How Many Troops will Obama Withdraw from Iraq?

The InTrade prediction markets allows individuals to bet on the winner of the presidential elections and US recession timings.  They can also be used to bet on US foreign policy.  The graph below shows the contract price for the outcome “Number of US Troops in Iraq (given a Democratic president) as of June 2010.”

A couple of features stand out.  First, the price was relatively constant for almost all of 2008.  Second, the price has fluctuated wildly since November 5th and is now 30% below its 2008 average.  Here is how you calculate the implied June 2010 troop level from the contract price:

expected 2010 troop level = contract price x 2000

As of the end of June [pdf], there were 183,100 troops participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  So a price for a “no change in troop levels” is 91.55 compared to a current price of 29.9. This price says that the Intrade “market” expects about 60,000 US troops in Iraq by the end of June 2010. (Note: As a thinly traded contract, it is difficult to infer true market expectations from the price.)  If you predict less “change” from this administration, you might think this is an extremely low number.  If you have little hope for real change, then perhaps you should purchase the contract today.  Contracts on other foreign policy-related issues are also available:

Gitmo closed by December 31st, 2009 (low number –> low predicted likelihood)


Gates as Sec. of Defense (high number –> high expected likelihood)


Summary Executions in Iraq

The Independent’s Robert Fisk has a great article tonight about the summary executions being carried out in Saddam’s old intelligence HQ, now a “high-security detention facility.”

Of particular note is that the government’s “security officials” are so inept that they couldn’t even properly hang a man with a rope. After several failed attempts they just gave up and shot the guy in the head.

Though Iraq has only officially executed 33 people since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 2004, these killings are completely off the record, and the Independent says there have been hundreds of them.

Every Iraqi Was Murdered

In the excellent article by Ann Wright, “When Refusing to Kill Has a Higher Sentence Than Murder,” mention was made of the light sentences that were given out to U.S. soldiers for murdering Iraqi civilians. Many who support the war are also outraged about this. Yet, we should never forget that since the invasion and occupation of Iraq was itself aggressive, unnecessary, and immoral–every Iraqi killed by U.S. troops could be said to be murdered. There is no such thing as state-sanctified murder.

War Doesn’t End With Treaties

Something made me perk up this morning, going through the weekend’s news. After two weeks of reading about South Ossetia’s irregulars, the militiamen blamed for everything from looting to attempted genocide, in the periphery of news stories, this morning I read this in the Washington Post:

In Khetagurovo, housewife Ofelia Dzhanyeva said she had lost her brother during the war in the early 1990s when South Ossetia threw off Georgian control, and after the latest conflict nothing would induce Ossetians to accept Tbilisi’s rule.

“None of the Ossetians is even thinking of reconciliation with Georgia now,” she said. “In 1991 our children turned into refugees. Now they have grown up to defend their homeland.”

She’s talking about the 1991-92 South Ossetia War, when the Ossetians declared independence from Georgian rule, and Georgia retaliated by invading the territory. The children who suffered in that conflict grew up internalizing simmering hatreds. When Georgia once again attacked this year, bombing South Ossetian villages, they finally had a chance to unleash their pent-up rage. The comportment of the official South Ossetian Army, some 2500-3000 men, was eclipsed by the rampaging of nearly 20,000 irregulars.

A cease-fire was agreed upon in the 90s conflict, but officials cannot sign away the damage done to a generation of young people by their policies. The latest conflict, with its thousands of refugees, may be setting the stage for the next generation of children obsessed with revenge. Official independence, especially if only recognized by Russia, isn’t likely to paper over those wounds.

Even though the scale of this conflict is relatively tiny, with “mere” tens of thousands of refugees, the entire world has been in some way affected. Western-Russian relations are at the lowest point since the cold war — and one shudders to think of the possibilities if Georgia had been allowed to join NATO.

Now consider the numbers we’re dealing with in Iraq. A “ripening,” so to speak, of the personal crises of every young Iraqi may be 10-15 years in the future. Barring a far-reaching patching up of grievances between Westerners and Iraqis, as well as between groups throughout that ethnic maze, the world might be in for another South Ossetia — times 1000.

The Arrogant Hypocrisy of the U.S. Government

Is there any government more hypocritical than the U.S. government? Has there ever been? The United States is considering punishing Russia for its military actions in Georgia by cancelling U.S. participation in an annual Russia-NATO naval exercise. Read the full story here. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists that “the Russians need to stop their military operations as they have apparently said that they will, but those military operations really do now need to stop because calm needs to be restored.”

Well, how about the United States stopping its military operations in Iraq so calm can be restored? The very idea that the U.S. government would seek to lecture Russia about its military actions in Georgia is ludicrous. Has Uncle Sam no shame about the genocide its military has unleashed in Iraq?

Anti-Terrorist Raids

Any given day in Iraq includes a distressingly long list of casualties, but what about the stories behind those incidents? Here’s one from today which I thought warranted some expounding on:

Under the headline Terrorist hideout destroyed, a military press release touts the raid of a suspected “terrorist hideout”, the killing of a “terrorist” and the capture of 15 men.

How do we know it’s a terrorist hideout? Surveillance determined that the building contained “stockpiled food”, 12 bedrolls, and perhaps most damning of all, “men’s clothing”. How do we know the slain man was a terrorist? Well he was “near the target building” and made an unspecified sudden movement before being killed. Oh, and those 15 men who were captured? Well 3 of them were actually “wanted” for some crime or another. That would imply the other 12 were “unwanted”, wouldn’t it?

Here’s something conspicuously absent: weapons. Nowhere in the report is it alleged that this vitally important terrorist hideout, the destruction of which would, according to the story, “further degrade al-Qaeda’s terror network”, contained any IEDs, or explosive components, or the dreaded Iranian EFPs. Not one of these hardened al-Qaeda members was reported to be armed, and the story contains not one mention of a weapons cache, or even a single round of ammunition being present in the house: just food, and clothing.

And that “threatening” man somewhere near the building, the one so ably gunned down by Coalition forces? There is nothing in the story to suggest that he had a gun, or a suicide belt, or even a really pointy-looking stick. Just a guy, standing somewhere in Mosul, who made a sudden movement after being accosted by an unknown number of foreign troops. Now and forever though, he is a “killed terrorist”.

Says MNF Spokesman Major Hall “Our pursuit of these terrorists will continue to disrupt their ability to hinder the security, stability, and growth that Iraqi citizens are entitled to” Yet one must wonder how 15 unarmed guys in a building containing food and clothing posed such a dire threat to the citizenry of Iraq.