Monday, January 29, 2007

Western Support for Saddam

Thanks to and Barry's work in conjunction with Canal + France, we know more about America's involvement in the support of Saddam Hussein against the Iranians in the 1980's. We also learn more about about how United Nations sanctions against Iraq did not hurt Saddam, but hurt his people greatly.

We all know that Saddam used weapons of mass destruction to kill many of his people. But what is not commonly known is that Donald Rumsfeld met with and shook hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983, and although it is not known what went on in this meeting, only a couple of months later, Saddam used chemical weapons on his people. In an effort to support Iraq against Iran, the US provided satellite imagery to the Iraqis about Iranian troop formations. The Iraqis used nerve gas against the Iranians after receiving this intelligence.

George W Bush cited the village of Halabja, whose residents were killed in 1988 by chemical weapons, as a reason to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But at the time it happened, no western governments wanted to talk about it. Partly because of its support of Iraq over Iran, and partly because what Lando and Canal + France say was western desire to control Iraqi petroleum, the US and other western governments ignored Halabja when it happened. Opposition in the US to legislation to place sanctions on Saddam were orchestrated by Colin Powell, at that time National Security Adviser. French and German companies had sold chemicals and other equipment to Iraq in the 1980s. Records of these sales are kept under lock and key in the United Nations.

Sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iraq for 12 years is estimated to have caused the deaths of at least 500,000 Iraqis. Despite knowledge of death rates under the sanctions, the UN continued the sanctions. Medications, including rehydration fluids, ran out quickly. Some politicians in Washington accused those warning of the mass deaths of succumbing to Saddam's propaganda. The allegation is made in the following video that the west deliberately targeted water and electrical supplies in Iraq. Untreated water resulted in mass outbreak of disease. The theory was that if the people of Iraq were hurt by the sanctions, they would rise up against Saddam. But in reality, the Iraqi people blamed the west. The embargo is now over, but Iraqi doctors still don't have the supplies they need. The United Nations kept the embargo in place even though it was learned that Saddam was circumventing the embargo and that only the Iraqi people were suffering.

For more information, visit Barry is the recent author of the book WEB OF DECEIT: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

BYU Professors, Utah Mormons, and the War in Iraq

How many Utah Mormons blindly support President Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war, and how many of them simply support the troops who are in harm's way? Four years ago, six BYU professors didn't support the plan, and the problems they predicted are occurring.

In January 2003, I was busy wondering if I would be called to active duty for the War on Terror. I don't particularly remember the letter to the Deseret News posted by six BYU professors on the 23rd of that month, but I remember thinking that there didn't seem to be enough evidence for us to attack Iraq, regardless of how bad Saddam was.

Utah Mormons
It is very common in my family and in LDS church meetings to pray for the troops. Usually we hear prayers asking for blessings of safety and success. In my family we have come to add the term "integrity". It is important that United States troops act with integrity in any mission they serve under.

Because we pray for the troops, does that make Utah (and other) Mormons automatic supporters of President Bush? I don't know for sure, but I do know that a lot of people voted for him, and a lot of people still support him in his efforts to win the war in Iraq. The average American (including the average American Mormon), does not fill a great deal of his day, unfortunately, with politics. My personal opinion, therefore, is that Utah Mormons show their support for the troops by expressing support for the President.

Let me also say that I think a lot more Utah Mormons (and everyone else) should involve themselves a lot more in politics. It is said that Latter-Day Saints, of all people, should be inquisitive in every area of their lives, having the Gift of the Holy Ghost to guide them to make wise decisions. This means that we shouldn't simply accept at face value what our leaders tell us, but rather should find out for ourselves whether it is true. In nearly every case, I have come to an independent conclusion that what my leaders tell me is true, but I don't think a lot of Mormons exercise the same diligence. And because they accept what their church leaders tell them, they have a tendency to accept what national leaders tell them, so long as the national leaders espouse social morality. I think this is why most Utah Mormons accept Bush, but didn't accept Clinton.

