The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Timothy Garton Ash - The Sobering of America

The Sobering of America
By Timothy Garton Ash
The Guardian UK

Thursday 30 July 2005

US foreign policy is getting better - and that's partly because Iraq has got worse.

To return to America after an absence of six months is to find a nation sobered by reality. The reality of debt and lost jobs. The reality of rising China. Above all, the reality of Iraq.

This new sobriety was exemplified by President Bush's speech at Fort Bragg on Tuesday night. Beforehand, as the camera panned across row upon row of soldiers in red berets, the television commentator warned us that the speech might last a long time, since it was likely to be interrupted by numerous rounds of heartfelt applause from this loyal military audience. In fact, the audience interrupted him with applause just once. Once! Lines that during last autumn's election rallies drummed up a certain storm ("We will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins") were now met with a deafening silence. Stolidly they sat, the serried soldiers, clean-shaven, square-jawed, looking slightly bored and, in at least one case that I spotted, rhythmically chewing gum.

Bush ploughed on with his sober, rather wooden speech, wearing that curious, rigid half-smile of his, with the mouth turning down rather than up at each end. A demi-rictus. The eerie silence made him look, at moments, like a stand-up comic whose jokes were falling flat; but of course this was no laughing matter. Afterwards, the same television commentators who had warned us to expect rounds of applause speculated, with an equally authoritative air, that the White House had suggested restraint to this audience, so it would not look as if the president was both requesting blanket coverage from the television networks and exploiting the nation's military for the purposes of a party-political rally. But then perhaps soldiers who actually risk their lives for Bush's policies in Iraq, and have lost comrades there, would not have been in a great mood to applaud anyway. Afterwards, as he mingled with the troops in the hall, their faces showed little more than mild curiosity at the prospect of meeting their commander-in-chief.

Bush's Fort Bragg speech once again presented Iraq as part of the global war on terror - the Gwot. He mentioned the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks five times; weapons of mass destruction not once. We have to defeat the terrorists abroad, he said, before they attack us at home. As freedom spreads in the Middle East, the terrorists will lose their support. Then he made this extraordinary statement: "To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

Consider. Three years ago, when the Bush administration started ramping up the case for invading Iraq, Afghanistan had recently been liberated from both the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists who had attacked the US. There was still a vast amount to be done to make Afghanistan a safe place. Iraq, meanwhile, was a hideous dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. But, as the United States' own September 11 commission subsequently concluded, Saddam's regime had no connection with the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was not then a recruiting sergeant or training ground for jihadist terrorists. Now it is. The US-led invasion, and Washington's grievous mishandling of the subsequent occupation, have made it so. General Wesley Clark puts it plainly: "We are creating enemies." And the president observes: our great achievement will be to prevent Iraq becoming another Taliban-style, al-Qaida-harbouring Afghanistan! This is like a man who shoots himself in the foot and then says: "We must prevent it turning gangrenous, then you'll understand why I was right to shoot myself in the foot."

In short, whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a crime, it's now clear that - at least in the form in which the invasion and occupation was executed by the Bush administration - it was a massive blunder. And the American people are beginning to see this. Before Bush spoke at Fort Bragg, 53% of those asked in a CNN/Gallup poll said it was a mistake to go into Iraq. Just 40% approved of how he has handled Iraq, down from 50% at the time of the presidential election last November. Contrary to what many Europeans believe, you can fool some of the Americans all of the time, and all of the Americans some of the time, but you can't fool most Americans most of the time - even with the help of Fox News. Reality gets through. Hence the new sobriety.

I don't want to overstate this. One is still gobsmacked by things American Republicans say. Take the glorification of the military, for example. In his speech, Bush insisted "there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces". What? No higher calling! How about being a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an aid worker? Unimaginable that any European leader could say such a thing.

None the less, here are a few indicators of the new sobriety. First of all, neocons are no longer calling the shots. As a well-informed Washingtonian tells me, the nominations of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank and John Bolton to be ambassador to the UN actually show they have been kicked upstairs. There is little talk now of proud unilateralism and America winning the Gwot on its own. Everyone stresses the importance of allies. Bush quoted with approval Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, on our shared interest in a stable Iraq, and proudly averred that "Iraqi army and police are being trained by personnel from Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Australia and the United Kingdom".

The state department, under Condoleezza Rice, is setting out to repair old American alliances and to forge new ones. One of America's most dynamically developing alliances is with India, a country in which America is also much loved. If anyone in Foggy Bottom (the wonderfully named neighbourhood of the state department) feels a twinge of schadenfreude at the crisis of the EU, they are not showing it. They want a strong European partner too. On Iran, which even six months ago threatened to become a new Iraq crisis, the US is letting the so-called E3 - Britain, France and Germany - take the diplomatic lead. Even with the election of a hardline Iranian president, military options are not being seriously canvassed. And if the European diplomacy with Iran does not work, what is Washington's plan B? To take the issue to the United Nations! What a difference three years make.

Schröder is right, of course. It would be suicidally dumb for any European to think, in relation to Iraq, "the worse the better". Jihadists now cutting their teeth in Iraq will make no fine distinctions between Washington and London, Berlin or Madrid. Any reader tempted to luxuriate schadenfreudishly in the prospect of a Vietnam-style US evacuation from Baghdad may be woken from that reverie by the blast from a bomb, planted in Charing Cross tube station by an Iraq-hardened terrorist. But it is a fair and justified historical observation that American policy has got better - more sober, more realistic - at least partly because things in Iraq have gone so badly. This is the cunning of history.

Michael Isikoff - The Rove Factor?

The Rove Factor?
Time magazine talked to Bush's guru for Plame story.
By Michael Isikoff

July 11 issue - Its legal appeals exhausted, Time magazine agreed last week to turn over reporter Matthew Cooper's e-mails and computer notes to a special prosecutor investigating the leak of an undercover CIA agent's identity. The case has been the subject of press controversy for two years. Saying "we are not above the law," Time Inc. Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine decided to comply with a grand-jury subpoena to turn over documents related to the leak. But Cooper (and a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller) is still refusing to testify and faces jail this week.

At issue is the story of a CIA-sponsored trip taken by former ambassador (and White House critic) Joseph Wilson to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from the African country of Niger. "Some government officials have noted to Time in interviews... that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said Cooper's July 2003 Time online article.

Now the story may be about to take another turn. The e-mails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper's sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House. Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article. It is unclear, however, what passed between Cooper and Rove.

The controversy began three days before the Time piece appeared, when columnist Robert Novak, writing about Wilson's trip, reported that Wilson had been sent at the suggestion of his wife, who was identified by name as a CIA operative. The leak to Novak, apparently intended to discredit Wilson's mission, caused a furor when it turned out that Plame was an undercover agent. It is a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA official. A special prosecutor was appointed and began subpoenaing reporters to find the source of the leak.

Novak appears to have made some kind of arrangement with the special prosecutor, and other journalists who reported on the Plame story have talked to prosecutors with the permission of their sources. Cooper agreed to discuss his contact with Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, after Libby gave him permission to do so. But Cooper drew the line when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked about other sources.

Initially, Fitzgerald's focus was on Novak's sourcing, since Novak was the first to out Plame. But according to Luskin, Rove's lawyer, Rove spoke to Cooper three or four days before Novak's column appeared. Luskin told NEWSWEEK that Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." Luskin declined, however, to discuss any other details. He did say that Rove himself had testified before the grand jury "two or three times" and signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him. "He has answered every question that has been put to him about his conversations with Cooper and anybody else," Luskin said. But one of the two lawyers representing a witness sympathetic to the White House told NEWSWEEK that there was growing "concern" in the White House that the prosecutor is interested in Rove. Fitzgerald declined to comment.

In early October 2003, NEWSWEEK reported that immediately after Novak's column appeared in July, Rove called MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews and told him that Wilson's wife was "fair game." But White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters at the time that any suggestion that Rove had played a role in outing Plame was "totally ridiculous." On Oct. 10, McClellan was asked directly if Rove and two other White House aides had ever discussed Valerie Plame with any reporters. McClellan said he had spoken with all three, and "those individuals assured me they were not involved in this."
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

© 2005


Italy demands US respect sovereignty after CIA scandal on Yahoo! News

Italy demands US respect sovereignty after CIA scandal

Fri Jul 1,12:16 PM ET

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi demanded that the United States show full respect for Italian sovereignty, after summoning the US ambassador to explain an alleged CIA abduction of an Islamic cleric in Milan.

"The prime minister demanded full respect for Italian sovereignty from the United States," said a statement issued by the prime minister's office after an hour-long meeting.

Washington's top envoy here, Mel Sembler, was called to clarify the affair of an Egyptian Islamic cleric, allegedly seized by the CIA in a Milan street in 2003 and missing since.

