Iraq War News

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Who’s Next? (NRO: Amir Taheri)
The uniqueness of Iraq.
This is the question now asked in teahouses all over the Middle East. As men puff at their hookahs and play backgammon they speculate about the next regime likely to be targeted by the United States and its allies once the Iraqi business is wrapped up. There are two answers to the question.

The first is: no one.

The second is: everyone...
Amir Taheri is an Iranian author and journalist.

French can sneer, but 'Les Anglo-Saxons' world's best hope (Mark Steyn)
Well, this whole quagmire seems to be getting worse, eh? I see the Bush junta has now been reduced to staging fake scenes of supposed jubilation on the alleged streets of what purports to be Baghdad.

Oh dear, oh dear. I do hope this column isn't going to get bogged down in a gloating quagmire. Let us turn instead to the shape of the postwar world. Watching that statue of Saddam understood immediately that here was the great symbolic image of this war: the one that they'll be playing in the TV news round-ups of the year, and the decade.

The only question is: What precisely does the great symbolic image symbolize? Is it the Middle Eastern equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, an act that rippled across half a continent? Or is it something smaller, more contained, a crack in the ice but the hard face of the rest of the lake remains frozen? You could hear the bafflement in the coverage of the Arab state TV networks as their commentators struggled to explain the pictures of joyous Iraqis cheering the first Western troops to march in to occupy a major Middle Eastern city since General Allenby took Jerusalem for the British 85 years ago, and the first to take Baghdad since General Maude's Indian Army the year before. The Baghdad of 1917 was a very different place from the grim Saddamite sprawl of today: It was the second great Jewish city of the Middle East, a lively urban mix of races and religions. Muslims, Jews and Christians. Victory in Mesopotamia was a first stage in the unravelling of the Ottoman Empire. This week's liberation marks the beginning of a similar epochal, transformational shift.

That kind of talk unnerves some people...

Political Shock and Awe (WSJ: James Schlesinger)
We've won a war--and taught the Middle East a lesson.
With the process of establishing a new dispensation in Iraq proceeding apace and the remaining pockets of resistance gradually being crushed, it is time to reflect upon the deeper strategic significance of the second Gulf War.

To be sure, Saddam Hussein, with his megalomania and confidence in his own survival, provided crucial tactical assistance...

Yet, the longer-run strategic meaning transcends the essentially three-week war itself. The outcome will alter the strategic--and psychological--map of the Middle East. The war has most dramatically conveyed the following realities:

1.) The U.S. is a very powerful country.

2.) It is ill-advised to arouse this nation by attacking or repeatedly provoking it--or by providing support to terrorism; and

3.) Regularly to do so means a price will likely be paid. Far less credence will now be placed in the preachments of Osama bin Laden regarding America's weakness, its unwillingness to accept burdens, and the ease of damaging its vulnerable economy, etc...

Many have argued that greater self-criticism or better understanding of the roots of terrorism would magically dispel the hostility displayed in much of the Arab world...

All that has now changed. The rapid collapse of what many had expected to be a long and stout-hearted resistance has altered the tone in the Arab world. While the whining in the press continues, it is now quite different: How long will the Americans stay? Will they successfully build an (infectious) democracy? Will they apply pressure to neighboring states? Who might be next? The dismay and shame in the region that the Arabs did not put up a better fight stands in remarkable contrast to the joy of the Iraqis that Saddam is finally gone...
Mr. Schlesinger is a former secretary of defense, CIA director and secretary of energy.

Body Count (Weekly Standard: Josh Chafetz)
Inside the voodoo science of calculating Iraqui civilian casualties.
It's almost as if some people want Iraqi civilians to die. So eager are they to score political points that you can almost see them licking their chops as they desperately seek out any reports--however sketchy--of Iraqi casualties. For their political agenda, the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi.

I'm talking, of course, about the small but heavily publicized portion of the antiwar movement that predicts and counts civilian casualties...

A Regime of Payoffs and Persecution (WaPo: Susan Glasser)
BASRA, Iraq, April 16 -- The bookkeepers of the police state were meticulous. Payoffs to tribal leaders, quotas for cheering crowds on Saddam Hussein's birthday, long lists of "bonuses" paid to party members on every state occasion, reports on suspicious families and pro-Iranian Shiite "traitors" in their midst -- at the Mother of All Battles Branch of Iraq's ruling Baath Party, they wrote it all down.

Here at the chief party headquarters for Iraq's second-largest city, near the party villas and the date palm groves and the decayed elegance of the Shatt al Arab waterway, officials kept a hand in nearly every aspect of daily life. They tracked thousands of army deserters and demanded still more recruits, they kept copious files on every comrade in their ranks, and they passed on intelligence warnings about spies and saboteurs.

