August 27, 2007

The Future of Iraq

by Michael J. Totten

Iraqi Flag Mushadah.JPG

MUSHADAH, IRAQ – “Al Qaeda terrifies locals,” said Major Mike Garcia from Canyon, Texas, before he put me in a convoy of Humvees with 18 American Military Police on their way to the small town of Mushadah just north of Baghdad. “The only people Iraqis may be more afraid of is their mothers. When we arrest or detain people and threaten to call up their mom, they completely freak out. Please, no, don’t tell my mother they say. Women are quiet outside the house, but they severely smack down their bad kids inside the house. When your Iraqi mother tells you to knock something off, you knock it off.”

The American military has slowly figured out how to leverage Iraq’s culture to its advantage, but it only works to an extent. Locating, killing, capturing, and interrogating terrorists and insurgents is the easy part. The hard part is training Iraqis to do it themselves.

Our destination in Mushadah was the local police station where American Military Police train and equip Iraqi Police, and where it’s still too dangerous for either Iraqis or Americans to walk the streets.

“I am not trying to scare you,” said Captain Maryanne Naro, from Fort Drum, New York. “But don’t get out of your vehicle unless something catastrophic has happened to it.”

I walked the streets of Baghdad every day with soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen in Mushadah.

“It’s pretty bad up there,” she added. “AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is all over the area because they’ve been pushed out of Baghdad, Ramadi, and Fallujah.”

Just driving to Mushadah from the base at Camp Taji was dangerous in a weird sort of way.

“Our convoys are hit with IEDs every day on the road,” she said.

I swallowed hard. “Should I really be going up there?” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “It’s fine.”

I laughed. It’s fine? How is that fine? Nothing, except perhaps kidnappers, is scarier in Iraq than IEDs, especially now that Iranian-manufactured armor-piercing EFPs – Explosively Formed Penetrators – are deployed by Shia militias.

“None of us have been hurt,” she said. “They’re just small harassment attacks. Most of the IEDs are mortar rounds, and the Humvees are armored. They usually just pop tires and blow off our mirrors. They do it to piss us off.”

“The route clearance team is out there right now,” said mission leader Sergeant James Babcock, from Adams, New York, as he showed me which of the five Humvees I was to ride in.

Mine was in the middle of the convoy. The Humvee behind mine was recently hit with an IED.

Humvee Shrapnel Mushadah.JPG

“That shrapnel can’t go through the armor,” Sergeant Babcock said when he saw me taking a photograph of the damage. “The doors are armored and the windows are bulletproof. All that shrapnel did was tear holes in the trunk and rip through cases of Gatorade. It was kind of annoying.”

“No one fires off EFPs in the area?” I said, referring to the unstoppable molten copper penetrators.

“Nah,” he said. “It’s just Al Qaeda here.” Sunni insurgents and terrorists don't have access to the Iranian-made weapons.

“There’s a lot of harassment,” Captain Naro said, “and not a lot of competence.”

We saddled up and left Camp Taji to the north. Everyone locked and loaded their weapons on the way out the gate.

“Hopefully we won’t have any fireworks for you today,” my driver said.

Well, I thought, it certainly would be interesting if there are some fireworks for me today. Not every Humvee in Iraq is up-armored, and not every IED-laced road in Iraq is free of those terrifying EFPs. And so, I figured, if I’m ever going to be hit with an IED, let it be today.

It was a strange feeling, a bit like being in a shark cage – inches away from mortal peril, but kinda sorta okay…as long as an IED didn't explode under the vehicle.

“AQI always puts the IEDs in the same places on this road, in culverts and holes they already dug,” Captain Naro said. “We just swerve around them.”

“Are they stupid?” I said.

She gave me a look, as if the question was a little too cocky, that it was dangerous to dismiss Al Qaeda as stupid. I agree, of course, in general, but I can’t help but think putting IEDs in the same places over and over again isn’t too bright.

Getting into a Humvee with the Army in a war zone all by itself can be a little bit stressful. The ranking officer inside often reminds everyone else of the safety procedures – which are not at all like the safety procedures you’ll hear from a stewardess on United Airlines just before take off.

“Combat lock!” he might yell, which means everyone must lock their door so no one can open it from the outside and shoot people inside.

“Everybody remember what to do if someone throws a grenade in the truck?”

No, I did not remember. It is not something anyone ever taught me.

“Yell grenade grenade grenade and get the hell out as quickly as possible. If you don’t have time to get out, turn your back to the blast and hope for the best.”

The drive from Camp Taji to Mushadah only took 20 minutes, and our Humvee drivers swerved suddenly and dramatically 8 or 9 times to avoid possible IEDs. They also drove the Humvees about as fast as they could. The assumption was that the IEDs on this road were manually detonated by a trigger man. There are many places to hide.

Trees on Road to Mushadah.JPG

Fast moving targets are harder to hit. And because the IEDs don’t explode on their own, the odds of any Humvee in particular being hit were no greater or less than the odds of any other Humvee being hit. Riding in the front of the convoy was no more dangerous than riding anywhere else. And riding in the middle or in the rear wasn’t safer. Of course that didn’t stop me from trying to convince myself that I rode in the lucky Humvee that wouldn’t be hit for some reason. Everyone does it.

Convoy to Mushadah.JPG

There weren’t any fireworks that day, at least not against my convoy. But we still weren’t quite safe once we reached the police station.

“Get inside,” Sergeant Anthnoy Doucet, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, said to me when we stepped out of the Humvees. “This place is a mortar magnet.”

*

Every place in Iraq is hot during the summer, but the Mushadah police station was merciless. Only two rooms had air conditioning. The rest were miserable sweat boxes.

Captain Maryanne Naro was supposed to join us, but she had to remain at Camp Taji. That was too bad. I was hoping to see how the Iraqi Police interacted in person with an American woman who outranked almost all of them.

“The police won’t leave the station,” Major Garcia said, “unless Americans are there to protect them. They wouldn’t leave under any circumstances until Captain Naro showed up and was willing to go out on patrol. They were ashamed that a woman had more guts than they did.”

Iraqi Cop Mushadah.JPG

“They will go out alone now for something real basic,” she said. “Otherwise if Americans aren’t with them they’ll hide in the station. They’re hard to work with at times, like they’re kids.”

Incompetence, though, is the least of their problems.

“About half of them are corrupted,” she said, “and it’s hard to get the bad ones out. Some of the higher ups are corrupted too, but it’s hard to prove. They help AQI, they set up illegal checkpoints, and they raid civilian houses so they can steal stuff.”

Not surprisingly then, local civilians are just as afraid of the police as the uncorrupted police are afraid of the neighborhood.

“Locals come in here all the time and talk to Americans,” she told me. “They’re afraid to give intel to the Iraqi Police.”

Mushadah is a bad area with bad police and a bad police station. The building itself is filthy and ramshackle. The stairs to the second floor are murderously uneven, not because they’ve been damaged but because they were built by incompetents. I’ve seen dodgy construction in Iraq – even at Saddam’s palaces, believe it or not – but this station was the worst. I’ll spare you a description of the bathroom.

There was a protective wall in front of the station, but it had recently been destroyed by a mortar round.

Rubble Mushadah.JPG

Another wall on the south side of the building was blown over during a spring wind storm.

The whole place was almost destroyed not long ago. An Al Qaeda suicide bomber filled a dump truck with explosives and tried to ram it into the building, but he drove too fast around a corner and the whole thing tipped over. Everyone would have been killed had he succeeded.

Sergeant Doucet led me to the front door from the inside so I could photograph some of the Iraqi Police standing at attention.

Iraqi Police Mushadah.JPG

“How many of these guys do you suppose are Al Qaeda infiltrators?” I said. I just couldn’t look at them without wondering.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We speculate about it. We don’t investigate them or anything like that.”

“You don’t?” I said. “Why not?”

“We aren’t passive about it,” he said. “If we suspect someone has gone over the edge, he’ll raise a red flag and we’ll deal with it.”

“How much support do you get from local civilians?” I said.

“Locals bring in tips against bad guys all the time,” he said. “Several times a week. What they tell us is not very tangible though. Sometimes it’s useless. Someone will come in here and scream There’s bad guys out there! We’ll ask where. To the west! they’ll say. Well, no crap.”

Doucet Mushadah.jpg
Sergeant Doucet

“Residents are still afraid to give intel on bad guys,” he continued. “Insurgents will kill them if they do. The area is totally unsecured. Even if we question people who live right in front of an IED trigger point they won’t say anything. But, look, forget what you see on the news. People in this community are just like people in any other community. This guy is pissed off at that guy, and you have to deal with it.”

I’ve been in parts of Iraq where local civilians cooperate with the army and police and where they do not. Civilians cooperate as much as security on the streets will permit them. The dynamic here isn’t all that hard to understand, or even that foreign. If you want to see how this has played out in America, watch Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, the classic film from 1954 starring Marlon Brando about the mafia’s infiltration of a longshoreman’s union. No one in that story wanted to cooperate with the police in their murder investigations against the mob because they were terrified of being “next” if they did.

“We have a medical facility here,” Sergeant Doucet said. “Local civilians can come here and use it, and they do.”

They did while I was there. A three year old boy was badly burned at his house – how, I don’t know – and he was brought in to be treated by a medic.

Injured Boy Mushadah.jpg

I let the medic tend to the boy and stepped into the Tactical Operations Center, one of only two rooms in the station that had air conditioning.

“Hello again, sir,” Sergeant Babcock said and pulled up a chair for me. He then gave me more background and asked me not to take pictures of anything in that room.

“Lots of Iraqi Police here had orders to work in Baghdad,” he said, “but they refused. They are Sunnis. This is a Sunni area. Baghdad, as you know, is mostly Shia. Their names and license plates mark them for death. They work here but are counted as AWOL and are not being paid.”

Some of the Iraqi police are honorable men. (And they are all men.) I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all of them are terrorist infiltrators. They aren’t.

“Because of logistics problems we have to go to Baghdad for fuel,” Sergeant Babcock said, “and we have to go to a Shia area. It’s very dangerous for them and they ask us to go with them. They have problems getting ammo as well. There are always problems with ammo.”

And there are severe problems with other stations.

“The Taramiyah station was hit by insurgents earlier this spring,” he said. “It was completely destroyed. Only six officers from that station are brave enough to come to work here.”

Poster Mushadah.JPG

He introduced me to the man in charge of the station, Captain J. Dow Covey from New York City.

“Do you know the Weekly Standard magazine?” Captain Covey asked me.

“Of course,” I said.

“My buddy Tom Cotton was just written up there,” he said. “It was pretty cool seeing him in that magazine.”

“What did he do to get in the magazine?” I said.

“He’s like me,” he said. “He’s a Harvard Law grad who joined the Army after 9/11. I’m an attorney.”

“You’re an attorney?” I said. “What are you doing out here in Iraq?”

“I practiced law for three years,” he said, “then got into investment banking. When 9/11 happened I just had to sign up with the Army. Investment banking is a lot more stressful than this.”

“You’re kidding, right?” I said.

“No,” he said and laughed. “I am totally serious.”

If he was deployed in, say, Kurdistan I could see it. But Mushadah was stressful. Less stressful than investment banking? Investment banking in New York must really be something.

*

Not much happened the first half of my day at the station, so I lounged with the MPs in their broiling quarters.

Soldier and Sandbags Mushadah.jpg

Soldier Mushadah.jpg

None of them had anything positive to say about the Iraqi Police they were training.

“What can you really ask for in a lazy society? You go in their houses and the floors and covered in pillows.”

“You can tell who is corrupt because their convoys never get hit.”

“This place wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so fucking hot. I can deal with being shot at and blown up, but 150 degrees is a bit much.”

“Some Iraqi Police recently left the station, we got hit with a bunch of mortars, then they came right back inside. This sort of thing happens a lot. It makes us suspicious.”

“We’re giving them 50,000 dollar Chevy trucks and it’s like a junkyard out back. It’s like Sanford and Son out there. They drive stuff better than we can afford, and they don’t even take care of it.”

“I miss Baghdad. One day we’d be walking out on the street buying sandwiches and playing soccer with kids. The next day we’d get in a firefight with burning tires and RPGs and shit. The next day we’d be hanging out and chilling like normal again. It’s a weird place, and really keeps you on your toes.”

“It’s not like Germany or Japan where people wanted a change. The Kurds up north wanted a change, so they got one. The Arabs don’t, so they aren’t. They hardly change even with us here.”

The Iraqi Army in the area isn’t faring much better.

“They are severely infiltrated by Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army,” Colonel John Steele, from Dover, New Hampshire, told me back at Camp Taji.

The Iraqi Army soldiers who aren’t double agents are still nowhere near ready to defend their own country.

“We assess, train, and help provide logistical support to prevent catastrophic failure,” he said. “Their logistics are very immature. They are always short on ammo. And we have to hold their hands and make sure they don’t kill themselves and others. We still do some unilateral U.S. actions even though we want to become partnered with the Iraqi Army in all our operations. But we first want to make sure they have all the skills they need to survive in combat.”

Most American soldiers I spoke to about the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, not just in Mushadah but also in Baghdad, have a dim view of their local counterparts. (The situation is strikingly different in Anbar Province, and I’ll get to that in future articles.) I wanted to know what the colonel thought.

“Do you trust them?” I said.

He paused for a long time and answered very carefully.

“We won’t tell them about sensitive operations until the last second,” he said. “I trust some individuals, though, because I know them. I’d share a foxhole with them as far as ideology goes, but I’m not sure how good their skills are when they are shot.”

Pride is much more important in Arab culture than it is in the West. Humiliation is therefore more painful. I wondered if this created problems when Americans train Iraqi soldiers and police officers. What must it feel like for local men to be yelled at by foreigners who showed up uninvited and knew their job better than they did?

Colonel Steele insists it isn’t a problem.

“They don’t want to be babied,” he said. “They want to be treated as equals and adults. Their shame culture actually helps. Our new recruits recently complained about having sore feet during a march. When they noticed our female soldiers are in better shape than they are, they never complained again. Also, when we first had them try on our body armor, it nearly broke their spines. They want to be physically capable of wearing it, too.”

It’s at least possible that some of the infiltrators may be turned over time. Some former insurgents elsewhere in Iraq are now openly siding with the Americans.

There also is this: “We give them rudimentary skills and a work ethic,” he told me. “They attend the same classes on character and honor and professional conduct becoming a soldier that our own people attend.”

Is he optimistic?

“I am optimistic,” he said. “But only for one single reason. Because I talk to the average Joe in Iraq. I meet the children and parents. Iraqi parents love their children as much as I love mine.”

I knew what he meant. Counterintuitive and contradictory as it may seem, I never felt more optimistic in Iraq than I did when I walked the streets and interacted with average Iraqis. Iraq looks more doomed from inside the base than it does outside on the street, and it looks more doomed from across the Atlantic than it does from inside the base.

Major Mike Garcia said this view of Iraq is typical. “Soldiers who don’t leave the FOB [Forward Operating Base] are more likely to be pessimistic than those who go out on patrol. They’re less aware of what’s actually happening and have fewer reality checks on their gloom.”

*

Sergeant Babcock invited me to a meeting with Iraqi Police Colonel Hameed, the man who was responsible for the station on the Iraqi side. Sergeant Babcock, Sergeant Doucet, an interpreter, the colonel, and I sat together in the only other room at the station that had air conditioning.

“You are most welcome,” the colonel said to me in a noticeably insincere tone of voice. Some of the MPs think he’s corrupt. I don’t know if that means they think he works with Al Qaeda.

“Thank you,” I said. “May I take your picture?”

“No,” he said, “please don’t.” It didn’t sound like he actually cared though, as if he was just going through the motions of needing protection from terrorists.

He and the American MPs discussed fuel logistics.

“The only reason the Iraqi Police got fuel on the last mission,” he said, “is because you were with us. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given us anything.”

Suddenly Captain Covey, the New York City attorney, nearly broke down the door as he barged into the room.