BYU Professors
The BYU Professors (who may not all be LDS) who warned against human rights and moral dangers were very prescient. But they weren't prophetic in the sense that (1) a lot of other people were saying the same things, and (2) the Bush administration had no business ignoring what so many people were saying. They were, however, a very important part of the national conversation that somehow got ignored by a lot of Americans and a lot of Utahns. It's easy to say it now, but I think they were right. Here are some of their points, according to the Deseret News:

The guest editorial welcomed the prospect of Saddam Hussein's removal but correctly warned that:

• The United States had time for more debate before launching the war;

• American forces in Iraq could become targets of terrorism for years to come;

• A new but weak Iraqi government would invite civil war and widespread human suffering;

• Many nations would judge a preventive attack by the United States as unjustified.

It's good that Saddam is gone, but the way he went made him a martyr instead of a pariah. Had there been a longer time for national debate, the determination likely would have been: don't go. American troops are targets, and that was a given, but now it is looking like we would have to stay there for a long time to bring the society under control (I remember listening to the radio in late 2002(?) when it was discussed that we would likely stay in Iraq for 10-12 years). Many nations have not only judged our attack as unjustified, but have been surprised at the immoral acts of the once shining city on a hill.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Way To Go Nancy!

Nancy Pelosi surprised a lot of people by showing up in Baghdad today. And in my case it was a pleasant surprise, because she said some things that I agree with.

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi arrived in Baghdad today and met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Because of her opposition to the American presence in Iraq, I am pleasantly surprised at her unscheduled appearance there, as well as the things she said. Some think the visit by her and Rep. Jack Murtha couldn't have come at a worse time, but I am happy to see encouragement for the Iraqi government from both sides of the American political aisle.

According to a Yahoo news article:

in meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and US officials she advocated the Iraqis reaching political solutions rather than relying on a surge in US troops to end sectarian violence.

I agree (and have done for some time) that it is time that Iraq stop relying on the United States to provide its security and to obtain its well-deserved peace. Following her meeting with Iraqi officials, she and other members of the US House of Representatives issued a statement that read in part:

The sooner Iraqi leaders make necessary political accommodations, including amending their constitution to resolve outstanding differences among all Iraqi communities, the better the chances for ending the sectarian violence.

Perhaps giving the lie to the right-wing pundits who claim that all the Democrats want to do is "cut and run", Pelosi gave me a different impression. She said:

The delegation's view is that American forces should quickly begin to transition from a combat role to one focused on training, counter-terrorism, force protection, and controlling Iraq's borders.

It doesn't sound like the Democrats want the American military to simply roll up the carpet and leave, but rather step back into the training and consulting shadows and let Iraqis interact with Iraqis in a delicate security situation. I support this strategy, although I admit I don't know how to define "quickly" in this instance. At any rate, such a strategy will show the Iraqis that we still care about their future, while at the same time allowing them to invest more fully in it themselves.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Greatest Mistake in Afghanistan?

Our greatest mistake in Iraq was likely that we disbanded the military and the Baath party, taking away the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and their families with nothing to replace these livelihoods with. In a similar way, we are achieving the same negative result in Afghanistan by destroying poppy fields. There is a better way to accomplish our purposes and at the same time reduce dramatically the number of Afghanis who are joining the Taliban.

I recently wrote about "The Greatest Mistake" in Iraq, which I believe to be the disbanding of the Iraqi military and the Baath party, minute portions of which functioned to ensure Saddam's power. Others were members of these organizations because they were forced to, and yet others were because it was a means of providing for their families. The disbanding of the military and the major (only?) political party had ramifications that people who studied the issues beforehand saw coming. With no other paycheck, many members of the underground Saddam resistance joined the insurgency. Those who didn't study ignored them. And they ignored the impassioned pleas of the Iraqi people.

A similar problem is becoming more evident in Afghanistan. Although poppy fields are a significant source of the illegal opium trade around the world, poppy production must also be realistically seen as the only source of income for a great number of Afghanis.

Columnist Anne Applebaum cites the history of what has happened when bans against opium production have been tried--failure. Despite all the destruction of the poppy crop in the last year, poppy production in Afghanistan is actually up by 60%, according to the Washington Post.

Applebaum predicts that planned chemical airdrops to destroy poppy fields will cause more resentment and more new adherents for a currently burgeoning Taliban.

