The Iraqi solution for stopping rebels

This is a long and interesting take on some of the more ‘elite’ members of the Iraqi security forces.

General Adnan, as he is known, is the leader of Iraq’s most fearsome counterinsurgency force. It is called the Special Police Commandos and consists of about 5,000 troops. They have fought the insurgents in Mosul, Ramadi, Baghdad and Samarra. It was in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, where, in early March, I spent a week with Adnan, himself a Sunni, and two battalions of his commandos. Samarra is Adnan’s hometown, and he had come to retake it. As the offensive to drive out the insurgents got under way, the only area securely under Adnan’s control was a barricaded enclave around the town hall, where he grimly presided over matters of war and peace, but mostly war, chain-smoking Royal cigarettes at a raised desk in the mayor’s office. With a jowly face set in a permanent scowl, Adnan is perfectly suited to the grim realities of Iraq, and he knows it. When an admiring American colonel compared him to Marlon Brando in ”The Godfather,” Adnan took it as a compliment and smiled.

Salam Pax vs George Galloway

Former blogger Salam Pax turned up at the manifesto launch for the Respect party and asked why Mr Galloway wanted the immediate withdrawal of occupying troops from Iraq. To which Galloway replied:

We are not going to agree on this. You are a supporter of the war. You are a supporter of the occupation and I am an opponent. Your family joined the puppet government.

Harry’s Place have more here. Eric the Unread puts it more graphically, and Norman Geras responds.

Update May 6th: Galloway has now had a run in with Jeremy Paxman – you can watch it here.

Smokescreen in Madaen

Following reports of ethic tensions, kidnappings, threats of mass-killings, it appears that the whole thing was exaggerated just a little. The NY Times reports:

Anyone in Baghdad this morning could have been forgiven for thinking the country was on the verge of civil war.

Three Iraqi Army battalions had surrounded the town of Madaen, just south of the capital, where Sunni kidnappers were said to be threatening to kill hundreds of Shiite hostages unless all Shiites left the town. As the national assembly met, Iraq’s top political figures warned of a grave sectarian crisis. Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric issued a plea for restraint. Even the outgoing prime minister released a statement decrying the “savage, filthy, and dirty atrocities” in Madaen.

But as the army battalions arrived in Madaen, they saw streets full of people calmly sipping tea in cafés and going about their business. There were no armed Sunni mobs, no cowering Shiite victims. After hours of careful searches, the soldiers assisted by air surveillance found no evidence of any kidnappings or refugees at all.

By this afternoon, Iraqi army officials were reporting that the crisis in Madaen, which had been narrated in a stream of breathless television reports and news agency stories, was nothing but a tissue of rumors and politically motivated accusations.

The hysteria over Madaen was one vivid illustration of the way Iraq’s daily violence and sectarian tension, which are real enough, can be easily twisted into fantasy here. In a country where phones are unreliable and roads between cities often blocked, facts can give way to a fast-running engine of rumor. And most people have good reason to believe the worst.

Crazy stuff.

So how's Iraqification going?

Dan Drezner has a good post on current efforts in Iraq, drawing from a number of sources. Encouraging stuff. I would have added John Simpson’s first column on the BBC site to the list too. He, as ever, has a good take on the situation.

Yet the basic problem remains: the Sunni population is as angry, resentful and resistance-minded as ever.

As the supporters of the invasion are finding two years on, you cannot step in, change the structure of a nation fundamentally and make everyone happy. There is a ferocious price to be paid, and on average two coalition soldiers and 20 Iraqi civilians pay it daily.

Or better yet, have a read of Husayn:

I dont care what your news tells you, what your television and newspapers say, this is how we feel. Despite all that has happened. Despite all the hurt, the pain, blood, sweat and tears. These two years have given us hope we never had.

All this while Yglesias raises the issue of having permanent military bases in Iraq:

…the elephant in the corner of American Iraq policy, the fact that near as anybody can tell the administration is still trying to finagle some kind of permanent military basing agreement in Iraq. That the administration has managed to hew consistently to this agenda without ever stating that this is one of their major policy goals is astounding, and that the American media is consistently unwilling to discuss the point is appalling. What’s even more astounding about it is that one regularly hears and reads in expert commentary that we ought to “make clear” that this isn’t what we’re doing. Apparently, it’s impolitic to note that Bush isn’t making it clear that we don’t want permanent bases because we do, in fact, want permanent bases.

Kevin Drum also weighs in on the issue.

Eason Jordan and Kate Adie?

I have been following the huge coverage surrounding “Easongate”, and what he did or did not say about the US military targeting journalists in Iraq. For those of you unfamiliar with the news, and so big has the story been on all the top blogs, there is now a blog devoted entirely to the story. Eason Jordan is CNN’s top news executive, and made a speech at Davos where he claimed, and may have later retracted, that US soldiers had deliberately targeted journalists. Just about every US blog has something on it, and I would direct readers to my daily reads on the right for the latest.

It should also be noted that back on the 14th of March 2003, I blogged a story about the veteran BBC journalist, Kate Adie, making a similar claim on Irish radio. This was just before the war started. Her crucial claim is that a source she spoke to said that journalists would be ‘targeted down’. I have added emphasis below.

I will quote her exact remarks here. McGurk is the presenter with Adie on the phone from London:

Tom McGurk: “Now, Kate Adie, you join us from the BBC in London. Thank you very much for going to all this trouble on a Sunday morning to come and join us. I suppose you are watching with a mixture of emotions this war beginning to happen, because you are not going to be covering it.”

Kate Adie: “Oh I will be. And what actually appalls me is the difference between twelve years ago and now. I’ve seen a complete erosion of any kind of acknowledgment that reporters should be able to report as they witness. The Americans… and I’ve been talking to the Pentagon …take the attitude which is entirely hostile to the free spread of information. I was told by a senior officer in the Pentagon, that if uplinks – that is the television signals out of… Baghdad, for example – were detected by any planes …electronic media… mediums, of the military above Baghdad… they’d be fired down on. Even if they were journalists…”

Tom McGurk: “…Kate …sorry Kate ..just to underline that. Sorry to interrupt you. Just to explain for our listeners. Uplinks is where you would have your own satellite telephone method of distributing information.”
Kate Adie: “The telephones and the television signals.”

Tom McGurk: “And they would be fired on?”

Kate Adie: “Yes. They would be ‘targeted down’, said the officer.”

Tom McGurk: “Extraordinary!”

Kate Adie: “Oh, shameless, he said, well he said, ‘they know this, they’ve been warned.’ This is threatening freedom of information before you even get to a war.