May 20, 2005

Note to Eschaton readers

The Flit story Atrios is linking to (and thanks for that, I'm sure) is at the bottom of this page... broken anchor tag, partly my fault.

Podhoretz's clarification on his post that prompted mine is curious, btw. He seems to be demanding that the New York Times should have covered the leaked government report before someone (disgruntled at over two years of inaction, culminating in another round of the charges of four low-level servicemen last week) leaked it, because that's when it would have been relevant. Um, okay. He also suggests the tone should have been more positive: something like "Good news: of 27 servicemen indicted for fatal torture, still only 7 charged!" I suppose.

Posted by BruceR at 04:57 PM

Reader mail: Sudan

Joseph B. writes, in reference to my recent posts on the Darfur crisis:

All respect to Canada's humanitarian tradition and sensitivities, but does it not seem faintly ridiculous to you that prominent Canadians are debating whether they should hold a dumbbell at arm's length across the Atlantic and the breadth of the Sahara Desert?

You could have made a case for doing something similar 11 years ago in Rwanda, because UN troops were on the ground already and there was no country nearby with the strength and influence to halt the genocide there. That isn't the case with Sudan today.

Have you noticed that every media discussion about Darfur seems to assume that Egypt is on another planet instead of directly to the north? With Egyptian will to act against genocide Canadian troops would not be needed, and neither would ours. Maybe the policy debate Canadians ought to be having is whether to have, say, their UN ambassador point this out, note that neither Arab governments nor Arab media have had much to say about genocide being committed by Arabs in Darfur, and ask his Egyptian counterpart in particular whether his country considers itself part of the civilized world or not.

Let the damned Arabs be insulted, for God's sake. Egypt could end the genocide within weeks, and Saudi Arabia pay for more aid than Darfur could use out of petty cash. And without even a glance at the possibility of using a rhetorical 2X4 across the snout to try and address this problem with means available in the area, Canadians are expected to consider sending thousands of their own troops thousands of miles across ocean and desert to confront alien and hostile conditions for who knows how long?

I suppose it's no more absurd than expecting a people and culture indifferent or worse to genocide to be reliably hostile to terrorism, but still...

Posted by BruceR at 02:48 PM

British and French on U.S. tactics

Couple interesting reports from European militaries:

From Britain:

"British defence chiefs have warned United States military commanders in Iraq to change their rules for opening fire or face becoming bogged down in a terrorist war for a decade or more."

From France, much the same thing:

"Ce n'est parce que la France n'a pas participé à la guerre en Irak que ses experts militaires ne se devaient pas d'étudier la façon dont les Américains ont conduit les "opérations de stabilisation" menées de mai 2003 à décembre 2004. Ce travail critique a été réalisé par le Centre de doctrine d'emploi des forces (CDEF) que dirige le général Gérard Bezacier, et a fait l'objet d'un numéro spécial de la revue Doctrine. Il en ressort que les tactiques des forces américaines ont évolué à la lueur de l'expérience, mais que les erreurs des premiers mois ont eu de lourdes conséquences..."

UPDATE: Carl Conetta, whose military-historical work I greatly respect, has drawn much the same conclusion, as well, pointing to a series of in retrospect disastrously stupid shooting and bombing incidents at demonstrations and checkpoints, plus the demobilization of the Iraqi army, as significant contributing causes to the ongoing insurgency (plus an overly ambitious political reformation strategy... more here.) While you're there, also read his excellent essays on the impact of battlefield air support in the 2003 war. (Also here.)

UPDATE #2: A study that no one seems to quibble with puts the Iraqi death toll in excess of 24,000 after the first year of occupation. Bark at the Lancet all you want, but that's a lot of dead people.

Posted by BruceR at 01:47 PM

The guardians of accuracy speak

A John Podhoretz entry on the Corner from yesterday morning, still uncorrected:

"The New York Times continues the bizarre act of carrying Newsweek's water in the wake of the false Koran-desecration story (which I write about this morning here). The paper's lead story is a lurid account of the vicious treatment of two Afghan prisoners by U.S. soldiers -- events that occurred in December 2002 and for which seven servicemen have been properly punished. Let me repeat that: December 2002. That's two and a half years ago. Every detail published by the Times comes from a report done by the U.S. military, which did the investigating and the punishing. The publication of this piece this week is an effort not to get at the truth, not to praise the military establishment for rooting out the evil being done, but to make the point that the United States is engaged in despicable conduct as it fights the war on terror. In the name of covering the behinds of media colleagues, all is fair in hate and war."

Instapundit linked approvingly, with the addendum: "Something you probably won't hear from Wolcott and Atrios... If the news media policed themselves as well as the military does, Newsweek wouldn't be in this kind of trouble."

Well, no you probably won't hear it from them, in fact, because it's not true. From the original story in question:

"Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison...

"Last October, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses in the Dilawar case ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter. Fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in the Habibullah case.

"So far, only the seven soldiers have been charged, including four last week. No one has been convicted in either death."

PS: A shorter version of the Newsweek riots story might be: "Some people rioted in Afghanistan, and so our proxy forces had to shoot them. This is somehow Newsweek's fault." Given that apparently all but one of the dead in the fatal Afghan riots were, you know, rioters shot by U.S.-backed local police, I do wonder at the repeated references to the death of "innocent" Afghans. Innocent rioters?

Here's the total so far that I culled from the international papers:
May 12:
Jalalabad: 4, killed after police open fire on protest (Le Monde)
May 13:
Jalalabad: 2, killed after police open fire on protest (AFP)
Chak (Wardak province): 1, ditto (AFP)
Gardez: 1, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Qala-e-Naw: 1, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Badakhshan: 3, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Ghazni: 2 civilians and 1 policeman killed in an attack on a police station (Pak. News Intl.)

I can't find the others people have cited, so I'm still short a couple, and certainly some innocents have been non-fatally injured here. And yes, it's absolutely true that trying to ransack a police station will increase your chances of getting shot in any culture. I'm just saying that use of the word "innocent" in this context to describe the fatal injuries collectively may indicate a lack of thorough thought on the part of its user.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has updated the Instapundit entry, which is a useful correction on his part. But given that most of the Americans charged for torture at Bagram so far were only charged last week, I think his statement in that update that the leak of this report is not "breaking news" is rather odd. There is a similar big and obvious difference between Podhoretz's original whinge that this all happened two years ago and the U.S. Army has already taken care of it, and the truth of the matter: that these deaths were over two years ago, but those apparently responsible are only getting charged now.

Posted by BruceR at 12:47 PM