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, January 7, 2008

News & Views 01/07/08

Photo: A resident gestures as he talks to a U.S. soldier from 2nd Brigade combat team, 82nd Airborne on patrol in Baghdad's Adhamiya district January 5, 2008. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Jakopovich: Children As "Collateral Damage"

Great is the hypocrisy of capitalist “civilization”. On the one hand, big business and its media boast of their “democracy” and “freedom,” while at the same time in today’s world they commit the greatest crimes. They spread rhetoric about human rights while stifling human dignity in a myriad of ways. Although several tens of billions of dollars would be enough to eliminate extreme hunger in the world, the USA annually spends approximately 600 billion dollars on its military budget, while approximately 15 million children are dying from starvation every year. It appears that it is still not in the interest of the system to eliminate poverty. War is profitable, and the profits coming from the war in Iraq are evidently more valuable than human lives. Naturally, we are all the same under the skin, and the suffering of men and women is not intrinsically less terrible than the suffering of children. Nonetheless, there is something particularly grotesque in the soulless manner in which the world powers behave towards the must vulnerable and least culpable generation. Perhaps it is precisely the hypocritical attitude towards them that best reflects the conscience of today's world society.

……….Viewed politically, the American occupation of Iraq has generated what had been formerly largely nonexistent enmity and sectarian-based conflicts among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. According to the tried and tested “divide and conquer’’ model, the US is actively promoting these divisions in the Iraqi society. The occupying army has divided the representative bodies, political parties and cities according to these lines. Furthermore, Amnesty International has expressed concern due to the shady trafficking of arms from Bosnia to Iraq, and it appears that the US has imported large shipments of weapons for arming the Sunni militias. Occupying troops have been implicated in cases of terrorist bombings of civilian territories and some of the members of the military forces have been arrested wearing improvised explosive devices that are used for terrorist purposes. For anyone even partly cognizant of the history of the American secret services, for example, this is not a great surprise. In any case, the continuation of foreign occupation has led to further escalation of the conflict, fundamentalism and a civil war that is already raging for its fifth year.

Parts of Iraq in grip of drought: minister

Parts of Iraq are in the grip of a drought, adding to woes of farmers already battling security problems, poor power supplies, saline soils and lack of machinery, the agriculture minister has warned. Winter rains, which usually begin drenching the country from October, have yet to arrive and seeds planted in the autumn have yet to germinate and have started rotting or are being eaten by birds, Ali al-Bahadili told AFP. "If we get some rain in the coming weeks we will get some germination but it is late. We will have to give seeds to farmers to catch up," he said. "But production will be down. Definitely there will be a great impact on that." The main problem lies in northern Nineveh province, where some 4.5 million donum (1.1 million acres or 450,000 hectares) rely on rains for the winter wheat and barley crops, said the minister.

Iraq death rate belies US claims of success

The death rate in Iraq in the past 12 months has been the second highest in any year since the invasion, according to figures that appear to contradict American claims that the troop "surge" has dramatically reduced the level of violence across the country. ….The most lethal violence took place in Nineva, where the number of deaths rose by 143 per cent. Baghdad on the other hand saw a decline of around 39 per cent after a drastic fall in numbers of deaths in the last three months of the year. The first eight months of 2007 also saw the highest number of car-bombings in the Iraq. The report claims that last year there were 20 explosive devices that killed more than 50 civilians, compared with 12 bombings in 2006.

More than 1 million displaced people in Baghdad

One out of four people in the Iraqi capital Baghdad has been displaced due to sectarian violence and ongoing U.S. military operations, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. The society’s head Saeed Haqi said looking after this huge number was an uphill task and that the U.S. has promised to offer $250 million to help “these internal refugees.” “There are 1.2 million internally displaced people in Baghdad,” Haqi said. Children below the age of 15 make up 58 percent of the internally displaced population, he said. He said Baghdad’s displaced people, who live in squalor conditions, have been promised half a billion dollars including the U.S. contribution. International donors are expected to raise substantial sums with the Iraqi government allocating $80 million, he added. He said the U.S. army will handle the U.S. money which will be earmarked mainly for utility projects such as pure water, electricity and schools. Priority for the society, which is the equivalent of ICRC, is children, particularly orphaned ones, widows and families without household heads.

IRAQ: Killer of U.S. Soldiers Becomes a Hero

One army officer speaking on condition of anonymity described Kaissar's act as heroic. "Those Americans learned their lesson once more." Sheikh Juma' al-Dawar, chief of the major al-Baggara tribe in Iraq, told IPS in Baghdad that "Kaissar is from the al-Juboor tribes in Gayara -- tribes with morals that Americans do not understand." The tribal chief added, "Juboor tribes and all other tribes are proud of Kaissar and what he did by killing the American soldiers. Now he is a hero, with a name that will never be forgotten." Many Iraqis speak in similar vein. "It is another example of Iraqi people's unity despite political conspiracies by the Americans and their tails (collaborators)," Mohammad Nassir, an independent politician in Baghdad told IPS. "Kaissar is loved by all Iraqis who pray for his safety and who are ready to donate anything for his welfare." Col. Juboory said Kaissar who had at first accepted collaboration with the U.S. forces "found the truth too bitter to put up with." The colonel said: "I worked with the Americans because being an army officer is my job and also because I was convinced they would help Iraqis. But 11 months was enough for me to realise that starving to death is more honourable than serving the occupiers. They were mean in every way." Independent sources have since told IPS that Kaissar was captured by a special joint Iraqi-U.S. force, and he is now being held and tortured at the al-Ghizlany military camp in Mosul.

