The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Thursday, April 5, 2007

News & Views 04/05/07

Photo: A woman looks at the portraits of Iraqi journalists who lost their lives in the four year of the war in Iraq, during a commemoration in Baghdad, Thursday, April 5, 2007. Drive-by shootings and explosions have claimed the lives of 207 Iraqi journalists and media workers since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

How Much Can Iraq Survive

Iraqis surviving violence are not so sure they can also survive disease. "Iraq was known to be the best in healthcare in the region," Dr. Iyad Muhammad from Ramadi General Hospital told IPS. "Best doctors, hospitals, nurses and cheapest medicines. The situation now is the opposite." Dr. Muhammad said several doctors have been killed, and many more have fled the country. Patients are looking to follow them too, he said, with many prepared to sell their property to go abroad for treatment. "Our situation now has become worse than during the sanctions period (in the 1990s after the first Gulf war) when more than one million died and we had very little medicine and supplies to treat them." Iraq's health index has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s, Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division and an Iraq specialist has said.

…… A dentist from Fallujah told IPS that most Iraqis have been neglecting dental care because they are unable to afford it. "Dental care is considered a luxury by Iraqis now, and they will not visit our clinics unless they have an intolerable toothache," said the doctor. "Most of them would ask for a tooth to be pulled rather than filling it because they cannot afford proper treatment." The mental health situation is equally grim for Iraqis. In a study 'Psychological effects of war on Iraqis' the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (AIP) reported in January 2007 that of 2,000 people interviewed in all 18 Iraqi provinces, 92 percent said they feared being killed in an explosion. Sixty percent of those interviewed said the level of violence had caused them to have panic attacks, and this prevented them from going out because they feared they would be the next victims.

Iraq-Orphans

As the world marks another anniversary of Orphan's Day, orphans are increasing in Iraq as violence claims more lives everyday. A bullet gone astray or a car bomb blast means but a father or mother leaves another orphan behind. In Mosul Orphanage, children gather to mark the anniversary by remembering their parents who were killed in the acts of violence that cripple life in most Iraqi cities. Sarah Abdullah, a beautiful girl of 8 years old, was an eyewitness to her father’s slaying two years ago, while he was giving her a lift to school one day in the predominantly Sunni Mosul. Sarah, who could not speak for a while after the tragedy and who lost her mother from grief for her dead father, said "I knew that they went to heaven. However, I would look at the sky through my window everyday hoping to catch a glimpse of them." …… On Orphan's Day and while the children gathered in the yard to observe the occasion, an orphan refused to go outdoors fearing that there were dead people buried in the garden like what happened to his family. Another child does not use red in his painting because it reminds him of the blood of his father, mother and brother who were killed by the U.S. forces by mistake. He was offered an apology in response. The child said, "I wish that the war would end soon so that no more children will suffer like us."

We Never Promised You a Flower Garden

My mum – a sweet old lady pushing eighty - was a Schoolmistress (Principal) for almost thirty years, the last fifteen of which were in the secondary school that is located just behind were I live now, and about ten minutes walk from my parents’ house. She retired in1985 because only Baathists remained to serve that high honor. When she received the newly renovated school it was quite empty, and its grounds brown soil. She worked so hard, marshalling the efforts of the newly appointed teachers, and charming the parents of the students into the most unexpected donations of labor until the school became quite a sight, especially the grounds. The girls themselves participated by bringing plants for the gardens and saplings that each planted herself and watered herself all the year through. They were so proud of their school that when it was time to leave and move on to college, three years later, they cried both for their success and for their heavy hearts at leaving their beloved school. When she retired she left her heart behind inside the walls she so lovingly had decorated with ferns and arabesques; and she always preferred to take the rout that passes in front of the school and would sometimes drop in to say “hello” to whomsoever had remained there from that time.

Ever since the war she has not left the house except once every two months to receive her pension from the bank close by, because she is terrified of going out into our war zone. But she asks me every now and again, “Sahar, did you pass by the school?”, “ Sahar, do the girls look clean and tidy?”, “Sahar, do drop by and see if the plants are well taken care of, will you?”, , , , And I would always answer, “Yes, mum”, “Sure, mum”, “They’re soooooooooo beautiful, mum” , , , but would avert my face lest she see my expression. I couldn’t tell her that the school was converted into a recruiting post for the Police, especially chosen for its safe location between the houses of innocent people, and that it was targeted several times, so that now it and the adjoining houses look a real mess. I couldn’t tell her that the adjoining kindergarten with it’s beautiful playground was converted into a centre for investigating car bombs, and that not a single plant remained alive on the grounds, apart from the hardy cacti and date palms, and that no sound of laughter was to be heard there any more.

