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Iraq: Is the US giving up?

Numerous opinion polls indicate that more and more Americans are critical of the US government's job in Iraq, consider the war a mistake and demand a withdrawal of the troops.
14,641 members of the US military have been wounded and 1,911 have been killed. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in April 2004, has galvanized the anti-war movement. More than 100,000 Americans demonstrated against the war in Washington DC on Saturday, while more than 200 demonstrated in favor of the war on the same day and about 400 people the day after. Some of the anti-war posters read:
Make levees, not war; Yeeha is not a foreign policy; Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism; Osama bin Forgotten; Cindy speaks for me; Bush busy creating business for morticians worldwide; Liar, born liar, born-again liar; Pro whose life?; War is terrorism with a bigger budget.

The protests, polls and fatalities are not the reasons, why Juan Cole calls for pulling out the ground troops now. The professor of history at the Univ of Michigan and Fulbright Alumnus describes numerous mistakes and disastrous developments in Iraq and concludes that the ground troops are not accomplishing their mission, but they are:

making things worse, not better. Let's get them out, now, before they destroy any more cities, create any more hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, provoke any more ethnic hatreds by installing Shiite police in Fallujah or Kurdish troops in Turkmen Tal Afar. They are sowing a vast whirlwind, a desert sandstorm of Martian proportions, which future generations of Americans and Iraqis will reap. The ground troops must come out. Now. For the good of Iraq. For the good of America.

The US generals in Iraq are more upbeat about their accomplishments, but worry about the eroding political support for their mission and plan a slow exit, writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more. Most of all, they don't want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could. (...)

What Abizaid and his commanders seem to fear most is that eroding political support for the war in the United States will undermine their strategy for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. They think that strategy is beginning to pay off, but it will require several more years of hard work to stabilize the country. The generals devoutly want the American people to stay the course -- but the course they describe is more limited, and more realistic, than recent political debate might suggest.

While Prof Cole wants the US ground troops out now he later clarified that the US "has a duty to manage the withdrawal so as not to provoke a massive civil war. I suspect that can be done with a combination of continued training and arming of the new Iraqi army and air power." Others are skeptical whether US air power and the Iraqi army can prevent a civil war.

Iraq has already replaced Afghanistan as Al Qaeda's training ground, confirms an expert panel created by the UN Security Council and led by British counterterrorism specialist Richard Barrett.
Reuters quotes from their report:

Recruits travel there [to Iraq] from many parts of the world and acquire skills in urban warfare, bomb-making, assassination and suicide attacks. (...) When these fighters return to their countries of origin or residence and join those at home who are well integrated locally, the combination is likely to increase the threat of successful terrorist attacks considerably. (...) The threat from al Qaeda remains as pernicious and widespread as at any time since the attacks of 11 September 2001.

It is obviously in Europe's vital interest that the US led coalition succeeds in establishing stability and democracy in Iraq and does not allow Iraq to be the training base for the next 9/11 terrorists. Germany's Foreign Minister Fischer acknowledged at the Munich Security Conference in 2004, (exactly one year after his sharp disagreements with Rumsfeld about going to war with Iraq) that a US failure in Iraq would have severe negative consequences for the opponents of the war as well.

The Atlantic Review reported about more positive assessments of the developments in Iraq
here and here.
We also wrote about the Bush administration
lowering expectations regarding democracy in Iraq, women rights and defeating the insurgency.

This century's first genocide

The US found common cause with Cuba, Iran and Syra in blocking language in a UN declaration saying that countries have an "obligation" to respond to genocide, complains columnist Nicholas Kristof in the Texas Star-Telegram. (Republished in Darfur Daily News)

He describes how former Marine captain, Brian Steidle, who served in Darfur as a military adviser, apparently got blacklisted from all US government jobs after Kristof published his pictures of children hacked to death and of children apparently burnt alive. Kristof says, he

can't understand why Bush is soft on genocide, particularly because his political base -- the religious right -- has been one of the groups leading the campaign against genocide in Darfur.
Chancellor Schroeder, who used many peace slogans during his election campaign, hasn't done much to bring peace to Darfur either. Or the Arab League for that matter.

How to pay for Katrina and Rita?

Update: The Red Cross has not received enough donations after Katrina, reports the Washington Post today:

The American Red Cross asked Americans to give more to help hurricane victims, saying the $853 million donated for Katrina is less than half what's needed. Rita will require even more.

