Random reflections on the second gulf war. The author is based in Kuwait, Persian Gulf.
Kuwait – March 20, 2003|
From the sands of time……
I reflect back on the aphorisms from the Santi Parva, the twelfth book of the great Indian epic and the world’s longest verse, The Mahabharata. The sages who wrote the epic five thousand years ago, were concerned with eternal values, not the shifting morals and ethics of a particular age and the strategies for success remain much the same today as they were in those times. Here are some transliterations (Sanskrit) of the aphorisms that come to mind.
Victory acquired by battle is inferior. Victory achieved by battles are not spoken of highly by the wise.
Collision in battle is not desirable as long as it can be avoided. The policy of conciliation, producing dissention and making of gifts should be employed first. Battle should come afterwards.
Vrihaspati ( Jupiter) said that a king possessed of intelligence should always avoid war for the acquisition of territory. The acquisition of dominions should be made by three well known means: that of conciliation, gift and disunion.
The six essential requisites of sovereignty are…. Peace with a foe who is stronger, war with one of equal strength, invasion of the dominions of one who is weaker…………
These teachings are very close to those of the Chinese warrior/philosopher Sun Tsu writing The Art of War, two thousand years ago, or Machiavelli the Florentine political strategist (The Prince – 15th century), or, Miyamoto Mushashi (The Book of Five Rings-- 17th century) the Japanese master swordsman.
Listening to the debates that preceded the 48 hour ultimatum, it seemed that most of the world agreed with these tenets. But then, some didn’t.
We felt safe in Kuwait and it was work as usual. Those with known links to the Al Quaida and those who had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Afghan action, had already been rounded up. There were over-head surveillance cameras placed all over the city, on top of tall poles, buildings and these were monitoring all activities and movements. These cameras are more sophisticated than the traffic cameras that we are all used to. We were safe.
But diplomacy had failed. The foundations of international law had been brought into question. Preemptive action, as a tool of enforcing a country’s will on another has been made acceptable. If I only ‘think’ that someone is going to harm me, then I can take action without waiting for proof. To my mind, a critical reason for the failure of diplomacy is the state of the weather in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq. Waiting for another 30-45 days would have meant that the temparature would have crossed 100 degres F. There is no way that a ground assult can be made by western troops in such temperatures. By mid May going into June, the temperature would cross 117 degrees F here in Kuwait. A delay of 45 days would have meant that the campaign would have had to be postponed till October and the tactical advantage would have been lost by then.
Thus war had already been decided on and diplomacy had been given only half a chance. The results of this will unfold as the days go by.
The 48 hour ultimatum from the US president Bush to Saddam Hussein to go into exile or face war ran out last night. I woke up to an eerie dawn in the aftermath of a desert dust storm. I started out the way I do every morning. A nice warm water bath, a light breakfast and I hit Expressway 30 by 6.45 am on my way to office in Kuwait City. One of the first things that I do when I get out of the house is to wear my dark glasses to be able to see in the strong glare of the Arabian desert sunlight. But today was different. Particles of dust hung around everywhere. The breeze had died down and the dust wouldn’t go away. There was dust everywhere. You could look directly at the sun through the thick haze. The sun looked like the moon. Yes, there was something different about today. The traffic was the same. There was the same traffic snarl near the 5th Ring Road. The women drivers and young shebabs in their Mercs, Lexus and BMWs, were driving as badly as ever. But, something was different.
I was in office by 7.15 but before I could reach my room, I saw my colleagues going into the conference room and huddle around the TV.
“Forget work. Come and watch the news,” a colleague dragged me into the conference room. “ Bush tried to assasinate Saddam and the Iraqi leadership.”
CNN was on and so was Iraqi television. They were going on about the ‘human intelligence’ that the CIA had presented on a meeting of the Iraqi leadership. “ A window of opportunity,” said Jim Clancy of CNN from a neibouring building in Kuwait City from where he was broadcasting. The US had used the precision smart bombs that can pinpoint and take out anything within 3 meteres of the target. They had only got a customs building. Saddam was still alive.
Iraqi television was vituperating on the “ illegal actions of ‘little Bush’, the stupid leader of a clever people.” So the show had begun.
“ Nothing will happen here in Kuwait,” said my Arab friend with some finality. “This time we are well prepared. Those Iraqis are not invading Kuwait like ’91. The Americans are invading Iraq. They will protect us, inshalla.”
For our colleages in a neighboring bank, all their annual leaves had been cancelled. “If you go back now, you have no jobs to come back to,” they had been told. Most western expatriates had already gone. We heard that two Canadians had resigned from the treasury and were on their way back home.
“Chicken,” they said in a taunting tone. “It will all be over in two days. These Americans have hitech army and firepower which will smash these Iraqis in no time. Two days, I tell you. You are absolutely safe here and we do have our tested contingency plans.”
And then, there were the lies and bravado. A British expatriate who had left Kuwait was interviewed on British TV as he landed at London’s Heathrow airport. He calmly told his audience that the supermarkets and shelves in Kuwait were empty. There was nothing that you could get. Apparently, he had not been able to get a packet of cigarettes. We listened with disbelief. There were no shortages anywhere. The markets were overflowing with goods. But then, this was ‘his’ moment in the sun, even if he had to lie to get there. Human nature…………oh…
Back in my room, I switched on my PC. I had to work on a report within a deadline, but I found it difficult to concentrate. I just stared at the blank screen procrastinating. I just could not get my thoughts down. I surfed the net for all the news that I could get and sent an email to my wife in India. I concluded that I had indeed done a wise thing by sending my family off to India. That way I would need to worry only about myself. I got a reminder on my PC for a meeting in 30 minutes on the 14th floor, and as I prepared the documents to take to the meeting, I stared out over the waters of the Arabian Gulf (Persian gulf). Visibility was poor today and the skyscrapers of the central business district surrounding Safat square looked like ghostly apparitions floating in the thick haze of suspended dust.
……….. but how can this happen? This was not ‘supposed’ to happen.
Half an hour into our meeting, engrossed in the technicalities of project implementation, the air raid sirens started wailing the danger signal and the first Al Samoud missiles smashed into Kuwait. With practiced precision, we switched off the PC, closed our desk drawers and headed down the stairwell into the shelter in the basement. Offices closed and as soon as the all-clear siren was heard, we headed towards the car park.
