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 13, 2007

News & Views 09/13/07

Photo: An Iraqi boy flashes an anti-US slogan as US soldiers watch a protest in Baghdad on 12 September 2007. President George W. Bush was set to announce Thursday a limited withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but to resist angry Democratic demands for a rapid exit from the unpopular war. (AFP/Ali Yussef)


Mounting death toll which makes a mockery of US optimism

By the time General Petraeus had finished speaking yesterday the slaughter in Iraq for the previous 24 hours could be tallied. It was not an exceptionally violent day by the standards of Iraq: seven US soldiers lay dead and 11 injured in the capital; other instances of sectarian violence included a suicide bomb which had killed 10 and wounded scores near Mosul while 10 bodies were found in Baghdad. Three policemen were killed in clashes in Mosul, and a car bomb outside a hospital in the capital had exploded, killing two and wounding six. In Baghdad, on the surface the overt violence appears to have diminished. There are fewer loud explosions. But, the city is now being partitioned by sectarian hatred and fear; by concrete walls and barbed wire. Claims that the US military strategy is paving the way for a stable society bear little resemblance to the reality on the ground. The US is accused of manipulating figures relating to violence to fit their case, ignoring evidence which shows that the influx of 30,000 troops has done little to end the continuing bloodshed.

…..Not far away from Barzan's new home are other houses, some with singe marks on doors and windows, properties of Shia who had been terrorised and driven out the other way. The walls being put up by US contractors at a record speed are formalising this break-up of Baghdad along sectarian lines. Militias rule the roost in the newly created ghettos; armed young men with sunglasses manning checkpoints, collecting levies from passing traffic, and meting out their own justice to victims who would never make the calculations on the effects of the surge. The Americans at first welcomed the forming of the vigilante groups, calling them "guardians"; in some areas this was described as part of the " Sunni awakening", away from the insurgency. But this began to be tempered after tales of extortion began to surface, and now some have been arrested for "suspected al-Qa'ida ties".

Iraqi Civilian Casualties: 2007 More Deadly Than 2006

It took some time and effort, but, with the aid of TPM readers, we've obtained two complete lists of monthly Iraqi civilian casualties from January 2006 forward. Taking these numbers on their own terms, they do not bear out the claims made by the Bush administration and U.S. military that the surge has reduced Iraqi civilian casualties. Comparing each month's death toll in 2007 to the death toll from that same month in 2006, the numbers show that surge has not made Iraq safer for the civilian population. By some measurements, Iraqis are in greater danger than a year ago.

It's a sign of how skewed the debate over the Iraq War is that these numbers are not readily available. Different Iraqi government agencies present different casualty figures. The U.S. military's own casualty total is said to rely on the Iraqis, but it's unclear which Iraqi agency it uses or what adjustments are made to the Iraqi figures. Even as today's testimony from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is considered a possible make-or-break moment for U.S. policy on Iraq, with the Bush Administration and the Pentagon touting the success of the surge in reducing civilian casualties, there is no general agreement on what civilian casualties have been or on what the most accurate methodology for tallying casualties is.

IRAQ: Baghdad residents call for protection of homes from militant raids

Some families in Baghdad have asked the Iraqi government to do more to protect their homes as raids by militants in local neighbourhoods become more common, and defensive neighbourhood checkpoints are themselves targeted. According to Baghdad residents, the parts of the city most seriously affected by raids include Yarmouk, Baghdad Ijjedida, Alawi, Harthiyah, Amiriyah and Bab al-Muadham. Outside Baghdad, the most affected areas are Babil, Diyalah, Salahdine and Kirkuk. “The security situation outside our homes is critical and now even inside our homes we cannot feel safe any more,” said Sheikh Muhammad Rawi, a community leader in Yarmouk District, near the Green Zone, and also a member of a local residents’ association in the capital. “I have been receiving dozens of complaints weekly from local families about the raids being carried out by militias... In some raids, men are arrested and women beaten up when they try to help their husbands,” Rawi added. According to him, every week local residents send letters to the Ministry of Interior and the local US media office seeking help, but no answers have been forthcoming.

