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Still Deadly: World War II Bombs, Modern Cluster Bombs, Landmines and Small Arms

When a war ends, the killing continues. "More than six decades after the end of World War II, Germans still routinely come across unexploded bombs lurking beneath farmer's fields or city streets." writes Mark Landler in the International Herald Tribune (Hat Tip: Clarence):
Lately, there has been a skein of such dangerous discoveries here, one with deadly consequences.  On Monday [October 24, 2006], a highway worker was killed when his cutting machine struck a World War II bomb beneath a main autobahn southeast of Frankfurt, setting off an explosion that ripped apart the vehicle and wrecked several passing cars, injuring their occupants. Hours later, a weapons-removal squad defused a 225-kilogram, or 500- pound, bomb found next to a highway near Hannover. The police said the device was a British aerial bomb - one of tens of thousands dropped on German roads, factories, and cities during Allied bombing raids. 
Last week, 22,000 people were evacuated from a district of Hannover after three bombs were discovered near a house. It was the second-largest evacuation for a disposal operation since the end of the war.
Construction workers in Berlin come across such bombs very often as well: Surrounding areas get evacuated and the bomb squads diffuse the bombs. There are hardly ever any casualties. People in other former war zones around the world are not as lucky, but get killed, lose arms or legs or suffer from other serious injuries due to unexploded cluster bombs or landmines. The Scotsman trusts a Reuters report that claims:
Between August 14 and October 8, around 20 people were killed in southern Lebanon by cluster munitions. Land mine activists said last month that cluster bombs are still killing or injuring three to four civilians a day, a third of them children. (...) Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground. While some aim to destroy tanks, others are designed to kill or maim humans over a wide area. Experts have estimated an unusually high 40 percent of the bomblets dropped on Lebanon failed to explode on impact. Around 115 people have been injured by bomblets since the war's end.
Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles' Jewish Journal criticizes the "Cluster Silence." The Christian Science Monitor published a call to abolish cluster bombs by Amnesty International USA.
Continue reading "Still Deadly: World War II Bombs, Modern Cluster Bombs, Landmines and Small Arms"

U.S. Poll: Iraq Is More Unpopular Than Vietnam After Three Years

Bloomberg (via Glittering Eye) writes about the popularity of the Iraq war and President Bush's approval ratings:
Three years into major combat in Vietnam, 28,500 U.S. service members had perished, millions of families were anxious about the military draft and antiwar protests had spread to dozens of college campuses. Today, at the same juncture in the Iraq war, about 2,400 American soldiers have died, the U.S. military consists entirely of volunteers and public dissent is sporadic.
There's one other difference: The war in Iraq is more unpopular than was the Vietnam conflict at this stage, polls show. More Americans -- 57 percent -- say sending troops to Iraq was a mistake than the 48 percent who called Vietnam an error in April 1968, polls by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Gallup Organization show. That's because more people believed that Vietnam was crucial to U.S. security, scholars say. (...)
And disapproval of Bush's decision to invade is 15 percentage points higher than approval, an April 7-9 Gallup poll of 1,004 adults showed. That's twice as wide a gap as on Vietnam at this time four decades ago. Bush's job-approval ratings are lower than were Johnson's during the far bloodier Vietnam conflict. Among the reasons: the highly publicized intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq invasion of 2003, the fact that Bush began the war, and the shadow of Vietnam itself, historians say. (...) Some Republicans say Bush's disapproval ratings on the war may have more to do with the more extensive coverage by the media today than anything else.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll from May 15th, 76% of Americans consider the number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq "unacceptable" when asked to think "about the goals versus the costs of the war." When asked "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?," 62% say the war was not worth fighting for. All questions have been asked since beginning of the war. Disapproval is highest now. Moreover, 59% consider going to war a mistake, while 40% believe it was the "right thing" to do. When the war started in March 2003, 69% of Americans considered going to war the "right thing" and only 26% called it a "mistake."
54% believe that the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be decreased. Among this group, nearly a third says that the troops should be withdrawn immediately. David with Dialog International advocates immediate withdrawal and writes about the alleged Haditha massacre. I think an immediate withdrawal would be a mistake. If Iraq remains unstable and violent in the next ten years, the U.S. will be considered responsible and blamed for giving up on Iraq, I assume. Likewise, the U.S. could credit itself, if Iraq turns out to be a stable and free democracy in ten years and the world should acknowledge such a U.S. achievement. As Colin Powell told President Bush in 2002 accoding to Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack (,
'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.
Think Progress has more memorable quotes from the architects of the Iraq war and some info where they are now. If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq too early, those architects of war will not be the only ones, who will be blamed for what will happen in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Bush and Merkel: Charm and Iran -- War, Sanctions and Diplomacy

