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The Myth of Kurdistan

1 Comment Published: 18 March 2009

The Myth of Kurdistan
Iraq's northern enclave used to be called a model for the rest of the country. Not anymore, say Kurds.

Lennox Samuels
NEWSWEEK
March 23, 2009

Until the old man is out of the way, everyone else who hungers for power in Iraqi Kurdistan is on hold. It could be a long wait. Despite his chronic bad knee and a Mayo Clinic heart operation last August, 75-year-old Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, is a survivor. At present, he and his longtime rival, Massoud Barzani (together with their families and their respective political machines), still control the largest part of what's worth controlling in the three northern Iraqi provinces that make up the autonomous region. Government ranks are filled with their relatives. Barzani himself is president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, while his nephew Nechirvan is its prime minister and his son Masrour is in charge of intelligence. Talabani's son Qubad is the Kurds' man in Washington, while a nephew heads counterintelligence. Backers once touted Kurdistan as the model for a democratic Iraq—perhaps even for a total makeover of the Middle East. But if anything, the place seems more and more like a stagnant, feudal principality.


Water Torture

130 Comments

16 March 2009
 
There has been much discussion recently about what constitutes torture.  Between research/travel in preparation for a return to Afghanistan and Iraq, I have been working on a couple of dispatches regarding torture.  Meanwhile, several U.S. military officers -- all combat veterans -- have weighed in privately.  All are staunchly opposed to torture.  At least my opposition to torture is in good company with these veterans.  We can beat the terrorists without it, and in fact can do far better without using barbaric methods.  We get huge amounts of information from normal people when they realize we are morally superior to the terrorists.  High ground is always tough to keep, and moral high ground is particularly tough to hold.  But we can do it and will win battles because of that high ground.

Read more: Water Torture

Afghan Army

14 Comments

12 March 2009

There is dispute whether the testimony to the British House of Commons regarding the Afghan National Army is correct.

Part of that testimony was published on my site yesterday.

Colonel Bill Hix emailed to me from Afghanistan with an on-the-ground view.  It is important to note that Colonel Hix is a veteran of Iraq, with much experience in the tough parts of Afghanistan.  I was out with his soldiers in late 2008.  Colonel Hix is highly respected among combat soldiers who don't hand out respect easily.  His views on Afghanistan are highly-informed, cautious and realistic, but definitely more optimistic than are mine.  I greatly respect his highly informed opinion and so it's important to make sure Colonel Hix's counterpoints get wide distribution.  Please link to this dispatch.  (Note to journalists seeking truth on Afghanistan: Colonel Hix is at KAF and is an important source regarding conditions in southern Afghanistan.)

Read more: Afghan Army

David Rohde Still Missing

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11 March 2009

Few people realize that New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan back in November.  There were a few scattered stories early on, but big reporting apparently has been squashed.  In December, during a trip with Secretary Gates, I asked a New York Times reporter if she knew the status of the situation.  The story had been kept so quiet that she didn’t actually know the kidnapping had occurred.  The information came to me from several sources some weeks after the kidnapping in Afghanistan.  I sat on the information, but there are a growing number of snippets on the web, and it can safely be said that the word is out.  One extremely well placed Pentagon source told me in December that Rohde is believed to have been moved to Pakistan.


The Pathetic Afghan Army & Will Obama Fumble Iraq?

37 Comments

The Pathetic Afghan Army
&
Will Obama Fumble Iraq?

11 March 2009

The disconnect between reporting and reality on Iraq was dramatic during 2005.  Media stories about the incompetence and hopelessness of the Iraqi army and police were like the soup of the day, every day.  Yet month by month, before my eyes, Iraqi security forces were improving.  Reporting this truth earned the label of “stooge,” because the soup of the day was Failure.  Millions of Americans and Europeans apparently wanted Iraqis to suffer because those same Americans and Europeans seemed to hate George Bush.

Read more: The Pathetic Afghan Army & Will Obama Fumble Iraq?

Victory in Iraq - Next Stop, Afghanistan

9 Comments

10 March 2009

Please read my latest article by picking up a copy of Townhall Magazine.  Townhall is offering a free copy of my book "Moment of Truth in Iraq," with new subscriptions to their excellent magazine. Please keep in mind that whenever I publish in a magazine or newspaper, the editors chose the title and blurb.  The words within the articles are mine, however.  (Such as my Wall Street Journal piece last year: "Let's Surge Some More." That was not my title.)

