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1) Iraq already looks ominously like Vietnam 2) 'Iraqification' key to return of US troops 3) The risks of rapid 'Iraqification' ------------------------- http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/09/1068329418505.html Iraq already looks ominously like Vietnam By Gabriel Kolko [Gabriel Kolko is professor emeritus of history at York University in Canada and the author of Anatomy of a War, a history of the Vietnam War.] November 10, 2003 There are great cultural, political and physical differences between Vietnam and Iraq that cannot be minimised, and the geopolitical situation is entirely different. But the US has ignored many of the lessons of the traumatic Vietnam experience and is repeating many of the errors that produced defeat. In both places, successive American administrations slighted the advice of their most knowledgeable intelligence experts. In Vietnam they told Washington's decision-makers not to tread where France had failed and to endorse the 1955 Geneva Accords provisos on reunification. They also warned against underestimating the communists' numbers, motivation, or their independent relationship to China and the Soviet Union. But America's leaders have time and again believed what they wanted, not what their intelligence told them. The Pentagon in the 1960s had an uncritical faith in its overwhelming firepower, its modern equipment, mobility, and mastery of the skies. It still does, and Donald Rumsfeld believes the military has the technology to "shock and awe" all adversaries. But war in Vietnam, as in Iraq, was highly decentralised and the number of troops required only increased, even as the firepower became greater. When they reached half-a-million Americans in Vietnam, the public turned against the president and defeated his party. Wars are ultimately won politically or not at all. Leaders in Washington thought this interpretation of events in Vietnam was bizarre, and they ignored their experts whenever they frequently reminded them of the limits of military power. In both Vietnam and Iraq the public was mobilised on the basis of cynical falsehoods that ultimately backfired, causing a "credibility gap". The Tonkin Gulf crisis of August 1964 was manufactured, as the CIA's leading analyst later admitted in his memoir, because "the administration was seeking a pretext for a major escalation". Countless lies were told during the Vietnam War but eventually many of the men who counted most were themselves unable to separate truth from fiction. Many US leaders really believed that if the communists won in Vietnam, the "dominoes" would fall and all South-East Asia would fall under Chinese and Soviet domination. The Iraq War was justified because Saddam was alleged to have weapons of mass destruction and ties with al-Qaeda, but no evidence for either allegation has been found. There are 130,000 American troops in Iraq now - twice the number Bush predicted would remain by this month - but, as in Vietnam, their morale is already low and sinking. Bush's poll ratings have fallen dramatically. He needs more soldiers in Iraq desperately and foreign nations will not provide them. In Vietnam, president Nixon tried to "Vietnamise" the land war and transfer the burdens of soldiering to Nguyen Van Thieu's huge army. But it was demoralised and organised to maintain Thieu in power, not win the victory that had eluded American forces. "Iraqisation" of the military force required to put down dissidents will not accomplish what has eluded the Americans, and in both Vietnam and Iraq the US underestimated the length of time it would have to remain and cultivated illusions about the strength of its friends. The Iraqi army was disbanded but now is being partially reconstituted by utilising Saddam's officers and enlisted men. As in Vietnam, where the Buddhists opposed the Catholics who comprised the leaders America endorsed, Iraq is a divided nation regionally and religiously, and Washington has the unenviable choice between the risks of disorder, which its own lack of troops make likely, and civil war if it arms Iraqis. Despite plenty of expert opinion to warn it, the Bush Administration has scant perception of the complexity of the political problems it confronts in Iraq. Afghanistan is a reminder of how military success depends ultimately on politics, and how things go wrong. Rumsfeld's admission in his confidential memo of October 16 that "we lack the metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror" was an indication that key members of the Bush Administration are far less confident of what they are doing than they were early in 2003. But as in Vietnam, when defence secretary Robert McNamara ceased to believe that victory was inevitable, it is too late to reverse course and now the credibility of America's military power is at stake. Eventually, domestic politics takes precedence over everything else. It did in Vietnam and it will in Iraq. By 1968, the polls were turning against the Democrats and the Tet offensive in February caught President Lyndon Johnson by surprise because he and his generals refused to believe the CIA's estimates that there were really 600,000 rather than 300,000 people in the communist forces. Nixon won because he promised a war-weary public he would bring peace with honour. Bush declared on October 28 that "we're not leaving" Iraq