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 15, 2008

News & Views 02/15/08

Photo: American soldiers arrest a man suspected of being an al-Qaida member in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 18 Iraqis Killed, 17 Wounded

Half of Baghdad without water

Power failures and maintenance have disrupted running water supplies to almost half of the capital, Baghdad, home to nearly 6 million people. A Baghdad Municipality source said the project supplying drinking water to Rasafa, the eastern half of Baghdad, was temporarily idle. The source, refusing to be named, said running water supplies may not resume for a few days. He attributed the stoppage, which has caused large-scale popular resentment, to blackouts which have recently even affected essential utilities like water. The stoppage has led to the closure of bakeries and restaurants in Rasafa, aggravating the suffering of Baghdad residents.

"The Lights Have Gone Out, Who Cares"

Lack of electricity in Baquba has shattered businesses, and the lives of families. Months of power failures has darkened morale everywhere. In Diyala province, just north of Baghdad, a generation has grown up in dark. The province, and its capital Baquba 40 km north of Baghdad has lived with intermittent electricity supply since the times of the sanctions under Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. Came the U.S. in 2003, and everyone thought it would get better. "I felt happy when the U.S. invaded Iraq because I thought the electricity problem will be solved, and we would have it all the time like other countries," Abdul-Kareem Hasan, a trader in Baquba told IPS. But promises of reconstruction by western contractors proved empty, and there is now less electricity than during the sanctions. In some cities, homes get electricity just an hour or two a day. Sometimes, there is no electricity for a week. People struggle to get alternative source of electricity. "Big generators are operated privately for distributing electricity to people," resident Nihad al-Alwan told IPS. "This process implies that a person purchases a generator of certain capacity and gives outlets to people. Each family takes what they need." In Baghdad, that can mean a high bill for electricity in addition to paying for scarce and costly food. In many homes the entire income cannot cover the cost of electricity needs. The failure has fed anger with the government. "If the government were serious about fixing electricity, they could do it easily," said Abdullah Jumeel, a local employee.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi forces must "keep fingers on trigger"-PM

Improved security in Baghdad has pulled Iraq back from the brink of all-out civil war but security forces must not relax in the battle against threats such as al Qaeda, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday. "We must keep our fingers on the trigger. The fight for victory must continue," he said of an operation to drive militia groups, suicide bombers and sectarian death squads from Baghdad. Maliki launched Operation Imposing Law in Baghdad on Feb. 14 last year in what was regarded as a last-ditch effort to rein in violence between armed groups representing majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein. "I ask all of you to remember where we were a year ago and where we have come today, and this is the response to all those who gave up, saying that Iraq has ended in sectarian civil war," Maliki told senior military staff in Baghdad.

Iraq to build huge oil refinery in Nassiriya - minister

Iraqi oil minister on Friday said Iraq is negotiating with international companies to build a huge oil refinery in Nassiriya. Speaking at a press conference held in Nassiriya, The oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani said his visit to the southern city aims to “select the best site for the oil refinery”.
Iraq is negotiating big specialised companies to build this huge refinery with oil production capacity of about 3 thousands barrels per day," he pointed out.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Iraq not progressing at hoped-for pace, says US Admiral

raq's political and economic progress has not occurred at the pace the US hoped to see - or at the pace the Iraqis had hoped to achieve, a US Army spokesman has told Gulf News in an interview. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Chief of Public Affairs and deputy spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, also said when asked about Al Qaida in Iraq, that the terrorist group remains a serious threat, but that the efforts of the people of Iraq are helping reduce the terrorist group's sway in the country.

US 'surge' likely to end with more troops in Iraq than before: general

The US "surge" is likely to end in July with more troops in Iraq than the 132,000 that were there before five extra combat brigades were sent in more than a year ago, a senior Pentagon official said.

COMMENTARY

It's a performance for the history books -- particularly that chapter about how the American Empire collapsed. [Also a review of US-Saddam history. – dancewater]


US platitudes on Iraq

Here are but a few: on January 3 2006, several members of the same family, including women and children, were killed in a US air strike that destroyed their home in Beiji, north of Iraq. Ghadban Nahd Hassan, 56, told AFP that 14 members of his family had been in the house when it was it bombed. On Oct 23, 2007 a helicopter attack completely destroyed Ibrahim Jassim's house. The death toll was 16: Seven men, six women and three children. On October 11, an air strike northwest of Baghdad killed nine children and six women. In Sadr City, US troops backed by attack helicopters claimed they had killed 49 gunmen. Police put the toll at 13 and said they were all civilians, including two toddlers. They were not members of al-Qaida. A major US air strike was launched in January this year on a residential area in the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Planes dropped 40,000lb (18,100kg) of explosives during a 10-minute blitz on 40 targets, according to a military statement. In 2007, The US military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq as it did in 2006.

Iraq successes hang in the balance

We have heard a lot in the past year about the Sunni Awakening movement in Al Anbar province in western Iraq, the development of a Concerned Local Citizens program (also known as the Sons of Iraq program) in Baghdad, and the unilateral cease-fire called by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army Shia militias. These three developments have not only been key to American military gains, but they also are central to the possibility of successful civil society and the prospects for transitioning from the military mission. [Deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East affairs, Mark] Kimmitt frankly calls all of these developments in 2007 a “surprise.” They are also factors most outside of U.S. control. “The success of the surge was not pre-ordained nor has the surge succeeded according to plan,” Kimmitt says. “No one last December had any ideas that we would see a Sunni Awakening movement, nobody knew that the … [Mahdi Army] would declare a ceasefire …”

RESISTANCE

Email from United for Peace and Justice: In a little over a month, the U.S. will have been occupying Iraq for 5 years. It's hard to believe.

Even when looking at the awful numbers -- more than 1 million Iraqis and nearly 4,000 U.S. servicepeople killed, 2 million Iraqis living as refugees in other countries, with another 2.5 million displaced within Iraq, more than 1 trillion dollars spent -- I find it difficult to grasp what 5 years really means. What is the full sum of the destruction and suffering that has taken place? And what does it mean for the future of our country and our world?

What I do know is that 5 years has also meant 5 years of vigils, 5 years of marching, 5 years of calling, writing and visiting members of Congress, 5 years of nonviolent civil disobedience -- every single day, by local groups and individuals like you in every community in the country.

Pro-war forces meet strong resistance in Berkeley, Calif.

The Berkeley City Council’s passed a resolution on Jan. 29 calling U.S. Marine recruiters in downtown Berkeley "uninvited and unwanted intruders." The unequivocal statement set off a firestorm in right-wing media circles, including a call to rescind more than $2 million dollars in federal aid for Berkeley school lunch programs. The item on the Marines had been introduced by anti-war forces, which have held daily picket lines at the recruitment center since it opened in late 2006.

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: "The United States has built its interests and existence on the revival of struggles in Iraq. The Democrats call for U.S. forces to withdraw, which would benefit the displaced because if the U.S. leaves, you would be able to lift the oppression from us." – Editorial in Iraqi paper on 2/13/08

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