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

Friday, March 14, 2008

News & Views 03/14/08

Photo: Mourners carry the coffin of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, during his funeral in a village outside Mosul in northern Iraq, Friday, March 14, 2008. Rahho, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen two weeks ago, just minutes after performing mass, in Mosul, a city the U.S. military considers the last urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq. (AP photo)


Thursday: 39 Iraqis Killed, 112 Wounded

Iraqi Christians and Muslims mourn archbishop of Mosul (Roundup)

Iraqi Christians, Muslims and leaders gathered in the streets of Mosul Friday to mourn the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was found dead in Northern Mosul Thursday after his abduction two weeks ago, media reports said.

In Kurdistan, Brisk Business in Blast Walls

Just northeast of Kirkuk is a factory doing some of the best business in Iraq, but whose workers would be content to see it close down. It lies between Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya on the safer, Kurdish, side of the checkpoint marking the boundary between the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government and the rest of Iraq. Glimpsed through trees from the highway, the storage yard at first seems to be a do-it-yourself medieval fortress: scores of watchtowers, blast walls, sentry posts and barriers are stacked up in a field ready for delivery to whichever home, compound or neighborhood is next to be sealed off from the outside world.

Podcast: Shiite Parties at Odds in Basra


I will tell a story of a friend who is in Sweden who had the residency card by a lie he had made. He is a Shiite but he claimed that he is a Sunni and the Mahdi army threatened him and his family to leave the Shiite neighborhood he used to live giving him hours otherwise the whole family would be killed. As a result of this lie, this man had got a warning from his wife to get divorce if he doesn’t tell the Swedish authorities the whole truth that he is a Shiite Iraqi who left Iraq to live his life as it is a disaster to live there for all Iraqis whether he is a Sunni or a Shiite.

He was telling that these countries won’t accept Shiite people in their countries as the government who rule the country is Shiite having no persecution against them while Sunni people are persecuted by the government and militia groups! I told him at that moment if you say so why you had left the country if you are a Shiite yourself. He said that the information they had got is untrue. The Shiite are also the victims of the sectarian violence for the last five years who are more than other sects in the Iraqi society.

Manacled, starved, beaten: a rendition victim's story

Khaled al-Maqtari's nightmare began when American troops arrived at the al-Ghufran market in Fallujah in January 2004. He was arrested along with other terrorist suspects and taken to Abu Ghraib jail. For the next four years he was held captive, moved from country to country and suffered, he says, appalling torture. Mr al-Maqtari, from Yemen, was one of the many inmates in the US's secret "ghost detention" who disappeared into an international network of prisons, their whereabouts unknown to family and friends. British soldiers, he claims, were involved in investigating him although they did not play any part in the abuse. Details of what Mr al-Maqtari, 31, says was done to him emerge after a recent admission from the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband (after previous denials) that the island of Diego Garcia, a British territory, had been used in American rendition flights.

Iraqi Christian leader urges community to be patient

The leader of Iraq's minority Christians urged them yesterday not to be cowed and to be "steadfast" in their faith after the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found dead in northern Iraq. The abduction and death of Paulos Faraj Rahho, 65, was the most high-profile attack on Iraq's Christians, who have been targeted by Al Qaida, since the US-led invasion in 2003. "I ask the people of the church to be steadfast and patient," the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad and leader of Iraq's Christians, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, told hundreds of mainly Christian mourners who crowded into a church near Rahho's home village north of Baghdad to pay their last respects.

FEATURE-Trauma, poverty shred young Iraqis' dreams

As a teenager, Mazin Tahir dreamt that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would bring new freedoms and democracy with the fall of Saddam Hussein. As a young, his hopes have been replaced by despair after five years of unremitting violence. "It's sad, or funny. The Iraqi dream has turned into a nightmare," said Tahir, who was 15 when the Americans came. "When I was young I dreamt of getting rid of the dictatorship and replacing it with democracy. Saddam has gone but Iraq is in worse shape. There are killings every day, politicians are like thieves ... it's like a curse from God." Tahir had his life before him when the invasion started and his heart was full of hope. Now, like many others who grew from teens to adults during the occupation, he just wants to get out. Fatma Abdul-Mahdi was 17 at the time of the invasion. "When Saddam was ousted I thought the doors of happiness would be opened, I thought I could stop wearing second-hand clothes and I could be like the girls I was watching on TV," the 22-year-old said. Fatma now works as a teacher in the southern oil hub of Basra but, like so many of her peers, she says her life is worse and her family is poorer after five years of instability and hardship. "I still wear second-hand clothes. If I could find a job, even in Sudan or Somalia, I would flee Iraq as soon as possible. I wish I had never been born in Iraq," she said. Psychiatrists fear that young Iraqis, so badly disillusioned after their teenage hopes and dreams were dashed, might turn to more drastic measures than just seeking to leave.


