Thursday, August 9, 2007

Iraqi People Prove Liberals are Misguided

Liberals, God bless'em, are looking in the wrong direction for political progress in Iraq. Remember, all liberals believe that good things only come when government is in charge of the political process. Look no further than our own candidates for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Every single one of them advocates some sort of Government-controlled, taxpayer-funded, "universal" healthcare system.

While grudgingly acknowledging that the surge of troops in Iraq is making military progress (they're kinda late to the game, but welcome aboard anyway), liberals and their MSM supporters bemoan the fact that little progress has been made by the Government of Iraq to pass oil sharing legislation, allow for provincial elections and permit some members of the former Ba'athist Party to return to government posts. Without this political process coming from the top down, the long term chances for success in Iraq appear doubtful.

Lo and behold, the Iraqis are proving them wrong. In this week's blogger roundtable with General Kevin Bergner in Baghdad, the General discusses some of the developments he's seen on the ground in in Iraq.

GEN. BERGNER: Well, we have seen steady developments at the local level. And if you just went back over the last four weeks and kind of walked around west and northern areas of Baghdad, you would find that in Ramadi, they completed the Ramadi Covenant, which was a tribal-led but government-of-Iraq-involved and coalition -- or security-force-involved commitment to stop the violence and to work together. In Taji, about three weeks ago the sheikhs of Taji got together. They all signed a map, put their name next to the town that they represent. In Khalis, northwest of Baghdad, a similar commitment, I think by some 16 sheikhs representing 70-some others. And then in Baqubah, we've talked before about the tribal sheikhs and the provincial government and their security forces having reached some agreements on how they're going to work together and stop the violence.

So I could take you through Baghdad, as well. We've seen similar -- similar arrangements being grouped together in Amiriyah. We see similar ones in Ghazalia. The Ghazalia volunteers are now part of this local security force that's working with Iraqi and coalition forces. And then if I took you to south of Baghdad, in General Rick Lynch's area of operations in MND-Center, I could show you different groupings of 100 here, 400 there, where different individuals from the community have stepped forward and said, we want to stop help the violence, we want to work toward some sort of accommodation.

So there is a steady development at the local level as security improves and people feel like they can step forward and take that on. So we are encouraged by that. And you know overall in Anbar what that -- how that has profoundly changed. We've talked about that several times. And that's probably the most striking example of a place which just eight or 10 months ago nobody could have foreseen the change there. So, lots of momentum.

Much of it is enabled by the tactical momentum that the surge of operations is providing. But again, much work still to do. Still some very difficult ways ahead.

GRIM: I'd like to ask a quick follow-up about that. Under Saddam and, you know, for what amounts to living memory in Iraq, Iraq has been kind of a top-down society where the central government set the tone. What you're talking about is a lot of local efforts that are going to be kind of brought to bear -- I don't want to say against central government, but on the central government. Do you think that the nature of Iraqi society is changing in this regard, that it's becoming more of a bottom-up society, a locally driven society?

GEN. BERGNER: You know, that's a very good question, it's an interesting one, because on one level, it has been a centrally governed country, without question, but in this country the tribe, the family have always been the most powerful bond that the Iraqi people have felt. And so you have kind of a duality of centrally directed but, if you ask the people who they trust and who they want to work with, it's at the family, tribal and community level. So both of those exist and both of them are very real parts of the nature of Iraqi society.

What I hope you got a sense of in my initial comments was both of those are working, and if you looked at Baqubah as a pretty vivid example, that's a place where the local tribes and security forces are coming to these kinds of arrangements. And once they've gotten to that point, the Iraqi government, the central government, is coming in to connect and figure out so how do we provide this public distribution support that you need, because, as you said, that is a centrally directed food distribution program; how do we help improve the availability of fuel, because, as you said, that is a centrally controlled fuel distribution system still. So both of those are at work here, and that's really why it's so important to get them connected because you really need -- you need that confidence at the local level being reinforced and supported. They need to know their central government is going to actually do something for them.

