Assume the Position

Friday, December 12, 2003
Reuters Blew Their Main Job On The Iraq Anti-Terror/Anti-Saddam/Anti-Baathist Protest Story

Reuters actually covered the protests on December 10, 2003. They even had some three minutes of video available through Reuters Television at the Feedroom [select from low, high or auto bandwidth feeds depending on your connection — I don't know long videos remain available at the Feedroom (via InstaPundit)].

Underneath the videoplayer is the description…

Demand Security, Law and Order

Dec 10 – Thousands of Iraqis protested across their nation for a restoration of law and order on Wednesday.

and then a there should be a "Read More" link to the accompanying article. I'm going to do something I normally don't and post the entire article. I'll explain why below the article.

Demand Security, Law and Order

December 10, 2003

Thousands of Iraqis, representing almost all the political parties in Iraq, took to the streets in sweeping rallies across the country on Wednesday (December 10) to demonstrate against terrorism, calling for prevail of security and order of law.

Carrying banners denouncing violence, the demonstrators shouted slogans against terrorism that hit cities throughout the countries following the fall of president Saddam Hussein, killing a large number of Iraqi people.

"Yes to Iraq, no to terrorism," chanted protesters who gathered at Firdous square in central Baghdad.

"The demonstration is a real referendum by all the Iraqi spectrum, in all its communities, nationalities, who came today to say no to terrorism, yes to peace, yes to security, yes to democracy, yes to freedom, yes to building," said Iraqi former opposition figure Tawfeeq al-Yassiri.

Senior Under-secretary of the Interior Ministry Lt. Gen. Ahmed Kazim participated in the rally, which was also attended by representative of Iraq's Communist Party, other political party and followers of the Shi'ite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr is a harsh critic of both the U.S.-civilian administration and the Governing Council.

There was a heavy Iraqi police presence as the protesters marched through the city centre, with American military helicopter hovering overhead.

Iraqi police and US troops kept a close watch at the rally, sealing off the area and blocking roads leading to the site where the demonstrators gathered as U.S. troops with sniffer dogs checked out nearby square for explosive devices.

Meanwhile, People of the restive western town of Ramadi also staged an anti-terrorism rally.

Ramadi is an arc of resistance that also extends north of Baghdad. The area is dominated by Sunni Muslims, the majority community from which ousted leader drew most of his support.

The protesters rallied through the streets of the tense city of Ramadi, 80 km west of Baghdad under close watch by the U.S. forces who took a firing position on the balconies of nearby buildings.

Demonstrators in the northern town of Baqouba also marched through the centre of the town, which has been a frequent scene of attacks, to denounce terrorism.

Carrying banners against terrorism, the demonstrators chanted slogans against sectarianism, ousted president Saddam and the Ba'athists.

"We sacrifice our soul and blood for you Hakim," chanted demonstrators in support of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, current head of the Iraq's Governing Council.

The demonstrators carried pictures of the highest Shi'ite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Shit'ite cleric, Ayatollah Muhammed Baqer al-Hakim who was killed in a suicide car bomb attack in the holy southern city of Najaf last August.

U.S. troops and military vehicles were driving near the site of the demonstration.

Attacks by guerrilla fighters have plagued Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the U.S invasion of Iraq on April 10.

Security was main problem in post-Saddam Iraq, which most of the Iraqi people and members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council blamed on failure by the U.S.-led administration.

Washington blamed Saddam diehards and remnants of the former Ba'ath Party for the attacks, which were mainly concentrated on the Sunnis-dominated areas to the north and west of the capital Baghdad.

I posted the whole thing because it seems that Reuters did not send that article out over the newswire. Checking the Reuters site's listed stories for the day of the protest and on days on both sides, it doesn't show up. The article should have been in the December 10 World News section (green center cell in the table):

Here's what appears in the World News list for December 10 with articles related to Iraq underlined in red:

Seven versions of the article on Iraq establishing a war crimes tribunal and nothing on the anti-terror demonstrations. What's even stranger is that one of the photos accompaining some of those articles is about the protest.