He promised to show absolute respect for Italian sovereignty.

"Ambassador Sembler, in the name of his government, repeated that the respect was full and total, and that it would remain so in the future," the statement said.

Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was reportedly seized in a Milan street on February 17, 2003 by two Italian-speakers claiming to want to check his identity. He has been missing ever since.

The incident made the news last week when the Corriere della Sera daily reported that a judge had issued arrest warrants for 13 agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

They were accused of abducting Hassan and taking him to the US military base at Aviano in northern Italy before transferring him to Egypt, where his entourage claim he was tortured during interrogation.

Corriere della Sera said Thursday that even if Rome did not know about the abduction "it would be strange that the government had not asked the secret service for a report on such an embarrassing affair".

Italy's Minister for Parliamentary Relations Carlo Giovanardi denied any such operation "had ever been authorized" by Italy or that "Italian secret services had taken part".

But the CIA "told a number of people" in the Italian secret service about its kidnapping plan, but "certainly not the magistrate, nor the Milan police," an unnamed CIA veteran told The Washington Post.

The newspaper's sources said the CIA station chief in Rome -- who has since retired but remains undercover -- briefed and sought approval from his counterpart in Italy for the operation, but it was unclear how far up the chain of command the information was shared or whether Berlusconi's office was aware.

Intelligence officials also told the Post that the CIA had conducted more than 100 such apprehensions since September 11.

This latest affair is the second incident in only a matter of months to strain Italy's relations with the United States following the killing of its secret service agent Nicola Calipari at a US checkpoint as he was escorting a freed Italian hostage to Baghdad airport in March.;_ylt=AuSEi.XiI4ldWHi8wsnTL4StOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

What Iraq needs is a Walter Cronkite

What Iraq needs is a Walter Cronkite
Al Neuharth (Founder, USA Today)

President Bush went on the air this week to pretend again that things are OK in Iraq. Shades of President Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam nearly 40 years ago.
The most important similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is that both Democratic and Republican presidents lied to us in wartime. To refresh your memory, here's how we got out of the Vietnam quagmire:

•Walter Cronkite, CBS-TV news anchor known as "the most trusted man in America," after a combat tour of Vietnam in 1968 declared, "There is no way this war can be justified any longer."

•Johnson lamented to aides, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." He announced he would not run for re-election.

The crucial difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that there is no Cronkite to call Bush's bluff. Without a strong, trusted, non-political voice, too many of us remain Bush-blinded. Bush tried keeping the wool over our eyes again Tuesday on national TV by repeatedly tying Iraq to 9/11. That charge is as phony as his discredited prewar claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Most of us who have had personal war experiences strongly believe this great country is worth fighting for at risk of lives. My World War II Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman's Badge on the wall behind my desk remind me of that daily.

They also remind me that war is hell, that we must fully support our servicemen and women and put their lives at risk only for honest and just and noble causes.
That's why I'm convinced the best way to support our troops in Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later.

MSNBC Analyst Says Cooper Documents Reveal Karl Rove as Source in Plame Case

MSNBC Analyst Says Cooper Documents Reveal Karl Rove as Source in Plame Case
"MSNBC Analyst Says Cooper Documents Reveal Karl Rove as Source in Plame Case

By Greg Mitchell

Published: July 01, 2005 11:30 PM ET updated 1:00 PM Saturday

NEW YORK Now that Time Inc. has turned over documents to federal court, presumably revealing who its reporter, Matt Cooper, identified as his source in the Valerie Plame/CIA case, speculation runs rampant on the name of that source, and what might happen to him or her. Friday night, on the syndicated McLaughlin Group political talk show, Lawrence O'Donnell, senior MSNBC political analyst, claimed to know that name--and it is, according to him, top White House mastermind Karl Rove.

Today, O'Donnell went further, writing a brief entry at the Huffington Post blog:

"I revealed in yesterday's taping of the McLaughlin Group that Time magazine's e-mails will reveal that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source. I have known this for months but didn't want to say it at a time that would risk me getting dragged into the grand jury.

"McLaughlin is seen in some markets on Friday night, so some websites have picked it up, including Drudge, but I don't expect it to have much impact because McLaughlin is not considered a news show and it will be pre-empted in the big markets on Sunday because of tennis.

"Since I revealed the big scoop, I have had it reconfirmed by yet another highly authoritative source. Too many people know this. It should break wide open this week. I know Newsweek is working on an 'It's Rove!' story and will probably break it tomorrow."

Here is the transcript of O'Donnell's McLaughlin Group remarks:

"What we're going to go to now in the next stage, when Matt Cooper's e-mails, within Time Magazine, are handed over to the grand jury--the ultimate revelation, probably within the week of who his source is.

"I know I'm going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of...for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time magazine's going to do with the grand jury."

Other panelists then joined in discussing whether, if true, this would suggest a perjury rap for Rove, if he told the grand jury he did not leak to Cooper.

Besides his career at a TV journalist, O'Donnell has served as a producer and writer for the series "The West Wing."

According to published reports, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the case, has interviewed President Bush and Vice President Cheney and called Karl Rove, among others, to testify before the grand jury.

"The breadth of Fitzgerald's inquiry has led to speculation that it has evolved into an investigation of a conspiracy to leak Plame's identity," the Chicago Tribune observed on Friday, "or of an attempt to cover up White House involvement in the leak."

Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, held in contempt for refusing to name sources, tried Friday to stay out of jail by arguing for home detention instead after Time Inc. surrendered its reporter's notes to a prosecutor.

Miller argued that it was pointless to imprison her because she will never talk. She submitted letters from soldiers and military officers with whom she was embedded during the war in Iraq attesting to that. (Miller's pre-war coverage of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction has drawn much criticism.)

She asked the judge for "very restrictive home detention," if confined at all, including an electronic bracelet and excluding Internet access and cellular phones. As an alternative, she asked to be sent to the federal prison camp for women in Danbury, Conn.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said Friday that several unidentified Senate Republicans had placed a hold on a proposed resolution declaring support for Miller and Cooper.

``Cowards!'' Lautenberg said of the Republicans. ``Under the rules, they have a right to refuse to reveal who they are. Sound familiar?''

Lautenberg's resolution is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) It says no purpose is served by imprisoning Miller and Cooper and that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Zbigniew Brzezinski - Bush's hollow fiction of Iraq war

Bush's hollow fiction of Iraq war

Like a novelist who wishes to inject verisimilitude into his fiction, George W. Bush, US president, began his speech on Iraq with a reference to a historical fact all too tragically well known to his audience. The evocation of the monstrous crime of September 11 2001 served as his introduction to the spin that followed: that Iraq was complicit in 9/11 and thus, in effect, attacked the US; that the US had no choice but to defend itself against Iraq's aggression; and, finally, that if America does not fight terrorists in Iraq, they will swarm across the ocean to attack America.

Since fiction is not ruled by the same standards as history, Mr Bush was under no obligation to refer to his own earlier certitude about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" (or, rather, to their embarrassing absence), or to the inept sequel of the initially successful US military campaign; or to the fact that the occupation of Iraq is turning it into a huge recruitment centre for terrorists. Similarly, there was no need to deal with the perplexing fact that the Iraqi insurgency does not appear to be in "its last throes", or with the complex choices that the US now confronts.

But a more disturbing aspect of the speech was the absence of any serious discussion of the wider regional security problems and their relationship to the Iraqi conundrum. That connection poses the danger that America risks becoming irrelevant to the Middle East - largely through Mr Bush's own doing. Much depends on how long the US pursues unrealistic goals in Iraq. And on whether the US becomes seriously engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, on how the US relationship with Iran is managed and on how the advocacy of democracy in the Middle East is pursued.

The reality in Iraq is that 135,000 American soldiers cannot create a stable "democracy" in a society rent by intensifying ethnic and religious conflicts. US military commanders, contradicting Mr Bush, have publicly stated that the insurgency is not weakening. It is useful to recall in this regard Henry Kissinger's wise observation (made in regard to the war in Vietnam but pertinent here) that guerrillas are winning if they are not losing. The longer US troops are involved in Iraq, the more victory will remain "on the horizon" - that is, a goal that recedes as one moves towards it.

The fictionalised account of America's war against terror in Iraq failed to take into account the reality that the conflict there mobilises hostility towards the US, that the persistence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stimulates regional anger against America, that continued US threats of "regime change" in Iran harden Iranian enmity towards the country and that heavy handed advocacy of democracy poses the risk of legitimising populist hostility toward the it. In explaining the causes of imperial failure, Arnold Toynbee ultimately ascribed it to "suicidal statecraft". Of course, he was dealing with history and not fiction.

