Saturday, December 13, 2008

Security Station Soldiers Don't Count

Today we hear:

Thousands of U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities at local security stations after the summer deadline to have combat troops out of the urban areas, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Saturday.
The report continues,
Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters that the troops would serve as training and mentoring teams, and thus would not be included in the mandate to pull combat troops from the cities. That mandate is included in the recently approved U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
My first thought was "in your face Iraqi scum," as in the USA! USA! shouters saying, "the US doesn't really have to adhere to its agreements... because we're the superior USA!"

My second thought was, these little security stations will be sitting ducks. It's only a matter of time before one is over run and every American in it is liquidated. Then we'll have a big step backwards; we're all familiar with such events. (Hopefully I'm wrong).

My final thought drifted back to the prediction I made back, coincidentally as I check the date, two years ago today in a piece entitled Iraqization and Predicted Length of Iraq War.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Leaving Iraq Without Leaving Iraq

Part 1: Iraqis suspicious of pullout deal

Paul Jay speaks to Leila Fadel, Baghdad Bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. They speak on Iraqi perception of the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The Arabic-version of the agreement is firm on the United States completely withdrawing all aspects of its occupation of Iraq by December 31, 2011. Fadel says that most Iraqis are suspicious of the Agreement and of their government's dedication to ending the US-led occupation firmly.

Fadel also talks about Muqtada al- Sadr and his supporters' reaction to the Agreement as well as the fall in violence in Iraq in the past year.

Leila Fadel is the chief of the Baghdad bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She has covered the war in Iraq for Knight Ridder and now McClatchy on and off since June 2005, as well as the 34-day war in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006. Prior to joining the McClatchy team she worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a crime and higher education reporter.

Fadel graduated from Northeastern University in Boston in 2004 and has lived in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. She speaks conversational Arabic. She was named print journalist of the year by the Houston Press Club for her work in 2005 and won a Katie Award from the Dallas Press Club in 2006 for her portfolio of work.

Her Iraq reporting won her Print Journalist of the Year honors from the Houston Press Club citing her work from "Bedford (Texas) to Baghdad."

December 10, 2008
Iraqis suspicious of pullout deal

Leila Fadel says while new agreement seems a win for Iraq many doubt it will be implemented as written
Part 2: The Iraqi view of the surge

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama Talks War on Meet the Press

Meet the Press highlights from President-elect Obama's appearance on Sunday ranged from "Obama won't smoke in the White House" to "Obama warns economy will get even worse" to my favorite, Obama says there will be science lectures in the White House. That would be fantastic and a real change from the science-phobic President Bush. In fact, some of my personal hopes for Obama involve his approach to climate change and science. I don't have a lot of hope that he will be unbiased about Palestine or Afghanistan because his own words show his agenda supports fighting a so-called "War on Terror" as defined by the "West" -- which somehow includes Israel. Unfortunately, the "War on Terror" is a mythological beast. It's like a war on bad dreams.

The most disturbing statements that Obama made during the Meet the Press Interview (transcript here) are about continuing the war in the "region" of Afghanistan. It seems as though he is trying to make us believe that al Qaeda is in Afghanistan, and therefore, we still have to keep fighting in Afghanistan. That sounds good to people who aren't paying attention, in large part because this is what Obama has been saying his whole campaign. The following is what he said during Meet the Press.

"The second thing is that we need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region--Pakistan and India and the Afghan government--to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community. And, as I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran. And part of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, direct diplomacy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives. And that's al-Qaeda and, and, and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come."

There are a few disturbing things in that paragraph. The first is the leading us to believe that al Qaeda is all over Afghanistan. According to Professor Juan Cole of the Informed Comment website, there is no Al Qaeda in Afganistan. There is the Taliban, but the Taliban didn't attack us. Depending on who you ask, the Taliban may be, or may not be, a terrorist group. At one point they reportedly joined forces with Al Qaeda, but it appears those days are long over. Would we Americans be a terrorist group if we tried to fight invaders to get them to leave our country? Would it be similar, if not the same? Regardless, the Taliban did not attack the U.S. and we seem to be fighting them in order to impose "freedom" on the civilians there, including the ones we are still bombing.

