Friday, March 21, 2003

Signs of Civilization

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish, 19 March, 2003, Fort Blair Mayne desert camp:

We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country

We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.


Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.

You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.

You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.

Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.

Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.


I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.


As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is north.

Compare this with the bloodthirsty gang of nincompoops at Fox or Dan Rather babbling like Howard Stern on a bad day.

(via Electrolite)

Thursday, March 20, 2003

White Knuckles

Salam Pax is still on the air for now. He's the only one I've seen posting anything from Baghdad who isn't part of a big "news organization", isn't "embedded", speaks Arabic, and doesn't have a "minder" following him around. He lives there, works there, his family lives and works there. Read his stuff if you want a feel for what is really going on.

His comments seem to be down now; it was fascinating to watch various (I assume) American wingnuts try to convince him that he should be grateful for being bombed back to the stone age, as Saddam Hussein was All His Fault. Near as I can tell, these idiots are kept locked in underground bunkers and get their information only from Rush Limbaugh or other similar random disinformation generators. Then they swap stories to see who can come up with the most outrageous.

There are a few other sources of information on Iraq, but they're all outside the country. Best is probably Christopher Allbritton of Back to Iraq 2.0 . Unofrtunately, I lost a lot of respect for him when I found out that he doesn't speak Arabic, Farsi, or any of the other languages in the region. He's extremely knowledgeable about the area, but it just isn't the same if it all has to be squeezed through a translator.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Thoughts, On The Brink

Looks like it's go. Actually, near as I can tell, it's been "go" since last August. The delay has far more to do with getting our troops and equipment into position than to any desire for a peaceful settlement. Besides, it kept Colin Powell out of trouble.

The only thing I can come up with as a "reason" for this little escipade is that Saddam Hussein tried to assissanate Bush the Elder in 1993. Georgie Bush hero-worships his father; supposedly Ann Richards' keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention was the reason Georgie Bush went into politics in the first place. Richards (certainly the most amusing political speaker I've ever heard) said things like

I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.
Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
Georgie Bush pushed her out of the Governor's office in 1994. He knows how to nurse a grudge.

He's nursed this one for ten years. He's finally going to get what he wants. Doesn't matter that it has completely shredded our relationships with the rest of the world. Doesn't matter that the expense, along with his tax cuts, risks destroying our economy. Doesn't matter that he's essentially printing millions of recruiting posters for al Qaeda. "I'm a-gonna get that dirty low down snake what tried to kill mah Pa". Get the feeling that somebody's living in a not-very-good Western? Me too.

The War

I expect it to last between a week and ten days. Saddam's military is in horrible shape, and anybody with any clue about military operations was purged years ago. He could arrange some nasty surprises for us, but I suspect that he won't. Not his style.

The key for us is speed. Saddam will probably authorize the use of poison gas, but if nobody knows where to shoot it, it's useless. We need to go over or around any fixed defenses before they can get their nasties into action. If we bog down on the road, then we will have to deal with thousands of refugees being herded toward us.

The big problem is Baghdad. I'm not concerned about the "conventional" defensive perimeter -- looks like a video game to me, and it probably will look like a video game to our weapons operators. If we have to do any fighting in the city itself, it could be nasty. I'm especially concerned about the large number of anti aircraft guns. They're not much use against fighters, but they could be really nasty against helicopters.

The big problem, of course, is logistics. Our military has a huge logistical "tail", and we have to be very sure we don't run out of supplies. In particular, Baghdad is out of range of our Apache attack helicopters, so we will need some kind of intermediate base if we want to use them -- and we will.

War Crimes?

Is the US commiting a "war crime" by invading Iraq? I'd say "yes". The "official" justification for the invasion is Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted 8 November 2002 after being passed unanimously. The relevant section says

13. ... the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

The US is claiming that this is an authorization for invasion.

Thin. Very thin. Especially after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte said:

This resolution contains no "hidden triggers" and no "automaticity" with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a Member State, the matter will return to the council for discussion….[But] if the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce the relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security.

Of course, the US is now claiming that Saddam Hussein is ready to attack the US directly, thus we are "defending ourselves" against Iraq. Like Germany "defended itself" against Poland in 1939. (I've seen the German newsreels ...)

So is it a War Crime? Not really, since we withdrew from the International Criminal Court. Since we didn't sign the treaty, we're not bound by it. According to the theory of international law that Georgie and company are pushing, Americans cannot, by definition, commit "war crimes". I would, however, advise Georgie Bush and his cabinet, once they're out of office, not to vacation in Belgium.

Sitting On It

You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.

-- Talleyrand

The plans for the occupation that I've seen are very sketchy, and seem designed more to make political points than to present a real plan. One thing that's definite, and that is that the Administration, the media, and the American people have a short attention span. I suspect that we will be out of there in less than a year, declaring that Iraq is now a fuctioning democracy and ready to govern itself. Of course, as soon as we leave, the whole place will collapse into chaos, but the camera crews will either come home or risk being captured by Iraqi factions who don't like them one little bit.

Afghanistan is a nasty example. Despite promises, it's slipping back into anarchy, the Taliban are moving in, and this year's poppy harvest looks like the world is going to be getting plenty of heroin. The Administration is still making cheerful announcements, but it's been months since I've seen a news story from Afghanistan datelined anywhere but Kabul.

Keep in mind that we'll be blamed for every stubbed toe for the last twelve years. And this is in an area of the world that tends to hold grudges.

Gloom & Doom

It's impossible for an optimist to be pleasantly surprised or for a pessimist to be rudely awakened.

Why the worries? If I predict it, it's almost sure not to happen.

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