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

Friday, September 7, 2007

News & Views 09/07/07

Photo: The Anti-oil Law Front staged a demonstration in the center of Baghdad (Liberation Square) under Liberty Monument. The demonstrators raised slogans in English and Arabic denouncing the oil Law and chanted against the US administration and its appointed government. The US forces surrounded the rally for half an hour and took pictures of the demonstrators who carried the banners. They also blocked the traffic to prevent people joining the demonstration in an attempt to spread terror among whoever intends to join the rally. The area was filled with hundreds of police and National Guard of whom dozens sympathized with the demonstrators and the cause.

Also dozens of Arab, foreign and domestic media broadcasted the event live and conducted interviews with the leaders of the demonstration. The event has involved many speeches by Subhi Al-Badri president of the front and Chairman of IFC executive bureau, Sami Hassan, Political Bureau member of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq and Faleh Mactof secretary of Federation of workers councils and unions in Iraq. The demonstrators raised banners with slogans saying "Down with the oil law, the oil law is the law of occupation; 26 million people reject the law of occupation, etc. . ." This demonstration comes as part of the campaign launched by the Anti-oil Law Front, which comprised of sit-ins, strikes, conferences and gatherings.

Iraq Freedom Congress

September 3, 2007


New Blog: Iraq Oil Report

Anti-Oil Law Front Holds Press Conference in Baghdad

In a presence of media correspondents The Anti-oil Law Front held press conference about the proposed oil Law. The conference was attended by the President of The Anti-oil Law Front (Subhi al-Badri), president of the Iraq Freedom Congress (Samir Adil), Vice President of the Central Council of the General Union of Oil Employees GUOE ( Faleh Abboud), Vice President of the federation of worker councils and unions in Iraq (Abdul Karim Abdul Alsada), Labor against war and occupation Front (Abdullah Al-Maliki). The participants focused on the serious political, economic and social dimensions of the oil law that will be put for the Iraqi National Assembly for approval. This press conference came in the context of the campaign launched by Iraq Freedom Congress to topple the draft oil Act which also included the recent demonstration organized by the anti-oil Law front last Saturday. It is noteworthy that the coming days the campaign against the Oil Law will be intensified. That is on September 8, 2007 the Federation Of worker councils and unions in Iraq will hold a conference in Basra; followed by the second scientific conference of the General Union of Oil Employees GUOE on September 9 and 10.

VIDEO: Al-Aimma Bridge, A Memory Against Sectarianism

This week we look back at a tragedy that claimed more than 1000 lives. In 2005, Sunnis from the Adhamiya district saved dozens of Shi’a pilgrims from drowning in the Tigris. As the Iraq conflict is further cast in terms of civil war, it is important to remember the instances of unity among Iraqis. Although recently a bombing killed more than 500 people in an area dominated by Yezidis, a little known religious group in northern Iraq, the Al-Aimma bridge tragedy has been the worst single event in the war. Last year we brought you a story from Sami Rasouli, who told about Othman Ali Al-Obeidi, who is famous in Iraq because he had a Sunni name, but his father’s name, Ali, is traditionally a Shi’a name. Othman was on the Iraqi swimteam and died saving Shi’a pilgrims from drowning in the Tigris. The second anniversary of the tragedy has just passed, so we are again remembering Othman and the other brave Iraqis who stood against sectarianism.

The bloody reality behind the statistics

Two hours after the 19-year-old soldier arrived, another helicopter delivered a blindfolded, heavily sedated Iraqi detainee from Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The medics removed the blindfold to find his eyeballs bulging out. At first they thought his eyelids had been cut off by his fellow prisoners. Then they realised that both eyeballs had been gouged from their sockets and were hanging loose. His fellow prisoners had also cut off his tongue. They had beaten him so severely that all four limbs required faschioto-mies – the slitting of the skin – to release the pressure caused by internal swelling. “It was a stunning degree of cruelty,” said Major Won Kim, the ophthalmologist who removed the eyeballs.

Other victims arrived in quick succession – a seven-year-old Iraqi boy caught in a gunfight and hit in the abdomen; a two-year-old girl from Kalsu, south of Baghdad, with a bullet in her brain who survived; a 62-year-old Sunni elder from Doura, south Baghdad, with at least five bullet holes in his back – the target of a drive-by shooting for apparently crossing a criminal oil-smuggling syndicate. A 22-year-old woman US soldier who had attempted suicide by overdosing on aspirin was flown to Germany for dialysis. An Iraqi gunner whose Humvee had hit an improvised explosive device (IED) was admitted with shrapnel wounds to his head and a fractured skull. Another young Iraqi boy named Mustafa, 8, had been shot in the head when his family’s car was waved through one end of a check-point just as a US convoy was entering the other. One of the convoy’s gunners opened fire. Mustafa will be brain-damaged for life.

