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 21, 2007

News & Views 09/21/07

Photo: A juvenile detainee stands in an outdoor solitary confinement cell. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images [Taken at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, a US run prison where they hold the “House of Wisdom” school. It appears there is no indoor plumbing at this facility. Another caption says this: “Originally set up as a small 'high-value' detention site - Saddam Hussein was kept there - the prison outside Baghdad now has 2,000 inmates. US forces have around 60,000 people detained in Iraq, compared with 27,000 a year ago.” Camp Cropper is the name of the image gallery on The Guardian website. – dancewater]

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem

Today is the International Day of Peace

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."


Civilian death toll in Iraq may top 1 million

Cholera spreads to Iraq's southernmost city

Cholera was confirmed Friday in a baby in Basra, the farthest south the outbreak has been detected. Officials expressed concern over a shortage of chlorine needed to prevent the disease from spreading. A shipment of 100,000 tons of the water purifier has been held up at the Jordanian border over fears the chemical could be used in explosives. Baghdad, which has doubled the amount of chlorine in the drinking water, now has only a week's supply. World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said in Geneva that Iraq has registered 29,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea, with 1,500 of those confirmed as cholera. All but two confirmed cases are in the north. The bottle-fed, seven-month-old infant is the only confirmed case in Basra, Iraq's second-largest and southernmost city, WHO reported.

Iraq: Boycott of sermons after killings

Two aides to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani were killed in shootings within hours, prompting his Basra followers to boycott Friday sermons in protest amid fears that an internal Shiite power struggle was increasingly targeting Iraq's top Shiite cleric. …Al-Sistani's followers in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, refused to attend Friday sermons in their mosques, denouncing the latest assassinations of the cleric's associates, an aide said. Al-Sistani's representative in the Diwaniyah province, Ahmed al-Barqaawi, was gunned down while driving home to the city of Diwaniyah, about 80 miles south of Baghdad, police officials said. Hours earlier, one of the cleric's representatives in the Basra area, Amjad al-Janabi, was killed along with his driver in a shooting west of the southern city, police said. The deaths bring to at least five the number of al-Sistani aides slain since early August but it remains unclear if the killings reflect internal Shiite disputes or are the work of Sunni insurgents opposed to the vast influence enjoyed by al-Sistani over Iraq's Shiites and politics since Saddam Hussein's 2003 ouster. Al-Sistani's office in the holy city of Najaf declined to comment on the latest slayings. Basra Gov. Mohammed al-Waili called on the government to step up measures to protect clerics.

Violence Down in Northern Iraqi Province

Competent Iraqi security forces and a deluge of tips from residents have helped U.S. troops tamp down violence in northern Iraq despite an influx of al-Qaida fighters responsible for occasional spectacular attacks, U.S. officials say. But American commanders believe the key to lasting peace is to resolve the region's most vexing political problem - Kurds hold too much power in the local government at the expense of Sunni Arabs. The situation here is somewhat similar to that in Baghdad, where U.S. troops have managed to reduce violence but politicians have failed to reach agreements for long-term stability. With about 2.7 million residents, Ninevah is Iraq's second-largest province in area behind Anbar, and second only to Baghdad in population. Ninevah's parched, rolling hills - crisscrossed by the Tigris River - are bounded by Syria to the west, and stretch up to snowcapped mountains in Kurdish territory to the north and east.

………..In Ninevah's provincial capital, Mosul, the U.S. military says the number of attacks has dropped to 66 per week, compared to a weekly average of 95 in January. [Most places would say – that is still totally unacceptable. – dancewater]

IRAQ: Border Shelling Hits Villagers

This time she had to flee Iranian shelling on her border village. It was not easy; she injured her leg after walking barefoot two hours. Now she lives in a tent with several other families on the foothills of the ragged Qandil mountains separating Iraq from Iran. Hundreds of families were forced to leave their villages to take refuge in shabby tents. Here the families cook over burning wood, sleep on worn-out rugs, and drink from a dirty creek. Some children are suffering from diarrhoea, at a time when large parts of Kurdistan region have been hit by cholera. The tragedy of the millions of Iraqis displaced by violence in other parts of the country has overshadowed the new misery of these families. Despite their terrible living conditions, they have received almost no aid. "This is no life we are living. We have lost everything, our crops and houses. For some nights we did not have food," said Halima Hassan, 35. "We don't even dare to go back because Iran may shell the area again." The attacks started after the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), an offshoot of the pro-independence Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), started striking military targets within Iran. That provoked heavy shelling of the northeastern border areas of Iraq in recent weeks. On the northern side of Iraq's border, Turkey was not idle. It added to the shelling, aimed at PKK fighters. Iran stopped shelling the border areas following official objection from the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. But Turkey resumed shelling on Saturday, and this may displace many more families.


The real story of Baghdad's Bloody Sunday

The eruption of gunfire was sudden and ferocious, round after round mowing down terrified men women and children, slamming into cars as they collided and overturned with drivers frantically trying to escape. Some vehicles were set alight by exploding petrol tanks. A mother and her infant child died in one of them, trapped in the flames. The shooting on Sunday, by the guards of the American private security company Blackwater, has sparked one of the most bitter and public disputes between the Iraqi government and its American patrons, and brings into sharp focus the often violent conduct of the Western private armies operating in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, immune from scrutiny or prosecution.