In this post, I relate a story from MNF-Iraq that describes a meeting in Tikrit between 18 tribal sheikhs, representing 14 of the largest tribes in Diyala Province. A similar, larger such meeting was held in Khalis. Yet another was held in Taji, which included leaders of both Shiite and Sunni groups. At each meeting, the tribal and family leaders pledged to work together. They unite against the common foe Al Qaeda and to work with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Slowly but surely, political reconciliation is coming. But like I have explained in this space many times, it is coming from the bottom up!

These are grassroots level developments. Individually, they may not mean much. But since a major thrust of Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy is getting local leadership on board, these kinds of developments are taking place in virtually every major town and village in the country. We are the facilitators, but the people making the commitments and making the differences are the Iraqis. Over time, these developments will generate bases of support for national leaders. The national leadership, working on the knowledge that they and their counterparts are all working with the support of a growing, grassroots coalition, will try to work out those pesky oil sharing and reform issues.

No wonder liberals don't see any political progress being made. They're looking in the wrong direction.

They hate us because of our... Foreign Policy?

This notion is wrong on so many different facets.  But most of all, it fails to acknowledge that Islamists need no pretext for war other than the target's refusal to submit to the rule of Allah. That is what Islam's god and prophet command.

When Islamists slaughtered the pagans of Arabia who wouldn't submit to Allah, was that the fault of Pagan-Arabian foreign policy?

When Islamists enslaved and slaughtered the Christians and Jews of the Holy Land, was that the fault of "People of the Book" foreign policy?

When Islamists enslaved and slaughtered the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia, was that the fault of Persian foreign policy?

When Islamists enslaved and slaughtered the Christians, Jews, and animists of North Africa and Egypt, was that the fault of North African foreign policy?

When Islamists slaughtered 70-80 million Hindus in India, was that the fault of Indian foreign policy?

When Islamists subjugated and slaughtered the people of the Iberian Peninsula (it took Spain 800 years to finally defeat the Moors and take back their land), was that the fault of Iberian foreign policy?

When Islamists enslaved and slaughtered the peoples of eastern Europe (up to Vienna in the seventeenth century, but including Greeks, Armenians, Slavs, et al), was that the fault of their failed foreign policies?

When Islamists raped, enslaved, and slaughtered the people of the Great City Constantinople, was that the fault of Byzantine foreign policy?

When Islamists enslaved millions (one estimate puts it at a billion) of Europeans over the centuries, was that the fault of European foreign policy?

When, if not for Martel and Sobieski and countless other heroes, Europe would have fallen to Allah, would that have been the fault of European foreign policy also?

When Islamists enslaved and slaughtered American sailors in the earliest days of the nation, was that the fault of American foreign policy?

When Islamists enter a Sudanese village (back before Darfur was fashionable), ask a woman, "Muslim or Christian?" and then gang rapes, sexually mutilates, and leaves her to die in the street those who answer wrongly, is that the fault of Sudanese villagers' foreign policy?

When Islamists behead Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia to shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" is that the fault of schoolgirl foreign policy?

When Beslan schoolchildren and teachers are raped and slaughtered in the name of Allah, is that the fault of Russian foreign policy?

When American, English, Spanish, Australian, and Israeli civilians are targeted because their countries are defending themselves and hunting down the "misunderstanderers" of the Religion of Peace, whose fault is that?

You hope that the hordes of Allah slaughter due to something we've done because that means we might have some way to make them stop hating us. That's wishful thinking.

Islam blames its victims when they fight back.

h/t to Amillenialist.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Al Qaeda and Regime Change in Iraq Update

NOTE TO READERS: I am reposting these two articles by request. Enjoy. -Dave

From Badgers Forward:

An Undeniably Bad Case of Denial

"[The] characterization of Al Qaeda as an "obscure group" and as "relatively limited in their global and regional pull defies every American's ability to interpret events for themselves. It is now of course well known the plans for the events of September 11, 2001 were first proposed in 1996 when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed first suggested the attack to Usama bin Laden. The plot was over five years in the making and spanned three continents.

