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 16, 2008

News & Views 02/16/08

Photo: A boy stands next to his mother as she holds a picture of their detained relative during a ceremony at the Iraqi National Theatre in Baghdad February 16, 2008. The participants in the ceremony, which was organized by the office of Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr in Baghdad, appealed to the Iraqi government to release all prisoners. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz (IRAQ)


Saturday: 22 Iraqis Killed, 10 Wounded

US Air Strikes Kill Iraqi Family, Including 5 Children, in Kirkuk

U.S. copters commit ‘massacre’ in northern town

U.S. helicopter gun ships opened fire on a house in the small town of Zab in northern Iraq, killing eight people, five of them children from the same family, a police source said. “It is a massacre. The eight martyrs include two men, one woman and five children,” said a police source, refusing to be named. The incident took place late last week and U.S. and Iraqi sources have kept it under wraps. Many incidents like these go unreported in the violence-plagued country as reporters are afraid to leave their highly-protected hotels and offices in the capital Baghdad.

Millions of Iraqis Living on the Edge

The United Nations estimates up to six million people in Iraq are in dire need of help because of years of violence and economic hardship. It says some four million people are unable to buy enough food regularly, have no access to safe drinking water and have great difficulty getting the medical care they need. The International Red Cross Federation is aiming to help nearly one million of, what it calls, the most socially vulnerable people inside Iraq over the next year. Operations Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Linda Stops, tells VOA these are people who have generally been overlooked by social welfare and aid programs. These are people who have no or very little income and cannot make it on their own.

Caught in crossfire
Civilians suffering in conflict between Turkey and the PKK

Early in the morning, Turkish warplanes bombed several sites in the area, which is situated 100km (60 miles) from the Turkish border. At the time, Turkish officials insisted the raids had only targeted the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed them as a "success". But according to someone living in the valley, Turkish jets also bombed the village of Zargali. Awat Qadir said she and her family had been asleep in their house there when the sky suddenly erupted at around 0200. "It was a very bad night", says Mrs Qadir. "All the glass of the windows fell out and our door was broken. All the families were frightened because of the noise of the aeroplanes and the bombs." Locals said that the village was lit up by the bombardment and that the ground shook. The Qadirs ran to the mountainside and hid among the rocks. Now nearly two months later the Qadirs are living in a relative's house in a village further down the valley, where they share a small room with two other families.

…..During a tour of the border police's facilities, a commander took us to a village that had been the scene of Turkish artillery shelling and heavy machine-gun fire. There he repeated a familiar message: "The PKK are not here, but still the Turkish attack." He also let it slip to our translator that he had been told to look after us but also to ensure that we didn't go anywhere too "interesting".

U.N. To Help Organize Iraqi Elections Set For October

Iraq's Parliament, faced with a stalemate in appointing election commissions in the most populous provinces and accusations of overt politicization of the election process, announced Thursday that it would welcome the United Nations to play a large role in organizing the vote. Under a new law approved by Parliament on Wednesday, provincial elections must be held by Oct. 1. At a press conference, Staffan de Mistura, the special representative to the United Nations secretary general, announced a tight schedule for helping set up provincial election commissions and a plan to monitor their work. "The most important posts are the ones in the field because that is where the elections take place," de Mistura said. "The person needs to be qualified, chosen through a transparent process to show you, the Iraqi people, that the elections are transparent."

Business Convention Comes to Baghdad

Nattily dressed Iraqi businessmen mingled Saturday with a few of their American counterparts at the first business exposition to be held in Baghdad since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. About 260 vendors - almost all Iraqi - set up booths on the ground floor of the Green Zone's al-Rashid Hotel, which still bears the scars of a 2003 rocket attack. Hundreds of visitors crammed the hallways, picking up brochures and free candies from the booths of businesses mostly reflecting the immediate needs of Iraq: construction, security, logistics and raw goods.

Iraq Power Workers Sit-In Over Lack of Equipment

Workers in Iraq's Nasiriyah power station staged a sit-in, demanding the Electricity Ministry do more to help them keep the plant in operation. The Badr Newspaper reports workers carried signs during the protest, where they urged the ministry to supply new spare parts and equipment. Abbas Abd Al Hassan Rahi, the chief of the Technicians and Engineers Union, said the plant was nearing collapse because of the alleged lack of resources dedicated by the ministry to repairs and new projects. "After many requests were made to the Electricity Ministry and the authorities in charge that they fulfill their duties, we organized this sit-in," said Rahi, who praised the workers for keeping electricity flowing.

