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

Friday, May 9, 2008

News Update for Friday, May 9, 2008

Patrick Howse, the BBC bureau chief in the Iraqi's capital, holds the remains of a rocket that landed on the roof of the BBC headquarters in Baghdad, 09 May 2008. A rocket hit the BBC office in Baghdad on Friday but no one was wounded in the attack, the British broadcaster reported. EPA/THAIER AL-SUDANI/ POOL Well, the new skylight is nice.

Never Mind: LA Times' Tina Susman tells us -- IN A BLOG POST -- that those Iranian weapons weren't so Iranian after all. Now that the corporate media has been hyping the story that Iran is responsible for all the violence in Iraq and has been killing our troops, will they bother to report that the only problem with the story is that it wasn't true? Stay tuned. Excerpt:

There was something interesting missing from Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner's introductory remarks to journalists at his regular news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday: the word "Iran," or any form of it. It was especially striking as Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman here, announced the extraordinary list of weapons and munitions that have been uncovered in recent weeks since fighting erupted between Iraqi and U.S. security forces and Shiite militiamen.


Not once did Bergner point the finger at Iran for any of these weapons and munitions, which is a striking change from just a couple of weeks ago when U.S. military officials here and at the Pentagon were saying that caches found in Basra in particular had revealed Iranian-made arms manufactured as recently as this year. They say the majority of rockets being fired at U.S. bases, including Baghdad's Green Zone, are launched by militiamen receiving training, arms and other aid from Iran.


Iraqi officials also have accused Iran of meddling in violence and had echoed the U.S. accusations of new Iranian-made arms being found in Basra. But neither the United States nor Iraq has displayed any of the alleged arms to the public or press, and lately it is looking less likely they will. U.S. military officials said it was up to the Iraqis to show the items; Iraqi officials lately have backed off the accusations against Iran.

A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.

When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.

But we know one party who is responsible for acts of violence in Iraq. Blackwater unlikely to face charges in Iraqi deaths:

Associated Press WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor blamed by an angry Iraqi government for the shooting deaths of 17 civilians, is not expected to face criminal charges — all but ensuring the company will keep its multimillion-dollar contract to protect U.S. diplomats.

Instead, the seven-month-old Justice Department investigation is focused on as few as three or four Blackwater guards who could be indicted in the Sept. 16 shootings, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to the investigation.

The final decision on any charges will not be made until late summer at the earliest, a law enforcement official said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

I'm not holding my breath for charges against those three or four guards either.

Here's one stock to dump: The major U.S.-based hotel company Marriott International is considering building a hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone, a Marriott official said.

I expect tourists will pay extra for all the thrills. I'm sure BBC employees consider Baghdad a plum posting, after all. A mortar bomb hit the roof of the BBC office in central Baghdad on Friday. Nobody hurt but a big hole in the roof, which will be inconvenient when the next one hits.

Oh, so that's what they meant by The Surge™: Military adds armor to Iraq vehicles as roadside bombs surge. "The U.S. military is reinforcing the sides of its topline mine-resistant vehicles to shore up what could be weak points as troops see a spike in armor-piercing roadside bombings across Iraq, The Associated Press has learned." Deaths from roadside bombs are down because of the MRAPs, but the number of bombings is up. Unfortunately, the MRAPs have a tendency to roll over, and that is causing deaths. You win a few, you lose a few.

Yes, I have a feeling this would worry me too: Rising ranks of widows worry Iraqis:

By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — Suad Rzuki Aboud lost her husband, three sons and a son-in-law when Sunni insurgents blew up the family bakery.

As she held her dying husband, "I was pleading for anyone to help," says Aboud, 50. "No one came."

Aboud, her youngest son and widowed daughter fled their Shiite neighborhood with "just the clothes on our backs" and wound up as squatters in an apartment with eight other people. She sold her last possessions, two gold bracelets, to pay the rent. She survives on $50 a month from the government.

Violence in this country creates more widows by the day, and some members of parliament and women's advocates warn of a growing class of poor, single mothers unable to raise Iraq's next generation.

They say the situation has been made worse by U.S.-backed constitutional changes that allow each religious sect to decide its own rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.

Folks from Tennessee should consider throwing Tuke some Turkey: "Former state Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke said today that he wants military leaders to begin planning a withdrawal from Iraq.
Tuke, who met with The Jackson Sun's editorial board this morning, will face former Knox County clerk Mike Padgett in August to determine who will challenge Alexander this fall.

Tuke, who served as a marine in the Vietnam War, said he was upset how few leaders with military experience have directed the Iraq War. He said the “puppet regime” governing Iraq must be challenged to protect itself and its people. “What we need to do is withdraw,” Tuke said. “We are presiding over what is now a civil war.”

Not "presiding over" -- participating in. IRAQI soldiers for the first time warned residents in the embattled Sadr City district to leave their houses yesterday. It signals a new push by the US-backed forces against Shiite extremists, who have been waging street battles for seven weeks.

Quote of the Day, ungrateful wretches department

Every day, the average G.I. in Iraq uses approximately 27 gallons of petroleum-based fuels. With some 160,000 American troops in Iraq, that amounts to 4.37 million gallons in daily oil usage, including gasoline for vans and light vehicles, diesel for trucks and armored vehicles, and aviation fuel for helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft. With U.S. forces paying, as of late April, an average of $3.23 per gallon for these fuels, the Pentagon is already spending approximately $14 million per day on oil ($98 million per week, $5.1 billion per year) to stay in Iraq. Meanwhile, our Iraqi allies, who are expected to receive a windfall of $70 billion this year from the rising price of their oil exports, charge their citizens $1.36 per gallon for gasoline.

When questioned about why Iraqis are paying almost a third less for oil than American forces in their country, senior Iraqi government officials scoff at any suggestion of impropriety. "America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq," said Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit, an independent body that oversees Iraqi governmental expenditures. "This is an immoral request because we didn't ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003 we didn't have all these needs."

Michael Klare