January 08, 2004
Too High a Price to Pay

Jim Henley tells us what he really thinks about the war in Iraq: Unqualified Offerings: Nothing. Nada. Zip. - "Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper" writes the Post's Barton Gellman in an authoritative report. On the WMD front, the hawks seem now reduced to two claims: 1) Saddam was eeeeeeeeeeviiiillllllll! Stop asking about this stuff! 2) Saddam tried to bluff the world into thinking he had WMD. He succeeded and got wiped out for his troubles. Where's the problem? The first is actually the stronger argument., but it simply returns us to familiar should the United States expend blood and treasure toppling foreign tyrants? ground. Had the Administration thought that argument a winner they'd never have bothered pushing the WMD line in the first place. That leaves us with the second. We are faced with an immediate problem. Saddam's "bluff" consisted, in the main, of insisting his country had no WMDs. He furthered this bluff by having his government spokesmen say the same thing. To this, the hawks reply that these denials were pro forma, and the bluff was proven by his pattern of obstruction of the inspectors. Sticking purely to the post-resolution period, from October 2002 to March 2003,...

Posted by DeLong at 12:21 PM

A Full Division's Worth of Casualties

David Hackworth says that we have taken a full division's worth of casualties in Iraq so far: : ...Even I -- and I deal with that beleaguered land seven days a week -- was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me a copy of a Nov. 30 dispatch showing that since George W. Bush unleashed the dogs of war, our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq -- about the number of warriors in a line tank division. We have the equivalent of five combat divisions plus support for a total of about 135,000 troops deployed in the Iraqi theater of operations, which means we've lost the equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total number of Joes and Jills available to the theater commander to fight or support the occupation effort have been evacuated back to the USA! Lt. Col. Scott D. Ross of the U.S. military's Transportation Command told me that as of Dec. 23, his outfit had evacuated 3,255 battle-injured casualties and 18,717 non-battle injuries. Of the battle casualties, 473 died and 3,255 were wounded by hostile fire. Following are the major categories of the non-battle evacuations: Orthopedic surgery --...

Posted by DeLong at 12:17 PM

December 29, 2003
Oh Goody! Secret Trials!

This is not a good sign: Juan Cole * Informed Comment *: Saddam's trial is unlikely to be public, according to Iyad Alawi, member of the Interim Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Accord (mainly ex-Baathist officers who cooperated in 1990s CIA plots against Saddam). Alawi made the remarks in an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper. He said there would probably be no public trial because "it is possible that he will mention names of states or persons to whom he gave money . . ." Asked if Saddam had admitted to smuggling money abroad, Alawi replied, "He has begun to admit it. He has confessed to important things." [Saddam is thought to have squirreled $30 bn. or more away in secret accounts overseas.]......

Posted by DeLong at 07:01 AM

December 27, 2003
Department of "Huh?"

David Brooks's intellectual flameout continues: Op-Ed Columnist: Arguing With Oakeshott: ...ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves. Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq -- thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality. I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise. They are muddling through, devising shambolic, ad hoc solutions to fit the concrete realities, and that we'll learn through bumbling experience... It's not clear to me whether I had severely overestimated Brooks as a thinker in the past, or whether he is three standard deviations worse than average as a twice-a-week column writer. Whatever, he needs to think about bailing out of his New York Times job. It's just not working....

Posted by DeLong at 04:23 PM

December 14, 2003

Excellent news! Saddam Hussein is captured! BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Saddam Hussein arrested in Iraq: Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in US custody following his dramatic capture by US forces in Iraq.... Video footage apparently showing a dishevelled-looking Saddam with a long black beard in custody receiving a medical check up was shown at the press conference. Saddam Hussein was found following intelligence indicating he was at one of two possible locations south of Tikrit, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said......

Posted by DeLong at 07:35 PM

A Good Day in Iraq

A very good day in Iraq. A lot of people had been fearing (and a few hoping) that the U.S. occupation of Iraq would be like the Israeli occupation of Lebanon: that when they leave, the old bad guys would be back in charge. Now it's clear that isn't going to happen. Different guys will be in charge. Without Firing a Shot, U.S. Forces Detain Deposed Leader: ...As news of the capture spread, celebratory gunfire broke out all over Baghdad, and large crowds poured into the streets, especially along commercial strips like those in the Karada neighborhood. People were speaking ecstatically of the capture, hugging and shaking one another's hands. Earlier in the day, rumors of the capture sent people streaming into the streets of Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, firing guns in the air in celebration, The Associated Press reported. "We are celebrating like it's a wedding,'' a resident, Mustapha Sheriff, told the news agency. "We are finally rid of that criminal.'' Another resident, Ali Al-Bashiri, said: "This is the joy of a lifetime. I am speaking on behalf of all the people that suffered under his rule.''...

Posted by DeLong at 07:05 PM

December 01, 2003
Not Enough Body Armor

The Washington Post's Mike Allen learns that body armor (but not laptops) are still in insufficient supply among the American forces in Iraq: Pool Report on Bush's Baghdad Trip: 9:31 a.m. Washington time (5:32 p.m. local): Touched down [at Baghdad International Airport] in swift abrupt landing, but not the emergency spiral that had been prepared for. Press walked down dark stairs onto Tarmac. 10:50 a.m.: I had taken off my body armor to type, then saw a soldier I wanted to interview. I came back and my vest is gone. The laptop is still there....

Posted by DeLong at 04:52 PM

November 28, 2003
Matthew Yglesias Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Matthew Yglesias says that we all need to go read the New Yorker to learn what a pitiful shadow of a government the George W. Bush administration is: Matthew Yglesias: Plan A: those of us who were more open to military action appear to have allowed our appreciation for the merits of the pro-war arguments to blind us to the utterly despicable nature of the Bush administration.To put this another way, during the pre-war era I took it for granted that the administration understood that creating a mess in Iraq would not serve their political interests. Therefore, I reasoned, they wouldn't be so eager to do this unless they had a good plan for avoiding the mess. I was never so naive as to believe the promises of democracy, but creating something that was neither a mess, nor Saddam Hussein, would still be an improvement. That's what I thought. I was wrong:The Pentagon also spent time developing a postwar scenario, but, because of Rumsfeld's battle with Powell over foreign policy, it didn't coördinate its ideas with the State Department. The planning was directed, in an atmosphere of near-total secrecy, by Douglas J. Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, and...

Posted by DeLong at 06:03 PM

November 15, 2003
The Defense Department Does Not Like the Weekly Standard

The Defense Department does not like the Weekly Standard: DoD News: DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq ConnectionsDefenseLINK Template: News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate. A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community. The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission...

Posted by DeLong at 07:52 PM

November 12, 2003
Shooting Yourself in the Foot

How to create terrorists and alienate people: Mossad Chief: Invasion Has Created a Holy War: A former chief of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, has accused the United States and Britain of lack of foresight over the Iraq invasion and warned of even greater violence unless the civic infrastructure is established quickly. Major General Danny Yatom said the presence of Western forces in Iraq has presented the opportunity for a holy war, or jihad, by Islamists in a country surrounded by Muslim neighbours. Speaking during a visit to London, Gen Yatom said: "Colin Powell has always said that if the coalition went into Iraq, they had to get out. But it seems America did not have such a plan in place. They are lacking such a plan, and that is what is urgently needed now." The failure to restore basic amenities such as water and power has been one of the biggest obstacles to winning over the Iraqi people to "show that the democratic system works," said Gen Yatom, whose visit was organised by the group Friends of Hebrew University. "This must be a priority. It should not be too difficult; after all you don't have to go to the...

Posted by DeLong at 03:50 PM

November 09, 2003
What Is to Be Done in Iraq?

Last February left-wing European cosmopolite Daniel Davies asked if there was any reason to think that the Bush adventure in Iraq would not be a SNAFU: D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone: Can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics: It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it) It wasn't in some important way completely f***** up during the execution. Last April center-right American Daniel W. Drezner wrote: For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving.... Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road. Now comes...

Posted by DeLong at 05:12 PM

November 08, 2003
Ansar Al Islam

Robert Waldmann listens to Donald Rumsfeld talk about how we had to invade Iraq because dangerous terrorist groups like Ansar Al Islam used it as a base. (Although, of course, Donald Rumsfeld doesn't tell his interlocutors that Ansar Al Islam's base was in the Kurdish north where Saddam Hussein's writ did not run.) Robert then puzzles over why destroying Ansar Al Islam was not a higher priority for the U.S. military. He concludes: robert's random thoughts: It seems to me that [one reason] US forces in Iraq are in trouble [today is] because the Bush administration did not let minor objectives like catching terrorists by surprise get in the way of its "war on terrorism."...

Posted by DeLong at 03:48 PM

Saddam's Mass Graves

300,000 dead in mass graves... and that's a lower bound estimate: Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: AGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi and U.S. rights investigators said on Saturday they suspected Iraq had up to 260 mass graves containing the bodies of at least 300,000 people murdered by the former regime of Saddam Hussein. They told a conference that the task of identifying bodies and preparing evidence for tribunals could take years and millions of dollars, but the long process would be worth it to heal the wounds of three decades of brutal Baath Party rule. "We have reports of 260 mass graves and we have confirmed approximately 40 of them," said Sandra Hodgkinson, director of the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) mass grave action plan'. "We believe, based on what Iraqis have reported to us, that there are 300,000 dead and that's the lower end of the estimates. "In Bosnia it's now eight or nine years since similar atrocities and only 8,000 bodies out of 30,000 have been uncovered. Here in Iraq it's 300,000," said Hodgkinson, a human rights lawyer brought in by the CPA after U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam in April. More sites could still be found....