Residents Hail UK Withdrawal From Basra

"We are happy to be rid of the British," Iraqi army officer Sadoun Hami said on Monday after Britain pulled out its troops from its last base in southern Iraq. "They were harassing us in the streets and raided our houses and arrested our sons. We now want to see them out of greater Basra," he added. But despite the optimism of some police and residents, the city remains gripped by a brutal turf war between rival militias.
Trader Ahmed Ali Omar, 35, was elated in spite of the uncertain future. "This is a victory for honest resistance," he said. "It is a pleasure (to see the troops go). We have long been wishing for the occupier to go so that stability can be restored." Officials also hailed the withdrawal. "The local government welcomes the British withdrawal from the presidential palace," said senior provincial council member Hakim al-Mayyahi. Mayyahi, who is also security chief for Basra, said Iraq's security forces were ready to take over control of the city "despite the shortage of men and equipment". The riverside palace is not far from the Iranian border, and despite initial optimism in Basra itself policy experts warn of future chaos in a city gripped by a brutal turf war between rival Shia militias.

The Man Left to Pick Up the Pieces in Basra

For a man carrying so many expectations on his shoulders, General Mohan al-Furayji was remarkably sanguine at the ceremony which marked the takeover of Basra Palace from British troops. It was General Mohan who declared there was no longer any need for UK forces to stay in their last remaining base in the city, and by staying they were simply inciting violence. He is also the man credited with organising the truce with the Shia militias which has seen violence fall dramatically and enable UK forces to withdraw from the palace with minimal casualties. General Mohan, the Iraqi commander sent from Baghdad by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is in charge of all security forces in southern Iraq as Britain forces gather at their last post at Basra airport and prepare to leave within months. His name is almost a mantra among British officials in London and Basra as well as a lot of prominent Iraqis. "General Mohan will sort this out," one hears, or "General Mohan has decided this." The commander is being perceived, and presented, as the man of the hour, someone capable of confronting any breakdown of law and order when the UK ends its involvement in the country. General Mohan is regarded as broadly secular in the internecine sectarian strife, and, somewhat rarely among public figures here, it is claimed that he is relatively untainted by accusations of corruption.


An Iraqi translator for a United States' television network has been found dead in Iraq, bringing the number of journalists and media workers killed in the country since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to 200, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans frontieres, RSF) reports. Anwar Abbas Lafta, an Iraqi translator and interpreter for CBS News, was found dead on 25 August in eastern Baghdad, five days after he was abducted. He was kidnapped by a group of 10 gunmen who forced their way into his Baghdad home on 20 August, beat his brother and shot and wounded his sister, RSF says. Anwar Abbas was the only one that was apprehended. CBS News said his abductors contacted the family several times to demand a ransom. The police eventually found his body in the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City. According to RSF, 73 percent of journalists killed in Iraq were directly targeted - "much higher than in previous wars in which journalists were above all the victims of collateral damage and stray bullets," RSF says. Eighty-eight per cent of journalists and media workers killed were Iraqis, often those who work for foreign news media. Most of the 200 media fatalities took place in Baghdad (110 cases) or near the capital (34 cases), says RSF. The remaining cases were mostly centred in the north of the country, especially in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Exclusive Tour of Iraqi Youth Detention Center

In a rare tour of an Iraqi detention center, ABC's Martha Raddatz took a look at a novel effort to reform the growing numbers of Iraqi children imprisoned for trying to help the insurgency. The children, aged 11 to 17 years old, are accused of crimes ranging from theft to killing Iraqis or Americans. "They've actually done more — a wider a variety of things than the adults," said U.S. Marine Corps Cmdr. Doug Stone. "We have IED builders & have those that have been behind & parts of assassination groups." There has been a huge increase in the number of juvenile detainees since the U.S. troop surge began earlier this year — from 250 in May to 800 now — as al Qaeda has been heavily recruiting the young, who are easy targets. Many of the mostly Sunni youngsters are illiterate, impoverished and on their own. But Stone, the new head of detention operations, and the Iraqi government are determined to win these children over. Stone has started what is called a re-education program. Imams are brought in to try to convince young men that the Koran does not support violence, and Iraqi teachers provide a basic education that many at the facility never received. One teacher said they can now "look for the better future for Iraq and themselves, for the family, and they want to build Iraq really," one teacher told ABC News. Today, the Iraqi government even offered each of the young men a $100 savings account to get them started.

