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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

News & Views 02/26/08

Photo: A view of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River in Mosul, Iraq, November 1, 2007. A suicide bomber killed 14 people in an attack on a bus in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, security sources said. REUTERS/Stringer

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Monday: 44 Iraqis Killed, 37 Wounded

Tuesday: 1 US Soldier, 25 Iraqis Killed; 20 Iraqis Wounded

Bomber kills 14 in Iraq's Mosul: security sources

Finding Iraq's missing children

The increase in the number of missing children in Iraq is an issue that should be taken seriously and addressed with immediate measures to end it. This is being said given that Iraqi officials have raised concern about the possibility that these children are being used by trafficking networks inside and outside the country. According to the Iraqi Human Rights Justice Centre in Baghdad, 16 cases of missing children have been filed with the authorities. Yet what is more disturbing is the fact that many families, according to officials, have opted not to lodge reports about their missing children.

Depleted uranium kills Basra people

Jawad Al-Ali, a dermatologist and oncologist who attended the conference, said to VOI, "There are many reasons that add to the spread of the disease in Basra, and in southern Iraq in general." "We can blame no one here for this, because the essential impulse that causes a peak cancer is radioactive pollution," Ali said, explaining, "there is an impression supported by evidence that in southern Iraq, particularly in Basra province, that a rapid increase in cancer cases is occurring. Field surveys will be carried out in Basra in two weeks in an attempt to establish an accurate number of cancer cases here," Al-Ali confirmed, proceeding "A notable increase in cancer cases has been seen since 1994 due to the 1991 Gulf War, which is normal given its incubation period of 3-4 years."

S.O.S, fertilizer industry says

The fertilizer industry in Iraq is dying. Mahdi Salem, director general of The State Company for Fertilizers / Southern Part – Basra, which belongs to the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals, appealed to the Iraqi government to improve production of fertilizers in Iraq. "The fertilizer industry is one of the key-determinants of economic progress in Iraq," Salem said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI), proceeding, "no fertilizer industry implies tremendous losses for Iraqi national treasuries, and human resources."

IRAQ: Iraq's health sector under pressure

With scores of doctors killed over the past few years, an exodus of medical personnel, poor medical infrastructure and shortages of medicines, Iraq's health sector is under great pressure, a senior Health Ministry official said on 26 February. "We are experiencing a big shortage of everything. We don't have enough specialist doctors and medicines, and most of the medical equipment is outdated," said the official who preferred anonymity. "We used to get many spinal and head injures but were unable to do anything as we didn't have enough specialists and medicines. Intravenous fluid, which is a simple thing, is not available all the time," the official said. "We have no neurosurgeons in Baghdad which has about five million people. Even with the security gains of the past few months, it is still dangerous for doctors and their families to step out of their houses," he said.

Iraqi hospitals unable to cope with bombings-ICRC

Iraqi hospitals remain unable to cope with mass casualties and many Iraqis still die due to ill-equipped centres, despite a drop in violence in some areas, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday. Many patients who could have been saved die in overwhelmed emergency rooms, which also lack qualified staff, said Pascal Olle, the ICRC's health programme coordinator for Iraq. Iraq's health care system was already fragile after years of international sanctions and wars with its neighbours. It has deteriorated further since the U.S. invasion in 2003, Olle said in an interview posted on the agency's site ww.icrc.org. "It is shocking to see how Iraqis today lack the most essential needs in terms of health services," he said. [They lack gloves, sheets, bandages, IV needles, IV fluids, antibiotics and medicines of all kinds. – dancewater]

Civilians Fearful As Turks March

Turkey says it is not targeting civilians as it chases after separatist rebels in northern Iraq, but people in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region say they have lived in fear since the incursion began. Some residents of this area 18 miles from the Iraq-Turkey border thought they'd escaped to a safe haven, having abandoned homes closer to the border to avoid skirmishes between the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and Turkish troops. But with the Turks mounting their first confirmed ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, some say they are fearful of getting caught in the deadly crossfire.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

PKK fighters wage 4-pronged attack on Turkish troops

"The Turkish side lost 21 soldiers and still the PKK fighters keep the bodies of five of them. Our fighters also seized their M-16 weapons," Ahmed Deniz, the PKK official in charge of foreign affairs, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). "The PKK has lost only one fighter, though," Deniz said. He said the PKK also thwarted a landing by Turkish paratroopers in the area of Jamjou, adding "our fighters withstood the landing and forced the Turks to withdraw. "The fighting is still flaring up in the areas of Bazia and al-Zab but it ended in Irsh, where the Turkish troops pulled out," he said. Roz Wallat, a commander of the PKK, said "the Turkish troops' position is very hard due to the ferocious resistance showed by our fighters."

Iraq demands Turkey withdraw from border conflict with Kurds

Iraq's government today demanded Turkey immediately withdraw from northern Iraq after six days of fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish separatists. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the military action was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, and called on the Turkish government to engage the Iraqis in dialogue instead. "The Iraqi cabinet has denounced the Turkish army's incursion," Dabbagh said in a televised statement after the government met to discuss the issue. "The cabinet calls on Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately and stop military interference."

Sadr militia leader urges members to honor ceasefire with U.S.

A leader of the Mahdi Army, the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is urging members to preserve the ceasefire the group has decaled with U.S. occupation troops. Salah al-Ubaidi, the cleric’s spokesman, said the movement would expel any member found violating the terms of the ceasefire. The Mahdi Army is one of Shiite’s most powerful militia groups with armed units stationed in Baghdad and throughout the south. Sadr has extended the ceasefire six more months and Ubaidi said those violating the it would be considered “mutineers” and expelled from the movement.

Baghdad and Arbil look away as the PKK are attacked

All three parties responsible for the area where the rebels have entrenched themselves - the United States, the Iraqi government and the government of the Kurdish Autonomous Region - have declared they don't want anything to do with the war in the mountainous borderland. The US, which holds military responsibility for Iraq by a UN mandate, has even shown considerable sympathy for the Turkish attacks on the PKK camps. It has asked Ankara only to keep the offensive in Iraq as 'precise' and as short as possible. The government in Baghdad, which has little power in the north, but is officially also in charge of the northern Kurdish provinces, is staying out of the whole mess.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkey Kills 153 PKK in Iraq, Resists Calls to Halt

US says Turkey acting 'responsibly' in Iraq

"We do want it to be short-term, and we want it very narrowly targeted," said spokeswoman Dana Perino, referring to the Turkish military's incursion into northern Iraq to flush out Kurdish rebels. But she added: "I'm not going to put a timeframe on it. Obviously, we support Turkey, and we support Iraq." The government in Baghdad has denounced the operation as an "unacceptable" violation of its sovereignty. "It's obviously a situation that none of us would choose to have, but it's one that the Turks, we believe, so far, have been fairly responsible in moving forward with this operation it's important that they continue to work with the Iraqis," Perino said. [So now bombing and invading are called “work with” the natives. These people are evil to the core. – dancewater]

U.S./IRAQ: Strategic Alliances Remain Elusive

The George W. Bush administration has ballyhooed recent legislation passed by the Iraqi parliament as a sign that its troop escalation strategy has indeed created space for political reconciliation. But observers say a closer look at the legislation in the context of the grander Iraqi quagmire suggests that the chances of passage of the laws being the major and meaningful step forward in the political process presented by the administration and its allies is unlikely. The laws remain controversial in Iraqi politics and their implementation presents incredibly difficult challenges -- an indication of the fact that the weak central government, while taking baby steps, faces tough odds with the difficult political realities on the ground.

IWE: a better Iraq

A team consisting of five female Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group and two female interpreters conducted a census patrol in a nearby town here, Feb. 23. The Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team was able to meet and talk with the local Iraqi females without the men around. A variety of topics were discussed, from any assistance they may need to how the American military has helped them make a better way of life. “It was an eye opener,” said Sgt.Veronica Deleon, 26, a member of the IWE team, from Bassett, Calif. “We realized Iraqi people are ordinary individuals that want an opportunity at life and a future for their children, just like we do.” [OH, GEE WIZ, WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT???!!!!! – dancewater] ……Many of the women have husbands who have either been killed or are detained. Because of this, the women are in need of financial assistance. [WONDER HOW THAT HAPPENED????!!!??? This article goes on with the Iraqi women saying all kinds of nice things about the American troops in their country; with the American troops themselves totally oblivious to the fact they probably are not speaking their true feelings to armed foreign invaders, with a history of killing and detaining their husbands. – dancewater]

