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

Monday, March 24, 2008

News & Views 03/24/08

Photo: An Iraqi boy makes his way through the mud in the Qawala campon the outskirts of Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq [GALLO/GETTY]

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Sunday: 4 US Soldiers, 91 Iraqis Killed, 152 Wounded

13 Iraqis Killed by Shells Fired at the Green Zone

US Forces Attack Baquba Homes, Kill 30

US air strike kills six in Iraq

The US military also reported Saturday that a woman and two children were injured in a US air strike in restive Diyala province that was targeting a "high value" insurgent.

Iraq's displaced living in dumps

The Qawala camp, located on the outskirts of Sulaimaniya, is a bleak and depressing place, home to 3,000 internally displaced people from across Iraq. During the rainy winter months, Qawala, which was built on a landfill, resembles a bog. Stray dogs scavenge through the thick layers of mud that coat everything and the stench of sewage hangs in the cold winter air. Children play among the many discarded refrigerators that have been dumped on the site, which now houses the fragments of people’s broken lives - a warm winter blanket, a cooking pot, a ration card. Sulaimaniya, a city in northern Iraq, is home to an estimated 60,000 displaced Iraqis, many of whom have fled to escape sectarian violence and killings further south. The vast majority of the displaced come from Baghdad, Diyala and Mosul. People who were formerly middle-class now rent houses and garages that have been converted into living spaces. Those with even less are living in tents in a makeshift camp three kilometres from the centre of the city.

Baghdad mortuary sees rise in number of corpses

Baghdad's main mortuary has seen a rise in the number of corpses received in the past fortnight amid a new wave of violence in and around the Iraqi capital, its director told AFP on Monday. The mortuary has received an average of 15 bodies per day of people killed in attacks in Baghdad in the past two weeks, Munjid Redha Ali said. This is up from an average of two bodies a day since the beginning of the year, as overall violence dropped following the enforcement of a security plan across the city. There is a spike in the number of corpses of people who have died violent deaths in the past 15 days," Redha Ali told AFP. "We hope the trend that we are seeing now does not continue," he said, adding most of the victims had "blast or bullet" wounds. Insurgents have stepped up attacks in both Baghdad and other parts of Iraq in recent weeks.

….."After the shrine bombing, we used to receive 160 bodies on the peak days of the violence. On average, we received 70 bodies a day from the time of the bombing until the end of 2007," he said. Redha Ali said since the beginning of 2008, the mortuary had noticed a new grim trend-the arrival of bodies of women, mostly married, who had been killed with gunshots to the head. At least two out of every 10 bodies were of murdered women between 20 and 30 years of age. "We have no idea what is the reason for the killing but most of them have gun shots," Redha Ali said.

In Fallujah, Peace Through Brute Strength

Zobaie, 51, knows the nature of the men in black masks. He is a former insurgent. Now, as the police chief, he has turned against the insurgency, especially al-Qaeda in Iraq. The U.S. military showcases Fallujah as a model city where U.S. policies are finally paying off and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the region to promote the rule of law and a variety of nation-building efforts. But the security that has been achieved here is fragile, the result of harsh tactics recalling the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown five years ago. Even as they work alongside U.S. forces, Zobaie's men admit they have beaten and tortured suspects to force confessions and exact revenge.

In the city's overcrowded, Iraqi-run jail, located inside a compound that also houses a U.S. military base and U.S. police advisers, detainees were beaten with iron rods, according to the current warden. Many were held for months with no clear evidence or due process. They were deprived of food, medical care and electricity and lived in utter squalor, said detainees, Iraqi police and U.S. military officers, who began to address the problems three weeks ago. Last summer, the warden said, several detainees died of heatstroke. In Zobaie's world, to show mercy is to show weakness. In a land where men burn other men alive, harsh tactics are a small price to pay for imposing order, he said. "We never tortured anybody," he said. "Sometimes we beat them during the first hours of capture." [Hey, bush claims the US does not torture either! Now we are all on the same page! – dancewater]

