Thursday, February 22, 2007

Enemy Use Of Chlorine Gas In Iraq Ominous

It was a year ago today that Sunni insurgents, following the plan of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to provoke sectarian war with Iraqi Shiites, bombed the golden-domed mosque in Samarra, a Shiite shrine, beginning a new, ever more violent stage of the Iraqi war.

Now, with their high regard for anniversaries, the terrorists have begun using poison gas, in the form of chlorine truck bombs, in the Baghdad area. There have already been three such incidents, according to today's New York Times, and there have been deaths, despite the fact that the vile killers are just learning. They aren't skillful at releasing the gas yet, but I would imagine they will be.

Today, U.S. troops raided a bomb-making factory near Falluja and uncovered five bombs in the process of being laced by what were described as ordinary chemicals, aimed, it seemed, at inspiring fear in Iraqi civilians.

When are the American people going to wake up? The threat from al-Qaeda and other assorted Muslim crazies is growing, yet public opinion in this country, especially in the Democratic party, seems to believe there is an easy, painless way out of this war.

They are mistaken. There isn't any easy way out, and unless the killers are eliminated, their aggression will continually spread to new places in the world. The last two weeks, there has been one terrorist threat after another. in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. All of those charged with preventing the violence are on alert, and nervous.

I felt when the Democrats won the Congressional elections in November that they would ultimately feel constrained to take some responsibility for waging a war which threatens American and all Western civilization, as much as the Huns did ancient Rome. Up to now, however, the developing Democratic presidential campaign has been an exercise in one-upsmanship, a contest to see which candidate can be for quitting the war the fastest.

It may still be the case, though, that public opinion will turn. The reaction to the use of poison gas by the enemy may turn some heads, but it may not be until there is some major terrorist attack outside of Iraq, before opinion will turn around.

Right now, President Bush is the fall guy. Reading the comments now posted on many Web sites, it is clear that many Americans, not a majority perhaps, but a sizable segment, believe somehow he is more to blame for the war than Osama bin Laden.

This is not the case, in my view. The Bush Administration has been struggling to adequately respond to the threat. They have made many mistakes, but they have been trying. The President has become a fighter, and we need one now.

It reminds me of something Charles de Gaulle once said about his own relationship with the French people in an earlier period:

"Every time I acted I saw around me a tide of incomprehension, complaints and sometimes furor. That is fate. So much so that one of my friends -- and I do have some friends -- speaking about this tide told me of a primitive painting that showed a crowd being led toward hell by devils while a poor angel was pointing in the opposite direction.

"The people in the crowd had their fists raised not against the devils but against the angel. And my friend said: "There should be another painting next to this one showing the crowd on the point of falling into the chasm, breaking away from the devils and running toward the angel." That's symbolic and figurative art, but perhaps nevertheless there is some truth in it."

Well the Democratic doves in the U.S. are not devils. They are well meaning. But they don't understand the situation, and the threat constantly grows.

(In a lengthy comment on this blog, someone castigates Vice President Cheney and asks, in effect, whether I consider him honorable.

I do. Vice President Cheney has strong views and is often not bashful about expressing them. But there is no reason not to consider him a sincere man, who has advocated positions for the U.S. that he believes in. Like President Bush, I give him high marks for trying to do the best they can for the American people.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How Dick Cheney Helped Al Qaeda
by Hunter
Thu Feb 22, 2007 at 04:50:03 PM PST

BarbinMD wrote about this on Wednesday, but I want to bring it up again because it represents, yet again, one of the central incompetences of the Bush administration. Dick Cheney says:

With respect to Iraq, I think he's dead wrong. I think, in fact, if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people -- in fact, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit.

What's infuriating, here, is that Richard Cheney is one of the three or four men in America most responsible for validating the al Qaeda strategy. Through his strategizing, along with that of Donald Rumsfeld and whatever stray thoughts manage to rattle their way loose of George W. Bush himself, he has managed to hand Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda the closest thing to post-9/11 successes they could have possibly asked for. And the key word, in this entire debacle, is Afghanistan.


Like most Americans, I considered American actions in Afghanistan to be a dismal but necessary act. An attack on United States soil requires, unequivocally, a disproportionate response; a valid military response in this case would have indeed been a removal of the Taliban from power, the complete and total removal of al Qaeda from Afghanistan and in any other countries in which they had found refuge, and a generous reconstruction of Afghanistan in such a fashion as to ensure al Qaeda's continued inability to function there, thus demonstrating that terrorism against the United States would both fail in its purpose, and would result in disproportionate damage to the terrorists and hostile nations responsible. That's how you prevent terrorism: you make the consequences worse than the possible upside.

That proposition, supported by nearly all Americans, lasted mere months, however, before the Bush administration's eyes wandered away from the actual fight against al Qaeda and supporters and towards a large scale proxy war advocated by Rumsfeld and by neoconservative strategists looking to transfer American attention to the war they had wanted to fight, rather than the war they were actually in. The relatively small number of troops that had been committed to Afghanistan were drawn off to prepare for a larger Iraq conflict, including special forces tasked directly with tracking bin Laden. At no point was Afghanistan on the road to sure recovery: the Taliban remains a force in the country to this day.

From the start, Iraq was at minimum a distraction from al Qaeda. But in practice, it was clearly and predictably worse, and Dick Cheney was one of the prime architects of the strategic American failure that followed.


