Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The new product year begins by selling war, pestilence and famine.

W. said yesterday in the heavily fortified city of Sydney Australia that things are going A-OK in Iraq. Heck, he says, the Iraqi parliament has passed more legislation than the US Congress! [AdelaideNow] (Lucky for them they don't have a president who threatens to veto everything that lands on his desk.) W. was again defiant in the face of reality, telling the press and his good buddy Aussie PM John Howard that, "The security situation in Iraq is changing." Changing into what he didn't mention, but be rest assured, "Reconciliation is taking place."

For his part John Howard said, "Our commitment to Iraq remains. This is not the time for proposals of a scaling down of Australian forces." Easy for him to say, he's only got about 550 troops in Iraq. Let's see how he feels about sending 10 or 20 thousand more.

Meanwhile, David Walker has come out with another GAO report saying the Iraqi government has only met 4 of the 18 benchmarks Congress mandated. That's up from 2 out of the 18 after the White House complained. [Maybe, Walker was convinced to relent, slightly, by Cheney who might have offered Walker an all expenses paid trip to Camp Cropper for a little ER & R (Enhanced Rest and Recreation)?]

It seems that there was a fear something like this might happen a while back. If you'll recall, the WaPo reported on Aug. 30 that a draft version of the GAO report was leaked by an official "who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Security Estimate on Iraq."

Everybody Loves Raymond:

Part of the draft report says, "While Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced."

I don't which agencies they could be, because AP reports that, "Lt. General Raymond Odierno said the number of attacks in August fell to their lowest level in more than a year, although he gave no figures. Odierno insisted that overall violence was declining -- a sign that the buildup ordered by President Bush was working, he said."

It's not much of a surprise Odierno wasn't able to provide actual proof of what he claims about the new low, low levels of violence. When he talks about "attacks" he could mean anything, but probably he's talking about attacks on Americans, which is great, but far as Iraqi civilian casualties go . . . The NYT reported on Sep 2:

"U.S and Iraqi government officials are extremely reluctant to provide regular, comprehensive figures for civilian deaths, making it difficult to compile accurate data. But figures provided by an Interior Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous indicated that 2,318 civilians died violently in the country in August, compared with 1,980 in July."

There is some good news, though; civilian deaths in Baghdad went from 896 in July to 656 in August. A murder rate of 656 a month in a city of about 6.5 million is actually pretty good, right? Of course, Raymond Odierno is also the guy (while commanding the infamous 4th ID) who that said, after the capture of Saddam, "The former regime elements we have been combating have been brought to their knees." The insurgency he said is a "fractured, sporadic threat, with the leadership destabilized, finances interdicted, and no hope of the Baathists' return to power." And reconstruction was going great, too: "We see constant improvement. And so it is getting better. . . [W]e are making significant progress."

Where have I heard that before?

That was back in July when he said he'd need "at least until November" to figure out if the Surge was working. AP reported back then that Odierno "said there has been 'significant success' in the last four weeks, that the increased military operations have denied Al-Qaeda safe havens in Baghdad; Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and ability. [WaPo today: "Iraq's Interior Ministry is 'dysfunctional,' filled with sectarianism and corruption, according to an independent assessment of the Iraqi security forces to be published tomorrow. The report said that Iraq's national police force, controlled by that ministry, is 'operationally ineffective' and should be disbanded and reorganized.]

Rounding up the bad guys, letting God sort them out later:

It might be mentioned here that Odierno was also the guy who filled up Abu Ghraib prison with his overly aggressive roundups of Iraqi civilians. In his book Fiasco, Thomas Ricks quotes on intelligence officer who worked with Odierno's 4th ID saying, "The 4th ID was bad. These guys are looking for a fight. I saw so many instances of abuse of civilians, intimidating civilians, our jaws dropped."

An Army Psy-Ops officer said, "The 4th ID fueled the insurgency." He said insurgents frequently manipulated Odierno's troops into firing on civilians. "Guys would come up from Fallujah, set up next to a farm house, set off a mortar, and leave. And the 4th ID would respond with counterbattery fire. The 4th ID's CG fostered that attitude. They were cowboys."

Now Odierno is second in command of all troops in Iraq. While Petraeus was kicking pallets of AK-47s out of C-130s in the Sunni Triangle for guys who "wanted to fight for their country" Odierno was creating the insurgency by raiding and detaining entire villages and sending tens of thousands of mostly innocent Iraqis down to Abu Ghraib (a k a "Jihad University).

According to Ricks, Brig General Barbara Fast, the top intelligence officer in Iraq in 2004:

"Questioned the 4th ID's indiscriminate approach, she was told by its intelligence officer that Odierno didn't care, according to a subsequent Army report.’The division commander did not concur with the release of detainees for fear that a bad one may by released along with the good ones,' Maj. Gen. George Fay wrote."

But, I'm sure things are different now, right? Odierno has learned his lesson and Gen. Petraeus is keeping him on a tight leash. Um . . . Not so much. Thom Shanker reported in the NYT on Aug 25:

"The number of detainees held by the American-led military coalition in Iraq has swelled 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing from 16,000 in February to 24,500 today, according to American military officers in Iraq."

And what about that all that good reconciliation taking place that W. was talking about? Well . . .

"Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein, with other detainees being Shiite Muslims, the officers say."

It's kind of funny that the US military has 24,500 Iraqis in custody when they have no legal authority to detain even one. It turns out that after we gave up the whole "occupation" thing in June of '04, the Iraqi government became "sovereign" and only their security forces could put people behind bars. Yet, here we are, Gen. Odierno is back to his old tricks again.

I'm sure, though, this time around all those being held are guilty. NYT: "About 800 juveniles are held in American internment facilities."

It seems the insurgents use them for lookouts and to plant roadside bombs. But, it's not like it used to be when Odierno was concerned about letting out 90% of the innocent to prevent one bad guy getting out. I'm sure the processing of detainees is much smoother and those swept up accidentally are released fairly quickly. No?

"Overall, the average length of detention is about a year. The [Task Force 134] statistics show that 3,334 detainees have been released thus far in 2007."

And once they do get out, there's very little possibility the trusted non-sectarian Shiite security forces would re-arrest those 80% of Sunnis and torture them or just shoot them and dump them on the streets of Baghdad.

Perish the thought. We're making good progress.

The conventional thinking in Washington these days is that W. saying 'things are great' isn't going to fly, so we get Petraeus to go up to Congress and make the pitch for more war. But when you've got his former subordinates under investigation for taking bribes, selling weapons to the insurgents and him having lost 190,000 AK-47s on his watch and you take into account his #2 basically was the insurgency's top recruiter, why would anyone listen to him either.?


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