Monday, March 27, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, March 27, 2006 Photo: Iraqis wave their national flag as they take the bodies of their relatives and friends for burial, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, March 27, 2006. At least 16 Iraqis were killed in a U.S.-backed raid in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital on March 26, 2006.(AP Photo/Mohammed Hato) ONE MASSACRE TOO FAR?
US troops accused of mosque massacre: Iraqi police and residents said a US raid on a Shiite mosque in the Shaab district of east Baghdad sparked fierce clashes with militiamen of the Mehdi Army loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A medical source at Yarmouk hospital said he saw 18 bodies of Iraqis killed in the operation. Police sources said 20 Mehdi Army fighters were killed in the fighting, close to Sadr's stronghold in the Sadr City slum, and five vehicles belonging to the militia were burned. A senior aide to Sadr, in comments capable of inflaming passions among the radical cleric's supporters, accused US troops of shooting dead more than 20 unarmed worshippers at the Mustapha mosque after tying them up. The mosque's faithful follow Sadr but the aide denied they were Mehdi Army gunmen. "The American forces went into Mustapha mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers," Hazin al-Araji said. "They tied them up and shot them." Iraqi officials dispute U.S. account of what happened in "joint U.S.-Iraqi Special Operations" attack in northeast Baghdad: Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said the Mustafa mosque was attacked with worshippers killed, while a U.S. statement said the operation focused on "a compound of several buildings and that "no mosques were entered or damaged during this operation." The military said the joint operation "killed 16 insurgents and wounded three others during a house-to-house search on an objective with multiple structures." "They also detained 18 other individuals, discovered a significant weapons cache and secured the release of an Iraqi being held hostage," the statement said. Jabr angrily denounced the operation and rejected the U.S. account. "Entering the Mustafa Shiite mosque and killing worshippers was unjustified and a horrible violation from my point of view," Jabr said on the Al-Arabiya TV news network. "Innocent people inside the mosque offering prayer at sunset were killed." Police said gunmen fired on the joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol from a position in the neighborhood but not from the mosque. Police and representatives of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who holds great sway among poor Shiites in eastern Baghdad, said all those killed were in the complex for evening prayers and none was a gunmen. AP reporters who visited the scene Monday morning said the site of the attack was a neighborhood Shiite mosque complex.TV video shot Monday showed crumbling walls and disarray in a compound used as a gathering place for prayer. It was filled with religious posters and strung with banners denouncing the attack. Other video from Sunday night showed dead male bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of what was said by the cameraman to be the imam's living quarters, attached to mosque itself. The compound, once used by Saddam Hussein's government, consists of a political party office, the mosque and quarters for the imam. The video showed 5.56 mm shell casings scattered on the floor. U.S. forces use that caliber ammunition. A grieving man in white Arab robes stepped among the bodies strewn across the blood-smeared floor. Iraq's security minister accuses U.S. and Iraqi troops of killing 37 unarmed people in attack on a mosque complex in Sadr City: "At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people," Abd al-Karim al-Enzi, minister of state for national security, said. "They were all unarmed. Nobody fired a single shot at them (the troops). They went in, tied up the people and shot them all. They did not leave any wounded behind," he told Reuters. Shi'ite politicians had earlier said 20 people were killed at the mosque. The U.S. military's account of Sunday evening's incident said Iraqi special forces with U.S. advisers killed 16 "insurgents", arrested 15 people and freed an Iraqi hostage. The military denied entering any mosque. Iraq's Shi'ite alliance urges U.S. forces to return control of security to Iraqis after what it called the cold-blooded killing of unarmed people in a Baghdad mosque during a U.S.-Iraqi raid. It made the demand as angry Shi'ites buried those killed in Sunday's operation by Iraqi special forces backed by U.S. advisers. The U.S. military has denied targeting a mosque. "The Alliance calls for a rapid restoration of (control of) security matters to the Iraqi government," Jawad al-Maliki, a senior spokesman of the United Iraqi Alliance and ally of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, told a news conference. Some Shi'ite government officials have joined aides to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in accusing U.S. troops of massacring worshippers at the Mustafa mosque near Sadr City, a poor district that is home to about two million Shi'ites. Baghdad provincial Governor suspending all cooperation with U.S. forces until an independent investigation is launched into mosque massacre: Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, [Husayn al-Tahan] said, "Today we decided to stop all political and service cooperation with the U.S. forces until a legal committee is formed to investigate this incident." He said the inquiry panel should include representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi Defense Ministry, but not the U.S. military. Ihlas News Agency video: Shotlist: Interior of damaged mosque, bullets, trucks Shots of incident area, destroyed vehicle, damaged mosque, bullets Pool of blood on ground, details Interview with eyewitness Ahmad Hussein (in Arabic) Interview with eyewitness Hasan Allavi (in Arabic) Coffins, chanting slogans, holding Sadr’s family’s photos