Read more: Victory in Iraq - Next Stop, Afghanistan

Straight Talk

31 Comments

09 March 2009

President Obama talks straight on Afghanistan.  We are not winning.  This bit of truth has been reported clearly on this website since early 2006.  In fact, not only are we not winning, we are losing.  Pakistan is a far bigger and more important problem than Afghanistan.  On the global scale, Afghanistan is tantamount irrelevant so long as we can deny sanctuary to people who will use that land as a base to attack us.

Read more: Straight Talk

Dark Times

72 Comments

06 March 2009

While I work on dispatches regarding torture, it appears that some people are getting what they want; many have asked for proof that torture occurred, and that torture be defined.  These questions are fair and important.  Yet it seems that these questions often are asked with an air of smugness that the questions cannot or will not be answered.  The issue is sharply politicized and so truth will hide under the nearest rock.  My views on torture, partially shaped by battlefield experience, are apolitical.  They are merely pragmatic based on life experience.

Read more: Dark Times

On Afghanistan

8 Comments

05 March 2009

The mainstream media has finally fully caught up to where we were in 2006.  It is now commonly recognized that we have massive problems with AfPak, and that Pakistan is the real problem.

Read more: On Afghanistan

President Protests Criminal Charges by Committing More Crimes

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05 March 2009
 
The President of Sudan is behaving like a little Saddam Hussein, who behaved like a little Stalin.  The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and so his government responded immediately by holding its own people hostage from aid workers.  It's important to recall that Sudan was a base for al Qaeda long before 9/11, with complicity of the Sudanese government who is believed to have aided in terrorist attacks.

Read more: President Protests Criminal Charges by Committing More Crimes

TORTURE: Some Thoughts

59 Comments

PART I

04 March 2009
 
On 24 February 2009, President Barack Obama said during his speech: “The United States of America Does Not Torture.”
 
The President’s words were cast LIVE, around the globe, and I was literally on the other side of the world, a dozen time zones away watching it on CNN.  I made a small entry on the website with a few thoughts, unleashing a torrent of criticism, which was expected; I don’t write to please, but in an attempt to deliver truth about the war.

Anytime I deliver bad news, such as back in 2006 that we were losing the war in Afghanistan while nearly everyone “knew” we were winning, there resulted an avalanche of criticism and insults, along with a decline in readership and support.  But that’s the way it goes.  If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.  Yet to win the war, tell the truth.

Read more: TORTURE: Some Thoughts

Tactical Success, Strategic Defeat

24 Comments

02 March 2009

This Washington Post story rings true with my experience from October 2008.  I was in Afghanistan, and embeds with U.S. soldiers in that particular area were hard to come by, so I endeavored to hear the other side of the story, which was much easier to accomplish.  It’s amazing that it’s easier to interview potential enemies than to embed with U.S. forces.  Anyway, I went to the area near the village of Sper Kundy, just near Sarobi, where 10 French soldiers had recently died, and interviewed two men from the village.  Interestingly, I am told, that after I went there, a journalist tried to do the same thing and got kidnapped.  Apparently he was released without harm.  I was told that the journalist had used the same interpreter, though I have no verification of this.  In any case, the interpreter disappeared.

Read more: Tactical Success, Strategic Defeat

A 'Ticking Time Bomb' Goes Off

3 Comments

02 March 2009
 
A deadly wave of released prisoners is likely to intrude into our future.  I was in northern Iraq when this attack occurred, but was far away and only heard through sources that the attacker had been released from Guantanamo.  It's clear that some of these prisoners should be held for life, but which ones?
 
Please read.


Islamabad's capitulation

1 Comment

02 March 2009

Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid is a trusted source on AfPak.  His opinions have proven amazingly prescient.  His book "Taliban" was published six months before the 9/11 attacks, and provided a stark warning.  I interviewed Mr. Rashid in 2006 after I returned from Afghanistan.

Pakistan is slipping the noose around its own neck.  Giving up Swat to the Taliban would be like us giving up Georgia to the Ku Klux Klan.

Read more: Islamabad's capitulation

"The United States of America Does Not Torture"

132 Comments

24 February 2009

President Barack Obama has spoken.  His words beamed around the world.  I am in Asia preparing for a long year in Afghanistan and other contended places, but stopped to listen closely to President Obama's words.  Most of the things that President Obama talked about will take years, or many years, to implement.  But one thing can happen NOW.  No more torture.

Read more: "The United States of America Does Not Torture"

The Fallen

10 Comments

24 February 2009
 
We may have a lot of problems at home -- and we do -- but our brothers and sisters are out there for us tonight.  We lost eight just today.  Four soldiers were killed in Iraq, and four in Afghanistan.

Read more: The Fallen

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