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, March 11, 2008

News & Views 03/11/08

Photo: An elderly woman walks in the al-Amil district of Baghdad, February 9, 2008. Iraq has seen an uptick in violence since January, including high-profile suicide and car bomb attacks, partly as a result of recent U.S.-led offensives against Islamist militants, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)


Tuesday: 57 Iraqis Killed, 35 Wounded

Monday: 8 US Soldiers, 30 Iraqis Killed; 77 Iraqis Wounded

20 bodies found in Iraq grave

A GRAVE containing 20 bodies has been found by Iraqi security forces near Samarra, just days after 100 decomposed bodies were found at another site. The most recent mass grave, containing the bodies of men, women and children, was found in a dry riverbed in an area called Al-Jillam, north-east of Samarra. The bodies appeared to be killed a long time ago, Lieutenant Muthanna al-Shakir said. On Saturday, 100 decomposed bodies were found buried in a mass grave in the province of Diyala.

Audio: Iraq Violence Surges Again

A day after the U.S. military announced that overall violence was down in Iraq, eight American soldiers were killed in a pair of attacks. That's the highest single-day toll in months, and it's not the only recent incident of violence.

Audio: Iraqi Women Face Risks Behind the Wheel

When Saddam Hussein was still in power in Iraq, the streets were full of female drivers. In fact, to hear Iraqis tell it, they had one of the highest proportions of female drivers in the Middle East. But the U.S. invasion of Iraq changed all that. Between bad traffic, aggressive convoys and radical insurgents, the streets are not for the faint-hearted. This has led many Iraqis to decide that driving isn't worth the risk. One woman still braving the roads is Azhar Abbas, who has been taking children to school for the past 28 years. Her bright yellow van is a fixture in Al-Andalus district, a prosperous neighborhood of two-story houses on the southeast side of Baghdad.

Health workers try to halt Iraq measles outbreak

Hundreds of health workers are in Iraq's Anbar province to vaccinate 200,000 children against measles in a bid to contain an outbreak which has already struck 100 children, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday. The 10-day campaign, begun on Sunday, aims to protect children against the highly-contagious disease which can cause complications including blindness, encephalitis (a brain infection) and pneumonia, it said. "Nearly 600 vaccinators are taking part in the house-to-house drive and they are determined to reach every child under age five who missed routine vaccinations," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva. Fighting and insecurity in the past 3 years have isolated the western province from the rest of the country, eroding its routine health services and leading to a serious drop in vaccine coverage, according to the United Nations health agency. Only one in four infants in Anbar had received the measles vaccine at the end of 2007, it said.

Iraqis still ask if U.S. invasion was worth it

Five years after U.S. and British forces swept into Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis are asking if the violence and upheaval that turned their lives upside down was worth it. [I imagine the number asking this is quite small. – dancewater]

Audio: Riding out the Storm

This week on War News Radio, we hear from Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, and take a look at how their lives are changing as their resources dwindle. Then, we speak with Susanne Fischer, a reporter in Baghdad who tells us about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Iraq. Next, we learn about an educational Iraqi cartoon program designed to help children navigate the dangers of war. Finally, in our series “A Day in the Life”, we speak with an Iraqi refugee who made it to the UK by way of Turkey and Greece–but now thinks leaving was a mistake.

Two years after surgery, Baby Noor's future still troubling

The medical care in Atlanta restored Noor's life but nothing could undo her paralysis from the waist down. Upon their return to Iraq, the family moved from one Baghdad home to another, fearing retribution from insurgents for taking help from Americans. Haider said he was abducted twice and rarely leaves the house these days. Soad said her grocery shop in Abu Ghraib was bombed. She now runs a smaller stall in Baghdad. Even as Iraqis express optimism that a recent drop in violence might hold, Soad cannot. "For normal people in Baghdad, things may be getting better," she said. "But not for people like us. Not for people who were targeted." (Their full names are being withheld because of security reasons.)


Immigrants Ministry announces measures against displaced rights transgressors

Iraqi Ministry of Immigrants and Displaced on Tuesday warned against those proven involved in excesses committed against forcibly relocated families and their properties. “The ministry has taken all preventive and legal procedures against those who are proven to be transgressing the rights of forcibly relocated families,” the Ministry of Immigrants and Displaced cited its minister Abdul Samad Abdel-Rahman as saying. He pointed out “ill-willed people exploited the difficult circumstance facing Iraqi people by forcibly relocating families and usurping their houses and properties.” Acknowledging the complexity of displaced people’s problem, the minister referred to “procedures taken by the ministry to secure the return of forcibly relocated families to their dwellings and to stop the demographic change.”

