War on Terror Update
May 21, 2007 12:02 PM   Subscribe

The US pays Pakistan $1 billion a year to fight al Qaeda, but Pakistan doesn't do much fighting. Iraq is a "a big moneymaker" for al Qaeda, and al Qaeda's leadership may be stronger than ever.
[more War on Terror inside]
posted by kirkaracha (76 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Bush administration is taking another look at the Iraq Study Group report it rejected last December (at least 419 Americans have been killed in Iraq since then, including 15 over the weekend). The US tab for the war in Iraq is $423 billion and rising, and reconstruction projects are "falling apart." There have been 13,000 contractor casualties in Iraq (at least 917 contractors have been killed and over have been 12,000 wounded). The Pentagon is considering keeping 30,000 to 40,000 troops in Iraq for decades.

Many of Iraq's leaders are out of the country, a feuding Iraqi parliament is going on vacation, and the Bush administration might install new leadership in fully-sovereign Iraq, as Moqtada al-Sadr is moving to the center. The Iraq war has created the largest refugee problem in the Middle East since 1948; 50,000 people leave Iraq per month and an estimated two million Iraqis have fled the country since the invasion.

Who could have predicted things would go wrong? Two National Intelligence Council assessments in January 2003 predicted that overthrowing Saddam Hussein occupying Iraq would lead to internal violence and boost terrorism throughout the Middle East.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2007

With the Bush administration it's all about faith over empiricism. They never even listened to the generals (like Shinseki) who had experience with stability operations and so on.

To me it's all summed up by the fact that the administration sent AEI and Heritage free market handwavers over to "fix" things. I guess the free market isn't working out so well when there are impediments to the free flow of information and goods. Impediments like IEDs and masked gunmen with Kalashnikovs.
posted by wuwei at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2007

Oh, the free market is working. The market has a high demand for us to leave.
posted by notsnot at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

With the Bush administration it's all about forever war, I think.
posted by taosbat at 12:28 PM on May 21, 2007

Could an editor prepend a note to readers asking them to prepare their surprised faces?
posted by DU at 12:31 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

ONE of the many things that will keep the US from achieving any means of success in Iraq is there is no single war going on, we are looking at at least 3 to 4 different conflicts, so a political solution (and there can be no other kind) MAY help solve one issue but would do little for the others. I can easily foresee other conflicts arising (such as official Kurd separation) once the current crop are settled.

IMO Bush is being used by Talabani et al, as they will last all of a week without US aid. Additionally, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush does personally acknowledge that the war is lost, but wants to shift the pull out date until after he is out of office, thus it won't be HIS FAULT the war was lost.
posted by edgeways at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was just thinking about this this morning -- we don't even know whether Osama bin Laden's still around, but then, I can't tell whether Jimmy Carter really has a problem with the Bush Administration or not.
posted by pax digita at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2007

Speaking of Talebani-- I sure hope he has a briefcase with a Grenadian passport, a bag of Krugerrands and a pistol. And a chopper on hot standby in the Greenzone.
posted by wuwei at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2007

Talibani will be fine. He's the founder and head of the PUK, and will easily find safe harbor in Kurdistan as the rest of the country descends into anarchy.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2007

So, we're expected to believe that a pro-Iraq war candidate can be elected president in 2008?
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:12 PM on May 21, 2007

Awesome. The Bush administration and Al Qaeda. They've given each other more than they ever imagined in their wettest dreams.

For Al Qaeda, they get an unstable middle east and with the widespread hatred for the Bush administration, they're getting popular support like they never imagined. Nobody likes a terrorist organization, but everyone loves a freedom fighter. Iraq is giving them 'freedom fighter' status. The Bush administration is helping them get closer than ever to their goal of a new middle east Caliphate, and they now have a foothold in Iraq which, under Saddam, never existed.

Meanwhile Bush gets an open-ended war against a non-existant army, and a blank paycheck. He gets a rubber-stamp congress. He gets the most popular news channel as his mouthpiece. He can make his friends wealthy and humiliate his political enemies.

It leaves one to wonder if this is a symbiotic relationship where if one goes away, the other will as well. I suspect it is, and we'll find out for sure in '08 when the republicans finally reap the rewards of steadfastly supporting the most hated president since Nixon.
posted by mullingitover at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2007

...hundred times more powerful than the bomb the Americans exploded in Hiroshima
posted by taosbat at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2007

Waitaminute, is kirkaracha is really Jack Cafferty? I knew it!
posted by homunculus at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2007

So, we're expected to believe that a pro-Iraq war candidate can be elected president in 2008?

Do you think you're going to get a choice? Doesn't seem likely at present.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on May 21, 2007

Huh. I am surprised this came out as clearly as it did in the press. My guess was not a lot of people knew what a pain in the ass Pakistan was and how stormy the future there looks. But a lotta senior “blah blah” officials are interested in talking apparently.