Posted by DeLong at 03:39 PM

November 04, 2003
Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? Part CCCXXV

Kevin Drum momentarily visits an alternative branch of the universe's quantum wave function in which things that Paul Wolfowitz says are true, in which "100,000 troops... [are] enough [to keep order in Iraq]. Occupation costs ... [are] low. Oil exports... amount to $15 billion or more. There's no ethnic strife in Iraq. Iraqis... welcome an American liberation force. Other countries — even France! — ... see the light and help out after the war is over." Calpundit: Wishful Thinking: WISHFUL THINKING....As I was Googling links for the post below, I came across this Eric Schmitt article for the New York Times from last February. In retrospect, it is nothing less than mind boggling, and a salutary reminder of what the administration was really telling us nine months ago. Here are some excerpts:Mr. Wolfowitz...opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction...

Posted by DeLong at 06:38 PM

They're Not Military Police

Edward Luttwak makes the point that the soldiers of the 4th Mechanized and 101st Airmobile Divisions are not military police: Op-Ed Contributor: So Few Soldiers, So Much to Do: ...Thus the number of troops on patrol at any one time is no more than 28,000 -- to oversee frontiers terrorists are trying to cross, to patrol rural terrain including vast oil fields, to control inter-city roads, and to protect American and coalition facilities. Even if so few could do so much, it still leaves the question of how to police the squares, streets and alleys of Baghdad, with its six million inhabitants, not to mention Mosul with 1.7 million, Kirkuk with 800,000, and Sunni towns like Falluja, with its quarter-million restive residents. In fact, the 28,000 American troops are now so thinly spread that they cannot reliably protect even themselves; the helicopter shot down on Sunday was taking off from an area that had not been secured, because doing so would have required hundreds of soldiers. For comparison, there are 39,000 police officers in New York City alone — and they at least know the languages of most of the inhabitants, few of whom are likely to be armed Baathist...

Posted by DeLong at 07:47 AM

November 02, 2003
Chinook Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq

Jim Henley puts it best: Unqualified Offerings: Anger, Sorrow - The poor bastards were heading off on leave. 16 dead, 20 wounded as of tonight. This was a helicopter crash caused by an exploding projectile, so you can just imagine what "wounded" means....

Posted by DeLong at 08:38 PM

October 13, 2003
Why Are We in Iraq?

The University of Michigan's Juan Cole thinks he knows: Juan Cole: %u201CThe Iraqi Shiites%u201D: The ambitious aim of the American war in Iraq... was to effect a fundamental transformation in Middle East politics. The war was not--or not principally--about finding weapons of mass destruction, or preventing alliances with al Qaeda, or protecting the Iraqi population from Saddam's terror. For U.S. policy makers the importance of such a transformation was brought home by the events of September 11, which challenged U.S. strategy in the region by compromising the longstanding U.S. alliance with Saudi Wahhabis. In response to this challenge, the Bush administration saw the possibility of creating a new pillar for U.S. policy in the region: a post-Baathist Iraq, dominated by Iraqi Shiites, which would spark a wave of democratization across the Middle East... The problem is that this explanation is as bonkers as all the other explanations. We are reasonably sure that very few people inside the Bush administration thought that the U.S. should attack Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and make the lives of the Iraqi people better--that would be Clintonesque nation-building, which George W. Bush said his administration "doesn't do." George W. Bush may have thought that Saddam...

Posted by DeLong at 10:03 AM

September 15, 2003
Notes: Unqualified Offerings on Our Current Clever Plan

Jim Henley talks about the Bush Administration's clever plans: Unqualified Offerings: Sticky Situations - Colin Powell says it's a problem that "[Iraq's] porous borders are attracting saboteurs intent on undermining" progress toward self-rule. But this isn't really a problem at all, according to proponents of the famous "flypaper thesis." It's supposed to be good for you. All the Islamist terrorists in the world flock to Iraq to fight the Great Satan, leaving the American, um, homeland unmolested and, in some versions, Israel too. There are only about a million problems with what its advocates call the flypaper "strategy." (A "strategy" is apparently an explanation you come up with to explain why what you did turns out to have been a brilliant idea even though it didn't work out like you said it would.) These problems range from the factual to the practical to the moral. First off, Powell offers "a rough estimate of 100 such infiltrators." Either this number is a woeful underestimate or flypaper simply isn't attracting all the world's Islamist nutcases, Osama Bin LadenAyman al-Zawahiri's injunctions notwithstanding. Second, just because some number of al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers flock to Iraq to attack US troops and sympathetic Iraqi...

Posted by DeLong at 07:15 AM

September 11, 2003
Jolly Good Show, MI-5 and MI-6!

The U.S. intelligence staff may have been corrupted by the Bush Administration, but it is nice to know that the British intelligence professionals were still telling it straight: FT.com Home US: A top secret assessment by British intelligence chiefs just before the war with Iraq warned that the likelihood of mass-destruction weapons falling into the hands of al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups would be increased by the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. The warning was made public on Thursday by a UK parliamentary committee investigating the intelligence used in the run-up to war. It raises new questions about how both the US and UK governments justified their decision to overthrow the Iraqi regime, particularly in light of the chaotic state of Iraq that has followed the regime's demise. US President George W. Bush and Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, warned repeatedly before the war that the gravest threat facing the world was the danger that tyrants such as Mr Hussein would offer mass destruction weapons to terrorist groups. But in a February 10, 2003 assessment prepared for the government, the UK's joint intelligence committee said "there was no intelligence that Iraq had provided [chemical or biological] materials to al-Qaeda...

Posted by DeLong at 03:19 PM

August 27, 2003
Joshua Micah Marshall Writes About Swamps

Joshua Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: Look at the difference thus far between Afghanistan and Iraq. In the first place, we drained the swamp. In the second, we've made the swamp. It's really that simple. Admittedly, that's an odd development from an administration so generally inimical to wetlands. But, you know, ironies abound. Bear in mind that the author of these words is a fairly convinced Wilsonian, a strong supporter of our interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, someone who's convinced that our values cannot be divorced from our national security interests, a believer in the power for good of American military might, and someone who thinks progressives who recoil at this administration's excesses should avoid the safe-harbor of foreign policy Realism (creeping Scowcroftism). But the White House is being run by men and women who've already made a lot of really stupid mistakes that are going to cost a lot of American lives, money and credibility. And now they're trying to hide from accountability in their own idiot abstractions....

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 AM

August 22, 2003
Josh Marshall Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Joshua Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: From the annals of artful verbal construction ... "Iraq is turning out to be a continuing battle in the war on terrorism." -- George W. Bush August 22nd, 2003 Sarcasm fails me ... Scarier still, I think there is a chance that George W. Bush actually believes what he says....

Posted by DeLong at 04:39 PM

August 19, 2003
U.S. Foreign Policy Is Fairly Unbalanced

There were always two big reasons to fear that an American invasion of Iraq would harm the national security of the United States. The first was the danger that Saddamist weapons of mass destruction would escape from the hands of the state terrorist (but deterrable) regime of Saddam Hussein into the hands of undeterrable non-state terrorists. This has happened: whatever weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein possessed (and I'm sure he possessed some) are now loose (which is why we are all praying that the Bush Administration was lying through its teeth and that Saddam had few such weapons). The second was the fear that U.S. invasion would produce a bunch of effective Al Qaeda recruitment videos. This appears to be going on as well: FT.com Home US: Increasing numbers of Saudi Arabian Islamists are crossing the border into Iraq in preparation for a jihad, or holy war, against US and UK forces, security and Islamist sources have warned. A senior western counter-terrorism official on Monday said the presence of foreign fighters in Iraq was "extremely worrying". A statement purportedly from al-Qaeda was broadcast on Monday by the Arab satellite television channel al-Arabiya. It claimed the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin...

Posted by DeLong at 09:04 AM

Edward Hugh Is Fair and Balanced

Edward Hugh is fair and balanced and living in Barcelona. In company with Elliot Oti, he tries to figure out just what is going on in Iraq: BONOBO LAND: Whither Iraq? Interesting question,and one which I think we may well be asking ourselves for some time to come. One of the biggest conundrums has been trying to actually sort out what the hell has been going on. This is one of the reasons I tried to keep my mouth wide shut during the whole Iraq crisis. Not being convinced by either the pro or the anti camp, I had a hard time figuring out what was happening (and I still do, Blair in the end swung it for me since - if there were no WMD's - I couldn't believe he would risk so much for so little. Incidentally, and this would be truly comic if it were not so tragic, didn't Idi Amin just die in Saudi Arabia?) As Elliott Oti points out "not privy to the deep wisdom of the US Administration, we proles have had to do the grunt work of rationalising the US's motives, from either a pro-war or pacifist viewpoint. Liberation, oil, revenge, neocon conspiracies...

Posted by DeLong at 08:18 AM

August 14, 2003
Military Logistics

A soldier in an MP company in Iraq: European and Pacific Stars & Stripes: Heat casualties: My name is Pfc. John Bendetti. I'm assigned to the 220th Military Police Company with the Colorado Army National Guard. We arrived in Kuwait one month before the war started. Just before the war ended, we were sent to Iraq. We arrived during the "winter" months. We've been living at Tallil Air Base. We're currently living off Meals, Ready to Eat, T-rations, and junk food from the local post exchange. We're also currently living without air conditioning. During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees in the shade. Due to more attacks on convoys, more items are becoming rare. Two examples are mail and bottled water. Our mail has been reduced to two times a week. Due to a lack of bottled water, each soldier has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a day. We've had two soldiers drop out due to heat-related injuries. A person with common sense knows that a normal person can't survive on three liters of water a day. One would think that the Army could coordinate with the Air Force and have supplies flown in from Kuwait. All...

