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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

News & Views 01/30/08

Photo: Former Iraqi insurgents, members of the Sunni Anbar Awakening, guard a meeting between Sunni and Shiite tribe leaders and clerics in al-Duwanem, southwest of Baghdad, in 2007. Some 9,000 members of anti-Qaeda "Awakening" fronts in Iraq have been screened and lined up for training as regular police or soldiers, the US military said on Sunday. (AFP/File/Ahmad al-Rubaye)


Tuesday: 1 US Soldier, 61 Iraqis Killed; 56 Iraqis Wounded

Wednesday: 28 Iraqis Killed, 35 Wounded

Iraq Conflict Has Killed A Million: Survey

More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups. The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 2,414 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that 20 percent of people had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, rather than natural causes. The last complete census in Iraq conducted in 1997 found 4.05 million households in the country, a figure ORB used to calculate that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war, the researchers found. The margin of error in the survey, conducted in August and September 2007, was 1.7 percent, giving a range of deaths of 946,258 to 1.12 million.

More about us....

The day before yesterday at 4:30 pm a building exploded in a nearby neighborhood ,our house was quaked without any damages , the windows’ handles were opened so they only clapped strongly. while we were checking the house immediately after the explosion we saw a huge orange cloud over the area of the blast .I had never been scared the way I felt ,I quickly picked up the phone to call a doctor friend to see what should we do if this explosion happened due to some chemical blast , and to inform me if there were any measures we should follow to avoid suffocation or any other symptoms ,but there were no phone services (out of coverage). I gave my children wet towels to put it on their noses, and we began to close the windows tightly. Then we saw in the Mosul local TV channel ,that the explosion had no chemical damages but the tragedy took so many innocent souls . 50 houses and 200 store shops were destroyed .147 injured, and 39 died with so many bodies are still under the debris.

Next day my husband, my uncle and I went to work ,but my daughters didn’t go to their schools. as I work near the main hospital , the forensic office and the emergency hospital you can imagine how my day was. As soon as I entered my room,I saw my mate wearing black. with teary eyes she said they murdered my dear uncle in front of his 19 years old daughter and his two little boys. He was a prophesier had his degree from UK. She started to talk about the funeral and how the explosion damaged her parents’ house and her sister’s . her sisters’ 4 children and husband were injured while she was in the funeral.
After the tragedy the roads and the bridges were blocked and the mother couldn’t make it and reach her injured family,, she even could not call them and know how serious their injuries were until the next day. While we were talking, her injured brother in law came to seek for her help, because his 13 years old daughter did not get help yet in the crowded emergency room .the girl had deep long injury on her lovely face and wasn’t sutured yet. my friend went with them to look for a doctor that can aid.

Just then my boss came and asked every one to go home because he had received a notice about a hasty stroll ban. My driver could not take me home because of the locked roads ,I had to go home walking among the soldiers and their shootings in the air ( the Iraqi way to inform people about blocked roads). When my friend left the emergency room , she couldn’t reach her home as it was across the bridge ,and had to sleep in her parents house .her mother wasn’t their because she was in her dead brother’s house to receive the comforters. her husband also couldn’t reach home or his sad wife at her parents house.
My husband had to pass the river with a launch to the other strand , then walked to the house, he walked over 15 kilometer. my uncle (father in law) walked over 7 kilometers ,he is 70 years old.

A Disaster

i ve tried my best to avoid passing along the streets of the explosion site but as soon as i reached to the main street one of the iraqi soldiers prevented me to go along straight ahead and instead i had to take the way along affected area. it was a DISASTER. even the word disaster doesnt describe the crime happened there. as if a nuclear bomb were thrown there.the trees were 100metre away. the bricks of the buildings were everywhere.the power cables were in pieces allover the place. i couldnt distinguish the houses from each other and from the shops. a cyclon is less less destructive. i stood astonished there. i havent seen like this only when the b52 aircraft bombed one of the buildings during war in baghdad. without any exaggeration 20 houses were severly ruined up and nearly 35 affected. who was that monster who did it? he is the evil himself.the people who live in this area are poor and lovely and they can't harm a creature. one is working and doing his best to build a house and to grow his children up in a life with dignity and in a second all this just vanished so easily.after all i have seen I went back home and pain was tearing my heart.

False Sense of Security in Iraq

With Iraq’s oil production at prewar levels, production capacity for electricity is barely at 50% of the country’s current demand. The urban environments benefit most while the rural towns remain dark. Baghdad had 9 hours of electricity daily at the end of 2007 while rural residents in Hawijah, for example, hardly got half that at 4 hours a day. When all 700,000 displaced Baghdadis return to their capital city, convinced by U.S. forces that the troop surge is working and that security has improved, electricity capacity will be quickly compromised. Clean water and sanitation capacity is certainly no better. A 2007 report by international aid organization Oxfam concluded that nearly 70% of Iraq remained without access to clean water with a higher majority, 80%, still lacking effective sanitation. Petraeus is right in one sense; a flood of refugees might result in higher levels of violence, but not because of sectarian reasons. The national utilities sector is saddled in servicing even its non-displaced. More numbers, then, mean more insecurity-explaining, perhaps, why Petraeus is protesting plans for resettlement.

