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, October 22, 2007

News & Views 10/22/07

Photo: The body of Ali Hamed, who was killed in a raid in Baghdad by U.S. troops, is prepared to be washed for burial in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. U.S. ground forces and attack helicopters killed an estimated 49 militants during a raid on Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite enclave to capture a militia chief who lead a kidnapping ring, the military said. Iraqi officials said at least 13 people were killed, including women and children. The military said ground forces were unaware of any civilians killed in the Sadr City strike, and the vast difference in reported death tolls could not immediately be reconciled. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Sunday: 78 Iraqis Killed, 83 Wounded

US Citizen's Sister Was Slain

His sister was driving two women and a child through Baghdad on Oct. 9 when private security contractors for a U.S. envoy opened fire on her white Oldsmobile and killed her. Now Daniel Dishchekenian, who lives just outside Los Angeles in Glendale, Calif., wants answers in his sister's tragic death - especially because the subcontractors, who are paid with American taxpayer dollars, are immune from prosecution. "This will happen to other innocent people if the American government doesn't take some strong action. They'll keep shooting without any concern," Dishchekenian, 62, said. "I understand these guards want to protect our soldiers and our people, but they have to think logically. When a suicide bomber drives to you, they're not coming at you with four people in the car - three of them women," he said from his middle-class home. "I think these guards, they're not well trained." Dishchekenian's sister Marani Ohannes, a 48-year-old Armenian Christian, was driving home from a church service when she was shot. She died along with her female front-seat passenger in the barrage of some 40 bullets.

……..The guards were subcontracted by the North Carolina-based consulting firm RTI International and had just completed a personnel escort in a convoy of white SUVs.

Kidnapped Catholic Priests Freed in Iraq

Two Catholic priests kidnapped in Iraq have been freed and are in good health, a cleric at the residence of Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly in Baghdad said yesterday. “I talked to the hostages. They are well. They say they were treated like guests,” said the cleric, who asked not to be identified. He said the priests were celebrating their release with a service at a church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where they were taken hostage amid reports they were being held for a $1 million ransom.

Iraqi Interpreters Walk the Talk

Ghost is as mysterious as his name suggests. Every 45 days, he slips away from his job and heads home for a two-week break. Once there, he remains inside. He does not visit friends, take walks, go on dates, or do any of the things that would be expected of a handsome 27-year-old. He sees only his parents and siblings, because they are the only people who know that during his long stretches away, Ghost works as an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

It is a job that pays triple what most Iraqi companies offer, but it comes with a heavy price. Interpreters share the risks when U.S. troops go out on patrol, but they don't carry weapons. They also know that insurgents would kill them or their relatives if they knew how they earned their money. So they live like phantoms. They don't reveal their true names, using monikers such as Ghost, Scarface, Snake or just plain William. They do not allow their photos to be taken. They fear being exposed if they leave the confines of their bases. They also fear being left behind after President Bush said he would adopt the advice of his top commander in Iraq, Gen. David. H. Petraeus, who said last month that security had improved enough for some American forces to leave. "You know the situation. Every interpreter, if he stays in Iraq, will get killed," David, a former tour guide, said with a tone of resignation in his voice.

At least 60 killed in clashes north of Baghdad

More than 60 people have been killed in a series of violent clashes between al-Qaeda and the Islamic Army in the area of al-Khannasa, north of Baghdad. According to the Arab newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, the attacks took place in the past few days after terrorists from al-Qaeda kidnapped the head of the Islamic Army in Madain, Wahid Arzuqi. Various witnesses said Arzuqi was kidnapped after receiving various threats, in particular a fierce verbal attack in a meeting organised with other Iraqi guerillas. Tensions between al-Qaeda and the rival militant organisation have reportedly been ignited in recent weeks after the deaths of several members of the Islamic Army in Samarra, Kirkuk and al-Duluiya.

Iraqi Nationalists Gaining Power Despite U.S. Efforts

Iraqi nationalism is the only political force capable of uniting Sunni and Shiite Arabs and ending the sectarian civil war, but for the past four years the United States has systematically worked to suppress it. Perversely, and entirely unintentionally, recent US-caused events in Iraq have sparked the one thing capable of both forcing an end to the American occupation and uniting the people of Iraq around a common purpose: Iraqi nationalism. Last seen, briefly, during the summer, when the Iraqi soccer team's victory brought its countrymen out in the streets in all shades of ethnic and sectarian variety, nationalism in Iraq has been revived recently as a result of three simultaneous US actions.

