Letters to the Editor

In my absence, my readers are making what seem to me especially substantial, informed and incisive comments, and several of those posted today seemed to me worthy of being put on the “front page”. (Not everyone reads comments). So here they are:

“1. On the Dam

At 11:21 PM, Alex said…

On the dam. There was a report made in 1951 by British engineers proposing various sites for dams on the Tigris and the Euphrates. It is fairly widely available in academic libraries, though not on the internet. When the dams were built under Saddam in the 1980s, other sites were chosen. Although I do not remember what was said about the Mosul dam, the site of the Haditha dam was definitely advised against. So I suppose that is another dam in danger.

However, there is a factor that may not have been taken into account by the US engineers in preparing their assessment of danger, and that is the rate of alluviation. The waters of both the Tigris and the Euphrates carry large amounts of alluvium, washed off the Turkish mountains, and which settles on the bottom when the water is stopped by a dam. At Samarra, the dam was finished in 1954. When I first went to Samarra in 1977, there was an open lake behind the dam. Now there is only dry land and a river channel. The Mosul dam has been in use for half that time. I suspect there is much less water behind the dam than supposed, and thus less danger, but we have not seen the detailed report.

I am only speculating here. There are other factors; the alluvium might be trapped by the Turkish dams upstream, and they will have have the problem in the future. Though it might be a reason the Iraqi engineers are less worried than the US. It depends on how you make the calculations.

Nevertheless, this is a problem typical of an occupation that declares itself not an occupation. The Iraqi government is effectively prevented from acting, and then the occupiers say “not us”, fault of the Iraqi government.

2. Basra (Anon.)

Re Basra, oil, and impending intra-shiite war

Without control of the oil exports and ports of entry, Maliki is just Mayor of the Green Zone, with Odierno his sherif.

The Kurdish militias sit astride the N. piplines, waiting the propitious time to take Kirkuk and hoping to straighten their zone of control SW to the Tigris river, absorbing the Northern production area and Kurdish areas from Ninevah to Diyala.

The Sunni tribes and Marines control the upper Euphrates river and road to Amman, all the way back to Baghdad city limits. No Dawa need apply out West. Iraq’s southern oil capitol and only port is contested by opposition Shiite parties and miitias. The ‘fired’ governor of Basra is still holding the governate, months after Maliki threatened to move in with the ‘Iraqi’ army. The Basra chief of police is unable to command his troops reliably. Tens of millions in oil revenue is flowing to whoever chas teh guns to put deals for $90 bbl crude delivery together.

Baghdad is essentially under lock-down, the war zoned into neighborhoods and barrios, for the time being. Electricity, food and fuel are being rationed, traded and used for collective reward or punishment by this or that faction.

The great Petraeus’ counter-offensive has paused for a breath, with the collateral risks of bombardment being substituted for the military casualties associated with surface patrols. Seems sort of opposite of the COIN doctrine of taking risks to protect civilians.

It sure is good to hear that the US finally has a winning strategy to get Pres. Clinton out of Iraq by 2013. Maybe.

“Peace, peace, but there is no peace.”

3. Ineptitude of the al-Maliki government

You say:” Now if only the al-Maliki government could assert itself in, and provide services for, Iraq itself.” No chance! In fact things are going to get even worse (now the sword of the September US report is gone.)

In today’s Sotaliraq.com there are reports on two statements of interest:

1) A letter from the new . . . head of the anti-corruption office [appointed by Malik in clear violation of the constitution], addressed to the leaders of the US Congress. I very much hope will be published in English, at least for its entertainment value [now in Arabic at:]


The guy is complaining about being treated like dirt by the US Embassy who do not even give him a security badge to allow him into his office (good for them) and defending the scum he is supposed to be watching over. Maliki’s letter prohibiting the investigation of the top thieves in Iraq, including his own cousin as the ex-minister, which is undisputed except by Ms Rice and is in the public domain is ignored. He says allegations against Maliki are for the parliament only! He then holds the contradiction that there is corruption, but the officials are not corrupt. But he justifies it saying it is all America’s fault. Then he attacks about the ex-head muttering some hilarious stuff about Pinochet and other South American dictators. Now, Maliki first said that the ex-head “may be tampered with some papers” then upped it by accusing him of assassinations no less.

