Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 2007)
NORTH COAST TIMES EAGLE, JABRUARY & MARPRIL 2007
the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes.
They report that it does. They also report that this plan can
The most important reason for the U.S. failure to secure
Baghdad is that a majority of Baghdad residents see the United
States as a foreign occupation army and the Iraqi government
as a puppet regime of the occupying power. The presence of
additional foreign troops patrolling Baghdad neighborhoods
is likely to intensify the resistance than mollify it. An additional
18,000 troops in a city of five million will do little to secure
neighborhoods where the majority of the population sees such
forces as an illegitimate foreign occupation force. And lessening
“restrictions" on the operations of U.S. forces is not likely to
somehow endear them to the population whom already views
attacks on the U.S. forces as legitimate
“This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our
commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will
change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign
to put down sectarian violence — and bring security to the
people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American
force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional
American troops to Iraq..."
This minor tactical shift cannot be reasonably called
a “change of strategy.” And President Bush will not be able
to commit additional troops to Baghdad if Congress refuses
to provide the money for the additional deployment.
“Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will
succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did
not. Here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraq and
American forces cleared many neighborhoods o f terrorists
and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other
targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force
levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In
earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented
Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that
are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time,
Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these
neighborhoods — and Prime Minister (Nouri al-)Maliki has
pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be
Even if Maliki agrees in principle, there are serious
questions whether U.S. forces will be provided this kind of
cooperation. For example, high-ranking American officers have
reported that radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Al-Mahdi Army
maintains a strong presence in the regular police force, including
up to 90% of the 350,000 officers currently working in the north
eastern part of Baghdad. In addition, the Iranian-trained Badr
Brigade dominates police commando units. Local police —
primarily outside of Baghdad, but within the sprawling city as
well — maintain a high degree of autonomy from the central
“This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to
suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies
in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens
are filled with images of death and suffering..."
This line appears to be an assertion that the violence
is primarily designed to affect U.S. support for the War, thereby
implying that Americans who recognize that things are getting
worse instead of better are dupes of enemy propaganda. In
218 WEST MARINE DRIVE
ASTORIA, OREGON 97103
reality, the primary targets of these attacks are their victims,
not American public opinion.
“Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing
down murderers, fewer brazen acts o f terror, and growing trust
and cooperation from Baghdad’s residents. When this happens,
daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders,
and the government will have the breathing space it needs to
make progress in other critical areas Most of Iraq's Sunni and
Shiia want to live together in peace — and reducing the violence
in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible..."
BY JAMES CARROLL
“Who the hell is shooting at us?" a U.S. soldier yelled.
His platoon was in a strife-torn part of Baghdad, teamed with
an Iraqi Army unit. Gunfire was coming from all directions.
“Who's shooting at us? Do we know who they are?"
My intention was to give readers a break from the war.
How many ways are there to say no? But then I read the vivid
New York Times account of that soldier's dilemma, and it took
over the field of my concentration: “Whether the gunfire was
coming from Sunni or Shiite insurgents or militia fighters or some
of the Iraqi soldiers who had disappeared into the Gotham-like
cityscape, no one could say.” The confused battle was a fore
taste of what President Bush’s new war strategy entails, with
American forces caught between enflamed antagonists, with
uncertain allies. In Washington, equivocating politicians look
for the lest horrible way forward, but in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have
been ordered into what increasingly shows itself as a deathtrap
Two things fuel the nation's escalating anguish about
this war. The first is the steady closing of the vise on American
forces in Iraq. Despite the martial values of the U.S. fighters —
their devotion to duty, their organizational competence, their raw
courage — the actual combat situation worsens by the day. Their
casualties mount, but the more dramatic measure of the chaos
are the runaway numbers of Iraqi victims. The tribal savagery
is feeding on itself now, an endless loop of violence to which
the United States is increasingly irrelevant. Indeed, in one of
the oddest reversals of the war, the American military presents
occasions not of damage control, but of collateral damage.
The bullets whizzing around the soldier in the Times story,
originally meant for someone else, were aimed at him only
because he was there.
At the same time, just by being in the streets to shoot
at, our well-armed soldiers empower the gunmen on all sides.
