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, April 30, 2008

News Update for Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Family member grieves for the loss of her relatives prior to a funeral ceremony in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, April 30, 2008. The woman's relatives were killed during recent clashes in Baghdad's Sadr city.
(AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani) (Note the body of the terrorist the woman is holding)

Iraqis cover dead bodies with blankets in the ruins of a destroyed house by an alleged US air strike on Baghdad's Sadr City. At least 925 people have been killed in clashes between militiamen and security forces in Baghdad's Sadr City that began on March 25.
(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

Iraqi government says the fighting in Sadr City has killed 925 and wounded 2,605. He blames the "criminal elements" for "using the population to cover themselves." Maliki vows to continue the fighting until there is no non-governmental armed force.

This was also the deadliest month for U.S. troops since last September, with 49 killed. Neither MNF nor DoD gives us timely information on wounded troops, but here's one, critically injured on Monday. The DoD updates casualties weekly, usually on Tuesday. Here's the latest. Note that the time since May 1, 2003, is officially called "post combat operations," apparently in honor of Mission Accomplished day. Anyhow, the total Killed in Action, including "post-combat" action, is now 3,307, and the total dead in theater is 4,058. That's not counting the ones they don't count, i.e. some who died considerably later of injuries sustained in theater which they choose not to attribute to those injuries; and PTSD-related suicides. Of wounded, they give only the total of those they consider Wounded in Action, which is now 16,567 Returned to Duty within 72 hours, and 13,344 not RTD. This blogger at After Downing Street has figured out that there were 88 total U.S. combat casualties last week, by keeping track of this form week to week. If he can do it, why can't Brian Williams?

Oh yes, Brian Williams. One of my must reads for today is this Glenn Greenwald take down of Mr. Williams, who apparently thinks it's his patriotic duty to present Pentagon propagandists as "independent" military analysts and thinks the critics are just French.

Speaking of "Mission Accomplished," Dana Perino says it was all a big misunderstanding. The banner only meant to refer to the specific mission of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Right. And Weapons of Mass Destruction™ was only meant to refer to Saddam's cigars.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Iraq has the most unsolved murders of journalists of any country -- 79. Most of them were deliberately killed because of their work, not caught in crossfire. I want to acknowledge that this site depends entirely on the courageous work of Iraqi journalists. We try to give them credit when we can but they usually are forced to work anonymously.

It's not just "terrorists" who attack Iraqi journalists, it's also U.S. forces (as documented on numerous occasions) and now, it seems, the Iraqi government.

Thi-Qar, Apr 30, (VOI) – The Journalists' Syndicate, Nassiriya subsidiary, announced on Wednesday the suspension of all its activities, expressing solidarity with Basra journalists, according to a release issued by the subsidiary.
"In order to stick together with Basra journalists, the syndicate suspended all its administrative, media, and journalistic activities, due to the aggressive acts that were practiced against Basra journalists by traffic police and Iraqi army discipline patrols," said the release that was received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

The administrative body of the Journalists' Syndicate in Basra decided on Tuesday to close its doors and suspend its activities as of Wednesday until further notice, protesting Iraqi security's aggression against its president and one of its members.
"Nassiriya subsidiary issued a statement to all the colleagues, journalists in Nassiriya, to hold all journalistic activities, expressing solidarity with their colleagues in Basra," the release added.

I can't vouch for this but if it's true it's pretty impressive. From After Downing Street:

From U.S. Labor Against the War

We just learned that the Port Workers Union of Iraq will conduct a one hour work stoppage in two of the principal ports (Umm Qasr and Khor Alzubair) on May Day in solidarity with the ILWU's shutdown of West Coast Ports against the occupation. This news was conveyed to USLAW by someone in England who is in communication with the leadership of the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, who were informed about this action by the leadership of the Port Workers Union.

Although the information came to us indirectly, we are confident about its accuracy.

An adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities tells British reporters that the U.S. has damaged historic sites. This is just gross. -- C

By Farah Nayeri

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. military forces and their allies in Iraq have damaged archeological sites including Babylon by setting up bases, using heavy equipment, filling sandbags and digging trenches, said an adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

At an impromptu press briefing organized by the British Museum in London today, the adviser, Bahaa Mayah, showed slides of the military presence at about a dozen sites. While the Babylon site has now been vacated by U.S. and Polish forces, he said, ``we cannot reverse'' the damage done.

``We need to stop this from happening again by any force, either Iraqi forces, or American forces, or British forces, or any forces in Iraq,'' he said. ``This has got to stop.''

Mayah said that until three or four months ago, the U.S. military ``didn't listen to us, didn't take any action'' when told that certain bases were in archeologically sensitive areas. Now, the U.S. military seeks Iraqi ministry approval before basing camps anywhere. ``There is better cooperation nowadays compared to what we witnessed before,'' he said.

But it's not just the military - according to this witness our old friends at KBR were actually stealing the stuff:

By DAVID IVANOVICH Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

KBR employees working in Iraq stole weapons, artwork and even gold to make spurs for cowboy boots, two former company workers told Senate Democrats on Monday.

Appearing before a Democrats-only panel looking into allegations of contracting abuses in Iraq, the witnesses accused their former co-workers of widespread improper activity.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said the company would not comment at length because the claims are part of ongoing lawsuits. "The witnesses who testified today raised claims that KBR has previously addressed. The government has reviewed the claims and refused to join lawsuits asserting them," Browne said.

Linda Warren, a 50-year-old Abilene woman who worked as a laundry foreman and recreation director for the Houston-based contracting giant in Iraq, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Monday that some of her American colleagues doing construction work in Iraqi palaces and municipal buildings took woodcarvings, tapestries and crystal "and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots."

My second must read is this Tom Englehardt piece on the demigod Gen. Petraeus, who always seems to get his promotion just as his previous project is heading for the dumper, for which his successor gets the blame. Think training the Iraqi army, and Mosul, now The Surge™.

Quote of the Day

I'm going to turn this one over to Jonathan Schwartz, it's from back in 2002:

There is not sufficient space…for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)…

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

-- Jeffrey Goldberg, recently hired by The Atlantic magazine