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

Sunday, March 16, 2008

News & Views 03/16/08


Photo: The wife of Ra'ad Hussein cries over his body at a morgue in Baqouba, the capital of Iraq's Diyala province, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 16, 2008. Hussein was killed in crossfire between gunmen and police on his way to work Sunday. (AP Photo)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

AI: Iraq, most dangerous country

Five years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Amnesty International has described the country as the most dangerous place in the world. Despite a 'surge' in the number of US forces in the country, law and order and economic recovery were a 'distant prospect' while most Iraqis were living in poverty, with food shortages, lack of access to safe drinking water and high unemployment. More than four in 10 Iraqis lived on less than one US dollar a day -- the UN standard for measuring poverty -- while the health and education systems were at near collapse and women and girls at risk of violence from extremists.

"Saddam Hussein's administration was a byword for human rights abuse," said Amnesty's director for Middle East and North Africa, Malcolm Smart. "But its replacement has brought no respite at all for its people." Amnesty also criticized the extensive use of the death penalty, the international community's failure to cater for Iraqi refugees and the lack of free speech in the Kurdistan region. "Despite claims that the security situation has improved in recent months, the human rights situation is disastrous," the
London-based group said, highlighting the kidnap, torture and murder of civilians by armed groups.

Millions of Iraqis lack water, healthcare

Some areas of the country of 27 million people have no functioning water and sanitation facilities, and the poor public water supply has forced some families to use at least a third of their average $150 monthly income buying clean drinking water. “Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world,” the ICRC said, describing Iraq’s health care system as “now in worse shape than ever.” The Swiss-based agency is mandated to help victims of war and monitor compliance to international rules of war, enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.

Its report said tens of thousands of Iraqis have disappeared since the start of the war. The conflict was grounded in faulty U.S. intelligence suggesting Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction. No such arsenal was ever found. “Many of those killed in the current violence have never been properly identified, because only a small percentage of the bodies have been turned over to Iraqi government institutions such as the Medical-Legal Institute in Baghdad,” it said. The ICRC is providing forensic equipment to medical and legal institutes enabling them to examine DNA samples and match them with those of families searching for their loved ones.

Five years on, human rights in Iraq “disastrous”

More than four in 10 Iraqis lived on less than one US dollar a day -- the UN standard for measuring poverty -- while the health and education systems were at near collapse and women and girls at risk of violence from extremists. “Saddam Hussein’s administration was a byword for human rights abuse,” said Amnesty’s director for Middle East and North Africa, Malcolm Smart. “But its replacement has brought no respite at all for its people.” The failure to investigate alleged abuses “is one of the most worrying aspects for the future”, he added. “Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of torture under their watch, the Iraqi authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators to account -- and the US and its allies have failed to demand that they do so,” he said.

Kurds mark Halabja anniversary

Kurds in northern Iraq are marking the 20th anniversary of the infamous chemical weapons attack in Halabja. Shops were closed for most of the day as Iraqi security forces patrolled the streets. The incident, which was orchestrated by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to crush a rebellion, killed an estimated 5,600 people. It was viewed by Baghdad as aiding Iran at the end of its war with Iraq.

IRAQ: Compounds for IDPs should not be a permanent solution, officials warn

As Iraq's displacement problem continues to grow, representatives of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on 15 March warned that government plans to build residential compounds for internally displaced persons (IDPs) should neither be sectarian nor permanent. Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi NGOs, said that plans by Iraq's Displacement and Migration Ministry to build compounds for IDPs were "a step in the right direction", but warned that they should not become permanent solutions. "There are now more than two million internally displaced persons in the country, with the majority still living in camps. There must be suitable places for them to live with good sanitation, electricity and other services… until they can get back to their normal lives," al-Azawi told IRIN, adding that tents did not meet the minimum standards required for IDPs. "But these places [such as compounds] should be temporary and should not end up as sectarian residential areas. The government must not forget that the only solution for their problem is a political one… to achieve reconciliation," al-Azawi told IRIN.

IRAQ: Baghdad residents' health at risk for lack of water, sewage systems

Lack of security, corruption, neglect and insurgent attacks have left Iraq's public services in tatters. Limited electricity, a shortage of safe drinking water and rundown sanitation and sewage systems are causing diseases and frustration. "We didn't realise our drinking water was mixed with sewage until my mother's death," said Wafaa's oldest son, Issam Ahmed Qassim, 24. "We had stomach aches from time to time over the past four years but we never realised it was related to the water we were drinking," said Qassim, a resident of Baghdad's rundown Kamaliyah area. Sixty-five percent of Iraqis have no access to piped drinking water and nearly 75 percent have no access to a good sewage system. According to Hazim Ibrahim, deputy head of Baghdad's water directorate, the daily need for drinking water for the capital's residents is at least 3.25 million cubic metres, while the actual amount piped daily is about 2 million cubic metres. "We have an acute crisis of drinking water as most of the water pipelines are outdated, having seen more than 30 years of service and some families, especially in suburban areas, depend on cisterns that only bring them contaminated underground water," Ibrahim said.

