Category: War

  • Beyond Baghdad, Beyond ‘the Surge,’ War Still Simmers

    NYT: The letter from Al Qaeda in Iraq to the members of the local police was clear. Come to the mosque and swear allegiance on the Koran to Al Qaeda, the letter warned, or you will die and your family will be slaughtered. Also, bring $1,200. It had the desired effect on American efforts to build an Iraqi security force here. Here.
  • Prewar Intelligence Unit at Pentagon Is Criticized

    NYT: The long-awaited report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003. Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,” the report concluded. Excerpts were quoted by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has long been critical of Mr. Feith and other Pentagon officials. Here.
  • Cranberg wants a serious probe of why the press failed in its pre-war reporting

    Nieman Watchdog: The shortcomings of Iraq coverage were not an aberration. Similar failure is a recurrent problem in times of national stress. The press was shamefully silent, for instance, when American citizens were removed from their homes and incarcerated solely because of their ancestry during World War II. Many in the press were cowed during McCarthyism’s heyday in the 1950s. Nor did the press dispute the case for the fact-challenged Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to a greatly enlarged Vietnam war. The press response to the build-up to the Iraq war simply is the latest manifestation of an underlying and ongoing reluctance to dissent from authority and prevailing opinion when emotions run high, especially on matters of war and peace, when the country most needs a questioning, vigorous press. Here.
  • The Importance Of “Seeing” The War

    CJR: The most shocking, and simultaneously compelling, aspect of the Baghdad dispatch in the New York Times this past Monday was its intimate close-up of one soldier’s death. It was impossible not to feel frustrated by the story of Hector Leija, an Army staff sergeant who was struck down by a sniper while on a sweep through the apartments of the once posh Haifa Street. He was killed by a single bullet that came in through a kitchen window. The drama that ensued of getting Leija to a medic and then retrieving his gear, still on the floor of the now lethal kitchen, was captured by the embedded Times reporter, Damien Cave, with all the narrative tautness of a Hemingway short story. A shaky video later posted on the Times Web site further captured the panic of the moment and the despair of men who had lost a beloved leader. Here.
  • In a New Joint U.S.-Iraqi Patrol, the Americans Go First

    NYT: When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off doors with shotguns. As the morning wore on and the troops came under fire from all directions, another apparent flaw in this strategy became clear as empty apartments became lairs for gunmen who flitted from window to window and killed at least one American soldier, with a shot to the head. 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. “Who the hell is shooting at us?” shouted Sgt. First Class Marc Biletski, whose platoon was jammed into a small room off an alley that was being swept by a sniper’s bullets. “Who’s shooting at us? Do we know who they are?” Here.
  • Darfur, War Without End

    VII Photo, Photos by Gary Knight: Since 2003 a war has been raging in Darfur under the watchful eye of the world’s political elite. Well-meaning politicians and celebrities have beaten a path to the refugee camps, been photographed with raped women and orphaned children, wrung their hands and called for something – anything – to be done. Little of any consequence has been. Here.
  • The Making, and Unmaking, of a Child Soldier

    By ISHMAEL BEAH, NYT Magazine: After that first week of going out on raids to kill people we deemed our rebel enemies or sympathizers of the rebels, our initiation was complete. We stayed put at the base, and we boys took turns guarding posts around the village. We smoked marijuana and sniffed “brown brown,” cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which was always spread out on a table near the ammunition hut, and of course I took more of the white capsules, as I had become addicted to them. The first time I took all these drugs at the same time, I began to perspire so much that I took off all my clothes. My body shook, my sight became blurred and I lost my hearing for several minutes. I walked around the village restlessly. But after several doses of these drugs, all I felt was numbness to everything and so much energy that I couldn’t sleep for weeks. We watched war movies at night, Rambo “First Blood,” “Rambo, First Blood, Part II,” “Commando” and so on, with the aid of a generator or a car battery. We all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn’t wait to implement his techniques. Here.
  • 1,373 miles into the heart of Afghanistan

    LA Times: GUL slowed for a speed bump, and instead of accelerating when a militiaman jumped up with an AK-47, he stopped. Gul opened the driver’s window, apparently weighing the comparative risks of getting shot and getting kidnapped. The gunman stuck his head in, saw me in the back seat and smiled like a dog sniffing fresh meat. “Get us out of here!” I shouted at Gul, and he hesitated. “Get moving!” Gul hit the gas. The barrel of the gunman’s rifle clunked off the rear side of the car. Not daring to look back, I tensed for the shot that didn’t come. Here.
  • Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia Gird for a War

