Wednesday, March 29, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, March 29, 2006
Photo: A convoy of trucks destroyed by insurgents near Mosul March 25, 2006. Guerrillas ambushed and set ablaze six Turkish trucks carrying goods to the U.S. military on a road to the west of Mosul. Police sources said the trucks were driving in the Badoush area while on their way to the U.S. military base in Tal Afar. They said that all of the six drivers of the trucks were safe and were taken by U.S. forces to the base. REUTERS/Stringer [Incident unreported elsewhere from this photo caption.]
Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier killed and three wounded when their Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad.
Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier killed by small-arms fire south of Baghdad.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
Gunmen line up 14 employees working at an electronics trading company in Baghdad Wednesday morning and shoot them all, killing eight and wounding six, police said.
Gunmen kill three staffers of Muqtada al-Sadr in drive-by shooting in west Baghdad.
Gunmen attack highway police patrol in west Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding four others, including a civilian.
In south Baghdad, sniper kills a policeman on patrol in Dora neighborhood.
A general director in Iraq's Central Bank wounded when gunmen attacked him while he was driving.
One Iraqi army soldier killed and another two wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb near Abu Ghraib prison.
Australian resident shot dead in Iraq. University of Baghdad Professor Kays Juma, 72, was killed when nervous security guards fired on his car last Saturday as he drove near a convoy of four-wheel drives carrying private contractors.
Roadside bomb in front of an Iraqi soldier's home outside the provincial capital of Baqouba wounded the soldier's 7-year-old son.
Bomb targets house of a tribal sheik in Baqouba but causes no casualties.
Gunmen kill two civilians and wound another in drive-by shooting in the town of Khalis.
Iraqi prisoner killed in clash with another inmate at the U.S. military's Camp Bucca prison.
Three Iraqi soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Hawija, south west of Kirkuk.
Explosive device targets joint US-Iraqi military patrol on a road between Riyadh and Baiji, wounding six Iraqi soldiers, including one officer.
Bomb goes off wounding five oil facility guards in southern Kirkuk.
Unknown gunmen open fire on Iraqi citizen Arfan Ali Rostom while in his store in Kirkuk, killing him instantly.
Timed bomb goes off outside a store on a road leading to Baghdad in Kirkuk, wounding one of the workers in the store. Another timed bomb exploded nearby the residence of Chief of Police Rahim Awah, no injuries.
Unmanned U.S. Air Force Predator fires Hellfire missile at three Iraqis planting a roadside bomb near Balad Air Base north of Baghdad, killing all three.
Around 30-40 bodies, many shot in the head and showing signs of torture, are being found on the streets of the capital every day, morgue officials say.
US admits attack target contained a mosque: Iraqi and American special forces who attacked an insurgent headquarters in Baghdad were not aware that their target contained a mosque until after the battle, America's most senior soldier said yesterday.
General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was responding to 48 hours of unremitting criticism over the controversial raid, which Iraqi radicals claim resulted in the deaths of 21 unarmed worshippers and an imam. The admission that US and Iraqi forces had entered a compound housing a religious site will stoke Arab fury.
Gen Pace said that the operation had been led by Iraqi special forces, although it included American special forces seeking to track down a Shia terrorist base where kidnap victims were held.
As they approached a large rectangular building they came under heavy fire. "The Iraqi forces themselves went into the main target areas. This is the building inside of which, once they got in there, they found a small minaret and a prayer room ... [which] some people are calling a mosque," Gen Pace said.
Pictures issued by Moqtada al-Sadr's radical Shia militia purported to show bodies lying on the floor of the room. Gen Pace said he did not know if American forces had fired during the operation, or whether the dead were killed in the room.
The new version of events appeared to contradict earlier US military accounts that suggested that Sadr's men had moved corpses to make it appear that the Americans had desecrated a religious site. But Mr Rumsfeld was unapologetic about the hesitant and belated account.
"The US government has not got to the point where we are as deft and clever and facile and quick as the enemy that is perfectly capable of lying, having it printed all over the world, and there's no penalty for having lied."
Key meeting for Iraq's "national unity" government cancelled: The meeting, which was to have been hosted by President Jalal Talabani, was cancelled after Sunnis and Shiites clashed over who will control the security portfolio in the next government.
"The Shiites want the prime minister who is their candidate to hold the security file, while the Sunnis want a say in this and want a deputy premier who will also hold the security file under the supervision of the prime minister," lawmaker Mahmud Othman told AFP.
The latest setback comes only a day after Shiites, who hold the largest bloc of seats with 130 lawmakers in the 275-member parliament, returned to talks after boycotting one session over a night-time raid by US-backed Iraqi special forces that killed at least 16 Shiites.
Bush says Saddam, not U.S. involvement, responsible for "sectarian violence" in Iraq: In his third speech this month to bolster public support for the war, Bush worked to counter critics who say the U.S. presence in the wartorn nation is fueling the insurgency. "The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used, killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division," Bush said.
"Iraq is a nation that is physically and emotionally scarred by three decades of Saddam's tyranny," Bush said in a speech to Freedom House, a more than 60-year-old independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Bush said Iraq's instability "is the legacy of Saddam - a tyrant who exacerbated ethnic divisions to keep himself in power."
