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Iraq: At a tipping point?
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, July 27, 2006

I've mentioned my respect for Ralph Peters and his insights into Iraq. I don't always agree, but in most cases the disagreements are minor. But because of his military background and the access that brings coupled with his numerous visits to Iraq, I'm more inclined to give his opinion much more weight than most commenters. Today, he sounds off about a problem that he feels must be addressed now, today, or it could end the grand Iraqi experiment and see the country descend into chaos. Read this carefully, because his point is significant:
When I visited Baghdad in March, there was no civil war. There is no civil war in Iraq today. But it's beginning to look as if there might be one tomorrow.

Something vital has changed. In Baghdad.

For three years, the violence was about political power in post-Saddam Iraq. Sunni Arab insurgents and Shia militias may have been on opposite sides, but the conflict was only a religious war for the foreign terrorists. And the fighting wasn't between the masses of Sunnis and Shias - who were the victims of all sides.

Now it's different. The unwillingness of the Iraqi government to take on the sectarian death squads slaughtering civilians is polarizing Iraq (while the Kurds build up their own peaceful slice of the country as fast as they can).
Three significant points: 1) no civil war today, maybe one tomorrow (IOW, civil war is now a distinct possibility), 2) violence has changed from a struggle for political power into a struggle for religious power and 3) the Iraqi government is unwilling to face and quell the sectarian death squads causing the mayhem.

That, as he points out is leading to a religious, not political, polarization from which Iraq may not be able to extract itself if something isn't done and done quickly.

As Peters points out:
Instead of working aggressively toward a solution, key elements within the Iraqi government have become part of the problem. Responsible for the police and public order, the Interior Ministry has failed utterly. Instead of behaving impartially, Shia-dominated police units provide death squads to retaliate against Sunni insurgents. As a result, more Sunnis back the insurgents in self-defense. More Shias die. More Sunnis die. The downward spiral accelerates.
And as goes Baghdad, so goes Iraq. Meanwhile, in the north, the Kurds are, as Peters characterizes it, building "up their own peaceful slice of the country as fast as they can." And of course, in the south, we've already seen a province turned over to total Iraqi control. But unless the violence and killing in Baghdad are controlled, that could all end up for naught (and it might force the Kurds to choose between a violent Iraq which can't control it's capital city and breaking away to form an independent Kurdistan, which would only inflame the situation even more).

As it stands right now, the US is redeploying about 7,000 troops to Baghdad internally from other areas of Iraq. But unless the Iraqi government steps up and steps up now, the move will probably not have the desired effect because of the changing nature of the violence.
This is bad news for our troops in Iraq. For the first time, we may face a problem we have no hope of fixing. We can defeat the terrorists. We can defeat a political insurgency. But when our forces find themselves caught between two religious factions, the only hope is to pick a side and stick to it, despite the atrocities it inevitably will commit.

We're not ready for that, psychologically or morally. Yet. We'll try to be honest brokers. But men on a violent mission from God have no respect for mediators.
If there was ever a more salient example of Peters last line, it is the current Israeli fight with Hezbollah. Religiously fanatic Hezbollah isn't interested in negotiation. It is only interested in the utter destruction of its enemy. And Peters is right, while we can defeat a foreign insurgency or even a politically motivated one, we're not ready to stand between warring religious factions.

Peters then offers advice to President Bush which, in my estimation, is necessary, especially with the increasing violence threatening to engulf and consume the entire multi-year US effort in Iraq:
But the Iraqis have to get their act together. We can't keep the training wheels on the bicycle forever. If they won't unite to fight for their own country, we'll have to accept that our noble effort failed.

We should never publicize a timetable for a troop withdrawal, but here's what President Bush should have told Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, yesterday: "You are failing your country. We'll give you six months. If your government can't produce a unified response to sectarian violence that treats all sides impartially, we'll withdraw our troops and our support. Then you can fight it out among yourselves."

Failure in Iraq would be a victory for terror. In the short run. But the terrorists might then find themselves mired in a long and crippling struggle. An Iraqi civil war might become al Qaeda's Vietnam, not ours.

One other thing our president should tell Iraq's top leaders: "If you fail your country, the United States will be embarrassed. But we'll remain the greatest power on earth. Few, if any, of you will survive the catastrophe you brought upon your people."
For PM Maliki and the government of Iraq, it is what my father used to call "fish or cut bait" time. The time to step up is now, not in 3 months. Not in 6 months. With the deployment of the 7,000 US troops a plan must be executed which brings the violence under control, establishes the authority of the Iraqi government and its will to act as harshly as necessary to stamp out death squads and other purveyors of violence and death.

It is time, as Peters suggests, to take the training wheels off and give them full responsibility for their fate while we stand by ready to aid them if they run into trouble.
 
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Let me pose a superficially radical query: What is wrong with Iraq reorganizing (or disintegrating, if you wish) into three separate countries?

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
David: because (a) the Turks have said that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan; (b) Iran would obtain control of the southern oil fields; and (c) the Sunnis are likely to fight long and hard, and possibly bring in other countries, jeopardizing the flow of oil out of the Straits of Hormuz.

[note: interesting juxtaposition between this post and the comments on the Soldier Returns post below.]
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
One of which part of Turkey would want to join, which Turkey would resist with violence.

One of which would be allied with Iran, even more so then now.

I don’t believe that it would end the violence, mearly distribute it further.

****

Mohammed at Iraq the Model has a post with information that jives with Peters.

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2006/07/war-preparations-disguised-as.html
The question is are we going to see the same from the parties really involved in the conflict, I mean meetings for real reconciliation and a positive answer to Maliki’s calls?
In fact I see that these parties will answer the calls for reconciliation but for a purpose other than Iraq’s stability and peace and for a purpose other than putting an end to the daily bloodshed.
It’s rather a pessimistic scenario that I am reading from signs I see in the atmosphere; I hear and see that some Shia parties with strong militias are seeking a truce (not peace) with Sunni counterparts especially those with significant militias but this in my opinion will be more like a sectarian truce than a true national reconciliation.

