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Building Security In Barwanah

U.S. Army Pfc. Kenneth Dickerson looks over a map with Cpl. Daniel Robert during a patrol in Barwanah, Iraq, July 29, 2006. Despite a recent rash of insurgent attacks, the Marines say they are making notable progress equipping the Iraqi army with the necessary skills to take over security operations in this city of 30,000 nestled along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roe F. Seigle
By Pamela Hess
Barwanah, Iraq (UPI) Mar 01, 2007
Lt. Col. John Glynn's 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, or 2/4, faces a situation in the town of Barwanah that it knows well -- being undermanned in a town where it is responsible for security. In 2004, the 2/4 was the sole battalion responsible for Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar. That city is now the battleground for nearly six battalions and they are making real strides in security.

The Barwanah area was scarred in late 2004 when U.S. forces were pulled out to fight twice in Fallujah. Many insurgents stayed to fight the Americans in Fallujah, but some of them left Fallujah and made their way up north to continue the fight. They killed those who had cooperated with the Americans, threatened others, and recruited fresh foot soldiers.

"With one battalion and the Iraqi security forces that we had here, the ability to affect insurgents' freedom of movement wasn't as great as we would have liked it," said Glynn.

The 2/4 came to Barwanah two and a half months ago, claiming for itself a patch of high ground just over a mile outside the city. It was not a random choice. The battalion's location is near a rocket and mortar launching point that insurgents use to attack the U.S. civil military operations center inside the town.

The battalion's camp location therefore denies the enemy use of the space. And it is just out of reach of mortars launched from the town. If the insurgents want to attack Camp Bastard, they have to come out in the open. They've already started; launches on successive nights bracketed the compound, and one hit a supply area.

Why they would fight for this ground in particular is hard to imagine. To call it a moonscape would be selling the moon short. Camp Bastard has all of the dust but none of the majesty. It is, literally, a dump.

Marines take perverse delight in such "austere" conditions, and then setting about to make them livable. There is a tall shower tent -- everyone is entitled to one good hot dousing every three days -- and Seabees are hard at work erecting plywood cabanas. In the meantime, the 2/4 lives in canvas tents shielded by sandbags and Hessco barriers, and huddle around dangerous looking kerosene stoves to keep warm on cold, clear desert nights.

They get two meals a day, cooked on camp stoves and served periodically by Glynn himself. They eat at plywood tables, carefully setting aside the little packs of sugar that come with their plastic utensils. These are for the Barwanans; sugar is hard to come by and necessary for the ubiquitous cups of sweet, hot tea they serve all their visitors. Glynn cannot give the Iraqis he works with money to make their lives easier, but he can offer these packs of sugar.

The 2/4, which never expected to get an area of operations of its own, has seen its deployment extended twice. The Marines do not complain, but they have paid a heartbreaking price.

On Feb. 7, just days after receiving their last extension order, a suicide bomber walked through a checkpoint and detonated his vest. Glynn was there with his colleague and close friend Sgt. Maj. Joseph Ellis, 40, the highest ranking enlisted officer in the battalion. Ellis extended his career to deploy one more time with the 2/4. He was to retire from the Marine Corps when this deployment ended.

Ellis was killed by the bomber, as was Marine Cpl. Jennifer Parcell, 20, two Iraqi policemen and an interpreter. Camp Bastard, a miserable rise in the landscape, came at a high price. It is now Camp Ellis.

earlier related report
Analysis: Iraq's Cincinnatus option
By Arnaud De Borchgrave - UPI Editor at Large Washington, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The late Peter Ustinov once remarked, "Terrorism is the war of the poor and war is the terrorism of the rich." The trouble in Iraq is that the poor have more staying power than the rich. The insurgency in Baghdad has gone to ground and doesn't plan to resurface until Gen. David Petraeus' lightning $6 billion surge of U.S. and Iraqi troops have swept through the capital and declared "mission accomplished."

With Iranian backing and thousands of tons of arms and ammo cached in Saddam Hussein's salad days, the insurgency can keep going for several more years. The United States cannot. So last weekend a gathering of the transatlantic mandarins of the "Realpolitik" clan gathered in Washington, albeit off the record, to dispense sage advice on an honorable exit from Iraq --and a geopolitical compromise that would obviate a military showdown with Iran.

Realpolitik is a policy of political realism, or the politics of the real world rather than politics based on theoretical, moral, or idealistic concerns. Which is a tall order in Iraq as the rationale for the invasion was a blend of all three.

With Ahmad Chalabi -- once described by his neocon friends as the best hope for democracy in Iraq, and now closer to Tehran than Washington -- moving back into the Iraqi political imbroglio, the realists see this as the institutionalization of corruption at the top. Chalabi is now supposed to serve as the intermediary between Baghdad residents and Iraqi and U.S. security forces whose main function is to assess how much compensation the U.S. should pay for damages caused to homes and automobiles by Petraeus' surge.

