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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

News & Views 03/20/08

Photo: A woman cries near her son, a patrol member who was wounded by gunmen, in a hospital in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad March 19, 2008. One patrol member was killed and two others were wounded when gunmen attacked their checkpoint in Tikrit on Wednesday, police said. REUTERS/Sabah al-Bazee (IRAQ)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Wednesday: 2 US Soldiers, 32 Iraqis Killed, 42 Wounded

Thursday: 22 Iraqis Killed, 23 Wounded

Iraqi Police Say Civilians Killed by US Fire

Police in the Iraqi city of Samarra said Thursday six civilians were killed by a US gunship targeting their car while the US military said four terror suspects were killed by its troops in "self-defence." A car carrying six people on a main road leading to a US military unit in Samarra was shelled Wednesday night by a US gunship, unnamed police sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. All of the six passengers were killed and their bodies were left on the road until the early hours on Thursday morning, police said.

Iraq begins sixth year of chaos, bloodshed

On March 20, 2003, US planes dropped the first bombs on Baghdad. Within three weeks, invading troops who toppled Saddam were left battling a resentful and rebellious people. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the invasion ended Saddam's iron-fisted rule and ushered in an era in which "Iraq is liberated in all the fields." "Freedom of speech flourishes in new Iraq. The government no longer controls the intellectuals and chains them down," Maliki said at a function in the central city of Hilla. [The intellectuals have fled the country. – dancewater]

Five years ago

Five years had passed since the multi national invasion head by the USA, but we had witnessed few positives factors including the space of freedom in society and raising the standard of livings for some governmental employees, but the negative factors are so many that made some Iraqis who welcomed the occupied forces wish to have Saddam’s regime back better than the recent days. Nowadays, we lack of power supply, water, fuel, reconstruction and other services .We suffer from corruption in all fields. We suffer from the unemployment. We lack the ration food stuff and its bad quality. The major thing we suffer from is the powerful parties and their mismanagement, abuse of power, discredit, maltreatment and bad faith. In the past we suffered from Ba’ath party who controlled the country with few names in power while we have now the two Kurd parties control Kurdistan region(north of Iraq)with their endless demands even in interfering the central government and we have the rest parties, religious and non religious ones, control the central and southern parts of Iraq. Shortly, in the last five years, Iraqi people get suffering more than the 24 years of those during Saddam’s regime. In the past, we have the mass graves hidden while nowadays we can see them in open streets. In the past we had Saddam and his security forces who caused that catastrophe while now we have the Qaeda , the gunmen, the guards of the foreign security companies and Iraqi officials , criminals and the USA troops who can cause death to anyone and anywhere in Iraq with or without reasons and it would be so hard and sometimes impossible to send them to court.

Iraq residents say their situation is no better

Five years to the day after allied troops marched into Iraq the people they set out to free say their lives are no better, and often worse. Iraqi residents are living at the sharp end of an operation which President George Bush insists is a "noble" cause. "The Iraqi people want the allies to withdraw because they are causing the trouble," said one traffic policeman. ….."We still have shortages in many aspects of life. So the only thing they have done is get rid of Saddam Hussein," said one man in the street. The years of conflict and underinvestment have left untreated waste water pooling in the streets where children play. Last year 600 workmen were killed trying to mend the broken pipes.

Basra’s women killer gang seized

The serial killing of women in the southern city of Basra has terrorized local population with scores of bodies, mostly mutilated discovered in the past few months. Nine women were killed very recently in a brutal but organized manner which led the police to mount a comprehensive search of the affected quarters. Now the police say they have arrested “an armed group responsible for the murder of the nine women.”

