Category Archives: Iraq-2008-q4

US military still committing atrocities in Iraq

Did you think that after the chief US commander and the US Ambassador in Baghdad both signed a final “Withdrawal Agreement” with the Iraqi government on November 17, the 140,000-plus US forces remaining in Iraq would shift their mission to prepare for their successive withdrawals (a) out of all Iraq’s cities and large towns, and (b) out of the whole country, as mandated by the agreement? Did you think they might start to work very hard at building a much better, more cooperative relationship with all segments of Iraqi society, as a way of ensuring their regrouping and subsequent complete withdrawal could be carried out with minimum casualties?
Did you think they might start to behave better?
Think again.
CNN today carries a grotesque story about a US “Special Forces” raid on a family farmstead outside Baghdad on December 10, in the course of which the Americans killed a member of the farming family, apparently in cold blood, and then either before or after the killing chopped off his right index finger and apparently took it away with them.
(HT: Raed Jarrar.)
CNN’s Michael Ware is careful to report both “sides” of the story. Including the detailed claims made by surviving family members about how the man, Hardan al-Jubouri, was first of all forced by the heavily armed Americans to lie down in an outside courtyard in only his underwear, like all other male family members, and was then directed by the Americans to return inside the house and turn on all the lights, after which they killed him inside there. And the claims from the US military that he had somehow escaped from their control in the courtyard, returned voluntarily into the house and emerged with an assault rifle.
The family has some grainy video footage of the aftermath of the raid, including of a lot of blood on the walls, bullet holes, and Hardan’s mutilated hand.
Ware reported that the US military is conducting an investigation.
Raed is asking his readers to contact the US military and ask whether cutting off people’s fingers is official policy… also about whether executing people described simply as “Al-Qaeda suspects” is also official policy. (He gives an email address at the Iraq.centcom.mil domain name. I think it might be better to go higher up the chain of command?)
These are good and important questions.
There are also some larger questions that urgently need asking about the US’s military policy in Iraq. Primarily this: Does our government intend to fulfill its completely unequivocal obligations to undertake a complete withdrawal from the cities by the end of next June and a complete withdrawal from the whole country by the end of 2011– or is it planning to look for a way to evade those obligations?

More Warriors Needed

The US Army is currently on track to increase 65,000 people to a total of 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the current conflicts. There is a corresponding increase in the US Marine Corps, from 194,000 to 221,000, for a total increase of 92,000 to 768,000 ground troops.
A larger US military was first proposed by the presumptive Secretary of State, Senator Clinton along with Senator Graham in May, 2004 and has subsequently been endorsed by Senator Obama. In 2004 Clinton said, “I don’t think we have any alternatives.” In July 2005 Clinton co-introduced with Graham legislation to increase the size of the regular United States Army by 80,000 soldiers.
This 92,000 increase is apparently not enough.
According to an Army spokesman, the Pentagon actually needs not 547,000 but 580,000 soldiers, a 33,000 additional increase, “to meet current demand and get the dwell time.

    The demand for soldiers extends beyond the war zones, as commanders in other regions request troops, Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said. “It’s a real challenge. It’s not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea,” Ford said, referring to the U.S. Central Command, Northern Command, African Command and Pacific Command.

The New York Times, a chief promoter of the Iraq and Afghanistan imperialism, also weighed in on this matter recently in its editorial “A Military for a Dangerous New World [sic]”.

    The United States and its NATO allies must be able to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — and keep pursuing Al Qaeda forces around the world. Pentagon planners must weigh the potential threats posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an erratic North Korea, a rising China, an assertive Russia and a raft of unstable countries like Somalia and nuclear-armed Pakistan. And they must have sufficient troops, ships and planes to reassure allies in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
    We believe the military needs the 65,000 additional Army troops and the 27,000 additional marines that Congress [read: Senators Clinton, Graham and Obama] finally pushed President Bush into seeking. That buildup is projected to take at least two years; by the end the United States will have 759,000 [actually 768,000] active-duty ground troops.
    That sounds like a lot, especially with the prospect of significant withdrawals from Iraq. But it would still be about 200,000 fewer ground forces than the United States had 20 years ago, during the final stages of the cold war. Less than a third of that expanded ground force would be available for deployment at any given moment.

