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Old 12-17-2011   #21
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Wink That

is unkind

Though it's a quite valid and fair question...
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Old 12-17-2011   #22
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Dayuhan:

The roofs are very heavily reinforced for routine mortaring (and sealable for gas attacks), but there are plenty of helo landing points on site below the exterior wall elevation.

Five-story height buildings with a twenty foot wall (wire included).

Much improved over Embassy Saigon.

Ken: Right. Plenty of DSS staff who are very well-trained. For private contractor movements, DSS runs the convoy.
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Old 12-18-2011   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
The roofs are very heavily reinforced for routine mortaring (and sealable for gas attacks), but there are plenty of helo landing points on site below the exterior wall elevation.

Five-story height buildings with a twenty foot wall (wire included).
Whoever designed that should have been reminded of this:

Quote:
“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man”

George S Patton
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Last edited by Dayuhan; 12-18-2011 at 12:45 AM.
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Old 12-18-2011   #24
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Default It's not an embassy, it's a 'college campus in a desert'

Marvelous description by the U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...024140494.html

In fact:
Quote:
The four main U.S. diplomatic facilities—the embassy in Baghdad, consulates general in Basra and Irbil and a consulate in Kirkuk..and seven other facilities..
Distributed operations.
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Old 12-18-2011   #25
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A friend of mine asked me what I was thinking on that day, when colors were cased and ceremonies were held to mark the end of a tumultuous period in the history of our nation and military.

I told her it felt pretty hollow, but not so much because I was expecting a parade or a lot of fanfare, but that it just felt that after approximately 4,500 US deaths and arguably 100K Iraqi deaths, it seemed as though we are simply slipping away with a whimper. I figured it would come to this, a moment when we finally achieved a decent interval, but I wonder if it is an interval after all.

We are ending the ground-based military aspect of this venture, but I still wonder how we are going to manage the delicate commitment we need towards the future of Iraq as a stable regional power. I am not convinced that the pillars of our state power understand how to handle the responsibility. I'm skeptical that we fully understand that responsibility in the first place.

I have an interesting perspective on Iraq, as my company delivered probably the first direct fire into Iraq from the Marine sector in March 2003. We destroyed what turned out to be unmanned border posts in the process, but sitting arrayed against the berm on the first night of the onslaught on the border, and watching RAP rounds arc overhead as counter-battery fire responded to indirect fire shot at us, gave me a full appreciation for the scale of firepower we could deliver.

Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey Bohr, who had been my first platoon guide--and had a bronze star on the parachutist badge he earned as a Ranger--as a sergeant during my enlisted days in Security Forces, was killed during the 1st Bn 5th Marines attack into Baghdad as the noose tightened on the city.

Fast forward to 2004, when I was an assistant operations officer for the same battalion I served in during the invasion, and I found myself tucked away in a command and control variant light armored vehicle, careening down Route Michigan towards the 'Shark's Fin' peninsula adjacent to Fallujah. I saw other incredible displays of our ability to mass firepower, but I had also established a measured respect for daisy-chained 155mm artillery round IEDs and the terror factor of the 107mm rocket, and an even greater respect for how the insurgency was growing around us at an alarming rate. By that time, folks were already at a point where they were more than happy to be heading home by the end of their tour, alive and with all their limbs intact. I was relieved to be heading home at the end of my stay, a bit guilty that our first allies in that era (e.g the Shewani Specialized Special Forces) were forced to face a very uncertain future, and a bit confused what our strategy was at that hour.

Almost a year to the day that 3d LAR attacked to clear the Shark's Fin, one of my closest friends from my days as a lieutenant at The Basic School, Major Ray Mendoza, triggered a pressure plate on a berm overlooking Ubaydi that killed him instantly. Wikipedia's reference to Operation STEEL CURTAIN calls it a U.S. tactical victory. Ray left behind a wife, daughter, and son who looks exactly like him, but with curly locks of hair and a slightly more charming smile.

Wind the tape further forward, and after three years inspecting-instructing a Reserve LAR company, I was back in Iraq as a LAR Bn executive officer. We started out at the bastion of LAR operations, Korean Village, and were scheduled to be tasked with the basic routine of securing the lines of communication running into Syria and Jordan, and securing the population of Ar Rutbah while supporting the Iraqi Security Forces posted there. That mission shifted quickly and I spent the winter living an expeditionary existence at the base of Sinjar Mt in Ninevah Province, chasing an elusive character named Ali Jamil Hamdin who seemed to delight in terrorizing the locals and police at night, and keeping an eye on Yezedi smugglers who chucked bundles of cigarettes into Syria from the backs of horses in the still of night.

