Thursday, March 19, 2009

The sixth anniversary of the war in print

Here's a scary thought: "The events for which the Iraq war will be remembered probably have not yet happened."
That's what Thomas E. Ricks says in his new book, "The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008."
Ricks is a special military correspondent for The Washington Post and author of the 2006 best-seller "Fiasco," and he seems to have spoken to everyone with any relation to the war.
"The Gamble" focuses on the surge of 30,000 troops that flooded the military zone between January 2007 and July 2008, improving the security of average Iraqis while hoping to buy time for a largely dysfunctional government to reconcile violent sectarian differences.
But it is Ricks' look forward that gives this book its tremendous value. "It appears that today we may be only halfway through" the war, Ricks says, despite a new agreement with Iraq calling for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by December 2011, and a new administration that wants out sooner.

The above is from Tony Capaccio's "'The Gamble': Iraq war is a long way from over" (The Seattle Times). Today is the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. It's probably difficult to determine that by the coverage in many newspapers across the country. A notable exception is Martin C. Evans' "Long Islanders reflect on 6 years of war in Iraq" (Newsday -- which notes 31 service members from Long Island have died in Iraq):

Although the war has receded from the consciousness of most Americans since the initial shock and awe of the invasion's first moments, Iraq remains very much on the mind of many Long Islanders.
Dad says, 'It was a waste of lives'
Lonnie Moore, the Central Islip father of the first Long Islander to be killed in Iraq, remembers driving home along the Sagtikos State Parkway at 100 mph to receive news he couldn't believe awaited him. Military personnel there informed him that his son, Cpl. Raheen Heighter, had been killed on July 24, 2003.
"Time has washed away some of the pain," said Moore, as he sat in his home cradling a flag that once had been draped on his son's coffin. "But when I think back on it now, I think it was a waste of lives."
Heighter, 22, a graduate of Brentwood High School, had joined the Army with hopes of earning money for schooling to become a stockbroker. He perished when his convoy was ambushed north of Al Hawd, Iraq.
War spending has drained money from schools and other infrastructure that once helped make America a robust society, Moore said.
"If we were actually accomplishing something, well and good, but what have we accomplished there?" Moore asked. "The money spent over there should be spent here," said Moore, who owns a paving company. "We've really lost focus as a nation on what we're supposed to be doing. Look at our economy. I had 12 guys come to my yard looking for work today. They have nowhere to go."

There are a variety of opinions offered in the article. Those papers relying on the wires, could have run Robert H. Reid's AP article (which has a problem counting years):

Fighting still rages in Mosul and other areas of the mostly Sunni north. Competition for power and resources among rival religious and ethnic groups is gearing up, even as the U.S. military's role winds down.
Both the Sunni and Shiite communities face internal power struggles that are likely to intensify ahead of national elections late this year. Sunni-Shiite slaughter has abated, but genuine reconciliation remains elusive.
"If Iraqi leaders don't reconcile and work together, the situation will deteriorate," veteran Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said. "There is no harmony among Iraqi leaders. Their work depends on their mood."

Ann Scott Tyson's "Army to Phase Out 'Stop-Loss' Practice" runs in the Washington Post (we noted it in yesterday's snapshot) as does Philip Rucker's "Obama Drops Plan to Bill Veterans' Private Insurers" (Washington Post). From the latter:

President Obama yesterday abandoned a proposal to bill veterans' private insurance companies for the treatment at VA hospitals of combat-related injuries amid an outcry over the measure from veterans' service organizations and members of Congress.
The proposal would have authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to charge private companies for treating injuries and other medical conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that are related to military service. The measure was intended to save VA about $530 million a year, but the administration's pursuit of third-party billing sparked resistance from leaders of veterans groups, who met this week with Obama.

Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) covers the stop-loss news here. And we'll note Youssef and Laith Hammoudi's "Is the Iraq war over? Iraqis, Americans see it differently:"

In Iraq, though, most people worry that with the departure of the U.S. military, which many consider a necessary evil, violence will shoot up once again. Iraq's army and police are still fledgling forces backed by the U.S., and political parties, dueling ethnic groups and rival branches of Islam are vying for power, encouraging neighboring states to interfere.
Iraqis — and some U.S. military and intelligence officers and diplomats — think that different factions are counting the days until the Americans leave, aware that Iraqi forces aren't strong enough to fend off major violence. Iraqi forces still lack air power or sufficient logistical support and struggle to unite under a fractious government. Iraqi forces have turned to their American allies in the face of major battles.
"The situation in Iraq will improve only if the Americans and the Iraqi politicians withdraw from Iraq," said Abbas al Dulaimy, 31, as he walked through Baghdad. "The situation will soon be worse because the politicians will look out only for their interests like those who demand to divide Iraq . . . it will be chaos."

USA Today offers a bad unsigned editorial entitled "Six years after Iraq invasion, focus reverts to Afghanistan:"

U.S. public opinion is notoriously fickle, and memories short. That reputation was solidified this week, the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. With casualties down and an exit strategy in place, Americans seemed to be refocusing their opposition on the escalating U.S. war in Afghanistan. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed 42% think the United States made a mistake in sending forces to Afghanistan, up from 30% last month and just 9% in late 2001.

It takes a lot of nerve to talk about the public being 'fickle' and 'memories short' while ignoring the drop in Iraq coverage that began in the late fall of 2006. The editorial gets more offensive as it goes along (check the first paragraph after the excerpt, for example). As an antidote to it, you can check out Alexia Gilmore's "Opinion: Six years later, Iraq lessons still unheeded" (San Jose Mercury News):

On March 19, 2003, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the United States launched the Iraq war. Today, six years, hundreds of thousands of military and civilian deaths and $600 billion later, President Barack Obama is telling us the United States is beginning its departure.

But what is waiting in the wings so clearly -- so painfully -- is the escalation of the Afghanistan/Pakistan crisis. The Obama administration will push this escalation, just as President Bush pushed Iraq. Such is the purview of the party in power. So, let us reflect on Iraq as a prequel to what surely is pending in this next theater of conflict.

Not only has the Iraq war failed to accomplish any meaningful goals when compared to its human and financial costs, it has steeled the resolve of terrorists and other enemies of the United States. In that sense, the war has compromised our security, not protected it.

The public was led down the garden path to justify the Iraq war, as a result of emotion and false information in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Powerful interests and the agendas of government and certain industries also played a central role.

Alexia Gilmore is with The New York Times seems determined to telegraph (while refusing to state) that oil was a primary motive for the illegal war as evidenced by their only Iraq article, Rob Nordland and Jad Mouawad's "Iraq Considers Giving Foreign Oil Investors Better Terms:"

Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, addressing a conference hosted by OPEC in Vienna on Wednesday, also suggested for the first time that Iraq would consider allowing foreign companies to share directly in the profits from oil production, rather than the fixed fees in the joint ventures that are now offered.
This arrangement, known as a production-sharing agreement, would apply to new and riskier exploration; it, too, would offer additional incentives to foreign investors and allow them to recoup their investments faster.
Thamir Ghadhban, chief of advisers to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, and a former oil minister, confirmed Mr. Shahristani's remarks.
There has been stiff opposition in Parliament from many political parties to any foreign investment, much less the idea of letting foreign companies own majority stakes in joint ventures. Even a proposed contract with Shell for producing natural gas in southern Iraq, which would give Shell a 49 percent share, was condemned in Parliament.
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who led an Iraqi government review on reforming the oil sector, said that giving foreign companies more incentives was long overdue. "It's acknowledged almost universally that the present oil policy and management has been a disaster," Mr. Salih said.

It's always cute to hear Iraq whine about their 'disaster' with oil income. Other countries would kill for such a 'disaster.' The 'disaster' allows Nouri al-Maliki to sit on billions. I'm honestly surprised they're still trotting out that lie and not running with Plan B -- which only Harper's magazine has thus far attempted to pimp. Yes, Harper's pimped US propaganda. We didn't call it out at the time because we weren't going to allow it to get out and I know few people read Harper's (I read Harper's). But they have a Plan B p.r. talking point in the wings. If and when they push it heavily, we'll call it out.

