Pillsbury Doughboy weighs in on Iraq fiasco - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-13-2005, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Pillsbury Doughboy weighs in on Iraq fiasco

Published on Monday, June 13, 2005 by Knight-Ridder
Military Action Won't End Insurgency, Growing Number of US Officers Believe
by Tom Lasseter

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops during the past two years.

The message is markedly different from previous statements by U.S. officials who spoke of quashing the insurgency by rounding up or killing "dead enders" loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein. As recently as two weeks ago, in a Memorial Day interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Vice President Dick Cheney said he believed the insurgency was in its "last throes."

Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."

Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, expressed similar sentiments, calling the military's efforts "the Pillsbury Doughboy idea" - pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere.

"Like in Baghdad," Casey said during an interview with two newspaper reporters, including one from Knight Ridder, last week. "We push in Baghdad - they're down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week - but in north-center (Iraq) ... they've gone up," he said. "The political process will be the decisive element."

The recognition that a military solution is not in the offing has led U.S. and Iraqi officials to signal they are willing to negotiate with insurgent groups, or their intermediaries.

"It has evolved in the course of normal business," said a senior U.S. diplomatic official in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of U.S. policy to defer to the Iraqi government on Iraqi political matters. "We have now encountered people who at least claim to have some form of a relationship with the insurgency."

The message is markedly different from previous statements by U.S. officials who spoke of quashing the insurgency by rounding up or killing "dead enders" loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein. As recently as two weeks ago, in a Memorial Day interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Vice President Dick Cheney said he believed the insurgency was in its "last throes."

But the violence has continued unabated, even though 44 of the 55 Iraqis portrayed in the military's famous "deck of cards" have been killed or captured, including Saddam.

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

"We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."

Last month was one of the deadliest since President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in May 2003, a month that saw six American troops killed by hostile fire. In May 2005, 67 U.S. soldiers and Marines were killed by hostile fire, the fourth-highest tally since the war began, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an Internet site that uses official casualty reports to organize deaths by a variety of criteria.

At least 26 troops have been killed by insurgents so far in June, bringing to 1,311 the number of U.S. soldiers killed by hostile action. Another 391 service members have died as a result of accidents or illness.

The Iraqi interior minister said last week that the insurgency has killed 12,000 Iraqis during the past two years. He did not say how he arrived at the figure.

American officials had hoped that January's national elections would blunt the insurgency by giving the population hope for their political future. But so far, the political process has not in any meaningful way included Iraq's Sunni Muslim population.

Most of Iraq's Sunnis Muslims, motivated either by fear or boycott, did not vote, and they hold a scant 17 seats in the 275-member parliament.

There was a post-election lull in bloodshed, a period that saw daily attack figures dip into the 30s. But with the seating of the interim government on April 28, attacks spiked back to 70 a day. More than 700 Iraqis have been killed since then.

The former Iraqi minister of electricity, Ayham al-Samarie, has said he's consulted with U.S. diplomatic officials about his negotiations with two major insurgent groups to form a political front of sorts. There has been similar talk in the past - notably by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's administration, which spoke of inclusion through amnesty - but nothing has come of it.

At the heart of the problem is the continued failure of U.S. and Iraqi officials to bring the nation's Sunni minority, with more than five million people, to the political table. Sunnis now find themselves in a country ruled by the Shiite and Kurdish political parties once brutally oppressed by Saddam, a Sunni.

With Shiites and Kurds stocking the nation's security forces with members of their militias, Sunnis have been marginalized and, according to some analysts in Iraq, have become more willing to join armed groups.

Since September of last year, some 85 percent of the violence in Iraq has taken place in just four of Iraq's 18 provinces: the Sunni heartland of al Anbar, Baghdad, Ninevah and Salah al Din.

U.S. officials prefer not to talk about the situation along religious lines, but they acknowledge that one of the key obstacles to resolving Iraq's problems is the difference between Sunni and Shiite religious institutions.

Shiites are organized around their marja'iya, a council of clerics - led in Iraq by Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani - that issues religious edicts that Shiite faithful follow as law. Sunnis, on the other hand, have no such unifying structure.

The difference was made clear in January when one list formed under the guidance of Sistani was the choice of almost all Shiites voting. Those Sunnis who did go to the polls split their votes among a myriad of organizations including those backed by a presumptive monarch, a group of communists and a religious group that may or may not have been boycotting the election.

Sunni Muslims near downtown Baghdad have only to drive down the street to see how precarious their position in Iraqi politics and society is these days. On roads near the party headquarters for the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is in large part shaping the policy of the nation, Kurdish militia members patrol the streets.

The troops are ostensibly part of the nation's army, but they still wear militia uniforms and, as is the case with some in Kurdistan, many either can't or won't speak Arabic. One of the roads they patrol has been named Badr Street, for the armed wing of the Supreme Council. There is a large billboard with the looming face of Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the Supreme Council's leader.

Unless Sunnis develop confidence that the government will represent them, few here see the insurgency fading.

