Wednesday, October 26, 2005

NYT: "2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark" (James Dao)

Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife's hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son.
For two joyous weeks in May, Sergeant Jones cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife. But he also took care of unfinished business, selling his pickup truck to retire a loan, paying off bills, calling on family and friends.

"I want to live this week like it is my last," he told his wife.
Three weeks later, on June 14, Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25.

The above is from James Dao's "2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark" in this morning's New York Times.

From Sabrina Tavernise's "Rising Civilian Toll Is the Iraq War's Silent, Sinister Pulse:"

The war here has claimed about 2,000 American service members, but in the cold calculus of the killing, far more Iraqis have been left dead. The figures vary widely, with Iraqi and American officials reluctant to release even the most incomplete of tallies.
In one count, compiled by Iraq Body Count, a United States-based nonprofit group that tracks the civilian deaths using news media reports, the total of Iraqi dead since the American-led invasion is 26,690 to 30,051.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a nonprofit research group, who has analyzed statistics of American deaths in Iraq, called the group's count "the best guesstimate in town," but warned that the figures were far from complete.

Will the new figure of 2,000 wake up anyone up? Krista e-mails wondering about that. She thinks, and I agree, that what it will mainly do is get the topic into conversations. From there? See the next item for the "down side."

Charlie e-mails to note Ivan Eland's "Iraq War Critics Emerge Too Late" (Consortium News):

Editor's Note: As more and more Washington politicians and pundits back peddle away from the disastrous Iraq War, some are claiming they privately opposed the invasion all along. Others are arguing that the invasion was the right thing to do, but that the Bush administration bungled its implementation.
While some longtime opponents of the Iraq invasion welcome these belated skeptics into the anti-war fold, the "repositionists" may carry with them the germs of future conflicts -- because their critiques are primarily tactical. If George W. Bush had just sent in more troops or had a more realistic plan, then the invasion of Iraq would have worked, these late skeptics now say.
To address that point of view, we are publishing a submission by Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute.

With the continued quagmire in Iraq and the likely indictments of senior Bush administration officials for trying to shore up the shaky rationale for the invasion, one would think that things couldn't get much worse for the administration. But where success has a thousand architects, failure leads to much finger pointing.
The administration's latest headache comes from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff. In a well-publicized recent speech before the New America Foundation, which I attended, Wilkerson lambasted the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" that got control of U.S. foreign policy from a president "not versed in international relations and not too much interested either."
Wilkerson's scathing remarks were designed to deflect criticism from his former boss. As one anti-war Republican Senate staff member told me, Wilkerson "summoned his courage about three years too late." The typically politically correct, inside-the-beltway audience was too polite to ask why Powell and Wilkerson didn't resign over the invasion of a foreign nation that they privately opposed.
Those taking a more optimistic view might say, "better late than never." Like Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neil before him, a disgruntled former administration official like Wilkerson draws a lot of public attention to horrendous administration policy.
In his speech, Wilkerson praised a new book by Democrat George Packer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, called The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq. The book will be just one of many new books exposing the administration’s incompetence in the Iraqi occupation, but will certainly get a boost from Wilkerson's speech and the extensive media coverage of it.
Packer traveled to Iraq multiple times to research the book. Although valuable for cataloging the Bush administration’s bungling, however, the book falters by implying that a more competent administration could have been more successful in the Herculean task of restructuring an entire society’s political, economic, and social system.
In other words, the author presents an essentially Wilsonian Democratic critique of a Wilsonian Republican occupation, thus avoiding the larger question of whether such grand nation-building can ever be successful.
Packer’s is mainly a critique of how the administration implemented a policy that he supported. He notes that, initially, the administration planned to lop off only the top layer of the Iraqi army and bureaucracy after the invasion, install Iraqi exiles in that highest echelon of a fully functioning state, significantly draw down U.S. forces within six months, and use Iraqi oil revenues to pay for it all.
He says that insufficient post-war planning resulted from such rosy predictions of early withdrawal, the military’s reluctance to engage in nation-building, and the administration’s suppression of any hint of possible post-war complications that might erode support for the invasion in the first place.
Packer argues that the administration wanted to proclaim "freedom" for Iraqis, but, fearing loss of control in Iraq, did not develop the institutions needed to make it a reality.

Charlie asks what to make of it? My own personal opinion? Here come the fine tuners. A number of e-mails have come in on a war hawk (think of Karla's at the end of August in the round-robin and you'll know who people are e-mailing about) who suddenly's discovered peace.
Nope, just a fine tuner watching the polls and leaping over. Comments are still the inane kind that led to the "We could have won in Vietnam!" nonsense.

The "fine tuners" sense the sea of change (quicker than most in Congress but they're more apt to follow trends than to be overly cautious) and want to try to channel it. As for Packer. My opinion? Worthless. As noted at The Third Estate Sunday Review, this summer, he had an article that could have made some of the impact the coverage on Cindy Sheehan could have. But he was too busy slamming The Nation and others. Hacker should be his last name. He blew his chance with a grieving parent by instead injecting himself into the article repeatedly. Hacker. A moving and real story before his face and he's too busy fighting his own battle to let the parent (a father) speak.

From the August 14th "Third Estate Sunday Review News Review:"

C.I.: Thank you Ty. We now go to Jess with a report on Cindy Sheehan's vigil.

Jess: Last week, we noted that while the Bully Boy takes his month long vacation in Crawford, Texas, he has Cindy Sheehan waiting to meet with him. Bully Boy announced Thursday that he didn't need to meet with her because he's heard the "bring the troops home" argument. Cindy Sheehan's 24 year-old son Casey Sheehan died in Iraq. She's stated that she's not leaving until the Bully Boy meets with her. If it means staying in the Crawford heat for all of August, she's willing to do that. On Wednesday, Bill Mitchell joined her. His son, Mike Mitchell, died in Iraq on the same day as Casey Sheehan. The Lone Star Iconoclast has an interview with Mitchell. On Friday, Bully Boy supporters were bussed in from the DFW area and The Lone Star Iconoclast estimates that they were fifty in number and also reports that at one point they chanted "We don't care, we don't care!" which sums up their attitude in the face of dying and loss. They rallied for thirty minutes and then left for another location. This seems to be a reoccuring problem for the Bully Boy supporters. On Saturday, the Associated Press reports, they started off the day with 250 and dwindled down to 12. Those protesting with Sheehan numbered 350. Also on Saturday, Sheehan's commerical began airing on nearby Waco's Crawford's cable TV system:

"Mr. President, I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts. How many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"

C.I.: Are most reports making a deal out of the support Cindy Sheehan has from volunteers?

Jess: The presence of others protesting is noted in most reports as is the help she's getting in handling interviews.

C.I.: An interesting aside to me is the fact that Chris Frosier, who lost his son Kurt Froshier in Iraq, November 2003, could have been the starting point for a national dialogue, the way that Cindy Sheehan has kick started the discussion. However, Frosier's own story was lost in a lengthy piece by George Packer where Packer tried to show boat and do everything but convey Froshier's complex feelings. This included George Packer's attacks on the right and the left, Andrew Sullivan to Arianna Huffington, by Packer[,] as well as on Naomi Klein and "the bitterly anti-war Nation." Somwhere the bitterly bitter Packer lost the story of Chris and Kurt Froshier and went off on his own free association. So the point here is that any smart and sane person would gladly take on assistance in dealing with the news media.

Rod passes on this scheduled topic for Democracy Now! today:

Wednesday, October 26: Army Reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski joins us in our firehouse studio to talk about her role as the head of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq when the now-famous torture pictures were taken in the fall of 2003. She is author of a new book titled "One Woman's Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story."

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