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, April 3, 2008

News & Views 04/03/08

Photo: A man brings the body of a four months-old baby girl to a hospital morgue in Baghdad's Sadr City April 2, 2008. The girl including five other family members were killed during an attack in Sadr City on Wednesday, residents said. Picture taken April 2, 2008.

REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)

There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
But no one asks the question why,
He has been here.
Old men kneel and accept their fate.
Wives and daughters cut and raped.
A generation drenched in hate.
Yes, he has been here. ~ James Blunt

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Thursday: 1 US Airman, 41 Iraqis Killed, 66 Wounded

Curfew Affects Health and Livelihood of Iraqis - International Medical Corps Responds

Recent fighting and subsequent curfews in several major Iraqi cities have led to food shortages, disruption of health services, and above normal gaps in water and electricity supplies. Fighting, instability, and restriction of movements caused many people living under the curfew to feel depressed and agitated. The overall standstill of commercial life hit the poorest and most vulnerable Iraqis most. In a rapid assessment International Medical Corps (IMC) found that living conditions of Iraqis deteriorated under the multi-day curfews in almost all aspects. In telephone interviews people were asked to comment on their economic situation and their physical and mental well-being. "The curfews show how vulnerable Iraqis are to any further disruptions in their lives," says Agron Ferati, International Medical Corps country director in Iraq. "Over the last days we have seen how the everyday problems in the lives of ordinary Iraqis can quickly reach crisis proportions."

IRAQ: New report highlights growing number of IDPs

A new international report says that on 20 March there were some 2,778,305 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. Hitherto the figure of 2.2 million IDPs in Iraq had been widely publicised. The 21-page report - produced by IDP Working Group members consisting of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), other UN Agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - is based on data gathered by the IDP Working Group, and information from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other NGOs.

It said 1,212,108 had been displaced between the fall of Saddam's regime and February 2006, when a revered Shia shrine in Samarra was blown up, and that a further 1,566,197 were displaced in 2006 and 2007 when the country was engulfed in sectarian violence. Baghdad hosts more IDPs than any other governorate (563,771 persons). It is followed by Mosul, Dahuk and Diyala governorates, each with over 100,000 individuals; Sulaimaniyah, Babylon and Wassit (over 70,000 persons); and Anbar, Najaf and Karbala (over 50,000). The report said many IDPs remained unregistered with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Despite government measures since February 2007, including a security crackdown in Baghdad and the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, no large-scale returns have been noted, the report said.

UN appeals for help to rid Iraq of landmines

The United Nations on Thursday urged more efforts to clear Iraq of landmines, which it said threaten the population and complicate reconstruction and development projects. "In addition to insecurity, Iraqis live amidst one of the greatest concentrations of landmines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war in the world," said a joint statement by the UN Development Programme and the UN Children's Fund. "Explosive remnants of war contamination in Iraq is so widespread that several development programmes are being hampered," it added. Marking the International Day for Mine Awareness, they warned that unexploded ordnance is "of higher risk to Iraqi children, who often mistake them for toys or harmless objects to play with. "A quarter of Iraq's 565 unexploded ordnance victims assessed in 2006 were under 18," they said.

1200 people killed, wounded, or arrested in Basra

Iraqi security forces killed or wounded at least 900 armed men, and arrested 300 others, since the beginning of the military operations in Basra, an official of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) said on Thursday. "Security forces killed more than 200 gunmen, wounded 700, and arrested 300 others, since the beginning of the military operations in Basra," Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, manager of the MOI's National Command Center told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). He added "MOI's special forces arrested five of the criminal gangs' leaders on Wednesday's evening, killed six others, and were able to seize their weapons." Khalaf did not mention identities of those who were killed or arrested, nor their affiliations.

Ali ventures out into the streets of Basra

Ali our correspondant in Basra told us, "Her son was killed – her only son. The father died in the Iraqi Iranian war, she saw great hardship bringing him up, and he joined the police force three months ago because no other work was available. She pleaded with him not to, but he couldn’t see her suffer and sit around any longer. And the day before yesterday he was killed. The women all weep and beat their breast – but look at her – she is completely stunned, not a tear has she shed" the old woman said to me”

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi PM says he will expand crackdown on militias

Iraq's prime minister pledged Thursday to expand his crackdown on Shiite militias to Baghdad, despite a mixed performance so far against militants in the southern city of Basra.

Al-Sadr calls for anti-US protest

[Compare and contrast to item just above. – dancewater]

Shiite cleric order to stop fighting is "responsive and historic"-VP

Iraqi Vice president Tareq al-Hashemi branded Shiite cleric Muqtada's order for his Mahdi militia to cease fighting as "responsive and historic," the VP office statement reported "The order was responsive and historic, contributing in preventing a crisis that might have brought about disastrous consequences", al-Hashemi said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI). The cleric ordered his followers of Mahdi army militia to stop fighting last Sunday, six days after fierce clashes with security forces that erupted in Basra and engulfed Baghdad’s major southern cities. He added "standing with security forces in central and northern Iraq to maintain security and stability is a national duty, not lining with political parties against others." Al-Hashemi called on all political blocs to "put their conflicts on hold and to concentrate on national important issues." Meanwhile, Hashemi's office said in a statement that the VP postponed his visit to Washington due in April 18th.

Saudi returns bodies of Iraqis killed in Gulf War

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Cheney again links Iraq invasion to 9/11 attacks

Blackwater VP: Too soon to judge Baghdad shootings

A top official in the U.S. private security firm Blackwater said on Thursday it was too soon to pass judgment on the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians. [These people are pure evil. – dancewater]

HISTORY

It Goes Back to 1990

After five years of slaughter and destruction at the hands of the invasion led by the US and Britain (perpetrators of this "supreme international crime," as defined by the Nuremberg Principles), Amnesty International has described Iraq as in a state of "carnage and despair." In modern history, this act of near-unequalled criminality is in danger of eclipsing earlier wickednesses at the hands of these two countries. Life stopped for the majority of Iraqis when the most draconian embargo ever administered by the UN was imposed on Iraq on Hiroshima Day, 1990. Ostensibly devised to prevail on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, the embargo grounded on for 13 years until the 2003 invasion. Iraq had imported — broadly — 70 percent of everything, ironically upon the advice of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Withdrawal from Kuwait generated further conditions. Under US and UK pressure on the UN, sanctions became the war of the moving-goal posts. The real aim became clear when former president Bill Clinton announced that sanctions would never be lifted until President Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. Legalities were abandoned long before blatant lies, dodgy dossiers, and President George W. Bush's "crusade" of March 2003. By 1991, less than a year after the imposition of the embargo, a threefold increase in under-five mortality was recorded. By 1995, a fivefold increase was recorded. The same year, wasting and stunting in children were comparable to those in poverty-stricken Mali. Iraq's children, however, were dying, lying, and limping atop the second largest oil reserves on earth (sales and supervision are now administered by the UN).

IRAQ 1990: Ex-Envoy Details Hussein Meeting

The career Foreign Service officer, who was U.S. ambassador to Baghdad when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, was blamed for failing to forcefully warn Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that the United States would oppose such aggression just days before it occurred. But others argued that the widely respected diplomat -- the first female U.S. ambassador in the Middle East -- was mainly a scapegoat for the failings of the secretary of state at the time, James A. Baker III. After nearly 17 years of silence, Glaspie has emerged to tell her story. She granted a lengthy interview, in English, to Randa Takieddine of the Lebanese newspaper Dar al-Hayat, which has posted the full transcript on the English-language version of its Web site.

COMMENTARY

A Submarine to Fight al-Qaeda's Navy

When Iraq bubble bursts, we’ll feel it

President George W. Bush and this administration have an explicit history of both an overvaluation of their economic and political assets as well as the necessary delusional irrationality. Economically they missed the housing bubble and politically they continue to claim there were weapons of mass destruction. The surge in Iraq perfectly fits the model of the overvaluation of an asset. The surge, the insertion of five additional combat brigades a year ago, is being sold as a success because it has been associated with a significant reduction in the violence in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. The delusion has to do with the claim that the surge has strengthened the government of Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki. If, on the other hand, the reduction of violence is unrelated to the surge, and the al-Maliki government is making no political progress, then the surge has been grossly overblown, and this bubble is close to bursting.

Media silent on US air strikes in sealed-off Sadr City

Xinhuanet filed this on its Arabic-language website Wednesday evening (April 2), along with reports of other Baghdad violence: “Sources said a fire broke out in a residential apartment building in Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, the result of an American bombing. The extent of damage is unknown, given the fact that Iraqi police barred entry to the aforementioned region, which has been under curfew for a number of days.”

The Xinhua person apparently tried to get to the site, and reports that everyone was barred by Iraqi police. Compare McClatchy's one sentence (in its dispatch to its Washington office): "At dawn, the American planes bombed some targets in Sadr City, police said." And the "Multinational Force Iraq" website: Zero. Other corporate media: Zero. Putting the reports and non-reports together: Sadr City targets, in the plural, were bombed by the Americans; Xinhua heard about one of these because of the fire; tried to get to the site and reports that everyone was barred. Naturally, US bombings of a residential area that is in effect quarantined are a major story, right? Not at all, not a word, not a whisper, in the US media.

Quote of the day: Even now, imagine, even now, I am reading fresh mail telling me of fresh American bombing killing yet more civilians in Basra. How can we be bombing in the middle of a city that was shortly before the home of 1.7 million Iraqis? We are everyday now bombing in Basra for the sake of destroying supporters of al-Sadr who has only been trying to make peace.

Where is the right? Where is our right to destroy a people who mean us no possible harm?

Where is our right? – anonymous comment on Juan Cole’s blog

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