“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Time To Think About What We Do Not Know.

We have no clue about what we are doing in Iraq. We followed a campaign of wishful thinking and find ourselves in a situation where it is obvious that had we known, we would not have even thought about going into Iraq. George Bush I, thought about it and took a pass. George II was not as cautious. We blazed our way into a culture and territory expecting an outcome and were unprepared for a society that had very different ideas than ours.

It is a culture unknown to us and rather than relying on people who knew the area, we followed ideologues and rashly committed The United States of America into nation building. It is painful to read and listen to the words of those that were the architects of this venture. We entered our first day of school when the tanks cut through the sand berms at the Kuwaiti border and have been getting a daily lesson in on-the-job-training. Our level of unpreparedness was most noticeable in that we could not take enough interpreters or native speakers. We had to outsource. Well the Iraqis have noticed and they have decided to start singling them out, hunt them down and slaughter them. Call it cutting our lines of communications. The first article discusses our growing communication problem.

Now I got to thinking about this. Having had a real recent big time experience and lesson in doing the wrong thing for possibly the right reasons maybe we should think a little more about undertaking the next big project, Iran. AFP in the second story hints of a signal from Iran that there may be a way to discuss the Iraq situation. Maybe during that discussion, should it take place, we could bring up a couple of other little bothersome issues between the US and Iran. The point is that we better start thinking about all that we do not know. Don’t you think?

Interpreters used by British Army 'hunted down' by Iraqi death squads
By Phil Sands in Amman The Independent
Published: 17 November 2006
Iraqi interpreters working with the British Army in Basra are being systematically hunted down and killed.

At least 21 have been kidnapped and shot in head over the past three weeks, their bodies dumped in different parts of the city. Another three are still missing. In a single mass killing, 17 interpreters were killed.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but militia groups fighting for control of the province - and opposed to the presence of foreign troops - are widely suspected.

"This is not a general threat against Iraqi security forces; interpreters are specifically being killed," an Iraqi police officer familiar with the case told The Independent by telephone from Basra. "It has been happening at a low level for the past year, but the campaign is getting worse.

"First they get letters warning them to stop co-operating with the occupation forces, then they are killed. The interpreters are the major target now. Word spreads about who is working with the British - neighbours, people in the street, police officers all see the interpreters. Their identities don't remain very secret and someone is going around trying to kill them and they're succeeding," he said.

A British Army spokesman, Major Charles Burbridge, said intimidation against Iraqi staff had recently surged. "Over the past week, a number of our locally employed civilians have received written threats - notes pinned to their door - and they've been shouted at and threatened in the street."

Major Burbridge said the military were aware of only one interpreter working directly for British forces being killed within the past month. Iraqi sources say the figure is higher.

The British and Iraqis also disagree about the general level of violence in Basra. While the British Army insists an average of two bodies are found daily - in Major Burbridge's words, a murder rate comparable to that of Washington DC or Bogota - Iraqi police say the unofficial number is now double that. Parts of the city, including the university district of Qarma, are so dangerous that they are considered by Iraqi security forces to be no-go areas.

British forces are trying to halt the rising power of militia groups linked to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the splinter organisation Fadhila, which holds the governorship of Basra.

This effort, codenamed Operation Sinbad, has so far failed to contain the violence, and death squads still act with apparent impunity. The British embassy in Basra has been largely evacuated after becoming a regular target for insurgent mortar attacks.

"It used to be tolerable, but now everyone openly calls us traitors," a 27-year-old interpreter who worked for the British at Bucca prison explained. "When I leave the base no one is there to protect me, and we all know we're being hunted, the militias say we are spies.

"All of us live in terror for our lives. I want to stop this work, but my family needs the money. As far as the militias are concerned, I have turned my back on Iraq. All interpreters are waiting to be killed and in three months' time we probably will have been." Tshasin Difaee, a 30-year-old former interpreter, said he quit after being threatened by Mr Sadr's Mehdi militia.

"They knew my name and I got a call on my mobile phone, and was told to leave my job or lose my head," he said. "I'm still scared they're going to come for me, they can come at any time."

Other former interpreters, including one who worked for the Desert Rats (the 7th Armoured Brigade) in 2003 for the then going rate of $2 a day, have been found shot dead. Current interpreters are paid closer to $30 (£16) a day, but the risks are increasing.

"This is targeting the interpreters and I'm sure more will be killed," the Iraqi police source said. "The British don't seem to pay much attention. An Iraqi who did some menial work in the Shatt al-Arab Hotel [a British Army base] was killed the other day, and I'm certain they never even noticed. No one came to ask about him." Various armed factions operate in Basra, joined by a complex web of alliances and enmity. The Mehdi militia is the largest single group and has frequently clashed with British forces.

Speaking to The Independent in Amman, Abu Kamael, a member of the Mehdi militia, said translators were legitimate targets and subject to the group's death squads.

"Baathists, those involved in Saddam's government, Takfiris and Wahhabis [extremist Sunni Muslims] are all our enemies," he said.

"So are the occupation armies and those helping them. Interpreters are not working for the good of Iraq, they are working for invading powers, they are traitors and are to be punished like traitors."