….. What Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq's current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: "No democracy in Iraq. Ever." [Again, just like bush! Well, of course, he says differently, but I remember bush saying that he was going to close the torture rooms under Saddam, and now we have former Saddam employees doing what they have done for decades. So, what bush says and what he really means are totally different. We all know that! – dancewater]

Iraq imposes Basra curfew due to clashes

Iraqi authorities on Monday imposed a night-time curfew on the movement of people and vehicles in the southern province of Basra until further notice due to clashes between police and members of Mehdi Army militia. "To impose the law and chase the criminals, we have decided to impose a curfew in the whole of Basra starting from tonight at 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. and everyday after until further notice," said Lieutenant-General Mohan al-Furaiji.

The forgotten dead Iraqis of the war

The scars run deeply in Iraqi society. Um Mohammed, a 49-year-old widow in Baghdad's western Mansur neighbourhood, whose husband was abducted and shot by gunmen 15 months ago, bitterly blamed the US military for the loss, which has profoundly affected her and her family. Her two daughters, both in college, are still in deep mourning while her son, in secondary school, is so depressed he failed his exams last year. They have been forced to move in with her husband's family to survive. "Why does the world care so much about the 4,000 soldiers killed? No one cares about the Iraqis," said Um Mohammed, a Sunni Arab. "All the killings in Iraq are because of the Americans. They are the cause of all the bloodshed. I ask Allah to kill all the American soldiers -- to count them all and not leave any one of them," she said.

For Iraqi women: Life better under Saddam

Iraqi women say they are now worse off than they were during the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein and that their plight has deteriorated year by year since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Now they are demanding not just equal rights but the very "right to live", says Shameran Marugi, head of the non-governmental organization Iraqi Women's Committee. "The 'right to live' is a slogan that we have begun using because a women's life in Iraq is being threatened on all sides. Laws are not being implemented equally and society is ignoring women," Maguri told AFP.

We have kids .....to have the future

Iraq and the whole Islamic world. In this sacred day, most Moslems go to mosques to have Friday prayer at noon, but before and after the prayer lot of things are to be done which people want to do and they can’t do in the other six days of a week. For me, I have a day off once a week due to my demands and to those of my colleagues in the office , most of the time ,I'd prefer the other days than Friday. My last day off was totally different from the others as I made it on Friday. I decided to go to the near by soccer field to see what is going there. I heard that some young athlete from my neighborhood made great efforts to have small the children in Amil neighborhood who are fond of soccer in a training school in that soccer field .I was so eager to witness such a thing and to watch my nephew Sajad who had joined that school a week ago.

More than 2,000 artifacts returned to Iraq Museum

Ordinary people have surrendered 2050 artifacts to antiquities officials in southern Iraq, according to a senior Antiquities Department archaeologist. The pieces were handed over to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in a ceremony in Baghdad, said Ali Kadhem. Kadhem heads the Antiquities Department’s branch in the southern Province of Nasiriya, home to some of the most fascinating remains of the Sumerian civilization, including their fabulous capital city of Ur. He said 1100 pieces were metal coins belonging to various Mesopotamian epochs. “The collection is bound to enrich the magnificent possessions of Iraq Museum’s numismatics gallery,” he said. The other pieces included pottery jars and utensils of various shapes and decorations.

Iraqi Christians scorn West’s offer of help

The pledge by France to provide refuge for 500 Iraqi Christians is merely for ‘propaganda purposes’ and does nothing to alleviate Iraqi Christians’ suffering, said Iraqi church leaders. The leaders, refusing to be named, said their followers were paying for the West’s mistakes and blunders in dealing with the Muslim world. “It is the second time in history we are being persecuted and paying dearly for what the Christian West does,” said one of them. He was referring to the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages during which European states mobilized huge armies and invaded Palestine, parts of Syrian and Lebanon. ….. One church source described France’s bid to offer asylum for 500 Iraqi Christians as “a joke.” He said there were nearly 1 million Christians most of them now on the run. “Who is going to save them? These statements are merely for propaganda purposes. We have seen nothing tangible on the ground.”

