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Sunday, March 30, 2003
Is Saddam alive and in command?

According to official Iraqi sources, the answer is yes.

This CNN account describes a taped meeting of Saddam and his advisers which is said to have occurred on March 29 (Saturday). This, obviously, is after the initial attack of the war in which Saddam was a target, and is intended to show that Saddam is alive and in control. It is only one of many such tapes. But they all seem to suffer from the same flaw: None of the tapes contains sufficient information to establish when it was made. We are supposed to take their word for it.

According to official coalition sources, the answer is no because there doesn't seem to be any evidence of Saddam's having survived the March 20 attack. The coalition spokesmen note the foregoing flaws in the tapes emanating from Iraq, and also state that neither the conduct of the war nor the existence of radio communications between Baghdad and the front line indicate that Saddam is alive and in control.

I cannot comment on the evidence of Saddam's survival based on Iraq's conduct of the war or sigint because (surprise!) I don't have access to that intelligence. The same is not true of what Iraq has produced, however.

Consider this MSNBC report concerning the suicide bomber who recently killed four US servicemen and himself:

Iraqi television said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had awarded the man, identified by the TV report as Ali Hammadi al-Namani, with two posthumous medals.

And CNN says "Iraq TV announced Sunday that President Saddam Hussein would give the family of the man who carried out Saturday's attack 100 million dinars, or about $35,000."

"Iraqi television said..." "Iraq TV announced ..." Press releases. Why just press releases? Why not personal appearances?

Saddam is no slouch at propaganda, and no shrinking violet when it comes to TV cameras. This was a perfect opportunity for Saddam to personally announce the award of these decorations and to personally hand over the Iraqi equivalent of the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Prize Patrol check, with the name of the bomber's family on it in big letters. Such an appearance would have put an end to questions of whether or not he survived that initial attack on March 20. Taped or live, it would make no difference, because the event being rewarded occurred well after the attack.

And that is not the only opportunity missed by a Saddam who is supposedly alive and in control. There have literally been hundreds of times Saddam could have commented on specific events which occurred after March 20. Civilian deaths in Baghdad. An Apache helicopter down. A Predator UAV down. Specific numbers of POWs. Names of POWs. Specific battles within Iraq. Missile attacks on Kuwait. The list is practically endless. He does not seem to have done so. As a result, even though I cannot comment on the "no evidence based on the conduct of the war and signals intelligence" claim by coalition officials, I am nevertheless leaning heavily towards dead, or at least wounded and not in full command of himself, much less Iraq.

There was also (I think) one post attack "appearance" in which Saddam praised various military leaders by name, including at least one who had surrendered. I may be wrong about that one, though, or it might turn out that the surrender had not yet happened, that Saddam simply did not yet know about it, or that the surrender never really happened at all.

Is it important? Well, Iraqi officials seem to think so, otherwise they would not bother with the videotaped appearances. The same seems to be true of the leadership of the coalition, which mounted the initial attack and is obviously courting a post-Saddam Iraqi uprising in order to avoid having to take Baghdad (and maybe Basra) street by street.

Both sides clearly think its important to establish whether or not Saddam is alive and in control. Just as clearly, there are simple and effective ways for Iraq to conclusively answer that question in the affirmative, which pose absolutely no danger to Saddam. After all, they are already taping him. Why not tape him with audio, handing over the medals and a check to the family of the person he is hailing as a hero for having killed four GIs and himself? Why not show him praising the farmer who is supposed to have shot down the Apache with the equivalent of a hunting rifle? What about showing him lauding the magnificent job his people did in their missile attack on a Kuwaiti shopping mall? The only logical conclusion that can be reached from the fact that Iraq has not conclusively answered the question of whether Saddam is alive and in control in the affirmative is that it is not possible to do so.

I think we nailed him.

I am open to suggestions on how to use that fact in prosecuting the war.

UPDATE 4/1/03: Saddam was supposed to make a speech on TV this morning. He was a no show. I wondered why the regime would schedule an appearance by the Maximum Leader and then not produce. I also remembered a couple of reports to the effect that Hussein's family was attempting to flee the country. Could it be that Hussein is actually alive, considers the war lost and is constructing the fiction of his own death so as to avoid post war difficulties such as trial for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity?