IRAQ: An intellectual center and source of spells reduced to ashes

When I got there, I was shocked because I found that there is no Mutanabi Street any more. Piles of rubble, sand, dust and garbage -- that's what I found there. Due to its historical importance, the government promised to rebuild the market after a suicide truck bomber killed more than 30 people there on March 5 last year. The contractors started work a year ago, but have achieved little since then. "They are very lazy. They work two or three hours daily," said Hussein, 22, who works in a bookstore that survived the blast. I went looking for the famous Shahbandar cafe, where intellectuals would meet for tea and debate. The front has been rebuilt but it is still charred inside. There were a few vendors left selling used English books, but nothing to suggest that Mutanabi Street will rise again from the ashes. Just piles of burned pages and a bad smell.

Watch Iraq reports

Iraq: The Fallout - more reports

Video series: Ghaith Abdul Ahad in Baghdad

New Babylonian town found

Iraqi archaeologists have discovered a new Babylonian town 180 kilometers south of Baghdad. The head archaeologist Mohammed Yahya said the town is more than 20,000 square meters in area and includes administrative quarters, temples and other buildings of “magnificent and splendid design” Yahya, who is the head of the provincial Antiquities Department in the Province of Diwaniya, where the new Babylonian town was discovered, said he still lacks evidence on the town’s ancient name. The locals call it Shamiya after a provincial district nearby, he said. “We have dug up a sectional sounding covering more than 20 square meters and have come across fascinating finds,” he said. Most striking has been a 30-kilogram Babylonian Duck Weight.

5 years since invasion, people still suffer, government optimistic

Five years after the U.S.-led invasion and war on Iraq still causes local and international arguments; while U.S. President Bush defended his decision to launch the war against the country, underling it was worth it, British Prime Minster vowed to open an investigation into the war decision, taken by his preceding Tony Blair. The fifth anniversary came in Iraq amid people’s reservations about what has been achieved so far and a governmental optimism for the coming stage. “They were five years of suffering and pain, because we did not live in a normal way,” Saba al-Nedawi, a feminist, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). “Even inside our house we still fear rocket attacks or raids waged by police and army forces,” she said, noting that “fears accompany us outside the house, because we may be killed by a random fire or an explosion or even being kidnapped by the spreading gangs.”

Falluja celebrates prophet's birthday for first time in years

For four years, Falluja city had not celebrated the prophet's birthday, due to battles and wars that deprived the city of honoring this occasion. This year, Falluja's streets, mosques, schools, companies, and state-owned institutions were garnished with colors and leaflets that welcome the occasion. Residents of Falluja have different ways in honoring prophet's birthday, but a mutual traditional happiness that blends them all has been restored this year to the life of this Sunni dominated city, after four painful years. Hussam Mohammed Alwan (37 years) said to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) "Lack of security that took place in Falluja since the U.S. led invasion deprived us of this celebration that we used to attend since we were kids."

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

The final battle for Basra is near, says Iraqi general

General Mohan al-Furayji, the Iraqi commander in charge of security in the south of Iraq, has warned his troops they must prepare for the final battle to defeat Shia militias terrorising Basra.

Sadrists welcome approving provinces law

The Sadrist bloc on Thursday welcomed the recent decision taken by the presidential council to approve a draft law to hold provincial elections, asserting the decision was taken because of political and popular pressures.

Iraq leader sombre on anniversary

Iraq's president says violence and corruption are the main problems in Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the invasion. Mr Talabani welcomed the end of Saddam Hussein's era of "torture and tyranny", but warned that violence, terrorism and corruption had now become a "disease". He also said any further progress would not be possible without reconciliation.

Iraq's presidency endorses controversial provinces law

Iraq's presidency council has endorsed controversial legislation which its backers hope will eliminate electoral distortions and foster national reconciliation, local media said Thursday. The presidency council has unanimously rescinded its previous veto on the provinces legislation after long consultations with political groups, the council said in a statement carried by the Voices of Iraq news agency. The provinces law, which is the brainchild of the US administration, had been passed by parliament in early February after long and acrimonious debate. But the three-member presidency council, made up of the president and two vice presidents, vetoed the law at the last minute, reflecting the country's sectarian discord.

