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

Friday, June 1, 2007

News & Views 06/01/07

Photo: A medic pushes an injured man in a wheelchair at a hospital in Baqouba, Iraq, Thursday, May 31, 2007. Four civilians, including a 6-year-old boy, were injured after unidentified gunmen in two cars attacked a police station Thursday, killing a police officer and wounding three others. (AP Photo)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Iraqi Violent Deaths

A look at violent deaths in Iraq, based on an Associated Press count. The total AP count includes Iraqi civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.

- DEATHS BY MONTH: May is the third-deadliest month for Iraqis since the AP began tracking civilian casualties in April 2005, with at least 2,077 killed as of May 30. The deadliest months in the past two years were December 2006, when at least 2,309 were killed, and November 2006, when at least 2,250 were killed.

- BODIES FOUND: The number of bodies found – usually attributed to sectarian death squads - dipped slightly in February 2007, immediately after the Baghdad security crackdown began Feb. 14, but has been steadily increasing in recent weeks. Since April 1, almost 1,900 bodies have been found across Iraq. At least 1,157 of these were found inside Baghdad, and 742 outside the capital.

- SECURITY PERSONNEL: The reported deaths each month for Iraqi security personnel, including soldiers and police, are creeping back up to surpass pre-crackdown levels after a relative low of 90 in January 2007. In May 2007, at least 237 security personnel have been reported killed, which is the most in any month since 275 were reported killed during July 2005.

- OUTSIDE BAGHDAD: Violent deaths outside Baghdad are also on the rise. In January 2007 there were at least 458 killed outside the capital, and there have been at least 952 deaths outside Baghdad during May 2007 - more than double the January tally.

- INSIDE BAGHDAD: The death total remains high, but has dropped slightly in comparison with the beginning of the year. In January 2007 there were at least 1,453 Iraqis reported killed in the capital, compared with at least 1,125 violent deaths in Baghdad during May 2007 - a decrease of 29 percent.

Cancer on the Rise in the South

According to a study entitled The Increase in Cancer Cases as Result of War Debris - published in early May by Basra University Medical College with input from researchers at the Ministry of Health - cancer-related diseases are now one of the main causes of a large percentage of deaths in the southern provinces. "At least 45 percent of deaths in the southern provinces are caused by cancer. Some patients develop related diseases which worsen their condition, leading to a faster death. The statistics are having a serious impact on the health system and urgent funds are needed," said Imad Hassan, a health specialist and member of the commission which produced the study. "Southern governorates have been seriously affected by wars, especially in the past 20 years and it is a region in which chemicals and pesticides are used in fishing and agriculture," Hassan said. He added that in Basra, Muthana, Dhi Qar and Missan governorates, the drinking water has been found to be unsafe and in some places, especially in and near rural areas, the water was highly contaminated, including with pesticide residues.

More cancer-related deaths among women and children have been found in Basra and Missan governorates, where leukemia among children has increased substantially by 22 percent compared to 2005, and where a lot of women have developed breast cancer, with the figures showing an increase of 19 percent compared to 2005, the study said. "Over the years the local population has been exposed to the most serious radiation and chemical factors resulting from war, including the use of unsafe and cheap pesticides, and now we see the results," Abdel-Kareem said. A number of children - some say at least three per day - are born in hospitals in the southern provinces without limbs or without organs. The phenomenon, specialists say, is a result of years of war. "We have had cases of children who showed cancer-related diseases after only four weeks of life," he added. [No mention of depleted uranium in this article. – dancewater]

Internally Displaced Persons

“Displaced families in Anbar, Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf and all the southern provinces are suffering from a shortage of potable water,” a spokesperson for the Iraq Aid Association (IAA) said. “Some are drinking contaminated water and children can be seen nearly starving, requiring urgent water and food.” The UNHCR report confirmed the above, adding that there was an urgent need for shelter, food and non-food supplies, as well as jobs. Aid agencies say they face difficulties accessing IDPs many of whom face severe water shortages. Unemployment remains the main cause of growing poverty among IDPs, according to Professor Jamal Obeidi, a displacement expert from Baghdad University and an analyst in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration. “If at least one person from each [displaced] family was working, they would have been earning money and been able to buy food for their families, despite the insecurity. The lack of jobs has put these families in the worst conditions,” Obeidi said.