Bob Herbert - Dangerous Incompetence

Dangerous Incompetence - New York Times
"The New York Times
June 30, 2005
Dangerous Incompetence

The president who displayed his contempt for Iraqi militants two years ago with the taunt "bring 'em on" had to go on television Tuesday night to urge Americans not to abandon support for the war that he foolishly started but can't figure out how to win.

The Bush crowd bristles at the use of the "Q-word" - quagmire - to describe American involvement in Iraq. But with our soldiers fighting and dying with no end in sight, who can deny that Mr. Bush has gotten us into "a situation from which extrication is very difficult," which is a standard definition of quagmire?

More than 1,730 American troops have already died in Iraq. Some were little more than children when they signed up for the armed forces, like Ramona Valdez, who grew up in the Bronx and was just 17 when she joined the Marines. She was one of six service members, including four women, who were killed when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in Falluja last week.

Corporal Valdez wasn't even old enough to legally drink in New York. She died four days shy of her 21st birthday.

On July 2, 2003, with evidence mounting that U.S. troop strength in Iraq was inadequate, Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House, "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, Bring 'em on."

It was an immature display of street-corner machismo that appalled people familiar with the agonizing ordeals of combat. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying: "I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander - let alone the commander in chief - invite enemies to attack U.S. troops."

The American death toll in Iraq at that point was about 200, but it was clear that a vicious opposition was developing. Mr. Bush had no coherent strategy for defeating the insurgency then, and now - more than 1,500 additional deaths later - he still doesn't.

The incompetence at the highest levels of government in Washington has undermined the U.S. troops who have fought honorably and bravely in Iraq, which is why the troops are now stuck in a murderous quagmire. If a Democratic administration had conducted a war this incompetently, the Republicans in Congress would be dusting off their impeachment manuals.

The administration seems to have learned nothing in the past two years. Dick Cheney, who told us the troops would be "greeted as liberators," now assures us that the insurgency is in its last throes. And the president, who never listened to warnings that he was going to war with too few troops, still refuses to acknowledge that there are not enough U.S. forces deployed to pacify Iraq.

The Times's Richard A. Oppel Jr. wrote an article recently about a tragically common occurrence in Iraq: U.S. forces fight to free cities and towns from the grip of insurgents, and then leave. With insufficient forces left behind to secure the liberated areas, the insurgents return.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country."

The latest fantasy out of Washington is that American-trained Iraqi forces will ultimately be able to do what the American forces have not: defeat the insurgency and pacify Iraq.

"We've learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills," said Mr. Bush in his television address. "And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home."

Don't hold your breath. This is another example of the administration's inability to distinguish between a strategy and a wish.

Whether one agreed with the launch of this war or not - and I did not - the troops doing the fighting deserve to be guided by leaders in Washington who are at least minimally competent at waging war. That has not been the case, which is why we can expect to remain stuck in this tragic quagmire for the foreseeable future.

America Held Hostage - New York Times

America Held Hostage - New York Times
"The New York Times
July 1, 2005
America Held Hostage

A majority of Americans now realize that President Bush deliberately misled the nation to promote a war in Iraq. But Mr. Bush's speech on Tuesday contained a chilling message: America has been taken hostage by his martial dreams. According to Mr. Bush, the nation now has no choice except to keep fighting the war he wanted to fight.

Never mind that Iraq posed no threat before we invaded. Now it's a "central front in the war on terror," Mr. Bush says, quoting Osama bin Laden as an authority. And since a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would, Mr. Bush claims, be a victory for Al Qaeda, Americans have to support this war - and that means supporting him. After all, you wage war with the president you have, not the president you want.

But America doesn't have to let itself be taken hostage. The country missed the chance to say no before this war started, but it can still say no to Mr. Bush's open-ended commitment, and demand a timetable for getting out.

I know that this argument will be hard to sell. Despite everything that has happened, many Americans still want to believe that this war can and should be seen through to victory. But it's time to face up to three realities. First, the war is helping, not hurting, the terrorists. Second, the kind of clear victory the hawks promised is no longer possible, if it ever was. Third, a time limit on our commitment will do more good than harm.

Before the war, opponents warned that it would strengthen, not weaken, terrorism. And so it has: a recent C.I.A. report warns that since the U.S. invasion, Iraq has become what Afghanistan was under the Soviet occupation, only more so: a magnet and training ground for Islamic extremists, who will eventually threaten other countries.

And the situation in Iraq isn't improving. "The White House is completely disconnected from reality," said Senator Chuck Hagel, referring to upbeat assessments of progress. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Mr. Hagel claims to believe that we can still win, but it's hard to see how.

More troops might help, but pretty much the whole U.S. Army is already in Iraq, on its way back from Iraq or getting ready to go to Iraq. And the coalition of the willing is shrinking.

Helping Iraqis rebuild their country could help win hearts and minds. But for all the talk of newly painted schools, the fact is that reconstruction, originally stalled by incompetence and corruption, is now stalled by the lack of security. When Ibrahim al-Jafaari, the Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington, he was accompanied by Iraqi journalists. One of them asked Mr. Bush, "When will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq?"

Meanwhile, time is running out for America's volunteer military, which is cracking under the strain of a war it was never designed to fight.

So what would happen if the United States gave up its open-ended commitment to Iraq and set a timetable for withdrawal?

Mr. Bush claims that such a step would "send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission." But what the troops need to know is that their country won't demand more than they can give. He also claims that it would encourage the insurgents, who will "know that all they have to do is to wait us out." But the insurgents don't seem to need encouragement.

It's far more likely that if the Iraqi government knew that our support had an expiration date, it would both look to its own defenses and, more important, try harder to find a political solution to the insurgency.

The Iraq that emerges once U.S. forces are gone won't bear much resemblance to the free-market, pro-American, Israel-friendly democracy the neocons promised. But it will pose less of a terrorist threat than the Iraq we have now.

Remember, Iraq wasn't a breeding ground for terrorists before we went there. All indications are that the foreign terrorists now infesting Iraq are there on the sufferance of a homegrown insurgency that finds them useful for the moment but that, brutal as it is, isn't interested in an apocalyptic confrontation with the Western world. Once we're no longer targets, the foreign terrorists won't be welcome.

The point is that the presence of American forces in Iraq is making our country less safe. So it's time to start winding down the war.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Stirling Newberry - We Are Not Winning this War, Because We Cannot Win It

"We Are Not Winning this War, Because We Cannot Win It
by Stirling Newberry
Thu Jun 30th, 2005 at 07:06:50 PDT

[Crossposted at BopNews, remember to subscribe to our podcast.]

When the United States was preparing to invade Afgahnistan, reports were compiled based on previous involvements in that region. Of course, it had been the site of numerous brush wars between the British and the Russians - or their proxies - during what was called "The Great Game". Of course the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was looked at.

[The Document Archive is here and here. The DSM texts are here.]

There were some harsh lessons for the USSR in Afgahnistan, and an objective reading of American involvement in Iraq is that we decided to confirm everyone of them by repeating each and every one of the mistakes that the USSR made.

What leaps out looking at the documents available from the USSR and its invasion and occupation in Afghanistan, are the eerie parallels to the Downing Street Memos. In both cases the picture emerges of an ideologically rigid hierarchy committed to particular end states, regardless of whether they had the means to achieve them. To go even farther, in both cases there was an obsession with how the action would be framed, and with managing the proxies and internal bureaucracy - instead of facing the facts on the mission.

Afghanistan is a Russian Word, it Means "Iraq".

From the date of invasion in December of 1979 until the Politburo approved a pull out of Soviet forces some 7 years later the Soviet forces in Afghanistan suffered, on average 5 fatalities per day, and some 13 wounded of all kinds. In the involvement in Iraq from the invasion until today, the United States has suffered 2.3 fatalities per day, and an average of 15 wounded. In short, the difference in intensity of combat between the Soviet invasion of Afghaninstan and the US invasion of Iraq is that, on average, 2.7 people per day who would have died before are, instead, saved by better armor and better medical facilities. An analysis of medical casualties confirms this.

It is widely held in the Sovietology community that the USSR's involvement in Afghanistan was the "straw that broke the camel's back", that it launched, or dramatically accelerated, the death spiral of that regime, because it placed a constant drain on legitimacy and resources that could not be plugged. The USSR had been seen either fought long defensive struggles (such as the "Great Patriotic War" as they call their involvement in World War II), or short and successful invasions. In fact it is notable how often the Russians had avoided placing their own troops in harms way when the United States had committed them.

And yet the Soviet Union remained in Afghanistan, because a pull out was "unthinkable". At each stage of the war, the Soviet Union denied the parallels to the American experience in Vietnam. They saw their intervention as aid to the legitimat government of Afghanistan, and an attempt to produce "national reconciliation". Where as they saw the US as engaging in a war of Imperialism.

