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, February 4, 2008

News & Views 02/04/08

Photo: Smoke billows from an explosion in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's presidential palace in Baghdad during a coalition air raid in April 2003. When Saad Tawfiq watched Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations on February 5 2003 he shed bitter tears as he realised he had risked his life and those of his loved ones for nothing. As one of Saddam Hussein's most gifted engineers, Tawfiq knew that the Iraqi dictator had shut down his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes in 1995 -- and he had told his handlers in US intelligence just that. (AFP/File/Karim Sahib) [The US authorities, including Colin Powell, knew that the WMD program was shut down also….. and so did every THINKING American. Of course, there is not too many of them. I choose this photo so we could see what Baghdad looks like with the lights on. Five years later, the lights are still not on all night. – dancewater]

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Sunday: 2 US Soldiers, 21 Iraqis Killed; 10 Iraqis Wounded

Monday: 39 Iraqis Killed, 24 Wounded

U.S. Says It Accidentally Killed 9 Iraqi Civilians

American forces said Sunday that they had accidentally killed nine Iraqi civilians and wounded three in a strike aimed at militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia south of Baghdad, acknowledging what appeared to be one of the deadliest cases of mistaken identity in recent weeks. A military statement released late in the day said the accidental killings happened Saturday in Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of the capital, and that the wounded were taken to American military hospitals.

Iskandariya hospital receives 8 bodies of 2 families

The al-Iskandariya public hospital received on Monday morning eight bodies of two family members killed by U.S. fire north of Hilla on Sunday, an official police source in Babel province said. "The eight people were killed when U.S. warplanes pounded areas north of Hilla in a joint military operation to track down gunmen of al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq, the source, who preferred not be named, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

Baghdad 'drowning in sewage'

BAGHDAD is drowning in sewage, thirsty for water and largely powerless, an Iraqi official said today in a grim assessment of services in the capital five years after the US-led invasion. One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen "as a big black spot on Google Earth," said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan. Mr Sheikhly said water pipes, where they exist, are so old it is not possible to pump water at a sufficient rate to meet demands - leaving many neighbourhoods parched. A sharp deficit of 3000 megawatts of electricity adds to the woes of residents, who have to rely on neighbourhood generators to light up their lives and heat their homes. [All that bombing and explosions hurt the old pipes greatly. – dancewater]

Iraqi women struggle to survive as violence claims their men

On Jan. 13, 2007, a knock on the door changed Teeba Jaweed's life. An employee at her husband's supermarket stood before her, breathless. "Your husband's been shot," he said. Her head spun as the sound of her three daughters' wailing filled the air. As she rushed to change clothes, her mother screamed for her to stay, worried that she, too, would be shot. All Jaweed could think was, "He needs help." ….."They tell me, 'Mama, please do the operation. Our father is already dead,'" said Jaweed, still wearing black to mourn her husband. "But I've lost all faith. I'm living on pills, and I cannot move much or my heartbeat rises." Fatigue has taken hold, and she can't wake up to make her children breakfast, take them to school or play with them. Daily, she watches a video of better times, showing her husband swimming with their three young girls near the Mosul Dam. They laugh and splash around and call out, "Baba, I want to swim." Jaweed has the video on her cell phone, too. It makes her feel better for a few moments before she returns to reality. "If Dhia was here I wouldn't have to think about it. He would take me immediately to do this operation," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "We had a good life. Now we live a tragedy."

Ancient Wassit, 13 centuries of culture

Remembered by no one, and deprived of everything but carelessness, the Islamic archeological city of Wassit celebrates alone its 1346 anniversary this year. While people of contemporary Wassit province know very little about the history of that ancient city that lies just 80 km to the southwest of their provincial capital city – Kut (180 km southwest of Baghdad – capital of Iraq), almost nothing left of the archeological Wassit, due to time and negligence effects. The archeologist, Mothana Al-Gharbawi, who is a resident of Kut city, said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) "Ancient Wassit is one of the very old Iraqi cities that occupied a prominent position as one of the most important architectural samples that was constructed by the Islamic culture," adding "It took two years (701 – 703) for Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, who ruled Iraq under the umbrella of the Ommaid Caliphates, to build that city, with a total cost of around 43 million Ommaid dirhams (at that time a huge amount of money)."

Better ports for stronger economy

Ports are crucial for any developed polity. Rebuilding the infrastructure in a country like Iraq requires active ports that can respond to the massive demands of an expanded open economy. Basra is the most important Iraqi province (550 km to the south of Baghdad – capital of Iraq), not only because of its oil and gas resources, but because it also lies, with all its ports, at the northern edge of the Arabian Gulf.