Health services remain the least secure, bordering on catastrophic. Ninety percent of the hospitals in Iraq lack basic medical and surgical supplies. Even if the hospitals were fully equipped, few professionals remain in-country, able to use the equipment. Fifty percent of the country’s trained medical staff fled in recent years, leaving a nation with nearly half its population struggling in absolute poverty. One wonders, then, how the United States can call this country secure. If attacks were the sole barometer of security and the key indicator of state stability and military success, then yes, America’s New Year’s message might make sense. But with 4 million of Iraq’s citizens still displaced and electricity, water, sanitation, and health services struggling, calling this country secure is not only indefensible but unethical.

CHRONOLOGY: Journalists killed in Iraq

Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world to report. At least 122 journalists and 41 media support staff have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists says. About 85 percent of those were Iraqis.

Generator Man: current affairs in Baghdad

Beneath the row of concrete houses in central Baghdad, a spider's web of electric wires emerges from a pillbox made of metal sheeting and wood, stretching out and up to the balconies of nearby buildings. In the centre of this multi-coloured wire web, Othman Aku and his backfiring generator supply electricity to some 100 families in the Al-Salhiya district of the Iraqi capital. Five years after the US invasion toppled the former regime many areas of the city still receive only sporadic electricity supplies, and increasing numbers of residents rely on generators to ensure a steady flow of precious power. Profiting from the shortage, canny entrepreneurs have installed private generators in the heart of many districts.

FEATURE-Iraq has million-woman social time-bomb

Each sister has four children they are trying to raise in the same tiny house in Baghdad's sprawling Shi'ite slum district of Sadr City, with precious little support from their families and even less from the government. …..Of Iraq's widows, only 84,000 receive government support from the Ministry of Labour and Social Support -- between 50,000 and 120,000 Iraqi dinars -- $40-$95 -- a month. "This is an analgesic ... not a solution," Moussawi said. Her committee has presented a draft law to parliament that would provide women without breadwinners with housing, to prevent them from resorting to desperate measures such as prostitution or from being exploited by militants. Pleas to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government have fallen on deaf ears: the draft bill has yet to be voted on, despite being read in parliament twice.

Baghdad's Housing Boom

Last year, home prices plummeted and rents dropped as Iraqis left town in search of more stability. But now, some say it's almost impossible to find a suitable place to live, with sales prices doubling in certain neighborhoods and the most affordable homes being snatched up as soon as they're on the market. "Day by day the prices are increasing, and I keep on decreasing my options," said Hussam Jassem, 35, a government worker who earns about $400 a month, a typical middle-class salary. A 750-square-foot home in a lower-middle-class neighborhood costs about $150,000. In the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Karada, a 2,300-square-foot plot of land alone costs $350,000.



US troops reductions may slow or stop

[Or bush may surge again – who knows? – dancewater]

U.S. troops allegedly killed detainees

U.S. Army officials are investigating allegations that American soldiers killed several detainees after they were captured on a battlefield in southwest Baghdad last year, officials said Tuesday.

Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act

President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill. Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.

Weapons Meant for Iraqi Forces Being Diverted

Weapons the U.S. provides to Iraqi security forces may still be ending up in the hands of terrorists, insurgents and criminals, the Defense Department inspector general told Congress on Tuesday.

VIDEO: The state of the Iraq surge

While the troop buildup in Iraq has been successful in quashing violence in Iraq, it may also be hampering reconciliation, some analysts say. While the US working with Sunni tribes has helped to reduce violence, some analysts say it may also be one of the reasons blocking political reconciliation.

Iraq oil cash not spent for reconstruction

Increased Iraqi oil revenues stemming from high prices and improved security are piling up in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rather than being spent on needed reconstruction projects, a Washington Times study of Iraq's spending and revenue figures has shown. U.S. officials and outside analysts blame the collapse of the country's political and physical infrastructure for Baghdad's failure to spend the money on projects considered vital to restoring stability in the country. Out of $10 billion budgeted for capital projects in 2007, only 4.4 percent had been spent by August, according to official Iraqi figures reported this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report cited unofficial figures saying about 24 percent had been spent.