Perhaps the most destructive unintended consequence of
American’s lethal presence has been the way the lethal power
of all belligerents has scaled up to match it. Our young people
are surrounded now by killers united only in the will to kill them
Operation Deathtrap, exactly.
But anguish about the war is equally fueled by what is
happening in Washington. After the State of the Union address,
antiwar Republicans and Democrats began vying with each other
over ways to challenge the Bush policy, even as Vice President
Dick Cheney bluntly declared of congressional action, “It won t
stop us." And sure enough, the Democrats and Republicans
quickly tempered their opposition. The tough Capitol Hill talk
of capping troop levels and setting timetables gave way to mere
rhetoric, the function of which is to rescue the consciences of
the war skeptics instead of rescuing the lives of the war fighters.
While soldiers show astounding courage in conducting their
missions impossible, politicians have stepped back from political
risk to define their own options in ways that will justify policies of
no real change. The war-disapproving resolution before the
Senate will have no effect on operations in Iraq.
Cheney, in characteristic fashion, was the one to throw
down the only gauntlet that matters. “The Congress has control
over the purse strings," he said. “They have the right, obviously,
if they want, to cut off funding But in terms of this effort, the
President has made his decision.” Cheney is daring Congress
to use the appropriations process as a way of challenging Bush's
decision, knowing full well that Congress lacks the will to do so.
Yet, as the administration looks for additional funds to launch its
“surge," stopping the money is the obvious and simple way to go.
Bush and Cheney will double their losing bet by pushing more
young Americans into the pot, while the Congress restricts itself
Critics charge that even incremental cuts in war funding
— setting real caps and real timetables — would amount to
abandonment of the troops The answer to that charge comes
from the troops themselves: “Who the hell is shooting at us?"
To leave our soldiers in the deathtrap of Iraq is the true abandon
ment They are being shot by Sunnis, Shiites, their Iraqi Army
allies — and now, in a grievous failure of public morality, by
feckless politicians in Washington
James Carroll is a columnist for The Boston Globe, from
which this has been reprinted
Unfortunately, Iraq government forces are responsible
for murder and terrorism themselves and have therefore lost
the trust and cooperation of many of Baghdad's residents and
alienated themselves from the population. U.S. forces — as
is inevitable in urban counter-insurgency warfare situations
— have also been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths
and have often turned a blind eye to government-sponsored
death squad activity. Indeed, it is the failure of U.S. forces and
the forces of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad to
provide the Iraqi people with basic security that has led many
ordinary citizens, who would otherwise not identify with sectarian
politics, to turn to sectarian extremist groups for protection.
“A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military
operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military
operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their
neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the
Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced..."
How the Iraqi government will be held to benchmarks is
unclear. And how additional troops will make a difference in this
regard is similarly dubious.
“To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans
to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by
November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's
economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among
all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life,
the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion o f its own money on
reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new
These are all reasonable objectives but there are serious
questions as to whether the Iraqi government can follow through.
Conversely, it inevitably raises questions about a government’s
independence when the President of the United States can
confidently announce that its Parliament will pass certain legis
lation and spend a specific amount of money. Furthermore, the
Iraqi government’s budget is just over $20 billion. It clearly does
not have the capacity to increase reconstruction efforts in the
magnitude the President suggests.
“To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial
elections later this year..."
While some democratically elected local and provincial
governments have been relatively responsible, others have
become the personal fiefdoms of radical clerics and warlords
who have done much to disempower the population.
“And to allow more Iraqis to reenter their nation’s pblitical
life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws — and
establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq’s
It was the U.S. government that initially imposed the
overly broad de-Baathification laws, decimating the experienced
government bureaucracy that had long been a bastion of
secularism in the country. Assuming the United States has
the power to change Iraqi laws, reversing some of these laws
at this point may be too little too late, however. The Iraq govern
ment has packed government ministries with patronage posts
based on sectarian, tribal, or political party affiliation. The mini
stries are rife with corruption and are unlikely to re-open them
selves to qualified and experienced government workers from
the previous regime. In addition, hundreds of thousands of
former government workers and other educated Iraqis have
CONTINUED ON PAGE 8
Im p o rte d / B eer o n Top
cnv 2 ncL S tr e e t
A y to r u e * 325 -003 3