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 23, 2008

News & Views 02/23/08

Photo: A bridge over the Zab river used mainly by PKK fighters, is damaged after a Turkish air force strike Friday Feb. 22, 2008, in northern Iraq, seven kilometers from the Turkish border. Supported by air power, Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq in their first major ground incursion against Kurdish rebel bases in nearly a decade and killed dozens of militants, the Turkish military said. (AP Photo)


Saturday: 33 Iraqis, 55 PKK Rebels Killed; 10 Iraqis Wounded

Turkish raids kill dozens in Iraq; Zebari warns of destabilisation

Another Phone Call

It will sound silly, not worth it but it made me happy, smiling and above all thinking how many simple things can mean a lot. For the first time in more than three years I can call Fallujah from a land line in Baghdad. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah The service was restored two days ago and the cables were fixed. I believe it is another step towards square one. It is not progress; it is crawling to have what we had before 2003, though we had many good things that we didn’t have before 2003 and of course many other bad things that we didn’t have before 2003. I will now dream another good thing will happen, before I type in the violence report which makes my dreams go in vain as we start counting the days' victims. [Over three years since the destruction of Fallujah, and just now land lines are restored – well, partially restored. – dancewater]

Ominous Signs Remain in City Run by Iraqis

What makes the situation in BasraIraq’s second largest city and commercial hub — so alarming, they say, is that it is a test of Iraqi rule under relatively optimal conditions: Basra has the nation’s best economic base, little ethnic tension within a homogeneous Shiite population and no Western occupation force to inflame nationalist tensions. Yet the city remains deeply troubled. Disappearances of doctors, teachers and other professionals are common, as are some clashes among competing militias, most of which are linked to political parties. Murder victims include judicial investigators, politicians and tribal sheiks.

….. Iraq’s security forces are the most conspicuous example of the tension between politics and violence in Basra, and the aptly named Serious Crimes Unit of the Basra Police is perhaps the most egregious example. The British Army determined that the unit was a death squad linked to Shiite militias and dispatched Warrior tanks in December 2006 to pound the rogue force’s headquarters to rubble. But Iraqi arrest warrants for the unit’s members have never been executed. [Do they really think that destroying the building will put an end to the death squads? Are they total idiots? – dancewater]

Basra's 2008-2010 development strategy set out

An updated strategy for developing Iraq's southern province of Basra in the period 2008-2010 has been developed by a specialized committee, Basra's provincial council head said on Saturday. "Basra's strategy is the first developed by the provincial council in cooperation with concerned bodies, governmental institutions and local councils, in a bid to coordinate work and provide a comprehensive vision of all sectors in the province," Muhammad Saadoun al-Abbadi told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI). "Under this strategy, the current or incoming provincial council will have to take practical steps to provide necessary finance for the reconstruction of the city," the council's head explained, citing allocations from the central government, donations and grants from investors as the main sources of finance.

Iraqi students, overburdened with transportation costs

College students in Iraq are tremendously overburdened with the high transportation costs, especially in Baghdad – capital city of Iraq-. Rihab Safaa and her average Baghdadi family is a sample of that tenor. As 19 years old undergraduate student at the University of BaghdadCollege of Engineering, Safaa is full of life, she didn't miss her optimistic laugh, despite that she is suffering. Her everyday trip to college engenders a serious notch in her family's monthly budget that relies heavily on her father's salary of a civil servant. Safaa said "I spend at least 3,000 Iraqi dinars ( $2.5) per day on my trip to college and back home," explaining "We have a private car, but my father use it to deliver my younger brother and sister to their schools."

Interior minister reinstates former ranks into Muthana police

Iraqi interior minister ordered that 238 members of the former army be reinstated into Muthanna's province's police on Saturday. Speaking in a speech while visiting Muthanna police directorate, Interior Minister Jawad al-Boulani said, "Muthanna police directorate would be reinforced with 238 members of the former Iraqi army ranks." "The services of former army officers contracted under the Facility Protection Force (FPS) would be transferred into the Interior Ministry as well as border forces, traffic police, and civil defense brigades," the minister noted.