Qaim versus Qaeda – Gloves still off

Some residents of Anbar province believe that it is a likely assumption that al-Qaeda might re-disseminate its elements throughout their province again, starting from cities such as Al-Qaim. Others however believe that al-Qaeda’s prevalence in their province is a nightmare that happened only once, and will never be revived. A question looms in the minds of people in Anbar; will al-Qaeda elements be able to defeat the U.S. backed Sahwa (Awakening) tribal councils, and take-over their province again? Civil servant, Yasser Hindi (65 years), sees that al-Qaeda’s influence on people's perceptions in Anbar province came to an end before the evolution of the Awakening Councils, because "Qaida committed crimes that proved to the people of Anbar that al-Qaeda's aim is not to liberate Iraq, as it was announced," Hindi said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI), adding, "people now feel safe. There are no random raids, assassinations, abductions and killings; that's why people no longer want al-Qaeda in control of their province."


Attacks in Baghdad fall 80 percent-Iraq military

In the six weeks to the end of 2006, an average of 43 bodies were found dumped in the city each day as fierce sectarian fighting threatened to turn into full-scale civil war. That figure fell to four a day in 2008, in the period up to Feb. 12, said Qanbar, who heads the Baghdad security operation. "Various enemy activities" had fallen by between 75 and 80 percent since the security plan was implemented, he said.

Iraqi insurgents rigging buildings with bombs

Insurgents in Iraq, countering improved defenses against lethal roadside bombs, are converting private houses into large-scale, booby-trapped bombs set to detonate when American or Iraqi forces burst in on raids, according to US officials in Iraq and Washington. Since late December, US forces in northern Iraq have found at least 42 so-called house-borne improvised explosive devices in their sector, many located in the middle of neighborhoods, the top US general in the area reported earlier this week. And more than a dozen were discovered in the past few weeks in Diyala Province, where coalition forces are conducting major combat operations against insurgents who have fled the heavier US military presence in Baghdad and elsewhere, they said. [Here’s a clue – stay out of Iraqi homes and they will not blow up on you. – dancewater]

The Law on the Powers of the Governorates Is Passed after Significant Cross-Sectarian Cooperation in the Iraqi Parliament

The law on the powers of governorates not organised in a region was adopted by the Iraqi parliament on 13 February, but much of the reporting surrounding it in the Western mainstream media has been highly misleading.In the first place, it should be emphasised that this is not an elections law and never was. It is a law that describes some of the powers of the existing administrative subunits in Iraq: the governorates or muhafazat. The idea of including a timeline for elections (1 October has been reported by several reliable sources) was creatively introduced by the opponents of the Maliki government; it was ferociously resisted by Maliki’s most important backers, the Kurds and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). These parties argued that an election timeline would simply be out of place and should be postponed to separate legislation – an attitude many observers ascribe to the strong position these parties enjoy in the current governorate councils and the risk they run by holding elections. Their grudging accept of a timeline for elections thus represented a considerable triumph for the opposition, and at the same time exposed both the weak parliamentary fundament of the Maliki government and the anti-democratic strategies attempted by several of its coalition partners . Incidentally, the law also is not “one benchmark” but rather half a benchmark as per the US Congress nomenclature (the relevant benchmark point also included a law on provincial elections as well as completion of the elections commission, neither of which has been achieved). This should however not detract from the considerable significance of the bill as a hopeful step forward for a more nuanced and realistic framework for dividing power between centre and provinces in Iraq, without much of the hysteria that has surrounded more fanciful visions of instant federalism for hypothetical entities that currently have no real existence on the ground.

Iraq anti-Qaeda group quits after members killed

More than 100 members of an anti-Qaeda front in central Iraq on Saturday handed their resignations to their US military employers, accusing them of killing 19 of their group, their leader told AFP. The walk-out occurred in Juruf Sakher village near the city of Hilla, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Baghdad, said Sabah al-Janabi, leader of the anti-Qaeda Awakening group in the area.