But again, why would they seek truce with all the deeply rooted differences between them?
Well the unpleasant scenario I’m expecting is basically that these parties want this truce to fix one front and pave the way for the beginning of a Sunni-Shia joint Islamic insurgency against the US and the UK in Iraq, and I call it Islamic because that’s how the planning party wants it to look like to persuade militants of the other sect to join them in their next mischief or at least to guarantee that the other sect would remain neutral during the conflict they are planning to spark.

...

Even if this war breaks out in Iraq, it will not lead to the collapse of the state because the act of the militias will be anti-Iraqi government as well as anti-coalition and these militias will find themselves fighting two determined powers.
However, Maliki will be in an embarrassing position because he realizes that confronting a large-scale Islamic insurgency will no doubt include a lot of destruction to some Iraqi cities similar to what happened to Najaf two years ago and this time the relative stability in the south will face serious threats and we will go into another cycle of instability and destruction of whatever little infrastructure we have in there.
This will exactly mean moving Iraq back years in time and this is the main objective behind the insurgency, i.e. delaying the success of the Iraqi project at any cost to delay any possible action by the world against the Mullahs in Iran.

That’s why I see that the government should take an active role in these local reconciliation/truce meetings and ask the involved parties to peacefully hand their weapons to the government as gesture of good intentions and after that a second phase of enforced disarmament may come.
After all, reconciliation will be meaningless if everyone will still be keeping a finger on the trigger.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
David hits upon a key point. There a myriad of problems with such an approach, but if we give up, what about Kurdistan? Undoubtedly they would break away, and in the short term they would likely be successful. If the effort in central and southern Iraq fails, I would still feel we would should aid the Kurds. What boundaries would be set I cannot say, and it is a thorny question. Still, Kurdistan is essentially a separate country already with well defended borders and little violence.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Another good answer...

Because without taking care of the troublemakers, the trouble will always be there.

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2006/07/50-actually-id-say-more-than-that.html
Another sign that factions that prefer violence over dialogue are getting more isolated; this time the radical ’association of Muslim scholars’ is being renounced by no less than their former allies in the Islamic Party.

This report from Radio Sawa quotes Omar al-Jubori the head of the human rights office in the Iraqi Islamic Party as saying that Harith al-Dhari, secretary of the association of Muslim scholars was "responsible for 50% of the blood of Sunni Iraqis who were killed in Iraq".

In his statement Mr. Jubori said that Sunni political and religious leaderships were wrong when they prohibited Sunni men from enlisting in the Iraqi police and army

...

See, addressing the bad elements is the key to having good plans but in contrast with that you read reports such as this one from the Daily Telegraph (via Pajamas) that talks about some Iraqi politicians considering plans to partition Baghdad into a Sunni west and Shia east. That idea is totally unacceptable and is not inline with the reconciliation plan some of them ironically support. What these politicians are saying is equal to saying that people of different sects should reconcile but at the same time they should not come near districts of other sects!

And what about the million Shia who live in the west, or the million Sunni who live in the east? Does it make sense at all to tell them to simply relocate because the government and the coalition cannot or don’t want to put in enough effort to stop the fanatics form slaughtering them?
What makes sense in my opinion is to neutralize the gangs that commit atrocities on both sides and that’s the only plan we should have and implement if we still want to keep Iraq in one piece.

Relocating civilians will be a humanitarian catastrophe and cannot solve the real problem because unless troublemakers are defeated or neutralized they will keep causing troubles no matter how many partitions are in place.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
David: because (a) the Turks have said that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan; (b) Iran would obtain control of the southern oil fields; and (c) the Sunnis are likely to fight long and hard, and possibly bring in other countries, jeopardizing the flow of oil out of the Straits of Hormuz.
Well, perhaps all that is so, though I think there is a good deal of speculation involved. More importantly, it appears that the people living in Iraq may not want to share a political entity. In the end, how much can anyone do about that? The point is that, to put it mildly, things are not going well in Iraq. We should at least consider other options to the present course. The concerns you mention are certainly valid, but I don’t find them dispositive.
[note: interesting juxtaposition between this post and the comments on the Soldier Returns post below.]
Francis, as I said in the earlier thread, "[w]hatever the merits of the objection." There is a time and a place for everything.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
[note: interesting juxtaposition between this post and the comments on the Soldier Returns post below.]
Just is interesting was your willingness to question a job well done when you had no idea where he served in Iraq.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Things are not going well in Baghdad...

would be a more accurate statement.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
McQ:

Having re-read both this and the Soldier Returns threads just now, I recognize that I was at best rude and at worst, well, you already called me those names already.

I extend my sincere apology for denigrating the service of your friend. Please accept that I did not intend to do so. I recognize that I had no basis to write what I did, and that I was in the wrong to do so, especially at a time when you were happy that your friend was back alive and in one piece.

I am sincerely sorry.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Francis:

Thank you for your apology. Gladly and sincerely accepted. I apologize for the names I threw at you as well. That said, I hope we can have some good discussions about all of this in the right context.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Interesting question David..But the reason that Iraq’s disintegration is not in anybody’s interest:

For Us:

1. We lost our great middle-east democrazy experiment
2. While we may not lose the oil fields in the North, the oil has to traverse Sunni Territory to get to Jordan/Saudia. And given our relationship with the Iraqi Sunnis, the chances of a pipeline going thru Sunni territory remains slim

For the Iranians:

1. They lose control of the oil-rich northern Iraq to the Kurds
2. Why will they want to support the Arab shias if they cannot get control of the Oil that Iraq is sitting on

For the Sunnis:

1. They will not have Oil
2. They will not have access to the persian gulf
3. They will be landlocked only making some money of oil-transit (whatever little oil will transit their territory)

For the Turks:

1. The kurds in their country will want to join the newly independent kurdistan which entails loss of territory for Turkey

Basically, Iraq will kept as a unified country..But if things get worse, it might not be a bad idea to bring in a dictator, Saddam-lite, maybe ?
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
...because (a) the Turks have said that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan; (b) Iran would obtain control of the southern oil fields; and (c) the Sunnis are likely to fight long and hard, and possibly bring in other countries, jeopardizing the flow of oil out of the Straits of Hormuz.

