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 8, 2008

News & Views 02/08/08



Photo: Taken from Jesus’ General blog.

Some more photos at that link.

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

IRAQ: More Bombing Creates New Enemies

The attack on Juboor and neighbouring villages just south of Baghdad had begun a week earlier with heavy artillery and tank bombardment. The attack followed strong resistance from members of the mainly Sunni Muslim al-Juboor tribe against groups that residents described as sectarian death squads. "On Jan. 10, huge aircraft started bombing the villages," Ahmad Alwan from a village near Juboor told IPS. "We took our families and fled. We have never seen such bombardment since the 2003 American invasion. They were bombing everything and everybody." Residents said two B1 bombers and four F-16 fighter jets dropped at least 40,000 pounds of explosives on the villages and plantations within a span of 10 minutes. "The al-Qaeda name is used once more to destroy another Sunni area," Akram Naji, a lawyer in Baghdad who has relatives in Juboor told IPS. "Americans are still supporting Iranian influence in Iraq by cleansing Baghdad and surroundings of Sunnis." The cluster of Sunni villages was bombed just weeks after the U.S. military encouraged families to return to their village after heavy bombing earlier in which scores of people were killed. Many residents had fled fearing sectarian death squads, which they say were backed by the U.S.

…..Taha Muslih al-Joboory, his wife and three sons were among those reported killed in the bombing. Juboory was an Iraqi journalist who lived all his life in the area. Many families were reported buried under the rubble of their houses.

25 Communications Towers Destroyed in Nineveh

Ghazaliyah At Last

Yesterday and after a very long discussion with the family, I decide to go to visit her. I went there and I saw the area where my sister lives. It was sad to see all these blast walls which separate the two sides of the streets. I didn’t reach the BORDERLINE between the two parts of the ONE NEIGHBRHOOD and I could know to what extent our country is separated. The taxi driver said that he doesn’t even think to reach the borderline because he is afraid that he might been kidnapped. There were many check points in a very short distance which reflect the unstable security situation. I asked my sister about their original house and she told me that she doesn’t have any idea about it and they might loose it. I didn’t know what to tell her because I almost lost hope that things would get better in this divided country.

Lawyers demand international protection of Iraqi ancient sites and treasures

Iraqi lawyers say the only way to save the country’s archaeological treasures is by placing them under international protection. A statement by Iraqi Bar Association said the government and U.S. occupation troops were not concerned about the fate of these treasures. On the contrary, it added, both were contributing to the loss of Mesopotamian history. The statement, signed by the association’s chairman, Dhia al-Saadi, accused the government of Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki of “being soft with the multi-national forces by allowing them to use certain archaeological sites as military bases.” It cited the ancient city of Babylon which these forces have been using as barracks despite outcries from Mesopotamian scientists across the world.

Poisoned Iraqi athletes being treated in Jordan

Nine Iraqi athletes, officials and members of their families who fell victim in an attempted poisoning in Iraq were being treated at a private hospital in Amman, Iraq's ambassador Saad Hayyani said Friday. One of the victims, a child admitted to the hospital after the incident 10 days ago, died on Monday.

Violations of 'Islamic teachings' take deadly toll on Iraqi women

The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of women killed in brutal fashion - - some strangled to death, their faces disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture. The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other "rules" that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce. "Fear, fear is always there," says 30-year-old Safana, an artist and university professor. "We don't know who to be afraid of. Maybe it's a friend or a student you teach. There is no break, no security. I don't know who to be afraid of."

Mosul people getting prepared for a battle

People of Mosul are getting prepared for the new security plan in their city. They bought huge amounts of foodstuff and oil products in a precautionary reaction for any subsequent curfew; a matter that peaked the prices of those items there. Preparations for that new security plan have been taking place in Mosul (capital city of Ninawa province – 405 km north of Baghdad) for two weeks now, after Al-Zenjeli attack that left 205 casualties among Mosul civilians.

