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The Occupation of Iraq, by Alli A. Allawi

Margo: Hello. Here is a book review of The Occupation of Iraq by Webdiary contributor Chris Saliba. His last piece for Webdiary was Enemy combatant. His archive is here. His blog is here. Lateline's interview with the author is here.


Originally titled The Incoherence of Power, Ali A. Allawi’s sweeping study of the invasion and occupation of Iraq chronicles the perils of a superpower launching a war upon a country whose culture, history and internecine power struggles it was largely ignorant of. The plan to invade Iraq, in Allawi’s opinion, was the magic thinking of a group of neo-cons who believed that dreaming a democratic Iraq would make it so. Reality crashed through on fantasy, and Plato’s Republic soon made way for a nightmare Hobbesian state.

Born in 1947 to a prominent Shi’a family, Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi left Iraq in November 1958 and eventually became a part of the Iraqi exile community in London. He was appointed Minister of Trade and Minister of Defense for the Iraqi Transitional Government between 2005 and 2006.

Allawi opposed the war at the outset, even though he himself was involved in numerous opposition conferences, seminars and meetings with the British and US governments in the days leading up to the war. Once it appeared that war was inevitable, Allawi described himself as going along with the war, but ‘with great ambivalence’.

The Occupation of Iraq is an insider’s story, a book written from an Iraqi’s point of view, watching with obvious angst as his country plunges into murder and mayhem. In it he describes the bewilderingly complex relationship between Iraq’s three major groups, the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds, and further, the factions within those groups.

Just as one example, he discusses the rising influence from Saudi Arabia of Wahhabism on Iraq’s Sunnis. Writes the author: ‘What used to be a slanging match between Wahhabism and Shi’ism – and in some ways containable – developed into one between an increasingly radicalized Sunni Islam and the Shia. The Shi’a resurrected the term nawasib (those with a particular hatred for the Prophet’s household) to attach to extreme insurgents.’

It was these kinds of subtleties that the coalition did not plan for when deciding for war, hence the book’s original title. The Occupation of Iraq gives a comprehensive, often staggering, picture of US cultural ignorance and insensitivity. Even the most basic tool for communication and relationship building– language – was paid scant attention.

The text of the draft for the Transition Administrative Law (TAL) that was supposed to guide the transitional process and the constitutional framework was written in a style alien to Arabic. According to Allawi, ‘Even its preamble was worded in stirring terms, reminiscent of permanent constitutions – and utterly alien in construction and phraseology from the Arabic language and Iraqi experience…..It talked about pluralism, gender rights, separation of powers and civilian control over the armed forces – none of which were even remotely familiar terms in Iraq. The TAL embodied western, specifically American notions, and was carefully supervised by the CPA. Each significant point had been pre-cleared with the NSC in Washington.’

To further illustrate the topsy-turvy thinking on Iraq, the American Christian Right was even pushing on turning Iraq into a proselytizing mission. Kyle Fisk, the executive administrator of the National Association of Evangelicals, said, ‘Iraq will become the centre for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Iran, Libra, throughout the Middle East….A free Iraq also allows us to spread Jesus Christ’s teachings even in nations where laws keep us out.’ Allawi claims the CPA had a number of middle-level staff who were ‘fundamentalist Christians and who played a part in formulating the legal structures that were designed to thwart the creeping Islamisation of the state.’

The most amazing chapter of the book details the fraud that allowed some $1 billion to vanish out the Ministry of Defence, leaving the Iraqi army with second-rate weapons with which to confront the insurgency. Writes Allawi:

The optimistic assessments by General Petraeus concerning the equipping and training of Iraqi forces clashed with the huge squandering of the Ministry of Defence’s resources and the abysmal and inappropriate equipment purchases for its rapid deployment forces. The latter, supposed to be the vanguard of the Iraqi commitment to the counter-insurgency effort, found that their much-vaunted helicopters were either inoperable or unavailable for eighteen months. They were driving right-hand steering vehicles, firing knock-offs of American machine guns, with bullet proof vests that fell apart, and wearing toy helmets. Ministers who were chosen for their supposed technocratic prowess and competence ended up on the run from the law under serious indictment of fraud, embezzlement and theft. The military procurement budget was handed over to unscrupulous adventurers and former pizza parlour operators.

There are some success stories amongst the ruins, despite the book’s over all bleakness. Paul Bremer’s order to establish a Public Integrity Commission is cited as a notable achievement which helped to tackle the country’s corruption. The CPA’s Financial Management Law is applauded as an important economic and financial reform, setting a framework for writing balanced budgets, with public accountability for government expenditure. Australian personnel working in Iraq get an honourable mention for their high professionalism and competence.

This is a book sure to be read avidly by both sides of the Iraq war debate. (The Australian’s Greg Sheridan has called it the ‘definitive’ account of the war.) It is written in a learned, cultured style, with every page steeped deep in irony.

Indeed, reading Allawi’s prose all I could think of was Dostoyevsky’s The Devils, a novel about a ‘gang of five’ who plot various disturbances which they hope will culminate in the toppling of the state. Four of the five murder one of their own who they fear will squeal on one of them. The unrelenting menace of Dostoyevsky’s novel, with the incoherent, contradictory, confusing behaviour of his characters, seemed to mirror the behaviour of the main Iraq players.

Allawi sees the situation in Iraq now as critical, with the Iraqis themselves at a ‘near terminal breaking point’. In January of this year he wrote a blueprint for peace. In it, he wrote, ‘The first step must be the recognition that the solution to the Iraq crisis must be generated first internally, and then, importantly, at the regional level.’

And, ‘No foreign power, no matter how benevolent, should be allowed to dictate the terms of a possible historic and stable settlement in the Middle East.’

The democratic framework set up by the coalition of the willing must be preserved: ‘The Iraqi government that has arisen as a result of the admittedly flawed political process must be accepted as a sovereign and responsible government. No settlement can possibly succeed if its starting point is the illegitimacy of the Iraqi government or one that considers it expendable.’

For those seeking an insider’s account of the occupation of Iraq, its few triumphs and many tragedies, will find a patient and thorough going guide in Dr Allawi’s book.

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"Better motives"?

From Ewen MacAskill in Washtington for The Guardian:

President George Bush sought to buy more time for his Iraq "surge" strategy yesterday by making a risky comparison for the first time with the bloodshed and chaos that followed the US pullout from Vietnam. Making it clear he will resist congressional pressure next month for an early withdrawal, he signalled that US troops, whom he hailed as the "greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known", will be in Iraq as long as he is president.

Scott Burchill recommends

Scott  Burchill recommends Senator Calls for Maliki's Ouster; Levin Urges Iraqis To Replace Leaders in the Washington Post:

Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.

"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.

Levin's statement, the most forceful call for leadership change in Iraq from a U.S. elected official, comes as about two dozen lawmakers are traveling to Iraq during Congress's August break to glean firsthand assessments before receiving a progress report next month from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander there, and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador...

And see How the British army lost Basra:

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, British troops were regularly shown on UK television walking around Basra wearing berets. There was a sharp contrast with the way nervy, heavily protected US troops were throwing their weight around in Baghdad.

The message received by the British public, which holds its military in high regard, was that this softly-softly approach would - thanks to experience in Northern Ireland and elsewhere - succeed in a peacekeeping mission where the Americans' heavy-handed tactics would fail.

It was a view held almost universally in the British army. "British military guys can be totally insufferable about this," says one retired US general who advises the Bush administration on Iraq.

The four provinces comprising the UK's sector in south-eastern Iraq were also regarded as relatively friendly. The Shia majority in the region had largely ?welcomed the toppling of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime and British forces did not confront the Sunni insurgency faced by the Americans in central Iraq...

Scott Burchill recommends An

Scott Burchill recommends An Early Clash Over Iraq Report
Specifics at Issue as September Nears
in the Washington Post:

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. "The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday.

