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10/23/2004

More Iraqi Security Forces

The increased targetting of the Iraqi police and National Guard is unabated, with at least seventeen security officers killed by two car bombs this morning. The BBC indicates that the number is twenty, sixteen near Ramadi and four near Samarra.

On other fronts, Knight Ridder reports that Allawi's government "has purged tens of thousands of unfit officers from the national police force in recent months." In a double whammy, KR highlights the incompetence of the CPA:

Those hired by the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority during the chaotic months after Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed are subject to particularly close scrutiny. As the United States scrambled to fill the security void, applicants were poorly screened, and legions of illiterates, convicted criminals and officers sympathetic to the insurgency were given uniforms and guns, Iraqi officials said.

Many of them have drawn paychecks for months while rarely appearing for work.

"The coalition forces made big mistakes after the fall of the regime when they dealt with our security systems. They didn't understand our culture and our needs. They kept hiring Iraqi police officers randomly, without checking their political and social backgrounds," said Qassim Daoud, the minister of state for national security.
While hinting at the specter of Allawi crafting a personal security force rather than a national security force:
Iraqi officials declined to discuss in detail how they were choosing which officers to expel, and they classified the employee reviews as a normal, ongoing process. But senior U.S. officials in Iraq said the review of police, particularly the force's leadership, was accelerating.
The piece doesn't explicitly note that possibility, but any opaque purge headed by Allawi must raise concerns. KR also notes that the Iraqis "put the [size of the] force at just 40,000," in contrast to the much large numbers claimed by Bush-Cheney (206,000), and that "much-touted efforts to hand off responsibility for security to Iraqi forces in order to put an Iraqi face on the U.S. occupation were deeply flawed and ineffective." Larger estimates, credibly in the high five figures, come from combining the National Guard, the police, and other internal security forces.

The 8/1/04 Doug Struck article in the Washington Post provides a baseline for determining progress with the security forces. The Slate/Fred Kaplan sidebar from 10/6/04 is also a good reference.

Update, 10/24/04, 10:01 AM EST: Juan Cole has more, including an attack on a Turkish truck convoy which killed two, the assassination of the chief of police in Arbil, and three assaults on oil pipelines (2 accomplished, one thwarted), seemingly intended to disrupt "Iraq's ability to provide fuel oil and gasoline to citizens." AFP reported the assassination of Arbil's chief of police, Col. Taha Ahmad Omar:
Unknown attackers opened fire on Omar, 51, said the head of police at the local KDP government, General Jamil Khodr.

"He was hit by eight bullets as he returned to his house after prayers," he said.
The NYT on the surge in violence:
A sharp spike in violence has taken place in the 10 days since the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Martyrs are said to accrue special benefits during the month. The American military has said attacks are up 25 percent daily, approaching the levels seen last April, when a two-front uprising roiled the country.

Goss Purge

Via Matt Yglesias, a KR story on Porter Goss's planned post-election purges of the IC. Apprently, he intends to replace "80 to 90 people" in the Directorate of Operations with new appointees, probably partisan Republicans. Given Goss's record, this shouldn't be surprising; Democrats have probably flubbed this as a political issue, but it segues nicely with the Levin Report. A vote for Bush is a vote for more Feith-based intelligence.

Update, 10/23/04, 5:22 PM EST: See also Laura Rozen. I think she is being overly generous to Goss & Co., dismissing the planned purge as "tough-guy tactics masquerading as intelligence reform." Goss has a long record of partisanship, and his only major move thus far was to replace four professionals with Republicans. Goss isn't sending out "reformer" signals, he's sending out "Republican" signals.

We need partisans in the IC, but they need to be partisans of the reality based community.

Update, 10/24/04, 12:34 PM EST: The CIA is apparently not very please with Goss:

Meanwhile, a Democratic campaign official confirmed a Financial Times report yesterday that Rand Beers, national security adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, said that the new CIA director, Porter J. Goss, would "likely" be asked to resign if Kerry wins the presidency on Nov. 2. "It is to be expected," the official said, noting that other political appointees to that post, including onetime CIA director George H.W. Bush, who later became president, were also asked to leave.

