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Report: US Still Manipulating Iraq Intelligence

Report: Us Still Manipulating Iraq Intelligence


By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
From: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112906J.shtml

Wednesday 29 November 2006

For background, see:
Cordesman: November 2 Report.pdf
Cordesman: November 28 Report.pdf


The Department of Defense has exaggerated the readiness of Iraqi army and police forces, claiming 312,400 men have been "trained and equipped," a figure that is so wildly off the mark that the country will likely require the support of the US military well into 2010, according to two new reports.

The reports were drafted by Anthony Cordesman, a member of the bipartisan think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies and a renowned expert in Middle East issues and military affairs.

Cordesman, who also served in a senior capacity at the Pentagon during the Reagan administration, recently returned from a fact-finding mission in Iraq, where he was briefed by military and civilians about the realities on the ground that have left the country in a state of civil war. His lengthy reports are a damning indictment of the US military leadership at the Pentagon and senior Bush administration officials, who he says launched the Iraq invasion without having "implemented a realistic, self-critical or forward looking approach to any aspect of its policy in Iraq."

One of the Bush administration's "most critical failures has been to consistently deny the fact it was pursuing a high effort in nation building and stability operations that could easily fail," Cordesman wrote in a report published Tuesday, "Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War."

"The strategy the to stabilize Iraq that the US announced in the fall of 2005 was deeply flawed in timing and resources," Cordesman's report says. "It was based on a grossly exaggerated estimate of political success, an almost deliberately false exaggeration of the success of the economic aid effort and progress in developing the [Iraqi Security Forces], inadequate efforts to develop effective governance, and a rule of law, and has not succeeded."

The criticisms come on the heels of a draft report by the Iraq Study Group, headed by President Bush's close confidante James A. Baker III, which calls for the United States to enter into diplomatic talks with neighboring countries Iran and Syria in order to tame the violence between Shiites and Sunnis that has destabilized Iraq and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands innocent Iraqi civilians and nearly 3,000 American soldiers.

Yet despite the carnage, Cordesman says in one of the reports, the Defense Department has continually put a positive face on the escalating violence and has established unrealistic timetables for when Iraqi forces will be prepared to defend the country.

"The basic problem with all Iraqi forces is that while 300,000 have been trained and equipped, many have since left and deserted, substantial numbers have been killed and wounded, and some 10-20% of those who remain are absent at any given time because they leave to take care of their families and transfer their pay in a country where there is no meaningful banking system," Cordesman wrote in a November 2 report, "Options for Expanding Iraqi Forces: Goals and Realities."

Furthermore, US officials deceive Congress in reports that are "so misleading that there is no way to determine just how serious the problem is and what resources will be required."

"The US Defense Department has stopped releasing detailed unclassified material about Iraqi army, police, and border enforcement readiness, only giving information about how many units are 'ready and equipped' and 'in the lead,'" Cordesman wrote in the November 28 report. "These are vague, if not meaningless categories - 'in the lead' does not indicate the level of independence from US support, and we do not how many 'ready and equipped' soldiers quit or deserted the force."

To date, "no administration official has presented any plan to properly equip the Iraqi forces to stand on their own or give them the necessary funding to phase out US combat and air support in 12 to 18 months," Cordesman wrote in the earlier November report, adding, that in reality, Iraqi military forces may need to be backed up by a substantial number of US servicemen and servicewomen through 2010 before they are capable of securing the country.

A Defense Department spokesman said he was unfamiliar with the reports and would be unable to comment.

Prior to the midterm elections, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials downplayed the intensity of the violence in Iraq that has resulted in the deaths of 3,709 Iraqi civilians - making October the highest monthly figure since the March 2003 invasion - and more than 100 US troops, the deadliest month for American soldiers in a year. On the campaign trail, Bush and Cheney said the near daily reports of suicide bombings were merely an attempt by "insurgents" to swing the election toward the Democrats. In news briefings, Rumsfeld said the war really wasn't as bad as the media made it out to be.

"Progress is being made everywhere across the country," Rumsfeld said in a radio interview November 1. "We're doing a great job of training and equipping their forces and passing over responsibility to them."

During a Pentagon news conference last month, General William Casey Jr. went a step further, saying the violence was isolated to just a small area in Iraq and the battle between Shiites and Sunnis was not widespread.

"I think it's important to remind people that 90 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq takes place in about a 30-mile radius from the center of Baghdad; and that secondly, 90 percent of all violence takes place in five provinces," Casey told reporters October 26. "This is not a country that is awash in sectarian violence. The situation is hard, but it's not a country that's awash in sectarian violence."

Cordesman, in his report, said Casey was playing politics at the expense of the soldiers who are at ground zero fighting the war.

"It is meaningless to keep claiming that the security problems are limited to small areas, and ignore intra-Shiite fighting and Arab-Kurdish tensions," Cordesman wrote in the November 2 report. He said that Casey's statement was "more than self contradictory, it clashes with previous claims in the Department of Defense quarterly status report in August that 81% of the violence took place in these provinces, and that statement ignored all of the softer forms of sectarian and ethnic "cleansing" and intra-Shiite fighting and Arab-Kurdish tensions."

Still, Casey's statement and those made by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, did not help shift public opinion regarding the war. To, the contrary, a record number of voters turned out for the midterm election November 7 to cast their ballots, and for the first time in 12 years, they handed the Democrats the House and Senate. Rumsfeld resigned a day after the election.

Since then the violence has become worse. Last weekend, it reached a boiling point, with more than 160 killed and 200 wounded in a series of bombings. In one horrific display of violence Friday, Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left prayer services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive. Witnesses said Iraqi soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, according to news reports.

That horrific scene led some major broadcast media to drop their use of the phrase "sectarian conflict" to describe the escalating carnage and instead refer to it as what it is: civil war. Bush refused to accept that description, which would have increased pressure on him to withdraw US military forces, and has continued to blame the violence on al-Qaeda terrorists. He has also been steadfast in his refusal to enter into diplomatic discussions with Iran or Syria, which many foreign policy experts see as the only way for the fighting to subside.

Democrats, however, have grown tired of the deteriorating situation and say it's high time that the Iraqi government takes responsibility for governing their country and puts a stop to the violence. Democrats, including Senators Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, and Carl Levin, who will become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have vowed to introduce legislation when they become the majority in January that would dramatically reduce the number of US soldiers in the region over the next four to six months.

"In the days ahead, the Iraqis must make the tough decisions and accept responsibility for their future," said incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) during Saturday's weekly Democratic radio address. "And the Iraqis must know: Our commitment, while great, is not unending. Our brave servicemen and women continue to be maimed and killed. And the war is not making our nation safer or more secure."

Republicans who stood firm behind Bush in the run-up to the war and in its aftermath are well aware that the war's unpopularity with the public could cost them additional Senate and Congressional seats in the future. Perhaps that's what motivated Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican and potential 2008 presidential candidate, to urge President Bush to support a phased withdrawal in a column Sunday in the Washington Post.

"It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq," Hagel wrote. "If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder - one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead."

But Bush has no intention of changing his position.

"There's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said Tuesday during a speech at Latvia University's Grand Hall in Estonia during a NATO summit. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."

Cordesman said Bush's determination for victory is shortsighted. "The odds of success are less than even, and may be less than one in four," he wrote in Tuesday's report. "At best, the development of effective Iraq forces is only one of the steps necessary to bring stability and security, and roll back the forces that can lead Iraq toward more violent forms of civil war."

*************

Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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