The United States is currently fighting a war of similar intensity to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and faces the same political quagmire: pulling out is unthinkable, and yet, the US military is ill suited to the very role which it has been thrust into. As with the Soviet Ground Forces, the successor to the "Red Army", the US military is designed to enter with overwhelming force and crush the military capability of the population, and control the vital population centers.

Moreover, American foreign policy architects see their role in terms strikingly similar to the Soviet view of Afghanistan, namely that there was an overwhelming threat to the State from a relentless outside force, and the invasion was seen entirely in terms of protecting the state from that outside force. For the USSR it was the West, for Bush, it is "terrorism". This created an ideologically rigid climate where intervention would go forward.

"The Briar Patch"

In both cases a parallel failure of political planning occured. In the December 1979 meetings which finally determined invasion as the course for the Soviet Union, rather than some indirect course, what is notable is the admitted lack of intelligence about potential enemies, the admitted difficulties of understanding the terrain, and the lack of trust that the Soviet leadership placed in the local proxies that it had in place. It is also notable that there was a failure to account for the ethnic divisions even within their own allies.

Looking at the March 1982 Downing Street Memos the same failures are evident. Blair's government did not trust the INC or INA, and yet the Americans had selected them as the new governing class of Iraq. The British admited poor intelligence, and made assertions that made it clear that they did not understand the shape of the ground. For example, the Kurds and Arab Sunnis were lumped together to be the "sunni majority", an almost sophmoric boner.

In particular the March letter from Christopher Meyer to David Manning on his meeting with Wolfowitz is filled with parallels to the Soviet era thinking. There is a focus on non-threats, attempts to connect the proposed enemy with historical enemies, reliance on politically unreliable proxies who have no credibility on the ground, and an enormous misconception as to what the military instrument can, and cannot, accomplish.

Beneath both of these is the ideological determination to go to war at whatever the cost, and a feeling by the drivers of policy that because their position is just - they see themselves as liberators of a nation under a backwards order - that failure is impossible.

The Tar Baby

In both cases military leadership objected to the plans put forward. In the case of the Soviet Union the Marshall of the General Staff objected to the small size of the force, labelled the "Limited Contingent", and the lack of a clear political objective. Where the forces there to protect the regime? Were they there to pacify the country, what was "National Reconciliation?" anyway?

In the United States General Tommy Franks put forward a deployment plan that involved a two prong assault and over 300,000 troops. This was rejected by Rumsfeld - a member of the American cabinet, the equivalent to the USSR's politburo. Instead an invasion with half that number went forward. Rumsfeld, like his Soviet predecessors, argued that the superiority of military hardware would make this number sufficient for the mission.

The same objections that the Soviet General Staff raised to the Afghanistan mission were raised by the British military directory - the troops were insufficient for the "total victory" endstate envisioned - that is installation of a compliant and stable regime. The British pointed out that inferior endstates might have to be accepted. It is interesting that in a 1986 meeting of the politburo, the same realization was reached by Andrei Gromyko - that total victory was outside of Soviet grasp given the resources.

Once in Afghanistan the Soviet Ground Forces took their heaviest casualties keeping the road network open. They found that they were not fighting set piece battles against a military that drew its strength from a working economy, but a military that drew its strength from a militia reserve of un and underemployed. Unlike fighting a state actor - which is easier to defeat as its economy gets worse, fighting a guerilla war is the reverse, the guerilla movement gets stronger as the economy worsens.

Looking at the location of US military fatalities since the war, the same pattern emerges - the US takes its deaths trying to maintain order in the cities, and in trying to hold the roads. The interior areas of the country are virtually ceded to the insurgency. The insurgency does not draw its strength from towns that produce a surplus to be used in fighting, but from the destruction of the economic system from before.

It should be noted that the planning documents of both invasions ignored the possibility that local political entities would be able to mount guerilla campaigns, and wildly underestimated the difficulty in producing a unified national government among all the factions.

In both cases this lead to an increasing reliance on rotary winged transport - helicopters. This lead to a vulnerability - to attacks by cheap Surface to Air missiles. This lead to casualties of hard to replace pilots and commanders, since command and control personnel were aboard the helicopters used in moving forces in and out of the combat area.

We Are Not WinningThis War, Because We Cannot Win It.

Victory is the accomplishment of an end state that is better than what would have happened without using the military. By this standard most wars are mistakes, they do not lead to better end states. In fact, most wars are fought as the result of failure: a failure of deterence or compellence that ends with military intervention being used simply to prove that one was not bluffing all along.

A war which is winnable is one where the better end states can still be reached with the available resources. It was General Eisenhower who warned that the problem of military spending was "to avoid destroying from within what you were trying to defend from without." General Wesley Clark did an analysis of troops required for Afghanistan and concluded that the United States could not both maintain an occupation, and the economy needed to have military superiority.

In the Soviet invovlement in Afghanistan, the critical documents that flew in the Gorbacheve regime about the Breshnev era decision to invade point the finger at the failures of intelligence and the reliance on a military instrument to secure a political victory. The same reliance on a military instrument is visible in the US. Soviet leadership lamented that their proxies were unable to produce benefits for the local population that would have won support. The levels of water, electricity and oil output from Iraq have not returned to their pre-invasion levels, and the public is growing restive - our proxies cannot run a reconstruction.

This problem - that the forces involved were not large enough to force a military victory, but they were too expensive to allow a full scale reconstruction - haunted Soviet post-mortems in 1986 and 1987. These failures are already being admitted by American planners and internal critics of the war in Iraq. The conclusion of the USSR's policy elite was that invasion was a mistake, and that the invasion was a lost cause long before withdrawal was considered.

What was missing from both the Soviet and American pre-war planning was the most basic reqirement of any military action: the vital interest being defended. In both cases war was waged out of an ideological committment to installation of a regime of a particular kind. That is, it was an attempt to use tanks to garden the political landscape. There was not, in either case, a vital national interest at stake that could not have been met with other means.

This lead to the converse problem of withdrawal: after invasion and full strategic committment, the vital national interest was political victory itself. This is why, in 1986, the politburo was still worried about who would be in charge of this or that function, who would visit Moscow, who would get how much policy freedom. There was no concern about what interest was at stake, because the sunk political capital became too valuable to lose.

The Bush speech this week shows that the United States is in the same position. There was no vital interest at stake, because Bush could not state one in a sentence. The rationale was purely for political hegemony, and a view to the "justness" of the Bush executive's intentions.

We Will Be Fighting for 20 More Years

The documentary history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the emerging documentary history of the American invasion of Iraq show important parallels. The wars are of approximately equal intensity. They show the same failures of purpose, intelligence, planning, objective, means and execution. The failures, in the case of the USSR, were sufficient to bring down a political order that had stood for 70 years, through, it should be noted, much worse objective material problems. The Russian Revolution, the Stalinist purges and the Second World War were all much worse.

However, it was the destruction of political legitimacy that was, in the end, fatal. An order which had set itself up as a progressive and liberating force was shown to be merely a brute imperium using slaughter of civilians, torture, and blunt military tactics to achieve a political end.

It is amusing to note that up until the end, the USSR asserted that it was right to invade Afgahnistan, and that their invovlement there was nothing like American invovlement in Vietnam.

The military instrument is meant to defeat and destroy the will of a nation to fight, and the war material it uses to fight with. A military instrument in combat stance cannot win a political endstate. It is not a failure of troops to fail to secure a politcal victory, because it is not their mission to do so, nor are they trained or equipped to do so. One might as well criticise them for not being able to launch a manned probe to Mars.

In the end, Iraq cannot be won, because there is nothing there to win. It was a move made to reduce the command and control stress - to remove a bullet point from the daily agenda, "contain Saddam's latest bonehead attempt to get WMD".

Soviet withdrawal was, in fact, the fatal blow to the USSR. It cost them irreplacable political capital. American withdrawal will cost at least as much. And while the United States is not in a position of using force to occupy large sections of the world, its military prestige is essential for its central economic role. Iraq is now a matter of confidence, and its resolution by cutting and running will entail a massive drop in American standards of living, the post-war recession alone will be a brutal shock to the American economy, as the some 200 billion dollars a year of war spending dries up, and the internal GDP that this spending drives dries up with it.

In short, Iraq has become a crisis, simply because the present leadership, as with the Breshnev politburo, has bet the farm on it. It is not likely that the US will suffer as much as the USSR did, because the internal contradictions are not as great. But it is highly likely that the costs will be far greater - and from more different quarters - than is currently expected.

In 1986 Gorbachev said that the war in Afghanistan could go on for 20 more years. It is now 19 years from when he said this, and the war there, indeed, goes on. In fact, it is a historical note that Usama bin Laden got his start in the Soviet invasion, and remains at large to this day."

Why the Public Still Believes Democrats Stand for Nothing

Why the Public Still Believes Democrats Stand for Nothing
by David Sirota.

