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

Sunday, June 15, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Iraqi soldier watches women passing at a checkpoint in Baghdad's Sadr City, June 10, 2008. (Omar Obeidi/Reuters)

I posted this photo because it reminds us of how grim the scene is in Sadr City and much of the rest of Baghdad, with concrete barriers everywhere. This is hardly normal life. -- C

Updates as of 12:45 ET

Reported Security Incidents


Gunmen storm the house of a Captain in the Iraqi army, killing him and family members. This KUNA article is a bit hard to interpret due to poor English, but it appears that his wife and mother were also killed, and his son seriously injured.

Qurat Tabba, Diala Province

Casualties from Saturday suicide bomb attack on people celebrating a victory by the Iraqi soccer team rise to 2 killed and 37 injured. Earlier AP report has more detail on the incident. A woman in traditional black dress told police she was at the scene to wait for her husband, blew herself up when an officer spotted the detonator. If she had gotten closer to the crowd, there would likely have been more casualties.

al-Dalouiya, Salah al-Din Province

Four police injured in IED attack.


University professor Walid Saad Allah al-Mouli killed, two of his sons injured and in critical condition, in attack by unknown gunmen.


One soldier and 1 civilian killed, 2 soldiers injured in IED attack on an Iraqi army patrol.

Bashdar district, Sulaimaniya province

Three hour Iranian artillery bombardment affects several villages. No tally of damage or casualties as of this time.

Other News of the Day

Amensty International calls for countries that participated in the invasion of Iraq to aid Iraqi refugees. Excerpt:

Amnesty International is calling on the countries who participated in the US-led invasion of Iraq to take action to help the refugee crisis. The organisation is publishing a new report today which says the situation is growing increasingly desperate for the 4-point-7 million people who have become displaced since the 2003 invasion.

The damning report says the international community has failed to respond to the crisis in a meaningful way, with countries like Jordan and Syria forced to host most of the refugees. Only one percent of the Iraqi refugee population is thought to be in the developed world. The report also says many displaced families are being forced to send their children into child labour for money.

Sadrist spokesman says the group will boycott provincial elections scheduled for October. Excerpt:

In a fresh blow to Iraq's embattled political process, hardline Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's group said it will boycott provincial elections in October which are a key benchmark set by Washington for stabilising the country.

The decision comes two days after the powerful anti-American cleric decided to restructure his feared Mahdi Army militia and ahead of an expected military assault on his militiamen in the southern Shi'ite province of Maysan.

"The Sadr group will not take part in the (provincial) elections as we did in the parliamentary election," said Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for Sadr in the holy city of Najaf. "This is the decision as of now by Moqtada and the Sadrists. We want to avoid making the same mistakes of being part of the sectarian divisions."


It is also thought that by boycotting the elections Sadr is aiming to retain his Mahdi Army militia, which has an estimated 60,000 fighters. After launching a crackdown on the Mahdi Army in the main southern port city and oil hub of Basra in March, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to ban any political party having militias from participating in the provincial election.

But the Sadr group said it was its anti-American stance which led to the decision. "The (US) occupation is one of the reasons for not participating in the elections," said Liwa Sumaysim, head of the Sadr movement's political bureau. "We believe that the occupiers are interfering in the work of the councils when it comes to reconstruction of projects and their funding."

Reuters Waleed Ibrahim puts a somewhat different spin on this announcement, emphasizing that the Sadrist movement will back "independent" candidates. He views this as a ploy to participate in the elections without having to disarm the Mahdi Army.

King Abdullah of Jordan is in Riyadh for talks with Saudi leaders, apparently including an effort to mediate a raprochement between the Saudis and the Iraqi government. Relations between the Maliki government and the Saudis have been strained over the Iraqis close relations with Iran.

Iraqi army is preparing for an assault on militias in the southern city of Amara. The city is a stronghold of the Sadrist movement.

In-depth News, Commentary and Analysis

McClatchy's Tom Lasseter reports that hundreds of "enemy combatants" who the Bush administration has imprisoned without trial, tortured, and denied legal rights are innocent. McClatchy is without a doubt the best commercial journalistic enterprise in the United States. They're hurting financially but they're still reporting. -- C Excerpt:

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.

While he was held at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, "When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, 'What is my crime?' the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs."

The McClatchy reporting also documented how U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.

Boston Globe editorial page gets around to noticing that the U.S. invasion of Iraq (which it backed) is actually an imperialist venture. Excerpt:

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.

Quote of the Day

To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on and off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say “what the law is”… Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers … Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy