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02 May 2007


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Went to see the British general who was at CPA -- deputy CDR for Sanchez. Briefed him. Came back after whatever he did to get with Sanchez - answer was "you aren't going tog et support for this initiative. Drop it."

Would have been Major-General John McColl at the time. Not a good day at the office from him, it seems.


One problem that I see is that these guys on the ground did not know what their real mission was because Bush-Cheney-Rummy did not inform them after they ordered the invasion of Iraq and did not get greeted with flowers.

They had a bunch of neocon political hacks with the right connections in Rove's Republican party who got all the "remake a country" project positions.

It's apparent now that no one was given the mission to prevent AQI which did not exist prior to the invasion. The arrogance and deceit is just unbelievable!

And will there ever be an accountability moment?? Not in DC I'm afraid - unlike in Israel. Halutz and his airpower theories is gone. The pressure on Olmert and Peretz is mounting each day. This is what is needed - those that play with peoples lives need to be held to account! The American people botched it in 2004. That was when these guys should have been dealt with. We need to take responsibility for our failure to act in Nov 2004.


What a shame.

But what's a pillar head?


The Iraq Debacle and the 2004 re-election of George W Bush are failures of the democratic institutions within the United States caused by radical ideology and the corporate media monopoly. The White House and the Pentagon are consumed with magical thinking. The media beats the drums of war.

The debacle wasn't caused by the failure to sign up the Bedouin tribes or no counterinsurgency program. But, instead, from the top on down, the USA was going to kick Muslim Ass. They imposed their free market ideology on Iraqis. When the occupiers are torturing, imprisoning and bankrupting a people, human nature is to resist. Yet, the White House and the Pentagon refuse to even acknowledge there is an Iraqi Resistance.

The Occupation is doomed. There are not enough troops on the ground. It is morally bankrupt and ignores the history of the 20th Century. The USA will withdraw from Iraq because the White House and the Pentagon lied to the American people.

The Bush II Administration is the worst in American history because at their core the Party is more important than the State.


Absolutely we need accountably for the monumental screw-ups, but we're not going to get it. There was an election in 2006 in which the American public made their anger clear. This cabal still rules. I've lost my faith in the American public to do much of anything. "Man the barricades! Oh, wait, it's American Idol night."

anna missed

Remarkable story, and another lesion on the leper CPA. When does being counterproductive actually evolve into working for the enemy?

Duncan Kinder

Oil guys were worried that we intended to take over their security.

This speaks volumes and relates to my prior comment on another threat to the effect that Che Guevara type guerillas' efforts backfire because they are not solving problems but just stirring up trouble.

It is a subtle question, in assessing such issues, to determine just who is zooming whom. If the central government is the zoomer, then the guerillas would be responding to a complaint. If the central government is the zoomee, then the guerillas would be troublemakers.

It makes no difference in assessing this whether we subjectively approve or disapprove of the government's or the guerillas' aims. For example, we may prefer the role of women to approximate that of the Modern West, but a central government that attempts to impose such a role upon an unwilling tribal society would be a zoomer, not a zoomee. This is an objective distinction; our subjective desires are irrelevant.

According to the message Col. Lang has sent, CPA authorities were out to remake Iraq and were being influenced by Western oil interests. This suggests that they were zoomers - and this is so regardless of our subjective evaluation of the merits of their goals.


Apparently watching "Lawrence of Arabia" was banned by the Bush Administration.

That seems to be so. pl


An intimate account of a CPA Governor who did work with the tribes in Anbar very intimately and for the most part successfully is given by the wiser-than-his-30-years-of-age Rory Stewart in The Prince of the Marshes, his account of one year's dedicated service to the Iraqi people. Anyone without direct experience would greatly expand their knowledge and horizons by reading this very straightforward yet detailed account. It relates in intimate detail a year spent struggling with the Marsh Arab tribes to reconcile their many disparate interests(mostly defeating their rivals by guile and force to establish their own primacy) to promote inclusive, effective governance, security, and economic revival notwithstanding the gibberish coming out of Bremer's CPA.