Those events are, first, the misguided effort, led by Senator Joe Biden, to partition Iraq into three mini-states, which passed the Senate 75 to 23 September 26; second, the September 16 killing of seventeen Iraqis by trigger-happy Blackwater security forces in a traffic-clogged Baghdad square; and third, the continuing American pressure to force the partial privatization of Iraq's oil, part of which, in Kurdistan, was illegally gobbled up in September by Ray Hunt of Hunt Oil, one of George W. Bush's Texas chums. Any one of these events would have been guaranteed to spark outrage among most Iraqis, but taken together they have galvanized nationalism to a degree unprecedented since the 2003 invasion. All three have been seized on as leverage by Iraqi political forces that oppose the fifty-four-month occupation of Iraq.

Another top Iraqi scientist killed

Unidentified gunmen have silenced another top Iraqi scientist, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has said. In a statement, the ministry said Dr. Mohammed al-Attabi was first kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location. “His bullet-ridden body was found two days later dumped on a street in the Ur District of Baghdad,” the statement said. Attabi, the police say, was abducted from his house in Baghdad. Attabi’s murder comes amid an intensified campaign to liquidate Iraqi university professors and other scientists. Local newspapers now point the finger at the so-called security contractors or mercenaries who flocked to Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion. Scores of top Iraqi doctors, scientists and intellectuals have been killed in the years since the invasion.

IRAQ: Aid agencies prepare for displacement near Turkish border

Aid agencies working in Iraq’s northern provinces have put in place emergency supply programmes in anticipation of a threatened invasion by Turkish troops to clear Turkish-Kurdish rebels operating in the area. “We are storing supplies to the maximum and we urge international NGOs to send us food parcels and medicines to tackle a possible huge displacement in the coming days,” said Rastgo Muhammad Barsaz, a spokesman for the NGO, Kurdistan Campaign to Help Victims of War. “Some families have already left villages and towns near the Kurdish border with Turkey and have been displaced for the past week. “Following our emergency plan, medicines are being sent to local hospitals to keep them sufficiently supplied to offer medical assistance to possible injured people, including mobile units that will be ready to travel to areas where there is no medical support nearby,” Barsaz added.

IRAQ: Violence-related deaths drop ‘remarkably’, say authorities and UN

Iraqis are breathing a sigh of relief as violence in their war-torn country is ebbing and the number of violence-related victims has dropped sharply since the beginning of this year, according to statistics compiled by the country’s interior, defence and health ministries. "Violence-related deaths in September dropped remarkably to levels not seen in more than a year as the number [of violence-related deaths] stood at 290 while in September 2006 the number was about 1,400," Adel Muhsin, the health ministry's inspector-general, told IRIN in a phone interview. According to the ministry’s statistics, between January and the end of September 2007, the number of violent deaths involving civilian, police and military in all of Iraq was about 7,100, against 27,000 in the same period of 2006. According to Muhsin, the average number of dead bodies sent to Baghdad’s main morgue just over a year ago was between 100 and 150 a day. Now, it is no more than 10 bodies a day, and about 50 percent of them are dying in normal circumstances.

IMS condemns attack on Sadr City

The Iraqi Muslims Scholars (IMS) on Monday condemned the U.S. attack on Sadr City, which left more than 65 casualties, most of them women and children, holding "occupation forces" and the current government responsible for the attack. "U.S. forces, backed by copters, cordoned off several sections in Sadr City on Sunday morning and shelled a number of houses, killing scores of civilians and destroying houses and stores," the IMS said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The IMS strongly denounced this brutal crime, holding U.S. forces and the Iraqi government responsible," it added.

Sadrists call for U.S. pullout from residential areas in Diwaniya

The Sadrist bloc, or Iraqis loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, call on Monday for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from residential areas in the province of al-Diwaniya, southern Iraq, and to hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. "The Sadrists also demanded the rehabilitation of security agencies in the province and filtering them of any militias affiliated to parties in power," Ali al-Mayyali, a bloc member in Diwaniya, said in a statement he read out during a press conference in Baghdad. U.S. military reinforcements had arrived on Sunday morning in the Multi-National Force (MNF)'s joint coordination center in al-Iskan neighborhood in central Diwaniya, where the Polish forces are taking positions. A source in Diwaniya police told VOI the reinforcements fall within "massive preparations by the Iraqi army and police with backing from the MNF to hunt down gunmen and outlaws in hot spots that are out of the state control in the province."


REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi gov't protests deadly U.S. raid in Baghdad

Associated Press photos showed the bodies of two toddlers, one with a gouged face, swaddled in blankets on a morgue floor. Their shirts were pulled up, exposing their abdomens, and a diaper showed above the waistband of one boy's shorts. Relatives said the children were killed when helicopter gunfire hit their house as they slept.

Iraqi leaders may ask U.N. to restrict U.S. military

Party leaders in the Iraqi parliament said today that they were setting up a committee to examine the continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq with an eye toward possibly restricting American activities, as the backlash continued over a U.S. raid Sunday in which the Iraqi government said 13 civilians were killed. Before the end of the year, the United Nations is expected to take up its annual review of a Security Council resolution that authorizes the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Iraqi leaders say the U.S. used too much force in responding to attacks on troops in Sunday's Sadr City raid and other incidents, leading to the deaths of civilians, and that they have not coordinated enough with Iraqi forces.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkish troops missing after raid

Eight Turkish troops are still missing after a deadly attack by PKK rebels on Sunday, the Turkish military confirms. The statement came as a news agency believed to be linked to the rebels named seven of the missing troops. Protests in Turkey have put pressure on the government to launch raids on rebel positions inside Iraq, but Ankara has vowed to pursue political solutions. Iraq's president says the rebels are set to announce a ceasefire. The office of Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said the offer would be made on Monday evening. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been blamed for recent attacks that have left more than 40 Turkish soldiers and civilians dead. The Turkish military said on its website: "Despite all search efforts, no contact has been established with eight missing personnel since shortly after the armed attack on the military unit."

SAS Raiders Enter Iran To Kill Gunrunners

BRITISH special forces have crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces, defence sources have disclosed. There have been at least half a dozen intense firefights between the SAS and arms smugglers, a mixture of Iranians and Shi’ite militiamen. The unreported fighting straddles the border between Iran and Iraq and has also involved the Iranian military firing mortars into Iraq. UK commanders are concerned that Iran is using a militia ceasefire to step up arms supplies in preparation for an offensive against their base at Basra airport. An SAS squadron is carrying out operations along the Iranian border in Maysan and Basra provinces with other special forces, the Australian SAS and American special-operations troops.

US Pays Britons, Kuwaiti for Iraq Crash

The U.S. military has agreed to give about $650,000 to three British soldiers and a Kuwaiti interpreter who were injured when an American military truck slammed into their vehicle in Iraq, a lawyer said Monday. [I wonder how the Iraqis, who have been injured also, feel about this. – dancewater]

US Army Lures Foreigners with Promise of Citizenship

More than 30,000 foreign troops are enlisted in the US Army, many of them serving in Iraq. Their reward for risking their lives for their adopted country is US citizenship.


IRAQI REFUGEES

Bloggers Without Borders – Baghdad Burning

By the time we had reentered the Syrian border and were headed back to the cab ready to take us into Kameshli, I had resigned myself to the fact that we were refugees. I read about refugees on the Internet daily… in the newspapers… hear about them on TV. I hear about the estimated 1.5 million plus Iraqi refugees in Syria and shake my head, never really considering myself or my family as one of them. After all, refugees are people who sleep in tents and have no potable water or plumbing, right? Refugees carry their belongings in bags instead of suitcases and they don’t have cell phones or Internet access, right? Grasping my passport in my hand like my life depended on it, with two extra months in Syria stamped inside, it hit me how wrong I was. We were all refugees. I was suddenly a number. No matter how wealthy or educated or comfortable, a refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who isn’t really welcome in any country- including their own... especially their own. We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven. The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.” I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

Crisis over Turkish Kurdish guerrillas is part of U.S. agenda

The remote and inaccessible mountains in Turkey, Iran and Iraq have never been the exclusive territory of one state. These are dark and difficult mountains where anyone can hide but no government or force can find. Therefore, the transfer of Turkish Kurdish guerrillas to one of Iraq’s mountains does not mean that the nearly 30-year old Turkish crisis has immediately become an Iraqi issue, with its consequences boomeranging on the conditions in the country as a whole. In the shadow of U.S. occupation of Iraq, this issue cannot practically be separated from the U.S. agenda. Ankara can directly negotiate with Washington over the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK because the Americans are the ones who possess a good picture of PKK’s movements and horizons. And Ankara should remember that the American side has outstanding interests in Turkey whose tide may rise and ebb depending on circumstances. This state of affairs became quite clear when the Turks turned down a U.S. request to use the Incirlik Air Base for attacks on Iraq in 2003. A few days ago, the strain in relations entered a new stage when a U.S. congressional panel, in defiance of President George W. Bush, approved a measure calling the killings of Armenians early in the last century “genocide.” There are obviously a number of cards whose use the two friends and allies have opted to defer for the time being. They may not become enemies but certainly these cards will introduce a new concept to their alliance.

