Monday, May 14, 2007

This Is Why Bush Invaded Iraq?

This morning as I read through the messages and the Iraq-related news stories, I thought that at last Iraq might be starting to move off dead center.

No, the military situation had not improved despite the “surge” of troops into Baghdad. Three more U.S. soldiers are missing and presumed to be prisoners, raising the total to five missing. By the afternoon, U.S. fatalities had topped the 3,400 mark. Other coalition losses pushed total foreign military fatalities to 3,675 while the toll among Iraqis in the security services and the general civilian population continued to increase daily by multiple scores.

No, the U.S. failed in its effort at the Sharm al-sheikh regional security conference to have countries forgive all of Iraq’s foreign debt – about $55 billion – and outstanding reparations from the 1980-1988 war with Iran and from the 1990-1991 Gulf War for the destruction caused by invading Kuwait and from attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Yes, the Secretary of State did talk “on the fringes” with her Syrian counterpart during the meeting in Egypt. But No, she had not made or received from Iran’s representative any public communication. Yet this just- past weekend saw the announcement of forthcoming talks between the U.S. and Iran about the security situation in Iraq. At the same time – all too conveniently – the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), perhaps the best Shi’a militia, announced it was changing its name to Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council and would take direction from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

But that was where everything started to go down hill.

The U.S. reportedly was trying to limit the substance of any talks with Iran to how Iran could help stabilize Iraq. Washington refuses to talk about nuclear weapons programs, saying that is a separate topic being handled by the UN and the Europeans. Washington is also pressing ahead with plans to base missile defenses in Europe to help protect allies from Iranian missiles.

What’s missing? Internal Iraqi political dialogue that could lead to implementing the concessions promised by the Shi’a as part of the drive to bring enough Sunni and Baathists within the political process that these groups would see that the gavel, not the gun, represented a more sure and secure future.

Why do I not find this surprising despite all the rhetoric about representative government and freedom that comes from the Bush White House?

Just look around at the multiple efforts by the administration to undermine representative transparent government that respects the rights of everyone. Under cover of a re-issued Operations Security Field Manual, the Pentagon brass are attempting to regulate – and would probably ban outright if they dared – what soldiers in Iraq can send in their e-mails or what they post on their blogs by requiring the content be approved by a superior. Violations could be punished by administrative disciplinary action or court-martial.

Now, Operations Security is important. But this appears to be a cover for the latest attack aimed at transparent government through censorship – specifically, impeding the right of the people to communicate with their elected representatives. That is one right that soldiers and their families do not give up just because they are in the military.

In addition to the revised regulation, the Pentagon has told Congress that only those officers and enlisted personnel below the rank of colonel that the Pentagon “deems appropriate” will be allowed to brief or testify before Congress. And when an appearance is “permitted,” the Pentagon will insist that no transcript will be made of answers to questions from Members or their staffs directed to the briefing officer. And then there’s the “other shoe” that confirms suspicions about what is at stake: those “deemed appropriate” will be accompanied by a political appointee from the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has also cut soldiers’ access to Youtube, MySpace, and eleven other sites from Pentagon networks using the excuse that the demand is so heavy that official business cannot be conducted. At the same time, the Pentagon has been trying to get its own YouTube channel up and running with input from soldiers in the field.

The extreme stresses on the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families at home caused by the uncertainties of combat have been partially ameliorated by the ability of soldiers and Marines to communicate via e-mail and to share with others the experiences they have endured. The Pentagon’s latest actions undercut what has become a very necessary psychological release mechanism that probably has helped modulate the occurrence and the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder and the frequency of suicides.

Stand by for a new spike in bad numbers.

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