Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 06, 2006

ISG Report - Flowers And Sweets

Some random thoughts while reading through the Iraq Study Group Report (pdf) (all following page numbers refer to the PDF pagecount). I'll probably try to come up with some less random thoughts later, but don't want to miss to communicate the first impressions.

The situations is a terrible mess in all dimensions. At this blog we have in the past picked together pieces of the picture from various press accounts and blogs. But the public has had no overview of the situation and a comprehensive listing like available in the report will help to open some eyes.

As an example of how underreported the situation really is the report notes on page 13:

The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.

The report does call for more unity in the government and blames a lot on Maliki and sectarian forces within the government (p19).

Iraqi people have a democratically elected government that is broadly representative of Iraq’s population, yet the government is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services.

There is this note that obviously is in conflict with recent press reports (p25):

There are roughly 5,000 civilian contractors in the country.

The Washington Post reported yesterday: Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq. So what is it???

How not to spend money effectivly (p26):

Congress has been generous in funding requests for U.S. troops, but it has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.

As for outsite medling in Iraq, the Iranian influence, according to the report clearly runs through al-Hakim's Badr corps, while the Sadr-movement is described as nationalistic. Also noteable (p47):

Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, even as those governments help facilitate U.S. military operations in Iraq by providing basing and overflight rights and by cooperating on intelligence issues.

While the report notes the total number of Iraqis that have fled the country (1.8 million plus 1.6 internally displaced) and talks about the burdon this has put on Jordan (700,000 refugees), when talking about Syria, neither the numbers of refugees there nor any burden is mentioned.

Sovereign Iraq shall only have command over its own forces if it behaves as the U.S. tells it behave (p78).

The transfer of command and control over Iraqi security forces units from the United States to Iraq should be influenced by Iraq’s performance on milestones.

The report calls for much more embedded U.S. troops within Iraqi forces (p89)

Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role.

At the same time it notes the problem that I have pointed out a few days ago. (p110)

All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language– proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission.

There simply are not enough translators to embed so many U.S. troops into Iraqi forces. How can you expect them to teach each other and/or fight together if they simply can not talk to each other?

One also wonders what 1,000 embassy personal are doing all day when they only have six reliable interfaces with Iraqis. But maybe the number is wrong here (see "missing" contractors above).

The report names some conditions that would have to be met for including Iran and Syria into talks. The attitude is roughly the same than Bush/Cheney have shown all along (p70).

Our limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.
Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks.

There is no word of taking back "regime change", but the Iranians are "rejectionists"?

On Syria there are mostly threats but also the recommendation of negotiation over the the Golan heights and of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. But each time the Palestinians are named as negotiating partner the wording includes a caveat (p72):

This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria

This caveat obviously exludes the elected Palestinian government and will be used to sabotage any negotiation attempt even before it starts.

The most important recommendation is on page 104:

RECOMMENDATION 63:
• The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
• The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
• To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
• The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing, and reviewing audits.

"The Study Group has been assured that the Iraqi government and population will great the help of Mr. Wolfowitz in managing their oil contracts with flowers and sweets."

Posted by b on December 6, 2006 at 02:04 PM | Permalink

Comments

b, you are amazing.... how did you process all that so fast???

My favorite is the last bullet about "proving contracting templates." Everything is all done for you, folks, and stated in business-language English (that you don't understand). All you've gotta do is sign here on the dotted line.... Never mind the small print that we will own your oil for several generations to come... nothing to see here... sign and return to sender...

Posted by: Bea | Dec 6, 2006 2:32:17 PM | 1

I meant "providing," not "proving" ... in that last post of mine.

Posted by: Bea | Dec 6, 2006 2:33:47 PM | 2

Ivo Daalder: “Subject to Unexpected Developments”

This, of course, is the key phrase in the Baker-Hamilton Report’s recommendation on U.S. combat forces — as in “by the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”

So what are the unexpected developments that could mean we should still be there, with all our combat forces, fighting a war?

Posted by: b | Dec 6, 2006 2:43:34 PM | 3

The world has really turned. With the election of the Democratic Congress, the Oil Sheiks suddenly are feeling very insecure. A bloody Shiite Sunni partition will occur as the US pulls out. The Sheiks no longer believe in Bush or Condi. They desperately need a regional conference to settle Palestine and Iraq issues before their heads roll but the US isn't listening.

Posted by: Jim S | Dec 6, 2006 3:05:56 PM | 4

b, you are amazing.... how did you process all that so fast???

where was i when they were passing out those brains?

Posted by: annie | Dec 6, 2006 3:15:28 PM | 5

where was i when they were passing out those brains?

Well, I was drinking at a bar and the the whiskey was delicious, so I missed the handout.
---
The report makes some statements about the real situation in Iraq that hopefully sets the MSM free of their incredible stupid paroting of Bush lines.
On the other site all recommendations are fluffy and non has to be followed and everything can be cited in support or against of whatever.

It is useful for the past - useless for the future.

Posted by: b | Dec 6, 2006 3:52:07 PM | 6

In the new marching orders for Iraqi's, ( delivered in Weasel not English) there is a glaring omission of one pertinent fact: The whole mess started on a day of infamy when Naval and Air forces of the Imperial Empire of the United States of America suddenly and deliberately attacked the Sovereign Nation of Iraq. Until they leave, nothing will get better. The Iraqi's are not stupid and will defend their home and oil and way of life to the last man/person against the invader and collaborators. It just 'looks' like sectarian strife.
Noone ever mentions that maybe the Iraqi's don't want "Big Box" Democracy with it's dependence on the eternal will and resulting slavery of the money changers.

.02

Posted by: pb | Dec 6, 2006 3:57:08 PM | 7

"Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency"

This is no more incompetence, this is sheer batshit-crazy insanity. You just can't expect an occupation to work in such a situation, it just can't be. The only thing left is random violence and genocide, there's no way you could ever administer Iraq with a handful of guys in your embassy - and probably not much more on the military side.
Basically, the US in Iraq is just like the Martians in War of the Worlds; they can't communicate with the locals, just shoot them.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Dec 6, 2006 5:21:06 PM | 8

Just watched the "news" and came here for fresh air. Thanks b et al. Baker invoking the Clinton "impeachment" as if that was some kind of historical event. Funny. What kind of whiskey was that b?

Posted by: beq | Dec 6, 2006 7:13:48 PM | 9

Lord of the Flies Redux


6 November 2002

The young in this country are reported to tend to support war with Iraq and the older generations tend to see the risks involved. The older folks seem hesitant to send their children and grandchildren into a gristmill that may not pass the U.S. security cost-benefit audit.

That doesn't sync with what I see here in the Pentagon. The adolescents driving the little red Iraqi war wagon and banging the Baghdad war drums sport beards, gray hair, and spare tires.

Isn't this really what chickenhawk is all about? Men who missed the opportunity to prove themselves on a battlefield? Missed being tested and hardened, missed the opportunity to wrestle wisdom and courage out of sweat and pain and fear? Missed it because it was inconvenient or scary, and now, too late, want to go back and make up for it?

The juvenile instant gratification crowd is running the five-sided asylum. We are on an island without adult supervision. William Golding wrote about it in 1954 in Lord of the Flies.

The boys on the island in Lord of the Flies had to prioritize... keep the fire for security and civilization burning bright or else hunt incessantly for pigs. The fire went out and they missed being brought back into society. Eventually they killed the mother pig, destroying their primary food source.

But hey, little boys don't think about the future, and that's understandable.

New symbols of evil, new rules and definitions for democracy, liberation, sovereignty, prisoners of war and enemies of the state, and new ideas about what force can and cannot achieve are being played out in a grand Pentagon experiment.

It is a strange New World on our island. We don't paint our faces just yet, but we are developing rituals and nicknames.

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, is "Sunshine Warrior."

Richard Perle is "Prince of Darkness."

The Secretary of Defense is reported to have a bowl in his office where he tells visitors he places a token every time he says something nice about someone. The punch line occurs when the visitor looks and sees that the bowl is nearly empty.

He's called Rummy, or Duke Nukem, or sometimes just angry and arrogant.

But symbols and nicknames are good. It's the infantile brain processes that worry me.

Just yesterday, one of the anointed, ...er appointed, civilian Ph.D. Iraq war planners held a meeting where the policy desk officers for Middle East countries were invited and consulted for the first time. The question of the day was purported to come from the Secretary, something like "When we do Iraq, what will be the effect on the neighbors?"

There was stunned silence as the desk officers collectively absorbed the shock that such a question might be asked of them so late in planning stage for an Iraq war. If Sunshine, Prince and Duke had had their way last summer, we would be at war by now - and only yesterday the planning team thinks to query the desk officers?

The desk officers dragged their jaws off the floor and, wide-eyed and unbelieving, listened to the ensuing discussion among the anointed. The debate around the fire was about what the war phases might be, whether there were to be two--attack and aftermath, or three--attack, regime change/chaos control, and occupation.

Dry mouths and eye twitches were evident among the innocent military folks who had not previously dealt directly with the civilian war planning team. Which would be most of them up to this point.

Now, when I want to have the holy freaking bejeesus scared out of me, I like to be able to buy popcorn and a big Coke, maybe some sno-caps. Or read a book about boys morphing into beasts on a remote island.

Because when that's over, I can return to a world where we listen to the wise and respect our elders.

William Golding tells a story about an island where aggressively shortsighted and juvenile minds have created a nasty little society based on evil symbols, inadequate information, exclusion and fear and where the good guys get to do the dying. What a coincidence!


Yes b, the "Sunshine Warrior" now in place for phase II at the World Bank, "retired" as was McNamera following his string of War Crimes, is ready to deliver the coup d'grace.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:02:49 PM | 10

US Military Says Ten GIs Killed in Iraq


The Associated Press
Wednesday 06 December 2006

US military says 10 GIs killed in four separate incidents in Iraq.

Baghdad, Iraq - Ten US forces were killed in four separate incidents Wednesday in Iraq, the US military said.

The military confirmed that the 10 Americans had died but gave no further details.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to those family members who have lost loved ones today," US military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said in a statement.

The deaths raised to at least 2,917 the number of members of the US military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.

"The adolescents driving the little red Iraqi war wagon and banging the Baghdad war drums sport beards, gray hair, and spare tires."

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:14:51 PM | 11

This panel report is a classic CYA piece, and has no relation to reality.


The violence is spiraling so quickly out of control in Iraq that the US will be lucky if it has any troops in Iraq left on the ground in six months time. What are they doing there? They are just ducks in an insane shooting gallery!


The marines will have to get their choppers to evacuate everyone out; the US will be unable to secure their superbases in the country. It will be Saigon 1975 all over again, except in the Green Zone...


In the meantime, Bush and the Republicans will attempt to pin the blame for the "loss of the Middle East" on the Democrats. (Remember how they tried to pin the blame for the loss of South Vietnam and Cambodia on the Democrats and Bella Abzug, even though it was Kissinger's fault?) The whole region will be devoured in a large-scale genocidal conflagration which will eventually consume Israel too... The USA's whole global role will be diminished.


This will lead to political and possibly military confrontation and finger-pointing in the US because of the internal divisions in American society created by DeLay and Rove. The Second American Civil War?


See what presidents from Texas can do?

Posted by: Chris Marlowe | Dec 6, 2006 9:17:55 PM | 12

It's incredible! They look at the situation like there is no occupation there...Helloooooo! It's occupation stupid!
During German occupation in WWII there was civil war underneath, between various forces (for example royalists and communists etc) as well as between nationalistic forces ( Croats and Muslims against Serbs and much more groups…).Before the WWII there was kingdom that managed to keep all this forces in peace, so German occupation actually triggered civil war. After Germans left (were defeated) international community set down and made (whatever wrong) solution to stop civil war.
Americans HAVE TO GO, leave Iraqi oil to Iraqis, to reimburse for the damage they made and woooallla solution ( what ever wrong it may be) will be found.

Posted by: vbo | Dec 6, 2006 9:25:50 PM | 13

LT. GEN. ODIERNO LOOKS INTO COLONIAL HELL FOR GUIDANCE
Baker/Hamiton Study Group Looking There Too.


Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Nov. 20 New York Times reports, is returning to Iraq in December “to take charge of the day-to-day fight as commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq.” The article says that the lieutant general spent “several months preparing for his new command (in Iraq), assigning his staff several histories of counter-insurgency efforts in Malaya, Algeria and Viet Nam.”

Lt. Gen. Odierno appears to be taking an interest in three extremely brutal colonial campaigns against popular movements for self-determination.

As noted in a recent article on this website (see archives “Iraq Troop Withdrawal Looks Far Off”), Lt. Gen. Odierno has a sad history in Iraq in which troops under his command in the Fourth Infantry Division in 2003 and 2004 were involved in apparent war crimes. This point is, remarkably, overlooked by the Times article which says that after he left Iraq in early 2004, he spent 18 months as an assistant to the Joint Chiefs, “most of that as an advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

Lt. Gen. Odierno will be taking command at the same time that the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton will be making their recommendations on Iraq. A Pentagon group is also working on recommendations as is the staff of the National Security Council. The competition is on for the “winning” formula for Iraq, and it is highly likely that increased counter-insurgency action will be part of this formula.


from the archival link above :

Evidence of the possibility of a bloody time ahead can also be found in the appointment of Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno to be second in command of U.S. forces in Iraq, as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal.

The history of Lt. Gen. Odierno’s 4th Infantry Division in Iraq is characterized in the book “Fiasco” as one involving massive detentions of Iraqi civilians and widespread abuses of civilians, including killing. One reported result of the wholesale rounding up of civilians conducted by his division was the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

“What wasn’t widely understood at the time,” writes Thomas Ricks in “Fiasco”, “or now outside the military, is that the overcrowding at the prison, and some of the resulting lapses in supervision, resulted directly from tactical decisions by (Lt. Gen. Ricardo) Sanchez and his division commanders, most notably the 4th ID’s Gen. Odierno. In the fall of 2003 they were stuffing Abu Ghraib with thousands of detainees, the majority of them bystanders caught up in sweeps.”

Mr. Ricks documents abuses of the 4th ID under Odierno’s command that appear to constitute war crimes. He reports that one fellow officer thought Odierno showed “very sound” leadership, but that a senior intelligence officer “thought Odierno intentionally turned a blind eye to certain brutalities: ‘He’s a good guy. But he would say to his colonels, ‘I don’t want to hear the bad shit.’”

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:28:49 PM | 14

Roots of debacle in Iraq are in neocon ideology
The leading advocates of the war were wrong about nearly every aspect of it.
By Justin Logan


James Baker and Lee Hamilton aren't in charge of U.S. foreign policy, and the report itself can do little more than provide political cover for the president to change course - if he wants to. However, as President Bush said on Thursday: "This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."

The passion with which the neocons argued for invading Iraq was never coupled with a serious examination of what it would require to achieve our goals there. An honest discussion about the costs of war would have greatly diminished the case for invading.

The Baker-Hamilton commission cannot change this reality. The only thing that can right our course at this point is an outright rejection of the neoconservative approach that steered us into the quagmire in Iraq in the first place.

Neoconservatives have been wrong about every possible aspect of Iraq: wrong about the threat from Saddam, wrong about the way to deal with it, wrong about the costs of war, wrong about the insurgency, and wrong about staying the course. The only question left is how long the country and the Bush administration will continue listening to them on foreign policy. And at what cost?

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:36:39 PM | 15

‘We Can’t Afford to Leave’
As the debate over Iraq intensifies, leading Democrat Silvestre Reyes is calling for the deployment of more U.S. troops.


Dec. 5. 2006 - In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:40:49 PM | 16

Democratic Leaders Rule Out Iraq Funds Cutoff


Congresswoman Pelosi made her position clear as House Democrats met to discuss options and a future position on Iraq.

Pelosi says the meeting highlighted that there are no easy answers to "the very difficult challenge" in Iraq, but she nonetheless stated her firm opposition to any funding cutoff:

"Absolutely not," she said. "Let me remove all doubt in anyone's mind, as long as our troops are in harm's way, Democrats will be there to support them. But we will have oversight over that funding."


The War Party is firmly in control. The US will not leave Iraq before tens of thousands more are murdered and the US Treasury utterly depleted.

Bring 'em on!

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:44:27 PM | 17

Democratic Leaders Rule Out Iraq Funds Cutoff

Sorry.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 9:46:16 PM | 18

Quote:
The whole region will be devoured in a large-scale genocidal conflagration which will eventually consume Israel too... The USA's whole global role will be diminished.
---
Definitely …What a hell Israelis were thinking? They stand no chance to stay there in a long run.
USA will eventually have to go to their “corner” (where they below anyway) and think about other strategy how to expand ( something like Germans had to after WWII) .And it’s sooo right. In the main time they’ll have to repay for generations for all the damage they made around the world. Unfortunately there is no price on so many killed…
Well all this looks like a dream …but suddenly it doesn’t look that much unrealistic to me. I must be naïve. Although the “price” for things to level where they should be is very high…
Quote:
This will lead to political and possibly military confrontation and finger-pointing in the US because of the internal divisions in American society created by DeLay and Rove. The Second American Civil War?
---
Well I don’t think so. Except if some kind of economic crises (of kind like 1929 ) hit USA. Political instability , yes. This should be the end of “two party” system that is wrong anyway…

Posted by: vbo | Dec 6, 2006 10:05:45 PM | 19

FIRST VINTAGE BOOKS EDITION: DECEMBER 2006

All rights reserved.

The Authorized Edition of The Iraq Study Group Report is published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Maps © 2006 by Joyce Pendola

Vintage and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

ISBN: 0-307-38656-2

ISBN-13: 978-0-307-38656-4

www.vintagebooks.com

A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this book will be donated to the National Military Family Association, the only nonprofit organization that represents the families of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, prepares spouses, children, and parents to better deal with the unique challenges of military life. The Association protects benefits vital to all families, including those of the deployed, wounded, and fallen. For more than 35 years, its staff and volunteers, comprised mostly of military family members, have built a reputation as the leading experts on military family issues. For more information, visit www.nmfa.org.

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

First Edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

First Edition

"A portion... the unique challenges of military life... First Edition"

These bastards are beyond belief.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 10:08:14 PM | 20

Quote:

These bastards are beyond belief.
-----
Soooo right!