Mud Schools in Forgotten Land

Enterprising tribesmen, fed up with officials’ failure to address their education needs, build their own makeshift schools. The village of Ghadhari, in the province of Muthanna, has never had a school. “We hoped [after Saddam’s fall] that any new government would listen to our desire for [one],” said Sheikh Dhager al-Hashim from the al-Ziyad tribe, the largest in this long neglected part of southwest Iraq. A month, a year went by, a few American and other coalition troops passed through, new governors took office in Samawa, the capital of the predominantly Shia province. But nothing happened in Ghadhari. Until Sheikh Dha ger al-Hashim and his tribesmen did something unusual for Iraq, where there is a tradition of waiting for the government to solve any given problem. Locals – who scrape a living breeding sheep and camels, growing a few crops, making bricks and occasional smuggling - took matters into their own hands and built a school of mud and wood, the al-Hudaibiya primary school.

It has just a handful of classrooms, the windows have no panes and there’s little in the way of furniture, but it represents progress in impoverished Ghadhari where most people are illiterate. “I paid for the school, and [villagers] helped with the construction,” said a proud al-Hashim. The whole village contributes to the running of the new school. Local families provide teachers - who are in short supply - with food and sometimes accommodation; and the sheikh pays the taxi fares for staff who commute from Samawa, 35 kilometres away. Such self-reliance appears to stem from years of being ignored by the central authorities. This is a forgotten land, with no oil reserves, holy site, nor important road that has ever attracted the attentions of the ruling elite. In Saddam’s time, thousands of Kurds and Shia critical of the Sunni dictatorship were held in prison camps in the region. Like his predecessors, the former dictator had little time for Muthanna. One of the few things that Saddam was praised for by the international community was raising education standards across the country, but he allocated little money to schools here. What Ghadhari locals can’t afford to provide themselves they seek from other sources and vainly hope that officials in Samawa will help them.

"I have to scrounge around rubbish bins to feed my children"

Adeela Harith, a 39-year-old widow and mother of three, says she misses the days when her husband was daily bringing them food and when they used to sleep in a safe house in comfort. As a recently-widowed displaced person, she has no support and is now collecting left-overs from rubbish bins to feed her children. Adeela - who is the mother of Ahmed 14, Zaineb 12 and Yasser 8 - said she had tried to get a job as a housekeeper but did not succeed as most families cannot afford maids or do not trust strangers in their homes. Without an education, she was left with no choice but to look for food in rubbish bins. "I have to scrounge around rubbish bins to feed my children. They no longer attend school. The oldest two are street beggars and the youngest, Youssef, is with me looking for food in rubbish bins. "Some people told me that the best way to survive was to find a temporary husband or maybe work as a sex worker to feed my children but I prefer to eat garbage than to lose my dignity. "There are days when we don't find enough and we have to sleep near an abandoned school in Baghdad, hungry. It is easy to get water but people do not give out food as before. When I had my own home, I tried to help anyone who came looking for food. But now I'm in their place and I have come to understand how the Iraqi people have changed and their hearts have become hard.

A Look Through Square Windows

Here they come. A couple of minutes earlier than usual, I haven't got the car out of the garage yet. I stand outside, and stare. I used to be too embarrassed to do that at first, but not any more. The first Hummer vehicle turns the corner and comes towards me. There are usually four. As soon as they are close enough I look straight into the vehicle's square windows – straight at the china-doll faces inside. At first they were too embarrassed to stare back. Then they started staring back – and then mostly ignored me. I became fascinated with them when they first made it a practice to pass by my door every morning as I drive out my garage – so that it became a matter of "who does it first". Every time I look, I see young men – so young, some younger than my student daughter – with difficulty I see their faces, old disillusioned expressions on their surprisingly young faces; the baby fat still lingering in some. I can't help remembering my son. He was the same age.

