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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

News & Views 08/15/07

.Photo: Although Swords is still operated by remote control by a human, autonomous killing machines will be possible in the future. – Photo from US Army

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Ninewa Attack Deadliest Since War Began

Casualties from Tuesday’s deadly bombing attacks in Sinjar district rose to 250 dead and 350 wounded, while an indefinite curfew was imposed on the area, making it the deadliest single attack since the beginning of the 2003 war. In a statement in Arabic condemning the attack, the Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progress, a political party representing the Yazidi minority in Iraq, claimed a death toll as high as 750, but this number has not been confirmed by news agencies. The group, which holds one seat in the Iraqi parliament, also held the Maliki government “responsible” for the failure to protect the Yazidi population, according to the statement.

…..US forces pointed to al-Qa'ida as a likely suspect, saying the spectacular car-bomb attack was a typical tactic of the extremist group. No claim of responsibility has yet emerged. The Qa'ida-linked Islamic State of Iraq had issued a statement last week warning of an attack against Yazidis, the Guardian writes. The Yazidi minority is routinely threatened by Sunni extremists, and tensions have escalated in recent months with other communities. In April a 17-year-old Yazidi girl was publicly stoned to death by two thousand angry members of the Yazidi community for having converted to Islam in order to marry a Sunni Arab man. The “Islamic State of Iraq” claimed responsibility for a massacre of 23 Yazidi workers on a bus in Mosul area later in the month, calling it a reprisal attack for the stoning death of the girl. Tensions have also run high between elements of the Yazidi community and the Kurdish political parties in Ninewa province and in the northern Kurdish autonomous zone, including a series of killings in Mosul and the Kurdish region as well as arson attacks in April that torched both Yezidi and Kurdish offices. Areas in Nineva province with significant Yazidi populations are due to vote in an upcoming referendum on whether or not to join the Kurdish autonomous zone, stoking tensions between some Yazidis and Kurds on opposite sides of that political question.

FROM APRIL 2007: Yazidis Ask Iraqi Government for Protection

Members of the Yazidi religious minority have asked the Iraqi government and international NGOs to protect them after gunmen on Sunday killed 23 Yazidis in Mosul, northern Iraq. "It is unacceptable because Yazidis, in addition to being a minority in Iraq, have been discriminated against for their beliefs and are forced to isolate themselves to stay alive," Hebert Yegorova, a spokesman for Yazidi Peace Association, said. "The attack against the sect was clear after the gunmen asked Christians to leave the bus in which the Yazidi workers were, shooting to death only people from our community," he added. Yazidis are members of a culturally Kurdish, syncretistic religious group, which is neither Christian nor Muslim, who worship an angelic figure considered by some Muslims and Christians to be the devil. The group is pre-Islamic. While most of its adherents live in northern Iraq, smaller communities live in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. "Whatever we worship doesn't affect the normal lives of Iraqis and as we respect their beliefs, we have to have ours respected too," Yegorova said. "We don't worship the devil but they are confusing terminologies and this is unfair."

Desperate search for survivors among Yazidi homes destroyed by bombers

Rescuers tore with their bare hands at the wreckage of mud-brick houses in the Sinjar district of northern Iraq yesterday where five vehicle-born bombs have killed at least 200 people and injured 300. The casualties may rise to make the atrocity the worst single bombing of a civilian target in Iraq in the past four years. All the victims were Yazidis, members of a pre-Islamic sect, many of whom live in this part of northern Iraq. "We are digging with our hands and shovels because we can't use cranes because many of the houses were built of clay," said Dakhil Kassim, mayor of the nearby town of Sinjar. "We are expecting to reach the final death toll tomorrow or the day after tomorrow as we are getting only pieces of bodies." The loss of life is so high because the Yazidis are poor and live packed together in houses constructed of mud brick. These provide no protection against the force of a bomb blast. The most likely perpetrators are Sunni Arab Jihadi insurgents who see all those who do not belong to their own brand of Islam as deserving death.

Emergency medical supplies requested after latest bomb blasts

Doctors in hospitals treating victims of the latest bomb blasts - believed to have targeted the Yazidi community in northwestern Iraq - have asked for medical supplies to be delivered urgently. “We need all kinds of emergency materials but especially plasters, cotton wool and painkillers to help victims who have lost limbs or have serious cuts,” said Dr Dirar Muhammad, who has been working overtime at Dahuk hospital. A doctor in a clinic near Qahataniya, where some of the attacks took place, said they were ill-equipped and only two doctors were available. This was forcing the injured to be diverted to Dahuk hospital, he said. “Since yesterday [14 August], after the first victims were brought in, civilians have been bringing in body parts from the streets,” Muhammad said.
“Needles and antibiotics are also urgently needed because without them, patients who have lost limbs could get serious infections and die within days,” he added.

Crushing Iraq's human mosaic

Iraq's minorities are suffering a persecution at times verging on genocide, a campaigning Iraqi MP has told the BBC News website. Caught in a triangle of religious, ethnic and criminal violence, communities which once made up as much as 14% of the country's population get little state protection, said Hunain Qaddo, chairman of the Iraqi Minorities Council, a Baghdad-based non-governmental organisation. The marketplace bomb attack on a Shia Turkmen village near Kirkuk on 7 July marked a new spiral of horror, according to Dr Qaddo, who believes 210 civilians, mostly women and children, died and about 400 were injured. Police reported 130 deaths at the time. He says that his own community, the Shabaks of the Nineveh Plains, face oblivion as a people, targeted physically by al-Qaeda militants because they are mainly Shia, and politically by Kurdish separatists with claims on their land. Dr Qaddo is in London as part of a campaign by the UK-based advocacy group Minority Rights Group International to raise awareness of the crisis gripping Iraq's lesser-known peoples while the big three - the Shia and Sunni Arabs and the Kurds - pursue their own interests.

COMMENTS FROM THIS STORY: Are you a member of one of Iraq's endangered minorities? Were you forced to flee the country? Do you try preserve the unique identity of your people? Your comments:

I am Shabak and I know very well what is going on in Iraq. I have family and friends in Mosul, Iraq and they give me the latest Info on what is going on in Iraq and what Hunain Al-Qaddo has said is true soo many Shabak have been killed since 2003 and also other Minorities. I thank Hunain Al-Qaddo for what he is doing and we hope he will be able to achieve even more in the future.
Sinan Mahmood, Halle, Germany

All minorities at least were respected in some way or another during Saddam's reign unlike now what democracy has brought to us only kiddnapping, killings, displacement. besides Jews were driven out of Iraq because orginally they do not have a country but they came to iraq to live with us. I wish things before 2003 would be back at least there was Security & No sectarian wrangling
Hayder Aymen, Iraq- Najaf

Following statement made by a visiting Iraqi Turkmen MP in Detroit, MI last week sums up the current struggle of minorities in Iraq: "During the Saddam era our mouths were stuffed with cotton so we could not shout. The US military took the cotton out of our mouths but stuffed it back into their own ears so now they do not hear our cries!". For the Iraq mess to stabilize, the Bush administration needs to put pressure on the ethnic powers of each region, like Kurds in the North, to respect democracy and minority rights instead of pursuing their own self interests.
ali, Detroit, MI, USA

As a Sunni Muslim I am deeply dismayed to hear about the persecution of Iraqi minorities by other Sunnis. Islam does not condone this behavior and it should not happen. These minorities are our cousins in faith and should be protected and cherished. Isn't it time for the Muslim nations to put together a multi-national force to replace the Americans and to help restore peace and security in Iraq?
Wael, Panama, Panama

I am speechless. Just send this report to those who opened the "Pandora box" (namely President Bush and Prime Minister Blair). Don't know if they can live with these images, let alone the huge breakdown of people, culture, souls, and the consequences. God help us.
Khaled, Tulsa, OK


