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[casi] Weblog: War Without End,9565,534275,00.html

Weblog: War Without End
Tony Karon on the latest from the fronts in Iraq

Monday, Oct. 27, 2003
The Bad News on Wolfowitz's Good-News Trip

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's itinerary in
Iraq was designed primarily as a PR exercise, intended
to highlight the positive developments supposedly
being overlooked by the media. But the men fighting
the U.S. occupation from the shadows had a media
agenda of their own, systematically spoiling
Wolfowitz's PR party by a series of well-timed attacks
on key locations and installations. Hours after
Wolfowitz left Tikrit, insurgents using a
rocket-propelled grenade downed a U.S. Black Hawk
helicopter. Worse was to come: On Sunday, they fired a
fusillade of rockets at the Baghdad hotel where
Wolfowitz was staying, as if to show that even the
most heavily guarded piece of real estate in the
capital can't be adequately protected. The al-Rasheed
hotel, where most coalition officials reside, has
since been evacuated, and the spectacle of a shaken
Wolfowitz vowing to fight on did little to reassure
the folks back home. The attack on Wolfowitz's
residence-for-a-night showed a nimble tactical ability
on the part of the insurgents to improvise and time
their attacks for maximum political effect. And they
followed it up Monday with the bloodiest single day in
Baghdad since the capital fell to U.S. forces, killing
at least 34 people and wounding more than 200 in
attacks on the headquarters of the International Red
Cross and four Iraqi police stations around Baghdad.
(Following the example of the UN before it, the ICRC
has responded to the attack by preparing to withdraw
most of its personnel from Iraq until such time as
security improves.)

It's Security, Stupid

The administration's efforts to recast the American
public's thinking on Iraq is focused on drawing
attention to successes in rebuilding schools,
restoring electricity supplies, launching a new
currency and other basic improvements in the quality
of daily life. But the latest wave of violence is a
reminder that the critical issue on which all else
depends is security, and on that front the news is not
exactly encouraging. Rather than ebbing, six months
into the occupation the attacks on U.S. forces are
growing more frequent and more sophisticated. Twelve
U.S. soldiers have been killed in the past 10 days,
for example, and the number of wounded is far higher.
(The total number of U.S. troops killed since
President Bush declared an end to major combat
operations in Iraq on May 1 is now 112, and USA Today
puts the total number wounded since that date, as of
last Thursday, at 1,058.)

Managing the Media

The troubling security situation on the ground in Iraq
also appears to have prompted a rethink in handling of
the media. NPR's Deborah Amos reports that camera
crews have been stopped from filming at the scene of
ambushes on U.S. forces, sometimes being briefly
detained or having their tapes confiscated. The
military also no longer allows camera crews to film
bodies arriving home in flag-draped caskets. The
evident concern is to avoid generating troubling
visuals  and the reasons are obvious: If the "Black
Hawk Down" incident in Mogadishu is the defining
military trauma of the past decade, it's worth noting
that by the measure of combat fatalities in postwar
Iraq has matched the Mogadishu death toll more than
six times over. But it hasn't produced anything like
that day's ugly visuals of American bodies being
dragged through the streets by celebrating Somalis.
There have, of course, been plenty of reports by
Western print journalists of Iraqis cheering at the
scene of ambushes on U.S. forces. And that's precisely
the spectacle that the Pentagon may be looking to keep
off the evening news.

Money Talks

The security situation is often cited as a major
reason for the caution of European and Arab donors in
making commitments to Iraq. But one dimension of the
financial story mostly overlooked is the political
implication of the fact that most of the donor pledges
corralled by the U.S. last week came in the form of
loans and loan-guarantees. Washington had already
acceded to the reality that nobody outside its
"coalition of the willing" is going to provide funds
to be managed directly by U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer, so
a separate fund was created under the supervision of
the IMF and World Bank to attract grants. But loans,
presumably, would be a different matter. Those who
loan money to others expect to be repaid, and
therefore they need to know that the entity
undertaking to repay the loan will be in a position 
legally and financially  to do so. That rules out
Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqi
Governing Council and even the World Bank-run fund.
All of these are designed as temporary entities, and
there would be no legal obligation on a future
sovereign Iraqi government to repay any loans made by
any of them. In other words, by offering aid to Iraq
in the form of a loan, the donors are essentially
requiring that a sovereign Iraqi government be put in
place before any funds are forthcoming. And that
appears to be a way of putting some muscle behind the
demand for a speedy restoration of Iraqi sovereignty
articulated by the Europeans and Arabs in the weeks
preceding the latest UN Security Council resolution.

Karon is a senior editor for His column on
international affairs appears every Tuesday.  [more]

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