We went past some women weeping in fear and talking animatedly on cell phones with their loved ones at home. They were expecting the much awaited ‘massive’ coalition attack against Iraq. Instead they were at the receiving end of long range Scud missiles. For the first time I saw fear in civilian eyes in Kuwait.
I got into my car and tried to get into Expressway 45. I saw a massive traffic jam with people trying to get home and away from center city. There was no way that I’d be able to drive down the usual route that I take to drive down to my home in Salwa, a suburb of Kuwait City. Slowly, I managed to meander into Expressway 30. It took an hour to just get into the expressway. There were police checkposts at street corners. For some reason they were wearing blue uniforms ( not their usual uniforms) and carrying automatic weapons. There was bumper to bumper traffic even on the expressway. As I reached home after a long slow drive, the air raid sirens started wailing again. They would wail nine times in Kuwait on the first day of the second gulf war. Ten scud missiles would be fired in regular intervals. Some would be intercepted by Patriot missiles fired in defence from Kuwait. Others would come very close to the US marine camps in Northern Kuwait and to the oil fields of Kuwait. At least one would fall close to a civilian residential area.
Images of Day One.
President Bush addresses the American nation, saying that he is going to war to prevent the horrors seen on 9/11 on American soil. The war would be a long and difficult one.
Relatives and friends of 9/11 victims publicly state that they were not convinced of any links between the Iraqi regime and the terror attacks on 9/11.
Saddam Hussein appears on Iraqi TV wearing brown reading glasses, looking haggard, stressed out but still alive.
The Iraqi Interior minister on BBC, in battle fatigues brandishing a Kalashnikov, venting anger at the invading forces. Defiance personified. Rhetoric and propaganda answered by propaganda and rhetoric.
US Congressman interviewed on Fox, says that the United Nations has become so irrelevant, that they should be thrown out of the US and the UN building in New York, sold as a piece of real estate.
Three oil fields set ablaze by the Iraqis, triggering a change of tactical battle plans forcing a ground movement through Southern Iraq prior to full scale air attacks, to stop the mobile Scud launchers and the burning of further oil assets.
The crash of a coalition helicopter kills eight British soldiers and four US marines.
The initial retreat of the allied forces moving towards the port of Umm Qasr where they face unexpected resistance.
___ ____ ____ _____ _____
As midnight arrived, the world waited in quiet anticipation for the unleashing of US might, for the pyrotechnics of operation ‘Shock and Awe’ over Bagdad. Perhaps tomorrow.
Meanwhile stock yourself with popcorn, arm yourself with beer and wine; prepare for the TV war on your doorstep.
|And now, from the horses mouth, listen in on how the war 15 years ago, was based on carefully concoted lies. Have the lessons from the Iraq war been learned? Seems not!
Here is a link from the NEW YORK TIMES
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/ 02/05/opinion/trump-iran-war. html?partner=rss&emc=rss
I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again.
By LAWRENCE WILKERSON
FEB. 5, 2018
Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, took to the podium at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when “we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.”
Following Mr. Powell’s presentation on that cold day, I considered what we had done. At the moment, I thought all our work was for naught — and despite his efforts we did not gain substantial international buy-in. But polls later that day and week demonstrated he did convince many Americans. I knew that was why he was chosen to make the presentation in the first place: his standing with the American people was more solid than any other member of the Bush administration.
President Bush would have ordered the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.
That effort led to a war of choice with Iraq — one that resulted in catastrophic losses for the region and the United States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East.
This should not be forgotten today for a clear reason: The Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false choice that war is the only way to address the challenges presented by Iran.
Just over a month ago, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen. Just like Mr. Powell, Ms. Haley showed satellite images and other physical evidence only available to the United States intelligence community to prove her case. But the evidence fell significantly short.
It’s astonishing how similar these moments are to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. And how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those of Bush-Cheney. As I watched Ms. Haley at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I wanted to play the video of Mr. Powell on the wall behind her, so that Americans could recognize instantly how they were being driven down the same path as in 2003 — ultimately to war. Only this war with Iran — a country of almost 80 million people, whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain makes it a far greater challenge than Iraq — would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.
If we want a slightly more official statement of the Trump administration’s plans for Iran, we need only look at the recently released National Security Strategy, which says: “The longer we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, the worse such threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have.” The Bush-Cheney team could not have said it better as it contemplated invading Iraq.
The strategy positions Iran as one of the greatest threats America faces, much the same way President Bush framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran, one has to wonder where team Trump gets its ideas.
Though Ms. Haley’s presentation missed the mark, and no one other than the national security elite will even read the strategy, it won’t matter. We’ve seen this before: a campaign built on the politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the case for war. And the American people have apparently become so accustomed to executive branch warmongering — approved almost unanimously by the Congress — that such actions are not significantly contested.
So far, news organizations have largely failed to refute false narratives coming out of the Trump White House on Iran. In early November, media outlets latched onto claims by unnamed American officials that newly released documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound represented “evidence of Iran’s support of Al Qaeda’s war with the United States.”
It’s a vivid reminder of Vice President Dick Cheney’s desperate attempts in 2002-2003 to conjure up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s relationship with Al Qaeda from detainees at Guantánamo Bay. It harks back to the C.I.A. director George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was ironclad in the lead-up to his United Nations presentation. Today, we know how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.
Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran, while taking money from hawks like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, who have made clear what their goals are with Iran.
It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.
The Trump administration’s case for war with Iran ranges much wider than Ms. Haley’s work. We should include the president’s decertification ultimatum in January that Congress must “fix” the Iran nuclear deal, despite the reality of Iran’s compliance; the White House’s pressure on the intelligence community to cook up evidence of Iran’s noncompliance; and the administration’s choosing to view the recent protests in Iran as the beginning of regime change. Like the Bush administration before, these seemingly disconnected events serve to create a narrative in which war with Iran is the only viable policy.
As I look back at our lock-step march toward war with Iraq, I realize that it didn’t seem to matter to us that we used shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence; that it was unrealistic to argue that the war would “pay for itself,” rather than cost trillions of dollars; that we might be hopelessly naïve in thinking that the war would lead to democracy instead of pushing the region into a downward spiral.
