Quagmire news

I’ve rarely seen a more revolting spectacle than that of George W. Bush — who, remember, dodged the Vietnam draft — lecturing his countrymen on the ‘lessons’ of Vietnam.

But it’s interesting that he was at least implicitly acknowledging that the Iraq fiasco is beginning to resemble the Vietnam adventure ( a comparison that nobody who’s ever read Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly would have missed). At the beginning of the Iraq adventure, Administration officials used to deny the validity of any such comparison.

Now comes a New York Times report of a new US Intelligence Assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation’s intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.

References in the report to Al Qaeda in Iraq are to a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign-led.

The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq. It gives a dim prognosis on the likelihood that Iraqi politicians can heal deep sectarian rifts before next spring, when American military commanders have said that a crunch on available troops will require reducing the United States’ presence in Iraq.

But the report also implicitly criticizes proposals offered by Democrats, including several presidential candidates, who have called for a withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq by next year and for a major shift in the American approach, from manpower-intensive counterinsurgency operations to lower-profile efforts aimed at supporting Iraqi troops and carrying out quick-strike counterterrorism raids.

Such a shift, the report says, would “erode security gains achieved thus far” and could return Iraq to a downward spiral of sectarian violence.

The real message of the report (available here in pdf) is that the US cannot go forward — and cannot go back). Which is not a bad working definition of a quagmire.

One of the more intriguing things about Tuchman’s analysis is how a weak and incompetent government — the Saigon administration — could effectively control a superpower, because the weaker the South Vietnam regime became, the more the US was sucked into propping it up. Now it’s becoming clear that the Iraqi government is incapable of running the country, and the Americans are experiencing the same pressures as they did in Vietnam. The main difference is that then the US had a conscript army (minus the draft-dodging contingent of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Clinton et al), whereas now it’s exploiting — and over-stretching — its professional forces.

Nothing Accomplished!

From Dave Winer

Watching 60 Minutes tonight, on Memorial Day, it’s hard to imagine how we go on living our lives as other Americans give up so much, for something so utterly pointless. As the program ended, it became clear that our soldiers are having the same discussions about the war that we’re having here. They know about the lack of support for the war in America. They process it in different ways. Listening to the soldiers, I can tell they were lied to as we were lied to, and of course because they have so much at stake, it must be so hard to consider that the lies were actually lies. Permalink to this paragraph

This week, for the first time, the President is floating the idea that a massive pullout is coming soon. Permalink to this paragraph

Oh what an effect that must have on our soldiers in Iraq. The futility in risking so much knowing that the outcome, instead of Mission Accomplished will be Nothing Accomplished. Other than the unnecessary sacrifice of a nation, ours, and its army.

Iraq: now a net exporter of terrorism?

Well, perhaps not yet. But we’re getting there. Interesting New York Times report this morning…

The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond, according to American, European and Middle Eastern government officials and interviews with militant leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and London.

Some of the fighters appear to be leaving as part of the waves of Iraqi refugees crossing borders that government officials acknowledge they struggle to control. But others are dispatched from Iraq for specific missions. In the Jordanian airport plot, the authorities said they believed that the bomb maker flew from Baghdad to prepare the explosives for Mr. Darsi.

Estimating the number of fighters leaving Iraq is at least as difficult as it has been to count foreign militants joining the insurgency. But early signs of an exodus are clear, and officials in the United States and the Middle East say the potential for veterans of the insurgency to spread far beyond Iraq is significant…

I have a hazy memory of George Bush explaining to an interviewer how Iraq would become a ‘turkey shoot’. He seemed to imply that if the war sucked in Al Queda from abroad then that would be a good thing because they would all be in one place and ripe for elimination by the ‘Coalition of the Willing’. My memory also records that he actually said “Bring ’em on!”

Can this be true? Perhaps I dreamt it.

Later… No I didn’t dream it. According to USA Today, 7 February, 2003,

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Wednesday that American troops under fire in Iraq aren’t about to pull out, and he challenged those tempted to attack U.S. forces, “Bring them on.”


Bush pledged to find and punish “anybody who wants to harm American troops,” and said the attacks would not weaken his resolve to restore peace and order in Iraq.

“There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on,” Bush said. “We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.”

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush’s combative tone was not meant to invite attacks on Americans. “I think what the president was expressing there is his confidence in the men and women of the military to handle the military mission they still remain in the middle of,” Fleischer said.

But Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., called the president’s language “irresponsible and inciteful.”

“I am shaking my head in disbelief,” Lautenberg said. “When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander — let alone the commander in chief — invite enemies to attack U.S. troops.”

Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said, “I have a message for the president: enough of the phony, macho rhetoric.”

“We should be focused on a long-term security plan that reduces the danger to our military personnel,” said Gephardt, who is running for president. “We need a serious attempt to develop a postwar plan for Iraq, and not more shoot-from-the-hip one-liners.”

Royal tribulations

Oh the poor dears. First Harry is denied permission to offer himself for abduction in Iraq. And now his brother William (Wills to you) has to deal with a Facebook hoax.

More than 45 members of Wills’s inner-circle were hoodwinked, including former classmates at St Andrews University and Eton College. In the past month the trickster has posted photos and messages to many of William’s friends.

Daily Mirror, May 16, 2007

Shocking. Er, tut, tut.

Join the Marines, see the world

A new kind of user-generated content — video from a US Humvee on patrol on a dirt road in Iraq. Contains strong language and is best avoided by readers with sensitive dispositions. But it provides a vivid illustration of why US military power is so impotent in Iraq. This is what Donald Rumsfeld & Co never reckoned with.


The Blair legacy

This week’s Private Eye cover. Says it all, really. And yet, if it weren’t for Iraq, he would probably be remembered as a great reforming Prime Minister. As the man said, all political careers end in failure.