Posted by DeLong at 09:46 AM

August 12, 2003
Bush-League Implementation

Last February Daniel Davies asked if there was any reason to think that the Bush adventure in Iraq would not be a SNAFU: D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone: Can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics: It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it) It wasn't in some important way completely f***** up during the execution. Now comes Daniel Drezner to say that the Bush Administration has created and is unlikely to be able to fix the SNAFU that is the reconstruction of Iraq: Daniel W. Drezner :: Why this administration is losing me on Iraq: The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted: "For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving." Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration: "Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear...

Posted by DeLong at 03:47 PM

July 23, 2003
From the Nelson Report

From the Nelson Report: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: As one Administration source put it, privately, today: "Between Tenet and Hadley, Condi now has the choice of saying she's a fool, or a liar…if not both. Bottom line is she failed to protect the President…look at all this lame stuff about him not being a 'fact checker'. It's just incredible." -- even before last week, a source close to the White House told us, "the President now sees that he's exposed on the intel problems. And he now sees who's been manipulating him, and he's not happy about it. No president likes to be embarrassed, but this stuff goes to the heart of all the reservations, pre-9/11, about his intelligence, his attention span, and his interest in foreign affairs." 12. Three weeks ago, this source speculated that it would be "difficult" for Bush to fire the senior officials responsible, for obvious reasons, since they would include Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Rice, at a minimum, and that Tenet seemingly had so ingratiated himself at the personal level, he could escape punishment. -- today, while no one wanted to speculate about Rummy and Cheney, in the absence of new disclosures,...

Posted by DeLong at 07:48 PM

More Probable Lies From the Bush Administration

A memo on October 6; a phone call from CIA Head George Tenet on October 7 telling you that the Niger uranium story is too soft to be put in a presidential speech--those simply aren't the kinds of things you forget if you are Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security. More important, those are the kinds of things you tell your boss. Anytime you have an important conversation with someone higher up than you in the information-flow hierarchy, you tell your boss what it was about. That's how competent bureaucracies work. OxBlog: THE DAILY SCAPEGOAT: Now that George Tenet has declined the honor, NSC #2 Stephen Hadley has become the administration's whipping boy du jour. According to today's WaPo, Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said that he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet last October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons.As a result, Hadley said the offending passage was excised from a speech on Iraq the president gave in Cincinnati last Oct. 7. But Hadley suggested that details from the...

Posted by DeLong at 09:28 AM

July 22, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXVI

Another Condoleeza Rice special. I'm beginning to think that the only reason she still has her job is that she has a lot of dirt to dish if she loses it... Best of the Blogs: As the Worm Turns"Carrying out civil administration and police functions is simply going to degrade the American capability to do the things America has to do. We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten." Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post, October 23, 2000 "U.S. Marines have lost a lot of soccer games. We don't really consider that we truly lost - a lot of goodwill was gained." Lt. Gen. James Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, on how his unit has avoided conflicts with locals by interacting continually with regular Iraqis - especially children. The Guardian, July 19, 2003...

Posted by DeLong at 12:32 PM

July 21, 2003
The First Refuge of a Scoundrel

The first refuge of a scoundrel, in this case William Safire: Whiskey Bar: Safire Now and Then: Bill Safire now [on Bush and Iraq]: Saddam's Guerrillas He [Saddam] presumes that British and American journalists, after the obligatory mention that the world is better off with Saddam gone, would -- by their investigative and oppositionist nature -- sustain the credibility firestorm. By insisting that Bush deliberately lied about his reasons for pre-emption, and gave no thought to the cost of occupation, critics would erode his poll support and encourage political opponents -- eager to portray victory as defeat -- to put forward a leave-Iraq-to-the-Iraqis candidate. Bill Safire then [on Clinton and Kosovo]: Clinton's Compulsion We have a President who has a problem: he lies when he doesn't really have to. This mysterious compulsion is not to be confused with the rational falsehood. His finger-wagging denial of a sexual relationship last year was designed to cut off further inquiry, and he could logically assume at the time he would not be contradicted by hard evidence. It was a calculated deception by a well-ordered brain. The deceptions this year are different. Not only were the misleading statements made about the weightiest matters --...

Posted by DeLong at 01:13 PM

Well, Yes. Obviously

Well, yes. Obviously. Now tell me: how was attacking Iraq supposed to increase the security of the United States again? Oct. Report Said Defeated Hussein Would Be Threat (washingtonpost.com): ...Last fall, the administration repeatedly warned in public of the danger that an unprovoked Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists. "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," President Bush said in Cincinnati on Oct. 7. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints." But declassified portions of a still-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released Friday by the White House show that at the time of the president's speech the U.S. intelligence community judged that possibility to be unlikely. In fact, the NIE, which began circulating Oct. 2, shows the intelligence services were much more worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military attack by the United States. "Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged...

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 AM

July 20, 2003
Notes: Forged Nigerian Uranium Documents

Forged Nigerien Uranium Documents...

Posted by DeLong at 02:13 PM

Yes, Virginia, America Is Worse Off

Irving Kristol writes: "Not that anyone in the Democratic party... dares to propose... that America is worse off now that Saddam is gone." But America is worse off. First of all, our alliances are now in shreds, and we badly need the active cooperation of our allies to defeat and suppress Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. For most of the past three decades the British government's attempts to keep the IRA and its enemies from killing lots of people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere were severely hobbled by the fact that the U.S. government regarded the IRA as Britain's problem, not ours. If our allies adopt a similar view--and ask why they should have to deal with the fact that we smashed open a hornet's nest with our attack on Iraq--we will be in significant trouble. Second, we may well have just convinced a lot of people around the globe that U.S. foreign policy is not a (moral) drive to suppress terrorist madmen but an (immoral) attempt to accomplish some large imperial mission. The next year or so will see the extent to which our attack on Iraq has gained Al Qaeda and its like more recruits and sympathizers....

Posted by DeLong at 11:29 AM

July 14, 2003
There Is Much Ruin in a Nation

I need to keep reminding myself that, as Adam Smith said, "there is much ruin in a nation." The amount of damage that these clowns have done to American national security in the past two and a half years is truly terrifying. But we are very strong, and very free. Not even they can put us into serious trouble. Pattern of Corruption by Paul Krugman ore than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq, which didn't have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn't supporting Al Qaeda. We have lost all credibility with allies who might have provided meaningful support; Tony Blair is still with us, but has lost the trust of his public. All this puts us in a very weak position for dealing with real threats. Did I mention that North Korea has been extracting fissionable material from its fuel rods? How did we get into this mess? The case of the bogus uranium purchases wasn't an isolated instance. It was part of a broad pattern of politicized, corrupted intelligence. Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley...

Posted by DeLong at 08:25 PM

July 13, 2003
Ill-Served by the NSC Staff

Joshua Micah Marshall reaches the judgment that the country is ill-served by the National Security Adviser, and by the National Security Council staff: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: I was most curious this morning to see Wolf Blitzer's interview with Condi Rice... it wasn't pretty -- certainly not on the level of substance, but not even on the level of presentation... the real question is... why others were pushing so hard to keep [bogus information] in. And the 'others'... were staffers in Rice's NSC. Rice's efforts... were, to put it mildly, pathetic. The fact that the CIA Director had to intervene personally with the Deputy National Security Advisor to get the bogus information out of an earlier speech raises the obvious question: just how many times did the Agency have to warn the White House off the bogus uranium claim before they got the message and stopped trying to put it into the president's mouth? Rice's efforts to answer these questions fell back on the same shambling claims that new information was becoming available between one incident and the next (if anything the opposite was true) or the endless repetition of her talking points that "it is sixteen...

Posted by DeLong at 03:20 PM

July 12, 2003
Mark Kleiman on Tenet...

Hard to understand why anyone in the White House thinks that George Tenet can be made responsible for this: Mark A. R. Kleiman: TENET TAKES THE FALLThis makes me think less of everyone involved. Reading between the lines, it's clear what happened: the WH speechwriters and the NSC staff put the b.s. assertion in, the CIA folks said it had to come out, the WH bludgeoned them into accepting the silly compromise where the false assertion was attributed to the Brits. So the White House folks make the CIA take the rap for not standing up to the White House, and Tenet goes along with it. Amazing!Note that "the CIA never briefed the Vice President" doesn't mean "the CIA never reported back to the VP's office on the investigation the VP had asked for." I don't know how the Bush White House manages to make seemingly self-respecting people crawl like this: first DiIulio, now Tenet. But it's pretty disgusting....

Posted by DeLong at 06:16 AM

July 11, 2003
You Can't Learn Something That Isn't True

Brian Weatherson writes: Crooked Timber: Getting Pedantic about the SOTU: ...Josh Marshall... the uranium claim in the State of the Union... one of the... qualifications he makes is that what Bush said was “technically true”.... But in any case the defence doesn’t hold up. For what it’s worth, Bush’s line wasn’t even technically true.... Josh has been attributing to Bush the line that the British said Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Africa.... But this isn’t in fact what Bush said. From CNN’s transcript of the SOTU: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." In any version of English I’m familiar with... [y]ou can’t learn something that’s false. I might come to believe that Sydney is the capital of Australia.... But I can't learn this unless Sydney really is the capital of Australia......