An Iraqi boy holds a donkey puppet representing ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a protest against terrorism in central Baghdad December 10, 2003. An Iraqi war crimes tribunal will try Hussein in absentia the head of the U.S.-backed Governing Council said Wednesday. The United States will hand over key members of Iraq's former regime to face the special tribunal, established on Wednesday. Photo by Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Reuters not sending the anti-terrorism protest story out over the newswire is supported by the article's absense in the Yahoo feed from Reuters Top News and World News for December 10, 2003.

Reuters definitely had the story on December 10, why they didn't put it on the newswire is an open question.

Thursday, December 11, 2003
The Clinton-Clark Internationalist Legacy

It's too bad this National Post article (via InstaPundit) doesn't mention Wesley Clark or Iraq:

Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts.

Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.

In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.

Kosovo was Clark's War and much of his campaign is based on misrepresting the success of the Kosovo intervention. Consider this paragraph in Clark's October 2003 essay, "Iraq: What Went Wrong," in the New York Review of Books:

Force was used as a last resort, and then only after planning and commitments for the period following combat had been made. The application of force was measured at the outset. And after seventy-eight days of bombing, and the threat of a ground invasion, Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic gave in to all of NATO's conditions. Some 1.5 million of the brutally expelled Kosovar Albanians were allowed to return to their homes. Serb forces withdrew, and a NATO-led force entered (with the United States providing only about one fifth of that force). Today, Milosevic is standing trial for war crimes at The Hague, and Yugoslavia is an emerging democracy. No American soldiers, airmen, or Marines were killed in action during the campaign.

Sure, "[t]oday, Milosevic is standing trial for war crimes at The Hague," but it was more than two years after the bombing campaign ended before he was turned over to The Hague and he had remained president of Yugoslavia for most of that time.
  • March 24, 1999 - NATO bombing of Yugoslavia begins.
  • May 27, 1999 - Milosevic indicted as a war criminal by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
  • June 10, 1999 - NATO bombing campaign ends as Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo and KFOR peacekeepers enter.
  • September 26, 2000 - almost 16 months after being indicted as a war criminal, Milosevic loses the presidental election to Kostunica.
  • October 7, 2000 - Milosevic concedes the election.
  • April 1, 2001 - Milosevic arrested by Yugoslav police for abuse of power and corruption during his presidency.
  • June 27, 2001 - Milosevic finally extradited to stand trial at The Hague for war crimes.

Meanwhile, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are still hanging out in the former Yugoslavia.

Also, while it is true that "[n]o American soldiers, airmen, or Marines were killed in action during the campaign," that doesn't mean that none died during the campaign—specifically, the crew of one of those 24 Apaches Clark just had to have (emphasis added):

In all events [$234 million and 500 C-17 transport sorties to cart in the logistics tail and force protection for them], 23 Apaches with their attached equipment and personnel arrived in Albania in late April. (The 24th Apache had developed hydraulic trouble en route and remained on the ground in Italy.) No sooner had the Army declared all but one of the aircraft ready for combat on April 26 when, only hours later, one crashed at the Tirana airfield in full view of reporters who had been authorized to televise the flight. Neither crew member was injured, but the accident made for an inauspicious start for the widely touted deployment. Less than two weeks later, on May 5, a second accident occurred, this time killing both crew members during a night training mission some 46 miles north of Tirana. The aircraft was carrying a full load of weapons and extra fuel. A subsequent investigation concluded that the first accident had been caused by the pilot's having mistakenly landed short of his intended touchdown point. The second was attributed to an apparent failure of the tail rotor, considering that the aircraft had been observed to enter a rapid uncontrolled spiral during the last moments before its impact with the ground.

The remaining 21 Apaches didn't fly a single combat mission during the Kosovo campaign.

