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, March 1, 2008

News & Views 03/01/08

Photo: A volunteer Iraqi civilian, hold his rifle as he smokes in front of Iraqi police officers at the city of Salman Pak about 30 miles (45 kilometers), south of Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday Feb. 29, 2008. Many check points are guarded by Volunteer Iraqi civilians known as Son's of Iraq, to decrease violence. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris).

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Saturday: 1 British Airman, 15 Iraqis Killed; 21 Iraqis Wounded

Friday: 14 Iraqis Killed, 4 Wounded

11 kidnapped people in Diala freed

Iraq casualties rise again after Qaeda bombs

Kirkuk attack casualties up to 14

Iraq death toll surges 33 percent in February

Death of Journalists’ Union head to be commemorated

Iraqi Journalists will commemorate the death of their chief every year and turn it into a day of morning for their colleagues who have fallen in duty.

free graves

I thought that the Iraqi government is watching this killing series with carelessness and they don’t do much to protect the life of journalists except for condemning and condolences which do nothing to save the precious lives of the Iraqi journalists but today I found out that I was wrong. Today I read in the news that the governor of Najaf allocated a piece of land for journalist. Before finishing the news, I felt happy for one second only because I thought the man had allocated properties for the journalists to build their houses in the safe city of Najaf but again, I was wrong. The land which was allocated for the journalists by his Excellency the governor of Najaf was inside the biggest graveyard in the world (Dar Al Salam cemetery)… it is allocated to build graves for us after we get killed by the insurgents. This is serious and it’s not a joke.

Basra port receives 50K tons of U.S. wheat

Basra's port of Umm al-Qasr received 50,000 tons of U.S. wheat on Saturday, the public relations and media director at the State Company for Iraqi Ports said. "A ship called Golden Shadow, registered in Hong Kong, carrying 50,000 tons of U.S. wheat arrived this morning at Umm Qasr port," Abdul Kareem al-Basri told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI). The source added that the port also received the Jordanian ship Jupiter carrying 4,000 tons of U.S. rice.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Guards to resume patrols in key Iraq province

Tribal security guards patrolling one of Iraq's most dangerous provinces agreed to return to work on Saturday after a three-week strike, one of their leaders and the U.S. military said. Hundreds of the mainly Sunni Muslim guards had been on strike in Diyala over pay and objections to the province's Shi'ite police chief, the U.S. military said. The neighbourhood guard units, which the U.S. military calls "concerned local citizens" (CLCs), have been credited as vital to a sharp drop in violence across Iraq since last June.

The strike had threatened to undermine efforts to pacify ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, one of four northern provinces in which officials said al Qaeda had regrouped after being forced from strongholds in Iraq's west and around the capital. A leader for the Diyala tribal guards had said that thousands in the movement had disbanded, primarily because they wanted the police chief fired. Provincial CLC and Iraqi officials and the U.S. military met on Friday to iron out differences.

Minister: 115 Firms Register for Iraq Oil Contracts

Report: Iraq Closer to Deals With Big Oil Companies

And the ever helpful US officials say: US urges Iraq to seize chance to revive economy

Iraq must seize on the opportunity created by improved security to push ahead with economic reforms and Washington will help by sending more technical experts, a U.S. Treasury official said on Friday. After a two-day visit to Baghdad, David McCormick, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs said Washington would increase the number of technical economic staff helping the Iraqi government with this from 4 to 12.

"There is a universal recognition that there is a window of opportunity on the economic reform side that has been created by the improvement in the security situation," McCormick said. "It is particularly critical that the Iraqi leadership seize the opportunity that is provided on the economic side... whether we're talking about investment, budget execution or reform," he added. [When are they going to start at least pretending that they don’t run the place? – dancewater]

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

US Reducing Investigators From Iraq

The U.S. plans to reduce the number of auditors and investigators at its development agency in Baghdad. A spokesman for Sen. Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, says the nine investigators and auditors would be permitted to finish their tours _ but would not be replaced. At issue is the operation of the U.S. Agency for International Development's inspector general's office. [Well, we wouldn't want to find out what happened to all those billions of dollars....... - dancewater]

Court gags ex-SAS man who made torture claims

A former SAS soldier was served with a high court order yesterday preventing him from making fresh disclosures about how hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture. Ben Griffin could be jailed if he makes further disclosures about how people seized by special forces were allegedly mistreated and ended up in secret prisons in breach of the Geneva conventions and international law. Griffin, 29, left the British army in 2005 after three months in Baghdad, saying he disagreed with the "illegal" tactics of US troops.

White House blocks inquiry into construction of $736m embassy in Iraq

The Bush administration is blocking an inquiry into the delay-plagued construction of the $736m US embassy in Baghdad, a senior Democrat in Congress said today. Henry Waxman, who is chairman of the oversight committee in the House of Representatives, asked US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice today to explain why her department certified the embassy as "substantially completed" in December despite inspections that reveal continued deficiencies in the facility's water, fire alarm and kitchen systems. The Baghdad embassy, which stands to become the largest US diplomatic facility in the world, had an original opening date of mid-2007. But the project stalled amid ballooning cost estimates as well as charges of corruption and shoddy work by the private contracting company overseeing the project.

