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 14, 2008

News & Views 01/14/08

Photo: Honor guards carry coffins containing the remains of Kurdish victims, killed in the Anfal campaign in 1988, during a ceremony in Arbil, about 350 km (220 miles) north of Baghdad January 14, 2008. A genocidal campaign under Saddam Hussein against Iraq's Kurds must never be forgottten, officials said on Monday at a ceremony for 371 victims, whose grieving relatives demanded those responsible be put to death. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Monday: 55 Iraqis Killed, 11 Wounded

IRAQ: Voices of Kurdish youth

According to a recent survey made by Youth's Empowerment Organization in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the majority of youth are trying to emigrate from this area. The reasons youth gave included poor living conditions, economic problems, and lack of trust between government and youth. The predominant factor, however, was the lack of personal freedom. In one of the public parks in Suleimaniya, a group of young adults, mostly university students have been living in tents since early September. They are asking the government for changes in policies and more benefits to young adults. "Kurdish youth here have little hope for the future," said Kazan*," one of the leaders of the group. The government is corrupt. Life is hard because of little available electricity and water and other services. After graduating from the university, we have a difficult time getting a job. To get a good job and other social services you have to join one of the main political parties." Among their demands are an end to that practice and a youth center that would include an office that would help them find employment.

Teenager in Mosul

Today I woke up feeling scared, I had a nightmare that a camp was attacked and I was in the middle, I didn’t care about the nightmare and I got ready to go to school in such cold weather with no electricity just like everyday, I was waiting for the driver in the hall when HEAVY shooting started, the driver came with 3 girls, grandma didn’t allow me to go out , when shooting almost calmed down, I ran to the car, and the driver drove fast , we drove among so many tanks, the national guards didn’t allow any car to pass the bridge except ours because they saw we were students and we wouldn’t attack them , so we drove among the Iraqi tanks, and national guards slowly, as soon as I reached school (at exactly 7:37 pm) a loud explosion happened followed by another few minutes later!! What a great way to start school .. the situation is not good, and many car bombs entered Mosul today, they didn’t explode yet and I hope they won’t, so please don’t forget to pray for us, 2 weeks ago a car exploded at 10 pm, many Iraqis died, poor people they were in their houses, asleep, or having showers, maybe studying, or having dinner, and for no reason an idiot put a car there, killed and injured tens of citizens..

IRAQ: Awoken to a New Danger

The newly formed 'Awakening' forces set up by the U.S. military are bringing new conflict among people. For months now the U.S. military has been actively building what it calls 'Awakening' forces and "concerned local citizens" in an effort to reduce attacks on occupation forces. Members of the forces, which comprise primarily former resistance fighters and tribal groups, are paid 300 dollars monthly. There are at present about 80,000 recruits to these groups. The U.S. military plans to cap the number at 85,000. According to the U.S. military, 82 percent of the members are Sunni. The forces, which are opposed by the Iraqi government led by U.S.-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are also being strongly criticised by Sunni residents in Baghdad and other cities. "The armed groups called 'Awakening' are now the only powerful players in many Sunni areas in Baghdad, and so they show their power the way others did," Qussay al-Tai'i, a lawyer from Saydiya town southwest of Baghdad told IPS. "It seems that violence has become routine procedure for American soldiers, Iraqi security men and now the so-called Awakening fighters." Witnesses from the area who have recently fled to Baghdad told IPS that more than 200 residents have been arrested by Awakening fighters supported by the al-Muthanna battalion of the Iraqi army. "They came and arrested my 14 and 17-year-old sons," said Hajja Um Ahmed. "I told them my sons are only schoolboys who did nothing wrong, but they pushed me away."

Power cuts and water shortages hit chilly Iraq

Iraq's government on Monday blamed neighbouring countries, a gasoline shortage and sabotage for power cuts that have left people shivering in many parts of the country, gripped by a bitterly cold winter. In the capital, where residents faced blackouts and water shortages during the summer, some districts were again reported to be without water and with only an hour or two of intermittent power a day. "We have been without electricity for four or five days, not for a minute. Before that we used to have it for an hour a day. We have a small electricity heater that we all gather around," said Um Farah, 47, who lives in Qadissiya in southern Baghdad. Temperatures in Baghdad have regularly been below zero since the start of winter and last week the city witnessed its first snowfall in memory. Residents in some areas said they had had no water for several days and rooftop water tanks were running low. "This is a crisis. We have not had electricity for two days. As for water, it has been cut since yesterday until now," said Um Aqil, 57, in Baghdad's northeast Adhamiya district.

