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, May 1, 2008

News Update for May 1, 2008 - Mission Accomplished Day

An Iraqi Shiite cleric from the al-Sadr movement walks through the rubble of house in Baghdad's Sadr City. Hardline Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has refused to hold talks with Iraqi lawmakers who had gone to Iran in a bid to end the clashes between his fighters and troops.
(AFP/Wissam al-Okaili)

Security Update

A US soldier serving with the Multi-National Force (MNF) was killed when a booby-trapped vehicle was remotely-detonated, hitting his patrol in midtown Baghdad, the MNF said Thursday. This is the first fatality for May.

The U.S. death toll for April now stands at 51 or 52, depending on whether you count Marine Sgt. Merlin German, who died of injuries sustained in 2005.

Other News of the Day

International Longshore Workers Union holds one day strike, idling west coast ports, to protest the war in Iraq. "This war is like all wars,'' Robert Cavalli, president of dockworkers union Local 34 said at a rally after the march. ''It kills the sons and daughters of workers.'' 'Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren't loyal or accountable to any country,'' said Bob McEllrath, the ILWU's international president. ''But longshore workers are different. We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war.''

I have not found any information as to whether Iraqi port workers joined the strike in solidarity, as it was reported yesterday that they might. If anyone has information regarding this, let us know. -- C

The New York Times reports that PM al-Maliki has dispatched a delegation to Iran to raise the issue of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard allegedly arming Iraqi militias. All of the information about this seems to come from western sources -- VoI merely quotes the NYT story. Apparently whatever is happening is not being publicized within Iraq. Here is an excerpt from the IHT, drawing on the NYT and AP:

Several senior Shiite Iraqi leaders met with officials in Tehran on Thursday to discuss their concerns that Iran was arming and financing militias in Iraq.

An Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the delegation would present the Iranian government with material that implicated the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard.

The delegation was expected to meet with the supreme religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to discuss the issue and stress that continuing fighting between Shiite extremists and U.S. and Iraqi forces were threatening political gains by Shiites.

A member of the delegation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the delegation had already met with the commander of the Quds Force, Ghassem Soleimani, and showed "him all the evidence." He did not share further information, but said a second meeting with Soleimani was expected to take place Friday.


The members of the delegation were chosen by Maliki, who went out of his way in an interview Wednesday to stress his independence. "I have never been the man of Iran, and I told America that I'm not the man of America in Iraq," he said in an interview on the news channel Al Arabiya.

Information about the trip was closely held because of the sensitivity of the relationship between the countries. Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior political adviser to Maliki, said all issues would be on the table.

Some officials said the Iraqi delegation might meet with Moktada al-Sadr, the cleric whose Madhi army has been involved in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops, and who is now thought to be staying in Iran. But that was denied by an aide to Sadr and by officials linked to the delegation.

Of course, Maliki has indeed been "the man of Iran." He spent his exile during the Saddam Hussein years as an Iranian agent in Damascus, where he is reputed to have been instrumental in founding Hezbollah.

A military jury Thursday acquitted an Army sergeant of premeditated murder in the death of an unarmed Iraqi insurgent who was killed in a village overrun by al-Qaida operatives. No comment necessary. -- C

Military prosecutors said in closing arguments that the killing by Trevino last summer in Iraq was unjustified because the insurgent was severely wounded from a gun battle and posed no threat. Trevino's attorneys said he followed the rules of engagement because he thought the al-Qaida insurgent was reaching for a gun.

The seven-member jury deliberated an hour Thursday after lengthy closing arguments that spilled into the afternoon session. The jury's decision did not have to be unanimous; at least two-thirds had to agree on a decision.

Prosecutors declined to comment after the trial.

After the June firefight in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, the soldiers went into a house and found an insurgent on the floor with about two dozen bullet wounds and a broken arm. Linger reminded jurors of witness testimony that Trevino shot the insurgent in the abdomen, told one soldier to place a weapon by the Iraqi and then told them to say he had been armed.

Several witnesses testified that Trevino told them he shot the insurgent because the man had a gun. A medic also had testified that Trevino ordered him to suffocate the Iraqi, and when he told his sergeant that the man was still alive, he shot him -- this time, fatally.

Ann Wright of Truthout reports evidence that the army has covered up the rape and even murder of several female soldiers in the Iraq theater. Note: The author is an army veteran.

FORT BLISS, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday said the military had made mistakes in its treatment of returning combat troops including in their physical and mental health care and by providing some sub-standard housing. It's deja vu all over again -- they seem to make the same apology every few months. Excerpt:

In a visit to Fort Bliss, Texas, Gates announced a change in government procedures to encourage troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder without fear of losing their security clearances and harming their careers.

He acknowledged not all of the more than 1.5 million military service members who have been deployed overseas have received needed medical treatment and accommodations.


On Thursday, Gates turned his attention to a video presentation about housing for returning troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that was posted on the Web site

The 10-minute video shows soldiers who served for 15 months in Afghanistan living in a barracks where sewage backed up into sinks, lead-based paint peeled from overhead pipes and broken toilet seats were repaired with cardboard and tape.

WASHINGTON - A Senate panel has agreed unanimously to block the Defense Department from funding Iraq reconstruction projects worth more than $2 million and to begin to force Baghdad to cover the costs of training and equipping its security forces. "We want to send a very powerful message to the Iraqis and to the administration as to the cost of this war and the absurdity that a country which is exporting 2 million barrels a day of oil, for which we are paying when it gets to the pump now $3.50 a gallon" is not fully paying to rebuild itself, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee.


The perpetual conundrum of the old men who declare war is how to get the young boys to commit to the battle field. They have solved this conundrum by selling young boys on a counterfeit cause: freedom. War is somehow always about freedom, whether it is insuring it, or making the world safe for it; the men who spin these yarns preach that the only way to insure freedom is to liberate the villages, liberate the towns, and liberate the cities. We did that in Nam. We would send in mortars to soften up a village and then spray it with machine gun fire before occupying it and killing whoever we suspected might be the enemy. After the patrols, some of us would wash away the memories of such philanthropic antics with tumblers of Johnny Walker. We drank at the community lean-to back at the base, a lean-to which was appropriately christened, “Bombs for Peace.” I vividly recall guzzling a pitcher of Manhattans and looking up at the television set to see President Nixon making an urgent address to the nation. His words were clear, emphatic, concise, and complete bullshit. “We are not now, nor have we ever, bombed the country of Laos”(Sheehan 310). So I finished my drink, rolled a nice fat joint, and went outside to smoke it, because it was 8:45 now. The Air Force usually started the napalming of Laos about nine. I didn’t want to miss the show. After all, how many people get to see bombs that don’t exist?

I am old enough now to comb what little hair I have left with my hand, and age has replaced my innocence with cynicism. It has been six years now in Iraq, long past the six weeks or six months that the war makers predicted. The people whose country we have occupied did not have links to Al Qaeda and they were not responsible for blowing up the World Trade Center. We have long since given up finding the weapons that we were told they had. We have forced two million Iraqis to leave their country and have killed, by most accounts, a million more. We have obliterated their bridges, hospitals and schools. We have succeeded in getting four thousand brave Americans killed and we have managed to get seventy thousand more maimed at a cost of what could ultimately be three trillion dollars.

The Iraq War is a national travesty that brings to my mind a distant echo, an echo that reverberated in my brain much too often in Viet Nam. An echo which belonged to a voice heard more than half a century ago in another country in yet another war for freedom. An anonymous young soldier, just arrived in Normandy during WWII, look around him at the devastation wrought by the withdrawing forces and said, “Boy, we liberated the hell out of them.”

William P. O'Connor