4 April 2003

reply to a friend
Alan, Reality check time. The reports I've seen indicate that the Iraqi forces to the south of Baghdad have been pounded shitless. The battlefield is so well known the US because of their means of surveillance that any major troop/armour concentrations can be hit. The US has absolute air superiority and can hunt out the Republican Guard's armour and artillery support and destroy it at will. It seems that Iraqi attempts to pull back and focus armour and artillery lead to its destruction. Therefore it is dispersed and impotent.

I was surprised to get this, because at first reading it is the unvarnished Pentagon line on the war and assumes my thinking has been that Iraq could beat off the US attack without an extended siege of Baghdad.

This leaves Iraqi troops with only mortar, RPG and other annoying but ineffective forms of support. The only problem the US troops face is their inability to round up all of the roving bands of Iraqi troops. They will inflict casualties on the attackers but the outcome is certain.

Precisely those weapons will become much more effective if the coalition is forced into urban warfare within Baghdad.

I agree that the administration in Washington could be trying to push their troops too far forward, but this might work. The casualties they've taken are light, but blown out of all proportion by media coverage. How and when they choose to invest Baghdad will depend on their daring. They may wait for the reinforcements to get there�or see what happens if they punch a hole into the southern suburbs. The classic response - defenders bring forces around to engulf attackers is nullified by the air support factor.

At risk of becoming an armchair general myself it seems to me that the Iraqi side can't stop the investment of Baghdad. However, air power has its limits. Neither personnel nor equipment can keep up the present tempo of operations against Baghdad indefinitely and the problem of the line of communications still exists, although improved by establishment of an air lift. The question is can the regime hold together long enough to try and take advantage of the inevitable slowdown in coalition aviation? I doubt it, but the Iraqi side has surprised us before.

Further, there are still problems in the rear. Nasiriya is still not secure. The delivery of aid through Umm Qasr is a shambles. Basra remains untaken after a fortnight of the kind of treatment about to be thrown at Baghdad .

Their real problems will begin when the positional war is over and they have to hold the place. The Arab world is still in shock but the mountain is starting to move. This could make Vietnam recede in importance as the latest debacle takes shape.

For the moment what happened to the RG divisions is an open question. The coalition does not hold the prisoners or bodies to justify the claim that they've destroyed them. Just possibly, they've retreated into Baghdad or gone partisan as in the south.

The neocons have all crawled out of the woodwork and are once again regaling us with tales of the imminent Shi'a rising in Baghdad. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, head of Najaf's Muslim hierarchy, has told the Shi'ites of Iraq only to stay neutral, not to join the coalition. It seems to me in terms of the war plan and neocon expectations we are not too far from where we were on Day 2 and 3 when we started to hear the repeated falls of cities and repeated surrenders of massive Iraqi formations.

This war is wrong and stays wrong whether the coalition is militarily successful or not. While all abhor the loss of life on either side that does not mean that force of arms makes right what was from its inception wrong.
The Voices Live
Andrew Motion, writing about 9 September

The voices live which are the voices lost:
we hear them and we answer, or we try
but words are nervous when we need them most
and shutter, stop, or dully slide away

so everything they mean to summon up
is always just too far, just out of reach,
unless our memories give time the slip
and learn the lesson that heart-wisdoms teach

of how in grief we find a way to keep
the dead beside us as our time goes on -
invisible and silent but the deep
foundation of ourselves, our cornerstone.
Regime Change
Andrew Motion

Advancing down the road from Niniveh
Death paused a while and said 'Now listen here.

You see the names of places roundabout?
They're mine now, and I've turned them inside out.

Take Eden, further south: At dawn today
I ordered up my troops to tear away

Its walls and gates so everyone can see
That gorgeous fruit which dangles from its tree.

You want it, don't you? Go and eat it then,
And lick your lips, and pick the same again.

Take Tigris and Euphrates; once they ran
Through childhood-coloured slats of sand and sun.

Not any more they don't; I've filled them up
With countless different kinds of human crap.

Take Babylon, the palace sprouting flowers
Which sweetened empires in their peaceful hours -

I've found a different way to scent the air:
Already it's a by-word for despair.