The above article is it for the New York Times. Amazing considering their role in selling the illegal war. Amazing when you consider that on President's Day they couldn't stop with the third-grader's view of Abraham Lincoln. (Not an insult to third-graders, those bad columns that filled page two of the op-ed pages, were written by adults.) Today there's not even a column on Iraq. Not even an editorial. And all the paper can do is promise that Iraq's oil will soon be easier stolen.

The paper's efforts to push and pimp the war on America are not addressed with garbage like Greg Mitchell's latest sexist rant at Editor & Publisher. Greg, Judith Miller was not the only problem at the New York Times. In fact, Miller wasn't the first reporter to put the false link between Iraq and 9-11 into the paper. (That appeared on the front page in October of 2001 and I'll be kind and not note the reporters -- both males.) Miller's partner-in-crime was Michael R. Gordon but that's a name Greggy shies away from. He makes Judith Miller the evil of all, the sin-eater for the entire press corps, while setting Paul Krugman up as the sole voice of truth. Krugman wrote many outstanding columns. He also dropped the war to cover the economy (he's an economist) in the lead-up and afterward. The paper's strongest voice against the war was columnist Maureen Dowd. It's easy to knock her and she has many faults (as do we all) but to write about that time period and not give her the credit she's earned says a great deal about Greg Mitchell's continued sexism and it's amazing that 'media watchdog' Editor & Publisher lets him continue tossing out this sexism year after year. He should have been sat down for a talk a long time ago.

And someone should have told him that it is insane to compare Judith Miller and Paul Krugman to begin with. Miller was a reporter, Krugman a columnist. Compare Miller to other reporters and Krugman to other columnists.

Greg just wanted to beat up another woman and to cock-knock around his all-boys club. Editor & Publisher encouraged his sexism yet again. It damn well needs to stop and Mitchell better grasp that it is the cancer on any potential legacy he might leave behind.

The Kansas City Star offers "Six years after U.S. invasion, Iraqis work to rebuild their lives" (editorial):

After those hours, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are now adapting to the idea of heading outside to connect power for their home, or neighborhood. Iraqis note that the generators, while colorful, are poor quality. They’ll have to be replaced once a year, at least.
When the sidewalks aren’t packed with generators, they are filled with water, boxes of water and water cooler bottles. Stacked like squared-off hedges, and also colorful, they’re constant reminders that even the basics for life are difficult.
About a third of all Baghdad water is undrinkable. It brings disease. Last summer it brought cholera, and government officials are warning that it will again this summer. Beyond that, the water leaves many sick with nagging nausea, perhaps nothing more serious, but sick.
The differences of before and after the war extend beyond the sidewalks. In the stores, the most significant difference emerges: religious tolerance. This city for years bore the brunt of sectarian strife, having large populations of Shiite, Sunni, Kurds and even Christians. Many here say that before the invasion, sect simply wasn’t talked about. Hussein punished Shiite leaders, not because of their sect, but because of their resistance to his regime. He attacked Kurds (who are Sunni, after all) because of their strong independence.

And we'll go out with Leila Fadel's "In Iraq, a boy named 'War' turns 6" (McClatchy Newspapers) which remembers that the story of Iraq -- while a tragedy for America (reputation, soul, loss and integrity) -- is a story of Iraq and places the focus on Iraqis:

Iman Kadhim felt the contractions at 2 a.m. on March 20, 2003. The streets of Baghdad were deserted; people cowered in their homes awaiting the threatened U.S. invasion. But the baby wasn't going to wait.
A neighbor with a car gave Iman and her husband a ride to the hospital from their southern Baghdad neighborhood.
Nothing was easy that night. Kadhim heard the baby's first cry before dawn and held him in her arms. Then they heard the first explosions that heralded the arrival of the U.S. military.
She named him Harb, Arabic for war. His full name, Harb Zaid, translates as Zaid's War.
Neighbors joked that the child named War would only bring damar, or destruction. She worried about him, the boy with a difficult name and an uncertain future.
"I was scared. We didn't know how our life would go forward," she said in her small home in New Baghdad. "We didn't know the future."

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thomas e. ricks