The skirmishing is an indication of the rising anxiety on all sides in the remaining few weeks before the presentation of what is widely considered a make-or-break assessment of Bush's war strategy, and one that will come amid rising calls for a drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.

With the report due by Sept. 15, officials at the White House, in Congress and in Baghdad said that no decisions have been made on where, when or how Petraeus and Crocker will appear before Congress. Lawmakers from both parties are growing worried that the report -- far from clarifying the United States' future in Iraq -- will only harden the political battle lines around the war...

Divine right to rule

BAGHDAD - Iraq's main Sunni Arab political bloc withdrew from the government Wednesday, blaming Shiite Muslim leaders for not addressing sectarian issues, as explosions in the streets killed at least 70 people around Baghdad.
Given the overwhelming responsibility of Sunni-backed militias for escalating the sectarian violence in Iraq as the centre-piece policy of their project to destabilise the elected government there, it beggars belief a Sunni Arab political bloc would blame the Shi'ites "for not addressing sectarian issues".
The chief sectarian issue the Sunni leadership feels is not being addressed, of course, is the steadfast refusal of the Shia to concede to the Sunnis some presumed divine right to rule in Iraq.

Cutting and running - why we should be proud

Margo says:

"Such an effort should include transferring or destroying facilities and stocks that could fuel a civil war, as well as deciding the fate of more than $20 billion in aid projects and of the gigantic U.S. Embassy -- which may end up as the most expensive white elephant in the history of American diplomacy."

Oh terrific. A civil war and cutting out $20 billion in aid projects. I'll be so proud of an Australia that was part of something like that.

Reasons to feel proud, part three

... like turning a blind eye to tens of millions of dollars being funnelled from AWB to Saddam Hussein in the lead up to sending Australian forces into Iraq.  Another proud moment for Australians. 

Incidentally, Eliot, the quote you refer to from Margo is from the article she links too; it’s not her words, and presumably not necessarily her view.  

Did anybody see SBS’ Cutting Edge on Tuesday?  It’s hard to walk away from any considered analysis of the occupation of Iraq without being disgusted at the gross incompetence of the Bush administration.   Rumsfield in particular seems to have had absolutely no idea of what he had got himself into. ‘Freedom is messy, people!’ 


The neo-cons in the Bush administration were ideologues who seemed to think they could just make their own reality in Iraq.  

It must be international politics 101 that, after you’ve ‘liberated’ a country as deeply divided as Iraq, you need to properly secure it and fill the power vacuum pretty quickly or you’re going to have problems.  20/20 hindsight, perhaps, but it’s not like people weren’t concerned about this before, during and after the invasion.  

One of the contentions of the SBS documentary is that even the current ‘surge’ is half hearted and that many more troops are needed for it to work.  From what I've read (and I recommend George Packers' The Assassins Gate for an evenhanded account) there have never been enough US troops in Iraq to secure it - or even Baghdad, which seems to be the key to the rest of the country. 

The final comment in the SBS documentary is ‘maybe it’s too late’.  I hope not, but it’s hard to feel optimistic.  What a tragedy. 

Iraq latest

Scott Burchill recommends A General Call for 'Strategic Patience' in Iraq, Plus Discomforting Specifics in the Washington Post:

Here are some cold facts for those contemplating the future in Iraq:

The U.S. military has not only 160,000 troops and at least 100,000 contractors in that country, but also about 140,000 to 200,000 metric tons of valuable equipment and supplies, as well as 15,000 to 20,000 military vehicles and major weapons. These are spread through many cities and more than 100 forward operating bases.

A secure withdrawal that includes all U.S. supplies and equipment and that phases out U.S. bases would take at least nine to 12 months and probably much longer. Two years is what many military experts think would be a rapid, but deliberate, pace. Such an effort should include transferring or destroying facilities and stocks that could fuel a civil war, as well as deciding the fate of more than $20 billion in aid projects and of the gigantic U.S. Embassy -- which may end up as the most expensive white elephant in the history of American diplomacy.

This is information contained inAnthony H. Cordesman's absorbing 25-page trip report, "The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq," based on eight days he spent in that country last month. It was made public last week...

Scott Burchill recommends

Scott Burchill recommends the Los Angeles Times piece Sunni bloc bolts Iraqi Cabinet. Its tentative boycott becomes a total break, posing a grave challenge to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government:

BAGHDAD - Iraq's main Sunni Arab political bloc withdrew from the government Wednesday, blaming Shiite Muslim leaders for not addressing sectarian issues, as explosions in the streets killed at least 70 people around Baghdad.

Six Cabinet members with the Iraqi Accordance Front, Tawafiq in Arabic, had suspended participation in the government in June and threatened last week to pull out permanently. The Sunni bloc took the action after its demands that Sunni detainees be released and that Shiite militias be addressed were not met.

The pullout reduces Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to little more than caretaker status. Barring a major political realignment, it also makes it less likely that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's regime will be able to reach significant compromises on legislative benchmarks sought by the Bush administration to help quell sectarian strife.

Tawafiq member Tariq Hashimi retains his post as one of Iraq's vice presidents.

The bloc's pullout cast the gravest challenge yet to Maliki's tenure as prime minister. His government has been burdened for months by talk of conspiracies, most prominently featuring former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi...

AusBC bias

 .. left, right - to be or not to be?


I challenged a certain contributor to back this assertion «... the compromise and corruption associated with their systematic, left-leaning agenda and bias»(!?) - which was made in reference to 'our' taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, the AusBC.

In a response titled "Don't be silly" (note boundary-pushing language) we see this: «I am not so silly, ..., as to commence providing substantiation for my view on ABC bias. The view is commonly held.[1] ... Joke City. I will substantiate nothing.»

Readers can make up their own minds vis-à-vis any and all such unsubstantiated claims. But it does raise the issue of who might come to WD and what for, i.e. just to vent or natter, say, or for something a little more constructive?


An associated term introduced by the same poster is 'agenda monkey.' The introduction of that term could be considered slightly perilous, as it may have been interpreted reflexively (in other words, it's a possible framing error. I can help, see?) In that spirit, please consider a paraphrasing of something that I previously had published about AusBC bias:

 Subtitle: The 'pushed paradigm' propaganda of asserting left-wing bias in 'our' AusBC.

One can give a much easier (i.e. even more brainless) way of rating the AusBC as being biased, a way I consider to be absolutely par for the right-whinger course! (It's just sooo simple, that even a [redacted derogatory descriptor] can do it! And lots do.)

First, assert an indelible, ineradicably left-wing-biased AusBC, then:

a) If the AusBC says something 'nice' about the ALP, shriek "See! Tol'ja! Left-wing bias!"

b) If the AusBC says something 'nasty' about the ALP, shriek "Probably only the half! Less, even! Left-wing bias, see?"

c) If the AusBC says something 'nasty' about the Libs, shriek "Oooh! Can't be true! Not! Nasty left-wing bias!"

d) If the AusBC says something 'nice' about the Libs, shriek "Must be doubly true! In spite of their left-wing bias!"

Comment: Funny, but I thought that propaganda had a bad name, at least from those darkest of days courtesy of Goebbels&Co. Propaganda is usually partly lies, and is pushed to manufacture consent for something otherwise undesirable. Also, in a properly functioning democracy, aren't the sheople® supposed to be sovereign? That would require that we the sheople should be completely and accurately informed, as opposed to propagandised? Sadly of course, not so. Boo! Hiss! (What ever happened to those high ideals, eh? aka the Enlightenment[2] ideas, say?)

Well, the right-whingers only smirk. After all, it's the pro-capitalists themselves that say a) "Greed is G*d!" and b) nobody (they mean no capitalist) works for nothing. Quite obviously then, they must be getting something (just that little bit extra, eh?) out'a the current system (and yes of course that's possibly corrupt, also par for the course) - so it actually pays [someone] to propagandise us. Just another way of cheating, another way of ripping-off; in one word: [reader-supplied derogatory term]!


