Thursday, March 30, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, March 30, 2006 Photo: Workers remove from a balcony in Rome's City Hall the poster of American reporter Jill Carroll - who was kidnapped three months ago in a bloody ambush that killed her translator -, and who was released from captivity Thursday March 30, 2006. Like other colleagues in Iraq, Carrol's poster was hung in Rome's City Hall after her kidnapping. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito) Bring 'em on: U.S. airman killed and another wounded by roadside bomb while conducting operation near Baghdad. Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier dies from wounds received in clashes in Fallujah on March 28. Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier dies in Rutbah on March 28, after improvised explosive device detonates near his Humvee. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Suicide car bomb goes off at entrance of a police commando headquarters near Green Zone. The blast was powerful but the cement barriers protected the guards, minimizing the casualties to two wounded along with killing of the suicide bomber. Assailants in speeding cars gun down police commando as he was leaving his house in south Baghdad. Police discover body of strangled man in a northern Baghdad neighborhood. Suicide car bomber rams police convoy in west Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, killing one police commando and wounding three others. Two civilians also were hurt. Roadside bombs hits minibus and a police patrol, wounding at least five civilians. Gunmen wound at least two policemen in Baghdad, authorities said. Armed men in Baghdad target bakery in the neighborhood of Dura, shooting dead three people. Attack on bakery in the neighborhood of Amiriyah, with one employee wounded in a hail of bullets. Bomb explodes in west of Baghdad as a commando convoy passed, wounding five commandos. Basra: Drive-by shooters kill lawyer as she gets out of taxi in Basra. Kirkuk: Policeman killed and three others wounded when roadside bomb hits their patrol in Kirkuk. "Insurgents" blow up pipeline transporting oil from Kirkuk to Beiji refinery. Nasiriyah: Two people wounded by bomb targeting a patrol of infrastructure guards protecting oil pipelines in Nasiriyah. Baiji: U.S. forces launch operation in town of Baiji, Tikrit. Iraqi troops supported the American military units in the offensive late last night. Roundups were staged early this morning. Heavy weapon fire was heard in the town. Gunmen ambush and kill eight workers from Iraq's main oil refinery in Baiji. One worker was also wounded when their minibus was stopped at a roadblock after they left work for the day. IRAQ NEWS JILL CARROLL RELEASED|
Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Carroll was released near an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni political organization, in western Baghdad. The party said in a statement that Carroll walked in at 12:15 p.m. carrying a letter written in Arabic asking the party to help her. Carroll then was transferred to party headquarters, given gifts that included a Quran and handed over to fellow journalists and American officials at about 2:30 p.m., the statement said. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with Carroll and said she was in good spirits and anxious to go home. He also said no kidnappers were "yet" in custody, and no one in the U.S. mission was involved in paying a ransom. "No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By 'U.S. person' I mean the United States mission," Khalilzad said. During Carroll's months in captivity, she had appeared in three videos broadcast on Arab television, pleading for her life. Her captors had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed if that did not happen. The date came and went with no word about her fate. On Feb. 28, Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Carroll was being held by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the insurgent group that freed two French journalists in 2004 after four months in captivity. She was last seen in a videotape broadcast Feb. 9 by the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai. Her twin sister, Katie, issued a plea for her release on Al-Arabiya television late Wednesday. Carroll is the fourth Western hostage to be freed in eight days. On March 23, U.S. and British soldiers, acting on intelligence gained from a detainee, freed Briton Norman Kember, 74, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from a house west of Baghdad. Carroll's televised comments [to Baghdad TV upon release] "I was treated very well, it's important people know that. That I was not harmed, they never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way." "I was kept in very good small, safe place, safe room, nice furniture, they gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted. They never hit me or even threatened to hit me." "I really don't know where I was. The room had a window, but the glass was ... you know you can't see, and curtains... I couldn't hear any sounds." "I once did watch television, but I didn't really know what was going on in the outside world. Here and there I would get some news. One time they brought me the newspaper." "I don't know what happened. They just came to me early this morning and said, 'OK, we are letting you go now.'"Muslim discontent awaits Rice in northern England: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will face Muslim resentment over the war in Iraq when she travels to northern England this week to meet her British opposite number Jack Straw. Rice will travel to Liverpool, a city steeped in left wing radicalism, and Straw's home town of Blackburn, where 20 percent of the population is Muslim. She will speak on U.S. foreign policy in the somewhat incongruous setting of Blackburn Rovers' soccer stadium, and had been due to visit a mosque in the city until the invitation was withdrawn on Wednesday. No one at the Masjid al Hidayah mosque was available for comment but the Foreign Office confirmed the cancellation, saying it was a pity. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest lobby group for the country's 1.6 million Muslims, said there was widespread opposition to U.S. foreign policy and Rice's visit. "This particular U.S. administration has upset many Muslims in the UK and around the world ... so it is not particularly surprising that the visit to a Blackburn mosque has had to be cancelled," MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said. "The U.S. government needs to demonstrate that it is prepared to be more even-handed in its relations with Muslims and Muslim countries." The Stop The War coalition, which plans to demonstrate against the war in Iraq everywhere Rice goes, said the governing committee of the mosque had had a change of heart. "This decision is evidence that the bulk of the community, Muslim and otherwise, are strongly against the visit," Stop The War spokesman Alex Martindale said in a statement. REPORTS Video: We're Sorry: We have a powerful film this evening. We follow a group of former US soldiers who have returned from Iraq deeply affected by the experience. As they march across America to protest against the war they reveal their own experiences of the conflict, make some disturbing allegations about military practices in Iraq and reflect on how it feels to come home. We'll discuss some of the issues raised with the former Judge Advocate General for the US Army who is also a decorated combat veteran. BBC Newsnight program broadcast 03/29/06 COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Iraq has not fallen: It is a rarity these days to see good news coming out of Iraq. Sure, I am not talking about the planted US military version of events or the bloggers on "assignment in Iraq" embedded with some military unit. Nor am I talking about the so-called valor and bravery of the Iraqi Army as it storms the hideouts of "insurgents" and scores kills against women and children. No, I am indeed talking about the voice of one woman, who has in nearly three years saved the writing of history from those who seek to enslave it, refashion it to their own whims and manipulate it for generations to come. Today, purported victors