The Secret Carnage - 78,000 Iraqis Have Been Killed by Coalition Airstrikes

An estimated 78,000 Iraqis were killed by U.S. and Coalition air strikes from the start of the war through June of last year, an article in "The Nation" magazine says. The estimate is based on the supposition that 13 percent of the 601,000 Iraqis who met violent deaths reported by The Lancet study released last October "had been killed by bomb, missile, rocket or cannon up to last June," author Nick Turse writes in the June 11th issue of the weekly magazine. "There are indications that the air war has taken an especially grievous toll on Iraqi children," Turse said. "Figures provided by the Lancet study suggest that 50 percent of all violent deaths of Iraqi children under 15 in that same period (March 2003 through June 2006) were due to coalition airstrikes." Since April, 2003, Turse reports, the U.S. has dropped at least 59,787 pounds of cluster bombs in Iraq, a type of weapon Human Rights Watch(HRW) termed "the single greatest risk civilians face with regard to a current weapon that is in use." [The bombings will likely cause a lot of cancer and birth defects in the future. – dancewater]

15 bodies, remains found in mass grave in Iraq''s Baqubah

Iraqi police found a mass grave northeast of Baghdad containing 15 bodies and remains believed to be of recently-buried people, police said Friday. A source at the police told KUNA police and forensic experts announced discovery of 15 unidentified bodies of people who were killed in mysterious circumstances, in addition to remains of humans who were chopped by knives. The experts said the bodies and remains might have been buried two weeks ago, said the source, noting the grave was found in Baqubah, 65 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Locals in Baqubah told the police they noticed dogs were gathering in a suspicious manner over a place in southern Baqubah just behind the mosque, said the sources, and the place appeared later to be a mass grave.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi police commander arrested

An Iraqi police commander accused of ordering the killing of local people was arrested Thursday by the U.S. Army, a military statement said. U.S. Army troops also arrested 14 bodyguards and the brother of police commander Hamid Ibrahim Jazza'a, the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, reported. Jazza'a was arrested in the village of Hait, about 170 miles northeast of Baghdad, with the cooperation of local officials, a U.S. military statement said. Jazza'a is accused of corruption and ordering killing, the statement said.

US general vows to punish Britons' kidnappers

The British computer expert and four security guards seized from the finance ministry building on Tuesday were driven off in the direction of Sadr City. But today sources inside Sadr City claimed that the five men had since been moved south to the Dayara district. They were said to be in the hands of Abu Daraa, a notoriously violent Shia warlord and criminal who split with Sadr to establish his own fiefdom. The threat by Gen Petraeus was quoted in an incident report written by Najwa Fatih-Allah, a finance ministry official. The report also revealed that four men in civilian clothing appeared at the building where the abductions took place about 15 minutes before the raid by dozens of men in army and police uniforms. The men claimed they were from a government anti-fraud commission and looked through each room in the centre before leaving the building. Dozens of uniformed men burst into the building soon after, disarmed guards and went directly into the room where the five Britons were working. Although many of the kidnapping team were dressed as members of the Iraqi national police, a spokesman for the interior ministry has denied that its personnel were involved.

Sadrist traitor defects

But, aside from his surprising reappearance, something else is likely to attract media attention to Al-Sadr. The former health minister and one- time Sadrist, Ali Al-Shamri, who withdrew from the government after Al-Sadr pulled his ministers from the cabinet, has applied for asylum in the US. Much has been said about the former health minister, including claims that he turned the Health Ministry into a haven for death squads. The accusations against Al-Shamri intensified after Ali Al-Mahdawi, health chief in Diyali, disappeared a year ago. Al-Mahdawi had come to meet Al-Shamri to discuss his nomination by the (Sunni) Reconciliation Block for the job of deputy health minister. After entering Al-Shamri's office, he was never seen again. The daily Al-Zaman claims that Al-Shamri, who is accused of leading the death squads and selling bodies from the Baghdad morgue, gave the Americans information about the Mahdi Army in return for asylum. Al-Shamri is said to have provided the US authorities in Iraq with detailed information about Iranian weapon supplies to the Mahdi Army, the connections between the Mahdi Army commanders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the safe houses in which the Mahdi army commanders meet in Baghdad, and the names of those commanders. The information he provided enticed the Americans to grant him asylum and move him aboard a helicopter from Baghdad to a US airport.

