War

NYT: “It Is Time for the United States to Leave Iraq”

"The Road Home" -- New York Times banner editorial, July 8, 2007:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

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Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

The Mechanics of Withdrawal

The United States has about 160,000 troops and millions of tons of military gear inside Iraq. Getting that force out safely will be a formidable challenge. The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.

The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.

Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now.

The Fight Against Terrorists

Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige.

This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops.

And it created a new front where the United States will have to continue to battle terrorist forces and enlist local allies who reject the idea of an Iraq hijacked by international terrorists. The military will need resources and bases to stanch this self- inflicted wound for the foreseeable future.

The Question of Bases

The United States could strike an agreement with the Kurds to create those bases in northeastern Iraq. Or, the Pentagon could use its bases in countries like Kuwait and Qatar, and its large naval presence in the Persian Gulf, as staging points.

There are arguments for, and against, both options. Leaving troops in Iraq might make it too easy — and too tempting — to get drawn back into the civil war and confirm suspicions that Washington’s real goal was to secure permanent bases in Iraq. Mounting attacks from other countries could endanger those nations’ governments.

The White House should make this choice after consultation with Congress and the other countries in the region, whose opinions the Bush administration has essentially ignored. The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.

The Civil War

One of Mr. Bush’s arguments against withdrawal is that it would lead to civil war. That war is raging, right now, and it may take years to burn out. Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening.

It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.

But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done. The administration should use whatever leverage it gains from withdrawing to press its allies and Iraq’s neighbors to help achieve a negotiated solution.

Iraq’s leaders — knowing that they can no longer rely on the Americans to guarantee their survival — might be more open to compromise, perhaps to a Bosnian-style partition, with economic resources fairly shared but with millions of Iraqis forced to relocate. That would be better than the slow-motion ethnic and religious cleansing that has contributed to driving one in seven Iraqis from their homes.

The United States military cannot solve the problem. Congress and the White House must lead an international attempt at a negotiated outcome. To start, Washington must turn to the United Nations, which Mr. Bush spurned and ridiculed as a preface to war.

The Human Crisis

There are already nearly two million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, and nearly two million more Iraqis who have been displaced within their country. Without the active cooperation of all six countries bordering Iraq — Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — and the help of other nations, this disaster could get worse. Beyond the suffering, massive flows of refugees — some with ethnic and political resentments — could spread Iraq’s conflict far beyond Iraq’s borders.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must share the burden of hosting refugees. Jordan and Syria, now nearly overwhelmed with refugees, need more international help. That, of course, means money. The nations of Europe and Asia have a stake and should contribute. The United States will have to pay a large share of the costs, but should also lead international efforts, perhaps a donors’ conference, to raise money for the refugee crisis.

Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war and are eager to get beyond it. But that will still require a measure of humility and a commitment to multilateral action that this administration has never shown. And, however angry they were with President Bush for creating this mess, those nations should see that they cannot walk away from the consequences. To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore.

The United States has the greatest responsibilities, including the admission of many more refugees for permanent resettlement. The most compelling obligation is to the tens of thousands of Iraqis of courage and good will — translators, embassy employees, reconstruction workers — whose lives will be in danger because they believed the promises and cooperated with the Americans.

The Neighbors

One of the trickiest tasks will be avoiding excessive meddling in Iraq by its neighbors — America’s friends as well as its adversaries.

Just as Iran should come under international pressure to allow Shiites in southern Iraq to develop their own independent future, Washington must help persuade Sunni powers like Syria not to intervene on behalf of Sunni Iraqis. Turkey must be kept from sending troops into Kurdish territories.

For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.

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President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

Yoke Your Paranoia to Your Technical Knowledge

Common wisdom holds that 140,000 generally churchgoing Americans in Iraq are locked in mortal combat with some of the world’s most serious monotheists. To me, a new, less orthodox faith seems to have arisen, something far more personal and circumstantial. You could see it every time you watched a grunt throw away a box of Charms candies that came in the field rations (bad luck) or toss rounds that had been dropped (no matter how much you cleaned them, bullets that had been dropped always jammed). Like so many others, I had been inclined to believe in the bromide "There are no atheists in foxholes," but based upon my admittedly less-than-systematic observations, there were at least as many blessed lance corporals, lucky ladybugs, stuffed giraffes, coins, and saved M16 rounds as there were rosary beads. The marines I lived with seemed to have moved on from the Twenty-third Psalm and were now deep into One Hundred Years of Solitude.