Which leaves Baghdad - the star-tipped minarets,
The marble courts and halls, the mirage-heat.

These places, and the ancient things you know,
You won't know soon. I'm working on it now.'

acrobats on radio
The ABC radio broadcast of an Australian Defence Force briefing just included the immortal words:

They're showing a video now but it's not very helpful so you wouldn't learn much even if you could see it.'

3 April 2003

gone to the flogs
The Guardian has established a science section called Life. It looks good and might help address the gap between humanities knowledge and science knowledge among wimpy social democrats like the present writer.

The Guardian reports:

The dolphins are taught to avoid touching the mines; that job is left to the (human) clearance divers, among whom any mention of the marine mammals causes raised eyebrows. "They can be pretty effective," a diver said last week. "But they are like little kids. You put them in a strange environment and they don't like it. In a couple of weeks, when they have got used to the water, I'm sure they will be great. But at the moment they are causing more work."

Personally I find the idea of war dolphins as bad or worse than the use of war dogs.

2 April 2003

Leviathan rides again

I guess they don't read Hobbes at the White House or the Pentagon.

Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.


Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
gone to the blogs
I've been reading Shi'apundit for an alternative view of the significance of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
gone to the blogs
Rob over at Blogorrhoea quotes the supercilious Ari Fleischer:

I've just been watching Ari Fleischer explaining why it's an outrage to compare the Iraqi display of US POWS with what the US are doing to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The latter were caught during the War On Terror, he argued indignantly, whereas the Iraq war is an altogether different conflict.

So we have it from the prez's spokesdork - nice and official-like. The Iraq invasion is not part of the war on terror. It is something else.

A really nice piece of blogging. This war was always an exercise in cognitive dissonance but this example takes the cakewalk cake.
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | When are facts facts? Not in a war
Note that the MTF story came initially from the highest levels of the US government - Bush and Myers. The try runs for around 24 hours and then gets quietly disavowed at a much lower level - the unfortunate general at CENTCOM. That's a really, really effective way to keep all sorts of propaganda claims in play without ever being held to account. After all, they trotted out the MTF in February and independent journalists disavowed it then.

A cynical government that kept spinning up these untrue claims long enough might, for example, persuade its electorate that 19 of the 11 September hijackers were Iraqis not Saudis.



Thursday 27 March, 12.59am

US President George Bush says US troops had destroyed a terrorist camp in northern Iraq but fails to elaborate during a briefing about the progress of the Iraqi invasion. "Day by day, Saddam Hussein is losing his grip on Iraq," Bush said.

Claim reinforced

Sunday 30 March, 5.07pm

More reports that allied forces secure much of north of Iraq and overrun a notorious terrorist camp alleged to be a haven for al-Qaida militants. Washington accuses the Ansar al-Islam group, believed to be behind the camp, of working to make chemical weapons with help from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Claim amplified

Monday 31 March

Papers report that US forces seize the chemical weapons training camp in Ansar al-Islam, in northern Iraq. Sun splashes with the story and says war justified now that Saddam Hussein's weapons of horror had been discovered. Veteran UK intelligence expert Chris Dobson says the deadly poison ricin found recently in London most likely came from the camp and was evidence of Saddam's links with terrorists intent on striking Britain.

Admission claim never verified

Tuesday 1 April, 1.39pm

A US commander in the Gulf, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, tells a news conference that troops had yet to find any banned weapons of mass destruction in captured Iraqi territory. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Iraq's banned weapons are stockpiled in Baghdad and Tikrit.
Weblogging the world
Reporter: Mick O'Donnell

The deluge of information, sound and pictures from the war has many people reeling, some turning away in horror. But for others around the world, there is never enough. Not content with switching between cable and free-to-air TV, radio broadcasts and newspaper websites, the webloggers are constantly updating themselves and each other on the very latest. Some claim the bloggers, as they are known, will one day supersede the mainstream media. Others see them as quirky parasites.

SALAM PAX: (On Internet diary) 4:30pm.

Half an hour ago the oil-filled trenches were put on fire.

