Monday, February 27, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, February 27, 2006 Bring ‘em on:: U.S. soldier killed by small-arms fire on Sunday in central Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: U.S. soldier killed and three wounded after improvised explosive device detonates near Stryker vehicle in Mosul on Sunday. One soldier listed as very seriously injured and evacuated to Balad, Iraq. IRAQ NEWS Two “insurgents” killed and another wounded while trying to plant a bomb which exploded prematurely in main road between Iskandariya and Latifiya, south of Baghdad. Three civilians killed when roadside bomb explodes in Riyadh town, 60 km (40 miles) south west of Kirkuk. Mortar attack kills four and wounds 17 in Shola, a district in western Baghdad on Monday. Gunmen shoot dead owner of a glaze shop and an employee and wound five others in Baquba, 60 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi police arrest three suspects while planting bombs near a Shiite Shrine of al-Hur al-Riyahi near Kerbala, 110 km (68 miles) south of Baghdad. Civilian killed by Iraqi soldiers while he heading to work in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad. Iraqi police arrest 16 suspects on Saturday and Sunday in Tuz Khurmato, 70 km south of Kirkuk, and Dibis, 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Kirkuk, two of them while trying to plant bombs near Shiite mosque. Head of education directorate escapes assassination attempt when gunmen throw hand grenade on his office in Tuz Khurmato. Jill Carroll alive and Iraqi authorities optimistic about her release, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq says. Gunmen kill two youths playing soccer in Diyala and wound five in an attack Sunday. Two Iraqi soldiers wounded in ambush Monday in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of the capital. ”Insurgents” set ablaze oil pipeline in Safra U.S. soldier dies from non-combat related injuries Iraq lifts daytime curfew: Iraq has lifted the strict daytime curfew slapped on Baghdad for the past three days after sectarian unrest triggered by the bombing of a revered Shia shrine. Vehicle traffic and pedestrians were seen on the streets of Baghdad on Monday after the three-day security measure. Iraqi authorities had imposed a vehicle ban on the streets of Baghdad until Sunday. However, the night curfew that comes into effect from 8pm (1700 GMT) to 6am (0300 GMT) will continue in the capital and three other central provinces of Salah al-Din, Bail and Diyala, officials said on Monday. Despite the draconian security measures in the capital on Sunday, insurgents killed at least 23 Iraqis across the country. Saddam ends hunger strike: Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, has ended his hunger strike after foregoing food for 11 days, his lead lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said on Monday. "I met my client for seven hours on Sunday. At our request he had earlier ended the hunger strike he had been on for 11 days and he has lost four to five kilos (about 10 pounds)," al-Dulaimi said. "He is doing OK." Iraqi Sunnis in Samarra working tirelessly to rebuild Golden Mosque: "The initiative came soon after the explosion in solidarity with our Shiite brothers," Abu Oqba Al-Samarrai told IslamOnline.net Monday, February 27, after collecting golden pieces of the mosque's destroyed dome. He said people of different age groups have volunteered to remove the ruble in a love demonstration. "Elderly, women, children and men of [predominantly Sunni] Samarra rush to the tomb to remove the debris, using shovels and manual carriages," he explained. Women provided food and water to exhausted men after a long day of hard work to get the job done as soon as possible. "The men chant in unison Islamic songs to kill time," Samarrai said. Chairman of the Sunni Waqfs Ahmad Abdul Ghaffor Al-Samarrai has declared that his body will donate two billion Iraqi dinars ($1,350 million) to reconstruct the shrine. Top Zarqawi lieutenant #345,876 captured: Iraqi Interior Ministry forces have captured a senior aide to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi state television said on Monday. Iraqiya television named the man as Abu Farouq and said he was captured with five others in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital. REPORTS British firm to reshape holy Iraqi city of Najaf: In Britain, Milton Keynes has become a byword for soulless postwar urban planning. But the planning agency which created the town northwest of London from scratch in the 1970s, has now been asked to remodel the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. In 2004, Najaf in southern Iraq became the target of a full-scale US military assault aimed at ousting radical insurgents. Many died in the three-week onslaught that also devastated the centre of the historic Arabic city. Najaf's roots are said to date back to the 8th century, and the city attracts millions of pilgrims every year. In what is thought to be the first commission of its kind in post-war Iraq, the Baghdad authorities have appointed a British firm of town planners to remodel the entire centre of Najaf. While most of the residents of the holy city have probably never heard of Milton Keynes, the company assigned the job of reshaping Najaf was responsible for designing Britain's most infamous new town. Much has changed since 1970, when Richard Llewelyn Davies laid down plans for a new settlement to cater for the growing number of families fleeing London in search of a better life. By the 1980s Milton Keynes had become a byword for the pros and cons of post-war British urban planning. It was to some a spacious, modern, landscaped town, and to others a dystopic, soulless