Botched Attack on Basra: Maliki takes lessons from a master bungler

April 03, 2008 by susan
swans in v-formation

The snow that piled up here on Monday is melting away almost as quickly as it fell, and V-formations of tundra swans are squawking overhead on their way north. I should be outside basking in the warmth of this delayed bit of spring, but no. Here I sit, powerless over my need to know. My need to know what the hell's going on out there, the big out there, the frickin' political out there. As with most addictions, after the high of knowing comes the crash of --knowing.

Take today’s New York Times lead story: U.S. Cites Planning Gaps In Iraqi Assault on Basra. It describes all that went wrong with the recent Iraqi-led attack on the “insurgents” (aka, residents) of Basra, which was pretty much everything. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal a-Maliki is credited with the loss, impulsively leading an ill-prepared and ultimately bungled invasion, resulting in a cease-fire brokered by Iran, and further damaging his government's credibility and world-standing.

According to the Times, “Mr. Maliki overestimated his military’s abilities and underestimated the scale of the resistance. The Iraqi prime minister also displayed an impulsive leadership style that did not give his forces or that of his most powerful allies, the American and British military, time to prepare.

Sound familiar? There’s more.

"‘He went in with a stick and he poked a hornet’s nest, and the resistance he got was a little bit more than he bargained for,’ said one official in the multinational force in Baghdad who requested anonymity. ‘They went in with 70 percent of a plan. Sometimes that’s enough. This time it wasn’t.’”

Sort of like going to war with the army you have, not the army you want?

“In Baghdad, Mr. [Ambassador] Crocker lobbied senior officials in the Iraqi government, who complained that they had been excluded from Mr. Maliki’s decision-making on Basra, to back the prime minister’s effort there. ‘It was a unilateral decision by Maliki,’ said an American official familiar with the session. ‘It was a fait accompli.’”

Hmmm. Crocker as Colin Powell? And is that a Dick Cheney sort of fait accompli?

“But if Mr. Maliki was determined to act, General Petraeus advised him not to rush into a fight without carefully sizing up the situation and making adequate preparations, the official said.

Gen. Petraeus steps in to the Gen. Shinseki role?

“‘We strongly encouraged him to use his most substantial weapon, which is money, to announce major jobs programs, Basra cleanup, whatnot,’ Mr. Crocker said.”

Whatnot indeed. Imagine if Mr. Crocker and Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Condi had thought of this before spending billions in Iraq on the bombing and killing sort of whatnot.

If we want to win nations to our side, why not just go in and paper their country with greenbacks without bombing them first? Build them schools and hospitals and roads and give them all jobs, but leave the guns at home. Imagine what could have been done with $12 billion a month.

Come to think of it, imagine what could be done at home with $12 billion a month dedicated to winning our own people back to our side? To give them a government they can trust, a healthcare system that works, schools that teach more than test, bridges that hold up, jobs that provide more than a scrape-by wage. And leave the weapons out of that plan as well.

And if money is our most substantial weapon, why are the tax-averse Republicans so intent on not using any of it at home? Isn't that the ultimate home security?

I'm going to go out and listen to the tundra swans. At least some things in this country are headed in the right direction.

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Arthur (not verified) | April 3, 2008 - 4:14pm

Not much is clear about what is going on in Iraq except, of course, the reality of Bush running out the clock on his watch. Many Republicans may be hoping that we elect a Democratic president so they can blame the Democrats for "losing" Iraq when the U. S. troops draw down over the next few years. Interestingly, few in the media are asking McCain, if he is clearly opposed to "surrender," how will he know when we have "won" the war?


susan | April 3, 2008 - 6:06pm

Yes, just as there was the consolation in 2004 of knowing that Bushco would have to finish up the mess they started. But of course, should have known they'd just keep it going. And the surge is "working" for George Bush by running the clock a little longer.
And your question is a good one. How will we know when we have "won"? Define victory in Iraq. All candidates should be asked to answer this.


barbara writes (not verified) | April 3, 2008 - 9:14pm

"If we want to win nations to our side, why not just go in and paper their country with greenbacks without bombing them first?"

Maybe we'd have greater success with Euros. (((snark)))


leftymn (not verified) | April 4, 2008 - 7:30am

not much is clear about what is going on in Iraq because our government and a compliant media is not reporting the true story that is going on.

What is going on is a civil war for control of the country. There are 3 to 4 players. 2 large Shiite factions, a grouping of many Sunni factions , and finally a Kurdish minority in the North.
The USA is inextricably linked to Al Maliki and the current government of Iraq. The main problem with this is that the current government was put in power without the participation of the Sunni minority or the largest Shiite faction(Sadrists) who more or less boycotted the elections.

There are 2 major Shiite factions. One is the SCIRI led by the Al Hakim family, the other is the Sadrists controlled by Muqtadr al Sadr. Both have their own militia wings.

The mindboggling thing is that Bush/Cheney official policy is obviously anti Iran. However we are completely allied with Al Maliki who is allied with SCIRI. SCIRI is essentially an Iranian supported group. Al Maliki plays both the USA and Iran to maintain his power.

so last week when American special forces fought with Iraqi army forces in Basra they were also fighting side by side with SCIRI forces (called the Badr corps) , in other words America was fighting for the Iranian backed faction in IRaq.

The American media needs a leader to demonize as usual. They lost Saddam Hussein; because Sadr has the look of a wild mullah (note the MSM always describes him as the "radical Shiite leader") he has become the demon du jour.

Sadr is no angel, however Sadr represents a more Iraqi nationalist Shiite movement. They are anti Baath, anti-sunni, and Anti- American. They are also not directly financed by Iran, this is because their main interest is an Iraqi national identity. Hence they welcomed the American overthrow of the Baath and Saddam who persecuted them, but they also view American staying in Iraq as an occupation.

The MSM prefers to deal in sound bite slogans such as "the surge" , and to have a colorful leader (Sadr) to demonize. The problem is that the situation is much much more complex than that. ( and I havent even discussed the co-opting and arming of radical Sunni groups in Western Iraq, and the separatist ambitions of the oil rich Kurds in the North)

I always recommend Prof. Juan Cole's blog "Informed Comment". Cole has consistently been acutely correct in his analysis. He gleans his info from a wide amount of Arabic sources in Iraq.