Flea clothes, competitive but not healthy-wise

Thousands of Iraqis, of different ages, like to wear flea clothes that combine between the very competitive prices and good condition. Flea markets started to appear vastly in Iraq during the 1990s, as one of the side-effects of the sanctions that were imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Iraq when the latter invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Since the implementation of the Oil for Food Program that was agreed upon through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed by the former Iraqi regime, under Saddam Hussein, and the (UNSC) in 1996, annual average income of Iraqi individuals fluctuated; however, flea markets in Iraq consecutively expanded and outnumbered. Europe is the main source of flea clothes in Iraq.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

America's Sunni allies go on strike in Iraq's Diyala province

Members of U.S.-allied citizen brigades, which are credited with helping to tamp down violence in many parts of Iraq, went on strike Friday in Diyala province, alleging that the provincial police chief there is running a death squad. A leader of the group said that brigade members, most of them Sunni Muslims, wouldn't resume working with U.S. and Iraqi government forces until the Shiite police chief resigns or is indicted. A curfew was imposed, and police throughout the province ended their patrols early to avoid clashes with the U.S.-funded concerned local citizens, or "popular committees" as they're known in Diyala, who staged demonstrations against the police chief. No casualties were reported.

Al-Qaeda changes tactics in Iraq – paper

The Sunni armed group al-Qaeda in Iraq is telling its followers to soften their tactics in order to regain popular support in the western province of Anbar, where Sunni tribes have turned against the organization and begun working with U.S. forces, according to group leaders and American intelligence officials, Washington Post newspaper said on Friday. "The new approach was outlined last month in an internal communiqué that orders members to avoid killing Sunni civilians who have not sympathized with the U.S.-backed tribesmen or the government," the paper said. "From internal documents and interviews with members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a picture emerges of an organization in disarray but increasingly aware that its harsh policies -- such as punishing women who don't cover their heads -- have eroded its popular support.

Anbar provincial council sues anti-Qaeda leader

Anbar’s provincial council on Friday announced it filed a lawsuit against key anti-al-Qaeda leader in the province. Speaking at a press conference, Abdul Salam al-Ani, chief of Anbar’s provincial council, said “Anbar’s local council lodged a lawsuit in the Anbar criminal court in Ramadi against Hameed al-Hayes, chief of Anbar’s salvation council”. “The Anbar’s council doesn’t accept accusations and false statements made by the chief of Anbar’s salvation council against the council and the Islamic party,” al-Ani explained.

New extremist groups emerge in Iraq

Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Al Yaaqubi of Fadhila (Virtue) Party held Iraq politicians the responsibility of emergence of extremist groups in certain cities of the South due to their failed performance. After violent clashes that have erupted more than three weeks ago in Basra and Nassiriya between security forces and gunmen belonging to Al Yamani Group, a new religious extremist group came to light known by “Ansar Al Imam Al Rabbani” group in Khales District, affiliated to Diyala Province. The group is leaded by Fadel Al Marsoumi and advocates extremist religious views that call for violence. Sources from Diyala police have announced the arrest of 11 members from Al Marsoumi group which brings the number of detainees belonging to this group to 28. Officials have compared between the groups of “Ansar Al Rabbani”, Ansar “Al Yamani” and “Ansar Jund Al Samaa’’ who have carried out violent fights in Zirka near Najaf city in 2007 and concluded that these groups advocate similar extremist views.

Iraq Welcomes Russian Debt Write-Off

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani welcomed Friday an expected Russian decision to write off 91 percent of Iraq's estimated $13 billion debt, calling it a "historic turning point" in relations between the two countries.

Iraqi border patrol graduates 160 recruits

The U.S. military said the Iraqi border security force graduated 160 recruits from basic training, bringing the total force to nearly 40,000 personnel. The Iraq Division of Border Enforcement of the Ministry of Interior established a goal of bringing the total force number to 46,000 by the end of 2008, with more than 6,000 of those working as border police, Multi-National Force-Iraq said.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

US soldier faces Iraq murder charge

Vela's lawyer has also said that army snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, and then kill whoever picked up the items.

US should not provoke Iraq militia -report

The US military should not provoke the Mehdi Army militia of anti-US Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr into a return to the widespread violence that took Iraq to the brink of civil war, a report said on Friday. The International Crisis Group (ICG) said it was "fanciful" to imagine the defeat of the group, once described by Washington as the biggest single threat to peace in Iraq, as it was too entrenched in its bastions in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Former Staffer Slams Diplomats in Iraq

A Republican Party activist and former top GOP congressional aide who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is harshly criticizing the U.S. diplomatic effort in Iraq, accusing American diplomats of gross and potentially criminal negligence and incompetence.

