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, August 2, 2007

News & Views 08/02/07

.Photo: Red Crescent Society workers survey the ruins of a city block in the Karradah neighborhood of central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 30, 2007, where families are displaced after a July 26 bombing. About 8 million Iraqis, nearly a third of the population, need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Iraq war, relief agencies said Monday. Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq. (AP Photo/Wisam Sami)


Water Taps Run Dry in Baghdad

Much of the Iraqi capital was without running water Thursday and had been for at least 24 hours, compounding the urban misery in a war zone and the blistering heat at the height of the Baghdad summer. Residents and city officials said large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days because the already strained electricity grid cannot provide sufficient power to run water purification and pumping stations. Baghdad routinely suffers from periodic water outages, but this one is described by residents as one of the most extended and widespread in recent memory. The problem highlights the larger difficulties in a capital beset by violence, crumbling infrastructure, rampant crime and too little electricity to keep cool in the sweltering weather more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion. Jamil Hussein, a 52-year-old retired army officer who lives in northeast Baghdad, said his house has been without water for two weeks, except for two hours at night. He says the water that does flow smells and is unclean.

“I had to forget my honour to save my husband’s life”

Mother of three Um Muhammad al-Daraj, 35, recently went through a traumatic ordeal to try to save her husband’s life. She told IRIN her husband was kidnapped by militants who had accused him of supporting the insurgents. After two days without news of her husband, Ahmed, two people came to her home and ordered her to follow them to meet her husband, who was reportedly being interrogated.

…..“They asked me to enter a disgusting-looking house and told me to wait. A rude man came into the room and bluntly told me that I had two choices: have sex with him and get my husband released or return to my home and never see Ahmed again. “I was shocked and started to cry. I fell to the ground trying to kiss his feet and begged him to release my husband and not to treat me badly. “The man told me that he would be back in 15 minutes and by that time would want to know my decision. In those minutes I hated my beauty and myself. I know that if I had been an ugly woman this wouldn’t have happened to me, but the life of my husband was in my hands. “After 15 minutes - I was crying the whole time - the man came back and repeated the question and I didn’t have any option than to accept, in order to save Ahmed’s life, even knowing that after that they might kill us both. “I had to forget my honour to save my husband’s life. It was the most terrible 20 minutes of my life. I just felt pain and wanted to vomit all the time. In the beginning I tried to refuse but was hit in the face and had to cry in silence, while asking God’s forgiveness. “After that he told me to put my clothes on and the same two men drove me home, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t look at my children because I felt dirty. I didn’t even know if my husband was going to return.

“Later that evening Ahmed appeared on the doorstep with signs of having been hit in the face, and when I went to kiss him he told me that I was dirty and that he was going to divorce me as he had been forced to watch the whole scene and preferred to be killed than see his wife sleeping with another man, even if it was to save his life. “Two days later he left home and went to his parents’ house and said that soon I would get the divorce papers. Even now I cannot believe that losing my honour to save his life was taken by him as a betrayal. “Now I’m alone, without a job or husband, with three children to look after. Sometimes death is the best way to end suffering.”

Iraqi boy found near bodies of 5 slain brothers

Iraqi police found a young boy, crying but unharmed, next to the bodies of his five brothers on Thursday after they were kidnapped by gunmen. His brothers had been shot in the head and their hands were bound, the apparent victims of a sectarian death squad.
The victims were day labourers who were kidnapped on Wednesday on their way home to al-Rashaad district, 40 km southwest of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a volatile area that is home to mainly Sunni Arabs. Police said it was not clear why the boy, who was about six or seven years old, had been spared. He had possibly gone along with his brothers as a water carrier to keep them refreshed in Iraq's summer heat.


"Autonomous Government of the South" Announces its Founding

The Lebanese al-Akhbar daily reported that a “semi-official” autonomous government was announced yesterday in Southern Iraq. The paper said that “over 40 tribal chiefs from the provinces of Basra, Nasiriya, 'Amara and Samawa” have signed an agreement announcing the birth of a “self-ruling government” in the Shi'a-dominated southern provinces; and released a statement signed by “the administration of the autonomous government of the South.” The new “government” elected 'Abd al-Muhsin al-Shalash at its helm, and announced its commitment to the Iraqi constitution “at the present time,” adding that the “government” intends to amend the constitution in the future.