….Of Baghdad's three sewage plants, one is out of action, another is working at below capacity, while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a huge lake, according to Tahsin al-Shaikhly, the civilian spokesman of the Baghdad Security Plan. Al-Sheikhly said water pipes in Baghdad, where they exist, are so old that it is impossible to pump water at a sufficient rate to meet demand - leaving many neighbourhoods parched. Twice a month Jamil Muhsin Hawas, a resident of Baghdad's southwestern al-Ma'mil area, has an additional duty to perform. The 52-year-old taxi driver has to find someone with a tank to collect his family's excreta from a hole in the ground. "The sewage network in this area was established in late 1970s and at that time the area was so small, but as more people moved in, the network was never expanded to cope with the increasing number of people," Hawas said. "And so we built an underground hole with cement and an iron cover to gather our sewage and excreta to be collected twice a month for about 75,000 Iraqi dinars [about US$40]," he said.

3245 prisoners released under pardon law – source

The number of detainees released under the general amnesty law, launched by the government in February, reached 3245, an official judicial source said on Sunday. "Some 3245 prisoners from different Iraqi provinces were released since the pardon law became effective. The committees set up to consider release applications are still working," Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Bayraqdar, the official spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). The Iraqi parliament had approved last month a draft law to pardon a number of inmates in Iraqi jails and also in U.S. detention centers in accordance with certain conditions and controls. There are an estimated 32,000 detainees in U.S. and Iraqi prisons and detention centers, according to official figures released by the Iraqi government. Of this number, 18,000 are in the U.S.-run Bucca detention center in Iraq's southern province of Basra while nearly 9,000 are in Krupper prison.

Iraq violence has moved, not ended, report claims

The influx of thousands of U.S. forces has driven down insurgent attacks in Baghdad, but violence elsewhere in Iraq raises questions about whether killings will continue to drop as American forces begin to leave, the United Nations said yesterday. As security improved in Baghdad, violent attacks spread last year to other parts of the country, including Diyala Province and Mosul, al-Qaida’s last urban stronghold, according to the report from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. "The government of Iraq continued to face enormous challenges in its efforts to bring sectarian violence and other criminal activity under control against a backdrop of political instability," the report, which examined the last six months of 2007, said.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Govt. to call to pronounce March 16 as global anti-chemicals day – spokesman

Baghdad, Mar 16, (VOI) – The Iraqi government will ask the United Nations (UN) to pronounce March 16 as global day against the use of chemical weapons, according to official spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. "The Iraqi government, in a meeting on Sunday, decided to offer a draft resolution to the UN to consider March 16 a global day against the use of chemical weapons," Dabbagh said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, as well as other senior aides, were blamed for sanctioning the use of internationally-banned chemical weapons against the civilian population in the city of Halabja, in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, killing thousands of Kurds according to Kurdish statistics.

Profits from stolen oil help sustain insurgency in Iraq

The Bayji refinery may be the most important industrial site in the Sunni Arab-dominated regions of Iraq. On a good day, 500 tanker trucks will leave the refinery filled with fuel with a street value of $10 million. The sea of oil under Iraq is supposed to rebuild the nation and then make it prosper. But at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq's largest refinery here is diverted to the black market, according to U.S. military officials. Tankers are hijacked, drivers are bribed, papers are forged and meters are manipulated - and some of the earnings go to insurgents who are still killing more than 100 Iraqis a week. "It's the money pit of the insurgency," said Captain Joe Da Silva, who commands several platoons stationed at the refinery. Five years after the war in Iraq began, the insurgency remains a lethal force. The steady flow of cash is one reason, even as the U.S. troop buildup and the recruitment of former insurgents to American-backed militias have helped push the number of attacks down to 2005 levels. In fact, money, far more than jihadist ideology, is a crucial motivation for a majority of Sunni insurgents, according to U.S. officers in some Sunni provinces and other military officials in Iraq who have reviewed detainee surveys and other intelligence on the insurgency.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Iraq war's cost: Loss of U.S. power, prestige, influence

It was a decision that only President Bush had the power to make: At about 9 a.m. on March 19, 2003, in the Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing of the White House, he gave the "execute order" to begin Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Now, five years later, the consequences of that act will soon be beyond Bush's grasp. In 10 months, they'll land on the desk of his successor. Thanks in part to the Iraq war, the next U.S. president — Republican or Democrat, black or white, man or woman — will take office with America's power, prestige and popularity in decline, according to bipartisan reports, polls and foreign observers.

McCain, Delegation Visit Baghdad

Iraq War Fades Out As TV Story

HISTORY

2006: Predictions of a better Middle East have evaporated three years after invasion

Three years after the United States invaded Iraq in pursuit of a freer, more stable Middle East, the country's deepening ethnic conflict is spreading tension across Iraq's borders, fueling terrorism and nurturing gloom about the future. President Bush cited Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to international terrorism—neither of which turned out to exist—when he ordered a pre-emptive war that began March 19, 2003. He predicted payoffs for the wider Middle East: spreading democracy, deterred enemies, more secure oil flows, a less hostile environment for Israel. None of that has happened, at least not yet. Instead, said officials and analysts in the United States, Arab countries, Israel and Europe, the invasion has produced a vortex of unintended consequences. Militancy is on the rise. Terrorists are using Iraq as a training base and potential launch pad for attacks elsewhere, according to U.S. officials and documents. [Yes, this is true and the largest most powerful terrorist group is the US military. – dancewater]

FIVE years on, it seems positively surreal.