Blackwater's security men are accused of going on an unprovoked killing spree. Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer, was shot four times in the back, his car riddled with eight more bullets, as he attempted to get away from their convoy. Yesterday, sitting swathed in bandages at Baghdad's Yarmukh Hospital, he recalled scenes of horror. "I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Mr Salman. "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus, he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him, she jumped out after him, and she was killed. People were afraid." At the end of the prolonged hail of bullets Nisoor Square was a scene of carnage with bodies strewn around smouldering wreckage. Ambulances trying to pick up the wounded found their path blocked by crowds fleeing the gunfire. Yesterday, the death toll from the incident, according to Iraqi authorities, stood at 28. And it could rise higher, say doctors, as some of the injured, hit by high-velocity bullets at close quarter, are unlikely to survive.

Guards' Shots Not Provoked, Iraq Concludes

In the first comprehensive account of the day’s events, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said that security guards for Blackwater fired on Iraqis in their cars in midday traffic. The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped. Four days after the shooting, American officials said they were still preparing their own forensic analysis of what happened in Nisour Square. They have repeatedly declined to give any details before their work is finished. Privately, those officials have warned against drawing conclusions before American investigators have finished interviewing the Blackwater guards. In the Interior Ministry account — made available to The New York Times on Thursday — Iraqi investigators interviewed many witnesses but relied on the testimony of the people they considered to be the four most credible. The account says that as soon as the guards took positions in four locations in the square, they began shooting south, killing a driver who had failed to heed a traffic policeman’s call to stop. “The Blackwater company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation,” the report concludes. The shooting enraged Iraqis, in part because they feel powerless to bring the security companies to account. “What happened in Al Nisour was that citizens felt their dignity was destroyed,” Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, said in an interview. The Iraqi “looks at the state and wonders if it can bring him back his rights.” “It’s important that the company show its respect to the law and Iraqi law,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “Iraqi citizens need to see good treatment, especially when they operate on Iraqi soil.”

And while Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has demanded that the State Department drop Blackwater as its protector, security industry experts say that such an outcome is highly unlikely because American officials rely heavily on the company, setting the two sides on a diplomatic collision course. The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points. The ministry report states that no Iraqis fired at the Blackwater guards, even though several witnesses in recent days have said that Iraqi commandos in a watchtower did. Blackwater, in its first and only statement, said militants had ambushed its guards. [There is a picture at this site that shows just how badly Blackwater shoots up Iraqi cars. There will be a rally against Blackwater in North Carolina on October 27, 2007. – dancewater]


Blackwater security firm resumes Baghdad work

The security firm Blackwater USA today resumed limited escorts of American personnel in the Iraqi capital after an incident in which eight civilians died, the US embassy in Iraq said. As Blackwater guards returned to the streets of Baghdad after a three-day suspension, the Iraqi interior ministry said it planned to end immunity from prosecution for security contractors. The interior ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf said the ministry had drafted legislation giving it tighter control over contractors and calling for "severe punishment for those who fail to adhere to the ... guidelines". Iraq has said it will review the status of all security firms after what it called a flagrant assault by Blackwater contractors in which at least eight people were killed while the firm was escorting a US embassy convoy through Baghdad on Sunday. The US and Iraq are planning a joint inquiry amid conflicting accounts of what happened. Blackwater said its staff acted "lawfully and appropriately" after coming under attack. But the Iraqi government insisted Blackwater had opened fire on innocent civilians.

Are Lost U.S. Weapons In Enemy Hands?

Answer: yes. But then who is our enemy is a debatable question. And, so is the idea that these weapons were “lost”. It maybe that we gave them away (to those we thought were on our side) or sold them on the black market, or any number of things, really. – dancewater]

Iraq contractor, an ex-colonel, sentenced for smuggling $50,000

An American contractor who buried secret payments from Iraqi subcontractors in a Baghdad yard was sentenced Monday to five months in prison for trying to smuggle $50,000 into the U.S.


Checkbook Imperialism

Please, please, I tell myself, leave Orwell out of it. Find some other, fresher way to explain why "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is dependent upon killer mercenaries. Or why the "democratically elected government" of "liberated" Iraq does not explicitly have the legal power to expel Blackwater USA from its land or hold any of the 50,000 private contractor troops that the U.S. government has brought to Iraq accountable for their deadly actions.

You got rid of one Saddam and left us with 50

Updating contemporary history is always a race against time and deadlines, and although there was a lot of catching up to do when Charles Tripp came to write a new edition of his acclaimed history of Iraq, it was easy to decide on one change. Out went the cover showing Saddam Hussein firing a rifle in the air. In came a photograph of a graveyard packed with the victims of sectarian suicide bombings and festooned with flags and posters showing the bearded and turbaned features of some of the country's new movers and shakers - who were virtually unknown in 2002, the cut off point for the last edition.

….."There was this nonsensical idea that Saddam and everything he created was a kind of freak and that once you eradicated him the whole thing would fall apart and the potential for a liberal, democratic and a civil society would emerge as if somehow he was the only problem," he says. "But Saddam was a recognisable part of Iraqi history. Many Iraqis feel now that they've been delivered into the hands of many lesser dictators. As one of my friends said: 'Thanks very much: you got rid of one Saddam and you left us with 50.'"

Quote of the day: It’s small comfort to American soldiers in Iraq who may now be staring down the barrel of guns paid for by the U.S. government. – from article about “Lost” US Weapons. [In actuality, the US has a long history of arming those we end up fighting. The MIC makes more money selling weapons and ammunition to both sides. The US taxpayers willingly pay for the bullets to kill innocent foreigners and our own troops. It’s a hell of a deal. – dancewater]