"Kerry ought to announce that publicly," a former CIA official said yesterday, "because it would get him votes among agency employees." They resent Goss bringing as aides a handful of GOP staff members from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which he had chaired. [WP]
The Financial Times article is available here.

Effective Counterinsurgency Tactics?

Col. Dana J.H. Pittard seems to have an effective strategy [AP]. He is working in an undeniably tough region, but using smart tactics for good results.

Unfortunately, while the AP notes that he is open to different opinions, some of his actions suggest otherwise [see also Phil Carter].

Of course, he's a former Clinton Military Aide.

10/22/2004

More on Archbishop Chaput

I don't want to get bogged down in the mire of abortion politics, but just a couple more quick observations on Chaput's op-ed. Suppose Republicans proposed to outlaw poverty, then campaigned as the "anti-poverty" party. Would Catholics be obliged as a matter of faith to vote for those candidates? I realize that conservative Catholics think fighting poverty pales in comparison to outlawing medical procedures, but the real question is how do you get there from here? Political decisions, including who a person votes for, have to at least consider political reality. In the real world, supporting candidates like Kerry result in reduced abortions. There is a gap between the idea of legal prohibition and real world implication, a gap conservatives aren't usually shy about pointing out. That gap matters every bit as much in considerations of political morality as in policy decisions.

The part of Chaput's op-ed that originally piqued my interest wasn't his theologial argument, but his argument about the nature of democracy:

Lawmaking inevitably involves some group imposing its beliefs on the rest of us. That's the nature of the democratic process. If we say that we "ought" to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody's ought becomes a "must" for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it's how pluralism works.

Democracy depends on people of conviction expressing their views, confidently and without embarrassment. This give-and-take is an American tradition, and religious believers play a vital role in it. We don't serve our country - in fact we weaken it intellectually - if we downplay our principles or fail to speak forcefully out of some misguided sense of good manners.

People who support permissive abortion laws have no qualms about imposing their views on society. Often working against popular opinion, they have tried to block any effort to change permissive abortion laws since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That's fair. That's their right. But why should the rules of engagement be different for citizens who oppose those laws?
This argument is a trashing of the government action/inaction dichotomy. It is theoretically basically accurate, and I am in favor of discarding this distinction in some spheres, particularly in economic matters - "deregulation" is invariably reregulation, for instance, and pretending that it is a reversion to a less active form of government is mere casuistry.

But on more explicitly moral issues, the distinction retains considerable value, and should be retained. When questions of legislating morality arise, we should conceive of them as having three options: siding with a, siding with b, or reserving judgment. Reserving judgment, in a Liberal political system, usually entails government inaction. On abortion, inaction is equivalent to the pro-choice position.

Republican by Faith

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has an op-ed in the NYT attacking pro-choice Catholics:

For Catholics to take a "pro-choice" view toward abortion contradicts our identity and makes us complicit in how the choice plays out. The "choice" in abortion always involves the choice to end the life of an unborn human being. For anyone who sees this fact clearly, neutrality, silence or private disapproval are not options. They are evils almost as grave as abortion itself. If religious believers do not advance their convictions about public morality in public debate, they are demonstrating not tolerance but cowardice.
Chaput has been a leading figure in the charge that Kerry shouldn't receive communion and that Catholics must support "pro-life" candidates.
Candidates who claim to be "Catholic" but who publicly ignore Catholic teaching about the sanctity of human life are offering a dishonest public witness. They may try to look Catholic and sound Catholic, but unless they act Catholic in their public service and political choices, they're really a very different kind of creature.

And real Catholics should vote accordingly.
The NYT recently wrote about Chaput:
For Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado, there is only one way for a faithful Catholic to vote in this presidential election, for President Bush and against Senator John Kerry.

"The church says abortion is a foundational issue,'' the archbishop explained to a group of Catholic college students gathered in a sports bar here in this swing state on Friday night. He stopped short of telling them whom to vote for, but he reminded them of Mr. Kerry's support for abortion rights. And he pointed out the potential impact his re-election could have on Roe v. Wade.

"Supreme Court cases can be overturned, right?" he asked.