“Hey!” he screamed at the colonel. “I’m tired of you motherfuckers stealing our fuel cans. I’m going to kick all you motherfuckers out of here. I’m sorry for interrupting your little meeting, but at noon I want every single one of you people off this post.” He stared at the interpreter. “Translate that!” he said.

He slammed the door behind him. Everyone just looked at each other. A quietly horrified expression washed over the face of the colonel when he saw me taking notes.

The meeting was over, obviously. I stepped into the hallway and asked the nearest MP what was going on.

“61 fuel cans have been stolen over the last week by Iraqi police officers here,” he said. “Three more were stolen today. These are fuel cans that Iraqis and Americans risk their lives to go get.”

The tension in the hallway was palpable. None of the Iraqi Police could look me in the eye.

“Can the captain really kick the Iraqis out of here?” I asked Sergeant Babcock.

“Actually, he can,” he said. He sounded mortified at the idea.

Colonel Hameed walked up to Sergeant Babcock. He was furious.

“Your captain offended us by coming in here and yelling like that,” he said. “I need you to find a solution.”

“I’m a staff sergeant,” Sergeant Babcock said. “He’s a captain. I’m also an MP and he’s Infantry. I have to obey him whether I like it or not.”

“This station does not belong to his family,” the colonel said curtly. “This is unacceptable. The building is ours, and he is our guest. A guest cannot fire the owner of the house.”

“We’ll go talk to him and come back,” Sergeant Babcock said.

As it turned out, the whole thing was a screw up. Somebody forgot to update the board and account for three fuel cans that were taken legitimately.

Captain Covey was embarrassed.

“Would you really have kicked them all out of here?” I said.

“In the state of mind I was in then, yes,” he said. “I was ready to do it. But I calmed down and would have gotten in trouble anyway. So no, I wouldn’t have actually done it.”

61 fuel cans really had been stolen that week, however. The Iraqi Police were in serious trouble.

Another Iraqi Police colonel, whose name I did not catch and whom no one thinks is corrupt, arrived on the scene and screamed himself hoarse at his deputies.

“Coalition Forces are screaming at us!” he hollered. “Screaming at us because you keep stealing fuel!”

Angry Colonel Mushadah.jpg

He kicked an empty metal garbage can and clangingly knocked it over. The Iraqi Police glowered at him as if they wanted to scream back and were trying mightily to restrain themselves.

An American MP walked past me. “That’s the first time I’ve seen those guys yelled at,” he said and grinned with satisfaction.

*

Shortly after noon an International Police Advisor from Michigan named Paul taught an hour-long class to the Iraqi Police officers about taking weapons from potentially dangerous people who are under arrest. The officers seemed to learn as much sitting through that course as I did. Apparently they had never gone over the procedures before.

I couldn’t help wondering as I watched the Iraqis…which of you work for Al Qaeda?

Police Training Mushadah.JPG

Maybe no one in the photo works for Al Qaeda. I don’t have a sense of how many infiltrators there actually are, although Captain Naro thinks the number could be as high as 50 percent.

Is it really a good idea to train these men with that in mind?

“Please don’t publish my picture,” Paul said to me after the class. “And use only my first name. Only my wife knows I’m in Iraq.”

I wanted to know what he thought of the trainees. He has trained police officers all over the world, not just in Iraq and the United States. He could, perhaps, see them through more worldly eyes than the American MPs who had a narrower range of experience.

“They’ve made leaps and bounds in the past two months,” he said. “Every day they make progress. Today they made progress.”

“Are you optimistic about them?” I said.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “The Iraqi Police are like sponges. It’s all new to them.”

“Lots of American soldiers I’ve talked to about the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police don’t think very highly of them,” I said.

“Look,” he said. “The other contractors I know who train the police are also optimistic. Many file extensions to stay longer because they feel like they’re making a difference. I never hear anything negative from any of them. We watch the Iraqis progress over time because we work with them daily. Most American soldiers don’t see the progress because they observe the Iraqis from more of a distance. You yourself are only seeing a snapshot in time. If you think it looks bad now, you should have been here two months ago.”

It was time to head back to Camp Taji. The MPs and I saddled up in our Humvees while, in front of us, Iraqi Police piled into their trucks. We would escort them out of the station, then they would be on their own. They were going out alone, apparently for something “real basic,” as Captain Naro had told me.

The Iraqi Police truck in front of my Humvee had an office chair crazily bolted into the flatbed. A policeman strapped himself into that and manned a mounted machine gun. .

Police Truck Mushadah.jpg

“Is he really going out all exposed like that?” I said.

“He is,” Sergeant Babcock said. “I can’t quite decide if that’s pathetic or if it’s a testament to the human spirit. Maybe it’s a little of both.”

We drove back down IED Alley to Camp Taji. It was 4:00 in the afternoon, and so unbearably hot. The air conditioner in the Humvee hardly did anything. I desperately wanted a shower so I could wash Iraq off my skin.

Nothing exploded on our way back.

Major Garcia wanted to know what I thought. I didn’t know what to say.

“Whether we like it or not,” he said, “and whether we like them or not, they are the future of this country.”

Postscript: Please support independent journalism. Traveling to and working in Iraq is expensive. I can’t publish dispatches on this Web site for free without substantial reader donations, so I'll appreciate it if you pitch in what you can. Blog Patron allows you to make recurring monthly payments, and even small donations will be extraordinarily helpful so I can continue this project.

Blog Patron Button.gif

If you prefer to use Pay Pal, that is still an option.

If you would like to donate for travel and equipment expenses and you don't want to send money over the Internet, please consider sending a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 27, 2007 09:13 PM
Comments

Don't tell me I'm first?

Like I said in another thread, Shelley is a saint.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 28, 2007 12:09 AM

Wow. Incredible report, as always.

Posted by: JC at August 28, 2007 12:37 AM

Divide Iraq. It will solve more problems than it will create.

These people join the Iraqi army or police because it's a job, not for nationalistic reasons.

Think of how disciplined and effective the Peshmerga are. That's because they're proud of their de facto country in the north and care enough about it to defend it.

There's no way to train Iraqi Sunnis to protect Iraqi Shias, or Kurds for that matter. In Lebanon the various ethnic/religious groups get along fabulously well compared to those in Iraq. Yet their army is still pretty weak and only has lukewarm support from the wider population.

The U.S. should let the Kurds become independent and create more of its own enclaves free of corrupt Iraqi "security" forces. The goal of the war should now be to separate Iraqi civilians from the terrorists, a difficult task that can only be accomplished by exerting exclusive control over certain areas.

Posted by: Edgar at August 28, 2007 06:04 AM

fascinating report. great. thanks.

Posted by: reliapundit at August 28, 2007 06:34 AM

reliapundit: fascinating report. great. thanks.

Huh? You didn't find it anti-semitic?

Posted by: Edgar at August 28, 2007 07:21 AM

Great report Michael - Much thanks for all the work that you do.

One comment on your website. It would be great if you could add a print-view for your articles. I like to print them out to share them with others and there is no easy way to do that now.

Posted by: jubjub at August 28, 2007 07:52 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/28/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at August 28, 2007 08:50 AM

Astounding as usual. Will try to remember to link this tonight when I get home if you don't yourself.

If this is the worst we face now in Iraq, compared to what we see as the best, I can't believe people aren't more optimistic.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at August 28, 2007 09:47 AM

Mr. Totten,

This was again another excellent report. I have two concerns with your report however.

1. You claim EFPs are made in Iran:

Nothing, except perhaps kidnappers, is scarier in Iraq than IEDs, especially now that Iranian-manufactured armor-piercing EFPs – Explosively Formed Penetrators – are deployed by Shia militias.

However, reports show that in Southern Iraq there are EFP producing factories:

Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches.

Of course that doesn't jive with the Conventional Wisdom that Iran is our Great Satan, but facts tend to not fit pre-conceived opinions.

Basically, what I'm saying is that you shouldn't trust what the military is telling you, and also you should report that the evidence does NOT show that these EFPs are produced by Iran, but that in fact, the only hard evidence found to this point points to southern Iraq.

Secondly, whenever pressed for any actual evidence, nobody in the military has been able to prove that any official Iranian organization were at the heart of the production of EFPs. What is more likely is that the black market in Iraq is so huge that anyone with some cash can go ahead and purchase this and that to make an EFP. That seems to be the case with the EFP factory in southern Iraq.

I realize that you are telling the story as the troops around you are describing things to you, but you're not an unbiased journalist, Mr. Totten. In fact, your strength lies in adding in your own views on the matter. But please, when the evidence is either inconclusive in one way, and hard evidence suggests another way completely, then stick with the facts.

2. Al-Qaeda infiltration of the troops. You write about how the military is telling you that up to 50% of the police is possibly infiltrated by "Al-Qaeda." However, that just doesn't add up with actual numbers. For instance in this article on detainees in Iraq, out of 24,000 detainees only 1800 claim allegiance to Al-Qaeda. That's less than 8% of all detainees that are allegedly Al-Qaeda. In fact, most detainees tend to be Sunnis with no allegiance to Al-Qaeda. All other credible reports indicate that Al-Qaeda's presence, while loud and violent, is quite small in Iraq. Again, why does the Army think 50% of policemen in Iraq are infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, and why do you report that without seriously questioning the numbers?

When you don't report doubts about the numbers, you portray the situation as the Army wishes it to be portrayed. But you are not an Army propagandist. Instead you are a reporter. You should be showing things as they are, not as 1) you wish them to be, or 2) as the Army wishes them to be.

Doing otherwise just gets us into more trouble.

Posted by: Dan at August 28, 2007 10:38 AM

Thanks Michael for another excellent article. Your writing has an uncanny ability to make me feel as if I've experienced the things you describe- as all good writing should.

This line particularly struck me: "What must it feel like for local men to be yelled at by foreigners who showed up uninvited and knew their job better than they did?" I try to picture that scenario here in the United States and can only imagine the staunch resistance that those foreigners might experience from the local men. I can certainly appreciate their point of view. The "we're doing this for your own good" pill can be a bitter one to swallow.

The common theme I've gotten from yours and other blogs I've been reading is that interaction with the local people is the key to understanding the situation as it really is- not by viewing sparring politics on TV or listening to the constant barrage of seemingly-doomed news reports. Thanks again for another side to the story.

Posted by: Jen B at August 28, 2007 11:15 AM

Dan,

I didn't know about the EFP factory in Southern Iraq. Thanks for pointing that out.

As far as AQI infiltration being 50 percent, two things. First, Captain Naro was speaking about the percentage in that one specific area, not to Iraq as a whole. The percentage couldn't possibly be that high everywhere. There aren't enough Sunnis in the entire Iraqi Police force.

Second, she does not want that number to be anywhere near that high. If she was being a propagandist, or wanted to use me a propaganda tool, she wouldn't have mentioned infiltration at all, or she would have said the percentage is low.

Also, no one contradicted those numbers. Entire Army units can't be filled with propagandists. Grunt level soldiers couldn't give two shits about something like that, and they wouldn't all allow themselves to be used for that purpose anyway. You are aware, I assume, that there are many liberals and Democrats in the Army. Many of the soldiers I quoted who kvetched in that room were liberals. I didn't point that out because I didn't think it made any difference. Most of them are on the same page anyway regardless of ideology because they all deal with the same reality every day.

You're too suspicious, I think. Individuals may lie to me, but the entire Army doesn't lie. It has too many diverse people in it to pull something like that off even if the brass wanted to.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 28, 2007 11:16 AM

Hey Dan:

Begging your pardon, but why would any detainee claim allegiance to al Qaida, knowing that doing so will help ensure he or she will not be released from custody? Do you imagine that American mafiosi claim affiliation to a particular Mafia family while being interrogated by the FBI?

Your prejudices notwithstanding, Iran's current leadership really is our Great Satan, and has been for over thirty years of war against us. I'm not saying they don't have justification...what with our history of Shah games and such, but you have only to listen to and watch them to understand that they would destroy us to a man if they could, and will when they are able.

Michael's doing just fine. If and when you walk his path and see different things, we'll listen receptively to you, too.

Posted by: Jonathan at August 28, 2007 11:17 AM

Also, most soldiers I met had never met a journalist in Iraq before they met me. They aren't briefed by their superior officers about "how to lie" to journalists. I would know if that were happening because the liberals would tell me.

Some of the officers who briefed me are Democrats. The White House doesn't control them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 28, 2007 11:18 AM

Mike, great article. The comments are disturbing, and your continued reference to the politics of the troops even more so. Should we really be concerned about their politics? if so, why? In short, you and your followon commentary tend to make the military sound very political, when it fact, we do a job regardless of the politics. Maybe there is a point about identifying the liberal v. conservative nature of the Soldiers. If so, I missed it.

Thanks for your efforts over there. Great report. r/ Bedrock Guy

Posted by: Bedrock Guy at August 28, 2007 11:30 AM

Dan, you're right, American military patrols in Iraq have only found buildings in...Iraq. No American patrol of Iraq has found any building in Iran.

Where you go wrong is everywhere else. The propaganda arm of the Administration, the New York Times, ran stories as long ago as February describing evidence for weaponry coming in from Iran. "They said that at least one shipment of E.F.P.’s was captured as it was being smuggled across the border from Iran into southern Iraq in 2005." Of course, the people claiming to have found EFPs coming across the border were those deceitful tools of the military-industrial complex, while the ones who said they found an EFP factory in Iraq were America's brave fighting men, so I can see why you would trust one and not the other.

Posted by: bgates at August 28, 2007 11:30 AM

Bedrock,

The point is that the soldiers cannot be considered robots or yes-men willing to parrot the party line to journalists. They're individuals from a variety of backgrounds, and when a great number of them agree on something it's probably because that is their honest impression, as opposed to whatever was on a talking points memo.

On a deeper level, it shows that factionalism becomes a good tool for keeping people honest, once a society progresses beyond the point where factionalism is a good tool for having people shot. But I may be reading into things a bit much.

Posted by: Squid at August 28, 2007 11:37 AM

Yeah, that's right! You're not parroting Dan's line, so obviously, you're some deluded right-wing warmonger.

Because everybody knows that Iran is a peaceful, innocent nation, that has been constantly bullied by the Great Satan throughout history.

Posted by: Big D at August 28, 2007 11:56 AM

Dan,

I have to defend Mr. Totten on this one. Let me preface my defense by saying that I was a Captain deployed to Baghdad in 2005. Our combat engineer battalion's primary mission was counter-IED clearance for the 3rd Infantry Division (ie those big Buffaloes with the iron claws you might have seen on the news).

Without going into classified information, I can assure you that there is direct, conclusive, and irrefutable evidence that the EFP's we were able to get off the streets unexploded were manufactured from within Iran. We sent these components back to Washington for analysis, and these determinations were made very clearly. This is actually fairly old news. It's just now that the media seems to be reporting on the Iranian links so frequently.

Take my $.02 for what you will.

Posted by: Rob at August 28, 2007 11:57 AM

There is a difference between EFPs built in Iraq and those imported from Iran. The ones built in Iraq are much lower quality crap. They are made from scrap iron and are marginally more effective than an artillery round IED. The ones made in Iran are precision machined weapons. Yes, some enterprising Iraqis now copy the Iranian EFP design. That does not means that there are no Iranian EFPs. Michael, ask an EOD guy to show you some samples.

Posted by: Rey at August 28, 2007 12:11 PM

Dan mentioned EFPs being manufactured in So. Iraq. I had already heard they were assembled there but the components are extremely sophisticated and no one Iraq has the capacity to manufacture them. Iran does. Half truths and out of context bits of truth are very dangerous.

Posted by: Herb Morgan at August 28, 2007 12:20 PM

"Of course that doesn't jive with the Conventional Wisdom that Iran is our Great Satan, but facts tend to not fit pre-conceived opinions."
The word you're looking for is 'jibe', not 'jive', which would have a completely different meaning.