……….. In reaction to accusations that the Mahdi Army was receiving Iranian weapons and training, Al-Sakhri said that the weapons used by the Mahdi Army belonged to the disbanded Iraqi army and that the Mahdi supporters were not receiving any assistance from Iran. "Had the [Mahdi Army] been receiving Iranian support, it would have expelled the occupiers a long time ago, due to the effectiveness and sophistication of Iranian weapons."

VIDEO: Iraqi Army or Mahdi Army?

The Haqq Agency posted a video of an alleged joint operation between an Iraqi Army unit and the Mahdi Army at the border of the predominately Sunni district of Fadhil in central Baghdad. The video clearly shows a member of the army unit wandering around and using his cell phone to film Iraqi soldiers and gunmen in plainclothes, who he refers to as members of Jaish Al-Imam (the army of the imam). The blurry video, which is dated May 10, 2007, is possibly filmed at the neighboring Shi’ite-majority Abu Saifain district, southeast of Fadhil. The cameraman addresses the soldiers by their first names (Basim, Maitham, Azhar, Hameed), and he is apparently familiar with the militiamen, as they smile back at him while they reload their weapons in preparation for the assault on Fadhil. He repeatedly shouts a Shi’ite slogan, “Ali wiyak, Ali,” which means “May Ali be with you,” in reference to the first Shi’ite imam Ali bin Abi Talib, the nephew and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed, as the gunmen and militiamen spray the street with bullets. In another instance, he shouts “Ali yinusrak ‘ala ahl al Fadhil, al manaweech,” meaning “May Ali grant you victory over the residents of Al-Fadhil, the bastards.”

Sunni Insurgents Battle In Baghdad

Sunni residents of a west Baghdad neighborhood used assault rifles and a roadside bomb to battle the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq this week, leaving at least 28 people dead and six injured, residents said Thursday. The mayor of the Amiriyah neighborhood, Mohammed Abdul Khaliq, said in a telephone interview that residents were rising up to try to expel al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has alienated other Sunnis with its indiscriminate violence and attacks on members of its own sect. "I think this is going to be the end of the al-Qaeda presence here," Abdul Khaliq said of the fighting Wednesday and Thursday, which began over accusations that al-Qaeda in Iraq had executed Sunnis without reason.
The Baghdad battle is evidence of a deepening split between some Sunni insurgent groups and al-Qaeda in Iraq, which claims allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Although similar rebellions occurred in Diyala province earlier this year, the fighting this week appears to be the first time the conflict has reached the streets of Baghdad. Abdul Khaliq said he hoped U.S. forces would stay out of the fight. "But if the Americans interfere, it will blow up, because they are the enemy of us both, and we will unite against them and stop fighting each other," he said.

What Happened in Amiriya – the true story

Here I am going to spoil the party and tell you what exactly happened in Amiriya. This report is full of lies “Sunnis revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq” and this one also “Sunnis Revolt Against al-Qaida in Iraq” meant to boost the morals of Iraq’s news observers and give them something to celebrate. There was no US involvement in the fight, and occupation forces arrested nobody, the only thing reported about the US intervention is few helicopter flight above the fighting area, that is all. Clashes erupted between gunmen from the Islamic Army (Jaish Al-Islam)+”1920 revolution Brigades” from one side and so called “Iraq Islamic State” in the occupation no-go Almiriya neighbourhood west of Baghdad. According novel residents, who spoke of the “Al-Quds”, the violent confrontations erupted in the Amiriyah area between the Islamic Army and “al-Qaeda” were used light and medium weapons at the time the American forces withdrew from the Iraqi city since the day yesterday, Wednesday, at a time when fortifying fighters at a secondary school in the city. The clashes came one day after the death of the commander of the Islamic Army “Abu Taiba”, who was killed along with three of his men by gunmen believed to be from the so called “Iraq Islamic State” elements in “Assal Street” in Ameriya. The so called “IIS” managed to besiege the Iraqi joint-resistance group in Al-Tikriti mosque, but backup and crack in the siege came later from locals who are sympathising with the resistance. As far as I know, there are at least 13-15 casualties from both sides, don’t need to remind you that “1920 revolution Brigades” and the “Islamic Army” are resistance groups, there main and 1st enemy is the US occupation forces.

