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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

News & Views 06/30/07

Photo: An Iraqi girl looks at the destruction caused to her house during a raid by US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. US and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters have killed 26 militants suspected of links to "Iranian terror networks" in raids in the Baghdad Shiite district of Sadr City, the US military said.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)
[Locals say the people killed were civilians. – dancewater]


Residents Say 17 Killed by U.S. Were Not Insurgents

The U.S. military is investigating the killings of 17 people in a U.S. helicopter attack north of Baghdad a week ago, after residents of the area complained that the victims were not fighters from the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, as the military originally claimed, but members of a village guard force and ordinary citizens. A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, said the June 22 incident in Khalis, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, was under investigation "because of discussions with locals who say it didn't happen as we reported it." The attack occurred in the opening days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, an offensive against al-Qaeda in Iraq that is centered on Baqubah, about 10 miles southeast of Khalis. A U.S. military statement on the day of the incident called the dead men "al-Qaeda gunmen" and said they were killed after trying to sneak into Khalis.

U.S. raids Baghdad slum; 26 Iraqis die

But residents, police and hospital officials said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused U.S. forces of firing blindly on the innocent. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the raids and demanded an explanation for the assault into a district where he has barred U.S. operations in the past. Separately, two American solders were charged with the premeditated murder of three Iraqis, the U.S. military said Saturday. And in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles north of the capital, police said a suicide bomber blew himself up near a crowd of police recruits, killing at least 23 people and wounding 17. A U.S. soldier was killed Friday and three wounded when a sophisticated, armor-piercing bomb hit their combat patrol in southern Baghdad, the military announced a day later. The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians. [I don’t believe that, and more importantly, the Iraqi people don’t believe that either. – dancewater]

Sectarian Attacks Kill Dozens of Shiites in Baghdad

A spate of grisly attacks believed to have been carried out by Sunni Arab militants killed dozens of Shiites around Baghdad, just days ahead of a planned huge march of devout Shiites through Sunni heartlands to the remnants of a revered shrine. A rush-hour bombing Thursday morning killed 25 people in the largely Shiite neighborhood of Baya in southwest Baghdad, where the Mahdi Army militia has escalated violence against Sunnis, an Interior Ministry official said. Ten people were killed in a bombing Wednesday night in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya in northwestern Baghdad. And the police reported finding 20 decapitated bodies -- a hallmark of Sunni extremists -- south of the capital, although other officials later disputed the account. The attacks took place ahead of the rally called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who had urged Shiites to march to Samarra next week to protest the recent bombing that destroyed the twin golden minarets of the city's Askariya shrine. The shrine's dome was demolished in a bombing last year that unleashed a storm of sectarian killings. Mr. Sadr's office in Najaf urged Iraqis of all sects to use the protest ''to get close to each other and break all the barriers installed by the Takfiris and the occupation,'' a reference to Sunni extremists and the American military.

Operation: Adhamyia

Its been 3 days since the attack on the American patrol which ended up killing 9 American soldiers and starving all the population of Adhamyia. Here comes what happened: Day 1: Thursday 10 am, an American tank gets bombed by a roadside bomb and 9 soldiers were dead, then huge battle starts between American soldiers and unknown (or as I may say no one), ending up on destroying the main underground water pipe which supplies the whole street, and destroying high tension electricity wires which went down laying on the street and electrifying the drowned street.After the shootings from the American side, while the American tank was still burning, two patrols of ING comes to back the American patrol against again "no one", and continue to shoot with them randomly and destroying more stuff and ruining the surrounding houses. pictures may speak up for themselves.

…………Anyway, this operation is just not doing both sides any good, if as they say they are after Alqa`eda and this operation is beneficial for the people of the neighbourhood, well I see no benefit gained of ending up dying due to starving or lack of medications. I'm sorry for those 9 soldiers who has died due to the attack but I'm much more sorry for the innocent people of the neighbourhood who may die because of this siege. Anyway: Where is the Iraqi government from all this?? huh?? or is Adhamyia not a part of Baghdad, and haven't Almaliki said no the siege will not be constructed and he ordered to stop working on it.well guess what prime minister of the green zone, the siege is complete and you may kiss your ass because it seems like no one follows your orders, you're just a crown puppet moved by Americans, Alhakiem, Alsistani and Muqtada Alsadr.

Be calm... don't lose it

My daughter, one of 63 students of the third year, taking their last clinical test this year, left the house in high spirits in anticipation of a long summer holiday starting in several hours time. Abu Ahmed, the regular taxi driver who transports her and four of her fellow students, to and from college was very pleased that I had put away ten liters of precious petrol for him. They drove off to attend to their business, as did I. God willing they would be safely home at about one in the afternoon. At one, my phone rings. It's Abu Ahmed, "Have the girls made plans I know nothing about? I have been waiting for them this past hour, but I don't see them." My heart missed a beat. "I will call her straight away and phone you back."