Archbishop Chaput, who has never explicitly endorsed a candidate, is part of a group of bishops intent on throwing the weight of the church into the elections. Galvanized by battles against same-sex marriage and stem cell research and alarmed at the prospect of a President Kerry - who is Catholic but supports abortion rights - these bishops and like-minded Catholic groups are blanketing churches with guides identifying abortion, gay marriage and the stem cell debate as among a handful of "non-negotiable issues."
I'm certainly not qualified to dispute the Archbishop's theological arguments (thought they are dramatically different from what I learned at my conservative Catholic high school). His logic, though, is another story. The question: does electing politicians with the legal and political positions on abortion held by President Bush constitute a moral good in itself? Or is the key question actually the impact a politician has on the rate of pregnancy termination? Is it the number of abortions or the political posturing of the candidate that is most important? Abortion rates have increased during Bush's term.

10/21/2004

Insurgents infiltrated Iraqi National Guard

The AP, reporting "new details" from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers:

In some cases, members of the Iraqi security services have developed sympathies and contacts with the guerrillas; in other cases, infiltrators were sent to join the groups, the official said.

The official pointed to a mortar attack Tuesday on an Iraqi National Guard compound near Baghdad as a probable inside job. The attackers apparently knew precisely when and where the unit's members were gathering and dropped mortar rounds in the middle of their formation. At least four Iraqis were killed and 80 wounded.

U.S. military analysts foresee little chance of the insurgency evaporating during the next few years, the official said. Attacks have increased by about 25 percent since the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began last weekend, with most of the attacks car bombs and strikes on civilians, rather than direct assaults on U.S. forces.
The assassination attempt on the commander of the ING also appears to have had inside coordination [see Update 2].

Great Kerry Speech

Wow. Just wow. Everyone should read this speech.

Israeli Far Right

The possibility of Rabin-redux, an assassination of an Israeli PM by a far right settlement defender, has recently been raised by former PM Shimon Peres.

Sharon's plan, though supported by a strong majority of Israelis in opinion polls, has infuriated many in his hard-line Likud Party and his former allies in the settlers' movement.

Opponents recently have begun waging strident verbal attacks on the prime minister. Opposition leader Shimon Peres said they are reminiscent of the poisonous political climate that preceded that 1995 assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Now comes a more comprehensive Christian Science Monitor piece on the possibility of far right Israeli soldiers refusing to follow orders requiring the removal of settlers.

Very disconcerting. See also BBC, CSM.

Levin Report

Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has released a report [PDF] on pre-war intelligence. The report claims that the Iraq-Al Qaeda relationship was "exaggerated by high ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the Administration's decision to invade Iraq when the intelligence assessments of the Intelligence Community did not make a sufficiently compelling case." The report lays the blame squarely on Doug Feith's Office of Special plans:

This report shows that in the case of Iraq's relationship with al Qaeda, intelligence was exaggerated to support Administration policy aims primarily by the Feith policy office, which was determined to find a strong connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, rather than by the IC, which was consistently dubious of such a connection. [Levin Report 2]
The entire report is damning. It notes the Bush administration's long-held desire to invade Iraq, relying on Suskind and O'Neill's Price of Loyalty, Woodward's Plan of Attack, Clarke's Against All Enemies, and the 9/11 Commission report. Some key arguments:
  1. That Feith's office undertook the intelligence review, rather than an IC agency, "suggests a determination to reach a particular conclusion." [13] Feith's office, promoting it's "hypothesis in search of evidence," "advanced the DOD perspective in two ways: by attempting to change the IC's views (or at least the content of IC products), and by taking its interpretation straight to policymakers, including in the White House." [14]

  2. Feith's office undertook significant efforts to influence IC work product. These included sending staff to IC meetings, criticizing the "tone" of IC product, pushing for greater emphasis on discarded or already considered intelligence:
    ...Feith's staff requested, both verbally and in written form, at least 32 changes to the draft [of the CTC report Iraq and al Qaida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship], including inserting raw intelligence reports that had previously been omitted, deleting others, and altering the characterization of certain issues and raw reporting. Although the substance of all the related documents remains classified, a comparison of the Feith staff's requests for changes to the final report indicates that half of the changes they advocated were made, either as requested or with caveats. Specifically, 16 changes were made, 14 were not, and for 2 the outcome is indeterminate. [15-16]
    The trick, as the Levin report makes clear, was to get dubious intelligence reports into the documents; analysis which caveated them was casually ignored.