Posted by: vbo | Dec 6, 2006 10:29:54 PM | 21

Bernhard,

I wasted over two hours this evening watching CNN, MSNBC, and FOX and got nothing out of it. Your initial short analysis here was full of facts and insight. Thank You.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Dec 6, 2006 10:44:14 PM | 22

"We believe it is still possible to pursue different policies that can give Iraq an opportunity for a better future, combat terrorism, stabilize a critical region of the world, and protect America’s credibility, interests, and values."
Yes we believe... because we must, we have no choice. It's going to be a long read at this rate.

Iraq will have a better future if the occupation is lifted and Iraqis allowed to assess their situation and to act in response to their assessment, rather than to continue to be forced to react to their occupation by a foreign force which has never had their interests in mind at all. There's enough time left in 2006 for our troops to be completely evacuated from Iraq and the region.

We can "combat terrorism" by ceasing our activities in the Middle East and around the world which have incited and continue to incite terrorism. At the heart of these is our continued funding and support of the Israeli far-right's campaign of murder and expropriation against the Palestinian nation.

We cannot stabilize this critical region of the world, we can only cease destablizing it. But that will be a great improvement since we are completely and utterly responsible for the chaos into which the region has been plunged by our shocking, awful invasion and occupation more than three years ago.

Restoring our credibility is a generational project, and a byproduct of our more pressing concerns.

Our interests have never had anything to do with this shocking, awful neocon adventure. We must reassert the primacy of our interests and explicitly disavow the neocons'. As well, the perceived interests of the multinational oils and the military industrial complex are not our interests. They are not the interests of America and Americans.

Our values have only been honored in their breech. Not least of our professed values is "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [the securing of these certain unalienable Rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

And that is what we must be about.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 6, 2006 10:46:50 PM | 23

Yes, I know, technically this doesn't belong on this thread - but the Flowers 'n' Sweets title made it irresistable...and the day when this happens in Iraq may not be too far off, given that they have no plan to withdraw -

A report from the German military, the Bundeswehr, warns that the Taliban is approaching Kabul and that attacks on the capital city are likely to increase. Security in nearby districts is already deteriorating.

...

The leadership of Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, fear that Taliban attacks on the Afganistan capital of Kabul will likely increase in the coming months. According to a classified report on the state of Afghanistan obtained by SPIEGEL, "militant opposition forces" have made it clear that they will focus fighting during the winter "on the country's largest cities."

The security situation has already "visibly deteriorated" in two districts located just 10 kilometers from Kabul's city limits -- to the point that Afghan security forces don't even dare to patrol the streets at night. The report warned that Taliban fighters could use the district as "gateways" to Kabul and also as place where they could stage future attacks. link

Posted by: jj | Dec 6, 2006 11:42:17 PM | 24

The military also changed its policy in reporting wounded GI's: those who require less than 72 hours in the hospital are considered merely "injured" and not worthy of being listed.

Real men don't whie about little scrapes and buises, do they?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Dec 7, 2006 1:49:50 AM | 25

A good Nation piece written by an U.S. Green Baret (special operations unit, quite culture aware) who is an embedded advisor to the Iraqi military.
A Soldier's Story

To play the role of a combat adviser--something American military personnel are increasingly asked to do--is to live within a foreign culture and to train and fight with a foreign military. Many American soldiers are not capable of such an important role or mission. The job is long, very difficult, and set within a very austere, hostile and unfamiliar environment. The adviser becomes culturally isolated and so requires a unique personality combined with extensive training; but most lack this expertise and inclination. It's a sink-or-swim job, and most candidates sink after only a few months. They then retreat inside the shells of themselves and soon become combat advisers who do not interact or even advise. They thus form adviser teams that are dysfunctional and counterproductive. They exist until the day arrives when they can return home to a place that is familiar, where they are not hated.
Read it and you will understand that the Backer/Hamiltan recommendation of additional advisors will only have negative effects. There are only a few dozents of Green Barets available not thousands.

Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 2:23:38 AM | 26

@Ralphieboy, speaking of whining - on the other end they're redefining things as well. Soldiers coming back an emotional wreck - ie. any who were sane to begin w/!! - & thus would cost Vet. Admin. buckolas for psychological readjustment care, are being taken care of at the swish of the pen. They're Redefined as having Personality Disorders - which they define as untreatable hence no care required & further something they brought in w/them & hence are not eligible for any compensation!! Nifty...

In case this hasn't been posted, here's Zbig's take on the ISG. Even more notable is that he had to go to England to have it printed...

...

The long-awaited Baker-Hamilton Study Group report assessing broader US policy options in Iraq is a lengthy compromise statement reflecting a typical, middle-of-the-road consensus among an elite Washington "focus group", composed of esteemed individuals not handicapped by much historical or geopolitical familiarity with the region's problems.

...

Neither document faces squarely two basic and troubling realities: that since in Iraq (except for Kurdistan) real power is not in the hands of the Iraqi politicians resident in the US-protected Green Zone in Baghdad, any political solution must engage the Shia theocracy, with its militias; and that the longer the American occupation continues, the already declining US influence in the Middle East will give way to regional extremism and instability, especially if continuing indecision over the basic strategic choices in Iraq continue to be matched by US unwillingness to address the negative regional consequences of Israel's prolonged and increasingly repressive occupation of the Palestinians.

...

The president, and America's political leadership, must recognise that the US role in the world is being gravely undermined by the policies launched more than three years ago. The destructive war in Iraq, the hypocritical indifference to the human dimensions of the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the lack of diplomatic initiative in dealing with Iran and the frequent use of Islamophobic rhetoric are setting in motion forces that threaten to push America out of the Middle East, with dire consequences for itself and its friends in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

America needs a strategic change of course, and it has to be undertaken on a broad front. It must accept the fact that real leadership in Iraq should be based on a coalition of the Shia clergy commanding the loyalty of Shia militias and of the autonomous Kurds and that the sooner a date is set for US departure, the sooner the authentic Iraqi leaders will be able to enlist Iraq's neighbours in a wider regional effort to promote a more stable Iraq. It must also engage its allies in a joint definition of the basic parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, for the two parties to the conflict will never do so on their own. Last but not least, the US must be ready to pursue multilateral and bilateral talks with Iran, including regional security issues. link

This clown doesn't even know that the war was initially waged by dispossessed Sunnis, or doesn't he care??

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 2:28:49 AM | 27

Will It Work on the Battlefield?

“By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq,” the study group says.

Jack Keane, the retired Army chief of staff who served on the group’s panel of military advisers, described that goal as entirely impractical. “Based on where we are now we can’t get there,” General Keane said in an interview, adding that the report’s conclusions say more about “the absence of political will in Washington than the harsh realities in Iraq.”
...
The group’s final military recommendations were not discussed with the retired officers who serve on the group’s Military Senior Adviser Panel before publication, several of those officers said.

Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 2:31:29 AM | 28

What the hell is "force protection"?

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 2:37:55 AM | 29

This ISF report is a lot to read, but there are no surprises -- just corporate super-lawyers seeking to carve up Iraq for the second time since the Brits first did it after the War to End All Wars.

Ah, but the game's afoot, Watson. Events already overtake even the Great Grey Men of Washington.

The core goal of the Baker Group's blossoming intervention into this failed Presidency is to get the US disengaged from direct combat by the dawn of 2008, so that the GOP can run as a responsible political party, a party of grownups. Again. For honest and real this time.

No plan will be forthcoming to actually leave Iraq, since we cannot actually leave that oil and still go on as a superpower. That's right out, mate.

What we can do is withdraw from the street brawl, or pick one side in the brawl to back up with weapons and training.

The problem is, this ethnic war, this regional war between Shia and Sunni, has already begun to involve the surrounding nations, and they will be backing their brawlers just as lavishly as we American taxpayers will be required to do. It's a new arms race, and these Old Grey Men just love those.

It is this wider war, which is already starting, that will surprise the Great Grey Men, bring down this President, and literally -- actually -- chase the US troops out of the region.

Posted by: Antifa | Dec 7, 2006 3:00:21 AM | 30

What the hell is "force protection"?

Guarding the embassy, the air-bases and the oil ...

Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 3:27:59 AM | 31

Thanks.

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 3:44:49 AM | 32

Steele: Baker's predictable plan is what Bush is already doing

The third purpose in appointing Baker's panel is the most extraordinary. The country's political elite wants to ignore the American people's doubts and build a new consensus behind a strategy of staying in Iraq on an open-ended basis, with no exit in sight. "Success depends on unity of the American people at a time of political polarisation ... Foreign policy is doomed to failure - as is any action in Iraq - if not supported by broad, sustained consensus," say Baker and his Democratic co-chair, Lee Hamilton, in their introduction. In other words, if things go wrong, it will be the American people's fault for not trusting in the wisdom of their leaders.

Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 4:05:58 AM | 33

@b - that's what I was referring to last night, when I noted that it sounds like a declaration of war on Americans - doesn't that imply & otherwise justify massive persecution of dissenters from elite consensus?

Since Zbig notes that Israeli-Palestinian nightmare has to be resolved to clean up the mess in ME, let me throw this in. Jimmy Carter just said:

"I can't imagine a presidential candidate saying, 'I'm going to take a balanced position toward the Israelis and the Palestinians,' and getting elected," he said. "It's inconceivable." link As I recall Howard Dean said something to that effect early in his campaign, and we know what they did to him...May not be unrelated.

