Monday, April 03, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, April 3, 2006 Photo: Iraqi men hold up a helmet of the type worn by coalition forces after a roadside explosion targetting a US Patrol Sunday April 2, 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad. Roadside bombs targeted U.S. convoys Sunday in Ramadi west of Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul (…) (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) [Note: This is almost certainly the incident described below in which four U.S. troops "died from enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province April 2" (CENTCOM) and documented in the IHLAS videos also below.] Bring ‘em on: Four American troops were killed by hostile fire in the volatile Anbar province, the military said Monday. The U.S. military statement did not provide more details about the deaths of the U.S. troops in Anbar. It was the largest number of Americans killed in an attack since Feb. 22, when four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb near Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad. Video: "Insurgents" clash with US security forces twice in Ramadi: Summary: A roadside bomb attack targeting US forces in the central Iraqi town of Ramadi on late Saturday turned into a clash between US soldiers and Iraqi insurgents. US soldiers coming returned to the incident place on Sunday for investigations, confronted a second bomb attack, and a second clash ensued; US soldiers were evacuated by a truck coming for assistance. There were no reports on casualties. Date: 2 April 2006 Shotlist: - Shots of the incident place. US forces reach the incident place and clash with insurgents. US soldiers evacuate the incident place. Shot of patrolling helicopter. - Shots of burning pieces of the vehicles. Children are gathered at the area. - US forces come again at the incident place. A crane lifts a wrecked vehicle. - US forces are attacked again. Shot and sound of clash. US forces evacuate the area again. - Shots of children holding pieces of wreckage. - Shot of hole opened because of explosion. - Shot of children holding pieces of wreckage and shouting for victory. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Four members of Shiite family killed in southern Baghdad. Gunmen lined up a brother, two sisters and their uncle against a wall and shot them. Drive-by shooters kill police captain outside his home in southern Baghdad. Five civilians wounded when car bomb explodes near a convoy of SUVs in central Baghdad. The vehicles are usually used by foreign contractors. Two civilians killed and six wounded when car bomb targeting a police patrol explodes in northeastern Baghdad. Two bodies discovered in eastern Baghdad - one in Mashtal that was handcuffed and shot in the head, another in Baladiyat that was strangled and covered with bandages. Three bodies discovered in eastern Baghdad neighborhoods. One in Mashtal was handcuffed and shot in the head, another in Baladiyat was strangled and covered with bandages, and the third was found in Sadr City, shot in the forehead. Car bomb kills at least 10 people near Shi'ite mosque in Baghdad. The blast in the Shaab district of Baghdad also wounded at least 30 people. Slovak soldiers come under artillery fire in Camp Echo, near Iraqi town of Ad Diwaniyah between Baghdad and Basra. University student shot in the middle of the downtown market in Baquba. Police speculated that the motive might have been because the student belonged to a Sunni political party or had a brother working as a translator for coalition forces. Man killed when roadside bomb goes off on main highway outside Baquba, while a man and a woman riding in a taxi were shot at by gunmen. Bombings in Buhriz damage several buildings, including a barber shop and grocery store, in a market district of the town, about 55 kilometres northeast of Baghdad. Policeman killed and two others wounded when gunmen attack their patrol in Baiji. Two Iraqi soldiers killed and three wounded when gunmen attack their patrol near Baiji. Gunmen shoot down six people, including a child, in a market area of the southern city of Basra. The victims of the drive-by shooters in Basra included a navy officer, two policemen, two workers at an electrical plant, and a boy. Iraqi killed and five others including a policeman injured in armed attack on a fuel station in Huwaija west of the Iraqi northern city of Kirkuk. Five Katyusha rockets slam near an Iraqi army barracks north of Kirkuk.There were no damages reported. Unknown gunmen attack Iraqi army vehicle in central Kirkuk. No further details available. Gunmen kill Imam of a Sunni mosque in Kirkuk. North of Baghdad in Nibaie, gunmen kill two truck drivers and kidnap another while they were carrying construction materials to the U.S. military base in Balad. Blindfolded, mutilated bodies of two unknown people who had been shot dead found near Latifiya south of Baghdad. BREAKING NEWS: 5 Marines die, 3 missing in Iraq accident: A U.S. military truck rolled over in a flash food in western Iraq's Anbar province, killing five U.S. Marines, injuring another and leaving three other troops missing, the military said Monday. The military said it was "using all the resources available" to find the two Marines and a sailor who were missing following the Sunday accident. The rollover of the seven-ton truck appeared to be an accident and was "not a result of enemy action," the military said. No names were released. IRAQ NEWS Rice, Straw tell Iraqis to Form Government Quickly: "We are entitled to say that whilst it is up to you, the Iraqis, to say who will fill these positions, someone must fill these positions and fill them quickly," Straw told reporters at a news conference. "There is no doubt the political vacuum that is here at the moment is not assisting the security situation," Straw said. Rice said the troubles in Iraq called for a strong leader who could help unify the people of this war-ravaged land. But, she added, "It's not our job to say who that person ought to be." Rice said the quick formation of a new government "is something that the international community has a right to expect." "You cannot have a circumstance in which there is a political vacuum in a country like this that faces so much threat of violence," Rice said. Both Rice and Straw emphasized that it was up to the Iraqis to decide on their new prime minister. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the nominee of the Shiite bloc, has been widely criticized by Sunni and Kurdish politicians whom the Shiites need as partners to govern. Regional government of Kurdistan releases Kurdish writer Kamal Karim just a week after he received an 18-month sentence for articles on a Kurdish Web site that accused one of the region's top leaders of corruption, said Mohamed Khoshnaw, a government spokesman. The regional prime minister issued a pardon for Karim, citing international pressure to release the writer. Top religious leaders say Iraqis have a right to fight foreign troops: Two years after U.S. authorities ceremoniously declared Iraq to be sovereign again, top religious leaders say Iraqis still don't govern themselves, remain under military occupation and have a right to fight foreign troops. Their statements, made at the conclusion of a peace conference in London on Tuesday, provided a stamp of approval from Iraq's most influential Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics for their countrymen to step up attacks aimed at hastening the withdrawal of U.S., British and other troops. Two