Either way, it will make no difference as to whether or how we use Hussein's death (or "death") in the war.
Friday, March 28, 2003
The fog of CNN:

Coalition troops working their way north toward the capital have been engaged in heavy fighting with Iraqi forces -- particularly in the southern cities of Nasiriya and Tikrit.

And from the same article, several paragraphs later:

The Hammurabi Division, which was west of Baghdad, was moving south in hopes of reinforcing the Medina, and another division -- which was around Tikrit in the north -- was moving in to replace the Hammurabi, U.S. officials said.

(Emphasis added in both quotes.)

Isn't Tikrit north of Baghdad? Well, yes. At least according to the map found here in PDF format. Tikrit is located on the Tigris River a little less than 100 miles northeast of Baghdad. It's really big news if we've got troops engaged in heavy fighting (or, for that matter, any other kind of fighting) there.

Or mayb we jst need to proofred.

UPDATE: I could do with some of my own proofreading. Tikrit is northwest of Baghdad. Not northeast. D'oh!
Friday, March 21, 2003
Saddam's pal speaks.

The French president said at a European Union summit he would "not accept" a resolution that "would legitimize the military intervention (and) would give the belligerents the powers to administer Iraq."

"That would justify the war after the event," Chirac told reporters.

How does he reach that conclusion? Acknowledging the existence of a war does not legitimize it. Recognizing the fact that Hussein has been defeated militarily and that what civil authority there was in Iraq (see this or this for examples of the exercise of Saddam's civil authority) has evaporated with his rule says nothing about whether Hussein should have been attacked in the first place.

Back to Yahoo:

At the summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged his 14 colleagues to support a new U.N. resolution authorizing a post-Saddam "civil authority in Iraq."

Britain has not yet introduced such a Security Council resolution, however.

If I were Bush, I would not be happy that Blair is even thinking about going to the UN. Again.


Neither the United States nor Britain has stated publicly that it was planning to seek Security Council authorization to administer postwar Iraq. Chirac's comments appeared to be aimed at putting Washington and London on notice that France would oppose, and probably veto, any such resolution.

Fine by me. Having abdicated its responsibility to disarm Iraq, the UN should not be allowed to expand its authority (which is to bureaucrats as heroin is to a junkie) by governing post Saddam Iraq.


The majority of the 15 Security Council members would probably favor installing a U.N. administration in Iraq, similar to the U.N. administration now running Kosovo. That possibility has been discussed in the corridors of U.N. headquarters in New York.

Might I take this opportunity to remind you just how well the tender mercies of UN administration have served that other group in the Middle East?

From the UN website:

The General Assembly adopted in November 1948 its first resolution on providing assistance to Palestine refugees. In response to a report of Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche that "the situation of the refugees is now critical", it established United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). During its brief existence, UNRPR channelled emergency assistance to refugees from Palestine through international voluntary agencies.

...In December 1949, ...[the General Assembly] ... established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to succeed UNRPR and to carry out refugee-related activities in collaboration with local Governments.

If you want Iraq to look like Gaza and the West Bank 54 years from now, by all means, give the problem to the UN to "solve." Can you say suicide bombers, kleptocrats and petrodollars three times all in the same breath?

And that doesn't even take into account the necessity of punishing the French for their idiotic ploy in blocking an eighteenth resolution on Iraq.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
This is the guy the anti war guys want left in power:

The only area where Saddam can rely with confidence on the loyalty of his security forces is in the Ba'ath party's heartland around Baghdad. In an attempt to reassert his authority Saddam last week issued a directive ordering Iraqi officials not to give up their positions and flee the country.

To set an example, members of Saddam's security forces arrested a civil servant in the al-Hurriyya suburb of Baghdad on suspicion of preparing to leave the country. The unfortunate official was then tied to a pole in the street and passers-by were ordered to watch as his tongue was cut out and he was left to bleed to death.

From the Telegraph.

Question: Does this new directive apply to such human shields as might desire to leave the country? They are "Iraqi officials" in a sense.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Chris Patten, is at it again:

"It is in the interests of the whole world that power should be constrained by global rules, and used only with international agreement. What other source of international legitimacy but the U.N. exists for military intervention?"