Maliki's guards abuse journalists during Babel festival

Premier Nouri Al-Maliki's guards offended journalists on Thursday when they hit and cursed reporters and their aids, preventing them for covering Babel Festival's activities that started today in Hilla city, Babel governorate spokesman said. "We are surprised because the Premier that calls on respecting and protecting journalists allows his guards to offend them," Abdul-Ridha Essa told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). He added "Journalists were hit, cursed, and prevented from covering the Festival's activities, and this is a big violation of Freedom of the Press."

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkish warplanes 'bomb PKK targets'

Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdistan Workers' Party bases in northern Iraq amid a stepped up military campaign against the group. The planes carried out reconnaissance flights over the border area before bombing targets of the PKK, Private NTV television reported, citing Iraqi Kurdish officials. There were no reports of injuries to civilians. There was also no immediate confirmation of the new attack from the Turkish military.

Soldier Electrocutions Probed in Iraq

A U.S. House committee chairman has begun an investigation into the electrocutions of at least 12 service members in Iraq, including that of a Pittsburgh soldier killed in January by a jolt of electricity while showering. Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday he has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to hand over documents relating to the management of electrical systems at facilities in Iraq.

£15,000 loyalty bonus offered to troops who resist forces' exodus

AP President: US Arrests Journalist in Iraq to 'Control' Information

Associated Press president Tom Curley says his news organization does not buy the government's argument that one of its photographers arrested in Iraq was working on behalf of the enemy, and he alleged the US is rounding up journalists in an attempt to control information. "To say the least, we see things very differently," Curley commented dryly, regarding photographer Bilal Hussein, who was arrested two years ago and remains in military custody. Noting that at least a dozen other Iraqi photographers have been detained or arrested, Curley stated, "It's impossible not to conclude that the words and pictures these journalists produced were considered unhelpful to the war effort and that their arrests would have served a broader strategy of information control."

Because he is an evil sociopath: Bush shows no regret over Iraq war

Same for her: Lynndie England Blames Media for Photos

Both of them are evil: Bush and bin Laden mark Iraq anniversary

Another evil one: Iraq withdrawal would hand Al-Qaeda victory: McCain [Total bullshit. Al-Qaeda is worried about cartoons. – dancewater]

HISTORY

Adrian Hamilton: Why did so many people support the war in Iraq?

In all the discussion of the anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, one question has yet to be asked. Why is that so many people went along with it in the first place? In one sense, the answer is obvious. The British public has always supported wars at the beginning, before their cost becomes apparent. Whether it was the Victorian adventures in the Sudan, Ethiopia and the Boer War, the sending of troops abroad has always been accompanied by flags, cheers and bunting. That is until the Second World War, when the country itself was threatened by invasion.

But then that is not the atmosphere in which the Iraq invasion took place. The extraordinary thing about this war was that it took place almost without public rejoicing. Millions took to the streets to protest. But there were virtually no demonstrations in support nor an atmosphere of much enthusiasm in Parliament. MPs and commentators supported the war because they supported the Prime Minister. In that sense, the Iraq venture was almost unique in British history in that it was one man's war – Tony Blair's. If he had not insisted on it, there would have been few calls from others to go ahead.

IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraq at Five: The Refugee Crisis

As you look at the tremendous need of Iraqis who are now refugees in Syria, and the burden they are placing on the Syrian infrastructure, what is your view of the Syrian government's response to the Iraq refugee crisis, in comparison to the U.S. contribution? Also, to what extent are the U.S. sanctions on Syria affecting the ability of the Damascus government to respond to the needs of these refugees?

Kristele Younes: Syria has been- by far- the most generous country to Iraqi refugees. According to the Syrian Government, there are 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria. Syria has opened its public schools and hospitals to Iraqis, and is providing them with the most important thing of all- safety. The US's policy of non-engagement with Syria is having consequences on humanitarian assistance to Iraqis there. Refugees International has been calling for increased engagement and for bilateral assistance to the region, since it is only governments that can tackle the crisis in its entirety. The UN can only assist the most vulnerable, and is not capable of building appropriate infrastructure. Whatever political role Syria is playing, we all need to acknowledge the positive humanitarian role it has played until now.