Christian archbishops and ethnic Kurdish leaders, whose community has previously supported the foreign military presence, joined Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal in endorsing a communique underscoring the ''legitimate right'' of Iraqis to resist what they called the occupation. The clerics were adamant in their interpretation of Iraqis' rights to resist. Their call comes at a time when Shiite militants, like their Sunni counterparts, have engaged in armed confrontations with troops of the U.S. led coalition, including a raid on a Shiite mosque Sunday in which at least 17 Iraqis were killed. ''We are here to say that any military action against an occupying force is a legitimate act authorized under international law,'' said Sheik Majid al-Hafeed, a representative of the Ulmma Kurdish Union of Iraq. ''The occupation is something that everybody is calling for an end to,'' added Sayyid Salih al-Haydary, outgoing minister of Shiite religious affairs. The remarks of the 16 religious leaders, both in individual statements and in the joint communique, suggested a growing feeling among Iraqis that the presence of foreign forces is adding to the country's instability. Results of a poll in Iraq, conducted in January but released last week, showed that an overwhelming majority of Arab Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds believe the United States is planning to keep troops in Iraq permanently. Most also believe the United States would refuse to leave regardless of whether the Iraqi government requested it. The poll was sponsored by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. Sheik al-Hafeed and others took issue with Western characterizations of attacks on coalition troops as terrorism, citing the U.S. war of independence from Britain as one example of citizens taking up arms to eject foreign occupiers. Rather than condemn such a struggle, the sheik quipped, ''Americans celebrate it as the Fourth of July, Independence Day.'' Sheik Ahmad Abdulgafour al-Samarai, minister of Sunni religious affairs in the outgoing government, agreed, saying that the definition of terrorism included not only the kidnapping and killing of noncombatants by guerrilla groups, ''but when the occupation forces kill (civilians), this also is terrorism.'' REPORTS U.S. raid on Shiite shrine intended as warning: The U.S. military was trying to send a "little reality jab" to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr when American and Iraqi troops raided a Shiite community center and shrine over the weekend, says a top U.S. military official. The joint assault killed at least 16 people, most of them believed to be tied to Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. U.S. officials insist the center was being used as a base for insurgent activities and was not a mosque. But many Iraqis say the complex did indeed include the Shiite equivalent of a mosque, and the raid has drawn harsh condemnation from Shiite politicians and prompted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to launch an investigation. The mayor of Baghdad promptly cut off cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, and Shiite politicians suspended their negotiations to form a new government. The U.S. military has long contemplated taking tougher steps against Sadr and his troublesome militia but has held off in the past because it did not want to antagonize his many fervent supporters. This raid, officials say, was intended as a reminder to Sadr of the U.S. military's reach in Iraq. U.S. officials had been quietly praising Sadr's group in recent weeks because of its calls for calm in the wake of the bombing of a Sunni mosque in Samarra that sparked a wave of sectarian violence. Shia? Sunni? Christian? Who Gives A Shit? Iraqis Join Forces To Fight Occupation Death Squads: In the Jihad area of Baghdad, Jawad Kadhim oversees a 25-member neighborhood watch group that he said includes Shiites, Sunnis and Christians. Each family pays the group about $6.50 a month. Kadhim said the group came together after the Samarra bombing spawned assassinations in his neighborhood. "Please don't ask me if I am a Shiite or a Sunni. We don't have such distinctions," Kadhim said, though he earlier said he was a Shiite and a former member of the Iraqi army. When a Sunni mosque in Jihad was attacked by men "in commando uniforms" after the Samarra bombing, Shiites and Sunnis repelled the assailants, Kadhim said. Privately, police say they generally avoid confrontations with neighborhood watch groups as long as the men keep away from main streets. In Azamiyah, Abdul Wahab said he conceals his weapon when an American patrol passes by. His team started with 10 men, but now has more than 100, he said. Many of them don't get paid, he added. So why don't Azamiyah residents let the army guard the neighborhood? "The army cannot control the situation. If they had the ability, they would have controlled the situation in the mosques that were burnt down," argued Nateq Ibrahim, a 42-year-old fruit vendor who joined the Azamiyah group along with two brothers. "This left me very angry," Ibrahim said of the attacks on Sunnis mosques. He said his anger was not directed at all Shiites, only at those who attack Sunnis. "We have Shiite families in Azamiyah, and we have no problems with them. We protect them too." But he warned that things could get ugly if Azamiyah came under attack. "Now, we're just this group of volunteers," he said. "But if the militias enter the neighborhood, the whole of Azamiyah will erupt." Iraqi girl tells of US attack: A young Iraqi girl has exclusively given ITV News a shocking first hand account of what witnesses claim amounts to mass murder by US troops in the war-torn country. Ten-year-old Iman Walid lost seven members of her family in an attack by American marines last November. The interview with Iman was filmed exclusively for ITV News by Ali Hamdani,our Iraqi video diarist. If Iman's story is true - and it has been disputed by the US military - human rights workers say it is the worst massacre of civilians by US troops in the country. Iman tells of screaming soldiers entering her house in the Iraqi town of Haditha spraying bullets in every direction. Fifteen people in all were killed, including her parents and grandparents. Her account has been corroborated by other eyewitnesses who say it was a revenge attack after a roadside bomb killed a marine. US authorities have launched an investigation to determine whether the killings were the result of self defence, crossfire or murder. Initially, the US marines issued a statement saying that a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians, while eight insurgents had been killed in a later gunbattle. US military officials have since confirmed the 15 civilians were actually shot dead. One of the least publicised disasters of the US occupation of Iraq: General Muthafar Deirky, the ebullient commander of the [mainly Kurdish 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Army] (...) has been stationed [in Mosul] since 11 November 2004 when, in one of the least publicised disasters of the US occupation of Iraq, insurgents captured the city as the police and army deserted en masse. Some 11,000 weapons and vehicles worth $40m (£23m) were lost. The American media was almost entirely embedded with the US Marines who were engaged in the bloody battle for Fallujah, population 350,000, so the outside world did not notice that the anti-American resistance had captured a city five times as large. General Deirky, a peshmerga veteran, was called in a panic by the army commander in Baghdad who told him that "Mosul was under the control of terrorists". He gathered 700 men and, having fought off two ambushes, advanced into the city just in time to prevent the capture of the television station. He was dismayed to discover that out of an 1,800-strong Iraqi Army unit all but 30 Kurds had deserted. After a brisk counter-attack by the 3rd Brigade and American troops the guerrillas evaporated having chosen not, as in Fallujah, to stand and fight. General Deirky says most of the resistance cells were later eliminated. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Xymphora: The real motives in Iraq: Justin Raimondo's latest on the Israel Lobby and, in particular, Chomsky's scepticism at the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis (I've left out the links in the original text):