Baghdad book market revives after devastating bomb

Dusty books lie on flattened cardboard boxes on a sidewalk buried in litter and building debris. Their vendors hunch over and sip hot black tea to fend off the cold. What matters is that they're here. Amid wreckage, deserted buildings, and the devastated Shahbandar coffeehouse, the Mutanabi Street book market is reviving. A microcosm of today's Baghdad, it attests to a hope for better things now that violence in the capital is noticeably down. Through Saddam Hussein's oppression, the US-led invasion of 2003, and the ensuing tumult, the Mutanabi market – started by middle-class Iraqis during the crippling 1990-2003 UN sanctions – never ceased to be a favorite Friday hangout for intellectuals, artists, and students. But when a car bomb ripped through the market on March 5 last year, many thought its days were over.

Complete failure in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baiji generators

The spokesman for the Electricity Ministry said on Monday that Mosul, Kirkuk, and Baiji generators have completely stopped due to a technical failure in Ugail oil field in Kirkuk three days ago. "A technical failure hit the oil field three days ago, suspending the gas, which feeds the northern generators," Aziz al-Shemri told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "Fixing the failure in the oil field will take an unspecified amount of time by the Ministry's technicians," he added. "The failure in the generators contributed in knocking out electricity in Kirkuk, Baiji, and Mosul," al-Shemri explained.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Police chief purges force in Basra

Basra’s police boss has transferred 1,000 of his police officers to stations outside the city in a move to purge the force of elements believed to be loyal to their political and sectarian factions. It is the third time Basra’s police commander, Abedjalil Khalaf, embarks on such large-scale transfer. Previously, he had ordered 2,000 more police officers to leave the city. The transfer is the largest of its type since the formation of the new police, security and army and comes amid reports that the city’s police forces have drastically failed to reinstate law and order. he security of Basra is now solely Iraq’s responsibility after the withdrawal of British occupation troops to barracks in the city outskirts. “We had obtained official permission to go ahead with the transfer as part of efforts to cleanse the police system in Basra of elements with political loyalties,” Khalaf said. He did not say how he would make up for the loss of 3,000 policemen and what recruiting criteria he would adopt to have them replaced.

Iraqi Kurd warns against Kirkuk strife

Iraq's Kurdish deputy prime minister warned Monday that failure to resolve the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk could result in more strife and accused people within the government of blocking a solution. "We have a choice," Barham Saleh told The Associated Press. "We can either turn Kirkuk into an example of national Iraqi unity ... or turn it into a battlefield for strife between the components of Iraq." A referendum is expected later this year on whether Kirkuk will join the semiautonomous Kurdish zone to its north, or continue to be ruled by Baghdad. Saleh said it was unacceptable to leave the dispute unresolved and accused unnamed people within the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of trying to stymie a solution spelled out in the 2005 constitution. "I am a Kurd and see Kirkuk as part of the Kurdish region," Saleh said, explaining that because Arabs and Turkomen — the other two main ethnic groups inhabiting the city — see it differently, the issue must be resolved under current law.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkish Attacks, Backed by U.S., Undermine Kurdish Gov

The international community talks a lot, but is unconcerned about the Kurds' plight. Turkey's attacks on southern Kurdistan, using US-made warplanes, is part of a plot by the US and Turkey to undermine the Kurdistan de facto state that has been established in parts of southern Kurdistan since 1991. Weeks of bombardments have resulted in civilian casualties, destruction of many villages and displacement of thousands of people. However, according to the Turkish General Staff, even stating that civilians have been killed in these attacks will serve terrorists. Turkey has committed these crimes with a tacit approval by the "democratic world." Realizing that the international community is not concerned about the plight of the Kurds, the Turkish "parliament" discussed other measures, without giving the details, in addition to the bombardment, to eliminate the Kurdistan de facto state, known as the Kurdistan Regional Government. Turkey uses state terror under the pretext of pursuing terrorists or separatists. To many Kurds' surprise, Israel also started supporting this terror campaign against Kurds by offering technology to Turkey. What is the real aim of Turkish/US attacks on southern Kurdistan?

New look at foreign fighters in Iraq

Little has been known about so-called foreign fighters in Iraq, other than that they are typically motivated by ideology and are usually smuggled in through Syria in small numbers. Many perform suicide bombing missions and instigate some of the country's starkest violence. But a new analysis published last month by experts at West Point shows that most of these individuals come from Saudi Arabia and Libya, as well as other North African countries such as Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The analysis suggests that the bulk of foreign fighters originate from countries with whom the United States is allied - Saudi Arabia, for one - and also offers clues as to how American officials can stem the flow of these terrorists.