VIDEO: TRAPPED!! Iraqi Children Refugees

The Children of Iraq: 5 Years on

As this week marks the fifth anniversary of the Coalition invasion of Iraq, some steps have been taken to improve the lives of those displaced; Jordan has opened up it's classrooms to 50,000 Iraqi refugees this academic year, and an amnesty was issued for those refugees living in Lebanon – hundreds of whom were had been imprisoned for many months simply for being refugees. But more action is urgently needed if we are to offer meaningful hope to the trapped generation of Iraqi youth. The war, which promised to be decisive and short-lived, has turned into one of the world's greatest humanitarian crises, the effects of which have spilled across the entire region.

Number of Iraqis claiming asylum in Europe doubles

The number of Iraqis fleeing to Europe to claim asylum almost doubled in 2007, contradicting claims that the country is stabilising after five years of turmoil. Iraqis now account for the biggest national group of refugees, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports today, and the numbers fleeing the war-torn country have almost reached the peak seen in 2002 when record numbers escaped Saddam Hussein's regime. The total of Iraqis applying for asylum in the European Union rose from 19,375 in 2006 to 38,286 last year, an increase of 98 per cent. The largest number (18,600) headed for Sweden, which has taken the most sympathetic approach to Iraqis, with 90 per cent of those claiming refuge allowed to stay, compared with about one in eight in Britain. Iraqis now represent the largest foreign-born population in the Scandinavian country.

A new Tower of Babel? Iraqis flee sectarian violence

Professor Taher Alwan, 46, used to teach at Baghdad University's institute of fine arts. In 1996, he left Iraq in protest at Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, but gladly returned after the US-led invasion of 2003 with high hopes for his country. He founded a film festival to support Iraq's new generation of film-makers and a non-governmental organization (NGO) that produces documentaries about human rights. But success brought public recognition, and unwanted attention from the country's militias. Forced to change his home three times by a series of death threats, he finally decided to leave his family and worldly possessions behind and flee to Belgium, where he has been living since 2006.

Iraqi Journalists Forced Into Exile

Hundreds of Iraqi journalists have been forced into exile since the war started five years ago, Reporters without Borders announced in a report released Wednesday. Most fled to Jordan or Syria after receiving threats or surviving murder attempts, according to the Paris-based advocacy group. "These journalists are safe again after escaping the hell of Iraq, the world's deadliest country for the media," the press freedom organization said. "But exile does not mean the end of their problems." It said the first-ever detailed report on the plight of Iraqi journalists forced into exile found that most are unemployed and many had to give up their trade.

JORDAN: Government calls for more funds to host refugees

Jordanian government officials said on 18 March they needed hundreds of millions of dollars for health, energy, education and other projects to be able to host the over half a million Iraqi refugees living there. A Jordanian government-sponsored meeting of officials and experts from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, the USA, the UN and the European Union tackled the issue of financial aid for the refugees. In the one-day meeting held behind closed doors, Jordanian officials set out their arguments for why the funds are needed. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at least 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted. Of these, 2.4 million are displaced inside Iraq and two million are abroad - mainly in Syria and Jordan.

IRAQ: Palestinian refugees renew appeal for protection

Palestinian refugees in Iraq on 19 March again appealed for protection; they said they were still living as "fugitives" and demanded immediate help for their compatriots stranded on the Iraq-Syria border. "Palestinian refugees are still stuck between two fires: the fire of assassination and arrests inside Iraq, and the fire of deteriorated living conditions for those stranded on the border," said O.N., a Palestinian refugee in Baghdad, who asked to be identified only by his initials for security reasons. ….On 18 March the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was concerned about the "inhumane conditions" in which over 2,700 Palestinian refugees are living in two of the three camps on the Iraq-Syria border. The UNHCR statement called for immediate and urgent humanitarian assistance, and immediate relocation for those refugees with medical conditions.

