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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

News & Views 09/15/07

Photo: Smoke billows from an explosion in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's presidential palace in Baghdad during a coalition air raid in April 2003. President George W. Bush's goals in Iraq have shifted over the years from reshaping the entire Middle East to defeating Al-Qaeda extremists and keeping the United States safe from terror. (AFP/File/Karim Sahib) [The thing I noticed about this photograph is all the lights – everywhere, there are street lights on. Saddam kept the lights on. Saddam would have taken action if 16,000 Iraqis were suspected of having cholera, too. – dancewater]

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem


Civilian death toll in Iraq may top 1 million

[A] new survey suggested that the civilian death toll from the war could be more than 1 million. The figure from ORB, a British polling agency that has conducted several surveys in Iraq, followed statements this week from the U.S. military defending itself against accusations it was trying to play down Iraqi deaths to make its strategy appear successful. According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million. ORB said it drew its conclusion from responses to the question about those living under one roof: "How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003?" Based on Iraq's estimated number of households - 4,050,597 - it said the 1.2 million figure was reasonable. There was no way to verify the number, because the government does not provide a full count of civilian deaths. Neither does the U.S. military. Both, however, say that independent organizations greatly exaggerate estimates of civilian casualties. ORB said its poll had a margin of error of 2.4%. According to its findings, nearly one in two households in Baghdad had lost at least one member to war- related violence, and 22% of households nationwide had suffered at least one death. It said 48% of the victims were shot to death and 20% died as a result of car bombs, with other explosions and military bombardments blamed for most of the other fatalities. The survey was conducted last month. It was the highest estimate given so far of civilian deaths in Iraq.

WHO: Cholera cases in Iraq keep rising

The number of suspected cholera cases in northern Iraq continues to rise, with 16,000 people now showing symptoms, the World Health Organization said Friday. As of Sept. 10, 6,000 have been reported with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting in the province of Sulaimaniyah, another 7,000 in Tamim province, and 3,000 in Irbil province, the WHO said in a statement. To date 10 people have died and 844 cases of the disease have been confirmed, the WHO said. Earlier in the week, regional authorities reported 11,000 people with symptoms, 700 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.

Religious freedom another casualty in Iraq

Religious freedom is another casualty of the war in Iraq, where people of all faiths are harassed, kidnapped or even killed because of their beliefs, a U.S. government report said on Friday. In its annual report on religious tolerance and freedom worldwide, the State Department also criticized Iran, North Korea, China and Myanmar but described usual offender and close ally Saudi Arabia as showing some improvement. In Iraq, where about 169,000 U.S. troops are battling an insurgency and sectarian strife, the report said the fragile government's ability to protect religious freedoms was handicapped. "Many individuals from various religious groups were targeted because of their religious identity or their secular leanings," the report said. "Such individuals were victims of harassment, intimidation, kidnappings and killings."

Kirkuk Referendum Likely To Be Delayed

Since the ratification of the Iraqi Constitution in 2005, Iraq's Kurds have viewed the issue of the Kirkuk referendum as a "red line." They have held steadfast that Article 140 of the constitution be implemented to determine the political future of the oil-rich governorate, which is estimated to hold 6 percent of the world's oil reserves. Article 140 calls for a three-step process, starting with "normalization," which aims to reverse the Arabization policies of the former regime, when thousands of Kurds and non-Arabs were driven from Kirkuk or were relocated and replaced with Arabs from central and southern Iraq. This is to be followed by a census and then a referendum - scheduled to be held at the end of 2007 - to determine whether Kirkuk Governorate will be incorporated into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The Kurds have stood firm in their desire to see Article 140 implemented and hope that Kirkuk will become part of the Kurdish region. Indeed, Mas'ud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan regional, has warned that "if Article 140 is not implemented, then there will be a real civil war." However, there are clear indications that the referendum may not take place as previously planned. The Firat news agency reported on September 10 that the Kurdish Alliance had agreed to postpone the referendum until May 2008. The alliance, which unites the two most powerful Kurdish parties, was clear to stress that the postponement was due entirely to technical reasons and not political pressure exerted by opponents of Article 140.