Any number of responses come readily to mind.

First: The interests of the whole world would be served by restraining the US? Is Mr. Patten telling us that the interests of the United States would be best served by restraining ... the United States? I guess we here in the States (or at least the solid majority of us that are in favor of taking Saddam out) are all just stupid cowboys who need to be told what to do with our dangerous toys. Only everybody else is smart enough and mature enough to be able to know what to do. Patten (or Europe, or the UN) knows best. That's a tad arrogant and condescending, don't you think?

Second: Global rules? Call me when everyone agrees. Until everyone abides by these supposedly global rules, what rules exist, by definition, are not global. (Duh!) As Mr. Patten may recall, Americans did not knock down the WTC. Americans do not send suicide bombers to kill civilians by the truckload. Americans do not kidnap and slit the throats of journalists because they are Jewish. (OK, I'll just stop here, as long as everyone agrees that there are plenty more examples where those came from.) These acts were each characterized as "military" in nature by the people were committed them and they were committed without UN or other international approval. So when al Qaeda stops driving airplanes into buildings without the prior consent of the international community, when Hamas stops sending teenage bombers into pizza places without authorization from the UN, and when whoever the hell it was in Pakistan that murdered Daniel Pearl stops slitting the throats of infidels without asking Europe pretty please, then, and only then, we can talk about US compliance with these global rules. Otherwise Patten's "global rules" are nothing more than a suicide pact.

Third: This is a fine sentiment. There are two possibilities here. The EU could develop its military power and place it at the disposal of the UN. I have no problem with that. But something tells me that Mr. Patten is not talking about European military power (because one does not normally talk about the need to "constrain" a capability that does not exist). No, methinks Mr. Patten has US military power in mind. That leads me to the second alternative: Mr. Patten can (a) immigrate to the US, (b) apply for citizenship, (c) run for and win elective office (or convince someone who has to hire him as an advisor), and (d) make his suggestions concerning US policy from that position. No problem there, either. Until either one of those alternatives occurs, though, Mr. Patten really has nothing to say that I would be interested in listening to. He is either talking about European military power, (which, with the exception of the British seems to be largely nonexistent) or US military power. But, you see, I'm just not interested in Mr. Patten's opinion concerning how the US should exercise the power acquired (at great cost) by the US for the US in defense of the US.

Fourth: Who makes these "global" rules? Would it be, perchance, a certain collection of national leaders who frequent a building on the East River in New York City and whose rule in their own countries can, in large part, be charitably described as despotic and/or corrupt? Or are we talking about a smaller, more efficient group of nations, who shall remain nameless but whose capitals are Paris and Berlin? The current leaders of each of these countries has made it abundantly clear that, in their respective opinions, there are absolutely no circumstances which justify the use of military force. Therefore the talk of "legitimizing" military intervention is, to say the least, poppycock. Plainly, if these nameless leaders of these nameless nations had their druthers, there would never be any military intervention to legitimize. So why are they interested in having an international organization (consisting of two nations or two hundred) with which to legitimize the use of force that will never be used?

Fifth: Given French and German (oops, they were supposed to remain anonymous) actions over the last year or so, it will be a cold day in hell before I consent to giving Europe or anyone else a veto over US policy, foreign or otherwise. The proposal being made by Patten is that someone who we will never get to vote for and who therefore does not have to answer politically to America or Americans, will control a large chunk of American foreign policy and (because there is no power without the power of the purse) about one third to one half of the federal budget. God knows, there are many things that Bush favors with which I vehemently disagree (abortion in general, the Patriot Act, Patriot Act the sequel, politically correct feel good airport security measures, public prayer, consumption of strong drink, the proper method of consuming pretzels ...). But I do agree with the overall direction of the administration, especially concerning foreign policy. Patten and the EU, on the other hand, are, imho, going in exactly the wrong direction, in terms of both foreign and domestic policy. Since I will never get to vote against Patten (unless he decides to take the above advice and immigrate) I really don't want the UN, the EU, Patten or any other EUnik, in control of any policy concerns of this country.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Re the Security Council:

Did Chirac just make Bush's job easier? By promising to veto the 18th Iraq resolution come hell or high water, Chirac has guaranteed that it will not pass. He has therefore freed all of the non-veto UNSC members of any responsibility for voting against it. The resolution will fail to pass anyway, so why take the chance of seriously antagonizing the US by casting a useless "No" vote? The flip side is that a "Yes" vote is also useless, but who, exactly, is going to be angered by such a vote? France, Saddam (not even Iraq, just Saddam), and the Islamic theocratic fascists (which, I suppose would include Iran, the Saudis and various terrorist NGOs).