  3. Feith's office stovepiped raw intelligence to decision makers. Feith's office prepared a report entitled "Assessing the Relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" and gave it to Rumsfeld, Tenet and Cheney. The report included a reference to Atta in the version presented to Cheney, but omitted it as presented to Tenet. [16-17]
    ...unbeknownst to the IC, policymakers were getting information that was inconsistent with, and thus undermined, the professional judgments of the IC experts. The changes included information that was dubious, misrepresented, or of unknown import. [22-23]
  4. Feith's office advanced baseless criticisms of IC product. [18-22] These criticisms were that the IC was applying too high an evidentiary standard, was insufficiently wary of deception, and put too much weight on the fact that Al Qaeda was unlikely to cooperate with the secular Hussein regime.

  5. The IC was unaware of the stovepiping.
    Under Secretary Feith never informed the IC that he was taking the briefing they saw (with the addition of the slide critical of the IC and two other slides) to the White House. In fact, DCI Tenet had been unaware of the Feith staff September 2002 briefing to the White House until February 2004, when Senator Levin raised the issue at an SSCI hearing. [24]
  6. Feith's office acted dishonestly and dishonorably in the handling of the memo that was leaked to Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard. Feith's office prepared the memo for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and promptly leaked it to Hayes. The IC looked at the memo after it became a public issue, and sent a list of corrections to Feith's office. Feith's office sent a purportedly "corrected" memo to the Senate Select Armed Services Committee, but it did not alter significant errors highlighted by the IC, particularly those related to the alleged explosives training proffered to Al Qaeda by Hussein and concerning Zarqawi's ties to Hussein [26-29].

  7. The administration relied on Feith's conclusions rather than IC findings. The Levin report includes 13 pages of quotes from administration officials and discussion of how they reflected Feith's views rather than the views of the IC. [30-43]

  8. DOD was not cooperative with the SASC investigation. The final page [46] is an appendix of reports requested from DOD but not received.
Any debate on intelligence reform must address the dangers of politicization - when an administration wants to go to war, it must not be able to gin up a rationale. Senator Levin has done us all a service in releasing this report at this time.

AFP coverage.

Update, 10/22/04, 10:11 AM EST: The NYT has a good Doug Jehl write up of the report. It notes the dishonest "correction" of the Hayes memo:
The Levin report also disclosed for the first time that the C.I.A., in December 2003, sent Mr. Feith a letter pointing out corrections he should make to the document before providing it to Senator Levin, who had requested the document as part of his investigation.

Perhaps most critically, the report says, Mr. Feith repeated a questionable assertion concerning a Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Qaeda ally whose presence in Iraq was cited by the Bush administration before the war as crucial evidence of Mr. Hussein's support for terrorism.
Greg Miller's LAT article also focuses on the fake "corrections," as does the AP story:
In his report, Levin said the CIA requested a number of corrections to a memo written by Feith and provided to some senators in 2003, before the memo could be distributed widely to the Senate armed services panel.

But, Levin's report says, crucial changes requested by CIA were not made, including adequate alterations to information about the credibility of a source who provided raw intelligence on the Iraq-al-Qaida link. Levin suggests the changes would have weakened evidence of a link.
AP includes the standard "politiciztion" defense, this time citing Sen. John Cornyn calling it "a partisan effort to influence the election." Oddly, Sen. John Warner attempts to rebut the report by citing some of the Feith shop's disputed interpretations:
While much information remains classified, Warner noted that Iraq has been on the State Department's list of terror sponsors since 1990 and has a history of support for terror groups that attack Israel. Warner also said that there is evidence of contacts between Saddam's regime and groups and individuals associated with al-Qaida.
No one doubts this - the question has always been the relationship to Al Qaeda. Feith's office claimed this evidence indicated cooperation between Hussein and AQ - the IC disagreed. The Bush administration sided with Feith, even though the matter is one of intelligence, not policy.