Experts Caution US on Alliance With Iraqi Tribes

The hotel's tower is visible to most officials who work in the heavily fortified Green Zone, and U.S. officials had talked regularly with the sheiks and given them money. But the officials had no idea that the sheiks were planning to talk with their Shiite Muslim counterparts in the hotel's lobby, though clearly someone else did. One U.S. military officer based in the Green Zone characterized the American reaction as "Huh?" "No one here knew they were getting together until it happened," said the officer, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic. In the end, the sheiks were operating on their own, and therein lies the risk in the U.S. strategy of working with Sunni tribal leaders. While the cooperation has helped quell violence in Anbar province, where tribal leaders turned on the group al Qaida in Iraq late last year, driving the radical Islamists from the province, it was by no means a signal that the sheiks would coordinate future actions with the United States or with Iraq's Shiite-led central government.

Theft, sabotage cut oil output

Anyone who wants to understand why Iraq's Northern Oil Co. still runs at just 20 percent of capacity need only visit the crews assigned to undo the work of thieves and saboteurs along the 50-mile stretch of pipes that dip below and above the sandy terrain between Kirkuk and Baiji. More than two weeks after terrorists first hit this remote section of pipeline, a ragged crew wrapped up another patch job in its never-ending repair work. A backhoe scooped up spilled gasoline from below the repaired line while a bulldozer shoved Iraqi desert into the hole that had been dug around it. The gasoline fumes could make a pit crew wheeze. "We fix it here, they break it there. We fix it there, they blow it up somewhere else," said Khabbuz Bai Hassan, the head engineer on the repair job, as he wiped his brow and squinted toward the horizon. Similar scenes repeat across hundreds of miles of pipeline that crisscross Iraq, explaining why the country's oil production still sits below prewar levels.

………At first glance, the landscape appears flat. But it undulates just enough to provide blind spots. So 30-foot-tall towers have been erected along the route. Those lookouts, in turn, have fallen victim time and again to bombs.

VIDEO: Dahr Jamail Talks About Conditions in Iraq


Government said to have lost control of Basra

As U.S. troops battle to retake Baghdad and surrounding areas, the government is reported to have lost its control of Basra where almost all of the country's oil exports originate. The city, according to well-placed sources, is under the hegemony of militias who do not run its streets only but have imposed levies and taxes on oil output. “It may be too late for Prime Minister Nouri al-Naliki to restore control of Basra,” one source working for Iraqi intelligence said. The sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, point to the growing Iranian influence in Basra and most of southern Iraq. The loss of Basra to Shiite militias is a blow to current U.S. military operations mainly directed against Sunni rebels and elements of al-Qaeda group in the country. The four-month long operations in which tens of thousands of U.S. marines are involved have foundered due to tough resistance from various Iraqi groups particularly those linked to al-Qaeda. British troops in Basra are almost powerless as their previous military tactics to retake control of the city have all but backfired.

Iraq's main Sunni bloc to boycott cabinet

Iraq's main Sunni Arab bloc is suspending its participation in cabinet because of legal steps being taken against one of its ministers, deepening the sectarian gulf between the country's politicians. The Sunni Accordance Front has six cabinet posts and the move is a blow to Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a time when he is under U.S. pressure to push through laws aimed at reconciling majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs. The bloc also suspended its participation in parliament a week ago over the ousting of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of its members. The latest move effectively removes Sunni Arabs from the cabinet and parliament, leaving Shi'ites and Kurds. "We have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi," the head of the bloc, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told Reuters by telephone from Amman. "We have told our six ministers not to attend cabinet meetings until the government halts these legal steps." Among the bloc's post are defence, planning and education.

Protest March To Samarra Postponed

A source close to the cleric told the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Friday that the event scheduled for next week was put on the back burner partly because of the government's inability to guarantee security.

The Baghdad Death Map

Iraqis Offer Their Own Security Assessment of Baghdad Neighborhoods ~ In their distinctive style of morbid humor, resourceful Baghdadis are circulating emails presenting their own personal assessment of the security situation in the capital. The detailed lists of what neighborhoods and areas are safe and what to avoid completely, because of Mahdi Army or Al-Qaeda activity or the random car bomb, are quite different from those found in Iraqi government or U.S. military statements. As many parts of the capital have become no-go zones for members of either the Sunni or Shia sect – or sometimes for both, it is a challenge for Baghdadis to identify areas where they are able to move freely and areas where they should better stay out. The following is a translation of one such email making the rounds among residents of Baghdad and on Iraqi Web forums. The sarcastic email, which was written in Iraqi slang, attempts to classify the districts of Baghdad based on their level of danger.


