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This is stunning. In response to the poll question: "Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?"
Twenty-two percent (22%) said "No."
A full third of Democrats (34%), one-fifth of Independents (19%) and one-tenth of Republicans (11%), respectively) said that no, they actually want the "surge" to fail (PDF). Not whether they think it is likely to fail or succeed, but that they personally want it to fail.
Let that sink in for a second.
BAGHDAD, Jan. 17 — Facing intense pressure from the Bush administration to show progress in securing Iraq, senior Iraqi officials announced Wednesday that they had moved against the country’s most powerful Shiite militia, arresting several dozen senior members in the past few weeks.
It was the first time the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had claimed significant action against the militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the most intractable problems facing his administration. The militia’s leader, the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, helped put Mr. Maliki in power, but pressure to crack down on the group has mounted as its killings in the capital have driven a wedge into efforts to keep the country together.
Although the announcement seemed timed to deflect growing scrutiny by an American administration that has grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Maliki, American officers here offered some support for the government’s claims, saying that at least half a dozen senior militia leaders had been taken into custody in recent weeks.
In perhaps the most surprising development, the Americans said, none of the members had been prematurely released, a chronic problem as this government has frequently shielded Shiite fighters.
“There was definitely a change in attitudes,” in the past three to four weeks, a senior American military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Though the story notes the Iraqi government engaged in a bit of..."puffing" with respect to how many total militiamen had been arrested.
Non-military progress reported in Iraq, from Reuters:
U.S. aims to restart 10 Iraqi factories in weeks
BAGHDAD, Jan 18 (Reuters) - U.S. officials have drawn up a list of 10 former state-run Iraqi factories they hope to restart within weeks to employ 11,000 people, kicking off a plan aimed at giving potential insurgents an economic reason not to fight.
Paul Brinkley, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for business transformation, said the factories on the "top 10 list" are among 200 major factories around Iraq that used to employ more than 300,000 people before the March 2003 U.S. invasion.
U.S. policy immediately after the invasion was to promote privatisation so most state-run factories closed.
That left their employees surviving on stipends of about 30 to 40 percent of their former salaries and had a ripple effect on the economy, for example on farmers whose produce was no longer bought by food-processing plants, Brinkley said.
"The core effort right now is to restore employment to as many of the Iraqi people as we can," Brinkley told a news conference in Baghdad. "We think that will improve stability. It will undermine insurgent sympathy."
Conceding that U.S. policy had been based on the false assumption that Iraq's industry was "Soviet-style" and inefficient, Brinkley said a gradual transformation to the private sector was now favored over rapid privatisation.
That story prompts a surprising headline in the NY Times: Iraqi Factories, Aging And Shut, Now Give Hope
RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 16 — Inside a huge shuttered factory on the gritty western fringes of this outlaw desert town, thousands of ornate porcelain sinks, toilets and other fixtures sit in row after row next to the automated ovens and assembly lines that once churned out the products but lie silent under a thin film of yellow desert dust.The Times story is also carried - with the same headline, in The International Herald Tribune and Speigel Online.
However, neither the fancy ceramics nor the machines appear to be damaged, a miracle that no one can quite explain in one of the most dangerous cities of a country that looters have ravaged since 2003.
Whatever the explanation, some American and Iraqi officials believe that surviving factories like this one — once considered inefficient, government-subsidized behemoths — could present a last chance of sorts for dealing with two problems that have remained stubbornly unsolved since the invasion: Iraq’s reconstruction and its insurgency.
And in fact, the Times has a double shocker for its readers today:
Iraqis Answer Global Critics By Tackling Troubling IssuesElsewhere in Iraq:
Iraqi political leaders stepped up efforts to persuade the world that they were tackling the country’s thorniest problems on Wednesday, highlighting crackdowns on militias, pressing for more rapid arming of Iraqi troops, and underlining progress on a national oil law and new examples of reconciliation with former Baathists.
BAGHDAD — Iraq's leaders will need at least a few more months to hammer out political deals central to President Bush's security overhaul, the outgoing U.S. ambassador said Wednesday.All done!
In an interview with USA TODAY, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad laid out a timetable for Iraqi politicians to resolve long-simmering disagreements, such as how to share Iraq's oil wealth.
The initiatives include:
•An oil law. Drafters finalized an energy bill Tuesday that would define how Iraq's oil wealth would be distributed to different regions, Khalilzad said.
Sunni-dominated territories possess a relatively small percentage of Iraq's oil reserves, and Sunni politicians want to make sure they receive a share of future royalties.
The bill needs Cabinet approval before the parliament votes on it and will probably take a month to pass into law, Khalilzad said.
•De-Baathification. U.S. officials are reviewing a draft law that would partially lift a ban that prevents former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, most of them Sunnis, from holding government jobs. The law is probably two months away from passage, Khalilzad said.
•Constitutional amendments. A bill that would outline how Iraq's constitution could be amended — a point of heated debate between Iraqi sects — is being studied and is "several months" from completion, Khalilzad said.
(aka Re: The plan comes together)
Here's what President Bush didn't mention about "the surge": It's nothing more than an adjustment in rotation dates. Some troops are going a couple months early, others will stay late. Stop the "surge" and the same troops will go to Iraq - just on their normal schedule and in time to hive-five the folks they will replace instead of reinforce. Those newly arrived troops will be completely up shit creek, of course, as no one in Iraq is going to take them at all seriously.
But simply naming this action without explaining it completely - perhaps in an effort to avoid the "nothing new here" response that would predictably follow - provides something "tangible" to oppose: more troops in Iraq who wouldn't otherwise be there.