check points

The talk about the fake check point started in Iraqi about two years ago. I was listening to some friends talking about seeing these check points and they avoided these check points. After two years, we still have fake check points. Those check points are official ones but I like to call them fake ones for one main reason, they don’t do any real job. When I come to work, I have to pass through 7 check points. Each check point occupies half of the width of each street. They allow only very narrow space which is enough only for one car to pass through in order to control the movement of the cars. This is the only way they can do to check the cars one by one but I haven’t really seen any check point doing its job and the only think they do is taking a look to the car and the drivers or as a maximum, some questions like “where did you come from and where are you going to?”. I always keep asking myself about the reason that prevents the government from providing these check points with the needed devices to discover the car bombs or the IEDs unless if these soldiers have their own special abilities that help them to discover the explosives like an infra red eyes or an echo devices in their heads. In Fact, I always feel afraid of the traffic jam caused by these check points and the idea of being killed in on e of the explosions caused by the crowded check points never leaves my mind.

EDUCATION-IRAQ: Back to School, Back to Horror

As another school year begins in Iraq, parents approach it with dread, fearing for the safety of their children. With the security situation grimmer than ever all over the country, just stepping out of one’s house means a serious threat to life. "God knows how we could send our kids to school this year," Um Mohammed, a mother of five in Baghdad told IPS. "Our financial situation is the worst ever and the prices are way too expensive for the majority of Iraqis to afford. I might have to keep some of them at home and send only two." The 40-year-old woman shed tears when she started to talk about the family’s financial now compared to what it was before the U.S. occupation of Iraq. "My God, don’t those Americans have any conscience? We were not rich before, but life was easy and we used to celebrate the school season, watching our kids trying their uniform on and looking at the colourful pictures of their new books," she said. Iraqis blame their government’s failure to provide them with basic necessities on the U.S.-led occupation that has brought such an incompetent regime to power. The Iraqi Ministry of Education promised Iraqis a better educational year in 2007, a promise that has been made every year for the past four years.

Basra Interpreters told to leave

Iraqi interpreters working for the British Army have been advised to leave Basra or be killed. The warning was issued by a leading member of the city’s security forces after militiamen attacked and destroyed the home of one interpreter and narrowly failed to kidnap another. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that a third had been killed.
“All the interpreters have to leave Basra because these militia will never let them rest. They will kill everybody they know [who worked for the British],” Colonel Saleem Agaa Alzabon, who leads Basra’s special forces, said. “The interpreters have to leave. They have no choice.” Colonel Saleem and the two targeted interpreters told The Times that the militiamen – almost certainly members of the Shia al-Mahdi Army – had stepped up their pursuit of so-called collaborators since the British withdrew from Basra city 11 days ago. The latest attacks are further evidence of the extreme danger that the 91 interpreters for the British military face now, let alone when the troops leave Iraq for good. They will intensify the pressure on Britain to reverse its refusal to grant them asylum. Gordon Brown ordered a review of that policy after The Times highlighted the interpreters’ plight last month.

Death at a Distance: The Secret U.S. Air War in Afghanistan and Iraq

According to Associated Press, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 over the same period in 2006. More than 30 tons of those have been cluster weapons, which take an especially heavy toll on civilians. The U.S. Navy has added an aircraft carrier to its Persian Gulf force, and the Air Force has moved F-16s into Balad air base north of Baghdad. Balad, which currently conducts 10,000 air operations a week, is strengthening runways to handle the increase in air activity. Col. David Reynolds told the AP, "We would like to get to be a field like Langley, if you will." The Langley field in Virginia is one of the Air Force's biggest and most sophisticated airfields. The Air Force certainly appears to be settling in for a long war. "Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to significant capability," says Lt Gen. Gary North, the regional air commander, "I think the coalition will be here to support that effort." The Iraqi air force is virtually non-existent. It has no combat aircraft and only a handful of transports. Improving the runways has allowed the Air Force to move B1-B bombers from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Balad, where the big aircraft have been carrying out daily strikes. A B1-B can carry up to 24 tons of bombs.