Fortunes of War: Death and Chaos No Problem for Profit-Seekers in Iraq

We have long been told that the "security situation" in Iraq is the reason why the loudly promised "reconstruction" of the shattered nation by altruistic Western firms has been thwarted. Foreign corporations, particularly the oil companies, are eager to come to the aid of the suffering Iraqi people with expertise, technology and massive investment -- just as soon as those quarrelsome Arabs settle down and stop killing each other. So the story goes. But as usual, the truth is far from that. As the British government's top advisor revealed this week in a remarkably candid interview with the Observer, Western business leaders don't care how many Iraqis die -- or who kills them -- just as long as their own profits can be guaranteed. It is the oil law -- not civil war, sectarian strife, or the cynical U.S. "surge" policy of arming all sides to guarantee continuing conflict -- that is holding up Western investment.

…….Wareing told the paper that security in the area "was no longer an issue for investors." After all, he said, you will often find a spot of bother amongst the dusky peoples who have unaccountably found themselves living on top of America and Britain's oil: "If you look at many other economies in the world, particularly the oil-rich economies, many of these places are quite challenging places in which to do business," he said. "Frankly, if you can successfully operate in the Niger Delta, that is a very different benchmark from imagining that Basra needs to be like London or Paris."

…..Naturally, since Nigeria is the openly stated model for what's to come, the actual people of Iraq will get the barest trickle of this bumper harvest of their national wealth. As in Nigeria, most of it will be shipped back to the West and spread around a thin layer of corrupt and corrupting local elites, while the majority lives in poverty and the society is riven with ethnic, religious and political conflict spurred by the twin goads of greed and vast injustice.

US Expects 140K Troops in Iraq After Surge Ends

HISTORY

Iraq minutes 'should be made public'

The minutes of cabinet meetings at which ministers discussed the legality of invading Iraq should be published, the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said today. In an unprecedented ruling, Thomas said the papers about the controversial legal advice should be made public in part because "there is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision". Thomas said the public interest in disclosure outweighed the principles that normally allow the government not to have to publish minutes of cabinet decisions.

COMMENTARY

Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq top index of weak states

Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq are the four weakest states in the world, according to an index of fragile nations released by two U.S. think tanks on Tuesday. …A weak state is defined as one lacking the capacity to establish and maintain political institutions, secure the population from violent conflict and control their territories or to meet the basic needs of the population.

Is Iran Winning the War in Iraq?

Despite its very public saber-rattling against Iran, however, the United States has spent most of the past five years in a de facto alliance with Iran in support of the Shiite-led (and US-installed) regime in Baghdad. The most powerful component of that regime, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and its disciplined Badr Corps militia, is also Iran's closest Iraqi ally. Taking advantage of the political vacuum created by the US destruction of Saddam Hussein's government, Tehran has established a vast presence, both overt and covert, in Iraq, with enormous influence among nearly all of its western neighbor's Shiite and Kurdish parties.

How Did America Become a Country That Tortures?

As Rear Admiral John Hutson describes it, “What starts at the top of the chain of command drops like a rock down the chain of command, and that’s why Lynndie England knew what Donald Rumsfeld was thinking without actually talking to Donald Rumsfeld.” All interviewees in Taxi assert that torture does not produce useful intelligence (the most egregious case noted here is that of Abi Faraj al-Libbi, whose coerced and inaccurate “confession” of ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda found its way into Colin Powell’s infamous speech at the United Nations in 2003). The film suggests that its pervasiveness in popular culture (exemplified by scenes from 24) has led to what Alfred McCoy (A Question of Torture) calls “a constituency for torture that allows the Bush White House to get away with the way it twists laws and treaties.”

Quote of the day: "The United States is being played," agrees Kenneth Katzman, Middle East specialist for the Congressional Research Service. "The US military is being played by the Hakims in this internecine struggle."

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