Unfortunately, these things all seem to be in place now: The Kurds, in effect, are independent already and clashing with Turkey, the south has become a Taliban-like Islamic Republic under the influence of Iran and the Sunnis are fighting on.

Maliki’s government and army is seen as an adjunct of the Shia, with American backing, and that government is completely ineffective at bringing stability or ruling the country.

Peter’s idea to take on the militias will be nothing more than choosing a side, and a Shia side at that, in the civil war and sticking with it. The alternatives really don’t look very good right now.

 
Written By: Pug
URL: http://
Meanwhile, in the north, the Kurds are, as Peters characterizes it, building "up their own peaceful slice of the country as fast as they can."
Peters is either lying or is ignorant. Why do you continue to cite him? Didn’t he tell us a few months ago that things were going just fine in Iraq? He doesn’t know the first thing about what is going on in Kurdistan:


From Newsweek:
July 31, 2006 issue - Israel launched airstrikes on Lebanon in response to attacks by Hizbullah earlier this month, and George W. Bush called it "self-defense." But what to tell the Turks, who over the last week lost 15 soldiers to terror attacks launched by separatist Kurds from neighboring Iraq? Many Turkish leaders are pressing for cross-border tactical air assaults on the guerrillas. But Bush, fearing yet another escalation of the Middle East’s violence, urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to hold off. "The message was, unilateral action isn’t going to be helpful," says a senior U.S. official, describing the 15-minute phone conversation. "The president asked for patience."

And so Turkish forces are holding fast—for now—in deference to their half-century alliance with the United States. But that patience is bound to be challenged, probably sooner than later. Domestic political pressures are building to take a leaf from Israel’s book and hit back at the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Work-ers’ Party, or PKK. Since the beginning of the year, attacks on Turkish military garrisons and police stations have esca-lated across the country’s southeast, along with random shootings, bombings and protests—many of them, authorities suspect, organized in Iraq. Already the Turkish military has laid detailed plans for possible helicopter-and-commando assaults, government sources tell NEWSWEEK. Meanwhile, Ankara’s frustration with Washington has grown palpable. For all the Bush administration’s repeated promises to crack down on the PKK, little if anything has happened. With elections coming next year, Erdogan could be pardoned for soon concluding that his forbearance might prove politically dangerous. "Moderate, liberal people in Turkey are becoming increasingly anti-American," warns Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. "That isn’t good."
Turkey is our ally. A NATO ally. A secular muslim country. We need more of them. And yet, when our ally is attacked by Kurds, in cross-border raids, we urge our ally to just take it. Meanwhile, we give Israel the green light to bomb civiliians for the same behavior. Why in the world are we allowing the Kurds to get away with this? What is Bush’s problem?

As for a "peaceful" slice, Peters doesn’t know what the h*ll he is talking about. That must be why you hold his opinion in such high esteem.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
I see four principal options, posted in order of likelihood:

A. Grind it out. Encourage and support internal resettlement. Abandon the rest of the country and move the vast majority of forces to Bagdad. Partition Bagdad. Set up roadblocks across the city essentially forcing people to live in their sector only. Allow the religious war to burn itself out while trying to keep a lid on the total violence.

B. Formally partition the country, including recognizing Kurdistan as a US ally. Put US forces on the Kurdish / Turkish border to prevent a war between those two countries and let the Sunnis and Shia fight it out.

C. Quit. Declare that the US cannot and will not get involved in civil war and bring everyone back to the US (or, alternatively, station a large enough force to deter Iran in Kuwait, and tell the Iranians that we will not allow them to cross the border).

D. Invade and occupy Iran. Use the presence of Iranian forces among Hezbollah as casus belli. Have the US forces in Iraq face east and get going. Draft the warm bodies necessary to serve as a long-term occupation force. Recognize that the invasion may well mean the end of the post-WWII international security structure and the law of unforeseen consequences may well come to bite us on the posterior.

 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Ralph Peters is grossly dishonest, and that article is nothing but a revolting excuse for the failure of his neoconservative foreign policy views, to wit, my emphasis:

We helped make this mess. Instead of relentlessly destroying terrorists and insurgents, we tried to wage war gently to please the media. We always let the bad guys off the ropes - and apologized when they showed the press their rope burns. We passed up repeated chances to kill Moqtada al-Sadr and break his Mahdi Army militia. We did what was easiest in the short term, not what was essential for the long term...
But it’s our own fault. We put off going to the dentist until the tooth rotted. Now it’s going to hurt…

The alternative would be to let Iraq fail. And we need to ponder that possibility honestly. While it’s far too early to give up, we need to "think the unthinkable." We can force the Iraqis to do many things, but we can’t force them to succeed. If the jealousy, corruption and partisanship in the Iraqi government prevent the country’s leaders from dealing forcefully with Iraq problems, we should no longer sacrifice our troops. Here’s the brutal reality: If Iraq is destined to become yet another monument to Arab failure, there could be far worse outcomes than a bloody civil war - as long as our troops are out of it
McQ, Peters is blaming the media, which we — the United States — purportedly were so anxious to please that we failed to prosecute the war properly by breaking enough things and killing enough people. And he also prepares the way for the debacle in Iraq to be cast as a "monument to Arab failure."

Failure in every corner for Peters, except for his idea that we could compel the sectarian and tribal peoples of Iraq to form a democacy under the peaceful rule of secular law. A lot of smart folks warned this vision was gravely mistaken, because the unfortunate reality is that Iraq is not sufficiently comprised of classical liberals like the brothers at Iraq the Model.

Brent Scowcroft and other non-neoconservative conservatives said from the outset that the venture was not going to succeed, that Iraq could not be made into a secular democracy by the United States military. Our military is superb, but it cannot effect social engineering, any more than any government can.

