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October 19, 2003

HOW ARE WE DOING IN IRAQ?....I've been wanting to write a post for a while about how things are going in Iraq. The problem is....I don't really know how things are going in Iraq. But even so, I think it's useful to look at this question from two different angles.

The most common angle is to look at the facts on the ground in Iraq, but that doesn't get you very far. The media generally reports that although some progress is being made, things are still pretty bad: people are getting killed, tensions are high, and troop morale is low.

Scoffers suggest that this is just media bias. Why, touring musicians and federal judges, having spent short times there under heavy guard, have returned to tell us that things aren't so bad! Iraqis are definitely better off than they were under Saddam.

This gets us nowhere. Media bias is generally the last refuge of a scoundrel who has no evidence of his own, but the fact is that I've never been to Iraq, the critics have never been to Iraq, and none of us would be qualified to assess the situation even if we did go there. So it's impossible to judge if the press is doing a good job.

Instead let's look at it from a different angle. Presumably the Bush administration does have some idea of how things are going in Iraq, so how have they reacted to events?

  • Before the war they expected to draw down troop levels to around 30,000 by now. This hasn't happened, so obviously events on the ground have turned out to be a lot worse than they originally expected.

  • In fact, as I mentioned last month, we've seen the following actions recently: (a) keeping the 3rd ID in country after scheduling them to return, (b) rotating officers and senior NCOs out of their units, (c) extending the tours of regular troops, and (d) extending the tours of reservists. Now apparently leaves are being shortened. These are risky moves, and the Army wouldn't be making them unless the reality on the ground continued to be grim.

  • The White House has shuffled responsibility for Iraqi reconstruction three times, first to Jay Garner, then to Jerry Bremer, and finally giving Condoleezza Rice a bigger role, the last move provoking a furious response from Donald Rumsfeld, who apparently learned about it via memo and media reports.

  • Last month Bush shocked everyone by requesting an additional $87 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. He wouldn't have requested a sum this large if he could have gotten by with less.

  • Finally, there's the UN. Regardless of what his apologists say now, it's pretty obvious that Bush didn't want to fight for another UN resolution. He wouldn't have done this unless he'd been convinced that he had no other choice.

This is not a knock on the Bush administration. The fact that they're willing to change track when events call for it is fine. Nevertheless, their reaction doesn't strike me as the reaction of an administration that thinks things are going according to plan.

Bottom line: I'm still not sure how things are going in Iraq, but based on the evidence I lean pretty negative. The fact that progress is being made is encouraging, but hardly conclusive. With 130,000 troops in the country and billions of dollars being spent, of course some progress is being made.

But the Sunni triangle still seems to be a war zone, ambushes are taking place at an alarming rate, oil production is not ramping up very quickly, NGOs (and the UN) have pulled out because conditions are so unsafe, unemployment is over 50%, and Saddam is still loose. Compared to this, it's hard to take seriously the evidence of a few miscellaneous visitors who proclaim that everything looks safe to them while refusing to go anywhere without a heavy armed guard.

When you combine these facts on the ground with the fact that the administration isn't acting like things are going well, it's hard to be very optimistic. I'm not well informed enough to draw any firm conclusions — I have a feeling that no one is — but color me skeptical that Iraq is on its way to being a success story. The evidence seems to point in the other direction.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 19, 2003 02:55 PM | TrackBack


Comments

But what ever happened to Afghanistan??

Posted by: bubba at October 19, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

Last month Bush shocked everyone by requesting an additional $87 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. He wouldn't have requested a sum this large if he could have gotten by with less.

Do you mean 'he wouldn't have requested this much money if his original postition was to ask for way too much so in the bargaining process get what his buddies want',

or

do you mean 'everyone wants to make 50% profit until all their children's children finish college',

or

do you mean 'He wouldn't have requested a sum this large if he thought he could've requested even more'?

I enjoy how you think things thru, Kevin, but you didn't plug in 'craven' and 'Halliburton' and '772,500 garbage trucks' and 'gated luxury communities' into your decision matrix here.

D

Posted by: Dano at October 19, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

Tbogg noticed one of the Republican congressmen who insisted that there's plenty of good news was wearing a bulletproof vest in an Iraqi hospital during a photo op. Faith in action.

http://tbogg.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_tbogg_archive.html#106636798061038700

Posted by: Ted Barlow at October 19, 2003 03:12 PM | PERMALINK

'When you combine these facts on the ground with the fact that the administration isn't acting like things are going well, it's hard to be very optimistic.'

Nonsense. Just yesterday, Bush compared the Iraqi occupation to our splendid little time in the Phillipines, where we saved our little brown brothers from the perils of Catholicism and Spain. That war on insurgents didn't last more than a couple of years, and by 1945, they had learned enough about democracy to rule themselves.

Posted by: Thomas at October 19, 2003 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

Dano-

Agreed. This whole thing was a corporate welfare scam from the start.

No wonder I couldn't figure out what the motive for this war was. Oil? Israel? Fixing Daddy Bush's "biggest mistake"? What? It was obviously not WMD (and Wolfowitz proved it when he made those postwar statements about WMD being "the one reason everyone could agree on.").

I knew looting had something to do with it. When I saw Hillary Rosen being sent there to write the Iraqi intellectual property laws, I figured, yeah, looting. But I thought we'd be looting Iraq. Not the U.S. Treasury!

Just goes to show why I'm not in charge.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 03:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Reading this article, I realized that things are actually WORSE in Iraq than we know. The 'filter' President Bush was talking about is his own administration, and they are keeping even more bad news from getting out.

Keith

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2003 03:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think you there is solid evidence for saying that things are improving, even slowly, other than anecdotal statements from very pro US sources, who we have every right to suspect of bias as much as the media has been.

Are there any solid stats saying things are better from independent sources?

There is quite a bit of evidence that on the most important front, the political situation in Iraq, things are going backwards. The future of Iraq in the neo-con plan has always depended on the Shia. All recent evidence says the political situation with the Shia is deteriorating, not improving.

Posted by: still working it out at October 19, 2003 03:23 PM | PERMALINK

The picture in yahoo of everyday Iraqis cheering over a burned out US truck tells me that there are parts of the country, at least, that are getting worse and not better. What is the Neocon plan for peace? How can there be peace in Iraq under occupation?

And don't see why you should give props to Bush for conintuing on the same stupid course with different captains. Why won't Bush, at the very minimum, do what it takes to protect Iraqi citizens?

And people seem to be willing to judge Bush's handling of the aftermath seperate from the context of the war. This is complete Bunk. The fact that the war was immoral, illegal, dishonest and largely unilateral is a huge part of the reason that the situation is so bad today, and a huge part of the reason that Bush doesn't have the politcal capital to solve it (assuming he want to solve it).