Is there a way to allow the Afghani people to maintain their livelihoods and put their product to productive use? There seems to be. Turkey has made use of a program that has decimated the illegal drug trade and kept it low. Since the early 1970's here's how it's been working:

Turkey -- this was the era of "Midnight Express"-- was identified as the main source of the heroin sold in the West. Just like in Afghanistan, a ban was tried, and it failed.

As a result, in 1974 the Turks, with American and U.N. support, tried a different tactic. They began licensing poppy cultivation for the purpose of producing morphine, codeine and other legal opiates. Legal factories were built to replace the illegal ones. Farmers registered to grow poppies, and they paid taxes.

Many of the problems in this world are economically based. People in many areas of the globe are just eking out an existence for themselves and their families. If they had an alternative, they wouldn't plant roadside bombs. If they had an alternative, they wouldn't produce opium for the illegal market. It would be nice to give the Iraqi and the Afghani people another alternative.

But the Bush administration doesn't seem have this approach on its radar screen. I think maybe it's time they do. Unless they want the Afghanis to hate us as bad as the Iraqis do.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Interesting Developments in Iraq

Several interesting things have happened in the last couple of days in Iraq. The military has regained some of its honor, Baathists are being invited back into the Iraqi government, and al Maliki seems to be cracking down on Muqtada's army. What's next--"dogs and cats living together?"

Nouri Cracks Down

Pressure from Sunni members of the Iraqi government and from the Bush administration appear to have Nouri al Maliki doing what he wouldn't do before--cracking down on Muqtada al Sadr. This is a far cry from a few months ago when al Maliki required US troops to pack up their Sadr City checkpoints and go home. We'll see how long it lasts...

Meanwhile, Muqtada's henchmen are a bit perplexed by the whole deal:

Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments.

Ahmad Enlarges the Tent

Ahmad Chalabi chairs a commission to remove former Baath party members from public office, but wait! He's decided to invite over 2,000 of them back in. Actually it's a little bit late to try to make up for one of the worst (and first) decisions of Henry Kissinger's little buddy, L. Paul Bremer III. But hopefully it will have a positive effect.

Chalabi, who heads a commission charged with removing former ranking Baath Party members from public office, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference that the Iraqi government had changed course and was now trying to bring more Baathists back into government.

The draconian de-Baathification laws established by American administrator L. Paul Bremer III after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion rankled Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which served in Hussein's political party in greater proportion than other Iraqi groups. Reforming those laws has been a key demand of the Bush administration as well as the Sunnis, whose alienation from the political process has fueled violence.

Chalabi said more than 2,300 former high-ranking Baath Party members had been or were being reinstated to their government jobs or were being given pensions.

However, Chalabi gave assurances that the ongoing reinstatements would not allow those who committed crimes against Iraqis under the former regime to go scot-free. "These exclusions are not to be considered an amnesty,"...

US Military Removes a Bit of Tarnish from its Honor

In perhaps the second most despicable (see below) act the US Military has committed on Iraqi soil, one Marine has plead guilty to murder for framing an Iraqi villager as an insurgent and then killing him for it. Others have already plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony.

Prosecutors say the squad kidnapped 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, took him to a roadside hole and shot him to death. They placed an AK-47 and shovel by his body to try to make it look like Awad was an insurgent caught in the act of planting a bomb, prosecutors said.

Following the most despicable act committed in Iraq by the US Military, a US soldier has plead guilty to rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her family. The only unfortunate result of his pleading is that he will no longer face the death penalty, which apparently he richly deserves.

Prosecutors said the five soldiers spotted Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi on the street and plotted to break into her home to rape her.

Once there, they killed her parents, Kassem Hamza Rachid al-Janabi and Fakhriya Taha Mohsine al-Janabi and six year old sister, Hadeel Kassem Hamza al-Janabi.

Then they raped the girl, shot her and set fire to her body.

It's the Economy, Stupid!
more to come...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Even those who once cheered the war to replace Saddam Hussein and bring democracy to Iraq are having second thoughts. Call it a scapegoat, or call it what you want, but many of the former cheerleaders place the blame at the foot of the Bush Administration and its incompetence.

Updated 1-17-2007.

How do you lose a war?

1. Take away the President's decision-making power by never letting him hear the disagreements.
2. Refuse to admit mistakes.
3. Ignore the real war while you war amongst yourselves.
4. Fire the guy who gets out and does stuff and then take as gospel truth everything the guy says who is hunkered down inside a Green Zone of his own making.
5. Start before the plan is complete or the players are in place.

