Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Keeping Score

Recent reports claimed that US forces killed the #2 leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Azzam, during a Baghdad raid. Now what I wonder is, where exactly does the Army get its ranking system? I mean it’s not like the terrorists gave us a list entitled “The who’s who of Al Qaeda in Iraq”. Who’s to say this guy isn’t #3 or #4? Or that he even ranks that high? On an Islamist website frequently used by Al Qaeda, the group denied that Azzam was the aide of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the so called #1 Al Qaeda leader in Iraq.

This is what I like to call the “We Got Him” syndrome. By announcing the killing or capturing of a so called “Top leader” of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Bush administration can make claims that progress is being made in stamping out the insurgency. The only problem with this is the Bush Boys seem to think there are a finite number of terrorists. The reality? Bush's foreign policies, from the Iraq war to his unwavering support of Israel, is helping to create more terrorists everyday.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Talabani Remarks

Ok, I was watching a news channel the other day and they were discussing recent statements made by current president of Iraq Jalal Talabani. They showed snippets of various press conferences. In the first one he predicted that within 2 years there would no longer be a need for US forces in Iraq.

They then showed a segment of a joint press conference between Talabani and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Man, Rummy really looked uneasy with how freely the Iraqi president was talking about US troop withdrawal or reduction. Rumsfeld kept looking at him like they were actors on stage and Talabani had gone off script (I wouldn't doubt that was probably the case).

It was reported that Talabani also suggested via an interview that the current level of trained Iraqi forces could mean as many as 50,000 US troops could be sent home by the end of 2005.

I guess all this off script talking didn't sit well with the Bush Boys, because Talabani made an about face after meeting with Ole G.W. He stated that no timetable would be set for US troop withdrawal; doing so would embolden the insurgents (a statement reiterated many times before by Dubya and his flock). You could almost see the puppet strings.

You may remember a similar thing happening to then Sec of State Colin Powell not too long after 9/11. Responding to a reporter who asked if evidence alleging Bin Laden and his networks’ role in the attacks would ever be made public, Powell stated that after a thorough investigation into the incident, yes it would. Of course then, at a special Rose Garden press conference, Powell reversed course and said because the evidence is deemed classified, it would not be made public. Bush was standing right next to him and I swear I saw Dubya's lips moving.

Anyway, back to Talabani’s remarks. Now is it just me or is this something we want to hear from the Iraqi’s? That they are capable of taking over for themselves and allowing US troops to come home.

Then the obvious dawned on me. This is what the American people want, troops to come home and Iraq to be self-dictating. But it is not what the Bush administration wants. Many have made the complaint that there was no viable exit strategy for post-war Iraq. The reason for this is simple: Bush and company never intended to leave Iraq. All this talk of "fostering democracy" is one big load.

Bush and his cronies have talked about milestones in Iraq’s road to democracy.

Sovereignty. Yet another attempt to give the appearance of progress in Iraq. In a private ceremony on June 28th of 2004, limited sovereignty was bestowed to the interim Iraqi government. Of course this "government" would have no authority to enact legislation nor would they control the some 160,000 coalition troops still occupying Iraq. I guess that's what they meant by limited sovereignty.

Elections. The January 30th 2005 elections were heralded as a victory with higher then expected voter turn out. Unfortunately for the Bush administration, their hand picked government lead by Iyad Allawi, was soundly defeated by the Shiite bloc. Bush had no choice but to embrace this democratically elected government. This issue has already reared its ugly head with the new Iraqi government starting to warm up to is neighbor Iran. How ironic is it that we now have to support a government that is seeking a closer relationship with a country we once deemed as an "axis" power?

Drafting a constitution. American negotiators working to help the Kurds, Shiites and Sunni’s draft a constitution were forced to make concessions in order to meet the deadline of a US crafted interim law. Unfortunately, I have a feeling these concessions will come back to haunt us.

First, the draft constitution submitted stipulates that Iraq is an Islamic state, that Islam is a source of legislation and that no law can be enacted that contradicts the principles of Islam. The constitution also calls for a loose federation, which Sunni’s fear will result in a breakup of the country (a very real possibility given the Kurds and Shiites firm stance on their right to form their own federal states).

Opponents have also charged that the provision regarding Islamic law in Iraq would subject Iraqis to rule by religious edicts of individual clerics or sects (also possible given the power some religious leaders are able to wield and the outcome of the elections). The erosion of equal rights for women is also sited by those opposed to the draft. I guess in our zeal to remove one dictator, we may have opened the door to a far more oppressive regime.