On Thanksgiving 2008, Captain Frank Warren, an ANGLICO officer on detail to a food drop in Bi'aj, was shot and killed at point blank range, along with an Army Master sergeant, by a turncoat Iraqi Army jundi. He left behind a wife and two daughters, and people who remember him on memorial pages can be quoted as saying he wanted to make a difference in the world. I wonder if the difference he made will be a lasting one.

Considering what has been mentioned in the wake of these subdued ceremonies you watched this week sir, I wonder what the future holds for Iraq. I am afraid that the fractured Iraq I predicted, in posts long ago archived, still looms on the horizon. Our nation is just so glad, in that exhausted sort of way when the marathon comes to a close, to be done with Iraq that I am not really surprised it ends with a whimper. Our pets whimper when they are in pain, and we have endured pain for a long, long time, so a whimper seems fitting.

My friend implored me to not lose sight of the fact that there are indeed people who are rejoicing the end of the mission in Iraq, and they are happy to see us close the door and come home. I have a thought or two about the answer, but I wonder what the Iraqis who stood beside us think. Those brave men risked everything to earn a living and help put the pottery back together. Which side of the door are they on now?

She conceded that our trials and tribulations in Afghanistan will have to come to a close before a parade may be in order, and we wondered together if a decent interval is the best we can manage there as well.

We may have learned a lesson here and there, but it is going to take a lot of discipline and fortitude to internalize the right ones and not let the distractions of a drawdown hamper our ability to improve as a military and a nation.

Last edited by jcustis; 12-18-2011 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 12-18-2011   #26
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Default Too early to tell

I think most of us who have served in Iraq will have unanswered questions for a long time. Most of us lost friends and have seen hundreds of Iraqis killed and displaced. You can build callouses around those memories and move forward as combat vets from every war have. Relative to the conflicts before the Cold War ended our losses were light, but losses for us are not numbers, they're names and vivid memories.

In retrospect the military did well during the initial stage of the war, and after failing to adjust to the subsequent irregular conflict for the first couple of years the military aggressively implemented a new strategy and force posture that effectively suppressed the simultaneous challenges of insurgency, civil war and terrorism. That turned to be more challenging than defeating Saddam's military, which also was not a simple task.

At this point in time I wonder what else can/should the military do? Perhaps a continued presence would prevent major violence from resurfacing, but even that is a questionable assumption based on our recent force posture in country. Would a continued coalition military presence allow Iraq's political process to evolve, or would it simply protect what many Iraqis see as an illegitimate government? I suspect the Iraqi war (different from the U.S. war in Iraq) is unfinished, and perhaps our departure will allow the conflict to evolve to a sustainable end state where true development can really begin? Then again it may plunge Iraq further into the dark ages, it is simply too early to tell.

We in the military made mistakes, but the mistakes we made were largely due to shortfalls in our national level diplomatic and strategic planning. These shortfalls forced the military to conduct patch work diplomacy towards no real end state other than some degree of stability in hopes that democracy would suddenly take root and give the combatants another means to achieve their ends other than fighting. We learned too late that democracy in a country like Iraq is little more than mob rules.

The reason the Powell Doctrine was proposed was an attempt to limit military adventurism by defining clear military objectives and sufficient forces to achieve it, rather than starting off by sticking our toes in the muck and see what happens, or in other words to avoid recon by fire strategy. The reason it wasn't followed is it wasn't/isn't realistic.

From a military perspective our troops did exceptionally well in combat, and regardless of the outcome in Iraq over time they can and should take pride in their military performance and the courage they demonstrated again and again. At the national level we (as citizens) need to maintain pressure on our national leadership to reform the national level strategy process. The voices from the think tanks and those in the administration that promote ideas that are nothing more than hubris need to be counter balanced and debated at length, and then if we decide to venture on, we venture on with more realistic ends than attempting to reform cultures with force. We can do that best through long term engagement. With force we can effectively neutralize threats, but we need to assess if the what comes after makes the use of force desirable. We have more tools in our toolbox than JDAMS and infantry, we need to learn how to use them more effectively in the post Cold War era.
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Old 12-18-2011   #27
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Jcustis and Bill:

Sometimes, we should just let well enough alone.

My preference, as the one who started this thread, would be happy just to leave it with your last two hauntingly eloquent and enigmatic posts, and stand in reverence for what was said, and what its means, and what all of us are left to ponder.

Thank you very much for your deep and sincere expressions which I hope we all benefit from in struggling to understand theEnd of Mission-Iraq.

