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 18, 2008

News & Views 02/18/08

Photo: Women walk past a U.S. armoured vehicle patrolling a road in Salman Pak, about 45 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, February 18, 2008. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud (IRAQ)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Sunday: 2 US Soldiers, 24 Iraqis Killed; 22 Iraqis Wounded

Rockets kill 5 near Baghdad airport

U.S. troops erect walls in Mosul as inhabitants flee

U.S. and Iraqi troops are carrying out military operations in heavily populated areas of the northern city of Mosul to flush out insurgents. And in their bid they are separating and isolating residential quarters with security barriers and walls making movement rather difficult. Some quarters like Yarmouk, Thawar and Siha are completed isolated. The city, Iraq’s second largest with nearly three million people, has turned into a major stronghold for the Iraqi branch of Qaeda and anti-U.S. rebels. But provincial officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the Qaeda and other groups opposing U.S. occupation have either fled or merged with the population.

Iraq's only brain surgeon refuses to join brain drain

He has been subjected to anonymous threats and was even forced to flee to Syria for four months with his wife and two children, before returning a year ago to continue his work. The doctors who make up his team are considered highly prized targets for insurgents, keen to deprive communities of the key figures needed to keep a society turning over. In his hospital tucked away in the midst of sprawling countryside, north of Baghdad, the doctor knows that he and his little team could secure lucrative salaries if they were to leave their war-torn homeland. "I love my job and I feel that if I go abroad, I will not have the chance to perform these kind of operations," he said. "I want to stay in Iraq and I am proud to be an Iraqi," he added as he prepared for a delicate 10-hour operation to implant two tiny electrodes in the brain of a man suffering from Parkinson's disease. [One brain surgeon in Iraq would be equal to twelve brain surgeons in the USA. – dancewater]

Ex-Iraqi health officials face trial

A former deputy health minister and the head of the ministry's security force will go on trial Tuesday for allegedly allowing Shiite death squads to use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings, officials said.

Iraqi Medical System Wrecked by War

Already a troubled system, Iraqi medical care has fallen to the brink of collapse since the U.S.-led invasion five years ago. Scores of doctors have been slain, cancer patients have to hunt down their own drugs — even IV fluid is in short supply. On Tuesday, a former deputy health minister and the head of the ministry's security force will stand trial, a year after they were accused of letting Shiite death squads use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings. [It is not on the brink of collapse. It has collapsed. This is another war crime, added to the thousand war crimes already committed by the bush administration. – dancewater]

Iraq’s Public Health Crisis

The state of public health in Iraq is abysmal. Endemic disease, psychological trauma and food insecurity threaten the vast majority of the population. ….Under UN Security Council Resolution 1483, both the United States and Great Britain are recognized as Iraq’s occupation powers. As such, they are bound by The Hague and Geneva Conventions to not only maintain order, but also respond to the medical needs of the population. At present, 70% of the Iraqi population is without adequate water supplies, and 80% lacks adequate sanitation. The Baghdad Health Directorate has declared the city’s sewage system to be defective — with doctors warning that the drinking water in some of Baghdad’s poor neighborhoods is contaminated with sewage. Hospitals are unable to respond to people’s needs. Some 90% of hospitals lack essential resources such as basic medical and surgical supplies. [Like gloves. – dancewater]

IRAQ: Leishmaniasis continues to spread in southern province

Leishmaniasis continues to spread in Iraq's southern province of Qadissiyah, about 130km south of Baghdad, with at least 275 cases so far, a local official said.

Dentistry College Ordeal

I reached the clinic and I started working as usual, after few hours a friend of mine came from college and said" did you know what happened in the college today? The army took 2 doctors and 3 guards, they placed them in the Humvees and no one knows where they are now…I reached the college immediately after they took the doctors".
I asked around and reached the true (or what people believe is the true) story. Sunday morning between 10 and 11am a patrol of Humvees for the Iraqi Army or the national guards parked at the gate of the dentistry college and soldiers wearing uniforms entered the college and arrested (or I'd better say Kidnapped) 2 doctors….Dr.Osama AlMola (orthodontist, the chief of orthodontic department and former temporary dean) and Dr.Ryiadh AlKaisy (a pathologist and the chief of the pathology department) with three other post graduate students (some say 3 of the college guards) and no one knows where did they take them, at the afternoon they headed to Dr.Fakhri Alfatlaoy's clinic (orthodontist and former dean's assistant for the students affairs) and kidnapped him from his clinic because he wasn't in the college at the time they raided the college.

