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June 07, 2006

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The truth is that we have a military justice system that will actually bring perpetrators to justice.

On the rare occasions when there is photographic or video evidence that reaches the U.S. public. And not always then (see: Fallujah, Marine shooting unarmed man in mosque).

I pass over the argument about the effectiveness of clear and hold, and leave aside the larger background question of whether we have any right to be there in the first place, clearing or holding anything, to note that it would take about three-quarters of a million troops to "hold" all the areas of Iraq in which there has been resistance.

I would also like to register an objection to the language of the post title. The residents of Haditha who attack U.S. troops are people, not dirt or insects. In most cases they are people from Haditha.

What's more, we are in a War Against Militant Islamism, and Haditha looks like a legitimate battlefield in this war. If the situation there is "Taliban-like", then it's time to go in and de-Talibanize.

Al-Maliki needs to fill the remaining slots ASAP because Baghdad needs its own clear-and-hold operation, among other things. He also needs a fully-manned cabinet in order to combat the militant Islamists, both Sunni and Sadrite.

It seems to me that you conflate overly much the goals of the US and the goals of the new Iraqi government. It's not in a war against the Sadrists, it includes the Sadrists. It's not in a war against Talib-like practices, but includes elements who want Talib-like practices. (You don't include SCIRI thugs -- presumably for reasons of brevity, not because you approve of their killing. No matter, the Iraqi government is not at war with SCIRI thugs either). I'm no happier about state sanction murder of gays than you are, to choose but one example, but I think we should avoid fooling ourselves that the current Iraqi government, or any democratically elected Iraqi government in the forseeable future, agrees with either of us on this.

I think that the Iraqi government needs to determine all the major strategic questions within Iraq, not us, and needs to set the ROE. Ours can be more restrictive, but not looser. We're there to support the new Iraqi government, not to decide which cities need to be destroyed that they may be saved.

When allies have inconsistent war aims, either one yields, or the alliance breaks.* Eventually. This doesn't just apply to our side, but to the other as well. It's not completely clear to me that some number of Iraqi cities under control of one faction of insurgents or another doesn't strain alliances between the factions, as their war aims -- beyond expelling the invader -- are divergent.

* Tora Bora springs to mind. Restraint wrt Sadrist unrest in prior years as well.

Shorter CB: We need to win.


Me: No kidding!

The truth is that we have a military justice system that will actually bring perpetrators to justice.

I'm reminded of a recent post by SH regarding the civil justice system that will actually bring negligent physicians (and those who are also culpable) to justice. And that we have a highway patrol that tickets drivers exceeding the speed limit on our highways, coupled with a criminal justice system that will actually bring perpetrators to justice.

The latter is certainly true -- we have a criminal justice system, and it does actually bring perpetrators to justice. It's silly, though, to act as if this means that crime isn't rampant, or isn't a problem.

There are a lot of things we should do but will not do because this administration hasn't got the will to do it.

Bush is engaged in a covert cut and run, under the guise of "stand down as they stand up". Our people are being pulled back to the sidelines on the rationaliztion that Iraqi forces will be able to deal with things. As a result big sections of Baghdad are under the control of local militias answerable to either a faction within the new government or to no one but themselves.
Assuming that clean and hold works, ( and I am not implying that it doesn't) it can't be done on a scale that would matter in the long run with the current troop levels.

So, this war, which was initiated primarily to influence domestic politics, not Middle Eastern politics, is still being managed to influence our elections. I'd be stunned and amazed if there is any kind of major action that might get more American deaths on the news between now and the election.

I pass over the argument about the effectiveness of clear and hold, and leave aside the larger background question of whether we have any right to be there in the first place, clearing or holding anything, to note that it would take about three-quarters of a million troops to "hold" all the areas of Iraq in which there has been resistance.

This is true, but it is also worth pointing out that "clear and hold" in Falluja meant destroying the city and chasing the bulk of the civilian population out. You can't do this everywhere, since those civilians need to live somewhere. Unless, of course, the goal is actually to kill them.

"Cleaning out Haditha," at least if it's the same approach as cleaning out other cities, means just that. It doesn't mean cleaning it out of insurgents; it means cleaning it out of people.

The truth is that we have rules of engagement that will imperil soldiers' lives in order to protect Iraqi civilians.

The truth is some other Western militaries, notably the British, are appalled by American rules of engagement, and consider them a significant contributing factor to the insurgency you see now.

The truth is that we have a military justice system that will actually bring perpetrators to justice.

That has not historically always been the case, and in the matter of Haditha, remains to be seen.

"Clean Out Haditha"!? Charles, are you taking lessons from Ramesh Ponnuru in how to title your writing so as to begin trolling before you get to the first paragraph?

When we convoy, all in the town/village know when and where there is a bomb/IED/VBIED that is targeting coalition forces. This is not so true in Baghdad, but in the outlying towns all know. What is the culpability for those people in the village/town? Would the Marines be guilty in the U.S. under the same circumstances?

This particular quote strikes me as a rather ugly rationalization. You spent most of your post explaining how insurgents (the 'rejectionists' title is as stupid as 'brights', IMO) control who lives and dies, who eats and who starves. This guy, though, thinks that those same people should sign their own death warrants by collaborating with US troops.

Here in the US, a citizen can be reasonably sure that if they see a killer about to bomb a building, contacting local authorities is not only the right thing to do, but a SAFE thing to do. In a nation where the US troops are on their way out, and militias/insurgent groups are filling the power vacuum, is what this fellow desires really a valid survival strategy for an Iraqi?

"Clear and hold" presupposes there are enough troops to do so.

"Clear and hold" without enough troops simply means the insurgents will go to towns and cities that are not held; and then come back once the US troop presence leaves. We've seen this, over and over again.

Belgravia Dispatch posits that we'd need about 400,000 troops in Iraq, for about 2 years, in order to "clear and hold." There's no way on Gaia's Green Earth Bush will send 400,000 soldiers to Iraq for 2 years. There's no way we'll be able to find, train, and keep that many Iraqis in a security force to do that, either.

Trying a "clear and hold" strategy with what we have - not enough troops, and the ones we do have stretched emotionally and physically to the breaking point - means a lot more snapping, and many more Hadithas.


Too bad Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld never took the war seriously. All those American lives wasted.

Clear-and-Hold Haditha is, as CB well knows, not on the list of available options.

option 1, supported by the admininstration and an ever-shrinking group of americans: keep troop levels more or less constant and disengage when a militia group establishes order.

option 2: recognize that we have achieved a very limited number of our tactical goals, none of our strategic goals, and start withdrawing now.

[option 3: establish a multi-million person army of heavily-trained, lightly-armed peacekeepers and keep the peace by having two cops on every street corner. Call it the Eisenhower/Marshall plan. the popular support for this plan cannot be discovered even by the best pollsters.]

if it weren't so sad, it'd be funny -- CB voted for Bush vs. Kerry knowing full well that the administration had no intention whatsoever of launching the E/M plan. yet years later we still get plaintive little posts about what MUST be done.

you got suckered, cb. and we lose.

What is the culpability for those people in the village/town? Would the Marines be guilty in the U.S. under the same circumstances?

And these are easy: Zero and Yes.

Ignatius: "The American project in Iraq is unravelling".

"And these are easy: Zero and Yes."

Where do you get "Zero"?

Belgravia Dispatch posits that we'd need about 400,000 troops in Iraq, for about 2 years, in order to "clear and hold." There's no way on Gaia's Green Earth Bush will send 400,000 soldiers to Iraq for 2 years.

This has been pointed out to CB before

I mean that a bystander who knows where a bomb is placed, but has had no part in placing, is not a member of the group that placed, and was not part of the chain of events that led to it being placed has no culpability for failing to tell anyone about it.

OK, maybe such a person will be answerable to the Almighty, at some final reckoning, but the implication that uninvolved people have an affirmative obligation to step forward and tell foreign troops about bombs, or else they forfeit their right to life, liberty, & pursuit, is not just wrong, it's very dangerous. It's the exact slippery slope that heads to collective punishment, and then further insurgency. People who think this way are looking for excuses to commit war crimes (or to excuse war crimes).

The fact that I know, Dr. Fan, that you're actually an evil genius planning to use your secret particle death ray to sever California from the mainland, a worthy project that will, however lead to earthquakes that kill thousands, does not mean that I have to call the FBI, DHS, or even the CHP. I'm not part of your sinister plan. I have no culpability for going about my business and seeing how it turns out.

Are you talking legal or moral culpability? In the former case, I can imagine there being laws in Iraq against the given behaviour - in the latter, I'm going to say, "Prove it".

First, it doesn't matter how brutal our opponents are. The deliberate murder of unarmed civilians is wrong, it's a war crime, and US military should never, and hopefully will never, countenance it.

On the topic of "clear and hold" -- I will leave aside the question of whether it was ever a good idea to go into Iraq. We are there now, and our goals there have now been defined as establishing a stable, responsive government that will not sponsor terrorism.

To achieve that we need to put many -- many -- more troops on the ground, and we need to commit to maintaining them there for a long time. Five or ten years at a bare minimum, with probably some presence much longer than that. If you're committed to a good outcome in Iraq, that is what you will argue for.

If we can't do that, we will continue to fight a losing war of attrition until we get sick of it and leave.

Thanks -

Areas we might have made safe and sane we did not. We let them fall into criminality and the resultant militia restoration of order.

Last spring we surrendered Baghdad by concentrating westward.

Inkblot tactics would secure the "friendly" areas and slowly expand. Attacking the hotspots much less holding them is not something we can do with current force.

So we are letting dice role and yes Sunni will shift positions as domestic balances change.

However just 6 weeks ago the right was once again touting victory because US casualties had fallen for 5 or 6 months. They did that a year earlier. And now as then they started to rise.

So while we babble strategy field marshall Limbaugh who ordered the first nvasion against the Marine's will has a solution, it's called stop being so nicey nicey PC and exteminate the brutes!

So far the administration has always given in to the commands of this niche, we shall see if it's different.

I wil say that while imperfect like all American law the US military justice system does reveal some truth and does correct some flaws. Partial correction does have effect as carreers are destroyed.

I will also say the goal of this administration has been consistently to destroy the land forces and all their strengths.

Witness the recent National Guard to the border. Rather than deply a few ubits for a year where they can get experience the 3 week deloyments will use up the yearly training time of over a dozen brigades thus rendering them more crippled.

This is John Burns writing in the NYT last Sunday--

"But the harsh Marine battle tactics make an impact too. Reporters' experiences with the Marines, even more than with the Army, show they resort quickly to using heavy artillery or laser-guided bombs when rooting out insurgents who have taken refuge among civiians, with inevitable results."

I don't think anyone familiar with John Burns's reporting would mistake him for a reporter with an antiwar bias.

He also repeats a claim that in Fallujah 36,000 homes out of 50,000 were destroyed. Granted that many or most of the families had left before these homes were destroyed. Actually, I don't completely grant that, because I think bombing in the months preceding the November assault went hand-in-hand with civilian refugee creation and I remember reading that some military-aged men trying to flee Fallujah before the final assault were reportedly forced back. We don't know how many civilians might still have been in those homes when they were destroyed.