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Bush’s militarism gets the shoe

Pres. Bush’s present tour to Iraq and Afghanistan was probably designed to be a “legacy-establishing” trip, or perhaps even– in the imagination of some of his advisers?– a victory lap. But yesterday’s incident, in which an Iraqi journo threw his shoes at Bush while yelling strong criticisms of him, seems an appropriate “footnote” to the arrogant militarism that dominated most of Bush’s time in office.
Because let’s be quite clear: That reliance on militarism has not worked. Early on, it registered some, very partial, “achievements”– the overthrow of the Taliban, the scattering of the bases Al-Qarda once had in Afghanistan, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But the reliance on militarism failed to bring about the stabilization of the two countries invaded and their consolidation as strong and reliable US allies, a la post-1945 Germany or Japan. Instead, in both cases the overthrow of the old order through the use of force led to the unleashing of powerful new (or in Afghanistan, revived) anti-American movements, as well as a de-facto “legitimatization” of the use of force by those movements given that the US occupation forces were still dealing overwhelmingly with both countries through the use of brute military force rather than negotiation.
Meanwhile, Bush’s reliance on militarism in those countries– and elsewhere– has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans between service-members and private “contractors”; the maiming of tens of thousands more Americans; the sowing of chaos and civil war in both countries that has claimed many scores of thousands of their citizens’ lives, and the serious blighting of the lives of millions more; the imposition of budgetary burdens on the US economy that will take a generation or more to pay off; the torpedoing of the US “brand” and US credibility around the world; and a considerable increase in the power and influence of Iran in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Some months ago President Bush– ably advised, I believe, by Secdef Bob Gates– came to the realization that the goal of maintaining a dominant US military presence in the country in perpetuity was no longer realizeable. Hence, the administration’s final acceptance last month that it would have to sign a agreement with Iraq whose terms explicitly mandate a complete US withdrawal from the country by the end of 2011. (The US commander in Iraq, the ever-bellgerent Ray Odierno, recently claimed the US could change the terms of the agreement unilaterally and keep forces in Iraqi cities after the June deadline from their removal. But certainly the text of the treaty makes no provision for that.)
Maybe Bush hoped that when he went to Iraq yesterday, he would receive at least some recognition for the “graciousness” of the concession he’d made to the Iraqi negotiators? A different form of “Mission Accomplished”, perhaps?
Well, it’s possible he did receive some kind words from Nuri al-Maliki, the man who was installed as PM there primarily by the US occupation authorities but who then turned round and negotiated very toughly with the Americans this year. But few people will ever remember what Maliki said to Bush on this occasion. All that most people inside and outside Iraq will remember is the pair of shoes thrown at him– on video– at the press conference.
The guy who did that got wrestled to the ground by Maliki’s security men and was taken away to an uncertain fate. Maliki had lost considerable face by demonstrating that he couldn’t even control the cadre of heavily screened journos who are allowed into his press conferences. But McClatchy correspondent Laith makes clear that the anti-Bush sentiments run very extensively throughout the Iraqi press corps. Though Laith said he disagreed with the particular means of “self-expression” the shoe-thrower had used, he also said,

    I can’t blame the journalist for hating the U.S. president because I agree with all the Iraqis (not [the] politicians of course) that Bush’s policy destroyed our country.

But despite the bows they have made to raw, pragmatic realism in Iraq, Bush, Gates, and the president-elect all seem sold– for now– on the idea that reliance on near-unilateral US militarism still seems the best policy in Afghanistan.
How long will it take– and the lives of how many more people?– before the different branches of government in Washington really understand that War truly is not the answer, in Afghanistan any more than in Iraq?
The US citizenry needs to step up our activism on this issue. We need to all work together to give militarism the shoe.
(Update 3:25 p.m.: The LA Times blog has a good roundup of media attention in the Arab world, here. Note that even the usually pro-US Al-Arabiyeh network carried a commentary strongly supportive of the shoe-tosser.)