One afternoon I was watching tv at an Iraqi house that some Marine advisors had commandeered. It was a lazy afternoon, not much going on in-sector. We were all sitting around watching The Breakfast Club on a wide-screen. On the floor in front of us a lieutenant was cleaning a .50-caliber machine gun with what looked like Victorian surgical instruments. As Molly Ringwald declaimed her particular strain of late-eighties suburban anomie, the lieutenant's hands flashed over the weapon in practiced, weirdly maternal gestures. A microwave oven buzzed in the background. The echoes of domesticity were unignorable: We were like a deranged, unexplainably well-armed family. An artillery forward observer who was new to the team said, "Man, we haven't gotten IED'd in awhile." The team's executive officer, a
high-strung captain who'd been a logistics officer back in the States stomped into the living room and yelled, "God damn it, dude, I know you didn't just say that." He craned over melodramatically to some plywood shelves near the corporal's head and knocked on one of them. Guys were always doing this sort of thing. Anytime somebody started talking about how much time they had left or the fact that recently they'd had a run of good luck, eyes began to search frantically for a horizontal surface to knock on.

A couple of weeks later I read in the New York Times that one of the team's Humvees had struck an enormous IED, killing two marines. After I returned to the States, I received an e-mail from the team leader saying that the Times report had been in error, but this welcome correction failed to fully erase the causal chain that had haunted my mind in the interregnum. A corporal had given voice to an idle observation about not having been IED'd in a while and some of his comrades had been killed. And, even now, this is the memory trace, the psychological residue that remains: in Iraq thinking the wrong thoughts can kill you.

The trick was to focus your mind, to yoke your paranoia to your technical knowledge. One master sergeant I met in Al Qa'im told me that sometimes he could sense muj attacks before they came. I was skeptical until the day I saw him do it. We were in a convoy of six Humvees doing a standard security patrol when he picked up a radio handset and said, "We're gonna get hit today, I can feel it." When a small plume of dust arched in the sky ahead of us -- the shock wave from the IED hitting us a few seconds later -- he just shook his head. He didn't consider himself a metaphysician or anything; the skill was just something he'd developed over time in the field, the ability to interpolate between thousands of seemingly arbitrary micro-events and anticipate the narrative, to see the dance in the data. Scientists who study this sort of phenomenon refer to it as apophenia -- a handy piece of nomenclature to be sure, but to my haunted mind, the master sergeant was nothing less than a wizard, and I tried to stay as close to him as I could.

-- David J. Morris, "The Big Suck: Notes from the Jarhead Underground," Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2007.

Bush Would Defy Withdrawal Legislation

Carlos Zapata, “Dictator”

"Rice Says Bush Will Not Abide by Legislation to Limit Iraq War" -- International Herald Tribune, February 25, 2007:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President George W. Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.

But Sen. Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. "The president needs a check and a balance," said Levin.

Rice said Sunday that proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to "the worst of micromanagement of military affairs." She said military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, believe Bush's plan to send more troops is necessary.

"I can't imagine a circumstance in which it's a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress," Rice said. She was asked in a broadcast interview whether Bush would feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days.

"The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done," she said.

Lancet Study: The Numbers Do Add Up

In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported 82 deaths, two of them from violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, the sample households had seen 547 deaths, 300 of them from violence. The death rate expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year had gone up from 5.5 to 13.3.

Talk of confidence intervals becomes frankly irrelevant at this point. If you want to pick a figure for the precise number of excess deaths, then (1.33% - 0.55%) x 26,000,000 x 3.25 = 659,000 is as good as any, multiplying out the difference between the death rates by the population of Iraq and the time since the invasion. But we're interested in the qualitative conclusion here.

That qualitative conclusion is this: things have got worse, and they have got a lot worse, not a little bit worse. Whatever detailed criticisms one might make of the methodology of the study (and I have searched assiduously for the last two years, with the assistance of a lot of partisans of the Iraq war who have tried to pick holes in the study, and not found any), the numbers are too big. If you go out and ask 12,000 people whether a family member has died and get reports of 300 deaths from violence, then that is not consistent with there being only 60,000 deaths from violence in a country of 26 million. It is not even nearly consistent.

This is the question to always keep at the front of your mind when arguments are being slung around (and it is the general question one should always be thinking of when people talk statistics). How Would One Get This Sample, If The Facts Were Not This Way? There is really only one answer - that the study was fraudulent. It really could not have happened by chance. If a Mori poll puts the Labour party on 40% support, then we know that there is some inaccuracy in the poll, but we also know that there is basically zero chance that the true level of support is 2% or 96%, and for the Lancet survey to have delivered the results it did if the true body count is 60,000 would be about as improbable as this. Anyone who wants to dispute the important conclusion of the study has to be prepared to accuse the authors of fraud, and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.