soon, but his party and political advisers are likely to have the last word as US casualties mount and his poll ratings continue to decline. Vietnam proved that the American public has limited patience. That is still true. The real lessons of Vietnam have yet to be learned. Gabriel Kolko is professor emeritus of history at York University in Canada and the author of Anatomy of a War, a history of the Vietnam War. ------------------- 2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1080458,00.html 'Iraqification' key to return of US troops Pentagon shrugs off Vietnam-era connotations of term to churn out hastily trained local forces Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington Saturday November 8, 2003 The Guardian The Bush administration, unnerved by the bloodiest week since April for US forces in Iraq, has launched a public relations offensive to convince Americans it can achieve two seemingly conflicting goals: bring stability to Iraq, while bringing the troops back home. Behind the strategy is "Iraqification", an unfortunate term for the administration because of echoes of Richard Nixon's "Vietnamisation" in the early 1970s. But those connotations were cast aside this week when the administration pressed ahead with speeding up the timetable for handing over security to the recruits from the Iraqi police to allow the Pentagon to reduce the number of US troops in country. The strategy has raised concerns that it gives the appearance of Washington preparing to "cut and run" from Iraq. On Wednesday the vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Peter Pace, said US forces would be reduced to 100,000 by next May from the current levels of 130,000. They could be down to 50,000 by 2005. Meanwhile, the administration has sped up the transfer of power, bringing forward the deadline for drafting the new constitution, and pencilling in a date for elections in 18 months' time. Increasingly, it seems, this is an administration in a hurry. But President George Bush has little choice. The congressional budget office warned it will be impossible to sustain present force levels beyond next spring without imposing longer tours of duty on the troops. That is politically dangerous for Mr Bush in an election year, so officials have been promoting the idea that Iraqis are poised to shoulder the burden of America's guerrilla war, even to the extent of manufacturing data about the numbers of locally trained police. The strategy has caused widespread alarm, not least because it suggests to the world that Washington is ready to "cut and run", and to the Iraqi resistance that US forces can be driven out by stepping up attacks. "When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude," the Republican senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain told a Washington thinktank this week. Goal Within political circles, there is little dispute with the notion of Iraqification as the eventual goal of the occupation. Instead, there is concern about whether Iraqi forces - poorly trained and poorly equipped - are adequately prepared to take over security. There are also fears that the occupation authority's obsession with churning out new Iraqi recruits has led to a lowering of standards. In some districts of Baghdad, local militias graduate after five days of training. Of equal concern for the Pentagon are suspicions that some of its recruits are in fact agents of Saddam Hussein, and that the occupation authority was so focused on increasing the numbers in its new police forces that it forgot about vetting procedures. Those lapses could cripple efforts to build credible Iraqi security forces, some analysts say. "It would be wrong if, in trying to avoid conflict, we put Iraqis out there to draw fire like a bunch of canaries in the mine," said Daniel Gouré, a military expert at Virginia's Lexington Institute. "The question is not to put the Iraqis out there so that we can get shot at less, but what is the right combination of Iraqi and American forces?" It is also far from clear just who these Iraqi forces are. Somehow, during the past fortnight, the numbers of trained Iraqi police personnel appear to have more than doubled. On Thursday the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, claimed more than 118,000 Iraqis had been trained for police work. Pentagon officials now casually describe the poorly trained and ill-equipped force as the second largest contributor to the coalition forces in Iraq, far exceeding the number of British troops. But military analysts say the figure is wishful thinking given that it takes at least 12 weeks to train a police officer to an international standard. The Pentagon has also conceded it has not been entirely open about the numbers when discussing levels of Iraqi forces. "I think people are a little bit surprised that it has gone up fairly significantly here in a fairly short period of time," General Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. He said only 60,000 Iraqis had been fully trained and equipped to serve as security personnel. The remainder of the much-cited figure of 180,000 included unarmed guards at oil pipelines. "Let's say you've just armed them with a radio where they can report intrusion, where somebody else, a competent force, can come in and deal with the situation. That is a very valuable thing, we think," Gen Myers said. But Mr McCain and others