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

Friday, February 1, 2008

News & Views 02/01/08

Photo: An Iraqi mourns the death of his relative outside Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital. Explosives strapped to two mentally impaired women were triggered by remote control in co-ordinated attacks that devastated two Baghdad pet markets on Friday and killed at least 64 people, an Iraqi official said. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 85 Iraqis Killed, 175 Wounded

Female bombers kill 72 at Baghdad pet markets

Down’s syndrome bombers kill 91 in Baghdad

Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.

Video: watchattack aftermath

HASH(0x958f820)

We cannot run pictures that are too graphic, no pictures with blood and gruesome remains, no pictures of things that most Iraqis have seen at least once and often many more times than that in the almost five years of this war. When the head of the female suicide bomber was found in the al Ghazil pet market, Iraqis filmed it on their cell phones. A man lifted the head of a woman by her brown hair and with blood seeping from the severed neck he placed it gingerly into a shopping bag. Dead birds and animals were gathered up and put into a dumpster. Cleaners swept away the pools of blood, shop owners began to repair their shops once again and life went on. Below is the video. But before you click on it, I warn you it's gruesome and if you can't handle blood don't watch this. Download d981d98ad8afd98ad9880003.3gp [I could not get it to work. – dancewater]

Iraqi insurgents find female bombers can skirt security

With U.S. forces imposing tough security measures to thwart car bombings, Iraqi insurgents are increasingly using women and teenagers as suicide bombers, a trend that on Friday led to the worst daily death toll in Baghdad since August. At least 65 people were killed and nearly 150 were wounded when explosions ripped through two crowded Baghdad pet markets. The attacks, which occurred within 15 minutes of each other, appeared to be the sixth and seventh suicide bombings in Iraq by women or teenagers since Nov. 27, though there was some uncertainty about whether one of Friday's blasts might have been caused by a roadside bomb. Witnesses said the bombers were women who'd slipped into the markets without being searched, as Iraqi security forces include few women and men aren't allowed to search women. Iraqi police are trying to recruit more female members.

Iraq Diary: A filmmaker's anger

He told me he had just finished editing a nine-minute short film called Personal Calendar. It all takes place on a minibus, once a preferred target of suicide attacks and drive-by shootings. "None of the passengers on board agree on which day of the week it is," he said. "Like the Iraqi government where the different political blocks disagree about absolutely everything." He chose to film a bus full of arguing passengers because it can represent many aspects of an increasingly divided Iraq today. In between cigarette puffs, Bashir laments that the hidden toll of the past five years is that Iraqi families have become fragmented. Like the passengers on board the bus.

Kurds in Iraq feel their leverage decline

As a minority group in Iraq, the Kurds have enjoyed disproportionate influence in the country's politics since the removal of Saddam Hussein. But now their leverage appears to be declining, as tensions rise with Iraqi Arabs, raising the specter of another fissure alongside the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites. The Kurds, who are mostly Sunni but not Arab, have steadfastly backed the government, most recently helping to keep it afloat when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lacked support from much of the Parliament.

Najaf's underground haven of Iraqi history and fond memories

Whenever Saadiyah Ahmed is overcome by the torrid heat of Iraq's Najaf desert in the summer or when she is chilled by the glacial nights in winter, she disappears underground. The family cellar, one of thousands of elaborate excavations beneath the Shiite shrine city in central Iraq, holds fond memories for 60-year-old Ahmed. "It was a place to play when we were children, as well as a living room," she recalls. "My grandmother and mother used to arrange the cellar while I would help clean it." But the labyrinth of tunnels beneath Najaf's old city have been used for far more than simply an escape from the harshness of the climate. Faced with Wahhabite invaders, British guns, Saddam Hussein's forces or US helicopters, residents of Najaf have for centuries adopted the same strategy -- seek refuge in the bowels of the earth. Today, Iraqi scientists are working to map out this subterranean peculiarity of the city, which above ground is dominated by the gilded domes of the mausoleum of Imam Ali, founder of Shiism, who died in 661.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi cleric threatens to end militia freeze unless attacks stop

Senior aides to the powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warn six-month freeze may not be extended unless the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, takes steps to halt attacks on Sadr's followers. Sadr's order to his Jaish al-Mahdi militia is regarded as a vital component of the nationwide downturn in violence during the past half year. Fighters loyal to Sadr had been blamed for fuelling the sectarian violence that gripped Baghdad and religiously mixed areas to the north and south of the capital. A renewal of their activities could undo much of the recent progress in security on the ground and stir up tensions among Iraq's Shia Muslims.