No detail was too small to escape the party's attention...

U.S. Generals Meet in Palace, Sealing Victory (NYT: Gordon/Kifner)
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 16 — Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of America's war on Iraq, sealed his victory today by convening a meeting of his top allied land, air, naval and special-operations officers in what was once one of Saddam Hussein's proudest palaces, now a symbol of his vanished grip on the country.

The bevy of commanders who gathered today at Abu Ghraib palace -- an extravagant amalgam of marble, tile, gold fittings and massive chandeliers, all surrounded by an azure moat -- discussed how to maintain security and rebuild Iraq now that Mr. Hussein is gone, and agreed to meet again in General Franks's headquarters back in Qatar in several days to complete plans...

The two-hour session, which concluded with a video conference with President Bush, was the first such gathering since war erupted four weeks ago and was laden with symbolism. It made clear that the Americans now dominate Iraq...

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
The Secret War (Newsweek: Evan Thomas and Martha Brant)
It’s been the best-covered war in history. But the key to success was what we didn’t see: Special Forces, psyop, the air war—and the utterly inept Iraqi Army.
Know thine enemy is a cardinal rule of war. Ignorance was costly for American soldiers fighting guerrillas in Vietnam. Before plunging into Iraq, U.S. psychological-warfare operators studied certain cultural stereotypes...

...As a grand strategy to protect America from terrorism and transform the Middle East, the liberation of Iraq remains a bold, high-risk gamble. But as a show of military prowess, Operation Iraqi Freedom has been an astonishing success.

The keys were the speed, nimbleness and precision of U.S. forces—and the utter ineptitude of the Iraqi Army. Thanks to the journalists embedded with the Coalition ground forces, television viewers saw the bravery and discipline of U.S. and British soldiers. What they could not see was the clever secret war fought by Special Operations forces and the CIA, and the devastating aerial bombardment that flattened Saddam’s best soldiers before they could fire a shot...

Wow, Who Are the Smart Guys? (WSJ: Robert L. Bartley)
Bush's vision is a winner in Iraq, and America.
Jubilant crowds in Baghdad show that President Bush and his team were spectacularly right and his critics spectacularly wrong. And this says something about who are the smart guys and who are the dullards in this society--or at least, what kind of mindset leads to good judgments.

"We will be greeted as liberators," Vice President Dick Cheney told Tim Russert, making himself the special target of the critics. He elaborated, "The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but [that] they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that."

He continued that only the special Republican Guard and Saddam's security organization would likely offer strong resistance: "I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside."

Put to the battlefield test, this is as precise a prediction of what has now happened as ever occurs in human affairs. Mr. Cheney drew similar howls, remember, with his explanation of the administration's energy policy...

To many of us, no doubt including the vice president, these remarks seem unexceptionable common sense. Modest, even. Clearly, though, to others they seem outrageous. Sacrilegious, even. They're an affront to the received wisdom of "right-thinking" people.

It's no accident that Mr. Cheney's critics on the environment are also his critics on the war. Thomas Sowell has written two books pondering why the same people end up on the same side of issues that have no intrinsic connection. In "A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles," he writes that this is because they operate from two different "visions" of how the world works, indeed of human nature. In "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy," he argues that the prevailing vision in the press, academy and politics has become so dogmatic that it has lost touch with reality...

Good News (Weekly Standard: Max Boot)
Operation Iraqi Freedom went about as well as anyone could have hoped. Why is the media so glum? [Max Boot is Olin senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power." Good read.]
When it comes to Iraq, media policy seems to be: Good news is no news.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was only a few days old when the press seers, often relying on the word of retired generals, began reaching for the "q" word--quagmire. Why didn't the coalition take Basra on day one? Why did an army supply convoy get ambushed? Why weren't Iraqis rising up against Saddam Hussein? The media provided their own answers to these questions: The war plan had failed. Donald Rumsfeld hadn't sent enough troops. Coalition forces were bogged down.

The commentariat was particularly gleeful in skewering supporters of the war effort who had predicted that the U.S. military would have little trouble toppling Saddam's regime. Echoing the views of many, the New Yorker's Hendrick Hertzberg warned darkly, "The longer the fighting continues . . . the higher becomes the cost of victory, until, at some unknowable point, victory becomes defeat."

