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March 19, 2006



Suddenly the Gray Lady has become a devotee of the Great Man Theory of history. "If only Goerge Bush had' and on and on ad nauseum. What a whore she's become.


I have no problem with his re-statement of the urgency of the mission, but
"retreat now" is not exactly what is meant by "set a concrete timetable".

Get used to it.


Jeff, what we'll be getting used to is protecting Shia and Kurdish airspace.


I guess the 3rd anniversary of the invasion was bound to be cause for yet another round of second guessing and finger pointing (actually just a "spike" since it has never stopped).

If you want to know what is going on in Iraq, the best source has and continues to be the Pentagon press briefings which have as far as I can tell be pretty accurate as to what is going on and what the military plans for the future to the extent they can be revealed.

In my opinion the onus is pretty much on the Iraqis now. We have pretty much said that if full scale civil war were to break out we are not going to try to stop it militarily with US soldiers. So we shall see. I remain optimistic because I think the Iraqis cannot fail to know what a disaster civil war would be.

I sense that there is leftoid rhetorical re-positioning going on now that the prospects for civil war are fading. Now they seem to be shifting somewhat to "how much better things could have been if only X". Bully, for them.


The large problem that all commentators have in predicting a Civil war in Iraq is that they always concentrate on the Shia and Sunni divisions. Unfortunately, by not adressing side three, such predictions are not to be taken to heart.

Additionally, the New Iraqi Army has stated from the top down that they will *not* do anything against any particular sect, but want peace for their Nation. Now, in a three sided society where side one and two want to have a civil war and side three wants peace and the military of that country is aligned to peace. Which side will the military follow?

By ignoring the Kurds, who are rightly fed up with al Qaeda, Moqtada and various other gunmen, terrorists and thugs, side one and two are signing their own death warrants as side three offers stability to any who want peace in the country.

The US and Coalition forces also want peace and will support those who support it in Iraq. The Sunni and Shias can have their little civil war, as the US and Coalition provide protection to southern regions wanting no part of the conflict, and then the New Iraqi Army and Kurdish Regional Military come down to put an end to the terrorists, gunmen, strongmen and various assorted crooks and criminal gangs.

And they will *not* be hamstrung by the nicities of Western media or beliefs to do so.

So, before we jump in and call Iraq a failure, realize that something like 60% of the country is now under control of the New Iraqi Army and Kurdish Regional Military, that an equivalent amount of Bagdad is similarly under such control, and that those wanting a Civil War will find themselves pretty much in a no-supply pickle and be more than somewhat surrounded by forces not under either sides control who are pointing many weapons at them.

The Kurds are tired of such foolishness. They are willing to play politics so long as everyone plays together.

In a civil war in which two of three sides fight, side three will win.

And if we can get the few months more necessary to get the rest of the New Iraqi Army up and operating to take over the remaining parts of their country, the talk of a Civil War will be moot.

The noose is tightening on the insurgency. The cross-country lines allowing Iran and Syria to flow munitions and men is now cut. Syria is wimpering at home and seeing US Forces on its border now. Iran is supplying more and more arms and bombs, but they aren't finding takers as the large weapons caches are showing. They cannot even find men who will stand up to protect those supplies.

The New Iraqi Army does not fight like Arab armies. They do not hold themselves to such low standards. They know that a civilian controlled army that is well trained and holds to being orderly, yet respectful, can perform miracles. That is why their entire system is modeled on it as they have seen it work and work well. Until they can get a proper logistics system set up, they will depend upon the US and Coalition for that, but need less fighting power from those forces and more advice on how to *better* operate with what they have.

The Kurds and the New Iraqi Army are patient. They hope cooler heads will prevail. They will not be happy if they do not, but will do as is necessary to bring peace to their country and rid it of terrorists and gangsters and strongmen. Sectarian war from this point on is just a strange form of suicide for those wanting to fight it.