Conflict jeopardising children’s physical, mental health

Muhammad Abdallah, 12, lost his only brother in a shooting incident, and since then his parents are not taking any chances and do not let him out of the house. “In the past two years I’ve been more or less confined to my room. My parents don’t allow me to go out, most of my friends have gone abroad, and I was forced to leave school for security reasons,” he said. “My mum told me that maybe some neighbours might force us out of our home and she is very scared, but I’m not. At least I would be out of this house,” he added. A Sunni from Baghdad’s Yarmouk District, he is just another victim of the violence, displacement, school closures and poor diet that are taking their toll on children’s physical and mental health - something that could affect the country’s future.
“Children have become prisoners of their own families,” Dr Fua’ad Azize, a psychologist in Baghdad, said, but he warned that keeping them locked up inside could seriously affect their development. “Children need to move, read, learn and play but today in Iraq such normal things might lead to death or injury,” he said.

No

Did anyone hear about the meetings out great politician would start soon? OMG Here we are again. again and again and again, we are standing on the first square. new meetings but do these meetings have any new solutions to the daily massacre that we live in? I m sure the demands of the political blocs would be the same, each party and bloc will ask for sure for more power to control, more money to steal and more weapons to kill the people of the other sect. and guess what? Again the US Godfather will sponsor the great meetings. its the same old game, keep them busy, let them kill each other on the name of democracy. I think its time to say NO. I wish everybody shout loudly NO and let me start hoping that one of our sacred politicians read my words.

No for your meetings because you will eat the poors food.

No for you meetings because you will decide to kill more innocent Iraqis.

No for your meetings because your will shake hands and say we agreed to solve the problems and everyone knows you lie because you have been saying the same words during the last four years.

No for you meetings because since the American occupation is on my land, you will do nothing. They are your masters and you can do nothing but obeying them.

Stop this silly play and close the curtain. you are all failure actors.

What is really happening in Baghdad

And while top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed. U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim. The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same. U.S. officials have said that the new security plan needs time to work. But many have expressed disappointment at the continued sectarian violence. The military has been trying to stanch that violence by building walls between neighborhoods and around potential bombing targets. But bombings and sectarian violence still take place. The number of Iraqis killed in attacks changed only marginally in July when compared with December — down seven, from 361 to 354, according to McClatchy statistics.

No pattern of improvement is discernible for violence during the five months of the surge. In January, the last full month before the surge began, 438 people were killed in the capital in bombings. In February, that number jumped to 520. It declined in March to 323, but jumped again in April, to 414. Violence remained virtually unchanged in May, when 404 were killed. The lowest total came in June, the first month U.S. officials said all the new American troops were in place, with just 190 dead, but then swung back up in July, with 354 dead. One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge. But the reason for that decline isn't clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Prominent Iraqis Criticize Oil Law

A statement, signed by 419 Iraqi oil experts, economists and intellectuals, expresses grave concern that the newly proposed law would deprive Iraq from its most vital natural resource, oil, and give foreign oil companies ultimate domination over Iraq's oil wealth. Iraq's intellectuals demand a fundamental modification to the proposed law, and a referendum, the statement said. The law is expected to be discussed in the Iraqi parliament next month, after the parliamentary summer holiday is over. Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq's former oil minister and a signatory to the statement, told Al Jazeera: "We strongly recommend a real modification to the proposed law, and that Iraq's veteran experts be consulted and given a role in rewriting the law. "We urge that a modified oil law be passed only by a referendum, simply because oil is the wealth of all Iraqis and it affects every Iraqi's livelihood and future."

