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) (D-CA) speaks during a Capitol Hill press conference with Rep. David Obey (L) (D-WI) March 8, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Win McNee/Getty
WASHINGTON - MARCH 08: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) (D-CA) speaks during a Capitol Hill press conference with Rep. David Obey (L) (D-WI) March 8, 2007 in Washington, DC.

Just today, the text of HR 1591 and its report (House Report 110-60) for the new “emergency supplemental” to pay for the troop surge and other war costs have become available on the Internet at As has already been widely reported, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and Speaker Pelosi have added $21.3 billion to the cost of the bill as requested by President Bush (a total of $103.0 billion was requested).

I was alerted by a former colleague from the Senate staff that page 238 of the committee report also contains the following statement:

“EARMARKS: Pursuant to clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, this bill, as reported, contains no congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in clause 9(d), 9(e), or 9(f) of rule XXI.” (Emphasis added.)

Wow! $21.3 billion in add-ons and not a single earmark! Now, that’s reform! Right?

Not exactly, check out page 291 for the $25 million added for spinach producers. And, page 216 for $60 million for salmon fisheries. And, page 214 for $5 million for aquaculture. Other tables in the report appear to contain many more. (I’ll get back to you on that. It looks like a “target rich environment.”)

Not earmarks? You could have fooled me. Having worked the congressional pork system for most of the 31 years I was on Capitol Hill, they sure smell, wallow, and oink like earmarks to me. The advocates will argue these are all desperately needed due to various crises. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean they are not earmarks. In fact, there are “emergency earmarks” as they have the “emergency” designation.

In a November 14, 2006 commentary in the Christian Science Monitor, Speaker Pelosi said “We pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.” I wonder when she is going to start. Is “Porker Pelosi” a moniker that will soon fit?

Winslow Wheeler is the director of the Strauss Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information and author of Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages US Security.

Soldier Mom
Demanding Compassion and Information for Soldiers' Survivors
By TRACEY CALDWELL 03/21/2007 2:41 PM ET
It had been almost a week since I had heard from my son. Then an email came and all it said, "Mom, you might have heard about some guys from my unit getting hurt. Don't worry, It's not me. Where I am at, I am very safe."

My first thought was--'He is in Iraq, how safe can he be?' I am not sure there is any place in Iraq that is very safe. This isn't the first time guys in his unit have been hurt or killed. Why did he feel the need this time to tell me he was safe? On any given day you can look in your newspaper, it might be buried on page A-47, but you can find the names of soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq in the last few days. I always look at the names and their ages, the towns they come from. I think about how someone's child has just died. Someone's world has just changed forever.

You get yourself through the news you hear about Iraq by telling yourself that your child is safe. No one has called you; no one has knocked on your door. During the Walter Reed hearings, some families said they had not been notified when their soldier was injured. It was days later when they heard, and then it was because their soldier had called them himself.

The militaries failure to notify the families undermines the peace of mind we have that our child is safe. Will they fail to notify us when out soldier is injured? In the hearings, we saw families who had come to Walter Reed to fight for their loved ones, to get them the care they needed. Your soldier has fought for his country and now it is your turn to fight for him. But how can you do that if you don't even know he is injured? Access to timely and accurate information is essential for military families to have confidence that the military will care for our love ones properly.

I have heard from a number of families who have been having trouble getting information on their loved one's death in combat. They encounter from the military the same kind of defensiveness and bureaucracy that the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed encountered. When they tire of dealing with the military, they move on to filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The requests usually get shuffled from department to department, with responses coming back that the department does not have the information and it is being forwarded somewhere else.

Losing a child is devastating; not knowing why can be unbearable.

One mother wrote to me this week:

"When a soldier is killed, the family gets all kinds of letters from all kinds of people. There's a lot from military officials and politicians. Most of the letters are form letters that are cranked out. However, almost all of them refer to our son dying as a true hero. Quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing that. My perception is that these people say that, expect us to be overcome with pride, and then expect us to go away."

While every soldier dies a hero, not all deaths are heroic, some are simply tragic. They are deaths that could have been prevented. These families are not going to go away; they need answers. Knowing why and how your child died is essential. You need to know if something could have prevented your child's death. You need to know that the military has learned from that death. Your child death did not die in vain if they learned something that might save other soldier's lives.

Complete disclosure for the family of a soldier who has been wounded or killed should not be too imposing a request.

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

Fourth-Year Anniversary Present: Dump Those Ungrateful Iraqis
By BARRY LANDO 03/19/2007 07:36 AM ET
It’s time for the Iraqis to cease their bloody sectarian rivalries, disband their ruthless militias and death squads and take responsibility for their country’s fate. Why should American boys continue dying to save Iraqis from their own perverse selves?

It’s a view expressed by all sides in the U.S. four years after the 2003 invasion. The problem is it shows no understanding of Iraq’s nightmarish past and calamitous psychological present.

Take, for instance, the report of a group of Harvard medical researchers who found that the children of Iraq were “the most traumatized children of war ever described.” The experts concluded that “a majority of Iraq’s children would suffer from severe psychological problems throughout their lives.”