-- Daniel Davies at commentisfree.guardian.co.uk, October 12, 2006, discussing Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy, and Les Roberts, "Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: a Cross-Sectional Cluster Sample Survey," The Lancet (published online October 11, 2006).

Yrever Esrever Emit Raw

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

-- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter-House Five (New York: Dell, 1968), 74-75.

"Hungary May Speed Up Troops Withdrawal" -- Ian Traynor in The Guardian, 11/5/04:

Hungary may pull several hundred soldiers out of Iraq within weeks - and months ahead of schedule - the government in Budapest announced yesterday as several US allies in eastern and central Europe mulled over their options in Iraq.

In one of his first acts as Hungary's prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, a millionaire leftwinger, said on Wednesday that he would withdraw the country's 300 soldiers from Iraq by March. But yesterday he told a press conference in Budapest that the troops could be home by the end of the year unless the opposition, fiercely opposed to the deployment, agreed to the extension.

The Czech Republic yesterday agreed to keep 100 police officers helping to train an Iraqi police force in Iraq until February. But they are then expected to be brought home. Bulgaria, too, announced a 1% cut in its contribution to the coalition forces in Iraq.

The most important US regional ally, Poland, with almost 2,500 troops in Iraq and in command of a sector of the country, is to start scaling back its presence from January, and hopes to have fully withdrawn its forces by the end of next year.

Several countries in the region, famously dubbed "new Europe" by the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for their support of US policies, appear to be getting cold feet about their commitments in Iraq, eroding the broad coalition that George Bush claimed he had assembled.

The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, went to Budapest this year and pleaded for the central Europeans not to go "weak in the knees".

Two out of three Hungarians are against their country's deployment and the main opposition party, Fidesz, is insisting that the troops are home by Christmas. The Czech parliament yesterday voted to extend the mission of 100 police in Iraq by two months, until the end of February. But the defence minister, Karel Kuehnl, has made clear that he does not want the police units to remain beyond then. If the Czechs are still needed to train Iraqi police, he argued, the training could be done in the Czech Republic.

The numbers involved may be small, but they are cumulative. The Bulgarians, Moldova, Ukraine and perhaps some of the Baltic countries are all trying to reduce their troops in Iraq. The key country, however, is Poland where around 70% of those surveyed in opinion polls said they wanted the troops brought home. . . .

Poland's plans to limit its exposure in Iraq were upset by the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent last summer, since the Spaniards were supposed to take over the sector commanded by the Poles.

Ayad Allawi, the interim Iraqi prime minister, yesterday lobbied European countries to do more to stabilise his country. In Italy yesterday before travelling to an EU summit in Brussels, he pleaded with the Europeans "who up to now have been spectators _ to help create a better Iraq".

But the Netherlands, like Poland a strongly Atlanticist EU member, is also planning to pull its force of 1,400 out.

Where Insurgents’ Explosives Came From

"Soldiers Describe Looting of Explosives" -- Mark Mazzetti in The Los Angeles Times, 11/4/04:

WASHINGTON — In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.

The witnesses' accounts of the looting, the first provided by U.S. soldiers, support claims that the American military failed to safeguard the munitions. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — and the interim Iraqi government reported that about 380 tons of high-grade explosives had been taken from the Al Qaqaa facility after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003. The explosives are powerful enough to detonate a nuclear weapon.

During the last week, when revelations of the missing explosives became an issue in the presidential campaign, the Bush administration suggested that the munitions could have been carted off by Saddam Hussein's forces before the war began. Pentagon officials later said that U.S. troops systematically destroyed hundreds of tons of explosives at Al Qaqaa after Baghdad fell.

Asked about the soldiers' accounts, Pentagon spokeswoman Rose-Ann Lynch said Wednesday, "We take the report of missing munitions very seriously. And we are looking into the facts and circumstances of this incident."

The soldiers, who belong to two different units, described how Iraqis plundered explosives from unsecured bunkers before driving off in Toyota trucks.

The U.S. troops said there was little they could do to prevent looting of the ammunition site, 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out," said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003.

"On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave" so looters could come in and take munitions.

"It was complete chaos. It was looting like L.A. during the Rodney King riots," another officer said.