Sahwa fighters stage demonstration against U.S. forces

The Sahwa (Awakening) tribal fighters staged a demonstration and announced their withdrawal from any activities in Hilla after three of them were killed by U.S. fire during a landing operation north of Hilla, an official source from Babel police said. "U.S. forces conducted a landing operation in the area of Abad Weis in Jerf al-Sakhr, (60 km) north of Hilla. The U.S. soldiers opened their fire at a gathering of Sahwa men, killing three of them without any apparent reason," the source, who did not want his name mentioned, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). "The U.S. forces killed 19 Sahwa fighters and wounded more than 12 others in just one month and a half," Sabah al-Janabi, the chief of the Sahwa forces in the area, told VOI.


Killing "Bubba" from the skies

Inside a secret high-tech control center the U.S. Air Force targets enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But can they bomb them legally, and without killing innocents?

The cavernous control room used by the U.S. Air Force to manage the air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan looks exactly how you'd expect it to look in a Hollywood movie. The lights are low. Around 50 camouflage-clad men and women lean forward in their chairs, staring intently at rows of computer screens glowing with multicolored graphs and fluctuating displays. They sometimes glance up from the banks of computer monitors to gaze at a sweeping panel of large television screens mounted on the front wall. Two massive, side-by-side screens in the center display digital maps of Iraq and Afghanistan. Swarms of U.S. aircraft above the war zones are represented by green labels that move about each map, gravitating toward wherever U.S. troops are fighting on the ground, in case they need backup.

Feb. 15 airpower summary

In total, coalition aircraft flew 43 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions integrated and synchronized coalition ground forces, protected key infrastructure, provided over watch for reconstruction activities and helped to deter and disrupt terrorist activities. [Or killed innocent civilians. They don’t know and don’t care. – dancewater]

U.S. Soldiers Kill Unarmed Iraqis and Afghanis

By forcing repeat combat assignments to Iraq and Afghanistan -- and by winking at torture and indiscriminate killings -- George W. Bush is degrading the reputation of the U.S. military, turning enlisted soldiers and intelligence officers into murderers and sadists. For instance, on Feb. 10 at Camp Liberty in Iraq, Army Ranger Sgt. Evan Vela was sentenced by a U.S. military court to 10 years in prison for executing an unarmed Iraqi detainee who -- along with his son -- had stumbled into a U.S. sniper position last year. After letting the 17-year-old son go, Vela's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley ordered Vela to use a 9-millimeter pistol to shoot the father, Genei Nesir Khudair al-Janabi, in the head, an order that Vela carried out. "It was murder, plain and simple," military prosecutor, Major Charles Kuhfahl, told the court. Janabi's son, Mustafa, was allowed to make a statement, explaining how his father's death had devastated the family and how one of his four younger brothers now avoids their home because he can't stand the sight of his father's empty room. "Please don't forget about us," Mustafa told the court.

Turkey Sends Humanitarian Aid to Iraq

Turkish Red Crescent sent seven trucks loaded with 85 tons of humanitarian aid to Iraq on Friday, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. "We will distribute the aid in Mosul and Tal Afar," Omer Tasli, director general of Turkish Red Crescent, was quoted as saying, adding that they also sent one communication vehicle and three personnel to the war-torn country. Tasli continued that the organization would also send 23 tons of medicine and medical equipment, as well as 40 tons of serums to the region.

UN posts refugee official in Baghdad

he United Nations refugee chief said Saturday he is sending a representative to Baghdad to help millions of displaced Iraqis return home, showing a strengthened U.N. commitment to deal with the crisis and confidence in recent security gains. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres also pledged to increase his group's staffing level in Baghdad from two to five people.


Refugee Crisis Threatens Future of Iraq

I'm an innumerate, but the figures on this -- the saddest story of our Iraq debacle -- are so large that even I can do the necessary computations. The population of the United States is now just over 300,000,000. The population of Iraq at the time of the U.S. invasion was perhaps in the 26-27 million range. Between March 2003 and today, a number of reputable sources place the total of Iraqis who have fled their homes -- those who have been displaced internally and those who have gone abroad -- at between 4.5 million and 5 million individuals. If you take that still staggering lower figure, approximately one in six Iraqis is either a refugee in another country or an internally displaced person.

