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

Friday, August 31, 2007

News & Views 08/31/07

Photo: The BBC World Service is monitoring its effects, week by week, by looking at casualty figures, the pressure on hospitals and quality of life for ordinary civilians. The graphics and analysis are based on figures from the US and Iraqi authorities and Baghdad's hospitals. Iraqi civilians continued to bear the brunt of the insurgency during the week of 22-29 August, with 308 killed and 557 wounded. The extent of the killing was highlighted by reports from Baghdad mortuary, which received 35 bodies, all of them killed with sharp tools. All of them had had their eyes removed. [The writing in this graphic is a bit hard to read, but Iraqi civilians are the highest number of Dead and Wounded - by a large margin. - dancewater]

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Missing persons in Iraq 1 million – ICRC

The spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that the number of missing persons in Iraq rose to one million people, according to Iraqi official reports released recently. "The number of persons missing since the Iraq-Iran war rose from 375,000 to 1,000,000," Hesham Hassan told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The higher number of missing persons represents a harsh fact and a tragedy," the spokesman also said, noting that every mother has the right to wail over her son's grave. "None of the former governments, even the current government, made an accurate estimation of the missing persons in Iraq," Hassan also said. "This is a serious problem facing the ICRC, which has being working in Iraq since 1980," the man noted. "Forensic medicine departments' staff will join scientific courses to raise their knowledge and teach them how to do DNA testing to identify dead bodies," Hesham Hassan said.

Families of Detainees Losing Hope

The 'surge' is the new effort by U.S.-led coalition forces to crack down on terror suspects. The number of detainees held by the U.S. military has increased by more than 50 percent since the U.S. administration announced the surge six months ago, bringing the detainee population to at least 24,500, according to U.S. military officers in Iraq. The officers have said the detainee population was 16,000 in February of this year. The U.S. military unit in charge of the detention centres in Iraq, Task Force 134, reported Aug. 24 that the average length of detention for all detainees is about a year. It reported also that there are about 800 juveniles held in detention facilities. Estimates of the total number of Iraqi detainees vary, but most Iraqis believe the number is more than 50,000. According to Iraqi sources, as well as the U.S. military, the vast majority of detainees are Sunni Arabs from the western areas of Iraq. Most of them are detained without any charge or court warrant. John Sifton, researcher for Human Rights Watch, told reporters Aug. 24 that "the allegations of abuse are far worse for Iraqi facilities than for those detainees in U.S. custody. It is difficult to know the Iraqi detainee population. There are both official and unofficial Iraqi detention systems." Sifton said Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations "have concerns about a 50 percent increase in detainees because it is 50 percent more people at risk of having been arbitrarily detained or, worse, of being handed over to Iraqi officers who might subject them to torture." Sifton added that there are no reliable numbers provided by the Iraqi government on the number of detainees, and that the U.S. military will not provide the numbers either.

Karbala: The holy city turns into wreckage

The center of Karbala city has turned into a lifeless pile of rubble when formerly it was one of the world's most crowded spots and following clashes that prompted hundreds of thousands of visitors to flee the city and local residents to stay home. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a local resident told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) that the holy city has turned into a graveyard. "A great silence has fallen over the city. There is no movement in the streets of the old city. Everything has changed after the clashes," he said. According to the latest figures, 48 people were killed and 380 others were injured during clashes that broke out between security forces and gunmen in Karbala, where scores of Shiite Muslim visitors converged from inside and outside Iraq to visit the tombs of imams al-Hussein and al-Abbas as a prelude to celebrating the birth anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi. Commenting on the curfew imposed on the city, Hassan Ali said that the closure of stores and main markets have negatively affected local residents who have been suffering from lack of services since the outbreak of violence.

Reports from Karbala, including videos


Minorities Lose Out in Classroom

Central authorities accused of failing to support non-Arabic language education in northern town. ….Yousif Saeed, in charge of Kurdish studies at the Kirkuk education office, accuses the ministry in Baghdad of neglecting an important constitutional right of non-Arab nations. “The ministry does not provide [Kurdish language] schools and departments with the necessary [education materials], nor with the teaching staff,” he said. The demand for classes in languages other than Arabic in the Kirkuk region is high. In 2007, 305 schools offered classes in Kurdish; 148 in Turkoman; four in Assyrian; while 700 taught only in Arabic. Saeed pointed out that so far all Kurdish schools in Kirkuk are funded by the Kurdistan region’s education ministry. It has allocated 4.5 billion Iraqi dinars for new schools, and pays the salaries of their staff, who number around 6,000. The Turkoman schools suffer from the same shortcomings as the Kurdish schools. Farook Fuad Abdul Rahman, manager of Turkoman studies at the Kirkuk education office, stresses how important studying in their mother language is for Turkoman students, but also complains about a lack of support from central government. He says textbooks and other educational materials used by Turkoman schools are provided by rich Turkoman donors.

Basra Struggles to Cope With Student Demand

As children begin returning to the classroom, the school infrastructure is in dire need of repair. ….The under-resourced and outdated school system in the southern province of Basra is straining to cope with the swelling numbers of children coming back into education there. As demand for education increases, mainly because of the flow of displaced people to the relative safety of southern Iraq, as well as former residents returning from abroad, Basra’s under-funded schools are struggling. The province is famous for its rich oil reserves, but its public services are in poor shape. Conflict over the last two-and-a-half decades, as well as the effects of United Nations sanctions imposed in the Nineties, has ravaged infrastructure and economic capacity throughout Iraq. While Basra produces 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, its citizens see little of the revenue. Residents have to live with piles of garbage in the streets, poorly-equipped hospitals, and schools that often do not even have enough chairs for the children to sit on. ….According to Iraqi trade ministry, an estimated 270,000 people have returned to their homes in the southern provinces since 2003, many of them from exile in Iran. More than 170,000 displaced people have also come to live in the south, according to figures from Basra and Muthanna provincial councils, and the International Organisation of Migration, IOM, from towards the end of 2006.

