The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

News & Views 07/31/07

.Photo: A woman reacts outside a hospital morgue in Mahmoudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, July 29, 2007, after her daughter was killed by stray bullets as Iraqis celebrate winning the final match of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup soccer tournament against Saudi Arabia held in Jakarta. (Ibrahim Sultan/Reuters)


Children Hardest Hit by Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

The number of Iraqi children who are born underweight or suffer from malnutrition has increased sharply since the US-led invasion, according to a report by Oxfam and a network of about 80 aid agencies. The report describes a nationwide catastrophe, with around 8 million Iraqis - almost a third of the population - in need of emergency aid. Many families have dropped out of the food rationing system because they have been displaced by fighting and sectarian conflict. Others suffer from the collapse in basic services caused by the exodus of doctors and hospital staff. Although the security crisis forced Oxfam and other agencies to withdraw their foreign staff from Iraq to Jordan within a year of the invasion, many Iraqi non-governmental organisations still work in the country and receive supplies from abroad. “The fighting and weak institutions mean there are severe limits on what humanitarian work can be carried out,” said Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International, yesterday as the report, Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq, was published.

….. Around 40% of Iraq’s teachers, water engineers, medical staff and other professionals have left the country since 2003. The Oxfam report comes as Unicef and the UN agency for refugees jointly appealed for $129m to help to get tens of thousands of uprooted Iraqi children back to school. Saying a generation of Iraqis could grow up uneducated and alienated, the agencies presented a plan to support Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon in providing schooling for 155,000 refugees. Altogether, more than 2 million Iraqis have fled to nearby countries. About 500,000 of them are of school age and most currently have limited or no access to education.

To be a part of a movie

One day, I was on my way to the University. That day I took the role of an escaped deer that runs from the wolves, who were men with masks. I thought they were trying to catch me! The wolves were riding old civilian cars and gesturing to me with their guns to stop, but as a movie heroine I refused to obey their orders and said to myself “I am dead anyway…. no way!!”. So I should die bravely like a heroine without giving up. Surrender will be useless. Suddenly and from nowhere there was a modern car that flew like a cheetah… Alas! It comes! It comes! And all is true! I heard the sound of bullets whizzing. So I hid my head down and pushed on the brakes. The end is come. I sniffed Death's odor. Moments later I realized that I am still alive; so I raise my head to face my fate. There was an Asian face with big mouth shouting back…back and a gun was directed to my face. Oh God, now I see they were not chasing me, only in my mind. They were foreign private security PSDs! And I was obstructing democracy and freedom that is already brought to us by force. "You should remove your plantation from my cattle" says the trespassing cattle heard in an old Iraqi proverb. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed because they found themselves – unfortunately, with the military troops or private security guards in same time and place; so they paid their lives as a price for this mistake. Can you imagine yourself participating in an epical or war movie? That's what's happening in Democratic Iraq when the new democracy and freedom entered Iraq on military tanks. I’m wondering when will the day come that we become part of romantic or social movie? By the way I forgot telling you that there is no difference between Saddam’s old movies and our new democratic movies - only the director.

Amputations bring health crisis to Iraq

Iraq is facing a hidden healthcare and social crisis over the soaring number of amputations, largely of lower limbs, necessitated by the daily explosions and violence gripping the country. In the north of Iraq, the Red Crescent Society and the director general for health services in Mosul have told US forces, there is a requirement for up to 3,000 replacement limbs a year. If that estimate is applied across the country, it suggests an acute and looming long-term health challenge that has been largely ignored by the world. The revelation of the scale of limb loss suffered by Iraqi civilians is not entirely surprising, even though it has gone unreported. Levels of amputations performed by military surgeons on US troops in Iraq are twice as high as those recorded in previous wars: the most recently available figures suggest 6 per cent of wounded US troops require an amputation, compared with 3 per cent in other conflicts.