2) The new Agriculture Minister. He is described as a technocrat, but in fact an ex-minister in Ja’fari’s ruinous sectarian government. He proudly declares [in Arabic at:]


that he aims for full self-sufficiency in all crops! A very stupid idea copied from Iran which is hurting their land; farmers; and economy.

We also have the news that the two new ministers were approved unanimously, yet opposed by the big Sadrists and Sunni blocs! Has anyone heard of a parliamentary vote where the voting result is in dispute? Apart from in Iraq that is.

Maliki seems to have come to the conclusion that he and the sectarian parties in general, have no long -term future in Iraq. So they better concentrate on the looting, for as long as they are allowed to maintain the current term.

4. Lack of State Department competence to grant immunity to Blackwater

At 6:41 PM, exomikey said…

“Sen. Pat Leahy is slamming the Bush administration for bestowing immunity on private US security guards in Iraq.”

When did the State Department get the power to grant immunity to anyone? I’m not sure that they can grant immunity. I’ll take Artios’ position on this until someone who knows chimes in:

Atrios [says]

So I just learned on CNN that the State Department offered immunity to the Blackwater guards. That they don’t have the power to do it. That they did it anyway. That senior State people didn’t sign off on this thing they didn’t have the power to do. This thing they didn’t have the power to do will inhibit any efforts to prosecute them.

I hope someone at the State Department offers to give me Martha’s Vineyard! They may not have the power to do it, but once they do any efforts to take it away from me will be inhibited!

-Atrios 09:02

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5. Rules of Engagement:

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous said…

The unanswered question, from the apparently one-sided Blackwater shootout last month that killed and wounded dozens, from the Haditha killing of more than a dozen women and children in their homes, is what are the rules we operate under?

The mutable rules of engagement (ROE) are classified, but the bottom line can be inferred from the comments used to justify a bad shoot. Blackwater says that it’s guards felt threatened while driving the wrong way in a traffic circle, and responded to a perceived threat by clearing civilians and cars from the huge square, using automatic weapons fire and explosive rounds.

The Haditha defendants also stated the Marines felt threatened in the aftermath of a fatal IED attack, and so they attacked to eliminate the threat. No fighters or weapons were captured, no expended AK shells were found in the houses where civilians died, but the military court accepted the marines testimony. “I felt threatened’ was sufficient defense for the shooting of unarmed prisoners, use of grenades and rifles on civilians trapped in their bedrooms.

This war is in a conquered country where most Sunni Arabs, and half the Shiites say they feel that attacks on the occupier (us) are justified. The perception of fear on the part of our 165,000 soldiers and 30,000 mercenaries makes nearly all killing on the part of our men justifiable.

ROE concerns can usually be resolved with a word about a feeling. Mr. Koch is correct in that.

I would ask our red-state war supporters to consider how the 1860 War of Northern Aggression story would have ended, if the occupation troops had spoken another language, and been armed with rapid-fire weapons?

It’s going to be a very long war for some of our returning men and their families. They are our soldiers, in our service. Most have done the best they could for comrades, country, and contract. War changes men. This war will follow some home, and many of us will taste from that same tree of knowledge.

Things will get better for our guys, as Iraqis take over mine-clearing, search, siezure, and interrogation. Our combat role will increasingly shift to air attack and artillery fire against enemy buildings. Our casualties will fall to politically acceptable levels. Rules for indirect fire called in by US advisors will be classified, a matter for Iraqis to witness and justify.

Gen. Sherman pointed out, as his men left Atlanta for Charleston, that war is not nice, however noble the justifications. “

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