That appalling judgment was rendered not recently but sixteen years ago, in May 1991. Consider what Iraqis had already endured at that point: From September, 1980 to August, 1988 more than a million Iraqis and Iranians died in what was the longest war of the twentieth century. As that conflict raged, Saddam also launched his genocidal attacks against the Kurds —which Presidents Reagan and Bush Senior–then Saddam’s de facto allies against Iran–did their best to ignore.

Next came Saddam’s disastrous invasion of Kuwait in August 1990—there again the U.S. played a hand–followed by an abortive popular uprising against Saddam. That revolt, which George Bush pere had called for, ended with Saddam’s slaughter of tens of thousands of Shiites—as U.S. troops stood by.

At the same time, the United Nations Security Council was implementing a Draconian embargo on all trade with Iraq. Indeed, when the Harvard study cited above was carried out, those sanctions had been in effect for only seven months. They cut off all trade between Iraq and the rest of the world. That meant everything, from food and electric generators to vaccines, hospital equipment—even medical journals. Since Iraq imported 70% of its food, and its principle revenues were derived from the export of petroleum, the sanctions had an immediate and catastrophic impact.

Enforced primarily by the United States and Great Britain, they remained in place for almost thirteen years and were in their own way a weapon of mass destruction far more deadly than anything Saddam had developed. Two U.N. administrators who oversaw humanitarian relief in Iraq during that period, and resigned in protest, consider the embargo to have been a “crime against humanity.”

Early on it became evident that for the United States and England, the real objective of the sanctions was not the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s WMD but of Saddam Hussein himself, though that goal went far beyond anything authorized by the Security Council. The effect of the sanctions was magnified by the wide-scale destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure—power plants, sewage treatment facilities, telephone exchanges, irrigation systems–wrought by the air and rocket attacks preceding the war. Iraq’s contaminated waters became a biological killer as lethal as anything Saddam had attempted to produce.

There were massive outbreaks of severe child and infant dysentery. Typhoid and cholera, which had been virtually eradicated in Iraq, also packed the hospital wards.

Added to that was a disastrous shortage of food, which meant malnutrition for some, starvation and death for others. At the same time, the medical system, once the country’s pride, was careening towards total collapse. Iraq would soon have the worst child mortality rate of all 188 countries measured by UNICEF.

There is no question that U.S. planners knew what the awful impact of the sanctions would be. The health calamity was first predicted and then carefully tracked by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency. Their first study was entitled “Iraq’s Water Treatment Vulnerabilities.”

Indeed, from the beginning the intent of U.S. officials was to create such a catastrophic situation that the people of Iraq—civilians but particularly the military—would be forced to react. As Dennis Halliday, the former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, put it to me, “the U.S. theory behind the sanctions was that if you hurt the people of Iraq and kill the children particularly, they’ll rise up with anger and overthrow Saddam.”

But rather than weakening Saddam, the sanctions only consolidated his hold on power. The government’s rationing system became vital to the survival of the people, even though it provided less than a third of a person’s nutritional requirements. Iraqis were so obsessed with simply keeping their families alive that there was little interest or energy to plot the overthrow of one of the most ruthless dictatorships on the planet. “The people didn’t hold Saddam responsible for their plight,” Dennis Halliday said. “They blamed the US and the UN for these sanctions and the pain and anger that these sanctions brought to their lives.”

By now it was clear that sanctions and the terrible sacrifices they were exacting from the people of Iraq would not rid the world of Saddam Hussein. But rather than ending the sanctions or modifying them to target those items truly crucial to building WMD, the Clinton administration continued the futile policy: decimating an entire nation in order to destroy one leader.

Neither for the first nor the last time, the people of Iraq were victims of failed U.S. policy. The Oil for Food program which was introduced in 1996 and expanded over the following years was billed as a major humanitarian measure by the U.S. It allowed Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of petroleum to pay for vital imports, not just food. But Hans Von Sponeck, who also resigned his post as U.N. coordinator in Iraq, condemned the program as “a fig leaf for the international community.”

The simple fact is that Iraq didn’t have much petroleum to sell. The country’s ability to pump oil had been crippled by the bombings and sanctions. Because of other restrictions imposed by the Security Council, only $28 billion actually arrived in Iraq. That had to cover not just food but all Iraq’s imports. That amounted to $170 per person per year which, as one analyst pointed out, is less than one half the annual per capita income of Haiti, the most destitute nation of the Western Hemisphere.

There is no question that Saddam ripped off money during the sanctions regime to attempt to rebuild his military and support his family’s lavish lifestyle, but that point hides the basic issue: Iraq’s needs were enormous. Even if Saddam had invested everything he skimmed from the sanctions into rebuilding his country and feeding his people, those sums would have never prevented the colossal devastation that sanctions brought about.

Of course Saddam profited by smuggling petroleum to neighboring countries. But, according to the Volcker Commission set up to investigate charges of corruption under the sanctions regime, the great bulk of those illicit activities were known about—and accepted—by the U.S.-dominated Sanctions Committee. Because the other countries involved in the smuggling—Turkey, Jordan and Syria—had powerful allies on the Security Council, the delegates closed their eyes to what was going on.

