(Sull, Iraq) So America’s liberal newspaper of record is shocked, shocked! that Prime Minister al‑Maliki and the Iraqi government are puppets of the Iranian administration.
In what might be more a function of the curtailing of foreign reporters and the use of stringers to report news, one of the most open secrets in Iraq, even as far north as here in Kurdistan, was seen as news by the New York Times the other day. (“U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions,” 8/18/12)
When talks failed to reach an agreement allowing American troops to stay in Iraq, a power-sharing agreement was reached between the Shia, of whom al‑Malik’s is politically in charge, and the opposition Sunni Muslims, who got the vice presidency spot.
Within weeks an arrest warrant was issued for Vice President Tariq al‑Hashemi a leader of the Sunni contingent. With a completely straight face the arrest warrant was issued against al‑Hashemi charging him with terrorism!
al‑Hashemi fled immediately fearing for his life but only as far as northern Iraq, Kurdistan, where he lives rather well. He has been known to travel around the Middle East at the request of various governments, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Qatar and has a residence in Turkey.
al‑Hashemi was put on trial back in May not attending himself. The trial is occurring through his aides and government witnesses. The trial has been suspended and will continue in September.
This is nothing but a political show trial. The entire point is to consolidate the power of al‑Maliki and the Shia Muslims who are closely associated with Al Qaeda. Reports of an increased Al Qaeda presence in southern Iraq have been rising.
Reports I get from friends, students, etc. who visit the Baghdad area and other southern areas report that there is a low-level civil war occurring that the world does not know about.
Iran has wanted to control Iraq for decades. Geo-strategically, if Syria, backed by Iran, is to fall, Iraq will be an excellent buffer between the Israelis and the Saudis.
This is an unstable region run entirely by corruption, not reason. The future is grim.
Vincent McGuire is a member of the University of Colorado political science faculty, currently on a two-year university teaching fellowship in northern Iraq.
(See Editor's Note) Dear Dr. Watson: Recent news reports have shown that less that 1% of our great nation has fought in Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. We have a population of over 310 million people and about 2.2 million soldiers have served in both wars. Defense Secretary Gates brought this fact to light at Duke trying to encourage more people to volunteer their service to this nation. Of the 2.2 million soldiers that have fought or are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan about half of them are from the Army. The Army is about the size of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines combined. So it is natural the Army bears the burden of these two wars.
Editor: Joshua Ruskiewicz was commissioned through ROTC as an Army 2nd lieutenant upon his graduation from CCU in May 2009. He had returned to college after prior enlisted service in Iraq, as explained below. His wife Cherise and young son Tiberius, 11 months old, currently reside at Fort Hood, Texas. This is from a letter he sent by email to William Watson, CCU history professor and Centennial Institute Fellow.
This is only my second deployment, and many soldiers have done upwards for four and five deployments. Is it fair that so few bear the burden for so many? Probably not, but each soldier knows that the person to his or her left or right is a volunteer. Maybe tough economic times have motivated more people to volunteer, but in order to volunteer, one has to understand the risks associated with the job. It is not only us who our volunteers though, our families bear the burden of our deployments. Our wives, husbands, children, and parents all deal with the deployment. They all wonder when will I talk to my soldier next? Is my soldier ok? Moms and dads become single parents for a year at a time. The deployed soldier misses a lot of firsts like teeth, words, steps, etc. We sacrifice a lot for this great nation and we are proud to do it. Tiberius is getting ready to take his first steps, he recently got his first teeth, and his first words came a couple weeks after I left and that has all been in the last 79 days. I still have around 290 to 376 days to go.
My first deployment was in 2003-2004. We came into the country to liberate it from Saddam Hussein and make the world a safer place. We went to fight the Iraqi Army and quickly found ourselves in a counterinsurgency. We went from fighting conventional warfare to counterinsurgency, which involves a whole different skill set. We still have to fight the insurgents and terrorist, but we also have to focus on the population. We have been asked to be fighters and nation builders. We interact with Provincial Council members, governors, judges, ministry officials, Iraqi Police, and the Iraqi Army. We are now advising and assisting the Iraqis to protect their country. The population is the key to winning in Iraq. We have helped to provide security with the surge in 2006. Now, we are here to close out a war that people said was unwinnable.
People wanted for us to leave Iraq in defeat, there were chants for us to leave Iraq immediately. We held on fought the fight and now are about to close out the Iraq War with a “W”. Was it always pretty? No. Are there rough patches ahead? Most likely. The biggest questions we now face are: will the US armed forces really leave on December 31, 2011? That answer depends on the formation of the new government. There are many Iraqis who want us to stay to continue to provide security. The other question is what happens when we do leave? That question is a lot harder to answer. The Iraqi Security Forces are more competent but the Shia/Sunni issue will always exist. And of course there is also the Kurdistan issue. The Iraqi Security Forces have to be able to look past the sectarian lines in order to provide security to the entire country when we leave. There are many problems that the Iraqi government needs to come together on and work as a nation to solve. Iraq is still a young democracy and I think for us to assume their democracy is going to advance quickly is naïve. The Iraqi’s are more competent than they were a few years ago.
For now though, I am ready to end this war, and be able to put a mark in the win column. This is a different kind of win though. In the World Wars, we were able to beat our enemies into submission by bombing them and beating their armies. This time we beat the Iraqi Army pretty quickly in March 2003 -- but win here is leaving a functioning country behind. It will not be perfect by any means, but they have the tools and the ability to run their country now. What they do with it is their fate now.
"Bear in mind your past battles and fight like brave men worthy of yourselves and your country." -- Publius Scipio Africanus
Tuesday, 2 November 2010 09:08 by Admin
Within days of the Oct. 25 briefing at CCU on America's struggle with Al Qaeda and the Taliban by Bill Roggio, Army veteran turned freelance war correspondent, some of his warnings were realized in headlines about bombs on US-bound airliners from Yemen.
Addressing a full house of students, faculty, and guests at the Beckman Center, Roggio told how his personal blog evolved after 9/11 into the respected news site LongWarJournal.org -- so named because of his belief that the West faces a generational conflict with radical Islam, in which Iraq and Afghanistan are not separate wars but merely battlefronts in a single war encompassing ten or more countries from Africa through the Arab world and into Central Asia.
Roggio's briefing slides, linked here... Roggio at Centennial Institute 102510.ppt (50.50 kb) ...concluded with a note that Al Qaeda affiliates seek to hit the United States from several points, with Yemen foremost. That was on a Monday, and by the following Friday packages with PETN explosive allegedly sent by two Yemeni women, and linked to the same bomb maker who planned the attack on Detroit last Christmas, had triggered a global terror alert.
Here is full audio of the Roggio briefing. Here is a student report on the event by ROTC cadet Jacob Delargy. His exclusive photo report on a truck bombing in Mosul, Iraq, carried out by a released Guantanamo detainee (see one of the photos below) can be viewed in full here.
(CCU Faculty) Consider the following two quotes summarizing two polls, one from October of 2006 and the other from October 2010. Both polls concerned American’s level of support for the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The latest poll from CNN and Opinion Research Corporation found only 37% of all Americans favor the war, 52% say the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Vietnam.” --October 2010
“Pew's latest nationwide survey finds 58% of the public saying that the U.S. military effort in Iraq is not going well, and a 47% plurality believes the war in Iraq is hurting, not helping, the war on terrorism.” --October 2006
What is the big difference between campaign 2006 and campaign 2010? It was the use (in the case of 2010, the absence of such use) by the challenging party to manipulate negative public sentiment of the war effort for temporary political gain. Before going on, it is acknowledged that Republicans have indeed used the war for political gain and are as guilty as those Democrats who did the same. Republicans who questioned the patriotism of those Democrats who earnestly and honestly opposed the Iraq war effort are just as guilty of degrading our nation’s politics.