Blackwater and me: A love story it ain't

During my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point. ….As we approached one semi-infamous intersection along the main route used by Blackwater between the International Zone (a.k.a. the Green Zone) and the Ministry of Interior, one of Blackwater's convoys roared through. Apparently, Blackwater's agents did not like the look of us, the main body of cars in front of them. Their response was, to say the least, contrary to the best interests of the United States effort in Iraq. Barreling through in their huge, black armored Suburbans and Expeditions, they drove other cars onto the sidewalk even as they popped off rounds from at least one weapon, though I cannot say if the shots were aimed at us or fired into the sky as a warning. I do know one thing: It enraged me ... and Blackwater is, at least nominally, on our side. But imagining that incident from an Iraqi perspective made it clear to me that though Blackwater USA draws its paycheck from Uncle Sam, it's not working in Uncle Sam's best interests. If I was this angry, I can only imagine the reactions of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who encounter Blackwater personnel on a regular basis.

Suicide is not painless

It was one of those stories lost in the newspaper’s inside pages. Last week a man you’ve never heard of — Charles D. Riechers, 47, the second-highest-ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force — killed himself by running his car’s engine in his suburban Virginia garage. Mr. Riechers’s suicide occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.

Set against the epic corruption that has defined the war in Iraq, Mr. Riechers’s tragic tale is but a passing anecdote, his infraction at most a misdemeanor. The $26,788 he received for two months in a non-job doesn’t rise even to a rounding error in the Iraq-Afghanistan money pit. So far some $6 billion worth of contracts are being investigated for waste and fraud, however slowly, by the Pentagon and the Justice Department. That doesn’t include the unaccounted-for piles of cash, some $9 billion in Iraqi funds, that vanished during L. Paul Bremer’s short but disastrous reign in the Green Zone. Yet Mr. Riechers, not the first suicide connected to the war’s corruption scandals, is a window into the culture of the whole debacle.

Comment on Juan Cole’s blog

“As long-time readers know, I believe that the only reason that the various players don't form brigade-sized units and fight set piece battles with one another is US air power, which would take them out if they tried it. I don't agree with the authors' conclusion that a US withdrawal would lead to social peace, since I believe that the low intensity war is only low intensity because the US military imposes limits on intensity. If the US forces weren't there, the local forces would fight their various wars to a conclusion or a stalemate.”

It's interesting to put your statement of yesterday next to to-days entry concerning the fight wiht the Mahdi army in Sadr City :

The troops called in an air strike on the building from which the fire came. You can't, obviously, avoid killing civilians if you bomb a heavily populated slum from the air. So the real question is how many civilians they killed this way. The Iraqi government maintains that the victims were mostly children and innocent non-combatants, and PM Nuri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation-- to mollify the very angry Iraqi Shiites who saw the bombing as a war crime. The US military did not catch the cell leader they were originally after.”

Your argument concerning "set piece battles" between Iraqi factions only serves to justify an indeterminate presence of the US troops in Iraq. On one side the US generals are arming different factions (former the shiite police, now the Sunnis tribal sheiks in Anbar) and on the other the Bush administration uses the tensions she creates herself to justify her occupation. This is a perfect vicious cercle; the trap prepared by the Bush administration is closing. With your kind of reasoning, when the Dems get to the next presidence, they will just continue the same politic the Rep have begun. The last attack on Sadr City shows clearly the flaw: since when killing civilians is a way to to protect them? What kind of choices are you leaving to the Iraqi? Can you tell whether it is better to be targetted by the airforce of a superpower or by the AK477 of another faction? Personally I think that the US airforce is more letal to the Iraqis than the low intensity war between the different factions and that the US is knowingly dividing the Iraqi, preventing stable alliance between them. [I agree. – dancewater]

RESISTANCE

Video from Democracy Now!