Iraqi PM doesn't trust his military, says coup possible

Iraqi PM al-Maliki told Lara Logan of CBS Evening News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that he has a real fear of a coup by the Iraqi army. Al-Maliki said that some of the officer corps have been creating problems and even violating the security of military operations. He stated, "I'm not afraid, but I have to watch the army, because those still loyal to the previous regime may start planning coups. Those people don't believe in democracy, and for that reason we are monitoring the status of the army very closely." Al-Maliki also insisted that his government is not ordered around by the Americans, saying, "The Americans don't order us to do this or not to do that. On the contrary, we're the ones who tell them to do this and don't do that." [Video of the interview at the link. – dancewater]

Militias Rearm for Another Round in al-'Amil

Fresh armaments are arriving in the lawless al-'Amil area of southwestern Baghdad after intense clashes between Sunni militias and members of the Mahdi Army. The area is known for its nightly clashes between rival militias, which have continued for weeks, but the fighting has become more intense in the last few days, al-Melaf reports in Arabic. Heavy fighting flared up again after dark on Friday, after militias exchanged mortar fire during the day, following a day of intense clashes on Thursday. The southwestern Baghdad neighborhood is also known for its almost complete lack of Iraqi or Coalition forces, who have been either unwilling or unable to arrest a deadly turf war between Sunni militants and members of the Mahdi Army. Amid the complete absence of the security forces of the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police, and the American forces, while the Kurdish Peshmerga have taken a “spectating” position on the events, a local source told al-Melaf.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. paid nearly $31 million in condolence payments to Iraqis, Afghanis

The Department of Defense spent nearly $31 million in three years in condolence payments to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it didn't track how it doled out the money, a Government Accountability Office report found. The report, released Thursday, is the most detailed public study of compensation payments in the two wars. It found, for example, that the Defense Department paid $26 million to settle 21,450 claims, or an average of $1,212 per claim. The military makes condolence payments for killing or injuring a civilian or for damaging property. Generally, Iraqis and Afghanis received up to $2,500 for property damage or death. In April 2006, military officials in Iraq raised the maximum payment to $10,000. In addition, U.S. officials began paying the relatives of Iraqi soldiers and police who were killed because of U.S. operations, the report states. But the department doesn't indicate how many of those payments went for killed civilians, injured civilians or for property damage. U.S. officials have never released statistics on how many civilians have been killed by U.S. troops. According to the report, the U.S. began compensating Iraqi civilians or their relatives in June 2003 for inadvertent killings or property damage, usually at the discretion of the forces on the ground. But the military didn't establish guidelines for paying civilians until October 2004. U.S. forces began compensating Afghanis in October 2005. [And from my limited time spent looking at claims filed, I would say that the overwhelming majority of claims are rejected because they are considered combat-related. – dancewater]


COMMENTARY

America’s Jihad

It started in 1979 when the US wanted to undermine the Soviet Union -- its enemy back then. Luring and funding tens of thousands of Muslims from across the Arab world to fight the "atheist" enemy -- the USSR -- that occupied Afghanistan, the US created its own and real enemy, Al-Qaeda. One would have thought that following the 11 September attacks the current US administration would have made some revisions to destructive and self-destructive US policy. Even if the message hadn't yet reached Washington's decision-makers back in 2001, the disaster they created in Iraq -- which only fuelled and expanded Al-Qaeda -- should have been an obvious warning sign for the Americans, but it wasn't.

Ten days into the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp showdown with the Lebanese army the situation remains as volatile and dangerous as it was when fighting erupted 20 May. Meanwhile, we are confronted with a deluge of revealing information on what Fatah Al-Islam -- the guerrilla group based in the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp -- is and who created it. If we are to believe the facts presented by leading investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, this extremist Sunni group seems to be the making of the Lebanese government, specifically the Sunni political movement of Saad Al-Hariri and the United States, with the help of Saudi Arabia. The objective? Countering the powerful Shia Hizbullah resistance group. Result? Fatah Al-Islam got out of hand and will not now submit to be controlled by anyone. In fact, its leaders are now saying they will lead the war on America.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

Quote of the day: “A time comes when silence is betrayal." Rev. Martin Luther King

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