More Idiot Talk: Key to Evaluating Iraq Is at Its Local Level; President Departs From Past Rhetoric

The most important form of political compromise in Iraq is not among top Iraqi politicians in Baghdad, but at the local level, President Bush asserted yesterday, in a departure from past rhetoric on Iraqi politics. "To evaluate how life is improving for the Iraqis, we cannot look at the country only from the top down, we need to go beyond the Green Zone and look at Iraq from the bottom up," he said in a speech at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. "This is where political reconciliation matters most, because it is where ordinary Iraqis are deciding whether to support new Iraq." [About 20% of the population voted with their feet and are now refugees. How’s that for a statement on whether life is “improving for the Iraqis”? Once again, Thomas Ricks shows his skills in stenography, no matter how ridiculous the statements some people make. – dancewater]

U.S. Shields an Accused Iraqi Killer

The American Embassy in Baghdad is offering de facto protection to the Iraqi culture minister, who an Iraqi judge this week charged with the attempted murder of a fellow parliamentarian, Mithal al-Alusi.

Half of Baghdad Now Under Control

In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday. Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough _ with the recent arrival of reinforcements _ to complete his mission. "Some wonder: Are we progressing fast enough? Are we ahead? Are we on track?" he said in a video teleconference from his headquarters in Baghdad. [Answers: No, no and no. – dancewater] "This is a fight against extremists. It's a fight to put power back into the hands of the average Iraqi citizens and to give them a vote and a voice in their own future, without intimidation or fear. I see progress, a steady progress, in every neighborhood that we've cleared and then established a full-time presence." [This last bit is a pack of lies. – dancewater]

Turkey warns of plans to invade northern Iraq

Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned. "The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said. The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey. Among other things, Turkish military planners have been working on a scheme to establish a buffer zone on Iraqi soil to try to stop the rebels' movements. The US and the EU regard the PKK as a terrorist outfit, but Washington is nervous of any military operations by its Nato ally that could destabilise Iraq's Kurdistan region. There are fears too that any instability in the north could play into the hands of Iran, facing growing problems with its own Kurdish population.

No evidence ties al Qaida to recent bombing of a Shiite shrine

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that the U.S. has no "hard evidence" that the Sunni Muslim insurgent group al Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the recent bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, although Bush administration officials cite the attack as proof that al Qaida in Iraq is stoking sectarian violence. It "seems to me that that's probably an analytical conclusion. I'm not sure whether they have a lot of hard evidence about it," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. His comments come as the Bush administration has renewed its focus on Iraqi insurgents who claim to be affiliated with al Qaida. In a speech Thursday, President Bush called al Qaida the biggest threat in Iraq and said that al Qaida in Iraq was the same group that was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. U.S. military spokesmen in Iraq also have begun citing al Qaida in Iraq more often after years of downplaying its importance. ……. Al Qaida hasn't stepped forward to claim responsibility for the explosion. In a blog posted on a Web site commonly used by al Qaida, one man scoffed at the suggestion that the group was involved. The blogger said al Qaida would have hit the shrine at midday, not at dawn, to maximize causalities.

Qaeda holds military parade in northern city

Hundreds of Qaeda-linked fighters drove into the streets of the northern city of Mosul, brandishing their weapons and shouting Islamic slogans. The parade, early this week, was a show of force that the group did not fear the presence of the lightly armed and terror-stricken Iraqi police officers and paid little attention to U.S. marines camped outside the city. Mosul has turned into one of the most violent cities in Iraq with the Qaeda fighters imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic jurisdiction by force. The city is being emptied of its once thriving Christian community following the murder of two priests and several deacons. Many churches, whose spires dot the city’s skyline, are deserted. Other minorities like the Shebeks, who are Shiites, and Yazidis, are also being targeted. Qaeda’s influence in Mosul, which many see as the country’s second largest after Baghdad, has grown tremendously since the start of the U.S. military campaign to subdue Baghdad more than four months ago.


The American Massacre at al-Khalis

The new Bushist line is that everyone killed by American forces in Iraq is "al Qaeda" - a transparent falsehood belied by the Pentagon's own assessments but now mindlessly adopted by almost every corporate media venue, with the honorable exception (as always) of McClatchy Newspapers. Of course, the Invader-in-Chief and his multitude of bootlickers in traditional media and the blogosphere have always vastly inflated the numbers and importance of those elements in Iraq that are associated with al Qaeda in some way, however tenuous. Indeed, we know, again from the Pentagon itself, that the exaggeration of al Qaeda's influence in Iraq has been part of a deliberate, well-funded "psy-ops" scheme. But now they have decided to dispense with the subtleties of psy-ops and simply repeat "al Qaeda" with every breath, in an effort to demonize all resistance (both in Iraq and at home, both violent and non-violent) to Bush's murderous boondoggle.