Charles: As the Vietnam War and other insurgencies have shown, the clear-and-hold strategy works.

From Healing Iraq:

Baghdadis are reporting that radical Islamists have taken control over the Dora, Amiriya and Ghazaliya districts of Baghdad, where they operate in broad daylight. They have near full control of Saidiya, Jihad, Jami’a, Khadhraa’ and Adil. And their area of influence has spread over the last few weeks to Mansour, Yarmouk, Harthiya, and very recently, to Adhamiya.

...So far, enforcing the hijab for women and a ban on shorts for men are consistent in most districts of western Baghdad. In other areas, women are not allowed to drive, to go out without a chaperone, and to use cell phones in public; men are not allowed to dress in jeans, shave their beards, wear goatees, put styling hair gel, or to wear necklaces; it is forbidden to sell ice, to sell cigarettes at street stands, to sell Iranian merchandise, to sell newspapers, and to sell ring tones, CDs, and DVDs. Butchers are not allowed to slaughter during certain religious anniversaries. Municipality workers will be killed if they try to collect garbage from certain areas. Private neighbourhood generators are banned in a few areas. And the last I heard is that they are threatening Internet cafés and wireless providers.

In the meantime, some analysts are now afraid that if US troops, which is now for all intents and purposes the best-armed militia in the country, are pulled out out, the Shia militias will set to work exterminating the Sunnis, which will draw Saudi Arabia into the conflict, which will probably then increase Iran's meddling, and the whole region becomes further destabilized.

Gosh, this is going well.

Clean Out Haditha? That's like worrying about the hangnail on a gangrenous leg, Charles. I mean, WTF?

Regarding the update:

As Omar mentioned, we've kinda sorta passed a milestone, but not really, not until the Iraqi cabinet is complete. Al-Maliki needs to fill the remaining slots ASAP because Baghdad needs its own clear-and-hold operation, among other things. He also needs a fully-manned cabinet in order to combat the militant Islamists, both Sunni and Sadrite.

Here's what else Omar says:

In my opinion, it is quite possible that there are parties within one or more of the political blocs that are trying to make this process take forever; of course it can't take forever but more like to delay it to win as much time as possible to delay military action against armed groups some of those parties are affiliated with; time they need to prepare themselves for the imminent confrontation or, to even succeed in appointing ministers that are inclined to impede such an operation.

It's all coming together smoothly, innit? Let's just say Maliki somehow is able to use his ability to appoint people to these key posts without the government crumbling.

Clear and hold Baghdad? Baghdad? That's an operation exponentially larger than one for Haditha. One that, at current manpower levels, would leave the rest of the country ripe for the pickings.

"What's more, we are in a War Against Militant Islamism, and Haditha looks like a legitimate battlefield in this war."

Well, CB, this is not a war we were in until we started it. This is a component of militant Islamism only to the degree we created the militant side of it. The "insurgents" are being militant because we are there and occupying their country.

I have grave doubts any of them seriously thought of doing harm to Americans prior to our invasion.

Let's see. If you went into someone's home, trashed it and just kept walking around and not really doing anything to fix up the mess you made, and the owner or other members of his family started throwing things at you or tried to hurt you, does that mean they are militant homeowners?

Forget the Islamism part of the puzzle. That has very little to do with what is happening in Iraq, except for the rather small in number people who are part of al Qaeda like organizations.

It seems ludicrous to me that "everyone" in a given town could possibly know that an IED is hidden in a given location. Some people know beyond those who actually did the deed, sure. But "everyone"? Either it's pure hyperbole, or a claim I find impossible to justify.

I would also like to register an objection to the language of the post title. The residents of Haditha who attack U.S. troops are people, not dirt or insects. In most cases they are people from Haditha.

Hear hear, Nell. I have to wonder how "cleaning out" differs from "cleansing"--aside from the addition of a consonant?

Uncle K, these are my working definitions:

cleaning out = emptying. See Hilzoy's posts on moving.

cleansing = using harsh chemicals on the newly-emptied space to eliminate and prevent the return of mold, mildew and various undesirable lifeforms revealed by the process of cleaning out. See, again, Hilzoy's posts on moving.

Clorox works well on spaces covered by bookshelves. Salt is the historic chemical for spaces formerly occupied by humans. See, eg, Carthage.

whether cb wants to "clean out" or "cleanse" Haditha is left as an interpretive exercise for the reader.

When the whole damned war was optional, talking up how hard some soldiers work to save children is attempting to polish a turd.

Bush et al sent 'em there, where it was inevitable that they would wind up pointing weapons at civilians. And the longer he keeps them there, the more time they spend in hell, the more of them will decide that civilian lives matter less--a lot less--than their own.

Is this another of Charles' incendiary drive-by posts where everybody can pile on to argue against him? And he maybe shows up to respond to some small side point?

Here's my nit.

Al-Maliki needs to fill the remaining slots ASAP because Baghdad needs its own clear-and-hold operation, among other things. He also needs a fully-manned cabinet

Sheesh, you think? I'm glad you're pointing out what Maliki *needs* to do - he himself, or Rumsfeld, or Rice, or Khalilzad just could not figure it out!

This isn't some game of force of will or management consulting: where exactly are the resources for Maliki or anybody to do anything?

Shorter CB: "clear and hold works, as long as the clearing part works, and as long as the holding part works".

As phrased, "clear and hold" is a tautology. It reminds of the No True Scotsman fallacy ... if you can point to an example of where "clear and hold" has failed in the past (Iraq, Vietnam), then one can always counter with, "well, but if it was true 'clear and hold', it would have been held".

