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 22, 2007

News & Views 09/22/07

Photo: An Iraqi youth weeps in fear after being detained by Sunni "volunteer", former insurgents who have joined forces with US and Iraqi troops against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and held by US soldiers from the 1-40 Cavalry Squadron for suspected links to Al-Qaeda, in the Hawra Haajab village on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, 06 September 2007. Iraq and its neighbors opened UN-sponsored talks with major powers and donors here Saturday to spur efforts to put the war-scarred country back on its feet despite sectarian violence and rampant corruption. (AFP/File/David Furst)

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

WHO confirms 1,500 cholera cases in Iraq

- There are 29,000 suspected cases now.

More than 1,500 people have been confirmed as having cholera in Iraq and the outbreak has spread from the north to Baghdad, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday. In all, 29,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea have been reported by Iraqi authorities, including 1,500 confirmed as cholera in a laboratory, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said. The known death toll from the outbreak stands at 10, all in the north, and WHO officials are working with Iraqi health authorities to avert an epidemic, she said. "A (first) case of cholera has been confirmed in Baghdad two days ago, a 25-year-old woman who contracted the disease," Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva. "For the time being, we have only one case. It's likely that others will be identified," she said, adding that two suspected cases were under investigation.

Back to school: Education sector struggling to progress

With the new academic year approaching, many educational institutions voice their concerns about the U.S. forces' appropriation of some Iraqi schools. Abdul Rahman al-Kabisi, the general director of the education sector in Karkh, said that there are a few days to go before the beginning of the new academic year and four primary schools in Karkh are still under the control of U.S. forces, despite several calls from the education department. "The educational process should not be isolated from the current economic and social circumstances facing Iraqi society," al-Kabisi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq. "Another problem that we suffer from are raids staged by U.S. and Iraqi forces on some schools," he explained. "During these raids, security forces destroy school gates and archives." Abdul Raziq al-Zubeidi, head of the Education Committee in Baghdad's municipal council, described the U.S. forces' appropriation of some schools as a "stumbling block" facing the education sector. "Schools have become overcrowded with students after U.S. forces took control of some schools," al-Zubeidi explained.

Iraqis' bread and darker days

Iraqi bread, formerly known for its delicious taste and whiteness, is now getting darker day by day, leading some to liken it to the days the Iraqis are passing through. In past decades Iraqis were proud of having their bread baked at home using baking furnaces called "tannours." However, as modernism invaded most Iraqi cities this tradition started to diminish. Ahmed Abdul Hussein, 65, said, "When I was a child in a village in southern Basra my family used to have bread baked at home or bought from the village bakery baked in the Tannour." "As I remember, bringing bread from the bakery was a shift coordinated between my brother and I – we alternated days. I often used to wake up early to bring the fresh bread, sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds, for the family breakfast," Hussein added. Women who bake bread at home claim that the bread they make is unrivalled. Um Yousif, 50, a housewife, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), "No bread can now rival our bread of bygone days, neither in whiteness nor in stature. Yesterday's loaf of bread was white, fit for all kinds of sandwiches and not easy to crumble, while today's bread is not even brown. It is as dark as our Iraqi days!"

Missan residents thirst for potable water

A lack of potable water has become one of the most pressing issues in the southern Iraqi province of Missan, where nearly 35% of the population do not have running water in their homes. According to a survey conducted by a Missan-based institution concerned with human rights, only 5% of the houses in the province have running water, 60% use water pumps, and 25% depend on rivers for water supply. This water is mainly used for washing and cooking and is sometimes used for drinking purposes, the survey revealed. Speaking to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), Taha Saddam Uraibi, the head of Missan's Water Department, linked the shortage of water in the province to the electricity crisis. Uraibi told VOI that electricity is not always available in Missan and a blackout of over four or five hours is "just normal." "This leads us to having to restart water pumps several times…and in most cases, we have a weak current of electricity that is unable to operate water pumps," Uraibi added.

Masatir…another aspect of Iraqi women's lives

Widows, divorcĂ©es and displaced young girls below the age of 20 were squatting down in the street in some impoverished areas in Karbala, waiting for someone to take them to work all day for scanty wages that barely supported their families. The scene was new but not strange to the lives of ill-off Iraqi women who have mastered the art of familiarity with the tragic consequences and repercussions of war over past decades. Iraqis are familiar with the term "masatir," places where men gather to seek work, but not with the term "women's masatir," except as of late when poor women – stung by hardship resulting from successive wars, occupation and forced relocation– have been forced to go out in search for work, often tough under tough conditions. In the holy Shiite city of Karbala, located about 100 km southwest of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, female seekers of tough manual jobs get together at squares in poverty-stricken areas.

