ABC News: Iraqi Sunni support of insurgency up to 75% from 14% 3yrs ago

Briefly, from ABC News the other day comes this story about a confidential Pentagon assessment.

…Officials won’t say how the assessment was made but found that support for the insurgency has never been higher, with approximately 75 percent of the country’s Sunni Muslims in agreement.

When the Pentagon started surveying Iraqi public opinion in 2003, Sunni support for the insurgents stood at approximately 14 percent…

“Where is the government?” one man asked. “Where is the promise of security? Where is the prime minister?”

‘Bush would send troops inside Pakistan…’

Did you catch the CNN headline story that Bush would sendtroops into Pakistan to hunt for OBL (or UBL depending on which side you drive
on)? This headline from CNN just now sounds like news, but according to Robert Young Pelton in his new book Licensed to Kill, hired guns (private security contractors) are already there and have been there…using private security contractors.

President Bush said Wednesday he would order U.S. forces
to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on
the fugitive al Qaeda leader’s location. 

"Absolutely," Bush told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in
an interview scheduled for air Wednesday afternoon.

Although Pakistan has said it won’t allow U.S. troops to
operate within its territory, "we would take the action necessary to bring
him to justice." 

But Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, told
reporters Wednesday at the United Nations that his government would oppose any
U.S. action in its territory.

The key word is "troops"…
contractors provide a shield of deniability for both sides.

Looking into Meyer’s National Military Strategy

Briefly, I recently read through the National Military Strategy of the US for 2004. Put together under the previous Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Medal of Freedom winner General Richard Meyers, it just isn’t an exciting document that isn’t very interesting, except for these excerpts:

  • "When directed, commanders will preempt in self-defense those adversaries that pose an unmistakable threat of grave harm and which are not otherwise deterrable." [p9, this one we knew and was part of the National Security Strategy, no big deal]
  • When directed, the Armed Forces provide military support to civil authorities, including capabilities to manage the consequences of an attack. [p10, in response to Katrina… wait, it was one year before Katrina…]
  • When directed, the Armed Forces will temporarily employ military capabilities to support law enforcement agencies during special events. [p10, laid down before Katrina… who cares about Posse Comitatus]

It should be interesting to see what General Pace’s NMS looks like considering the difference in personalities and time.

NMS available here at and locally cached here.

More on Civil v Military… an Update on the Supporting Revised Tribunals

Briefly, in today’s New York Times, Military Lawyers Caught in Middle on Tribunals:

On Wednesday evening, the night before a crucial Senate vote on the Bush administration plan for the interrogations and trials of terrorism suspects, the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, summoned the senior uniformed lawyers from each military service to a meeting…

Mr. Haynes sought to enlist the lawyers on the administration’s side by asking whether any would object to signing a letter lending their support to aspects of the White House proposal over which they had voiced little concern.

The lawyers agreed, but only after hours of negotiating over specific words, so that they would not appear to be wholly endorsing the plan.

What followed was a scuffle that left at least some of the military lawyers embittered and stoked old tensions at the Pentagon between civilian leaders and uniformed military officers, who under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have often found themselves privately at odds…

The top uniformed Marine lawyer, Brig. Gen. James C. Walker, said in his testimony that no civilized country ought to deny defendants the right to see evidence against them and that the United States “should not be the first.’’ The lawyers stand by those objections, military officials said…

A participant in the meeting said Admiral MacDonald told his colleagues that he could not sign a letter saying he supported the Common Article 3 definition in the White House legislation because he advocated a broader definition that relied more on international law, rather than a narrow interpretation of American constitutional law.

In the end, the military lawyers all agreed to language in the letter saying they “do not object“ to the provisions in the administration bill.

But the letter included a sentence that the clarification would be “helpful to our fighting men and women at war on behalf of their country.”

White House officials said that sentence demonstrated the military lawyers’ support.

General Dunlap said in his mind that signing the letter meant just to convey that trying to clarify ambiguous language was helpful and that it did not mean that he and his colleagues fully endorsed the administration view.

