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

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

News & Views 03/19/08

Photo: The attack on Iraq began in March 2003 with Operation Shock and Awe directed at Baghdad (Faleh Kheiber/Reuters)

[A picture from the start of the war, the beginning of the total destruction of Iraq, which the evil shits have gotten away with so far. I wish they would relive the horrific events they created – every single night in their dreams. – dancewater]

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Wednesday: 2 US Soldiers, 31 Iraqis Killed, 42 Wounded

Tuesday: 38 Iraqis Killed, 77 Wounded

US forces kill 3 Iraqi policemen

Ali, Baghdad: We live in a nightmare

In a shy, soft voice Ali tells me how he had been standing with a friend in Karrada when a bomb went off at the side of the road. "I heard an explosion very close by," he says. "I saw smoke and chaos and people screaming. I saw my friend Hassan, who was running and carrying a child who had lost an arm. I saw a nice-looking girl - the Karrada girls, you know how beautiful they are. She was dead. And I saw a girl who had only one eye. "I couldn't bear it," he tells me. "I started to scream and cry. "Then suddenly there was another explosion. This time, you know, I didn't hear much, I just saw a tall column of orange fire a few metres away from me and then smoke. I didn't know what had happened, but the people who had run over to tend the injured from the first bomb were now lying on the street screaming. "I stood there in the middle of it all. I saw people picking bodies up and carrying them. A police car arrived and the police started to fire bullets in the air. I ran away and hid at the entrance of a shop. When a woman saw me, she started screaming. There was blood on my arm and on my leg." A friend of Ali's stopped a passing ambulance and helped him into it. Inside, he found a man whose face was black from burns and whose shoulder was covered with blood. A younger man was bleeding from his legs. "When he tried to lift one of them it bent not at the knee but from the middle of his thigh," Ali says. "He was screaming, 'Fix my leg! Fix my leg!' "

Audio: AudioGhaith Abdul-Ahad on Iraq

Displacement Increases the Vulnerability of Iraqi Children

On the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Save the Children is urging the United States and other donor nations to take decisive action to address the desperate plight of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict. The movement of families - including tens of thousands of children - is on a scale not seen in the Middle East since 1948. "Far too little has been done to address the heightened vulnerability of Iraq's children caught up in this massive displacement of people," said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General, International Save the Children Alliance. "Many Iraqi children have experienced incredible distress, the death of family members, the abandonment of homes, the loss of education opportunities, and broken families, schools and lives," said Gornitzka. "From a humanitarian point of view, a rapid, comprehensive and robust international response is required to ensure they are protected."

One barometer of Iraq's future

Conversely, 85 percent described the situation in Iraq as "bad or very bad." These women, in rural communities from Basra to Kirkuk and 334 in Baghdad itself, are the future of Iraq. On average, they were 33 years old with four children. …..A majority of the women respondents said violence against women is increasing and respect for women's rights is fading. When Salbi, now 38, launched Women for Women International in 1993, her first goal was to develop ways to give women the political, social and economic tools to secure and expand their role in society. Vocational and business training was usually the first order of business. Then came leadership programs, where women learned to talk about their issues in a way that would get the attention of the politicians. That's not happening in Iraq.

….Under the current national law, regional courts are left to determine the rules - as interpreted by a judge or an imam or a strong man. This is what this change has meant, according to interviews of widows in Women for Women's program: If a woman's husband is killed or kidnapped, she can't register her children as citizens - both parents must be present. Without citizenship, a child cannot go to school, be treated in a hospital or apply for food subsidies. There are 8 million widows and orphans among the 27 million Iraqis.

Iraq's water and sanitation crisis adds to dangers

The situation is creating widespread health and hygiene hazards for children. Iraq's 2007 cholera outbreak, the worst in recent memory, underlines the dire state of water and sanitation across the country. While Iraq's rural areas are the most deprived, water and sanitation services in urban centres are struggling – with violence accelerating the downward slide. Over 600 workers from the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works have been killed attempting to repair these networks since 2005. Their loss has damaged the sector and cut off whole communities from essential services.

What is the real death toll in Iraq?

Lieutenant General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during his time as head of US Central Command, once announced, "We don't do body counts. …But even though the Americans were not counting, people were dying, and every victim had a name and a family. Wedding parties were bombed by US planes, couples driving home at night were shot at checkpoints because they missed a flashlight warning them to stop, and hundreds of other unarmed civilians were killed for no legitimate cause. In just the last three weeks of April 2003, after Saddam's statue and his regime were toppled, US forces killed at least 266 civilians - a pattern of overeager resort to fire which has continued to this day. So five years after Bush and Tony Blair launched the invasion of Iraq against the wishes of a majority of UN members, no one knows how many Iraqis have died.