Now, consider the equivalent in terms of the U.S. population. If Iraq had invaded the United States in March 2003 with similar results, in less than five years approximately 50 million Americans would have fled their homes, assumedly flooding across the Mexican and Canadian borders, desperately burdening weaker neighboring economies. It would be an unparalleled, even unimaginable, catastrophe. Consider, then, what we would think if, back in Baghdad, politicians and the media were hailing, or at least discussing positively, the "success" of the prime minister's recent "surge strategy" in the U.S., even though it had probably been instrumental in creating at least one out of every ten of those refugees, 5 million displaced Americans in all. Imagine what our reaction would be to such blithe barbarism.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees


Counting Iraqi Casualties – and a Media Controversy

As to the issue of the human cost of the war, even the legitimate press that has avoided this kerfuffle might be intimidated from taking on the issue in depth. The fact that the National Journal hatchet job and the MoH survey appeared within days of each other sent a message to editors around the United States - one survey is "discredited" and one is legitimate. The treatment of the MoH survey that week often noted its death-by-violence number was one-fourth of the Lancet figure - forgetting, again, that total war-related mortality were much closer in both, and congruent with other surveys. The New York Times did run an editorial in early February about the dead in Iraq - the 124 journalists killed in the war.

The topic of the war's exceptional human costs, now inflamed by these calumnies, appears to be too hot to handle. Even with all this fuss in January, no explorations of the Iraqi mortality from the war have appeared in the major dailies. No editorials, no examination of the methods (or the danger and difficulty of collecting data), no sense that the scale of killing might affect the American position, or might shed some light on U.S. war strategy, or might point to honorable exits and reconstruction obligations. Remarkably, no curiosity at all about the dead of Iraq, and what they can tell us. That, in the end, may be the biggest injustice of all.

Iraq’s Civil War, the Sadrists and the Surge

The dramatic decline in bloodshed in Iraq – at least until last week’s terrible market bombings in Baghdad – is largely due to Muqtada al-Sadr’s August 2007 unilateral ceasefire. Made under heavy U.S. and Iraqi pressure and as a result of growing discontent from his own Shiite base, Muqtada’s decision to curb his unruly movement was a positive step. But the situation remains highly fragile and potentially reversible. If the U.S. and others seek to press their advantage and deal the Sadrists a mortal blow, these gains are likely to be squandered, with Iraq experiencing yet another explosion of violence. The need is instead to work at converting Muqtada’s unilateral measure into a more comprehensive multilateral ceasefire that can create conditions for the movement to evolve into a fully legitimate political actor.

If Only Saddam Had Injected HGH: Scott Ritter

T he recent spectacle of Congressional hearings on the alleged use of steroids and/or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by Roger Clemons, a professional baseball player nicknamed "the Rocket," throws into question the viability and functionality of a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party. The House Government Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Henry Waxman (D-California), carried out its own made-for-television version of Court TV, grilling the All Star pitcher and his former trainer over their contradictory statements as to whether or not Clemons actually was injected with a banned performance enhancing substance. While this hearing was underway, thousands of miles away, in Iraq, American service members continued the ugly business of occupying Iraq.

Comment from Juan Cole’s blog:

Most Iraqis, myself included, have lost all hope. The USA killed Iraq in 2003, having bled it since 1979 when it helped Saddam become the ruler of Iraq. The 1980~88 war with Iran was ignited then fueled by the USA, UK, and Israel. It killed over a million, and devastated both sides. A feat they want to repeat again. In 1990 they lured Saddam into Kuwait then dropped 200,000 tons of bombs on Iraq itself, including the civilian infrastructure, although there was no fighting there. They forced a murderous sanctions regime, on fabricated claims on WMD that did not exist, killing a million+ and devastating the economy and the very fabric of the Iraqi society.

Then they came in 2003 with Iraqi scum on their tanks to "liberate" Iraq! The same tragi-comedy that Saddam used when he invaded Kuwait. He too used Kuwaiti agents and claimed to liberate, not occupy, then went straight to the treasury to loot it just like the Americans did. It is very hard to beleive that the devastation inflicted on the people of Iraq since the invasion is down to mistakes. Nobody is stupid enough to make so many. It is an evil desire to kill and hurt the Iraqi people to satisfy racial and religious hatred. The GIs told us openly that the invasion was to make n example of us, to teach all Hajjis in the world not to mess with the Americans again. They also said that giving them our oil reserves in exchange for lifting the sanctions was a very good deal for us. How can Iraq be revived now after letting all the rapid dogs loose?