Look, there may well have been supporters of this invasion who thought that the war would be, for lack of a better phrase, a good thing. But I think that most war supporters thought that it was the best of a bunch of bad choices.

There are quite a few of the first group posting on this very blog. They still haven't given up the dream of pushing on to Damascas and Tehran. Go read a typical post on Strategy Page, for instance. Many of these folks seem to think this is just another Avalon Hill paper counter pushing geek party.

I would be interested to see what evidence of the second group you have from three years ago. My memory of the run up to the war was a full court press by the administration to sell the war by overestimating the threat and underestimating the cost. I can give you cite after cite, but I'll refrain for now. Can you, or the posters, point to a "best of bad choices" campaign? by anybody?


TT, shocked to agree but you are right: there was no such campaign per se except in the sense that everybody recognized that the sanctions regime was falling apart and were hurting the Iraqi people. You may recall that it was the policy of the US that Saddam be removed from power.


aj, a little irony that I noted as I read your small miracle of understanding is that not only have we spread the voting fanchise, the purple fingered majesty to Iraq, but also the concept of civilian control of a disciplined and professional military. This is the way to project an international police presence rather than a force. You are right on the money about the Kurds, too. Remember, Saladin was a Kurd.


point to a "best of bad choices"

Yeah, trying to remember how well that worked in WW2.

Here's boris on Iraq ... "STOP WASTING YOUR TIME WITH THE UN !!!"


Texas Barbarbecue. I'll not dispute there was a lot of blather back then. Here's a little different perspective. I was in the twenty percent who opposed the war on the grounds that the UN inspections, fly protection zones, and Oil for Food were functioning effectively, if not perfectly. I expected the Iraqis to depose the monster. I was a fool to believe that. I've been persuaded otherwise by Rossett and Duelfer as well as others, including Kerry and Wilson. I still expect the Iraqis to build their own nation, or nations, as the case shall be.


I am in the original group in favor of regime change. I also favor it for Iran. Just remember how ineffective our last dem president Carter was with the Iranians . They correctly pegged him as a wuss. He was one. GWB is a horse of a different color. He's like Teddy Roosevelt -speak softly and clearly and carry a big stick.


Can you, or the posters, point to a "best of bad choices" campaign?

Well, that is a good point. I suppose the whole Jackson Pollack "Threatening Storm" argument would fit in that category. Or here is Fareed Zakaria explaining that, without a prompt, probablyu martial resolution, Saddam will escape sanctions and rearm.

But I wouldn't call it a "campaign" (nor did I, in my post) - let's say that lots of folks (Some folks? Me and my dog?) understood that we had no great answers.


I might take Gregory's anti-Rumsfeld ravings more seriously if he remembered that in the U.S., we refer to the civilian head of our military as the Secretary of Defense rather than the "War Secretary." I know he's trying to be cute, but could he show his Euro-centrism any more clearly?


kim - It really does amaze me how those deriding the things that have been done do not try to understand that a multi-generational transformation is beginning. There were other alternatives to invading Iraq: let the UN continue to be played and subborned until the sanctions fell in a de-facto way and, as the Kay report showed, Saddam would then restart his WMD industry and have newer long-range systems for their deliver; try to fully embargo Iraq, although so many were screaming about how many dead babies and others (which later proved out to be frozen corpses Saddam kept on hand to be trotted out as needed for the press) were due to even minor, targeted interdictions; allow things to go on year after year, with Saddam continually in power, shooting at US aircraft, killing his own people and using the country as his personal toy...why, yes that list is *endless*. By wanting to put an end to it and offer a *better* way that would needs be worked at by people freed of tyrrany, we were given an alternative, that in the long run, would help de-link totalitarian regimes and terrorist operations of all stripes.

And the Iraqis were critical and worried at first, then saw that we would not force order upon them unless they so wanted it, and saw that those that asked for help *got it*. Did the US make mis-steps? Of course! That is part of trying out something new, you make mistakes and you learn from them.