Posted by DeLong at 08:43 PM

More Lies from the Bush Administration

Yet another flat-out lie from the Bush administration: "Condoleezza Rice and other officials asserted this week that the president’s statement was justified.... They said the CIA never told the White House that the [Niger Uranium] claim was suspicious." Yet we also have: "U.S. officials told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that Tenet himself advised Rice’s top deputy, Steven Hadley, to remove a reference to the uranium report from a speech Bush delivered Oct. 7 in Cincinnati..." When the head of the CIA talks to the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security, that is the CIA talking to the White House. So are we supposed to believe that Condi Rice doesn't talk to her own deputy? Are we supposed to believe that George W. Bush doesn't care about the state of Iraq's nuclear weapons program? Tenet takes blame for uranium claim: ...THE WHITE HOUSE has mounted a spirited defense of Bush’s accusation that Baghdad sought uranium from an African later identified as Niger, even though it subsequently acknowledged this week that making the claim was a mistake.        National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and other officials asserted this week that the president’s statement was justified at the time...

Posted by DeLong at 08:18 PM

July 07, 2003
The Economist Sees Bad News on the Supply Side

As if the world economy needed another factor adding drag... Economist.com: MANY of those who advocated war in Iraq argued that it would be a relatively cheap exercise. After all, Iraq sits on the world’s second-biggest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia; even before the war, the country was thought to have a production capacity of 3m barrels per day (bpd). All the conquering coalition troops would have to do is fix up the creaking or damaged oil wells and refineries, and Iraq would soon start paying for itself. Unfortunately, things haven’t turned out that way. Thanks to some astute forward planning (and the advance deployment of special forces), there was very little wartime damage to Iraq's oil fields. Since the war, though, disgruntled supporters of Saddam Hussein have sabotaged oil fields and pipelines. So Iraq has yet to export any oil produced since the war, a state of affairs that has buoyed the oil price. Now a general strike in Nigeria, triggered by a jump in the cost of petrol, threatens that country’s 2m bpd output. Some oil experts now think the oil price, currently bobbing around the $30 mark, could climb as high as $35 if the strike, already...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXIV

Orcinus writes about Bush the Liar:...

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 AM

Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXIII

What Ambassador Joseph Wilson did not find in Africa: What I Didn't Find in Africa: Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq? Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council. It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me. In February 2002, I was informed by officials at...

Posted by DeLong at 10:12 AM

June 29, 2003
Time Is Brutal to GWB

Time is brutally cruel to George W. Bush, leading this week's Iraq story with a passage showing him as so "disengaged" that he does not even know who he put in charge of the anemic and ineffectual effort to find Saddamist nuclear, chemical and biological weapons: TIME.com: Who Lost the WMD? -- Jul. 07, 2003: Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, "Are you in charge of finding WMD?" Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. "Who?" Bush asked......

Posted by DeLong at 06:55 PM

June 25, 2003
Why We Attacked Iraq

A lot of people have been puzzling over why the Bush Administation attacked Iraq given the dangers that such an attack might aid Al Qaeda recruitment or disperse weapons of mass destruction into terrorist hands. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is not a reliable or a credible source or anything. But he has an answer to this question: Ha'aretz - Article: ...[Mahmoud] Abbas said that at Aqaba... Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."...

Posted by DeLong at 11:55 AM

June 07, 2003
Silver Linings Department

The MinuteMan tries to cheer those of us who are terrified at the failure to find Saddam's WMDs. He claims that the failure to find them "is a GOOD thing." If we had found them, he argues, President Bush would declare victory and thereafter let Iraq fall into chaos like Afghanistan--for remember, GWB doesn't "do nation-building." But if we don't find WMDs, the only possible justification for the war is to help the Iraqi people. So as long as we don't find WMDs, GWB will work very hard to give Iraq a better future. As soon as we find WMDs, however, GWB will pull out--and let Iraq twist slowly, slowly in the wind. For ingenuity, he gets scores of 9.9, 9.8, 9.7, 9.9, and 3.4 from the East German judge. Just One Minute: ...But (and with Martha under lock and key, I feel safe in stealing this), not finding WMDs is a GOOD Thing.... Anyway, if we fail to find WMDs, then it becomes much more important for Bush to deliver on the other aspects of the deal - rebuilding Iraq, and pushing for a Palestinian settlement can not go to the back-burner. Good news!...

Posted by DeLong at 12:45 PM

We Should Be Proud! We've Locked the Barn Door!

An unbelievable "we can be proud that we've now locked the barn door!" quote from George W. Bush. From Jack Balkin: Speaking in Qatar, today, President Bush declared (according to a report from the Associated Press): "We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth," Bush said, without specifically promising weapons would be found. "But one thing is certain: no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because the Iraqi regime is no more." The problem, however, is that if the weapons had already been given to terrorist groups before the war, or fell into the hands of terrorist groups during the anarchy that reigned while the war was going on, it will be quite irrelevant whether terrorist networks now can gain weapons from Iraq. That horse is already out of the barn door... the sobering possibility that the decision to attack Iraq actually caused weapons of mass destruction to proliferate to terrorist groups, making Americans less safe, not more. The Administration was warned about this possibility repeatedly by opponents of the war and dismissed it. But if we do not find those weapons in Iraq, that may be the reason why.... Many people have defended...

Posted by DeLong at 12:33 PM

June 06, 2003
Shorter Neoconservatives and Friends

From "Busy Busy Busy": Busy, Busy, Busy : Shorter Nicholas Kristof: Cloaks and Daggers Don Rumsfeld naively believed that Ahmad Chalabi was more trustworthy than the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. because Chalabi's information matched Rumsfeld's ideologically pre-determined conclusions, and George Tenet failed to correct him. Shorter Charles Krauthammer: Shades of Oslo Bush is rolling over for the Arabs, taking Sharon to the cleaners and engineering the unilateral surrender of Israel, but at least he's not Bill Clinton. Shorter Max Boot: Blair and Bush Aren't That Stupid It's inconceivable that Bush and Blair deliberately lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, because they're not stupid enough to believe they could get away with it by simply changing the subject, as I am now doing, once it became clear that no such weapons actually existed. Shorter William F. Buckley Jr.: Who Screwed Up? Those who take the easy path of reasoning from actual facts deduce that George Bush and Dick Cheney are, very simply, liars, but I don't like that conclusion and hope to find a better one....

Posted by DeLong at 02:54 PM

June 05, 2003
Phil Carter Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Phil Carter reads the Wall Street Journal on postwar Iraq and bangs his head against the wall. So do I. It is very important for the national security of the United States that the postwar reconstruction of Iraq be and be seen to be a smashing success. So why skimp? INTEL DUMP: Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting front-page story (subscription required) on the challenges facing ORHA, the American agency led by L. Paul Bremer III which has the mission of rebuilding Iraq. The article paints a picture of an understaffed, underequipped, and undercapitalized agency trying desperately to impose order on a nation the size of California.... It appears from all accounts that ORHA is putting 110% of its effort into the job. I have no doubt that Bremer's staff is putting in 18-20 hour days and working as hard as humanly possible. However, the problems may be such that even such heroic efforts can't get the job done. If it's true that ORHA is underresourced, no amount of staff or command work can make up that shortfall. Without sufficient troops for security, money for contracts, contractors for projects, or other key resources, ORHA cannot meet the mission's requirements....

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 AM

June 03, 2003

From Electrolite: David Scott Marley was always one of our favorite Well posters, whether under the "hudu" ID or otherwise. On his weblog, he quotes Newsweek: It is disheartening that the military was unable to secure Saddam's large nuclear-material storage site at Al Tuwaitha before the looters got there. Materials for a "dirty bomb" could have found their way by now into the hands of terrorists. Says Scott: I like "unable". Makes it sound like they tried and couldn't pull it off. It is disheartening that Enron was unable to balance its books. It is disheartening that Neil Bush was unable to return the profits he made off the S&L deregulation scandal. It is disheartening that Jeb Bush was unable to ensure an accurate count of his state's ballots. That kind of thing....

Posted by DeLong at 03:43 PM

June 02, 2003
Still More Unhappy Campers

Britain's genuinely conservative Daily Telegraph is now filled with unhappy campers... I was silly to trust America By Max Hastings (Filed: 01/06/2003) Even by the standards of the Bush Administration, last week was a remarkable one for diplomatic folly. Paul Wolfowitz, the Assistant Defence Secretary, disclosed that the US wilfully exaggerated the threat of weapons of mass destruction, to rally support for an Iraq war. Likewise, Wolfowitz's boss, Donald Rumsfeld, declared that he has little expectation of finding any WMDs. He then launched a new round of sabre-rattling against Iran. So much for the gleeful banner under which President Bush greeted a homebound American aircraft-carrier crew: "Mission accomplished". The leading lights of the US Defence Department always made it plain that disarming Saddam was a pretext for regime change in Iraq. Yet that pretext was the basis of a massive American diplomatic offensive. Tony Blair explicitly told the British people that disarming Saddam justified taking Britain to war. That argument was fraudulent. Some of us, who accepted public and private Whitehall assurances about WMDs, today feel rather silly. Robin Cook is crowing, and well he may. He said that WMDs did not exist. He appears to have been right. It...

Posted by DeLong at 04:15 PM

Even the Neoconservative New Republic...