Apart from the principle involved, there is a good reason why this post, this day, and that is an item this morning on the program one just loves to hate, namely RN/Breakfast. The item was about privatising suburban water. The intro said "Xxx has a solution(!?)" The interviewer was quiet and respectful, as she 'fed' questions to the proponent. The basic idea discussed was the flogging-off of another public utility, this time our drinking wardah® supply, with the bright(?) idea of increasing the price, presumably to such a painfully high level (up to three times was mentioned), so as to discourage use in times of scarcity. Not too much wrong with the idea (as with most propaganda; believable elements), referred to in the program as 'unleashing the power of the market,' except that our water supplies everywhere are already in a monopoly situation, the prices already readily controllable, and with the sources of water (i.e. dams, after clouds/rain) and the associated infrastructure being hardly amenable to being split-up to provide any sort'a competition. (Incidentally, the same argument applied to electricity supplies; we know how that privatisation's turning out.) The word 'competition' was repeatedly used, even once (in a fit of uncontrolled honesty?) prefaced by something like 'quasi' (actually, 'notional') in relation to the reticulation system (i.e. the indivisible existing system of wardah pipes.)

I've also said it before, it's not just what one says, but how one says it; in this case the AusBC person prompted the proponent in a cushy interview about privatising our wardah - the result of which, if it were to happen, would quite probably be yet another disaster for us, we the sheople. To the point, where the fat-cats would be allowed to water their lawns, fill their swimming pools, while the poor would be 'allowed' only a miserable dribble to drink; to use any more could send them in the direction of going broke. And the 'big end of town' would make another killing on executive salaries, while the network would be allowed to rot. Just as the electricity system is rotting while jobs have 'gone West;' the maintenance, say, having been turned from preventative to repair, thus guaranteeing more outages. Is this really in our, i.e. we the sheople's best interests?

Comment: the appeal of privatisation is quite clear - it would further advantage 'the big end of town.' People irked by restrictions (and with lots'a dough) could then buy their way past, and the poor be damned. Nowhere did I hear of this non-egalitarian nature, nor any disadvantages discussed, except to say that any disadvantaging of the poor would be handled politically, i.e. with some sort'a subsidy possible.

So. Big question: what sort'a bias (if any) has been demonstrated?

Get the 6:35 Water pricing broadcast here; no transcript; segment runs from about 19:15 to 24:55.


PS Moral outrage section: One does not need to be religious to be moral, see my attempted formalisation, the chezPhil morality. The 'basic crimes' are lying, cheating, theft and murder. I claim nothing more than self-interest need be involved; if I do not wish to be murdered (I don't), then I agree not to murder in return. Many of the undefined 'they,' including our very own PM, claim some sort'a Judaic/Christian heritage, when not actual belief. AFAIK, we all 'agree' on some sort'a analogue to my chezPhil morality. All the more galling, then, when this morality is flouted, as in B, B & H's lying us off to an illegal, murdering war predicated on eventual oil-theft.

'Our' AusBC's job is to report all 'truths of the matters,' and not soft-pedal on any of the pushed paradigm propaganda, as they so clearly do. Time to call the spade a bloody (lying, thieving, murdering) shovel, mateys.


[1] This construction, "Everybody knows," is a fallacious form of argument, being a special case of the more general fallacy of false advertisement. As hinted at above, unsubstantiated assertions are effectively worthless, and are about as useful as a chocolate tea-pot - IMHO & haw!

As another example of unsubstantiated assertions, the following has come to my notice:

«..., with sectarian killings and suicide bombings the primary cause. There would be no deaths at the hands of the COW or the Iraqi army and police if they were not having to try and prevent this.
I think everyone has lost sight of that fact. Iraq had the best chance of peace and a better future after Saddam was toppled, and the people blew it.»

[source not cited]

Note the "no deaths" statement, effectively attributing all deaths ultimately to sectarian/suicide actions (Wha'da 'bout "Dying to Win?" Or CIA-style psyops, like the preparations for one actually documented and the (SAS?) operators gaoled, the subsequent 'rescue action' shown on our TVs all of which occurred in the UK's Basra area?)

Note the deployment of the 'everyone' gambit, see [1].

Note at the end, the blaming: "the [Iraqi] people blew it."

This last, the 'blame game,' cannot go unremarked. I doubt very strongly, that the Iraqi people - having been 'liberated,' by whatever (illegal?) "Shock'n whore" means, would have freely chosen to then be brutally occupied, as is Oh, so demonstrably the case. The Iraqi people were not asked (by Bremer, say) nor could they have answered when they democratically(?) voted - the US hand-picked the candidates, the US forced them to swear not to dismantle Bremer, the paucity of info sometimes bordering on none, now the attempted forcing of the puppet government to swallow the oil-law, etc. I recall a relatively quiet interval while the Iraqis evaluated the post-Saddam period, after which the violence began to escalate.

Exactly how, then, did the [Iraqi] people blow it?

As an aside, we cannot know how much strife in Iraq was pre-programmed, or how much has been instigated by US operations. What we do know is at least two: 1) the invader/occupiers are responsible for the resulting chaos (AFAIK by international law) and 2) the country belongs to the Iraqis. If (haw!) the US intends to steal Iraq's oil then the US has to stay. It's a circular argument: they have to stay to control the chaos but they cause the chaos just by being there. All 'perfectly' under US control; and if the chaos were to subside the US would just instigate more, to keep the circle going. Basta!

Excuse me if I try a projection: are we to assume then, that if the Iraqis were to accept the occupation, if they didn't try to eject the occupiers, if they simply accepted the coming theft of their birthright - all the while not competing amongst themselves (sectarian/suicide), aka giving up any and all claims, thus advantaging the current US selected sycophantic, snivelling power-elite - then everything in the Iraqi garden would be lovely? Is that it?

Just as in: "If rape is inevitable lie back and enjoy it?"

[2] The Enlightenment:

«Within the period of the Enlightenment, the question of what was the proper relationship of the citizen to the state continued to be explored. The idea that society is a contract between individual and some larger entity, whether society or state, was developed philosophically by a series of thinkers, including Rousseau, Montesquieu and Jefferson.»

[wiki/Age of Enlightenment]

Speaking of dirty bombs...

... see Iraqis blame US depleted uranium for surge in cancer:

Iraq's environment minister blamed Monday the use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. forces during the 2003 Operation Shock and Awe for the current surge in cancer cases across the country.

As a result of "at least 350 sites in Iraq being contaminated during bombing" with depleted uranium (DU) weapons, Nermin Othman said, the nation is facing about 140,000 cases of cancer, with 7,000 to 8,000 new ones registered each year.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Arab League, she also complained that many chemical plants and oil facilities had been destroyed during the two military campaigns since the 1990s, but the ecological consequences remain unclear.

"Our ministry is fledgling, and we need international support; notably, we need laboratories to better monitor air and water contamination," she said.

The first major UN research on the consequences of the use of DU on the battlefield was conducted in 2003 in the wake of NATO operations in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) said in its report after the research that DU poses little threat if spent munitions are cleared from the ground.

"Health risks primarily depend on the awareness of people coming into contact with DU," UNEP writes in its 2004 brochure "Depleted Uranium Awareness."

No major clean-up or public awareness campaigns have been reported in Iraq.

Depleted Uranium Awareness

From a letter from a US lieutenant colonel at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to a Major Larson at the organisation's 'Studies and Analysis Branch' dated 21 March 1991:

There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus be deleted from the arsenal. If DU penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat activities, then we should assure their future existence (until something better is developed) through Service/DOD [Department of Defense] proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.

In other words, the health risks of DU ammunition are acceptable until we invent something even more lethal to take its place.


D.U. A matter Howard won't discuss?

G'day Craig. I have been chasing this subject for over two years - at least since the Federal Labor Member for Livingston Q, Kirsten Livermore, asked many questions of the then Minister for "Defence" Robert Hill.

