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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

News & Views 11/17/08

Photo: Iraqi Shiite pilgrims pray outside the tomb of Shiite Imam al-Hussein in the shrine city of Karbala. As tens of thousands of Shiites gathered in the Iraqi city of Karbala on Thursday for the festival of Ashura, a suicide attack on a ceremony elsewhere in the country marred the build-up to the event. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)


Thursday: 31 Iraqis Killed, 33 Wounded

Orphans in Iraq, a tragic situation

In a Baghdadi popular market, Mustafa Fadhil, a ten year old child, sits waiting to carry the items purchased by individuals who are out doing their shopping, for some trivial income that he needs to help his family following his father’s death who was a victim of the violence in Iraq. From time to time, Mustafa imagines himself back again in classroom; a dream that disappears when a customer, looking for a carrier, calls him "I left school and started working when my father was killed in a mortar attack that targeted our house around two years ago, and I have been responsible for my family since then," Mustafa said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). In an attempt to depend on himself in order for himself and his family to survive under such severe circumstances, Mustafa limits his plans to the requirements of daily life. "I stopped thinking about my future, and what I would be when I get older." There are many children like Mustafa, orphans and street-kids that live a current tragic reality in Iraq, with an unknown future awaiting them, especially when considering that there are no pre-existing legislations or decrees that protect them and their rights.

Iraqi Shiites hope religious pageant won't be violent

Haider al Hussein, a merchant in Baghdad's popular Shorja market, wrapped his head in a black turban, donned a green uniform and, sword in scabbard, began the fight between good and evil before an audience of Shiite Muslims. During the week he works in a market that's been the target of car bombs. But today he's playing the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, who also was named Hussein. "Imam Hussein was not only for Muslims, he came for all of humanity," Hussein said. "He wanted to end injustice."

Iraqi schoolboy delivers peace message in a bottle

On a cold day in what was once the crucible of Iraq's insurgency, a group of young boys sat around their schoolyard and drew messages of peace. Fourteen-year-old Taha Saadi, a Sunni Muslim, lost his father in Iraq's bloody sectarian conflict, killed by Shi'ite militiamen in Baghdad when they found out he wanted to move his family to Sunni Arab Falluja west of the capital. Speaking without tears or bitterness, Taha said he did not want revenge against the men who shot his father 16 months ago. "I hope justice will take place," he said. It was in that spirit that Taha had an idea, his own small attempt to hit back against the bloodshed and mayhem which has become a routine part of life for thousands of boys like him by floating messages of peace down the Euphrates River. The river cuts through Iraq like a lifeline, snaking its way across the vast western, Sunni Arab desert province of Anbar that was once the bloodiest place in Iraq, through Falluja and then the southern Shi'ite heartland on its way to the Gulf. So, Taha thought, why not use the famous river to try to bring Iraqis together?


APS - The Bombing of Arab Jabbour Region

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) made a press statement condemning American occupation forces for bombing Arab Jabbour region with giant bombs. At the press statement AMSI called Arab League, all human right organizations and international community to go out of circle of silent killer. The occupation forces bombarded Arab Jabbour region with giant bombs amount of forty thousand pounds, 18.1 thousand kg from air under the pretext of what we have accustomed to all of which are false and baseless, so-called war on terrorism stories. The shelling targeted residential homes in general, and resulted the killing of dozens of innocent civilians, women, children and elders, and the wounding of a similar numbers. This heinous crime show to the whole world the extent of the viciousness of the perpetrators who are targeting lives of the people, and not to respect the rights and honor of the human being having a place in all heavenly religions. The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) condemns this heinous crime, holds the brutal occupation and current puppet government fully responsible.

Defense, interior ministries receive 650 U.S. Humvees

In the coming two years, a total of 8,500 Humvee vehicles are expected to be delivered to Iraqi authorities, including 4,200 in 2008. [Meanwhile, the US is bringing massively bigger vehicles to tool around Iraq in. See article below. – dancewater]


From Democracy Now!

U.S. Bombings in Iraq Increased Fivefold in 2007

New figures from the Pentagon show the U.S. carried out fives times as many aerial bombings in Iraq last year as it did in 2006. According to the Washington Post, U.S. forces dropped more than 1,400 bombs—an average of nearly four a day. The 2006 total was 229 bombs, an average of four per week. The UN estimates at least two hundred civilians were killed in U.S. bombings from April until the end of the year. The figures come as the U.S. continues an extensive bombing campaign over Arab Jabour south of Baghdad. In one of the largest strikes since the 2003 invasion, U.S. warplanes dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs in a ten-minute span one week ago. Military experts are predicting an increase in the bombing, should the U.S. draw down its forces in Iraq. Airstrikes are also at record levels in Afghanistan. NATO bombings topped 3,500 last year, doubling the number for 2006.

