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

Saturday, June 21, 2008

News and Commentary

War Crimes

General who probed Abu Ghraib says Bush officials committed war crimes

Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing "war crimes" and called for those responsible to be held to account.

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

"...there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. "The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture," he wrote.


Read More:

The Physicians for Human Rights report.

McClatchy's investigation of Guantanamo Bay detainees.


“Broken Laws, Broken Lives”: Medical Study Confirms Prisoners in US Custody Were Physically & Mentally Tortured

This interview is available in transcript form, video, or audio. - S

A new report by the Physicians for Human Rights has, for the first time, found medical evidence corroborating the claims of former prisoners who say they were tortured while in US custody. Teams of medical specialists conducted physical and psychological tests on the former prisoners, including exams intended to assess if they were lying. We speak to Dr. Allen Keller.

Dr. Allen Keller, medical expert for the Physicians for Human Rights study. He evaluated five of the detainees and co-wrote the report. He is the director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.

DR. ALLEN KELLER: ...when we examined these individuals, we found clear evidence, both physical and psychological, of what they endured. And as a result of what they endured, they had lasting physical and psychological scars.


They Came With The Intention of Staying

Iraq, the sovereign colony?

Boston Globe Editorial

PRESIDENT BUSH has been treating Iraq less as an ally than a vassal. He has been pushing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to accept two long-term agreements that would, as many Iraqis rightly object, compromise Iraq's sovereignty and independence.

Though Bush speaks of Iraq as a free, democratic ally, the original versions gave the United States privileges in Iraq more suitable to the relationship between a colonial power and its protectorate.

The contents of the agreements were not cast in the form of a treaty because a treaty would have to be ratified by the US Senate. Bush plainly does not want senators asking troublesome questions about the implications of an open-ended Iraqi approval for 58 American military bases on Iraqi soil.

Five of the 58 are sprawling megabases that replicate the amenities of an American town. Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, has air traffic comparable to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. No wonder some Iraqis see these bases as proof that Bush invaded Iraq to gain control of its vast oil reserves and to establish a new permanent military presence in the heart of the Middle East.


Legalising occupation - Bush’s last manoeuvre in Iraq

By Ramzy Baroud, Jordan Times

When US forces descended on Baghdad five years ago, they seemed unstoppable. Military arrogance had reached an all time high, and it seemed only a matter of time before the same frenzied scenario took place in Tehran, Damascus and elsewhere.

....White House, State Department and US military spokespeople ventured into endless predictable talk about democracy, freedom and security in order to woo an increasingly agitated American public. But US actions on the ground spoke of another reality: an imperial quest with monopoly on violence and disregard of international law, of the national sovereignty of Iraq and near total disregard of the human rights of its citizens.

Now the Bush administration is ready to crown its Iraq travesty with a long-term strategy that would turn Iraq’s occupation into a lasting act.


"Strategic Alliance" Between the U.S. and Iraq Makes a Mockery of Iraqi Sovereignty


By Ali Allawi, The Independent UK

In 1930 the Anglo-Iraqi treaty was signed as a prelude to Iraq gaining full independence. Britain had occupied Iraq after defeating the Turks in the First World War, and was granted a mandate over the country. The treaty gave Britain military and economic privileges in exchange for Britain's promise to end its mandate. The treaty was ratified by a docile Iraqi parliament, but was bitterly resented by nationalists. Iraq's dependency on Britain poisoned Iraqi politics for the next quarter of a century. Riots, civil disturbances, uprisings and coups were all a feature of Iraq's political landscape, prompted in no small measure by the bitter disputations over the treaty with Britain.

Iraq is now faced with a reprise of that treaty, but this time with the U.S., rather than Britain, as the dominant foreign partner. The U.S. is pushing for the enactment of a "strategic alliance" with Iraq, partly as a precondition for supporting Iraq's removal from its sanctioned status under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It is a treaty under any other name. It has been structured as an alliance partly to avoid subjecting its terms to the approval of the U.S. Senate, and partly to obfuscate its significance. Although the draft has not been circulated outside official circles, the leaks raise serious alarm about its long-term significance for Iraq's sovereignty and independence. Of course the terms of the alliance for Iraq will be sweetened with promises of military and economic aid, but these are no different in essence from the commitments made in Iraq's previous disastrous treaty entanglements.


The Oil Factor

(It's all about dominating other countries by controlling the oil supply. - S)

Controlling Iraqi oil

"Americans remain optimistic that a last minute deal can be reached," reported The Wall Street Journal in its June 14-15, 2008 edition, describing an impasse over an extraordinary long-term "security" deal between the United States and Iraqi governments that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for many, many years.

Gina Chon, reporting from Baghdad, was not referring to the American public. She was referring only to a statement by the State Department's Iraq coordinator, David Satterfield, who, she said in breezy style, "is in town for the negotiations" on the deal, which is opposed by an increasing number of Iraqis because it would make Iraq a captive state of the United States.

Oil was not mentioned in connection with Satterfield's negotiations. Nor was oil mentioned in the negotiation reports in The New York Times or Financial Times. In fact, it has been the practice of the major media to avoid mentioning oil in connection with military activity in Iraq; something also common in the Congress, all following the lead of the Bush administration.

But it is no coincidence that news of negotiations over the "security" agreement comes with news on June 19 that the occupied Iraqi government is getting ready to sign contracts with ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Total to assist in developing Iraq's vast oil fields...

That they are no-bid contracts given to these Western firms over Russian, Chinese and Indian competitors is exceptional and clearly a matter of an occupied government responding to pressure from the occupier.

What the Bush administration and the major oil companies are striving for is a "security" agreement that will be locked into place before the November election, enabling U.S. troops to protect U.S. oil interests in Iraq and to control the Iraqi government for years to come.