Shelling Near Iranian Border Is Forcing Iraqi Kurds to Flee

They have made camp below the mountainsides that smolder and smoke in the thin alpine air. They live in caves now, or old tents, or under goat-hair tarps, and sleep on woven rugs over a bed of stones. Their villages are empty of all but ducks and chickens, because the villagers will not hike back until they can no longer hear the sounds. "Do you hear that?" asked Taban Koha Rasheed, over a deep, distant rumbling, as she knelt under her tarp in a creek bed sheltered by the walls of a steep ravine. "It's started again." For four weeks now, Kurdish villagers in this far northeastern corner of Iraq have endured a punishing barrage of rockets and artillery shells from what they say are Iranian troops across the border. The seemingly indiscriminate shelling has burned acres of orchards and grassland, damaged homes, killed livestock and driven about 2,500 people to abandon about two dozen villages. The attacks are an ominous reminder that the emergence of an increasingly self-sufficient Kurdish region in northern Iraq could provoke reprisals or even invasions by Iran and Turkey. "This is the worst bombing that this area has ever seen," said Ibrahim Muhammed Amin Muhammed Sor, a 37-year-old Kurdish chicken farmer. …..When the shelling started, Taban Koha Rasheed, 28, was sitting at her breakfast table with a bowl of goat's milk yogurt. The first shells fell high on the mountain above Upper Arcae village, then dozens more swept down into the valley. Her dishes crashed down off the shelves. The windows in her stone house shattered. A shell slammed into the outhouse. "It was like an earthquake hitting the house and everything fell down," she recalled. Rasheed, a nurse, led several relatives and children into a nearby cave, but a shell burst next to the entrance, spraying them with rocks and dirt, so they rushed farther down the mountain. "The kids kept crying and we couldn't keep them silent," she said. "During the bombing it felt like they wanted to eliminate us."

IWPR Special Report on Oil Exploitation in Iraq

Chaos, violence, graft and smuggling are wrecking Iraq’s oil business, with the revenue it generates vanishing into the pockets of extremists and corrupt officials, a new IWPR special report reveals. Even where the news is good, such as in Kurdistan where relative peace has allowed oil companies to record new finds, officials are squabbling over who controls the new wealth. Officials in Basra, the southern city near Iraq’s richest oil fields, admitted to IWPR reporters in the city that oil worth five million US dollars went missing just last April. They call it waste. But locals call it smuggling and say Shia militias and political parties are complicit. “Under Saddam, the oil ministry generally had a good reputation. It was seen as staffed by competent technocrats who got on with the job,” wrote IWPR editor Christoph Reuter in a comment piece for the special report. “That is not the case any longer. As with other ministries, an experienced staff has often been replaced by less qualified, political appointees.”

Baghdad neighbours protest over dividing wall

Hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis marched on Wednesday in protest at the building by US troops of a tall concrete wall separating their northwest Baghdad neighbourhoods, an AFP photographer said. The protesters complained that the wall would promote sectarianism and demanded its removal. Residents said that US forces last week began building the two-kilometre (1.25 mile) wall along the border of the mainly Shiite al-Shuala and adjoining Sunni-majority al-Ghazaliyah neighbourhoods without consulting them. The demonstrators -- tribal leaders, clerics and local residents -- marched from one neighbourhood to the other carrying banners reading "No to the dividing wall" and "The wall is US terrorism." The protesters demanded in a statement that the government intervene to halt the wall and ensure that the section already completed is demolished. "The wall is in accordance with Al-Qaeda's plans," the statement said, adding that the barrier was being built to "separate family from family." "The wall is dividing small neighbourhoods and will lead to the partitioning of Iraq," said Hassan al-Taii, a leader of the large Taii Sunni tribe.

U.S. troops hold 23,600 Iraqis almost all of them without trial

The U.S. has promised to release 50 of them every day throughout Ramadan. But the U.S. is not the only authority with the right to jail Iraqis. Iraqi armed forces and police can also imprison Iraqis without trail and informed sources say there are more than 82,000 Iraqis in government jails.

VIDEO: Report from Anbar

[You can watch US military commanders kissing and getting kissed on their cheek by tribe leaders. And they hand out money. Part two shows an Iraqi refugee camp. As someone said in the comments, it’s like the Chinese army invading our country and then handing control over to the KKK or Cribs. – dancewater]


Bomb kills key US ally in Iraq

The most prominent figure in a revolt of Sunni sheikhs against al-Qa'ida in Iraq was killed today in an explosion near his home in Anbar province, Iraqi police and tribal leaders said. Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near the tribal leader's home in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, said Col Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police. No group claimed responsibility for the assassination but suspicion fell on al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which US officials say has suffered devastating setbacks in Anbar thanks to Abu Risha and his fellow sheikhs. It's unclear how his death would affect US efforts to organise Sunnis against the terror network. Abu Risha was among a group of tribal leaders who met US President George Bush earlier this month at al-Asad Air Base in Anbar province.