Posted by: Boronx at October 19, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

My brother-in-law is Iraqi and lives here in Raleigh. He has not lived in Iraq for over 20 years, but he took his whole family there last summer because he could see that a war was about to start and he wanted to visit his family before it all started.

He occasionally gets word back from family members, and he has become extremely optimistic. I have no idea on what he is basing his optimism, but it seems like we could use the Iraqi-ex-patriot perspective and their contacts inside the country to formulate an opinion.

I agree with Kevin that the signs all point to things being far worse than Bush wants to let on. His PR offensive and disparaging of the "media filter" are red flags that they have a message that is at variance with reality. But I think it must be far more complex from the Iraqi perspective with white-collar Iraqis doing fairly well, while working-stiff Iraqis getting the shaft.

Posted by: jri at October 19, 2003 03:26 PM | PERMALINK

jri: what part of Iraq does his family live in? There seems to be a pretty wide consensus that things are basically OK in the north and south, but pretty grim in the center.

Still: yeah, there's some positive evidence. Schools are in session, shops are opening, the electric grid is getting better, etc. I don't think this outweighs the negative evidence, but it's wrong to suggest that nothing is going well.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at October 19, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas,

I hope you're being sarcastic when talking about the Phillippines as a positive example. Democracy in the Phillippines arguably didn't take root until February 25, 1986.

Posted by: still working it out at October 19, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

"But I thought we'd be looting Iraq. Not the U.S. Treasury!"

You have to go where the money's at.

One reason to loot the treasury through Iraq is because it is so ghastly. They are following the Kaiser Sozay principle: Do something so terrible that your enemies are thrown in dissaray by their reaction of horror and disgust.

Posted by: Boronx at October 19, 2003 03:33 PM | PERMALINK

If the Bush Administration had not been so disingenuous in making its case for war, one might have some sympathy for the difficulties it is having in selling the populace on its $87 billion request for Iraq. After all, what did people expect, and where was all this media and political scrutiny in the run-up to this war.

Any sensible supporter of the war knew the occupation would last a year or more and that it would be expensive. One also knew that there were elements in Iraq who would continue to resist the occupation using whatever guerilla tactics might be available to them. The argument was the that the potential benefits were worth the costs, and that the odds of an ultimately favorable outcome were relatively high. I strongly disagreed with that assessment. Still, I can't say anything that is happening in Iraq now should come as a particular surprise to .

It is certainly true that the Administration has botched the occupation in many ways that have made security and infrastructure problems worse than they would otherwise be. On the other hand, the political dynamics in Iraq are not nearly as bad as they could be or could become. I've actually been somewhat impressed with the political maturity of most Shiite political leaders and their ability to keep the more wild-eyed elements under control. Of course, they are just biding their time to see whether things turn out as well politically for them under the emerging political process as it now appears they might. .

On the intelligence front, I wonder whether our raw intelligence on Iraq was really as bad as it now appears or whether we simply refused to believe the intelligence we were getting: that is, there was no actual evidence of WMD in Iraq after the mid-1990s . We certainly relied on questionable sources for our WMD claims, but I wonder if there were far more reliable sources inside Iraq (after years of weapons inspections and no-fly zones, it's hard to believe there were not) that we simply dismissed.
After all, our policy in Iraq after 1991 was based on the hope that continued sanctions against Iraq would result in regime change there. The continuation of sanctions depended on evidence that the inspections regime had not been successful, and that Iraq continued to possess and was continuing to develop WMD. These political considerations may have led to "over-egged" intelligence estimates throughout the 1990s. The Bush Administration then took this already embellished intelligence to a more deceitful level with its nuclear, Al-Queda and biological weapons claims and suggestions.

Posted by: Ben Brackley at October 19, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

If any of you haven't heard this clip (posted by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo) you have to hear it. It's funny as hell!

It's about a Texas businessman (Tompie Hall) who's trying to get a piece of the (taxpayer funded) Iraqi reconstruction action. His potential Iraqi subcontractors don't understand why they'd have to pay him this "fee" of $7500/month. He starts telling them that they have to think outside the box- or labor will be shipped in from India and Bangladesh. (And this is happening, because the Iraqis want $3/day which is too much for these guys!)

Oink, oink, oink! There is no other way to describe the reconstruction of Iraq.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

The center of his family is in Najaf. M. is an engineer and would probably do quite well. I believe that they (he and his wife) have been overly optimistic, but considering the danger to his family, I can hardly blame them. The alternative is unthinkable.

His brother is working on some mission to Iran, but I am sketchy on the details. Other members of his immediate family are in Jordan. They were able to get phone service into Iraw at the height of the war, but I think that is no longer true so they have to rely on other sources of information and more convoluted channels.

Posted by: jri at October 19, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

Buried in today's WaPo article about potential troop cuts is the news that any cuts are a "best case" scenario, and the "mid case" is that things stay as they are. The "worst case" involves deterioration in the south, which would require more troops.

If that's what a Defense Department official is willing to say on the record about their thinking, I'm not inclined to the rosy view...

Posted by: bleh at October 19, 2003 04:46 PM | PERMALINK

Helping Iraq was going to cost us $2-3 billion before the Iraqi oil industry kicked back into action and covered all the costs of reconstruction. (The only reason it would reach $3 billion was because the Iraqis were busy showering the American liberators with flowers).

Of course, Bush did not personally give a $3 billion dollar figure, only a flunky who spoke to Congress, so no one can be held accountable unless you are so unAmerican as to believe in the concept "the buck stops here"

Posted by: J Edgar at October 19, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

First day of school by Riverbend


This morning, at 8:30, they headed out to the school, the girls dressed in their uniforms, new pencils and deceptive erasers ready for use… my cousin, pistol at his waist, clutching each girl firmly by the hand, reached the school just as other parents and kids were getting there- school normally starts no later than 8 am, but today was an exception.

The school was full of people… but many of the classrooms were practically empty- the desks were gone… the chairs were gone… but, the blackboards were still there and they would have to do. The good news was that the windows that had shattered when a site behind the school was bombed, had been replaced. The parents agreed that any child who could, would bring two pieces of chalk a week, until the school could sort out the situation with the Ministry of Education. An architect with 3 kids in the school volunteered to provide white paint for walls at a reasonably low price.

.......

My cousin met with the teachers and with other fathers and everyone decided that the best option would be to have the kids bring in small chairs or stools to sit on while the teachers gave classes. The fathers were agreeing amongst themselves to take shifts ‘guarding’ the school during the day… lucky for my cousin, the school is in a residential area and the majority of the students’ parents live nearby- the whole area keeps an eye on the kids. Very few of them will be walking to and from school, at this point.