It seems to me that enough of the necessary points have already been made and that wrassling with Blogger to gave everyone another place to hate upon Charles isn't an imperative. I'm having a hell of a time getting into the site on this unfamiliar workspace, so feel free to use any of the threads over there to vent;

'Hear hear, Nell. I have to wonder how "cleaning out" differs from "cleansing"--aside from the addition of a consonant?'

Great, am I free to add (or subtract) single consonants to (or from) your prose and claim the result is what you meant?

Is this another variation on "The floggings will continue until morale improves"?

It seems ludicrous to me that "everyone" in a given town could possibly know that an IED is hidden in a given location. Some people know beyond those who actually did the deed, sure. But "everyone"? Either it's pure hyperbole, or a claim I find impossible to justify.

In this case, I think "everyone knows" roughly translates to "they're all enemies" and from there to "they're all fair game." Which is about what you'd expect when people are stuck in a situation where they don't see much chance of accomplishing anything positive and do see a significant risk of being killed or maimed by enemies who are indistinguishable from the noncombatants around them.

In the interests of science, the alternate universe version of Clean Out Haditha.

Great, am I free to add (or subtract) single consonants to (or from) your prose and claim the result is what you meant?

No, rilkefan, you are not. I was commenting on the fact the "clean & hold" bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain other euphemism for the killing of large numbers of people--one which just happens to differ from "cleaning" by a single letter.

I thought the point was excruciatingly obvious, but I guess I should have provided some charts & illustrations to make it clearer.

I suppose the fact that the original commenter didn't get blammed can be considered progress right?

I suspect the blamming over there is shortly followed by the respective editor "__mming", which explains why it happens so often. Either that or the mock execution of someone who doesn't toe their line is a preview of what they want to do in the real world.

I guess those aren't mutually exclusive.

"I thought the point was excruciatingly obvious"

I got the point, just seems like a smear tactic.

I might have preferred "clear and hold", but by your Humpty-Dumpty arithmetic I suppose that's only two letters away from "cleansing".

In this case, I think "everyone knows" roughly translates to "they're all enemies"
Actually, I think that "everyone knows" probably translates to the reality that "many of them know, and it's completely impossible for me to tell which four out of a given twenty are the ones who know" From there, the helplessness, combined with the steady drumbeat of woundings, leads to "they're all enemies"

No matter how I turn it over, I can't escape the fact that if I was there, and my friend had just had his hand blown off, and I was talking to a group of Iraqis, and I knew perfectly well that one or more of them knew who planted the bomb, but as I looked from person to person (all of them saying "how terrible, how terrible"), knowing that some of them were lying, but having no no way to tell who, it wouldn't take long for me to come to distrust and even hate the people I saw everyday.

Of course the troops are trained for this type of stress and may have better tools than I do to deal with it. And clearly the vast majority of US soldiers in hostile, insurgent-rich areas never intentionally target civilians. But as I consider that situation, the whole thing just seems like one goddamn waking nightmare. It might not make me a killer, but it might break me down someplace deep inside, someplace basic and unsplintable.

From the alternate universe, comment section:

camanintx: How many cities in Iraq will we have to "clean out" before we realize that we can't control this country? Fighting the insurgency the way we have been is like playing hit-the-mole, once you clear them out of one area like Fallujah they just regroup somewhere else. Since we don't have near enough troops to "clear and hold" the entire country, we should consider other strategies for creating a stable country.

streiff (redstate editor): have you considered asking for a commission as an 8-star general?

charles bird (redstate editor): Learn something about counterinsurgency... ...strategies, and perhaps then you might have something intelligent to say. Fallujah has been fairly quiet since our November 2004 operation. Second point, we don't need all of our troops for clear-and-hold. That's why we're training Iraqi troops to do the job. So far, tens of thousands are at Level 2 status or better, but we still have tens of thousands more to train.

st, that's pretty much what I was trying to say.

What's more, we are in a War Against Militant Islamism, and Haditha looks like a legitimate battlefield in this war.

1. Under Republican leadership, the alleged war against Islamic extremism has been a sham. The effort in Iraq has been screwed up from the beginning -- the lack of seriousness about fighting the war is apparent.

2. Iraq was never anywhere near any battlefront on the war against Islamic extremism, and has been made into such a cesspool because of bad Republican leadership -- the same leadership that shows no serious signs of dealing with its mess realistically.

3. This post seems to mindlessly advocate more of the same half measures that have not worked so far -- frivolous tactical actions against the latest hot spot with no meaningful long-term or coherent strategy. The idea that we have almost just turned the corner in Iraq (just got to fill a few more cabinent posts!) is pollyanish. The Iraqi government that we are creating is becoming one of the more radical Islamic states in the region, and full of hate for the US. That's victory?

Pretense to the contrary like this post is maddening -- it is the mindset that assures more failure since there is so much comfort with the failures to date.

What's more, we are in a War Against Militant Islamism, and Haditha looks like a legitimate battlefield in this war.

Canada too.

Well, Ugh, I suppose the fact that the original commenter didn't get blammed can be considered progress right? (And Chaz managed not to call him/her a loser-deafetist as well! Progress!)

I suppose the fact that the original commenter didn't get blammed can be considered progress right?

I suspect the blamming over there is shortly followed by the respective editor "__mming", which explains why it happens so often. Either that or the mock execution of someone who doesn't toe their line is a substitute for not being able to do so in the real world.

I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive.

"Second point, we don't need all of our troops for clear-and-hold. That's why we're training Iraqi troops to do the job. So far, tens of thousands are at Level 2 status or better, but we still have tens of thousands more to train."

I scarsely know where to start with this gem.

