Sunday Evening Witnessed Another

*Sunday evening witnessed another grenade attack on US troops in the Sunni belt, according to AFP: “Unknown assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a US patrol in the Iraqi town of Ramadi west of Baghdad Sunday night, witnesses said. Powerful explosions were heard in the town, located 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, said the witnesses, contacted by AFP from Fallujah, which lies midway between Ramadi and the Iraqi capital.” Some early reports said that 4 US troops were injured in the attack. Poor guys. Three US soldiers were killed over the weekend, including one who was essentially assassinated in Baghdad while providing security at Baghdad University. Nearly 30 US troops and 6 British troops have been killed in Iraq since May 1, and over two dozen more US personnel have died in accidents. It seems clear that Operation Sidewinder and other military attempts to stop attacks on the US in the Sunni belt have not so far succeeded. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, played down the seriousness of such attacks on Sunday, saying that they are mostly a problem in the Sunni Arab areas (accounting for 15% of the population) and are fragmented. Myers is not wrong about the substance, but he seems unaware of the morale and Public Relations implication of this daily litany of mayhem. Proponents of the war probably did not do the US any favors by their repeated insistence that the Iraqis would be jumping up and down for joy to have the US on their soil. Some are, some aren’t. But it was always unlikely that the Sunni Arabs would be that happy about the US troops being there, and I tried to tell people this last winter.

*As you all know, President Bush replied to the attackers in Iraq, saying “Bring it on!” Senator Carl Levin commented on Meet the Press Sunday, “I think that it’s perfectly proper for the president to say that he has confidence in our troops. But it seems to me unwise to engage in this kind of cocky rhetoric, because it’s not going to be helpful … either with our troops or in bringing in other countries into this issue.” {Truth in advertising: Levin is my senator and I always vote for him.} As most of you know, I’m from a military family and still have a lot of friends and contacts in the US military, and most of them are much more pissed off at Bush for that piece of bravado than Levin is, though they can’t say so publicly. It didn’t help that the Sunni insurgents “brought it on” and shot that poor US soldier who was buying a soft drink at Baghdad U, right after Bush’s remark. Bush was never in the real military and never lived in a war zone, and can’t stop talking like a rich spoiled drunk frat kid at Yale instead of like a commander in chief of living breathing men and women who are putting their lives on the line for this country.

*US ruler of Iraq, Paul Bremer, says he will retain a veto over the decisions of the transitional Iraqi government that he plans to appoint in mid-July. The liberal Iraqi newspaper az-Zaman insisted that he thereby reneged on a promise that the transitional government would have real authority, and says that most Iraqi politicians are furious at him. The time-table is apparently for a constitution to be written this winter, and for elections to be held within 18 months. I worry that this is too long to go with no indigenous Iraqi government (the appointed council won’t be taken seriously by Iraqis), and that in the meantime Bremer is setting himself up to take the blame for everything that goes wrong in Iraq over the next 18 months. This step seems to me unwise. It is being bruited about that the council will have a Shiite majority, though the religious Shiite parties will not be allowed to dominate it. Somehow I don’t think that the 2-3 million Shiites in Sadr City are going to be that enthusiastic about being represented by corrupt expatriate Shiites and ex-Baathist Shiites, etc.

*Retired US diplomat Joseph Wilson has all but called US Vice President Dick Cheney a liar with regard to Iraq’s nuclear program. In a New York Times op-ed, Wilson recounts how the VP’s office asked him to go to Niger early in 2002 to check out stories that Iraq was buying processed uranium from that country. He went, and satisfied himself that the intelligence was false, and reported that back to Washington. The “documents” on which the charge was based, incidentally, are clumsy forgeries. As soon as they were provided to Muhammad Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Commission in spring of 2003, he blew the whistle on them as fraudulent. But these documents kept being cited by Blair and Bush administration officials as reliable, including in the President’s State of the Union Address! Cheney certainly got Wilson’s report, and if Baradei could so easily prove the documents a fraud, so could the CIA. Not only did Cheney lie in spring of 2003 when he alleged that he had good evidence that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program, but it seems highly likely that Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice also spoke insincerely.

A big question is where the forged letters came from. They were passed from Italian intelligence to MI6, and from there to the CIA. Of course, we just don’t know their provenance yet, and maybe we never will. High on my list of suspects in this monumental fraud (which took me in until Baradei exposed it) are: 1) Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi expatriates who were trying to get the US to go to war against Saddam so that they could take over Iraq and get access to $13 bn. a year in oil revenues; and 2) Ariel Sharon’s personal intelligence unit, which was also working to get the US to take out the Baath in Iraq. I identify them only as suspects, persons with means, motive and opportunity. Sharon thinks that the American take-out of Saddam spells the end of Palestinian resistance to his plan to gobble up 40% of the West Bank and some of Gaza. The American public, enraged about September 11, allowed a motley crew of neocons and Iraqi would be carpet baggers to dupe them into thinking attacking Iraq would be “pay back” for what al-Qaeda did to us!