But while this deceit is peddled for domestic consumption – avidly gobbled up and regurgitated by the bootlickers, and spreading the intended misinformation among casual consumers of the news (i.e., the vast majority of Americans) – Iraqis have to deal with the brutal reality of the war. And they know that everyone killed there by the invading forces is not "al Qaeda." They know that many Iraqis being killed by the Anglo-American coalition are innocent civilians. And they are increasingly embittered at the American slander of their dead. This slander is being applied even to those Iraqis who have taken up arms against the very "al Qaeda" terrorists that the American military is purportedly protecting them from, Iraqis who are cooperating with the American-backed government and its American-trained military and security forces. The BBC reports about an horrific massacre of Iraqi civilians last week – an air attack with missiles and gunships that literally ripped to shreds the bodies of village guards who had just returned from a raid with Iraqi government forces on a suspected terrorist hideout. These men were then accused of being "al Qaeda gunmen" in Pentagon press releases trumpeting this magnificent feat of arms – accusations then duly (not to mention dully) parroted in the press.

But the people in the village of al-Khalis tell a different story. (And for all the bootlickers out there who have fully entered into the spirit of the sectarian bloodbath unleashed by Bush and resolutely reject any contradiction of Pentagon propaganda by Sunni victims, al-Khalis is a largely Shiite village, on the side of the American-backed Iraqi government.) The BBC, which acknowledges that it too simply repeated the Pentagon line in its first reports on the "triumph," has gone back to the village to dig up the truth – and to do what the Bush Regime never does, and what the American press does only with the most extreme rarity: give names to the "collateral damage" of Bush's aggression.

And the names of the slaughtered in al-Khalis cry out with bitter eloquence their silent condemnation.

Jassem Khalil, the Mukhtar of Hayy al-Junoud
Abbas Khalil, his brother
Ali Khalil, his other brother
Kamal Hadi, their cousin
Shaker Adnan
Abdul Wahhab Ibrahim
Mohammad al-Zubaie
Abbas Muzhir Fadhel
Jamal Hussein Alwan
Abdul Hussein Abdullah
Ali Jawad Kadhem


Iraq's displacement crisis: the search for solutions

One in six Iraqis is displaced. After a conflict which has now lasted as long as the First World War over two million Iraqis are in exile and a further two million are internally displaced. Most refugees are in Syria and Jordan - which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita of any country on earth. The vast majority survive with little or no assistance from the international community. Eight million Iraqis are in need of humanitarian assistance. Insecurity prevents a robust response to humanitarian needs. The UN’s dependence on Coalition military forces means it is no longer perceived by the Iraqi people as neutral. The Government of Iraq lacks capacity to respond to the crisis and inflexible funding mechanisms deny adequate support for agencies which are better able to assist vulnerable communities.

UNHCR calls for seriously ill Palestinian children in Iraq to be medevaced

The UN refugee agency on Friday issued an urgent plea for the immediate evacuation of at least a dozen seriously ill Palestinians - mostly young children - stuck in Baghdad or in a makeshift camp on the Iraqi side of the desert border with Syria. "Without evacuation and life-saving medical help, they could die or suffer lifelong complications," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. "We currently have 12 cases in urgent need of medical evacuation, the youngest just 15 months old," he added. Last week a UNHCR team travelled to the isolated Al Waleed camp near the border with Syria and found that several young people among the 1,071 displaced Palestinians there were in serious need of specialized medical treatment. They included a youth with a hole in his heart, two children with Hodgkin's disease, one youth about to lose his leg because of a vascular disease and a young man with severe diabetes who is losing his sight. But Redmond said there were more cases in need of urgent attention. "We have also identified a two-year-old with cerebral palsy who has very low immunity, is in urgent need of physical therapy and has stopped eating. Another child, a 13-year-old girl suffering from a spinal injury, will be permanently paralyzed from the neck down unless she gets treatment soon," he said adding that the girl's mother died a few years ago, her father was murdered in January and her home was burned by militia.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees


AFSC Symposium On Iraqi Refugees

Marines Drop Charges Against Vet Who Claimed Iraq War is Illegal

Liam Madden, the Iraq War veteran who claimed the military attack on Iraq was “an illegal war of aggression under Nuremberg principles” and that “war crimes were being committed in Iraq,” received word today that the Marines have dropped the charges against him rather than provide a forum for these issues to be debated. The Marines had claimed his comments were “disloyal” and threatened to reduce his discharge from honorable to less than honorable. “I planned to argue that my comments were accurate and therefore not disloyal. In fact, it is the duty of veterans and active duty members of the military to stand up and tell their leaders when war crimes are being committed,” said Madden. “Now that the military has chickened out and dropped these charges I hope others will join me in speaking out against this illegal war.”

Madden’s Speech: You Can’t Win a War Crime

Iraq Moratorium Day – September 21 and every third Friday thereafter ~ "I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."

Quote of the day: And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace.” - George Bernard Shaw - Irish playwright "Caesar and Cleopatra"


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