"We don't need all of our troops"? What in the 400 Names of God does CB think 'clear-and-hold' means? I thought it meant going door to door to look for insurgents, and a cordon around the town/city to make sure none could get out or back in, and staying there while another few thousand troops go do the same thing in the next town/city, and another few thousand do the same thing in the city after that, and so on and so forth throughout the entire damned country. That's why the best guess as to how many troops it would take to do the job is 400,000.

Maybe CB has a different definition. Something like "clear today, hold tomorrow - and leave a week later, to go 'clear-and-hold' somewhere else."

But that's not clear and hold. That's... that's whack-a-mole, actually, just like camanintx said.

"That's why we're training Iraqi troops to do the job"? We've been training Iraqi troops for how long now? And have...how many fully trained, fully equipped, autonomously commanded, dependably loyal, dependably competent Iraqi troops?

"So far, tens of thousands are at Level 2 status or better, but we still have tens of thousands more to train."

In other words, after at least one year's efforts, we do not in fact have any fully trained, fully equipped, autonomously commanded, dependably loyal, dependably competent Iraqi troops. Because "Level 2" means they still need to be embedded among, and commanded by, US troops.

Oh, and that "tens of thousands" number? What does that mean, exactly? 20,000? 50,000? 80,000?

Still nowhere near the 400,000 that people who know something about counter-insurgency say are needed. It's not even half that number.

The sheer amount of bunkum in those 3 little sentences almost defies the laws of physics.

Sayth CB Fallujah has been fairly quiet since our November 2004 operation.

I believe that is not a good example of the clear-and-hold strategy- more like bomb-into-smithereens strategy. How exactly is Fallujah going to become a hotbed of insurgency when the city is mostly destroyed & the people are gone? Various reports put the percentage of destroyed homes at 33-75%, and the population is less than half of what it was prior to the "operation".

And this is the small-scale of what you hope to accomplish across the rest of Iraq? Im almost glad that Bush is in change rather than you, at least he'll merely bumble along, rather than grandly embracing mass murder as an alternative to saying "I wuz wrong".

Are you talking legal or moral culpability? In the former case, I can imagine there being laws in Iraq against the given behaviour - in the latter, I'm going to say, "Prove it".

RF, I doubt that Iraq has laws that require one to report wrongdoing one knows about, but is not a participant in.

WRT morality, I'd be interested in the views of a professional ethicist, but it seems to me that given the danger to an involved person from becoming involved -- to his/herself as well as to family members -- that on nearly any moral scale an Iraqi is morally free to just look the other way when an IED is placed. Or when a US Army vehicle approaches the location of an IED the bystander knows was put there. I would say that the uninvited nature of the Army vehicle is an additional factor, but maybe not dispositive, but that the personal danger is.

CaseyL, I'm not sure that the 'hold' part requires anything near the same skill as the 'clear' part -- as Iraqi soldiers become more capable of engaging in the latter, in CB's plan, more US troops can engage in the former.

This, I think, is the cardinal mistake, as I've said above. Civil strife has to be resolved in a way that everyone will accept, or else it just breeds more strife, and this means that Iraqis have to do the 'clear' part -- choosing the targets, and executing the operations.

and this means that Iraqis have to do the 'clear' part -- choosing the targets, and executing the operations.

Perhaps...but to the extent that Iraqi units are broken up along sectarian lines the 'legitimacy' and acceptibility of this clearing seems doubtful to me.

Charles,

May I call you by your first name?

Do me the favor of answering a question, just to confirm that we are reading from the same page of the hymnal:

In your opinion, is it permissible to walk into a house, uninvited, and to shoot the occupants dead?

I have my own ideas on the matter, but I am trying to establish some ground rules here.

On the rare occasions when there is photographic or video evidence that reaches the U.S. public.

Cite, Nell? I can't think of one embed who has seen what you allege.

And not always then (see: Fallujah, Marine shooting unarmed man in mosque).

He was duly investigated and cleared of the charges, all under incredibly intense media scrutiny.

It's not in a war against the Sadrists, it includes the Sadrists. It's not in a war against Talib-like practices, but includes elements who want Talib-like practices.

Why not, Charley? If they're raising arms against the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, are they not fighting the Iraqi government? Are they not militant Islamists? The new Iraqi government may have different ideas about it, and they may have goals different than ours, but security is a primary goal and I suspect that a more concerted effort will be made against them, including the SCIRI thugs.

This is true, but it is also worth pointing out that "clear and hold" in Falluja meant destroying the city and chasing the bulk of the civilian population out.

False to the former and true to the latter. The best estimates are that "more than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed". Clearing out the town gives the coalition a chance to control who gets to return. Fumento was there not that long ago and he has an interesting take. Insurgents are trying to infiltrate, but Fallujah will have 10,000 IA and IP there by September.

In a nation where the US troops are on their way out, and militias/insurgent groups are filling the power vacuum, is what this fellow desires really a valid survival strategy for an Iraqi?

You write as if no Iraqi troops are being trained, Jeff. As for your earlier comment about rationalizations, I expressly did not excuse anything.

"Clear and hold" presupposes there are enough troops to do so.

There aren't enough American troops, which is why Iraqi troops are being trained. If you go here (which I'm working through), there are over 47,000 Iraqi troops competent enough to take the lead in combat operations, almost five times more than a year ago.

More responses later on.

"On the rare occasions when there is photographic or video evidence that reaches the U.S. public.

Cite, Nell? I can't think of one embed who has seen what you allege"

The point, I think, is not that there is usually no reporter or amateur human rights worker standing around with a video camera. Or for that matter, standing around at all.

I'm seeing the "the military was taking care of this before the meddlesome press got involved" talking point from the usual suspects, just at Abu Ghraib--this time it's even more idiotic. The only reason the military investigation even happened is that Time magazine went to them with the evidence--which Time did two months or so before the first article they wrote.