….For me I don't know what to believe because all the stories might be true…they might be a militia wearing as soldiers and don't ever think for a second that it's a hard thing to do, just go to Bab Alsharjy and there you will see a huge market for army supplies and for relatively cheap prices, if I want I can supply a whole army from there without anyone asking why? From the uniforms, vests, armors, uniform soldier's shoes, army knives, badges to the guns and ammo…every thing you need to build a legal army can be found there and very simple and easy to buy.

Truth, Lies and Torture: Stories from Iraq

A speech by Aiden Delgado (Iraq War Veteran) and Fedaa Jaism (an Iraqi-American) called “Truth, Lies and Torture – Stories from Iraq” (40 minutes long, highly recommended).

Iraqi house grab

I decided to go back to Iraq, because I needed to know what had happened to my house and to the two mini-supermarkets we ran from the building. The need to know was even more urgent than the fear I had of going back.

….As we drove through the streets, I noticed that there were different people sitting outside the houses of people I knew. Some of the shops looked different, and the people running them had changed, too. I decided to go first to the house of a Sunni neighbour who I knew was still there. His family welcomed me and I started crying - so did they.

…..I knocked at the door and a woman answered. I introduced myself as the owner of the house. I told her I didn't want anything, I just wanted to have a look at the place and see my furniture. She reluctantly let me in. I saw that most of the furniture we had stored in one room before we left was being used by the family - and that they were not taking good care of it. The house was not clean or tidy. I felt terribly sad. It had been so difficult to get hold of these things during the war with Iran and during the hard years of sanctions and here they were being treated carelessly by other people.

Street-dogs bring fear to Diwaniya residents

Residents of Diwaniya city have a new threat of a different sort; street-dogs that form groups, especially at night, are attacking them. At the center of Diwaniya (capital city of Diwaniya province, 180 km south of Baghdad – capital city of Iraq), Kareem Al-Robaee said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) "Currently, in Diwaniya city, and especially at night, street-dogs form groups of at least 20 dogs per each group, and they move in the form of waves from a district to another," adding "Some residents of my neighborhood, Al-Iskan, have been bit by those street-dogs." This new phenomenon in the Shiite predominantly city brought fears to families that are expecting the outbreak of diseases in the city.

550 bombs found southeast of Diwaniya

A police force found a stockpile of explosives containing 550 explosive devices, while the bomb squad managed to defuse a bomb east of Diwaniya, the chief of local police said on Monday. "The forces found a weapons cache contains 550 anti-shields bombs in Afak district, southeast of Diwaniya," Brig. Safaa Saheb Akmoush told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

Basra media people protest violations by govt. agencies

Scores of media people in the province of Basra staged a march of protest against violations practiced by some government agencies, the chief of journalists' syndicate in the city said on Monday. "All the media people in Basra responded to the call of their syndicate to protest unjustifiable excesses and arbitrary practices by some government organizations against their colleagues without any respect for the role of the press, one of the main features of democracy and the new Iraq," Haider al-Mansouri told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

Rival Baghdad neighbours reconcile on football field

After two years of barely talking to each other, residents of adjoining Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods of Baghdad came together on Sunday for a reconciliation football match sponsored by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The match between players from Shiite neighbourhood Kadhimiyah and the Sunni suburb of Adhamiyah was staged under tight security but in festive atmosphere at Baghdad's main stadium, Al-Shaab.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq oil law stalled, no end to impasse in sight

A law that could shape Iraq's future by clearing the way for investment in its oil fields is deadlocked by a battle for control of the reserves and no end to the impasse is in sight, lawmakers and officials say.

Iraq: 'Sunni Awakening' Groups Flexing Their Muscle

The Awakening Councils, or the Sahwa as they are called, are a mostly Sunni Muslim force set up by the U.S. to draw in resistance fighters into their ranks, and then to help U.S. forces fight other anti-U.S. groups. The Sahwa have been engaged in growing conflict with the largely Shia Muslim forces of the Iraqi government. The new conflict was sparked off by the rape and murder of two Sunni women, allegedly by members of Shia militia that are backed by the government. The Sahwa in Diyala province, just north of Baghdad, have been demanding dismissal of police chief Major General Ghanim al-Qureyshi. "We demand the resignation of Qureyshi because he is sectarian, and every crime against Sunnis has been committed in his knowledge," Sahwa leader Abu Qutaiba told IPS. "We also want to put the issue of prisoners on the table of debate. Their cases should be reviewed by fair people. All prisoners were arrested on the basis of sectarian information." Qutaiba added, "Prisons are filled with Sunnis while Shias enjoy jobs, power and authority. We blame Americans for relying on false Shia information, which serves the sectarian appeal and Iranian agenda. We want the truth to see the sun."

