Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Victory in the Desert

"For the fifth straight day, no U.S. military personnel were reported killed in attacks," in Iraq, according to the ABC News. The death of a soldier nearly every other day was touted by some journalists as definite proof that America was trapped in a another Vietnam. The fact that US forces were killing or capturing dozens of Ba'athist leadership and middle cadre elements in the process was ignored, rather like the coverage of a sporting event in which only the score of one side is reported.

Yet the deaths, which at their height were only half of the US peacetime military accident death rate, now seem to represent the apex, rather than the base of the Ba'athist effort.

The U.S. military announced the arrest of a man it said was organizing guerrilla attacks against American soldiers. The man, nabbed Sunday by Iraqi police officers, was the brother of a Saddam bodyguard captured by U.S. forces on July 29, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the 4th Infantry Division. Russell did not identify the man, but said he was the brother of Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Musslit, who was believed to have detailed knowledge of Saddam's hiding places. Eighteen other suspected guerrillas were arrested in seven overnight raids across north-central Iraq, Maj. Josslyn Aberle said. She also said soldiers uncovered a large weapons cache 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, on Sunday. It included two 7-meter-long (20-foot) missiles, 3,000 mortar rounds, 250 anti-tank rockets and almost 2,000 artillery rounds. She said an Iraqi informant led soldiers to the cache. Russell said a man tried to attack soldiers with a rocket-propelled grenade in downtown Tikrit, but soldiers killed him before he could fire.

The irreversible defeat of the Iraq's ancien regime has even dawned upon UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. After initially hewing to the position best described in a Guardian op-ed that "only the UN offers the impartiality essential for the creation of a credible, truly representative, transitional Iraqi-run authority with real powers," the UN has decided that its "only" choice now is to recognize the US-organized Governing Council. The Associated Press reports that, "Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to recognize the Iraq's new Governing Council as a step toward the formation of a true government." Kofi Annan is now wagging his finger at the US Ambassador to the UN, telling them to recognize the Governing Council just as if it were his idea.

The shutdown of the corrupt oil-for-food program may have provided the impetus to seek new sources of, ah, revenue. According to the Associated Press:

MOSCOW, May 22, 2003 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Russia has perhaps more to lose than any other country from the U.N. Security Council's decision Thursday to end 13 years of Iraqi sanctions, a period in which Russian companies saw a financial bonanza from deals with Baghdad. Under the oil-for-food program, which allowed Baghdad to sell oil and buy food and other imports under the U.N. sanctions, Russian companies got preferential terms for contracts to supply products ranging from rice to refinery equipment. In exchange for the contracts, which often saw Russian companies charge premium prices, Moscow used its place on the Security Council to push for the crippling sanctions to be lifted.

"All these contracts were concluded mainly for political motives," Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov acknowledged last week. "Iraqis perhaps would have been happy to acquire - for a lower price - more comfortable Italian tractors, with air conditioners practically, but they signed the contract with us."

Those contracts were imperiled Thursday when the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution empowering the United States and Britain to govern Iraq and use its oil wealth to rebuild the country. The resolution passed by a 14-0 vote, with Syria absent. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will review $10 billion worth of contracts existing under the program - many of them Russian - to decide whether they are still needed. From the outset of the oil-for-food program in 1996 through May 2000, Russia and France each received contracts for deliveries to Iraq worth about $2 billion, more than any other country, according to a report released in September by the nonprofit Coalition for International Justice.

But even getting the UN fingers out of the blood-stained pie is expensive.. The "best estimate for all known and projected costs" associated with phasing out the (oil for food) program over six months is $106 million, Annan said in a report.

Yet if the Ba'ath and their United Nations enablers are facing crushing defeat in Iraq, there are still hundreds of places throughout the world in which the International Development set and their corrupt local counterparts feast on the misery of the inhabitants. It is not the task of the American people to right every wrong, and those who have lost sons or daughters in Iraq have fulfilled their duty:

To live as gently as I can;
To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill
And cling to faith and honor still;
To do my best, and let that stand
The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me,
Still work and hope for victory.