Also, Charles, please spare me saying that we have to "clean up" Haditha for the sake of the victims. The "clean up"--whether it is a good or necessary idea or not--would pretty clearly involve killing some more civilians* (I'm not saying more massacres, I mean we kill a lot of civilians by mistake in the ordinary course of this war). I'm sure they'd find it very comforting to know that we were doing this "for the sake of" their murdered relatives and neighbors.

Ah, yes, Charles, more Iraqi troops are being trained. We'll patiently explain to them that it is not OK to shoot innocent people, and that due process on the part of both the military and civilian arms of government is of supreme importance in maintaining an orderly society. For examples, we will use the current US government.

After we explain this to them, they will naturally feel no temptation to give their loyalties to anyone or anything other than the shining ideals we have presented and demonstrated to them.

We need a little context here. You mean, I take it, to refer to elide the important situations where such actions would be widely considered acceptable - such as soldiers taking a house held by armed enemy forces, or even police with a warrant meeting deadly force.

Charles is clearly against war crimes, as noted in the post. If you think he isn't, you ought to come out and say so.

Drat.

Again:

Robert L. Bell: "In your opinion, is it permissible to walk into a house, uninvited, and to shoot the occupants dead?"

We need a little context here. You mean, I take it, to refer to elide the important situations where such actions would be widely considered acceptable - such as soldiers taking a house held by armed enemy forces, or even police with a warrant meeting deadly force.

Charles is clearly against war crimes, as noted in the post. If you think he isn't, you ought to come out and say so.

There is the number of 400,000 troops being bantied about as a number sufficient to implement a clear and hold strategy. I believe that is mistaken. Shinsheski's "several hundred thousand" might be sufficient to successfully pursue the "whack a mole" strategy to operational success.

Clear and hold is the military equivilent of a policeman on every corner...It takes a big bite out of crime, but it costs a fortune, as highly trained policemen stand about preventing crime and polishing apples.

A realistic appraisal of the amount of manpower required to implement a "clear and hold" strategy has, to my knowledge, never been done, as the most rudimentary back of the envelope calculations show an appalling number of troops required.

For Iraq, we're talking about several million troops in theater, with double that amount either recouprating or in training. That pencils out to somewhere around 1/2 of males graduating from high school entering the service for the duration of the conflict.

The best estimates are that "more than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed". Clearing out the town gives the coalition a chance to control who gets to return.

So if we work our way across Iraq kicking most of the noncombatants out of their homes, destroy 25% of the homes and damage another 25%+, and then allow the people to trickle back to their homes via checkpoints (which work so smoothly in the Palestinian territories!), we can reasonably expect the population to understand that we're trying to help them and therefore to help us against the insurgents? Does that strategy bear any particular resemblance to versions of "clear and hold" that have been successful in the past?

rilkefan, I think Robert Bell is referring to what happened in Haditha: US soldiers breaking into houses and shooting everyone in them, including children, dead.

Or, he might be referring, metaphorically, to what the US has done to Iraq as a whole. With the (metaphoric) addendum that, after breaking down the door uninvited and shooting everyone, we hung up a sign outside saying "Robbers, kidnappers, murderers, and terrorists: Welcome! C'mon right in!"

That pencils out to somewhere around 1/2 of males graduating from high school entering the service for the duration of the conflict.

NO WAY JOSE!!!

There are plenty of fine young republicans who voted for Shrub and supported this war who should be sent there before the children of working class parents.

There are plenty of grown men who voted Shrub and supported this war such as Charles & Sebastian who should be sent there before the children of working class parents, and if they are to old to be sent there themselves should have their children sent there before the children of working class parents.

yankee go home!

There is not much point in having a discussion between people (CB) who think Fallujah is a success story and people who think it bears a passing resemblance to what Asad did to Hama when he had his own little problem with Sunni fundamentalists. The main difference would be that Americans usually kill civilians from a distance, while I'm sure the Syrian army is less fussy. I suspect the civilian death toll in Fallujah may have far exceeded what Iraq Body Count claims (roughly 2000 during 2004). I've seen no evidence that the Western press went around interviewing Fallujah families trying to determine how many civilians died, (probably not a terribly safe thing to do) and there's no reason I know of to think that all the dead were brought to morgues and counted.

And btw, nobody really knows how many died at Hama either, but since we don't like Asad people are generally comfortable quoting numbers from the higher end of the range of estimates.

Is cleaning out Hidatha, like cleaning out Anfal?

"rilkefan, I think Robert Bell is referring to what happened in Haditha: US soldiers breaking into houses and shooting everyone in them, including children, dead."

Sure, and it's identified as a war crime above. Bell is, I suspect, unwilling to be clear for rhetorical reasons. One might as well ask Bell if he's in favor of tyrants feeding innocent people into wood chippers - but in some vaguer way to avoid the appearance of knee-jerk bad-faith argument.

Cite for what? I am asserting that the military justice system has held no U.S. servicemembers to account for the deaths of unarmed Iraqis except in the few cases where photographic evidence has been made available, and not even then. Such as in the Fallujah mosque shooting (Kevin Sites footage). Or the Ishaqi killings (AP photos, local video). Or the hundreds of checkpoint killings (quite a few of which have been caught on film, plus the celebrity incidents like the Italian security officer with Giuliana Sgrena). Or the reporters at the Palestine Hotel blown away by the tank, on TV.

The Haditha massacre and the Hamdaniyah murder are the only cases I know of where prosecution is even being contemplated, and I'm not aware of more than one or two administrative punishments over the last three years. {and I'm someone who follows cases of civilian killings fairly closely}

The citing burden is entirely on anyone who wants to brag on how all on those who want to preen about how well the U.S. military justice system functions to "bring perpetrators to justice".