Some in the American media hope and a few in the German media fear that President Bush's "charm offensive" will lead to German support for U.S. policy on Iran. However, it is very unlikely that President Bush's kind of charm has an impact on Chancellor Merkel. The importance of the personal relationship between heads of government is often overestimated. Besides, President Bush might not expect a military contribution in a potential war with Iran anyway, because he told the German tabloid Bild (White House transcript) concerning the disagreements over Iraq:
I've come to realize that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent, that Germany is a country now that is -- no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, Germans are -- just don't like war. And I can understand that. There's a generation of people who had their lives torn about because of a terrible war.
The Bush administration has high hopes in Merkel, because Blair and Chirac are pre-occupied with internal party politics and President Bush's Spanish and Italian allies, Aznar and Berlusconi, have not been re-elected. According to the International Herald Tribune,"Angela Merkel has steadily emerged as the European leader to watch" and "demonstrated a real skill in effective, low-key diplomacy. It worked in Europe, where she brokered a key compromise on the European Union budget last January."
The German government works hard for a diplomatic solution and makes use of its good relationship with Russia and China and considers using its significant leverage over Iran. Commercial sanctions against Iran could prove very effective, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out (translation by Transatlantic Intelligencer):
More comprehensive sanctions [i.e. including commercial sanctions] would be tied to ever higher costs also for the West – and, in particular, for Germany. Should commercial sanctions be applied, it would be first and foremost the EU states that are affected. In 2004, Germany was the most important supplier of Iran (12.3% of all imports), followed by France (8.5%), Italy (7.9%), and China (7.5%). Due to its long-term cooperation with Europe and a lack of local know-how, Iran is particularly dependent upon imports in the automobile and machine-building industries and the oil and gas sectors. As consequence, Iran could be highly susceptible to sanctions.
Part of President Bush's charm offensive -- a term that was frequently used in the media recently -- might have been his remarks about wanting to close Guantanamo, get trials for the detainees and wait for the supreme court; see our earlier post.  Prof. Hammel points out that some reaction in the U.S. media is only now starting to burble up. Slate, for instance, writes: "His statement was surprising for several reasons, not least because it represents a major reversal from prior policy statements about the camp." More at Prof. Hammel's German Joys.

Polls on Iran, the US and Iraq

Foreign Policy has a Valentine Day's special Who do you love? based on opinion polls conducted for the BBC World Service. If you haven't registered for free and don't care for the graphics with sweat little hearts, you can access the polls at the University of Maryland's PIPA, which was involved in conducting the 40,000 interviews in 33 countries. The results on Iran's popularity:
On average across the 33 countries just 18 percent say Iran is having a positive influence while 47 percent say Iran is having a negative influence. Countries in Europe and North America have the largest majorities expressing a negative view of Iran. The most negative are Germany (84%), the US (81%), and Italy (77%); followed by Finland (74%), Great Britain (72%), Canada (73%), France (68%), Spain (66%) and Poland (60%).
On the United States:
Within Europe there has been a hardening of negative attitudes toward America compared to a year ago. Those expressing a negative view have risen in France (from 54% to 65%), and Great Britain (50% to 57%) (...) Interestingly, no more Iranians were negative about the US role in the world than Germans or French (each with 65% negative).
Regarding the support for military options on Iran if diplomacy fails, opinion polls in the US and in Germany produce contradictory results for both countries: Continue reading "Polls on Iran, the US and Iraq"

Move out of Iraq, argues retired General and NSA Director Odom

Everything that opponents of a pullout say would happen if the U.S. left Iraq is happening already, says retired Gen. William E. Odom, the head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard published his op-ed and fellow Fulbrighter Bernhard Lucke recommended it to us: "I think it provides a lot of insight. I always had a feeling that something goes totally wrong in Iraq, but was afraid of pulling out, too, as are probably most of us. Now I've changed my mind."

Odom attacks the most popular arguments against pulling out of Iraq, like "We would leave behind a civil war, lose credibility on the world stage, embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy; Iraq would become a haven for terrorists; Iranian influence in Iraq would increase," etc.

Related post in the Atlantic Review in September: Iraq: Is the US giving up?

Iraq: Is the US giving up?