The sole purpose of our actions was to sell the American people on the case for war with Iraq. Polls show that we did. Mr. Trump and his team are trying to do it again. If we’re not careful, they’ll succeed.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who teaches at the College of William & Mary, was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.
|All that I was saying in this diary from the time this war started has been succinctly put by an American war veteran. Very powerful.
Here's the link:
|During war, one side meets the other. Some do not necessarily fight. They fall for each other with the love bug. But, there is more to it. This can be used for espionage, for betrayal and a number of issues can be raked up.
There is an article that I found on the subject. Here it is. Read on.
MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR
American soldiers marrying Iraqi women and the romances of US generals reveal the ties that bind love and war, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya in The Telegraph, Calcutta.
War brings about celebration for the victor, despair for the vanquished, frustration for the retreating troops and rejuvenation for the advancing troops. However, it appears that these conventional situations have not affected the commanders of the army of the United States of America. How else can one define the profound role non-combatant women have played in spoiling the reputations of at least two top US generals? Interestingly, there seems to be a common factor between American soldiers and their generals. They seem to be equally adept at handling love affairs as well as fighting in hostile terrain. If one were to turn the pages of history, one would find that the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, had warned during the Iraq war in 2003 that “We are in for a long, hard test of wills and we have to be prepared to meet that.” Within hours, however, what may have gone unnoticed was the news of a serious breach of discipline within the ranks of the army in a zone of conflict.
The adage, “Make love not war”, has become a reality with two American soldiers facing charges of dereliction of duty after they decided to convert to Islam and marry Iraqi Muslim women in defiance of orders. For the two soldiers — sergeant Sean Blackwell and corporal Brett Dagen — it was indeed a case of ‘love at first sight’ with ‘women translators’. Their sense of duty, loyalty and professionalism was allegedly compromised when they got bitten by the love bug. It is possible that they will be punished with a jail sentence or dismissed.
Different people may raise different questions on the matter. An outsider will ponder whether a soldier ought to get married to a woman hailing from the ‘enemy’ camp during a war. For the American commanders, the issue centers around the following aspect: how can soldiers on duty marry in full view of hostile people, flouting the orders of superiors in the process?
To make matters more complicated, the women, too, have been derided for deciding to marry members of the enemy forces. They have thus been accused as collaborators. The two marriages, solemnized on the banks of the Tigris, had opened a veritable front of psychological tug-of-war between the command and the combat soldier, jeopardizing the time-tested code of conduct and ethics that are supposed to be followed in a war zone.
The indiscretions of the top generals, however, do not pertain to marriage. Apart from embarrassing the US administration acutely, their shenanigans have also raised several questions — how did the generals get smitten? Unlike the soldiers, they do not have to face bullets from snipers or improvised explosive devices while on patrol. Neither do they have to sleep in cramped camps. It is understandable when troops — separated from home, denied hospitable conditions and under constant threat of hostile fire from enemy bazookas — fall head over heels in love with women. But this is not only an instance of the heart winning a battle against the head. It also reflects the loneliness of the men who are a part of the theater of war. The lines become blurred, and this leads to errors in judgment. Consequently, one ends up losing one’s honour, self-respect and achievements in a flash.
Undoubtedly, the generals are in the wrong. But that is what happens during war. History is replete with instances of enemies tying knots when violence is at its height. The discredited soldiers and generals may have lost their faces but they can take solace from the fact that such violations of the code of conduct are neither unique nor unprecedented. The mightiest of combatants have not been able to resist such temptations in the midst of war.
If American combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan care to turn the pages of Indian history, they would discover that the tradition of marrying the enemy’s daughters had been followed by several rulers in South Asia. The American soldiers will be enlightened by the fact that the Kshatriyas — the so-called ‘warrior’ caste of India — often chose their brides by showing their martial prowess or by presenting themselves in full battle regalia in the courts of kings. On such occasions, the princesses would choose one warrior and garland him on her own volition. For the Kshatriyas, this was akin to winning the lottery. For instance, it was Rama’s ‘prowess’ that helped him win public approval as well as Sita’s hands. Rajput rulers from central India were known to have forcibly abducted and married women belonging to the enemy. Muslim rulers have also been known to resort to coercive tactic.
Although the American soldiers and generals have faced something that is an integral part of conflict, there is little doubt that the ‘erring’ combatants are likely to face censure and ignominy. Things would take a turn for the worse if the women are found to be involved in espionage. However, some questions need to be raised in this context. Why is the US so perturbed? Can the State come in the way of a soldier’s personal life? What is the big deal about the love lives of soldiers?
The marriage of American soldiers to Iraqi women and the love stories of the generals in combat zone contain all the ingredients of melodrama. These developments bring to light issues associated with our ideas of love, security, patriotism and human rights. The administrative machinery seems determined to find faults with the combatants. But what remains true is that generals and soldiers do not go to war to seek love. They go to war to fight.
|President Obama has been re-elected for another 4 years promising continuity with foreign policy. While he was originally an opponent of the war in Iraq, his views did undergo some fluctuation when in power. America finally withdrew in December 2011. So, is Iraq more stable now? What do Iraqis think of American policy?
I reproduce an article on the endgame from the New York Times.
The final episode is an anticlimax. Nine years after the start of the war and this narrative, US troops make their final withdrawal, leaving a country that is still unstable, suffering from sectarian conflicts (no fault of the US of course) and is under Iranian influence. A country that was secular is moving in the direction of religious sectarian politics through 'democracy'. I do not hold the US responsible for the internal problems of Shia-Sunni historical disputes or the larger Saudi(Sunni)-Iran (Shia) middle eastern power equations, but given the 'think tanks' in the US and the brain power of its universities, I would have thought that they would have been aware of the risks of going in directly into Iraq. They were very naive to think that they were going in for 'regime change' and to neutralize 'weapons of mass destruction' that were never found. I have argued and reported against direct intervention in these columns since the war began, and I think the US authorities were naive to underestimate the complexities on the ground. I recall George W Bush declaring victory as soon as US troops reached Baghdad from Kuwait. I wonder what that ' victory' was all about. Was there ever one?