How Gulf With Sunnis Widened

Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite member of Parliament, first encountered the Sunni-Shiite divide on the day the Americans captured Saddam Hussein. Hearing the news with a close Sunni friend named Sahira, Musawi erupted like a child. "I jumped, I shouted, I came directly to Sahira and I hugged her," Musawi said. "I was crying, and I said, 'Sahira, this is the moment we waited for.' " At least it should have been: Saddam's henchmen killed Musawi's father when she was only 13; Sahira, too, was a victim, losing her closest uncle to the Saddam government. But instead of celebrating, Sahira stood stiffly. A day later, Musawi said, Sahira's eyes were red from crying. And before long, like so many Sunnis and Shiites here, the two stopped talking. Sectarianism, the issue Musawi said she had wanted to avoid, has instead come to haunt her. She entered politics four years ago, flush with idealism, working closely with Sunnis on Iraq's Constitution and a draft law that would compensate victims of Saddam. Now, even for her, one of Parliament's most independent figures, the urge to reconcile is being blacked out by distrust, disappointment and visceral anger. Her disillusionment helps explain why the Iraqi government has missed most of the political benchmarks laid down by Congress, as the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report to be released in coming days. And her reasons — for defending Shiite militias as a necessary response to Sunni Arab violence, for example — are personal. As with many of Iraq's leaders, her life has been rubbed raw. After seeing Sunni neighbors kill Shiite friends, and after being pushed out of her own home by violence, Musawi has struggled to move beyond the pain and anger.

AUDIO: Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, unembedded independent journalist, discusses the absolute humanitarian catastrophe that the U.S. has created in Iraq, the fact that all the propaganda about the surge is "working," is a bunch of lies, Dahr measures the fate of Nouri al-Malaki's government in the face of the proposed Allawi coup.

Cholera Spreads in Iraq

“My two children, husband and mother have been affected by cholera because we weren't able to get purified water and one of my children is very sick in hospital," said Um Abir, a 34-year-old mother. "We have been displaced since January and we have to camp near a rubbish tip which, according to the doctor, might be the reason for all of the family being affected." The number of Iraqi refugees stands at 4.2 million of whom two million have been displaced within Iraq. Many live in huts made out of rubbish and have no fresh water supplies. In addition to Sulaimamiyah, the cholera has spread to the oil city of Kirkuk. "The bad sanitation in Iraq, especially in the outskirts of cities where IDPs [internally displaced person] are camped, has put people at serious risk," said Dr Abdullah. "In Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk, at least 42 per cent of the population don't have access to clean water and proper sewage systems." Unicef says that local reports suggest that only 30 per cent of people in Sulaimaniyah have clean drinking water.

Video: Iraq Has No New Oil Law, and No Gas

While US officials on all sides criticize the Iraqi Parliament’s failure to pass an oil law, no one is asking a more critical question to the government’s local credibility and functionality, where is all the gas? Recently many officials in the US have been criticizing the Iraqi Government’s failure to meet certain benchmarks imposed by US officials. One such benchmark has been the passage of a National Oil Law. Although Parliament went into recess without passing such a law, it is not necessarily the most important issue for Iraqis when considering the strength or weakness, and failure or success of their government. These days much of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq is lucky to have even a few hours of electricity per day. Our sources tell us 1 hour per day is the average norm around the country, particularly Baghdad, where the large population center has greatly overstretched its resources and infrastructure are degrading rapidly.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

More than 300 arrested in Iraq after Karbala melee

Iraqi police responded with an iron fist Friday to the violence that threw the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala into chaos earlier this week, arresting more than 300 people in a show of force against Shiite militias. Iraqi officials say Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ordered the arrests, a possible indication that Maliki, a Shiite who's under intense international pressure to reconcile political rifts between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, intends to crack down on the Mahdi Army. Witnesses in Karbala blame the militia, loosely controlled by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, for Tuesday's violence during a religious ceremony. But an official with the Sadrists, the Mahdi Army's political wing, said Friday that the Iraqi police were arresting anyone who was affiliated with the militia, including politicians and government workers who weren't involved in the violence. The official asked that he not be named because he wasn't allowed to speak on behalf of his party.

Sadr May Revoke 'Freeze' On Militia

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers Thursday that he would rescind his order "freezing" the operations of his powerful militia if military raids on his offices did not cease in the next few days, according to officials of Sadr's organization. Sadr's message came the day after he issued a public statement to his Mahdi Army to cease its operations for up to six months so he could restructure the group. But Sadr was forced to reconsider after a raid Thursday by U.S. and Iraqi forces on his office in the southern city of Karbala led to the deaths of six Mahdi Army members and the arrest of 30 others, the officials said. "When you see the enemy is attacking you, you have to defend yourself," said Alaa Abid Jiaara, a Mahdi Army member in Sadr's headquarters in Kufa, about 90 miles south of Baghdad. "Today we have seen the occupation forces and Iraqi forces violate the Sadr followers and their offices and holy symbols. This means it is the duty of the followers of Sadr to defend against them."

Iraq wants other armed groups to follow Sadr lead

Iraq said on Friday that it hopes other armed groups will follow Muslim Shiite cleric Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr's decision to freeze his 'Mahdi Army'. The suspension of Sadr's 'Mahdi Army' activities was "an opportunity for other groups of different political affiliations" to lay down their arms and help reduce bloodshed in the country, the prime minister's office said. On Wednesday, Sayyed al-Sadr ordered 'the Mahdi Army' to suspend its activities for six months to reorganize it in the wake of reports saying that several individuals claiming they are members of the Mahdi Army are committing acts of violence. The Mahdi army warned that further attacks against it after it suspended its activities for 6 months, it will resume its activities at any time. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said Sadr's decision would help in stabilizing Iraq and be an example for other armed groups.

Feuding Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites Meet at Peace Seminar in Finland

Representatives of feuding Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq were meeting at a seminar behind closed doors Friday to discuss ways of ending the bloodshed, conference organizers said. The Crisis Management Initiative, a conflict-prevention group headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said it was hosting the seminar to examine how lessons learned from peace processes in South Africa and Northern Ireland could be applied to Iraq. Seminar organizers would not say who was attending, except to confirm that both ''Sunni and Shiite groups'' had arrived. The venue and other details will be kept secret until the talks are over, organizers added. Finnish broadcaster YLE said representatives of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the leader of the largest Sunni Arab political group, Adnan al-Dulaimi, were at the gathering. Humam Hammoudi, the Shiite chairman of the Iraqi Parliament's foreign affairs committee, also was in Finland, YLE said.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