Explosion Strikes Oil Pipeline

A bomb struck an oil pipeline Thursday, cutting off supplies and causing a huge fire in southern Iraq near the border with Kuwait, an official said. The pipeline carries oil from surrounding fields to storage tanks in Basra for export to the Gulf region, according to the official with the South Oil Co. But he said the tanks were full and export supplies had not yet been affected. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said the explosion occurred about midnight and the fire raged for hours before it was extinguished in the afternoon.


VIDEO: Mentally F’d Up

Analysis: Iraq Oil Union Has Storied Past

Hassan Jumaa Awad wants Iraq's oil to stay under state control, and the unionists, who have long worked the rigs, to be supported in developing the national resource. But this is no request from the president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions. It's a demand. "Since we are working to make progress in production, we need a real participation in all the laws that are related to the oil policy," Awad told United Press International, speaking on his mobile phone from the southern port city of Basra. "We are the sons of this sector and we have the management and technical capability and we have the knowledge on all the oil fields." The IFOU represents more than 26,000 workers organized under various unions in the oil-rich southern and northern areas of Iraq. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, together they've operated Iraq's oil sector before, during and after Saddam Hussein. Their rights to officially unionize are still denied under a 1978 Saddam law, one of a few of the former president's laws the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi Parliament upheld.

Celebrating Iraqis Parade Macabre Souvenirs

Iraqis celebrated the death of four British soldiers in a roadside bomb by parading the victims' helmets and equipment. The disturbing scenes came after the four were ambushed while on patrol in Basra last night. [Photos at link. I am always saddened by seeing human beings celebrate the death of their fellow human beings. I am disgusted too. – dancewater]

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi Prime Minister Says Some Officials Are Involved in Terrorism

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told U.S. President George W. Bush in a recent videoconference that some Iraqi officials are involved in terrorism, government officials said Wednesday. The two leaders spoke Monday, a day after U.S. officials in Baghdad reported two suicide vests had been found near a trash bin in the "Green Zone," the highly guarded area of central Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy is located. "The prime minister told him this is what we expect. Some politicians are involved in terrorism," said one Iraqi official. The official's comments were confirmed by two other officials. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. "Terrorists work in two ways, either as gunmen in the field or in politics," the official quoted al-Maliki as telling Bush. The Iraqi official said terrorists wanted the new security plan in the capital to fail "so they entered the Green Zone."

Sadr Wants Ministers Suspended

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has asked the prime minister to suspend two Cabinet ministers from his bloc because they backed a plan that likely will turn the oil-rich city of Kirkuk over to Kurdish control, a parliament member said Thursday. Saleh al-Aujaili, the Sadr bloc legislator, said the cleric had asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to hold the seats open for his block when he reshuffles his cabinet, a moved that has been promised for weeks. Health Minister Ali al-Shammari and Agriculture Minister Yarrub Nazim, both members of the Sadrist movement, were among Cabinet ministers who agreed last week to a plan that would resettle Arabs from Kirkuk who had been moved into the city during Saddam Hussein's Baath party rule, the legislator said. The decision was seen likely to guarantee a Kurdish majority in the city when it is to vote by year's end on whether it should be attached to the Kurd's semiautonomous region just to the north. The vote on the city's future was mandated under Iraq's constitution adopted in October 2005.


Iraq Loses $8 Billion Through Corruption

Iraq's top corruption fighter said Wednesday that $8 billion in government money was wasted or stolen over the past three years and claimed he was threatened with death after opening an investigation into scores of Oil Ministry employees. In the chaos and lawlessness of Iraq, such threats are not taken lightly. Radi al-Radhi, who runs the Public Integrity Commission, leads one of the more dangerous missions in the country. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that 20 members of the organization have been murdered since it began its work. In perhaps the most publicized recent case, an estimated $2 billion disappeared from funds to rebuild the electricity infrastructure. …Al-Radhi said the commission has investigated about 2,600 corruption cases since it was established in March 2004, a few months before the United States returned sovereignty to Iraq. He estimated $8 billion has vanished or been misappropriated. Corruption in the country, while traditionally rampant, is encouraged by constitutional clause 136 B, al-Radhi said. It gives Cabinet ministers the power to block his investigations. So far, he said, ministers have blocked probes into the theft or misspending of an estimated additional $55 million in public funds. Two years ago he asked the Constitutional Court to strike the clause, but the panel has never issued a ruling.