Asked about the success in suppressing the insurgency in Baghdad recently - the result of a series of large-scale raids that in targeted primarily Sunni neighborhoods - Brig. Gen. Alston said that he expects the violence to return.

"We have taken down factories, major cells, we have made good progress in (stopping) the production of (car bombs) in Baghdad," Alston said. "Now, do I think that there will be more (bombs) in Baghdad? Yes, I do."

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-14-2005, 11:12 PM
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RE: Pillsbury Doughboy weighs in on Iraq fiasco

As if to prove exactly what the general is saying:

Suicide bombers kill 28 in northern Iraq

By Yehia Barzanji
Associated Press

June 14, 2005 | Kirkuk, Iraq -- A suicide bomber struck outside a bank as elderly men and women waited to cash their pension checks Tuesday, killing 23 people and wounding nearly 100 in this oil-rich northern city that has become a flashpoint for sectarian tension.

Elsewhere, five Iraqi soldiers were killed and two wounded in a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in Kan'an, 30 miles north of Baghdad, and the bodies of 24 men -- apparently victims of recent ambushes -- were brought to a hospital in the capital.

And an American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing targeting a U.S. convoy in southern Baghdad, according to the military said that also said two soldiers assigned to a Marine unit were killed in a similar attack Monday in the western city of Ramadi.

The violence in Kirkuk was the worst to hit the ethnically mixed city, 180 miles north of Baghdad, since the war started in 2003. The largest previous attack was the Sept. 4 suicide car bombing outside an Iraqi police academy in the city that killed 20 people.

A man wearing a belt packed with explosives blew himself up outside the Rafidiyan Bank just after it opened Tuesday morning, said Gen. Sherko Shakir, Kirkuk's police chief.

A crowd of street vendors and elderly men and women waiting outside the bank bore the brunt of the blast, and a pregnant woman and several children were among the victims.

Body parts, including arms and legs, were strewn in a 20-yard radius from the scene of the explosion, which occurred close to a pedestrian bridge and left the pavement covered in rubble and glass. Several bodies were under the wreckage and at least two parked cars nearby were set ablaze.

"It was the biggest awful crime in Kirkuk since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime," Shakir said.

Al-Qaida's northern affiliate, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility for both suicide bombings in northern Iraq and threatened more violence in retaliation for the arrests and killings of Sunni Arabs.

The U.S. soldier was killed on the 230th anniversary of the formation of the U.S. Army. At least 1,704 U.S. military members have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

"Today is a day when we reflect on the heritage of the army and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and the latest death in Baghdad is obviously a sad event on our birthday," military spokesman Sgt. David Abrams said.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers killed five Iraqi civilians at an entrance to the volatile western town of Ramadi shortly after a suicide attack on a military checkpoint left one Iraqi soldier dead, the military said.

Insurgents have routinely launched deadly attacks in Kirkuk apparently seeking to foment ethnic tension in the city populated Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and Turkmens.

The motives behind the Kirkuk attack were unclear, but it coincided with the swearing in of veteran guerrilla leader Massoud Barzani as the first president of Iraq's northern Kurdistan region in nearby Irbil, 50 miles north of Kirkuk.

Kurds have long coveted Kirkuk as the capital of an autonomous Kurdish region encompassing all three of their northern provinces.

Saddam forced nearly 100,000 Kurds out of the city as part of an "Arabization" plan. The Shiite political parties that control the government have shied away from the issue of giving Kurds control of the city, saying that the central government would retain future control of its oil riches.

Sarkut Saleh, a street vendor who sells detergent and suffered leg injuries in the blast, said he didn't understand why civilians were targeted.

"I did not join the Iraqi army or police because I wanted to stay away from death, but I was injured today," he said. "I do not know why the terrorists have targeted a crowd of innocent civilians who want to feed their families. This a crime against humanity."

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, speaking in parliament after the Kirkuk attack, also accused the insurgents of targeting civilians -- as the number of people killed by militants since the April 28 inception of his Shiite-dominated government hit at least 1,018 people.

"They are trying now to avoid the military areas, the areas controlled by the multinational or Iraqi forces and they are now conducting their operations in the markets," al-Jaafari said in parliament shortly before a vote of confidence.

Al-Jaafari's 37-member government was overwhelmingly approved by a show of hands in the 275-member parliament. But the government has been criticized for its inability to stop insurgent attacks.

The spree of killings comes as lawmakers wrangle over how big a say Sunni Arab Muslims should have drawing up the country's new constitution. The dispute threatens to further alienate minority Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam but lost power to long-oppressed Shiites and Kurds after the dictator's ouster.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army terrorist group, which is based in the north and affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the Kirkuk attack in a statement on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants.

"One of our brothers from the martyrdom seekers brigade blew up his explosive belt in the middle of this gathering," the group said, claiming the attack was aimed at off-duty police officers waiting to get paid.

The group accused the Shiite-dominated military and security forces of "arresting, torturing and killing" Sunni Arabs.