may attempt to write history, but the internet has made that impossible. Call it a matter of your own best invention turning its guns on you. I would ask readers of my blog and wherever else this short treatise may appear not to take Riverbend's nomination as a finalist for the prestigious Samuel Johnson literary prize lightly. It is an achievement that speaks volumes to the tenacity, no, the very indomitable spirit of the Iraqi people. A people who while under a senseless and merciless occupation and facing the break-up of their country continue to press on. Ever forward, ever defying the odds, ever thinking, innovating, producing and accomplishing. It is a pity that Riverbend's achievements will get no airplay or broadcast time in her own country, a testament to the terrible reppressive forces which have swept Iraq. Consider that this is a woman who has been forced to quit her job because conditions in her country took a detour to the worst becoming so few women could venture outside their homes. And those who did resorted to the head covering - hijab - in case they weren't already covered. Consider that English - the language in which she writes - is not her native tongue, and yet she is nominated for a prize in English Literature. Consider also that she shares the nomination with 18 others of mostly Anglo-Saxon descent. Consider she is the only Arab, the only Iraq, the only Muslim on this year's list. Consider these things as you read her blog, the stories of what she must endure, what her people must endure, of what the whole nation has had to endure. Consider these things when you read of the night her home was raided and the fears which are impounded in every word she writes. Riverbend's testimony to history is no less significant than the Diary of Anne Frank, for it reveals the human component that is so readily snuffed out by warfare. It reveals the beating heart of life where war seeks none. It does not matter if it is Riverbend's name that is sounded in June when the winner is announced. She has already won, and we Iraqis have won right alongside her. There are those who have sought to discredit her. Those that have doubted her existence, those that have shunned her because they were paid to. But she - and us - has emerged the victor. This was not the first time she was nominated for a prize, nor, I am sure, will it be the last. It is a small victory if one considers the overall defeat of the human experience during warfare. The Times of London had this headline in describing her: Literary honor for Baghdad blogger. Honor indeed. Iraqis, stand proud. American and Arab Youth Share Ideas on the occupation [Excerpts from an e-mail exchange] In an e-mail-based dialogue, sponsored by IslamOnline.net's Muslim Affairs section, between American student Evan Hays and Iraqi-Palestinian student Khalid Jarrar. Evan L. Hays, 21, is a senior student at in Illinois who has traveled through Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, where he studied the people, language, politics, history, and faith of the Middle East. Khalid Jarrar, 23, is an Iraqi-Palestinian student with a major in environmental engineering who lived in Iraq from July 1991 through July 2005 and has recently moved to Jordan. Khalid maintains a blog, Tell me a secret, where he writes about ordinary Iraqis and daily life in post-war Iraq.
Excerpt from Part 1 Evan: Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein. I will not shrink from this statement. In fact, I believe that even the liberal media in the United States, as well as most true Muslims, believe this deep down, even if they do not always vocalize it. Khalid: Iraq, that was built throughout years, is now destroyed, at all levels, and is still being destroyed everyday, by the occupation and the war that the US started-look at the killing and torture of Iraqis; bombing cities and villages; and installing puppet governments. The fake government that was installed in Iraq, which consists of pro-occupation figures, exists within and only within the boundaries of the Green Zone, which is surrounded by concrete walls, American soldiers, and American tanks-all to protect the government from the anger of people, the Iraqi people, whose voice you never hear in the media anymore. This government that is being attacked everyday at all levels by Iraqis, unable itself, let alone Iraqis, will fall, because it was installed as a result of external pressure and foreign intervention, something that never worked in Iraq throughout history, under many occupations that tried to control it and oppress the will of its people. I believe in the strength of Iraqis. I believe in the spirit of Iraqis. I believe in God above all, and therefore I know that this occupation, too, will be terminated, and that the occupation will leave against its will and against all its plans and despite the presence of the military bases that were built in Iraq for the occupation to stay (just like the American occupation in other countries around the world, except that in Iraq, occupations never last, and are always forced to leave.) Saddam was a terrible dictator, a phase that every country goes through till it revolts and achieves its granted democracy, a natural process that results in a democratic state where people rule themselves by electing governments that represent them. Saddam used violence against everyone who dared to criticize him, and so does the occupation. Saddam killed his enemies, or the people who stood against him, while the occupation kills innocent people everyday, people walking the streets, living in their cities. The occupation used cluster bombs against civilians, bombs that still kill innocent people. They were used against a neighbor who lived right next to where I lived. Their remains kept exploding and killing people whenever they stepped over them. Both Saddam and the occupation kill whoever they think are "bad people" or "insurgents," except that the occupation does that much more widely. Other than that, Saddam was a good "manager" in terms of providing the basic needs of life-water, security, food. Now we still have the same country of secret police and muhabarat (intelligence) except that we lost the small positive side of Saddam; we don't have water, security, electricity, or food rations anymore. Excerpt from Part 2 Evan: I also am disappointed and shocked that Khalid takes such a stand on the "resistance," as this is implicitly saying that he is in favor of the terrorism that continues to kill far more people over the last year than the military battles have for quite some time. (…) At this point I am not asking the readers to even support American military actions, but I am asking the readers to at least see this resistance for what it is, and finally to get involved for peace if they really do want to change things. Join the Red Crescent or the Arab League or various Muslim human rights organizations and go to Iraq-the more hands that there are working for peace, the sooner American soldiers will leave, but more importantly, the sooner the destructive ideology of the "resistance" will be defeated. Khalid: The resistance is the force of the oppressed against this oppressor. The resistance couldn't possibly have started or continued, if it wasn't for the funding and protection of Iraqi people. Imagine four people in a car, carrying their weapons and waiting for an American convoy to pass so they can attack it. How many Iraqis see them? How many Iraqis can report them anonymously? How many Iraqis can attack them? But none of that happens! People protect them, and cheer for them when they perform their operations. They help the attackers in their escape after they are done. Some people even divide their income between their families and the resistance, some people work half-time to provide for their families and dedicate the rest of their day to working with the resistance. It is a public grassroots movement, and the official numbers and report show that it's increasing and getting smarter and stronger. These are facts that AP can't report because they don't know about them, and Talabani won't talk about them because he doesn't like them. I heard you talking over and over about the innocent Iraqis who were killed by the terrorists (well, according to your