The Benchmarks Iraq is Missing

The Government Accountability Office has confirmed the obvious: the "benchmarks" the U.S. Congress set out to assess progress in the Iraq war will not be met by a September deadline. Unfortunately, it turns out that Iraq is making major strides in meeting another set of benchmarks: those imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At the end of 2005, the IMF entered into a stand-by agreement with Iraq. The deal makes IMF funding available to Iraq in exchange for the country adhering to certain IMF policy dictates. More important than the IMF monies, however, adherence to the agreement was a condition for Iraq receiving major reductions in its obligations to repay the enormous debts acquired under Saddam's regime. The IMF has just released Iraq's most recent Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding, dated July 17. The conceit of these documents is that they are "country-owned" and constitute a report on a country's own decision to pursue the policies to which it has committed with the IMF. Everyone understands, however, that the policies are imposed by the IMF, and the reports are the supplicant country's attempt to stay in the good graces of its financial master. Combined, the documents just released report on Iraq's progress in meeting IMF-demanded policies. With one crucial exception -- privatization of the oil sector -- Iraq reports it is making concrete progress in satisfying IMF demands that it turn its economy over to private corporations, cut back on government size and the government's role in the economy, and withdraw labor protections.

……..Apart from some non-trivial accounting issues, the one key area where the Iraqi government is not meeting IMF targets is privatization of the oil sector. (Presumably because this is also a key Congressional benchmark, the government does not acknowledge its growing troubles in this area. Instead, it states, "The GoI [Government of Iraq] will continue its efforts towards developing a competitive and transparent hydrocarbon sector. Draft hydrocarbon legislation will be submitted to the CoR [Council of Representatives] when final agreement between all concerned parties has been reached, possibly in the next few months. The envisaged legislative package includes a draft oil and gas law to regulate the sector, a draft law to reestablish the Iraq National Oil Company, a draft law reorganizing the MoO [Ministry of Oil], and a draft financial management law on the sharing of oil revenues.") This remarkable -- and welcome -- failure reflects massive Iraqi opposition to Big Oil's designs to gain control of Iraq's oil resources, and the success of an international campaign to shine a spotlight on Big Oil's planned oil grab. Every ethnic and geographic grouping in Iraq believes Iraq's oil should be developed under the control of Iraqi state-owned companies rather than multinationals. Overall, Iraqis hold this position by a two-to-one margin, according to a July poll.

US Troops South of Baghdad

On this night, the troops had been ferried by helicopter to a rural enclave abutting the Tigris River. Their mission: Uproot a suspected nest of Sunni insurgents. But the soldiers found only a small cache of weapons outside one of the 13 houses they searched. They detained one man who identified himself with a name that didn't match his government-issued ID, earning him a noisy, expletive-laden interrogation that was easily overheard in the next room. "Keep your head down! Keep your (expletive) head down!" the interrogator yelled in English as an interpreter translated. "Why are you speaking if you're lying? You better think about what you're saying before you talk to me, son. I've got a real short temper tonight!" Another Iraqi man who lived in the house also was questioned, though he wasn't detained. What did he know about Sunni insurgents living in the area, asked Staff Sgt. Kenneth Braxton, who's from Philadelphia. Nothing, the man said. Braxton said he knew the man was lying because of the way he moved his eyes. The sergeant tore an American flag Velcro patch from his sleeve and told the Iraqi to hold it to his chest. Then another soldier used a digital camera to take a picture of the man. "So we've got a picture of you holding an American flag now," Braxton said. He told the man that if he didn't cooperate, the photo would be posted around the neighborhood. It the end, it didn't appear that the soldiers gleaned any helpful information from the man.

…… In late June, the 3rd Brigade turned over control of an abandoned Pepsi factory in Salman Pak — the largest city in the region — to Iraqi police so they could use it as a checkpoint and patrol base. Three hours after U.S. forces left, insurgents swarmed the factory in broad daylight and took control.

Lawmakers Describe “Being Slimed in the Green Zone”

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated." But even such tight control could not always filter out the bizarre world inside the barricades. At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons. When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled. Porter confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity. "I don't disagree it was an odd moment, but I did take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, at least they are using the latest technology, and they are monitoring the world,' " Porter said. "But, yes, it was pretty annoying." It was the bio sheets that seemed to annoy the members of Congress the most. Just who assembled them is not clear.


IRAQI REFUGEES

Food distribution to start for vulnerable Iraqi refugees

In Syria yesterday (Thursday), UNHCR and the World Food Programme started a text SMS campaign by mobile phone to alert more than 33,000 vulnerable Iraqi refugees in Damascus of the launch of the first food distribution programme for them on Saturday. The first food ration will cover two months in anticipation of the needs of many refugee families during the upcoming fasting month of Ramadan. We have found text messages to mobile phones are one the most effective ways of communicating with the refugees who often do not have a stable address but either they or someone close to them in their immediate community has a mobile phone. Due to the constant need to communicate with family and friends remaining in Iraq, mobile phones are often an indispensable tool for many refugee families. The SMS text message was sent only to those eligible for the food distribution. Ten thousand SMS's were sent.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


COMMENTARY

Comment: Iraqi Kurdistan's Universities Need Reform

Equality and democracy in higher education must be practiced, not preached. ……Higher education in Iraqi Kurdistan could prove to be a shining example to universities in the rest of the country, if significant changes are made to the way it is administered. The Kurdish government has promised a bright future for its youth, with opportunities to study at excellent new universities, such as the American University of Iraq, to be built in Sulaimaniyah. At the same time, higher education has benefited from the arrival of Arab academics who have fled sectarian violence in central and southern parts of the country, and Kurdish intellectuals who have returned from the Europe and elsewhere. But the university system requires extensive reforms before it can serve Iraqi students. The region's universities are hindered by politics, corruption, a lack of resources and a culture that does not promote critical or independent thought.

Liberals, Bush Unite in Ethnic Cleansing of Iraq

It is now obvious that one impetus behind the "surge" was to accelerate the "ethnic cleansing" of Iraq. Given the manifest failure to establish a strong central government to serve as a client state, the conquerors now find it easier to deal with separate ethnic enclaves, which can police themselves, shake out their own internal conflicts (however bloodily) and thus establish some kind of solid leadership that can cut deals and guarantee investments.