Sex, Religion, Politics- a prohibited Trinity for Iraqi writers

Despite the absence of official censorship in Iraq over the last five years, "new censors appeared from within," as writers say. Inas al-Badran, a short story writer, believes that today "there is no censorship practiced by the government, but political parties, movements and armed groups indirectly exercise more rigorous control over writers' works." She told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq-(VOI) "Censorship may be officially absent but it apparently exists in one form or another, and current creative pens in the country see many conditions that have affected their performance and works." "The absence of the law rule and the emergence of some extremist movements have restricted to a great extent what a writer would produce," al-Badran explained.

Secular vision of a prominent Iraqi family

Kamil Chadirji's home in Baghdad is one of the last vestiges of a bygone world. It was here that Mr. Chadirji's grandfather, also named Kamil, a prominent lawyer, journalist, and founder of Iraq's National Democratic Party (NDP), would gather artists, writers, and intellectuals to talk about their visions for an independent and modern Iraq. But in the new democratic Iraq, these secular visionaries have been pushed to the edges, sidelined by a society that is swayed more by religious clerics than by academics and people like Kamil or his father's contemporaries. Five years into the war, most of these people live outside Iraq. Some who left before the war have chosen not to come back. ….. Now, some of the Chadirjis are making modest attempts to reassert these ideals through political work, writing, and contributions to design and architecture in a atmosphere they say is dominated by hard-line Islamist parties.

IRAQ: Sleepless in Baghdad

I had finished my work at the office and left for home because I knew the fighting could start at any moment in my neighborhood between the rival Shiite armed groups. I stopped on my way at a computer repair shop to pick up my PC. When I reached my neighborhood, it was 7:30 pm. The streets were empty with the exception of a few motorcycles. I spotted some Mahdi Army fighters on foot. They were just kids. Some of them clustered in the alleys. They did not pay attention to me and they kept chatting. I put my computer on the ground and rested. Finally, I reached home and my lovely 6-year-old boy greeted me, screaming, “Papa is here.” He opened the door. He asked me about my computer. I talked to him awhile and asked him if he ate his dinner. He answered yes. Then I put him to bed. He usually goes to sleep at 7 pm. I placed his doll beside him, lit his oil lamp and kissed him goodnight. I watched TV until our block’s generator shut off at midnight.

ANGRY IRAQIS REFUSE BLACKWATER 'BLOOD MONEY'

At least two Iraqi families of victims killed by Blackwater security guards in September tell ABC News they have refused compensation offered by the company. The father of a 9-year-old boy, who says his son was one of the 17 civilians killed when Blackwater guards, escorting a diplomatic convoy, opened fire at Baghdad’s Nisour Square on Sept. 16, says he is trying to file a lawsuit against the company. He told ABCNews.com that Blackwater offered him $20,000 through an Iraqi prosecutor, but he refused the money. Another Iraqi who lost both his wife and son in the incident says he too has refused the company’s offer of compensation of $20,000 for each victim. [Blackwater would not be offering anything at all, except for the publicity around this particular situation. – dancewater]

23,000 Iraqi detainees in U.S. detentions – U.S. official

More than 23,000 Iraqis are detained in U.S. detention centers in Iraq, including 1,720 Qaeda elements and 7,000 takfirists, said a U.S. official responsible for the detention centers on Sunday. Major General Douglas Stone explained in a press conference in Baghdad that there are 240 Arab citizens among the detainees, who came to Iraq from neighboring countries to conduct armed operations against the Multi National Forces (MNF) and Iraqi people. "500 detainees are teenagers, younger than 17," he added.

10900 detainees released according to the Amnesty Law

10900 detainees were released since the implementation of the General Amnesty Law on February 2008 and until Monday, the official spokesperson of the Supreme Judicial Council said. "This number is distributed throughout various places of Iraq," Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Berqdar told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). On February 2008, the Iraqi Parliament enacted the General Amnesty bill that allows the release of Iraqi detainees, according to certain terms and conditions, exclusively from Iraqi detention centers. The Iraqi Presidential Council ratified the Law on March 27, 2008, and it was implemented on the same month. Al-Berqdar added, "Legal committees are still working, and until today have reexamined 15286 cases, and they identified 4386 cases among them of detainees not implied by the Amnesty Law."

