(March 27, 2003 9:00 P.M. // link)
Methinks Mr. Putin doth protest too much. Not only do the French have contracts to protect in Iraq, it appears that the Russians have a few dirty little secrets of their own. Despite U.N. sanctions to the contrary, Russia apparently sold GPS jamming equipment and other weapons to Iraq since the last Gulf war. Included in the contraband shipped to Iraq are Kornet (AT-14) wire-guided anti-tank missiles, introduced in 1994 by the KPB Instrument Design Bureau. This missile was specifically designed to replace the 20 year old Konkurs system. These missiles are credited with the destruction of two Abrams tanks and a Bradley fighting vehicle yesterday.
The Russian federation has two major commodities that it exports: petrochemicals and weapons. The Iraqis are not buying oil from Russia.
(March 27, 2003 8:50 P.M. // link)
A recently released C.I.A. intelligence report established that Ba'ath party militia and Fedayeen could be expected to use "hit and run" tactics against rear units. In fact, the report speculated that these groups would stage the slaughter of civilians and blame the carnage on U.S. and British forces. So far, these groups have been very effective in deterring popular revolt and in keeping a check on U.S. and British forces. Their fanaticism and devotion to the survival of the regime earns them the distinction of being the ultimate dead enders!
(March 27, 2003 8:30 P.M. // link)
The former Reagan official known as "The Prince of Darkness" for his fierce oppposition to nuclear arms control agreements with the former Soviet Union, resigned his position as chairman of the Defense Policy Board today. Richard Perle says it's because he doesn't want the current controversy over his deal with Global Crossing to interfere with the board's work. In his resignation, Perle stressed that he was resigning voluntarily and said, "I have seen controversies like that before and I know that this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you now engaged." The resignation was accepted by Perle's pal, Don Rumsfeld, with regret. Rumsfeld praised Perle as "...a man of honor and integrity." That ought to tell us something about Rumsfeld's moral compass. Perle is still on the board and theoretically is still concerned with the appearance of ethical constraint that his position on the Defense Policy Board carries with it. He is still free to lobby the Defense Department, where he has considerable influence with his friend, Rummy. Let's not forget that he is lobbying for government approval of the sale of Global Crossing, which owns the fiber optic network used by the Department of Defense, to a Hong Kong (China) company, and he continues to do it as a member of the DPB. Ah, capitalism. . .
(March 27, 2003 // link)
Dead Enders, Broken Promises and Political War: My life’s experience so far has taught me that the most dangerous human beings are those with nothing to lose. Our forces in Iraq are faced with large numbers of these so-called “dead enders” and they pose a serious threat to our individual soldiers and to our operations in that country.
Hard line Iraqi military units and regime supporters are particularly dangerous because the brutal legacy of their control over the country won’t allow them to survive a regime change. They are faced with the stark reality that if they don’t fight aggressively to maintain the status quo, they will face the potential vengeance of their former subjects. Of course, many of Saddam’s soldiers are committed and dedicated to upholding their government. Coupled with the dead enders, these groups will provide stiff and often lethal resistance.
The Iraqi resistance is fighting a guerilla war. Committed soldiers and dead enders alike are at home in the towns, villages and cities of their native country. They blend in and out of the shadows and they use tactics that are designed to neutralize the overwhelming technical, tactical and logistical superiority of American and British forces. The fact that these tactics are in violation of the international rules of war is irrelevant to a group of fighters with nothing left to lose.
The treatment of civilians by Iraqi regular army personnel and their supporters is evidence of the desperate nature of this struggle. This is not only because of the fear that has been cultivated in the Iraqi people about the “Great Satan,” it is as much because the dead enders know that if they don’t fight, they will be killed by their own troops. If they do fight, they will die at the hands of superior forces. These realities make the behind-the-lines occupation of Iraq an extremely dangerous exercise.
The problem of the dead enders is compounded by the promises, made and broken, to support the Shi’ite uprisings in the south and the Kurdish resistance in the north after the last Gulf war. The U.S. encouraged these uprisings, yet failed to support them in any meaningful way. As a result, Saddam ordered the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi’ite resistance groups, soldiers, women and children. These orders were carried out by thugs and party enforcers, who simply cannot “blend” back into the population. They have nowhere to go, but as long as they exist they will have a profound and terrifying effect on the general population. Because these brutal and terrible people crushed all previous rebellions without restraint or conscience, and because they maintain their control over the population through terror and brutality, the people of Iraq and Kurdistan naturally want to be certain beyond a doubt that they will not be alone before they offer any resistance. They will sit on the sidelines and gauge the American and British commitment, not only to the war, but also to the peace, before they act. Any popular uprising will fail without our military assistance and a long-term commitment to the people after the war.
The effect of our government’s broken promises on our troops is that we can’t rely on any assistance from the indigenous people. In addition, the threats of death and harm to their families and the mere presence of regime supporters who tell civilians that they must fight or be executed, keep the civilian population off guard and neutralizes any effective resistance.
Confronted with a guerilla war and a dangerous enemy, our troops are also fighting under political constraints that may further limit their ability to their jobs. The war in Iraq has been billed as a war of liberation, not a war of conquest. This would be a much different war if the troops could count on popular support in Iraq and if the popular uprisings that the government has planned on actually materialize. Those uprisings may happen at some point, probably more successfully in the north than in the south, but the people who might rise up are going to move slowly.
