War News for Sunday, 24 July, 2005
Bring 'em on: Iraqi policeman killed by mortar fire in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iranian diplomatic mission comes under fire in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi killed in mortar attack on US base in Ishaki
Bring 'em on: Iraqi soldier killed and three wounded in IED attack in Samarrah
: Khalid is free.
: The Army's top personnel officer acknowledged this week that the service will probably miss its recruiting goal this year, the first public admission by a senior Army official and a stark reminder of the Iraq war's impact on enlistments.
Stressed troops turning to drugs
: Two years into the occupation of Iraq the menace of drug abuse appears to be afflicting American troops. Aware of the debilitating effect drugs had on the morale and effectiveness of GIs in the Vietnam War, the authorities are attempting to stifle a repeat in Iraq. Aside from random urine tests and barrack room searches, commanders have asked their troops to inform on colleagues. In the past month a soldier has been arrested for selling cocaine and two per cent of the troops from one brigade have been charged with drug and alcohol abuse.
Are you surprised?
Lawyers for the Defense Department are refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. As Susan says in the comments: "So, Bush and company don't want the release of photos of Geneva Convention violations because that would be ...... a Geneva Convention violation!"
: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sought to placate Sunni Arab members of a key constitutional group whose boycott of proceedings threatens to delay the drafting of the new charter. "No constitution will be written without the participation of all the communities of Iraq, especially that of Sunni Arabs," Talabani told reporters after a meeting with newly-arrived US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Refugees cause housing boom
: Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have been fleeing the violence and kidnappings for the safety and conveniences of nearby Damascus and Amman. And with their influx to Syria's and Jordan's capitals, the high demand for housing has sent rents skyrocketing and caused a real estate bubble that will probably be deflated only when Iraq is free of the daily barrage of suicide bombings that has made it so treacherous. While the high cost of post-invasion living has made it harder for poorer Iraqis to find housing, it has been a boon for many Syrian and Jordanian homeowners and real estate developers who are profiting from the influx of Iraqis.
Opinion and Commentary
Time to go
There is a paralysis inside Parliament. Atavistic political structures have insulated the Blair regime from public opinion. The first-past-the-post electoral system is an affront to democratic functioning. The conformism and timidity of the opposition parties have played a vital role in reinforcing Blair's weightless hegemony. This is reflected by a neutered public television service which rarely allows programmes outside the narrow parliamentary spectrum to achieve a hearing.
It is time for Blair to go. He took a calculated risk when he decided to back Bush and US foreign policy. He proclaimed proudly that in order to defeat Saddam Hussein a 'blood price would have to be paid.' It is being paid by tens of thousands of Iraqi dead and now by innocent Londoners. A British Colonel has been charged with committing crimes in Iraq. If we were to apply the norms of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, it is the politicians who gave the orders and justified the war who should also be in the dock as real war criminals.
The root cause of suicide terrorism is occupation, not Islam, and not the other way around, as the War Party and its ill-informed adherents so righteously claim.
"Don't you remember Sept. 11? We were attacked!"
As Harry Browne has pointed out, history does not begin on 9/11. In fact, American intervention in the Middle East dates back to 1919, when U.S. participation in World War I helped turn the entire region over to the British and the French, who then drew borders to their own liking for the states of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, what was Palestine, etc.
Since the Second World War, the U.S. government has dominated each of the Middle Eastern states at one time or another, and consistently a majority of them. It has supported bloody coups; backed fascist monsters like Shah Reza Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak; armed and financed bothsides of wars; propped up puppet kings, sultans, and emirs; and helped the Israeli government kill, steal, and destroy with our money. To top it off, it has now waged a bloody war and a terrible blockade of Iraq – all from bases in the "land of two Holy Places," the Arabian Peninsula.
Surprised that revenge was taken? We're lucky it took so long.
They write books
For years politicians have boosted their pensions and burnished their memorials by publishing heavyweight accounts of their time at the top. Now even civil servants such as the former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, once our man in Baghdad, are getting in on the act.
Both have books due out in the autumn. "One of the most important political memoirs of the decade ... a riveting and candid memoir of life behind the diplomatic scenes," say Sir Christopher's publishers about his forthcoming book DC Confidential.
One of its more eyecatching claims is that Jonathan Powell, the prime minister's chief of staff, told the new Washington ambassador that Downing Street wanted him "to get up the arse of the White House and stay there".
Meanwhile the diaries of former Downing Street spin doctor Lance Price, also due in the autumn, are being promoted as "doing for the Blair administration what Yes, Minister did for the Thatcher years".
A letter from Sir Andrew Turnbull, the cabinet secretary, has arrived at Mr Price's home in France warning him that his account is "completely unacceptable" - a line which will surely end up in big print on the cover of his book, if his publishers are prepared to defy the ban.
But will they? That is in doubt after Sir Andrew warned Mr Price that he could not consent "to the publication of a book of this nature".
Sir Andrew's attempt at a total prohibition is a first, but has boosted the book's chances of inclusion in the Westminster blockbusters' traditional niche in publishers' Christmas lists.
It is a niche which used to be dominated by former ministers. But this year something is different. The few political books that have attracted attention are all by former officials, not ministers.
"There is no really big political book out this autumn," says Iain Dale, founder of Politico's publishers. "Nobody is publishing them".
This has puzzled those who expected that Tony Blair's impending departure would unleash a crop of racy insider accounts of the Blair years, in the way Thatcher's downfall did in the 1990s. So far, it hasn't happened.
Or not by his colleagues anyway. Above stairs, lips stay sealed. "It's when a government starts to go down that all the good books usually come out," says Michael Fishwick, publishing director of HarperCollins. "Like a meteorite entering the earth's atmosphere, bits start to come off."
Do mention the War
That consolation has now been shattered by a week which produced another unprecedented event in Britain: armed police shooting dead a suspected suicide bomber at point-blank range in front of commuters. More alarm in the capital; more sheer fear for some Londoners and twitchiness and great inconvenience for many others; more evacuated tubes, wailing sirens, clattering helicopters and anxious phone calls to loved ones.
And more of Tony Blair solemnly declaring that the most important thing is not to let the terrorists disrupt normal life even as he and key cabinet ministers abandoned their usual business to scramble to the basement of Number 10 for another crisis session of Cobra.
Ministers found it trickier to calibrate the most appropriate response to the second week of emergency. The first time around, the Home Secretary went into default crisis mode and got himself over to the House of Commons to make a statement to MPs. At the Cobra meeting, Charles Clarke discussed whether he should make another emergency appearance on Thursday night before MPs departed for their 80 day break.
Grief for White people only
I've been stunned these last few days by the juxtaposition of American reactions to the July 7 terrorist attacks in London, where 59 died, and the huge July 17 attack of a single suicide bomber in Musayyib, Iraq, where 71 people died.
The attacks in London hit us like a mini-9/11, our horror augmented by their occurrence in a kindred Western country. We know the stories and names of the people of all walks of life, including tourists, who were wantonly struck down in London. Our distress is heightened by hearing and reading eyewitness accounts in our own mother tongue.
Would that we all knew Arabic fluently and had it streaming into our kitchens and living rooms. If we did, I doubt that we could live with ourselves as Americans. Musayyib's dead are not known by name and are never seen. They count only as statistics, human lives dispensable for the sake of an allegedly greater good. But what happened in Musayyib last weekend has occurred all over Iraq on a daily basis, ever since we declared victory in 2003. The equivalent would be random daily bombings all over the United Kingdom over the last two years.
The Law of Unintended Consequences
I wish it were so. But it's not. Consider that while in Tehran, Jafari also paid tribute to the father of the Iranian theocracy, visiting the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. That the fanaticism of Khomeini is very much alive in today's Iran was clear from the election last month of one of his original Revolutionary Guards to be the country's new president.
In making a pilgrimage to Shiite Iran, the Shiite Iraqi government also was paying homage to the longtime refuge and supporter of Iraqi Shiite revolutionaries, including Jafari himself, who spent 10 years in exile there. Jafari also reiterated an earlier statement in which his government apologized for Iraq's role in the long war with Iran.
Now, thanks to the U.S. invasion, a new alliance is being formed between Iran and Iraq that threatens to further destabilize the politics of the Middle East. It wasn't supposed to work out this way.
Forced democratization of Iraq, according to its neocon architects, was supposed to secure oil for the U.S., protect Israel, open markets to Western corporations and, oh yeah, maybe even decrease terrorism. After the invasion, however, the U.S., faced with decidedly more hostility and fewer flowers than expected, was loath to allow elections, because their outcome would probably not produce a pliant government.
Then Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shiite religious leader, threatened to take his followers into the streets against the foreign occupation if one-person-one-vote elections were not allowed. And when it became clear the "wrong" guys might win the elections the U.S. was forced to hold, the Bush White House, according to an investigative article by Seymour Hersh in the current New Yorker, tried to buy the vote for former CIA asset Ayad Allawi.
Not coming to a cinema or movie screen any time soon:
The War of the Words.