I guess I don't blame Colin Powell for stepping down as Secretary of State. He probably saw it all coming. Actually, it was probably nearly there.

Some of the neo-conservatives became disillusioned with the Bush Administration's ability to prosecute the war in Iraq about the same time Colin Powell did. Others are just recently expressing their frustration. Cliff (and others) on OneUtah, probably fairly accurately, asks (my interpretation) if the Bush Administration could really be that stupid. I don't think so, but they sure act like it.

I thought it the epitome of irony that Bush chose the number 21,500 as the number of troops we would need to complete the Iraq "surge" so that we could "clear and hold" Baghdad. It's
as though he were saying, 'We can easy do it with 20,000 more, but let's throw in another fifteen hundred just for good measure." This after Jay Garner and nearly all Bush's generals (except for Tommy Franks, whose military leadership experience was limited to the art of blitzkrieg) told him that we would need about 400,000 troops to accomplish the task at hand.

It all is coming to a head for me right now as I contemplate that my contribution to Iraq is likely going to be that I made a few friends and impressed several with my ability to speak some Arabic. No, I really don't think Bush is that stupid. Nor Cheney. Nor Rumsfeld. So what gives?

These are some of the thoughts I had as I read a recent article in Vanity Fair magazine.

Update 1/17/2007 - Like me, a lot of the Neo-Conservatives (I'm not one) felt that America would be helping Iraq achieve liberty. But it hasn't worked out that way, at least yet.

Richard Perle has this to say about what went wrong:

The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I think he was led to believe that things were chugging along far more purposefully and coherently than in fact they were.
If he were asked today, should we go into Iraq, his answer would be:

'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.'
Kenneth Adelman is more pointed about the incompetence of the Bush Administration:

I am extremely disappointed by the outcome in Iraq, because I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.
James Woolsey was very in favor of an Iraq invasion, but now is angered and perplexed that we are making the same errors that we made in Vietnam. One of the greatest problems is that we don't stay in an area that we have cleaned of insurgents. As soon as we leave, the insurgents return. This is not a problem that the military leaders have caused. It is a problem that could only have been solved by using the approximately 400,000 troops that many advised the Bush Administration to use in the first place. The paltry addition of 21,500 troops in an area the size of Baghdad will likely make little difference.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Greatest Mistake

When one's options are taken away, there always exists one remaining option--to fight. What might have happened--and where would Iraq be now--if we hadn't made The Greatest Mistake?

Retired Army General Jay Garner was originally assigned to make sense of the aftermath of the United States and coalition forces invasion of Iraq. It appears that he was doing an excellent job, despite an invasion that occurred perhaps prematurely, leaving Garner and his people not quite in place to organize security forces against looting and other destruction.

Garner's plan was to involve as many as 400,000 Iraqi army soldiers in the security and reconstruction of their country, providing them a generous paycheck that would at least offset the lucrativeness of a career in the insurgency.

Suddenly, Garner was replaced. Perhaps the images of day-after-day looting and upheaval weakened the Bush Administration's resolve. Enter Henry Kissinger protege, L. Paul Bremer.

In May, 2003, Bremer issued a decree disbanding the Iraqi army from top to bottom. An unnamed US Official in Baghdad at the time said "There was never a discussion that I was involved in where we would disband the military. It caught me completely by surprise."

During the transition phase, while Garner was still in Iraq, he was handed Bremer's "Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] Order Number 1--De-Baathification of Iraqi Society", which effectively removed thousands of public school teachers and ministry workers who were members of the Baath party only because they had to sign up if they wanted their job. "We can't do this," Garner said, seeing the havoc it would cause in Iraqi society.

The very next day, Bremer's CPA issued an order disbanding the Iraqi army. The plan to throw hundreds of thousands of potential security and reconstruction workers out on the streets without a job was seen as a disaster by Garner.

A disaster it turned out to be.

In his recent book, State of Denial: Bush at War Part III, Bob Woodward discusses the results of CPA Orders #1 and #2. Electricity failed. Sewer systems backed up. The disorganization grew to beyond anything anyone had imagined. And the first Improvised Explosive Device went off, taking everyone in Bremer's group by surprise.