MICK O'DONNELL: Somewhere in Baghdad, a young architect - he calls himself Salam Pax, as in peace - types his thoughts into the ether as the missiles rain down.

SALAM PAX: (On Internet diary) The only thing that I could think of was why does this have to happen to Baghdad.

MICK O'DONNELL: Somewhere in northern Kuwait, a tired US soldier shares his thoughts via a laptop.

US SOLDIER: (On Internet diary) For dinner we had baked chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

MICK O'DONNELL: Some of it banal, some more profound.

US SOLDIER: (On Internet diary) But they welcomed them as liberators, liberators with food.

MICK O'DONNELL: In northern Iraq, an American journalist working for CNN takes time out from his real job to record his personal impressions - in type, picture and voice -

KEVIN SYKES, JOURNALIST, CNN: (On Internet diary) This is Kevin Sykes in northern Iraq.

What I'm looking at right now is a long line of trucks packed with all kinds of belongings, personal belongings - Kurdish people moving north.

MICK O'DONNELL: ..until his boss tells him to stop blogging and get back to real work.

Far from the newsrooms and the studios of the mainstream media, far from the professional journalists, and scattered in lounge rooms and academics' offices around the world are the war bloggers.

They're individuals seated at their computers day and night, unpaid and devoted to keeping themselves and their fellows better informed.

Some even claim that they're superseding the big media, that they're faster and more comprehensive.

JAMES MORROW, COLUMNIST; The blogs are really kind of the front line.

They're like a new wire service of volunteer reporters and rewriters and commentators, who are all out there getting news out to other people and each other.

MICK O'DONNELL: The term 'blog' is a shortening of 'weblog' - an Internet diary connecting to other people's diaries.

From the simple, often personal weblog came the warblog, as individuals rushed to express their opinions and feelings after September 11.

JOHN QUIGGIN, ECONOMIST; It was after September 11 that the so-called 'warbloggers', mainly Americans and mainly taking a very strongly pro-war sort of line, came into prominence.

GIANNA, WRITER: The writing - the quality of writing - is just such top class.

I mean, I wouldn't even really bother reading the newspapers anymore.

MICK O'DONNELL: James Morrow is one of Australia's most prolific warbloggers.

A freelance journalist with a toddler and a busy wife vying for the computer, he spends hours scanning, commenting, updating from his Sydney terrace house.

In his weblog, the 'Daily James', Morrow delivers a neo-conservative critique of the latest - from the ABC, the American media - all of his pet hates, like the coverage of the deaths of US soldiers.

JAMES MORROW: The assumption of the mainstream media has been, "Oh, my God, they're shooting at us with real bullets.

"How could they do that?

"We dropped leaflets on them telling them not to."

And so what the bloggersphere has been existing to do in this case has been to serve as a check on that.

MICK O'DONNELL: They're the umpires of the net, blowing the whistle on media complacency.

When he's not umpiring the footy in Perth, media student Gareth Parker is having his two cents worth.

GARETH PARKER, MEDIA STUDENT: A lot of these people are wired into - locked into - cable TV and to up-to-the-minute breaking news on the Internet, and certainly, I think, we can get instant feedback from a lot of these bloggers.

MICK O'DONNELL: But the blogs are still dependent on the mainstream media they critique.

JOHN QUIGGIN: The bloggers are basically responding to those things.

They don't really have the advantage of that kind of instant immediacy that TV has.

The most critical piece of wishful thinking is the assumption that the armed forces of the US and UK, which have been bombing Iraq for the last decade, will be welcomed as liberators when they finally defeat Saddam.

MICK O'DONNELL: Another prominent Australian warblogger is John Quiggin, a left-wing economist from Queensland Uni.

JOHN QUIGGIN: You get some very good quality analysis of things on the right sort of topic.

I think what's been published in the Australian weblogs is as good, or better, as what's been published in the opinion papers of the major newspapers.

MICK O'DONNELL: Many of the neo-conservative American blogs crow when they see examples of what they think is political correctness, like US media self-censoring the religion of the black American serviceman who was arrested for allegedly throwing grenades at his fellow soldiers.