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq cleric's militia in show of force in Baghdad

Members of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia appeared in a show of force in a number of Baghdad neighbourhoods on Monday and forced shop owners to close, witnesses said. Witnesses and Interior Ministry officials said Mehdi Army fighters spread through five districts in southern and western Bagdad, ordering shop owners to close. In one neighbourhood, they closed the roads with flaming tyres. Witnesses said the militia had declared the start of a civil disobedience campaign. There were no reports of any clashes with Iraqi or U.S. forces, but residents said the situation was very tense.

From Missing Links blog:

Sadrist-organized Sunni-Shia conference in Baghdad demands US withdrawal. This is about a meeting that took place in the NW Baghdad district of Kadhamiya. Voices of Iraq says the meeting, organized by the Sadr organization, included 300 tribal leaders, Shia and Sunni, from throughout Iraq, but the meeting also dealt with local issues including a promised re-opening of the "Bridge of the Imams" that links this mainly Shiite neighborhood on the west bank of the Euphrates with its twin district Adhamiya, mainly Sunni, on the east bank. (There is a nice satellite map on the website of the Meeting Resistance film, which was mostly filmed in Adhamiya.) Among the main points in the final statement of the meeting: A demand for scheduled withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq; and a statement to the effect the foreign forces are responsible for the internal divisions that have plagued Iraq since the invasion.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Video: On foot patrol in Fallujah

Fallujah was once the powerbase of insurgents in Iraq but now US troops can do foot patrols in the town.

FBI recovers remains of two US contractors in Iraq

They were identified as Ronald Withrow of Roaring Springs, Texas, who worked for JPI Worldwide when kidnapped on January 5, 2007, and John Roy Young of Kansas City, Missouri, who worked for Crescent Security Group when kidnapped on November 16, 2006. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the bodies were found and turned over to the FBI in Iraq over the weekend, and that the families of the two men were notified late on Sunday night.

He Lies Again: Bush Says Iraq War Deaths Not in Vain

Jordan charges 11 for trying to fight U.S. in Iraq

Jordan charged 11 militants for trying to slip into Iraq via Syria to fight the U.S. military, judicial and security sources said on Monday. They said the state security court prosecutor charged the youths with "illegal actions that could have jeopardised the country's ties with a foreign country" and of helping others to infiltrate Iraq from Syria. The accused are mostly from the impoverished city of Zarqa, east of the capital. Seven were detained in December in counter-terrorist operations to foil plots by Muslim Sunni fundamentalists opposed to the kingdom. Four are on the run.

Pentagon Rules Out Fallon Testimony

The Pentagon on Friday ruled out including Adm. William Fallon as a witness before Congress when the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad testify next month on the way ahead in Iraq.

HISTORY

Dinner With Ahmed

Insider report on how our government works and how they manage to kill a bunch of people along the way, by Scott Ritter.

I Am Become Death - The Destroyer Of The Worlds

The assault on Fallujah is a pure and simple Nazi-style collective punishment, not liberation. The city has been razed to the ground because its political, spiritual and tribal leaders, motivated by Iraqi patriotism and opposition to the presence of foreign troops in their country, organized a guerilla resistance to the US invasion.The aim of the US assault is to make Fallujah a model to the rest of Iraq of what will happen to those thinking on similar lines. It is the leading thrust of an orgy of killing intended to crush and drive underground every voice of dissent and ensure that elections this coming January will throw up a weak-willed, pro-US toady regime. The American military is rumored to be planning similar attacks on scores of other Iraqi cities and towns.

Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes something dreadful has occurred, the US press does not even bat an eyelash over the organized leveling of a city of 300,000 people. In none of the US media commentaries is there a single phrase of unease about the moral, or legal, questions involved in the attack on Fallujah. None have dared say it in as many words that the American military operation in the city is an unlawful act of aggression in an equally illegal, criminal, aggressive war.

