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

Monday, September 3, 2007

News & Views 09/03/07

Photo: An Iraqi soldier flashes a victory sign as he holds the Iraqi flag on the gate of Basra Palace, in Basra, 550 km (342 miles) south of Baghdad September 3, 2007. British troops quit the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday, an Iraqi general said, ending the British presence in the oil hub for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. REUTERS/Atef Hassan (IRAQ)


More children are doing the bombings and killings in Iraq

Child fighters, once a rare presence on Iraq’s battlefields, are playing a significant and growing role in kidnappings, killings and roadside bombings in the country, U.S. military officials say. Boys, some as young as 11, now outnumber foreign fighters at U.S. detention camps in Iraq. Since March, their numbers have risen from 100 to 800, said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, the commander of detainee operations. Stone attributes the rise in child fighters in the country, in part, to the pressure that the U.S. buildup of troops has placed on the influx of the foreign fighters. Fewer of them are making it into the country, he said, and the militant group al-Qaida in Iraq is having a difficult time recruiting adults locally. Thus, it has turned to children. Stone said the children make effective fighters because they are easily influenced, don’t experience fear in the same way as adults and don’t draw as much scrutiny from U.S. forces. Stone said some children have told interrogators that their parents encouraged them to do the militants’ dirty work because the extremists have deep pockets.

Children Starved of Childhood

The violence around the continuing U.S. military operations in this city has robbed children of their childhood. Only two provincial schools and one private kindergarten school are functioning in this city of 280,000, located 50 km north of Baghdad. Most children know neither school nor play. Or even the food they want. "We parents can hardly meet the basic requirements of food," Mahdi Hassan, a father of four, told IPS. "Nobody even mentions chocolate or pastries or anything else because Iraqis know they are not important," Baquba resident Wissam Jafar told IPS. "Children eat what the other members of the family eat. Toys and games are offered only at festivals and on special occasions." Baquba city, capital of Diyala province, has been at the centre of major U.S. military operations to fight al-Qaeda like forces. People have suffered from the violence from both sides. By now Iraq has seen a generation of children pass with just survival a major issue. During the period of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, more than half a million children died, according to the United Nations.

Baghdad's New Owners

It was their last stand. Kamal and a handful of his neighbors were hunkered down on the roof of a dun-colored house in southwest Baghdad two weeks ago as bullets zinged overhead. In the streets below, fighters from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fanned out and blasted away with AK-47s and PKC heavy machine guns. Kamal is a chubby 44-year-old with two young sons, and he and his friends, all Sunnis, had been fighting similar battles against Shiite militiamen in the Amel neighborhood for months. They jumped awkwardly from rooftop to rooftop, returning fire. Within minutes, however, dozens of uniformed Iraqi policemen poured into the street to support the militiamen. Kamal ditched his AK on a rooftop and snuck away through nearby alleys. He left Amel the next day. "I lost my house, my documents and my future," says Kamal, whose name and that of other Iraqis in this story have been changed for their safety. "I'm never going back."

Thousands of other Sunnis like Kamal have been cleared out of the western half of Baghdad, which they once dominated, in recent months. The surge of U.S. troops—meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital—has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually "has increased the IDPs to some extent."

Blood sellers find market niche in Baghdad

As the Iraqi National Centre for Blood Donation (INCBD) urges Iraqis to donate more blood to help meet increasing demand, individuals wishing to sell their blood congregate at hospitals in the hope of being able to make some money. Those offering rare blood types are best able to cash in. “In many cases, desperate families look for blood sellers who can be found around the hospital and at the [Baghdad’s main] blood centre,” Abdallah Farhan Ahmed, a surgeon at Medical City Hospital, said. “The most expensive blood types are the rare ones and we cannot force people to give them for free.” Ahmed said “agents” also stand in front of the INCBD offering blood. They charge US$20-30 for every 350 cu. cm of blood. In a country where, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, unemployment stands at over 38 percent, the sale of blood is an attractive option for many. “I need to feed my family, and others need blood to save their loved ones and it is a fair exchange. I come here every month to sell my blood. I know I should do this less frequently but I’m unemployed and my family needs to eat,” said a blood seller who preferred anonymity.