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 4:14:00 AM | 34

I never really thought the ISG was about anything other than internal U.S. politics, givin the makeup of the group (like ed meese), but nontheless, it is interesting if not unprecedented in american politics. It's suprising the group has gotten as much press as it has, and good reason to look closer. The much touted "bipartisan" character of the group is of particular note -- givin that the entire Iraq project from the beginning was rabidly partisan, in a vicious circle sort of way -- dividing the country in order to (against the will of the country) have its way in Iraq. Now bush is confronted with an alliance of the rich and famous from his own party and the rich and famous from the previously and belatedly demonised party speaking now in one voice. And this one voice has had the effect, so far, of totally disarming whatever the president might say -- it has effectivly isolated him into the corner of the chessboard, unable to move. Interestingly, the big question now raised in the (substantial) media coverage is, not so much what change in strategy might be necessary, or even possible but, is anything they might do already rendered -- to late.

But then again, with the holiday season upon us -- why not see this for what it is, a re-scripting of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with the ghosts of Christmas past coming home to roost. And with poetic justice hopefull, the bah-humbug in chief never makes it out of the graveyard -- where he eternally belongs.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 7, 2006 4:21:51 AM | 35

During my three weeks without internet last month, I spent a fair amount of time watching cable news around the election, and quickly came to realize the form of the Iraq Study Group. The Democrats, while the have certain differences with the Republicans on foreign policy, don't have any issues with the premises behind the neocon war machine - the only difference with between neoliberals and neoconservatives being whether the iron fist has a velvet glove on it or not. Thus how Iraq got messed up is framed as a competence issue, not a something inherently wrong from the start.

The Democrats, by virtue of appearing to be an opposition party, managed to win an election somehow, but now needed a cover for a concept of how to manage Iraq. Not the war itself, of course they have no idea how to run an empire, but how to manage perception. Naturally, they piggy-backed onto this idea of a "bipartisan" commission as something to wait for before they made their plan, because "bipartisan", as opposed to "independent" or even "useful," is the key to managing the media...which they still think manages the American people (and it does, to a certain point, at least prevent outright rebellion.)

Thus the report represents little more than the coming together of the Americanist (war) party after a brief split apparent in election results. It is a proclamation, to each other, that they're still on the same side and nothing drastic can, or should, be done. It's a mask put on to assuage the American people. To the Iraq War, as something specific, real, and not a measure of perception...it's meaningless.


(though I realize that this is hardly news to the bar patrons here, I'm trying to organize my own thoughts on the subject.)

Posted by: Rowan | Dec 7, 2006 4:33:21 AM | 36

good one anna missed

Posted by: annie | Dec 7, 2006 5:03:10 AM | 37

Rowan, (nothing personal,but)

Where's your Christmas spirit? The democrats, and lately the republicans want de-spirit-ly the bad dream to be over -- want the great american exceptionalism to rise from its past sins in a gesture of its inherent benevolence, and yes sublimily, to embellish our collective -- amnesia -- to our sins, as the acceptable price of doing business, and spreading cheer to the unwashed masses. Now go out and buy something.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 7, 2006 5:09:08 AM | 38

And, just in case, as a testament to my own christmas spirit, we've decided to backtrack to the good old days and have procured (from craigs list) an original 50's genuine aluminum christmas tree. I hated them as a kid growing up, but I can now see that they were in fact, a most wonderful expression of yankee innovation and utility. As a kid I would'nt have understood the value of the tripod metal base and its little non-slip rubber feet. Let alone the fact that its a big shiny mesmerizing thing, year after (fucking) year.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 7, 2006 5:47:04 AM | 39

I agree w/Rick Happ at #22

B's analysis here is far and away above most other places I visit...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 7, 2006 6:04:35 AM | 40

anna missed thanks for your cutting analysis. Likewise Rowan ... at least we can see this debacle for what it is. Afghanistan is heading south too, the British forces had a bad day.

I recommend this story from one of the few Arabic-speaking soldiers in Iraq, linked above by Bernhard:

A Soldier's Story

But for a year I have also been an observer of an immensely complicated situation. I am a soldier who fights alongside Iraqis, and I interact daily with and hear the words of Iraqi soldiers, civilians and insurgents alike. Through their eyes I see the strengths, foibles and faults of my military and culture. Sometimes I wish for the return of my ignorance. If no one else can understand my distress, I hope other Americans who fought shoulder to shoulder with other cultures--the French, Filipino, the Nungs and Yards and tribesmen of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia--will understand.

Thank you Major Bill Edmonds, at least you are communicating.

I agree that there is no way that the US can let go of its humongous investment in Iraq, they say almost a thousand million dollars (a billion) spent on the almost-completed Vatican I mean embassy.

The stakes for the oil must be higher than billions, even a thousand billion (trillion) dollars that will be spent in Iraq.

Those are big numbers.

Posted by: jonku | Dec 7, 2006 6:12:00 AM | 41

jj:


America needs a strategic change of course, and it has to be undertaken on a broad front. It must accept the fact that real leadership in Iraq should be based on a coalition of the Shia clergy commanding the loyalty of Shia militias and of the autonomous Kurds and that the sooner a date is set for US departure, the sooner the authentic Iraqi leaders will be able to enlist Iraq's neighbours in a wider regional effort to promote a more stable Iraq. It must also engage its allies in a joint definition of the basic parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, for the two parties to the conflict will never do so on their own. Last but not least, the US must be ready to pursue multilateral and bilateral talks with Iran, including regional security issues.

That sounds right to me. What's so clownish about it?

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 7, 2006 6:14:14 AM | 42

is it just coincidence that a high number (10) of GI's were killed in Iraq yesterday ?

meanwhile, the other ISG, "Insurgents-Study-Group" will look to make Iraq so ungovernable for whomever becomes president in 2008 that he/she will not want to extend the trauma of the Iraq war for very long into his/her watch.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Dec 7, 2006 6:40:53 AM | 43

Quote:
That sounds right to me. What's so clownish about it?
---
Where are Sunnies?

Posted by: vbo | Dec 7, 2006 6:49:15 AM | 44

Antonia Juhasz's latest: Oil for Sale: Iraq Study Group Recommends Privatization

In its heavily anticipated report released on Wednesday, the Iraq Study Group made at least four truly radical proposals.

The report calls for the United States to assist in privatizing Iraq's national oil industry, opening Iraq to private foreign oil and energy companies, providing direct technical assistance for the "drafting" of a new national oil law for Iraq, and assuring that all of Iraq's oil revenues accrue to the central government. President Bush hired an employee from the U.S. consultancy firm Bearing Point Inc. over a year ago to advise the Iraq Oil Ministry on the drafting and passage of a new national oil law. . As previously drafted, the law opens Iraq's nationalized oil sector to private foreign corporate investment, but stops short of full privatization. The ISG report, however, goes further, stating that "the United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise." In addition, the current Constitution of Iraq is ambiguous as to whether control over Iraq's oil should be shared among its regional provinces or held under the central government. The report specifically recommends the latter: "Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population."If these proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be privatized and opened to foreign firms, and in control of all of Iraq's oil wealth.

The proposals should come as little surprise given that two authors of the report, James A. Baker III and Lawrence Eagleburger, have each spent much of their political and corporate careers in pursuit of greater access to Iraq's oil and wealth.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 7, 2006 7:01:13 AM | 45

Thanks, vbo. How can you resolve anything when you're still excluding from power the Sunnis who have run the country, not to mention staffed the military? Not to mention considering partition that leaves Sunnis w/no oil.

And, thanks Uncle for that critical piece. No point in yakking about strategy & tactics w/out discussing disposition of wealth at the heart of the power struggle.

So, where have we moved w/ISG? They still want to exclude the Sunnis & steal the oil. Oh, & forget talking w/Iran til they've shelved any nuclear development, which they're legally entitled to do under the NPT. Ummmm....

Well at least the doofus bloggers can't just continue to blame it on having a Dimwit in WH. (Speaking of which, I caught interesting tidbit today. Thom Hartmann mentioned it - and he is a very reliable source. Didn't anyone else wonder how they got him through Yale? Yes, he flunked out 4 times, and only was allowed back to graduate after family (Grandpa?) gave 'em $40M to build Auditorium. But still how will they rig it? Does Dean call professors & tell 'em to turn in C- grades? Or does Dean's Office Order Records Office to change F's? He literally cannot read a book. Hartmann said that people were hired to take the tests for him... DaddyBush said he wasn't worried about the stuff that was leaking out about his past. There was only one disclosure that would doom him. I assumed it was his homosexuality. Now I think this might be it. How would Americans feel about that? Just think we now have a govt. run by 2 Yale Flunkouts!)

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 7:51:06 AM | 46

I know this is OT, but since we're talking about totally destructive Foreign Policy & Oil, it fits right in - totally insane otherworldy domestic policy.

Bored breathing so much oxygen. Good 'cuz you might soon get more lead to inhale, eat, etc.

The Bush administration is considering doing away with health standards that cut lead from gasoline, widely regarded as one of the nation's biggest clean-air accomplishments.

Battery makers, lead smelters, refiners all have lobbied the administration to do away with the Clean Air Act limits.


A preliminary staff review released by the Environmental Protection Agency this week acknowledged the possibility of dropping the health standards for lead air pollution. The agency says revoking those standards might be justified "given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976" as an air pollutant.


The EPA says concentrations of lead in the air have dropped more than 90 percent in the past 2 1/2 decades.
link

Posted by: jj | Dec 7, 2006 8:06:28 AM | 47

What struck me first about this document was its arrogance. The authors still think that they are in charge in Iraq and that it is their mission to reorder that country to suit their needs.