VIDEO: In Hurriya, Shi’ites Protest the US Surge

It is contentious whether or not the US Surge has made Baghdad any safer. Many Iraqis have complained that the US’ version of security has led to vast divisions within Baghdad, and that sectarian violence has even further divided Baghdad’s already tense residents. Hurriya, a neighborhood on the western side of the Tigris was at one time a mixed neighborhood where Sunni and Shi’a lived together, married together, and existed peacefully, like any other neighborhood. In 2007 Hurriya became almost entirely Shi’a. Some blame the Mahdi Army for sectarian attacks and cleansing the area of it’s Sunni population, such as in this article from December 2006. Others say the cleansing couldn’t be stopped, holding Sunnis responsible for starting the violence. Parliamentarian Shatha Al-Musawi told The Scotsman that Shi’ites had no time to sift the innocent from the guilty because Sunnis were killing Shi’ites. Because of the cleansing, Hurriya has become mostly quiet, but because it is believed to be a haven of gangs using the name of the Mahdi Army, the Americans have been involved in numerous incursions into the neighborhood.

A Ramadan night

Yesterday I made my first Ramadan social visit to my cousin’s family. I went to his house few minutes before the sunset as it is too dangerous to go there after that time having mortars and snipers shifts begin in darkness time. When I arrived, I saw the whole family was waiting for me happy to see me sharing them one Ramadan night. I finished my fasting at that day having a delicious meal (it doesn’t mean that my mother is not a good cook) with them at 7.30 p.m.after about fourteen hours of fasting. .After that we had time to have lovely chat for about one hour having our old days back in the seventies and eighties with some hints of the bad situation we live in recently concerning the security side. At those days , we had life which was full with innocence and joy having no one nor anything to disturb and stop us. Deserts and cold drinks were served during that time.

U.S. forces kill 7-member family in northern Hilla – police

U.S. forces killed a family of seven members including women and children on suspicion they belonged to one of the militias in al-Iskandariya district, 50 km north of Babel province, an official police source in Babel said. "U.S. forces raided a house in al-Iskandariya and opened fire at a family, killing all seven members. The U.S. soldiers then detonated the house," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

100 archaeological sites in Missan left unguarded

"I was wandering among archeological hills in the areas of al-Tayyib, al-Beteira and al-Haffa. I did not see any guards near those hills," M.G. told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). One day he was carrying a cloth bag containing an ancient mud stele with inscriptions he was absolutely in the dark about. "I was arrested in a checkpoint in central al-Amara city. Had it not been for mere chance and perhaps snitching, no one would have been able to arrest or jail me," he said. M.G. was not the first to steal and smuggle antiquities, and perhaps would not be the last. Many people like him have left their original jobs and professions to devote themselves to illegal archaeological activities. A thief of antiquities estimated the price of one piece of antiquity at 200-2,500 dollars depending on the size and the material from which they were made. "One-hundred out of 380 archaeological hills and sites distributed in different places in Missan are currently left unguarded," an official in the Missan antiquities department told VOI. He indicated that the weak guarding over archaeological hills was the main reason behind the theft of several rare pieces of antiquities.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi forces raid Children's Hospital in Baghdad

An official source from the Children's Hospital in western Baghdad said on Saturday an Iraqi force raided the hospital and beat the guards, leading patients along with their relatives to flee the hospital. "A force from the Iraqi National Guards raided the Children's Hospital in al-Iskan neighborhood, western Baghdad, this evening," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source added "when the guards and policemen assigned to protect the hospital tried to uncover the cause of the raid, the assault force beat a few and detained two guards." "The force elements also fired their weapons over their heads, causing patients to panic while families accompanying patients fled the hospital," the source said.

Iraq Kurds demand release of Iranian detained by US

The government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region demanded the immediate release on Friday of an Iranian detained by US troops in a raid that sparked a new row between Washington and Tehran. "We consider this action by the Americans to be illegal," said a statement from the office of regional president Massud Barzani. The US military detained the Iranian on alleged charges of smuggling bombs on Thursday at a hotel in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah which forms part of the Kurdish region. Iran condemned what it called the "unwarranted" detention of an official it said was in Iraq at the invitation of the Kurdish regional government and lodged a strong protest with the authorities in Baghdad. The US military claimed their detainee was "an officer of the Quds Force", the covert operations arm of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, and that he was suspected of involvement in smuggling sophisticated explosives. "They must release this individual as quickly as possible because this kind of attitude does not serve the common interest," Barzani's office said. According to the Kurdish regional government and the Iranian foreign ministry, the detained man is head of "cross border commercial transactions" in the office of the governor general of Kermanshah province in western Iran.