Al Qaeda is a highly organized and disciplined military organization; four large commercial aircraft are not commandeered in mid-flight, three of which are then redirected into buildings, due to luck. For the events of that day to be successful, a high degree of coordination and security was required. To dismiss that as pure luck is pure folly and naive. Quite possibly though, that day is too emotional for some people to analyze critically.

Go back though to August 7, 1998, to the East African Embassy bombings. Somewhere between 225 and 303 people were killed that day in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. AQ began the mission planning for that attack in 1993, again five years before the attack. The planning only required travel across two continents.
In Al Qaeda in Iraq and Regime Change, I wrote that "[t]he question is not whether Al Qaeda would have toppled Saddam Hussein. Given the opportunity to depose a sectarian (and therefore infidel) government in such a culturally and religiously important place, Al Qaeda would have jumped on it. I believe the evidence shows that they were doing just that. The question is whether Al Qaeda could have achieved regime change and the installation of the Caliphate of Baghdad."

Badger 6's post makes a compelling case for regarding Al Qaeda as a serious military threat by pointing out the planning capabilities of the group. Complex operations take time, effort and resources that often defy the understanding of non-military minds. Soldiers however, recognize the planning and logistics requirements of operations almost instinctively. In refuting the LA Times undeniably foolish Op/Ed piece, Badger 6 makes it clear that 9/11 was as carefully planned as Al Qaeda's earlier attacks, and that such planning capabilities demonstrate that Al Qaeda is not "little more than an obscure group of extremist thugs... relatively limited in their global and regional political pull."

As this relates to my theory that Al Qaeda was plotting regime change in Baghdad, the fact that Zarqawi was in Iraq months before Operation Iraqi Freedom began casts things in a new light. We know Al Qaeda is capable of planning operations well in advance and uses assets spanning multiple continents. We know Al Qaeda operatives were in Iraq as much as a decade before 9/11, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. If they were planning the attacks in Nairobi, Dar es-Salaam and Yemen for years, what were they doing in Baghdad?

Al Qaeda and Regime Change in Iraq

There is considerable debate over whether Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda had a "working relationship" prior to the U.S. led invasion that toppled the regime. Predictably, the American left is in a complete state of denial. Al Gore called such suggestions "blatantly false." Richard Clark snarled that there was "absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever." The media chimed in too, from the Wapo to the LA(tino) Times; from CBS News to the troubled New York Times syndicate.

In The Connection, author Stephen F. Hayes makes a convincing case that America's two most menacing enemies were, if not in direct collaboration, at least on quite friendly terms. Most of Hayes' research centers on the question of whether Al Qaeda and Hussein may have worked together on the 9/11 plot, and evaluates evidence collected by the intelligence community going back roughly a decade before 2001. The preponderance of the evidence would be enough to sway any reasonable person trying the facts. Quite clearly, Al Qaeda was interested in Iraq, and as that country grew increasingly isolated by the west and moderate Arab nations of the middle east, that interest grew.

I would like to posit another theory on Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. I am becoming increasingly convinced that Al Qaeda was alive and well in Iraq in 2001, and when the loosely knit terrorist group got their collective ass kicked in Afghanistan, moved from Tora Bora to Anbar and Diyala. My theory is that, having lost the protection of the Taliban, Al Qaeda regrouped. They abandoned the expendable, non-Arabic Pashtuns and started looking in
Arab lands for a new home. Al Qaeda sought its own regime change in Iraq, and the United States found itself in a race to depose Hussein and take Iraq before Al Qaeda did the deed.

Here's the logic behind my theory:

  • Iraq forms a better basis for Al Qaeda than Afghanistan. It is an Arab country, with Arabic speaking people and Arab customs. It lies at the geographic center of Islam, and it is as culturally important to Islam as Saudi Arabia and the Levant region.