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

Posted by: wtf over at October 19, 2003 05:07 PM | PERMALINK

To me, what we see in Iraq is about what we could have expected, and it's by no means hopeless. But I didn't support the war, and most people who did support the war didn't expect a rather messy, costly, and extended occupation. Our control of Iraq WILL totally restructure the Middle East.

I also worried then about repurcussions in the international community -- both in the Islamic world (which we're seeing), and with regional powers like India, Pakistan, China, Turkey, and Russia. I really expect China and Russia to cash in quite aggressively, but I have no idea exactly how they'll do that. I just can't imagine either of them failing to take advantage. (Putin going head-to-head with Bush gives me the creeps. Putin had a weak hand, but he's ten times shrewder and tougher than Bush. Same for Sharon and also the Saudi Prince who visits Crawford.)

One gain of the two Iraq Wars and the Afghan war is that everyone now knows that they cannot compete with our troops on the battlefield. That aspect of preponderance has been established, and it may have been one of the main goals.

Posted by: Zizka at October 19, 2003 05:14 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record -- Iraq had a pretty good secular, co-ed education system before the wars. In this debate we have to remember that to many Bush supporters, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank are all essentially THE SAME PLACE: "Al-Qaeda-land".

Posted by: Zizka at October 19, 2003 05:18 PM | PERMALINK

Bubba asks, But whatever happened to Afghanistan."

Answer: just about what was required for us -- al Qaeda no longer can use Afghanistan as a base for large-scale terror operations, and the Taliban have been confined to a few provinces near the Pakistani border. Given our overall commitment which is, let us recall, surprisingly modest (about 8,000 troops, less than $10 billion a year in all) is a clear victory in the WoT. al-Qaeda's ability to mount the meticulous, well-planned, large-scale terror operation has been degraded considerably.

As to the UN: once again Kevin, et al have under-estimated Bush's political acumen. If the latest resolution leads to a significant commitment of troops and resources, why great, and Bush gets credit for becoming more "multilateral." If it doesn't, it shows that the UN, and especially France, is hypocritical, ineffectual and irrelevant. That also helps Mr. Bush, and it's hardly something that the left-liberal Democrats want to be in the position of defending in the fall of 2004.

Posted by: Steve White at October 19, 2003 05:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think the basic problem in judging whether things are "going well" in Iraq is that we have no stated objective there to judge our progress by. Are things going well? Well, it depends: just what the hell is it that we're trying to do?

There is no clearly defined mission there at this point (if there ever was). Maybe that's part of the administration's insurance policy; don't commit to a goal, and you can't get blamed for failing at it. And/or maybe it just doesn't really know why it attacked Iraq itself.

But we can evaluate progress on some of the goals that have been floated at various points to rationalize this attack. For example:

1. Goal of killing Saddam: failed
2. Goal of destroying WMDs: failed (what WMDs??)
3. Goal of creating democracy domino effect: so far, no democracies blossoming in Arab states
4. Goal of liberating Iraqi oil: failed (constant sabotage)
5. Goal of making America safer: probably a big failure, given that Muslims hate us even more now, al Qaeda is now more popular and more motivated to attack us, there was no threat from Saddam or al Qaeda elements in Iraq to start with, and nuclear materials confiscated by the UN were not secured by invading US troops, allowing them to wind up who-knows-where at this point (unless it was eventually all accounted for and I missed the news story)
6. Goal of making Iraq economically successful: we'll see what $87 billion does when there is a great deal of sabotage going on, and when much of that money will go to American citizens and companies instead of Iraqis, but it might work. (Too bad Bush isn't pumping $87 billion into the US economy, btw.) On the other hand, it was our sanctions on Iraq that screwed up their economy so bad in the first place.
7. Goal of making Iraqis like the USA: mixed success. Sounds like most of them are happy that Saddam is gone, but most never liked the US much, they never bought the propaganda that we attacked them because we were concerned about their suffering under Saddam (they thought it was to get their oil) and they like us even less the longer we stick around.

So which of these is the real mission objective in Iraq? All? None? It'd be nice if our president would let us in on the secret. We don't seem to be doing so great at any of them, though.

Posted by: DanM at October 19, 2003 06:25 PM | PERMALINK

Geez DanM, you have a pretty short time frame for calling these goals failures. Its been what, 7 months? Oh geez, no other countries are democratic yet ,what a failure.

I think there are two issues. How are things going for Iraqis and how are things going for us?

For us, we are still the targets of attacks and security is required for any Western presence.
For Iraqis, things are going well, with their new found freedom.

The media gets the US situation right, but from the news, you'd never know that most Iraqis are better off and happy we are there. You'd think everybody there hates us and everything is miserable. This is the bias.

Posted by: Reg at October 19, 2003 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

Many of you may have already seen this article, but if you haven't, please take the time to read it.

It's an article from Life Magazine, January 1946, written by the famed novelist John dos Passos. He exposes the myriad problems of occupation in Germany and France... many of which are reflected by our experience in Iraq.

Our actions in post-war Europe are now seen as one of America's triumphs. This is not just what I have been taught in high school history. I've had the chance to talk politics with a few European tourists. When the conversation swung towards Iraq, they always ratified the view of the Marshall Plan, et. al., as a success. (Yes, this is anecdotal evidence and should be treated as such.)

I don't know the history of post World War II Germany well, but I know that there are differences between Germany and Iraq. Hitler was more popular than Hussein, for one. I think that the Germans' experience to date with representative democracy was more recent and more positive than that of Iraqis, but I may be wrong. And, of course, World War II was anything but 'unilateral', with our growing political struggles with Russia. (The Iron Curtain was being drawn at this time, if I remember right, and Churchill's famous speech was only two months off.)

All of that said, I believe we can overcome our problems and walk away from Iraq as saviors.

How do you interpret this article?

Posted by: Ken at October 19, 2003 06:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, here's all you need to know!

Instahack informs us of Iraq's crowning achievement:

IRAQ'S FIRST BURGER KING is already in the top ten for sales worldwide.

Liberty lover also reports.

TRUE PROGRESS IN IRAQ: A sign of developmental progress in Iraq is the opening of a Burger King.

The former Saddam International Airport now houses Iraq's first Burger King. Part creature comfort, part therapy for homesick troops, its sales have reached the top 10 among all Burger King franchises on Earth in the five months since it opened. The shiny metal broiler spits out 5,000 patties a day.

Some of America’s cultural critics might dismiss such a development, but to me it is a sign that Iraq is becoming more friendly to the sorts of things we take for granted in a free society.