"You should know that these Muslims have brothers who vowed themselves to take the revenge," said the statement, which could not be independently verified.

The group also said in a separate statement that it was responsible for the suicide car bombing against an Iraqi army checkpoint that killed five soldiers and wounding two others in Kan'an.

In Baghdad, the bodies of 24 men -- some beheaded -- were brought to a hospital, Iraqi officials said. The men had been killed in recent ambushes on convoys in western Iraq, seven on Sunday and 17 last Thursday.

Another suicide car bombing that targeted a joint U.S.-Iraqi checkpoint at an entry point to Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, killed an Iraqi soldier.

Five civilians in one of two cars behind the suicide attacker that ignored warning signals to stop also were killed when U.S. and Iraqi forces opened fire, believing they also could be suicide bombers, U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Kate VandenBossche said.

Security forces also captured a reported key member of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group accused of building and selling cars used by suicide bombers, the Iraqi government said.

He was identified as Jassim Hazan Hamadi al-Bazi, also known as Abu Ahmed, and was arrested June 7, the government said. It added that he was part of an al-Qaida cell run by a man identified as Hussayn Ibrahim.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-15-2005, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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Tommy Friedman's still looking for the silver lining...always looking, never finding.

Let's Talk About Iraq

Published: June 15, 2005

Ever since Iraq's remarkable election, the country has been descending deeper and deeper into violence. But no one in Washington wants to talk about it. Conservatives don't want to talk about it because, with a few exceptions, they think their job is just to applaud whatever the Bush team does. Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed. As a result, Iraq is drifting sideways and the whole burden is being carried by our military. The rest of the country has gone shopping, which seems to suit Karl Rove just fine.

Well, we need to talk about Iraq. This is no time to give up - this is still winnable - but it is time to ask: What is our strategy? This question is urgent because Iraq is inching toward a dangerous tipping point - the point where the key communities begin to invest more energy in preparing their own militias for a scramble for power - when everything falls apart, rather than investing their energies in making the hard compromises within and between their communities to build a unified, democratizing Iraq.

Our core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous decision - endorsed by President Bush - to invade Iraq on the cheap. From the day the looting started, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops there. We have never fully controlled the terrain. Almost every problem we face in Iraq today - the rise of ethnic militias, the weakness of the economy, the shortages of gas and electricity, the kidnappings, the flight of middle-class professionals - flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force.

Yes, yes, I know we are training Iraqi soldiers by the battalions, but I don't think this is the key. Who is training the insurgent-fascists? Nobody. And yet they are doing daily damage to U.S. and Iraqi forces. Training is overrated, in my book. Where you have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching above its weight. Where you don't have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching a clock.

Where do you get motivated officers and soldiers? That can come only from an Iraqi leader and government that are seen as representing all the country's main factions. So far the Iraqi political class has been a disappointment. The Kurds have been great. But the Sunni leaders have been shortsighted at best and malicious at worst, fantasizing that they are going to make a comeback to power through terror. As for the Shiites, their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been a positive force on the religious side, but he has no political analog. No Shiite Hamid Karzai has emerged.

"We have no galvanizing figure right now," observed Kanan Makiya, the Iraqi historian who heads the Iraq Memory Foundation. "Sistani's counterpart on the democratic front has not emerged. Certainly, the Americans made many mistakes, but at this stage less and less can be blamed on them. The burden is on Iraqis. And we still have not risen to the magnitude of the opportunity before us."

I still don't know if a self-sustaining, united and democratizing Iraq is possible. I still believe it is a vital U.S. interest to find out. But the only way to find out is to create a secure environment. It is very hard for moderate, unifying, national leaders to emerge in a cauldron of violence.

Maybe it is too late, but before we give up on Iraq, why not actually try to do it right? Double the American boots on the ground and redouble the diplomatic effort to bring in those Sunnis who want to be part of the process and fight to the death those who don't. As Stanford's Larry Diamond, author of an important new book on the Iraq war, "Squandered Victory," puts it, we need "a bold mobilizing strategy" right now. That means the new Iraqi government, the U.S. and the U.N. teaming up to widen the political arena in Iraq, energizing the constitution-writing process and developing a communications-diplomatic strategy that puts our bloodthirsty enemies on the defensive rather than us. The Bush team has been weak in all these areas. For weeks now, we haven't even had ambassadors in Iraq, Afghanistan or Jordan.

We've already paid a huge price for the Rumsfeld Doctrine - "Just enough troops to lose." Calling for more troops now, I know, is the last thing anyone wants to hear. But we are fooling ourselves to think that a decent, normal, forward-looking Iraqi politics or army is going to emerge from a totally insecure environment, where you can feel safe only with your own tribe.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-15-2005, 09:08 AM
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RE: Pillsbury Doughboy weighs in on Iraq fiasco

This is what happens when draft dodgers who have watched too many action hero movies ascend to power in a country that has the mightiest military on earth.
Maybe they can get the pentagon to rehash some more facts supporting their position...[:p]
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