Regardless of the UNSC vote, the war will happen anyway. Therefore, in the relatively near future, all of the people angered by a yes vote other than France will either be gone or emasculated.

And France won't be in tip top form, either, I would imagine.
On the Turkish election, three questions, one comment.

Question number one: Will the election (and, I suppose, the rather dramatic market reaction to the prior vote) make any difference in a new vote in Parliament concerning the use of Turkish soil to launch an attack on Iraq from the north? My guess: Probably. The original vote was decided by the abstainers (the rules apparently treating an abstention as half a vote for and half a vote against by requiring that the measure pass by a majority of those present, rather than a majority of those voting). Even without anyone changing their pro or con vote, having just a couple of the abstainers also abstain from attending the session would change the outcome.

Question number two: Assuming that there is a different outcome, will that different outcome occur in time to be of any use to the US? My guess: Probably in time to be of at least limited use. First, we would not be talking about it with Turkey if it were already too late. And we are talking about it with Turkey.

Second, March 18 appears to be the date on which hostilities will commence, regardless of the outcome of the kabuki dance at the Security Council. The air campaign will be shorter than it was in Gulf War I, due to several factors. There are fewer targets, we have better bombs and missiles and we can deliver them quicker. Additionally, we have Special Forces in place within Iraq to (I suspect) a much larger extent than we did in 1991. So my guess (and it is a guess) is that there will be a few days, maybe a week of action from the air before the major ground assault from Kuwait. That puts the ground assault around March 25. Since the new moon is April 1, maybe the March 25 jump off should be revised to that date, with two weeks of activity primarily from the air prior to the major ground offensive. That would give the Army three weeks from today to get the troops off the transports, into position and organized to go into Iraq from the north. My guess is that's just barely enough, and it assumes that the vote is held today, which is unlikely in the extreme. While I would assume that are benefits to a simultaneous attack from both north and south, I don't know that the costs of starting a northern offensive other than simultaneously with the action in the south would be excessive. So its possible that there will be a northern front, just not one commenced simultaneously with the assault from Kuwait.

Question three: Assume that the Turkish Parliament changes its collective mind. 3A: If we don't base an invasion from Turkey, do we still provide the $30 billion? Not a guess, but a desire: Absolutely not. 3B: If we do base an invasion from Turkey, but later, and either smaller or less effective, do we still provide the $30 billion? Again, not a guess but a desire: Money, yes.but less than $30 billion.

Observation: The total of $30 billion has some unfortunate connotations.
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Via the indispensable Moira:

From the NY Times (neither an unbiased source nor my favorite newspaper):

SEOUL, South Korea, March 7 - Officials here said today that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had ignored them in suggesting realignment of American forces in Korea and demanded that they stay where they are at least until resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.

I read that as, "Hey, wait a minute. We know that we ran on a platform of reconciliation with the North. We know that we opposed you and complained when you cut off North Korea's oil supplies when they announced that they had violated the Clinton negotiated nuclear deal. We know that there have been large (government sponsored?) demonstrations demanding that you leave. We know that we have prevented you from doing anything to protect your troops from nuclear attack from the North. But for Christ's sake, you stupid Americans, that doesn't we don't want American bodies standing between us and the North!"

South Korea's newly installed defense minister, Cho Young Kil, said Washington "has never officially informed us of the movement of U.S. troops" and "the withdrawal issue was never raised by the U.S. government."

My guess would be that its being raised now. Rather bluntly, too. They are, in fact, fortunate that they have not been informed "officially." Otherwise it would be too late.