Oil exports from Kirkuk's oilfields double

Iraq's oil exports from its northern oilfields in Kirkuk city to the Turkish Mediterranean Port of Ceyhan were two times more than their volume four years ago, an official source from the North Oil Company said. "On Friday, the oil pumping process from Kirkuk's oilfields to the Turkish Ceyhan Port reached 500,000 barrels per day, the highest since 2003," the source, who preferred to remain unnamed, told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI).

Improvement in Iraq's power grid- ministry

An improvement has been noted in the performance of Iraq's northern, central and southern power stations, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity said, citing various reasons for the amelioration. "The Ministry has managed to repair most of the damaged power lines in Baghdad and its surroundings," Aziz Sultan al-Shamri said in statements to Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI),

Unemployment in Thi-Qar up to 33%- governor

Unemployment levels have reached levels as high as 33% in the Iraqi southern province of Thi-Qar, the governor said, citing a governmental plan for provincial development and reconstruction. "Thi Qar province is suffering from high rates of unemployment, estimated at 33%," Governor Aziz Kadhim said during a press conference in Nassiriya. "Investment is the only solution to eliminate unemployment," the governor said, revealing upcoming plans for setting up an investment committee in the province to coordinate reconstruction work.

Audio: Hearts and Minds

This week on War News Radio, we find about an American charity that helps children in northern Iraq go abroad to receive medical treatment. And we talk to several Iraqis about an English school that was recently opened in northeast Iraq. In Iraq 101, we learn about the rivalry between two major Iraqi militant groups. And, in our series, A Day in the Life, we speak with a member of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity about the government’s corruption problems.


Iraqi Kurds ready to confront Turkish troops

Iraqi Kurdish officials on Friday ordered 6,000 Kurdish militiamen to take up new positions in Iraq's Dohuk province as hundreds of Turkish troops crossed the border in what Turkey said was an attack on Kurdish rebels who'd sought shelter there. How many Turkish troops had entered Iraq was uncertain. American military officials in Baghdad estimated the number at 1,000, but Kurdish rebels said the incursion involved 10,000 troops. Commanders of two Kurdish militia organizations confirmed that they'd been ordered to move north in force and that their men were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, PKC machine guns, which can be used as light anti-aircraft weapons, and assault rifles

Iraq Gov't Criticizes Turkish Incursion

Iraq's government criticized Turkey's ground incursion into northern Iraq targeting Kurdish rebels, saying Saturday that military force won't solve the problem. The country's Kurdish president warned Turkey not to target civilians. The troop crossing was Turkey's first major ground incursion against Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq in nearly a decade. Turkey has sought to avoid confrontation with U.S.-backed Iraq, saying the guerrillas were its only target. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraqis understood that Turkey faced threats from the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a battle for Kurdish autonomy for years, often using bases in northern Iraq. "But military operations will not solve the PKK problem. Turkey has resorted to military options but this never resulted in a good thing," al-Dabbagh said at a news conference. "Turkey should adopt another type of solution."

Kurdish rebels say have bodies of 15 Turkish troops

Kurdish PKK guerrillas said on Saturday they had recovered the bodies of 15 of the 22 Turkish soldiers they say they have killed in clashes since Turkey launched an offensive against them. The rebels had also begun planning reprisal attacks on Turkish soil, a spokesman for the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said. "There are 22 Turkish soldiers that have been killed and our soldiers have the bodies of 15," Ahmed Danees, head of foreign relations for the PKK, told Reuters by telephone, adding they would soon release the names of those killed. Turkey's military General Staff said in a statement on its Web site that only seven Turkish troops had been killed since the launch of the cross-border offensive into the largely autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq on Thursday. "The Turkish army is using all its weapons including fighter jets, helicopters and artillery," Danees said, adding that clashes continued.


