Andrew Sullivan has been doing good work looking into some troubling aspects of the career of Lt Gen Stanley McChrystal, the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Specifically, McChrystal’s oversight of Camp Nama in Iraq, where serious abuses were committed by U.S. troops under his command.
Anthony Shadid had a follow-up yesterday to this January 13 story about Nadhim Khalil. Khalil, a thirty year-old Sunni cleric and former insurgent, had, through an alliance with U.S. forces, essentially become the law in his town of Thuluyah, running it as his own little mob fiefdom.
Khalil’s rivals have hailed his detention. His colleagues call it caprice. Either way, it underlines the free-for-all of elusive loyalties, stinging betrayals and unrequited vengeance as the U.S. military withdraws, its erstwhile allies splinter, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains tentative and everyone vies for power ahead of national elections.
In short, no one is in charge in Thuluyah. Khalil was — until his arrest. [...]
He was taken to neighboring Balad, where, Khalil said, cheering members of the Iraqi security forces began shouting slogans for Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric.
While Khalil obviously has reason to lie about his jailers chanting Sadr slogans — it strengthens his claim that his detention is politically motivated — it’s not particularly surprising to hear, as the Iraqi security forces are riddled with Sadr supporters and former Mahdi Army militiamen. It’s worth recalling, too, that in 2006 Balad was the scene of Iraq’s worst episodes of sectarian cleansing, a four-day rampage in which Shia militias “all but emptied Balad of Sunnis.”
The Washington Post has an article this morning that does a good job explaining the thinking behind Defense Secretary Gates’ rebalancing of defense spending toward things that actually help our troops in wars America is fighting now and away from spectacularbig-ticket items that the defense industry favors:
For decades, the Pentagon’s focus has been on building expensive, high-tech weapons programs for conventional wars. Gates has embarked on an ambitious effort to force the department to focus more of its energy on developing arms and equipment that can help troops on the ground as they battle insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. [...]
The deteriorating conditions in [Afghanistan and Pakistan] seem to have sharpened the secretary’s sense of urgency. His 2010 defense budget, introduced this month, proposes to cut or curtail a spate of large-scale weapons programs.
“Listening to our troops and commanders, unvarnished and unscripted, has from the moment I took this job been the greatest single source of ideas on what the department needs to do,” he told lawmakers Wednesday. When some lawmakers questioned whether he had done the rigorous analysis to justify his budget cuts, Gates responded in his flat Kansas twang that the Pentagon is “drowning in analysis.” Most of the changes he’d made were “kind of no-brainers,” he said.
The article also includes the usual quotes from the usual disgruntled sources sounding the usual alarms over the fact that the United States is embracing defeat — excuse me, a “peace dividend” — by not maintaining a military force that is enough orders of magnitude larger and more advanced than our closest competitor. While the changes that Gates has made may be “no-brainers,” each and every one runs up against an entrenched and determined constituency. It’s to Gates’ credit, and the president’s, that the administration is standing firm behind the difficult but necessary choices they’ve made regarding America’s defense priorities.
Related, one of the problems with cutting projects like the F-22 — which Gates wants to cap at 187 — is that they are just so cool. And they look great when set to techno music. However, with the help of technicians here at Wonk Room Labs I have completed what I think is a successful experiment to prove that anything can be made to seem more silly — and less necessary to America’s defense — when sped up and set to Benny Hill music.