No Local Allies in Wings for Mosul Fight

Iraqi and American commanders are preparing for a prolonged - and possibly pivotal - fight against al-Qaida in Iraq in this vital northern hub. But they are missing an essential tool used to uproot insurgents elsewhere: groups of local Sunni fighters..

'Turkish jets bombard northern Iraq'

Turkish warplanes hit the PKK targets in the regions of Bradost and Hakurk in Duhok province on Friday at 13:00 local time (1100 GMT), Xinhua reported. Some Turkish warplanes flew over Zerge, Maredu, Lewce and Zargel regions in northern Iraq, but did not stage any attacks, they added. The Turkish military has recently launched several cross-border attacks to fight against PKK militants, who use the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq as a launch pad for attacks against Turkey.

Turkey shows footage of Iraq air raid

The Turkish military has released the footage of Monday's air raids against 70 alleged PKK bases and training camps inside northern Iraq.

'US arms in hands of PKK a mystery'

US Ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, has said that Washington is not providing PKK or any other terrorist organization with arms. "The arm dealers in the region are selling US-made arms. The United States does not know how those arms are seized by the dealers," Wilson claimed. The diplomat made the comments in a meeting with the governor of Turkey's southern province of Hatay, Ahmet Kayhan. [It’s not a mystery to me. – dancewater]

US Military Has New Name for Iraq Neighborhood Militia Groups

The U.S. military has changed the term is uses to describe the neighborhood militia groups that have become a linchpin of the improved security situation in Iraq. Now known as “Sons of Iraq,” the groups previously had been called “concerned local citizens” throughout the military and in press releases. In recent days, briefings by military officials and news releases have used the new name. Spokesmen in Baghdad said the change was made because of both a language shortcoming and to make a distinction between two different movements — the “Awakening” groups in Anbar and the local militias that have been funded by U.S. troops in other parts of the country.

HISTORY

Operation Iraqi Freedom Enslaved Iraqi Women

Today when you talk to Iraqi women they remember “the good old days” when Saddam was in power and women were able to safely go to work, participate in social activities, take part in politics or stroll outside in the middle of the night. During Saddam’s regime, women were free to choose whether to wear western-style dress and make-up or the black abaya. When I was in Baghdad, I wore the clothes I’d packed from America. No one in the streets blinked an eye. Yet in October of 2003, at the Conference of the National Association of Women Judges, Mrs. Bush compared the women of Afghanistan to the women of Iraq, stating, “They too lived under an oppressive tyrant.” Mrs. Bush was once a teacher and librarian. Surely she knows that Afghan women and Iraqi women are so different it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Historically, Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East. Mrs. Bush further claimed, “One tragic legacy of Saddam's rule is an overall adult illiteracy rate of 61 percent. And a staggering 77 percent of women - three out of four - cannot read.”
In December of 1979, the Iraqi government passed legislation requiring the eradication of illiteracy. Many of “literary centers” were run by the General Federation of Iraqi women. By 1987, 75% of the population was literate. In 1986, Iraq became one of the first countries to ratify the convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

US Investigation Into Iraqi Government's Corruption Is 'Classified Information': State Department

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is corrupt. The Bush administration knows it. Yet the State Department in Washington has decided that the investigation into this issue will be classified to the extent that all ‘embarrassing issues’ will stay out of the public domain. An October 4 hearing by the House government oversight and reform committee (which has powers to investigate any federal legislative issue) is seriously impeded by the secrecy. Representative Henry Waxman, who is in charge of the Committee isn’t even allowed a copy of documents detailing the mishaps of the government in Baghdad. Waxman requested and then subpoeanad for the information, including a secret report prepared by the Baghdad embassy that details rampant corruption within the Iraqi government. But the State Department’s reply remains an outright NO. State Department officials refuse to communicate with Waxman’s committee about corruption in the Maliki government unless the Committee agrees to treat all information, including “broad statements/assessments,” as national security secrets. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is refusing to testify to the committee’s hearing.