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS 40 dead in suicide bombing at joint U.S.-Iraqi military base: Monday's bomber struck an army recruiting center, which is in front of a joint U.S.-Iraqi military base between Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and the ancient city of Tal Afar. The attack shortly after noon killed 40 people and wounded 30 others — civilians and military personnel — who had gathered among a crowd of recruits for the Iraqi army, the Defense Ministry said. The U.S. military said no American troops were hurt in the bombing and reported only 30 dead. Two people wounded when roadside bomb explodes in Zayuna neighborhood. Four people wounded when roadside bomb hits Iraqi police patrol in Khahtan Square. Three people wounded when mortar round lands Karrada neighborhood. Nine bodies found in west Baghdad. Two men and a woman who were shot in the head were found late Sunday in east Baghdad. At a farm east of Baghdad, the bodies of nine men kidnapped a day earlier were discovered by relatives. Rocket blasts commercial building in Baghdad, killing at least seven people and wounding 30 others. Rocket attack hits house, killing one person and wounding two in Za'afaraniya area. Bomb explodes inside minibus in Sadr City section of the Iraqi capital, killing two people in the vehicle. Six others were wounded in the explosion. At least one person killed and three wounded when car bomb explodes in Sadr city. Bomb explodes inside Baquba office of al-Sadr, wounding three people. Five policemen wounded when insurgents throw grenade at their patrol in Mosul. 18 bodies found along road near Tall al-Sakher (near Tal Afar). Eyewitnesses said gunmen driving in three vehicles attacked a group of young men. U.S. soldier dies of heart attack in Anbar Province Saturday. The death was not combat-related, a military statement said. Four people working in U.S. military base near Tikrit wounded when gunmen attacked them while they were heading to the base. Body of man with gunshot wounds found in an area near Dujail. Body of man working as an Iraqi army supplier in the town of Yathrib found near Balad. IRAQ NEWS U.S. troops arrests 40 Iraq Interior Ministry troops holding 18 hostages in secret Baghdad bunker. Police chief of Diyala, a major-general, arrested accused of operating death squads. Saddam's #2 calls on audiotape for Arab leaders to back Iraq's Sunni-backed insurgency: The tape, which Al-Jazeera television said was made by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, appeared to be an address to the Arab League summit in Khartoum, Sudan, this week. The voice on the tape said Iraq's Sunni-led insurgency was "the sole legitimate representative of the Iraqi people." It was impossible to determine the tape's authenticity. Al-Douri was sixth on the U.S. deck of cards that enumerated the most-wanted members of Saddam's regime. He had been Revolutionary Command Council vice chairman and a longtime Saddam confidant. The voice also said Arab leaders should "boycott the regime of mercenaries and treason and besiege it by taking the necessary decision to support the people of Iraq, its courageous, national resistance and its jihad until liberation." The tape also sought to distance the insurgency from attacks on civilians and religious targets, calling them "the pinnacle of lowliness, vileness and criminality. Our people and your resistance will take revenge from the culprits sooner or later." Al-Douri, who is at least 62, was among Saddam's oldest and closest associates. As the insurgency spread, the United States and its allies offered a $10 million reward for information leading to al-Douri's capture. Condoleezza Rice to face protests against Iraq war when Jack Straw takes her on tour of his northern English constituency on Saturday: Rice, repaying an October visit by Straw to her home state of Alabama, will speak in the former cotton town of Blackburn before viewing an industrial site and meeting religious leaders, including representatives of the 20 percent Muslim population. A spokeswoman for the Stop the War Coalition, which has helped organize large anti-war protests in London, said Rice would also be greeted by protests in Liverpool on Friday. "Everywhere she goes during her trip, we will be there to protest," said a coalition spokeswoman said. Iraqi man dies from suspected bird flu virus in Baghdad, while one member of his family has been admitted for tests on similar suspicions. REPORTS Head of Mosul's Dominican Monastery says U.S. invasion is "despicable crime": Sister Mary [Sarah, the head of the Dominican Monastery in Mosul] is a distinguished and highly learned Iraqi with a great deal of wisdom and wide awareness of history and current affairs. Fluent in French, the smile never seems to depart from her face, but yet she vocalises her pain as she talks to the IL [Iraqi League] about the US occupation of her beloved country Iraq. She says 'Iraq has never been through harder times, and has never seen a greater criminal than the US occupation which came to destroy a civilisation in its totality, basing its invasion on lies and deceit in order to justify its despicable crime. It's the occupation's deliberate policies that are directly responsible for the ugly sectarian and ethnic violence; it is trying to convey to the world the notion that Iraqis are unable to co-exist as brothers as has been for centuries. I cannot understand how some Iraqis are working with the occupation against their people and their country'. Sister Mary then praised the wonderful continued support for the Monastery received from the local Muslim community. 'When the criminal US forces of occupation entered Mosul, our Muslim neighbours ran to protect the Monastery, and assured us that they will protect everyone as long as they live. This wonderful gesture had the greatest impact on all of us, and gave us great comfort and happiness in these difficult and hard times'. Sister Mary also attacked vigorously those who are working tirelessly in the promotion of the sectarianism and ethnic violence. She said 'we have never known these ugly labels, and it is certainly foreign to our culture and our beloved Iraqi society. Iraq is well known for the brotherhood and mutual forgiveness amongst its people over its history. There is no doubt that there are sick people who are conniving, plotting and brain-washing people to push them into committing acts of utter stupidity which are foreign to the well-known Iraqi character and personality'. TALES FROM OCCUPIED IRAQ