Iraqi police, Mehdi army clash despite ceasefire

Members of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army milita clashed with Iraqi police in the southern city of Kut on Friday, a day after a close Sadr aide ordered militiamen to observe a ceasefire, police said. One policeman was killed in the fighting, and two civilians injured, police said.


Asshole: Petraeus: Iraqis Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'

Changing face of war: now a pilot in Las Vegas can blast a sniper in a Baghdad apartment

Although The Times was not allowed to sit in on any live missions at Creech, we were able to observe a simulated one. What strikes you when you first enter a ground control station is just how much the control panel looks like a two-player arcade game. The pilot and sensor operator each have three main TV screens: one showing a car navigation-style map, the next a live video feed and the third displaying technical data. There are other, smaller screens to either side, on which live instant messages can be sent to colleagues on the ground or in the operations centre. The control panel is being upgraded with bigger screens so that the US Federal Aviation Administration will allow Predators to be flown in commercial airspace in nonemergencies.

……. To prove the point, he showed us recorded footage from a Predator of a Hellfire missile being fired at a sniper in an apartment building in Iraq. Having detected the muzzle flash, the Predator, controlled from the Nevada desert, used a laser beam to send the missile through the window where the sniper was standing, killing him instantly but leaving the two apartments to either side of him intact.

Iran wants joint action with Iraq,Turkey against PKK

Iran, Iraq and Turkey should work together to defeat Kurdish rebels while respecting each other's territorial integrity and ensuring civilians are not harmed, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday. Turkey launched an eight-day cross-border offensive into northern Iraq last month after it said the Iraqi authorities had failed to stop some 3,000 members of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from staging attacks on Turkish territory. Iranian forces, which have also often clashed in Iraqi border areas with rebels from an offshoot of the PKK, reinforced Iran's border security in the wake of the Turkish offensive apparently fearing the separatists might seek safety in Iran. Speaking at a summit of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Senegal's capital Dakar, Ahmadinejad said the three countries needed to work together if the PKK separatists were to be defeated.


Prohibited weapons cresis in Fallujah

On the anniversary of the first Fallujah bombardment of March-April 2004, Civil society organizations MHRI and CCERF with Fallujahs doctors has released the new report. The report reminds the world with hard facts about the use of internationally banned weapons that was used by U.S. forces against innocent civilians. A detailed description of consequent health problems on both children and women is included in the report. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the United Nations should do its responsibility towards what has been mentioned in the report. We here legally bound ourself to the at most facts mentioned in the report and state our readiness to prove every single factual element with documented evidences.


How to Help Iraqi Refugees


Butchers of Baghdad

Of all the films being made about America's involvement in Iraq, evidently none is more loathed in the United States than Redacted. This "fictional documentary" by Brian De Palma, about an outrage committed by US troops on Iraqi civilians, is powerful, provocative, shocking and even slightly crazy in ways that may not be entirely intentional. By the end of its 90 minutes, the china shop of taste and judgment is pretty well smashed to pieces by this great big bull of a film. I've seen it twice now - at the Venice film festival last year and at a screening in London - and both times I could feel huge numbers of people, hawks and doves alike, being gripped, baffled and appalled by its sheer semi-controlled offensiveness. This comes to full, horrible flower in the final sequence of still photo-images of butchery accompanied by an ominous and deafening orchestral score.

Peace to Baghdad

No one is going to Baghdad
No moon is lighting up its nights
No sun is brightening up its days
Its children are orphans
Its women are sad
Its flowers are withered
Baghdad is exhausted by the war
Five years after March 2003
Five years of destruction and sadness
The voices of the mosques cry out:
The bells of the churches ring:
The chimes of the temples sound:
Stop the War!
Stop the massacres!
Stop the rivers of blood!
Give the smile back to Iraqi children!
Give the land to its people!
Stop the War!
Stop the killing!
Bring back Peace! ~ Taher Alwan - Iraqi poet, writer and film producer.

Robert Fisk: The cult of the suicide bomber

No one doubts that the road to Baghdad – or Tal Afar or Fallujah or Mosul – lies through Syria, and that the movement of suicide bombers from the Mediterranean coasts to the deserts of Iraq is a planned if not particularly sophisticated affair. What is astonishing – what is not mentioned by the Americans or the Iraqi "government" or the British authorities or indeed by many journalists – is the sheer scale of the suicide campaign, the vast numbers of young men (only occasionally women), who wilfully destroy themselves amid the American convoys, outside the Iraqi police stations, in markets and around mosques and in shopping streets and on lonely roads beside remote checkpoints across the huge cities and vast deserts of Iraq. Never have the true figures for this astonishing and unprecedented campaign of self-liquidation been calculated.