The world-favourite blog at the moment has to be that of Salam Pax, based in Baghdad.

JAMES MORROW: This is supposed to be war for the Iraqi people, so who better to tell the story of the war than an Iraqi person?

SALAM PAX: (On Internet diary) As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion, I was close to tears.

GIANNA: He is very descriptive about the situation he's in and it really - it just feels like you have a direct insight into what's actually happening on the ground.

MICK O'DONNELL: Strangely missing from the bloggersphere are many women.

One of the few is Sydney blogger Jana, a sometime-journalist who feels compelled to share her thoughts and feelings on poetry and the war.

But the most enterprising warblogger has to be Chris Allbritton, a New York freelancer, who has used his site - 'Back to Iraq' - to raise US$10,000.

He's using the money to return to northern Iraq, where he'll file independent reports to his blog.

CHRIS ALLBRITTON: (On Internet diary) And now the fear sets in.

Tomorrow will be a busy day - I'll likely not blog until Friday when I get to anchor and give an update, but I'll do what I can.

MICK O'DONNELL: Maybe Allbritton will start a trend - bloggers no longer dependent on the mainstream for their material.

Transcripts on this website are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts.
How silly do we think the Shi'a are? II
"But what happens around Najaf and Karbala in the coming days may turn out to be the key to how the British and Americans are perceived by the Shia. The American troops surrounding Najaf, the resting place of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, appear to be aware of that. Many sites in the city have been declared "no targets", to be fired at only in self-defence.

American soldiers drove around the outskirts of the city yesterday, beseeching its inhabitants through loudspeakers mounted on their armoured cars to turn over President Saddam's forces to them, so wary are they of trying to face Iraqi fighters in the streets of Najaf. But US commanders said yesterday there were too many fighters in Najaf to ignore.

Karbala, the resting place of the Prophet's grandson, Hussein, is perhaps even more dangerous for the Americans and the British. So holy is the city to Shia Muslims that many carry soil from Karbala to prayers with them, even in faraway cities in Iran, cut off from Karbala since the Iran-Iraq war.

The war is now at Day 13. The explosion of joy is not happening among the Shi'a. Their leaders know about the plans for a democratic transformation of the Middle East and that the working definition of democracy does not include a Shi'a president of iraq any time in the enar future.

In one sense the Bush war plan is an attempt to escape politics by resorting to force instead of building a consensus at the UN. The escape has been unsuccessful. It has not led to a rising in southern Iraq and (for different reasons that I'll discuss later today) it has not led to a second front in northern Iraq. The Rumsfeld rumbling at the expense of Iran and Syria is unlikely either to enthuse the Shi'a or calm other Middle eastern capitals.
New find in 'smoking gun' search | csmonitor.com
"But the officials declined to say exactly what they had found or whether there was any evidence to link the militants camped out here to the Iraqi dictator.

"We have found various documents, equipment, and evidence that would indicate a presence of chemical or biological weapons. It has been flown back to the United States," a Special Forces company commander said Tuesday at a joint press press conference in Halabja, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq. "At this point, [exploration] of the site is ongoing."

In a war that has often seemed to be marked by more bad surprises than good, Tuesday was a moment for back-slapping. Kurdish and US forces lauded each other's cooperation in decimating a Taliban-like camp whose members were responsible for a recent suicide attack on a nearby checkpoint that killed an Australian journalist.

Yep, it's more on the MTF. Note that what's actually been found bears no relationship to the hype announced by the Pentagon and that you cannot really prove a link between Saddam and al-Qaida by showing an MTF (if that is what it is) operating outside Saddam's reach. If it took 8 000 peshmerga plus US special forces to capture a village within the Kurdish safe haven I am at a loss to understand how Saddam could have influenced anything the Ansar al-Islam was doing there.
Rumsfeld's rules acquire plausible deniability
Now, you might want to find out a little about US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. You might want to read the famous Rumsfeld's Rules. Sadly if you download from the Pentagon all you get is:

Rumsfeld's Rules are no longer available on line from the Department of Defense.

You need to download from PDFzone if you're really hanging on a copy.
Saddam's rule
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Forget Stalin or Hitler.

