Economist Magazine picks “Three Trillion Dollar” War as one of best books of 2008

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The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes.

Norton; 311 pages; $22.95. Allen Lane; £20

With the patience of auditors and the passion of polemicists, two academics, one a Nobel prize-winning economist and the other a public-finance expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, take an unflinching look at the hidden cost of invading Iraq.

Galbraith: SOFA is ‘stunning and humiliating’ for Bush

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We have not yet blogged on the the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) — because it was still being debated and hammered out.   (Iraq was supposed to vote on it today, but yet again this has been delayed. ) Reading the document,  it is striking how much  the US has given up.  We are being shown the door.

Peter Galbraith, a top Iraq expert and former ambassador to Croatia, and senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation,  put it best in a statement he issued today on the SOFA,

The agreement represents a stunning and humiliating reversal of course by the Bush administration, which had vehemently opposed any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. For the last two years, President Bush has pretended that Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is a democrat and an American ally. In fact, Maliki is a sectarian Shiite politician who heads a government dominated by pro-Iranian religious parties. The U.S. presence now no longer serves the interests of Iraq’s ruling Shiite religious parties or their Iranian allies, so we are now being asked to leave. While U.S. withdrawal is made easier by the fact that both the Iraqi government and the new U.S. administration want American troops out, the confluence of events leading to the agreement underscores the folly of President Bush’s lost Iraq war.”

Violence rising again in Iraq

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We keep being told that the level of violence in Iraq is decreasing, but there are still daily bombings and suicide attacks across the country. In the past 24 hours: On Friday September 12th, at least 30 people were killed and 45 wounded in a suicide bombing in the town of Dujail – where as usual, the bomber targeted innocent people in a market attempting to buy food for their evening meal.

Six more people were killed and 50 wounded in Tal Afar on Saturday, September 13th where a suicide car bomber apparently staged a traffic accident in order to draw more innocent bystanders into the explosion. This is the same city where suicide bombers have attacked the market during the past month.

Also on Saturday, attackers set off bombs near two major shrines in the holy city of Karbala, killing at least three people and wounding 15 others. The bombs went off near the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas mosques — two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims. The people killed and wounded included women and children making pilgrimages to the shrines.

Female Suicide Bombers increasing in Iraq

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The number of female suicide bombers has more than tripled in Iraq — from 8 in 2007 to 29 so far this year — according to US military officials. This alarming increase is noticeable in northern Iraq, where violence continues at high levels.

Just this week, a female suicide bomber killed six people and wounded 54 in an attack on an outdoor market in Tal Afar, in Turkomen province. This is the second suicide bomb in that market in a month — the first one killed 28 people and injured 72. It goes without saying that most of the people shopping in a market are innocent women trying to buy food ingredients to cook supper.

Meanwhile in Baghdad yesterday, another suicide bomber struck a convoy carrying former deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, The bomber missed Chalabi but killed his 6 bodyguards. Before the war, Chalabi was one of the voices who insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, an argument that precipitated the US invasion.

According to the Iraqi police, one of the difficulties they face in maintaining security is the growing number of women who are carrying out suicide missions. Some of these are almost children — Kurdish authorities captured a 17-year old girl wearing an explosives vest in Irbil province. They are being hideously exploited by cowardly extremists.

Winston Churchill’s comments on Iraq still relevant today

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The US-supported Maliki government has rejected the US proposals for a long-term presence in Iraq, saying that it would infringe on Iraqi sovereignty. In particular, Maliki doesn’t want the US to be able to use Iraqi air space or territory at will (like, for an attack on Iran) and he objects to the immunity from Iraqi law that the US wants for our troops and contractors. Of course, Maliki has no choice: — the anti-American Shiite militia controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr is threatening to revolt if the deal is accepted, the religious community is opposed to it, and poll after poll shows that the Iraqi public thinks we have overstayed our welcome.

In our book we predicted this would happen: just by following the money trail it is obvious that the expensive bases the US has constructed in Iraq were built with a view to long-term US occupancy.

Thus the US faces a situation not dissimilar to that of Britain after World War I, when the British were trying to maintain military control of Iraq in the face of Sunni and Shiite opposition.

This calls to mind Winston Churchill’s statement to David Lloyd George on September 1, 1922:

I am deeply concerned about Iraq …. I think we should now put definitely, not only to Feisal but to the Constituent Assembly, the position that unless they beg us to stay and to stay on our own terms in regard to efficient control, we shall actually evacuate before the close of the financial year. I would put this issue in the most brutal way, and if they are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out…..

At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.”

(Many thanks to Ret. US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor of the Center for Defense Information for finding this quote.)

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