He and other soldiers who spoke to The Times asked not to be named, saying they feared retaliation from the Pentagon.

A Minnesota television station last week broadcast a video of U.S. troops with the 101st Airborne Division using tools to cut through wire seals left by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, at Al Qaqaa, evidence that the high-grade explosives remained inside at least one bunker weeks after the war began.

The video was taped April 18, 2003, while soldiers from the 101st Airborne searched Al Qaqaa for chemical and biological weapons. The IAEA had placed seals on nine of the bunkers at the complex, where inspectors had found high-grade explosives. Other bunkers contained more conventional munitions.

After opening bunkers, including one containing the high-grade explosives, U.S. troops left the bunkers unsecured, the Minnesota station reported.

According to the four soldiers — members of the 317th Support Center and the 258th Rear Area Operations Center, an Arizona-based Army National Guard unit — the looting of Al Qaqaa occurred over several weeks in late April and early May.

The two units were stationed near Al Qaqaa at a base known as Logistics Support Area (LSA) Dogwood. Soldiers with the units said they went to the ammunition facility soon after the departure of combat troops from the 101st Airborne Division.

The soldiers interviewed by The Times could not confirm that powerful explosives known as HMX and RDX were among the munitions looted.

One soldier said U.S. forces watched the looters' trucks loaded with bags marked "hexamine" — a key ingredient for HMX — being driven away from the facility. Unsure what hexamine was, the troops later did an Internet search and learned of its explosive power.
Sorry Not Sorry

"We found out this was stuff you don't smoke around," the soldier said.

According to a list of "talking points" circulated by the Pentagon last week, when U.S. military weapons hunters visited Al Qaqaa on May 8, 2003, they found that the facility "had been looted and stripped and vandalized." No IAEA-monitored material was found, the "talking points" stated.

A senior U.S. military intelligence official corroborated some aspects of the four soldiers' accounts. The official who tracked facilities believed to store chemical and biological weapons — none was ever found in Iraq — said that Al Qaqaa was "one of the top 200" suspect sites at the outset of the war.

Despite the stockpiles at the site, no U.S. forces were specifically assigned to guard Al Qaqaa — known to U.S. forces in Iraq as Objective Elm — after the 101st Airborne left the facility.

Members of the 258th Rear Area Operations Center, responsible for base security at nearby LSA Dogwood, came across the looting at Al Qaqaa during patrols through the area. The unit, which comprised 27 soldiers, enlisted the help of troops of the 317th Support in securing the site, the soldiers said.

The senior intelligence official said there was no order for any unit to secure Al Qaqaa. "No way," the officer said, adding that doing so would have diverted combat resources from the push toward Baghdad.

"It's all about combat power," the officer said, "and we were short combat power.

"If we had 150,000 soldiers, I'm not sure we could have secured" such sites, the officer said. "Securing connotes 24-hour presence," and only a few sites in Baghdad were thought to warrant such security.

Troops of the two units went to Al Qaqaa over a week in late April but received no orders to maintain a presence at the facility, the soldiers said. They also said they received no response to a request for help in guarding the facility.

"We couldn't have been given the assignment to defend a facility unless we were given the troops to do it, and we weren't," said one National Guard officer. "[Objective] Elm being protected or not protected was not really part of the equation. It wasn't an area of immediate concern."

Some confusion came in late April 2003 when U.S. commanders in Baghdad reassigned military responsibility for the area surrounding Al Qaqaa from Army units to the 1st Marine Division, which had participated in the assault on Baghdad and eventually took control over much of southern Iraq.

According to Marine sources, when the 1st Marine Division took over, the combat unit didn't have enough troops to secure ammunition depots scattered across central and southern Iraq. The Al Qaqaa facility, they said, was of particular concern.

"That site was just abandoned by the 101st Airborne, and there was never a physical handoff by the 101st to the Marines. They just left," said a senior officer who worked in the top Marine command post in Iraq at the time. "We knew these sites were being looted, but there was nothing we could do about it."

During the same period, Marines came across another massive ammunition depot near the southern Iraqi town of Diwaniya, the senior officer said. They sent a message to the U.S. headquarters in Baghdad seeking guidance on how to keep the site from being plundered.

Commanders in Baghdad responded that the Marines should attempt to blow up the depot. The Marine officers responded that the site was too large to demolish.

Commanders in Baghdad "didn't have a good response to that," the officer said. "There was no plan to prevent these weapons from being used against us a year later."