25 nabbed over tribal leader's killing

Twenty-five people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of the leader of a tribal militia fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq. The detainees include the head of the security that was supposed to protect Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, police Lt. Col. Jubeir Rashid said. The tribal leader was killed in a bombing on September 13. Rashid said the security chief, Capt. Karim al-Barghothi, told police that al-Qaeda in Iraq offered him $1.5 million but that he was arrested before he could collect the money. Two other bodyguards as well as some of Abu Risha's neighbors were also detained, Rashid said.

Sadr calls for anti-U.S. protest in southern Iraq

The movement led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is to lead a peaceful protest against the practices of U.S. troops in the southern city of Diwaniya. The movement has a large following in the city, the capital of al-Qadissiya Province, where the troops are reportedly mounting an operation to rid the province of armed groups. But local political factions and residents say the operation has resulted in the killing of innocent Iraqis among them women and children and the arrest of people who have nothing to do with violence. Other political factions and major tribal leaders in the province have rallied behind Sadr’s movement which has not set a date for its protest. But the movement has submitted a petition to the provincial authorities asking for an immediate investigation of “the inhuman practices of the occupier”. Most of the political groups and influential tribal leaders in Diwaniya signed the petition.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

GIs Protecting Sunnis Against US-Funded Army

As the Americans patrol the Sunni Arab neighborhood of Azamiyah, people keep turning to them for help. One man asks them to bring in a fuel truck stopped by Iraqi troops. Another complains that Iraqi soldiers just beat up his brother. The Americans used to be loathed in Azamiyah, a longtime stronghold of insurgents and the last place where Saddam Hussein appeared in public. Now the animosity has given way to a grudging acceptance, because the people of this northern neighborhood want American protection from a foe they hate and fear even more: the mainly Shiite Iraqi army. "We feel safe when the Americans are around," says a computer engineer who gave his name only as Abu Fahd. He stopped going to work because of his fear of militiamen at the Shiite-dominated Health Ministry and now makes a living selling clothes. "When we see the Iraqi army, we just stay home or close our shops." [But, are we protecting them from the 190,000 missing weapons that the US sent to Iraq? The US taxpayers are paying for the weapons for the US troops, the Iraqi army (that these folks claim they are afraid of) and the insurgency (CIA has pictures of the insurgency with the missing weapons!). What a deal for the weapons makers. – dancewater]

Blackwater Accused of Selling Weapons on Iraq's Black Market

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C. The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, and a spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Pentagon and State Department spokesmen declined to comment. Officials with knowledge of the case said it is active, although at an early stage. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, which has heightened since 11 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a shooting involving Blackwater contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.


IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraqis top latest asylum figures for industrialized countries
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

The number of Iraqis applying for asylum in industrialized countries went up by 45 percent in the first half of 2007 compared to the previous six months, according to our latest quarterly statistical report on asylum trends in industrialized countries. The information is based on official information provided by governments. Iraqis made some 19,800 asylum claims during the first six months of 2007 in the 36 industrialized countries included, an increase of 45 percent compared to the last six months of 2006, when 13,600 applications were received. The Iraqi number for the first six months is already approaching the total figure for all of 2006 – 22,200. Iraqis were the No. 1 nationality applying for asylum in industrialized countries in the first half of the year. This latest figure, which reflect continuing violence in Iraq, are more than double those for the first six months of 2006, when a total of 8,500 asylum applications were submitted by Iraqis. If this trend is maintained, by the end of the year the number of Iraqi asylum seekers might reach over 40,000, the highest number since 2002. Almost half of all Iraqi applications (some 9,300), were submitted in Sweden.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

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]

COMMENTARY

Sadr out again

President Bush said August would be hard on Iraqis, and he was right. It was the second bloodiest month since the invasion, with 1,888 civilians dead. He also said that Ramadan would be bad, and he's probably right again. On the first day of Ramadan, a suicide bomber blew up a car at the entrance to the house of Sheikh Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Anbar Awakening Group, killing the sheikh and two of his bodyguards.