-Angry Old Guy

PS: The speaker implies and the listener infers. The word "and" is a conjunction, not an alternate spelling of the article "an". The opposite of win is lose, not loose. There is no such word as 'alot'. The whole comprises its (not "it's") parts, and is not 'comprised of' them; the parts compose the whole, which in fact is composed of those parts. It's "different from", not "different than", and "on purpose" but "by accident".

And get off my lawn!

Posted by: The Monster at August 28, 2007 12:24 PM

That's a pretty boring, disingenuous attempt at rebuttal.

The presence of EFP factories in southern doesn't prove that fully assembled EFPs or EFP components are coming from Iran. It doesn't even disprove allegations that those two things ARE coming from Iran.

So your point number one is completely invalid and that was a pretty dishonest argument you made, from which you based some probably accurate conjecture but managed to arrive at yet another logically flawed, invalid conclusion.

It's pretty funny how you then give a lecture on journalistic ethics. Funny, though, since journalists are supposed to report the events of the story. The who, what, when, where, why, and how. Not shape a narrative, which is what you want Mr. Totten to do.

Second, more flawed logic. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is part of the Islamic State of Iraq. The ISI is an umbrella group of up to a dozen or more Sunni terrorist/insurgent/tribal groups, including AQIZ. The top leadership of the ISI is dominated by AQIZ. Mr Totten is in a Sunni-dominant, if not Sunni-exclusive area, and it would be appropriate to label any suspected terrorist as being a part of the ISI which is basically at this point interchangeable with Al Qaeda. It's saying the same thing.

You also misrepresented Captain Nero's remarks. Captain Naro did not say that she suspects 50% of Iraqi police are al-Qaeda in the entirety of Iraq. From the context it is clear that she meant in her area of responsibility.

All in all, your talking-down fails. Try again troll.

Posted by: chaos at August 28, 2007 12:39 PM

Dan,

They may be assembling the EFPs in Iraq, but the materials are coming from Iran. We were catching them coming across the border when I was there two years ago.

Michael,

Great job. You and Michael Yon are doing some of the best reporting coming out of Iraq these days.

Posted by: chris at August 28, 2007 01:04 PM

Mike,

You sensed that the Iraqi Police Colonel Hameed was being insincere when he welcomed you in. That is a small red flag.

If he did not seem to care about his picture, I would think that this is a pretty good indicator that he is not afraid. If so, then we have to ask ourselves the question, "why?" The most likely reason is that he does not believe himself to be a target. This is very suggestive to me. He would not naturally think of himself a target if he was an infiltrator. Therefore, this is another red flag.

In addition, his words were meant to make one think that he fears death. Whenever the substance of a person's words conflict with the person's emotional state, that is a pretty good indicator that he is trying to deceive you. This is another large red flag. If he wants you to think that he is afraid of terrorist when he is not, then this is a pretty good indicator of why he is lying.

If he is an infiltrator, then he will not want you there. Therefore, all of the red flags point to infiltration.

My friend, I am pretty certain you stood face to face with a infiltrator.

Posted by: JBP at August 28, 2007 01:18 PM

There is some real truth to all of that. I miss that drive from Taji to Mushadah, all the constant IED's. Working with the EOD team in the area to clear them on a daily. You get used to the useless militants firing at you here and there.. But something you never get used to is the coward sitting behind the bushes with a battery or phone in hand attempting to trigger your demise. Many thanks to 172nd Stryker teams for finding that huge mortar cache behind the MOSQUE in Mushaduh. We were getting hit every single day there, and certain commanders refused to believe the MOSQUE had anything to do with it.

As for the Iraqi Army, and Iraqi police, perhaps there is alot to learn there. Absolute Corruption, Absolutely Corrupts.

Posted by: Jared Young at August 28, 2007 01:21 PM

Mr. Totten,

Thank you for your reply.

You're too suspicious, I think. Individuals may lie to me, but the entire Army doesn't lie. It has too many diverse people in it to pull something like that off even if the brass wanted to.

You bet I am too suspicious. I saw my country be led into an inappropriate war in 2002, even when the evidence did not require us to go to war. I'm seeing the same thing happening again. All of this talk about Iran being some bad guy against us is not quite fully accurate, or at least does not show you the entire picture of the violence brought upon our soldiers in Iraq.

Take for example the assertion that Iranian EFPs are killing Americans. Let's look at a couple of points about this. What purpose would it serve the Iranians, who had assisted the Americans on so many numerous occasions against Al-Qaeda and in Afghanistan to goad the Americans into a wider conflict? What purpose does it serve us to continually blame the Iranians when we don't show the evidence for the accusations? It doesn't matter if this or that evidence is classified. In fact, because they are classified makes them far more suspect. One has to wonder why we're so afraid of actually showing hard evidence. If we're sure, then we shouldn't be concerned. After what has happened these past six years, the most likely reason for the evidence being kept "classified" is because it ISN'T hard evidence, and if it were to come to light, it would actually undermine the pre-conceived notion that Iran is our enemy. We can't have Americans think that Iran really isn't an enemy. Because we have to go to war with them. It's in the script. It's how it should be.

Going back to the larger picture, the continual focus on Iran distorts the fact that most Americans are being killed by Sunnis who end up being funded and supported by our bestest allies in the Middle East, the Saudis. I bet more Americans are killed by Saudis than are killed by Iranians. Yet we don't even dare discuss talking about war with them. Why not? If the impetus for war with Iran is mere accusations that they provide EFPs to Shi'ites then why not use the same standard with Saudis? I bet you if we focused as strongly on Sunnis as we do on Shi'ites and their connections with Iran, we would be quite shocked at how high up the ladder in the Saudi government the support of Sunni insurgents goes. But still we would not war with them. Why not?

All of this is a mere smokescreen. We WANT war with Iran. Whether or not they are helpful to us. Whether or not they are giving Shi'ites EFPs. We're looking for the slightest excuse to attack them.

How easily we have forgotten that the Iranians were quite supportive of our actions in Afghanistan, to the point that the Bush administration went out of its way to DOWNPLAY that support! Why? Don't we want peace? Why do we need to fight Iran? What purpose does it serve us? Do people on the right even ponder these questions? Or are they just playing a live video game where immediately when an "enemy" shows up you point your gun and shoot?

Posted by: Dan at August 28, 2007 01:45 PM

Dan,

I find your comments disingenuous and tedious.

Posted by: joshlbetts at August 28, 2007 02:18 PM

Dan, I don't know anybody in their right mind who wants a war with Iran. That said, I don't know any serious person — democrat or republican, or even the French these days — who wants to give the Iranian regime a free pass and ignore all of their trouble making and saber rattling.

Let's pretend you are a decision maker. What do you think should be done about Iran? Why do you find it so hard to believe that the Iranians might have an interest in harming our troops in Iraq?

Posted by: Zak at August 28, 2007 02:29 PM

Michael,

You open with a quote from Major Garcia about how fearful the locals are of Al Qaeda, and proceed to write about how their presence in this area has rendered it more dangerous than Baghdad. Then this:

“No one fires off EFPs in the area?” I said, referring to the unstoppable molten copper penetrators.

“Nah,” he said. “It’s just Al Qaeda here.” Sunni insurgents and terrorists don't have access to the Iranian-made weapons.

“There’s a lot of harassment,” Captain Naro said, “and not a lot of competence.”

I'm trying to reconcile these seemingly contradictory portrayals. What am I missing?

Thanks.

Posted by: Andy S. at August 28, 2007 02:37 PM

Michael - Great post as usual. I always enjoy your insight.

Now on to Dan, and his obvious agenda. O.K. Dan, I know the drill.....the evil BushCO drug the USA into an illeagle war....blah blah blah. Here are some quotes from your side of the aisle prior to us going over there.....

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear.
We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

"Iraq is a long way from USA but, what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S.Constitution and Laws, to take necessary actions, (including, if appropriate,
air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction
programs."
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

Where is your outrage and suspicions here?? I'll eagerly await your reply. (Insert sound of crickets.)

Now on to the drivel you wrote about Iran HELPING us in Afghanistan???? HUH??? I must ask for some sources here Danno. (And the KOSkiddies and Huffington are NOT reliable sources.) Linky linky please.

I don't want another war with anyone, but mad man running Iran must be stopped. Hopefully by the very population that he oppresss.

You really need to take off your blinders.

Posted by: CJ at August 28, 2007 02:53 PM

Now on to the drivel you wrote about Iran HELPING us in Afghanistan???? HUH??? I must ask for some sources here Danno.

How about the State Department?

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said June 13 there is widespread concern in the administration of a “shift” in the policy of the Iranian government “from either benign, neutral, to somewhat helpful in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 2001, 2002, to something quite different that does not promote stability in Afghanistan.”
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 28, 2007 03:04 PM

Dan, you seem to be sincerely presenting your position and not just trolling for a fight, so I hope you will indulge me in an equally thoughtful (and respectful) rebuttal.

"I saw my country be led into an inappropriate war in 2002, even when the evidence did not require us to go to war."

Although the invasion of Iraq was in 2003, I will assume this is the "inappropriate war" to which you refer, since that is the topic at hand. Like many others, I do not see out engagement in Iraq as a separate distinct war but more as a campaign in the larger war against Islamic totalitarianism (unfortunately labeled as GWOT). Long term success in this war will require either killing lots and lots of folks in the Middle East or changing the sociopolitical environment that allows the Islamists to breed and grow terrorists. Starting this change in Iraq was one of the clearly stated goals in our removal of Saddam long before the first US boot touched Iraqi soil. In fact, before the "Bush lied" folks latched onto the "no WMDs" mantra, they had previously derided this goal as unrealistic. I have always viewed it as the better alternative to waiting until the choice was to either kill a hell of a lot more Muslims than anybody wants or capitulate.

I will also assume that your implication of insufficient evidence directly relates to the WMD issue. First, contrary to popular concensus, while a key issue and greatly hyped by the administration prior to the invasion, they were never presented as the sole reason to go in. That said, however, the evidence available before March 2003 was sufficient to convince a majority of the global intelligence agencies and governments. So much so that the assumed use of these weapons was actually used as an argument against invasion. While I can give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you never believed they posed a threat, I can not fault the President for taking the best information available to him and concluding that the potential risks involved with onvading Iraq were less than the potential risks involved with allowing an avowed enemy of the US to remain in control of the presumed assets and capabilities of Iraq given both the known terrorist contacts Saddam had and his tendency to act impetuously and irrationally.

"All this talk about Iran being some bad guy against us is not fully accurate"

How old are you? Iran has been chanting "Death to America, the Great Satan" for the past 30 years, long before even Gulf War I in 1991. Since the rise of the IRI they have been a very vocal and proud "bad guy". Who do you think blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut? This is not some new idea invented by the White House over a long weekend.

"What purpose would [killing US forces with EFPs] serve the Iranians"

The Iranians don't want us in Iraq for two big reasons: it impedes their ability to attain control over their government and create an even bigger powerbase for them, and; it allows our forces to be within rapid striking distance of Iran. So, based upon their study of history in South East Asia, their experiance in Beirut in 1983 and witnessing the current immitation of Sir Robin ("run away, run away") being done by many of the most vocal in the US, they know that killing US service members in spectacular explosions is a good way to get Yankee to go home.

"[M]ost Americans are being killed by Sunnis ... funded [by] ... the Saudis."

Actually, if you look at only US casualties, EFPs haev become a significant source. Now, I will agree that more Iraqi civilians are being killed by Saudi-funded Sunnis than Iranian-funded Shiia. This is primarilly, again, designed to create the impression you just stated, helping to drive our retreat.

"I bet more Americans are killed by Saudis then are killed by Iranians. Yet we don't even dare discuss talking about war with them. Why not?"

I will assume part of this question is really "why focus on Iran rather than KSA?" For one, perhaps you should listen to what Iran itself says and is doing. Between speeched against the Great Satan (i.e. US) and the Little Satan (i.e. Israel) and how they will wipe Israel off the map Iran has nearly driven itself to the verge of bankruptcy in developing nuclear weapons. Given your scepticism at Saddam's WMDs (incidentally, there is a lot of material that UNSCOM physically sighted and inventoried that has still not been accounted), I'll not require you to believe the US administration but meerly point out that, once again, global concensus holds that Iran is, indeed, working toward nuclear weapons as evidenced by the ongoing diplomatic efforts by UK, France, Germany and others. KSA, on the other hand, had neither expressed nor demonstrated traditional military intentions. I'll agree all day long that there are a lot of US enemies in KSA that are buying a lot of bullets and explosives for the bad guys, but I'll just repeat what Bush said, that this war is being fought on many different fronts and in many different ways and that addressing these financial issues does not require traditional military action. Additionally, KSA is home to two of Islam's holiest sites. For a crowd that usually derides "the right" and this administration in particular as lackign nuance and being culturally insensitive, I find it ironic in the extreme to hear any discuss KSA and military invasion from them.

"We WANT war with Iran. We're looking for the slightest excuse to attack them."

What we want is irrelevent. Iran declared war on us in 1979, just as Al Queda declared was on us in 1993. We just didn't take them seriously, despite several significant attacks by both, until 9/11. Some still do not take them seriously, operating in denial of all available evidence. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying "we're at war so the bombing will start in five minutes." What I am saying is that not taking Iran's words and actions at face value and doing what is prudent and neccesary to counter them and their threat to US interests only helps put us closer to another 9/11 like event, either here or, more likely in Iran's case, against US ally Israel. Despite your "evil military-industrial" meme, neither I nor anyone else I know in the military wants to fight Iran. We do, however, appreciate the need to be ready and willing to fight, if needed. Remember, a key factor in Saddam's noncompliance with UNSCR1441 was his belief that US would be unwilling to take action without UNSC backing.

"Do people on the right even ponder these questions?"

Do people on the left just automatically assume that "people on the right" are blood thirsty automatons hell bent on hegemony and power with no logical thought applied?

Posted by: submandave at August 28, 2007 03:30 PM

Creamy Goodness,

Thank-you for the link. Much appreciated. However, the manner in which Dan states "How easily we have forgotten that the Iranians were quite supportive of our actions in Afghanistan, to the point that the Bush administration went out of its way to DOWNPLAY that support!" is mis-leading.

quite supportive vs. from either benign, neutral, to somewhat helpful is a bit of a leap in my book.

In either case, specifically how was Iran being helpful? I wish the state dept. would have elaborted upon that.

I actually agree with Dan on one point. The house of Saud is as dangerous if not more so than Iran. The major difference is that the Saudi's are trying to destroy us from with in, while Iran makes their intentions well known.

Posted by: CJ at August 28, 2007 03:30 PM

Dan,

You bet I am too suspicious. I saw my country be led into an inappropriate war in 2002, even when the evidence did not require us to go to war.

Apparently you didn't get the memo that Saddam sent out explaining that he was killing anyone who might possibly be spying on Iraq. Or perhaps your copy got put down the plastic shredder along with an innocent Iraqi. Dozens of people died trying to get us accurate information on what was going on in Iraq before the war, but they mostly failed to provide us anything definitive. Your assertions defile the memory of those who died trying to tell us what was going on in Iraq, and those who died to keep the rest of the country terrified.

Maybe it's because I have friends who were political prisoners under Saddam, abused regularly and tortured often for no crime other than their existence that your assumptions irritate me so much. You appear to have no concept of what it is to live in fear. We had bad intelligence because we were trying to get information out of an intelligence black hole. How many people would you look in the eye and send to their deaths to make sure that the posturings of Saddam Hussein were false?

You are insisting on a level of integrity from others that you do not appear to possess yourself. This is another reason why your endless objections to this war are tiresome in the extreme. Skepticism is a fine attribute in moderation, but when it repeatedly blocks effective action and actively ignores suffering, it resembles cowardice too closely to be distinguished.

If there had been a few thousand anti-war activists dead in Saddam's prisons I would be willing to give them the same credit I do those who worked to overthrow the fascist regime in Iraq.

We had imperfect intelligence. Get over it.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 28, 2007 03:38 PM

Hey Monster
That was great, awesome and fantastic.