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Attack of the Killer Robots

Robot warriors have already seen action in Iraq, and the US Army plans to replace one-third of its armored vehicles and weapons with robots by 2015. These killing machines may one day come equipped with an artificial conscience -- even to the extent of disobeying immoral orders. [What a lot of bunk. – dancewater] The US Army's latest recruits are 1 meter (about 3 feet) tall, wear desert camouflage and are armed with black M249 machine guns. They also move on caterpillar tracks and -- thanks to five camera eyes -- can even see in the dark. The fearless fighters are three robot soldiers who, unnoticed by the general public, were deployed in Iraq in mid-June, charged with hunting down insurgents. As if guided by an unseen hand, they hone in on their targets and fire at them with their machine guns. It's the future of war -- and it's already here. "It's the first weaponized robot in the history of warfare," says Charles Dean, an engineer with Waltham, Massachusetts-based Foster-Miller, the manufacturer of the new devices. Dean and the 70 employees in his department are eager to find out how their three protégés are holding up on the front. Because the three robots, dubbed "Swords," are being used in a secret mission, their creators have no idea whether the devices have already killed enemy fighters in combat. [Or civilians. Some of these devices are able to fly. – dancewater]

….Automated warfare is also making inroads in Israel, where the military deploys robots along the country's 60-kilometer (37-mile) border with the Gaza Strip. The stationary "See-Shoot" system developed by Rafael, an Israeli weapons manufacturer, includes machine guns and cameras, and has a range of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet). From a military standpoint, there are many reasons to support the growing use of steel soldiers. For one, fear and fatigue are non-issues. Robots kill without hesitating and, unlike flesh-and-blood soldiers, losing them is merely a financial loss. A new Swords goes for about $150,000. Besides, politicians and generals no longer need to worry about a public outcry over excessive fatalities: Who mourns a fallen tin soldier? [And for Americans, who even notices if a civilian is killed? Just call it “collateral damage” if caught, otherwise all the killed people are “terrorists” – no need for an arrest, charges, judge or jury anymore. Who needs any more capital punishment trials or appeals any more? Just kill, kill, kill. And don’t think they won’t try that on the homeland. – dancewater]

…. Northrop Grumman is also developing an unarmed stealth fighter, the X-47, which the company expects to perform its first fully automated landing on a moving aircraft carrier in 2011. "By removing the pilots, we enable the device to remain airborne for an additional 10 hours or more," says Tighe Parmenter of Northrop Grumman. "To program an enemy mission, all you need is a keyboard and a mouse." In early August the US Navy awarded the company a contract worth $635.8 million to develop the fighter drones. ….Regardless of whether robots hurtle through the air or serve as mechanical infantrymen on the ground, until now human operators have decided whether they are permitted to shoot. The fear that the machines could suddenly start letting loose on their own troops is still too great. [And then, if the other side has better hackers…… - dancewater]

U.S. Tags Iran for Casualties from Its Own Attacks

When a top U.S. commander in Iraq reported last week that attacks by Shiite militias with links to Iran had risen to 73 percent of all July attacks that had killed or wounded U.S. forces in Baghdad, he claimed it was because of an effort by Iran to oust the United States from Iraq, referring to "intelligence reports" of a "surge" in Iranian assistance. But the obvious reason for the rise in Shiite-related U.S. casualties, -- ignored in U.S. media coverage of Lt. General Raymond Odierno's charge -- is that the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr was defending itself against a rising tempo of attacks by U.S. forces at the same time attacks by al-Qaeda forces had fallen. In his press briefing on Aug. 5, Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, blamed the rise in the proportion of U.S. casualties attributable to Shiite militias on Iran "surging their support to these groups based on the September report" -- a reference to the much-anticipated report by General David Petraeus on the U.S.'s own surge strategy. Odierno claimed intelligence reports supported his contention of an Iranian effort to influence public perceptions of the surge strategy. "They're sending more money in, they're training more individuals and they're sending more weapons in." He repeated the charge in an interview with Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times published on its front page Aug. 8 under the headline, "U.S. Says Iran-Supplied Bomb Is Killing More Troops in Iraq." In that interview, he declared of Iran, "I think they want to influence the decision potentially coming up in September." What Odierno framed in terms of an Iranian policy, however, can be explained much more simply by the fact that the U.S. military mounted more operations on Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army during the spring and summer. The U.S. command has not provided any statistics on the targets of its operations in recent months, but news reports on those operations reveal a pattern of rising U.S. attacks on Mahdi Army personnel since March 2007.