  • Al Qaeda is primarily a Sunni Islamic movement, and Sunnis are a minority in Iraq. Moreover, it is a minority that everyone knew would be marginalized by any non-Arabic intervention and regime change.

  • Saddam Hussein's regime was crumbling. His ability to govern came under increasing pressure from economic sanctions and isolation by the civilized world. His rule over the national Ba'athist Party was absolute, but he faced sagging loyalty from those in provincial and local authority.

  • Increasingly corrupt provincial leaders made inviting targets for Al Qaeda's "diplomatic overtures." With infrastructure literally crumbling under their feet and economic disaster brought on by international sanctions, Al Qaeda bribes and offers of protection from the security apparatus were more attractive than the distant Baghdad threat.

  • Tribal and sectarian rivalries within Iraq made fertile ground for more bribes and alliances between Al Qaeda operatives promising power and control.

  • The whole world, to include Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had an active program to develop additional WMD technology. Al Qaeda desperately wanted that capability to wage its global jihad against the U.S. and it's allies.

  • In May 2002, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, future leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, traveled to Baghdad to receive "medical treatment" and stayed two months. During this stay, dozens of Al Qaeda operatives arrived in Baghdad and its suburbs to establish a base of operations.

  • Sometime between May 2002 and the March 2003 invasion, al-Zarqawi met in Iran with Bin Laden's military chief, Saif al-Adel (Muhammad Ibrahim Makawi). The purpose of the meeting: To coordinate the transition of Al Qaeda terrorists from Afghanistan and Pakistan through Syria.

  • al-Zarqawi, on many occasions, expressed a desire to topple the monarchy of his native Jordan, and from their launch relentless attacks on Israel. Saddam's alleged WMD program could supply the weapons he needed to spread that terror through the region.

It is my conviction that Al Qaeda wanted Iraq, and wanted it badly. The stated goal of the coalition invasion was regime change. It was not to take away the WMD. It was not about oil. It was about removing a brutal dictator who twice invaded neighbors, slew hundreds of thousands of his own people and starved thousands more, actively sought horrible and illegal weapons, and lost his moral authority to rule. Perhaps also, the objective was to get to Baghdad and topple Hussein before Al Qaeda did.

The question is not whether Al Qaeda would have toppled Saddam Hussein. Given the opportunity to depose a sectarian (and therefore infidel) government in such a culturally and religiously important place, Al Qaeda would have jumped on it. I believe the evidence shows that they were doing just that. The question is whether Al Qaeda could have achieved regime change and the installation of the Caliphate of Baghdad. While Hussein's power over the party apparatus was absolute, the loyalty of the downstream apparatus is questionable, at best. It is certainly possible that with the right bribes and the right tribal alliances, a well placed truck bomb and a small amount of good fortune could have taken Hussein out. During the power vacuum of the immediate aftermath, Al Qaeda could have sprung also to kidnap, kill or cajole anyone who might make a grab at the seat of power, including Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay.

Would it have happened? Sooner or later, I believe they would have tried. Could it have happened? Thank God we will never know.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Imperial History of the Middle East

From Maps of War:

Citizens Serve Eviction Notice to Terrorists

BAGHDAD — Fed up with violent and indiscriminate terror tactics, a group of more than 80 residents of the Adhamiyah district, on the east side of the Iraqi capital, banded together Sunday to oust suspected terrorists from a local mosque.

The uprising led to a string of events over the next 12 hours that ultimately resulted in the arrest of 44 suspected terrorists and the capture of three weapons caches.

The initial takeover of the Abu Hanifa Mosque occurred at about 2 p.m., apparently triggered by news that terrorists had murdered two relatives of a prominent local sheik. As the news spread, angry residents joined the sheik to storm the mosque, long believed to be a sanctuary for terrorists operating in the area, and ousted the suspected terrorists inside from the building.

Iraqi Army troops from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 11th Infantry Division, responded quickly to control the situation and secure the area around the mosque. Residents led them to several individuals among those ousted from the mosque who were suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. Thirteen suspects eventually were detained.