No More Victims: Grassroots Group Assists Iraqi Children Injured in U.S. Attacks

COLE MILLER: Well, I first learned about Salee when a man by the name of Maki Al-Nazzal got in touch with me from Fallujah and said there’s a little girl -- I was actually working then to bring another child to Boston, who is there getting treatment now, little Omar. And he got in touch with me and said there's a little girl, and her legs are cut, and she’s in an abandoned building without heat with her family, and she’s shivering, and she needs an emergency operation in Sulaimaniya; can we help? And so, I sent a little bit of money and said, “Of course, we can help.” We sent a little bit of money, and she got heating oil and blankets and then was evacuated to Sulaimaniya, where she had that operation. So that’s how I learned about her.

In terms of getting her to the United States, the way that I work -- we want to provide people of conscience in the United States with ways of taking direct independent action to help victims of this war. And I got an email a couple of years ago from a woman named Ann Cothran in South Carolina, and she said she wanted to bring a child to South Carolina. And so, I took the medical report, and I sent it to her, and she went to Shriners Hospital in Greenville, the most conservative city in probably the most conservative state in the nation. And they said, “Sure, we’d be happy to help this girl.” And once I had the letter promising pro bono treatment, I just put into place the procedures to get her here.

Ten-Year-Old Iraqi Girl Receives Medical Treatment in South Carolina After Losing Legs in U.S. Air Strike

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us. Where do you return when you go back to Iraq? What city?

HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS(Salee's father): [translated] To Fallujah. But if you allow to say some words, OK? I am very grateful to my brother and to the best person -- my brother Cole -- who helped bringing life back to Salee. For me, honestly, Salee was born again when she came to the US. Even though people in the US cannot really help to end the situation in Iraq, I would like everyone to help this person, Cole. I don’t think anyone can object me on this. This is a humanitarian action. [You can make a contribution at www.nomorevictims.org if you want to help Cole help Iraqis. – dancewater]

Our Little Girl Has Gone

I won’t forget the day in the car when Salee was casually talking about her extended family, her many aunts and uncles. And how she’d so calmly say, “That Uncle is dead. Got shot by a soldier,” and points to her head. “Mama has five sisters. Or, four now. One was killed.” Or the day we were in a restroom stall and she broke my heart with, “Ann have two babies,” and I replied “No, I only have one baby, Salee”, and she said, “Salee have two mamas. Ann have two babies.” We’d spent a day on Catalina Island and she’d broken down crying on the boat ride back to LA. She told me then, “No cry at airport, Ann. Little cry. No big cry.”

On the cab ride to the airport I gave her the only piece of jewelry that I really cared about, a cheap silver ring from Mexico that I wore every day. She cried as she tried to give it back and then told me she’d wear it every day. I thought at the time that the ring would remind her of me, but I didn’t account for the pain in my heart every time I looked at my own ringless hand. And, as everyone who knows her might have guessed, she did what she said she would at the airport. No big cry. She was brave, thinking of the future and her return trips here. “Don’t cry, Ann. Salee come back again and again and again…..” Salee is taking my heart home with her to Fallujah. But not just mine. She carries with her the hearts of so many who’ve grown to love her these last few months. I wish those hearts filled with love could ensure her safety. But they can’t. Salee will only be truly safe when we end the carnage that our nation has brought to her homeland. We have to work harder to end the war. For Salee. For Abu Ali. And for all of our brothers and sisters in Iraq. How can we not? Our Salee and our hearts are there.

More videos and information on Salee here.


Quote of the day: The dream of building a model state in someone else's land is a deeply dangerous and racist dream, and a violent dream. Sometimes this is expressed as the idealistic side of the invasion, right? We're supposed to give credit to Paul Wolfowitz for really wanting to build this model state in Iraq. But if you want to engage in what Thomas Friedman described gleefully at the time as not country building but country creating, you have to ask the question of what's supposed to happen to the country that was? It was atrocious on the part of the architects of the war that they were at war with Iraq's history and deep civilization -- so much older, you know, than our own. If the goal was, as they said, building this model state that was to be a beacon for the region, or creating a country from scratch, obviously Iraq's history, Iraq's culture, traditions, sense of self, were all an obstacle to that. How can we not speculate on motive when the military side of the invasion was this "shock and awe" attack on the country? These are people with a tremendous ease with destruction. They expressed that already in the first Gulf War and with the sanctions. –Naomi Klein

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