History Will Not Absolve Us

If and when there's the equivalent of an international Nuremberg trial for the American perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the CIA's secret prisons, there will be mounds of evidence available from documented international reports by human-rights organizations, including an arm of the European parliament—as well as such deeply footnoted books as Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program (St. Martin's Press) and Charlie Savage's just-published Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown). While the Democratic Congress has yet to begin a serious investigation into what many European legislators already know about American war crimes, a particularly telling report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has been leaked that would surely figure prominently in such a potential Nuremberg trial. The Red Cross itself is bound to public silence concerning the results of its human-rights probes of prisons around the world—or else governments wouldn't let them in. Leaked Red Cross report sets up Bush team for international war-crimes trial.

Now, Where did I put those WMDs?

Oh, here they are! At the United Nations HQ. Eleven years down the line and these little vials are sitting there. Eleven years down the line, a country is destroyed and these little vials are found by chance at the U.N HQ. Eleven years down the line, and since 2003, over 1 million dead, 1 million disappeared and reported missing, and the vials are here. Oh goody good! Eleven years down the line, mass graves, cholera, disease, unemployement, poverty, destruction, a ravaged society, 4.5 million in exile and these little vials are finally found. Hurray! And guess what? They contain a chemical called phosgene and was used by IRAN. I am so happy they finally found the WMD's. But a little bird at the U.N HQ, told me they renamed them WMDF. Weapons of Mass Deception Farts. You can fart along if you wish...

RESISTANCE

My Story

Two months ago, I took a stand that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This is my story.

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: "Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false." ~ Bertrand Russell

War! What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing!

War News for Friday, August 31, 2007

(1) MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier from enemy action in a western section of Baghdad on Thursday, August 30th. One other soldier was wounded in the incident.

(2) MNF-Iraq is reporting the deaths of a Marine and a Soldier in two separate incidents of hostile fire in Al Anbar Province on Wednesday, August 29th.

(3) The British Ministry of Defense is announcing the death of a Gunner from 51 Squadron, the Royal Air Force Regiment on Thursday, August 30th. The gunner was on a routine security patrol around the perimenter of Kandahar Air Field when his vehicle was caught in an explosion. The civilian interpreter who was with him also died. Two other British military personnel received minor injuried in the incident. The NATO/ISAF release on the death can be found here.

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Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: A U.S. military plane with three U.S. senators and a U.S. House member onboard came under rocket fire while leaving Baghdad, Iraq, for Amman, Jordan, Thursday night and had to take evasive maneuvers. The rockets were "near misses," he told CNN affiliate WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama.

#2: Police found five bodies in different districts of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

#3: One civilian was killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off near a fuel station in central Baghdad, Iraqi police said. "The blast, which occurred in the area of Bab al-Muaazzam, also caused damage to a number of nearby vehicles," a security source, who asked not to have his name mentioned out of security concerns, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Thursday evening.

#4: Another explosive charge targeted a U.S. convoy in al-Bayyaa area but the losses could not be known due to the security cordon imposed by U.S. forces on the scene, the same source said.


Kut:
#1: Gunmen killed a civilian on Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Kut, 170 km (108 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.

Unidentified gunmen killed an interpreter working with the Multi-National Forces (MNF) in an area in central Kut, capital of Wassit province, police said on Friday. "Hussein Aziz, who was an interpreter working for the MNF, was attacked by unidentified gunmen in al-Haura area near Wassit University in Kut. The assailants shot down Aziz and escaped to an unknown place," a source from Wassit police, who refused to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Samarra:
#1: A suicide car bomb killed four police commandos and wounded seven others when it targeted their patrol in al-Jallam village near Samarra 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Hawija:
#1: Gunmen killed an employee of the customs office in in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.


Riyadh:
#1: Police found two bodies with gunshot wounds and torture signs near the town of Riyadh, southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, police said.


Kirkuk:
#1: Gunmen killed a barber in a drive-by shooting in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

#2: An IED exploded in front of a house in central Kirkuk in Al Musala area yesterday. One civilian was injured and one house was damaged.


Mosul:
#1: Gunmen killed an engineering student on Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Al Anbar Prv:
#1: A Marine and a Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 29 in separate in attacks while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.



Afghanistan:
#1: A Coalition-contracted helicopter was damaged Aug. 29 when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while flying over the Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province. The helicopter sustained minor damage. The aircraft was able to land safely and none of the crew was hurt in the incident.

#2: Pakistani authorities on Friday sent tribal elders and clerics to negotiate with militants who are believed to have captured more than 100 soldiers in a north-western region on the Afghan border. The soldiers disappeared on Thursday while travelling in trucks to the town of Ladha, 40 km north of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

#3: militants attacked a police post with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles in the Swat region of North West Frontier Province, killing two policemen and wounding six, the region's police chief said.

#4: In another incident in the same region, a passer-by was killed and another wounded when a roadside bomb blew up near a police vehicle. The vehicle was damaged but the policemen were not hurt, said police chief Mohammad Iqbal.

#5: A suicide bomber in a car targeting a patrol of German soldiers blew himself up outside the gates of the Afghan capital's airport Friday, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding four Belgian troops, officials and witnesses said. The blast missed its intended target and tore into a group of Afghan soldiers waiting at a checkpoint outside the military wing of Kabul International airport, witnesses said. The German Defense Ministry said that the blast damaged two of their vehicles, but that no German troops were hurt. Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said four Belgian soldiers were slightly wounded in the attack, with one suffering minor burns. Others suffered hearing damage.

A German soldier was slightly hurt in a suicide attack in the Afghan capital early Friday morning, according to a German official. A German military convoy, en route from Kabul airport to the German military base, was targeted in the suicide attack, deputy defense ministry spokesperson Bernd Hellstern said at a routine weekly press briefing.
#6: Five Turkish citizens who work for Turkish construction firm ZDM in Afghanistan were taken hostage yesterday. The Turkish firm reportedly had a dispute with a firm owned by Afghan businessman Abdulfettah Zengerzade. Machine engineer Ercan Ketene was among those first taken hostage, but was released and taken to the hospital when a blow to his head resulted in injury.

#7: At least ten people have been killed in a mortar attack aimed at a US base in Afghanistan. It hit a residential area close to the compound in the eastern province of Kunar. Women and children are among the dead according to local reports.

__________________

Casualty Reports:

(1) The Canadian Globe and Mail has identified the Canadian soldier who died of a gunshot wound in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, August 29th: Major Raymond Ruckpaul, 41. Hostile fire has been ruled out as Ruckpaul was found in his barracks room in an ISAF secure compound. However, an investigation is ongoing into whether his death was accidental, murder or suicide. Ruckpaul was an armoured officer who had recently been based at the NATO Allied Land Component Command Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. (The original statement on Ruckpaul from the Canadian Department of National Defense can be found here.)