After order was restored, the Iraqi Army received a tip about a weapons cache hidden near the mosque. At about 7 p.m., Iraqi forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque and uncovered a massive illegal weapons cache in an outside courtyard. The cache contained several already-assembled improvised explosive devices, dynamite, mortars, rockets, landmines, bomb-making materials, and various weapons.

Shortly after midnight, acting on information volunteered by Adhamiyah residents, Iraqi and U.S. Army forces from 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, mounted a combined cordon-and-search operation of the Al Assaf Mosque, in the nearby Maghrib neighborhood. Iraqi Soldiers entered and cleared the mosque and who took three suspects into custody.

Immediately afterward, Iraqi and U.S. forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque area to investigate reports of additional weapons caches. Iraqi Soldiers again entered the building to search the mosque compound and the cemetery behind it.

They discovered two more weapons caches, which contained two IEDs, 16 mortars, two hand grenades, a sniper rifle, remote detonation devices, radios and more than a dozen weapons. Twenty-eight suspects were taken into custody.

"I think this was a turning point," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Broadwater, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. "The people of Adhamiyah have made their stand, and they've showed by their actions that terrorists are not going to be able to come into their backyard and engage in violent acts any longer."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Will Engineering Efforts Be Coalition’s Legacy In Iraq?

By Norris Jones
Gulf Region Central

– “You are the pros coming from all corners of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers world,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, speaking to the diverse group of civilians and military comprising the Gulf Region Central district in Iraq. Brooks, the deputy commanding general for Support, Multinational Division Baghdad, was a keynote speaker for a two-day senior leader conference hosted July 1-2 at the GRC headquarters on Victory
Base Complex, Baghdad.

He talked about the years of decay in Iraq’s infrastructure. “And so the challenge you face, in concentrating your efforts as world-class engineers to leave the situation better than you found it, is harder than you could ever imagine,” said Brooks. “You have to be an All-Star Team because average work is simply not going to be adequate. Only above average work, superb work, excellent work, will give us even a chance to progress further than we are right now,” said Brooks. He also said that Iraqis have very high and often unrealistic expectations of the United States.

He encouraged those attending to partner with the 20 Brigade Combat Teams in Iraq, local Iraqi Neighborhood and District Councils, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the Amanat (City of Baghdad’s government), Beladiya Director Generals, and various Iraq National Ministries in ongoing reconstruction efforts.

“This is a rich country. It has all kinds of resources. It has everything every other country in the world wishes it had. They haven’t been able to tap into their own wealth because of internal politics and the decrepitude I spoke about due to their inheritance from a socialist regime,” said Brooks. “They have oil, water, arable land, an industrious people, and a history unparalleled throughout the world - it’s all here.”

Brooks said the riches of Iraq had not been committed at this point and “we have to stimulate that commitment.”

His final point touched on the long-term legacy of the Coalition’s investment in Iraq, having lost 3,750 lives and expended billions of dollars. According to Brooks, he often hears about the British experience at the end of World War I. And many of Iraq’s strongest institutions were generated at that point. Bridge construction became the legacy of the British. There’s a term they refer to the British at that time – they call it ‘Abu Naji.’ They harken back to the excellent engineer work of Abu Naji, not Abu Naji’s benevolence, not the things that helped them build government, but the bridges.

“I wonder what the legacy will be whenthey think back to the experience of the United States, 80 years hence. If it’s like Abu Naji, it’s going to be what the engineers left. It will be things that are iconic of presence and commitment, especially if it’s done well and it endures over time,” said Brooks.

Following his talk, Brooks opened it up to questions and spoke about the importance of providing access and context to media, especially Arabic language journalists, so those in Iraq and neighboring countries know and understand what is going on here. “It’s not their responsibility to provide context, it’s yours,” he charged. Brooks, the U.S. Army’s former Chief of Public Affairs, pointed out that Multinational Division Baghdad has more embedded reporters since November when they took over than the previous three years combined. “We opened the doors up … access plus context gives the potential for accurate content.”