Being aware that the US and UK used DU extensively in Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, I was concerned that Howard's fawning to the Bush Administration might allow them to use DU in the "Sabre" Invasion Exercises in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.

Eventually, I received a letter through Gary Nairn, from the umpteenth Howard Minister for "Defence", Brendon Nelson, with the assurance that DU would not be used on Australian soil.

Under any government other than Howard's "New Order" I would be inclined to accept that at face value. However, the fact that the NSW MSM didn't even mention that these exercises were started, continuing, or finished raises my suspicions again.

They call these DU weapons "Hellfire", "Smart Bombs", "Advanced Penetrators" or "bunker-busters".

There are several sites of interest on this subject. I recommend this one.

My wife and I have begun a holiday in Rockhampton Queensland, visiting ex-service friends among others. While here we will try to find out if anyone near the invasion exercises site for any information they may have.

In addition, “It’s Time” that our forum opened debate on the Howard “New Order” decision to have the US private enterprise corporations build nuclear reactors in Australia and to provide a world nuclear waste dump somewhere in our nation.

No good saying that all polls show Howard that the people, his voters as well, openly oppose his intentions. Just like we did about the illegal invasion of Iraq.

There is no truth in the Howard "New Order".


Australia as a nuclear waste dump

Hi Ernest. Let me take on part of that question.

"In addition, 'It’s Time' that our forum opened debate on the Howard 'New Order' decision to have the US private enterprise corporations build nuclear reactors in Australia and to provide a world nuclear waste dump somewhere in our nation."

I'm not sure it was Howard that suggested we take over the storage of nuclear waste here in Australia. I think that was Bob Hawke's idea. But you are absolutely correct when you state that US nuclear suppliers will provide the reactors for Howard's proposed nuclear renaissance. The French and Russian suppliers won't get a look in...

When and if that renaissance occurs, we will be buying light-water reactors, which produce nuclear waste that we could easily bury here in Australia. Most light-water reactor operators simply put this waste in water until they decide, a few decades down the line, where to store it. This is occurring all over the world.

The only argument is price. No one really wants to pay for the nuclear "end of investment" costs, like decommissioning the reactor and storing the waste. The smart money wants to be exiting this market well before such costs come back to bite them on the bum.

The technology for waste burial is well established. You drill a deep shaft into a stable geological area (the centre of Australia is perfect), drill shafts outward in a spoke-type arrangement, encase the waste in a couple of appropriate materials, fill the shaft with concrete or something similar, then move upwards and do it all over again. When that is done, drill another shaft elsewhere and start over.

Down the line, where we are forced by depleting world uranium supplies to move to fast-breeder reactors (which conserve nuclear fuel), we move into the danger zone of plutonium waste, radioactive for generations upon generations upon generations. This stuff is the nightmare we do not want to know about, do not want to store here, and do not want to handle.

Howard's nuclear renaissance is, however, nowhere near so sophisticated. As far as I can tell, he is wedging his nuclear renaissance against Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett, playing the "anti-nuke fanaticism" of the Labor left against them, using the electorate's growing energy consumption as the "demand factor".

Where this goes depends very much on the election. If Howard pushes through uranium sales to India and overturns the WA ban on uranium mining before the election, I doubt Labor would throw it out afterwards. Rudd doesn't want to be wedged on this, so probably won't bother reacting.

Nuclear energy is coming to Australia. Whether I like it or not, we may need it here to provide electricity for a growing population, perform desalination to produce potable and agricultural water, and in the long, long, long term maybe even produce hydrogen for energy.

We should, however, not sign on to long-term waste disposal contracts. Whoever we export uranium ore to should take on the financial responsibility as to waste disposal, just as they take on the financial responsibility for the viability of their own commercial nuclear industry...

Wanna repost Mark Lathams' prewar speech?

Margo, it might be nice to repost Mark Latham's prewar speech and my correct interpretation of it.

Seems that Latham was 100% spot on.

Margo: Mark Latham's pre war speech is here. And see Kim Beazley's speech, Waiting for blowback, Laurie Brereton's speech Shroud over Guernica. and check out Senator Robert Byrd's prewar speech to the US Senate, A lonely voice in a US Senate silent on war

Uri Avnery on Bush's latest Middle East speech

Sol Salbe: "The simple fact is that Uri Avnery does a better job in analysing Bush’s speech than anyone else I’ve seen. As is my usual practice I’ve compared this against the Hebrew original and made a few minor alterations to fit in with News Service rendition. You can check the Gush Shalom translation here


                                        A Trap for Fools

IN A classical American western, the difference is as glaring as the midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys.  The good ones are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy, tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at all times. 

George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the world with the script of an up-to-date western. 

In this western - or, rather, Middle Eastern - there are also Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of the US in the Middle East - Israel, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the pro-American Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda. 

It is a simple script. So simple, indeed, that an 8-year-old can understand it. The conclusions are also simple: the good guys have to be supported, the bad guys have to bite the dust. At the end, the hero - George himself - will ride off into the sunset on his noble steed, while the music reaches a crescendo. 

THE CLASSICAL western, of course, does not show us the heroic pioneers stealing the land from the Indians. Or the United States Cavalry attacking the camps of the Indians, burning down the tents and killing their inhabitants: men, women and children. How the US government, after signing formal treaties with the Indian nations, breaks them one after another. And how it drives the remnants into desolate regions, long before the term "ethnic cleansing" was first used. 

Denial runs through the classical western like a purple thread, as it does through this speech of Bush's. This finds its main expression in a simple fact: the occupation is hardly mentioned at all. 

In the Palestinian community, for example, there is a struggle between the "moderates" and the "extremists". The extremists are killers. Why are they killers? There is no why. They are killers because they are killers. It's in their nature. They were just born that way. The moderates are moderates because they are moderates. Some people are just born good. 

So the whole problem is a Palestinian problem. They must decide. They must choose between moderates and extremists. If they choose the moderates, they will get everything they can imagine: colourful glass beads and bottles of whisky. If they choose the extremists, their end will be bitter. 

The Jewish Israelis do not have to choose between good and bad. Why? Simply because there are no Bad Guys among them. They are just good. They must help the good Palestinians. "Release" the Palestinian tax moneys and give them to "Prime Minister (Salem) Fayad". Not to the Palestinian government, but to one specific named person, the darling of Bush. 

What else is required from the Israelis? They must understand that their "future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee - not in continuing occupation of the West Bank". (That's the only time the occupation is mentioned in the entire speech.) They should remove unauthorised outposts and end settlement expansion. Also, they may "find other practical ways to reduce their footprint (in the West Bank) without reducing their security". Meaning: the occupation can continue, but it would be nice if we take some steps to make it less visible. 

A long time ago, the United States viewed all settlements as illegal. When the Israeli government continued to expand them, James Baker, the Secretary of State under Bush the father, imposed financial sanctions upon Israel. Bush the son at first demanded that all settlements established after January 2001 should be dismantled. Later he withdrew all opposition to the settlement blocs ("centres of population"). In the "Road Map" he decreed that Israel must immediately freeze the enlargement of the settlements. Now he is satisfied with a sanctimonious request to "remove unauthorised outposts" (with no definite article) - that's to say, some of those put up without the official authorisation of the Israeli government itself. All this without "or else" or any mention of sanctions. 

In the last few years, only one such outpost, Amona, has been dismantled, and this week Ehud Olmert decided to pardon all the fanatics accused of attacking the police during that event. The Israeli government knows that Bush is only paying lip service, and does not take him seriously. 

IN MANY classical westerns there appears a crook selling a patent medicine to heal all ills: headaches and haemorrhoids, tuberculosis and syphilis. George Bush has his own patent medicine, which appears in the speech again and again. It will heal all diseases and ensure the final victory of the Sons of Light over the Sons of Darkness. 

The label on the bottle says "Building Palestinian Institutions". 