Many, many civilians have been killed directly by U.S. troops. (I wonder if the DoD releases figures on how much has been paid out so far in "condolence payments" of up to $2500 per life). For how many of those lives have the troops who killed them been punished in any way, including something as light as reprimands?

That the Marine mosque murderer was cleared is exactly my point. You don't think that sent any kind of signal to other Marines that shooting the defenseless, the wounded, the unarmed can be done with impunity as long as you're really stressed out about your platoon buddy having been killed recently?

Well, it looks like Zarqawi has http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/08/world/middleeast/08cnd-iraq.html?hp&ex=1149825600&en=d6d9b3b68ae5cc4a&ei=5094&partner=homepage>bought it. Can't think of anyone in Iraq more deserving.

Well, it looks like Zarqawi has bought it. Can't think of anyone in Iraq more deserving.

Congratulations to President Bush on making Zarqawi one of the most successful terrorists in history and then killing him.

A Flit post reminds us of another civilian killing that was surely only prosecuted because a Zeyad, a well-known Iraqi blogger publicized his cousin's case. Flit is responding to the same overblown faith in the military justice system, from another source:

the platoon sergeant, who received a six-month term for assault. ... the 45-day sentence given the officer who had actually given the order to throw an Iraqi into a dam reservoir, or the subsequent dropping of all charges against the company commander, Capt. Cunningham, who ultimately escaped with just a reprimand, the battalion commander Sassaman, who was allowed to retire gracefully, despite having covered up the incident and misled military investigators, and everybody else involved. That's 225 days prison time total, for one Iraqi's death: a triumph of the system that Reynolds remains confident will prevail in Haditha, it was not.

I note only that this is one of the heaviest sentences produced in the entire three years.

FWIW, here is the answer to a question I asked above: I wonder if the DoD releases figures on how much has been paid out so far in "condolence payments" of up to $2500 per life.

They do, and here are the figures from the Boston Globe:

The amount of cash the US military has paid to families of Iraqi civilians killed or maimed in operations involving American troops skyrocketed from just under $5 million in 2004 to almost $20 million last year, according to Pentagon financial data.

That's close to 8000 civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military action in 2005 alone. Not a number we hear much about. Not all of the 8000 are deaths, but I doubt very seriously that payments are made for injuries alone, in incidents where no civilians were killed.

The answer to my second question -- how many servicemembers have been held accountable for those deaths -- will take a lot longer to become known. I'll be flat amazed if it's as high as 400 (5% of the number of casualties). That's functional impunity in my book.

Assuming that clean and hold works...

I don't know what a clean and hold strategy is, lily, but clear-and-hold is an historically successful strategy in guerilla wars.

I have to wonder how "cleaning out" differs from "cleansing"--aside from the addition of a consonant?

Kvetch, using cleansing in the stead of "cleaning out" is a distortion and mischaracterization of the meaning I intended to convey, just as when sparti tried to equate defeatism with treason. Cleansing has clear connotations of Milosevic, who tried to violently rid certain peoples from certain areas because of who they were. Cleaning out Haditha means removing certain people because of what they do. There's a fundamental difference.

I am asserting that the military justice system has held no U.S. servicemembers to account for the deaths of unarmed Iraqis except in the few cases where photographic evidence has been made available...

Your assertion is without context and is a false premise, Nell. Your real argument is with the rules of engagement. Tell me how our RoE are in violation of any accepted international standard.

I'm sure they'd find it very comforting to know that we were doing this "for the sake of" their murdered relatives and neighbors.

I take it, Katherine, that you must be OK with Haditha under the control of "insurgents" in a strategically important location and that the townsfolk really want to have a mini-Taliban running the show. Sorry, I'm not OK with that. That civilians die in the process is also the fault--I would say mostly the fault--of the rejectionists who are actively working agains the interests of the new Iraqi government.

Is cleaning out Hidatha, like cleaning out Anfal?

No, SOD. Do you have a point?

Well, CB, this is not a war we were in until we started it.

We did start it, john, but the "insurgents" had a choice in this, too, and they chose to reject the new Iraqi government and the democratic process.

In your opinion, is it permissible to walk into a house, uninvited, and to shoot the occupants dead?

It depends, Robert. That's why rules of engagement exist. If the occupants are shooting at Marines and refuse to stand down, it would be permissible to shoot them dead.

Because "Level 2" means they still need to be embedded among, and commanded by, US troops.

No, it doesn't, Casey, because you're talking about Level 3, not Level 2. As I wrote here, Level 2 means "units that are 'in the lead' in the counterinsurgency effort. The units plan and execute their own operations, but they do require coalition support. This support is typically logistics, close-air support, indirect fire, medical evacuation and so on." I don't know how many troops it'll take to clear and hold parts of Iraq, but it'll take some time, which is why military experts say that it takes at least five years to stamp out this kind of guerilla war.

...rather than grandly embracing mass murder as an alternative to saying "I wuz wrong".

I reject your assertion that clear-and-hold is mass murder, Carleton. Fallujah did get seriously damaged, which speaks greatly of how much the town became a nest of vipers. No other town has such high concentrations and numbers of rejectionists.

There is not much point in having a discussion between people (CB) who think Fallujah is a success story and people who think it bears a passing resemblance to what Asad did to Hama when he had his own little problem with Sunni fundamentalists.

I agree that there is not much point in a having a discussion with a person who favorably compares Hama to our conduct in Iraq, Donald.