U.S. will release unpublished Abu Ghraib photos: The Defense Department had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union in October 2003 to release the images, seven months before some of them were leaked to the media, including the Australian Broadcasting Corp., and Salon.com. In September 2005, a New York judge ruled the department must release the images and the Pentagon appealed. Tuesday, the appeal was dropped.
ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said the government has agreed to comply with the court's order to turn over the images and the government will authenticate photos from Salon.com in its possession, and any of the 74 photos it has that are not on Salon.com will be turned over.
Video: What Americans don't hear about Iraq: This is one brave American reporter, you don't usually see on US media.
Quote from Lara Logan of CBS News speaking live from Baghdad to CNN, while refuting allegations that the press only reports the bad news from Iraq: "If you had any idea of the number of Iraqis who come to us with stories of abuses by US soldiers..."
Baghdad photo scandal: On March 28th 2006, Howard Kaloogian's campaign website contained a photograph which he claims to have recently taken in downtown Baghdad. It was accompanied by the description:
"We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."Upon further analysis by members of a discussion forum on Democratic Underground, it was found that this photo was actually a fake photo of Baghdad, because it was most likely taken in Istanbul, Turkey.
Many inconsistencies, including the following, were found:
• Many signs are written in Turkish, but none in Arabic
• Women are seen wearing revealing (western) clothes
• Taxi cabs are similar to those seen in Istanbul
• Uniquely Turkish traffic signs are present
• Signs of businesses based solely in Turkey are present
Iraq deadliest war for journalists since WWII: According to a just released study by the Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, 86 journalists and media aides were killed and 38 kidnapped between March 20, 2003, when hostilities in Iraq first began, and March 20, 2006.
'The war in Iraq,' claims the report, 'has proven to be the deadliest for journalists since World War II.' Besides the heavy death toll, the conflict in Iraq has also seen the most cases of kidnapping of journalists. Of the 38 who were abducted, five were killed, while three -- Jill Carroll, Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal -- are still missing. France, which is not part of the coalition, has had the most abducted journalists. However, all were returned safe. Only one foreign journalist was killed by his abductors -- Enzo Baldoni -- an Italian.
During the 20 or so years of the Vietnam War, 63 journalists were killed between 1955 and 1975. The Balkan wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995 claimed the lives of 49 journalists and assistants, and the bloody civil war in Algeria which raged from 1993 to 1996 cost the lives of 77 journalists and their assistants.
The vast majority of the casualties among the media killed in Iraq were men (92 percent). The average age of casualties was 35.5. The youngest, Ali Ibrahim Aissa, was 21 and the oldest, Shinsuke Hashida, was 61.
In terms of nationalities, Iraqis have paid the highest toll: 77 percent of the casualties were Iraqis; 11 percent from other Arab countries; 8 percent Europeans; 5 percent Americans; 2 percent from Australia and 2 percent from Japan.
Television journalists, according to the report, ranked highest in the number of journalists killed; 67 percent, compared to 33 percent for the print media.
Forty-one different media outlets have suffered losses, with the domestic al-Iraqiya, being the worst hit. Twelve of its journalists were killed in the last three years. Al-Iraqiya is part of the Iraqi Media Network, created and funded by the Pentagon.
Most of the killings have occurred in Baghdad (29 deaths) and in areas surrounding Baghdad (28 killed). Strangely enough, the northern Kurdish areas, reputed to be relatively safe and under the control of Kurdish militias, have proven to be the second-most dangerous place for journalists, with 17 deaths.
The study by Reporters Without Borders puts 53 percent of the blame for the deaths of journalists in Iraq on 'unidentified sources;' 35 percent on 'armed groups;' and 12 percent on the U.S. military.
The French media watchdog group 'is sure that the victims were deliberately targeted in 47 cases (55 percent) -- a rate far higher than in previous conflicts, where journalists were usually killed by indiscriminate fire.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The Bizarro World version of Clausewitz: Whatever the truth of the matter [about the American raid on the Mustafa mosque], this much is clear: the Americans have crossed the Rubicon, and are in for a head-on collision with the Shi'ite majority, the very forces their invasion and occupation have brought to power. The volatility of this incident is ramped up by its context: a looming political confrontation between U.S. officials and the Shi'ite Alliance, which has a majority in the newly elected parliament. The Americans are not too keen on having the Da'wa Party's Ibrahim Jaafari installed as prime minister, and have been bringing pressure on the coalition to find someone else. But the Shi'ites must have been listening to President Bush's many speeches about the wonders of capital-D Democracy, because they have insisted on keeping Jaafari, and, what's more, have defied the Americans' preference for a decentralized political structure, much to the chagrin of the Kurds.
The Americans, it seems, are turning on their one-time allies and launching a two-front war against both the Sunnis and the Shi'ites. This seems like a military strategy straight out of the Bizarro World version of Clausewitz. It makes no sense - unless, that is, the Americans are planning on extending the war into Iran.