Justice Dept. Warns of No Charges in Blackwater Killing of Iraqis

The Justice Department is downplaying expectations of criminal prosecutions in last September’s killings of seventeen Iraqi civilians by the private military firm Blackwater Worldwide. The New York Times reports the Justice Department told lawmakers in a private briefing last month that it may not file any charges against Blackwater or the individual guards. Justice Department officials said they face major legal obstacles. Four months after the shooting and nearly five years into the Iraq invasion, it remains unclear whether Blackwater is subjected to any legal jurisdiction for its operations in Iraq. State Department investigators also granted Blackwater guards immunity in return for their testimony in the shooting’s immediate aftermath. In a new report, the group Human Rights First blames the lack of prosecutions on a lack of political will rather than legal uncertainty. The report says: “The U.S. government’s reaction to the shootings has been characterized by confusion, defensiveness, a multiplicity of uncoordinated ad hoc investigations, and interagency finger-pointing. These failures underscored the Justice Department’s unwillingness or inability to systematically investigate and prosecute allegations of serious violent crimes.” Blackwater is being sued in a civil case brought on behalf of some of the victims’ families.

RTI, Unity Resources Sued for Fatal Shooting of Iraqi Civilian

Meanwhile, Democracy Now! has learned that another Western contractor is being sued for the fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian. Lawyers for the family of Marani Awanis Mannok have filed suit against the contractor RTI International and the private military firm Unity Resources Group. The suit alleges Unity Resources guards shot and killed Manook and another Iraqi woman, Genevia Jalal Antranick, last October. Manook was the mother of three children. The suit calls the killings a “senseless slaughter… in a pattern of egregious misconduct.” The North Carolina-based RTI has hired Unity Resources to provide security for its operations in Iraq. RTI has received hundreds of millions in U.S. government contracts for its Iraq work.

From Missing Links blog: Another Likely Story

In this connection it is worth noticing that the resistance-supporter Awni Qalamji, in his op-ed yesterday, made an important concession, namely that some of the resistance factions have in fact been (in his view) co-opted by this process. This is what the lawyers call an admission against interest, so I think it is credible. Not only is the process leading up to Cairo largely an American attempt to co-opt some of the armed resistance, but also it seems to have been partly successful. Moreover, those who follow this co-opting process have been reporting on US/Arab League efforts to get other Arab countries to cooperate in pressuring expatriate Iraqi opposition/resistance figures living in their capitals to come forward and participate in this process.

And Missing Links was discussing this article:

2008 Could Change the Face of Iraqi Politics

Iraqi nationalists--opposed to the US occupation, Al Qaeda and Iran's influence in Iraqi affairs--are slowly gaining ground.

Driving Military's MRAP: I Own the Road

The vehicles aren't cheap. A standard Cougar costs about $450,000 compared with $150,000 for a new armored Humvee. Depending on their size and how the military wants them equipped, other MRAP models can cost as much as $1 million each. The Cougar and a much larger Force Protection-built MRAP called the Buffalo have been attacked more than 3,000 times. There have been only three recorded American fatalities. In one case, a service member who was not wearing his seat belt was killed when the bomb exploded near the vehicle, according to Aldrich. "It's like the unsinkable ship," he said. "There's no military vehicle in the world that's perfect. But we've got one that's 3,000 to three." The vehicle begins as a dark, V-shaped hull made strong enough to withstand the impact of an IED, the signature weapon of war in the 21st century. The work is done in a cavernous facility where General Electric once manufactured turbine engines. Now, thick planes of glass, massive truck axles, and sheets of specially made steel are scattered about, all waiting to be molded into lifesaving personnel carriers.

House passes $696 billion defense bill


AUDIO: NPR - Iraqi Refugees Suffer Long-Term Effects of Torture

Naseer's case is far from unique. U.N. officials say more than 20,000 Iraqis have defined themselves as torture victims when signing up for refugee status. A more recent study of the refugee community in Syria reveals that the overall number of torture victims is likely to include many thousands more. That means Iraqi refugees will need more than the basics of food and housing, U.N. officials say.