Peters is laying the groundwork of excuse-making for the fact that his social engineering project is a failure. And he grotesquely does so by declaring that a "bloody" civil war in Iraq wouldn’t be such an awful thing!

I mean, when is it allowed to say that the neocons were wrong? Is it impossible that they were? Will any blame-shifting set of excuses be accepted by the readers here?
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Peters is either lying or is ignorant.
MK, as it so happens I had served with Peters back in the early 1980s.

I would be absolutely amazed that he would lie. In fact, I don’t believe that he would.

Calling Ralph ignorant is redefining the word to its opposite.

So, Mona, how did the Turks become what they are? Is it that they simply aren’t Arabs?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
So, Mona, how did the Turks become what they are?
Misdirection doesn’t cut it. The fact is that many, many well-informed people strongly advised against our Iraq adventure, citing the known tribal and sectarian animosities among the various factions in Iraq. By a long shot, those voicing such views were not all "liberals."

Further, I am simply astonished at Peters’ claim that only now are we seeing religious differences playing a significant role in the violent mess that is Iraq. Iraq the Model months ago published a painful, morose dialog they had with their father in which the father said the democratic experiment was already then doomed by the bloody-mindedness of the religious fanatics in his country. But of course he only lives in Baghdad, in the midst of the carnage, which if it is a "bloody" civil war that isn’t such a bad thing according to Ralph Peters. (eyes rolling in disgust)
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Misdirection doesn’t cut it.
Funny you should bring that up.

Why not answer the d*mned question?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I mean, when is it allowed to say that the neocons were wrong?
Uh, gee, Mona, I don’t know ... when and if it actually fails?

As to the rest, we obviously read different articles.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Francis:

At the moment, for the US, I see your options A or C as the most likely. And for now, probably A. Depends on how the Iraqi government now reacts. It could become C fairly quickly. The ball, as they say, is in their court.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Grind it out. Encourage and support internal resettlement. Abandon the rest of the country and move the vast majority of forces to Bagdad. Partition Bagdad. Set up roadblocks across the city essentially forcing people to live in their sector only. Allow the religious war to burn itself out while trying to keep a lid on the total violence.
Is this a proposal to formally segregate the city by religious affiliation?


 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
Is this a proposal to formally segregate the city by religious affiliation?
I think it is more like a proposal to severely cut down on the death squads and militias ability to move at will through out the city and do their deadly deeds. Roadblocks, curfews, raids, police sweeps, etc.

IOW, take charge of the city, keep it to a low simmer and let the friction burn itself out while establishing the government’s control.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Perhaps the Kurds in Turkey seek independence because there is no Kurdistan. It’s possible that could change if suddenly there was one in northern Iraq. Either way, I don’t feel sorry for Turkey at all after our "NATO ally" f*cked us in 2003.

I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for the Sunnis either. Aww, poor widdle Sunnis being killed by death squads? Live by sword, etc. At least they’ll wind up with Baghdad, for better or worse.

As far as the south goes, they aren’t very sympathetic to the Iranians; it’s Al Sadr’s bunch who are directed mostly by Iran, and they’re power base is in central Iraq (Baghdad), not the south. Sure, they’re both Shia, but southern Iraq is Arab while Iran is Persian and Azeri; they’re not exactly birds of a feather.

And as for Mona, you must be joking to suggest that a status quo under Saddam and his sons would somehow be preferable to all of this. After all, we knew that when the Warsaw pact crumbled that there would be ethnic strifed unleashed as well, but that doesn’t mean the enslavement of half of Europe was a preferable state of affairs.

Let the chips fall where they may. They were always going to anyway.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
I think it is more like a proposal to severely cut down on the death squads and militias ability to move at will through out the city and do their deadly deeds. Roadblocks, curfews, raids, police sweeps, etc.

IOW, take charge of the city, keep it to a low simmer and let the friction burn itself out while establishing the government’s control.
Yeah, McQ, I got that part. It was the other stuff —
Encourage and support internal resettlement. Abandon the rest of the country and move the vast majority of forces to Bagdad. Partition Bagdad. Set up roadblocks across the city essentially forcing people to live in their sector only.
— that I was wondering about. I’m sure the goal is what you (McQ) have stated, but is the means religious segregation? If so, that strikes me as a very troublesome proposition.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
Encourage and support internal resettlement. Abandon the rest of the country and move the vast majority of forces to Bagdad. Partition Bagdad. Set up roadblocks across the city essentially forcing people to live in their sector only.
Presume until things have settled down and there’s better control and more incentive to keep the peace.

I bet they already have a fair amount of religious segregation (self imposed) anyway.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I bet they already have a fair amount of religious segregation (self imposed) anyway.
You can count on it ... tribes, religious groups, etc. Tis the way of their society.
If so, that strikes me as a very troublesome proposition.
Well I’d point out he didn’t say force it, he said encourage it. It would be a short-term remedy or, at least, something which might cool the violence a bit.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Man, what a mess. I see the point of trying to arrange a temporary chill, but I don’t know how realistic it is. I mean, isn’t that what we’ve been doing? I don’t know. Maybe we should just get the hell out of there and let them do their thing. They’re probably going to do it eventually anyway. Isn’t that the way things work?
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
David: I was not proposing that the US force religious segregation. I was proposing that the US accomodate the desire of Iraqis to self-segregate on whatever basis they so choose.

This is, apparently, a lot of moving around going on, with tent cities going up. As we have seen time and again around the world, internally displaced refugees can be easy prey and are easy sources of radicalized young men. The US could, for example, establish transitional housing authorities in various sectors of the city where they place refugees into abandoned housing. Not a pretty solution but it beats the alternatives.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Perhaps the Kurds in Turkey seek independence because there is no Kurdistan. It’s possible that could change if suddenly there was one in northern Iraq. Either way, I don’t feel sorry for Turkey at all after our "NATO ally" f*cked us in 2003.