Even the neoconservative New Republic has finally gotten scared of the motivations of those currently running administration foreign policy: The New Republic Online: etc.: PAUL WOLFOWITZ, NOT EXACTLY COMING CLEAN: Vanity Fair's Sam Tanenhaus appears to have goaded Paul Wolfowitz into a classic Washington gaffe--that is, accidentally saying what he really means. The buzz in Washington these last few days is that Wolfowitz told Tanenhaus that the Bush administration seized on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the war because that was the only casus belli the administration's various actors could agree on. This, of course, implies that the administration's hawks had their man, and were groping for a crime to pin on him. Which is basically true: As TNR's Lawrence F. Kaplan reported in December of 2001 and February of 2002, the real issue of concern to administration hawks was the strategic threat Saddam Hussein posed--meaning his WMD were the symptom of the disease, which was his regional ambitions--but that they emphasized the WMD issue to the public in order to sell the war. Yesterday, the Defense Department released the unedited transcript of Tanenhaus's interview with Wolfowitz, as it typically does when senior officials talk to...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

May 30, 2003
Still More Unhappy Campers

The Financial Times has decided that it is time to stop waiting for the discovery of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" and to join the loud and unhappy campers: FT.com / Comment & analysis / Editorial comment: Where are they? The US/UK occupation of Iraq has done nothing to prove the case for war. On the contrary, it has undermined, possibly fatally, their casus belli against the Iraqi regime - namely that it was stockpiling chemical and biological, if not nuclear, weapons. The reality is that, 45 days after the war's end, all the US and UK appear to have found is two empty trailers suspected of having been mobile bio-weapon laboratories. This newspaper suspected as much all along. Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, now says Iraq may have destroyed its stocks of weapons of mass destruction before the war. In other words, he does not expect anything more to be found. Tony Blair is still expressing confidence in the existence of WMD. But he would; far more than President George W. Bush, the prime minister justified the war on the need to rid Iraq of its weapons. So did the US and UK intelligence services get it wrong, or...

Posted by DeLong at 11:11 AM

May 29, 2003
Unhappy Campers

Mark Bowden has joined the ranks of the unhappy campers: The Point | U.S. has gained little if Bush lied about reason for war: ...They may yet be found, but it is beginning to look as though the skeptics in this case were right. If so, I was taken in by this administration, and America and Great Britain were led to war under false pretenses. Events have moved so swiftly, and Hussein's toppling has posed so many new pressing problems, that it would be easy to lose sight of this issue, but it is critically important. I can imagine no greater breach of public trust than to mislead a country into war. A strong case might have been made to go after Hussein just because he posed a potential threat to us and the region, because of his support for suicide bombers, and because of his ruthless oppression of his own people. But this is not the case our President chose to make. Truth in public life has always been a slippery commodity. We expect campaigning politicians or debating journalists to pitch and spin. Facts are marshaled to support arguments and causes; convenient ones are trumpeted and inconvenient ones played...

Posted by DeLong at 11:30 AM

May 21, 2003
Why Oh Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have a Job? II

UPDATE: The MinuteMan (and others) convincingly argue that the second quote is taken out of context. The most that can be said is that the administration said that Saddam Hussein would soon have nuclear weapons--which now appears to have been not true, but does not directly contradict Rumsfeld. From the Washington Post, via Andrew Tobias: "I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, May 14, 2003 "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." -- Vice President Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003...

Posted by DeLong at 10:10 AM

Why Oh Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have a Job?

Billmon bangs his head against the wall: The Cup is 80% Full: U.S.: Barrels Missing From Iraq Nuke Site: BAGHDAD, Iraq - Some 20 percent of the known radioactive materials stored at Iraq's largest nuclear facility are unaccounted for, and U.S. nuclear experts have found radioactive patches on the ground where looters dumped out barrels believed to contain hazardous materials. However, a senior commander said the great majority of the dangerous waste at the Tuwaitha nuclear complex was still secure and was not leaking radiation. "Eighty percent of the barrels are where they were before," said Col. Tim Madere, a specialist in unconventional weapons for the U.S. Army's V Corps....

Posted by DeLong at 10:07 AM

May 20, 2003
Wow. Phillip Carter Is Very, Very Grumpy

Phillip Carter is very very grumpy: he sees the Bush administration as in the middle of turning an operational victory in Iraq into a strategic defeat for both the United States and for the people of Afghanistan. I tend to view everything through the lens provided by the details of Bush administration economic policy--where, to put it broadly, the people who are any good at it are not listened to, and the people who are listened to are really horrible at it. Carter appears to believe that the same thing is true of security policy as well: "Faux Pax Americana" by Phillip Carter: The generals' argument had never been just about what forces it would take to decapitate Saddam's regime. It was also about being ready for the long, grinding challenge after the shooting stopped. By that measure they have been proven dizzyingly correct. April and May brought daily news reports from Baghdad quoting U.S. military officers saying they lacked the manpower to do their jobs. As the doubters predicted, we may have had enough troops to win the war--but not nearly enough to win the peace. When victory arrived, we lacked the troops on the ground to prevent Baghdad--and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:20 AM

May 13, 2003

A good post from Tim Dunlop the road to surfdom: It's one thing to strongly disagree with the likes of the Bush Administration or the Howard Government, or Tony Blair's Labor Party. In fact, I'd suggest sanity and citizenship demand nothing less. But those who persist in comparing them to Stalin and Hitler etc. really miss the point and perhaps blind themselves to stuff like this. So while I'm (once again) having a go at the Bush Administration (in the last few posts) for, well, just about everything, let's not forget to note what went on under Saddam Hussein: The remains of 15,000 people killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein have been found in mass graves discovered last week in the central city of Hilla, site of ancient Babylon, the Iraqi National Congress (INC) said Tuesday. "In the last week, four sites have been discovered in Al-Hilla city alone, with approximately 15,000 bodies," said Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman of the group led by US-backed Ahmed Chalabi......

Posted by DeLong at 03:05 PM

Andrew Sullivan Actually Writes a Coherent Paragraph

Andrew Sullivan actually writes a coherent paragraph! AndrewSullivan: ...the broader war continues. It's clear now that we have seriously under-estimated the difficulties of imposing order on post-totalitarian Iraq. The shake-up in leadership there suggests at least that Washington is aware of the problem. But some of the damage has already been done. The shake-up in leadership there suggests at least that Washington is aware of the problem. But some of the damage has already been done. It's hard to read stories about continued looting in Baghdad or dangerous chaos in the hinterlands, without wondering if the administration is as committed to the difficult task of reconstruction as they need to be. The real worry, it seems to me, is that some WMDs may have been transported out of Iraq, may be in the hands of terrorists, or simply on the market. We have thousands of gallons of anthrax still unaccounted for... Ooops. No he doesn't. He can't sustain coherence for a whole paragraph: This doesn't retroactively invalidate the war. Such dangers would have existed - and would have been even more dangerous - if Saddam were still in power... Nope. The antecedent of "such dangers" is Saddamist "WMD... transported out...

Posted by DeLong at 10:39 AM

May 06, 2003
Kevin Drum Is Unhappy

Kevin Drum is extremely unhappy about the Iraqi WMD situation. It seems to me that there are three possibilities: We suffered a truly massive intelligence failure: Iraq had next to no WMD around. Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon failed to realize what its mission was, and Iraq's WMD are now in the hands of guys who (unlike Saddam Hussein)cannot be deterred--guys who don't like to live in palaces, and don't hope to die in bed--and we are in much bigger trouble than before. President Bush deliberately lied to the Congress about Saddam Hussein in order to get a resolution authorizing the attack on Iraq. It seems to me that the grownups in the Republican Party need to find out--and find out quickly--which of these three possibilities is correct. If (1) is correct, they need to tell us so and need to fix the "intelligence community" and fix it now. If (2) is correct, they need to tell us so and need to fix the NSC and the Pentagon, and fix it now. If (3) is correct, they need to tell us that George W. Bush needs to be impeached and needs to be impeached now. (3) is, of course, the most terrifying...

Posted by DeLong at 01:06 PM

Yes, War as Social Work

Matthew Yglesias points out that the only possible rational justification remaining for the War on Saddam Hussein is if it leads to a better future for the Iraqi people. All the other rational justifications have hit the garbage can. Remove the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction? Keep dangerous terror weapons out of the hands of Al Qaeda and company? Strengthen international law? Enhance the international standing of the United States. All in the garbage can. Only if the aftermath of war is and is seen to be an enormous improvement in the quality of life for Iraqis can this still be turned into a strategic victory for America. Matthew Yglesias: Daniel Pipes is tired of war as social work.Something similar is now occurring on the subject of Iraq: Gains to Americans and Britons from getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction and sponsorship of terrorism seem to matter less than the outcome of plans to rehabilitate Iraq. The difficulties in fixing Iraq are being used to cast doubt on the whole military venture.[...]So, by all means, bring on "Iraqi Freedom." But always keep in mind, as President Bush has done, that...