They have certainly set the stage, on the diplomatic front, with a full-scale assault on Tehran's nuclear ambitions in the UN. On the political front, they are accusing the Iranians of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs - an odd charge, coming from the overseers of a military occupation - and of sending arms to their Iraqi proxies.
The big problem for the Americans, however, is that these proxies constitute the elected government of Iraq, which was supposed to be a model for the entire region to follow. Did American soldiers fight and die - to say nothing of the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis - so that we could declare Iraq's fledgling democracy a spoke in the Axis of Evil?
This policy pivot will prove bewildering to the American people, who have been told that our big enemy in Iraq is Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, but only for a little while. The situation will clarify itself as the new enemy - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - takes the place of the old Ba'athist bogeyman, embodied by Saddam Hussein. Now that Saddam is safely stowed away in a prison cell awaiting rough justice, and his alleged "weapons of mass destruction" have dissolved like desert mirages, we'll be served up images of the mad mullahs of Tehran wielding nukes. That these nukes - which are 10 years away, in any event - will be aimed at Tel Aviv, and not Toledo, matters little, at least to American policymakers. As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt point out in a pathbreaking paper [.pdf] published by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, our governing classes consistently favor the former while ignoring the clear interests of the latter.
The battle will not be joined all at once, however: don't expect a full-scale frontal assault on Iran any time soon. The struggle will break out between Iranian proxies - the Shi'ite party militias, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iranian-backed factions based in Syria - and the U.S. and its allies in the region, including not only the Israelis but also the Kurds and the Christian Lebanese factions.
Eric Haney, a founding member of Delta Force, the U.S. military's elite covert counter-terrorist unit, and author of Inside Delta Force, succinctly summed up where we are in a recent interview. Asked his assessment of the war in Iraq, he averred:
"Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. [Army Gen.] Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward. We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.Riverbend: "Uncertainty...": I sat late last night switching between Iraqi channels (the half dozen or so I sometimes try to watch). It's a late-night tradition for me when there's electricity- to see what the Iraqi channels are showing. Generally speaking, there still isn't a truly 'neutral' Iraqi channel. The most popular ones are backed and funded by the different political parties currently vying for power. This became particularly apparent during the period directly before the elections.
I was trying to decide between a report on bird flu on one channel, a montage of bits and pieces from various latmiyas on another channel and an Egyptian soap opera on a third channel. I paused on the Sharqiya channel which many Iraqis consider to be a reasonably toned channel (and which during the elections showed its support for Allawi in particular). I was reading the little scrolling news headlines on the bottom of the page. The usual- mortar fire on an area in Baghdad, an American soldier killed here, another one wounded there... 12 Iraqi corpses found in an area in Baghdad, etc. Suddenly, one of them caught my attention and I sat up straight on the sofa, wondering if I had read it correctly.
E. was sitting at the other end of the living room, taking apart a radio he later wouldn't be able to put back together. I called him over with the words, "Come here and read this- I'm sure I misunderstood..." He stood in front of the television and watched the words about corpses and Americans and puppets scroll by and when the news item I was watching for appeared, I jumped up and pointed. E. and I read it in silence and E. looked as confused as I was feeling.
The line said [translation]: "The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area."
That's how messed up the country is at this point.
We switched to another channel, the "Baghdad" channel (allied with Muhsin Abdul Hameed and his group) and they had the same news item, but instead of the general "coalition forces" they had "American coalition forces". We checked two other channels. Iraqiya (pro-Da'awa) didn't mention it and Forat (pro-SCIRI) also didn't have it on their news ticker.
We discussed it today as it was repeated on another channel.
"So what does it mean?" My cousin's wife asked as we sat gathered at lunch.
"It means if they come at night and want to raid the house, we don't have to let them in." I answered.
"They're not exactly asking your permission," E. pointed out. "They break the door down and take people away- or have you forgotten?"
"Well according to the Ministry of Defense, we can shoot at them, right? It's trespassing-they can be considered burglars or abductors..." I replied.
The cousin shook his head, "If your family is inside the house- you're not going to shoot at them. They come in groups, remember? They come armed and in large groups- shooting at them or resisting them would endanger people inside of the house."
"Besides that, when they first attack, how can you be sure they DON'T have Americans with them?" E. asked.
We sat drinking tea, mulling over the possibilities. It confirmed what has been obvious to Iraqis since the beginning- the Iraqi security forces are actually militias allied to religious and political parties.
But it also brings to light other worrisome issues. The situation is so bad on the security front that the top two ministries in charge of protecting Iraqi civilians cannot trust each other. The Ministry of Defense can't even trust its own personnel, unless they are "accompanied by American coalition forces".
It really is difficult to understand what is happening lately. We hear about talks between Americans and Iran over security in Iraq, and then American ambassador in Iraq accuses Iran of funding militias inside of the country. Today there are claims that Americans killed between 20 to 30 men from Sadr's militia in an attack on a husseiniya yesterday. The Americans are claiming that responsibility for the attack should be placed on Iraqi security forces (the same security forces they are constantly commending).
All of this directly contradicts claims by Bush and other American politicians that Iraqi troops and security forces are in control of the situation. Or maybe they are in control- just not in a good way.