Indeed, said Mr. Cho, talking to members of South Korea's fractious National Assembly, American and South Korean officials "will not discuss any possibility of movement of U.S. troops before the nuclear issue is resolved."

Hmmm. They won't even discuss movement of our troops. So naturally the troops must stay. Question: Who died and left them in charge of this equal relationship?

The demand for American troops to stay comes as a shock to United States officials, who had assumed they were responding to commonly held Korean thinking by pushing ahead with plans for shifting the American military posture.

A veritable Casablanca moment.

Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Renault: Oh. Thank you very much.

The South Korean response appeared to represent a swing of the pendulum away from suggestions in recent months that the United States scale back its forces and reconsider basic defense arrangements.

Gee, ya think?

South Koreans have not altered their pleas for a "more mature, equal partnership," as demanded by President Roh, but are turning that demand into another reason for the United States to keep all 37,000 troops in Korea, the majority between here and the North Korean frontier.
"We agree it's a critical issue," said Song Young Gil, a National Assembly member from Mr. Roh's Millennium Democratic Party. "After the nuclear crisis is solved, at that time we will consult on this problem."
Mr. Song shared a view, increasingly heard here, that any American proposal to move troops from near the line with North Korea may mean that the United States intends to attack North Korean nuclear facilities against the wishes of the South Korean government. The logic behind this thinking is that the United States would want its troops out of harm's way in case North Korean ground forces retaliated by striking across the demilitarized zone.

Let me get this straight. North Korea has a program, now announced to the world, to develop nuclear weapons. It either now has such weapons or will shortly have them. It has the means to deliver them via ballistic missile and (I suppose) other means to at least South Korea and Japan. Who in that area do you think North Korea would most like to attack? You get three guesses and the first two don't count. South Korea is doing its level best to prevent us from doing anything at all to avert the possiblity of nuclear attack on our troops. And now they are concerned that we are concerned with the well being of our troops?

"American troops are something like hostages to attack by North Korea," said Mr. Song. "Maybe this kind of action means some kind of signal for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea."

He actually called our troops hostages. Does this man have a clue? In the middle of a war on terror in which the enemy frequently takes and murders hostages, he declares that 37,000 Americans are to be treated as hostages. This is political tone deafness on an enormous scale. I hope that's a translation problem.

Stupid remarks aside, if we leave, two things could happen. First, the North could attack south without involving US troops (at least without automatically involving them). Of course, that is why the troops are where they are: so that the North cannot attack south without automatically involving us. Thirty seven thousand troops are not meant to defend the South. They are meant to act as a tripwire. An attack on our troops will serve as the reason for US retaliation against the North, thereby raising the cost imposed on the North for such an attack and hopefully preventing the attack in the first place. This strategy has been successful for fifty years. Second, the US would no longer have "hostages" in theatre. Freeing our "hostages" would significantly reduce the cost to us (and only to us) of a number of options, including bombing raids on the North's nuclear reactors. That option is not unavailable with the troops in place, but it does involve a significantly higher price in American blood (as opposed to Korean blood) than it would if the troops had been moved or withdrawn. This is the same ploy as the Franco-German attempt to pervert NATO into a means of restraining the US, as opposed to the mutual defense arrangement that it was intended to be. That ploy damaged and may have destroyed NATO. It will have precisely the same effect in South Korea. Is that what Mr. Song wants?

In any case, "We ask Secretary Rumsfeld, do not withdraw American troops at this time," said Mr. Song. "If the alliance is equal, Americans should heed the voice of the Korean government."

At this time. In other words, "We think you should keep your troops where they are until we get what we want. Then you can please leave. There's no hurry. Here's your hat. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Oh, and by the way, "equal" means we are in charge."

Having vented (at length) I must say that this is an extremely dangerous gambit undertaken by the US in response to an extremely irresponsible series of actions and demands by South Korea. I think the US made the announcements precisely for the purpose of eliciting the "we really want you to stay" reaction that they got. However, the announcements could easily be misconstrued by the North as meaning that the US is no longer willing to expose its troops to nuclear bombardment to protect the South, thus encouraging the North to become even more belligerent than it now is.

Can you say "April Glaspie"?

Sure you can.
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