US Contractors in Iraq Get New Rules

Under pressure to exercise greater control over private security contractors in Iraq, Bush administration officials outlined stricter rules for these armed guards during a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the Pentagon with 20 companies. The top executives from the largest security firms working in Iraq attended the meeting, which was hosted by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Deputy Secretary State John Negroponte. The session comes nearly four months after a shooting incident involving Blackwater Worldwide that left 17 Iraqi citizens dead. The incident, which created a worldwide furor and put the White House on the defensive, led to a December agreement between the Defense and State Departments that gave U.S. military commanders a stronger hand in managing security workers. Senior representatives from Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy and Aegis Defence attended. Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman, said the closed-door meeting was an opportunity for both sides to exchange opinions and ideas. [I believe Blackwater and DynCorp are mercenaries, not security contractors. – dancewater]

"Jackasses with Guns": Mercenaries Terrorize Iraq


Abu Ghraib documentary to premiere at Berlinale

A picture about the prisoner abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail will become the first documentary ever to enter the competition at the Berlin Film Festival next month, organisers said Tuesday. "Standard Operating Procedure" by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris uses recovered footage, reenactments and the notorious photographs published round the world to shed light on the sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi inmates by US troops at the notorious prison outside Baghdad.


Iraq in the state of the Union Speech

Understanding the nuances of the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict will show how it is a political struggle that will end as soon as the U.S. withdraws, not a religious war that will intensify after Iraqis take their country back. The U.S. is not playing the role of a peace-keeping force, or a convener of reconciliation. It is seen by a majority of Iraqis as one side of the conflict, and will never be a part of the solution. On this side of the ocean, the U.S. government has managed to convince large portions of the “right” that the war and occupation of Iraq is “good for our safety” because it’s better to “fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home”. Simultaneously, the same government managed to manipulate many people in the “left” into believing that a prolonged U.S. occupation is “good for the Iraqis”, and that a U.S. withdrawal would cause an unprecedented bloodshed. “The invasion was not a good idea” some would say, “but now that we are there, let’s fix it before we leave”. From an Iraqi perspective, both groups promote interventionist foreign policies that have no respect for sovereignty, independence, or international law. [And from my perspective, I believe it is evil to wish continuing misery and hardship on others who never harmed you in the first place. – dancewater]

Normalizing Air War from Guernica to Arab Jabour

Note that both pieces started with bombing news -- in one case a suicide bombing that killed several Iraqis; in another a roadside bombing that killed an American soldier and wounded others. But the major bombing story of these last days -- those 100,000 pounds of explosives that U.S. planes dropped in a small area south of Baghdad -- simply dangled unexplained off the far end of the Los Angeles Times piece; while, in the New York Times, it was buried inside a single sentence. Neither paper has (as far as I know) returned to the subject, though this is undoubtedly the most extensive use of air power in Iraq since the Bush administration's invasion of 2003 and probably represents a genuine shifting of American military strategy in that country. Despite, a few humdrum wire service pieces, no place else in the mainstream has bothered to cover the story adequately either. For those who know something about the history of air power, which, since World War II, has been lodged at the heart of the American Way of War, that 100,000 figure might have rung a small bell.

The antithesis of ethics

Right away Bush leaps to Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11, 2001, and which was invaded because that was what Bush, president of the United States, and his closest collaborators decided to do, with nobody in the world harboring any doubt that the aim was to occupy the oilfields; this action has cost that people hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of people uprooted from their homes, or forced into emigration.

COLUMN-Iraq, refugees and moral obligations:Bernd Debusmann

Critics of the Bush administration have harsh words for its handling of the refugee crisis triggered by the war in Iraq. A sampler: lack of leadership, ineptitude, lethargy, abdication of responsibility, moral bankruptcy, neglect. Those involved in bringing Iraqis to the United States say they are doing the best they can. That translates into trying to meet a newly-set target of 1,000 a month for the current budget year, a huge increase over last year when resettlements averaged 134 a month.

Al Qaeda loves Bush: Thanks for the free advertising

It shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point that the president uses al Qaeda as code. Last night, in his State of the Union address, he mentioned al Qaeda 10 times, terrorism 23, extremism eight, Osama bin Laden once. Sure we are fighting a war against terrorism, and al Qaeda is always a ready reminder of Sept. 11. But the president uses this code as much to describe our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, in that, he purveys a brand of confusion and surrender. First, confusion: Al Qaeda in Iraq, whatever it is, is just one of many organized groups fighting the United States and its military coalition, fighting the Iraqi government, and seeking to create enough chaos and insecurity to defeat both. Since the very beginning of the Iraq war, when Donald Rumsfeld dismissed those attacking U.S. troops as “dead enders” and Baathists, the American description of the enemy in Iraq has contained an element of self-deception: if the enemy were just Saddam recalcitrants, then we could convince ourselves that everyone else welcomed us and was on our side.

Quote of the day: Petraeus wants us to celebrate the return [to Baghdad] of 50,000 Iraqis who were starving in Syria, when 5 million remain in exile and internally displaced. What he conveniently forgets to mention is that those who returned found their houses either destroyed or occupied by others. ~ Maki al-Nazzal ~ from A bitter taste to Iraqi reality