Given the Arab Spring all over this part of the world and with dictators falling like nine pins all around and given what we saw in Libya, perhaps it would have been better if, like the Libyans, NATO had provided air cover and allowed Iraqis themselves to overthrow Saddam. But, that's with the benefit of hindsight.
In terms of life, the US has lost around 5000 servicemen excluding the toll on other coalition partners. Iraq has had more than 100 000 military and civilian casualties. There have been extremist attacks that have killed innocents in coalition countries like the UK, Italy and Spain. The war has cost the US treasury billions of dollars of tax payers money and has exponentially increased the budget deficit that has added to the financial crisis with the prospect of cut backs on essential government spending at home.
As I had said when I had started this thread, war is always a second best solution with the most uncertain of end results. I wonder if it has all been worth it for Americans. Doesn't look like it from the trenches of the Great Recession and the accelerated movement of power from the West to the East.
One thing is for certain, the days of preemptive military attacks is perhaps, a thing of the past and finishes with the war in Iraq.
US President Barack Obama has marked the end of the Iraq war by applauding the "extraordinary achievement" of US troops in a conflict he firmly opposed.
In a speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he paid tribute to the soldiers who served and died in the war, and their families.
The last US soldiers are expected to withdraw from Iraq within days.
Republicans have criticized the pullout citing concerns over Iraq's stability, but most Americans support the move.
In Wednesday's speech, President Obama - who owes his presidency in part to his opposition to the Iraq war - hailed the bravery of US troops during the nearly nine-year conflict.
"Tomorrow the colours of the United States Forces Iraq, the colors you fought under, will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad," said Mr. Obama, who was on his first visit to Fort Bragg. "Then they'll begin their journey across an ocean back home.
"As your commander in chief and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words - welcome home, welcome home, welcome home," he told thousands of cheering troops in an airplane hangar.
Mr Obama announced in October that all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, a date previously agreed by former President George W Bush in 2008.
'Heads held high'
The last combat troops departed in August last year.
Mr Obama - who was joined by his wife Michelle, an active veterans' advocate - told the troops the US was leaving Iraq with "heads held high".
Some 1.5 million Americans had served in Iraq, nearly 4,500 had died and 30,000 had been wounded, Mr Obama said, adding that "those numbers don't tell the whole story of Iraq".
Recalling the roadside bombs and sniper attacks of the insurgency, he said: "Everything that American troops have done in Iraq, all the fighting and dying, bleeding and building, training and partnering, has led us to this moment of success."
"The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages," he added.
US troop numbers in Iraq peaked at around 170,000 during the height of the so-called surge strategy in 2007, but as of this week only about 5,500 remain.
President Obama has framed the withdrawal as a promise kept from his 2008 election campaign. During his bid for the White House, he stood as the anti-war candidate and emphasized the need to bring troops home and rebuild a troubled economy.
The conflict, launched by the Bush administration in March 2003, became hugely unpopular as claims that President Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction and supporting al-Qaeda militants turned out to be untrue.
Mr Obama said the war had been "a source of great controversy here at home, with patriots on both sides of the debate".
He acknowledged it was not perfect, but said they were leaving behind "a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people".
A strong Iraq?
The US president also assured troops he was committed to ensuring veterans find the jobs and resources they need back home.
"You stood up for America; now America must stand up for you," he said.
The unemployment rate for former US servicemen and women over the past decade has been higher than the national average.
The speech was not without political significance. Mr Obama narrowly won North Carolina in the 2008 election.
On Tuesday, he was joined by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in Washington as he said the US would continue to support Iraq. However, there are concerns in Washington that Iraq lacks robust political structures or an ability to defend its borders. There are also fears that Iraq could be plunged back into sectarian bloodletting, or be unduly influenced by Iran.
Nonetheless, a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 75% of Americans backed the troop withdrawal.
This is more than a little awkward, intellectually. He is papering over the cracks between what he has always thought and what he has to say to the country”
Mark Mardell BBC North America editor
Kim Ghattas BBC News, Washington
This was a war that Barack Obama never wanted, and now he's brought it to a close.
As a state senator, he had called the conflict "dumb". But as commander in chief, he has paid tribute to the sacrifices of the military.
In Fort Bragg, he told the troops their fighting and dying had not been in vain. It had led to what he said was this moment of success. They were leaving behind a country that was not perfect but Iraq was now stable, led by its own people.
There was no Mission Accomplished banner like the one unfurled by his predecessor, President George W Bush, in May 2003, before the insurgency got under way.
But this was almost a victory lap, if only because Mr Obama had promised as a presidential candidate that he would bring all the troops home, and now he has.
His critics, however, say the withdrawal is premature and will endanger Iraq's very fragile democracy.
|Seven years after the Second Gulf war in Iraq, the suicide bombers are still in action. 61 people were killed yesterday at an army recruitment center. The Al Qaida seems to be making a comeback and Iraq is suffering from an indecisive election which has put pressure on the fault lines between the Shia - Sunni sectarian divide, which the Coalition had little clue of, before the invasion of Iraq despite high profile think tanks advising the Bush-Blair administration.
Tony Blair’s heart is currently bleeding but not enough to melt and Blair’s about to be released book gesture has sparked jeers in Britain. The former Prime Minister’s memoirs, A Journey, are due to be published by Random House on September 1.2010. Tony Blair has announced that he will donate the proceeds from his memoirs to an army charity.
Blair has been bluntly told by his critics that “no proportion of his massive and ill-gotten fortune can buy him innocence or forgiveness”. For Blair, who won three successive general elections, he is finding it virtually impossible to convince the majority of the British people of his good faith in taking the country to war against Iraq. His spokesman announced yesterday that he was donating all the profits from his forthcoming memoirs to a new sports center for injured troops. He was handing over his reported £4.6-million advance, as well as any royalties. A statement on the ex-Prime Minister’s website disclosed: “Tony Blair decided on leaving office that he would donate the proceeds of his memoirs to a charity for the Armed Forces as a way of marking the enormous sacrifice they make for the security of our people and the world.”
The statement added: “We have been consulting with a number of people and organizations to decide the best support he can give. There is one project consistently highlighted — the British Royal Legion’s Battle Back Challenge Center.” The director-general of the Royal British Legion, Chris Simpkins, said the organization was obviously “delighted to accept this very generous donation”.
