“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."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

trish said...No security, no intel. No intel, no security.

I remind all readers to the Elephant Bar to take the time to get into the links provided by those who make comments. Last night in an exchange with Allen, Trish posted this Link . Allen responded by saying:

Wow! This is worth anyone's time with an interest in the ME. And I use ME advisedly and in the largest possible geographic terms because I doubt the problem is isolated to Iraq.

Rollin's paints a dark picture of Bush I's handling of post-war relations with the natives, doesn't he?

Wed Jan 24, 12:24:14 AM EST
This is the article that Trish and Allen refer to:

Jan. 19, 2007 – 8:08 p.m.
Spying in Baghdad: The CIA’s Real Mission Impossible
By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

Many years ago, when I was a young Army Intelligence operative in South Vietnam, I had a daily routine to see if my spies had any new information for me.

I’d drive by a soccer stadium in Danang, the large coastal city where I lived, and I’d look for a particular mark on the wall. If it was there, I’d go to a prearranged place at a set time for a clandestine meeting with a go-between. Many times the pick-up place was a pleasant beach about a mile from my house. The war was raging in the jungles and rice paddies less than 10 miles away, and communist agents were everywhere in the city. But security was good enough that they weren’t likely to risk exposing themselves by kidnapping or killing me.

My secret courier was a young boy who would come along selling ice cream from a box slung over his shoulder. I’d buy a cone wrapped in rice paper, and drive away. Back at the office, I’d unroll the paper to decipher my spy’s tiny handwriting.

Baghdad is nothing like that.

The chaotic, ubiquitous violence of Baghdad has kept the CIA indoors.

According to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad’s streets.

The CIA operatives cannot safely roam the city to meet their few agents, much less recruit new ones.

It’s just too dangerous. CIA chiefs don’t want to risk one getting kidnapped, tortured on camera and beheaded.

That would certainly dampen the allure of a career in the CIA.

So “they spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs,” said a former senior CIA operations official who maintains close ties in the agency.

No Casualties
One barometer of the CIA’s caution is the lack of agency casualties in the war, which has killed more than 3,000 U.S. military personnel and wounded 25,000 more.

Not a single CIA “case officer,” spy jargon for espionage operative, has been killed in Iraq, a half dozen former senior CIA officers with close knowledge of the situation there told me... Read the entire article here.

Jeff Stein can be reached at


  1. That was definitely link of the year.
    ...I decided in the shower to do what Allen now has done for me:
    Spread it around.
    A Few more places, maybe.
    From that thread, Allen's Malkin link:
    "-Shannon Hickey of Lancaster, Pa., founder at age 11 of Mychal's Message, a nonprofit organization to further the legacy of her favorite priest, Father Mychal Judge.
    The New York Fire Department chaplain was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when hit by debris from the World Trade Center.

    As I recall that was HUMAN "debris,"
    but of course that has been declared out of sight, out of mind, along with many other unmentionables.
    Better Dead than Politically Incorrect.

  2. Petraeus:
    Resolution Gives Enemy Hope

    Joe Lieberman's question and the general's answer gets
    those who have invested in American defeat all riled up...

    MoveOn's campaign against Lieberman was the one bright spot in the last election cycle.
    This is not the first time Joe has shined since.

  3. Thanks to trish for the link.

    Just halfway through Ricks' Fiasco and trying my best to sift through the overwhelming negativity - he does describe the Green Zone as an alternate universe from the chaos outside, with a dichotomy so wide, a mentality so divorced from reality that personnel might actually choose to adopt.

    Methinks the Green Zone is getting a little too comfy - requests have been made to upgrade the facilities within the Zone to improve the welfare of the soldiers and staff there. Well and good - but at the expense of fulfilling their duties, having boots on the ground - doing something at least?

    Recruiting Iraqis to do the CIA's work as spies may be a more viable tactic if it puts our own young, promising CIA operatives at lesser risk, but it fundamentally depends on whether the Iraqi population is convinced of our intentions to back Maliki to genuinely wipe out the Shiite militias instead of adopting a strategy that will empower either al-Sadr or al-Hakim (the latter's elevated status being more unavoidable).