U.S. Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes

In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat. The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Munoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month. "In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Munoz writes.

IRAQI REFUGEES

US slow to take Iraqis displaced by five years of war

"The United States has a moral obligation to give refuge to these and other vulnerable Iraqis, including widowed women with children and the tens of thousands who put their lives on the line to work for Americans in Iraq and are in danger as a result," .

Trapped! Unlocking the future for Iraqi Refugee Children

[From World Vision. There are videos of four children who are now refugees from Iraq, living in Jordan. – dancewater]

No, more like Americans are: Report: World ignoring Iraqi refugee crisis

Mr. B, his wife and five children finally fled for Syria in 2006, according to the International Rescue Committee, which issued a report this week detailing the plight of Iraqi refugees on the five-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

MIGRATION: Canada to Double Iraqi Refugee Quota

Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley announced this week that Canada will more than double the number of refugees it receives this year from Iraq, accepting 1,800 to 2,000 refugees, up from 900 in 2007. The majority are currently displaced refugees in Syria and Jordan. "This year, we are responding to the situation in Iraq by significantly increasing the number of Iraqi refugees we accept," Finley said in a statement. "Consistent with Canada's longstanding tradition of providing protection to refugees most in need, we will continue to monitor this situation and explore options to further meet resettlement needs with respect to Iraqis." Canada will also be increasing its resettlement target to 3,300 people this year, a 54-percent increase over 2007. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be allocating almost 33 percent of their global settlement places to Iraqi and other refugees displaced by the war.

Iraqi exiles take extreme measures to survive

In January, the UN refugee agency appealed for $261 million for programs to "support the most vulnerable of the uprooted inside and outside Iraq." Wilkes said prostitution and sexual exploitation of children are growing concerns. UNICEF estimates that 80 percent of Iraqi children in Syria do not attend school and that at least 10 percent toil at menial jobs for $1 or a day or less. Mohammed, 13, said he stopped attending school three years ago. He now sells homemade Iraqi sweets on the streets of Damascus, and doesn't expect to go back to school until he returns to Iraq. "We need to live," the Basra native said. Hiba was 11 when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Once in Syria, her father sold her to men who trained her to dance in nightclubs. After becoming pregnant, she was abandoned and imprisoned by Syrian authorities on prostitution charges. With U.N. assistance, she has since resettled in Canada, said Wilkes.

France to take in nearly 500 Iraqi Christian Refugees

France says it plans to give refuge to nearly 500 Iraqi Christians, particularly from the Chaldean Catholic church. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed the plans in a joint television and radio interview Wednesday. He said he hoped the Iraqis will be in France within weeks. He said France would not refuse to also grant asylum to Muslims. But he said "no one" is taking in Iraqi Christians and noted that Paris has a community of Chaldeans.

Dreams of reaching Europe grind to a halt in Beirut ghetto

Rabi'a, an Iraqi refugee, is cooking in the narrow, filthy corridor that doubles as a makeshift kitchen in his tiny apartment in eastern Beirut. There is a gas burner, a sink, a cupboard and a small plastic bucket overflowing with garbage and potato peelings. At one end of the room a door leads to a reeking toilet. The heavy smell of urine mixes with that of the months-old oil he is pushing round the frying pan. "I fry the best tomatoes in the world, the most delicious dish," he tells me. "You must have some with us." In Iraq they used to call this dish the "dinner of the sanctions", after the decade-long economic blockade imposed on the country in the 1990s. Rabi'a lives in one of Beirut's poor Christian neighbourhoods. He is tall and well-built, with heavily muscled shoulders, thick wavy hair and a fashionable trimmed goatee. A small crucifix dangles from a silver chain around his neck. He carries the hot frying pan, a plate of potatoes and some yoghurt to the next room where he sits with another refugee friend around a small table.

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.

