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Conflict with Iraq

Battle Lines
Tom Brown
Tom Brown
Battle Lines is an ongoing Web log (blog) dedicated to providing a broad perspective on the latest news and developments from the war in Iraq. Response and suggestions are welcomed.

Tom Brown has been an editor, reporter and software analyst for The Seattle Times for 20 years.

April 08, 2003

New tape by Osama bin Laden released

A new cassette recording, said to have been made by Osama bin Laden, has been obtained by AP after it was smuggled out of Afghanistan. It calls for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against the coalition countries.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq could be lengthy

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz estimates that it will take at least six months to put a new government in place in Iraq.

Exiled Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi says, “I'm not prepared to give a timeframe. But we expect to have a constitution ratified within two years.”

Amir Taheri, writing for the National Review, says, “Signs are that opinion is hardening in the Bush administration in favor of direct American rule for at least five years. Although the Pentagon is not keen, other parts of the administration, including the Sate Department and the National Security Council, favor the direct-rule option.” He fears this “could be a disaster for all concerned.”

And in Iraq, Kurdish and Shiite opposition groups rejected the idea of an American military government.

We should note that though it’s been a long time since we were occupiers, the U.S. still has troops in Germany and Japan, nearly 60 years after the end of World War II, and still has them in South Korea 50 years after the armistice of 1953.

Now, about Korea

There never seems to be good news on this dangerous and drifting situation and today is no exception. High-level talks between North and South Korea were called off after the North failed to confirm that they would proceed. They were scheduled for Wednesday, the same day the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to discuss a U.S. proposal to impose sanctions on the North because of its nuclear weapons program.

The American Conservative, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan’s magazine, has a solid outline of what’s at risk here if you skip over some doctrinaire rhetoric.

By the way, who says the Bush administration is unilateralist?

That’s been the charge since the U.S. steamrolled many of its traditional allies and the U.N. and plunged into Iraq. Unilateralism only seems to apply to Iraq (so far), though. North Korea is demanding direct talks with the U.S. to resolve the nuclear standoff, but the U.S. says it’ll meet with the Koreans only in a multilateral setting.

Ups and downs in the war on terror

While the last days of the Iraqi regime play out in Baghdad, let’s see how the broader war on terrorism is going. There’s good news and bad news.

Let’s take the bad first.

From Afghanistan comes word that the Taliban “is not only determined to remain a force in this country, but is reorganizing and reviving its command structure.”

Guerrilla attacks have made foreign aid workers feel unsafe. An ally of President Mohammed Karzai was assassinated recently. Reconstruction work in the country, devastated by 23 years of war, is painfully slow.

Next, closer to home, some 14 members of Al Qaida reportedly are in Mexico, working with drug dealers and other criminals in hopes of finding a way into the U.S. One possible attack plan: fire-bombing the Washington Metro between the Capitol Hill and White House stations.

Now for the good news. U.S. agents and those of governments in Southeast Asia foiled a number of attacks planned by Jemaah Islamiah – they’re the radical group thought to have been behind the Bali bombing that killed 200 people – on U.S. and allied embassies and business interests.

The would-be bombers bought 4 tons of ammonium nitrate, four times the amount Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. It has not been recovered.

Britain’s smart dumb bomb

The Brits are about to start using a quite unconventional weapon to attack Iraqi military targets that have been placed in civilian neighborhoods: the concrete bomb. The hope is that this device will cut civilian casualties while still taking out military equipment.

These things are shaped like a bomb, weigh 1,000 pounds and are laser-guided to their targets. A half-ton of concrete landing on you probably could ruin your whole day, even if you’re in a tank.

The bombs are being painted blue so that cleanup crews will know they’re not real, unexploded bombs if some are found lying around afterward.

The Red Cross says hospital conditions are “terrible” in Baghdad

Anything that can cut civilian casualties will be welcome. The fighting has become so intense and the situation in Iraq so chaotic that it’s no longer possible to provide casualty figures that are even vaguely accurate, except for those among coalition troops.

The Red Cross reports that Baghdad’s hospitals are clogged and low on both water and anesthetics.

Probably most of those filling the hospitals are Iraqi troops. U.S. Central Command has given estimates of 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi combatant deaths in Baghdad, so there no doubt are hundreds of wounded. But there also undoubtedly are many civilian casualties.

At this writing, coalition military deaths stand at 80 Americans and 27 Britons. In addition, seven U.S. troops are prisoners of war and eight are missing in action.


Weapons of mass destruction: One of the latest finds of purported chemical weapons, at an agricultural facility near Karbala, may be pesticides. More detailed testing is being done. The jury is still out on another reported discovery: 20 missiles said to have chemical warheads. If there actually are any WMDs in Iraq, the U.S. seems to have decided they pose no threat after all: all Marines were told to discard their chemical-protection suits.

Pearl Jam: The Seattle grunge rockers are “are rejecting as media hype a report that there was a mass walkout by upset fans after lead singer Eddie Vedder impaled a mask of President Bush on a microphone stand during the encore."

Peter Arnett: Now he’s working for an Arab TV station. Maybe this helps explain his problem.

Posted by tbrown at April 8, 2003 07:15 AM

Tom Brown Katherine Long, research editor at the Seattle Times and 18-year editor and reporter, substituted for Tom Brown the week of April 14.

April 2003
March 2003

Signing off
The Saddam Files
Demonstrations in Karbala
Building a government from scratch
Smoking gun?
The irony of freedom
Where are the weapons?
Cultural advisors quit over antiquities issue
Baghdad reality check


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