". . . the big problem for Chomsky and his co-thinkers on the Left is that their reasoning is dizzyingly circular. They ascribe everything to the machinations of a 'corporate' cabal, but their case is stated in terms of the broadest generalities, leaving the details to the imagination. It is the lack of details, however, that is most telling. Because wars are started not by abstract 'forces' nor by ideological constructs floating in mid-air, but by individuals - not corporate entities, but specific government officials, their advisers and employees. One could say that, in the abstract, the 'stovepiping' of false information about Iraq's alleged WMD was the result of late capitalism's moral corruption and the 'class interests' of Scooter Libby, but most people would find such a formulation baffling - and it is certainly inadequate. The question of how and why we were lied into war is a matter of fact, not ideology. Abstract 'forces' had nothing to do with it: specific individuals carried out specific acts. The misinformation that was deliberately planted was produced not by decaying capitalism, but by the decayed moral sense of certain government officials. And I'd be very surprised if the Niger uranium forgeries were fabricated by capitalists in top hats."
The value of socialist analysis is that it gives weight to class issues; the problem is that it cannot comprehend anything except in terms of class issues. The socialists make exactly the same mistake that the capitalist economists make, which is too ascribe way too much importance to economic interests, and deny that there are any other motives in human life. The capitalists claim that the central focus of economics is the individual or family, and the socialists like to look at class, but they both make the same mistake. People act for a large number of motives. Some are economic, some relate to power, and some relate to more ethereal notions like religion, nationalism, or tribalism. All three played a role in the attack on Iraq: 1. The economic interests involved were surprisingly mundane and, well, crooked. The Bush Administration wished to make money for itself and its friends in the corporate provisioning world of companies like Halliburton. Dick Cheney is personally richer with each passing day of the occupation. I know it's not the giant intellectual motive that both the neocons and their critics like to talk about, but this kind of corruption plays a major role in the fact that there are still Americans in Iraq. 2. I've already referred to the power aspect of war for politicians. The Bush Administration was aimless until it had a chance to kill people. Politicians use war to create a problem, which they then purport to solve. While the occupation has been described as a disaster for Bush, where would he be without it? 3. I've left Israel for last, but it is a critical motive, without which there almost certainly would not have been an attack and occupation. Jewish neocons, supporters of Israeli colonialism for either religious (apocalyptic), nationalist or tribal (racial) reasons, worked behind the scenes to manipulate intelligence ('stovepiping') and public opinion (aluminum tubes), all in aid of political motives stated in the 'Clean Break' paper prepared for Netanyahu. They were backed up by the power over the Bush Administration held by Christian Zionists, but the actual manipulators were people like Feith, Wolfowitz, and Wurmser. I'll need another posting -'From Bitburg to Baghdad . . .', if I ever get around to writing it - to explain how Israel set up the Republican Party reliance on the Christian Zionists. What about all the other reasons for war I keep hearing about?: 1. Oil? If the Americans and British just wanted oil, they would have negotiated a lifting of the sanctions, which were essentially an Anglo-American game. They could have had their own people running the oil fields as part of the same negotiations. At the moment and for the foreseeable future, Iraqi oil and money to be made from it is off the table. The oil companies didn't want this war, as they knew what was going to happen, as did all the oil men in the Bush Administration. 2. Bases in Iraq? But why? The Americans had to give up their best bases in the Middle East due to anger at the attack on Iraq. Under Rummy's thinking, one base is as good as another, and they don't need to be close together. The irony is that the billions are being spent on the bases in order to provide an excuse for the occupation. Were it not for the bases, the Americans might just as well go home (i. e., the troops aren't there to protect the bases, the bases are there to give the troops something to protect!). The reason the Bush Administration wants to keep American troops in Iraq is to continue to make the money off provisioning, keep power through 'fixing' the problems caused by the occupation, and increase the insurgency thus leading to the civil war desired by Israel. 3. Empire? A reason completely without content. The American Empire is hardly better off with thousands of troops tied up for the next ten or twenty years in Iraq. Empire justifications are always useless, as whatever the United States does will be described as advancing its imperial interests. It would make far more sense to say, had the Americans decided not to attack Iraq, that that decision would have been based on the interests of Empire. 4. Geopolitics? Same problem. The idea that the United States is trying to encircle the Russians is not without merit, but the Iraq adventure has just strengthened Russia's relative strength. 