Two bridges blown up in Anbar

A group of armed men blew up two bridges on the highway that connects Iraq to Syria and Jordan just west of the city of Ramadi on Friday, a police source said. "Gunmen blew up two bridges on the highway near 160km region west of Ramadi on Friday morning using explosive charges," the source, who preferred not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The operation came one day after a forum convened on reconstructing Anbar, which aimed at reconstructing the province's cities which were partially or totally destroyed during the violent acts," he added. The second forum on reconstructing the province kicked off yesterday morning with the participation of the two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul Mahdi, in addition to Burham Saleh and the Minister of State for National Security Shirwan al-Waili. The province's infrastructure was destroyed in armed attacks in 2005.


Blog on Armed Resistance in Iraq

Smuggling Thrives in Basra

Police and government officials are accused of taking a cut of the lucrative oil smuggling business run by clans and overseen by militia groups in the southern city of Basra. Rival Shia groups have divided up control of the city’s resources - including the country’s only seaport as well as its largest oilfields – in a precarious power arrangement which could implode at any time. The warring militias control the illegal oil exports from Basra, the gateway to Iran and the Gulf states, and are reportedly linked to global networks. Maritime police complain they lack resources to capture the smugglers, but others accuse police of cooperating with mafia gangs to smuggle oil. Some local officials say they are under orders not to arrest gang members because of their links to the authorities and the militias. Analysts blame smuggling for causing high inflation in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, with the prices of everyday products soaring and living conditions deteriorating for most of inhabitants.

The Rumaila oil fields south of Basra are said to produce 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, of which 400,000 barrels are for domestic consumption and 1.2 million are exported. The lawless environment has allowed large quantities of oil to be smuggled into neighbouring Gulf countries. According to American oil expert Jerry Kiser, Iranians benefit from 300,000 barrels a day smuggled across the border from southern Iraq. Political parties in Basra took part in Iraq’s 2005 elections, and British forces stationed there helped build up its institutions before handing the city back to be governed by the locals. While today there is a veneer of conventional governance in Basra, in the shape of a provisional council and the police force – the city is in effect run by warring militia groups who have carved up control of its resources.

Tribes Sabotage Kirkuk Pipelines

Masked men infiltrate the village of al-Milih, 75 kilometres west of Kirkuk, and approach an oil pipeline that passes nearby. Under cover of darkness, they steal oil from an opening they drilled into the pipeline weeks earlier. Over a period of weeks, this scene is repeated nightly. Despite the presence of special oil ministry units, pipelines around Kirkuk are destroyed and hundreds of tonnes of oil stolen every day by tribe members from surrounding villages, such as al-Milih, Wadi Zghetun, al-Muradiyya, al-Saduniyya, al-Kanaina and al-Safra. The “oil protection units” were deployed to guard the pipelines after the government cancelled previous failed agreements with tribal forces to protect them. But in spite of this, oil is stolen from pipelines stretching from the al-Riyadh sub-district, 55 km west of Kirkuk, to the al-Fatha area 90 km to the west. Tribal sheikhs who profit from the stolen oil are likely to obstruct new measures planned by local authorities, including a special protection force, to stop the sabotage of the pipelines. Locals employed to protect the pipes are often from the same groups as those who are stealing the oil. Ever since a British-controlled company discovered oil in Kirkuk in 1927, the fate of the city has been tied to black gold.

Kurdistan’s Gushing Crude Spawns Conflict

The German seismologist working in northern Iraq was not supposed to talk about his job. But after having spent nearly three months in an isolated camp near the Taq Taq oilfields, he could not contain himself. "You can dig where you want," he said. "The crude gushes!" For more than two years, foreign companies have been hunting – and finding – oil in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. They may not have discovered giant fields like the famous "Baba Gurgur" near Kirkuk, but the oil companies and their Kurdish clients are very pleased. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, but its actual oil wealth is believed to be significantly higher. Iraqi Kurdistan and the oil-rich region of Kirkuk are prime territories for speculators because of their large proven and potential reserves. The three northern provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan are also the safest region in Iraq, an additional draw for drillers and investors. The Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG, has pushed ahead with exploration in the north by signing contracts for oil exploration with foreign companies. That has irked oil officials in central government in Baghdad, however, and the KRG’s windfall is far from secure. It is threatened by uncertainty surrounding a new national law on Iraq’s oil reserves; by Turkish concerns over Kurdish strength; and by pressure from rival ethnic groups whose territories are not so blessed with natural resources.

