In this still video image from ABC News released on Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, a Blackwater Security convoy, center, escorts a U. S. State Department official in western Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007 just before a car bomb explodes, ABC News reported. The subsequent shootout left at least 11 Iraqis dead. (AP Photo/ABC News) I posted this image for the sake of the caption, which is a powerful illustration of the complicity of the U.S. corporate media in pro-war propaganda. The caption, of course, is false: this is the cover story Blackwater initially told. It has now been established that the car bomb exploded before the convoy departed, and several blocks away. According to the accounts of Iraqi witnesses, there was no "subsequent shootout," only unprovoked firing by Blackwater mercenaries at nearby civilians. -- C See "Update," below, at bottom of "Other News of the Day
One MND-Baghdad soldier killed, one injured by IED and small arms attack in Baghdad on Saturday. No further details given.
Four bodies found in various places on Saturday.
Suspected al Qaeda militant attacked a farm, killing the owner and wounding three of his relatives south of Baghdad, police said.
Police find seven bodies in the village of al-Uhaymer, apparently dead for some time. No further details given.
Iraqi forces kill 3, blow up a weapons factory, according to an anonymous source.
Police find the body of an Iraqi soldier who was kidnapped on Saturday.
Unknown attackers assassinate Momtaz Mahmoud Ibrahim of VP Tareq al-Hashimi Iraqi Islamic Party, and three of his bodyguards.
Gunmen kill imams of two mosques in separate incidents on Saturday, bringing the total killed that day to three.
Two women and one man killed in drive-by shooting.
Hawija (south of Baghdad)
Roadside bomb injures two police officers.
Police Maj. Maj. Abad Kazhem survives an assassination attempt.
Body Count Announcements
(Maybe this should be a regular feature, now that the U.S. has started doing body counts after all. --C)
Iraqi defense ministry says 40 militants killed during operations in northern provinces. Also, U.S. says 2 insurgents killed and 21 people detained in operations in various cities.
Other News of the Day
Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mehdi meets in Amman with King Abdullah. Little of substance is announced publicly from the meeting. King Abdullah then flies to Kuwait to discuss Iraq and Palestine, also to hold out the tin cup.
Amman (DPA) - King Abdullah II of Jordan left Sunday for Kuwait for talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on latest efforts to push forward the Middle East peace process and the situation in Iraq, officials said.
The monarch is also expected to press for increasing Kuwaiti aid to the Hashemite Kingdom to help cope with a growing oil bill and an aggravating public budget deficit as a result of soaring crude prices on the world market.
Kuwait, along with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, volunteered on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to supply Jordan with its energy needs amounting to 100,000 barrels of crude per day. But the three oil-rich countries stopped their oil gift early in 2005.
A body called the Arab Interim Parliament, which was founded in late 2005 to represent all the Arab government and give advisory opinions on matters referred to it by the Arab League, condemns the U.S. Senate resolution calling for the partition of Iraq.
CAIRO, Sept 30 (KUNA) -- The Arab Interim Parliament (AIP) on Sunday warned of repercussions of the recent US Senate resolution to partition Iraq into Kurdish and Shiite and Sunnite entities.
AIP Chairman Mohammad Al-Saqr expressed in a statment strong condemnation of the "flagrant resolution that contradicts international laws and resolutions of the United Nations and the Arab League that have all affirmed territorial sanctity of Iraq. "Iraq has been united for thousands of years and only the Iraqis can take decisions regarding their domestic affairs." "This decision will pave way for further divisions, tension and violence in the region," Al-Saqr warned.
He appealed to Arab, foreign parliaments and international organizations to "confront this decision with firmness.
