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Archive for February, 2007

British defeat in Iraq

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“I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.” — Dick Cheney

Anthony Cordesman comes out and says what everyone, including the leaders of the British Army, already know: the British have been defeated in the south of Iraq, and their announced withdrawal plan is based more on rescuing the British mission in Afghanistan than in any measure of success in Iraq.

The British announcement of force cuts in Southern Iraq reflects a set of realities on the
ground that has dominated southeastern Iraq for more than two years. Southeastern Iraq
has long been under the de facto control of SCIRI and Sadr factions. The British
effectively lost any opportunity to shape a secular and nationalist Basra in the summer of
2003, and the US defeat of the Sadr militia in March and April 2004 never extended to
the southeast and Basra area.

…As Michael Knight and Ed Williams point out in an excellent recent analysis for WINEP,
SCIRI, Sadrists, Dawa and other Shi’ite Islamists won 38 out of 41 seats in the provincial
elections in Basra in January 2005, and 35 out of 41 seats in Maysan, and Basra came
under the control of a corrupt Shi’ite Islamist in February. The British decisively lost the
south – which produces over 90% of government revenues and has over 70% of Iraq’s
proven oil reserves –more than two years ago.

NPR provides the gory details on the ground:

Richard Beeston, diplomatic editor of The Times of London recently returned from a visit to Basra, his first since 2003. He says in 2003, British soldiers were on foot patrol, drove through town in unarmored vehicles and fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off. He says the changes he saw four years later are enormous.

“Nowadays all troop movement in and out of the city are conducted at night by helicopter because it’s been deemed too dangerous to go on the road and its dangerous to fly choppers during the day,” he says.

Beeston says during his latest visit, he noticed a map of the city in one of the military briefing rooms. About half of the city was marked as no-go areas.

British headquarters are mortared and rocketed almost every night.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the victory parade to me. But then again, I’m not Dick Cheney, so what do I know?

Details about exactly how this process came about came be found in the story of Maysan province. David Axe provides excellent coverage of British forces in Maysan province, where constant indirect fire convinced Lt. Col. David Labouchere to abandon his patrol base in al-Amarah, Maysan’s main city, and go exclusively to vehicle-borne patrols along the Iranian border. Axe presents this as the best possible tactic, and I’m not sure he’s wrong given the total lack of Brit resources in Maysan. But it sure as hell is not anything like “success.” Viewed from another perspective, the Iraqi Shia militias essentially chased Labouchere out of al-Amarah, at which point they then looted the base and held a victory parade, at which point they then began to battle over control of the city. Whoever won, it sure wasn’t Labouchere or the British.

And no, Prince Harry is not going to save the day.

edit: An excellent summary from the Washington Institute on Near East Policy.

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Marine vs. Marine

Sorry, Col. Owens. First, you forgot Clayton Lonetree. Second, you don’t get to pick.

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Corruption, defined.

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The dictator feasts while his country starves. There is no better argument for humanitarian invasion than this man. Zimbabwe now has the lowest life expectancy in the world, with a level of mortality normally only seen in civil wars. If you feel like shaking in righteous anger, read some of the vomitous propaganda that Mugabe’s regime puts out on a daily basis:

WHEN New African magazine launched an online international survey to find the three greatest Africans of all time, Zimbabwean President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was voted the third greatest in a poll that spanned nine months.

The survey that ran from December 2003 to August 2004 saw President Mugabe gracing third place after former South African president Nelson Mandela and Ghana’s founding president Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

In analysing the results, the magazine said: ‘‘President Mugabe’s high score is particularly interesting given that in the last four years a high profile campaign in the (international) media has painted him in bad light.’’

Taking nothing from the other two leaders, President Mugabe’s high score at a time he was being demonised on a daily basis by the global Weapons of Mass Deception — CNN, BBC and other Western agencies — implies that, all things being equal, he would have emerged overall winner.

This view is buttressed by the fact that Dr Nkrumah and Madiba lasted no more than five years at the helm thus they did not create many detractors.

Because of this, analysts were, therefore, agreed that the greatest African of all time is actually President Mugabe who has become the embodiment of the aspirations of the entire developing world.

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Letters from Iwo Jima

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 In a word, underwhelming. The film seems to have no real structure and you do not get a feeling for the flow of the battle. Scenes and times jump around, and the film never really builds up to anything. Emotionally, I didn’t feel for the characters nor did I ever get an understanding for why Japanese soldiers were so willing to throw themselves forward into suicide attacks or kill themselves with grenades. There is also little action for a war film, so if you’re looking for the next Saving Private Ryan, look elsewhere. Hell, just go watch Saving Private Ryan again.

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More Kirkuk

Kurdish Iraq Army units in Kirkuk are rebadged peshmerga, or Kurdish militia fighters, and they’re not afraid to say it.