It comes right down to this. The Bush administration wants Iraq to continue to be a hotbed of violence and debate so they can maintain reasons for our troops to remain there, all in the name of combating terrorism.

Talabani should be allowed to say whatever he wishes. Iraq is a “free” country now after all.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Real Nuclear Option

Well Bush and company seem to be at it again, this time blurring the line between conventional and nuclear war.

Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002.

Although the US has never had a formal “no first use” policy with regards to nuclear weapons, it has stood behind the principle of that argument for years. Basically, we would only retaliate with nuclear weapons only if we were attacked with them first. But of course, now that Bush has set a precedent for preemptive action, “all options would be available to the President”.

Some of the possible uses for nuclear weapons as outlined by the defense department document:

1. To preempt the use of WMD’s against the US, it’s forces or allies by nonstate (terrorist, criminal) groups or hostile nations.

2. To destroy known enemy stockpiles of WMD’s.

3. To counter potentially overwhelming conventional forces.

4. To gain a rapid and favorable war termination on US terms (think Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

5. To preempt the affects of an imminent biological attack that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy.

The document also discusses the possibility of using nuclear weapons to cripple a hostile nations ability to conduct war. While the document does not expressly call for the targeting of civilian populations, it does mention that infrastructures that support military operations may be added to the list of possible targets (one would assume this implies direct support, such as making weapons or ammunition but it might be used to justify targeting other industries such as food production.) This tactic has been referred to as "counter-value" targeting.

At least some members of the military find this aspect of the document appalling. From US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) which directs nuclear war-fighting:
Many operational law attorneys do not believe "counter-value" targeting is a lawful justification for employment of force, much less nuclear force. Counter-value philosophy makes no distinction between purely civilian activities and military-related activities and could be used to justify deliberate attacks on civilians and non-military portions of a nation's economy... For example, under the counter-value target philosophy, the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 could be justified.

Isn’t it ironic that in fighting terrorism, we should give consideration to adopting the same tactics the terrorists use?

The possibility of the preemptive use of nuclear weapons, while it may have some good arguments, also has its downsides. Yes it might stop an imminent attack by other nations but a nuclear strike would probably do little to deter Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. That’s the problem when you’re fighting a nonstate entity like Al Qaeda; they are not bound geographically to any one particular place. You could bomb every city in the world and still not get them all.

Then there is the “fallout” (no pun intended) of bombing civilian population centers. Chances are if you are wanting to target terrorists (even with conventional weapons), you won't find them on some lonely battlefield waiting to be sniped at. Terrorists are trained to hide in plain sight, to blend into the fabric of society. It is how they are able to strike seemingly without warning. This is the disadvantage of fighting an unconventional foe with conventional means.

The political leadership likes to talk about “precision” strikes with regards to the ability of the US military. This language, while it gives praise to the military's capabilities, belies the underlying truth.

Bombs. Do. Not. Discriminate.

They don't care if you were the intended target or not. Yes, it is an advantage to be able to center a bomb’s damage over a particular target because then you can more-reliably take out said target but in the objectionable polito-speak, you try to sell the notion that we can drop bombs on civilian areas with “minimal collateral damage” (yet more polito-speak for “target a house, and hope you don’t take out a neighborhood"). If you were to add the effects of even a low yield nuclear warhead to the mix, just how minimal would the damage of this “precision” strike be?

Another nightmare scenario that gives credence to the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used in the future is this: Because the US has become bogged down in Iraq, we are short on manpower, thus we must begin to look to less-desirable options to deal with the real threats multiplying beyond Iraq’s borders (i.e. Iran, North Korea). And let’s face it, nuking our enemies does have advantages over invasion and occupation:

1. It’s cheap; just a few multi-million dollar warheads should do the trick. (Sure beats 5 billion a month.)

2. Doesn’t require significant manpower or long-term commitment. (The target would basically be an irradiated wasteland. Who needs to guard that?)

3. Renders underlying justification more or less immune to proof. (No need to worry about finding those pesky WMDs. “Oh yea we had solid intel that there were WMDs here. And you’d be seeing evidence of that, if they hadn't been vaporized along with the former residents of this area.”)

4. It's not technically illegal. The defense document underscores the fact that there is no international law prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. (Absence of a law prohibiting something doesn't mean it still isn't wrong. Though try telling that to the Bush administration.)

Only time will tell if President Bush will decide to exercise that itchy trigger finger of his.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)