Deal Between Key Iraq Shi'ite Figures Collapses

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement Sunday announced it was cancelling a pact it signed four months ago with its main Shiite rival aimed at reducing tension between the two groups. The agreement between the Sadrists and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim "has failed and is cancelled," Nassar al-Rubaie, spokesman for the Sadr bloc in parliament, told AFP. The two groups, which have clashed repeatedly in the past as each sought control of Iraq's majority Shiite community, signed a pact last October 6 aimed at ending the violence between their two militias.

AMSI Condemns The Bombing of Hawija

AMSI condemned the occupation and the current government fully responsible for the bombing of a house belong to a civilian in al Zaab district in Hawija region 70 km south-west of Kirkuk City which led death of 8 people from one family while they were at home.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Al Qaeda sows fear after sunset in Iraq's north

The U.S. military and Iraqi officials have hailed vastly better security in Baghdad, western Anbar province and areas south of the capital, which has allowed people to venture out at night to shop at markets and eat at restaurants. But in the cities of Samarra, Baquba and Mosul, the militants still sow fear. "When I don't see al Qaeda wandering around Samarra, pointing weapons in the faces of Iraqis and killing and kidnapping, then I will say security has improved," said grocer Nihad Hameed in the city, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad.

Canada's Secret War in Iraq

March 25, 2003, during the “shock and awe” bombardment of Iraq, then US Ambassador Paul Cellucci admitted that “… ironically, Canadian naval vessels, aircraft and personnel... will supply more support to this war in Iraq indirectly... than most of those 46 countries that are fully supporting our efforts there.” Cellucci merely scratched the surface of Canada’s initial “support” for the Iraq War, but he had let the cat out of the bag. As then Secretary of State Colin Powell had explained a week earlier, “We now have a coalition of the willing… who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing.... And there are 15 other nations, who, for one reason or another, do not wish to be publicly named but will be supporting the coalition.” Canada was, and still is, the leading member of this secret group, which we could perhaps call CW-HUSH, the “Coalition of the Willing to Help but Unwilling to be Seen Helping.” The plan worked. Most Canadians still proudly believe that their government refused to join the Iraq War. Nothing could be further from the truth.

U.S. says it spent $260 million on Naja

The United States has spent $260 million on reconstructing the religious city of Najaf during the past four years, its Iraq ambassador said.

Two Jordanians released from Iraqi jail rejoin their families

Two Jordanians have arrived back in their home country after being released from an Iraqi jail at the end of a prison term of three and half years, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Coalition: Al-Qaida killing former allies

Documents have been found that support claims that al-Qaida in Iraq targeted allies thought not loyal to the terrorist group, coalition military analysts said.

HISTORY

Govt publishes Iraq WMD dossier first draft

Britain's Foreign Office on Monday released an early version of a 2002 dossier of prewar intelligence on Iraq that became vital to Tony Blair's case for war. Foreign Secretary David Miliband published a draft of the document on Iraq's weapons capabilities following a request under Freedom of Information laws. The document includes references to intelligence claims that Iraq had acquired uranium and had equipment necessary to produce chemical weapons. But the file does not contain a claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes — an allegation which was later discredited but became crucial to Blair's push to back the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. [Discredited along with everything else. – dancewater]

IRAQI REFUGEES

Influx of Iraqi refugees bring Swedish town to its knees

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, more than 5000 Iraqis have made their home in this small industrial town, which is located south of Stockholm and counts just 82000 inhabitants, according to city council numbers. "I understand that people want to flee Iraq. There's nothing surprising about that, and Sweden has a generous policy of welcoming refugees," town mayor Anders Lago told AFP. But the influx "far surpasses our reception capacity," added the mayor, who in recent months has sounded the alarm about the growing strain on the town. With 18,599 applications, Sweden was the European country that received most Iraqi asylum requests last year, and the Scandinavian country, which counts just nine million inhabitants, gave the thumbs up to 72 percent of all applications handled in 2007, the Swedish Migration Board said. [The US has taken in less than 2,000. – dancewater]

Sweden, Iraq sign deal on returning refugees

Sweden, which has taken in more Iraqi refugees than any other European Union country, said on Monday it had signed a deal with Iraq that allows some asylum-seekers to be returned forcibly. The agreement was signed in Baghdad by Sweden's envoy to Iraq and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Sweden's Justice Ministry said in a statement. Effective immediately, it allows Sweden to send back any asylum-seekers who do not meet its criteria. Sweden in the past has rejected requests from those who could not show that they personally were in danger if they returned to Iraq. [I am in favor of forcibly sending every American who ever supported this war to the Antarctic forever. – dancewater]

Correction: Iraq Refugees Story

In a Feb. 14 story about Jordan imposing visa restrictions on Iraqi refugees, The Associated Press erroneously quoted U.N High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as calling on countries hosting Iraqi refugees to increase the opportunities for refugees to settle there and saying 70,000 Iraqi refugees want to resettle. Guterres instead urged "third countries" that traditionally resettle refugees to increase the number of Iraqi refugees they take in..