The more television and news coverage that is in place, and the more stiff the resistance of the Iraqis, the more unnecessarily constrained our troops will be in doing their jobs. I don’t want to suggest that the war should not be covered, but if that coverage begins to affect the way the battle is conducted on the ground, or begins to jeopardize our troops, it should be de-prioritized.
The political war demands that soldiers and armies play by the rules against a foe with no such constraints. The rules of engagement should not be a safety concern. Our troops should be allowed to do their jobs as we have trained them to do. Friendly fire incidents and collateral losses will occur and at a certain level must be accepted as a consequence of war. We owe our soldiers our support on this because only they can gauge the actual danger presented by the enemy regardless of whether he wears a uniform or not.
Because of our history in Iraq and because of the constraints placed on our forces in this conflict, there are unique dangers facing them from dead enders, broken promises and the effects of a political war.
As Americans begin to lose interest in the war, or worse, when casualties begin to mount, criticism will also grow. The popular press has, after one week, begun to attack military planners by claiming that the war is not going according to plan. That may be the case -- I don’t know because I don’t know what the plan is, but it is unfair to blame the troops fighting this war when they are faced with the constraints that this unique conflict presents.
I hope that there is a plan that is realistic and that places the safety of our troops and non-combatants first. It appears that this administration may have overestimated the support of the Iraqi people for this invasion, and underestimated the effect of terror on the people in suppressing their will to resist Saddam’s regime. Despite these concerns, I hope that our forces will be given the tools and support necessary to do what we have sent them to do.
(March 24, 2003 // link)
The first time that I heard of the Defense Policy Board (D.P.B.) was right after the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Members of the group began to publicly claim links between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government within weeks of the attack. The claimed links between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda, which were proffered by the D.P.B., were never proven. In fact, any such link is unlikely. The Saddam Hussein regime is secular, al-Qaeda is a militant, fundamentalist Islamic movement with only slightly less disdain for Saddam's regime than for the U.S. and its allies. There is a connection between militant, fundamentalist Islamic organizations in northern Iraq and al-Qaeda. These organizations are more likely than not supportive of, and supported by al-Qaeda, and are no more aligned with Saddam or his regime than with the Bush administration. They hate both.
Richard Perle is the head of the D.P.B. and of several businesses involved in national security. The D.P.B. is comprised of retired military officers, former government officials and business people. The members include former national security advisors, secretaries of defense and CIA heads and they serve on the board without pay. The board advises and reviews and assesses defense policies with the Pentagon at its several meetings per year with Pentagon officials.
Because the board is highly influential, its members are considered "special government employees" and they are thus subject to a federal code of conduct. Included in the code is a prohibition against taking advantage of a federal position for personal gain. Under the code of conduct, even appearances of conflict of interest should be avoided. That brings us back to Richard Perle, who advises the government on policies dealing with, among other things, Homeland Security.
Mr. Perle is the head of a company called Trireme Partners L.P. Trireme is engaged in homeland security and defense work. In a controversial article about Perle in the March 17, 2003 edition of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh points out that this is not the first such conflict for Mr. Perle. Apparently, Mr. Perle was the subject of a New York Times investigation of an incident where Perle accepted a fee from an Israeli company and two years later he, as assistant Secretary of Defense, convinced the Army to buy weapons from that company. He was not ever accused of ethical violations, although he admitted that he had been paid by the company before he took his defense department job, he did not feel that there was sufficient “appearance of impropriety” to warrant his recusal from the transaction. Perle now serves as a director of a British company that deals with the federal government in the homeland security business.
Perle is a major and influential proponent of the doctrine of pre-emption or “preventative war.” This is a policy advocated by the Defense Policy Board, whose influence has grown dramatically under Perle’s leadership. Perle’s influence is due in no small part to his close political and personal association with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, undersecretary for Defense Policy. Pre-emption means that our government reserves the right to invade countries and topple regimes that pose speculative, inchoate and non-imminent threats to the U.S. It is this doctrine which, in the government’s eyes, justifies the current war in Iraq. I’m certain that, although pre-emption is the doctrine, oil is the prize given Iraq’s control over the world’s second largest oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia, a country that Perle also rails against for its support of terrorism.
Now comes Global Crossing, one of Perle’s current clients. Perle was paid $725,000 by Global Crossing, including $600,000 if the U.S. government approves the sale of the company to a Hong Kong company. The U.S. government initially objected to the sale because Global Crossing’s fiber optic network is used by the government and the Defense Department. The FBI thought the sale wouldn’t be prudent. Documents filed by Global Crossing stated that Perle was uniquely qualified to advise the company because of his position on the Defense Policy Board. Based on my familiarity with bankruptcy matters, I assume that the documents relate to the approval of the hiring of Mr. Perle as a consultant by the court. Perle, when questioned, blamed the inclusion of this language on a clerical error, although he eventually signed the documents. Stephen Labaton had a great article on Perle’s involvement with Global Crossing in the New York Times on March 21, 2003. How can Perle be objective in his advice to the government on security issues when he will get $600,000 for convincing it to back off on the Global Crossing deal?
What’s worse is that American policy, a policy that sanctions pre-emptive war, is being guided by Perle and others who have at least an appearance of an interest in the outcome. This is true whether the pre-emptive war is in Iraq, Iran, or Korea – and they’re all in the gunsights.