The Media and Iraq: What's Wrong With This Picture?: Mr. Bush wants to know why the media don't publish more "success stories" about Iraq. I want to know the opposite: why the media don't publish photos and videos that -- in no uncertain terms -- show the blood-drenched truth.
Watching TV news or reading the papers, you'd think this was a war without human faces. There are no victims, only numbers. "39 Killed." "50 Dead."
But where are the bodies? That's right, the mangled, gouged, decapitated, amputated, burned bodies?
I'll tell you where: On File. Locked away in the photo and video archives of the major news organizations. The supposedly "negative" media are deliberately holding back from actually showing us the negative human costs of Bush's war, and that puts the lie to any blather about how negative they really are.
It wasn't always this way. In Vietnam, three famous photos spelled things out: The photo of the little girl running down the street drenched with napalm. The photo of the Viet Cong captive having his brains blown out on the street, execution-style. The photo of the bodies piled up at My Lai.
I bet most of you instantly conjured those images just now. For good reason. They're iconic. They won Pulitzer Prizes and major journalism awards because they told, in an instant, everything you needed to know about what was happening.
Three years into Iraq, can you conjure any comparable images? I'll bet the answer's no.
And don't let anybody tell you that it's because the public -- or the media -- are more sensitive today. The media certainly weren't skittish about pictures of the tsunami victims. Or the bloated corpses of Rwanda. Or abandoned bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans.
Editors and producers had no problem with those bodies. Their only problem is with bodies in Iraq.
Why? They don't want to be accused of being negative, of undermining the war effort. Pictures of somebody's dead husband, or baby, or grandma, or brother, tend to do that. You can dismiss a statistic. It's harder to dismiss a lifeless stare, a child's screams.
So how ironic, in the face of what amounts to a massive media blackout of the blood-drenched truth, to watch us consume ourselves in a debate over whether the media are being "too negative" about Iraq.
Too negative? The Administration should be handing out awards to every editor and news producer who decides to kill the picture that's worth a thousand words.
So You Still Think the Press is Free: So it took several weeks, not a year this time, for the NY Times to print information related to George W. Bush breaking the law. Yes, The NY Times, even though they ignored the first documents indicating such, finally reported about the second smoking gun memo indicating that the Bush administration intended on going to war with Iraq regardless if there was a legitimate reason for going to war. They even planed to provoke Iraq into a war.
Now get this: the entire American corporate media ignored the first smoking gun memo indicating that George W. Bush lied to Congress, to the American people, to the world and to the US Military and started a war based on lies. A second piece of evidence surfaces and the New York Times ignores it for several weeks and then finally reports it. The result of this is an echo chamber of silence by the rest of the media.
The memo in question is possibly the strongest piece of physical evidence ever produced indicating a high crime by an American President other than the mountains of evidence of 9/11 complicity by the Bush administration. However the 9/11 evidence has not yet been approved for acceptance by the corporate media; so lets just pretend that this memo indicates the strongest evidence of a high crime committed by a President to date. And what is happening? The rest of the media is waiting for their marching orders. They are all remaining silent until they receive instructions to proceed with their reporting. Even if the delay is only a day, the coordinated story has to be approved so that there are no contradictions when the corporate media unit brainwash the public with the exact version of the story that they want us to believe.
The coordinated actions by the many arms of the corporate media monster should be quite obvious to you by now. The corporate media is not controlled by anyone; they are the tool of the controllers. Until we realize this we will continue to fall prey to the controllers. The evidence is there and you can see it every single day. With every coordinated, timed and choreographed information dissemination event the single point of media control becomes more visible to those who choose to open their eyes. Think about it!
Postwar aftermath or imperialist mutatis mutandis?: Writing a revelatory article ("Allied Air War Struck Broadly in Iraq; Officials Acknowledge Strategy Went Beyond Purely Military Targets") for the Washington Post (1991), Barton Gellman pointed out the strategy behind the bombing [of Iraq]. The article is important because Gellman dispensed with linguistic subterfuge and chose clarity. For example, in the opening paragraph he described U.S. war against Iraq, not as a war to end the occupation of Kuwait, but "As a campaign against Baghdad's offensive military capabilities," which, of course, was Washington's euphemism to destroy Iraq as a functioning nation -- since the term implies a comprehensive destruction of civilian and military targets that sustain those "capabilities." Indeed, Kuwait's "liberation" did not appear as a motive for the war, at least, as Gellman presented it.
Because of the relevance of Gellman's argument to my current debate, which is, whether the situation of Iraq after the bombardment was a classic postwar aftermath or calculated strategy to cripple Iraq permanently, I shall incorporate most of it in this and the next article. In order to give you a compact synthesis, I reorganized the article in two parts, but added Italics where the imperialist long-term objective -- cripple Iraq permanently -- is both, apparent and implicit based on the consequence of each military action and the target it destroyed. The question is, why cripple Iraq permanently? Was that to provoke a regime change from inside, or prepare the prey for conquest? I shall answer these questions in the upcoming part.
Part 1 of Gellman's Findings:
• The strategic bombing of Iraq, described in wartime briefings as a campaign against Baghdad's offensive military capabilities, now appears to have been broader in its purposes and selection of targets.