Wow! Native iraqis lining up by the dozen, dazzled by American culture and fine cuisine! Right? Unfortunately, what they both conveniently overlook in their breathless exultation is pretty much the entire WaPo article, as well as the headline.

U.S. Troops Order Comfort, With Fries on the Side
Soldiers Looking for a Taste of Home Make for a Booming Business at Iraq's First Burger King

...

"It tastes like home, yes it does," said Staff Sgt. Mark Williams, 50, from Pittsburgh, after tearing off a chunk of his Whopper with cheese.

The headquarters of the 1st Armored Division are across from the Burger King.

"It's $2 of heaven. It's the only thing getting us through this deployment."

Okay, but there must also be a mention of native Iraqis loving it, right? Well... no.

Prices at the Burger King range from 75 cents for a soda to $3 for a Double Whopper with cheese. Of course, only U.S. bills are accepted.

There's not one single mention of any customer who's not a grunt thrilled to have something besides MRE's. And I guess that's unsurprising since most Iraqis probably don't feel like changing their money for crappy food.

Let freedom ring!

Posted by: scarshapedstar at October 19, 2003 06:42 PM | PERMALINK

Oh.
Here's the actual article.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at October 19, 2003 06:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ah! Here's the 'blog entry from the woman that found the Life Magazine article.

Posted by: Ken at October 19, 2003 06:51 PM | PERMALINK

For Iraqis, things are going well, with their new found freedom.

Oh yeah. Things haven't been this peachy in a long time.

U.S. Troops Bulldoze Farmers Crops
Accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers, while British are condemned as too soft
By Patrick Cockburn in Dhuluaya
12 October 2003
US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.
The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.
Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons."
Other farmers said that US troops had told them, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves were being bulldozed to punish the farmers for not informing on the resistance which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district.
"They made a sort of joke against us by playing jazz music while they were cutting down the trees," said one man. Ambushes of US troops have taken place around Dhuluaya. But Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'." What the Israelis had done by way of collective punishment of Palestinians was now happening in Iraq, Sheikh Hussein added.
The destruction of the fruit trees took place in the second half of last month but, like much which happens in rural Iraq, word of what occurred has only slowly filtered out. The destruction of crops took place along a kilometre-long stretch of road just after it passes over a bridge.
Farmers say that 50 families lost their livelihoods, but a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya pleading in erratic English for compensation, lists only 32 people. The petition says: "Tens of poor families depend completely on earning their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and have nothing and waiting for hunger and death."
The children of one woman who owned some fruit trees lay down in front of a bulldozer but were dragged away, according to eyewitnesses who did not want to give their names. They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it. The same paper quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: "We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us."
Informing US troops about the identity of their attackers would be extremely dangerous in Iraqi villages, where most people are related and everyone knows each other. The farmers who lost their fruit trees all belong to the Khazraji tribe and are unlikely to give information about fellow tribesmen if they are, in fact, attacking US troops.
Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth."

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 07:03 PM | PERMALINK

One statistic I pounded out doing some research last night was that an American soldier in Iraq is about 14 times more likely to die on the job than an American law enforcement officer.
--ventura county, ca

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at October 19, 2003 07:18 PM | PERMALINK

occupation is by definition, not "peace."

Posted by: paul at October 19, 2003 07:21 PM | PERMALINK

to ben brackley:
the intelligence was in fact "darn good." it just couldnt be used to support the action that the administration had decided on. so they made up their own "intelligence", which was crap.

Posted by: paul at October 19, 2003 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

All I can add here is that I have very distant relatives living in the Armenian community in Baghdad. They are thrilled with the overthrow of Sadaam. They do not want the US there forever, but for now, wish us to stay. There store re-opened in the middle of April, electricity was a problem for a while but no longer. They have access to medicine for the firsat time in 20 years. The violence is not over, and is unpredictable, and they worry about it. They have told us they are very hopeful about the future and that things are getting better. I have no idea how representative their view is, especially since they are Christians. But FWIW.

Posted by: spc67 at October 19, 2003 07:30 PM | PERMALINK

zizka:
one loss is that we are running out of troops to put on battlefields. it would be a shame if some real threat popped up while we are busy with the fake iraqi one.

Posted by: paul at October 19, 2003 07:33 PM | PERMALINK

ken:
all good points about the marshall plan. one thing you left out though was that the war in europe was over when the marshall plan started. this is not the case in iraq.

Posted by: paul at October 19, 2003 07:38 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan is now ruled by warlords of verious sorts, including Taliban, and there's every reason to expect civil wars. Karzai controls only Kabul, if that. I don't know if he's still dependent on his American bodyguard, but a few months ago he was -- meaning he controlled no lotal Afghan forces at all. In most of Afghanistan the much-talked-of goal of liberating women from Taliban's Islamic law has not been achieved, and women still are burdened by the same restrictions.


So what are the victories? The Taliban and al-Qaeda presently control only part of the country, and Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for al Qaeda operations. The US has shown off its very effective weapons. That's what really was accomplished, but most of the other "goals" we heard about over and over again were not accomplished. Steve White and others of his ilk want us to forget about the goals we hearing about a year or so ago, but why should we forget them? Just because we weren't attained?

And given my estimation of what the Iraq war entailed, no, we're not doing too badly after six months. But that's not what we were told we were buying into, and there was never any good reason for anyone to believe that the war would go as we were allowed to believe it would. I think that most people who had realistic expectations about what would happen, as I did, opposed the war. And most people who supported the war had no idea what we were getting into.

My bet is that there will be a significant, costly American presence in Iraq for 2-5 years, leaving a reasonably stable state behind us, and that we will suffer significant, but decreasing, casualties all through that period. And that will be our success.

The recent UN vote did not involve helping us with money or troops.

Posted by: Zizka at October 19, 2003 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

While media bias is the last refuge, references to Life Magazine articles from 1946 are pretty darn close. People like Ken who bring them up have the obligation to detail how the experience of rebuilding germany is similar to the circumstances of iraq today; it is not our obligation to point out how terrible a parallel this is.

As for Reg, he continues to miss the point. We don't need the media at all to have a handle on how things are going in iraq. this is precisely kevin's point: there's plenty of clear evidence of how things are "really" going in iraq without worrying about whether the media is reporting how many schools were repaired yesterday.

In addition, Kevin missed some of the other objective milestones: that Generals Abizaid and Sanchez have discussed the increasing sophistication of the "enemy;" that signs of Shiite factionalism are increasing; that the Turkish troops aren't exactly welcome by the iraqi people; that US contractors are bringing in outside workers because they aren't sure that they can trust iraqi workers; that targeted assasinations of american collaborators are increasing; and, of course, the most obvious sign of all: that visiting congresspeople need to stay in kuwait for "security" reasons.