How come we didn't think of this until now? Why did we go chasing off after all kinds of solutions, and did not find this one, so simple, lying in front of us for all to see? 

It is an egg of Columbus, with a whiff of Alexander the Great's sword cutting the Gordian knot. The Palestinians have no institutions. The two good people, "President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayad…are striving to build the institutions of a modern democracy." This means: "security services…ministries that deliver services without corruption…steps that unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people…the rule of law…" 

All this under occupation, behind roadblocks, walls and fences, while the main roads are barred to Palestinians, while the West Bank is chopped into pieces and cut off from the rest of the world. By the way, in this matter Bush has another patent medicine: all Palestinian exports will in future go through Jordan and Egypt, not Israel. 

In order to realise the vision of "building Palestinian institutions", Bush is sending along his poodle. According to Bush, the sole task of Tony Blair is indeed this: "to coordinate international efforts to help the Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free society." (Like which example? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Pakistan? Morocco? Or perhaps even Iraq?) 

Let's hope no one is rude enough to mention the fact that the Palestinians held democratic elections for their Parliament, not so long ago, under the strict supervision of ex-President Jimmy Carter. As far as Bush is concerned, that just did not happen, since the majority of the people voted for Hamas. Therefore, Bush mentions only the elections held before that, when Mahmoud Abbas was elected president, practically without opposition. Everything else has been wiped off the slate. 

So this is the up-to-date vision: "democratic Palestinian institutions" will be in place, free of corruption (as in the US and Israel), and "capable security forces" will be functioning, and Hamas will be eliminated, and the armed factions will be dismantled, and all attacks on Israel will be stopped, and the security of Israel ensured, and the incitement against Israel ended, and everybody will recognise Israel's right to exist , and all the agreements that were signed in the past will be accepted - then "we can soon begin serious negotiations towards the creation of a Palestinian state." Wow!

What a wonderful sentence! "Soon" - without a timetable. "Serious negotiations" - without fixing a date for their conclusion. "A Palestinian state" (again, without the definite article, which Bush seems to detest) - without specific borders. But a hint is given: "mutually agreed borders reflecting previous lines and current realities, and mutually agreed adjustments." Meaning: the settlement blocs and much else will be annexed by Israel. 

IT SEEMS as if the speech writers, after finishing the product, noticed that it was pitifully devoid of content. Nothing new, nothing that could cause a self-respecting newspaper to give it a headline. 

I imagine the media advisor saying: "Mr President, we must add something that will look new." Thus the "international meeting" was born. 

"So I will call together an international meeting this fall of representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognise Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. The key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbours in the region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting." 

Wonderful. A meeting which has no date yet, but has a season of the year.  And for which no location has yet been fixed. And no list of participants. And no planned conclusions, except the general statement: "She (Condoleezza) and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made towards building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state." The meeting will not review the progress made towards the removal of the outposts, for example. 

It is not by accident that Bush omitted to identify the governments he intends to invite. Clearly, he will try to fulfil one of the most cherished dreams of Olmert: to meet publicly with a top representative of Saudi Arabia. For Olmert this would be an immense achievement: an official meeting with the most important Arab country which has no peace agreement with Israel. A meeting for which he will not have to pay any price. A free lunch. 

It is dubious whether this wish will be fulfilled. The Saudis are very cautious. They do not want to quarrel with any party in the Region - not with Syria (which will not be invited, though it is a "neighbour" of the Israelis and the Palestinians) and not with Hamas. Unlike Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia cannot be bribed with money. It has enough of its own. 

THE FINAL objective, as if, is a "Palestinian state", the "two-state solution". That is a far-far-off aim. Not for nothing is it called a "political horizon", since a horizon, as is well-known, recedes in the distance as one tries to approach it. 

In his poem "If", Rudyard Kipling describes all the tests an Englishman has to endure in order to be considered a "man". One of them is: "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools…" 

We, the small group of Israelis who raised the banner of the "two-state solution" more than fifty years ago, now have to endure George Bush turning it into a rag to cover his nakedness. In his mouth, it is an empty, deceitful and mendacious slogan. Only a fool will fall into this trap. 

As Chaim Weismann, the prominent Zionist leader and first president of Israel, once said: "No state is given to a people on a silver platter." The Palestinians, too, will not get their state without struggle, not as baksheesh from Bush nor as a '"gesture" from Olmert. Nations achieve their freedom by political or military struggle. Every struggle, violent or non-violent, is a matter of power. 

And power means first of all: Unity.

The US learnt nothing from Vietnam

AUSTRALIA'S Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, has taken a swipe at the US military's strategy at the outset of the Iraq war, expressing disbelief that it has taken so long for commanders to realise the merits of engaging with the local population and winning their trust.

Lieutenant General Leahy, is amazed at the strategy that US has taken since the invasion of Iraq. Australia is among the world's best when it comes to counter insurgency operations. We learnt a lot from the Vietnam war. It seems the US learnt nothing. The US combat strategy is "shock and awe" lots of bombs, plenty of shooting, and lots of collateral damage. It is no way to win the hearts and minds of a population. To win we need to build hospitals, schools and walk in the shoes of the people we are there to protect. Its takes time, courage and lots of money.

Insurgents' new plan

Scott Burchill recommends  Insurgents form political front to plan for US pullout. Leaders of Iraqi groups say attacks will go on until Americans leave:

"Seven of the most important Sunni-led insurgent organisations fighting the US occupation in Iraq have agreed to form a public political alliance with the aim of preparing for negotiations in advance of an American withdrawal, their leaders have told the Guardian.

"In their first interview with the western media since the US-British invasion of 2003, leaders of three of the insurgent groups - responsible for thousands of attacks against US and Iraqi armed forces and police - said they would continue their armed resistance until all foreign troops were withdrawn from Iraq, and denounced al-Qaida for sectarian killings and suicide bombings against civilians.

"Speaking in Damascus, the spokesmen for the three groups - the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Hamas - said they planned to hold a congress to launch a united front and appealed to Arab governments, other governments and the UN to help them establish a permanent political presence outside Iraq.

"Abu Ahmad, spokesman for Iraqi Hamas said: "Peaceful resistance will not end the occupation. The US made clear it intended to stay for many decades. Now it is a common view in the resistance that they will start to withdraw within a year. "

"The move represents a dramatic change of strategy for the mainstream Iraqi insurgency, whose leadership has remained shadowy and has largely restricted communication with the world to brief statements on the internet and Arabic media..."

Deja vu all over again

Margo: Greetings and best wishes. This is where I came in at Webdiary 2003, and thus deja vu all over again, to use Yogi Berra's immortal phrase.

Since a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the US was first mooted, and the roots of it go back to the Gulf War of 1991, the choice for Iraqis and non-Iraqis alike was who to support: Saddam or the US? For Iraqis who wished to remain alive, the choice was simple.

For us on the outside, it was more difficult, except of course for that section of the Left making up the Left's own reflexive anti-war wing. Just as it had opposed the British liberation of the Falklands from the Argentinian occupiers in 1982, and the US liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's occupation and siezure in 1991, so it opposed the Coalition's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.

The logic of this drove it towards portraying the violent internal Iraqi reaction against Saddam's overthrow as being part of the great national liberation tradition, of which the Vietnamese National Liberation Front was the most outstanding post-WW2 example. Hence Seamus Milne's 2004 Guardian article entitled 'The resistance campaign is Iraq's real war of liberation'.

For critical comment on Milne's latest piece, I recommend that by Oliver Kamm here, and Milne's 'Scoop' by david t on Harry's Place (scroll down).

While we're at it, there is an excellent review of Nick Cohen's What's Left? (Cohen's pro-war left attack on the Anti-war Left) by Johann Hari (himself a lapsed Coalition supporter) on Hari's site.

For some on the Anti-war Left the logical extension and corollary was close examination of the events of 9/11, with a view to building a case that this event, which by itself created the political climate for the Afghanisatan and Iraq invasions, was actually a conspiratorial set-up organised by those who had most to gain materially from those invasions. One proponent of that view, Damian Lataan, has just made a reluctant departure from Webdiary. Sadly missed.