Get Dan off everybodies lawn!!!!!!

Micheal
Once again great job. Different than usual but it sounds like you are in a different situation.

Posted by: paul at August 28, 2007 04:24 PM

before anyone writes yes i know that it is "everyone's lawn"

Posted by: paul at August 28, 2007 04:26 PM

For the record Dan, there is no doubt for those of us who have been there about EFPs and their origins.

And to Micheal, I hope you realize that my good friend Bob Woodruff was hit by an IED just 500 yards from where you were in this article....

Posted by: John at August 28, 2007 04:55 PM

Thank you, Michael for your bravery and living to tell Americans with guts, honor, and above all else a rising need for our military to be victorious, about successess and disappointments in Iraq. We have our sectarian violence within U.S. borders so it comes as no surprise that there is sectarian violence in Iraq. Let truth, no, let unwavering human spirit prevail in the coming months both here and abroad.

Dan, socialism is for sheep. Free market economies led by responsible(one could hope) democratic governments is our world's future. If you choose to embrace totalitarian ideals and elitist-oppressive views of everyone around you who doesn't "fit the bill", then thank a soldier next chance you get, for securing your right to be a facist-elitist-oppressor.

Thanks again Michael, I will check back now and again to see new Iraq stories you wrote.

Be safe out there, man. You have bigger balls than I do, flirting with IEDs.

Posted by: Nate at August 28, 2007 05:35 PM

Zak,

Let's pretend you are a decision maker. What do you think should be done about Iran? Why do you find it so hard to believe that the Iranians might have an interest in harming our troops in Iraq?

First of all, they really don't have a reason to harm our troops. Think about it. By our invasion of Iraq, we've done what they couldn't do in the 1980s, and that was to repel an attack by a Sunni dictator, one Saddam Hussein. By our invasion of Iraq, we have given Iranians the country through the Shi'ites. By our invasion, Iran has more power and influence in Iraq. It doesn't make sense for them to want to escalate the conflict further. They are far more patient than we are.

However, on the other hand, from their point of view, they see the United States acting like quite a bully towards them. It would be foolish of them not to respond in kind to save face. Think about it, if a bully approached you back in your high school days, what would you do? Cower to him? If you did so, he would own you. What if you stood up to that bully? America is acting very bullish right now, a strutting cock that cannot control its temper. This is very immature of us and self-defeating.

What would I do about Iran? I would be far more respectful of them that I have been. I would understand that Iran is not monolithic. I would also understand that Iran's population is very young and the young are generally very much against the old establishment. They are also nationalistic. If my actions threaten their livelihood, I know they will circle their wagons and protect their own before they jump ship. There is no need to make Iran an enemy. They are not our enemy. It's actually pretty ironic, because Americans tend to be quite forgetful about things (for example, I bet if we did a survey about who knows about Operation Ajax, it would be quite a low number) but one thing many Americans do not forget is the hostage standoff 30 years ago. They're stuck in that moment. They can't let it go. For some reason, we must get our revenge. Illogical as that is, that's the rationale behind those who favor war with Iran.

We need not foment a larger regional conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites. It is self-destructive and benefits no one. The answer to peace in the Middle East is, well, peace! Not War!

submandave

Although the invasion of Iraq was in 2003, I will assume this is the "inappropriate war" to which you refer, since that is the topic at hand.

First off, I thank you for being respectful. I'm not a troll. Yes, I am referring to the war that began in 2003. I purposefully wrote 2002 because that's when the war was sold. I was highlighting that 2007 is becoming eerily like 2002 all over again.

Long term success in this war will require either killing lots and lots of folks in the Middle East or changing the sociopolitical environment that allows the Islamists to breed and grow terrorists.

That's a noble and worthy goal, but how exactly does one create a new environment in which Islamists will NOT breed and grow terrorists? Evidence and testimony points to our actions in Iraq having the very opposite effect you apparently desire. It was Porter Goss who testified to Congress in February 2006 that the war in Iraq was the biggest recruiting tool Islamists were using to get more recruits. The war also is a perfect training ground, to hone those terrorist skills. Exactly how does the creation of an environment of death and violence stop the breeding of those who master in death and violence?

I will also assume that your implication of insufficient evidence directly relates to the WMD issue. First, contrary to popular concensus, while a key issue and greatly hyped by the administration prior to the invasion, they were never presented as the sole reason to go in

No one believes it was the sole reason we went to war, but it was the ONLY reason that pushed enough people over the edge to support the war.

That said, however, the evidence available before March 2003 was sufficient to convince a majority of the global intelligence agencies and governments. So much so that the assumed use of these weapons was actually used as an argument against invasion.

Do you remember a press conference Colin Powell had in February 2001 with the Egyptian prime minister? This is what Colin Powell had to say about Iraq and their WMD threat:

And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

Was he wrong? Condoleezza Rice said a very similar thing in July 2001. Both comments of course come before 9/11. But as Jon Stewart said so clearly recently not everything changed after 9/11. The space time continuum did not change. The sun still rose at the time it was to arise. What changed after 9/11? WE DID. Not Saddam. Not Germany. Not anybody else. We changed. And unfortunately not for the better.

they know that killing US service members in spectacular explosions is a good way to get Yankee to go home.

Hmmm, but wouldn't 9/11 change that perspective? After all the most spectacular terrorist attack in the history of the world has made America strike out at two nations, threaten two others, and who knows how many more are in the wings. It seems that it isn't spectacular explosions that will drive Americans away, but rather the slow trudge in the mud towards no real clear objective. Muddy up Americans' view of the mission works far better to reduce support rather than spectacular attacks.

Americans haven't turned against the war because of the amounts of soldiers dead. Americans have turned against the war because we've so botched the occupation that there is no end in sight. Why should we continue having our soldiers die for a mission that has no end? What's the point in that? And please don't tell me the end is six months away, or even nine years away (General Petraeus' new favorite time). He does not see the end. He can only assume. And it is unfortunate, because we really don't have the soldiers to see a mission through for nine more years.

This is primarilly, again, designed to create the impression you just stated, helping to drive our retreat.

Designed by whom? By Iranians? Iranians are in no way funding Sunni insurgents. So it isn't Iranians who are creating "the impression [I] just stated, helping to drive our retreat." And Al-Qaeda in Iraq is not working in conjunction with the Iranians. Both sides want Americans gone, true, but both sides also want each other gone. So when you state something like this, exactly who is designing things for our retreat?

KSA, on the other hand, had neither expressed nor demonstrated traditional military intentions.

Really? Then why do they have the HIGHEST military spending in the Middle East? Last numbers I saw has the KSA at $27 billion annual military budget. Both Iran and Israel lag far behind at about $9 billion each. There is no doubt who is the real military power in the Middle East. It is Saudi Arabia.

For a crowd that usually derides "the right" and this administration in particular as lackign nuance and being culturally insensitive, I find it ironic in the extreme to hear any discuss KSA and military invasion from them.

I'm actually not advocating war with Saudi Arabia. I'm merely pointing out the ridiculous rationales from the right on war with Iran. The rationale is that since Iran is funding and supporting Shi'ites who fight us, we must attack and destroy Iranians. Well, Saudis fund and support Sunnis on a far grander scale, yet we're bestest of buds with the very people who fund the men who kill our soldiers. That just doesn't make any sense, so I'm curious why we don't hear war talk from the right towards Saudi Arabia. I'm not advocating that position, but I'm showing that the rationale behind warring with Iran is not based on their support of Shi'ites in Iraq. That's merely an excuse. The rationale is deeper, and leads back to the events of 30 years ago. Some people just can't let go of the past.

Iran declared war on us in 1979

No they did not. But if deposing a puppet government we installed is called declaring war, then I can surely claim that we declared war on them back in Operation Ajax when we deposed a democratically elected leader. So really this "war" is sixty years old and begun by us. Surprise surprise.

Now I shouldn't mock like that, but really, in the last century, how many wars was Iran involved in and how many wars was America involved in? We really are a violent people, so it is very disingenuous of us to go around the world and self-righteously claim this nation or that nation is bad because they are violent.

Despite your "evil military-industrial" meme, neither I nor anyone else I know in the military wants to fight Iran. We do, however, appreciate the need to be ready and willing to fight, if needed.

I do know this difference. I have no problem with defending my nation, but aggressive preventive warfare is not defending this nation. It undermines our defense. It weakens us rather than strengthens us. Can you see this?

Do people on the left just automatically assume that "people on the right" are blood thirsty automatons hell bent on hegemony and power with no logical thought applied?

It is hard to answer this question honestly without saying "yes." Because we really think that you guys have not thought this through very carefully.

For example, just what kind of military action do you support against Iran? An airstrike? What happens if innocent Iranian civilians happen to die in that airstrike? You going to claim them as just "collateral damage?" Have you thought through just what the response from the whole rest of the world, not to mention Iran, would be if we were to kill innocent Iranians who had nothing to do with our grievances?

Just how ready would we be if Iran decided that to counter that airstrike they would invade Iraq and take over the country? What would we do? Let the Saudis counter by invading Iraq as well? Just how does that solve the problem of not letting Iraq become a regional war?

I honestly ask if you guys really have thought this through carefully.

Posted by: Dan at August 28, 2007 06:06 PM

Patrick,

You appear to have no concept of what it is to live in fear. We had bad intelligence because we were trying to get information out of an intelligence black hole. How many people would you look in the eye and send to their deaths to make sure that the posturings of Saddam Hussein were false?

When you go to war, no excuse is good enough if you are wrong. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. You better be damn well sure you know your stuff before taking the big plunge.

Posted by: Dan at August 28, 2007 06:08 PM

I enjoyed this story for its "man on the street" point of view, which is almost completely lacking in American print and TV news. It seems apparent that the U.S. Army brass is out of new ideas on how to speed up progress in Iraq.
One suggestion, which works at corporations and other large organizations, is to have a few Generals essentially do what Mr. Totten did. They should anonymously go out and live with a platoon here and a squad there, to see first hand what is working and what does not work. Gradually, new ideas for improving things faster will become obvious to them. They can then return to headquarters and order the appropriate plans be made to execute the new idea(s).
Nothing beats first hand observation, and talking to the people who work "where the rubber meets the road". I know that Generals are supposed to stay at headquarters, surrounded by lots of security, but that isolation from street-level interaction makes them dependent on agendas that do not have much to do with real progress, and almost completely cuts them off from street level information, other than dry statistics and the like.

Posted by: Joe at August 28, 2007 07:09 PM

Thanks for the excellent article Mike. In this world "sixty second" news cycles, in-depth reporting like yours is a breath of fresh air. Stay safe and keep up the great work.

Posted by: John at August 28, 2007 07:22 PM

Dan: Regarding military action against Iran:

Read "A Dose of Reality for the Realists" by J.R. Dunn (Real Clear Politics - 11/22/06) which refers to a plan of action by Arthur Herman "Getting Serious About Iran: A Military Option" (commentarymagazine.com - 11/06)

It does not involve invasion or occupation, as in Iraq. Probably could be called Shock/Awe2.

Posted by: Tom at August 28, 2007 07:36 PM

Dan,

When you go to war, no excuse is good enough if you are wrong. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. You better be damn well sure you know your stuff before taking the big plunge.

When has this ever happened in world history? When has this ever happened in US history? Why are you asking for immaculate understanding before undertaking a war? How many genocides are you willing to excuse to avoid imperfect wars?

Let us look at this differently, assume for a moment that we have marginal knowledge at best of what is going on inside Iraq in 2002. How would you explain the nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks on the US and its allies if we had massively underestimated Saddam's capabilities?

You are asking for a degree of perfection unavailable on this earth before making serious decisions. What benefit is it to our nation and our civilization to become paralytic with fear and indecision?

Do you acknowledge that there are enemies of our nation and our civilization trying to harm us?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 28, 2007 07:40 PM

Reliapundit, you are banned. Never post here again.

Your comments will continue to be deleted if you refuse to comply.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 28, 2007 07:56 PM

When you go to war, no excuse is good enough if you are wrong. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

Dan - Under what conditions would you trust the American military and the American government to go to war?

Posted by: mary at August 28, 2007 08:31 PM

Dan,

The ability of liberals to forget history and relevant facts when it is convenient to their argument, never ceases to amaze me.

Iran, Iraq, and indeed Saudi Arabia, are oil-rich nations whose wealth is being funneled into regimes of oppression, murder, and terror.

I am not going to provide references, because you can easily google all the relevant facts for yourself.

Iran's Islamic fanatics kidnapped 52 Americans from our embassy there and held them captive for 444 days. One of those kidnappers, is now the President of Iran.

Iran routinely arrests political dissidents, and high-level ministers are accused of murdering dissidents in addition to jailing them. (from Human Rights Watch)

Saddam came to power in Iraq through murderous purges inside his own Baath party.

Saddam and Iran went to war over border oil disputes, a war in which over one million people on both sides died, in which Iran sent boys as young as 12 to be slaughtered on the front lines (and liberals accuse the US of "going to war over oil").

Shortly after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam invaded Kuwait, also over oil. (Are you detecting a theme here?) The Iraqi army intentionally murdered, raped, and robbed non-combatants - again in violation of international law, in case you were wondering.

Iran recently kidnapped British naval officers operating in internationally-recognized Iraqi waters and held them without charge for several weeks.

Iran is funding Palestinian and other terrorist groups with hundreds of millions of dollars a year, which money was used to: wage Hamas' 2006 summer war against Israel, kill innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians, create propaganda TV for Hamas which is brainwashing the next generation of strap-on bombers.

You have just heard first-hand from several soldiers who were recently in Iraq that the evidence of Iran manufacturing weapons being used to kill US soldiers is incontrovertible.

Iran is engaged in a nuclear program which could easily be - and likely is - being used to build nuclear weapons. Iran already has regional missile capabilities, and has routinely promised to "wipe Israel from the map". Do you think, maybe, Iran's intentions are not on the up and up?

Saddam put people feet-first into plastic shredders, and videotaped their screaming faces, to send to their families, as examples of what happens to people who opposed him.

Saddam's regime is responsible for what are estimated conservatively to be 400,000 missing Iraqis, who are being dug up from mass graves every day.

Saddam lobbed missles with chemical warheads, in violation of international law, against Saudi Arabia and Israel, non-combatants in the first Gulf War.

I could go on for hours. But you get the point (or do you??)

THESE are the people that liberals like you are content to leave in charge of entire nations, in control of tens of billions of dollars a year of oil wealth, who have proven time and again their willingness to use that wealth to fund war, murder, fear, oppression and brutality, to put their own populations into meat grinders...

And somehow you can sit there and claim that these people are no threat to anyone outside of some arbitrary line on a map? That just because they are inside a line labelled "Iran" or "Iraq" they cannot harm us?

By what fantastic evasion of reality is this belief made possible?

Dan, unlike American liberals, these Islamic fanatics tell us to our face exactly what they are going to do to us - and then they do it. Over and over. How many times do they have to slaughter innocent people before you and your ilk will take them seriously?

Posted by: Jawaid at August 28, 2007 08:51 PM

BTW, Michael, FANTASTIC ARTICLE.

Posted by: Jawaid at August 28, 2007 08:55 PM

I've often thought that the reason leftists preferentially attack the US and Western states is that there is some prospect that they will care. The autocratic and theocratic ones don't give a flying flatus, so it's not very satisfying to nag them.

But I'm sure I'm being too kind. It's actually ambition to have the same kind of exalted status their buddies in the ME and east of the Urals to the South China Sea enjoy. All those lovely lives to arrange for their own good, like it or lump it!

Not that they'd actually survive Phase II of the Necessary Liquidations stage of the Revolution.

I hear the UN is thinking of offering its good offices to "peacekeep" and help develop "civil society" and "institutions". Great idea, if it weren't for the fact that the nations in charge of the relevant UN agencies are amongst the planet's most degraded borderline failed states. E.g., Zimbabwe.

If the Iraqis can tell shit from shinola they'll say, "No effing way, José!"