Iraqi refugees leaving Jordan remain pressured

Jordan announced last week that it would waive overstay fees for Iraqis wanting to leave the Kingdom, who had been in the country illegally. Around half a million Iraqi refugees are in Jordan, the majority of whom remain in the country as “guests” without formal status. Most refugees have overstayed their visas by several years, reported the Interior Ministry, amassing fines of thousands of dollars each. There is a fee of 1.50 Jordan Dinar (US$ 2) for each day of overstay. But some refugees remain sceptical about the offer, believing it to be an incentive for Iraqis to leave Jordan. Only those Iraqis who return home or leave to a third country are exempt from the fines. Those wishing to stay in the Kingdom have only two months to pay 50 per cent of their dues if they to avoid becoming permanently ineligible to be considered for residency status in the future.

The Iraq Ministry of Migration and International Medical Corps

The Iraq Ministry of Migration under the strategic and operational partnership with International Medical Corps (IMC) will hold the First National Conference in Iraq on displacement. Titled: Towards Improved Preparedness and Response for Displaced and Returning Iraqis, the goal is to strengthen communication and coordination structures for displaced Iraqis and enhance the ability of the Government of Iraq and other national and international actors to respond to the current and future needs of internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees.

UN Says Iraqi Refugees Need More Help

Iraq's government and international community must give more funding and support to resettle Iraqi refugees displaced by sectarian bloodletting, the United Nation's top official for refugees said Monday. Antonio Guterres spoke with reporters in the Jordanian capital at the end of a Mideast tour that included stops in Syria and Iraq. Some 2 million Iraqi refugees have been sheltered in neighboring countries since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Guterres visits Iraq; announces strengthened UNHCR presence

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Monday concluded a two-day mission to Iraq, where he pledged to strengthen UNHCR's presence and offered to work with the government on a preliminary assessment of the conditions required for the eventual return of millions of uprooted Iraqis. Guterres, winding up a weeklong visit to Jordan, Syria and Iraq, said UNHCR would boost its Baghdad-based staff from two to five internationals. UNHCR and other UN agencies have had a limited international presence in the Iraqi capital since the deadly bombing of UN headquarters there in August 2003.


How to Help Iraqi Refugees


COMMENTARY

McCain Can't Keep Stories Straight On Iraq, Torture

In Saturday's Washington Post the paper examines, in two separate articles, instances in which John McCain seems to be either changing his position, contradicting himself, or distorting the truth on topics such as Iraq and his opposition to torture.

The River of Disappearing Truths

The disappearing truth, and the river of these disappearing truths, are a form of what most people call propaganda, particularly when the perpetrator has some kind of a vague connection with established authority. The flow leaves a sediment, and the sediment has a particular odor. "Harith al-Dhari is wanted for criminal instigation of violence"; "Sadrists are motivated by narrow sectarianism"--and before you know it, like Liza Doolittle, you've got it! Iraq is the scene of a religious war; those who oppose the occupation are nothing but perpetrators of criminal violence for narrow sectarian aims. Thank god for the occupation!

Where there's micro-bullshit, there is also a macro background. Whether on the right or at the "progressive center," what drives most of this "informed comment" is one form or another of a single fundamental attitude, namely: Hope for the restoration of "normality", whether this is the right-wing "normality" of brute military power retaking its rightful place in the world, or whether it is the Democrats' "normality" of a restored bureaucratic competence and sophistication in Washington, like in the good old days, able to "manage" the Iraq crisis and oversee some version of the sophisticated K-Street democracy they would all like to see established there. Both sides are for the restoration of some kind of American-defined "normality", based on what has been normal, or would-be normal, in the post-war American experience.

Five Years On, and still the warmongers lie

You would have thought that the lies about the Iraq war might have stopped by now. But still they continue. The latest neocon attempt to rewrite history is to claim that the war was all Saddam Hussein's fault because he 'pretended' to have Weapons of Mass Destruction. …..I wonder if Mr Williams can produce any evidence to back up his claim that Saddam (above) the dictator her refers to, pretended to possess illegal weapons? If so, I'd be happy to hear from him. The fact is that Saddam and his officials repeatedly denied that Iraq possessed illegal weapons.

Quote of the day: In the coming weeks, we will see the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by American and British forces on 19 March, and the fall of Saddam Hussein on 9 April. There will be much rancorous debate in the Western media about the success or failure of the "surge" and the US war effort here. But for millions of Iraqis like Bassim, the war has robbed them of their homes, their jobs and often their lives. It has brought them nothing but misery and ended their hopes of happiness. It has destroyed Iraq. ~ from Is the US really bringing stability to Baghdad?

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