By the time the sanctions were finally removed, May 22, 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion, an entire generation of Iraqis had been decimated by the failed policy. A Unicef study in 1999 concluded that half a million Iraqi children perished in the previous eight years because of the sanctions—and that was four years before they ended. Another American expert in 2003 estimated that the sanctions had killed between 343,900 to 529,000 young children and infants. The exact number will never be known. It was, however, certainly more young people than were ever killed by Saddam Hussein.

(In a statement right out of Orwell on March 27, 2003 Tony Blair actually cited the dramatic increase in infant mortality in Iraq to justify the invasion.)

Beyond the death and destruction of infrastructure, the sanctions had another, equally devastating, but less visible impact, as documented early in 1991 by the group of Harvard medical researchers. They reported that four out of five children interviewed were fearful of losing their families; two thirds doubted whether they themselves would survive to adulthood. The experts concluded that a majority of Iraq’s children would suffer from severe psychological problems throughout their lives. “The trauma, the loss, the grief, the lack of prospects, the feeling of threat here and now, that it will all start again, the impact of the sanctions, make us ask if these children are not the most suffering child population on earth.”

Those sanctions, we reemphasize, lasted for another 12 years after that study —terminating only with the American led invasion of Iraq which unleashed the current debacle.

It is that generation of “the most traumatized children of war ever described,” who have come of age and been engulfed by the cataclysm that is Iraq today. It is they who—if they have not fled the country –also make up much of the insurgencies, the militias, the criminal gangs, the death squads. It is also they, as the new military and police commanders, bureaucrats and legislators, who are confronted with governing this anarchic land.

It is also they, as the months pass, who will be increasingly blamed—along with the Democrat-controlled Congress—for America’s ultimate failure in Iraq.

Barry Lando is an award-winning former longtime producer for CBS' "60 Minutes," and author of Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.

First in a Series of Columns: IraqSlogger Reader-Nominated Heroes in Iraq
03/15/2007 2:06 PM ET
Iraqi vendors sell copies of posters bearing the image of the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani in Baghdad, April 2006.
Photo by Sabah Arar/AFP-Getty Images
Iraqi vendors sell copies of posters bearing the image of the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani in Baghdad, April 2006.

One of our Iraqi readers, Haidar Muaffaq, writes to us from Baghdad in response to our appeal for readers to tell us of his or her hero in Iraq. Haidar's hero: Ayatollah Sistani. Haidar writes:
It is clear for everyone that Ayatollah Sistani was the first highest religious authority in Iraq, which is a religious society, who established a fatwa (in English: religious order) that forbids any single aggressive act against any Baathist or against any governmental office.

Ayatollah Sistani was the first for calling for new, free and quick elections to choose the National Assembly where they can choose people to write the recent permanent constitution.

Ayatollah Sistani was against all types of discrimination. He met all tribes and also met Christian clerics who were impressed by his assuring for the unity of all of Iraq and that people from all types of religion must be treated as brothers and sisters.

Ayatollah Sistani was the hero of the peaceful end for the clashes in Najaf between USF and Muqtada Al-Sadr -- he came directly after receiving an urgent treatment in London to Najaf and insisted that Najaf must be away from conflicts knowing that Najaf has a great effect on the whole Islamic world.

Ayatollah Sistani praised elections calling it a great achievement for Iraqis. He always speaks as a father for all Iraqis. Recently one of his aides issued a book. It speaks about all the declarations and statements that are related to the Iraqi case.

For the last year, Ayatollah Sistani was guiding the government by advising her into the best ways to establish peace and security all over Iraq.

Soldier Mom
Examing the Deeper Meaning Behind Walter Reed Scandal
By TRACEY CALDWELL 03/14/2007 12:35 PM ET
Friends and neighbors keep asking me how I feel about Walter Reed. Like most Americans, I am outraged, but as I said last week, I was not surprised that poor physical conditions might exist in the buildings.

I am not surprised that wounded soldiers encountered bureaucracy. I not surprised that the military tried to keep the problems hidden. If anything has surprised me, it is how many people have jumped to apologize. I lost count how many have apologized by now, saying they should have known. They are right. They should have known. I don’t know how many stopped by Walter Reed for photo-ops and never looked any further. Did they not look because there was nothing to be gained politically by looking? Did they not look because they did not want to know? Whatever the reason, they failed because they did not look.

But what really made my blood pressure rise was that some did know. Some had looked. These were not members of the military, trying to protect the reputation of the institution they belong to. No, these were our elected representatives.

I can understand people within military keeping quiet. I don’t think it was right, but I do understand it. They did not want to embarrass the military--an organization they are heavily invested in. But members of Congress are not elected to protect the military from embarrassment; they are elected to represent us in Washington. Unless they believe their constituents back home would have wanted them to leave those soldiers in unfit conditions, they had a duty to speak up, and keep speaking up until the problem was resolved.