definition of terrorists, not mine). My question is: Do you support the killing of Iraqis by the American Army? Over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. Cluster bombs and white phosphorus were used against civilians. Yes, civilians in civilian areas, as you know that kind of weapon doesn't discriminate. It's practically a weapon of mass destruction so to speak, in the sense that it's designed to kill as many people as possible in an area. Well, you might say that some of the resistance were among those civilians that were killed. Do you support killing these numbers of innocent civilians, just because maybe they work with the resistance? If the situation were the opposite and your country were occupied and the occupiers killed civilians, including your family members, by using white phosphorus-which means that they practically burned to death-just because some of the resistance happened to be in the neighbor, what would you think? (Sorry if I sound rude; I need to let you understand that I am not talking about theories. Those people who burned to ashes were families of other people you know.) Excerpt from Part 5 Evan: I pray that you do not view me as someone who is not deeply saddened by the pain in Iraq, someone who does not greatly appreciate Iraq and its people, someone who does not respect Islam, etc. I am simply someone trying to find out what is right, as we all are in this life. Perhaps you as readers are more inclined to believe Khalid's points because he is an Iraqi, and quite probably you are right to do so. Khalid: I have said before and will repeat that the goal of this debate is not getting closer to each other, but to demonstrate the facts and answer the questions, and let the readers see for themselves the elements of the case of each one of us. I represent the common anti-war side, and you represent the common pro-war side, so there is nothing personal here, and I have nothing personal against you of course. If you want a better way to get closer to an Iraqi, consider asking your government to stop occupying his country. (...) Consider the possibility of someone you love being burned or shredded with White Phosphorus (WP) or cluster bombs. Imagine your country occupied and the scenes of the military of another country on your land building military bases, and then spreading a propaganda about protecting your freedom. I hope that you will never have to go through that, but I am asking you to look closely at the life of Iraqis. They are not a political theory; they are people, humans, who are suffering from the lack of medicine, food, and security. But they still have their dignity, which is urging them to fight at all levels, a fight that won't stop, not till the last man falls, not till the last pen is broken, not before Iraq gets its freedom back, someday.Military expert has fighting words for Bush: Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, was a founding member of Delta Force, the military's elite covert counter-terrorist unit. He culled his experiences for "Inside Delta Force". Today he serves as an executive producer and technical adviser for "The Unit," CBS' new hit drama based on his book, who drew 18 million viewers in its first two airings. Q: What is the cost to our country [of the war in Iraq]? A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on. Our military is completely consumed, so were there a real threat - thankfully, there is no real threat to the U.S. in the world, but were there one, we couldn't confront it. Right now, that may not be a bad thing, because that keeps Bush from trying something with Iran or with Venezuela. The harm that has been done is irreparable. There are more than 2,000 American kids that have been killed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed ñ which no one in the U.S. really cares about those people, do they? I never hear anybody lament that fact. It has been a horror, and this administration has worked overtime to divert the American public's attention from it. Their lies are coming home to roost now, and it's gonna fall apart. But somebody's gonna have to clear up the aftermath and the harm that it's done just to what America stands for. It may be two or three generations in repairing. Q: What do you make of the torture debate? Cheney ... A: (Interrupting) That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It's worse than small-minded, and look what it does. I've argued this on Bill O'Reilly and other Fox News shows. I ask, who would you want to pay to be a torturer? Do you want someone that the American public pays to torture? He's an employee of yours. It's worse than ridiculous. It's criminal; it's utterly criminal. This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I'm saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, "Well, they do it to us." Which is a ludicrous argument. ... The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what's legal and what we believed in. Now we're going to throw it away. Q: As someone who repeatedly put your life on the line, did some of the most hair-raising things to protect your country, and to see your country behave this way, that must be ... A: It's pretty galling. But ultimately I believe in the good and the decency of the American people, and they're starting to see what's happening and the lies that have been told. We're seeing this current house of cards start to flutter away. The American people come around. They always do. Why many Iraqis were willing to confront a formidable military machine with only small arms and their own wits: It is now lost to history, but the run-up to the ferocious first battle of Fallujah in April, 2004 - triggered by the mutilation of four private security contractors - actually began a full year earlier when American troops fired on a peaceful protest organized around a host of local issues, killing 13 Iraqi civilians. It was exactly this sort of ferocious reaction to peaceful protest that made the US military such a factor in the stoking of what would become an ongoing rebellion. In fact, in 2003, the occupation response to protests was forceful, almost gleeful, repression. Top officials of the CPA and the US military command considered these demonstrations, peaceful or not, the most tangible signs of ongoing Ba'athist attempts to facilitate a future return to power. They therefore applied the occupation's iron heel on the theory that forceful suppression would soon defeat or demoralize any "dead-enders" intent on restoring the old regime. Protests were met with arrests, beatings, and - in any circumstances deemed dangerous to US troops - overwhelming, often lethal military force. Home invasions of people suspected of anti-occupation attitudes or activities became commonplace, resulting in thousands of arrests and numerous firefights. Detention and torture in Abu Ghraib and other American-controlled prisons were just one facet of this larger strategy, fueled by official pressure - once a low-level rebellion boiled up - to get quick information for further harsh, repressive strikes. In general, the Iraqi population came to understand that dissent of whatever sort would be met by savage repression. This policy might have worked if, as Bush administration officials regularly claimed, the resistance had indeed been nothing but remnants of the Saddam regime, thirsting for a return to power. It might even have worked - or at least worked somewhat better - if the growing resistance had rested only on the anger people felt about the occupation of their homeland by an alien army. In these circumstances, protesters might have decided to bide their time in the face of overwhelming demonstrations of force. It was, however, an unworkable policy in the face of a deepening disaster caused by the CPA's own economic nostrums which, by generating new problems, kept recruiting new protesters (and deepening the anger of existing rebels). In this context, the CPA's heavy-handed responses were like oil to the flames. The rear guard of a deposed regime was a tiny part of their problem when protest and rebellion were fundamentally being fueled by a rapidly growing economic depression endangering the livelihoods of a majority of the Iraqi population. In such circumstances, each act of repression added the provocation of brutality, false arrest, torture and murder to the economic crimes that triggered the protests to begin with. And each act of repression convinced more Iraqis that peaceful protest would not work; that, if they were going to save their lives and those of their families, a more aggressive, belligerent approach would be necessary. In this context, the American policy of repression backfired royally, stoking an ever angrier, more violent, more widespread, better supported resistance. Eventually, in both Sunni and Shi'ite areas, major uprisings occurred and, in the Sunni cities, these developed into more-or-less continuous warfare that by November resulted in about 700 small-scale military engagements per week. Could the US have suppressed even this economically driven rebellion, had it flooded the country with American troops (as Shinseki recommended) and kept the Hussein army more or less intact, using it - as Saddam had - to suppress growing discontent? Perhaps, but as long as American administrators were intent on privatizing the country, this too might have backfired. As a start, the American Army was not trained or prepared to act as the sort of local police force that might have contained protests generated by economic discontent. Even Shinseki's estimates rested on the existence of a viable Iraqi military to maintain law and order. Yet, retaining an army after overthrowing a government and rearranging its economic foundations is quite a different feat from retaining one after a coup d'etat that changes little except the leadership. CPA officials rightly feared major resistance from all the forces that served, and were served by, the old system, including the military, which in the Iraqi case benefited from government-controlled enterprises as much as any other part of the establishment. Certainly, an alien army entered Iraq, destroyed that country's sovereignty, and stoked nationalist resentments. But major media outlets in this country have lost track of the fact that what also entered Iraq was an American administration wedded at home and abroad to a fierce, unbending, and alien set of economic ideas. By focusing attention only on the lack of US (and Iraqi) military power brought to bear in the early days after the fall of Baghdad, they ignore some of the deeper reasons why many Iraqis were willing to confront a formidable military machine with only small arms and their own wits. They ignore - and cause the American public to ignore - the fact that there was little resistance just after the fall of Baghdad and that it expanded as the economy declined and repression set in. They ignore the eternal verity that the willingness to fight and die is regularly animated by the conviction that otherwise things will only get worse. Fighting Two Fronts In Iraq: One week into the fourth year of the war in Iraq, the United States is now fighting two robust insurgencies, not one. The first insurgency, of course, is the Sunni-led one, a resistance movement made up of former and current Iraqi Baathists, many loyal to Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi military officers and fighters from the old Republican Guard and a coalition of tribal and Sunni religious leaders bitterly opposed to the U.S. occupation. That force shows no sign of weakening. And indeed, it is steadily killing American soldiers and Marines, along with scores of Iraqi army and police recruits weekly. But now a Shiite insurgency has emerged-nearly full-blown and with Iranian support-to confront the occupation. Because it can draw on the majority of Iraq's population, and because it can count on lethal assistance from Tehran, it is a far more deadly threat to U.S. forces than the first insurgency. It's safe to say that most Americans, who've been paying attention to the first insurgency, have failed to notice the emergence of the second. (...) So the United States is now engaged in a two-front war in Iraq. One obvious danger is that as tensions between the United States and Iran-linked Shiites in Iraq grow, the simmering conflict between the United States and Iran could come to a boil. The United States is already pushing hard for a showdown with Tehran over its alleged program to develop nuclear weapons. And there are clear signs of a U.S. effort to force regime change in Iran (see "Déjà Vu All Over Iran"), with the creation of a State Department Office of Iranian Affairs, U.S. efforts to recruit Iranian exiles, $85 million to support anti-regime groups and propaganda and more. Does Khalilzad realize that by confronting the Iraqi Shiites, he could precipitate a larger conflict with Iran? Is that his intention? Most likely, there is no grand plan at this stage for the Bush administration's Iran-Iraq policy. Not only are Bush administration officials divided among themselves, it is likely that no one in the administration has any idea what to do about either Iraq or Iran. Both crises are beyond the White House's ability to solve, and it is safe to assume that they are scrambling madly, desperately trying for a magic formula that can stabilize Iraq and neutralize Iran simultaneously. The maddeningly shifting alliances inside Iraq among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds-and the internal factions of each-make finding that winning combination almost as hard as picking the right lottery numbers. What Bush, Karl Rove and rest of the Bush team know is that if something isn't done, fast, the GOP is toast in the 2006 elections. For Bush and company, it may be all politics. But for the Iraqis, it is a steady diet of carnage. Scores of bodies turn up every day throughout Baghdad, many tied, bound and gagged and showing signs of having been tortured to death. Mass graves-that supposed relic of the Saddam years-are turning up again, and this time the bodies are fresh. Post-Saddam Iraq has become a nightmare, a Mad Max world in which warlords rule. It is not, as the president wants us to believe, a model for democracy in the Middle East. And the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the Arab League, the United Nations, the State Department, the CIA and the U.S. anti-war movement can all say: I told you so. The prophecy of America's false prophet: The recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on predictions regarding the outbreak of a civil war in Iraq raise fury and disgust now matter their incentives and targets. We have followed U.S. media and statements by U.S. officials since last Wednesday's bloody events and the subsequent violent attacks. These statements say that a civil war is imminent if not already there in Iraq. But what is strange is the fact that some of these statements warn of the dangers of the sectarian push by some quarters in the society and its dangers to the national solidarity and the Iraqi national unity. I want first to say to the U.S. administration and assure it that the Iraqi people have lived together in cohesion throughout centuries despite their religious, sectarian and ethnic differences. And that the colonial powers have constantly tried to split the Iraqi society by playing the card of the sectarian, ethnic or religious differences in its ranks. These powers' aim has always been to split the society as a means to spread their control over it. But our society has shown remarkable patriotism due to its awareness of the great conspiracy the forces of sedition and enemies of the homeland are concocting. But what raises suspicions and anxiety is that we suddenly find the American occupier expressing its keenness for the unity of our people and country. Did not the occupation encourage in the aftermath of its invasion of Iraq sectarian division ... when it devoted its energies to establish sectarian politics by giving each sect or nationality a specific number of seats. Throughout its modern political history Iraq was not ruled by sectarian policies and it was not obligatory for any government to reflect the country's sectarian, ethnic or religious construction in its formation. (...) This is why we are not surprised by Mr. Rumsfeld's statements and predictions of civil war. We are also not surprised when his troops withdrew from the streets of Baghdad last Wednesday when these blood events took place and hid themselves in their holes. Since the bombing of the holy shrine in Samarra, Iraqis have seen no trace of Mr. Rumsfeld's troops. Even his planes have disappeared from Iraqi skies. Mr. Rumsfeld's motto is "let them kill each other." But the Iraqis have broken the spears of the conspiracy and torn its sails and are steadfast in the face of the strong winds of evil. And God willing the prophecy of this false prophet (Rumsfled) will not come true. -- Editorial in Azzaman, a pro-Western Iraqi paper American War Crimes: From my point of view, the American State has committed innumerable and grave war crimes by starting and prosecuting the Iraq War. I do not refer to crimes defined by international law or by past war crimes tribunals. I am no lawyer and neither are most Americans, but we understand what many crimes are. For my purposes here, it does not help us understand American war crimes in Iraq to subject our State's deeds in that country to an abstruse tangle of international code and interpretation. It does help us to look at what has happened from a simple commonsense point of view. Let us think of war crimes as a subset of all crimes. They are those crimes committed in the course of war, start to finish. There are many crimes that we are accustomed to domestically, such as murder, theft, rape, arson, kidnapping, assault, maiming, causing bodily injury, vandalism, and property destruction. We know what these crimes are. They also occur in the course of war. To simplify matters, I speak of all these crimes as one category: crimes against property, or crimes that violate property rights. I do not mean to minimize the severity of the loss of human life by lumping it together with the loss of a building. I mean to make an accurate simplification. Murder is a property crime, since each person owns his own body. Rape violates the property right of a person, since it uses his or her body against his or her will. Kidnapping involves physically controlling a person's body, again a property crime. Obviously crimes like theft, arson, and property destruction all violate property rights. Maiming a person is a crime. I think it helps us to count all these crimes together as one set of property crimes in order to sense the enormity of their totality. But I have said "if there are war crimes in Iraq." Have there been American war crimes in Iraq? To answer affirmatively, we need to document three facts: property destruction, American responsibility for property destruction, and criminality of the American acts. I believe that most Americans know that there has been massive property destruction, and they know that Americans are directly responsible for much of it. They have seen some of it on television. However, most Americans probably don't believe that America's acts have been criminal acts. The property destruction in Iraq is well-known. No one denies it. The only arguments are over how big it has been. A recent BBC News article places civilian Iraqi deaths at a minimum of between 33,710 and 37,832. Other estimates range far higher. No one knows how many Iraqi civilians have been injured. The group Iraq Body Count reports 42,500 injuries. Then there is destruction and damage done to all sorts of goods, from homes to capital goods to possessions. There are vast economic losses as businesses have been disrupted and destroyed. Civilians no doubt have been arrested and, at times, tortured. The American responsibility for a large fraction of this property destruction is well-known. Our military forces have actively been engaged in it from day one of the war. Domestic Iraqi elements and foreign interlopers have also done their share of crime and destruction. Again, my purpose is not to allocate the crimes among the groups and persons responsible. I am unable to do that. As an American whose taxes support the carnage, who'd like to see it ended, and who'd like to prevent a repeat performance, my interest here is in American culpability, in getting us to clean up our own act. This does not mean I do not condemn the crimes being committed by Arabs, Iraqis, or other nationalities. I do. This brings us to the third element, which is the criminality of the American acts. There is no doubt that American armed forces and possibly paid civilian contractors have destroyed large amounts of property. They have also seized large amounts of property. Whether or not these are crimes hinges on one question: Were these acts done in self-defense or not? It seems almost self-evident that many property rights violations have been visited upon people who either were not attacking Americans in Iraq or had not attacked them in America. But this is apparently not enough to condemn Americans for their acts. The rules of war allow for "collateral damage." I won't question that doctrine here, although it can be questioned. But collateral damage is only allowable if there is justification for fighting the war in the first place. The major concern is still the criminality or non-criminality of America's presence in Iraq. Criminality surely does not hinge on whether or not Iraq was or was not a democracy as this has nothing at all to do with self-defense, notwithstanding the ravings of the President and his cabal of neoconservatives. It has nothing to do with bringing freedom to anyone, because this goal also has nothing to do with American self-defense. Whether or not America is capable of bringing freedom and whether or not it has actually done this are pertinent questions and acts much to be doubted, but even if we were capable and did bring freedom to Iraq this would not justify attacking the country. There is no self-defense issue involved in "liberating" Iraq because there has been no attack on America by the Iraqis. While this sounds quite like the Soviet Union's liberation of its satellites after World War II, if we are generous and give the American State the benefit of the doubt as to its honorable intentions, there is still no way to justify the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis while liberating their country. But the basic issue remains that doing the supposed good deed of bringing freedom does not excuse acts of aggression. If this rationale for war-making is accepted, which means that committing wrongs to accomplish a supposed right is morally acceptable, then I am justified in cutting out your kidney in order to give it to a person who can't live without it. I am justified in taking your home and turning it over to homeless people. When the President uses such a rationale, he only shows us that he is bereft of proper moral education. Criminality does not hinge on whether or not the Iraqi people suffered under Saddam Hussein. This has nothing to do with American self-defense. It does not hinge on provocative words or statements uttered by Iraqi leaders, although no one says this brought on the war. Political leaders make all sorts of statements and to construe them as an actual attack that requires self-defense would be folly. That would make for wars at the pleasure of any country that felt itself insulted or threatened by the words of another. This is not to say that there is no situation in which the combination of words and deeds, such as the massing of armies at a border or the sailing of warships or the overflights of airplanes, might trigger hostilities by a party under threat of attack. Nor does American self-defense hinge on whether or not Iraq did or did not obey various United Nations resolutions or cooperate fully or partially with U.N. officials. Just because there is an international political body that the states have set up does not change the substance of whether acts are criminal or not. The states have anointed the U.N. as a power that provides a legal cover when enough member states have enough votes to act. These political procedures do not mean that all actions taken under the U.N. aegis suddenly become non-crimes or always lawful no matter what their content is. The U.N. is not above the law although it is convenient for it to think it is. Anyway, in the Iraqi case, there was no Iraqi crime committed that justified Americans "defending" themselves by a wholesale attack and bombardment of Iraq and by a continuing war that has created huge property damage in Iraq. If this were so, I think we would hear President Bush reminding us about it today as justification for continuing our defense efforts. We hear nothing of the kind. We hear that the damage America has done is justified because the world is now a safer place with Saddam toppled from power. But this too, besides being a fantasy, has nothing to do with American self-defense. American and world safety may or may not have been lower with Saddam in office, but that does not justify attacking him. We are not talking about a serial killer haunting the streets of Los Angeles. We are talking about the head of a foreign country and making war on another country, with all its attendant death and destruction. If the U.S. or any other country starts wars on the flimsy basis of increasing its safety, then any country anywhere is justified in starting a war merely by identifying a country, neighboring or otherwise, as reducing its "safety." Hitler surely could, and probably did, justify his many aggressions on grounds such as this. Perhaps he spoke of some other reasons than safety, like Anschluß or Lebensraum, but the basic idea is the same, namely, "we are justified in attacking because it makes us better off." This has nothing to do with self-defense and everything to do with immoral behavior. The criminality or lack of it in America's actions does not hinge on the pragmatic strategy of attacking the terrorists before they attack us. It's quite obvious that the terrorists who brought down the Trade Towers died in the effort. Their actions trace back to Al-Qaeda, not Iraq, not Saddam Hussein, and still less to the Iraqi people against whom many crimes have been committed. Al-Qaeda fostered a number of terrorist acts in the past 25 years, and no one has ever tied them to Saddam Hussein as the kingpin. He's on trial now, but not for causing terrorism against the United States or Great Britain or Spain or Indonesia. And if there had been evidence that showed Saddam's complicity in international terrorist acts, that still would not have justified the sort of war that America began, executed, and is carrying out today, long after his capture. There is such a thing as a proportionate response to crimes. The damage inflicted by America on Iraq is out of all proportion to the crimes supposedly committed by Saddam Hussein that are supposed to justify the American action. Were American actions justified by self-defense? The answer is "no." This means that the officials of the American State committed war crimes. This means that they should be indicted and tried for war crimes. The Cowards Path: An open letter to Ralph Nader: Dear Mr. Nader, Sir, I owe you an apology... (...) In the 2000 elections even as I was impassioned by your words, and although inspired by your courage in a way that has alluded me since my youth. I sat silently applauding you (I even considered "vote-swapping"), but in the end, I cast my vote for Al Gore. I was completely secure in my convictions. As desperately, as we needed you, it was far more critical to elect Al Gore than to risk (I'd been doing my homework over the last twenty years) allowing America to fall into the hands of George Bush and Dick Cheney. When the 2004 elections rolled around--again I was mute, but this time I was even more resolute in my convictions, that a vote for you was a vote squandered. You were a luxury that we could not afford. Our constitution was under threat-Bush must clearly and definitively be re-defeated! Moreover, as the Downing Street Memo exposed Bush and the lies he told taking us to war in Iraq, a war of profit, a war of pestilence wrought on the peoples of Iraq after so many years enduring the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein. A pestilence that will haunt the peoples of the Middle East as well as the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, who's patriotism has been exploited so unconscionably by this regime. Depleted Uranium is the legacy that will resonate for generations to come. Brutality, torture and empire will now be the values most often associated with the United States. Mean-spirited debate and incivility are the new currency in Bush's America. Yet, while the lies and corruption continue to spill forth, we have in our democratic leadership, people unwilling to stand up, unwilling to stand up to protect our representative democracy, our basic civil liberties and our constitution. I like many across the country have stood by, nearly pulling out my hair, making phone calls, writing letters, signing petitions, watching in anguish, as our democratic leadership serves up more power and legitimacy to this regime. Now, here we are, a year and a half into Bush's second term-Lent. Lent, and although I no longer consider myself a catholic, I still find myself falling into the ritual of self-reflection, and a good habit indeed-one of my few... and sir, I owe you an apology... I understand now, that I am a war criminal. I am responsible. I am complicit in disseminating depleted uranium throughout the Middle East. I am responsible for the renditions, for Abu Ghraib, for the torture, for the illegal spying, etc. I am responsible. I am responsible for it all. I am responsible because, when we choose the cowardly path as we step into the ballot box, we choose cowardly people to represent us. We choose fear to dictate our actions rather than courage. Little wonder that that is what we see reflected back to us by our leadership. More importantly, in choosing weak and cowardly people, we choose to allow unspeakable acts to be committed in our name and for that, sir - I owe you and the world, an apology. The apocalyptic president: In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday [March 20] to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people's minds: "They wonder what I see that they don't." After mentioning "terror" 54 times and "victory" five, dismissing "civil war" twice and asserting that he is "optimistic", he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?" Bush's immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: "Hmmm." Then he said: "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way. Here's how I think of it. First, I've heard of that, by the way." The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: "First I've heard of that, by the way." But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father's 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye's Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions. But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips's book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call "the sunbelt"; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him. In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of "the first American religious party"; September 11 gave him the pretext for "seizing the fundamentalist moment"; he has manipulated a "critical religious geography" to hype issues such as gay marriage. "New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate." It portended a potential "American Disenlightenment," apparent in Bush's hostility to science. Even Bush's failures have become pretexts for advancing his transformation of government. Exploiting his own disastrous emergency management after Hurricane Katrina, Bush is funneling funds to churches as though they can compensate for governmental breakdown. Last year David Kuo, the White House deputy director for faith-based initiatives, resigned with a statement that "Republicans were indifferent to the poor". Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta - in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush's America - is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism. FROM BLOWBACK TO NEMESIS
Is Nemesis coming after the U.S.? Excerpt from an interview with Chalmers Johnson by Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch CJ: The officials of this administration are radicals. They're crazies. We all speculate on why they do it. Why has the president broken the constitution, let the military spin virtually out of control, making it the only institution he would turn to for anything - another Katrina disaster, a bird flu epidemic? The whole thing seems farcical, but what it does remind you of is ancient Rome. If a bankruptcy situation doesn't shake us up, then I fear we will, as an author I admire wrote the other day, be "crying for the coup". We could end the way the Roman Republic ended. When the chaos, the instability become too great, you turn it over to a single man. After about the same length of time our republic has been in existence, the Roman Republic got itself in that hole by inadvertently, thoughtlessly acquiring an empire they didn't need and weren't able to administer, that kept them at war all the time. Ultimately, it caught up with them. I can't see how we would be immune to a Julius Caesar, to a militarist who acts the populist. TD: Do you think that our all-volunteer military will turn out to be the janissaries of our failed empire? CJ: They might very well be. I'm already amazed at the degree to which they tolerate this incompetent government. I mean the officers know that their precious army, which they worked so hard to rebuild after the Vietnam War, is coming apart again, that it's going to be ever harder to get people to enlist, that even the military academies are in trouble. I don't know how long they'll take it. Tommy Franks, the general in charge of the attack on Baghdad, did say that if there were another terrorist attack in the United States comparable to September 11, the military might have no choice but to take over. In other words: If we're going to do the work, why listen to incompetents like George Bush? Why take orders from an outdated character like Donald Rumsfeld? Why listen to a Congress in which, other than John McCain, virtually no Republican has served in the armed forces? I don't see the obvious way out of our problems. The political system has failed. You could elect the opposition party, but it can't bring the CIA under control; it can't bring the military-industrial complex under control; it can't reinvigorate the Congress. It would be just another holding operation as conditions got worse. TD: Usually we believe that the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union's collapse and, in essence, our victory. A friend of mine put it another way. The United States, he suggested, was so much more powerful than the USSR that we had a greater capacity to shift our debts elsewhere. The Soviets didn't and so imploded. My question is this: Are we now seeing the delayed end of the Cold War? Perhaps both superpowers were headed for the proverbial trash bin of history, simply at different rates of speed? CJ: I've always believed that they went first because they were poorer and that the terrible, hubristic conclusion we drew - that we were victorious, that we won - was off the mark. I always felt that we both lost the Cold War for the same reasons - imperial overstretch, excessive militarism, things that have been identified by students of empires since Babylonia. We've never given Mikhail Gorbachev credit. Most historians would say that no empire ever gave up voluntarily. The only one I can think of that tried was the Soviet Union under him. TD: Any last words? CJ: I'm still working on them. My first effort was Blowback. That was well before I anticipated anything like massive terrorist attacks in the United States. It was a statement that the foreign-policy problems - I still just saw them as that - of the first part of the 21st century were going to be left over from the previous century, from our rapacious activities in Latin America, from our failure to truly learn the lessons of Vietnam. The Sorrows of Empire was an attempt to come to grips with our militarism. Now, I'm considering how we've managed to alienate so many rich, smart allies - every one of them, in fact. How we've come to be so truly hated. This, in a Talleyrand sense, is the sort of mistake from which you can't recover. That's why I'm planning on calling the third volume of what I now think of as "The Blowback Trilogy," Nemesis. Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance. She also went after people who became too arrogant, who were so taken with themselves that they lost all prudence. She was always portrayed as a fierce figure with a scale in one hand - think, Judgment Day - and a whip in the other ... TD: And you believe she's coming after us? CJ: Oh, I believe she's arrived. I think she's sitting around waiting for her moment, the one we're coming up on right now. Imperial overreach accelerating global decline of America: It is clear that the US occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from almost every angle one can think of, most of all for the Iraqi people, not least for American foreign policy. The unpicking of the imperial logic that led to it has already commenced: Hyde's speech is an example, and so is Francis Fukuyama's new book After the Neocons, a merciless critique of Bush's foreign policy and the school of thought that lay behind it. The war was a delayed product of the end of the cold war and the triumphalist mentality that imbued the neocons and eventually seduced the US. But triumphalism is a dangerous brew, more suited to intoxication than hard-headed analysis. And so it has proved. The US still has to reap the whirlwind for its stunning feat of imperial overreach. In becoming so catastrophically engaged in the Middle East, making the region its overwhelming global priority, it downgraded the importance of everywhere else, taking its eye off the ball in a crucial region such as east Asia, which in the long run will be far more important to the US's strategic interests than the Middle East. As such, the Iraqi adventure represented a major misreading of global trends and how they are likely to impact on the US. Hyde is clearly thinking in these terms: "We are well advanced into an unformed era in which new and unfamiliar enemies are gathering forces, where a phalanx of aspiring competitors must inevitably constrain and focus options. In a world where the ratios of strength narrow, the consequences of miscalculation will become progressively more debilitating. The costs of golden theories [by which he means the worldwide promotion of democracy] will be paid for in the base coin of our interests." The promotion of the idea of the war against terror as the central priority of US policy had little to do with the actual threat posed by al-Qaida, which was always hugely exaggerated by the Bush administration, as events over the last four and a half years have shown. Al-Qaida never posed a threat to the US except in terms of the odd terrorist outrage. Making it the central thrust of US foreign policy, in other words, had nothing to do with the al-Qaida threat and everything to do with the Bush administration seeking to mobilise US public opinion behind a neoconservative foreign policy. There followed the tenuous - in reality nonexistent - link with Saddam, which provided in large measure the justification for the invasion of Iraq, an act which now threatens to unravel the bizarre adventurism, personified by Donald Rumsfeld, which has been the hallmark of Bush foreign policy since 9/11. The latter has come unstuck in the killing fields of Iraq in the most profound way imaginable. (...) That the world will be very different within the next two decades, if not rather sooner, is clear; yet there is scant recognition of this fact and what it might mean - not least in our own increasingly provincial country [UK]. The overwhelming preoccupation of the Bush administration (and Blair for that matter) with Iraq, the Middle East and Islam, speaks of a failure to understand the deeper forces that are reshaping the world and an overriding obsession with realising and exploiting the US's temporary status as the sole global superpower. Such a myopic view can only hasten the decline of the US as a global power, a process that has already started. The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary act of imperial overreach which has left the US more internationally isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially, and guilty of neglect in east Asia and elsewhere. Iraq was supposed to signal the US's new global might: in fact, it may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline. And that decline could be far more precipitous than anyone has previously reckoned. Once the bubble of US power has been pricked, in a global context already tilting in other directions, it could deflate rather more quickly than has been imagined. Hyde's warnings should be taken seriously. The Revolution Will Not Be American (And That's a Good Thing): Unlike the politicians, we have underestimated the American capacity for apathy. There is precedent for this apathy. It is our most favored example of Governments Gone Awry. The Nazi (and here I Godwin my own article) regime did in ten years what the American government is only now approaching after 60 years of political frog-boiling. In ten years the Nazis waged aggressive war on their political neighbors, their geographical neighbors, their racial neighbors, and their religious neighbors, took their businesses and placed them into fascist control, and tortured, mutilated and burned their own citizens in their back yards. A mere ten years of social conditioning, and the apathy of the German people allowed this to occur. And while there were undergrounds and secret groups working against the Nazi government, there was no popular uprising. All the horrors of the Nazi program were not enough to jar the German people into action away from their broken radios and phonographs. And today, Americans have six times the practice at apathy, with 160 channels to Tivo and a hundred different beers and circuses of every shape and style imaginable. Humiliation is public sport ranging from the seediest "reality" broadcasts right through to food preparation. They stare at the TV and wax poetic about how, "Aw'd never be cawt DED on one o' them showz!" while secretly thinking they could insult Simon into speechlessness if only they could get on. No, folks, there is no tearing (or tearing) away the eyes of this America from their idiot box, and they wouldn't dare risk their cell phone bars. Rome did not fall to the Romans. The Nazis were not defeated by Germans. The sole example of genuine popular uprising and destruction of government is the French Revolution, which soon fell to Napoleon, who did not abdicate to any Frenchman. Indeed, the Constitution itself was not an act of popular demand. The Second Revolutionaries of Washington, Paine and Hancock, et al met in secret, and spent years brokering the political deals to eclipse the Articles of Confederation; politicians overthrowing politicians in a new country's elimination rounds. Fundamental changes in government are almost universally external. The spark of the French Revolution was massive foreign debt (including funding the American Revolution as a method of covert war with England ) resulting in extreme taxation of which an absence of fiat money offered no veil of disguise. The Romans imploded against Germanic tribes, and the Nazis fell to American carpet bombings. The collapse of the USSR was not at all a proletariat revolution, but a combination of internal corruption and superior American fiat finesse (a point of pride for many Reaganites, but ultimately no better than proudly proclaiming, "My rapist is slicker than yours!"). So why, in the face of history, do we insist we can manufacture lightning and catch it in a bottle? The conclusion to all of this is one that even I did not want to think of until recently. But the Revolution will not be American. Not anymore. We have learned our lessons well. Modern Americans are riddled with apathy. If you want to know how far it can go, think of the worst atrocities the Nazis committed and realize there were no crowds storming the gates of Auschwitz. Foreign, invading soldiers opened those gates. And so shall it be with us. We can't wake the sleeping giant. But someone, somewhere, can club it in the head. When the Empire is too big, too aggressive, too starved and internally paralyzed (vibrantly demonstrated by Katrina, thank you, Ma'am, for that performance), and it finally oversteps one border too many, China, India, and Europe will implement, shall we say, "corrective procedures." And if we're ready, if we've planted our seeds and cultivated our memes strongly and deeply into the somnambulistic consciousness, the giant might just stumble a few bloody paces in the direction of liberty before slumping over the TV tray.IRAN STANDOFF UN Security Council adoptes presidential statement calling on Iran to resume suspension of all uranium enrichment within 30 days: The statement was passed after the five permanent council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- reached agreement on the text earlier in the day ending three weeks of haggling over its contents. Iran Defiantly Rejects New U.N. Demands to stop enriching uranium: In Vienna, Iran's chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told The Associated Press that "it is impossible to go back to suspension." "This enrichment matter is not reversible," Soltanieh said. Iran to stage massive Gulf military maneuver: Thousands of Iranian troops will on Friday start a week-long military maneuver in the Gulf to ready armed forces for warding off "threats", a senior commander announced on state television. The commander of the navy of Revolutionary Guards Corps, Rear Admiral Mostafa Safari, did not specify the nature of the threat although the maneuver comes amid increasing tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme. "The Revolutionary Guards Corps navy and air force in collaboration with ( Iran's regular) army, navy, (the volunteer militia) Basij, and the Iranian police will start a maneuver from 31 March until 6 April in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman," he said Wednesday. He added: "We hope ... We will gain the necessary and needed readiness to decisively reply to any kind of threats." "More than 17,000 soldiers and sailors will be used, along with 1,500 different kind of vessels, in addition to the different sorts of jet fighter planes, choppers and different missiles," he added, but did not say whether Iran will use its ballistic missiles. Iran has medium-range Shahab-3 missiles with the capability of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), able of hitting arch-enemy Israel and US bases across the Middle East. "The exercise will cover an area stretching from the northern tip of the Persian Gulf all the way to the port city of Chah-Bahar in the Sea of Oman extending 40 kilometers (25 miles) into the sea," he said. In addition, the spokesman of the maneuvers, Rear Admiral Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghan told state television that the strait of Hormouz will be one of the focal points of the exercise. "Some 80 percent of the Persian Gulf's oil is shipped out of this strait over which Iran has dominant and accurate control," he said. "If the enemy wants to make the area insecure, he should be rest assured that he will also suffer from the insecurity, since we know the location of their vessels," he added. Iran puts Revolutionary Guards on alert on Iraq border: The Supreme Command of Iran's Armed Forces issued the directive to Najaf and Karbala garrisons of the IRGC, which are respectively based in Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces and are the headquarters of IRGC forces in western and south-western Iran. The directive took effect from March 14, according to the source, who requested anonymity. Najaf and Karbala garrisons are the primary Revolutionary Guards headquarters responsible for Iraqi affairs and house much of the IRGC's elite Qods Force whose stated objective is to spread Iran's Islamic Revolution to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. "The decision [to put the armed forces on alert along the Iraqi border] could be defensive or offensive in nature, but it's significant because of its timing", said Ehsan Pourhaydari, a former colonel in Iran's regular armed forces who now lives in Germany. "It coincides with impending talks between Iran and the U.S. on the situation in Iraq. The ayatollahs must be calculating that the talks will make them more vulnerable, or will provide new opportunities for them in Iraq. Either way, it would make sense for them to put their forces on alert close to the Iraqi border". QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am pro God, I am pro life, I am pro humanity, I am pro truth, and when the American goverment choses to be against all that then damn it: I AM anti American-goverment." --- Khalid Jarrar, Iraqi blogger at Tell me a secret