Posts tagged iraq
Wikileaks’ presentation of the material is heavy handed at times (to set the tone, they start off with a George Orwell quote). But is it actually wrong to call the killings indiscriminate? At this point, that’s still a good question. Mediaite rightly points out that there is clearly some sort of military protocol that’s being followed, what with the shooter identifying weapons and asking for permission to fire. That could make this incident quite different from the other civilian death cover-up recently uncovered in Afghanistan, in which U.S. forces initially blamed the deaths of five civilians on honor killings. But Mediaite doesn’t address whether that protocol was followed correctly, or whether the protocol itself adheres to the letter of the law. For that, Wikileaks’ expanded reporting may have some answers; they’ve also published the military’s classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, covering the before, during, and after periods around the killings. More than the emotional reaction to the callousness seen in the video—which is unquestionably jarring—an in-depth reading of the laws should reveal how much of an impact the Wikileaks report will (or should) have.
One of the greatest disservices of “The Hurt Locker” is the impression that soldiers in Iraq were masters of their destinies. If they snipped the right wire, made the right shot, cleared the right room, they would stay alive. In fact, the opposite was true. Certainly there were firefights, but the vast majority of U.S. deaths were from I.E.D.’s.

This is what was so absolutely terrifying about the war. A faceless enemy was catastrophically destroying U.S. vehicles every day with I.E.D.’s (and I can assure you the enemy did not stand in the open, as per several scenes in the movie). Regardless of your training, if you were in that vehicle when the button got pressed, you were dead.

It has to be said and it should be understood—now, almost seven hellish years later—that something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraq. And while it may not be a beacon of inspiration to the region, it most certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East.

The elections to be held in Iraq on March 7 feature 6,100 parliamentary candidates from all of the country’s major sects and many different parties. They have wildly conflicting interests and ambitions. Yet in the past couple of years, these politicians have come to see themselves as part of the same club, where hardball political debate has supplanted civil war and legislation is hammered out, however slowly and painfully, through compromises—not dictatorial decrees or, for that matter, the executive fiats of U.S. occupiers. Although protected, encouraged, and sometimes tutored by Washington, Iraq’s political class is now shaping its own system—what Gen. David Petraeus calls “Iraqracy.” With luck, the politics will bolster the institutions through which true democracy thrives.

Dehghanpisheh, Barry and Dickey on the emerging democratic Iraq
"I think it is just best to say I’m a realist. The reality is that Afghanistan is hard; it is hard all the time, and what we are endeavoring to do is going to be very, very challenging. As Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal said, ‘The situation is serious, but the mission is doable.’ I do agree with that, but I do that in a way that is coldly realistic, that assesses the challenges and how difficult the tasks are."
-Gen. David Petraeus, in an interview with NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zakaria
Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek

"I think it is just best to say I’m a realist. The reality is that Afghanistan is hard; it is hard all the time, and what we are endeavoring to do is going to be very, very challenging. As Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal said, ‘The situation is serious, but the mission is doable.’ I do agree with that, but I do that in a way that is coldly realistic, that assesses the challenges and how difficult the tasks are."

-Gen. David Petraeus, in an interview with NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zakaria

Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek

Remember Iraq? For months our attention has been focused on Afghanistan, and you can be sure that the surge will be covered exhaustively as it unfolds in 2010. But the coming year could be even more pivotal in Iraq. The country will hold elections in March to determine its political future. Months of parliamentary horse trading will likely ensue, which could provoke a return to violence. The United States still has 120,000 troops stationed in Iraq, and all combat forces are scheduled to leave by August, further testing the country’s ability to handle its own security. How we draw down in Iraq is just as critical as how we ramp up in Afghanistan: If handled badly, this withdrawal could be a disaster. Handled well, it could leave behind a significant success.
"In Iraq, America has committed itself to a hard exit. The U.S. and Iraqi governments have signed a pact under which all U.S. soldiers (still numbering some 120,000) are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. In his West Point speech, President Obama committed to a "soft" exit from Afghanistan, pledging to begin reducing U.S. forces there by the summer of 2011. Left unsaid is how quickly the number of U.S. troops will come down, how many will remain, and for how long. Most important, there is no mention of what will happen if "conditions on the ground" remain poor or worsen—i.e., if it turns out that the Afghan Army and police aren’t ready to take over."—Haas, pessimistic about the chances the U.S. will actually draw down in Afghanistan.

"In Iraq, America has committed itself to a hard exit. The U.S. and Iraqi governments have signed a pact under which all U.S. soldiers (still numbering some 120,000) are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. In his West Point speech, President Obama committed to a "soft" exit from Afghanistan, pledging to begin reducing U.S. forces there by the summer of 2011. Left unsaid is how quickly the number of U.S. troops will come down, how many will remain, and for how long. Most important, there is no mention of what will happen if "conditions on the ground" remain poor or worsen—i.e., if it turns out that the Afghan Army and police aren’t ready to take over."—Haas, pessimistic about the chances the U.S. will actually draw down in Afghanistan.

"Here lies the tension in Barack Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares down the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined even than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in the midst of a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge—send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down—is his answer to this dilemma. This is an understandable compromise, and it could well work, but it pushes off a final decision about Afghanistan until the troop surge can improve the situation on the ground. Eighteen months from now, Obama will have to answer the core question: is a stable and well-functioning Afghanistan worth a large and continuing American ground presence, or can American interests be secured at much lower cost?"—Fareed on Obama’s way forward.

"Here lies the tension in Barack Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares down the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined even than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in the midst of a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge—send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down—is his answer to this dilemma. This is an understandable compromise, and it could well work, but it pushes off a final decision about Afghanistan until the troop surge can improve the situation on the ground. Eighteen months from now, Obama will have to answer the core question: is a stable and well-functioning Afghanistan worth a large and continuing American ground presence, or can American interests be secured at much lower cost?"—Fareed on Obama’s way forward.

Blackwater Approved $1 Million in Iraqi Payments After '07 Shootingshttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/world/middleeast/11blackwater.html

soupsoup:

Top executives at Blackwater authorized secret payments of about $1M to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism. The money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company’s president, had approved the bribes.

Wow.