….. Besides increasing the number of F-16s, B1-Bs, and A-10 attack planes, Predator flight hours over both countries have doubled from 2005. "The Predator is coming into its own as a no-kidding weapon verses a reconnaissance-only platform," brags Maj. Jon Dagley, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. The Air Force is also deploying a bigger, faster and more muscular version of the Predator, the MQ-9 "Reaper" -- as in grim -- a robot capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles, plus two 500 lb. bombs. The Predators and the Reapers have several advantages, the most obvious being they don't need pilots. "With more Reapers I could send manned airplanes home," says North. At $8.5 million an aircraft -- the smaller Predator comes in at $4.5 million apiece -- they are also considerably cheaper than the F-16 ($19 million) the B1-B ($200+ million) and even the A-10 ($9.8 million). The Air Force plans to deploy 170 Predators and 70 Reapers over the next three years. "It is possible that in our lifetime we will be able to run a war without ever leaving the US," Lt Col David Branham told the New York Times.

America's Deadly Shock Doctrine in Iraq

This excerpt from Naomi Klein's controversial new book, "The Shock Doctrine," explains how the U.S. set about to destroy the Iraqi national psyche and then push through a disastrous privatization of its economy.

…..As the day of the invasion of Iraq drew closer, US news media outlets were conscripted by the Pentagon to "fear up" Iraq. "They're calling it 'A-Day'," began a report on CBS News that aired two months before the war began. "A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddam's soldiers unable or unwilling to fight." Viewers were introduced to Harlan Ullman, an author of the Shock and Awe doctrine, who explained that "you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes". The anchor, Dan Rather, ended the telecast with a disclaimer: "We assure you this report contains no information that the Defense Department thinks could help the Iraqi military." He could have gone further: the report, like so many others in this period, was an integral part of the Department of Defense's strategy -- fear up. Iraqis, who picked up the terrifying reports on contraband satellites or in phone calls from relatives abroad, spent months imagining the horrors of Shock and Awe. The phrase itself became a potent psychological weapon. Would it be worse than 1991? If the Americans really thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, would they launch a nuclear attack? One answer was provided a week before the invasion. The Pentagon invited Washington's military press corps on a special field trip to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to witness the testing of the Moab, which officially stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, but which everyone in the military calls the "Mother of All Bombs". At 21,000lb, it is the largest non-nuclear explosive ever built, able to create, in the words of CNN's Jamie McIntyre, "a 10,000ft-high mushroom-like cloud that looks and feels like a nuclear weapon".

Ordinary life hardly the norm in Baghdad

"Today, most of Baghdad's neighborhoods are being patrolled by coalition and Iraqi forces who live among the people they protect. Many schools and markets are reopening. Citizens are coming forward with vital intelligence. Sectarian killings are down. And ordinary life is beginning to return." — President Bush in his speech Thursday on Iraq

"Ordinary" isn't a word that residents of Baghdad use to describe their lives. Gunmen are driving people from neighborhoods in the city's southwest. Electricity, depending on which block you live on, is available as little as two hours a day. Running water, if it's available, is unsafe to drink. Car bombings are down, but most residents won't leave their neighborhoods, frightened that they'll encounter Shiite Muslim militiamen or Sunni Muslim extremists who'll kill them. Some markets are reopening in the southern neighborhood of Dora under the watch of U.S. soldiers, but no one from outside the neighborhood visits. As for schools, it's hard to say: The school year hasn't started yet.

In Baghdad, remembering a safer life

Hadi Rubaie sat in the living room of his air-conditioned home, with its sofas covered in delicate linen doilies, colorful rugs hanging on the wall and the sound of roosters crowing out back. He was talking about President Bush preparing Americans on Thursday for another year of war. Rubaie has strong opinions. But what you notice first are his hands: the thick, knotted mitts of a car mechanic. He's been working on Mercedes-Benz engines since the 1960s, and his knuckles chronicle every slip of the wrench. "It's good for the Americans to stay," he said. "Otherwise people will kill each other. Sure, they're doing that now, but it could be worse." His wife, Umhaider, was in the kitchen preparing a special dinner she would serve later, to break the fast for the first night of Ramadan: lentil soup, rice, lamb kebabs, yogurt and juices. She too has strong opinions. "I support the idea of having the foreign troops leave," she said. "Before they came to Baghdad, all the different factions were living peacefully together. Now, there are problems everywhere." Rubaie, 58, heads a traditional Shiite Muslim family. He wears a dishdasha, and his wife's gown covers all but her face. Their differing opinions reflect a national divide among Iraqis: those who fear that U.S. troops will leave and those afraid that they'll stay.