As for Steve White and Bush's political accumen, he's got to be kidding. Bush's political accumen is nonexistent other than in the fevered imaginations of enablers. Hypocrisy is invading Iraq for WMDs and then claiming that really, you just said it was a "gathering" threat, as Bush recently tried to pretend; consistent French opposition to Bush on Iraq is the height of moral consistency in comparison.

Posted by: howard at October 19, 2003 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Our actions in post-war Europe are now seen as one of America's triumphs."

The invasion of Europe and it's occupation was an act of self defence and was justified. There are many other events in our history that better parallel the current fiasco.

Posted by: Boronx at October 19, 2003 07:56 PM | PERMALINK

As to the UN: once again Kevin, et al have under-estimated Bush's political acumen. If the latest resolution leads to a significant commitment of troops and resources, why great, and Bush gets credit for becoming more "multilateral."

Early indications are not good for this outcome. I'm guessing it will be 6 months before any serious foreign troop deployments happen, barring a major offensive by the Iraqi resistance.

If it doesn't, it shows that the UN, and especially France, is hypocritical, ineffectual and irrelevant.

Who does it show this to, outside of conservative Republicans who already believe this so strongly that leaving the UN is already a plank in the Texas Republican Party platform?

s/n:r

Posted by: snr at October 19, 2003 08:05 PM | PERMALINK

i would add to Kevin's evidence that it looks like Sanchez is getting axed.

Posted by: praktike at October 19, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

Does it matter that large areas of Afghanistan and Iraq are permanently radioactive?

Posted by: gmanedit at October 19, 2003 08:23 PM | PERMALINK

Comparing this reconstruction fiasco to the Marshall Plan is idiotic. Japan, Germany, and the rest of Europe had been ravaged by a long and bitter war, not a monthlong surgical airstrike putsch. The Marshall plan cost $100 billion in 1946 dollars. We've already passed that in 2003 dollars. A 2003 dollar isn't a 1946 dollar, but come on! You can't compare the damage in Iraq with the devastation of WWII, even after taking inflation into account. That was a real war. This was a badly managed looting.

Most of that 87 billion will never leave the United States. It will flow from the U.S. Treasury into the pockets of a few well-connected cronies.

"But Saddam hadn't taken care of his infrastructure!" Gee, guess we should have thought of that before invading. On second thought, I'm sure some of us did! The rest of us are the suckers.

> If it doesn't, it shows that the UN, and especially France, is hypocritical, ineffectual and irrelevant.

Who does it show this to, outside of conservative Republicans who already believe this so strongly that leaving the UN is already a plank in the Texas Republican Party platform?

Judging from the reactions of Republicans, you'd think the U.N.'s sole purpose was to sign permission slips for Bush to start wars.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 08:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sanchez? Why? He's pretty reliable on the Bush talking points (not to say they aren't true.)

The security situation seems to be getting worse, with recent attacks in Kirkuk, outside the Sunni triangle. But the reconstruction effort seems to be going OK. They kept the power on in Baghdad for at least a week there, that seems to be a major accomplishment, and important because most reporters sight the unavailability and unpredictability of power as Iraqis major complaint (that and violence of course)

Posted by: Wes at October 19, 2003 08:25 PM | PERMALINK

According to one objective measure (number of fatalities due to hostile fire), the security situation is worsening. There have already been more of these in October (20) than there were in all of September (18). At this pace, this will be the bloodiest month for our troops since Operation Flight Suit - topping 28 deaths in July. (Numbers from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count)

Posted by: mojo at October 19, 2003 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what's up with that? Every time I click on Google News there's a new batch of dead American soldiers. It used to be a trickle... something is up.

But of course that's just because of the "filter". In reality, everything is just wonderful! We're building schools, and privatizing everything... it's a "better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day".

Pardon me while I tighten my bulletproof vest.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

Dan M makes some comments:

1. Goal of killing Saddam: failed

So far. Saddam can't sleep anywhere more than about 2 hours at a time. That's some improvement over about a year ago.

2. Goal of destroying WMDs: failed (what WMDs??)

We'll figure it out. Saddam is a clever bastard.

3. Goal of creating democracy domino effect: so far, no democracies blossoming in Arab states

It has been about six months. Patience, grasshopper.

4. Goal of liberating Iraqi oil: failed (constant sabotage)

Sabotage that can be brought under control, but not quickly. Again, patience.

5. Goal of making America safer: probably a big failure, given that Muslims hate us even more now, al Qaeda is now more popular and more motivated to attack us, there was no threat from Saddam or al Qaeda elements in Iraq to start with ...

al Qaeda can't really attack us very well on a large scale as they've lost their major base of operations. Saddam was a future threat, but after 9/11 it's rather a good idea not to let future threats become immediate threats. Those Muslims who hated us then hate us now about the same, since they pegged the meter before. They were willing to kill us before, are they going to kill us twice now?

6. ...On the other hand, it was our sanctions on Iraq that screwed up their economy so bad in the first place.

Well no, that was your multilateral UN sanctions at work. Sanctions that truthfully were not sustainable in the long term.

7. Goal of making Iraqis like the USA: mixed success. Sounds like most of them are happy that Saddam is gone, but most never liked the US much, they never bought the propaganda that we attacked them because we were concerned about their suffering under Saddam (they thought it was to get their oil) and they like us even less the longer we stick around.

Kurds like us pretty well. Shi'a have a realistic view (they remember 1991), but are willing to work with us for the time being. A fair proportion of the Sunnis hate us now; their hatred relates to their status in the former regime.

Seems like more pluses than minuses on your scorecard.

Posted by: Steve White at October 19, 2003 09:23 PM | PERMALINK

MillionthMonkey cites an article from The Independent about bulldozing a field in Iraq. One wonders why the rest of the media hasn't picked up on this -- other than the fact that the story can't be confirmed, and it's very out of character for our troops, of course.

gmanedit asks whether itmatters that large areas of Afghanistan and Iraq are permanently radioactive. I sincerely hope that Kevin's regulars aren't going to be sucked in by the nonsense about claims concerning depleted uranium, when such claims have been thoroughly debunked. I note to gmanedit that there is a reason why it's called depleted uranium.

Posted by: Steve White at October 19, 2003 09:31 PM | PERMALINK

A quote from "Turn On, Tune In" in Nov 03 Harper's Magazine:

"A Noble Lie, you see, is one that enlightened rulers tell the rabble in order to ensure that their enlightend policies -- policies too elevated, too farseeing, for the rabble to comprehend -- are nevertheless supported. In recent circumstances, for example, you might tell our citizens that a tyrant posed an imminent threat to the Republic because he had Weapons of Mass Destruction and ties to Al Queda, when what you really had in mind was gaining control of the world's oil supplies as a hedge against the emergence of China or the European Union as a possible threat to American hegemony by, say, 2030."