…..On Apr. 8, Sadr issued a statement urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing U.S. forces out of the country. Thus it requires no Iranian hand to explain the escalation of the conflict between the Mahdi Army and the U.S. military that accounts for the changing pattern of U.S. casualties in Baghdad.

COMMENTARY

Video: Fox Reporter Says One Thing – Facts They Present Says Another, and Shows Reporter is Delusional

During her close-up assessment of what she has seen this FOX News reporter is amazed that she is able to walk in an open air market in Iraq for the first time in 2 years. Note that she did not say if she tried before...just that she has not done it. Walking in an open air market. WOW! Granted, she admits she has more security that John McCain had in his market walk a few months ago as she is embedded with a General on tour. She has the 82nd Airborne surrounding her on the ground and a few attack helicopters in the air...but isn't it amazing that she had the confidence to walk in an open air market wearing only full body armor and helmet as she was surrounded by these dozens of troops? As she makes primitive hand gestures to the Iraqis who describe their relatives being killed and explaining how there are relatively few shoppers buying anything this video must demand that the close up of the reporter be the weighty part of the report as the reporter says things are looking up as opposed to every other sentence of the report which just confirms that things are looking down.

More from the land of the delusional: GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ

August 15, 2007 -- News out of Iraq continues to be encouraging: High-profile attacks have fallen nearly 50 percent since the start of the troop surge, USA Today reported this week. Gen. David Petraeus, commanding the war in Iraq, says hundreds of al Qaeda fighters were killed or captured in just the past month alone. Tips about the enemy are up fourfold over the last year - to some 23,000 a month. "Tribes and people are starting to stand up and fight back," said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander of the U.S. division north of Baghdad, in the USA Today report. "They are turning against al Qaeda." It's a sign of the preliminary success of a number of operations now under way, as troop strength has finally reached the maximum planned by the surge. To think that just a month ago, Democrats were trying to pull the plug on Iraq. Maybe they feared exactly what is happening: The tide in Iraq seems to be turning in America's favor - and that spells bad news for the Dems, who've pinned their own political fates on the White House failing in the war.

REALITY: Iraq Set to Disintegrate, New Study Warns

It's no secret that Iraq is a politically, ethnically and religiously fractured country. But a new study released in Berlin on Wednesday argues that federalism remains the country's last, best hope. Otherwise, it may fall apart completely. "Already today, the main priority is to prevent Iraq from breaking apart completely." That is the sober conclusion of a new study released Wednesday in Berlin on the situation in Iraq. Called "Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse," the study argues that there is little hope of a centralized power in Iraq and that the country's future depends on walking the fine line between decentralizing power and civil war. The report, written by terror and Middle East expert Guido Steinberg under the auspices of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, says that a far-reaching decentralization is the country's only hope. And if it fails, the result could be devastating, including the possibility of full-scale civil war complete with foreign intervention. "The basic assumption of this study," Steinberg writes, "is that a federalist solution will be the only possibility to maintain Iraq as a single country. The most important role of German and European policies should therefore be that of supporting steps toward a peaceful federalist solution."


RESISTANCE

Meeting Resistance

MEETING RESISTANCE is a verité-style non-fiction feature-length film set in the streets, alleyways and ubiquitous teashops of the Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad. It enters the physical and psychological heart of the "insurgency" against the American occupation. Photojournalists/directors Steve Connors and Molly Bingham spent ten-months among the insurgents there to create this exclusive, unique, and at once horrifying, compelling and insightful film about their lives, motivation, and goals.

MEETING RESISTANCE focuses on eight "insurgents", each with his or her own tale and reasons for opposing the American-led occupation, yet all people who within days of the fall of Baghdad were arranging themselves into resistance cells, finding the money and weapons to fight against the American military. The film witnesses how they began to organize themselves, reveals why they have decided to violently oppose the occupation of the country, and hears in their words the underlying ideological foundations to their fight and how and why those have changed over time.

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: Dr Azize said many children were being raised in a climate of fear and violence. “Some children and youths… are being manipulated and brainwashed into helping militias and insurgents - sometimes with the blessing of their families,” he said.

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