Iraq's Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashimi also joins the chorus of condemnation of the Senate resolution from within Iraq, although he fears it may become reality. No surprise, however, Kurdish leaders, who have long sought independence, welcome the resolution. (Thanks a lot Sen. Biden, this has really made things a lot easier. -- C) An overview from DPA:
Baghdad - Iraq's Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi rejected on Sunday a US Senate 'non-binding' resolution calling for the division of Iraq along ethnic lines. 'Time has come, though it may be too late, for Iraqis to reconsider their views, make decisions and stand behind a national plan that deepens common grounds; otherwise; this resolution will be their only option whether they like or not,' Al-Hashimi said. Al-Hashimi was speaking to journalists in Basra after his meetings with tribal chiefs.
The US Senate, last Wednesday, approved, with 75 votes for and 23 against, a draft resolution envisaging the division of Iraq into three Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni entities, with a federal government in Baghdad undertaking border security and the management of oil profits.
Al-Hashimi, who heads the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said the resolution should not be underestimated although it was non-binding. 'Often countries are dismembered and peoples are divided by non- binding resolutions, pledges or statements made here and there,' al- Hashimi said.
The Senate resolution was rejected by many Iraqi politicians. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki described the US resolution as 'disastrous,' saying that Iraqis were eager to maintain unity, and that the US Congress should not interfere in Iraq's internal matters and its future.
Earlier, representatives of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani called on political and religious groups not to respond to 'any project encompassing a division of Iraq on a sectarian or religious basis.'
In statements to the Middle East News Agency, Iraq's ambassador to the US, Samir al-Sumaidae, had dismissed the resolution as 'provocative,' adding that federalism did not mean division.
A preacher, Sheikh Abdul-Hadi al-Karbalaa, told hundreds of Shiite worshippers in a Friday sermon at Imam Hussein mosque in Karbala that the resolution would lead to more struggles and the spread of unrest even in some neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the largest Sunni organization in Iraq, condemned the proposed resolution, labelling anyone who backed it 'a traitor of the nation and faith.'
'The Congress' suggestion for the establishment of federal entities under the pretext of halting sectarian violence is not shocking because it was one of the objectives behind the (US) invasion of Iraq,' the association's statement read.
However, despite the rejection of the resolution by Shiites and Sunnis, the spokesman of the Kurdish autonomous region said Saturday that his government welcomed the draft resolution. 'The decision is in harmony with the foundations of the Iraqi constitution,' a statement from the Kurdish regional government said.
And, a move is underway in the Iraqi parliament to legislate against the Senate resolution. Information from KUNA:
Eight Iraqi parliamentary blocs representing different ideological and political tendencies called Sunday for probing the recent act of the US Senate on splitting Iraq at an extraordinary parliament session.
The session has to reach a decision on preventing the implementation of the US act under any pretext, said a joint statement issued here by the eight political forces.
The forces are the Sadrist Trend, the Iraqi Accord Front, the United Iraqi Alliance, the National Dialogue Front, the Virtue Party, the Iraqi National List, the Turkmen Front and the Arab Front.
The statement, read at the premises of the Iraqi House of Representatives here by the Iraqi National List MP Ezzat Al-Shabanderi, reacted to the move sponsored by US Democrat senator Josef Baden [sic].
Baden followed an erroneous reading and impractical assessments of the current situation, the history and the future of Iraq, according to the statement. "His act constitutes a grave precedence that could define the nature of the future relationship between Iraq and the United States," it underlined. "The US Senate seems to be planning for a long-term occupation of Iraq. "The act runs counter to all rules and norms of the international relations and infringes on the rights of the Iraqi nation to self-determination. "The act, worse still, came at a time when the Iraqi sectarian violence was escalating and the Iraq national texture was dissolving," according to the statement.
The Iraqi parliamentary blocs called for holding an extraordinary session by the House of Representatives to work out a bill preventing any split of Iraq and revoking Baden's act, the statement added.
A shadowy group of wealthy conservatives, with close ties to the Bush administration, vows to raise $200 million to promote the Iraq war and confrontation with Iran. (I don't know about you, but I'm not remaining calm. -- C) Excerpt:
By Don Van Natta, Jr. The New York Times -- Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.
Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.
Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group.