Reporting Iraq: Journalists' Coverage of a Censored War

A new book takes a close look at the triumphs, challenges and regrets of reporters working to cover the first three years of the Iraq war. …..The officials from the CPA were talking for propaganda purposes; it had nothing to do with reality, and the reporters would go out and see things, hear things and then they'd go to these press conferences and hear the spokesmen talking about how great everything was. Some, frankly, didn't understand it at first and then they came to realize that [the spokesmen] were speaking to New Jersey and Nevada, for political purposes. These guys were political hacks. Elizabeth Palmer from CBS talks about how funny it was when a new reporter would come and earnestly ask questions about the difference between what they were seeing out on the streets and what they were being told. Those who had been in Iraq longer would all laugh and say, "Ah, it's the fresh eye." They universally rebelled against this pressure.

IRAQI REFUGEES

VIDEO: Angelina Jolie in Baghdad

She states that over 4 million Iraqi are displaced and 58% are estimated to be children under the age of twelve.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

COMMENTARY

Rejection

Day after day I became more convinced that Iraq is not for real Iraqis anymore, day after day I feel that Iraq rejects the innocents and the men who don't believe in violence, Iraq is not for us anymore, I'm so tired of the daily struggle, I had enough of having to deal with every day struggles, I had enough of fear, enough of anger and sorrow for my lovely country, tired of having no hope for future, tired of feeling unsecured, tired of not knowing when will I be threatened or maybe killed, I'm so tired of not being able to plan my future, I'm tired of living in this killing social isolation with very few friends and fewer relatives, I'm tired of having to live in the middle of this hatred between Iraqis, I'm sick of the militias, the idiot politicians, the sectarian government, the explosions, the assassinations and the sectarian killing.

What 'Mrs Smith' didn't see in Iraq

Both arguments overlooked the important fact that there is desperation in Iraq. One doesn't need to be mentally retarded - medically speaking - to carry out a suicide attack. One needs only to be properly indoctrinated and brainwashed by the millions of terrorists roaming in Iraq, either from Saddam's loyalists, al-Qaeda, or Shi'ite militiamen. Recent polls show that 43% of all Iraqis live in "absolute poverty". That in itself is enough to cause severe depression and lead someone into terrorism. This week, Defense Ministry officials showed videos they had captured in a raid on al-Qaeda in December 2007. The videos were of little children, aged 11-15, being trained in combat and murder by al-Qaeda. Childhood is being perverted in Iraq and so is the role of women, who instead of getting a good education, falling in love, developing professionally, getting married, end up blowing themselves and others up in a crowded Baghdad marketplace. According to the London-based Opinion Research Business, 1 million Iraqis have died as a result of the US invasion since March 2003. The cause of death was either directly or indirectly related to the war of 2003 and its aftermath - rather than natural causes.

Finally, Women's Affairs Minister Narmeen Othman said there are up to 2 million widows in Iraq, out of a total female population of 8.5 million aged between 15 and 80. Of this strikingly large number, only 84,000 receive assistance from the government (50,000-12,000 dinars a month). The two women who blew themselves up on February 1 might be one of the 2 million desperate Iraqi women who have been widowed as a result of the violence. They might have also lost a brother, father or son. Under Saddam, widows were cared for by the government, and officers who married a widow were professionally rewarded by the Ba'athist regime. Reconciliation in Iraq is not working. All the success stories from al-Anbar province - the one success story of George W Bush - are subject to collapse due to increased violence and lack of cooperation between the Ministry of Defense (controlled by Sunnis) and the Ministry of Interior (controlled by Shi'ites, allied to the prime minister).

Videos show Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents training boys, US says

[Videos show US Marines training boys in Jr. ROTC, dancewater says. Not to mention video games made from real life fights in a foreign country that the US is illegally occupying. ]

Waterboarders for God

I missed the National Prayer Breakfast—for the 45th time in a row. But, as I drove to work I listened with rapt attention as President George W. Bush gave his insights on prayer: “When we lift our hearts to God, we’re all equal in his sight. We’re all equally precious. ... In prayer we grow in mercy and compassion. ... When we answer God’s call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper friendship with our fellow man — and a deeper relationship with our eternal Father.”