But a month-long investigation by The Independent, culling four Arabic-language newspapers, official Iraqi statistics, two Beirut news agencies and Western reports, shows that an incredible 1,121 Muslim suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Iraq. This is a very conservative figure and – given the propensity of the authorities (and of journalists) to report only those suicide bombings that kill dozens of people – the true estimate may be double this number. On several days, six – even nine – suicide bombers have exploded themselves in Iraq in a display of almost Wal-Mart availability.

Teachers told to rewrite history

Britain's biggest teachers' union has accused the Ministry of Defence of breaking the law over a lesson plan drawn up to teach pupils about the Iraq war. The National Union of Teachers claims it breaches the 1996 Education Act, which aims to ensure all political issues are treated in a balanced way.

* "Iraq was invaded early 2003 by a United States coalition. Twenty-nine other countries, including the UK, also provided troops... Iraq had not abandoned its nuclear and chemical weapons development program". After the first Gulf War, "Iraq did not honour the cease-fire agreement by surrendering weapons of mass destruction..."

The reality: The WMD allegation, central to the case for war, proved to be bogus. David Kay, appointed by the Bush administration to search for such weapons after the invasion, found no evidence of a serious programme or stockpiling of WMDs. The "coalition of the willing" was the rather grand title of a rag-tag group of countries which included Eritrea, El Salvador and Macedonia.

* "The invasion was also necessary to allow the opportunity to remove Saddam, an oppressive dictator, from power, and bring democracy to Iraq".

The reality: Regime change was not the reason given in the run-up to the invasion – the US and UK governments had been advised it would be against international law. Saddam was regarded as an ally of the West while he was carrying out some of the worst of his atrocities. As for democracy, elections were held in Iraq during the occupation and have led to a sectarian Shia government. Attempts by the US to persuade the government to be more inclusive towards minorities have failed.

* "From hospitals to schools to wastewater treatment plants, the presence of coalition troops is aiding the reconstruction of post-Saddam Iraq."

The reality: Five years after "liberation", Baghdad still only has a few hours of intermittent power a day. Children are kidnapped from schools for ransom and families of patients undergoing surgery at hospitals are advised to buy and bring in blood from sellers who congregate outside.


US/IRAQ: "We Reacted Out of Fear, and With Total Destruction"

The event, which has drawn international media attention, was organised by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Its goal is to give U.S. service members a chance to talk about their experiences during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to show that their stories of wrongdoing in both countries were not isolated incidents limited to a few "bad apples", as the Pentagon claims, but were everyday occurrences. Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year. Speaking on a panel about the Rules of Engagement (ROE), he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, "This card says, 'Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself'."

Kokesh pointed out that "reasonable certainty" was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told IPS there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians. "We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear," Kokesh said. "At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark. I don't think soldiers should be put in the position to choose between their morals and their instinct for survival."

Vieira de Mello foundation to honour peacemakers

Shortly after a massive bomb killed the U.N. envoy in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello in August 2003, his grieving widow and sons knew they wanted to perpetuate his life's work on behalf of victims of armed conflict. In an interview, Annie Vieira de Mello spoke of the strong idealism of the dashing Brazilian who worked in hotspots from Cambodia to Kosovo and Timor-Leste during his 30-year career with the United Nations. Her husband -- tipped by some as a possible future U.N. Secretary-General -- was among 22 people killed when a truck loaded with explosives hit the Canal Hotel, the U.N. compound in Baghdad following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. She and their sons Laurent and Adrien were spending a summer day along Lake Geneva when word came of what is still the most deadly attack on the world body set up in 1945. "As soon as the children and I received so many tributes and saw the outpouring of sympathy after the event, we thought he still had a role to play," Annie Vieira de Mello told Reuters at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, a hub for both humanitarian aid and human rights.

Help for the victims: WNC women seek to aid Iraqi children

In September, Anne Craig went from despair to hope when she met Salee Allawe, a 9-year-old Iraqi girl who lost both legs in a U.S. bomb attack near her home. “I knew I could do something about the devastation that’s been caused in Iraq,” Craig said. “I decided then to start a chapter of No More Victims here in Asheville.” No More Victims is a national relief organization that works to get medical sponsorship for war-injured Iraqi children and to forge ties between the children, their families and communities in the United States. It is the subject of the monthly movie night at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday.

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."

Please go to this website to sign the petition to support IVAW.


Quote of the day: I and the public know, What all schoolchildren learn, Those to whom evil is done, Do evil in return. ~ W.H. Auden