There is also an article,"The War Business," in the same issue. It gives you an idea of the cost of our war, in more than dollar terms. I do not know if these articles are available over the internet.

Posted by: John Aldridge at October 19, 2003 09:37 PM | PERMALINK

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away (P.K. Dick). The rest of the world has existed, exists, and will exist independently of American press coverage. In a very real sense, that's the problem, isn't it? If your political awareness is old enough to remember Kosovo and marvel at the sense of deja vu, you'll have trusted sources of news outside the United States. If you aren't angry or confused part of the time, you aren't getting enough information.

Best bet: shoot your television and swear off everything but the international money market. Stop believing, doesn't go away, et cetera. Speaking of which, how 'bout them petroeuros!

Posted by: Mike D. at October 19, 2003 09:43 PM | PERMALINK

The troops will not be coming home before the general election. Bush the Elder's campaign suffered from reports of Gulf War Syndrome and post-war hangover.

Posted by: jj at October 19, 2003 09:50 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam can't sleep anywhere more than about 2 hours at a time.

I will hazard a guess that this is speculation.


2. Goal of destroying WMDs: failed (what WMDs??)

We'll figure it out. Saddam is a clever bastard.

Err...Most of us have this one figured out already.



3. Goal of creating democracy domino effect: so far, no democracies blossoming in Arab states

It has been about six months. Patience, grasshopper.

Have they shown any progress toward this goal? Have they paid it anything except lip service?


Sabotage that can be brought under control, but not quickly. Again, patience.

It can? How much will it cost to protect hundeds of miles of pipeline from a determined foe? At some point it becomes a loosing proposition (unless the U.S. taxpayer is footing the security bill)


al Qaeda can't really attack us very well on a large scale as they've lost their major base of operations. Saddam was a future threat, but after 9/11 it's rather a good idea not to let future threats become immediate threats. Those Muslims who hated us then hate us now about the same, since they pegged the meter before. They were willing to kill us before, are they going to kill us twice now?

Again, speculation. BTW, Al Qaeda ammounted to much more than a "future" threat (whatever that is), and Iraq was never demonstrated to be a "future" threat beyond the future in Bush's head.


Sanctions that truthfully were not sustainable in the long term.

As opposed to what we've got now?


Kurds like us pretty well. Shi'a have a realistic view (they remember 1991), but are willing to work with us for the time being. A fair proportion of the Sunnis hate us now; their hatred relates to their status in the former regime.

Do you see any credible government arising from this situation? What is Bush doing to move the political situation into something beneficial for the Iraqis? Is a national government possible without at least grudging support from the Sunni triangle and the Baghdad slums?

Posted by: Boronx at October 19, 2003 09:54 PM | PERMALINK

Steve-

I agree with your skepticism on the depleted uranium.

As far as bulldozing a field being "very out of character for our troops of course", uh, says who? Just last week I saw footage of a tank crushing some guy's taxi, shifting to reverse, and crushing it again. Iraqis are always complaining to journalists about stuff like this, saying "I would have opened the door if they knocked" as they point to holes in their walls. Are they making it all up? Silence from the rest of the media does not construe evidence either for or against. Presumably there wouldn't be a lot of journalists present at an event like this. Would you expect a press conference?
The use of music is certainly consistent with prior behavior. Remember Noreiga's surrender? But I agree, it should be out of character (like shooting at police, journalists, hospitals, etc.) In fact the story claims that one of the soldiers "broke down and cried". But orders are orders. And these guys are under a lot of pressure. Their morale is in the toilet and the attacks and ambushes are unrelenting.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 19, 2003 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

We have slaughtered many thousands of people. We have burned them alive, torn them to pieces, filled 'em full of lead, enriched them with uranium, beaten them and tortured them. Iraq can only go well in the sense that a bank robbery goes according to plan. Because we are the invaders, because we productively and financially support the invasion, if we do not protest our persistence and demand our retreat we are guilty of crimes against humanity. Your position is not neutral or centrist. You are according legitimate consideration to mass murdering war criminals. Your pitiless calculation of our profit balances the inconvenience and expense of slaughter against the thirst for blood and power. This abets an ongoing crime. We simply have to leave. If someone breaks into your home, he cannot make amends by remaining there.

Posted by: hqplink at October 19, 2003 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

The statement, "there is a reason why it's called depleted uranium," pretends knowledge, but could not be more ignorant. Depleted uranium is radioactive and very bad for you and your progeny if taken internally. It is depleted by nature and less radioactive than enriched uranium, which is not really enriched but nearer to it's original state. Thus, EU is slightly heavier than DU and the two can be separated in a centrifuge. DU is good for nothing but generating extreme temperatures in exploding shells, which render it into a very fine powder ideal for inhalation and accidental oral ingestion. Tests on GW syndrome patients show an alarmingly high amount of uranium in the urine of the majority of a sample group. Afghans recently exhibiting symptoms of GWS have similar and higher amounts.

Posted by: hqplink at October 19, 2003 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

sp67, pahrev, eench besses.

I too have heard of the Armenian expercience in Iraq during and after the recent hostilities, though with quite a difierent spin.

It turns out that Saddam was actually freindly and helpful to the Christian Armenian community. Once a storm blew the roof off one of the several thriving churches in and around Bagdad. Saddam made sure the government provided funds to have it replaced.

Saddam, apparently, also ensured protection of Christians from Muslim hostile factions.

Now at least some Christians there are fearful that a radical Islamic uprising could occur and that such would be a calamity for their community. As it is, they report that their region (around Bahgdad) is extremely dangerous, that they are unable to conduct business due to economic and infrastructure disruptions and due to American control of major industries.

I agree with the poster above who stated that a friendly reception of Americans by the Shias was a major pillar of the neocon plan. I further agree that there is ample evidence to suggest that the Shias are behaving differently than was hoped for and in a manner not entirely conducive to neocon designs.

The neocon belief that the Shias would forego the creation of an Islamic state in favor of an American type democracy has always struck me as irresponsible wishful thinking.

This adventure may well turn very ugly over time.

Posted by: E. Avedisian at October 19, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

A few corrective notes, sitting here next door to the route to Baghdad.

(a) Do recall in your thinking on how Iraq is progressing the demographic realities of the country. 11 percent of the land area is habitable. Roughly 75 percent of the population is urbanized, of a total population of perhaps 25-30 million. Of that roughly a third live in Baghdad alone.

I have a demographic map, HIC Reference Map 034 that indicates rough population distribution and helps put in context the various demographic weights. You should be able to find it at http://www.hiciraq.org/mapcentre/index.asp : of course when I obtained it in late May it was with a view to business, but the world turns.

I do believe that puts the "Sunni Triangle" and "only Baghdad" talk into perspective.

(b) In terms of characterizing Iraq's educational system and Iraqi human capital, again caution needs to be taken.

While I often read of references to a "strong Iraqi middle class", entreprenurial tradition, and an excellent educational system, the reality is rather different. The reality is that under the combined weight of a demographic explosion (something near 50 percent of the population is under age 16) and economic collapse since the early 1980s, the vision of Iraq as well-educated, ready to take on the world (dear to Iraqi nationalists as well) does not match reality. It matches a reality of the 1960s, 1970s and even early 1980s. However, since then literacy rates have plummted from 70-80 percent to perhaps 50 percent and large portions of the population have not has access to formal education. Note, that per capita income collapsed from something in the order of USD 10 k to USD 1 k from 1980-2000, and the latest World Bank estimates place probable current per capita income at around USD 400-500.

Posted by: collounsbury at October 20, 2003 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

hqplink, I'm going to respond to your post before one of the wingers finds it.

The statement, "there is a reason why it's called depleted uranium," pretends knowledge, but could not be more ignorant.

Yeah, it is a little like bumper sticker logic when put that way.

Depleted uranium is radioactive and very bad for you and your progeny if taken internally.

Yep.
However the half life of the "depleted" isotope is 4.5 billion years, which is about the age of the earth. This mitigates things somewhat. Generally DU has handling precautions that are similar to those for lead. (No ingestion, inhalation, etc.)

It is depleted by nature and less radioactive than enriched uranium, which is not really enriched but nearer to it's original state.

By any reasonable standard, depleted uranium (0% U-235) is closer to natural uranium (0.7% U-235) than is enriched uranium (3-4% U-235).

Thus, EU is slightly heavier than DU and the two can be separated in a centrifuge.

It's lighter. DU is 100% of the heavy U-238 isotope.

DU is good for nothing but generating extreme temperatures in exploding shells, which render it into a very fine powder ideal for inhalation and accidental oral ingestion.

That's a side effect. That's not why the military likes it.

DU carries more momentum and energy than the rival material (tungsten). It has twice the density of lead, and they love that. When it strikes heavy armor, it tends to sharpen as it penetrates, as opposed to tungsten, which flattens on the outside. Although the army is thinking about the part that makes it through the armor, the shavings from the process fly all over the place. DU is pyrophoric and upon impact about one third of a projectile will vaporize and flash burn to create dust of the oxide.

DU is good for other things. It is used as radiation shielding in medical gamma radiation therapy as well as in containers for transporting radioactive materials. It is also used as ballast in commercial aircraft and yacht keels.

As far as the correlation with Gulf War syndrome, I'm still skeptical. I haven't seen anything convincing. The subject is extremely politicized, so finding objective information on the link (if any) between DU and GWS is extremely difficult. Everyone seems to have an agenda to show it's one way or the other.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 20, 2003 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

OK, MMonkey, I'll accept that your sources are better than mine. Half right is all wrong. I am corrected.

Posted by: hqplink at October 20, 2003 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

MillionthMonkey, thank you for clairfying your skepticism. The Rolloing Stone, I think it was, published an article recently on depleted uranium tipped shells. Also I read, perhaps in the same article, that since the Gulf War Iraqis have had radiation sickness and birth defects presumably caused by depleted uranium.

Steve, as far as "out of character," I suggest you talk with some WWII or Vietnam veterans who saw action about what boy scouts our troops were. If you cannot find any, then watch some movies about the Vietnam War. The cable channels run them often. "War is Hell," because people do not play nice.

In the Sixties, we said, "What if they have a war, and no one comes?" Many, many young American men did not come to the Vietnam War. It seems most of our politicians today were draft dodgers then. Now we have a "professional" army. I find it interesting that from what I read, that morale is so low in Iraq that it is expected that half of the troops there will not reenlist, and because we rely on the reserves and National Guard to provide us with active duty soldiers for minor wars, that we can expect an exodus from the reserves and the National Guard. It will be difficult to have a world empire with smart bombs and no troops on the ground.

Posted by: John Aldridge at October 20, 2003 01:09 AM | PERMALINK

Paul :

"one thing you left out though was that the war in europe was over when the marshall plan started. this is not the case in iraq."

As I recall, more soldiers were killed during the first six months of the German occupation than have been killed in Iraq. Could you say the war wasn't yet over in Germany?

I cannot find published numbers to back that statement up. Google has failed me! Treat this as an anecdote.

Howard :

"People like Ken who bring them up have the obligation to detail how the experience of rebuilding germany is similar to the circumstances of iraq today; it is not our obligation to point out how terrible a parallel this is."

I'm trying to tease out how similar these situations are - frankly, I don't know. I've detailed some differences above, and a few others have helped out in this regard. I'm still filtering the information, but I don't think I can reach any strong conclusion.

I do not understand why it's my obligation to prove that postwar Germany parallels postwar Iraq, given that I was asking if postwar Germany parallels postwar Iraq.

Boronx :

"The invasion of Europe and it's occupation was an act of self defence and was justified."

Doh! You're right, this is a very important point.
I must reconsider my position.

Posted by: Ken at October 20, 2003 02:43 AM | PERMALINK

"Getting better" means one thing primarily -- Iraq is moving promptly to a stable self-rule government with some modicum of democracy and individual rights, and which will not be hostile to us after we leave and will promote stability in the region over the long run. Buying trucks and paying for the rest of the infrastructure hardly matters in relation to the critical political goals. The Iraqis have lived with privitation for a very long time, and I doubt that the political future will turn on how much we invest in infrastructure.

Everything else is just window dressing to get there. So what do we know about this?

First, can anyone identify the administration's plans to transition control to the Iraqi people? I can't, which to me says things are pretty bad.

Second, can we ever succeed if we maintain an occupation for over another year? At what point will it become impossible because we build up so much resentment from a long-term occupation of the country? I don't think we have years to mold the country into what we would like it to be. It will revolt before then (or the resistance will worsen through all factions of Iraq, including the so-called "quiet" Shiite areas). So this looks pretty bad because its hard to see any current scenario (even though you can't see any particular administration plan) that will end our occupation in the near future. Also, whoever identifies with us in a long occupation almost certainly dooms their future once we leave.

Third, what are the predictable features of Iraqi self-rule if the transition takes place in the next year? Without regard to whatever "Constitution" they write, I think this is somewhat predictable. Iraqis are already aligning along various religious or tribal lines to build shadow governments. These will control the future of Iraq -- the parlimentarianism and Constitution writing will not change this fact. The currently forming power structures will simply move into and take over whatever paper structure we create.

It seems that the administration wants to control who comes into power in order to assure a friendly regime. But that is probably impossible in the short run. So the administration seems committed to a long occupation to hand over control to the "right" people. Isn't this the only discernible policy in place? And this has almost no chance of succeeding, a la Shah of Iran type scenarios.

Finally, what is Karl Rove thnking about where he wants White House to be in the 2004 election cycle? Sad to say, but THAT is probably the best clue as to the driving force behind U.S. policy. I doubt the neo-cons in administration who created this mess will have much influence down the road on how we finish it. And this is an administration that does not make decisions based on policy, but naked political expediency.

And that seems really bad given the difficulties in trying to straighten out the mess.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 20, 2003 04:34 AM | PERMALINK

FWIW I've always undertood the issue with depleted uranium is simply that its a heavy metal - it's less radioactive than many granites. It's toxic in the same way lead is, but lead bullets don't get vapourised and so contaminate soil, water etc. Like lead it's unlikely to do much harm to adults unless the dosages are large (so its probably not the cause of Gulf War syndrome), but is a real problem for foetuses and children.

Posted by: derrida derider at October 20, 2003 05:37 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be careful before you accept too easily the Administration's allegations that it's ONLY in the Sunni triangle where things are tough. My reading of the attacks on US troops suggests that quite a few are outside the "triangle." Just today, two more were killed in the "stable" north. This "Sunni Triangle" thing is just one more part of the "filter" put on things by the Bushies.

Posted by: B Wallingford at October 20, 2003 06:01 AM | PERMALINK

"As I recall, more soldiers were killed during the first six months of the German occupation than have been killed in Iraq. Could you say the war wasn't yet over in Germany?

I cannot find published numbers to back that statement up. Google has failed me! Treat this as an anecdote."


Posted by: Ken at October 20, 2003 02:43 AM


Ken, you've been taken in by some administration lies, which are probably being spread by warbloggers.


Look in Slate. There were some articles on it:

'Iraq's not Germany', by Fred Kaplan:
http://slate.msn.com/id/2089987/

'Condi's Phony History' by Daniel Benjamin:
http://slate.msn.com/id/2087768/

Note: IIRC, these articles only mention combat casualties. Given 1 million (?) soldiers in Germany immediately after the war, vehicle accidents were probably horrific (driving a jeep in Germany in the 1980's had its terrifying moments, after 40 years of clean-up and road improvements).

The end result - no post-surrender US combat casualties. Given that the forces involved were much larger, that says a lot (probably mostly that after pummeling Germany for years, the fight was knocked out of them).


I urge people to bookmark these links - the administration's lies will have to be debunked repeatedly.

Posted by: Barry at October 20, 2003 06:26 AM | PERMALINK

This is why I read the blogs....this is a very fine analysis. Too bad the talking heads on cable can not sit down and have a reasoned discussions of these points. I have not read all the comments here and so someone may have done so; but I would be interested in a counter arguement to the points Kevin has made.

Posted by: Jon at October 20, 2003 07:00 AM | PERMALINK

SW--

You think the war in Afghanistan has been won? You believe that Al-Qaeda can no longer use that country as a base for well-planned operations? Just what conditions have changed?

Our troops there exercise no control over the territory from which AQ operates. Nor do the Pakistanis or the Afghan "government." Whether left alone to conduct operations by the Taliban or by the current regime, they are still free to operate.

If anything, they may be stronger, relative to our power, as the Iraq occupation strengthens AQ recruitment even as it ties down and destroys the morale of our best troops.

Anyone who does not believe US soldiers would plow up a grove of fruit trees--

I just retired after twenty years as a combat soldier. The American soldier is quite capable of carrying out such an order. Never forget that today's American soldier is as much employee as warrior.

True warriors are few and far between, because it takes a very special person to live this ethos. It requires an extraordinary degree of personal sacrifice, and a high committment to nation, unit, and to an honor code that requires moral courage in the face of dishonorable behavior by superiors. We certainly have quite a few of these warrior-types in today's US military.

But we just don't have enough of these special people to man a military establishment of the size we have now. So we fill the billets with disadvantaged citizens who have mouths to feed and can't find a better job. Or pilots whose true ambition is to get six figures flying passenger jets. Or general officers who worry more about networking their way into a defense industry job than about training warriors.

These officers are capable of giving such an order, and his soldiers are capable of carrying it out. And we have too few true warriors to manage them all.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at October 20, 2003 09:20 AM | PERMALINK

Ken, Barry beat me to the point: you've been sadly misinformed as to the level of post-WW II casualties (and I agree that you've probably been misinformed because rumsfeld and rice set out to misinform you).

And since you return to the subject - there are no meaningful parallels between the post-WW II occupation of Germany and the post-Saddam expulsion occupation of Iraq.

None.

For the record, the Marshall Plan, by the way, didn't spring into existence, full blown, the day the war ended. It represented the Truman Administration coming to grips with reality.

Expecting the Bush Administration to come to grips with reality is a proven waste of time.

Posted by: howard at October 20, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

DMBeaster wonders about our plan to transition control of Iraq to its people. The plan is decentralized which is why it might be hard to recognize. We're rebuilding the political structure from the bottom up as opposed to (the UN way) the top down. About 90% of the towns and villages have local councils that are making real decisions at that level. That's very empowering. School councils and the like are now organized. Remember the American experience: town meetings and small government first (alongside the crown governor), national government later.

Let the Iraqis run their local affairs, let them sort out how they want to run their country, and let them -- not the UN -- write their constitution. If it takes a couple years, so what? The end result will be better.

R Stanton Scott asks whether I think the war in Afghanistan has been won. Yes. It's obvious. The Taliban exert no control other than that of killing unprotected people at the fringes of the country. Al Qaeda cannot operate camps and training facilities and cannot indulge in the lengthy, careful preparations for terror strikes that they formerly did in that country.

Mr. Scott correctly points out that the Taliban and al Qaeda boys still roam free in northwest Pakistan. That makes them a continuing problem, but a managable one -- it's a problem that beats the one we had on 9/12.

As to the morale of our soldiers in Iraq, of course they gripe. Mr. Scott should know this as a 20 year vet -- American soldiers gripe about everything, and then they do their jobs.

Derrida is correct about the problem with DU -- it's a heavy metal, and is as toxic as any other heavy metal when ingested or inhaled. But not more so, and is definitely not a serious radiation hazard. The propaganda out of pre-war Iraq about thousands of deformed babies, etc., was just that -- propaganda willingly swallowed whole by gullibe peace supporters.

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