5. Chomsky's high-fallutin' class-based Marxist analysis. Completely circular. No matter what happens, no matter whose interests are advanced, they will give you the same answer: it's all for the benefit of the American plutocracy. They will tell you this even when it is obvious that the long-term interests of the plutocracy are hurt by it. The funny thing is that the Americans are making exactly the same mistakes that the British made when the British Empire fell. Free-trade, messing with the monetary system, wars. It didn't work for the British, and it won't work for the Americans. Are these people badly informed? No. Are they stupid? No. In each case decisions were made based on the short-term interests of people close to power, decisions which led inevitably to the loss of Empire. The decisions weren't based on 'class' interests, unless you define the term in a completely circular manner, but were based on the same mix of motives we see in the case of the American attack on Iraq. The final response will be that all these motives played a role, but the Americans were just mistaken or misinformed. As we learn more and more about what the Bush Administration actually knew, this argument becomes more and more silly. The Pentagon and the State Department had - and have - rooms full of documents describing in meticulous detail exactly what was going to happen, and all of this was shared with the Administration. The Administration didn't want this stuff to get out, as it might have stopped the war, but they were completely aware of it. They just didn't care. Their personal interests - money, power, and, yes, Israel - were more important to them. This is the way the real world works. It's all a conspiracy. New book makes bulletproof case for why the U.S. should leave Iraq immediately. We still have lots of true believers arguing that it would send ''the wrong message'' if the U.S. decides to ''cut and run.'' (It's amazing how war supporters tacitly acknowledge that violence and military action speak for us and yet act surprised when our enemies have something to ''say'' too, with both sides claiming the other only ''understands force.'') It's the same ol' tired argument used by the ruling elite during the Vietnam War. In fact, when my father touched down at Marble Mountain as a 19-year-old Marine, it was the same year that Howard Zinn published Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, which argued that getting out of Vietnam was the only realistic option. It was the first book to argue for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. Then, as now, historical amnesia seems to have reached epidemic proportions, blinding masses of people to the lessons of empire. Ask yourself: Did our occupations of the Phillipines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and countless other interventions in Southeast Asia and Latin America produce democracy in those places? As history repeats itself, a new book hitting the shelves in May should be required reading for every American concerned not only about the security of the United States but future prospects for global peace. Anthony Arnove's Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal makes a bulletproof case for why the U.S. should leave Iraq immediately. Arnove begins by acknowledging that the parallels being drawn between Vietnam and Iraq are not exact, but still significantly similar. ''In both cases, the greatest military power in human history has encountered the limits of its ability to impose its will on a people who do not welcome its intervention. In Iraq, like Vietnam, soldiers themselves have begun to question the rationale for the war given by politicians and daily echoed by the dominant media.'' But, Arnove argues, the stakes are much higher in Iraq. ''Politicians and planners in Washington know that their ability to intervene in other countries will be severely hampered if the United States is forced from Iraq,'' partly explains why the Democratic Party talks about ''winning'' the war -- ''a position that ties it in knots and leaves it incapable of leading any antiwar opposition.'' The first chapter lays out in considerable detail how the war in Iraq was/is a ''war of choice.'' He then goes to provide a realistic picture of the occupation on the ground, as opposed to the lofty rhetoric coming out of the White House. What distinguishes Arnove's analysis from the wishful thinking you hear from war apologists is he actually provides some historical context by looking at the history of all occupations of Iraq; the U.S. was not the first to conquer Iraq, claiming to be its liberator. Those who thought we would be greeted as liberators apparently weren't aware that Iraq ''has a long tradition of secular nationalism and anti-colonialism that means Iraqis will not quietly accept occupation by a foreign power.'' The last two chapters make the case for immediate withdrawal by essentially observing that is the presence of U.S. troops that is fueling the insurgency. Arnove's book is a wake-up call to reality and a call to action -- before it's too late -- to stop the expansion of the war into other countries. "Having destroyed Iraq, the US now refuses to put it back together again", [Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University at Chico] said. "This decision reflects the disastrous reality of the US occupation for the Iraqi people as it is obvious there won't be peace until the US leaves. Meanwhile, the makeover of the Iraqi economy has been completed." But the Pentagon defends the reconstruction project as the best that could be achieved under very difficult and dangerous security conditions. However, the extent of US commitment to reconstruction has always been somewhat murky. "The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq," Brigadier General William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the work, told reporters at a recent news conference. He reportedly told The Washington Post, "This was just supposed to be a jump-start." But McCoy's assertion seems to be at odds with previous administration statements. For example, in a speech on August 8, 2003, President George W Bush said, "In a lot of places, the infrastructure is as good as it was at pre-war levels, which is satisfactory, but it's not the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region." That view seems to contradict a report submitted the same year by the prime consulting contractor hired by the Pentagon to lay out the future of Iraq's economy. The company, BearingPoint of McLean, Virginia, said, "The reconstruction of Iraq has begun. Not the reconstruction of vital public services such as water, electricity or public security, but rather the radical reconstruction of its entire economy." Clearly, this has not happened. And the administration's recent decision not to ask Congress for additional funding for reconstruction suggests it is not likely to happen any time soon. Now It's All Saddam's Fault?: According to Bush it is:
President Bush today blamed the recent sectarian violence that has roiled Iraq on Saddam Hussein, rejecting criticism that the United States' 2003 invasion and continued military presence is tearing the country apart. In a speech in Washington to address what he called "legitimate" concerns about the war by many Americans, Bush said the former Iraqi president was a brutal "tyrant" who deliberately divided the country's religious and ethnic groups to keep himself in power.
"Today some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing," Bush said. "In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. . . . I'm not buying that crap for a minute, I'm quite certain that what I'm seeing now is the legacy of George W. Bush. Let's check in with someone who actually lives in Iraq and see what she has to say. Riverbend at Baghdad Burning has her own take on changes in religious tolerance in Iraq, in her post to commemorate the third anniversary of the war.
The thing most worrisome about the situation now, is that discrimination based on sect has become so commonplace. For the average educated Iraqi in Baghdad, there is still scorn for all the Sunni/Shia talk. Sadly though, people are being pushed into claiming to be this or that because political parties are promoting it with every speech and every newspaper- the whole 'us' / 'them'. We read constantly about how 'We Sunnis should unite with our Shia brothers...' or how 'We Shia should forgive our Sunni brothers...' (note how us Sunni and Shia sisters don't really fit into either equation at this point). Politicians and religious figures seem to forget at the end of the day that we're all simply Iraqis.