In Afghanistan we saw that helping the People bring order to their country and get a flow of responsibility and accountability amongst themselves, strangely enough, worked. Occupation helps neither the occupied nor the occupier. We would much rather have the people decide for themselves what they wanted and we would leave when unwanted by a duly elected and representative government asked us to, or when our presence was no longer needed.

Our military had problems, but re-inforced a new feed-back training cycle that sped up as time went on. By the time new units shifted into Iraq, they already had training from exiting units and were learning more. This system continues to this day of continuous two-way feedback that now has incoming troops required to have basic language and cultural skills to go with all of their other work. By working with the people and their culture, we were no longer 'occupiers' so much as 'well armed tourists who didn't like terrorists and thugs'.

The old Iraqi Army had disintegrated. It did not surrender as it was *gone*. Troops stripped off their uniforms, dropped equipment, donned civilian clothing and *ran*. Show me one entire division from the old Iraqi Army that stayed intact and actually had an orderly stand-down. I saw no reports of such, because there were none. And even if there were, it would be seen as a Sunni prop and means of control. The New Iraqi Army is fully inculcated in the idea of responsibility and accountability, and to being controlled by a duly elected Government. They will *not* do anything in a Civil war except stop all sides from fighting. These folks have been trained to aim and shoot what they hit at. They are given respect, good clothes, good food and decent pay. And they put their lives on the line. They fight for their country and their People, not one sect or branch or gang.

Those in the south who have worked with the Kurds marvel at the strides they have taken. Just a bit over 10 years of hard work to get there, and dedication to make things *better*. They are more tightly knit socially and so can have better security with fewer forces, but those forces are very well trained in that. The New Iraqi Army must become good at a wide range of things and must have time to fully put its roots down and get a military *tradition* going that does not include coercion and wanton mayhem at the behest of a dictator.

The path is not an *easy* one, but the United States is a Republic. A Republic must be continually built and adjusted and fashioned as times change, yet still keep a free people free. That is hard work. That is the work we offer Afghanis and Iraqis. They see the results and are willing to do that work as peoples.

Too bad so many have forgotten in this age of instant meals and instant communications and instant television that a Republic requires hard work to keep it going. All the time. Was the choice in Iraq a good one? What were the range of options readily available? The Head of the Government asked Congress to review the needs and it supplied the Authorization to Use Force and expend goods and money and lives to bring an end to a regime and start to delink terrorists from State supporters.

It was not a *perfect* choice. But we be not angels and know not of how to make perfection. Our forefathers enjoined us to make things *more perfect*, so that we recognize that work always needs be done.

It was not a *good* choice. If safety is a primary concern, then could we address the carnage from our own vehicles, first? Masses of metal and plastic and rubber moving at high speeds have a problem at sudden impact and stopping. It is not safe to drive a car, and yet it is done daily by millions. But we were faced with a fact that the road was not built in front of us, and we needs built it so that we could be *safer* not *safe*. Was that a good choice?

What it was is a *better* choice than the choice of default, which was doing nothing. There were no good nor perfect choices before Iraq, just as there are not today. There never have been such in history or in building a Republic. To seek such is utter and complete folly and leads to utopias in ruin.

Giving people the right and responsibilities to lead their own lives and find order amongst themselves so that they can have peace with their neighbors. We help when we can, especially if the long term threat outweighs short term losses. And for those liberated from tyrrany and repression we offer such aid as we can.

It is not *perfect*.

It may be *good*.

But it is certainly *better* than what is offered the other ways.

richard mcenroe

set a concrete timetable = lose.

Once you do that, the enemy knows how long he has to lie low and regroup.

sammy small


re: The Threatening Storm, I think you mean Kenneth Pollack, not Jackson.

While the best of bad choices was not a campaign, it was certainly part of my thinking as well.

Just think now of how if Saddam had come clean with inspectors and subsequently worked with A.Q. Kahn, that he might have beat Iran to the bomb. The possibilities are endless.