From Juan Cole’s blog:

Al-Hayat reports that the Iraqi army has been put in charge of security by the US military in Diyala province, and that the residents of the province (east and northeast of Baghdad)are afraid that the war on "al-Qaeda" (i.e. Salafi Jihadis) might turn into a battle among the armed paramilitaries and organizations that make up the US-backed "Council for the Salvation of Diyala Province." (That is, these tribal councils the US is supporting are made up of tribes, and tribes are notorious for feuding among one another as much as for fighting outsiders. The anthropologists call it segmentary politics and contrast it to the unified state.) Local fears have been provoked because the US has allowed its new allies to establish 100 bases in recent months. Sheikh Ali al-Burhan al-`Azzawi of the al-`Izzah tribe in Diyala raised the alarm about the prospect of tribal vendettas. He dismissed the transferral of security duties to the Iraqi army as "pro forma."

At the same time, the Association of Muslim Scholars has warned that fighting could break out among guerrilla groups after the withdrawal of the Americans. It called on the groups to put forward a realistic program that takes into account the conditions of Iraq and the region, emphasizing that "the Resistance cannot rule by itself." AMS stressed that carrying a gun does not make someone a good administrator.

More from the Association of Muslim Scholars

Talabani will not approve Hashim's execution

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Friday that he would not approve the decision to hang former defense minister Sultan Hashim, because he has reservation regarding executing Iraqi army officers, denying media reports which said that the three convicted in the Anfal case will be executed tomorrow. "The National Legal Consultation Council (NLCC) in Iraq will send the death sentences in the Anfal case to the Presidential Council to approve it, and in this case I have reservation in implementing death sentences regarding Iraqi army officers, especially Sultan Hashim," Talabani said at a press conference held at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headquarters in Sulaimaniya. "We kept good relations with Hashim under the former regime rule and we talked with him on a possible coup against Saddam," Talabani noted. The Iraq President said "I will not ratify this decision in case it was sent to the presidential council." The Iraqi NLCC said last Wednesday that it is not legal to implement the death sentences handed down by the Supreme Criminal Court without a presidential decree.

Thousands of corrupted policemen sacked - Interior ministry

Iraqi Interior Ministry described on Friday the report presented by the retired Marine Gen. James Jones to the Congress, in which he called for dissolving the Iraqi police as "retarded", underlining that it tackled most of the negative points listed in the report and sacked thousands of "corrupted elements". The Director of the National Command Center in the ministry General Abdul Karim Khalaf said "thousands of corrupted policemen have been sacked recently," describing the report presented earlier this week to the U.S. Congress by retired Marine Gen. James Jones as "retarded" and seems speaking about the period that preceded measures taken by the ministry. "The new recruitments in the ministry are now being done according to regulations and tough orders," Khalaf added. "One of the conditions provided is that the policeman should be not a member of a political party or a religious movement," the Iraqi general added. "The interior ministry is for all Iraqis and it does not deal only with a certain group or community. Its main target is to achieve security and stability throughout Iraq," he explained. The ministry official also referred to duties assumed by Iraqi police forces alongside with The U.S. troops saying "police forces sometimes back the U.S. troops in some operations."


The myth of AQI

After a strike, the military rushes to point the finger at al-Qaeda, even when the actual evidence remains hazy and an alternative explanation—raw hatred between local Sunnis and Shiites—might fit the circumstances just as well. The press blasts such dubious conclusions back to American citizens and policy makers in Washington, and the incidents get tallied and quantified in official reports, cited by the military in briefings in Baghdad. The White House then takes the reports and crafts sound bites depicting AQI as the number one threat to peace and stability in Iraq. (In July, for instance, at Charleston Air Force Base, the president gave a speech about Iraq that mentioned al-Qaeda ninety-five times.) By now, many in Washington have learned to discount the president's rhetorical excesses when it comes to the war. But even some of his harshest critics take at face value the estimates provided by the military about AQI's presence. Politicians of both parties point to such figures when forming their positions on the war. All of the top three Democratic presidential candidates have argued for keeping some American forces in Iraq or the region, citing among other reasons the continued threat from al-Qaeda. But what if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

….. When turning to the question of manpower, military officials told the New York Times in August that of the roughly 24,500 prisoners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq (nearly all of whom are Sunni), just 1,800—about 7 percent—claim allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates. [There are more children in US run prisons in Iraq than foreigners. – dancewater]