Major Burbridge insisted security for almost 2,000 Iraqi staff was tight, but could never amount to round-the-clock protection.

"We take the safety of our locally employed extremely seriously, we advise them on security matters, like not setting regular patterns and making sure they go home before it gets dark.

"We are aware there are people here determined to see us leave and they are prepared to hit soft targets in order to make that happen."

(Comment: You have to love these comments)

But he said that there was "no evidence" of a systematic campaign by insurgent death squads to kill interpreters.

"It's something we are looking at extremely carefully. These are criminal acts but we don't necessarily see them as terrorist acts."

Give clear signals on Iraq talks, Iran tells US

16 November 2006

TEHERAN - Iran’s top national security official on Thursday urged the United States to give a clear indication as to whether it wanted to ask the Islamic republic for talks over stabilising Iraq.

“We are hearing different voices from the United States,” Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani told reporters after talks with Palestinian foreign minister Mahmud Zahar.

“The statements from their side are not very clear, and what is important is that they say clearly what it is they want,” he added.

There has been speculation that the final report of a Congressionally mandated panel charged with coming up with a new approach to Iraq would endorse contacts with Iran and Syria on ending Iraq violence.

US President George W. Bush said earlier this week that the only way for the United States to have dialogue with Iran would be for Teheran to suspend uranium enrichment, something it has so far refused to do.

But a senior State Department official who oversees Iraq policy said Wednesday the US was ready “in principle” for direct talks with Iran on Teheran’s role in the country.

“We are prepared, in principle, for a direct dialogue with Iran. The timing of that dialogue is one that we are considering,” David Satterfield told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Moves by the United States to open up talks with Iran in Baghdad to promote peace in Iraq earlier this year came to nothing amid mutual recriminations, despite initial cautious expressions of acceptance.

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 after Islamic radicals seized the US embassy in Teheran, and ties have remained ruptured ever since.

Washington has accused Teheran of meddling in Shiite-majority Iraq, charges that Teheran vehemently denies.


  1. no more public talk...

    black ops against the iranians at once

    time for sadr to wake up wake up with a bullet....

    time to ambush some death squads...

  2. Don't miss Peggy Noonan's WSJ opinion piece this morning.


  3. Oak Leaf asks, "[W]hy do we have an immigration system that in 2005 admits 7,905 from Egypt and only 2,088 from Ireland?" Good question, no?

  4. The last paragraph to Allen's link:

    "What is the first thing men do when they're drowning? They save themselves. With the waters rising on every side the president will attempt to re-enact his first and most personally satisfying political success when, as governor of Texas, he won plaudits and popularity for working hand in glove with Democrats. He accepted many Democratic assumptions--he shared them, it wasn't hard.

    The White House's reaction to the recent election was, essentially, Now we can get our immigration bill through with the Democrats. That was a clue. I suspect the president will over the next two years do to Republicans what he did to Donald Rumsfeld: over the side, under the bus and off the sled.

    He doesn't need them. They're not popular. They're not where the action is. He'll work closely with Democrats, gain in time new and admiring press--"Bush has grown," etc.

    This is the path he will take to build his popularity and create a new legacy. If the Democrats let him. It would be in their interests, so I think maybe they will."

  5. We have Robert Kennedy to thank for that.

  6. Anyone care to comment on Bush's idiotic comments in Viet Nam?

  7. This is what he said:

    "Hanoi -- US President Bush said Friday the United States' unsuccessful war in Vietnam three decades ago offered lessons for the American-led struggle in Iraq. "We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said shortly after arriving in this one-time war capital."

    The POTUS is in Hanoi, in essence, saying we stopped the war in Viet Nam too early. The purpose of the trip is to strengthen ties with Viet Nam.

  8. Time for "Black Ops" was three years ago, that time has passed.

    That window has been shut and nailed. Mr al-Sadr represents a third of the electorate, he is the power behind the throne, his "band of thugs" empowered by US approved Elections.
    Power to the People.

    Ambush, that would require firing first, no, no, no. We do not do that. We can only shoot if the Insurgent or Death Head member fires at US troops on empty streets. No shooting back if "civilians" are on the sidewalks or in the gutters. Someone could get hurt.

    wi"o" hopes for the best, as I did for years, while railing against the stuidity of the US Policy.
    The stupid pills have been dispersed across DC and now the price of it will be paid.

    After 42 months you'd think we'd have some inhouse language specialists, but no. That was not considered a "real" need. A Stryker can do the job, better, I read that at BC, more than once.

    When I'm watching the News with Jr, the resounding cry of
    "Kill the Haji!!"
    still erupts, from time to time, the 'real" Corps thinking about Core Values.

  9. We'd have whupped them Viets, if only we'd not quit. ...
    That's the ticket.

    Admit the US is a Paper Tiger, while in the Belly of the Beast.

    Must be a Poker stratagem.
    Sure ain't chess.

  10. When contemplating US military reform, this story should be considered seriously. For perspective, think of the invincible Spanish Armada.

    "[T]he sub closed to within five miles of the USS Kitty hawk carrier group before being detected, and that on the surface.