Can you, or the posters, point to a "best of bad choices" campaign? by anybody?

Nobody is going to have such a "campaign" for anything. Would you expect Coke-a-Cola company to come out with a slogan "We don't suck quite as badly as Pepsi!"? So why would you even remotely expect, after the fact no less, that the Bush administration would engage in a campaign of "All options suck ass, but this doesn't reek quite so much."?

The simple fact is that there weren't any perfect solutions, that's why the whole country was enaged in one big debate. If there was a perfect solution then there wouldn't have been a debate. The extent of the rancor is a perfect indication that there were in fact no good choices around which the American body politic could coalesce.

Frankly your point is not only wrong, it's worthless. Point to me one single example of any military action by America that was proceeded by a "well it could be worse" campaign.

2. IMHO there is no possible way the US military can exit Iraq completely until the Iraqi Army can build up it's logistical support units, air mobility transport units and some semblence of an airforce.

3. I think it is imperative that the US military exit Iraq as soon as practical. Not because of some "run away" nonsense as being pushed by some. But because it removes the political crutch that some in Iraq are using to justify their inactions and intransigence. It would also remove completely any viable justification for continued operations in Iraq by AQ.

I supported, and still support, the operations in Iraq for many diverse reasons. I believe that Saddam needed to be removed. I believe that Iraq would, and has, acted as a flypaper that has allowed the US military and Iraqi Army/Police units to eradicate a multitude of terrorists from all over the world. I believe that a free and prosperous democratic Iraq would act as a living museum to educate muslim tourists and pilgrims from all over the world on just how useful and good a democracy can be.

I also believe a peaceful, prosperous Iraq would have the most corrosive effect on a corruption plagued Iraq with it's badly run economy and high unemployment. Particularly since Iran is mostly Shia and many Shia take the opportunity to go on pilgrimmages to shrines in Iraq.

I'm not advocating an immediate exit. But I am advocating that we continue the *current* policy of building up the Iraqi forces as we build down Coalition forces. As the Iraqi forces demonstrate their competence in different areas, both geographic and military science, then we can withdraw the excess personnel.

Do I advocate a timetable? No. Such nonsense would be idiotic. If there are people screaming about a timetable then I'd suggest we begin by discussing the timetable for withdrawing from Europe, Kosovo, the Balkans in general and a whole host of other situations where American forces have been tied down for decades with no end in sight.




Edit "corruption plagued Iraq" to read "corruption plagued IraN".

Thanks. The curse of writing code and commenting at the same time.


re: The Threatening Storm, I think you mean Kenneth Pollack, not Jackson.

Any chance it was Reggie Jackson?


Hey, I'm supposed to be the one in charge of splattering words aimlessly on the blog.

ed, and aj, amen.


Initially I was not that supportive of a war, but as time went on I realized it was inevitable.

One way or another it was going to happen. Saddam would have it no other way.

I do remember Bill Clinton saying very much the same thing. In fact his legislation was the Iraqi Liberation Act, not the Iraqi just ignore it Act.

We had been maintaining the no fly zones by way of Saudi bases, that could not go on forever. The UN was being used like a cheap whore by Saddam and his mafia like regime and I was hearing stories about hundreds of thousands of childen dying, torture chambers, mass graves, weapons probrams, terrorist training camps..and there is Saddam saying nanananananana...you can't get me. This man tried to kill a president, he was obviously not going to see reason.

BTW, in every survery I have seen the Iraqis put seeing American forces leave low on their list of things they want done. It is not that they want us to stay forever, but they want to get the lights fixed more than they want us to leave.

As for going on to Tehran and Damascus, I really doubt that..but who knows. I do know that whatever happens Bush will be making decisions and his critics will not.


Wow, fantastic posts on this thread. AJ, TM, Kim, Terrye, Ed- yes. Exactly.


kim - I am sorry, but my days of thinking concisely are now behind me. I miss that. I miss knowing my own thoughts. I miss many things. And so part of me types as I cannot know the best way to say things anymore.