The newspaper did not add further details regarding the local support to the new council, or whether the founders of the “autonomous government” have links with the major political parties. But al-Akhbar pointed that the current constitution allows an Iraqi province (or a number of provinces) to form a “region,” which, if approved by a popular referendum, would be acknowledged by the government and would be granted a large measure of autonomy, including a regional government and parliament. The paper said that the founding of the “autonomous government” may be a first step in entrenching “Iraqi federalism ... which, is (currently) applied solely in the Kurdistan Region.”


Saudis confront U.S. on criticism over Iraq

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister gave voice Wednesday to simmering tensions between the desert kingdom and the Bush administration, publicly insisting that his country was doing all it could to block Saudi militants from crossing the border into Iraq as insurgents and saying he was "astounded" by recent criticism of its efforts from a senior U.S. official. The comments by Saud al Faisal, made at a news conference while flanked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, came during their high-profile visit aimed at pushing Saudi and other Sunni Arab allies to do more to help the beleaguered Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. The relationship with Saudi Arabia, one the United States' most important in the region, has shown signs of strain over the situation in Iraq, most publicly in March when Saudi King Abdullah called the U.S. presence in Iraq an "illegal foreign occupation."

Marine acquitted of most serious charge

A Marine corporal was found guilty today of housebreaking and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of an Iraqi man, in a case that revealed the anger and frustration of Marines in Iraq. Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, could face life in prison when sentenced by the same jury. However, the jury is not required to impose a minimum sentence and could free him. …The case stems from a plot hatched by a squad of Marines in April 2006 to kidnap and kill a suspected insurgent as a warning to other insurgents to stop attacking Marines in the area around Hamandiya west of Baghdad. When the Marines could not locate their intended target, they looked for his brothers. Failing to locate them, they dragged a man into an adjacent house from his bed, marched him 1,000 yards, and shot him to death. The Marines then planted an AK-47 and shells around the body to indicate that the Iraqi had been killed in a firefight while caught planting a roadside bomb. The sham unraveled quickly when the Iraqi's family members complained to Marine officials. [So, they admit a kidnapping and murder happened, find the guy guilty of conspiracy, just find him not guilty of the murder or the kidnapping? I just do not get it. – dancewater]

Marine convicted in Iraqi's death

A military jury today convicted Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, the alleged ringleader of a plot to kidnap and execute an Iraqi in Hamandiya last year, of unpremeditated murder rather than premeditated murder, which would have meant a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The decision means that Hutchins could be sentenced to prison for life, but the jury could give him a lighter sentence or even release him. Hutchins was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, making false statements, and larceny. Prosecutors had charged him with premeditated murder, but jurors exercised their power to downgrade that allegation to unpremeditated murder.


Do As We Say, Iraq, Not As We Do In DC

Our Congress left town without passing the dozen contentious spending bills that will keep the U.S. government running after Sept. 30, but it feels this is nothing of the magnitude of the Iraqis passing laws to divvy up the oil revenues and allow Baath party members back in the government.

…..We may have a solution looking at us. If the Bush administration could overcome its reluctance to let Iraqis into the United States, we could bring the Iraqi parliament over here for the month of August. We have a perfectly good Capitol building, along with attendant congressional office buildings and a fine library, going unused. If the Iraqis are uncertain about drawing up their laws, there are plenty of lobbyists still in Washington who will do it for them. They do it for our lawmakers all the time. The security around the Capitol, while maybe not up to Green Zone standards, is excellent for the area. And we have 24 hour electricity, air conditioning, running water and flush toilets. The highs in Washington during the summer are the same as the Baghdad lows, in the 90s, but it's a humid heat which the desert dwellers might appreciate. And fair is fair. The Hill newspaper reports that 76 U.S. senators have visited Iraq, one of them 10 times, not a boast any Iraqi lawmaker can make. The Iraqis would be able to send home glowing reports about the progress we're making. The streets of Washington are equally safe for Shias and Sunnis. Just be sure to park the car under a streetlight. There's plenty of room. We have 535 House and Senate members; the Iraqi parliament only 275. The ethics rules wouldn't apply to the Iraqi lawmakers so the lobbyists could give their expense accounts a badly needed workout by wining and dining them, thus making the local watering holes and eateries happy. In such salubrious surroundings, the Iraqis should be able to agree in no time on laws governing the oil revenues and the return of Baath party members to government. And if the Iraqis want to do something by way of a thank you, they could pass those 12 spending bills before they leave.

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: Look, people who kill innocent men, women and children to achieve political objectives are evil, that's what I think. – George W. Bush [bush is most definitely evil, as is cheney, rumsfeld, rove, rice and a load of others in this administration. – dancewater]