A Little Easier to Occupy from the Air

Many Iraqis believe the dramatic escalation in U.S. military use of air power is a sign of defeat for the occupation forces on the ground. U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped five times as many bombs in Iraq during the first six months of this year as over the first half of 2006, according to official information. They dropped 437 bombs and missiles in Iraq in the first half of 2007, compared to 86 in the first half of 2006. This is also three times more than in the second half of 2006, according to Air Force data. The Air Force has also been expanding its air bases in Iraq and adding entire squadrons. It is now preparing to use a new robotic fighter known as the Reaper. The Reaper is a hunter-killer drone that can be operated by remote control from thousands of miles away. "We find it strange that the big strategists of the U.S. military have actually failed in finding solutions on the ground and are now back to air raids that kill more civilians than militants," former Iraqi army brigadier-general Ahmed Issa told IPS. "On the other hand, they are giving away the land to local forces that they know are incapable of facing the militants, who will grab the first chance of U.S. withdrawal to bases to hit back and hold the ground again."

"Going back to air raids is an alarming sign of defeat," Salim Rahman, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad told IPS. "To bombard an area only means that it is in the hands of the enemy." "Our area is under threat of air raids all the time," Mahmmod Taha from the Arab Jboor area southwest of Baghdad told IPS. "Each time they bombed our area, civilians were killed by the dozens, and civilians' houses were destroyed. They could not fight the resistance face to face, and so they take revenge from the air." May 2007 was the most violent month for U.S. forces in Iraq in nearly three years, according to the U.S. Department of Defence.

“Violence has destroyed my family”

Housekeeper and mother of three Anisah Kaseb, 58, says the relentless violence in Iraq has damaged her family psychologically: Her younger son committed suicide and her daughter now requires psychological help. Widowed and dependent on her deceased husband’s pension, Kaseb tries to make some extra money by cooking for marriage parties or washing laundry at home. Her plight has worsened of late. “My son Muhammad, who was only 28 years old, was desperate: He had no job for the past two years and couldn’t marry because we didn’t have enough money. He was out on the streets one day looking for a job when a car bomb exploded near him. The incident affected him badly and he committed suicide, leaving us a letter saying that he couldn’t bear life in Iraq any more and felt useless because he could not help his family economically. “It was the most terrible day in my life. He killed himself on the day of his sister’s birthday on 14 May and since than my daughter Alia’a, 32, has tried to commit suicide twice, firstly by cutting her wrists and then by jumping in front of a car - which left her with a broken leg that required hours of surgery. “The violence pushed my son to suicide, and sometimes I think that if Alia’a kills herself, I would rather die too. I don’t have any other person to live for as my eldest daughter, Juan, is married and lives in Syria with her husband.

Fifty Kurds arrested for waving the Iraqi flag

Security forces in Dohuk city in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north of Iraq arrested 50 Kurds for waving the Iraqi flag to celebrate the victory of the Iraqi national football team, a police source said Monday. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, 'The Kurdish security forces seize anybody carrying the Iraqi flag, even for one hour.' The region's president Massoud al-Barzani had earlier ordered that the Kurdish flag would replace the Iraqi one in all the cities of the autonomous region.

Iraq's soccer success exposes politicians' failure

If 11 young men can instill national pride and a sense of unity by playing soccer, Iraqis are wondering why 275 politicians elected to steer Iraq to a brighter future cannot achieve the same result. School guard Zuhair Mohammed, 35, spent half his salary this month on Iraqi soccer jerseys, flags and music CDs about a team containing Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish players. "I hope the unity, strength and courage of the team can inspire the politicians to stop pursuing personal ambitions for the general interest," Mohammed said. "But I'm not raising my hopes." The soccer triumph was even more remarkable because players had only two months to come together under a foreign coach and had to endure logistical mishaps as well as the death of the team physiotherapist in a bombing weeks before the first match. Two of the team's top players had relatives murdered before the tournament in the sectarian mayhem engulfing their country.

The Last Jews of Baghdad

Baghdad was once one of the great cradles of Jewish culture and wisdom, but now, according to the Christian priest who has been looking after them, there are only eight Jews left in the Iraqi capital, and their situation is "more than desperate." The Rev. Canon Andrew White, the Anglican chaplain to Iraq, says that the small group is in considerable danger. However, the community has been unable to agree to emigrate as a whole. Some of its members, without identifying themselves as Jews, have attempted to leave individually, but have been turned down. White says that only one of the Jews, a woman, still regularly goes to a Baghdad synagogue, though he will give no details.