Iraqi VP refuses to ratify Baathist reconciliation law

Last month Shiite and Sunni MPs unanimously passed a bill to partly reverse a decree issued by Iraq's former US occupation authority which sacked hundreds of thousands of Baathists from government and the armed forces. On Friday, however, Vice President Tareq Hashemi's office confirmed that he had asked for amendments to the law prior to approving its ratification by Iraq's three-man presidential council. "We have worked for months to fundamentally amend the de-Baathification law, in order to make it part of the national reconciliation project," Hashemi said, in a television interview reproduced on his official website. "This bill has a feel of retaliation. How will that help to stabilise the situation?" he asked.

Opposing Kurds turns oil minister into hero

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani is one of the few technocrats in the government of Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki. He is an Arab Shiite but his sectarian affiliation has rallied Arab groups, both Shiites and Sunni, in support of his ministry and administration. Arab political factions and the local media see Shahristani as a national hero for his insistence not to allow the country’s economic mainstay, oil, to become a pawn in sectarian and ethnic squabbling. He has stood fast against Kurdish attempts to develop oil fields on their own or extract any oil-related revenues without central government consent. He has declared all Kurdish contracts and dealings with foreign firms or local contractors without central government approval as illegal. Among Iraqi Kurds and their media, Shahristani is a ‘villain’ but for Arab media and their political groups he is something of a ‘hero.’

Akhbar al-Khalij newspaper is charging that US oil interests offered each Iraqi parliamentarian $5 million to pass the oil and gas law. [I am not sure if this is true or not, which is why I didn’t include it. This link was taken from Juan Cole’s blog, and he got it from Digby, so the information is being passed around. – dancewater]

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

UK troops accused of "off-the-scale" abuse in Iraq

A lawyer representing nine Iraqi civilians accused British troops on Friday of "off the scale" torture and abuse in Iraq, and Britain's Ministry of Defence said it was re-investigating the case. The allegations concern events that took place in the southern Iraqi town of Majar-al-Kabir on May 14, 2004, when British forces fought an intense gun battle with insurgents. The Ministry of Defence says that around 28 Iraqis were killed in the fighting and that nine others were detained. But lawyers, basing their evidence on witness statements, death certificates and video footage shot by relatives of the victims, allege that 22 people were killed while in British custody and that nine survived torture and abuse. "This incident, if proven, is off the scale for abuse committed by either British or American troops serving in Iraq," lawyer Phil Shiner told Reuters. "If these harrowing allegations are proven, then you'd be pushed to be able to put it in context -- it would be the worst conduct by the British army in the last 100 years."

More Suicide Despite Efforts

At least 30 US soldiers killed themselves in Iraq in 2007 - the highest number since the war began - despite the Army's myriad efforts to improve its suicide prevention and mental health programs. An analysis of Pentagon data shows that 30 soldiers died of self-inflicted injuries, with another six cases pending a final determination of cause. The 2007 war-zone tally exceeds the 27 confirmed suicides in Iraq in 2006, which was a record high since the war began.

The Threat of Section 1222

The White House has given ever-shifting rationalizations for invading and occupying Iraq, running the gamut from a claim of self-defense to a purported mission of bringing democracy and thus freedom to the citizens of that country. Dissenters claim that the two central tenets were instead the establishing of a permanent military presence in order to control Iraq’s oil resources. Who’s right? The White House or its dissenters? Recently some new evidence has been uncovered. Firsthand source material.

Lets listen to Bush:

“Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008… Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”

The President is claiming that Section 1222 could inhibit his ability to defend the Constitution, so he claims the right to ignore it. The drafters of the bill were also sworn to defend the Constitution. What are the requirements in 1222 that the White House finds so inhibiting?

Here is the entire text of 1222:

No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:

(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.

(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq

No, this is not a formal confession from the White House. But it is as formal as you can get.

COMMENTARY

Third undersea Internet cable cut in Mideast

An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days.

Iraq: The Forever Treaty

With the clock ticking on our "commitments" in Iraq -- the international mandate expires in less than a year -- the Bush administration is left in an interesting position. It could create a plan for a troop withdrawal; instead, the plan being negotiated with the Iraqi government focuses on reasons to stay there, something The New York Times reports is seen by Democrats as a plan that would "bind the next president by locking in Mr. Bush's policies and a long-term military presence."