The worst ruler in world history is Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon says.

The Iraqi people will be free of decades and decades and decades of torture and oppression the likes of which I think the world has not ever seen before," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told a Pentagon news conference on Monday.

Mao, Stalin, and Hitler must all be spinning in their graves.

Link courtesy of Hesiod.

1 April 2003

Chemical weapons factory: now you see it, now you don't

Monday, March 24, 1.33am
Reports surface that US forces find first cache of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, seizing a suspected chemical factory in An Najaf. This would be a significant PR coup for Messrs Bush and Blair who justified their launch of war on the grounds that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Fox News and the Jerusalem Post, which had a reporter travelling with US troops, both quote unidentified Pentagon officials who said the facility was seized by US forces. About 30 Iraqi troops and their commanding general surrendered as American forces took the installation, apparently used to produce chemical weapons, according to the Jerusalem Post. It was not immediately clear what chemicals were being produced at the facility.

Officials caution it is too premature to conclude that forbidden weapons had been discovered but US central command says it is examining several sites of interest.

Monday, March 24, 2.42am
General Richard Myers, chairman of joint chiefs of staff, claims US commamdos found documents along with millions of rounds of ammunition on Saturday, saying the discovery "might save thousands of lives if we can find out exactly what they have".

We're not sure
Monday, March 24, 2.44pm
General Tommy Franks, head of the coalition forces, claims he "wasn't entirely sure" that it was a chemical factory after all. Fox News forced to back away from the story. Iraq denies it has chemical or biological weapons.

Note that this chemical factory is not to be confused with the MTF recently said to be discovered (for the second time around) in the Ansar al-Islam pocket in northern Iraq.
OFFENSE AND DEFENSE: The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon

Required reading. Link courtesy of Josh Marshal.
The Road To Surfdom
"The Australian Prime Minister is not my favourite person but I have been consistent in praising his willingness to regularly face interviewers and account for himself.

Once again he goes one-on-one with a journalist in a way that George W. Bush never would or, I suspect, could. IN this interview, he gets a grilling and acquits himself reasonably well, even if he is unconvincing.

My personal favourite was O'brien's interview with Pual Wolfowitz.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Paul Wolfowitz, is America closer to war with Iraq today than it was before the release of the Blix report?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, US DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENCE: I think what you just saw -- I think your viewers just saw the President's speech live and I think what you've seen is a very strong display of national unity, a very strong commitment by the President to the security and freedom of every nation and every people and I think this speech has made a high standard.

It's not just a success but sets a guide post going forward for what we have to accomplish, the challenge that we face, and I think it was a demonstration of genuine presidential leadership and also real compassion.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is America closer to war with Iraq today than it was before the release of the Blix report?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Howard put it, I think Prime Minister Howard put it very clearly in the press conference that I read just a little while ago, that what we're really at is a point of crucial decision for the United Nations and the international community.

Saddam Hussein has really made the case against himself and the President laid it out very clearly for the whole world just now.

We, I think, are getting very close to a point of decision.

The difference in inerviewing styles is dramatic. The unwillingness of senior US political figures to subject themselves to testing interviews is at least one reason why the cakewalk farrago is now US policy..

The Second Superpower
'There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation.� Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the "will of the people" in a global social movement.� The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights.�� This movement has a surprisingly agile and muscular body of citizen activists who identify their interests with world society as a whole and who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one.� These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the world and not just the members of one or another nation.� Consider the members of Amnesty International who write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and the millions of Americans who are participating in email actions against the war in Iraq.� Or the physicians who contribute their time to Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres.'

Link courtesy of John Robb's Radio Weblog

31 March 2003

missing: one massive terrorist facility
The MTF in northern Iraq was all over various press conferences a few hours ago, but now it's disappeared again. I am beginning to suspect it's gone to the same place as the captive general the British have now admitted does not exist. We still don't know if this MTF is the same nonexistent MTF Powell reported to the Security Council or a different (but existent) MTF in the same place.