His last day out, he was kissed on both cheeks by a Sheik with whom he'd valiantly attempted to engage all year. The Sheik had just spent the preceding 24 hours leading his militia in an all out assault on the local CPA compound, where Stewart, his colleagues and some military huddled as mortars were walked up to the front door, waiting in vain for the feckless Italians tasked with security to engage the mob, the mortars and snipers. Eventually, they were evacuated to the airport and Italian base in Italian APC's, their tours over.

It is a gripping travelogue and non-judgmental account of attempting to work with things as they are on the ground, whilst CPA muckety-mucks from the Emerald City shuffled paper and presented powerpoint briefings of how Oz saw things. A real treat, and much more informative with regard to the perils of ignoring tribal realities than my other on-the-ground, but by a nonparticipant favourite to date, George Packer's "The Assassin's Gate".

Sarah Chayes's, a former NPR reporter who went native and opened her own NGO, account of working with the tribes in Kandahar in Afghanistan, "The Punishment of Virtue" is of equal quality, and highly recommended as well.

W. Patrick Lang


You old cynic! Still in your barrel, I see.

Seriously, it has been a while since I looked at all the claims and counter-claims about accounting and inspections so I have no idea what you are talking about. 6,000 what? pl

Frank Durkee

One is left with the profound impression that the top leadership was not deeply serious about their own ideology. It begins to take on the 'feel' of an impulsive and ego driven set of assumptions and actions, to be done because 9-11 provided a handy rationale.


I remember reading about 8 months ago in the NY Times an article about Anbar province and the status of AQ. It mentioned there were about 25 sheiks that wanted to rid their area of AQ. (I had previously heard that Saddam didn't spend time there because of tribal issues) At the time I thought that was great news. Let the Iraqis kick out the unwelcome foreigners. It's not like we can tell who's who there.
For some reason it never got any news play. Now it is being touted as a major success in this latest surge plan.

P.S. I found the article:
Published: September 18, 2006


Reread this just last night (accidentally):

"It is curious to find how many of the Bagdad notables are tribesmen, often only settled in the town for the last generation or two. Some sheikh builds himself a town house, sends his sons to school and starts them in a learned profession leading to Government employment. And at once they settle down into citizens. But the tribal links are unbroken. Any sheikh with business in the town looks by right to his kinsman's house for entertainment in the matter of daily meals -- a pretty expensive duty it is -- and if a member of the town family gets into trouble he will seek sanctuary with the tribe, safe in the assurance that he would never be given up. Several men I know fled to their tribe during the year before the Occupation, when the Ottoman hand was heavy on the Arabs of Bagdad. Most of these are now in our service and their tribal connection makes them all the more useful. We have a few really first-class Arab officials, just as we have found a few really first-class sheikhs who will assume responsibility and preserve order. There are not many of them, but such as there are, are invaluable. And we in our turn have an immense responsibility towards them... We are pledged here. It would be an unthinkable crime to abandon those who have loyally served us."

(February 8th, 1918)

I'd put my money on Gertie Bell well ahead of any of the Kagans and the rest of the blind camels.

W. Patrick Lang


Presume we must know each other.

IMO chemical weapons are not strategic in nature. Maybe this was an admin error. After all, the 3rd world is where nothing works well.

This does not seem like a good reason to go to war. pl


Seen this?

"Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death

"Noah Shachtman

"05.02.07 | 2:00 AM

"The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

"Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result."



Or this:

"Rumsfeld to Receive Statesmanship Award at 2007 Churchill Dinner"



Anbar-the granary. the province until 72' used to be called Ramadi after its capital.

US Army Captain Travis Patriquin presentation, "How to win in Al-Anbar"

Clifford Kiracofe

Christian Science Monitor is on the story:

"Like dominoes, tribes reeling from a campaign of killing and intimidation by Al Qaeda have been joining, one by one, the US-led fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq in this Sunni Arab province. Last month, US Gen. David Petraeus told Congress that violence was down significantly here and that the tribes were key to the transformation...."