US bribe insurgents to fight Al-Qaeda

American forces are paying Sunni insurgents hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to switch sides and help them to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The tactic has boosted the efforts of American forces to restore some order to war-torn provinces around Baghdad in the run-up to a report by General David Petraeus, the US commander, to Congress tomorrow.
Petraeus will tell Congress that there has been great progress at a local level in Iraq following a surge in the number of troops this year, but little sign of political reconciliation. In a letter to US troops, the general wrote that "local Iraqi leaders are coming forward, opposing extremists and establishing provisional units of neighbourhood security volunteers". The Sunday Times has witnessed at first hand the enormous sums of cash changing hands. One sheikh in a town south of Baghdad was given $38,000 and promised a further $189,000 over three months to drive Al-Qaeda fighters from a nearby camp.

U.S. seeks pact with Shiite militia

The military is in talks with elements of cleric Sadr's powerful group, which is accused of attacks against soldiers but which holds sway in much of Baghdad and parts of Iraq. U.S. diplomats and military officers have been in talks with members of the armed movement loyal to Muqtada Sadr, a sharp reversal of policy and a grudging recognition that the radical Shiite cleric holds a dominant position in much of Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. The secret dialogue has been going on since at least early 2006, but appeared to yield a tangible result only in the last week - with relative calm in an area of west Baghdad that has been among the capital's most dangerous sections. The discussions have been complicated by divisions within Sadr's movement as well as the cleric's public vow never to meet with Iraq's occupiers. Underlying the issue's sensitivity, Sadrists publicly deny any contact with the Americans or British - fully aware the price of acknowledging such meetings would be banishment from the movement or worse.

The dialogue represents a drastic turnaround in the U.S. approach to Sadr and his militia, the Mahdi Army. The military hopes to negotiate the same kind of marriage of convenience it has reached in other parts of Iraq with former insurgent groups, many Saddam Hussein loyalists, and the Sunni tribes that supported them. Both efforts are examples of how U.S. officials have sought to end violence by cooperating with groups they once considered intractable enemies. In 2004, U.S. officials branded Sadr an outlaw and demanded his arrest, sparking two major Shiite revolts in Baghdad and in the southern shrine city of Najaf that left more than a thousand dead. Last year, as the Bush administration developed its "surge" strategy, military planners said the campaign would also target Shiite militias involved in sectarian killings. U.S. commanders later accused Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army of carrying out deadly bomb attacks against U.S. forces and spearheading sectarian violence. U.S. officials now feel they have no choice but to talk to the militia. Despite its internal rifts, the Sadr movement is widely seen as the most powerful force in Baghdad. The Mahdi Army's grip is absolute on most of the capital's Shiite neighborhoods, where it sells fuel and electricity and rents houses, and it has reached deep inside the army and police. U.S. soldiers have marveled at the movement's ability to generate new leaders to replace almost every fighter they lock up.

Iran accused over attack on US Iraq base

A US general today accused Shia militants backed by Iran of executing a deadly rocket attack on a US military headquarters in Iraq as the US president, George Bush, prepared to ask the American people to give his war strategy more time. One person was killed and a dozen injured in the incident, which happened when a 240mm rocket hit Camp Victory, a sprawling base near Baghdad international airport, two days ago. The US claims such rockets are supplied to Shia extremists by Tehran. [And the war mongering continues. – dancewater]

US troops who criticised Iraq war strategy killed in Baghdad

Two US soldiers who helped write a critique from the front saying America had "failed on every promise" in the war have been killed in Iraq, it was reported yesterday. Staff Sergeant Yance Gray, 26, and Sergeant Omar Mora, 28, were among a group of seven soldiers serving in Iraq who wrote a piece excoriating America's conduct of the war. The piece was published in the New York Times last month. The men were killed in Baghdad when the cargo truck in which they were riding rolled over, the Associated Press and local news outlets reported yesterday. The Pentagon had yet to confirm their deaths early yesterday. The criticism caused a flurry of public debate because of the candour with which the men, all serving in the 82nd Airborne, described the situation in Iraq. There was also speculation they could face severe penalties for being so openly critical of the war. Another US soldier, Private Scott Beauchamp, who wrote a shocking account in New Republic magazine about a soldier treating a piece of a child's skull as a souvenir, had his mobile phone and laptop confiscated. "Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise," the seven wrote. "When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages."