The real kicker is reported in the Guardian:

Britain and the United States suffered a fresh blow last night when their main justification for war was undermined by reports that special forces have failed to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

As Tony Blair launched a charm offensive to persuade the Arab world to understand his decision to go to war, senior officials in Washington said that intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction at 10 sites had proved to be unfounded.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that tests had proved negative at all "urgent" sites in the western desert. "All the searches have turned up negative," a staff officer told the newspaper. "The munitions that have been found have all been conventional."

At some point the leaders of the coalition really need to find some weapons of mass destruction. An explanation of the constant recaptures of the same towns, the surrender of entire divisions that prove not to be, and the constant coming and going of various generals from the POW list is starting to raise eyebrows.

The London Sun confirms that this MTF is the same one as the nonexistent MTF Powell identified in February! The article is fun to read, if only to count the number of times 'could have' and 'would have' are used. Note also that the Sun and the Guardian both mention the 1.5 kg bomb although the Sun tries to blow that up into something terrifying. (Apology for pun inserted here).
more on the ASIO bill
The ASIO bill was rejected by the Senate last December and caused the prime minister to claim (in effect) that it is undemocratic and dangerous for the legislature to legislate.

The bill is back before parliament. Last December the bill's absence was a grave threat to national security. Now it's so unimportant that the attorney-general forgot to do anything with it between 4 February and 20 March. It would just be too unkind to join the consensus of the guests on yesterday's Insiders that the bill is as much about gathering triggers for a double dissolution as anything else.

What a great war to fight a war!
CoW update
The 27 March list of the members of the Coalition of the Willing from the White House reads:

Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Marshall Islands
Solomon Islands
South Korea
United Kingdom
United States

The prime minister of Australia has just released statements of support by various national CoW leaders.

The prime minister's list runs:

Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Marshall Islands
Solomons is gone
South Korea
Ukraine is gone
United Kingdom
United States

What happened to Angola? They've been added and deleted from this list more times than Umm Qasar has been taken by the coalition.

What happened to Ethiopia?

What happened to Kuwait? I don't doubt their participation but couldn't they at least say something?

And finally, what happened to Tonga?

Coming soon to a blog near you...

CoWs with Guns!

15 Stories They've Already Bungled
"Here, then, is a list of stories that have been widely misreported or poorly reported so far:

1. Saddam may well have been killed in the first night's surprise attack (March 20).

2. Even if he wasn't killed, Iraqi command and control was no doubt "decapitated" (March 22).

3. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 22).

4. Most Iraqis soldiers will not fight for Saddam and instead are surrendering in droves (March 22).

5. Iraqi citizens are greeting Americans as liberators (March 22).

6. An entire division of 8,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse near Basra (March 23).

7. Several Scud missiles, banned weapons, have been launched against U.S. forces in Kuwait (March 23).

8. Saddam's Fedayeen militia are few in number and do not pose a serious threat (March 23).

9. Basra has been taken (March 23).

10. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 23).

11. A captured chemical plant likely produced chemical weapons (March 23).

12. Nassiriya has been taken (March 23).

13. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 24).

14. The Iraqi government faces a "major rebellion" of anti-Saddam citizens in Basra (March 24).

15. A convoy of 1,000 Iraqi vehicles and Republican Guards are speeding south from Baghdad to engage U.S. troops (March 25).
recycling chemical horror stories
The coalition has destroyed a massive terrorist facility! Calloo! Callay!

Reuters gives details:

AS SAYLIYA CAMP: The United States said today that US-led forces had destroyed "a massive terrorist facility" in northern Iraq which could have been used by al Qaeda to make chemical weapons.

The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, told CNN the site in northeast Iraq could have been a training ground and may have produced the lethal poison ricin that was found in a London flat in January.

"We attacked and now have gone in on the ground into a site in northeast Iraq where Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda had been working on poisons," Myers said.

"It's from this site where people were trained and where poisons were developed that migrated into Europe. We think that's probably where the ricin found in London probably came."

Um, sadly we've been down this road before. At Secretary of State Powell's last appearance before the UN on 6 February he told a shocked (but not yet awed) world about a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory' making ricin.