Reuters has a bland release which implies politicization, reflecting the official DoD response:
The Levin report appears to depart from the bipartisan, consultative relationship that exists between the Department of Defense and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Department cooperated carefully with Senator Levin’s investigation, knowing that Senator Levin might decide, as he did, not to seek a unanimous -- or at least bipartisan -- report.
The Weekly Standard responded to the pointed criticism in the report first by republishing a Stephen Hayes hit piece on Senator Levin, then following it up this morning with a Stephen Hayes penned attack on the report. He doesn't bother to mention that he was singled out, by name, in the report.

Update, 10/22/04, 10:46 AM EST: Steve Clemons half-heartedly comes to the defense of Feith, worrying that he is the "Lyndie England" of the intelligence mess. He's right, to the extent that the buck can't stop with Feith. He was simply the guy most willing to give the administration higher ups what they wanted - the cheapest intelligence whore. The Johns still need to be held accountable.

Matt Yglesias flags the report, promising more later. Laura Rozen at War and Piece provides highlights while also promising more.

Update, 10/24/04, 10:55 AM EST: I missed yesterday's NYT editorial on the report:
For those who were confused before the war, and still are, by all the Bush administration's claims - that the hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official shortly before 9/11, that a member of Al Qaeda set up a base in Iraq with the help of Mr. Hussein, that Iraq helped Al Qaeda learn to make bombs and provided it with explosives - the evidence is now clear. The Levin report, together with the 9/11 panel's findings and the Senate intelligence report, show that those claims were all cooked up by Mr. Feith's shop, which knew that the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency had already shown them to be false.

We don't know exactly how much of that the White House knew because Mr. Feith tried to confuse things. He eliminated points that the C.I.A. disputed when he showed the intelligence agency his report, and he put them back in when he sent it to the White House.
Last night the AP was provided a copy of a letter Feith wrote to Levin immediately prior to the release of the report. Feith takes umbrage at the accusation of politicization and denies that he misled Congress about his consideration of CIA "corrections" to his report. His defense would be stronger if DoD had cooperated with the investigation.

Failure of Global Test

Mark Goldberg at Tapped has it exactly backward in his post on the British redeployment decision. He worries that the decision "suggests an endorsement [by Tony Blair] of the Bush administration’s strategy for 'winning the peace' in Iraq." Fortunately, it doesn't. The question presented to Blair and Great Britain is whether they should redeploy their troops to the Baghdad suburbs given that the we are preparing our troops for an assault on Fallujah. If Mr. Goldberg thinks that Tony Blair has enough say over on the ground strategy in Iraq to stop a full assault on Fallujah, he is probably mistaken. If Mr. Goldberg thinks that a British refusal to redeploy would cause the US to forego an assault on Fallujah, he is probably mistaken. Our troops are going in no matter what, the only question presented to Blair is if redeploying his troops will help mitigate the possible disastrous outcome of the attack. I suspect it will, and I am personally grateful that the Brits made the decision they did.

The story of the redeployment controversy is the story of American credibility. This is a tactical decision that should have been made on the ground by military commanders. In a "real" world, it should be inconceivable to anyone, much less our staunchest ally, that America would make this decision on partisan political grounds. Yet they do believe it, and I certainly can't fault them for that - they would be idiotic not to be concerned about it. George Bush has failed the global test, the test of credibility - not even GBR can, or should, take us at our word.

Bagram Conditions

It looks like conditions are Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan have improved remarkably.

Noor Wali Khan, a 37-year-old waiting at a Kabul bus station, said he was well fed in his time at Bagram and showed reporters a copy of the Quran presented to him on his release.

"I wasn't beaten or threatened in the jail, the atmosphere was OK," he said. "We had two showers a week, but unfortunately the water was cold. That was a bit uncomfortable for us."
That sounds like a dramatic change from Dec. 2002. The Washington Post's original story is still the the most informative.

Superfund Projects Unfunded

Acting assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Thomas P. Dunne responded to a letter from Reps. John D. Dingell and Hilda L. Solis, informing tham that thirty-four Superfund projects in nineteen states will not be funded this year.

According to Knight Ridder, "Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent" during Bush's term. Cleanup of listed sites has slowed, as has the rate of listing. Funding for Superfund is woefully inadequate, due in large part to Bush's unwillingness to revive the "polluter pays" mechanism. A Senate vote on the reinstatement of polluter pays failed last March.

This 2/04 Sierra Club - US PIRG Factsheet [PDF] is an excellent resource on the issue.