home to shopping centres and skateboard parks. By the late 1990s, some 170,000 people had moved to Milton Keynes, well below the intended target of a 250,000 population. Critics will doubtless ask why an Anglo-Saxon firm should be charged with re-planning a historic Arabic city. Iraq War depleted uranium contaminates Europe: "Did the use of Uranium weapons in Gulf War II result in contamination of Europe? Evidence from the measurements of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Aldermaston, Berkshire, UK," reported the Sunday Times Online (February 19, 2006) in a shocking scientific study authored by British scientists Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan. The highest levels of depleted uranium ever measured in the atmosphere in Britain, were transported on air currents from the Middle East and Central Asia; of special significance were those from the Tora Bora bombing in Afghanistan in 2001, and the "Shock & Awe" bombing during Gulf War II in Iraq in 2003. Out of concern for the public, the official British government air monitoring facility, known as the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), at Aldermaston, was established years ago to measure radioactive emissions from British nuclear power plants and atomic weapons facilities. The British government facility (AWE) was taken over 3 years ago by Halliburton, which refused at first to release air monitoring data. After the "Shock and Awe" campaign in Iraq in 2003, very fine particles of depleted uranium were captured with larger sand and dust particles in filters in Britain. These particles traveled in 7-9 days from Iraqi battlefields as far as 2400 miles away. The radiation measured in the atmosphere quadrupled within a few weeks after the beginning of the 2003 campaign, and at one of the 5 monitoring locations, the levels twice required an official alert to the British Environment Agency. Why Has the U.S. Military Refused to Show Depleted Uranium Hazard Awareness Training Video To Troops Now Serving In Iraq? Morrissey investigated for criticising Bush: Rock star Morrissey has revealed he was quizzed by the FBI and Special Branch over his criticism of the US and Britain. Morrissey, 46, has previously branded George Bush a terrorist and blasted the Iraq war. The ex-Smiths singer, who lives in Los Angeles, said: “The FBI and Special Branch have investigated me and I’ve been interviewed and taped. “They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government and similarly in England. “It didn’t take them long to realise I’m not.” The star, who said he did not belong to any political group, claimed it showed neither the UK nor America was truly democratic. He added: “You can’t really speak your mind and if you do, you’re investigated.” In 2004, Morrissey claimed Mr Bush had made America the world’s most “neurotic and terrorobsessed country”. Earlier that year, he told a Dublin gig he wished Mr Bush had died instead of Ronald Reagan. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS AFTERMATH OF THE SAMARRA MOSQUE BOMBING Tehran press: Occupying troops involved in Iraq's terrorist bombing: A morning daily commented Sunday on recent bitter developments in Iraq saying that the occupying troops and intelligence services were directly involved in terrorist acts in the war-torn country. Criticizing the 'barbaric attacks' on the holy shrines of Imam Hadi (AS) and Imam Hassan Al-Askari (AS) in Samarra last Wednesday, the English-language daily 'Kayhan International' said that the occupying forces have failed to act based on the Geneva Convention. "The Geneva Convention signed by the majority of countries -- just like many other international conventions -- has become a useless law on paper, leaving nations no other option but to rely on their own capabilities for ensuring national security and defense," the paper argued. It noted that based on the Geneva Convention, the US-led occupying forces, 'are fully held responsible' for what was currently underway in Iraq. Stressing that according to the existing evidences, American and European troops played a central role in committing horrible crimes in Iraq, the article said, "Samarra has been under the strict control of American troops since the beginning of occupation. "The cold-blooded terrorists took their time before planting the heavy explosives inside and outside the holy shrines in the early hours of the dawn," the daily noted. The daily further added given all facts which 'prove the direct involvement of occupying forces and intelligence services in the terrorist acts, particularly the recent bombings of the holy shrines in Samarra', the only way in front of the Muslim nations is to rely on their own capabilities to ensure their national security. The perfect controlled demolition: Take a good look at the picture above because I will tell you what I see. I see a damaged dome caused by an explosion set very professionally that the two minarets from the both sides weren’t effected by the explosion. Not even one single “gold plate” fall down from the minarets while the explosion was so heavy that caused the collapse of the dome. Tell me, Is this work of few terrorists who wants to finish the job as fast as possible? The one who did this, entered the mosque comfortably carrying explosions, he had all the time to study the construction of the building and find the perfect angles to set the explosions in a way that only the dome will be destroyed. This is a professional, controlled demolition and the bombs set by demolition experts. Now, let’s talk about the death of the three Iraqi journalists. TV anchor Attwar, age 26 years is a significant young woman born in Samarra, moved to Baghdad just 3-4 years ago, Attwar worked for Al-Jazeera first and then she moved to Al-Arbyia. I am not writing Attwar’s autobiography here but this has connection to the events, Attwar (I think you are smart enough to know that she is a Sunni) was well-known of her support for the Iraqi cause and blaming the occupation for the mess in Iraq. One ex-Abu Ghraib prisoner tells this story about Attwar: When I came out through the gates of Abu-Ghraib there was TV team waiting outside asked me for an interview, I said yes, then came TV anchor Attwar and asked “How do you fell no…. “she couldn’t finish her question because she burst in tears when she saw how do I look like, bare feet, torn clothes…. This is an example of Attwar mentality. What the media didn’t told on Attwar’s death is this: Attwar and her other two colleagues found dead but the TV team was four members, bad news four the US but one of the team survived the assassination to tell this: Attwar being born in Samarra, her relatives and friends are still there, she managed to interview eyewitnesses on the explosion and people live in the area around the mosque. Notice, they found the TV-team’s bodies later but didn’t found the documentary she made, Who benefit from killing Atwwar, Sunnis? She is a Sunni. Resistance? She sympathise with the resistance. Shiite riot? Samarra is dominated by Sunnis. The answer is simple, Attwar killed because she knew “too much”. Sunni Clerical Association of Muslim Scholars, issued a 4 points condemnation letter to the bombing of shrine in Samara, You can see a picture of the letter here (Arabic), I don’t want go translating the whole letter but point 2 in the letter is a very important point. It says the following: We were suspicious when the US ambassador in Iraq (Zalamy Khalil) said: “A sectarian government who run their own ethnical militias to be incharge of the security (in Iraq) will not be acceptable”, such announcement should be addressed in secret meetings and not through “Satellite TV channels”, such public announcement will rally and moblize the shiia supporters of the “list 555” (Shiite alliance party). SCAS are right, Zalamy Khalilzad announcement in public was meant to hit two birds in one stone, first an advertisement to the world that the US wants a united Iraq (for the public consumption only), second and the mean reason is he wanted to remind the Iraq alliances Shiites that they still under the US control. Worth to notice that all news agancies wrote Khalilzad announcment as: During a rare news conference, Khalilzad….example Shiite alliances didn’t understand the seriousness of Zalamy Khalil and they condemned “Khalilzad” announcement (Hakim, Jaffri..etc), several times they repeated that Iraq can make it’s own decisions and we don’t want an interfering in Iraqi matters from any external power, one Iraqi official said: “Zalmay Khalil went too far with his demands” Was the mosque explosion a continuation in the US and Shiite “dialog” but this time the US uses a “harsher language”?. By the way today the so called Al-Qaeda in Iraq condemned the bombing, Baath party condemned the bombing and many fractions of Iraqi resistance condemned it also. Who benefits from the Samarra attack? A short 'history': Juan Cole (see below two postings of February 24 and 25, 2006 for background) further states: "As a historian, I try not to comment on things for which I don't have good documentary evidence. It just becomes speculation. I'm at a disadvantage in saying anything at all about what goes on in Iraq, since I am not there and can't see it. I finesse this by trying to make a judicious choice with regard to published accounts in Arabic. I didn't see anything I trusted on this issue." At one level, Cole's academically 'safe' response is totally in order. On another level, some extra effort to discern and connect the dots behind the glare of the Corporate Media's superficial coverage, especially for a mini-historian, as I may humbly claim to be, would be in order, even though I also "am not there". In the end, the approach does reflect the interests (as in: Regard for one's own benefit or advantage; self-interest), doesn't it? "The sectarian violence that has shaken Iraq this week has demonstrated the power that the many militias here have to draw the country into a full-scale civil war, and how difficult it would be for the state to stop it, Iraqi and American officials say. The militias pose a double threat to the future of Iraq: they exist both as marauding gangs, as the violence on Wednesday showed, and as sanctioned members of the Iraqi Army and the police. (emphasis added)… The ascent of the militias inside the security forces was quick and quiet. Soon after the Shiite-led government swept into power last spring and Bayan Jabr, a senior Shiite politician, become interior minister, a housecleaning began, in which about 140 high-ranking officials were dismissed and political allies of the Shiites were put in their place, according to several former ministry officials who feared reprisals if they gave their names. In addition, recruitment drives brought hundreds of ordinary Shiites into the security forces, many of whom identified more strongly with their political parties than with the Iraqi state. By summer, an American government adviser to the ministry, Mathew Sherman, recalled writing in his notes that "the ministry is quickly being infiltrated by militia and by Badr people." "The bombing of a revered Shiite shrine which sparked a wave of violence in Iraq was the work of specialists, Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said Friday, adding that the placing of the explosives must have taken at least 12 hours. (emphasis added) "According to initial reports, the bombing was technically well conceived and could only have been carried out by specialists," the minister told Iraqia state television. Jaafar, who toured the devastated thousand-year-old shrine on Thursday a day after the bombing which brought down its golden dome, said "holes were dug into the mausoleum's four main pillars and packed with explosives." "Then the charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance," the minister added. To drill into the pillars would have taken at least four hours per pillar, he also estimated." Note: The third eye-witness (see previous posting), who emailed his version of what he saw before the above report, had said exactly that. Since it is in Arabic, I shall translate. "My name is Ahmad Al-Samarrai and I own an Internet Cafe in front of the shrine. The National Guard arrived at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and surrounded the shrine and prevented us from leaving, but we usually sleep at night in our shops fearing theft of the computers. The National Guards and the Americans surrounded the shrine and left by 9 p.m.. They returned about 11 p.m. and strolled around till 6 a.m. on Thursday when all left at 6:30 a.m.. Two explosions occurred, one at 6:40 a.m and the louder one at 6:45 a.m.". Not to mention that Samarra was/is under curfew from 8:00 p.m. till 6:00 a.m. every night; and that "... Sand "walls" built around Fallujah and Samarra in recent months have quelled restive insurgent cells. Army commanders in Samarra said the number of attacks dropped drastically after an 11-mile barrier was built around the city." "Insurgent attacks in Iraq reached a postwar high in the four months preceding Jan. 20, according to a Iraq progress report issued Friday by the Pentagon.More than 550 attacks took place in Iraq from Aug. 29, 2005, to Jan. 20, 2006, according to the latest “security and stability” report the Defense Department is required to send lawmakers every four months. Speaking to Pentagon reporters Friday, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs said that the survey’s conclusions “were not good,” but that “loving us is not what it’s about.” Awareness of the relative unpopularity of U.S. troops “is one of the reasons we want to turn over the battlespace” to the Iraqi security forces, Rodman said. (emphasis added) "In an attempt to end violence sparked by a bombing this week of a revered Shi'ite mosque in Samarra, the Iraqi government imposed an all-day curfew. The ISF are enforcing the curfew through patrols, roadblocks and loudspeaker announcements throughout Baghdad's mixed Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods amid one of the worst campaigns of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. "We have a partnership with two Iraqi army brigades ... and what we have done is we've prepositioned our forces out in that area of responsibility," said Army Col. Jeffrey Snow, whose 10th Mountain Division brigade is responsible for northwest Baghdad. "I want to make clear to everyone that there is no question that Iraqi security forces are clearly in the lead here." American brigades have embedded advisers among more than 50 Iraqi brigades. Equipped with radios, the advisers can call in U.S. reinforcements if the Iraqis become overwhelmed by demonstrators or attackers. The U.S. Army is launching spy drones to monitor Iraqi troops. "The Iraqi security forces stepped up and immediately took steps to enhance a security posture within our area," Col. Snow told reporters at the Pentagon via a teleconference. "Our forces are postured as a quick-reaction force." CNN Pundit: Mosque Bombing Shows Bush Strategy Is Working In Iraq: This afternoon, Terry Jeffery — the editor of Human Events who is paid by CNN to provide political analysis — was asked about the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Iraq. Jeffery said the bombings — part of a wave of violence that have left 200 people dead in the last 24 hours — is evidence that the Bush strategy is working. Watch It: BLITZER: Terry, is Iraq falling apart right now? TERRY JEFFERY: Well, I certainly hope not, Wolf. But I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy. Question for Mr. Jeffery: What, exactly, would be evidence that Bush’s strategy in Iraq isn’t working? Transcript continues below: JEFFREY: Right now the ambassador there is pushing hard as he can to get Shias to bring Sunnis into the government that’s forming. Try and get enough power handed over to the Sunnis so they feel comfortable with the political process. Zarqawi who is the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq has quite literally declared sectarian war against the Shias. He’s trying to keep these Sunnis in the insurgency mode. I think this is his biggest gambit yet to do it. If we can get past this crisis maybe we can form a government that does bring stability to Iraq. Is the U.S. Pursuing a "Divide and Conquer" Strategy in Iraq?: Why wouldn't the U.S. bomb Shiite holy places in Iraq and shift the blame to Sunnis? Why wouldn't the U.S. want a civil war in Iraq? Hasn't the U.S. Always pursued "divide and conquer" strategies, starting with the earliest days of conquering the native inhabitants of Turtle Island? Didn't the British allies of the U.S. get caught with SAS soldiers in Arab garb driving around Basra with bomb-making materials in their vehicle? Weren't the Brits so concerned over the capture of their covert operators by Iraqi police that they broke them out of custody, using tanks to destroy a local jail? Anyone who doubts that the U.S. wouldn't deliberately provoke hostility within the Iraqi population is naive, ignorant, or stupid. Didn't the U.S. set up an Iraqi constitution that subdivided the nation by religion and culture in order to provoke resource disputes between the subdivisions? Wouldn't a united Iraq that insisted on full Iraqi sovereignty and control of Iraqi assets and wealth be a bigger challenge to U.S. hegemony that a divided Iraq, no matter how great the intra-Iraqi violence patterns? After all, the U.S. personnel can stay relatively safe within the Green Zone or military bases with patrol aircraft and mechanized infantry providing security while Iraqis blow the hell out of each other all over the country. The U.S. can send Navy Seals or Delta Force operatives to bomb golden mosques or any other locations they can get access to. Haven't U.S. personnel been photographed in native garb in Afghanistan? Why wouldn't they do the same in Iraq? Divide and Conquer. That strategy is as old as warfare itself. Much is at stake, and letting the divided enemy self-destruct is much more painless than head-on confrontation. OTHER IRAQ TOPICS The United States needs to lose the war in Iraq as soon as possible: Even more urgently, the whole world needs the United States to lose the war in Iraq. It would be nice if Iraq doesn't lose too, but that is a lesser consideration. What is at stake now is the way we run the world for the next generation or more, and really bad things will happen if we get it wrong. The temptation to take charge of the world was bound to be great when the United States emerged from the Cold War as the only superpower, for it seemed like a goal within easy reach. It was nevertheless resisted, by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, for almost a decade. Then a random event - for 9/11 might easily not have happened - unleashed forces in Washington that were itching to make a takeover bid, and now we live in the middle of a train wreck. The idea that the United States can remain 'the world's sole military superpower until the end of time' is comically overambitious, but there it is, embedded in a 34-page document submitted to Congress in September 2002 entitled The National Security Strategy of the United States. 'The United States will not hesitate to strike preemptively against its enemies, and will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged.' As it becomes clear what the project to turn the United States into the world's policeman (or, more precisely, its judge, jury, and executioner) will cost in American lives and in higher taxes, American voters themselves will pull the plug on it sooner or later. Or maybe the world will pull the plug on the project first, by refusing to go on holding dollars as the gradual collapse in the value of the US currency deepens. The risk is that it will all take too long. If an American defeat in Iraq takes another four or five years, huge and maybe irreparable damage will have been done to the international institutions that are our fragile first line of defence against a return to the great-power wars that could destroy us all. We need the United States back as a leading architect of global order, not a hyperactive vigilante, and we need it back now. If American troops are home from Iraq a year from now and the idea of American global hegemony has lost favour in Washington, then we get the world of the late 1990s back relatively undamaged, and we can pick up from where we left off with the job of building the multilateral institutions that we need to see us through the international storms that are sure to come. If, however, the United States stays in Iraq, then sooner or later most of the other great powers will give up on the United Nations and the rule of law in favour of getting together to counterbalance the weight of the rogue superpower - especially if the United States really is pursuing a coherent strategy of redefining the world in terms of a perpetual, global 'war on terror' with itself as leader. The stakes are much higher than they seem. The foundations of the World War I were laid by decisions that were made ten to twenty years before 1914, and after that it was very hard for anyone to turn back. There is a strong case for saying that we have arrived at a similar decision point now; what happens in the next year or so matters a lot, so we need some answers fast. Is the terrorist threat really worth worrying about? Is there a serious bipartisan project for restoring American global hegemony, or is it merely a bunch of neo-conservatives dreaming of lost glories - or is it just the usual cock-up on an unusually large scale? It’s the Cambodian get-away scheme all over again: Nixon bombs Cambodia back to the Neolithic from 1970 to 1973, killing somewhere in the six figures, destabilizing the country with Lon Nol’s complicity and setting the stage for the Khmer take-over and ensuing genocide. Nixon shrugs, acts blameless. It was a civil war, after all, and he had his own civil war on his hands, compliments of a couple of reporters from the Washington Post. With Kissinger as his Oz, Nixon spun Cambodia into just another American attempt at battling Communism in the name of freedom. The Khmers mucked it up. And by 1973, Kissinger was throwing in the towel, Nixon was facing impeachment, and the Khmers were biding their time until their final, if brief, victory in 1975 (until the Vietnamese finally ended their killing spree in 1978). A similar scenario is unfolding in Iraq. The United States has done nothing if not destabilize the country under the guise of building up democracy for the last three years. Bombings and night raids tend not to do democracy’s bidding. Insurgents have picked up strength. On both sides. A Khmer-like genocide might not be in the offing, although with Lebanon and the Balkans in recent memory, and with Saddam’s tradition of facile massacres still humidifying the Mesopotamian air with the scent of unavenged blood, you never know: a genocide may well result still, giving the region’s Vietnam—Iran—an opportunity to intervene. The moment the United States invaded the way it did and occupied the nation as boorishly as it did, the outcome couldn’t have been any different than it is now. It isn’t the Arabs who are repeating history. It is the United States repeating its own, a few time zones to the east. Same continent. Same errors, same Nixonian hubris. Naturally, Arabs — those “barbaric” Sunnis and Shiites — will get all the blame. But the vilest fanatics are in the White House, comfortably enabling destruction from their “situation room.” The only difference between them and the barbarians who blow up mosques is a matter of dress and language, and, of course, method. The results are the same. Der Spiegel: The clash of cultures on the big screen: The cinema has turned into a new forum for revenge, for the uninhibited expression of opposition to the images from Abu Ghraib. The Turkish film "Valley of the Wolves," for example, is a pure cinematic slap in the face against Hollywood and Bush administration propaganda, an angry indictment of America and the west that's as naïve as it is perfidious. The technically complex action film simply reverses the perspective, turning American heroes into thugs, while Muslim patriots heroically defend their homeland, their culture and their honor. The "Axis of Evil" no longer lies in the Orient, but in the West. A mirror is held up to the United States that projects a cleverly distorted image: good versus evil, the noble versus the lowly, the honorable versus the underhanded, Islam versus Christianity and Judaism. The latest round in the battle over images and cultures begins with a bloodbath. The location is a village somewhere in northern Iraq where a wedding is being celebrated, a peaceful gathering of Turks, Kurds and Arabs. The men dance and the women look on, while children play in their midst. But then some of the men, in a burst of enthusiasm not uncommon in the region, raise their weapons and shoot into the sky. This is the signal US soldiers who have been hiding nearby have been waiting for. "Okay, now they're terrorists," says an officer, commenting on the celebratory gunfire. Then his group of Rambo-like warriors storms the village, threatening the guests and assaulting the women. When a young boy shyly touches an American soldier's gun, the soldier shoots the boy, triggering a massacre in which dozens of wedding guests are killed. The groom is executed with a gunshot to his head. The film, which cost €10 million to produce, making it the most expensive Turkish production of all time, has already brought record numbers of viewers into cinemas since it was first released in early February: more than 2 million in Turkey, but also hundreds of thousands in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. In Germany, where "Valley of the Wolves" is being shown in Turkish with German subtitles, 236,000 people, mainly Turks, saw the film in the first week following its Feb. 9 premiere. Whenever American villains and sadists die in the film, enthusiastic audiences applaud. BEYOND IRAQ U.S. prison in Afghanistan grows to fill Guantanamo's role: While an international debate rages over the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terrorism suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. Pentagon officials have often described the detention site at Bagram, a cavernous former machine shop on a U.S. air base 40 miles north of Kabul, as a screening center. They said most of the detainees are Afghans who might eventually be released under an amnesty program or transferred to an Afghan prison to be built with U.S. aid. But some of the detainees have already been at Bagram for as long as three years. And unlike those at Guantanamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants," military officials said. Privately, some administration officials acknowledge that the situation at Bagram has increasingly come to resemble the legal void that led to a Supreme Court ruling in 2004 affirming the right of prisoners at Guantanamo to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. While Guantanamo offers carefully controlled tours for members of Congress and journalists, Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it was opened in 2002. It bars outside visitors except for members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and refuses to make public the names of those held there. From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its U.S. counterpart at Guantanamo. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for toilets. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight. "Bagram was never meant to be a long-term facility, and now it's a long-term facility without the money or resources," one Defense Department official said. Military and administration officials said the growing detainee population at Bagram, which rose from about 100 prisoners at the start of 2004 to as many as 600 at times last year, according to military figures, was in part the result of a Bush administration decision to shut off the flow of detainees into Guantanamo after the Supreme Court ruled that those prisoners had some basic due-process rights. The question of whether those same rights apply to detainees in Bagram has not yet been tested in court. "Guantanamo was a lightning rod," said a former senior administration official who like many of those interviewed would discuss the matter in detail only on the condition of anonymity. "For some reason, people did not have a problem with Bagram. It was in Afghanistan." American Conservative: Small events sometimes reveal large truths: Last month’s U.S. missile strike in the remote Bajaur district of Pakistan was such an event. Aimed at taking out Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy, the strike missed its intended target and killed as many as 18 residents of the small village of Damadola. But the episode did not end there: outraged Pakistanis rose up in protest; days of highly publicized anti-American demonstrations followed. In effect, the United States had handed Muslims around the world another grievance to hold against Americans. In stark, unmistakable terms, the Damadola affair lays bare the defects of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. When President Bush in September 2001 launched the United States on a global war against terrorism, he scornfully abandoned the law-enforcement approach to which previous administrations had adhered. To all but the most militant true believers, it has become increasingly evident that in doing so Bush committed an error of the first order. For the United States to unleash a salvo of missiles at a Pakistani village thought to house an al-Qaeda chieftain is the equivalent of the Mexican government bombing a southern California condo complex suspected of harboring a drug kingpin. Even if, as the Pakistani government has subsequently claimed, the missiles killed a handful of unidentified “foreign militants,” that minor success can in no way justify the use of force that takes the lives of women and children. Morally, the arithmetic doesn’t work. Politically, it’s even worse. For the United States government to shrug off those deaths with expressions of regret or offers of monetary compensation simply confirms the worst that others have come to believe: that Americans are callous and arrogant with little regard for the lives of Muslims. By the time this essay appears, the Bush administration will have moved on. As far as official Washington is concerned, the nameless, faceless dead of Damadola are already forgotten. Our warrior-president will continue to insist that we have no choice but to press on, seemingly blind to the moral havoc wreaked by his war and oblivious to the extent to which he is playing into the hands of our adversaries. But our own interests demand that we not forget those whom we have killed. At Damadola we have handed the Islamists a victory of considerable proportions, further enflaming antipathy toward the U.S. in Pakistan and among Muslims generally. And the lesson to be taken from this self-inflicted defeat is clear: four bloody years into President Bush’s war, the time to think anew is at hand. Is American diplomacy going to be always based on guns, bullets, military involvements and wars?: It is very obvious that the United States would not hesitate to wage a war against Iran unless it brings this Asian nation under American political control. Why should the USA demand Iran not to have one nuclear weapon when this American nation has already more than 70,000 nuclear weapons and it is still manufacturing more? In accordance with the philosophy of this American government, the United States can launch a pre-emptive strike against any nation on earth even without warning. Would it not then be natural for every country to equip itself with the most devastating weapons possible as way of counteraction against the United States? Moreover, since the United States manufactures and sells more weapons than all the nations of the world combined, it means that this American nation pollutes our air and water very badly with toxic wastes that is causing two millions of people incur cancer every year in the USA alone. Why is it that when the whole world wanted to take drastic action to curb air and water pollution from our planet, the USA was virtually the only dissenter? It is very obvious that this capitalistic nation is concerned merely with the financial interests of big corporations and nothing else matters, not even the very health and life of the American people. Its top priority is to cater to special interests. This explains why the present U.S. government especially continues to cut significantly the budget on health care and education as to spend more and more money on corporate interests, generally headed by the weapons industry, the construction companies and the oil enterprises. In fact, every year the budget for the military and the waging of wars keeps on going higher and higher, while the budget on the vital needs of the people keeps on going lower and lower. All of this explains why the American people in general and of the whole world at large tend to feel overwhelmed and powerless. But there is always hope. We learn from history that when good and evil struggle against each other, initially evil tends to take the upper hand until all of a sudden it disintegrates and collapses. Regardless of the vicious governments nations might have had, people always ended up getting what they viewed as positive and constructive. Like U.S. President Eisenhower said in his farewell address to the U.S. Congress, “all people of all countries want peace, only their government wants war.” The world finds it's too hard to do business with the US: Lucrative opportunities taken away on a political whim; the danger of being locked up by an over-mighty government agency; the brick wall of protectionism - the business community expects to do battle with all these things in an emerging market. Yet this suddenly seems to be a description of doing business in that most developed of all markets, the United States of America. In the UK, in the cash-rich Gulf states and in fast-growing India, different incidents in the past week have made people ask the same question: is it worth doing business with the US? Critics say the outcry over the £3.9bn acquisition of P&O by Dubai Ports World, which will transfer the running of five US ports to a state-controlled Middle Eastern company, has exposed the US Congress at its xenophobic worst. But it has also revealed more starkly than ever the protectionist tide that is waxing in America under the guise of national security. Protectionism has already won some significant victories. Last year, the Hong Kong-based oil company Cnooc blamed "unprecedented political opposition" in the US for its decision to abandon a $18.5bn bid for the Californian oil firm Unocal - what would have been the biggest Chinese takeover of a US company. Law makers are now pushing a number of Bills that would impose economic sanctions unless greater efforts are made to narrow a trade deficit with China that hit $202bn last year, the largest bilateral imbalance ever. The US government has promised tougher enforcement of trade laws and created a China enforcement taskforce to try to placate Congress. Stephen King, managing director of economics at HSBC, says no one should be surprised that US politicians are reacting to the emergence of China and the threat it poses to US manufacturing jobs. "The employment risk is immediate and it is the workers that vote." There have been periods in the past, he adds, where the US has become more protectionist in order to get through a period of economic upheaval - notably against Japan in the late 1980s. It is not just law enforcement agencies in the US that are reaching across the seas, but US financial regulators too. Foreign businesses with American shareholders have become subject to the provisions of the onerous Sarbanes-Oxley legislation pushed through after the collapse of Enron. This demands that executives take legal responsibility for the accuracy of their financial results, and insists on upgraded audit procedures that are estimated to cost a minimum $1m per year. In the insurance industry, the US is demanding that foreign-owned reinsurers deposit big sums in a trust fund to compensate US partners should they fail. This was slammed last week by Lloyd's of London chairman Lord Levene as discriminatory and totally unacceptable. Perceived discrimination in other areas might also damage America's economic future. The head of chip maker Intel, Craig Barrett, has complained repeatedly that the US is losing out on international talent because of the tightening of immigration laws after 9/11, which led to lots of hi-tech engineers losing their work permits. Intel, Microsoft and others are channelling investment into India that might otherwise have stayed in the US. Across the world, friends and free traders are concerned about the course set by the US. They say that while its motives are diverse - national security, energy supply concerns, the protection of investors - there is a single conclusion: it has become riskier, costlier and harder to do business with the US and, unless that changes, fewer people will want to. Putting Palestinians on a diet: America’s threat to cut off most aid to the Palestinians in response to Hamas’ victory is foreboding, despite recent statements by President George W. Bush, saying that the U.S. will continue humanitarian aid to the Palestinians even if a Hamas-led government takes office. The condition is still there- that Hamas stops its military struggle against the Israeli occupiers and recognises the Jewish State, demands that had been rejected by the Islamist anti-occupation movement in many occasions. "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger," Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told the Israeli media- comments that were condemned by Ali Abunimah, a founder of the Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian website based in Chicago as "chilling and cruel". "There will be hunger," he said. Cutting the aid coming from the U.S., which provided about one-third of the nearly $1.1 billion in aid to the Palestine Authority last year, will undoubtedly lead to greater deprivation in the West Bank and Gaza, said an editorial published on CSMonitor. The aid amounts to about $300 per man, woman, and child. “Palestinians live next door to first-world Israel, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about $22,200 last year. Israel gets about $420 per capita each year in aid from the US, partly as a result of the 1979 Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt”, CSMonitor editorial added. Another worthwhile point is that the Palestinian population grows more than 3 percent a year. Each woman in Gaza has close to six children on average; in the West Bank, 4.4 children is the average. Economists explain that rapid population growth makes a rise in economic prosperity difficult, especially in a country that suffers limited resources. Scott Lasensky, a researcher at the United States Institute of Peace, says, "Clearly there is room for leverage." But he doubts the aid cutoff will proceed to the point of "mass starvation," even though humanitarian assistance might continue, and despite the fact that many contributors to Palestine may resist U.S. pressure for cuts. Also Iran offered to assist Hamas' government with financial contributions. Also there could be more malnutrition. According to a report released by the UN two years ago, malnutrition among Palestinians was widespread at the height of the Intifada where commerce was tightly restricted by Israel to force the Palestinians end their armed struggle against the occupying forces. So Hamas' government has to make a difficult choice- choosing between continuing its fight to liberate the occupied Palestinian lands or risk starving the Palestinian population.


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