The Turks were afraid that things might turn out messy in Kurdistan and their Southeast would be in trouble..That is exactly why they didn’t support us ’03. The present situation just reaffirms their worst fears back then, does it not ??
As far as the south goes, they aren’t very sympathetic to the Iranians; it’s Al Sadr’s bunch who are directed mostly by Iran, and they’re power base is in central Iraq (Baghdad), not the south. Sure, they’re both Shia, but southern Iraq is Arab while Iran is Persian and Azeri; they’re not exactly birds of a feather.
Oh yeah, are Hezbollah and Iran, birds of the same feather ?? One is Arab and the other Persian..But still they do support each other don’t they ?? Of course, Sistani was ’educated’ in Iran and was based in Iran when Saddam Hussein was in power. Iam sure that his sympathies lie with us rather than the Iranians...Continue to dream on..
And as for Mona, you must be joking to suggest that a status quo under Saddam and his sons would somehow be preferable to all of this. After all, we knew that when the Warsaw pact crumbled that there would be ethnic strifed unleashed as well, but that doesn’t mean the enslavement of half of Europe was a preferable state of affairs
Why not the status-quo, Peter ?? What was wrong with it ? DId any American feel threatened by a defanged Saddam Hussein that we had to rush to change the Saddamn Hussein regime ??
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
Well, according to some, the big failure in trying to "pacify" Iraq, was trying to do to much at once.

What is needed is a sector by sector sweep, just like we did to other cities in Iraq. Clear and hold.

They’ve tried the massive, show of force. Didn’t impress the militia/insurgent/terrorists. So, now it must transition to street-to-street, house-to-house. But in a city the size of Detroit.

And without killing bystanders to much.

Shuffling around the trouble-makers doesn’t gain you much. They’ll still make trouble.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Yep, 12 years is sure rushing to change the Saddam regime.

We ought to have done it right the first time. But, peace without honest brokers is impossible.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
We can defeat the terrorists. We can defeat a political insurgency.
Well that is nice to know.
But when our forces find themselves caught between two religious factions, the only hope is to pick a side and stick to it, despite the atrocities it inevitably will commit.
Perhaps a certain religion (of peace) might motivate terrorists or Middle Eastern political factions?[/sarcasm]

He is however 90% correct and if America is going to confine itself to Iraq he is 100% correct. So hurry up and pick a side, fight dirty, turn a blind eye and win. 3 wasted years trying to be an honest broker are enough already.

Or run, hide, blame defeat on the savages and lose.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
Peter Jackson writes:
And as for Mona, you must be joking to suggest that a status quo under Saddam and his sons would somehow be preferable to all of this. After all, we knew that when the Warsaw pact crumbled that there would be ethnic strifed unleashed as well, but that doesn’t mean the enslavement of half of Europe was a preferable state of affairs
That is not, not even remotely, how this war was sold. The American people were not told that we would be ushering in a bloody civil war because the tribal and sectarian pathologies in Iraq would be unleashed, and could not be managed by military might. Indeed, that scenario was ridiculed by Bush supporters. Do you think, for one minute, that the public would have agreed to spend blood and treasure for a "bloody civil war" in Iraq — with 130,000 of our troops planted in the middle of it — all so that we could say the status quo under Saddam is changed?

By your metrics, there is no way for the Iraq project to be a failure. By definition, and even if we have created a Shia ally of Iran to replace Saddam — and how in the name of god can that be in the interest of the United States? — we have a victory. My concern is the best interests of my country, and what Mr. Peters is setting the stage to acknowledge is not a state of affairs that constitutes the best interests of the United States.

I supported the invasion of Iraq, and creating an Iran-friendly Shia govt and a bloody civil war are not why I did. Further, I don’t run around moving the goalpost and claiming that I’m still right, because it turns out that nothing, no events at all, could constitute failure.

McQ: We both read precisely the same article. I didn’t read it from here, however, and when I saw what you considered to be the salient aspects of it, I was (and am) in slack-jawed revulsion at the quite different parts that most strongly affected me; hence my rather sharp comments. Again, Mr. Peters has laid out the groundwork for blaming everyone for a disaster in Iraq, except for those who supported and argued for the war. Well, except he isn’t even really doing that. He allows that a "bloody civil war" might not be so bad, so by his barometer it seems there is no result that could mean the idea was flawed at the outset. It is that darned media, or the blasted Arabs, but it is inconceivable to him that maybe those who predicted exactly what we see, were right.

Peters may have very commendable credentials as a soldier, but I despise intellectual dishonesty, and that article is replete with it.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
That far leftist moonbat David Frum predicts this for Iraq:
Uncontrolled militias (some of them working tacitly with the pro-Iranian Islamists at the Ministry of the Interior) will wage intensifying war against each other.
Unless. He says because we cannot (or, in his formulation, Bush and Congress will not) keep the peace in Iraq, we need to move to Plan B, what looks to me to be a partitioning plan, or else we will very possibly see an Iraq in which Al Qaeda — the people who committed 9/11 — will thrive and plot further attacks on us. That is the result David Frum thinks frighteningly possible with what we have wrought thus far.


 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
The Turks were afraid that things might turn out messy in Kurdistan and their Southeast would be in trouble..That is exactly why they didn’t support us ’03. The present situation just reaffirms their worst fears back then, does it not ??
While certainly that was said by some, it was not why they didn’t support us. More importantly, it is an internally inconsistent complaint. If they were worried we would be destabilizing Kurdistan then the solution wouldn’t have been making stabilising the country more difficult.