Beginning in early June, hundreds and then thousands of former Iraqi soldiers gathered outside the Saddam Palace that the CPA had decided to make as its headquarters. Now out of jobs, they threatened Bremer and his people that they would turn into aggressors against the occupation. Bremer did not listen until it was too late.

A recent documentary, produced by PBS Frontline, details the grievances and makeup of the Iraqi insurgency. While it is true that mujahideen have come from many other countries, including the West to fight, the common thread that wound through the Frontline documentary, "The Insurgency" was this--the bulk of the Iraqi insurgency is made up of former Iraqi military members who lost all their other options when the rug was pulled out from under them by L. Paul Bremer.

Where would we be now if the imperial Henry Kissinger acolyte L. Paul Bremer had not surprised a lot of people by disbanding the Iraqi government and military? It's hard to say exactly. But it is easy to say that it would have been much better than it is today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is Ehren Watada Correct?

Lieutenant Ehren Watada is enjoying a lot of media publicity these days. As I learn more about it, I'm beginning to wonder if he planned it that way. His implications of American slaughter of Iraqis are irresponsible. In an era where there is no military draft, for someone to join the military after America was at war with Iraq and then refuse to go to Iraq is silly.

Updated 12 Jan 2007

Ehren Watada says that he wouldn't balk at going to Afghanistan. It's just that the war in Iraq is immoral, unconstitutional, and breaks international treaties. So he refuses to go. In an Associated Press article he is quoted as saying:

The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice but a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare.

The Law of Land Warfare states, among other things:

Section II. FORBIDDEN CONDUCT WITH RESPECT TO PERSONS 29. Injury Forbidden After Surrender

It is especially forbidden * * * to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion. (HR, art. 23, par. (c).)
33. Means of Injuring the Enemy Limited
34. Employment of Arms Causing Unnecessary Injury

a. Treaty Provision.

It is especially forbidden * * * to employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering. (HR, art. 23, par. (e).)

Lieutenant Watada is correct in suggesting that "
wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is occurring that in effect violates the Law of Land Warfare. The problem with Watada's blanket assertion, however, is who he makes the assertion against--United States military forces.

A very few American-initiated incidents which have violated the Law of Land Warfare, (Abu Ghraib, Haditha, etc.) have been prosecuted.

The terrorist insurgency in Iraq, contrarily, commits what amount to multiple violations of the Law of Land Warfare occur EVERY SINGLE DAY in Iraq. It is disingenuous at best to imply that "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is being conducted by American (or even coalition, for that matter) forces. It is extremely lacking in integrity for Ehren Watada or anyone else to make such an implication, no matter how much they want American forces to leave Iraq.

Ehren Watada joined the US Army in 2003 and went to Basic Training in June of that year. Two months thereafter, he went to officer candidate school 2 months later, 5 months after the invasion of Iraq occurred. There is currently no military draft in the United States. Watada was not compelled to join the military, and when he did, he knew the chances were great that he would be called to service in Iraq. If he really did not want to serve where the Commander in Chief would send him, he should have never enlisted, much less gone to OCS.

In late 2002, my National Guard battalion, the 2nd of the 222nd Field Artillery regiment, appeared very likely to be called to active duty. I wrestled with my feelings, considering that the Bush Administration was taking us in to a melee that was not in the best interests of America's security. I had recently voted for a different candidate for President of the United States, who I am sure would have done more to protect America's borders than President Bush has done. But it was likely that my enlistment period would overlap a call to active service--and it did. So I served.

As a member of the American public, it was my privilege to debate the politics of military engagements all I wanted. But when I was called to active duty, the debate was over. My job was to serve and to not violate the Law of Land Warfare. So, I think it goes, for Ehren Watada.

I joined the military nearly 20 years before George W. Bush became president. I joined before America and coalition forces invaded Iraq, even the first time. I did not personally feel in 2002 that there was reason enough to attack Iraq. I have much more reason to refuse to serve than did Ehren Watada--but I served on two separate activations.

I have no countenance for people such as Ehren Watada. He made his choice when he enlisted. I could be wrong, but it is difficult for me to conclude anything from the actions of Watada and the people who surround him other than that they are seeking to become celebrities.

