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

Monday, August 6, 2007

News & Views 08/06/07

Photo: Women cry during a ceremony commemorating members of Shi'ite Mehdi army militamen who were killed during the 2004 uprising against the U.S. military, in Baghdad's Sadr City August 6, 2007. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)


Artists Feel Painted Into a Corner in Baghdad

Ultimately, it won't be the constant threat of violence that drives celebrated ceramics artist Mahir Samarrai out of the place of his birth. When he finally, reluctantly moves out of Baghdad later this year, the cause will be much more mundane. "To do ceramics, you need to fire the pieces in the kiln for eight hours. Since 2004, we've had one or two hours of electricity here each day," said Samarrai, 57, who said he cannot afford a generator. "So what is the choice?" Baghdad's once-flourishing community of artists has all but evaporated. Streets formerly lined with galleries are now deserted, and the artists who remain say they have not sold a piece since the U.S.-led invasion. Samarrai and several others estimated that 90 percent of artists who were working in the capital in early 2003 have been killed or have fled the country.

….Under Hussein, cultural events were subject to censorship, and public displays seen as subversive were punishable by a prison sentence or death. But half a dozen artists said that as long as they kept a relatively low profile, they worked without much fear. Now, they said, they are afraid to leave their homes or to tell anyone about their work for fear it will anger a cleric or an insurgent.

One More Day in Baghdad

Good, I still have my two hands and they still working properly, and what else?, oh, i still have my two legs working, I still have my head stuck to my neck, my two eyes working,my mouth and nose, no blood on my white T-shirt but why do I have this terrible pain in my ears? oh now I know why. the reason of this pain in my ears is the explosion. it just happened two or three seconds ago. It is 8,10 am when I was in the mini bus coming to work. A loud sound. OMG, its an explosion. man in the mini bus:-"its a car bomb OMG. " myself:-"no its not a car bomb. Its either a mortar shell or an IED" the man again:-"its a car bomb, i saw a big piece of iron " myself:-"ok its a car bomb but where is the black cloud? where is the big fire? the man:-" oh right, I think its an IED." The explosion happened in short street which is full with the security guys.


Allawi asks his five ministers to call it quits

Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National List, asked the five INL ministers not to attend the cabinet meetings and to boycott Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "a first step to withdraw from the Iraqi government" in protest against its policies, an INL official said. "Allawi's calls came in response to the Iraqi premier's failure to fulfill the pledges he had taken upon himself for the INL five months ago," Osama al-Nejefi, an INL member of the Iraqi parliament, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). Nejefi did not reveal the INL's demands but said "they have to do with political and security reforms." He noted that the INL ministers will settle for doing the necessary works of their ministries from their offices without having to attend any cabinet meetings to avoid causing delays in citizens' interests." The INL is the largest fourth bloc in the Iraqi parliament with 24 out of a total 275 seats. The largest bloc is the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) with 115 seats, followed by the Kurdistan Coalition (KC) with 55 and the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) with 44. The five portfolios of the INL ministers are justice, communications, human rights, science and a state ministry.

Kurdistan parliament passes its oil and gas bill

Iraq's Kurdistan parliament passed on Monday the draft law of oil and gas concerning the northern Iraqi region after more than a month of debate. "Kurdistan parliament adopted today all articles concerning the region's oil and gas draft law after a debate that continued for eight extraordinary sessions," Kurdistan MP Ariz Abdullah told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The 62-article-bill was endorsed after amendments were made to some articles, Abdullah said. Meanwhile, the media spokesman for the Kurdistan parliament Tareq Jawhar told VOI "following extensive discussions and crossing out five articles from the oil and gas draft law, the bill was passed in today's session." The media spokesman added "the House also added two more articles to the adopted draft law concerning allocating part of the oil revenues to save environment and to families of victims killed under the previous regime."

Mastermind of Samarra mosque bombing killed

U.S. military officials said Sunday that coalition forces had killed the al Qaida mastermind of an attack in February 2006 that obliterated the golden dome of a sacred Shiite mosque in Samarra and fueled sectarian killings that left thousands dead. Haitham al Badri, also accused of plotting the destruction of the same mosque's two towering minarets in June, was killed Thursday after he and three other insurgents emerged from buildings that military forces had been monitoring, U.S. officials said. The four men were about to stage an ambush on troops when coalition units attacked them, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led forces. Only later did the military realize it had killed a high-profile target. After bombers blew up the famed golden dome of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad, Shiites took to the streets, and thousands of Sunnis and Shiites died in the ensuring violence. Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak al Rubaie said recently that during the February 2006 attack, al Badri and five others rounded up the mosque guards, bound them and spent hours planting explosives in the mosque's gold dome, which was shattered by the bombing. [Take this with a grain of salt. – dancewater]


12,000 More Guard Troops May Be Going to Iraq

Coming on the heels of a controversial “surge” of 21,000 U.S. troops that has stretched the Army thin, the Defense Department is preparing to send an additional 12,000 National Guard combat forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials told NBC News on Thursday. The troops will come from four Guard combat brigades in different states, the officials told NBC News’ chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski. They said papers ordering the deployment, which would run for one year beginning in early 2008, were awaiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ signature. The deployment is sure to ignite a firestorm on Capitol Hill, where Democrats in Congress are maneuvering to scale back the U.S. commitment in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is pushing a proposal to end most spending on the war in 2008, limiting it to targeted operations against al-Qaida, training for Iraqi troops and protection for U.S. forces. [I think we can safely predict that the dems will go along with whatever plan they propose. – dancewater]


Opinion: A reporter speaks out about the Iraq war and news coverage

We require an honest accounting of where we are in Iraq. For the purposes of this report, it is necessary to address the comments of McCain and Pence. Outside of the name the White House coined for the latest offensive, the “surge” is not new. Commanders have increased force strength and mounted counter-insurgent operations on several occasions since the occupation began in late April 2003. They have ordered our troops to take insurgent territory and prematurely handed it back to Iraqi control, only to later return once more and spill American blood on the same ground. This occurred most notably in Fallujah, scene of two major U.S. battles that cost hundreds of lives. At lunch last February, a Marine officer told me the city was once more becoming a nest of terrorists after Iraqi army and police hit the streets. On August 4th, however – just days ago – an authority in Baghdad told me conditions inside the city are improving and that Iraqi police have stood up five of 11 precincts. The goal is to hand all responsibility for security in the city from the Iraqi army and U.S. training teams to the police. The official said he has not seen a timeline for completion of that process. He said, “It’s still a gated community,” meaning access is tightly controlled. Our commanders have consistently talked of progress like that, often citing numbers as proof, and I’ve heard about it in more than a few meetings in Baghdad and other parts of the country. But progress as measured by Iraqis’ ability to live without fear of being kidnapped, shot or blown up is virtually impossible to find. That kind of progress is critical, as are basic services. There’s another long, hot summer on in Baghdad, and once more there’s no electrical power, and of late no water.

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: “That is the truth. You can’t put lipstick on this little pig and pass it off as life in Indiana.” – Sig Christenson, US journalist