Iraq's Marshes: A Stalled Recovery

According to recent research, the water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which contains the principal nutrients that would benefit the marshland ecosystem, flows to the sea without these nutrients exploited to revive the remaining parts of the marshes. Areas that could be served by these water-borne nutrients are located especially in the marshlands west of the Tigris in Maysan province, as well as in the basin linking the marshes of Amiriya and Nasiriya, and in the al-Himar al-Kabir marsh. In addition, as temperatures rise, more and more water in the marshlands is lost to evaporation without replacement. Most of the water levels in these areas are in fact becoming shallower. Most disappointing is that the flow of the two major rivers is actually at a very high level right now, which, if it were exploited, could restore the entire Iraqi marshland. Yet planning by the relevant ministries has not been at the level required in order to employ Iraq’s water resources to the benefit of the marshlands. Despite this disheartening reality, the Water Resources Ministry still takes pride in its achievements -- achievements that appear on paper only.


Kurdish leader warns of Iraqi civil war

The leader of Iraq's Kurdish region warned Tuesday of a "real civil war" if the central government does not implement a constitutional clause on the future of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city claimed by the Kurds. Control over Kirkuk and the surrounding oil wealth is in dispute among the city's Kurdish, Arab and ethnic Turkish populations. Nationally, the dispute pits the Kurds, who want to annex it to their autonomous region in northern Iraq, against the country's Arab majority and its small minority of Turks, known locally as Turkomen. Massoud Barzani, speaking in an interview with U.S.-funded Alhurra television, complained that the Baghdad government was dragging its feet on holding a referendum that could put Kirkuk under control of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. "There is procrastination (by the government) and if this issue is not resolved, as I said before, all options are open. ... Frankly I am not comfortable with the behavior and the policy of the federal government on Kirkuk and clause 140," he said.

M.I.A.: 190,000 Guns Given to Iraqi Forces

The Pentagon "cannot ensure that U.S.-funded equipment has reached Iraqi security forces," according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Not only did Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) fail to "maintain a centralized record of all equipment distributed to Iraqi forces before December 2005." But there's "a discrepancy of at least 190,000 weapons between data reported by the former MNSTC-I commander and the property books," too.

Sunni Arabs say Maliki pushing them out of govt

Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab group accused Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday of pushing it out of the government by failing to consult it on key issues, escalating a row that threatens reconciliation efforts. The Sunni Accordance Front has threatened to pull out of Maliki's shaky coalition government this week unless he meets a list of demands, including a greater say in security matters. It comes at a time when Washington is pushing Iraq's leaders to work together to push through a package of reforms aimed stabilising the country and reconciling Iraqis. Parliament decided on Monday to go on summer recess until early September. "He (Maliki) is simply closing the doors on reforms and therefore the Front will be excused if it goes ahead with its plan to withdraw from the government in the time it has set," the Front said in a statement.

Audio: Sunni Militants in Baghdad Shift Loyalties

There has been a shifting of alliances in a violent district of Baghdad as Sunni militants in the Amiriya neighborhood on the west side of the capital begin fighting alongside U.S. and Iraqi government forces against al-Qaida. These former insurgents, who now call themselves the "Amiriya Revolutionaries," are helping to kill or capture al-Qaida members who were their allies just a few weeks ago. …..Sulewski says U.S. forces cannot be certain that al-Abed and his group are not just picking off individuals that they want to get rid of in their own fight for supremacy in the region. However, he says it is worth the risk. [Sure it is! Now, don’t go and act surprised when they turn the guns on you! – dancewater]

Fixing Iraq logistics system a challenge

Iraq's archaic system for supplying and sustaining its troops on the battlefield is a major hurdle in the U.S. effort to fashion an independent Iraqi fighting force, according to a top American military commander. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin said there has been substantial progress in Iraq's ability to recruit and train its military. But those positive steps have not been matched by badly needed improvements to the country's outdated network for maintaining and repairing critical war-fighting gear. "Realistically, if things are going the way they're going now, you'd say a year from now the Iraqis training-wise would be ready to do the types of operations we expect of them," Gaskin said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I am not as optimistic about them being able to fix the logistics system."