Having said that, our concern here is with how the Democrats used our country’s struggles in the midst of the war effort for political gain, using it as the central platform of their 2006 campaign. This specifically concerns Democrats who originally supported the war effort when it was politically expedient, then changed their positions when public opinion turned. These are the folks who clamored: “Bush Lied,” after earlier stating publicly that Saddam Hussein did indeed have WMD. These are the folks who voted “for the war, before voting against the war.” These are the folks who decided to use the issue for campaign advantage when public support for the war had dropped to its lowest point in 2006 and who are silent today, when their party is controlling the White House.
Every war effort experiences numerous “ups and downs.” Especially during the “downs,” it is essential for a nation to maintain morale in order to realize ultimate success. The stories of Washington rallying his troops when many were ready to quit; of Lincoln’s famous July 4th speech before a joint session of Congress on why it was essential to preserve the Union; and of Roosevelt’s frequent communications to the nation on why we must win the Second World War, are examples of why it is essential to unify a nation during a time of war. Without maintaining the morale of the troops, the support of the political leadership and the confidence of the citizenry, no war effort can be successful in America’s representative system of government. The example of Vietnam is of course the best example as to what happens when this support is lost.
When the war effort in Iraq turned from early successes to frequent struggles, the willingness of Democrats to use it as a wedge issue in an effort to divide the country for temporary political gain was both disturbing and telling. At the time when maintaining support was most critical, many Democrats, and certainly the party leaders (Pelosi, Reid, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, etc.) were the first to turn against the war effort. Of course, they always equivocated with: “support for the troops,” while refusing to support the Commander in Chief and the decision to use force (even though most originally did!).
Jump forward four years, when we find President Obama in the midst of his own “surge” in the Afghan war. In recent months, we have seen struggles similar to those experienced by American troops four years earlier in Iraq. American and ally casualties are at all-time monthly highs and public opinion about the war is at an all-time low.
Republicans who originally supported the war are not using the issue to divide the country, as the Democrats did in 2006. It would be easy to lay blame for our current struggles solely at the feet of the Commander in Chief. It would be hypocritical for those who voted for the use of force in Afghanistan to now turn and rally public sentiment against the war, merely for their own political gain. If only the Democrats of 2006 had shown the same character as the Republicans are showing today.
Like most news junkies who had followed the war in Iraq on a daily basis for six years I thought I was pretty well informed. However when I read Bing West’s The Strongest Tribe I was stunned at how much I had missed- not just unreported or misreported events but also how to think about those events in balanced perspective. Soon after the lightning overthrow of Saddam the mainstream media began to turn against a war they had never much liked in the first place. As the war ground on their reporting disproportionately revolved around suicide bombers in Iraq and grieving families in America. Most books that promised “deeper analysis”- even well written ones like Bob Woodward ‘s trilogy- revealed a clear liberal bias and left us yearning for some Paul Harvey to tell us “the rest of the story”. We find such a person in Bing West whose book is long on “on the ground” reporting and short on political opinion. It radiates an evenhandedness that gives a reader great confidence in its veracity. West was a career military officer who distinguished himself as an authority on counterinsurgency warfare in Viet Nam. That war produced relatively few good books, but West’s classic The Village is one of them. Later he would serve as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan. Published in 2008 the book covers the war from the beginning through the success of the “Surge” which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. West employs a strictly chronological approach and avoids those annoying back and forth digressions that confuse readers. West comes down hard on both civilian and higher military leadership who through most of the war utterly failed to define a unified and coherent American mission in Iraq. Whether it was Defense (Rumsfeld) vs. State (Powell) in Washington or their counter-parts (General Abizaid vs “Proconsul” Bremer) in Iraq their conflict and confusion over strategy profoundly undermined mission effectiveness on the ground. Underlying this confusion was an American