US Post-War Casualties Pass 100 Amid Disarray
by Jim Lobe
a two-week public-relations offensive designed to persuade the world
and the U.S. public that it knows what it is doing in Iraq, the
Bush administration appears increasingly at sea.
was made clear by a number of developments this week, which were
capped Friday by the killings of four more U.S. soldiers in two
separate incidents, bringing the number of U.S. troops slain since
President George W. Bush in May declared the end of major hostilities
in Iraq to 101.
the particularly disturbing benchmark number of 100 led the television
news Friday night, dashing administration hopes that the week would
be remembered more for the unanimous United Nations Security Council
approval Thursday of a new resolution that officials here depicted
as international endorsement of the U.S.-led occupation.
even that achievement proved anticlimactic, as countries voting
for the measure, including France, Russia, Germany and even Pakistan,
made clear that they were not yet ready to contribute troops to
Iraq and remained doubtful that Washington's strategy for restoring
security to the country if it actually had one was
the administration made clear that the resolution would not necessarily
provide troops to take the place of the 130,000 U.S. soldiers in
Iraq, Pakistan's announcement that it would not do so came as a
the other hand, that Washington is still negotiating with its handpicked
Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) over the deployment of up to 10,000
troops promised by Turkey suggests that Pentagon planners still
are not very clear on what use foreign troops could serve in Iraq
IGC has made it increasingly clear since the Turkish parliament
approved the deployment after Washington signed off on an
eight-billion-dollar loan and promised to disarm Turkish rebels
based in Kurdistan almost two weeks ago that Turkish troops
are simply not welcome, not in Kurdistan, nor in the rest of the
IGC, from which the ardently pro-U.S. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani
threatened to resign if the Turkish deployment proceeds, has by
all accounts become increasingly restive and resentful, particularly
of the often high-handed behaviour of Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA) chief Jerry Bremer, who has demanded that the IGC formally
invite the Turks in.
growing friction between Bremer and the IGC has become a source
have the ongoing frictions here between the Pentagon on the one
side and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the State
Department on the other.
latest incident began after Rice briefed selected media on the creation
of the 'Iraq Stabilisation Group' (ISG), a new mechanism overseen
by her to which Bremer and the CPA are to report.
in the move an implicit but high-profile criticism of the way the
Pentagon had handled the CPA, if not an outright power grab, Pentagon
chief Donald Rumsfeld reacted with thinly veiled irritation, which
lasted the best part of a week and was capped by a contemptuous
reference to those "little committees of the NSC (National Security
days later, Rumsfeld's office struck back with the announcement
that it will soon set up its own Project Management Office (PMO)
in Baghdad that will take over the awarding of contracts for reconstruction
projects from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),
which is run out of the State Department.
sequence of events left many observers scratching their heads, uncertain
as to what precisely will be the ISG's mandate. "We don't know
what, if anything, has changed," noted one Congressional aide.
"Nobody has explained any of this to us in ways that make sense."
impression of disarray was further compounded by the revolt staged
by a significant number of Republican senators Thursday against
the administration's demands that Congress provide 20 billion dollars
in grants for Iraqi reconstruction as part of an 87-billion-dollar
appropriations bill to fund U.S. operations in the occupied nation
through next year.
a 51-47 vote, the Senate approved a provision that would make one-half
of the reconstruction aid a loan, thus adding to Iraq's accumulated
foreign debt estimated at between 150 billion and 200 billion dollars.
and Vice President Dick Cheney pulled out all the stops in lobbying
for the original plan, but eight Republicans deserted the president
and joined 42 Democrats to thwart Bush in what the 'Los Angeles
Times' described as "the latest sign of eroding public and political
support for Bush's Iraq policy."
loan provision might still be stripped from the bill when members
of the House of Representatives which rejected a similar
provision by a 200-226 vote Thursday and the Senate meet
to hammer out a final version, but the unexpected outcome in the
upper chamber suggests that Republican discipline is breaking down
most serious signs of trouble for the administration this week were
probably in Iraq itself, especially in the Shia-dominated southern
part of the country which, until now, has been relatively quiet
compared to the central "Sunni Triangle" region where insurgents
have caused the vast majority of U.S. casualties since May 1.
of the four soldiers killed Friday were involved in a shoot-out
with unknown assailants in the holy Shia city of Karbala. It was
by far the worst incident in a series over the past month that reportedly
involves a major power struggle between at least two key armed Shia
week, two other U.S. soldiers were killed in what the CPA described
as an ambush in Sadr City, a Shia-dominated part of Baghdad in which
the factional struggle has also increased.
U.S. troops might now be targeted by one of the factions
associated most closely with Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for
the establishment of an independent government is particularly
disturbing to Iraq specialists here.
Sunnis, who were generally favoured under British colonial and Ba'ath
Party rule, constitute about 20 percent of Iraq's population, Shias
are thought to make up as much as 65 percent. Any fighting or breakdown
in order within the Shias or between Shias and occupation forces
would make it vastly more difficult to restore security to the country.
would almost certainly pose new questions as well about what U.S.
troops are doing there, a question that is apparently being raised
with increasing frequency and intensity by soldiers themselves.
survey based on almost 2,000 questionnaires distributed by the Pentagon-funded
'Stars and Stripes' newspaper in August found that one-half of those
questioned described their unit's morale as low, their training
irrelevant or inadequate, and their re-enlistment plans non-existent.
troops also complained about the tours provided by the Pentagon
to visiting dignitaries, including top military officers, congressmen
and senators. They said visitors were generally shown only hand-picked
troops who could be relied on to show enthusiasm for their mission
and who did not represent the views of most troops.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC. Visit
© 2003 Inter Press Service