A call from the resistance: At his clinic [in Baghdad] one day last September, [Dr Azzam Kanbar-Agha, a British-educated Iraqi surgeon] took a phone call from someone who announced, "We are the mujahideen" (the resistance fighters). Assuming it was a friend playing the fool, he replied, "Come off it." "We're serious," the voice countered. "We've been watching your clinic and we want you to make a donation to help our cause. We're fighting the Americans." When he asked what figure they had in mind, the voice whispered softly, "We don't want to force you." "I told them I wasn't used to this kind of talk. They suggested $10,000 (£5,750) and promised that no one else would bother me. I would be protected. I asked how I could be sure they were mujahideen. They might be a gang. If we were a gang, the man said, 'We would just kidnap you without a phone call'," he recalls. Kanbar-Agha was given two days to collect the money but a few hours later got a chillingly impatient text message: "You're not worth negotiating with. We're going to act." Next day he threw away his mobile phone Sim card and fled to Jordan with his wife and daughter. The two goals of an Iraqi soldier: Only one Iraqi soldier interviewed for this story agreed to the use of his real name. But he's probably the toughest bird in the yard -- the brigade sergeant major, Abdurrazza Q. Abdul. He's 36 and has two children. He doesn't care who knows he's in the army and hands over his military ID to prove it. He has 12 medals for valor for fighting in Iraq's wars with Iran and Kuwait. He's been wounded three times. He's been on CNN. "Technically, the old army was much better," he said. He used an interpreter even though he speaks some English. It's hard to know just how much. "But it's much more comfortable in the new army because of better pay and leave." He has been in the army for 19 years. "I like being a soldier because I have two goals," he said one chilly evening outside Camp Fallujah. His plywood shack was warm and comfortably furnished with a television, microwave oven and refrigerator, a thick carpet on the floor and a bare lightbulb overhead. "My main goal is to support and defend my country. My other goal is that all coalition forces will leave Iraq." Common practice: Specialist Michael Blake, a US Iraq veteran, told the BBC Newsnight Program that it was "common practice to shoot up the landscape or anything that moved" after an explosion. Another veteran, Jody Casey, said he had also witnessed civilians being killed. "Bombs go off and you just zap any farmer that's close to you," he said. "At that time, when we first got down there, you could basically kill anyone you wanted." Casey said he did not take part in any atrocities himself, but was advised to always carry a shovel. He could then plant this on any civilian victims to make it look as though they were digging roadside bombs.
New York Times: Bush made clear to Blair in January 2003 he was determined to invade Iraq without UN resolution and even if UN arms inspectors failed to find WMDs: Citing a confidential British memorandum, the newspaper said the president was certain that war was inevitable and made his view known during a private two-hour meeting with Blair in the Oval Office on January 31, 2003. Information about the meeting was contained in the memo written by Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The Times. "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," the paper quotes David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, as noting in the memo. " 'The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March,' Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. 'This was when the bombing would begin'," the paper continued. Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum had not been made public, according to the report. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by British lawyer and international law professor Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast excerpts from the memo. But since then, The New York Times has been able to review the five-page memo in its entirety. The document indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable, the paper said. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Blair agreed with that assessment. The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq, The Times noted. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a US surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Syria bolsters status of Iraqi cleric:"I pray that all Muslims will unite against Western injustice and tyranny," al-Sadr told the crowd during his Feb. 10 visit to the Sayida Zeinab shrine in Damascus. It was a not-so-subtle reference to the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and Washington's repeated threats against Syria. "We must free ourselves from foreign domination," he added. Once a renegade Shia cleric with a ragtag militia fighting U.S. forces, al-Sadr has transformed himself into a statesman. He controls a key bloc in the new Iraqi parliament, and he's become a kingmaker in the selection of the next Iraqi prime minister. In this new role, al-Sadr, 33, has been touring the Middle East, receiving red-carpet treatment worthy of a head of state. Over the past two months, he visited Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran - and he had a private audience with each country's leader. For the United States, al-Sadr may pose a greater threat as a politician than he did as a militia leader. Three years after the U.S. invasion, he could seriously disrupt plans to cultivate a pro-American government in Baghdad. For Syria, which has been under intense pressure from the Bush administration for meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the cleric's visit afforded President Bashar Assad an opportunity to showcase an anti-American ally. More broadly, al-Sadr's weeklong visit highlighted Syria's efforts to join forces with Iran and militant factions in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories to challenge Washington. It is an alliance of countries and groups that have been in the crosshairs of U.S. policy since before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. "The Syrian regime is trying to form a united front with Iran and Islamist groups in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine," said Marwan Kabalan, a political science professor at Damascus University and a former government consultant. "Al-Sadr is a major part of that effort." The cleric met with Assad twice, as well as with Syria's vice president, various ministers and most of the country's top religious leaders. He toured the Syrian-Iraqi border, visited shrines and received dozens of visitors at the presidential palace. Throughout his time in Damascus, al-Sadr - who had never traveled outside Iraq before the U.S. invasion - ratcheted up his anti-American rhetoric. He promised to send his several-thousand strong militia, the Mahdi Army, to the aid of Syria and Iran if either country is attacked by the United States. He also hinted that any American action in Syria or Iran could have consequences for U.S. troops in Iraq. "I will be one of the defenders of Syria and Iran, and all Islamic states," the cleric said on Feb. 6 after meeting with Assad. A few days later, he told Syrian TV: "America is targeting the Muslim and Arab states in the Middle East and beyond. It wants to control the world." (…) Aside from its role in Iraq, Syria is also under scrutiny for its meddling in neighboring Lebanon, where a United Nations investigation has implicated top Syrian officials in last year's assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. After Hariri's killing, Syria was forced to withdraw thousands of troops that it had kept in Lebanon for 29 years. Syria is fighting back by promoting a united front against U.S. policies. And it is trying to exploit anti-U.S. sentiments as relations between the West and the Muslim world are particularly strained by Hamas' election victory, a showdown with Iran over its nuclear research program, and Danish cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad. "Syria, Iran and their allies in Iraq are feeding off the uneasiness toward U.S. policies in the region," said Ayman Abdel-Nour, a Syrian political analyst. One of the most useful symbols in this struggle is al-Sadr, who has cultivated a reputation as an Arab nationalist and a fierce opponent of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. "When you want to confront a superpower like America, you need symbols," said Abdel-Nour. "When there aren't any symbols, you have to create them." Some Syrians say Assad's regime is using al-Sadr as a potential buffer against U.S. pressure on Damascus by dangling the notion that the cleric's supporters would intensify political and military problems for the United States in Iraq. "If the regime has to move away from diplomacy - and take the confrontation to another stage - it will count on al-Sadr to help," said the opposition leader. A senior al-Sadr aide in Baghdad hinted that the cleric would do just that. "There will be repercussions for U.S. actions in the region," said Sheik Abul-Zahra Sawaidi. "If America attacks Iran or Syria, their Muslim brothers cannot sit idly by. There will be a reaction in Iraq." It is sincerely curious how things work. For instance, as the war crimes committed in Haditha ripple across the news cycle, we learn about the fate of the Christian Peacemakers Teams members, abducted nearly four months ago by the so-called the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. "A gruelling four-month ordeal for two Canadian peace activists and a British colleague held hostage in Iraq ended Thursday in a bloodless military operation by multinational forces," reports CanWest Interactive. "U.S. Army Gen. Rick Lynch said in Baghdad that the coalition forces were tipped off to where the hostages were by someone captured Wednesday night." It should be noted that the Swords of Righteousness Brigade is linked to the Islamic Army in Iraq and the IAI is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, itself a documented British and U.S. intelligence asset (for details, see my New Swords of Righteousness Brigades Video blog entry from earlier this month). Evidence abounds that much of the "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and Iraqi "insurgent" violence is the result on Anglo-American black ops, as the capture and subsequent release of several British SAS and American "counterinsurgency" terrorists over the past few months reveal. In a deranged sort of way, it makes sense for counter-ops to kill abducted peacemakers, humanitarians, and journalists, as Tom Fox and Margaret Hassan were killed. It makes absolutely no sense for the Iraqi resistance to kidnap and murder these people, most working to help the Iraqi people. The Iraq War: A Black Hole: "If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there," stated George W. Bush in his news conference this morning. (March 21) . "I wouldn't have put put those kids there." The first part of that statement is a product of self-dramatization bordering on delusion. The second part is a tacit admission of crimes against our Constitution, since no president has the authority to commit our troops to war: Only Congress, through a formal declaration, can do so, and every president is required to ask for one from Congress. That requirement has no exceptions for presidents who claim that their foreign policy is the product of divine inspiration. Bush isn't "there" in Iraq. As the product of a regal upbringing that insulated him from the vicissitudes of life, and the beneficiary of a cult of presidential power that protects him from accountability, he has only a theoretical understanding of sacrifice. The president is just as eager to clothe his most dutiful retainers in impunity as well. "I don't believe he should resign," Mr. Bush said of Donald Rumsfeld. "He's done a fine job. Every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy." Yeah, ain't it just like an enemy to ruin a perfectly good war plan? But in the reality-aversive realm inhabited by the Bush regime and its media courtesans, there are no Iraqi enemies; just "furrin terrists" (as our heroic president would pronounce the term) and grateful liberated Iraqis. Why, according to Vice President Cheney, his pre-war prediction that the invading US troops would be "greeted as liberators" was "basically accurate" and "reflect[ed] reality." Bear in mind, Mr. Cheney famously mistook a tall, middle-aged lawyer for a captive quail, so he may not be our most reliable guide to reality as the rest of us - who live in a reality-mandatory environment - experience it. Speaking from whatever intermittently overlapping dimension he and his handlers inhabit, Mr. Bush reiterated his version of how the war in Iraq came about, and what its impact has been. "I made the difficult decision to remove him [Saddam], and the world is better for it." There he goes again, tacitly claiming that 1) he had the right and the authority to commit our nation to war; 2) that the question of how and by whom Iraq is governed falls within Washington's jurisdiction; and 3) that he has played any kind of hands-on role in the