Archive for May, 2008

Juan Cole and Dr. iRack in their blogs tackle the intricacies of the two Iraqi-U.S. agreements now under negotiation in Baghdad, the SOFA and the SFA. Cole quotes al-Hayat:

[...] Those familiar with the current draft of the agreement say that it speaks of the establishment of 400 US military sites and bases through the country, of legal immunity for American troops and citizens, and an abrogation of any undertakings previously made, to share in the reconstruction of the country.

Here’s my question: if the Iraqi government — under pressure from, say, millions of demonstrators in all major cities — ends up rejecting the agreements, what then? Is it possible that in the end it’s not the next U.S. president who decides whether to draw down American forces, but — gasp — the Iraqis?

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Thanks to modern military medicine, more soldiers’ lives have been saved in Iraq than in any other conflict. The downside is that the number of KIA no longer reflects the brutality of war — or its social costs. In other words, it’s the number of wounded we should be focusing on.

Here’s a graph from a new Congressional Research Service report:

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Thanks, Abu

I don’t know anything about cricket, but in the right hands it makes for a really good metaphor:

How will Iraq end? Probably not with a clear-cut victor. It will probably end a draw. The U.S.-led coalition of the willing posted a huge first-innings score of 568 and followed it up by arrogantly fielding exclusively fast-bowlers and allowing the enemy to post a 367 in their first innings. (We must have thought we were the Windies c. 1982.) We then collapsed for a 97 in the second innings and are now desperately trying to hang on for the win in the enemy’s second innings. He might win. So might we. But at least we’ve got some spin bowlers on the field now.

Thanks for everything, Abu Muqawama.

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After the widely advertised government “crackdown” in Mosul, things are returning to normal. The lesson, in caps: YOU DO NOT ELIMINATE AN INSURGENCY BY MASS DETENTIONS.

(Note to the Baghdad press corps: Please pull your head out of your butt and go report. No more blindly parroting the Maliki “al-Qaeda is on the run” meme, okay?)

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The debate over al-Qaeda’s troubles continues over at Jihadica, where Will McCants and Michael Scheuer engage in polite discussion on exactly how serious this thing is.


There is something to the recent meme that Scheuer is missing: these attacks from former prominent supporters or fellow travelers are severely damaging the publics’ opinion of AQ, especially among educated Salafis. The books or letters written by Awda or Sayyid Imam are carefully formulated criticisms of AQ from within the classical Islamic tradition, not silly there-is-no-violence-in-jihad arguments.


I think the point I tired to make is that the recanters are just defeatists. Their recanting may be sincere, but it protects the status quo and offers no hope to those dissatisfied with U.S. policy and its impact, or those who are weary of Arab tyrants.


“Al Qaeda near defeat, on defensive – CIA chief” — Reuters

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Responding to allegations by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that the Bush administration screwed up by invading Iraq, Condoleezza Rice said:

The one thing that I am certain was not a mistake was to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein.

This is what’s called the WYPMC (“Would You Prefer the Mushroom Cloud”) argument, which the Bush White House has developed from the age-old WYRYWWR (“Would You Rather Your Wife Was Raped”) argument so successfully used by gun nuts everywhere.

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Al-Qaeda: No nukes

So, is al-Qaeda about to go nuclear or what? Probably not, but the media debate has been entertaining. Jihadica, as always, provides good commentary on the chatter on jihadist web sites.

There is also chatter, this time in the Western media, about the supposedly impending unraveling of al-Qaeda. I wonder what exactly there is to unravel, but see for yourself:

“The Unraveling” — The New Republic

“The Rebellion Within” — The New Yorker

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Between February and March 2008, almost 30,000 more Iraqis became “Internally Displaced Persons”, or refugees inside their own country. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, there are now 2,2 million IDPs in Iraq, an increase of 1,3 percent in less than two months. The reason was violence, this time in the south and in the Kurdish areas, where Turkey’s offensive against the PKK drove people from their homes.

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McClatchy has an interesting story about Marines in Falluja handing out coins with gospel verse on them — and about the upset this has caused.

Now residents of the city are abuzz that some Americans whom they consider occupiers are also acting as Christian missionaries. Residents said some Marines at the western entrance to their city have been passing out the coins for two days in what they call a ‘humiliating’ attempt to convert them to Christianity.

In the markets, people crowded around men with the coins, passing them to each other and asking in surprise, ‘Have you seen this?’

In itself, this doesn’t add up to much. But it does show you how totally incompatible these two cultures are. That’s a story I’d like to read more about.

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The fall issue of the Australian Army Journal carries two heartfelt and provocative articles by distinguished Army officers decrying the diminished role of the Australian infantry in war fighting. Their point is that offensive Australian operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan are now mostly carried out by Special Forces, with the infantry relegated to force protection and support. Which obviously pisses them off.

Both articles are worth reading to understand a typical inter-service debate, but they hardly qualify for banner headlines like “Australian soldiers ‘ashamed’ at lack of action in Iraq and Afghanistan” (The Times) or “Australian troops ‘scorned’ for low-risk missions: officer” (AFP), trawled from single sentences and shamelessly ripped out of context.

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