Thanks for the info Nell. I've been trying to think of ways one could get a handle on the number of civilian dead or wounded caused by US troops. Iraq Body Count found that there were 370 civilian deaths specifically attributed to coalition forces from March 2005 to March 2006, but they also say there are thousands of deaths the media doesn't specifically attribute to any actor. (Presumably many of those are the ones counted in morgues.) I think the IBC numbers are implausibly low. My own thought is that if we knew how many insurgents the US kills each year, the civilian collateral damage would be in the same ballpark. The trouble is that it's hard to know that number--there are scattered reports and guesstimates that you can find from googling that it is around 10,000 per year.

Here's one address for a story that estimates the total violent death toll at about 1500-2000 per month, with half of that from insurgents--

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002583742_civilians26.html

It comes from Michael O'Hanlon at Brookings. I value it mainly for the estimate of insurgent deaths--I think he probably gets that from the Pentagon. The estimate for civilians implied in that number is about the same as IBC's, and I bet that it is low, on the grounds that most of IBC's numbers are for deaths caused by criminals, insurgents and death squads and it is a little hard to believe that we kill 750-1000 insurgents a month and only about 30 civilians.

Here's another story, from CNN, where an unnamed Pentagon source said that 10,000-15,000 insurgents were killed in 2004--

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/02/09/iraq.main/


It's probably a reflection of increased concern rather than increased US violence that the the payments are soaring in that Boston Globe story. The US was engaged in heavy fighting in urban areas in 2004, (not just Fallujah), but the payments were less then. Probably like the concern over death squads that started hitting the news in late 2005, the US government has come to the belated realization that the killing committed by our side and by our Iraqi allies is fueling the insurgency.

Sorry, I meant "clear and hold". I read a detailed description of a successful clear and hold of a small city, but I can't remember where I read it. I think it was Totten. Anyway the clean and hold did not involve reducing the town to rubble or massive civilian deaths, which might be part of why it worked. The people who lived there were grateful because it kept them out of the fighting. It was a Sunni community and Sunni refugees from Baghdad were moving in to find safety. The operation was very labor intensive, if that's the right term to use when describing a military operation. The point is clean and hold works if it isn't a nicer way of describing the old "we had to destroy the village to save it" ploy. Also the hold has to be a serious part of the plan which means investing troops in long term commitment to a certain place-- and that means lots and lots of troops are needed for clean and hold to be successful in more than a few isolated places.
I don't think the Bush administration has the will to do it.

I didn't "favorably" compare our conduct in Fallujah to Syria's conduct in Hama, Charles. I said that Syrian troops are more likely (much more likely, I'd guess) to engage in face-to-face Haditha-style massacres. But killing via firepower at a distance is something Americans have usually been willing to rationalize. That said, I recall one Iraqi reporter claiming to have seen an American helicopter firing at civilian refugees trying to escape and a peace activist who said an ambulance she was in was fired upon by US troops. Jo Wilding, I believe. No links--you can probably find it if you look.

I don't know which town suffered a higher death toll, btw. For Hama I've seen the following estimates--3000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 36,000. Patrick Seale, Asad's biographer, thinks 5-10,000 is the most likely. The minimum civilian death toll for Fallujah is about 2000 and there's a chance it was much higher.

As for discussion, CB, there probably isn't enough in common between us to discuss this calmly. I have a good friend who is to your political right and things can get a little testy if I start talking about Western atrocities when he wants to focus exclusively on Arab atrocities. Oddly enough, we both agree that Arab atrocities are bad.

Clear! Clear! I don't know why I have "clean" stuck in my head. Maybe I'm thinking of that wieght lifting move.

All I'm going to say in this thread is:

Fallujah did get seriously damaged, which speaks greatly of how much the town became a nest of vipers.

Dehumanization begins at home, Charles. Call them what they are, not what one's fancy rhetoric would have them be.

Charles, I recommend Arms and Influence for analysis about the strategies in Iraq. The post I linked to is actually a year old, but this quote still rings true:

The worse news from Iraq, however, isn't the latest suicide bombing. The increasing reports that newly-trained Iraqi units are torturing and murdering civilians changes the whole course of the war. (Click here, here, and here for some of these accounts.) Hastily-trained soldiers, thrown into perilous situations like the ones found in the narrow streets and shadowed houses of Iraq, are likely to shoot at nearly anything that looks like it might be a threat. The strains of constant danger, the personal moral crises soldiers face when they realize that they've shot the wrong person, the messages from political and military leaders about the insurgents hidden among sympathizers in the population, combine to create cynicism, fatalism, and brutality. With weak leadership, no experience fighting a counterinsurgency war, and a history of distrust among clans and sects, the worst crimes can be executed under the banner of fighting the insurgency.

The pressure to turn out more conscripts only increases the likelihood of further torture, blackmail, kidnapping, and assassination by the very people responsible for winning the precious trust and respect of the Iraqi population. Not only is the Iraqi government losing what little control it had over the security forces, but the United States is simultaneously helping and hurting the situation. Unfortunately, where it can help, the US government often lacks adequate means. Where it is hurting, the Bush Administration shows no realization of the problems it is creating. I'll discuss these points in more detail in the next "official" post, covering the counterinsurgency challenges a great power patron faces when supporting a besieged government.

The NYT today has a story on the condolence payments that Nell mentioned above. Apparently some payments are made for property damage and the Defense Department doesn't specify which payments involved civilian casualties. So one can't use them as a surrogate bodycount.

Too bad the NYT has shown so little interest in the issue of US-inflicted civilian casualties. In some hypothetical universe where that issue mattered to them and others, maybe we could determine what is being done in our name.

dutchmarbel- Except that a year ago was before the US started deliberately organizing death squads.

Frank, I have not seen evidence that the US has started deliberabely organizing death squads. The various factions in Iraq - yes. Negroponte might encourage it, he has eperience, but I have not seen direct involvement yet.

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