Random U.S. fire kills many in Baghdad

A trigger-happy U.S. patrol opened fire on civilians in the Sinak district of Baghdad, killing many Iraqis and wounding others. Residents said the patrol had camped in the area since the morning and suddenly the soldiers started shooting in all directions. “The random fire killed many Iraqis and injured others,” one eyewitness, refusing to be named, said. Sinak close to Bab al-Sharqi in the heart of Baghdad is a rebel stronghold. The U.S. has failed to bring it under full control. The bloody incident happened last Sunday. Another witness said there was no reason for U.S. troops to open fire. As ambulances rushed to the area to carrying the dead and wounded to hospitals, trigger-happy gunmen opened fire on shoppers and passers-by in Shorja, Baghdad’s commercial hub.

More than 100,000 Iraqis in jail

With the advent of the holy month of Ramadan, many hoped U.S. and Iraqi authorities would settle the issue of tens of thousand of Iraqi prisoners. 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. Prisoners have become one of the thorniest issues blocking the path to reconciliation with government opponents, particularly the Sunnis demanding the immediate release of all those who have not been convicted of a crime. But neither the U.S. nor the government is willing to heed the Sunni demand. The government has only agreed to release 200 on the occasion of the holy month and the U.S. has accepted to free about 1,500. Most of these prisoners are snatched from their families or haphazardly arrested during military campaigns or on checkpoints.

Iraqis warned not to approach pipelines and pylons

The Ministry of Defense is employing helicopter gun ships to protect oil pipelines and power pylons from attacks by insurgents and saboteurs. The Russian helicopters arrived in Baghdad recently and were immediately sent into action. Under the rules of engagement, pilots are required to shoot at anyone approaching the lines but it is not clear whether the warning has reached everywhere in Iraq as the helicopters went into action only last week. Sabotage attacks have continued nonetheless and two major power supply pylons have been knocked out since the deployment of the helicopters. The attacks have reduced power supply to Baghdad, leading to additional outages. [How much you want to bet that the people who are sent to work on these structures by official agencies will get shot at? – dancewater]

Iraqi volunteers bury more anonymous victims now than during Saddam's rule

Every month in Iraq hundreds of victims are struck down by sectarian violence or massive bombing campaigns, and a small band of volunteers has taken it upon themselves to give the unclaimed dead a proper burial. "We've been doing this for 20 years, under Saddam, but the numbers have increased, as have the difficulties," Sheik Jamal al-Sudani, who leads the volunteers, tells CNN correspondent Michael Ware. "Because now it is as if the streets are flowing with blood." Before the US invasion of Iraq deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, the volunteers buried up to 40 people every month. In the war's worst months, that figure increased 50-fold as volunteers buried an average of more than 2,000 anonymous war victims, Ware reports. As the war stretches through its fifth year, several hundred bodies remain unclaimed every month. The unidentified bodies of men, women and children are found on Iraqi streets and sewers as well as in bombing ruins; some are "so mangled and charred, they're unidentifiable," CNN says, while others are Sunni victims whose families are too fearful from their own lives to visit Iraq's Health Ministry morgue, which is controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's hard-line Shiite followers. The Shiite volunteers led by al-Sudani bury victims of all religions, and the bodies are photographed and catalogued in a database before they are buried in the Muslim tradition.

VIDEO: Scores of bodies being interned into graves in Najaf.

From Missing Links blog:

Reuters had a TV clip on this last Wednesday September 12, and today the story is taken up by the Sadrist news site

Salman Abdul Awda, head of one of the households that took refuge in Abu Dsheer, told Nahrainnet: "AlQaeda slaughtered men and women...and they blew up dozens of houses belonging to members of the tribal awakening of Hur Rajab. It was God who delivered us from their evil, and we took refuge with our Shiite brothers in Abu Dsheer, and they have been brave and honorable with us."

According to a woman who lost her husband and took refuge in Abu Dsheer with her children, The fighting...started Tuesday (Sept 11), and there was no intervention by the American or Iraqi forces. We have seen dozens of bodies in the street, some decapitated.

[This is an important story, because it looks like the US forces are supporting (maybe by neglect) the so-called ‘al-qaeda’ forces in the area, while totally failing to protect the citizens of the area. It also shows significant Iraqi solidarity across sectarian lines. – dancewater]

Alcohol Business Dangerous in Baghdad

The three men glanced left and right before cautiously entering a liquor store on Saadoun Street, one of two areas where alcohol is publicly sold in the Iraqi capital. Inside, they pointed to a bottle of champagne. "Give me a box of those," one said. Selling and drinking alcohol is still legal in Iraq, but since the rise of religious parties in this predominantly Muslim country, the trade has come under severe pressure. Aside from legal restrictions, many liquor shops have been bombed in the past four years. Some who dared sell alcohol from their homes have been killed by religious militias, which use fear and intimidation to keep liquor out of areas they control. Still, that has not deterred all traders or customers. "We're busy these few days," said Yasser, a clerk at the Saadoun Street store, who refused to give his full name for security reasons. "People are buying big amounts of alcohol because Ramadan is coming," referring to the Muslim holy month of fasting that began this week. All liquor stores are closed during Ramadan, a measure that has been in force since before Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003.

They have planted bombs and shot soldiers – now it is time for school

Ammar winds up a ten-minute harangue against Saddam Hussein with questions to his students. “How many of you had relatives executed?” asks the 33-year-old history teacher. Eight put up their hands. How many lost relatives in the Iran-Iraq war? Twelve hands rise. How many think Saddam was a bad man? All 24 students assent. Their sincerity, though, is hard to gauge. This is no normal class, despite the Harry Potter books in Arabic on the shelves. Ammar’s pupils wear bright yellow jumpsuits with plastic sandals and white identity bracelets around their wrists. They are among the rapidly multiplying number of child fighters held in the Camp Cropper detention centre near Baghdad airport. The children, who are aged between 11 and 17, stand accused of offences ranging from acting as lookouts for kidnappers to planting bombs and shooting soldiers. The US military is sending them to school to reeducate them, to rid them of jihadist cant, to clear their brainwashed heads of, for example, the notion that Saddam was a glorious leader who defied an evil and aggressive superpower. …. 828 juvenile detainees are in Camp Cropper, up from fewer than 100 last year


Iraqi Kurds demand oil minister's resignation

Iraq's northern Kurdish administration has demanded Baghdad's oil minister be sacked, following his remarks that oil contracts signed by the regional government are "illegal."
The call by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) late Thursday deals another blow to attempts by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to forge a national consenus on the controversial issue of dividing up the spoils of Iraq's vast oil reserves. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani should quit rather than "interfere in the internal affairs" of the Kurdish region, KRG spokesman Khalid Saleh told reporters in Arbil. Shahristani at a recent meeting of OPEC in Vienna said that all oil contracts signed in Iraq's Kurdish region are "illegal" as a controversial oil law is yet to be passed in the parliament. The regional government has signed contracts with several global oil companies to explore crude oil in its region, which houses the bulk of the country's oil reserves.

Some mourn, but others celebrate death of 'traitor'

The death of Sheikh Abu Risha, the charismatic, chain smoking young sheik, has had a huge impact in Iraq as well as the wider Arab world. There was a sense of shock among many, especially the country's Sunni community. Ali Hatem al-Sulaiman, deputy chief of the province's biggest Sunni tribe, said that if "only one small boy remains alive in Anbar, we will not hand the province over to al-Qa'ida. But messages were being posted on international jihadist websites exulting at the end of "the traitor and apostate". One called him "one of the biggest pigs of the Crusaders". The killing took place on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, and on the eve of the first anniversary of the founding of the Anbar Salvation Council, a tribal alliance led by the sheikh, which had been battling al-Qa'ida fighters in the western province with some success. Last night Anbar was under a state of emergency with the routes to Jordan and Syria closed down and US reinforcement on standby to be airlifted to the area. The attack on the sheikh was followed by a car bombing in Baghdad, the first in the Iraqi capital for more than a week, killing four people and injuring 12 others, leading to fears of an escalation of violence during Ramadan, which has become the norm in Iraq.