….It was President George W. Bush who set the tone from the outset. After his address to the nation on the evening of 9/11, he assembled his top national security aides in the White House bunker—the easier, perhaps, to foster a bunker mentality. Among them was counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who quoted the president in his memoir: “I want you to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda... “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” ( Against All Enemies, Free Press, 2004) Clarke, of course, took his book’s title from the oath of office we all swore as military officers and/or senior government officials: “To defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

John Ashcroft, head of the Department of Justice at the time, fell in lockstep with the thrust of the president’s comment dismissing any concern with international law—or, as would quickly be seen, domestic law, as well. With the enthusiastic assistance of David Addington, attorney for Vice President Dick Cheney, the affable Ashcroft assembled a cabal of Mafia-like lawyers whose imaginative legal opinions on torture, warrantless eavesdropping and other abuses mark them forever as “domestic enemies” of the Constitution. Now add Mukasey to that distinguished roster.

Iraq's Deeply Tragic Future

Any analysis of the current state of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq that relied solely on the U.S. government, the major candidates for president or the major media outlets in the United States for information would be hard pressed to find any bad news. In a State of the Union address which had everything except a "Mission Accomplished" banner flying in the background, President Bush all but declared victory over the insurgency in Iraq. His recertification of the success of the so-called surge has prompted the Republican candidates to assume a cocky swagger when discussing Iraq. They embrace the occupation and speak, without shame or apparent fear of retribution, of an ongoing presence in that war-torn nation. Their Democratic counterparts have been less than enthusiastic in their criticism of the escalation. And the media, for the most part, continue their macabre role as cheerleaders of death, hiding the reality of Iraq deep inside stories that build upon approving headlines derived from nothing more than political rhetoric.

Dahr Jamail: Beyond the Green Zone

>You've spent a lot of time in Al-Anbar province and in Sunni areas of Iraq. And we've seen the United States and the commanders declare Anbar province a "victory." We've also seen some Sunni puppet figures who have allied themselves with the United States assassinated in recent months, most prominently Abu Risha. What happened in Al-Anbar province?

DJ: What's happening in Al-Anbar province today is akin to what the US did in Fallujah, when they were repelled out of the city during the April 04 siege. They essentially saved face by ceasing patrols and buying off the militants in the city. They put them on the payroll--mujahedeen basically started donning Iraqi police uniforms and Iraqi civil defense corps uniforms--and took over control of security of the city. When I interviewed them in May, they said this was the most peace they'd had in the city since before the invasion had ever taken place. They were quite happy with it, most people in the city were quite happy with that situation.

But essentially, the US plan ended up backfiring. Because they had to go back in the city in November, they didn't want it to remain the only liberated city in the country. That fighting was far more violent and took so many more deaths, on both sides of the conflict, than even the April siege did. And so we have now a macro version of that same policy in Al-Anbar, where various tribal sheikhs who are willing to collaborate have stepped up. They're taking millions and millions of dollars of US taxpayer money. They're basically being bought off to not fight against the Americans, while simultaneously the Americans, for the moment in Al-Anbar, are sticking closer to their bases, and relying more on airpower than ground troops if any fighting breaks out. And so right now, that's why Al-Anbar is notably more quiet. But it's a ticking time bomb. Because this is a policy where even US soldiers on the ground right now in Al-Anbar are expressing concerns. They know all too well that they're now working with these people who, three days ago or three weeks ago, they were actually fighting. And some of these people are still lobbing mortars into their bases at night.

Americans are eternally stupid: Family brings home dogs of dead soldier

"Major Arab-media crackdown planned"

Arab interior ministers meeting last week in Tunis agreed on what they called an adjustment to their common strategy respecting terrorism, with the aim of criminalizing possession of information or tapes of terrorist groups, or any propagation or incitement [to terror] on the part of any person or media organization. In a similar vein, an Egyptian newspaper yesterday reported that the Egyptian information minister had agreed with his Saudi counterpart to press for revisions to the laws regulating operation of satellite TV stations, at a meeting of Arab information ministers in Cairo next week.

Quote of the day: Now, if I understand this right, the US military is appalled and disturbed because some Iraqi insurgent groups (that may or may not have anything to do with Al Qaida in Iraq) are using videos to propagandize among adolescents in the hope that they will enlist. Meanwhile, the US military, which is engaged in the same type of operations as the Iraqi insurgency only as the occupying force, glorifies its mission of bloodshed, intimidation, and killing in videos, video games, in schools, on the television, at shopping malls and through the mails. ~ Ron Jacobs in Innocent Flesh: Recruiting Kids to Kill

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