New Poll on Pentagon’s Role in Public Diplomacy

What do you think about the Defense Department running America’s Public Diplomacy efforts?

Should the Defense Department be given control over the creation and execution of America’s public diplomacy? If so, what should its role be?
Yes and it should be the primary and lead in formulating and carrying out America’s PD
Yes, but it should be co-equals with the State Dept in creation and execution
Yes, but it should only within a limited scope and in deference to State/Other Civilian ownership
No, at most it should be given specific tasks
No, it has no business participating in America’s Public Diplomacy efforts
Other or What’s Public Diplomacy?
Create Free Polls

Powell reminds us of the importance of morality

In the ‘fight of good vs evil’, morality must play a significant part. Our civilization, which is supposedly under threat, is based on a moral code that forms the basis of our imperialist tendencies: to propagate this moral code. This code is fundamentally based within our concept of democracy and is largely shared by the other Western democracies.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (also retired full General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)… a somewhat impressive resume that might only be surpassed by President Eisenhower) wrote a letter to Senator John McCain yesterday spelling out what is essentially the core of the US military’s opposition to the Administration’s interogation plans (available here at WaPo and here at NYT).


Continue reading “Powell reminds us of the importance of morality


Quick hits from the world of private military companies…

With the war continuing to spiral out and a stream of revelations the Administration failed to work to secure the peace, the roles of private security contractors (the ‘shooters’) and private military contractors (technically includes the ‘shooters’ but meant here to include all other commercial businesses providing services previously or historically considered in the domain of the military) in the peace and stability phase of the Iraq War are becoming known.

From CorpWatch comes this headline: US: Pentagon Spends Billions to Outsource Torture. This story hits at the reality of image management in the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). The failure to manage certain contracts and practice what we preach gives ammunition to the enemy, which is exactly what Joshua Holland points out.

The thousands of mercenary security contractors employed in the Bush administration’s "War on Terror" are billed to American taxpayers, but they’ve handed Osama Bin Laden his greatest victories — public relations coups that have transformed him from just another face in a crowd of radical clerics to a hero of millions in the global South (posters of Bin Laden have been spotted in largely Catholic Latin America during protests against George W. Bush).

The internet hums with viral videos of British contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles in Iraq as part of a bloody game, stories about CIA contractors killing prisoners in Afghanistan, veterans of Apartheid-era South African and Latin American death squads discovered among contractors’ staffs and notoriously shady Russian arms dealers working for occupation authorities. One Special Forces operator told Amnesty International that some contractors are in it just because they "really want to kill somebody and they can do it easier there … [not] everybody is like that, but a dangerously high element."…

Osama Bin Laden’s greatest victories in the crucial media war have been the series of prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and a number of detention centers across Iraq, the most infamous of which is Saddam Hussein’s former torture complex at Abu Ghraib.

T. Christian Miller gives sort of a bullet list of PMCs in Iraq he discusses in his new book Blood Money. His approach: essentially an agent relationship and false dealings of the PMCs are a direct result of oversight failures, intentional and unintentional. (With regard to actions such as those of Custer Battles? I believe that’s closer to treason than fraud.)

I wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times this weekend about yet another lawsuit accusing Halliburton of fraud in Iraq. This time, the company allegedly bought a big-screen television and tubs of chicken wings and cheese sticks for the Super Bowl, and then stuck us with the tab.

I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit; Halliburton gets blamed for plenty of things it didn’t do. But what is clear is that when it comes to the Bush administration’s record on prosecuting corruption in Iraq, there’s no there there…

The upshot is, either we’ve only sent angels to Iraq, or somebody hasn’t been paying attention. As I document in my new book about the reconstruction of Iraq, Blood Money, the record suggests that the “accountability administration” has let the war profiteers run amok….

That said, Iraq did not have to be the Wild West. There could have been more control. There could have been more order. There could have been the rule of law.

If someone had wanted it.

The Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important places Americans couldn’t find on a map, but will soon

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the more important places most Americans don’t know that they don’t know. I don’t mean to get all Rumsfeldian, but GoG will figure more prominently in news in the coming year. In today’s Washington Post is a story about security concerns in the Gulf. Fortunately, it seems the ‘Risk Entrepreneurs’ weren’t able to pander and the author implicitly acknowledged the difference between Arab fundamentalists and West Africans. While Nigeria has a larger Muslim population than most of the Middle East states combined, we aren’t seeing the same practice of jihad come out of there.

The Army responds to charges it will miss its recruiting goal

The US Army takes its recruiting very seriously and issued a statement essentially saying there’s nothing wrong with the recruits coming in, waivers are nothing new, etc. The reality of Army recruiting, which is lowering its requirements, plus artificial promotions, will lower the quality of the general army. (See post at The War Room besides other posts on here on MountainRunner) Which brings us to the next story… 

Lastly, a story on the difference between Counter-Insurgency and, well, ignorance

A number of bytes have been recorded on this blog about the need to conduct appropriate counter-insurgency and how the US military knows what to do, it just didn’t do it. Some Special Forces units, notably the famed Green Berets, were designed to work with locals for this very purpose. The Washington Post story highlights the difference between the ‘old’ military and the ‘new’, in terms of tactics and skills. An almost ironic clash of culture symbolizes more than different management styles but a root failure to adapt and learn.

Green Berets skilled in working closely with indigenous forces have enlisted one of the largest and most influential tribes in Iraq to launch a regional police force — a rarity in this Sunni insurgent stronghold. Working deals and favors over endless cups of spiced tea, they built up their wasta — or pull — with the ancient tribe, which boasts more than 300,000 members…

But the initial progress has been tempered by friction between the team of elite troops and the U.S. Army’s battalion that oversees the region. At one point this year, the battalion’s commander, uncomfortable with his lack of control over a team he saw as dangerously undisciplined, sought to expel it from his turf, officers on both sides acknowledged.

The conflict in the Anbar camp, while extreme, is not an isolated phenomenon in Iraq, U.S. officers say. It highlights two clashing approaches to the war: the heavy focus of many regular U.S. military units on sweeping combat operations; and the more fine-grained, patient work Special Forces teams put into building rapport with local leaders, security forces and the people — work that experts consider vital in a counterinsurgency.

al-Qaeda and the Marine barracks in Beirut

On 9/11, SecDef Rumsfeld was on the Charlies Brennan radio show (as he frequently is) and seemingly connected the Beirut bombing, in which 241 Marines were killed, to al-Qaeda.

BRENNAN: …You know, five years ago we were attacked by al Qaeda. And I know a lot of listeners want to know, is it possible that we’ll ever beat al Qaeda? It seems as if there are more recruits on all continents right now, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, there have been recruits for many, many years, I mean, if you think about it. We were attacked in the Marine barracks in Beirut back in the mid- — early 1980s; lost 241 Marines. The USS Cole was attacked in Yemen some years later. Other countries have been attacked — London and Madrid and Bali. This is not a totally new phenomenon. What’s new is the fact that they are raising money, and recruiting, and attempting to destabilize moderate Muslim governments in the world to try to reestablish a caliphate…

Besides repeating the old line of a monolithic terrorist movement, the SecDef then goes on about how we haven’t altered our ways in response to terrorism: "We have not altered our behavior. We are still flying airplanes, and we’re still going about our business." Um, bad link because we have altered our behavior with regard to flying airplanes. Go to an airport for either domestic or international commercial air service recently, Mr Secretary?

But, Beirut and AQ? or even AQAM (AQ & Associated Movements)? Please don’t disrespect the Marines who died that day like this.

Where’s the Outrage? asks Karen Hughes… Well, let’s see how we created a mute button

On the State Department website and broadcast within the Administration via an internal White House Communications listserv is Karen Hughes OpEd piece in today’s USA Today. Presumably State is hosting its copy on the site, aimed at non-US audiences, to “protect” against propagandizing Americans, but that strict reading of the law is conveniently side stepped when desired. Regardless…

Ms Hughes decries the lack of ‘moral outrage of everyday citizens of every faith and country’ in response to acts of terror. She correct that the ‘everyday citizens’ must participate in rejecting terrorism as a method of communication or warfare. She tugs at the heart strings with stories of Muslims, Iranians, and other around the world who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. 