Chalabi is also in charge of "de-Baathification," an organization that has fired scores of thousands of Sunni civil servants -- adding to both the ranks of the unemployed and the insurgency. More recently, Chalabi claimed he had reversed course and taken back 14,000 Sunni civil servants. He also pledged when all is said and done more will have been said than done as only 1,500 former Baathists would be permanently excluded from government employment.

It was Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American head of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia, now lying low for the duration of the surge, who instructed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to create a post on adjudicating "reparations" owed by the Americans. At least that's what Maliki's entourage told some Iraqi reporters.

The realists now say the entire U.S.-built "democratic" infrastructure is rotten to the core. Ministers and former ministers absconded with millions of dollars. There is still no proper accounting for the over $30 billion a year derived from some two million barrels of oil pumped daily. There is also the unaccounted for $12 billion in $100 bills the U.S. trucked in behind the original invasion force to get the country moving again.

One Iraqi-born Iraqi expert among the "realpolitik"-ers said, not for attribution, there is only one way to save democracy in Iraq and that is by temporarily suspending it and getting a strongman to take over and declare martial law. "This potential Ataturk," he explained, "would have to be a former general known for his competence rather than his subservience to Saddam Hussein. There must be such a popular and friendly general that U.S. or Arab intelligence agencies know about. He could be in prison or in Syria or Beirut or even London. He might even be a general now in the insurgency underground. But he must be a man who understood all the details of the hidden persuaders of Saddam's control apparatus. His job would be to impose martial law and to get everything moving again through dictatorial edict and action. He should be given $5 billion to $10 billion to dispense as he sees fit to get the job done."

The Bush administration once considered the strongman solution (known as the Cincinnatus option, named after one of the heroes of early Rome five centuries BC, and a model of Roman virtue and simplicity) but rejected it. Potential candidates were presumably too strong -- or too weak.

The kind of action this prominent ex-Iraqi realist had in mind would "suspend or jail corrupt officials. Electricity should not only be brought back to Saddam levels but to uninterrupted 24/7 power. Oil revenue would have to be centralized under strict control and revenues allocated for urgent needs, such as health, hospitals, garbage collection and so forth." Insurgents would be given a week to surrender their weapons, or face execution if captured. In return, the martial law government would guarantee them a job.

What we call democracy in Iraq today is a parody; it's a kleptocracy. It cannot be reformed, this prominent Iraqi internationalist argued, and a coup by a non-sectarian strongman would be welcomed by most Iraqis who say life was less stressful with fewer hardships under Saddam Hussein.

Iraq needs a Kemal Ataturk ("father of all Turks"), the dictator that seized control of the dying Ottoman Sultanate in 1923, and single handedly cajoled and browbeat his country into the modern Western mold. His puritanical blend of secularism abolished the caliphate, closed religious schools, banned veils and fezes, purged Turkish of its Arabic alphabet. Three times since 1960, the army, as the guarantor of Ataturk's legacy, seized power to defend Turkey against terrorism of both the far left and far right.

If Bush concludes he cannot risk a freshly minted "Save Democracy" campaign in Iraq as Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls jostle for position at the starting gate, the entire experiment will flop and U.S. troops will come home to a failed mission. The line of least resistance is to kick the can down the presidential road, leaving an exit deal to the next administration. But the Democrats will ensure this won't happen.

The practioners of geopolitics, in their small offline huddles this past weekend, agreed the time had come for Bush to swallow his pride and accept a royal invitation to hold a tripartite summit in Riyadh -- with Iran.

The geopolitical realists said off the record this would be a propitious period for the three principal powers of the Gulf -- Iran, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. -- to hold a regional summit on Gulf security. Saudi King Abdullah would do the inviting. The only two invitees would be Bush and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who holds the real power over hothead Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All three have the biggest stakes in Gulf security, as well as legitimate security concerns.

A week ago, Mr. Bush said nothing could move until the mullahs first suspended uranium enrichment activities. After the weekend think tank palavers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rive made a 180-degree turn and said she would sit down shortly in Baghdad with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

Tehran's reading of the U.S. decision: Washington's two invasions achieved nothing beyond helping Iran's interests. Therefore, said Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and chairman of Iran's highest body, "the Americans are angry. So we must be more alert. They are like a wounded tiger, and we must not ignore this." Peace or war with Iran is still in the balance.

Source: United Press International

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When taking responsibility for the disastrous attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro with Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961, the newly-elected President John F. Kennedy commented "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." There is a growing consensus in Washington (and almost complete consensus in the world beyond) that the Iraq venture is looking like a serious strategic defeat for the United States. And this defeat will be no orphan.







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