Posted by: Brian H at August 29, 2007 01:33 AM

We all know the regime in Iran is evil. much like Saddam's was. But with all due respect to the US military, just what exactly can they do about Iran? An invasion is out of the question while they are still bogged down with 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Airstrikes? Commando raids? A blockade or sanctions? All of those only present limited (if any) success. Given the incompetence of the current administration, there is every possibility that taking on Iran will backfire badly and play into the hands of the Iran regime.

Posted by: EmbersFire at August 29, 2007 04:15 AM

A blockade would bring down the Iranian government in a matter of weeks. Their economy would disintegrate. Given the incompetence of your posting, there is every possibility that no one will give more than two seconds' thought to it.

Posted by: chaos at August 29, 2007 04:23 AM

That's easier said than done. You can't even secure the borders of Iraq which is 3 times smaller than Iran.

There have been sanctions in place for decades which have only had limited success. The economy of Iraq also disintegrated during the 1990's, but the regime still stood.

A blockade also works both ways. All the Iranians have to do is sink a few ships in the straights of hormuz and it will be them blockading our oil supply.

Try putting more than 2 seconds thought into your reply the next time

Posted by: EmbersFire at August 29, 2007 04:35 AM

Embersfire: We all know the regime in Iran is evil...But with all due respect to the US military, just what exactly can they do...?

Redeploy UNIFIL. They're doing a great job of preventing Iranian weapons from reaching Hizballah. They'd be equally effective at stopping the flow of weapons to Iraqi Shia insurgent groups.

Posted by: Edgar at August 29, 2007 05:12 AM

Congradulations, Mike, for apparently going somewhere that hasn't been temporarily pacified by overwhelming force. I guess the army let you go where you wanted to go after all, they must have figured you weren't a large enough audience to tip the media debate. Who knows, perhaps they really do let any media figures who want to go to places like this, and many of them are just too scared and lazy to do it.

I am going to dispute your POV on trusting what you hear from the army, in a minute, though.

On one level, I don't believe in the surge simply because I don't trust the incomplete information I have. Yeah, I know three districts in Baghdad and several large cities in Baghdad are relatively quiet, but the whole tactical critique of the surge before it happened was that it was too small to do more than move the violence around the country. Since the national numbers on violence seem to be the same, combined with the fact that we only get reports from the Happy Places, there's nothing to disprove that theory.

This is the first of your reports that, to me goes beyond the Happy Places. I'm impressed. There's only so much seriousness with which you can give the Happy Place Reports when US deaths/injuries and Iraqi casualties are still off the scale, relative to the rest of the conflict. I'm sure you understand that. This report makes you a little more credible. You're still only one guy, thus the perspective on events is still hopelessly local and random, but at least it seems not to be deliberately slanted. For now, anyway.

For a comparison point, the vast majority of everything readable - public, private, left, right, whatever, is to one level or anotheer, deliberately slanted.

I'm looking at this and mostly I agree:
I knew what he meant. Counterintuitive and contradictory as it may seem, I never felt more optimistic in Iraq than I did when I walked the streets and interacted with average Iraqis.

Most places in the world, people just want to get by. It's the minority with grander plans that shape structural dynamics to screw this up.
There are two other factors at work here:

#1. The Iraqi people have been reduced to a state of dependency. That means that small and easy favors mean a great deal, emotionally to them. This is, counterintuitively, a good time in Iraq to make friends, if you have an army or the equivalent.

#2. To the extent the Americans make themselves the armed force least likely to kill civilians, the more ordinary the person, the friendlier they'll feel, because their goals are the most survivalist. But the nascent power structures will still resent you. Of course, the problem with counterinsurgency is that you never stop killing civilians. I'm not expecting that level of realism, but perhaps that's not your fault.

I'm separating my posts arguing with people on here from my post on your work.

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 05:55 AM

You're too suspicious, I think. Individuals may lie to me, but the entire Army doesn't lie. It has too many diverse people in it to pull something like that off even if the brass wanted to.

The short counter-response: Pat Tillman. Jessica Lynch.

The second-counter-response: WMD, 2003.

The first short answer: it depends.

Like it or not, the US Army is not a neutral analyst. Petraeus is going to give an optimistic-sounding report because to do anything else is to lose his job, not to mention a personal admission of defeat, which many human beings in this world simply can't do, as this comment section proves every day.
Now, the nice thing about "optimism" is that no lies are involved, only opinions.

Let's leave opinions aside and go to facts for a minute. Mike, 1,000,000 people don't have to lie in unison. They weren't all there. About any given small-unit event, only a few people have to lie, possibly for their own self-interest, and others only have to fail to correct the situation. People who refuse to "slant" are barred from speaking to reporters. PR spokesmen are called in to give vague answers. Things like this are why scandals like Abu Ghirab and Haditha take years to break, and in both cases, they investigations begun only after journalists looked into the situations.

This is a matter of factual record and absolutely can be backed up if someone makes me want to waste the time.

So, how can this be explained in contrast to your perspective?

It doesn't take a million-man-conspiracy to lie. Just a lot of ignorance in a tightly-controlled hierarchy. Nor does it take an organization filled with immoral people - you only need 10%, positioned correctly. And there's always 10%. You can get any organization to lie.

Having said that, I don't think and haven't thought that any Americas you've talked to here are lying to you, whether or not their opinions are correct.

But if you don't think the Army lies, please explain, for starters, Tillman and Lynch.

Mike, there are people associated with the US defense industry that claim that Iran is arming Al-Quieda in Iraq. This contrasts your reporting on the ground, as well as common sense, and a host of other political/military logical factors. It's not impossible, but it's highly unlikely. Of course, if we can feed supplies to Al-Quieda linked groups in Pakistan to go after Iran, then I guess anyone can, but never mind. The point is: there are entire bureaucracies within the military dedicated to manipulating (shaping?) public opinion. Everything needs independent corrobration. I don't know that the people putting this claim in the air are "lying". But I feel it's more likely than not that the assertion isn't true.

The EFP's are a perfect example. I personally believe that Iran is arming Shiite militia groups. Why wouldn't they? They may be ordering attacks against US forces, as well, or they may only be enabling them. But if you ask me, "is the USM capable of making it up?", the answer is, "Yes!".

History, if nothing else, makes this clear! (You know what Tonkin Gulf was, right? Have things fundamentally changed?) Now, they may only present ambiguous evidence, drop strong hints, and leave it to the conservative private machine to jump to the desired conclusions for them. Hey, that's not even a lie, right? It is, however, leading the public to come to incorrect conclusions. That's how we got into this war, and that's quite possibly how we'll get into the next one.

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 06:20 AM

Why are you asking for immaculate understanding before undertaking a war? How many genocides are you willing to excuse to avoid imperfect wars?

Not immaculate, just not overwhelmingly inaccurate. As for genocides, we started a war in Iraq, where no genocide was occuring, which made it impossible to intervene in a real genocide, in Sudan. How many genocides will you overlook because some punk doesn't like us? Will you invade Venezuela and leave Uzbekistan intact?

The problem with you, Patrick, is that you like to argue in big, sweeping dawn-of-history generalizations that make moral accusations against other people with their every sentence. Surprise, these don't really apply to real life and individual events, like the Iraq War.

Let us look at this differently, assume for a moment that we have marginal knowledge at best of what is going on inside Iraq in 2002. How would you explain the nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks on the US and its allies if we had massively underestimated Saddam's capabilities?

You know, Syria is also not our friend, Patrick, and they have both chem and bio. Is the Bush administration criminally bankrupt for having not invaded them already? Or is Syria.... somehow.. different? Or, perhaps, can we conclude that even bad guys with bad weapons often avoid using them against Americans... out of nothing more complicated than self-interest?

I can't believe you really believe the things you say, which is damning.

What benefit is it to our nation and our civilization to become paralytic with fear and indecision?

How many military actions have we initiated in the past two decades, Patrick? Six or seven? Again, your sweeping generalizations fail to come into contact with reality. Anytime you see attacks on the US homeland going unresponded to, I'll be glad to jump over onto your side of the argument, but until then, you're living in an alternate universe.

Do you acknowledge that there are enemies of our nation and our civilization trying to harm us?

Yes, but they're very weak. How about we quit unintentionally helping them with inaccurate aggression?

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 06:35 AM

Second, more flawed logic. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is part of the Islamic State of Iraq. The ISI is an umbrella group of up to a dozen or more Sunni terrorist/insurgent/tribal groups, including AQIZ.

You're being as disingenuous here as you accuse Dan of being. The ISI is only one ideological faction of anti-American Sunni insurgency. There are plenty of non-ISI-Sunni insurgents blowing us up. At least, there were a year ago, and people like Mark Lynch at Abu Aardvark are reading there Arabic press releases. I have yet to see any reports I trust asserting the contrary firsthand.
So, conflating the Sunni 'bad guys' with Al-Quieda in Iraq universally is, until proven otherwise, a serious mistake. It's also a chunk of the unwarranted optimism of the surge.

Mike, do you have anything to say about this issue?

On your first issue, I believe that Iran is supplying IED's to Shia militants. The US is also , more likely than not, running black ops inside Iran funding the MEQ, Jundullah, and other groups inside Iran that blow things up and kill civilians. It's a bad state of affairs all around, and I don't think escalation is the way to fix it.

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 06:44 AM

Iran is not on the U.S's side in Iraq, nor our friend. Whether they're bad for Iraq itself is a more complicated question - compared to what? Whether they're so bad for Iraq that taking them head-on, using Iraqi territory as a battleground, is good for the Iraqi people, is an even more complicated question, and my short answer is, "no.".

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 06:50 AM

Well now alot of things make more sense! If the typical Arab guy suffers from a shoddy work ethic, a lack of discipline, thinks work is 'beneath' him and tends to petty robbery, it makes perfect sense that their prefered military tactic is the ambush, not the frontal assault.

Trouble for them is...you can't win wars by ambushing people and you can't rule that way either.

Posted by: John at August 29, 2007 07:02 AM

As for genocides, we started a war in Iraq, where no genocide was occuring, which made it impossible to intervene in a real genocide, in Sudan.

The Marsh Arabs and the Kurds. Those attempted genocides were not thwarted, by anyone. You can't call Saddam's treatment of the Iraqis "genocide," but his was one of the nastiest police states in the world, and he killed maimed tortured hundreds of thousands of people.

How many genocides will you overlook because some punk doesn't like us? Will you invade Venezuela and leave Uzbekistan intact?

Are there ongoing genocides in those countries?

This is the "if you can't fix everything at once don't do it at all" position. We were able to depose Saddam, he was worth deposing, deposing him was in teh interest of the whole world and suited our national security interests.

Why do we have to do everything? If we do it ourselves, we are contravening international law. If we let the UN do it, all of a sudden the corruption and inefficacy of the UN is recognized and the US is castigated for not doing it.

Meanwhile no other country has to lift a finger.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 29, 2007 07:10 AM

Reports when US deaths/injuries and Iraqi casualties are still off the scale, relative to the rest of the conflict

What scale? Even with all the injuries (not deaths) this is the safest war for our armed forces, or anyone's, ever.

As for Iraqis, just compare to Iraq's war with Iran, or Saddam's treatment of his own people. Plenty of statistics in these comments. By any measure those are the larger scale against which our actions should be compared.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 29, 2007 07:18 AM

Michael,
Excellent story, good photography. It is a pleasure to read an Iraq story written by someone who is actually there, on the ground, with the troops, on the front lines. Too much of what is presented in the name of news back here in the US of A is written by unsympathetic REMF in air conditioned hotel rooms far from the scene of action. Much of their verbiage is pure opinion, uncontaminated by any kind of fact. Your stories have facts, names, places, and times and tell things that I, for one, hadn't heard before. Thanks for the all good work. It reflects great credit upon you, and upon the US armed forces about which you write.

Posted by: David Starr at August 29, 2007 07:55 AM

Thanks Michael for another GREAT informative report from the front lines. Again reminding me of why I like to come here.

"It's also a chunk of the unwarranted optimism of the surge." --glasnost

What proof do you have that it is 'unwarranted optimism' ? Is ANY optimism unwarranted ? If not, what precise degree of optimism is warranted ? When does 'warranted optimism' cross the line to 'unwarranted optimism'? Is 'unwarranted optimism' something like 'irrational exuberance'? Can one get some form of inoculation against it and so be protected from its insidious effects ?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: dougf at August 29, 2007 08:17 AM

I might have a higher degree of optimism for the surge if it involved Shinseki-level troop deployments. Much has been made of how we're finally doing counter-insurgency right under Petraeus — except for the fundamental issue of how many boots we put on the ground. Anybody up for reinstating the draft?

The surge bought a little time. When we start drawing down next year, we'll see how the Future of Iraq forces cope.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 29, 2007 08:41 AM

MJT,

The dramatic arc of this essay is masterful. I've reread it several times now, and the way it serves its central theme — the title, the setup, the final revelatory quote which wraps everything up.... it's just brilliant. There might be a few rough spots in the details, but this piece has the strongest skeleton of anything I've read by you.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 29, 2007 09:38 AM

Dan, you have obviously thought this through quite carefully. The problem with your analysis and conclusions though is your information sources are apparently daily KOS and other left leaning sources. Those sources are fundamentally flawed and hardly objective, yet you arrogantly come here and criticize Mr. Trotten, who is actually in Iraq.

Iran has been and continues to be heavily involved in Iraq, providing the EFP’s is a small part of their involvement. Iraq has been a historic enemy of Iran, and they see this as an opportunity to not only eliminate the threat, but to also gain control. If you disagree you are not paying attention to current events, or your information sources are flawed. This might help educate you:

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/28/ap4061550.html
http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/World/2007/08/28/4452535.html
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22325956-5005961,00.html

As far as desiring a conflict with Iran goes, no one in their right mind wants a military conflict, except maybe Ahmadinejad. But then I’m not sure he is in his right mind.

Thank you Mr. Trotten for your hard work, real information directly from Iraq is hard to come by.

Posted by: scott at August 29, 2007 10:18 AM

glasnost,

How many military actions have we initiated in the past two decades, Patrick? Six or seven?

Panama 1989: Stayed on the ground, as successful as anything south of the Rio Grande.

Kuwait 1991: Stayed on the ground in Kuwait, almost as successful as Dubai. Left Iraq, allowed two genocides to start, provided air cover to stop them. Situation miserable and inconclusive until 2003.

Somalia 1992: Successful until handed off to the UN, which let local warlords cause a genocide. Feeble political will led to insufficient military force intervention. From Wikipedia: The UN withdrew in Operation United Shield by 3 March 1995, having suffered significant casualties, and the rule of government has not yet been restored.

Haiti: UN directed the starvation of the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. I'm not certain how many children's deaths my personal participation in the blockade caused, but it was more than a few. Eventually we extorted a surrender from the military government and were able to send troops in opposed only by disease and despair. Disease and despair are entrenched and have terrain advantage in Haiti.

Clinton Tomahawk strikes: I'm ignoring these because our enemies did.

Serbia 1999: Airstrikes for 78 led to the discovery that proper deception techniques can lure away 9 out of 10 precision guided munitions. Eventually troops were allowed into Kosovo, but airpower as a deciding tool took a hit. Kosovo is stable...with NATO troops all over it.

Yemen 2000: Oh yes, we allowed Al Qaeda a pass on this... That worked out alright, didn't it? Restraint and lack of immaculate intelligence stayed their hand, which led to:

New York 2001: Maybe we should have done something about AQ starting eleven months previously.

Afghanistan 2001: Troops on the ground hinder enemy operations in the US to this day.

Iraq 2003: Troops on the ground hinder enemy operations in the US to this day.

What matters is not that military operations were conducted, it is that they were conducted to a successful conclusion. Where we stayed, we won.

I do agree that the world is too big for us to be the only policeman. The countries of the EU have to start stepping up if they want to continue maintaining the lifestyles of their bureaucrats. Korea and Poland are doing their part and more. Japan is just starting to step up to the plate.