This is touching and, I would expect, a sincere plea for support to hear a ‘much louder chorus of voices [joining] in condemning [terrorism]’. Drawing a parallel between the moral outrage of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the mothers and fathers of terrorists and their victims, she clearly didn’t hear on her listening tour. (May I propose an acronym for her group? Mothers Opposed to Terrorists and HatERs, Father-Unassisted KillERS… I’ll let you assemble the acronym.)

Bringing in religion to the terrorist equation negates the reality of terrorism in other regions where what you name your God has no bearing on the goals of the activity. But yet she feels infusing religion into her OpEd is critical to dispelling Huntingon’s false, yet self-fulfilling Clash of Civilizations speech (it still gets me he wasn’t sure Africa was another civilization), and yet by doing so, she keeps the vocabulary in play. (The notion of Born Again versus Born Again is something a religious student should look into…)

We must look to the causes of terrorism. Look at the goals the terrorists seek and why they have the support of the populations within which they roam emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The National Strategy for Countering Terrorism that was released this week gets this. The Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, arguably one of the most important in the process of developing and executing the DIME or DIMEFIL (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic… + Finance, Intelligence, Law Enforcement… you decide if DIME is enough or if DIMEFIL provides the necessary differentiator for your double-whip mocha frap from the other coffee), simply does not appear to be developing a counter-propaganda program. She says she watches the misinformation and stories of hate, but where is State’s counter?

Slavery is an interesting selection she makes to model a grassroots effort. Slavery, a commercial enterprise, was not a tool of communication or a tool of war. I’ll ignore the odd selection of words she, our chief architect of communication to foreign peoples, chose to describe the basis of the British grassroots effort to outlaw slavery (‘born of the conviction that every person has value’) and instead suggest she go back to the myriad of reports making suggestions on her job. These are, Ms Hughes, the ‘too many reports’ you commented on. But perhaps, just as you pulled the Foreign Media Reponses (FMR) off the public website of because you didn’t like some GQ reporter suggesting your listening trip wasn’t all that successful, and citing FMR material to support his claim, you don’t like to hear or facilitate hearing.

Where’s the Outrage? The outrage on September 12, 2001, came from all corners of the world in support of the United States and against the horrific terrorism Osama bin Laden and his crew carried out against the world in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania. The United States was the most powerful country in the world, perhaps in history, on September 12, 2001, because of all this support.

Where did the outrage go? It was dispelled by the hypocrisy of our policies. We fight for justice and yet provide none. We fight for democracy, yet treat territories as colonial properties to be (mis)managed by modern private mercantile companies.

The outrage you’re looking for, Ms Hughes, has been undercut by a daily outrage of the peoples you ask for support from. Afghanistan was abandoned before it was made ‘safe’ and completed as a democracy project and has slid backwards. Iraq was never given a chance to succeed as an American project. Gitmo, Abu Gharib, house searches, and hundreds of other actions have displaced the outrage you rightly seek. Yet, without listening, you don’t hear those things.

Stuff to read… at Armchair Generalist

Ok, so I’m getting lazy, but seriously, Jason’s got some good stuff and I’ve got too many other things to do right now.

On Public Diplomacy

Alternate Reality is about VP Cheney ‘loosing it’, with a great link to a FOXNews transcript of SOS Condi just spinning her wheels.  What again is the purpose of State? Where is Karen Hughes?

On Recruiting
Scraping Bottom is about one of my favorite topics: recruiting woes. This Administration is doing its best to destroy the readiness of our military and the Army is the canary in the coal mine.