    We're already working with Anbar tribes who more or less are our eyes, ears (and sometimes arms) on the ground - in a sense, one could say that intel in Sunni-dominated neighbourhoods have been achieved at relatively low-cost compared to if the CIA were to send their operatives out in the open in Ramadi, which would only compromise more lives - on our side and also Iraqis who might have been spotted speaking to CIA operatives and thus murdered by insurgents in the area.

    The question begs: can we implement a similar strategy with regard to the Shiites? There have been promising signs: the Iraqi Army has already enlisted the aid of civilians to identify insurgents and militiamen in a raid on a Mahdi mosque last week. But it will take much longer to determine whether it can be a sustained, reliable source of intel - which would prove be a bellwether of either optimistic or ominous elements.

    Perhaps we should try to view it from a counter-criminalistic paradigm?

  4. And thanks to allen and deuce for calling it to attention.

  5. wu reports, at the end of yesterday, that 600 Mahdi have been arrested and are awaiting prosecution.
    Cheers all around.

    Now, if they take the normal course, they will be released within three to six months.

    Since Sept '03 there have been around 25,000 detainees held in Iraq, at any given time.

    We know that each day many Enemy Combatants are detained, yet the detainee population does not grow.

    So, we have traded 600 Sunni detainees for Shia detainees. The arrests of the 600 Shia is held as proof that the Maliki Government is "on board", while the Iraqi sucking of the US teat continues.

    How many Mahdi were killed in these raids. Only that number will indicate the true level of seriousness. The Mahdi Army is said to have between 25,000 and 40,000 members.
    600 off the field, for a quarter or two, proves nothing. It could just be al-Sadr culling the ranks, with deniability.

  6. > We're already working with Anbar tribes who more or less are our eyes, ears (and sometimes arms) on the ground

    Are the Sunnis helping us in any way outside of a few parts of Anbar? IOW are they helping us at all in Baghdad?

    It seems to me that the Shiites are doing a much better job of cooperating, and (with the one exception of Anbar) we have nothing at all from the Sunnis. There are arguments one way or the other whether Maliki's army is neutral or anti-Sunni. But we have no Sunni army at all (unless one counts the Kurds). If we are successful in the "clean" part of the operation in Baghdad, there are no Sunni troops and police to take over the "hold & build" parts of the operation.

    Everyone seems to say it all comes down to Maliki, what he decides, but it seems to me that the Sunnis are even more important. Without a lot of Sunnis in the army, there is no hope for long term stability in Iraq, regardless of what Maliki does.

    We can say that al-Sadr is bad and Maliki may be biased, but no one even knows the names of their Sunni equivalents since they won't even work within the system.

    It appears that the two recent helicopter shootdown were done by Sunnis, and the massive car bombings of Shiites are the work of Sunnis.

    It is stunning to me that we get zero cooperation from the Sunnis (except the one good sheik in Anbar), yet the Iraqi army which Sunnis won't join is constantly under pressure to defend Sunni territory, and the US is pressured to be fair and always target at least as many Shiite militia are Sunni insurgents. Basically the Sunnis refuse to lift a finger to help, and in fact devote their full strength to killing US troops, Iraqi troops, and Shiite civilians, and yet all of those are expected to fight and die to defend Sunni territory.

  7. > Since Sept '03 there have been around 25,000 detainees held in Iraq, at any given time.

    Even if this is true, it doesn't prove the "catch & release" idea. In the early and middle days of the war, some commanders rounded up every fighting age male in their district, on the concept that doing so was the best way to stop the insurgency. If some of those Iraqis who were innocent were let go, then the numbers could remain the same but progress is being made.

  8. wu wei, if I may say so, regretfully, that Bush has staked everything that he has on Maliki - the onus is on the PM to deliver what he promised - though promises don't count for much in the Middle East, what with shifting alliances and fickle allegiances. As you suggest, it matters not if Maliki is truly intent on dealing with the Shiite militias and al-Sadr (as you have convincingly put forth in your strong stance) because at the end of the day, if the Sunnis don't cooperate, Iraq still remains as inscrutable and unsolvable an enigma as before. Fair enough.

    But just as regretfully, the onus has shifted onto the Sunnis as well. The question is: are the Sunnis a controllable variable in this context? If the likelihood of any favourable outcome that includes the Sunnis in the future is not contingent on what we (and I mean both the US and Iraqi governments) in our utmost power are able to do, and the best we could do is mitigate losses and prevent catastrophic scenarios (the extremes of which would be either an Iranian proxy state, Sunni ethnic cleansing and/or out-and-out proxy battlefield between Iran and the KSA): we then might have to ask ourselves, when do we decide that hoping for any reconciliation with the Sunnis is mere wishful thinking, and we have to settle with what we have - even if it's just one sheikh - to pave the inroads (however slight) towards defeating the insurgency?

  9. Maybe it's catch-and-kill now?

    Iraqi forces backed by US helicopter gunships have fought insurgents in two Sunni-dominated areas in the centre of the capital Baghdad.

    The US military says the operation in Haifa Street was part of the new plan to restore security to Baghdad.

    Five US civilians died when a US helicopter crashed in the other district, al-Fadl, on Tuesday, after apparently coming under fire.

  10. > when do we decide that hoping for any reconciliation with the Sunnis is mere wishful thinking

    If the Sunnis want war, then they will get it. Nothing in the world can stop that. We can partially redirect the war to us by jumping in the middle, but that would still be war.

    IMO no cooperation from the Sunnis means that we stay out of the civil war. Our only role would be to target terrorists we felt were a direct threat to the US, and to protect US troops in Iraq.

  11. You finally figured that out, wu?

    Now, according to your yesterday update, the US has opened a "Second Front" in the Iraqi War.
    Taking on the Mahdi Army.

    The Sunni Insurgents have always maintained an estimated force of 25,000 fighters of one sort or another.
    Now we have begun to engage the 25,000 Shia militia men in the Baghdad area. And we intend to hold and build the "cleared" Shia areas with Shia Iraqi Army troops.
    Troops that are formed from the same population base and infiltrated by militiamen.

    Robert E Lee refused the Command of the Union Army, to ride for his Tribe, instead.

    What true patriot would not?

    Are we to assume the men of Iraq will renounce their Honor and sell out for Power, when General Lee would not.
    To think so little of the Iraqi, to have so little understanding of an "Honor Society", so far we have come.
    Post modern America.
    Post modern War
    Post foreign language skill needs.

    Slow defeat, as per Mr Bush, is the current course. Except for hope.

  12. Now it seems the pending status of those detained Sadrist militiamen is "awaiting persecution".

  13. > You finally figured that out

    No, I have always said this comes down to secret negotations which I don't have access to. Except for a few insiders, no one knows what the various Iraqi players are saying and doing behind the scenes.

    Everyone including me can only speculate since we don't have the information. For example two articles reported that Sunni insurgents were turning agaist Al Qaeda, and were shifting their resources to defend Sunni areas. They reportedly were willing to have at least a partial cease fire if certain things happened.

    Is it true? I don't know. Member of Congress in both parties hint at that, saying that if Maliki did certain things that the Sunni Insurgency would respond.

  14. > Are we to assume the men of Iraq will renounce their Honor and sell out for Power, when General Lee would not.

    In the US Civil War, Union beat the Rebels. Many troops were willing to fight and die for Union. The North could have instead just partitioned, but they chose to fight for union instead.

    It would be unrealistic to think everyone in Iraq will choose union. The question is whether enough Iraqis will choose union so that there is a war, a war that union can win.

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

  16. Of Course releasing terrorists that "await prosecution", their cases dismissed are SOP for Iraq.
    Mr Yon told the tale. For those that are unfamilar with the story, or want a wuick refresher:

    " ... The doctors rolled LTC Kurilla and the terrorist into OR and our surgeons operated on both at the same time. The terrorist turned out to be one Khalid Jasim Nohe, who had first been captured by US forces (2-8 FA) on 21 December, the same day a large bomb exploded in the dining facility on this base and killed 22 people.