But the Stop the War Coalition is far from pacified: “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the pointless death of hundreds of British soldiers and hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians. No amount of money will wash their blood from his hands.” Relatives of Iraq war casualties branded the donation “too little too late”.
Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in 2004, commented: “I don’t think the man has a conscience because he has never apologized. He’s never come out and actually apologized to the families and kids who have lost loved ones. I think he is doing this just now to make people think he has changed his opinion on the forces.”
And thus, Iraq continues as a putrid wound in the collective consciousness, whatever reason might have been given justifying the war. A combination of arrogance and ignorance is indeed deadly, despite feeling of intense remorse years down the line. Or, are they simply crocodile tears? The consequences of death and destruction can never be reversed. Except in fiction, there are no convenient time machines.
THE QUIET CAT
|Recent events have vindicated my views expressed in 2003 when I wrote the diary during the days of the second Gulf War. I heard the news of Obama's election with a sense of huge relief. The world was perhaps becoming a better place. The mad years were finally behind us. After the pseudo intellectualism and spin of the neo-cons that had put wool over the eyes of the American public, great hope has been generated around the world by the election of Barack Obama. He not only has genuinely intelligent people backing him, but he is a genuine intellectual himself. His world view coincides to a large extent with the points that were made in these posts years ago -- that there was no Al Qaida in Iraq, that the epicenter of terrorism and the training camps were in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that American was fighting the ‘wrong’ war.
Much has been made of the wrong 'intelligence' of the weapons of mass destruction without which, perhaps, the US would not have gone to war. Less has been said about who actually fed the misinformation to the US agencies. We should understand that Saddam Hussein had suppressed the majority Shias in Iraq for a long time through brutal force and there were opposing forces that were trying to topple him, unsuccessfully. The opposition, including Iraqis living in exile, needed a great force to fight on their side. So they conned the US into getting into a war with the bogey of the weapons of mass destruction. Of course there weren't any. It is still painful to remember those days when Colin Powel was made to give 'evidence' to the United Nations on the discovery of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, when the UN itself had reached the conclusion that there were none. Do revisit these posts on the drama of trying to discredit the UN weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix. They were replaced by American weapons inspectors who only confirmed the findings of the UN weapons inspectors. Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi had the last laugh. Their objective of the removal of Saddam Hussein had been achieved with the money from the ordinary US taxpayer.
The US has been made to spend billions of dollars of US tax payers money in the Iraq war that has taken the country from a budget surplus during the Clinton years to the significant deficits of the Bush era funded mainly by the Chinese. It does not take great intellectual understanding and insight to conclude threat the current financial crisis is the result and culmination of the Bush era policies, especially the long periods of very low interest rates to support the war, that ultimately led to the real estate bubble and the subsequent collapse from the sub-prime mortgage blow up. The recession (officially accepted as GDP contraction for two consecutive quarters) that has followed affects not only Americans but the whole world, as the links through globalization have strengthened over the years. Europe has suffered the most and Asia has been affected to a lesser extent. If global economic trends were anything to go by, the balance of economic power that was gradually shifting to the South led by the rise of the BRIC ( Brazil, Russia, India, China – as coined by Goldman Sachs) countries led by China, has gained pace. The chain effect of the Bush policies has only accelerated this trend, as the Western world struggles with a recession expected to last two to three years with growth rates of zero to two percent in North America, Europe and Japan, while China grows at 8% annually. It's going to be a long and painful road ahead, but, there is now real hope instead of fear. We must learn the lessons from the history that we have all lived through while we swung with the wild pendulum.
|Britsh International Development Secretary Clare Short quit the government of Tony Blair in protest. BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr talked to her about her reasons for quitting.
Andrew Marr: The reason you gave for quitting was what had happened in the preparation of the draft UN resolution in which Britain's been involved. You said that Mr Blair had breached the assurances you'd been given. What were those assurances?
Clare Short: Well when he took quite a lot of trouble to persuade me to stay in the government he knew I think there were very serious mistakes made in the run up to the outbreak of conflict. But I decided to stay, as he requested, to lead the UK effort on the humanitarian and reconstruction. It was good that bad regime had fallen and the right thing to do whatever the mistakes in the run up was to help rebuild Iraq and that was on the understanding that the UN would have its proper role in the reconstruction of Iraq. The coalition are occupying powers under the Geneva Convention and the Hague regulations. They have no sovereign authority and they have no authority in absolutely agreed international law to bring into being a legitimate Iraqi government. The only body in the international system that can do that is the UN Security Council. What we need is the UN Security Council resolution to bring into being an interim government - exactly as we did for Afghanistan - it's not controversial, we know how to do it. But this mood of antagonism to the UN is particularly prevalent in the US and the UK and Spain have now joined up with a resolution that is shameful that breaches that understanding, that breaches the proper arrangements that I think creates the danger of continuing divisions in the international community, weakening of the UN and makes more difficult the reconstruction of Iraq. It's indefensible in my view and I can't do my job of trying to help with the reconstruction of Iraq when I don't believe in the legality or the wisdom of the position the UK Government is taking in the Security Council. And what is more the position we're taking there was agreed by a tiny number of people in Whitehall - the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister - a tiny number of officials. Other departments that are involved in the responsibilities of humanitarian and reconstruction of Iraq - not consulted - not just me as an individual - top senior Whitehall officials - this is a very bad way of doing things and it leads to mistakes and I can't defend it.
Q: And on the specific point then - you were given assurances that this is not what would happen and those assurances, you believe, have been broken to you?
A: That's right, I do. I mean when I had the conversation with the prime minister, he was saying - oh, but the UN has a role - but I mean, I think that's fudge around words. I think the legalities are clear and I think they're being breached.
Q: You also then referred to these private negotiations that took place in which people like you were excluded and many others, you say, besides. You describe them as secret negotiations. The evidence presumably you have for that is simply that this piece of paper appeared, did it and you haven't been involved at all? Or all these people haven't been involved in its construction?