Al Qaeda had several major goals, if you believe most non-neocon experts, in their terrorist attacks on America, and primary among them was to provoke a widespread war with the United States in the Middle East. Such a war could act as a focus for Arab nationalism, a tool of jihad to rally the religious, a recruitment device for building a larger al Qaeda, and in the end a nexus point around which Arabs could build bin Laden's particular religious and nationalistic vision of a dominant Muslim state.

Iraq, of course, was exactly the kind of response they dreamed of provoking. And it worked in spectacular fashion, and through U.S. incompetence worked better than they could have ever hoped. As Dick Cheney has pointed out over and over, bin Laden especially believes that Americans can be defeated as the Russians were, because America is not willing to commit the kind of resources to the Middle East that would outlast nationalistic Arab fighters. Cheney and Rumsfeld proved his point, more than any other Americans. They proved that the U.S. administration did not have the willpower to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan; did not have the attention for it; would not commit the resources to it; would not take the necessary actions to prevent an al Qaeda and Taliban return. This will be, if we face a new generation of al Qaeda-based terrorism, the primary legacy of the Bush administration.

In Iraq too, however, the Rumsfeld doctrine was largely one assured to end in fiasco. In Iraq, too, an entirely insufficient force was dedicated to the job: while the initial tactical victory was assured from the beginning, each of the subsequent neoconservative premises failed, like dominoes, throughout the rest of the conflict. There were insufficient coalition forces to police the nation, resulting in reprisal killings and rising unrest in nearly all regions of the country. The complete disbanding of the Iraqi Army removed one of the few potential stabilizing forces. Reconstruction efforts were handled so badly as to have not even kept up with the continuing destruction of infrastructure. And sectarian religious divisions were, it seems, entirely discounted as a possible outcome. Even the current "surge" is nothing more than more of the same: a token shuffling of forces in numbers seemingly having no relation to the actual scope of the problem; a single garden hose tasked with stopping a raging forest fire.

Even if you bought the premise shared by both al Qaeda and the neoconservatives -- that a proxy war in Iraq was a damn fine idea -- there is no credible way to examine the administration strategy in Iraq and declare it sound. Each and every failure of the war was predicted in advance by war critics: none were surprising. if we were to accept the premise of the centrality and critical importance of the Iraq war, we would have expected it to have been executed in a competent fashion and with tactical markers that consisted of metrics for success that consisted of something more substantive than "not leaving." The only thing more criminal than starting a war is being unable to finish one. Even if you presume for some small moment that there is some small good to be done from prosecuting a war, whatever promise of "good" you may assert evaporates with every life lost, on either side.

Given that, we cannot look at the administration-led tactics in Iraq as anything but bungling. They either do not believe the war to be as central as they argue it to be, or they do believe it to be central, and yet are incompetent in the execution.


Here, then, is the most damning condemnation of administration policy in Iraq, and why Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Feith and others have no cause for presuming any Americans have been of anywhere near the assistance to al Qaeda that they themselves have been. In Iraq, we have chosen to fight the fight al Qaeda wanted to fight. In Afghanistan, we were fighting al Qaeda on their own doorstep, dismantling their own bases of support and safe haven. Even before the last shots fell to the ground at Tora Bora, though, our own administration lost apparent interest in the outcome.

It is the height -- the height -- of military fiasco to withdraw from a fight at the gates of the enemy's core base and turn your attention to fighting them in a proxied war of attrition far away from their infrastructure and vital networks of support. No military commander worth the polish on his shoes would propose such a thing: anyone who actually executed such a bungling move would be removed from the ranks of leadership forthwith and put back to captaining a laundry ship. And yet America and the neoconservatives have chosen exactly that proxied war, a war destined to do the core of al Qaeda and other extremists little possible harm and have myriad possible benefits for them, and have bungled even that.

You could not have done al Qaeda a better favor if you had actively tried. The neoconservatives have walked, entirely on their own accord, into handing terrorism two separate victories: the victory of making an attack on American soil a survivable achievement, for a terrorist movement, and the victory of subsequently engaging the terrorists in the very action they had been attempting to provoke.


Pundits and politicians continue, stupidly, to presume American lack of support for the Iraq debacle to either be born of pacifism or partisanship. Neither is true, as was clearly demonstrated in the widespread support for the American actions Afghanistan directly precipitated by 9/11. Lack of support for the Iraq war was and still is predicated on the rather simple observation that our actions in Iraq have been at best ancillary to, and at worst devastatingly wounding to the actual "war on terrorism".

One of my own motivations for a withdrawal from Iraq is for the goal of refocusing the "war on terror" to cells of actual terrorism, including returning the necessary number of troops to Afghanistan to solidify an anti-Taliban government there permanently -- if it, too, is not too late. At this point, it may well be.

In any case, Dick Cheney has, as a national security strategist of any sort, proven to be an absolute and abject failure. The strategy against terrorism implemented by the Bush administration has gone from mildly half-assed to concretely destructive, all captured on videotape so that the entire planet can see it, and in the meantime, Cheney of all people has the audacity to opine on the intelligence and patriotism of those that point out his own incompetence.

Add simple human indecency to the charges history will level against the man, then. There is no reason to believe his personal character to be of any higher fiber than the rest of him.

What do you think, Ken?

2/22/2007 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush is not a fall guy; he's the shoot first-think later guy who led this country into a needless war with cooked intelligence about non existent WMD and Iraq's non-existent link to 9/ll. To compare this intellectual lightweight with DeGaulle is ludicrous, even obscene. And once again, you have failed to acknowledge that the U.S. invasion into Iraq was a disastrous foreign policy blunder that has made the region and the world more dangerous today.

2/23/2007 4:42 AM  

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