No breaks within Shiite coalition

"The (Shiite) coalition does not suffer any division or breaks and it is coherent, though it shows various views and opinions on a number of issues," Bayati said. The legislator added, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made good progress to fill the vacant ministries, due to the withdrawal of some blocs." National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waeli unveiled on Thursday that the breaks within the Unified Iraqi Coalition have impeded any imminent ministerial reshuffle because it will be difficult to collect the votes necessary to pass the list in parliament. Al-Waeli ruled out an imminent announcement of a ministerial reshuffle due to these differences within al-Maliki's bloc. The Iraqi government is facing an aggravated political crisis after the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front and Iraqi National List announced the withdrawal of their ministers, while the Sadrists quit the cabinet months ago.

Sunni world

During his visit to Iraq last week, President Bush carved out an hour to sit down with Shaykh Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, the controversial head of the Anbar Salvation Council who had become a symbol of America's Anbar strategy. The pictures from that photo-op were likely the Shaykh's death warrant: Abu Risha was assassinated today, even as Bush prepared to use the Anbar strategy's "success" to justify our continued involvement in Iraq. David Petraeus was quick to blame al-Qaeda for the stunning murder, a leap to judgment emblematic of all which is wrong with America's current views of the Sunnis of Iraq. In reality there are a plethora of likely suspects, reflecting the reality of an intensely factionalized and divided community which little resembles the picture offered by the administration's defenders. Leaders of other tribes deeply resented Abu Risha's prominence. Leaders of the major insurgency factions had for weeks been warning against allowing people such as Abu Risha to illegitimately reap the fruits of their jihad against the occupation. The brazen murder of America's closest Sunni ally in Iraq was as predictable as it was shocking, and carries a powerful message to both Iraqis and Americans about the real prospects for the long-term success of the American project.

Why Iraq is getting worse: A new civil war between Shiites erupts within the old civil war between Sunnis and Shiites

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. Despite the assurances of SIIC officials that Najaf was safe, we were given strict orders not to leave our hotel—at which Iraqi military and police loyal to the party had been posted—unless we were with them. When I left the tour for a pre-arranged meeting with the spokesman from Tayyera Sadrieen, another Shiite political party led by Moqtada al-Sadr, it nearly provoked an armed confrontation. [And yet, in other areas Sunni families are moving in with Shi’a families they don’t even know, because of a reported ‘al Qaeda’ attack. – dancewater]

Troops in Mosul on maximum alert

Iraqi and U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are on maximum alert following pledges by al-Qaeda to exact revenge on Iraqi Sunnis cooperating with the Iraqi government. Al-Qaeda has turned Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, into a major bastion in the country as U.S. military pressure mounts on its presence in central Iraq. The group has claimed responsibility for the murder of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a key U.S. ally and one of the most senior chiefs of Sunni tribes in the country. Security in Mosul has worsened recently with gunmen in control of most of the city at night. Brigadier Abdul Kareem al-Jibouri said placing the troops under maximum alert came following reports that the gunmen were planning to drive government police and army from the city.


Bush Calls for Permanent US Military Occupation of Iraq

President Bush's nationally televised speech, delivered Thursday evening from the Oval Office, was the low point of a week of lies and absurdities designed to justify the United States' bloody colonial war in Iraq. The ugly farce began with the congressional testimony Monday and Tuesday of Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Only 21 Nations Have Troops in Iraq — Not Bush’s Claim of 36

According to the respected, there were only 21 nations with ground troops in Iraq as of February of this year. No countries have joined the list since then, and a couple of nations have all but withdrawn their contingents. In Bush’s speech tonight, he claimed that GIs are supported by troops from 36 nations. In fact, only two other coalition nations have more than 1,000 troops in Iraq — Britain and South Korea. Seven nations have less than 100 troops in Iraq. Virtually all of these smaller contingents are confined to non-combat operations. I guess no one had time to fact-check the speech.


IRAQ: No Refuge Within or Outside the Country

US occupation authorities and successive US-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.