Steve
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Old 12-18-2011   #28
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Thanks John and Bill, for sharing those posts and your experiences.
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Old 12-18-2011   #29
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There are many questions about the future of Iraq, of course. There's a whole range of possibilities, from Civil War, dissolution, or emergence of a new dictator to peace and progress. Ultimately, though, don't those questions have to be answered by Iraqis?

I don't know that it was ever reasonable to think that the US could negotiate a collectively acceptable formula for sharing power or oil money among Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd. I don't know that the US could ever assure that Iraq will continue as a US ally, or that other neighbors would not meddle. I don't know that the US ever had the ability to assure that Iraq would have a truly representative government. All of these things have to be worked out by Iraqis, and if they work them out the way others have, that process is likely to span decades or generations of effort, with successes and failures, false starts and steps backwards, violence and peacemaking. The new Iraq, whatever will be, is not a rabbit that's going to be pulled out of a hat by Americans. It will evolve, and the process of evolution is likely to be as painful and frustrating as it has been elsewhere.

If we left Iraqis with a half-chance at a better outcome, and with the ability to make those decisions themselves - neither of which they had under Saddam - we probably did all it was ever in our power to do.
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Old 12-19-2011   #30
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The Daily Mail carries a picture of the Iraq-Kuwait gate being closed after the last convoy arrives.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...=feeds-newsxml

The soldiers on one wing of the gate are Americans, and the other wing are Kuwaitis.
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Old 12-19-2011   #31
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Default My Contribution

I've been reading with interest everyone's thoughts on the US portion of the Iraq war ending. I couldn't put together anything on my experience, so I put this together to try to apply our experiences towards the future.

This is my contribution. It is the culmination of what I've learned in war and studied here and elsewhere since.

I hope it does the boys justice.


It's Time We Moved Beyond COIN
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Old 12-20-2011   #32
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Mike:

As you know, I have been involved in the COIN debate through the recent FP articles, and would love to see a credible and exhaustive review of COIN and the issues raised their (maybe we should just launch a few more threads).

I keep seeing the ???? reference by all parties to the fact that COIN success is 20% military and the rest political, economic, social, etc... which I wholeheartedly agree with.

That disconnect, including as Steve Metz explains: the empty civilian surge, dumping the responsibilities on an ill-equipped military, is a big part of my regrets about Iraq.

I recognize that the 1.499 million deployed were military, and that my .001 were so few (and so late) as to be a drop of water on a dry sponge. There were 12 senior civilian advisors to my knowledge---12---for all of Iraq during the surge.

For DoS in 2007/8, there was exactly one---count 'em--- one Senior City Manager, one Senior Transportation Planner, and one Senior Urban Planner. This is the whole country you are talking about at the peak of the surge...

The City Manager started by EPRTing to Tikrit, then worked his way, over eighteen months, south through Dour, Ouija, Samarra, and Balad. He was excellent, but how, in reality, could he have made a serious dent in the issues in Iraq?

We went to these provinces, and down to their field offices. There were no resources, no past experience, no records, no plans, no phones.

In April 2008, we took a drive with some combat engineers down from Tikrit to Baghdad to tout facilities and projects. Stopped at the Salah Ad Din Highway Department complex outside of Sammara as an example. No trucks. No staff. No phones. No equipment. All had been looted long ago.

How were these people seriously going to be expected to start running their country with a newly invented "slogan" of provincial governance. It was a complete joke. Dressed up by SitReps intended to make everyone look good.

What was our end mission "supposed to be" in Baghdad? To ask the ministries to help us force the provinces to do things. That too became a joke once we understood, as the Iraqis did all along, that it was impossible.

So, while proud of our accomplishments during our all-too-brief tours, I recognize how feeble and seriously under-resourced the civilian effort was, and how, despite all the happy talk of agency self-defenses, the woefully inadequate civilian effort, from Bremer and beyond, put so much at peril.

How many lives might have been saved, US and Iraqi, had the operation not been so completely botched from the start?

Could COIN have actually worked had there been an effective civilian effort?

Would Falluja have become so fierce and deadly for all parties?

Those are the kinds of questions that run through my mind as I read military parties struggling to explain, defend or condemn COIN, when, in effect, COIN could never have worked without an effective civilian ground game.

The entire civilian field was, in effect, a marketing scam pitched at the military and washington. The provincial self-governance target was an impossibility, an empty "slogan," with no possibility of success in our time or sphere. Same in Afghanistan.

Having said that, and in keeping with the reverence that an end of mission thread should follow, I find myself between two sets of memories, the US soldiers who died for us, and the Iraqis caught in the middle.