war. This on top of the palpable falsehood that he was overwrought with ambivalence about attacking Iraq. Somebody really needs to ring down the curtain on Bush's Byron's Julia act (who whispered "I shall ne'er consent" as she yielded to the enticings of a seducer). We're not buying it, and we're offended you're still trying to sell it. Now that he's led our nation into a huge and expanding mess, Bush is going to hand it off to his successors. Referring to an anticipated US exit from Iraq, Bush breezily said that this question "will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq...." Note carefully the plural: "Presidents." The Iraq war is already driving our nation to the brink of bankruptcy, and grinding our military into bone meal. At some point, the foreign interests propping up our dollar are going to bail on us, and anti-US military coalitions presently in embryo will come to term. The neo-fascist tendencies being lovingly fertilized by the diaper filling served up by Hannity, Limbaugh and that ilk will blossom into something genuinely evil. Within a decade, if we persist in this course, the US will be an impecunious Banana Republic taking dictation from the gang that runs the UN, or whatever successor organization is running the planet following our collapse. This does not have to happen. We can still steer away from the Black Hole. But the event horizon is dead ahead.... A rallying cry for the war lovers: How many men, women, and children will be killed, maimed, or sent mad if Bush attacks Iran? The prospect of an attack is especially exciting for those war lovers understandably disappointed by the turn of events in Iraq. "The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth," wrote Gerard Baker in the Times last month, "is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran. ... If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik revolution and the coming of Hitler." Sound familiar? In February 2003, Baker wrote that "victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate U.S. and British claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses." The "coming of Hitler" is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was heard before NATO's "moral crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in 1999, a model for the invasion of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia, 2 percent of NATO's missiles hit military targets; the rest hit hospitals, schools, factories, churches, and broadcasting studios. Echoing Blair and a clutch of Clinton officials, a massed media chorus declared that "we" had to stop "something approaching genocide" in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in 2002 in the Guardian. "Echoes of the Holocaust," said the front pages of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned of a "Balkan Final Solution." The recent death of Slobodan Milosevic took the war lovers and war sellers down memory lane. Curiously, "genocide" and "Holocaust" and the "coming of Hitler" were now missing - for the very good reason that, like the drumbeat leading to the invasion of Iraq and the drumbeat now leading to an attack on Iran, it was all bullsh*t. Not misinterpretation. Not a mistake. Not blunders. Bullsh*t. The "mass graves" in Kosovo would justify it all, they said. When the bombing was over, international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The FBI arrived to investigate what was called "the largest crime scene in the FBI's forensic history." Several weeks later, having found not a single mass grave, the FBI and other forensic teams went home. In 2000, the International War Crimes Tribunal announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass graves" was 2,788. This included Serbs, Roma, and those killed by "our" allies, the Kosovo Liberation Front. It meant that the justification for the attack on Serbia ("225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead," the U.S. ambassador-at-large David Scheffer had claimed) was an invention. To my knowledge, only the Wall Street Journal admitted this. A former senior NATO planner, Michael McGwire, wrote that "to describe the bombing as 'humanitarian intervention' [is] really grotesque." In fact, the NATO "crusade" was the final, calculated act of a long war of attrition aimed at wiping out the very idea of Yugoslavia. For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale killers such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former. Neocon ambitions and the spectacular disaster of Iraq: What was to have been a jolly, self-financing little war promoted by pro-Israeli neocons to 'liberate' Iraq's oil has cost over $500 billion so far. That's $50 billion more than the Vietnam War's total cost (in 2006 dollars). Clearly, the US armed forces are too expensive to send to a war lasting longer than a few months. While a debacle for the US and Iraq, the war has greatly benefited Iran and Israel. Saddam Hussein, responsible for over 300,000 Iranian deaths, is in jail. Iran's influence in Iraq grows daily. The recent remarkable public agreement by Washington to open talks over Iraq with Great Satan Iran shows even the Bush people are finally facing reality. Besides, occupying Iraq has left the US too weak to invade Iran. Now, the Bush administration, facing rising domestic opposition over the war, is desperately trying to get Iran to help it out of the bloody mess it created in Iraq. After getting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980, and funding the ensuing eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the US now watches helplessly as Iran slowly ingests large portions of Iraq. The US invasion of Iraq has handed power to pro-Iranian Shia religious parties. Shia spiritual leader, Ali al Sistani, warned followers they would go straight to hell - and lose their wives - if they did not vote for Shia religious candidates. Israel has been the second major beneficiary of the Iraq war. The long-term strategic goal of Israel's Likud Party rightists - shattering unstable Arab states to leave Israel dominant in the region - has been half attained by Iraq's fragmentation into three parts. Syria's regime is destabilised and faces possible civil strife. Any future challenge by Iraq to Israel's Middle East nuclear monopoly has vanished. Meanwhile, Israel has been able to cut defence spending, intensify repression of the Palestinians, and is quietly extending its influence into the semi-independent, oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Ironically, the third major beneficiary of Bush's war has been his nemesis, Osama bin Laden. The only way to drive US influence out of the Muslim world, Bin Laden has long maintained, is to tie it down in a series of small wars that bleed it financially. The nearly $10 billion a month wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing just that. Iraq, as even Bush admits, has become an incubator, magnet, and call to arms for anti-American jihadists across the Muslim World. Worse than the billions poured into Iraq, and the $1.5 billion stolen from Iraq's government during 2004-2005, the US has lost its honour in this brutal little neo-colonial war. The neoconservatives' ambitions to plunder Iraq's oil have become a mirage. An odour of pessimism and defeat hangs over the stalemated US military adventure in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney presidency sinks into the quick-sand of Iraq. THREE YEARS INTO THE INVASION
Statement by Iraqi expatriates on the Third Anniversary of the Occupation of Iraq: We the undersigned expatriate Iraqi workers, students, scientists, academics, writers, artists, professionals and business people, witnessing with horror the destruction of our people under an illegal foreign occupation, stand together with the peace movement throughout the world in commemorating three years of a brutal military occupation that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions, blighted the lives of an entire population and spoiled their environment, shattered our country's physical infrastructure, its civic institutions and its life-support systems, assaulted our culture and desecrated sacred sanctuaries, violated people with deviant cruelty and racist intent, implanted mercenaries and death squads, and encouraged corruption and sedition that threaten us as a people. We support the call for world-wide demonstrations on 18 March and the demand for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq, the dismantling of US bases, and an end to US domination of economic and social policies and its interference in domestic Iraqi affairs. We believe that the occupation is the main cause of insecurity in Iraq, encouraging mistrust among Iraqis, and fomenting sectarian strife and ethnic conflict. The occupation has nurtured corruption and fostered gang crime, and it bears primary responsibility for the activities of murderous sectarian terrorists and criminals. The US occupation prevents Iraqis from overcoming the legacy of 35 years of corrupt and vicious dictatorship and of decades of sanctions and war. It promises nothing except more war of one kind or another for a generation to come. We do not believe that the occupation acts as an insurance against civil war, but that sectarian attacks and the threat of civil war are being used to prolong the occupation. The Iraqi people have a legitimate inalienable right, under International Law, to resist the occupation. We call upon all Iraqi civil society and political activists, community and religious leaders to cease forthwith all meetings and communications with US, British and other occupation officials and military commanders in Iraq, and to pursue instead a national Iraqi dialogue that is inclusive of the genuine patriotic resistance. The United States must not be allowed to wage its war by proxy, and Iraqi security forces will only gain legitimacy if they break links with the US occupation and dedicate themselves to the service of the Iraqi people. We call upon officials in the new Iraqi military and police, together with civilian officials in government, local authorities, public institutions and state enterprises to end co-operation with US and British occupation forces and to boycott all US and British official personnel, except for withdrawal negotiations. The objective must be to terminate the abnormal relationship between Iraq and the United States and to establish a healthy state-to-state relationship that is based on Iraqi sovereignty, independence, mutual respect and the principles of international legality. Peaceful resistance, resistance by other means, and non-cooperation with occupation forces and officials must be a prelude for the new Iraqi Parliament to remove the fig leaf of legitimacy from the forces of occupation. Only then would the new state institutions and political process gain respect and acceptance. Iraqis want unity, peace and stability in order to rebuild their shattered lives and to pursue a national programme of reconstruction and development. The American and British peoples and the whole world can help Iraq by exerting maximum pressure upon the US and British administrations to remove all their troops and bases, along with the forces of the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" from Iraq; to acknowledge the injustice committed against the people of Iraq; and to help a unified democratic fully independent Iraq in a reconstruction effort. [follows a list of 30 signatures of Iraqis residing in the US, UK, Canada, France, Switzerland and Australia.] A balance sheet for America's Iraq: Three years after the war, one should ask, who has benefited most from the fall of Saddam? Ironically, the answers prove the exact opposite of what the Americans believed in 2002-03. The first and ultimate victor is the Islamic Republic of Iran. What more could Iran want than the downfall of a dictator against whom it had fought for eight years in the 1980s, and his replacement with Shi'ite politicians who had been created by and in Iran in the 1980s? The mullahs of Iran once viewed Iraq as a dangerous and aggressive neighboring country, ruled by a hostile and brutal dictatorship. Today, Iraq is viewed as a friendly neighbor, ruled by loyal allies who want to advance Shi'ite nationalism, export the Islamic revolution and strengthen Iranian-Iraqi relations. Some of those in power in Iraq, such as Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), are more Iranian than they are Iraqi. Hakim, after all, fought with Iran against the army of his native Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. The second victor is Iraqi Shi'ites, who have been transformed from a suppressed majority into a power group that controls key posts in the government and military, as well as the powerful job of prime minister. The Americans courted them in 2003, but when they realized that Shi'ite loyalties were rooted in Iran (an obvious fact for anybody familiar with the Arab world), they decided to abandon them, weaken them, and replace them with the Sunnis, whom they had persecuted since 2003. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "I have tasted command. I love it. And I will never give it up." That is exactly the case with the Iraqi Shi'ites. They will never abandon the powerful posts they attained after the fall of Saddam, preferring to fight and plunge Iraq into civil war rather than submissively accept returning to rule of the Sunnis. Third on the victory list - much to the surprise of the Americans - are some of the Arab regimes that neighbor Iraq. These countries were expected to collapse, according to the domino theory, once the Iraqi Ba'athists were toppled and replaced by a true democracy. Had democracy been successful in Iraq, then these regimes would have faced the wrath of their own people, who would have aspired to create similar democracies in their own countries. But Iraq today is an ultimate failure, giving ammunition to Arab regimes that are telling activists in their own countries: "Look at what the Americans achieved in Iraq. Is this the democracy you want? It is a democracy where 30,000 people have been killed, by war and sectarian violence." Inasmuch as some Arabs want democracy, they will always vote for stability as a high priority. It would be great if they could achieve both, but if it is a choice between a democracy with no stability and a dictatorship with stability, they will chose the latter option. Under Saddam, an Iraqi citizen who minded his own business, who did not involve himself in politics, and who cared only for the livelihood of his family could live a secure life. Today, an Iraqi citizen with the same characteristics runs a high risk of sending his son to school and never seeing him again because he happened to walk by a car loaded with explosives. Or he runs the risk of being in the wrong place, with the wrong people, and being blown to pieces by a terrorist attack. -- Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.
Iran President blasts U.S. policy in Middle East: Radical Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted on Saturday United States policy in the Middle East as "divisive" and said that Muslim nations could "roll back by hundreds of kilometres" the U.S. and Israel if they adopted a unified position. "America plans to divide Islamic countries by driving a wedge between them and turning them into its puppets, while a united position by the Islamic world can roll back America and Israel hundreds of kilometres", Ahmadinejad told Syrian Vice-President Farouq al-Shara during a meeting in Tehran. His comments were carried by Iran's official news agency. "Presently, the real crisis is in America and the West. Not only are they facing widespread domestic crises, but they are concerned by the resistance in Palestine and they are on the verge of being destroyed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. For this reason they try to create divisions to export their problems to other countries", Ahmadinejad said. "The recent events in the region showed that Islamic countries have begun a movement to push forward. If they continue to push this movement forward with correct understanding and complete unity, as well as bravery, resistance, and steadfastness, the conditions of the region will completely turn in favour of the Islamic world". Ahmadinejad: Iran-U.S. dialogue on Iraq will be "conditional": Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Saturday that possible upcoming talks between the Islamic Republic and the United States over Iraq will be "conditional", the official state news agency reported. "Even though we do not trust America, we will negotiate with them conditionally about Iraq", Ahmadinejad said in Tehran during a meeting with Syrian First Vice-President Farouq al-Shara. "We have announced that we will negotiate with the U.S. conditionally over Iraq while considering all the interests of the Iraqis and the Islamic world and discussing this with Islamic countries. This is while altogether we do not trust America", Ahmadinejad added. "In response to repeated pleas by America we kept telling them that we don't trust them, but we did not remain indifferent the demands of the people, government, and elders of Iraq". Let Iran Have the Bomb: On August 6, 1945 the United States killed over 100,000 men, women and children at Hiroshima, Japan with the newly invented atomic bomb. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Some victims were incinerated into thin air, others fled in agony with their skin hanging from their bodies. Thousands more died in the weeks, months and years that followed. The justification for this horror is the usual one for blood thirsty behavior. We killed people in order to help them, a convenient explanation for the perpetrators. In fact, large numbers of civilian casualties were not an incentive for the Japanese to surrender. The napalm fire bombing of Tokyo and other cities created similar numbers of casualties but the Japanese didn't surrender after those human catastrophes. More than likely the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan motivated the raising of the white flag. The mass murder of thousands served only as a test for a new weapon, a horrific experiment in mass murder. The United States is still the only nation to use an atomic weapon on human beings. Keep that fact in mind when we are whipped into a frenzy of fear regarding the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. Every impartial observer of Iran's nuclear program agrees that it is at least five to ten years away from attaining a nuclear weapons capability. You wouldn't know it to hear members of Congress, the lapdog press and the Israeli government. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajed already had a bulls eye on his head when he quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini's decades old call to "wipe Israel off the map." Cooler heads know that Israel, unlike Iran, already has a nuclear capability. Estimates range from 75 nuclear warheads to 300. A country without nukes can't harm a country that has at least 75. The numbers are only estimates because Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear weapons and has never submitted to the same international inspections that it demands of Iran. Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is not. Iran, without nukes, is called a threat to Israel, which is armed to the teeth with them. While we are being propagandized into creating another human rights and foreign relations nightmare, it is the United States that has single handedly killed nuclear non-proliferation with its recent deal to boost India's nuclear capability. India may keep China in check so India gets the nuclear goodies. The United States gives India, already a nuclear power, greater nuclear capability, but threatens war, death, the destruction of Iran's oil supply, and a world wide financial catastrophe if Iran dares to want the same thing. The United States created the nuclear world and now sustains it through rank cynicism. Politicians and the press constantly make the case for war by declaring that Iran is run by "crazies." As usual, a history lesson is in order. The Iranians elected a secular democratic government in the early 1950s. Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh made the mistake of getting a little too uppity and had the gall to think he could nationalize oil production in his own country. The British and American governments weren't having any of it. They overthrew Mossadegh and installed the Shah. On July 3, 1988 the U.S. navy shot down, accidentally we are told, an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people. When Bush the elder became president he awarded the Legion of Merit for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service" to the commander who ordered the shot fired. Whose country is crazy? The United States let the nuclear genie out of the bottle 60 years ago. The United States encourages the non-nuclear world to want to join the club. The lesson of the now three year old occupation of Iraq is simple. Get the bomb and the Americans will leave you alone. The Iranians deny wanting to use their nuclear technology for military means. They may be lying about their intentions but it hardly matters. The reality is that Iran won't threaten Israel, or the United States either. They won't give a bomb to Hamas. They are not crazy. Politicians who say that the military option can't be taken off the table or Iran must not be allowed to get the bomb, either believe what they say and are insane, or know there is no threat but cynically go along to get elected. Death and destruction are always political winners in America. It would be wonderful to have a non-nuclear planet, but the nuclear have nots are being rational when they want to change sides. North Korea may be called a "crazy" nation but it is a nuclear nation and gets a little more respect. North Korea moved ahead with its nuclear plans even as its citizens were starving to death. North Korea concluded that starvation was a small price to pay in order to join the killer elite. When you watch John McCain or a Democratic presidential hopeful foam at the mouth about the prospect of a nuclear Iran, don't fear the Iranians. Fear your own government instead. Its plans are always crazy.
Chavez says U.S. already has lost in Iraq: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that U.S. troops have been routed by a strong resistance movement in Iraq, but haven't pulled out because officials in Washington won't acknowledge defeat. The United States would also suffer a tremendous military defeat if the Bush administration decided to invade Iran, Chavez told a group of foreign diplomats and government supporters at the Miraflores Presidential Palace. "The U.S. empire is defeated in Iraq, they just don't want to admit it," Chavez said to rousing applause. Using a Venezuelan slur to refer to President Bush, Chavez added: "Mr. Donkey thought they were going to be received as heroes." "God forbid they dare to attack Iran," he said. "We want peace, but they would eat twice as much of the dust of defeat there, I'm absolutely sure of that." Chavez's comments came on the heels of a speech Monday night in which he warned that if U.S. troops were to invade any Latin American country, "revolutionaries" from across the region would join forces to battle the Americans. Chavez's remark confirmed what many in Venezuela have long presumed: that his government would go to the aid of a close ally like Cuba in the hypothetical scenario of the U.S. sending troops. Although U.S. officials dismiss his claims as outlandish and say they have no plans to attack Cuba, Chavez insists his country must be on guard to face any potential U.S. military attack. The Venezuelan leader said the U.S. "should know that if it wants or someday decides ... to invade any of our countries - be it Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, today, tomorrow or the next day - we would be there gathering together the revolutionaries to do battle with weapons in hand against U.S. imperialism." BEYOND IRAQ Terminator Seeds Suffer Defeat at Global Conference: Small farmers and activists celebrated a triumph against Terminator seeds in Brazil Friday, but said they would not let down their guard, and would continue to fight the seeds. The working group in charge of addressing the issue at the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) maintained the moratorium on field trials of Terminator technology, which produces seeds whose sterile offspring cannot reproduce. The decision is still pending a vote in next Friday's plenary session in the Mar. 20-31 conference taking place in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. But that will merely be a formality. Only Australia, Canada and New Zealand tried to leave a door open, pushing for "case-by-case" evaluation of permits for field testing, which critics say would weaken the moratorium put in place in 2000 on Terminators, or GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies). For the stance they took in this case, and with regard to transgenic crops in general, Australia, Canada and New Zealand were granted the "evil axis" award by an informal coalition of civil society groups that annually hands out the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy. The coalition awarded 10 "prizes" to "biopirates" as well as 10 "cog awards for resisting biopiracy". (Cogs were ships designed to repel attacks by pirates). The United States won the award for "most despicable" act of biopiracy, for imposing plant intellectual property laws on occupied, war-torn Iraq in June 2004, making it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers". --- Thomas Pynchon in his "Proverbs for Paranoids"


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