And what role are the occupiers playing in all of this? It's very convenient for them, I believe. It's all very good if Iraqis are abducting and killing each other- then they can be the neutral foreign party trying to promote peace and understanding between people who, up until the occupation, were very peaceful and understanding. She's been talking about this since the war began and she sees the situation getting worse by the day, not to mention the changes to women's rights at the hands of religious bigots. Once you start a lie it's pretty hard to keep it going without continuing to lie and that's what Bush is doing now. When you lie and everyone knows it, you cheapen yourself and whatever cause you're lying about. When you continue the lie, you further cheapen your cause, especially when your cause is Freedom, Democracy and Peace. Democracy: Iraq votes, Bush vetoes: Call it desperation, but the United States has started to take measures in Iraq that would wreck its most cherished goal there: democracy. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is reportedly campaigning to either dump the United Iraqi Alliance's (UIA) candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, or force him to withdraw. Khalilzad has taken the drastic measure of appealing to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to that effect. Parliament's largest bloc nominates the prime minister under Iraq's constitution, and last month Jaafari captured the nomination by one vote with the help of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. However, the 275-member parliament is now at an impasse in talks over forming a new government as the main Kurdish, Sunni Arab and secular blocs staunchly oppose a Jaafari premiership. If democracy is meant to reflect the will of the people, Jaafari, for all his flaws, is a legitimate candidate to become the country's first permanent prime minister. But US President George W Bush is making it clear that his version of democracy in Iraq means having his preferred candidate at the helm. There are conflicting reports from Iraq about the mechanism of sending this message to Sistani and about who conveyed it. The grand ayatollah, the ultimate arbiter of post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi politics, has made a point of not granting meetings with US officials throughout the occupation. It is possible he made an exception for Khalilzad, whose selection to be ambassador of Iraq is not merely fortuitous. The US diplomat is a native of Afghanistan. In that capacity, he is perceived as a Muslim-American by those in Iraq who are impressed by such symbolism. What is missing from that sort of symbolism is the fact that Khalilzad is also one of the established neo-conservatives (albeit belonging to the second or even third tier) of the Bush administration. In that capacity, he has no problem defining democracy as nothing but the selection of US-preferred leaders. However, the US strategy of handpicking Iraqi and Afghan politicians (it adopted the same strategy in Afghanistan where it gave the nod to President Hamid Karzai) appears to be a measure of last resort. According to one report, the US government sent a letter on the issue to Sistani. Washington has denied Bush was the signatory. In all likelihood, Khalilzad used one of his own back-door functionaries to send a letter. According to another source, Khalilzad used a meeting with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to deliver the message to Sistani. Considering the sensitive and highly unusual nature of the request, Hakim reportedly refused it at first, but then passed it on. Why is it that Jaafari has become a lightening rod for so much controversy in Iraq? The situation in Iraq is edging steadily toward desperation. Apart from being Sadr's candidate, Jaafari is also preferred by Iran. Working against Jaafari is that as interim prime minister, he did not have an impressive record. More to the point, Sunnis perceive him as being unable to raise himself above sectarian politics. Iraqi politics allow for no mistakes and treat harshly those who make errors. The more visible politicians are, the harsher judgment they are likely to receive from the public. But the US problem with Jaafari is that he is viewed not only as an Islamist candidate, but also a friend of Sadr and Iran. In that capacity, he remains the source of considerable distrust by the Americans. The question is whether it is a reasonable strategy to interfere in Iraqi power plays and even go to the extreme of contacting Sistani to sack Jaafari. The answer is, of course not. It only underscores the weakness and desperation of US officials. Buckley Says Bush Will Be Judged on Iraq War, Now a 'Failure': William F. Buckley Jr., the longtime conservative writer and leader, said George W. Bush's presidency will be judged entirely by the outcome of a war in Iraq that is now a failure. ``Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq,'' Buckley said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television this weekend. ``If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam.'' Buckley said he doesn't have a formula for getting out of Iraq, though he said ``it's important that we acknowledge in the inner councils of state that it (the war) has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure.'' The 80-year-old Buckley is among a handful of prominent conservatives who are criticizing the war. Asked who is to blame for what he deems a failure, Buckley said, ``the president,'' adding that ``he doesn't hesitate to accept responsibility.'' Buckley called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend, ``a failed executor'' of the war. And Vice President Dick Cheney ``was flatly misled,'' Buckley said. ``He believed the business about the weapons of mass destruction.'' Buckley, often called the father of contemporary conservatism in America, articulated his beliefs in National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955. On the Occupation's Third Anniversary: What did Iraqis Gain from the 'Liberation'? These days see the third year since the beginning of the tragedy of the catastrophe of the invasion-turned-occupation by the world's most aggressive countries. The Iraqi people have never experienced such a catastrophe over the course of their ancient and modern history. The invasion, its subsequent occupation and installation of a puppet regime in Iraq is a by-product of the wanton intentions of the colonialist powers and their disrespect to recognised international law. These colonial powers invaded and now occupy Iraq in order to force their control and influence on the region as whole by first subjugating the Iraqi people first. Let's take a quick look at occupied Iraq today. Occupied Iraq is downed in the occupation's catastrophe resulting in total collapse of security. It seems that everyone in the world is shocked at the collapse of security, other than the Iraqis themselves. They believe the occupation is behind the security collapse because everyday they witness at first hand the occupation is terrorising the people of Iraq away from supporting the insurgency. In addition, no one in Iraq believes that the current occupation's government for Iraqis will survive if the occupation ends and its troops withdrew from their country. Thus, the Iraqis are not really surprised anymore to wake up everyday to the discovery of their brethrens' bodies murdered by either the occupation forces in collaboration with the 'Iraqi government' forces or the 'Iraqi government' own death squads, who were brought in to Iraq by the occupation. Indeed, the Iraqis have never experienced such dire