Posted by DeLong at 12:25 PM

April 28, 2003

Jim Henley's nightmares are very scary. Remind me not to invade his brain while he is sleeping ever again. Here's hoping that the Bush administration was lying to us, and that Iraq did not have any serious quantities of weapons of mass destruction: the alternative is not pleasant to contemplate. Unqualified Offerings: Welcome Back to my Nightmare - More from the LA Times. Excerpt: By failing to secure suspect sites, Kay and others warned, the Pentagon could not guarantee that critical blueprints, weapons parts, precursor chemicals and other valuable material have not been spirited out of the country for sale to other nations or to terrorist groups. "They've increased the proliferation threat," Kay said. "And they've made it more difficult to ever unravel what really happened. You can't reconstitute burned documents or stolen computer hard drives unless you find copies." Terence Taylor, who heads the Washington office of the nonpartisan International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he fears there is a "real risk that certain materials could leak out" of Iraq. (Thanks to Hesiod for the heads up. Link requires registration. You can use "laexaminer/laexaminer" thanks to Matt Welch and co.) The article includes various official excuses for the halting,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:29 PM

April 27, 2003
A Strange Form of Anti-Americanism

David Aaronovitch tries to psychoanalyze the British Empire's loony left: : ...a characteristic of much of the Left, which is a strangely cavalier attitude towards freedom and democracy. What, for example, should we make of this question from Tam Dalyell, asked in Parliament in 1998: 'Is an alternative to Saddam Hussein,' queried the man who has condemned Tony Blair as a war criminal, 'really preferable? How can we be sure that post-Saddam Iraq will not descend into civil war along religious and tribal lines - like the north of Iraq?' True, the same people will often shield themselves with one half sentence about Saddam's 'appaling human rights record'. But this is a phrase invoked as a defence against the reality of that record. Constructed against the reality of what it actually means to be living in such circumstances, afraid ever to speak. The constant suggestion is that the 'human rights record' is bad, but whatever the Americans do is far, far worse. The classical exponent of this technique is John Pilger. In last week's New Statesman one of his typical pieces about the corruption of most journalists (ie people like me) versus the bravery of a few (ie people like...

Posted by DeLong at 03:16 PM

April 25, 2003
Incompetence and Malfeasance, Part II

Tacitus worries about the long-term diplomatic consequences of what he sees as a flat-out lie by the Bush Administration about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Tacitus: It's fairly clear that Iraq either had no weapons of mass destruction, or they are astonishingly well-hidden. And given that the Administration's entire justification for war rested upon Iraqi WMD possession, this is highly problematic.... Internationally... we staked a great deal of credibility and diplomatic capital on the WMD line, and in doing so, we let down those who stood up to support us. They'll think twice about doing so again. Witness the recent confrontation with Syria, a polity that richly deserves entree into history's ashbin. Washington accused Syria of many things, many of them wholly justified. It then, as a corollary, accused Syria of WMD possession. And no one cared. In fact, the Syrians reaped supportive comment -- far more favorable than anything Iraq ever received -- from many of our putative allies, including the one we just fought a war with: the United Kingdom. WMD is over as an effective call to action for some time. One can only hope we don't need it soon. Well, too late. UPDATE: A while back,...

Posted by DeLong at 02:46 PM

Horns of a Dilemma

Jim Henley cannot decide whether to attribute the decision to go with a "small force" attack on Iraq--an attack with a force too small to keep any weapons of mass destruction that may exist from slipping into the hands of people who do not expect to live richly and die in bed and thus who are not deterrable--to incompetence or malfeasance on the part of the Bush Administration. He's scared me. And my first reaction was, "Why does it have to be an either/or?" Unqualified Offerings: Welcome to my Nightmare - One of the arguments against conquering Iraq by force presupposed Iraqi possession of chemical and biological arms. Like, for instance: Those risks are: Nuclear Pakistan falls, or freelancing harabists in its military slip one of its bombs to a group like Al Qaeda; Al Qaeda picks up surplus Soviet nukes; the Chinese decide that the grand encirclement is proceeding too far, so they see to it that Al Qaeda gets the bomb; or, in the immediate postwar chaos of this much-desired conquest of Iraq, diehard elements of Saddam's armed forces slip some bioweapons into hostile hands. Of these dire possibilities, only the Chinese angle seems less likely than a...

Posted by DeLong at 02:41 PM

April 23, 2003
You Never Know What's in a Library Until You Look

Mute books, parchments, and palimpsests find a very eloquent voice: Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Why It's a Bad Idea to Burn Old Libraries: Recently I was deeply vexed by the news that a professional author, who of all people should know better, has dismissed the burning of the National Library in Baghdad on the grounds that any book destroyed in the fire could simply be reprinted. There are moments when you find out more about someone’s scholarship and research habits than you’d ever want to know. Apparently he was unaware that whereas reprinting might serve to reconstitute his high school library, substantial research libraries contain all sorts of odd things, possibly odd old things, some of which may be sole copies. This goes double for major research libraries, which are textual mathom-houses. Moreover, at the time that some of these odd things were catalogued, they may not have been properly recognized for what they were. (This is, incidentally, why I hate having to do research in closed-stack library systems: You have to take the cataloguer’s word on everything.) Anything can turn up there. Just this year came the news that a big wodge of Tolkien manuscript had turned up in...

Posted by DeLong at 08:04 PM

Dilip Hiro on Clerical Legitimacy in the Modern Middle East

Dilip Hiro describes some parallels (and some non-parallels) between Iraq today and Iran in 1979: New York Times: ...This vacuum is reminiscent of what happened in Iran in February 1979. The 440,000-strong military of the pro-American shah disintegrated quickly, as did the police force and the Savak, the notorious secret police. Into that vacuum stepped the Islamic Revolutionary Komitehs, run by Shiite clerics operating from the local mosques. The Komitehs took over not only law enforcement but also such essential chores as distributing heating oil to households in wintry Tehran. Many groups took part in toppling the shah; but it was the nationwide religious network and the unified actions of the mullahs that enabled them to to become his successor. A similar pattern has emerged in Iraq, particularly in the Shiite-majority south and the Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad. Over the centuries, as members of a community that was discriminated against and repressed, the Shiites learned to find comfort in religion and piety to a much greater extent than the ruling Sunnis. In recent decades, Shiite clerics devised clandestine networks of communication that even Saddam Hussein's spies failed to infiltrate. Eschewing written messages or telephones, they used personal envoys who spoke...

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 PM

April 17, 2003
Robert Waldmann Is Confused About Iraq

The ideas about how "international law"--taken as a set of agreements about respective territories made by whatever people manage to exercise a near-monopoly of force in different regions of the world--is outmoded are good ones. The idea that the United Nations (understood as the near-consensus of the *democratic* governments of the world) should guarantee to each other nation a republican form of government is one whose time has come. But how to get from where we are to a world of perpetual peace and freedom? I think that working to strengthen the Concert of the Atlantic is a much better idea than an American Crusade for Worldwide Democracy. But let me turn the microphone over to Robert Waldmann: Robert's Random Thoughts: ...I was suddenly attracted to the idea of abandoning all existing international law. I thought it might be a good idea to ignore the parts of the the UN charter (which I haven't read) which recognise or establish the sovereign authority of governments--including unelected governments--and declares that international boundaries must not be crossed in arms except in self defence or by invitation. I thought it might be a good idea to finally abandon the idea of a world order...

Posted by DeLong at 10:32 AM

Where Are Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Where are Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? I was certain--certain--that we had lots of hard intelligence telling us of Saddam's large quantities of chemical and biological weapons, and his ongoing nuclear program. Otherwise, the decision to invade Iraq made no sense: it might have made sense for an Administration that believed the U.S. had a humanitarian mission to take down cruel and genocidal dictators when it could do so easily, but not for the Bush II Administration that was so certain back in 2001 that it "did not do nation building." So where are they? Did they never exist? Was Bush lying to us and Congress all the time? Was our intelligence grossly defective? Or are Saddam's WMD now in the hands of Al Qaeda and its ilk--people who cannot be deterred from using them because they do not hope to die peacefully in bed?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:56 AM

The PLO: Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity

The PLO: never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity: Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Eerekat called for the United States to release Abu Abbas, saying his detention violates the U.S.-backed Middle East peace accord signed in Washington in 1995, which grants amnesty to PLO officials for acts committed prior to 1993. Never mind that the U.S. is not a party to the 1995 Interim Agreement, but only a witness. Never mind that no Congress ever passed any bill implementing any amnesty provisions. Never mind that, among other things, the clauses of the 1995 Interim Agreement that commit the PLO to "act systematically against all expressions of violence and terror... arrest and prosecute individuals suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror" have been broken as thoroughly and completely as an agreement can be broken. How a--thoroughly broken--agreement between the Palestinians and Israel is supposed to constrain the U.S. legal process trying Abu Ammas for the murder of Leon KIlinghoffer is a mystery. Saeb Erekat has done Abu Abbas no good at all. He has made it materially harder for anybody in the United States to convincingly argue that America should pressure Ariel Sharon to make more concessions to Palestinians more...

Posted by DeLong at 09:54 AM

April 11, 2003
In Honor (Memory?) of...

...Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information (currently on administrative leave): We Love the Iraqi Information Minister....

Posted by DeLong at 01:42 PM

How CNN Shaded Its Coverage of Iraq

How CNN shaded its coverage of Iraq to keep Saddam Hussein happier: The News We Kept to Ourselves: ...Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard ? awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff. For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk. Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways. Obviously,...

Posted by DeLong at 10:54 AM

April 09, 2003
The Next Phase...

Daniel Drezner recognizes that it is crucially important that the rebuilding of Iraq is and is seen to be a great success. If not, we could still turn operational victory into strategic defeat, and harm the national security of the United States. The story the world needs to tell itself is that the United States overthrew a cruel dictator and gave Iraqis a much better life, not the out-of-control United States bombed and invaded a small country because President Bush wanted to get his hands on its oil. Daniel W. Drezner: For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving. If not, then Arab satellite networks will simply replace footage of the (relatively few) civilians injured during attacks with footage of squalid living conditions in liberated cities. The current situation in Umm Qasr -- the first city to fall in the invasion, and therefore the city we'd expect to be furthest along in receiving humanitarian assistance, is disturbing. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), visiting the city, reported, "Humanitarian work in the port of Umm Qasr...