    That December day, Khalid Jasim Nohe and two compatriots tried to evade US soldiers from 2-8 FA, but the soldiers managed to stop the fleeing car. Then one of the suspects tried to wrestle a weapon from a soldier before all three were detained. They were armed with a sniper rifle, an AK, pistols, a silencer, explosives and other weapons, and had in their possession photographs of US bases, including a map of this base.

    That was in December.

    About two weeks ago, word came that Nohe’s case had been dismissed by a judge on 7 August. The Coalition was livid. According to American officers, solid cases are continually dismissed without apparent cause. Whatever the reason, the result was that less than two weeks after his release from Abu Ghraib, Nohe was back in Mosul shooting at American soldiers.

    LTC Kurilla repeatedly told me of - and I repeatedly wrote about - terrorists who get released only to cause more trouble. Kurilla talked about it almost daily. Apparently, the vigor of his protests had made him an opponent of some in the Army’s Detention Facilities chain of command, but had otherwise not changed the policy. And now Kurilla lay shot and in surgery in the same operating room with one of the catch-and-release-terrorists he and other soldiers had been warning everyone about. ...

    Gates of Fire

    The song remains the same.

  17. How could that currently nonexistent "union" in Iraq win, wu?
    If the members do not exist.

    There may be Sunni that do not want to fight US, in Anbar. But that does not mean, by any means, that those Sunni will submit to the Shia Government of Iraq.

    The case was made to the Shia leadership, to breakup the UIA bloc for the "good" of the Iraqi Republic.
    Mr Sistani denied blessing the castration of Shia Nationalism, in Iraq, in the name of inclusive multi-culturalism.

  18. > But that does not mean, by any means, that those Sunni will submit to the Shia Government of Iraq.

    That's one possibility, but only the insiders know for sure. If the Sunnis want a partition, not submitting, then that could come peacefully. Even if the Sunnis don't want to submit to the Shiites, the Sunnis could still choose to defend their own people.

    In the US Civil War the Confederacy formed conventional armies and allocated some of them to defending Confederate territory and citizens. Will the Sunnis do the same thing? Or are they terrorist all the way, not willing to lift a finger to protect their citizens and hold Sunni territory?

    It definitely is a high risk strategy and something unique, if the Sunnis are willing to continue to let thousands of their citizens flee the country, and not defend their turf and citizens, but instead are to gamble their entire future on car bombings. I don't see it as "honor" for the Sunni troops to let their people die, and instead focus all their energy on bombing shopping malls full of civilians.

  19. The dichotomy is worryingly prevalent in the fledging Iraqi Army as well, as Bill Roggio reports:


    Air assets are primarily devoted to the Marine battalion in the Khalidiya region. “One Marine battalion gets more air support than the 3 Iraqi battalions in the area,” said Major West. “Why is this so if the Iraqi effort is considered the primary focus?” Engineering assets are husbanded for the FOBs. SFC Himes explained how at times the MTTs have difficulty getting items such as HESCO barriers (mesh cages filled with dirt), New Jersey and Texas barriers (concrete barriers) and the engineering equipment to deploy them. While the MTT's kitchen is well stocked, the soldiers and Marines at times have difficulty obtaining food items from the rear.

    This has created an “us against them” mentality between those outside the wire of the FOBs, and the “Fobbits,” the soldiers and Marines living in the rear. This is understandable. Having spent time in both the FOBs and in forward positions, the disparities between the two are easily seen. The FOBs have phone centers, Internet cafes, Green Bean Coffee shops, and other amenities. The DFACs (dining facilities, chow halls, mess halls) are open four times a day, and have salad bars, short order lines, multiple main courses, fresh fruits, and a dizzying array of drinks of choice, including non-alcoholic beer. The 'Fobbits' live in air-conditioned 'cans', trailers with heat and air-conditioning, electricity and are often wired for satellite television.

    re: Sunni agenda

    The insurgents are ramping up the intensity and frequency of attacks in the face of the increasing number of Sunnis joining the Police, and the Ramadi tribes switching over - apparently, they want to dissuade these "defectors" from aiding the government by provoking Maliki even further to revert to sectarianism.