Another part of this is that since 2001 the calculus of force of our enemies has been thrown off. It used to be that if they could endure a short tantrum of military exuberance, they could continue on their way without significant change. Part of what annoys me about the anti-war, perfect intelligence faction is that they want us to go back to the policy of irresolute action.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 10:27 AM

What scale? Even with all the injuries (not deaths) this is the safest war for our armed forces, or anyone's, ever.

If I wanted to bother, I could find about twenty-five US military engagements in the Twentieth Century that caused less US casualties than this. I could probably find three or four that caused more.

As for Iraqis, just compare to Iraq's war with Iran, or Saddam's treatment of his own people. Plenty of statistics in these comments. By any measure those are the larger scale against which our actions should be compared.

Give me a break, Yehudit. The "we invaded Iraq for the human rights of the Iraqis" case is in ruins. The Kurdish and Marsh Arab campaigns were between 1983 and 1993, which is the last time ordinary Iraqis suffered tens or hundreds of thousands of violent deaths, until... today.

You get it? If we'd invaded Iraq in 1983, or 1988, to stop mass killings of Iraqi Kurds, you'd have a case. You don't stop mass killings by invading countries who committed them decades later. Shall we invade Cambodia next?

The years between 1993 and 2003... no one who's arguing on these boards has much in the way of statistics, but I'd bet money that Saddamn killed, max out, 10K people in that whole decade. There was no large-scale killing in those years, no military forces. There was a brutal police state, but if you knew much about brutal police states, you'd know it's pretty clear when they're engaging in mass killing and when they're not.

At least 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past five years. So your "human rights! Invade Iraq!" campaign, if you have even a small slice of the conscience you trumpet around here so self-righteously, has to somehow account for, in conservative estimates, ten or twenty times as many Iraqi civilians dying in that period as would have otherwise.

That doesn't make Saddamn a good person. I'd cry zero tears if he had choked to death on a fishbone , the sooner the better. It just means that by invading his country and annihilating the power structures, we made the situation worse.

We're trying to make it better now, after several years of messing around, but even with our genuine, albeit under-resourced efforts, no one has any idea when things will be as good, in terms of violent deaths per year, as the 1993-2003 Hussein era.

If you think something's wrong with these numbers, then prove them wrong. Until then, you know exactly where I'm coming from, and you know exactly why. Maybe not every military campaign to depose evil dictators is a crock, but this one will go down in history as a crock. It's too late to change the historical record, although we could save some lives by withdrawing (or, in theory, using overwhelming military force to stop the violence, if only it worked without being as violent as the violence it's supposed to stop).

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 11:28 AM

Patrick, you have some good points, but you switch back and forth between military and humanitarian-based analysis when it suits your purposes to make your case. If Iraq was "miserable and inconclusive" from 1991 until 2003, it's become measurably more so since then. A lot of intel experts, including an NIE from 2005, think that it also has created and trained generations of jihadists which did not exist before, whether or not it's also "keeping them busy".

Afghanistan was a good invasion - a clear cassus belli, global approval, a population that was genuinely sick of its rulers, and if we'd stayed with one target, we could have amassed the concentrations of humanitarian/security force to make the government a success.

Because we had to do two wars at once- hubris - at least one of them is definitely a net humanitarian and military loss - Iraq - and Afghanistan is a lot more of a mess than it had to be. If the jihadists had tried to work with Pakistan instead of trying to off Musharraf, we might have been all but pushed out.

Somalia and Haiti didn't end well for anyone, but there's no magic bullet that would have fixed them. The problem was not lack of military force: Ethopia has been applying a lot of military force to Somalia recently, and the results don't seem to be beneficial.

I'm not against all forms of military intervention in all places and times. I'm against this one.

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 11:41 AM

glasnost,

The Kurdish and Marsh Arab campaigns were between 1983 and 1993, which is the last time ordinary Iraqis suffered tens or hundreds of thousands of violent deaths, until... today.

Except for all the people who got killed by the Ba'athist security apparatus between 1993 and 2003. In Baghdad there are warehouses full of execution orders, many of them unfulfilled, many of them carried out. Saddam Hussein did not stay in power in Iraq from 1993 on the strength of his skills as a novelist.

Just because there is not enough money or will to accurately catalog the untold thousands of people the Ba'athists killed after 1993 doesn't mean it didn't happen. What is more important is that your estimates of average death rates do not include political murders carried out by the state. Oddly enough, the Ba'athist Ministry of Health did not include them in their numbers. So I think I can account for the extra you are looking for on the basis of first hand accounts of surviving Saddam's prisons.

Who have you been talking to that tells you that it wasn't genocidal in Iraq after 1993? I have been talking to the people who suffered years of beatings during that time. I'm sure your Ba'athist ministry records appear more dispassionate. That doesn't make them accurate.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 11:51 AM

Less stressful than investment banking? Investment banking in New York must really be something.

Well, let's see. In both NY investment banking and in Iraq you are routinely thrown into contact with evil, greedy, scum-sucking, amoral low-lifes who would as soon steal the fillings from your teeth as look at you. Only in Iraq, however, are you issued an automatic weapon and allowed to kill them.

Posted by: Dick Eagleson at August 29, 2007 11:57 AM

Michael,

Thank you for your investigation and report. Very brave of you and very good work getting a real picture of what is going on over there. We and the rest of the world need to get a more realistic picture of what's going on on the ground level to help our future decisions.

-Tom

Posted by: Tom Ryan at August 29, 2007 11:59 AM

glasnost: The US is also , more likely than not, running black ops inside Iran funding the MEQ, Jundullah, and other groups inside Iran that blow things up and kill civilian

This is conspiracy-theory thinking. Outside of Chuck Norris movies special forces don't go on unofficial "black ops" into enemy countries in which they run a high risk of being captured and held hostage unless there is a very good reason to do so.

And the U.S. most certainly does not use its special forces to help terrorist groups murder civilians.

You're drawing a moral equivalence between the U.S. supporting anti-regime elements in Iran with the Iranians supporting lethal terrorist attacks in Iraq.

Posted by: Edgar at August 29, 2007 12:05 PM

glasnost,

Because we had to do two wars at once- hubris - at least one of them is definitely a net humanitarian and military loss - Iraq - and Afghanistan is a lot more of a mess than it had to be. If the jihadists had tried to work with Pakistan instead of trying to off Musharraf, we might have been all but pushed out.

There is this period between 1941 and 1945 you need to read about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ww2 During that time, we fought serious people on two fronts, and a hell of a lot more of them who were a hell of a lot better trained and equipped.

More importantly, we have a seaport in Kuwait that we can and do supply millions of tons of material through. If we didn't have Iraq pulling Saudi terror thugs like a magnet, we would have a lot bigger fight in Afghanistan and a lot harder job supplying it. I can always tell when somebody doesn't understand military action, they fail to discuss logistics. If the main fight was in Afghanistan, we would be getting our asses handed to us.

I'm not against all forms of military intervention in all places and times. I'm against this one.

And if you were willing to admit that there were good reasons to fight in Iraq, we'd take you a lot more seriously. Just showing up to a war zone is a massive undertaking of will, fighting effectively is another tremendous struggle, and accomplishing a successful end state is incredible. Every person I've talked to who is serious about military action acknowledges astonishing difficulty as a baseline. Although you can find servicepersons who whine about the justifications for this war, in the service you can just tune them out as whiners. If you were offering ways to improve the situation that exists, it would be more interesting.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 12:08 PM

The shame about the EFP origin controversy is that without it, this dispatch can be read by left and right readerships with equal ease. I think it's the only aspect that someone on the left would find objectionable. It's a distraction that detracts from the main theme.

For the record, I noticed the unqualified "Iranian-manufactured" description on the first read, and it made me frown. It seems plausible that Iran would supply EFPs to Shiite militias, but I have yet to see irrefutable evidence. As far as I know, the best public information we have is hearsay from unnamed military personnel alleging that shipments have been intercepted at the border. The charge has deadly serious geopolitical ramifications, and in my opinion, boilerplate hedging is warranted. Better, though, might have been to seek out language that avoided taking a stand, so that no one would have noticed anything one way or the other.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 29, 2007 12:18 PM

Creamy Goodness,

I saw that same unqualified attribution and thought about zinging Michael with a demand that he go to Iran, watch an EFP being made, follow its smuggling into Iraq, watch it being placed, and then observe it being used on an attack against Coalition forces. But then Dan did it for me...only he wasn't joking.

This is the fundamental disconnect between skepticism and going "LALALA...I can't HEAR you..." There exists no credible evidence that EFP's are not being supplied from Iran and routinely used against the soldiers in this post. It is possible that EFPs are being assembled outside Iran now, but the training, technology, and materials are coming from Iran. Also, there are things Michael cannot post that give him the confidence to post that unqualified statement.

Maybe we're all wrong and aliens are beaming down the EFP's into place and detonating them only after creating an elaborate paper and evidence trail that points at Iran. For those of us who didn't smoke our breakfast, though...I think we should trust the guy who has been in range of the munitions in question.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 12:57 PM

The years between 1993 and 2003... no one who's arguing on these boards has much in the way of statistics, but I'd bet money that Saddamn killed, max out, 10K people in that whole decade. There was no large-scale killing in those years, no military forces. There was a brutal police state, but if you knew much about brutal police states, you'd know it's pretty clear when they're engaging in mass killing and when they're not.

At least 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past five years. So your "human rights! Invade Iraq!" campaign, if you have even a small slice of the conscience you trumpet around here so self-righteously, has to somehow account for, in conservative estimates, ten or twenty times as many Iraqi civilians dying in that period as would have otherwise.

Posted by glasnost at August 29, 2007 11:28 AM

So. Wait. Your argument is that the invasion was bad because one set of imaginary numbers (At least 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past five years) is greater than another set of imaginary numbers (but I'd bet money that Saddamn killed, max out, 10K people in that whole decade.)?

Seriously?

Ignoring completely that during the time frame of the second set of imaginary numbers people were kvetching that Sanctions (that made invasion unnecessary because they were working!) were foul and cruel and must be repealed immediately because the mass numbers of Iraqi children they were killing due to malnutrition, poor medical care and just plain meanness?

You know, I think I’ve officially lost the thread on Iraq now. I have no idea who was for what when after why. I think I’ll stick with the Husseini regime was blight upon the world, which we are better off without and be done with it.

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at August 29, 2007 01:19 PM

Let's leave aside concerns about the accuracy US Military claims of the provenance of the EFPs. I assume that Iran probably is providing at least some weapons to Shiite militias. My question would be is this a casus belli? And what form does US action take? Personally I think bombing Iran, the only practical military action available to us would backfire in ways that would make Iraq look like a picnic. And if providing weapons to our enemies is a casus belli, and Iran has been at war with us since the embassy takeover, shouldn't we have bombed Washington after the Iran-Contra affair was revealed?:)

Posted by: Gus at August 29, 2007 01:37 PM

As for genocides, we started a war in Iraq, where no genocide was occuring, which made it impossible to intervene in a real genocide, in Sudan.

We will never intervene directly in the Sudanese genocide because doing so would offend our Saudi allies, who support the regime in the Sudan

Posted by: mary at August 29, 2007 02:24 PM

Gus,

Personally I think bombing Iran, the only practical military action available to us would backfire in ways that would make Iraq look like a picnic.

It is funny to me that to many people the concept of target selection is people throwing darts at a map. While I am not the biggest fan of strategic bombing, even I have to admit that we've gotten better over the years.

I hope that the current administration will not repeat the idiocy of striking intelligence headquarters in the middle of the night with cruise missiles. If you are committing an act of war, do not take your frustrations out on the janitors and those having affairs with their secretaries. Launch so everything will hit 10 AM on payday so that you are kicking in the crotch, not flicking on the ears.

Based on what I have read and talked about with Iranian revolutionaries, putting a serious hit on the Revolutionary Guards would probably serve to make a revolution possible. I would also seriously consider destroying every helicopter in the country as part of a three day hit. I wouldn't touch the regular military unless they got in the way. I would put a reward for groups who defected with major mobile equipment and weaponry. I think that for less than $40 billion initial outlay and fewer than 100 US lives you could overthrow Iran. (All of this is my own surmise and is not the result of any classified materials that have come my way. )

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 03:28 PM

Patrick,

Show me the evidence.

Maybe we're all wrong and aliens are beaming down the EFP's into place and detonating them only after creating an elaborate paper and evidence trail that points at Iran.

Fine. Where is this "elaborate paper and evidence trail"?

Show me. Links, please.

I supported the invasion of Iraq based on WMD. I have a duty to exercise greater skepticism next time.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 29, 2007 04:01 PM

While I am not the biggest fan of strategic bombing, even I have to admit that we've gotten better over the years.

I don't think there is much question that the US military is capable and competent in this regard. The issue would instead be the geopolitical consequences of an attack on Iran.

First, the Stait of Hormuz would close. One thing that everyone agrees on is that Iran has decent anti-ship missile technologies. After one or two tankers are sunk, that would put an end to tanker traffic, and put the global economy into recession. Hell, even the threat of sinking tankers will stop traffic through lack of affordable insurance.

Second, expect the Shia in Iraq to close the supply lines between Kuwait and Baghdad. Things will then get real ugly real quick in Iraq.

Third, don't expect revolution in Iran if the US is bombing it. Instead, expect the population to rally around the government.

Fourth, invading one Islamic nation that hosted a bunch of evil scumbags that attacked the US is understandable. Invading a second and killing a shitload of Muslims in the process might be seen as an unfortunate error in judgment. Bombing the crap out of a third is going to begin to look like a bad trend. Expect most of the Arab nations that are currently friendly to the US and host the military to politely ask them to leave. Particularly those with oil production or banking facilities within range of Iranian missiles.

Fifth, expect Russia and China to start getting quite chummy with both Iran and each other if Iran is bombed. That would not be a good thing.

Attacking Iran isn't just a bad idea, it's a very very bad idea. That, of course, doesn't mean squat. Lots of people will think it a wonderful idea.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 05:13 PM

I posted this above, but since it's well worth reading (and discussing), I'll post it again:

"Getting Serious About Iran: A Military Option"

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewArticle.html?id=10135

A follow-up article: "A Dose of Reality for the Realists":

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/11/a_dose_of_reality_for_the_real.html

Patrick: Steps & target selection as follows:

(1) Statement that US will tolerate no action that endangers oil flow thru Straits of Hormuz.
(2) Deployment in the Gulf of Oman various Navy ships (see list).
(3) Declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil.
(4) Guarantee the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil, & platforms of other Gulf states.
(5) Guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign: Targets:
(a) Iran's air-defense system
(b) Its air force bases & communications systems
© Its missile sites along the Gulf coast
(d) Iran's nuclear facilities including infrastructure, i.e., bridges & tunnels
(e) Iran's gasoline refineries & storage facilities
(f) Its 3 subs (in port).
(6) Seize Iranian oil assets in the Gulf.

See the 6-page article for details. Various reasons for military action, objections, as well as possible reactions also discussed in the article.

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 05:30 PM

DPU: Read the article I just posted the link to, for possible reactions and consequences.

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 05:36 PM

Let's leave aside concerns about the accuracy US Military claims of the provenance of the EFPs.

Let's not. I have some serious doubts about this. primarily because if Iran is supplying weapons to anyone, it is to the Badr Brigade, the militia that it has the closest connections to. Have US forces been under attack from them recently? The last that I'd read, Badr was busy heavily infiltrated the police and army, and was not attacking US forces yet.

It seems somewhat more unlikely that Iran would be supplying political sensitive weaponry to the Mahdi army, which is far more Iraqi than the Iranians would either like or trust. But even so, have the Mahdi army been using EFPs against American troops?

The most likely candidates to be using EFPs are either Sunni insurgents or al Qaeda. I can't see Iran being excited about supplying either of those types of groups any weaponry whatsoever.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 05:37 PM

Statement that US will tolerate no action that endangers oil flow thru Straits of Hormuz.

