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

Thursday, September 6, 2007

News & Views 09/06/07

Photo: A feeding bottle lies on a pillow amid the rubble of a destroyed house after a U.S airstrike in Baghdad September 6, 2007. A U.S. airstrike on a Baghdad neighbourhood overnight killed 14 people and demolished several houses, the police said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud (IRAQ)


IRAQ: Samarra Under U.S. Attack

Residents are fleeing Samarra city in the face of fierce fighting between U.S. forces and resistance groups. New defiance is rising against U.S. forces following military "crimes", fleeing residents say. "On Sunday the 26th of August, there was fierce fighting between armed men and American forces in the Armooshiya district, and I saw Americans evacuate many of their soldiers by stretchers," a man who fled Samarra for Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "As usual, Americans took revenge by bombing the district." A woman who also fled Samarra for the capital in recent days, who gave her name as Iman, told IPS that the U.S. military had "committed another crime in the medicine factory residence area" when "they bombed a house there and killed a woman with her seven children." The Sunni and anti-occupation Muslim Scholars Association issued a statement confirming these two assaults, and condemning the "ugly crimes" of occupation forces in Samarra. The Association accused the U.S. military of attempting to break the spirit of Iraqis who reject the U.S. occupation. "They think their crimes would stop Iraqis from demanding their rights for liberty and prosperity, but the results are always different from what the American leaders hope," Sheikh Taha from the Muslim Scholars' Association told IPS in Baghdad. "They are only pushing more Iraqis to be armed against them, and you can see that the facts on the ground are the opposite of what they tell their people. Their soldiers are getting killed every day and they (U.S. military) are losing in Iraq."

Iraqi hospitals severely understaffed

“I love my country and would like to stay to help my people but… I’m scared that any time a militant will come and shoot me dead,” Abdel-Sattar said. “I’m leaving with two other doctors - a cardiologist and haematologist… We know how hard it will be for the remaining doctors but we have had enough.” According to the Iraqi Medical Association (IMA), the shortage of doctors and nurses in Iraq is now critical and having a devastating effect, especially on small towns and villages. “Our latest research shows that up to 75 percent of doctors, pharmacists and nurses have left their jobs at universities, clinics and hospitals,” Walid Rafi, a senior member of the IMA, told IRIN. Of these, at least 55 percent have fled abroad, he added. According to Rafi, low salaries and the shortage of equipment and medicines, are other push factors. “Medical staff earn US$50-300 per month. They might persevere for a while but if the opportunity arises, they don’t think twice and leave the country,” Rafi said. It is often hard enough to get to a hospital but the real problems begin once a patient gets inside. It can take hours to see a doctor or nurse, Seif Abdel-Rahman, 29, a shopkeeper and resident of Baghdad’s Yarmouk District, said. If you are lucky enough to see a doctor, the next problem is getting the medicines, which are either unavailable or exorbitantly expensive at private pharmacies. “After four hours trying to get a doctor to examine my three-year-old son, I got the prescription but the medicines weren’t available, said Um Fariz, 25, from Hayfa District in Baghdad.

IRAQ: Abu Teif, Iraq “I sell drugs to survive and feed my family”

“Unemployed, I could not find a way of supporting my family and so I turned to selling drugs. “At the beginning it was like a miracle. It was easy work and I had a lot of clients and to be frank, I didn’t even know the effect of the drugs. I learned what the effect could be only after an addict tried to kill me to get heroin.” “In June 2006 I started to see food in my home again. My grandchildren also started eating well and my wife was able to get proper treatment for her leg, but those glorious days soon ended. “In October of the same year, the person who supplied us dealers with drugs told me that they were going to decrease my cut from two percent to one percent and I refused. “I was beaten for over an hour. I was warned that if I didn’t continue selling the drugs, I would be killed together with my whole family. “It was then that my nightmare started. I’ve never had peace since that day. I’m forced to work about 10 hours a day… The only money I get is the US$100 dollars that they give me a month. They tell me that the money is for my grandchildren, as I don’t deserve to eat.

WITNESS-Amid Iraq war's victims, a story of survival

Amid the devastation of war in Iraq a journalist can feel helpless, little more than a bystander amid the suffering. So when an Iraqi friend spotted me in the Green Zone and asked me to get treatment for his eight-year-old son, Mustafa, I did not hesitate to get involved. "So, go get him," I told Firas Al Jouwaily. I turned to the doctors of the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) and asked them to treat the boy. His father said he had been shot in the head by U.S. troops at a checkpoint in Falluja, central Iraq. As a photo-journalist I want my pictures to convey the reality of war. Inside the CSH, the frontline military hospital for the Baghdad area, the awfulness of combat is all too vivid. Mustafa is carried in, his head bandaged from initial treatment by Iraqi doctors, and the combat medics go to work, watched by Firas and his American employer, a bankrupt former telecommunications executive working off his debts in Iraq. Major William White, who runs the emergency room, supervises treatment. I take pictures. The boy has a bullet in his brain. The medics struggle. The boy "flat-lines," the electronic beep on the heart monitor turning into a single note. He is revived. The CSH staff manage to stabilize him and he is whisked onto a helicopter that will take him for brain surgery at a better-equipped hospital beyond Baghdad's dangers.