    Border security being so lax, Sunnis will be able to leave Iraq without much difficulty - thereby solving the problem of the insurgents having to protect their co-religionists. Any Sunni who stays is assumed to be a fellow insurgent, or willing to collaborate with them - or risk being slaughtered by Shiite militias.

    Again, this is just theoretical - who knows what the Sunnis are planning for? They might just be crazy enough to risk everything and plunge into massive insurgency operations, indiscriminately targeting Americans, Shiites and Iraqi government personnel (one of the ministers escaped a recent assassination attempt).

    Crazy Arabs.

  20. > Mr Sistani denied blessing the castration of Shia Nationalism, in Iraq, in the name of inclusive multi-culturalism.

    The only way this could be true if the Sunnis were willing to have a peaceful solution and be part of the Shiite majority government. That would disagree with the argument that the Sunnis will never give up their honor by submitting to a Shiite government.

    IOW how could someone blame Sistani for not accepting a deal which never existed? How could Sistani sign on a compromise agreement with the Sunnis if that agreement never existed?

    The reality is that Sistani didn't shoot anything down. The so-called deal just involved swapping al-Sadr out of the government to be replaced by another Shiite militia. One reason that went on hold is because US troops found Iranians, revolutional guards, in the complex of the so-called moderate Shiite who was going to take al-Sadr's place.

  21. The enemy needs food water electricity gas petrol radio television telephone mosques hospitals schools courts..

    I think that even the CIA can figure out where those are located, Trish.

  22. The other major Shia militia is Mr al-Hakim's Badr Brigade, of the SCIRI.
    The SCIRI is already part of the UIA, wu.
    If the Kurds and the Sunni, in the Parliment, voted together, the could replace the al-Sadr bloc, in a coalition Government.
    That idea has been "floated"
    They had the meetings, Mr Sistani, according to reports, turned thumbs down on the idea.
    He still wants the Shia to stand united, via the UIA, even if their personal goals divert. They do.

  23. Who do you think the US is at War with, mat?
    Criminals do not have those items you mentioned. Societies do.
    We are at War with criminals, not Societies, wish you'd get up to speed, on that point.

  24. > If the Kurds and the Sunni, in the Parliment, voted together, the could replace the al-Sadr bloc, in a coalition Government.

    How can the Sunni be in a coalition if they don't want peace?

    Mr. Hakim has emerged as the central Iraqi Shiite who is backing a new bloc made up of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that would isolate more radical politicians. Americans back the new bloc, and Mr. Hakim traveled to Washington earlier this month to discuss its formation with Mr. Bush. It was not clear how the arrests, embarrassing to Mr. Hakim, would affect those political efforts.

    I am pointing out the double standard, that on the one hand that it is said that the Sunnis will never agree to peace (and their actions agree with that since they never take any steps towards peace), yet on the other hand we are told that we could have peace in Iraq tomorrow if only those nasty Shiites like Sistani, Maliki, and al-Sadr would behave themselves.

    Sistani did not prevent a peace deal in any way. At the same time it was said that the "Shiite block was intact", Sistani allowed al-Sadr's forces to be targeted by Maliki, and the Shiite block was already broken by al-Sadr's multi-month boycott.

    Why would we any Shiite leader give up on the possibility of a Shiite block, while the Sunnis are killing Shiites every day and show no interest in peace?

  25. d'Rat

    Ha! You make it sound like it's totally unprecedented for the enemy to hide his fighters, weapons, and explosives in such places.

    As for who the enemy is, it is any Jihadi and any muhmudian that so much as gives the slightest hint at being a potential Jihadi.

  26. Our friends the Sunnis, the peaceful Sunnis. (Sarcasm).

    Four of the five Americans killed when a U.S. security company's helicopter crashed in a dangerous Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad were shot execution-style in the back the head, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday.