For others the chosen course was to argue that the war was fundamentally about oil (which I incidentally have never opposed) and that the major concern generating popular support for it in the West, namely Saddam's alleged WMD program, was a total furphy. Concern that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would pass from Saddam to terrorists was likewise dismissed, with Scott Burchill going so far as to argue that it did not really matter if terrorists got hold of WMD, as there was no way that they could actually use them. (see his January 2003 Counterspin: Pro-war mythology and my February 2003 deconstruction of it, both of which were published on the original SMH Webdiary.)

I do not know if Burchill still holds that view, but on the face of it he is keen to publicise this latest move by the so-called 'Iraqi Resistance' in its battle, against the Americans and the rest of the Coalition, in the Iraqi sector of the so-called "So-called 'War on Terror'". I very much doubt if the fighters in this 'resistance' are much interested in liberalism or democracy, and those Iraqis who are would be well advised to get out of the country if the 'resistance' comes within a bull's roar of winning.

Meanwhile, I have a piece for WD entitled "The So-called 'So-called War on Terror'" in preparation. It and my latest shed will be finished at about the same time, and soon. Hold your breath if you must.

Margo: Ian, good title.

Malcolm Fraser letter to GetUp

A letter from Fraser to GetUp sent in its email today:

Dear GetUp Members,

The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate with more loss of lives, with even more hardship to Iraqi civilians.

The serious divisions within Iraq, unleashed by the war itself, have not been reduced. The Iraqi government has made no significant steps towards reconciliation and accommodation between the warring parties.

This is a situation that cannot be controlled by military force. The troop surge, such as it was, failed. There were over half a million Americans in Vietnam. They failed. With only a fraction of that number in Iraq it should be no surprise that continued reliance on military means is not succeeding.

More and more Americans are coming to accept that withdrawal must take place. Senior and highly respected Republican Senators are deserting President Bush on this issue. The original objectives are almost entirely forgotten. There is no talk of Iraq establishing a benign, American style democracy that will spread to the rest of the Middle East.

Our withdrawal must be carefully planned, as a precipitous withdrawal in a week or a month would add to the chaos. And as the Baker-Hamilton Committee reported to Congress, all regional players, including Iran and Syria, must be drawn into discussions before we leave. Diplomacy now offers the only chance of a withdrawal accompanied by relative calm and peace.

One of the things we should say to the Americans, quite simply, is that if the United States is not prepared to involve itself in high level diplomacy concerning Iraq and other Middle East questions, our forces will be withdrawn before Christmas.

I encourage you to support GetUp's campaign for a change in policy. Add your voice below to the thousands who have spoken already. If enough speak, the Government has to listen.

Malcolm Fraser AC CH
Former Prime Minister of Australia

Why Iraq not Pakistan? Oh sorry, we invaded the wrong country.

At the White House, Ms. Townsend found herself in the uncomfortable position of explaining why American military action was focused in Iraq when the report concluded that main threat of terror attacks that could be carried out in the United States emanated from the tribal areas of Pakistan.

As various intelligence reports are warning Al Qaeda's main base is in Pakistan. Bush and his mate Howard have invaded and trashed Iraq. Thousands have been killed. The future is most likely a prolonged and bloody civil war. Our leaders still refuse to admit, that they were wrong. No wonder the people are no longer listening.

Scott Burchill recommends

Scott Burchill recommends The Washington Post's
Intelligence Puts Rationale For War on Shakier Ground:

"The White House faced fresh political peril yesterday in the form of a new intelligence assessment that raised sharp questions about the success of its counterterrorism strategy and judgment in making Iraq the focus of that effort.

"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush has been able to deflect criticism of his counterterrorism policy by repeatedly noting the absence of any new domestic attacks and by citing the continuing threat that terrorists in Iraq pose to U.S. interests.

"But this line of defense seemed to unravel a bit yesterday with the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership. The report also notes that al-Qaeda has been able "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks," by associating itself with an Iraqi subsidiary.
These disclosures triggered a new round of criticism from Democrats and others who say that the administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq without first destroying Osama bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan."

NIE and other acronyms

The National Intelligence Estimate titled "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland" (pdf here) and summary extract at Rolling Stone brings forth a new entity - 'al-Qa’ida in Iraq' (AQI). The seven pages use a lot more acronyms.

The most useful part is a box on page five, that includes

What We Mean When We Say: An Explanation of Estimative Language

When we use words such as “we judge” or “we assess” — terms we use synonymously —  as well as “we estimate,” “likely” or “indicate,” we are trying to convey an analytical assessment or judgment. These assessments, which are based on incomplete or at times fragmentary information are not a fact, proof, or knowledge. Some analytical judgments are based directly on collected information; others rest on previous judgments, which serve as building blocks. In either type of judgment, we do not have “evidence” that shows something to be a fact or that definitively links two items or issues. Intelligence judgments pertaining to likelihood are intended to reflect the Community’s sense of the probability of a development or event. Assigning precise numerical ratings to such judgments would imply more rigor than we intend. The chart below provides a rough idea of the relationship of terms to each other. We do not intend the term “unlikely” to imply an event will not happen. We use “probably” and “likely” to indicate there is a greater than even chance. We use words such as “we cannot dismiss,” “we cannot rule out,” and “we cannot discount” to reflect an unlikely—or even remote—event whose consequences are such it warrants mentioning. Words such as “may be” and “suggest” are used to reflect situations in which we are unable to assess the likelihood generally because relevant information is nonexistent, sketchy, or fragmented.

A useful resource for the pre-election scare campaign.

AQI has many means of acquiring arms and materiel, no doubt. Add LRF (Legitimate Resistance Force) to the list:

Maliki warned US forces last month against creating new militias in their fight against Al Qaeda-linked operatives. He insisted that all collaboration with local groups must be done through his government.

"What the Americans are doing is very risky and unwise. They are planting the seeds for future wars," warned Sami al-Askari, a parliamentarian close to Maliki, commenting on groups like the LRF.

Ghosts of talkfests past

Leunig's cartoon in The Age today is presented as "Today's Sacred Text" (from the House Hansard 14 May 2003):

JOHN HOWARD: Not only was the military operation completed quickly and successfully but it is also worth recording that all of the doomsday predictions, particularly the many that came from those who sit opposite, were not realised. The oilwells were not set on fire; there were not millions of refugees; ... and there was no long, drawn out, bloody, ... street-to-street fighting in Baghdad. For all of this we must be immensely grateful, but it is a reminder of the hysteria and the doomsday predictions that often accompany operations of this kind. ... the predictions on this occasion have been proved wrong. The decisive victory of the American led coalition reflects enormous credit on the strength and the determination of the leadership of President Bush. Again I remind the House of the way in which his role was vilified ... by many of those who sit opposite and of the way in which speaker after speaker from the Australian Labor Party impugned his integrity, assaulted his judgment and called into question his ability to lead the United States in this very difficult conflict. History has proved them wrong.

Ah, memories!

CIA says no hope in Iraq

Scott Burchill recommends CIA Said Instability Seemed 'Irreversible' by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, July 12:

Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House. For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a "Churchillian" vision of "victory" in Iraq and defend the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. "A constitutional order is emerging," he said.

Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said "the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible," adding that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around," according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants. "The government is unable to govern," Hayden concluded. "We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function."

Later in the interview, he qualified the statement somewhat: "A government that can govern, sustain and defend itself is not achievable," he said, "in the short term."

Hayden's bleak assessment, which came just a week after Republicans had lost control of Congress and Bush had dismissed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was a pivotal moment in the study group's intensive examination of the Iraq war, and it helped shape its conclusion in its final report that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating."

In the eight months since the interview, neither Hayden nor any other high-ranking administration official has publicly described the Iraqi government in the uniformly negative terms that the CIA director used in his closed-door briefing.