Numerous opinion polls indicate that more and more Americans are critical of the US government's job in Iraq, consider the war a mistake and demand a withdrawal of the troops.
14,641 members of the US military have been wounded and 1,911 have been killed. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in April 2004, has galvanized the anti-war movement. More than 100,000 Americans demonstrated against the war in Washington DC on Saturday, while more than 200 demonstrated in favor of the war on the same day and about 400 people the day after. Some of the anti-war posters read:
Make levees, not war; Yeeha is not a foreign policy; Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism; Osama bin Forgotten; Cindy speaks for me; Bush busy creating business for morticians worldwide; Liar, born liar, born-again liar; Pro whose life?; War is terrorism with a bigger budget.

The protests, polls and fatalities are not the reasons, why Juan Cole calls for pulling out the ground troops now. The professor of history at the Univ of Michigan and Fulbright Alumnus describes numerous mistakes and disastrous developments in Iraq and concludes that the ground troops are not accomplishing their mission, but they are:

making things worse, not better. Let's get them out, now, before they destroy any more cities, create any more hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, provoke any more ethnic hatreds by installing Shiite police in Fallujah or Kurdish troops in Turkmen Tal Afar. They are sowing a vast whirlwind, a desert sandstorm of Martian proportions, which future generations of Americans and Iraqis will reap. The ground troops must come out. Now. For the good of Iraq. For the good of America.

The US generals in Iraq are more upbeat about their accomplishments, but worry about the eroding political support for their mission and plan a slow exit, writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more. Most of all, they don't want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could. (...)

What Abizaid and his commanders seem to fear most is that eroding political support for the war in the United States will undermine their strategy for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. They think that strategy is beginning to pay off, but it will require several more years of hard work to stabilize the country. The generals devoutly want the American people to stay the course -- but the course they describe is more limited, and more realistic, than recent political debate might suggest.

While Prof Cole wants the US ground troops out now he later clarified that the US "has a duty to manage the withdrawal so as not to provoke a massive civil war. I suspect that can be done with a combination of continued training and arming of the new Iraqi army and air power." Others are skeptical whether US air power and the Iraqi army can prevent a civil war.

Iraq has already replaced Afghanistan as Al Qaeda's training ground, confirms an expert panel created by the UN Security Council and led by British counterterrorism specialist Richard Barrett.
Reuters quotes from their report:

Recruits travel there [to Iraq] from many parts of the world and acquire skills in urban warfare, bomb-making, assassination and suicide attacks. (...) When these fighters return to their countries of origin or residence and join those at home who are well integrated locally, the combination is likely to increase the threat of successful terrorist attacks considerably. (...) The threat from al Qaeda remains as pernicious and widespread as at any time since the attacks of 11 September 2001.

It is obviously in Europe's vital interest that the US led coalition succeeds in establishing stability and democracy in Iraq and does not allow Iraq to be the training base for the next 9/11 terrorists. Germany's Foreign Minister Fischer acknowledged at the Munich Security Conference in 2004, (exactly one year after his sharp disagreements with Rumsfeld about going to war with Iraq) that a US failure in Iraq would have severe negative consequences for the opponents of the war as well.

The Atlantic Review reported about more positive assessments of the developments in Iraq
here and here.
We also wrote about the Bush administration
lowering expectations regarding democracy in Iraq, women rights and defeating the insurgency.

Republican Senator Hagel walks in Senator Fulbright's footsteps

All high ranking Republicans support President Bush's policy on Iraq? Think again! Senator Hagel, a Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, reminds Boston Globe Columnist Derrick Z. Jackson of Senator Fulbright:

As President Bush's war in Iraq becomes more maddening to Americans, the more Hagel talks as if he is the Republican who will become to Bush what J. William Fulbright once was to Lyndon Johnson. Fulbright was the Democratic senator from Arkansas who publicly turned against Johnson's war in Vietnam. Fulbright used his power as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold nationally televised hearings to debate the merits of the war. (...)
The more disconnected the Bush administration becomes, the more Hagel -- who is said to be testing the waters for a presidential run in 2008 -- finds himself linking himself to the legacy of Fulbright. A measure of how badly Bush has botched events since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is that a Republican might run on something that smacks of an antiwar platform. In a January speech before the World Affairs Council, Hagel noted Fulbright's Vietnam hearings. ''Fulbright received criticism for holding public hearings on Vietnam, especially with a president of his own party in office," Hagel said. ''Fulbright later wrote that he held those hearings 'in the hope of helping to shape a true consensus in the long run, even at the cost of dispelling the image of a false one in the short run.' " Hagel continued by saying, ''Today, we must not be party to a false consensus in Iraq or any foreign policy issue." That echoes Fulbright's famous statement: ''The biggest lesson I learned from Vietnam is not to trust government statements."

Big thanks to David from Dialog International for sending us this article.