Finally, there was the "planning and commitments for the period following combat," which didn't work all that well:

[A]s NATO troops occupied Kosovo in June 1999, Albanian nationalists unleashed their own program of ethnic cleansing. They attacked and expelled not only thousands of Serbs from communities that had survived in Kosovo for centuries, but also Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Jews, and any other non-Albanians. The Western media defined these attacks as "revenge" or "retaliation" for Serbian ethnic cleansing. But the KLA militia, like its right-wing nationalist counterparts in Bosnia, had long had the goal of an ethnically pure state. Instead of cracking down on the KLA fighters, NATO invited them to join its new Kosovo Protection Corps police force. In the months after the NATO occupation began, Kosovo became far more ethnically "pure" than Milosevic had ever made it, with the percentage of ethnic minorities lower than ever in its history. Amnesty International observed that General Clark's NATO was "unprepared for the massive abuses of human rights" under the postwar occupation.

And Kosovo is still under the postwar UN occupation government, even thought on May 14, 2001…

The United Nations' special representative in Kosovo has announced measures for the international body to step back from its governing role in the province.

In a televised address Monday night to the people of Kosovo, U.N. Special Representative Hans Haekkerup set November 17 as the date for elections.

Haekkerup also outlined the constitutional framework that will transfer power from the international body to the people of Kosovo.

…the November 2001 elections were held, as were elections in October 2002. And now it's the end of 2003, and yesterday, December 10, the "UN launches set of standards in preparation for final status" of Kosovo:

10 December - Senior United Nations and local officials today launched a set of standards designed to prepare ethnically divided, UN-administered Kosovo for final status, including free, fair and regular elections, free media and a sound and impartial legal system.

That's over four years of UN occupation since President Bill Clinton and General Wesley Clark declared the end of major combat operations in Kosovo—not bad for a speck one-fortieth the size of Iraq and with one-tenth the population. Clark's Iraq strategy is to "End the American monopoly" by replacing the Coalition Provisional Authority with "a new international structure - the Iraqi Reconstruction and Democracy Council -- similar to the one we created in Bosnia with representatives from Europe, the United States, Iraq's neighbors, and other countries that will support our effort." Of course, Bosnia and Herzegovina (one-eighth the size of Iraq with one-sixth the population) seems to still be run by a UN High Representative in most major respects and the UNMIBH has been replaced by EUPM. Just think, in three days, it will be the fifth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords—the Clinton-Christopher-Albright-Holbrooke-Clark plan that established the framework for Bosnia and Herzegovina that the international community is still trying to implement.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Don't Gloat Just Yet

If you were getting ready to gloat over France, Germany and the rest of the EU obstructionists being excluded from bidding for the $18.6 billion in prime contracts for Iraq reconstruction funded by the US—as reported by Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse—you might want to hold on a bit and see if the whiners win out.

From the Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Office, first (in reverse order of posting):

The Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a determination dated 5 December 2003 for 26 contracts to be awarded by the Department of Defense on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority for the purpose of Iraq relief and reconstruction. The determination requires firms to be from the United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing nations to be eligible to compete for the prime contracts.
Read more [271kb PDF]

Then the following update (goofy quotes in original):

"The scheduled release of the solicitations in support of the Iraq Reconstruction contracts has been temporarily delayed. Additional information will be provided as soon as possible." " The Pre-Proposal conference scheduled for 11 December 2003 has been changed to 19 December 2003. The location and time will be provided not later than 12 December 2003."

The original prior release date was "late Tuesday, 9 December 2003." The delay makes me think Wolfowitz's determination is being reconsidered and might be overruled.

UPDATE - December 11, 2003: I certianly hope the above suspicions are wrong and the "Coalition of the Whining" don't get their way. After all, there may be a mundane explanation for the delay.

One thing that makes the whiners' complaints even funnier than the obvious Little Red Hen analogy is that there are also about $13 billion in international pledges (a mix of grants and loan guarantees) for additional Iraq reconstruction contracts which, supposedly, will be awarded under completely open bidding. Could France, Germany, Canada and Russia be demanding access to the US funded gravy train because they don't really trust the vaunted international community they continuously chatter about to actually come through with the promised funds?