Oil Ministry Bans Cooperation With Unions

Iraq's Oil Ministry has directed all its agencies and departments not to deal with the country's oil unions. The unions and Iraq's government, especially the prime minister and oil minister, have been at odds for months now over working conditions and the draft oil law. The unions went on strike in early June and are threatening to stop production and exports again if demands are not met. The unions claim the oil law, if approved by Parliament, will give foreign oil companies too much access to the oil. The unions enjoy enormous support, especially in the south of Iraq. "The Minister has directed the prohibition of cooperation with any member of any union in any of the committees organized under the name of the Union as these unions do not enjoy any legal status to work inside the government sector," Laith Abd Al Hussein AL Shahir, the ministry's general director, wrote in a July 18 letter obtained by UPI. [This is not going to fly, and I am sure the Iraqi Oil Worker’s Union will see to that. – dancewater]


Iraqi man alleges CIA torture

An Iraqi man alleges he was betrayed after helping British intelligence officials who handed him to U.S. CIA agents for torture in a secret prison.Bisher al-Rawl said he was double-crossed by Britain's MI5 despite having helped track Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric accused of being Osama bin Laden's "ambassador" in Europe, The Observer reported Sunday. Al-Rawl told The Observer he was kidnapped, stripped naked, shackled and blindfolded before being strapped to a stretcher and flown in 2002 to a secret CIA prison near Kabul in Afghanistan, where he was tortured. Al-Rawl then allegedly was jailed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba until last March, when he was released and returned to Britain without a charge being filed against him.

US envoy accuses Saudis on Iraq

The US ambassador at the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has accused Saudi Arabia of undermining efforts to stabilise Iraq. Mr Khalilzad said he was referring to Saudi Arabia in an article last week in which he said US friends were pursuing destabilising policies. His comments came just hours before a Middle East tour by the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates. The two top officials will visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt together. [I think our Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are joined at the hip. – dancewater]

A fragile stability on Iraq's northern border

The paved road runs out about 10 miles from the Iranian border, and so does the authority of the Iraqi government. High in the jagged peaks above lies territory controlled by a radical band of Kurdish leftists that has emerged as the latest threat to the region's imperiled stability. At the last Iraqi border checkpoint, a squat gray castle flanked by fields of sunflowers and melons, Col. Ahmed Hamid warns travelers that he can't guarantee their safety. "If anything happens to you, the Iraqi government is not responsible," he cautions. "There could be bombing, and there are terrorists everywhere."

……In response to a recent surge of PKK attacks, Turkey has massed up to 140,000 troops along the Iraq border. They have fired periodic bursts of artillery toward remote villages on the Iraqi side and threatened to launch military action unless the PKK halts its attacks. Iran also has been reinforcing its side of the border to deter attacks by a PKK-affiliated Iranian Kurdish group. The Iranians also have been shelling the area, most recently on July 22, local villagers say. Since a U.S. warplane flew over it a little over a week ago, the Iranians have bolstered their positions in the area with 2,000 more men, according to Hamid, though he said he thinks the Iranian move is defensive. "They don't want Kurds escaping into Iran if Turkey attacks the area," he said.


Arms for Arab Authoritarians, As U.S. Turns Back Clock

Just 25 months after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced 60 years of U.S. support for authoritarian governments in Arab world, she and Pentagon chief Robert Gates are on their way to the Middle East bearing arms and an uncannily familiar strategic vision to the same regimes. Under former President Ronald Reagan 25 years ago, it was called 'strategic consensus' -- the notion that you could coax the so-called 'moderate' Arab states into a de facto coalition with Israel against the region's perceived Soviet clients and a revolutionary Iran by plying them with sophisticated weaponry and renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Under President George W. Bush, the strategic vision has still not been given a specific name, but, apart from the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the basic elements appear to be eerily similar, if not identical. Heralding her trip and the proposed transfer of some 43 billion dollars in new weaponry for Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, Rice asserted Monday, 'This effort will bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.'

'Further modernising the Egyptian and Saudi Arabia Armed Forces and increasing inter-operability will bolster our partners' resolve in confronting the threat of radicalism and cement their respective roles as regional leaders in the quest for Middle East peace and in ensuring Lebanon's freedom and independence,' she added.