Mosul, between hammer and anvil

Anticipation dominates the picture of Mosul city nowadays. People there don't know their destiny; a big military operation is at the gates of their old city, and they fear both the strike of the Iraqi army and the revenge of the armed groups. Since the bloody explosion that took place at Al-Zenjeli district two weeks ago, western Mosul (capital city of Ninawa province, and 420 km to the north of Baghdad – capital of Iraq), preparations are moving on to carry out a tight security plan in Mosul. Iraqi Premier, Nouri Al-Maliki, announced from Karbala province (110 km southwest of Baghdad) last week that the conclusive battle with Qaida organization in Iraq will be in Mosul city. ….The analyst proceeded "Battles are expected to take place in the hot areas of Mosul city, such as the neighborhoods of Al-Tahreer, Saddam, Al-Intisar, Al-Wahda, and Sommer at the left coast, and the districts of Al-Yarmoq, Al-Islah Al-Zeraee, Al-Mosul Al-Jadeeda, Al-Sinaa Al-Qadeema, and Sabataash Tamoz at the right coast. In general, we have 10 hot areas in Mosul city out of more than 40 neighborhoods." [They have likely moved on. – dancewater]

Displaced families have to coordinate with security forces to safely get back home - spokesman

The spokesman for the Baghdad's Fardh al-Qanoon security plan on Monday demanded displaced families, who wish to return to their houses, to coordinate with the security forces to secure them. "Displaced families have to coordinate with security forces and they have to return in a collective manner such as what happened in Sabaa al-Bour and al-Houriyya regions," General Qassem Atta told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI). "Most of these operations were conducted under the supervision of security forces," he also said. He warned returning families of the possibility of coming under armed groups' attacks if they did not abide by security instructions. [Considering that the “security forces” are often involved in the killing and other violence, I am not so sure I would want to tell them what I was planning to do. – dancewater]

Tightening security measures around Mosul Dam

Iraqi Interior Ministry announced that it will tighten security measures around the Mosul Dam to protect it from possible armed attacks, while the Iraqi government prepares to launch a military operation in Mosul to hunt down armed groups. "The Iraqi government intensified the deployment of forces around the Mosul Dam to protect it," General Abdul Karim Khalaf, director of the national command center, told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

A week in Iraq: 'People say things are better, but it's still terrible here'

Iraq is less violent than a year ago, but the country is still the most dangerous in the world. So it was no surprise to anyone in Baghdad, where people have long dreaded a renewal of al-Qa'ida's savage bombing campaign directed at Shia civilians, that there should be suicide attacks on two bird markets, killing 92 people on Friday. For all President George Bush’s claims of progress, cited in his final State of the Union address last week, Baghdad looks like a city out of the Middle Ages, divided into hostile townships. Districts have been turned into fortresses, encircled by walls made out of concrete slabs. Police and soldiers check all identities at the entrances and exits. “People say things are better than they were,” says Zainab Jafar, a well-educated Shia woman, “but what they mean is that they are better than the bloodbath of 2006. The situation is still terrible.”

309 Detainees Released, Death Sentences Expected Against 75

A total of 309 detainees were released after proved not involved in criminal acts, the Diwaniya criminal investigations chief said on Sunday, expecting death sentences to be handed down against 75 for their involvement in armed operations in the province. "Some 309 detainees out of a total 566 arrested within Operation Lion's Leap, in effect a couple of months ago in Diwaniya, were set free," Lt. Colonel Sattar Ali Matar told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

Children make up a portion of patients in US military hospitals

A study co-authored by a Connecticut doctor shows a lot of children are ending up in military hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study shows US military hospitals treated a significant number of wounded and sick children in the early years of the conflicts in the two countries and military doctors say children keep arriving at their hospitals today. Doctor Philip Spinella, who works in Hartford, says that with no true front line or battle zone, the war makes children especially vulnerable to stray bullets and other combat hazards. Spinella, who works at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, says with Iraq's own medical system collapsing, families seek out the U.S. military to help their children with more conventional ailments. He also says military doctors routinely treat children wounded by rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs.

Turkish warplanes destroy 15 houses in Arbil

Turkish warplanes pounded villages of Arbil province during the early hours of Monday, destroying 15 houses, the mayor of Soran district said.

State of Iraq 2008

This week on War News Radio, we hear how President Bush’s State of the Union address syncs up with the reality faced by Iraqis. And we learn about an Oscar-nominated documentary exposing the darker side of the war in Afghanistan. We also hear about a new non-violent organization in Najaf and Karbala that is helping Iraqis rebuild their lives. Finally, in our series, A Day in the Life, a professor in Mosul tells us about conditions in his city.

Mosul residents stock up ahead of 'decisive battle'

Residents of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are hastily stocking up with supplies ahead of what Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says will be a "decisive battle" against Al-Qaeda, traders said on Sunday. Maliki warned on Saturday after an emergency meeting of his war council in Mosul, the last urban stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, that a major assault on the jihadists in northern Nineveh province was imminent. Nineveh governor Duraid Kashmoula told reporters in the provincial capital of Mosul on Saturday that the assault would start "in a few days". The warnings come after blasts and attacks in Mosul which have killed dozens of people, including a police chief, and bombings of Baghdad markets on Friday by two mentally impaired women which killed almost 100 people.

Iraq figures since 2003

OIL PRODUCTION:

_Prewar: 2.58 million barrels per day.

_Jan. 20, 2008: 2.10 million barrels per day.

ELECTRICITY:

_Prewar nationwide: 3,958 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): four to eight.

_Jan. 22, 2008 nationwide: 3,975 megawatts. Hours per day: 8.7.

_Prewar Baghdad: 2,500 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 16-24.

_Jan. 22, 2008 Baghdad: Megawatts not available. Hours per day: 7.2.

_Note: Current Baghdad megawatt figures are no longer reported by the U.S. State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report.

TELEPHONES:

_Prewar land lines: 833,000.

_March 13, 2007: 1,111,000.

_Prewar cell phones: 80,000.

_Jan. 30, 2008: Approximately 10,000,000.

WATER:

_Prewar: 12.9 million people had potable water.

_January 20, 2008: 20.4 million people have potable water.

SEWERAGE:

_Prewar: 6.2 million people served.

_January 20, 2008: 11.3 million people served.

INTERNAL REFUGEES:

_Jan. 8, 2008: At least 2.4 million people have been displaced inside Iraq.

EMIGRANTS:

_Prewar: 500,000 Iraqis living abroad.

_Jan. 8, 2008: More than 2.2 million in neighboring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq to meet US on long-term troop presence this month

Iraqi leaders will meet their US allies later this month to negotiate a new agreement on their countries' relations and the long-term presence of US forces, the Iraqi government announced on Monday. The United States has 160,000 troops in Iraq under a UN mandate to battle insurgents and support the beleaguered government. Iraq wants to replace this with a bilateral deal between Baghdad and Washington. "Negotiations on the long-term cooperation and friendship agreement between Baghdad and Washington will start in the third week of the current month," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Borders with Syria won't be closed during Mosul operation – official

Iraq's interior ministry said it would not close border outlest with Syria from the direction of Mosul city, northern Iraq, during military operations to be carried out by Iraqi forces there. "There are no orders to close border outlets between Iraq and Syria from Mosul direction during the military operation to be conducted by Iraqi forces in the province of Ninewa soon," Maj. General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, the head of the ministry's national command center, told Aswat al-Iraq – Aswat al-Iraq – (VOI). "However, these outlets would be under the intensive supervision of the Iraqi security agencies," Khalaf said.

Internal pressure grows on Iraq's Sadr to end truce

Influential members within the movement loyal to Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have told him they do not want his Mehdi Army militia to extend a ceasefire when it expires this month, Sadr's spokesman said on Monday. The U.S. military says the Shi'ite cleric's announcement on Aug. 29 to freeze the activities of the feared Mehdi Army for six months has been vital to cutting violence. A return to hostilities could seriously jeopardise those security gains. Sadr has been gauging the mood among senior figures and five main committees had reported back with their views on the truce, Sadr's spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi, one of the cleric's senior officials in the southern holy city of Najaf, told Reuters. Ubaidi said one of those committees, made up of Sadrist legislators in Baghdad, had recommended not renewing the ceasefire, citing problems with the authorities in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad.

IRAQ: Government plans massive mine clearance operation

Iraq is planning a huge mine clearance operation in a bid to rid itself of some 25 million unexploded mines in some 4,000 minefields, Environment Minister Narmin Othman said on 3 February. She said a detailed report on mine clearance plans would be presented to the government by September 2008. "According to global statistics, Iraq has about 25 percent of the world's unexploded landmines due to the wars it was involved in," Narmin told IRIN in a telephone interview. The mines were laid during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, the first Gulf War following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991, and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq which toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraq lacks potential to benefit from joint oil fields

The Oil Ministry has denied reports that Iran was stealing crude from oil fields straddling international borders. The ministry inspector general Abdulkarim al-Aibi said reports that Iran was smuggling crude from a joint oil field in Ammara were incorrect. Former head of the country’s integrity commission had accused Iran of stealing crude from a field he termed ‘al-Teeb’, saying that Tehran was drilling at least 15 oil wells there. But Aibi said there was no field with such name. “The joint fields with Iran are those of Naft Khaneh and Missan,” he said. He said the he could not understand why the commission’s head mentioned Iran and ignored Kuwait which he accused of “stealing millions of barrels of Iraqi crude.” The inspector said Iraq has formed a committee to “coordinate with neighboring states the exploitation of joint oil fields.”