Arab stars to aid Iraqi refugees

A number of Arab entertainers have launched a worldwide fund-raising campaign to assist more than four million Iraqi refugees, both at home and abroad. The brainchild of Naseer Shamma, a popular Iraqi musician, the three-month campaign kicked off last week under the slogan "Arabs hand in hand with Iraqis". Shamma told Al Jazeera: "Many Arab artists mostly from Egypt, Syria and Tunisia are taking part in the campaign to raise over $120 million for Iraqi refugees. Fund-raising will be based in Cairo but a group of artists will tour Arab capitals to rally support." In Iraq, the donated funds will be used to build schools and medical facilities for thousands of internally displaced refugees.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


The "Success" Mantra in Iraq

In order to achieve an image of lifelike quiescence in Iraq, involving a radical lowering of "violence" in that country, the general and ambassador did have to give up the ghost on a number of previous Bush administration passions. Rebellious al-Anbar Province was, for instance, essentially turned over to members of the community (many of whom had, even according to the Department of Defense, been fighting Americans until recently). They were then armed and paid by the U.S. not to make too much trouble. In the Iraqi capital, on the other hand, the surging American military looked the other way as, in the first half of 2007, the Shiite "cleansing" of mixed Baghdad neighborhoods reached new heights, transforming it into a largely Shiite city. This may have been the real "surge" in Iraq and, if you look at new maps of the ethnic make-up of the capital, you can see the startling results - from which a certain quiescence followed. Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a longtime opponent of the Bush administration, called a "truce" during the surge months and went about purging and reorganizing his powerful militia, the Mahdi Army. In exchange, the U.S. has given up, at least temporarily, its goal of wresting control of some of those neighborhoods from the Sadrists.

Despite hailing the recent passage of what might be called a modest re-Baathification law in the Iraqi Parliament (that may have little effect on actual government employment), the administration has also reportedly given up in large part on pushing its highly touted "benchmarks" for the Iraqis to accomplish. This was to be a crucial part of Iraqi political "reconciliation" (once described as the key to the success of the whole surge strategy). It has now been dumped for so-called Iraqi solutions. All of this, including the lack of U.S. patrolling in al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, plus the addition of almost 30,000 troops in Baghdad and environs, has indeed given Iraq a quieter look - especially in the United States, where Iraqi news has largely disappeared from front pages and slipped deep into prime-time TV news coverage just as the presidential campaign of 2008 heats up.

…..So another year has now passed in a country that we plunged into an unimaginable charnel-house state. Whether civilian dead between the invasion of 2003 and mid-2006 (before the worst year of civil-war level violence even hit) was in the range of 600,000 as a study in the British medical journal, The Lancet reported or 150,000 as a recent World Health Organization study suggests, whether two million or 2.5 million Iraqis have fled the country, whether 1.1 million or more than two million have been displaced internally, whether electricity blackouts and water shortages have marginally increased or decreased, whether the country's health-care system is beyond resuscitation or could still be revived, whether Iraqi oil production has nearly crept back to the low point of the Saddam Hussein-era or not, whether fields of opium poppies are, for the first time, spreading across the country's agricultural lands or still relatively localized, Iraq is a continuing disaster zone on a catastrophic scale hard to match in recent memory.

Kuwait still wounded

To this day Kuwaiti channels and radio stations refuse to play the music of any of Iraq's musicians. Relics from the war are preserved throughout Kuwait City. But popular support for the war next door has waned. While Saddam Hussein's capture and execution were welcomed in Kuwait, the deterioration of a nation caught people off guard. A Kuwaiti friend explained it to me in simple terms. "Before they had water, now they do not. Before they had electricity now they do not, before they had security now they do not," she said. "This was not liberation or democracy.” Her mother sat nearby. "They liberated us after they gave Iraq the green light to invade,” she said. “This is not friendship.”

Bringing Death and Destruction to Muslims: Roberts

After pandering to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's right-wing government last week, US president George W. Bush carried the Israeli/neoconservative campaign against Iran to Arab countries. Sounding as authentic as the "Filipino Monkey," Bush told the Arab countries that "Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terror," and that "Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere." To no effect. Every country in the world, except America, knows by now that the US is the world's leading state sponsor of terror and that the neoconservative drive for US hegemony over the world threatens the security of nations everywhere. But before we get into this, let's first see what Bush means by "terrorist" and Iran's sponsorship of terrorism.

Quote of the day: We're doing victory laps around, and dancing upon, a corpse. –Tom Engelhardt