Iraq's National Museum Will Stay Closed

Iraq's National Museum, which has been closed since its antiquities were looted five years ago after the US-led invasion, won't reopen when a partial renovation is complete in a few months, an official said Tuesday. Museum and government officials say the museum building will not be ready and they fear opening the collection to the public could draw attacks or renewed looting. Bahaa Mayah, adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said the museum's roughly 200,000 items from the Stone Age and Babylon to the Assyrians and Islamic art are "in an unsuitable environment."

Iraqi widowed by war recalls family tragedy

Amal, a 32-year-old architect, is still unable to deal with the grief from the tragic loss of her husband, who was kidnapped and killed over three years ago. His body has not yet been found. The family tragedy began with the US bombardment of Iraq prior to the invasion in March 2003. The Iraqi regime was toppled in only 20 days in a military operation that caused massive destruction of a big part of Iraq's infrastructure, including government buildings, military bases, airports and many houses and markets. Iraqis were also killed and wounded. Amal's husband was among them. Faris was an officer in the missile unit of the former Iraqi army based in the town of Youssefiya, some 40 kilometres south of Baghdad. 'It was a miracle that my husband survived a round of heavy shelling of his base although he suffered wounds in different parts of the body,' Amal says. 'After the fall of the regime and US troops moving into Baghdad, I was almost certain that Faris was dead,' she recalls as she gazes at a photograph of her husband that she keeps on her desk.

Bearing Witness

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq unity conference condemns terrorism

Iraq wrapped up a two-day unity conference on Wednesday by condemning terrorism, but the event was severely hampered by two key parliamentary blocs boycotting it. The conference delivered a memorandum to the government on Wednesday which "condemned terrorism, extremist ideologies and urged the promotion of national unity." But the meeting proved to be a tame one after two key parliamentary blocs, the faction loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the main Sunni bloc, boycotted it. "The conference was government propaganda," said Nasar al-Rubaie, the head of Sadr's group. "It does not fix the basic problem in Iraq. The problem in Iraq is not between rival factions, but within the factions themselves."

Iraqi PM offers jobs for Adhamiya anti-Qaeda fighters

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the Sunni bastion of Adhamiyah in Baghdad on Wednesday and promised to offer jobs to Sahwa fighters who drove away al-Qaeda network from their district. Visiting the mausoleum of Abu Hanifa, al-Maliki was participating in a function in the northern Baghdad neighbourhood to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed. Al-Maliki, whose visit is seen as a major step to boost national reconciliation in Iraq, said the government will "open the doors of all the establishments to welcomethe men who are fighting Al-Qaeda”. "I am proud of the efforts of the sons of this neighbourhood. We will welcome our sons who are challenging terrorism and injustice. They will have suitable jobs. What they have done is amazing," al-Maliki added.

350 out of 700 invited figures attend reconciliation conference

The conference started on Tuesday at the Convention Center in Baghdad, and will last for two days. It aims at activating the role of different forces in the political process for a positive participation in the national reconciliation, to build Iraq, and to support the governmental efforts in the security field. "The conference's objectives are: the former regime should not be restored, avoiding violence, believing in the unity of Iraq, respecting the national constitutional constants, respecting human rights, and timetabling the withdrawal of Multi-National Forces (MNF) from Iraq," Al-Shaikhlee explained. He added "the conference held four workshops today in this regard."

Iraq, once secular, now dominated by religious parties

Five years on, Iraq's political landscape and public life have become dominated by religious parties, mostly Shiite. 'Conditions in Iraq in the years leading up to the war led to the rise of religious parties after the war,' says Hamid Fadil, a political scientist at Baghdad University. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, religious parties were outlawed and religious figures persecuted, Fadil says. In his later years, Saddam encouraged religion - the Sunni version - to serve his authoritarian purposes. Shiites who prayed, however, were seen by the regime as a threat to his authority. This is why they were the most welcoming of the invading troops, analysts say. They could worship freely and openly for the first time. 'Hussayniyah (Shiite worshipping places) used to be filled with people right after the war,' recalls Mohammed, a 35-year-old non- religious Shiite.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

FAUX News strikes again: Five Years After: Tehran Remains Enemy No. 1 in Iraq

We grow them dumb, and then elect them to office:

Cheney again links Iraq invasion to 9/11 attacks

Cheney Calls Iraq War a 'Major Success

Bush defiantly defends war in Iraq

Bush hails 'undeniable successes' of war

Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah threaten Middle East: McCain (Roundup)

Fact Check: Bush on Al Qaida, Iraqis

President Bush brought up al-Qaida 14 times Wednesday in a 26-minute speech marking the anniversary of the Iraq war. He wasn't coy about his point: If America stops fighting in Iraq, there could well be new attacks at home by Osama bin Laden's terror network.