….Under the arms-for-allies plan, the U.S. would provide 13 billion dollars in aid over 10 years -- roughly the same amount that it has been getting for most of the past decade. While precise figures have not been released, State Department officials said Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be encouraged to buy some 20 billion dollars in new arms, including satellite-guided bombs, missile defences, and upgrades for its U.S.-made fighter-jets over the same period. To dampen concerns by Israel and its supporters here, the administration is also proposing a 10-year, 30-billion-dollar package to preserve the Jewish state's military superiority -- or 'qualitative edge' -- over its Arab neighbours. That would amount to a 25 percent increase in U.S. military assistance to Israel over current levels.

…..The proposed arms sales and aid to the 'moderate' Arab states mark yet another step toward its renewed embrace of the Sunni Arab authoritarian regimes that the Bush administration and its neo-conservative backers had tried to distance themselves from in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and particularly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
'For 60 years, my country -- the United States -- pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East,' Rice declared in June 2005 at the American University in Cairo, in a widely noted speech that encouraged democracy activists across the region. 'And we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.' [This was a pack of lies then, and a pack of lies now. – dancewater]

The US Offers Arms To Friendly Arab States

The US seeks to arm the Saudis and others against Iran and Syria as America's man at the UN says half the insurgents entering Iraq come from Saudi Arabia. Never before have the US secretary of state and the defence secretary, undertaken this kind of joint trip anywhere. It shows how seriously they take the need to try to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East.

…… The $20bn will be spread over 10 years. It'll go to Arab states seen as allies of the US, in contrast to Iran and Syria. The bulk of it will go to Saudi Arabia though five other gulf states will each get a share as well. It'll pay for new or upgraded military hardware including air-to-air missiles, advanced precision-guided bombs, fighter planes and naval ships. And to ease Israeli concerns over all this going to Arab countries, the US is to increase military aid to Israel by 25 per cent - to $30bn dollars. While Israel's friend and neighbour Egypt receives a further $13bn for weaponry.

Does it all sound familiar?

In the 1980s Donald Rumsfeld met Saddam Hussein as the US sold him arms - to counter Iran after the revolution. It backfired then and could again today. The problem with strengthening everybody around Iran is that it assumes that Iran won't have a destabilising response. There are some who would say - 'See, this is why we need a nuclear deterrent because the US is arming all our enemies' So as even more weaponry is are headed for the Middle East Germany pointed today that the region is not suffering from a lack of arms but from a lack of stability. [They certainly do not want stability. Recently, Robert Fisk reported on plane loads of weapons coming into Lebanon. And we know a year ago that the US was sending bombs to Israel to use against Lebanon. These people are pure evil, and they are swimming in innocent blood. And they certainly don’t care. – dancewater]


Displaced Iraqis in Syria and Jordan - relieving the pain

Nearly 2 million "externally displaced" Iraqis have crossed the borders into neighbouring Syria and Jordan over the last four years. The large increase in the populations of the two countries has strained health, education, water and other systems. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Jordan National Red Crescent Societies in their efforts to meet the health and psychological needs of one of the largest wave of refugees in decades. In an effort to provide assistance to Iraqi refugees in the two countries, the International Federation is supporting Jordan and Syrian Red Crescent Societies' efforts to expand their health and medical capacities to relieve some of the pressure exerted on health services. The two National Societies are also working in cooperation with United Nations agencies, local and international NGOs. The first of 5 new health care clinics is expected to open in the coming weeks in a poor neighbourhood in Amman where large concentrations of Iraqis reside. In addition to basic health services, the urban clinic will offer dental treatment and laboratory services. It will be able to transfer patients to the nearby Jordan Red Crescent hospital for more advanced treatment. Other programmes are already underway by the two National Societies.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees


Iraq Moratorium Day – September 21 and every third Friday thereafter ~ "I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."

Quote of the day: Rage, rage, rage against that machine! Don't let it eat up you or your children because it uses our flesh and blood to engender enormous profits; and while sending our children off to war to use up their airplanes, bombs, guns, bullets, uniforms, helmets and boots, the machine is sending its children off to expensive private schools to raise more machine heads. – Cindy Sheehan