The 'proxy war': UK troops are sent to Iranian border

British forces have been sent from Basra to the volatile border with Iran amid warnings from the senior US commander in Iraq that Tehran is fomenting a "proxy war". In signs of a fast-developing confrontation, the Iranians have threatened military action in response to attacks launched from Iraqi territory while the Pentagon has announced the building of a US base and fortified checkpoints at the frontier. The UK operation, in which up to 350 troops are involved, has come at the request of the Americans, who say that elements close to the Iranian regime have stepped up supplies of weapons to Shia militias in recent weeks in preparation for attacks inside Iraq. The deployment came within a week of British forces leaving Basra Palace, their last remaining base inside Basra city, and withdrawing to the airport for a widely expected final departure from Iraq. Brigadier James Bashall, commander of 1 Mechanised Brigade, based at Basra said: "We have been asked to help at the Iranian border to stop the flow of weapons and I am willing to do so. We know the points of entry and I am sure we can do what needs to be done. The US forces are, as we know, engaged in the 'surge' and the border is of particular concern to them."

Bush Plots A Coup

'Bush and his cabinet are robustly promoting this war of aggression between the Arabs and their neighbors. Selling us arms goes along with those themes. But do you think they give a damn? It is those of us who are caught in the line of fire of this weaponry for generations to come who have to shoulder the burden of violence, while Bush and company remain safely ensconced in the safety of the White House.'

Ahmadinejad On Iraq

Q: It's very difficult for us to find the division between the influence in southern Iraq, where you have a lot because of they are your Shia brothers and sisters, and actual military involvement. The British say they have troops killed by bombs made in Iran.

A: Well look, we have influence all over Iraq because we have good relations with them. We have historical good relations with the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the president of Iraq is Kurdish and friendly and sincere with us - we talk about private issues together. We also have a sincere relationship with the Sunni sect in Iraq, the head of the Iraqi Parliament is Sunni and he has a very good relationship with us and also the prime minister of Iraq is Shia and has a good relationship with us. Your problem, the problem of England and the US is that you do not have a good relationship with any of them. The problem is that you are uninvited guests.

Q: Can you use your influence to help free the five British hostages who are held there? Four security men and a computer technician who have now been hostage for over a hundred days. Would you use your influence?

A: We can help to sort out the problems in Iraq regarding the re-establishment of security and peace. We can help the occupiers to leave Iraq and we have announced this repeatedly. If the US and the English governments amend their behaviour and direction in Iraq they won't have any problems and there won't be any need for these problems. We feel that they should officially recognise the nation of Iraq and the rights of its people. The problem is that they have gone there for the oil and to dominate the region and the people of Iraq have stood up before them and until they recognise the rights of the Iraqi people this will continue and it has nothing to do with Iran. We will be prepared if the Iraqi government asks us, to help the with the problems in Iraq.


The Liar Speaks

President George W. Bush, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 2002: "We know that the [Iraqi] regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas . . . It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nyookular weapons . . . We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas . . . Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles - far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations - in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work . . . Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." [picked up from a Daily Kos blog called “Trouble!”]


IRAQ: No Refuge Within or Outside the Country

U.S. occupation authorities and successive U.S.-backed Iraqi governments have done little to stem the flow of Iraqis fleeing their war-torn country since the beginning of the occupation. Syria, Jordan and Egypt have accepted millions of Iraqis to stay under state controlled regulations that have varied between loose and strict in accordance with whatever situation rules the moment. "I took my family to Syria when the situation in Fallujah and other Sunni areas became complicated in 2004," Salim Saed from Fallujah, now a resident of Baghdad told IPS. "I thought the Americans, the UN and the whole world would definitely find a solution and so one year abroad would be enough to keep my family safe, then we would return home. I was simply wrong." Countless other Iraqis have had the same experience. "Over 1.5 million Iraqi citizens are in Syria now waiting for the situation to improve in their country so that they could return home," Mustafa Ahmad, an Iraqi expert on refugee affairs in Baghdad explained to IPS. "Iraqis are well known for their deep roots and the majority of them are thinking of home more than immigration and resettlement, but the situation in Iraq is making them search for other solutions than returning." According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are at least 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, but many experts believe the number is now closer to two million. The number streaming across Iraq’s border is now as high as 50,000 every month.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