Ceremony mourns victims of Iraq's "Anfal" genocide

A genocidal campaign under Saddam Hussein against Iraq's Kurds must never be forgottten, officials said on Monday at a ceremony for 371 victims, whose grieving relatives demanded those responsible be put to death. Up to 180,000 people may have been killed as chemical gas was used, villages were razed and thousands of Kurds were forced into camps during the 1988 Anfal, or "Spoils of War", campaign. Kurdish and Iraqi political leaders gathered for the solemn ceremony as 371 flag-draped coffins were laid out in neat rows in a large commercial warehouse in Arbil in semi-autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq's north. The wooden coffins contained the remains of Kurds found in four mass graves near the northern cities of Mosul, Dahuk and Sulaimaniya and the southern city of Samawa since 2004. All have since been identified and will be reburied in a cemetery in Sulaimaniya on Wednesday. "This ceremony makes us feel pain and happiness at the same time," Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani told the ceremony.

Karbala Libraries and Bookshops, Mirrors that Reflects Old City Culture

Libraries are the smell of culture, the starting point of knowledge, and the moment of rising for progress; that's what the owner of an old bookshop in Karbala (110 km to the south-west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad) told us describing how proud he is for the role that his bookshop played in the history of that city that had many rich libraries since the 1930s, before it passed through hard periods that caused extinction for those libraries and bookshops; precisely during the embargo years of the 1990s and until the fall of the former regime in 2003. Some bookshops, as Salih Awainat, the owner of Al-Ahliya Bookshop said, remained struggling to survive due to the limited number of customers, excluding those who represent the "New Wave," as he described them, referring to the readers of the religious books. Awainat told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI) that his bookshop, established in the 1930s, is not the oldest among Karbala bookshops, as there are others older, like the bookshop of late Abbass Al-Kotbi, the bookshop of Al-Rasool Al-Aadham (The Greatest Prophet), and others that were not limited to selling books only, but also newspapers that educated people were waiting for. And he noted that "Bookshops have a long history in Karbala, and it represented the source and the meeting place for cultivated, educated, independent, or of different directions people."

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Main Iraq Sunni Arab bloc says ready to return to govt

Iraq's main Sunni Arab bloc said on Monday it was ready to return to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led administration in an effort to revive the national unity government that collapsed last year. Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, leader of the largest political party in the Accordance Front, appeared to signal a new readiness to strike a deal after parliament on Saturday voted to allow members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to government jobs, a long-time Sunni Arab demand. The walkout by the Accordance Front in August left Maliki's cabinet without any Sunni Arab representation and hurt efforts to draw the minority sect, who were dominant under Saddam, closer into the political process.

Iraqi Shiite, Sunni MPs Sign New 'Unity' Pact

Parliamentary blocs representing Sunnis, Shiites and independents on Sunday signed on to a common platform stressing the need for Iraqi national unity and central control over oil reserves. The blocs, should they come together as is expected in a new political alliance, would be a dominant force in the 275-member parliament, with a total of more than 100 seats. Among those who signed the statement of common understanding are the movement of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the secular Iraqi National List of former prime minister Iyad Allawi and Sunni leader Salah al-Mutlak's National Dialogue Front, a joint statement said. The statement said the pact was signed "for the sake of the higher national interest, to maintain a united Iraq free of sectarian divisions … and to support national reconciliation." The parties demanded that oil and gas "and other natural resources should remain Iraqi treasures" and not be allowed to be signed away by regional authorities.

Security high for Iraqi pilgrims

Unprecedented security measures have been taken in the two major Shiite Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, where thousands of Shiites from all over Iraq are heading to commemorate Ashura, the anniversary of Imam Hussain's martyrdom. Security is preoccupying city life amid tightened security measures. "Frankly, I can say that we in the military brigade [I am affiliated to Najaf] are on a heightened security alert," Raed Khalaf Al Khafaji, an officer, told Gulf News. "Everything is monitored and anything might trigger our actions... past experience in the field has proved we have to be cautious until this anniversary is over," he added. Certainly, Al Qaida is the first on the list to watch for and things will continue as it is until the anniversary reaches its peak in the upcoming days.

Baathists: Accountability, justice law an instrument of vengeance

Several leaders from the former Baath Party currently residing outside Iraq expressed their categorical rejection of the accountability and justice law, which the Iraqi parliament passed on Saturday, describing it as an instrument of vengeance. Tayeh Abdul Kareem, a former Baathist leader, told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI) by phone that the passage of the new law is an attempt to reinstate the old debaathification law. Abdul Kareem, a one-time minister of oil who assumed numerous leading positions in the dissolved Baath Party, said, "The law is legally and socially unacceptable because it threatens the interests of a large segment of Iraqi society, which once belonged to the Baath Party." "This law violates our right to democracy," Abdul Kareem indicated, describing it and the debaathification law as two sides of the same coin. Another former Baathist member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told VOI that the newly passed law threatens national reconciliation efforts in the country, revealing contacts between Iraqi mediators and U.S. officials to cancel the law. According to the member, who codenamed himself Abu Hassan, the law indicates a desire for revenge on Baathists.