10/20/2004

Fischer on the Admittance of Turkey into the EU

It's hard to overstate the symbolic importance of Turkey's admission to the EU, but Fischer may have done it:

"To modernise an Islamic country based on the shared values of Europe would be almost a D-Day for Europe in the war against terror," he said.

"It would be the greatest positive challenge for these totalitarian and terrorist ideas."
His comments are probably directed toward the French, who are hesitant. Greece and GBR have been similarly supportive of Turkey's admittance, though with slightly less grandiose analogies.

German use of D-Day analogies is rather peculiar.

Update, 10/21/04, 12:10 PM EST: Fischer's use of the analogy is perhaps explained by this. Salon has a more comprehensive look at Fischer's geopolitical worldview.

Oil Curse

Transparency International has released its 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index. It draws attention to the oil curse:

"As the Corruption Perceptions Index 2004 shows, oil-rich Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen all have extremely low scores," said Mr Eigen.

"In these countries, public contracting in the oil sector is plagued by revenues vanishing into the pockets of Western oil executives, middlemen and local officials," he added.
Update, 10/21/04, 12:41 PM EST: Nigeria is not happy with its treatment in the report. They think the report should acknowledge Nigeria's serious efforts to crack down on corruption. Other countries have reacted: Turkey; India; Canada; South Africa; Israel; Russia; Philipines; Ghana; Qatar; Kenya; Bahrain; Malaysia; Australia; Jamaica; Ireland, and on.

10/19/2004

Social Security is not a Welfare System

Brad Delong and Matt Yglesias have commented on Tyler Cowen's Social Security post at Marginal Revolution. Neither have noted Mr. Cowen's egregious comment:

I think of social security as having two parts: a welfare system for old people, plus a regime of forced savings for the young. The Bush plan cuts back on the welfare angle, but also would put the forced savings in the private sector.
Social Security is not a welfare program. Those who are currently receiving benefits and those who will receive benefits in the foreseeable future have participated in the system their entire lives. The payroll tax is one end of a bargain, the other being a secure minimum retirement income.

I agree with Mr. Cowen that social security reform needs to include an honest discussion about means testing - sometimes contracts can't be performed. Starting with the premise that it is a "welfare system" is not going to produce that debate.

British Redeployment Controversy

The British are still roiled in a debate over the US request that the British redeploy some of their troops around Baghdad, to replace US forces that will focus on Fallujah in the run-up to the Iraqi elections. The British are concerned both that the redeployment is designed to benefit President Bush's reelection and that their "troops could become associated in Iraqi minds with US methods." [NB: quote is from Robin Cook] Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is trying to reassure the British public that the move has a "very clear operational justification," but there is widespread distrust of US motives:

But most anger was felt on Labour's backbenches, with Glenda Jackson MP accusing the government of providing "mercenaries for a Republican army".

Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner said the government was handing President Bush a "lifeline" and an "oxygen cylinder" by freeing up American troops for a pre-election offensive.
Not just backbenchers are balking:
The criticism came not just from the war's long-standing critics, but from several of Blair's most ardent Labor Party loyalists. They contended that their leader is being dragged into a Vietnam-style quagmire by his close ally, President Bush.

"The United Kingdom has given 110 percent on this issue, and some of us have provided political cover and support for this government," said Andrew Mackinlay, a Blair supporter. He warned the government "not to try to stretch the envelope too much. . . . Some of us will not stomach it."

Gerald Kaufman, another Labor loyalist, raised "the possibility of United Kingdom forces risking their lives being exploited politically in a closely fought United States election."
Blair himself has had to deny an ulterior political motive. On Sunday, "thousands" marched in London to protest the war.

It looks like the British will agree to the redeployment, but Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says that the final determination won't be made until Thursday, after British troops have reconnoitered the area.

Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that Bush has failed the "global test."

Update, 10/20/04, 8:35 AM EST: 45 anti-war Labor MPs are calling for a Commons vote on the redeployment.

Update, 10/21/04, 12:37 PM EST: Reuters has more on the 45 Labor MPs that want a vote on the redeployment:
Some media reports say the soldiers will see action in days, others that the move will now be delayed until after the U.S. election in order to assuage doubts at home.