Which brings this response instead:
A strong majority of Americans opposes President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, and about half of the country wants Congress to block the deployment, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found.
Americans were not swayed very much by President Bush's speech Wednesday night outlining his new strategy for the war in Iraq, according to a CBS News poll.
Half of those who saw the speech said they disapprove of the president’s proposals in general, while 37 percent said they approve.
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows a daunting sales job ahead for the White House, which is considering a plan to deploy up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.Countdown to political response in 4... 3... 2... 1...
Those surveyed oppose the idea of increased troop levels by 61%-36%. Approval of the job Bush is doing in Iraq has sunk to 26%, a record low.
"You cannot run a war by committee," Vice President Cheney said over the weekend. Oh? Just watch them. Lawmakers were introducing Iraq legislation at a mad pace yesterday, at one point in the afternoon scheduling news conferences in half-hour intervals.Count votes, at least:
Early risers saw Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in the Senate television gallery introducing his proposal to limit U.S. troops in Iraq to 130,000 and to hold a vote on whether to reauthorize the war. Those who lingered until lunchtime could catch Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and other House liberals demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq within six months.
Booking the Senate TV studio at 2:30 p.m. were Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), with their own Iraq resolution. They had to vacate the room at 3 p.m. for the arrival of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.); Clinton floated a variation of the Dodd plan. Minutes after that session, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) issued a statement announcing legislation ordering a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Even Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who gave up his Senate seat, tried to get a piece of the action yesterday. His campaign sent out a fundraising appeal, asking: "Please chip in to help stop this escalation today."
But the excitement was misplaced. For all the bills introduced yesterday, none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are "nonbinding" and others don't have enough votes to pass. "There is very little chance in the short run that we are going to pass any legislation," Clinton confided during her news conference. Asked to elaborate, she explained: "I can count."
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday called President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq “a losing strategy” and proposed placing new limits on the White House’s conduct of the war.All done!
Starting at 7 a.m. with back-to-back appearances on NBC and CBS, Senator Clinton devoted her day to a choreographed effort to press the Bush administration to change its Iraq policy and to outline a set of views that might bring her more in sync with Democratic primary voters.
Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to announce plans to run for president soon, sought to tap into the intense and bitter emotions that many Democrats feel about the war, as she promised to introduce legislation to cap the number of troops in Iraq and to place restraints on the administration’s policy.
“I’m really passionate about getting the administration’s attention because they hold most of the cards,” Mrs. Clinton said during an interview in her Senate office here. “And I don’t want to keep losing these young men and women.”
Her new political offensive on Iraq came one day after Senator Barack Obama of Illinois announced that he had formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid and three days after another likely rival, former Senator John Edwards, took an indirect swipe at Mrs. Clinton and other members of Congress for not doing more to oppose the war in Iraq.
Or at least, news of promises:
Khalilzad also said the United States was "committed to going after" Iranian operatives in Iraq, who he said were responsible for supplying sophisticated bombs used against U.S. forces.These are the keys to making "the surge" work (militarily, at least).
Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders have agreed to allow U.S. forces unfettered access to Baghdad neighborhoods. Such access is key to disarming militias. "We'll have the freedom of action to go anywhere in the city in pursuing these objectives," he said. "We have to wait and see whether what has been agreed to, which is quite satisfactory, is actually implemented."
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing next week on Lt. Gen. Petraeus' appointment as the next military commander in Iraq.
According to the LA Times, this will be a "blow to the White House" (and a "setback", too).
White House officials are concerned that Congress may try to "scapegoat" Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has overseen the Iraq war since 2004 and has been nominated as Army chief of staff, the service's highest post. Army and administration officials had planned for Casey to be considered first, in the belief that the urgency of appointing Petraeus as his successor would dissuade lawmakers from engaging in a long and divisive fight over his handling of the war.
Although Defense officials had indicated Casey's nomination would go to the Senate first, White House officials sent over three nominations simultaneously Tuesday — those of Petraeus, Casey and Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, who has been nominated to head the U.S. Central Command, which oversees all U.S. military activity in the Mideast.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats, at McCain's urging, moved to put Petraeus' confirmation hearing on the committee's calendar. Casey's has not yet been scheduled.
But the swift consideration of Petraeus could mean a rougher time for Casey, who has been criticized by McCain and others for failing to seek additional troops or commit existing forces to Al Anbar province, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.
The obligatory Vietnam comparison follows:
The nomination of Casey as chief of staff has drawn comparisons of him and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the controversial commander who oversaw the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968. When Westmoreland was replaced in Vietnam, he too was nominated as Army chief of staff and served in that post for four years.
A question on Ehren Watada, from comments here:
Wonder when someone will inform him that the legality of the war has no bearing on his obligation to deploy when ordered.Answer: January 16, 2007:
On Tuesday, however, Lt. Col. John M. Head, the military judge in the case, rejected Watada's request to debate the legality of the war at his court-martial next month. Although Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, had sought to open the question so the soldier could explain why he defied his deployment orders, Head ruled that the war's legality was a political question irrelevant to the charges at hand.Watada, who joined the Army after the invasion of Iraq, faces up to six years in prison for failing to deploy last year and criticizing President Bush and the war in statements to the media and at a peace convention.
Do you fear your experiences in Iraq will cause your idealism to fade?
No, I don't think they will. I'm here in part because of my idealism - because I believe everyone should be given the chance to choose their own path in life, and because I felt I needed to back that belief with action. I don't see my time here changing that.