Besides, Kurdistan is more stable, more prosperous and less violent than before the invasion. It hasn’t turned out messy relative to the situation earlier.
Why not the status-quo, Peter ?? What was wrong with it ? DId any American feel threatened by a defanged Saddam Hussein that we had to rush to change the Saddamn Hussein regime ??
I certainly felt he was a threat. That isn’t why I supported the invasion, but he was certainly a threat, and moreso to his own people and his neighbors. His wars, purges and brutality led to the deaths of well more than a million people, probably close to two. In my book that is a pretty damned awful state of affiars. It may not make the invasion a wise course of action, but it sure makes acting as if there was no reason to do it morally obtuse. I think once the death toll of one mans megalomania begins to climb past seven figures we all should take notice. "Never again" and all that stuff. That was your "status quo." What was wrong with it indeed. Laughably that all occurred in this one tiny spot in the world as the realists held sway. You know, Rumsfelds handshake and the wise multinational efforts of Madeline Albright and her team. Scowcrofts era of peace. Reality based my ass.
That is not, not even remotely, how this war was sold. The American people were not told that we would be ushering in a bloody civil war because the tribal and sectarian pathologies in Iraq would be unleashed, and could not be managed by military might.
Sold? Is that how you approach foreign policy, who has the best sales pitch? This wasn’t a trip to the mall. Well I suggest you spend a bit less time beating up on those who supported the war from a more mature perspective and spend a little time looking in the mirror. This effort was always prone to failure, they all are, but this one definitely. If the possibility of having it blow up in your face was unacceptable you should chastise yourself rather strongly. You are the one who supported a war for bad poor reasons if that is how you feel. If you convinced anyone to support the war on that kind of naive basis, then go apologize to those people and let McQ think through the policy options like an adult.

Besides your off message. I thought this war was all about WMD? Now you are saying it was sold on the basis of creating a stable democracy?

I’ll suggest another more grown up approach to this Mona. An idea or course of action can be worthwhile and still fail. Learn that or you will find yourself even more amazed learning the wrong lesson when really bad ideas work out. The same logical flaw, but it is actually as seductve as something that doesn’t work out is automatically bad.

If you don’t want to face failure, except the failures of inaction, support a pacifist. The world may or may not be better for it, but you can claim you weren’t involved. Don’t however lecture us about what we were sold. Some of us don’t do things because of the sales process. Ralph Peters may have chosen an unwise policy to support, but I can promise he didn’t buy anything, he believed that the potential rewards made it worth the risk.

Especially given that the "status quo" was so awful the real downside isn’t that awful relatively. Or I should say it shouldn’t really be awful for you. It would be for me, but I am someone who was horrified by Saddam’s regime before, so much so that I was willing to risk something to put an end to it. I’ll be horrified, but no more than previously. If Iraq degenerates into a full blown civil war, which many of those wise men and women you are extolling felt was going to happen before our invasion by the way, that is not obviously worse than what would have prevailed had we not invaded. Of course now we have to feel responsible for it. Well, that is what grownups do, they accept the risk that if they do something, that other people will blame them for its failure, regardless of how unfair it might be. You take over a struggling company and it fails anyway, you’ll still be blamed by many. You yourself will be asking "what could I have done differently." That is how I feel, I don’t run around complaining nobody ever said it might not work out. I don’t run around whining they misled me with happy talk.

Since you want to bring the rhetoric into the financial realm, lets use something better than someone falling for Zig Ziglar’s twenty best closes and use something a little more sophisticated. We bought options. If things go south, well it already had a wonderful book written about it called "The Republic of Fear." If it did better than that, we needed it to improve enough to make the cost we bore worthwhile. If it was only a bit better then we would probably regret it. The potential profit from success however, would be sky high. Peters would probably make that bet again and hopefully we have learned enough to do a better job the next time if he and those who believes as he does convince us once more to step into the breach.

I often disagree with Peters, but it has nothing to do with him selling me sunshine.
Unless. He says because we cannot (or, in his formulation, Bush and Congress will not) keep the peace in Iraq, we need to move to Plan B, what looks to me to be a partitioning plan, or else we will very possibly see an Iraq in which Al Qaeda — the people who committed 9/11 — will thrive and plot further attacks on us. That is the result David Frum thinks frighteningly possible with what we have wrought thus far.
Which of course could (I say would) have happened anyway. They were already there as were other terrorist groups, not to mention that Iraq was threatening to blow up anyway. I mean, 9/11 and a whole lot of attacks seem to have preceded this future failed state have they not? Besides, that quote might argue for staying the course now wouldn’t it?

This was a hard decision Mona, fraught with peril from comission and omission. That you thought you were told it wasn’t just makes you look silly. There were lots of reasons to oppose the war, as well as to favor it. Now you are the mirror image of the straw men you are attacking, the people who supposedly told you it was straight forward and obviously going to work out. Now you "know" that it could never have worked out, and there were people who "knew" the answer ahead of time. People, who when they had the chance, weren’t able to avoid these tragedies either, no matter how much Scowcroft and other might like to think they did. Well I suggest you live in a real "reality based" world of uncertain outcomes and human frailty afloat in a sea of actors who actually want to do a great many people grievous harm, filled with trade-offs and moral compromises. It isn’t pretty and it never was.