Obama on Iraq: before and after

After a spirited exchange with Alex regarding what Barack Obama’s plans might be for Iraq, I thought it would be informative to look at Obama’s remarks before and after the election.
March 19, 2008
I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them [in] 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy.
December 7, 2008 (Meet the Press)
We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops–or our, our, our civilian personnel and our, our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region, in cooperation with the Iraqi government, that we are providing training and logistical support, maintaining the integrity of Iraq as necessary. And, you know, I–one of the things that I’ll be doing is evaluating what kind of number’s required to meet those very limited goals.

Recruiting for the Enemy

The US occupation forces in Iraq have, from the beginning of the occupation more than five years ago, engaged in the arbitrary imprisonment (“detaining”) of Iraqi citizens. As one former US soldier testified: “I witnessed and participated in countless massive operations led by American commanders whose metrics for success were numbers of detainees apprehended.”–Louis Montalvan
If you were a YSM (young Sunni male) found in a night-time US military sweep through Iraqi neighborhoods you stood an excellent chance of being zip-tied, thrown into the back of a truck and taken downtown. “Most of the people they detain are innocent,” said Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.
This has resulted in US prison populations in Iraq of nearly 20,000 prisoners, with another 26,000 being held by our Iraqi surrogates.
As Afghanistan heats up, more Afghan citizens are being arbitrarily arrested and held in prison. In August construction began on a new facility for as many as 1,100 detainees and now the US Military has initiated an inquiry into possible detainee abuse
All of this, of course, is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention which calls for the military to be responsible for the welfare of citizens in a war zone or occupied territory.
Protected civilians MUST be:

    – Treated humanely at all times and protected against acts or threats of violence, insults and public curiosity.
    – Entitled to respect for their honour, family rights, religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.

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Burying the SOFA (WA) text: Mission Accomplished?

I just saw Phyllis Bennis on the Real News Network talking about the Obama foreign policy team. She did a terrific job. Except at one point, a couple of minutes in, she made quite a point of saying that the Bush administration “hasn’t shown us the American text of the SOFA”, that they “haven’t made it public”, etc… And therefore that she still didn’t really believe it said that all the US troops would be out by the end of 2011.
But Phyllis! The text of the SOFA (more accurately, a “Withdrawal Agreement,” as it is titled) was posted on the White House website last Thursday.
But actually, the fact that even a savvy, go-getting analyst like Phyllis Bennis hadn’t seen it by the time she recorded the RNN segment– maybe yesterday afternoon?– means that the White House’s strategy of “publishing the text by stealth” seems to have worked!
Last Thursday was, you see, Thanksgiving Day here in America. A great day for the President’s media people to “bury” news that they’re not too happy or proud about…
(I blogged about it on Friday. I guess Phyllis Bennis wasn’t reading JWN either…)
But it’s true that the release of the official English-language text of the SOFA/WA has gathered just about zero discernible coverage in the US MSM. That, despite the fact that this really is, the crowing “accomplishment” of a war that has cost more than 4,200 American lives, drained our country’s treasury, and considerably damaged our standing all around the world.
You’d think the MSM would have had some interest in the final text of the agreement?? But no…
So the burying strategy apparently worked.
The writer of this fascinating AFP article from last Wednesday (Nov. 26) tells us, however, that the timing of the release was not determined only by a desire to ‘bury’ it away from the US news media as much as it was by a desire to ‘bury’ it away from Iraq’s parliamentarians before they held their crucial vote on the agreement later that same day.
The AFP piece said this:

    three officials in Washington said the administration of US President George W. Bush has withheld the official English translation of the agreement to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the parliamentary vote.
    The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the official English language text of the agreement was designated as “sensitive but unclassified.”
    “There are a number of areas in here where they have agreement on the same wording but different understandings about what the words mean,” said one US official.
    The White House National Security Council said it had held up the translation’s release until the Iraqi parliament votes.
    “We plan to release it soon,” said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. “We are waiting for the Iraqi political process to move further down the road.”
    In the event the SOFA is approved, the US could simply circumvent parts of the agreement, said officials.
    For example, for the provision that bars the US from launching military operations into neighboring countries from Iraqi territory, the administration could cite another provision that allows parties to retain the right of self-defense — such as pursuing groups that launch strikes on US targets from Syria or Iran.
    The provision that appears to require the US to notify Iraqi officials in advance of any planned military operations and seek Iraqi approval for them could also be altered, said the officials.
    Some US military figures find the provision especially troubling, although US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, head of the US Central Command David Petraeus and the top US commander in Iraq Raymond Odierno have all endorsed it…

So they’re saying that the “self-defense” provision could be used to over-ride the “not using Iraqi terrain for attacks against others” provision, and that the notification provision could simply “be altered”, unilaterally by the US side at some point?
I doubt if the Iraqis or anyone else in the International community would see matters that way.
Anyway, go back to my post from last Friday to see the points I made there about the “exact” meaning of the all-important Article 24 regarding the “total” nature of the December 2011 withdrawal and the fact that both the Arabic and English texts have been described by the parties as “equally binding.”

The Iraqi SOFA/WA: Uncertainties– but also a text

Yesterday, the Iraqi parliament gave preliminary ratification for the Status of Forces– or, more correctly, Withdrawal– Agreement with the US that had been negotiated by PM Maliki (and foreign minister Zebari) over the course of the past seven or so months.
The ratification was only preliminary because it was made conditional on a countrywide popular referendum to provide final approval for the Withdrawal Agreement on July 30, 2009. That is one month after the deadline specified in the text of the agreement for the withdrawal of all US (and other foreign forces) from Iraq’s towns and cities into bases/cantonments outside the urban areas. That provision provides an important mechanism by which the Iraqi political system can ‘benchmark’ the performance of the US side of its obligations under the agreement.
Oh, how the balance has shifted since the days, not so long ago, when numerous actors in the US political system asserted they had the possibility (and some kind of ‘right’) to ‘benchmark’ the behavior of the Iraqi government.
The fact that the Iraqi parliament approved the SOFA/WA, reportedly through winning the votes of 148 of the 198 lawmakers attending the session, is known. So too– finally!– is the exact content of the English-language version of the final text of the treaty, which was published by the White House here (PDF) yesterday, while most Americans were busy gorging themselves on turkey and not thinking about Iraq at all.
Much else about the agreement remains murky. This includes the question of whether all the Iraqi legislators who took part in the vote were all agreed regarding what it was they were voting on… and also, the precise attitude towards it of the ruling bodies in neighboring Iran.
On this latter point, the FT’s Najmeh Bozorgmehr has the best reporting I’ve seen to date.
She writes from Tehran,

    The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad has been unusually silent about the Iraqi government’s approval of the security pact with the US. But that may be because it has been loathe to publicise its dramatic change of attitude towards the agreement.
    People close to the government in Tehran said that after initially opposing it – and asking its Shia allies in the Baghdad government to resist it – Tehran has been relatively satisfied with the last-minute changes demanded, and won, by Iraq.
    Analysts see an additional reason for the about-turn: the election of Barack Obama as US president.

Bozorgmehr quotes Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran’s former ambassador to Paris, as saying that “Iran has adopted active silence [regarding the SOFA/WA] which means it is generally okay with the moderated version even though it does not agree with all of it.”
See also this analysis by NIAC’s Babak Rahimi, which was quoted by Bozorgmehr.
Back on November 17, I noted, as Rahimi did in his piece several days later, that Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had expressed his approval of the Iraqi cabinet’s November 16 adoption of the SOFA/WA.
I commented in that post:

    There has been some speculation that Iran’s clerical authorities have adopted this apparently cooperative posture as a gesture of goodwill to the US’s president-elect Barack Obama. Perhaps. But I suspect the stronger force driving this position has been an assessment by the Supreme Leader that having US forces tied down as sitting ducks in very-close-by Iraq through the end of 2011 is seen as a handy guarantor– at least for the next three years– that no-one in Washington will decide to attack Iran in this period.

