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

Saturday, February 2, 2008

News & Views 02/02/08

Photo: An Iraqi infant sits next to humanitarian aid distributed by the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad's al-Adhamiyah district. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday held a war council and warned of an imminent battle against Al-Qaeda, a day after two mentally impaired women bombers killed 98 people in Baghdad. (AFP/Ali Yussef)


Iraq market bombs toll nears 100

Iraqis Bury Dozens of Bombings Victims

Friday: 110 Iraqis Killed, 215 Wounded

Saturday: 29 Iraqis Killed, 21 Wounded

Basra people: Free Iraqis in US jails

Iraqis have taken to the streets of Basra, demanding the release of thousands of Iraqi detainees held in US prisons without charges. The demonstrators called on the Iraqi government and human rights organizations on Friday to take immediate actions to secure the release of these prisoners, Iran's Alalam news network reported. "We ask the Iraqi civil organizations and government as well as human rights groups to pay heed to this issue," Awdat al-Obaidi, an Iraqi cleric said. The two main US detention facilities in Iraq, at Camp Bucca near Basra and Camp Cropper in Baghdad, hold nearly 30,000 detainees.

Anti-police chief protest march in Baquba

Thousands of people in the restive city of Baquba went to the streets demanding the dismissal of the city’s police chief. The police boss, Ghanim Abbas, is alleged to have masterminded a wave of killings and kidnappings through his clandestine links to murderous militia groups active in the Province of Diyala. The Diyala Province of which Baquba is the capital has been the scene of massive U.S. and Iraqi military operations last year with a bid to deliver it from al-Qaeda. The operations initially made relative success but armed militia groups and Qaeda elements have apparently made a strong comeback in the past two months. The resurrection of armed groups is blamed on the province’s police forces and their chief Abbas who residents say are implicated in killings, murder and kidnapping innocent people.


Iraqi PM warns of imminent battle against Qaeda

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday held a war council and warned of an imminent battle against Al-Qaeda, a day after two mentally impaired women bombers killed 98 people in Baghdad. The meeting in Mosul, the capital of northern Nineveh province, was attended by military and political leaders, including US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Iraq's National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, the premier's office said. "It is time to launch a decisive battle against terrorism," Maliki said, according to a statement. "The battle that our armed forces will launch will destroy terrorism and the criminal gangs and outlaws in Nineveh." [This approach will kill more innocents and drive more people crazy with grief, and therefore lead to more violence. See story above. –dancewater]

No regional conflicts over Kirkuk – Talabani

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Kirkuk would not witness regional conflicts for it is an Iraqi city subject to the country's constitution, noting article 140 on the situation in Kirkuk was legal and would be implemented. "A period of six months was set to implement article 140 of the Iraqi constitution pertaining to Kirkuk. Implementation of this article would take place on its due time," Talabani said during a press conference held on Saturday evening at his residence in Kirkuk. Talabani had arrived on Wednesday in the oil-rich city that was the theme of recent political haggle due to the application of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which has to do with disputed regions. The article provides for normalization and census as a prelude for a self-determination referendum. The referendum was supposed to take place late last year but the ad hoc committee called for extending the deadline to end the stages of its work.

US, Iraqis vow to avenge bombings

A top U.S. commander said Saturday that two bombings carried out by women wrapped in bombs that killed nearly 100 people in Baghdad underscored that al-Qaida in Iraq remains a serious threat, but he vowed the military would "not give back any terrain" to the terror network. [They don’t want “terrain.” – dancewater] Iraqis in Baghdad demanded more protection for markets, saying one of the bombers wasn't searched because she was known as local beggar and the male guards were reluctant to search women because of Islamic sensitivities. U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saturday that pictures showed the bombers had Down syndrome and likely did not know they were being used in Friday's attacks.

Iraq halts oil exports to Austrian OMV

Iraq's Oil Ministry has halted oil exports to Austria's OMV in protest at the company's oil deal with the Kurdish Regional Government. "The ministry's decision has been enforced from first of January. We have informed them (OMV) of that," Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told reporters.


Wartime Use of Contractors

CONTRACTORS OUTNUMBER TROOPS: There are 196,000 contract employees working for the Defense Department in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 182,000 U.S. forces in both countries. Most of those are Army troops. CONTRACT FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS GROW: Federal agents are handling more than 100 criminal investigations related to war contract fraud, bribery, false billing, kickbacks and theft.


Clinton's Big Lie from Last Night

"We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors."
- Hillary Clinton, Jan. 31, 2008

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He said today: "If facts matter, then it should matter that Hillary Clinton chose to rely on such a basic falsehood during the debate when she flatly stated: 'We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors.' In fact, just prior to the Clinton administration's several days of bombing Iraq in December 1998, the U.N.'s UNSCOM weapons inspectors left Iraq when UNSCOM head Richard Butler withdrew them - because the Clinton administration made it clear that the U.S. government was about to start bombing."

Solomon added: "That false statement by Hillary Clinton during the debate Thursday evening came as she was trying to verbally navigate what were her most difficult moments of the night: about her vote for the October 2002 congressional resolution that authorized an invasion of Iraq. At that point in the debate, she was arguing that she had made what she called a 'reasoned judgment' which assumed that Saddam Hussein had a record of blocking inspectors so they couldn't find his weapons of mass destruction. In the process, her extreme distortion of history - asserting that the four-year absence of U.N. inspectors from Iraq was because Saddam 'threw out inspectors' in December 1998 - goes to the core of her candor about the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and her rationale for voting to authorize it.

Oranges, lemons, almonds and the poisoned apple of Iraqi oil

Shamash's book Memories of Eden is published later this month. She died two years ago, aged 94, and the book has been edited from her notes and diaries by her daughter and son-in-law. Perhaps no man could have written it. As Professor Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, says in his foreword, memoirs of the Jewish community in Iraq have come chiefly from men and waver between "the sentimental and embittered". Shamash has remarkably little bitterness. Even as she watches news reports of Saddam Hussein's statue tumbling down in 2003, all she will say is that she was born 25 years before him, "before the creation of Iraq, before another foreign army, British this time, marched victoriously into the city in the name of bringing democracy to the people." And yet one might think there is good deal to be bitter about.

In 1941, Jews in Iraq numbered 300,000 out of a population of around 2 million. Jews made up 40% of Baghdad's population. Their ancestors had been in Iraq since the Babylonian captivity 2,600 years before.

Shamash, who was born in 1912, grew up in a harmonious city that at the end of the first world war had barely changed since the 17th century. As an outpost of the Ottoman empire, modernity had hardly touched it. "My earliest memories are of water and heat," she writes of a city where the summer temperatures could easily reach 122F and most goods came up the Tigris on a guffa, a kind of coracle waterproofed in bitumen. She was born into a prosperous family - her father, a trader and money-changer, built a big house across the river from where the Green Zone now lies - but the lavatory was still a repugnant slit in the ground. Simple things were unheard of; "when the first watches appeared, children would stand on the street corner, waiting to ask any prosperous-looking passer-by if he could tell them the time." Houses had thick, windowless walls to keep out the heat and cold, and also to protect them from the great Baghdad problem, thievery. Doctors were few and medicine expensive; every year small plagues of cholera and dysentery claimed a crop of victims.

Quote of the day: Iraq had for a time at least the roots of a harmonious, multicultural state, which in the Middle East is now only to be dreamed of. In this way, Shamash's book is both a memorial and an instruction saying: "See, it is not impossible." - Memories of Eden by Violette Shamash