    NYT: The stadium was packed, the guns were cocked and even the drenching rain could not douse the jihadist fire. Thousands of Somalis, from fully veiled, machine-gun-toting women to little boys in baggy fatigues, gathered Friday to rally against what they called foreign aggression. As a squall blew in, they punched wet fists into the air and yelled, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” “I am ready to die,” said Osama Abdi Rahim, dressed head to toe in camouflage and marching around with a loaded rifle. He is 7 years old. Here.
  • Iraq’s Biggest Failing: There Is No Iraq

    NYT: “I am facing the most difficult times of my life here in Baghdad. Since I am a Sunni, I became a target to be killed. You know that our army and police are Shia, so every checkpoint represents a serious threat to Sunnis. During the last three weeks, two of my friends were killed at check points belonging to the police. They first asked to show IDs and when they saw the Sunni family name, they killed them.” There, in plain enough English, you have it. The Iraqi Army and police whose proposed reinforcement lies at the center of the Iraq Study Group’s plan for American extraction are often less neutral institutions supporting the nation than a flimsy camouflage for Shia to settle accounts with Sunnis, while the Kurds bide their time and hope the child of chaos will be an independent Kurdistan. The Iraqi Army and police are indeed overwhelmingly — but not exclusively — Shia. Most recruitment took place at a time when Sunnis had opted out of the new Iraq. Much has been made of the American error in disbanding Saddam Hussein’s army. More might have been made of the errors committed in creating the new force. Here.
  • Rumsfeld Memo Proposed ‘Major Adjustment’ in Iraq

    NYT: “In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations. “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ” “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics. Here.
  • Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker

    Washington Post: But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country’s Sunnis — once dominant under Saddam Hussein — now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq’s Shiite majority, or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while “official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad.” As a result, “the potential for economic revival appears to be nonexistent” in Anbar, the report says. The Iraqi government, dominated by Iranian-backed Shiites, has not paid salaries for Anbar officials and Iraqi forces stationed there. Anbar’s resources and its ability to impose order are depicted as limited at best. Here.
  • The Wars of Perception

    NYT: What does this mean for Iraq? At the least, Tet and Somalia suggest we should be very careful before concluding that Iraq is a defeat. There is real evidence of failure, especially the escalating sectarian violence. But our perceptions are nevertheless easily manipulated. Iraq looks like a defeat in part because the Bush administration fell into the same trap as President Johnson: raising expectations of imminent victory by declaring “mission accomplished” before the real work had even begun. And as with Somalia, fighting shadowy insurgents in Iraq while propping up a weak government engenders negative memories of Vietnam. Perceptions of success and failure can change the course of history. Reeling from the supposed disaster at Tet, the United States began to withdraw. Memories of “failure” in Somalia were a major reason — perhaps the major reason — that the United States did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. If Iraq is perceived as a failure, it is only a matter of time before America pulls out, leaving who-knows-what behind. With the stakes so high, Americans must be certain that their perception of failure in Iraq is not a mirage. Here.
  • Perfect Killing Method, but Clear Targets Are Few

    NYT: In theory, Western snipers are a nearly perfect method of killing Iraq’s insurgents and thwarting their attacks, all with little risk of damaging property or endangering passers-by. But in practice, the snipers say, they are seeing fewer clear targets than previously, and are shooting fewer insurgents than expected. In 2003, one Marine sniper killed 32 combatants in 12 days, the snipers say, and many others had double-digit kill totals during tours in Iraq. By this summer, sniper platoons with several teams had typically been killing about a dozen insurgents in seven-month tours, with totals per platoon ranging from 3 to as high as 26. The gap between the expectations and the results has many causes, but is in part a reflection of the insurgency’s duration. With the war in its fourth year, many of the best sniping positions are already well known to the insurgents, and veteran insurgents have become more savvy and harder to kill. Here.

    New Yorker: When Adelman went to see Rumsfeld in his office, he knew that Rumsfeld wanted him out. “He said, ‘Ken, you’ve been my friend for most of my adult life,’ and he said that I was going to be his friend for the rest of his life,” Adelman recalled. “Then he said, ‘It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board.’ I said, ‘It won’t be best for me. If you want me off, it’s not a problem, but if it’s up to me I’ll stay on.’ He wanted me to resign. He didn’t want to do it himself. And so we did that little dance.” Adelman went on, “Rumsfeld said, ‘You’ve become disruptive and negative.’ Well, I got a little flustered and said, ‘That’s bullshit about being disruptive. Negative, you’ve got right.’ He responded by saying, ‘Well, you interrupt people in the meetings.’ And I said, ‘You know where I learned that from? I learned that from the master.’ ” Rumsfeld laughed, Adelman said. “I had the floor then, and I started by saying what a positive influence he had been in my life, that I love him like a brother. He nodded, kind of sadly. And then I said, ‘I’m negative about two things: the deflection of responsibility, and the quality of decisions.’ He said he took responsibility all the time. Then I talked about two decisions: the way he handled the looting, and Abu Ghraib. He told me that he didn’t remember saying, ‘Stuff happens.’ He was really in denial that this was his fault.” Adelman said that it struck him then that “maybe he really thinks that things are going well in Iraq.” Here.
  • Rumsfeld: 'My Half-Assed Job Here Is Done'

    The Onion: WASHINGTON, DC—After nearly six years of much-publicized service as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon, saying that he had “proudly accomplished everything [he’d] set out to bungle.” “Years ago, I decided to bog this great nation down in an extended, grueling foreign occupation, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I’ve done,” said Rumsfeld in a farewell address at the White House, during which he urged Americans to continue waging the ill-conceived, mismanaged, and evidently unwelcome fight for democracy in the Middle East. “Each of my actions—from undersupplying troops with body armor to focusing on capturing Saddam Hussein while Osama bin Laden remained free—has led America inexorably toward our current state of extreme crisis. Well, anyway, goodbye!” President Bush expressed confidence that Robert Gates, his new nominee for Secretary of Defense, will be able to “f*ck everything up the rest of the way.” Here.
  • Medic Tends a Fallen Marine, With Skill, Prayer and Fury

    NYT: Once the helicopter lifted away, he ran back to his vehicle, ready to treat anyone else. He was thinking about the marine he had already treated. “If I had gone with him,” he said, and glanced to where the helicopter had flown away, over the line of date palms at the end of a field. His voice softened. “But I’m not with him,” he said. He turned, faced a reporter and spoke loudly again. “In situations and times like this, I am bound to start yelling and shouting furiously,” he said. “Don’t think I am losing my mind.” He held his bloody hands before his face, to examine them. They were shaking. He made fists so tight his veins bulged. His forearms started to bounce. “His name was Lance Cpl. Colin Smith,” he said. “He said a prayer today right before we came out, too.” Here.
  • Military Charts Movement of Conflict in Iraq Toward Chaos

    NYT: The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad. In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory. The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace,” an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos.” As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart. Here.
  • Anti-U.S. Attack Videos Spread on the Internet


    Among the scenes being viewed daily by thousands of users of the sites are sniper attacks in which Americans are felled by snipers as a camera records the action and of armored Humvees or other military vehicles being hit by roadside bombs.

    In some videos, the troops do not appear to have been seriously injured; in one, titled “Sniper Hit” and posted on YouTube by a user named 69souljah, a serviceman is knocked down by a shot but then gets up to seek cover. Other videos, however, show soldiers bleeding on the ground, vehicles exploding and troops being loaded onto medical evacuation helicopters.

    At a time when the Bush administration has restricted photographs of the coffins of military personnel returning to the United States and the Pentagon keeps close tabs on videotapes of combat operations taken by the news media, the videos give average Americans a level of access to combat scenes rarely available before, if ever.

    Their availability has also produced some backlash. In recent weeks, YouTube has removed dozens of the videos from its archives and suspended the accounts of some users who have posted them, a reaction, it said, to complaints from other users.

  • His Corps Value Was Bravery

    LA Times: As they rushed the house, Navy corpsman Alonso Rogero was hit in the stomach and Lance Cpl. Ryan Sunnerville in the leg. Grainy, shaky film of the incident shows Sunnerville hopping on one leg, still firing his M-16. Marines and insurgents exchanged gunfire from no more than 20 feet. From inside the building, the insurgents also threw grenades. The insurgents had hoped to spring what is called a Chechen ambush, named after the rebels who have fought Russian troops for years. The tactic is particularly successful when tanks cannot be used. The strategy, Marines determined later, had been to wound Marines attempting to enter the building. When other Marines came to help them, an insurgent sniper down an alleyway would pick off corpsmen, radio operators and officers. And when enough Marines or vehicles were gathered, insurgents would fire rocket-propelled grenades. Adlesperger fired at the insurgent machine-gun position as he ran toward Rogero and Sunnerville. He helped the two up the outside stairway to the roof. As insurgents tried to storm the stairway, Adlesperger killed them before they could reach the roof. Shrapnel ripped into his face. Here.