[Five years on, this author is still a total idiot. - dancewater]

But from that first impact, among many on the roof, the mood was scarcely one of cool detachment, or at least not as cautioned as it might have been by the longer-term implications of what we were seeing. Part of it, no doubt, was the air show — the sheer, astonishing, overwhelming demonstration of power, more like an act of God than man, unleashing in those watching from the roof something approaching awe. But the larger part, the one that seems surreal now in the light of all that has followed, was the sense that, with the beginning of the end of Saddam Hussein’s evil, the suffering of millions of ordinary Iraqis that we had chronicled, and pitied, was ending. [Once again establishing that our corporate media be fools and evil ones, at that. – dancewater]

…..As they must have to many Americans watching the live television coverage, those missiles and bombs seemed, in the headiness of that moment, to be fit retribution for a ruthless dictator, and the medieval wretchedness he had visited on Iraq’s people. That it took such force to accomplish seemed mitigated, at least somewhat, by the precision of the strikes, with only isolated instances, during the 19 days before American troops reached Baghdad, of errant missiles killing innocent civilians. [They killed thousands of innocent civilians and caused vast destruction – FAR WORSE THAN WHAT HAPPENED ON 9/11 – and the response should have been equivalent! Those days of “shock and awe” left me in a puddle of tears, and never once struck me as “a fit retribution” for Saddam’s evil – BECAUSE I KNEW DAMN WELL THEY WERE TOO STUPID TO EVEN HIT SADDAM WITH THEIR “smart” BOMBS! What evil shits these people are who write this drivel. – dancewater]

….. Late in the day, at the oil ministry, I discovered it was the only building marines had orders to protect. Turning to Jon Lee Anderson, a correspondent for The New Yorker who had been my companion that day, I saw shock mirrored in his face. “Say it ain’t so,” I said. But it was. [Well, no shit it was – that was THE PLAN ALL ALONG. This guy is an idiot. – dancewater]

….Looking back, it has been fashionable to say the Americans began losing the war right then. [No, they lost it the instant they decided to bomb. And they lost it because it is an evil war of conquest for control of the oil resources in the area. Americans greatly deserve to lose, and they deserve to suffer ten times what the Iraqi people have gone through. Particularly the author of this drivel. – dancewater]

Iraq: Who won the war?

Five years ago today, Britain stood on the brink of war. On 16 March 2003, United Nations weapons inspectors were advised to leave Iraq within 48 hours, and the "shock and awe" bombing campaign began less than 100 hours later, on 20 March. The moment the neocons around President George Bush had worked so long for, aided by the moral fervour of Tony Blair, was about to arrive. "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk," Kenneth Adelman, a leading neocon, had said a few weeks before, and so it proved. Within barely a month, Saddam's bronze statue in Baghdad's Firdaus Square was scrap metal. But every other prediction by the Bush administration's hawks proved wrong. No weapons of mass destruction – Britain's key justification for war – have been found. The Pentagon acknowledged last week that a review of more than 600,000 captured Iraqi documents showed "no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida terrorist network".

COMMENTARY

Five years on: Baghdad remembers 'shock and awe'

It was a day of shame for the Arab nation and the Islamic nation. I am pessimistic because day by day the Iraqis are failing to unify themselves. Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd ought to get together to end the occupation. The only good thing is that people working for the government now get a good salary.

Mohammed Rahaz, 21, Student at Baghdad University, Sunni

I am so happy because of the fifth anniversary. We achieved our dream of capturing Saddam Hussein, putting him on trial and executing him. I don't care whether the Americans occupy us or not, but they did us a good turn when they freed us from Saddam

Arkan Hamid, 31, Bookshop owner, Shia

Last year was the worst because so many innocent people were killed in Karada and all over Baghdad. Terrorism is being promoted by our neighbours, especially Syria and Saudi Arabia. Our life before under Saddam Hussein was so bad, but we are in a bad situation now. But in spite of this we have to try to build a new Iraq

Abdul Karim Jassim, 32, Butcher in Karada district, Shia

I have lost relatives and friends but I hope for a bright future for Iraq. Security comes first. I want the Americans to leave our country. The economy is better than under Saddam. I have a BA in agriculture and now I earn 435,000 Iraqi dinars ($350), while I got only 21,000 Iraqi dinars ($11) a month when Saddam was in power

Ansar Mardan Halim, 41, Office worker in Baghdad, Sunni

RESISTANCE

Demonstrations held worldwide to condemn Iraq war

LISTEN TO KPFA AND WINTER SOLDIER HERE.

Veterans recall horrors of war in live broadcast

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Speak Out [Photo Essay]

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

Quote of the day: My Lai marks massacre's 40th anniversary

Survivors reflect 40 years after My Lai

Forty years after rampaging American soldiers slaughtered her family, Do Thi Tuyet returned to the place where her childhood was shattered.

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