MayBee - My thanks! I do what I can when my mind, body, brain and such allow.

I really do hate putting so much out in a public forum! Please excuse me when I do so as I let part of me explain as my conscious part cannot. I censor some, keep back other things... but mostly it is the roundabout thoughts that come out.



I could only hope to have the thought process you have with all of my brain functioning.


The picture painted by the administration clashed with that of the former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, once hailed by Mr. Bush as the kind of balanced leader Iraq needed, who declared in an interview with the BBC that the country was nearing a "point of no return."

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war," said Mr. Allawi, who served as interim prime minister after the American invasion and now leads a 25-seat secular alliance of representatives in Iraq's 275-seat National Assembly. "We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people through the country, if not more."

"If this is not civil war," he said, "then God knows what civil war is."

This is better? This is progress?


Grim Milestone Reached: US Deaths in Iraq

Surpass Worst Month in Vietnam.--


As the War in Iraq approaches its third anniversary on March 20, 2006, U.S. military deaths in Iraq have just passed another grim milestone. The worst month of U.S. military deaths in Vietnam was May 1968: 2,316 lives. The second worst month in Vietnam was February 1968: 2,293 lives.

According to the website ICasualties.org, which tracks U.S. military deaths in Iraq, the total U.S. military deaths in Iraq since March 20, 2003 is 2,317 lives, one more than the worst month in Vietnam. In this count of 2,317 deaths, ICasualties.org includes 5 reported U.S. deaths pending Department of Defense confirmation.

Cecil Turner

"If this is not civil war," he said, "then God knows what civil war is."

Of course it's civil war, and has been since the beginning of the insurgency. This is a terminology issue using a definition almost nobody agrees with (where "civil war" means a complete breakdown of civil structure). Someone ought to revamp that sucker.

But the nature of the civil war is worth looking at. The focus for the main group of insurgents is to ensure that 20% of the population keep power (as they had before the invasion). As time goes on--and the other 80% of the population develop the security, political, and military apparatus to capitalize on their population density--the Sunnis must lose. Not surprisingly, they aren't real happy about it.

As to the "best of a bad situation" theory, I'd note the many calls for an alternative, and further note we still don't have a sensible counterproposal.


We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction... Saddam may well hide his most lethal weapons in mosques, schools and hospitals. If our forces attempt to strike such targets, untold numbers of Iraqi civilians could be killed."

Senator Teddy Kennedy
September 27, 2002
And, so... After the "paralysed" UN body failed to hold Iraq accountable, America and it's 30 nation Allied Coalition took action on March 19, 2003.

But, the war has not been without its critics from the Left...

* German politicians predicted: "Millions of people in Baghdad will be victims of bombs and rockets."
What happened: The antiwar Iraqi Body Count site lists an estimated 4,000-6,000 civilians and fighters were lost in the startup months of the War in Iraq.

* Ted Kennedy predicted:"A war on Saddam might also cause an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with an estimated 900,000 refugees, a pandemic and an environmental disaster as Saddam lit the oilfields on fire."
Actual Result: The oil fields were not set ablaze, no pandemic.

* The UN predicted... It is also likely that in the early stages there will be a large segment of the population requiring treatment for traumatic injuries, either directly conflict-induced or from the resulting devastation. Given the population outlined earlier, as many as 500,000 could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries.
What happened: Again, the antiwar Iraqi Body Count site lists an estimated 4,000-6,000 civilians and fighters lost in the startup months of the War in Iraq.

* Ted Kennedy also predicted: "The U.S. could run through "battalions a day at a time" and that the fighting would look like "the last fifteen minutes of 'Private Ryan.'"photos1.blogger.com/blogg...ties.0.jpg



Thanks Clarice for reminding me of Ted Kennedy's speech of September 22, 2002.