Iraq Action Days

Come to Washington DC this April to urge Congress to respond to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. Millions of innocent Iraqis have been uprooted by war. Many fleeing Iraqis have no legal status beyond Iraq's borders. Inside Iraq, they need food, jobs and a safe place to live. Meet other concerned citizens and learn from experts, government officials, Iraqi refugees and aid groups working directly to provide protection and assistance in the region. Join us in pressing our leaders to action.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

IRAQI REFUGEES NEED YOUR HELP

COMMENTARY

Five years after the invasion, the totality of our failure is clear

raq is a war-torn and wasted land. Estimates of its civilian dead range from almost 100,000 to more than 10 times as many. More than two million of its people have fled. The indiscriminate killings may have slowed, but ethnic cleansing continues apace. Any semblance of democracy is confined to the Kurdish region – as it was before the war. The government and parliament are corralled in the Green Zone, walled off from the citizens they are supposed to serve. Neither the central government, nor the 150,000 US troops, have been able to match even the inadequate supplies of power and clean water that Saddam Hussein made flow in his day. Iraqi police and armed forces are still nowhere near up to standard or strength.

MIDDLE EAST: Bush's Iraq speech leaves a bad taste

While President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq tooth and nail, media in the Arab world lambasted the U.S. war for unleashing disasters, divisions and terror.

…A fiery editorial in today's edition of the English-language Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star rebuked Bush for blaming the destruction of Iraq on the Iraqi people: “The Bush administration and its apologists like to blame Al-Qaeda for all the chaos that has plagued Iraqis since 2003, but it was Bush and his advisers who brought terrorism to Iraq.... They have helped keep it there, as well, by consistently failing to provide many of the benefits they promised as mitigating factors for the nightmare they unleashed: Millions of people have been displaced, millions more are unemployed.”

Another editorial in the Dubai-based Gulf News daily criticized the "horrifying" US mismanagement of Iraq after the invasion: “Any improvements discussed by Bush today do not change the fact that Iraqis continue to suffer from this war. Five years on, the war-torn country faces the same horrors inflicted upon it in 2003. The Iraq war will haunt future generations.”

In an op-ed article published by the Saudi-owned London-based daily Al Hayat, Abdullah Iskandar said that the war did not only impoverish Iraq but also opened the door for crises across the region: “Five years after the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, the outcome boils down to nothing more than multidimensional catastrophes.... The repercussions of the invasion and the occupation have left and will continue to leave deep marks across the entire region.... The demons of sectarianism have been let loose out of the guts of history in their pursuit of their lost kingdoms.”

Patrick Cockburn: This is the war that started with lies, and continues with lie after lie after lie

It has been a war of lies from the start. All governments lie in wartime but American and British propaganda in Iraq over the past five years has been more untruthful than in any conflict since the First World War. The outcome has been an official picture of Iraq akin to fantasy and an inability to learn from mistakes because of a refusal to admit that any occurred. Yet the war began with just such a mistake. Five years ago, on the evening of 19 March 2003, President George Bush appeared on American television to say that military action had started against Iraq. This was a veiled reference to an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein by dropping four 2,000lb bombs and firing 40 cruise missiles at a place called al-Dura farm in south Baghdad, where the Iraqi leader was supposedly hiding in a bunker. There was no bunker. The only casualties were one civilian killed and 14 wounded, including nine women and a child. On 7 April, the US Ai r Force dropped four more massive bombs on a house where Saddam was said to have been sighted in Baghdad. "I think we did get Saddam Hussein," said the US Vice President, Dick Cheney. "He was seen being dug out of the rubble and wasn't able to breathe." Saddam was unharmed, probably because he had never been there, but 18 Iraqi civilians were dead. One US military leader defended the attacks, claiming they showed "US resolve and capabilities".