Spokesman Denies Reports on Iraq Cleric Views On Law

A spokesman for Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric denied reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had rejected a new draft law that would allow many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to regain state jobs. "What some news agencies said quoting who they described as an aide to Sayyed Sistani about his position on the de-Baathification Law was not true," Hamed al-Khafaf, who is based in Beirut, said in a statement. Several foreign media reported this week that Sistani was against the draft law. "We are surprised by attempts trying to get (the Shi'ite clerical establishment) involved in a case which is the speciality of constitutional organisations," Khafaf said, without saying what Sistani's position was on the law. Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, agreed on the new draft law last week, which must go before parliament for ratification. The bill proposes that only senior members of the now-outlawed Baath Party will be banned from public life. The rest will be entitled to reappointment.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. Lets Red Cross See Seized Iranians

The U.S. military has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit five Iranian officials who were detained in Iraq nearly three months ago on suspicion of plotting against American and Iraqi forces. A Red Cross delegation that included one Iranian citizen visited the detainees, and a request for a formal consular visit with them is "being assessed at this time" by the U.S. military, said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. In a briefing for reporters Wednesday, Caldwell did not say when the visit took place or whether it was connected to the case of the 15 British sailors and marines detained by Iran on March 23; Iran subsequently announced that they would be released. The Iraqi government has called for the release of the five Iranians, who were captured during a U.S. military raid in January on an office providing consular services in the Kurdish city of Irbil.


Iraq Accounting Is Still A Muddle

A newly formed consulting firm hired to account for more than $7.3 billion in Iraqi reconstruction money did not deliver a database that could help investigators track waste and fraud, a recent report found. The result: Two years after uncovering one major fraud case, auditors still haven't determined whether there was more graft in the spending of Iraqi oil proceeds. In April 2005, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, recommended creating a database to help review U.S. spending throughout Iraq. The recommendation followed the discovery of an $8.6 million bid-rigging scheme in south-central Iraq. Five months later, a U.S. contracting office in Baghdad hired Reviewer Management International (RMI) of New York to create a database that could link contracts with the officials who authorized them. RMI, however, wasn't given adequate instructions until near the end of its $1.5 million contract and, as a result, didn't deliver a usable database, the inspector general's office found in a follow-up report released Jan. 29. Employees in the Baghdad contracting office took on the project, completed the work and turned over the results to the Iraqi government in December. Bowen promised Congress that his office will investigate further. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Mazur of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq said Bowen's report was accurate. He said RMI got a "sole-source contract." Such contracts are awarded without competitive bidding because only one company is considered qualified to do the work quickly enough. Mazur could not comment on the firm's qualifications because he was unable to find a copy of its proposal.

25% of UK Iraq Aid Budget Goes to Security Firms

The UK has spent 165m on hiring private security companies in Iraq in the past four years - the equivalent to around a quarter of the entire Iraq aid budget, it has emerged. A further 43m has been spent on private guards in Afghanistan since 2004.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2048009,00.html

COMMENTARY

“My Name Used to Be 200343”

Vance, a two-time George W. Bush voter and Navy veteran, recounted the events of his imprisonment and the grief of his fiancé and family. They did not know if he was alive or dead, he said. They were already making inquiries to the U.S. State Department on how to ship his body home. He then drew a wider circle around his ordeal to include the countless others who have been held falsely without charge and denied normal legal constitutional protections under law. "My name used to be 200343," Vance said recalling his prisoner ID. "If they can do this to a former Navy man and an American, what is happening to people in facilities all over the world run by the American government?" Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and co-worker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorised guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help. Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest. Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.

2 comments:

Mark said...

I haven't been following the drama, but what happened to the original blog Today in Iraq? What happened to YankeeDoodle? Why all the moving? I've been reading Today in Iraq/Daily War News since the beginning and was just wondering what was up.

dancewater said...

The original blog is closed. yankeedoodle says he is not able to post there, and the rest of us do not have posting privileges either. I think yankeedoodle wants to stay out of the blogging business - he did it by himself for a LONG time, and I don't know how he kept it up.

Some of us will try to keep it going!