A new poll out tells us what we already know: though 56 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, more voters have positive feelings about Republicans than Democrats. As pollster Stan Greenberg notes, "Republicans weakened in this poll... but it shows Democrats weakening more" and that decline by Democrats is because people believe Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."

Most likely, the entrenched Democratic elites in Washington are shocked at this, especially with all the scandals surrounding top Republicans. But then again, these same elites are the ones who have helped run the party into the ground over the last decade ^ we shouldn't expect them to understand much more than how to protect their own careers in the Establishment.

So in the interest in boiling it down for these people, let's make it very clear as to why America still thinks Democrats stand for nothing:

- When you vote with Republicans for an energy bill that showers huge oil/gas companies with massive tax breaks at a time of record deficits, and that energy bill won't lower the cost of gasoline, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you claim to be critical of the war in Iraq, yet ignore public demands for a withdrawal/exit strategy from Iraq, and instead vote against legislation requesting the President to explain an exit strategy from the war, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you say you are for economic fairness, and then your top leaders start negotiating the elimination of the Estate Tax that falls on the wealthiest 2 percent of citizens, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you deride the fact that the Bush administration lied to the country about the war and about its behavior before 9/11, and then vote to confirm chief liar Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you claim to care about protecting ordinary citizens' economic rights, and then corral corporate lobbyists to help pass a bill allowing credit card companies to gouge those same ordinary citizens, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you say you want workers to be protected in their workplace, and then vote to limit workers' ability to fight for their rights in court, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

- When you say you oppose unfair trade deals that sell workers out, and then refuse to voice any opposition to the latest corporate-written trade deal that sells workers out, Americans will believe you stand for nothing.

Now, it is true ^ there are Democrats outside the Beltway working in states who are making serious progress in turning this around. There also continues to be a core group of committed progressives in Congress who fight everyday to bring the party back to its roots.

And, there have been recent signs that these courageous congressional leaders are having some success: namely votes to reforming the Patriot Act, and end massive corporate subsidies; the introduction of lobbying/ethics reform legislation; the roll out of the Progressive Promise platform; the tenacious opposition to CAFTA in the House; and the support of a bill to prevent Big Business from testing hazardous chemicals on humans.

But those successes are sill clearly overshadowed by this giant list of core sellouts, and Republican-lite capitulations. If the party really wants America to believe it stands for something, then the party has to actually stand for something ^ not just talk about standing for something. Americans aren't stupid ^ they know the difference between lip service, and action.

The arrogant and timid Democratic operative/adviser/elite class still arrogantly believes they can fool Americans with hollow rhetoric that makes it seem as if Democrats care about the middle-class. But that rhetoric is consistently undercut by actual votes - meaning the rhetoric ultimately becomes an insult to Americans' intelligence, because it shows Democrats think that ordinary people are so stupid, they don't know what's really going on. Newsflash: ordinary people DO know what's going on, and they don't like it when slick political hacks in Washington try to fool them.

And that leads us to the bottom line that the GOP knows so well: no amount of rhetoric can outweigh authenticity and conviction. This is not about embracing a more "liberal" agenda - it is about actually making principles dictate policy decisions, instead of continuing to be a party that is about nothing other than thumb-in-the-wind political calculation. The sooner our side learns that, the sooner we will really be headed back to the majority.

Some Sources:

New poll shows public still believes Democrats stand for nothing:
Democratic Pollster says Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view":

Lying Liars & the Presidents Who Employ Them

the liberal media by Eric Alterman
Lying Liars & the Presidents Who Employ Them

[from the July 18, 2005 issue]

The respective media flaps involving Senate Demo­cratic whip Richard Durbin and presidential consigliere Karl Rove invites a kind of admixture of awe and revulsion at the state of American political discourse and the media's inability to make the most fundamental kinds of distinctions to help citizens navigate it.

Durbin's offense, which set off a conservative fire­storm that eventually forced an apology, was to express alarm about an FBI report describing Guantánamo prisoners as "chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water...urinat[ing] or defecat[ing] on themselves...for 18-24 hours or more." Durbin allowed that such behavior struck him as less appropriate to Americans than to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime." Clearly, Durbin was paying tribute to American ideals and expressing his dismay over their violation. But the mere mention of the words "Nazi" and "gulag" gave conservatives in the media the opportunity to decry an analogy he never made, beat their chickenhawk breasts about "dishonoring the military" and to tar all opponents with the same brush.

As Karl Rove's comments later demonstrated, however, Dur­bin's cave was pointless. Speaking to New York's Conservative Party, Rove all but termed Durbin--and every liberal--a traitor:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to submit a petition. I am not joking. Submitting a petition is precisely what did. It was a petition imploring the powers that be to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the...terrorist attacks against the United States."...Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said: We will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said: We must understand our enemies. Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause; liberals see the United States and they see Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags and the killing fields of Cambodia. Has there been a more revealing moment this year than when Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, speaking on the Senate floor, compared what Americans had done to prisoners in our control at Guantánamo Bay with what was done by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot--three of the most brutal and malevolent figures in the twentieth century? Let me put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America's men and women in uniform in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.

Rove's comments were purposeful lies. The petition he describes was written by Eli Pariser before he worked for the organization and was written before the perpetrators of 9/11 had been identified. (It says nothing about "therapy.") Moreover, itself supported military action in Afghanistan. Most significant, polling data demonstrate that 84 percent of self-described liberals, two weeks after the attacks, supported "military action" against the terrorists, and 75 percent supported "going to war with a nation that is harboring those responsible." The Bush Administration, in contrast, proved far more interested in going to war against people who had nothing to do with the attacks; in doing so, it invited Al Qaeda to regroup and bin Laden to run free.

Why Rove felt compelled to launch this particular McCarthyite missive now is not ultimately knowable. Perhaps he is growing desperate, as the President's popularity ratings spiral south, and Americans--by a 49 to 44 percent margin--tell pollsters that George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein, holds the greatest responsibility for the horrific war in Iraq. But Rove is no dummy. He knows he can say just about anything about anyone and conservative pundits will bark "Amen." His vicious denigration of the patriotism of so many New Yorkers (and American soldiers, I might add, many of whom are liberals) was not so different from the false and malicious charges leveled not merely by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh but also by allegedly responsible commentators, including Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinart. (It was Beinart, you will recall, who, in his famous "A Fighting Faith" article, introduced the redbaiter's well-worn tactic against of seeking to blame the organization for petitions it did not write and websites it did not control. He also sought to draw an equation between the questioning of the Administration's military strategy and the support of the communist side during the cold war.)

Rove's defenders, including White House press secretary Scott McClellan and New York Governor George Pataki, changed the subject to Durbin rather than offer even meek criticism of the second most powerful man in America (after Dick Cheney). But remember: Durbin paid tribute to America's ideals. Rove not only lied about liberals, he mocked the very concepts of "moderation," "restraint" and "understanding" as un-American. Durbin criticized no one but the torturers; Rove slandered more than 20 percent of Americans who proudly identify themselves as liberals.

And where were the mainstream media in all this? With just a few honorable exceptions they were passing along without prejudice Rove's slander and lies and the deliberate distortions of Durbin's words. Typically, Washington Post media cop Howard Kurtz adopted the White House spin with a report titled "Down­playing Durbin, Jumping on Rove." The smart guys at The Note explained that Democrats were asking for this kind of thing with their general wimpiness. Apparently, it's not a reporter's bus­iness to decide what's true anymore, just who sounds more macho.

There's a lesson for liberals in all this: American politics has become a game with no rules and no referee. Play by the old rules--fairness, honesty, good faith--and face political extinction.

Richard Cohen - Echoes of Vietnam

Echoes of Vietnam

By Richard Cohen

Thursday, June 30, 2005; Page A23

About two years ago I sat down with a colleague and explained why Iraq was not going to be Vietnam. Iraq lacked a long-standing nationalist movement and a single charismatic leader like Ho Chi Minh. The insurgents did not have a sanctuary like North Vietnam, which supplied manpower, materiel and leadership, and the rebel cause in Iraq -- just what is it, exactly? -- was not worth dying for. On Tuesday President Bush proved me wrong. Iraq is beginning to look like Vietnam.

The similarity is most striking in the language the president used. First came the vast, insulting oversimplifications. The war in Iraq was tied over and over again to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, although that link was nonexistent. The Sept. 11 commission said in plain English that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Even a line such as we must "defeat them abroad before they attack us at home" had a musty, Vietnam-era sound to it. Whether it's true or not, it is an updated version of the domino theory: if not Saigon then San Francisco.