Iraq judge convicts 400 over cult clashes in Najaf

An Iraqi judge sentenced 10 people to death and 390 others to between 15 years and life in jail over clashes near the city of Najaf early this year that killed hundreds, local officials and a lawyer said on Monday. They said the verdicts were handed down on Sunday in the holy Shi'ite city, making it one of the biggest mass sentencings in Iraq since U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003. The government had said members of a messianic Muslim cult who were plotting to kill top Shi'ite clerics fought battles with Iraqi and U.S. forces near Najaf in late January. Hundreds of people were killed, mostly members of the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven". Hundreds more from the group were arrested at the time. …..The January clashes turned out to be one of the largest battles since the U.S.-led invasion but also one of the strangest episodes of the war. The government said the leader of the group, who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam, had been killed. They said his "Soldiers of Heaven" had planned to assassinate top Shi'ite clerics and had to be stopped. Film footage from the scene of the fighting at the time showed a score or more bodies dumped in a large room and dozens of others scattered about a compound. All were wearing civilian clothes. A large group of survivors including women and children were shown surrounded by U.S. and Iraqi troops. The compound was littered with burnt-out vehicles, including pickup trucks mounted with machineguns, an armoured Humvee and a troop-carrier. Buildings had been sprayed with machinegun fire.

32 al-Qaeda members killed, 55 others arrested in northern Falluja

U.S. army forces killed 32 members of al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq and arrested 55 others during security raids in the suburbs of al-Karma in north of Falluja, a police source said. "The U.S. soldiers waged incessant ground and air attacks during the past three days in the areas where al-Qaeda members are holed up in al-Karma and Zhiraa Dijla, some 15-20 km north of Falluja," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "Most of the killings occurred by aerial bombardment while the arrests by ground patrols," the source said. The source pointed out that the U.S. army "would not have been able to have the upper hand over the gunmen had it not been for the local residents' refusal to harbor them," adding "this prompted the gunmen to resort to remote desert areas, which made it easier for the U.S. forces to sort them out from the civilians and directly target them."

VIDEO: Haditha Massacre


A new Kurdish Party

“Freedom and Justice Party” announced itself today, opposing the domination of the two Kurdish warlords on Iraqi Kurdistan, in their announcement they put their four points objectives:

1- A unified, independent and liberated from occupation Iraq, is the Iraq of all its citizens, and what brings its citizens together over every inch of land is the citizenship, which is the State of all citizens is no difference between the citizens and they are equal before the law.

3- The Complete unconditional withdrawal of American occupation forces and the recognition of the national sovereign and independent, is the demand of all Iraqis.

3- Our party does not depend on and do not allowed family-succession as is the case with the current [Kurdish] parties, but it is the party of the people.

4- Struggle for federalism within the unity of Iraq, to create the conditions and atmosphere of cooperation and among the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and the rest of the communities and groups that make up the Iraqi people is the higher goal sought by the party.

This is serious thing because they appointed a very well known Kurdish figure “Jawhir Alharki” as the head of Freedom and Justice Party, they already get Turkey’s acceptance and the congratulations from the Iraqi resistance.

Religious Fatwa about Concerning Petroleum and Gas Law

Recently Petroleum and Gas Law proposal was submitted to members of The Iraqi parliament, after a great pressure of American and British occupation forces for voting and confirming.

AMSI Denies Dialogue with US Occupation

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) has never had any dialogue with the US administration, a spokesman for the AMSI said. "The AMSI, however, does not mind having this dialogue provided that Washington would show genuine intentions about leaving Iraq through a serious and clear timetable," Sheikh Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi said. "We are in favor of the departure of US occupation forces from Iraq but first of all the current security agencies, which proved a failure and perpetrated heinous crimes against the Iraqi people, have to be dismantled," said Sheikh Faydi. He added the AMSI would joint "the political process and will have a key role to play on the same day a guaranteed pullout timetable is laid."

ANALYSIS: The Iraqi Resistance in September 2007 - The last year of the occupation in Iraq is to begin

The occupation is just about to be finished: all its efforts have been in vain, so the occupiers are already trying to depart and are sketching withdrawal scenarios just like in Vietnam. To the latter category belong the attempts to sow strife and separation in the Iraqi society, the regional disturbances of which are known to everybody from the incidents and their documentation, especially by the families in the Southern Iraq. The British Expeditionary Forces, effected from the background by the statements of British medical institutes, are pressuring their government in order to withdraw their forces from Iraq. US is being forced to a partial withdrawal of their troops, in this unable to take the total number of the American forces into the consideration, which means that this is the beginning of the end, the straightforward defeat announcement of the American project in Iraq. The disappearance of the occupation is a necessity.