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkish warplanes strike 70 PKK targets in Iraq: army

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.

Cross-Border Chases From Iraq O.K., Document Says

Rules of engagement in Iraq, which cover the procedures for using force on a battlefield in which insurgents and terrorists mix with civilians, have long been considered highly classified. The American military’s concern is that adversaries will be able to adjust their tactics if they know the rules that describe the specific circumstances in which force may and may not be used. The 2005 document covers the procedures used by Multi-National Division Baghdad, the American unit that operated in the Iraqi capital and central Iraq. At a time when sectarian divisions had brought Iraq to a low-level civil war, the document suggests that capturing and killing former members of Mr. Hussein’s government was still a concern. In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush. But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein’s government or terrorists.

Pentagon seeks record level in 2009 budget

As Congress and the public focus on more than $600 billion already approved in supplemental budgets to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for counterterrorism operations, the Bush administration has with little notice reached a landmark in military spending. When the Pentagon on Monday unveils its proposed 2009 budget of $515.4 billion, annual military spending, when adjusted for inflation, will have reached its highest level since World War II.

COMMENTARY

Sunni vs Shia: the real bloody battle for Baghdad

A teenage boy was arrested recently for the attempted rape of a girl his own age in a school in west Baghdad. He admitted he had chosen the particular girl as his victim "because I knew she was a Sunni and nobody would protect her". The boy was mistaken in his belief that he was beyond the law, mainly because the girl's uncle was a senior officer in the army. But his words explain why Iraq's Sunni minority feel so vulnerable since they lost power to the Shia majority when Saddam Hussein was overthrown five years ago.

Silence is Important

I’m not going to talk about the military abilities or any other thing. I just want to raise one point. I know for sure that surprise is one of the most important factors of victory in any battle because the other side wouldn’t have the time to think or to act properly. This is a fact that everybody knows. So, why our government has been talking about the final battle with Qaida in Nineveh province for the last two weeks?

Defeat Without End

We've already failed in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia - failed with consequences beyond reckoning. God knows someone will have to take a swig of political courage and acknowledge it one of these days, simply to stop the lie - the lies, a governmental cluster bomb of them - from doing further harm.

In my view: Iraqi blogger

When I first immigrated to the US in 2005, I was interested in foreign policy issues and spent most of my time working to end the occupation of Iraq and stop the blind support and unlimited aid to Israel. Then I had a life-changing incident in 2006, when I was stopped at an airport in New York and prevented from boarding to my airplane because my T-shirt had the words "we will not be silent" in both Arabic and English printed on it. A TSA [transportation security officer] told me that coming to a US airport with Arabic words on my T-shirt was equivalent to visiting a bank while wearing a shirt that read "I'm a robber". ….. Unfortunately, the 2008 presidential elections will not bring anything new to US foreign or domestic policy. We will see a continuation of the old strategies, with some minor differences in marketing them. Someone like me who was in Baghdad while the first Bush, then Clinton, then the second Bush dropped bombs on our neighborhoods realises that there is not a "dime's worth of difference" between the two ruling parties and their one foreign policy.

RESISTANCE

Press Release: Act Against Iraq Poverty

The Baghdad section of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign is calling upon the international anti-occupation movements to mobilise in an act of unity and defiance, against the planned elimination of the Iraqi food rationing system. We are making this call, in response to the outcry by the Iraqi media, which has informed the international community, that the regime of Jalal Talabani, The Dawa Party and SCII, plan to eliminate the food rations by June of 2008, a system which was first put in place under the UN Sanctions and have since helped to save millions of Iraqi’s from starvation. Under the rule of Al Ba’ath Party, the United Nations praised the ration system as being “the world’s largest and most effective relief effort” but since the introduction of the US protected death squads in 2003, the Iraqi peoples welfare has been subjected to corruption, hatred, abuse and a deluded form of vengeance. The Iraq Solidarity Campaign has repeatedly warned both Iraqi and Western governments about the growth of poverty in Iraq (see some examples below!), along with the effects which have been brought with it, such as the increase in malnutrition, prostitution, substance abuse and people searching for food from rubbish dumps. We are asking that people consider the seriousness of these cuts and through dignified and peaceful methods mobilise human rights and political organisations, to force the regime and their allies in the fortified Green Zone to change its direction and maintain the ration service. Sign our new International Petition!

Berkeley Mayor Offers to Help Marines Leave

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: "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear" ~ Harry S Truman

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