• Amid mounting evidence of Iraq's ruined infrastructure and the painful consequences for ordinary Iraqis, Pentagon officials more readily acknowledge the severe impact of the 43-day air bombardment on Iraq's economic future and civilian population.
• Their explanations these days of the bombing's goals and methods suggest that the allies, relying on traditional concepts of strategic warfare, sought to achieve some of their military objectives in the Persian Gulf War by disabling Iraqi society. [Italics added]
• Though many details remain classified, interviews with those involved in the targeting disclose three main contrasts with the administration's earlier portrayal of a campaign aimed solely at Iraq's armed forces and their lines of supply and command. Some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create postwar leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself. [Italics added].
• Planners now say their intent was to destroy or damage valuable facilities that Baghdad could not repair without foreign assistance. [Italics added]
• Many of the targets in Iraq's Mesopotamian heartland, the list of which grew from about 400 to more than 700 in the course of the war, were chosen only secondarily to contribute to the military defeat of Baghdad's occupation army in Kuwait. [Italics added]
• Military planners hoped the bombing would amplify the economic and psychological impact of international sanctions on Iraqi society, and thereby compel President Saddam Hussein to withdraw Iraqi forces from Kuwait without a ground war. [Italics added]
• Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as "collateral" and unintended, was sometimes neither. [Italics added]
• The Air Force and Navy "fraggers" who prepared the daily air-tasking orders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, took great care to avoid dropping explosives directly on civilians -- and were almost certainly more successful than in any previous war -- but they deliberately did great harm to Iraq's ability to support itself as an industrial society. [Italics added]
• The worst civilian suffering, senior officers say, has resulted not from bombs that went astray but from precision-guided weapons that hit exactly where they were aimed -- at electrical plants, oil refineries and transportation networks. Each of these targets was acknowledged during the war, but all the purposes and consequences of their destruction were not divulged. [Italics added]
• Among the justifications offered now, particularly by the Air Force in recent briefings, is that Iraqi civilians were not blameless for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. "The definition of innocents gets to be a little bit unclear," said a senior Air Force officer, noting that many Iraqis supported the invasion of Kuwait. "They do live there, and ultimately the people have some control over what goes on in their country." [Italics added]
• "When they discuss warfare, a lot of folks tend to think of force on force, soldier A against soldier B," said another officer who played a central role in the air campaign but declined to be named. Strategic bombing, by contrast, strikes against "all those things that allow a nation to sustain itself." [Italics added]
• For critics, this was the war that showed why the indirect effects of bombing must be planned as discriminately as the direct ones. The bombardment may have been precise, they argue, but the results have been felt throughout Iraqi society, and the bombing ultimately may have done as much to harm civilians as soldiers. [Italics added]
• Pentagon officials say that military lawyers were present in the air campaign's "Black Hole" planning cell in Riyadh and emphasize that the bombing followed international conventions of war. Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, at a recent breakfast with reporters, said every Iraqi target was "perfectly legitimate" and added, "If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing." [Italics added]
• A growing debate on the air campaign is challenging Cheney's argument on two fronts. Some critics, including a Harvard public health team and the environmental group Greenpeace, have questioned the morality of the bombing by pointing to its ripple effects on noncombatants. [Italics added]
• The Harvard team, for example, reported last month that the lack of electrical power, fuel and key transportation links in Iraq now has led to acute malnutrition and "epidemic" levels of cholera and typhoid. In an estimate not substantively disputed by the Pentagon, the team projected that "at least 170,000 children under five years of age will die in the coming year from the delayed effects" of the bombing. [Italics Added]
• Military officials assert that allied aircraft passed up legitimate targets when the costs to Iraqi civilians or their society would be too high, declining for instance to strike an Iraqi MiG-21 parked outside an ancient mosque. Using the same rationale, the critics argue that the allies should not have bombed electrical plants that powered hospitals and water treatment plants. [Italics added]
• "I think this war challenges us to ask ourselves whether or not the lethality of conventional weapons in modern, urban, integrated societies isn't such that . . . what is 'legitimate' is inhumane," said William M. Arkin, one of the authors of the Greenpeace report. [Italics added]
• Historians Robert A. Pape, Jr., and Caroline Ciemke, noting that the U.S. Central Command planned for only 30 days of bombing, say the vital targets were existing stocks of supply and the system of distribution. A campaign to incapacitate an entire society, they say, may be inappropriate in the context of a short war against a small nation in which the populace is not free to alter its leadership. [Italics added]
• Among the remaining questions about the air strategy is the extent of the administration's top civilians' participation in planning the bombardment. President [George H. W.} Bush stressed during the war that he left most of the fighting decisions to the military.
• Cheney, for his part, rejects any talk of second thoughts on the bombing. "There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind that modern warfare is destructive, that we had a significant impact on Iraqi society that we wished we had not had to do," he said. Once war begins, he added, "while you still want to be as discriminating as possible in terms of avoiding civilian casualties, your number one obligation is to accomplish your mission. . . ." [Italics added]
The Askariya Mosque job and the coming war on Iran: So who really did have a motive for the very professional demolition job on Samarra's Golden Dome Mosque?
Many analysts have pointed to the general advantages that flow to the imperialist occupation from fostering sectarian divisions - the traditional divide-and-rule strategy - but I think we can be a lot more specific. I believe we can reliably point to the United States as the real culprit and see a clear motive in the geo-strategic nightmare created by Washington's determination to wage war on Iran.
Let's do this as a military intelligence officer would, and, for a moment, put ourselves in the shoes of the key figures running the sprawling US military, CIA and foreign affairs bureaucracy which does its best to carry out the president's wishes on the ground in Iraq. Let's look at their problems from their point of view.
They're badly bogged down in Iraq and they see no prospect of getting out in the next few years.
Back in 2003, in the heady days of the march up from the Gulf, the story they were getting from Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and poor mad George himself, was that they'd be greeted with flowers and candy by the grateful Iraqi people, after which they'd set up a model democracy and then march on to liberate Tehran and Damascus. At the time many of them protested that they simply didn't have enough troops for an occupation and that the venture risked putting Iran in charge in Baghdad, but they were laughed at and told to get on with the job.
Okay, so the neoconservative warhawks' model failed - very badly. The Sunnis and the Baathists turned against the "liberators" and began an intractable resistance. The president's loyal underlings had to adapt to the awkward fact that the only semblance of an puppet Iraqi army they could put together was going to have to come from among the sectarian Shiite extremists loyal to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The only puppet government they could hope for was an unstable combination of Shiite politicians close to the Tehran government and a bunch of Kurdish leaders who really only wanted to secede from Iraq, taking with them as much of the northern oilfields as they could.
Great. Just peachy. They were now in a defacto alliance with one end of the "Axis of Evil" itself. Still, they did their best and made it work in a "muddle through" kind of way. They humoured the Kurds and recruited whatever "security forces" they could from among sectarian elements of the Shia population. Obviously, under the circumstances, the anti-Iranian rhetoric had to be toned down. The mainstream media commentators were told not to draw attention to the Iranian connection and, in fact, to talk-up Saddam Hussein's various alleged tyrannies against the Shia. The emphasis was all on Sunni Wahabist terrorism and the supposedly defining role played by the semi-mythical Abu Musab al-Zaqawi.
And then, a weird, irrational, thing happened. As if things weren't bad enough, Crazy-Mad George and his neocon advisors decided it was imperative to wage war on Iran.
The military general staff and the CIA boys and the State Department spin doctors must have felt like slitting their wrists. Obviously the president was a sandwich short of the full picnic. The regular US Army, the Marines and a great slab of the Reserves and National Guard were tied down trying to hold the line against the Sunni resistance. The Brits and Italians and Aussies were keeping a very low profile down in the South - doing everything they could to minimise their troop levels and stay out of trouble. There was just no way the US generals could muster even a tiny fraction of the troops necessary to actually invade Iran.
But orders are orders and like good bureaucrats they buckled down to the task. The only available option was to neutralise Iran not by invasion and occupation but by bombing it back to the Stone Age. It wasn't a good option, in fact it was extremely dangerous, but it was the only one at all militarily feasible.
Trouble was, the Tehran government was not only dangerously well armed, in a conventional sense, it had the advantage of having a loyal Shia following in the South and parts of Baghdad - militia forces that could be unleashed against the weak Coalition forces holding the South. With a little help from Iran the Shiite militias could overrun these Coalition units fairly easily. Even worse, the regular Iranian forces might advance to cut the vital, vulnerable, supply lines running from the head of the Gulf to Baghdad. True, they'd take heavy losses, but they could afford to. Undoubtedly, tens of thousands of US troops would have to be rushed South to deal with these threats.
And what would the Sunni and Baathist resistance do while the US was fighting its previous allies? Well, if they remained actively hostile, they'd have a field day. They'd overrun al-Anbar province, grab Fallujah and Ramadi and Mosul and parts of Baghdad. And of course the mainly Shiite "Iraqi National Guard" units, never reliable, would disintegrate.
Nasty, very nasty. But orders are orders, so the bureaucrats had to have a plan. The most fundamental problem was political: if the occupation forces were suddenly going to wage war on their Shiite allies they needed a strategy for neutralising, or hopefully even winning over, the Sunni and Baathist resistance.
It was a long shot, but if they could just get these folk to sit on their hands while they dealt with Iran and the Iranian surrogates within Iraq, well, the Coalition wouldn't have to fight two enemies simultaneously.
The political problem having been grasped, the only issue was how to stampede the Sunnis back into the arms of the occupation.
And that, I surmise, is where the Askariya Mosque operation came in.
In a back room in the Green Zone, where the hard men of the occupation gather to make hard decisions, shrewd calculations would have been made. Blowing up a much-revered Shia shrine - until now protected within a Sunni area - and passing it off as Sunni terrorism, was guaranteed (as much as anything could be) to incite a spontaneous wave of revenge against Sunnis by the most backward and fanatical elements in the Shiite community and to pit those people against more cautious and responsible Shia leaders. If all went to plan, millions of Sunnis would suddenly see the greatest threat coming not from the occupation, but from Iraqi Shiites and the Tehran government and would remain neutral in the coming war between the US and Iran.
In this light the bombing can be seen as the latest and most extreme ploy in a strategy that's been evolving for some months. The first signs came with US attempts to negotiate with the resistance and win them over to politics rather than armed resistance. It's another artful divide-and-rule strategy, this time crafted to appeal to Sunni fears and the hostility of secular Arab nationalists towards "Persian" theocracy.
The history of the Middle East is written in the blood of the various ethnic and religious groups that allowed themselves to be conned by appeals to old hatreds and short-term interests. If the resistance falls for it, they'll be fools, just as the Iranian leaders were fools not to fight beside Iraq against the 2003 invasion. If the US is able to prevail by brutally neutralising Iran with air power, it will then turn back to deal with the Sunni and Baathist resistance and it will do so just as brutally.
Different beat to Iran war drums: In the ongoing rift between the US and Iran over the latter's nuclear program, the Bush administration has frequently used the diplomatic version of threats by stating that "all options are on the table". What is working for Iran is that Washington has been much discredited and ridiculed over its unilateral decision to invade Iraq. What is especially favoring Iran is that the Bush administration is finding out each day of its occupation of Iraq is that it is easy to invade a Muslim state, but not ruling it.
Perhaps given the Iraqi experience, Bush is showing restraint in threatening Iran. However, no one should be surprised if contingency plans are already in preparation for possible military action. In short, the Bush administration could pursue the following options.
First, it would work hard to persuade China and Russia to go along with some punitive economic sanctions. Iran is hoping that neither of those two countries will go along with the US. But it is also conducting its own behind-the-scenes canvassing with these countries. Even if Beijing and Moscow were to go along with Washington's desire for imposing economic sanctions, they would still want ironclad guarantees that the Bush administration would not use that as UN "endorsement" of military action against Iran, as it did in the case of Iraq.
Second, the US is likely to seek some sort of a unified stand from the Gulf States against Iran's nuclear program, even though it has repeatedly said that its ambitions are for civil, not military power. These states have adopted a measured reaction on the issue thus far. But no one should underestimate what the US can achieve when it applies ample pressure on Gulf monarchies. Iran is fully aware of this reality and might be doing its own bidding, using back channels.
Third, the US has not entirely given up on using the EU-3 (France, Germany and Britain) card. There is some chance that the EU-3 might be able to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program. Talks between Tehran and the EU-3 have stalled after many months of negotiations.
The EU-3 may have to rethink the size of the economic payoffs for Iran if it agrees to go along. In addition, Iran would want security guarantees from the US, which the EU-3 might be able to persuade Washington to offer. The trans-Atlantic relationship between the US and Western European countries has come a long way from the dark days following the US invasion of Iraq.
Finally, if all else fails, the Bush administration might rely on Israeli willingness to carry out a preemptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Here also, what favors Iran is the fact that its nuclear facilities are purposely built in heavily populated areas. Israel would thus have to think long and hard about "collateral damage" before carrying out attacks.
The fact that the US has not already rushed into a war with Iran shows that the cavalier approach used in Iraq has been tempered. The Iraqi adventure has taught one cruel lesson: the US's military capabilities to create a quick victory have very little stabilizing effect in a conquered land. This reality might be serving as the most constraining factor on Bush as he contemplates Iran.
Nevertheless, one has no real idea on how serious the Bush administration really is about closing the nuclear option for Iran, and that the measured steps now being taken diplomatically might simply be a response to the headlong rush to war in Iraq, but with the same end result as the objective.
Vienna Rabbi in Iran condemns Zionism : Considering the recent outbursts of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on Israel and the Holocaust, Vienna-based Rabbi Friedman [chief rabbi of the Orthodox anti-Zionist community in Vienna] was definitely the star of the show [the "International Conference on Constructive Interaction Among Religions", set up by the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, which is directly linked to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held in January in Isfahan, Iran]. An avid proponent of inter-faith dialogue, he can lash out for hours against "Bolshevik/Stalinist perpetrators" and "messianic sects like Zionism" bent on "exterminating the faith in God".
Well known to major newspaper editors in Europe, Friedman condemns the "worldwide Zionist-dominated media. And in this regard the situation in the United States media is even worse than in Europe." He constantly refers to "the Holocaust used to give moral legitimization for the atrocities against the Palestinians, displace them and rob their land and their homes, without the international community protecting them. The Holocaust was even exploited for financial contributions to Israel."
Friedman praises what he considers "honest statements" by Ahmadinejad regarding Israel - in the sense of the Holocaust being politicized. As he sees it, "the term 'anti-Semite' is substantially wrong and stupid as all Arabs are genuine Semites while many of the Zionists in reality do not have Jewish forefathers. I am proud to be a fundamentalist who stretches his arms out for peace and is willing also to risk his head for peace." Friedman would not be exactly safe walking in the streets of Manhattan.
His overall battle plan is "to do everything possible in practical terms to bring Zionist world domination in the media, economy, etc, to an end as it can have even worse effects than a mere military occupation".
"Don’t Impeach; Impale": Impeachment just isn’t proper punishment for the evil, cowardly, imperialistic slime buckets of the Bush administration.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, right-wing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infrastructure destroying, hysterical, history defying, finger- pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clear cutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture outsourcing, "so-called" compassionate-conservative, women’s rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, noxious, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, insolent, know-it-all, snotty, pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless, avaricious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish, brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony deprived, depraved, insincere, conceited, perverted, pre-emptory invading of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, 35-day-vacation taking, bribe soliciting, incapable, inbred, hellish, proud for no apparent reason, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell-headed, ethnic cleansing, ethics-eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana-busting, kick-backing, Halliburtoning, New Deal disintegrating, narcissistic, undiplomatic, blustering, malevolent, demonizing, baby seal-clubbing, Duke Cunninghamming, hectoring, verbally flatulent, pro-bad- anti-good, Moslem-baiting, photo-op arranging, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing, science disputing, faith based mathematics advocating, armament selling, nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, unscrupulous, greedy exponential factor fifteen, fraudulent, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating, betraying, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling, phony question asking, just won’t get off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling, two- faced, inept, callous, menacing, your hand under a rock- the maggoty remains of a marsupial, oppressive, vulgar, antagonistic, brush clearing suck- up, showboating, tyrannizing, peace hating, water and air and ground and media polluting which is pretty much all the polluting you can get, deadly, illegal, pernicious, lethal, haughty, venomous, virulent, ineffectual, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty, incompetent, hypocritical, did I say evil, I’m not sure if I said evil, because I want to make sure I say evil…
EVIL, cretinous, fool, toad, buttwipe, lizardstick, cowardly, lackey imperialistic tool slime buckets in the Bush Administration that I could just spit.
Upon the sharp and righteous sword of the people’s justice.
How George W. Bush Unified Latin America: At political rallies, his visage is held aloft as a beacon to regional independence and self-determination. He's helped forge new trade partnerships to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. And his leadership has fanned a gale-force electoral trend that's sweeping the hemisphere to topple one pro-Washington government after the next.
Who is this grand inductor of Latin American leftism? Venezuelan fireball Hugo Chavez? Blue-collar Brazilian Lula Ignacio da Silva? Bolivia's coca-farmer-cum-president, Evo Morales?
¡Epa! It's George W. Bush, the accidental revolutionary.
Bush has presided over one of the most significant political re-alignments in the history of the Western Hemisphere. By this summer, every major Latin American nation but Colombia is likely to be run by elected leaders with stronger backgrounds in Marx than free markets. If Cold War-era "domino theory" has been a bust in the Middle East, it's working with textbook precision in Latin America.
Late last year, voters overwhelmingly elected former coca-grower Evo Morales, the founder of Bolivia's "Movement Toward Socialism" party, who fancies himself a "nightmare" for the Bush administration. Then, in January, Chilean voters chose socialist candidate Michele Bachelet, a torture victim of the Pinochet regime, as the nation's first woman president. Leftists now rule as well in Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina, and are leading in upcoming elections in both Peru and Mexico, the region's electoral grand prize. Even recycled Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega -- "a hoodlum," according to Roger Noriega, formerly the U.S.'s top Latin America official -- appears poised for a comeback when Nicaraguan voters go to the polls in November.
Though Latin America's national borders won't melt away anytime soon, Che's vision of pan-Latin cooperation has already begun to materialize. Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina recently announced a $20 billion plan to build a trans-national gas pipeline through the Amazon. Chile has opened dialogue with landlocked Bolivia, easing a long-simmering feud over seaport access that stretches back more than a century. Cuba, that tropical bête noire of the White House, still uses doctor diplomacy and sends physicians all over the region -- only now, it receives billions of dollars worth of Venezuelan oil in return. And Mercosur, a South American common market dominated by Brazil, has emerged as a rival to the faltering U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Mercosur member states blocked ratification of the FTAA at the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Argentina. When Bush arrived to deliver a speech at the conference, he was greeted by mobs of angry street protestors who burned American flags, a Burger King, and unflattering effigies in his likeness. "Fascist Bush!" they chanted, "you are the terrorist!"
As Bush pushes the region away, Chavez pulls. The Venezuelan leader has fashioned himself into a kind of Latin American Robin Hood, raking in tanker-loads of petrodollars in order to bankroll massive social programs and regional integration schemes. He's provided oil at subsidized rates to poor countries throughout the Caribbean, even sending discounted winter heating oil to low-income residents in Boston and the Bronx -- an act of mockery as much as aid. The Bush administration's tacit endorsement of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chavez has left the U.S.'s rhetoric about respect for democracy ringing hypocritical.
At the World Social Forum in Caracas in January, Chavez t-shirts were reportedly de rigueur, along with all the other standard-fare knickknacks of rebellion: Castro-hats, Zapatista stickers, and anything red with Che on it. By comparison, Bush apparel was in short supply.
Granted, he did show up on a few banners and posters that weren't slated for immolation, like one that read "Chavez yes, Bush no!" But twenty years from now, who knows? Latin America may be much better off then. And perhaps he'll finally get the "Gracias Bush" he deserves -- with his own face on a silkscreen.