I still think that analysis holds up.
I’ll note in passing that the coverage that Juan Cole had today of the question of Iran’s attitude toward the SOFA/WA seemed uncharacteristically ill-informed and muddled.
However, Juan– and the Iranian radio report that he characterizes, unjustifiably, as “celebratory in style”– are not the only parties who have seemed generally unclear as to what is actually in the SOFA/WA text.
The NYT’s Suadad al-Salhy blogged here on Monday that,

    It seems like 70% of the Iraqi MP’s have no idea what is in the agreement. This is clear from the complaints and criticisms that I hear when I am listening to their questions in the press room of the parliament building, and on the television coverage when I get home.

She also gives some good examples of that…
Let’s hope the Iraqi parliamentarians became somewhat better informed before they voted yesterday?
So now, what can we say about the content of the SOFA/WA text?
As far as I know, the version web-published (PDF) by the White House yesterday was the first version released publicly of the official English text. And the White House also, for good measure, web-published (PDF) an official English-language version of the accompanying ‘Strategic Framework Agreement’, while they were about it.
I note that both these documents appear to be PDF’s of the official international agreements that were signed on November 17. Both carry the signatures of the signatories from each side. Both also state this:

    Signed in duplicate in Baghdad on this 17th day of November, 2008 in the English and Arabic languages, each text being equally authentic.

This is interesting– particularly as regards Article 24, the crucial article regarding US withdrawal.
My understanding is that the Al-Sabah version of the Arabic text that Raed Jarrar directed us to on November 17 was the “definitive” Arabic version of the text.
It states, at Article 24, the following:

    المادة الرابعة والعشرين
    انسحاب القوات الأميركية من العراق
    اعترافا بأداء القوات الامنية العراقية وزيادة قدراتها، وتوليها لكامل المسؤوليات الامنية، وبناء على العلاقة القوية بين الطرفين، فانه تم الاتفاق على ما يلي:
    1. يجب ان تنسحب جميع قوات الولايات المتحدة من جميع الاراضي العراقية في موعد لا يتعدى 31 ديسمبر/كانون الاول عام 2011 ميلادي.
    2. يجب ان تنسحب جميع قوات الولايات المتحدة المقاتلة من المدن والقرى والقصبات العراقية في موعد لا يتعدى تاريخ تولي قوات الامن العراقية كامل المسؤولية عن الامن في اي محافظة عراقية، على ان يكتمل انسحاب قوات الولايات المتحدة من الاماكن المذكورة اعلاه في موعد لا يتعدى 30 يونيو/حزيران عام 2009 ميلادي

Raed had translated that as:

    Article Twenty Four
    Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq
    Recognizing the improvement of the Iraqi security forces and their increased capabilities, and the fact that they are in charge of all security operations, and based on the strong relationship between the two sides, both sides have agreed on the following:
    1- All U.S. forces must withdraw from all Iraqi territories no later than December 31st 2011.
    2- All U.S. combat forces must withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages as soon as the Iraqi forces take over the full security responsibility in them. The U.S. withdrawal from these areas shall take place no later than June 30th, 2009…

This, where the White House text says only, in both those paragraphs, that all the US troops “shall” withdraw. However, in the Arabic, the word “yujib” that introduces each of these paragraphs clearly carries the meaning “must.”
Interesting.
I note, too, that in the White House version, the title of the agreement (which they are eager not to call a treaty) is given as an agreement between the two countries “On the Withdrawal of the United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during their Temporary presence in Iraq.”
… More about the content of the now-released version of the Strategic Framework Agreement later. But at my first reading, I’d say that it doesn’t look nearly as weaselly, sinister, or threatening to Iraqi sovereignty as some people had previously feared.