They failed not only our wounded soldiers; they failed their constituents at home. They left it up to the Washington Post to embarrass the military into taking care of its wounded soldiers. We have all had the opportunity to see how quickly they can jump to fix a problem once they have been embarrassed. Gone is the mold, mice, and roaches. Gone are many of the leaders who led us to this place. They are attacking the bureaucracy as they would a battle on the battlefield; giving it all they have.

The military has said repeatedly that this is not a resource issue; it is a failure of leadership. Obviously, the fact that our wounded soldiers were suffering under the conditions they were indicates a failure of leadership. But I find it difficult to believe this is only a failure of leadership.

There is no institution better than the military for developing leadership. It is a system that rewards leadership. I have seen it take young men and turn them into leaders of the highest quality. So how did we end up with leaders responsible for the well-being of our wounded soldiers failing so drastically at their mission?

If this is a failure of leadership, then the Pentagon doesn’t just have a problem with the bricks and mortar of decrepit buildings, or the bureaucracy that soldiers have to navigate to get what they need. The US military may need to examine how it allowed men who failed so greatly at leadership to rise to such senior positions. Why didn’t they see they lacked the leadership skills to get the job done? Why did it take the Washington Post to expose the failures of leadership? Will we have to wait for the Washington Post to show us where else our military is lacking in leadership skills?

I want to know that those leading my son have the leadership skills to succeed at their mission and keep my son safe. This is time of war; we cannot afford a failure of leadership in our civilian or military leaders.

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

Total Withdrawal From Iraq.... Who Are We Kidding?
By BARRY LANDO 03/12/2007 11:55 AM ET
From the very start, the debate over Iraq has been obscured by a miasma of bogus statistics and facts: issues no one really wanted to deal publicly with—not the White House; certainly not the Republican-led Congress.   The current debate over maintaining troop levels in Iraq is no different as the administration continues to quietly add thousands more troops to the original 21,500 “surge.” But that’s only part of the problem.

Congress is now supposedly discussing the eventual withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq. Even the Bush administration, though it refuses to set any deadline, seems to be promising a total pullout.

But who are they kidding? First of all, even those Iraqi units s already up and running rely on the U.S. for much of their logistics and certainly almost all of their air support. Self-sufficiency is years away.

Secondly—and very much related: If U.S. troops are really to withdraw completely from Iraq, what’s the point of America’s having built four huge “super bases” in that country—each one housing tens of thousands of US soldiers?  

The most mammoth is the sprawling air base and logistics centre at Balad, north of Baghdad. As of last year, the U.S. had already poured close to a quarter of a billion dollars into that facility, and was planning tens of millions more, including a major road system and a 13-foot-high security fence that would stretch for 12.4 miles. In fact, thousands of troops stationed at Balad already spend their entire tour of duty within the base’s huge confines.

Balad was billed as Americas’ strategic air center for the entire region. Indeed, one original but unstated objective of the 2003 invasion was to make Iraq the U.S.’s new military platform in that part of the world. The huge U.S. troop presence in Saudi Arabia was becoming much too politically sensitive.

Another facility is the massive marine base of Al-Asad in Anbar province, where a visiting reporter was recently assured by U.S. soldiers that American troops would be rotating though for at least the next decade.

In other words, while American troop levels may be reduced at some point, tens of thousands American troops will almost certainly be remaining behind for years, hunkered down in their rambling new bases. 

Ironically, when the British established Iraq after World War I they also needed military bases--not just to dominate the immediate region, but to help maintain their sway over Persia and India. The British were also determined to control Iraq’s potentially vast petroleum resources.

Eighty-five years later, in 2007, Iraqis can be forgiven if they think their country has come full circle. In fact, both Sunnis and Shiites are deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions.

It will become an ever more explosive issue. There is no way that the bases and the tens of thousands of troops that man them will not be targeted by anti-American forces of all stripes.  

It is an issue that will also —quite understandably—be of key concern to Iran.  Americans have always had trouble viewing the world through the eyes of others, but imagine if an unfriendly foreign power established four huge super bases in Mexico or Canada–a power that also had never ruled out using such bases for eventual military action against the U.S.

Surprisingly–or perhaps not surprisingly–the question of what the U.S. is really after in Iraq has never been frankly debated by the U.S. Congress.

Though U.S. legislators voted against appropriating funds for permanent bases in Iraq, the White House and Pentagon have ignored that prohibition by portraying the huge construction projects to be for temporary facilities tied to the ongoing conflict. 

It’s a fiction that has allowed Congress to get off the hook without really standing up to the administration. It’s similar to the way Congress all along has allowed the White House to have its way in Iraq. 

Barry Lando is an award-winning former longtime producer for CBS' "60 Minutes," and author of Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.

Tribe Against Tribe
03/08/2007 1:16 PM ET

Soldier Mom
Real Commitment to Support Troops Would Last a Lifetime
By TRACEY CALDWELL 03/07/2007 12:19 PM ET
While watching the Walter Reed hearings, it occurred to me that the American public seems more shocked about the scandal than most military families. We have been dealing with the military for years, so recent developments are no surprise to us.