Blair insisted there was no political calculation, only a military one. "The recommendation will come from our military and on the basis of that recommendation a final decision will be made," he said.

No decision is likely before a cabinet meeting Thursday and it could take longer.

Either way, Blair faces real disquiet within his Labor party, not just from those who did not support war in the first place, but from many who now regret their decision to vote for it.

"Doesn't the prime minister believe the hole he has dug over Iraq is big enough ..," asked Labor parliamentarian Marsha Singh. "Isn't it high time we stopped digging?"

Blair rejected his call. "What we have to do is stand firm and see it through and we will," he said. "We have to create the conditions in which fair elections ... can take place."

Singh is far from alone. A group of 45 Labor parliamentarians has signed a motion demanding a vote on the U.S. request.

General John McColl, the top British officer in Iraq, has said no decision to deploy the troops had yet been taken.

A UK reconnaissance team was on the ground this week studying the prospects for UK troops moving north from their relatively calm southern Basra base.

"We have had an initial report but we are awaiting a full report. There would be no question of a decision being taken in advance of that recce (reconnaissance) being done," McColl told BBC Radio.
It is extraordinarily disquieting that our most faithful ally trusts us so little. AP and AFP had similar stories.

Nonetheless, it looks like the Brits will redeploy. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, apparently after looking at the recon, says GBR will accede to the US request:
"After careful evaluation, the chiefs of staff have advised me that UK forces are able to undertake the proposed operation, that there is a compelling military operational justification for doing so, and that it entails a militarily acceptable level of risk for UK forces," Mr Hoon said.
The Guardian confirms.

Attacks on Iraqi Security Forces

Nothing is more important to the success of our Iraqi misadventure than the creation of a viable Iraqi security force. Unfortunately, Iraqi insurgents understand this, and appear to have stepped up their attacks on the guardsmen-in-training. Saturday the Ansar al-Sunnah Army ambushed and killed nine Iraqi police returning from training in Jordan:

The group, which has claimed responsibility for a number of recent kidnappings, said on its Web site that a number of its "lions" ambushed the nine "traitor policemen who were on their way back from Jordan, where they took part in a training session for the personnel of the traitor Iraqi police force."

The "heroic mujahdeen opened fire and killed them all," said the statement, posted Monday. It said attacks would continue through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began Friday, and warned people working with the U.S.-led forces, calling them "servants to the crusaders."
Sunday insurgents killed seven policemen with a car-bomb outside a Baghdad café [Reuters]. This morning an Iraqi National Guard base 40km north of Baghdad was hit by mortars, and 4 guardsmen were killed and over eighty injured.

The training of the Iraqi National Guard is not going well. According to the Telegraph, insurgent infiltration is common, and the US troops tasked with training are attempting the impossible:
The marines are convinced that the ING knows where many of the IEDs are planted, and even say they have caught guardsmen in the act of laying mines. When joint patrols come under attack, they say, the ING simply refuses to fight. As the relationship worsens, more and more ING are simply refusing to turn up at work. Of the 140 guardsmen based at Karmah an average of between 40 and 60 turn up on any given day. At other CAP barracks, that number is sometimes as low as two. Since the arrest of the Karmah ING captain, the rapport has become even more sullen. The marines sit under canvas shelters, convinced that the guardsmen lurking in their dormitories are traitors and murderers.

"We know when this place is about to come under mortar attack because the ING suddenly disappear," one marine said, staring across the dusty compound at two guardsmen smoking on a wooden bench. "We are supposed to be fighting together, instead we are sleeping with the enemy."
Update, 10/20/04, 7:52 AM EST: Juan Cole has more specifics on the mortar attack, from the Bahrain Gulf Daily News. He also links to this AP story, which leads:
The Iraqi capital is still far short of the numbers of Iraqi policemen needed to secure it and the force won't be up to strength in time for national elections in January, the U.S. general in charge of security in Baghdad said Tuesday.
In another incident, the AP reports that on Sunday a car bomb in Baghdad killed three Iraqi police, three civilians, and wounded 26 others.

Update, 10/20/04, 8:31 AM EST: Today's NYT provides a harrowing look at Tuesday's sophisticated insurgent attempt to assassinate the commander of the Iraqi National Guard.

 

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