Colonel Lewis, GRC commander, thanked Brig. Gen. Brooks for making GRC part of his team. “That has made it possible for us to do so much more,” she said.

Why success is important and how it's going to happen

The message of Radical Islam is that Mulsims are suffering because the west has led them away from the Sunna--the path of Muhammed. We desecrate their lands by our mere presence. The riches of the world--i.e., oil--belongs to the people of faith and we are only in the Middle East to steal it from them. We are evil imperialists who wish to "impose" democracy on the faithful. Cooperating with us will only lead the faithful farther away from Allah, further impoverishing his people and continuing to cause suffering and hardship.

Iraq is western civilization's exercise in proving everything the imams tell Muslims is false. If we are ever going to defeat radical islamic terrorists, we must do so by breaking the back of the message of radical islam.

The country sits in the heart of the ancient Caliphate. Iraq is home to some of Islam's most significant religious and historic shrines. A few of the most important battles in the history of the region were fought in the Mesopotamian region. There are few places in the Middle East with greater significance to Islam than this ancient and storied land.

The United States and its coalition partners have established a secular democracy in Iraq, with millions of Iraqis voting in free elections for the first time in history. The region's only other "secular democracy" is Turkey, but the Turkish military enjoys independent status in that country and democratically elected governments have been overthrown by military coup. Iraq's form of government places the military firmly under civilian authority. It is a free and sovereign nation now, with duly elected officials serving the people who elected them--as best they can amid a wicked insurgency.

The coalition is also spending billions repairing and upgrading the country's infrastructure. The effort to restore Water, electricity, roads and bridges, schools, hospitals, teaching facilities, oil infrastructure, even telephone and cell service is being financed by the IMF, IRRF and other international funding sources. The purpose of this undertaking is to demonstrate to the Muslim world that the west is committed to improving the lives of Muslims, not destroying them.

This is why succeeding in Iraq is so important. As westerners, we know the truth about western-style democracy. It's not the perfect system of governance, but it's the best one man has. A government that serves by the consent of the governed is the only system that allows mankind to recognize and thwart tyranny. Democracy has made its share of mistakes, and some of those mistakes have led to human suffering. But the human suffering that occurs under tyranny is no mistake. The oppressed are always and everywhere the target of totalitarianism. People suffer under tyrants because the tyrants want it that way.

For the first time since Saddam was ousted from power, the US and Government of Iraq are fighting the counterinsurgency as a counterinsurgency. It is doing so under the capable leadership of General David Petraeus, the architect of the surge and the Army's Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. The doctrine being followed calls for reconciling segments of the population who are reconcilable, convincing them to join forces against the common enemy: Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has made this a fairly easy sell. Their record of indescribable cruelty is well known to the tribal leaders who once looked to Al Qaeda as an ally.

The process of reconciliation occurs from the ground up. Nouri al-Maliki's government can no more institute reconciliation than a string can be pushed up a hill. That process has to come at the tribal and local levels. Neighbors have to come to the conclusion that their best ally against tyranny and oppression is their neighbor.

In a post about Clausewitz's "Culminating Point," I mentioned three developments in Iraq that showed how the process was working. The counterinsurgency has been successful in turning Sunni insurgent groups against Al Qaeda. Other recent developments, including this USA Today story, show how the coalition has convinced Sunnis to work with the Shiite-dominated government, as well as gaining the cooperation of Sunni and Shiite groups together. The goal calls for building consensus at the grassroots level, getting local and tribal leaders to put aside sectarian differences and work together.

Success in Iraq is important from a global security and historical perspective. That success will come about because ordinary Muslims, tired of violence and brutal repression, finally put down their weapons and start working with their neighbors to ensure peace. When the national politicians see that the base of their support seeks reconciliation, then reconciliation can occur at the national level. Reconciliation comes from peace, and peace comes when brothers make a pact of social order between them and work for common good.