Turkish army says rebel death toll in N.Iraq at 79

Turkey's military General Staff said on Saturday the number of Kurdish PKK rebels killed during its military offensive in northern Iraq had risen to 79. In a statement posted on its Web site, the General Staff said two more of its soldiers had also been killed in clashes on Saturday, taking the death toll to seven since Turkish troops launched their cross-border offensive on Thursday evening. "The offensive will continue to be waged with determination," it said.

PKK threatens to attack Turkish cities

Turkish separatists threaten to move war zone to 'the heart of the Turkish cities' if Ankara fails to stop its operations in northern Iraq. ….Meanwhile, an Iraqi Kurdish officer, who requested anonymity, said that Turkish troops shelled targets in districts around the town of al-Amadiyah, 400 kilometers north of Baghdad on Saturday. Around fifty people, including five Turkish soldiers, have been killed during the operation, according to the Turkish military. Rejecting any intention to undermine Iraq's territorial integrity, Turkey has emphasized that it has no objective but to protect its 'citizens, borders, unity and integrity'.

Congress Ramps Up Fight Against Permanent Iraq Bases

Bush and Maliki have been moving forward with negotiations on the terms of their long-term 'cooperation' agreement. Antiwar Democrats in Congress have failed in almost every one of their attempts to reverse the Bush administration's Iraq policy. However, they are now pursuing what many call a winnable objective: resisting the establishment of a permanent US presence in Iraq. In late November, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a "Declaration of Principles" setting the stage for long-term, open-ended US military and economic involvement in Iraq. Later, in a January signing statement attached to a defense policy bill, Bush declared that he would disregard a ban on permanent US military bases in Iraq.

US Troops Setting Down Roots in Mosul

U.S. forces have begun pushing into insurgent-controlled neighborhoods, establishing a series of combat outposts and fortifying police checkpoints in an effort to strangle the ability of al-Qaida and militant groups to move freely in what U.S. officials call their last urban stronghold in Iraq. Soldiers under the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment have already built five outposts and are currently erecting three more, almost doubling the number of smaller bases that were scattered around Mosul when they arrived here in mid-December.

Party House, Prostitutes and Profiteering in Iraq

Newly released court records related to the subcontractors operating under the KBR LOGCAP contract, provide just such shocking details. "On Wednesday, a federal judge in Rock Island sentenced the Army official, Chief Warrant Officer Peleti "Pete" Peleti Jr., to 28 months in prison for taking bribes," the Chicago Tribune reports. "One Middle Eastern subcontractor treated him to a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl, a defense investigator said."

Over 70 firms bid to develop Iraq's oil

Over 70 multinationals are competing to help develop the black gold industry in Iraq, which owns the world's third largest proven oil reserves, the New Zealand Herald said in a report. "Big oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell and Total have been positioning themselves for years to gain access," read the report. The report quoted a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Aasem Jihad, as saying: "We are going to carefully study and check the documentation. Next month we will declare the companies which are permitted to work in the Iraqi oil fields." "Iraq produces about 2.3 million barrels of oil a day, a fraction of its 115 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, surpassed only by Saudi Arabia and Iran," the report explained.


Video: Crying Wolf: Who is behind the death squads in Iraq?

Videos: Deep Dish TV Network – Shocking and Awful

The Real Face of the Occupation, Dance of Death, Erasing Memory and other video presentations on the conditions in Iraq, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the world-wide demonstrations against the invasion of 2003 are available to watch on this website.

British soldiers executed up to 20 Iraqi detainees, say witnesses

British soldiers in Iraq may have tortured, mutilated and executed up to 20 Iraqi detainees four years ago, according to five Iraqi civilians who say they saw the murders. ….When the bodies were handed back to Iraqi medics a day later, however, a number of them showed what human rights activists have alleged were wounds inconsistent with battlefield injuries – including numerous close-range gun shots to the head and one man who had allegedly had his penis removed.