Second, just as Lyndon Johnson and others referred to communism as if it were a worldwide monolith, so Bush talks about terrorists. He mentioned "terrorists" 23 times, and while he also occasionally employed the word "insurgents," his emphasis was on the wanton murders of the former and not the political aims of the latter. He even cited the terrorist leader and al Qaeda associate "Zarqawi" by name, saying the United States would never "abandon the Iraqi people to men" like him -- strongly suggesting that he was the problem in Iraq. Abu Musab Zarqawi, though, is only part of the problem.

Bush sounded downright Johnsonian in talking about progress in Iraq. He cited rebuilt "roads and schools and health clinics," not to mention improvements in "sanitation, electricity and water." This, too, had a familiar ring. We got the same sort of statistics in Vietnam. Some of them were simply concocted, but most, I think, were sort of true. Roads were paved, schools were opened and village councils were elected -- and yet, somehow, it never mattered. The newly elected village council could meet in the newly opened school and get there on a newly paved road -- and spend the night planning an attack on U.S. forces. It is all so depressing.

In Vietnam, it took the United States forever to recognize that it was fighting not international communism but a durable and vibrant nationalist movement led by communists. Something similar may be happening in Iraq. Yes, foreign terrorists are flocking to the country. But the Sunni insurgency is a different thing. The Sunnis may work with foreign terrorists and gladly use their expertise, but their goals are not the same. The salient and depressing fact remains that no insurgency can survive for long without either the cooperation or the apathy of the populace. Someone's making bombs, and someone's not turning him in. Bush may extol Iraqi democracy, but at the moment not enough Iraqis feel it is worth dying for.

Finally, Bush descended to Vietnam-speak. This is the language used by the Johnson and Nixon administrations to obscure the truth by emitting a fog of numbers. Thus Bush cited the "8 million Iraqi men and women" who voted, the "30 nations" with troops in Iraq (a total joke, and the president knows it), the "40 countries" and "three international organizations" that have pledged "$34 billion" in reconstruction assistance (another joke), the "80 countries" that recently met in Brussels to aid Iraq, and the "160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions" -- one of them being, clearly, to stay out of harm's way.

The war Bush declared to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is not the war being waged. The two have only one thing in common: rhetorical sleight of hand. Yet the consequences of pulling out of Iraq would be awful. The day Saigon fell I was ashamed for my country -- an ugly, disgraceful retreat. I don't want that to happen again. But unless Bush rethinks his strategy, fires some people who long ago earned dismissal, examines his own assumptions (what's the point of continuing to isolate Iran and Syria when we need them both to seal Iraq's borders?) and talks turkey to the American people, he will lose everything good he set out to do, including the example Iraq could set for the rest of the Middle East. I know Iraq is not Vietnam. But Tuesday night it sure sounded like it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Howard Fineman - President doesn't waver on Iraq

President doesn't waver on Iraq
Bush's implicit message to GOP: Stay course, call Democrats appeasers
By Howard Fineman
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 1:47 p.m. ET June 29, 2005

WASHINGTON — To win the war on terror, President Bush keeps saying, Americans must sacrifice. After his speech on Iraq, congressional Republicans probably know which Americans he’s talking about: them! If current polling trends continue, the GOP could come under withering fire in next year’s congressional elections. But they shouldn’t expect Bush to yank the troops from Mesopotamia for his party’s sake. His implicit advice to the GOP: Strap on the body armor, remind voters that jihadists are evil and label the Democrats appeasers who would rather call a lawyer or a shrink than call in air strikes.

Every time I think the president has exhausted the possibilities of stark rhetoric, I am wrong: Like a preacher with Bible in hand, he keeps coming up with knew formulations of the struggle between good and evil. Strategically, we’re in a giant global game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and Bush, despite a hand that doesn’t look that strong, keeps shoving more chips into the pot. Now the war in Iraq has been elevated to the level of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the 20th century struggles against Nazism and Soviet Communism.

Does grim sell?
It’s appropriate, I guess, that Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” hit the theaters on the same night that the president stood at the podium at Fort Bragg, N.C. Bush was grim; he talked about the need to “complete the mission,” but strongly implied that this one mission, even if successfully completed, won’t end a generation-long Manichaean struggle against the forces of darkness.

So this is not a war but a condition, and it is not clear whether — if ever — we will be cancer-free.

Does grim sell? The American people have concluded that we were sold a bill of goods on the original rationale for the war: The weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein was about to loose on the world. Turns out, he didn’t have any. Now we need to “complete the mission” there because Iraq will be a failed state if we don’t.

On the surface, this is an easy argument to make fun of. If Iraq risks becoming a failed state, critics say, it’s because we blew it to smithereens in the process of removing Saddam & Co. Our justification for staying now is that we went there to begin with.

What's the alternative?
But, as I read the polls, voters are willing to accept the notion that we have no choice but to plow ahead—that, indeed, we can’t afford to fail in Iraq. Critics can point out that the jihadists wouldn’t be in Iraq had we not invaded; voters may in fact see logic in Bush’s contention that it is useful to have drawn the terrorists into an apocalyptic battle there. Critics can point to the gruesome footage on TV screens nightly — the “chaos for the cameras,” as Bush put it — but I am told by people who are there or who have been there recently, among them Gen. Barry McCaffrey, that the Iraqi army and civil society are in rather better shape, and making more progress, than we see.

And what alternative are the Democrats really proposing? What would they have us do? Even the Germans don’t want us to leave Iraq, though they won’t pay much to help us stay. Does anyone think that announcing a timetable for withdrawal really is a good idea? Is Osama bin Laden going to see that as a peace gesture? Are the suicide bombers likely to stop strapping on their vests?

Careful with the rhetoric
So grim may sell. But the president needs to be careful. In a war fought for and in the name of freedom, he doesn’t want to mimic, however inadvertently and superficially, the theatrical style of the tyrant we went to war to dethrone.

And there was something eerily, even disturbingly, evocative about the president’s speech at Fort Bragg. Here was a wartime leader depicting a nation under siege — his own — in what looked to be an airless, windowless place, speaking to a silent but supportive cast of beret-wearing military officers. Seeking to steel them for the struggles ahead, in which the very existence of the nation was at stake, he recalled the country’s great victories of the past. He called for new recruits to join the army, and on citizens to express their patriotism by creating public displays. He vowed he would never to give in — which brought thunderous applause from his loyal if perhaps a bit nervous officers. As he rallied his own corps, he seemed to imply that anyone who questioned the course he had set was exhibiting traitorous weakness.

We have to remake the Middle East, not turn into it.

© 2005


David Corn - Bush's No-News Iraq Speech

Bush's No-News Iraq Speech
David Corn
The Nation

Twelve days ago, The Washington Post reported that the Bush White House had concluded that George W. Bush--who was facing sinking polling numbers regarding the war in Iraq--needed to "shift strategies." He would (of course) not be implementing any policy changes, the paper noted; his new approach" would be "mostly rhetorical." Yet in his prime-time speech on Iraq--delivered before a quiet audience of troops at Fort Bragg on Tuesday evening--Bush proved the Post report wrong. There was no shift of strategy--rhetorical or otherwise. Bush delivered a flat recital of his previous justifications of the war, while offering vague assurances that (a) he realizes (really, really) that the war in Iraq is "hard" work and that (b) his administration is indeed winning the war. On that latter point, Bush mentioned no metrics (as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would call them)--that is, concrete indicators--to demonstrate that he holds a more accurate view of the war than, say, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel who days ago exclaimed, "The reality is that we're losing in Iraq." Bush's plan this night was rather transparent: assert success...and then assert it some more.

At other points during the war when the White House became worried about public opinion, the White House dispatched Bush to make a major speech on the war. But those speeches had little, if any, impact on the public mood, the policy debate, or the events in Iraq. His Fort Bragg address can be filed in the same folder. It was an artificial event; Bush was standing at the podium and reading words off a TelePrompTer that were written by a speechwriter not because he had anything new or significant to say but because the White House had no better PR alternatives at this moment. (What no flight suit?) And in this White House reconsidering policy is not an option.

So Bush warmed up and doled out the usual fare. He didn't even bother to come up with new lines of "disassembling." Once more Bush claimed the war in Iraq was an appropriate and mandatory response to 9/11. He repeatedly referred to the enemy in Iraq as "the terrorists," not the insurgents, continuing his strategic effort to blur the distinction between the foreign jihadists who have flocked to Iraq to kill Americans and the homegrown insurgent thugs who blow up US troops and Iraqi civilians for a different set of motivations. Bush keeps tying the insurgency in Iraq to 9/11: "Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home." Many--and probably most--of the enemy forces faced by US troops in Iraq are not followers of Osama bin Laden. According to recent estimates gathered by the Brookings Institution, there are now about 16,000 insurgents and about 1,000 foreign fighters engaged in the war against the US military and the interim Iraqi government. And Bush neglected to mention the recent intelligence report noting that Iraq--thanks to his invasion--has become an effective breeding ground for the anti-American terrorists who may indeed look to attack the United States elsewhere.