I remember when my son enlisted. The recruiter showed me pictures of very nice barracks, telling me how well the military took care its volunteer soldiers.

My son did not end up in the kind of barracks shown by the recruiter. An old building slated to be torn down served as his housing. But he wasn’t a wounded soldier, so when mold grew on his walls, he could clean it off himself.

Decaying military facilities are nothing new, and every soldier has had to negotiate through complicated military bureaucracy.

The most heartbreaking part of the hearings was listening to how soldiers had to prove their injuries were real; the soldier who spoke about getting his purple heart in civilian clothes and having to show his purple heart to get his uniform replaced.

Despite what is said about respecting our soldiers, the message here was loud and clear--they think our soldiers are the kind of people who would fake injuries and scam the system. However, my son, and the soldiers he serves with, would not do that.

I understand that each time a soldier is categorized as permanently disabled it has long-term consequences on the Veteran’s Administration budget. American taxpayers will be paying for that soldier--for his care and well-being--for the rest of his life.

We were not worried about the price when we made commitments during enlistment. We needed soldiers and we made them promises. In exchange they said, ‘I will go, send me, I will risk my life to do the job you need done.’ Now we tell them that we think you’re the kind of person who would fake an injury; you want to freeload off the system.

So few Americans are willing to join our military, to go to foreign lands and fight our wars. US soldiers sacrifice the normal life of young people. They sacrifice time with families and friends. They work hard. Does this sound like the kind of person who wants to freeload off the system? Is this what we really think of our soldiers?

I am not saying there are not a few who might exaggerate their injuries, who might try to get a free uniform. But is it worth treating every soldier with suspicion just to save the cost of a few bad apples getting a little more than they deserve? It seems a small price to pay to treat our soldiers with the respect they deserve.

Even if they get the determination that allows them the benefits they have earned, their fight won’t be over. They will spend the rest of their life fighting to keep those veterans benefits from being cut.

The cost of war does not stop at the battlefield, and it will not stop the day we bring all our soldiers home. Broken equipment and broken soldiers are part of the cost of war. Americans will not just now, but every year for the rest of these soldiers lives, have to step up and show the show the soldiers that “I support the troops” is not just a meaningless slogan. Each year, when budgets are submitted, these soldiers will see if Americans are really willing to support their heroes.

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

Only on Slogger
New Site Aimed at Helping War Zone Journalists -- All Confidential
By ANTHONY FEINSTEIN 03/06/2007 07:56 AM ET
War, Journalism and Emotional Health
Anthony Feinstein MPhil, PhD, FRCPC

Journalists who work in war zones confront grave danger. More journalists have died in the current Iraq war than in any other conflict since foreign correspondents first became a fixture on the field of combat. In the four years of World War I, two journalists died. This number increased to 69 in the Second World War. In the Korean War, 17 deaths were documented. In the Vietnam conflict, which, if one includes Cambodia spanned 20 years, 63 journalists died. In Iraq, the number of fatalities in less than four years exceeds 100.

While the hazardous nature of the profession is now widely accepted, what is less well known is the considerable psychological toll exerted on journalists by working in zones of conflict. Research conducted by my team in Toronto over the past six years has shown that these difficulties may take many forms. Rates of clinically significant depression well exceed those in the general population while substance abuse, in particular excessive alcohol consumption, afflicts a substantial minority of journalists. Anxiety Disorders are common too, in particular a condition termed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This refers to a constellation of signs and symptoms that may arise in an individual who has been exposed to a life threatening event or who has witnessed just such an event in someone else. The cardinal symptoms of PTSD include unwanted recollections or images of the traumatic event, flashbacks to that event, nightmares, a reluctance to rekindle memories of the event, a desire to avoid the scene of the trauma or to think about the traumatic event, a heightened sense of vigilance, irritability, difficulty falling asleep, and prominent startle response. Over the course of a decade or two working in war zones, up to one in five journalists may develop this syndrome.

Until recently, psychological help was not readily available to journalists. The situation is fortunately starting to change. This has been brought about by a recognition on the part of news organizations that emotional trauma exerts a serious toll on the well being of journalists and their families. PTSD and depression seldom lift spontaneously. Not only do they significantly impair an individual’s quality of life, they may prove destructive to relationships and lead to family strife and poor work performance. Here it is important to emphasize that these disorders are treatable and experience thus far shows that front-line journalists who seek treatment frequently respond well and quickly to the appropriate intervention.

As part of ongoing attempts to assist journalists with their psychological health a self-help website, funded by CNN, has been developed specifically for the profession. The web address is and the site is password protected (passwords can be obtained from me at the University of Toronto. Simply send a request via email to The benefits of this website are many. Journalists can now undertake a self-assessment with respect to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, overall psychological well being, and alcohol and substance use. They are given immediate feedback on the website once they have completed the questionnaires. The site is confidential and no data are given to news organizations. Journalists may take the assessment on more than one occasion. The process is quick and easy to use. Finally, assessments can be taken irrespective of a journalist’s location. Thus, it does not matter whether a journalist is in London or Baghdad. All that is needed is access to the Internet.