UPDATE - December 11, 2003: CNN ends the report, "Bush defends the restrictions on Iraqi contracts," with this helpful note:

On Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman said a postponement of bidding for 26 contracts was unrelated to the controversy over restrictions on which countries may compete for the deals. The bidding originally has been scheduled for Thursday.

I'm glad to say my suspicions were apparently wrong. I'll update that to unequivocally wrong after the bidding opens with the restrictions intact.

UPDATE - December 12, 2003: Solicitation release has been delayed again:

"The scheduled release of the solicitations in support of the Iraq Reconstruction contracts has been temporarily delayed. Additional information will be provided as soon as possible."

As has the pre-proposal conference, which was to have been today, and is now scheduled for December 19, 2003.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Latest CERP Update

InstaPundit posts the following:

GOOD NEWS? Looks like it. Reader Colin Grabow points out that the Wall Street Journal has an article (you'll need to be a paid subscriber to read it, though) on the return of CERP money to commanders in Iraq. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON -- To jump-start reconstruction projects in Iraq, the Pentagon is funneling about $300 million to senior military commanders in the country, more than double the amount they got in fiscal 2003, defense officials said.

Officials say they believe the cash infusion now will give a boost to reconstruction projects and help build momentum going into next year when the vast majority of U.S. troops will rotate out of the country and be replenished by fresh troops. Spending more money to get unemployed Iraqis onto U.S. payrolls for low-tech building and security projects, rather than having them join enemy ranks, is critical to U.S. success in Iraq, these officials said. Senior Pentagon officials are especially concerned that Iraqi insurgents will increase attacks early next year to take advantage of the new, less experienced troops arriving in the country.

"We're giving commanders this money because we realize that when the only tools you have are guns and bullets it is hard to win counterinsurgency wars," said one defense official familiar with the decision.

The $300 million, which has been described by Pentagon officials as "commanders' walking-around money," is also designed to keep a large array of smaller projects churning until a wave of money begins to pour into Iraq next summer and autumn.

This seems enormously important to me. In fact, I wonder if $300 million is enough.

Is the $300 million is enough? As mentioned here, the burn rate before funds ran out was about $5 million per week. At that rate, the $185 million request in the supplemental would have been good for 37 weeks—long enough to last until the FY 2005 appropriations or another supplemental. $300 million at the same burn rate will last 60 weeks.

What does that mean project-wise? Without going into a long lesson on the Federal Acquisition Regulations, CERP funds seem to fall under FAR micropurchase ($2,500 or less) and small purchase ($25,000 or less) rules. While contracting officers are generally required make and approve all purchases and contracts, nearly anybody can be trained and authorized to make/approve micropurchases, and unit commanders and some other designated individuals can be authorized to make/approve small purchases (there are some exceptions which raise the small purchase limit for GSA items, IT equipment, training and a few other things). Since most CERP projects seem to fall in the $5,000-15,000 range, an average cost of $10,000 each doesn't seem out of line for a quick calculation. That would mean some 30,000 projects could be initiated and/or approved and funded by local unit commanders. Seems like it should be plenty.

A more important question is how long until the local commanders receive access to the funds? I won't even conjecture on that because the interaction between Defense, State, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the Iraq Governing Council complicates the normal account loading process for commanders acting as provisional governors or mayors. Then there is the institutional bias against doing things mid-quarter; with the supplemental signed into law in November 2003, budget loads normally wouldn't occur until the first week of January 2004. Additionally, because many (if not all) CERP projects are cash-and-carry, there's another wrinkle: physically obtaining the funds in US dollars or the new Iraqi dinar. The earlier use of confiscated funds made that easy since they were US dollars and were physically on-hand. Simply informing commanders that $X in CERP funds have been loaded to their unit accounts doesn't do much good when the the Iraqi contractors and workers in a village want physical banknotes.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.