Wait Until After the Election

"Allies: Hungary Joins Others in Pulling Troops" -- Judy Dempsey in The New York Times, 11/3/04:

BERLIN, Nov. 3 - Hungary announced Wednesday that it would withdraw its 300 troops from Iraq, becoming the latest country in United States-led coalition to bow to public pressure and prepare to bring its soldiers home.

Speaking at a ceremony for the end of military conscription, the newly appointed prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, said Hungary was obliged to stay until the Iraqi elections scheduled for January, but would withdraw the troops by March.

"To stay longer is an impossibility," said Mr. Gyurcsany (pronounced JOR-chahn-ee).

The United States had persuaded 32 countries to provide 22,000 soldiers as part of the multinational force established to stabilize postwar Iraq. But over the last few months, a number of countries have withdrawn, some citing the cost but others concerned about security, and many governments face increasing public opposition to the war.

Spain's Socialist government withdrew its 1,300 troops after it swept into power last March, reversing the commitment of the prior center-right government of Prime Minister José María Aznar. The Dominican Republic withdrew 302 soldiers, Nicaragua 115 and Honduras 370. The Philippines withdrew its 51 in July, a month early, after insurgents took hostage a Filipino truck driver working for a Saudi company. Norway withdrew 155 military engineers, keeping only 15 staff members to help NATO train and equip the Iraqi security forces.

Two large contributors to the international force - Britain, with 12,000 troops, and Italy, with more than 3,100 - have insisted they will not withdraw. But Poland, the fourth-largest contributor, with 2,400 troops, says it intends to withdraw by the end of next year, and the Netherlands, with 1,400 troops, said this week that the latest rotation of troops would be its last contribution to Iraq.

New Zealand is withdrawing its 60 engineers and Thailand said it wanted to bring home its 450 troops. Singapore has reduced its contingent to 33, from 191; Moldova has trimmed its force to 12, from 42. On Wednesday Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said it would reduce its 483 troops to 430 next month, Reuters reported.

Civilian Deaths in Iraq

"Study: Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion" -- Tim Parsons in The Johns Hopkins Gazette, 11/1/04:

Civilian deaths have risen dramatically in Iraq since the country was invaded in March 2003, according to a survey conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Columbia University School of Nursing and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

The researchers found that the majority of deaths were attributed to violence, which were primarily the result of military actions by Coalition forces. Most of those killed by Coalition forces were women and children. However, the researchers stressed that they found no evidence of improper conduct by the Coalition soldiers.

The survey is the first countrywide attempt to calculate the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the war began. The United States military does not keep records on civilian deaths, and record keeping by the Iraq Ministry of Health is limited. The study is published in the Oct. 29 online edition of The Lancet.

"Our findings need to be independently verified with a larger sample group. However, I think our survey demonstrates the importance of collecting civilian casualty information during a war and that it can be done," said lead author Les Roberts, an associate with the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies.

The researchers conducted their survey in September 2004. They randomly selected 33 neighborhoods of 30 homes from across Iraq and interviewed the residents about the number and ages of the people living in each home. More than 7,800 Iraqis were included. Residents were questioned about the number of births and deaths that had occurred in the household since January 2002. Information was also collected about the causes and circumstances of each death. When possible, the deaths were verified with a death certificate or other documentation.

The researchers compared the mortality rate among civilians in Iraq during the 14.6 months prior to the March 2003 invasion with the 17.8-month period following the invasion. The sample group reported 46 deaths prior to March 2003 and 142 deaths following the invasion. The results were calculated twice, both with and without information from the city of Falluja. The researchers felt the excessive violence from combat in Falluja could skew the overall mortality rates. Excluding information from Falluja, they estimate that 100,000 more Iraqis died than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. Eighty-four percent of the deaths were reported to be caused by the actions of Coalition forces, and 95 percent of those deaths were due to air strikes and artillery. "There is a real necessity for accurate monitoring of civilian deaths during combat situations. Otherwise it is impossible to know the extent of the problems civilians may be facing or how to protect them," said study co-author Gilbert Burnham, associate professor of international health at the Bloomberg School and director of the Center for International, Disaster and Refugee Studies.

What Bush Supporters Believe

"Bush Supporters Still Believe Iraq Had WMD or Major Program, Supported al Qaeda" -- Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland, 10/21/04 (full report as PDF):

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

These are some of the findings of a new study of the differing perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, based on polls conducted in September and October.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree." Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views--73% say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

Steven Kull adds, "Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in agreement with Kerry supporters." Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. Kull continues, "To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq."

This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.