Plus lot of information here. Excellent post kirkaracha.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:22 PM on May 21, 2007

Recent publication from UK thinktank Chatham House: Iraq: fragmentation and civil wars.
posted by Abiezer at 1:27 PM on May 21, 2007

al Qaeda's leadership may be stronger than ever.

This is the SPECTRE-style outfit that the news tells me exists, headquarted in a hollowed-out mountain in the desert, right? And they're the ones that immediately and postumously promote every dude that the US captures/kills to Number Two in the organization behind evil genius Osama Bin Laden?
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:36 PM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]

What Bush wants.
posted by NationalKato at 1:48 PM on May 21, 2007

If Seymour Hersh is right, it's even worse than the LATimes article indicates.
posted by homunculus at 1:48 PM on May 21, 2007

NationalKato writes "What Bush wants."

Are you kidding me? That little shit wants to be living a quiet life in Texas clearing brush all day. This has not gone well for him.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:53 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

mr_roboto, if only that were true. The directives mentioned in the article I linked were released on May 9th, 2007. Doesn't seem like he's preparing for Texas yard work.
posted by NationalKato at 1:57 PM on May 21, 2007

Speaking of refugees:

Amir Taheri wrote an article in Commentary last June claiming that the situation in Iraq was fine, because there wasn't a stream of refugees.

posted by wuwei at 1:57 PM on May 21, 2007

If Seymour Hersh is right, it's even worse than the LATimes article indicates.

Of course he's right.

I hate to say that. I don't like the guy. But that doesn't change facts. As annoying as Hersh is... he has been pretty much 100% on for last six years. On the nose right.

What Cheney and the others have learned is to spread the guilt around and do the deed out in the open so everybody is complicit. And nobody does anything to stop you. So guys like Hersh get ignored.
posted by tkchrist at 1:59 PM on May 21, 2007

Lately, I wonder more and more seriously if this is what Iraq is about. I'm not talking about just among the fringiest wackjobs, either... maybe this is what Bush is really after.
posted by gurple at 2:01 PM on May 21, 2007

Two National Intelligence Council assessments in January 2003 predicted that overthrowing Saddam Hussein occupying Iraq would lead to internal violence and boost terrorism throughout the Middle East.

That's nothing. They could have asked me, months earlier, if the invasion was a good idea or not. But did they? Hell no. And now look what's happened.
posted by jokeefe at 2:06 PM on May 21, 2007

“It leaves one to wonder if this is a symbiotic relationship where if one goes away, the other will as well. I suspect it is,”
- mullingitover

Well, The Base exists one way or the other. Clinton did try to kill OBL. And there have been other attacks. So they’re certainly not non-existant, and they won’t simply go away.

Although I don’t think you’re alluding to their complete disspation or illusory nature, but rather their influence on the world scene as disappearing and illusory. Which I have to agree with.

By many measures the media, before Bushco, has been fairly restrained in terms of collusion with terrorism. Not collusion with terrorists of couse, but by definition terrorism aims for media playup. Which is why in the 60s to mid-70s the emphasis shifted away from “OMG! THEY’VE HIJACKED ANOTHER PLANE!!!” to “Oh, a hijacking. Meh.”
That wasn’t so much pure media restraint but government backed counterterrorism group response. Most of the PR guys attached to those operations learned to say “Nah, we got it. No big deal” and learned to avoid spectacle instead of playing up what virile hard guys they were and how cool it was to take out such meat eating terrorists.
This is why the really bad-ass mofos say clichéd stuff like “you’re doing me a favor if you don’t talk about me”
Not because they’re just such bad ass secret ninjas, but because it’s operationally helpful to maintain that blasé environment to fight terrorism. So terrorists suddenly aren’t superhuman fanatic bad asses who require this tremendous response. Just some ineffectual nuts who succumb to some (albeit well trained) joes doing their jobs.
And so the hijackings virtually disappeared as a tactic. Lots of other factors, not the least of which the counterterrorist unit tactics. But the operators in question stopped playing themselves up and playing up the drama of the event (or, rather, allowing it to be played up) and so there were no heros or villians and it stopped being exciting so it stopped getting media play. So it stopped happening.

There doesn’t need to be even tacit agreement on the part of Bushco to have a symbiotic relationship with The Base, or any given terrorist organization. One merely needs to play the role of “hero” and suddenly the terrorists all become vicious villians. And then all bets are off, because terrorism is so media driven - even in mirror reversal.

The more one plays up how much one is doing against the terrorists, how heroic the efforts are, how much is required of us against this massive threat, the larger they loom in implication.

A nifty contrast is the work done with the post-Soviet nukes. Very little was heard about that, although the threat there was appalling. I suspect many folks would have literally crapped their pants if they’d known just how terrifyingly precarious that situation was. But no one exclaimed: “Look how important this thing we’re doing is - you could all die immediately if we screw one thing up!!!!” for political points, so it just went quietly.

But that’s what makes terrorism dangerous, the publicity, not the actual death and carnage. The threat of death and carnage.
Unfortunately governments can capitalize on that threat from the other side (look how we’re protecting you from what could happen aren’t we great? And tacitly - “You’d better do what we’re telling you. It would be a real shame if something happened to you”)

But y’know, fool some of the people some of the time sorta thing. If stuff doesn’t keep actually blowing up, people stop digging it. Consider the loss of the terror threat scale thingy on the news.

Of course, the big gorilla is that you don’t necessarially need the public to buy into the situation if you have a big hunk o’ money (that fell off a truck in Iraq maybe) to fund ops without congressional approval.

And if you’re running your own game you can direct policy on your own, so what do you need with political power from the states?
You can dictate the response you need from whatever political guy by manipulating the situation from the other end.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

$1billion a year to keep Pakistan on side, albeit unenthusiastically, might not be a bad deal. How much would it cost to maintain the position in Afghanistan if Pakistan were actively hostile?
posted by Phanx at 2:11 PM on May 21, 2007

I don't know that it's all about reducing the impact to "meh." I think looking at the work that John Robb has done on system disruption that _even a complete coverage blackout_ isn't going to stymie terrorists who are attacking infrastructure. Examples include MEND in Nigeria and the ongoing assassinations of doctors and college professors in Iraq.
posted by wuwei at 2:25 PM on May 21, 2007

Al-Qaeda as an Anti-Muslim Movement
posted by acro at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2007

They could have asked me, months earlier, if the invasion was a good idea or not.

Maybe they should have asked you, but they did ask these guys. Then lied and lied.

I am not, nor have I ever been, Jack Cafferty.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:08 PM on May 21, 2007

“isn't going to stymie terrorists who are attacking infrastructure.”

Yeah, you’re not wrong there. (and nifty name btw)
But I wasn’t arguing that controlling publicity would affect technical applications. You still need security. Merely that reducing media drama reduces the impact of terrorism.
And it’s debatable whether what’s going on with the Ijaw (et.al) is guerilla action or terrorism. I’d argue the former. (And I believe Robb even calls them guerrillas)
They haven’t targeted (as far as I know, I could be incorrect) civilians with the intent of influencing policy, they have (again, my POV) taken direct action against the parties in question.
Not all groups using violence to acheive their ends are terrorists.
The power terrorism has is in making the implied threat greater than the actual threat. Where that can be neutralized, so the impact of terrorism can be neutralized. A guerrilla operation might incorporate terrorism as a tactic, but it is not itself terrorism.

So, for example - when Musharraf got rid of Chaudhry (the chief justice - to whom he said basically follow orders or else) there were clashes that killed 45 people (last week) between pro and anti government forces - terrorists?

Also last week mortars and small arms were fired back and forth over the Pakistan/India boarder - 3 or so people killed. Any terrorists there?

The ethnic/political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) kept Chaudhry at the airport for 8 hours (on behalf of - but not necessarially with the explicit public support of - Musharraf) while the government blocked most of the routes leading to court.
38 people killed between the MQM and opposition at the blockades - terrorism?

Friday some hard line clerics and their students (40 or so) kidnapped two cops, held them hostage, and demanded the release of 11 of their fellow students. Yesterday Pakistani security captured them and the officers were released a bit later. Are those people terrorists? Mmmmaybe. But not explicitly.

Also last week a suicide bomber killed 25-odd people crowded hotel in Peshawar. He had a note on his leg that said: "Those who spy for Americans will meet the same fate."
That guy? He’s a terrorist.

The point being these are all different but violent and importantly - political - reactions to the same crystalizing event. Only the last has the implication of a similar or greater threat to come in an attempt to influence (by proxy: policy) with the target not being intimate with the goal.

Where his message can be neutralized in context - e.g. - the threat from him and people like him is no greater than it actually appears, so you can neutralize terrorism.
This does not mean you can neutralize the actual technical problem of protecting people from other people who blow themselves up. It merely removes the inflation of the threat. Which is crucial to fighting terror and eliminating the resulting irrational/emotional infuence from decision making*.

Not many people blow themselves up in the world. We only hear about it because it’s so spectacular (in the strictest sense of the word of course). And so - indeed, by design - it seems like it happens all the time.

*(and to again agree with the earlier point - there are people within the U.S. government who may take advantage of those irrational states)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:48 PM on May 21, 2007

This is why we all need to just stop paying taxes until the whole thing collapses.
posted by chlorus at 6:49 PM on May 21, 2007

You first chlorus, you first.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:58 PM on May 21, 2007

This is why we all need to just stop paying taxes until the whole thing collapses.

You know what happens when you don't pay off Protection Rackets, right? Well this is the mother of them all.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:35 PM on May 21, 2007

Iraq plans for scenario of U.S. withdrawal:
Iraq's military is drawing up plans on how to cope in case the U.S. military quickly pulls its forces from the country, the defense minister said Monday.
Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq:
Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.
U.S. Imperial Ambitions Thwart Iraqis' Peace Plans:
Iraq's resistance groups have offered a series of peace plans that might put an end to the country's sectarian violence, but they've been ignored by the U.S.-led coalition because they're opposed to foreign occupation and privatization of oil.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2007

Hersh was on CNN this morning talking about what's happening in Lebanon now (scroll down).
posted by homunculus at 11:58 AM on May 22, 2007

HERSH: You know, Hala, you're assuming logic by the United States government, but that's OK. We'll forget that one right now...

Thanks, homunculus.
posted by taosbat at 1:07 PM on May 22, 2007

U.S. quietly, dramatically increasing Iraq troop levels:
The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

This "second surge" of troops in Iraq, which is being executed by extending tours for brigades already there and by deploying more units, could boost the number of combat troops to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year. When support troops are included, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- the most ever -- by the end of the year.
After the Surge:
President Bush and his senior military and foreign policy advisers are beginning to discuss a "post-surge" strategy for Iraq that they hope could gain bipartisan political support. The new policy would focus on training and advising Iraqi troops rather than the broader goal of achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq, which senior officials recognize may be unachievable within the time available.
  1. I thought training Iraqi troops was the pre-surge strategy.
  2. Since President Bush has defined victory in Iraq as "an Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure," is this an admission of defeat?
posted by kirkaracha at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2007

"I don't think you're ever going to get rid of all the car bombs," Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said this week. "Iraq is going to have to learn as did, say, Northern Ireland, to live with some degree of sensational attacks."
posted by taosbat at 2:18 PM on May 22, 2007

Don't get fooled again.
posted by adamvasco at 1:51 AM on May 23, 2007

On how many sides can that GWOT be?
posted by taosbat at 8:58 PM on May 24, 2007

I think "sides" is more of a concept for real wars.
posted by Artw at 9:52 PM on May 24, 2007

posted by taosbat at 10:51 PM on May 24, 2007

"An unclassified catalog of U.S. Air Force aircraft, weapons, and other systems -- from the A-10 Thunderbolt to the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser -- is presented in a new Air Force publication.
See The Air Force Handbook 2007 (326 pages, 17 MB PDF file):"
posted by acro at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2007

Senate Intelligence report PDF -- via last link
posted by acro at 11:56 AM on May 26, 2007

Inside Iraq's Kill Zone -- documentary 50 minutes -- Private military contractors.
posted by acro at 12:02 PM on May 26, 2007

Baghdad embassy update via TomDispatch --

May was the deadliest month yet in Iraq for U.S. troops:
Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq ran a sophisticated sting on US troops in Diyala province on Memorial Day, killing 8 GIs. First, they shot down a helicopter with small arms fire. Two servicemen died in the crash. The guerrillas knew that a rescue team would come out to the site. So they planted a roadside bomb that killed the rescuers. And, they knew that yet another rescue team would come out to see what happened to the first. So they planted roadside bombs and destroyed the second team, as well. Altogether 6 rescuers were blown up in this way. The guerrillas run this routine on Iraqi police and troops in the capital all the time. As US troops increasingly take on policing duties, they become vulnerable to the same operations that have wrought such mayhem on Iraqi security forces.
posted by acro at 10:43 AM on May 30, 2007

via Juan Cole
posted by acro at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2007

More here on the South Korea analogy @ The Guardian (also via Juan Cole).
posted by acro at 6:35 PM on May 31, 2007

I don't understand why W didn't offer the German model: 1) We've been there pretty much as many years; 2) DEMOCRACY!; 3) the Wall is gone but we're still there...and a way-station for Iraq.
posted by taosbat at 11:11 PM on May 31, 2007

Salon piece on the Bush South Korea / Iraq strategy; here.
posted by acro at 2:15 PM on June 1, 2007

Somalia: USN pops a 5-incher on one badguy.
posted by taosbat at 8:50 PM on June 1, 2007

From south and north, Iraq's Kurdish region felt pressure from two sides Saturday, as saboteurs bombed a vital bridge link to Baghdad, and Turkish troops across the border massed for a possible strike...
posted by taosbat at 12:58 PM on June 2, 2007

NyTimes But it was not until Wednesday that Mr. Bush’s spokesman, Tony Snow, publicly reached for Korea in talking about Iraq — setting off an analogy war between the White House and critics who charged that the administration was again disconnected from the realities of Iraq.
posted by acro at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2007

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