Tim G

Sanchez's POLAD was a East European expert. Army still hasn't broken the code on this; look at the latest issue of Military Review where DOS wants to become the provider for tactical POLAD. What are FAOs for? Schlicher, not Schlecker, was charged with Sunni outreach and faced DC-imposed hurdles from the beginning. Hindsight is 20/20, but we should recall that certain Sunni tribes were the bulwark of Saddam's regime and Schlicher's instinct that this dynamic needed to be controlled was spot on. Who knows that would Sunni sheiks would do what we actually wanted them to once they got their weapons? We continiously underestimate the ability of local actors to manipulate their super power patrons.

W. Patrick Lang

Tim G

"Hope is not a plan," but neither is timidity. pl

Tim G


I would argue that this administration is anything but timid.

Thinking through second and third order of effects is not being timid, it shows due dilligence and forethought, which are the very themes you have been pressing on this blog.



Captain Patriquin USA, and Major Rachel McLung USMC were both Killed by an IED, while escorting press in Anbar (one of whom was Ollie North, of all people).

W. Patrick Lang

Tim G.

Ah, yes, but you must be bold AND "get it right." A"good try" is not good enough.

A good military thnker does think through the "down stream" effects of what is contemplated. The trick is to avoid being paralysed by fear of the possibilities once the "thinking through" has been done. What is the Harrison Ford quote? "Never tell me the odds!" what is meant by that is "Don't keep telling me the odds once I have decided that I am going to do something risky, in spite of the 2nd or 3rd order possibilities." "Who dares, wins." pl

Clifford Kiracofe

More coveraqe:

"A group of Sunni tribal leaders in beleaguered Al Anbar province said Thursday that it intended to form a national party to oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process.
The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said.
The driving force behind the new party, Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said in an interview that the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Al Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well as in the next round of national parliamentary balloting, scheduled for 2009.....
"Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said the "most important result may not be in the battlefield but in producing new Sunni voices that Shiites and Kurds can negotiate with." LATimes at

On the ground:

"But Lt. Col. Miciotto Johnson and Sheik Ahmed al-Rishawi have learned to rely on each other to quell the insurgency in this part of the city. Though no one will openly admit it, it’s believed that the Anbar sheiks lent tacit support to insurgents operating in the restive province just west of Baghdad. But now Johnson, commander of the Army’s Task Force 1-77 Armor, makes himself at home on the sheik’s property.
A burly man in a tan Army fire-retardant jumper, Johnson plops down on an oversized couch in an upstairs office in al-Rishawi’s vast compound, as much at ease here as he is in his battalion headquarters down the road at Camp Ramadi.
That’s because last September, al-Rishawi’s younger brother, Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi, launched the “Anbar Awakening,” a movement to stop the extreme violence here. Since then, the al-Rishawi tribe has been America’s ally in the attempt to break al-Qaida’s firm grip.
This afternoon, the elder al-Rishawi greets his American friend.
“We are brothers,” al-Rishawi says. “We fight as one hand." [note photo]: Atlanta Journal Constitution at

anna missed

Big mistake to assume the apparent fragmentation of the resistance and their attacks on AQ -- is the result of U.S. policy, or is even the beneficiary of it. AQ has been in a struggle with the resistance for control of the agenda. Its quite possible that AQ has developed into more of an irritant to the local population as opposed to becoming a model for it. And has in effect "soured the barrel" for base sympathies for the Sunni resistance itself. Getting rid of the AQ influence may then allow greater consolidation and trust to develop between the various indigenous resistance groups and their base. What may appear to effective influence (by the U.S.) may turn out, in the end, to be more indicative of a growth of resistance, as opposed to its fragmentation. That would have developed naturally anyway, without any participation by the U.S. at all.

Just when the U.S.celebrates a significant blow against AQ, they may find that in doing so, they have removed a ball and chain from the resistance.

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