life in which the economy lies in total ruins; the scientific, literary administrative and technical cadre has all but escaped for their lives and the process of liquidation of the military/security cadre is on-going along with the respected social and political personalities carried out in accordance with the victim's national identity card. Killing, kidnapping, arresting, torture, deformation of victims' bodies which are subsequently thrown in the streets is common. The arrest of tens of thousands of innocent ordinary Iraqis with no accusation or charges and for periods ranging between two to three years is a mandated government policy, so it seems. The forever worsening in human rights has now reached its lowest ever in the history of Iraq (according to the International Organisation for Human Rights published in March 2006), so much for 'liberating Iraq from tyranny'. Social services are non-existent, the electricity shortage is the lowest it has ever reached including during the criminal sanction imposed upon the Iraq people for more than 13 years by the same powers which now occupy Iraq. Drinking water is in a life-threatening deficiency and so is the health services, Iraq's most envied social service once upon a time; and even rubbish collection has been hit hard if not completely ceased and now leading to the spread of serious disease. It seems ironic that a country which is known to be one of the world's richest countries in oil cannot support local demand for domestic fuel used for heating and cooking; and transport fuel. Indeed, Iraq now imports oil from outside. What adds insult to injury is that Iraq was able to meet its local demands for fuel during that murderous sanction regime imposed and sustained for 13 years by the same powers which now occupy Iraq. Industry has suffered too. The new Iraq imports everything, including the simplest of commodity which can be made locally like vinegar. That is in addition to the fact that the local market lacks the simplest of food products, which were available in abundance prior to the invasion. On May 1st, 2003, President Bush declared from the USS Abraham Lincoln that 'major combat operations in Iraq have ended'. What he did not speak of is what his government was bringing to the Iraqi people. No security, no economy, no public services, no nothing; the new Iraq is indeed torn between crimes committed by the occupation and crimes committed by the government's own militias. The United States has handed Iraq to Iran on a plate: [Iraq] is a study in unintended consequences, and a good argument for the rule that ideological crusaders must listen to the experts even though they know that their hearts are pure. Those consequences will include: The emergence of an independent Kurdish state in what used to be northern Iraq. The destruction of the old, secular Iraq, and the installation of a thinly disguised Shiite theocracy in the Arabic-speaking parts of the country. A perpetual, low-grade insurgency by the Sunni Arab minority against the Shiite state, but no change in their current desperate circumstances unless neighboring Arab states become involved. The destruction of the secular middle class in Arab Iraq. Most of these people are abandoning the country as fast as they can, for they know that all the future holds is Iranian-style social rules plus an unending Sunni insurgency. The extension of Iran's power and influence to the borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The United States has handed Iraq to Iran on a plate. American troops will remain in Iraq for several years, probably right down to the November 2008 election, because it is impossible for the Bush administration to pull out without admitting a ghastly blunder. Too many people have died for `sorry' to suffice. US troops stayed in Vietnam for five years after Richard Nixon was first elected in 1968 on a promise to find an `honorable way out,' while Henry Kissinger searched for a formula that would separate US withdrawal from total defeat for its Vietnamese clients by a `decent interval' of a couple of years. Two-thirds of all US casualties in Vietnam occurred during that period. We are probably going to go through that charade again, but it won't change any of the outcomes. BEYOND IRAQ IRAN SHOWDOWN
Iran says fires sonar-evading, underwater missile: Iran has test-fired a sonar-evading underwater missile that can outpace any enemy warship, a senior naval commander told state television on Sunday during a week of war games in the Gulf. "This missile evades sonar technology under the water and even if the enemy sonar system could detect its movement under the water, no warship could escape from it because of its high velocity," Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said. "The Islamic Republic is now among the only two countries who hold this kind of missile. Under the water the maximum speed that a missile could (usually) move is 25 meters per second, but now we possess a missile which goes as fast as 100 meters per second," he told state television. The commander used the word "missile" in Farsi, rather than "torpedo." "The boats that can launch this missile have a technology that makes them stealthy and nobody could recognize them or act against them," he added. On Friday, Iran said it had successfully test-fired a domestically produced, radar-evading missile, and released images of it being launched into the air from land. Iranian state television said that missile was called the Fajr-3. But Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards air force, did not name the new weapon or give the missile's range, saying it depended on the warhead weight. The U.S.-based military affairs Web site globalsecurity.org describes the Fajr-3 as a 240 mm artillery rocket with a 25-mile (40-km) range, one of a group of light rockets Iran has developed mainly for tactical use on the battlefield. However, it also says Iran has been working on another missile, called the Kosar, that would be undetectable by radar and designed to sink ships in the Gulf. UK Government in secret talks about strike against Iran: A high-level meeting will take place in the Ministry of Defence at which senior defence chiefs and government officials will consider the consequences of an attack on Iran. It is believed that an American-led attack, designed to destroy Iran's ability to develop a nuclear bomb, is "inevitable" if Teheran's leaders fail to comply with United Nations demands to freeze their uranium enrichment programme. Tomorrow's meeting will be attended by Gen Sir Michael Walker, the chief of the defence staff, Lt Gen Andrew Ridgway, the chief of defence intelligence and Maj Gen Bill Rollo, the assistant chief of the general staff, together with officials from the Foreign Office and Downing Street. The United States government is hopeful that the military operation will be a multinational mission, but defence chiefs believe that the Bush administration is prepared to launch the attack on its own or with the assistance of Israel, if there is little international support. British military chiefs believe an attack would be limited to a series of air strikes against nuclear plants - a land assault is not being considered at the moment. But confirmation that Britain has started contingency planning will undermine the claim last month by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that a military attack against Iran was "inconceivable". There will be no invasion of Iran but the nuclear sites will be destroyed. This is not something that will happen imminently, maybe this year, maybe next year. Jack Straw is making exactly the same noises that the Government did