  11. Deuce,

    re: idiotic comments

    Now, you're being redundant.


  12. 2164th said:

    "We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said shortly after arriving in this one-time war capital."

    That's our boy. If Bush needed a photo-op to push a fence across the border with Mexico, he'd probably go to the Brandenburg gate and say, "Ich bein ein Gringo"

  13. rufus told US not to worry 'bout that Chinese sub and the Hawk, seems she's in need of scrapping, anyway.

    No worries, be happy.

    The Hawk is no Nimitz Class boat, so do not be concerned. No harm, no foul, and it'd only be a field goal, not a TD, if the holed her, anyway.

    By the by, the link is not working.

  14. Allen, that is what happens when you take a day off

  15. DR and WC, you both gave me a belly laugh.

  16. desert rat critiqued the POTUS thus:

    Admit the US is a Paper Tiger, while in the Belly of the Beast. Must be a Poker stratagem. Sure ain't chess

    And for his next trick, ladies and germs, the President will fly Air Force One to Nagasaki, where from the park at ground zero he will push the Japanese to weaponize their plutonium.

  17. And, rufus, Iraq is Vietnam redux, at least in that regard.

    According to my "expert"
    But what would a E4 Marine "really" know, anyway?

    Mr NcNamara held all the "real" knowledge as well as the cards. All those Texican US Presidents, real card sharks, by reputation.

  18. "Ho man" was not all that impressed with The Sand Pebbles either but he still did not want the Chinese to sink her.Don't think of it as a strategic issue. Think of the crews morale.

  19. Exactly, rufus.

    Her radar and sonar arrays are not up to speed, She does not count as a modern combat asset, yet still flys the flag.
    If she were to go down, explain that to the anxious US public.

    All the logic in the World neither would nor could. All that we'd know, fer sure, is that a US Carrier no longer sailed the seas.
    That the "sea lanes" were not secure, sailors were sunk, and the US could not even protect it's own, much less project power.

    Those could all be poor assumtions, but the US Public is not as knowledgable as you. Perseptions shape reality.
    If after 10 years of 'Nam and 42 months of Iraq that has not sunk in, well then the protective matter must be pretty dense.

    Our Electorate does not share that trait, obviously. They have short time frames for action and success.

    The fact that the Chicom could achieve a firing solution is symyematic of Naval failure.
    Pure and simple.
    The Hawk would still be showing the flag, all the way to the bottom.

  20. Just out of curiosity, how many modern ships could we have fitted out if we spent one third of the money we have wasted in Iraq?

  21. On a rainy friday morning, this is what we're gonna talk about?

    Why? Shouldn't we be discussing how the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to do the el foldo tomorrow?

  22. Better than Ohio State, look to the Pros.

    It is instructive.
    The AZ Cardinals built a fabulous facility, state of the art, as it were. The best in grass, lighting, locker rooms, etc.
    With this new Facility the Team was going places, better believe it. First game of the Season, at home, the Stealers came, and got spanked.
    Have not won a game since.

    The perfect Iraq analogy, in its own way.

  23. Talking foot ball, refresh your screens and step into the newly redecorated sports lounge at the elephant.

  24. beautyful--#1 vs #2 in the season finale. Wot more could anyone ask fer?

  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  26. 2164th wrote:

    Just out of curiosity, how many modern ships could we have fitted out if we spent one third of the money we have wasted in Iraq?

    $100 billion divided by $4.5 billion equals 22 Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carriers, plus $1 billion dollars in change. That change would cover the $160 million dollar annual operating cost for six of these. Make do without two carriers, and you have enough to build some support destroyers and cruisers. Now you're talking about some serious power projection. Or, you can pass out soccer balls in Anbar Province.

  27. with 30 Carrier Battle Groups, the PRC might just slow down on their blue-water navy. Why throw money into a sinking asset?

  28. I enjoyed life more when my knowledge of the Middle East is superficial.

    Of course, that in itself is a good thing. It is good to know the scale of the task ahead of us. Tough way to learn, but boy have we learned.

    Government and military knowledge of the Middle East is exponentially greater, though admittedly, most of it is bad. Without Iraq I imagine we'd be sleepwalking into Iran. 4 times the size and 3 times the population.

    On another note, this is interesting.

    Schwarzenegger on Milton Friendman.

  29. "$100 billion divided by $4.5 billion equals 22 Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carriers, plus $1 billion dollars in change. That change would cover the $160 million dollar annual operating cost for six of these. Make do without two carriers, and you have enough to build some support destroyers and cruisers. Now you're talking about some serious power projection. Or, you can pass out soccer balls in Anbar Province."

    I hope this is a tongue in cheek, semi-serious analysis.

  30. In spite of the attraction of just signing off on this ugly adventure behind us and finding a more 'glorious' war against a more willing opponent such as China, the reasons we went into Iraq have not gone away. We just have perhaps one less solution to the problem, neo-conservativism (and it must be said that the reason neo-conservativism was so popular to people, is that it is still one of the only seemingly attractive solutions to the problem).

    If American security was a function of all the nice ships and fancy toys that we have, we'd be the safest country in world history.