Lt. Hiwa Raouf Abdul is not supposed to be in Kirkuk. The oil-rich city, which many fear is teetering on the brink of civil war, is off-limits to Kurdish Peshmerga militia members.

And yet, on Tuesday, the slender, 26-year-old Peshmerga officer breezed through one checkpoint after the next on his way into Kirkuk, exchanging waves and salutes with Iraqi army soldiers and policemen as he rode with a truckload of Peshmerga gunmen.

Kirkuk is a tinderbox of sects vying for control of an area with billions of dollars worth of oil, but the Iraqi army isn’t a neutral presence, and many of its soldiers make no secret that their loyalty is to the Kurdish nation.

“I joined to defend my city and my people, who are Peshmerga,” said Iraqi Army Pvt. Kamaran Ahmed, a 31-year-old Kurd from Kirkuk. “From the time of the first prophet God sent to Earth, Kirkuk has been a part of Kurdistan and it will return to Kurdistan.”

Ahmed continued: “If it is not returned to Kurdistan, things will get very bad.”

Iraqi army Maj. Shawqi Mohammed, a former Peshmerga commander, was at the base, and he greeted the Peshmerga members warmly.

“Kirkuk is Kurdistan; that is the only point worth making. We have given thousands of lives for Kirkuk,” Mohammed said.

Asked whether Kurdish troops would break ranks if fighting broke out between Kirkuk’s sects, Mohammed said, “It’s true that we are Iraqi army, but we are also Kurds. … We will do whatever the Kurdish leadership tells us to.”

A McClatchy reporter interviewing Kurdish troops in the Iraqi army during late 2005 heard similar remarks. The Iraqi defense ministry issued a press release at the time saying there was no substance to the issue of Peshmerga infiltration of army units in Kirkuk.

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Horrifying

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be a mother in Baghdad. This is awful.

We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go.

“NO!” cried his mother. “Isn’t my son enough?? Must we lose more of our youth?? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap the men who dare reach its doors. I will go.”

So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.

I was praying all the way there.

I never thought a day would come when it was the women of the family, who would be safer on the roads. All the men are potential terrorists it seems, and are therefore to be cut down on sight. This is the logic of today, is it not? To kill evil before it even has a chance to take root.

When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. “We identified him by the cell phone in his pants’ pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don’t know what he looks like.”

Now begins a horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly envisioned .We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts.

We were asked what we were looking for, “ upper half” replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. “Over there”. We looked for our boy’s broken body between tens of other boys’ remains’; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.

Can Hollywood match our reality?? I doubt it.

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According to Benjamin Wallace-Wells in Rolling Stone.

Then, running preliminary polls, his advisers noticed something remarkable: Women responded more intensely and warmly to Obama than did men. In a seven-candidate field, you don’t need to win every vote. His advisers, assuming they would pick up a healthy chunk of black votes, honed in on a different target: Every focus group they ran was composed exclusively of women, nearly all of them white.


There is an amazingly candid moment in Obama’s autobiography when he writes of his childhood discomfort at the way his mother would sexualize African-American men. “More than once,” he recalls, “my mother would point out: ‘Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet.’ ” What the focus groups his advisers conducted revealed was that Obama’s political career now depends, in some measure, upon a tamer version of this same feeling, on the complicated dynamics of how white women respond to a charismatic black man. “I remember when we realized something magical was happening,” says Obama’s pollster on the campaign, an earnest Iowan named Paul Harstad. “We were doing a focus group in suburban Chicago, and this woman, seventy years old, looks seventy-five, hears Obama’s life story, and she clasps her hand to her chest and says, ‘Be still, my heart.’ Be still, my heart — I’ve been doing this for a quarter century and I’ve never seen that.” The most remarkable thing, for Harstad, was that the woman hadn’t even seen the videos he had brought along of Obama speaking, had no idea what the young politician looked like. “All we’d done,” he says, “is tell them the Story.”

This is just a weird passage in a reasonably okay piece. A key part of Obama’s voting bloc, according to Wallace-Wells, is made up of white women who cannot resist the sexual power of an attractive black man. Uhhh … what?

Wallace-Wells doesn’t follow up on this at all with any data beyond the anecdote, which doesn’t even seem to back up his point given that the old lady didn’t even know what Obama looked like. It reeks of bullshit, actually — the sort of wink-wink hearsay that depends more on cheap stereotype (and a racial stereotype with a long history of harm, in this case)  than actual evidence.

We like political candidates who look good. The appeal of John Edwards and Barack Obama comes, to no small degree, because they are charismatic, part of which includes being physically attractive. But I doubt anyone has written about how Edwards is depending on women in heat for his political future.

edit: Who can forget this little reminder of how this sort of thing can play in an election:

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