(2) The DoD has confirmed the identities of the three American servicemen who were killed in an ambush in the northeastern province of Kunar, Afghanistan, on Monday, August 27th, when insurgents hit them with small arms fire and RPGs:

Major Henry S. Ofeciar, 37, of Agana, Guam (1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, KS)
Master Sergeant Scott R. Ball, 38, of Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Army National Guard)
Sergeant Jan M. Argonish, 26, of Peckville, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Army National Guard)

We believe that the DoD release may be in error in some respects. The original statement from CJTF-82, plus all media statements at the time, give the place of death as Kunar Province. FOB Naray is one of the most isolated American outposts in that Province. It is probable that the ambush happened near there ... and that the surviving casualties were later flown to the well established Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar Province south of Kunar for medical treatment.

Guam's Pacific Daily News is carrying a brief article on Ofeciar, as is Guam station KUAM. Ofeciar was reportedly a Talofofo native who graduated from the University of Guam's U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps in 1993, receiving his commission as an army officer at that time. He had been deployed to Afghanistan where he was "embedded with the Afghan police, helping them and the Afghan army on matters of security." The governor of Guam has declared an official state of mourning for Ofeciar, and has ordered that all Guam flags be lowered to half staff until his body is returned to Guam and laid to rest there.

(3) The DoD has identified the Task Force Lightning soldier who was severely injured in an explosion in Muqdadiyah in Diyala Province and who died in a Balad medical facility on Wednesday, August 29th: Captain Erick M. Foster, 29, of Wexford, Pennsylvania. According to an article in the Oil City (Pennsylvania) Derrick, Foster was actually born and raised in Oil City where his grandparents still live. He moved to Wexford, just north of Pittsburgh as a teenager when his father received a job transfer. Graduating from high school in 1996, he went on to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, earning his degree in 2000 and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Foster had previously been deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he served as a scout platoon leader in the area around Ba'qubah in Diyala Province. He had just returned home on leave three weeks ago at the mid-way point on his second tour of duty in Iraq. Foster was his parents' only son ... and is survived by his parents and two sisters.

(4) The DoD has identified the Marine who died from enemy action in Al Anbar Province on Wednesday, August 29th: Corporal John C. Tanner, 21, of Columbus, GA. He was assigned to the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion of the 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton, CA.

(5) The DoD has also identified the soldier who died from an improvised explosive device blast in the vicinity of Ramadi in Al Anbar Province on Wednesday, August 29th: Specialist Edward L. Brooks, 25, of Dayton, Ohio. According to an article in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, insurgents apparently threw a suicide vest at a group of soldiers, killing Brooks and wounding another soldier. Brooks was very active in Junior ROTC in high school. In fact, he was selected as "cadet colonel" for the national champion ROTC drill team for the school ... and was a "spin master" in precision rifle drills, twirling his 9-pound rifle like a baton. He graduated in 2000 and enlisted in the Army as a tank driver. In his subsequent career, he was wounded three times before his death in Ramadi. His mother is travelling from Tennessee to Dayton for the funeral. His wife and infant child will be coming from Germany where he was currently based with the 1st Infantry Division. Every one of his high school ROTC drill team members is also expected to be in attendance at the funeral to pay their respects.

(6) The British Ministry of Defense has identified the British Royal Air Force member who was killed in an explosion while on patrol in the vicinity of Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, August 30th: Senior Aircraftman Christopher Bridge, 20, of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England. Bridge had originally enlisted in the RAF in June of 2005 and was trained as a gunner. Between January and June, 2006, he was deployed to Iraq where he helped to provide force protection for Basra International Airport. Since April 2007, Bridge had been on deployment to Afghanistan where he was providing security for the Kandahar Air Field. His colleagues described him as "immensely dependable and hard working" ... and all remarked on his dry, witty sense of humor "which always had us in fits".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

News & Views 08/29/07

Photo: Young boys light up candles for the victims of clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007. Clashes between rival Shiite militias, that broke out in Karbala during a religious festival, claimed more than 50 lives. Security was heightened in other Shiite areas to prevent clashes from spreading. (AP Photo/Ghassan al-Yassiri)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Violence Batters Baghdad Schools

Kidnappings of students, murders of teachers and chaotic classrooms leave education in the capital close to collapse. …..The chaos caused by violent attacks and kidnappings is felt at nearly every level, with students misbehaving and missing class, and teachers refusing to come to work. Approximately 600 teachers were murdered across Iraq in the 2006-2007 academic year, according to the ministry of education. "Education in Baghdad's schools is a joke," said 35-year-old Ali Abdul-Hussein, who has moved to a different Baghdad neighbourhood and pulled his two children out of school because of the violence. "The ministry [of education] can't provide education and protection for our children." The day-to-day operation of schools is disrupted by the number of displaced students moving in and out of educational institutions. The education departments in both al-Karkh in west Baghdad and al-Rasafa in the east are packed with parents appealing to bureaucrats to move their children to safer areas of the city or postpone their studies for another year.

Conflict in Basra Spreads to Campus

Students linked to rival Shia parties and militias are throwing their weight around at the University of Basra. Students with links to the political and religious parties vying for control of the southern city of Basra are intimidating both lecturers and classmates at university. “Either you let me pass this class, or you will be in danger," is typical of the threats received by lecturers at the University of Basra from students attempting to use their political – and paramilitary – connections to get better grades. Students at the university, which has 17 colleges with 34,000 students and 2,000 lecturers and assistants, complain that politicised classmates are harassing them and telling them what to wear and how to behave. Some lecturers say that this threatening behaviour, which causes conflict and feuds on campus, shows how the local political parties are trying to exert control and disrupt university life through their student supporters. Conditions in the universities are already difficult. Ongoing security problems cause classes to be suspended for days at a time, and there is a severe shortage of teaching materials. At many colleges, the curriculum has not been changed since the Seventies or Eighties. Some lecturers have already fled the city to escape the threat to their lives posed by a campaign to kill university professors, lecturers and intellectuals throughout Iraq, which began in 2004.

A Lost Country

All the troops in Baghdad couldn’t provide security for the residents for one day.. just one day. Not a week... Not a month ... But 12 + 12 hours. And if you have read or heard about such a day believe me it didn't exist. I can not believe they couldn't provide security for one day. I can not believe this day is so hard to provide after four years of war… Even in times of curfew there were IEDs or mortars and bodies found and who knows how many killings were not reported. I am not suggesting conspiracy; I am suggesting incompetence and ignorance. I am suggesting lack of leadership skills among the Iraqi elected politician. What is happening in my country now is what will happen to any nation that loses its identity…

Hospitals in north struggle to contain cholera outbreak

Doctors in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah have asked for more help to cope with the rapidly increasing number of cholera cases. “We need urgent medical support as the disease is spreading. We didn’t expect an outbreak in this area,” said Dr Dirar Iyad of Sulaimaniyah General Hospital. “There is a shortage of medicines to control the disease and the focal point [source of the disease] hasn’t been identified yet… Five deaths have so far been reported here and in Kirkuk, and we believe more could occur over the next couple of days as victims are already in an advanced stage of the illness,” he said. According Dr Juan Abdallah, a senior official in Kurdistan’s health ministry, over 2,300 cases of cholera have been reported in the area, including Kirkuk over a four-week period. “The disease spread very fast. It is the first outbreak of its kind in the past few decades,” said Abdallah.

Sadr City Under Siege

Iraqi security forces have besieged Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and sealed off the city's main outlets, eyewitnesses said. "Iraqi security forces closed bridges over al-Jaish Canal, which represent the main outlets to Sadr City, and banned anyone from leaving without specified reasons, however they are allowing entry into the city," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "Last night was calm and the city witnessed no clashes or unrest, so residents were surprised at today's siege," another eyewitness said. The siege came one day after the decision taken by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to freeze al-Mahdi Army for six months. The decision was taken after recent speculation and accusations against al-Mahdi Army of being involved in the violent acts in the city of Karbala, where scores were killed and injured.

Swimming Pool A Rare Oasis

Against the dust-colored, dreary Baghdad skyline, the bright colors of this social club glitter almost unnaturally. The turquoise water of the swimming pool jumps out at you along with the bright, rainbow-like colors of swimming trunks, towels and inner tubes. It's an illusion of normalcy, carefully guarded from the horrors of the streets of Baghdad. Here, boys cannonball into the water; young girls sit along the edge of the pool in tight jeans and fashionable flowing summer tops; and parents relax in their chairs. It's a mix of Baghdad's remaining elite -- be it Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds. Here, ethnicity doesn't matter. The club costs $400 a year for a family membership. They seemingly don't have a care in the world. That is, until you listen to what they have to say. Fatma -- an Iraqi woman wearing designer sunglasses, an elegant brown jacket and fancy gold jewelry on this day -- talked with her friend, Amal, about a recent car bombing that killed 15 people. "I was arguing with myself yesterday and I was saying, 'I am going to the pool to have a good time, and they are dead. But if I stay at home, what can I do for them? Will it change anything for them?' " She pauses. "I couldn't help it. I cried for them." But moments later, the two women laugh, not at a joke, but at their lives -- or what has become of them.

Iraq says 72 gunmen arrested after Kerbala chaos

Iraqi security forces have arrested 72 gunmen following clashes in the city of Kerbala this week that forced hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to flee a religious festival, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. The ministry also said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had ordered a mechanised Iraqi army unit to permanently protect two holy Shi'ite shrines that were lightly damaged by gunfire in the violence. "The city of Kerbala is now witnessing stability and calm," the ministry said in a statement, adding a number of weapons had been confiscated during a search of homes across the southern city. The gunbattles appeared to pit Iraq's two biggest Shi'ite groups against each other -- followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army, and the rival Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), whose armed wing controls police in much of the south. Maliki, who visited Kerbala on Wednesday, blamed "outlawed armed criminal gangs from the remnants of the buried Saddam regime" for the violence. Up to 52 people were killed in day-long fighting.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Da''wah Party admits breach in Karbala security

The Iraqi Islamic Da'wah (Call) Party admitted Thursday that security responsible for protecting visitors to Karbala had been breached, leading to the recent riots which resulted in the death of 55 people and the injury of many others. The party called in a statement on all citizens to support Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's decision, allowing justice to prosecute those responsible for the crime.

Hired Tribesmen Save SIIC in Sadr Stronghold

US forces are not the only ones hiring Iraqi tribesmen to bear weapons for them, IraqSlogger sources report from Baghdad. Tribal fighters bussed in to Baghdad from southern Iraq by a powerful Shi'a party fought pitched battles with elements of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City on Tuesday, in heavy fighting that destroyed several homes, part of a spiraling pattern of attacks between armed elements of rival Shi'a parties in Iraq. The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), one of the principal Shi'a parties on the Iraqi political scene, hired tribal forces from around the southern city of 'Amara in Iraq’s Maysan Province, bringing them to Baghdad for the purposes of guarding the offices of the SIIC and the Badr organization -- widely recognized as the paramilitary wing of the SIIC -- in Sadr City. Support for the SIIC in the Eastern Baghdad district, stronghold of the Sadrist current and its Mahdi Army, is a minority position to say the least, and SICC earlier moved in the tribal forces in a bid to tip the balance of forces in its favor in the Sadrist bastion, Slogger sources say.

Maliki Tours Karbala, Sacks Security Chief

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made an “emergency visit” to Karbala on Wednesday, accompanied by two government ministers, amid attempts to defuse tensions between the major Shi'a parties in the wake of heavy fighting between gunmen and security forces in the shrine city. Meanwhile, Sadrist officials followed their announcement that the Mahdi Army, its unruly militia, would “freeze” its activities for up to six months with appeals for calm and de-escalation of tensions in Karbala, but not without denouncing the arrest of a prominent Sadrist politician in Karbala province and demanding an independent inquiry into the fighting that killed 52 people, many of them Shi'a faithful on pilgrimage to the holy sites in the city. Maliki toured Karbala with the Defense minister Abd al-Qadir al-'Ubeidi and Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani, “as well as a number of senior officers to supervise the special operations room in the province," a security source told VOI. The PM issued an order extending the full curfew in the city “until further notice,” the agency reports, citing an announcement on al-Iraqiya state television.