The Taliban members are called "insurgents" only because we are fighting them, and we are only fighting them because they want us, the occupiers, out of their country. Like I've said before, I still don't understand what we're doing in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai wants us out. We have no business imposing our form of government on anyone, especially since it's based on an economic system that is causing terrible financial problems in the entire world right now. "Freedom" to the Bush administration equals unregulated capitalism. It has, and had, nothing to do with civil rights or the Constitutuion, or actual "freedom", all of which Bush and his cohorts have frequently and happily crapped on.

Juan Cole wrote:
"Obama, who is retaining Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, said he would give him a new mission, of getting out of Iraq and combatting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. (I don't think there is any al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; at least, no captures there have been announced to my knowledge since 2002)."

So . . . . . if there are no al Qaeda in Afganistan, and we are only fighting the locals now, it stands to reason that will change when Obama actually becomes president, because as a policy, that makes no sense. Can we presume a new policy means we will be fighting al Qaeda where they actually are -- in the mountains on the north edge of Pakistan? In Pakistan? In India? Keep in mind, he mentioned all these countries, and in the two where al Qaeda probably lurks, there are also quite a few nuclear weapons. This is not a good mix.

Obama also said, "We are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come." Years to come. It is unacceptable to me and many other peace-loving people that we will be at war in that "region" for years to come. These wars have to end and they have to end soon.

I don't know if this will make any difference, but it's worth a try: There is a website besides where you can weigh in on what you want Obama to do on "Day One". You can vote on the ideas that have been proposed already, many of which are very hard to choose between because they are nearly the same. President Obama may or may not see these answers but it's fun to pretend we have a say in things anyway. Vote here on: On/Day/1.

It is a "Contest of Ideas" I wish I'd known about a month ago, because I would have certainly submitted different ideas than I see there, but some of them are close enough.

Hopefully I'm misinterpreting everything Obama is saying about the "War on Terror". Obama also said we need to fight militarily in the region, and do it more strongly, so I doubt we are misinterpreting anything. The rest of the world's leaders are not too eager to stop these wars either. After all, we are having an economic crisis, and there is nothing for an economic crisis (so goes the conventional wisdom) like a long war. Except in this case, these wars will bankrupt us instead of helping the economy. The time to pressure the new administration to listen to the peace movement is now.

Cross-posted at Civilianism

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Obama Takes Shinseki for Cabinet

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama will nominate retired Gen. Eric Shinseki to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, two Democratic sources said Saturday.

Obama was expected to make the formal announcement Sunday -- Pearl Harbor Day -- at a news conference in Chicago. Veterans groups appeared to support the selection.

"I am excited. I don't know him personally but this is a huge move," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

For years, Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has been the patron saint of Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief's sage advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.

Well, if this doesn't convince the skeptics on the left that Obama is moving in the opposite direction of Bush, than nothing will. If nothing else, this selection shows that he is not going to surround himself with a bubble of yes men.

Shinseki spoke with condor and honesty about what he thought would be the necessary troop levels for a successful invasion and occupation of Iraq. Somehow, I do not see Shinseki becoming Army chief of staff without being able to recognize the prevailing political winds. So, I figure he knew speaking his opinion was going to have consequences.

It may have taken 5 years, but his honesty and willingness to speak his piece has finally paid off. True, he may not be leading the army, or the armed forces, but he sure as hell was just offered an important post. For most of my life, I have seen veterans handed the short stick. It's almost as if the United States is embarrassed that service members are wounded during combat. Quite frankly, the current administration has acted as if the only sacrifice they were willing to acknowledged was death. And even then, just barely.

I hope Eric Shinseki turns out to be a true advocate for the injured men and women of the armed forces. Lord knows they need one after eight years of the apathy they've had to experience from BushCo™.

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