59p77 The most important issues facing Iraq’s future are now the responsibility of Iraq’s elected leaders. Because of the security and assistance it provides, the United States has a significant role to play. Yet only the government and people of Iraq can make and sustain certain decisions critical to Iraq’s future.

The Iraqi government needs to show its own citizens — and the citizens of the United States and other countries — that it deserves continued support.


The majority of Iraqis do not want anymore of the US' "continued support." Perhaps the US puppet does. This document is a fraud from the start.

What is appropriate now is humility. All the problems in Iraq are the direct consequence of the greed of the oil patch and the political ambitions of the Israeli far-right as carried out by their agents here in the US. It is not for the US to claim that the Iraqi government musr show "that it deserves continued support", unless you are admitting that the present Iraqi regime is the puppet of the US and are still doggedly pushing forward with your pursuit of Iraqi oil. I guess the "realist" part of the assessment is that this group is willing to jettison the likudnik element. The chips are down. They want the oil. The likudniks were helpful getting the horse out of the barn, now who needs 'em?

Baker, Bush XLI and Cheney are from the oil patch and first and foremost they want the oil

24p42 The politics of oil has the potential to further damage the country’s already fragile efforts to create a unified central government. The Iraqi Constitution leaves the door open for regions to take the lead in developing new oil resources. Article 108 states that “oil and gas are the ownership of all the peoples of Iraq in all the regions and governorates,” while Article 109 tasks the federal government with “the management of oil and gas extracted from current fields.” This language has led to contention over what constitutes a “new” or an “existing” resource, a question that has profound ramifications for the ultimate control of future oil revenue.

They wrote the "Iraqi" constitution and specifically that provision is their foot in the door to Iraq's oil wealth. The undeveloped fields that Cheney discussed at the meeting with big oil that he still refuses to provide the minutes of.

39p57 While such devolution [partition of Iraq] is a possible consequence of continued instability in Iraq, we do not believe the United States should support this course as a policy goal or impose this outcome on the Iraqi state. If events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence, and minimize regional instability. The United States should support as much as possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues.
They want one stop shopping. Cut the deal with their puppets and lock it up.
45p63 RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:
  • i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
  • ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.
  • iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.
  • iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.
  • v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.
  • vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.
  • vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.
  • viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
  • ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.
  • x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.
  • They want the Sunnis to have a good piece of the action. The Sunnis know how to behave. Look at Saudi Arabia.
    60p78 RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil.
    Lie about your intentions. It's essential.
    65p83 RECOMMENDATION 28: Oil revenue sharing. Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population. No formula that gives control over revenues from future fields to the regions or gives control of oil fields to the regions is compatible with national reconciliation.
    Sunni control of oil revenues, on the Saudi model.
    82p100 Since the success of the oil sector is critical to the success of the Iraqi economy, the United States must do what it can to help Iraq maximize its capability. Iraq, a country with promising oil potential, could restore oil production from existing fields to 3.0 to 3.5 million barrels a day over a three- to five-year period, depending on evolving conditions in key reservoirs. Even if Iraq were at peace tomorrow, oil production would decline unless current problems in the oil sector were addressed.
    The Iraqis have had all the "help" they can stand at the hands of these bastards already. This is "help yourself" help to the oil patch.
    84p102 RECOMMENDATION 62:
  • As soon as possible, the U.S. government should provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law that defines the rights of regional and local governments and creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment. Legal clarity is essential to attract investment.
  • The U.S. government should encourage the Iraqi government to accelerate contracting for the comprehensive well workovers in the southern fields needed to increase production, but the United States should no longer fund such infrastructure projects.
  • The U.S. military should work with the Iraqi military and with private security forces to protect oil infrastructure and contractors. Protective measures could include a program to improve pipeline security by paying local tribes solely on the basis of throughput (rather than fixed amounts).
  • Metering should be implemented at both ends of the supply line. This step would immediately improve accountability in the oil sector.
  • In conjunction with the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. government should press Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector, instead of providing grant assistance. Until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products, drastic fuel shortages will remain.
  • 85p103 RECOMMENDATION 63:
  • The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
  • The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
  • To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
  • The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing, and reviewing audits.
  • The United States should provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Oil for enhancing maintenance, improving the payments process, managing cash flows, contracting and auditing, and updating professional training programs for management and technical personnel.
  • All pretense of a "sovereign Iraq" is dropped when they talk about taking over Iraqi production and contracting oil field services.

    The US military is now plainly seen as a force to protect the wells, refineries, and pipelines. "War is a racket". We need a statue to Smedley Butler on The Mall!

    Recommendation 63 is nothing other than a mob takeover. They're offering a deal the Iraqis can't refuse. So they think. They have no chips. These are the "realists"?

    There are other wild recommendations. Making the State Department a branch of Defense. Making soldiers of the employees of practically all other government departments and shipping them for tours overseas. Wild flights of fancy on what they're going to make other nations in the region do via Diplomatic Offensives.

    This whole report is offensive. And it is anything but reality based.

    We're going to be in Iraq until the US Treasury can no longer sell the bonds to finance the occupation.

    bbo && JJ:

    I don't discount the Sunnis at all. It's just that this regime is trying to parlay Sunni fears into its entree to the Iraqi oil fields and that will prolong the civli war and not deliver the oil fields in any case.

    Times have changed. The wind is filling the Shia's sails now. They are going to come out the winners in Iraq and Iran and Lebanon... and Saudi Arabia?

    And the US is living on its reputation and is THE superpower in its own imagination only. It's over.

    Of course this "analysis" is worth just what you've paid for it.

    Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 7, 2006 8:13:39 AM | 48

    Quote:
    What struck me first about this document was its arrogance. The authors still think that they are in charge in Iraq and that it is their mission to reorder that country to suit their needs.
    --------
    Really!

    Posted by: vbo | Dec 7, 2006 8:20:30 AM | 49

    b: Thanks for yet another excellent link (#26 above - A Soldier's Story). This was a wonderful (if sobering) read that basically in and of itself explained everything about why we have failed so miserably in Iraq and will inevitably continue to do so until we make a most graceless exit. And once we make that exit, I expect that we will not be able to return to the region in any serious capacity for a long, long time to come.

    Posted by: Bea | Dec 7, 2006 8:39:20 AM | 50

    A British perspective of the ISG from Simon Jenkins.

    Why is there no British Baker/Hamilton report? Why must Britain's war in Iraq, now its most protracted, costly and savage war in half a century, dance attendance on events in Washington? While "stay the course" has been abandoned in America, even by George Bush, the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, indicated yesterday that it remained British policy. Tony Blair is now in Washington, apparently seeking permission to make a change. This is humiliating.

    The Baker/Hamilton report is near-irrelevant to events on the ground in Iraq. It is an exercise in demystifying American attitudes to the war prior to withdrawal. Talk of appealing to Iran and Syria to get America off the hook is absurd. Why should they move an inch as their sworn foe squirms in agony? The White House declares it will not talk to Iran "unless it agreed to stop nuclear enrichment". That is no way to talk to a rescuer.

    Talk of the "training option", beloved of British policy-makers, is waffle. Trying to invent an Iraqi army and police force would never work as long as thousands of sacked officers and men were sitting at home consorting with the insurgency. Billions of dollars (and pounds) of equipment has passed straight from the trainers to the militias. The British and Americans have been creating a new army for three years and have got next to nowhere, while hundreds of recruits have been massacred. The police are beyond Baghdad's control.

    As for Baker/Hamilton's proposal that occupying forces withdraw to barracks and concentrate on force-protection, that is what they have done already. Occasional patrols are exercises in machismo, usually with counterproductive effect. There are simply too few troops to begin to command order in the streets and countryside.

    Withdrawal from Iraq is not an option but a fact. An army that cannot maintain the authority of the central power and has ceded control of cities to local militias has withdrawn. It may offer protection to enclaves and bases but that is not occupation. It is squatting. Iraq is the most failed state in the world, because it is the most continuously dangerous. Its capital, Baghdad, has embarked on the horrifying but now inevitable process of reallocating its people into protective ghettos. The provinces are retreating into warlordism.

    The only remaining obligation on those who have brought Iraq to this pass is not to postpone this reorganisation and thus postpone the subsequent reconstruction of a civil society, presumably under some new dictatorship. It is doubtful if Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia, let alone the west, can help. They can only hinder. But such help as Iraq's neighbours might offer will never be forthcoming as long as western troops remain in occupation. That era in Iraq is over. The sooner a new one can begin, the better.


    Posted by: Cloned Poster | Dec 7, 2006 8:47:28 AM | 51

    Just saw that the link I provided to the ISG report in my piece above now delivers a different document than yesterday. While the one reachable yesterday was a "ready for the printing press" layout for the book, the one today is formated differently for bigger pages than a usual book has.

    The content is the same though, but the page numbers I provided above are now totally wrong as they related to yesterdays PDF pagecount. I had downloaded yesterdays version, and can send it if someone needs that.

    Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 8:51:23 AM | 52

    vbo: sorry I fat fingered your name.

    Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 7, 2006 8:54:18 AM | 53

    Antonia Juhasz on Democract Now this AM... Well worth hearing as always...

    Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 7, 2006 9:04:05 AM | 54

    Insider Studies Group

    Posted by: | Dec 7, 2006 11:10:12 AM | 55


    I agree with comments made or shared by Vbo and Cloned Poster --

    Listened to an interview of Leon Panetta and Sandra Day O'Connor on the radio riding in to work this morning. Not only was their arrogance unbelievable -- trying only to "move forward" and not "point fingers" about the past and how we got here -- it was laughable. How anyone could see this as anything other than an a-- whupin of the current regime and the neocons is lying to themselves. They are clearly shoving junior into behaving or else

    That said, its a sad, dead attempt to put a civilized veneer on a horrible, devastating mistake the consequences of which will play out in various bad ways for the United States and the world over the next decades. Someone said that there is no danger of a military catastrophe for the US in this. I disagree. Its just what form it takes.

    Meanwhile, we have a huge leadership vacuum here -- I want to see what the Democrats have the gumption to do but am not hopeful

    Posted by: Elile | Dec 7, 2006 11:46:06 AM | 56

    on a horrible, devastating mistake

    Mistake? Like in "I robed the bank by mistake?" or "I killed that kib by mistake?"

    A crime is a crime. A preemptive war is a crime against humanity not a mistake.

    Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 12:08:09 PM | 57

    thanks all for providing commentaries & links - if i am silent it is not because - i am dumb to your efforts - on the contrary - they provide a richer tapestry of the collapse of an empire

    Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 7, 2006 12:43:50 PM | 58

    Found in a comment by one Michael Murry at Helena's Just World News

    They lost three thousand souls last month
    While we lost seventy;
    Yet we say the Iraqis have
    No sense of "urgency."

    We take our time; we drag our feet;
    We dawdle and we stall;
    Then we blame the Iraqis for
    The snail's pace that we crawl.

    Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 12:56:18 PM | 59

    b and JFL - Thanks for great quick reads and analysis.

    @ JFL #48 - The authors still think that they are in charge in Iraq ...
    @ Chris Marlow #12 - The violence is spiraling so quickly out of control in Iraq that the US will be lucky if it has any troops in Iraq left on the ground in six months time.
    @ Antifa - Events already overtake even the Great Grey Men of Washington.

    It seems that some of the lawmakers, who are seeing reports that never reach the public, agree with you.

    Gwen Ifill interviewed Dodd -D and Hagel -R (representing Sen For Rel Committee) on Lehrer last night about the ISG report . Behind the usual political doublespeak, code language, and expressions of gratitude to the Group, I thought I heard both Senators essentially sounding an alarm about the speed of changing events on the ground. Both seemed to imply that ISG options may never catch up with the speed of events in Iraq and ME. Did anyone else get this impression?

    Hagel begins his commentary with this warning.

    Gwen, I don't know what's doable . . .
    I have a sense, Gwen, that the impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can't quite calibrate. . .

    And I think the bottom line here is, more than anything, Gwen, is that I hear a lot of talk about, "Well, this might work, this might work." The fact is the future of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqi people. It's not going to be determined by us.

    Iran, for example, has more influence in Iraq than probably any nation today and will continue to have that kind of influence. I think what we're doing here to a certain extent -- in all due respect for people who worked hard on this, Gwen -- is we're dancing around the bush on this.

    This thing is going to get resolved pretty quickly, and I think we've got to face some facts very quickly. And the last point I'd make -- what's happened over in Iraq the last two weeks, for example, that the prime minister and the president of Iraq has reestablished diplomatic relations with Syria. They have gone to Iran.

    They have taken initiatives on the diplomatic front that this administration has been unwilling to do or be part of. That's the way this is going to be solved, through a political settlement.

    (Emphasis added. Not bad for a senatorial pun, no?)

    When Ifill turns to Dodd, he echoes Hagel.

    Well, I think Chuck Hagel's comments are about on target here. This is unwinding very quickly, and it may be even far worse than we imagine here; thus, the importance of moving quickly here.

    Then the two moved on to their main message and the ISG message, just as anna missed and Rowan point out - the domestic political one - "Bipartisanship".


    Posted by: small coke | Dec 7, 2006 1:26:14 PM | 60

    I liked this recommendation from the ISG report:

    Metering should be implemented at both ends of the supply line. This step would immediately improve accountability in the oil sector.

    Can't let just anyone steal the oil!

    Posted by: jonku | Dec 7, 2006 1:27:17 PM | 61

    @anna missed,

    Oh, I've got a fair amount of Christmas spirit. I'm going to buy copies of the Irag Study Group report for all my buddies in the House. Rahm, Nancy, etc. Well, maybe not Eleanor, or John Lewis. I suspect they already get it.

    Though I don't know how well it'll be received. It's akin to toilet paper for these people - just used for covering their ass.

    Posted by: Rowan | Dec 7, 2006 1:28:17 PM | 62

    anna missed wrote: I never really thought the ISG was about anything other than internal U.S. politics, givin the makeup of the group (like ed meese)

    picking up on that, chris floyd got a keyboard-threatening snort out of me w/ this rip

    I mean, come on: who on God's green earth knows more about the political, social, ethnic, historical, religious and military complexities of Iraq than Ed Meese? The Heritage Foundation's Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy? Man, he's the go-to guy for all things Iraqi! There's no freaking, frigging way that any Hakim or Abdul or Nouri or Motqada or Mahmoud is gonna have any greater insight on Iraq than Ed Meese. Are you kidding me?

    Meese of Arabia and the Baker Group's Grab for Black Gold

    Posted by: b real | Dec 7, 2006 2:20:38 PM | 63

    @b real #63

    Snort indeed, thanks for that. And when I read this graf...

    Listen, if you start listening to actual Iraqis, you might as well hang it up right now. Because poll after poll shows that actual Iraqis overwhelmingly favor a single option for the U.S. military forces in their country: cut and run, the sooner the better. That's what they want; but of course, they're just like children, aren't they, the precious little primitive And everybody knows you can't give children everything they want. It's not good for them. So we have to hold the Iraqis' hands until they can toddle on their own -- and we have to slap their hands if they don't do what we know is best for them.

    I was reminded of this post, which I read a few days ago, on TomDispatch:

    Biking with Donald Rumsfeld

    Here are just three last-stand aspects of the [final Rumsfeld] memo that have been largely or totally overlooked in most reporting:

    1. "Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start ‘taking our hand off the bicycle seat'), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

    From the early, carefree, "stuff happens" period of the occupation comes the wonderfully patronizing image embedded in this mixed metaphor of a passage -- though I suppose Iraqis perched on bike seats could indeed have crumpled socks. The image of the Iraqi (child) learning how to ride the bike of democracy -- or whatever -- with the American (parent) looming behind, hand steadying the seat, was already not just a neocolonial, but a neocon classic by the time the President used it back in May 2004. (In fact, in an even more infantilizing fashion, he spoke of taking the "training wheels" off the Iraqi bike.)

    Many others in the administration proudly used it as well. Rumsfeld in his rococo fashion elaborated wildly on the image in a speech to U.S. troops that same year:

    "Getting Iraq straightened out… was like teaching a kid to ride a bike: ‘They're learning, and you're running down the street holding on to the back of the seat. You know that if you take your hand off they could fall, so you take a finger off and then two fingers, and pretty soon you're just barely touching it. You can't know when you're running down the street how many steps you're going to have to take. We can't know that, but we're off to a good start.'"

    And now, long after kids stopped riding bikes in Iraq and started ending up dead in ditches, our nearly former Defense Secretary just couldn't help cycling back to the good old days....

    Posted by: Bea | Dec 7, 2006 2:48:57 PM | 64

    compared to a year ago, things are much worse in Iraq. On the other hand, it seems serious negotiations towards a political solution are either in progress or being considered.

    Posted by: jony_b_cool | Dec 7, 2006 3:22:50 PM | 65

    b real,

    The thing is Bush is probably more terrorized by this gaggle of docents than any panel of real experts. After all he owes his entire political existance to these types -- and when they turn on you, your flower suddenly b-gone just before the grand debutante ball. They are eating him alive, don't you know.

    Posted by: anna missed | Dec 7, 2006 3:26:33 PM | 66

    Somehow there seems to be a discussion (not here but in some other realms) that the US can not get out of Iraq in the timeframe the ISG report claims - "too fast". Well folks - it took three weeks to go to Baghdad - why should it take three month to get out?

    just asking ...

    Posted by: b | Dec 7, 2006 4:11:04 PM | 67

    "The thing is Bush is probably more terrorized by this gaggle of docents than any panel of real experts. After all he owes his entire political existance to these types.

    It's time for the enabling to stop!!

    It's time for an 'Intervention' to Bush' addiction to 'war on terrists' and staying the course on his personal road to perdition.

    We love you George but you're not only killing yourself, you're killing us too and it's time to stop. We cannot support you anymore. The American people have told you so and now, we do too..

    Posted by: pb | Dec 7, 2006 5:38:30 PM | 68

    Bush and Blair: We're charting new directions in Iraq


    US President George Bush, standing beside British Prime Minister Tony Blair, today asserted that success in Iraq depends on victory over extremists across the “broader Middle East”.

    That would be Iran? Syria and Iran?

    Leave Iraq now; don't wait until 2008 election day


    All things considered, it was too little, too late and too long a wait if you have a son or daughter serving a third or fourth combat tour in Iraq - something that few, if any, of the above referenced politicians and wise men have contributed to the war effort.