140 Basra facility guards sacked for committing serious crimes

Some 140 guards of the facilities protection service (FBS) in Basra province were fired for having committed "serious crimes," an official spokesman for the interior ministry said on Sunday. "The 140 guards were proved to have been involved in serious crimes," Maj. General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) by telephone. Khalaf did not reveal information about these "crimes."

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

253 gunmen killed, arrested north of Baghdad - U.S. army

The U.S. army on Monday said that a total of 60 gunmen were killed and 193 suspected gunmen arrested within the first week of operation Iron Harvest. "Operation Iron Harvest, a division-level operation in support of Multi-National Corps - Iraq’s Operation Phantom Phoenix - continues to pursue al-Qaeda across four provinces of northern Iraq," the army said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq –Voices of Iraq(VOI). "Within the first week of the operation, Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces have detained 193 suspected extremists, killed 60 suspected extremists and found 79 weapons caches. [Still no word on the after effects of the bombing of Arab Jabour last week. – dancewater]

HISTORY

Fallujah: The Flame of Atrocity

2 New Books on Iraq to be Released

City of Widows : An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance - by Haifa Zangana

About City of Widows: The story of Iraqi women before and after Washington 's "liberation." Haifa Zangana presents the first comprehensive history of women in modern Iraq through the US occupation. Positioning Iraqi women today in a long line of daring and vocal activists resisting foreign aggression and despotism for the past hundred years, Zangana traces this lineage from the emergence of a handful of turn-of-the-century poets, to women's mass membership in politically affiliated women's leagues, to 1960s activists in armed struggle (of which she was a part), to the paradox of women's rising status under decades of repressive Ba'ath rule (when they were the most educated in the Arab world), to suicide bombers today.

Defeat: Why They Lost Iraq - by Jonathan Steele

About Defeat: Drawing on hundreds of interviews, Steele shows for the first time how the invasion and occupation were perceived by ordinary Iraqis, whose feelings and experiences Western policymakers were never interested in. The result of such arrogance, Steele demonstrates, was a failure that it will resonate alongside names like Vietnam and Suez for decades to come. Blending vivid reportage, informed analysis and sweeping historical narrative, "Defeat" is the definitive anatomy of this historic catastrophe.

COMMENTARY

Violence & Instability in Iraq

The US government’s General Accounting Office (GAO) confirmed this pattern in September 2007, reporting that “[c]oalition forces are still the primary target of attacks,” although “the number of attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians also has increased since 2003” (43). Military officials have also admitted that US troops are disproportionately targeted by insurgents, saying in June 2007 that “the attacks are being directed at us and not against other people” (44). The fact that the US-led forces attract such a disproportionate share of attacks, coupled with ordinary Iraqis’ support for attacks on US forces, do much to discredit public US government statements expressing concern for democracy and the popular will. Contrary to the claims of presidential speeches and other official sources, the US military actually attracts much more violent hostility than do Iraqi military, police, and security forces. And more importantly, most Iraqis condone attacks on the US but oppose attacks on Iraqi forces.

Though usually overlooked, these points are crucial to understanding the conflict in Iraq, and are particularly important when evaluating the recent claims of the Bush administration and mainstream media that the US surge has reduced violence in Iraq. Even if the modest decreases in violence observed in late 2007 continue in the coming months, we must bear in mind several points which follow from the US government’s own admission that US-led forces “are still the primary target of attacks”: 1) Because they actually incite the majority of insurgent attacks, US-led forces cannot be credited with reducing the level of violence in Iraq; 2) Since most insurgent attacks are directed against the US and its allies, a US withdrawal will deprive the insurgency of its primary target and significantly undercut its popular support; 3) The decline in violence does not signal that Iraqis are any less opposed to the presence of the US military in their country, because insurgents’ animosities are still directed primarily against the US and because a majority of Iraqis continue to support insurgent attacks on US-led forces (45). The resentment of ordinary Iraqis toward the US goes a long way toward explaining how a small insurgency numbering fewer than 30,000 Iraqis and 800-2,000 foreigners has successfully prevented US-led and Iraqi government forces (which together total over 600,000) from establishing military dominance in Iraq for almost five years (46).

