Monday, October 30, 2006

Tan Nguyen Tripped Up In Run Against Loretta Sanchez

Maverick Nguyen no threat to Sanchez His defiance in face of letter probe figures to avail him little in election.

By Quang X. Pham
The Orange County Register
Friday, October 27, 2006

The former Marine Corps pilot, business consultant and author earlier this year explored running as an Independent against Rep. Loretta Sanchez. His campaign slogan states he's "not afraid to tell it like it is." But Tan Nguyen, the ex-Democrat-turned-Republican congressional candidate, might want to ditch the phrase. According to polls commissioned by Nguyen, he was actually leading by double digits and well on his way to Washington, D.C.

Such a claim was absurd even before the ruckus over a scare letter sent by Nguyen's campaign to thousands of Hispanic homes in central Orange County sullied his name, the most common surname for Vietnamese. State agents this week raided Nguyen's campaign office and home shortly before his scheduled news conference. Computers and files were seized, but no charges had been filed with less than two weeks to go before the election in the 47th Congressional District.

Nguyen says he had no advance knowledge of the mailer, which warned immigrants that they could be jailed if they attempted to vote. He defiantly proclaimed, "I am not going to quit this race, and I am going to win this race."

It reminds me of the catchphrase, "Just win, baby," coined by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

These days, the Raiders, currently 1-5, have about as much chance of winning the Super Bowl as Nguyen has of becoming a congressman.

Still, to defeat five-term incumbent Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Republicans need a leader like Al Davis: someone rich, tough, with credibility among ethnic communities and committed to winning at any (legal) cost.

Of course, like her opponent Nguyen, Sanchez also switched parties after losing an election, for Anaheim City Council in 1994. Since upsetting "B-1 Bob" Dornan in 1996 and then beating him again two years later, no challenger has come within 20 percentage points of her, even though she hasn't authored a single piece of significant legislation during a decade in office. "Loretta Sanchez is a disaster, as was Bob Dornan," wrote Steven Greenhut, senior editorial writer of The Orange County Register. "There is no realistic chance that anyone normal will represent that congressional district anytime soon."

No one really asked Nguyen why he decided to challenge Sanchez. Where does he stand on the hot-button issues? According to his voter-guide statement, Nguyen wants to split Iraq into three countries. "It'll be their problem from thereon. They can behead each other and not Americans," Nguyen stated. He blames Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty program for today's immigration problems and opposes any guest-worker programs.

Political observers watched with surprise as Nguyen spent nearly a half-million dollars of his own money on the primary race and handily thumped his opponent, Rosie Avila, by more than 3,000 votes. Avila, a longtime Santa Ana school board member endorsed by several county supervisors, didn't bother to do a single mailing. Nguyen has campaigned mostly on his own, without support of the county Republican Party. According to one of his Federal Election Commission filings, he has raised just over $60,000 from individuals. Nearly all of his spending targeted Vietnamese-American voters via direct mail, lawn signs and ethnic media ads.

Christian Collet, an expert on Vietnamese-American politics and currently associate professor of American Politics at Doshisha University in Japan, foresees one outcome. "What we see here is an overzealous, amateur candidate (Tan Nguyen) claiming to represent the community and promising to deliver a bloc of votes. What politicians need to realize is that Vietnamese-American voters are relentlessly independent, [they]only vote as a bloc for candidates whom they know and trust to represent the community and that the process of developing that trust takes a considerable amount of time."

It's unclear how many who voted for Nguyen in the GOP primary were Vietnamese-Americans.
Despite the denunciations from county, party and state officials from both parties, Nguyen will not quit. His name will remain on the ballot, including absentee ballots that are beginning to arrive at the registrar's office.

In the end, it's likely that Nguyen will come closer than anyone else has to beating Sanchez. But there's no consolation prize in politics – especially when you've already switched parties once, lost twice and are being scrutinized by prosecutors.

U.S. Is Said to Fail in Tracking Arms for Iraqis

The New York Times
Published: October 30, 2006

The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.

The report was undertaken at the request of Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and who recently expressed an assessment far darker than the Bush administration’s on the situation in Iraq.

Mr. Warner sent his request in May to a federal oversight agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. He also asked the inspector general to examine whether Iraqi security forces were developing a logistics operation capable of sustaining the hundreds of thousands of troops and police officers the American military says it has trained.

The answers came Sunday from the inspector general’s office, which found major discrepancies in American military records on where thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons have ended up. The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.

Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.