“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”
With a forceful message and a roster of wealthy benefactors, Freedom’s Watch has quickly emerged from the crowded field of nonprofit advocacy groups as a conservative answer to the nine-year-old liberal MoveOn.org, which vehemently opposes the Iraq war.
The idea for Freedom’s Watch was hatched in March at the winter meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Manalapan, Fla., where Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker, according to participants. Next week, the group is moving into a 10,000-square-foot office in the Chinatown section of Washington, with plans to employ as many as 50 people by early next year.
One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.
Since the group is organized as a tax-exempt organization, it does not have to reveal its donors and it can not engage in certain types of partisan activities that directly support political candidates. It denies coordinating its activities with the White House, although many of its donors and organizers are well connected to the administration, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.
UPDATE: After I published, Newsweek posted this story. They've done quite a bit of respectable reporting on Iraq lately. Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post, BTW. ABC, which published the falsehoods at the top of this posting, is owned by Disney. An extensive evidence file assembled by the Iraqi National Police after the controversial Blackwater shooting suggests that the private contractors opened fire unprovoked from the ground and the sky. Excerpt:
By Kevin Peraino Sept. 30, 2007 - Since the fatal Sept. 16 Blackwater shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, officials from the private security company have insisted that their guards were responding to fire from “armed enemies.” Yet an extensive evidence file put together by the Iraqi National Police and obtained by NEWSWEEK—including documents, maps, sworn witness statements, and police video footage—appears to contradict the contractors’ version of events. A confidential incident report, which has been provided by Iraqi National Police investigators to American military and civilian officials, concludes that the Blackwater vehicles “opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason.”
A 9-minute police video made in the moments after the shooting shows helicopters similar to those used by Blackwater still hovering over the wreckage of charred, smoking and bullet-pocked cars. (For an edited clip of the video, click here.) The graphic images include footage of burned human remains, and show the street littered with brass bullet casings. They also show what appears to be a police officer waving a pistol at the scene; the footage was captured by a different police officer, who had run over from the nearby Iraqi National Police headquarters. (Portions of the video have been previously broadcast; it was recorded without sound.)
Iraqi National Police investigators also believe that Blackwater's helicopters fired on the cars from above, according to confidential police documents and interviews with senior police officials. A memo written on Sept. 17 by the lead Iraqi police investigator states that shortly after the shooting began, “helicopters opened fire from the air toward the cars and civilians.” Gen. Hussein Al-Awadi, the commander of the Iraqi National Police, told NEWSWEEK that the trajectory of some of the bullet wounds could only have been caused by fire from the air. “If anyone moved—whenever they saw someone leaving—either the convoy or the chopper shot him,” says Ali Kalaf Salman, an undercover Iraqi National Police officer who was working as a traffic cop at the scene.
In-Depth Reporting, Commentary and Analysis
The Whores of War. Neil Mackay of Scotland's Sunday Herald tells the repellent tale of Blackwater Security, which is owned by a billionaire "Christian" fundamentalist with close ties to the Bush administration. Excerpt:
The company, based near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, was co-founded by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist. At its HQ, Blackwater has trained more than 20,000 mercenaries to operate as freelancers in wars around the world. Prince is a big bankroller of the Republican Party - giving a total of around $275,550 - and was a young intern in the White House of George Bush Sr. Under George Bush Jr, Blackwater received lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. His firm has pulled down contracts worth at least $320 million in Iraq alone.
Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book Blackwater: The Rise Of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, says when Bush was re-elected in 2004, one company boss sent this email to staff: "Bush Wins, Four More Years!! Hooyah!!"
One Blackwater employment policy is to hire ex-administration big-hitters into key positions. It hired Cofer Black, a former State Department co-ordinator for counter-terrorism and former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, as vice-chairman. Robert Richer, a former CIA divisional head, joined Blackwater as vice-president of intelligence in 2005.
Scahill says the firm is "the front line in what the Bush administration views as the necessary revolution in military affairs" - privatisation of as many roles as possible. Senator John Warner, former head of the Senate armed services committee, once called Blackwater the "silent partner in the global war on terror".