In future articles, I will be addressing a series of allied topics relating to journalists psychological well being. Questions to be explored will include the following: Are there particular types of journalism, ie. photojournalism, that are more hazardous from a psychological perspective than others? How do women journalists fare relative to their male counterparts when working in zones of conflict? How do freelance journalists compare psychologically to their colleagues who work for large news organizations?


Anthony Feinstein is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is the author or Journalists Under Fire. The Psychological Hazards of Covering War, published by the John Hopkins Press. He can be reached at

French Leader Gave "Judicious and Balanced" Speech on Iraq
Domenic de Villepin speaking outside UN Security Council chambers, February 2003
Stephen Chernin/Getty
Domenic de Villepin speaking outside UN Security Council chambers, February 2003

Ambassador Charles Freeman, president of the Middle East Policy council, former assistant secretary of defense, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and expert working group member of Baker-Hamilton, sent around a bulk e-mail today offering a reprise of French foreign minister Domenic de Villepin's February 2003 speech to the UN.

Freeman highlighted portions he thought key for reconsideration under the current circumstances, such as de Villepin's pre-war description of France's two "convictions" about the possibility of military action against Iraq.

· The first is that the option of inspections has not been taken to the end and that it can provide an effective response to the imperative of disarming Iraq;

· The second is that the use of force would be so fraught with risks for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort.

The e-mail began with Freeman's own thoughts on de Villepin's speech:

It is interesting now to re-read the speech that the French foreign minister gave in the United Nations Security Council as it declined to authorize the subsequent US-led invasion of Iraq. The United States Congress reacted to this speech by renaming 'French fries' ''freedom fries.' In retrospect, many there probably wish they had given as judicious and balanced a speech as this one.

Whan I asked Amb. Freeman to play "what if" with me, and speculate on what might have happened had US leaders chosen to follow the "French path," he told me this:

Had we allowed the inspection process to play out, as de Villepin argued it should, we might well have been able to discover that there was no WMD without having to incur and inflict the casualties we did. And it is interesting to speculate, given how scared Saddam was to admit to his own military and security forces that he had no WMD, how such a revelation might have affected his ability to remain in power in Baghdad. But we took a different path and will never know.

The full text of de Villepin's speech is below, with emphasis thanks to Amb. Freeman.


Iraq / Address by Dominique de Villepin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the United Nations Security Council

New-York, February 14, 2003

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Ministers, Ambassadors,

I would like to thank Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei for the information they have just given us on the continuing inspections in Iraq. I would like to express to them again France's confidence and complete support in their mission.

You know the value that France has placed on the unity of the Security Council from the outset of the Iraq crisis. This unity rests on two fundamental elements at this time:

We are pursuing together the objective of effectively disarming Iraq. We have an obligation to achieve results. Let us not cast doubt on our common commitment to this goal. We shoulder collectively this onerous responsibility which must leave no room for ulterior motives or assumptions. Let us be clear: Not one of us feels the least indulgence towards Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime.

In unanimously adopting resolution 1441, we collectively expressed our agreement with the two-stage approach proposed by France: the choice of disarmament through inspections and, should this strategy fail, consideration by the Security Council of all the options, including the recourse to force. It was clearly in the event the inspections failed and only in that scenario that a second resolution could be justified.

The question today is simple: Do we consider in good conscience that disarmament via inspections is now leading us to a dead-end? Or do we consider that the possibilities regarding inspections presented in resolution 1441 have still not been fully explored?

In response to this question, France has two convictions:

· The first is that the option of inspections has not been taken to the end and that it can provide an effective response to the imperative of disarming Iraq;

· The second is that the use of force would be so fraught with risks for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort. So what have we just learned from the report by Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei? That the inspections are producing results. Of course, each of us wants more, and we will continue together to put pressure on Baghdad to obtain more. But the inspections are producing results.

In their previous reports to the Security Council on January 27, the executive chairman of UNMOVIC and the director-general of the IAEA had identified in detail areas in which progress was expected. Significant gains have been made on several of these points:

· In the chemical and biological areas, the Iraqis have provided the inspectors with new documentation. They have also announced the establishment of commissions of inquiry led by former officials of weapons programs, in accordance with Mr. Blix's requests;

· In the ballistic domain, the information provided by Iraq has also enabled the inspectors to make progress. We know exactly the real capabilities of the Al-Samoud missile. The unauthorized programs must now be dismantled, in accordance with Mr. Blix's conclusions;

· In the nuclear domain, useful information was given to the IAEA on important points discussed by Mr. ElBaradei on January 27: the acquisition of magnets that could be used for enriching uranium and the list of contacts between Iraq and the country likely to have provided it with uranium.

There we are at the heart of the logic of resolution 1441 which must ensure the effectiveness of the inspections through precise identification of banned programs then their elimination.

We all realize that the success of the inspections presupposes that we obtain Iraq's full and complete cooperation. France has consistently demanded this.