OPINION: Why Iraq is Getting Worse

A cloud of steam rises above the crowd in the 120-degree heat. As their leader approaches the podium, the thousands who have assembled meet him with pledges of their fealty. "We are all Badr Brigade!" they shout, a reference to the paramilitary organization of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), which held this rally on July 19, in honor of Ayatollah Bakr al-Hakim, the party's founding leader, who was assassinated here four years ago. His nephew, Amar al-Hakim, now holds the position. I was one of the millions who attended al-Hakim's funeral four years ago, some of whom walked the 100 miles from Baghdad to Najaf to show their sorrow. It was largely a peaceful affair. But now, as Iraq devolves further into civil war inside civil war inside occupation, the commemoration of al-Hakim's death, which prompted mourning from Shiites across the country, has taken on a largely political feel. The Badr Brigade is at war with Sunni guerillas and other Shiite militias, and largely considered by its opponents to be the tool of corrupt, exiled elites who have allied themselves with the occupation in order to carve up Iraq. The country's disintegration is obvious in Najaf, one of the seven of the nine southern provinces in which SIIC controls the municipal government. Here, things are run as a police state: I accepted an invitation by SIIC to travel to Najaf from Baghdad because it was the only way to safely negotiate the dangerous road between the two cities.

…..In Basra, the only place in Iraq that is actually exporting oil and therefore producing revenue, a three-way battle is taking place between SIIC, the JAM and Fadhila, a Sadrist offshoot with support in the city. The British military withdrew its troops at the end of August, leaving only about 5,000 troops stationed at the airport. Corruption and a deadly power struggle have left Basra in a state of decline. Fadhila and SIIC, the two most powerful parties in Basra's provincial council, continue to fight over the governor's seat, which has brought governance to a halt, while the JAM and gangs that increasingly fought British troops have taken over the streets.

Bin Laden is Right? The Unwarranted Influence of America’s Global “Defense” Corporation

You know your country’s “democratic” leadership and rationale for war are in trouble when the anointed most-evil enemy makes more sense than they do. Although for all we know Bin Laden’s “annual message to Americans” originated below Dick Cheney’s office where Bin Laden is living in luxury chained to a pool table, its contents ring with refreshing logic relative to what usually passes for truth in and around the White House. Analyzing his message alongside bipartisan excuses for war -- and juxtaposed with President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech of January 1961 -- only Bin Laden’s words and Eisenhower’s warnings stand up to current United States Department of Defense statistics. Outsourcing trends, hugely accelerated in the 1990s, have made the Department of Defense the largest corporate entity in history. Few big corporations in the world don’t have a handy cash-cow D contract, and small businesses and schools are especially welcome to apply. ($900 per toilet seat? Let’s sell those!) DoD contracts get dished out everyday for everything from children’s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater tickets to good old-fashioned nano weaponry.

If You Want Peace in Iraq, Stop Trying to Kill Muqtada al-Sadr and Negotiate With Him

In D.C., there's a belief that Iraqis will tolerate the United States if they can just get the occupation right. But it's the occupation itself that inflames Iraqis' passions. News reports indicate that the U. S. is negotiating with the Shiite nationalist Muqtada Al-Sadr, leader of the powerful Mahdi Army. Washington should accommodate Al-Sadr's demands to ensure the safe and orderly withdrawal or re-deployment of our forces as well as to enhance the possibility of a more peaceful outcome for Iraq. Negotiating with Al-Sadr is distasteful to some Americans. American blood has been spilled by those who have followed him. But this is war, and the United States has already crossed this barrier by arming and collaborating with Sunnis in the Al-Anbar region who have fought and killed far more Americans than al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Moreover, the British just negotiated the withdrawal of their troops from Basra with Sadr's forces in the south, notwithstanding the recent hollow claim made by their defense and foreign secretaries in a recent opinion piece. In the simplest possible terms, the United States should negotiate with Sadr because he is arguably the most powerful politician in the country today.


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: Abu Akram, 32, a father of four in Baghdad, does not know how he will cope. “I’ve had a delay in my food ration for more than two months. My children are sick, suffering from malnutrition and I’m unemployed. I don’t know where to go to get money to feed them."