*US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld blamed the Iraqis for their own lack of security, since they are not doing enough to tell the US forces in the country who the bombers are. Does anybody but me find this sort of rhetoric disgraceful? First of all, it lumps all Iraqis together. Do people in Najaf even know anybody in Tikrit, where the recent bombing was probably planned? How could they have tipped the US off about something a small group of Sunni Arabs in another town were planning? Since the US dissolved the Iraqi army, moreover, how exactly could Iraqis track such terrorists? With the PTA? It is the US that has 140,000 troops in the country and is supposed to be in control of places like Tikrit, and which has special forces and CIA field officers on the ground. Why isn’t it the responsibility of the US to stop bombings and provide security? Finally, there is an ugly undertone of racism in Rumsfeld’s pronouncements on Iraq. Earlier in the summer he compared the violence in Iraq to the murder rate in Washington, DC, a majority African-American city into three quarters of which wealthy people like Rumsfeld do not venture. He also compared it implicitly to Benton Harbor, a badly bifurcated city in Michigan that saw race riots this summer over the continued lack of opportunites for African-Americans. Does Rumsfeld think that Iraqis are analogous to African-Americans, only under better control? That is how he talks. And if you applied this recent comment to any minority group in the US (“they wouldn’t have such a big crime problem if they would out their own criminal elements to the police”) it would be patently offensive. It is with regard to Iraq, too.
*Remnants of the Baath regime in cooperation with Islamist extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda were responsible for the assassination of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, according to Bayan Jabr, the new Minister of Building and Reconstruction and the former Damascus station chief for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He said SCIRI has firm evidence of the infiltration into Iraq of al-Qaeda operatives from Afghanistan and neighboring Arab countries. He also called for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraqi cities immediately, and for them to be patrolled by Iraqi forces. (al-Sharq al-Awsat). The WP also has a story on al-Qaeda infiltration into Iraq today. I think all this is sensationalized. The 50,000 Baath operatives who know where the arms depots are and know the territory are a much bigger threat to the US than a few hundred scruffy Egyptian, Saudi and Algerian Mujahidin. And, the Iran element of the WP report is pure fantasy. The US doesn’t have intelligence assets in Iran that know for sure Sayf al-Adil is there, or how the Iranians have treated him if he is, or that he was allowed to hit Riyadh from Iranian territory. A lot of this stuff bubbles up from the Iranian expatriate community, some of whom want to manipulate the US into overthrowing Iran’s government for them so they can go back and take over. Sound familiar? Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi peddled a lot of similar nonsense to the US to provoke an Iraq war. It is not clear that “a sucker is born every minute”; but it does seem to be the case that a disproportionate number of them live in Washington, DC.
*The Marines are getting ready to hand over security details in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to a contingent of Spanish and Latin American troops, as follows. Spain: 1300; Nicaragua: 100; Dominican Republic, 302; Honduras: 366; El Salvador: 361. (-AFP) Najaf is pretty friendly territory. Friends who have been there say that the Marines most often could move about without helmets and bullet proof vests, and that locals were pretty warm to them. Because the Najafis suffered so badly under Saddam, and because their most respected leaders, like Grand Ayatollah Sistani, have not taken a stand against cooperating with the Coalition presence. But, of course, Najaf has been badly shaken by the huge truck bombing of Aug. 29, and the locals want better security and they want the perpetrators caught. I just don’t see how the Latin Wave is going to accomplish either of those things. Such a disparate force may lack operational unity. They know nothing about Iraq, although some of the Spanish may know Morocco (how supercilious they are about the latter remains a question). The way the aftermath of the war is working out is creating a lack of continuity and lots of instability for Iraqis themselves. Now all the city notables and tribesmen have to build all sorts of new relationships with new foreign peace enforcers. And, of course, it is worrisome that some of the troops come from countries like Honduras and El Salvador that have seen a lot of violence and governmental repression and even death squads in the past 20 years (with some of the death squads, like the notorious Battalion 3-16, supported by the United States’s CIA). Up until 1994, Honduras drafted children into its military. Guatamala’s government still includes notorious war criminals like Gen. Rios Montt, who was allowed to run for president by a court packed with his cronies last summer (the election is in November):
I don’t think the US should be sending troops to Najaf from a country where one of the current presidential candidates murdered thousands while he was a military dictator, having made a coup. Is this what Bush meant by a “coalition of the willing?” What kind of message is that to send the Shiites of Iraq? This is embarrassing.