Saturday, February 14, 2009

'I don't think the Iraq war is over, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect'

Yesterday's snapshot includes:

Today Thomas E. Ricks reminded everyone, "Remember the elections a couple of years ago, puple fingers, people coming out? Followed by a civil war. So I think there's a lot of reasons that Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and harder, in fact, than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there's a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war." We'll come back to Ricks and that CBS interview in a minute.
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"I think there are a lot of reasons Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and, in fact, harder than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there is a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war." That's Thomas Ricks speaking today on CBS' Washington Unplugged (link is video). Thomas E. Ricks has released a new book:
Two excerpts from my new book The Gamble are running in the Washington Post Sunday and Monday. There also are some cool on-line only things -- not just another excerpt, but also a great video about how one officer, Capt. Samuel Cook of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, conducted counterinsurgency operations in one part of Iraq last year. (To read more about how Cook talked an insurgent leader into cooperation, read this excerpt from the book, a section called "The Insurgent Who Loved Titanic.")
Yesterday's snapshot included two paragraphs of Ricks' book on where the top US commander, Gen Ray Odierno, he sees the Iraq War in 2014. Today on CBS News' exclusive webcast, Ricks spoke with Slate's John Dickerson about the reclassification game -- Barack's promised on the campaign trail that he would withdraw "combat" troops within 16 months of being sworn into office -- and noted "there is no pacifisitic branch of the US Army." He detailed the realities everyone tries to avoid, "Newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops."

For those who can't stream online, Michelle Levi's "Thomas Ricks: Obama’s Iraq War Will Be Long" (CBS News) is a write up of the interview. Excerpt:

Dickerson then turned to Afghanistan, asking what effect ground conditions in Iraq have on its neighboring battleground. "The odd thing about Barack Obama’s promise to get troops out of Iraq so that he can use them in Afghanistan is that it is not a departure from Bush, it is a continuation of Bush," Ricks said. "It's the same unwarranted optimism."

Also NPR's Fresh Air featured Thomas E. Ricks as their guest Monday. Sunday's Washington Post will have Ricks' "The war in Iraq isn't over. The main events may not even have happened yet:"

In October 2008, as I was finishing my latest book on the Iraq war, I visited the Roman Forum during a stop in Italy. I sat on a stone wall on the south side of the Capitoline Hill and studied the two triumphal arches at either end of the Forum, both commemorating Roman wars in the Middle East.
To the south, the Arch of Titus, completed in 81 A.D., honors victories in Egypt and Jerusalem. To the north, the Arch of Septimius Severus, built 122 years later, celebrates triumphant campaigns in Mesopotamia. The structures brought home a sad realization: It's simply unrealistic to believe that the U.S. military will be able to pull out of the Middle East.
It was a week when U.S. forces had engaged in combat in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- a string of countries stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean -- following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, the Romans and the British. For thousands of years, it has been the fate of the West's great powers to become involved in the region's politics. Since the Suez Crisis of 1956, when British and French influence suffered a major reduction, it has been the United States' turn to take the lead there. And sitting on that wall, it struck me that the more we talk about getting out of the Middle East, the more deeply we seem to become engaged in it.

President Obama campaigned on withdrawing from Iraq, but even he has talked about a post-occupation force. The widespread expectation inside the U.S. military is that we will have tens of thousands of troops there for years to come. Indeed, in his last interview with me last November, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told me that he would like to see about 30,000 troops still there in 2014 or 2015.
Yet many Americans seem to think that the war, or at least our part in it, is close to being wrapped up. When I hear that, I worry. I think of a phrase that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz often used in the winter of 2003, before the invasion: "Hard to imagine." It was hard to imagine, he would tell members of Congress, the media and other skeptics, that the war would last as long as they feared, or that it could cost as much as all that, or that it might require so many troops. I worry now that we are once again failing to imagine what we have gotten ourselves into and how much more we will have to pay in blood, treasure, prestige and credibility.
I don't think the Iraq war is over, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect.

On the front page of the New York Times today, Steven Lee Myers offers "A New Role for Iraqi Militants: Patrons of the Arts" which is a feature article and does not belong on the front page or in the news section. Excerpt:

This week in Baghdad, the city once terrorized by those killings, Sheik Mazin mingled in a white-walled art gallery as the patron of an exhibition of paintings and sculptures that would not, exactly, be out of place in Chelsea or SoHo: abstract art, expressionist paintings and conceptual works larded with symbols of Iraq's ancient history and today's reality.
The goal was "to show the entire world that we are not as the media portrays us, a movement that believes only in bearing arms and knows no culture other than that of violence," Sheik Mazin said of Mr. Sadr's movement, which is widely blamed for its part in the violence that followed the American invasion in 2003.
"The Sadr movement," he said, "is also one that believes in ideas and encourages and patronizes the arts."

The natural response to the last statement is to point to Leni Riefenstahl and, most infamously, Triumph of the Will. But grasp that while this nonsense makes the front page, Marc Santora's bad (and lurid) article on yesterday's bombing -- the worst single act of violence in Iraq so far this year -- is buried inside the paper. What's the take away? Front page, prominent with color photo, ARTS COME TO IRAQ! Pimping the illegal war.

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