The report, which is based on data compiled by Al Qaeda and captured by coalition forces last fall, shows that the most violent acts in Iraq are typically carried out by foreign fighters. Their goals sometimes align with the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which, estimates suggest, has between 5,000 and 8,000 people associated with it. The foreign fighters, however, represent just a small fraction of that group. "We don't mean to imply that the bulk of the organization is foreign," says Lt. Col. Joseph Felter, who co-wrote the analysis for the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. "But what you can take away from this is that it seems very likely that the vast majority of the suicide bombers do seem to be committed by non-Iraqis."

US military officials note that they don't know precisely how many foreign fighters are in Iraq; even this report does not indicate one way or another. Some accounts have suggested that the number is no more than a few hundred at any one time. But while the total number is unknown, US military officials have determined that the fighters' flow into Iraq is decreasing - from as many as 110 per month in the first half of 2007 to about 40 per month this past fall. Although it remains unclear the degree to which Shiite-dominant Iran is influencing the violence in Iraq, the analysis indicates that most of the foreign intervention is Sunni-based, which includes Al Qaeda. The more than 750 personnel records obtained at the raid site showed that Saudi Arabia was the country of origin for 41 percent of the records analyzed, or 244 fighters. Libya was the source for 18 percent, or 112 of the fighters. Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common, according to the 29-page report, titled "Al-Qaida's Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records."

Army major blogged about his death

Maj. Andrew Olmstead's "Final Post" was published online — after the Rocky Mountain News blogger was killed in Iraq.

Comment left at Major Olmsted’s blog on reasons for going to Iraq:

As an Iraqi, I beg you NOT to come to our country. Yes, the Americans got rid of Saddam but you have dragged our country into the middle ages of despair in the last three years, with Sunni killing Shia and worse acts of blood. What remains of my family now lives in Syria and Egypt. Assalamu alaykum.

IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraqi refugees in Turkey seek move to US

The 25-year-old Iraqi refugee's money is running out. He lives in a tiny, shared studio — sleeping on the sofa, jobless and isolated in a country where he can't speak the language, hoping the United States will let him in. But just thinking of getting to the States makes his face light up. He adds — with big smile — that he's staying single so "I'll be available for American women as soon as I get there." It's when he thinks about his current life that that Mirogi, who fled Iraq after working for a U.S. contractor, gets dejected. He turns to his guitar — his "companion in loneliness," he calls it — and strums a sad Iraqi folk tune. "We are supposed to knock on the (U.S.) embassy's doors, instead of the U.N.'s," he said, referring to his repeated interviews with the U.N. refugee agency, the first stop for Iraqis seeking resettlement in the United States. "Time is running out, as well as my money. I cannot work or ask for help from my parents, because I should be helping them, not the other way around."

46,000 refugees return to Iraq

Some 46,000 refugees returned home to Iraq from Syria between September and December 2007, the Iraqi Red Crescent said in a new report obtained yesterday, a much lower figure than that given by the Iraqi government. Just how many of the 2.2 million Iraqis forced into exile by sectarian violence have returned is a matter of debate among aid groups, the US military, and the Iraqi government, which is anxious to play up the returns as a sign of improved security. The report, due to be published on Sunday, said 45,913,000 refugees had returned to Iraq from Syria between 15 September and 27 December. The figure was based on statistics from government ministries and transportation companies. Most, some 38,000, returned to Baghdad, the epicentre of the violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims that killed tens of thousands and redrew the demographic map of the capital as people fled their homes in their thousands. The report said Syria continued to host most Iraqi refugees, with a population between 1.5-2 million. Jordan has about 750,000.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

Impeach Them Both

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president. After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me. Today I have made a different choice.
...
Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.
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In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion - by far the highest in our national history.

ACLU Florida Calls For Bush/Cheney Impeachment

Wexler wants hearings – sign the petition here.

In a Shorter War, the Numbers Might Have Added Up

About six months before the United States invaded Iraq, then-White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey famously estimated that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. The prediction ended up being way too low: As of Sept. 30, congressional analysts recently estimated, the war had cost $449 billion, and the number is still rising. The episode helped get Lindsey ousted from a White House intent on imposing message discipline and furious about an estimate that, even while low, was the first to hint at the larger budgetary consequences of the invasion.

RESISTANCE

Peace Movement: Organizations Plan Week of Actions for 5th Anniversary of Occupation of Iraq

Sept. 15, 2007 anti-war arrestees win at trial

We Support the Troops Who Oppose the War

On the weekend of 13-15 March, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will assemble history's largest gathering of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors. They will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. We support Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Join us in supporting the effort to reveal truth in the way that only those who lived it can.

Please go to this website to sign the petition.

Quotes of the day: War is always catastrophic for the human psyche. ~ Dan Jakopovich

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