Among the 79 specific recommendations the Iraq Study Group made to Bush was withdrawing support for the Maliki government unless it showed "substantial progress" on security and national reconciliation. And it recommended changing the primary mission of U.S. forces from combat to training Iraqis so that combat units could be withdrawn by early 2008.

In effect, the report from the bipartisan group -- co-chaired by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) -- was an urgent message from the old Washington establishment to the Bush administration to change the direction of its Iraq policy. But Bush did not initially embrace any of the key recommendations, although bipartisan groups in the House and Senate have recently introduced legislation that would make them official U.S. policy.

Instead, the president in January announced that he was sending more troops to Iraq as part of a "surge," which he said would lead to the victory that had so far eluded U.S. forces....

Iraq Vs Australia

I have been watching the Asian Soccer Cup all week. The quality of the football has been fantastic.

The fate of the Australian team is reminding of the fate of the Americans in Iraq. The Americans thought they could just turn up then do the "I came, I saw and I conquered" routine, à la John Wayne swaggering into the town.

The Australian team thought they could do likewise. They thought by joining the Asian Football Confederation, yippy, they could just turn up, then: "I came, I saw and I conquered".

Like the Americans in Iraq, the Australian team is discovering that the road to hell is also paved with plenty of arrogance.

Scott Burchill recommends

Scott Burchill recommends Saudis' role in Iraq insurgency outlined
in the LA Times

BAGHDAD - Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said...

Some effects and lots of denial.

Margo, here is one originally from the NYTimes on the effects of the war on US personnel and their families.

And what some get up to in Iraq

Robert Dreyfuss on the WH in denial

On illegalities.

And Iraq's pm has some views.

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shrugged off U.S. doubts of his government's military and political progress on Saturday, saying Iraqi forces are capable and American troops can leave "any time they want."

One of his top aides, meanwhile, accused the United States of embarrassing the Iraqi government by violating human rights and treating his country like an "experiment in a U.S. lab."

But will they ever go or do they want somewhere for their bases?

midwest US towns sour on Iraq

From Scott Burchill. See Midwest Towns Sour on War as Their Tolls Mount in the Washington Post.

Nixon- Kissinger blowback?

Geoff, don't know what happened there, but it looks like someone's "mild" remarks about someone else glitched into your comment.

As for Hitcho's 1976 piece, while I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was "extraordinarily prescient", I agree it's actually not a bad piece. Aside from his qualified endorsement of Saddam, there's a bit of robust anti-Americanism criticism of US foreign policy. He notes

... a Nixon- Kissinger strategy of arming and encouraging a Kurdish revolt, not for the purpose of creating a Kurdish state (which would have horrified the Shah) but for the purpose of de-stabilising Iraq. It was specifically argued, by those who planned the operation, that the Kurds should not be allowed to win.

They were allowed to take heavy casualties and suffer appalling refugee problems; and then were dumped unceremoniously when it became clear that the Iraqi government was not going to crumble.

Quite obviously Saddam's regime didn't crumble, but the "strategy" may have inadvertently given cause for an enduring enmity between the Iraqi Kurds and their government. One might conjecture about whether the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds a decade later was an unfortunate sort of "blowback" of that Nixon-Kissinger strategy.

Ian, thanks for the explanation. Actually, I haven't seen the verb 'pilger' or its variants for some time, so I guess it must be true: If it ain't in the Oxford, then it ain't a word.

Fiona: Happy Birthday to you...

Richard: Happy birthday, bonnie lass!

There is a way

‘No foreign power, no matter how benevolent, should be allowed to dictate the terms of a possible historic and stable settlement in the Middle East.’

'The democratic framework set up by the coalition of the willing must be preserved.'

How the blazes can the same person write the above in subsequent paragraphs?

According to various reports that I have read, the government often cannot sit because they lack a quorum, and many of those ‘elected’ live in London as their lives are worth nothing in Bagdad. It is a dead certainty that those government members who do not leave with the yanks will have a life expectancy of, perhaps, hours to days. There are also reports that there is still a solid core of Iraqis wanting to form a coalition government, the coalition out, and a little time. But that is not what is generally reported. Doesn’t suit any of the politicians to have the have uneducated, neighbour hating segments who live with donkeys in their mud huts to succeed where the ‘worlds greatest power/s’ have been run ragged by a bunch of poorly armed, dissidents and criminals!

If the rest of the world is serious about peace in the Middle East, they will haul Bush, Blair and Howard and their cohorts in on war crime charges and begin the process of compelling the US, UK and Australia to pay for the damage and real compensation for the lives and belongings lost. Then of course there is the small matter of the looting of priceless treasures of world significance. This would almost clear the way for a foundation to be laid upon which the rest of the world might, just might begin to trust international justice.

Trusting the coalition partners is another issue entirely.

I did say it was trivia

Sure, big deal.

And curious how the New Statesman, while holding Hitchens' past writings up to scrutiny, showed no contrition about having published that piece in the first place.

Still, it seems to me that talking up Saddam's accomodation of his Kurdish minority does more than "remotely" constitute something like "praise". But okay, this will seem pedantic to critics of Loewenstein

I would, however, criticise Loewenstein in this instance for not making it clear that virtually all of his post was reproduced from another blog. Those averse to 'Fisking' (whatever the hell that is) might have missed that detail.

Anyway, best not to make too much of people's past overtures to Saddam.

Truth Is Still Not Trivial

Jacob: I would, however, criticise Loewenstein in this instance for not making it clear that virtually all of his post was reproduced from another blog. Those averse to 'Fisking' (whatever the hell that is) might have missed that detail.

Well, certainly I did. Disgraceful. Not very remote from outright plagiarism as far as I can see. I did make a comment this morning about what I thought of the professional standards of this self-declared "journalist'. It was very mild compared to what Loewenstein (or whoever) said about Hitchens*. But Margo or whoever was moderating trimmed it so I will not bother repeating it. 

I will say this. Given it was written in 1976, Hitchens piece in the New Statesman is quite extraordinarily prescient. An excellent article from an outstanding journalist and writer.


*What Loewenstein (or whoever) said about Hitchens:

What is worse is that this writer is now a respected “opinion former” who regularly appears in print and on the television where not once is he challenged on his foul and disgusting, fascist worshiping past. Let’s all make sure that wherever we hear his name we inform people of just what a social leper such a person should be.

The verb 'to fisk', and corollaries

Jacob:  As you would know,  there are fascinating examples around of surnames making the transition from proper noun to common noun or verb. For example, the original Hooligans were a family of Irish immigrants living in East London in the late 19th Century,  whose numerous sons were a bit out of control. Or so the story goes. For what it is worth, the noun is now in common usage in Russian.
Your post sent me out of curiosity here, where one reads:

"The term Fisking, or to Fisk, is blogosphere slang describing detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article, or essay.[1]

"Eric S. Raymond, in the Jargon File, defined the term as: 'A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment.'

"More broadly, the British newspaper The Observer defined fisking as "savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet.' The technique also has its critics. Andrew Orlowski in The Register commented that 'Many of today's debaters prefer Fisking—line-by-line rebuttals where facts are dropped like radar chaff—to rational debate or building a coherent argument."

This is of academic interest only of course as far as Webdiarists are concerned.

Another nice example is the verb 'to pilger', coined by the pompous Auberon Waugh in an attempt to cast the journalist John Pilger to the howling wolves of his conservative Spectator readership. Again from the bloggers' favourite link:

"[Pilger] has been the subject of much praise, with left-wing intellectuals such as Harold Pinter enthusing about his work: 'John Pilger is fearless. He unearths, with steely attention to facts, the filthy truth, and tells it as it is . . . I salute him.' He has also been subjected to criticism, with Auberon Waugh in Britain coining the verb 'to pilger' to denote 'to present information in a sensationalist manner to reach a foregone conclusion'. The verb was also added to the 1991 edition of Oxford English Dictionary of New Words but revoked in 1994 following complaints by Pilger."