Iraq as an "Occupied State" in APU Conference

Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegations to Arab Parliamentary Conference objected on Tuesday to describing Iraq as an "occupied state" by the head of the Arab League (AL) delegation, demanding an immediate apology, and not to repeat this frame during the conference's sessions embraced by Arbil – capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. During the evening session, conference rooms' witnessed a debate between Ali Al-Jarosh – head of the AL delegation, on one side, and Sheikh Khalid Al-Attiya – Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and Jassim Al-Khrafi – head of the Kuwaiti delegation, on the other side. Al-Attiya and Al-Khrafi condemned describing Iraq as (occupied), "Iraq is not an occupied state. If Iraq is occupied, it could not receive this conference without any limitations," Al-Attiya said, adding, "Iraq is an independent state that enjoys full sovereignty, and the presence of foreign forces is due to security agreements."


UN torture envoy says US deny access to Iraq jails

The UN investigator on torture said on Tuesday the United States had denied his request to visit US-run jails in Iraq and insisted a visit could help clear its legacy of the prison abuse scandal in Abu Ghraib. Manfred Nowak, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said he had received credible information the situation had improved at U.S. detention facilities in recent years, but stressed only a visit would allow him to verify them. An international outcry erupted in 2004 after images of prisoner abuse by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad, including naked detainees stacked in a pyramid and others cowering before snarling dogs, became public. "I was a little astonished that the U.S. government is not willing to grant me access because it might perhaps even be in their own interest if I compared different detention facilities," Nowak told a news briefing in Geneva.

An admiral takes on the White House

A new article on CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon confirms that his public statements last autumn ruling out war against Iran were not coordinated with the White House and landed him in trouble more than once with President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In an admiring article on Fallon in Esquire, former Pentagon official Thomas P M Barnett writes that Fallon angered the White House by "brazenly challenging" Bush on his aggressive threat of war against Tehran. Barnett also cites "well-placed observers" as saying Bush may soon replace Fallon with a "more pliable" commander. Barnett's account, which quotes conversations with Fallon during the CENTCOM commander's trips to the Middle East, shows that Fallon privately justified his statements contradicting the Bush policy of keeping the "option" of an unprovoked attack on Iran "on the table" as necessary to calm the fears of Egypt and other friendly Arab regimes of a US-Iran war.

US admiral in charge of Iraq war resigns

Adm. William Fallon, head of the US military command in charge of Iraq and Afghanistan, stepped down on Tuesday in the wake of a magazine article that portrayed him as challenging President George W. Bush on Iran policy. [And the world is now a more dangerous place with Adm. Fallon gone. – dancewater]

US: Syria backs foreign fighters in Iraq

Despite increased counterterrorism efforts by Damascus, as much as 90 percent of the foreign fighters in Iraq cross the border from Syria, according to a Pentagon report that says Iran's support for Shiite militants also is hurting efforts to improve Iraq security. [The number of foreign fighters in Iraq is very small. – dancewater]

Freedom Journal Iraq - Watch Video

This edition features stories on the increase in numbers and effectiveness of the Iraqi Air Force, B Company 1st Battalion 15th Infantry Regiment Soldier training at Combat Outpost Carver for an Air Assault Mission, a raid report from Iraq on discovered weapons caches and insurgents. [A lot of propaganda in these videos, but they do sometimes give information that we don’t find elsewhere. – dancewater]


Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida

An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network. The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime. The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

The Story Behind Iraq's Mass Graves

As we near the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, yet another mass grave has been discovered in a country that is pocked with crude burial sites dating back to Saddam Hussein's Baathist rule that began in 1979. The most recent grave -- the largest yet in Diyala province -- was discovered Friday near an orchard, and contains the remains of about 100 people, the decomposition initially suggesting that they had been there for some time. Unfortunately, the discovery is nothing new. The best way to get an idea of the magnitude of these finds is to check out this album that Iraqis have kept, detailing the business of trying to identify the victims, trying to find answers, and mourning the dead. How the bodies are found at each site tell a story: victims blindfolded, victims shot at point-blank range, victims including women and children, and sometimes women clutching children. How the families are sent home with plastic bags containing the remains of their loved ones, with shrouded women and men alike wailing over the cold, plain bags.


Audio: Chris Hedges - War is a Force That Has Destroyed Iraq

Chris Hedges, veteran war reporter and author of War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and many other books, including the brand new I Don’t Believe in Atheists, discusses the myth of the “surge” in Iraq, the temporary bribing of the Sunni insurgency (aka: “concerned local citizens”), the danger of arming all three major ethnic/religious groups against each other, the lack of ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and the genocidal madness of the new fundamentalist atheists.


A Visual Display of the Death Caused by This War

Vets Break Silence on Iraq War Crimes

U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in those countries. "The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it," said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "That's left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like." Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples," as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of "an increasingly bloody occupation."

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Quote of the day: From FCNL to Americans: That’s how much of your 2007 federal income taxes went to the military – to pay for both current and past military activities. Of every dollar you pay in taxes:

1 cent goes to diplomacy and foreign aid;
3 cents goes to the environment, energy, and science;
12 cents goes to respond to poverty in the United States;
43 cents goes to war.