And our corporate media works hard to keep Americans dumb:

Media Firestorm Over McCain Al Qaeda-Iran Gaffe? Hardly

Memo to the media: McCain's Al Qaeda-Iran gaffe not his first

Some in the media have echoed the McCain campaign's assertion that he simply "misspoke" when he said at a March 18 press conference that Iranian operatives are "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." In fact, McCain made the misstatement twice during the press conference, and he had made it the day before on Hugh Hewitt's radio show.

UPI ignores McCain's "gaffe" on Al Qaeda

AP, CNN ignored McCain's "gaffe" on Al Qaeda

Cheney On 2/3rds Of The American Public Opposing The Iraq War: "So?"

ABC's Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn't care about the American public's views on the war.

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.

CHENEY: So?

RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Our legacy is a dark and forbidding place of militias

The siren for an impending attack went off three times in three hours yesterday, with anti-missile guns roaring in response while soldiers dived for cover. This was no over-reaction – the base at Basra airport had been hit by rockets a day earlier. British troops have withdrawn from their one remaining base in Basra City and are highly unlikely to take part in direct fighting again. Five years after the start of the war, the beginning of the end comes with little fanfare.

COMMENTARY

Commentary: Iraq surge has failed in its main purpose

But for the traveling politicians and this week's fifth anniversary of our invasion and occupation of Iraq, the war would have continued to be missing in action from network and cable television and the front pages of our newspapers, as well as from the attention of most Americans.

Comment: There must be a reckoning

Meanwhile, we're being subjected to a renewed barrage of spin about the success of the US surge in turning the country round, quelling the violence and opening the way to a sunlit future. In an echo of his notorious "mission accomplished" speech of May 2003, George Bush yesterday proclaimed the Iraq war a "major strategic victory" in the "war on terror".

All this is self-delusion on a heroic scale. The unprovoked aggression launched by the US and Britain against Iraq five years ago today has already gone down across the world as, to borrow the words of President Roosevelt, "a day which will live in infamy". Iraqis were promised freedom, democracy and prosperity. Instead, as Jon Snow's compelling TV documentary Hidden Iraq underlined this week, they have seen the physical and social destruction of their country, mass killing, tens of thousands thrown into jail without trial, rampant torture, an epidemic of sectarian terror attacks, pauperisation, and the complete breakdown of basic services and supplies.

US war on Iraq transforms region into more troubled place

How to Destroy a Country and Get Off Scot-Free

Think about it for a moment. The warmongers invaded, crushed and occupied a country that was no threat to anyone. They stood by as it was looted, exacerbated sectarianism, flattened entire towns, tortured untold numbers of innocents, brought in gum-chewing, tattooed foreign mercenaries and paid crony companies billions of dollars for mythical reconstruction projects.

Read Thursday's editorial now: Iraq war an enormous Bush failure

Iraq War: A colossal failure

Fears & tears remain

Iraqis' positions seem unified after five years of American war to topple Saddam Hussain's regime. But fears, tears and sad memories are still carved in the collective Iraqi mind. Abdul Wahed Al Assadi, an Iraqi Shiite, told Gulf News about his experience of the war. "I have memories of painful moments of this unjust war. "On March 21, 2003, my family and I left our house in Al Baladiat district towards Diyala and we stayed there until the war ended. We suffered too much: we used to sleep on the ground or inside the car. Our children got sick. I remember women's hands were lifted to heaven, asking God for revenge on Americans."

Blood and greenbacks

Bush keeps talking about Iraq, but no one can understand what he says

Iraq marks fifth anniversary of bloody war

Need a laugh? Conyers: Impeachment If Bush Invades Iran

Speaking on Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers said that serious legal challenges to the Bush administration would not be off the table both before the president left office and after.

RESISTANCE

Arrests made at US war protests

POLITICS-US: Anti-War Grannies Arrested Trying to Enlist

Thirty-Two Arrested in Washington Antiwar Protest at IRS Building

Protests punctuate 5-year Iraqi war mark

Thirty-two arrested in Washington antiwar protest

Grannies, pro-war activists clash in Times Square

At least 160 arrested in U.S. antiwar protests

War Protesters Halt Traffic, Recall Dead

US protests mark five years of Iraq war

Iraq anniversary prompts a wave of anti-war protest

Protests in US mark Iraq war anniversary

Protests mark Iraq war's fifth anniversary

Left was right

They take no satisfaction in knowing that they were right in opposing this ill-fated Iraq war from the outset. All they want is for people to listen to them now. And what they have to say is this: If we are ever going to get all of our troops out, it will be because of pressure that starts at the grassroots level and works its way up to the top of the political chain — not the other way around.

Quote of the day: "I cry for Iraq," said Shlemon Warduni, the bishop of Baghdad. "I have no other feelings. We were brothers, now we are divided." '

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