...the terms, some acknowledged by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, include:

-- Permanent military bases in Iraq; 50 is reportedly the minimum number.

-- Complete control of Iraqi air space below 29,000 feet.

-- Complete freedom to conduct military operations as the United States sees fit.

-- Immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and U.S. mercenaries, also known as private contractors.

-- Freedom to jail and interrogate Iraqis at will.


The Iran Factor

Same Old Dog and No New Tricks: Update on Messaging on Iran

By Sam Gardiner

For almost three months, Iran's most evilness was represented in its involvement in "killing U.S. soldiers" in Iraq. The entire top leadership of the Administration was on this message.

...Iran is now evil because of its efforts to enrich uranium. In the President's recent trip to Europe he sounded the theme at every stop: Its enrichment and movement toward a bomb.

Recently in Paris, President Bush said when referring to the Iranian response to the EU incentives-for-stopping-enrichment offer, "It's an indication to the Iranian people that their leadership is willing to isolate them further. Our view is we want the Iranian people to flourish and to benefit." (So that message is "we want to liberate Iranians" - sound familiar? - S)

This kind of message is very similar to the one meant for the people of Iraq [3] before the 2003 invasion. It's the separation message. The U.S. Government is a friend of the Iranian people. It's only the Government of Iran that is bad.


Iran refutes US media for linking Iran to Iraq terrorist attacks


Iran on Thursday refuted the US media for desperate attempts to link Iran to the terrorist attacks in Iraq.

"The US has given refuge to terrorist Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) on one hand and its media are misleading the public opinion by linking Iran to the terrorist bombings in Iraq, on the other," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said.

He said that the desperate attempts made by the US media aimed at justifying prolongation of occupation and sow discord between the Iranian and Iraqi governments and nations have failed so far.

"The desperate efforts are considered only justification for the continued presence of occupied forces in Iraq, but they fail to undermine the firm relations between Iranians and Iraqis." --IRNA


The Human Factor

The Love Stories Are Gone

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail

As statistics go, at least 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the occupation, now in its fifth year. Every one of them has left behind once loved ones to mourn the loss and to think of what might have been.

This is the land of the Arabian Nights, and of love stories that became fables far and wide. In these stories, in the traditions of which they were born, the lover thought nothing of giving up his life for a beloved. But no one thought death would come to this land under the present circumstances.

All who have died had their own love stories, if not all romantic ones. And that must be a million of them. The figure of 655,000 – of Iraqis who died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation – came from the British medical journal Lancet based on a study in July last year. The number would have risen significantly after one of the bloodiest years of the occupation.

...

"The country of the Arabian Nights and of wonderful poetry is no longer good for love," Maki al-Nazzal, political analyst and poet, told IPS. "All Iraqi poetry under occupation is now about death and separation."

Women and children refugees suffer in Iraq

By KIM GAMEL

Last Updated: Friday, Jun 20 2008 11:47 AM

Women and children have been hit especially hard in Iraq's refugee crisis, often forced to beg and in some cases turn to prostitution to provide for their families because so many men have been killed, a report said Friday.

A biannual regional survey by the International Organization for Migration paints a bleak picture of Iraq's estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people, or IDPs. They often face eviction threats and insufficient access to food, clean water and health care despite recent security gains, the report said.

But women and children who have been forced to flee their homes are particularly vulnerable...

Displaced children, meanwhile, have suffered from malnutrition and skin diseases due to a lack of clean water and sanitation, the report said. They also frequently lack access to education because they must work or beg on the streets instead of going to school. (And this in a country that once boasted one of the best education systems and one of the most highly educated populations in the region - S)



Conflict has defined life for an entire generation of Iraqi children

Conflict has undermined the potential of an entire generation of Iraqi children, UNICEF said today. The organisation urged new momentum to reach vulnerable children inside the country with assistance.

'A child turning 18 in Iraq this year looks back on nearly two decades of sanctions, conflict and insecurity', said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 'To preserve the young generation growing up today, we need to shield children from violence, enhance humanitarian access and provide more resources targeted to children's specific needs.'

Cumulative impact of conflict

Children's social services, eroded by lack of investment during the 1990s, have been further weakened by prolonged insecurity and the exodus of Iraqi professionals. Only 40 per cent of Iraq's children have access to a regularly working water source. Immunisation rates are now under 50 per cent in some of Iraq's districts, spurring a measles outbreak this year.

The toll on education is a particular concern. As the school year ends this week in Iraq, graduation exams have been postponed for thousands of high school students. Other children, including many in Sadr City, sat end of year exams despite finishing only a portion of the required curriculum due to disruptions in school schedules. School enrolment rates, assessed in 2005 at 83 per cent by the Iraqi Ministry of Education, may have fallen below 60 per cent in 2007, according to preliminary data received from Iraq's governorates.

Violence, isolation and lack of opportunity have also put children at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, including the use of children by armed groups. More children are also being detained on suspicion of connection with such groups.


Robert Fisk: Snapshots of life in Baghdad

The dangerous face of ordinary life has been captured by Iraqis on their mobile phones – reaching the places Western photographers can no longer go. Robert Fisk reportsThis collection of pictures is therefore an indictment of us, as well as of the courage of Iraqis. The madness is summed up in an email message sent to Van Kesteren by a Baghdad Iraqi. "This summer," he wrote, "a workman wanted to quench his thirst by putting ice in his tea. A car pulled up, the driver stepped out and began to beat and kick the man, cursing him as an unbeliever. 'What do you think you're doing? Did the Prophet Mohamed put ice in his water?'

The man being attacked was furious and asked his assailant: 'Do you think the Prophet Mohamed drove a car?'"


Quote of the Day:

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." Maj. General (Ret. - forcibly) Antonio Taguba



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