Mr Powell cited the presence of the extremist Ansar al-Islam near the Iranian border in Iraq as further evidence of the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Whitehall sources suggest that though he might have sent an agent to penetrate the group, there was all the difference between that and being in a position to control or direct the Ansar al-Islam group.

"Baghdad's writ genuinely does not run there," said a senior Whitehall source who described the camp as a "little node of Islamic extremism". Earlier this week Mullah Krekar, leader of Ansar al-Islam, said that far from promoting links with the Iraqi regime, he wanted to see the end of it. "I am against Saddam Hussein. I want [Iraq] to change into an Islamic regime", he told the Guardian.

But, wait!

If Colin Powell were to visit the shabby military compound at the foot of a large snow-covered mountain, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise. The US Secretary of State last week confidently described the compound in north-eastern Iraq - run by an Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam - as a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory.'

Yesterday, however, it emerged that the terrorist factory was nothing of the kind - more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery. There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere - only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking.

I guess we should congratulate Ansar al-Islam. Between 9 February and 30 March they managed to progress from crude cyanide to ricin and from a 'dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings' to a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory'.

I suppose without more detail there is a remote chance that the Ansar pocket contained two massive terrorist facilities, but I doubt it. Oh well, anyone know how many times Nasirirya has fallen to the coalition today?

30 March 2003

legality of war III
Extract: It is sometimes said that an attack would be justified because of Iraq?s refusal to allow weapons inspections in line with Security Council Resolution 687, which established a ceasefire at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. However the resolution did not make the ceasefire conditional on Iraq?s future cooperation with inspections; instead it said that the Security Council "decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the area". This seems to imply that another Security Council resolution would be needed to authorize further military action, and that has been the position taken by most international statesmen. For instance, French President Jacques Chirac said on July 30 that an attack "could only be justified if it were decided on by the Security Council," and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder said there would be no support in Germany for a strike "without approval of the United Nations".

Perhaps the Australian and British legal opinions on 678 as source of authority for this war had not read the resolution.
Is the Bush doctrine the right doctrine?
"The impact of this unravelling of the Bush doctrine will be a disaster for the US.� Here is how I think�it�is likely play out:

The first iteration of the Bush doctrine will bog down.� The war will be more difficult to fight than anticipated.� Terrorist counter-attacks after the war is done will send US troops home in body bags.� The costs of the effort it in Iraq will balloon to rapidly eclipse what we spent in Vietnam.� The opposition to every US effort in the region will grow both internally and externally.

Bush will run out of time and loose the re-election.� As his father before him, Bush will loose the 2004 elections due to economic considerations.� This will spell the end of the Bush doctrine.

The new administration will find that it is now caught in a ME quagmire with few friends and several aggressive foes.� The new administration will slowly attempt to unwind the situation by pulling out US troops and support for the new Iraq.� There will also be an attempt to return to the multi-lateral track of terrorist containment with little success.� Iran and N. Korea, effectively inoculated against US attack will continue to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.� One day, in the next decade, one of those bombs will end up exploding on US soil.

They do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it

The Independent

30 March 2003

Every day public statements on the war are made with great bravado by British and US leaders. A day later most of them turn out to be inaccurate or untrue. Political leaders are understandably evasive about the detailed military strategy, but these evasions and inaccuracies have nothing to do with the movements of the troops.

Without qualification Tony Blair declared at the joint press conference with President Bush last week that two British soldiers had been "executed". Shortly afterwards distressed relatives were informed that the soldiers had died in combat. A junior minister was despatched to make the appropriate public apologies. On the same day that Mr Blair spoke of the "executions", the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon claimed that the discovery of protection suits in Iraq was "categorical proof" that Saddam possessed chemical weapons. He withdrew the claim within 24 hours.

Today we report that Mr Blair greatly exaggerated the scale of humanitarian aid being shipped to Basra. Half the load of a naval ship consists of food and other supplies from Britain. The rest of the ship is stuffed full of arms and ammunition. As the head of emergencies at Christian Aid writes opposite, Iraq needs the equivalent of 32 such ships to deal with the humanitarian crisis. Most preposterous of all, Mr Blair and the US leaders said with certainty in advance that the "liberators" would be cheered in the streets. Now we are told that our war leaders always knew the cheers would be delayed and that they are not at all surprised that Iraqis are resisting their liberators.

So the obfuscation over the causes of war continues now the war has started. Before the war began the reasons for the conflict shifted constantly. One day the objective was to remove the weapons of mass destruction, the next it was regime change and the day after that it was a "war of liberation". An old PhD thesis was paraded as evidence that Saddam was a threat to the world and had to be dealt with by war. The "UN route" was followed, but only so long as the UN agreed with the US and Britain. When the UN "failed to agree" Britain and the US blamed the UN. Each time President Bush or Tony Blair were questioned about a previously declared objective or statement, which had since changed, they appeared irritated or bewildered. The leaders believed what they were saying on that particular day. Now the same sequence is recurring over the conflict itself. Statements made with apparent certainty are later contradicted by the facts or "clarified" by a new ministerial statement. The pattern is already extending itself to what will happen after the war, with linguistic games being played to cover up divisions and uncertainty about the political "reconstruction" of Iraq.

The persistent inaccuracies, proclaimed so confidently, expose the great flaw of this war. President Bush and Tony Blair were never clear about why it was being conducted and what would happen once it had ended. If they were not clear in their own minds it is hardly surprising that their public statements fail to make much coherent sense.

From before 11 September Iraq was "on the agenda" of the divided Bush administration for reasons that would require the assistance of a psychiatrist, as well as political and military analysts. They decided on war long ago and then went about searching for the precise reasons. Even less thought has been given as to how the war will end and what will happen in the immediate aftermath. In Britain, Clare Short was quite open about this in a Commons debate held last month. She said then that the UN did not want to contemplate the aftermath of a war that many of its members strongly opposed. Of the many statements from the Bush administration about the war none conveys a clear sense of what will happen afterwards. It has been a constant theme in US newspapers, most of whom support the war, while despairing over the lack of planning. That is what is so worrying about the shifting arguments and statements from the political leaders. They do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it. They are fighting an unnecessary war and are still trying to find the reasons to justify it, even though the conflict has started and lives are being lost.

PS What more can anyone say?
CENTCOM denies operational pause


Earlier, U.S. officers in the field said commanders had ordered a pause of four to six days in their push toward Baghdad because of supply shortages and stiff Iraqi resistance.

They said the "operational pause," ordered on Friday, meant advances would be put on hold while the military tried to sort out logistics problems caused by long supply lines from Kuwait.

"There is no pause on the battlefield. Just because you see a particular formation pause on the battlefield it does not mean there is a pause," Renuart said.

He joked that he had asked U.S. Central Command chief General Tommy Franks for a few days off and been turned down.

Renaurt said 10 days did not amount to a long conflict, noting it took some 60 to 70 days before Hamid Karzai was installed as the new president of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led military campaign to topple the Taliban administration.

Officers in the field said the U.S.-led invasion force would continue to attack Iraqi forces to the north with heavy air strikes during the pause, battering them before any attack on Baghdad.

On Friday, Britain's army chief, Mike Jackson, dismissed suggestions that the campaign had become bogged down after a few days of quick advances from Kuwait since the invasion started on March 20. But he spoke of a need to pause.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government has played down the apparently lightning advance by the U.S.-led forces, saying that most of the gains have been across tracts of desert while skirting major towns along the route.
coalition of human rights
See Human Rights among the Coalition of the Willing. After yesterday's Solomon Islands fiasco and the disavowals by the Czech Republic and Hungary. I plan on going through this list myself to exclude nations whose governments deny they are members. I guess when Bush dictates the CoW Charter it will include rules like: 'You are a member if the White House says so unless and until your government says otherwise.'

According to this morning's Melbourne Age the kingdom of Tonga has now joined the CoW. I understand the Iraqi high command are quaking in their boots. Meanwhile non-CoW nations whose UN diplomats once accidentally bumped a US deputy assistant under secretary of state in the Security Council foyer are rushing to ensure that they are not listed.

The White House list can be found here. Note that the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Solomons are still there on 27 March despite disavowals dated 25 March.