On Civil-Military Relations

More Bad Press for Rumsfeld is on one of my other favorite topics…

Five Years Later: a National Strategy on Terror, Tribunal Rules, and Managing an Image

Five years later and the anniversary of 9/11 is here and gone and yet the Bush Administration still doesn’t ‘get it’. The President makes speeches, the Vice President and Secretaries of State and Defense go forth and speak, and policies are published emphasizing an invigorated strategy. Nevermind the disjunction between words and policies, that simply complicates reality. 

Continue reading “Five Years Later: a National Strategy on Terror, Tribunal Rules, and Managing an Image

Corn, Clausewitz, and the True Nature of Conflict

Thanks Eddie at FDNF for alerting me to another fine piece by Tony Corn: Clausewitz in Wonderland. I don’t have the time to put together a coherent review (but I do look forward to the many commentaries that will surely appear over the weekend), so here’s Corn’s opening paragraphs:

"Amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics." In the five years since the 9/11 events, the old military adage has undergone a "transformation" of its own: Amateurs, to be sure, continue to talk about strategy, but real professionals increasingly talk about — anthropology.

In Iraq as in Afghanistan, real professionals have learned the hard way that — to put it in a nutshell — the injunction "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself" matters more than the bookish "Know Thy Clausewitz" taught in war colleges. Know thy enemy: At the tactical and operational levels at least, it is anthropology, not Clausewitzology, that will shed light on the grammar and logic of tribal warfare and provide the conceptual weapons necessary to return fire. Know thyself: It is only through anthropological "distanciation" that the U.S. military (and its various "tribes": Army, Navy, etc.) will become aware of its own cultural quirks — including a monomaniacal obsession with Clausewitz — and adapt its military culture to the new enemy.

While I think Clausewitz still has a place on military reading lists, it is imperative that cultural-warfare understanding take priority. The rules of conflict learned from Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Mao, Machievelli, etc (and what about ibn Zafar?) must be placed into the context of society. The strategy is important, but too simplified. Logistics no longer means the same as before. Knowing the enemy is the penultimate requirement that shapes the strategy and creates the logistical requirement.

I suggested my own modification to the adage, but I like Corn’s replacement better than my augmentation

Will Krispy Kreme be next?

In a bizarre ruling baffling al-Jazeera, the Saudi religious police has banned the sale of dogs and cats to half the ’emulation of the infidels’.

Saudi’sreligious police, the Muttawa, have been instructed the prevent the
sale of cats and dogs in order to prevent the spread of Western ideas into the highly Islamic country, Saudi media reported on Friday…

The Muttawa are normally tasked with forcing women to cover themselves, ensuring men attend mosque prayers and enforcing other Islamic obligations.

Banning the sale of dogs may surprise few in the desert kingdom, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as ritually unclean. But
the cat ban has baffled many. Islamic traditions say that the Muhammad, Islam’s founder, loved cats – even in one instance letting a cat drink from his ablutions water before he washed himself for prayers.

religious conservatives, however, the practice is a dangerous immitation of non-Islamic cultures, just like eating fast food, wearing shorts and jeans, or listening to pop music…

Saudi religious leaders say all these practices should be resisted because they undermine traditions and distract people from their religious duties.

“One bad habit spreading among our youths is the acquisition of dogs and showing them off in the streets and malls,” wrote Aleetha al-Jihani in a letter to al-Madina newspaper.

“There’s no doubt that such a matter makes one shudder.”

Perhaps their government is focusing on the wrong problem?

The ban has distressed cat and dog lovers. Some have wondered why the religious police are focusing on this issue when the country has far more important challenges to deal with, such as terrorism and unemployment.

We can find common ground!

Deconstructing Rumsfeld

From Gregory Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch:

Rumsfeld’s rhetorical tactics of late, it should be noted, are not infrequently rather similar to the Fuhrer’s, and this bears noting, I’d think….Indeed, as the failure of the Bush Administration’s war strategy becomes more and more evident to all but the most hardened denialists, as their desperation and incompetence becomes more evident to the American public, as their Middle East policy increasingly lies in tatters, and as they continue to erroneously attempt to conjoin things like the London terror plot with Iraq, without admitting the need for urgent re-appraisal of our overall strategy in the war on terror (they are incapable and/or too exhausted to make significant course corrections)–the rhetoric is beginning to border on dangerously reckless.

and on a follow up post:

It’s true, there is a lot of talk about "will" these days, isn’t there? Or faith too, of course. Neither constitute serious policy-making, however. More often, they represent merely aspirational fancy, or worse, propagandistic discourse. The former is not good enough, the latter dangerous.