Iraq’s international ‘Contact group’ becoming stronger?

The Security Cooperation and Coordination Committee of Iraq’s neighboring countries held its third meeting in Damascus Sunday. This ‘Contact Group’ brings together representatives of the UN, the US, Iraq’s neighbors (including Iran), and other relevant international actors. It has been quietly working behind the scenes since April 2007 to help stabilize Iraq and expedite an orderly transition to the country’s full independence. The two earlier meetings of the SCCC were also held in Damascus, in April and August 2007.
Who, consuming only the western MSM, would have known about Sunday’s landmark meeting?
The MSM pumps out a constant flow of reporting– and commentary that’s often very belligerent– on the matters of political difference between Washington and Damascus. But it seems to ignore the areas in which the two countries cooperate, altogether. Why?
Yes, certainly, there are some substantial differences. There are the (very poorly substantiated) US allegations that Syria has been doing illegal things in the nuclear field, and the US allegations that Syria was not doing enough to prevent anti-US militants from crossing its border into Iraq. Syria also has its own considerable grievances against the US, but these don’t get nearly as much of an airing in the western MSM.
Then, as recently as October 26, the White House authorized a U.S. Special Forces in Iraq to undertake a heavily armed incursion into Syria that killed eight Syrian citizens, reportedly civilians.
But on November 23 there was Maura Connelly, the Deputy Chief of Mission and therefore (in the absence of an ambassador) the highest-ranking US diplomat in Syria, taking part in the SCCC gathering hosted by the Syrian government.
That’s great news.
Also attending were representatives of Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Japan, the UN secretary-general, the four non-US Permanent Members of the UN , the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Arab League. Saudi Arabia had been invited but did not attend due to its continuing bilateral disagreements with Syria.
Reuters tells us (HT: Josh Landis) about one of the more dramatic things that happened in the meeting:

    The United States stood alone at a conference on Sunday in accusing host Syria of sheltering militants attacking Iraq, while other countries adopted a more conciliatory tone, delegates said.
    No other state present at the conference on security for Iraq joined Washington in its open criticism, weeks after a U.S. raid on Syria that targeted suspected militants linked to al Qaeda, they told Reuters.
    U.S. Charge d’Affaires Maura Connelly… told a closed session that Syria must stop allowing what she called terrorist networks using its territory as a base for attacks in Iraq.
    Washington’s leading Western ally, Britain, has recently praised Syria for preventing foreign fighters from infiltrating into Iraq, and its foreign secretary, David Miliband, was in Damascus this week pursuing detente with Syria.
    “The American diplomat’s speech was blunt and short. The United States was the only country at the conference to criticise Syria openly,” one of the delegates said.

The fact that Syria agreed to host the conference even after last month’s military attack by the US was significant. Reuters’ Khaled Oweis wrote that Syria “decided to go ahead [with the meeting] after the Iraqi government condemned the strike.”
The participation of both Iran and the US in this gathering was also very significant. (But that development, too, was completely ignored by the western MSM. See my points on the MSM and Syria, above…)
So was the fact that the US was able to win support for the belligerent attitude it has adopted toward Syria from not a single one of the other delegates— not even the Iraqi government that it itself helped set up back in 2005-06.
Yes, the balance of power/influence between Washington and Baghdad regarding matters Iraqi has certainly shifted in Baghdad’s favor. All that’s left now is to work for the continuing retraction of US power from the region that is as orderly as possible. (Hence the great importance of this coordinating body, the SCCC.)
Oweis gave these additional details of what happened in the Damascus meeting:

    Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous said Syria was a “victim of terrorism” and that it would not allow any attack on any individual living in its territory…
    “Arnous chose not to respond directly to the U.S. charge, but emphasised that Iraq’s stability was in the interest of Syria,” another delegate said.
    Delegates said representatives of China and Russia had condemned the United States for using Iraq as a “base for aggression”. A joint statement issued by Iraq and its neighbours after the meeting said they opposed any offensive action launched from Iraq against its neighbours or vice versa.