A: We knew it was going on - and this isn't just my department, it's other departments in Whitehall - very senior officials and other secretaries of state and ministers were excluded. In fact the final irony - there was a ministerial meeting at which senior officials were present and it was suggested that the resolution might be circulated around the table. But the Foreign Secretary decided not to. But it was already on the BBC website. So we've got so much secrecy in Whitehall now that the BBC can share to the world things that senior officials, responsible for the day-to-day operation of UK policy in Iraq, were not included.
Q: From your point of view, is this situation retrievable? Can this resolution - will it get through? Can it be changed sufficiently?
A: I think it's unlikely that it will get through. But I think everyone's in a dilemma now. All responsible people want the international community to reunite, the authority of the UN to be reinstated for Iraq and for other issues across the world which we badly need in this disorderly world we're living in now. And I think the UK, as a friend of America with strong historical bonds should have been helping the US - bruised as it is after September 11th - to come back to the reasonableness of the international community rather than colluding in the mistakes that are continuing to be made that endanger future bitterness and division and marginalisation of the UN that really risks order in the world for all of us. I think these are very serious mistakes.
Q: You do realise that an awful lot of people are going to listen to you speaking like this - as they did a couple of months of ago speaking before the war -and say if this woman believes now what she believed then and believes it so passionately, what on earth was she doing staying in government throughout the progress of the war?
A: I'm absolutely clear that it was honourable to stay - difficult but honourable. My position was always with those who said, we needed a second UN resolution - not no war at any price but we should do this thing properly but yes we needed to deal with the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime and the fact that it was defying the UN. I think the way in which the run up was handled meant a second Security Council resolution was impossible. But there we were - it's a brutal regime, our troops were on the ground, the conflict was unstoppable because the official opposition was voting with the government, the prime minister was asking me to stay, as were aide agencies and other people in the world in order to work on the reconstruction. And I said, I regret how we got here but I always accepted it might be necessary to use force to back up the authority of the UN. The right thing to do now is to get the conflict over as quickly as possible and support the people of Iraq in reconstructing their country.
Q: But I mean, you were put in a very difficult position weren't you? Because every time I heard you interviewed, you sounded terribly uncomfortable. You were asked several times, were civilian lives, those that had been lost, did it make it worthwhile because it was a brutal regime - you always sounded like someone in a tortured position really and it didn't sound to me as you were really comfortable where you were.
A: Well - but the media are such jackals. They thought I was against any conflict at any price - that was untrue. Of course every civilian death - well every death of any human being anywhere in the world is regrettable. I say that and then the media are trying to suggest that means I'm opposing the success of the military action - that was lie got up by the media and that's how the media behave. But that's not important and I'm not important. I stayed for honourable reasons. I cannot do the job the Prime Minister asked me to do. That whatever view anyone took about the outbreak of war, everyone should unite now to help the people of Iraq to reconstruct their country, to re-establish the authority of the UN, to heal international divisions - the UK is failing to use its influence to do that.
Q: A lot of your supporters thought to themselves - Clare Short's got the worst of all worlds. She's expressed herself - she's put herself in a vulnerable position where she cannot last long in the cabinet. She's not going to be able to achieve anything against the might of the forces ranged against her and all she's done is lose credibility. Do you sometimes - are you going to lie awake tonight and think, maybe I did make a mistake?
A: No. There's no doubt if I was a calculating populist, I would have gone. I'm not that kind of politician. I couldn't correct the errors that had been made - we need to get the war over and help the people of Iraq reconstruct. I decided that was the right thing to do - I still think it was the right thing to do and I have then tried to get our government to use its influence wisely in the post-conflict situation to reunite the world and help Iraq. And they're making the same errors again and I can't defend what they're doing now - so it's impossible, I can't do anymore to help.
Q: In the past few days has been the incident of the missed vote over foundation hospitals and surprisingly some thought journalists got hold of the fact that you hadn't been there when you could have been there. Do you think this was a leak by people whispering against you?
A: No - I'd just come back from Uzbekistan and Kurdistan. I don't like the foundation hospitals things much or the way it's been brought about. I really believe in decentralisation but I don't think it's been well organised. But I decided to vote for it because you can't fight on all fights and Iraq was the thing I was focusing on and I knew I might well have to go on that. So I was intending to vote - they have changed the hours in the House of Commons. I set just before eight to go over for the vote at ten and found out I'd missed the vote. You tell the truth to journalists and they don't believe you. But on the other hand they had smelt that I was uncomfortable with many things the government was doing and that is true so there you go.
Q: And did you jump before you were pushed? I mean was the point at which, with the various bits of briefing that had gone on, what one read in the weekend newspaper. Did you feel that in any case this was going happen if you hadn't left?
A: You have to ask the prime minister whether I was going to be pushed. I didn't hang onto to my job. I wanted to leave the government - the prime minister persuaded me and pressed me and pressed me to stay. I stayed, although it was hard for me because it was the right thing to do. I'm not clinging onto government.
Q: Could you be a powerful voice on the backbenches?
A: I don't think I'm anyone's heroine. I've got this perverse commitment to trying to do what's right, that means that I don't fall into any grouping. But I love my constituency. I'm the MP for Birmingham Ladywood. I love the Labour Party's values. I will speak up for what I see is the truth and what is right and I will try and help the Labour Party to stop the Government from making errors. Yes, I will do that.
Clare Short's resignation letter in full.
International Development Secretary Clare Short resigned from the British cabinet. Here is the full text of her letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair announcing the news, and his response.
I have decided I must leave the government. As you know, I thought the run-up to the conflict in Iraq was mishandled, but I agreed to stay in the government to help support the reconstruction effort for the people of Iraq. I am afraid that the assurances you gave me about the need for a UN mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government have been breached.
The Security Council resolution that you and Jack have so secretly negotiated contradicts the assurances I have given in the House of Commons and elsewhere about the legal authority of the occupying powers, and the need for a UN-led process to establish a legitimate Iraqi government. This makes my position impossible.
It has been a great honour for me to have led the establishment and development of the Department for International Development over the past six years. I am proud of what we have achieved and much else that the government has done. I am sad and sorry that it has ended like this.
Tony Blair's response to Clare Short's resignation letter.
Thank you for your letter of resignation from the government. As you know, I believe you have done an excellent job in the department, which has the deserved reputation as one of the best such departments anywhere in the world. That is in no small measure down to you. Our record on aid and development is one of the government's proudest achievements and I would like to thank you for your role in bringing that about.