Even the Kenyans guards we befriended at Speicher who were doing night patrols in Bayji. Boom (2008).

Our USACE civilian checking a PEZ project. Bang (2008).

ITAO senior advisor. Boom (2009)

94 Tikrit civilian provincial government officials. Boom and Bang and Burned (2011).

Visiting the provincial staff after the Governor's son was accidentally shot in 2008 was no less of a picnic than when you were briefed as to which officials were leering at you and would not talk at meetings because so many of their families had died, been seriously injured, or were imprisoned by US. (A figure recently was that 50% of all Tikriti males had experienced a US confinement).

I read Wiki Cables from my group that stated "Specially Protect" next to the contact's name, who has long since been disappeared given what they disclosed to us, which is stated in the cables.

The terps that remain are, like many of yours, on the net trying to get help to get to the US before they and their families are caught up to as collaborators.

The eeriest experience for me was to return from leave to Baghdad in Summer 2008 to work on assignment (secunded) to UN. Two PRTs had just been killed so it took a huge con on my part for my wife to let me go back. And I had just read the frighteningly accurate "Chasing the Flame" about the internal challenges/limitations of the UN, and Sergio De Mello's (and 26 others) Baghdad bombing.

Just like in a military unit, the UN had a large plaque in front of its office for those who had fallen.

The eerie part came, however, when, with help from a lot of other sources, we began, as part of the dispute resolution process, flagging and tagging the hundreds of mass murder locations, town removals, forced relocations, and minority extermination projects during Saddam's time.

It occurred to me in October 2008, as enumeration continued in my quiet little UN office next to Pheonix Base, how many Iraqis, just from a sheer logistical standpoint, must have been involved in or exposed to these activities: truck drivers, guards, bulldozer operators, machine gunners, gas launchers, burial details, or stood as silent witnesses, became victims, or survivors. The numbers must be in the millions.

Add to that the 1 million lost on each side in the Iran/Iraq War, and the many border towns on each side, like Mandali, Diyala, that were virtually eliminated (with their populations), and the internalized vengeance against porous populations on each side.

Add to that the chaos and sectarian violence during five years of our watch.

At that point, I knew that the scope of true and lasting reconciliation in Iraq, and serious post-conflict resolutions, could never be resolved by US, and that our surge was, at best, scratching the surface of a very deep and lasting injury that only Iraqis could solve, and only over decades if not generations.

That is what I knew as the SOFA Agreement was negotiated and concluded.

However tough it was going to be for them in the next few years, only they could do it, and only after we left. Reconciliation in a deeply divided nation, scarified by decades of fighting and destruction, can not be accomplished by third party military so interwoven with the problems. (not the same as a peace-keeping mission).

The important thing that is frequently disregarded in discussions of Iraq is that the US invasion/occupation was just a layer on top of many different catastrophies that fell upon Iraqis. Finding our particular part is like trying to separate body parts from a fifty-car high speed pile-up in the fog.

All those fragments are still settling in my mind.

Great respect for the people who did what they could when they were there, but serious, albeit historical, questions as to why they were set up to be there. Sadness for the losses on all sides. Questions of how it could be avoided in the future. Knowledge that no parties in authority are looking at the real problems, issues, and lessons to be learned.
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Old 12-20-2011   #33
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Default Refighting 2003

Steve,

In the article, I tried to highlight your statements by showing how from the CPA in Iraq to A'stan's "Gov't in a Box" we still don't get it despite a lot of talk in the Post-Cold War Era. I refrained from using "lip service."

I have a friend in the Jedi School (SAMS) right now, and for his thesis, I think he is going to argue that if we sent in more troops initially and hijacked Paul Bremer!, then much of the mess in Iraq would not have happened.

While I feel his sentiment, I think that I disagree b/c (as Toby Dodge has argued) Iraq was already on the brink of collapse- Saddam was holding it together. We took out Saddam, ergo too much change too fast was going to cause chaos.

I think that Libya and Egypt will provide us with a better sense of who is more right unless we're all wrong.
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Old 12-20-2011   #34
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Mike:

I have a little different perspective.

Having assessed the infrastructure and essential public services systems in the North in 2008, two things were immediately evident:

1. A feather could have knocked the whole thing over. Targeted attacks on bridges, infrastructure systems, etc... a few dirty tricks accidents like happen with greater frequency in Iran, etc...

2. It "takes a village" to create nuclear power, and that village---the supporting infrastructure---simply did not exist after the late 1990s.

But there was still an essential problem.