Hefty Iraq bills have business of war booming for contractors

In 1961, Eisenhower warned, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Almost 50 years later, the potential remains. While early estimates of the cost of the Iraq war were $50 billion, we now spend about $2 billion every week in Iraq, for a current total around $700 billion in direct costs. It's no secret that the industries supplying goods and services in the Iraq war benefit greatly from its continuation and from every surge of funding. Gone are the days when Congress cut a check for a war and the military was paid to carry out operations. Today, some in Congress report that for every $1 spent on the Iraq war, 40 cents goes directly to corporate contractors. These war mercenaries, who'll do anything from drive trucks through insurgent-held areas, to torture and interrogation, to protection of senior officials, outnumber U.S. troops by 20,000. Companies such as Blackwater and Greystone heavily recruit from militaries all over the world to build the "teams" carrying out the U.S.-led war. Who needs support from other nations when companies can buy it, and Congress is willing to pay them for it?


Many displaced Iraqis left with no place to go-IOM

Most of Iraq's provinces are severely restricting entry to people fleeing violence and lawlessness, leaving some displaced families "without a place to go", an an international aid agency said on Friday. The restrictions in 11 of Iraq's 18 governorates make it harder for Iraqis fleeing violence to move within the country to seek safety, the International Organisation for Migration said. Many of the more than 2.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Iraq cannot access shelter and other basic services, while neighbouring Syria is joining Jordan in imposing tighter visa restrictions, the IOM said. "The vast majority of (Iraqi) governorates have now closed their doors to newly displaced persons... Their fate is more and more difficult," spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told a briefing. Rafiq Tschannen, IOM's Iraq chief of mission, said: "Entry and registration restrictions imposed by most governorates and stricter visa restrictions said to soon be imposed by Syria and Jordan for Iraqi refugees could mean Iraqis who remain inside the country will be effectively marooned without a place to go."

Syria discards entry visas for Iraqis

The Syrian government on Friday discarded entry visas for Iraqi citizens, an official source from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said. "The measure took place after the prime minister sent a high-ranking envoy to Damascus two days ago for talks on ways to avoid imposing a visa on Iraqis entering neighboring Syria," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source noted that the negotiations "were successful as the Syrian government responded to a request by Maliki, who wanted to spare Iraqi refugees in Syria any trouble." On Tuesday the Iraqi parliament had called on the Syrian government to discontinue entry visas imposed on Iraqis wanting to enter Syria. Abdul-Khaleq Zankana, the chairman of the parliament's displacement committee, appealed to the Iraqi government to find a solution to the crisis suffered by Iraqi refugees. "More than two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan are experiencing tragic conditions," Zankana said.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


Comment: Oil Industry Fails to Fulfil Potential

When United States-led coalition forces invaded Iraq, criticism against the war was voiced with the slogan "No blood for oil". Iraq’s giant reserves, which are believed to be the second or third largest in the world, were perceived as the main reason for attacking Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. On the face of it, this theory seemed reasonable. At the peak of Iraq’s oil production in 1979, nearly four million barrels were pumped a day. That figure fell to 2.6 million barrels per day in 2002, shortly before the invasion. In Baghdad soon after the war, US officials confidently predicted that with a bit of effort, production would reach 3.5 million barrels a day within 18 months, and five or six million barrels a day within few years. Instead, Iraq today produces just 1.95 million barrels a day, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the US agency responsible for overseeing Iraq's reconstruction. Just 27 of the 78 known oil fields are working. Violence, corruption and smuggling are hindering efforts to exploit Iraq's oil.

Slavery, Iraq and Justice Delayed

The moral breakthrough would have been for the slave owners in 1800 to have said, "My God, they dislike slavery so much they are willing to kill and die to end it. Slavery must be wrong. We will end it peacefully. We will make amends. We will share the burden together of moving past slavery so as to avoid a future war." That would have been the moral breakthrough. Today, rebelling slaves are called insurgents. They speak a funny language called Arabic. They practice a strange religion. They dress weirdly. And almost every depiction of them on television is negative. But we've killed an estimated 1,028,907 of them in Iraq alone and driven another 4 million Iraqis out of their homes. They are in utter and desperate poverty. Diseases are sweeping their remaining population. They are dying at twice the rate this year as last year. Their fury at the occupying army of slave owners is immeasurable. Slave owners today are called Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, and the Congress.

Quote of the day: "I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." ~ Elie Weisel