Congress has not yet agreed on how to pay for the estimated $ 200 billion to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina's destruction, but NASA proudly presented plans to spend $104 billion to return to the moon. While Rita's destructions will increase the federal bill and the debate about national spending priorities considerably, Katrina has, according to the Dallas Morning News, already

reopened the fiscal and social debate about how the nation can care for the poor and pay for the retirement of the baby boom generation while maintaining tax and economic policies that stimulate investment and growth. Those concerns, combined with worries about chronic budget deficits, have spurred lawmakers and lobbyists to dust off their favorite ideas on taxes, spending and pork.

Pressure to get out of Iraq intensifies as well.... Here are some of the proposals to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast:

Continue reading "How to pay for Katrina and Rita?"

Elections in Germany

The polling stations close in one hour at 6:00 PM in Germany, which is noon at the East Coast. Tanya Jones (Fulbright Journalism, Berlin, 1999-2000) recommends CNN's German elections special and "Decision 2005" by the German Embassy in Washington with background information on the German political system, the parties, links to several news organizations providing live coverage etc.

The Atlantic Review invites you to share your reactions to the results! Just click on Comments. Feel free to express your joy, anger, hope, despair, but don't forget: US-German relations and the future of the transatlantic friendship do not depend on statements from politicians and on the policies of our governments only, but also on the media, civil society organizations and ordinary citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.

UPDATE 11:30 PM: Latest CNN report. Personal thoughts by JW: Cliff hanger, Florida 2000, gridlock, new elections soon? Apparently the notorious overhang seats (Wikipedia link via PapaScott) will decide. The Wash Post's graphic explains the two votes system in Germany (link via Dialog International). Heiko Hebig hopes for a Jamaica coalition of black Conservatives, yellow Liberals and Greens, because a grand coalition of conservatives and social-Democrats stands for stagnation.

German relief experts at work in New Orleans

US Fulbright Alum Tanya Jones (Fulbright Journalism, Berlin, 1999-2000) wrote the following reading recommendation:
Ninety experts from Germany's Technisches Hilfswerk or THW (Federal Agency for Technical Relief) are helping to pump floodwater out of New Orleans and nearby parishes. The team arrived in the region last week [September 9, 2005] and immediately began work. German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger visited the team on September 12, saying "your effort in particular is valued and recognized as a special contribution to German-American friendship." Great photo gallery of the THW at work and the Ambassador's visit. The Washington Times article "Germans help clean up after Katrina" features the THW, as well as the many specialist teams from the US working on pumping out floodwaters:
'If you can help and you have the opportunity to help, you should,' said Jan Goerich, 29, from Speyer, Germany. 'We are here to help, that is all.' The team of Germans, volunteers with Technisches Hilfswerk, a German disaster-relief organization, arrived Friday [Sept. 9] at Belle Chasse Naval Air Base with 15 pumps that can move almost 6 million gallons of water a day.
The embassy lists Germany's assistance in a Fact Sheet (pdf). [The Atlantic Review wrote about German solidarity as well. The US Fulbright Association received letters of condolences and expressions of sympathy from Fulbrighters around the world.]

Picture of miltary caskets abused in election campaign

The minister of state Rolf Schwanitz abuses a picture of US body bags in his campaign for a seat in the German parliament. The slogan "She would have sent soldiers" accuses CDU candidate Merkel of supporting the Iraq war. On his homepage he proudly declares not to have used a dumb slogan, but a smart and provocative one. Although Schwanitz's job in the Bundeskanzleramt does not deal with foreign policy, he uses Merkel's Bush problem to his advantage. Thanks to EuroNeuzeit for highlighting this disgraceful campaign ad. Germany owes so much to US military families. Therefore their pain should be off-limits for political campaigns.

UPDATE 09/17/2005: Schwanitz removed the poster and his comments from his homepage after criticism in the press (SPON, FTD) and the blogosphere (Lautgeben, Liberalix, etc). created a poster with Bundeswehr caskets from Afghanistan or the Balkans in protest.

Cronyism meets urban liberalism

In an article for the political magazine The New Republic, Joel Kothkin and David Friedman argue that while "President Bush's inept response to the Katrina disaster" has clearly shown the "shortcomings of Bush-style conservatism", […] "contemporary urban liberalism has to take its share of the blame”. Poor city and state policies catering to the urban cultural elite only, in his opinion, has made New Orleans the "economically polarized city" that it is.

In his New York Times column "All the president’s friends", Paul Krugman gives quite a few examples of what he calls the "FEMA syndrome": leading political personnel being rather picked for their loyalty to the Bush administration than for their expertise, ranging from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency. "Katrina should serve as a wakeup call," he urges, revealing to the public that many government agencies have fallen victim to cronyism.