'I would go to Afghanistan, but Iraq is immoral and unconstitutional', he says. Easy to say for someone whose unit was not called to go to Afghanistan.

Update: 12 Jan 2007

Here's a little more of a look into the issue from the Seattle Times:

His father — Robert Watada, a retired Hawaii state official — was opposed to the war in Vietnam, and was able to do alternative service in the Peace Corps in Peru.

And Robert Watada said he laid out the "pros and cons" of military service as his son considered joining the service in the spring of 2003 as the invasion of Iraq was launched.

"He knew very well of my decision not to go to Vietnam, and he had to make his own decision to join the Army," Robert Watada said. "It was very noble. He felt like he wanted to do his part for his country."

After the younger Watada enlisted, he was sent to officer-training school in Georgia. Watada said he supported the war at that time because he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I had my doubts," he said. "But I felt like the president is our leader, and he won't betray our trust, and he would know what he was talking about, and let's give him the benefit of the doubt." Over the past year, his feeling changed as he read up on the war and became convinced that there was "intentional manipulation of intelligence" by the Bush administration.

In January, Watada told his commanders that he believed that the war was unlawful, and therefore, so were his deployment orders. He did not, however, consider himself a conscientious objector, since he was willing to fight in wars that were justified, legal and in defense of the nation.

Watada was told that he could submit his resignation, but that the Army would recommend disapproval. That resignation was rejected in May, he said.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

al Qaeda and Iraq: The TV Connection

It's just amazing how many al Qaeda and Iraq connections there are. I just found out about another one--the al Qaeda TV station that was set up by former Baathists loyal to Saddam Hussein.

There may not have been much of a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq before the war, but there is now. Interestingly enough, "the Islamic Army of Iraq, an insurgent group comprised of former Baathists who were loyal to Saddam Hussein have set up the new al Qaeda television station, based somewhere in Syria. It began transmission on November 14, 2005.

Iraq the Model recently discussed his lack of surprise that different factions of militant Islam will work together with their erstwhile enemies when it suits their purposes. It may simply be that Islamic Army of Iraq and al Qaeda will commence shooting at each other when coalition forces leave Iraq, but it is interesting just the same.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Nick Grace reported for the Weekly Standard recently that

The Al-Zawraa channel is not only viewed as credible by users of established jihadist Internet forums, but as a strategically important information outlet as well. Moreover, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is delighted by the station. A U.S. military intelligence officer told us that al-Masri "has long-term and big plans for this thing."

Al Qaeda's previous attempts at setting up propaganda outlets have been limited to satellite radio and the Internet. Al-Zawraa, however, appears to be well financed and may find a much broader audience. The channel is broadcast on Nilesat, a powerful satellite administered by the Egyptian government.

Propaganda calls incessantly for violence against Iraqi Shias and the Iraqi government. It shows as much blood and carnage as it can get its hands on, ascribing all of it to US occupation forces.

It's primary purpose is not anti-Americanism, but rather to further destabilize Iraq. Will al Qaeda TV go away when America declares its mission complete and returns home? Not likely.

Friday, January 05, 2007

al Qaeda and Iran: A Connection?

Maybe the Clinton and Bush Administrations were looking under the wrong rock the whole time. A recent capture has led to documents that indicate that Iran has close ties to several terrorist groups in Iraq, including al Qaeda. Go figure!

I recently blogged about a raid in Baghdad wherein American troops captured high-level Iranians among suspected insurgents. Well, it turns out that the plot is thickening at a rapid pace. Although it will come as no surprise to some, the documents confirm that Iran is not only influencing both the Sunni and Shia sides of the insurgency, but it is working hand in glove with groups like al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunnah.

The New York Sun reports:

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force — the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads — is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.

Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a "smoking gun." "We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to," the official said.

One of the documents captured in the raids, according to two American officials and one Iraqi official, is an assessment of the Iraq civil war and new strategy from the Quds Force. According to the Iraqi source, that assessment is the equivalent of "Iran's Iraq Study Group," a reference to the bipartisan American commission that released war strategy recommendations after the November 7 elections. The document concludes, according to these sources, that Iraq's Sunni neighbors will step up their efforts to aid insurgent groups and that it is imperative for Iran to redouble efforts to retain influence with them, as well as with Shiite militias.