I know you have had doubts about the government's position on Iraq, but I was pleased you stayed to support the government during this military conflict. Had you stayed on, there was clearly an important job to be done in the continuing efforts to bring about the reconstruction of Iraq. My commitment to that effort remains as strong as ever. I am afraid I do not understand your point about the UN. We are in the process of negotiating the UN resolution at the moment. And the agreement on this resolution with our American and Spanish partners has scarcely been a secret. As for who should lead the process of reconstruction, I have always been clear that this is not a matter of the UN leading or the coalition leading. The two should work together. That is exactly what the resolution stipulates.
Yours ever, Tony
|Rules for the World Stage
By Martha Nussbaum
Newsday (New York)
April 20, 2003
There once was a noble vision of what the world of
international relations can be. In recent weeks this
vision, once nearly realized, has receded from view,
so much so that we might forget that human beings ever
had such a dream. The idea I have in mind is Hugo
Grotius' concept of "international society": the
notion that all human beings form part of a single
moral community, regulated by binding ethical norms
that constrain the actions of nations in pursuit of
their own advantage.
Grotius (or Hugo de Groot), the founding father of
international law, lived between 1583 and 1645. A
child prodigy, he played a leading role in Dutch trade
negotiations at the age of 15, and published books
from that time onward. But he was also a man who stuck
his neck out. Prevailing religious doctrine in the
Netherlands held that human beings were not free to
alter the course of their salvation by their own
choices. Closely linked to this idea was a political
belief that people had no right to give themselves
laws, deciding how to conduct their own affairs.
Grotius was a great believer in choice and human
freedom, and in the freedom of each state to make its
own laws. For both of these beliefs, he was convicted
of heresy and sent to prison in a gloomy castle. But
he was permitted to receive books, which his wife
would deliver and cart away in a large trunk. One day
the outgoing trunk had an extra occupant: Grotius
himself. He managed to get on a boat to France, where
he spent the next five years in exile and wrote his
great work, "On the Law of War and Peace."
The book has been hugely influential for many reasons:
for its insistence that war is just only if it
responds to a conspicuous and serious act of
aggression; for its insistence that even then, the
party in the wrong must be treated in accordance with
strict moral laws; for its insistence that killing of
innocent civilians is morally wrong, even though the
formal international law of that time did permit it;
for its insistence that a stable and moral peace
should be the long-term goal of international
But the work's greatest contribution lies in its
conception of relations among states. For Grotius,
each state has sovereignty: the right to give itself
laws and control its destiny. This is not just a fact,
but a moral norm that expresses something deep about
human freedom, something for which Grotius himself was
prepared to risk imprisonment and worse. Second,
however, the world contains interactions between
nations, which are mediated not just by concerns for
expediency and safety but by moral considerations.
Moral laws bind all nations in their dealings with one
another, whether these laws have been turned into
enforceable international law or not. Why should this
be? Because, third, the world contains, most
fundamentally, individual human beings, who are needy
and trying to flourish. The moral duties to support
human well-being bind us all into what Grotius calls
The norms of this society begin with the idea of
humans as creatures who are both rational and social,
and who need to find a way to live together. Certain
ways of behaving support that conception (for example,
abiding by treaties that one has made), and others do
not (killing civilians in wartime).According to
Grotius, then, when international law limits America
in some of its plans, Americans are not wrong to feel
constrained. But Grotius would insist that the more
fundamental identity we have is as members of a moral
world of human beings.
National sovereignty also is limited internally by
morality. If a nation commits certain very bad acts
against its own population, such as torture and mass
murder, another nation may intervene - what we now
call "humanitarian intervention" - to help the people.
National sovereignty's importance derives from its
value to people and their freedom; it cannot be
invoked to justify genocide and torture.
Grotius was also a radical in his thought about
material need. He saw that a lasting peace among
nations requires thinking about how all citizens of
the world can get the things they need to live. He
held that when any person anywhere is in extreme need,
that person has a right to food and other necessities
of life (he explicitly mentions medical care). He even
says that the needy person owns the surplus that the
rich are squandering, if he needs it and they don't.
Grotius' vision was not the way the world was seen in
his own day. But by insisting on the power of this
vision he created a climate of opinion in which that
vision increasingly became real. Although his
contemporary Thomas Hobbes influentially developed the
pre-Grotian idea that the realm between nations is one
of force and interest only, Immanuel Kant in the 18th
century sided with Grotius, envisaging a world that
achieved lasting peace through a federation of
nations. Such ideas eventually led to the United
Nations and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Although the UN treats nations as the major actors in
international affairs, the human rights movement moves
us closer to Grotius' picture of a world in which
national boundaries are porous, and international
agreements have at least some power to constrain
Are these ideas still alive? The Bush administration
treats such moralized visions with utter scorn,
casting the United States as the Hobbesian sovereign
needed to bring order to an amoral realm. This stance
is deeply alien to America's founding traditions:
Thomas Paine and other founders were steeped in the
continental human rights tradition that had grown out
of Grotius' ideas. In the Grotian/Kantian vision,
alliances among republican nations are crucial to
lasting peace. In our current foreign policy, by
contrast, even once-stable alliances are treated with
contempt. The duty of wealthy nations to ensure that
all humans have urgent needs met does not rank high on
the agenda of any major politician or political party.
We shall see how effectively humanitarian aid is given
in Iraq; the example of Afghanistan gives reason for
skepticism. But the more important issue is that the
United States has long lagged behind wealthy nations
in the proportion of gross domestic product it
designates for foreign aid, giving, for example, about
one-tenth of Norway's share. The Grotian vision
entails support for all urgent needs, not just those
of a nation one has invaded.
For me, the events of the past weeks engender a
powerful grief, grief for a hope that is dying. And
yet, moral norms are not docile, submissive things.
They do not quit the scene when people treat them with
contempt Instead, they call us to outrage and protest.