    All the politicians paid the customary lip service in praising the troops and commending them for the terrible sacrifices they must continue to endure while the wrangling and dithering over a futile war goes on with no end in sight.

    How can they look at themselves in the mirror every morning?

    There's no victory waiting for President Bush in Iraq, and nothing that his father's friends say or do can save him from an ignominious end to his presidency in two years and two months, or from the judgment of history.

    There will be no convenient and successful negotiation of a "decent interval" with our enemies Iran and Syria to cover our withdrawal from a war that we should never have started.

    There can be no successful Vietnamization in Iraq - standing up more and better Iraqi army and police units and handing control over to them - when all we're doing is arming and training more recruits for the civil war that clogs the streets of Baghdad with the corpses of the victims of a Sunni-Shia bloodbath.

    What we need to do is what none of the commissions and their reports dared to suggest: Begin withdrawing American forces from Iraq right now. Not in 2008. Not after the American death toll has crossed 5,000. Not just in time for a presidential election.

    There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there's only one way to leave Iraq: Load our people up on their trucks and tank transporters and Bradleys and Humvees and head for the border. Now.


    This guy is a "regular Joe". There may well be a crowd with pitchforks and torches outside the White House before too much longer.

    Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 7, 2006 8:11:46 PM | 69

    Ed Meese, anyone?

    Posted by: Rowan | Dec 7, 2006 10:02:49 PM | 70

    guardian: The neocons have finished what the Vietcong started

    Before our eyes, the neoconservative position is disintegrating. Its foreign-policy tenets have been shown to be false. As is now openly admitted, they have brought the US to the verge of disaster in Iraq, which is why the American version of the "men in grey suits" has ridden to the rescue. After less than six years in office, elected at a time when the US was unchallenged as the sole superpower, the Bush administration has managed to deliver the country to the edge of what can only be compared to a Vietnam moment: the political and military defeat of the central and defining plank of American foreign policy.

    ...

    But the Iraq moment is far more dangerous for the US than the Vietnam moment. Although one of the key justifications for the Vietnam war was to prevent the spread of communism, the US defeat was to produce nothing of the kind: apart from the fact that Cambodia and Laos became embroiled, the effects were essentially confined to Vietnam. There were no wider political repercussions in east Asia: ironically, it was China that was to invade North Vietnam in 1979 (and deservedly got a bloody nose).

    The regional consequences of the Iraq imbroglio are, in comparison, immediate, profound and far-reaching. The civil war threatens to unhinge more or less the entire Middle East. The neoconservative strategy - to remake the region single-handedly (with the support of Israel, of course) - has been undermined by its own hubris. The American dilemma is patent in some of the key recommendations of the ISG report: to involve Iran and Syria in any Iraqi settlement (including the return of the Golan Heights to Syria) and to seek a new agreement between Israel and Palestine. In short, it proposes a reversal of the key strands of Bush's foreign policy

    From a longer-term perspective, moreover, it is already clear that it will be impossible for the Americans to restore the status quo ante in the region. The failure of the occupation has shown the limitations of its power - which every country, from Iran and Syria to Israel and Saudi Arabia (not to mention Hizbullah and Hamas), will have noted. The US has been the decisive arbiter in the Middle East since the end of the Suez crisis in 1956, albeit with the Soviet Union playing a secondary role until 1989. The American era is now over.

    In future the US will be forced to share its influence with regional powers such as Iran, with the EU - and no doubt in time, with emerging global players such as China and perhaps even Russia. Such a scenario may well mean that the key alliance that has shaped the Middle East since 1956 - between the US and Israel - will no longer be so pivotal and could be increasingly downgraded. From a regional standpoint, it is clear that the Iraq moment is far more serious for the US than the Vietnam moment.

    Posted by: b real | Dec 7, 2006 11:06:47 PM | 71

    Closer to the Abyss

    As respected Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld pointed out when I called him at Hebrew University in Jerusalem the other day, the notion that Americans can teach Iraqis the brutal arts of counterinsurgency is at best improbable. “I think that this whole idea of Americans training Arabs is so silly I cannot take it seriously,” said Van Creveld, whose new book, “The Changing Face of War” (Presidio), will be out early next year.
    If winning hearts and minds is supposed to be part of the plan, then the U.S. troops just don’t have the means. They don’t speak Arabic, they don’t understand the culture, they don’t share the faith, they don’t know the history. Van Creveld doesn’t mince his words: “The American military have proved totally incompetent.”

    The United States, grabbing here and there for a politically correct model to control the chaos, has only engendered more bloodshed. Most Iraqis want us gone, according to the polls, and the U.S. trainers giving instruction in combat techniques eventually will see that knowledge turned against us by their students. “All they really teach is how to fight Americans,” says Van Creveld. “How stupid can they be?”

    Posted by: b | Dec 8, 2006 3:21:41 AM | 72

    [All they really teach is how to fight Americans,” says Van Creveld. “How stupid can they be?”]

    That stupid. I guess. Gives a new meaning to the "when they stand up, we stand down".

    Posted by: anna missed | Dec 8, 2006 3:49:36 AM | 73

    lol, or fall down

    Posted by: annie | Dec 8, 2006 3:58:22 AM | 74

    LAT OpEd: It's still about oil in Iraq

    WHILE THE Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

    Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

    The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

    It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.
    ...
    All told, the Iraq Study Group has simply made the case for extending the war until foreign oil companies — presumably American ones — have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields and until they are assured the best legal and financial terms possible.

    We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we wish to spill more blood for oil.

    Posted by: b | Dec 8, 2006 8:27:33 AM | 75

    Juan Cole on Salon.com: Will Bush Choose His New Friends Over His Old? The president's Shiite allies in Iraq really don't like some of James Baker's Sunni-friendly suggestions.

    ~Snip

    Whether Bush will adopt the idea of a conference involving Iraq's neighbors is not clear. But it is clear that his Shiite allies will resist it, and that here is where he may be forced to choose between his new Iranian-influenced Iraqi friends and his old Saudi friends and James Baker.

    Posted by: Bea | Dec 8, 2006 9:50:34 AM | 76

    Anthony Cordesman is not happy with the ISG Report: The elephant gives birth to a mouse

    Simply calling for a weak and divided Iraqi government to act in the face of all of the forces tearing Iraq apart is almost feckless: it is a "triumph of hope over experience". Efforts to exhort Iraqis into reconciliation are hardly new; this has been a core political effort of the Bush administration since before last month's congressional elections, and one that dates back to at least the summer of 2005.

    The only new twist is to call for the US to use threats and disincentives to pressure the Iraqi government to act decisively. Saying that the "United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if the Iraqi government did not implement their planned changes" borders on being irresponsible. It comes far too close to having the US threaten to take its ball and go home if the Iraqi children do not play the game the United States' way.
    ...
    The main report does touch briefly on these issues and even recommends a moderate US aid expenditure of US$5 billion a year. The executive summary, however, is all tacit threats and no incentives, and there is nothing approaching an aid plan or a workable approach to using aid to bring stability quickly or provide incentives for conciliation. Worse, it makes the threat that "if the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of the milestones of national reconciliation, security, and governance, the US should reduce its political, military or economic support for the Iraqi government".

    The ISG is threatening to weaken a weak government; good for its opponents, but bad for the US and Iraq.
    ...
    The US is to rush in more qualified trainers and embeds that it doesn't have, and assign more existing combat forces unqualified for the mission. The plan for dealing with the militias is to form a new US bureaucracy without addressing the need for immediate, day-to-day security in a nation without effective courts and police in most threatened areas.

    There is no meaningful plan for creating a mix of effective Iraqi military forces, police forces, governance and criminal-justice system at any point in the near future, much less by 2008.
    ...
    The main report ignores the problems in today's training and force-development programs to the point where many of its recommendations are little more than exhortative nonsense.
    ...
    Finally, there is no "Plan B". The report does not address what happens if events spiral out of control, or how the US should react to possible future contingencies. The tacit assumption is that they play it the United States' way or the US leaves faster.
    ...
    The message seems to be that domestic US policy concerns demand more attention than the nature and pace of events in Iraq or America's longer-term security interests in Iraq, the region and the world.

    "exhortative nonsense" - :-)

    Posted by: b | Dec 8, 2006 10:39:31 AM | 77

    McClatchy's Galloway: Leave Iraq now; don't wait until 2008 election day

    The Baker Commission issued its report - which primarily recommended that we begin talking with Iraq's friends and enemies next door and Iraqi-izing the war by handing things over to Iraqi forces before we begin pulling out in time for the 2008 presidential election - on a day when 10 American troops were killed on the roads of Iraq by improvised explosive devices.

    All things considered, it was too little, too late and too long a wait if you have a son or daughter serving a third or fourth combat tour in Iraq - something that few, if any, of the above referenced politicians and wise men have contributed to the war effort.
    ...
    There's no victory waiting for President Bush in Iraq, and nothing that his father's friends say or do can save him from an ignominious end to his presidency in two years and two months, or from the judgment of history.

    There will be no convenient and successful negotiation of a "decent interval" with our enemies Iran and Syria to cover our withdrawal from a war that we should never have started.

    There can be no successful Vietnamization in Iraq - standing up more and better Iraqi army and police units and handing control over to them - when all we're doing is arming and training more recruits for the civil war that clogs the streets of Baghdad with the corpses of the victims of a Sunni-Shia bloodbath.