Or what? They'll bomb them?

And even if the US concentrates all its bombing on suspected missile sites within reach of the Straits, do you think that will guarantee that they are all destroyed? Enough for insurance companies?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 05:40 PM

(e) Iran's gasoline refineries & storage facilities

Iran's oil refinery and storage facilities are probably pretty far down the list of potential targets. Somewhere below killing every living being in Iran, for instance.

There are some pretty deep flaws with that article ("Getting Serious About Iran"). For example, indicating that the US was able to prevent the Straits from being closed during the Iran/Iraq war. True, but this was only because Iran was afraid of American military action against it should it attack US-protected ships. If Iran is already at the receiving end of US bombing, that disincentive no longer exist, so the comparison is false.

Other problems are his superficial brush-off of Russian and Chinese reaction, and the fact the he completely ignores what might happen in Iraq.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 06:01 PM

DPU:

The purpose of targeting their gasoline refineries & storage tanks would be to bring their military hardware to a stand still.

And what would the Iranians do in Iraq? More suicide bombers against the civilian population?

I think the reaction of China & Russia would be mild compared to the U.S. anti-war crowd (he said with tongue in cheek).

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 06:24 PM

The purpose of targeting their gasoline refineries & storage tanks would be to bring their military hardware to a stand still.

The value of the oil to the world economy may be more important than slowing down some trucks. Their tanks are already extremely slow.

And what would the Iranians do in Iraq?

The Shia militias with close ties to Iran in the south of Iraq could cut off the supply routes to the north, as I suggested above. Those routes could be reopened, of course, but then the US forces would be fighting against the Shia militias, which has so far been pretty low level. That is not a good scenario.

More suicide bombers against the civilian population?

You seem quite uninformed regarding the activities of Iranian-friendly Iraqi militias.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 06:41 PM

I think the reaction of China & Russia would be mild compared to the U.S. anti-war crowd

Possibly, but the US anti-war crowd do not hold massive amounts of US debt, nor do they have enormous US currency reserves. Russia and China do, and both have also political and economic ties with Iran. And China is the most obvious beneficiary to a loss of US influence in the Persian Gulf.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 06:57 PM

D+U
I largely agree that attacking Iran is a lousy idea, and about the other points you raise; except for

" most of the Arab nations that are currently friendly to the US and host the military to politely ask them to leave. Particularly those with oil production or banking facilities within range of Iranian missiles."

Most Arab nations where the US is based would be overjoyed to see Iran bombed. They see it as their main threat, and are clearly alarmed by the extending of Iranian influence in formerly sunni-dominated areas in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. The sunni press is rabidly anti-Persian, with a bile bordering on what they say about Israelis.

I don't expect overt support (unless Iran sinks some Arab tankers), but something like the initial Saudi reaction in support of Israel's attack on HA, plus some low-key basing rights.

As for Russia and China, I expect their interest to diverge once the firing starts. Neither wants war, but while Russia is an oil producer, China is a consumer with nothing like the US strategic oil reserve. I expect the Russians to support Iran to the hilt; but if the Iranians make noises about closing down the straits, the Chinese will probably be very pissed off.

Posted by: Bruno at August 29, 2007 07:11 PM

Most Arab nations where the US is based would be overjoyed to see Iran bombed.

The rulers of most Arab nations would be overjoyed to see Iran's influence, yes. But many of the Gulf states have significant Shia minorities, and Islamist movements of their own to contend with. That complicates matters.

I expect the Russians to support Iran to the hilt; but if the Iranians make noises about closing down the straits, the Chinese will probably be very pissed off.

Depends on the long view, I suppose. Short-term financial hardship for longer-term political influence in the Gulf. China's economy could also stand a bit of cooling off at the moment.

And it should be noted that China is building a overland pipeline to Iran.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 07:16 PM

Sorry, my first line above should read "The rulers of most Arab nations would be overjoyed to see Iran's influence reduced, yes."

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 07:18 PM

This is conspiracy-theory thinking. Outside of Chuck Norris movies special forces don't go on unofficial "black ops" into enemy countries in which they run a high risk of being captured and held hostage unless there is a very good reason to do so.

That "unless there is a very good reason to do so" is a hole wide enough to drive a 747 through. A very good reason, according to whom? Dick Cheney?


And the U.S. most certainly does not use its special forces to help terrorist groups murder civilians.

Edgar, heard of El Salvador? I'd like to believe you're right, but history makes it impossible to believe for sure. How do you explain our very strange relationship with the MEK? They murdered civilians in Iran for a decade or more.

You're drawing a moral equivalence between the U.S. supporting anti-regime elements in Iran with the Iranians supporting lethal terrorist attacks in Iraq.

First, don't put words in my mouth. Second, what does "supporting anti-regime elements" mean? If those elements are conducting terrorist attacks, like the kind that have been occurring in Iran since the invasion (and, to be fair, before as well), then there is an equivalence. If our proxies blow up their civilian installations and they do the same thing in return, that moral equivalence is earned. Third, are the Iranians really supporting "terrorist attacks" in Iraq? Evidence, please? I thought they were supporting IED's against US soldiers. That's guerilla war, not terrorism. What else are you claiming that they're masterminding, exactly?

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 07:18 PM

Regarding the Iranian friendly Iraqi militias, I just read in yesterdays WSJ that they are now firing Iranian made missiles and mortars into the green zone. Anything else they would/could do?

And yes, there's a lot of things I am uninformed about, which is why I asked. I wasn't being a smart ass.

Perhaps the Brits could consider a surge of their own in the south to keep the supply lines open. I read an Iraqi blogger today that stated the road from Jordan to Bagdad was now safe to travel. Perhaps another supply line?

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 07:27 PM

Another reason not to attack Iran. Its counter productive to good relations with our ally.

"Maliki said. "But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government."
Speaking through an interpreter to a group of reporters for an hour in his offices in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Maliki found several ways to say that Iraq is beholden to no country. He defended Iraq's constitutional right to the death penalty, its commitment to dialogue with "Iran and Syria despite U.S. opposition to those governments, and its determination to use Iraqi troops to lead the latest effort to pacify Baghdad."

Tom
"Regarding the Iranian friendly Iraqi militias, I just read in yesterdays WSJ that they are now firing Iranian made missiles and mortars into the green zone. Anything else they would/could do?"

The rw media have been playing pretty loose with factual info. regarding Iran and weapons.

Posted by: Russ at August 29, 2007 07:42 PM

Regarding the Iranian friendly Iraqi militias, I just read in yesterdays WSJ that they are now firing Iranian made missiles and mortars into the green zone. Anything else they would/could do?

Again, close down the highways from Kuwait to Baghdad, thereby disrupting supply lines. That's the third time I've said that. Am I being unclear?

And yes, there's a lot of things I am uninformed about, which is why I asked. I wasn't being a smart ass.

Didn't think you were. Suicide attacks are mostly being done by foreign Jihadis in the Islamist terrorist groups. It's also likely that Sunni insurgency groups are exploiting these Jihadist attacks for their own ends.

However, the Iranian-aligned militias are Shia, and are more interested in gaining political control over Iraq than blowing themselves up messily. The have the numbers and (reportedly) the funding and supplies in a magnitude that doesn't require suicide tactics, which are surely a desperate measure of an inferior enemy against a superior foe.

The deaths inflicted by Shia death squads are through kidnap, torture, and execution, not by suicide bomb.

Perhaps the Brits could consider a surge of their own in the south to keep the supply lines open.

The British are leaving completely soon, and by all accounts have been simply withdrawn to their bases now for some time.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 07:50 PM

By the way, the missile attacks you mentioned were in southern Iraq, not on the Green Zone, and were rockets, not missiles. Unless I'm reading a different article.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 07:55 PM

Russ:

The article in the WSJ was written by a contractor not a WSJ reporter. It was kind of an aside remark. The article was "This Isn't Civil War" by Carter Andress (8/28/07). His company, American-Iraqi Solutions Group, employs hundreds of Iraqis "Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd... throughtout the capital and Sunni Triangle, and has been there for 3 years".

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 07:57 PM

Yup, just found it myself, thanks. Here's the embedded link.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 08:00 PM

DPU:

No, you weren't unclear, I responded to that point in a previous post (Brit surge or maybe Aussie? to keep the supply line open, or open a new supply line - Jordan? Turkey?)

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 08:04 PM

Tom,
Thanks. Still I wouldn't too much weight on Carter Andress, a civilian contractor and who is proponent of a prolonged US occupation in Iraq. Might be biased a bit.

Posted by: Russ at August 29, 2007 08:06 PM

There was a recent study by the UK armed forces, 80 pages, suggesting that the US target list in a strike on Iran would be along the lines of what Tom's suggesting in Commentary, but I don't believe it for a second. Not even from the Bush Admin. Not in 2006.

For a very good reason. Even a very limited bombing of the top 3 nuke sites would probably provoke a serious escalation in Iraq, but... maybe it wouldn't. Perhaps it's possible that through some combination of intimidation and intervention, not to mention Iranian calculation, there might be a "victim" response that avoids overt retaliatory strikes. Still a bad idea.

But any campaign remotely like Tom's, on the scale of 2003, would double the price of oil, kill thousands of civilians, provoke a worldwide diplomatic backlash, collapse the Iraqi government for good, and guarantee our exit from Iraq in a genuine tail-between-legs retreat within a year or two.

I don't think there's any air campaign - or at least, any realistic one - that can stop the smuggling of advanced anti-armor and anti-air munitions into Iraq. Not to mention that, whatever the flow of money and more ordinary arms into Shia Iraq, it could surely be boosted once it becomes overt instead of covert. Probably by several multiples. Unless anyone thinks Iran's industrial plant is strained to the limit from producing a few IED attacks per week (assuming they're involved in them, of course).

For details, please see Israel vs. Hizballah, 2006. I recommend Cordesman's analysis. Iran could be doing a lot more in Iraq than what it is, whatever that is.

Posted by: glasnost at August 29, 2007 08:20 PM

DPU:

"sheltered souls in the GREEN Zone getting hit on a regular basis for the first timre in more than a year by primarily Iranian-supplied ROCKETS and mortars."

I get one and you get one.

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 08:21 PM

Russ:

Yeah.. you're probably right. And how would Andress know? - street rumor seems rampant.

Wait to the Ray Gun Truck shows up. (a story I read, on Pollard, I think)

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 08:26 PM

I get one and you get one.

Yes, I was reading the wrong article, one about the caliber of rockets being used in the south is increasing dramatically. Also of note is that the number of Shia attacks on US forces has for the first time reached the level of Sunni attacks on US forces. I have no idea what that means.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 29, 2007 08:34 PM

Interesting comments - gotta go, will read other responses tomorrow.

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 29, 2007 08:37 PM

If I wanted to bother, I could find about twenty-five US military engagements in the Twentieth Century that caused less US casualties than this.

Proportionally?

The years between 1993 and 2003... no one who's arguing on these boards has much in the way of statistics, but I'd bet money that Saddamn killed, max out, 10K people in that whole decade. There was no large-scale killing in those years, no military forces. There was a brutal police state, but if you knew much about brutal police states, you'd know it's pretty clear when they're engaging in mass killing and when they're not.

Saddam and his kiddies and his secret police killed way more than 10k in 10 years, DPU. That would be 1000 people a year. No way. There have been more people found in mass graves in Iraq than that.

A brutal police state can disappear a lot of people over 10 years. (But since we were initially talking about genocide, we can't add in the tortures and mutilations and rapes.)

Posted by: Yehudit at August 29, 2007 09:54 PM

Tom and DPU,

I think you are both looking at stupid targets. The control mechanism of the Islamic Republic is the target, not the economic engine of the Iranian people. I don't think we should even target the regular Iranian military because they are not our problem. If you destroy the control mechanism of the Mullahs, the Revolutionary Guard, the Mullah's are meat. The Islamic Republic falls like the rotten fruit the Mullahs have made it.

We are not at war with Iran, we are at war with the latest government of that empire. We do not need to invade, the peoples of Iran will overthrow the government a lot faster and a lot harder than we ever could. The Mullahs are not popular and they are not loved by sane and effective people in Iran.

This is not like crossing the Rhine and it does not need a strategic bombing campaign to match that effort. The only targets need to be government control and those military units that get in the way. Maintaining pressure on any remnant of the Islamic Republic is critical, and we'll probably be chasing down the corporate assets of the Republican Guards for decades.

It will be a greater and more lasting success for the West if the Iranian people reject the Mullahs with our assistance but not our control. Do you want to win this fight?

(Although putting unsightly holes in the pressure hulls of their submarines would be prudent...but I am biased because I don't want to hunt them down if they get out.)

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 29, 2007 11:39 PM

Patrick;

If the Iranians are smart(??), they would have one sub out of port at all times. But I suspect the US has a "Jack Bauer" dedicated Iranian satelight keeping an Eye on Iran & their subs. I think when the obsolete subs (not running silent) leave port, their location is tracked.

The reason to cancel Iran's gasoline stocks is to keep the Iranian Army out the fight.

Targets left out of the Commentary article were the psycho mullahs. But who would replace them when they're gone? A general or strong man? Musharef#2? or Sadam#2?

Invade and occupy is not an option. But to get at government control - the mullahs, air defense systems, etc. must be eliminated. To protect oil tankers, the Gulf missiles, etc. must be eliminated. And to take out as much of their nuclear facilities as we can, should be a high priority.

And by the way, the much mentioned possiblity of Iran sinking an oil tanker or 2, how is this going to block traffic? At its narrowist point its something like 20+ miles wide. Yeah, there's not much chance of them sailing without insurance. How many tankers a day pass thru the straits? Couldn't they just delay their passage for a week or two?

This conversation is all speculation, what-if stuff, but I find it very interesting, and important, because it could occur in the near future. I suspect that the Pentagon has a lot of what-if scenario studies.

What did you mean by that last comment "Do you want to win?"

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 30, 2007 01:32 AM

"I'd bet money that Saddamn killed, max out, 10K people in that whole decade."
OK, I can't take it anymore. I now feel free to skip your comments...
Only 10K were sent to mass graves from 93'-03'???
Tell it to the hundreds and hundreds of weeping family members on hand when mass graves were dug up after the U.S. invasion.
Tell it to the mothers screaming down air shafts into underground child prisons hoping their loved child was still alive within hours of the U.S. liberating Baghdad.
Uch... Up to the 10K comment you had my attention.I feel liberated from your drivel now.

Posted by: Babs at August 30, 2007 05:20 AM

glasnost: A very good reason, according to whom? Dick Cheney?

I know someone with more knowledge of the military can answer this better. But I'm sure the decision-making process is subject to strict controls, especially when "black ops" are concerned. Dick Cheney doesn't decide on his own.

Edgar, heard of El Salvador?... How do you explain our very strange relationship with the MEK? They murdered civilians in Iran for a decade or more.

The relationship is indeed very strange. Just because we have contacts in a terrorist group doesn't mean we back them, let alone support their killing of civilians. By contrast, Iran is unequivocal in its support of terrorist groups that target American civilians (Hizballah, for example).

First, don't put words in my mouth. Second, what does "supporting anti-regime elements" mean? If those elements are conducting terrorist attacks...then there is an equivalence...Third, are the Iranians really supporting "terrorist attacks" in Iraq? Evidence, please?

I'm getting tired of this kind of retort: "don't try to read my mind," "don't put words in my mouth", etc. When words are arranged together in certain ways they can convey more meaning than just their individual dictionary definitons. Besides, you just said there was equivalence right after you complained about my assuming too much. You think the US supports terrorists in Iran and you're saying if they do, there is an equivalence. Bingo.

Anyway, in response: the US having murky links to an Iranian terrorist group is not nearly as significant as Iran having entire militias in Iraq under its influence. Here's a question for you: where is the proof that the US directly supplied bombs to MEK with the knowledge they'd be used in terror attacks?

