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, December 28, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, December 28, 2008

Demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during a protest in eastern Baghdad's Baladiyat district December 28, 2008. Protestors burned Israeli flags and fired AK-47s into the air in protests across Iraq on Sunday, demanding a stronger response from Arab nations to Israeli air strikes that killed more than 270 people in Gaza. REUTERS/Atef Hassan (IRAQ)

Note: The situation in Gaza has considerable bearing on both Iraq and Afghanistan. Most directly, the response the United States makes to the crisis strongly affects the credibility and reputation of the U.S. in both countries, and in the region, as in all of the Islamic world -- perhaps most strongly in Iraq and the other Arab countries, but nevertheless in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. Tolerance of the populations for the twin occupations will be even more tenuous if the U.S. reaction is perceived as demonstrating contempt for the lives and human rights of Muslims and Arabs. Furthermore, the credibility and legitimacy of the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan will be even further undermined if they are perceived as creatures of the United States and unable to forcefully distance themselves from its policy toward Palestine. And of course, the willingness of the regional powers and the UN to further or at least refrain from hindering U.S. objectives is affected by the way the U.S. spends what little political capital it has left in this crisis.

The corporate media in the U.S. are providing substantial coverage of current events in Gaza and Israel, so I won't take up space here with a lot of detail. However, most coverage in the U.S. is strongly biased. It largely ignores the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, and defines the comparatively minor damage and small number of casualties produced by Hamas rockets as terrorism, while casting the vastly more deadly effects of Israeli airstrikes as entirely legitimate military action. People may argue over who, if anybody, holds the moral high ground in this endless catastrophe, but I do not believe that just because a bomber is wearing a military uniform his actions are somehow morally sanitized.

Some resources you may be interested in to gain a more balanced perspective include, of course, Juan Cole, whose latest comment on Gaza is here. Also, I have been receiving e-mails from the Gaza blogger Sameh Akram Habeeb, whose site is well constructed and whose voice I find credible and worth noting. As always, Information Clearinghouse provides both an international news perspective, and strongly opinionated analysis. -- C


Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

A roadside bomb wounded two people in Abu Dsheer district of southern Baghdad, police said.

Falluja

Two police officers killed, 4 injured by a car bomb near al-Falluja Bridge in the northern part of the city.

One officer killed, six injured by a suicide car bomber in eastern Falluja. The injured from today's incidents are now said to include 3 civilians who are in critical condition. The city is on lockdown, with entrances closed.

Mosul

Suicide bomber on a bicycle kills 1 civilian, injures 16. It appears this attack specifically targeted members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a key component of the main Shiite bloc in parliament. The IIP members were demonstrating against Israeli actions in Gaza, but obviously that is not the reason they were targeted. Xinhua reports that the attack specifically targeted the convoy of Muhammad Shakir al-Ghannam, regional head of the IIP, who escaped uninjured.

Basra

"Sticky bomb" attack on Provincial Council member Bacim al-Mousawi fails to cause injury.

Second sticky bomb attack injures four "vital facilities" guards, including the brother of Bacim al-Mousawi. Note: I assume these are members of the Facilities Protection Service, a quasi-military force under control of the Ministry of the Interior. Dahr Jamail has accused the FPS of being heavily infiltrate by Shiite militias responsible for atrocities.

Hakurke region, Kurdistan

Turkish jets bomb PKK targets, no information on casualties, if any.

Other News of the Day

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi cancels a scheduled diplomatic tour of the Gulf countries, in light of the Gaza crisis.

McClatchy's Mohammed al Dulaimy provides context for the upcoming provincial elections. Public cynicism about politics and an unwieldy number of candidates complicate the picture.

Note: I do not support the work of Iraq Body Count, which I believe is counterproductive. By creating the impression that the incidents of violence which are reported by multiple news services constitute a credible accounting of the total, they generate a misrepresentation of the human cost of the Iraq conflict which has even been seized upon by George W. Bush himself to understate and minimize the consequences of the U.S. war in Iraq. However, because the report they issued today is getting widespread coverage, I would no doubt be accused of selective editing if I didn't mention it. - C IBC finds that "The number of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq fell sharply this year to an estimated 25 per day. . . . Meanwhile, the number of civilians killed by car bombs and suicide attacks declined to 10 a day this year compared to 21 per day in 2007 and 16 a day two years ago. Among those killed by bullets or executed, an average of 14 civilians died per day, compared to 40 a day last year and 56 per day in 2006." The way this has been reported in the U.S. corporate media, 25 civilian deaths per day means that the war is over and we won. -- C

Afghanistan update

Suicide bomb attack on the district headquarters of Ismail Kheil, Khost province, kills 8 people, injures 51 people. The attacker was prevented from reaching the building, where a meeting of tribal elders was taking place, and the blast apparently occurred near a school, causing many school children to be among the casualties. U.S. troops were in the building at the time but none were injured.

Rocket attack on a police training center in Kabul misses its target, kills 3 teenage sisters.

Canadian military announces the deaths of two Canadian soldiers, an Afghan policeman and an interpreter in a bomb attack in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province. Four Canadian soldiers were injured.

Also, according to AFP, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council, Sra Jumat, was assassinated in a mosque.

Bomb attack on a polling station in Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan, kills 10 people, including 4 children. I note this here because it is essentially part of the same conflict that is occurring in Afghanistan.

Afghan Foreign Ministry condemns the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

AP reports that the Taliban is expanding its control over territory near Kabul.

Quote of the Day

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.


Ali Abunimah

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