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

Monday, September 24, 2007

News & Views 09/24/07

Photo: This photo came from website, with the caption “Reconstruction in Baghdad: Blast Walls”. There was no attribute as to who took the photo. The writing on the walls says “No No America” and “No No Occupation”

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem


IRAQ: IDPs in Baghdad suburb stage protest, demand protection

Nearly 400 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Baghdad's southern district of Saydiyah took to the streets on 23 September, demanding government protection to enable them to return to their homes. "Al-Saydiyah is now a place where you find many armed criminals who have occupied it and are thriving by killing and kidnapping. These criminals have played, and are still playing, with the lives of 50,000 residents - Shias, Sunnis, Christians, rich and poor," said Ali al-Amiri, 44, who represents the displaced families of Sayidyah.

According to al-Amiri, 4,730 families, about 23,650 individuals, have been displaced from the once peaceful Saydiyah over the past 18 months due to the increasing sectarian violence in this particular neighbourhood. Nearly 2,000 others have been killed in Saydiyah, he said. "We want joint forces from the Iraqi army and police along with the Americans to clear our area of those terrorists to enable us return to our homes," said al-Amiri who led the demonstration to Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, home of the key government offices, including those of the prime minister and president.

IRAQ: Several local NGOs close down in Mosul

At least five local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have recently closed their offices in Mosul, 390km north of Baghdad, as a result of increased violence against aid workers and volunteers, according to sources within the NGO community. Of the five, two provided humanitarian assistance to displaced families, one dealt with women’s rights and the other two were working with children. One of the latter was supporting children with cancer or psychological problems. “We had to stop our work in Mosul after three aid workers from local NGOs were killed by extremists… in displacement camps,” said Saluwa Abdel-Aziz, a member of a Mosul-based NGO, Iraqi Voices of Freedom. The five local NGOs - Mosul Human Rights Association, Supporting Children With Cancer, Ruweida Aid Agency and two others which preferred not to be mentioned for security reasons - all received threatening letters telling them to stop their activities in Mosul, Abdel-Aziz said. According to a local association responsible for registering local NGOs in Mosul, Tal Afar and nearby towns, humanitarian assistance in the region has been decreasing as aid workers are unwilling to offer their services under such threatening conditions.

Iraqi villagers say rebels Iran seeks are near

Turkey and Iran have accused the Iraqi Kurds of protecting the Kurdish rebel groups. Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, has demanded that the U.S., which has only a small military presence in northern Iraq, do something to stop the PKK. Iran accuses the United States of supporting PEJAK, and the issue seems destined to get tangled up in the U.S.-Iranian rivalry in Iraq, where the American military seized an Iranian member of a trade delegation last week in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. The U.S. said the man had smuggled sophisticated, armor-piercing roadside bombs into Iraq, but the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, demanded the Iranian's release, saying he was in Iraq by invitation. On Thursday, Iran closed at least four border crossings into northern Iraq in protest.

Last week, at the final peshmerga checkpoint before the villages and the Iranian border, the commander confirmed that PEJAK and PKK fighters are operating in Kurdish Iraq. Four times he warned a group of journalists that the groups' fighters were in the mountains just beyond the post and that he couldn't help if they went farther and something went wrong. The shelling, which started Aug. 16, has assumed a pattern. It starts every two or three days and stops, then starts again, said Ali, the peshmerga minister. No one's been killed so far, but two women have been wounded, and Aziz said the occupants of eight villages had been forced from their homes. "We're trying hard to prevent the use of additional force," Ali said. "We'll try to find a diplomatic way. "War would be the last choice, because every single battle is not to anyone's benefit." For the villagers, it's hell now.

Now we have Article 41

They crossed the high seas; they poured out their billions; they sacrificed their sons … to "liberate" Iraqis … but what we, the women of Iraq got, is article 41. In 1959 the Iraqi government amended the Personal Status Law. Article 118 came into being as part of our constitution. It gave the women of Iraq the most progressive of all Arab and Islamic women's rights legislation until this very day. No discrimination in salaries, no discrimination in uniforms, the separated Mums get to keep the home until the children are of age, and so many other items that made the female community of Iraq one of the most progressive female communities within the Arab, Islamic and regional states – from that time … until we got "liberated". Now we have article 41.

In brief, it says go to your cleric and he will deal with whatever issues you have. Girls had the choice either to don the Islamic hijab or walk abroad in safety, quaintly dressed in all manner of modern garments. It was a private matter that was entirely resolved inside the family and according to its own convictions, its own beliefs. Now it's not safe for a girl to step outside her home unless fully covered. How much more liberated can you get?? Girls used to be free to drive their cars in safety all over the city to all appropriate hours. Now it has suddenly become shameful for them to do so. Why?? Why have we lost our rights? For what have we been pushed back into the dark ages? How can this be liberation if my daughter has fewer rights than I did at her age? If she has less control over her life than I did? Fewer choices than even her grandmother had?

Beyond Blackwater

It's Blackwater all the time right now in the news. But as we try to figure out what happened in Al Nisour square, where at least 11 people were killed by Blackwater Security Contractors on Sunday, according to witnesses and the Ministry of Interior, the rest of Iraq is still ticking and still newsworthy. Today is the day of prayers. For the second week in a row there is no curfew after a year of Friday days spent at home and walking to the mosque during a four hour curfew. At the Sunni Friday prayers in Baghdad Sheikh Harith al Obaid held up a slip of paper and asked who would be held accountable for the slaying of an entire family in Washash, a neighborhood near the shopping district of Mansour in Baghdad.

Last night Hammoudi Naji, a top Mahdi Army leader in the area, was shot with his cousin and another man as he walked home. Someone had to pay and the Mahdi Army, the militia led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, took revenge. According to police they busted into a home and killed four women. A resident said it was the home of the suspected assassin. When they found no men they killed the women. At midnight clashes ensued between the militia and the Iraqi Army. By 8 a.m. the neighborhood was locked down. A Sunni family packed up their things and tried to leave. This was no place for them now. With their precious belongings in the back of their truck they crept away. But the militia opened fire on their truck and they never made it to a safer place. That is what residents told us. The Sheikh on Friday led his congregation in prayer. But like every Friday in both Sunni and Shiite mosques across Iraq after thanking God the sermon turns to the blood and politics outside. They ask who will pay for all the blood shed.

Why should Iraq be in Guinness Book

I was thinking about this idea for a while and asking myself why my country is not in Guinness book of records yet! I mean we have more than one reason to be in that famous book. Well if you don’t believe, jus read the following: We (I mean Iraq) changed our governments six times in less than four years starting from the two US governors Jay Garner and Paul Bremer then the governing council when we had a new president each month ( 11 presidents in 9 months) then Allawi government then Jafari government and now we have Al Maliki government.

We have one of the biggest cabinets in the world. No, we have 36 ministries. I even cant count them but I know that we even have ministers who do nothing but traveling from one country to another and getting paid. We have the largest number of US troops. We have more than 160 thousands all over Iraq. Im afraid that the continuous immigration of Iraqis will cause a problem to these troops because Im afraid that one day will come and the US troops would find the Iraqi houses empty. The will have that strange feeling of loneliness and they would ask their commanders “Can you tell me what are we doing here Sir?” We seem to have the longest blast walls in the world.

How the Iraq Occcupation Has Turned Friendship Between Families Into Sectarian Hatred

In Baghdad, the focus of US military action, there are a million displaced people in a population of four million. They are two Iraqi families, one Shia, the other Sunni, who once lived in what were called "mixed" neighbourhoods. Now they are among the 2 million internal refugees in the country, a vast and desperate pool of the dispossessed whose numbers have risen massively along with US troop "surge" operations. The forced migration, called "a human tragedy unprecedented in the country's history" in the latest Iraqi Red Crescent report, has uprooted communities from homes they have occupied for decades. In Baghdad, the focus of US military action, there are a million displaced people in a population of four million.

Another two million people, according to UN estimates, have fled abroad. Amnesty International, in a report released today, identifies Britain as forcibly returning more Iraqi refugees than any other country in Europe. But it is the internal diaspora that is causing acute problems in this fractured society, with numbers rising by 71 per cent in just one month, according to the Red Crescent. The Independent has spoken to two families, the al-Rawis and the al-Amirys, who had been forced to flee their homes. In both cases the horrors they endured have turned tolerance and friendship across the religious divide into sectarian anger and hatred.

Deteriorating security making doctors tougher

Affected by the deteriorating security in the war-torn country, Iraqi physicians, who put themselves at high risk, appear to be losing their courtesy when treating or examining patients, causing the latter to complain. Between denial, justification, and approval, the independent news agency Voices of Iraq pieced together views from doctors and their patients on the changing mode of Iraqi physicians. Hani Jawad Galib, a retired clerk, who was diagnosed with a chronic disease that forced him to be a permanent client to doctors, told VOI "Half of the Iraqi doctors I visited seemed tough, the rest addressed their patients tenderly, but only a small number were generally kind-hearted, cooperative and encouraging."

AMSI Condemns Terrorist Militias

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) pointed out that the criminal militias embarked on the killing of four citizens and the dislodging more than fifty families. Those terrorist militias have also burned a number of homes with injustice and aggression... Having completed of this despicable mission the occupation forces attended Friday evening to simply impose a ban on walking. The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) made a press statement condemning these criminal terrorist acts which collude to carry out each acts with the occupation and terrorist militia in an integrated manner. AMSI warns Iraqi people to stand against those aggressions and confront with. In such schemes those forces has sought to break up meat for the Iraqi people and stir up sedition to sectarian interests and the interests of other regional states and involving them in the same objective.


U.S. Aims to Lure Insurgents With 'Bait'

"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces." In documents obtained by The Washington Post from family members of the accused soldiers, Didier said members of the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group visited his unit in January and later passed along ammunition boxes filled with the "drop items" to be used "to disrupt the AIF [Anti-Iraq Forces] attempts at harming Coalition Forces and give us the upper hand in a fight."

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program should be examined "quite meticulously" because it raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items. "In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war, if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back," Fidell said. [They are continuing the policy of “guilty until proven innocent” – which will become the norm in the USA also. – dancewater]

Iraq Oil Deal Gets Everybody's Attention

The oil deal signed between Hunt Oil and the government in Iraq's Kurdish region earlier this month has raised eyebrows, in no small part because it appears to undercut President Bush's hope that Iraq could draft national legislation to share revenue from the country's vast oil reserves. [This is false. – dancewater] Making the deal more curious is that it was crafted by one of the administration's staunchest supporters, Ray Hunt. Hunt, chief executive of the Dallas-based company, has been a major fundraiser and contributor to Bush's presidential campaigns. He also serves on the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, putting him close to the latest information developed by the nation's intelligence agencies. If Hunt is signing regional oil deals in Iraq, critics ask, what does he know about the prospects for a long-stalled national oil law that others don't?

Since the deal was made public, it has drawn the ire of the Iraqi national government, which has called the agreement illegal. "Any oil deal has no standing as far as the government of Iraq is concerned," Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters earlier this month. "All these contracts have to be approved by the federal authority before they are legal. This [contract] was not presented for approval. It has no standing." It also has caught the eye of maverick Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a presidential candidate. He has called for a congressional investigation to probe the Bush administration's role in the deal as well as the implications for a national oil law in Iraq. "As I have said for five years, this war is about oil. The Bush administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up their oil," Kucinich said. "We have no right to set preconditions for Iraq which lead Iraq to giving up control of their oil. The constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property of all Iraqi people."

How George Bush became the new Saddam

I kept phoning Iraqis but few answered. When I told a friend in Baghdad that no one was taking my calls, he suggested that people didn’t answer unknown numbers because they were afraid of threats. Apparently, according to Arab custom, if you warn your victim before an attack, it’s not a crime. Perhaps—but you can read too much ancient custom into Iraq. My suspicion was that they were dead. My hope was that they were avoiding embarrassing calls from girlfriends when they were with their wives. Iraqis’ love lives can be as complicated as their politics.

When I finally got through to one friend, he was in Damascus, along with several million of his countrymen. “Come to Falluja,” Ahmed said. “You can kill al-Qaeda with my troop.” It wasn’t clear how I was supposed to get to Falluja from Baghdad, although it is only 50 km west of the capital. Ahmed wasn’t sure it was a good idea to try. Passing through Abu Ghraib, a large suburban area outside the capital where Saddam and then the Americans ran a notorious prison, could be a real problem, he said. There, both insurgents and Shia militias often set up checkpoints and kidnap travellers. The Americans, mind you, have a more optimistic view of the Abu Ghraib situation. A few weeks later, I would watch Ambassador Ryan Crocker tell Congress of a real milestone in co-operation between former Sunni insurgents and their enemies in the Shia-dominated administration: over 1,700 Sunni tribesmen in Abu Ghraib were officially hired by the government as security forces. Ambassador Crocker may have been accurate—it’s just that the positive steps happening in Iraq shouldn’t be called milestones. They are more like yard-pebbles. Or even inch-dust.

“Come to Damascus—we can drive from here and the road is safe,” Ahmed said. He listed the various tribal militias controlling the 450-km road through Anbar province from the Syrian border to Falluja that could protect us. It seemed to be typical of the recent over-hyped success of the Anbar Awakening that you would have to fly from Baghdad to Damascus, and then drive six hours back across the desert, to get only 40 minutes outside Baghdad in order to see it for yourself (you could go with the U.S. Army as well, but you learn mostly about Americans if you are with Americans and end up sounding like a visiting columnist for the New York Times). Ahmed said that when he and his “troop” (his quaint word for what sounded death-squadish to me) captured al-Qaeda fighters around Falluja, they shipped the leaders to the border for interrogation by Syrian intelligence. So far, he’d sent 12. You can’t blame him—even the Americans send suspects to Syria when they want them tortured. Just ask Maher Arar.

US moves in Iraq may push Iraqi and Iranian governments closer

Iran shut most of its border crossings with Northern Iraq on Monday to protest the US military's arrest of an Iranian official who had been visiting Iraq as part of an official delegation. The detention in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah of the Iranian, who was visiting Iraq at the behest of both the Iraqi central government and the semiautonomous Kurdish government in the north, has brought protests from the Iraqi government as well as rare signs of unhappiness with the US from the Kurds, who are usually the most pro-American of any Iraqi faction, the Associated Press reports. Iran closed major border crossings with northern Iraq on Monday to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian official the military accused of weapons smuggling, a Kurdish official said. The closings came four days after U.S. troops arrested an Iranian official during a raid on a hotel in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. U.S. officials said he was a member of the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that smuggles weapons into Iraq. But Iraqi and Iranian leaders said he was in the country on official business and with the full knowledge of the government. "This closure from the Iranian side will have a bad effect on the economic situation of the Kurdish government and will hurt the civilians as well," said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the autonomous Kurdish government. "We are paying the price of what the Americans have done by arresting the Iranian."

Iranian decision to close borders raises Kurdish trader's concerns

An economic analyst agreed with a number of Kurdish traders in the city of Arbil that Iraq's Kurdistan region's markets will witness an increase in prices and will be negatively affected by the Iranian decision to close border outlets with Kurdistan, which is being enforced as of today. However, the analyst asserted that in return Iran will lose a large market for Iranian products.
A spokesman for the regional government said earlier that Iran has closed its border outlets with the Iraqi Kurdistan region on Monday after U.S. forces arrested an Iranian citizen on Thursday.


Amnesty calls for help for Iraq refugees

Amnesty International has accused the international community of ignoring the flow of refugees from Iraq and warned that continuing to do so would spark "greater political instability across the wider region". In a report published in London, Amnesty called on countries to meet their "moral obligation" and "shoulder a fair share" of the millions of refugees who have fled their homes, especially to neighbouring Syria and Jordan. Amnesty said an estimated 2,000 people were leaving Iraq every day in the world's "fastest-growing displacement crisis". Syria had now hosted 1.4 million Iraqi refugees, while Jordan had given shelter to more than 500,000. An additional 2.2 million displaced people remained in Iraq. Especially Britain, as one of the leaders of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, should be helping to alleviate the crisis. It was "staggering" that Britain had instead forcibly returned more people to Iraq than any other European country, said the report.

IRAQ-PAKISTAN: Iraqi refugees in limbo awaiting third country resettlement

According to the UNHCR, there are over 150 Iraqi refugees in Pakistan today most of whom arrived after the 1991 Gulf war. Scattered in urban areas throughout Pakistan, their plight is now largely ignored by the world’s media, which understandably focuses more on the over two million Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

IRAQ-BRAZIL: First group of Palestinians arrive in Brazil from desert camp

The first batch of Palestinians previously living in a squalid refugee camp on the Iraqi-Jordanian border arrived in Brazil on 21 and 22 September and has been receiving medical assistance, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice.

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]


How Bush has created a moral vacuum in Iraq in which Americans can kill for free

Imagine a universe where a man can gun down women and children anytime he pleases, knowing he will never be brought to justice. A place where morality is null and void, and arbitrary killing is the rule. A place that has been imagined hitherto only in nightmarish dystopian fiction, like “1984,” or in fevered passages from Dostoevsky—or which existed during the Holocaust and Stalinist purges and the Dark Ages. Well, that universe exists today. It is called Iraq. And the man who made it possible is George W. Bush.

Take the case of the Blackwater guard who got drunk at a Green Zone party last Christmas Eve and reportedly boasted to his friends that he was going to kill someone. According to both Iraqi and U.S. officials, he stumbled out and headed provocatively over to the “Little Venice” section, a lovely area of canals where Iraqi officials live. He had an argument with an Iraqi guard, then shot him once in the chest and three times in the back. The next day Blackwater put him on a private plane out of the country—probably only because the incident involved a rare killing inside the Green Zone and the victim was a security guard for a high-ranking politician. That was it. The company has refused to disclose his name.


New Blog: Iraq Oil Report

Quote of the day: “In the past four years we have been lucky to have had many volunteers offering their services to help displaced families or those living in extreme poverty. Many local NGOs were upbeat about their delivery of supplies but everything has changed in the past six months,” said Hanif Mazhar, a spokesperson of the Association for NGOs in Northern Iraq.