Such information is expected to have a great impact on the speech President Bush will give in the next few days.

Iraq the Model asks: What is so surprising about this? It is no secret that the various Islamic factions will work with their supposed enemies when it suits their purposes.

Of course the other thing that is not surprising is that Iran claims not to have given support to al Qaeda.

Should We Send More Troops?

Democratic leadership in Congress today made it very clear that they did not want President Bush to send more troops to Iraq? How do you feel about this issue?

"We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq," said new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, the new Senate Majority Leader.

"It has to be significant and sustained. Otherwise do not do it," said Republican Senator John McCain.

In a recent post, entitled "Iraqis Must Stand Tall" I opined that at some point Iraqis must begin taking more responsibility for their own situation. In reading Bob Woodward's book State of Denial, I think it appears that this was George W. Bush's intent early on, but perhaps because the Bush Administration rushed pell mell into the attack before all the ducks were lined up, we're now about three years behind on that curve.

In a recent Time magazine article, an Iraqi Shia was quoted as being very frustrated because he would sometimes go for days without seeing American troops in his neighborhood, but whenever he told them he was about to start defend himself against Sunni aggressors who were coming ever closer, the American response was something like "Don't do that, because if you do we can't guarantee your safety."

Would more troops provide more safety and security to the Iraqi people? Or does it just open up a whole new can of worms?

Let me know what you think. And please vote in the Serving Iraq Opinion Poll on this subject as well.

Monday, January 01, 2007

al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection? Clinton Says Yes

Conventional liberal opinion blames the Bush Administration for inventing a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda. Why, then, is 'conventional memory' so short as to forget that the Clinton Administration had the same fear?
Read Part 1 of this Series: al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection?
Potential terrorism involving al Qaeda and Iraq were alive and well during the Clinton Administration. With regard to these two threats, Daniel Benjamin, one of President Clinton's terrorism experts, said:

Nothing concerned the Clinton Administration more than the dangers of WMD proliferation and the possibility of these terrible weapons falling into the hands of rogue states and terrorists.

The Tokyo subway sarin gas attack had just occurred, killing 12 people.

As early as 1995, Sudan began to establish a chemical weapons program. It's primary assistant in the fledgling process was Iraq. This was intended to help Iraq

circumvent the the UN's military and trade embargo on Iraq.

As UN inspections of Iraq began to run into stiff resistance in late 1997, and as Saddam Hussein began to breathe out more threatenings against "American and British interests" in early 1998, President Clinton presented an ominous outlook to the country.

There is no more clear example of this threat [of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons] than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.

Less than a week following Clinton's February 1998 remarks about Iraq's activities, Osama bin Laden issued a fatwah against the United States and her allies, coming to the defense of Iraq.

In its November 24th, 1997 issue, Time magazine spoke of

the merging of the output from a government's arsenals, like Saddam's biological weapons, with a group of semi-independent terrorists, like radical Islamist groups, who might slip such bioweapons into the U.S. and use them. It wouldn't take much. This is the poor man's atom bomb. A gram of anthrax culture contains a trillion spores, theoretically enough for 100 million fatal doses. The stuff can be spread into the air with backpack sprayers or even perfume atomizers. The U.N.'s specialists say that 100 lbs. of anthrax bacteria sprayed around a city of 1 million could kill 36,000 people within a week.

ABC News details in March of 2006 that, among other things, pre-war documents obtained by American forces in Iraq indicate that:

"Osama bin Laden Contact With Iraq"

A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995, and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.


(Editor's Note: This document is handwritten and has no official seal. Although contacts between bin Laden and the Iraqis have been reported in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere (e.g., the 9/11 report states "Bin Ladn himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995) this document indicates the contacts were approved personally by Saddam Hussein.

It also indicates the discussions were substantive, in particular that bin Laden was proposing an operational relationship, and that the Iraqis were, at a minimum, interested in exploring a potential relationship and prepared to show good faith...

On August 20, 1998, Tomahawk missiles struck two targets: (1) an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (the missiles missed their target, as a terrorist summit there had been postponed), and (2) the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, in which Iraq had allegedly been helping to create chemical weapons.