Iraqi Public Opinion

No nation that claims to value democracy for the world’s people can maintain a military occupation against the will of the occupied population. Yet despite what seems like a fundamental moral truism—the notion that a military occupation of one country by another can only be justified if the occupied population supports it—mainstream commentators in this country rarely broach the subject of Iraqi attitudes toward the US-led occupation. Iraqi public opinion polls, when they even make it into the newspapers, are accorded astoundingly little weight. Instead, most US politicians and analysts offer vague slogans about how “Iraqis need us” and how “we’ll leave when they ask us to” (1). A brief look at Iraqi attitudes toward the occupation reveals why mainstream commentators in this country opt for such ambiguity rather than dealing with the polls themselves: Iraqis have consistently stated that the occupation is a destabilizing force in their country, that the situation would improve after a US withdrawal, and that the US has ulterior motives for staying in Iraq. ….The deliberate ignorance of Iraqis’ wishes is indeed a bipartisan phenomenon, and there is a clear reason why. Most members of Congress are opposed to a total withdrawal of US forces because they believe their country has a need—and a right—to maintain effective control over the Iraqi government and economy (and its most profitable export); to acknowledge Iraqi public opinion would undercut that political agenda.

IRAQ REFLECTION: The Christmas story—then and now

As a result of the Turkish attacks, civilians died and approximately 800 families are now refugees. Hospitals, schools, mosques, and homes have been turned into rubble. Carcasses of hundreds of dead sheep smoldered for two days in one wrecked village. I wondered if the children of one dead woman asked in their best Kurdish, “Where is our mother?” One family told us they fled by riding on the back of one of their farm animals. They arrived at a relative’s house only to find that they were not on the government census list and were unable to receive emergency aid. Back in Bethlehem, Herod summoned the wise men to find out where this baby Jesus was so he could do away with him. Back at the Pentagon, Mr. Bush’s “wise guys” have received orders to share military intelligence with the Turkish military so its troops can attack more accurately. Joseph gets wind of the impending danger in a dream through an angel and moves his family to safety. The Kurdish villagers got word through the mayors of their respective villages. Back in our apartment, the stable is now abandoned and a sign hangs from the roof: “Gone to Egypt.” The refugees from the abandoned Kurdish Border villages still wait for the message that it is safe to return home. CPT is making plans to accompany them.

an old new tale

One of the stories that I always remember is a story about three bulls, a white, a brown and a black one. They live in a jungle with a lion. The lion wanted to eat them. He made a very smart plan, he talked to the black and the brown bulls "the white bull is very distinguished and if the man saw the white bull, he will come and take you all and kill me". The two bulls asked him "what shall we do?" the lion said "let me eat him and we can live in peace". The two bulls agreed and they allowed the lion to eat the white bull. After a while, the lion decided to eat the brown bull, so he took the black bull a side and told him "the brown bull can be seen easily but you are not because you are black. So let me eat him and we can live in peace". The black bull agreed and the lion ate the brown bull. After a while, the lion came and told the black bull "I'm going to eat you". The black bull said "you already ate me since you had eaten the white bull"

There Will Be Blood: But No Justice for Iraq Atrocities

Two years ago, a group of Marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians -- including women and children cowering in their own homes -- in a revenge rampage in Haditha. Once the story emerged from the usual layers of lies and cover-up, the atrocity flared briefly on the public stage, and eight of the Marines and their officers were charged "with murder or failing to investigate an apparent war crime," as the Post reports. But public attention moved swiftly on, and over the past few months, the Pentagon's "military justice" system has quietly reduced or dropped charges against most of the men. Yesterday's announcement signaled the final climb-down in the case, leaving only a single Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, facing a charge of voluntary manslaughter, and lesser charges against one other enlisted man and two officers.

Two dozen civilians slaughtered, as confirmed by the Pentagon itself -- and yet there was no murder. Indeed, Brian Rooney, the lawyer for one of the officer charged with failing to investigate the killings, now says "it's clear now that no massacre occurred, yet this legal fiction is moving forward." Twenty-four actual, physical dead bodies in the ground -- yet the incident was a "legal fiction" -- "no massacre occurred." The Pentagon has decided that the beserkers who killed two dozen innocent civilians were essentially following the accepted rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Iraq -- a revealing fact in itself.

Quote of the day: You know the old saw, "The good that people do lives on, the bad dies with them."? That is bullshit on saltine cracker. The bad things people do gnaw holes in the fabric of reality and our common humanity. Posted by: Chuck Cliff on Moon of Alabama blog

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