IRAQ: Syria Now Home to a Million 'Pillow Drivers'

More than a million Iraqis in Syria cannot find work. For their idleness, they have come to be called the "pillow drivers". The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says there are at least 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria. If they seek work, they will lose their status as refugees. And so Iraqi refugees who were once doctors, engineers, athletes, artists and businessmen sit it out in Syria with nothing to do. "They call us the pillow drivers here," says Dr. Jassim Alwan who fled Baghdad after he was arrested by U.S. forces in 2003. "I was humiliated like an animal by those who call themselves soldiers of liberty, so I decided to flee to Syria." He has no work now, he says. "All I do is stay up late at night thinking of myself and my family's dark future, and sleep all day like a drugged man. Most Iraqis do the same."

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

IRAQI REFUGEES NEED YOUR HELP

COMMENTARY

Happy Anniversary, America! How Lethally Stupid Can One Country Be?

And how about the logic of that whole WMD thing, after all? Did anyone ever stop to think that several dozen other countries have WMD, including some that are pretty hostile to the United States? Did anyone not remember that the Soviets once had nearly 25,000 strategic nuclear warheads pointed in our direction? What ever happened to the logic of deterrence? To mutually assured destruction? And what about the mad rush to go to war, preempting the UN weapons inspectors from doing their job? Are we really okay with the notion that instead of ‘risking’ whatever would have been at risk by giving the inspectors another six or eight weeks to finish up, we’ve instead bought this devastating war down on our own heads for no reason at all? If you stop to think about it, it makes you shudder. Which I guess explains why not too many people stop to think about it.

Where War Meets Peace

“I trained my weapon on him,” Kristopher Goldsmith said. It was a little boy, 6 years old maybe, standing on a roof, menacing the soldiers with a stick. “I was thinking, I hate these Iraqis who throw rocks. I could kill this kid.” OK, America, let’s look through the sights of Goldsmith’s rifle for a long, long half-minute or so, draw a bead on the boy’s heart, fondle the trigger - what to do? The soldier’s decision is our decision. This is occupied Iraq: the uncensored version, presented to us with relentless, at times unbearable honesty over four intense days last week in a historic gathering outside Washington, D.C., of returning vets, many of them broken and bitter about what they were forced to do, and what’s been done to them, in sometimes two, three, four tours of duty in the biggest mistake in American history.

A Blind Eye on Iraqi Women

Advance. New rights. New hopes. Stirring stuff, but totally empty claims. In fact, Iraq’s women have become the biggest losers in the post-invasion disaster. While men have borne the brunt in terms of direct armed violence, women have been particularly hard-hit by poverty, malnutrition, lack of health services and a crumbling infrastructure, not least chronic power cuts which in some areas of Iraq see electricity only available for two hours a day. Over 70% of the four million people forced out of their homes in the past five years in Iraq have been women and children.

Five years after "Victory": Iraq numbers tell a grimmer story

It is sad these days to meet Iraqi academic and political leaders a full five years after the March 2003 American-led invasion and occupation of their country. One cannot help being touched in heart and mind by their stories about witnessing death, destruction and despair on a scale unprecedented since the Middle Ages. Recently, I was one of those listeners moved by what they shared of their experiences.

When I admitted regretfully that I did not visit Iraq prior to the 2003 occupation (although I had travelled to its neighbor states), my Iraqi colleagues commented that if I had visited their homeland then, and gone back to see it now, I would be shocked at the low state of public security, the high death rates and the general malaise that accompanies the widespread destruction and misery of any prolonged war-zone. All the Iraqi expatriates or exiles with whom I spoke emphasized that Washington’s repeated assertion that civil war will break out as soon as American and coalition troops leave, is a big propaganda lie.

Shocked, awed and left to rot

British agency Oxford Research Business has recently updated its estimate of "additional deaths" caused by the war to 1.3 million Iraqis - not including the top killing fields, the provinces of al-Anbar (Sunni) and Karbala (Shi'ite). At least 4 million Iraqis have been internally displaced or become refugees, mostly in overburdened Syria and Jordan, now desperately running out of money and resources. As for any Sunni or Shi'ite proud of his historical memory, the US occupation has been regarded as more devastating than the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Talk about a historical "phenomenal change". Baghdad - following the strategy of counterinsurgency ace General David Petraeus - has been reduced to a rotten, amorphous, bloody and dangerous stockpile of blast-wall ghettos controlled by local warlords and militias.

