Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Baker III & Hamilton Commission

the long awaited iraq study group commission report by james baker iii and lee hamilton came out today. until now, president bush had used the coming of this report to buy more time in his unchanging 'plan' in iraq. he wanted to wait for it before making any decisions. well here it is:

"the situation in iraq is grave and deteriorating," says the executive summary. "our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in iraq that will enable the united states to begin to move its combat forces out of iraq responsibly. we believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another."

i'm sorry, but does it take a commission to come up with that solution? did bush not grasp this? hopefully he will now. as of yesterday, he remained essentially the only person in the united states who believed that we were winning the war over there. hopefully today, after reading this report, his ego will allow him to be convinced otherwise.

"the iraqi people have a democratically elected government, yet it is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. pessimism is pervasive. if the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. a slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. neighboring countries could intervene. sunni-shia clashes could spread. al qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the united states could be diminished."

again, i feel like i've been saying this for months now. if one hasn't been keeping up with the iraq war, then i could understand this lack of foresight. but our own president has either been lying to the american people for quite some time now, or he has been completely out to lunch. the report also calls for increased diplomatic relations with all countries bordering iraq. well, now is the time for bush to open discussions with iran. ahmadinejad wants to talk. lets allow the un to handle the nuclear ambitions of that country. i realize that the united states does not want nuclear proliferation in iran, but we are part of the united nations, so lets let them do their job so that we, the us, can do ours diplomatically.

"the united states cannot achieve its goals in the middle east unless it deals directly with the arab-israeli conflict and regional instability. there must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the united states to a comprehensive arab-israeli peace on all fronts: lebanon, syria, and president bush’s june 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for israel and palestine. this commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between israel, lebanon, palestinians (those who accept israel’s right to exist), and syria. . . by the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of iraq. . .the united states must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of american troops deployed in iraq."

it goes without saying that if we pull our troops from iraq, it will be up to the iraqi army to quell the violence on their own, which is why the baker/hamilton report calls for an increase of american troops embedded in the iraqi army to train them to support themselves.

"attacks against u.s., coalition, and iraqi security forces are persistent and growing. october 2006 was the deadliest month for u.s. forces since january 2005, with 102 americans killed. total attacks in october 2006 averaged 180 per day, up from 70 per day in january 2006. daily attacks against iraqi security forces in october were more than double the level in january. attacks against civilians in october were four times higher than in january. some 3,000 iraqi civilians are killed every month."

"iraq is in the grip of a deadly cycle: sunni insurgent attacks spark large-scale shia reprisals, and vice versa."

"in some parts of Iraq—notably in Baghdad—sectarian cleansing is taking place. the united nations estimates that 1.6 million
are displaced within iraq, and up to 1.8 million iraqis have fled the country."

"four of iraq’s eighteen provinces are highly insecure—baghdad, anbar, diyala, and salah ad din. these provinces account for about 40 percent of iraq’s population of 26 million. . .and the situation is deteriorating. . .however, most of iraq’s cities have a sectarian mix and are plagued by persistent violence."

"nearly every u.s. army and marine combat unit, and several national guard and reserve units, have been to iraq at least once. many are on their second or even third rotations. . .the american military has little reserve force to call on if it needs
ground forces to respond to other crises around the world."

"significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some iraqi units—specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda."

"the entire appropriation for iraqi defense forces for for year 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the united states currently spends in iraq every two weeks."

"iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention,
torture, and targeted execution of sunni arab civilians."

"the facilities protection service poses additional problems. each iraqi ministry has an armed unit, ostensibly to guard the
ministry’s infrastructure. all together, these units total roughly 145,000 uniformed iraqis under arms. however, these units
have questionable loyalties and capabilities. . .one senior u.s. official described the facilities protection service as 'incompetent, dysfunctional, or subversive.'"

"both iraqi and american leaders told us that as baghdad goes, so goes iraq. . . violence in baghdad, already at high levels, jumped more than 43 percent between the summer and october 2006. u.s. forces continue to suffer high casualties."

"iraq’s shia, sunni, and kurdish leaders frequently fail to demonstrate the political will to act iniIraq’s national interest, and too many iraqi ministries lack the capacity to govern effectively. the result is an even weaker central government than the constitution provides."

"as of december 2006,nearly 2,900 americans have lost their lives serving in iraq. an other 21,000 americans have been wounded, many severely. to date, the united states has spent roughly $400 billion on the iraq war, and costs are running about $8 billion per month. in addition, the united states must expect significant 'tail costs' to come. caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the u.s. involvement in iraq."

"the ability of the united states to shape outcomes is diminishing. time is running out."

"if the instability in iraq spreads to the other gulf states, a drop in oil production and exports could lead to a sharp increase in the price of oil and thus could harm the global economy."

"sixty-six percent of americans disapprove of the government’s handling of the war, and more than 60 percent feel that there is no clear plan for moving forward."

"recent polling indicates that only 36 percent of iraqis feel their country is heading in the right direction, and 79 percent of iraqis have a 'mostly negative' view of the influence that the united states has in their country. sixty-one percent of iraqis approve of attacks on u.s.-led forces."

so what should we do? the report calls for a "diplomatic offensive" in the region to ease tensions in the middle east. This call for diplomacy includes syria and iran. They cite each country's desire to quell destabilization in the region and to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. it also suggests gaining control of iraqs borders, and promoting "economic assistance, commerce, trade" and "political support." Basically, it appears that the 79 recommendations just say 'lets clean up this mess that we've created.'

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