Posted by DeLong at 06:35 PM

Liberation Day

Chris Bertram gets the tone just right in his reflections of Baghdad's Liberation Day: Junius: The scenes from Badhdad are wonderful. For years now Iraqis will have been living a double life, perhaps muttering or mumbling what they think about the regime to close friends and family members, or even hesitating to do so, never really being sure who to trust. Now each of them will realise that there were many others who thought as they did and that will be a tremendous relief. Political power can never rest on force alone, but relies on patterns of fear and mutual expectation that can melt ever so quickly when people come to realise that others aren't sustaining the public performance any more. Of course may Iraqis will have compromised, gone along with the regime, passed on information too. None of us who lives in the West can be confident about how we would behave under a dictatorship. Let us hope that the truly guilty get the justice they deserve......

Posted by DeLong at 03:20 PM

April 08, 2003
Reversal of Field

An extraordinarily rapid reversal-of-field in his reporting on the Iraq War from Mr. Robert Fisk. As of April 4, U.S. CentCom claims that Saddamist forces defending the approaches to Baghdad were on the point of breaking were dismissed as false propaganda--belied by the evidence of Mr. Fisk's own eyes as he drove the roads south and west of Baghdad. As of April 7, U.S. claims to have conducted a battalion-sized armored raid through the inner suburbs of Baghdad were dismissed as simply lies--proved false by Mr. Fisk's inspection of the battlefield. As of April 8... as of April 8 the U.S. move into Baghdad has "neither humility nor honour" because General Wallace did not enter Baghdad on foot in respect for the memory of Haroun Al-Rashid. Surely those who trusted Mr. Fisk, and who relied on his reporting to support their dismissal of the reports from CentCom in Qatar and of the embedded reporters with the 3rd Infantry Division deserve better than this. I mean, "Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia" is a catchy slogan, but is unsatisfactory as a matter of analysis. Surely Mr. Fisk's loyal readers deserve an explanation of why it is that the world...

Posted by DeLong at 10:12 AM

April 06, 2003
Reading Robert Fisk

I've been reading the Iraq War reports of Robert Fisk. There's a certain loonyness there: So it's a "truly remarkable achievement"... General Tommy Franks says so... the British still have not "liberated" Basra... the Iraqis... launch a scud missile from the Fao peninsula... the Americans... lose an Apache helicopter to the gun of an Iraqi peasant farmer... spend four days trying to cross the river... confronted by their first suicide bomber.... Even the "siege of Baghdad" -- a city which is 30 miles wide and might need a quarter of a million men to surround it -- is fading from the diary.... Any kind of mendacity could be used to fuel this ideological project... this is now a nationalist war against the most obvious kind of imperial power... Vice President... Ramadan... talking like a Palestinian or Hizballah leader... "The US administration is going to turn the whole world into people who are prepared to die for their nations" he said. "... All they can do now is turn themselves into bombs. If the B-52 bombs can now kill 500 or more in our war, then I'm sure that some operations by our freedom fighters will be able to kill 5,000"......

Posted by DeLong at 08:51 AM

April 03, 2003
What Difference?

Andrew Sullivan asks: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: What difference does it make if we take Baghdad in four weeks rather than two? Well, first of all, we are killing (I guess) about 300 people each day that this war lasts. More troops and a bigger logistical tail would mean a faster operational tempo, which might mean more casualties (we have more guns shooting) and might mean fewer (to the extent that U.S. troops showing up in surprising places causes people to throw down their guns and head home). My guess is that it's a wash--so taking Baghdad in four rather than two weeks means an extra 4,200 people dead. Second, a bunch of things can still go wrong in and around Baghdad. Better to have overwhelming force available--rather than overwhelming force back at Ft. Hood. Third, it is important that world TV screens spend as few days as possible showing pictures of U.S. bombs blowing things up and of dead Iraqi civilians, and as many days as possible showing evidence of Saddamist atrocities perpetrated upon Iraqis. Each day the war lasts is another day during which the TV screens show messages that push world public opinion in a bad direction....

Posted by DeLong at 07:29 PM

Big Saddam Is Watching You

Robert Waldmann wonders why, if Saddam Hussein is not dead, the Ba'ath Party has not announced his death. And then he remembers that an oligarchy continuing to rule in the name of a dictator whose death is not admitted is a possibility considered long ago--by George Orwell: What George Orwell Might Say: Winston Smith asks; Comrade O'Brien answers: "Does Big Brother exist?" "Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party." "Does he exist in the same way as I exist?" "You do not exist," said O'Brien.... "No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that sense does Big Brother exist?" "It is of no importance. He exists." "Will Big Brother ever die?" "Of course not. How could he die? Next question."...

Posted by DeLong at 01:45 PM

April 02, 2003
News Summary Sources...

Much more than you could learn if you abandoned your life and glued your eyes to the TV... Flit The Agonist The Command Post Strategy Page Strategy Page Map Phil Carter, Intel Dump DefenseTech Casus Belli CDI Eye on Iraq Map From StrategyPage...

Posted by DeLong at 02:24 PM

The Likely Death of Saddam Hussein

Gregg Easterbrook picks up on a point made by NPR's Ann Garells: The New Republic Online: Two-Front War: SADDAM NOTE: Anne Garrells of NPR, one of the two remaining American reporters in Baghdad, noted this morning that Iraqi officials at press events have abandoned the formalistic obsequiousness with which they refer to Saddam. Till this weekend, every other Iraqi comment was Saddam this, our great leader that. Garrells just attended an Iraqi government press conference at which Saddam was never mentioned. To Best-Laid Plans it feels ever more significant that it's been twelve days since the "decapitation" attack and there has been no public image of Saddam speaking about any fact that has become known since then. The most likely interpretation of this is that Saddam Hussein and his sons are dead. If they are not dead, it is too risky for anyone in the Saddamist elite not to begin with praise of Saddam Hussein. And if they are dead, it is too risky for anyone in the Saddamist elite to begin with praise of Saddam Hussein. Why, then, hasn't the Iraqi government surrendered? One possibility would be that our decapitation strike was too effective--that since there is no single...

Posted by DeLong at 10:14 AM

March 31, 2003
Losing Favor

In the Ottoman Empire during the days of its decline, a grand Topkapi Palace functionary who lost the confidence of the Sultan often found himself in a lead-weighted sack at the bottom of the Golden Horn. In the modern White House, a cabinet member or assistant to the president who loses the confidence of the President often finds himself invited to spend more time with his family. Here we see a number of people at the level of Karl Rove or Andrew Card--for this story has three sources, and people at their level are who "senior administration officials" are--preparing the ground for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (and possibly NSC head Rice) to be invited to spend more time with their families. Their offense? Keeping the news that Saddam Hussein's forces might fight secret from the President. KRT Wire | 03/28/2003 | Bush's aides didn't warn of stiff Iraq resistance: President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials. Bush embraced the predictions of some top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney, who...

Posted by DeLong at 09:09 PM

Our War Plan Has Been Public Since Last August

A UPI story from last August that gives our entire "Plan A" war plan for the attack on Iraq--the plan that hinged on the ability of psychological warfare to keep the Iraqi army from fighting. The plan that also needed us to have the "big hammer" ready in case the appearance of the 101st Airborne and 3rd Infantry did not cause Saddam Hussein's regime to collapse. United Press International: Bush given Iraq invasion plan: Bush given Iraq invasion plan By Richard Sale UPI Terrorism Correspondent From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk Published 8/8/2002 5:24 PM WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks briefed President Bush this week about a scaled-down contingency plan to strike Iraq that calls for an invasion force of some 80,000 to 100,000 personnel including only 50,000 ground troops, administration officials said. In this new proposal, an invasion would take place during November and December, administration officials, who asked not to be identified by name, told United Press International. A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said they had no information on the meeting and could neither confirm nor deny that it had taken place. But a...