Sadr militiamen heed Iraq truce order

The armed men of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia vanished from the streets of Baghdad on Thursday, saying they were obeying their leader's order for a six-month truce. The black-clad Mahdi Army militiamen, normally dominant in their bastion of Sadr City, a teeming Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, were absent from the streets, an AFP photographer reported. "In Baghdad we will now lie low and obey the order until there are new orders to restart our activities," fighter Abu Moqtada said. Another, who asked not to be named, said "we cannot break his word. His word is an order for us." On Wednesday Sadr ordered his militia to suspend for six months all activities, including attacks on US troops, after his fighters were suspected of involvement in gunbattles during a Shiite religious festival in the city of Karbala. [Sadr said to suspend actions for up to six months – which means he could call an end to it sooner than six months. – dancewater]

Iraqi Shiite heir

When a Shiite religious leader's phalanx was waved through a security cordon and into the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala on Monday night, a crowd of rival militiamen grew incensed, sparking fighting that claimed the lives of at least 50 people and left parts of the holy city smoldering. The man at the center of it was a soft-spoken 36-year-old cleric who has emerged this summer as the likely next head of the party that is the United States' most powerful political ally in Iraq. Ammar Hakim is far from the secular, Western-educated men whom U.S. policymakers hoped would govern this land once Saddam Hussein was toppled. He wears the black turban of those who claim to be descended from the prophet Muhammad and was educated in the Shiite seminaries of Iran. In the last few months, Hakim has taken the helm of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, stepping in for his father, Abdelaziz Hakim, while he is being treated for lung cancer. The younger Hakim's rise comes at a crucial time for the party. The supreme council commands one of the two largest Shiite Muslim groups in Iraq's parliament but has been losing influence on the streets to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, who controls the other bloc. If Hakim is able to counter Sadr, it could boost the Bush administration's hopes of maintaining Iraqi support for a continued U.S. presence here. [Of course, the bush/cheney criminals only say we are there to help the Iraqis, so if peace broke out, then there would be no further need for US military and mercenaries in Iraq, no? – dancewater] ….He [Hakim] cautioned against a sudden drawdown of U.S. forces, saying it would be dangerous for Iraq. He said he supported a U.S.-sponsored bill to regulate the distribution of Iraq's massive oil wealth. And he expressed willingness to compromise with Sunni Arab politicians. [What a coincidence! – dancewater] ….The elder Hakim's direction is one that U.S. officials describe as a voice of moderation in Iraq, despite the party's strong Islamist values and close ties to Tehran. U.S. officials regard the Badr Organization, which has been accused of running death squads targeting Sunnis, as more restrained than the Mahdi Army, also blamed for sectarian killings. [But how would anyone know, since “we don’t do body counts”. – dancewater] And Badr has avoided open confrontations with U.S. forces, unlike Sadr, who has led two uprisings against American troops. The tacit alliance has shielded Badr fighters from U.S. raids. But with tension mounting between the U.S. and Iran, it is increasingly difficult for Hakim's party to juggle the relationships with its two key benefactors.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Abu Ghraib Justice Ends With Enlisted Soldiers

Tuesday's acquittal of Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan on charges related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuses means that no officers have been found criminally responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners at the Iraqi prison near Baghdad. During Jordan's weeklong court-martial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, his lawyers argued that he was not directly responsible for training and supervising the soldiers who abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison from mid-September to late December 2004. Two generals who investigated the abuses found that Jordan offered "tacit approval" for abuses committed by military police under his supervision in November 2003, which was "the causative factor that set the stage for the abuses that followed for days afterward." However, the jury of nine military officers was not convinced by prosecutors or the generals' investigation and sided with Jordan's attorneys, who argued that their client was nothing more than a manager at the prison and that interrogation techniques were the responsibility of Colonel Thomas Pappas, the highest ranking officer at the prison, and Captain Carolyn Wood, leader of the Interrogation Command Element unit. Jordan was found innocent of charges that he was responsible for training and supervising soldiers who had been convicted of abusing prisoners, as well as charges that he was personally involved in supervising the use of forced nudity and the use of dogs to intimidate detainees during interrogations.

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration. The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

Pentagon won't make surge recommendation to Bush

In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won't make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month's strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations. "Consensus is not the goal of the process," Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. "If there are differences, the president will hear them." Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat. "The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying 'Resolve this,'" said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That's what it sounds like." White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president's decision, not what commanders agreed on. Bush has said on several occasions that he will follow the recommendation of Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, but the Pentagon plan makes certain that other points of view are heard.


COMMENTARY

Comment: Conflict Foils Change in Schools and Universities

Iraq once had one of the best educational systems in the Middle East. Baghdad and Mosul were thriving university and intellectual centres, and school enrolment and literacy rates were high. War changed that – first the decade-long conflict with Iran, then the first Gulf War, and finally the effects of United Nations sanctions from 1991. The school system began to collapse, and enrolment fell as many children, functioning in survival mode like the adults around them, were forced to earn money rather than study. Within a decade, only 53 per cent of children were enrolled in schools, according to the US Agency for International Development.

…….Local education directorates filter requests from schools to the ministry, but education, like other governance efforts, is taking a back seat to the more pressing issue of security. The conflict is being fought on the streets of Iraq and its once-flourishing capital, Baghdad, affecting every aspect of life and effectively halting governance there. In the capital, IWPR correspondents report, the lack of law and order is destroying education. Teachers are refusing to show up to work because of the security situation; schools, particularly in mixed Sunni-Shia neighbourhoods, shut down for months on end; and pupils are pulled out of school by their parents.

Opinion: The Legacy of Oppression and the Legitimacy of Resistance

But now there is a wedge in this imperial path, driving the American neo-conservative empire to a screeching halt. The Iraqi people - who are, in fact, the Iraqi resistance - are succeeding where we could not. What’s not to love? We cannot start examining history from September 11th, 2001. Since WWI, Arabs have been lied to, manipulated, and used by the U.S., Great Britain, and other colonial powers. Next year will mark the 60th year of Al Nakba in Palestine-the Catastrophe. Iraqis have now seen that illegal occupation extended to include the Fertile Crescent, their land between two rivers, their Mesopotamia. Iraqis see the close to 6 million Palestinian refugees, illegally denied their right of return. Iraqis see the U.S. Army building walls to make impoverished ghettos, like the Nazis did, and like the Israelis are doing with their apartheid wall. Iraqis see the open-air prison that is Gaza, strangled and starving as we speak because of our political agenda. The crime of these prisoners? They were born Palestinian. Iraqis are living under occupation tactics such as daily house raids, uprooting of trees, looting of property, psy-ops death squads and the use of depleted uranium - all of which they know too well by watching our joint actions with Israel in Palestine.