 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
The Turks were afraid that things might turn out messy in Kurdistan and their Southeast would be in trouble..That is exactly why they didn’t support us ’03. The present situation just reaffirms their worst fears back then, does it not ??
The messiness in southeast Turkey predates the Iraq war. The Turkish government has a lot of blood on their hands in the region. Frankly, I fail to see how letting US forces traverse Turkey would have excacerbated the problem. By not allowing our forces to cross, we instead had to bolster our support for the Peshmerga and depend more on the Kurds own institutions, resulting in them being stronger and more autonomous today than they otherwise would be.
Oh yeah, are Hezbollah and Iran, birds of the same feather ?? One is Arab and the other Persian..But still they do support each other don’t they ??
One is employer, the other employee, making it an apples and oranges comparison to Iraqi and Iranian Shia.
Of course, Sistani was ’educated’ in Iran and was based in Iran when Saddam Hussein was in power. Iam sure that his sympathies lie with us rather than the Iranians...Continue to dream on..
Well if this is true than perhaps you can name an instance where he’s acted to support Iranian influence in the region, or maybe even an anti-American fatwa he’s issued. As far as I can remember, he’s pretty much supported us the entire way this far. At least I don’t think I dreamed that...
Why not the status-quo, Peter ?? What was wrong with it ? DId any American feel threatened by a defanged Saddam Hussein that we had to rush to change the Saddamn Hussein regime ??
If I thought you were susceptible to reason I might get into this with you, but judging from the inanity of this question I don’t, so I won’t waste either of our time.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
That is not, not even remotely, how this war was sold. The American people were not told that we would be ushering in a bloody civil war because the tribal and sectarian pathologies in Iraq would be unleashed, and could not be managed by military might. Indeed, that scenario was ridiculed by Bush supporters. Do you think, for one minute, that the public would have agreed to spend blood and treasure for a "bloody civil war" in Iraq — with 130,000 of our troops planted in the middle of it — all so that we could say the status quo under Saddam is changed?
Well your consumerist take on this is interesting, Mona, if not a little weird. But looking over the
AUMF, I can’t find any mention of Sunnis or Kurds or Shia other than a mention of the violence Saddam perpetrated against them in violation of the 1991 ceasefire But I don’t recall this project being pitched as some kind of Iraqi national remodeling project as you suggest it was.
By your metrics, there is no way for the Iraq project to be a failure. By definition, and even if we have created a Shia ally of Iran to replace Saddam — and how in the name of god can that be in the interest of the United States?
Sure there is. If Saddam or his sons were still in power in Iraq with the potential to give Al Queda either
WMD or the expertise necessary for them to create their own, this project would be a total failure according to my metrics. And an Iranian proxie in Iraq is certainly not in our interest in Iraq, but if one winds up there it won’t be because we’ve "created" it.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
A lot of smart folks warned this vision was gravely mistaken, because the unfortunate reality is that Iraq is not sufficiently comprised of classical liberals like the brothers at Iraq the Model.
That is not, not even remotely, how this war was sold. The American people were not told that we would be ushering in a bloody civil war because the tribal and sectarian pathologies in Iraq would be unleashed, and could not be managed by military might.
Hmmm, when I see a such divergent statements in one day, I have to wonder. Is someone off their meds?
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
The Iraqis may yet rise above their tribalism, they’ve pulled it together this far after all. I’ve just never thought that them devolving into three states was that awful of an outcome in the first place. It would be better if they just broke in two, an independent Kurdistan and Mesopotamia, but whatever happens it will be decided by Iraqis. That’s the risk you take when you entrust people with their own political future, but what we’ve done was the only moral thing to do.

That being said, I think the only thing the Iraqi government can do now is to get rid of the Interior Ministry "police" as fast as possible. Transfer everyone that’s in it to their home town police or Army garrison. And everyone knows now that Iraq’s Interior Ministry police are lousy with Al Sadr’s people who are killing folks.

It seems to me that national police are just a bad idea anywhere. Whoever holds power over holds a huge chunk of the net power of a nation. As an instution, national police are just bad news. The iraqis should model their Interior Ministry on the US’s Department of Interior. Make them put out forrest fires and stuff. But all police should be local, serving in the area in which they live.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Mona,

I don’t deny the substance of what I wrote above. However, no matter how much I disagree about something I usually try and not adopt the tone of the above reply to your arguments. I regret that. My apologies.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
I’ve just never thought that them devolving into three states was that awful of an outcome in the first place.
Peter, I tend to agree with your statement but what is your response to the concerns raised earlier in this thread by a) Francis:
the Turks have said that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan; (b) Iran would obtain control of the southern oil fields; and (c) the Sunnis are likely to fight long and hard, and possibly bring in other countries, jeopardizing the flow of oil out of the Straits of Hormuz
and b) Ivan:
Iraq’s disintegration is not in anybody’s interest:

For Us:

1. We lost our great middle-east democrazy experiment
2. While we may not lose the oil fields in the North, the oil has to traverse Sunni Territory to get to Jordan/Saudia. And given our relationship with the Iraqi Sunnis, the chances of a pipeline going thru Sunni territory remains slim

For the Iranians:

1. They lose control of the oil-rich northern Iraq to the Kurds
2. Why will they want to support the Arab shias if they cannot get control of the Oil that Iraq is sitting on

For the Sunnis:

1. They will not have Oil
2. They will not have access to the persian gulf
3. They will be landlocked only making some money of oil-transit (whatever little oil will transit their territory)

For the Turks:

1. The kurds in their country will want to join the newly independent kurdistan which entails loss of territory for Turkey
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
Mona,

You wrote:
That is not, not even remotely, how this war was sold. The American people were not told that we would be ushering in a bloody civil war because the tribal and sectarian pathologies in Iraq would be unleashed, and could not be managed by military might.
You then proceed to say that you supported the invasion of Iraq, and that you despise intellectual dishonesty. I can think of no better example of intellectual dishonesty than blaming your support for the war on the Bush administration for not "selling" you the worst case scenario.

The idea that post-Hussein Iraq will devolve into sectarian civil war was never a proposition of fact, which could be scientifically proved true or false. It is a political judgement.

You want to say that it was so staggeringly obvious all along that an invasion of Iraq would trigger a civil war that somebody should have "sold" you that outcome. Yet, three years have passed now since the Hussein regime fell, and the Iraqis have so far managed to avert the civil war and cobble together a unity government. Civil war certainly does appear imminent now, but I question whether it was self-evident all along that the situation had to play out this way.

And who are you blaming for not selling you this outcome? When Bush made speeches about Iraq before the war I understood that they were exercises in persuasion. Bush was trying to persuade me to his point of view, laying out his case, marshalling arguments that supported what he believed. I was never under the delusion that Bush was making the case AGAINST the war, were you?

There certainly were lots of high profile people arguing the opposite position, and I never read them with the expectation that they were going to make Bush’s arguments for him. Scowcroft and others were warning about the possibility that an invasion could unleash wider instability in the Mid-East as early as 2002. Why did YOU ignore Scowcroft back then and support the war?

Is it possible that you were not aware of what people like Scowcroft were saying? Most of us political junkies were aware of the serious arguments on both sides, but people like Scowcroft certainly were not given a very high profile by the anti-war movement. I think the anti-war argument that most people heard was "NO WAR FOR OIL!!"