And I can't believe you asked for evidence that Iran is sponsoring terrorism in Iraq. What do you call all the death squad killings, the torture, etc.? The Mahdi army is involved in it and is strongly supported by Iran. Of course, the Iranians aren't directly involved in each kidnapping. But they don't need to be.

Posted by: Edgar at August 30, 2007 05:56 AM

The relationship is indeed very strange. Just because we have contacts in a terrorist group doesn't mean we back them, let alone support their killing of civilians.

Ah. Thanks for explaining that. You don't know if we're 'supporting' MEK black ops either, huh? It's more accurate to suggest that you don't know the level of our support. From what I've read, if not for our military protection and interference, the MEK would be wiped out. So, at best, you're conjecturing that we only cooperate with a civilian-killing terrorist group to get info from it, while permitting it to kill Iranian civilians independently. But we don't, you know, give it weapons or targeting info. Right? Are you sure? Of course you're not. Neither am I.

Thus, I'm not stating a moral equivalence. I am suggesting a potential one, however. I can't say for sure.

And I can't believe you asked for evidence that Iran is sponsoring terrorism in Iraq. What do you call all the death squad killings, the torture, etc.? The Mahdi army is involved in it and is strongly supported by Iran.

well, I don't know, Edgar.
If the MEK commits terrorist acts and we're helping it survive, we're not "supporting terrorism", since we're not actually encouraging the terrorism acts.

but if JAM commits 'terrorism' against civilians - debatable by itself, I'd describe it as more like authoritarian repression / human rights-abuses - and Iranians are helping JAM survive, but they're also not actually requesting or encouraging the abuses, yet they are supporting terrorism in Iraq?

To boil it down, it's okay for the US to support terrorist organizations, as long as we don't support the actual acts of terrorism committed by the terrorist organizations. But it's not okay for Iran. Right?

Posted by: glasnost at August 30, 2007 06:55 AM

Saddam and his kiddies and his secret police killed way more than 10k in 10 years, DPU. That would be 1000 people a year. No way. There have been more people found in mass graves in Iraq than that.

It was glasnost, and I specified the ten-year period in question, which was the ten years prior to the invasion, and I stand by it. Most of the mass graves - and, not coincidentally, almost everything Saddamn Hussein was charged for on trial - occurred between 1983 and 1992. The mass graves are mostly from the 80's, and I say mostly only because I'm not 100% certain it was all of them.

So try returning to my point about not invading countries to allegedly stop mass killings that occurred decades earlier, and dealing with it this time.

Posted by: glasnost at August 30, 2007 07:00 AM

The only targets need to be government control and those military units that get in the way.

To what end? Revolution? Unlikely. The best favor that the US could do right now for Ahmadinejad would be to distract people from his abysmal performance as president by dropping bombs on the country.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 08:31 AM

dpu, I wasn't arguing that the EFPs are of Iranian make, I just wanted to see if people think that it is a reason to go to war if the case can be proved. Given the track record of US intelligence agencies leading up to the invasion of Iraq, I'm extremely skeptical to say the least. I notice no one answered that question. Tom in TX and Patrick Lasswell leapfrogged over it into discussion of the form that military action will take, so I assume that they believe it is a casus belli, or that we are already at war with Iran. I happen to agree that bombing Iran would be a huge mistake that the US would pay for for years. Until recently I thought that talk of attacking Iran was just saber rattling, but I'm really starting to worry. Bush has nothing to lose.

Posted by: Gus at August 30, 2007 08:34 AM

I wasn't arguing that the EFPs are of Iranian make, I just wanted to see if people think that it is a reason to go to war if the case can be proved.

Yes, I know. I'm sorry, I used your comment as an excuse to present my own views about the source of the EFPs :-)

Regarding a casus belli, an expensive bombing campaign of Iran wouldn't be over a few weapons supplied to an insurgency. The actual reasons for doing so might be to reassure Israel, to destabilize the growing influence of Iran in the region, to slow their nuclear program, or simply because the imperial presidency so wishes it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 08:59 AM

Gus;

Iranian EFPs, even if proven, in and of itself, would probably not justify going to war. The reason I leapfrogged over that, was because I thought it was obvious that the US already had other justifiable reasons to go to war with Iran:
(1) Iran's serial defiance of UN resolutions
(2) Iran's declared genocidal intentions toward another member of the UN (Israel)
(3) Iran's harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists...and last but not least:
(4) Iran's ongoing nuclear program, with the potential to give raving suicidal psychos nuclear weapons.

Tom in South Texas

Posted by: Tom at August 30, 2007 09:34 AM

(1) Iran's serial defiance of UN resolutions

The UN now has relevance?

(2) Iran's declared genocidal intentions toward another member of the UN (Israel)

Even if Ahmadinejad's words were taken at face value, which is not a slam-dunk by any means (he used them in the same paragraph as the Soviet Union regime being wiped off the map as an example, and the Russian people are still there), the prsident in Iran does not control foreign policy or their nuclear program. The guy is a nutbar, but he's not running the show.

(3) Iran's harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists

Which ones?

(4) Iran's ongoing nuclear program, with the potential to give raving suicidal psychos nuclear weapons.

Aha. Well, let's keep in mind that it's always the case that those holding the weapons are suicidal psychos. It used to be the USSR and China, now it's these guys. I myself doubt that they're suicidal psychos. Iran has been exhibiting far too much concern for the future to believe that they simply don't care if their country is annihilated by retaliatory nuclear strikes from Israel and the US.

Next, let's also keep in mind that for the last two years, Iran has been six months away from developing nukes. Hell, in 1995 Israel was saying that Iran would have nukes by 2000.

It's far more likely that Iran is looking for threshold nuclear weapon technology, not nuclear weapon technology itself. But even if it's shooting for nukes, they're probably at least five years away, if not ten.

Lastly, I can understand Israel being concerned about Iran having nukes, as their defense strategy is dependent on a nuclear response as a last resort. I can also understand the US being concerned about Iran having nukes, as the only tool of influence has on Ian at the moment is threat of military action, and that becomes a different game if Iran has nukes. However, all nations will soon have nukes, or that capability. It's inevitable. Invading or bombing them will not change that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 09:52 AM

Me: I can also understand the US being concerned about Iran having nukes, as the only tool of influence has on Ian at the moment is threat of military action...

Ian? Iran too.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 09:55 AM

Tom,

I want to win this fight. I want to win it forever, even though it means fighting forever against the latest barbarians. I just do not see any kind of lasting peace with the Jihadi's and other fascists. I once thought I had done my part by helping to win the Cold War. I got out of the military and tried to become a civilian. It just did not take. I donated blood on 9/11, but that was just not enough to win.

It is not enough to survive anymore. I've met too many disparate marginal groups in Iraq to allow survival to be a goal because all of these legendary survivors were up against the wall not long ago. The scope of atrocity even that son of a pimp Saddam was able to accomplish with money and international indifference was so great as to risk ethnocide. The next monster might not be as compromised as Saddam.

We need a tolerant world that does not tolerate monsters, a middle path it is hard to stay on. I've dealt with too many people who will not raise their weapons except to exterminate, and that is not a successful method. Not raising a weapon even in the face of imminent extermination is even worse, especially when it comes in the reasonable form of demanding perfect intelligence before action. What our enemies fear is the capacity our military has learned to fight outside of the traditional battlefield.

I've said this before in other forums, but it bears repeating here. Mosquitoes cannot kill you, but malaria is genocidal. As millions of people in the third world die showing each year, if you are not serious about fighting mosquitoes, you are not stopping malaria. On the basis of rotten science disproved forty years ago we gave up our best weapon against mosquitoes, DDT, and have let millions die for lack of seriousness. On the basis of rotten foreign policy forty years ago, we let millions of people in Southeast Asia die for lack of seriousness.

Attacking Iran as if it were a strictly military target is a fundamentally unserious application of military force. It ignores cultural dimensions in a place where all critical decisions are made for cultural reasons. I do not want to destroy Iran's military force, and not just because we would have to replace it until it got rebuilt. I want to destroy the capacity of the Islamic Republic's fundamentalists to maintain power. If we can do that without destroying the Iranian military, we can allow them the dignity to assert that Persia has not fallen to another empire. If we try to fight Persia as one empire to another, they will never stop fighting. If we help the peoples of Iran to throw out the Mullah's they hate, they will be our friends for generations.

I want to win this fight so badly that I will settle for something other than total war. Do you want to win this fight enough to settle for something other than individual glory? Do you want to win this fight enough to not plant a flag?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 30, 2007 10:52 AM

On the basis of rotten science disproved forty years ago we gave up our best weapon against mosquitoes, DDT, and have let millions die for lack of seriousness.

Would it damage your analogy to point out that this DDT thing is a right-wing myth? That DDT was not given up for purposes of eradicating malaria, but to prevent immunity developing?

I'm not sure why this bit of disinformation has gained such a following recently. Perhaps it taps into some pre-existing left-wing enviro-stupidity mental model?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 11:03 AM

Patrick:

Your points are well taken, but how, other than total war (or selective targetting and blockade) do we help the Iranian people throw out the mullahs? It's been almost 30 years, and the mullahs are still entrenched in power.

Posted by: Tom at August 30, 2007 12:18 PM

It's been almost 30 years, and the mullahs are still entrenched in power.

I think their position is more precarious than "entrenched." While they hold power, they are still vulnerable to public opinion, and reportedly there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the way the country is run and lousy state of the economy.

I think that Patrick's suggestion about bombing the means of government control would have a paradoxical effect, however. Rather then rise up, I think we would see a surge of support for the government, except in some areas of extreme unrest.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 12:23 PM

Tom,

The Republican Guard is just sitting there, a viable target. We have sufficient causus belli to punish them based on their actions associated with the deaths of our troops in Iraq. The Republican Guard is the political troops of the Islamic Republic. A substantial strike on their capacities, as sketched out in my earlier post on the subject, will cause sufficient disruption in the political control of Iran to allow for popular revolutions. (The revolution will probably be YouTube-ized, but it will not be coherent.)

Putting a reward for military defectors with hardware will force the Mullahs to deploy the Revolutionary Guards to guard the military...while the civilian population takes over. There are a lot of ruffles and flourishes that can be added but the central point is that the Islamic Republic is inherently unpopular in Iran.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 30, 2007 12:30 PM

Putting a reward for military defectors with hardware will force the Mullahs to deploy the Revolutionary Guards to guard the military...while the civilian population takes over. There are a lot of ruffles and flourishes that can be added but the central point is that the Islamic Republic is inherently unpopular in Iran.

What do you think the chances of this succeeding as you predict?

And what happens in the event that it does not work out as you plan?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 01:33 PM

DPU,

What do you think the chances of this succeeding as you predict?

Until recently, lousy. After I met and talked extensively with Iranian revolutionaries who had one successful revolution under their belt, pretty good.

And what happens in the event that it does not work out as you plan?

The great thing about the Middle East is that you can always predict that there is going to be killing. If the Islamic Republic is overthrown, people are going to die. If the revolution fails, people are going to die. If no revolution occurs, a hell of a lot of people are going to die. In vague numbers:
Case 1: 300,000 dead in the best case
Case 2: 600,000 dead in the best case
Case 3: Millions to tens of millions around the Middle East and the world.

I'm not happy about Case 1, I just see it as the least atrocious option.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 30, 2007 01:50 PM

This comment page is so going into my "predictions" bookmark folder.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 02:07 PM

By the way, in case part of this thread is not dead yet, this is of interest, and may relate in a roundabout way to the whole issue Iranian-arms-in-Iraq issue: US-supplied arms are being used by insurgents in Turkey.

Oops. Embarrassing timing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 30, 2007 06:43 PM

Glasnost,

"At least 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past five years."

And who, precisely, caused those deaths? Not the U.S. Gee, maybe it's Islamic fascist nutjobs driving car bombs into markets?

You are committing a grievous moral equivocation, by placing the blame for the atrocities of Al Qaeda and others on the shoulders of the United States. The moral culpability for a murderous act lies solely with the murderer. Of course, every terrorists tries to justify their barbarity by claiming that the slaughter of schoolbuses full of children or old men and women at restaurants is "a response" to some perceived injustice.

It is a complete fallacy to say "they wouldn't be doing any of that if we weren't in Iraq". Because in fact, they have been doing it intensely for 40 years around the globe, in Israel, in "Palestine", in New York, in London, in Madrid, in Indonesia, in Java, in Pakistan, in India, in Saudi Arabia, in Iraq, in Iran, in Yemen, in Russia, in Chechnya, in Bosnia.

Anywhere a non-Muslim refuses to capitulate to, has a disagreement with, insults, or otherwise agitates a Muslim, bombs go off and innocent people are slaughtered. (Actually, this also applies to Muslims who disagree with each other, e.g. Shiites and Sunnis).

Finally, the premise of your comment is abhorrent. You are basically saying, "It's okay that millions of people were living under Saddam's boot. At least nobody was dying". Which completely disregards the facts that 1) people WERE dying, and 2) living in slavery and terror is never acceptable, and it's particularly revolting for a westerner such as yourself who has never known anything but freedom (bought at the low price of a world war or two here or there), to suggest that it's okay for others to live in slavery.

Posted by: Jawaid at August 30, 2007 10:50 PM

Jawaid, tens of thousands of extra people in Iraq are dead who wouldn't otherwise be. I can respect people who simply claim that was neccesary for our own safety, or something like that, more than I can respect those such as you who are incapable of either acknowledging or logically arguing against that fact. Even Yehudit attempted to disagree with the argument I was making itself. You, on the other hand, are tossing around crocks of moral universals that don't mean a thing to me, or to Iraqis dying in the name of your bullsh*t.

You want a good answer on whether deposing Saddamn was worth it, survey Iraqis. You'll get your answer. Nobody else's answers are worth a hill of beans.

PS: people are still living in slavery. and you ain't doing sh*t about it. I guess it's acceptable after all, huh?

Posted by: glasnost at August 30, 2007 11:08 PM

"And who, precisely, caused those deaths? Not the U.S. Gee, maybe it's Islamic fascist nutjobs driving car bombs into markets?"

Jawaid, that's what the left is all about. The only people who are responsible for their own actions are their political opponents. Everyone else, from drug addicts to criminals to terrorists, is off the hook. Someone else "made them do it" - usually GWB.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at August 31, 2007 12:02 AM

glasnost wrote:

"PS: people are still living in slavery. and you ain't doing sh*t about it. I guess it's acceptable after all, huh?"

Actually, I am. I am fighting people like you, who make continued slavery and injustice possible, by constantly apologizing for it so long as it suits your political agenda.

Posted by: Jawaid at August 31, 2007 12:20 AM

glasnost wrote:

"PS: people are still living in slavery. and you ain't doing sh*t about it. I guess it's acceptable after all, huh?"

And actually, after 9/11 I seriously considered enlisting but was too old. You see, my family is from Afghanistan, and unlike liberals whose memory goes back only a couple weeks, I keenly understand history, including the history of how we failed the people of Afghanistan in 1990 and how we must never do that again, to anyone, anywhere.

I suspect you, on the other hand, walked around college campuses with a sign equating Bush with Hitler, as that seems to be the level of discourse from the left of late.

Posted by: Jawaid at August 31, 2007 12:26 AM

Actually, I am. I am fighting people like you, who make continued slavery and injustice possible, by constantly apologizing for it so long as it suits your political agenda.

Arguing on a blog is not fighting against slavery injustice. Don't be delusional.

Sheesh.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 31, 2007 09:03 AM

I've read that the UN is already fighting a war against Iran. Namely, they're being sold defective parts for their nuclear program. I read one where centrifuges exploded when they were turned on. Iran doesn't have nukes yet due to covert operations by many nations.

I think the main difference between Saudi Arabi and Iraq, Iran, and Afghantistan are their diplomatic actions and statements. There are terrorist organizations in Saudi Arabi, but the government doesn't openly support them. Likewise, there are terrorist organizations in the USA, but the government doesn't openly support them.

Posted by: jeepndesert at September 7, 2007 09:43 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn