Archive for category Iraq

Iraq Update – Depends On Who You Believe

ISIS truck column

The Iraqi Army is either locked in a stalemate in the battle for Tikrit and surrounding areas about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, or (according to a claim by ISIS) has completely lost the city and Camp Speicher, a nearby military post and helicopter base.

Here’s the story according to The Long War Journal:

The Iraqi military made its first effort to retake Tikrit in late June, when it airlifted commandos into Tikrit University in an effort to gain a toehold north of the city. An advance on the city from the south was defeated. Then, on July 16, the Iraqi military launched Operation Decisive Sword. A large column of military and militia units entered southern Tikrit and thought they liberated the city, but as they celebrated they were ambushed with suicide bombers, IEDs, and conventional attacks. The Iraqi forces then withdrew from the city.

After the Iraqi military withdrew from southern Tikrit on July 16, the Islamic State immediately began its assault on Camp Speicher, as the base was the last remaining holdout of Iraqi forces near the city (Iraqi forces were withdrawn from Tikrit University sometime before the second offensive was launched).

The loss of Camp Speicher, and perhaps more importantly, the loss of the helicopters and its pilots if the Islamic State’s claims are true, is a serious blow to both the morale and the operational capabilities of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military, which has failed to retake major cities and towns from the Islamic State and its allies, now may find it more difficult to support and defend the Bayji oil refinery just to the north, which has been largely resupplied by helicopters.

The Daily Beast cast doubt on the ISIS claim of victory in Tikrit:

On Friday, multiple news reports claimed that ISIS had won a major victory, seizing control of a vital army base outside of Tikrit and killing or capturing the hundreds of soldiers stationed there. If true, ISIS’s capture of Camp Speicher would signal a crucial turning point in the battle for the city and a humiliating setback for the Iraqi Army.

But the reports are false according to multiple Iraqi sources, who say Speicher was attacked on Friday but that ISIS never entered the base. According to an Iraqi Army soldier, who said he is currently stationed at the base: “Ten suicide bombers tried to blow themselves up at the gate so 15 more ISIS fighters in support could enter the base but we killed all of them. Only one Iraqi soldier was killed.”

Even if neither side is in control of Tikrit, the Iraqi government remains in deep serious trouble. A week ago The Long War Journal estimated that half of Iraq’s 15 army divisions have become ineffective or have completely disappeared.

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What’s the worst that can happen?

This is a question that must have been asked 12 years ago when the US invaded Iraq. Well the initial predictions were positive. The war will be quick, cheap, we will be hailed as liberators, there will be peace, so on and so forth. Of course none of that happened. They were dead wrong, but even me when I witnessed the reports of chaos in Iraq, I could not comprehend that this would happen. What is the worst that can happen? ISIS can happen. The relatively new Islamic terrorist group is different from other organizations because they are successful. They have the oil fields, they are surrounding Baghdad, they have both Iraqi and American weapons in their inventory and they are gaining more ground. This is made worse by their tendency to be very destructive. So far, over 1,700 Iraqi troops have been executed. So yes, that is the worst that can happen and the Bush administration is completely at fault no matter how indirectly this is. Maybe this is a question Obama should consider, especially with an upcoming midterm and a country filled with pissed off liberals.

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Don’t Go Back To Iraq!

I can’t believe that anybody needs to say this. There is nothing good that can be accomplished by the U.S. military in Iraq. We don’t even know what side to fight on. But MoveOn is right– we can’t just assume that Washington politicians have enough sense to make a smart decision, even after the nine-year fiasco that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must make our voices heard now.

Petition by Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh: “Tell President Obama and Congress: Keep America Out Of Iraq!”

Petition demanding a vote in Congress: “Join Barbara Lee & Scott Rigell, Stop Rush to Iraq War”

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ISIS Declares Caliphate In Syria And Iraq

ISIS caliphate
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.

Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.

DSWright on FDL:

Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.

…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.

More info:
ISIS Declares Themselves an Islamic State
The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps

UPDATES:
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”

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Media Welcomes Back Consistently Wrong Iraq ‘Experts’… Wolfowitz, Feith, Bremer, Kristol… Even Judith Miller!


Via HuffPo: CNN’s Erin Burnett Confronts Paul Bremer Over His Iraq Failures

This morning my breakfast was spoiled when Paul Wolfowitz — Paul Wolfowitz! came on MSNBC to pontificate about Iraq. I don’t want to look at that guy, much less hear what he has to say about Iraq of all subjects!

I don’t want to minimize the suffering of the Iraqi people, who are being shafted in the worst possible way by both the Maliki government and the ISIS insurgents, but there is something seriously wrong with our media when Doug Feith is treated as an expert on Iraq (by Politico). For those who don’t remember, Feith was known as “the Undersecretary of Defense for Fiascoes.” General Tommy Franks once described Feith as “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”

And Paul Bremer. Paul Bremer! The guy who started the Sunni insurgency in the first place by disbanding the old Iraqi government and dismissing their entire army without pay. He was on CNN (see video). I don’t like Erin Burnett, but even she is smart enough to realize that Paul Bremer has no business giving anybody advice about Iraq.

We didn’t miss Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, only because he never went away. Kristol infamously predicted the Iraq conflict was “going to be a two month war,” (the war lasted approximately 104 months) and testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging military action, he proclaimed that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators.”

Ari Fleischer is back, too. As Press Secretary in the Bush administration, Fleischer was in charge of selling the illegal invasion of Iraq, claiming “there’s no question that if force is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far faster than the current path that we’re on.”

Judith Miller, the NYT reporter who spun fanciful tales about Saddam’s nonexistent arsenal of so-called “weapons of mass destruction,” now appears on the Faux News Channel to talk about Iraq. Presumably they even pay her.

What is the matter with our news media?

More info:
Iraq War Boosters Get Second Chance In Media Spotlight
The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now
CNN’s Cuomo Calls Out Bush Administration’s Paul Wolfowitz For GOP Hypocrisy On Iraq
True Chyrons For Bush-Era Iraq War ‘Experts’
Rachel Maddow Hammers Media For Booking Iraq War Hawks Who Got Things So Wrong

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Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul as Security Forces Flee

Map of northern Iraq

I’ve been watching cable TV news for any sign of this story. Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran most of Mosul yesterday. Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the insurgents.

Mosul is Iraq’s third-largest city. ISIS already controls Fallujah and part of Ramadi in Anbar Province. The same group has taken over several cities in eastern Syria. Today it is being reported that a half million people have fled Mosul and ISIS has seized Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in Baiji. Other advances have been reported in areas west and south of the city of Kirkuk.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a “general mobilization” of the country’s security forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency. He is asking the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for help. Meanwhile, reports indicate that ISIS has captured helicopters and significant stocks of U.S. – made weapons.

It would take a long time to list all of the errors that led to this point. Sunni insurgents, bought off by U.S. taxpayers in the so-called “surge” during the Bush administration, are back because the al-Maliki regime didn’t give them any concessions. Last year, they raided Abu Ghraib prison and liberated up to a thousand fighters. In January, they took Fallujah. Iraqi Army counter-attacks have failed thus far.

More info:
One Of The World’s Scariest Terrorist Groups Now Controls Major City In Iraq
ISIS: The group too extreme for al-Qaida that is taking over Iraq
ISIS Now Controls A Shocking Percentage Of Iraq And Syria

UPDATE:
ISIS Militants Seize Iraqi City Of Tikrit

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida-inspired militants seized effective control Wednesday of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents.

UPDATE:
Iraq Asked The White House For Air Support Against Militants — But They Said No

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked last month for the U.S. to consider carrying out air strikes against its growing insurgency and the White House turned him down, The New York Times reports.

UPDATE:
Iraqi Kurds ‘fully control Kirkuk’ as army flees

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

UPDATE:
President Obama Puts Military Option on the Table With Iraq

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the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Remember This?

h/t HuffPo

When it comes to “dumb wars,” how about giving a speech about going to war in Syria ON THE SAME SIDE as al-Qaeda? On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

More: Obama’s Syria address: do we look that dumb?

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Can the US Stop Being a Blundering Giant?

Perhaps the most painful part of the wildly ill-conceived response to 9/11 was the way in which the US behaved like a blundering giant, lashing out at the world, smashing things like Iraq that had nothing to do with the attacks.  The Bush administration’s policies – arrest, torture, secret prisons, drone attacks, two failed wars – were seductive and disastrous and arose from a worldview formed by the Cold  War that saw the world in stark, dualistic ways.

The Obama administration had been stymied by Congress in its efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  They’ve managed to unwind our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this week the President delivered the kind of speech that reminded me why I liked him in the first place – morally, ethically he seems to understand the issues, to speak them eloquently.  Too rarely, he’s matched his rhetoric and his action.  But at long last, it seems he wants to move our nation in the right direction, giving up the seductiveness of the imperial presidency and its vast powers.

In an article for the AP, from KSL, for example:

Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.

Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat – a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.

The point is that the tools needed to successfully combat terrorists aren’t armies and drones.

Maureen Dowd, channeling her inner smart person, wrote about the President’s speech.

After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11.

Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.

The rest of her article describes her visit to Bush’s presidential library, with more than few choice phrases:

You could fill an entire other library with what’s not in W.’s.