As it happens, the issue of the New Yorker which contained this gem arrived in mailboxes last week--just as TV screens were showing pictures of the giant Saddam statute being toppled in Baghdad. Taking Baghdad in half the time, and at a third the casualties, of the first Gulf War would seem a lot like victory, not defeat. Especially because none of the widely predicted worst-case scenarios came to pass: No missile attacks on Israel. No use of chemical or biological weapons. No terrorist attacks in the United States. No widespread destruction of Iraqi oil fields. No repeat of "Black Hawk Down" in urban areas.

But the media continue to look for evidence to justify their earlier defeatism...

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Extensive DoD Photo Gallery, Captions
Thanks to Dick Breakiron for tip via WP-ORG's "moderator" forum.

Bush said he'd do it ... and he did (Telegraph: Mark Steyn)
Last week, The New York Times reported on the President's reaction to Don Rumsfeld's daily press conference. As the Times tells it, a Bush aide stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that "the unpredictable Defence Secretary" had just threatened Syria. The President looked up from his desk. "Good," he said. Then he went back to work. If that story isn't true, it ought to be...

Those Dictator 'Dominoes' (WSJ: Editorial)
The Iraq precedent gets noticed in Pyongyang, Damascus and Tehran.
Critics of liberating Iraq have long derided what they call the Bush Administration's "domino theory"--that removing Saddam Hussein from power would lead to the toppling of dictators elsewhere. This was always a caricature of Bush policy, but then again it wouldn't hurt if the world's dictators came to believe it...

The Media's Antiwar Script (WSJ: Dorothy Rabinowitz)
Was the New York Times watching the same war as the rest of us? Dottie has her knife out today.
Just a few days into the Iraq campaign, it became clear that it didn't take military briefings to tell how things were going. You could get a clear sense of that merely by following the overnight shifts in the torrents of charges, questions, and sudden new urgent concerns pouring forth from the peace camp...

Tough times ahead for Chirac (BBC)
As the war in Iraq draws to a close with the toppling of Saddam Hussein, where does this now leave France, which voiced the strongest opposition to the war?

"Poor Mr Chirac," said an editorial in the Le Parisien newspaper last week.

"I bet he could scarcely bring himself to watch those TV images of the victorious Americans being welcomed in Baghdad."

"The King of Peace without a crown," sneered the left-wing paper Liberation, "Chirac is now threatened with diplomatic isolation"...
Via Glenn Reynolds.

Our Western Mob (NRO: Victor Davis Hanson)
From the graveyard of Kabul to the quagmire of Iraq to the looting of Baghdad. Hanson gives it to the quailing media with both barrels.
The jubilation of liberating millions from fascism and removing the world’s most odious dictator apparently lasted about 12 hours. I was listening to a frustrated Mr. Rumsfeld last Friday in a news briefing as he tried to deal with a host of furious and crazy questions — a journalistic circus that was nevertheless predictable even before the war started...

...[A] craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness.

Instead I had been expecting at least some interviews about bridges not blown due to the rapidity of the advance. Could someone tell us how special forces saved the oil fields? How Seals prevented the dreaded oil slicks? Whose courage and sacrifice saved the dams? And how so few missiles were launched? Exactly why and how did the Republican Guard cave?

In short, would any reporter demonstrate a smidgeon of curiosity — other than condemning a plan they scarcely understood — about the mechanics of the furious battle for Iraq? It would be as if America forgot about Patton’s race to the German border, and instead focused only on Frenchmen shaving the heads of Vichy collaborators, or decided that it had not been worth freeing the Italian peninsula because a mob had mutilated and hung Mussolini from his heels. Did any remember what had happened to a Russian armored column that tried to enter Grozny to control that city? Did any have a clue what Germany or Italy was like in June 1945?...

Monday, April 14, 2003
CNN's Access of Evil (WSJ: Franklin Foer)
The network of record covered Saddam's repression with propaganda. Having collaborated with Saddam, can CNN be trusted again?
...Of course, Mr. Jordan may feel he deserves a pinch of credit for coming clean like this. But this admission shouldn't get him any ethical journalism trophies. For a long time, CNN denied that its coverage skimped on truth. While I researched a story on CNN's Iraq coverage for the New Republic last October, Mr. Jordan told me flatly that his network gave "a full picture of the regime." In our conversation, he challenged me to find instances of CNN neglecting stories about Saddam's horrors. If only I'd had his Times op-ed!.

Would that this were an outbreak of honesty, however belated. But it isn't. If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn't be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry--and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships. For CNN, the highest prize is "access," to score live camera feeds from a story's epicenter. Dictatorships understand this hunger, and also that it provides blackmail opportunities. In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN--and other U.S. media--can do little more than toe the regime's line. The Iraq example is the telling one...

The Best Defense (NYT: William Safire)
...[The] power to protect ourselves -- and our will to use that power -- was established in Afghanistan and driven home in Iraq. Dangerous dictators elsewhere as well as fair-weather friends no longer doubt America's seriousness of purpose. First dividend of our new credibility can be seen in a sudden shift in attitude in and around North Korea...

Lies in the Absence Of Liberty (WaPo Op-ed: Fred Hiatt)
The fear and moral corruption of life in a totalitarian state, so blessedly beyond the understanding of most Americans, was captured in a poignant moment in Baghdad on Wednesday as Iraqis came to realize that Saddam Hussein was gone. It was a reminder of how we underestimate, again and again, the lies that dictators tell and the lies that their subjects are forced to live, whether in Iraq, the Soviet Union or China.

An electrical engineer named Majid Mohammed, 47, proclaimed his joy at Hussein's fall -- and was promptly contradicted by his 12-year-old daughter. "I'm sad," she told The Post's Anthony Shadid. And, referring to the American soldiers, she added: "They stole our freedom"...

Harrowing Weeks For Seven POWs (WaPo: Baker)
...Nine U.S. soldiers were dead; four were rescued the same day by U.S. forces; six were captured by the Iraqis. One of them, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, would be rescued from a local hospital on April 2. Five others -- Johnson, Hernandez, Hudson, Riley and Miller -- became prisoners of war until this morning, when they were found, along with two captured crew members of an AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter, by U.S. Marines in a house north of Baghdad.

In their first interviews after being freed, all seven former prisoners described a harrowing journey through the Iraq war -- from their ill-fated missions and capture through an arduous imprisonment where death often seemed around the corner. Speaking to two American reporters aboard a C-130 Hercules transport plane evacuating them from Iraq, they alternated between tears and smiles and hollow gazes as they told their stories...

Sunday, April 13, 2003
Two interesting postings by Glenn Reynolds
(Reuters) In the densely populated northeastern slum area of Saddam City, U.S. Marines pulled back to allow local people to hunt "mujahideen" volunteer fighters holed up in the area...

(Jim Bennett) is worth considering the possibility that the root source of anti-Americanism in the world lies in the deep-rooted anti-modern tradition of Continental Europe...

Baghdad Bob is Back!
This site is a coalition effort of bloodthirsty hawks and ineffectual doves united in admiration for Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information (currently on administrative leave).

"In an age of spin, al-Sahaf offers feeling and authenticity. His message is consistent -- unshakeable, in fact, no matter the evidence -- but he commands daily attention by his on-the-spot, invective-rich variations on the theme. His lunatic counterfactual art is more appealing than the banal awfulness of the Reliable Sources. He is a Method actor in a production that will close in a couple of days. He stands superior to truth." -- Jean-Pierre McGarrigle
Don't miss Baghdad Bob's comments on famous battles in history..."Normandy: Americans? What Americans? There are no American infidels in France, never."

Site shut down last week as traffic exceeded 4,000 hits per second.

Tikrit Capture a Last Symbol (NYT: Michael Gordon)
...Progress on these diverse fronts will effectively expand the zone of American control to the north and west of Baghdad and eliminate a pocket of resistance to the east. It follows the collapse of the Iraqi defense of Kirkuk and Mosul farther north. The capture of those northern cities still needs to be consolidated by the arrival of more American troops — possibly those of the Fourth Infantry Division, which is getting ready for operations in Iraq...
See new interactive graphic Looking North: The Next Phase
With U.S. forces occupying large portions of Baghdad, attention shifts to northern Iraq.

How the War Was Won (WaPo: Atkinson, Baker, Ricks)
Invasion Shaped by Miscues, Bold Risks and Unexpected Successes
...This article is an anatomy of the war as described by dozens of military officials and commanders, including key participants in the decision-making on the battlefield and in Washington. They provided an inside look at a conflict that upended a host of specific assumptions about how the war would unfold even as it delivered the final collapse of Iraqi resistance that commanders had forecast...
Timeline: The Course of the War

Maps: The Latest and Previous Actions

Seven Missing American Troops Rescued (WaPo)
U.S. Marines today rescued seven American soldiers who were being held prisoner by Iraqi forces north of Baghdad, Marine officers said. The rescued prisoners, all U.S. Army soldiers, were reported in good condition, although two had suffered gunshot wounds, the officers said. The rescued soldiers were being flown to a military medical facility near Baghdad. The soldiers were not identified; the Pentagon currently lists seven U.S. services members as prisoners of war and six others as missing in action...