Just as the leaders of the Civil Rights movement did
not abandon their vision of human equality in the face
of the contempt and scorn of white society, so those
of us who care about the vision of international
society that Grotius bequeathed to us should insist on
that vision. People in power may say that we are
dealing with "rogue states" and must shape our
thinking accordingly. Grotius had seen a side of human
conduct that he called "bestial." He argued that in
such a world it is all the more important to proclaim
and abide by principles of which a decent society can
be proud and to work tirelessly to produce a world in
which such principles increasingly hold sway. He
warned people in power that if they imitate wild
beasts they may forget to be human. Grotius' own life
also takes its stand against the course of despairing
detachment, a great temptation in this time as in his
own. He conspicuously does not say, "These times are
bestial, so we right-thinking people had better check
out." Instead, living in exile, he created a norm of
cooperation and moral order that continues to inspire,
and to determine the course of some world events, even
if not all.
Those of us who feel a deep moral sadness about the
current conduct of the United States, as our
leadership shows contempt for this vision of a
multilateral world, could do worse than to follow
Grotius' example. Moral norms do not cease to exist
because current leaders do not believe in them. We may
refine them and further develop them, in the hope that
once again, sooner or later, their day will dawn.
Martha Nussbaum is professor of law and ethics at the
University of Chicago Law School and author, most
recently, of "Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence
of Emotions" and "For Love of Country?"
|By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 28, 2003; Page A12
BAGHDAD, April 27 -- Many hours before dawn today, someone improvised a torch in the dark interior of the Al Qadisiyah State Establishment. Others in the looting party followed suit. According to Ali Hussein, 22, who said he had been nearby, it was strictly an accident when smoldering wood set the warehouse alight.
Fortunately for the hundreds of young men inside, this factory south of Baghdad made weapons, not ammunition. No one died when it burned. Unfortunately for U.S. Central Command, countless small arms vanished into the night.
The sacking of Al Qadisiyah, which continued this morning as the wreckage smoked, also may have been a setback for arms control of another sort. U.S. forces hunting for evidence of concealed weapons of mass destruction are taking more interest in places such as this, which was once operated by Iraq's directorate of military industrialization. Al Qadisiyah was not prominent among hundreds of similar sites, but weapons hunters are broadening their search, they have said, because searches of locations on their "Tier 1" list have not produced results.
But this site garnered the attention of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, the team of civilian and military scientists who form the nucleus of the U.S. search for nonconventional arms. Al Qadisiyah was about to become the task force headquarters -- home base for the "mobile exploitation teams" that range around Baghdad, and further afield, in pursuit of weapons leads.
Until pressing north to Mosul recently, Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus made the site his main command post for the 101st Airborne Division. It had a perimeter wall with strong points for guards, six stories of offices next to the warehouse and a sheltered position half a mile from a major highway.
A half-shredded mural of Saddam Hussein still bears a graffito from the division's soldiers -- "Airborne" on the bottom, and "I Love Bush" at the top. But the orderly compound Petraeus left behind is now a hulk.
For reasons that are not clear, the previous tenants moved out before their replacements arrived. Beginning Saturday afternoon, for the first time in its existence, the munitions factory had no guards.
Ali Jamil, another young man who witnessed the looting, said boys and men in their teens and twenties poured into Al Qadisiyah as the word spread. Some took office furnishings and equipment, but most focused on weapons. They took what they could carry, or brought carts. One man is said to have backed in a truck.
"They took the rifles so they can sell them," Jamil said. "They can get 150,000 dinars for one rifle," or about $83 at today's unofficial exchange rate.
Among the many products of this plant was a presentation set of highly decorated 9mm pistols. Today the grounds were scattered with blue velvet cases, but not one of the pistols -- made for Baath Party dignitaries -- was left.
"All the rifles, all the pistols, are gone," said Kadem Hatem, a classmate of Jamil's in technical school.
The headquarters of the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, a detached unit of the 1st Armored Division, is barely half a mile north, but commanders apparently did not learn quickly about the looting. Not until early afternoon today did U.S. ground forces intercede.
Capt. Jim Phillips, the regiment's intelligence officer, was among the first to reach the warehouse. With two enlisted soldiers he ran into a scene of smoking machinery and a miasma of dust, shafts of light slanting down through a broken roof. Weapons and their components covered a factory floor the size of two or three football fields.
Burned but not consumed, the plant had assemblies for rocket-propelled grenades, 60mm and 82mm mortars and small antiaircraft guns. There were ammunition cases, bayonets, AK-47 automatic rifles and thousands of their distinctive banana-shaped magazines.
Streaming among these wares, like shoppers in a ghoulish arcade, were about 500 young men.
"We started screaming and yelling 'Get out of here!' " Phillips said. "They just ignored us."
Phillips ordered each soldier to fire three fast warning shots at something that would not ricochet. He aimed his own three rounds at sandbags lining a machine that makes base plates for mortars. He even used a looted weapon, of sorts -- an AK-47 confiscated recently at a checkpoint.
"All three of us popped off, and they were hauling out of there," Phillips said. That did not last. Platoons from 2-70 Armor and the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment skirmished all afternoon with crowds of young men who gathered and faded at the perimeter. At least twice, U.S. forces donned gas masks and threw smoke grenades. "We hope they think it's a chemical gas and get the hell out of here," said a sergeant who did not want to give his name. "Even putting the masks on is a deterrent."
When three teenagers were caught scaling a wall, Phillips bound them and sat them near the gate.
"We'll let Huey, Duey and Luey here go after an hour," he told Staff Sgt. Steven Hunt. "I just want everyone to see them."
That did not have the intended effect. The crowd outside milled closer. Frustrated, Phillips called for an interpreter. He told the interpreter to tell the captives that he was letting them go. They should tell their friends that the Americans were beginning to worry they would have to shoot someone. The bonds were cut, the teens ran out, and in a few minutes the crowd melted away.
Touring the warehouse soon afterward, he said the looters wanted what they could sell but that more dangerous goods had been at hand.
"Back there all the parts of 82 and 60mm mortars are all laid out," he said, pointing. "All you have to do is take one of these, take one of these, take one of these, and go out and shoot at the Americans."
Back outside, looking up at the burned-out windows of the office next door, Phillips shook his head.
"I was here when it was Division Main for the 101st," he said. "It was pristine."
He did not know who the next tenants were supposed to be, and the 75th Exploitation Task Force had no way of knowing what had happened here today.
"Whoever it is," Phillips said, "they're going to hate it here."