Americans pushing to stop Ahmadinejad's Iraq visit

The expected visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq in what will be the first ever visit of an Iranian president to the country, has split Baghdad government. Ahmadinejad's remark that Iran is ready to fill the vacuum that would be left after US troops withdraw from Iraq has also put the trip under spotlight. Sources in Dawa Party, headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, revealed that Americans have notified Al Maliki about their reservations towards Ahmadinejad's expected visit. The source told Gulf News: "There is a split in Iraqi government's stance - some welcome the ... visit while others are ... reluctant because Iran has not taken serious measures to stop ... Iraqi militias." Sources in the Sunni Islamic Party, led by Tarek Al Hashemi, told Gulf News: "There is an American pressure on Al Maliki not to come close to Iran and thus it is unwise for the Iraqi Prime Minister to apologise to Ahmadinejad."

Combat deaths in Iraq decline; reasons aren't clear

American combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by half in the three months since the buildup of 28,000 additional U.S. troops reached full strength, surprising analysts and dividing them as to why. U.S. officials had predicted that the increase would lead to higher American casualties as the troops "took the fight to the enemy." But that hasn't happened, even though U.S. forces have launched major offensives involving thousands of troops north and south of Baghdad. American combat casualties have dropped to their lowest levels this year, even as violence involving Iraqis remains high.

Shell to Develop $2.1b Chemical Plant in Iraq

A spokesperson for the Iraqi government announced that the government is currently holding talks with Shell about the development of a chemical plant in southern Iraq, Iraq Directory reported. He further mentioned that the project is worth a total of $2.1 billion and that the terms of the agreement could be concluded as early as the end of the year. In addition to this, Total and Chevron have inked a deal with the Iraqi government to work together in carrying out projects in Iraq. It is worth mentioning that Iraq currently holds an estimated 110 billion barrels of oil and more than half still requires further development.


Confusion over Syrian visa requirements for Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees in Syria have been thrown into a state of fear and uncertainty following the Iraqi government's announcement that Syria will be introducing new visa restrictions on Iraqis entering the country. According to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari that as of 10 September Iraqis will require visas before entering the country. Precise details have not been released and it remains uncertain how the new regulations will affect Iraqis seeking to enter Syria as refugees or renew their residency status in the country. However, according to the Syrian daily Al-Watan, visas will only be granted to those with a particular business or educational purpose. Besides restricting access for new refugees into Syria, Iraqi refugees in the country are worried that the new system will force them to return to Iraq, with reports suggesting visas will only be accessible through the Syrian embassy in Baghdad.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


Ignominious end to futile exercise that cost the UK 168 lives

The withdrawal of British forces from Basra Palace, ahead of an expected full withdrawal from the city as early as next month, marks the beginning of the end of one of the most futile campaigns ever fought by the British Army. Ostensibly, the British will be handing over control of Basra to Iraqi security forces. In reality, British soldiers control very little in Basra, and the Iraqi security forces are largely run by the Shia militias. The British failure is almost total after four years of effort and the death of 168 personnel. "Basra's residents and militiamen view this not as an orderly withdrawal but rather as an ignominious defeat," says a report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "Today, the city is controlled by militias, seemingly more powerful and unconstrained than before."

Iraq Divided Into Four Entities

Mohammed al Douri was the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations in New York in March 2003, when the country was attacked and invaded by Anglo-American troops. Today he lives in the United Arab Emirates. Arabmonitor asked him for his opinion about the situation in Iraq. Ambassador, Prime Minister Nouri al-Malki declared that the Iraqi armed forces are now ready to take over responsibility for security in the whole country. In your opinion, could they be up to the task? “I belong to the current of thought believing that the foreign occupation forces should leave the country anyway and immediately, because the situation can only improve with their evacuation. It would allow for a balance of power to establish itself on the territory and the government in charge would be compelled to respond to the people it governs, instead of to foreign occupation forces”.

A growing number of voices from Iraq are alarmed about the dangers created by the American policy of arming all those who declare themselves ready to combat al-Qaeda, thus handing over the country to armed gangs. “Enough with these mystifications! The Americans are not fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, they are waging war against the Iraqis. There are only a few, very few followers of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Americans themselves acknowledged that the number of Islamist foreign combatants in the country is irrelevant. The American forces are committing crimes and they’re looking out for a justification of these crimes declaring they’re fighting al-Qaeda. I foresee a very bleak future for my country. On the short term, I predict a division of the state into three or four entities: a Kurdish one, another one in the south, on behalf of which the Americans will reach an agreement with Iran, which, in turn, will become the point of reference for the southern entity, then a third one, a Sunni entity, which will encompass the area between Mosul and the Anbar province, in addition to a central entity with Baghdad and parts of the Diyala and the Babel provinces. We’ll have the fragmentation of Iraq”.

Quote of the day: To believe that corporate greed is a noble cause intimately related to human rights requires a leap of faith that is beyond fantastic. – Charles Sullivan