Clinton Administration Undersecretary of State, Thomas Pickering said at the time:

We see evidence that we think is quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq. In fact, el Shifa officials, early in the company's history, we believe, were in touch with Iraqi individuals associated with Iraq's VX program.

Even further, the Clinton Administration first made the claim that al Qaeda and Iraq had a relationship. Then Secretary of Defense William Cohen, being questioned by the 9/11 commission on March 23, 2004 about the bombing of the al Shifa plant, had this to say:

Now, I was criticized for that, saying, you didn't have enough. And I put myself in the position of coming before you and having someone like you say to me, "Let me get this straight, Mr. Secretary, we've just had a chemical weapons attack upon our cities or our troops and we've lost several hundred or several thousand. And this is the information which you had at your fingertips. You had a plant that was built under the following circumstances, had you manager that went to Baghdad, you had Osama bin Laden who had funded at least the corporation, and you had traces of EMTA and did you what? You did nothing? Is that a responsible activity on the part of the Secretary of Defense?" [Emphasis added.]
I agree with Secretary Cohen and the Clinton Administration. It is irresponsible to categorically dismiss the possibility that Iraq and al Qaeda had a relationship, especially when they were working in the same country to build chemical weapons.

Read Part 1 of this Series: al Qaeda and Iraq: A Connection?

This We Resolve

What will we have seen and experienced when the clock strikes January 1, 2008? My greatest hope is that the Shia and Sunni will have buried their swords and joined forces in an effort at mutual understanding and unified opposition in the face of senseless terrorism. May such resolve have, by that time a year from now, succeeded in bringing a springtime of peace to a people who are so deserving of it after a long night of darkness.

As the new year dawns I look back on my time in Iraq with fond memories. As I travel the highways and byways of Iraq in my mind, I realize that I have developed an intense love for a people that I scarcely knew existed before I was called to active duty military service in 2003.

As I read the news reports this morning, Iraq seems 'relatively' calm today. Somewhere around 20 people have been killed (still 20 too many), a far cry from the 50 or 80 or more than a hundred of some days. I don't know if this is just an aberration, but I hope it is rather a trend for the richly deserved better. The prayer of my family and me is that 2007 can finally be the Year of Iraq. That together Sunni and Shia can celebrate their commonalities and forgive past indiscretions, egregious as they may be.

Peace in Iraq can come only through the goodwill of the Iraqi people. People the world over can pray, they can send humanitarian aid, and they can help to provide security, but at some point, the overcoming of the cycle of violence will only be achieved by Sunni and Shia alike saying "I forgive you."

A society of long ago experienced a similar time in their history--a time of general strife and bloodletting. A major transformation occurred in that society, a transformation that I believe can happen in Iraq as well. An ancient people whose bloodthirst had become commonplace began to see the futility of constant anger, greed, and revenge. A transformation came over the society, which caused them to bury their weapons deep in the earth, never to take them up again.

Despite the wrongs and the violence that are being committed on a daily basis in Iraq, many people have seen the light of peace and what it can mean in their lives if such peace were to become pervasive. They want that peace, but to fully obtain that peace will mean the overcoming of nearly insurmountable fear and prejudice. For such finely ingrained passions to be overcome by passion of a more noble nature, Sunni must come to love and respect the world of the Shia, and Shia must equally celebrate the right of Sunni to worship Allah as he or she choses. Religious lines, which, to some extent before the civil strife of today, had become blurred, must become blurred again.

Nearly every Iraqi wants this pervasive sort of peace, but only Iraqis can truly achieve it. Those of us who are not Iraqis cannot live their lives, and so we can never really know what the struggle to overcome fear, prejudice, oppression, torture, and death entails in a uniquely Iraqi cultural setting. But neither are we required to stand on their sidelines with our hands in our pockets and our lips sealed. We can cheer them on in their quest for victory. We can continue to provide them humanitarian and technological aid. We can can continue to attempt to provide them security. But most of all, with our combined efforts we can call down the blessings of God on a people who have suffered enough and are truly in need and deserving of God's blessings.

Let us resolve to put aside our political differences in the year 2007 and pray, regardless of how we feel about the American Occupation, that Iraq can secure for itself the blessings of pervasive peace, which up to now have been so elusive.

Then, in such retrospect, New Year's Day, 2008 will be a day on which we can look back on a truly magnificent year.