Both Obama and Clinton Miss the Point on Iraq

Both Obama and Clinton miss the real point, however—the Constitution, and specifically that portion of the Constitution relating to the powers to declare war and wage war. We should remind ourselves, first and foremost, what the Constitution actually is. The Constitution is a set of rules that the American citizenry have imposed on the federal government (and the state governments). Just as federal officials impose laws on us, we have imposed a law on them, which is the Constitution. Just as we are expected to obey their laws, they are expected to obey our law.

A Surge in Iraq Gasbags

The experts all agree about the war's success, but does anyone else agree with them? With the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq upon us, it seems to be generally agreed by most experts that the "surge" is working, that despite continuing casualties, we have at last reached a "turning point." This is certainly the view of George W. ("Mission accomplished!") Bush, Donald ("Stuff happens") Rumsfeld, Dick ("The streets of Baghdad are sure to erupt with joy") Cheney, Bill ("Military action will not last more than a week") O'Reilly and Condoleezza ("We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud") Rice. But the above are all partisan voices. As far as we are aware -- and, as founders of the Institute of Expertology, we are experts on the matter -- until now no impartial institution has undertaken a comprehensive survey of experts on the war in Iraq. Therefore, our institute has taken it on itself to conduct such an inquiry. For those who may have been too young to see, or are too old to remember, our original study, "The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation" (1984), we recall that notwithstanding the best efforts of our worldwide cadre of researchers, we were unable to identify a single expert who was right.

Robert Fisk: The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn

Five years on, and still we have not learnt. With each anniversary, the steps crumble beneath our feet, the stones ever more cracked, the sand ever finer. Five years of catastrophe in Iraq and I think of Churchill, who in the end called Palestine a "hell-disaster". But we have used these parallels before and they have drifted away in the Tigris breeze. Iraq is swamped in blood. Yet what is the state of our remorse? Why, we will have a public inquiry – but not yet! If only inadequacy was our only sin. Today, we are engaged in a fruitless debate. What went wrong? How did the people – the senatus populusque Romanus of our modern world – not rise up in rebellion when told the lies about weapons of mass destruction, about Saddam's links with Osama bin Laden and 11 September? How did we let it happen? And how come we didn't plan for the aftermath of war?

I Am Become Death - The Destroyer Of The Worlds

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, George Bush said, "Because we acted, the world is better and the United States of America is safer." With a million dead Iraqis, more than 30,000 dead and wounded American soldiers, the world now teeming with a new breed of America haters and more than 3 trillion dollars blown to achieve all that, the US president sits atop an economically crumbling America and happily crows his mantra. George W. Bush indeed seems far removed from reality. The essay below was written in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Iraqi city of Fallujah. At the time, the article ricocheted across the cyber space and refused to die down. Every word of what was written has now been proven true. Here it is once again lest we forget.

Poll: 59 percent call Iraq war mistake

Five years into the Iraq war, 59 percent of Americans say it was "a mistake," a Gallup poll indicates. [It wasn’t a mistake – they did it on purpose. – dancewater]

RESISTANCE

More than 100 arrested in San Francisco anti-war protest

Protesters commemorate Iraqi war dead at military recruitment event in London

Kalamazoo marchers protest five years in Iraq

US police crack down on Iraq protests

War Protesters Halt Traffic, Recall Dead

Nationwide Protests Mark Iraq War's 5th Anniversary

Quote of the day: Then there's this whole business of liberals who are accused of "rooting" for failure in Iraq. I'm sorry, but the next pundit who whips that one out should have his balls stuffed down his throat. You cocksuckers beat the drum to send these kids to war, and then you turn around and accuse us of rooting for them to die? Fuck you for even thinking that. We're Americans just like you. You don't have the right to get us into this mess and then turn around and call us traitors. Your credibility is long gone on this issue. Shut up about us. ~ Matt Taibbi

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