Such facts are perhaps too subtle or nuanced to fit into the hit-the-bastards-before-they-hit-us view Bush wants to sell to the public. He noted, "We are fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality." That is true. But if the war in Iraq is nothing but a fundamental battle of good (us) against evil (them), then why is the US military, as the administration has acknowledged, negotiating with certain leaders of the insurgency? Can you cut a deal with evil?

Bush continued to maintain that Iraq is "a central front in the war on terror." How did he prove this case? He quoted Osama bin Laden, who once said, "This third world war is raging in Iraq. The whole world is watching this war." You see, Bush attacked Iraq (which had no weapons of mass destruction and no operational ties to the terrorists who mounted the horrific attacks of 9/11), a war ensued, Islamic fundamentalists rushed to Iraq to do battle with the Americans, bin Laden welcomed this opportunity to have his followers kill US troops (who might otherwise be coming after him or securing Afghanistan), and that is Bush's proof the war in Iraq is "a central front in the war on terror." In essence, because bin Laden said so after Bush invaded Iraq.

Bush tried to acknowledge the troubles in Iraq, while pushing the good news: "Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made." He also said, "In the past year, we have made significant progress." In case anyone missed the message, he noted, "The progress in the past year has been significant, and we have a clear path forward." He also remarked, "We have made progress, but we have a lot more work to do." What signs of progress did he point to? He claimed that 160,000 Iraqi security troops have been trained and that NATO and several nations have joined in the training effort. Bush did not address the fact that several nations have pulled troops out of Iraq. But he did concede that these Iraqi security forces "are at different levels of readiness." How different he didn't fully explore. For example, how many of these troops are capable of fighting the insurgents on their own? Bush's answer: "some." When Senator Joe Biden returned recently from a trip to Iraq, he said he had been told that of the 107 Iraqi battalions being trained, only three were operational. Three certainly is "some."

Bush hailed developments that have been mixed at best. He declared, "we are partnering coalition units with Iraqi units. These coalition Iraqi teams are conducting operations together in the field. These combined operations are giving Iraqis a chance to experience how the most professional armed forces in the world operate in combat." But media reports from Iraq note that Iraqi and American units have often not worked together effectively. American soldiers have expressed doubts about the abilities and commitment of their Iraqi counterparts. The Iraqis have voiced resentment about their American partners. (Click here for one depressing account.) In any event, US military officials have estimated it could take several years to train an effective Iraqi security force. Bush made no reference to such a timeframe. Instead, he tossed out catchy spin: "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Nor did he have anything to say about Rumsfeld's and Vice President Dick Cheney's recent comments on the insurgency. (Cheney said the opposition was in its "last throes," Rumsfeld noted that quashing the insurgency could take up to twelve years.)

No, everything policy-wise is fine. There is no reason for even minor adjustments. And Bush hid behind his commanders when necessary. "Some Americans ask me," he said, "'If completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops?' If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job." Then why do backers of the war complain about the porous borders (especially the Syrian border) that permit foreign jihadists to enter Iraq? Might that have something to do with there being not enough troops to secure the borders?

But never mind all that on-the-ground stuff; freedom is on the march. "Iraqis," Bush said, "will bind their multiethnic society together in a democracy that respects the will of the majority and protects minority rights." Let's hope he's right. But such happy-talk ignores the sectarian violence that appears to be on the rise within Iraq. The problem there is not merely that anti-American terrorists are using murder and mayhem to block the achievement of democracy. There are fundamental divides within the nation that are playing out--all too often in violent fashion--as well. But recognition of that would interfere with Bush's comic-book version of the evildoers-versus-us struggle in Iraq.

In this speech, Bush reprised the messianic and simplistic neocon analysis (or fantasy) that the war in Iraq has led to the spread of democracy elsewhere. He proclaimed, "Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom. In the last few months, we have witnessed elections in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia." Well, Yassir Arafat's timely death did more than the war in Iraq to bring about the recent electoral success in the Palestinian Territories. The election in Lebanon was scheduled before Iraqis trekked to the polls. The Saudi election was a modest affair (and women need not apply). And in Egypt, democratic reformers howled about Laura Bush's support of an election law that allowed the ruling party to decide who could run against it.

Without showing much enthusiasm--is he war-weary?--Bush ended with the usual rah-rah. He suggested that anyone who counsels withdrawal is not part of the American tradition: "The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins....Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths. We know that if evil is not confronted, it gains in strength and audacity and returns to strike us again. We know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat, it is courage." In other words, don't be wimps, don't listen to those who say that it might be time to rethink what the United States is doing in Iraq. Stay the course. Just do it. Believe.

With the polls registering what might be deepening skepticism about the war, this may be the most powerful political argument Bush has: Americans don't quit. His allies in Congress and the commentariat have been repeating a street-level variant of this message: America does not turn tail. It's the ultimate fall-back position for the pro-war crowd. It is not a policy argument; it's pushing a psychological button. And as the public mood appears to sour on the war, Bush-backers are also starting to accuse critics at home of undermining the war effort and--worse of all--demoralizing the troops in Iraq. Bush stayed clear of this scoundrel maneuver. But soon after his speech was done, Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the armed services committee, was on Fox News Channel warning unnamed persons of making "statements back home....that are troubling the troops." He added, "We here at home have to show a strong bipartisan support for our troops." This is the ultimate escape hatch for supporters of a war that is not going well: the critics are to blame. Bush ended his speech by thanking and praising the members of the US military and their families. He said nothing about the recently disclosed $1 billion shortfall in funding for veterans' health care.

Bush's speech will not alter the landscape--here or in Iraq. It was the rhetorical equivalent of treading water. Before the speech, NPR had asked me to talk about the address afterward with a conservative pundit. Minutes before we were to go on, an NPR worker called. We've decided, she said, that there was not enough in the speech to warrant an analysis segment. I could hardly protest.

Juan Cole - Arguing with Bush

Informed Comment
"Arguing with Bush

Bush's speech.

"The terrorists who attacked us and the terrorists we face murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.

"Terrorists" are not a cohesive ideological category like "Communists" as Bush suggests. Lots of groups use terror as a tactic. The Irgun Zionists in 1946 and 1947 did, as well. Also ETA in Spain, about the terrorist acts of which Americans seldom hear in their newspapers (they are ongoing). The Baath regime in Iraq engaged in so little international terrorism in the late 1990s and early zeroes that it was not even on the US State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. Bush could take the above rationale and use it to invade most countries in the world.

"To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill: in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali and elsewhere.

Yes, and these were al-Qaeda operations, and you haven't caught Bin Laden or al-Zawahiri.

"The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

This is monstrous and ridiculous at once. The people in Fallujah and Ramadi were not sitting around plotting terrorism three years ago. They had no plans to hit the United States. Terrorism isn't a fixed quantity. By unilaterally invading Iraq and then bollixing it up, Bush and Vines have created enormous amounts of terrorism, which they are now having trouble putting back in the bottle.

"Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others."

Maybe 8 percent of the fighters in Iraq are foreign jihadis. Of the some 25,000 guerrillas, almost all are Iraqi Sunni Arabs who dislike foreign military occupation of their country. You could imagine what people in Alabama or Kentucky would do if foreign troops came in and tried to set up checkpoints in their neighborhoods.

Moreover, many of those jihadis fighting in Iraq wouldn't even be jihadis if they weren't outraged by Bush's invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.

The fact is that the US went in and convinced the Sunni Arabs of Iraq that we were going to screw them over royally, driving them into violent opposition. They aren't inherently terrorists and could have been won over.

There are no Iraqi military units that can and will fight independently against the Sunni guerrillas, so all those statistics he quoted are meaningless.

Almost all the coalition allies of the US have a short timetable for getting out of the quagmire before it goes really bad. Bush's quotation of all that international support sounds more hollow each time he voices it.

An interesting Flash presentation on Coalition casualties can be found here, demnstrating their geographical extent throughout the country.

The political process in Iraq has not helped end the guerrilla war. It has excluded Sunnis or alienated them so that they excluded themselves. It offers no hope in and of itself.

There was nothing new in Bush's speech, and most of what he said was inaccurate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

From Memos, Insights Into Ally's Doubts On Iraq War

[The Washington Post FINALLY does justice to the DSM!]
From Memos, Insights Into Ally's Doubts On Iraq War
British Advisers Foresaw Variety of Risks, Problems

By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 28, 2005; A01

LONDON -- In the spring of 2002, two weeks before British Prime Minister Tony Blair journeyed to Crawford, Tex., to meet with President Bush at his ranch about the escalating confrontation with Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sounded a prescient warning.

"The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few," Straw wrote in a March 25 memo to Blair stamped "Secret and Personal." "The risks are high, both for you and for the Government."

