Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Some' equals 5,000 troops and it's still just a maybe

Maybe. Might. The Iraqi air force is not scheduled to take over control of their air space by the end of 2011 and Gen Ray Odierno says the US may have to stay in Iraq longer. A "may" statement largely buried by the news despite the fact that it jibes with everything Iraqi military officials and US military officials as well as Iraqi government spokespeople have said for at least the last three years. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declares yesterday that maybe some US troops might leave Iraq early and no one can stop yammering about it. If only the maybe facts could live up to the maybe (and breathless) headlines. As Katie Couric noted on yesterday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, there are 130,000 US forces in Iraq, "10,000 are scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of this year. According to Gates, 5,000 more could be home for the holidays." No links to any of the silly and breathless report on 'withdrawl!' 'early!' 'maybe!'

Turning to reality. In England, an inquiry is being conducted into the Iraq War and commenced this morning. No report is expected to be released prior to their national elections. Even so, as Rebecca's pointed out, Gordon Brown's taking a hit on this (deserved). Carole Walker reports on the inquiry for BBC (link has video and text) and we'll note her opening for recap:

The official end of the British military mission in April of this year, cleared the way for this inquiry. Its aim is to learn the lessons of the conflict which claimed the lives of 179 British service men and women. When Gordon Brown announced the inquiry last month, he said evidence would be heard in private to protect national security. But after numerous protests, the man appointed to head the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, said he believed that as much as possible should be held in public. Now some want the scope of his inquiry to be extended.

Francis Elliott and Sam Coates (Times of London) explain, "Tony Blair was today confirmed as one of the witnesses who will appear before Britain's long awaited inquiry into the Iraq war as it was launched with a promise to level criticism where necessary. The former prime minister is likely to be joined by Gordon Brown among those called to give evidence." Deborah Summers, Andrew Sparrow and Haroon Siddique (Guardian) quote Chilcott, "The inquiry is not a court of law, and nobody is on trial. But I want to make something absolutely clear -- the committee will not shy away from making criticism. If we find that mistakes were made, that there were issues which could have been dealt with better, we will say so frankly."

From the beginning, many expected it to be a white wash and, while that may turn out to be the case, it's also true that Gordon Brown planned on the inquiry to be hidden behind closed doors and to have a much more limited scope. Public outrage and pressure forced Gordon to step back from his original plans.

Violence contines in Iraq today, Reuters reports a a bombing of the Reform and Development Movement's offices in Baquba which resulted in the deaths of 6 men and 1 woman who were attending a meeting at the time and they note a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured seven people and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul. (Other Wednesday events listed were noted in yesterday's snapshot.)

Dan Murphy (see previous entry) can take comfort in the fact that he's not the biggest journalistic fool this week. Trudy Rubin almost always goes for that Fool's Gold. And, yet again, she's achieved it. In her latest cracked view at reality, she scribbles, "So al-Maliki only got media notice when he said Iraq might reconsider the deadline 'if Iraqi forces require further training and support.' But the focus on whether some U.S. trainers and enablers may stay on misses a key aspect of the visit." Trudy goes on to declare that the nonsense Saturday event (the one I noted last week and noted I wouldn't be attending but it was being hyped as his biggest US event after his meeting with Obama -- apparently Trudes does leg work for the US government -- let's hope they pay her well). But we don't need to go on. We only need to note that for Trudy, Americans are silly to care about whether or not the US might remain in Iraq beyond the (supposed) departure date of 2011. Trudy like to self-style as best-friend-to-the-US-military. Guess she forgot that pose, huh? Because, point of fact, it does matter. It damn well matters if a war ends in eight years or beyond. And shame on Trudy for implying otherwise. It's that sort of stupid mistake that could get her lousy column pulled from many papers because her bad writing's only carried due to her I'm-with-the-grunts pose. As she reveals this go-round, uh, no, she isn't.

We jumped into a river on the moon
But the water was too cold
We tried to buy the morning star
But it was already sold
I wanted to make it big with you
But my plans must have been too bold
And it's back down to earth again
-- "Back Down To Earth," written by Carly Simon, from her Boys In The Trees album

Back here on earth, Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) examines on the ground realities in Iraq:

The reality is probably scarier. Iraq is in the throes of what some officials are calling an environmental catastrophe, and the increased frequency of dust storms is only the most visible manifestation.
Decades of war and mismanagement, compounded by two years of drought, are wreaking havoc on Iraq's ecosystem, drying up riverbeds and marshes, turning arable land into desert, killing trees and plants, and generally transforming what was once the region's most fertile area into a wasteland.
Falling agricultural production means that Iraq, once a food exporter, will this year have to import nearly 80% of its food, spending money that is urgently needed for reconstruction projects.

We started with Robert Gates, we'll end with him. The KRG released the following statement:

US Defense Secretary holds talks with Kurdistan Region leadership

» U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, shakes hands with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani
Erbil, Kurdistan -- Iraq ( -- United States Secretary of Defense Dr Robert Gates today in Erbil met President Masoud Barzani, congratulated him on the recent election and assured him of the US commitment to Iraq.

The US Defense Secretary was accompanied by Multi-National Force in Iraq Commanding General Ray Odierno, and US Embassy in Baghdad Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador Robert Ford.

Secretary Gates congratulated President Masoud Barzani on the recent election, and assured officials that the responsible drawdown of troops would not diminish US commitment to Iraq. He explained that the US values friendship with the Region and with a united, federal and democratic Iraq, and stands ready to help the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government as they address outstanding issues.

Mr Gates reiterated the message he delivered to federal government officials in Baghdad yesterday – the need to base decisions on the Constitution and strive for peaceful solutions that account for the needs of all concerned. He affirmed that the US would remain engaged with all parties on unresolved issues. Secretary Gates underlined the history of friendly relations between the Kurdistan Region and the United States and also welcomed the improved relations between the KRG and Turkey.

President Barzani outlined his vision for the Region and Iraq. “We have participated in the construction of a new and better Iraq, with the understanding that all components of society would be equal under the rule of law.”

He said, “The Constitution, as the supreme law of the land, must serve as the starting point for dialogue on outstanding political issues. So long as this is the case, we are ready and willing to engage in serious discussions at any time. Our only weapon will be the Constitution of Iraq. Now that our election has passed, and we expect the official results today, we will resume political discussions on these matters with Baghdad.”

Vice President Kosrat Rasul added, “We appreciate the role that the United States has played in Iraq. It is important that the US remains engaged as we move forward in addressing key issues.”

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said, “Our insistence on certain demands for our people should not be misconstrued as separatist demands. We simply want to ensure that our tragic history is not repeated, and that we can arrive at a formula to serve the interest of all Iraqi people.”

He continued, “Understanding the culture and background of all components of Iraqi society is important. We must be considered equal partners in Iraq. And in this regard I think the passage of revenue sharing legislation will bring us closer – more than any other political slogan – and promote dialogue on other outstanding issues. As the US undertakes a responsible drawdown of forces, we believe there is a moral obligation for the US to remain politically involved as we strive towards stability and security.”

The meeting, which took place in the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, was attended by a number of senior KRG and US officials.

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