……Yet again, the government of Al-Maliki was shaken by the withdrawal of a main group of supporters. The Sadr Group has withdrawn from the Iraqi Alliance Bloc, the largest Shia bloc in parliament. The head of the Political Council of the Sadr Bureau said Saturday that the Sadr group was pulling out of the government "because its demands haven't been met". Sadr spokesman Sheikh Salah Al-Obeidi said that representatives of the Sadr group and the Islamic Fadila Party intended to discuss "future cooperation". His remarks were interpreted as a reference to possible cooperation in Basra and other oil- rich southern governorates. Obeidi said that the "alliance is suffering from many crises, especially because some of the leading partners are double dealing, controlling certain decisions and forging alliances without consulting with other partners." For his part, Nadim Al-Jabiri, secretary-general of Al-Fadila Party who had withdrawn earlier from the Iraqi Alliance Bloc, didn't rule out cooperation with the Sadr Group and other parties. The withdrawal of the Sadr Group is unlikely to have an immediate effect on the government, for it still has the backing of four major groups (the two main Kurdish parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Daawa Party) and a number of deputies loyal to Ayatollah Al-Sistani. US occupation forces are chasing down the leaders of Sadr's Mahdi Army in Baghdad and the southern governorates. They also still deny Mahdi Army officials access to Sadr's offices, which were shut down last month.

War criminal

Our real problem is not about fixing past errors of the US administration. It is about preventing it from doing further damage. Our problem is not what Bush wants to do, but what the American system doesn't seem capable of doing. Every society, especially at crucial transitional moments, experiences moments of doubt in which the wrong people can take over. But long-standing democracies, such as the American, are supposed to have enough checks and balances to restrain personal whims, rein in dictatorial streaks, and curb extremist ideologies. Unfortunately, we don't see this happening. The 2000 elections brought a man of limited experience and skills, a man with extremist leanings, to the mightiest position in the world. Bush came to the presidency, if you may recall, by order from the Supreme Court. His rival, Al Gore, was ahead in the overall vote.

A few months after Bush took office, extraordinary things happened. In the ensuing hysteria, an extremist ideological clique managed to hijack the US regime and place its immense capabilities at the service of an idiotic political agenda. The Democrats bowed to the storm, not wanting their "patriotism" to be brought into question. But the great failure was that of the entire regime, a regime that was so shocked and paralysed that it allowed a deranged cabal to monopolise decision-making. That cabal proceeded to bully everyone right and left, and using all legitimate and illegitimate means it managed to promote its agenda for world hegemony. The war on terror was nothing but a smokescreen used to conceal its sinister agenda.

……True democracies, such as the American, are supposed to spring into action and bring leaders to account when they lie to the public, and especially when they use deception and misinformation to justify an illegitimate war against a member state of UN, bullying even the UN Security Council into submission. But the US system failed to do so. For a long time it seemed that the Americans were willing to swallow the insult and turn a blind eye to what their leaders were doing, but only on condition that they do well in Iraq. That's why the institutions of the US regime failed to take timely action. That's why the Democrats failed to rally public opinion and stop the war on Iraq during the presidential elections of 2004. And that's why Bush won a second term, and with a comfortable majority. Ahead of the 2004 elections, I wrote an article calling on the American people to feel remorse for having elected a man so obviously unfit for office. I pleaded against Bush getting a second term, for he was a clear menace to the security of the US and the world.

RESISTANCE

Broomfield depicts Iraq horrors

The Battle for Haditha by Broomfield is based on a horrible real-life story in Haditha, and depicts four American marines who shoot 24 innocent men, women and children in the town in retaliation for the death of a US marine that was killed by a roadside bomb. The film is a response to what Broomfield sees as sanitized media accounts of the Iraq war in the world. "I think this film can play a role, provide information at a time when there is very little information coming out of Iraq that is not from official sources. This is a war with very little information," said Broomfield.

Quote of the day: First of all, using violence to try and stop a war seems to be the most ineffective and wasteful method. The second-most ineffective method of stopping a war is appealing to the politicians who probably started it. The most effective, but most risky method of stopping a war is appealing directly to the soldiers involved. That's why there are often laws against it. It appears the most most effective legal method is organizing and mobilizing the populace. General strikes and mass demonstrations seems to get the attention of the authorities when reason and common sense won't. That's why the involvement of a national labor union is important. – From a post on Daily Kos called “Fighting Back Against War"

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