Posted by DeLong at 07:49 PM

March 30, 2003
A Few Questions About Pentagon War Planning

A few questions about Pentagon war planning: Where is the 3rd Infantry Division's divisional artillery? We have divisions so that small units with different types of weapons get used to working together. There's no point in all the division-level practice if key pieces of the division aren't deployed. Where is the V Corps's corps-level artillery? Ditto. Corps-level staff and planners are used to having that stuff around, and to being able to deal with situations by using it. That's the point of attaching it to the corps, after all. What's the reason that these artillery resources don't seem to be in Iraq? What has the 101 Airborne Division been doing? The U.S. has three divisions in the Theater of Operations. Surely the 101 Airborne's role in the plan was not to hang back behind the infantry and the marines. Surely they were supposed to have been doing something. But what? And why haven't they done it? Where has the plan gone wrong? Where are the trucks? James Kitfield reports that the attack force has only one-fifth the trucks the logistics planners wanted to have. But the whole point of the operation appears to have been to run fast and free...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 AM

March 28, 2003
There Will Always Be an England Department

Via William Gibson, via Electrolite. British frontline troops politely tell Britain's defense minister that he is barking mad: Electrolite: "Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton," UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr," said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 PM

Invasion Planning

The National Journal has a piece on the planning for the invasion of Iraq: The Army's Gamble (03/28/2003): By far the most dramatic and disruptive change to the battle plan, however, was Rumsfeld's decision last November to slash Central Command's request for forces. This single decision essentially cut the size of the anticipated assault force in half in the final stages of planning, and it had a ripple effect on Central Command and Army planning that continues to color operations to this day. Notably, the Pentagon scrapped the Time Phased Force Deployment Data, or "TipFid," by which regional commanders would identify forces needed for a specific campaign, and the individual armed services would manage their deployments by order of priority. The result has meant that even as Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks was launching the war, forces identified for the fight continued to pour off ships in the Kuwaiti port of Doha, and not necessarily in the order of first priority. "A lot of people around here can get very emotional talking about the lack of a TipFid for this operation," said a knowledgeable source at V Corps headquarters. "It would also be awfully nice to have another division...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 AM

March 27, 2003
For Whatever It's Worth

From Saudi Arabia's first English-language daily: ArabNews: Exclusive: "As Long as It Takes": On the road from Umm Qasr to Basra are the burned out shells of what used to be Iraqi anti-aircraft guns. There are various army camps, one occupied by Iraqi troops. A poster of a smiling Saddam welcomes you to Basra. Other posters have had the face of Saddam shot off, and some have been pasted over. Among the burned out Iraqi tanks are three burned out coalition forces tanks, demonstrating that the US/UK forces did lose some personnel and equipment. Arab News asked several of the refugees waiting to enter Basra what they thought of regime change. Accompanying Arab News were several international TV crews. What the refugees said on and off camera were very different things. On camera, the general feeling among the crowd was sorrow at losing Saddam. Off camera, the citizens of Umm Qasr and Basra appeared genuinely exhilarated at the prospect of a brighter future, after Saddam had been removed......

Posted by DeLong at 06:24 PM

I Need More Eyes, or Something

Dave Trowbridge reads important things I don't have time to read, and thinks about them hard... Redwood DragonSow the Wind Max Sawicky crystallizes my thinking on Iraqi "war crimes." Execution of POWs? War crime. Use of "human shields" by regular forces? War crime. Fighting in civilian clothing? How lame is that? Someone invades your country, bombs your cities, you pick up a rifle and fight back, and that's "illegal"? I certainly hope I wouldn't support a monster like Saddam, but if someone invaded the U.S., I'd be out there with a rifle. But Jeanne D'Arc puts a human face on Iraqi resistance better than anyone, drawing on personal experience with an abusive father: There's an article in the New York Times today about Iraqi refugees, who despised Saddam Hussein, and fled to Jordan, now returning to fight against the United States. Another, in The Guardian, reports Iraqis returning from Syria. Thousands of Iraqis have returned in the last ten days. I think I know how they feel. Well, "know" is probably the wrong word for that sticky web of thought and feeling. Let's say I think I've felt something similar to what they feel. From the first time I heard...

Posted by DeLong at 01:37 PM

A Clever Plan?

Tom Maguire wishes that Pentagoners and retired commanders who thought that it would be nice to have three rather than one heavy divisions striking north from Kuwait had been more vocal in their leaks and opinions in past months. I'm not sure. I don't like the idea of a Pentagon that leaks detailed internal critiques of operational plans and their flaws to the press. I do, however, very much wish that there were two more heavy divisions in Kuwait right now ready to take over from the incredibly brave and effective--but exhausted--soldiers of the 3 Infantry. Just One Minute: Do You Believe In Magic?We can find a number of stories that echo the same theme presented in the NY Times on March 3:The Pentagon ordered about 60,000 more troops to the region, bringing to over 250,000 the number of American forces deployed on land, sea and at airfields within striking distance of Iraq, officials said today. That has long been considered a magic number ? the quarter-million troops the military would like in place before any invasion begins. Check for yourself, but the news services feeling the magic included the BBC, CNN, ABC News, and an NBC affiliate.Yet today, we...

Posted by DeLong at 09:26 AM

March 26, 2003
Shock, But Not Awe

So I've spent a bunch of time on the phone today, asking people who ought to know why it is that the 1st Cavalry's soldiers are at Ft. Hood and its heavy equipment somewhere, why the 4th Infantry's soldiers are at Ft. Hood and its heavy equipment somewhere in the Red Sea, and why the 1st Armored's soldiers and heavy equipment are in Germany--rather than being, say, in Kuwait as a reserve in case we need them in the Iraqi Theater of Operations. Why didn't the Pentagon move them over, as insurance for the worst case? I'm getting two answers. The first is "money--the Bush Administration wants to fight this war on the cheap so it can get on with its real long-run business of tax cuts." The second (given by another non-overlapping group of people) is that the current force structure--3 Infantry, 101 Airborne, the Marines, and a British division-equivalent striking from Kuwait, with the 4 Infantry supposed to be striking south from Turkey but instead coming around Arabia--is the worst-case scenario force. Rumsfeld and company wanted to attack Iraq with airpower, with the 101 Airborne, with a brigade or so of the 3 Infantry, and some Marines and...

Posted by DeLong at 08:40 PM

March 25, 2003
More Worries About the Missing Heavies...

More worries about the lack of heavy divisions, this time from the Financial Times Financial Times: When the lines of communication extend over 300km, as they do now, considerable numbers of troops, principally infantrymen, are needed for the task. The optimists, though, will answer that all this doesn't really matter.... It cannot affect the outcome of the imminent confrontation around Baghdad, where the philosophy of "shock and awe" will reach its culmination with the implosion of the regime and the mass surrender of the Republican Guard.... The continuing fight in Umm Qasr and around Basrah and TV shots of US prisoners being paraded in Baghdad, could give heart to the city's defenders - reputed to be up to 100,000 of Saddam's elite, never knowingly lacking commitment to the fight before. If it does, then Tommy Franks has a problem. He has the wrong force structure for the job.... Franks' current force is no more configured for the long, bloody slog of battling it out, street by street, in Baghdad than it is for the largely static job of protecting extended lines of communication. Armour, air power and other sophisticated technologies lose their pre-eminence in both instances. "Grunts," in the US...

Posted by DeLong at 07:50 PM

The Iraqi Army in the Gulf War

On my lunch hour I read parts of Kenneth Pollack's other book [Kenneth Pollack (2002), Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 083237332)]--those parts dealing with the Iraqi army. I had not known that at the climactic battles of the Gulf War--when the U.S. desert-outflanking force ran into and over Republican Guards trying to delay their threatening encirclement--the forces were so uneven. At Wadi Al Batin, for example, the Tawakalnah division of the Republican Guards was attacked by 3 1/2 American divisions, outnumbering it by roughly 5 to 1 in tanks. They did not try to run: The Tawakalnah... were deployed in a British-style reverse-slope position with mines emplaced along the crest of the ridge. The Tawakalnah was badly outnumbered--U.S. forces deployed over 1000 tanks, while the Tawakalnah could muster only about 200. They were also badly outgunned because the armor-piercing rounds from the U.S. M1A1 tanks could easily destroy the Iraqis' T-72M1s at over 4000 meters, while the T-72m1's rounds could not penetrate the frontal armor of the M1A1 even at bore-site range. Despite these disadvantages, the Republican Guard fought tenaciously.... [T]he Republican Guards fought and died almost to a man, and U.S. forces...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 PM

March 24, 2003
Not His Father's Persian Gulf Land Strike Force

A commentor on The Agonist has some very good questions about U.S. forces in Iraq: Questions" href="http://www.agonist.org/archives/000821.html">The Agonist: Questions: 1) What the heck were a unit of Marine LAVs doing bumbling around in the desert with so little screening or escort that they could be engaged by a 'brigade-sized' Iraqi unit? The LAV (the amphibious armored personnel carrier shown burnt out on CNN and others) is a pathetically thin-skinned vehicle. The only thing it's really of use for is crossing light water and having medium weapons (.50, 40mikemike) in a gunner's position. Medium to heavy MG goes through that thing the long way, and RPGs are (as we've seen) lethal. So how were they out there alone? 2) The reporter talking about the Apache strike on the RG seemed 'downbeat' and talked about the vicious AAA. My question: What are direct-fire slow-mover helos like Apaches doing engaging a dug-in armored enemy? The purpose of an atk helo is MOBILITY, and it should be used to pursue, herd, flank, and kill in the open. These things are horribly vulnerable to even small-arms in the right conditions (see Afghanistan!). Why wasn't this target prepared with airstrikes using JDAM, or even carpet bombs?...

Posted by DeLong at 07:30 PM

March 06, 2003
One of Those Rare Occasions on Which Michael Kinsley Gets It Wrong

Michael Kinsley tries to figure out just what the Bush Administration is doing in Iraq. Unfortunately, I think he gets it wrong. Bush's Ulterior Motive - Could it be oil? Maybe, but what about oil? By Michael Kinsley: How has an attack on the United States by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan led us to war against Iraq? Why are nuclear weapons in Iraq worth a war but not nuclear weapons in North Korea? For most skeptics about Gulf War II (including me), the Bush administration's failure to answer these two questions sincerely or even plausibly, let alone convincingly, is central to our doubts. This isn't entirely reasonable. The battle could be worth joining even though George W. is unable to explain why. The 9/11 pretext may be phony without necessarily invalidating the whole exercise. As for Iraq versus North Korea, following the right policy in one place is better than following the wrong policy in both. There are worse things in this world than logical inconsistency. Furthermore, it is hard to dismiss the official reasons for this war as disingenuous without some theory about what the ulterior motive or unspoken war aim might be. George W. Bush is not...

Posted by DeLong at 04:04 PM