And do you know what Iraqis are saying? I don’t speak Arabic, but I can translate for you. They’re saying, “Get out!” They’re saying, “NO way - you’re staying for 60 years.” They’re saying, “Get your oil the old-fashioned way - pay for it!” And why are they saying this? Because they have a dignity and self-respect rooted in 7000 years of civilization. Iraq is the center of Arab nationalism. Actually, this is what my father says, and I would argue that my father is the center of Arab nationalism. Modern-day Iraqis are the descendents of ancients who devised the first system of writing, the 24-hour day, the bases of mathematics, law, science and medicine. Once corrupt American corporations, the U.S. military, and its death squads, prisons, and bombings are out of the picture, true reconstruction by Iraqis can and will begin.

Quote of the day: "When Iraq becomes strong enough in our opinion to stand alone, we shall be in a position to state that our task has been fulfilled, and that Iraq is an independent sovereign state. But this cannot be said while we are forced year after year to spend very large sums of money on helping the Iraqi government to defend itself and maintain order." Winston Churchill - 1922

War News for Thursday, August 30, 2007

(1) MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Task Force Lightning soldier in an explosion near his vehicle in Diyala Province on Wednesday, August 29th.

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Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: The name of the contractor killed while working for the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville has been released. Frans Robert Brand, 34, from South Africa, was killed August 28 when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device. Brand worked as a security specialist for Armor Group Iraq, which is headquartered in London.

#2: A front group for al-Qa'ida in Iraq is claiming to have murdered a US Embassy employee in Baghdad. The Islamic State of Iraq has identified the man as Zaher Abdel Mohsin Abdel-Saheb, whom it identified as an embassy official.
It says he was killed on Saturday in revenge for "the Muslim women who are still captives in the prisons of Shi'ites and crusaders".The US Embassy says it is investigating the claim.

#3: A roadside bomb detonated on the highway near the Nahdha area in central Baghdad when police experts were trying to defuse it, wounding three of them, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Around 9.30 a.m., a roadside bomb was planted on Muhammad Al-Qasim route near Nahdha bus station in downtown Baghdad when police shot at it. It exploded injuring three policemen.

#4: The other roadside bomb went off in the industrial area of Sheikh Umer neighborhood, wounding four civilians, the source added. The blast damaged several nearby civilian cars and buildings, the source said.


Diyala Prv:
#1: One Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed by an explosion near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in Diyala province, August 29.


Najaf:
#1: The director of the Najaf oil depot was killed on Thursday by unidentified gunman north of the city of Najaf, while police forces foiled an attempt to take over a police station north of the city, a police source said.

#2: "Security forces in the city also foiled an attempt by gunmen at dawn to seize al-Haydariya police station, north of Najaf," the same source said. "The armed men clashed with the police forces for more than 15 minutes, and they fled only after back up arrived," he noted.


Hilla:
#1: Unknown gunmen burned two offices of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) in Babel province on Thursday morning, a police source said. "Two office of the SIIC were burned by unidentified gunmen in al-Hashimiya region, south of Hilla," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on condition of anonymity."The attack left no casualties," the source also said.


Kirkuk:
#1: Wednesday night , a car bomb exploded at Nida'a neighborhood in downtown Kirkuk killing 3 people and injuring 7 others with four civilian damaged cars.

#2: Around 10 p.m. of Wednesday night , two gunmen were killed and burned while they were carrying a Katysha missile which exploded at Arafa neighborhood near Hassan Najim mosque before reaching the place planning to hit , Kirkuk police said opening an investigation of the accident and to know who were they and the side they belong to.



Afghanistan:
#1: It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a Gunner from 51 Squadron, RAF Regiment along with a civilian interpreter in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan today (local time), Thursday 30 August 2007. Two other Servicemen received minor injuries. Shortly after midnight local time, personnel from the Squadron were conducting a routine security patrol around Kandahar Airfield when one of their vehicles was caught in an explosion.

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Casualty Reports:

(1) The DoD has identified the Multi-National Corps - Iraq soldier who died from enemy action in the vicinity of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Tuesday, August 28th: Sergeant James S. Collins Jr., 35, of Rochester Hills, Michigan. He was assigned to the 303rd Military Police Company of the Army Reserve based in Jackson, Michigan.

(2) The DoD has identified the American soldier who died in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, Paktika Province, on Monday, August 27th: Army Private 1st Class Thomas R. Wilson, 21, of Maurertown, Virginia. Arlington (Virginia) station WJLA has published a brief piece stating that Wilson had enlisted in the Army less than a year ago and had been in Afghanistan for four months. His mother told the reporter through tears, "He was truly a wonderful human being and I loved him very much."

(3) The Scranton (Pennsylvania) Times-Tribune is reporting the deaths of the first two Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen to die in Afghanistan:
Master Sergeant Scott Rowan Ball, 38, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Sergeant Jan M. Argonish, 26, of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Both were killed when their six-vehicle re-supply convoy was ambushed in Kunar Province on Monday, August 27th. A third American regular army soldier was also killed in the attack, but his identity has not been released yet. The Pennsylvania ANG website has posted a news release giving their deployed unit as the Headquarters & Headquarters Company of the 55th Brigade Forward.

The Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot-News is reporting that Ball was at one time a regular army soldier who served in Gulf War I. He joined the Pennsylvania ANG in 1992. In 2000, Ball graduated from the State Police Academy and was assigned to a station in Philadalphia. He later served as a state trooper in Media, York and Chambersburg before joining the Carlisle station on July 6, 2002. At some point, Ball had also received an associates degree from Harrisburg Area Community College. In October of 2006, he was put on military leave and began training for deployment to Afghanistan in February to help in the training of Afghan troops there. Ball leaves behind his wife, a 10-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, and his mother.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune piece, Argonish graduated from high school in 1999. Living in Scranton, he worked as a correctional officer at the U.S. penitentiary in nearby Waymart. He was on his third National Guard deployment in the past six years (including one tour of duty in Iraq), and was currently in Afghanistan helping to train, advise and execute missions with the Afghan army. A fellow guardsman said that Argonish was in one of the rear vehicles in the convoy, dying while laying down fire to protect fellow convoy personnel. Argonish is survived by an 8-year-old son, his parents and two sisters.