Real progress is beginning to be apparent:

· Iraq has agreed to aerial reconnaissance over its territory;

· It has allowed Iraqi scientists to be questioned by the inspectors without witnesses;

· A bill barring all activities linked to weapons of mass destruction programs is in the process of being adopted, in accordance with a long-standing request of the inspectors;

· Iraq is to provide a detailed list of experts who witnessed the destruction of military programs in 1991.

France naturally expects these commitments to be durably verified. Beyond that, we must maintain strong pressure on Iraq so that it goes further in its cooperation.

Progress like this strengthens us in our conviction that inspections can be effective. But we must not shut our eyes to the amount of work that still remains; questions still have to be cleared up, verifications made, and installations and equipment probably still have to be destroyed.

To do this, we must give the inspections every chance of succeeding:

· I submitted proposals to the Council on February 5;

· Since then we have detailed them in a working document addressed to Mr. Blix and M. ElBaradei and distributed to Council members.

What is the spirit of these proposals?

· They are practical, concrete proposals that can be implemented quickly and are designed to enhance the efficiency of inspection operations.

· They fall within the framework of resolution 1441 and consequently do not require a new resolution.

· They must support the efforts of Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei: The latter are naturally the best placed to tell us which ones they wish to adopt for the maximum effectiveness of their work.

· In their report they have already made useful and operational comments. France has already announced that it had additional resources available to Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, beginning with its Mirage IV reconnaissance aircraft.

Now, yes, I do hear the critics:

· There are those who think that the inspections, in their principle, cannot be the least effective. But I recall that this is the very foundation of resolution 1441 and that the inspections are producing results. One may judge them inadequate but they are there.

· There are those who believe that continuing the inspection process is a sort of delaying tactic to prevent military intervention. That naturally raises the question of the time allowed Iraq. This brings us to the core of the debates. At stake is our credibility, and our sense of responsibility Let us have the courage to see things as they are.

There are two options:

· The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest. But let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq's unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.

· Faced with such perspectives, there is an alternative in the inspections which allow us to move forward day by day with the effective and peaceful disarmament of Iraq. In the end is that choice not the most sure and most rapid?

No one can assert today that the path of war will be shorter than that of the inspections. No one can claim either that it might lead to a safer, more just and more stable world. For war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time?

So let us allow the United Nations inspectors the time they need for their mission to succeed. But let us together be vigilant and ask Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei to report regularly to the Council. France, for its part, proposes another meeting on March 14 at ministerial level to assess the situation. We will then be able to judge the progress that has been made and what remains to be done.

Given this context, the use of force is not justified at this time.

There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq via inspections. Furthermore, premature recourse to the military option would be fraught with risks:

· The authority of our action is based today on the unity of the international community. Premature military intervention would bring this unity into question, and that would detract from its legitimacy and, in the long run, its effectiveness.

· Such intervention could have incalculable consequences for the stability of this scarred and fragile region. It would compound the sense of injustice, increase tensions and risk paving the way to other conflicts.

· We all share the same priority—that of fighting terrorism mercilessly. This fight requires total determination. Since the tragedy of September 11 this has been one of the highest priorities facing our peoples. And France, which was struck hard by this terrible scourge several times, is wholly mobilized in this fight which concerns us all and which we must pursue together. That was the sense of the Security Council meeting held on January 20, at France's initiative.

Ten days ago, the US Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, reported the alleged links between al-Qaeda and the regime in Baghdad. Given the present state of our research and intelligence, in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links. On the other hand, we must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this plan. Would not such intervention be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism?

France has said all along: We do not exclude the possibility that force may have to be used one day if the inspectors' reports concluded that it was impossible to continue the inspections. The Council would then have to take a decision, and its members would have to meet all their responsibilities. In such an eventuality, I want to recall here the questions I emphasized at our last debate on February 4 which we must answer:

To what extent do the nature and extent of the threat justify the immediate recourse to force?

How do we ensure that the considerable risks of such intervention can actually be kept under control?

In any case, in such an eventuality, it is indeed the unity of the international community that would guarantee its effectiveness. Similarly, it is the United Nations that will be tomorrow at the center of the peace to be built whatever happens.

Mr. President, to those who are wondering in anguish when and how we are going to cede to war, I would like to tell them that nothing, at any time, in this Security Council, will be done in haste, misunderstanding, suspicion or fear.

In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. The onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament in peace.

This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity. A country that does not forget and knows everything it owes to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere. And yet has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind. Faithful to its values, it wishes resolutely to act with all the members of the international community. It believes in our ability to build together a better world.

Thank you.

Three Suggestions For How To Improve Matters in Iraqi Kurdistan
By ASHLEY BOMMER 03/01/2007 2:10 PM ET
Iraqi Kurdistan-Irbil

Kurdistan is a mystery to most of the world. Say that you are going to Kurdistan. Most people may ask if you will be seeing Borat, the over-the-top, fictional character from Kazakhstan. But say that you are going to Northern Iraq, what the nation’s neighbors, Turkey and Iran, call Kurdistan. People will ask "why?" followed by a grim "be safe."