Write a letter to the editor about Iraqi refugees

Send a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper asking the Bush administration and Congress to increase humanitarian aid for Iraqi refugees. While newspapers are covering the war in Iraq, help us spread the message that assisting Iraqi refugees is an important step to stabilizing the region. Speak Out. Save Lives. [I can think of NO excuse as to why the corporate media is not covering this – but they are not – so letters to your local paper would likely be the only coverage the Iraqi refugees will ever get. – dancewater]

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


Michael Klare on the Internal War For Control of Iraq's Oil

We speak with Michael Klare, author of "Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum." Klare says, "There's a second war underway in Iraq that's a war for the control of the oil wealth. That's a war that is pitting Kurds against the Arabs of the country, Shiites against Sunnis, and Shiite against Shiite. Because eventually the Americans are going to leave and the people of Iraq know this."

September 11: The Epitome of American Arrogance

In what can only be called the epitome of American arrogance, concern for the plight of the Iraqi people, particularly the 4 million of whom are now refugees is absent from the rhetoric, the clear implication being that that our suffering, which is the result of our own failed policies, is far more important than the suffering we have inflicted upon others.

Petraeus told the truth but Crocker did not

I am really impressed by the briefing Lt. Gen. David Petraeus gave to the U.S. Congress this week. The reason for my admiration and appreciation of his report is the accurate description he gave of the current conditions in Iraq. Petraeus was frank, direct and to the point when he stressed three major repercussions for a swift U.S. pullout. He said:

1. If we withdraw Iraq’s government, police and army will collapse.

2. If we withdraw Iran will occupy Iraq.

3. If we withdraw the al-Qaeda with will fill the vacuum.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was not straightforward in his briefing. His testimony bordered on lying. His role was comparable to that of a false witness. Petraeus was honest unlike the notorious former defense minister, Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. commander, Gen. Abuzaid, who overlooked the dangers an invading army might face in a new country. While I underscore my appreciation of Petraeus’s report, I realize that there are many inside and outside Iraq who would harshly criticize such an attitude. But I could care less because we needed someone to tell the truth about what will happen if the U.S. suddenly decided to pull out. Now I know these remarks might not appeal to the national Iraqi resistance, some neighboring countries, some militia groups and perhaps the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Petraeus’s words summarize the whole of Iraq’s story. They say what exactly what is bound to happen in case U.S. troops are not there. But Petraeus and his backers in the White House or the Congress must realize in the first place that the catastrophic consequences of a U.S. withdrawal were not there before the U.S. invasion. Prior to the invasion, there was no Qaeda in Iraq; it was not possible for Iran to invade Iraq; and nobody imagined Iraq’s government, army and police would collapse.

Bush still refuses to admit he was wrong

Extending the war, kicking that can down the road, was President Bush’s only strategic objective last January when he came up with the idea of escalating the number of American troops in Iraq from 130,000 to today’s 170,000. Put simply, the Decider wants to hand off the decision to pull the plug on his unwinnable war to someone else, anyone else. Four and a half years after this president ordered the invasion of Iraq in a gross act of arrogance and ignorance based on faulty, bogus and politically twisted intelligence — and after repeatedly changing the rationales and objectives of the war as each has failed in turn — we’re going to continue this war because George W. Bush is incapable of admitting that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Battle for Iraq is about Oil, not Religion!

The frame of a religious civil war not only obscures the fact that the United States is backing a deeply unpopular side in Iraq's political strife -- that America is in fact an enemy of the Iraqi people, not of its "extremists" -- it also plays into the popular but profoundly wrong notion that the conflict in Iraq is based on an age-old and perfectly irrational dispute over Islamic theological issues. In the West, it's widely believed that religious wars are "primitive" -- something Europeans shook off during the Age of Enlightenment -- while the kind of struggles over land, wealth and power that are raging in Iraq, while unfortunate, are believed to be a necessary component of statehood. By ignoring the political divides that ultimately fuel the violence plaguing Iraq -- by focusing on the violent symptoms and ignoring the underlying disease -- the conventional wisdom plays perfectly into the widespread belief that the bloodshed in Iraq is being carried out by fanatical savages beyond our understanding. That, in turn, diverts responsibility for the chaos that followed the U.S. invasion away from American imperial hubris. After all, how could rational, Western war planners in Maryland or Virginia possibly predict an orgy of sectarian violence when they decided to dismantle the Iraqi government and security forces and replace them with an occupation force with a "light footprint"?

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: “You can’t kill everyone out there” -General David Petraeus, September 13, 2007 on NPR - Explaining why Iraq needs to be a “thinking man’s war”