And:

Decision Points Theater — a whiny “Well, you try being the Decider” enterprise — lets you make the decisions after getting taped briefings on W.’s crises from actors playing experts. But it is rigged with so many false binary options that the visitors I voted with ended up agreeing with Bush’s patently wrong calls on Iraq and Katrina.

I’m reminded that throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been a maddeningly cautious and centrist leader.  The result has been a slow, but steady, progression in the right direction.  No whiplash policy changes for this president, instead a constantly calibrating and recalibrating movement away from the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.

The War On Terror was always a misnamed, mishandled, misconceived thing, a disaster from beginning to end.  It was a fatally misconceived adventure that did more damage than good.  If at long last the Obama administration is turning away from it, rejecting its tactic and premises, I’ll suffice to say better late than never.

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Did the Iraq War Cause the Great Recession?

My initial response to that question was to say, “Huh?”

But we’re talking about complex, interconnected systems.  The argument goes something like this:

Start by recognizing that international economics and politics are a set of networks.  Each national economy is a network connected to a larger, international network.  These networks have key nodes.  In terms of finances, the US and UK are two nodes whose influence is outsized simply because they are connected to so many other networks.  The more links a network has to other networks, the easier it is to spread problems.

. . . if contagion spreads across links, network topology will have important consequences for the likelihood of spread. As it turns out, there is strong reason to believe that the international financial system is one of the latter kinds of networks rather than one of the former. On two measures of financial ties, most countries on the periphery of the network have few links to other peripheral countries, but pretty well everyone has links to the US, and many have links to the UK too.

In other words, the US exported its economic downturn to the rest of the world when our financial system crashed.  What does that have to do with Iraq?

Military Keynesianism, says Thomas Oatley.

Now consider the Iraqi case. The sharp increase of military spending sparked by 9/11 and Iraq followed a massive tax cut (and coincidentally, we had a massive tax cut in 1964). Like Vietnam, therefore, the US borrowed to pay for the War on Terror. If the Vietnam War experience is any guide, this budget deficit must have had consequences for US macroeconomic and financial performance. The deficit was larger and persisted for longer than the Vietnam case. I argue that the choice to finance the War on Terror by borrowing rather than by raising taxes worsened the US external imbalance and the resulting “capital flow bonanza” triggered the US credit boom. The credit boom generated the asset bubble the deflation of which generated the great global crisis from which we are still recovering. Obviously, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to get from the war-related budget deficit to the global financial and economic crisis.

Oatley is writing a book exploring this theory.

In a less networked, less connection international economy, the effects of the US economic crash might have been limited to the US.  Instead, however, the distortions of the US economy caused by the spending for the War on Terror in general and the Iraq war specifically, and the massive tax cuts that caused us to pay for it through borrowing, created ripples in the US economy the ultimately caused a US crash which, through our connection to all the networks, casued a worldwide economic crash.

Everything is connected to everything else.    We’re talking aobut complex systems here, systems playing out in unexpected ways.  It’s a prime example of the levels of complexity Adam Kahane talks about – social, dynamic and generative complexity working concurrently in crazy making ways.  Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 causing a crash in 2008?  The Iraq war causing a global economic meltdown?  It seems daft until you start thinking about interlocking parts connected to other interlocking parts.  So, in a way, you can start building a case that the 2001 Bush Tax cuts are ultimately responsible for the economic problems in Greece, Spain and Cyprus.

One of Oatley’s colleagues explores the idea further, arguing that there’s a distinction between core and peripheral nodes and their crises.  A peripheral node crisis is unlikely to spread further while a core node crisis will spread further:

Or take the examples of Iceland and Ireland. Iceland repudiated the debt of its banks, imposed capital controls, and told international investors to take a hike. Once again, this is a recipe for contagion yet systemic crisis did not result. Ireland did the opposite: it guaranteed the debt of its banks, did not institute capital controls, and paid off international investors. Systemic crisis also did not result. The opposite local policy response produced the same global outcome. Only the local outcome varied.

Contrast those cases (and all the other eurozone cases, and Argentina, and E Asia, and etc.) with the US in the Fall of 2008. A couple days of dithering — of the sort that the eurozone has made its speciality — lead to an immediate and profound downturn in global markets, including the largest single-day evaporation of wealth in absolute terms in history. The US tried to kick the can down the road, but couldn’t because it is the core node; the EU has been able to repeatedly kick the can down the road because those crises are in the periphery.

I conclude from this that policy always matters locally, but it only matters systemically when the crisis is in a core node. No matter what the policy response to peripheral crises is, systemic contagion is exceedingly unlikely.

This is a fascinating intellectual exploration.  The part that should have been predictable but apparently wasn’t is the transmittability of economic problems throughout the network designed to facilitate capital flows.  The US exported its financial crash to the rest of the world. 

 

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Bradley Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Prize

PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).

A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.

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