True, the Kurds of Iraq have been cursed by history. With a population of over four million, under Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, thousands were poisoned by gas, millions were driven from their homes, and more than 3,000 of their villages were razed.

Now, in the midst of war, history should pay careful attention to what may happen next. The danger Kurdistan faces is overwhelming. Their peripheral region falls between two hostile capitals, Ankara and Tehran. Below, what is now known as the world’s deadliest capital -- Baghdad. In the middle of a political earthquake, what can Kurdistan possibly do to keep from being buried alive?

Above all, Kurdistan must protect its security. Driving through checkpoints and military posts, the reminder of what once had happened -- and what could happen again -- lingers thick. But instead of mobilizing for their own protection, they are being told by the US Commanding General in Baghdad to send their local forces, the peshmergas, known as one of the best fighting forces in the world, to Baghdad to fight a sectarian war. The Kurdistan Regional Government is willing to protect American forces, but a smarter solution would be to use the peshmergas as a Rapid Reaction Force in Northern Iraq. In November 2005, when US troops were in trouble in Mosul, President Barzani sent 5,000 peshmergas within one hour to help. Rapid Reaction in Northern Iraq and along their frontier border towns -- including Kirkuk, Mosul and Diyala -- is where they are most effective, not as permanent deployments in Baghdad.

Second, establish and maintain a political dialogue which will create benchmarks with Ankara. Right now if you ask the Iraqi Kurds who is their biggest problem -- the Turks or the Arabs -- the almost unanimous response is the Turks. The reason: years of suspicion, distrust, and conflicts over hot button issues such as oilfields, the status of Kirkuk, the PKK (the armed political movement of the Kurds that the US Government classifies as a terrorist organization) and Kurdistan's unknown future independence . Before these conflicts destroy Kurdistan and Turkey's hope for a cooperative trade agreement and future, a dialogue leading to agreements on trade, Kirkuk and the PKK, between the two governments is necessary.

Lastly, but no less critical, the promotion of foreign direct investment and trade with the rest of the world. The Kurdistan Regional Government should invite Heads of Government and US Members of Congress to their capital, Irbil, to visit. They should encourage and actively recruit business and hotel leaders to come as well. To generate economic growth, they should consider making Kurdistan a free economic zone. The zone concept based on low tariffs, tax holidays, and other investment incentives could be an important component of their strategy. According to the Kurdistan Regional Government, already over 300 Turkish companies have come to Kurdistan, generating over a billion in foreign direct investment. More initiatives to bring in further foreign direct investment are needed.

The world can and will be quietly charmed by Kurdistan. An autonomous region that prides itself on learning -- so much so that there is a quill on their flag to symbolize education -- Kurdistan's leaders are visionary and reflective. And their people, the Iraqi Kurds, are hard working and proud. The food is fresh, especially the sinfully sweet honeycomb, and the hospitality is unrivaled. If only more people would go and share a meal with them. With daily flights to Irbil from Istanbul, and four flights a week from Amman; Kurdistan is not impossible to get to. And under the "if you build it, they will come," motto, the Iraqi Kurds are actively preparing to welcome foreign visitors. Driving from the airport to the city, you feel like you have discovered Northern Iraq's version of Pudong (the futuristic city outside of Shanghai). New construction, apartments, and freshly planted trees line the drive like dominos.

The road ahead won't be easy. Kurdistan's long term strategy lies upon the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Kurds's willingness to focus on the future, rather than the past. Not many people can overcome years of oppression, terror, and war -- and head to the negotiating table -- but Iraqi Kurds are peshmergas as well as attentive students. What seems like a quagmire to most, can most certainly bear an opportunity to them.


Ashley Bommer is Chief of Staff to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Vice Chairman of Perseus, a leading private equity firm. She works alongside him in his capacity as former U. S. Ambassador to the UN; Chairman of the U.S. Academy in Berlin; President and CEO of the Global Business Coalition, the business alliance against HIV/AIDS; Chairman of the Asia Society; and Chairman of Special Olympics 2009. She was a Carnegie Council New Leader (2005-2006) and worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the Clinton Administration.

Diplomatic Buzz
Says Friendship With US Will Not Mean "Submission"
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/01/2007 12:23 PM ET
French Interior Minister and Presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, Feb 28, 2007
French Interior Minister and Presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, Feb 28, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy, leading candidate for the French presidency and self-declared "friend of America", spoke to the necessity of a U.S.-France relationship, but asserted that it would not mean "submission," during a campaign speech laying out his foreign policy platform.

Sarkozy has carved out a position for himself in opposition of President Chirac's chill in relations with the United States. The French press has lambasted the right-wing interior minister for his views, even giving him a nickname--"the American"--but Sarkozy has maintained a lead in the polls.

Recent gains by opposing candidate, Segolene Royal, may have led Sarkozy to slightly adjust his rhetoric, or at least to specifically define his views in yesterday's speech on his foreign policy vision for France.

Sarkozy re-stated his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, calling it a "historic" mistake, warning that the US should not make a similar one in Iran. US discussion of the military option is "useless posturing," Sarkozy said, and he would not support any military action against Iran.


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