If you want to criticize someone for not selling the possibility of an Iraqi civil war forcefully enough it seems odd that the people you blame are the people who did not believe it. It seems to me that you should be criticizing the opponents of the war for stepping back allowing the ANSWER movement to get out in front and frame the anti-war debate.
















 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
By your metrics, there is no way for the Iraq project to be a failure. By definition, and even if we have created a Shia ally of Iran to replace Saddam — and how in the name of god can that be in the interest of the United States?

Sure there is. If Saddam or his sons were still in power in Iraq with the potential to give Al Queda either
WMD or the expertise necessary for them to create their own, this project would be a total failure according to my metrics.
Well, since Saddam’s juniors are dead and Saddam himself is incarcerated and facing a likely execution, then I guess you’re in the clear. Go ahead and declare Victory and ask us, “What’s all the fuss about?”
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Sold? Is that how you approach foreign policy, who has the best sales pitch? This wasn’t a trip to the mall.
Lance, “sold” or “selling” is a perfectly reasonable allegory.
Politicians try to convince, or “sell”, policy of every stripe to the people. And people try to convince, or “sell”, policy suggestions to the politicians that represent them.

“Sold” or “selling” is a frequent dysphemism.
I don’t deny the substance of what I wrote above. However, no matter how much I disagree about something I usually try and not adopt the tone of the above reply to your arguments. I regret that. My apologies.
Lance, your civility continues to impress me. Much more mature than what I do,

Hey you… Have a look at my BIGG ASS. … See it? … It’s HUGE.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
McQ: I don’t think you can discount the possibility of formal dissolution while we’re still in country. Just in the last few days, the British press reported that Iranian ministers were talking about dissolution. And the referendum out of the Kurdish area around the time of the last election was overwhelming in support of independence.

The Chinese are buying oil everywhere they can find it. I can easily foresee a time in the near future when China recognize Kurdistan as an independent state in return for an interest in the oil fields. The Kurds would probably be willing to gamble that the US will restrain Turkey if necessary.

ps: Thank you for graciously accepting my apology.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
McQ: I don’t think you can discount the possibility of formal dissolution while we’re still in country.
I’m not discounting it Frances, I’m just prioritizing the possibilities in order of likelihood as I see it.

First A, then C and if C possibly B. D, however, I don’t think is very likely at all.
Thank you for graciously accepting my apology.
Thank you for graciously offering it. It told me a lot about your character.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Pogue,
Lance, “sold” or “selling” is a perfectly reasonable allegory.
Politicians try to convince, or “sell”, policy of every stripe to the people. And people try to convince, or “sell”, policy suggestions to the politicians that represent them.
True, but I am tired of people blaming Bush for selling it to them. As I said, if we choose to listen to the sales pitch rather than look at the entire situation, if we don’t understand the underlying uncertainty and potential for disaster it is our fault, not that of the politician trying to drum up support for the adventure. If Bill Clinton had justified the Bosnian campaign by describing the actual situation as it stands now, I doubt the enthusiasm for it in many quarters would have been as strong.

We don’t get to avoid responsibility for not having looked at the downside of a policy because politicians said everything would be peachy keen. It doesn’t speak well of politicians, but it is our fault if we buy what they are selling based only on the pretty words flowing from their lips. They don’t do our thinking for us. Bill Clinton didn’t justify our mission in Somalia based on the likelihood Black Hawk Down would become part of common parlance. My guess is it would have never happened if he had. Plans are sold on what leaders want to accomplish, not on what they might not. If you don’t know that you probably shouldn’t be lecturing other people about much at all.
Lance, your civility continues to impress me. Much more mature than what I do
Well, that kind of stuff only works if your funny. I am not that funny. You definitely can be. Speaking of civility, common ground and stuff along those lines, check out my last post and tell me what you think.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com

David!
Peter, I tend to agree with your statement but what is your response to the concerns raised earlier in this thread by a) Francis:
the Turks have said that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan; (b) Iran would obtain control of the southern oil fields; and (c) the Sunnis are likely to fight long and hard, and possibly bring in other countries, jeopardizing the flow of oil out of the Straits of Hormuz
I believe that if done right, the Turks can be brought around and that the Iraqi Kurds can be convinced not to support any Kurdish resistance in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan could offer Turkish Kurds dual citizenship, And Turkey could set up a relatively open border that would essentially make Iraqi Kurdistan function as a sort of nationalist relief valve for Turkey’s Kurdish population.

The Sunni-Shia thing is more problematic, which is why it would be best to keep central and southern Iraq together even if the Kurds are set free. But who would come to the aid of Iraqi Sunnis? The Jordanians? The Saudis? I don’t think either nation would touch Baghdad with a ten-foot pole militarily. If anything I could see Iraqi Sunnis maybe seeking to merge with their Heshamite brethren in Jordan if for no other reason than to keep from being a minority in the region. And any attempt by Iran to move into southern Iraq would be met with the same international enthusiasm as Saddam’s attempt to annex Kuwait. Saudi Arabia would have a big problem with it as well.

Now I’m the first to admit that this is all conjecture. I don’t really know what would happen if Iraq were to bust apart, nor do I know what will happen if it sticks together. But all this talk about Iranian proxy states is all conjecture as well.


Pogue!
Well, since Saddam’s juniors are dead and Saddam himself is incarcerated and facing a likely execution, then I guess you’re in the clear. Go ahead and declare Victory and ask us, “What’s all the fuss about?”
The fuss isn’t about whether we’ve met the objectives set forth in the AUMF, the fuss is about whether or not the Iraqis are going to take advantage of the opportunity to have a normal country or succumb to the worst of their tribal instincts. Unfortunately the latter is ultimately outside of our sphere of control.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Mona,

Weren’t you a big supporter of the war in Iraq? If I’m wrong, do correct me.

Oh, and thanks for the link you posted at Hit n’ Run.
 
Written By: Phileleutherus Lipsiensis
URL: http://

 
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