In public, British officials were declaring their solidarity with the Bush administration's calls for elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Straw's memo and seven other secret documents disclosed in recent months by British journalist Michael Smith together reveal a much different picture. Behind the scenes, British officials believed the U.S. administration was already committed to a war that they feared was ill-conceived and illegal and could lead to disaster.

The documents indicate that the officials foresaw a host of problems that later would haunt both governments -- including thin intelligence about the nature of the Iraqi threat, weak public support for war and a lack of planning for the aftermath of military action. British cabinet ministers, Foreign Office diplomats, senior generals and intelligence service officials all weighed in with concerns and reservations. Yet they could not dissuade their counterparts in the Bush administration -- nor, indeed, their own leader -- from going forward.

"I think there is a real risk that the administration underestimates the difficulties," David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote to the prime minister on March 14, 2002, after he returned from meetings with Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, and her staff. "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it."

A U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the events said the concerns raised by British officials "played a useful role."

"Were they paid a tremendous amount of heed?" said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think it's hard to say they were."

Critics of the Bush administration contend the documents -- including the now-famous Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002 -- constitute proof that Bush made the decision to go to war at least eight months before it began, and that the subsequent diplomatic campaign at the United Nations was a charade, designed to convince the public that war was necessary, rather than an attempt to resolve the crisis peacefully. They contend the documents have not received the attention they deserve.

Supporters of the administration contend, by contrast, that the memos add little or nothing to what is already publicly known about the run-up to the war and even help show that the British officials genuinely believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They say that opponents of Bush and Blair are distorting the documents' meaning in order to attack both men politically.

But beyond the question of whether they constitute a so-called smoking gun of evidence against the White House, the memos offer an intriguing look at what the top officials of the United States' chief ally were thinking, doing and fearing in the months before the war.

This article is based on those memos, supplemented by interviews with officials on both sides of the Atlantic -- none of whom was willing to be cited by name because of the sensitivity of the issue -- and written accounts. Spokesmen for the Foreign Office and the prime minister's office declined to comment but did not question the authenticity of the documents.
Debating Military Action

British concerns over the direction of Iraq policy began long before July 2002. By the end of January of that year, officials said, the British Embassy in Washington informed London that U.S. military planning for an invasion of Iraq had begun. The sense of alarm here increased after Bush, in his State of the Union address on Jan. 29, branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" -- a phrase many people in Britain saw as bellicose and simplistic.

Blair did not share their view. His aides contend that in the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Blair saw Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a potential danger that needed to be dealt with. But the prime minister faced an entirely different set of obstacles, political and legal, than Bush did, including much stronger domestic opposition to war.

The first major British cabinet discussion on Iraq took place March 7, 2002, according to the memoirs of Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who quotes several senior cabinet secretaries as raising questions about the war. "What has changed that suddenly gives us the legal right to take military action that we didn't have a few months ago?" demanded David Blunkett, one of Blair's closest political allies.

Blair defended his approach, Cook reported, by saying Britain's national interest lay in staying closely allied with the United States. "I tell you that we must steer close to America," Blair said, according to Cook. "If we don't, we lose our influence to shape what they do."

These themes would be repeated regularly in the first six Downing Street memos, composed between the March 7 cabinet meeting and Blair's trip to Crawford a month later.

The first memo was a 10-page options paper produced by the overseas and defense secretariat of the Cabinet Office the day after the cabinet meeting. It noted that British intelligence on Iraq was poor, that no legal justification currently existed for invasion and that removing Hussein's government "could involve nation building over many years." Still, it concluded: "Despite the considerable difficulties, the use of overriding force in a ground campaign is the only option that we can be confident will remove Saddam and bring Iraq back into the international community."

In his memo to Blair six days later, Manning wrote that "Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions." The foreign policy adviser raised several matters, including "how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified" and "what happens on the morning after?"

On March 22, Peter Ricketts, then political director of the Foreign Office, wrote to Straw that Blair could also "bring home to Bush some of the realities" and "help Bush make good decisions by telling him things his own machine probably isn't." Ricketts went on to warn that a military campaign would need "clear and compelling military objectives" and that regime change "does not stack up."

"Regime change which produced another Sunni General still in charge of an active Iraqi WMD program would be a bad outcome," Ricketts concluded.

Finally, Straw weighed in with his own memo to Blair laying out the political problems in convincing members of Parliament in the ruling Labor Party that the use of force was justified, legal and would produce the desired result. But even after legal justification, Straw added, "We have also to answer the big question -- what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole on this than on anything."

A U.S. official who observed the process said British objections followed a traditional path. "To some extent the mandarins were playing the role they were acculturated to play in the Washington-London dialectic, which is always to play devil's advocate," he said. "I'm not saying they were sanguine -- they weren't -- but since time immemorial they have always played Athens to our Rome, working hard to remove us from a tendency toward what they consider impetuosity or misguided idealism."
The Crawford Meeting

At the Crawford summit, in April 2002, Bush and Blair discussed the prospect of going to war in the spring or fall of 2003. According to a Cabinet Office briefing paper prepared in July, Blair told Bush that "the U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through U.N. weapons inspectors had been exhausted."

In a post-summit speech at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex., Blair offered a cryptic criticism of his own advisers. His commitment to democratic values, Blair said, "means that when America is fighting for those values, then, however tough, we fight with her -- no grandstanding, no offering implausible and impractical advice from the touchline."

"In the end, only Blair and Bush know what they said to each other at Crawford and what they agreed to," said a senior British official. "They spent a long time together with no one else around, which was most unusual."

After his return from Washington, officials and analysts say, Blair sought to unify the fractious elements within his government and party around a policy of coercive diplomacy. "Blair comes back from Crawford with a clear sense that the Americans are preparing for war," said Michael Clarke, director of the International Policy Institute at King's College, who met with policymakers at key points during the year. "But the British approach is slightly different -- that we are preparing for war as a means of forcing Iraq to comply so that we don't actually have to fight."

By the early summer of 2002, officials said, there was a new sense of alarm and concern in London. The Bush administration had not committed to seeking U.N. support, and U.S. forces were increasing flyovers and other military activities that officials feared could be provocative. Meanwhile, opinion polls were showing that a majority of Britons opposed military action and 160 members of Parliament had signed a proposed resolution urging caution.

Several senior officials were dispatched to the United States for consultations. When they returned to London, a meeting was scheduled that produced two more secret documents. The first was a Cabinet Office briefing paper dated July 21 that expressed concern that stepped-up U.S. air raids inside Iraq created "the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way."

The briefing paper also said that a Security Council resolution setting up the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq could be drafted in a way that Hussein would find unacceptable. "It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community," the memo reported.

On July 23, officials gathered at Blair's office. Among them were Straw; Manning; Richard Dearlove, chief of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency; Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon; Attorney General Peter Goldsmith; and Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the Defense Staff.

Dearlove, a veteran intelligence operative with a reputation for being hard-nosed and ambitious, had just returned from a visit to Washington, where officials say he met with Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet.

According to the July 23 memo, Dearlove reported "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable," the memo said, adding that the president's National Security Council "had no patience with the U.N. route." Dearlove also included the observation that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Straw, who was consulting daily with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, reiterated that "it seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided," according to the memo. But, Straw added, "the case was thin." He urged the government to produce a plan for an ultimatum to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.

The memo indicates that officials believed Iraq had such weapons. What would happen, asked Boyce, if Hussein "used WMD on day one" of an attack, or on Kuwait? "Or on Israel," Hoon added.

It also suggests that the purpose of British pressure to return to the United Nations was not to settle the crisis peacefully through the inspection system, but to build a legal justification for war. Blair is cited as saying that "it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U.N. inspectors."
Back to the U.N.

Blair had an ally in Powell, who was also counseling that another approach had to be made to the United Nations before an international coalition could be assembled to back the use of military force.

When Blair sat down with Bush at Camp David on Sept. 7, 2002, the president told him he had decided to seek a Security Council resolution demanding Iraqi compliance. Blair looked greatly relieved, according to Bob Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack," which was published last year. But then Bush looked Blair in the eye and warned that dealing with the Iraqi threat would still likely entail war.

"I'm with you," Blair replied, according to Woodward's book.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003. Many inside the British policy establishment still feel angry and bruised about the invasion and its aftermath. Analysts say the leak of the documents shows the depth of those feelings.

"No doubt from the British point of view Iraq has been a strategic blunder -- not just a mistake, but a mistake that we're still paying for," said Clarke, of King's College. "Still, while no one in government would ever say it, the rationale from the British point of view is that our strategic relationship with the U.S. is more important than any single campaign we fight on its behalf. The basic calculation was: Right or wrong, it is in our interest to stand with the United States."

Staff writer Walter Pincus in Washington contributed to this report.

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