    A senior Iraqi military official said a machine gunner downed the helicopter, but a U.S. military official in Washington said there were no indications that the aircraft, owned by Blackwater USA, had been shot out of the sky. Two Sunni insurgent groups, separately, claimed responsibility for the crash.

    In Washington, a U.S. defense official said four of the five killed were shot in the back of the head but did not know whether they were still alive when they were shot. The defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

  27. trish,

    re: Papua New Guinea

    We must be eternally grateful that we are not fighting in Papua New Guinea. Of the world's current 6,000 or so languages, about 1,500 (1/4) are spoken there.

    Hmmm...1,500 languages and conflict could do wonders for the budget, though.

  28. Tough business being a mercenary. Show no mercy, don't expect any and never get caught:

    4 of 5 Americans Killed in Iraq Helicopter Crash Shot Execution Style in the Back of the Head

    BAGHDAD, Iraq Jan 24, 2007 (AP)— Four of the five Americans killed when a U.S. security company's helicopter crashed in a dangerous Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad were shot execution style in the back the head, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday.

  29. How about "No offensive operations, no security".

    Here are 30 of the bastards who are non longer candidates for catch and release. Give 'em Hell Yanks.

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi and U.S. troops battling militants along Baghdad's volatile Haifa Street on Wednesday killed at least 30 insurgents and detained 35, according to an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman.

    The battle on Haifa Street went on for eight hours, as U.S. and Iraqi forces fought to regain control of the mainly Sunni area, which Iraqi officials have described in the past as full of "terrorist hideouts."

    The raid was a preplanned operation, part of Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, "a series of targeted raids to disrupt illegal militia activity and help restore Iraqi security force control in the area," according to U.S. military statements.

    "The mission is not an operation designed to solely target Sunni insurgents, but rather aimed at rapidly isolating all active insurgents and gaining control of this key central Baghdad location," a U.S. military statement said.

    The Iraqi Ministry of Defense said a "huge weapons and ammunitions cache" was found at the Karkh High School in the Haifa Street area.

  30. As to date, most of the Mahdi have been captured and detained, The Sunni Insurgents are being killed.

    One is political
    the other practical

  31. "We are at War with criminals, not Societies, wish you'd get up to speed, on that point." Right-o.

    Nonsense. The US is at war with Iraq. So anyone inside and outside Iraq that is party to the war is fair game. That would also include Iran, Syria, Saudia Arabia, btw.

  32. mat, you are on Mars, the President is on Venus.

    We LIBERATED Iraq, we are NOT at war with it.
    That is the basis of our problem and is carzt, but the Policy and Doctrine we follow.

    Reality trumps projection of what coulda, shoulda & woulda been, mat.

  33. No. You toppled and executed Saddam, that's all. Al Qaeda and Saddam's remnant Jihadist army are still around, largly supported by the Sunni population. There's still much work to be done. It is you that should get up to speed. :)

  34. One is political
    the other practical

    Well my friend, let's spread the love and get practical with the Shia also. Mr. Bush spoke passionately last night about the importance of winning. The Surge plan calls for attacking both sides. Surely, we'll see that happening as the fighting ramps up.

  35. Why, mat, those Sunni contributed an entire 3,000 men to the local Anbar Police Force. There were a little over 1 million people living there, preInvasion. So the depth of the Sunni committment to reconciliation and pacification is easily seen.

    There will be no reasonable excuse to enter into combat with the Shia militias. al-Sadr's bloc has rejoined the Government, the black robes are in the closet, his militiamen not taking many casualties. Detainees a plenty, but not many dead.

    He is still central to the UIA bloc, he will remain so.

    Mr Yon says,
    "Kill Sadr or leave."
    That is a road sign.
    Some have said al-Sadr was living on borrowed time. I doubt that the US wil kill him. I truely do.

  36. Disband the police and start leveling the place. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be?

    As for Sadr, that taqiyya General Abizaid seems unable to single task, let alone multitask.