…..As middle class Shi'ite professionals tell Asia Times Online, rape and pillage and widespread killing is down (65 Iraqis killed daily in August 2007, 26 killed daily in February 2008) because most neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed. Baghdad is only "safer" - as the current official mantra in Washington goes - if compared to horrific post-February 2006 after the bombing of the Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, during the battle of Baghdad, when as many as 3,000 people were being killed every single month.

………This country is no more. This is an ex-country. It has gone to meet its maker (the Sumerians, presumably). The "surge" is a public relations-created illusion - as ghostly as those abandoned, burned out Iraqi tanks littering Baghdad's empty, dirty boulevards in April 2003; after all there was no war to speak of, the Iraqi army having preferred to flee. The Turkish army, for its part, has just proved its point; Ankara can invade Iraqi Kurdistan any time it sees fit - as if it was Gaza. And this is nothing compared to what may happen after the endlessly postponed Kirkuk referendum, when Iraqi Kurds will finally have full control over their oil wealth and rekindle their independentist dreams. If East Timor and Kosovo can do it, why not us? Muqtada has - literally - vanished, after lamenting an Iraq "characterized by social turmoil". He disappeared just like the 12th Imam, Imam Mahdi - and that's a really huge thing for pious Iraqi Shi'ites, not to mention a masterful political ploy. Muqtada has transferred to the US Marines the task of carrying a pogrom of the Mahdi Army. He's aiming at the polls - he wants the Sadrists to take over the Shi'ite provincial governments in the south in the next election. Sooner or later "anti-American" occult Muqtada will be the lord of what remains of Iraq - and there's nothing Washington can do about it.

The Battle of Baghdad

General David Petraeus will tell the President and Congress that violence is dramatically reduced in Baghdad, that there are signs of political progress inside the Green Zone. He will not say that Baghdad is an urban desert of half-destroyed buildings and next to no public services, dotted by partially deserted, mutually hostile mini-ghettos that used to be neighborhoods, surrounded by cement barriers reminiscent of medieval fortifications.

…Over the course of five years, Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, has been transformed from a metropolis into an urban desert of half-destroyed buildings and next to no public services, dotted by partially deserted, mutually hostile mini-ghettos that used to be neighborhoods, surrounded by cement barriers reminiscent of medieval fortifications. The most prominent of these ghettos is the heavily fortified city-inside-a-city dubbed the Green Zone, where Iraq's most fearsome militia, the United States military, is headquartered. It is governed by the Americans and by the American-sponsored Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. The remaining ghettos, large and small, are governed by local militias, most of them sworn enemies of the United States and the Maliki regime.

The Iraqi Civil War Bush and the Media Don't Tell You About

The Iraqi-Iraqi conflict is similar to the U.S. civil war: Iraqis who are want a centralized government are fighting against those favor secession. While the majority of Iraqis know that the current Sunni-Shiites tension did not exist before 2003, no one can deny that after five years of U.S. occupation, sectarian tension is now a reality. Sectarianism is another disaster that was brought to Iraq by the war and occupation of Iraq.

The U.S.-led invasion did not only destroy the Baath political regime, it also annihilated the entire public sector including education, health care, food rations, social security, and the armed forces. The Iraqi public sector was a great example of how millions of Iraqis: Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, all worked together in running the country. The myth that the former Iraqi government was a "Sunni-led dictatorship" was created by the U.S. government. Even the Iraqi political regime was not "Sunni-led," let alone the rest of the public sector. A good way to debunk this fairy tale is through a close look at the famous deck of cards of the 55 most wanted Iraqi leaders. The cards had the pictures of Saddam, his two sons, and the rest of the political leadership which most Iraqis would recognize as the heads of the political regime. What is noteworthy is that 36 of the 55 were Shiites. In fact, the two vice presidents were a Christian and a Shiites Kurd. Sometimes I feel like Iraqis and Americans are analyzing two different wars happening in two different countries. [And guess who is likely getting it all wrong? - dancewater]

…..Understanding these nuances of the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict reveals how the war is a political struggle that will end as soon as the U.S. withdraws, not a religious war that will intensify after Iraqis take their country back. The United States is not playing the role of a peace-keeping force, or a convener of reconciliation. It is seen by a majority of Iraqis as one side of the conflict and will never be a part of the solution.

Bush’s Napoleon Moment

As it was, Bush’s military build-up had made Saddam uncommonly pliable. In mid-February, his personal envoy sought out and met Richard Perle, the guru of the American neoconservatives, in London. In return for the US refraining from invading Iraq, Saddam would make the following concessions, he told Perle: - Saddam would allow up to 200 CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents to go anywhere in Iraq to look for WMD. - He would give oil concessions to the American petroleum corporations. - He would go along with any agreement the Palestinians signed with Israel. - He would hold multi-party elections in Iraq under the UN aegis within two years. On his return to the US, Perle conveyed Saddam’s message to the top officials of the Bush administration. They replied with an impossible demand: that Saddam must step down first before they would discuss his offer.

A Million Iraqi Dead? The U.S. press buries the evidence

If Americans are to make informed judgments not only about the invasion of Iraq and whether the occupation should continue, but also about future wars our government may wish to start, then we need to have good information about the war's impact on Iraqis. But the major U.S. press rarely considers a most basic measure of that impact: how many Iraqis have been killed. When they do mention the toll, they consistently ignore or malign two major statistical studies, the first conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet (10/11/06), and the other released by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business (9/07). Both indicate that over a million Iraqis have now been killed. Yet an Associated Press poll in February (2/24/07) that asked Americans how many Iraqis have died received a median response of less than 10,000.

….. The media's neglect of these statistical studies is particularly striking when contrasted with their regular citation of similar studies whose results do not reflect badly on U.S. military policy. The Johns Hopkins studies employ the method accepted around the world to measure birth and death rates in the wake of natural and man-made disasters: a cluster survey. It is the same method that was used to estimate that 200,000 have been killed in Sudan's Darfur region (Science, 9/15/06). Yet, while the Darfur figure has been cited over 1,000 times by major U.S. press outlets just within the last year (e.g., AP, 12/6/07; New York Times, 12/6/07; Miami Herald, 12/5/07), the estimate for Iraq is ignored. The Darfur figure is considered so uncontroversial that a source for the number is almost never given. Often, it is not even called an estimate; for example, Associated Press reported (12/5/07), "More than 200,000 people have died." In contrast, when the Johns Hopkins figure on Iraqi deaths is provided, it is accompanied by criticism or strong disclaimers.

Occupation is corporate genocide

This war has been too long, too painful, too costly, too evil, too inhumane and too unjust to simply be deemed an invasion, or even worse, a liberation. Today, right here, right now, I want this war to be recognised for what it truly is - a genocide against the Iraqi people. It is a corporate hate crime. It is not a "just" war. It does not have a "just" cause. It lacks legitimate authority, it was executed with all the wrong intentions, it was certainly not a last resort, the probability of success was slim and most of all the weaponry has gone beyond "smart bombs". If the international community recognises the conflicts in Bosnia, Armenia and Rwanda as genocides where human rights are replaced with the extermination of ethnic groups, then Iraq deserves the same recognition - and more.

RESISTANCE

Thousands rally against Iraq war in New York

US protest against Iraq war

Over 100 anti-war protesters arrested at NATO HQ

Winter Soldier Marches Again

Why We Said No: Three Diplomats’ Duty

Counter-Recruitment Is Not Counter-Military: A Letter From a Colonel

Words to the Die-In Participants: We as a People Have the Power

Iraq War Protesters Disrupt Chicago Mass

Six Iraq war protesters disrupted an Easter Mass on Sunday, shouting and squirting fake blood on themselves and parishioners in a packed auditorium.

Quote of the day: In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. ~ George Orwell

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