… I have stressed for many years now that any substantial drawdown of US troops from Iraq (and especially the complete withdrawal that I favor) requires the active involvement in helping to facilitate and coordinate that of all of Iraq’s neighbors, including those with which the US has bad relations, as well as of the UN. The SCCC seems to be providing exactly this kind of coordination.
It’s been 15 months since the last SCCC meeting. Let’s hope it is not nearly as long until the next one, and that the non-US members of this body work hard to give it more real clout and political weight once the UN’s ‘mandate’ to the US in Iraq expires on December 31.

Rumsfeld, Kagan, and Chalabi in the NYT

I can’t believe that the NYT gave a huge chunk of its prime op-ed real estate today to allow war criminal Donald Rumsfeld to offer his views and advice on US. And Ahmad Chalabi. And Fred Kagan.
Among the gems Rumsfeld offers are, regarding Iraq, “By early 2007, several years of struggle had created the new conditions for a tipping point…” And reflecting on US military history more generally:

    The singular trait of the American way of war is the remarkable ability of our military to advance, absorb setbacks, adapt and ultimately triumph based upon the unique circumstances of a given campaign. Thus it has been throughout our history. And thus it will be in Iraq and Afghanistan, if we have the patience and wisdom to learn from our successes, and if our leaders have the wherewithal to persevere even when it is not popular to do so.

Chalabi’s piece is a little intriguing. It’s titled “Thanks, but you can go now.” In it he argues,

    The independent, democratically elected Iraqi government now representing the interests of its people is nearly identical to the government that could have been formed in 2003.

H’mm, I made something similar to that argument just myself, this morning. But unlike Mr. Snake-oil Ahmad Chalabi I never worked for a moment to try to get the US into this war, and I am not now and never have been on the payroll of any government.
Chalabi is most likely on Tehran’s payroll at this time (and has likely been for quite a while.) He is Mr. Look-after-number one, but he also has a good finger to the prevailing political winds.
In this piece, he tries to write “in the name of” all Iraqis. He writes:

    Iraqis want the closest possible relationship with the United States, and recognize its better nature as the strongest guarantor of international freedom, prosperity and peace. However, we will reject any attempts to curtail our rights to these universal precepts.
    We welcome Mr. Obama’s election as a herald of a new direction. It is our hope that his administration will offer Iraq a new and broader partnership. Iraq needs security assistance and guarantees for our funds in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. But we also need educational opportunity, cultural exchange, diplomatic support, trade agreements and the respectful approach due to the world’s oldest civilization.
    We also hope that Mr. Obama will support the growing need for a regional agreement covering human rights and security encompassing Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran (and any other neighbors so inclined). We have all been victims of terrorism. The mutual fears that have been festering for decades, augmented by secret wars and the incitement of insurrection, are no longer acceptable.
    The United States has agreed to Iraq’s request to inscribe in any regional pact a prohibition against the use of Iraq’s territory and airspace to threaten or launch cross-border attacks. This laudable commitment gives us hope that America has a new collective vision of security in our region as not exclusively a function of armed force but also dependent on a profound comprehension of others’ fears.

Somewhat irritatingly, I find I agree with a lot of what he writes.
Luckily, no such feelings emerge when reading Kagan.
The best of the seven pieces the NYT has gathered today on the joint question of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is undoubtedly this one by Rory Stewart. It’s titled “The ‘Good War’ isn’t worth fighting”. Stewart, a British adventurer, writer, and former army officer who knows both Iraq and Afghanistan pretty well, argues that,

    President-elect Obama’s emphasis on Afghanistan and his desire to send more troops and money there is misguided. Overestimating its importance distracts us from higher priorities, creates an unhealthy dynamic with the government of Afghanistan and endangers the one thing it needs — the stability that might come from a patient, limited, long-term relationship with the international community…

The whole of that piece is worth reading. Unlike Rumsfeld’s self-serving and ill-focused little rant.