in March 2003 when it spoke about the likelihood of a war in Iraq. "Then the Government said the war was neither inevitable or imminent and then attacked." The source said that the Israeli attack against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 proved that a limited operation was the best military option. The Israeli air force launched raids against the plant, which intelligence suggested was being used to develop a nuclear bomb for use against Israel. Military chiefs also plan tomorrow to discuss fears that an attack within Iran will "unhinge" southern Iraq - where British troops are based - an area mainly populated by Shia Muslims who have strong political and religious links to Iran. They are concerned that this could delay any withdrawal of troops this year or next. There could also be consequences for British and US troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran. Beware the Ides of March: Unlike many of my brethren (and not for the first time), I am seem to be out of step about the apocalyptic visions that are currently populating the Webosphere concerning an immanent invasion of Iran. No doubt the US have plans for every country on the planet, that is after all, one of the roles of the 'think tanks', to do 'what ifs?' What if France goes really socialist? What if ... But planning various scenarios is one thing, following through is something quite different. I tend to view the release of documents that reveal the existence of plans to invade Iran as being a quite deliberate ploy on the part of the US ruling class (see the links at the end of this piece); on the one hand to put the frighteners on any country that dares oppose US objectives and on the other, they bolster just how 'serious' the USUK are about the alleged threat that Iran poses (or any other country that challenges the US). In order to try and assess just what specifically the US is up to, it is necessary to separate wishes from the actuality. If we take Iraq as an example, prior to the actual invasion and occupation, there were twelve years of 'softening up' the target followed by an awful lot of work to firstly assess what the reaction of the various interested parties would be and what, if anything they could do to throw a spanner in the works. National interests largely determined how the various parties reacted. The key here is to look at what the gains and losses are, thus Russia and a number of EU countries no doubt also did their own calculations as to the possible outcomes. Would they end up as winners or losers? And of course Israel, as the local outpost of US capital stood to gain an awful lot from the removal of opposition to its occupation as well access to oil a mere short range missile away. As far as the US is concerned, it would be foolish to think that the ruling elite was under any illusions about the negative backlash that would result from the occupation of Iraq, but they calculated that their sheer military power would deter any country from intervening and in this they were correct. But as to the eventual outcome, it would be foolish to predict except to say that once ensconced, removing such an outsized and heavily armed beast would be a difficult task. Can we assume that the beast will also blast its way into Iran? As far as Iran is concerned, just as with Venezuela the first line of attack is to try and foment an 'indigenous' revolt, it's not only cheaper it's also a safer option, although outcomes cannot necessarily be as easily controlled. There are those who argue that the US simply doesn't care how many countries 'hate' it, that those who rule the US are so desperate that they are prepared to risk everything. I am not so sure things are so cut and dried. There is no doubt that Iran is being used as one of the excuses to continue the occupation that is the quagmire of Iraq and that the current propaganda campaign around some kind of immanent 'civil war' involves the alleged role of Iran in supplying weapons to 'insurgents' and its alleged role in the alleged Sunni/Shi'ia 'divide'. And yes, the brief but intense propaganda campaign mounted by the USUK over Iran's alleged nukes also forms part of a larger strategic plan, namely the creation of a false 'history' similar to the WMD mythology invented to justify the invasion of Iraq but remember that it took the better part of a dozen years (and 9/11) to work up to the point whereby the USUK could rationalise an invasion and even then it had to do it under the most unfavourable conditions, conditions that it is paying dearly for ignoring. That it had to go to war when almost the entire planet was opposed to the invasion was proof not of strength but of weakness, not military but political and, weakness where it hurt most - at home. Nobody in the US had heard of Vietnam until the body bags started to pile up, so to some degree things have changed since the 1960s. Hence the importance of creating an Iranian 'demon' is largely for domestic consumption and is another piece in the mosaic that is the justification for domestic repression, for make no mistake, the biggest obstacle to an invasion of Iran is not Iran itself but us! Waging imperial wars is a messy and uncertain business, 'the best laid plans of mice and men' etc. We need only look at the final outcome of WWII for proof for although the West thought the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union solved the 'problem' of communism (at worst, they would wipe each other out), the final outcome was not one that could have been predicted in 1941. None of the imperialist planners of the time thought the Soviet Union could actually defeat Nazi Germany, let alone end up the only real military power in Europe, with an invincible army that could, had it wanted to, reached the English Channel. The creation of the Cold War is surely proof of this, a tool that the 'war on terror' is directly modelled on. Hence Iran is a useful diversion but in the current situation the US is a long way from creating the necessary conditions that could justify an invasion of Iran. Undoubtedly the push East is part of the long term Project for the New American Century that is largely concerned with ensuring resources to power the US economy and of course to fuel its military (currently the world's single largest consumer of oil), without which ensuring its dominance would be impossible. The US are actually in a real bind when it comes to the strategy they are attempting to apply to Iran, for on the one hand, Iran is no Iraq and secondly, attempting to starve Iran into submission through sanctions would be self-defeating. Unlike Iraq, the West has no pretext like Iraq's invasion of Kuwait under which a concerted campaign can be waged hence the creation of the fictitious nuclear 'threat'. And, there is the question of Iraq's oil, still underground three years after the invasion. To risk the same happening in Iran is simply unthinkable. Thus, the US's room for manoeuvre is severely restricted and not only because of the disaster in Iraq but also because US reliance on technology with which to fight its wars has, as with Vietnam, come unstuck. The ace-in-hole, military power is proving to be an illusory advantage. The central issue here is the role of propaganda, it's creating a context that enables the USUK, at some point in the future, if the necessity arises, to have an entire 'inventory' of reasons why it's so important to 'take out the mullahs'. These reasons have to have a complete ideological as well as false historical context in order to have an effect. They have to exploit the deeply-rooted racist ideology that has served the interests of imperialism down the centuries.