It is worth noting here the possibility that one may pilger while fisking. The verb 'to filgerisk' would perhaps cover it. If one wrapped such a contribution within a destructive post designed to bring the blog on which one was posting  into disrepute or even terminal decline, it perhaps would be fooligerisking the site.

Again, no relevance to present or past company on Webdiary.

Fiona: Ah well, Ian, I was presented with a bottle of birthday fizz by a member of the Fisk clan earlier today. Perhaps time to essay it.

Cheers, Thanks, & Trivia

Cheers, Margo, if I come up with something else like that, I'll pass it on for consideration. Also meant (but forgot) to thank Chris for this review. So ta, Chris!

Question: Who lauded Saddam Hussein in 1976 as "perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser" ??

Answer: See here.

(Via Antony Loewenstein)

Honesty Not So Trivial

I don't often visit Antony Loewenstein's blog. Whenever I do I find fresh evidence of cheap propaganda and cynical tricks of language and logic intended to obfuscate an already complex set of issues.  I've seen more than enough of that from this writer to form a very clear opinion about him.

Jacob has pointed to an article by Loewenstein that is yet another good example of this. I don't intend to spend the time Fisking the whole piece. Frankly it isn't worth it. But it's pretty blatant. For instance:

What Christopher Hitchens wrote thirty years according to excerpts published in the NEWSTATESMAN:

The Kurds now have a very attenuated version of autonomy, and former members of the Barzani armed forces are being moved to the South. At least, however, Iraq constitutionally recognises that she is a partly Kurdish state, which is more than Iran or Turkey do. [my emphasis]

What Antony Loewenstein says Christopher Hitchens wrote thirty years ago while purporting to quote the NEWSTATESMAN:

Iraq constitutionally recognises that she is a partly Kurdish state, which is more than Iran or Turkey do.

On the basis of this, Loewenstein asserts:

The writer [Hitchens] even praised Saddam’s relationship with the Kurds!

Supporters of Loewenstein will claim this is pedantic.  But read for yourself what Hitchens actually wrote, rather than what Loewenstein says he wrote, and judge for yourself whether that evenly remotely supports Loewenstein's claim that [Hitchens] "even praised Saddam's relationship with the Kurds!". Loewenstein's writing is full of this stuff.

Are those angels I hear jeering?

Jacob: “In 1976 Christopher Hitchens saw Saddam as an up-and-coming secular socialist who would transform Iraq into a progressive model for the rest of the Middle East.”

Shock horror! A mere 31 years ago Hitchens saw Baathist socialism as what it proclaimed itself to be, and formed an expectation based on that! What a blithering, blinkered fool! Particularly when the New Statesman and the Guardian and other progressive journals were betting that Saddam would become a bloodthirsty tyrant, develop a (genuine, real) WMD program, get his nuclear reactor taken out by aerial bombardment by the Israelis, get his country (egged on by the US) into aggressive wars with Iran, then offend the US by invading Kuwait, get into a war with the US and 12 years later get invaded by a coalition led by that same US.  They said all that then.

Well, didn’t they?

So who would take a word Hitchens has written since 1976 seriously, ever again?

Not me. From now on, I’ll stick with the real clairvoyants. Pass me my copy of the Green Left Weekly. Oh and also my New Statesman. I want to read it all again, from cover to cover. After that I’ll go onto ebay and see if I can pick up a Morocco bound collection going back to the first issue in 1913, and spend the rest of my life marinading myself in its unsurpassable wisdom and righteousness.

Pity the soldiers trying to work in this mess

U.S. forces battled Iraqi police and gunmen Friday, killing six policemen, after an American raid to capture an Iraqi police lieutenant accused of leading a cell of Shiite militiamen, the military said. Seven gunmen also died in the fight........The Iraqi police are believed to be widely infiltrated by Shiite militiamen blamed for sectarian killings, creating a deep mistrust of the force among the Sunni Arab minority. Purging the force of a militia presence is one of the political benchmarks sought by Washington, though the Bush administration said in its assessment released Thursday that progress on purging the security forces is "unsatisfactory."

Billions of dollars, thousands of lives lost and no end in sight.

Allawi on Lateline

I posted a while ago the following comment on the Lateline Allawi interview, which may be of interest again here.


On ABC-TV’s Lateline last week, Tony Jones conducted a fascinating interview with Ali Allawi, former Iraqi defence minister, and now senior adviser to the present Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

I say ‘fascinating’ not just because of Allawi’s informed and sober discussion of the calamity in Iraq, but because Allawi’s views often stand in stark contrast to Coalition of the Willing leaders such as George W Bush, and of course bit-players like Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

It’s illuminating to contrast Allawi’s observations here with the official line, whether from Washington or from our own poodle government here in Australia, from which there’s a grudging and generalised admission that “mistakes were made...” but little if any evidence of lessons learned from those mistakes.

Allawi excoriates both the Iraqi transitional government, of which he was a part, and the management by the occupying authorities of the occupation and transition. According to Allawi, if anything distinguishes these early days of the new Iraq, it is incompetence and corruption on an epic and tragic scale.

...For example, in 2004 2005 the entire procurement budget of the Ministry of Defence was stolen. I mean we’re talking about more than $US1 billion that simply vanished. It’s not a question of commissions or rake-off, but outright theft and you can duplicate this on a smaller scale in various ministries ... the scale of corruption was truly monumental. ...

Billions of dollars were spent ... on the military and on the police who have nothing to show for it. It is an overwhelming collapse in oversight... The whole thing was done not on a shoestring, it was done with huge resources, but nevertheless the outcome is really appalling.

Contrary to the insistence of Bush et al that the invasion of Iraq was integral to the ‘war on terror’, Allawi maintains that...

Saddam had terrible, terrible flaws and was a terrible tyrant. But one of the things he did not do was challenge the United States through terrorism, so the connection between the former regime and Al Qaeda and international terrorism directed against the United States particular and the West generally could not be established...

Allawi’s analysis has more than a little resonance with British High Commissioner Helen Liddell’s comments last week that “our raison d’etre for our involvement in Iraq has not been about terrorism.” This assertion was of course rejected outright by Prime Minister Howard, who responded with the well-worn mantra “that Iraq is part of the battleground against terrorism.” To which Allawi might respond:

What has happened is, in fact, a large number of so-called ... jihadist groups have been empowered as a result of the continuing large scale American military presence in Iraq. And in the process, the threat of terrorism has increased.

So, it appears that Allawi tends to the view — unspeakable among the Bushites and their poodles — that the presence in mass of US and other Coalition troops in Iraq is counterproductive. He is also at odds with the Bush view that a withdrawal of US troops would result in a catastrophic breakdown of civil order in Iraq.

... I don’t think there will be a serious effect on the overall level of violence. But the instability will continue.

Indeed, it is arguably a symptom of the wilful ignorance of the Coalition leadership that the current appalling level of violence in Iraq isn’t considered as already constituting a catastrophic breakdown of order.

On the question of the human cost of the Iraq war — specifically the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the 2003 invasion — Allawi believes that figure to be “around 200,000-250,000.” If Allawi’s present estimate is correct, and if President Bush was correct in December 2005 with his estimate of 30,000 “more or less”, then this suggests a monthly death toll of Iraqis of well over 10,000 per month in the last 18 months or so alone — “more or less”.

Allawi originally opposed a full-scale invasion of Iraq, but is now of the view that

... we’ve moved now beyond whether the overthrow of Saddam was a good or a bad thing and to what are we going to do ... with this Iraq that has gone through four years of terrible hardships? The consequences have to be addressed and managed.

Addressing and managing those consequences should indeed be the overriding priority, as opposed to shoring up US ‘prestige’ and certain parties’ re-election prospects.

Margo: Jacob, I reckon we should have run that as a piece in itself. Great reporting! 

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