naiveté and general cluelessness concerning cultural/historical and political realities in Iraq. The State Dept. seemed to think that giving Iraqis a few PowerPoint presentations on tolerance/diversity, constitution writing, and Roberts Rules of Order could swiftly transform their country into an up and running self-defending democracy. Having achieved their quick battlefield victory a la Afghanistan, the Pentagon wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, and while waiting to do so corralled its soldiers in large isolated bases from which the troops “commuted to work”. Having no coherent plans for “post-victory” operations both Defense and State bought into the bizarre “Light Footprint” doctrine which suggested that the very sight of American soldiers so inflamed young Iraqi males that they immediately ran to the nearest Al-Qaeda recruiting office to become instant jihadists. All this confusion went on for three years (2003-2006) during which Iraq spiraled downward into chaos and the American people soured on the war. The great strength of West’s book rests on his frequent and lengthy stays in Iraq mostly spent embedded with American troops. He persuasively demonstrates that local American commanders and local Iraqi leaders (notably the Sheiks of Anbar Province) figured out what was wrong and what was needed long before the politicans and military brass in either Washington or Baghdad. Finally a senior military leader emerged who grasped the validity of these local viewpoints. General David Petraeus saw clearly that victory was impossible without local Iraqi support, and that support was absolutely dependent on Americans providing the people with the security and stability that would allow them to inform on and fight back against the detested foreign fighters of Al-Qaeda who were terrorizing them by systematically murdering their men and raping their women. Petraeus took a strategy that had worked for a number of local American commanders and applied it country-wide. He took his troops out of their isolated bases and had them “move in” with the people and stay. Beginning in the deadly “Sunni Triangle” he also authorized local American commanders to recruit, arm, and pay local Iraqi males (“Sons of Iraq”) as fighting auxiliaries to the American forces. Thus empowered local leaders (mostly tribal sheiks) courageously faced murderous Al-Qaeda reprisals and blessed joint combat operations against a suddenly exposed and then decimated enemy whose power rapidly melted away in the face of this new turn of events. Petraeus success in selling this new strategy which was the critical element in the success of the “Surge” was absolutely dependent on his views becoming known to key National Security Council staffers who orchestrated an “end run” around the Pentagon and the State Dept- both highly resistant to any notion of increased troop levels. While West praises the gutsy decision of a politically battered President Bush to authorize the “Surge” despite the rampant and poisonous “defeatism” pervading Washington, he severely faults him for his passivity and unwillingness to challenge senior Cabinet and military leaders during the long period (over two years) when the situation in Iraq was clearly deteriorating. Citing Lincoln, FDR, and Truman as examples, West correctly insists that Presidents must be willing to aggressively intervene and even fire people when a war is obviously going badly. For too long George W. Bush failed that test. Even more severely does West condemn the rank hypocrisy of Democratic leaders like Reid, Pelosi and Murtha who endlessly chanted their “support for our troops” while doing everything in their power to undermine the mission of those troops and also giving aid and comfort to the enemy by publicly announcing that “the war was lost” when in fact it was about to be won. The real heroes of West’s book are American soldiers. Their valor uncelebrated by their country’s media, their mission undercut by politicians, and often poorly served by their own higher leadership, they fought against a savage and fanatical enemy in deadly battle spaces like Fallujah street by street, house to house, often room to room with incredible skill and bravery. West sternly reminds us that “They are not victims; they are Warriors”. Their individual stories- the best part of the book- will fill your heart with pain and pride. The title of the book comes from the remark of a Sunni Sheik when West asked him why the top Al-Qaeda leader in Fallujah had fled the city in a woman’s dress. The Sheik pointed to a passing Marine patrol and in respectful tones replied “Because they are the Strongest Tribe”. West closes his book expressing concerns about the future of the “Strongest Tribe” in a country whose martial virtues are being drained by the poisonous atmosphere of political division and cultural warfare. We all should worry about a day when- like contemporary Europe- there will be nothing worth fighting for and no more volunteering young warriors even if there was.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.