Impeachment Talk Becomes More Than Whisper: It began with Santa Cruz City Council in September and was regarded as merely another quaint episode in California history. There is movement and it is gaining momentum. It's not just fringe people. You're going to see towns and cities in red states soon and that will show it's no bicoastal affair but encompasses large swaths of the country. Since then, the resolutions have continued to pass - from the New Mexico Democratic Party to four small towns in Vermont to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who trumped everyone by demanding that Congress impeach both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. This little-noticed impeachment debate is taking place as the Senate Judiciary Committee today considers a censure resolution introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a likely presidential contender in 2008. Feingold argues that Bush violated law when he authorized the interception of Americans' communications with suspected terrorists without obtaining a warrant from a federal judge. "There is movement and it is gaining momentum," said Sophie de Vries, who serves as impeachment coordinator for Democrats.com in California. "It's not just fringe people. You're going to see towns and cities in red states soon and that will show it's no bicoastal affair but encompasses large swaths of the country." Yet though progressive Democrats are pushing impeachment, the national party is trying to avoid a messy debate on such a divisive issue. Many Democrats are convinced that they can win either the House or Senate in November and the last thing they want is an impeachment drive that could energize Republican voters. "I think we need to let Bush continue to hang himself," said James Ruvolo, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. U.N. special investigator on torture says he is certain there are secret U.S. prisons in Europe and wants access to them: Manfred Nowak said he had proof that secret U.S. prisons continue to operate in Europe. "I am 100 percent sure. I have evidence," Nowak said in an interview. He cited a U.S. refusal to provide details or records of interrogations later used in terrorism trials in Germany. He did not explain how that was proof of the ongoing existence of U.S. prisons in Europe, and he did not offer other examples. Allegations of clandestine U.S. detention centers in Europe have sparked separate investigations by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog. "It is totally unacceptable, even in the fight against terrorism, that a highly democratic country such as the United States of America is keeping secret places of detention," said Nowak, an Austrian law professor who reports on torture allegations to U.N. rights bodies and the General Assembly. In a report released last month, Nowak and four other U.N. experts called on the U.S. government to close down Guantanamo Bay and "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." The United States slammed the U.N. report, noting that the U.N. experts had declined an invitation to visit the camp because they would not be given full access to the detainees. As with Guantanamo, Nowak said he would only visit the secret prisons if he was granted full access to prisoners. He noted that Beijing had allowed him to interview prisoners during a visit to China last year and that before that trip Washington pressured the Chinese to permit the interviews. He said he hoped Washington would reconsider its policy on terror suspects and allow him to investigate allegations of torture in detention centers outside the United States. Agent Orange: The Legacy of a Weapon of Mass Destruction: [Spina bifida] is the only birth defect recognised by the US as a legacy of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant sprayed by American troops from 1965 until 1971 during the Vietnam war. But there is worse, far worse, in this hospital [Tu Du maternity hospital], the largest in south Vietnam. Some of the most severely affected babies, abandoned by their parents, live on two floors in a wing known as the Peace Village. Entering it is like stepping back 40 years to the days of Thalidomide, the morning-sickness pill prescribed in Britain in the 1960s that left babies hideously deformed. In the first room, cots line the walls. In one, a four-year-old girl rocks on all fours, gently banging her head against the bars. A nurse turns her round to reveal a face with no eyes. Under a thick fringe of dark hair, there are soft indentations in the skin either side of her nose, where her eyes should be. Above her cot a printed label gives her name as Tran Sinh, and her date of birth as 27 February 2002. According to the nurses she was born in an area heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, where the land is still contaminated 35 years after the spraying stopped. In the cot next to her, Tran Loan, aged five months, has a head the size of a melon and is whimpering softly. He has hydrocephalus - fluid on the brain. Next to him a child wearing a stripey red T-shirt has stumps for legs. A three-year-old with a crazily pointed skull and bulging eyes lies on his back staring at the ceiling. But for his Mickey Mouse T-shirt, he looks as if he belongs to another world. There were 454 babies with congenital defects born in the hospital last year, out of 36,000 deliveries. "Those are just the visible ones. We do not know about defects to internal organs, or those that only emerge years later," Professor Phuong said. The Vietnamese government estimates 500,000 children have been born with birth defects caused by contamination with Agent Orange and two million suffered cancers and other ill effects - innocent victims of a chemical intended to harm plant life, not humans. But unlike the American soldiers who sprayed the defoliant, they have never received compensation. This month they have the best chance in a generation of obtaining redress. A lawsuit against the US manufacturers of Agent Orange to be heard in the US courts is generating unprecedented support, nationally and internationally. Agent Orange, so-called because of the orange stripe on the drums in which it was stored, contained dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known. An estimated 80 million litres of the defoliant, containing 386kg of dioxin, were sprayed on Vietnam. One millionth of a gram per kilo of body weight is enough to induce cancers, birth defects and other diseases when exposure persists over a long period - as the US veterans discovered in the years after the war. Cancers, birth defects and other diseases struck the returning veterans in unexpected numbers. Those who had had contact with the chemical sued the manufacturers and in 1984 won what was then the largest ever settlement of $180m against seven of the world's biggest chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto. But more than 20 years on, while the Americans who did the spraying have been compensated, the Vietnamese who had the toxic chemical sprayed on them are still waiting for redress. Last year, Vietnamese veterans sued the same US chemical companies claiming that they knew Agent Orange contained a poison - dioxin - and their action in supplying it to the US government breached international law and constituted a war crime. They lost in the first round but they are pinning their hopes on an appeal, due to be heard in Brooklyn, New York, this month. Vast areas of Vietnam were stripped bare of vegetation by the defoliant. One of the most contaminated is at Cu Chi, 25 miles outside Ho Chi Minh City, where tourists crawl through the famous network of Viet Cong tunnels. Visitors are shown a film of women picking fruit in what was once known as the Garden of Cu Chi, where office workers came to picnic at weekends and watch the harvest. Today the picnickers have gone. Slender saplings, no thicker than a man's arm, have grown up in the past 20 years to shade the tourists - but there are no fruit trees and no harvest. In a speech to the US Senate in August 1970, displayed in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Senator Nelson said: "Never in human history have people witnessed one country's making war on the living environment of another." QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think we will not agree about Iraq." --- Tony Blair answering the question "Do you ever ask your best friend George W Bush to stop the war in Iraq?" by 13-year-old Indonesian student Rezar Rizky Ramadan.


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