What some soldiers know

To be a country’s invader and occupier is also to be “invaded” and “occupied” in turn, if only by the non-lethal force of another language and the perspectives it opens into another culture and history. Turner dedicates a poem to the scribe who carved the Gilgamesh epic onto stone tablets later found at Nineveh, near present-day Mosul. He writes a poem to the tenth century physicist “Alhazen of Basra”, and another to what’s left of the Garden of Eden. But three-quarters of the poems here are about death, or speak to the dead, or include the dead in some way, either individually or as a collective. How could it be otherwise? “Nothing but hurt left here./Nothing but bullets and pain” as one poem begins.

Sometimes the dead remain distinguished by their nationalities too, as if in Turner’s imagination the resonance of the US decision to invade Iraq sounded on into the afterlife. He has the ghosts of dead Americans “wander the streets of Balad by night//unsure of their way home…” while from the rooftops the ghosts of dead Iraqis look down (surely in every sense) in silence. Sometimes the dead look to comfort the grief-stricken living. In one poem they are clothed by a woman who hangs out her washing. Another poem acknowledges “an American death puts food on the table”. A US private kills himself. Sixteen Iraqi policemen are vaporised. A surgeon fails to save a shrapnel-victim. The executed are hauled from the Tigris or kicked and body-bagged. A US sniper clears his mind.

The new invasion of Iraq

A new crisis has exploded in Iraq after Turkish troops, supported by attack planes and Cobra helicopters, yesterday launched a major ground offensive into Iraqi Kurdistan. …But the escalating Turkish attacks are destabilising the Kurdish region of Iraq which is the one peaceful part of the country and has visibly benefited from the US invasion. The Iraqi Kurds are America's closest allies in Iraq and the only Iraqi community to support fully the US occupation. The president of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, said recently he felt let down by the failure of the Iraqi government in Baghdad to stop Turkish bombing raids on Iraqi territory. The incursion is embarrassing for the US, which tried to avert it, because the American military provides intelligence to the Turkish armed forces about the location of the camps of Turkish Kurd fighters. Immediately before the operation began, the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, called President George Bush to warn him. The US and the Iraqi government are eager to play down the extent of the invasion. [I believe it is false that the US authorities tried to advert this. – dancewater]

The Myth of the Surge

This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

My guide, a thirty-one-year-old named Osama who grew up in Dora, points to shops he used to go to, now abandoned or destroyed: a barbershop, a hardware store. Since the U.S. occupation began, Osama has watched civil war turn the streets where he grew up into an ethnic killing field. After the fall of Saddam, the Americans allowed looters and gangs to take over the streets, and Iraqi security forces were stripped of their jobs. The Mahdi Army, the powerful Shiite paramilitary force led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took advantage of the power shift to retaliate in areas such as Dora, where Shiites had been driven from their homes. Shiite forces tried to cleanse the district of Sunni families like Osama's, burning or confiscating their homes and torturing or killing those who refused to leave.


Liberate This! Dr. Wasfi speaks out

Excerpt from Congressional Forum testimony, April 27, 2006: "I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my mother’s side—Ashkenazi Jews who fled their homeland of Austria during Hitler’s Anschluss. It is for them that we say 'Never again.' I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my father’s side, who are not living, but dying, under the occupation of this administration’s deadly foray in Iraq. From the lack of security to the lack of basic supplies to the lack of electricity to the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of recon-struction to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are much worse off now than before we invaded. 'Never again' should apply to them, too..."

Link to video of Dr. Wasfi’s speech on Life in Iraq Under US Occupation

Link to video of Dr. Wasfi’s speech to Congressional Progressive Caucus

Videos of Resistance by Pepperspray Productions

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: It was a failure of citizenship of the American people that the Bush cabal was allowed to invade Iraq. Thus, every U.S. citizen who is not doing everything in their power to end this illegal and immoral occupation as quickly as possible is complicit with the war crimes being committed in Iraq on a daily basis." ~ Dahr Jamail