And we're starting to learn about the byzantine tactic being employed to get this done. Senior administration officials will say they're not interested in permanent bases in Iraq. They use terms like "long-term" and "enduring" (U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said as much on Thursday). It's all a matter of slyly edited statements, woven to obscure their true meaning and aim: What's being crafted is a treaty. Iraqi leaders seem to know this, and describe what's being negotiated (formally named "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America") as a "long-term treaty."

The reason that distinction is important is this: A treaty requires Senate ratification.

The Evolution of Evil

Activists and dissidents should understand that evil forces and tyrannical governments have evolved. Just as human knowledge and science expand, so do the strategies and instruments used by rulers, elites and plutocrats. By learning from history and using new technology they have smarter tools of tyranny.
The best ones prevent uprisings, revolutions and political reforms. Rather than violently destroy rebellious movements, they let them survive as marginalized and ineffective efforts that divert and sap the energy of nonconformist and rebellious thinkers. Real revolution remains an energy-draining dream, as evil forces thrive. Most corrupt and legally sanctioned forms of tyranny hide in plain sight as democracies with free elections.

Iniquities of War, Inequities of Life

Finally, the truth is seeping out. Contrary to how President George W. Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war in the past, he has now clumsily — if inadvertently — admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was aimed primarily at seizing predominant influence over its oil by establishing permanent (the administration favors “enduring”) military bases. He made this transparently clear by adding a signing statement to the defense appropriation bill, indicating that he would not be bound by the law’s prohibition against expending funds:

“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq,” or

“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

[I put this item up twice for the very slow among us who just don’t seem to get it. – dancewater]

Like Father, Like Son

When evidence implicated George H.W. Bush on issues ranging from the Iran-Contra cover-up and secret military support for Saddam Hussein to Nicaraguan contra drug trafficking, the Democrats averted their eyes and slinked away from a fight, says Robert Parry. Watching Attorney General Michael Mukasey evade the obvious fact that waterboarding is torture – and the reluctance of Democrats to press him – I was reminded of how the first President Bush got away with an earlier batch of national security crimes. Indeed, one of the common questions I’ve been asked over the years is – if the evidence really does show that the Reagan-Bush crowd was guilty of illegal dealings with Iran, Iraq and the Nicaraguan contras – why didn’t the Democrats hold those Republicans to account? For people who have posed that question, I would suggest that they watch the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Jan. 30 hearing with Mukasey. Everybody in the room knew what the unspoken reality was, but nobody dared say it: George W. Bush authorized torture, which is a crime under US and international law.

Bombs away over Iraq: Who cares?

When, in April 1937, the German Condor Legion dropped 45,000 kilograms of explosives on the Spanish town of Guernica, international outrage followed, and Pablo Picasso was inspired to paint his now famous Guernica. When the US Air Force recently loosed 45,000 kilograms of bombs on a small Sunni farming district in Iraq, there was hardly a peep. These days, only "insurgent" suicide bombings warrant media attention, while the US's air "surge" is politely played down.

RESISTANCE

Chocolates to aid cancer-stricken children in Iraq

A nonprofit organization is working to help children in Iraq with leukemia and other types of cancer by selling chocolate balls that have cards with pictures drawn by Iraqi children. WE21 Japan Aoba of Aoba Ward, Yokohama, is running the fund-raising campaign until St. Valentine's Day to help Iraqi children suffering from cancer believed to have been caused from exposure to radiation from depleted uranium shells. Almond chocolate balls are made by confectionery maker Rokkatei in Obihiro, Hokkaido, and the NPO attaches a greeting card to each one. They are for 500 yen per packet. The proceeds will be given to the Japan Iraq Medical Network, a Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture-based group of doctors providing medical services in Iraq. The money will be spent to buy medicines and to hold classes for children at hospitals.

Berkeley Finds a New Way to Make War Politics Local

While the City Council here has little — read, no — sway over foreign policy and distant wars, local parking is a different matter. And so it was that a parking space directly in front of the recruiting station here for the Marine Corps was awarded on Tuesday night to an antiwar group in the hope of running the Marines out of town. Having failed in recent years to impeach President Bush and stop the war in Afghanistan, members of the City Council approved a resolution that encourages people to nonviolently “impede, passively or actively,” the work of the recruiters.

Fox Denies Entrance to Veterans Demanding an Apology from O’Reilly [VIDEO]

The vets brought a petition with 17,000 signatures demanding that O'Reilly apologize to all of America's homeless vets.

Wexler wants hearings over cheney impeachment – sign the petition here.

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 to support IVAW.

Quote of the day: Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment. ~ Senator Lincoln Chafee

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