remain unconvinced. "When in the course of days we increase by thousands our estimates of the numbers of Iraqis trained, it sounds like somebody is cooking the books," he said. "When we do this as our forces are coming under increasing attack, we suggest to our friends and allies that our ultimate goal in Iraq is leaving as soon as possible - not meeting our strategic objective." ----------------------- 3) http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1106/p01s01-woiq.htm The risks of rapid 'Iraqification' A transfer of policing duties to Iraqis could reduce US casualties, but moving too quickly may fail to quell the violence. By Peter Grier and Faye Bowers | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON - The way to solve the security problem in Iraq, says the White House, is to transfer responsibility for keeping the peace to Iraqis themselves as soon as possible. It's a strategy with obvious advantages. Iraqis might be better than Americans at tracking down Iraqi insurgents. At the very least, US casualties might go down. But there are risks to Iraqification as well - particularly if the process is rushed. Simply switching US patrols for Iraqi ones is unlikely to cause guerrilla units to stop fighting. Despite hopeful talk about quickly pushing native police onto the street, security training takes time if done right and does not necessarily produce elite units. It may be difficult to keep old Baathists out of new forces. Reports indicate that the US may back creation of a paramilitary open to former Iraqi intelligence personnel. Ensuring that such a service is not penetrated by insurgents could prove especially trying. "We've got a tough row to hoe here, and I don't know how we are going to get out of it," says ex-CIA director Adm. Stansfield Turner. >From Washington the idea of quieting Iraq via quick creation of Iraqi forces seems logical. In recent weeks, US officials have talked constantly about the need to hurry up and get newly trained Iraqi conscripts on the beat. Since the US took Baghdad "we've gone from zero to 100,000 Iraqis providing security in that country, and our plan calls for us to go over 200,000 by next year," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a broadcast interview last Sunday. The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) has itself pushed for more muscle to deal with the escalating insurgent attacks. According to the Washington Post, a recent letter from the IGC to President Bush begged for more authority to pursue insurgents as they see fit. Iraqis "are more able than others to handle this matter," writes Jalal Talabani, current council president. But some officials and consultants who have visited Iraq recently to work on security matters say that the US hope for quick "iraqification" may well be misplaced. The regimen for producing members of Iraq's new civil defense corps is short, and getting shorter, some say. "These are guys with one week of training," says a former intelligence officer who spent decades in the region and recently rotated through Baghdad. "They work with US troops. They're not the Army. You can't beef that up." The plan to hand over most internal security responsibility by next summer is unrealistic, says this source. Calling back units of the Hussein-era Iraqi Army might work, if they are carefully vetted and given carefully chosen assignments. "You could put them on the border with Iran. That might work," says the ex- intelligence agent. Training for the new Iraqi police is longer than one week, but it remains far short of the rigor US police departments employ. And even many big cities in the US have problems with police brutality, faked evidence, and other abuses of authority. The haste to get police on the job is matched by the haste with which the US is pursuing political development in Iraq, notes Edward Peck, a former chief of mission in Baghdad and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism during the Reagan administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell originally gave a deadline of six months to write a new Iraqi constitution. "It took 13 colonies about five years to write [the US constitution], and the European [Union] is grappling terribly trying to get a constitution together," says Mr. Peck. According to The Washington Post, the US administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, has tentatively decided to support the call of the Iraqi Governing Council for a paramilitary force made up of former members of Iraq's intelligence services, plus members of political party militias. Such a force might provide the IGC with a potent weapon to track down former members of the regime and stop attacks. But it might also bring back into favor some of the more unsavory members of the Hussein regime, as vetting in this case would be particularly difficult. "We have the US getting rid of Saddam and his terrible, brutal secret police and now we're bringing them back," says Peck. Furthermore, insurgents would likely to continue to attack Iraqi police, and even nongovernmental organizations such as the Red Cross, which they see as simply doing the bidding of the US. "There is that perception that many NGOs are nothing but puppets for the US," says Ayad Al-Qazzaz, an Iraqi native who is teaches at California State University at Sacramento. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk