War News for Sunday, November 27, 2005
: One of Saddam Hussein's lawyers says he will ask for another postponement when the Iraqi dictator's trial resumes Monday. Khames Hameed al-Ubaidi told CNN the defense team has had trouble getting up to speed on the case because of security concerns. Lawyers for two other defendants have been assassinated in recent weeks.
: President Bush plans what is being billed as a major speech on Iraq for Wednesday amid signs that the administration is changing course.
Victory Parades in 2006
The White House has announced its plans to withdraw from Iraq, saying that a blueprint advocated last week by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to its own.
It also signalled its acceptance of a recent US Senate amendment designed to pave the way for a phased US military withdrawal from the country.
The statement by Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, came in response to a commentary published in The Washington Post by Joseph Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next year "in large numbers". Centcom Watch
: Approximately 550 Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team attached to the 2nd Marine Division, kicked off
Operation Tigers (Nimur) this morning in the Ma’Laab District of eastern Ramadi. Kicked off? Sounds like a football match with insurgents eh?
Gatekeeper, Confidant, Courier
: A close family member as well as Coalition sources claimed earlier this week that a gatekeeper and confidant of Abu Mu’sab al-Zarqawi, Bilal Mahmud Awad Shebah, aka Abu Ubaydah, who reportedly met weekly with the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is dead. Zarqawi Lt no longer being used?
: The people of al Anbar Province were reconnected to their country’s capital and the rest of the world today as telecommunication services were restored to the region.Well, wait for the bloggers in Ramadi to tell about the football match.
: Before the project, the area was a dirt road which turned to mud after every rain. The project, prepared by Salvadorian soldiers, lasted 30 days and consisted of hardening the ground and laying 1250 meters of asphalt.Wow!, 1.25km of road, now that is progress!
Opinion and Commentary
War of Terror
The November 13 exposure of a secret prison in Baghdad, where American troops found interior ministry police commandos torturing alleged members of the guerilla resistance, has been followed this week by the blatant assassination of a Sunni Arab leader.
At 4 a.m. on November 23, dozens of men wearing Iraqi army uniforms sealed off the streets and forced their way into the Baghdad home of 70-year-old Sheik Kadhim Sarhid Hemaiyem, a leader of one of the largest Sunni tribes, the Dulaimi. Many members of the tribe reportedly support or participate in the armed resistance to the US occupation. In a matter of minutes, the elderly sheik, three of his sons and a son-in-law were gunned down.
Over recent weeks, the sheik had been giving political and practical support to an election campaign by his brother. Whereas the overwhelming majority of Sunni Arabs boycotted the elections in January, millions may cast a ballot on December 15. This follows calls by religious and tribal leaders such as Hemaiyem for opponents of the occupation to vote. Sunni-based parties could win 15 to 20 percent of the seats in the next parliament.
A police spokesman claimed the killers were “terrorists” seeking to intimidate Sunnis into not voting. However, the sheik’s brother, Abdel Moniem Sarhid Hemaiyem, rejected the allegation, telling the Los Angeles Times: “They attacked us at 4 a.m., during the curfew, so they had to be from the authorities. I want to ask the ministers of defence and interior ... why are they killing us?”
A spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the umbrella organisation for thousands of Sunni clerics, also blamed the interior ministry, stating: “We warn the government against continuing this tyranny.”
The major Shiite parties in the government are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da’awa organisation of the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. SCIRI leader Bayan Jabr is the interior minister. Many interior ministry officials and police are allegedly members of SCIRI’s Badr Organisation militia, which was formed in Iran in the 1980s to fight against the Iraqi military in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Both Da’awa and SCIRI backed the US invasion in 2003, seeing it as the means of gaining power and privilege for the Shiite religious elite, which had been sidelined by the previous predominantly Sunni Baathist regime. In the elections in January this year, the Sunni boycott and a large Shiite turnout enabled the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to win close to 48 percent of the vote and more than half the seats in the parliament.
After the Jaafari government was formed in April and SCIRI took control of the interior ministry, reports of extra-judicial killings steadily increased. The British Independent’s Iraq correspondent Kim Sengupta commented on November 20: “Behind the daily reports of suicide bombings and attacks on coalition forces is a far more shadowy struggle, one that involves tortured prisoners huddled in dungeons, death-squad victims with their hands tied behind their backs, often mutilated with knives and electric drills, and distraught families searching for relations who have been ‘disappeared’.”
The Observer reported the same day that human rights groups claimed to have “hundreds of cases on their books” of Iraqis who had “disappeared” into the hands of government security forces.
The violence has fueled the sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis. Sunni extremist groups such as Al Qaeda are carrying out increasingly frequent suicide and car bombings on Shiite civilian targets, killing and maiming hundreds every month. The New York Times reported on November 20 that as many as 20 cities and towns around Baghdad are “segregating,” with Sunni and Shiite families having to abandon their homes in areas where their sect was the minority.
The dirty war of death squads and torture could not be taking place without the full knowledge of the White House, the US military or the US intelligence agencies. The activities of the Iraqi government are scrutinised by the largest American embassy in the world with over 3,000 officials. US advisors have been slotted into every ministry. For decades, the use of death squads has been a hallmark of US operations from South East Asia to Latin America.VP of Torture
Cheney declined an interview, and his aides declined to comment on the vice president's negotiations with Congress and critics within the administration. But a senior administration official says Cheney will continue to confront critics and press his case for the war.
"He's not the kind of person who is distracted by something like this," said Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming who served while Cheney was the state's lone House member. "He has strong beliefs. He will keep doing what he has been doing."
Cheney's highly public insertion into the war debate came shortly before Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a 73-year-old decorated Marine veteran and Pentagon supporter who has served in Congress for 31 years, called for an immediate pullout of troops.
Murtha ridiculed Cheney for attacking war critics such as himself, noting that the vice president is a "guy who got five (military) deferments."
Cheney seemed to soften his criticism in response, praising Murtha as "a good man, a Marine, a patriot." But the vice president also repeated his incendiary charge that some war opponents, those who say the administration manipulated intelligence, are "dishonest and reprehensible."
While such hard-line language fires up the conservative base that remains fond of Cheney, it does not appear to resonate with much of the country. Polls show Cheney is less popular than Bush, who himself is suffering from the lowest ratings of his presidency.
Further, Cheney's image has not been helped by such moves as his decision to attend an upcoming fundraiser for Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the indicted former House majority leader. A cartoon in The Washington Post recently showed a glowering Cheney, angry that Bush pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey.
Among Republicans, 80 percent in a Nov. 11-13 Gallup survey said they approved of Bush's job performance, while 68 percent approved of Cheney's. And a majority of all 1,006 voters surveyed rated Cheney's advice to the president as "bad."Meet the New Saddam
Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.
'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'No accountability
This article is a crock of shit, and the staff at the Observer should see what Allawi is doing here; see this article also, where Allawi bemoans the conduct of Paul Bremer and he says to Garner “If you think that an Iraqi politician like me will take orders from an American officer, forget it.” Well that's because he gets his orders from Downing Street.
The UN believes that more than 30,000 civilians have been killed since the war, about eight times the number of deaths caused by 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. Only one or two Iraqi army battalions are capable of independent operations, while subversive sectarian militias have infiltrated Iraqi police and security forces. There are massive deficiencies in the delivery of essential public services, such as water and electricity.
Yet in Britain, the bloody fallout from Iraq is second-order news. There is no sense of outrage, no call for accountability and no demand for a new strategy. The atmosphere is one of sullen acceptance. The last time the government allotted parliamentary time for a full debate on Iraq was 20 July 2004, which was only the second occasion since the fateful vote of 18 March 2003.
Last week, in testimony to the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was clear about who was to blame for the carnage in Iraq: the terrorists. This simplification will no longer do. In the face of Britain's most egregious foreign policy misjudgment since Suez, ministers can no longer remain in denial and can no longer refuse an objective examination of the causes of the bloodbath of Iraq.
This is why MPs from all major parties, including two former cabinet ministers, have tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling for a committee of privy counsellors to examine the political decision-making prior to and in the aftermath of the invasion.
This would not be an abstract exercise in aetiology. It is imperative for an understanding of where we go from here. It is impossible to discern the problems in Iraq today without proper regard to the misjudgment and incompetence of the invasion and occupation.
The future of Iraq depends as much on the battle for hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as it does on the fight against the insurgents. As Sir Robert Thompson, the military historian, has observed, ignoring the non-military aspect of an insurgency is like 'trying to play chess while the enemy is playing poker'. Acknowledged counter-insurgency theory is unambiguous; the strategic centre of gravity is the will of the people, whose support is indispensable.
We must attempt to understand the minds of the insurgents and of those who give active or passive support to them. Insurgents do not need to win, only not to lose. We must seek to deny them a permissive operating environment and to do that, we need to understand how and why it has come about.
At the heart of the problem is the enduring perception of occupation, a phenomenon which has been perpetuated by a catalogue of coalition mistakes. There was a catastrophic failure to plan for postwar Iraq; prolonged delays in the transfer of sovereign power and restoration of public services; the total disbandment of Iraqi security forces, creating a power vacuum which invited upheaval; and the excessive use of military force, as in Falluja, provoking anger and retaliation.
Recent disclosures, once denied by the Pentagon, over the use of white phosphorus and of thermobaric fuel-air explosives, which cause devastating and indiscriminate harm, and allegations that civilian targets, such as the broadcaster al-Jazeera, were considered for military strikes only compound the perception of a malign occupation.