FEATURE-Rebuilding starts in Iraq's once-wild West

On a street surrounded by ruins of bombed-out homes, stonemasons were working into the hottest part of the day to finish the second-floor gallery of the grand house they are rebuilding for Sheikh Mausuf Murdi. ‘I will have new ceramic tiles on the floor and on the facade," boasts the sheikh. "It will be better than before." The reconstruction is part of a rebuilding boom in al Qaim, a district along Iraq's border with Syria that was turned into a depopulated ruin by street combat less than two years ago.

…….Like many in the Albu Mahal tribe, Sheikh Mausuf fled al Qaim with his family in 2005, when militants from Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in Iraq took over the area. From 2003 until last year, Anbar was the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the most dangerous part of Iraq. Al Qaim, where the Euphrates River pours in from across the Syrian border, was a battleground for most of 2005, with Marines battling insurgents street to street. Nearly half of its 15,000 homes, many holding families of 30 people or more, were damaged. More than 400 were reduced completely to rubble. Whole blocks of stone and concrete houses still look like they were hit by an earthquake. As recently as a year ago, a senior intelligence officer with the Marines wrote in a report leaked to media that Anbar province was all but lost, with the central government and its U.S. allies exercising virtually no influence and al Qaeda in control of towns all along the Euphrates. What a difference a year makes. [And we shall see what a difference another year makes. – dancewater]

US Air Strike In Baghdad Kills 14

At least 14 people have been killed and nine wounded in a US air strike overnight in the west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police have said. Several houses were destroyed in the attack, which took place at about 0300 (2300 GMT) in the Washash neighbourhood of the city's Mansour district. The US military said it had targeted Shia extremists in "enemy strongholds". Mansour is mostly Sunni, but there is a pocket where there is strong support for Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. ….But a local resident, Abu Ali Saad, said that everyone in the neighbourhood had been sleeping and that he had heard no exchanges of fire before the US-led troops arrived. "We are a peaceful neighbourhood. There are no militia here," he told the AFP news agency. "The tanks started firing then the helicopters came. Missiles were fired from the air. Houses were destroyed. A family of five were killed in this house," he said, pointing to the remains of his neighbour's home. Another local resident, Ammar Assem, said he had been prevented from taking two of his wounded neighbours to hospital. "They fired on my car when I tried to leave the area. I had to go back," he said.


Iraq Government Near Collapse, Secret Report Says

Lawmakers returning here this week got hit with more bad news about Iraq in a confidential report that says the fragile democracy is "collapsing," the Daily News has learned. The boycott of the government by certain Shiite and Kurdish political blocs has left Iraq's leadership hanging by a thread, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The report by CRS, Congress' research and analysis arm, was completed Aug. 15 for the House and Senate. "My assessment is that because of the number and breadth of parties boycotting the cabinet, the Iraqi government is in essential collapse," Kenneth Katzman, the author of the report, said. "That argues against any real prospects for political reconciliation." Without a political infrastructure in Iraq, any military progress would be short-lived, he added.


Experts Doubt Drop In Violence in Iraq

The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends. Reductions in violence form the centerpiece of the Bush administration's claim that its war strategy is working. In congressional testimony Monday, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to cite a 75 percent decrease in sectarian attacks. According to senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad, overall attacks in Iraq were down to 960 a week in August, compared with 1,700 a week in June, and civilian casualties had fallen 17 percent between December 2006 and last month. Unofficial Iraqi figures show a similar decrease. Others who have looked at the full range of U.S. government statistics on violence, however, accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators and caution that the numbers -- most of which are classified -- are often confusing and contradictory. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress on Tuesday in releasing a new Government Accountability Office report on Iraq.

….Challenges to how military and intelligence statistics are tallied and used have been a staple of the Iraq war. In its December 2006 report, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group identified "significant underreporting of violence," noting that "a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the sources of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the data base." The report concluded that "good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." Recent estimates by the media, outside groups and some government agencies have called the military's findings into question. The Associated Press last week counted 1,809 civilian deaths in August, making it the highest monthly total this year, with 27,564 civilians killed overall since the AP began collecting data in April 2005.

Panel Says Iraqi Forces Not Ready

An independent commission of military experts established by Congress to assess Iraq's military and police force told the Senate Armed Services committee today that the "Iraqi security forces as a whole cannot yet defend the territorial integrity of Iraq." [Haven’t they been saying this for years now? – dancewater]


Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again. Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. …..Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller's account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri's intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. [I knew there were no WMDs in Iraq, and I bet most everyone reading this knew it too. – dancewater]

Billions over Baghdad

Between April 2003 and June 2004, $12 billion in U.S. currency-much of it belonging to the Iraqi people-was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad, where it was dispensed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Some of the cash went to pay for projects and keep ministries afloat, but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed.

Quote of the day: In an e-mailed response to questions last weekend, an MNF-I spokesman said that while trends were favorable, "exact monthly figures cannot be provided" for attacks against civilians or other categories of violence in 2006 or 2007, either in Baghdad or for the country overall. [Without exact figures, how would they know? They smell it in the air, maybe? As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, the violence is not going down at all. It keeps getting worse, day by day. – dancewater]