Djerejian’s focus on the rhetoric and political overtones of the speech and not on the policy is, unfortunately, appropriate. The SecDef’s vocabulary is telling of an Administration that simply does not get it. Even at the moment of releasing a semi-competent National Strategy on Counter-Terrorism, the words of the Administration belie their true lack of faith and denial of its prescriptions.  We must look at the words being spoken as well as the actions being taken. Afterall, that’s what the world is doing.

Glocalization of an American icon: Krispy Kreme

Some Krispy news:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. has awarded franchise rights to a Kuwaiti restaurant company, the Americana Group. Under the agreement, Americana Group is to open 100 Krispy Kreme (NYSE: KKD) locations in Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other locations in the region. The first location is scheduled to open in Kuwait this fall.

“We are looking forward to introducing Krispy Kreme and the hot doughnut experience to our customers in the Middle East,” Marzouk Nasser Al-Kharafi, chairman of the Americana Group, said in a news release. “In full partnership with Krispy Kreme, we intend to be successful in our region by building on Krispy Kreme’s superior brand, which our customers will come to appreciate and embrace.”

Apparently, the American TV commercial has this as a tagline: "Americana…100% Arabic"

(Hat tip to

The promotion of democracy and the need for Lipitor (and that this implies):



A bunch of short things to post today as I’m short on time for the blog but there’s news. I’d call this post Rapid Fire, but that’s taken, although I like that better than “Miscellanea”!

Defining the War

The new National Strategy for Countering Terrorism was released yesterday. I haven’t had the chance to review it, but Bruce Hoffman had positive things to say about the document and Bush’s speech announcing it. The Washington Post, which also interviewed Hoffman (who released an updated version of his great book Inside Terrorism in May), portrays a document that seems to have a greater understanding of the root causes of terrorism.

Continue reading “Miscellanea

“The answer to guerrilla insurgency is neither brute force nor abject surrender and flight”

Briefly, it’s good to see this editorial understanding the realities of counter-insurgency in the The Forward, the oldest Jewish newspaper in the US:

Angered at the meager results of their latest Lebanon war, Israelis are
furiously debating a host of piercing questions this month to
understand what went wrong. Was it poor military planning? Inept
political leadership? Erosion of their famed army reserve system? A
deeper culture of shortcuts and buck-passing? All of these? Why, they
ask insistently, did this war not look like their past triumphs, such
as the Six Day War, the Sinai Campaign or even the come-from-behind
victory of the Yom Kippur War? Why was this war different from all
other Israeli wars?

Important queries all, but they miss the most critical question.
Israelis should not be asking why this war didn’t resemble the Six Day
War. Rather, they should ask why it looked so much like America’s wars
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, or like Russia’s wars in Chechnya and
Afghanistan, or France’s wars in Algeria and Vietnam. Why do generals
insist on believing in the fantasy that guerrilla insurgencies can be
wiped out by jets and tanks?

For generations,
strong nations have tried to impose their presence and their will on
smaller nations through blunt force, believing that they could bludgeon
conquered populations into accepting occupation and rule by the
stronger nation. One by one, they have been forced to withdraw. Nowhere
have the occupied come to accept the rule of the powerful, even with
the passage of decades….

The answer to guerrilla insurgency is neither brute force nor abject
surrender and flight. There are moments in the ebb and flow of each
insurgency when militants are at their weakest and most isolated, when
the surrounding population is most willing to follow its own moderates
toward a compromise. Nations that emerge from a guerrilla war with
their honor and stature intact are those that learn to seize those
moments, wielding a supple combination of military determination, smart
diplomacy and deft timing.