The Defense Department is responsible for fighting the nation's wars. In fact, it used to be called the War Department. That was back in the days when Congress actually declared wars, something it hasn't bothered to do since 1941.
But as reported here yesterday, the Pentagon now seems to want complete control over the U.S.-installed government that is supposed to rule Iraq on an interim basis until an Iraqi government can be formed. Is it up to the job? Robert Wright at Slate wonders.
Is this just the first of several wars?
Maybe. Diplomacy once again appears to have failed, this time with Syria and Iran. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell have each harshly criticized both Syria and Iran for assisting Iraq or sponsoring terrorism.
"Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course,” Powell said. “Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences."
Syria raised the ante Monday. Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al Shara declared: "Syria's interest is to see the invaders defeated in Iraq. The resistance of the Iraqis is extremely important. It is a heroic resistance to the U.S.-British occupation of their country."
The Syria Times, a government-controlled newspaper, used even harsher language: "The only way out is to stop the war immediately and hold those responsible for it `accountable' for their crimes against humanity."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said, "From the very beginning we predicted that the Iraq nation would not welcome foreign invading forces. They (the Americans) are seeking to ensure Israel's complete domination over the region."
John Bolton, the U.S. undersecretary for arms control, reportedly told Israeli officials recently that the U.S. would have to “deal” with Syria, Iran, Libya and North Korea after the Iraq conflict is over, but didn’t indicate what that meant.
However, both Bolton and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice have said they consider the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs “imminent” threats. The Bush administration has said repeatedly that it if necessary it would use “pre-emptive” military strikes to quash such threats.
How much energy the administration will have for further confrontations no doubt will depend in part on the outcome of the Iraq conflict and its fallout.
Update: If we do use force against Syria or Iran, it looks like we really will be alone. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said emphatically that Britain would not participate in such an action.
Scores more civilians killed
U.S. troops are trying to clear a path to Baghdad through Iraqi defenses, which often are located in or around towns and cities. The result has been many more civilian deaths along the route of march and in Baghdad. Australian Broadcasting rounds up the day’s incidents.
Iraqis in some areas are openly welcoming the coalition
There were several reports Tuesday of crowds of Iraqis welcoming U.S. and British troops. Here is one.
What the Arab press is saying
The BBC regularlyly rounds up brief takes on what the Arab press is saying. Here’s a sample.
Uh oh. The Marines are running out of cigarettes
Being down to one MRE a day, as some U.S. troops have been, is one thing. Nobody's addicted to those. But no Marlboros or Copenhagen? This is serious. About a third of Marines are tobacco users (compared with less than one-quarter of the population at large), their supplies have failed to catch up with them and they're getting grouchy.
Cpl. Matt Nale of Seattle said he and others have been hitting Iraqi farmers up for smokes.
"We've had three cigarettes a day for the last three days because of those farmers," he said.
How the tube covers that five-sided building
The Washington Post’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz, talks with network reporters, who help shape American perceptions of the war, about covering the Pentagon since the conflict started.