    What we need to do is what none of the commissions and their reports dared to suggest: Begin withdrawing American forces from Iraq right now. Not in 2008. Not after the American death toll has crossed 5,000. Not just in time for a presidential election.
    ...
    There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there's only one way to leave Iraq: Load our people up on their trucks and tank transporters and Bradleys and Humvees and head for the border. Now.

    Posted by: b | Dec 8, 2006 11:01:08 AM | 78

    What is the possibility that the ISG recommendations for policy, not the report detailing current conditions in Iraq, might be disingenuous? That is, that the Group itself recognizes that the US is in no position to enact all these measures, even if the Prez did want to?

    Isn't it hard to imagine that the Group itself does not see the writing on the wall? And if they did see it, they would have had to define their central mission differently than writing a new prescription of extraction from Iraq, as most are assuming, wouldn't they?

    How about the following for the unstated goals of ISG?
    1) Deliver the message to the President and the public about how bad it is.
    2) Highlight the dangers and regional opponents of present policy.
    3) Emphasize publicly the central objective, the stakes and absolute necessity of establishing a sytstem to control ME oil, regardless of what else occurs in Iraq.

    All the rest of the report could be wish list, intended to move the policy agenda towards preferences of those whom Cutler identifies as the "Right Arabists" (Saudi, Egypt, oil industry, etc) and strip policy control out of the hands of the group he calls "Right Zionists" (Cheney, Israel). Perhaps, also, ISG is signaling interested parties in the ME and the world that current Cheney/Bush policies are not supported by many of the most powerful within the U.S.

    As others have already observed, then, the document becomes chiefly a domestic political document, with an ancillary international audience. The actual feasibility of the action list was never a serious concern. (Someone here yesterday quoted a general who said military members of the ISG were not consulted on the final military recommendations.) If ISG did not ponder the recommended agenda in real terms, is it a distraction for the rest of us to spend time considering the feasibiity of one item or another on a wish list?

    If the ISG report was never seriously intended as prescription for action, but only as a sharp admonition, a public argument for policy shift towards a different power block, and cover for officials who decide to change horses, does it mean anything for the rest of us? Yet this seems slight. What is hidden?

    Posted by: small coke | Dec 8, 2006 1:35:44 PM | 79

    3) Emphasize publicly the central objective, the stakes and absolute necessity of establishing a sytstem to control ME oil, regardless of what else occurs in Iraq.

    this will never happen. it is only an absolute necessity for the oil barrons, not for america. and they will not ever admit this is the central objective. the closet we will hear to this shrub already claimed "we cannot let the terrorists control the flow of oil" of course never mentioning our plan to hold the world hostage but controlling it.

    What is hidden?

    primarily this central objective. that the plan doesn't deviate, that it doesn't matter which allies get us there. whether we screw israel or SA it makes no difference, that can be dealt w/later. the primary function is to get some stability long enough to get a soveriegn gov to sign those contracts.

    Posted by: annie | Dec 8, 2006 2:07:00 PM | 80

    annie -

    For an official pronouncement, I actually find the ISG remarkably candid in its attention to Oil. They posted Oil Sector in the Contents as a separate item, offered notably detailed instructions about how the oil sector should be managed - with no weasely phrases about Iraqi democracy and Iraqi government determining how best to organize the oil sector for Iraq.

    Actually, the position of Oil in the report seems interesting, coming at the end of items directly involving Iraq and at the beginning of items related to US governace, or misgovernance.

    Hard not to giggle at the next item, where the President is chided for messy, incoherent budgets, gross overspending, and hiding the overspending in Emergency requests. At the tone, not the very serious charges. Doesn't it sound just like a furious parent scolding a wayward, spoiled child for misspending an allowance, running up the balance on the family credit card, concealing financial malfeasance with inept bookkeeping, and then pleading for bail money for a DUI arrest?

    True, ISG does not state explicitly that control of Iraqi and ME oil is the centerpiece of the US design for world hegemony. I doubt that any governments or leaders anywhere, and esp our ardent competitors in Russia and China, do not already understand this piece of the contest. It's only the public that stays in the dark.

    Posted by: small coke | Dec 8, 2006 4:10:27 PM | 81

    Doesn't it sound just like a furious parent scolding a wayward, spoiled child for misspending an allowance, running up the balance on the family credit card, concealing financial malfeasance with inept bookkeeping, and then pleading for bail money for a DUI arrest?

    boys will be boys. yes, one could see it that way. in fact once when my son got in trouble on the street one when i showed up i threw such a hissyfit the police knew he was really gonna get it when he got home so they didn't press charges. which is supposed to suffice i imagine. story over, go on home, its all out on the table (which it isn't at all, where's the part about the psa's and the horrible offer and the horrible constitution that pitted one segment of society against the other) and we can trust that now that the good bipartisan group has their eye out we can really get down to buisiness because daddys friends are here.

    but.. as we all know, otu in the real world, once you turn 18 the law doesn't look so kindly and forgiving if you break the law and mommy shows up. not unless you are a spoiled rich kid who's dad bought the college a new wing . sorry, scolding is just not good enough.

    what i see is the same ol same ol w/new handlers. not gonna cut it. this is nota framing issue. how about if they just come out and say 'ok you stupid americans we tried to hoodwink you into not noticing we had nafarious plans to control ME oil, but now, w/your understanding we are going to lay it all out for you how we are going to do the same damn thing but this time we will do it in a mature fashion, with your permission AND it is in iraq's best interest'

    its still bs. bush should be impeached.

    Posted by: annie | Dec 8, 2006 4:31:01 PM | 82

    Greenwald (agreeing with annie) The principal sin of the Baker-Hamilton Report

    There is something profoundly undemocratic about what Establishment Washington is doing here. As always, they begin from the premise that their physical presence in Washington and their greater information about the inner workings of the Beltway bestow upon them not just greater information, but superior wisdom, elevated judgment (and the fact that they bear substantial responsibility for what has happened here doesn't seem to have diluted that abundant self-regard in the slighest).

    They now recognize that Americans have given up on the war but they believe that that view is rash, uninformed, emotional -- "precipitous," to use the condescending label assigned to that view by the Report. The crazed and lowly masses need the steady, sober hand of the Washington Establishment -- symbolized by the old Washington relics dragged out to put their stern seal of approval on the next two years of our occupation (despite the fact that they were the ones who helped bring about this disaster). And before the ink was dry on the Report, all of the entrenched propagandists for the Washington Establishment fell all over themselves praising its great wisdom and pronouncing it to be the solemn duty of all serious people to endorse it.


    Posted by: b | Dec 8, 2006 4:57:59 PM | 83

    scolding is just not good enough.

    Budget process is one item where Congress has all the power it needs to insist on change. Tie up the purse strings until things change. Or pass an alternate budget. Any bets that they will actually do it?

    Posted by: small coke | Dec 8, 2006 5:17:52 PM | 84

    they begin from the premise that... the rogue united states was justified in waging aggressions upon the sovereign nation of iraq in violation of international law & legimate only in their own fantasies. may the ISG be used as evidence in their trials, as proof of their crimes being integrated into a common conspiracy/plan.

    Posted by: b real | Dec 8, 2006 6:00:18 PM | 85

    yr correct b real

    so unthinking is their stupidity - they have packaged the four nüremberg charges within the isg report - saves a future prosecutor the trouble

    Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 8, 2006 6:29:25 PM | 86

    bush should be impeached.

    And stocks on the town common? Public stress positions.

    Posted by: small coke | Dec 8, 2006 10:14:31 PM | 87

    The view from Iraq on the ISG report, as reported in the Guardian:

    The report, greeted with much fanfare in Washington, received only a guarded welcome in Iraq. Yesterday as the country's politicians began to read the fine print of the 79 recommendations, the caution turned to dismay.

    "It is not surprising they got so many things wrong," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish MP. "In the nine months it took to prepare this report, they were only in Iraq for four days and never left the green zone."

    Posted by: Bea | Dec 8, 2006 11:58:11 PM | 88

    The view from Syria, as reported by Badger:

    As for the United States, [Syrian Foreign Minister] Sharaa says the American people are coming to realize there has been fraud with respect to the Iraq policy, and the best evidence of that fraud to date is the Baker-Hamilton report. The US has failed in its occupation project in a sweeping way, and this is an opportunity to correct the policy, even though it is very late. But Sharaa says any actual changes will probably be insignificant....

    Sharaa said, "We hope there will be fundamental change in the American policy with the advent of the Democrats, but if one wants to be realistic--and we are--any change will be very small, and in the worst case superficial, and in the worst of the worst cases [merely] tactical. And he added, "This whole approach of dealing with pressure by pretending it isn't really pressure, suggests that American policy is likely going to remain just as it is.

    And Sharaa warned that although the majority of the American people are against the occupation project, still there is a sector "that is influential and that thinks that having spent $450 billion it isn't possible to leave with empty hands. There will come someone after Bush that will undertake to put that investment to profitable use...For our part, we are against having Iraq dragged into a situation where it has to pay the bill for the forces that invaded it."

    Badger adds:

    I have highlighted the overall political message for Americans that is implicit in these Sharaa remarks, because something struck me while I was preparing the prior post (yesterday) on the Samaha article. It is that this kind of broad analysis of American policy is something that, in recent memory, you would have expected to hear developed and propounded by the American left. Where has it gone?

    Posted by: Bea | Dec 9, 2006 12:05:54 AM | 89

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