Saturday, February 25, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, February 25, 2006 IRAQ NEWS Iraq interior minister announces 24-hour ban on traffic in Baghdad and suburbs starting 6 a.m. Sunday US soldier dies from non-combat related injuries Two rockets explode in British Embassy compound in Green Zone late Friday, causing minor injuries to two British workers Bodies of 14 police commandos found near mosque in Baghdad following series of clashes with gunmen overnight At least one Sunni mosque attacked in Baghdad on Saturday after two rockets fired at Shiite mosque in Tuz Khormato, north of the capital, the previous night Gunmen attack house head of Iraq's leading Sunni Muslim religious organisation, in attack he blamed on government forces Eleven bodies found in five areas of Baghdad. All were male and all had been shot Three people killed and six wounded in mortar and rocket fire in Sadr City Gunmen attack Sunni mosque in western Baghdad on Saturday Gunmen fire on the funeral procession of Al-Arabiya newswoman, sending mourners dashing for cover. At least one person killed and two injured In Karbala, which is not covered by the daytime curfew, car bomb kills at least five people and injures more than 30 In Buhriz, a Sunni-insurgent stronghold covered by the curfew, gunmen burst into Shiite house and kill 13 people. The victims - three generations of one family - were all men aged 20-70 years Car bomb rips through Iraqi military patrol escorting mourners at funeral procession for Al-Arabiya journalist Atwar Bahjat. At least two soldiers and one police commando killed. Six people, including civilians, injured Bomb tears open fuel pipeline near the Iraqi refinery town of Baiji yesterday and likely to disrupt supplies for about three days Body of police officer with gunshot wounds found near his home east of Tikrit Clashes between Iraqi troops and Sunni militants in village near Baquba, north of Baghdad. Army sources say four militants killed and 17 arrested One worker employed in leather factory at Naharwan killed and two wounded when gunmen stormed factory 12 farm labourers found shot dead in orchard in province of Diyala Saturday In an attack in Jarf al-Sakhr, 70 kilometres south of Baghdad, four members of one family killed and five wounded. Iraq's defense minister warns of risk of "civil war" that "will never end": "If there is a civil war in this country it will never end," Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi, a minority Sunni Muslim in the Shi'ite-led interim government, told a news conference. Dulaimi called for calm and said reports had exaggerated the death toll, which he put at 119 since the bloodless bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra at dawn on Wednesday. Baghdad police say over 200 have been killed in and around the city. Shiite Muslims hold demonstrations in Kashmir to protest bombing of Iraq shrine: The demonstrations were held in Balhama and other Shiite-dominated parts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir where Islamic rebels have been fighting against New Delhi's rule since 1989. "Death to Bush" and "Down with America and Israel," shouted the Shiite protesters, mostly young men and boys, as they marched down Srinagar's main road with riot police walking alongside Saturday. Three Nobel laureates throw their weight behind international coalition demanding withdrawal of U.S. from : Joining the Global Call to Action coalition are Northern Ireland's Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who shared the 1976 peace prize, Britain's Harold Pinter, who won the 2005 literature prize, and Argentina's Adolfo Perez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 literature prize. Over the coming year, Global Call to Action has planned a series of mass protests along with civil disobedience in cities around the world. The first protest is scheduled for major cities worldwide on March 25, the third anniversary of the Iraq War. Journalists in Iraq asked not to arm themselves: The International News Safety Institute has pleaded with journalists to resist suggestions that they should carry guns in Iraq, following the killing of al-Arabiya's Iraq correspondent Bahjat, cameraman Khalid Mahmoud and technician Adnan Khairullah yesterday. At a news conference after the killings, a reporter asked Iraqi president Jalal Talabani to allow journalists to carry weapons in self-defence. The war in Iraq has now claimed the lives of 104 journalists and support staff in 23 months - the bloodiest conflict for the news media in modern times. "Send me an official request and I will approve it and inform concerned agencies to give you the right to carry arms," Mr Talabani replied. But the INSI, which promotes the provision of safety training and assistance to media workers, believes the move would be counter-productive and that journalists' lives would be placed further in danger if they carried weapons. REPORTS Only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support downgraded: The battalion, made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi Army soldiers, has repeatedly been offered by the U.S. as an example of the growing independence of the Iraqi military. The competence of the Iraqi military has been cited as a key factor in when U.S. troops will be able to return home. "As we see more of these Iraqi forces in the lead, we will be able to continue with our stated strategy that says as Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down," President Bush said last month. The battalion, according to the Pentagon, was downgraded from "level one" to "level two" after a recent quarterly assessment of its capabilities. "Level one" means the battalion is able to fight on its own; "level two" means it requires support from U.S. troops; and "level three" means it must fight alongside U.S. troops. Though officials would not cite a specific reason for downgrading the unit, its readiness level has dropped in the wake of a new commander and numerous changes in the combat and support units, officials said. One Thousand A Month Tortured To Death In Iraq: Dr. John Pace drops a bombshell that translates as a whisper through an obscure Maltese paper... Proving that Abu Ghraib and Gitmo are the tip of the iceberg, the outgoing UN human rights chief dropped a bombshell when he told an obscure Maltese newspaper that as many as a thousand detainees a month are being tortured to death in Iraq. Dr. John Pace told the obscure Times of Malta newspaper, "The Baghdad morgue received 1,100 bodies in July alone, about 900 of whom bore evidence of torture or summary execution. That continued throughout the year and last December there were 780 bodies, including 400 having gunshot wounds or wounds as those caused by electric drills." Pace echoed previous estimates in stating that 80 to 90 per cent of those rounded up and taken to prison camps were completely innocent. As we have highlighted before, Iraqis are arrested for dastardly crimes such as not showing their papers at checkpoints, selling alcohol and shouting anti-coalition statements. Pace's comments underline the fact that Abu Ghraib is just one of many torture camps that have been used throughout the country since the "liberation" of Iraq and the so-called end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime of rape rooms and torture camps - and is tame in comparison to the real horrors taking place beneath the media radar. Only on Fox: "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?": Summary: Fox News featured two onscreen captions during a segment on escalating violence in Iraq that read: " 'Upside' To Civil War?" and "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?" A segment about escalating sectarian violence in Iraq on the February 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto featured onscreen captions that read: " 'Upside' To Civil War?" and "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?" The segment, guest-hosted by Fox News Live (noon-1:30 pm hour ET) anchor David Asman, featured commentary by Fox News military analyst Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and Center for American Progress senior fellow Col. P.J. Crowley. Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Friday, 24 February 2006 COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS AFTER THE SAMARRA BOMBING Tehran Times: A new plot to divide Muslims: The serious crime of the terrorists who bombed the holy shrines of the tenth and eleventh Shia Imams, Imam Hadi (AS) and Imam Hassan Askari (AS), on Wednesday in Iraq was an insult to the sanctities of all Muslims. Undoubtedly, it is a new plot which first of all can be considered as the continuation of the disrespectful move of the European newspapers' that published cartoons of the Prophet of Islam. Secondly, the offensive act was meant to create division between Iraqi Shias and Sunnis and ignite a civil war, following the failure of the plans of the occupiers of the country. This is a critical juncture for the vigilant Islamic world. Shias certainly know that such moves are not the work of their Sunni brothers but are directed by the hands of the enemies of Islam. Meanwhile, the Sunni brothers should also be aware that the same terrorists who carried out the criminal act in Samarra yesterday will probably attack their holy sites in the future. Another issue that should also not be ignored is the fact that the occupier U.S. regime, which has turned Iraq's security to insecurity with its 150,000 troops and military equipment, is the main element responsible for these criminal acts. An e-mail exchange with the Guardian: Dear Michael Howard, In your article "Sectarian violence explodes after attack on mosque" (The Guardian, Friday, February 24, 2006), you write: Shias, including members of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, took to the streets yesterday vowing revenge for the attack on the shrine. (...) No group has yet claimed responsibility for Wednesday's dawn attack on the mosque, which houses the graves of two ninth-century imams, but suspicion has fallen on Sunni militants such as al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (...) QUESTION 1: Could I ask you what you mean when you write "suspicion has fallen"? It's your opinion? If not, could you provide the source of the "suspicion"? In your same newspaper, the same day, Sami Ramadani writes: It has not been Sunni religious symbols that hundreds of thousands of angry marchers protesting at the bombing of the shrine have targeted, but US flags. The slogan that united them on Wednesday was: "Kalla, kalla Amrica, kalla kalla lill-irhab" - no to America, no to terrorism. The Shia clerics most listened to by young militants swiftly blamed the occupation for the bombing. They included Moqtada al-Sadr; Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah in Lebanon; Ayatollah Khalisi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; and Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader. Along with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, they also declared it a grave "sin" to attack Sunnis - as did all the Sunni clerics about attacks on Shias. Sadr was reported by the BBC as calling for revenge on Sunnis - in fact, he said "no Sunni would do this" and called for revenge on the occupation. None of the mostly spontaneous protest marches were directed at Sunni mosques. Near the bombed shrine itself, local Sunnis joined the city's minority Shias to denounce the occupation and accuse it of sharing responsibility for the outrage. In Kut, a march led by Sadr's Mahdi army burned US and Israeli flags. In Baghdad's Sadr City, the anti-occupation march was massive. ("Exit without a strategy", by Sami Ramadani, The Guardian, Friday, February 24, 2006) QUESTION 2: Why doesn't your article even mention what Sami Ramadani writes in the paragraphs above? It seems to me quite an interesting aspect of the story. Don't you think it would have deserved a couple of lines? In your article, you also write: International condemnation continued, with George Bush calling the bombing "an evil act" intended to create strife. "I am pleased with the voices of reason that have spoken out," he said. "And we will continue to work with those voices of reason to enable Iraq to continue on the path of a democracy." Under international law, the security of an occupied country is responsibility of the occupation forces. You may want to read the "Statement on events in Samarra and across Iraq" issued by the BRussells Tribunal: The United States and other parties of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) remain belligerent occupants under international law. Given that UN Security Council Resolution 1546 only "welcomed" the interim government in Iraq formed June 2004, that it did not recognize it formally, and could not, because it has no legal basis in international law and is not recognized as legitimate by the resistance to foreign occupation, MNF-I is legally responsible for the whole of Iraq. This legal responsibility extends 31 December 2006, as set forth in UN Security Council Resolution 1637. As an occupying power, the United States and other parties to the occupation are legally, individually and severally, responsible for the protection of religious shrines, and imputable under international law, individually and severally, for the criminal destruction of shrines. (For Applicable international law, please read the whole statement) QUESTION 3: When you reported Mr Bush's words, why didn't you think to inform your readers about the obligations of occupation forces under international law? QUESTION 4: Reading your article, I could only get one side of the story. Why? Kind regards, Gabriele Zamparini [follow this very interesting exchange at the link above.] Baath Party statement on the bombing of the Samarra mosque: It is the US and only the US which is the number one responsible of the crime against the Imam Ali Al Mahdi - Peace be upon him - holy shrine, not only because it is occupying Iraq and is responsible of whatever goes on in this country but also seen from the angle of planning the crime and the ones who have the greatest interest into undertaking it. As for Iran, it is the natural US partner in this crime as in all the previous ones, before the occupation and until now. Yes! Iran has uncovered its last criminal cards in its attempts to use our brothers and families in the south as a fire wood for its wars and a tool to find a solution to its differences with the US on the soil of Iraq. That is why we heard from some of those who consider Kahmenei and Kadhim Haeeri and others as their sectarian reference announce in absolute stupidity and idiotic behavior that if Iran was attacked their supporters will attack the US in Iraq! This kind of a homeland treason makes some of these shut up about the occupation of Iraq and its crimes while some others participates into supporting the Occupation, execute its crimes and destroy Iraq but announces at the same time that it will use force to defend Iran? Today all the cards which used to be denied and concealed from the Iraqi people in general and specially from our people in the south, have been uncovered. Dahr Jamail: Who Benefits? : The most important question to ask regarding the bombings of the Golden Mosque in Samarra on the 22nd is: who benefits? Prior to asking this question, let us note the timing of the bombing. The last weeks in Iraq have been a PR disaster for the occupiers. First, the negative publicity of the video of British soldiers beating and abusing young Iraqis has generated a backlash for British occupation forces they've yet to face in Iraq. Indicative of this, Abdul Jabbar Waheed, the head of the Misan provincial council in southern Iraq, announced his councils' decision to lift the immunity British forces have enjoyed, so that the soldiers who beat the young Iraqis can be tried in Iraqi courts. Former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer had issued an order granting all occupation soldiers and western contractors immunity to Iraqi law when he was head of the CPA...but this province has now decided to lift that so the British soldiers can be investigated and tried under Iraqi law. This deeply meaningful event, if replicated around Iraq, will generate a huge rift between the occupiers and local governments. A rift which, of course, the puppet government in Baghdad will be unable to mend. The other huge event which drew Iraqis into greater solidarity with one another was more photos and video aired depicting atrocities within Abu Ghraib at the hands of U.S. occupation forces. The inherent desecration of Islam and shaming of the Iraqi people shown in these images enrages all Iraqis. In a recent press conference, the aforementioned Waheed urged the Brits to allow members of the provincial committee to visit a local jail to check on detainees; perhaps Waheed is alarmed as to what their condition may be after seeing more photos and videos from Abu Ghraib. Waheed also warned British forces that if they didn't comply with the demands of the council, all British political, security and reconstruction initiatives will be boycotted. Basra province has already taken similar steps, and similar machinations are occurring in Kerbala. Basra and Misan provinces, for example, refused to raise the cost of petrol when the puppet government in Baghdad, following orders from the IMF, decided to recently raise the cost of Iraqi petrol at the pumps several times last December. The horrific attack which destroyed much of the Golden Mosque generated sectarian outrage which led to attacks on over 50 Sunni mosques. Many Sunni mosques in Baghdad were shot, burnt, or taken over. Three Imams were killed, along with scores of others in widespread violence. This is what was shown by western corporate media. As quickly as these horrible events began, they were called to an end and replaced by acts of solidarity between Sunni and Shia across Iraq. This, however, was not shown by western corporate media. The Sunnis where the first to go to demonstrations of solidarity with Shia in Samarra, as well as to condemn the mosque bombings. Demonstrations of solidarity between Sunni and Shia went off over all of Iraq: in Basra, Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Kut, and Salah al-Din. Thousands of Shia marched shouting anti-American slogans through Sadr City, the huge Shia slum area of Baghdad, which is home to nearly half the population of the capital city. Meanwhile, in the primarily Shia city of Kut, south of Baghdad, thousands marched while shouting slogans against America and Israel and burning U.S. and Israeli flags. Baghdad had huge demonstrations of solidarity, following announcements by several Shia religious leaders not to attack Sunni mosques. Attacks stopped after these announcements, coupled with those from Sadr, which I'll discuss shortly. Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, shortly after the Golden Mosque was attacked, called for "easing things down and not attacking any Sunni mosques and shrines," as Sunni religious authorities called for a truce and invited everyone to block the way of those trying to generate a sectarian war. Sistani's office issued this statement: "We call upon believers to express their protest ... through peaceful means. The extent of their sorrow and shock should not drag them into taking actions that serve the enemies who have been working to lead Iraq into sectarian strife." Shiite religious authority Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr warned of the emergence of a sectarian strife "that terrorists want to ignite between the Iraqis" by the bombings and said, "The Iraqi Shiite authority strenuously denied that Sunnis could have done this work." He also said, "Of course it is not Sunnis who did this work; it is the terrorists who are the enemies of the Shiites and Sunni, Muslims and non Muslims. They are the enemies of all religions; terrorism does not have a religion." He warned against touching any Sunni Mosque, saying, "our Sunni brothers' mosques must be protected and we must all stand against terrorism and sabotage." He added: 'The two shrines are located in the Samarra region, which [is] predominantly Sunni. They have been protecting, using and guarding the mosques for years, it is not them but terrorism that targeted the mosques..." He ruled out the possibility of a civil war while telling a reporter, "I don't believe there will a civil or religious war in Iraq; thank God that our Sunni and Shiite references are urging everyone to not respond to these terrorist and sabotage acts. We are aware of their attempts as are our people; Sistani had issued many statements [regarding this issue] just as we did." The other, and more prominent Sadr, Muqtada Al-Sadr, who has already lead two uprisings against occupation forces, held Takfiris [those who regard other Muslims as infidels], Ba'thists, and especially the foreign occupation responsible for the bombing attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra. Sadr, who suspended his visit to Lebanon and cancelled his meeting with the president there, promptly returned to Iraq in order to call on the Iraqi parliament to vote on the request for the departure of the occupation forces from Iraq. "It was not the Sunnis who attacked the shrine of Imam Al-Hadi, God's peace be upon him, but rather the occupation [forces] and Ba'athists...God damn them. We should not attack Sunni mosques. I ordered Al-Mahdi Army to protect the Shi'i and Sunni shrines." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, urged Iraqi Shia not to seek revenge against Sunni Muslims, saying there were definite plots "to force the Shia to attack the mosques and other properties respected by the Sunni. Any measure to contribute to that direction is helping the enemies of Islam and is forbidden by sharia." Instead, he blamed the intelligence services of the U.S. and Israel for being behind the bombs at the Golden Mosque. British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that those who committed the attack on the Golden Mosque "have only one motive: to create a violent sedition between the Sunnis and the Shiites in order to derail the Iraqi rising democracy from its path." Well said Mr. Blair, particularly when we keep in mind the fact that less than a year ago in Basra, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi security forces whilst traveling in a car full of bombs and remote detonators. Jailed and accused by Muqtada al-Sadr and others of attempting to generate sectarian conflict by planting bombs in mosques, they were broken out of the Iraqi jail by the British military before they could be tried. Samarra is the new Fallujah: Resistance from Sunni Arabs over the last year has been fierce and the US 1st infantry division are bogged down in a bloody guerrilla war which is destroying the city. A seven mile long, five foot tall earthen wall built around Samarra by soldiers has failed to pacify the insurgency, despite three military check-points positioned along the dirt wall, where residents must show identification and submit to searches. Distrust runs deep and Major Curtis Strange said, "It's apocalyptic out there." Following the destruction of the al-Askari shrine, Shia militia are now assisting the US and Iraqi troops with reprisal attacks on the Sunni's. No group claimed responsibility for bombing the Golden Mosque, but four men, three disguised in black and one in military uniform, entered the building and detonated explosives which destroyed the dome. The Western media immediately implicated extremist groups linked to 'al Qaeda' but Sunni's claim it was the work of "a foreign hand aiming to create differences among Iraqis." American soldiers have been seizing telephones with build-in cameras from Samarra citizens to prevent news from being distributed on the internet and four journalists, including Atwar Bahjat of al-Arbiya, were kidnapped and shot by gunmen on their way to the city to report on the situation. The holy places are sacred to Muslims from all different sects and the idea that they would blow up a shrine containing tombs of revered imams, believed to be the successors of the Prophet Muhammad, is inconceivable. Iraq could become a new battlefield : Spring is only a month away, and preparations for Nauroz (the Persian new year) are well under way. In Iran this year, however, Nauroz was due to come with a deadly dimension: the start of a new phase of a broad-based anti-US resistance movement stretching from Afghanistan to Jerusalem. Wednesday's attack on a revered shrine in Iraq could change all this. The presence in Iran of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as members of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, is well known, as is the presence of other controversial figures related to the "war on terror", such as al-Qaeda members. Security contacts have told Asia Times Online that several al-Qaeda members have been moved from detention centers to safe houses run by Iranian intelligence near Tehran. The aim of these people in Iran is to establish a chain of anti-US resistance groups that will take the offensive before the West makes its expected move against Tehran. The potentially bloody polarization in the Shi'ite-Sunni world now threatens to unravel the links that have been established between Shi'ite-dominated Iran and radical Sunni groups from Afghanistan and elsewhere. The violence comes at a time that Iraqi leaders are trying to form a new coalition government that will bring Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds together. This process, like the resistance, is now also in jeopardy, as calls for separate, quasi-independent regions are bound to intensify. The anti-US resistance movement had wanted to use Shi'ite Iran as the final base to link the resistance groups of this whole region. If the current volatile situation results in Shi'ites sitting on one side, and Sunnis and al-Qaeda-linked groups on the other, this is unlikely to happen. Instead, Iraq could become a new battlefield, not only against US-led forces, but between different factions. Iran, meanwhile, would be left to deal with the West on its own. OTHER IRAQ TOPICS Three years of fighting the world's most advanced military produced very experienced and capable resistance fighters in Iraq: Information released by U.S. military officials in Iraq showed that insurgents conducted 34,131 attacks in 2005, a 29 percent increase over the previous year's 26,496. The number of car bombs more than doubled, while the number of roadside bomb incidents nearly did, rising from 5,607 in 2004 to 10,953 last year. When the 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Baghdad in early 2005, the division's soldiers faced hastily placed improvised explosive devices comprising a single mortar or artillery round, and dealt with occasional sniper fire from insurgents hidden in the shadows. Over the year, the bombs got much bigger, their triggers more sophisticated. These bombs now are often used to initiate an attack, drawing U.S. forces into kill zones emplaced with multiple IEDs, mortars zeroed on preselected locations, and supporting small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, said Capt. Stephen Capehart, a tank company commander in the 3rd Infantry Division. "The insurgency is getting more sophisticated over time," he said. "They adapt to us, and we adapt to them; it's a never-ending cycle." On April 2, one of the most complex insurgent attacks of the past three years struck the Abu Ghraib prison compound west of Baghdad and sent shock waves through the American military command, according to military sources in Iraq. Multiple car bombs detonated against two separate gates in an attempt to breach the heavily fortified base, while mortar fire fell inside the compound and accurate small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire forced Marines to abandon the guard towers. As reinforcements rushed to the scene, they were attacked by multiple IEDs laid along the routes to the prison, suffering casualties. Patrols stopped by IED attacks were peppered with small-arms and mortar fire. As additional U.S. reinforcements and attack aircraft poured into the area, the insurgents broke off the attack. At least 44 American troops were wounded. Total insurgent casualties were unknown, as no bodies were found on the battlefield. The insurgents didn't wait long before using those tactics again, this time directing their efforts at Iraq's security forces. In the early morning of June 20, a patrol from the Army's 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, rounded a corner in central Baghdad and surprised a group of insurgents setting up mortars and machine guns. They were preparing to support a large-scale attack by more than 100 fighters against a commando compound. What followed was a running gun battle through narrow streets and alleyways between insurgents and U.S. soldiers backed by tanks, M2 Bradley fighting vehicles and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, along with Iraqi police. The insurgents managed to get at least one suicide car bomb into the commando compound after a breach was created in the wall by a massive car bomb. Heavy police fire forced the second car bomb to detonate prematurely, killing two commandos and wounding more than 20. IEDs and additional car bombs had been placed at key intersections to attack reinforcements moving to support the police. Insurgents fired on American patrols converging on the area from apartment rooftops, while mortar fire hit the targeted compounds. The Apaches flying in support were hit by ground fire, but with U.S. tanks and armored vehicles rushing to the attack, the response proved too much for the insurgents, who broke off the attack and melted into the surrounding neighborhoods. At the end of the day, four insurgent bodies were found and another two dozen suspects were rounded up. Two weeks earlier, Vice President Dick Cheney told Larry King in an interview on CNN that he believed the insurgency in Iraq was "in the last throes." Excellent graphic on attacks in Iraq since the U.S. invasion Der Spiegel: America's Shame: The new pictures from Abu Ghraib provide the most recent evidence: America's moral bank account is empty -- and it has lost the image wars. The entire Muslim world no longer trusts the world's most powerful nation. They are photos that make your blood run cold. They take your breath away. They turn your stomach. They are photos that make you wonder what kinds of human beings would do these things to other human beings. They trigger anger, disgust and shame. Once again, images from Abu Ghraib will burn themselves into the world's collective memory, the shocking legacy of a superpower gone astray -- icons of America's shame. They will become the images future generations most associate with the war in Iraq, just as the photo of a pro-US Saigon police chief holding his pistol to a Vietcong guerilla's temple, his finger about to pull the trigger, has become a symbol of the Vietnam War. It's hardly relevant that the previously unpublished Abu Ghraib photos taken in 2003 -- about two dozen of them -- are merely variations on familiar themes. It also doesn't matter that at least some of the perpetrators -- absent higher-ranking officers -- have already been hauled before US military courts. Just as their predecessors, these new pictures have the power to generate a dynamic of their own -- making them the perfect propaganda tool for ideological adversaries. From the perspective of the Middle East, the freedom and human rights the Americans profess to be bringing to an oppressed world are nothing more than a front, Washington's false alibi in pushing its agenda of globalization. And for many in the Arab world, they are merely the sinister elements of a slick and even fraudulent marketing campaign aimed at humiliating Muslims. The crimes committed by US soldiers in the name of freedom and human rights, documented in unalterable photographs, appear to confirm the suspicion that America's true aim is something entirely different -- that the US is primarily interested in imposing its own world order and preserving its dominance. In short, for the United States, the most powerful and influential global power ever, the images from Abu Ghraib -- and the ongoing debate over the legality of its prison camp at Guantanamo -- have produced a moral catastrophe that's likely to endure for a very long time. While many in the Muslim world rub their hands in glee, the West watches the moral decline of "God's own country" with painful astonishment. And it's a decline led by a president who, more than most of his predecessors, invokes his born-again Christianity and his desire to bring good into the world and to punish evil. Instead, the Bush Administration has become the picture of incompetence. The bad news continues to mount and America is growing impatient. While Bush's reputation suffers at home, his standing abroad couldn't be worse. In some countries in the Muslim world, Bush is viewed as even more dangerous than terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Americans don't see themselves as fighting to capture strategic bases or gain control over new oil wells, but rather as missionaries out to make the world a better place, one endowed with freedom and human rights. Gradually, though, it's not just the Muslim world which no longer believes such claims. Even Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based network, simply broadcast the images as little more than news. They speak for themselves and, in their unparalleled drastic nature, cement in place an idea that has become the core of the Arab world view: The West lies. It touts human rights, and yet it rolls our sons in blood and dirt. It complains about the excesses of Saddam Hussein, but it also forces Iraqi men to masturbate on camera. It expresses outrage over our primitiveness, and yet it films a man banging his head against a prison door until blood finally gushes from his forehead. WORLDWIDE Russia and the 'war of civilizations': Russia's perception of the US role in the region as destructive corresponds with perceptions by many Muslims across the world, who view the US "war on terror" as a war on them. What began as a counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan with relatively broad international support is increasingly turning into a "war of civilizations", or America's crusade against Muslims and their style of living. Instead of engaging moderate Muslims, US policies tend to isolate them and give the cards to radicals. For instance, the new radical Islamist regime in Iran is a product of the isolationist stance adopted toward the nation by the United States over two decades. US leaders failed to engage moderate politicians such as former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, who were clear in their intentions to put the 1979 hostage crisis behind them and normalize the relationship with the United States. With aggressive foreign policies pursued by Washington, it was only a matter of time before a large and culturally independent nation such as Iran would empower its own hardliners to respond to America's hardline policies. The Hamas case is similar, as both the United States and Europe pursued isolationist policies and even tried to pressure Palestinian voters by threatening to cut financial aid in case of a Hamas victory. Europe recently added fuel to the fire by refusing to assume any responsibility for global protests of Muslims over publication of offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. That the United States condemned their publication could not change its already-established image of an imperialist power seeking to offend Muslims. Actions, not words, shape perceptions, and it is perception that constitutes reality. Implications of the "war of civilizations" for Russia's well-being are fundamental. For a country with 20 million to 25 million Muslims, an involvement in such a war would mean inviting fire to its own home. Russia's domestic intercultural ties are far from balanced. A growing influence of radical Islamist ideologies, rising immigration from Muslim ex-Soviet republics, and poorly conceived actions of some of Russia's local authorities in failing to build ties with Muslims create politically an explosive environment. Although the situation in Chechnya is much more stable today, Islamic radicals are succeeding in spreading violence and extremist ideology across the larger North Caucasus. It is in this context that one should try to make sense of Russia's Eastern initiatives. They are not anti-Western and do not signal the Kremlin's return to the rhetoric of Eurasianist multipolarity and containment of the West. However, these initiatives do indicate appreciation that the "war of civilizations" between Western nations and Islam is intensifying, as well as understanding that Russia has no business participating in that war. Just as it was a tragic mistake to get involved in World War I in 1914, it would be a tragedy to have a fully hardened Western-Islamic front today and to see Russia joining it. The Dubai-Ports Quagmire: Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report knocked it out of the park when he said that one New Jersey's districts owns 90% of the island in New York where immigrants used to land. "Who owns the other 10%? The United Arab Emirates." And it's true - companies from Dubai have been super-investing around the world. Every single Scottish horse-racecourse now belongs to any number of Arabs (not necessarily an Emiratis). There's a ton of European businesses linking to companies in Dubai. And now a corporation from Dubai has taken over several US ports. I love it when people get scared about the colonies taking over the masters. I mean, that's what this is about. Sure two of the 9/11 guys came from Dubai. But these are companies setting up shop, not guys with robes and headgear and guns and shit. People must have lost it when Michael Moore mentioned the bilions the Saudis have invested in the US. But that's what those are - investments. A company, even an Emirati one, has profits as its primary goal, not "terror." We've learned well from our masters - economic takeover is far better than a military one. So don't worry about these companies bringing in terrorists to bomb the place. Worry about them firing large proportions of the American dock workforce to bring in their own low-salary workers. Damn there's nothing like the smell of profits in the morning. QUOTE OF THE DAY: I don't really know Iraq: I made a point of getting to know it a lot better. It was a very advanced, progressive country, had, what, 90% literacy, health care for the whole entire population. They were doing well, prosperous, high literacy. Many more book stores per capita in Iraq than there are in this country. Many. No more. We bombed their children. We killed their husbands and wives and we bombed them, and we're going to do it again. Just random killing like that, mass killing to force a population to get rid of Saddam so we can move in and take over and control the oil, God damn it, if that's not evil, I don't know what would be. You know, Bush, he's really the evil one in here. Well, more than just him. We're the Nazis in this game, and I don't like it. I'm embarrassed and I'm pissed off. - Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005), speaking in 2003 before the then imminent invasion of Iraq


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