Scahill went on to call Prince a "neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts this is a man who espouses Christian supremacy, and he has been allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world. He refers to Blackwater as the FedEx of the Pentagon. He says if you really want a package to get somewhere, do you go with the postal service or do you go with FedEx? This is how these people view themselves."
Poli-Sci prof Janine Wedel decries the growing use of mercenaries on principle. Excerpt:
The Shadow Army
IF THERE is a quagmire in Iraq, it was created more than a decade ago when the United States instituted a flawed system governing the use of contractors to perform governmental functions. Now, despite Iraqi fury at Blackwater USA, some of whose employees are accused of fatally shooting Iraqis, Washington is so reliant on the firm that it dare not order it from the field.
The heavy dependence on private contractors in the military is relatively recent. In the Gulf War only 9,200 contractors supported 540,000 military personnel. The estimated 180,000 US-funded contractors now in Iraq (of which about 21,000 are Americans) outnumber the 160,000 US troops.
All too often this private army has been unmanageable and unaccountable, its interests dangerously divergent from those of the US and the Iraqi governments. The troubles exposed by the Blackwater debacle provide a glimpse into a much larger, systemic problem that pervades military, intelligence, and homeland security efforts alike.
Sami Moubayed in Al Hayat discusses the impact of Iraqi refugees on Syria. This is a major consequence of the invasion which we hear little about in the U.S. By the way, you may find the English language home page of this Lebanese newspape worth a bookmark. C Excerpt:
DAMASCUS - For the most part of nearly three decades, interaction between Syrians and Iraqis was minimal--to say the least--restricted to political fugitives from each country residing in Baghdad and Damascus. Anyone who is someone in Iraq today was a resident of the Syrian capital--Nouri al-Maliki, Jalal Talabani, Massoud al-Barzani, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But, neither country had an embassy in the other's capital, there were no formal visits, no cultural exchanges, and no telephone lines linking the two. Syrians wanting a travel permit would get the words "All Arab countries except Iraq" stamped on their passports. The same was done by authorities in Baghdad. Restrictions were briefly lifted in the late 1970s, when the two countries teamed up to oppose Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's peace deal with Israel, and Iraqis poured into Syria for tourism, education and business.
Today, there are nearly 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria, but contrary to the case three decades ago, they are mostly refugees. They began arriving after the American invasion of March 2003 and are currently entering at a rate of 2000 a day. They now account for about 11% of Syria's 18 million residents. Syria-living up to its Arab nationalist history and convictions-is the only Arab country to allow Iraqis to come freely, obtain temporary residency permits, and own property on its territory.
Within Syria, the Iraqis have had a substantial impact. The affluent minority have caused real estate prices to skyrocket and contributed to growth of over 5%, but collectively the Iraqis have been a drain on the economy that has strained to provide them with basic services like clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and education. Public schools in Syria are stretched to the limit--and so are government resources. Difficulties in obtaining proper school documentation from Iraq has resulted in many Iraqi students turning into school drop-outs in Syria, and resorting to odd jobs on the streets. Despite that, the Syrians have promised to try and accommodate 100,000 Iraqi children at state-run schools, in addition to the 40,000 Iraqi college students enrolled at Syrian universities.
The rising number of Iraqi prostitutes has led the government to make it difficult for Iraqi women aged 15-40 to enter Syria unless accompanied by a male relative. According to Hana Ibrahim, the founder of Women's Will (an Iraqi NGO), 50,000 Iraqi women have turned to the sex business around the Arab world due to the unbearable conditions of their lives as refugees. Crime-which is very low in Syria-has also risen in recent years in the wild and uncontrolled neighborhoods of the Iraqis, nicknamed Little Falluja.
Quote of the Day
I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.
We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"
You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?
Well Suck. On. This.
That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.
New York Times Middle East "expert" Thomas L. Friedman, May 30, 2003, via Atrios.