In a written response to the inspector general’s findings, the American military largely conceded the shortcomings. The military said it would assist the Iraqis in determining the spare parts and maintenance requirements for the weapons. The military also said it has now instituted a “process to accurately issue weapons by quantity and serial number listing.”

Because the inspector general is charged only with looking at weaponry financed directly by the American taxpayer, the total of lost weapons could end up being higher. The Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon inspector general are expected to look at weapons financed by all sources, including the Iraqi government.

The inspector general’s office, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., also a Republican, responded to Mr. Warner’s query about the Iraqi Army’s logistical capabilities with another report released at the same time, concluding that Iraqi security forces still depended heavily on the Americans for the operations that sustain a modern army: deliveries of fuel and ammunition, troop transport, health care and maintenance.

Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.

The report said that although the United States planned to scale back its support for logistics and maintenance for Iraqi security forces in 2007, it was unclear whether the Iraqi government had any intention of compensating by allocating sufficient money to the Ministries of Interior and Defense.

Mr. Warner confirmed through his spokesman, John Ullyot, that he was reviewing the reports over the weekend in advance of a scheduled meeting with Mr. Bowen on Tuesday.

Mr. Warner “believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi Army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness,” Mr. Ullyot said.

Mr. Bowen said in an interview that he was particularly concerned about whether the Iraqi government intended to allocate enough money to support the logistics and maintenance needed for the Iraqi security forces to operate effectively.

“There’s a couple of red flags,” Mr. Bowen said. “Most significantly, is the Iraqi Ministry of Interior properly preparing to take over the mission and sustain it?”

“We don’t know because we don’t have adequate visibility into their budgeting,” he said, “and to a lesser extent the same red flag is up for the Department of Defense.”

Another report unrelated to Mr. Warner’s request was also released by the inspector general on Sunday, on the so-called provincial reconstruction teams that the United States is creating for the next phase of rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure.

While some of the teams, intended to be scattered in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces, are functioning, security problems have severely hampered work in others, the report says. As a result, the inspector general recommended, the United States should consider reassigning its personnel in six provinces — including Basra in the south and Anbar in the west — to other places where effective work can be done.

The western province of Anbar is a central focus of the Sunni insurgency, and power struggles between Shiite militias have made Basra increasingly violent. The other four provinces that the inspector general recommends essentially abandoning are also in the Shiite south.

In its assessment of Iraqi weaponry, the inspector general concluded that of the 505,093 weapons that have been given to the Ministries of Interior and Defense over the last several years, serial numbers for only 12,128 were properly recorded. The weapons include rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, semiautomatic pistols and sniper rifles.

Of those weapons, 370,000 were purchased with American taxpayer money under what is called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, or I.R.R.F., and therefore fell within the inspector general’s mandate.

Despite the potential risks from losing track of those weapons — involving 19 different contracts and 142 delivery orders — the United States recorded serial numbers for no more than a few thousand, the inspector general said.

There are standard regulations for registering military weaponry in that way, governed by the Department of Defense small-arms serialization program. The inspector general’s report said that when asked why so many weapons went to Iraq with no record of serial numbers, American military officials in Baghdad replied that they did not believe the regulations applied to them.

Still, in their response to the report, military officials said they would keep track of serial numbers for weapons shipped or issued in the future, but in a database outside the small-arms serialization program. They did not present a plan for identifying or monitoring weapons that had already been issued.

The inspector general’s report also found that money for spare parts was allocated for only 5 of the 12 different kinds of weapons sent to Iraq — and when the inspector general contacted units of the Defense and Interior Ministries, none actually knew how or where to requisition spare parts.

There were also significant discrepancies in the numbers of weapons purchased and those in Iraqi warehouses. While 176,866 semiautomatic pistols were purchased with American money, just 163,386 showed up in warehouses — meaning that more than 13,000 were unaccounted for. All 751 of the M1-F assault rifles sent to Iraq were missing, and nearly 100 MP-5 machine guns.

Iraq's fifth column

By Arnaud de Borchgrave
The Washington Times
October 30, 2006

When the commander in chief decided it was time to take back Baghdad from the terrorists, past reminders about the pitfalls of urban guerrilla warfare were dismissed as not applicable. The average length of a post-World War II insurgency: seven years.

At the height of the terrorist campaign against Unionist loyalists and the British Army in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) never had more than 300 guerrillas/terrorists in the field. This small number kept half the British Army pinned down for 30 years (1968-97). It enjoyed the financial support of countless Irish-Americans. Finally, outwitted by superior British intelligence, Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, tired and a deal was negotiated. But it is yet to be fully implemented.

Iraq has a tad more than 300 terrorists spreading death and destruction: It is closer to 20,000 with scores of arms caches left by the Saddam Hussein regime, many of them unguarded because the U.S. did not field sufficient troops to secure all the sites that sheltered some 600,000 tons of arms and ammunition throughout the country.

In 1954, six months after the French defeat at Dienbienphu and the loss of Indochina, 11 Algerian nationalists attacked a post office to get a little seed money to start a revolution against French control. Algeria then was not a French colony, but an integral part of metropolitan France.

The leader of this new band of terrorists was Ahmed Ben Bella, who became the first president of Algeria. Terrorism soon spread throughout the North African territory. Eight years later, President Charles de Gaulle conceded independence, but not before (1) the fall of six French governments; (2) the collapse of the Fourth Republic returned Gen. de Gaulle to power; (3) a mutiny of five French generals seized power against Paris, which almost provoked civil war in France; (4) 30,000 French men and women and 1 million Algerians were killed; (5) 800,000 French settlers (Pied-Noirs) were driven into exile (only 30,000 chose to stay); (6) Algerian auxiliaries of the French, known as Harkis, were hunted down by the thousands and killed by the first independent Algerian government (a few aging Harkis and their families still live on the dole in France).

Sir Alistair Horne's "A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962," first published in 1977, and now out of print, has become the read of choice for many U.S. military officers serving in Iraq. The few paperback copies still available have been selling for up to $265 per copy. But Mr. Horne recently published an updated edition of his universally acclaimed history, which should have been mandatory reading for the civilian and military leaders who opted to invade Iraq -- and to walk the cat back to what was once a strong Iraq under pro-Western management (which ended in 1958 with the assassination of King Feisal and his strongman Prime Minister Nuri Said).

Had France been willing to concede Algerian independence at the outset, war could have been avoided, a friendly government installed, and 1 million settlers could have stayed. Mr. Horne's meticulous study of a watershed conflict is not a recipe for winning the war in Iraq. But he does demonstrate how to lose it.

Adnan Pachachi, the old (83) wise man of Iraq, who served as foreign minister (1965-67) and is now a member of the new Iraqi parliament, demonstrated this week how not to lose it. To begin with, he recommended major changes in the 5-month-old Iraqi government still trusted by President Bush. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's team, said Mr. Pachachi, "includes many ministers with close links to the militias, the death squads and other terrorist groups." In a Financial Times piece, Mr. Pachachi added, "We would delude ourselves if we believed such a government could be effective in fighting terrorism and sectarian violence."

A hard-nosed geopolitician, Mr. Pachachi advocated negotiations with insurgents who are willing to be integrated in the political process, as well as quid-pro-quo talks with Iran, Syria and other neighbors with a view to ending their interference. But this can only happen, he explained, "with a competent government untainted by militia connections and enjoying the people's trust," which could clean up the security forces.

With the Iran-backed and -funded Shi'ite militia now in the driver's seat, a withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition forces would quickly translate into a meltdown of law and order and the disintegration of a unitary state into feuding fiefdoms ruled by warlords. Militia armies would be at each other's throats.

Mr. Pachachi says it is time to update the composition and mandate of the multinational forces by bringing in fresh troops from Asian, European, Arab and Muslim countries. After what the leaders of these new prospects have been watching 24/7 on CNN, FOX, BBC and Al Jazeera, one would have to conclude the chances of new military participants range from zero to nil.

Victory, as the president defines it, means an Iraqi government that could lead, restore essential services and sustain itself. A purge of Mr. Malaki's ministers working both sides of the street would seem a sensible next step.

Whether expressed on a Sunday talk show by former Republican Secretary of State and NATO Supreme Commander Alexander Haig or by former Democratic National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the grim conclusion was the same: Mr. Bush's determination to hang tough in Iraq until final "Victory" is no longer possible.

Key Arab ambassadors to the U.S. privately now say U.S. defeat in Iraq is unavoidable unless the Bush administration mobilizes the full panoply of Arab diplomatic support. Negotiations with Iran are long overdue. Tehran still holds the whip hand in Iraq.

What is the diplomatic price for learning to live with Iran's nuclear ambitions? And North Korea's? Russia and China are indispensable players in this game of nations. Looking strong in Washington no longer makes up for thinking weak abroad.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.