Once a regime turns to mass murders within its own country, and does so by engaging its own people as the instrument, a toxic brew is created that just cannot be addressed by a standoff approach.

There were plenty enough Iraqi generals and colonels that knew the things they had done, and that, with Bosnia in the news, would turn to war crimes investigations sooner or later. Their risks, in that regard, were within Iraq and the people upon which they were perpetrated.

Someone or something has to go in and change the status quo, or its is just a Jonestown or After Me the Deluge system that assured (through guilt, shame, greed, fear of exposure.... whatever) a rigid last defense of those in power against those who were not.

While it is helpful to see our enemies in certain lights, it is also true that the Shias, Kurds, and others had an understandably lethal view of the other side.

Under those now-famous scowling images of Sadr, and the as-yet-unresolved sectarian divides, looms a very real history of potentially genocidal policies and acts which, in context, play heavily into deeper rythms at the core of religious schisms within Islam.

Our past history, of encouraging but not defending Shias and Kurds rising up against Saddam, and previously going only so far, were real factors for the opponents who had been scourged before. (Maybe the root of the problem lies in that past?)

As much as I would like to be completely against any foreign military adventures, absent US actions of any kind in and around 2003, there was still a toxic brew in Iraq which, under the best circumstances, foretold a future genocide of potential biblical dimensions for which the only defense/protector would have been Iran.

Following the lines, a new Iran/Iraq War, with broad implications in the Gulf and beyond, was inevitable at some point without some outside intervention.

Thus, the question: Could an effective civilian ground game, more troops, etc.., have proven a better way for all parties concerned?

I do not believe that there was not an essential mission and necessary mission to be performed in Iraq (by some entity). Just that much was mishandled, and that an appropriate autopsy, hopefully, can improve our understanding for the future.

Again, looking solely to military analysis for an essentially civilian problem is not going to produce a useful answer.
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Old 12-20-2011   #35
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Quote:
I have a little different perspective.
And one that needs to be heard

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
Mike:

Again, looking solely to military analysis for an essentially civilian problem is not going to produce a useful answer.
well said
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Old 12-20-2011   #36
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PS:

The UN Inspectors were right: There were no WMDs.

But that was not the point.

Every week, the present Iraqi government goes out into the desert, turns a shovel and finds another mass grave.

Holbrooke had no idea how right his focus on Halabja was, nor did anyone (including the pockets of Iraqi victims and survivors) have a clear picture of the full scope of the problem.

A revised narrative is warranted to understand this action and the real contributions of our soldiers.

We can, and should, grieve the large number of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed during our term, but there was a truly ugly default process already in motion that, by any reasonable review, would have continued in probably far larger numbers.

We can regret, on a humanitarian and human level, each civilian loss, and especially those that may have been preventable by better handling.

But the "ethnic cleansings" in Iraq were pretty inevitable as score settlings even if, regrettably, those who typically paid the price were, as too often happens under these circumstances, not those who were personally responsible.

"Will Fight For World Peace," is not just a philosophical slogan. Sometimes, and particularly where genocide looms, it is, regrettably, a military mission statement.
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Old 12-20-2011   #37
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The latest from Christian Science Monitor on post-withdrawal Iraq:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backc...ivil-war-again
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Old 12-20-2011   #38
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Musings on Iraq has this recap:

http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/20...ut-at-his.html
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Old 12-21-2011   #39
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Default The Real Legacy & Context

Kansas City Star provides a good recap of the importance of the Iraq mission---the mass graves for 400,000 Shias and political opponents, and 180,000 Kurds:

http://www.kansascity.com/2011/12/18...raqs-mass.html

KRG Dispute Committee maps of the Anfal actions:

http://krg-dagb.org/english/maps.php

None of this addresses the hundreds and thousands killed individually.

The true narrative of the Iraq War lies somewhere in these figures and maps (and slit trenches across the deserts), as is the challenges faced on the ground in its aftermath by the military and Iraqis, and the legacy and purpose of those US military efforts and losses.
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Old 12-28-2011   #40
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Default Ticker Tape Parade?

Salt Lake Tribune article provides the following quotes from NYC:

Quote:
Two New York City councilmen, Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, have called for a ticker-tape parade down the stretch of Broadway known as the Canyon of Heroes. A similar celebration after the Gulf War was paid for with more than $5.2 million in private donations, a model the councilmen would like to follow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he was open to the idea but added, "It’s a federal thing that we really don’t want to do without talking to Washington, and we’ll be doing that."
But the story goes on to say 'don't hold your breathe.'

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/world/5...arade.html.csp
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