From The Front Line – a blog from Cox correspondents covering the military at war and at home. Robert Gee is currently traveling with the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq.

Saddam’s words live on … in a U.S. Army HQ

Saddam’s name and face have disappeared from most everywhere in Iraq. His familiar likeness and the iconography of his once-feared Baath Party have long since been destroyed by his fellow countrymen. Yet, if you want to find it, go no farther than the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s number-two ranking general in Iraq. The Al Faw palace — Saddam’s last completed palace — on the outskirts of Baghdad was built to commemorate a modest military success in Iraq’s 8-year-long war with Iran in the 1980s. The marble floor is designed with an eight-pointed star, once used as a symbol of Saddam’s Baath Party.

Monday, during a U.S. military ceremony in the palace, I wandered into a large foyer adjacent to the main hall and was surprised to find, in pristine condition, two identical quotations carved on the wall in stone, signed “Saddam Hussein,” in Arabic, and dated 1996. It read: “Open upon our hearts and our eyes the window of brilliant light that illuminates what others are saying of truth and lies and what is in our hearts, love or hated. Amen.” Spoken by a true paranoid dictator, it seems to address those who might have betrayed him or those he thought might betray him. I figured either the Americans who work there consider the masonry work an Iraqi cultural treasure not to be disturbed, or they don’t read Arabic.


Comment by imad

February 14, 2008 9:49 AM

Reading your translation made me wonder where did you learn Arabic? Regardless of who wrote it, it is a simple prayer starts with “Oh Loard (Allahum) Open upon our hearts and our eyes the window of your brilliant light that will illuminates what others say of truth and lies and whats in their heart of love and hate” Allahum ameen.

Comment by Afghani

February 14, 2008 10:03 AM

Lol, Brilliant , these are the type of people translating s** for American Terrorist army. Idiot! Even with this angle I can read it and that is not every my first language.


UK branded 'a disgrace' in Iraq

The Government has been branded a "disgrace" for continuing to be involved in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan on the fifth anniversary of the huge anti-war demonstration. The oldest and youngest people on the original march five years ago in London joined a delegation handing in a letter to 10 Downing Street calling for British troops to be withdrawn. Leaders of CND, the Stop The War Coalition, MPs and peace activists including Bianca Jagger, walked up Downing Street to hand in the letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Among the delegation was Alicia Marr, 36, who was 33 weeks pregnant with her son Alfie when she took part in the march. Holding Alfie's hand she said: "I felt it was very important to join the march because of my sense of frustration that we were being led in to an illegal war with huge implications for generations to come. "I feel even more frustrated today because Iraq is a terrible mess which is ruining the lives of Iraqi children."


Five years ago this week, there was hardly elbow room in central London. Around one million people had converged on the capital from all over Britain to demonstrate against the threatened war on Iraq. It was the biggest political protest in recorded British history. Across the world, simultaneous protests were happening. And everywhere, many people who could not demonstrate gave support in spirit. Witnessing this outpouring of public opinion, Tony Blair declared that the demonstrators would have "blood on their hands". He was not sectioned. He returned to the House of Commons where he had dissembled about Weapons of Mass Destruction and where he, his Cabinet, their automatons on the back-benches, and the Conservative Opposition, forced through a vote for a war of predictably catastrophic proportions.

… Five years on, the former UK Prime Minister is no nearer to being frog-marched to the nuthouse or summoned before an international war crimes tribunal. By some perversity of logic, he is the "peace envoy" for the Middle East, and manoeuvring for the job of president of the European Council - so long as it bestows on him significant powers.

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: So we don’t torture, except for the three people Mike Hayden admitted we’ve waterboarded, but it’s all perfectly legal, since the Justice Department, stacked with cronies and psychopaths, said it’s legal, and there is no difference between law and Bush-administration prerogative. Long live the Great Egyptian Dream! Similarly, the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah—the only one conducted even nine months after 9/11, despite Cheney’s implication that a follow-on attack was forestalled by the torture—wasn’t as valuable as the guy’s captured laptop, according to the FBI. Since Cheney lies so much, and so casually, we should assume that every word his foul breath spews about torture saving lives is a lie as well. Somewhere in hell, Saddam Hussein is laughing at what Cheney and Bush have forced America to become. ~ from “Cheney: What’s so Wrong With Torture Anyway?”