US general seeks to create Iraqi jobs

It was during one of those trips that the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division said he had "a life-changing experience." Local farmers said they needed jobs. "And I thought about how to teach them fish farming." Whole fish, split open and then grilled upright, is a signature dish in Baghdad restaurants. Demand has been rising as security has improved and more people venture out. But pollution, dams and years of mismanagement of the waters in past decades cut the once abundant stocks. Lynch saw an opportunity. Fish farming is not unknown in Iraq and creating new farms there is relatively simple. Pools are dug near the existing system of irrigation canals and the farmer fills them with fresh water. Carp or other stillwater species are introduced and, when they're grown, farmers harvest them easily by draining the pools. [If our US State Department was not so busy destroying Iraq’s economy, they would be the ones starting up economic programs. – dancewater]

Tales of chaos, by our man in Basra

The British envoy who ran southern Iraq after Saddam fell was left furious by a lack of planning and support from Tony Blair.

….Part of his remit was to distribute largesse to the locals, but that meant first going cap-in-hand to the Americans for money. And along the way he had to cope with the fall-out from ill-advised policies conceived in Washington and fight off bizarre interventions – such as an Australian attempt to offload a shipment of scabby-mouthed sheep. “There was a complete absence of any plan,” says Sir Hilary Synnott, 62, who recounts his experiences in a book entitled Bad Days in Basra, published this month, five years on from the invasion. “I was sent to Basra with no piece of paper in my hand.” As the title suggests this is no gentle portrayal. The harrumphs of this seasoned diplomat are audible throughout – and he even admits now that he was tempted to call the book Bugger Basra. “It was more than two years after I came back before I could sit down and write it,” he explains. “I couldn’t have written it before because I was just in such a blind fury.”

Or, so they say: US: Iraqi women bomber trainer caught

The U.S. military announced the capture Saturday of an insurgent leader who was recruiting and training women, including his wife, to wrap themselves in explosives and blow themselves up — the latest sign that al-Qaida in Iraq plans to keep using women to carry out suicide attacks. …..Women have recently been used more frequently by al-Qaida in Iraq as bombers, with six attacks or attempted attacks this year alone, according to U.S. military statistics. That's out of a total of 19 such attacks since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said in a recent briefing. [So al Qaida has only done 19 attacks, out of the thousands of attacks in Iraq? Who is doing the rest? – dancewater]

Turkish army chief denies US pressure led to Iraq pull-out

Turkey's withdrawal from northern Iraq was based solely on military needs, the head of the army said in remarks published Saturday, dismissing "unfair" criticism that Ankara had bowed to US pressure. "No one said 'withdraw'," General Yasar Buyukanit said in an interview with the popular Milliyet daily. "This was a decision taken on military reasons altogether. There was not even a hint from politicians or foreigners to withdraw."

COMMENTARY

Time to Get Out of Our Blood Debt in Iraq

Will the next president be the second coming of Jimmy Carter? Given Thursday's economic headlines, full of dire warnings about the return of 1970s-style stagflation, you might think so. Bush wants to leave to the next president the burden of ending the debacle he started five years ago when he ordered the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, against a people who had done us no harm. Bush cannot explain his reasons for the war without compounding his folly. To this moment, Bush has not given a logical explanation for his disastrous militarism. How can he tell American families that their sons and daughters died for a terrible, tragic mistake committed by his administration? History shows that other presidents have found ways to end U.S. involvement in wars. Most times there has been a public sigh of relief when that happens.

Hypocrisy: Iraq should tell Iran to stop war supplies - Bush

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Saturday the Iraqi government should use a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tell Tehran to stop arming Iraqi militias and to insist on "breathing space" to let democracy develop.

Hypocrisy knows no limits in bush world: 'Stop exporting terror,' Bush tells Ahmadinejad

US President George W. Bush on Saturday told his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he must "stop exporting terror" on the eve of the Iranian leader's first visit to Iraq.

RESISTANCE

Waging War on War: A Teen's Campaign to Bring Troops Home

She's adamant about pursuing political issues that have polarized much of the nation. This young activist wants the next president to promise to withdraw our troops from Iraq. The Walnut resident believes it is important to take a stand against the conflict in Iraq while we are still debating our choices for the next chief executive. Though she is obviously too young to vote, Gebhardt isn't too young to raise her strong voice. So the straight-A student is using modern technology to promote peace. The intense teen has founded the What's Going On? project for peace on the Internet. Launched on Veteran's Day, her MySpace project has drawn more than 600 supporters.

US: Vets Break Silence on War Crimes

"Americans are bred deep into their psyches to think of America as a good country and, I think, much harder than just the hurdle of getting troops out of Iraq is to get Americans to realise the terrible things we do in the name of the United States."

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: H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 SEC. 899B. FINDINGS.

`The Congress finds the following:

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.

NOTE: what with all the power the commander in chief has aggregated, he/she can turn off if not filter the Internet at any time with national security as the justification.

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