"There is clearly a threat from Iraq, and there is clearly a danger, but the Administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary. Nor has the Administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation. With all the talk of war, the Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq.

A largely unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen not lessen the threat of terrorism. War with Iraq before a genuine attempt at inspection and disarmament, or without genuine international support -- could swell the ranks of Al Qaeda sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts. As General Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee, it would "super-charge recruiting for Al Qaeda."

“In recent weeks, in briefings and in hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen no persuasive evidence that Saddam would not be deterred from attacking U.S. interests by America's overwhelming military superiority. I have heard no persuasive evidence that Saddam is on the threshold of acquiring the nuclear weapons he has sought for more than 20 years. And the Administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. As General Joseph Hoar, the former Commander of Central Command told the members of the Armed Services Committee, a case has not been made to connect Al Qaeda and Iraq.
To the contrary, there is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.”

Remember, this is a speech on Sept 22, 2002. It ain’t hindsight – its actually pretty impressive foresight.


I dug up one of those Kennedy speeches a while back, and I was impressed - I had been hoping for a drooling Michael Moore rant, but it was a cogent effort.

But the spin never sleeps! So my point became, how could it be that John Kerry bucked his own state's senior Senator and his reasonable, responsible arguments?

Kerry could not have needed political cover for his 2002 Senate race - his vote was all about 2004 (OK, not a news flash).

The other point - there were sensible anti-war people, but even Dems ignored them.


I always found that bit about one of BC's National Security directors (forget his official title) writing a book explaining why our next war would be with Iraq.

Well, he was wrong about the next war (Afghanistan). I guess he made up the intelligence to sell some books...


Of course, it depends on whether a democrat or a republican is in the executive office as to what Kennedy says on any particular day. He sang a different tune when he was supporting Clinton's air strikes. Had to get rid of those WMDs. Of course, those air strikes did get rid of the WMDs, or Saddam never had them to begin with, or...now tell me again what happened to WMDs? I wonder if the Crawford Ranch was croweded with the largest senator from Mass sitting in on the war that was cooked up there? ::grin::

Barney Frank

If we do not end up in Damascus and Teheran it will be because we have lost the war. We are not fighting radical Islam. We are fighting Islam itself. Islam is inherently radical and expansionist precisely as communism is. The only time it is not expanding is when the rest of the world so bloodies its nose that it withdraws until conditions change (the Crusades for instance).
It is inevitable that both Syria and Iran will either be defeated or Islam will grow in confidence and influence and they will be knocking on the backdoor of Austria again, only this time it will be with nuclear tipped missiles not scimitars.


Barney Frank;
Syria and Iran -inevitable-agreed.


Sue - My thanks! I, unfortunately, must work from inside my head...

From my estimations the death rate due to Saddam's power structure brought in a death toll of 126 dead per day, on average, on the low side. Now, that does include the war with Iran, which was pure Saddam power grab. Anyone saying a civil war is taking place, however, has to realize that most such in history have had very high death tolls since citizens are killed on both sides. So when the daily death toll starts to get on the *low side* estimation of those killed by Saddam's power structure, I might take notice. I place the *high side* at about 3 times that number, since there are so many unaccounted for and 'disappeared' that have appeared in few official records. A full scale 'daily battles on the streets of every city in Iraq' civil war would be far, far more than *that* per day, every day it went on.

The numbers look to fit far better with normal gang violence for a nation that side... which is a good approximation of the actual situation.

As for the Iraqi police being a bit corrupt... I would place them above the pre-Katrina NOLA force. At least the Iraqi police stick it out and fight... not run at the first sign of bad weather. Probably a bit better than Detroit on the corruption scale as the NOLA force needs to be rebuilt from scratch. And since the Iraqi forces have to deal with thugs armed with AK-47s and RPGs... well, the courage factor definitely goes in their favor.


Late post, but American casualties are steadily dropping. They are phasing us out for civil control.

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